I thought my first beery post should be about some dear friends of mine and their amazing bar, - The Rake in Borough Market. But before you think this is all a bit nepotistic I'd like to point out that readers of the Observer agree with me too and have just voted it the second best bar in the country.
If you've never been to Borough Market and you like food then you are seriously missing out - stunningly fresh red mullet from Appleby's, Mrs King's pork & stilton pie, Ginger Pig's prune & brandy sausages, Sillfield Farm's wild boar chorizo, samphire from Turnips and Secrett's Farm asparagus are just some of the fantastic purchases I have made recently, all of which have been wolfed down pretty darn quick!
However, I digress - the point of this blog is beer after all!
Now I won't deny there are lots of good beer pubs around Borough but the Rake stands head and shoulders above all of them, with over 130 different bottled beers in the fridges alone.
The lads who own it, the divine Rich & Mike, also run a beer stall on the market, called Utobeer, as well as a wholesale business, which means they can get some unusual and 'unattainable' offerings like Thomas Hardy's Ale in cask!
For those of you who haven't sampled Thomas Hardy's get ready for the taste experience of your life! More akin to a fortified wine like madeira than anything else, this brew is just phenomenal - weighing in at a pokey 11.7% it is absolute packed to the gills with chocolate, tobacco and liquorice flavours and is only offered in third pint measures!
Normally only available in bottles, which are individually numbered, it's brewed by O'Hanlon's in Devon and has a quote from the great man himself on the front:
"It was of the most beautiful colour, that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset."
And when it comes to describing the appearance of this beer I couldn't put it better myself!
But it's not just overly-strong beers these guys stock here there really is something for everyone. If you're not normally a beer fan then give the Mongozo coconut or banana beer a whirl.
Not only can you drink this fairtrade brew with a clear conscience, they are also organic and brewed with the superfood quoina, which apparently is an Incan custom. The coconut one in particular is a real hit with a mate of mine who swore blind he wouldn't drink any beer ever, no argument (that didn't wash with me however), and now he drinks pretty much nothing else! The other bonus is that both these beers are gentle on the strength front with the coconut coming in at just 3.5% and the banana at 4.5%.
There's also normally at least one or two different English ales on draught, which are always slightly on the chilled side which I'm a fan of, as well as a selection of world beers like good old Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Not pale at all but definitely deliciously fruity and spicy - it's 5.6% though so do be careful, it can catch up with you all at once, I speak from experience!
Chouffe's distinctive branding, dodgy garden gnomes, can often be found on the bar along with other Belgian brews like Timmerman's Peach, which is a 4% lambic beer (for lambic read sour) that is surprisingly sweet with strong peach flavours (no surprise there) but also apricot notes, which stop it being too floral, but personally I find one glass more than enough.
If you are feeling like just having a lager the Veltins on draught is good, and in the fridge you may be able to find that gem Brooklyn lager - which I think is divine. Not particularly hard to get now I first tasted Brooklyn lager about four years ago and was as taken then with its darker than average looks and sumptuous caramel tones.
If you happen to fall in love with this place too then please leave my introductory fee (a pint) under the name of Melissa with the staff - they'll know who it is!
14 Winchester Walk, London, SE1 9AG, United Kingdom
Tel: 020 7407 0557
Nearest tube: London Bridge