I've written about the Castle in Furnival Street before. I like it as a pub. Hidden down a side street off Holborn, it is as you'd expect during the day, a haunt of business types in suits. I used to wear one you know; every working day for 30 odd years, so it still feels somewhat discomknockerating to feel out of place amongst them, by being dressed in mufti; but I digress. The pub is bright and airy, one single room, with a bar and many beers. I tried two of them in halves. Both were pretty flat and turgid looking, though fresh enough. Derventio Emperor's Whim, was as odd tasting as its name, while Dark Star Espresso had its light hidden under a bushel by poor cellaring and presentation. Not GBG quality on this visit.
I was tempted by the Mitre as I passed, but I decided to save that for the return journey. Instead, a ten minute walk to the Gunmakers and a cheery welcome from landlord Jeff Bell. Purity Mad Goose was on and this provided such a good return on investment quality wise, that my intended trip to the Mitre was forgone while Jeff and I caught up and discussed this and that. My pints - yes it was pints by then - were in tip top condition and properly pulled through a sparkler. Others at the bar were giving Woodeford's Wherry some serious biff, though their preference was an unsparkled pint. It still looked good though.
My plan was then to meet E after work. Her workplace now is in the heart of Soho. I'd not been down that way for many a year and had forgotten how interesting and diverse it is. After a cursory look at her anonymous building, E led me through a maze of narrow streets to the Old Coffee House, a pub leased by Brodie's Brewey and featuring their beers. The pub is wonderful, with every available space filled by bric-a-brac and photos. (Our spot featured some interesting handwritten letters by David Beckham from his early days at Man Utd.) Our beer choice was Amarillo which was clean, hoppy, cool, but slightly flat. It had condition, but somehow the presentation rendered a beer which entirely lacked even the merest trace of head. That just doesn't look attractive. I tried the Brodie's IPA too, which was decent enough, but lacked character and oomph. Still, overall, rather good. They even had smoky bacon crisps, so what's not to like? I'll be back.
So, as the title says, a bit of a mixed bag. This ends my little trilogy of London GBG articles, but I'll leave you with this thought. My visits are a snapshot and may or may not be representative of the pubs taken over a longer period and more experiences, but most people use the GBG for just such one off visits. For them that's how it is.
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. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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