Another day in London, another new experience planned. Love it. In a persistent drizzle I set off from the flat and headed for Brick Lane. Now one thing about Brick Lane is that fifteen years ago, the place boasted many little Asian caffs. OK, they didn't do rice and three like the Manchester ones, but I liked them. Cheap and cheerful and home cooking - what's not to like?. Gradually these were replaced by more glamorous ones and a load of pests trying to persuade you to come in and eat. Now things are swinging back. More little caffs have re-appeared and the number of shiny restaurants has diminished though the pests remain. All well and good.
But man does not live by curry fantasies alone, so I plodded on to Bethnall Green Rd, turned right and crossing the road, a few yards along, is the re-opened Well and Bucket; broad in the front with huge picture windows. Promising. Inside is a big square. Clearly this place has been opened out from its previous existence, but damaged tiled walls speak of a previous grandeur, while the island bar - I do love an island bar - gleams. The first thing you see when you walk in is a bank of handpumps, which is as it should be. Handpumps make a pub look like a pub. The craft beer type should not worry though, as on one side is two arrays of fonts dedicated to the craft keg, with a well chosen range. Seating is a good mix of church pew type stuff, large wooden tables, stools at the bar and great floorboards. Beer lists with prices are on every table and at the bar. It was immediately likeable.
I wasn't there for the décor though, A pint of Citra from Caveman in Kent was ordered. I made an immediate blunder and ended up with a dreaded dimple mug, but that's what you get when looking round and not paying attention. The place was empty, but passed the Tandleman test with colours if not flying, at least fluttering strongly. The beer was at the correct temperature and was well conditioned. Bingo. I deduct points for the dodgy glass and for the fact that the barmaid had never heard of a a sparkler, never mind had one to enhance my brew, but a straight glass was produced on request for my second pint, so no real issue there.
Reluctantly I left as I had a grim mission to undertake. A visit to BrewDog Shoreditch, a mere 100 yards away. I say grim because I loved Mason and Taylor who occupied the spot before, with its friendly staff and good cask beer. BD has moved the bar to the window space, but this is a dark pub at the best of times and I didn't think the low ceilings, lack of light, grey walls, grey bar and grey BD fonts did much for it. It was all kind of gloomy. A cheery Weegie was behind the bar though and I ordered a half of Punk, which was ordinary in the extreme and a taste of Amarillo, which had promise. The place was nearly empty and there was nothing more I wanted to drink, so I drank up and left. But I have been and it was better before. In my opinion of course. Prices, for those interested in such a thing, were frightening.
Shaking off the gloom was needed, so I headed to the Carpenter's Arms which I've written about before. I quite like it here, though the remarkable taciturnity of the staff (in a pretty empty pub) may be off putting to some. A new beer was on the bar. I ordered it. A pint of Sharp's Panzerfaust, described as a "Black Gose Beer". This is a collaboration with Beer Writer Adrian Tierney-Jones, who amongst other florid guff, describes it as "a very elegant black IPA". I describe it more as a porter, but what's in a name? It was decent, in good nick and I enjoyed it.
Heading home, I called in to the Pride of Spitalfields, which I've been going to, off and on, for 15 years. It was busy and I immediately was engaged in conversation (about railways no less) by a couple of very nice old gents. This is a pub as some may remember them - friendly, unchanged, unpretentious and bursting with life and character. The Crouch Vale Brewer's Gold wasn't bad either.
On Sunday I took E to The Well and Bucket. It was jumping, the beer was good, the food looked great (I fancy the oysters and the sliders looked good too) and it had a representative mix of people in. We even had a nice chat with a lady who remembered it in its original incarnation having lived across the road and she described it to us, which was nice.
E loved it. We'll be back again. And again I imagine.
Someone did tweet me about the hopelessness of the staff. OK they seemed pretty keen on hugging and cuddling each other, but they served quickly enough and were cheerful. That's a good start.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer author, 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. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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