Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it’s FTABCANYPC time!
This year for our 14th crawl we will be having a little saunter around Islington.
Every year, on the 29th (except when it wasn’t) we go an a merry trail around a list of pubs, many of which may be closed, to appreciate the architecture, and, you know, maybe drink. This year’s route takes us from one end of Penton Street to the other, but via a somewhat circuitous route (not as bad as when first planned when we were going to go via The North Pole!)
The route is as follows:
3pm: The Lexington
4pm: Shakespeare’s Head
5pm: Earl Of Essex
5.45pm: Wenlock & Essex
6.30: Camden Head
7:30: Steam Passage
8:30 Craft N1
Although, as always, this is a rough timetable and route as It Is Written that at least one pub on the planned route shall be closed (hopefully we’ll do better than last year when I think we ended up losing three of the original pubs…). If you’re following me or pete on twitter I’m sure we’ll keep up a running commentary of where we are if we go off-piste.
The other week when we were planning I got a bit bored so you can now see the glory of all 13 previous crawls in one handy google map. I think there may be a couple of inaccuracies, as several of these were based on planned routes, not actual (for some reason there’s not a lot of Reporting Back compared to planning, even in the Imperial Phase of ilx) particularly the Marylebone (2008) and City (2010) ones where I’m pretty sure I’ve got a couple wrong. I think it’s kind of more interesting where we *haven’t* been, although Fitzrovia and Soho were covered extensively by Trig Brother (and were our usual early 00s haunts).
To say at the start, I did eventually enjoy my Saturday afternoon at London’s Brewing and I have definitely been to events more badly organised (Glastonbury 2007 springs immediately to mind), but to my mind some of the criticism has been a bit rabid, I’m not sure what place Trading Standards have in this discussion? I’m not sure why people were expecting to be able to swan up to the bar at a sold out event, and one that they’ve probably only paid £4 to get into (£15 ticket minus 3 pints at £3.80-£4.00) at that.
All that said, the first two hours were a shambles, here’s why:
One of the pubs unfortunately missed from our ‘tween christmas and new year pub crawl, for to because it was shut, partly due I suspect to lack of passing trade over the festive period, but also to finish off their very nice renovation work, The Old Fountain, tucked away between Silicon Roundabout and Moorfields Eye Hospital, could secretly be one of the best pubs in London. OK, so it’s been in the Good Beer Guide for five years, but I think it’s massively come on even in the last 18 months. East London CAMRA have been praising it for a while, but it barely gets a mention in Hip Guides To London’s Great Pubs.
The beer is, of course, excellent, with usually 6-8 taps on, but they seem to really push the boat out in getting the specials from Darkstar, Brodies, Ascot and others, although occasionally this can lead to hop bomb overload, there’s usually a decent mix. The bar food is also pretty special, the salt beef sandwich (and I realise this may be regarded as heresy) is as good if not better than the Royal Oak’s, and certainly the equal of the erstwhile Wenlock buttie. They do pulled pork buns too, and a couple of other things, but i’ve never managed to order anything that wasn’t the salt beef…
Oh, and did i mention they usually have around FOURTEEN different kernel bottles in the fridge? it’s the biggest range I can think of that doesn’t involve visiting a railway arch…
You can see what they’ve got on the bar at @OldFountainAles
The Royal Oak is wonderful because it is such a perfect example of an ordinary pub. It does nothing extraordinary or alarming. It is a Proper Pub, with small rooms and nicely mismatched furniture, and random plates and pictures on the walls. Here are some of the reasons that I love it:
The beer: Harveys’ beer is delicious, and the Royal Oak has a full range of it on tap. It’s one of the few pubs in London where you’re pretty much guaranteed a pint of Mild. (I have seen them run out of the lovely dark brew, but I have usually contributed to its demise.) In winter, they do a good smooth sour Old, and there’s always delicious hoppy, happy Harveys’ Best. Tucked away behind the bar are tiny bottles of Imperial Stout, and the Christmas ale – appearing on tap every December – is nearly as lethal. May is Camra-approved Mild month, with bonus extra milds to quaff. February features the seasonal ale ‘Kiss’ (and I’m certain that the bar staff never tire of the utterly hilarious variations on ‘Give us a Kiss please’). This seasonal run of beers is very comforting to a creature of habit like me.
It’s not such a great pub for those fools who spurn the warm, flat goodness of real ale; provision for the keg-drinkers is very limited. As is my sympathy. Drink some ALE instead! It is much, much tastier.
So, we reach the top 4, an area, one would assume, of almost complete agreement between those voting but, for some reason, our fourth choice has elicited strong opinions, hence two different views. Let’s take this to the comments box!!!
The Trinity is the only pub outside Zone 1* on this list. That’s not to say that we are a bunch of central London fanatics, but it is where we pretty much all work and, therefore, where we’ve spent most evenings in the pub. I’d left the Exmouth by the time this stage in proceedings had been reached so I’m a little short on the main thrust of the arguments that got the Trinity this far up the list, but I can tell you about what I like about it:
It’s the nicest pub in Brixton
And when you’re faced with a three hour gap between the end of work and halfway through the second support at the Academy that’s all you can ask for really. Because it is the location of the Trinity, only a ten minute walk from the Brixton Academy that led it to being visited, never mind nominated. The only time I’ve been here and not gone on to a gig was when The Specials cancelled at half 5. But this is damning with faint praise, they do a cracking pint of Ordinary, the service is good, they serve big portions of decent food and have a nice beer garden out the back
if you are some sort of beast of the field. Much like the Pineapple in Kentish Town it does seem to have become the haunt of A Certain Type Of Gig Goer, but then that’s maybe because I’m only going to Certain Types Of Gigs (and I freely admit to fitting the profile of the Certain Type)…
There was one night, just after the smoking ban came in (I’m thinking the night of the Carter gig?), when I arrived quite early (what? I was EXCITED!) to find that they’d replaced the carpet right through the pub and all you could smell was NEW CARPET, it was the weirdest thing, like drinking in Allied…
*sorry non-Londoners, but this includes you too. Although apart from the Three Goats Heads and the Turf in Oxford, the Windmill in Stansted Airport and the Brothers Bar at Glastonbury I can’t think of many non-London bouzers where a gang of FT contributors have been there at the same time. Oh, I suppose DBA in New York and the Small Bar in Chicago should get honourable mentions…
Having worked around Covent Garden from the middle of 2002 I’d walked past the Newton Arms loads of times (not least on the way to Parker Place where the original Club FreakyTrigger was held) , but always thought it looked a bit, y’know, Local. It looks like an Estate Pub without being attached to an Estate (although there are a surprisingly large number of people who live round there) and the cheap beer deals and garish posters in the window put me off.
The thing that finally got me through the door was horse-racing.
As you are no doubt very much aware, here at Freaky Trigger we are:
A. very much in favour of the pub
B. quite partial to a festival every now and then
Due to my impending trip to Edinburgh (of which more later), I managed to persuade a hardy bunch of FT regulars to accompany me to the GBBF for the opening public session last night, and it was a JOY in comparison to recent Friday visits. Reader, we almost didn’t need to have taken our dad stools with us!
You could get around easily, there was very little rowdiness, and very few
bloody part-time tourist lager-drinkers in stupid hats people unused to the joys of ale. There was also a much closer gender balance than I’ve ever seen (we’re not talking 50/50 here, inevitably, but I’d guess 70/30 male to female? maybe 65/35?) and, yes, definitely more couples, rather than just groups of people (and a fair number of the groups were left over from the early afternoon trade session I think).
Also good to see that the Champion Beer of Britain is a Mild, although at 4.4%, it’s pushing it a bit (but then i like my milds subtle to the point of tastelessness). I don’t think any of the group got to try it, but I did have some pretty good (if randomly selected) bouze, nothing made my palate explode* with excitement/difference/wtf (i’ve gone off stunt beers a bit) although the Spire Dark Side Of The Moon (Peak District** bar) and the Holden Black Country Mild (W Midlands bar, obv) were both good chocolately, dense milds, just the sort of thing I like.
Neil Morrissey’s Risky Business, the everyday tale of celeb beer brewing (and how peed off must Richard Fox be that he’s not in the title?) might be exactly the sort of programme you’d expect us here at FT to be interested in, and we are, but mainly due to our EXCITING CAMEO in said programme! In programme two about 35 minutes in, a focus group is used and there, holding forth on the palatability of their brew is Pete, with me sitting silently (in the clip anyway) behind him.
The important thing to note about the Morrissey-Fox Blonde is that it may be the most tasteless ale I’ve ever had. It makes Discovery taste like Westmalle Triple, it’s about half a step above tap water in the complexity stakes. Before arriving at the focus group (which we knew was being filmed but not why) I had two theories, either it was going to be some sort of celeb beer or that it was ALCOHOL-FREE ALE and for about the first five minutes I honestly thought it was the latter, it has that slight bready taste you get from kaliber.