Without a doubt, one of my favorite things about England is the traditional pub. There is something I really enjoy about a comfortable, warm room, no television, a great selection of mostly lower alcohol but flavorful cask beers, and great conversation. I’ve never found much in the United States that compares to the beer environment and beer drinking culture you find in a proper English pub. In the United States, we have many “English” or “Irish” pubs that usually serve Guinness, and maybe Harp and Bass, and then a selection of American Lagers, and have a bunch of pictures and memorabilia hung on the walls. But that does not necessarily make these places authentic pubs, though I do enjoy them from time to time. And I have found some pubs that hit pretty close to the mark in New England.
So what’s different? I think it’s a reflection on our countries’ different cultures more than anything. Americans drive everywhere, so the concept of a “local” within walking distance of business or home is not something that there is necessarily a need for. Plus, the idea of spending several hours in a pub, where everyone in the group takes a turn buying a round, is not really practical here with beer alcohol levels being as high as they are. I would love it if there were a good pub walking distance from my home, but there isn’t, and I’ve never lived anywhere where there has been a pub within walking distance. Maybe that’s why I like pub visits in England so much.
So when Jeremy and I went to England to brew with Adnams, we arranged to have a couple of days in London to visit some of our friends and our favorite pubs. This is a synopsis of some those visits, and I will include some of the good ones we missed as well. Sorry in advance at subjecting everyone to our trip photos…
It’s become a tradition for me, upon arriving at Heathrow Airport and taking the Paddington Express train into London, to immediately stop at The Mad Bishop and Bear, a Fullers Pub at Paddington station. There is nothing like celebrating arriving in England like having a fresh pint of a Fuller’s beer-it just sets a great tone for the rest of the trip! We arrived Monday mid-afternoon, and Ian Jeffrey, who works for Naked Brands and sets up these JD Wetherspoon brewing trips with the American brewers, knows me well by now, and suggested a quick stop there before we went to our hotel. I got an ESB for the first pint, and then tried a half pint of Wild River, a new beer with a more intense American hop character (I believe Cascade and Chinook are two of the hops used in this one). I absolutely love Fuller’s beers, and no trip to London is complete without stopping by a few of their pubs. One of my favorite beer experiences ever was having my first pint of Fuller’s London Porter on cask about 6 years ago on my first trip to the UK with Stone. The malt aromatics were so intense in that beer, you could easily transport yourself to their brewhouse and imagine smelling that brew mashing in when you drink it.
After we checked in, Ian left us to our own devices. So Jeremy and I immediately walked to Kings Cross station and visited, yes, another Fuller’s pub: The Parcel Yard, thanks to a recommendation I saw on a comment on a previous post here. This time I got a pint of London Pride.
After that quick stop, Jeremy and I walked back towards Euston Station and visited one of my favorite pubs, The Euston Tap. This is a craft-beer centric pub that is located just outside Euston Station, and therefore is a great stop for commuters. Some of my favorite beers of this trip we got there that Monday night, including Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, and a wonderful Citra Pale Ale from Kernel. They also carry some Stone beers, we had a Stone Smoked Porter on tap there as well!
Another good pub, just around the corner from the Euston Tap (behind the Ibis Hotel) is The Bree Louise, where I’ve had some great beers from local brewers like Windsor & Eton, among others. This place is a CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale) stronghold, it seems like every time I’ve stopped by, it’s been packed with CAMRA members (you can tell by the beer-centric conversation, among other clues).
The next day we went to Southwold, and over the next couple of days, spent time at each of the 3 Adnams pubs that are located in the town, including The Crown Hotel, where we stayed, and The Lord Nelson. One of the really great things when visiting the brewers in these towns is getting to know their pubs, and getting to know the brewers over a few pints. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the experiences when we brewed at both Shepherd Neame in Faversham, and at Wadworth in Devizes. The Adnams pubs in Southwold had a wide range of great food selections, and of course the Adnams ales were great. We had nice visits at all of them, and the dinner we had at The Crown was absolutely delicious.
One of the big highlights of this trip was spending time at The Anchor at Walberswick, the pub that Mark and Sophie Dorber have run since 2006 or 2007, after a successful tenure at The White Horse at Parsons Green in London (still one of my favorite pubs). The Anchor is just a short drive from Southwold, so we went there for dinner after the brew at Adnams. It was great to see Mark, who helped me immensely with setting up much of the research in Burton-On-Trent for the IPA book. That book would not have been what it is without Mark’s help.
And Mark pulled out all the stops during our visit. After a couple of pints by the fireplace in the bar area, we sat at a table for dinner, and Mark started pulling beers out of his cellar. The first was a nice surprise, Cantillon’s Rose de Gambrinus, I think from about 2006. Mark didn’t tell us what the beer was when he served it, and he made us guess the brewer. I was glad I got it right and passed the test!
The food at The Anchor is wonderful, we got a great selection of appetizers and an entree, and it was all incredible, and paired great with the beers. I know English cuisine gets a bad rap, and yes, fish and chips, mushy peas and meat pies get old quickly, but some of the food I’ve had at these pubs has been as good as anything I’ve ever had in a gastropub in the United States. And Mark is such a great host. This was one of the most enjoyable evenings we had.
Mark broke out a couple of rare strong ales, including a bottle of Bass No.1, and a 1995 JW Lees Harvest Ale, one of my favorite beers. The Bass No. 1 was amazing, sherry like, with substantial bitterness. The JW Lees Harvest Ale, which is brewed once per year with fresh harvest Maris Otter malt and East Kent Goldings hops, is a great example of a traditional October Ale. It is boiled for many, many hours in the brewhouse to get the deep amber color and the high gravity.
One of the fun stops we made was after Peter Simpson took us to tour Simpson’s Malting. He wanted to have us visit a small brewery/pub called The Green Dragon. It was small brewery in a small village, brewing traditional ales, and for some reason Peter seemed concerned that we wouldn’t like it. But of course we loved it! The beer was good, the patrons were friendly with us, and it had a great atmosphere.
When we got back to London, our first stop was at the JD Wetherspoon Crosse Keys, in the City of London. This majestic pub is built into an old bank building, is huge and really ornate. I have been here several times, including the release party for the first beer we brewed at Shepherd Neame. They always have an amazing selection of cask beers, and the place is always packed. During this visit, we met up with our friend Matt Cole from Fat Heads Brewery in Cleveland, who had just brewed one of the best-named beers ever-Sunshine Daydream. We took some photos for the upcoming Real Ale Festival, and ate some good curry and had a couple of pints.
From there, it was a very short walk across the London Bridge and through the Borough Market to The Rake, owned by Mike and Rich from Utobeer. The Rake is one of my favorite pubs, it seems like every time I go there, there are many friends hanging out, including owners Rich and Mike, Glenn Payne, Glyn Roberts, and Angelo Scarnera-who brews right around the corner at Brew Wharf, which is a wonderful restaurant and brewery. And just down the street is The Market Porter, a really good real ale pub. One of the best beers I had that night at The Rake was a Citra hopped Pale Ale from Oakham Brewery in Peterborough. John at Oakham was one of the first, if not the first, UK brewers to feature Citra hops in his beer. We visited him on a previous trip-he’s about an hour train ride north of London, and Oakham has several restaurant/pubs in the town as well as a production brewery brewing traditional and America-influenced beers. The Rake serves a fair amount of John’s beers, it seems like an Oakham beer is always pouring when I visit.
On the following day , after our wonderful dinner at Brew & Que (described in the previous post) we went to another great craft pub, called The Craft Beer Co., located a short walk from the Farringdon Station in Clerkenwell. This has become one of my favorite stops, they always have an amazing selection of cask and kegged craft brews. They now apparently have 4 locations, and the beer program is run by our friend Tom Cadden, whom we got to know several years ago when he was cellarmaster at a pub in Glasgow. We met up with several friends who graciously waited for us as we finished up at Brew & Que, and had a wonderful evening of great pints and rare bottled beer, including a Cantillon Gueuze, DeStruise Pannepot Wild, and a 2008 De Dolle Special Reserve brought by our friends Mes and Sim. It was here that I shared a bottle of barrel-aged Adnams Broadside with cherries that Fergus gave us, which was really nice.
Saturday, after our visit to Kernel and Brew By Numbers, we made another trip to The Rake, with Shaun, Nico and Don from 21A, and Glenn Payne, who has become a great friend and London pub crawl companion over the last few years. We wouldn’t have found our way around town without Glenn’s help! This quick visit was highlighted by tasting a cask of Imperial Jack, the beer that Shaun and Richard Brewer-Hay brewed with Angelo at Brew Wharf.
Some of the pubs we didn’t get to that I highly recommend if you visit London:
Two Fullers Pubs that have become our favorites: The Dove, located on The Thames River, just a short walk from the Fuller’s Brewery. This is a very quant, traditional pub. The atmosphere is classic English Pub, it just makes me feel instantly relaxed. The other Fullers Pub that I like a lot is the The Churchill Arms, in the Kensington area, a reasonable walk from Paddington. They serve really good Thai food in the back of the pub. I’m sorry we missed it this time.
The The White Horse Pub at the Parsons Green Underground station is legendary. It still has a great tradition of serving a wonderful selection of beers, and is a must-stop for any beer enthusiast visiting London. This is the first time that we missed it!
Another location I’m sorry we missed is the The Greenwich Union, which is Meantime Brewery pub. We had planned on visiting Alastair Hook at Meantime, but our visit to Fullers took a little more time than I had anticipated, and we simply ran out of time. Next time I hope!