I miss brewery taprooms. I might be a pub creature at heart – someone that longs for a warm, dimly lit space, perhaps sat bellied up to the bar on a high stool, or tucked away in a quiet booth, shielded from the bustle of daily life. But taprooms have a special quality too. They aren’t pubs, but they are just as wonderful at bringing us together.
Drinking this new IPA, Big Salad, from Villages, in Deptford, South London, instantly transported me back to the brewery’s own taproom. Like so many in London, it’s nestled underneath a railway arch. It’s noisy, echoey as conversation bounces around the curved ceiling a few times, but this sound isn’t a cacophony, this is buzz.
I’ve come to understand that taprooms serve a completely different purpose to our drinking experience than pubs. Pubs are about comfort, and when sat in a cold warehouse or railway arch there can be a distinct lack of it. But they have something else to offer: closeness. By which I mean they bring you closer to beer, be that by seating you directly opposite the equipment on which it is made, or served by the people who made it, a tangible connection is formed between the brewery and you, the drinker.
Something about Big Salad is transportative in the way it reminds me of the taproom. Perhaps because this is a beer with bounce, liveliness and energy. This isn’t a pint of cask beer to relax by the fire with, this is an all-out fruity blast of fun. It doesn’t hesitate in stimulating sensory overload with its waves of juicy mango, kiwi fruit and lime. It also shines where many other beers of this style fall short, in that it finishes smooth and dry, giving that all-important nudge to take another sip. It’s an incredibly accomplished beer from Villages, which definitely deserves a little more of your attention than it might be getting currently.
For me, this beer has formed a bridge. Something to tide me over until the next time I’m wearing my big coat and huddled around a trellis table with some of my best pals, and getting the next round of juicy IPAs in. Until that day comes, this will do nicely.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.