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I was apprehensive when invited to review the Crafters Barn. Everything I heard about suggested it wasn’t really for me. A Belgian beer list comparable in its scope to a good wine list, Belgian food (I’ve never seen the attraction of frites with mayonnaise), often cooked in beer and worst, beer based cocktails. Beer drinking for me was so last century.

I’m delighted to say my apprension was misplaced. The Barn is serious about its beer and in particular its Belgian beer – I'll leave the appreciation of the beer to people better placed than me to judge. However the subtle use of beer reductions, beer jams and marmalades and beer tops is clever, well judged and really adds to the appeal. 

Whilst there I tried three of their beer cocktails and enjoyed them all: from their signature cocktail, craftily named the Crafters Signature Sour; to the favourite with the female clientele, the Tin Tin, craftily served in an little tin teapot; and finally the Surrealist, nothing crafty about this one, save the making of it. 

The Crafters Signature Sour (£6.25) is a classic well made whisky sour with a little twist, the twist being a fruit beer reduction float. The float takes nothing away from the balance of the lemon and the sugar with the whisky but does add a little fruitiness on the nose. One of these and I was already considering sitting down to some of their wonderfully sounding dark beer braised Iberico pork cheek.

Next came the ladies favourite, the Tin Tin (£6.50). In contrast to the sour this just oozed raspberries. A rich concoction of Edinburgh Gin, lemon juice, honey and raspberry purée all topped off with a little Hoegaarden. Again, the beer did not distract from the drink, merely added a subtle citrusiness to a cocktail that is a must have for lovers of raspberry. 

Finally came the Surrealist (£6.25). A tall drink combining Blackwoods vodka, Belle Vue Kriek reduction, lemon juice, Kriek and raspberry jam and orange juice. If the weather had been better on my visit, this would have been the perfect sipper to enjoy whilst sitting on the terrace to the side of the Barn. The jam and the reduction gave you a real berry flavour (without the need for some poor devil constantly muddling fresh berries, somewhere behind the bar). 

My visit to the Crafters Barn didn’t induce some Damoscene conversion to the glory of beer, but it did make me realise, with a bit of thought and some good preparation, there is no reason why beer and cocktails can’t coexist in the same century. In fact, maybe they can make ideal companions.

Now about that pork cheek... (M. Earl)

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