Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
Brodie's trio of pubs, The Cross Keys, The Old Coffee House and their brewery tap The King William IV straddle a bizarre line in the beer-verse where the worlds of craft beer and the traditional, salt-of-the-earth London boozer collide. This strange meeting of two very different types of drinker is never more apparent than over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend at the brewery's annual 'Bunny Basher' beer festival.
Yesterday I traveled to the William, which lies on Leyton High Road in North East London, for my second Bunny Basher experience. Last year I managed to do three days at the festival and tried an astonishing array of 32 different beers, all brewed on the premises by Brodie's. Not all of them were good beers, Brodie's penchant for experimentation (Sake IPA or Peppermint Pale Ale anyone?) sometimes pushes my expectation of what a beer should taste like a little too far but those that were good were often exceptional.
This year I only had one day with enough free time available to attend, my aim was not to try and sink as many different beers as possible, I've learned the hard way that's not the way to approach a beer festival. No, my aim was a simple one, to have a really fucking good time, and by crikey I managed just that.
The team at Brodie's had created no less than 54 different beers for this years festival which range from a 2.7% Mild up to a 22% something of a beer with just about every style of brew you can think of in between. There really was something here for everyone, cask pale ales, big American style IPA on keg, sours so sharp they were reminiscent of licking a nine-volt battery and that something beer, Elizabethan a super strong and sweet brew that's closer to port than beer which is based on, you've guessed it, an old Elizabethan recipe. One man perched precariously at the bar drank seven thirds of Elizabethan on top of several pints, I'm really glad I'm not him this morning.
Kentish Town Oud Bruin, a blend of a Brodie's Sour that had turned out too acetic and Kentish Town Brown IPA started off my afternoon. I had to pick my tongue up off the floor after that one. Dry Hoppin' Mad (a series of cask pale ales each with a different dry hop) Sorachi Ace wasn't quite Sorachi enough for me but Hoxton Special IPA was the best I had ever tasted it. Huge waves of grapefruit, lemon rind and a hint of bubblegum shone through, it was clearly evident that this recipe had been tweaked and perfected and was a great sign of what's to come in the future from this brewery. Blackcurrant Sour was as juicy and delicous a Brodie's sour as I've ever had, and from these guys that's saying something, it's no surprise that this was the first keg to kick that afternoon.
Then things got silly, as they inevitably do at Bunny Basher with huge stouts being handed around the table, the whisky barrel Romanov was a boozy, vinous treat but the real highlight and the beer of the day for me was the Big Mofo Stout. This version of Big Mofo, a recipe that was originally born from a collaboration with Mikkeller was infused with liquorice and raspberries. It was truly cyclopean but despite its immense size remained balanced and drinkable, it was as good as the best imperial stouts I've ever had and ranks up there with Great Divide Yeti and Oskar Blues Ten Fidy.
It's clear Brodie's have been working hard to get their beer tasting as good as possible over the last twelve months. An exhausted looking Jonny Bright, who joined Brodie's as a brewer last year after a spell working for Brewdog was tirelessly mingling with the crowd getting everyone's feedback and relishing the reception to his hard work. I always thought Brodie's would be in an eternal stasis, just happily plodding along, doing their thing while the craft beer scene grew around them. I was wrong though, not content to rest on their laurels Brodie's are aiming to have moved into a bigger facility by the end of this year. As a result this could be the last Bunny Basher in its current incarnation which is in some ways sad, there's no party quite like a King William party after all. The expansion is needed though, demand for their beers is ever increasing and a modern, stylish tap room will open up the twisted genius of Brodie's beers to a whole new world of drinkers.
I spent my hours at Bunny Basher deep in merriment and conversation, ties with old friends were strengthened and bonds with new ones made. On the table to my left was a bunch of young guys passing around thirds and enthusiastically singing the praises of each beer, on my right were four locals enjoying pint after pint of Fosters. It's a strange old world, the world of Brodie's but it's one you can't help but enjoy yourself in. The beers I drank yesterday were all good, some great, a few exceptional but the camaraderie was consistently five star.
Brodie's Bunny Basher is at the King William IV on Leyton High Road until Monday the 21st of April. Prices start at an incredibly reasonable £1.35 a half/£2.50 a pint for cask beers and £1.85 a half/£3.50 a pint for keg beers. Entry to the pub during the festival is free of charge.