Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Highgate calling – The Bull & London Brewing Co

Highgate is not an area I visit too frequently and the Bull - not to be confused with the Bull & Last, a distinctly gastroesque joint down the hill on Highgate Road - is not a pub that had ever generated a blip on my radar before. Until, that is, news came my way that Dan Fox, previously manager at the White Horse in Parsons Green had taken over the reins and an in-house brewery was planned. From what I can gather the Bull had latterly been a gastropub, which closed a while back and had since been squatted.

The new venture opened its doors a couple of weeks back but the first beers from the brewery were not ready in time for that and their launch date was announced as 6 September. So it was that yesterday found me marching up to the top of the hill (I lie – I took the bus), and part way down again, to the Bull. The exterior looked spick and span with some tables and parasols on the raised patio out front. Inside was clean and uncluttered with bare boards and a cool, but not sterile, contemporary feel. Upstairs, two more interconnected, spacious rooms continued the theme. Having eaten before going out, I did not try the food, which looked to have an American slant – the menu included such items as sliders, fish tacos and pulled pork.

But, enough of all that, what of the beer? There were five handpumps (or was it four, I forget) on the bar, a number of  “craft” kegs and a solid bottled beer list. Beers from Odell, Fyne Ales, Kirkstall, Oakham, Offbeat and Thornbridge, amongst others, have already been through the taps. When I arrived the handpumps included their own Beer Street and a house beer made by Redemption.  I don’t know whether the latter will be a permanent feature or was just a stopgap until their own beers came on stream. Before long a firkin of their second beer, Nervous Energy, was tapped by Steve, the brewer, and generous free samples dispensed. Nervous Energy then joined the other beers on handpump on the bar. I meant to have a longer chat to Steve but I never got round to it so I don't know his brewing background. What I do know is that he was previously with Dan as cellarman at the White Horse.

Somewhat surprisingly, given the proliferation of new breweries in recent times, the Bull has managed to bag the name London Brewing Co, which must be something of a coup in itself. The Beer Street was a 4.0% amber, traditionally styled bitter with plenty of robust, earthy bitterness and a firm, slightly minerally mouthfeel. Straightforward and pleasantly drinkable although the backing malts perhaps felt a little raw. The Nervous Energy was a 4.8% golden American Pale Ale using Cascade and US Brewers Gold hops, also with plenty of bitterness, a spicy edge, that firm minerally mouthfeel again and a twist of grapefruit on the finish. The gravity-dispensed sample was a touch short of condition but hand pumped version was more lively, although a touch more aroma hopping would not have gone amiss. As the first beers out of the brew house, these are no doubt, to some extent, something of a work-in-progress but are a decent, solid foundation.

Clearly, given the location and the background, the Bull has the potential to become “Sloaney North” but the OK-yah element was not too much in evidence yesterday. This was a very enjoyable and convivial first visit and I wish Dan, Steve & the rest of the team all the best for the future. I’m sure I’ll be back before too long. 

13 North Hill, Highgate, London N6 4AB
Highgate tube or various buses
0208 341 0510
Twitter (brewer):

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