Charing Cross Road

04/08/2018 at 15:24 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a hot evening in August 2018, Tim took us back to Tottenham Court Road, only this time we headed south down Charing Cross Road.

We started out at the Royal George, conveniently close to Tottenham Court Road station, just just down a side street. I’ve seen it many times but never been in; it’s fair to say the building lacks kerb appeal and has in recent years borne the brunt of being next door to the extensive Crossrail construction site, but it was in fact pretty pleasant inside, plenty of light and fresh air coming in, and a small but decent range of beer on the bar. In the fridge they even had Big Drop Brewing’s Pale Ale and Stout; these are decent craft low alcohol beers, and went down well to start with on a hot evening – I must be getting responsible in my old age! Fear not, there is also a good range of cask, keg and bottled beers too, and sometimes a tap takeover.

Soho crawl (3).jpgSo, once assembled, we came back out past the construction site, where once the Astoria stood, and before that the Crosse & Blackwell building, and headed into Charing Cross Road proper. We paused at the entrance to the old St Martin’s College of Art, where Jarvis Cocker famously met a girl from Greece in the iconic Britpop anthem Common People, and continued into the Montagu Pike. Originally a Moon Under Water when I first frequented it in the 90s, this Wetherspoons was formerly a cinema, and then a home for the Marquee Club. The original Marquee a few streets away played host to a Who’s Who of late 20th Century music, and this venue was opened by Kiss.

After a quick round here we left the morning drinkers’ favourite and headed out the back exit to Greek Street, named after a 1677 Greek church (now long gone), and described by a police inspector in 1906 as “the worst street in the West End of London, some of the vilest reptiles in London live there or frequent it”. By the 60s it was at the heart of London’s creative quarter, and just next to the Montagu Pike was Peter Cook’s Establishment Club, a ground-breaking satirical comedy venue.

Soho crawl Old Compton St (2)Where Greek Street meets Old Compton Street sits the Three Greyhounds, its name harking back to the days when Soho was a rural hunting ground. This is a fairly small Nicholson’s pub, but has plenty of room for al-fresco drinking outside, where you can watch the crowds wandering past, together with the traffic that the City of Westminster inexplicably insists on allowing to dominate the thronged streets of Soho.

Soho crawl Spice of Life (4)A few doors down the street lies the Spice of Life, Hertfordshire brewer McMullans’s London outlet, which has been very nicely modernised and has a wide range of their ales on the bar, and a large area of street outside to stand and drink while the sun goes down. The pub was originally called the George, first opening in 1686, though the current building is late Victorian.

Directly across from the Spice of Life lies another venerable pub, the Cambridge, first opened as the King’s Arms in 1744, but was again last rebuilt by the Victorians. This is another Nicholson’s pub, pretty small inside but retaining a lot of character, not least with its highly decorative ceiling. Some good ales on, and as all Nicholsons pubs, St Peter’s Without in the fridge for those looking to pace themselves – particularly handy during this heatwave, it was hot out there!

Across the street we paused outside 84 Charing Cross Road, site of the famous bookshop recalled in Helene Hanff’s wonderful book chronicling her correspondence with shop worker Frank Doel, now part of McDonald’s. Well worth picking up the book if you haven’t read it – used copies are available from just 1p on Amazon, or better still pick one up from a real book shop, ideally one of the few remaining ones on Charing Cross Road!

Brewdog (1).jpgAfter a few minutes admiring the architecture of Cambridge Circus, especially the lovely facade of the Palace Theatre, which is easy to miss if rushing through as I normally am, we headed to the newest pub in the area (at the time of writing!), a new branch of the BrewDog empire. Although it was inevitably pretty busy with tourists, and may therefore not be the fastest place to get served if the people in front of you have no idea what to order, the range of beers was extensive (over 20 on draft), and the live version of Dead Pony Club, which I hadn’t had before, was excellent. While BrewDog focusses on keg beers, the live Dead Pony is very close to a real ale and well worth trying. It’s a big venue and there was plenty of room even late on on a Friday despite its central location.

And so to the final business of the evening; after a short vote, the BrewDog Seven Dials was voted the Pub of the Crawl. Congratulations!

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Lambeth-Elephant & Castle

29/04/2018 at 15:42 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In April 2018, Paul took us for a walk from Lambeth North to Elephant & Castle in south London.

We met at the Walrus (after some cheap Chinese food at the Olympic Cafe), on the corner of Lower Marsh, an interesting street of independent stores and a good weekday lunchtime streetfood market. The Walrus is also a hostel, but has a very decent pub downstairs with some decent ales on offer.

The next stop was just along the street at the Horse & Stables, but on entering we found that all the ales were unavailable, which is a pretty poor show for early on a Friday evening, so we headed off without pausing to the Steam Engine, which at the time of our visit had a Titanic tap take-over, with several ales and one keg from Titanic, and a good range of other beers on tap or in the fridge.

A short walk around the corner brought us to the Three Stags, a busy pub more or less opposite the Imperial War Museum, with some decent ales such

Crawl Albert Arms

A walk past the Bakerloo line depot brought us to the Albert Arms, which has been refurbished and brought upmarket since our last visit a few years ago, and it was offering some more interesting beers now too, including Melon Head from Shipyard, which managed to taste something like a Victoria Sponge cake!

Back past the other side of the tube depot and we came to the Flowers of the Forest, which had a good atmosphere and diverse crowd, but of the “craft ales” and “small brewery offerings” advertised on the website there was sadly no sign, with only keg Courage Best, Guinness or standard lagers. Hopefully soon they will match the promise on the website and raise their game on the beer selection.

 

Crawl Mercato (1)

Fortunately a gem was awaiting us next, as we headed to one of my favourite places in London, Mercato Metropolitano, a large former industrial premises which has been transformed into a massive street food centre, with a bit of an Italian bias but encompassing cuisine from all over the world (and even a cinema within). We started at the Italian craft beer bar, which is in fact half imported Italian craft beer, and half British, with some unusual keg offerings including from local brewers such as Kernel, and is run by the same people behind London’s Italian craft beer pubs The Italian Job.

 

Crawl Mercato (5).jpgA new addition to the Mercato is its own microbrewery, the German Kraft Brewery, which as the name suggests focusses on German styles; we ended the night with a round of Heidi Blondes, which we drank standing just a couple of metres from the kit it was brewed on.

So finally it was time to choose the Pub of the Crawl. In common with some recent crawls we’ve pushed the boundary again as to what a pub really is; on the basis that you can wander in and drink draught beer without any compulsion to be seated or order food, we decided that the very un-traditional Mercato Metropolitano did qualify, and as an amazingly lively venue containing several bars including an Italian craft beer bar and its own microbrewery, it was a worthy winner. Congratulations!

 

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?

Camden

22/07/2017 at 14:49 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In July 2017, Rich took us for a crawl from the Euston Road to Camden.

We met on Warren Street at the Smugglers Arms, which despite the name and range of rums is sadly bereft of crusty old men in waterproofs and sou’westers singing sea shanties, but does have a pretty good beer range for a place with such a small bar, with a small number of excellent beers on cask including Sail Pale Ale, and a good and wide range of interesting bottles. Despite the small bar, the pub was accommodating a large crowd outside in the street, and the staff were very efficient and friendly.

Once assembled, we headed next to the Queens Head & Artichoke, a fairly large pub for a surprisingly quiet district, just to the north of the busy Euston Road but feeling much further away. Between us we generally had the classic of 6X, or in a couple of cases Shedhead on keg.

The walk to the next pub took us through a council estate to the White Moustache, a surprisingly gentrified pub in a building which looks like it should be serving Fosters and John Smith’s. But no, this is aimed at the more affluent incomers, serving gastro food alongside a good range of beers, although sadly the Citra pale ale several of us opted for was on the turn at the time of our visit.

We kept on going north next, to the Edinboro Castle, a large pub with an even larger beer garden, which was pulling in the summer crowds when we called. There was an excellent range of beers inside, although because of the queue at the bar we headed instead to the small bar in the garden, with only a couple of keg beers available, but at least fairly good options such as Camden pale ale.

After soaking up a bit of the summer evening atmosphere in the garden, we turned towards Camden Town, and the local BrewDog, where the expected range of their beers was on offer, and we even managed to bag a table downstairs, which we didn’t expect in Camden on a Friday night.

From here we moved east, to the Prince Albert, which was surprisingly empty inside, but everyone was out in the garden enjoying the last of the summer evening.

We also got to drink outside the nearby Constitution, a very busy pub still at gone 11pm, with a good mix of customers and lovely position beside the Regent’s Canal, although sadly by the time we were there the back garden had closed, presumably due to its proximity to neighbours.

We did head back along the Regent’s Canal to head to a canalside pub at King’s Cross next and bring us safely back to zone 1, but it had closed by the time we got there, so we essentially called it a night there (although a couple of people may have sneaked off in hunt of a final pint!)

So, to the business of Pub of the Crawl. For its lively and mixed crowd, and location tucked away from the sometimes frenetic centre of Camden on the canal, the Pub of the Crawl is the Constitution. Congratulations!

10th Anniversary crawl around Marylebone

18/12/2016 at 10:54 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In November 2016 the crawl celebrated its 10th anniversary, and Phil marked the occasion by retracing (almost) the route of the very first crawl back in 2006.

We met at the Masons Arms, close to Regent Street, which was pretty busy with the whole ‘Black Friday’ thing in full swing in the West End. The pub was busy too, and very warm, and perhaps would be better visited at a time other than 6 in the evening on Black Friday! It’s a fairly small and cosy Greene King pub with the familiar GK ales on tap (including one badged for this establishment).

After a little background info on the history of Mayfair, we headed next to the Iron Duke, a Fullers pub selling their standard beers plus the odd guest, with a nice Cascadian pale ale on offer when we visited.

As we left we heard a brief history of the River Tyburn, one of London’s lost rivers, which flows beneath the street and whose course we would roughly follow for the evening.

We continued past the neighbouring former homes of Jimi Hendrix and George Handel, marked by blue plaques and now subject of a small museum, to the Spread Eagle. This is a fairly standard West End Taylor Walker pub, busy with some decent ales (such as Old Hooky) but nothing too exciting.

We crossed a very busy Oxford Street and past the showroom of Steinway pianos, to the Cock & Lion, visited on the first crawl a decade ago, where we found a very handy table in the nicely appointed upstairs room, with some interesting old cricket and football pictures on the walls.

A short stroll up Marylebone Lane brought us to the Coach Makers, which was also visited on the first crawl but which was then called the O’Conor Don, and has since been nicely refurbished, and upped its beer range to include more interesting ales such as Canberra, Lubricant and Truman’s Zephyr.

Outside the pub, Phil surprised us all with a set of T-shirts commemorating the 1o years of these crawls, which was a lovely gesture.

10 year crawl

We next moved onto the inspiration for the crawls, the Golden Eagle. When Phil first found the Golden Eagle, and its piano singalongs, he thought he should bring people here, and find new pubs – and so the crawls were born. The singalong is still going strong, although is perhaps a victim of its own success – it was rammed when we called in, although perhaps that was the ‘Black Friday’ effect. It’s certainly worth visiting, but perhaps try the Tuesday or Thursday if you want to be able to enjoy it without the crowds.

A few minutes north and we reached the King’s Head, where a lovely ‘then and now’ map on the wall highlighted our route along the River Tyburn, both as it would have looked about three centuries ago when the area was still rural, and how it looks today; pretty different, to be sure, but with a few constants, including the path of Marylebone Lane which still follows the river.

The Pub of the Crawl has to be the one which inspired 10 years of crawling… the home of the piano singalong, the Golden Eagle. 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!

 

 

Bethnal Green

30/05/2016 at 17:09 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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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!

 

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