The Flat, Warm Pints of London Town

Illustration: a flat pint.

I didn’t realise I’d missed London’s characteristically headless, lifeless, lukewarm pints of beer until I had one on Friday.

It was brown, weary-tasting, with barely a fleck of scum on the surface, and yet… I kind of loved it.

I’m not saying this kind of thing is good, or that I wouldn’t have preferred something with a bit of condition given the option, but confronted with it in that moment, it resonated with my homesickness like the stink of a hometown factory.*

For many Londoners, perhaps less so now than it used to be, I’m sure this is actually a preference: no space wasted by mere froth, maximum possible booze for your cash. I remember friends from my sixth-form college and Leyton Orient supporting days grumbling if they were served even slightly foamy pints: ‘What’s going on ‘ere — are we up Norf or summink?’

I didn’t say when I Tweeted about it but the pint in question was at the usually very reliable Royal Oak in Borough, our favourite London pub these days. I stayed drinking there with friends until we got booted out so it can’t have been so bad.

But that’ll do me for a while — back to cool, properly conditioned beers with proper heads now, I think.

* Not an abstract example — Bailey grew up under the foul cloud of British Cellophane and gets sentimental when he smells anything similarly disgusting.

German pub in London

Zeitgeist at the Jolly Gardeners, Vauxhall, South London is absolutely bizarre and absolutely brilliant.

We frequently get “homesick” for Germany, despite being from the UK. When we heard about Zeitgeist through Metro, the free newspaper they give away on London Underground, we got very excited. Tonight was our first visit. It won’t be our last.

It’s run by two expat Germans from Cologne and offers 36 German beers, with at least 10 on tap. They took over in October 2007 and reopened the pub in November. Some of the reviews on Beer in the Evening paint a picture of a pub in the middle of a terrifying council estate. Having grown up on a terrifying council estate, I’m less scared of working class people than some, but the fact that you can almost see Big Ben and MI6 from the pub makes it even less of a worrying prospect. It seemed like a perfectly nice area to us.

The pub itself was excellent. Definitely a pub, but equally surely a small piece of Germany 15 minutes from Westminster. The landlord and landlady were both dressed in German football shirts and the barmaid spoke to us in German — that’s the default language. During our stay, the place filled up with expats keen to watch the Germany/Austria match on a big screen.

What about the beer? Well, here’s the menu. Nothing staggeringly exciting for any tickers out there, but all are in great nick, and with most of the common German beer styles represented. We were especially excited to find a decent Koelsch on tap (Gaffel). If you want to know what the fuss is about Koelsch but can’t get to Cologne, here’s your chance to try the real deal nearer to home.

We were amused to see British customers getting full glasses with tiny heads, plus an apology the glass wasn’t completely full, which German customers were served tiny glasses with towering, frothy ice-cream heads. What’s the German for: “I’ll take mine like a native, please”?

The food was good, too. The menu divides it up by region. Notably, there are at least twelve schnitzel dishes on offer, as well as Nuernberger sausages and Cologne potato pancakes.

In short, we’ll be back. This pub deserves to be a big success.

Notes

Zeitgeist is also known as the Jolly Gardeners, and is at 49-51 Black Prince Road, Se11 6AB. Map here. Closest tube stations are Vauxhall, Kennington, Lambeth North, and Westminster.

Bailey

Keeping a head on your pint – here comes the science

Scientists have carried out research into how a pint keeps (or loses) its head (BBC News Online). One of the scientists involves speculates that the long-lasting creamy head on Guinness might be the result of “a little surfactant“. Eugh.

Ochsenfurter Kauzen

The article also asserts that “the foam on a pint of lager quickly disappears”. Well, perhaps on a pint of Fosters in a dirty glass, but the head on a glass of lager in Germany sticks around for quite some time. And they’re not using “surfactant” – the sinister and secretive arbiters of the German Beer Purity Law wouldn’t stand for it.