Before the event we dropped into the Bishops Finger, a well-known Shepherd Neame house, for a couple of openers. We choose the Late Red and it was very tasty - it had the unmistakable Sheps tang but this was nicely balanced out by a burst of hops.
From the Finger it was a short walk to the Butcher's Hook & Cleaver where the tutored tasting was being held. The proceedings were running a little late so we got ourselves some more beer - I went for Chiswick which I don't tend to drink normally but it was nice and light. It would come in handy as a control beer too.
(left) Chris with a pint of Bengal Lancer
Pretty soon, the management started pouring half-pint samples of the Bengal Lancer in preparation for the arrival of Fuller’s Head Brewer, John Keeling, and Brewing Manager, Derek Prentice.
John Keeling kicked off the talk by explaining the inspiration behind this new brew - basically a desire to recreate the traditional style of an IPA - pale and hoppy but very full-bodied.
Also on the bill tonight was beer writer and blogger, Pete Brown, who had covered the history of the IPA in his book, Hops and Glory, and explored the many myths surrounding this style, such as it had to be brewed to a high alcohol content to survive the long voyage.
Finally Derek Prentice talked about the various characteristics of the final product - which will also be available in bottled conditioned form - and answered questions from the floor.
So what of the beer? Well the samples we were given - served from large glass jugs - seemed a bit warm and cloying. There was plenty of hops and that tell-tale taste of Fullers. It was OK but nothing brilliant.
However when we had a pint straight from the handpump, which was slightly cooler, it was significantly better and I would certainly drink this in preference to London Pride.
We had a good chat with Derek after the tasting was over - a very nice chap who has brewed for Youngs and Trumans before joining Fullers and a veritable font of knowledge for brewing in London.
Before heading home we popped to one more pub - the Rising Sun - which is a Sam Smith's pub down a small alley off Smithfield. It had one beer on handpump, Old Brewery Bitter, but we opted for a bottle - Taddy Porter for me and Oatmeal Stout for Chris.
The pub is a lovely little place - very traditional, cosy and warm with a roaring fire and darts board - and by that time it was nice and quiet.
We got talking to an interesting old regular who lived nearby. Very handy for the meat market I said to which he then took great delight in telling us what hassle he has these days to get sheep heads and his techniques for skinning and cooking them. As the News of the World is oft to say, we made our excuses and left...