Tuesday 19 June 2012

Craft Beer at the Zoo

The summer promotion of ‘Zoo Lates’ - an adult only open air bar, nightclub and food market set within the confines of London Zoo - is a slightly odd, but thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an evening. You can tuck in to some Polish pierogi or Mexican tacos, sipping a large plastic glass of Pimms, all while watching lions have their dinner and stick insects making sweet sticky love. It is not a reserved and peaceful occasion to marvel at nature’s most wondrous creations – it is busy and boisterous, with animal costumes, face painting, a disco and a carousel in full flow, all with hordes of participants. Remember this is adults only, with ready access to alcohol.  
               Right in the middle of all this commotion (just out of earshot of the tigers) is a self-described ‘real ale bar’, a beer festival style tent with several casks lined up to dispense beer via gravity, and a couple of keg lines. The tent and garden are given identical space to the directly adjacent Pimms bar, which was predictably busier but not hugely so. The beers on show were impressively sourced – this was not a random selection of well-known ales you might find in the supermarket. It was focussed on London’s finest (I believe this was set up in conjunction with the London Brewers Alliance) with Redemption, Fullers, Camden Town, Meantime and Sambrooks all available on a visit earlier this month, and more promised for subsequent events.

            The Redemption Trinity I had was perhaps not the finest version I have tried (tasting slightly  dull), but it was well conditioned and still a cut above the usual stuff available at events and tourist havens like this, and at £3.50 was fairly priced given the location. The range is solid, with plenty of opportunity to match pale and dark beers with the variety of food on offer, and the keg option is great for those looking for refreshment in the evening sun. The point here is that this is a pleasing development – first and foremost to see London craft beer being championed to a clearly affluent, touristy crowd - but also to see it done at the type of event where the usual offering is mainstream lager at exaggerated prices. I would like to see craft beer appearing and thriving in new & different environments from bars and restaurants, like theme parks, hotels, theatres, concerts and stadiums. This feels like progress is being made towards that end, and being welcomed by the public. It seems unlikely that something of this nature would have been in palce a few years ago, which is a positive and exciting sign for London's breweries. 
Has anyone seen craft beer/real ale being served in other interesting locations?

Zoo Lates is on every Friday in June & July

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