London Beer Week is, surprisingly enough, all about beer. So it might surprise you to hear that Jack Daniel’s decided to put on an event – The Craft of Gentlemen – to celebrate, though, as they put it, “Whiskey is distilled beer after all!” Perhaps aware of the slightly tenuous connection, they haven’t acted alone, bringing in Scottish craft brewery Innis & Gunn to represent the world of actual beer.
Jack Daniel’s and Innis & Gunn are a surprisingly good match. The oak-aged beer has a sweetness that takes many by surprise, with toffee and vanilla notes coming through that pair better with the similarly sugary Jack Daniel’s than with the Edinburgh brewery’s neighbouring Scotch distilleries. If you’ve not tried Innis & Gunn before, track down the original variant, then try their lightly hoppy IPA and their new craft-brewed lager.
The night, at Gordon Ramsay’s Union Street Café, was really all about Gentleman Jack though – the twice-mellowed, smoother variant on the Tennessee whiskey. With that in mind, this was a night of sophistication, with live jazz, braces and ties aplenty, and even a team of professional shoe shiners on hand – though a promised cut-throat shave sadly never materialised.
Of course, shiny shoes alone aren’t enough to keep you sated, so a special cocktail menu did its best to combine Gentlemen Jack with Innis & Gunn’s original brew. From Brew Dog’s sister bar Under Belly through to the ‘hoptails’ on offer throughout London Beer Week, beer-based cocktails are apparently a ‘thing’ these days. At their worst, you see a rather run-of-the-mill cocktail topped up with beer, as in the night’s Boulevardi-Beer, but others are more successful. The Fox Catcher, a fiery but sweet concoction featuring ginger, lemon and St. Germain, was a resounding success, while the Lynchburg Shandy used Innis & Gunn’s natural sweetness to good effect.
Gentleman Jack may not have done quite enough to entirely justify its presence during London Beer Week, while Innis & Gunn didn’t do much to make their presence felt. But when you’re sitting back with a cocktail in one hand, listening to a live jazz band and having your shoes shined, it’s really hard to complain too much.