Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
We began our crawl at the Southampton Arms
So a few months ago I thought to myself how wonderful it would be to arrange a chance for all of the beer enthusiasts I've met through this blog and through twitter to meet up. This thought soon became a tweet, a tweet which rapidly gathered a hearty response that led to an exchange of emails with Simon, the head of the Campaign for Really Good Beer. This exchange transformed a whimsical, near spur of the moment idea into one that soon became a fully fleshed out reality. We had a trio of bars eager to host our event and unbeknownst to the both of us we had managed to summon a small army of beer geeks, home brewers and bloggers and we were about to descend on some of North London's finest beer flogging establishments.
But first, why the Campaign for Really Good Beer? Well, CAMRGB is simply a really good idea. It is a collective of like minded, open minded beer lovers that don't care for dispense method, how a beer is brewed and how much yeast per fluid ounce is required to be present in a beer for it to be classed as 'real ale', we just love beer, just as long as it is really good.
The reason I write about beer is that I think that despite so many other people writing about it is that I still feel like there is enough left over worth talking about and I love talking about beer. CAMRGB for me has been a way of meeting people who share these ideas and love talking about it too and it is through this love of this delicious beverage, in it's many forms, that this pub crawl, this twissup came into being. It was through Simon's tenacity that this event was as good as it was and for that I thank him, without his efforts this would not have happened, so thank you Simon, all of your CAMRGB acolytes owe you one! If you want to join CAMRGB then click here and follow the simple instructions and who knows, maybe we'll see you on the next twissup.
So a couple of months after sending a simple tweet I had disembarked from the train at Gospel Oak station and was feverishly marching on the Southampton Arms. There I finally met with Simon along with the guys from Brewers & Union who performed an impromptu tasting with some of their excellent beers. The spirit of the evening was clear from the off when even the bar staff were passing around the sample laden glasses, exchanging tasting notes and gathering around to try each new beer as the bottles were opened. For me my first beer of the evening couldn't have been more apt, a delicious pint of Magic Rock Curious, one of the best cask beers in the country and the accompanying samples of the various Brewers & Union beers were most welcome. I was just draining the last few drops of Touro, an amazingly delicious Belgian Tripel with a beautiful label that closely resembled one of my all time favourite paintings, Picasso's Guernica. Touro was an incredible beer, one of the best I had all evening, it had all the hallmarks of a classic Tripel but with stacks of added prunes, figs and dates on the palate which for me really lifted the beer above others in this style.
Nik from The Kernel accepts the award for CAMRGB Beer of the Year
Soon the Southampton Arms was full to the brim with CAMRGB members, I'd name check but there was so many of us present I'm afraid I'd miss someone out so I won't, but you all know who you are! I worked my way through a Howling Hops US Pale Ale and an Otley O Garden before we gradually made our way to Brewdog Camden. I was a little taken back with how well we were treated by the guys at Brewdog and I doff my cap to Joe and the team who were incredibly hospitable. They had reserved their basement (aptly named the hop bunker) for us and it was soon full up with merry CAMRGB folk. The Brewdog guys were happy to furnish us with glasses as people passed around their homebrew (Andy Parker's pomegranate saison was a real highlight for me) and it was great to see them getting involved as well. Nuns with Guns, the new Brewdog prototype lager tasted slightly mute after the beers I had tried previously but Hoppy Christmas was supremely delicious, an ode to the Simcoe hop if ever there was one and I proudly demolished several halves.
Simon then broke out the big guns, a 78 year old beer he had been gifted on a visit to the Greene King brewery earlier in the year. For me it had ceased to become a beer and was firmly placed in spirit territory, it made me recall sherry and Madeira but with added oak and a enough musk to floor a mighty ox. I enjoyed it and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to try it. We then awarded Nik from The Kernel the CAMRGB award for beer of the year which was voted for by CAMRGB members. The winning beer was the incredible S.C.C.A.N.S IPA which I fondly remember having both on tap and in bottle earlier this year, it was a fantastic drop and so the award was well deserved.
I worked my way through some more fine beers whilst at Brewdog Camden and being joined by my family later on in the evening made the occasion even more special. It was then that Justin purchased a bottle of Lost Abbey Devotion and very kindly agreed to share it with me. It was a really good saison-esque Belgian style pale ale that worked as an excellent palate cleanser before the group gradually broke up and made it's way towards our final venue, the Euston Tap. I must admit that by the time I left Brewdog I was a little worse for ware so sensibly the first beer I had in the Tap was the massive Double Crooked Tree IPA from Dark Horse Brewing which weighs in at an epic 12% ABV, it was so good that later on in the evening I went back for seconds. What bowled me over though was the next beer I had at the Tap, Brodie's Peach London Sour. It tasted absolutely massive and despite being lip puckeringly sour it was moreishly drinkable and was my liquid highlight of the entire evening. I could've drank a boatload of the stuff but the trouble with the Euston Tap is that they have a lot of beers on offer and they are all very, very good so naturally I wanted to try as many as possible before I collapsed in a drunken heap.
I really feel like the Euston Tap has settled into a great groove, it attracts drinkers from all walks of life from old-school tickers to new-school beer geeks like myself as well as passers by having a pre train pint. Despite it's small size and cold interior it carries with it a really great vibe and just like the previous two venues on tonight's pub crawl it has some really great staff behind the bar who really know and love their beer.
Duvels 2012 Tripel Hop was close to perfection
It was then the festive spirit possessed me and I dug deep into my wallet and bought a 75cl bottle of this years Duvel Tripel Hop which is a version of the classic Belgian Strong Ale that has been dry hopped with Citra. I won't lie to you, Duvel is one of my all time favourite beers and Citra is probably my favourite hop so for me this was a match made in heaven. It still had that typical Belgian yeast character but with that added citrus note from the dry hopping that elevated it to levels of near perfection. I took great pleasure in sharing this bottle amongst my family and friends, it was this reason that it was worth every penny of the fifteen pounds I spent on it.
Justin then bought another bottle from the fridges for us to share, Hoppin' Frog's Christmas Seasonal 'Frosted Frog.' Now I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of spiced Christmas beers, I often find them too heavily spiced and overly sweet. I love cinnamon and cloves, just not generally in beer, however Frosted Frog tasted divine, it was like Christmas pudding in a glass, it's not the kind of beer I'd want to drink a lot of but it was a great way to round off the evening... Except it didn't round off the evening, I went back for more Crooked Tree IPA which might not have been the most sensible idea I'd had all evening. I vaguely remember my Dad mentioning something about going for a curry but found it increasingly difficult to remain standing up and so just before midnight I decided to knock it on the head and go home, but what a fantastic night it had been.
I'd like to send out a huge thank you to the Southampton Arms, Brewdog Camden and The Euston Tap for hosting us, I'd like to thank all of the many CAMRGB members who turned up for all or part of the evening. I'd also like to thank the brewers and homebrewers who brought along their beers for us all to sample and were happy to chat away to everyone about their beers and finally, once again, I'd like to thank Simon because without his tremendous effort this fantastic evening would not have taken place.
While I've got your attention I'd like to thank all of you who've enjoyed reading my blog in it's freshman year, I can't believe the massive response and audience I've built up over the last 12 months and I aim to continue with aplomb next year, Merry Christmas to you all!