We openly admit that we’re still learning about beer, but we’re obviously starting to get somewhere — we managed to guess correctly that Salopian’s wonderful golden Hop Twister (4.5% abv) contains a lot of lovely Saaz hops.
Our trip to the Czech Republic before Christmas obviously helped us zero in on flavours and aromas we’d previously struggled to spot. It’s also possible that brewing with Saaz ourselves has helped, too. Is a flavour I keep describing as “sherbety” something you’d associate with Saaz?
At any rate, this is another beer which successfully references the low-carbonation, fruity lagers of Franconia and the Czech Republic, whilst still being a distinctly British ale. We absolutely loved it.
Slain from the Station House Brewery in Frodsham, Cheshire, is actually pretty nicely branded for a St George’s Day cash-in.
It was so restrained compared to the other beers on the bar (British Bulldog and Old Enoch Powell) that it took me a while to ‘get it’.
As for the beer, I think it’s the only example of what those who are into beer styles would call a ‘northern brown ale’ I’ve ever had on draught. It wasn’t fantastic, but it certainly made a change.
E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class opens with a very evocative quotation from the memoirs of Thomas Hardy, founder of the London Corresponding Society. He describes their first meeting, in the Bell pub off the Strand, in 1792:
After having had their bread and cheese and porter for supper, as usual, and their pipes afterwards, with some conversation on the hardness of the times, and the dearness of all the necessaries of life… the business for which they had met was brought forward — Parliamentary Reform — an important subject to be deliberated upon and dealt with by such a class of men.
I’d love to have porter and cheese for my tea every night and I’m beginning to wonder if my pub conversations are a bit trivial, given the hardness of the times.
It’s a shame Shepherd Neame’s standard beers are so boring, because a lot of their London pubs are really nicely located and friendly.
The Prince of Wales in Kennington in south east London is hidden off the main road in a square which looks like it hasn’t been touched since early in the reign of Queen Victoria. There’s a chalky, sandy square surrounded by trees where people play boules on hot afternoons. The pub itself has lots of windows, a beautiful frontage and hanging baskets. As long as you can put up with posh people shouting about RADA and cricket, it’s absolutely charming.
We drank slightly tart Spitfire (it was in good condition — that’s just how it tastes) and grassy Master Brew and felt very happy to be alive.
Weirdly, on the table by the window was a middle class family we last saw in a beer garden in Wuerzburg last summer. Are we under surveillance?
All of the bits and pieces of brewery and pub marketing below were spotted in East or South London. I wonder if people in 50 years time will find remnants of Wetherspoons branding so evocative? Probably.
Almost a year after it opened, we finally made it to the Betjeman Arms at St Pancras station. It’s run by the Geronimo Inns lot and, like the other Geronimo pubs we’ve visited, there are a lot of glossy but dull Euro-brands, together with some nice cask ale. In this particular case, they have commissioned their own house brew from Sharps. It’s called Betjeman Ale and is pleasant enough, but unchallenging. They also run the odd beer festival now and then.
We gather it’s supposed to be a bit ‘gastro’, but we didn’t eat there. It’s certainly very good by the standard of lots of station pubs and we loved the roof terrace — even though it overlooks the busy Euston Road, it felt very peaceful up there, and the view made us feel a bit in love with London.
Lots of other bloggers have reviewed this place; see Stonch, Pete Brown, London Randomness, and Tandleman for more.
We had a nice afternoon in one of our favourite London pubs soured on Saturday when we were more-or-less asked to leave to free up the table for a reservation. When we queried whether it had to be our table, given that there were lots of others without reservation signs on, we got a very stroppy response from the bar manager.
The practice of moving people or hurrying them along to squeeze in a second sitting is annoying even in real restaurants, however sensible it might be from a business perspective. But the questions of whether you should be able to reserve tables in pubs at all is a sensitive debate for many British people — it’s a level of formality that seems somehow to undermine the very idea of what the pub is about.
People in Germany seem to cope with it, but maybe that’s because there the reserved signs appear (often with profuse apologies) four hours in advance of the booking, so you’ve got plenty of time to finish up, or just choose another table. In the Greenwich Union, we were given an hour — hardly enough time to eat desert and have another drink.
In the couple of hours we were there, we enjoyed cask conditioned Meantime IPA (7.5%, and not as good as from a bottle) and gained a new appreciation for the fruity, sherbety draught Meantime Helles (4.1%).
So, the Union continues to be both brilliant and annoying. God knows we love the beer, but it might be a while before we go back.
We spotted this on the site of the old Anchor brewery near London Bridge, round the corner from another plaque spotted by Jeff/Stonch a while back.
According to Thrale.com (“Anything and everything Thrale or Thraill”), here’s the story:
The Austrian General Haynau was notorious for the brutality with which he put down rebellions in Hungary and Italy. So… when the word spread that the ‘Hyena’ was in the brewery… he was attacked by draymen and brewery workers with brooms and stones, shouting ‘Down with the Austrian butcher‘. Haynau fled along Bankside pursued by the angry men and took refuge in the George pub… from which he was rescued by the police with difficulty, and spirited away by boat across the river. The Austrian ambassador demanded an apology, but the Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston sided with the brewery men, saying they were just ‘expressing their feelings at what they considered inhuman conduct‘ by a man who ‘was looked upon as a great moral criminal‘. Only after the intervention of a furious Queen Victoria and the threatened resignation of Palmerston was a more conciliatory letter sent to Vienna. Even then Austria was still so resentful that it sent no representative to the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852.
Tandleman and Pete Brown have both written about the fact that the Advertising Standards Authority have upheld complaints against this advert for Courage bitter:
But I can’t help but be reminded of the kerfuffle around this advert, from the same parent company, three years ago:
Given how clear the rules are about linking alcohol with increased attractiveness or confidence, these can’t be mistakes. I’ve seen the Courage ad more in the news today than I have in paid for advertising slots anywhere in the last few weeks. Contrived controversy = free publicity.
What’s an Imperial Burton Ale? Or a luncheon stout? They both feature on attractive historical beer labels from Essex brewery Ward’s available at the excellent Foxearth local history website. There are also some great historical photos of the brewery and its people from the 19th and early 20th centuries.