City fringe pub crawl

02/04/2018 at 18:19 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Dimo led the group East this time on a cold winter’s night (well, March) in 2018 and chose Kill the Cat as the starting point on Brick Lane, which is a funky bottle shop that also sells draft and does take-outs. Not sure if there was any HCl present and the only crackling was pig fat rather than a Geiger Counter. Artie had a Small Citra Ekuanot Pale from America to start the night.  In terms of further descriptions Schrodinger would argue, you have to see it to know what state it’s in. And not-so-curious latecomers Phil and Tim will have to go back one day….

Next up was the latest sensation, the Tank and Paddle, round the corner and along a bit from Liverpool Street station. It is a modern concept bar which focuses on real and craft ales plus pizza and is a winning formula, as our previous crawl will testify featuring tanks of Meantime ale. The session IPA we had was very tasty.  The place was busy early on a Friday night, but round the corner with the “Beast from the East” behind us suddenly we were on a street away from the crowds. It was like someone had switched off zone one and we were in some run-down industrial quarter.

It’s hard to believe in today’s city hinterland there used to be Shakespeare’s theatre on Curtain Road and on Worship Street/ Hog Lane the Old Bard himself is reputed to have once lived here. It was the second crawl in a row to feature Shakespearean trivia. And not unlike most of our crawls an evening that had started out as A Winter’s Tale not surprisingly ended up with Much Ado About Nothing.

The pub chosen next was the Long Arm Pub and Brewery, it had neo-classic features, such as ceramic tiling on the walls, its own brewery to the side, high ceilings, pipework visible and a long bar capable of serving quite a few different beers. On this occasion, in the heart of London on a Friday night it was surprisingly only half empty. The beer was good, continuing the IPA run most of us had the Jucy Pale or the Lucky Penny  and we were in awe of the place.

The next bar we went to Finch’s (a Young’s pub) was already tarted up for St. Patrick’s day that weekend – and we ended up sitting outside under the heaters overlooking Finsbury Square, most notably an underground car park. The Chelsea Blonde was cloudy but in this new unfiltered age some tourists were happy to accept. Credit to them they changed it on request.

On the corner nearby was the Singer Tavern, with more tiling than a swimming pool but a name taken from a old sewing machine, one of the ale choices we made was in fact cider and the way the taps were displayed it was confusing.

We finished the evening by Old Street roundabout in the newly opened Craft Beer Company , a huge improvement on its predecessor establishment and a veritable heaven for beer lovers, and there was much to choose from. The conversation flowed, the pub of the crawl was given to the Long Arm Pub and Brewery and this was followed by a metaphorical battle between beer hunter and bar fly, won by the former, with so many beers to choose from, albeit controversially, we stayed for a second round of drinks. By that time we had forgotten what we were drinking, mine had a fashionable permahaze, probably the Styrian Dragon, we also tried the Werrd! and the Little Things That Kill by Weird Beard…..with so many to wacky names to choose from it’s very much As You Like It.

We discussed the evening’s choices and Dimo explained that he had gone for a sextet of nontraditional pubs/beer outlets – and it was true that was not any dark wood panelling, etched window or Doom Bar badge present at any stage tonight. In fact Dimo had perfectly addressed Tony’s existential question at the end of the last crawl, whether Schrodinger would agree is another matter.

Tanks, tiles, tattle, taps, tastes and trivia, what more was there to like?

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Cheapside

03/02/2018 at 13:26 | Posted in Crawls | 3 Comments
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To kick off 2018, I led a walk around the Cheapside area of the City, taking in some old and new pubs, and eventually a philosophical discussion about what a pub actually is.

We met at the Ship, a small traditional Nicholson’s pub, tucked away down a small alley connecting Gracechurch Street with Cheapside. It sits on the site of an old coaching inn, the Talbot, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, but still gives its name to the alley; the pub itself was renamed the Ship after its 17th century reconstruction. It is small and cosy inside but there’s plenty of room to spill out into the alley outside, and they manage to pack several good ales onto the bar.

Leaving the 17th century, we headed east and past a symbol of the 21st century, the Walkie Talkie, which looms large over Cheapside, and along Plantation Place, which has a fascinating piece of art on the paving, commemorating 2,000 years of the City’s history. Across the road in the lower level arcade of Minster Court we came to the Tank & Paddle, a large and modern craft beer and pizza bar. There are no real ales here, but its key feature is that it sells Meantime Brewery beer fresh from tanks (as opposed to casks or kegs). Accordingly we went for a rare lager, to test their brewery fresh concept, and it was pretty good, certainly a big step up from one of the mainstream keg lagers.

The ShipThe third pub of the night was the second called the Ship, this time in a beautiful tall, narrow Grade II listed building. Inside you feel a long way from the City of London, the small bar serves a couple of ales and the atmosphere feels like a small local.

Next we turned the corner into Seething Lane at the church of St Olave’s, named after Norwegian King Olaf who fought alongside Ethelred the Unready against the Danes at the Battle of London Bridge in 1014; the church was built on the site of the battle. It was the church frequented by Samuel Pepys, who is buried here with his wife. Other interesting burials include Mother Goose, recorded in the burial register in 1586; and Mary Ramsay, who is believed to be the carrier of the plague to London in 1665; she was the first Londoner to die of the disease, and that year just this tiny church alone registered 365 plague victims. It is worth pausing to look at the graveyard’s gates, described as “ghastly grim” by Charles Dickens; the gates are inscribed with their date of erection (1658 – they survived the great fire) and contain a trio of skulls with cross bones.

Cheapside crawl (5)A few paces down we came to the Draft House Seething, a large modern square bar, and another to offer tank beer, this time Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic. There are just one or two cask ales, but a very wide range of keg and bottled beer.

At the other end of the street lies another historic church, All Hallows by the Tower. As the name suggests, it is just next to the Tower of London, but is in fact much older, having been founded in 675; the oldest part of the church today is a 7th century arch, which was partially built with recycled Roman tiles. The bodies of those executed at the Tower were brought to the church before burial. Happier moments include the baptism of William Penn, who went on to found Pennsylvania, in 1644, and the marriage of John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States, in 1797.

Across the road lies the next pub, the Hung Drawn and Quartered, named for the grisly end that came to some of those executed at the Tower. It is a fairly standard Fuller’s pub with the usual decent ales on the bar (and on Paul’s trousers on this occasion…)

Cheapside crawl (4)Back along Cheapside now, we paused to admire 33-35 Cheapside, now beautifully lit in the shadow of the Walkie Talkie behind. Back when Cheapside was London’s main meat market (cheap being the Old English for market), the main pub in the area was the Boar’s Head Inn, made famous by references in several of Shakespeare’s plays, and it was the base of Falstaff in Henry IV Part 1. The pub is sadly long lost to a road scheme, but this building commemorates it through the sign of a boar’s head poking through grass, and portraits of the heads of Henry IV and Henry V on the facade.  The original Boar’s Head Inn sign is now at Shakespeare’s Globe.

We walked down the beautiful Lovat Lane next; this used to be Love Lane, on account of the ladies of the night that used to frequent this alley, to the Walrus and Carpenter, another Nicholson’s pub with a pretty good range of ales on the bar. The pub is very close to Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London started in September 1666. It was not taken so seriously at first; the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, said “Pish! A woman might piss it out!”

Cheapside crawl Tony Paul Dimo Dave EdAs it was it destroyed most of London’s civic buildings, St Paul’s Cathedral, 87 churches, and around 13,000 homes; the death toll was reportedly as low as six, although it is believed now to have been much higher. The Monument itself stands sentry in the heart of this neighbourhood, a 62 metre high stone column with a viewing platform at the top. The inscription for many years falsely blamed Catholics for starting the fire; the words were only chiselled out in 1831.

Around the Monument lie three pubs; we chose the Hydrant, a modern Fuller’s format which sells their usual ales but also a large range of craft beers, mainly on keg. The Hydrant is attractively fitted out with a fire theme, including ceiling lights made of fire extinguishers and a nice room upstairs with fire station doors. A shame they didn’t commemorate my distant ancestor, John Lofting, who in the aftermath of the Great Fire registered patents for two of his inventions, the fire engine and its scaled-down cousin, the beer engine – giving the world draught beer!

Anyway, the Hydrant provoked an interesting discussion; is it a pub or a bar? And what’s the difference? Some are obviously one or the other, but some are harder to pin down. I’m not sure that we really resolved this, but I think most generally bought into a theory I passed on (can’t remember where I first read it); that a pub is purpose-built and a bar is not; if a pub closes and is converted into something else, you look at it and think straight away “that used to be a pub”. A bar is a retail unit that sells alcohol; if it turns into an estate agent, who would know it had ever been a bar? It’s not a perfect system, as some of the oldest pubs started out as houses, and many of the newest micropubs started out as shops, but I think it’s a fairly good rule of thumb for most, so I’m sticking with it!

The second long debate was the Pub of the Crawl. There were wide views on this, proving that there’s no such thing as the perfect pub, everyone has different perspectives. But in the end there has to be a winner, and we voted for the first Ship (in Talbot Court); some of the newer pubs may have been more spacious and able to serve a wider range of beers, but for me, they can be replaced; if we were to lose a 17th century pub down an alley, a part of our history is lost. So congratulations to the Ship!

We also occasionally nominate a Beer of the Crawl; and being suckers for Citra, we (mostly) went for, and greatly enjoyed, Siren’s Suspended in Citra at the Hydrant. Congratulations to Siren!

Borough

03/12/2017 at 16:20 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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For December 2017, Ed took his first crawl, as we walked from Southwark to London Bridge via Borough.

As ever we met close to the tube for convenience, and you can’t get closer to Southwark station than The Ring, directly across the street, and named after a boxing arena of the same name, which was destroyed in the last war. It’s a fairly small corner pub, which was fairly busy but without any queue at the bar and space to stand. As it’s a small pub the beer range isn’t vast, but it is good, with several good casks and a range of craft beer on the keg lines.

Boundary.jpgWe headed east from here, past the Dog & Pot sculpture recalling Charles Dickens’s memories of this corner, to a very newly reopened pub, Mc & Sons, which prior to its refurbishment had been the Charles Dickens, and is owned by the same company as The Ring. This has a different vibe, though, with an Irish theme, but tastefully done, with weathered wood all around and a gorgeous snug at the front of the pub. The beer range included some excellent beers sourced from Irish breweries including Boundary Brewing of Belfast and Kinnegar of Donegal, alongside a good range of more local casks.

King AlfredOn leaving we called at the Crossbones graveyard before heading to the Gladstone, or the Glad; sadly on this occasion it was closed for a private party so we had to continue, pausing in the beautiful Trinity Church Square. As well as a beautiful church-turned-orchestral rehearsal/recording space, the Henry Wood Hall, the centre of the square hosts a statue of King Alfred, believed by many to be London’s oldest statue, having been ordered by Richard II as one of a set of eight for Westminster Hall in 1395.

A few more steps and we reached the Roebuck, a good pub on a prominent corner site, with a smallish but good range of cask and craft beers. Interestingly this sits across the street from the site where building work in the 1990s turned up a Roman grave, which experts at the Museum of London believe is the only known grave ever found of a female gladiator.

theotherroomWe came next into Tower Bridge Road, and the first micropub we’ve ever called at one one of our zone 1 crawls, The Other Room. In common with the typical micropub formula this is a small former shop, kitted out with wooden seating and a small bar, though unusually the focus is on craft keg beer rather than cask ale, and prices were higher than you may expect at a cask micropub. Nevertheless it was a very homely find, and the beers were all local Bermondsey/Rotherhithe beers.

A few minutes to the north we came to the Simon the Tanner, a good pub which is larger than it looks, extending some way to the back. There is a range of good cask and craft keg beers, with the local theme continuing here with several of us going for the Zeus Pale Ale from Kernel, who kick-started the Bermondsey brewing scene a few minutes’ walk to the east.

Next up we headed close to London Bridge station for the Rose, which had once been in the crawl itinerary but was, when we arrived, in an advanced state of demolition; someone hadn’t done their homework! Fortunately they completed their refurbishment and reopened the pub a few months later, and it remains a lovely interior, though sadly with just a solitary handpump, which on this particular evening was dry; they had a couple of decent kegs though including Shipyard Rye Pale Ale, which we went for.

A very short hop away lies the Horseshoe, the last stop of the evening. This is quite a large pub, which feels like it could support a larger range of interesting beers being on the cusp of where London’s brewing centre of Bermondsey rubs up against central London, but the ales were fairly standard (Hobgoblin, Brakspear).

Finally we had quite a long debate on the Pub of the Crawl, with various different opinions; but eventually we settled on Mc & Sons, in recognition of the amazing job they’ve done in refurbishing the pub such that you would be hard-pressed to notice that the building it sits in was pretty much gutted and rebuilt over the last couple of years.

And we also nominated a Beer of the Crawl this month; Kernel’s Zeus Pale Ale, as drunk in the Simon the Tanner. Congratulations!

Islington

02/09/2017 at 16:48 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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At the start of September 2017, Dimo took us back to Islington for a walk between Angel and Highbury & Islington.

We met at the Alma in Chapel Market, which has been taken over and refurbished by One Mile End brewery, with a good vibe and an excellent range of beers including of course One Mile End’s own, including Bavarian Breakfast, which is probably not the sort of breakfast to consume on a weekday…

Once assembled, we headed to the nearby Islington Town House, another relatively recent recipient of a refurbishment, this time by Hippo Inns, including pump handles made of fork handles. The pub is comfy on all floors, service very efficient and friendly, and a good range of beers on offer, we all went for Orbit’s IVO which was very good.

Close by lies the similarly named Islington, which has less of a pub feel as it functions largely as a gig venue, but nevertheless it was a very pleasant spot to spend some time, and although the range of beers was smaller than in some of the larger and more specialist pubs this evening, they were interesting ones; we largely went for an Italian session IPA, which certainly made a change.

A slightly longer walk now up Liverpool Road, past the Business Design Centre which started life as the Royal Agricultural Hall; the high pavements on Liverpool Road are a legacy of the days when the street was full of cattle and pedestrians needed protection.

The next stop was the Regent, the busiest pub of the evening, possibly because they were showing the evening’s England match (although most weren’t watching it, so it may just be popular!). The beer range was decent (if not quite as exotic as some of the specialist venues on this crawl), and most went for Luppollo Pale Ale (from Hackney, not to be confused with its Canadian namesake).

TaproomWe headed next to Upper Street and the Taproom, which as the name suggests is a specialist beer pub with a brewery taproom feel and a range of interesting beers including up to eight casks served by gravity from a very unusual stillage behind the bar; the Hackney Kapow! which I had was excellent.

A slightly longer walk now, off the main roads to the Duchess of Kent, tucked away near Highbury Corner. This fairly large and bright pub was welcoming, and we enjoyed the Young’s ales or Camden Pale Ale before heading to the final call of the night.

So last up was the House of Hammerton, which as the name suggests is part of Hammerton Brewery’s empire, showcasing all their beers a few streets from the brewery. My cask N1 was in perfect order, while some went for more exotic offerings, either from Hammerton itself or guests such as Stone, Magic Rock, Spanish brewer Mala Gissona.

So as usual we voted on a Pub of the Crawl at the end. This was tricky, there was some very good competition, but in the end we agreed on the Taproom on Upper Street. 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.

Southwark.jpg

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!

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.

Chorleywood-003

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!

 

 

Craft beer in Athens

11/06/2016 at 16:30 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Visitors to Greece will appreciate that is a country whose drinking culture is based more around wine and ouzo, and while beer is plentiful, much of it seems to be fairly bland international brands such as Amstel.

However, as elsewhere, craft beer is emerging in Greece, and if you’re visiting there are quite a few interesting microbrews worth seeking out.

I was lucky enough to be in Athens this week, and here are some bars around the centre of the city that I recommend checking out.

Athens-026First up is Athens Beer, a bar/restaurant on Nikis, just a few minutes from the heart of the Plaka district and close to Syntagma metro, with a terrace on the street for warm days/nights. There are four beers on draught, which is better than the typical venue in Greece, although the only Greek beer on draught was Alfa (Άλφα), a standard pale pilsner, together with some imports from Belgium (Vivem Imperial IPA), Germany (Erdinger) and the Czech Republic (Krušovice Imperial).

Athens-027.jpgBut the bar specialises in bottled beers, which allows it to offer a huge range of beers, both Greek and foreign. The bar staff were very helpful and knowledgeable, able to describe the beers and their styles very well in English, and able to recommend some good beers to try.
They stock a range of beers from the Septem microbrewery, based on the island of Evia, including a delicious Pale Ale called Friday. Other Greek microbrews I sampled included Corfu Special Red Ale, and a Volcan Black, a dunkel brewed in Santorini.

Athens-063.jpgStill on the northern edge of the city centre, Beertime can be found in Iroon Square in Psiri, close to Monastiraki metro. There are several tables on the pavement and the whole façade opens up, to make the best of the warm weather.

Beertime has several draught beers, including at the time of my visit Greek microbrews such as Septem IPA, EZA Odyssey Red Rhapsody, and Siris Voreira Wit. The bottled range was extensive, and also focussed on Greek microbreweries,with a wide range of beers from across the country. My drinks came with some complementary mezé.

Another modern venue is Hops Beer and Burgers, on pedestrianised Drakou a stone’s throw from Syngrou-Fix metro station and a few minutes’ walk south of the Acropolis museum.

Athens-079.jpgAs the name suggests, this bar/restaurant focussed both on craft beer and on burgers, although other food is available! The venue is modern with a large number of tables out on the pavement.

The draught range is quite small and includes only one Greek beer, although this was my first beer from the city itself, a very tasty pale ale from Athineo (ΑΘΗΝΕΟ). The bottled range was large, extending to around 20 Greek microbreweries and a similar number of international beers.

I hope that gives you some options for tasting Greek beers on a visit to Athens, enjoy!

Information correct in June 2016.

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