Thursday 17 February 2022

London. Back in the Cask Game?

Those that know me will be aware that in my trips to London, I rarely drink cask unless I'm absolutely sure of the venue's bona fides. This has come of long experience, where, particularly in the warmer months, it just isn't worth the risk.  Even in winter where cellars are naturally colder, over venting of casks, old tired beer, lack of cooling and the like is such a dispiriting problem that I generally just don't bother.

We hadn't been back in Tandleman Towers South since November and were well overdue a visit, so we went last week and after the tedious task of checking the many rooms (3) for issues (0) we decided for a change to head to Farringdon for a couple of pints.  Our destination was the Farringdon Tap, a place that has been open for a while, but which we hadn't yet been to.  I'd already mentioned on social media that we'd be coming, but it was particularly rewarding that the Boss Man of the owners, Bloomsbury Leisure, had taken the time to meet us and have a chat. I've met Jon before in Manchester in the company of his mate, the legend that is Stonch, so despite me not immediately recognising him, we were off to a flying start.  

The pub was pretty well bustling, which was good to see, and offered a decent number of beers from a steel wall behind the bar. On this occasion, the only cask was Thornbridge Lord Marples and knowing that all Jon's pubs keep their cask well, I had no hesitation in ordering it. It was in excellent condition and as we chatted the need for another became apparent. A great start. One or two things emerged from our chat. First we talked about the new Victoria Tap at Manchester Victoria Station, which should be open in April. This looks to be a splendid venue, with a decent outdoor space, so will be a great addition to the area. The other piece of info is that Jon will be opening another pub near Tandleman Towers South. If you know the area where I rest my ancient bones while in London, you should easily guess how it will be named. Jon then got the call to get himself home from his better half, and as we were keen to be off on another tip, it was well-timed, but it had been very pleasant.

Our next port of call was the Sutton Arms in Great Sutton St, and despite going the long way round - thanks Google Maps - this proved another worthwhile visit. On a Tuesday night, this was absolutely rammed and had a great atmosphere. It was the sort of place you warm to immediately. I had no hesitation in ordering  Five Points Pale and this was in fine nick too.  The barman was very welcoming, but even better, the landlord himself, ushered us to two stools at the end of the bar which had a reserved sign in front of them. "Sit here." he said with a wink. "This is my perch, but you have it".  Fab.  We had a great chat with him - an old school type who I took to right away. His son ran the bar, and amazingly, recognised me and gave me a couple of tasters while we chatted about beer.  Of course, we had another and will be back. A great pub.

On Wednesday, we met an old pal from our neck of the woods for dinner. Beforehand, we warmed up in the Woodin Shades, a Nicolsons pub opposite Liverpool Street Station. Guinness for the pal, Pilsner Urquell for E and for the by now emboldened Tandleman, London Pride, which again was in great condition and enjoyable. 

Thursday saw a little culture with a visit to the Imperial War Museum, with the inevitable trip to sample Harveys in the  deserted Royal Oak.  Just one pint as we were meeting BSF colleagues for a quick one in Fuller's Parcel Yard. They were returning to Yorkshire after a week down South. Again rammed and disappointingly, only London Pride was available - even more so when the lads mentioned it was exactly the same the previous Sunday when they had lunch with John Keeling. Surely they can do better than this? Nonetheless, the Pride was good, and they did put ESB on in time for my second and final pint. 

That wasn't quite it for this visit. On the recommendation of the BSF lot, we nipped over to the King Charles 1, where there wasn't even elbow room. Forcing my way to the bar, I ordered the first cask beer I saw. No idea what it was, but you know, it was great too.

What conclusions do I draw? Well, cask beer seems to be making a post Covid renaissance in London, with the possibility that the reduction in the number of beers offered has resulted in better quality. Pubs were very busy too, so the after work London thing is making a comeback.  All in all, encouraging. 

Our post meal drinks after our meal with our pal - Guinness for him of course - were Litovel Pils from the Czech Republic. No cask in this handy pub (Barley Mow, Curtain St), but it was very enjoyable all the same.  I also had a pint of mediocre cask (Dark Star) in the Oliver Conquest near our flat, but really you should drink gin there. 

And cyclists! At night they have such dazzling lights that  make seeing what's behind each difficult. E was nearly wiped out, as her vision when it is dark, isn't tip-top. Just watching  them in traffic, generally,  is a shitshow of dangerous speedy cycling