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Pub/Bar of the Month March 2012: Craft Beer Co, London, UK

It’s amazing what you can do with a small corner pub.

Craft Beer CoNot so long ago, 82 Leather Lane, around the corner from the jewellery stores of Hatton Garden, was the site of The Clockhouse, an uninspiring boozer with Sky TV, karaoke and fruit machines. In June 2011, it reopened in new hands.

The environment today is minimalist, a stripped-bare single room downstairs and marginally more comfortable lounge above (where The Clockhouse pool table used to be).

A wooden floor, a mirrored ceiling and eight small round tables against the windows pretty much sum up the interior, but throw in a few stools against a drinking shelf, a cut-glass chandelier and a large, old Charringtons mirror above the fireplace and that is, indeed, your lot.

What makes this revitalized pub so appealing is not what it looks like (although it’s pleasant enough to the eye), but what it sells. And the key ingredient here is beer.

Craft Beer Co is a sister pub to the established Cask Pub & Kitchen in Pimlico. The name of the enterprise has been shrewdly chosen.

As the number of foreign beers available in keg in the UK has increased significantly in recent times, so has the number of British micros putting their beer into the same kind of pressurized containers.

The bottled beer scene has similarly exploded so the term ‘craft’ – even if it remains a hotly debated word in beer geek circles – clearly allows this particular pub at least more licence to stock great beer in whichever form it is packaged.

That is why at Craft you’ll see not only an impressive bank of 16 handpumps but also a sparkling array of keg fonts, with handles for 21 beers.

The cask beers – sold by strength band – major on quality independent brewers’ offerings. On a recent visit, brews from Hawkshead, Dark Star, Kent and Ilkley were all on tap.

Mix and Match

The keg beers mix and match British and foreign imports. You can try lagers from Camden Town (relatively just around the corner), or dig deeper in your pocket for a beer from Haand (Norway), Cigar City (USA), Boon (Belgium), Evil Twin (Denmark) or Rothaus (Germany), for example.

The reason that the prices of some of the imports are fairly high is not just that they’ve come a long way. The cost also reflects the exclusivity: Craft sources many beers directly and hence incurs greater shipping charges.

The same applies to the vast range of bottled beers, a small selection of which are on display in the glass chillers behind the bar. A better guide to what is available can be read in the thick printed beer lists.

Never tried a beer from The Bruery, Clown Shoes, De Molen or Mikkeler? Well, here’s your chance.

Craft Beer CoI know I’ve said it already, but a recommendation to visit to Craft does need to be balanced by a wealth warning.

Quality costs, as does getting the beers onto the bar, so just be aware that some bottles retail at around £20.

That said, being extremely rare and served in 750-ml, sharing bottles, many customers consider it a price worth paying.

On the food side, don’t expect much variety. Fodder is restricted to good quality pork pies and scotch eggs, served on wooden chopping boards. But, when your focus is firmly on beer, you don’t need anything more substantial or extragavant.

If you do get the munchies, Leather Lane outside is home to a market with loads of on-the-hoof food stalls, and there are other fast-food options close by, too.

But why are we talking about food? Craft, unashamedly and boldly, is a one-directional pub. The direction is beer and the management is cannily aware that plenty of other people are travelling the same way.

Craft Beer Co, 82 Leather Lane, Clerkenwell, London EC1N 7TR
Opening Hours: 12–11; 11–11 Saturday; 12–10.30 Sunday

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