27 October 2017

A mile in my booze

What to do in London the day after the Beavertown Extravaganza? I wasn't going back for the Saturday session but had booked a late flight anyway, confident that I'd figure something out. Months later, sitting down to try and decide what exactly that was, I noticed on a map that my lodgings were just along the street from the FourPure brewery. I had inadvertently booked myself a bed on the Bermondsey Beer Mile, so that was that question answered.

The Mile wasn't yet a thing the last time I was in this part of London way back in 2013: only The Kernel and Partizan had bars open. Several more have joined in since, though The Kernel now only sells beer to take away. I was conveniently located at the bottom of the Beer Mile and it would have made total sense to start at FourPure and work northwards, catching a Tube train from Bermondsey station at the end. Less conveniently, checkout was at 10am and FourPure doesn't serve until 11 so I decided to make things difficult for myself and begin at the first brewery to open: Anspach & Hobday, near the northern end. After a sunny meander through the neighbourhood I arrived at 10.30, just as the shutters were going up.

I had heard that the Bermondsey Beer Mile had become quite self-aware and was more about professionally-run bars than simple taprooms these days, but the reality was that things still felt more charmingly improvised than I was led to believe. Anspach & Hobday is tiny, a handful of tables crammed in next to the tanks, and a miniature bar serving eight keg beers from the underback, plus one cask beer engine. Where else to start but with The Porter?

I'm guessing they're going for old London authenticity with this one, because it's a bold 6.7% ABV. The first sip revealed it to be rich and smoky, like a fine cigar. Behind the smoke there's an impressive balancing act of silky chocolate and dry coffeeish roast, the latter of which lasts longest in the finish. There's just enough creaminess to prevent it turning acrid, as well as a mild floral quality as well. Beautifully put together, all in all: the platonic ideal of London porter.

Loral 'n' Oats cream ale had a tough job following that. It's a pale and hazy yellow colour with a fresh lemon aroma and a different sort of creamy texture to the porter. The flavour is where it falters, however. The lemon is present, but it's faint and somewhat artificial-tasting, like a scented handwipe. There's lots of dry corn husk as well. It's perfectly refreshing and inoffensive, just not terribly interesting.

Brewery two was Brew By Numbers, and this was a little swish: the newly decorated taproom still poky, but fitted out conscientiously. One could definitely imagine spending a bit of time here. Somewhat missing the point of a brewery crawl, I ordered a guest beer: Fool For You, a 6.5% ABV saison brewed by Cloudwater in collaboration with forthcoming Norfolk brewer Duration. It's a murky dun colour and lacks a head. The texture is very heavy, a little unpleasantly so. Honeydew melon dominates the flavour, with some light peppering and then thick viscous banana esters. As this sort of saison goes, it's not the worst of them, but half way through I was already thinking I should have ordered something from the house.

That's what I did next: 05|25, an IPA with Citra and experimental hop HBC 431. It arrived looking like a half pint of pastis: yellow with a tint of green. The aroma was gorgeous, an achingly fresh mix of peaches with garlic, which sounds wrong but was beautiful. And the flavour followed through faithfully on