Archive for ‘ales’

February 3, 2011

Freo Three: Sail & Anchor, 64 South Tce, Fremantle, WA

Before I had even reached Western Australia I’d had Craft Beer recommendations from friends in Perth and via Twitter. Out in front was a visit to Fremantle and in particular the Sail & Anchor, so it seems fitting that’s its my first Aussie post.

Many see Fremantle as a part of the Perth sprawl but it’s got its own character beyond the mix of colonial and industrial architecture. Freo has a feel and pace different to Perth. Perhaps the presence of 3 great Craft Beer destinations has something to do with it? As much as I loved Little Creatures and The Monk (keep your eyes peeled for these posts soon), the Sail & Anchor spoke more about how you can take an appreciation of Craft Beer and the Aussie pub and put them together to create something great.

Firstly it’s a proper pub. Looking around on a busy Saturday, it’s a real mix of drinkers, all enjoying the 43 taps, 25+ beers and 3 bars. We  head up to the first floor and the wrap around balcony where we are meeting friends. Its my last day in Australia and as we sit in the warm afternoon heat with the sound of the buskers below i’m thinking of ways to not get on the plane. A great pub with great beer (which I confess I took a note of and subsequently lost) will do that to you.

It doesn’t stop there as with Iron Brew and Febrewary, the Sail & Anchor shows that it’s is run by beer lovers for beer lovers. Febrewary offering punters the chance to travel the world in 28 days, with a mix of imports and Local Breweries’ international-styled beers. Iron Brew steps beyond celebrating commercial brewers and tips its hat to the humble homebrewer; pitched as an Australia wide search… to find an amateur brewer game enough to clone brew an old school Sail & Anchor brew, the Iron Brew English Strong Ale. The concept of Iron Brew fires my imagination and sat in the departure lounge has me looking for homebrew recommendations. An Iron Brew fermenting as far a field as South East London.

Sail & Anchor, 64 South Terrace, Fremantle, Western Australia, 6160

January 24, 2011

The Bear Freehouse, Camberwell New Road, SE5

Until now I’ve only seen Camberwell from the top deck; a view of pigeons picking at takeaway leftovers and pound shops. I will admit it wasn’t at the top of the list for a Sunday lunch but when given a Twitter recommendation by an aptly named Pub Geek (@thepubgeek) it would be bad form not to give it a go.

Arriving at 12:45 the pub was already close to full. The Bear don’t take bookings so it’s advisable to get in early to claim your table and mark your territory with the Sunday paper and a pint. While Lou and I wait for the others we take a menu and commence salivation. There’s a good choice of about 5 starters of soups, soused herring and game which although tempting make way for the Sunday classic, a Bloody Mary. A usual go to for a kickstart after a heavy Saturday night it delivers a good hit of spicy warmth, which prepares me for the main.

I find it very difficult to resist a roast on a Sunday menu and even more difficult to resist Pork Belly, whenever offered. This is no exception and I’m not disappointed. There’s the right balance of meat to fat and the long thin crackling is brittle with just the right amount of bite; without the tooth picking stickiness you sometimes encounter. The veg could be slightly warmer but the roast potato is perfectly crisp outside and fluffy within. A well balanced portion ensures that dessert is an option without unnotching the belt.

Service at The Bear is friendly and laid back.  The absence of a booking system means that you can take time to enjoy a leisurely lunch. Which is what Sunday lunch is about, is it not? A great find, thanks to the power of Twitter and the Pub Geek.

296a Camberwell New Road, London, SE5 0RP

January 21, 2011

Ale Festival (27th-30th Jan): Duke of Wellington, 119 Balls Pond Road, Dalston, N1

Those who read my recent post on Mason & Taylor would have also read about their sister pub The Duke of Wellington in Dalston. Though being CAMRA“North London Pub Of The Season” Spring 2010 you may already have had the pleasure. It has as yet been unfeatured and I felt it about time to put this right and do a good deed in the process, with a mention of their forthcoming Winter Ale Festival.

As yet I’ve only had a chance to get to one of the Duke’s Festivals as they always seem to fall when I’m out of town or otherwise engaged; and this one is no exception! So if there’s a chance that I can’t make it I can hopefully live vicariously through you. Go on. You know it makes sense. With Burns Night on the 25th January the festival will exclusively feature brewers from North of the Border. Expect to sample:

Fyne Ales (Jarl, Highlander, Vital Spark),

Brewdog (Alpha Dog, Rip Tide, 5am Saint),

Harviestoun (Bitter & Twisted, Schiehallion),

Williams Brothers (7 giraffes, Midnight Sun),

Cairngorm (Trade Winds, Black Gold),

Kelburn (Cart Blanche, Dark Moor),

Tryst (Blathan, Raj IPA),

To name but a few!

It’s sure to be a cracking event as the list above proves; so get yourself down and have a half for me.

Duke of Wellington, 119 Balls Pond Road, Dalston, N1 4BL

January 19, 2011

Bib Gourmand: Canton Arms, South Lambeth Road, SW8

Yesterday my Twitter feed became positively gourmet as this years Michelin announcement was made. It’s a time when the culinary elite hold their breaths to see whether they are ascending or descending the ranks.

Little you would say to do with the humble boozer? Well not quite true. Entering the 2011 Michelin Guide was a firm favourite. The Canton Arms in Stockwell. Yes, Stockwell. It has earned inclusion as a Bib Gourmand, denoting quality food, service and value.

Since my early visits and my posts in reverence of what they can do with a slice of bread and a Toastie Machine – think Foie Gras or Haggis – I’ve returned regularly. Now and again service hasn’t been quite as expected but even so I’ve always walked away well fed, well watered and happy (and eager) to return. It’s good to see the Michelin Inspectors recognise this small piece of South Lambeth Road and makes me wonder if they tried the Toastie.

Canton Arms, 177 South Lambeth Road, Stockwell, SW8 1XP

January 16, 2011

Euston Tap, Euston Road, NW1

Faced with a dark January evening, monotonous drizzle and waves of commuters my patience is quickly waning. I’m heading to the most eagerly awaited addition on the London Craft Beer scene, the Euston Tap and telling myself it will all be worth it. Having watched English cover all sides of the Euston concourse in search of a working cash machine we head out of the station in the wrong direction and towards King Cross. I’m close to breaking at this point. Craft beer, craft beer, craft beer is the mantra in my head willing me forward. Finally, after the interventention of google maps we are heading the right way. A neon sign glows up ahead of us like a craft beer beacon.

Housed in a a remnant of the original station, the Portland stone lodge bears no resemblance to the 60s concrete blight of the modern Euston. The view as you enter through the double doors is of a bar top clear of pumps. Taking a cue from across the pond beer is dispensed from a wall of taps set into a copper backingl; the blackboards flanking each side are almost overwhelming with a choice on tap of 25+ beers and much much more in the fridge. It’s difficult to know where to start. Working through the blackboards we start light with Camden Town Brewery Pale Ale and Mahrs Pils before moving to Erdinger Urweisse.

The downstairs horseshoe space is compact and you could be forgiven for missing the original narrow spiral staircase leading to the upstairs seating. A tad precarious after a few pints perhaps but pint holders are available. Upstairs is a litlle sparse but is perhaps a work in progress and lets face it – we are not here for the decor.

As the evening progresses as does the thirst for something new which leads us from the lighter starters to the heftier and to my mind superior Thornbridge Raven and Bristol Beer Factory Ultimate Stout. With only a small dent made in the ever changing list there is no chance of getting bored with whats on offer and now I know where it is there’ll be no need for google maps or the mantra as “craft beer” just doesn’t come close to describing whats on offer. Another landmark on the London craft beer map.

Euston Tap, West Lodge, 190 Euston Road, NW1 2EF

January 12, 2011

Mason & Taylor, Bethnal Green Road, E1

I have eagerly awaited a visit to Mason & Taylor since hearing that the folks behind The Duke of Wellington were opening on Bethnal Green Road. The Duke in Dalston was at one time just around the corner and quickly became a firm favourite. It has it all. Great staff, great beer, great food. It is as you may have guessed Great.

I was willing Mason & Taylor to be on a par with the Duke as I don’t live around the corner from the latter anymore but I do work nearby Bethnal Green Road. A first attempted visit had been thwrated by their Christmas Party but undetered and in fact more eager I headed to Mason & Taylor the next day. I won’t leave you hanging. It is in fact also… Great. The décor is stripped back concrete and canteen chairs. It bucks the trend of filling the space with kitch which more often than not looks like an explosion in an Oxfam shop. The staff are, as with The Duke, efficient, friendly and knowledgeable. The food is small plates for sharing; a British tapas I suppose. The York ham with poached duck egg and parsley sauce and a rarebit were my particular favourites. As for the beer there is a wide choice with around 12 ales and beers on draught as well as a seasonal bottled list. I had my first pint of Brodies, Redemption and Wandle at The Duke and Mason & Taylor continue the trend with an introduction to the Camden Town Brewery and their American style, Camden Pale Ale and the helles style Camden Hells Lager. Judging by the empties which soon pile up you can say it went down well.

In my post on the Owl and the Pussycat I pondered if it would only ever be a fallback. On the form of Mason & Taylor I don’t see that a fallback would even be needed.

Mason & Taylor, 51-55 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA

January 7, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat, Redchurch Street, E2

I must be getting on now as although Brick Lane is literally on the doorstep it’s less and less becoming a place where I chose to drink. Apart from the odd gig the only thing that draws me in is Rough Trade, Beigel Bake or Fika. The nearest I get these days is Redchurch Street. The imaginatively named Redchurch Bar is an old favourite with an extensive stock of liquor and a cocktail list running to over 10 pages; though its always a pint of Sierra Nevada which is my go to. When I want shades of a cook Williamsburg (Brooklyn) bar this is where I head. Change is afoot with new additions to the strip running between Bethnal Green Road to the East and Shoreditch High Street to the West (where strip can beused in the literal sense)with; Mason & Taylor (see imminent post), technically on BGR and The Owl and the Pussycat which having hung on for a number of years finally succumbed to the march of Shoreditch gentrification last year. In its previous life The Owl and the Pussycat was what some would term an Old School Boozer. Shabby but without the chic it had erratic opening hours and service which was comic; unless it was being inflicted on you when it became infuriating. I first heard of its refurb from Cheese and Biscuits and a post which seemed to polarise foodies in their comments and drew a direct and convincing defence from the management. There was more than a hint of the gentrification debate in that post which I will touch on only briefly. My view put simply is that things move on. People love to have someone to vilify when it comes to East London whether it’s the Nathan Barleys in the early and mid noughties or more recently the Suits as the City swells outward. Pubs need to continue to be relevant to theirchanging clientele and cannot be preserved in aspic. The Old School Boozer tag in itself can itself be an excuse  for bad beer, service and décor; the latter of which I can forgive, the others I can’t.

As we arrive Edwyn Collins is playing, which is a tick on English’s mental checklist. The décor is the Shoreditch jumble sale chic which comes as no surprise. It’s relaxed with a comfortable bar area and more formal dining upstairs. Run by the team behind The  Fellow in Kings Cross it’s sure to be a winner. First impressions were mixed with only 1 of the 4 ales on; the other draft choice being the likes of Becks and Heineken. That said the fruity Ringwood Boondoggle was on and sustained us through 2 rounds. Whether it becomes a regular haunt remains to be seen. Mason & Taylor was the intended destination (though closed due to their Christmas party) and my thoughts are that if half as good as their Duke of Wellington in Dalston, The Owl and the Pussycat may continue to be just a fallback.

The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Redchurch St, E2 7DP

December 19, 2010

Snow Days: The Old Crown, Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria

With the snow descending again, London faces the prospect of grinding to a halt in literally centimeters of snow. A merest snowflake sees the tube full of welly wearing Bankers, panic buying and train operators dusting of the excuses tombala. Its at these times that I spare a thought for our friends in the North.

As any good son would I ring my Mum to check that everything’s ok.  The news is invariably that their Pennine village is snowed in. To some this would be a problem but to the village its just a fact of life and to the local landlord its a winter windfall. All roads blocked means a captive market and the tills ringing all day. This particular local isn’t exactly where i’d want to spend my snow days. That pub would have to be the Old Crown at Hesket Newmarket in Cumbria. On the Northern edge of the Lake District National Park, the pub is supposedly the first cooperatively owned pub.  And did I mention there is the Hesket Newmarket Brewery in the back? I mean who wouldn’t want to be snowed into a brewery!

If you can’t arrange to be snowed in you may just have to pop by for a pint of Doris’ 90th Birthday Ale, checking opening times to avoid disappointment.

The Old Crown
Hesket Newmarket
Cumbria
016974 78288

April 22, 2010

The Roebuck (This Is England)

We arrive at the Roebuck from Richmond Park, hot and very thirsty. It’s early evening and a smell of gravy laden Sunday lunches hits the nostrils as we enter. The interior is reassuringly unspectacular. It’s a solid pub and has been since the 1700s, the smell confirming it hasn’t been gastroed, which is surprising in these parts.

With a choice of London Pride, 330, Ascot Anastasia Stout, I start with the 330 and make my way onto the Stout.  Heading outside to take advantage of the remaining sun we cross the road and step down onto the wide public terrace running parallel with the road. On a spring evening in Richmond there is no better place to enjoy views of Richmond Park and down across the Thames, an idylic English scene of people simply messing about in boats.

Groups congregate on the benches and the railings either side of the terrace in a scene which is positively European. Through in a game of boules and it may not be England. Deciding to sit on the hedge that drops into the park a fellow drinker is swallowed whole. As we watch the sunset we watch as his legs flap and his girlfriend tries desperately to pull him out. Inevitably the crowd claps, cheers and laughs at this moment of pure slapstick before some eventually heave him out. He holds his hands up to the sky in appreciation of his public before checking his scratches. Spots of blood forming on his white Ralph Lauren polo he heads to where else but the bar. It could only be England.

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