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!


Bethnal Green

30/05/2016 at 17:09 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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My turn to lead at the end of May, and I decided to push the boundaries, starting and ending in zone 1 but following a circular route through Bethnal Green.

We started at the Well and Bucket, a cracking pub near the top of Brick Lane. It has a distressed interior with exposed bricks and old pub tiling, and a huge array of beers, particularly bottle and keg, although we stuck with real ale and drank the Gorgons Alive, a nice golden ale, before moving east.

The walk east was a longish one but gave me a chance to fill people in on the history of the area and its links to gangland characters of old, most notably the Krays for whom this was a centre of their empire; we passed St Matthews Church where their funerals were held, St James’s where Reggie married, and Pellicci’s cafe, going strong since 1900, where the Krays used to hold court.

Bethnal Green crawl-001 Sun TavernThe next pub was the Sun Tavern, much smaller than the Well and Bucket but sharing its hipster bare brick interior style and also focussing on interesting beers, though served from an interesting back bar rather than handpumps. Nevertheless the range included some interesting beers including a couple from Five Points and Camden’s Inner City Green.

A short walk east took us past the Salmon & Ball, an old pub not yet gentrified, outside which two weavers were hung in 1769 for taking part in the Cutter’s Riots over the poor wages of the local weavers. The pub sits on the junction where Bethnal Green tube station lies below; this was the scene in 1943 of one of Britain’s worst civilian disasters when 173 people were crushed to death on a stairway as people were entering the station during an air raid.

Very close by and marked with a blue plaque is the former home of 18th century English boxing champion Daniel Mendoza, also known as’Mendoza the Jew’, whose 1789 book The Art of Boxing revolutionised boxing tactics.

A few metres on underneath the railway arches is a row of new bars and restaurants, amongst them Mother Kelly’s, a craft beer bar with an enormous range of bottled beers and 22 on draught. I had a lovely Kees Session IPA from the Netherlands, others had Left Handed Giant Kolsch from Bristol or Pressure Drop Pale Fire all the way from Hackney, a whole 20 minute walk away!

Bethnal Green crawl RedchurchA short walk past the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, part of the V&A Museum, and York Hall, a 1,200 capacity boxing venue with Turkish baths below, and down a frankly dodgy-looking alleyway, and we came to the Redchurch Brewery, another railway arch operation and very similar to the Bermondsey Beer Mile breweries. This one’s bar is open much later though and was doing a fairly brisk trade on a Friday evening. The beers are served in halves or two-thirds and between us we drank the locally themed Shoreditch Blonde, Bethnal Pale Ale, Paradise Pale Ale, and Hoxton Stout.

Bethnal Green crawl-009.jpgAnother slightly longer walk now as we head westwards, to the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, the first time we’ve called into a working men’s club  on our crawls. This one’s a bit special though, because its basement bar has been taken over by the Three Sods Brewery as their taproom, and they have created a very homely space to sample their cask ales.

A short walk brings us through the very nice area around Jesus Green, which gives a taste of how lovely the whole area could now look if most of the Victorian slums had been renovated rather than replaced with flats in the 1950s, and to Columbia Road. Being a Friday night the street was just a quiet residential street, but it really comes to life on Sunday mornings when the flower market is in full flow.The very nice Royal Oak pub is a favourite of film-makers, having stood in for the Blind Beggar in the Krays, as Samoan Joe’s in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and being the setting for 1990s sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart.

A short walk up towards Hackney Road now for the final stop, the Marksman. This is a smallish but lively pub, and another one with some interesting beers sourced locally, including Hackney Brewery itself.

Bethnal Green crawl Three Sods.jpgFinally, the Pub of the Crawl… after some debate, we decided that the interesting venue, warm welcome and tasty beers in the Three Sods taproom in the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club made it a worthy winner.

The Beer of the Crawl was hotly debated, but the vote ended up going to Camden’s Inner City Green. Congratulations to both!

Islington to Hoxton

19/08/2012 at 11:09 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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During the break between the Olympic and Paralympic games in August 2012, Dimo took us on a crawl from Islington to Hoxton.

The meeting point this month was the Prince of Wales, close to Angel tube station. It’s a very unpretentious pub for the area; it sits alongside the canal in a lovely part of Islington, and just a stone’s throw from the home of one Boris Johnson, but managed to be compared to the Queen Vic by Rich! It’s a perfectly decent pub with Doom Bar amongst the ale options, but it remains largely unadulterated and has not (yet at least) succumbed to a radical refurbishment.

It was a hot evening so we stood outside, and watched as Radio 1’s Chris Moyles arrived and stood outside chatting to the other guys also outside. By chance one of my wife’s friends happened to be at the pub, and identified Moyles’s companions as 1990s Britpop group Shed Seven.

Once Phil arrived we headed just round the corner to pub no. 2, the Earl of Essex. This is a lovely traditional pub building from the outside, but with a clean, bright, modern gastro-style interior. However, a glance at the bar shows that the focus is on quality beer, with several interesting ales on the handpumps, and an even larger range if craft beers on tap. I went for a Harbour Brewing Amber ale, which was very nice, although I think I preferred Phil’s Merlin’s Magic from Moor, which were enjoyed out back in the sizeable (for inner London) beer garden.

We made another very short hop to the next pub, the Island Queen. This is a well known pub which I’d not made it to before, so I was pleaed to give it a go. Plenty of other people had had the same idea, with quite a large crowd out the front of the pub, almost hiding the lovely pub architecture on display, including large curved panes of glass. There were fewer beers on the bar than at the last pub, but that’s hardly surprising given the Essex’s range; and what they did have was fairly good, with a nice guest ale in the form of Sunny Republic’s Beach Blonde. We took a table inside, as most of the punters were enjoying the warm weather outside, which allowed us to marvel in the interior design, a great piece of Victorian pub heritage.

Another very short walk brought us back to the canal we started on, only this time the pub was right on the canal, and aptly called The Narrow Boat. Alongside the Pride and Doom Bar were two London brews, Wandle from Sambrooks, and East London Brewery’s Nightwatchman. With some of the latter pair in hand we joined the people enjoying the canal, and dodging the occasional speeding cyclist!

From here we headed east along the canal, part of the Regent’s Canal, which provided a route around London between the Thames at Limehouse and the Grand Union Canal, the M1 of the canal era. I feel I should say that while this is a nice walk by day, the canal is not well lit and should probably be avoided after dark, especially if you’re not familiar with the area.

The next pub, slightly north of the canal, was the Baring. This feels much more like a community pub than the last couple, with adverts for the pub cricket team etc., but it’s a nice little corner pub with a friendly landlady and some nice ales on, including Harvey’s Best, Tim Taylor’s Landlord, and Brains SA.

Still heading eastwards, we came next to the Rosemary Branch, a large corner pub with a theatre upstairs. There were no shows on when we visited, but the pub itself is nice, with some decent ales on, and some bizarre nick knacks, including quite large German and British model planes hanging from the ceiling!

We headed east once more, along a less than glamourous route as the charming townhouses which have been such a featured to date are replaced by a large housing estate. We eventually came to the Stag’s Head, once a Truman’s pub, as evidenced by the original (if now painted) exterior. Sadly while real ales were advertised none were on offer, and even half the lagers weren’t available – so it was Becks all round, surely a first for us! Even the glasses weren’t sure about their contents, as Artie’s somehow managed to slip off the table and onto the floor without being touched. Fair play to the barmaid, who offered and gave a fresh pint without us even asking for it.

We would have ended it there, and we would have been within a short walk of Hoxton station (on the very edge of zone 1), but we fancied ending the night on a high, or at least on a higher quality beer than Becks, so we turned north along Kingsland Road and headed for the Fox, close to Haggerston station. Although this took us into zone 2, we knew that the Fox would be a reliable source of good beers; and I’m sure it didn’t escape Dimo’s attention that he would be home within a few seconds of leaving, while some others had a rather longer journey back home to south and west London! Anyway it was a fine pub to end on, and I’m pleased to say that we managed to make the last southbound Overground train and make our connections to get home without resort to the night bus!

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