London Larder was devised in 2012 to bring you the ultimate eating and drinking guide to London. It was borne out of a need for up-to-date, quantitative and whole-heartedly recommended places to eat and drink.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The White Horse

Beer Festival 23-25 November
Parsons Green

If there was once a cliché that real ale was only drunk by old men with large beards, it is events such as this which will finally put them to bed. This is the 30th year that The White Horse is putting its beer festival on, and the experience certainly shows.

While old ales are the focus of the menu, they also highlight some great strong ales, stouts, porters, mild beers and barley wines. As well as the wide range of beers to try, there is also the promise of traditional music and Morris dancing over the three days of the festival.

The beers range from the frankly temperate 3% Harvey's Dark Mild to the 12.9% O'Hanlons special reserve and the 15% Paradox Jura stout from Brewdog. The last two join the other extra strength brews on the list of beers which shouldn't be bought by the pint - they may be strong beers but they shouldn't be treated as alternatives to Special Brew!

The White Horse itself is a surprisingly fashionable pub to host a beer festival. It's less than five minutes from the King's Road by black taxi, and this shows when you look around the clientele. This makes it a terrific venue if you're visiting with someone making their first forays into real ale or if you're a little unsure yourself.

The bar snacks are traditional and meaty (try the crackling and the scotch egg for a real treat), but it may be worth having a snack before you leave the house if you're a vegetarian. The main food menu suggests the perfect beer to accompany each meal in place of the traditional wine suggestion - an authentic sign that their dedication to interesting beers doesn't just last for three days each year that the festival is running.

There are over 70 beers on the festival list, and the friendly staff on hand will be happy to point you towards their own favourites and discuss different brews with you. You’ll leave wishing you’d had time to sample a few more brews but here are our suggestions for five to try:

  • Bingams Old Ale. If you want to take baby steps into the world of old ale, this is the pint for you. A wonderful session ale, it's the sort of beer you will discover at an ale festival and later be pleased to see on tap in a country pub.  
  • Dirty Stop Out. A tasty stout that will show you the difference between the typical beer on sale in most pubs and the full flavoured options at a beer festival. Order a half of this if you're not sure whether you want to jump in at the deep end!
  • Darkstar's Rockstar. With a name like that, you might be expecting a garishly coloured energy drink. Instead, you get a strong ale which you can savour as a pint.
  • Marble Dubbel Chocolate. Strong with a lovely aftertaste, you really can taste the chocolate in this. It tastes like a five per cent beer so you'll be surprised to learn that it weighs in at 8.5%.
  • Harveston's Old engine oil special reserve. The old engine oil is a much loved beer, and the special reserve is as rare as they come. If you speak with Jamie, the White Horse's enthusiastic and knowledgable cellar manager, he will tell you how 2012's final cask of Old Engine Oil Special Reserve should have been put aside for the Harvestones Christmas party until he convinced them that it would find a better home at his beer festival. This goes particularly well with the cheese board.

1-3 Parsons Green, SW6 4UL


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