Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Lamb Beer and Liquor Beerfest

The Lamb Beer and Liquor on the Holloway Road, Highbury, had a London beer festival this weekend; thirteen breweries were represented, although only half a dozen beers were on cask when we turned up on Saturday afternoon. From the menu it seems most of their business is done with keg beers, and they had a bit of a problem with the temperate of the casks at the festival which they solved by passing beers up through a trapdoor from the cellar. This also involved an elaborate system of tokens (pictured below), which you could purchase from the bar and exchange for a pint. However you could also order a pint from the bar for the same price, and have it delivered from the cellar, so the function of the somewhat iconic tokens remains an utter mystery. (Perhaps they also offered indulgences?)

The bar was pleasant, if somewhat bare, and relatively quiet when we arrived, remaining civilized even when business picked up in the evening. The staff were friendly and helpful, although didn’t really offer beer advice. It doesn’t seem that there was any food on offer, but in any case before long we’d tried all the beers and moved on for dinner. Apart from one corrupted pint, the beers seemed to be stored and served pretty well, despite the pub not really having cask facilities.

We only took brief notes on a few of the beers:

  • Clarence and Fredericks, American Pale Ale: orangey-amber colored ale with a sour, fruity smell, and sweet orange zest first taste; intensely pithy in the mouth, lingering on the tongue with several layers of hops; a satisfying bitterness takes the breath away on the swallow. This one is very nice indeed, super-hoppy in the American style, but might get a bit samey after a few pints.
  • Five Points Brewing Co., Red Rye: a light brown ale with a good frothy head, but they struggled a bit with the pump, so bubbles were all over the place; it has a warm, malty and yeasty smell, and a very sweet, spicy first taste, like a savory cinnamon and cumin pastry. Further back it’s a bit cloying, with dark roasted malts a bit overwhelmed by the yeast—this was either spoilt or from the bottom of the barrel; either way I didn’t finish it.
  • London Fields IPA (from keg): dark gold, not completely transparent; a slight smell of caramel; not too hoppy, bit sweet, caramelized veg on the tip of the tongue, with delicate melted sugars; bitter in the back of the mouth, slightly smoky and hoppy on the swallow, not quite American strength, nor terribly varied or interesting, but gently satisfying. (Reviewed by Simona.)
  • Redemption, Rock the Kazbek: a very pale, fresh piss buttercup yellow beer with a gentle smell of white grapefruit pith; light and citrusy tasting, like refreshingly sweet lemon flesh; really really bitter and much more grapefruity on the swallow. (Reviewed by Dora the Explorer.)
  • Ha’penny, London Particular Dark Mild: a cloudy amber, not nearly as dark as expected, and served cold. There is sweet stewed orange in the aroma, and a tangy first taste with a bit of smoky maltyness, spicy and hearty. It’s very sparkly and bright, with lingering breadiness, like marmalade on warm, buttered crust; a bit of coffee loiters on the swallow, but any zesty bitterness quickly fades. I was a bit undecided about this one: I could have drunk more of it, but but decided to keep moving for now.
  • Pressure Drop, Stokey Brown: the color of freshly churned mud (no really,look at it!) with very little head that dissolved quickly; coffee and caramel notes in the smell, with just a hint of chocolate orange; fresh, sweet hoppiness combines with subtle coffee on the tip of the tongue; delicate, orange-zest hoppy further back; green fruit going down, with more coarse coffee combination on the palate. A really interesting, complex beer. Liked a lot. (Reviewed by Simona.)
  • Weird Beard, Coffee Milk Stout: pitch black, creamy brown head; roasted soft wood aroma, more coal than coffee; mellow barbecue first sip, pleasant bitterness on the swallow, like a home-ground gentle blend, lingering like a nice chilled rather than fresh coffee, with just a sprinkle of dark chocolate. (Reviewed by Dora the Explorer.)
  • Pressure Drop, Pale Fire: a light, cloudy and very sparkly ale, with a fresh country orchard smell, and sweet but intensely tart lime on the tip of the tongue. A hint of fruit gums in mouth, with slightly disconcerting fizziness throughout. Overall it’s a little sweaty, with more lime and orange zest in the bitter, complex and satisfying swallow. A good beer to drink in the sun, but overall a bit too cold and lagery to be really great. (Live from bottle (with possibly the world's most boring label); the second glass was a bit yeastier, which gave it a not entirely pleasant, but different and less lagery kick.)
  • Hackney, New Zealand Pale: a rich light amber with wildflower pollen or honey in the aroma; grassy and herby on first taste, with a little wild yeast and freshly squeezed clementine, floating between sweet and tart. Plenty of hearty malt and yeast in the mouth, mellowing to a zesty bitterness, not terribly intense or memorable but perfectly nice. The aftertaste is all hoppy bitter, not sweet or flavorsome in any interesting way. This was a very nice antidote to a couple of over-yeasty dark ales earlier on though.
If we lived or worked nearby we might pop in here occasionally for some unusual beers (assuming their menu turns over fairly often), but it wasn’t special enough for us to cross London for very often, I don’t think. I will keep an eye out for Pressure Drop beers, though, as they both impressed us very much. London Fields and Redemption were already on our radar.

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