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
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
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
My appreciation of the Canton Arms seems to be growing with each visit. I need a weekly fix as a minimum and this week found myself sharing the fix over dinner.
Our meal for 4 (with Lou, Meister and O) had swelled to 7 when news spread that we were dining as well as drinking. Captain English dropping hints as big as his eyes when faced with a Fopp sale secured the invite with his other half, Hadedar. Making up the seven was Silvio; to whom I promised not to mention his recent appreciation of a corked bottle of wine. “Hmmmm. Interesting…. Its different. But I like it”. His name has been changed (as with all) to protect his pride further. I mean its a mistake any Italian could make (well at least that’s what he told us).
Enjoyment of the Canton starts with the ale board, which rarely disappoints. New to me were Tring Brewery’s, Jock O’Legs, copper coloured with a hoppy bitter taste and Acorn Brewery’s, Barnsley Bitter. At 3.8% this dark chestnut bitter could sustain for a session with its rich flavour.
The dining room was busy but securing a table was effortless (no bookings taken under 8 diners). Presented with the option of a Salt Marsh Lamb, slowly pot roasted for 7 hours, served with Boulangere Potatoes (my mouth is genuinely watering), there was no contest and a quick show of hands confirmed we had the required 4 to manage the dish. Starter was similarly an easy choice. There was no answer other than “yes” when Meister suggested the Foie Gras toastie to share. I rub my hands with glee at the prospect.
Neither course disappoints. The toastie had as much for its novelty value than the fact I love foie gras wasn’t as rich as I thought. For £8 you aren’t going to get masses of it but what you get is more than enough. accompanied by a chutney or relish it won’t be the last time I sample this dish, or the further choice of haggis..
Served from the oven, the Lamb and Potatoes were placed in the centre of the table with serving spoon, fork and tongs. The Lamb had benefited from every minute of its 7 hours, the meet falling from the bone. The potatoes were the standout, crisp with a rich onion taste from white onions reduced to almost puree. I could order this on its own, although I don’t think my belt has enough notches to cope.
The Canton goes from strength to strength. Next stop Haggis Toastie!
A good night can often can turn into an impromptu pub crawl and planned pub crawls can in turn be mundane tick box exercises; dictated more by the proximity of the first to the second to the third pub. With this in mind Captain English and I set out on our Easter Crawl knowing only the starting point: The Grosvenor, Stockwell.
Set amongst council blocks and displaying posters for thrash metal gigs many would have second thoughts about our starting point. Having downed plenty of pints there in the past we had no such hesitation. Slightly down at heel and with a well used pool table its a reminder of student days spent in smokey pubs playing pool badly and feeding the jukebox. The crowd at 6pm on the Thursday was a mix of Portuguese tradesmen playing pool, a couple of old Irish pensioners sat supping at the bar and a group of students putting the world to rites as well as a barrel of cider. Being Cask Ale Week and feeling nostalgic I went for a Moorhouses Bitter, a hoppy session beer. A great start. Two pints down and we move on towards Brixton and the The Queens Head.
Formerly The Far Side, The Queens Head as it is now is far removed from The Grosvenor. Superficially it’s nicely renoavted, as premium lagers and one token ale. Adnams. My heart sinks at the sight of it and we opt for a cool pint of Erdinger. Large Gorillaz canvases adorn the walls, and although they are now on their third album, its still a touch that you would expect in about 2000. My thoughts overall would be that its nice. Not exceptional. It’s proximity to the Brixton Academy would probably make it a good stop for a pre gig drink but otherwise I wouldn’t make a point of stopping by. With that in mind we declined a second round and moved on.
It may be cliched to say that stepping into the Marquis of Lorne is like stepping back in time but in this case it is fitting. Approaching the pub you notice the original ornate tiles outside. It is hard to think many breweries or pubco’s today would lavish money on something so ornamental. Much more likely to invest in a Sky subscription and a Big Screen. Thoughts of an interior to match are dashed as we get inside. This is pub three in our crawl, and as much a change from the Queens Head than is possible. On the inside its a faded boozer with character (or characters as the case may be). Looking round the pub seems to be pretty much exclusively regulars. The pool table is in constant use and there are signs that the dart board gets its fair share also.
After five minutes I take a call a call from Lou and step outside as I feel that along with a smoking ban phones should be next. I peer through the window to see that Captain English has made a new friend. Stepping back inside I am intoroduced to the Landlord, who’s sat at the bar. He tells us about his improvements and plans for the pub, the area and how its changed. He’s a South Londoner through and through and proud of his pub. It has to be said that he’s had a few at this point but amiable with it. As he launches into a passionate description of his Garden he reaches over to his cigarettes tapping one on the box, lights up and casually chuffs away, waving the fag around as he talks. Now in saying its a step back in time you could date this as anywhere before 1st July 2007, when such a simple act wouldn’t raise so much as an eyebrow. The barmaid, gave a concerned look toward the guvnor but he was plainly oblivious. Two pints and it was time to leave Summer 2007 and venture back to a cold 2010 and the next pub…