After a week of blistering heat, the midweek July evening had taken a turn to the muggy side and you could sense a storm was brewing. The storm didn’t bother me, neither did being on the other side of London for a change as I was on my way to my first visit to The Prince for a Magic Rock Beer Party & BBQ, hosted by Matthew Curtis with special guest Rich Burhouse, founder of Magic Rock Brewing. I walked into The Prince N22 and was instantly greeted with the rare sight of a full cask line up of Magic Rock beers, the first thing that struck me was how great the Magic Rock branding looked on a larger pump clip. I’ve not had the pleasure of drinking much cask beer from Magic Rock, only a few times in the past when we have had Ringmaster on at the Leyton Orient Supporters Club. The first pint of Simpleton, a 3% session cask pale ale, barely touched the sides. Smooth, refreshing, great bitter finish with loads of flavour for a low ABV, without doubt the perfect way to kick things off. Inhaler followed, a juicy fruity 4.5% pale ale IPA hybrid, this is a beer I have enjoyed many times in a can, along with Rapture, but on cask Inhaler has a softer feel and the fruity flavours feel more rounded than punchy. I happily worked my way through the cask offerings, taking full advantage of such a rare opportunity to drink Magic Rock’s full line up of cask beers. I’ve always found High Wire in a can to be easy drinking, hiding its ABV well, on cask it was even more so, not as in your face bitterness as keg or can though, to the point it almost felt like a different beer, teasing citrus flavours hiding the 5.5% ABV makes this pint dangerous as I could drink pint after pint of High Wire given the chance. Both Dark Arts and Common Grounds were excellent and I think drinking from cask showcases these two beers at their best.
The Prince is only a short 10ish-minute walk from Wood Green tube station, situated on the corner of Finsbury Road and opposite Trinity Gardens, which allows for outside gathering. A large classic wooden bar serves 9 (possibly 10?) keg beers and 6 cask taps, with a bottle and can selection available also. Wooden tables decorated with flowers are laid out around the pub with low hanging exposed light bulbs providing an atmospheric lighting. Art work hangs from the walls and it all creates a very warm and cosy pub sitting, even on a muggy night like it was one my visit. The Prince is the sister pub of The Dukes Head in Highgate and soon to be open Small Beer, A Public House in Crouch End (formerly the Henry Reader). The collection of pubs already has a great reputation for serving perfectly kept beer, but now they will also be brewing their own beer. A 5BBL microbrewery has been set up in The Prince and will start brewing beer to be exclusively served at their pubs, with some exciting sounding collaboration beers lined up which may make their way to some other special events as well as the pubs. Under the name of House Brewery, the first beer being a 4.2% Pale Ale which will be brewed on July 29th, so expect to see that beer in the next few months.
The evening kicked off at half 7 and we all made our way into the side room in The Prince, long large wooden tables were set out ready for us thirsty and hungry beer lovers. Matthew Curtis introduced Rich Burhouse from Magic Rock and the evening was under way. Magic Rock Brewing first started in 2011, brothers Richard and Jonny Burhouse joined together with the head brewer Stuart Ross to brew beers in an outbuilding to their family company, which happened to be a crystals and natural gifts importer. This is where the name Magic Rock has come from (I had always wondered!). Like many new school brewers, Rich loved cask beer but had his mind blown when trying American Craft Beer for the first time. Magic Rock then went on to brew these beers that was inspired by the flavours of the new US beers. A perfect example of this was the introduction beer for the evening, Rapture a Red Hop Ale, a beer built on a strong malt background with lots of a juicy tropical fruit flavours with a grapefruit bitterness finish. We had a half of both the cask and keg version to compare how the two different dispense techniques alter the beer experience, I think the keg half just edged it for me as you could get more of the punchy tropical fruit notes.
First up out of the kitchen from Prairie Fire Kansas City BBQ was some jalapeno poppers, jalapeno peppers sliced in half, filled with cheese and an olive, grilled so the cheese melts. Simplicity at its best, perfect hand-held snacks to get us in the BBQ mood and certainly something I will be giving a go myself at home. Although not a food pairing evening, the poppers paired well with the glasses of cask and keg Rapture. This was a hint at the food to follow, trays of perfect BBQ dinner treats, 16-hour slow smoked beef brisket, with mac & cheese, tangy slaw, a brioche bun and amazing pit beans with burnt ends, all on the side with a little BBQ sauce for good measure. Where to start! The brisket was incredibly soft, not sure I have had such a perfectly cooked brisket ever! I had some on its own, some in the bun and dipped some in the BBQ sauce, it was heaven. The mac & cheese was some of the best mac & cheese I have had in some time, it wasn’t heavy at all, surprisingly light but still full of great cheesy flavours with a nice breadcrumb crunch sprinkled on top. The tangy slaw cut through the sweet BBQ flavours well. Then finishing with my favourite part, the pit beans and burnt ends which was just amazing, I seriously could have eaten a bowl alone of that. The beer we had next was Magic Rock’s new Bellini Vice, a small batch mixed fermentation peach and raspberry Berliner Weisse, not lip puckering sour but a nice middle balance with hints of fruit, it actually worked perfectly with the muggy atmosphere that was warming up the room! With word of the next beer being Common Grounds, a triple coffee porter, I had to force myself to hold back on some of the beans, saving them so I could eat them with Common Grounds. I love Common Grounds, a beer brewed in collaboration with local Huddersfield roaster Dark Woods, brewing the beer with 3 different coffees which are added at different points throughout the brew. Hazelnut, strong pure coffee and chocolate flavours shoot around your mouth when drinking Common Grounds. Again, although not a food pairing evening but the Common Grounds and pit beans just worked harmoniously with each other, the sweet roasted coffee flavours of the beer dancing around the smoky pit beans was my food highlight of the evening. I’m pleased to hear that Prairie Fire will be cooking out of the kitchen of The Prince from the first weekend in August and then for the following 6 months.
The next beer was a 7.2% IPA called Telepathy, a murky New England style IPA which lead to a group discussion on new murky beers. Although it was interesting to hear some people’s views on new murky beers, it was more refreshing to hear Rich talk passionately about cask beer, especially to a crowd that wasn’t necessarily made up of cask beer drinkers to please. Magic Rock brew some of the country’s most recognisable cans, keg and special bottled beer and it was pleasing to know that cask is certainly alive and kicking in Huddersfield. The final beer of the evening was Bearded Lady Dessert Edition, one of only very few kegs brewed, this 10.5% monster of a beer was the perfect way to finish the evening for me. A barrel aged Imperial Stout with Cocao, Vanilla and Coconut, think liquid Bounty bar, big boozy mouth-feel, smooth-sweet coconut with chocolate and bourbon flavours come together in an incredible beer. One of the best beers I have had in a long time. Although a dessert in its own, those at my table discussed how it would be perfect with some chocolate cake, or poured over some vanilla ice cream, or even if you had the chance maybe a Bearded Lady Ice cream float!
I loved the setup of the evening, Matt kept the chats flowing and structured the talk like a veteran music producer going to work on a new track. Both Rich and Matt complimented each other, they brought one another into different subjects and gave a great new angle on a the meet the brewer evening set up. During the food and drink breaks Rich worked the tables chatting to everyone about the beers and answered any questions people had.
If you are quick then you might be able to get yourself some Magic Rock beers in The Prince or The Dukes Head as they are having a summer of tap take overs starting with Magic Rock, click here for the line-up of breweries featured. The whole evening was a pleasure start to finish and certainly good value for ticket price. Check Matthew Curtis’s blog for details on next events, including the excellent Brussels brewery De La Senne on July 19th, which is very tempting and from what I understand has only one or two tickets left…
For more info check…
Disclaimer – I was invited by Matthew Curtis as press for the evening and did not pay for my ticket. I did pay for all beers I drank pre-event however, and although the ticket was free this has not affected my opinion on the evening or the beers from Magic Rock.