Are you ready for a lager? Fullers thinks you are

Do you fancy a lager? Fuller’s Frontier Craft Lager, to be precise. Yes, it’s That Word, “craft” again. With a capital “C”. Right there in the name, where once the mighty “Premium” might have stood. Even the bigger British regional breweries have been going “craft”, lately, but a Fuller’s lager I wasn’t expecting when I walked into The Parcel Yard, Fuller’s excellent refurb station bar next to Platform 9 and 3/4.

Fuller's Frontier Craft Lager

How could I not try it? “Hey, not bad! I wonder who will buy it,” I thought. Continue reading

19th Dec. Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: The pub with Moor beer

19th December: The Queens Arms, Corton Denham. Moor So’ Hop, (and others). 4.1% ABV
From: Somerset, England. Type: Pub with food and beer menu/Pale ale, cask

This gem of a pub right on the edge of Somerset, just past the Cerne Giant, gets mentioned in today’s window alongside the beer. Not just because it serves outstanding local beers from Moor brewery, not just because it serves a wide range of beers of different styles (Americans and Germans in the West Country), and not just because of the great food.

Any one of those reasons would make the Queens Arms worth a detour, all of them merit a special visit. But what made the pub outstanding was attention to detail. Glassware to match the beer, knowledgeable bar staff, a menu beer suggestions to match the food. It just seems they are able to sense what would make your visit great. It took me a while to work it out because it’s all done so seamlessly.

The So’ Hop is an unusual beer. For a start its very hazy, but Moor make a point of preferring to serve their beers completely unrefined: no filtering, no fining (isinglass additives). Just full of flavour and mouthfeel, and in this case, some extraordinarily aromatic New Zealand hops – hence the name.

Moor_beer_at_queens_arms_sm

It reminded me of the first time I drank gueze: the sour Belgian beer (“Is it supposed to be like this?”) Not that So’ Hop is sour; it’s gently malty-sweet but also crisp like an American pale ale and a Pilsner combined, with these almost other-worldly aromas and flavours of tropical fruit and blossom (jasmine? honeysuckle?).

Now I write it down, it doesn’t sound that it could have been as unusual as I remember. But it was not a mirage; that kind of experience sticks with you. Maybe that’s the effect of pure unrefined pleasure. Maybe it was the magic of the Queens Arms. Or maybe a bit of both.

The Queens Arms website
Moor Beer Company on unrefined “natural” beer
Adrian Tierney-Jones’ book: Great British Pubs, which inspired the trip

The Parcel Yard: Fullers’ wizard of a station pub on Platform 9 and 3/4

“Sod Hogwarts, Hermione, let’s go for a beer,” said Harry, and abandoning his luggage trolley half way through the wall at Platform 9 and 3/4, turned and bounded up the steps to the Parcel Yard: the magnificent new pub conversion behind him.

Or so it could be…

Quietly, almost unheralded, something out of the ordinary has happened at Kings Cross. The remodelling of the station includes a gesture to JK Rowling’s creation, marking the famous in-between platform with sign and a cut-off luggage trolley. It attracts tourists but it’s not what has me spellbound. No, it’s what has emerged from dust and disuse next to the geodesic-like new roof: a contender for the best station pub in England.

Parcel_yard_med

The view from Platform 9 3/4

For years, as part of the huge Kings Cross regeneration project, the station that gives its name to the area* has had to live in the shadows of its Gothic and mysterious sister station, St. Pancras. With its giant statue to John Betjeman, it has famously and spectacularly been revamped for Eurostar. St. Pancras may have its champagne bar and, indeed its Betjeman bar, but it doesn’t have The Parcel Yard.

You can find mention of The Parcel Yard on the Fullers website, but the description they give is understated.Fullers don’t do estate agency blurb, but if they did… they’d be fired. The Parcel Yard is a pub refit in the Grand Design class, so why are Fullers hiding its light under a firkin?

“Challenging the notions of a station pub
…is what it says in the blurb. The Parcel Yard doesn’t feel like a station pub, it feels special. Not in an exclusive, you-can’t-afford-us way, but in a thoroughly tasteful, we’ve-really-thought-about-this way. And it is still very much a pub. Only bigger.

In the olden days before Amazon, The Parcel Yard’s collection of oversized and oddly-shaped rooms was just what it now says on the door: a place for gathering and distributing parcel post for distribution across the land. Sending out mail on the sort of night trains that populate Auden’s poem.

Reincarnated as a station pub, its history has been preserved, with fixtures and fittings from the parcel past highlighted, featured. It’s not over-bright, and it still feels part of the station. I turned up with a few other strays from the Sainsbury’s Beer Hunt, and licensee/landlord Nick Cameron proudly showed us around: the central bright arboretum, the cosy but spacious side rooms, the upstairs bar, the cramped and well-stocked cellar – if you can call something on the first floor a cellar.

The complete Fullers range: will they match it to food?
Which brings us to the beer. Rather than the butterbeer of Hogwarts, Fullers range on cask and keg covers most of the bar, but not exclusively. Butcombe was on when I was there, and Adnams Ghost Ship recently. Happily, they stock a full range of Fullers bottled beers too, including a plenty of Vintage of different, er, vintages. A good move when food is going to play a significant part, and possibly a leaf taken out of the new wave of craft beer pubs.

At the moment, the food menu is typical of Fullers: a mix of unpretentious pub grub and some interesting but unfussy bistro ideas. I hear the food is soon to be revamped soon though. I hope they take the opportunity to add beer and food pairing suggestions to the menu.

The clientele looked a mixture of passengers waiting and pub-goers. Nick Cameron says that this might make you think that standard lagers would be big sellers, but the cask stuff has been “flying out”. Must be the Quidditch effect.

Explanation of the low-key nature of its opening comes via @TheParcelYard, the pub’s Twitter ID, that says they are “building slowly, tweaking as we go”, and “don’t want to sound too obnoxious”. Wise strategy, perhaps, if they see themselves as competing against some other impressive station pub grand re-designs. As well as St. Pancras, there are the two “Taps” at Euston and York.

You might not be able to get to Harry and Hermione’s destination, from the new Kings Cross, but if you are going up the East Coast Line to Leeds, Newcastle, or Edinburgh, or even on the way home to Letchworth or Welwyn Garden City, stop in to The Parcel Yard. It delivers.

Links
Fuller’s own description of The Parcel Yard
Video of Kings Cross Station roof construction