Buenos lugares para cerveza en Westminster, Londres

[Introductory note – this article first appeared in English way back in August 07. We’ve updated it recently with a couple of new pubs]

Este artículo apareció en inglés en este blog en agosto 2007. Espero que sea útil para los turistas-cerveceras en Londres, especialmente para los que quieren probar cervezas inglesas. Hay mapa abajo.

parliament.jpgEs dificil encontrar buenos lugares para beber cerveza buena en Westminster. Westminster es una de las destinaciones más visitadas en el Reino Unido, por eso los pubs mas visibles son los más turísticos, que venden “fish and chips” de calidad inferior y cerveza muy cara. Pero hay algunas joyas, la mayoría llena de funcionarios y políticos, charlando… [este artículo continúa…]

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A local pub, not just for local people

The Oakdale Arms in Seven Sisters, North London, is the sister pub of the famous Pembury Tavern, but it’s a completely different creature.

The Good Beer Guide has a code it uses to describe pubs like this: they call it a ‘community pub’. In other words, people who actually live near the pub go there. That sometimes translates into a slightly unwelcoming atmosphere, but not here.

For one thing, the locals are very friendly — more of that on Friday when we get to the Session. Secondly, the locals aren’t the only clientele. They rub shoulders with a mix of CAMRA types sniffing their pints and taking notes, and the odd posh person from one of the huge Victorian houses in Finsbury Park’s middle class ghetto. Finally, the bar staff are so friendly. Before taking my order, the bar manager paused to ask: “How are you, mate?” That was nice.

Unlike the Pembury, the Oakdale is cosy, shady and full of moth-eaten carpet, velvet and wood. It’s a real boozer. But, to give it a 21st century edge, there’s a fully stocked mp3 jukebox and a projector filling one wall with Nintendo Wii games. This is an interesting touch — lots of people play computer games these days, not just kids, and it kind of added to the atmosphere. The photo above is of one of the bar staffing having a go on Guitar Hero. He dropped his little plastic guitar like a shot when someone came to the bar, though.

The beer was in perfect condition. There were six Milton’s and two guests, plus a lot of interesting bottles. Of particular note, Great Oakley Gobble, a pale, hoppy beer which reminded Boak of ‘gripe water‘. After a quick text to Any Questions Answered, we narrowed the similarity down to a powerful fennel flavour.

Unfortunately, the pub was very quiet. It’s in the middle of nowhere, frankly, so it’s not surprising. But it really is worth a trip if you want to support this kind of enterprise.

Top of the Pops

jamesclay.jpgBeer enthusiasts in the UK owe James Clay and Sons a debt of thanks.

They’re the canny importers who have made it possible for us to get our hands on Brooklyn Lager, Goose Island IPA, and other exciting beers we’ve banged on about in the past.

On their website, they list their top ten sellers. As of Monday 24 March, this is how the chart looked:

    1.Duvel
    2.Erdinger Weiss
    3.Lindemans Kriek
    4.Lindemans Framboise
    5.Chimay Red Cap
    6.Schneider Weisse
    7.Vedett
    8.Brooklyn Lager
    9.Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
    10.Karmeliet Triple

Ring any bells? It’s what’s in the fridges in almost every even vaguely aspirational bar or pub in Britain.

Sure, it gets a bit boring seeing those same beers all the time, and, yes, Vedett is shite, but I’d be very glad if my local swapped its fridge full of Stella, Becks, Holsten and WKD Blue for just a few of those.

Harvey's porter at the Royal Oak

royaloakpub.jpgIt’s hardly an original observation, but we have to say that the Royal Oak on Tabard Street in Borough is a great pub, with wonderful beer.

It’s an old-skool pub, with some amazing beards on display, but there were also some youngsters, and even a party of very jolly Spaniards in a corner who were enjoying pints of Best and shepherds pie.

The beers are all good — Sussex Best is a classic, the mild is absurdly drinkable at 3% and the Armada tastes like a weak (but not dumbed-down) IPA. In fact, one of the wonderful things about Harvey’s is their ability to deliver astounding beer in session-able doses.

The star of the show was the porter, the strongest of the offerings at 4.8%. Michael Jackson described the taste as “toasty, faintly anise-like”. It had stacks going on — waves of roastiness and dark fruits, with a very unctuous body and great aftertaste. I think I might even prefer it to Fullers*.

The Royal Oak is on Tabard Street, near Borough station, or a short walk from London Bridge.

*Which, incidentally, you can get on tap at the Euston Flyer. Don’t know if Fullers have responded to my prayers and started doing it all year round, or whether it’s just left over from the autumn, but it’s marvelous!

Picture by da mad pixelist at Flickr, under a Creative Commons license.

York — a great city for beer

york_brewery.jpgIf you like beer, York is a great place to spend a few days. And that doesn’t just apply to fans of real ale.

From our experience, you can’t go too far wrong following your instincts in York — if it looks a friendly pub, it probably is — but here are some pubs we tried and liked.

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