Friday, January 28, 2011


So, here's the result of my first-ever go at homebrew - the Brubox 'London Bitter' Our Lad got me for Christmas. I followed the (somewhat vague) instructions to the letter, especially the bit about the dangers of the bag bursting through over-pressurisation, which was no empty threat. Had a look the morning after I charged the brew with sugar and found the bag blown up to the size and shape of a beach ball and climbing out of the box. We were perhaps seconds from disaster. As I er, released gas I felt just like Jack Bauer.

But what does it taste like? Despite being opaque (at this stage anyway), it's pretty good. Malty, fruity and bitter - if a tad 'yeasty' - and miles better than it looks.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Lion In Winter

A big sign (hoho) that things are at last progressing for Leytonstone landmark The Red Lion (ex Zulus). Rumour has it that a lot more work is needed refurbishing the old place than was first thought, which may have put the reopening back a few weeks - so it'll be spring at the earliest. New owners Antic have set up a holding page for the pubs website, showing how it was in (I presume) about 1900 and hopefully how it might look again. Can't wait.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

American Friends

Mrs TIW's uncle and auntie are spending their retirement touring the US in a Fifth Wheel - or the world's poshest caravan, as it's also known. You can read about their escapades here. They've got an uncanny knack of bringing me over some superb and fairly hard-to-find American beers, like this Stone Ruination IPA, one of a brace that they got me for Christmas. I've only seen it for sale at Utobeer, and for about eight quid, though it might also be in those ur-fridges at the Euston Tap.

Stone claim that 'Ruination' is what's going to happen to your taste buds after drinking this. Well, my mouth recovered after about an hour but it's definitely not a beer for food matching. Unless you're eating handfuls of hops. It's massively, heftily, grandly, bitterly hoppy this beer. Despite that it was an easy drink once I'd got over that big hop punch, and settled into citrus and sort of walk-in-the woods pine notes, all somehow balanced with those intense, 100+ IBU shovelfuls of Columbus and Centennial. After swigging nothing but meh* beers over Christmas in Devon, this was like being plugged into the mains. Beer as a primary colour. And in the States you can get it on draught. Sorry - "draft". Lucky Yanks.

* (TIW passim) honourable exception: Hartland Beers at the White Hart, Bideford.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A King At Night

The original Tron was baffling for the thirteen-year-old TIW sat in Keighley Picture House. But Our Lad and me were there for the computer animation rather than the confusing but lame storyline. All done on the Foonly supercomputer with its astonishing two megabyte memory. There'd been nothing like it before - but of course, there's been a lot like it since. Last night I saw Tron: Legacy. Not without its moments - though every time the CGI 'young' Jeff Bridges came on screen I couldn't help but think "why have they made him look like Gary Barlow?".

After that a drink was needed, so we nipped round the corner to The Kings Arms. The pub's on Roupell Street SE1, part of a conservation area of early Victorian terraces which looks like it belongs on the cover of a book by Valerie Wood called something like 'The Ragged Princess' ("she was the daughter of a jellied eel seller, he was the Fifth Duke Of Witney").

The King's Arms is a multi-room boozer, modernised a bit but still retaining a lot of character and original features. When I worked nearby, I came here a lot, but i've not been in for months. Back then the beer could be a bit inconsistent, but last night the Adnam's bitter was in prime nick, unlike the Doom Bar I kicked off with which just about OK. Out the back there's what looks like a converted courtyard where you can be brusquely served Thai food. The bar staff are pretty brusque too. I don't expect a high five when I order a round, but some verbal communication would be nice. And please, do something about the rickety bar stools. Sat swaying three feet in the air does not make for a relaxing visit. It was nice and warm though - old fashioned iron radiators and a real fire crackling away in the tap room. Good atmosphere too, and pleasingly busy for a chilly monday a week into the new year. Bit of a curate's egg for me, this pub - it ticks a lot of my boxes but I didn't find myself wishing I could still nip in after work. Hmm.

Photo by Lars Plougmann

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Git Yer Brew On

When I were but a nipper, my dad was a full-grain homebrewer, boiling the mash in a huge, copper jampot. The aromas of his small-scale efforts filled our street and mingled with those from Timothy Taylor 200 yards down the road. Along with golf, dad's primary hobby these days is researching the family tree, which has thrown up several ancestors running pubs and brewhouses in Leeds.

Now it's my turn. Our Lad got me this for Christmas. It's a Brubox, a sort of one-pot homebrew system. Very straightforward. Sterilise, boil up the 'teabag' of hops and grain, add the malt extract, fill with water and add yeast when the temperature gets down to 18 degrees. Actually, that was the hard bit. The temp went from 22 degrees and settled at 16, which was a bit cold for the yeast to get its mojo working. A bit of wandering around with a thermometer showed that the dining room was the best bet, so after bunging in the yeast that's where I left it, wrapped in old blankets. Stand back, light your pipe. And that's that. Came down this morning to find the airlock blooping away and a satisfyingly crusty 'krauesen' forming on the top. There's a lurid warning in the instructions about venting off gas if the fermentation gets carried away and causes the bag to burst.

So, in about a month I'll know if I've got 20 pints of 'London Bitter' or 20 pints of vinegar. Or a dining room freshly decorated with malt extract and a supremely angry Mrs TIW.