A Tale of Two Craft Bars
Updated: Oct 21, 2021
For those of you who follow me on Twitter (@BeerPrimeUK for those of you who don't. Well, what are you waiting for?!) you'll know that my local Craft Beer bar is Hop Stop in Reigate, Surrey.
The bar opened in 2019 in the premises once inhabited by a traditional Italian restaurant called La Lanterna. If you ever visited the restaurant, you'd be shocked at the decor that now greets you, as its a world away from the chintzy 80s interior that once was. Clean lines, bold colours, arty photographs (by one Mr Matt Curtis!) and modern furniture are now the order of the day.
The Reigate bar is not the first foray into craft beer for it's owners, James and Ruth Rushforth. They started with a small bottle shop in the shadow of Oxted Railway Station, around 11 miles to the east, in 2015.
Just this weekend was the Oxted shop's 6th Birthday, and to celebrate the occasion, they obtained a special license to dispense draught beer for the weekend. I paid them a visit on Saturday, having also visited their Reigate bar on Friday - a Tale of Two Craft Bars, if you will.
Friday in Reigate
I had been at work in Reigate on Friday - something of a novelty in these days of the lingering pandemic - so, at 5.30pm, I switched off my computer and walked the short distance to the bar, which already had a large table occupied by a thirsty group of local office workers.
Greeted by the bar staff, Jasper and Claire, I sat at one of the bar stools (it's great being able to sit at the bar again, something that I enjoy as a lone drinker). The TV in the corner displayed the available options on their 8 lines. I immediately spotted what I wanted to start with - Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest Marzen.
The 30 litre keg probably didn't have a great deal left in it, as it had been put on the previous Sunday when the staff of both Oxted and Reigate got together for their own birthday celebrations, drinking Fest beers from specially-ordered litre steins. Apparently, they had a few litres of a previous Bavarian delight to finish before starting in on Hacker-Pschorr's amber treat.
Immensely drinkable, I could easily have had a larger serving (I had a half) but as I had evening plans and wanted to try another couple of the beers on offer, I reined myself in.
Next up was a collaboration brew from the Cornwall-based Verdant Brewery and Allkin Brewing, a new brewing project rising from the ashes of Good Things Brewing Co in Sussex, sadly destroyed by a fire started by a lightning strike earlier this year. The beer, Road To Unruin, is a 6.8% IPA which offers up floral aromas and a soft, pillowy body with sweet peach on the palate.
With my dinner booking fast approaching I had to fit in a quick half of something else. That was Left Handed Giant's 5.5% Pale, Precious Possession. Not quite hitting the heights of the two previous beers, but still an enjoyable juicy pale with hits of pineapple and lime.
Then it was time to pick up a few cans from the bar's impressive selection to take home, and head for the Thai restaurant for a Beef Massaman Curry that had been calling my name for the last hour!
Saturday in Oxted
The next day held a few chores and errands, but I was always looking forward to heading to the Oxted shop to sample some of the beers that they had put on especially for the birthday celebrations. I was greeted at the small unit by Kevin and the owner, James, and was happy to see that there were several customers enjoying the selection. Indeed, one of the 6 beer list had already been exhausted!
My first choice was Lost & Grounded's glorious Helles. Without doubt one of the best examples of the style outside of Germany, the beer is brewed in Bristol using the same malt blend as their equally amazing Keller Pils, and hopped with Magnum, Perle and Tettnang.
The Bristolian brew slaked my thirst before I moved on to a cask offering, from another Brizzle brewery, Bristol Beer Factory. Supremely sessionable at 4% ABV, this beer is single-hopped with Idaho 7 in both Cryo and T-90 forms. T-90 is a pelletised variety of the hop - 90% green matter (i.e. the hop leafage) and 10% lupulin (the oil containing the hop's aroma and flavour) and Cryo is a lupulin-enriched form in whowich the vegetation is eliminated from the pellet. This allows brewers to use half as much Cryo than their original recipe called for, delivers a more intense aroma and flavour and creates less waste in a brew, therefore a higher yield.
The Bristolian brew slaked my thirst before I moved on to a cask offering, from another Brizzle brewery, Bristol Beer Factory. Supremely sessionable at 4% ABV, this beer is single-hopped with Idaho 7 in both Cryo and T-90 forms. T-90 is a pelletised variety of the hop - 90% green matter (i.e. the hop leafage) and 10% lupulin (the oil containing the hop's aroma and flavour) and Cryo is a lupulin-enriched form in which the vegetation is eliminated from the pellet. This allows brewers to use half as much Cryo than their original recipe called for, delivers a more intense aroma and flavour and creates less waste in a brew, therefore a higher yield.
Now it was time to ramp things up a bit. An 8% DIPA had caught my eye and had been selling very well while I was enjoying my two West Country beers. This one came from up North - Manchester to be exact. Track Brewery, who recently moved to a new site on the Brewer's Mile, close to Cloudwater, are responsible for some incredible beers, specifically their widely lauded Sonoma. The beer in question was called Seventh River, which is hazy and citrussy and definitely belies its strength.
With just one more beer on that I hadn't tried (the second cask offering had run out while I was devouring the Track) it was time for a further jump in strength, up to 12.7%! I must admit that this was one that I had been looking forward to ever since I saw the tap list a few days prior. Siren Fireside is a blend made up several of the brewery's dark beers including Barrel Aged Draugen. A strong aroma of Bourbon hits you before you've even raised the glass to your lips and when you finally do take a sip, the Bourbon flavour is not shy at smacking you around the chops. Sweetened with lactose, Muscovado sugar and Molasses, the strong booziness abates as you negotiate your way down to the bottom.
With that drained, I took my leave and returned home - naturally picked up by my wife, there was no way I could have driven after those! Happy 6th Birthday to Hop Stop. Here's to many, many more!
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