Sour Stout in a Victorian Pub

In search of Fullers London Porter, and following a tip from reader Ant, we found ourselves back at the Royal Oak in Borough, south of London Bridge. The Porter was great, as always, if a little flat. Harvey’s Old Ale (4.3%) had rich fruit cake flavours and reminded us of Adnams Broadside. It was also a little sour, which made us wonder if they really do add some aged beer to new to make it, or just a happy accident.

The highlight, though, was the Imperial Stout (9%). The cheery barman was delighted when we asked if they had any and bounced off to get a bottle. He apologised profusely for the fact that it no longer comes in a corked bottle and presented it with some pride in a big wine glass.  We’ve had before but fairly early on in our beer drinking adventures, when our tastebuds were less mature, and then found it too intensely flavoured to actually finish. This time, it was love at first sight. There is something very sexy about a dark beer with a brown, caramel-coloured head. The smell was pure Cantillon — sour, sweet, and (bear with us) bordering on manure. The flavours exploded with every sip: blackberry, chocolate, tobacco (never thought we’d enjoy that), leather… we could go on. Astounding, in short, and now in our top 10.

As we drank, it began to snow outside. A Victorian pub, snow and black beer: it couldn’t have been more Christmassy.

NB – Fuller’s London Porter is also on at the Mad Bishop and Bear in Paddington Station, in cracking form.

A merry Christmas to all our readers – we’ll be back in a couple of days.

Half-and-half with the old man


Fuller’s London Pride from a cask mixed with Fuller’s bottled London Porter makes a cracking half-and-half.

My Dad has developed a deep affection for Fuller’s beers and, when he’s in London, always finds an excuse to drop into one of their pubs. On his most recent trip, he’d only been off the train five minutes when he had us installed in the Mad Bishop and Bear at Paddington Station. (“Best wait for the rush hour crowds to pass.”)

Another of his favourite things is mixing his beers. At home in Bridgwater, it’s a necessity — every third pint of Butcombe Bitter down there is a bit stale and he relies on Mann’s Brown Ale to rescue them. On this occasion, he insisted on mixing Pride and London Porter, not because the Pride was bad, but because he really wanted a pint of mild and that, in his view, is the next best thing.

Usually, I find mixed beers are less than the sum of their parts, but this really was very drinkable, and offers yet another reason for more pubs to offer a good bottled stout or porter.


Mild ain't what it used to be

A pint of Brodie's Mild at the William IV pub in Leyton

My Dad drank a lot of mild as a young man, in all kinds of pubs and social clubs, and misses it a lot. So, I looked forward to taking him to the Nags Head in Walthamstow for a pint of Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde, which is on of my favourite beers.

It wouldn’t be an exagerration to say he turned his nose up: “It’s alright,” he said, “but it’s not really mild — not like you used to get.”

Brodie’s mild, on the other hand, he absolutely loved. It’s nice enough, but fairly unexciting  — softer and browner — compared to Oscar Wilde, but is apparently more like the real thing.


We have a winner: best British Koelsch Klone

A few months ago, we spotted that Young’s bottled Kew Brew (now “Kew Gold”) is a dead ringer for a decent draught Koelsch. We tested that theory again this week and are now prepared to say, outright, that it’s the best substitute for draught Koelsch you can get in the UK.

Filtered, pasteurised bottles of Frueh just don’t compare. It’s even better than Meantime’s slightly bland effort.

British Versions of Continental Beers

In the last few months, we’ve come across a couple of welcome attempts by British breweries to mimic continental beer styles. More of this, please. It’s surely the best way to compete with imported lagers?

Wylam Czech-style Pilsener beer is malty, fruity and very satisfying.  It’s nowhere near as good as a fresh Czech beer on tap, or even Derbyshire brewed Moravka, but compares very well with a bottle of Budvar.  An impressive offering from this Northumberland microbrewery.


Cain’s Double bock is very ‘true to style’, despite its origins in the north west of England, rather than the brewhouses of Bavaria. It’s really heavy and malty, but without being too sickly. It’s got some very pleasant milk chocolate and vanilla flavours and a soupy body.  At 7.1%, it goes straight to your head. Is this is available in cask form? If so, we’d love to try it.