I was taken to a Wetherspoons for my birthday treat. No, really. But the sympathy vote is not required because it was great. It was a Meet the Brewer evening with Twickenham Fine Ales at The Wrong ‘Un in Bexleyheath.
I’m not going into the big ‘Spoons debate here because this isn’t your ordinary JDW outlet. Sure, it looks the same, but manager Rob is trying to make this a proper beer destination pub with evenings like this in the neatly divided back area.
Stuart Medcalf was present from Twickenham Fine Ales. Apart from a wealth of experience Stu has also acted as consultant to several new breweries in the London area. This was friendly chat not a formal presentation and all the better for it. After a brief history of the brewery it was straight into the beers, a short introduction and then walking the individual tables to discuss the beers and ask questions. Relaxed, friendly, knowledgeable and professional.
What sets Twickenham Fine Ales apart from many other small brewers is their excellent brewing technique. The beer is particularly clear and consistent. (Technical bit, the clarity is particularly impressive because of the relatively high wheat tariff.) Listening to Stu I was also surprised at the number and type of hops used, mainly US varieties.
We tried the four core beers, Naked Ladies, Grandstand, Sundancer and Heavenly Red plus the current seasonal Spring Ale. Naked Ladies is their flagship and is a pleasant hoppy bitter, hoppy by British cask ale standards. Grandstand is a session bitter that we were able to try in bottle as well as cask. I and several others thought the bottle better, maybe slightly less character but more vibrant. Sundancer and Spring Ale were both hoppy golden ales, well made but unexciting. Heavenly Red is a red ale, who’d have guessed it, getting some spiciness from the roasted barley and English/German hop mix (but no rye, as far as I am aware).
Heavenly Red was my favourite. I predict that red or rye ales could become the next drinking man’s bitter. The slight spiciness that characterises these beers is just interesting enough but doesn’t get people out of their comfort zone – you read it here first.
As always it doesn’t matter what you know but who you know. Me, I don’t know many
people but some of the ones I do know know lots of other people. And so a bottle of Oud Bruin arrived. It is a barrel aged, sour stout (Bass for short?) made as a collaboration with de Struise and Alvinne. I could spend another 500 words, mainly adjectives, describing this. But I won’t. Suffice to say if you like the sound of it then you will not be disappointed. If the thought doesn’t appeal don’t waste your money on it. I think it is absolutely, phenomenally good. It’s running out – get to the brewery shop before I do. Why do Twickenham Fine Ales keep this quiet? It won’t appeal to the core drinkers but it is a great showcase of their innate talent.
So, what a lovely evening! A genial mein host, a friendly knowledgeable brewer, excellent company (including the rebel faction of Bexley CAMRA), cheap as chips and a 5* ‘guest bottle’.
Date: Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Beer selection: 7/10
Beer quality: 8/10
A good night out: 9/10
Total score: 39/50, 78%