Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wandsworth Common Beerfest, La Gothique, March 27-29, 2014

We went to the Wandsworth Common beerfest in summer last year, and found it very charming, a pleasant venue, excellent beer range and all-round lovely day (the weather and company obviously helped!). The spring beerfest they hold in March is less sparkling (although the company was just as great), as it's not yet warm enough to sit outdoors all evening, and the venue is less well-equipped than we remember it being in July. No food trucks out back; no seating on the grass; the beer ran out more quickly on the Saturday afternoon. It was still a good fun day out, and I'm sure we'll come again some time.

Quick note re my beer notes: I've given each ale a star rating, roughly speaking, (1*) = so terrible I couldn't even finish the glass; (2*) not bad, but I'd rather not drink this in future if there's anything else on offer; (3*) pretty good, I could drink a few pints of this if it was on in my local one night; (4*) very good indeed, I enjoyed this very much and might seek it out; (5*) this is such a great beer, it's on my list of all-time favorite ales and I'll actively seek it out from here on in. There were no 1s or 5s tonight, but I've highlighted a couple of 4s below with (****) as they are the standouts of the festival for me.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

London Drinker beer festival, Camden, March 14

Our second visit to the London Drinker beer festival in the Camden Centre on Bidborough Street, a stone's throw from the British Library. As before we were pleased by the size of the venue, with a huge main hall and several smaller sections where food and imported beer were served, and the not-terribly-comfortable but quieter balconies. As we attended on the last day of the festival a lot of beer was starting to run short: at the beginning of the evening about half the titles in the programme were gone; by 9PM only a handful of British beers remained, but we'd had a chance to try a good few by then. Staffing was as usual amateurish but friendly, with many of the familiar faces from CAMRA beerfests all over London showing up at the bars. (The only sour notes being the sarcastic steward trying to get us to use the cloakroom "for charity!", and the pushy chap from the Save Our Pub campaign who tried to get us to buy £50 shares in the Antwerp Arms, gave incorrect information about dividends—that we hadn't asked for—and dumped a hug pile of coasters on me that both contained errors in the site URL, and a site where their own project seemed not to be listed yet! Laugh or cry.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Black lagers in Slovenia

While teaching at a European-funded workshop in Ljubljana in late February (the surprisingly frisky façade of the Slovenian House of Parliament shown right), I was generally less than impressed by the ability of that city to cater for any food tastes other than sausages and creamy steaks, but made up for it by trying a handful of the local dark lagers. I didn't take detailed tasting notes of any of them (I had enough to keep in mind with the half-dozen project ideas that were flying around), but some of my impressions and comparisons of the main drinks remain, and were mostly positive.

The apparently more classy (or at least expensive) of the local beers I tried was Laško, which comes both in regular (blonde) and "temno" (dark) varieties on most bar menus. I of course opted for several half-liters of the Laško Temno (shown in bottle, left, and glass, below right). This was much more flavoursome than the typical black Czech or Japanese lager you can find here (but not as brutally coffee-caramel-chewy as the Stolichno Bock I tried in Sofia last year!), a bit smoky and with a hint of savory herbs, perhaps cumin or some mellow alium vegetable stewed with a touch of balsamic vinegar to get it nice and crunchy. There must have been a fair bit of unfermented sugar, and perhaps a hint of methylic alcohol, in here too, considering the jackhammer of a hangover even a small amount was capable of delivering!