Big Smoke Brew Co.
After a break away from writing over the Summer, Beer:Geek is finally back. For this little sojourn, I headed down to Surbiton and The Antelope, home of Big Smoke Brew Co., to whom I have been promising myself a visit for some time. The pub itself is wonderful; spacious and well-appointed, classic wood furniture and a sun-drenched patio out back with a good mix of cask, keg, bottle and cider to ensure there is something for all discernible drinkers. On this evening, three of the cask pumps are given over to the hometown beers, with a further two also available in bottle; the casks appear to be well kept, as the brewery make a big thing about all their beers being unfined and filtered, and whilst we have the expected cloudiness there is no sediment or murkiness present.
Starting at the lighter end of the spectrum, the Electric Eye pale stands tall above its little session brother Polaris. Full of tropical fruit flavours and backed up with a lingering but not overpowering bitterness, this is a fine example of a modern English pale, and is great for those sunny evenings in the pub. The latter is rather lacking in flavour by comparison, but at a mere 3.8% ABV certainly fits well into the sessionable bracket. Similarly, the amber Mothership is exactly what it says – nothing more and nothing less. To call it bland may be a touch harsh, but although I enjoyed drinking it the impression was unremarkable and ultimately forgettable.
Saving my much-anticipated reunion with their milk stout until last, I cracked open a bottle of the Dark Wave porter. Very traditionally London throughout, there is plenty of lovely dark chocolate and roasted tones over a lighter body for those not so keen on stouter beers. Much like Big Smoke's pale, this is not a radical reinterpretation of a style, just an excellent rendition of an old favourite that I look forward to returning to. This brings me nicely on to Underworld... A mid-strength stout at 5%, the addition of lactose sugar, cacao nibs, coffee beans and vanilla pods create a sublimely smooth and delightfully tasteful stout. The mouthfeel is silky, with lots of milk chocolate flavours abounding from the first nose right through to the long, luxurious finish. This does a fantastic job of presenting many of the best elements of a big imperial stout without the astronomical alcohol, making it one for all occasions.
Given that Big Smoke Brew Co. only launched in September last year, they have come a long way very quickly. Thankfully you don't have to trek all the way out to Surbiton to find the beers as their distribution continues to expand (although still primarily London I'm afraid), but The Antelope is a great pub that makes the pilgrimage all the more worthwhile.