A quick ten minutes walk towards London Wall takes me to two Good Beer Guide boozers in the same street - well I say the same street and it is, but with two different street names. The first, the Nicolsons operated Crutched Friar, is an interesting place and is so popular with suits that you will feel completely out of place if you aren't wearing one. There's a good selection of decently priced beer here. My two halves, one Thornbridge Lord Marples and the other of Brewdog Punk IPA were rather warm and poorly conditioned. Shame. I don't care for Lord Marples at the best of times and this wasn't the best of times. The Punk was grapefruity and alcoholic, but didn't impress either. Not good for a busy pub, where cask beer was turning over pretty well.
It was a different story fifty yards away at the Ship, a neat little one room pub, which despite a rather pedestrian choice of beer, seemed well run and popular. The ubiquitous Doom Bar, Courage Best, Spitfire and Butcombe hardly enthrall, but you could see they were well looked after. Cool, sparkled and bright was the order of the day. My Butcombe Bitter was brown. It was spot on condition and temperature wise, but tasted of virtually nothing. While you may dislike the choice, you couldn't argue with the quality and cellarmanship.
A further ten minutes walk took me along the astonishingly busy Fenchurch St, where heads turned, including mine, as a girl in a short crimson dress walked across the road, a vivid contrast to the dark suited (male and female) conservatively dressed mass. At the end, a right turn and into the Crosse Keys, a large JDW. Two beers tried here; Bateman's Autumn Ale and RCH Old Slug Porter. Both were cool and in GBG form, but why nothing pale and hoppy with 21 beers on offer?
Back towards home now and the White Swan in Alie St. Now readers of this blog will know I'm no fan of Shepherd Neame's beers, but the Whitstable Ale, though predictably harsh, had some leafy hop and was cool and well conditioned. Whether it was worth an astonishing £3.40 a pint is an entirely different matter, but no other complaints.
Last port of call was the Dispensary in Leman St, where a half of the new Truman's Runner was slightly warm, but well conditioned, though to my taste a bit too malty. The bitter, hoppy finish did make up for it somewhat, but that elusive "drinkability" just isn't there. My final half was from Dark Star. Oktoberfest was a bit dark compared to the current Munich offerings, but was made with German malt and hops, with a full bodied bitter finish. It was pretty decent really, as you'd expect from this brewery. It was cool too.
So there we have it. Five GBG pubs visited and four were up to snuff and one just wasn't. I guess that's probably par for the course, but I'll try the Crutched Friar again soon. All in all, a good result for the Good Beer Beer Guide.
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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