A Crafty Brighton Getaway
It’s always great to get away from it all, especially when it also involves drinking some good beer. To shake the January blues off our bones we decided to pop down to sunny Brighton for a few days. Just to see what the city had to offer. What follows is a fast, furious and most definitely not an extensive list of craft beer hotspots in Brighton, but hopefully it’s a fairly good reflection of what is possible to cram into a few days.
We started off on familiar grounds by heading straight for Craft Beer Co. It was a Friday night and it was packed with a good mix of the young, hip, hippy and old. This establishment had a more neighbourhood vibe compared to the London branches. It also had a slightly more approachable beer list featuring Camden Helles, Camden Ink and Thornbridge Jaipur on keg. Thankfully they hadn’t missed out the more interesting brews, with oodles of Mikkeller (Tequila Black anyone? No? Too strong you say? Oh, go on then), 8 Wired and Westbrook ready at the pour.
I started off with a forgettable Westbrook Covert Hops. The hops were so covert I completely missed them. Then I headed straight for an 8 Wired Superconductor, which conducted superbly, a beast of a DIPA. I ended with a Wild Beer Modus Operandi, a beer I had been wanting to try ever since it’s conception. It might have been my heady expectations, but sadly the oak was just too pungent and overthrew all the flavours, leaving it a slightly thin and overly oaky brew.
The first stop the next day not a pub or a bar, but still very beer related. Brighton is a haven for everything vintage and antique. Since I have a fascination for early ephemera I found myself at the perfect hunting grounds. After picking up a hefty old 1900s Whitbread’s beer bottle at a flea market, I found myself in Rin Tin Tin – an old label hoarders paradise. I picked up a few labels including an old Truman’s Eagle Ale label for a few bucks for the collection.
The next stop was the ‘My Brewery Tap’ bar in the centre of North Road. I know them for their excellent website and for being partly behind Magic Rock Brewing. The beers at the bar were more the ‘mainstream craft’ end of things and catered to the punters around the area well, if not the hardened beer geeks. Sometimes we get a bit lost in our crazy bubble of London craft beers, so it is great to see people getting passionate about a Little Creature Pale Ale as much as I do about an Evil Twin.
The next pub we visited was a good reminder of how important atmosphere is to a pub. The Black Dove on St Peters Road is the neighbourhood boozer you wish you had on your street. Filled with eccentric trinkets and the tunes of old school blues filling the air. It has a charm you just can’t manufacture. Their cocktails are killer and they’ve got a well curated beer list. This was a pre-dinner tipple so I went for the dependable Magic Rock High Wire before moving onto their homemade damson gin. If you’re a fan of plum wine this would be right up your alley. The next time I’m in Brighton I am coming straight back here.
There was one last pub I had on my list. Darkstar’s own Evening Star, probably the most legendary Brighton pub of them all. Unfortunately we went to this pub at the worst possible time. After enjoying a serene dinner atmosphere we walked straight into a heaving Saturday night footy crowd. The pub was almost deafening, but fuck it, we rugby tackled through to the good stuff. It was not in vain, as the taps were exclusively Darkstar and Brodies. I went straight for the Brodies Shoreditch Special IPA, a consistent powerhouse of bitterness and hops. I finished off the night with a bottle of one of my favourite new breweries – Tiny Rebel’s Hadouken. A mix of powerful malts, with a faint hint of fresh tobacco balancing an intense powerful hop aroma and bitterness. It packs more flavour than it’s 7% suggests, and could stand up to most DIPAs in a head to head battle. Hadouken! We didn’t stay too long since we had inhaled a lot of rich food and booze prior to going there, but I’d love to go back on a less crazy night.
In the bright light of Sunday morning, there was only one more crafty stop to hit before catching the train. We popped into Trafalgar Wines, a small and perfectly formed off-licence, to pick up a few bottled gems. Their selection is excellent, with a great mix of British, American & Belgian. I managed to get some Red Willow, Magic Rock, Sierra Nevada & Bris Beer before heading home.
All in all, it was a great little getaway weekend and it was good to get a taster for how other cities out there are shaping up and getting onto the good shit train.