Sunday, 14 June 2015

Lovibonds, Henley on Thames.

Lovibonds, Henley on Thames.

Yes yes, I know we've been to Henley on Thames before, but there's unfinished business to take care of. 

Henley is very much Brakspear country. Fair enough, it is their former home town and they have just resumed brewing in the Bull on Bell Street, but where's the variety? Since our last visit I'm disappointed to report that the Henley Brewhouse has closed and been sold to, you guessed it, Brakspear. I've nothing against Brakspear, they make consistent beer, but it just doesn't do anything for me.

So with all this mind, you might ask why I'd go back to Henley on Thames. The answer is the shining beacon of brewing and beer that is Lovibonds. Founded in 2005 by cycling enthusiast Jeff Rosenmeier, Lovibonds deals purely in keg and bottle products, with a core range of four beers plus a variety of seasonal and special brews. Henley Gold, Henley Amber, Henley Dark and 69 IPA are the regulars, with Sour Grapes, a wine barrel aged sour; Dirty 69, a black IPA and Lager Boy, an 'ironic lager' also available on my visit. 

I tried Gold, a wheat beer; Amber, an American amber and Dark, a porter in bottles and all are great examples of their respective styles. 69 IPA I had from the keg in the taproom, and is as good a strong IPA that I can remember drinking. I also tried the Dirty 69 and Sour Grapes. Black IPAs and Sours are enjoying some time in the sun at the moment, with plenty of barrel aged sours doing the rounds. Sour Grapes was a really accessible beer, perfect for cheese to my mind. Sours can be an acquired taste, but this is a good gateway to the style. I'm a sucker for black IPAs, combining two of my favourite beer styles, IPA and porter, so it goes without saying that Dirty 69 ticked the boxes for me.

The taproom itself has a rustic style, not even really having a proper address. A large marquee provides some sheltered outside drinking space, whilst inside the walls are decorated with various beer and brewery related paraphernalia. Seating is basic and ad hoc, just the way I like it. Beer is available to take away, in various sizes bottles also mini kegs, as well as a range of other merchandise. There's also live music nights and tutored tasting sessions available. Guest keg beers are served from a range of decent craft brewers.

The bulk of brewing is done off site, but you can expect to find a friendly welcome, knowledgeable conversation and great beer at Lovibonds.

My thanks to Rico behind the bar, an unnamed chap my side of the bar and Craig of Craft Beer World. It was great to meet you all.

Henley is station is a short hop away, and is served by trains from Twyford. There are plenty of First Great Western trains that stop at Twyford from east and west.


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Monday, 1 June 2015

Temple, London.

Fun in London (Fundon).

 Being a country boy, I don't think I could live in London. I do however, enjoy some of the capitals excellent pubs and breweries, so it's nice to head up to the smoke, meet up some with chums and kin and get on the beers. On this occasion Mrs BB came, so there is gin too.

First stop, the Temple Brew House. Or so we thought. First Great Western and Transport for London had conspired to provide an excellent service on this particular Saturday, so we arrived before opening. Even hopping off the tube at Embankment for a stroll along the Thames and a look at a statue or two hadn't delayed us sufficiently. Hey ho, better 25 minutes early than 5 late. Not that that we'd have been late for anything. Anyway, we went and had a look at the Royal Courts of Justice around the corner, had a coffee, looked in a Twinings tea shop and headed back to the pub. Still closed. No messing about with coffee this time, there's pubs nearby and its midday-ish.

The George is bang opposite the Royal Courts of Justuce and I imagine it does most of its trade weekday evenings rather weekends. The general area was pretty quiet on a Saturday lunchtime, but there were a few folk in for a drink or a spot of food. The pub has a good range of beers, including local breweries and stuff from further afield. I had a swift half of Broadway Blonde by London Fields Brewery, an easy drinking 5% eye opener. The George is a very decent place for a pint, but not worth a special trip to my mind. It was open though, which was something. We didn't eat, but the fish and chips I saw coming out certainly turned my head. It also had some cool drawings of ships, which I like.


After supping the half, we decided to head back round the corner to see if the Temple Brew House was open. It was, hooray! Down the stairs, past the brewing equipment and into a fashionably decorated underground bar area. And what a bar. A cheerful Australian shook my hand having realised we shared the same first name and showed me a bit of what was on offer. And what is on offer is a fantastic selection of craft beer, real ale and cider. I know if I see the sublime Gamma Ray by Beavertown on the bar I'm on to a good thing, and there it was. Add that to beers from other noted London breweries like Kernel, Meantime, Sambrook's and London Fields and I'm sure you can tell I quite liked this place. 

On the hand pulls were three beers brewed in house under the banner of Essex Street Brewery. There was also a Redemption Brewery beer and Old Rosie cider. The cask stuff was in good condition and well served. The ever popular three thirds paddle was available and at £4, not bad value if you ask me. There's also a craft keg paddle available for a fiver, not bad at all.

I tried a good few of these beers, from the kegs and the casks. The Kernel Mosaic and Zeus Pale Ale and the Redwell Indian Pale Lager, a new style to me, stood out from the craft range. From the real ale on offer the Essex Street Antipodes Pacific Pale Ale was one I'd certainly come back to.

A good London beer establishment has to do burgers. It's probably in some council planning bylaws. The Temple Brew House doesn't disappoint in this respect, and dealt out a fine burger. They even had a house salt.  

I alluded earlier that Mrs BB is into her gin, quite possibly as a result of being engaged to me. Anyway, she was well happy with the range and the staff knew what they dealing with, which is always good.

I can definitely see a return trip to the Temple Brew House. Beer, food and staff were all spot on. Even the toilets were nicely decorated!