London Bridge & Bermondsey

30/05/2015 at 12:12 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Following this month’s update to the Bermondsey Beer Mile information, including the news that a couple of the breweries were now open on Friday evenings, Paul took us back to familiar territory around London Bridge and Bermondsey for the first Friday crawl to take in a brewery.

After some pre-crawl sustenance/stomach lining in the local late night kebabery of choice, the Cafe Rossi just by the Borough High St part of London Bridge tube, we started out at the Britannia, tucked away in the slightly strange environs of the estate behind Guy’s Hospital where flats, pubs, car parks and medical and educational institutions sit cheek by jowl in a surprisingly quiet area only a couple of minutes form the bustle around London Bridge. The Britannia, which we visited a while ago, specialises in whiskies, with a list of over 130 malt whiskies and a classic water tap built into the bar – a very rare feature these days. We skipped on the spirits though, opting instead for the cask beer fare of Ringwood’s Forty Niner or Fuller’s New World.

Having assembled here, convenient for the tube, we had a longish walk to the next venue – but it was important to get there before closing, as the Southwark Brewing taproom is only open until 8pm on Fridays. As part of the Bermondsey Beer Mile this place is thriving on a Saturday, but rather quieter on the Friday evening with just a few of us there, free to spread out, chat and try the ales brewed on site, including the London Pale Ale, Harvard, Gold and Best.

AHA bit further down Druid Street brought us to the other beer mile venue experimenting with longer taproom hours, Anspach and Hobday. Quite a few people had made it down this far, it was pretty busy inside and out, and again we had a range of their beers between us. A couple of people gambled on a new beer, launched that evening, based only on its intriguing name, The Arch-House. This turned out to be “a sour ale fermented with yeast and bacteria that inhabit our archway”; full marks for experimentation, but thinking about the bacteria didn’t help this slip down quite as easily as their other ales!

To Shad Thames now and an old favourite of mine, the Dean Swift. This smallish corner pub has been serving an excellent range of beers for several years now, and we had ELB’s Orchid, Otley’s Hop Angeles and various other beers while we watched Lancashire getting a tonking in the T20 cricket on the telly.

Next up, a slightly controversially long walk to the next venue, another beer specialist, the Rake. This very small pub – thankfully with plenty of spill-out space in the market – has a huge range of exotic bottled beers, and an interesting range of beers on draught. Although the small bar limits how many beers they can have on draught at any one time, the Oakham Citra and JHB were lovely.

MPNext up, the Wheatsheaf, a classic Borough Market pub once threatened with demolition for the new Thameslink railway viaduct which would have ploughed through the building. Thankfully it was saved, with only the top of the building being sliced open, and after a lengthy closure it has reopened, nicely refurbished indoors, but better yet, with a beautiful new beer garden out the side, underneath the new railway viaduct. A range of Youngs and Sambrooks ales were available indoors; an outside bar is also available but without cask ales (though some decent kegs including Meantime).

Back next to another old classic venue a few doors away, the Market Porter. This is another pub which has specialised in offering a very wide range of quality ales for a long time now, long before it became trendy to do so. Although Borough Market is known now as a major tourist attraction, which doubtless pulls in a good chunk of business today, it also keeps its traditional market hours, opening at 6am on weekdays to serve the overnight market workers coming off shift, who can enjoy its excellent range of real ales available on two sides of the bar, including a bitter brewed in Borough.

Finally, on account of its 1am licence, we decamped to the Southwark Tavern for the final beers of the evening, including Liberation Blonde from the Channel Islands and Andwell’s Five Little Fishes.

So in the Southwark Tavern’s cracking basement area we debated the critical vote of May 2015 – no not the election, the pub and beer of the evening.

After heated debate and a very wide spread of votes, the Britannia was named Pub of the Crawl, and Southwark Brewing’s London Pale Ale was crowned the Beer of the Crawl. Congratulations!



Bermondsey beer mile update

17/05/2015 at 18:08 | Posted in Articles, Crawls | 2 Comments
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Things are moving very fast in the world of London Breweries, so it is time to update our earlier post on the Bermondsey Beer Mile with news on the breweries which have opened since the original post was penned in 2014.

swk1First up, the Southwark Brewery opened its doors not long after our last visit, and a welcome addition it is too. Occupying a spot at the westernmost end of the collection of breweries, the Southwark Brewery is the only one to focus on cask rather than bottled or keg beers, and on entering the spacious bar the sight of a line of handpumps comes as a pleasant surprise. My favourite is the London Pale Ale, a light and hoppy ale of the modern style, a very refreshing pint at 4%, but the brewery has a range extending through a golden ale, a traditional best bitter, and a Russian Imperial Stout.

swk2aThey also do other beers outside of the house range; when we visited they had Harvard American Pale Ale, named after the Southwark boy-done-good who headed to America and founded the prestigious University, and Bankside Blonde, a blond/golden ale.

The drinking area is generous, and is a great space to spend some time trying the range of beers on offer. It’s open 11am-5pm on Saturdays, and at the time of writing is also open Friday evenings until 8pm, although that is not listed on the website so I would suggest phoning / emailing / tweeting etc. ahead of visiting on a Friday to double check if they’re open.

ubrewAnother new entrant since the last write-up is Ubrew. Another quite different prospect from the first breweries, Ubrew is an “open brewery”, where individuals join as members to have access to Ubrew’s professional kit and ingredients, and brew their own beer on 50 or 100 litre kit. As per the usual drill for Bermondsey, they have a taproom open on Saturdays, with several craft beers on draught (keg) and a very large selection of bottles from around the world; having just returned from Spain I was keen to see their Spanish offerings and found about a dozen different Spanish craft beers, to give an indication of their range!

ubrew2The bar is in the heart of the brewery and a couple of teams of self-brewers were busy on their brewing kit while we watched, one of them even having a dog in tow! A number of the members are selling their beer, through the taproom or elsewhere, so in fact this brewery is the home of many microbreweries – I wonder how many full scale breweries will be born here? Pop along to try some brews and spot a future winner.

The taproom is open Saturdays 11am to 7pm.

Don’t forget to visit the main Bermondsey Beer Mile post with details of:

Anspach & Hobday (now also open Sunday 12:00 to 17:00)

Bullfinch Brewery (now also open Sunday 12:00 to 17:00)

Brew By Numbers

Kernel Brewery

Partizan Brewing

Fourpure Brewing


17/05/2015 at 16:06 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In April 2015, we revisited Islington at the hands of Dimo.

The meeting point close to Angel station was a place we’ve visited before when it was a Hobgoblin, but is now the Three Johns, named after some 18th century radicals. Now something of a craft beer pub, there were some interesting ales on including Arbor J Bomb, XT No.1 and the rather better known Dark Star’s lovely Hophead.

Just a short stroll along White Lion Street brought us to the Craft Beer Co‘s Islington outlet, which on the night we visited was hosting a vintage ales weekend, confusing those of us who live in hipster territory who thought the staff were wearing 1940s outfits ironically rather than as a contribution to the retro theme of the day. As ever there was a great range of beers on draught, with our party drinking the Thornbridge Wild Side, Franklin 1066, and East End IPA.

Be here nowJust around the corner next to the Joker, at the end of Chapel Market. A gastropub with a difference, this one has the archetypal kitchen behind the bar (in the mould of the first gastropub, the Eagle) but with a focus on burgers and hot dogs. We didn’t try the food (and nor did anyone else while we were there – a drawback to having such a visible kitchen), but the beers were decent, with Windsor & Eton’s Kohinoor IPA and Kings Evolution Northern Lights keeping everyone happy. The walls are bedecked with famous comedians, and we had some good pub trivia too… the oversized clock in the pub was a stage prop on Oasis’s Be Here Now tour.

A slightly longer walk now to the next venue, though with streets as beautiful as Cloudesley Road it’s hard to mind. Set in this gorgeous part of town is the Crown, a Fullers pub with a traditional layout of different spaces around a central bar. Ales were standard Fullers beers with the seasonal Spring Sprinter making a welcome reappearance.

A few minutes’ walk brought us close to Tony Blair’s former home and we arrived at the Hop & Berry, a pub specialising in London craft beers. It was certainly busier than the last time I was here when we were the only customers (though that was Christmas Eve to be fair!) and a fair number of people besides us were enjoying local beers. I couldn’t resist going slightly outside London for my beer though, Dark Star’s delicious American Pale Ale from Sussex.

jengaA first on the way to the next pub, as half the group managed to get lost after bizarrely declining to follow us down an alleyway en route to the Drapers Arms. This is a bright, spacious pub is located in a lovely residential street, which may explain its somewhat traditional opening hours – so beware on timing your visit, it closes at 10:30. But it’s well worth calling in, they have a range of beers including, on our visit, Truman’s Runner and Sambrook’s Wandle. We also discovered just how bad some of our members are at Jenga, though perhaps it would have been more successful a few pints earlier.

A longish walk to the next pub, though with the benefit of crossing over Lofting Road – named after a distant ancestor of mine who invented the beer engine/handpump (bloody immigrants, coming over here and inventing draught beer!), and who once had a factory nearby. A few minutes on is the Hemingford Arms, or the Hemmy, a traditional lively red-hued pub, with live music and a lively atmosphere. While we’d strayed into zone 2 by this point, it’s pretty close to stations for getting back into town afterwards. We largely drank the Purity Ubu while alternating between the quiz machine and voting on the Pub of the Crawl.

I’m sure the venue of the vote had no bearing on the result, but the final pub, the Hemingford Arms, was duly elected this month’s Pub of the Crawl. Congratulations!

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