Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Kentish Belle

The Kentish Belle - Saturday 17th March 2018

8 Pickford Lane, Bexleyheath, Kent DA7 4QW
Again, like with the Halfway House yesterday evening, I visited this micropub on opening night. I have walked past the site of this pub every morning for the last 7 or 8 months and not noticed it was there! Goes to show the vegetative state I am in on my way to and from work in the mornings and early evenings. Still, on Friday morning I finally noticed the pub and took a quick peek inside. I also took a quick preview on my way home from work on Friday evening to see a private party in full swing. I was looking forward to visiting two micropubs this weekend.

I tried to take a picure of each of the micropubs before entering them but for some reason the phone camera would not work properly - it took the photos, displayed them on screen, but when I tried to call them up from my gallery the photos were just black. Oh well, I will figure out what happened another time and try to get non-copyrighted images for the blog going forward (although the images I use on my site are in no way meant to infringe upon any asserted rights of the owners - they are merely to illustrate and advertise some great venues and beers).

Anyway, back to the evening. The pub was packed when I got there but not as shoulder-to-shoulder packed as the Halfway House. There were probably just as many people in there but this micropub seems a little larger on the inside. I also got a completely different vibe from this one as I entered - it felt more welcoming as there was not a raucous noise going on, more a hubub of friendly banter. Again, though, there was a great mix of people.

From what I could see, the decor is plain and the tables and chairs modern and very functional, although they were normal sized tables and chairs in contrast to the taller ones I commented on in the last post. The bar was well-attended by staff, who were very friendly and also very busy. Service was quick despite it being very busy in there and also, despite the crush at the bar, there was only good natured banter and politeness from the patrons.

The beers on offer were extensive; the beer board had eight or nine ales advertised, but by the end of the evening all bar two or three had been scrubbed off the chalkboard! There was a great choice of strengths, styles and breweries on offer, as well as bottled Belgian beers and other craft beers in cans kept in a well-stocked fridge. I noticed some people drinking wine and other drinks too, so most tastes are catered for.

One thing that really stood out for me though was that beers were being sold in 1/3, 2/3 and full pint glasses. The 2/3 size seemed very popular, and indeed I stuck to that format all evening. It seemed a comfortable size for a beer and it meant that the last dregs in the glass were not warmed up by the time they were drunk. This for me is a major selling point of this micropub, as well as the close proximity to Bexleyheath railway station and two bus stops (literally a few seconds walk from either) - it is a very easy pub to get to.

Beers drunk on this visit:

1) Due to my camera not working I was unable to make a note of the red ale I drunk (3.8%)
2) Hengist (5.0%) - Wantsum Brewery, Canterbury, Kent - a strong golden ale
3) American Pale Ale (3.8%) - Howling Hops Brewery, East London - a fruity, well-balanced ale

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Halfway House

Halfway House - Friday 16th March 2018
188c Halfway Street, Sidcup, Kent DA15 8DJ

This is the 6th micropub to open in the Borough of Bexley following the Door Hinge, Penny Farthing, Broken Drum, Hackney Carriage and Hopper's Hut (in no particular order). I am not sure that Sidcup needs another micropub so close geographically to the other two, but if demand is there, then good luck to them.

It was a bit of a faff to get there even though I am a local. It would need a small hopper bus (286?) from Sidcup railway station to get visitors from afar to the pub, or a 10-15 minute amble, which is the option I chose, as the pub is about half a mile or so along the main road that leads away from the station (and you have to pass the Hackney Carriage and Ye Olde Black Horse to get there, so not bad from a pub crawl point of view).

It was opening night when I went there yesterday evening and the place was very busy. I had to queue at the bar, which is not so bad in itself, but when other patrons just barged in front and yelled their orders at the bar staff, I was not impressed. The bar staff were busy, courteous and friendly but had to contend with patrons who had most likely been there several hours and were on the road to being fully drunk and disorderly.

The decor is plain but functional and the few tables in there are of the taller variety; so some patrons may find the stools and benches a little difficult to get onto and off of - this seems to be a common feature with micro-pubs - perhaps it is so they can fit more people in as a standing option and the taller tables and stools make for fewer tripping incidents? I managed to stand for the couple of hours I was in here but it was no issue for me, but it may be for others.

The beer that was served was very fresh and seemed well-kept. I only sampled a couple of pints (of the 3 on offer) but there was also a short list of bottled and canned beers in the fridge, and an extensive wine and gin menu scattered around on the tables. This choice of drink probably led to the decent mix of people in the pub (including one child after 7pm) - on first appearances this is not an old man's cardigan and ale pub. I think some micropubs give off that vibe but some of the later ones to come online have tried to shrug off that image (especially the Hackney Carriage and the One Inn the Wood in Petts Wood).

Beers drunk on this visit:

American Pale Ale (3.8%) - Howling Hops Brewery, East London - a fruity, well-balanced ale
Effra Amber Ale (4.5%) - Brixton Brewery, Brixton, London - a smooth caramel ale with a bitter finish

I will most likely pop back to this pub when it is not so busy and see how things pan out. I would like to chat to the owner to see how things are going and get some insight into his plans for the pub. MB mentioned to me last week that this pub was opening but he couldn't make it - maybe next weekend?

Friday, 16 March 2018

A Surprise Session

The Furze Wren - Saturday 3rd March 2018

Broadway Square, Bexleyheath Shopping Centre, 6 Market Place, Bexleyheath DA6 7DY

This was a spur of the moment session at the Furze. Luckily the kids were at their mum's so I had a free evening. I called my usual drinking buddy MB and we headed into the Furze for a few jars.

Once again it was busy in there but when we had grabbed our first pints we were lucky that a table came free on the raised dais by the window. We just spent the vening supping ale and putting the world to rights in a way that only middle-aged men can.

Beers drunk on this visit:

Bitter (3.5%) - Jennings Brewery, Cockermouth, Cumbria
Mild (3.5%) - Bank'sBrewery, Wolverhampton
Oxford Gold 4.0% - Brakspear Brewery, Witney, Oxfordshire
Wainwright Golden Ale 4.1% - Thwaites Brewery, Blackburn, Lancashire

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Burn's Night 2018

The Furze Wren - Friday 26th January 2018

Broadway Square, Bexleyheath Shopping Centre, 6 Market Place, Bexleyheath DA6 7DY

As I was otherwise engaged on the actual Burn's Night this year, MB and I decided to head to our local Wetherspoons to sample some haggis and single malt the following day. As we had missed our usual trip to the Robin Hood and Little John we had to find somewhere that still sold haggis - Wetherspoons have it on the menu for a week so, like last year, we headed there for our annual fix.

Tonight was rather fortuitous in other ways too as it was the start of yet another of their famous beer festivals. One look at the five or six ales on offer though meant I was limited to only a couple of them unfortunately, and one wasn't being offered on the beer festival night but was there for the Burn's Night celebrations. One had a coffee infusion, and as I have an intolerance to caffeine would not touch it. The others were all way over 4.5% and out of my league. This left me with a choice of the Burn's Night special brown ale and a hoppy golden ale.

The two beers I chose were actually very nice indeed, as was the Glenmorangie I supped with my haggis, tatties and neeps. MB and I decided that we should try to get back again before the end of the festival to see if we can sample a couple more of the beers on offer. Due to a major change in my life recently I can no longer get out during the week, so I am limited to weekend drinking, and only imbibing the lower alcohol content beers due to the running I do every Saturday and Sunday morning.

The evening in the Furze was very lively, with lots of youngsters in the bar enjoying themselves. It took MB and I over an hour to secure a table and then be bale to order our food, so we were both very hungry before it arrived.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Bow Bells (4.2%) - Truman's Brewery, Hackney Wick, London - a hoppy, citrusy golden ale
2) Robert Burns Brown Ale (4.2%) - Belhaven Brewery, Scotland - a very tasty traditional brown ale

The Ship Aground

The Ship Aground - Saturday 20th January 2018

33 Wolseley Street, Bermondsey, London SE1 2BP

Last weekend (13th January 2018) saw my sister hit the big 5-oh. She went out for a meal with her partner that weekend but wanted a party to celebrate with the rest of the family. She decided to choose the following weekend at her local - The Ship Aground.

It is a true locals pub with a good atmosphere and very friendly bar staff. The buffet food put together for us was good quality standard fare (sandwiches, pork pies, sausage rolls, satay chicken etc.), and there was plenty of it.

Unfortunately, for me, there was only one beer on tap although they have 3 pumps at the bar. Luckily it was London Pride, and it was very well kept. After a few pints of this, in celebration of my sister's birthday, I switched to the prosecco which everyone else was on.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) London Pride (4.1%) - Fuller's Brewery, Chiswick, London

Thursday, 18 January 2018

New Year Rugby

London Scottish vs. Yorkshire Carnegie - Saturday 13th January 2018

I was an avid rugby fan until just a few years ago when life just got in the way of my hobby, and would watch every match I could. As an ex-player myself, I would enjoy the spectacle for more than just the sporting competition. I'd watch players for their sublime skills, applaud great passages of play no matter who made them (home team or opposition) and generally just soak up the atmosphere of a great day out. One key factor to these days out was a few pints in a local watering hole. As I haven't been to a match in a long time (3 or 4 years?) I jumped at the chance of a day out watching Championship level (one below the Premiership) rugby with my good friend RT (known as Mr. Angry to most of his associates).

The match was a British & Irish cup match that ended with the hosts winning by 29-19. It was a good match with both sides dominating for periods of time with some great rugby being played and a couple of really outstanding tries being scored.

The Hope, Richmond

115-117 Kew Road, London TW9 2PN

Anyway, this is all good excuse to have a few pints with a good friend. We met up in the Hope in Richmond a couple of hours before kick-off. This pub only opens at the weekend according to the landlady and as a result she only puts on one ale at a time so as not to waste a half-barrel if it is not drunk in time. Today's beer was Timothy Taylor's Landlord; RT wanted to come to this pub today especially to grab a couple of pints of this particular ale. It went down well, and suitably whet our whistles in time for the game.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Landlord (4.3%) - Timothy Taylor & Co Ltd, Keighley, West Yorkshire - a hoppy, full-flavoured pale ale

After The Hope we went into the ground (about a three or four minute walk from the pub) and grabbed a pint before the match and another at half-time. The only ale they had on tap was Fuller's London Pride, which went down a storm.

To help the pints go down we both sampled the food available at the ground. RT had a couple of Scotch Bonnet pies which he exclaimed were amongst the best he has ever tried and I sampled their Cornish pasty, which wasn't bad at all.

The Triple Crown
The Triple Crown Inn, 15 Kew Foot Road, Richmond TW9 2SS

Directly after filling our bellies with pies we wandered stright out of the ground into The Triple Crown. This is a bit of an older persons' pub judging by the clientelle, but there was a post match buzz in here none-the-less. There was only one beer on this evening, but again it was an OK one.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Bitter (3.7%) - Young's & Co Brewery, London - fresh and fruity taste for an easy drinking bitter
The Sun Inn

17 Parkshot, Richmond TW9 2RG
After a brief call-in at the Triple Crown we decided to fit one more in before wending our merry ways home. This is a pub I have been in before when I used to work up the road in Gunnersbury. I have drunk in maybe three or four pubs in Richmond but only on a very few occasions. It has been nice to revisit some old ground and then some new.

The Sun Inn is very much a rugby pub. The staff all wear rugby shirts and every screen has a rugby match showing on it. This evening it was very busy and there was a really great buzz on. Ordinarily I would have stayed for a few in here but RT had to get on home. Luckily, the earlyish finish worked in my favour too as all stations out of London going southwards were closed except for Blackfriars and Victoria. Luckily I was able to catch a series of trains and buses to be home in just over two hours.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Gale's Seafarers Ale (3.6%) - Fullers Brewery, Chiswick, London - a malty, sweet easy drinking ale

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas Drinks II

Lamb and Flag - Saturday 16th December 2017

33 Rose St, London WC2E 9EB

There was another comic signing this weekend to see out the 40th anniversary of 2000AD. I attended the signing as usual and had also arranged to then meet MB, whom I haven't seen for several months now. All went very quickly at the signing so I got to the pub a lot earlier than I was intending to. When I arrived (around 4:40pm) it was absolutely heaving inside and stayed this way pretty much for our entire time there.

As I had plenty of time to kill before MB arrived I decided to start at the weakest and work my way up through the beers. In quick succession I got through 4 of them before having to then buy a round for two. The atmosphere in the pub was fantastic with different bands of revellers popping in and out all the time. This must be the only city in the world where, in one pub, one can encounter, a dozen turkeys all gobbling away between sips of beer, over 200 Santas and reindeer, as well as people from all over the globe going about their everyday Christmas celebrations. Everybody was friendly and I enjoyed some short chats with several of the other patrons.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Seafarers (3.6%) - George Gale & Co. Ltd (Fuller's Brewery, London) - a hoppy, malty easy drinking bitter
2) Harvest Pale (3.8%) - Castle Rock Brewery, Nottingham -a golden coloured, light, fruity beer
3) Wise Men (4.0%) - Fullers Brewery, London - a golden hoppy beer
4) Oliver's Island (3.8%) - Fullers Brewery, Chiswick, London - a golden crisp, slightly malty ale
Two of the beers were created for helping out with charities - each pint of Seafarers has Fullers Brewery donate a small sum to the Seafarers UK charity, and likewise, each sale of Wise Men puts money into the coffers of the Prostate Cancer UK charity.

After all this beer, I needed something to eat to soak it up and slow down the effects. MB and I decided to grab a burger just round the corner at Five Guys. We took it easy and only ordered up a burger each (no fries or drinks) and then ehaded back out into the London night time.

Mr. Fogg's Tavern
58 St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4EA

I had walked past this a couple of times already today and it had piqued my interest. As MB and I wandered around the Covent Garden area looking for another pub to frequent, we came across it again. We couldn't remember what was on the site of this pub previously, so decided to give it a go as we had not been in here before.

This pub was full to the brim too with revellers of all kinds. The bar staff were dressed in period costume which really added to the atmosphere. MB and I propped up the bar whilst supping our ales and managed to get chatting to a few people on occasion. The bar service was fantastic - on one occasion I overheard a conversation between one of the barmen and a customer - the customer was deciding what to order when the bar man quoted back his previous order and wondered whether Sir would care for the same again - call me impressed! We noticed that alongside the ales many different types of gin were sold (possibly a nod to the period and the sister gin bar that I have just discovered with a Google search) in half-pint glasses no less! What I liked about this bar was that the ales were served in handled jugs and the half-pint gin servings were in those traditional dimpled glasses that we no longer seem to be able to get in oubs these days.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Mr Fogg's Best Bitter (3.7%) -
2) Mr Fogg's Pale Ale (3.9%) -

Not sure who the brewer is of these ales - presumably the tavern owners? I will need to find out more details for a future visit and entry on the blog. As a result I do not have any pictures of tap labels.