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|Address:||94 Northcote Road, London SW11 6QW|
|Tel:||020 3589 2106|
|Price: £32.00||Wine: £13.95||Champagne: £48.95|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Fri 12N-11pm (Thurs-Sat -12M) Sat-Sun 10am-12M|
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Saturday 16 February, 2013: I arrived to the Draft House on Northcote Road to find my mates standing at the bar with a distressed look on their faces. I asked them what was wrong and they replied that they had been waiting nearly 10 minutes to be served. After a quick assessment of the beer on tap I noticed that 4 of their 10-12 or so taps were ‘off’ explaining with a sign that patience is a virtue or that good beer will come to those who wait or something equally as witty. After finally being served we ordered a Camden Brewery American Amber Ale and proceeded to our nice window spot that our partners managed to secure during the nearly 15 minute wait for a drink.
For our second round we decided to be a little more adventurous and go for one of their ‘extreme bottles’. Basically this means a more American style craft beer, most likely imported from across the pond and usually always sacrificing quantity for quality with added expense. As there were three of us drinking beers we chose at random three brews that promised big things for our taste buds: Odell Brewery IPA, Flying Dog K-9 Winter Ale and Conqueror 1075 Black IPA. Odell and Flying Dog were both from the States and the Black IPA coming from Windsor.
The excitement of selecting a bottle from a large fridge containing a massive selection of beer is one of life’s great joys. The range of choice and anticipation of the quality of a selection can be very compelling and this time was no different. We returned to our tables to begin drinking this very expensive (The round was around £16 for 3 12oz bottles) but hopefully brilliant selection of craft beers. About two sips into our beers as we were inspecting every detail of the labels on the Odell bottle we noticed the best before date on the bottle was for sometime back in 2012 (August). We quickly looked at the others only to discover the same for the Conqueror (date from mid 2012) and a missing date for the Flying Dog.
I decided to try to speak to the manager with the idea of letting them know that they had an issue with the dates of some of their beers. After being pointed to the manager I approached her let her know that we had discovered that two of the three of our beers were out of date and that I suspected the third was as well. Her reply shocked me and has compelled me to write this review; She said that she knew that the Flying Dog was out of date (which confirmed that the third bottle was also out of date as it was missing from the bottle), and that the Odell was as well but that she wasn’t aware of the Conqueror to which I invited her back to our table to see for herself. Before even seeing the bottles she assured me that she would make this right and would refund my money. After coming to the table, verifying my account she was satisfied enough to go away to arrange a refund.
When she returned she was holding a receipt for the beer as well as two two pound coins. She offered me the coins to which I replied with confusion as I understood she was going to refund the cost of the out of date beers. She then told me that she never promised a full refund and that she would only offer a 20% discount on the old beer. I asked her further about this, explaining that it didn’t seem right as this was a premium product that should be served at its best, only. I very much doubt that breweries would appreciate a bar selling out of date beers at all, let alone at top dollar.
The manager went on to explain that she was new (within a week) but that she was only allowed to offer the 20% as per her managers instructions. If this is true then two things are pretty shocking about this:
1. Management of the Draft House are aware that they are selling out of date premium bottles and
2. They are willing to try to pass old bottles off as premium despite being out of date, unless someone complains then they will offer a 20% refund
She went on to explain that a best before date on a craft beer doesn’t indicate that the beer is ‘off’ only that it is no longer in its prime. She adamantly defended the decision to sell the old beer without any acknowledgment of the fact that they were in fact deceiving the public by selling old stock at top prices and not wanting to create any more of a scene I accepted on the premise that the compensation offered was all she was authorized to offer.
Having been a craft beer enthusiast for over 10 years I have never heard of such practices and I struggle to imagine that the top brass at Draft House would be happy with this (or at least I hope). It is obvious that the Draft House on Northcote Road is busy, however from my experience I do not think they are busy drinking the craft beer on offer from the coolers in favour of their draft selection. I do not believe that the Draft House is a beer destination like it makes itself out to be for craft beer lovers. From the out of date beer, off taps and poor service, it seems that this place might be trying to capitalise on its location and less on the experience it is offering.
My thoughts about this are simple, if you want good craft beer that is looked after and served in congress with how craft beer should be served then go to Craft Beer Co in Brixton, Pimlco, Farringdon or Angel. If you are in Clapham Junction and in need of a decent pint go to the Falcon or worst case go to The Draft House and order a draft lager so you know it will be fresh.