By the time you finish reading this 10 new craft-focused pubs and, oh, 13 new craft breweries will have opened in London, most of them in railway arches, all of them hoping to sit at the welcome table one of these days.
In this case, the welcome table is a craft beer market growing more lucrative and reaching further and further by the day–in London, for sure, but everywhere really. It’s a global happening that isn’t going away. Ignore and/or ridicule anything you read about craft beer “having a moment,” because in the words of Master Yoda, “a trend this is not.”
Here Londoners sup from an endless buffet of locally brewed beers served in spades at pubs, brewery taprooms, bottle shops, restaurants, markets, you name it. I think the daycare center up the road has Beavertown’s Gamma Ray and Anspach & Hobday’s Porter on tap in the parents’ waiting area. Indeed, for now, at least, it feels like there’s a party in London’s mouth and everybody with proper beer is invited.
Not all of these craft bars and breweries are infallible–there are plenty of duds–but two UK operations among those that are thriving and expanding are Camden Town Brewery and BrewDog.
The two of you who follow my columns here regularly know I have a vexed relationship with BrewDog. On one hand, I find the brand itself corny, tacky, dated, manipulative, and juvenile; it would be appropriate if they named their next beer Limberoni (yes, I had to look that up). On the flipside, I enjoy most of their beers and keep returning to their chain bars and have written about them quite a few times. In other words, I continue giving them press and wads of hard-earned cash that isn’t exactly in great supply, so I guess the joke’s on me.
Lost in the hubub surrounding BrewDog’s recent launch of its Soho bar, a two-floor space with two bars, cheesy “beer porn” neon lights, and a “beer sexline” dreamt up during an eighth-grade sleepover party — yes, I’ve been there and I’ll be back again next week, joke’s on me — was the debut of Dog Eat Dog.
You’ll find it in Angel, right across the street from overrated Wenlock & Essex and a short walk from The Earl of Essex, one of my favorite bars in London. What’s (somewhat) unique about Dog Eat Dog, at least within the BrewDog realm, is that it’s one of only two existing outlets focused on food and supplemented by beer, instead of the other way around. Oh, there’s ample booze–12 taps and 20 bottles–but this is a very much a hot dog joint where you can also get drunk, not a bar.
To that end, the place actually opens for breakfast at 10am and closes relatively early, at 10pm. The menu is small and simple, highlighted by seven specialty dogs that include the tandoori chicken dog (£8,50), heaped with mango chutney, mint raita, red onions, tomatoes, carrots, coriander, and crushed papadum, and the spicy chorizo (£8,50), topped with manchego, almond romesco ketchup, smoked mayo, and rocket. There are a few sides, like beer-battered onion rings (£3,50) and sweet potato fries (£3,95), and even a — sigh — “doggie menu” for kids.
I like the concept and feel it’s been done properly. On my first visit staff were exceptionally friendly and eager to talk about the beers on tap, and the food itself, though a little overpriced, was well-prepared and tasty. There are a few picnic tables outside for weather-appropriate days, and inside, as anybody familiar with the BrewDog bar aesthetic can probably guess, it’s stripped-down and leaning industrial–comfortable, but safe and unremarkable.
I hate to say it–I think I hate to say it?–but Dog Eat Dog is a winner and welcome addition to an area already flush with loads of quality boozing options.
A little ways west in Kentish Town, at around the same time as BrewDog’s double dip, Camden Town Brewery celebrated its five-year anniversary by opening its first bar, Camden’s Daughter, in a corner space with a long list of previous tenants. Given the brewery’s enduring popularity, I expect that revolving door to stop swinging.
I’m in the minority, but will say that I’m not a huge fan of Camden beers. They’re clean and straightforward and easy-drinking and generally weigh in at less than 5% ABV, all of which is fine and likely part of the reason why they’re so well-liked in London. Camden beers are a good first step for anyone moving from macro lagers into craft; they’re sessionable gateway beers. That’s great, and again I understand the popularity, but for me drinking Camden beers feels like eating plain crackers: I like and eat plain crackers, but don’t go out of my way to do so.
At Camden’s Daughter, the brewery’s full range of beers flow from most of the 15 taps, with guest brews poured from the others. When I visited the latter was a little disappointing (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Rogue Ales Dead Guy, Anchor Steam Beer), but it was a Sunday night and perhaps the supply had been wiped out over the weekend. Wine is available by the glass, as well — £3,25 for a small and £4,25 per large — while the food program, like at Dog Eat Dog, is a square-shooter: kebabs (£4,50), chips, and Middle Eastern snacks.
It’s a sparse, yet handsome space with original hardwood flooring, white-tiled walls, and beautifully detailed (and touched up) Victorian ceiling panels. Brewery-related photographs, hung along the staircase leading to the loos, add to the welcoming, unpretentious vibes, and the rock soundtrack is solid.
All in all, Camden’s Daughter is another winner–I’ll be back, drinking crackers with a smile.