Sunday, 14 December 2014

London briefly

I’m recently back from a weekend in London. I was mostly there for the British Guild of Beer Writers’ annual dinner. One of my few chances to connect with other writers. And, of course, knock back a few beers.

“Can I see some of the sights this time?” Dolores is always coming up with totally unreasonable demands like this. Or complaining when I spend 4 or 5 days of a week’s holiday on beer-related activities.

“I suppose so. As long as it doesn’t eat into my drinking time too much.” Thankfully you’re never far from a pub in central London. Or a tourist, unfortunately, but we’ll get back to that later.

This year I'm not sat next to anyone as a joke, as happened in the past. It turns out I'm on the winner’s table, with both Tim Webb and Tim Skelton receiving awards. Which makes me sort of a winner, as I contributed an article to Beer in the Netherlands.

Podge and Siobhan are on our table and as entertaining as ever. I chat at length with Siobhan about beer at the front in WW I. Something I know little about myself – despite my obsession with beer in WW I – but which she’s researching. Informative, but also humbling as I realise how many holes there still are in my knowledge.

My fetching extra beer during the meal skills definitely weren't up to par this year. How do I know that? Because I can remember pudding. Not eating it, as I don’t eat that sort of thing. But passing it to Dolores. “It’s not as good as last year’s.” is her opinion.

We've come prepared with bags to carry away some of the surplus beer. Which see me through hotel beer moments for the rest of our stay.

We get up pretty early on Friday. I’ve an appointment with Peter Hayden at the Florence in Herne Hill. We need to be there early as he's a flight to catch. We get a full 30 minutes to look around his brewery, chat and try a couple of his historic recreations: 1805 Barclay Perkins East India Porter and 1914 Whitbread IPA.

Dolores is quite taken by the IPA. “I wouldn’t have drunk it if you’d told me it was IPA. This is nice – none of that horrible grapefruit flavour they usually have.” Not a great fan of American hops, Dolores.

Still having plenty of time before my next appointment (I know, this doesn’t sound like I’ve cut back on the beer-related activities very much) on the way back we drop by Brixton. See, there’s a sight I'm showing Dolores: Electric Avenue and the markets around it.

“Do you fancy jerk chicken for lunch, Dolores?”

“Sounds a good idea. But it’s still a bit early.”

I'm not going to disagree. I had a ginormous English breakfast buffet in the hotel.

“How about sitting somewhere for a while?” You can probably guess where this is leading. “That looks like a pub down there.”

I don’t twig what sort of pub it was at first. It's called The Beehive.Until I pay. Two pints and a double Bells were about exactly half what they cost in a pub by our hotel.

“I think this is a Wetherspoons, Ronald.” And she's right. The JDW etched into glass dividers should have tipped me off. That and the interesting characters around the bar.

I cock up my beer order. Seeing something at an unusually high 7.2% ABV, I go for that. The name leads me to expect a powerful, dark beer. Except Black Dragon is a cider. Oh well. It's been a long time since I’ve last drunk cider. And it's pleasant enough.

I'm amazed to see one of the keg beers: Devil's Backbone Pale Ale. A beer from my mate Jason Oliver, made out in the wilds of Virginia. I should know - I've been there. How odd I should find it here in Brixton.

We earmarked Healthy Eaters for our jerk repast.

"Andrew would like it here," Dolores remarks as reggae music sidles around us.

Not sure if it really is 100% healthy eating, but my jerk chicken, rice and peas combo is just a fiver for a decent-sized plate. And tasty, too. Dolores gobbled down her slightly bizarre jerk chicken salad quickly enough to suggest it was pretty damn good, too. Also a fiver.

Sated, we dawdle back through the market to the train station. Off, ultimately to see Jeff at his new pub. And Rod, too.

As for the tourists, I'll get to them next time. Or the one after. If I can be arsed to keep this up.

The Beehive
407-409 Brixton Road,
London SW9 7DG.
Tel: 020 7738 3643

Healthy Eaters
17 Electric Avenue
London SW9 8JP.
Tel.: 020 - 727 44521


Bailey said...

This is probably not the only comment you'll find in your approval queue pointing out that the Devil's Backbone IPA is a shocking example of poor transparency: it's actually brewed at Banks's in Wolverhampton. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but all the marketing, point of sale, etc., suggests it is a US import.

Phil said...

In this case the DB was brewed in Wolverhampton. Reviews haven't been kind - but then, you could put a John Kimmich beer on in Spoons and (some) reviews wouldn't be kind.

(What do you mean, who's John Kimmich?)

Slightly concerned about the use of chasers to prop up daytime alcohol intake - do you think you could do with easing off a bit?

J. Karanka said...

JDW has been getting international beers 'rebrewed' in th UK for a few years now. Some have been very good and some have lacked all the oomph. There was a good Bengali Tiger batch by Adnams. Went down in legend as I think I got my first couple pints at 1.99 until they noticed. I had some terrible recreations of Belgian beers too. Way too clean. It was as if they just followed the grain bill. Still, JDW is a great place to get a pint. Specially if you visit expensive places such as London.

Gary Gillman said...

Electric Avenue! Surely the source of the term in the Eddie Grant song, I always wondered about that. Nice photo of the street enclave, London has such a unique look, in all its guises..


The Beer Nut said...

I only clicked this link to point out that Devil's Backbone is actually from Wolverhampton and I've gone too far to stop now.

Jeffrey Bell said...

Phil's comment about Ron needing to ease off a bit re: use of chasers reminds me of what Neville says to Dennis at the beginning of series 2 wen they meet in the pub in Newcastle. And in fact it's a double Bells that Dennis has a chaser!

(What do you mean, who are Neville and Dennis?)

Ron, I had no idea who Rod was until after he left and you told me. Which is embarrassing as I'd met him before a few years ago and got pissed with him for an afternoon at the Meantime Old Brewery. You should have introduced us when I turned up but I long ago learned to expect zero social skills in the world of beer (and I include my own behaviour in that).

Ron Pattinson said...


I assumed you knew each other. Which was sort of right.

Phil said...

I love the fact that you can google "Neville, Dennis, Oz" and get two totally unrelated sets of results; I wonder if the writers did it deliberately.

Don't get the specific reference, though.

Ron Pattinson said...


that surely can't be a coincidence.