Down the street the teeny-boppers are buzzing and their eyelashes are dark, at the Shepherds Bush Empire where the ‘pop-punk’ trio ‘Green Day’ have announced an impromptu performance two days prior and yes, the crowd at ‘The Defector’s Weld,’ does partly reflect this. When we first arrive at around seven in the evening, the boppers reside at the front of the queue outside The Empire with their strong, cheap alcohol (a means to an end). In ‘The Defector’s’ though resides a few people with t-shirts ill-advisedly forced over the gut, thus distorting the face of Billy-Joe Armstrong. The buzz around the place though is not really down to the efforts of a Californian wannabe Clash threesome. Bunting still leftover from the Olympics and will be taken down post Notting Hill Carnival added an extra feel good factor with punters trying to work flags from each country.
The ‘Defector’s Weld,’ is yet another London pub that is supplying it’s clienteles with good beer from within the confines of the United Kingdom (‘cask’ seems to have become it’s shorthand) and from across the pond (craft this time is its pseudonym), a craze that seems to have grabbed at the heart strings of ‘the trendy crowd,’ men and women alike.
Built from the dregs that used to be ‘Edwards,’ a ghastly chain pub that offered two for one Buds when ‘The Hustle,’ by Van McCoy reared its ugly head, ‘The Defector’s,’ has re-invented the space in to a lush, cosy environment that is still buzzing with a vibrancy that cannot be denied. John…explains that families with children are now permitted in to the venue, all in appreciation with the pub’s day-time capacity as a solid lunchtime spot next to the green (the tremendous food options and spacious environment aid this). In the evening though, comes a different crowd and the place is pleasantly awash with generally slimmer bodies that might not be usually associated with the average ‘pub crowd.’ Dee-Ems, trendy walking boots, coiffured hair and eccentric facial hair, makes for very interesting people watching. It is worth noting though, that CAMRA has recently endorsed ‘The Defector’s’ presence on its West London branch website and on ‘View London.’
It is unlikely that this is a feeble attempt on the part of that organisation in accordance with its bizarrely named CAMRA youth movement to ‘get in’ with ‘the new scene,’ rather than them seeing the place as a genuinely welcoming place for the older and newer breed to co-inhabit. The wonderfully eclectic music even, seems to demonstrate this. Within the space of ten minutes, we go from the cool punk-disco of LCD Sound System to the epic drive of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere.’ The ambience and beer that the place offers though is more important.
Although the place doesn’t display the same vast options as some of the more specialist beer bars that are cropping up across the capital but this is not something that I shall be pernickety about considering that there is still a solid range to pick from. There is a very strong range of cask ales, regional to London, from the bar’s native West (Moncada Brewery) to North (Redemption Brewery) to South (Sambrooks Brewery). Furthermore, there’s, a couple of others from around the U.K in Adnams’ best bitter (didn’t have it this evening but decent enough and sessionable) and UBU Brewery in Warwickshire which displayed its Amber ale 4.5%.
A definitive dark amber in colour, there’s not a lot on the nose, with the latter, though a light maltiness emerges late on. As far as first taste goes, it’s fruity to the extent of displaying notes of apple and blackberries with a light bitterness emerging late on. The malt though, holds its own and results in a beer that is not extraordinary but is thoroughly drinkable. I didn’t try it with the food, but I can assume that it would complement it well. Food or not, the ‘Notting Hill Summer Ale,’ 3.6% from our Argentine pal, Julio Moncada is another solid pint that holds its own, albeit a different entity to the previous amber. The ‘Notting Hill’ is indeed made for summer, tropical on the nose, this is reciprocated handsomely in to the first taste with luscious notes of passion fruit and citrus that culminates in a very tidy bitterness, truly ace.
Aside from the cask ales are a selection of American bottled beers. Again, usual suspects in an average specialist bar, it is still good to see the likes of Anchor and Goose Island breweries in a pub that is seemingly attempting to attract all types whilst maintaining a presence from the more well-seasoned beer drinker.
Pitch black with an off-white, yellowish head, the ‘Anchor Porter,’ 5.6% of the ‘Frisco is both sweet and savoury in scent, possessing simultaneously notes of caramel, nutmeg and yeast on the nose that to coin a childish phrase ‘tastes the smell’ when first drunk. As is to be expected with a decent porter there are also a few glimpses of coffee in the mix, all of which is partnered with reasonably thick consistency that does not cloy to the roof and walls of the mouth.
The other offering from Anchor is their ‘Steam Beer,’ 4.8%, a stalwart of the American scene and a rising presence in this country. It is a light, clear, amber in colour, that is both sweet and sour in scent with the malt trying its utmost to show its own earthy presence too. There is an ultimate marriage between hops, malt and yeast that reaches its resumption in the taste of the beer, at once possessing sourness and sweetness experienced in the taste, there is also a refreshing lager-like quality that results in a beer that is perfectly enjoyed on a summer day by itself or like we did, with a massive, bleeding burger.
Heading then, North East across the United States to the great state of Illinois with a couple of offerings from Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery (Obama’s a big fan by all accounts). The Goose Island I.P.A 5.9% typifies everything about the American strong ale in that it is quite sweet (it shows it’s boozy plumage off proudly) and possessing of citrus notes to counter balance this. It would though, be a dis-service to the ‘Goose I.P.A,’ though to suggest that it is just a typical American I.P.A. Along with the customary flavours of citrus orange, there is a fragrant elderflower on the nose. Neither is the sweetness a purely saccharine one, rather than one that is earthy and toffee-like. As a good beer should, these flavours carry on in the first taste to the last with added light chocolate flavours in the mix too. Consistently brilliant, ‘Goose I.P.A’ with its flavour that lightly permeates the whole mouth is one to revisit at frequent intervals.
The other Goose product we try is their ‘Honkers Ale,’ 4.5% which could perhaps be cruelly referred to as Goose I.P.A-lite. Yes, there is not quite the same ballsiness that the I.P.A possesses but it is basically a different beer. A murky tomato brown, there are still the hallmarks of American hop varieties there; caramel in scent and taste. However, there is a greater malt content that reaches its climax in a toned-down, more savoury beer that like the ‘Anchor Steam’ could be enjoyed with all sorts, or by itself and at any time.
Listening to Johns wise words we opted for the steak burger. After a few beers we were hungry and just about kept my eyes in their sockets when the burger turned up. This was a steak pattie topped with pulled pork, Monterey Jack cheese and with home-made barbecue sauce. I could not wait to get gnashers into this. It was with a burger bun that was not too doughy and a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed. It was not over the top as if you are eating in a man vs food competition. The steak prevailed with its tenderness and then woosh a finish of pulled pork with the barbecue sauce. Happy punter! It was complimented with home made slaw, onion rings and a choice of hand cut chips or french fries. I know a lot of food places in Shepherd’s Bush and this burger is sitting at top overlooking the green for it’s nearest rival.
Danny working upstairs at the snug bar.
Outside ‘The Defector’s Arms,’ in chalk, upon a dark A-frame, are written the words ‘Real Ales, Craft Beers, Great Food, Comfy Seats and Good Times.’ Yep, all boxes ticked.