An invitation to the opening of the UK's first craft beer pub was something I could not turn down. I've always wanted to time travel, and going back to when this momentous event occurred would be fascinating. Though come to think of it you'd probably have to go back a further ten years so you could trash out exactly what you mean by craft beer first anyway.
Sadly no TARDIS was involved, the invitation was to the opening of Goose Island's (ABInBev) first pub in London, the Vintage Ale house in Balham. It's more a bar than a pub, having no hand pumps or carpet, and being in a shop unit sized space. Interestingly, the guy who founded Goose Island was there and he said they normally have a cask ale on at their brewpub in Chicago. It's nice to think that even in barbarian lands it's possible to receive the sacrament of the one true living beer. I've always quite fancied a visit to Chicago, though admittedly mainly to visit the Martyrs' Monument.
With no cask beer available in Balham I stared on the keg IPA, which was the best I've had in a long while. It seemed to have got back some of the zing it's been missing since production moved to a bigger brewery. I discussed this with one of the Goose Island people and he said to try and match the flavour they actually had to increase the hopping rate when they upscaled production to a new plant.
Next we were given a beer cocktail, a mimosa, made with Sofia, orange juice and (I think) Gran Marnier. I was very nice, but tasted nothing like beer, and I was wary about how strong it might be so didn't finish it. I wanted to save as much of my sadly reduced alcohol capacity for the coming main event, a five course beer and food matching meal:
The beer and food matching was by all accounts a great success, with the bloke who founded Goose Island even coming over to tell the guy who'd organised it how it was one of the best beer dinners he'd been to. It was mostly wasted on me though.
I mean the food was great, and there was some nice beer, but I'd have quite happily stuck with the beers I liked best (the IPA and Matilda) thoughout the evening. Matilda is Goose Island's take on Orval, and very good it is too. As Brettanomyces is one of my obsession it was interesting to hear the Goose Island people talk about, as it featured in the Matilda and some of the other beers. They didn't get much wrong either. Intentional use of Brett. in breweries is clearly growing. And come to think of it unintentional probably is too.
It was a cracking do Goose Island put on, but as I was ligging I've no idea how much it would cost to go there as a paying punter. Probably more than I'd fork out to be honest, I am quite tight.