Service, while friendly and knowledgeable, was slow, and the one time we ordered a bowl of chips it was waylaid, therefore taking a complaint and half an hour to get to us. That said, the menu looked really nice; not a very wide selection, but better quality than your average pub grub. There must have been a dozen to twenty beers on tap (ten or so hand-pulled from cask), with a very wide range of both British and Belgian bottled beers in fridges both behind and to the side of the bar.
The noisy atmosphere meant that we didn't stay all night, but we did get to try a few tasty brews in the couple of hours we stuck around. My own tasting notes first:
Brodie's Hackney Red IPA: a clear ruby-amber ale, not your typical blonde IPA at all. It offers a soft odor of sweet berries mixed with hops, but is very sharp and earthy on the first taste. This nice mix is made more interesting by a hint of what I can only describe as a smoky, honey-cured parma ham, and then sharp citrus on the swallow. A very satisfying and complex pint, and a lovely start to the evening.
Arbor's Old Knobbley: a very dark red-brown ale with a light smoky-chocolatey aroma; there's very little flavor in the first touch, neither sweetness nor bitterness, really, just a hint of ash. On the swill there's more watery charcoal, and the swallow gives a bit more bland smoky bitterness. There's really not much going for this ale: neither strength nor flavour. I don't think I even finished the pint before leaving.
Beers reviewed by the others (and therefore in less detail):
- Dark Star's Green Hopped IPA: there's a lovely citrusy smell to this light ale, almost like a sweet Citronella. Slightly minty in the first taste, leading to fully bitterness and a rich yet refreshing at swallow. Very nice!
- East-end Brewing Co. Black strap stout: a very expensive, strong dark ale. This pint came with a head of brown foam, and a coarse taste of liquorice. Quite a dense drink, very pleasant but by no means a session ale. The flavor becomes more sour and tart the further down the glass you go.
- Redchurch's Bethnel IPA (in a bottle): this was a lovely light ale, not to sharp, but with a smooth and interesting flavour. Sharp on the sip, but robust on the swaller--definitely sessionable. It was so recommended that we all had a few sips of this one, and were all in agreement that it was one of the best of the night.
- Whitstable Brewery's Oyster Stout was really disappointing, with almost no flavour or strength; this was basically watered-down Guinness.
- Brodie's Whitechapel Weizen: a surprising beer, it has a dusty smell, as you expect of a wheaty lager, but the first taste is far too bitter for a weizen. A really interesting combination of styles: the hoppy, bitter taste of an IPA, alongside the color and grainy background taste of a Weissbier.
In summary, a sublime beer range, and a much better bar than the Euston Tap, say, but somewhere you'll only go when you're explicitly after unusual beers, rather than a pleasant evening's drinking with friends. They do have a sister pub up near Farringdon, so that may be worth a visit.