Putting the Boot in
PUBLISHED: 10:44 29 May 2014
The Order of the Boot has a happy meaning in St Albans, not the threat of the sack but a call to say there's a special beer available in the Boot in Market Place. The pub is renowned for its great choice and range of beers, with constant surprises. So when I had a call to say "You really should try the Two Chefs Honey Beer" I hurried on down.
I was almost too late. The beer had been in such demand I was told there was only a small drop left in the cask and it was a trifle cloudy. Not a problem: I let my tongue, not eyes, do the tasting.
And the beer was delicious.
The 4 per cent beer is brewed with Yorkshire honey and a touch of lemon thyme. The honey is fermented out and the beer has a dry palate and finish, overlain by a creamy honey note and a touch of lemon, with a good balance of juicy malt and hop bitterness.
The beer has been created by The Great Yorkshire Brewing Company for two celebrated chefs, James Mackenzie of the Pipe & Glass near Beverley and Andrew Pern of the Star, Harome. Both pubs are acclaimed for their food: Mackenzie has a coveted Michelin star and Pern has won the gastro-pub of the year award. But they’re not wine snobs and realise that pubs have to serve good beer, which is just as welcome at the dining table as wine.
At their pubs you will be able to enjoy such dishes as tagliatelle of corned-fed guinea fowl, battered oyster and lemon balm fritters, dairy goats’ cheese soufflé, Barnsley chop, East Coast lemon sole, risotto of wild garlic with broad beans, and Wye Valley asparagus with duck egg and fennel, washed down with glasses of succulent Honey Beer. They plan a dark winter beer as well that will be a rewarding companion to hearty dishes.
If you drink in the Boot on a regular basis you’ll know that guest beers change at a frantic pace. I don’t know how soon Two Chefs Honey Beer will return but in the meantime you can order the bottled version by the case from www.thegreatyorkshirebrewery.co.uk.
Closer to home, I went to the re-opening of a superb pub in Acton, West London. The George & Dragon, 183 High Street, London W3 9DY, is a former coaching inn on the road to Oxford, and became a coffee house in the 18th century. It has a number of wood-panelled rooms with open fires and settles. The bar is sited at the back of the pub and beyond it is a new micro-plant, the Dragonfly Brewery.
The gleaming vessels were built in China and they can produce 1,000 litres of beer per batch. The brewer is Conor Donoghue from Dublin who has worked in other London brewpubs, including the Botanist in Kew, before taking over brewing duties in Acton.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Conor turns his hand to a brilliant stout, Dark Matter, along with a best bitter called 2 O’Clock Ordinary, Early Doors pale ale and a German-style wheat beer called Achtung. The beers are excellent and bursting with malt and hop character: Conor uses no fewer than six different American hops in his pale ale.
I was fascinated to find that while 2 O’Clock Ordinary is sold only on hand pump and Achtung is a pressurised beer, Dark Matter and Early Doors can be sampled in both cask and “craft keg” form. The latter is a new type of keg beer, filtered but not pasteurised, with low gas content but served at a lower temperature than cask ales.
The pub is keen to match the beers with food and offers such culinary delights as pork pie and chilli, sausages and English mustard, black pudding fritters with beetroot ketchup, salmon and salt cod fishcakes, Dark Matter rarebit, beer fondue with garlic soldiers, and sweet potato and pulled pork hash. The beers are used in such dishes as the rarebit and the fondue.
The George & Dragon is surprisingly easy to get to: FCC to West Hampstead, London Overground to Acton Central takes 10 minutes followed by a five-minute walk to the pub. It’s well worth the effort.
*Roger Protz edits the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. Follow him on Twitter @RogerProtzBeer.