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Archive for the ‘Drink’ Category

My embarrassing Higham Hill post

In Drink, Places on April 9, 2017 at 5:32 pm

I bet that subject line got your attention.

So I’ve lived in Higham Hill for 13 years yet haven’t really explored my local area much. Walked up Higham Hill road a couple of times and a bit of Blackhorse Lane. I think the problem is I’ve rarely had the time. I used to work in Surbiton, then a West End job working crazy hours, then my current job in Chiswick. The 3 years I was out of work in the recession contained crippling depression. Spending weekends at my partner’s near the high street means I’m not much in my home area.

But today I got home and got the vacuuming done and thought “Fuck staying in on a sunny afternoon. Fuck being that guy.” So I went out for a walk. Time for a nice, cold beer. Time to try some local pubs.

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Facelift?

Just a 10 minute walk up the hill from my flat is the Warrant Officer. Lots of scaffolding on the outside didn’t stop it being open on a Sunday afternoon and it was pleasantly quiet. The sound system was playing various Americana  from Country to blues to a ‘Lighter Shade of Pale’. Speaking of pale I chose a pint of 13 Guns yank IPA. They had a couple of ale taps on but I was in the mood for something cold. £4 tells me I’m not in the pub at the West Midlands council estate I grew up in (seriously I get change from a twenty when I buy 6 pints at Xmas). I settled into a corner armchair to let life go by.

I’d rank the Warrant Officer under ‘nice estate pub’. It seems to have a bunch of middle aged and retired men making up the clientèle in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. It’s got a couple of TVs (not on, fortunately), pool table, free wifi. Apart from the mix of old chairs the décor revolves around military insignia and a case full what I think are replica flintlocks.

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Look, in the middle, a case full of guns!

Eschewing the wifi I sat, made a few notes for this post and enjoyed the music. I think I’ll be back for a quiet pint again sometime.

Fortified with a beer I decided to go look for  Higham Hill Park, which was just 2 minutes away. It was a bit smaller than I expected (Lloyd park has spoiled me, and is nearly as close) but has good facilities which were being well used; tennis courts, basketball courts, playground and playing field.

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So many of the trees are in blossom. Since there were loads of kids in the park I deliberately tried to avoid photographs with people in them.

I found myself a patch of grass to write some notes. And then stretched out for 20 minutes. It was warm with a cooling breeze and I found myself occasionally chuckling at how I never make time to make time for myself. I watched planes overhead leave contrails and pigeons flirt with each other.

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So, more beer. On a previous walk I’d noticed another pub and decided to try the Prince of Wales on St Andrews Road.

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Prince of Wales’ unassuming exterior.

No interior shot of this one. I didn’t want to draw attention to the fact I wasn’t the only bloke in the pub watching the football. This is your classic estate pub; choice of Guinness, John Smiths or Fosters (I went for lager on a warm day). Judging by the missing paint it’s not seen a decorator this century. Two of the three TVs in this smallish bar were showing the game. There’s a pool table and a one arm bandit if Sky Sports doesn’t get you excited. Looking out back there seems to be a beer garden.

While I may not be kind the ‘stow needs a mix of pubs to serve all of its residents. As we don’t have a ‘spoons it is pubs like this and the Lord Palmerston which serve the ‘basic’ end of the local beer trade.

While I doubt I’ll return to the last venue I hope to spend some time chilling in my local park. Certainly, I’ll drop into the Warrant Officer of an evening for a pint.

And next time I get chance for a walk I’ll try and venture a bit further North into my neighbourhood.

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Pillars Brewery Launch Party

In Drink, Uncategorized on October 16, 2016 at 3:44 pm

You may have noticed my posts display a certain love of all things ale as well as local. So I was  most excited to receive an invite from Kayleigh Bell to the launch party of Four Pillars Brewery (now rebranded to just Pillars Brewery). So stopping off at Central station to meet my beer geek friend Helena who came as my +1 off we went to the Ravenswood Industrial Estate.

(I hope there was never a wood full of ravens that was demolished to make an industrial estate. That would be sad.)

You know the phrase “So new the paint was still wet”? Well…

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Shiny new!

The door to Unit 2 was unadorned but on entering the smell of fresh paint was most clear 🙂

On entering we were greeted by the effusive Omar Razaq, brewer and ‘co-pillar’, who gave us a very warm welcome and led us to the bar, telling us about their beers. The brewery does have a standing tap room serving all their beers on draught.

Pillars Tap Room

The tap room. From here, off to the right of this shot, you can see all their fermenters while you drink the produce.

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Ooh, check out your fancy taps!

So, lets go through the lovely beers. I consumed one of each as I am a dedicated reviewer. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Pillars founder Gavin (I didn’t get his business card, sorry Gavin!) who explained them to me:

  1. Untraditional Lager (4.5% ABV) this is an ‘Indian Pale Lager’, cold fermented for 8 weeks. It’s intended as a session beer and is wonderfully well rounded. Many IPAs tend to jack up the hops to compensate for mediocre undertones but Untraditional lets them play the same rhythm as other flavours. Currently this is the flagship brew which is going out to the restaurant and pub trade (I saw Joe, the owner of the Rose & Crown, there). There are no immediate plans to sell to the off licence trade as bottling/canning is an extra complication to a new business but Gavin seemed open to the idea in the future.
  2. Pillars Pilsner (4.5%) I think Gavin was trying to tell us this was going to be called ‘Pillsner’ but the clever wordplay got a bit lost. This is a ‘Work in Progress’ beer that may be part of the product line up but currently is just being sold through the tap room. It’s the most typical of the line up but is a very nice, light colour, quality Pilsner that I can see doing very well in restaurants.
  3. AmarilloFest (5.6%) An Oktoberfest style lager made with a rare box of American Amarillo hops. This was a bit of a special one-off brew and my favourite of the evening. Deeper flavour with the higher ABV giving it more body and caramel solidity. Again, this one is destined purely for the tap room.

Gavin went on to explain that along with their ales Pillars tap room will also carry local wines (a couple of reds, whites and a rosé) and some local spirits (although not gin to avoid annoying the neighbours at Mother’s Ruin). They will also have bar snacks including crisps made at a nearby farm!

One interesting point in the conversation is why they chose the Ravenwood estate. I assumed that they wanted to be in that creative nexus but apparently there is a shortage of small industrial space in Walthamstow. When Unit 2 became free they snapped it up, despite being a bit bigger than they were planning for.

Which was a surprise, looking at their beautiful hardware.

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Cold fermenters

Currently they have 120 hectolitres of capacity which ferments each batch for 8 weeks. That’s 780 hectolitres a year according to the simplistic maths. That sounds like a lot to me!

The evening progressed with fancy canpés and more chat. I had my coat off a bit but soon needed to put it back on like all the other guests. Gavin told us they had electric heating but it wasn’t yet ready due to technical issues. But the excellent soundtrack, delightful finger food and of course fabulous beer made for a great evening.

Having to walk Helena back to Central for her trip home we decamped at 10pm but ended up chatting outside with Omar again and Rob, one of the Wildcard bar staff. The warmth and joy of the indie beer scene was very evident and we spent quite a bit more time learning of other brews to try and pubs to try them in.

I think Pillars have placed themselves perfectly. Geographically their tap room will add to the mass of the social sun that the estate is becoming. The business ideals seem sound and I can see Untraditional doing very, very well in London’s pubs and eateries. And finally in product; IPA’s as a beer style are currently immensely popular. Their tap room is serving a very different lineup from Wildcard (although I can see them becoming two bars of the same ‘venue’).

The official launch of the tap room will be at the end of October.