By Kate ( @kate_blaszczyk )
I think I can speak on behalf of all five of us when I say that Beavertown is one of our collective favourite breweries – Soo will often recount happy memories of drinking Smog Rocket in an abbey in Yorkshire while watching Harry Potter on a big screen, Adam experienced a new love for triple IPAs after sampling Power of the Voodoo a couple of years ago, and Sarah will often be seen with dreamy heart eyes, clinging to a can of Lupuloid. So when the ‘all in’ tickets for their fifth birthday bash went on sale, it only seemed right they we should head down to Tottenham and help them celebrate another year of success.
Our last visit here was twelve months ago, when Adam and I persuaded two friends to accompany us to Beaver My Valentine. Now infamous for the unexpected influx of beer drinkers, it was definitely an experience to remember. We showed up keenly (and somewhat naively) at 12.50pm to be met outside the tube station with an enormous queue of cheerful Beavertown fans waiting in the rain. The atmosphere was jovial for the most part though, and it wasn’t long before ‘crowd control’ was deployed, which in this case meant handing out complimentary cans of delicious Gamma Ray which perked everyone up. When we finally got inside, the set up looked impressive, but as much as the beer selection and atmosphere were fantastic (and we can’t deny we had a great time) the extensive queues for bars and toilets meant that we bailed out much earlier than anticipated and visited some decent pubs instead. We had really enjoyed the experience, but conceded the next morning that the whole trip had been quite expensive to essentially sit in the pub. However, we agreed that we would definitely love to visit Beavertown again on a less manic weekend. So when the tickets for at Five go to Beavertown came up for sale, we jumped at the chance, hoping for a slightly more moderate version of last year’s bash.
The adventure actually began the night before when we ventured to Bermondsey on an uncharacteristically mild and sunny February evening to revisit some favourites, and check out a couple of new venues. There was also the promise of a Mikkeller/WarPigs tap takeover which was perfectly timed for our visit, however it did make the ‘one third of a pint per venue’ rule quite tricky to adhere to!
First up was the Fourpure tap room, which is tucked away on an industrial estate just under a mile from the Tube. We struggled to locate it at first, but basically if you can see Screwfix and Howdens you’re in the right place – just follow the music. The setup here is functional, industrial and friendly, with the doors kept wide open on the evening in question, allowing us to sip in the sunshine (not something we have had much opportunity to do over the last few months in Manchester!), and it really set the holiday tone for the weekend.
After a quick look at the merch, we both decided on a third of Northern Latitude, a spiced winter ale with a caramelly and sweet burnt sugar aftertaste, perfect for the cosy weather. Sadly Partizan isn’t open on a Friday so once finished we headed back up to the other cluster of taprooms, which are mostly built into the railway arches. On the night in question, they included The Bottleshop (featuring the aforementioned tap take over), Anspach & Hobday, and Brew By Numbers.
The Bottleshop was pouring Cloudwater Birthday DIPA pretty much constantly from opening time until we left, and it was a real test of will for us not to stay and give it a try (having a can in the fridge at home helped) but I really wanted to give the out of towners some attention. Eventually I decided on a WarPigs ‘Foggy Geezer,’ a juicy IPA but with a great whack of bitterness which I have been missing with some fruity IPAs of late.
Anspach & Hobday is a mere few seconds away, and here we were treated to some delicious dark beers (I do feel that A&H stouts are generally fantastic) as well as a try of the new The Story Saison, which has been brewed in collaboration with a local restaurant. It’s great to see these guys doing well, as I think they’re often overlooked outside London. More recently, however, I have noticed that some of their beers have appeared on tap and in bottle in a couple of Manchester locations so hopefully this wont be the case for much longer. The Porter I tried was balanced, roasty and rich and a nice change of pace for the evening. (I was sorry that we were two days too early for the Beer and Bake Day too!)
The final stop of the evening was across to Brew By Numbers. Easily one of my favourite UK breweries, the ever changing line up is reason enough to travel to Bermondsey. It was already busy when we arrived at opening time and filled up quickly, and the line up today featured a deliciously refreshing IPA with Azacca and Amarillo. I was happy to break the ‘thirds only’ rule (I mean, if the bar staff say two thirds only then who am I to argue?!).
Really you need to set aside a full afternoon to do all of these places justice, and on a Saturday there are a few additional taprooms to keep you occupied, but for us the frivolities were over and we headed back North of the river to prepare for the next day.
Uh oh. Lemsip for breakfast is never a good sign is it? Especially when you have a big day of sampling delicious beers ahead! Still, nothing that a ridiculous amount of Wetherspoons breakfast (large, of course) can’t sort out. Also it’s a great excuse for not letting anyone try and pinch (sorry, ‘try’) your beer.
Onto the Victoria line we hopped, and immediately noticed a few fellow excited and possibly slightly lost looking Northerners. The approach to the brewery was promising, no serpent of queuing punters to be seen today! In fact we arrived pretty much bang on opening time, joined a quickly moving line and were inside before we knew it.
Immediately we could see that the organisers had really taken notice of the complaints of last year and flipped them– there were friendly, helpful staff everywhere, fancy toilets (with sea kelp hand lotion no less), and a pleasing amount of grilled cheese sandwiches. In fact, from the amazingly cute teeny glasses, sweets and a stick of rock on entry, to the birthday bunting, big tent and danceable party tunes the whole atmosphere was unmistakably ‘Beavertown’. One of many positives about being a beer drinker on a small island like the UK is that you can often really get to know the personality of a brewery, be it from visiting taprooms, meet the brewer events, and so on. Cloudwater appear calm and zen-like, Northern Monk rugged and industrial, and Beavertown, if today was anything to go by, are REALLY GOOD FUN.
Enough of this party talk, let’s get to the bar! Double Chin made another appearance and was a very welcome first drink of the day. Amongst some impressive usual suspects, the interesting collaboration beers were, for the most part, really successful. I was surprised and pleased by the artifice of Julian (Basqueland Brewing Project collaboration) which was dark and rich, but ended with unexpected lemon which was reminiscent of a citrus furniture polish… A bit of a grower but well worth a try. Another well-crafted and lightly fruity number was Anne (Lost and Grounded collab), a lemon iced bun Belgian ale, which simply confirmed to me what I already knew – I will enjoy anything if you name it after a cake. Adam meanwhile was face deep in double digits as usual – enjoying revisiting both Bourbon Barrel Aged ‘Spresso and Mr Hyde. Timmy (collaboration DIPA with Dry & Bitter) went down well with everyone we spoke to and scored 4 on the sneezeometer*, indicating impressive use of hops.
The beers flowed and it wasn’t long until we had made a bunch of new beer friends and basically planned the perfect UK wide pub crawl. The experience in its entirety was greatly enjoyable and relaxed from start to finish.
I am envious of those of you who will be visiting for the Beavertown Extravaganza in September, while we are busy having fun at Leeds International Beer Festival, as it promises to be all of the above but so much more. For us though, it’s over and out (until February next year!).
* Adam is mildly allergic to hops and can sneeze anything up to eight times after his first sip of the day.