Monday 15 August 2011

Borough Pub Crawl

We had been discussing a pub crawl in London for some time down the local and as the resident barrow boy it fell upon me to organise a trip to the capital. I chose the area around London Bridge due to the close proximity of the venues and the diverse range available.

A group of us set off from Mid-Bedfordshire on the first Saturday in August and arrived at the Charles Dickens on Union Street. However we arrived so early that it was shut (2pm opening) we mooched off to the Rose and Crown which was deserted and all the handpumps were off. It wasn't a good start so begrudgingly we headed to the second pub on the list which was The Lord Clyde just a couple of minutes walk away. There were four handpumps and we all went for the Doombar to see if it had changed much since Coor's acquisition of the brewery. Sadly it wasn't really in good nick, leaving a somewhat sour taste in the mouth so we headed out of the door. That said The Lord Clyde is a beautiful old Truman, Hanbury & Buxton pub and on previous visits both the staples from the Fullers and Wells-Youngs Brewery have been very nice indeed.

We headed back to The Charles Dickens to find it open and settled down to sample some of the six beers on offer. It's a spit and sawdust kinda place and I was a regular in there for a couple years when working across the road. The beer is maintained pretty well and changes on a very regular basis! The Nethergate Umbel Ale was pretty tasty indeed and packed a bigger coriander punch than I previously remembered. It's one of the cheaper pubs around the area and at £3.25 a pint I am not kidding! Beers duly sampled and, after meeting with a group of London friends, we headed off to one of my favourite pubs in town.

The Royal Oak is the only Harveys pub in London and has consistently served fine beers from it's brewery. Recently they have been selling a Fullers ale alongside their own range but the quality of their mild and pale ales kept us happy. Some tried the Thatchers Heritage Cider but it was way too early in the day for me! Now knowing that our next pub on the list was closed for refurbishment (The George, London's only surviving galleried coaching inn) we had another!

After visiting three traditional British boozers it was time for something different and we headed down the road for a 5 minute walk to the Katzenjammers Bierkeller and Restaurant, which as the name suggests, specialises in German beers both bottled and on draught - well Keg - don't tell CAMRA! There was also a range of Belgian fruit beers squarely aimed at the ladies for some strange reason. The staff were friendly, dressed in traditional German garb and on a mid Saturday afternoon the place was not at all packed meaning we served pretty quickly each time we ventured to the bar. I had the Erdinger Hefeweizen (5.3%) and the Erdinger Kristallklar (5.3%) both of which were in bottles with the former, a wheat beer with lemon overtones, edging it. Sadly the bouncer didn't seem to like our authentic German style oompahs and as the place was filling up we headed into the daylight (ouch those eyes!) for the 2 minute walk to The Market Porter.

I have been drinking in this pub for years and can remember when it was smaller with enclosed spaces and rooms. I am sure it brewed its own beer at one point too. In the past decade it has expanded both inside and out becoming open planned and is now firmly entrenched on the tourist trap - erm I mean trail! It was pretty packed but it's worth the wait as the beer is generally of high quality. In fact I had my beer of the day here in the shape of the incredibly tasty Ilkley Gold (3.9%). In fact I had to sneak another pint in before heading to Brew Wharf.

It's the beer part of the Vinopolis empire selling both its own draught beer as well as an extensive range of bottled beer from around the world. Cheap it certainly isn't but you get what you pay for when it comes to the bottled beers. The draught available was brewed in conjunction with the Redemption Brewery and was nothing special. Despite being mid evening the place was devoid of atmosphere and that contributed to the first departures of the day.

The remaining few headed around the corner to London's smallest pub, The Rake - well until you see the covered outside area! This pub was set up by the people behind the beer stall Utobeer which trades around the corner in Borough Market and has a choice of beers on draught, keg and bottles that is second to none. Again, given its location, it's a pricey place especially for some of the limited edition beers. £6 for a half of Thomas Hardy Ale for example. My memory is a bit hazy at this point but I am sure I had Oakham Citra to wrap things up with and with that we departed the crawl. Some even went on a magical mystery tour of London after that!

It was a fine day all round and Katzenjammers really surprised me. I think the next crawl will just be based there!

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