Straightforwardly pubby pubs – the kind that offer neither wood-fired pizza nor adequate toilet paper – are increasingly rare in nu-London. Which is why Sam Smith pubs flourish so unstoppably: their own-brand brews may invariably lead to a panic-purchase of Imodium the next day, but their shambolic ambience is sometimes just what you want. However, with the craft-beer “revolution” having introduced us all to the revelation that beer is supposed to taste nice, listless Alpine Lager – the only Sam Smith drink anyone ever orders – just isn’t cutting it any more. But did you know they offer 25 potential alternatives? It’s true! We drank them all, in one go. Here’s what that horror-show learned us.
First off, if you taste-test 23 beers and two ciders in one sitting, you’re going to end up consuming the nicer ones in their entirety. You’ll be as pissed as a widowed colonel, and your “tasting notes” (left) will make no sense the next day (“Shanghai-ed onto HMS Hazelnut” – huh?). You’ll scarf down hairy-knuckle pork scratchings by the fistful, something no sanely sober person ever does. You’ll go for wees that last weeks. You’ll break out in a gravy-like sweat. You’ll draw confused, pitying looks, which you’ll foolishly mistake for flirtatious gazes. You’ll do all this and more, but it’ll be worth it. Your cause is just, your methods are sound. Onwards. Upwards!
Lean in while I whisper conspiratorially. If you’re a lager drinker, go for “double fermented” Double Four Lager (draught, 4%) – it’s the gripping Cold War thriller to Alpine Lager’s straight-to-Netflix rom-com. Ale drinker? Organic Pale Ale (550ml bottle, 5%) is light but lip-smacking (just ignore that there’s what appears to be a septic tank on the label). Stout fan? Oatmeal Stout (550ml bottle, 5%) has a nicely burnt taste to it. Cider guy? Hmm, yeah, you’re outta luck – both ciders were rank. Although, to be honest, if you’re not 14 or a farm hand sat on a gate in the 1800s, you’ve no business drinking cider anyway.
Some of the drinks I encountered will haunt me to my grave. Organic Chocolate Stout (550ml bottle, 5%) tasted like Christmas in Hades, where the reindeer are inside-out and the gifts are all turds. I’m fairly certain Sovereign Bitter (draught, 4.1%) was “brewed” by emptying drip-trays into ashtrays. And the fruit beers (left, 355ml bottles, 5.1%) – strawberry, apricot, raspberry, cherry – were revolting to a degree that bent the very fabric of time and space. I also must admit to being stumped by Taddy Porter (550ml bottle, 5%). It was one of the last drinks imbibed, and by that juncture I had no clue as to what constituted good or bad or right or wrong. Imagine an insanely fizzy Soreen Malt Loaf smoothie. Would that be nice? Or nasty? I couldn’t tell. I failed. I failed you. I just wanted it all to stop.
Verdict: You can definitely enjoy a voguishly refined drinking experience in a Sam Smith pub, while simultaneously wallowing in the pleasingly anti-salubrious atmos and inexplicably sticky surfaces. Cheersh.
The skinny-jeaned corpse of 2007 indie is risen and dragging its battered Converse to a venue near you