Sunday, 28 August 2016

Pub Crawl along Fleet Street

Pub crawl along Fleet Street - Thursday 25th August 2016

First things first. I would like to welcome Ken Reilly as my first follower. Thank you Ken for joining and I hope you get a little something from reading what I write here. As mentioned previously, it is more of a diary for myself, but I hope to include little snippets of information that may be of interest to beer drinkers and pub visitors if they are looking for a night out somewhere and would like an idea of what is on offer at a particular establishment. Any comments are most welcome, and if there is anythng you would like me to add to the entries, I will see what I can do for you.

I have worked on or around Fleet Street in the City of London for most of my career and find the place fascinating. There is so much history here and there used to be so many pubs. When I popped out with MB for a drink last week, we had a chat about where we would like to go for a drink this week and my old haunts in Fleet Street came top of the list. So, first up is a little history lesson (courtesy of Wikipedia)...

"Fleet Street is a major street in the City of London. It runs west to east from Temple Bar at the boundary with the City of Westminster to Ludgate Circus at the site of the London Wall and the River Fleet from which the street was named.

Having been an important through route since Roman times, businesses were established along the road during the Middle Ages. Senior clergy lived in Fleet Street during this period where there are several churches including Temple Church and St Bride's.

Fleet Street became known for printing and publishing at the start of the 16th century and it became the dominant trade so that by the 20th century most British national newspapers operated from here. Much of the industry moved out in the 1980s after News International set up cheaper manufacturing premises in Wapping, but some former newspaper buildings are listed and have been preserved. The term Fleet Street remains a metonym for the British national press, and pubs on the street once frequented by journalists remain popular.

Fleet Street has a significant number of monuments and statues along its length, including the dragon at Temple Bar and memorials to a number of figures from the British press, such as Samuel Pepys and Lord Northcliffe. The street is mentioned in several works by Charles Dickens and is where the legendary fictitious murderous barber Sweeney Todd lived."

The Black Friar

To begin with, we met up at The Black Friar at the bottom of Queen Victoria Street, right opposite Blackfriars station. It is very easy to get to (MB was coming by train and tube, but I had only a hsort walk) and is always packed outside; what with the great British Summer we are having, today was no different.
174 Queen Victoria St, London EC4V 4EG

We managed to find a table inside the pub as a reservation seemed to get cancelled just as we arrived. There were several beers on offer but as I went through the menu I was informed that at least three were finished (there must have been a lot of thirsty people out there tonight). This is definitely a beer-drinkers pub as the beer menu is extensive even though it is a tied Nicholsons pub.

MB and I decided to grab a bite to eat here as I was hungry after work and he had a long, hot journey on the train to get to the pub. In addition, as we knew we would be going on a bit of a pub-crawl we decided it wise to line our stomachs first. The menu was not extensive but there was more than enough variety to make the choice difficult. We both decided to grab the wild boar and chorizo burger accompanied with triple-fried skin-on chips - it was delicious.

The bar staff in here were very friendly and got involved with the banter with whoever approached the bar. The atmosphere both inside and out was also very friendly despite lots of beer being drunk.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) Holy Grail (4.0%) - Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, North Yorkshire - a citrusy golden ale
2) Pure UBU (4.5%) - Purity Brewery, Great Alne, Warwickshire - a very smooth, sweet, full-flavoured amber ale

Number of visits : 1st / a few previous

After a couple of beers in the Black Friar, we decided to head onto Fleet Street itself - only a two minute walk away. I used to drink around here after work quite a bit back in the 1980s. All of the following pubs I have been in on several occasions, some much more than others.

The Crown and Sugar Loaf

The Crown was only frequented on occasion; after our visit here this evening I am wondering why we did not visit it more often as the air-conditioning, good choice of Samuel Smith's beer and off-road situation led to a great drinking experience.

26 Bride Lane, London EC4Y 8DT
This pub is situated in a small L-shaped road that links Fleet Street to Blackfriars. There are a couple of other bars and wine bars down this short road, but the purpose of this crawl was to hit the pubs, so in we popped.

It was reasonably busy outside, but quite quiet inside so we were able to grab a table. We opted for a single beer this time so that we could fit more pubs in. The decor is very olde worlde; wooden floors, stained-glass windows and a wide, open bar. The air-con made for a great environment to sup our beer on a very hot and humid evening.

Beers drunk on this visit :
 1) Organic Wheat Beer (5.0%) - Samuel Smith's Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire - a thirst quenching, fruity wheat beer

Number of visits : 1st /  few previous

The Old Bell

This pub, along with Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (see later) were the two pubs I most frequented back in the day. This was because the office I worked in was pretty much next door to this pub and almost directly opposite the other.

95 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH

This is another Nicholson's pub, so the food on offer was the same as The Black Friar, but the beers were slightly different. We decided to just go for a quick beer in here as time was moving along now.

Again, this pub was quite quiet, but people were constantly coming and going throughout the short time we were in here. The bar staff were friendly and chatty though which made for a small buzz. The pub has not really changed since I last went in here decades ago, but it did seem to be cleaner - the wooden flooring has obviously been swept and cleaned since the old spit-and-sawdust, sticky floor of yesteryear.

MB and I had a chat over just a single beer in here again before we moved on up the road.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) Pure Gold (3.8%) - Purity Brewery, Great Alne, Warwickshire - a refreshing dry but bitter golden ale
Number of visits : 1st / dozens previously

The Tipperary

This is a great little Irish pub, apparently the first pub outside of Ireland to sell Guinness. It has undergone several renames and refits over the years but still seems to retain that quaint Irish pub feeling.
66 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1HT

This pub offers a great variety of Irish whiskeys (notice the extra 'e' in the name?) as well as several drinks from the Guinness brewery. We had to go for a pint of the original black stuff due to the surroundings. There is also a famously extensive food menu which offers great Irish fare as well as more traditional British dishes.

Beers drunk on this visit :

1) Guinness (4.2%) - Guinness Brewery (Diageo), Dublin, Ireland - that most famous stout

Number of visits : 1st / several previous

Our final pub came upon us rather quickly as our time on Fleet Street rapidly drew to a close. We hadn't even covered a quarter of the length of the road, but the majority of pubs actually on the street are along this section. There are several others on side-roads just off the main thoroughafre but there are still maybe three or four which MB and I can sample next time we head up town.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

145 Fleet St, London EC4A 2BU

Supposedly frequented by many of our greatest scholars and authors (Dickens, Dr. Johnson (probably), Sir Arthur Cnan Doyle, Tennyson and Mark twain to name but a few of the more well-known), this pub was one of many rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666 (in 1667 according to the sign outside.

The internal decor seems like it is original, and some of it maybe, but according to Wikipedia it is not all so. That said, it does not detract from the eerie feeling of the pub you get from the moment you walk through the door. It certainly seems quite authentic judging by the wooden flooring, wooden benches that line the walls and the dim an dmoody lighting within.

The pub is another Samuel Smiths house, so the beer on offer is well-known and well-tried. MB and I decided to go for a standard Old Brewery Bitter to round off our evening's drinking.

Beers drunk on this visit :

1) Old Brewery Bitter (4.0%) - Samuel Smith's Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire -a malty, creamy bitter
Number of visits : 1st / dozens previous

So endeth our quick jaunt up Fleet Street. We decided we will have to re-visit to catch the rest of the pubs, and then perhaps run it further along The Strand down to Charing Cross station and its environs. We also discussed the possibility of heading up to Holborn for a similar crawl and during our conversation we also agreed upon a visit to the two new micro-pubs opened and just about to open in Sidcup. lots more lovely pubs and beers to look forward to.

Following on from a statement made in the previous post, I have also decided to try to use my own photos for this blog from now on a sfar as I possibly can (and memory allows). All of the pub photos were taken by me except for the one for Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. I will try to make it a 100% hit rate next time I go out. As for the beers, I don't think the breweries will mind me advertising their wonderful beers and ales by using pictures taken from their websites.

Monday, 22 August 2016


Cornet - Strong, blond Belgian beer

As mentioned in a previous post back in April, I was presented with this gift box by my good friends from the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp wargames club. The box has sat on my shelf in the mancave for the last few months gathering dust, but this weekend I decided to break the box open and have a taste.

The four bottles of beer were well presented in the box, and the free glass made for a nice addition to my beer glass collection. It is a large glass that has marks down the side for .33l, .5l and a pint! The beer is very lively and even with careful pouring I still managed to get a large head on it.

I generally only drink at home whilst eating a meal, so this accompanied some fine fare cooked by Mrs. Odo. However, I have to say that although it accompanied the meal (a Thai curry) rather nicely, it went better with the choclate muffins my daughters made for dessert.

Anyway, this is what the box and bottle have to say about the beer...

"This strong Blond Belgian beer (8.5 vol % alc.) was brewed by Theodoor Cornet exclusively for the adventurous count of Maldeghem/Steenhuffel (anno 1686). Formerly matured in oak barrels in the cellars of his castle.

The well rounded, oaked beer balances the fruitiness of the yeast and the sweet vanilla notes of the oak, leaving a warming feeling in the finish along with a smooth bitterness. Top-fermented beer with refermentation in the bottle."

For a strong ale, it did not taste as if it was high in alcoholic content. It did have a strong flavour, fruity and smooth, with a long aftertaste that lingered on the tongue. It accompanied a spicy dish as well as a chocolate dessert, so should be a great drink for most meals, or just sipped on its own. This is definitely not a beer to have more than one or two of in one session.

Brewery: Brouwerij de Hoorn
Location: N.V. Palm Brewers S.A., Steenhuffeldorp 3, B-1840 Steenhuffel, Belgium
ABV : 8.5%
Notes: a strong, blond beer with a smooth, fruity flavour

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Robin Hood and Little John

Robin Hood and Little John - Thursday 18th August 2016

78 Lion Rd, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 8PF

MB and I have not been out for a beer on our regular Thursday night jaunts for over a month, so we decided to get back into it in style. We made a visit to our favourite local pub for a few proper beers, which made a lovely change from the Guinness and lager I have been drinking recently.

This pub has always been top of our list if we fancy a good night's beer drinking they have an extensive menu that is more than enough for a night's drinking plus they always carry one or two guest ales. For the last few months, the menu has included...
  • Adnams Best
  • Doom Bar
  • Harveys Best
  • London Pride
  • B.O.B.
  • Broadside
The guest ale this week was Shepherd Neame's  Spitfire Gold.

On the whole we only ever visit here on our own, but when we occasionally go with others they too are generally ale drinkers. However, if one day we did turn up with someone who doesn't drink real beer, then there is an extensive list of quality non-ale pints on offer...

  • Stella Artois
  • Peroni
  • San Miguel
  • Kronenbourg
  • Fosters (well, maybe not such great quality here)
  • Carlsberg (or here)
Tonight the pub was not so busy but the patrons turned over in such a way that there was a buzz at all times. We managed to get a table, which was nice as we could see all that was going on as well as putting the world to rights with our inane chat.

Beers drunk on this visit :

1) Whitstable Bay (3.9%) - Faversham Steam Brewery, Faversham - a refreshing, subtably fruity and bitter pale ale
2) Spitfire Gold (4.1%) - Shepherd Neame, Faversham - a soft, malty taste with a slightly bitter after taste
3) B.O.B. (4.2%) - Bexley Brewery, Bexley, Kent - a smooth pale ale with a flowery aroma

Number of visits : Dozens

Monday, 15 August 2016

Southwark's Bermondsey Brew 1885

Southwark's Bermondsey Brew 1885

My friend MB bought me a bottle of this beer a few months back when he visited on of the UK's great beer festivals. It has languished on a shelf since then.

However, on Saturday night, after a scrumptious roast gammon dinner prepared by my good wife, I decided to try it. I refrigerated it to get it noce and cool and then savoured it in a large wine glass.

It was very hoppy (which I like) and had a long after taste. It came across as a rather strong ale, but it is only really of a medium strength. I really enjoyed the ale, sipping it slowly whilst surfing the net. The only downside was that as it is a brew in the bottle style beer, there was a wee bit of sediment which led to me losing out on one final mouthful.

Brewery: Southwark Brewing Company
Location: 46 Druid St, London SE1 2EZ
ABV : 4.0%
Notes: a light, golden ale with a hoppy, slightly fruity flavour

Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Nag's Head, Es Canar, Ibiza

The Nag's Head, Ibiza - 3rd-10th August 2016

C. Cardona 29, Es Canar, 07840 Santa Eulalia, Ibiza
First up, apologies for the photo - I had to steal it from a very poor selection on the net. I must admit, I do usually use photos from the net, so if I have stood on any toes with copyrights please, owners, let me know and I will take them down if you disapprove. Unusually, this is the first holiday I have ever had where I took not one single photograph. Zilch, nada, zero. Even with the advent of cameras built into phones etc. for ease of carriage, I decided to leave my phone at the hotel every day. My wife and kids took their fair share of photos but I was just on holiday for the experience.

Anyway, the Nag's Head is touted as a very traditional British pub that is set in a side-street off the main drag that contains the bulk of the bars and restaurants. Luckily it was juust round the corner from the hotel we were staying in. Although it is touted as traditionally British, I found it to be more Australian in feel. The bar staff were very welcoming and chatty, answering all of our questions and bending over backwards to make us feel at home.

Onto the pub itself - the decor has plenty to link it to the great British sit-com "Only Fools and Horses", and the food menu looked fantastic (they boast they cook the best steaks on the island), but the drinks were more fitting with the rest of the bars in Ibiza; the local and Spanish lager brews (Estrella for one - not bad to have with our evening meals on the balmy Ibizan nights) or Guinness (which I have not touched abroad since a very bad experience in Lanzarote a few years ago).

There was one massive saving grace though - Krombacher on tap! This wound up being my beer of choice on the couple of visits we made to this pub. There were also a couple of small German beer bars along the main road, but I did not get time to sample their wares (which also included traditional German fare (wursts, schnitzel etc.).

Beers drunk on each visit :

1) Krombacher (4.8%) - Krombacher Brauerei, Kreuztal, Germany - a smooth German pilsner

Number of visits : 2

The King's Arms and some general chat

I have to apologise for the lack of updates recently. I have not forgotten about the blog and neither has my enthusiasm waned. Real life has had a habit of catching up with me over the last couple of months, so many of my hobbies have had to be put on hold for a while.

I also forgot to mention in the previous two posts that I have been visiting the King's Arms every week in between other entries, but as there is nothing really new to say I will just mention my future visits as one liners unless something unexpected or untoward happens.

The King's Arms - 23rd June 2016

The King's Arms - 30th June 2016

The King's Arms - 7th July 2016

The King's Arms - 14th July 2016

However, things took a turn for the worse after the last week mentioned above. Firstly MB was ill on the 21st July, then I was ill with the same sore throat and summer cold the following week on the 28th July. I was then on holiday the following week (more on that in the next post) and MB was at the Great British Beer Festival the week after whilst I was recovering from a very early flight home and the prospect of returning to a very busy day at work on Friday (I was the only one in the office, having only been at my new role for only a week, so it was a stressful day requiring my full attention).

Going forward I am hoping to get back to updating both this blog and my gaming blog (Little Odo's Grand Days Out) more regularly. I love my little hobbies and wish to share my experiences and insights online as a reminder, mainly to myself, of what I actually get up to in the fog of years that seem to pass so quickly these days.

Wedded Bliss

The Orangery - Saturday 30th July 2016

Turkey Court Turkey Mill, Ashford Rd, Maidstone ME14 5PP
This is not really a pub, but I need to mention this venue as it was for the wedding of Mrs. Odo's best friend's daughter. It was a great day made even better due to the fact that the bar actually stocked a couple of decent bottled beers which I snapped up after the wedding procedures had been completed and we were onto the after-breakfast party. The choice of beers on tap was very poor (John Smith's Smooth and Guinness Cold), but I managed to spot a few bottles tucked away in the refrigerator.

Beers drunk on this visit : 

1) Doombar (4.3%) - Sharp's Brewery, Rock, Cornwall - a dry, fruity and hoppy amber ale
2) Spitfire (4.5%) - Shepherd Neame Brewery, Faversham, Kent - a fruity, hoppy bitter

It seems that recently I have been drinking a lot more bottled ale than ale on tap or pump. This is not a conscious choice but one of what has been on offer at the time. I have noticed too that the bottled beers seem to be stronger in alcohol content than their pump counter-parts. Perhaps that is because they are drunk in smaller quantities? Maybe something is lost when an ale is bottled and the alcohol content needs to be upped to compensate? These are just pet theories with no scientific backing or research involved.

Number of visits : 1st

Drinking in the Cursed Earth

Cursed Earth Book signing - Saturday 16th July 2016

By now gentle reader you may have realised I am a big comic book and RPG fan. These are my two main sedentary hobbies (reading and watching old films being others), but I also like to listen to heavy rock music, drink nice beer and go for the occasional run (now that my judo and rugby days are well and truly over).

Today took me on a trip to meet two of my all-time favourite British comic book artists; namely Brian Bolland and Mick McMahon. Both of these artists are my favourite Judge Dredd artists of yesteryear (there have been a few more that have joined this illustrious list since the 70s and 80s though). The wait outside GOSH comics in London's Soho was in the heat of a fine British summer's day. As a result of the wait and a good long chat about comics with a new friend, Leon, outside the shop I built up quite a thirst.

This time I was due to meet my long term friend and drinking buddy MB for a burger and beers afterwards. We grabbed a fantastic burger in the Gourmet Burger Kitchen and then popped round the corner into the Toucan for a couple of pints of Guinness.

The Toucan

19 Carlisle St, London W1D 3BY
Now this is a pub I have not been into for many a year. MB and I used to visit here almost religiously when we went through our Guinness phase. And, they still pour a fantastic pint of the black stuff. This time was a little different to all the other times we visited; we actually sat in the upstairs bar for a change. Well, I say a change, as we were both a little confused that the bar seemed so much smaller than we remembered it until the penny finally dropped and we both realised that we had not gone down the rickety stairs to the lower ground bar.

Beers drunk on this visit :

1) Guinness (4.2%) - Diageo, Dublin, Ireland - the classic dry Irish stout

Number of visits : dozens

The Pillars of Hercules
7 Greek St, London W1D 4DF

As promised in an earlier post, I decided to re-visit a couple of the pubs I went to on my previous comics outing. This may become my standard day out when it comes to comics or gaming days out.

The Pillars did not disappoint again this time. They had plenty of beers on offer to quench our thirst, so MB and I dived in with a couple of classics. The ambience in the pub was great too, what with people coming and going all the time on this beautifully balmy day. I also resurrected a traditional, albeit rather puerile, ritual MB and I developed many moons ago; the throwing of a crisp (potato chips for my American readers) packet across the room from the bar without hitting any innocent bystanders but surprising the intended recipient. I made a successful cast and caught MB totally by surprise - I think this ritual will be back to stay for these two old fellas.

Beers drunk on this visit :

1) Lazarus (4.2%) - Truman's Brewery, East London - a light golden very pale ale
2) Spitfire (4.1%) - Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent - a fruity, hoppy bitter

Number of visits : Several

The Crobar
17 Manette St, London W1D 4AS

A revisit to this great heavy rock pub. It was a lot busier this time and I stayed for a lot longer than on my previous visit. MB and I managed to get through a fair number of the bottled beers on offer. Luckily the great burger, fries and shake we had eaten earlier had lined our stomachs enough to allow us to tackle the stronger botled beers on offer.

Beers drunk on this visit :

1) Trooper (4.7%) - Robinson's Brewery, Stockpport, Cheshire - a slightly hoppy, zesty dark amber ale
2) Queen of the Night (4.8%) - Los Muertos Brewery, Mexico - a dark amber American Pale Ale
3) Hop on or Die (6.8%) - DOA Brewery, Mexico - a very strong pale ale

Number of visits : 2