Wikio - Top Blogs - Wine and beer The Real Ale Girl: October 2010

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Why Cask Ale Rocks

Cask ale is important to each of us in very different ways. In this collaborative blogging effort me, Mark (homebrewer), Mark (beer writer), Glyn (bar manager) and Kelly (brewer) say why it's important to us.
I am not usually an arrogant person; colleagues and friends often say I’m quite self deprecating. But here goes anyway:  I am fashionable. I am funky. I am hip (if you can still be hip having used that word). I have been on clubbing trips to Ibiza nine times, I can understand the appeal of both jeggings and jumpsuits (though have not chosen to wear either), I can name all the contestants on the last series of Young, Dumb, Living off Mum and shop for clothes around Spitalfields. I also happen to enjoy drinking Real Ale. Regularly. And I know quite a lot about it.

So how did this come to be? Isn’t ale just for beardy people? Isn’t it impossible to be a size 12 ale drinker? Don’t I have to hang out in dingy backstreet bars or country pubs to sup the stuff? Do I need to spend all my time with old men? Well, to put it simply, no, no, no, no.

I discovered Real Ale at university. The city I partied, studied and loved in for my four student years just happened to have a perfectly timed CAMRA beer festival at the end of the summer term exams. It was (and still is) held in a pair of marquees in a park by the river and was the perfect place for a student to kick off their summer. Everyone went. The beer wasn’t even that important; it was just somewhere outside, in the sun, where we were allowed to get drunk without getting a ASBO. We lasses mostly stuck to the cider, some played it even safer at the English Wine stand. And then, at the end of my third year, it happened. A friend bought me a pint of something so dark and thick looking I expected it to taste of marmite. My friends just expected me to throw-up; it was called Skullsplitter, after all. They held a collective breath as I stepped up to the dare. It was… well, sublime. Strong, yes, but still the most intriguing liquid I had ever tried. This made champagne feel like orange squash- there was so much going on, such depth, such flavour, yet still so refreshing. To the bemusement of my friends, who were used to me wearing pink boob tubes and dancing to S Club 7 at cheese nights (this was 2004, remember), I drank the lot. And then demanded they take me to pubs where I could try more. And maybe some that weren’t 8.5%.

I’ve never looked back. I love the fact that there is ale for every occasion; a 3.5% biscuity brown ale allows me to drink 5 pints on a week night and still wake up feeling spritely, while a cherry chocolate stout gets me in a party mood. But the best thing? There are no rules. You want a midnight black porter on the beach? Perfectly refreshing. A golden IPA on Christmas day? It goes really well with turkey. You want to drink a real ale while dancing to Deadmaus? Why the hell not. For me, Real Ale is about choice- choice for free-minded people, to choose to drink something exciting, something local, something crafted with love and care, something retro. Something...(dare I say it?)... Cool.

Check out Why Cask Ale Rocks from four more young cask ale lovers: (Glyn- bar manager) (Mark- beer writer) (Kelly- brewer) (Mark- homebrewer)

Sunday 17 October 2010

All the young dudes

We all know how much I love a good old fashioned pub.  Friends frequently get frustrated with me as I badger them away from a groovy bar into a backstreet local. My pals have long since learned never to scorn me for ordering ‘an old man’s drink’ but they will occasionally allow themselves a rant about my choice of venue.  Having said that, on a recent pub crawl round Forest Hill, South-East London, it was the time-warped Forest Hill Hotel, with its distinctly early 90’s karaoke set up and faded flowery seat covers, which had everyone hooked.  Except me, as there was no real ale.
But there is real ale a-plenty around London today.  In cool, funky venues with quirky design and young, interesting staff who know what they are talking about.
For the past two Saturday’s we have found ourselves in the shadow of Tower Bridge, in the delightful Dean Swift and the much talked about Draft House.  We found them both through sheer fluke last weekend but returned entirely intentionally this time round.
Last Saturday was a landmark day for Real Ale Girl.  We spotted that our 2nd closest brewery, Kernel, is open every Saturday to buy their beer directly (for those of you interested in such things, Meantime’s new brewing premises is 3.6 miles away from my gaff, Kernel = 5.6.).  So off we sped, traipsing round the back arse of Bermondsey, carefully tracing our route alongside the railway arches, repeatedly mistaking mechanics for our destination.  But boy, what a destination.  We sat on a wooden plank, admiring the fashion for cool young lads to make themselves look as geeky and unstylish as possible, and marvelled.  We made our way through as much of the exotic range as we could manage in half an hour, and chatted to Evin, the brewer, who made my year by recognising me.  I am officially cool.
Evin recommended the Dean Swift to us.  They sell his bottles, and even the occasional rare cask.  He told us how to find it and told us they serve good beer.  He didn’t tell us just how darn hip it would be.  It is stylish, it is quirky, it was full of groovy young folks.  And I loved it.  They indeed serve good beer.  Not just cask, but a carefully selected range of draft beers from around the world- beers for the connoisseur and the casual beer drinker alike.  The bottled beer list is split into styles and features a Wheat beer from Corsica.  The place is quite simply very cool.  They know their stuff- about both beer and what makes a pub attractive to young people, and are combining the two perfectly.  And I am going to keep going back.
Round the corner is the much hyped Draft House, but hyped has negative connotations.  Hyped implies an exaggerated reputation, and that when you finally go yourself, you’ll be somewhat disappointed by the reality.  But I didn’t get that with the Draft House.  I got some amazing beer- the Rauchbier is pure heaven for a smoky beer lover, and I got to sit in a New York loft-esque space marvelling at their witty marketing and Ghostbusters wallpaper.
What is exciting about these bars is not just the beer.  And it’s not simply the style.  It is the combination of the two.  Looking around both bars yesterday afternoon, there were groups of friends having lunch and nursing hangovers.  Drinking exciting, unusual beers.  There were cool couples on their way home from Spitalfields.  Drinking exciting, unusual beers.  There were family groups having birthday lunches, drinking exciting, unusual beers- not a glass of wine in sight, the grannies were drinking Belgian fruit beers.  And there was me.  In a state of excitement that beer really is getting cool.  About bloody time.