Sunday, 16 December 2012

Merry Christmas

First of all, I'd like to wish a very Merry Christmas to my reader. This is going to be a brief update as not a lot has happened ale wise in the last few weeks. Unfortunately my life is not a thrilling journey where I'm up to my eyeballs in tasty ales while visiting every pub in London. In fact I've only been to the pub about three times this month, which is a travesty. Even worse is that The Lovely Jemma is trying to convince me to not drink any alcohol at all in January. What better way to get through the most miserable month of the year then by going through it stone cold sober? Luckily the doctor on this page suggests that giving up alcohol for a month is "medically futile" so hopefully I'll be able to escape from this crazy wheeze.

As it's the festive season the pubs are putting on the Christmas ales, and I've only managed to try a couple so far. Thwaites Good 'Elf is one I sampled recently, and it was really rather good. The aroma can only be described as Christmas, with a lovely spiced scent. It was like holding a liquid Christmas pudding. The taste was very Christmassy as well, the spices not overpowering the bitter hops. Very good indeed. The second festive ale I got my lips round is Fullers Jack Frost, which was nothing special to be honest. It just tasted like a slightly spiced London Pride. Must try harder Fullers! I don't know why I'm saying this as I'm just a lowly beer blogger and I doubt Fullers give a damn about my opinion. To be honest I hardly care about my opinions. But this is a blog so I guess I should shove some ultimately useless opinions in there. 

The most notable thing about the Jack Frost was that I had to pay a eye watering £4.05 for a pint. Granted this was in The Hereford Arms in leafy Gloucester Road, an area which is trying to be as posh as nearby South Kensington. The pub was completely unremarkable except for the fact that everything was expensive. Had the ale been a bit cheaper I might have enjoyed my pint a bit more, and maybe bought one extra. Surely pubs that charge such high amounts for a pint are missing out from extra income from the "just one more" crowd? Nobody is going to get a cheeky one in at the end of the night at those prices.

Well I did warn you this was going to be a brief one. Christmas is never a good time of year to do anything productive. And if I do end up giving up alcohol for January my next update may be even briefer. If I don't see you beforehand, have a good one!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Crate Brewery Hackney, Barrel and Horn Bromley

I've never been the most trendiest bloke. I've managed to avoid going to any warehouse raves, I've got no idea what a fixie bike is, I still think global hypercolour t-shirts deserve to make a comeback and I had to ask the Lovely Jemma how to spell "fixie". So when I was invited to a friends party at the new Crate brewery in "up and coming Hackney," my first thought was "what the hell is the Crate Brewery?" My second thought was that the only thing up and coming in Hackney is the blood spurting out of hapless saps as they've either been stabbed or shot. For both of these reasons I was a little nervous attending.

Obiligatory blurry shot of a bar.
It turns out I didn't need to be. Despite the walk from Hackney Wick station to the Crate looking like a prime way to get stabbed, the Crate is a bustling, friendly craft ale house with a good selection of beers brewed onsite. It did feel a little bit warehousey, which is now a real word as I've added it to the Google dictionary, but I'll forgive it. Four taps serve beers from the onsite brewery. I sampled the IPA which was a fine example, flowery, hoppy, all the good things you'd expect from a decent IPA. The Best Bitter was also excellent, refreshing and comforting, with a lovely bitter finish. The IPA was the clear winner of the evening and was selling like hotcakes - it was gone before the night was through. All the ales were reasonably priced, and there was a decent bottle selection as well.

Awesome
Crate also offers a tempting pizza menu. The Lovely Jemma and myself went for the spicy salami pizza and it was excellent. Nice, thin crispy base, decent toppings, not too greasy. A good accompanier with the beer. The atmosphere throughout the evening was pleasant and I'm pleased to report that the hipster quotient was low. I had a great night here and would be eager to return if it wasn't for the fact that's in Hackney Wick.

Another hipster-type pub I've started to grown fond of is the Barrel & Horn in Bromley. There's vintage wallpaper and "kooky" trinkets scattered about but it has a shambling charm rather than being grating. It's like someone who doesn't quite know what they're doing has had a bit of a go at recreating a Shoreditch bar. Because it's a hipster pub in a town which has no hipsters the atmosphere is a bit odd but good.  An eclectic mix of families, "trendies" and workers all come together to enjoy the wide range of beer and decent food. Their ale selection is pretty good but when I was last there only two of the four pumps were on. I hope this was just a off night and not a sign of things to come. I opted for a pint of Hairy Dog by Late Knights, a newly started London microbrewery. This Black IPA was great with a really good coffee and chocolate taste. Barrel & Horn is probably the best pub in a town that has the pleasure of two Wetherspoons and is well worth stopping by. And if it looks a bit too trendy for you there's always The Partridge next door.

Two hipster pubs in as many weeks. Maybe I'm starting to mellow in my old age. In my next update expect the blog to be renamed "An Ironically Bitter Bloke" and a picture of me wearing my skinniest skinny jeans. See you then!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Counting House, City of London and Red Lion, Bromley

I'm not a huge fan of drinking in London's Square Mile. For readers not familiar, the Square Mile is the financial centre of London, where greed driven looneys come together to wear seizure inducing stripy suits and piss away other peoples money. The last time I went for a drink in a bar near Moorgate, they had the cheek to charge £5 for a pint of Peroni, and £4 for a pint of so-so Doom Bar. I was surrounded by braying gents who had a better relationship with their Blackberry than the colleagues around them. What did people do in awkward social situations before smartphones came along? All across London bars are filled with co-workers desperately eeking out small talk before eventually giving up and retreating to the comforting glow of their iPhone screen. Did co-workers just use to stand around looking so awkward that one of them would eventually expire, giving the others something to talk about?

If you look hard enough you will find some pubs in the square mile that aren't filled with punters with more money than they know what to do with paying ludicrous amounts of money for swill and piss (or San Miguel to use its trading name.) The Counting House near Bank station is one of them. This is a large two floor and rather grandiose Fullers pub which used to be a branch of Natwest. It's an impressive space with an imposing domed roof. Rammed with the more down to earth city workers it has a good pubby atmosphere. Ale wise the large bar serves the full Fullers selection and not much else, I couldn't see any guest ales. I went for a couple of pints of Chiswick, a solid best bitter which always manages to hit the spot, thanks to its subtle fruity flavour which flourishes in the finish.

The striking interior of the Counting House. Photo from the Fullers website. I could never
take a photo this good.

As an Ale and Pie house I thought I may as well have a pie, and I tried the house pie which was very good and packed full of steak with a good portion of mash. Although the large space and high ceiling makes for a noisy pub, there's no blaring music which makes it fine to hold a conversation. The noise level is high enough that you don't have to listen to the absolute nonsense the suited and booted clan are no doubt wittering on about as they slowly bankrupt our country into the ground. There are a coupler of quiet nooks and crannies as well, especially on the upper level.

I have been house hunting the past few months. House hunting would be a great experience if it didn't involve estate agents. It amazes me just how much of a chancer occupation being an estate agent is. There is no qualification or entry requirement for being one, these people are just winging it and pulling selling prices for a pile of second hand bricks out of thin air. It's getting depressing on how many unkempt, unloved houses which are supposedly a "the perfect first time buyer home" I've viewed, where the agent has convinced the poor seller that the hole they're living in is worth a grossly overestimated sum of money. Anything in reasonable condition and sensibly priced is off the market in a matter of days. I know I'm not saying anything new but it is depressing trying to buy a house in London.

Me and the Lovely Jemma viewed a house in Bromley North. I knew we'd never buy the place as it was the size of a postage stamp, but I really like the area. The fact that there are four good quality pubs and a Chinese takeaway had no influence on this decision at all. When we viewed the house I could barely fit inside. I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland and I'd taken a bite of the "Eat Me" cake. My head was touching the ceiling in all the rooms upstairs. It was a glorified dolls house. We didn't make an offer but it apparently sold. I've no idea if it went for the asking price of £220,000 but I've got a horrible feeling it wasn't far off.

No picture of the Red Lion so here's a picture of
"Spongebob  Squarepants" which
The Lovely Jemma put together at
Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Out of the four pubs the Red Lion is probably the best. This is a friendly little boozer which is always a pleasure to visit. Although small it's got a good bit of character, with a large bookshelf against one wall bursting with books. The landlord knows how to keep an ale and I enjoyed a delicious pint of Caledonian Flying Scotsman. This was a pretty good specimen of a best bitter with a hearty hoppy flavour. The pub has won CAMRA awards in the past and it deserves them. A good place to stop by if you're in the area.

You may have noticed I've been reliable about what drinks I had at each pub. That's thanks to "Untappd" which I've recently downloaded for my Android phone. It allows you to record what you've drunk, where you had it, and see what other people thought of the ale. Well worth downloading!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Mitchells and Butlers, Brewdog Shoreditch

I'm convinced that ordering food at an unknown pub is always one of the biggest gambles you can take in the UK. Forgot about the bookies or going to a casino, ordering a "Huntsman Chicken" and seeing if the chicken is (a) not as pink as my nose on a cold December day and (b) actually chicken and not "avian substitute product" is more risky than those ridiculous Ladbrokes football bets. The ones where you bet Rooney will score a goal at precisely 7:43pm off the backside of a passing goose. To be fair I've heard tales of what pub food was like in the dim and distant past, which seemed to consist of pickling anything that could fit into a human mouth and maybe a limp soggy bap if you were lucky, and I'm grateful we've moved on from those days. But sometimes it's better a pub serves no food rather than over-stretching themselves

Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) are a owner of chain pubs that have really taken on the pub food mantle. So much so that I would rarely go into if I just having a pint. I recently visited an M&B owned "Vintage Inn" pub near Biggin Hill, the Aperfield Inn. I'd be tempted to call this place a restaurant rather than a pub. There is a bar and a small seating area for drinkers but this was basically a Harvester in all but name. The small ale selection had London Pride and Youngs available. I opted for a pint of Youngs Bitter which was in good flavour, befitting of the Casque Mark the pub had been awarded. It's a shame the Aperfield isn't more welcoming to drinkers, as it's the only pub nearby in the area and it would make for a good community hub. To be fair the food I had was tasty (a Pork Belly Sunday Lunch) but this wasn't really a place you could go for a chat and a pint.

M&B also own the Ember Inn brand. I've generally thought of them to be more as food pubs like the Vintage Inn but my view was changed when I recently popped in to the Railway Hotel in West Wickham. As it's mentioned in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide and I just had to tick it off on their mobile app, I went in for just a quick pint. There was a mini ale festival on with a good selection of Great British Beer Festival winners, so I ended up staying for a couple. I enjoyed a pint of RCH Brewery P.G Steam, a solid best bitter with a pleasant hint of sweetness. The Leeds Brewery Leeds Pale Ale wasn't as good, but was still a tasty, floral and hoppy ale. The atmosphere was comfortable and overall I spent a perfectly pleasant evening there. It certainly exceeded my expectations, or perhaps misconceptions, of what appeared to be a nondescript, everyday chain pub.

Obligatory terrible camera phone shot of the interior of Brewdog Shoreditch
Aw shucks
I also had the pleasure recently of visiting the recently opened BrewDog Shoreditch. I've visited their Camden venue previously and while the Shoreditch outlet was similar it also felt a little different. It's a large space with a downstairs basement which will apparently be used for live gigs in the future. It has the same industrial interior with bare concrete ceiling and walls, metal grating and exposed wiring. This is fine at night when the bar is dimly lit but I imagine it could start feeling a little oppressive during the day. The beer selection is as impressive as ever with the usual BrewDog suspects on tap, along with rare guest beers and a wide selection of bottled beers. I enjoyed a half of the Punk IPA, its fruity flavours with a slight tangy edge coming through pleasantly as ever. I also sampled a couple of American guest beers. The first was the Rogue Hazlenut Brown which tasted suspiciously like a Cornetto but was oddly addictive. Second was the Double Jack from Firestone, a really rather good brown ale with a subtle hoppy taste. Most American beers have a overpowering flavour of fruity hops and can be reminiscent of drinking an alcoholic Um Bongo so this made a pleasant change.

The artists rendition  of Paddy is scarily
accurate.
There is a small food menu, although the excellent burgers and pizza from the Camden branch are missing from here. The menu has a Japanese theme, with beef buns and chicken skewers. There's also JFC which apparently stands for Japanese Fried Chicken. I initially thought it was Jewish Fried Chicken and I expected a nice old lady to bring out a huge bucket of chicken because you're looking a bit thin these days don't they feed you at home? You're going to catch your death of cold! Sadly I didn't get the chance to try the food. Peeking at other tables the food looked pretty good and I'd like to give it a try next time I'm there.

Finally, considering the Shoreditch location, I'm pleased to report the bar was largely hipster free and I didn't feel the urge to punch anybody in the face. I can't guarantee that's the situation every night though.

I'm going to try and start doing more regular updates of this blog. In the future there will be a new post on the 15th and 30th of the month as a minimum. I do enjoy broadcasting my inane thoughts over the internet, and I hope you enjoy reading them!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Charles Lamb, The Barnsbury

Another long delay between blog posts and again this is due to a holiday. This time I was in Sorrento, Italy, which was absolutely gorgeous. The scenery on the Amalfi coast is breathtaking, and the food and drink weren't bad either. Amusingly there was a "British pub" there (plus the ubiquitous "Irish bars") although I didn't venture in to try the John Smiths that was on offer. Being Italy there were countless mopeds whizzing about, and it was a gamble when crossing the street if you were actually going to make it across this time. Amusingly Italians just hop onto a moped no matter what they're wearing, from suit and tie to casual T-shirt and jeans. Of course being Italian they make it look effortlessly cool. Much better than the angry dreadlocked courier with the hand me down clothes you tend to see on bikes in London. On occasion whole families would be squeezed onto a moped, with the family dog tucked into the front. I was almost tempted to rent a moped but I knew full well I would die seconds after getting on the road thanks to the absolutely insane driving of Italian drivers.

If you look at this photo very closely you can hear an American saying "Isn't it just gorgeous?!"
A danger I wasn't prepared for in Sorrento was the countless Americans who were there. I don't mind Americans, but for some reason they irritate me when they're on holiday in a European country. They're kind of fun at first as they marvel at buildings that are "over 100 years old!" and ask if the waiter "really is from Italy?" but then I find the constant braying and getting drunk on two glasses of wine gets very irritating very quickly. In restaurants they inevitably start asking inane questions to anybody who has the misfortune to sit next to them, completely ignoring the answers and prattling on about how great New York or whichever little corner of America they're from is. I just want to enjoy my Spaghetti without having to hear Doris from Connecticut tell her entire life story.

The food in Sorrento was great although every restaurant seemed to serve the exact same menu of pasta, pizza, meat and fish. By the end of my brief trip there I was practically gagging for traditional British cuisine such as a curry or kebab. So on my return to England it was straight to the Charles Lamb on Sunday for a roast, accompanied by The Lovely Jemma and a flame haired Irish friend. The Charles Lamb is a cosy two room boozer down a quiet side street near Angel tube station. It can be easily missed, and one chap at the bar was berating his friend for picking a pub that was so difficult to find. I like to think that after a couple of well kept ales he would be thanking his friend for bringing him here.

This was my first visit to this quite fine pub. The Sunday roast was excellent, the beef a very pleasant shade of pink and the veg in good form. The ale was excellent too, although thankfully not pink. I enjoyed a couple of delicious pints of Thornbridge "Sequoia," a typically classy Thornbridge bitter with a warming hoppy taste. Staff were friendly and the pub didn't feel cliquey or stuffy the way some pubs in Islington can. Basically it was hipster free.

This photo in the window of a Sorrento
photography studio was
basically the highlight of my trip.
Afterwards we moved on to The Barnsbury, another first time pub for me and recommended in the Good Beer Guide 2013. I love going to a CAMRA recommended pub for the first time. First because visiting a new pub is always an adventure, and second because I get to tick off the pub from my mobile version of the Good Beer Guide. It's very satisfying to push the "Pub Visited" button. I recommend the Good Beer Guide app generally, it's a very useful tool to have especially when you're in a new town and you're not sure which pub you can go to where you most likely won't get stabbed by crazed locals, or drink an ale which tastes of soapy water poured from a tramps boot.

The beer in The Barnsbury did not taste like soapy tramp boot water, far from it, and I had a perfectly well kept pint of Dark Star Hophead, a classic pint with the excellent floral flavours coming through fabulously. The atmosphere was pleasant although I did hear a Coldplay song being played, thankfully it didn't last long and the rest of the music was fine. Again this pub is sort of in the middle of nowhere, but well worth making a visit if you find yourself in the area.

I've got no holidays planned for a while now, and now that I'm looking at buying a house it's most likely I'll never go on holiday again. Expect more frequent updates of this blog in the future. I know you can't wait!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The George, Croydon and Nellie Deans of Soho


If you've been wondering where I've been for the past few weeks, then I truly am touched but there are probably more important things you should be thinking about such as are you sure you turned the iron off this morning, or that the cat was definitely fed? For those still interested I spent a very relaxing two weeks in Ibiza. It was my first time visiting the island, and to be honest I was excepting boozed up Brits parading the streets, slapping their lobster pink bellies while chugging a bottle of Vodka as they march on to the next sweaty nightclub. At Playa Del Bossa I did get that but generally my ignorant expectations were completely wrong and it was a really pleasant place to visit. Ibiza Town in particular was a highlight with the quaint, quiet fortified old town and the vibrant, bustling new town with its expansive harbour. I had a wonderful time and I drank enough Estrella to last me a few years.
Although I had a great time it was nice to return to Blighty and have a few proper beers. The lager in Ibiza was fine but it all starts tasting the same after a while. A few days after returning to London I visited the Nellie Dean of Soho. This was actually the first time I'd popped inside this pub despite walking past countless times. It has always looked so busy from the outside that I've always just walked on and end up at The Ship.

Soho is a strange place for pubs because all the good ones are really small and all the terrible ones are large barns. Nellie Dean is a small pub which is a good sign but it also means it's difficult to get a seat, particularly in the cosy downstairs main bar. There is an area upstairs with a pool table and a jukebox, and some additional seating. There's also, unfortunately, some "art" from aspiring artists. When we visited the art appeared to be the product of a mad man but the price tags clearly confirmed my suspicions that the artist was due a trip to the funny farm - £500 for a warped drawing of a depressed naked lady with all the subtlety of a punch in the chops.

The afore mentioned jukebox had a music selection which was satisfyingly naff as any good pub jukebox should have, with no music past around 2005. Much to my disappointment the jukebox only played music upstairs so I couldn't annoy the patrons downstairs with my fine selection of ZZ top "Legs" and Phil Collins "Easy Lover."  Me and the Lovely Jemma were the only ones upstairs for a long while (maybe everybody knows about the art,) but when some people did come upstairs they left halfway through my selection of "Welcome to the Jungle." Perhaps they were disappointed that there wasn't snakes and crocodiles supping a pint surrounded by several species of endangered trees in a humid environment and that Axl Rose had lied to them. Or they just didn't have decent taste in music.

The whole pub has a easy going  vibe which is different for Soho were most of the pubs are filled with jumped up trunts. As for the ale, I enjoyed a fine pint in there but I can't for the life of me remember what it was I was drinking. I really, really must start taking notes at these things. At least I remembered to take one photo of the place. I'm going to chalk it up to being out of practice after returning from the holiday.

I've walked past The George in Croydon many a time but have never ventured in, mainly due to the Wetherspoon "clientèle" who are huddled outside smoking a fag in the harsh Croydon light. However I'd recently discovered that it had won pub of the year 2011 so I ventured in for a pint. This is a large pub with two bars. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the bar in the back had a decent collection of Dark Star ales on, and I enjoyed a fine pint of Meltdown to go with my Wetherspoons curry. The spiciness of the ale complemented my reheated Chicken Bhuna nicely. The front bar had a great selection of local and more well known ales, with plenty from the Surrey area.

I enjoyed a couple of pints here and all the ale was in tip top condition. They clearly care about beer and selection wise this was probably the best Wetherspoons I've visited. The only problem with this pub is that it seemed to attract even more stereotypical Wetherspoons characters than usual. There was a mix of families, young couples and workers to soften the atmosphere a little but there were a fair few folk who you probably wouldn't want to bump in to in a dark alley, or even a floodlight one in the middle of the afternoon. But I guess that's the chance you have to take when you go to a pub in Croydon. At least I didn't have to suffer any terrible art.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

CAMRA Great British Beer Festival 2012

The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) has been and gone again. This yearly beerathon organised by CAMRA is always a great day out and this year was no exception. If anything it was better as the festival was in Olympia, a much more pleasant building than grotty Earls Court, where previous festivals have taken place. Sadly I was drinking to much beer and didn't stop to take any snaps, so this is another photoless update. I expect my blogging rights to be revoked by Google any day now. If you want to imagine what the GBBF looked like, just imagine a giant greenhouse full of people selling you beer.

The light, airy Olympia building was a great environment for the festival. I spent the Wednesday there, where the crowds remained manageable all day, even in the evening when I was pretty soused. The threat of Olympic crowds must have been keeping people away. There was also a lack of corporate guests who nearly overran the festival last year. I don't remember getting belligerent at all about the crowds, which I tend to do when I've got a few drinks inside me

The festival was in good form with some excellent ales on offer. A new "Champion Beers" area grouped Champion Ales of past and present together in one superstar stall. The ales on offer read like a Who's Who of top notch beers, and I enjoyed a half of the excellent Chocolate Cherry Mild from the Durnham brewery. This ale tastes exactly how it is described and is always a treat. I didn't try the Champion Beer of Britain 2012, Lucky Number 9 from the Coniston Brewery, as it was a barley wine and quite frankly barley wine terrifies me. I'm sure it was very good though.

Elsewhere in the festival I thought I'd try another fruity ale, this time the Chocolate Orange Delight from Downton. I was looking forward to this one as chocolate, orange and ale feature very highly on my favourite things list. In fact the only thing it needed to tick off all items on my favourite things list was a giant pair of tits. Sadly the actual ale didn't live up to expectation and was a little bit sickly. It didn't even have that much of an Orange taste. If it was to have breasts they would probably be saggy and maybe a little hairy. Not so much a delight as a disappointment.

Things got much, much better with the Boggart Rum Porter, an excellent pint which sadly wasn't on when I visited Boggarts only outlet, the MicroBar in Manchester, documentated in a earlier update. I'm not a huge fan of porter but this was very suppable, perfectly hopped and the shot of rum really adding to the flavour. I could have drank this all day if there wasn't literally hundreds of other beers to sample. Other decent ales sampled included Raven Ale from Orkney, a very good example of a golden ale with a pleasent hoppiness and particulary dry finish, and the Dawkins Brass Knocker, another refreshing golden ale with a fruity flavour that went down well.

As the day rolled on the ales kept coming. All were delicious but as usual at a beer festival my notes stopped after around the 5th half pint, which is why I really shouldn't be allowed to blog. I made the mistake of ordering a Belgium Lambic beer which certainly refreshed the tastebuds with its vingary flavour. Some tastebuds were so refreshed I could feel them trying to run the hell out of my mouth. I found it disgusting to be honest but some people seem to enjoy it.

The American section was doing a brisk trade which really shows how the American craft ale scene has picked up speed over the last few years. A lot had sold out on the Tuesday, when the festival didn't even open to the public until the evening! A promising sounding Lagunitas ale had long gone so I settled for the servers suggestion of Brown Ryed Girl from Willimantic in Connecticut, which was absolutely fantastic. I was prepared for the usual American ale experience where the beer is tremendously hopped and tastes ridiculously fruity. However I was greeted with a wonderful caramel taste with spicy undertones. It was probably the best beer I had at the festival. Well done to the Americans.

The GBBF really is a good day out and with the pub games, live entertainment and vast amount of food available the time just flies by. I had a great time as always and look forward to returning next year. Hopefully they'll stick to the Olympia venue from now on.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Pembury Tavern and Holborn Whippet

It was risky business a couple of weeks ago as I took a trip to Hackney for a few pints at The Pembury Tavern. To be honest I have taken many risks in my life, which is why I've been banned from many good board game stockists. The Pembury Tavern is a large, open bar with bare white walls and plenty of handpumps. With the large plain room and big wooden tables scattered around the place felt like a school dining hall but the ale was plentiful and in good nick. The crowd was suitably varied for Hackney, with a mixture of old and young folks and, always a danger in Hackney, the occasional hipster. I visited during their beer festival which supposedly had a London theme. I immediately got in the spirit of things by ordering a Cornish ale, the ever realiable Betty Stoggs from the Skinners brewery. This was in good nick and the warm, hoppy and bitter taste came through wonderfully. I did try a couple of ales from local breweries which were sadly umemorable. I can't even tell you the name of the brewer or the ale! What a sorry excuse for a blog writer I am. Although not tied with the Milton brewery pub they appear to be the regular beer, so I opted for a pint of Milton Cyclops, a rather pleasant fruity ale which goes down well.

I did enjoy my time at the Pembury but I wouldn't be rushing back. Well actually if I was to return I would be rushing so I can avoid getting shot at and/or stabbed in Hackney. But it was a pleasent evening and I managed to beat three people in a row on the pool table so I can't really complain. I wasn't actually smacking their faces into a pool table- Hackney hadn't affected me that much.

Normally I would blur out faces in my photos but that is some top class gurning going on there.
The Holborn Whippet is a new venture from the guys who run the excellent Euston Tap and apparently is not named after the Devo song. This is a small pub with cosy indoor seating and a small outside seating area. I had high hopes for the Whippet as the Euston Tap is one of my favourite pubs for craft ale, with a jolly atmosphere and keen staff. Would the Whippet replicate its success?

I must admit the first time I went to the Whippet I didn't even stay for a pint as it was absolutely packed, and the high ceiling and bare walls meant the noise level was terrifically high. However returning early evening on a Saturday the place was pretty quiet. There are around 15 keg and 6 cask ales availabe. Like the Tap these are served from a wall which presumably bleeds ale.



The lone barmaid was serving drinks pretty quickly and I enjoyed a half of Arbor Old Knobbley. This unusual ale, marketed as an old ale, tasted like a mild but was bordering into stout territory. It was pleasant with an interesting chocolate and malt taste, but to be honest a half was enough for me. I also sampled the Adnams Flamerunner, a solid pale ale with a good citrus taste. It wasn't anything spectacular but it was a good pint for a rather stuffy day. I also ordered a burger and chips from their small menu. Everything was great except the burger meat itself which was gray and tasteless, which is a bit of a setback in a burger. A shame.

Although the Whippet had a lot going for it, in particular the enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, I just never got comfortable in the place. The atmosphere was a little sterile, even as it started to fill up as the evening went on, and the plain decoration and white walls actually got a little depressing after a while. After a couple of hours I was itching to leave and we eventually decamped to the Cross Keys in Covent Garden just so I could see some good old fashioned tat hanging from the walls of a pub. There's potential at the Whippet and I no doubt will return once things have settled in a bit. I'm sure they can't wait for my return!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Two Doves and The Wenlock Arms

I was saving this update for when summer would actually show itself in all it's hot, sunny, blue sky glory, as it centres around a lovely beer garden I visited for the first time recently. But as I'm still wearing a jacket in July and a nice day doesn't seem to be on the horizon, I'll just post this now. It's a shame the weather has been a wash out as there's nothing more pleasurable than a pint in a British beer garden, unless you're there with a cider drinker. Then you have to deal with every wasp in the land trying to take a sip of the apple goodness and you end up spending the entire afternoon waving your hand about like you've got an uncontrollable spasm, or just spinning around frantically yelling "Is it on me?! Is it on me?!" contorting your head around like Linda Blair in the Excorcist trying to see if a wasp is crawling down your back.

The Lovely Jemma likes to point out that as wasps eat fermented apples, they're basically pissed all the time anyway. But they're not happy drunks like your Uncle Wally who rambles on about how things were better back then before slowly falling asleep in the corner gently farting, but more like your mad Aunt Sally who starts hitting her husband and calling all the neighbours bastards once she's had a sherry. Basically wasps are terrible creatures and I look forward to the day when some unknown disease wipes the whole lot out.

I quite like bees though.

A glorious beer garden I've come across recently is at the Two Doves, a rather unassuming local near Bromley Common. I did feel a little uncomfortable walking into this Young's boozer as it's truly a locals place, but they're all friendly and happy to leave you alone if you're an antisocial shut in like myself. The beer selection is nothing exciting, but the Young's ales are kept in good condition and I had a particularly good pint of the Young's Special here. The food menu is perfectonary with a simple selection of sandwiches, the kind of food you'd expect to find covered in shrinkwrap sitting on the table when it's lunchtime in the bowls club clubouse. But head outside the back and you're greeted with this lovely sight:

This truly is one of the nicest beer gardens I've had the pleasure of drinking a pint in. It's just like sitting in a lovely Auntie's immaculately presented garden, complete with a shed full of tat and aging patio furniture shoved in at the back. It's fabulous and well worth visiting if it's a sunny day and you're in the area.

Another pub I visited for the first time is the Wenlock Arms near Old Street. Recently taken over by the owners of the hit and miss Queen's Head in Kings Cross, this pub is a pretty good stab at being a local's local. The ale selection is great and I had an excellent couple of pints of Mighty Oak's Oscar Wilde, a great ale which I have waxed lyrical about previously. A seven piece band consisting entirely of friendly grandads played some excellent blues, conversation was had, a pub dog said hello (being Hoxton it was a poodle) and a fun time was had by all. A nice pub if you're in the area, because if you are in the area you're going to need a respite for the unremitting blandness of this forgettable part of London.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Farringdon walkabout

Now that I'm working in the Farringdon area it would be rude not to visit the pubs nearby for research purposes. There are certainly worse areas to be in for an after work drink. Indeed there is a pub located practically across the road from our new offices, The Blue Lion. A former tied house this is now a indepenedent pub with a decent rotating selection of four ales. Sadly the frontage does not include a picture of a lion looking a bit depressed. Despite having a large bar there only ever seems to be two bored staff members pouring pints and glasses of Pinot Grigio for the ITN journos who work nearby. The beerintheevening review promises a goth barmaid with mammaries of appreciable size but sadly she must have left because I've never seen her - believe me I've kept a lookout. The place gets very busy on Thursdays and Fridays and frankly the staff can't cope but it's a nice enough place to pop into if it's not too manic. The ale is well kept and there's usually something pleasant to try.

Next up is The Gunmakers, a quaint little pub tucked in the arse end of nowhere. Nearby are grimy warehouses, some kind of grotty factory, and worst of all, the Ben Sherman headquarters. Inside however this is a welcoming little pub. I've only visited once so far and unfortunately it was during a Tyneside beer festival. I say unfortunately because every Geordie beer I tried had the taste of what I imagine water gathered from a freshly wet and muddy dog would taste like. The Geordie Pride from the Mordue Brewery was the best of a bad bunch and it still wasn't great, with a rather weak hoppy taste. The pub itself is a pleasure to drink in though, even if the beer was not great, with a conservatory in the back that had a friendly beer tent feel to it. I'm looking forward to returning when they aren't selling beer from our Geordie friends.

On Leather Lane is the Craft Beer Co, a well known mecca for ale lovers, with a tremendous selection of booze. Countless handpumps deliver well kept ale and a mind boggling selection of largers. On my last visit I was greeted with the pleasent sight of five Thornbridge ales on handpull, and a splendid pint of Crux went down very well indeed. Reminiscent of Kipling but with the tropical fruit juice flavours toned down a bit, I actually enjoyed this more than Kipling. A great pint. The only downside of Craft is that they choose to charge £5 for half a slice of pork pie. This is absolutely ridiculous. For that kind of money I would expect a pork pie made from REAL GOLD although I imagine that would be disgusting. The pork pie they do serve is inevitably delicious but the high cost does sour the taste.

Ye Olde Mitre is a charming little pub tucked down the most easy to miss side alley in London. A Fullers pub they usually have the full range on plus a couple of guests. I had a pint of Ilkley Black which sadly tasted a bit like coal but I don't think this was the fault of the pub. A taste of Fullers new Wild River went down well, a pleasently hopped summer ale, using American hops. It's a good attempt. The pub is small although you may be able to find a seat in the cosy upstairs room. The opening hours seem to be erratic, as being in Farringdon everybody leaves at around 9pm so don't be surprised if they've called last orders at 10pm. Pork pies are a much more reasonable £1.80 or so although they do appear to have been purchased from the nearby Sainsburys.

The One Tun is a strange beast. It feels like it should be a council estate pub but instead it's slap bag in the centre of London next to an incredibly busy train station.. It's got a lot of things I don't really like in pubs - TV's everywhere, sound deck and disco ball, Thai food and a snow machine(?!) But the ale selection is good and the beer well kept, and it has a weird feel of community spirit even though it's full of office workers. It was certainly a fun place to watch 22 men flail about on a grassy field for 90 minutes while desperately trying to kick a ball into the back of a net. I like the place but I can imagine it's a bit of an aquired taste.

I'm not going to say much about the Sir John Oldcastle except to say it's pretty much your bog standard 'Spoons and my lamb rogan josh was fine.

There are plenty of other places I need to visit in the area including the Jerusalem Tavern. A 10-15 minute walk away is the Holborn Whippet which I've been hearing great things about. There also seems to be a lot of places I need to avoid as well judging by the braying suits on their Blackberries standing outside. I shall no doubt keep you updated on any further pubs I visit!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Manchester

Manchester is one of my favourite places to visit in England. Laid back but with an lively energy to it, it's a great place to spend a weekend. Exploring the back streets of the Northern Quarter before vomiting with the students at the many bars and pubs along Oxford Road is always a pleasure. Manchester is also home to a splendid range of pubs, and I recently spent a day there visiting some highly rated pubs which I hadn't actually been to before. Curse my pub ignorance.

They're not kidding. It's pretty small. Actually they are lying a little bit, I didn't see any vines or leaves.
First up was the Micro Bar, which is not really a pub but more of a stall in what is known as the Arndale "Market." This area is basically a tiny little market shoved into a back corner of the Arndale shopping centre. One half is full of tantalising food stalls, the other half packed full of stalls selling all the tat imaginable. Although if you want real tat you have to go to Afflecks, a five storey monstrosity which is basically like Camden Market packed into a building. Although it has its fans I find it a dreadful experience, trudging up floor after floor looking at more shiny spiky boots, neon necklaces and t-shirts with odd foreign words like "Slipknot" and "Man-o-war" printed on them, surrounded by gormless goths and excitable 14 year old girls with hair the same colour as my bathroom towels. Not my idea of fun.

Although the Micro Bar is small it packs a punch. An outpost of the Boggart brewery, there were a couple of Boggart brews on offer plus a couple of guests. I tried the Boggart Cascade, a sturdy bitter which didn't set the world alight but was a pleasant pint. I also tried the Great Orme Brewery Cambria which was much better,  a pleasent and light session ale with an excellent crisp, hoppy taste. Both ales were in good condition and the service was friendly if a little scary. But as a Southerner I find all Northerners terrifying with their friendly attitude, chatty humour and frequent eye contact. The Micro Bar also had a well stocked off sales section, including a magnum of Chimay Blue which I was tempted to buy but for the safety of my mind and body I decided not too. The Micro Bar has obvious shortcomings due to its market location, such as there's not really anywhere comfortable to sit, the atmosphere is non existant and the places is restrained by the Arndale opening times so it closes ridicously early, especially on a Sunday. The plus is that it's in a food market, so plentiful curries, meats and cheeses are just round the corner (or next door if you get cheese) to accompany your tasty pint.

One of the best pub interiors I'd seen. Fantastic.
Next up was the Marble Arch, a historic pub on the outskirts of the city centre. The interior is tremendous, perfectly preserved with a sloping floor leading to the bar, the way a pub should be. Food is a strong focus here although I didn't get the chance to try any. The cheese selection in particular looked brilliant but I was stuffed full with a Wetherspoons breakfast so didn't stand a chance of eating any. Luckily beer is also has a strong focus here. This pub is an outpost of the Marble Brewery, whose brewery is located behind. There's plenty on offer, although sadly I wasn't able to try the Marble Pint as it was off. My dream of ordering a half pint of Pint was shattered. Instead I plumped for the Bitter, which was surprisingly fruity and light. It was a top notch pint. All of Marbles ales are organically brewed, although unlike most things labelled organic it didn't taste of a hippy's socks. This pub is a must visit for the interior alone, and the wide selection of ales is just the icing on the cake.

The Angel is located a stone throws away from the Marble Arch, although it's a different beast, a modest and cosy local. On a lazy Sunday afternoon there weren't many punters in, although I imagine it get's livelier in the evenings. There were plenty of ales on offer and I went for a pint of the Three B's Stokers Slates, a rather good mild with a very pleasent chocolate taste. It looks like I'm not the only one who has enjoyed this pint as it has amassed a rather sizeable collection of awards. It deserves them as it's a great example of a mild.

What my readers have been waiting for:
another fabulous picture of TLJ's nails! This
time holding a Welsh ale.
In between the pubbing me and The Lovely Jemma enjoyed a good meal at Dough!, a pretty decent pizza place in the Northern Quarter and not a Simpsons tribute restaurant. Although it wouldn't surprise me if Manchester does have s Simpsons tribute restaurant. Or at least a bar. It's that kind of town. Our last pub before heading on the Virgin Train to London was The Castle Hotel, a pleasant little pub deep in the Northern Quarter. A Robinsons pub, it had a fair range of Robinsons ale on offer. You don't seem them too often in London so I went for a pint of Unicorn and Crusoe. To be honest neither were that memorable, probably why I'm not too fussed that you don't see Robinsons in London that often. The pub itself was a bit of a charmer, with a small open area at the front and a cosy little room behind the bar. Behind this room was a intimate little gig venue. The small back room packed in an ecelectic mix of punters and the atmosphere was jolly. A nice little pub.

I must give special mention to the The Font, a bar which is as studenty as a student bar can be (£2 cocktails, cheapo food, loud music, full of students) but had a pretty good cask ale selection, which I wasn't expecting. The bottled selection also looked very good with a wide range of Thornbridge ales amongst other goodies. Coupled with a decent CAMRA discount which meant a cocktail and a pint on a Saturday night came to £4.25 (astonishing) it was a pretty good night.

If you find yourself in Manchester you can do worse than visit one of these pubs. And the good news is there are plenty more places in Manchester that I need to visit. I'll be sure to test them out next time I'm up there (sorry Jemma!)
A final shot of the magnificent Marble Arch.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Still Alive & Borough Market

I'd first like to confirm to my loyal reader that I am still alive. The lack of updates was due to the company I work for deciding to move building. As the IT Manager this would have been a fairly straight forward task if it didn't involve dealing with BT. This meant being stuck on the phone with them for hours being passed from confused person to person only to be told "oh we don't deal with that, please try this department." Or even worse you get caught in their automated voice recognition system, where you have to bark out LINE FAULT, NO and YES like a cross between a demented Cyberman and Father Jack. The annoying thing is that once you break into the engineers fortress of BT Openreach, a laughable name as they are anything but open or reachable, the engineers are friendly and knowledgeable. But getting through the seven layers of BT hell to reach them is a tiresome, soul destroying process that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Not even Jeremy Vine. And I hate that bastard.

Still the office move is over now so I can go back to the important business of updating this blog. To get back into the feel of things I'd like to give mention to a few good pubs I did manage to visit while my soul was being slowly eroded sorting out the move. The first three pubs are all around Borough Market, a hotbed of real ale activity. First up is the Market Porter, an old favourite which is like a South London version of the Harp. This means plenty of well kept ales in a jovial atmosphere. It also means the place is tiny yet hugely popular, which means there's rarely any space inside. The outdoor area is covered by the market's roof so it's no hardship standing outside, unlike The Harp where if you're unlucky you get thrashed by the harshest elements Britain has to offer while desperately clinging on to your pint of mild.

Unfortunately the Market Porter does insist on plastic glasses if it starts getting busy outside, and ale just doesn't taste as good from a plastic receptacle. I find it patronising when a pub doesn't trust their clientèle with glass - they may as well just hand out sippy cups and be done with it. Still at least the plastic glasses don't have the number of units you're drinking printed on them unlike some pubs in the North. Of course these glasses have the opposite intended effect as most punters try to attain a high a score as possible and proudly total up the number of units on the empty glasses at the end of the night. Well done Blackpool council!

Back to Borough Market, The Rake is another favourite in the area. Again it's a tiny place but the ale is always in good form. Well it usually is. When I visited there were three ales on from a local brewery and unfortunately they weren't great. I asked for a sample of all three - the first tasted like the tropical fruit juice you can buy in Sainsburys which is not a good thing, the second of yoghurt and the third like a very substandard version of Thornbridge Kipling. I then ended up in a awkward situation as the brewer himself was in the pub and asked me what I thought of the pints.

Luckily he hadn't seen me taste the ales and watch my face contort into what a baby might look like when licking a lemon for the first time, so I was able to bullshit my way through an opinion without offending his feelings in true English fashion. I eventually plumped for a pint of the Kipling clone which admittedly did taste better the more I drank.

The final pub worth a mention in Borough Market, The Brew Wharf is round the back of Vinopolis and is a microbrew pub and restaurant. It has a modern, industrial design which I didn't find particularly welcoming or pleasant. It reminded me of a wine bar that may have been cool in the early 2000's but now felt past it. The ale, however, was excellent. I went for a pint of their Nut Brown Ale (made with real nuts) which was absolutely spot on. A tremendous bitter taste and the nuttiness was perfect. Sadly the atmosphere won't have me rushing back but I'd pop in again if I was in the area.

Finally we leave a working market for a former one, Covent Garden, for a quick mention of the Cross Keys. I made my first visit to this little gem recently and thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Just round the corner of the main Covent Garden drag the interior of this boozer is bathed in a red light which gives the place a slightly seedy feel. Which I liked. The Lovely Jemma commented that she liked all the tat hanging from the ceiling. The beer selection was good with four Brodies ales on, and two guests, in this case Darkstar Hophead and Redemption Trinity. I went for the Brodies Pale Ale which was a nice pint with plenty of fruity hoppy goodness. The atmosphere was boisterous but pleasant. Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself stuck in the Covent Garden area.

That was fun. It's been strange not expressing my pointless opinion on London's pub on the internet and I hope to start doing it on a more regular basis now. I'll also try and get some pictures. Until next time!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Parcel Yard - Kings Cross

The Parcel Yard is a new Fullers venture which has opened in the brand new annex to Kings Cross station. Part of the rengeration of Kings Cross (which has been ongoing for over forty years now) the new annex looks like a UFO that has crashed into the side of the unassuming main building. Inside it looks like a giant metallic tree has burst through the ground and enveloped the concourse. It reminded me of the British Museum but instead of being filled with mummies and rare artifacts it's got drunk geordies and a Smiths. Sadly the shops and eateries inside aren't nearly as exciting as the architecture. Apart from the excellent Benioto's Hat which serves great burritos it's the usual (boring) suspects. If there's one thing Kings Cross needed is another bloody Pret A Manger. Thankfully this branch doesn't play the irritatingly twee "jazz" that some Prets play while you're trying to shove a £4.50 baguette down your gullet.

Distressingly Pret have started putting the calorie count of their food displayed on the label, a trend other fast food places have been following. This makes getting lunch a bizzare numbers game, where you desperately try and stay under the fabled score of 2500 calories, or 2000 if you're blessed with breasts. I now have to carefully calculate the calorie score in my head, just in case I do go over the magic score and turn into an obese, wheezing ball of fat which the Government is convinced we're all going to become if we don't follow their strict lifestyle advice. While the MP's continue to enjoy cheap booze in the House of Commons pub and take countess lunches with clients and "dignitaries."


An actual, genuine photo taken by myself.  A rarity on this blog. Here's the
good looking new annex at Kings Cross.
But I digress. At the back of the new annex is the Parcel Yard. From the outside it looks nothing special, with a staircase leading up to the main pub. Inside is a different story. This place is gigantic, sprawled over two floors with new nooks and crannies to discover at every corner. In the middle is an appealing atrium style space, covered by a high and lovely glass ceiling. Exposed ducts and wiring mix well with the classic Victorian architecture. This is a good looking pub and even though it is gigantic it was packed to the rafters. How long the place stays packed after the initial excitement dies down remains to be seen.

Despite the pleasent decor the ale selection was nothing special with the standard Fullers selection available and space for a couple of guests. Sadly a lot of the ales were off when I visited on its third day of operation and only Chiswick, HSB and London Pride were on offer. Chiswick is essentially brown water and London Pride is pretty dull so I opted for a couple of pints of the HSB. It was in good condition, the pleasant dark bitter taste coming through. Service was fine but the prices are expensive, around £3.80 for a pint of HSB which is very steep. This was the day after the budget so maybe that crafty Mr Osbourne had already worked his wallet emptying magic. The pub had also committed the cardinal sin of running out of crisps. All flavours, even the hated prawn cocktail! I had never seen this in a pub before. In fact I thought a pub without crisps would be like the Tower of London without ravens - it would just crumble to the ground.



The many seating areas all had their charms and we sat in a area that was clearly former offices. It was a comfortable and pleasent environment, and it was easy to forget you were sitting in a train station pub as long as you don't look out the windows overlooking the trains and platforms and other objects that would remind you that you're in a train station pub.

I had an enjoyable visit but the high prices won't entice me to return often, especially with the Euston Tap and Doric Arch offering a better selection with lower prices just down the road. With a captive audience of thirsty commuters and Geordies filing through Kings Cross everyday this is never going to try and attract a loyal crowd but the bonkers prices makes me wish, dare I say it, that Wetherspoons had a stab at the place instead.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bricklayers Arms Yorkshire Beer Festival

I can only hope the gates to heaven look like this.
I made a welcome visit last Saturday to the wonderful Bricklayers Arms in Putney for their Yorkshire ale festival. The Bricklayers is a real gem of a pub with a warm, welcoming atmosphere as soon as you enter the front door. A roaring fireplace is to your right and a fully stocked bar is straight ahead with a fabulous selection of ales. If I wasn't such a self concious chap I'd probably dance a little jig every time I walk in. 

For their ale festivals they put out a few extra barrels in the beer "garden." Not really sure a concrete patio counts as a garden but it will do. I went through a few ales but the highlight was the "Nettlethrasher" from Elland Brewery, a refreshing and wonderfully hopped ale that was a pleasure to drink. The lowpoint was the Theakstons "Lightfoot", a light golden ale which sadly failed to taste of anything much at all. The best named ale was the "Smutty Mutt" from Marston Moor which thankfully didn't taste of a naughty dog with an eye for the ladies. Part of the motley crew who came along to the festival were the Beta Males, a comedy sketch group who would you believe it are up for an award from Chortle. I hear they are funny and I did once laugh at something they said so why not vote for them here. (Editors Note: Guys I expect a fiver for doing this for you. I'm sure the votes from my two regular readers will push you into victory!)

The Bricklayers is a great pub and I always enjoy visiting but unfortunately every time I've been there (twice) there have been morris dancers doing their pagan shenanigans outside. I have covered my deep rooted fear of morris dancers in a previous update but suffice to say they still scare the hell out of me. I made the realisation that what terrifies me is that there's absolutely nothing normal about them, no refuge from their insanity. The sinister hats, the rosette nipples, the wooden sticks perfect for bludgeoning and the never ending jingling a bells ensure they are the stuff of nightmares. Not even the sight of a little girl trying to join in the dances while holding a twig could shake off the fear. They are truly unnatural beings. I fear the day their pagan ritual of knocking wooden sticks together and singing songs about saucy ladies actually works and the evil Morris Overlord rises from the ground and smites us all with a giant wooden stick while ringing bells incessantly.

AAAAAAAAAARGH. I tried to take more photos of them but my camera burst into flames in my hands.
This is going to be my last update for a while as I'm off to sunny America for two weeks next Wednesday. But don't worry. I'll be visiting every micro brewery I can so I can bore you with the details when I return. If you know of any good drinking places in Los Angeles, Las Vegas or San Francisco why not leave a comment and let me know?

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A return to two old favourites

BrewDog Camden continues to impress.
Sadly I haven't been visiting too many new places recently. In fact I haven't really been visiting any boozers at all in the past couple of weeks. The pressures of work have meant that rather than going out for a nice pint I've been heading home to cry myself to sleep. I haven't written off pubs completely and have had the chance to visit a couple of pubs - one a old favourite and one that is rapidly becoming a new favourite of mine.

The Harp is a pereninal favourite in Covent Garden, an ale oasis in a area filled with expensive, soulless bars packed to the rafters with confused tourists and twats. The place is tiny which means it always seems full of happy punters, even when it's not actually that busy. A visit last weekend led me to have a tremendous pint of the Titanic "Nautical Mild." I love a good mild and this was one of the better examples I've had. A lovely, bitter coffee taste comes through with just the right amount of chocolate undertones. A fine effort. I also enjoyed a pint of Thornbridge "Lord Marple" a solid example of a traditional bitter. Very suppable. The problem I have with Thornbridge brews is that none of them match the mighty Kipling, which is probably the best ale I've ever sampled. Still the Lord Marple was excellent and well worth a pint or three.

The food at BrewDog. I highly recommend
the burgers.
I also paid a visit to the BrewDog Camden, which continues to impress. The wanky and pretentious scribblings are still on the walls but the friendly staff, great ambience and excellent beers make up for it. The food is still top notch and I enjoyed a great cheeseburger. This place is really settling in well and a pint of 5am Saint made for a great start to the evening. This red ale is a pleasure to drink with a pleasent bitter aftertaste. The Punk IPA was also in great form, a well hopped and fruity brew seems to taste better in draught form. The prices are expensive and penalise drinkers who don't fancy a lower strength beer as they all cost £3.95 upwards for a pint regardless of strength. This bar isn't the kind of place to have a session but it does make a great place for a few warm up drinks before moving on to the expensive shitholes that Camden has to offer.


Cameron != Churchill
One pub I've been visiting recently that I think that deserves a special mention is the Wetherspoons in Victoria Station. I usually end up here when I'm sending The Lovely Jemma back to leafy Bromley and I must admit that even though I'm dreadfully sad that TLJ has to head back, I do look forward to having a nice pint in there. This pub will never become a "favourite" as the ambience is pretty miserable and it's based in one of the more soulless London stations. However I've been impressed with the ale selection and quality over the past few weeks.  Well worth a visit if you happen to be in the station. Please rest assured I haven't sold out to Wetherspoons by the way. To prove this I'd like to say that I still think Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin is a loopy bastard although he has fabulous hair, and that Wetherspoons unique "Veto Ale" makes me feel slightly ill without me even tasting it thanks to the picture of David Cameron being compared to Winston Churchill on the clip. Terrifying.

Just look at those flowing locks. Amazing.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Tapping the Admiral

As I type this I am seething with rage as one of those bloody awful BT adverts has just come on TV advertising broadband and wi-fi and other internet shenanigans to the innocent British public. When will advertisers realise that ISP adverts don't need to involve kooky flatmates or brass bands. All they need to show is a chap on his computer saying "blimey that downloaded fast" before masturbating furiously to the filthiest porn while the the price per month flashes in massive letters on your television screen.

None of this has anything to do with Tapping the Admiral, a new venture from the team who run the Pineapple. I'm just easily distracted by terrible adverts. Tapping the Admiral, like the Pineapple, is in Kentish Town which is rather spoilt for real ale establishments.  I'd been reading good things about the Admiral from various beer blogs so as a responsible blogger myself I thought I'd give it a shot.
One day I'll take a decent picture on my phone. Today is not that day. Here's the interior of
Tapping the Admiral.
The walk to to the pub was a little bit hairy as I walked through the finest estates Kentish Town has to offer. As a gangly, middle class, nerdy bloke I was obviously shitting myself. I saw two young boys kicking a football against a wall and I got a terrible feeling that they would accidentally kick the ball towards me and expect me to kick it back. A horrifying premonition filled my head as I would attempt to kick the ball with my useless legs and fall over flat on my face while the ball veers off in a ridiculous angle straight into a window, while the kids point and laugh at my crumpled, crying frame on the pavement.

Luckily this didn't happen and I popped into the pub. A welcoming atmosphere awaited. This is a cosy looking pub with a large bar and pleasant decor. About eight handpumps offered a solid selection, if a little uninspired. Adnams was promiment with three ales on offer. I'm not a huge fan of Adnams so I went for a pint of Purity Mad Goose, which was in good nick and was a tasty pint. This was followed by a pint of Redemption Trinity which again was very good indeed. Some local ciders and perry were also available and a wide bottled beer selection was on offer. To be honest I couldn't see anything you couldn't get in the supermarkets, who are getting ever better at offering a interesting range of ales.

There hasn't been a picture of The Lovely Jemmas nails (and a pint) in a while so here you go.
This is the delicious Oscar Wilde I enjoyed at The Harp recently.
Despite playing it safe with the ale selection I had a very pleasent time at the Admiral. To be fair I didn't get the impression they were aiming to be a real ale mecca, I think they are just aiming to be a decent local and there it succeeds (WARNING: PUN ALERT) admirably. A grumpy Thai lady dropped a menu on our table and I thought I'd order some food in an attempt to cheer her up. The Thai starter selection plate we plumped for was pretty good. The Sunday Lunch menu also looked good and was reasonably priced, and I'm tempted to return and try one of their roasts. Overall this is a first class local and worth a visit if you're in the area.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Geronimo!



Geronimo are a chain of gastropubs found mainly in London and recently bought out by the Young's chain. Sadly despite the name they're not a chain of Doctor Who themed pubs. I'll have to stick to the Fab Cafe in Manchester if I want a drink while sitting next to a Cyberman and Tardis. Looking at their website you would be forgiven for thinking that the type of customer they are trying to attract - judging by the pictures - are young, moneyed, middle class, white, wankers. Perfect for me then. The reality is that having been to three Gernoimo pubs it's not easy to pigeon hole them. Each offers a very different experience.

The Betjeman Arms in St Pancras is probably the best one I've been to and as it's near where I work it's a dependable option for an office lunch. The menu doesn't change much but the food is always well prepared and tasty. The ale is usually in good condition even if they don't have a very exciting selection. The unique Betjeman Ale from Sharps is a tasty if unremarkable bitter but is worth a pint or two. Unexciting but decent sums up the Betjeman. Pleasant food, drink, decor and atmosphere but not the sort of place you'd go for a session. But it is a nice place to stop for a drink or bite to eat while waiting for a train, so I guess it's serving its purpose. The Betjeman used to do pretty good mini ale festivals but unfortunately that seems to have stopped. Hopefully they'll bring them back.



The Bull is Geronimos outpost at Westfield Shepherds Bush. When I visited on a weekday evening the pub was loud, busy, and packed full of kids. A tremendous amount of kids. Hardly anybody in there was over the age of 21 or capable of growing a decent beard. I'm not sure if this was a freak occurrence or a regular thing. The Bull didn't seem like the kind of place to attract a very young crowd, the decor giving the impression they were aiming for a slighter older demographic. I had to escape from the young crowd before I got angry at how many of them wouldn't know what a Global Hypercolour T-Shirt is or weren't alive when Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was in the cinemas scaring the shit out of me. The ending where the villain ages rapidly still freaks me out to this day. If you don't know what I'm talking about you're either TOO YOUNG yourself or spectacularly pop culture inept. And as you're on the internet I doubt it's the latter.

We retreated to the dining room in the back for some dinner. The food in The Bull was decent. I opted for a Dexter burger which sadly wasn't shaped like Michael C. Halls face. It was tasty though. The beer was fine, although I can't for the life of me remeber what I drank. It was certainly well kept. I don't think I would return to The Bull, but that's mainly because I don't particularly want to return to Westfield, a vast, soulless, confusing monstrosity which managed to combine the worst elements of American "malls."

I've saved the worst for last. The Elgin in Ladbroke Grove is, essentially, a den for tossers. They call themselves a "Food Pub and Music House" which translates to "Stay away from this place." I ventured in anyway. Initial thoughts were the space is quite nice, despite being tarnished by ill judged decor and matey messages written on blackboards. However its true colours showed when I looked at the band lineup. It was all woozy women and gelled up double acts "re-imaging" every genre imaginable. "Re-imaging" usually means playing tired old rock standards on a scratched up acoustic guitar and a triangle, massacring the lyrics in a twee falsetto voice. There's usually a gimmick, such as the band performs standing on top of a tortoise,  which makes them "amazing, daring and unique" according to Time Out and the Culture section of the Times.

I couldn't wait to get out of there. The pint of Sambrooks Wandle was in good nick and very tasty but the pub had no atmosphere. Nobody looked particularly happy to be there and most were either by themselves typing on their MacBooks while taking up a table for four, or sitting around braying at each other while desperately making sure they were looking cool. If you were at the pub the night I visited then I'm sorry but I'm going to have to assume you're a wanker. Don't worry, I was automatically a wanker myself by sitting in the Elgin. I'm sure outside of the pub you're a lovely person and maybe you only ended up in the Elgin by mistake like I did, but if you're a "regular" of the Elgin then please never talk to me in real life. It's probably best for the both of us.
Geronimo

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Euston Tap & Cider Tap

The Euston Tap is one of the more welcome real ale houses to have opened in the Euston area, and popping in a couple of nights ago I was pleased to see the place is still going strong. I had a pint of a new ale made for them by the Nethergate brewery called One for the Road. Sadly it was a unremarkable pint. Although it was labelled on the board as "Wild Hopped" there weren't any exciting flavours coming through and it was all rather bland. Thankfully a pint of Ilkley Tap 3 was on good form and had in abundance the refreshing hoppy flavours that One for the Road was missing.

Euston Tap have opened a new venture across the road that specialises in "real" cider. After thinking long and hard they came up with the name Cider Tap. This is probably a better name then Euston Cider which as we all know is a euphemism for tramp piss. Although to be honest I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a glass of real cider and a glass of tramp piss. Let's just say I've never understood the appeal of cider. As far as I'm concerned the stench, colour and taste are all designed to warn people away from drinking it.

Going by the current rise of alcohol prices, in five years time you'll have to choose between buying
six bottles of Rekorderlig or buying a car.
I once ordered some Strawberry "Real Cider" for The Lovely Jemma from the delightful The Harp near Leicester Square. On sight of the drink TLJ was convinced I had actually gone outside and convinced a vagrant to piss into a half pint glass. It was a wretched sight and smelt like a corpse that had soiled itself. The look on TLJ's face after the first sip assured me that this half pint was going to be left untouched and unloved on the table. I tried a sip myself and was thankful my tongue didn't just pack it bags and leave my mouth after the offense I had subjected it too. I honestly don't know how anybody could drink the stuff and I imagine the makers can only drink it because their tastebuds have been eroded away by years of horrific acidic cider.

There seems to be two very different camps when it comes to cider. There are those where cider is a pint of Strongbow or Magners, or a glass of sugary sweetness from Sweden such as Kopparberg or Rekorderlig. Swedish ciders in particular seem to be priced ridiculously high and it would probably be cheaper just to mix some Strawberry and Blackcurrant Ribena together and shove some vodka in it. You'd get the same effect. The other camp of cider drinkers are the real cider fans, those who prefer to have their cider made in a bathtub by two bearded gentlemen from Dorset. Unlike beer drinkers where lager fans might go for a ale and ale fans may plump for a lager, there doesn't seem to be the same crossover with cider drinkers. And unfortunately real cider (and perry) just isn't getting the same fanbase as real ale is enjoying.

The Cider Tap bar.  I liked the rustic wooden panelling.

So I was not surprised to walk into the Cider Tap and find it fairly quiet. The Euston Tap across the road was packed and bustling. However the smaller crowd suits the small space and the atmosphere was pleasant. There were about 15 ciders on offer (excluding bottled options.) I went for a half of Hogans Dry Cider. I'm no cider expert but I managed to finish it so it can't have been to bad.

I wish the Cider Tap all the best but cider is already a marginalised market so aiming for a niche of the market may not pay off. Hopefully word will go round and business will pick up. But to be perfectly honest I wouldn't mind if the place became an extension of the Euston Tap - perhaps with a few cider offerings chucked in.