I’m not a big beer drinker. I’ve tried a few times over the years to understand why so many people love it, most frequently at university where my flatmates’ love of exploring the old man pubs of Newcastle made drinking anything else inappropriate, but I just don’t really get it. It makes me bloat (and yes I know that is such a typical girl thing to say), and I don’t find the taste particularly, well, nice. So it was a rather unusual state of affairs that I found myself in a few Thursday evenings ago, heading West to Acton to the launch of a new brewpub. I went mainly because I was able to invite the leader of the old man pub brigade, Tom, and I was fairly certain he would love it. Which he did.
The Dragonfly Brewery has just opened at the George and Dragon pub, with Conor Donoghue, previously of The Botonist and The Lamb, as Master Brewer, and Jason Woodger, the owner, in charge of the kitchen. The pub itself is an old 17th century coaching house that used to offer travel-weary people a place to rest on the road from Oxford to London. It apparently has a colourful past, with plenty of tales of vicious 18th century robberies, something Woodger is keen to preserve and a list of the previous landlords dating back to 1759 hangs on the wall. You enter into a warren of dark wood-panelled rooms, with lots of original features including ominously creaky floorboards and the promise of open fires in colder months. On the sunny evening of the launch it seemed a shame to enter such a gloomy space, but it would make a lovely place to cosy up come winter.
However it is the back room, an old high ceilinged Victorian dining room, where the magic really happens. It’s been transformed into both brewery and bar, with large gleaming copper cans lined up against the white tiled back wall, and a stunning central bar, complete with two giant carved statues holding up candelabras. I love that you can see where the beer is made as you drink it, and that they haven’t tucked the equipment away somewhere – the copper cans and pipes are, afterall, rather beautiful.
As I was waiting for Tom I was lucky to start chatting to Justin, who writes the blog Get Beer, Drink Beer, and who knows a damn sight more about the stuff than I do (not hard). He gave me a 101 beer tasting masterclass, a process that turned out to be very similar to that of coffee and wine – look at the colour, stick your nose right in it, then sip, noting the different flavours and how it feels on your tongue. With his tuition my tastebuds engaged with the beer a bit more, and I began to be able to pick out the different layers of flavour underneath the predominant ‘hop’ taste.
The Dragonfly currently makes four types of beer: 2 O’Clock Ordinary (£3.80), a rich dark bitter; Early Doors (£4). a crisp golden pale ale; Achtung! (£4) a Bavarian-style wheat beer; and Dark Matter (£4) a dry stout. Together we tried the Achtung! which was apparently a very authentic wheat beer, clearly unfiltered so that it retained the full breadth of flavour, and with hints of overripe bananas, coriander seeds and citrus peel. When Tom arrived we tried the stout, which was full of burnt caramel, pine and pink grapefruit. In Tom’s words it was better than Guinness! Justin was very impressed with the quality of the beer, and he clearly knows his stuff.
Along with the beer we were served a sample of their bar snacks which are priced at £4 each, or 3 for £10. Particularly good were the sweet and spicy pulled beef brisket chilli, the heart-stopping (both literally and figuratively, I don’t want to think how much cholesterol was in a single bite) deep-fried mac n’ cheese, stout enriched black pudding fritters, and crisp and salty triple cooked chips. We also tried their burgers (from £7), which included Dark Matter in their mix, and a New Yorker hot dog (£5.50); a smoked pork sausage with American mustard, ketchup and plenty of sauerkraut. We were also treated to a special beer fondue, with tempura cauliflower and hunks of bread for dipping, although I’m not sure if it will be a regular on the menu. It was all hearty stuff, clearly designed with beer drinking in mind with the flavours bold enough to hold up against a pint or two.
Tom and I had a fantastic night at the George and Dragon, and while beer might not be my drink of choice, I do appreciate a place that decides what it wants to be and then goes all out to achieve it. Which is exactly what the Dragonfly Brewery does. It’s unashamedly all about beer, and whether you love or hate the drink, it’s hard not to love the pub itself.
Find out more by following them on Twitter, @dragonflyacton. The George and Dragon can be found at 183 High St, London, W3 9DJ.
I was invited to the launch of Dragonfly Brewery by Kapranos PR. Many thanks to them and the venue for a great night. Opinions, as ever, my own. My photos were not great so the top three of the venue are courtesy of Kapranos PR, the rest are my own.