We can’t quite call the Bricklayers in Putney an old favourite because we only made it there once, about a decade ago.
On that occasion, we were delighted to find a pub in London with beer from Timothy Taylor. Not just the then ubiquitous Landlord but the full range – Golden Best, Ram Tam, dark mild, and more.
But then we moved to Cornwall, and while we were away, the pub changed, losing its unique selling point and becoming just another London pub with a ‘great range of real ale’. People stopped talking about the Bricklayers, and we forgot it existed.
Then before Christmas, the buzz began again: Taylor’s was back at the Brickie.
We went out of our way to visit in the week between Christmas and the new year, despite Google’s insistence that the pub was closed on Fridays. As we approached along the quiet backstreet we felt reassured: the lights were on, figures were moving behind the frosted glass.
Not many figures, though: we walked into an almost empty pub, and the people at the bar were into the last inches of their pints, making their long goodbyes.
It’s an exciting sight, a line of pumps with Taylor’s clips, especially when rarities such as the porter are there alongside the big names.
There’s been a little controversy about this brewery lately. Depending who you listen to, it’s either overlooked and underappreciated, or over-hyped and newly trendy, but we like the beer and have liked it for almost as long as we’ve been paying attention.
This time, there were some hits and misses. Landlord was off – a tribute to the power of the brand, we suppose – and the dark mild was simply muddy. Knowle Spring was sadly bland. The porter we’d been so keen to try seemed like a squirt of cheap cola.
But Ram Tam! Oh, Ram Tam. Another best mild, we think, and though people keep telling us it’s just Landlord with caramel… It doesn’t taste like Landlord with caramel. Perhaps we’re mugs being fooled by the optics, perceiving flavours that aren’t there, but we are perceiving them, so who cares.
A mother and father with moody teenage son arrived, made small talk, and agreed to try a mix of Golden Best and dark mild that the local CAMRA crawl had apparently enjoyed on its sweep through.
A regular arrived, concealing his drunkenness expertly until he’d been served, and then staring dumbfounded at a pint he didn’t really want. “I tell you what, I’ll have a whisky,” he said, but didn’t get one.
The fire flickered.
The boards creaked.
Faces appeared against the frosted glass, scattered into pink points, features scrunched in consideration. To come in from the cold, or walk on? They walked on.