Tuesday, 15 November 2011

30th November: No Bourbon, Four Scotches, Four Beers

At least that's how, in his signature minimalist style, John Lee Hooker might have described our St Andrew's Day Beer & Food Matching Spectacular at Draft House Tower Bridge with Innis & Gunn and Bowmore Whisky on 30th November.

I doubt John Lee would have had much time for the haggis, or indeed any solids (other than a persistent, dangling Lucky Strike) but there's plenty for the rest of us to appreciate.

Bookings can be made by clicking here.

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer
Bowmore Whisky

A St Andrew's Night Beer, Whisky & Food Matching Spectacular

Welcome Drinks
Innis & Gunn Original Draught 6.6%
Bowmore Whisky Cocktails


Scottish smoked Salmon Mousse
Innis & Gunn Highland Cask 7.2%
Bowmore 12 Year Old


Haggis infused w Innis & Gunn Rum Cask
Served w neeps & tatties & curly kale
Innis & Gunn Rum Cask 7.4%
Bowmore 15 Year Old Darkest


Treacle TartServed w Vanilla-Infused Clotted Cream
Innis & Gunn Triple Matured 7.2%
Bowmore 18 Year Old


Artisan Cheeses
Innis & Gunn Winter Beer 2011
Bowmore Tempest Small Batch Release III

£25.00 per person

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Oktoberfest: Jaw-Dropping Scale but with Awe-Inspiring Quality

Nothing prepared me for the sheer grandness of the whole thing. And I don’t just mean the Fest itself. Everything about beer in Bavaria is, well, big. You can forget about Texas.

We started, as you do in these parts, with a breakfast beer. Well, breakfast Stein more like. That’s a massive, heavy, handled glass containing damn nearly two pints of beer. In my case, and to general macho mockery (even from the Brunhildegards), I chose a Dunkel Radler. That is a dark beer with lemonade – but pre-mixed in the brewery and sold on tap. It was delicious.

But the size of the glass is nothing in comparison to the size of the pub where we drank it before heading for the Fest itself. The Munich Hofbrauhaus is 11,000 square metres in size – or 100,000 square feet in old money. That is almost twenty times bigger than Le Café Anglais.
It is also a sensationally light and beautiful vaulted building dating back to 1519 (though substantially rebuilt in 1879). Us assembled pub types estimated annual takings at somewhere not a million miles shy of £50 million. Over 7,000 customers a day spending £20, in other words. It also proves that a government can run a piss-up in a brewery. The Bavarian State has owned the place since the monarchy departed power.

And the sheer joy of the menu. Eight mains, all pork or porcine. We didn’t eat but the kitchen (itself the size of Le Café Anglais with a wash-up area the size of Draft House Tower Bridge) was spotless and the food looked immaculately executed.

The Munich Hofbrauhaus is a game-changer and must-visit for any human.

An hour or so and a Dunkel Radler, a Weisse Helles, a Dunkelbier and a Dunkel Weiss later we headed off for the Oktoberfest.

Once again I was overwhelmed. The festival ferris wheel you see from the entrance must be a mile away and looks like a toy. In between are tents, more funfair rides, food stands and thousands, nay hundreds of thousands, of happy drunks.

We were fortunate enough to be in the Augustiner tent, one of the great family-owned breweries of Munich.

Their Oktoberfest Beer (at 9 Euros per Stein) was effectively an oak-aged cask lager, poured from giant 200L wooden barrels. The pressure of the beer emerging from the barrel is such that each litre-Stein takes less than two seconds to pour (a lesson from the middle ages for the cooking lager brewers?). The beer is fresh and frothy and belies its 7% ABV. It is also one of the finest drinks I have ever had the good fortune to drink. No wonder festival beer is also known as Wiesenbier, or beer of the meadows. (Footage of a similar cask being tapped is at the bottom of this post from a sister Augustiner bar in town)

And the tent itself held a mere 11,000 seated guests. Each table is bedecked in an array of German pork products, wafer-thin Kohlrabi, and huge platters of grilled chicken.

I confess to having found it all a tad over-whelming and after two hours and an Easter Island full of mysterious, once full but now empty Steins, we decamped for Munich Old Town and a small pub, Augustiner am Platz, also owned by Augustiner. Here the world was set to rights and – due to studiously avoiding any Schnapps – I found myself in bed at 22-hundred hours.

Here's a video of the barman tapping a 32L cask of Oktoberfestbier (the equivalent 200L casks were being tapped every few minutes or so at the Augustiner tent a few km away). Thanks to John McElhinney of Windmill Taverns for lending me the footage.

The next day, back to England, full of inspiration - and beer.

Many thanks to Brian, Mark and Earl from Thwaite's for their generosity in accommodating me on this extraordinary trip. I love Nutty Black more than ever, chaps.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Burgered but Happy

It has been a summer of burgers. First there was the exhaustive 6-week preparation for Burger Monday with Daniel Young of www.youngandfoodish.com.

Charlie and Daniel

For those who don't know, Daniel's burger pop-ups have become legendary - he asks a well known chef to create a new burger in an unusual setting - usually a greasy spoon. They are limited events and tickets are like hen's teeth - for the Draft House Burger Monday all 80 tickets sold out in 15 minutes.

Because Daniel fell in love with the Tower Bridge Tasting Rooms at Draft House Tower Bridge, I persuaded him to break the format and do the event in-house. Then Simon Noumar and Patrick Taylor from the kitchen team there created not one but a three-course burger menu which we matched with cask ales from the Windsor & Eton Brewery. And those burgers (soon to go onto the menu at all Draft Houses) were:

The Yolk (4oz patty with a trimmed fried egg, glazed hollandaise)
The Smoke (4oz patty with house-cured bacon, house-smoked cheddar and harissa mayo)
The Foie (slab of Foie Gras and cherry Lambic jelly)

The Smoke

In all, 240 burgers were served over two sittings in just under three hours - a pretty extraordinary achievement by the Draft House kitchen - and the burgers were sensational. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Simon glazing the Hollandaise on the Yolk Burger

Now if this catches your fancy, or you missed out on tickets on the night, let us know (info@tastingrooms.co.uk) as we are recreating this Burger Feast at £14.75pp. As above, all the burgers will be going on the main menus at all three Draft Houses shortly, watch this space.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Innis & Gunn Beer & Food Matching Banquet

Absolutely brilliant dinner at the Tower Bridge Tasting Rooms (at Draft House Tower bridge). Hosting was Dougal Clark, owner-brewer, and the Draft House's very own Simon Noumar was cooking upstairs. Yours truly was crashing around as usual, generating a fair amount of smoke and light.

Wasting no time, the menu was as follows:

We kicked off with a palate-cleansing third of Innis & Gunn Original Draught (6.6%) followed by....

Grilled Kent Asparagus, Scottish Cured Salmon
Innis & Gunn Canada Day 2011 8.3%
Venison Pie infused w Innis & Gunn Rum Cask
w/ Neeps, Tatties & Curly Cale
Innis & Gunn Rum Cask 7.4%
Adam’s Treacle Tart
w/ Vanilla-infused Clotted Cream
Innis & Gunn Triple Matured 7.2%
Selection of seasonal fruits
Melville’s Strawberry Beer & Melville’s Raspberry Beer 4.1%

Dougal Clark was fascinating on the story behind Innis & Gunn and he shared several drinks with each table.

All in all a good time was had by all.

Thanks to Dougal, Adam and all the guys from I&G.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Coffee: Should it be Freshly Ground?

Having recently been for coffee training at Monmouth, who supply the Draft House, I was impressed by the utterly anal thoroughness of their approach. An article of faith there is that coffee must be freshly-ground. Even a few hours renders it undrinkable. After tweeting that I was on my way there, I then received this from my old wine buddy Saverio Grazioli-Venier (yeah, crazy name...):

Do not believe in the myth that freshly ground coffee is better. Not at all. Just like most wines it needs some time (roughly 10 days) to balance out the harsh green notes and mellow out the acidity. Again like wine, when it's too old (4 weeks plus in this case) it develops tertiary aromas - unlike wine these tertiary aromas are very unpleasant. Think burnt rubber. What is crucial is how it is packaged, where it is kept to rest after grounding (cool/dry place, no sunlight, limited exposure to oxygen), and that it be delivered to you at the right time (between 1-2 weeks after roasting for example).

You are better off using a supplier that guarantees well stored "commercial coffee" than an artisan roaster that buys the best beans in the world but keeps them exposed to the elements after roasting. Early oxidisation is the result of the latter and is often the cause of bitterness in coffee. Illy for example, albeit boring I know, guarantees through it’s sophisticated packaging a product that is consistent and always at peak potential when opened. An artisan producer that understands storage is of course the best possible option but they are rare, particularly in the UK. I think Monmouth for example consistently under delivers given the excellent raw ingredients it starts out with.

Who's right? Please help.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Pubs, Deck Chairs & The Titanic

Who are these people?

"The Independent Pub Confederation" says that it is "great news" that communication of PubCo codes of practice to tenants has improved. Surely this is not unlike a murderer better explaining to his victim how he will kill them. (article here)

Any "confederation" bearing that name should be on a permanent war footing against the gross eviltude which is the tie. In a market where even untied pubs are failing to compete with supermarkets on price how a tied tenant can pay double for beer and expect to survive is ludicrous.

I feel sick.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Launch of The Quality SE1 Pub Crawl

Well, with all really profound experiences it takes time to process the emotions, the highs and the lows, the triumphs and calamities. And the Quality SE1 Pub Crawl is no different.

Actually, what a load of old bollix. The Crawl was an unadulterated success, a good time was had by all, even though I am sure the over-riding emotion felt by participants the following morning must have been, thank God it's only monthly.

We also got the damned thing trending on Twitter which was no mean feat.

Who were the ringleaders? The people's representatives on the QSE1PC presidium were Brother Max of the Dean Swift, Brothers Charlie and Neil of the Draft House and Sister Jo of Platform. Controlling, capitalist-fascist Web 1.0 tendencies were resisted and a free-form, fluffy, Web 3.0 TwitterBook benign dictatorship was very much the order of the day. Well, someone's gotta take charge, don't they? At least we didn't end up with Napoleon the Pig.

Charlie and Max looking, it has to be said, a little less
benign and perhaps a tad too dictatorial.

The route is here. We kicked off in The Market Porter (1) at 6pm with some free-form pint drinking. A personal commitment to 'just a half' in each stop immediately went by the wayside as two pints of frothing ale scarely touched the sides. Others were similarly ill-disciplined. But hey, it's web 3.0.

Sister Jo from Platform with yours truly

Next was Brew Wharf (2), then to the Rake (3). Then the walks got longer, but by this stage feet were only occasionally in contact with the ground.

Mid-way down Tooley Street we stopped into Platform (4), where Sister Jo had laid on some awesome food, thereby showing up the other hosts to such an extent that Brother Max was immediately on the blower rustling up some competing grub Dean Swift-side.

My personal beers of the night? Dark Star Hop Head in the Rake and Sleemans IPA in Draft House Tower Bridge (5).

Brother Neil, QSE1PC Ringleader

I think the group's highlight must have been the cloudy Kernel Citra which Max snaffled up to serve at the Dean Swift (6). But - hey - it was mighty late by then.

Next time (June 15th, route to follow) we will have a few more bells and whistles to add on (good as my use of Jo's polkadot umbrella was, something tells me we need a proper flag. And T-Shirts). Well, given that noone's in charge that last idea might be a stretch but you never know...

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sharp's Tasting. It's getting a little weird round here...

This Saturday we are proud (if slightly trepidacious) to welcome Stuart Howe, brewing supremo at Sharp's (DoomBar etc).

Why trepidacious? Well just take a look at this sucker which arrived at Tower Bridge yesterday:

Also on offer Monsieur Rock, Atlantic IPA and much, much more.

We'll be sample-happy from 5 - 7pm this Saturday 30th April at Draft House Tower Bridge, 206-208 Tower Bridge Road SE1 2UP.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Easter/Royal Wedding Beers at Draft House

God Save the Queen
And the fascist... [oh, it's so hard to get cynical at a moment like this]

Our little contribution to the Patriotic Room 101 which is the Royal Wedding is to express our abiding love and respect for them upstairs through beer. Over the next couple of weeks we will be filling the cellars with good British beer. And I’m talking a veritable Best of the Greatest Hits. We are going to prove that this country makes the best bleedin’ beer in the world and heaven help anyone who stands in our way. Certainly no-one can pun like a British Brewer (Windsor Knot, anyone?).

Oh and there's a few Colonial types which have slipped in as well. If we're still allowed to use that word. We mean well, and their beer is awesome.

You’ll have to take pot-luck as to what’s on where – follow us on Twitter where the Draft House beer boys and girls promise to keep the feed humming.

Anyway, there are moments when modesty must briefly be cast aside to reveal the true size of one's beerhood. Prompting the question: How much does this rock?


All to be on the whole two weeks

Camden wheat all three sites

Camden Helles

Sleemans IPA

Zero Degrees Red Rye then fruit beer only at Tower Bridge

Harviestoun Schiehallion

Grand Ridge Moonlite or Brewers Pils

Chalky's Bark


week 1 (Easter)

Redemption Trinity/Hopspur/Urban Dusk

Harviestoun Shenanigans

Brodies Special 6 Hop

Sambrooks celebration coming Thursday 21st to TB

Windsor &  Eton Windsor Knot and black ipa coming Tuesday 19th

Darkstar hophead/hophead citra/ APA

week 2 (wedding)

Sharps atlantic ipa/ golden gate coming Tues 26th for the big finale on Saturday 30th.

Hurting. But Happy

Why Draft House is brave and the budget was stupid. Monumentally stupid. 

I don't know about you but I am confused. And it’s not just the breakfast beers. Today I learn that 143,000 more people have jobs than did last month (hooray). But the day before brought news that average spending power is down 2% (oh). All I know is I am feeling skint and I suspect many of you are too. This austerity lark is catching and judging from conversations with customers is driven by a genuine sense that we are growing poorer.

This is a long way of saying that, despite the Chancellor putting up beer duty by 7.5% (yes,  you read that correctly - and just after the VAT rise) we are holding prices where they are. And in some cases reducing them.

That’s really just so you know. And also perhaps to encourage you to buy more beer. In a healthy way.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Budvar Yeast - Real Lager - At Last

Budvar is a beer that us Brits have grown a tad blasé about in the face of the dreaded "World Lager" phenomenon.

We forget that this ancient brewery was purchased by the Czech government to preserve its unique brewing heritage (after Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen fell into foreign hands) and is thus impervious to market pressure to dumb down. 

We forget that Budvar is lagered (cold-conditioned) for ninety days - and this in an age when many so-called premium lagers get less than three weeks. I was reminded of all this when the Czech firm launched its new unpasteurised, unfiltered “Budvar Yeast” at Draft House Tower Bridge. Despite the awful, modish name this is an ancient class act – effectively a traditional cask lager version of the famed Budvar Original, but with a shelf-life of just 28 days. 

This Holy Grail of lagers has long been sold in a tiny number of specially certified bars in Czech Republic. And now just five pubs in London have been given the nod from Southern Bohemia (including three Draft Houses I’m pleased to report). Seek it out – but beware – we are told that supply is extremely limited. New stocks expected shortly, watch our twitter feed for more info.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Ola Dubh 40 Special Reserve Ale

This fortified, inky brew is an extreme example of the brewer's art. Created in Clackmannanshire, Scotland by Harviestoun it starts life as "Old Engine Oil", a lovely, dry 6% stout. 

Seeking a richer and more complex drink, Harviestoun decant the stout into a Highland Park 40 Year Old Whisky barrell, where it is aged for a goodly long time. It emerges as Ola Dubh 40, an extraordinarily decadent, almost port-like beer which is a versatile enough to be a beguiling match for chocolate or cheese.