Croydon Craft Beer Festival

 

Well, Croydon had its first craft beer festival last weekend and I went along late Saturday afternoon to check it out.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 18.17.48Braithwaite Hall is a very impressive venue and had the feel of a grand old university library with its stained glass and towering rows books. However unlike the ales on show, there were some doubts as to the books authenticity.

The room was full and buzzing, a nice mixed crowd of friendly looking beer enthusiasts. Good start.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 18.17.37The first thing that struck me as approached the tables behind which stood the casks of beer I hoped to try was the alarming amount of them that held signs that said “Sorry this cask is unavailable”. Of the 31 the beers they started with on Friday night more than half were off.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 18.17.20Undaunted I ordered a couple halves of The Cronx Kotchin Nektar. They weren’t bad, Nektar just edging Kotchin, they were session-able, but nothing to write home about. Bexley’s Kent Green Hop was my beer of the session, showing some nice bite and tropical fruit. Yet it didn’t particularly excite me.

What followed was an average Peckham Coal Line Porter from Brick, an undrinkable acrid Entire from Cronx, which I traded for limp but inoffensive Oatmeal Stout from Hop Stuff and ended with a tepid ok-ish Red Ale by Bexley. Now temperature isn’t as big an issue with cask beer as keg, but my feeling was all the beers could have been a shade cooler.

What bugged me the most was the beers in the main lacked vibrancy and vitality. Real ale is a living beverage, and the best stuff expresses charm, character and most importantly it has to make me want another sip. Most of the beers I tasted failed to do that.

Now I know I may be harder to please, but seems the organisers fell victim to first beer fest folly; not ordering enough beer. Of course, they didn’t want to lose money so playing it safe seemed to make sense but with so many beers off for such a short festival. Disappointing.

I got chatting to some other punters and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. The lack of beers didn’t appear to be a problem though they weren’t ooing and ahhing over anything either.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 18.18.00Speaking to one of the organisers he admitted they could have done better, but overall the event was a huge success with plans already in the works for more events next year.

The bottle/can bar had some good stuff and was doing a decent trade, but I had come for the cask and as another beer ran out I decided to call time. A good thing too because as I later found out they had run dry by 7pm. Three hours before the fest ended!

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 18.28.06Luckily BRGR & Beer @ Matthew’s Yard were hosting Fourpure and Gypsy Hill pop-up stylee to celebrate CCBF. It’s an idea they should consider making a permanent fixture. There’s plenty of space and how cool would it be for a rotating residency of London’s best and brightest brewers supporting the solid line of bottles by BRGR & Beer?

I had really nice chats with Neil at Fourpure (am loving their Amercian Brown) and Mike at Gypsy Hill, the latter being in my opinion the most improved brewery in London at the moment (and one of my favorites along with Beavertown).

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In rather reserved style after halves of Fourpure’s decent Red Rye IPA and GH’s sublime Hepcat Session IPA, I called it a night.

Now if I’d been there on the opening night of Croydon’s first craft beer festival it may have been a more enjoyable experience for me.

However, I get the feeling that this experiment wasn’t geared for geeks like me. Perhaps it was more about giving the people of Croydon (& Southest London) a taste of something new. Engaging a fledgling audience of curious imbibers who had tired of the same old same old and were simply seeking better beer.

Despite running out of the aforementioned ales (a cardinal sin to some) the organisers can feel confident that they probably achieved that.

Peckham Burger @ Anderson & Co

Some years ago (like 2008/2009) the grand trendsetter looked upon the great city with its many diverse eateries and despite the health warnings said ” Let there be meat… Shit loads of it… Oh and pop-ups. Pop-ups are like the shizzle”.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.42.24And the people rejoiced for more meat and a multitude pop-ups seemed to be what their lives were missing. But not in the tired boiled/fried or the random installation art way of the past oh no, this was a new dawn, mashing up: craft beer, kimchi, live music, funky art and antiques, hotdogs, DJ’s, lobster and those revered culinary techniques perfected by our rebellious cousins across the great sea. Carnivorous creations of: ribs sticky and sweet, chicken wings made of hellfire with blue cheese dip, slow cooked pork spiced and pulled to the point of no return, steak so big and bloody young children hid their faces at sight of it and last but surely not least that flagship of Americana, the mighty Hamburger.

Last Friday I met up with an old friend who lives Peckham Rye (my old hood) and he suggested Peckham Burger chez Anderson & Co. Chilled hand crafted food cafe by day and by night (Weds-Sat) it morphs into aScreen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.43.23 slick patty and bun operation kicking out simply: beef, chicken, veggie (mushroom) and skinny (bun-less) burgers to which you can add bacon, cheese, etc… Sides were equally minimal: bloody mary salt fries, mac n cheese and coleslaw. There’s a few puddings as well; the specialty being ice cream sundaes with Jude’s the star of the show. It’s not a huge place; room for about 40 covers (give or take) if you include the handful of tables out front and the nice fairy garden in the back where we sat.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.41.44The drinks list is slightly more filled out with a good selection on non alcoholic options featuring Luscombe Drinks and Owlet Juices. Wine is simple and straightforward with a choice of one red (very solid Chateau La Bastide/Corbières) and one white (Inzolia from Sicily). Quite pleased to see a couple of very local beers in Peckham Pils/Brick BreweryRed Ale/Brockley Brewing and the only slightly further afield Kernel IPA/The Kernel Brewery (who have become a deserved regular on some of the UK’s best eateries). There were some more mainstream lagers as well but didn’t take much notice of them.

By way of aperitif I had a Peckham Pils (I’d tried to drink it on two previous occasions but both bottles were flat/faulty). Clear, bright with decent head retention and a touch lager stinky. The palate was alright, crisp and pretty clean, but they’ve still not got it quite right for me. Though I do like their Archway Steam.

Still thirsty I ordered another beer along with the Chicken Burger (au natural) and some of the cocktail seasoned fries. First to arrive was the Brockley Red Ale and I was much pleased. Rich rusty tone and nutty, earthy, red berry nose. Impressive texture to it, nice balance of sweet malt and savory hops. Yum I say!

My CB and fries landed and I tucked right in. Suffolk chicken thigh marinated in tomorrosso (tomato), garlic, basil, oregano, chilli with lettuce, tomato and our aioli on a cholla bun was how the menu described itScreen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.42.01. My tastebuds went with “Oh my flippin gawdness!!”. Gonna out on a limb and say it’s the best chicken burger I have had in years. A real masterpiece; from the cooking of that juicy tender Suffolk clucker, to the tangy vibrant marinade, which balanced just right against the mellow garlic mayo and the sweet soft as a pillow cholla. Senfrigginsational! The fries kept the standard high. Skinny frites with a perfect crunch to them, not greasy and I must say the addition of Bloody Mary salt was inspired. Raised the chip up to someplace special. Oh and their homemade tommy k was awesome! Had just the right amount of sweet, sour and spice.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.43.01To top it all off that red ale was the perfect match, it’s weight and feel beautifully complimenting my heavenly bird in a bun.

Service was spot on; relaxed, friendly and efficient.

Perhaps the bill was a bit more than you might expect to pay for 2 burgers, 2 fries and 4 beers, but we are in London after all. I was more than happy to shell out; hell it’s not every day you eat a chicken burger that might just Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.42.12change your life (ok didn’t change my life, but it certainly made my week).

Oh lo the grand trendsetter said unto them  “Some pop up burger joints are created better than others.”

Amen to that.

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