So, here I am. Fresh as a daisy, the day after. A few new places under my belt, and definitely a few more to add to my emergency 'Lost in London and Thirsty' map.
After a bit of a nightmare due to Tube engineering work that were 'planned' but not flagged on the National Rail site, Ian and Julie and I ended up having to take Shanks' Pony to the first stop, the Bavarian Beerhouse in Old Street.
This is a large underground kind of place, and I mean that in terms of its location rather than reputation...I just stopped myself using the term 'bunker' in the context of a recreated Munich beer cellar, that's all. When it gets full, I suspect it is gets warm and noisy. However, we were the first customers in and treated to Erdinger Dunkel and Hefe Weisse to start. I suppose this kind of stuff is all a bit old hat now, but I do like Erdinger, it has just the right balance of banana/clove/bitterness for me. The Dunkel is, perhaps, less refreshing, but the dark malt does add a bit of toastiness that I really like. Anyway, this helped us wash down lunch of schnitzel and an array of sausages, sauerkraut and fries. Great drinking food!
A short step north from here, passing by some very attractive Victorian terraces into an empty space probably forever changed by either 1970's town planners or the Luftwaffe (with the same result one thinks), you arrive at proper old school corner boozer. It sticks out a mile (ma'am), but you also wonder how it does business. Stepping inside, you realise. Voted for again and again by their local CAMRA group, The Wenlock Arms really takes you back. A horseshoe bar dominates, seats against the outer wall with tables and stools. All it really needs is sawdust and a couple of spittoons and this place is much more at home in 1912 than 2012. The beer was also good, Dark Star APA (has this got a tad weaker? The pump said 4.7%, but I am sure I drank it at 5%) and Rebellion Mild, but there was a selection of about 6 beers. The pub had a few locals and then visitors in, suggesting that people know about this place, which is all to the good. God forbid that we should lose this kind of place! However, if BITE is to be believed it lives in constant threat of 'redevelopment'. Oh, and a final point, the music playing was not obtrusive and great - Fleet Foxes (why do I always think of summer when I hear stuff from their first album , Stones, Elbow, Led Zep (Bron-y-Aur Stomp no less)
From there, we had a 15 minute walk up City Road to Angel - again not a part of the City I am that familiar with. We hit the Old Red Lion Theatre. This was an interesting place, full of period features, but the beer selection was on the popular side (Tribute, Wherry, and TT Landlord). Having said that the Landlord was in fine form; I've had worse pints in so called 'real ale' pubs in Southampton. It was crisp, hoppy with a little hint of sweetness that makes it so drinkable when its good. So no complaints there. The pub was busy, OK there was football on the telly, and then....it emptied. It emptied because, in the corner of the bar, is a box office where you buy tickets to the theatre that sits above it (I assume). An interesting first for me, and Julie has threatened to visit again next year for their Christmas show. I am just hoping that the punters hadn't been told this was West End show!
Ever onwards, we started our descent into the City. A few rights and lefts found us in northern Clerkenwell (I suppose) at the Pakenham Arms. Again, for mid afternoon on a Saturday between Christmas and NYE, the pub was quiet, with dozen or so 'locals' at the bar - but no less welcoming for this! Julie tried the Sharps wheat beer, which was an interesting beer (none of the wheat beer of earlier in the day, this is a clean, slightly sweetish pale beer with a bit of bubblegum rather than the more interesting banana/clove thing). Ian and I opted for a pint of Nemophilia from the Botanist Brewery, based along the Thames in Kew. This was lovely, dark, roasty but not too bitter, and I am interested to try some of their other beers if they are of this quality. This pub was accompanied by some beer tapas (wasabi peas and crisps!), and another non-obtrusive but fantastic music selection (Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd....have these pubs raided my music collection?). Again, not an area I tend to visit too often, but the pub was great and would definitely go back!
There was a real sense of heading home, as we we took a short walk towards Lamb's Conduit Street, and went into The Lamb. We had been here last year, and it seemed a good place to stop before pressing on towards our final stop. Young's Winter Warmer was our tipple here - nice, but I always think it could do with being a but stronger and fruitier for a real winter ale. The pub was much busier this year than last and MUCH warmer - look, even Julie felt warm, so it must have been hot.
And then, finally, a dash through the rain towards Clerkenwell Road, and Leather Lane's Craft Beer Co. This has been recommended to me so many times, I knew I had to visit this soon. We managed to find a seat to perch on, as it was rather busy, and we spent a bit of time choosing our beer. The Craft Beer Co summed up everything I love and hate about the 'craft beer' thing. The beer was lovely....no scrub that...it was, in fact, gorgeous. But, at that price, so it bloody should be! We had three rounds here, and I managed to sample halves of the Mikkeller Milk Stout (utterly superb, really well balanced), a double IPA from Southern Tier in the US (resinous, pine, orange, amazing), and a final beer of Against The Grain's 'Scottish Charred' (a lovely sweet smoked beer, which does not predominate but does go on.....and on).
And my gripe? Not the quality? Not they hype? Not the beer snobbishness? No, just the bloody price ticket. In every pub, 2 pints and a half had come to less than £10 - that's not bad for Southampton let alone London, these days. But here, three halves came to £12-15. Utterly shocking! Yes, I know it's a prime location. Yes, I know these kegged beers have come in from abroad. Yes, I know some of these 'different', maybe even 'not to be tried again'. But, please! If you peruse the bottle list, it gets worse, with some bottles coming in at over £30. As I read this out aloud, I am sure I saw Dick Turpin leave through the back door. This is not about me being a skinflint or not appreciating 'craftmanship' or 'quality', this goes to the heart of my point last month. Beer in this guise is becoming a rather effete, middle-class product. That means those who cannot afford this kind of money end up drinking cheap, bland, mass produced pop. That is not only bad for choice, it's bad for beer.
Anyway, rant over (again). We finished up and Dr B headed North for Low Speedlink through the MEdway towns, whilst we walked up to Holborn and tubes to Waterloo, destination south coast. A great day - 3 miles, 6 pubs, 8 hours. We went from the swank of craft to the sawdust of Wenlock, through the gentrified Victorian streets via the Munich Beer Halls. Here's to another in 2013.