Barbican

29/05/2017 at 17:43 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In May 2017 Tim took us on a short but very interesting walk around the Barbican area, on the fringe of the City of London.

We met up at the Shakespeare, a stone’s throw from Barbican station. This busy pub is on the ground floor of a 1960s building but is surprisingly traditionally furnished inside, and offers a fairly decent range of beer and good value Italian food.

From the Shakespeare we headed through the Golden Lane estate, a prestigious 1950s housing scheme which laid the template for many council estates which followed it, but in this example retains some of the social aspects missing from many later estates built more cheaply, and a short walk through the estate takes us past the tennis courts, swimming pool and sports centre.

ArtilleryArms.jpgOut the other side of the estate we reached the Two Brewers just in time for the cask of Purity Mad Goose to run out. There were some decent alternatives on offer but we were patient, and were rewarded with some delicious pints of Mad Goose fresh from the new cask, which we supped out in the street, across from the site of the 1600 Fortune Playhouse.

We moved on now, via a rare section of wooden road, to the Artillery Arms, a small, friendly Fuller’s pub opposite the Bunhill Fields burial ground, where prominent people including William Blake, Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan and Susannah Wesley are buried. We managed to order a beer which needed changing again, but all the Fuller’s beers were in good condition and served with a smile.

HAC.jpgWe popped into the lobby of a university further down Bunhill Row for a sneaky peek at the Artillery Ground, a cricket pitch owned by the Honourable Artillery Company which used to be London’s premier cricket ground, in use since at least 1730, when London beat Surrey on 31 August. It also hosted the first manned flight in England when Italian Vincent Lunardi undertook the first balloon flight from this spot.

We called next at the old Whitbread brewery, which in 1750 was the UK’s first purpose-built mass production brewery, but sadly is not only no longer brewing on this site, but Whitbread have divested themselves of their brewing operations altogether.

The next actual pub was just along the block, the Jugged Hare, an upmarket gastropub serving fancy food and small selection of ales including Thornbridge Lord Marple.

Barbican.jpgJust around the back of the Jugged Hare lies the Barbican centre, an arts and cultural centre opened in 1982 and home, so we found, of a bar selling craft beers, in the shape of Bonfire, up on the first floor. No cask ales here, but a few interesting bottled beers, from Redchurch, Thwaites, and more.

A short walk through the unusual Barbican estate and across a footbridge and we came to the local pub, the Wood Street Bar, quite well hidden on the ground floor of the estate. Despite the name, it is a ‘real’ pub rather than a bar, and from the inside you wouldn’t know that you were in the Barbican, until you get to the back of the pub, as we did, and take a window seat looking out onto a lake.

From here we headed for one last drink in the Globe, a large Nicholson’s pub on a prominent position right by Moorgate station. There is a wide range of beers here, including unfiltered Pilsner Urquell from tanks in the pub, which was very nice.

There was just time before closing to agree on a Pub of the Crawl, and we voted for the Artillery Arms, the small friendly Fuller’s local. Congratulations!

Hoxton

22/04/2017 at 11:56 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In April 2017, Artie took us for a crawl around the Hoxton area.

We started out at the Electricity Showrooms near Hoxton Square, an attractive pub with some interesting beers on, though just a couple on cask; these were good though, we had both, Bread & Butter from Vocation Brewery in Hebden Bridge, and Pint from Marble in Manchester. What really let the place down though was some ridiculous doorstaff searching people on entry, asking people in their 40s for ID, and confiscating soft drinks being carried in bags. All this at 6:30 in the evening.

7seasons.jpgStill, that was just a rendezvous point, and the next venue was pretty special. 7 Seasons is one of the new generation of specialist craft beer bottle shops which also have space inside to drink on the premises, still pretty uncommon in London. The range is superb, over 400 beers from around the world. We had quite a variety of beers between us, but personally I had a delicious Mikkeller Session IPA, while Artie’s 1000th unique beer on Untappd was also a Mikkeller, a Citra IPA, and a fine way to mark a milestone.

A short walk along Hoxton Street – setting for Richard Ashcroft’s famous walk in the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony video – brought us to Howl at the Moon, a smallish but busy corner pub with a reputation for interesting beers. On this occasion three of the six pumps were devoted to cider, and the beers were all quite strong for a session; we had a mix of Aurora from the pumps and Beavertown Gamma Ray from the taps.

We left shortly after the music volume was cranked up and headed for the George and Vulture, a Fuller’s pub and the tallest pub in London apparently, with a modern interior and tasty-looking pizzas being cooked at one end of the bar.

Next up, one of the legendary pubs of London, the Wenlock Arms. Its bar of 10 handpumps, and large number of ciders and keg beers, may be bettered in some of the newer and larger specialist craft beer joints, but this one is not only a humble local pub, but provided this sort of range long before it was fashionable, and had to fight for its very existence when a developer tried to replace the pub with flats. So it was great to be back, and we enjoyed a combination of Siren’s Sound Wave, Mariana Trench, and Oscar Wilde Mild. All were delicious.

Around the corner lies the William IV, where we called next. It’s an attractive pub and the staff were very friendly, but the range of interesdting pump clips behind the bar were sadly not representative of the offer this evening, which consisted only of GK IPA on the pumps.

Off now to the final pub, the Three Crowns, a nice revival for an attractively tiled pub that was closed down for quite a while but is back, looking good and serving some good beers under the new management which took over just this month, including on our visit Hackney Kapow and Brew House Small Batch.

We did head for another couple of pubs but they had stopped serving, so we had a quick debate on the Pub of the Crawl before heading to the tube. I’m pleased to say that an old favourite the Wenlock Arms was named Pub of the Crawl. Congratulations!

Bermondsey

18/03/2017 at 12:55 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In March 2017 Paul took us back to Bermondsey, for a crawl taking advantage of the increasing opening hours of some of the brewery taprooms of the Bermondsey Beer Mile.

We started out at Southwark Brewing, who were, I think the first of the local breweries to start opening on Friday evenings, and at the time of writing they’re open several evenings a week. Unusually for the new generation of craft brewers, the focus of Southwark is on traditional cask ales, and several were on offer; we mostly went for the Session IPA as there would be quite a few more venues to follow, and it was in excellent condition as you would expect.

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Further down the railway arches lies Anspach & Hobday, another small craft brewer, this time more focussed on keg beers, generally stronger in content and consequently we downsized from pints for this venue. Some  interesting experimentation has been going on at A&H, with beers on offer including a smoked pale ale, sea salt and chilli stout (sounds interesting but didn’t try this one) and a Belgian bitter. There’s always something new to try here and keep you coming back.

BBNo.jpgHeading deeper into Bermondsey, we came to the next railway arch brewery, Brew by Numbers, which has enlarged its taproom somewhat since I was last here, and added some tasty-looking street food out front for the peckish.We stuck with the slightly smaller servings again, trying a variety of beers between us; I went for a dark beer this time, the coffee & milk stout, which was delicious and definitely left me wanting more.

But, on we go, this time to Ubrew, which is pretty much next door to the previous venue but accessed from the other side. This is a different type of brewery, in which anyone keen to brew can rent a brewing kit and brew their own beer, but with brewery-quality kit and ingredients. Brewing was under way from about three different groups when we visited the taproom, which sells a variety of beer, some brewed on site and some not. I tried a smoked pale ale for the first time (having only heard of such a thing an hour earlier) and it was very good.

I was also very pleased to find in the fridge a 0.5% chocolate stout from Big Drop Brewing;this was pretty good stuff, very tasty for something with such little alcohol. I firmly believe that very low alcohol beers should be widely available in pubs for those times when you want to socialise but can’t drink for whatever reason, or simply want to reduce your alcohol intake for the evening without going home early or switching to water or fizzy drinks. So well done to the guys at Big Drop, I look forward to seeing the Citrus Pale Ale I can spy on your website as being available soon!

We started heading back towards town now, and stopped this time at the Marquis of Wellington, opposite one of the earlier ports of call. For a long time this was a regular backstreet local, but has been renovated into the contemporary style, with a modern interior, good range of drinks, and some excellent-looking pizzas being prepared behind the bar. The beers were from London and included a cask from Southwark brewing and a seasonal beer from Anspach & Hobday, which must have been brewed about 50 metres away, but I was slightly surprised that the pub hasn’t gone even bigger on local provenance; they could probably sell 200 different beers, all brewed within walking distance. Still, pretty impressed with the place, will be back for pizza some time.

We headed next for an old favourite of mine, the Dean Swift in Shad Thames. I do love this place. The beer range is constantly changing, and they think it through; for example I’ve been there to watch Tottenham v Arsenal, and they’ve had Redemption Hopspur (brewed in Tottenham) and Hop Stuff APA (brewed on the Royal Arsenal) next to each other on the bar. Very good work!

Rose.jpgA slightly longer walk now as we began to head back towards London Bridge, and called at the Rose. This is a pleasant, upscale place, with a more limited beer range than the previous venues, and just the one handpump; however the beer on, Ringwood’s Mauler, was good. They also have an interesting floor downstairs made out of pennies; my shoes will appear in someone’s photos of the night, as I was asked to pause and pose my feet for a picture on my way to the loos!

More craft beer could be found at the final venue of the night, The Miller. While this may look like a dodgy 60s place from the outside, it’s actually a young and lively venue, and has a good range of ales and other craft beers, including a very long bottled list.

All in all an excellent evening, and time only to agree on the Pub of the Crawl. Unusually we also visited several breweries on this walk, which were all excellent but the award is ‘Pub of the Crawl’ rather than ‘brewery of the crawl’ – frankly all the breweries are excellent. Although we called at my favourite pub, they have been visited and awarded the title previously, so the Marquis of Wellington was voted Pub of the Crawl for breathing new life into this pub in Bermondsey. Congratulations!

City & Spitalfields

18/02/2017 at 12:36 | Posted in pub reviews | Leave a comment
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In February 2017, I took the crawlers on a short walk around the City, starting on its boundary with Spitalfields and ending up in its centre.

We met at the Williams Ale & Cider House, close to Liverpool Street station, which has a beer-led bar at the front and a cider-led bar further back. Service wasn’t great, but we did eventually manage to buy some Signature Roadies, which we took outside to enjoy in the February evening air. The pub is on Artillery Lane, the name betraying its origins as part of  the site of the artillery grounds which used to be found here, just outside the City, until 1682.

Around the corner in Sandy’s Row, where one side of the street is in the City and the other in Spitalfields, we passed the Sandy’s Row Synagogue, the last surviving Spitalfields synagogue. The building was originally built as a church in 1766 by the Huguenot community, and named L’Eglise de l’Artillerie. It later became a baptist chapel, before becoming a synagogue in 1854.

A few steps further on, next to the former Jewish bakery Levy Bros, which was established in 1710 and whose bakers can still be seen toiling away on the building’s exterior, we came to the King’s Stores. This has been modernised recently and has several decent ales on tap, and I had two Signature beers in a row, the cask Pale this time, while some went for the Dark Star Partridge. All were very nice, and we took them outside to enjoy in the attractive street outside.

We kept on following the City boundary along Middlesex Street, so named because the street was the first in Middlesex on leaving the City of London, whose boundary runs along the western kerb. It is better known though as Petticoat Lane, and has been home to a thriving Sunday market since the 17th century.

We took a very slight detour to see the site of the infamous Goulston Street Graffito, before heading into the Bell, a pleasingly traditional pub, with Landlord, Atlantic, TEA and Doom Bar on the bar.

We crossed back into the City on leaving, and came to Houndsditch, which was originally a defensive ditch outside the City walls, but became a popular dumping ground for dead dogs, amongst other refuse. In 1910 it was the scene of the Houndsditch Murders, in which three police officers were shot dead by a Latvian gang, and which subsequently ended a few weeks later in the famous Siege of Sidney Street.

We also crossed over Bevis Marks, home of the eponymous synagogue, which was built by London’s Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community in 1701 and is the only synagogue in Europe to have held services continuously for over 300 years, despite being damaged by bombing in the blitz, and again in 1992 and 1993.

craftbeercoWe passed through Mitre Square, where one of Jack the Ripper’s victims was found, to the Craft Beer Company. As usual for this chain, the pub is excellent, with some interesting ales on draught, keg and in the fridge; we went for Dark Star’s Art of Darkness, a lovely malty black beer, and Kernel’s light table beer. We had nice seats in the window, and watched the extraordinary number of walking groups passing by, drawn by the seemingly insatiable Ripper industry.

We next went just around the corner to the Old Tea Warehouse, but unfortunately all of their ales had finished, so we left without a drink and headed to Old Tom’s, the basement bar of the Lamb in the beautiful Leadenhall Market. This is a cosy space, where we enjoyed some Common Pale Ale from Wimbledon.

standrewgherkinOn the way we passed some of London’s most interesting architecture, where the ancient and modern rub shoulders; churches such as St Katharine Kree (founded 1280, with the present tower dating from 1504) and St Andrew Undershaft (dating from 1147, present building dating from 1532) sit alongside iconic modern towers such as the Gherkin, Leadenhall Building and the Lloyd’s Building.

Next up, we headed to the Counting House, which was built in 1893 as a banking hall, beautifully converted by Fullers, and serving their range of ales; the pub’s foundations rest on the wall of a 2,000 year old Roman basilica, according to the pub’s website.

map.jpgFor the final stop of the evening, we headed to the Arbitrager, a tiny craft beer place serving only beer, cider and spirits from London; we went for the excellent Neckstamper APA, from a new brewery in Leyton, while we admired the beautiful map on one wall, showing the location of London’s breweries overlayed on a mid-19th century map of the capital.

As to the Pub of the Crawl, we have to give it to the final place for breaking the mould with its London-only range and wonderful wall map. Congratulations The Arbitrager!

Paddington & Edgware Road

29/01/2017 at 10:42 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dave led our first crawl of 2017 (and of the eleventh year of the crawl!) from Paddington to Edgware Road on a chilly Friday evening.

Our meeting point was The Victoria, a corner pub built in the 1830s with a very traditional feel to it thanks to the dark wood, wallpaper and ample supply of books.  This wasn’t the first time the group had visited, it previously featured on a crawl in 2010, (the pub website has more trivia about an alleged visit by Queen Vic herself!)though it seems little has changed.  It wasn’t too busy for a Friday evening.  We stood along the narrow bar which can feel like you are in the way at times but a minor point.  The beers on offer were the usual Fullers plus one guest ale, the very session-able Windsor Knot from Windsor & Eton Brewery, which most of us went for.

We looped around Gloucester Square towards the next pub, past the former homes of Violet Bonham Carter, perhaps now a name more recognisable for her acting granddaughter Helena, and also given our proximity to Paddington Station, Robert Stephenson, the railway engineer responsible for the ‘Rocket’ locomotive.  Sidestepping the really dodgy-looking Sussex Arms, we ended up in The Sawyers Arms on London Street, a pleasant and roomy Greene King pub split over two levels.  In what was to become a theme for the evening, the pub had its own ale, which several of us chose and turned out to be quite drinkable.  Old Speckled Hen and Belhaven’s Robert Burns Brown Ale were the other choices.   Although this is a mainline station terminus hinterland, the area has a mix of tourist pubs with classic features and more modern styled pubs aimed at a contemporary crowd.  In the Sawyers Arms we encountered a tidy, smartly decorated interior over split levels, well worth another visit.

Our next stop The Pride of Paddington had a more modern feel to it, lots of lighter wood and flags on the ceiling catering for longer distance commuters perhaps, there was a smell of hot food throughout, The beer choice was good, with five hand pumps including again the pub’s own ale!  The Caledonian Golden XPA it served had a bitter taste, with slight fruit afters.

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We then made the short walk across Praed Street into Paddington Station itself.  Tucked away on the second level above the shops is The Mad Bishop & Bear, the name referring to a former land owner and a legendary resident from Darkest Peru.  The interior feels like many a nice Fuller’s pub though with the less common option of being able to sit outside just above a station concourse.  Although it is like a fake pub in the roof rather like a film set, it really is a surreal sanctimonious addition to a station forecourt with a full range of Fullers beers from Pride, HSB to Oliver Island.  Here the designers had the roof space to work with and have done a superb job; the interior is smart with high ceilings and every inch the replica of a early 20th century pub.  Outside, the terrace, still on the mezzanine level, had chairs and tables laid out until gradually the station building took over with its grid like vista and vanishing points; we drank our beer in the setting of a surrealist painting.

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We left the station though an option to stay would have been The Beer House, a smallish place on the station concourse itself.  Turning left we soon reached the Alexander Fleming Laboratory and the site of the discovery of penicillin in 1928.  For our purposes, even more significant was the discovery of  Fountains Abbey opposite!  I counted nine hand pumps in this Taylor Walker pub, of course one of which was the obligatory house beer ‘Fountains Abbey Ale’!  (had the Cistercian monks approved it by any chance?)  It wasn’t crowded at around 9.30pm but all the tables were taken so it was doing good business, perhaps because of its location near the station, it was well laid out with a spacious area for standing, decking and seating near the windows, and the customary mix of chalk and dark wood so typical of pub interiors these days

Heading next towards Edgware Road station after a five minute walk we reached The Green Man.  This place has a large ‘burger craft’ sign outside which initially made me think it was mainly a restaurant but fear not it is still a pub.  The beers on offer had not travelled too far: Sambrook’s, Twickenham Fine Ales and Hogs Back.  The Winter Star, a rich old ale, from TFA was good.

Our final stop of the evening was The Chapel a very nice pub which felt more of a local place than the others we visited during the evening.  Alan was looking to jump on the tube early but he would be thankful that we persuaded him to come t o the Chapel, a slightly more off-the-beaten-track pub and well worth a detour. Most of us opted for Black Sheep, though one person made the mistake of ordering Tetley’s Christmas Cracker!  It had been a night where most of the pubs had been trying to get rid of their Xmas stock/winter ale and The Christmas Cracker received the unofficial award of the worst beer of the night – a real sweet and sour fruit blend, almost liquefied Christmas pudding, surely not even meeting the definition of beer, unable to be drunk by any of our number and quite rightly poured away.

The vote for Pub of the Crawl was hotly debated with our first venue, The Victoria, being the winner.  Congratulations!

10th Anniversary crawl around Marylebone

18/12/2016 at 10:54 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In November 2016 the crawl celebrated its 10th anniversary, and Phil marked the occasion by retracing (almost) the route of the very first crawl back in 2006.

We met at the Masons Arms, close to Regent Street, which was pretty busy with the whole ‘Black Friday’ thing in full swing in the West End. The pub was busy too, and very warm, and perhaps would be better visited at a time other than 6 in the evening on Black Friday! It’s a fairly small and cosy Greene King pub with the familiar GK ales on tap (including one badged for this establishment).

After a little background info on the history of Mayfair, we headed next to the Iron Duke, a Fullers pub selling their standard beers plus the odd guest, with a nice Cascadian pale ale on offer when we visited.

As we left we heard a brief history of the River Tyburn, one of London’s lost rivers, which flows beneath the street and whose course we would roughly follow for the evening.

We continued past the neighbouring former homes of Jimi Hendrix and George Handel, marked by blue plaques and now subject of a small museum, to the Spread Eagle. This is a fairly standard West End Taylor Walker pub, busy with some decent ales (such as Old Hooky) but nothing too exciting.

We crossed a very busy Oxford Street and past the showroom of Steinway pianos, to the Cock & Lion, visited on the first crawl a decade ago, where we found a very handy table in the nicely appointed upstairs room, with some interesting old cricket and football pictures on the walls.

A short stroll up Marylebone Lane brought us to the Coach Makers, which was also visited on the first crawl but which was then called the O’Conor Don, and has since been nicely refurbished, and upped its beer range to include more interesting ales such as Canberra, Lubricant and Truman’s Zephyr.

Outside the pub, Phil surprised us all with a set of T-shirts commemorating the 1o years of these crawls, which was a lovely gesture.

10 year crawl

We next moved onto the inspiration for the crawls, the Golden Eagle. When Phil first found the Golden Eagle, and its piano singalongs, he thought he should bring people here, and find new pubs – and so the crawls were born. The singalong is still going strong, although is perhaps a victim of its own success – it was rammed when we called in, although perhaps that was the ‘Black Friday’ effect. It’s certainly worth visiting, but perhaps try the Tuesday or Thursday if you want to be able to enjoy it without the crowds.

A few minutes north and we reached the King’s Head, where a lovely ‘then and now’ map on the wall highlighted our route along the River Tyburn, both as it would have looked about three centuries ago when the area was still rural, and how it looks today; pretty different, to be sure, but with a few constants, including the path of Marylebone Lane which still follows the river.

The Pub of the Crawl has to be the one which inspired 10 years of crawling… the home of the piano singalong, the Golden Eagle. Congratulations!

Westbourne Park

22/10/2016 at 13:09 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In October 2016, Artie took us on a walk around the Notting Hill / Westbourne Park area.

We met at the Sun In Splendour, at the bottom end of Portobello Road, home of the eponymous market, and close to Notting Hill Gate tube station.

Heading north, the next pub was Walmer Castle, which we passed during the ‘Long March’ of Artie’s last Notting Hill crawl in 2012, when he put everyone’s bladders to the test. This time we were able to stop and sample the beers (and loo), and I had a very enjoyable Long Man APA.

We soon came to All Saints Road, which has an interesting history  including being an early centre for the post-war West Indian community in London and the birthplace of 90s girl band All Saints, and headed for the Red Lemon pub. This modern pub is an outlet for the local Portobello Brewery, and we all drank some very nice Portobello VPA (very pale ale).

Roadie.jpgNext stop was the Metropolitan, close to Westbourne Park station which was built by the Metropolitan Railway (and is now on the the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines). This pub does serve some interesting cask ales, as evidenced by the pump clips behind the bar, but on this night the range was fairly small and familiar, and so a few of us broke with tradition and had a keg beer, in this case Signature Rodie All Night IPA, which was delicious.

Union Tavern.jpgA short walk to the far side of the Gand Union Canal brought us to the Union Tavern, the second pub in a row named after its adjacent transport link. This is very much a craft beer house, serving only London-brewed craft beers. I and a few others had Five Points Pale Ale, which was very good, and it was very nice to be able to sit supping them on the canalside, watching the local rats going for a swim in the canal.

After this we headed back across the canal to the Prince Bonaparte, a large pub also serving a local Portobello beer, this time we had the Star, which went down very nicely, as well as Southwark’s Harvard pale ale.

The final stop of the night was the Redan, a more typical central London style Taylor Walker pub, where we drank a nightcap of Keepers Light before heading for the tube home.

We didn’t get around to agreeing the Pub of the Crawl as far as I can remember (it’s possible I’ve forgotten…!) but I’m going to take writer’s prerogative and unilaterally crown the stand-out pub in my view, the Grand Union. Congratulations!

 

Vauxhall revisited

22/10/2016 at 13:08 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In September 2016, Rich took us back to Vauxhall, which we last visited in March.

We met at the Riverside, a smart newish Young’s pub on the riverside (unsurprisingly), very close to Vauxhall. This is a large modern place with a large and attractive outside seating area, with all the usual brands you’d expect at a Young’s.

Once we were all together we headed south, to the Cavendish Arms. Last time we were here the beer was off and there was a burnt curtain; this time the curtain had gone, but the beer was still poor, one of the two being off (Hullabaloo) and had to be returned and replaced with passable Black Sheep.

As we were leaving the heavens opened, and a last minute change of plans took us to the Priory Arms, a superb little pub which was Pub of the Crawl in March. The beer range is still very impressive for such a small pub, and we dried out in here for a while with some superb beer, including Siren Under Current,  Thornbridge Lord Marples and Brightside Best.

Once we were dry, and the shower had passed, we headed to the Surprise, fairly aptly named as it’s quite well hidden down a dead-end backstreet. It is a pretty small pub, and we sat in the small front bar with our Young’s pints before retracing our steps back towards Vaxuhall.

The next stop was the Canton Arms, one of Paul’s legendary closed pubs which we had tried to visit in March. This time it was certainly open and doing a thriving trade from its central servery, with some interesting beers on, and all in good condition.

brown-derbyWe headed towards the Oval now via Albert Square (not the one on EastEnders, but the rather posher one that’s home to Joanna Lumley and was the childhood home of Roger Moore) to the Brown Derby. I’ve been here before after a match a the Oval; it’s a pretty good pub now and although I avoided the call of ‘Tony’s Cocktails’ the beers went down very well.

We continued north, retracing Paul’s steps from March again, to the Pilgrim. This was closed when we tried to visit in March but has since re-opened following that refurbishment, and was very comfortable.

The final stop stop of the crawl was the Rose, on the Embankment near the old London Fire Brigade headquarters , a fairly large and bright Victorian corner pub facing the Thames.

We managed to forget to agree on a Pub of the Crawl on the night, but afterwards agreed that the Brown Derby was a deserved winner – congratulations!

Excursion to Chorleywood

22/10/2016 at 13:06 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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As a regular reader of Pints of View, CAMRA’s Hertfordshire newsletter (which I regularly receive via Stevenage’s Our Mutual Friend, my father-in-law’s local), I’ve long fancied visiting the Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty, which appears in it regularly. Although it’s a Hertfordshire country pub, it’s tantalisingly located within walking distance of a London Underground station, which means it’s just asking for a special trip to check it out.

So, for August bank holiday weekend, some of us had a little excursion to the village of Chorleywood.

I opted for a circular walk, and from past experience it’s always best to get the longest walks out of the way early before bladders are full, so from Chorleywood station we headed south, with a longish uphill walk to the Stag.

This is a bright, airy and pleasant pub, part of the McMullen empire. Quite a few tables were full of people enjoying upscale pub food, but we stuck to the front bar and nursed some decent ales, either part of their regular range or the Olympic-themed seasonal Hop, Skip & Jump.

Chorleywood-001.jpgThe shortest walk of the day next brought us to the inspiration for the walk, the Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty. This country pub has featured in every Good Beer Guide since the current owners took the business on in 2005, since when it has been the local CAMRA branch’s Pub of the Year eight times, and it certainly lived up to expectations.

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It’s a fairly small pub inside, but with a very impressive run of 10 handpumps on the bar offering a range of excellent ales; we tried Summer Lovin, Tring Ridgeway, Mighty Oak Toe Wrestler, Revolutions Club Tropicana, Vale Moon and others, all were tip top. The bar snacks were also superb, and included fantastic sausage rolls, scotch eggs, and toasties – perfect if you need some sustenance to go with your drink but don’t need a full blown meal.

We walked next to the Old Shepherd, beautifully located on the edge of the common. However this was a little disappointing; after a huge range of interesting well kept ales at the previous pub, the Old Shepherd had only Ruddles and Golden Hen.  We all went for the former and it was pretty uninspiring, as were the surroundings, with few other customers and very little atmosphere.

A short walk across the common now to the very attractive 18th century Black Horse, a popular break for dog-walkers by the looks of things, and some better beers including Southwald and 6X. We stopped for Sunday lunch here, which was pretty good and good value, nice meat and plenty of veg and gravy, the only complaint being that the potato ration was pretty tight, and some of them were rock hard.

Chorleywood-006Heading north now we came to the White Horse, which  is a very attractive old pub which describes itself on the sign outside as a ‘Beer House’ and promises a ‘fine selection’ of cask ales.

Sadly this fine selection comprised a single cask ale, White Horse Ale, which we’re pretty sure was re-badged Greene King IPA, and it was pretty uninspiring.

Chorleywood-005a.jpgAnd that wasn’t the only problem they had with signs. They have their own version of the keep calm poster, advertising that “its steak night”. We helped them out by adding the missing apostrophe with a blue biro.

When we left we saw an extra apostrophe on a sign in the car park; it’s surely an odd pub that can’t spell “breweries”. What’s more, on close inspection, someone had presumably dictated wording of the sign over the sign, because the word “comer” was written where a comma should have been!

UPDATE: The White Horse closed in October 2016 and has re-opened under new management

Chorleywood-007.jpg

Another short walk next to the Gate, a modern upmarket gastropub. It’s large with a very nice beer garden, and a few standard beers on the bar (e.g. Doom Bar, Meantime Pale Ale)  and friendly service.

As the evening was drawing in, we set off for the Rose & Crown, which involved a walk across the common and along a golf fairway. This pub sits in a lovely position overlooking the common, and the small bar offers some decent ales; we all went with the Animal Brewing’s Mad Cow. It is also just a 5 minute walk from the station for trains or tubes back into town.

We had a discussion on the Pub of the Crawl but it wasn’t really in doubt; congratulations Land of Liberty!

Leicester Square

27/08/2016 at 20:55 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a very warm evening in August, Tim took us on a short crawl around Leicester Square, in the heart of London’s tourist West End.

We started out at the London Beer House, a fairly new craft beer joint at the top of the Royal Opera Arcade, off Haymarket. The pub is the beer outlet of Pall Mall Fine Wine, a little further down the arcade, which opened in 1818 and is the world’s oldest enclosed shopping arcade. It’s also home to the Stephen Wiltshire Gallery, an incredibly talented autistic artist who came to fame as a child.

The pub itself is small, but benefits from plenty of room to sit or stand in the arcade or street. As for the beers, there were 9 craft beers on keg, and a wide selection of bottles and cans in the fridge. We had a mixture of beers from Time & Tide and Two Tribes breweries, which were all very tasty, although I should note that prices are above average (a two-thirds glass goes for about the going rate for a pint in an average pub) – although the quality is very high.

We walked next via Haymarket – once a hay market for the village of Charing before London extended this far – to the Tom Cribb, a small corner Shepherd Neame pub offering standard Shep ales and strangely incongruous music. Tom was a boxer, and the pub retains some interesting boxing artefacts on its walls.

A short walk via the Swiss Glockenspiel, just in time to catch the hourly chimes, took us to the Imperial, a pretty standard central London Taylor Walker pub. Fortunately we were able to bag a table out front to enjoy the summer’s evening before retracing our last steps to Leicester Square, and past the site of Thurston’s Hall, an early snooker and billiards venue, to the Moon Under Water.

This large Wetherspoon has been a West End feature since the 1990s, and although it was busy there was  room inside, we were able to find a table near the bar, where we had a George Orwell-themed quiz about the attributes of his favourite pub, the mythical Moon Under Water, after which this pub is named.

Another short walk – the pubs come thick and fast around here! – and we came to the Brewmaster, sitting atop Leicester Square tube station. This was the first time I’d been in here, though I’d admired the refit from the outside and wanted to check it out. Greene King have done a very nice job refurbishing this and turning it into something which looks a lot like a modern craft beer bar, which is obviously the market they’re trying to tap into.

Sadly they haven’t followed through with the beer or staffing; there were only four handpumps, two of them GK standards IPA and and Abbott. The only slightly interesting one was from Brentwood Brewery, which we all ordered. These were all poured one-handed by someone who’s clearly never been taught how to pull a pint of beer properly. Worse still, as soon as we tasted it, it was very apparent that the beer was on the turn, with a distinct vinegar taste.

Very poor Greene King, very poor indeed – and this is how you serve our national drink to visitors??

wisdenWe left soon for the final stop, the Porcupine, pausing on the way to admire the Wisden tiling in the terracotta tiles above the tube station, marking their former offices. The Porcupine is a Nicholson’s pub, where we mainly went for the ever reliable Tim Taylor’s Landlord.

Finally we got to discussing the Pub of the Crawl, which is often quite a lengthy process, but not tonight; the London Beer House won unanimously. Congratulations!

 

 

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