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!


21/05/2016 at 11:11 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a warm(ish) Spring evening in May 2016, Dimo took us back to Islington.

We started out at the Angelic on Liverpool Road, a bright and airy pub a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of Upper Street. As well as a couple of familiar ales, there was a house beer on cask, Angel’s Tears,  which we all went for which wasn’t bad, quite a dark malty ale.

Further along Liverpool Road we came to the Pig and Butcher, a smaller and more food orientated pub, with a large blackboard highlighting where in the UK the meat on the current menu came from. The very friendly bar staff served us all with the American Pale Ale from the Crate brewery in Hackney Wick. This was very light, very fruity and very drinkable.

Next we headed east and across Upper Street to Essex Road and the Old Queens Head. This is a large and busy pub, which was serving Truman’s Runner amongst other familiar ales.

New RoseJust a short walk north brought us to the New Rose – just another pub, as its sign and website describe it! Actually it’s a much better than average pub, with a nice range of ales including beers from Redemption, Five Points and Truman’s, and a nicely decorated interior. It was pretty quiet when we visited, though – which I only hope is down to lucky timing on our part.

We moved east again but ended up at North by North West – a Hitchcock-themed place on New North Road. This has many Hitchcockian bits and bobs, and appropriately enough N1 beer from Hammerton, which we consumed while playing a few cheeky games of Connect4.

N by NW connect4Nearby along the strangely wide Linton Street we reached the Hanbury Arms. This is a fairly large and high-ceilinged pub retaining some nice old features such as a Charrington back bar. It was a little empty though in comparison with some of the other pubs and could use a livelier atmosphere, but the beers were decent, including Purity’s Mad Goose.

Back towards Angel a bit and we came to the gastro Duke of Cambridge, much livelier and with some drinking space outside. The beers were good, including, the very local Pitfield and unusually St Peter’s beers on draught, which you don’t often see in pubs other than their own, but nice to see given the location of the pub in St Peter’s Street – not sure whether or not that’s a coincidence! We were pleased to discover the Countdown game, although the carefully laid trap we’d laid on for the guys we dragged back in from outside failed when they stood too close together so you could only see the letters ANKERS carefully arranged behind them…

Finally we headed back towards the tube and Angel town centre with a late call at the Brewhouse and Kitchen. This is a nice little chain of quite large American style bars with a great range of beers, including cask ales brewed on site.

At the Brewhouse we got down to the final business of the night, and voted the New Rose the pub of the crawl. Congratulations!



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!


18/02/2014 at 20:58 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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In the midst of 2014’s very wet winter, we braved the wind and rain on Valentine’s night for a walk around the Finsbury area of Islington, led by Phil.

Not for the first time we started near Angel, but this time at the Charles Lamb, a delightful and lively corner pub in Elia Street; the pub was named after the author in 2005, as he used to live around the corner in Colebrooke Row. It has a small but excellent range of beers, and we largely went for Windsor & Eton’s Knights of the Garter, with one or two Hopheads thrown in for good measure.

We then headed south and paused at Spa Green to get a glimpse of Saddlers Wells Theatre through the trees, founded by an artesian well in 1683 and a notorious place of “relaxation” soon afterwards.  A place to go if you didn’t have a valentine for the night, perhaps.  But not this particular night!  The curiously named Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker on St John St was next up. Approached from the north it appears to be a smallish corner pub, but in fact it extends along the side road and is very spacious towards the back. A house beer has been seen on the bar before apparently but wasn’t in evidence when we were in, but the Deuchars IPA, Flying Scotsman and Theakstons Black Bull were, and slipped down very nicely.

Continuing south we gazed upwards at the 1968 housing project – the brutalist styled Finsbury Estate – and the extremely high Michael Cliffe House, the site of many suicides in the 70s.  We came next to the Peasant, a large one-room gastropub (quite possibly the 2nd in the UK), with the foodie bit largely confined to an upstairs area, leaving the main bar feeling very much like a decent pub. I went for an American Pale Ale from the Hackney brewery (founded by a couple of guys who worked together at the Charles Lamb and the Eagle, which we come to later), others enjoyed the Bath Ales Barnsey and Two Cocks Roundhead bitter.

cheersThe walk was made a little longer by an explanation in the rain of the Spa Fields area, its role as a weekend “resort” for the less well-off and later where the influential  Spa Fields Riots took place in 1816.  There was also the “boneyard” – the Spa Fields burial ground – built to hold 1,316 but hosting around 80,000 burials curiously commemorated by the local council with a information board. We passed along Exmouth Market to the Wilmington. (We skipped the excellent Exmouth Arms as we’ve visited it on a previous crawl.) The Wilmington is a largish corner pub doing a good trade in Valentine’s meals when we popped in. Five interesting ales were on; I went for a lovely Twickenham Sundancer, while some others went for Trumans Blindside, all served in nice handled glasses.

We paused in Coldbath Square – another site of a well – before making our way to Greene King pub opposite the Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office (on the site of Coldbath Prison), the Apple Tree, which was surprisingly quiet with just a few regulars in when we called in, though it’s likely to be much busier after shift changes. Sadly there was no mention of the 18th century strongman Thomas Topham, who was a legendary landlord entertaining his guests with outrageous acts including raising three hogsheads of water using his neck and shoulders.  The beers were decent enough but from the standard GK range, so nothing revolutionary on the taste front. They were very good about the glass I accidentally broke to my horror, when my jacket caught as I squeezed out of the table when we were leaving.

A short stumble through the increasingly menacing winds brought us downhill to the Coach & Horses, a small corner pub, which like the previous stop was fairly empty by the time we arrived, as we were getting close to last orders. I went for a Brentwood BBC2, which at 2.5% was a very good way to slow the pace after five pints, with Doom Bar being the main beer on offer.

Another pause, this time at the site of where Charles I supposedly tasted the latest food craze – a pickled egg – preceded the final stop of the night – the Eagle on Farringdon Road, credited with (or blamed for, depending on your view) starting the gastropub revolution when it was opened in this form in 1991. It was too late in the evening to see it operating in its full glory with the chefs cooking gourmet food behind the bar, but we at least had plenty of room to sit and sup our Hackney Brewery Golden Ales in comfort before heading out into the stormy night for home.

With that, onto the Pub of the Crawl. As I spotted a number 63 approaching as we stood outside we voted for this one by email afterwards rather than reaching a consensus on the night; the vote was split among four of the pubs showing the good range of hostelries visited tonight, but the winner was our meeting point, the Charles Lamb. Congratulations! 

Fleet Valley

06/11/2012 at 20:59 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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For November 2012, Rich took us back to the City, for a walk up the Fleet Valley through Hatton Garden and Clerkenwell to Islington.

We met up at the Cockpit, a small corner pub in the back alleys of the City, between Blackfriars and St Paul’s. It is a traditional pub, popular with local office workers and we enjoyed the Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.

Once assembled we head through the alleys to the west and down the the Blackfriar, opposite the newly re-opened Blackfriars station. This pub appears to occupy a small site from the outside, but cunningly stretches under the adjacent railway arches to add space for quite  few more tables. This could have been a dingy alcove, but the interior was decorated in a glorious arts and crafts style, particularly under the arches, and when it was (unbelievably) threatened with demolition, Sir John Betjeman helped to campaign to save it. Well worth a visit, and my pint from the Liverpool Organic Brewery wasn’t bad either.

Quite a walk from here, as we started north along New Bridge Street and Farringdon Street towards Holborn Viaduct, following the route of the River Fleet, which once flowed along the surface here and now runs in a tunnel below the road. Eventually we ended up at the wonderful Ye Old Mitre, tucked away in the alleys off Hatton Garden (and previously visited on Dimo’s crawl). The pub sits on land once occupied by the Bishop of Ely and as such used to be officially a part of Ely rather than London, although this is no longer the case today. The pub has a good range of ales, as well as good honest pub fare – such as toasties for just £1.99.

The next pub is another of my favourites but not yet visited on one of these crawls – the Craft Beer Company, just the other side of Hatton Garden on Leather Lane. This high-ceilinged corner pub is a sister of the lovely Cask in Pimlico (and a couple of newer pubs in their growing chain), and packs an astounding range of both ales and keg/bottled beers. I had a gorgeous pint from Magic Rock but was spoilt for choice; we each had something different and all were superb.

We could have happily lingered longer but that would be against the rules, there were other good pubs to find! Heading north again, we crossed over Clerkenwell Road to the Gunmakers on Eyre Street Hill. Although the observant will have noticed how partial I am to the lighter ales, I went for the Exmoor Dark here, which slipped down very nicely; others enjoyed their Landlord, Nightwatchman and Harveys. The pub looks small at the front but is quite deep, with a room which appears once to have been the back yard. One curiosity is that the home seems to be something of a home of Ben Sherman, sitting as it does opposite their HQ.

Onward again, and Rich teased us by passing the Coach and Horses and making a beeline for Shepherd Neame’s Betsey Trotwood. One of the great things about these crawls is going into pubs you’ve always meant to try; the Betsey is one of those for me, I’ve been past many times on work business but had never set foot in side before. I’m glad to have done so now, the Betsey was a lively place, and though I’m not always a fan of Shep’s staple ales, the Kent’s Best was rather good. The pub sits virtually on top of both the River Fleet as it flows underfoot down Farringdon Road.

Heading north again, and this time heading to a pub just on the eastern side of the old river, the Exmouth Arms, sitting on the corner of Exmouth Market. It’s a traditional looking pub with lovely old Courage tiling, but inside sports the decor of the new breed of beery-not-quite-gastro-pub. The beer list is pretty outstanding, with a huge bottled list and craft beers on tap (including the local Camden Town brewery), but we settled for the ales, and loved both the Aussie Blonde and Joshua Jane.

Finally, we headed north east from here along Rosebery Avenue to another great pub which Dimo first took us to before, the Harlequin. We couldn’t resist getting stuck into the old box of Trivial Pursuit as we did before; although with incredible timing given the news of the past week, two questions on the very first page related to Jimmy Savile! On that bombshell we suddenly found that it was about 10 minutes to the last Northern line train, so made a hasty exit for Angel tube and a date with a slightly fuzzy Saturday morning.

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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