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!

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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

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!

 

Bloomsbury to Clerkenwell

14/02/2016 at 12:20 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a chilly night in February 2016, Phil took us on a walk from Bloomsbury to Clerkenwell.

We started out at the Queen’s Larder, a nice little corner pub tucked away behind the main roads in Queen’s Square, a Greene King pub serving the standard ales as well as GK’s more recent Yardbird, which was very good. The pub’s curious name comes from Queen Charlotte, who rented its cellar to store food and drink for her husband, ‘Mad’ King George III, who was being treated for his ‘madness’ by doctors in this square.

perseverance.jpgA walk along Great Ormond Street – home of the famous children’s hospital, which still benefits from the royalties of Peter Pan, bequeathed to them by author JM Barrie, and which cared for a childhood friend of mine as best they could – brought us to the Perseverance. We’ve visited this previously, but since then they’ve installed a brewing kit and brew their own beers, of which we mainly went for the Hoppy Ale, alongside a good selection of other craft beers.

Moving on, we headed next for the Blue Lion, not visited before on a crawl (though I have been here before, when cousin Russel hired it with Phil for their “leaving London” do!)  This is a busy pub with a large central servery, with some interesting beers on draught; I went with the majority and had the Penpont Cornish Coast, though the Moorhouse Blind Witch was also good.

Just across the road lies the Calthorpe Arms, a Good Beer Guide regular and three times winner of the local CAMRA branch’s Pub of the Year. Very popular by its reputation no doubt, it was standing room only.  The beers are well kept, with a couple of guests including Truman’s Blindside as well as Young’s standard beers, although we couldn’t help thinking that adding beers from another micro or two would be welcome to keep up the pace with the newest generation of pubs offering a wider range of beers.

From there the walk took us past the archaeological site where a 350,000 year old hand axe was found next to elephant bones, the “second” furthest point from a tube in zone 1 and the site of former public house Merlin’s Cave, the high point from which the crowd was addressed in the Spa Fields Riots almost 200 years ago.  Spa Fields was covered by Phil in an adjacent crawl a few years back.  The area was rapidly developed soon after and the views have gone in an attempt to stop such congregations and, as we walked down Merlin Street adjacent to Wilmington Square, our next pub was on the left.

Our next stop, the Old China Hand, was one of of the newer generation of pubs. While they have only a small bar, they have some interesting ales on draught, including Vale’s Lock Prop & Barrel (the second rugby-themed ale of the night, presumably as the Six Nations – or the World Cup Fifth Place Play-off as some antipodeans are calling it – has just started) and local brewery Hammerton’s N1. In fact, they make a point of selling only British beers, wines and spirits. But their bottled range also deserves a special mention, with a very large variety of beers; I went for a Citra Pale Ale from the London Beer Lab in Brixton, where I’ve brewed some very similar stuff myself, and it was excellent.

The next stop was the Easton, at the other end of the beer range spectrum. Well not quite, as they did at least have one ale on, Truman’s Runner (and on rare occasion we have been to places with no ales!), but this is a fairly large gastropub with a young crowd, rather like a sixth form common room.  The lack of a wider range of ales is surprising and we wouldn’t particularly rush back until they’ve upped the effort on sourcing beers.

brewdogHeading down towards Clerkenwell now, we stopped at the Bowler, also a gastropub but with a bit more of a choice of drinks. This also felt a bit cosier, as rather than a large single room it has a slightly more interesting layout.

Sadly the next pub on the list had closed by the time we got there, as had the next one, but fortunately the relatively recent addition to the BrewDog empire was still open, and while we got in a round of 5am Saint, I’m pleased to report that we did get out of there long before then!

And we even remembered to debate and vote for the pub and beer of the crawl…

So, the Pub of the Crawl for February was the Old China Hand, which also served up the Beer of the Crawl, Hammerton’s N1  – congratulations!

 

Crowns and Chairmen

10/01/2016 at 09:27 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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For the end of 2015, Tim planned a pub name-themed walk rather than our usual neighbourhood themes, in a walk stretching from St James’s Park to Soho.

The evening started out, as it often does, with some stomach-lining at the excellent Regency Café, scene of many a film and TV moment, and incredibly for a greasy spoon café, voted London’s 5th best restaurant. The first official stop was the Two Chairmen, on Dartmouth Street, a pub I walk past virtually every morning but rarely visit. It’s a small and busy pub, at least it is busy during the post-work rush, tucked away on a lovely quiet backstreet in the heart of Westminster. Although it was the end of November it was mild enough that we were able to escape the crowds and drink outside in the street.

Just a few metres from the pub lie the Cockpit Steps, bringing us down to Birdcage Walk and into the gaslit St James’s Park. We crossed the park and its lake and got a brief history of the park, including the bizarre coterie of animals that were kept here under James I, including crocodiles! Heading out of the park we crossed the Mall, passed St James’s Palace and Marlborough House, and into St James proper, and on to the next pub, the Blue Posts. This is another Taylor Walker pub, but unlike the previous venue, this one is almost brand new, the block it sits on having been recently rebuilt, but fortunately with the pub reinstated on this corner. This new version is smarter than the old incarnation of the pub, and is bright, airy and busy.

Next, we followed London’s traditional centre of gentlemen’s shirts and other high-end tailoring Jermyn Street, to the Three Crowns. This was pretty busy, though fortunately much deeper than it is wide, and we found some space to stand down the side of the pub, though it was too busy to linger in comfort.

xmas lightsSo we fairly quickly drank up and left, heading via Vine Street, of Monopoly fame, and across Regent Street, into Soho for the Crown, on the appropriately named Brewer Street. Like the previous pub, this was very busy indeed in the bar area and wouldn’t have been much fun, if it hadn’t been for some very fortuitous timing which allowed us a whole table towards the rear, next to the bookshelf with some interesting beer tomes on it.

Heading north across Golden Square, we came to Kingly Street, visited previously, and headed for the Blue Posts. This is a busy (again!) corner pub in the Greene King family, but again we were lucky and managed to grab a table upstairs.

billabongBack across Soho now and past some lovely Christmas lights and the huge murals on Broadwick Street, to The Blue Posts. Yes, it’s another Blue Posts, complete with a ‘The’ this time, and for a change for the West End it has avoided becoming branded by a brewery/chain/pubco and still has a very traditional feel, complete with sticky carpets and small (but perfectly fine) choice of ales.

A short walk further east, including passage along Meard Street with its unusual sign on the door formerly belonging to Sebastian Horsley, brought us to the final stop of the night. If the theme of the walk hadn’t been clear enough already, The Crown and Two Chairmen perfectly ended the crawl, bringing together the clutch of Crown and Chairmen-themed pubs.

So, to the pub of the crawl, and the beer of the crawl…

Not influenced by the venue of the vote I’m sure, as it stood out as a great, lively place with good beers on, The Crown and Two Chairmen was voted the Pub of the Crawl – congratulations! They also supplied the Beer of the CrawlBillabong, a lovely Aussie Pale Ale from Tiny Rebel!

Marylebone revisited

23/08/2014 at 12:05 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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It was time for Alan to take the lead in August 2014, with a return visit to the Marylebone area.

We gathered outside the front of the Beehive, a mid-terrace pub tucked just off Baker Street. There was a smallish-range of beers, with Loddon’s Gravesend Shrimper the only ale on offer; I enjoyed it but without a paler ale on offer some took advantage of the Meantime beers on tap, including their tasty London Pale Ale.

Next up, the Barley Mow, a cracking heritage pub, which I think has somehow managed to fall between the cracks of previous local crawls.  It is famous – and indeed listed on CAMRA‘s National Inventory of Pub Interiors – on account of its unique drinking boxes, small compartments adjacent to the bar allowing for very discreet liaisons while still being alongside the bar to order fresh drinks. On this occasion, arriving as we were on a Friday evening, the boxes were unsurprisingly already taken, but we took our delicious beers – all Dark Star Golden Gate – to the back room, where Dimo proceeded to reveal a surprising talent for hustling people at chess.

A short walk down Manchester Street brought us to the Tudor Rose, a fairly old-school pub which has so far definitely escaped the gastropub trend, still offering such 1970s delights as spam fritter burgers! The ale was good enough if a bit unadventurous, with Pride, Rev James and Adnams on cask.

gunmakersWe called next at the Gunmakers, overlooking the car park-cum-farmers market behind Marylebone High Street. This is an attractive pub, with some interesting ales on offer, including a couple of offerings from London Fields brewery, their IPA, and Love Not War, which seemed appropriate given the current strife in the Middle East.

Continuing east, we skipped a possible venue on the High Street as it seemed pretty rammed, and arrived at a pub with the opposite problem, the Dover Castle, which was pretty deserted by the time we arrived. As with most Sam Smiths pubs, it’s a great place, in this case a little mews pub which was frequented by the Who ‘back in the day’ when they used a recording studio opposite.

Not far away lies the Stag’s Head, a nice little corner pub below an art deco building, which we sat outside while we enjoyed some Tring Side Pocket.

albany

From here, we headed back towards the tube, and the Albany, opposite Great Portland Street. We visited this recently and it’s still a lovely pub, and I love it’s modest self-declared as ‘one of the best pubs in Great Portland Street’!

But which pub deserves to be the Pub of the Crawl this time?

As ever a lively debate was had to pick the winner, but in the end the wonderful unique interior won it for the Barley Mow, congratulations!

Cannon Street

20/07/2014 at 13:22 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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For my crawl in July 2014, I felt it was high time to pay another visit to the City of London, with an evening centred on Cannon Street.

The first port of call was directly under Cannon Street railway station, and a few short steps from the Underground, in the shape of the Pelt Trader. This new (2013) pub has one of the best beer ranges in the City, and is run by the same people as the better-known Euston Tap. From the outside you wouldn’t necessarily suspect it is a beer oasis, the entrance is modest and little of the interior can be seen, but once inside, and your eyes acclimatise, a beer wall is revealed behind the bar, with a very wide range of interesting beers, both craft keg and real ales on draught, and a cracking range of bottles. We had quite a variety of drinks between us, but the best of the bunch was a delicious Kent Elderflower Saison; I was a little jealous that I only had a taste of someone else’s rather than a pint to myself, as this was the best beer of the evening.

WhittingtonOn leaving the Pelt Trader, we crossed into College Street, passing Innholders Hall, home of the Worshipful Company of Innholders, a traditional City livery company for the pub trade, this year celebrating 500 years since its first charter was granted by King Henry VIII. Turning up College Hill we passed the site of the house Lord Mayor Richard Whittington – he of Dick Whittington and his cat folklore fame – lived in, and the church he founded and was buried in, in 1423.

Soon we came to the Hatchet, the most traditional pub of the evening, a classic City watering hole, tucked down a narrow side street with a snug front bar and another room behind, although we joined the throngs outside in the street, enjoying the balmy evening and the view down Garlick Hill to St James Garlickhythe, with the street and church named after the wharf where garlic was imported from France in medieval times. This is a small Greene King pub, so there was only IPA and Abbot to choose from, which were not quite as cool as they could have been.

Next up, a much more modern pub in the form of the Sea Horse, on a corner site on Queen Victoria Street. This had a slightly larger beer range to choose from, with most of us going for Landlord or Doom Bar, and despite the generous outside drinking space, we opted to stay indoors this time and enjoy the lovely cool air conditioning, while some of us had a very amateur a game of darts!

Just along from the Sea Horse I paused at St Nicholas Cole Abbey to pass on a bit of family trivia; to cut a long story short, if you’d been in this church on 3rd May 1689, you’d have seen some of my ancestors here, for the wedding of Jan Lieftinck, or as he was now Anglicising his name to, John Lofting. Recently arrived from Holland, John was a prolific businessman and inventor, who industrialised manufacturing (his thimble factory turned out 2 million thimbles a year), was the successful plaintiff in the first legal case to establish the principle of “no taxation without representation” in the American colonies, and invented a mechanical fire engine.

London Gazette 1691However amongst his many achievements was a scaled down version of his fire engine; the beer engine, and as a result, he had invented draught beer. Patented in 1691 and described in the London Gazette on 14 March 1691 as “a very useful Engine for Starting of Beer, and other Liquors, which will deliver from 20 to 30 Barrels an hour, which are compleatly fixed with Brass Joynts and Scrues, at reasonable Rates.” Lofting’s beer engine revolutionised the serving of beer in pubs, allowing staff in the main room to serve beer without running down to the cellar each time to tap the cask/barrel. As a result, the bar, and the modern pub as we would recognise it, was born.

After this digression, we headed downhill to the river and the Samuel Pepys pub, tucked incongruously down an unpromising-looking dead-end alleyway. The pub is modern, being situated within a building which was recently rebuilt. The beer range was limited to Tribute and Doom Bar, both fine if a little unexciting these days, but the real selling point of this place is its riverside location and views. There are tables inside with lovely views, but arriving after the main wave of post-work drinkers had already left, we were able to go out onto the narrow balcony overlooking the Thames. Our timing was perfect, because what had been a very hot day was changing fast as a storm rolled in, and we had a prime view of the dramatic black clouds and thunderstorms moving in.

Pepys

A short walk east along the river from here, past the Little Ship Club where I got married, brought us to the Banker, a larger and rather busier Fullers pub, tucked into the arches under Cannon Street station, also with river views, although they are looking out under the bridge so are lacking the aspect enjoyed by the Samuel Pepys. There was a nice light summer ale on, which was a bit bland but well suited to the muggy weather.

Leaving the Banker we walked along the passage under the station which has been very brilliantly improved in recent years with sound and lighting to brighten up what could be a dark passageway. The station was built on the site of the Steelyard, formerly the London trading post of the Hanseatic League, a middle ages trading league and at one time a walled German enclave. The land was only sold by its owners, the cities of Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg, in 1853.

Around the next corner lies the Oyster Shed, a new pub very unlike the traditional City pubs. Traditionally City pubs were small, dark buildings on narrow streets, full of men in suits imbibing liquid lunches and knocking back pints after work. The Oyster Shed feels nothing like this at all, being a large, bright airy space with a large outdoor space with wonderful views over the River Thames. Approaching 11pm most City pubs are down to the last few besuited workers, who’ve ended up having several more beers than they planned. This one was still very lively, full of a much younger crowd, and felt much more like a city centre pub than a City pub. The beer range was very limited, but what was on offer was interesting; we all opted for the Cronx Kotchin, a very nice hoppy ale.

As 11pm approached we knew we wouldn’t get to the next target in time, so opted to stay here for a final one; however, annoyingly, having started to order before 11pm, by the time the barman had established that the beer we wanted had run out and we’d have to choose something else, he suddenly decided we were too late, so we missed out on a final round despite ordering before 11pm and before last orders had been called. Poor show, Geronimo, poor show.

Post-11pm options are a bit limited locally, as most City workers have already fled for their trains by now, so in a bit of a break from tradition we returned to one we had already visited but which I knew was open late, the Sea Horse, for a final leisurely pint before calling it a night.

A final heated debate ensued for the vote for the Pub of the Crawl, a difficult choice tonight with such a wide variety of pubs, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Finally the vote was won on the basis of the balcony view where we watched the storm rolling in, so congratulations to the Samuel Pepys!

Bermondsey revisited

02/06/2014 at 20:54 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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We recently toured Bermondsey’s fine collection of craft breweries on the Bermondsey Beer Mile, and in May 2014 Paul took us back to some of the local pubs we haven’t been to in previous trips.

We started, though, by revisiting the Lord Clyde pub, just off Southwark Bridge Road and close to Borough station. This time we stood outside, enjoying the long Spring evening, the beautiful old Truman’s tiled exterior, and pints of TEA (the traditional English ale, that is).

The next stop was another familiar venue, Harvey’s London outpost the Royal Oak, still in Borough. The last couple of arrivals met up with us in the back room of this very well preserved two-bar Victorian corner local, and we struck out for Bermondsey.

The walk is not, in all honesty, a very glamorous one compared with posher parts of zone 1, with a lot of post-war council housing in this area, but interesting to see the old Hartley’s jam factory shortly before arriving at Tower Bridge Road for the next stop, the George. This is an old-school locals pub, not gentrified or gastro’d, but offering a friendly welcome and a nicely preserved (or just left-alone) Truman’s interior. No trendy ales here, just Courage Best and Greene King IPA, but they were decent enough and served with a smile. Sadly no £2.50 toasties available in the evenings though!

Pub of the YearAnother short walk through an estate brought us to the next pub, the Victoria. I was very pleased to try this place, I’d chatted to the very friendly landlord once when I’d admired the beautiful exterior on my way to the Mandela Way sorting office early one morning but hadn’t been back for a beer.  It was very quiet inside when we were there, though evidently the Evening Standard’s journos have made the trip in the past, as the pub is still proudly displaying its 1972 Pub of the Year plaque. I didn’t realise the competition went back that far, nor that it had now been discontinued, but through the magic of Wikipedia a full list exists for anyone keen to visit them all! (I think we’ve done seven of these winners, most of which lie outside zone 1 – it’s certainly giving me an idea of a some themed trips to see how they are all faring today!) We all went for the Ubu Mad Goose, which was delicious, and sat outside.

MarigoldAfter the Victoria we moved back towards central London, crossing Tower Bridge Road again to visit the Marigold, at the bottom end of Bermondsey Street. This was somewhat short of beer choice (just Doom Bar), but was a nice place, fairly cosy and lively enough without being too busy. And I imagine a lovely place to while away an afternoon, judging by the huge array of board games available (though not, as far as I could see, our favourite – late 1980s Trivial Pursuit…)

Next up, the Rose, close to London Bridge station. We tried to go here once before and found that most of it had been demolished, but it reopened last year under the same management as the Simon the Tanner nearby (and which we just passed). This is a lot larger than its sibling though, and more upmarket, with lots of large tables for dining. The beer choice was surprisingly small, just a couple of ales, though interesting in the shape of Mister Squirrel and Signature Dark Heart, and there was some interesting craft beer among the keg offer.

MillerOur final stop was one that I passed on when plotting my own crawl around these parts. The Miller doesn’t look all that inspiring from the outside, and the bouncers on the door and loud music meant things weren’t looking too promising. But Paul always does his research thoroughly (!) so what could go wrong? Besides it was past closing time for many pubs, so in we went. Looked like the beer choice was going to be slim pickings on first glance, just Otter ale on the bar; not that there’s anything wrong with Otter, but we’re getting spoilt for choice these days and getting used to a row of shiny pumps offering a range of ales. But on close inspection, there was a long beer list on a blackboard behind the bar, and some very tempting looking bottles in the fridges from a host of London craft breweries, including local favourites Kernel, Brew By Numbers, Partizan, and FourPure. The excellent range of beers made for a later night than was sensible!

Fortunately we did remember to vote for the Pub of the Crawl, with the backstreet local the Victoria winning tonight, congratulations!

Great Portland Street to Euston

05/04/2014 at 18:32 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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Dimo was back in the lead for April 2014, with a crawl along the northern edge of central London from Great Portland Street to Euston.

We met at the Green Man opposite Great Portland Street tube station, a pub I haven’t been in since 1994, and now a Taylor Walker branded venue. It is fairly large and had a few ales on offer, a couple of standards and a couple of interesting guest ales. Very tempted to try the Shoreditch Triangle IPA but at 6% that was a bit much to start a long session with so we largely went for the rugby themed Old Hooker (cue lots of hooker double entendres). It is a handy meeting point but nothing special, and was rather too full of loud people knocking back some post-work beers. The large but fairly dark interior (only the front has any windows) would be difficult to imbue with much character.

Almost next door though, the Albany – which rather modestly describes itself as ‘one of the best pubs in Great Portland Street’ – was much more bright and open, with large windows on two sides and a gastropub feel. Quite a different crowd in here too, much younger, trendy beards pretty much compulsory. Good rotating selection of ales, of which we mainly went for Windsor & Eton’s Knights of the Garter, with a couple of Doom Bars thrown in.

artichokeCrossing north now and heading away from the busy Euston Road, the next pitstop was the Queens Head & Artichoke, a smallish wood-panelled Victorian corner pub. Its pedigree is much older though, originally being a ‘ramshackle old tavern’ which was one of a number of old pubs pulled down when Regent’s Park was built, and relocated onto this site in 1811 (and later rebuilt again). Though it was small and quite busy inside, we were able to enjoy the beginning of spring at an outside table.

A few minutes walk to the east and down an unpromising-looking alley we found the Square Tavern, a Young’s pub tucked away on the ground floor of a 1970/1980s development. Although they handily stocked London Drinker magazine, the ale range was poor when we visited, there were a couple of ales off and only Eagle IPA on offer. The clientele seemed to consist largely of local office workers celebrating the end of the working week. It wasn’t too busy when we visited, but there was a large courtyard/square outside to spill into if it is busy.

A couple of minutes away on Drummond Street (north London’s best street for a curry) we came to the Crown & Anchor, very nice and well decorated with subtle pop art, and a great selection of ales on the bar;  we had a mixture of Ilkley’s Mary Jane, Woodforde’s Flagondry, George Gale’s Spring Sprinter, and Adnams’ new Mosaic Pale Ale. All of these were good but the Mosaic Pale Ale was the best beer of the night, with a beautiful aroma.

Around the corner lies the Exmouth Arms; it broke poor Dimo’s heart when he learnt that we had been here once before, on a crawl which predates this website and isn’t fully recorded! This is a traditional pub with friendly bar staff, fairly quiet by the time we arrived, and we whiled away our time losing money on the quiz machine.

breeThe final (and longest) stop of the evening was the Bree Louise, a well known and well respected pub which not only has several good ales on draught, but also several racked in casks for ultimate quality. The wooden cask 6X wasn’t a hit, but the others were great, and the landlord (ex Harlequins player Craig Douglas) was very chatty and joined us for a pint. We stayed here for a second final round, and before we left were kindly given some free beer to take away from Brains’s experimental craft brewery.

The final business of the evening (apart from grabbing a burger in the station and catching the last tube!) was voting for the Pub of the Crawl. There was a close vote but in the end the wonderful Bree Louise took the honour, congratulations!

Finsbury

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! 

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