"What's the difference between characterful and rough?" I pondered from the top deck of the 55 bus bound for Oxford Street. Wind back two hours and I was walking tentatively from Walthamstow Central station towards the King William IV, the home of Brodie's Brewery. I say tentatively as I wasn't entirely convinced I was heading in the right direction and I was in what seemed a rather dodgy looking part of London. A quick check at a bus stop map reassured me and crossing the busy junction at Lea Green Road found me outside the pub, unscathed.
The pub itself is great. A proper pub with bench seating, two large rooms and long windows giving it a bright feel. Two very handsome Truman Hanbury and Buxton mirrors caught my approving eye. Fine examples indeed. The bar positively bristled with handpumps, almost all selling Brodies own beers, though I did spot a Magic Rock one. A few locals with proper Lahndan accents conversed and all seemed well with the world. Brodies Citra was superb for such a weak beer, but it was the Shoreditch Sunshine that er.. shone out for me. A super golden beer with plenty of malt to shore up a Galaxy hop driven taste. A cracking beer. I tried the American Brown which was a good example of the style and the locals favourite Bethnall Green Bitter which was a very decent drop. I didn't try the strong beers on as I'd a full afternoon ahead, but what I had was very good, cool and in great condition. Nor did I ask if they did thirds, but that would be great for trying a few more. Either way, I will be back.
Thanks to Twitter I was advised to get the 55 bus back from opposite the pub. A stroke of luck saw one come immediately and a top deck front seat gave me a birds eye view of things as the bus wended its way back west. I noted quite a few closed and boarded pubs and many ex pubs put to other uses, but plenty still seemed to be open, so a mixed picture. Now back to my question. I am not sure exactly, but visually the areas I passed through on the way back, like Hackney seemed "characterful". Leyton seemed "rougher", but I couldn't really define why. There you have it then. Its just a feeling.
I had intended to nip into the Old Fountain,but missed my stop and carried on to Clerkenwell and the Gunmakers. The irrepressible Jeff Bell was there. The beer was good and sparkled, though Jeff tells me his range of beers are chosen to suit his local customers who prefer less hop forward darker beers. Fine. He still keeps them perfectly and it is stil a great little pub. I enjoyed my drinks, particularly East London Brewery Pale Ale. No visit to Clerkenwell is complete without a visit to Craft. I have never had a bad pint there. A couple of halves of porter and stout would certainly have benefited from a sparkler though. Thornbridge Creamy Vanilla Stout needed the creaminess a sparkler would have brought. I had a nice chat with fellow Scot Tom, the Manager, who doesn't believe in them. Cutting a long story short, we agreed to differ, but thanks to him for talking to me about it. And I must repeat, sparkling a well conditioned beer does not flatten the beer, which was Tom's main concern.
So, a good afternoon. No bad beer at all, a smashing pub that was new to me visited, a chat about sparklers and good timing with buses and trains. London worked well yesterday.
Best beer of the day? Shoreditch Sunshine. What a good beer. They know their stuff at Brodies.
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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