I went to the Font the other night. For those not familiar with the Font, it’s a double-fronted bar, extending a long way back from the street. It’s a fairly big, cavernous place without much in the way of internal divisions, furnished with an assortment of sofas, hard chairs, coffee tables and dining tables. The night I went it was rather dark and very busy – I couldn’t find a table and ended up perched at the bar, although given the lighting (and given that I’d brought a paper to read) this was probably my best bet anyway. About half the clientele seemed to be under-30s in groups, with the remainder dividing between youngish couples and youngish families; I estimated that my arrival had raised the average age by about six months. I didn’t see anyone I knew and didn’t really expect to.
As for the beer, they had eight hand pumps and sixteen keg taps; I had a pint of (cask) Magic Rock High Wire, which was superb. I made a few free-associative tasting notes, from which I remember “smokily aromatic”, “stern and unforgiving” and “creamy beast”. (After my thought processes had thrown out “creamy beast” I got a bit self-conscious about the whole thing.) A really lovely beer, anyway. After claiming my CAMRA discount I paid £3.15 for it, a saving of £1.05.
I also went to the Sedge Lynn the other night. For those not familiar with the Sedge Lynn, it’s a converted snooker hall. It’s a hangar-like space with a high, vaulted roof, extending a long way back from the street without any internal divisions; there are a few booths with upholstered bench seating, but the furniture consists mostly of hard chairs and small round tables. The night I went it was very busy and (as usual) very well lit; I couldn’t find anywhere comfortable to sit but did get a small round table to myself. About half the clientele was made up of groups of middle-aged men, with the remainder dividing between middle-aged couples, middle-aged men on their own and fairly young families; I estimate that my entrance had precisely no effect on the average age. I saw two people I knew and had a chat with one of them.
On the beer front, they had ten hand pumps and seven keg taps; I had a pint of (cask) Acorn Rakau IPA. This was a very nice NZ-hopped IPA; quite light and drinkable but with a definite fruity hop character, backed by a bitter finish which built over the length of the pint. After using a CAMRA token I paid £1.75 for it, a saving of 50p.
The Sedge Lynn, of course, is a Spoon’s – and as such you don’t expect to be entirely comfortable there, just as you don’t expect to be getting the best beer in the universe. (This, of course, explains the consternation which was felt last year when, probably due to an administrative error, Spoon’s briefly started serving the best beer in the universe.) As it goes, on the night I felt a lot more comfortable in the Sedge Lynn than I had been at the Font. (Although, to be fair, the Font is great if you can get there early doors and bag a sofa.) As for the beer, that Acorn IPA was a very nice beer. The High Wire was better, but I paid nearly twice as much for it (80% more, in fact) – and, hand on heart, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was that much better. Is it worth £3.15? Definitely – in fact I’d say it’s a bargain at that money. Is it worth £4.20? Only in the sense that if I did pay that much for it – which I’d only do if everything else was even dearer – I wouldn’t feel too badly ripped off. Is the Acorn IPA too cheap at £1.75, or even at £2.25? Sorry, don’t understand the question.
It’s horses for courses: if you want to drink truly excellent beer at a good price, while feeling physically uncomfortable and socially out of place, the Font on a Saturday night is the place for you. If, on the other hand, you’d rather drink good beer at an excellent price, while feeling only mildly physically uncomfortable and socially awkward, you’d be better off with the Sedge Lynn.
(Either way, you’d be mad not to join CAMRA.)