Brighton Beer Blog review
Bison Beer North Laine

Read a beer-by-beer account of our visit

Date: Friday 21st May
Beers:
Cloudwater – Apple Blossoms on Hewitt Street
Amundsen – Glazed & Confused
Verdant – I Played Trumpet On That Tune

To the best of our knowledge the Bison Beer brand started life as a little bottle shop on East Street. But in a few short years that shop has grown to include a well-rounded portfolio of a bar/bottle shop in Hove, the Bison Beach Bar on Marine Parade, and this modern central Brighton tap bar on North Road. One Friday afternoon a local brewer and I decided to book a table for a post-work pint at Bison Beer North Laine, and it was wonderful to finally re-enter this fantastic central Brighton tap bar after such a long time.

Oh, how we have missed the excitable hum of energy that greets you in a busy bar in the late afternoon. It was only 5.15pm but it was warm and stuffy from the many bodies already filling all the tables. This popular North Laine bar has limited seating, even in normal times, so advanced booking is strongly recommended.

The style throughout all floors is contemporary and stylish, in a recognisably playful Bison way. Clean cut and raw, the industrial elements – such as the raw wood and block concrete bar – are nicely softened by colour, plants or a subtle sense of humour splashed on the walls. The floors are connected by what looks like a bespoke yellow circular staircase. You get the feeling that no expense has been spared in the finish.

We are impressed with how each of the three floors offers a slightly different atmosphere; the ground floor is where it feels most energetic and busy, with the combination of people arriving and leaving, staff collecting drinks from the bar (or more likely in normal times people queuing at the bar); plus the majority of the seating is in this area. At the entrance there are a couple of sections of café-style counter seating in the windows, and beyond the bar tables and chairs fill the space to the back. It’s a little tightly packed, but the feeling is not too cramped.

Upstairs there are boothed spaces and comfortable benches, the extra height to the ceiling making it seem more airy, and there are lots of plants and wooden fittings creating a raw but natural feel. This is a decent space for an informal work meeting or for groups, as the layout makes it neither too claustrophobic nor too lifeless, no matter how many people are there.

The basement level is dimly lit in a sort of secretive, intimate speakeasy way. It was slightly quieter down here at this time on a Friday, but with a little bar of its own in the corner this could be a great floor to hire for private parties. As an aside, down here is where two of Bison’s bar staff got spanked at a game of beer pong when my Dad had the most unexpected streak of beginner’s luck you’ve ever seen. We don’t know if beer games will resume post COVID, but we hope so.

Moving on to beers, we counted a staggering 14 taps on the bar. Even though only ten were pouring today, that’s simply a ridiculously varied choice on draft – not to mention the copious number of options in the fridge. Draft options ranged from locals such as Gun and Bedlam, to UK faves such as Cloudwater, Kernel and Amundsen. These will all rotate quite regularly, except for their own Seaside APA which seems to be a mainstay house beer. The staff serving us seemed to have a good grasp of what was available – which is pretty important in a tap bar – but the tap menu is also listed on TV screens on every floor. All in all, the only area that some might argue the options let you down is with regard to cask options, of which there were none.

Prices for higher ABV beers or revered guest ales on tap can sting a little, but the good news is that for every beer pushing above £6 or £7, there seemed to be another sub £6. The lowest-priced beer was a £5.60 pint from a decent local brewer, this is less than many of the local pubs in the area charge for a pint of Neck Oil. Here’s a run-down of what we tasted on our visit..

Amundsen – Glazed & Confused 13.5%
I was slightly taken aback when I saw my brewer friend order a 13.5% imperial stout for his first drink – surely that breaks all the beer tasting rules? – but apparently when he sees an Amundsen beer he just can’t say no. Glazed and Confused is sickly, sticky and sweet in all the best ways, with elements of strong caramel and honey. It’s very chocolately, pleasant and warming going down. You can smell how boozy it is from a mile off. There’s nothing devisive about it, and it reminded us of a Crunchie bar. A superb brew, but you probably wouldn’t want any more than a third of a pint.

Cloudwater – Apple Blossoms on Hewitt Street DDH pale 4.2%
Crisp, smooth and sessionable. Hoppy but without being dry, more sweet than bitter and more juicy than dry.
 A straight down the line crowdpleaser.

Verdant – I Played Trumpet On That Tune NEIPA 6.5%
A thick and toungue-coating mixture that has gorgeous depth and mouthfill. It’s generally a juicy tropical flavour, though there’s a slightly dank aftertaste that I couldn’t put my finger. Not bitter, perhaps a little savoury, just interesting, but an aftertaste that could be slightly devisive.

We didn’t eat here on this occasion, but have in the past and we can highly recommend the eats from Humble Kitchen. The menu spans nine different burgers, various jazzed-up portions of fries, plus their morish small plates. These guys started out doing pop-up beer and food pairing evenings, and have a knack for making grub that pairs brilliantly with beer. We note that between noon and 5pm on weekdays you can get a burger and fries for only £9.

Rounding things off with a little COVID service update, we can report that all staff were wearing masks. Some plexiglass dividers were in place on tables upstairs, though not in the lower floors that we noticed. Table service was in operation, but refreshingly it didn’t mean ordering through some faffy app that forgets all your details the next time you want to order. The staff at Bison were very attentive in coming to our table and, to be honest, given the size of the bar area and the small overall floor space, you could argue that this is a bar where table service could work really well for the long term.

All in all Bison have cracked it with this inner city tap bar. It’s relaxed and stylish while not taking itself too seriously, and in offering an insane number of draft options while giving the cold shoulder to cask, they are undoubtedly aiming at the modern beer explorer.

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Date: Friday 21st May
Beers:
Cloudwater – Apple Blossoms on Hewitt Street
Amundsen – Glazed & Confused
Verdant – I Played Trumpet On That Tune

To the best of our knowledge the Bison Beer brand started life as a little bottle shop on East Street. But in a few short years that shop has grown to include a well-rounded portfolio of a bar/bottle shop in Hove, the Bison Beach Bar on Marine Parade, and this modern central Brighton tap bar on North Road. One Friday afternoon a local brewer and I decided to book a table for a post-work pint at Bison Beer North Laine, and it was wonderful to finally re-enter this fantastic central Brighton tap bar after such a long time.

Oh, how we have missed the excitable hum of energy that greets you in a busy bar in the late afternoon. It was only 5.15pm but it was warm and stuffy from the many bodies already filling all the tables. This popular North Laine bar has limited seating, even in normal times, so advanced booking is strongly recommended.

The style throughout all floors is contemporary and stylish, in a recognisably playful Bison way. Clean cut and raw, the industrial elements – such as the raw wood and block concrete bar – are nicely softened by colour, plants or a subtle sense of humour splashed on the walls. The floors are connected by what looks like a bespoke yellow circular staircase. You get the feeling that no expense has been spared in the finish.

We are impressed with how each of the three floors offers a slightly different atmosphere; the ground floor is where it feels most energetic and busy, with the combination of people arriving and leaving, staff collecting drinks from the bar (or more likely in normal times people queuing at the bar); plus the majority of the seating is in this area. At the entrance there are a couple of sections of café-style counter seating in the windows, and beyond the bar tables and chairs fill the space to the back. It’s a little tightly packed, but the feeling is not too cramped.

Upstairs there are boothed spaces and comfortable benches, the extra height to the ceiling making it seem more airy, and there are lots of plants and wooden fittings creating a raw but natural feel. This is a decent space for an informal work meeting or for groups, as the layout makes it neither too claustrophobic nor too lifeless, no matter how many people are there.

The basement level is dimly lit in a sort of secretive, intimate speakeasy way. It was slightly quieter down here at this time on a Friday, but with a little bar of its own in the corner this could be a great floor to hire for private parties. As an aside, down here is where two of Bison’s bar staff got spanked at a game of beer pong when my Dad had the most unexpected streak of beginner’s luck you’ve ever seen. We don’t know if beer games will resume post COVID, but we hope so.

Moving on to beers, we counted a staggering 14 taps on the bar. Even though only ten were pouring today, that’s simply a ridiculously varied choice on draft – not to mention the copious number of options in the fridge. Draft options ranged from locals such as Gun and Bedlam, to UK faves such as Cloudwater, Kernel and Amundsen. These will all rotate quite regularly, except for their own Seaside APA which seems to be a mainstay house beer. The staff serving us seemed to have a good grasp of what was available – which is pretty important in a tap bar – but the tap menu is also listed on TV screens on every floor. All in all, the only area that some might argue the options let you down is with regard to cask options, of which there were none.

Prices for higher ABV beers or revered guest ales on tap can sting a little, but the good news is that for every beer pushing above £6 or £7, there seemed to be another sub £6. The lowest-priced beer was a £5.60 pint from a decent local brewer, this is less than many of the local pubs in the area charge for a pint of Neck Oil. Here’s a run-down of what we tasted on our visit..

Amundsen – Glazed & Confused 13.5%
I was slightly taken aback when I saw my brewer friend order a 13.5% imperial stout for his first drink – surely that breaks all the beer tasting rules? – but apparently when he sees an Amundsen beer he just can’t say no. Glazed and Confused is sickly, sticky and sweet in all the best ways, with elements of strong caramel and honey. It’s very chocolately, pleasant and warming going down. You can smell how boozy it is from a mile off. There’s nothing devisive about it, and it reminded us of a Crunchie bar. A superb brew, but you probably wouldn’t want any more than a third of a pint.

Cloudwater – Apple Blossoms on Hewitt Street DDH pale 4.2%
Crisp, smooth and sessionable. Hoppy but without being dry, more sweet than bitter and more juicy than dry.
 A straight down the line crowdpleaser.

Verdant – I Played Trumpet On That Tune NEIPA 6.5%
A thick and toungue-coating mixture that has gorgeous depth and mouthfill. It’s generally a juicy tropical flavour, though there’s a slightly dank aftertaste that I couldn’t put my finger. Not bitter, perhaps a little savoury, just interesting, but an aftertaste that could be slightly devisive.

We didn’t eat here on this occasion, but have in the past and we can highly recommend the eats from Humble Kitchen. The menu spans nine different burgers, various jazzed-up portions of fries, plus their morish small plates. These guys started out doing pop-up beer and food pairing evenings, and have a knack for making grub that pairs brilliantly with beer. We note that between noon and 5pm on weekdays you can get a burger and fries for only £9.

Rounding things off with a little COVID service update, we can report that all staff were wearing masks. Some plexiglass dividers were in place on tables upstairs, though not in the lower floors that we noticed. Table service was in operation, but refreshingly it didn’t mean ordering through some faffy app that forgets all your details the next time you want to order. The staff at Bison were very attentive in coming to our table and, to be honest, given the size of the bar area and the small overall floor space, you could argue that this is a bar where table service could work really well for the long term.

All in all Bison have cracked it with this inner city tap bar. It’s relaxed and stylish while not taking itself too seriously, and in offering an insane number of draft options while giving the cold shoulder to cask, they are undoubtedly aiming at the modern beer explorer.

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *