Kentish Town and its environs are pretty much unknown territory to me, but not so to E who worked there for a bit. Looking at the ads in North London CAMRA's newsletter, revealed a pretty easy looking pub crawl taking in three decent looking boozers, the Southampton Arms, the Pineapple and the Junction. The latter had the advantage of being the local CAMRA Pub of the Year.
The 214 from Finsbury Square drops you at the door of the Southampton Arms - and I mean at the door - literally. Inside there is a long narrow, basic, old fashioned pub, with benches and a few chairs and tables and a long wooden bar. It's the sort of place that reminds me how many pubs used to be and it is none the worse for that. It was bustling with an eclectic mix of locals and a great choice of beer, fantastic pork pies and hot pork rolls; no telly, no intrusive music either and friendly bar staff. A pub for people. What's not to like? We both loved it. The beers were on top form too. I particularly enjoyed the Windsor and Eaton Conqueror Black IPA, while E purred happily over Hophead. All the beers tried were in tip top form, cool and bursting with condition. Someone knows their cellar business here. The staff were great, the landlord, Peter a fine fellow, the pork pie as good as any I've had. Any complaints? Only the barrel glasses, but that's a personal thing. We left with great reluctance. This is a stand out pub.
A short walk takes you to the Junction, a large, imposing ex Courage pub. This is mainly food oriented, but a wonderful place inside. Large windows, lots of interesting features and a good atmosphere and friendly staff. The beer was boringly brown though, with three identikit beers on offer - Black Sheep Bitter, Betty Stoggs and the ubiquitous Sambrook Wandle. The beer was served in excellent condition, but the similarity and ordinariness was not what we were after, so it was a short visit. Still, it was a smashing place and perhaps on another day, we'd have had a more inspiring choice.
Next was the Pineapple which E had visited before when she worked in the area. I've read that this is cliquey, but it just seemed to me to be a smashing locals pub which had a lot going for it. The beer range was again a bit brown (this is a recurring London theme) but again in very good condition. The locals at the bar made conversation and were proud of their pub. Rightly so. We enjoyed our visit, but frankly, the Southampton Arms had spoiled us, so our top tip would be to do this crawl in reverse order.
Back in Central London, we made for the Harp, but such was the throng inside that it would not have been comfortable. Maybe not possible in fact, so we retreated to the Chandos to reflect on an interesting day. The Old Brewery Bitter made a malty change and was in great form. This isn't a bad pub at all and it was nice to get change from a fiver!
The beer in the Pineapple was Camden Bitter which didn't impress I'm afraid. Sorry Jasper.
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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