Last week I was moaning about the fact that BrewDog Shepherds Bush wasn't the most pleasant place to have a drink, and that I'd rather be drinking the tasty beers at home. Well BrewDog must have been listening to me, or it's a spooky coincidence (I'm going for the former) as they have announced that they're opening an off license called BottleDog, right near my office on Grays Inn Road! Now I can finally drink all the wacky BrewDog beers without having to stare at bare brick walls and exposed ducts and wires surrounded by hipsters sporting trendy moustaches I can only dream of growing, and instead can sit on my sofa with a fat cat on my lap while I watch hipster unfriendly lowbrow tat "Motorway Cops." I'll be sure to pop in when it opens.
I also mentioned last week that it's possible to have a craft beer pub that is actually quite nice and welcoming unlike BrewDog's rather cold environments. Hops and Glory is one of those places. It's in the arse end of nowhere, located on the Essex Road, one of those weird suburban areas dotted around Central London which nobody knows about except the people who live there. But it's worth seeking this pub out. A good selection of cask and an excellent selection of keg and bottled beers were on offer. I was waiting for The Lovely Jemma to get her haircut in trendy Hackney so I couldn't treat myself to one of the stronger beers, so I opted for the 1643 Cannonball from Two Cocks, a tasty session bitter which hit the spot. On a Saturday afternoon the place was pretty quiet, maybe because of its out of the way location, but the customers who where there were enjoying the beers and the whole experience was very cosy. I was disappointed I could only stay for an half hour - I could have quite happily spent a few hours in there.
Another decent craft beer pub I visited recently is the Draft House Charlotte Street. I had heard good things on t'internet about the Draft House franchise and I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. First impressions when I walked in were "wow this place is small." I searched for an upstairs or downstairs with more seating but nope there is only one floor and it's not very big. A large bar takes up a lot of the precious space available.
There was plenty of keg and bottled beer on offer, and a couple of cask offerings as well. I bit the bullet and went for keg, starting with Beavertown Black Betty. This was a splendid Black IPA with a malty flavour pushing through the hops quite nicely. Siren Neither Imperial IPA was up next. At 8.5% they were only serving this in halves, which I always find a bit insulting. If somebody wants to risk ruin physically, mentally and financially, they should be allowed to buy a pint. Anyway this was fabulous, hoppy, tasty and all the other good things you'd expect from a good craft IPA - including the price tag.
The prices are astonishingly high at The Draft House. I know it's "craft" beer and that attracts a premium, as some of the big breweries are discovering and cashing in with their own interpretation of craft. But when The Lovely Jemma was charged £6.95 for a half of Black Betty and half a cider it's hard not to feel a bit exploited. It's testament to the good vibes of the place that we actually bought another round (this one coming in at a brain melting £7.10) and didn't just walk out immediately muttering "How much?!" over and over again like a deranged parrot. I was hoping an upside of the the high prices would be a high turnover of seating as customers bankrupt themselves after one round and leave, but all that happens is that the punters who were lucky enough to grab a seat nurse their drink for dear life. A bit like being in a Starbucks. Still overall the place had a weird charm and I can see myself going back - only for one drink though, and probably on a Monday. It might be quieter then.
High prices are endemic in all craft pubs, as they can't really pile it high and sell it cheap like more traditional pubs. But I'm not sure how long these high prices can last until punters just think "nope" and stop paying, and craft breweries start to suffer. Craft superstars Art Brew have recently said they're going to stop brewing due to debt - how many other breweries aren't going to survive in an industry that is starting to look like a bubble?