Tag Archives: The Crosse Keys

162. Nethergate Umbel Magna

After furnishing us with the Batemans XXXB and the Hambleton Nightmare, The Crosse Keys in the City of London is becoming a valuable ally on our quest.

Conveniently enough, a recent weekend saw something of a tap takeover by Essex’s Nethergate Brewery, makers of that rather fine Old Growler I enjoyed a while ago, and of this: Nethergate Umbel Magna.

Nethergate Umbel Magna at the Crosse Keys, London

Umbel Magna is a recreation of a 1750s Porter recipe brewed with an addition of coriander to spice things up a little. It has won awards left right and centre, and I’m going to have a pint, even if it isn’t quite midday yet on a Tuesday morning.

It’s lovely stuff too, malty and chocolatey and hugely aromatic. It’s sweet and rounded at first, but with a hefty great dose of bitterness in the finish to balance things out and keep the beer hopelessly moreish. There are toasty notes alongside the chocolate sweetness too.

True to the Porter style, the body is a little lighter than a stout, while the colour is more of a deep, warm mahogany than a black. There’s a bit of booze in the nose, though perhaps that’s the early hour making me a little more sensitive than usual.

I didn’t actually know at the time that coriander was involved, and I certainly didn’t spot it, which suggests it’s contributing to the overall flavour of the beer rather than dominating proceedings, which suits me.

Either way, Umbel Magna is a cracking winter beer and one I’d happily drink again, especially at the Crosse Keys’ improbably reasonable prices. Good stuff from Nethergate once again.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Nethergate Brewery, Pentlow, Essex, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: The Crosse Keys, Gracechurch Street, London EC3V
Serving: Cask, pint

151. Batemans XXXB

It looks like it might be worth making speculative research trips to the Crosse Keys, a JD Wetherspoon pub in the heart of London’s financial centre, more often. The previous visit unearthed Hambleton Nightmare, and this time we have the opportunity to accompany our reasonably priced lunch with a pint of Batemans XXXB, a Best Bitter from Lincolnshire.

Batemans XXXB at The Crosse Keys, London

I’m always a little trepidatious when it comes to English Bitters, as it’s not a style that’s always managed to get me excited. That said, this one looks and smells fantastic. It’s a lovely deep ruby colour with a big fruity English hop aroma.

There’s a rich malty body as befits a “Best” Bitter rather than an “Ordinary”. It’s full of smoky bonfire toffee and caramel, all finished with a moreish, distinctly tangy bitterness, rather than the harsher aftertaste found in some lesser Bitters. Blindfolded, I’d probably identify XXXB as an ESB-style beer, thanks to all that lovely depth.

It goes down quickly though, and all in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable pint. This is a beer that I’ll be happy to drink again whenever I see it. At the Crosse Keys’ thoroughly reasonable £3.25 it’s positively a steal.

How nice that the Crosse Keys now opens on a Sunday, too. The City has traditionally been a ghost town at the weekends, with pubs remaining resolutely closed. Times are changing, thankfully. Saturdays have been a great deal more lively in recent years, but to be able to get a decent pint of beer on a Sunday is very new indeed. All credit to JD Wetherspoon for making that happen.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: George Bateman & Sons, Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, England
Style: Best Bitters
Strength: 4.5% ABV
Found at: The Crosse Keys, Gracechurch Street, London EC3V
Serving: Cask, pint

145. Hambleton Nightmare

Life isn’t all glamorous Belgian cafés, bars and breweries here at Threehundredbeers, you know. We’re not above a trip to a good old JD Wetherspoon pub from time to time, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Crosse Keys in the City of London’s Gracechurch Street, better known for its banking and insurance companies, is a blooming good Wetherspoon’s, in fairness. A bit of an old favourite of mine, this is a huge and rather grand drinking barn in the banking hall of the former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building. It’s all marble panelling and pillars, ornate clocks, and a ceiling so high you’d need a telescope to see it.

And beer, of course. Plenty of beer. I haven’t counted the handpumps but there are basically loads, dispensing a multitude of cask-based liquids, generally in very fine condition indeed. Today that includes Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Nightmare.

Hambleton Nightmare at The Crosse Keys, London

Hambleton Nightmare is listed in the Porters and Stouts section of The Book, and I’d say it looks more the former, pouring a very appealing dark ruby colour with a minimal tan head. I wonder if up in its native North Yorkshire this one would typically be sparkled, but that apparently isn’t how we do things down south.

Nightmare is relatively light bodied and easy drinking for such a dark beer, so again I’m leaning towards this being a Porter. It’s pretty uncompromising in terms of flavour, though. This is a hugely tangy, fruity beer, perhaps reminiscent of those malty Scottish ales, albeit with a great deal more hop bitterness.

There’s a big, rich bonfire toffee darkness too, which reminds me of the previous beer covered here, the Gouden Carolus Classic, though again the extra hops make it quite a different beer.

This was a great, thoroughly drinkable pint. All credit to ‘Spoon’s, it’s in great nick here, and at an eminently reasonable £3.25 you’re unlikely to find a better deal in the City. Good stuff.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Hambleton Ales, Melmerby, North Yorkshire
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: The Crosse Keys, Gracechurch Street, London EC3V
Serving: Cask, pint