Friday 21 September 2018

An itinerary of old inns in London

The Book of Beer by Andrew Campbell contains some itineraries of pubs. No pub crawls for him! Though the book dates from 1956 I recognised the name of some of the pubs and a quick google later I found that for at least one of the itineraries all of the pubs were still trading.

So for the purposes of historical research I teamed up with Tim Holt, the editor of the Journal of the Brewery History Society, to investigate.

We met at The Ship Tavern near Holborn. I was slightly concerned to see it covered in scaffolding but fortunately the pub was still open. I must admit I didn't pay too much attention to the pub, the journey to London had dried out my throat a little and I was more interested in getting a refreshing drink. Wimbledon brewery's SW19 did the job we were soon ready to head for the next stop on our itinerary.

This was The Seven Stars, a cosy little pub with great character and great beer. I couldn't resist a pint of Harvey's Sussex Bitter, despite their support for the Small Brewers Duty Reform Coalition (Boo! Hiss!). The pub was decorated with old film posters, which there's probably a story behind but I don't know what it is.

I know we now live in ecumenical times and pubs need to expand what they offer, but I was still pleased to hear that they didn't serve tea. Particularly when the woman who'd ask for a cup got a half of bitter instead.

Ye Olde Cock Tavern was next, once owned by Truman's now owned by Greene King. This did not inspire me with a great deal of excitement about the beers. I rarely enjoy their IPA and the itinerary was too long for me to start drinking Abbot.

So I went for their Yardbird, which had a pleasant American hop flavour, until about half way down when the hops seemed muted and diacetyl came to the fore. Still, I'll give them 8/10 for effort.

Then it was on to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a Sam Smith's pub.

I'm not a huge fan of their Old Brewery Bitter, being served from wooden kilderkins it probably doesn't travel well. I've had a few good pints recently though so I gave it a go. It was thin but drinkable.

The pub is a warren of a place, with most of the seating in what look like an old cellar. It was totally rammed so we ended up perched on a small bench near the bogs. Not ideal really but needs must.

The Old Bell was the last on our itinerary and I was delighted to see they had Landlord on, another beer I can never resist.

We'd made good time with our research so Tim suggested we visit another pub.

The Jerusalem Tavern is St Peter's Brewery's only pub and I'd never been so I was keen to see it.


The lack of handpumps put me in a difficult position, the theological implications of which I'm still struggling with. Assuming it was a keg only establishment I had a pint of their porter served from the devil's drainpipe. To my horror I then spotted cask beer was advertised on the blackboard at the back, the taps from the barrel ends apparently serving beer as god intended.

Suckling at the devil's drainpipe is only a venial sin if no real ale is available, but surely to do so when it was is a mortal sin. Except in a Sam Smith's pub obviously. It was a genuine mistake on my part but would being ignorant be enough to save my immortal soul? My intentions were good but you know what the road to hell is paved with. I quickly said an act of contrition and three Hail Protzes to be on the safe side.

Then it was definitely time to be going, back home for a troubled night's sleep as I fretted about my error and its potential grave implications.

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