Monday, 13 December 2010

The saintly, the pants and the crass at St Pancras

By my own personal mathematics, one delayed Eurostar from London equals two serendipitous beer tastings. Happily, St Pancras International houses a little spot called the Sourced Market shop, which has a fair selection of bottled British craft beers.

At least, it seems a fair selection to me. I’m British, but I only really started taking a proper interest in beer when I moved to Belgium, and I have everything to learn about UK brands. So, while I wasn’t going anywhere anyway, I thought, time to get educated...

Now, somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d heard of Meantime, so, when I saw Meantime London Stout on the shelf, I went for it. Good choice as it turns out.

It was rich and smooth, with deep burnt flavours throughout, along with bittersweet coffee surrounded by little if any carbonation. There was something of a Christmas pudding about it, as well. Or maybe I simply had that on the brain because I had just bought one to take back to Brussels. (More on that in a future post...)

The selection at Sourced
The Sourced Market shop, by the way, also has a few Belgian beers, including Rochefort 6, surprisingly. This most elusive of the Rochefort labels, and my favourite of the three, makes a welcome change from the thumping ubiquity of Leffe Blond, Hoegaarden and Stella, which seem to be the only things most of London would ever know of Belgian beer -- and don’t get me started on the others you find everywhere: American Bud, Fosters, San Miguel, Corona, and Peroni.

OK, you got me started: what’s up with that particular selection of boring brands, unchanging from bar to bar? I know that mass market beer is all about shifting units via marketing rather than taste, but why have five or six soulless drinks when really one would do?

Anyway, train delays being what they are, I decided to try another British beer off the richly stocked Sourced Market shelves: Dark Star Espresso (Rich Coffee Beer). The mouthfeel was immediately thinner than the last one, but the overall impression was no worse off for it. The first flavour was of very dark roasted malt, but then the coffee taste kicked in. And how. No mistaking this beer’s been rightly named.

Something like straw moves to the fore soon after, dusty, fragrant and inviting. Leave it for a few minutes, and black cherry appears, along with woody or barky notes and over-ripe apple (in a nice way). That complexity I found a bit unusual for a beer that’s not so creamy as other darks I know. Still, I wasn’t complaining: both beers, new to me, were a great way to pass the time in Eurostar limbo.

But, dear reader, be warned: don’t expect anything interesting once you check in. The Eurostar waiting area itself is a desert of dullness. The single pub on the far side of the security and passport controls, the “undercroftbar”, is dire. I’d call it the “underpantsbar” to emphasise just how pants it is, but that would sound very immature and not very helpful for my credibility just I am about to make a very important point. Oops.

Seriously, how is it possible that a major international travel terminal has only one bar after check-in? The only international departure areas that allow a monopoly bar these days are those in nasty authoritarian regimes (and even some of those have a better beer selection). But this is the UK, and they just dumped about seventy-two squizillion pounds on the beautiful new St Pancras and its new Eurostar station. How can it be that there is not more choice? Any choice?

So, remember, if you want a decent beer before you get on the train to Brussels or Paris, be sure to have one before you check in to the Eurostar area. And if you one day in your travels find this handy tip saves your taste buds from ruin, please feel free to offer your thanks by buying me a beer. But not in the underpantsbar, of course.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I never knew Sourced sold decent beer. And looking at your photos, you can clearly drink them on the premises too. Wonderful! Good to know, as we're going to be using Eurostar to travel to Maastricht for a short break in a couple of months. Any recommendations for beer-focused bars & restaurants welcome :) Also, pretty much as a consequence of having encountered your blog, which I very much enjoy, I've started dabbling with beer reviews at the URL below. Thanks for the inspiration. Cheers!

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