When you repeat the same thing and hope for a different outcome, is one definition of madness. Thus it was on a recent visit to London, on a Sunday, as I often do, I persuaded a reluctant E to walk across Tower Bridge to visit one or two of the Brewery Taps in Druid St that open that day. Now in my defence, I wanted to go to Ansbach and Hobday, whose beers, of those open, are probably the most conducive to my taste and I do particularly like their nitro porter, which I've yet to find elsewhere. So we went. Now in the summer, on a Sunday, the place is still as dead as a dodo, but at least it is warm and sunny by and large, and you can people watch a little, if only passers-by.
After a couple, one outside until it felt too cold and the other inside, in as gloomy a boozer as you are likely to encounter, with zero atmosphere, we wandered round the corner to Enid St where another three lookylikeys are located. We thought we'd try Cloudwater, as I'd kind of slagged them off a bit unfairly before when we couldn't get in. Well frankly that was a much better experience. The capacity seemed to be fourteen. Us two plus the existing twelve. After signing in and being given the low down on arrangements - by a very pleasant bartender to be fair - we were given two high stools against a wall while the beer was brought to us after downloading an app. It all took over fifteen minutes and the beer, frankly, was disappointing, but it knocked the atmosphere into a cocked hat. Maybe it was the obvious restrictions, maybe it was just the somewhat antiseptic arrangements, but I've rarely seen such a glum funereal group and, as we sipped our beer, we just felt deflated.
Leaving after one we, nipped next door into Brew By Numbers, which was pretty empty too and after one beer, similar to next door really, we left, and having not learned our lesson, tried Moor Beer one door down. Pretty empty too, but at least the inmates - or rather outmates - as almost nobody was inside - seemed a trifle more cheery. Maybe it was the strong beer? Or the cigarettes? E though had had enough and with grim finality declared "There is just nothing here I want to drink". I don't think anything was under about 6% except another gassy Mosaic Pale Ale, so I couldn't blame her.
As we retreated, heading back towards Tower Bridge, E demanded to be taken to a "proper pub". I recorded her remarks in a tweet here:
Now before you say it, I have been to most of these places on a Saturday and the atmosphere is much better, but I think I have to face facts. E and I just aren't the target audience. We will never really feel at home in such places, as the beer and the demographics just don't suit us. I know they vary and some are, indeed, much better than others, but we generally feel out of place in them, which hardly makes for a good time. I must say in different ways, we didn't like any of the three Enid St taps and Ansbach and Hobday were better only because the beer was more to our liking.
As an aside, I am often asked why I'm rarely seen in the taps of many of Manchester's microbreweries. The truth of it is provided by our London experience. They just do almost nothing for me and seem, even when busy, kind of impersonal and home to the samey kind of beer I just don't want to drink. In Manchester too, there is the added "bonus", often, of being served in plastic glasses.
So it is back to pubs for me and E of a London Sunday. There is life there. Ansbach and Hobday, if you are reading this, I'll likely call again for the porter, but I'll be across the road in the Marquis of Wellington to drink your lovely pale.
And these godawful glasses they insist on. They hardly make the experience better. And don't think for a second they are cheap to drink in.
I have sat on this post for a while, but for better or worse, I'm posting it. For those that love brewery taps, especially those in railway arches, good luck. If you enjoy it - fine. You'll have the added bonus of being unlikely to see me there. I'll be with the codgers down the pub.
Addendum. I see a new list of Manchester Taps etc. has been published. Maybe I'll try them all with an open mind? I doubt if E will come though.