Phill’s Crawl around Camden

Camden is an area with a strong music history, and you can’t have live music without a lot of pubs and bars. However Camden is also famous for its markets and unique local character, therefore it’s not surprising that it is quite touristy. However even on a wet cold Tuesday night in winter, it is a great place to go out for a few drinks

I’ve lived here for three years but have been drinking in these bars for the last eight, here is a selection of mainly craft pubs that makes a nice little crawl, although I’ve thrown in a few non craft as well.

The Monarch

www.monarchbar.com – Sun to Thurs 12pm to 12.30am, Fri & Sat 12pm to 3am – @CamdenMonarch

The beer selection at this pub has transformed over the last five years, it now has some pretty decent beers alongside the usual London pub selection. Saturday night is Soundtracks where every song is a winner, and check their website for themed quizes such as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. They also host regular live music, comedy and talks. This is the sort of pub you want to live close to.

What to Drink? Camden Pale Ale on draft, Goose Island on bottle or Five Points on cask.

Tapping the Admiral

www.tappingtheadmiral.co.uk – 12 to 11pm Monday & Tuesday, 12 to midnight Wednesday to Saturday, 12 to 10.30 Sunday – @tappingadmiral

If you’re a tourist, you would consider this a proper English pub. Redeveloped last year from a local boozer to something a bit more interesting. Winner of CAMRA North London Pub of 2013, the pub now offers a lot of London beers on cask and keg along with a few German lagers. There’s usually a cat about as well (called Nelson) and they have a fun pub quiz.

What to Drink? Go for something local on cask from Hackney Brewery or similar.

Camden Brewery Bar

www.camdentownbrewery.com – Thursday, Friday and Saturday 12pm-11pm only – @CamdenBrewery

Since the Camden bar opened in 2013, my visits have been limited by them only being open three days a week and bad weather. They have rotating street food traders most nights so there is always something interesting to eat, and the staff often try and match the food with different beers.

What to Drink? Unfiltered Pale or Unfiltered Hells are rather special, or go for something seasonal such as their 2013 Triple currently on the go.

Brewdog

www.brewdog.com/bars/camden – Mon to Thurs 12pm to 11.30pm, Fri & Sat 12pm to midnight, Sun 12pm to 10.30pm – @BrewDogCamden

The Brewdog guys opened their first London pub by driving a tank up and down the street. This bar is a great place to grab a drink, they have busy evenings but you still get served quick enough and their selection is impressive – it’s not just their own beers but some stunning guests as well from all over the world.

What to Drink? The taps change so frequently here it’s hard to suggest anything. But there is always something interesting to try, the staff are usually knowledgable so just chat to them. If not just go for Dead Pony Club.

Black Heart

www.ourblackheart.com – Mon & Tues 3pm to 11:30pm, Wed & Thurs 3pm to midnight, Fri & Sat 12pm to 2am, Sunday 12pm to 11pm – @theblack_heart

Just down from Brewdog is the Black Heart, a great live music venue, but also a great selection of beer. Lots of American bottles and a rotating keg line that will sate your thirst. Tends to be a bit more punk so you’ll appreciate the Camden atmosphere.

What to Drink? Sirens or whatever American IPA they tend to have on.

NOTABLE MENTIONS

Other places in and around Camden that you may find worth a visit.

The Lock Tavern

www.lock-tavern.com – Mon to Thurs : 12pm to Midnight, Fri & Sat: 12pm to 1am, Sun: 12pm to 11pm – @thelocktavern

Just down the road from the Monarch, a bit nicer, but had a half decent selection of bottled beer and cask. It’s open until late on the weekend and has a good roof garden.

What to Drink? Camden on draft or Flying Dog/Bear Republic on bottle

Dublin Castle

www.thedublincastle.com – 12pm til late – @DublinCastle

A true music legend of a place, dingy but full of character and occasionally minor celebrities in the music world. Also good for late nights. Not so strong on the craft beer front, but I’m just emotionally attached to it.

What to Drink? – try and already be drunk.

Let me know if you’ve think I’ve missed anything off this list. Have fun and I’ll probably see you in one of the pubs!

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Mike checks out London Fields Tap Room

A good friend of mine is disappearing off to the states and so in order to bid him farewell I thought to fill him up with some great London beer. With this in mind, I took him to the London Fields brewery in Hackney. It was my first visit, but I knew their beers and heard excellent things about their newly revamped Tap room.

I was happy to find that the Tap Room is a lovely space to enjoy a beer. There is a big glass open front which allows a lot of light into the venue, very handy when inspecting the colour of your beer. But there was also an excellent atmosphere – music was played at an unintrusive level and there was a pleasing hum of conversation. The blank wooden walls and simple furnishings worked nicely, creating an uncluttered atmosphere in which you could enjoy your beer.

The beer was the major and enduring positive (as it should be) due to the large range available at the bar. I was happy to see that the four beers on cask; Hopster, Make Love Not War, Triangle IPA and Black Path Porter, were also available on keg. On top of this they had further keg offerings, which included regulars such as unfiltered lager and their wheat beer, as well as experimental beers such as their US Amber ale, sadly this ran out just before I arrived.

London FieldsThe variety was impressive and their snazzy branded half pint glasses meant you could easily taste your way around. I was also greatly pleased with the takeaway service, where you could buy most bottles for £2.50 (including some 500ml). This meant, as well as being able to leave thoroughly happy with my afternoons drinking, I left with a few brewery fresh bottles to enjoy over the coming weeks too!

I should just mention a couple of things that I would have like to see improved. Firstly, food, which is becoming a constant theme of our craft pub reviews (see our Craft Review for the most recent example). The Tap room did offer some hot food in the form of stew and soup, which, whilst it did look quite tasty, was not the type of sustaining food you want when exploring your way around the pumps. This is only a minor point, as I realise that the purpose of the Tap room is beer and not to double up as a restaurant. Secondly, they advertised gift packs for sale, which I believe are a branded glass and two bottles, however when I asked to purchase one,the member of staff did not know anything about them. This is another minor point, but I was disappointed not to come home with one.

The Beers –

London Fields Wheat Beer – I love Hefeweizen, and this did not disappoint at all. The trademark flavours of bubblegum and banana were there, however what I enjoyed most were the levels of spice. This was a spicy and vibrant wheat beer that got the afternoon off in style.

London Fields Hackney Hopster – I’ve had this a few times before, but it really is true that drinking a beer fresh from the brewery does make a difference. Made using the aromatic Motueka and Nelson Sauvin hops, the freshness of the beer really showed off the power of the aromatics that can be achieved using these hops. Citrus, grass and slight tropical fruit notes all came together and were underpinned by firm malt characters. This will be a firm favourite of mine for the forseeable future.

London Fields Love Not War – a much darker and smoother offering than the Hopster. The roasted malts really came through, with wonderful caramel flavours. There was also a pleasing stone fruit flavour which balanced the beer. It was a wonderful change of pace, and I think my favourite beer of the afternoon. I was pleased to see the effort to ensure tight balance between the hops and malt. Sometimes I feel craft brewers are too zealous with their use of hops and their desire to produce the bitterest beer they can, which means they forego balance.

London Fields Unfiltered Lager – a great way to cleanse the palate and refresh myself. Wonderful gold, with a slight haze. It was bitter, biscuity and had real bite to it. This is the kind of lager I could drink on a regular occasion. It had a long and pleasant finish and with spring beginning to appear this will become a BBQ staple.

London Fields Black Path Porter – what better way to finish the day than with a sneaky half of their Porter. A brooding brown in the glass, it was quite light bodied for a Porter. Dark chocolate was the over powering flavour, with undertones of coffee. It was very refreshing, and it’s nice to drink a dark beer that’s not cloying. I hope other brewers take note.

What I managed to take home!

What I managed to take home!

I cannot recommend a trip to the London Fields tap room enough. A great selection of beers and wonderful atmosphere. I took a bottle of everything I tried away with me, as well as a bottle of their 9% Black Forest Imperial Stout (will let you know what I think soon) and I look forward to drinking them all and remembering an excellent afternoon. Now I just need to hunt down one of their branded glasses….

London Field’s Taproom is open every weekend.

Thornbridge meet the brewer at Craft Co Islington

When we were developing our taste for craft beer, the brews of Thornbridge and Sierra Nevada were instrumental in getting us hooked. Their flavourful pale ales were things of beauty in our eyes and forced us out in to the brave and exciting world of craft beer! With this in mind you can imagine our delight when we discovered that these two breweries had collaborated on a beer called Twin Peaks and that it was being launched at a special evening at Craft Beer Co. As if this was not enough, we then discovered that 19 Thornbridge offerings were going to be on tap as well as some of the brewers on hand.

It was an evening we weren’t going to miss and here are our thoughts on some of the Thornbridge beers we tried.

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The Wallonia has a wonderful golden colour in the glass.

Wallonia:
This is one of our favourite styles and to see Thornbridge’s version on tap was too tempting to resist. Saison is becoming the beer of the moment, seemingly everyone is now trying their hand at one and with examples like this it is easy to see why. Very crisp and refreshing, not quite as spiced as Belgium examples but a real hoppy flavour. It tasted like a British Saison not an imitation Belgian Saison and we can think of no better compliment!

Feallan:
Who doesn’t love a good Märzen(Oktoberfest style lager)! This is packed with wonderful toasty malt notes and just the right amount of hops are used to balance the beer. Phill had this beer the week before at Craft Beer Rising and was upset he didn’t get another half so we both went for the full pint and it did not disappoint. Whilst a standard of many US Craft breweries, we certainly hope that more in the UK follow Thornbridge’s example and experiment with this style of beer.

Twin Peaks (their collaboration with Sierra Nevada):
In one word, refreshing. Packed with citrus and a little tropical fruit, this is a really crisp style of Pale Ale. We were both impressed with its drinkability and are looking forward to downing a few more of these once the temperature increases (however this being Britain we are not holding our breath). If we were being critical though, it was almost too easy drinking – seemingly lacking a little in flavour and the body being almost too light. However we are being overly critical in saying this and hope this is the first of many collaborations between the two breweries. It is certainly the first of many pints of Twin Peaks for us.

Weizenbock:
This was another really classy take on a German beer style. A full bodied style of beer, this tipple was full of dark malty notes and sweet spice. If only we had some to hand over the Christmas period! With the spice flavours on offer it would have perfectly complimented all the desserts of the festive period. However as we shivered in the beer garden it did prove to be a thoroughly restorative beer!

Sequoia:
This amber bitter was a pure delight. Balanced in all the right ways and full of flavour. Lots of classic citrus and toffee flavours and we even thought we detected slight hints of pine, although we were uncertain if the name was just leading us to that conclusion. We only had half a pint, however looking back on the night Mike slightly regretted not doubling it, but Phill was happy to have moved on.

Saint Petersburg:
The jet black colour of this Imperial Russian Stout sets the tone for it’s great smoky and chocolatey aroma. It is smokey to taste although ends with a slightly hoppy finish. It stands at 7.4% ABV which you would not expect based on how easy it is to drink thanks to its smooth texture. We would happily pick this over a Guinness most nights.

2013-03-04 18.48.13Reflecting on the night, we had a fantastic time exploring the different beers of Thornbridge, and although Craft was a great place to do this, it’s lack of proper food forced us to make an early exit. We enjoyed the large range of styles on offer, but as you can see from our choices above, we gravitated towards the continental varieties they have attempted and were impressed every time. We hope that Thornbridge open a pub in London soon – having had much success in Sheffield – so that we can enjoy their range more often.

This evening really did encourage us that the craft beer revolution is international and that British brewers are committed to producing more than just great pale ales. It was also encouraging to see how busy Craft was when they put on a special event such as this. We hope this will be the first of many such nights at Craft and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the beers we tried.