Welcome to our ongoing mission to explore what London has to offer the discerning lover of excellent beer – from pubs and retailers that take pride in the quality of their hoppy offerings, to local breweries and beer events. In this instalment, Dave Haste and Jason B Standing visit an establishment that manages to operate as a bar, restaurant and brewery...
One of London's newest small breweries, Beavertown, exists within the premises of Duke's Brew & Que: a bar and restaurant in De Beauvoir Town serving craft beers and American-inspired comfort food. We visited last week to see how micro-brewed beer would fare in such a seemingly 'mixed-focus' joint.
The place has a comfortably battered low-key charm, with a décor based around well-weathered wood, iron and brick. Most of the inside space is predominantly set up for diners, leaving a rather compact drinking area next to a moderately-sized bar, although several tables outside swell the space available for drinkers in the warmer months.
Despite the evident foodie focus, however, the range of beers at the bar itself is a cut above what you would normally see in most drinking establishments, with a clear devotion to craft beer. Beer and cider is served from 12 pumps and taps – on our visit offering four cask ales (we were encouraged to hear that they avoid tapping too many casks outside busy period to ensure the beer stays fresh) and six kegs, as well as a customary big fridge of bottles. The range covers a good selection of US, UK and European beers and several of their own Beavertown brews. We also noted a good-looking selection of spirits.
Beavertown's brewing activity starts next to the already rather compact kitchen for the hotter parts of the process (mashing and boiling) before the liquid is cooled and fed through to the cellar for fermentation, conditioning and, for some of the pale ales, some serious dry hopping. Co-owner Byron Knight told us that they currently brew two or three beers a week, producing 'flagship' beers and experimenting with different styles. As well as stocking their own bar, they also provide beer to a handful of London pubs and markets.
So is the beer any good?
We tasted a fair range of the Beavertown beers, and were not disappointed. A couple of pleasant but unremarkable session ales (Daddio from cask and Neck Oil from bottle) gave way to some more interesting brews in the shape of the rather pokey 8 Ball rye IPA (unfined from a Key Keg on our visit) and a bottle of Smog Rocket smoked porter. We enjoyed a sample of Pigs Swill APA from cask, with its smooth, airy, floral palate leading subtly into a classically bitter finish – sadly, Beavertown are discontinuing it, to be replaced by a series of similarly hoppy alternatives (the 'Alpha Series'). We also tasted a beer named MOAB direct from the conditioning tank, promising lovely biscuity depths when it grows up.
Aside from the in-house brews, we also enjoyed a very drinkable Poplar Pale Ale from the Tap East brewpub, and a Bear Republic Racer 5 Californian IPA with multiple dimensions of fruit and an appreciable hit of alcohol on the palate – a great beer that is rarely seen on these shores.
Despite Duke's Brew & Que's strong beer credentials, it's clear that most of its customers are primarily here to eat. And with good reason – they serve up some great pork and beef ribs, smoked on the premises, amongst other meaty American-style foodstuffs including pulled pork sliders, burgers, steaks and suchlike. The more characterful beers cut through the rich flavours of the food rather well – it's a combination we would definitely recommend. The place is popular, pretty much packed on the Monday evening of our visit, so if you're thinking of eating there you should consider booking a week or two in advance.
Beavertown Brewery and Duke's Brew & Que, 33 Downham Road, London N1 5AA. Disclaimer: Dave and Jason visited by prior arrangement, and received food and some of their drinks free of charge.
Check out more great pubs with the Londonist Book Of London Pub Crawls, for less than the price of a pint.