Victoria Inn, Choumert Road, Peckham Rye, SE15

Bowie’s Moonage Daydream playing as you walk through the door of a pub for the first time. It’s possibly the best hello you’ll ever get. This was my mine from the Victoria Inn on Choumert Road in Peckham; and after the hello there’s the conversation opener, a pint of Atlantic IPA, Sharp’s Spring seasonal ale. A very good start.

The Victoria is Capital Pub Company through and through, with familiar design touches that make the experience relaxed and comfortably familiar, without the feel of an indentikit chain. The previous incarnation, the Wishing Well was immortalised in Last Orders and i’m sure Pub purists lament the loss of such a solid boozer. But, things move on and if that pub  woo’s me with Gimme Shelter by the Stones, then I think it may be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Victoria Inn, 72-79 Choumert Road, Peckham Rye SE15 4AR

Victoria Inn, Choumert Road, Peckham Rye, SE15

Zeitgeist @ Jolly Gardeners, 49-51 Black Prince Road, SE11

I’ve been wanting to visit Zeitgeist for quite a while now. Self proclaimed as London’s first German Gastro pub and boasting 16 draught beers the attraction is obvious. Heading from Waterloo we cut through Lambeth back streets and estates. English is leading the way, confident that we’re heading in the right direction. With the intervention of Google Maps we find ourselves on Black Prince Road and ahead of us is this most unlikely of German pubs. A grand old Lambeth boozer with none of the Bavarian Beerhall tat and dirndl clad barmaids that can usually be expected. It’s a busy Thursday night and the crowd is younger than the VH1 Classic’s playing on the big screens would suggest. I’m not a fan of TV’s in pubs but this serves as an impromptu quiz as we take a tour through the 80’s  “The Stranglers…. see I told you

Starting with a dark Krombacher, we move to a Kostrizter, which again is dark though less carbonated and more to my taste. We move to a Kölsch to accompany food the Kolsch Art Schnitzel (Cologne style). The scnitzel is wrapped around black pudding, topped with onion  and sided with mash. I mean what else would you want? The solitary straggle of frisee is uneccesary and taking up space for mash, onions or some kind of pickled veg, but this is a small point in what was a very nice dish.

We move on from Zeitgesit towards the Black Dog with the slow amble when you’ve been well fed and watered. It will won’t be long until i’m back as by my reckoning im only about a quarter of a way through the taps and there is the lure of the yet untried Currywurst.

Zeitgeist @ Jolly Gardners, 49-51 Black Prince Rd, SE11 6AB

Zeitgeist @ Jolly Gardeners, 49-51 Black Prince Road, SE11

Pride of Spitalfields, 3 Heneage Street, E1

It’s been pointed out to me that the blog of late has become a little bit too Aussie and bit too focussed on the politics of beer. So in reply, a quick visit to the Pride of Spitalfields, which owes much of its charm to an East End which is fading fast. Whether it be the onward march of gentrification, the encroachment of the City or the ever changing cultural identity of the area pubs like the Pride are fewer and fewer in number. While the 10 Bells on Commercial Street is an uneasy mix of Hipsters, Slickers and the odd Ripper or Kray obsessive the Pride still has its fair share of local character.
There are few signs life as I round the corner from Brick Lane onto Heneage Street. There’s usually at least one lone smoker but today no one and from the street I can’t see through the windows. I’m fearing the Pride may have closed. As I shove the door open I’m hit by a rush of warm air from the open grate. My fears are quashed. Although I’ve been going to the Pride for years I’m still aware that I’m not a regular or a local. I’m spied suspiciously. Not by the landlady or the locals but by the pub cat. It sits in what I suspect is the sweet spot; close enough to the fire to be warmed while still able to evaluate the custom as they enter. Ok, I am perhaps guilty of anthropomorphising the cat but if Disney are looking for ideas they couldn’t go far wrong with this East End feline. I step around Jack the Cat McKitty (sorry, couldn’t resist) and prop my bag against the bar while I order my pint. Jack is up just long enough to rub against my bag before knocking it over with a swift knock of the head. He then returns to the sweet spot. We both know whose boss.
As I sit and wait for reinforcements I’m happy to sup my Brewers Gold at £2.80 a pint and just observe. Drinking alone isn’t something I particularly enjoy but the exception is a pub where overheard conversation is more interesting than the one you’ll be having when your mates arrive. From the table behind I get a dental commentary of an unnamed local who has a mouth like a blown out fuse box, silence follows and then ahhh right yeah ‘ez got a  right rotten set of Hampstead’s… a loud raspy cackle follows. This draws no reaction from the the quiet punter at the end of the bar who sits nursing a pint hands poised as if with imaginary cigarette; perhaps borne out of years of sitting at the same stool fag in one hand and a beer close the other.

As the pub starts to fill with a mix of suits and skinny jeans Jack heads off to assess the crowd from a distance.

Pride of Spitalfields, 3 Heneage Street, E1 5LJ

Pride of Spitalfields, 3 Heneage Street, E1

Q&A with The Crafty Pint

The Crafty Pint is one of my go too sites for the lowdown on the Aussie Craft Beer scene. I caught up with Crafty ‘s James to get the lowdown on his view of beery Heaven and Hell.

Favourite place to enjoy a Crafty Pint? 

In the UK a Bass from the jug at my folks’ local.

In Australia pretty much any Barbie, anywhere with the right people and a well-stocked Esky.

Can you define the perfect pub?

Good beer selection that’s well looked after and understood by everyone from owner to bar staff – ideally with a bit of rotation and some craziness in the fridge – plus good music (but not so loud you can’t talk), comfy chairs (but not necessarily sofas – can be too relaxing for proper beer enjoyment) and a well conceived beer garden. Food optional if everything else is up to scratch.

What’s your idea of Beer or Pub hell?

In the UK, Yates’s (do they still exist?). Possibly the very definition of hell full stop. Shit beer (and wine), clueless staff, bonehead security, dickheads slamming Jagerbomb’s to a backdrop of extremely loud R ‘n’ B and flashing disco lights at 5.30pm on a Wednesday. At least that’s how I remember them!

In Oz, sadly, the most common format: TAB (sports betting), pokie room (gambling machines), monochromatic beer selection, design based on the Woodall Service Station canteen. Thankfully, times appear to be a-changin’.

What’s most likely to be heard while writing Crafty?

Currently, John Grant’s Queen of Denmark is getting a good run with The Lemonhead’s It’s A Shame About Ray; but usually it’s iPod on shuffle, with the Flaming Lips, Alabama 3, Super Furry Animals, Paul Kelly and Aphex Twin having the greatest probability of appearing.

What was the last thing you got excited about – beer or otherwise?

This message from a Mountain Goat brewer: “Just bottled 400 cases of IPA. Tasting great.” Hopefully, he’s mislabeled a few for the staffies pile.

Whats happening?

Taking The Crafty Pint interstate one step at a time. Persuading the mainstream media to give what’s happening with Aussie craft beer more column inches. Getting more Aussies to wake up to what they could be drinking rather than what they’ve been forced to drink for so long. More hand pumps and quality real ales in Aussie beer bars. And working out how to lose weight while doing what I do.

If you weren’t writing The Crafty Pint?

I’d be writing about something else with a fatter wallet and a slimmer gut.

Get your daily top up at

Q&A with The Crafty Pint

Aussie Fundraiser: Punch Tavern, 99 Fleet Street, EC4

Floods, cyclones and fire… Australia has been positively biblical of late. For many Aussies watching from the UK, thoughts of home can’t be far away. For Dave Pocock (AKA the Punch Tavern’s “token Aussie”), these thoughts have turned to action and a special fundraiser.

The Punch Tavern will be opening it’s doors, on the evening of Saturday 5th March, in aid of the Red Cross (for Victoria) and the Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal (for Queensland).

As well as an ample supply of Aussie inspired finger food there will be a Raffle, Auction and an “Australian music marathon”. Tickets are just £10 with 50% donated. To buy in advance contact or alternatively buy on the door (if there’s any left).

The Punch Tavern, 99 Fleet Street , London, EC4Y 1DE

Aussie Fundraiser: Punch Tavern, 99 Fleet Street, EC4

Q&A: Matt Marinich of Sail & Anchor, Fremantle

In a first for The Pub Diaries we caught up with Matt Marinich of Fremantle’s Sail & Anchor for a quick Q&A.

What’s most likely to be overheard in the pub?

“I can’t choose, there are too many beers!” I like when I hear a customer say this, its rewarding. With 43 beers taps with 26 different beers running
through them, I like to spoil the beer geek in everyone.

Favourite place to enjoy a beer?

Short of my own haunt, Monk Brewery and Kitchen is about 30m across the road. Great Rauchbier, superb Kolsch and a 6.2% Hibiscus Wheat beer with serious flavour. I worked with the Head Brewer Justin Fox at the Sail back in the day.
If I wasn’t running a pub I’d be…

a commercial brewer. I am an avid home brewer and massive beer geek so I would get certified and would love it.

What’s your definition of a perfect pub?

Tough question…a venue with solid examples of beer styles on tap and in package, not just random beers for the sake of it. Simple offerings, nothing over the top; genuine customer service from staff who really care about the beer.

What’s your vision of Pub hell?

I had a nightmare once that all I could order at this pub was XXXX Gold. It really disturbed me. I woke to realise no one is that mean.

What was the last thing you got excited about?

Becoming BJCP certified. Currently studying with random brewers/beer judges whenever I can. I will be associate judging at this years Perth Royal Beer Show. Secondly, I’m pretty proud of my organisation/execution of FEBREWARY. Also, the Sail and Anchor being voted “BEST BEER VENUE 150PAX+ IN WA.”

What’s happening? Future projects, hopes etc.


Amateur Brewing Competition will see an old school favourite be welcomed back to the taps. Moreover, the chance for some talented Aussie home brewers to shine. FEBREWARY
Pouring in Febrewary will be a total of 42 beers from:

Rogue (US), Southern Tier (US),

Mikkeller (DEN), Nogne-O (NOR), Dupont (BEL), Lindemans (BEL), BOCQ (BEL), Weinhenstephan (GER), Sunner (GER), Weltonburger Kloster (GER), and Brew Dog (Scot).

Epic (NZ), Renaissance (NZ), 8 Wired(NZ)

For some of these beers it will be the first time they have been poured in WA

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

Q&A: Matt Marinich of Sail & Anchor, Fremantle

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

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

#Meateasy, Goldsmiths Tavern, 316 New Cross Road, London SE14

I’ve come to the Meatwagon late. In fact so late that it’s been stolen. The South London burger wagon that became a food cult was stolen in December and it looked like I’d never get to taste the meaty goodness I’d heard so much about. I was just going to have to live with it. At least until the birth of the #Meateasy. This pop up venture above the Goldsmiths Tavern in New Cross is looking to raise funds for a new Meatwagon. This is their second chance and my meaty redemption.

It’s just English who responds to my #Meateasy invitation and like me I think he’s considering his choice days in advance. As we arrive at Goldsmiths Tavern we know we’re in the right place but all the same its not giving us any clues. The barmaid, looking the two suits up and down, has the answer: Meateasy? Thru-the-back-turn left-thru-the-door-up-the-fire-escape. She’s obviously said this a few times over the last few weeks. Peering into the back and a darkened dancefloor it looks unlikely to lead anywhere but we obediently make our way to the back. And this is how I find myself stood on a dark dancefloor in New Cross, with English; as Rhythm is a Dancer pumps through the speakers. It’s a bizarre moment to say the least. Then to the left, a chink of light and we’ve either found it, or the bogs. It’s raining as we ascend the fire escape from the beer garden. A family pass us on the stairs and straight faced tell us that it’s not too busy. I don’t get my hopes up as the meatwagon queues were legendary. My caution is well placed as we are greeted with a smile, given a raffle ticket and told that we will order in around two hours. There’s no question of leaving – we have tickets and we have a bar – what else do we need?

The room is busy with expectant punters sat, stood and perched; the kitchen looks to be working at full capacity and the front of house staff are screaming. Raffle ticket numbers to call people into the order queue and names for those about to be served. As time passes voices start to strain and the loud hailer comes out. At the bar its as hectic with a choice of cocktails and Meantime London Lager and Union. At £3.50 a bottle its not going to be the cheapest of nights but then they hardly need to push cheap beer to pull the punters and to be fair the atmosphere is better than any bar in Central London which would charge the same or more.

As food leaves the open kitchen necks are strained, usually followed by ohhh I might have that, or that, ohh no that. We hardly notice the wait, which is pretty much the 2 hours predicted, though coming later seems to be the best tactic for a shorter wait. Before long our numbers are called and we are in the queue having to make choices. Not everything at the #Meateasy is easy! With the French Dip and Philly Cheese Steak sold out I opt for the Dead Hippy as much for the name as for the fact that it’s what Big Macs should taste like with its double patty and special sauce. Onion Rings, Fries and Buffalo wings accompany – I mean it would be wrong not to wouldn’t it. I can honestly say that I could have closed my eyes and been in Brooklyn. Its the best burger experience i’ve had in the UK and perhaps anywhere.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The Goldsmith Tavern is due a Capital Pub Company makover shortly and #Meateasy is open now until March. My advice is to get in while you can. When the Meatwagon returns a fleet may be needed to satisfy fans old and new.

Pics courtesy of Tehbus

#Meateasy, Goldsmiths Tavern 316 New Cross Rd,  London SE14 6AF

#Meateasy, Goldsmiths Tavern, 316 New Cross Road, London SE14

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

The Bear Freehouse, Camberwell New Road, SE5

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

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