Truman’s Swift is a cask-conditioned golden ale brewed with a mix of ale and lager hops. It’s gently bitter with biscuity malt and green apple flavours. At 3.9%, it’s great for a long session with good friends and a packet of pork scratchings.
It’s the first Saturday of Cask Ale Week, and I am on the hunt. For all my criticisms and griping about the barren wastelands of Essex, it has one very distinct advantage over East London: tradition. Cask reigns supreme east of the M25 but in E2, keg is king.
There is one sure bet when I’m in the mood for something more traditional, however. Wandering down Brick Lane you’d be forgiven for thinking this is the centre of urban London mid-gentrification. Dozens of curry houses, their staff eagerly trying to recruit diners with masks hanging uselessly under their chins, are punctuated by chocolatiers, CBD dispensaries, and, for those modern beer fans, Kill the Cat. It’s easy to miss Heneage Street on your way through. But keep a careful eye out and within ten paces you’re transported back a century onto a quiet, cobbled street. Before you stands The Pride of Spitalfields.
It being a Saturday night, inside is packed full of happily chatting people with beer in one hand and a packet of pork scratchings in the other. Having picked my beer from the four cask ales on tap, I opt to sup my pint outside from the fold-down tables chained to the wall.
Fuller’s may be the brewery above the door, but given the Truman’s brewery is just around the corner I call for a pint of Swift. True to its name it arrives almost instantly, frothing eagerly. As it settles on the table outside the amber body clears and the white head diminishes, fading gradually to a thin, smooth layer on top.
Malt leads on the aroma, starting with light ginger biscuit and pear. The palate is complex and satisfying: a metallic twang from the water, toasty malt, green apple peel, and more of that conference pear. Little wonder then, on further investigation, that the recipe is fairly complex too. The hop bill is a strange mix of ale and lager strains, Cascade and Challenger playing nicely with Saaz. A lingering, gentle bitterness hangs around on the finish, reminding you that there’s packets of pork scratchings behind the bar inside and you really should pop back in to buy some.
Swift won’t be the only cask ale I drink during Cask Ale Week. But as a place to start, it certainly isn’t bad. If you’re looking for a good example of a traditional, cask-conditioned golden ale to enjoy over a session with friends, Swift is a great shout.