When you read about "must visit" pubs in London the Pembury Tavern in Hackney always gets a mention. Good enough for me, so I went there today. Now everyone thinks London is a rich place. Go to Hackney and you might just think otherwise. Leaving the station you encounter LCC flats that escaped the Luftwaffe and in the middle distance loads of high rise flats which presumably took the place of those that didn't. The general ambience is Toxteth or inner city Leeds. It would take an optimist to think this into the next place to invest.
The Pembury is easy to find. Turn right out of the station and at the bottom of the road, there it is, built in 1930's Stalinist style. Its a big bugger inside with a long bar sporting about 14 handpumps of which 10 were on the go. Decor is minimalist. The wooden floor is a wonder. Truly. It is a beauty.
I stumped the very friendly barman right off. I asked for something pale and hoppy. Not possible. Out of 10 handpumps, none, most from the owning company Milton of Cambridge, could oblige. What? I decided to go dark instead. The Minotaur Mild was dark and inoffensive. Earthy, dry and charcoal tasting. The Nero Stout was curious with an odd , chalky, malted milk taste leading to a dry charcoal, milky finish. A strange beer. Next up was Pegasus, a brown, malty beer with stewed rhubarb and gooseberry notes. A tart short finish mercifully ended this experience. Lastly, by way of a change, I had Milestone Loxley, a sweet lychee and apricot tasting beer that needed a kick up its arse to perk it up.
I tried to like the Pembury and didn't dislike it, but it is dominated by an ordinary brewery and was almost deserted. The condition of the beer was OK, but on the warm side. Maybe when it is heaving it would be better. I am not sure I really think so though.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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