With music from The Mystery Jets and copious amounts of beer, Jim Newcombe visits Chicago brewers Goose Island‘s 312 Day celebrations.
The event reads “7-11pm, last entry 1am,” so already I know it’s promising to be a good late night out. Goose Island is celebrating their 312 Day with a festival, bringing the spirit of Chicago to East London (the digits forming the number of Chicago’s local dialling code), and Lucky Jim is sent to find out what it’s all about.
I’m cutting it fine to meet a friend at The Dove in the tranquil bustle of Broadway Market so I take a Boris bike along Regent’s Canal. Like Boris himself, it is unwieldy and cumbersome. Though it reminds me that I need to get into shape myself, the sheer act of riding makes me feel boyish again. I arrive and meet my friend where the venue is a short walk away, and after an initial analeptic beer I trace my way to Laburnam Street. On arrival we’re permitted through a hutch in a high wired gate. When the girl on the ticket counter realizes I’ve been sent to review the event she is nothing if not obliging and ingratiating, giving us a stub for grub from Anna Mae’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese truck and guest wristbands for unlimited free beer. Hoxton Docks, a one-time coal storage facility and one of the last old warehouses located in Shoreditch, is ideal for a beer festival and music venue, and we enter to the tingling live music of Alex Vargas.
An illuminated slogan above the bar reads: “We don’t need to be the only beer you drink, we just want to be the best beer you drink,” stating Goose Island’s big ambition. The hall is flanked on either side with beer barrels and the stage set is woven with ivy. The tide of American craft beers spilling in, more carbonated than traditional English beers, is being sluiced in the gullets of thirsty youths everywhere, most visibly across the festive and eclectic East End.
I see it as a professional obligation to try as many range of beers as I can while I’m here. I start with a pint of IPA, which, as all true India Pale Ales should be, is above the five per cent mark (it was originally brewed strong so it would keep when shipped out to the soldiers of the Raj). Certain pubs, I’ve noticed, serve black IPA, which is a perverse misnomer. Some of the beers on tap tonight are new to the English market and as I follow the IPA with the new Green Line, I find myself wanting the other beers to have a better distinction. I’m partial to the bottled Honker’s Ale, which I follow with a bottle of IPA- the bottled brand being more malty than the draft.
Vargas performs with just one other musician, their melodies consisting of liquid and mellifluous vocals, icy and eerie electronic riffs wrapped in embryonic beats, with DJ Dan O’ Connell from Radio X bridging the gap that leads to tonight’s headline act, The Mystery Jets, who play warming and roistering songs, both new and old, some dating back ten years when the band formulated their sound at Twickenham’s Eel Pie Island, where the band were provisionally called The Misery Jets.
As I take in the gig I try a beer called Sofie: more foamy and carbonated than the beers I know and love, though my companion seems more than content to quaff its bitter fruity zest to the lees. I prefer the bottled and liquidized hoyden called Matilda as she pricks the tongue before reaching the heart and mind, coursing through the twitchels of my body. Outside, whilst finishing a second pint of Matilda and commenting on the mind-altering effect, someone informs me that it’s seven per cent. Little wonder, I think, while crossing myself. So a night with Matilda, as the etymology of her name forewarns, would be a night of battle. It seems merciful that St Patrick’s Day London celebrations falls on the Sabbath, and while the brook of Irish blood that passes through me would usually find me more than willing to celebrate, tomorrow I shall rest, as divinely ordained, for even if most Celts are carousers I think St Patrick would excuse me, he after all being less Celtic than I.
Shortly before leaving, a nineteen-year-old girl reads me passages from Game of Thrones. Unbidden and insisting that I resemble Sean Bean, she urges me to yell “Winter is coming!” across the courtyard. It would be discourteous not to oblige her. As an aficionado of the programme, she tells me his character is beheaded many times throughout the series, so I hope the similarities are limited to appearances, since only cats and poets have nine lives.
The night winds up, or down, and I, already embrangled, am off to see a dog about a bone in The Pub On The Park in London Fields. Sofie, if her namesake be true, may indeed be wise, sophisticated, philosophical, yet I personally find her unpalatable; and even though that mad bitch Matilda may be a home-wrecker and will subsequently make me feel like I’ve been beheaded several times tomorrow morning, I still prefer Matilda.