The gigantic Westfield shopping centre in Stratford has never appealed to me. To be presented with that many shops in one sprawling place scares the hell out of me and just the thought of the place sends me into a cold sweat. It doesn't help that Westfield is pretty much unnavigable inside and you just have to hope the bright light you're heading for is an exit and not a particularly well lit entrance to Boots. There are probably people in there who have never found the exit and have just resigned themselves to living in the shopping centre, like Tom Hanks in saccharine "The Terminal." Except these poor souls have got a better option of buying a nice pair of shoes or, as they're in Stratford, getting stabbed.
There is a glimmer of hope for the seasoned ale drinker in this bastion of capitalism. Head towards the back of shopping centre near Waitrose (which looks sorely out of place in Stratford) and you'll find Tap East. The modern interior is simple and even a little dull but the main attraction isn't the décor but the beer. Tap East has a microbrewery on site and you can see its gleaming tanks filled with mirth making juice through large glass windows at the back of the bar. I was visiting one of their festivals so there was a very good selection of guest beers, and it also featured collaborations between Tap East and other breweries.
Things got off to a good start with Hoxton Special IPA, a hoppy, fruity treat with a deceptively high ABV. It's OK though, I was sticking to halves, what could possibly go wrong? Next up was The Boss by Roosters. Thankfully it didn't taste of Bruce Springsteen, but it didn't really taste like ale either. Instead it tasted distinctly of grapefruit juice. Despite this it was oddly charming. The only collaboration ale I tried was the Beer Called Framboise, made in conjunction with Howling Hops. Despite the name I didn't twig this would be a raspberry flavoured beer, mainly because I'm an idiot. I'm not usually a fan of fruit beers. I find them too sickly and just a bit weird. After I took my first sip my immediate thought was "Oh God this is a fruit beer, where is the nearest toilet?" Luckily it was actually a really enjoyable beer. A nice dry flavour but plenty of fruity goodness as well. I wouldn't drink more than a half but it was good tipple.
Lone Ranger by Tap East was a fine if unmemorable English bitter. Texas Ranger by Mikkeller was very memorable though. This was a bit of a bonkers pint, as to be expected from those great danes over at Mikkeller. Sadly not great danes as in the dog, but rather the Danish people, although a bunch of dogs brewing beer would be pretty cool. Although I imagine the beer would probably taste a bit ruff. The Texas Ranger was a malty beer with chipotle chucked in as well. To be honest it was all a bit of a horror show but it was oddly drinkable. By this time of the night I had drunk beers with a combined percentage of about 50% so that probably helped the flavour. I wouldn't of drank more than a half of it though.
Food was provided by a man outside cooking ham, potatoes, and cheese in a massive pan. It seemed legit and I couldn't say no to this fatty feast so I bulked up on the delicious carbs. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Tap East and it has definitely edged out the King Eddies as my favourite pub in Stratford.
I recently paid a return visit to the Bricklayers Arms in Putney, which is essentially a permanent beer festival - it even says this on a sign outside the building. It was a pleasure as always and some excellent beers were on offer. The highlights were the Triple fff Ramble Tamble, an excellent, fruity pale ale that went down a treat. In fact Triple fff had another winner with Apache Rose Peacock, a oddly named American IPA full of fruity goodness. Red Dawn by the Red Squirrel Brewery was also a treat. Thankfully it didn't taste of Patrick Swayze but was instead a very pleasant mild with a great rounded flavour.
As there was no official beer festival on I was free from the tyranny of the Morris Men who like to show up with their devil worshipper ways during festival events. In fact the pub was pretty much empty for the majority of the Saturday afternoon I was there, with it getting a little more busy as the evening went on. An excellent pub like this deserves a bit more patronage from the good folk of Putney.
The next update will be about my tales 'oop North as I visit the fine pubs of Preston. It will even have pictures! See you again soon.