Wikio - Top Blogs - Wine and beer The Real Ale Girl: March 2011

Sunday, 27 March 2011

We know where it's at!

Another blogpost, another Friday night. I do go out on other days of the week, honest. But this particular Friday night could not possibly go unblogged. For this Friday night saw me waiting under the clock in Waterloo. Not for a romantic liaison, but for Real Ale bro to appear so we could wing it on over to La Gothique for the Wandsworth Common beer Festival. Now the history of the place is indeed fascinating, what with its Crimean war orphanage, trench recovery hospital, World War 2 interrogation centre and the detention of Rudolph Hess. It is also architecturally intriguing, this eerily lit chateau sitting in the middle of blocks of flats, criss-crossed below by train tracks and the common.

But we all know what the real draw is. That beer list, is quite simply, dudesome. Twitter has made it impossible not to hear about all about the cool niche scene happening right now; collaborations, limited editions, quirky versions of established beers. However, hearing about the beers is one thing, getting them is another, especially if you don’t have the sort of life that means you can jump on a train at 1pm to get to the launch before it all runs out. These beers also bring a whole new slant to Beer Ticking. There is nowhere to tick ‘em- they aren’t listed anywhere! Which all adds to the exclusivity, the feel of the hunt, the buzz of actually finding one.

Or all of them, in a courtyard in Wandsworth as the sun set after a spring day that was dressed up as summer. The sneaky Dark Star Hophead Citra version, Oak matured casks of Sambrook’s Wandle and Junction (the cutest little 36 pint casks ever seen!) Summer Wines’ Apache APA, Redemption Trinity Pale Mild, Windsor and Eton Conqueror Black IPA... It was like stepping into the last few weeks’ hot topics in the beer realm of Twitter, without needing to go to work with a hangover or trekking to a pub on the other side of London only to get there two minutes after the cask is drained. Although, we did miss the Hophead Citra, by just one pint. That’s the last time I am honest when the barman says ‘Who’s next?’

This really is a beautiful time to be a beer drinker in London. Yesterday, I was performing in Verdi’s Requiem at the Blackheath Halls and post performance, gasping and in need of a major beer style quench, R.A bro produced the most beautiful selection of brown bottles that he’d picked up on a quick afternoon hop to Kernel’s Saturday shop.

Imperial Brown Stout, on its first day of release, was just what Verdi himself would have chosen, I am sure. Followed by Suke Quto Coffee IPA, Dark Star/Kernel Imperial Marzen and blissful mainstay, London Porter. I am saving the Redemption and Kernel collaborative Mild until after tonight’s performance.

It’s all going on in London town- these limited editions and collaborations, as well as all the launch nights, make the beer scene here ever changing, innovative and, well, darn good fun. But thank goodness for festivals like Wandsworth Common’s, for giving those of us with day jobs the chance to get hold of them!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The perils of a night with no real ale

Friday night. Real Ale Husband isn’t home yet, it’s been a busy week, and it’s time for a rewarding drink. I look at our bottled ale selection- some fine specimens. And herein lies the rub. These beers are treasures R.A.H and I bought in a delightful farm shop on the outskirts of Oxford. (When I say farm shop, it was more posh supermarket in the middle of nowhere, but being a Londoner, anywhere that sells carrots with the mud still on feels rustic. If you ignore the woman flogging loyalty cards.) Anyway, the beers we purchased in this Waitrose in disguise were lovely specimens. Beers we can’t easily get in bottle form round these parts. (I’ve yet to enter the world of online beer ordering- it still pains me to picture the lonely landlord round the corner twiddling his thumbs while mine are twiddling on computer keys ordering beer to drink at home.) However, these beers we bought as we simply couldn’t resist- Hook Norton Double Stout, Wickwar Station Porter...

So as I said, this was my problem come 6.30 on Friday night. I couldn’t open one of them without the presence of R.A.H. These were treasures discovered together, to be enjoyed together. So now what? Aha. A wilting bottle of Sainsbury’s basics cider lies half full (or half empty? You decide). That’ll do. That’ll clear the stresses of the working week and I am sure you will agree that there was no way the hubby would mind that disappearing.

Then he arrives home, and a bottle of Cava flies down our throats during dinner. We get rather excited about the line up of the upcoming Hop Farm festival and dance around the flat to Iggy Pop, and the party mood tempts us into a shot each of something bright blue and raspberry flavoured lurking in our drinks cabinet. (It’s more of a shelf, actually- it doesn’t have the doors that are surely prerequisite for a cabinet.)

We head on out into the Lew-sharm night, armed with a drink for the train journey (Boris hasn’t banned us from drinking on this form of transport.) So, this pre-party tipple should have been one of the aforementioned bottled beers, I agree. However, something in the Lust for Life lyrics subconsciously made R.A.H reach for the vodka and make a portable Moscow Mule in a bottle of ginger beer.

We arrive at the party. In a wine bar. No real ale (or in the words of the dear ex-bus conductor ticker, Clippie- NORA), nor any beer that wasn’t Becks. Hell, I’d already started on the vodka, I better carry on. Vodka and Tonic please. Next- this is a wine bar- let’s get wine. Then- Oh look- you’ve got a Portuguese Bock- do you want to swap it for the rest of my wine? And then I stumbled, got a bit loud(er) and declared I needed to go home.

A hangover like no other ensued. My head was yelling "What are you doing to me, carzy woman? This is not the usual cosy yummy beer stuff that I am used to!" My stomach was equally unforgiving, "How dare you, Real Ale Girl! I will make you pay!" And I will keep the rest to myself.

I tried toast. Paracetamol. More sleep. Hot chocolate, tea, ginger tea, lemon green tea. And then I went to the pub. To the beer festival at The Grape & Grain in Crystal Palace, to be precise. One half (North Yorks.' Flying Herbert) and all was well with the world. Hangover gone. Kapoof.
The moral of this long and winding story? Only drink real ale. That’s it.