Saturday, December 08, 2007


B(l)ack to Beer

It has been a busy autumn and as a result a dark period for my beer blogging. I found myself back in London a couple of times during this period, mainly for business. Though a great variety of beers are available in the city, it still requires more time and effort than in the beery paradises of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. The Cobra cities have bars ensuring that a selection of hundreds, if not thousands of beers are within walking distance of each other.

In the British capital, due to the tradition of cask beers, the selection is often limited to less than ten craft beers even in the most dedicated beer bars. The Tube comes in handy, and a great number of beer bars, luckily away from the bustling tourist centre, can be found along one tube line, namely the Northern Line (Bank branch). It may be black on the map, but is the vehicle to bright drinking moments.

A top-down approach, mapwise and on the social ladder, involves snaking down the Northern Line from the north, starting at the posh Hampstead Heath and finishing near the plainer Clapham Commons. Hampstead is home to one of the very few brewpubs in the city, and The McLaughlins Horseshoe is an easy walk from the Hampstead tube station. There may only be one or two brews available from the brewpub, but there is a decent bottle selection as well. Emphasis seems to be more on food, though, especially in the evening.

The are Belgo treats to be had at the Chalk Farm tube, but quirkier bar experiences await at Camden. Quinn's is almost an institution around here, run by the Quinn family for a generation. The rule of thumb here is that you may get what you see. Never mind the bar list, it is not likely to be updated. Checking that old Mr Quinn picks up and opens the right bottle is suggested. The good thing is that the beer fridge, on display at the one end of the bar, is most likely to include some rare, imported bottles that you have never tried before.

There is nothing beery about the brand new St Pancras International station, where the Eurostars trains now bring you to Paris and Brussels in around 2 hours. There is a long champagne bar and a crêperie- it feels more like a gateway to Europe (read: France) than a welcome to old England. So next stop on the Northern Line for a beer tourist on a mission should be Old Street for a good old cockney pub experience. The Wenlock Arms more than defends the half a kilometer walk from the station- recently polled the favourite London pub by beer blogger Stonch. No further comments needed!

I still have not made it to The Crosse Keys, a Wetherspoons pub with a good cask ale selection not far from the Bank station. I guess it is good to leave some treats for later. However, a must-see is always London Bridge, especially on market days, Thursdays through Saturdays. Picking up some bottles at the Utobeer stall is inevitable. With great pubs like The Rake, The Market Porter and Brew Wharf all close by, it is easy to spend all day here.

Moving south Borough station is only one stop away and the place to go for Harveys ale in London. The Royal Oak is a pleasant neighbourhood pub that serves up the best from the Sussex brewer. According to an ad in the London Drinker magazine they are now also open in the weekends.

All good things have to come to an end. You could continue further down to Clapham North for one Bierodrome experience or make a good 15 minutes walk from Clapham Common to the Microbar with its splendid bottled beer selection. Stopping short of Clapham, in Stockwell, is also warmly recommended. Seemingly forgotten by Ratebeerians The Priory Arms could offer 5 cask ales and some quite rare German bottles on my latest visit. Indeed, I would rank this as one of the top pubs in the capital and definitely one of the most undersung.

In my opinion, for a pub walk to really take off in London you have head underground. There, the deepest and blackest of all lines will bring you to the heights of beery London.

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A fine post, Tore, many of these are new to me, so a Northern Line crawl is on my next London agenda!
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