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Friday, 4 February 2011

Beer Fest in a box

I’ve been meaning to get down to the Euston Tap ever since I heard it mentioned by 3 different people in one day, which prompted a visit to their website.  How my appetite was whetted by the list of featured breweries including Marble, Thornbridge, Dark Star, BrewDog and many more of my favourites.  Also, any pub that has a “beer policy” on its website must be worth a visit!

And boy it did not disappoint.  The Euston Tap is truly like a Beer Festival in a box.  Quite a small box, being the old gatehouse of Euston station, but jam packed with little delights.  And I think I sampled more beers last night than I have at some beer festivals (something to do with not wasting time walking between the stands perhaps?).

Behind the bar, with no space spared, are 20 keg taps and 8 cask taps, arranged over an ample and efficient drip tray.  On either side of the bar, where you can press your nose to the glass and lustily select your next victim are 2 large fridges of beers.  This was such a treat to be up close and personal.  Rather than having to fight your way to the bar, and then squint at the fridge to try and read the labels, you can run your eye lazily over the selection, whilst sipping on your current pint, and make your choice(s) at leisure.

This did turn out to be somewhat lethal, positioned as we were next to the Mikkeller section of the fridge.  Ahh, beloved Mikkeller.  It was not long before we could resist the “Beer Geek Bacon” no longer.  A rich chocolate stout that makes you tingle all the way to your toes.  Certainly very smoky, although reassuringly not much other resemblance to bacon.  It did become known later in the night as “the Bovril beer”, although I’m not sure I got it myself.  It was also likened to the juices from the bottom of a roasting pan, which I found a rather pleasing metaphor.

Other bottles we dipped into included Mikkeller’s "Barrel Aged 1000 IBU".  Perhaps the hops had outlived their potential, as the smell and aftertaste of smelly old cheese was too much for us to bear.  The Cantillon "Kriek" was not much more successful.  After explaining that I liked fruit beers, but not the really sweet ones, this was recommended.  Sweet it certainly was not.  I like a nice sour lambic, but this was not universally popular, drawing comparisions to sucking a lemon and a certain level of resemblance to the fake lemon juice that proliferates the supermarket shelves around pancake day.  Not for the faint hearted.

So what of the casks and kegs?  Perhaps now I should introduce the cherry on the cake of the night.  There were a couple of offerings from Anchor Steam Brewery.  The "Humming Ale" was a lovely fruity pale ale.  Slight sulphur, but not unpleasant, it was floral and mellow.  But the unanimous favourite was their "New Year" beer – a lovely sour cherry nose, with a slight chocolate roundness to it, and palette that was mostly liquorice, a little bit of treacle and something fruity but not quite cherry, maybe raspberry.  This beer was so complex, you couldn’t get bored of it.  And yet not so complex that it became too much.  What a truly outstanding beer, and highly recommended.

Clearly by this stage we were in danger of getting quite inebriated, so having watched the steady flow of enormous pizza boxes through the door, we succumbed to the 18 inch pizzas.  A genius plan for a pub that has very little room, or seating, let alone tables, but doesn’t want to lose its punters just as they get the munchies.  The pizzas were soft and tasty (New York Hot comes highly recommended) and fuelled us through ‘til closing.

Other samples included Marble’s "Pint".  Not a new one to me, but still a great beer.  Last night I got petrol and car tyres on the nose, but not in an unpleasant way.  A kind of floral sulphur that draws you in to the bitter but fruity palate.  Truly one of Marble’s best offerings and a shame you don’t see it more in London.  Also tried the Camden “Pale Ale”, a subtle herby nose with a touch of lavender and a really fruity palate for a pale ale, a hint of pineapple sweetness.  I’ll definitely be looking out for more Camden beers in the future.

Okells 5 barrel was a great session beer, an unusual nose, more like cider vinegar, but a warming honey and floral, full bodied beer made a nice contrast to some of the more zesty beers of the evening.  Ossett’s “Silver King” had very high bitterness.  But their “Big Red” was a rich fruity beer with tones of marmalade and roasting chestnuts.  Although a curious hint of sushi on the nose.  Thornbridge’s "Wild Swan" and "Lord Marples" were both on form.  But we weren’t that impressed with Jarrow’s "JB", which was very bitter and taste was likened (rather worringly by some girls too) to urinals.  Is it just me, or are my friends somewhat obsessed with urine based comparisons?

On that subject, a word of warning re the toilets, although we’re informed they’re trying to get permission for a 2nd.  Lots of customers, lots of beer, 1 toilet…  you do the queue maths.  But don’t let that put you off.  With an amazing selection of beers and friendly and knowledgeable staff who seem genuinely concerned that you’re enjoying yourself this pub is definitely worth (several) repeat visits.

Thanks to Hop Hippo, Beer Gremlin, Big Bad Dom, Squirrel and others for a very good night and your enthusiastic tasting notes.  To Big M for my inaugural artwork.  And thank you Euston Tap.

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