So it was once again that I found myself wandering the lonely, mean streets of the Big Smoky with nothing in my pockets but hope and fortitude. Now, one has to make careful preparation before attending a function such as the BGBW awards. And, being one for correct form, I did my bit by having a little tour of the capital’s watering holes.
Conveniently, the Euston Cider Tap had just opened the previous week and I was the first in on that day. The very helpful barman kept me company until I was joined by some chirpy cockney sparrows newly arrived from Manchester. After sampling sparkling, still and some Normandy cider, the bonding was complete and I was soon telling them to, affectionately, "fack off, you slag."
But man cannot live by cider alone. I know. I’ve tried. So it was on to the main event.
British Guild Beer Writers Awards
But first things first. How did an old soak like me blag his way into the BGBW’s knees up? Well, like Garth Brooks, I have friends in low places... But obviously they couldn’t help me, so I had to go to the top.The very top. No problem, said Tandleman. Just mention my name.
So, my cunning plan was to doff my cap and present myself to the hotel saying Tandleman had sent me. And it worked. They welcomed me with open arms and I was ushered into the austere company of the great and the good. Ok, I had to don a waiter’s disguise and dish out amuse-bouches, but it got me in.
It was an interesting evening. Meeting people you only know from posters on your walls can often be intimidating, but everyone was too polite to tell me to fack off. And Jeff Pickthall never even mentioned sparklers once. There was a lively discussion on the relevance of cask, but all taken in good fun.
And, of course, there were winners to be announced. All deserved, no doubt, but sadly my prediction that Hardknott Sooty would sweep the board came to nought. That’s the last time I go into Ladbrokes pissed.
Best beers of the evening: Kernel (Brewer of the Year winner) and Wadworth Orange Peel. There was, naturally, more supping to be done afterwards, before the mad rush for takeout freebies began. The remaining hardcore, led by the rather marvellous Marverine Cole, moved the party downstairs to the ChinoLatino bar where fun was to be had until the wee small hours.
Staggering alongside the Thames later, I eventually remembered this was London. No wonder Tesco and the 24hr petrol station were closed. No chance of pizza or curry here. Dejectedly I returned to my abode. But my spirits quickly soared when I realised that one advantage of staying in a proper hotel was being able to acquire a Margherita at 0245. Well done to the Park Plaza.
Camden Town Brewery
Friday saw me reminded why I never get buses in London. Get a bus to Liverpool St Station, says Tandleman. A great idea-if you want time to grow a beard. Otherwise, forget it. And that was only the beginning of our travel woes.
However, we eventually reached our destination: the Camden Town Brewery. Here award-winning Mark Dredge, who I’d met the night before, was eager to show us his new toy. And very impressive it was too.
I’d imagined him brewing in a bathtub over a Camden pet shop. But no, this was state of the art stuff engineered and fitted by Germans. Whether you want the Sudetenland annexed or a state of the art brewery, those German lads will sort you out.
The Dredgester (or Dredgeinator-he’s still tweaking his nickname) turned out to be a great host. And we were soon joined by bloggers Mark from Beer Birra, Beer and Fletch from Real Ale Reviews.
A very jolly time ensued with Tandleman even boasting about just how much keg he’s drunk over the years. Just don’t tell the CAMRA secret police. We all took a shine to the nanokeg that fits in your backpack; you never need be without a drink again. Tandleman was sorely tempted to ring Mrs T to ask if they could adopt it.
What can be said about the beer other than it was excellent? Well, it’s filtered but unpasteurised. We even got to try their new Stout made with Northdown hops. And whilst not a fan of nitrokeg Stouts, their version clearly puts Guinness to shame and will do well, I’ve no doubt.
Their lager was light and refreshing but, even though it’s currently being tweaked, the Camden Pale was my favourite of the early sampling. However, we really were spoilt for choice with a hefe weizen making an appearance and a superb Belgian style Witbier.
A great afternoon out and thanks to Mark for arranging it and Mark(2) and Fletch for their company.