18/04/2015 at 13:39 | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Madrid’s famous bar scene centres around tapas, and no visit to Madrid is complete without spending some time drinking a few cañas and eating some tapas in the late night bars along La Latina’s Calle Cava Baja or in Huertas.

But having done that, is there more interesting beer to be found in the city? Well yes, there is, if you look carefully. In a break from tradition of sticking rigidly to London’s zone 1 (central area), here’s a report on a crawl around some of the best craft beer bars in Madrid, undertaken in April 2015.

Note: if you’re in Madrid this week, 20 to 26 April 2015, don’t miss ArtesanaWeek, a craft beer festival around Lavapiés!

Fábrica Maravillas. We started in Malasaña, a slightly scruffy but definitely fun district just on the northern side of the city centre and close to the Gran Via, where the Fábrica Maravillas brewpub opened its doors late in 2012. This small bar, at 29 Calle Valverde, is quite easy to miss if you’re not careful, but well worth seeking out. They brew a range of beer styles on site; we tried the West Coast IPA and the Red Ale (neither on the website but definitely on draught in the pub) and both were lovely, and available by the pint if desired rather than a more local smaller serving. As with the other bars listed (except Ardosa) drinks are accompanied by small snacks such as olives, nuts or crisps.

Fábrica Maravillas is open Mon – Fri 6pm – Midnight, weekends 1pm to Midnight

ArdosaBogoda de la Ardosa. From here, a very short walk to 13 Calle Colón brings us to the Bogeda de la Ardosa. A local institution since 1892, this cerveceria has a beautiful interior, seemingly only a single small bar. However stand to the right of the bar and you’ll soon realise you’re in the way of people passing under the fixed bar to access the small back room, not to mention the loo and staff scurrying back and forth with drinks and food.

A striking feature on the outside of the bar was advertising for two of Britain’s great craft breweries of today, Kernel (of Bermondsey, London) and Brew Dog (Aberdeenshire, Scotland), and the bar featured the only handpumps we saw in Madrid, four of them no less, although sadly they were not in use. While some interesting bottles, including the aforementioned Kernel, were available, the draught range was slightly disappointing, with Brewdog Punk IPA fortunately on offer but otherwise led by international stalwarts Pilsner Urquell and Guinness. Which is a shame, as this place clearly has huge potential to combine its historic pub setting with the new craft beers becoming available locally. Nevertheless, well worth a stop.

Bogeda de la Ardosa is open 8:30am to 2am every day

Irreale. A few minutes walk now across Malasaña to Irreale, at 20 Calle de Manuela Malasaña. This pub serves an excellent rotating range of local and imported craft beers, changing very regularly; while Pilsner Urquell was on offer here too, here it was the limited edition (outside the Czech Republic) unfiltered cask version, which illustrates their passion for quality beer. We tried another brewed a few streets away by the Fábrica Maravillas, the Malasaña Ale, and Jack’s Abby Leisure Time Lager, all the way from Massachussetts. Both were excellent, but by the time you’re reading this (indeed by the time I’m writing it) they’ll probably have been changed for some other equally excellent beers.

Irreale is open Tues – Fri 12pm to 2am, Sat 6pm to 12am, Mon closed

La TapeLa Tape. Just 100 metres down the road at 88 Calle San Bernardo lies La Tape. This corner bar is a little more upmarket and modern than the preceding venues, and a little more restauranty. Drinkers are clearly welcome, though at the time we visited most people were eating, as did we. But not before getting the beers in; and La Tape’s speciality is locally brewed beers, with a choice of beers from around Spain. We tried the Sevebraue Castua pale ale from Badajoz, and the La Virgen lager from Madrid; both were excellent, and accompanied by delicious tapas, all served by very friendly staff. An excellent find.

La Tape is open every day 9am to 2am.

El PedalEl Pedal. The final stop involved a short hop on Line 1 of the Madrid Metro from Bilbao to Atocha, to reach El Pedal, tucked away close to the Museo Reina Sofia. El Pedal has a very small interior with something of a punky feel, in keeping with the slightly bohemian nature of its Lavapiés neighbourhood, but does most of its business from its outside tables on the wide pavement. While we were there, the crowd constantly shifted as different people came and went. El Pedal has a wide range of beers, and we tried the Jahonera pale ale from Madrid and a Citra/Mosaic IPA from Toledo, which was predictably delicious.

El Pedal is open Tues – Fri 6pm to 2am, Sat 12pm – 2am, Sun 12pm – 1am, Mon closed.


Earls Court & Chelsea

12/04/2015 at 20:28 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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For March 2015, Phil took us back to the Earls Court area, our first visit since 2011, taking us on a circular walk through Chelsea and back to Earls Court.

We met up at The Bolton, a large corner pub where Earls Court Road meets Old Brompton Road, and until recently branded as an O’Neil’s. No longer however, it’s now a rather smart airy pub with a few ales on offer, though surprisingly empty for a Friday evening. We mainly went for one from the Channel Islands, Liberation Blonde, although it turned out to be rather bland.

We soon moved on, just across the Old Brompton Road to the Pembroke Arms. Another corner pub, this one was much busier, certainly around the bar – some of the ground floor was reserved for dining – though there is more room upstairs. The beers were reasonable, most going for an Essex Blonde, but more interesting was the pub’s history. Before turning into the Pembroke gastropub, it was the Coleherne, a gay pub since at least the 1950s which counted Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett, Rudolf Nureyev, and Ian McKellen amongst its regulars.

finboroughAfter a short* walk past the flat from An American Werewolf in London we arrived at the Finborough Arms. Recently subject of a feature in CAMRA‘s Beer magazine, this attractive wedge-shaped Victorian pub only recently emerged newly refurbished after years of closure, and has done so with an excellent range of beers; I had a lovely Portobello VPA, others generally had the same or UBU. We learnt that one of the pub’s previous regulars was one Thomas Crapper, of flushing toilet fame, who used to drink champagne in the Finborough before going to work! Sadly there were not many customers when we were in, though the pub is somewhat out of the way; however it has a theatre upstairs so can probably be quite variable depending whether or not there is a play on. Indeed by the time we moved on it was already getting busier.

*Well it should have been a short walk, and that’s how it’s shown on the map above; no-one need know the route Phil actually took! 

On now to the smallest pub of the night, the Fox and Pheasant, tucked down into a very small side road near the Chelsea FC ground. It’s so small, in fact, that Phil thought we might not be welcome if about eight of us arrived together, so decided we should split into two groups so as not to be too overbearing. This turned out not only to be unnecessary but only seemed to make the landlord and customers at the bar suspicious of our motives, as they clearly twigged that we knew each other. Anyway the landlord was very chatty about football – evidently this is a major matchday pub when Chelsea are at home with up to 300 fans crammed in and out in the street, so big groups are clearly not a problem. The pub is very traditional and hasn’t been changed in years, with two simple bars either side of a central servery, a great survivor in an area somewhat overrun by chain or gastropubs, though for ale drinkers there’s only Greene King IPA and Abbott on draught.

clockWe doubled back towards Chelsea now and passed the famous World’s End without pausing for a drink – it looked busy and we were behind schedule – but we did stop at 484 King’s Road to hear how the building used to house Led Zepellin’s Swan Song record label, and at 430 King’s Road, famous as Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s SEX boutique in the 1970s, pioneer of punk fashion, and former employer of shop assistants Glen Matlock, Chrissie Hynde and Sid Vicious. Still owned by Vivienne Westwood, it’s been called the World’s End since 1980, with its iconic backwards-running clock.

The next stop was just around the corner, the Sporting Page on Camera Place. This was a bright, modern and busy pub, but with efficient service of some good ales, including Hopfest, Truman’s Swift and Blindside, Doom Bar and Wandle. The atmosphere was fun and lively though we were able to find a table.

Next, to the Fulham Road, and Geronimo’s King’s Arms. This is an upmarket single bar pub in the shabby chic style, with a decent selection of ales and tables available on a Friday night. They could though usefully add Gents/Ladies signs or pictograms to the toilet signs, which would have saved one of our number from “accidentally” using the ladies.

boltonschurchFrom here we walked back through the beautiful Boltons, home of some of the most expensive property in London, to Earls Court. The crawl officially ended here as the last tube trains east were to run shortly so most of us headed off, though a hardy few stayed for a final one in the Blackbird.

All in all a very fun crawl. A wide range of views were aired on the Pub of the Crawl, but the winner was the Sporting Page. Congratulations!

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