It’s Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes’ Night, call it what you will, but on the British craft beer scene, there is a wholly different cause for celebration. Tonight sees the opening of the “Euston Tap Craft Beer House”. I’ll avoid cliched references to fireworks and explosives; but I think it’s worth marking. 2009 Beer Writer of the year, Pete Brown says his blogspot post about the opening has generated huge amounts of traffic, relatively speaking. Great, but I really hope it is more than just a beer geek’s bar.
The Euston Tap has been set up in the famous stone gatehouse of Euston Station. And, as a “craft beer house” it is not unprecedented. It is brought to us by the people who do the Sheffield Tap – a highly-acclaimed craft beer “house” in, you guessed it – Sheffield rail station. And there, for me, lies the significance.So what’s all the fuss about and what is craft beer anyway? As I wrote about in the post about the Hampton Court beer festival “Cask jousts with keg”, the moral beer high ground in Britain of so-called real ale is under challenge from largely, small breweries in North America. These breweries – some not so small now, inspired by CAMRA and traditional beer styles from all over Europe have gone back to the artisinal as a reaction to the mass produced. Hence, craft beer. On top of this, they have stuffed in more and different exotic hops and malt types to produce their own new styles: double IPA, American pale ale, black IPA. It’s beer, Jim, but not as we know it. Along with a growing number of people, it’s a movement that has made me change the way I think about drinking beer. I picked up on it in Sweden, where the Bishops Arms chain of pubs has championed craft beer for a number of years. It’s like an extreme free house – always something to keep me coming back to test what’s new. I always missed the Bishops when I was back in the UK. Of course, I love the easy access to the fine cask ale (real ale) that we have in the UK, and pub chains such as Wetherspoons and Ember Inns often have a great and changing line-up of beers. But look at what the Euston Tap has to offer: 8 cask and 19 quality keg beers. I’m not talking about John Smiths Smooth or Stella, here, but real-deal, unpasteurized Czech lager and mammoth IPAs from the likes of Dogfish Head from Delaware. The cask ale promises to be stellar too, with at least three from Buxton’s Thornbridge and three from Manchester’s Marble. So, back to the fuss… What excites me is this is the second “Tap” and the first in London. And being in London it’s likely to be seen by more people – meaning no disrespect to the wonderful city of Sheffield, and certainly no disrespect to The Rake at Borough Market or Leeds’ “legendary” North Bar. The South must be slow to catch on, but I’m hoping The Euston Tap has the clout and capacity to light the blue touchpaper (Damn! I nearly made it through the article without Guy Fawkes). It does look like the great use of a landmark building, but is it the landmark for craft beer in the UK I’m hoping for? Is this the UK’s Bishops Arms? Tonight’s opening might be one of those times, like that first Sex Pistols gig in Manchester; if everybody who said they were there actually was, you’d have needed Wembley Arena. I won’t be there, but I will be going on Saturday, and I will be taking my mates for a Christmas beer there. Are they ready for it? Are we ready for it? I really think so.