News, Nuggets & Longreads 20 October 2018: Bermondsey, Breakfast, Birthday Beers

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that seized our attention in the past week, from greasy spoons to tap rooms.

For Imbibe Will Hawkes has been inves­ti­gat­ing what’s going on with London’s beer scene as out­siders infil­trate and suc­cess leads to exo­dus:

Enid Street is not London’s most pic­turesque road, despite the huge, ver­dant plane trees on the Neckinger Estate along its south­ern side in Bermond­sey. It’s a place of light indus­try rather than ele­gant archi­tec­ture, dis­tin­guished by its rail­way-arch busi­ness­es and the rum­ble of trains on the tracks above. For beer-lovers, though, Enid Street is spe­cial, and it is about to become even more so.… The recent past and imme­di­ate future of Lon­don beer and brew­ing is being played out here. Reg­u­lars on the ‘Bermond­sey Beer Mile’.… may know about Moor Beer, the Bris­tol brew­ery that occu­pies num­ber 71. And if they don’t yet, they’ll sure­ly soon know all about num­ber 73, which Cloud­wa­ter is turn­ing into a Lon­don tap for its Man­ches­ter-brewed prod­ucts.

Lon­don isn’t an island and all that.

Beer pump for Young's Ordinary bitter.

The weeks-old post Cask Report dis­cus­sion con­tin­ues, and con­tin­ues to be inter­est­ing.

First, Pete Brown reveals some of the back­ground research behind the Cask Report, which he didn’t edit this year, but did con­tribute to. Of par­tic­u­lar note is the word-cloud show­ing what peo­ple who don’t drink cask ale think of it: “old man”, “unpleas­ant”, “strong”, “dark”, “warm”, “thick”, “hip­ster”, “piss”, and so on.

Mean­while, at the nar­ra­tive end of the lane, Jes­si­ca Mason has been con­duct­ing a thought exper­i­ment: what if cask ale was a per­son, and what if you were try­ing to con­vince a mate to go on a blind date with it?

You were so busy try­ing to describe them by com­par­ing them to oth­ers and by try­ing to impress peo­ple with details on their past or intel­lect; you for­got all of the real­ly great things about them.

You for­got the fact that they are hon­est. Hum­ble. And real­ly real­ly nice.

You for­got to say how, when you met them, that moment was life-affirm­ing. And how, for lots of your shared time, they have always been a plea­sure and a com­fort.

Greasy spoon cafe, Bethnal Green.

This arti­cle about greasy spoon cafes by Edwina Attlee for Archi­tec­tur­al Review isn’t about pubs but also kind of is, in a week when there has been much dis­cus­sion of booze­less booz­ers, and in the gen­er­al con­text of think­ing about ‘the third place’:

In one sense it was the imma­te­ri­al­i­ty of the food in these places that meant they were prob­lem­at­ic for plan­ners and puri­tans alike. It didn’t mat­ter what time of day it was, you could always get break­fast. It didn’t mat­ter how long you stayed as long as you ordered a cup of tea. If you were going there for one rea­son (com­pa­ny or com­fort), you could pre­tend it was for anoth­er (eggs and bacon). If the plan­ners hoped that civil­ians would start and end their day at the fam­i­ly home, these strayed homes made that less like­ly. They need­ed to be planned out.

(Via @gargarin.)

Trillium's Garden on the Greenway
SOURCE: Tril­li­um Brew­ing.

Here’s anoth­er shout-out for new blog­ger Peter Allen who at Pete Drinks a Beer reflect­ed this week on the sup­posed gulf between the world of beer geeks and that of ‘nor­mals’:

Aside from the brew­ery based at trendy Fort Point, Tril­li­um also run a beer gar­den (Gar­den on the Green­way) in a more offices-and-Irish Pubs part of the city that I vis­it­ed twice. Per­haps the most notable thing about this was that, although there were a hand­ful of the maligned “peo­ple sit­ting there with five small glass­es in front of them, filled with dif­fer­ent beers, tak­ing notes”, the place was most­ly filled with peo­ple who clear­ly had no idea that a) Tril­li­um are a world-renowned brew­ery or b) that many Craft Beer Nerds would like­ly con­sid­er exchang­ing a limb for a night spent at the Gar­den on the Green­way. Most of them were drink­ing the low­est ABV beer on offer (the superb Launch Beer) and pay­ing it basi­cal­ly no mind what­so­ev­er.

Belgian beers from Guinness

The Beer Nut offers tast­ing notes on an inter­est­ing set of beers: a stout/Lambic blend from Guin­ness and Timmerman’s, with sup­port from a bunch of Bel­gian-inspired beers brewed at the exper­i­men­tal Open Gate brew­ery in Dublin. Some hits, some miss­es, but over­all an intrigu­ing path for Guin­ness to be on, even ten­ta­tive­ly.

Thomas Hardy in profile on the neck of our 1986 beer bottle.

We’ve nev­er quite got into the Thomas Hardy game but we note with inter­est via our pal Dar­ren Nor­bury at Beer Today that the 50th anniver­sary edi­tion of the beer, brewed at Mean­time, is now on sale.

Now, an adver­tise­ment for some­one else: if you val­ue what Ron Pat­tin­son does (“Pedan­ti­cal­ly cor­rect peo­ple on Twit­ter?” No, the painstak­ing research and writ­ing and stuff) then you real­ly ought to bung him some mon­ey once in a while. Now, there’s a fun new way to do that: for €25 he’ll dig into his vast col­lec­tion of his­toric beer recipes and find one for a date of your choice – your birth­day, or your kid’s, or your wed­ding anniver­sary, or when­ev­er.

Final­ly, here’s an inter­est­ing bit of news for peo­ple who like to mon­i­tor CAMRA after the man­ner of Cold War Krem­li­nol­o­gists:

Want more? Alan does some­thing like this every Thurs­day, too.

Incidental Lager, Pubs and Breweries in Photos of Edwardian London

Someone – we don’t know who – spent the week of 22–28 August 1908 visiting the capital of the British Empire and brought home as a souvenir a photo book called 350 Views of London.

They wrote the dates of their hol­i­day on the inside cov­er in pen­cil. The book then spent at least some of the past cen­tu­ry some­where damp – an attic or shed – so that its cov­er buck­led and the sta­ples hold­ing it togeth­er rust­ed away. That’s why we were able to by this rel­ic for a cou­ple of quid from the junk box in a sec­ond­hand book­shop in Bris­tol.

Among those 350 pho­tos, some full-page, oth­ers fair­ly tiny, there are a hand­ful that par­tic­u­lar­ly grabbed our atten­tion, for obvi­ous rea­sons.

The Spaten Beer Restaurant, Piccadilly, c.1908.

This is one of the clear­est, most detailed views we’ve seen of the Spat­en Beer Restau­rant at Pic­cadil­ly – a pio­neer­ing Lon­don lager out­let that we obsessed over dur­ing the writ­ing of Gam­bri­nus Waltz. We still des­per­ate­ly want to see a view of the inte­ri­or but this is nice to have.

The King Lud, Ludgate Circus

The King Lud, Ludgate Circus

The book con­tains two views of one par­tic­u­lar pub, The King Lud at Ludgate Cir­cus. This is inter­est­ing to us because Jess drank in it fair­ly reg­u­lar­ly in its final years when it was brand­ed as part of the Hogshead chain. It is now a Leon restau­rant, but recog­nis­ably the same build­ing.

Omnibuses outside the Royal Exchange.

The beer con­nec­tion in this shot of the Roy­al Exchange is a lit­tle less obvi­ous: look at those two omnibus­es in the cen­tre – they’re adver­tis­ing Tennent’s Lager, as dis­trib­uted in Lon­don by Find­later & Co of Lon­don Bridge. This is a reminder that Ger­many and Aus­tria-Hun­gary weren’t the only coun­tries import­ing lager to Lon­don in the years before World War I.

Tottenham Court road from the south.

We haven’t seen this shot of Tot­ten­ham Court Road before, or any oth­er from quite this angle. That’s Meux’s Horse Shoe brew­ery and the attached brew­ery tap to the right – the site of the famous beer flood. The sign above the brew­ery door adver­tis­es MEUX’S ORIGINAL LONDON STOUT. We’d like to know more about the Horse Shoe Hotel’s ‘Amer­i­can Bar’.

The Saracen's Head, Snow Hill.

The Saracen’s Head was on Snow Hill in the City of Lon­don. We can’t quite pin down the pre­cise loca­tion, even after look­ing at con­tem­po­rary maps, aer­i­al pho­tos and the com­pre­hen­sive Pubs His­to­ry web­site. An edu­cat­ed guess is that it was destroyed dur­ing the Blitz – if you know oth­er­wise, or can tell us exact­ly where it was, do com­ment below.

Notable Pubs: The Royal Forest Hotel, Chingford

The Royal Forest Hotel in Chingford is a mock Tudor behemoth deformed by fire and forced to live out its old age bedecked with Premier Inn and Brewers Fayre branding.

When Jess told her Mum that we were stay­ing there her reac­tion betrayed her mem­o­ries of The Roy­al Forest’s rep­u­ta­tion in the 1960s: “Ooh, get you!”

The Royal Forest in 1986.
SOURCE: What­pub (CAMRA)

As a child grow­ing up in Waltham­stow Jess knew it as a place where you parked to eat your fish-paste sand­wich­es but wouldn’t dream of enter­ing. It was alien ter­ri­to­ry – Essex cul­ture, with Essex prices, not posh but still out of reach. We think with research that it was a Schooner steak­house, Watney’s answer to the Berni Inn, if that helps place it in terms of cul­ture and class.

Cer­tain­ly its loca­tion between golf course and a gen­uine Tudor build­ing, along with the sheer rag­ing pre­ten­tious­ness of its archi­tec­ture, per­mits a cer­tain grandeur to linger.

The approach to the Royal Forest along the main road.

Ray’s first encounter was this week­end, round­ing the cor­ner on foot to see its high flank with black-and-white tim­ber­ing and mul­ti-pane win­dows peer­ing between the branch­es of old oak trees: “Bloody hell, it’s Non­such Palace.”

Brewers Fayre.

Faded sign on the front of the pub.
“Scotch Ales”

The cor­po­rate makeover isn’t ele­gant – plas­tic signs glued here, gaudy menus nailed there – but there’s the ghost of some old brew­ery liv­ery at the front and a mag­nif­i­cent stained glass win­dow inside, which you’ll prob­a­bly only find if you’re stay­ing over, or nosy.

Stained glass pub-hotel window.

Pin­ning down its his­to­ry proved tricky, even with a trip to the local library on Sun­day morn­ing. Was it ter­ri­bly ancient, or built in 1880, 1890, or the 1920s?

Even­tu­al­ly we decid­ed the most effi­cient approach would be to con­tact Lon­don tour guide and Ching­ford his­to­ry expert Joan­na Mon­crieff. We’ve fol­lowed on Twit­ter (@WWalks) for years and know that runs a guid­ed tour of Ching­ford.

She laid it all out for us in an email (light­ly edit­ed):

It was built in 1879 as a hotel to accom­mo­date the hordes of peo­ple vis­it­ing the For­est. It was renamed the Roy­al For­est Hotel in 1882 after Queen Victoria’s vis­it to Epping For­est to ded­i­cate it to the Peo­ple.

It was orig­i­nal­ly built by Edmond Egan, the Loughton archi­tect who was respon­si­ble for some of the very dec­o­ra­tive hous­es in The Dri­ve and Cres­cent Road, Ching­ford.

The hotel’s busiest peri­od was around 1910 but then there was a seri­ous fire in 1912 which result­ed in the hotel being re-built minus its top storey.

Until 1968 it was a ter­mi­nus for bus­es.

1890 advertisement for the Royal Forest.
SOURCE: Hathi Trust.

Because it was a cen­tre for tourism there are quite a few con­tem­po­rary sources, such as A For­est Hol­i­day from around 1890:

On the walls are some fine water-colours of for­est scenery.

The wide stair­case is dec­o­rat­ed with a fine stained-glass win­dow rep­re­sent­ing Queen Eliz­a­beth and her Court at the famous Epping Hunt.

The land­ing is of noble dimen­sions, and light­ed by anoth­er large win­dow, open­ing on a broad bal­cony, from which is obtained a charm­ing and exten­sive view of the For­est.

This source goes on to tell us of the great din­ing hall with its tapes­tries and heraldic designs, and of the six pri­vate din­ing rooms: Japan­ese, Wat­teau, Span­ish, Queen Anne, Indi­an and Queen Eliz­a­beth themed, with “fur­ni­ture and appoint­ments in har­mo­ny”. (An ear­ly theme pub?)

Lawn Tennis at the Royal Forest.

The fire is inter­est­ing. Of course “leg­end has it”, accord­ing to to hack-work local his­to­ries, that guests and fire­men were killed and of course they are “now said to” haunt the hotel. But we looked at some con­tem­po­rary news­pa­per arti­cles and if any­one was killed, jour­nal­ists were odd­ly silent on the mat­ter, sug­gest­ing instead that most of the guests were out at the time.

At any rate, it didn’t feel haunt­ed to us, as a live­ly 50th birth­day cel­e­bra­tion rocked the wood­en beams, and the beer gar­den heaved with drinkers despite the whis­per of driz­zle.

Or did we per­haps hear the chug of a spec­tral bean­feast chara­banc in the night?

News, Nuggets & Longreads 18 August 2018: Bartram’s, Belgium, the Barley Mow

Here’s everything published on beer and pubs in the past week that grabbed our attention, from teetotal tendencies to the extraordinary nature of ordinary pubs.

First, some trade­mark thought­ful reflec­tion from Jeff Alworth at Beer­vana who asks ‘What If We Just Stopped Drink­ing?

[What] if we just keep drink­ing less and less until we’re con­sum­ing it like our old aun­tie, who only pulls out the sher­ry for spe­cial occa­sions? This won’t hap­pen imme­di­ate­ly, but the trend lines are pret­ty clear… A dirty lit­tle secret of the alco­hol indus­tri­al com­plex: it relies on very heavy drinkers, many of them alco­holics, for the bulk of sales. Among drinkers, the medi­an con­sump­tion is just a cou­ple drinks a week. That’s the median–some “drinkers” basi­cal­ly don’t drink at all. That means, of course, that someone’s doing a lot of drink­ing…

A Belgian Brown Cafe.

There’s a new links round-up in town: Bre­andán Kear­ney at Bel­gian Smaak has put togeth­er a rather won­der­ful rat­tle through all the Bel­gian beer and bar news from the last few months. How can you resist a 15 item list includ­ing such head­ers as CHINESE HOEGAARDEN and BEAVERTOWN GOES BELGIAN?

The mad collection at the Prince of Greenwich.
SOURCE: Desert­er

For Desert­er the pseu­do­ny­mous Dirty South gives an account of a day spent try­ing to enter­tain a sullen teenag­er in the cul­tur­al pubs of South Lon­don:

The Prince is run by Pietro La Rosa, a Sicil­ian who has not only brought Ital­ian hos­pi­tal­i­ty and splen­did Ital­ian food to SE10, but opened a pub full of curios that he and his wife Pao­la have col­lect­ed from their trav­els around the world. An enor­mous whale’s jaw bone hangs over var­i­ous objets d’arts, a rhi­noc­er­os’ head pro­trudes above an antique barber’s chair, sur­round­ed by art­work from afar.

It’s mad,’ con­clud­ed Theo.

The Bridge Inn, Clayton.
SOURCE: John Clarke.

Here’s some­thing we’d like to see more of: vet­er­an CAMRA mag­a­zine edi­tor  John Clarke dust­ed down a pub crawl from 30 years ago and retraced his steps to see how time had treat­ed the booz­ers of Clay­ton, Greater Man­ches­ter:

The Folke­stone was closed, burnt out and demol­ished. New hous­ing now occu­pies the site. The Greens Arms strug­gled on and then had a brief exis­tence as the Star Show­bar… The Grove also con­tin­ues to thrive as a Holts house and the war memo­r­i­al remains on the vault wall. No such luck with the Church.

The Barley Mow, London.
SOURCE: Pub Cul­ture Vul­ture.

Ben McCormick has been writ­ing about pubs on and off at his Pub Cul­ture Vul­ture blog for a few years now and a recent flur­ry of posts has cul­mi­nat­ed with what we think is a pro­found obser­va­tion:

[The Bar­ley Mow] must be the best Bak­er Street booz­er by a bil­lion miles… I was on the point of writ­ing there is noth­ing spe­cial about the place, but stopped abrupt­ly on the grounds that’s com­plete horse­shit. There ought to be many, many more exam­ples of pubs like this dot­ted around cen­tral Lon­don and fur­ther afield. But there aren’t.

Any pub, how­ev­er, ordi­nary, becomes extra­or­di­nary if it resists change – that makes sense to us.

A bit of news: Bartram’s, a brew­ery in Suf­folk, seems to have giv­en up brew­ing (the sto­ry is slight­ly con­fus­ing) which has giv­en the local news­pa­per an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect on the health of the mar­ket:

Now Mr Bar­tram is cur­rent­ly no longer look­ing to export over­seas, and is not pro­duc­ing any beer. “There are about 42 brew­eries in Suf­folk – when I start­ed 18 years ago, there were just five,” he said. “There is a lot more com­pe­ti­tion. The mar­ket is sat­u­rat­ed, it’s ridicu­lous.”

Anoth­er Suf­folk brew­er, who declined to be named, claims over­crowd­ing in the mar­ket­place is true of the cask ale indus­try that Mr Bar­tram is part of, but not the key keg ale mar­ket.

Also unclear: the key mar­ket for keg ale, or the keykeg ale mar­ket? Any­way, inter­est­ing.

If you want more good read­ing check out Stan Hieronymus’s Mon­day round-up and Alan McLeod’s reg­u­lar Thurs­day link­fest.

Old Haunts #2: The Pembury Tavern

A collage of images of the Pembury Tavern.

The Pembury Tavern at Hackney Downs, one of the pubs where we learned about beer, has commenced a new phase as the Five Points brewery tap.

When we were first begin­ning to devel­op a seri­ous inter­est in beer, in around 2005-06, we end­ed up at The Pem­bury because friends who knew more than us told us it was a must-vis­it pub. After years of neglect it had been bought and refur­bished as a pro­to-craft-beer-bar – clean, plain, with a vast range of hand-pumps, and bot­tled beers from Ger­many and Bel­gium.

It was also a non-smok­ing pub before the ban was intro­duced, send­ing a very clear sig­nal about the clien­tele it sought or, rather, want­ed to exclude.

Cir­ca 2006 Hack­ney Downs was posh­er than it had been 20 years before, but still less posh than it is today, with a lin­ger­ing sense of wild­ness. For typ­i­cal Pem­bury cus­tomers – overt CAMRA types, board-game nerds, hip­pies, and assort­ed odd­balls not quite cool enough to pass their idio­syn­crasies off as hip­ster­ism – the scur­ry to and from pub­lic trans­port could be an anx­ious busi­ness. That peo­ple kept putting them­selves through this ordeal is a tes­ta­ment to how wel­come a bolt­hole The Pem­bury was.

When we left Lon­don in 2011, though, the shine had gone. The beer range dimin­ished and what was left no longer seemed ter­ri­bly excit­ing in the age of the Craft Beer Com­pa­ny, and with hip­per venues pop­ping up all over Hack­ney. When we checked in a cou­ple of years ago, things were worse again – a drea­ri­ness, weari­ness, had set­tled over it all and we strug­gled to find any­thing decent to drink.

When we heard ear­li­er this year that Five Points had tak­en over the pub we imme­di­ate­ly thought, oh, that’s good news. It’s a beau­ti­ful build­ing in a great loca­tion and it makes sense for it to be tied to a local brew­ery rather than one in Cam­bridge, and we were also excit­ed at the idea of being able to taste all of Five Points’ beer in one place, pre­sum­ably pre­sent­ed at its best.

On Sat­ur­day last, work­ing around some per­son­al busi­ness, we man­aged to find a cou­ple of hours to inves­ti­gate in per­son.

First impres­sions: the pub has been brought back to life. The white­washed walls are now either rich green or vibrant red cre­at­ing a sense of inti­ma­cy that used to be lack­ing. Heavy cur­tains damp­en the once trou­ble­some acoustics, and well-worn wood­en fur­ni­ture under­lines the impres­sion that this is a Prop­er Pub, only updat­ed, rather than an out­post of Crafto­nia.

We were pleased to see, too, that the gamer geeks haven’t been dri­ven away, and that locals (both posh, and less posh) are still using the pub. If any con­stituen­cy has reduced its pres­ence its the hip­pies, but per­haps that’s true of Lon­don in gen­er­al these days, or of 2018.

The staff were ener­getic and effi­cient, serv­ing Five Points’ beer in what we’re sure must be the best con­di­tion pos­si­ble, in beau­ti­ful brand­ed glass­ware, at what felt like rea­son­able prices for Lon­don. There is also unfil­tered Bud­var and a range of guest beers on keg, cask and in pack­aged form. All of the Five Points beers we tried were at the very least good, and it’s such a plea­sure to be able to buy a pint of cask porter in East Lon­don.

The stand­out for us, though, was Five Points Pils. We enjoyed the canned vari­ant  but the draught is on anoth­er lev­el – so fresh tast­ing, hazy but not dirty, and full of blos­som and per­fume.

We would say, based on this trip, that The Pem­bury is once again worth going out of your way to vis­it if you’re a vis­i­tor to Lon­don, or rarely make it out east, espe­cial­ly as it is only 15 min­utes out of Liv­er­pool Street on the train.