Thursday 8 March 2012

Hells Yeah! - Camden Town Brewery

Last weekend Camden Town Brewery officially launched their new beer, USA Hells, and while they were at it, opened their brewery bar to the public for the first time. They made an effort, with some basic furniture both indoors and out, some cool oversized foam hands and Big Apple Hot Dogs dishing out the food. Not too much effort though – it still looks, smells and feels like a brewery with a bar attached, not the other way around, which is too often a recipe for below par beer. The beers on sale (around 10) were all on keg at £3.50 a pint, with bottles and mini-kegs for taking away.
          Sunny throughout, the afternoon started lively and then went to busy, crowded, rammed, and then finally petered out a full hour after the proposed closing time. This meant there were queues aplenty, but the fully branded-up staff  were quick to take care of that, and in these surroundings, queuing is somewhat of a unspoken pleasure – dreaming of your next pint of lager with sun on the face and grilled meat in the nostrils. Those who have visited Kernel or London Fields brewery on a Saturday will have experienced the same vibe – Spartan surroundings, tucked away down alleys or underneath arches, born in Brooklyn and raised in Shoreditch. Camden Town perhaps lends itself best to this; the modern, consistent and drinkable beers are familiar enough to attract new craft drinkers, but have the occasional fanatic-friendly elements, like unfiltered this and American hopped that. It meant the crowd was mixed, young, and had some cash to spend, with a great mixture of excited craft newbies and seen it all before experts. They mingled and relayed between the two bars, eagerly awaiting their brewery tour and wondering whether they had time for a hot dog. Some will have gone home after the 5pm closing time – most went on to a full Saturday night of drinking and bar hopping.
         The new beer is very good. The Hells is clean, citrusy, and peppery with cereal/grain sweetness leading to a crisp, dry finish. The big American hops in the new version give the aroma more floral, herby notes and a bigger, more rounded, juicy finish with a little added grassy bitterness. It is dangerously drinkable and rumours of a permanent place in the line-up for this are pleasing. The unfiltered version of the standard hells was also great – more body and a touch sweeter, creamier and longer on the finish. The only detour from these I bothered with (it was Hells day!) was to have a goodbye pint of one of my favourite beers from last year, the Gentleman’s Wit. The last keg of this gentle, moreish, beery bucks fizz was not quite as good as I last had it, but still lovely. 

                I am greedy with breweries I like though, always wanting them to try and do everything, and Camden Town are no different. I would like to see some bigger beers in the future, a big US style IPA, something with the word imperial in it, and maybe some barrel-aged brutes. That’s just me though. As a recent Camden resident of 3 years I am both pleased that this has arrived and also annoyed that it happened so soon after I left. I’m sure it will become a destination drinking spot, and along with Brewdog and the Euston Tap down the road will form a little craft keg corner of North London. By the looks of Saturday, they will have plenty of loyal customers to fund the next few years, which means more great beer for us locals, but we might have to start sharing it with a bigger and bigger audience.

I was too busy drinking to take photos, so all images are shamelessly stolen from here

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