Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Proper Night Out in London with Camden Town Brewery and the Bars of Shoreditch

Having friends in the locations you travel to usually leads to experiences that you wouldn’t get to enjoy if you were traveling on your own. And if those friends share your mindset on enjoying good beer, the experience is enhanced even more. That’s why our new mantra is: Go find friends all over the globe who love craft beer, and your life will be a little bit more complete.

Beer and friends-the perfect combo
During my recent trip to London I was lucky enough to have that experience. My friends Niels and Jenny are Dutch/American/Nebraskan expats whom, until our reunion in London, I had not seen in years. They live in London but travel frequently, so I considered it good fortune that I was to be in there when they would be home instead of off gallivanting themselves. What came of a night in London’s North and East Ends was good clean fun (shenanigans) with introductions to lovely new people and the city’s exploding craft beer scene.

Camden Town Brewery

After spending some time at the Borough Market and central London, Niels and I headed out to Camden. This area was his neck of the woods which meant he knew all the best local spots to hit. After winding through the lanes of Camden Market, walking down a few residential streets, and one last back alley we ended up at Camden Town Brewery. More specifically we ended up on the outdoor patio of the brewery bar (tasting room for Americans). It was a simple yet perfect outdoor space with a large grouping of picnic tables, propane heaters, and a food truck. Inside was the bar, some stand up tables, and a view of the brewery.
Never take good beer for granted, love it back!
We decided the outdoor space was perfect for us on this fantastic December evening. After looking over the taps I settled on a Camden USA Hells. My thought process was that, as an American craft beer drinker, I could get a good feel for the brewery by tasting what I know. With an abundance of good craft lagers in America, I had a pretty good base to rate my experience with this beer. What my taste buds received was a citrus, hop, lager explosion. The USA Hells had a mix of tastes from both the U.S. and Bavaria. It was crisp, unfiltered, hoppy, and refreshing. To say I was happy and excited for beer number two is an understatement. What made that point of the evening even better is the fact that Niels’wife Jenny and their friend Austin arrived then to accompany us wandering gentleman.

With beer number two I stayed on the lighter side of my normal selections and chose the Camden Gentleman Wit. What I found interesting about this offering was that the lemons used in this classic Belgian White Ale were roasted lemons along with bergamot. This was another absolute winner. It was cloudy with a nice citrus hint and a bit of spice to finish off. The roasted lemon was a real treat. Instead of just a lemon squeeze you could catch a hint of caramel from the roasted lemons that really set it apart from the normal monotony of the majority of wheat beers.

After enjoying our two beers it was time to move on from Camden Town Brewery. I was sad to leave but excited at the same time. The sad part is that I wanted to try the full line. I had eyed up an IPA and an Ink Stout that looked and sounded very enjoyable. Instead of dwelling on this I thought about the positives of the experience. And those positives were endless. From the Victorian arches that the brewery is set in, to the food truck out back, and of course the great craft beer, I knew that I would be back in the future and would recommend this brewery to people heading to London looking for a full flavor craft beer with a great atmosphere.

The Bars of Shoreditch and Brew Dog Craft Beer

The next portion of the evening was about to begin and it meant getting to try more brews and meet some new people. After taking the London Overground to the Shoreditch High Street stop, we made our way a couple of blocks to The Owl and Pussycat. This classic Shoreditch pub was alive with energy on the early December evening. Here we met up with the rest of the group who would accompany us for the evening and our group quickly dove into some pints. Not surprisingly, the pints kept flowing in the loud and festive atmosphere. The pub itself was very open (even when packed) and inviting. Did I know what I was drinking? Well, I knew it came from the Marston collection, but as I was the guest receiving free British hospitality the best thing to do was drink what was given to me and just have fun. And fun we had. Shouting conversation, singing, and comparing shaved chests were all on tap for The Owl and Pussycat, a place I recommend as a definite must if you find yourself in Shoreditch.

That's the look of beer love!!
From there we moved down Redchurch St to The RedChurch Bar. This bar had a more relaxed atmosphere featuring a long bar perfect for the narrow area. As with everywhere else on that evening, the RedChurch was very festive—although I was promised glitter (yep, the sparkly stuff) and didn’t realize until after I left that neither Jenny nor myself had been glittered. The RedChurch is famous for their cocktails mixed by “mixologists” who have been working on their creations for over a decade. We chose to abide by the mantra of “beer before liquor never sicker” though, and we stuck to craft beer. Before long an old familiar craft beer friend was handed to me, a Sierra Nevada. It was a fine choice at that point in the evening and the RedChurch was also another fine bar that I would recommend stopping in while in East London. The drink menu is extensive and can be a nice changeup in your London beer escapades.

Great staff at BrewDog and love for the Punk IPA motto!
To finish my craft beer adventure in London we headed to Brew Dog. Though Brew Dog is not a London brewery, it is a British craft brewery with a conveniently located bar right across Redchurch St for us to sample their offerings. It was the end of the night and sometimes that part of the evening can become relaxed, but not at Brew Dog. This bar, and their beer, is hardcore and memorable. I chose the Libertine Black Ale from their lineup and I was instantly a fan. It was a mix between a hardcore hoppy IPA and a malty stout. Not too heavy on either flavor, it was a perfect combination of the two. It was also reaching a higher ABV then anything we had been drinking up to that point, so it was the perfect way to start wrapping up the night. So perfect, in fact, that I threw sampling out the window and went in again for another Libertine. With the creativity and flavor of that beer and the happy faces around the bar (who unfortunately had to listen to this guy wax on about beer) I say hitting one of Brew Dogs three locations in the London area should be on your list. Like my Camden Town experience, I knew that I would be heading back to London again to sample more of Brew Dogs offerings. But I also knew from those few beers that their lineup was stellar and creative.

When we reached the bottom of our Brew Dog beers it was time to bid farewell to this group of characters who treated me so well. With an early flight back to the States looming, I knew I would have to cab it back to Greenwich to be decent only a few hours later. My experience in London showed me that people all around the world are done settling for what they have been told to drink. Local brewers worldwide deserve our gratitude for bringing their craft to the masses. I look forward to many more London craft beer experiences in the future.
I made it, though I was quite groggy

I’d like to say a special “thank you” to Niels Hamelink, Jenny Clark, Austin Hayes, and the countless others who welcomed me into their group and showed me a great night out in London. Cheers!