A crawl in Clapham

We’re not going to let the fact that most of the tube doesn’t work at weekends at the moment stop us from exploring. A couple of Saturdays back, we decided to go to Clapham and investigate some of the interesting sounding pubs mentioned in various guides and websites.

What did we know of Clapham before this visit? Well, it used to be home to around 300 dreadful stripped-pine and chrome contemporary beverage appreciation spaces — the kinds of place which we suspect soured a lot of CAMRA types on modern pubs for good, with their cold atmospheres and selection of identical and bland ‘world lagers’. On the high street, at least, those are still in abundance, but now looking increasingly careworn and old-fashioned. All the men were wearing little hats and skinny jeans; the girls were in Uggs. Style over substance.

Off the high street, however, there’s plenty to enjoy — the kinds of pubs which fall between full-on trendiness and catering purely to old men.

Summer Lightning and Downton German Pale Ale Face/Off
Summer Lightning and Downton German Pale Ale Face/Off

Our first port of call was the Mason’s Manor Arms, which is in the Good Beer Guide and has been for years. It made the trek worthwhile. It’s a small, cosy pub set back from the street behind a small beer garden. The only concessions to 1990s-style Clapham trendiness are some well-worn sofas and a rather nice contemporary frontage. All the cosiness in the world can’t make up for terrible beer, but the Mason’s Manor has nothing to worry about on that front. Their Summer Lightning was astoundingly good. Downton’s German Pale Ale, their current guest ale, was a fascinating, confusing and delicious beer, evidently brewed with all-German lager-type ingredients and fermented English-style. Similar to Summer Lightning, but fresher and crisper. Timothy Taylor Landlord and Ringwood Bitter were also on offer and beyond criticism in their freshness and condition.

The Bread and Roses
The Bread and Roses

Comfortable as we were, we managed to haul ourselves up and out to make it along the road to the Bread and Roses. Now, on paper, this sounded like our kind of place: a pub run to raise funds for left-wing causes which offers a large range of guest ales and specialty beers. And it exceeded expectations.

First, the interesting beers on tap: Sharp’s Doom Bar, Sharp’s IPA, Purity Pure Gold, Budvar, Budvar Dark, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Stiegl (from Austria), Erdinger Weissbier and Maredsous Blonde. Then in bottles: Maisel’s Dunkelweiss, Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and Anchor Steam. Nothing we hadn’t tried before, but lots we were pleased to see on offer and, once again, all those we tried were fresh and tasty. We also liked the fact that there were lots of explanatory notes on the pumps and boards to explain what the various beers were like, and there were also suggestions on the menu as to which wine or beer would match with the food.

The pub itself is an old Victorian building decked out in late 90s trendy pub style, except that it also has paintings of left-wing orators in 19th century London, big screen football, copies of the London Drinker and numerous other things that undercut any sense of pretension. Why is this place not more famous? Why was it not crammed? Maybe being neither wholly trendy nor designed for old men makes for a hard-to-sell pub? It makes a point of being child-friendly, so perhaps that scared the GBG off. And, of course, it’s not right next to a tube station.

One caveat: the food was great and cheap (especially given the quality) but took a while to arrive (35 minutes) so don’t build your visit around a meal.

Our crawl was cut short at this point when we moved on in the drizzle to find that Microbar doesn’t open on Saturday afternoons. Another time. Clapham has a lot to offer, and we’re coming back for another session!

Notes

Both the Manor Arms and Bread and Roses are on Clapham Manor Street. The nearest tube stops are Clapham North or Clapham Common; alternatively, trains to Clapham High Street leave from Victoria and London Bridge approximately every half an hour. Microbar is technically Battersea, rather than Clapham, but it’s a fairly short stagger from the Bread and Roses; if you go along the Wandsworth Road you’ll pass the Plough Inn, now a Young’s pub, and an old, defunct brewery that goes back at least to 1869, before being bought by Simmonds and then Courage. Google map here, showing all the locations mentioned.

That's what Oktoberfest is about

Just surfacing after last night at Zeitgeist.  My stomach is turning somewhat thinking about beer, so this is not the time for detailed beer reviews.  Suffice to say, we had a great time, and so did our non-beer-geek friends.

Can’t really remember a lot about what I drank, but it was all good stuff.  Standouts for me were Scheubel-Sternbrau Dunkel Rauchbier and (in a bottle) Kanone Zwickl.   Go Go Go (but do line the stomach first…)

In case you’ve forgotten, all the details are here.  It’s due to run all weekend, and they may just have enough beer this time…we’d go back, but we’re Never Drinking Again.

Boak (never has my nom de plume seemed more appropriate)

The Carpenters Arms with the Beer Nut

We’re very slowly becoming tickers for beer bloggers. This week, we finally caught up with TV’s the Beer Nut. We took the opportunity to try out a pub we’d never visited before, just five minutes walk from Marble Arch in the west end of London.

The Carpenters Arms is very much a Proper Pub, without making a big deal of it. There are usually five or six cask ales available on the big, brown, wooden bar. The big, brown wooden tables are worn and ringed with beer stains. There is a dartboard. The crowd is largely made up of builders and regulars.

Bailey thought O’Hanlon’s Yellow Hammer was on good form (we’ve only had this from bottles on location in Devon in the past, and not been impressed) but we note Beer Nut didn’t care for it, thus going to demonstrate again that although we seem to share fairly similar outlooks, we never like the same beers…

This pub makes a nice change from sweaty chain pubs crammed to the rafters. It’s worth knowing about if you’re in that area and looking for a decent pint.

Beer Nut is very much a Proper Beer Blogger, without making a big deal of it. He does have a notebook, but when he scribbles in it, he makes it look like he’s a busy man with great thoughts. And who’s to say he isn’t?

The Carpenters Arms (definitely no apostrophe) is at 12 Seymour Place, W1H 7NA. (Beer in the evening review here). As well as being handy for Oxford Street and the Lebanese restaurants on Edgware Road, there’s also an Austrian cafe (with beer!) over the road, which we’ll have to investigate some other time.

Posh pub/hotel in Hackney

Old pub livery on the Ship Inn, Hackney
Old pub livery on the Ship Inn, Hackney

We’d walked past the Ship Inn tons of times. We’d even photographed it and put the pictures here. From the outside, it looked like a pretty rough old dive, partly because of the gang of people smoking outside the long tunnel you have to walk down to get in.

Then we read somewhere that, far from being rough, it’s actually the poshest boozer in Hackney, so we got over our nerves and went in for a nosy round.

It’s actually a boutique hotel, and a nice looking one at that. The bar makes more sense when you think of it as a service for guests rather than a pub for locals. It’s done up, as the phrase goes, like a tart’s boudoir. A good half of it is laid up for dinner with table cloths, big wine goblets and silverware. The barmen/waiters are smartly dressed with continental aprons. One of them looks like Tobey Maguire.

Standing by the door, we had one of those moments: it’s too posh! They’ll expect us to eat even though we’re not hungry!

But they didn’t. And they were very nice. The beer was nothing special (several so-called world lagers, Tim Taylor Landlord and the now ubiquitous Sharp’s Doom Bar) but well enough kept. We enjoyed our pint and felt, on the whole, that this would be a good place to go on a date or to bring people from work who don’t like ‘old man’s pubs’.

More to the point, though, it’s across the road from the usual venue for the Pig’s Ear Beer Festival (scheduled this year for 2-6 December). Any out of towners struggling to convince other halves to join them at a beer festival could find a couple of nights in this place will clinch the deal, and it’s pretty convenient to stagger home to as well…

The Ship is owned by Urban Inns, who also own the Coach and Horses in Isleworth.

Recipe and instructions for Belgian Witbier

When we wrote about our blackberry beer a week or so back, we mentioned that we made it using a witbier base. We thought we’d also share how we made the witbier.

Our wit sitting in the sun
Our wit sitting in the sun

When we wrote about our blackberry beer a week or so back, we mentioned that we made it using a witbier base. We thought we’d also share how we made the witbier.

We owe most of the recipe to Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing — a truly inspirational homebrewing book, although not really one for beginners as it is rather erratically laid out at times. But we’re constantly using it for new ideas and it has been worth every penny.

We’ve had a couple of goes at this, refining the second recipe to make a beer that’s a little tarter and more to our tastes. We’re extremely pleased with the final result, which as you can see from the picture looks reasonably authentic. It’s very refreshing and drinkable, and wonderfully weak too — our second version was a mere 3.5% (more by accident than design).

Continue reading “Recipe and instructions for Belgian Witbier”