Sunday, 4 March 2007

The Rake, Borough Market

If you're interested in beer and you live in London, you'll probably already know about Utobeer at Borough Market. The guys who own it have been importing fine beer from around the world for years, and with the demise of the Pitfield Beer Shop their pre-eminence is unchallenged. Last year they opened a bar in a disused building in the middle of the market. I first visited a few months ago with Steve, then manager of The Jerusalem Tavern. Back then, they hadn't really got things going properly and I wasn't overly impressed. I've popped in a few times since, and noticed steady improvements each time. Yesterday I had my first proper session in the place, and this time I was really feeling it. Now I'm definitely a fan.

The bar itself is tiny, and always seems to be buzzing. Most of the seating is outside in a covered, heated patio. They now offer two cask ales and there's a steady turn over of guest keg beers from Belgium, the US and elsewhere. Yesterday, the imports on tap included Géants Ducassis (Belgian fruit beer), Van Honsebrouck Bacchus (a Flemish sour ale), Anchor Steam (a Californian craft lager) and Gordon Highland Scotch (a Scotch-style ale from Belgium). Because none of the usual suspects are available (there's no Stella or Guinness here, chum) everyone has to get involved and try a variety of beers. The staff are knowledgable and make first class recommendations, so don't be afraid to ask if they unfamiliar draught line-up and fridges full of bottles intimidates. This is a perfect addition to the already excellent scene down in Borough, the food and drink mecca for Londoners.

The occasion yesterday was my old pal Hyth's first visit to London for a while, and our first meeting for a year. There were six of us in The Rake and everyone enjoyed it. Suicidally, I found myself drinking the Gordon Highland Scotch steadily for about four hours, eventually finishing the keg off for them. At 8.6% abv, this strong but smooth dark ruby ale isn't perhaps the best session beer, but it really was great on tap and I couldn't help myself. I was worse for wear when we moved on for the night, and I'm still feeling the effects today. You'd think I'd know better. It's been a heavy weekend, but as Hyth is fond of saying - nobody said it was gonna be easy.

  1. Utobeer is in Borough Market, on the south bank next to London Bridge. is open during market hours and sells a huge range of beers from around the world. They have a website with further information, although it seems to be in dire need of some maintenance.
  2. The Rake is at 14 Winchester Walk, SE1 9AG (Tel: 020 7407 0557), within Borough Market itself and in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral. Here it is on a map of the area.


  1. Stonch

    Love the blog. Am in admiration - 4 hours on the Gordons Scotch and then you "moved on for the night". My God - I would have been comatose.

  2. It wasn't the most relaxing of weekends. I think I'll be back on top form in time for Christmas, with any luck.

  3. Just a wee comment on Anchor Steam, Stonch. It's not a lager, exactly. It's not an ale, either. It's a ... well, the generic term is the clumsy "California common beer," 'cause "steam beer" is trademarked. It's a beer fermented with a lagering yeast, but with ale-like methods and temperatures, so the result is a hybrid. The warm ferment temperatures bring out ale-like qualities that typical cold-fermented and -stored lagers don't have.

    It's a small quibble. Your blog's a great read. Cheers mate.

  4. You're right - i was just being lazy and calling it a lager because it's brewed using bottom fermenting yeast. The term "lager" is inadequate, referring as it does to the maturation/self-filtration process ("lagering"), but I'm not aware of another term to use instead.


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