Those of us who do their drinking in pubs, rather than bars or at home, have a cross to bear and it is
one I am always banging on about. It is the quality "thing". My recent drinking - apart from my Sunday trip to the Tandle Hill Tavern where the beer is immaculately kept of course - has brought home to me the perils of straying far from the mother lode. Still it has to be done and here's a few highs and lows from my recent outings.
First of all was a trip to London to the Houses of Parliament and subsequently, some boozing in Westminster environments. As parliament is prorogued it wasn't possible for us to visit the Strangers Bar as intended, as this is closed presently, but I've been before and while I recall the beer being fine, it was more the thrill of sitting on the terrace overlooking the Thames that I recall most fondly. In fact we sat on an adjacent table to the late Charles Kennedy, but I digress. This time, that pleasure being denied, for ease (there was 30 odd of us) we assembled at the St Stephen's Tavern, it being the nearest pub. Now I know my pubs through and through, but I have to admit to this being one of the most disconcerting visits to an English pub I have ever had.
You could say I'm not a fan of Hall and Woodhouse beers. Pretty grim stuff really, but needs must. I ordered a pint of Fursty Ferret - I know I must be insane - and a half of Amstel for E. The barmaid who came from God knows where made no move to pour it, but after enquiring if I wanted anything else asked me how I wanted to pay. "Cash" quoth I, but nonetheless I was given a long lecture about charges if I wanted to pay by card. I interrupted this flow of superfluous information by saying I was paying by cash and she could pour my beer any time she liked. Instead she demanded payment for the as yet (as far as I knew) unpoured beer. I queried this, asking if I was expected to pay up front and was advised my beer was being poured elsewhere by someone else! Now call me old fashioned but in an English pub, I expect my beer to be poured in front of me by the person that serves me. I felt quite disoriented by this, but reluctantly paid and in time another barperson appeared from the back with my beer, which on later comparison with other supposed Fursty Ferrets was an entirely different colour. And it was bloody awful and well over £4 a pint. Above all this
revisionist deconstruction and reassembling of the familiar pub scene is
dystopian and an affront to the pub goer. Just avoid this confusing tourist hell hole is my sound advice.
We abandoned ship and headed round the corner to Fullers Red Lion. I thought I'd see if the Pride was drinking well. My ordered pint seemed to be being poured oddly, so I peered over the bar to see a pint glass of spillage (or whatever) being topped up with fresh beer. I refused this and was served with an extremely indifferent but freshly poured pint of Pride. I advised one of our party of this practice and on ordering, he had the same experience with a different beer. He too refused the pint. When I worked in a pub we called this "slopping". Bad form from a pub run by such a respectable brewery. An anonymous visit by Cellar Services might be a good thing here.
Still, not everything was bad by any means. In fact it was all very much uphill from here. We called into the Speaker on Great Peter St which had excellent and varied beer and a good atmosphere and again, very good beer and spot on friendly staff were found at Young's Buckingham Arms. In fact I can't recall a better run pub in the centre of London and while Young's beers are hardly challenging in taste, they were at least properly kept and served in a welcoming pubby atmosphere. Top marks. We also called into the Waterloo Tap. This small, well run, pleasant bar has a good selection of cask and keg beers at very fair prices and we enjoyed a couple before a bus journey for some Harveys in the Royal Oak which is not only a great pub with a great following, but one that keeps its beer very well indeed.
That was the end of beer drinking for that day as we departed for very expensive tapas and Spanish plonk in Borough Market. My oddest drink of the day was found there in the guise of pink cava while we waited for a table. This beverage was offered by a lovely posh lass I chatted to at the bar while she awaited her date. It wasn't bad at all.
Her friend when he arrived didn't seem quite so pleased to see me, but this little interlude certainly gave this old man a boost! She was a delight and very witty with it.
The weather was great which is always a bonus when pub crawling. The sun shone on me in Kent too, so was that a better experience? I'll let you know. Oh and a mention of Liverpool
Erlanger Nick was involved in both London and Kent crawls. He likes an hour out.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
Read my information and links and then decide for yourself. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes.
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