Sunday, 13 December 2015

A few days in London

I was in London with Dolores for a few days last week. Not to do anything very specific or beer-related. Other than attend the beer hacks annual dinner.

It’s about the one chance a year I get chance to meet my fellow beer writers. And there’s one the frustration of being a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and living abroad: I miss out on the free piss-ups. Not that I’m resentful. Not openly, anyway.

It’s fun spending time in London with no particular beer agenda. I made zero effort to visit specific pubs and just drank in whichever one was close by. Not being one of these crafty type and having a wife who’s idea of beery perfection in Fullers London Pride, carefully selecting a pub isn’t that important. Most in town will provide the minimum requirement of one cask beer.

But I noticed something. Taylor Walker must have done some deal with Greene King because in several pubs, rather than the London Pride they used to sell they’d something called London Glory instead. Brewed by Greene King. But not in effing London. Bit of a cheek, if you ask me. And sad if it pushed the superior Pride off many bars.

Funniest moment was when Dolores asked for a pint of Bitter and I brought her something in a glass branded IPA.

“Have they served it in the wrong glass? I asked for Bitter. That’s not really an IPA, is it?”


“You know I hate those IPAs that taste of grapefruit.”

“This isn’t like that.”

“Are you sure? It says IPA.”

“Don’t worry, it’s like a Bitter really. It’s Greene King IPA.”

“Why do they call it IPA, then?”

“That’s a good question with a very complicated answer. I’d just get on with drinking your beer if you don’t fancy an hour lecture on the history of IPA.”

Dolores must be the only person in the last 10 years not to be disappointed that Greene King IPA wasn’t like a modern IPA.

What else did we do? Went to Camden to buy me some shoes. A big problem now DMs have turned to total shit. The much superior Solovair shoes aren’t as widely available. As it costs 20 quid to get a pair sent to Holland, it made sense to drop by the shop and buy them directly. I’m terrible with shoes. I only ever have one pair, which I wear until they disintegrate. My last pair lasted almost three years, I reckon.

While in Camden, it only made sense to have a look at the market and the shops. Dolores had never been this way before. Trendy, in a beard and tattoo sort of way, but not too posh.

As we walked up Camden High Street the buildings started to look eerily familiar. Then I realised why. I’d looked at this spot on Streetview when researching the Camden Brewery.

“There’s an old brewery building just around the corner. Do you mind if I go and photograph it?”

“No problem, Ronald.”

It was only 50 metres past the Elephant’s Head, which is where we were headed for a beer. Dolores was probably glad it was just a few extra steps and not a trek right across town. I’m glad I made the effort, because I could see more of the brewery has survived than I realised.

“I’ve got a good story about the Elephant’s Head. But I’ll tell you after we’ve left.”


Why the Take Courage sign?
“You’ll realise after I tell you the tale.”

I spilled the beans on the way back to Camden tube station. I can remember being there once with Matt, Tym and Piers. I think we were in Camden to watch Hackney Five-O support the Higsons. That tells you how long ago it was. 30 years, at least. We were sitting close to the bar. The was an altercation between two blokes about to order. Then a horrible breaking noise followed by blood splattering on our table. The one bloke had glassed the other. Worst violence I’ve ever seen in a pub. The glasser ran and hid in the bog from the glassee’s mates. We quickly finished our drinks and left. It wasn’t going to get any nicer.

“What a lovely story, Ronald.”

I’d have never got her in the pub if I’d told her that earlier.

While Dolores checked out the shoe exhibition in the V & A, I indulged in one of my favourite pleasures: an afternoon in the pub over the paper and a few pints. And obviously observing - and listening to - my fellow drinkers. Nothing like a newspaper for disguising your nosiness.

Not sure there’s anything else I need to tell you. Other than shitting bricks on the way to the airport. We cut in rather finer than I would like. We got the airport just 40 minutes before our flight. Without boarding passes and with luggage to check in. Luckily we were flying from London City Airport, which is tiny. I still had time to buy a sandwich for the plane in Boots. Airside, but under two quid.

My last foreign trip of the year, that was. I had been planning on going to the Kerstbierfestival. Until I discovered that it was all-ticket this year and the day I wanted to go, Saturday, is sold out. Damn.


Phil said...

Why the Take Courage sign? Well, that's quite an interesting story. One of England's older breweries actually traded under the unusual name of 'Courage', and used this slogan as a punning exhortation to passers-by to stop and sample - or 'take' - their beer.

Or was that not what you were asking?

Ron Pattinson said...


I meant something else. It shows the pub was a Courage tied house. And how did Courage come to own it? By buying the Camden Brewery just around the corner.

Dave said...

Isn't Taylor Walker now owned by Greene King? GK acquired the Spirit Group, one of whose trading names is TW

Martyn Cornell said...

Dave is right - GK now owns the Taylor Walker pub chain, having bought its owner, Spirit. GK has also made the, in my opinion, seriously bad decision to boost sales of its own beers by plugging as many of them as possible through the 1,000 or so Spirit pubs it now owns, in particular Greene King IPA. Now, GK IPA can be a perfectly OK beer when properly looked after by cellar staff who know ewhat they're doing: but most of the time it's dull and best avoided.