I had my back to the foreign beers for most of my evening at Pig's Ear last week, unwisely, perhaps. However, I did turn round enough to grab one beer of interest, namely Chimera by Del Ducato of Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy. I thoroughly enjoyed several of the artisan beers I had last time I was in Italy, and was keen to try more. The phrase that struck me on first tasting the hazy orange ale was "malt bomb". It's not one of those sickly sweet jus des vagabonds nightmares: far from it. Instead, the beautiful hazy orange body is packed with big sticky toffee flavours. Very tasty, but I couldn't help thinking that a solid dose of big hops would have done it the power of good.
Last beer of the festival was one I didn't even bother getting out of my chair to get -- thanks to whoever passed me a glass of Mikkeller's It's Alight. There's a very nice, smooth, Cantillon-grade sourness to this saison, with more than a hint of farmyard earthiness. Only 4.5% ABV but very much a beer to take time over.
And that was Pig's Ear for another year. I didn't have far to stagger to my lodgings: the Boak & Bailey Travel Agency had me set up in The Old Ship Inn in a back alley across the street. Despite access to 24-hour cask ale I managed to resist the urge for a post-festival pint, and was glad I did: when I came down for breakfast next day I discovered that Bombardier would have been my only option. They seem pretty green in the whole hotel stakes, and the kitchen doesn't yet open for Full Englishes of a morning. It probably wouldn't have been economical for them anyway as my only company in the dining area as I munched my muesli was a tiny, but seriously rotund, grey mouse. This is what happens in pubs too posh to keep a cat.
Work was long, arduous and finished near 6 in Mayfair. I had the usual option of sprinting off to one of London's famous beer pubs, virtually none of which I've ever visited, to chug a pint or two before zipping back to Paddington and the train to Heathrow. But I decided that I really just couldn't be bothered. Instead I wandered up through Marble Arch and made for John's local-from-local, The Victoria on Strathearn Place.
This cosy traditional pub is a multi-award-winner, including a recent spell as Fuller's Pub of the Year. From the spiel on the menu it's clear that they care a lot about their beers, and while they're not shy about throwing a guest ale or two on, only Fuller's core range was available on my visit. So I settled in by the open fire for a textbook pint of Pride. I find it hard to get excited about this beer. It's good, unfussy, understated, but I have to say I prefer a bit more oomph to my ales these days. I had hoped that my follow-up ESB would be in one of the beautiful wide stemmed glasses everyone else had, but it wasn't to be. I still really really enjoyed my pint: all the weighty caramel and fruit characteristics were wonderfully pronounced.
The Victoria is definitely a pub to note if one is in the vicinity of Paddington. Thanks for the recommendation, John: you claim your ramblings are random, but I can see why you'd direct them to this place. Best beer of the day, however, was in the unlikely surrounds of Heathrow, where I idled my last half hour over a delightfully tart and fruity pint of Adnams Bitter.
I really really do need to spend some quality time drinking in London. These stolen hours between meetings and flights just aren't good enough, ESB and Adnam's Bitter notwithstanding.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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