Wednesday 23 May 2012

Brewing at the Bull

Paid my first visit to the Bull in Highgate yesterday - as well as being a rather nice pub with great food and beer, it's the home of London Brewing Co., one of the capital's newer breweries and a member of the London Brewers Alliance. I was there to have a beer and a chat with US drinks writer John Holl - he's researching an e-book on the London pub scene, aimed at Americans coming here for this summer's activities.

Before I went over there, someone mentioned to me that he thought the pub had a new brewer, so I did some research via Google and Twitter, made a few connections, and came up with the name Tom Unwin. He seemed familiar, so I dug around online a bit more and sure enough, he'd taken me and some others on a tour of Brodie's Brewery a couple of years back - we'd arrived on a weekend when the Brodies were away and he was a brewing student getting some work experience.

It turns out that not only has he just finished university this summer, he's also only been at London Brewing for a week, so none of his beer's gone on the bar yet. I did get to sample a crisp and hoppy pale ale from the fermenter though, which showed lots of Columbus hops and plenty of promise - I believe that's been casked today, so it should be on a handpump before too long.

The brewery is basically in a corner of the Bull's kitchen and has a 2.5 barrel brewlength, which is a common size for brewpubs, it seems. Currently there are two fermenting vessels in the cellar below, and Tom hopes to add two more so he can go from only brewing twice a week to doing three or four runs. He doesn't actually stoop, by the way, it's just that the ceiling down there is several inches shorter than either him or me!

"I want to do a pale ale and a bitter, both as regular session beers, plus an American Pale Ale and some others," he says. "For example we have a Red Ale and the hoppy Pale Ale in the fermenters at the moment."

With each brew producing just eight firkins, the Bull absorbs pretty much all of London Brewing's output. Indeed, alongside the two house beers (Beer Street Bitter and Boadicea IPA) on the bar were several others - on my visit they included Thornbridge Wild Swan and another Pale Ale from East London Brewing. All those I tried were in excellent condition.

John and I also had a great chat with the Bull's head chef, who is clearly a man passionate about good food, and about good English and British food in particular. His Bourbon-glazed BBQ ribs were superb!

All in all, the Bull's a great pub. I just wish it was closer than an hour away - and that's an hour if you're lucky and there's no delays on the Northern line.

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