We all remember that quote and I’m sure most of us think it every time we hear the word ‘club’ attached to a phrase. This is how we come to be in London Fields on a Friday evening, standing outside a rather unassuming building wondering if we found the location of The Craft Beer Social Club (CBSC).
Upon entering we’re a little unsure if we’re in the right place, until we see the bottles and kegs at the back and then the aroma of onions, spices and meat are filling the air. There’s a band sound checking and a number of young (and what we can guess are local) tenders gathering nervously behind the ‘bar’.
We’re told to help ourselves to a drink and according to the pump clips we’re getting a Fuller’s Frontier, however what’s in the glass doesn’t look or taste like Frontier and we soon find out that what we were actually drinking was Faithless XXV, a gooseberry saison by Redwillow (4.9%) Not a bad little beer actually, all the straw and spices that you’d expect are there and the gooseberry offers a sweet, tart edge that finishes the drink nicely.
Minor teething problems aside it’s great to see the CBSC using a local workforce. These guys don’t need to know about their beer as you would expect from a craft beer bar or other pop-ups because you’ve got tasting notes, a wealth of industry bods and lots of craft beer fans in attendance to cover that – all they need to do is serve the stuff.
Once we’ve worked out that there are four beers currently available and which beers they actually are, it’s possible that we might have set a world record for the ‘table to bar dash’ in our efforts to get to the Wolfscote barrel aged black sour from Buxton (3.3%). A tremendously low ABV and a taste that has you going back for sip after sip. It’s like drinking a chilled espresso on a hot day. The bitterness of the coffee is well balanced with the salty edge that the sour offers resulting in a welcome experience that is altogether different from a coffee/mocha porter or stout.
We follow this with the next beer along the line which is the Fest Bier from Meantime (5.6%) an Oktoberfest Bier brewed with authentic Bavarian malts and yeast (so the notes tell us) and has a thick, sweet taste that balances perfectly with the sour notes of the Wolfscote that are still hanging around. Only one place to go from here and that is to the Fuller’s Frontier (4.5%) which is branded as ‘small batch craft brewed lager’ but actually isn’t too bad an offering from one of the biggest brewers in London. It cleanses the palate quite nicely but it’s not too long before we find ourselves with another Wolfscote in our hands.
The format of the CBSC is quite simple, you buy your ticket which gets you free beer all evening and a couple of trips to the Primal Feast (tonight’s offerings include llama, horse, kangaroo, moose and zebra). There are a number of staple beers on keg all evening which you can back to time and time and time again (these are shaded in grey in the tasting notes) and then every now and then a tray of samplers are handed round, you’re told which number you’re drinking from the tasting notes and then you’re chatting to the people around you about the beer.
We find ourselves chatting with Shaun, Harviestoun’s London/SE business development manager while drinking a Schiehallion (4.8%) and talking about our review of the very same beer on our latest show (weird?). But we learn some things about the Scottish craft brew lager that we didn’t know – like how protective of this particular brand Harviestoun are, hence why our listeners outside of Scotland may have struggled to get their hands on a bottle and why the variants in Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer are ‘variants’ and only called ‘Scottish Craft Brewed lager’. While we’re chatting to Shaun we’re handed the next drink – The Honey Beer by Hiver (5%) which is enjoyable enough and with the sweet honey coming through in every sip, too much of this could indeed be too much. An observation that we make at the table we’re sitting at only to then be introduced to the founder of Hiver Beers, Hannah Rhodes (see foot in mouth for a more apt description) and after further discussion (and beers) with Hannah a brewery that we’ll hopefully be featuring on the show in the future.
As Sam Green and the Midnight Heist take to the stage to deliver a set of good old fashioned barn storming foot stomping bluesy/folksy tunes we’re offered further beers from Hastings Brewery (Handmade, an Australian Blonde that delivers tropical flavours and at around the 4% mark could be an easy session beer) and then from Allendale Brewery (Curlew’s Return, a 4.2% very easy bitter that is smooth and delivers a subtle spicy kick at the end) which may well have been the beer of the evening were it not for the presence of the Wolfscote.
At this point we finally get round to doing a bit of work and take the opportunity to grab a quick interview with Justina, the founder of The Craft Beer Social Club, which you can hear on the show here.
Sadly we’re only about a quarter of the way through the tastings when the timings of public transport begin to get the better of us so we say our goodbyes and head back towards London Fields station.
Upon leaving the Fight Club quote springs to mind again – “Welcome to Craft Beer Social Club. The first rule of Craft Beer Social Club is: talk about it. Lots. And share it.” This is definitely no secret.
For more details on the Craft Beer Social Club and to book tickets visit www.thecraftbeersocialclub.co.uk