Midnight Rambler

_DSF1698-2There aren’t many British breweries who could put on a shindig quite like Brooklyn Brewery’s Beer Mansion last week. A multi-room adventure in a rickety old warehouse in Dalston, with a chance to try some of the New York giant’s exotica and hang out with brewing royalty like Garrett Oliver.

And if a brewery could be said to be a band, then Brooklyn are surely the Rolling Stones, and Oliver their Mick Jagger. I’d like to imagine the Beer Mansion team flew over the Atlantic in a private 747 decorated with Brooklyn livery.

It was my privilege to be there as a guest of Original Gravity Magazine which also got me into the event-within-the-event, a tasting of Brooklyn’s colab with Thornbridge, Serpent.


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Anticipation was heavy as Oliver popped open the first bottle with Jim Harrison, Thornbridge’s MD. Serpent is a Belgian golden Ale, aged on cider lees in bourbon barrels for over a year. It was sharp, tart and zingy with a very dry, gripping finish of green apples. It was astounding – I’ve never tasted anything quite like it.

Later, I cornered Garrett for a portrait. As you’d expect – and despite being confronted by a tipsy, starstruck Yorkshireman – he was an absolute gentleman.

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I Am A Camera

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (assuming you haven’t binned me after my 10-months AWOL) you’ll know that as well as being a graphic designer, i’m a photographer. I mainly supply libraries like Alamy – where my biggest selling pictures by far are images of beer. I’ve also done a number of shoots for excellent beermag Original Gravity, as well as for a couple of other publications – most recently BeerAdvocate. ‘Beer photography guy’ is a niche I’m very happy to be in. Anyway, I’ve decided to get my most recent pictures into one place, instead of the random corners of the interweb where they were before. Please do get in touch If I can help you in any way. Perhaps you have a shiny new mash tun that deserves a portrait?

Click the image below to have a look at the new site, Beershots. Have (many) cameras, will travel.

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Teninchwheels – an apology.


_DSF9109Hello. Is anyone still reading this?

Well,  i’m back. Sort of. I’m very conscious that I’ve neglected this blog for a long time, and for that i’m very sorry. My day job has settled into a new shift pattern, meaning I often don’t get home until midnight. Not entirely conducive to blogging.

However, Velkyal over at the excellent Fuggled has gently awoken me from my slumber, by kindly asking me to guest blog for him – (you may recall I’ve been over there before, way back in 2011). You probably won’t be surprised that it’s another love letter to the Timothy Taylor brewery.

For more than two decades I’ve been a Londoner. And for most of that time, the capital has largely been a dismal place for the lover of good beer.

I grew up in Keighley, and anyone who’s read my blog will know that I’m an unashamed Taylor’s fanboy. Maybe I’m biased about our local heroes, but I really don’t care. I earned my beergeek chops on sparkled, cellar-cool Landlord, drunk from the fountainhead, The Boltmakers Arms. From the immaculate old coaching inn to the shabby lock-in in the shadow of a derelict mill, a good pint in almost any pub could be taken for granted, and still can be. Until I left home for art college, I didn’t even know it was possible to get a bad pint.

In 1992 I moved to London. London! The greatest city on earth! Surely, in this throbbing metropolis of impossible-to-please Cockneys a good pint was a dead cert. Well, no. The pubs were good, but the beer was almost universally bad. For the first few years I persevered. Always ordering from the handpump, and I was nearly always disappointed. It was a matter of pride to find that elusive, decent (or consistently decent) pint. Soho, Camden, Shoreditch, Brixton, Holloway, Holborn, Highgate, Hackney, Bethnal Green. Flat, flabby, skunky, sour, murky, eggy. I’ve run the gamut of pints that I’ve had to return to a stink-eyed barman, swatting off the inevitable ‘it’s meant to be like that’ comments. Too many ‘nearly’ pints winced down. Too many unfinished nonics of flat, soupy brown boredom left on sticky tables. One famous day I took my dad to a pub, where – on asking what real ales were ‘on’ – he was told that the bank of six handpumps was just for decoration. So I gave up. For years – now it can be told – I drank Kronenbourg, Newcastle Brown or (heaven help me) Strongbow. But one thing kept me going through those terrible years. Bottles of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.

On trips home I’d bring bottles back down on the train with me, my rucksack clinking like a milk float. Rare sightings in supermarkets were moments of rejoicing. Visitors would leave them in the cupboard, where I’d find them behind the cornflakes with a moist, homesick eye. Crack off the cap, wait a second, pour. The head settles. First sip and the tingling hit as your palate wakes with that characteristic smack of grapefruit and marmalade which drifts into an astounding lip-licking, citrus-bitter finish. Full-bodied. Satisfying. As comfortable as my old Redwings, as cosy as a cashmere scarf in a Pennine February. You don’t want cosy? I do. It’s the taste of permanence, rootedness, and home.

Landlord’s a legend, and nowadays it’s in every London pub worthy of a visit. I’ve even seen it sold in a bowling alley. Taylor’s have brewed Landlord since 1952, and it’s always been a favourite among beer fans. But it was a rare sight on handpump in the capital until 2003. That was when Madonna lit Taylors’ blue touchpaper by claiming in an interview with Jonathan Ross that she enjoyed a pint of of their most famous brew at Soho’s Dog And Duck. Did anyone really believe her? It didn’t matter. Suddenly, you started to see it all over the place. And in London it was terrible whenever I tried it. And in 2015 it usually still is. So Landlord is still my go-to bottle, and probably always will be.

And now London is a city with more breweries than I can count, and a beer choice that’s impossible to comprehend. I’m sat typing this with a choice of at least twelve places to get a good, well-kept local beer within a five or ten minute bike ride. I have the pick of the best brews in London on sale at my local bottle shop, the Wanstead Tap. When out and about I no longer have to carry a mental map of a half-dozen ‘reliable’ pubs. A revolution has happened – but there’s still work to do before this is truly a great ‘beer city’. Now you can now get Landlord in almost any supermarket, but the contents of my rucksack on trips back from home still ring and tinkle as the the train clatters south to Kings Cross. Although nowadays it doesn’t matter too much if a couple of those bottles don’t survive the journey.


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Tales That Are Told


The fire in the Brown Cow is cooking your leg, and there are four fresh pints of Landlord on the table. It’s your dad, your uncle, your brother and you. Your Grandad’s also there, as the fondly-told stories about him are brought out. The annual trip to Appleby to buy horses from the gypsies, a fortnight there and back in a covered wagon with a train of ponies tied to the back. The time he was sent to Skipton to buy a lorry for the family firm, riding there on his horse and teaching himself to drive on the way home. Playing the harmonica as he led a group of mates to Bingley to see Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer. The dog that dug him out of a deep moorland snowdrift – and thank God it did or none of us would be here to savour this special, rare evening.

On Christmas Eve you’ll take a picture of your three-year-old son sat in his great-great-great-grandad’s ash and elm chair. Made within a couple of miles of where your family still live, the wood polished smooth by the hands of time.

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The News Is Out

Last night I was up at the Camden Town brewery for the well-attended launch of a new beer magazine, Original Gravity.  A real treat to be knocking back Camden’s glorious  new(ish) Indian Hells Lager as the seductive aroma of boiling hops drifted around us.

OG1 OG2It was my great privilege to shoot some images for OG’s first ‘photo essay’ at the Kernel Brewery down in Bermondsey. Nobody is more surprised than me – one of my nicknames is ‘clums’ – that I managed it without falling off a ladder and smashing thousands of bottles of extremely tasty beer. You can find Original Gravity – for free – in more than 300 pubs, bars and bottle shops in London, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and Brighton. It will be available in more towns and cities soon.

If you can’t find an issue, you can read it online here. Contributors to the first issue include Pete Brown, Chris Hall, Sophie Atherton, Adrian Tierney-Jones , Matthew Curtis, Boak and Bailey and er, me.

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The Longest Day

Lee is here. Pickled eggs, big coffees and bacon sarnies on badly-chopped sourdough and off we go. Immediately lost in my own neighbourhood, baffled by the near-identical terraces where Leytonstone shades into Forest Gate. Both areas are getting tickled by gentrification; sash windows slowly edging out uPVC, fewer abandoned mattresses to trip over in the dark. Ah, there it is. I bet the newcomers couldn’t believe their luck when the Wanstead Tap opened in a railway arch in Huddlestone Road. It’s a permanent home for what started off as a stall at local farmer’s markets , and just look at all those bottles – typically over 100 different beers in stock. Drink in or take-away. Guided by guv’nor Dan I get stuck into Lervig/Magic Rock colab Farmhouse IPA. Stunning. Big, sharp hops and then a whack of puckering fruit bitterness. Lee declares his ELB Cowcatcher ‘resinous’.  The Tap’s only been here a few months but is already hugely popular, Dan’s contagious enthusiasm no doubt a factor. This is an area that has lost almost all of its pubs within three years, most recently the Rookwood. He had the courage to build it – and they came. It’s busy enough to even be worth opening on a weekday afternoon. Pork pie fridays, book talks, film nights, supper clubs with a Masterchef semi-finalist. John Hegley and John Otway. Even a demonstration on how to butcher a deer. If you want to know what a first-class community asset looks like, go and see and drink. TAP1 TAP2 A 5 minute walk and The Railway Tavern in Forest Gate’s altstadt could only be an Antic pub, the saviours of Leytonstone’s excellent Red Lion. Up to your neck in house-clearance nick-nackery, dead men’s chairs and exposed brick. The ex-Hackney newbies on the nearby Woodgrange Estate welcomed it like a liberating army when it opened a couple of years ago. There are dark rumours circulating that it’s gone off the boil a bit. Five pumps, four clipped. Nothing to bring on palpitations. Lee has a Liberation Ale,  as flat as a christmas balloon in july by the time he’s halfway down it. My Meantime London Lager is a pint of meh. There’s a sniff of lemon, but not much else apart from sherberty carbonation. A triumph of marketing over flavour. Best part of 9 quid for two beers. No reason to linger longer, so we don’t. BETTER Due west now, to Hackney Wick.  It’s an easy trot for those of us who live in the rough end of Leytonstone, where the tectonic plates of Hackney, Waltham Forest and Newham almost meet. The Wick might be the world’s coolest neighbourhood at the moment, still just about managing the easy balance of artists, booze and industry – they still make useful stuff like bagels and spectacles and coats here – that made Shoreditch so interesting and liveable back before it became a destination for shrill orange coach parties from Billericay. Truman’s brewery Tap – The Cygnet – is right on the waterside in Swan Wharf. It wouldn’t have been here before the Olympics, when the canal was choked with gangland victims, charred mopeds and shopping trollies. The bar is cool and airy, a big glass frontage straight onto an enormous terrace. When we arrive the drinkers are all young men, and all the young men have beards. Tom Ditto – a colab with writer/comedian Danny Wallace – is our new friend, bringing a satisfying and deep fruity dryness and a nose that retrieves olfactory memories of walking home from school on Taylor’s brew day. Two more pints in the late summer sunshine seems entirely reasonable under the circumstances. SYG2 SYG1 Up and over Victoria park to Bethnal Green, alive with families and joggers. The Lungs Of The East End has never looked better.  Obviously, newish bar-cum-bottle emporium Mother Kelly’s is on Paradise Row, once famous for having been home to prizefighter Daniel Mendoza. Mendoza made and lost a fortune, ending his days running a series of local pubs. His clients would have been very different from the neat connoisseurs at Mother Kelly’s, a converted railway arch with German beer garden tables out the front. The back wall has the usual craft pub battalion of eye-level taps, the till is an iPad. Another wall is graffiti, the other a solid bank of six fridges, packed with bottles. Orval will set you back £5.50 to drink in – and £4.12 to take away. Rochefort 10 is £7 in, £5.25 out. Given how much it costs to live in LDN E2 these days, I doubt the punters are fazed by these prices. There are Molton Brown toiletries in the khazi. We settle into a tangy and comforting two-third pint of Sleeman Honey Brown Ale. Locals are dropping by to pick up a bottle to enjoy with an evening meal, the staff eager to share advice. MK3 MK2 MK1 Up the road and into the Well And Bucket for a Camden Ink and my first encounter with a plate of oysters, which to my gleeful delight tastes of the sea and not of phlegm. When we lived here this pub was the Stick Of Rock, where I once witnessed the mourners at a funeral wake chucking bottles at each other. Now it’s done up like Russell Brand’s spare bedroom. Reviews of this place are very mixed, but we had no complaints; easily served by attentive, smiling staff. Perhaps we were lucky.

Half an hour later and we’re lost in Baker Street, wishing we could remember the wartime address of SOE. Quick #selfie at 221b and conceding a look at Google Maps to find the Barley Mow on Dorset Street. And suddenly there it all is, big-belly hanging baskets and exuberant signage. Inside, It’s a crush of Yorkshire accents and rugby shirts. Leeds have just hammered Castleford at Wembley. Despite the scrum we’re quickly served by a solo barman. Pints carefully passed over, we’re on Hophead. Always a winner when it’s in decent nick – and it is. The bloke on the next table is reading the Telegraph with a snoring Wolfhound at his feet, amused to find his local overrun with tipsy Tykes. Loud banter about flat southern pints and the wives and daughters drifting in with Selfridges bags. Telegraph Man wants to know if Yorkshire will go for devolution if Scotland separates. A pure Bradford boom-voice declares that they should have marched on Downing Street after the end of the Tour De France. Big laughs. Hophead has hopped off. So it’s Gales Beachcomber, brimful of malty-brown nothingness. This is a fine old-fashioned place, on CAMRA’s Heritage hit list. The taproom is lined with a row of doored booths which may or may not have been for Victorians to conduct pawnbroking deals. We expect prices to be shocking, but the pints are under 4 quid. They even have beermats. 2014-08-23 20.29.29 copy Into Marylebone, one of the few central neighbourhoods of London that still has ordinary, residential life. Newsagents and shops where you can buy a lightbulb or a toothbrush. Unlike some Zone 1 areas where the only visible weekend life is a security guard behind a desk, people live here. Which is why the Golden Eagle is open on a saturday. The barman – who I once saw described as ‘relentlessly weary’ – is here, looking after a handful of punters. It’s a small corner plot, immaculately kept. Cosy. You’d be pleased to find a pub like this anywhere. On other nights there are piano singalongs – including, we are wearily told,  My Old Man’s A Dustman in Swedish.  Give me an Old Joanna over Sky Sports any day. We have a tangy and fresh pint of Chelsea Blonde. One of the best beers I’ve had for ages, even if the nudge-nudge of the ‘Nothing Tastes Like A Chelsea Blonde’ strapline annoys. A swerve into the near-deserted Sam Smith’s Yorkshire Grey for an indifferent Old Brewery, then to the Penderel’s Oak to shed some CAMRA vouchers and a gourmet burger. And them suddenly we’re legging it to catch the last Central Line train East, the carriage busier than rush-hour. After Liverpool Street we’re the oldest passengers by about ten years. Lee and I met 35 years ago. Time has flashed by like a zoetrope.

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That Climb, A Mile Beyond Expectation


We’re up on what French TV is calling the Cote De Penistone, just outside Haworth – part of a crowd of a reported 65,000 local spectators who know it as Penistone Hill. Every shop, every house, every church, every pub has yellow bunting, a yellow jersey or a yellow bike. Taylor’s have brewed a special beer. A gentle hike via Bronte Waterfall and a three hour wait basking in the soft, kind sun. High-fives from Police outriders. The pre-race caravan chucking out freebies; obscure French yogurt brands and the much-coveted packets of Yorkshire Thé. An overzealous marshal – not helped by his Southern accent – gets the Shooting Stars Handbag treatment and ignored every time he tells us to get off the road. A Dutchman dressed as a nun trots past. A woman nearby getting texts of the progress from a friend watching in Australia. They’re in Addingham, they’re in Silsden, they’re in Keighley (big cheer). They’re on the famous Haworth pavé. Helicopters on the horizon and then overhead, dozens and dozens of Yorkshire flags waving skywards. And then they’re here – flashflashflash colour and legs and helmets and wheels, close enough to touch. The handlebar of a camera bike brushing my chest.

At the height of the Great Depression, my maternal grandmother must have done some of the Grand Départ route as she cycled from Sunderland to Keighley to find a job. She was 13, and did the ride in a day – on her own. And now here I am, one of a 3.5 billion global audience watching the riders and seeing the incomparable beauty of Yorkshire in her best hat and dress. The proof that Yorkshire’s nickname of God’s Own County is well-earned, and not just a trope from pub bores and professional Tykes. The show moves on to conquer the Cote De Cockhill and we leave the moor to the skylarks and the sheep and bent trees of Intak Farm. That evening a local radio presenter remarks with pride on how all 65,000 of us took our litter home.



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It’s oh-so quiet.


Apologies for the silence. I’m still here, just rather tied down with a new job. New posts coming soon.

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Cycle Tracks Will Abound In Utopia

Until very recently, cycling to Central London from Leytonstone was a chore – and a potentially lethal one. Anyone riding the most direct east-west route had to negotiate Bow Roundabout, scene of the tragic deaths of Brian Dorling, Svitlana Tereshchenko and Venera Minakhmetova, all of whom were killed by HGVs. The only other practical route was via Ruckholt Road, a three-lane horrorshow with juggernauts from New Spitalfields Market inches from your elbow. It was here in 2012, that cyclist Dan Harris was killed by an Olympic shuttle bus.  In November last year, six London cyclists were killed within two weeks – nearly half the grim total of 14 for the year.

Last summer I more or less gave up commuting by bicycle, but the fortnight of deaths was the last straw. I just couldn’t face Bow anymore – and I’m a very experienced and assertive urban cyclist. I decided that until something significant changed for the better, my ride would take me no further than the Tube station.


Well, now a change has come. The Olympic Park has fully reopened, and after some experimentation I’ve found a route to work that I actually enjoy. It removes the Bow/Mile End/Aldgate sections entirely. Most of it is on fairly quiet roads, and a pleasing amount of riding is away from traffic completely. It’s a straight line from Lake House Road in Wanstead Flats through the Olympic Park to Hackney Wick – where you can drop down to street level in a lift. A twiddly bit via Wallis Road, over the A12 on a shared footbridge and you’re in lovely Victoria Park. From here, all of central London awaits you. Of course, any sensible country would have made the largest city park constructed for 150 years into a paradise for cyclists. This being Britain there isn’t even a cycle path leading to the Velodrome, although there is a nice car park.

I was asked on Twitter about this route, so here’s a map – Crownfield Road, Leyton is at the top right, with Victoria Park at the bottom left. Click to embiggen.






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Ten-Inch Wheels


Heading west through the sleeping city to my new desk at my new job. The sky in my mirrors waking into a golden morning, pulling back the curtains on early spring. London, you’re a lady. The thrill never dulls.

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