A scrap of paper in my hand is all I have as a memento of my visit to the Camden Town Brewery — and the significance of this scrap of paper is? I haven’t returned from somewhere promising peace in our time or waved it at the crowds waiting for me in Croydon airport (as was). On the other hand it has a small quorum of words that I jotted down as I went round Camden Town Brewery today, where the British Guild of Beer Writers held their committee meeting (committee man Mark Dredge also works here hence the invitation). A brief collection of scribbles, blue Biro ink, seasick in their rhythm. RAILWAY ARCHES (though I don’t normally write in capitals, this is just for effect) — the first two words stretch themselves languorously like cats getting ready to move to another side of the sofa. Railway arches. There are five railway arches in which the brewery is located — glass, protractor shaped, a mirror image of the brick arch, stretches over the front of the brewery, while above in the station (Kentish Town West and overground, the idea of which seemed to bamboozle at least one committee member) the sounds from the trains are gentler and more restrained than you would expect if the brewery was further along the line. Light is let in rather than expelled, all the better to appreciate the gathering of stainless steel equipment in the space beneath the arches. The lager — halfway house between Helles and Pilsner we are told — has the clarity of gin, though is obviously of a different colour. Ooh look there’s a bitter lemon note on the nose, while the palate sways sexily beneath its bittersweet character. I like the characteristically Munchen bitter finish. Gorgeous and this is a beer that emerges into the world, heavy lidded and sultry with sleep after 28 days in the tank. As the meeting progresses, Mark tops up our glasses. The Wheat Beer is a sensation — banana custard, softness, friendliness, fatness from 5% alcohol, no cloves, but it’s definitely bring your dirndl time. Next up the stout, nitrogen giving it an espresso coloured head of foam; mellow roastiness, toast in the afternoon perhaps, milky mocha coffee, while there’s a controlled hint of herbal inspired sourness that emboldens the taste buds to bow down before this grand design. Finally, try the Pale Ale, which is immeasurably miles better than I have had before — almost carrying an erotic charge that only a whiff of the hopsack can give. Oh and we tasted a wit straight from the tank, which had been infused with lemons baked with bergamot oil. I’m in Bruges I sang, much to the consternation of other committee members, but they know what I meant. And you will do when it gets released.
NB I love the fact that there is a brewery in Camden Town. It is a special place for me. I worked there through the 1990s, drank there through the 1980s, saw the Clash for the fourth and final time at the Electric Ballroom, interviewed Alex Cox in an office above the cinema that used to be opposite the tube, drank with Shane McGowan in the Goth pub at the back of Sainsbury’s and tried to prise some quotes from him (without much success) and most importantly of all had my first date with the woman who became my wife in Bar Gansa just off the High Street.