Back in the sepia-tinted days of yore, long before the sinister creep of coffee chains and identikit pub operators, train stations had proper pubs on platforms and could be great places to go for a pint. But privatisation, rather predictably, saw independent station pubs hit the buffers.
British Rail may not have been very good at delivering trains on time, but it certainly hailed the ale with more enthusiasm than the new breed of station managers, who have turned the vast majority of stations into real ale deserts.But, to paraphrase the famous British Rail slogan, London’s train termini are getting there… slowly.
First, the Betjeman Arms opened at St Pancras – serving a few decent drops on draught including its eponymous Betjeman Ale. And now Euston, possibly the bleakest of all London train stations, boasts a fantastic new craft beer bar.
Set back from the main station building, it occupies an impressive Grade II-listed Portland stone lodge – one of the few relics from the original station built in the 1830s. It’s small and simple with a compact bar that’s refreshingly free from the usual forest of fonts. Instead, all the taps, complete with funky handles and numbers, can be found on a copper-clad back bar – an approach borrowed from the craft beer bars in the States.
The selection here is incredible, showcasing beer’s full depth and breadth of flavours and styles. There are 19 genuinely rare and renowned craft beers on draught including the awesome Anchor Humming Ale from San Francisco; Matuska Raptor IPA from the Czech Republic; an unfiltered version of Bernard pilsner; and the rather super-duper Palo Santo Marron from the Dogfish Head Brewery on the US East Coast.
Eight extra hand pumps play to the cask crowd with guest beers from micros, ales from Manchester’s Marble Brewery and the terrific Thornbridge Brewery in Derbyshire – its Jaipur is an excellent example of an authentic IPA.
Either side of the bar are two enormous chillers stocking an immensely eclectic array of more than a hundred bottled beers; altbier, kellerbier and kolsch from Germany, heady hoppy pale ales and pumpkin beers from America’s craft brewing scene, Belgium classics and a Scandinavian selection including the marvellous efforts from maverick Danish brewer Mikkeller.
Up a wrought-iron spiral staircase is a small drinking area lined with brown banquettes, a few tables, walls adorned with architect’s blueprints and one, just one, toilet. It’s a little worn and feels a bit like a waiting room, but it’s the drinking, not the décor, that draws the mostly male crowd.
Staff are knowledgeable and friendly, plans are afoot for a small food menu and it will soon be opening early for coffee and pastries. Go here for the beer though, you won’t be disappointed.