Personally speaking, last week was a great week for beer. On Thursday I headed down to Hop Burns and Black in East Dulwich for the Five Points “Top of the Hops Brewer Showcase”, where the Hackney brewery previewed the Syrah barrel-aged version of its Railway Porter. Then on Saturday we dropped in to Islington’s Hammerton Brewery to help them celebrate their first birthday. Last week wasn’t particularly unusual, it’s just that I was free for both of these events. There’s a plethora of events and tap takeovers in London every week which means it’s impossible to do everything, and the fear of missing out can be crippling – a case in point being my non-attendance at either of Brewdog’s Ballast Point’s tap takeovers this week. What is it they say? First World problems?

Hop Burns and Black – purveyor of beer, hot sauces and vinyl – is far from my home in Crouch End, but it’s such a great place that it’s almost worth relocating to south London for. I was last down for the launch of the New Zealand Craft Beer Collective, and as we arrived on Thursday we were greeted by Doreen and Tom from Five Points offering samples of the core range. As we chatted, I cast my gaze over the extensive range of beers on offer, and my eyes fell on a lone bottle of Alechemy‘s Rye O’ Rye, possibly the best rye beer I’ve tastedfrom a great brewery whose beers are frustratingly scarce in London (on that, if you know a good beer distribution company, let them know). This beer was a revelation when I first had it at the Lamb on Holloway Road, and went straight into my basket along with Cloudwater’s IPA, Epic’s Hop Zombie, and Westbrook Brewing Co.’s One Claw. As requested, Jen and Glenn had also kindly put aside Beavertown’s The Power of the Voodoo and Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS), a nice personal touch which is  indicative of the good will that is often apparent in the craft beer world.

Getting back to the beer, in a week of some seriously good drinking the stand out was Buxton Brewery‘s Yellow Belly, a limited batch of which had been released from online retailer, EeBria. There are many good beers in the world, but you know a great beer when it jolts you; stops you in your tracks and demands that you contemplate it in earnest. Yellow Belly is such a beer. Pouring black as night with a dark tan head, it has an intense aroma of chocolate, toffee, peanut butter and shelled monkey nuts, which took me right back to Halloween as a youngster, when I’d return home with a carrier bag containing too may peanuts and not enough chocolate. The taste was the same, with the addition chocolate digestives, and with a full body and and syrupy mouthfeel that coated the inside of my mouth, this is a beer that lingers long.

To blow the cobwebs away the next day, Gemma and I joined a walking tour from Bromley-by-Bow to Greenwich, and after arriving at our destination three hours later it was surely Miller Time as we stopped off at The Old Brewery. It was pleasant enough in the beer garden but we had a long trip home planned, via Hammerton Brewery. Stepping off the London Overground train at Caledonian and Barnsbury station, we took the exit leading to Offord Street and followed the hubbub. It’s a good set up, although as they were showing the FA Cup Final featuring local outfit, Arsenal, the place was rammed so we just stayed for one. That being the case I decided to make it matter, and went for Hammerton’s new Earl Grey Black IPA, Baron H, which is a welcome addition to the core range. I’ll definitely be back for a future open day.

Now I’m conscious that I’m eulogising about the beer world in general and the London beer scene in particular, but before I get carried away and break into I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, my positivity was tempered somewhat by a necessarily cryptic tweet from Boak and Bailey on Monday. As established beer writers they are well connected within the industry and I’d love to know what the tweet alludes to; it’s frustrating that we are seemingly unable to hold the perpetrators of bad/shady practice to account. Industry bodies are all well and good, but their primary role is to serve their members, not consumers.

Anyway, so as not to end on a negative, I’ve some excellent beer-related events coming up: on 25 June, I’m heading back down to Hop Burns and Black for a special (secret?) event; 25 July I’m heading to the London Vegan Beer Festival (shut up!); on 15 August it’s the evening session of the London Craft Beer Festival, and most excitingly of all I booked tickets for the Saturday afternoon session of the Independent Manchester Beer Convention (indymanbeercon). This is in October in Manchester, so I think it’s safe to leave the factor 50 at home.

Howling Hops Tank Bar
Old Greg's Barley Wine