Sunday 1 February 2015

Dalston and a little bit of Hackney

When you're a serious beer blogger like myself, averaging a whopping 25 posts a year, sometimes you have to do things you really don't want to do in search of decent beer and pubs. The avid reader(s) of my blog will know that I'm not a fan of hipsters, with their suspicious beards and brightly coloured trousers. The Lovely Jemma has recently been getting her hair cut at a trendy barber's near Dalston, an area known as a hipster stronghold. I've been tempted to travel there with her to try the pubs around the area, but the thought of being surrounded by preened ponces talking about nonsense in a ironic manner scared me off every time. I usually get as far as Liverpool Street before deciding I can venture no further. However a couple of weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and venture into the belly of the hipster beast. The sacrifices I have to make for this blog!

Dalston is supposedly gentrified although I couldn't tell at first glance, but at closer inspection I started to notice the poncy coffee shops, overpriced bars and gussied up vinyl shops amongst the grimy cafes and run down clothes stores. The perfect idyll for a hipster who can get posh beers and fancy coffee while also feeling a bit edgy as they hurriedly walk past the crummier stores hoping not to make eye contact with anybody inside. I soon became acclimatised to the bushy beards and horrible dress sense surrounding me and headed to the first pub on my mini jaunt, The Railway Tavern. Which was firmly closed despite the opening hours stating they open at 12pm on a Saturday, so it was off to the second pub on my list, The Duke of Wellington.

On entering I was surprised to see it was a fairly traditional pub, with a large central serving area in the middle of the room. The place was empty at lunchtime but there were plenty of "reserved" signs on the tables in preparation for the evening. I always find it a bit annoying when a pub allows you to book tables on a Saturday night - it's only fair that everybody has to fend for themselves. There was a well chosen collection of cask ales on offer and I went for a half of Shropshire Gold from the Salopian Brewery, a very solid sessionable golden ale. With the friendly staff and laid back indie atmosphere this was a pretty good local boozer - worth dropping in for a pint.

I wandered back to The Railway Tavern to see if they had woken up yet and the place was now open. I popped in and perused the beer selection. Along with a small collection of cask ales, mainly from Redemption, there was also plenty of trendy keg beer on offer including two beers from craft stars Pressure Drop, I stuck to the cask and went for the Railway Porter from the the Five Points brewery. This was an excellent porter with well balanced malt and coffee flavours, a delight to drink. The Railway is owned by the same people as The Pineapple and Tapping the Admiral both near Camden Town, and it had the same sort of vibe - a locals pub serving good quality beer. Thai food was also available. When trying to find this pub beware that there is another pub called the Railway on the main Kingsland Road - ignore this one, turn down the side street next to it and walk down until you find the Tavern!

My last pub in the Dalston area involved a jolly jaunt through the lively market, which seemed to specialise in selling every part of every animal that has ever existed. The Three Compasses is another locals pub that has been taken over by trendy beer. A large one room pub, the long serving area has plenty of keg on offer but only one cask was available, serving a Hackney Brewery ale when I visited. I opted for a Pressure Drop Pale Fire, a reliable and very tasty American IPA. As well as trendy beer there was also trendy food available with American burgers with a French twist provided by Le Bun. The burgers sounded pretty good but the last pub of the day is where I planned to have lunch.

With The Lovely Jemma joining me freshly shorn from her visit to the barber, we saunted down the Kingsland Road towards Haggerston, a dreary slab of London suburbia with precious little of note - except for Dukes Brew & Que, a street corner boozer which acts as the tap for craft beer darlings Beavertown Brewery. The place was packed with diners - this is really more of a restaurant than a pub. The selection of beer available was excellent and I went for a Brew By Numbers Session which was superb - the BBN guys really seem to do no wrong. For food I tried the heart destryoing Chicken Fried Steak which was delicious but probably accounted for my calorie intake for the month. Service was polite and pleasent, there was a good atmosphere going and me and TLJ both thoroughly enjoyed our time there. A great place to end my visit around the hipster joints - just a shame it's in the cultural void that is Haggerston.

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