I attended an “Introduction To Craft Beer” at The Duke’s Head pub in Highgate last night hosted by my friend, the intermittently trouser-less Matt ‘Total Ales’ Curtis*. Although aimed at the novice craft beer drinker I was keen to attend as not only is Duke’s a cracking pub, I was also interested to hear Matt expand upon the oft-times rushed, drunken beery discussions we have when attending the same pubs/events.

According to Untappd my first visit to Duke’s was in December last year when I was fortunate enough to find Siren Craft Brew’s Liquid Mistress on cask. Under its current management for just over a year, Duke’s has quickly made a name for itself with its fantastic range of cask and keg beers with a particular emphasis on London breweries. They also do take away, stocking Beavertown and Fourpure cans among others, and with excellent customer service it’s a real boon for local beer enthusiasts.

So on to the event. Once the latecomers had arrived Matt got going and we started off with a bottle of Hammerton Brewery’s Islington, an eminently quaffable sweet, malty steam lager with a hint of citrus bitterness. Matt’s delivery was friendly and assured as he gave us the background to this nascent Islington brewery and provided context with a potted history of steam beer. My only regret is that he didn’t herald the beer by standing on a stool and shouting “Stop – Hammerton time!” (sorry). Next up was The Five Points Brewing Co’s Pale. A fine take on the style, I’m a big fan of this brewery and you can see my thoughts on their core range here.

Matt then introduced what was possibly the beer of the night, for me anyway: Fourpure Brewing Co.’s Oatmeal Stout – a gorgeously rich granola tray-bake of a beer smothered in treacle and chocolate (not literally). Fourpure’s entire range is excellent and a trip to the brewery in Bermondsey is well worth it, especially with various other microbreweries in the vicinity.

We then took a break for food from Duke’s in-house scran-merchants and salt beef and pickle specialists The Bell and Brisket which was wolfed down by the hungry, and by now well lubricated crowd. Half-time also gave Matt the opportunity to chat with everyone on a one-to-one basis as he answered questions and elaborated on his talk.

We restarted with a palate cleanser/smack to the chops via Partizan Brewing’s Saison Grisette Lemon & Thyme. Not surprisingly, citrus was at the forefront and the thyme was also evident albeit more subdued. Although Saison is a challenging style for the novice beer drinker it’s an important and rewarding one given perseverance, and this was an ideal introduction – accessible enough while demonstrating the scope in flavours the style affords brewers. Matt finished with two beers from one of the highest regarded breweries in London, The Kernel Brewery. First up was the India Pale Ale Chinook Simcoe which was greeted with a cheer from the crowd, emphasising the esteem in which American-style IPAs are held by the craft beer community. This was followed by the Export India Porter – a full-bodied beer with an aroma and taste of coffee, liquorice and chocolate which really got me excited about the change of seasons and the prospect of scooping many more of the style.

That brought an end to proceedings, for me anyway as I was on the verge of being crunk**/gammadied*** and thought it best to make my way home. It was a great night – I drank some fantastic beers, enhanced my beery knowledge and met some friends, old and new. Word on the streets of Highgate is that there may be more such events to follow, and I’ll drink copiously to that.

* Due to poor photography skills I have no photos of Matt but you can see his mug here

** Drunk on craft beer

*** Smashed/bevvied – derived from auto correct wrongly translating “hammered”

The Westbury, Wood Green
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