There are gentle, solitary snowflakes fluttering down that lilt in the streetlights as Steve, Hannah Vernon of ‘Duke’s Brew and Que and I walk down Brick lane as we remark on our respective experiences of that remarkable East End Street. It is a pretty evening indeed as we shuffle towards our venue for the evening that is the inaugural Craft Beer Rising festival at the Truman’s Brewery building in which a selection of the nation’s / continent’s best breweries have congregated to show off their stock to a burgeoning London crowd that is eager to try it.
Thankfully hustled in before the large crowd that line the width of the now defunct brewery, amidst the frosty cold, i remarked early on that there is a complex blend of people that illustrate a true dichotomy of the new beer-drinking populace of the Great British capital; indeed, I am not the only one wearing a red, woollen hat and a kaftan scarf. After sussing the labyrinthine depths of the place, we soon got round to sampling a few of the beers that were on offer and for sake of simplicity, I shall go through them chronologically…
…starting with an effort from Chapel Down Brewery. Initially known as purveyors of English wine, Chapel Down have started producing a range of beers from proper beer country, AKA Tenterden in Kent, that always possess the prefix ‘curious,’ in this case, ‘Curious IPA,’5.6%. Possessing an under-whelming sense of English hop variety on the nose that is toned down and farm-yardy this results in a beer that does not possess a huge amount of character on the nose. Furthermore, this does not translate terrifically well in the taste of the stuff either. Although there are a few, sharp, vineous notes of the champagne yeast and a biscuit-like after taste that I have tasted 1000 times over, there is regrettably little that I can say that is remarkable about this experimental Kentish beer.
After exploring the venue for a little while longer and finding a largely blue-lit, expansive room thumping out 80s soul tunes, we manage to find Thwaites Brewery’s corner of the room and in tow, the pleasant company of head-brewer, Ian Bearpark who instructs us to try firstly, the ‘Wainwright’ 4.1% that is light, hoppy and honey-like in flavour whilst perhaps not possessing a huge amount on the nose.
The ’13 Guns’ 5.5% is a different kettle of fish altogether though, a ballsy homage to American I.P.As, the sheer bolshiness of New World hop varieties like Centennial, Citra and Amarillo smacking me in the face with a great wallop. Altogether, it was all a very harmonious melange, smooth and delectable with a clear amber body, firm-white head and a lot of fruity sweetness with a stewed-like quality of a good marmalade.
A beer festival can be a dis-orientating place, stall to stall vying for your attention. In a random process that can only be likened to blindly throwing a dart at a board, we landed on ‘Signature Brew’s’ stall that was placed within the corner of the big, blue room with the loud music. Based in Hackney, Signature have started to specialise in creating a set of beers that are personalised to a set of musicians and bands that aim to dispel the idea of only getting ‘shit beers at gigs.’ If the appeal of the brewery becomes big enough, then one can feasibly see them reaching their aim creating a set of instant classic beers with a stalwart range that covers a thoroughly palatable and well-hopped lager in ‘Enter Shikari,’ 5% a potent to a ballsy IPA packed full of citrus and berry fruitiness in ‘Dry The River,’ 7% that retains a meaty quality in its strong, yeasty after taste.
We moved on next to a couple of offerings from ‘Bath Ales,’ hailing precisely from that historic place but regrettably not offering anything quite as luxurious as the Roman baths located within that city. I started with a half of ‘Gem,’ 4.1% that I suppose can be described as a sort of bitter that is a tad on the gentle side, possessing a very light butterscotch flavour on account of the English hop varieties used whilst remaining firmly generic on the nose and rest of the flavour.
The ‘Dark Side Stout,’ 4% follows suite unfortunately with precious little on the nose other than vague caramel and its main selling point apparently being that ‘it’s smooth’…bit like Guinness then.
After feeling a little disappointed by our venture with Bath Ales, we decided to revisit an old favourite in Thornbridge Brewery of Bakewell, Derbyshire. Starting with ‘Tzara,’ 4.8%, I experienced a decent stab at a traditional Cologne Kolsch recipe in which the malt that is native to that region was show-cased marvellously in what can be called a decent all-season lager.
Conversely to this was Jaipur 5.9% that given its spicy, citrus nature is deserving of its exotic title refreshing as it is with notes of grapefruit, lemongrass and summer berries; consistently one of my favourite beers, I cannot recommend it enough.
A brief dalliance at the Off Beat Brewery stand of Crewe, Cheshire lead to us trying a zingy effort from them in their ‘Dotty DIPPA,’ 8.4% that after a few would no doubt send you precisely that. ABV aside, Dippa is a lovely imperial IPA with a boozy kick that leaps from the glass, grabs your nostrils and does not let go. The flavour is delightful too, possessing almost savoury notes of blackberry whilst maintaining a tart nature to the beer that carries the whole thing through.
I recently reviewed a nice selection of beers from Hog’s Back Brewery and remarked that their one short-coming may be in their lack of variety. Thankfully I was proven wrong this evening when I was presented with a half pint of ‘Snout’ 3.8% that is billed as a ‘dark winter stout.’ I was at the risk of sounding pernickety when I wondered to myself whether there was any other kind of stout but this is beside the point, this effort re-proving that ABV doth not maketh the flavour. With a yeasty scen that is potent, there are notes of malty chocolate in the flavour that results in a beer that although not particularly ground-breaking is thoroughly pleasant and one that I would most probably go back for.
As a loud, electronically motivated announcement signalled last orders, I managed to squeeze one last half in before departing and chose ‘Double Chocolate Stout,’ 5.7% by Young’s Brewery and was pleased to finish on a smooth, subtly rich stout that possessed all of the hallmarks of the Cadburys chocolate used with a creamy texture and fruity undertones that resulted in a beer that ended the evening perfectly after I’d used up my final token value on takeaway bottles.
A few cigarette breaks throughout the course of the evening had reminded my companions and I that the cold was indeed still there, but after a few days of illness on my part, I had forgotten the benefits that a couple of drinks within you can do when faced with a frosty February chill. A hell of a lot warmer than when we first arrived, we poodled back off in to the midnight darkness, a warm feeling in our bellies and a satisfaction in having attended this first ‘Craft Beer Rising.’