Bermondsey beer mile

20/04/2014 at 15:00 | Posted in Articles, Crawls | 10 Comments
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NOTE: this crawl was in 2014; since then there have been some changes, including that Kernel is now open only for off-sales, and several now open for longer hours including midweek evenings; see each brewery’s website for the latest information on opening hours

UPDATE, MAY 2015: new info added here, including 2 new breweries joining the scene

At Easter 2014, we decided to dispense with the Friday night zone 1 pub crawl formula and visit the Bermondsey Beer Mile for a Saturday afternoon brewery crawl instead.

Most people start at one end and walk towards the other, stopping off at all the breweries en route; my cunning plan to miss the busiest crowds was to start in the middle, taking a bus from one end to restart at the other.

We met at Bermondsey tube station at 11am in order to get to the Kernel brewery (open Sat 9am-3pm) before it got too busy; last time I was there in mid afternoon it took a while to get served, such is the popularity of the Bermondsey beer revolution which started here. Well, not quite here, but it started nearby; Kernel’s initial brewery was a little further up the train line, but they soon outgrew their first premises and moved into their current site in 2012.

As you enter the Kernel arch, there is a counter directly ahead piled high with the beers currently on offer. Most are relatively high strength but for a while now Kernel have also offered a lower strength “table beer”, typically around 3-3.3%, depending on the particular recipe on offer at any given time, but they still manage to pack in a lot of flavour even at such low strengths.

BBNTurn right into the next arch and you enter the brewery’s tap area, with lots of long tables packed full every Saturday with beer fans supping Kernel’s draught beers. Today we were ahead of the pack and bagged a table where we drank some delicious draughts, including two types of Pale Ale (Simcoe and Mosaic), and one glass of the London Sour, which was a very interesting beer – sour, as the name implies, but very tasty; not sure I could drink too many in one sitting though.

Leaving the Kernel, we turned right and through a gate into Spa Road and headed to the next stop, Brew by Numbers  (open Sat 11am-6pm) on Enid Street. Of all the breweries, this was the only one I hadn’t visited before, but it conforms to the general pattern; a bright railway arch with a small bar serving some interesting beers on draught or in bottles to take away, and a bunch of people sitting and standing around the entrance enjoying them in the sunshine. Some of our number went for the session IPA (or 11|02 in Brew by Numbers parlance), but a couple of us tried the Saison (or brew 01|02), brewed with Amarillo hops and orange peel; apparently, anyway, though my palette perhaps isn’t refined enough to pick out the orange. All were very good though, and we ended up with one and a half rounds here with the IPAs slipping down that little bit quicker than the stronger Saisons.
AH hop rocket

Moving on, we headed to Druid Street and the shared premises of two breweries, Anspach & Hobday and Bullfinch (open Sat 11am-5pm). These guys had an interesting contraption on the bar, the Hop Rocket, a device holding fresh hops through which the A&H IPA was pulled to add a very late hop finish. You could certainly taste the hops, which added a very floral flavour reminiscent of perfume, though we didn’t feel it was really needed.

Indeed we stayed for a second round to try some different drinks and generally we preferred the bottled IPA which hadn’t had the benefit of the hop rocket. Still, we’re all for experimentation, and I’d certainly try it again with another ale. As well as the IPA we also tried the A&H brown ale, which was very smooth and had a lovely smoky flavour, almost like bacon.

I got my only take-out from here; being a great fan of beers using Citra hops, I couldn’t walk away without a bottle of Citrageddon, a black ale with “a devastating amount of Citra hops”; this is currently sitting in my fridge though, so I can’t say how it tastes!

dirtylittlesecretBy now we were in the Maltby Street area, and wandered along the Ropewalk, a bustling path lined with different stalls selling all sorts of food and drinks (including bottled craft beers) (generally open Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 11am-4pm). The salvage specialists Lassco are now open at weekends too, for an interesting wander around their wares if you have a penchant for vintage stuff.

Phil thought it would be a good idea to get some monster burgers for lunch, and we all tucked into some enormous “dirty little secret” burgers topped with African Volcano, apparently a Mozambique-style peri peri sauce. They looked a little like like a heart attack on a plate, and I felt some trepidation tucking in – there was rather more grease than I would like! – but I have to say it tasted fantastic, and I’m sure was very good stomach lining for the second part of the walk.

Having reached one end of the run of breweries, we walked a few minutes walk south to be chauffeured by the big red taxi right to the other end of the beer mile – take the no. 1 bus towards Canada Water and it will drop you at Beamish House, opposite the Bermondsey Trading Estate, within which resides the Fourpure Brewery (open Sat 11am-5pm).

PingpongAlthough the estate sits under the railway lines and you pass under the railway to reach the brewery, this is the only one of the day not within a railway arch, and the premises feel a lot more spacious than the others. The first thing that greets you is the ping-pong at the entrance and the brewery opens out into a large space, with a well appointed bar on the left serving a selection of very fine ales. We had a mixture of pale ale and amber ale, both of which were very smooth and good refreshment while playing table tennis!

For the final brewery of the day we headed back towards the Blue (or Southwark Park Road to non-locals) and the inauspicious-looking Almond Road, down which is hiding the Partizan Brewery (open Sat 11am-5pm). Like the first few, this one is tucked under the railway arches, and is a rather more confined than the previous stop, but that hasn’t stopped them turning out some very fine beers to put into their beautifully designed bottles (well, the labels that is, the bottles are quite normal!).

PartizanWe mainly went with a recommendation for the bottled Saison, the 6.2% Falconer’s Flight, which was so good we bought a second round of them as last orders were called. I have to wonder whether they should be closing at 5pm when the demand was evidently there to carry on a bit longer, but nevertheless we had a small table outside and enjoyed our ales together with some lovely homemade Brazilian cheese sticks.

With a whole Saturday evening left in front of us, we headed to the local craft beer pub the Dean Swift, where some more fine ales were consumed before topping the day off with a curry.

All in all a highly recommended day out in Bermondsey.

Great Portland Street to Euston

05/04/2014 at 18:32 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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Dimo was back in the lead for April 2014, with a crawl along the northern edge of central London from Great Portland Street to Euston.

We met at the Green Man opposite Great Portland Street tube station, a pub I haven’t been in since 1994, and now a Taylor Walker branded venue. It is fairly large and had a few ales on offer, a couple of standards and a couple of interesting guest ales. Very tempted to try the Shoreditch Triangle IPA but at 6% that was a bit much to start a long session with so we largely went for the rugby themed Old Hooker (cue lots of hooker double entendres). It is a handy meeting point but nothing special, and was rather too full of loud people knocking back some post-work beers. The large but fairly dark interior (only the front has any windows) would be difficult to imbue with much character.

Almost next door though, the Albany – which rather modestly describes itself as ‘one of the best pubs in Great Portland Street’ – was much more bright and open, with large windows on two sides and a gastropub feel. Quite a different crowd in here too, much younger, trendy beards pretty much compulsory. Good rotating selection of ales, of which we mainly went for Windsor & Eton’s Knights of the Garter, with a couple of Doom Bars thrown in.

artichokeCrossing north now and heading away from the busy Euston Road, the next pitstop was the Queens Head & Artichoke, a smallish wood-panelled Victorian corner pub. Its pedigree is much older though, originally being a ‘ramshackle old tavern’ which was one of a number of old pubs pulled down when Regent’s Park was built, and relocated onto this site in 1811 (and later rebuilt again). Though it was small and quite busy inside, we were able to enjoy the beginning of spring at an outside table.

A few minutes walk to the east and down an unpromising-looking alley we found the Square Tavern, a Young’s pub tucked away on the ground floor of a 1970/1980s development. Although they handily stocked London Drinker magazine, the ale range was poor when we visited, there were a couple of ales off and only Eagle IPA on offer. The clientele seemed to consist largely of local office workers celebrating the end of the working week. It wasn’t too busy when we visited, but there was a large courtyard/square outside to spill into if it is busy.

A couple of minutes away on Drummond Street (north London’s best street for a curry) we came to the Crown & Anchor, very nice and well decorated with subtle pop art, and a great selection of ales on the bar;  we had a mixture of Ilkley’s Mary Jane, Woodforde’s Flagondry, George Gale’s Spring Sprinter, and Adnams’ new Mosaic Pale Ale. All of these were good but the Mosaic Pale Ale was the best beer of the night, with a beautiful aroma.

Around the corner lies the Exmouth Arms; it broke poor Dimo’s heart when he learnt that we had been here once before, on a crawl which predates this website and isn’t fully recorded! This is a traditional pub with friendly bar staff, fairly quiet by the time we arrived, and we whiled away our time losing money on the quiz machine.

breeThe final (and longest) stop of the evening was the Bree Louise, a well known and well respected pub which not only has several good ales on draught, but also several racked in casks for ultimate quality. The wooden cask 6X wasn’t a hit, but the others were great, and the landlord (ex Harlequins player Craig Douglas) was very chatty and joined us for a pint. We stayed here for a second final round, and before we left were kindly given some free beer to take away from Brains’s experimental craft brewery.

The final business of the evening (apart from grabbing a burger in the station and catching the last tube!) was voting for the Pub of the Crawl. There was a close vote but in the end the wonderful Bree Louise took the honour, congratulations!

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