Saturday, 28 September 2013

Searching For The Taste Of The USA In The Drinking Heart Of London

Everyone knows that Americans make the best IPAs. Everyone except Evo. Despite the incontrovertible evidence of the Great British Beer Festival, he won't give up.

"I'm sorry, mate, I'm not having it. You can't beat good, British beers. There's no contest," he said while supping another Guinness in The Three Greyhounds.

Right, well let's see about that. The London Plane trees are still in leaf and summer is still alive. Time to seek out the ultimate taste of the drinking man's season - a deliciously big-flavoured mouthful of thirst-quenching, citrusy IPA from the USA.

We started at The White Horse in Newburgh Street, that great Nicholson's boozer surrounded by end-of-summer flower boxes just off Carnaby Street. This pump looks promising - Chinook IPA, a name conjuring images of Apocalypse Now choppers, complete with an American flag on the beer clip. Hold on a minute - turns out it's brewed in Walsall by the Backyard Brewhouse. A decent bitter but about as American as a trip up the M6. Conned!

Evo was already on the black stuff for some spurious reason so Geoff and I had a quick refresher of Liberation South Island from the Channel Islands. The magical hops in that one sound like a list of super heroes - Dr Rudi, Kohatu, Motueka, Green Bullet. Their super powers have created a jolly blonde beer that whetted the appetite for a proper IPA.

So off we cantered to The Ship on Wardour Street, a now over-rated and rather smelly Fuller's pub where you can sit next to an eye-level shelf full of ketchup bottles. But it does sell Wild River, a very un-Fuller's-like seasonal pale ale that uses those big-skied Red White and Blue hops - Liberty, Willamette, Cascade and Chinook (there it is again) - to create a fabulously grapefruity throat-pleaser. I love it. Tastes more like Sierra Nevada than Chiswick. Evo stuck with Guinness.

Geoff: "Guinness? You're having a laugh."
Next stop, the Coach and Horses in Greek Street, another one of those tatty Soho legends whose reputation is bigger than its beer range. It's got a scribbly new sign outside announcing its new status as a vegetarian pub but no sign of an IPA, so we settled for a pint of London Pride. Always reliably malty when the going gets tough.

No sign of it there
A few purposeful strides later we found ourselves in The Three Greyhounds, another beautifully wood and glassed Nicholson's pub. But wait, here's another joker in the hand-pump pack: what beer do you think of when you see the name Samuel Adams? I think Boston, Massachusetts. This one's from Faversham, Kent.

But Samuel Adams Blonde Ambition is brewed by Shepherd Neame from a recipe devised in conjunction with the Boston Beer Company using a mixture of US and UK hops. I'm not usually a big fan of SN beers - bit too sweet for me - but this one had a hint of that elusive grapefruit bitterness, even though it was a bit past its best. It was brewed to celebrate American Independence Day so maybe it was reaching the bottom of the barrel by the end of September.

So Evo remained unconvinced and bailed out, leaving me and Geoff to complete the day's quest at The Old Coffee House in Beak Street, the Soho outpost of the excellent Brodie's brewery in the East End. A quick scan of the bar and there it was - Old Street Pale Ale, Sim Coe and Citra hops all the way in their showboat American ale.

It was probably asking too much to expect a draft American IPA on a routine drinking day in Soho. A beer festival is much more likely to produce a result. But in the meantime let's salute in a General Stonewall Jackson-style the Brit brewers who are using US recipes and hops to create the taste of the States in the streets of Soho.

Two drinkers at The Three Greyhounds

1 comment:

  1. When does the doctor say Evo can take those special trousers off ?