After a bit of a play around with new colours, I’ve landed don this beaut-
And a bit closer:
You can find it here:
After a bit of a play around with new colours, I’ve landed don this beaut-
And a bit closer:
You can find it here:
I stumbled upon this incredible map of ALL the breweries in the UK. Phew, I can’t even imagine how long this took. It’s hidden on this Etsy page- https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/474870607/map-of-all-the-breweries-in-the-united?ref=shop_home_active_1
I once saw a similar map of US breweries in a London pub and wondered- why isn’t this a map of British breweries? I guess it didn’t exist back then.
Lovely detail. Even at a beer per day, it’d take years to try all the breweries I think.
Rebuilt in 1420 with later Tudor additions, some of the cellars at The Mermaid Inn survived from 1156 and contribute to its Grade II listed status; and the ghosts- if we knock it down, where will they live?
But Ozzy-cyp is outraged that elevators weren’t invented and properly installed into building codes 600 years ago:
“…end room with lots of steps up and down which is not suitable to have a stroller so had to carry our daughter all the time”
and thus promptly gave them a ‘terrible’ rating on Tripadvisor. One can only imagine her indignation upon discovering that no actual mermaids have stayed here.
The Giants Fireplace Bar is dominated by a hearth the size of a spacious Upper East Side studio apartment. It’s beautiful. You can find this room via a secret passage too- so secret I never noticed it.
Some of the medieval artwork comes from the renowned Slade School of Fine Art, Bloomsbury. Maybe even this one:
The Mermaid Inn was a notable alehouse in medieval times and served beer brewed on site to sailors, Rye being a member of the Confederation of Cinque Ports. Catholic Priests fleeing the Reformation in Continental Europe stayed in the 1500s; Elizabeth I was a guest and a group of notorious smugglers known as the Hawkhurst Gang called The Mermaid Inn their local in the 1700s. In the 1800s it was privately owned (selfish bastard), functioned as a club for artists in the early 20th century (including Oscar Wildes’ “Bosie”), and during the Second World War it was commandeered as a garrison for Canadian soldiers. So, some history.
One more of that fireplace:
So many beams.
Small range with a few bottles, but well kept and where else can you drink with the ghosts of the Hawkhurst Gang?
Just look at that fireplace.
As a wise man once said, pubs in London need only put in minimal effort, and the business will come. It just needs to be slightly better than shit, and they’ll turn a profit. So where’s the incentive to excel?
And so London is full of pubs the locals say are good, but what they really mean (if they could contextualise and drop the blind belief that everything in London is the shit) is that it’s the best in the area. So it will be painted mauve or beige and serve artisan scotch eggs, or it will have original wooden flooring (but still owned and homogenised by one of the friendly local pub conglomerates). Against this backdrop, it a real surprise that CASK has somehow contrived to be even shitter.
The decor is painful. You can’t escape how bad it looks, and so the confusion as to why people thought this was a good idea is recurrent and unpleasant.
Sure, they sell some beers. But loads of places do.
Just woeful. It would feel uncomfortable as a coffee shop. As a pub, it is bizarre.
Yeah, they got some beers, sure, but their ale selection is far from remarkable in the UK and their international range is simply average (weak, in Belgium).
Reading, the ‘Paris of The Thames’*. All that French Rococo and Neo-classicism can really make a person thirsty.
Pubs in London don’t have to try very hard- there’re so many people, they’ll get the custom and pay the bills, resulting in an effusion of vanilla (or mauve) pubs cynically decorated with purchases from pubulike.co.uk (bar 4-5 exceptions. But that’s not many for 12 million people). So take the train to the provinces where customer loyalty is important, and enjoy all the benefits that engenders.
One only needs to go twenty minutes away to Reading, where The Alehouse can be found hiding in plain sight on a commercial street. It’s full of all the sorts of people you’d expect in a real ale pub, and they indulge in a real community feel.
The tap rotation is extraordinary (see beer labels just about everywhere) with 5 guests at any one time, and they are brilliantly kept. There are even a few choice foreign imports outside of the obvious: Belgoo, St Bernadus and Maredsous, for example. Also, Zero Degrees has a branch in Reading, so there are at least two reasons visit.
Brilliant partitioning to maximise space. Unfortunately, its still in Reading.
Great ales and choice internationals. Evidently, the tap rotation is vast.
A gem on a faceless high street.
*Said no one, ever.
Some people just can’t let things go. Like pubs; The Bell Inn has been in the same family for five generations: more than 250 years. Take that, inheritance tax.
Many British pubs look quaint and akin to a film set from the outside, but are all too often trashed by tasteless interior renovations that currently seem to involve painting the walls ivory or mauve and filling two-thirds of the place with shiny mass produced furniture and calling it a ‘restaurant’. The Bell doesn’t subscribe to this nonsense. The interior seems to be vaguely centred around a wooden cubicle of sorts, from which the staff serve you through a window; the menu is a series of paper notes haphazardly affixed to the walls.
The Bell is the proud winner of the 1997 Best Sandwich Pub Award (which is a thing, apparently). For a mere £3.50, you can chose a warmed roll stuffed with a doorstop of goats cheese and a side of olives, or a hearty handmade soup.
Aldworth, the village which The Bell serves, has approximately 8 houses. I visited for the lunchtime opening slot (it closes in the afternoon, just like in yore) and every single resident and their friends must have stopped by since it was bustling. The next nearest village has four houses, and the local ‘town’ (maybe 100 houses and a Post Office) is over an hour walk away. There are no busses. No phone signal, and a phone box that doesn’t take cash but gladly accepts BT Phonecards, whatever they are. So just quite where all these people came from I don’t know. The 1940s, probably.
Half of the pub is the old tap room and features a set of long benches for packing in large groups and making new (old) friends. The best seat (above photo) is in a recess that used to be the fireplace.
The Gents toilets are worth a mention: one literally relieves oneself on the wall outside, exposed to the elements, only a wooden fence separating your back from the car park. Efficient use of space.
The definition of ‘real pub’.
Small range, but still diverse and, of course, well-kept.
Stands out amongst even the top tier.
A precarious, tentative, inchoate ranking of the best beer bars in the world I have visited, so far:
=2. McSorley’s Ale House, New York, NY 9/10
=2. U Fleku, Prague, Czech Republic 9/10
=5. Falling Rock Tap House, Denver, CO 8.5/10
=5. Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield, England 8.5/10
=5. Brouwerij ‘t Ij, Amsterdam, Holland 8.5/10
=5. Zum Uerige, Dusseldorf, Germany 8.5/10
=9. Sunset Grille & Tap, Boston, MA 8/10
=9. Charlie’s Bar, Copenhagen, Denmark 8/10
13. PINT Bokbierfestival, Amsterdam, Holland 7.5/10
=14. Redbones Restaurant, Somerville, MA 7/10
=14. Blind Tiger Ale House, New York, NY 7/10
=17. Olympen Mat og Vinhus, Oslo, Norway 6/10
=17. The Brickskeller, Washington, DC 6/10
=21. Pivovarsky Klub, Prague, Czech Republic 4.5/10
=21. Au General Lafayette, Paris, France 4.5/10
=21. The Wynkoop Brewery, Denver, CO 4.5
24. The Dubliner, Washington, DC 4/10
25. Kulminator, Antwerp, Belgium 3.5/10
=26. Belgo Central, London, England 3/10
=28. The Publick House, Brookline, MA 2.5/10
=28. d.b.a., New York, NY 2.5/10
=30. Brauhaus Sion, Cologne, Germany 2/10
=30. Gösser Bierklinik, Vienna, Austria 2/10
33. Fruh au Dom, Cologne, Germany 1.5/10
34. Heineken Brewery, Amsterdam, Holland 0.5/10
Throughout, I have tried to create some sort of bell curve from the rankings: a few at the bottom of the pack, a rising amount in the middle 4-6/10 range, and then a handful of exemplary bars in a class of their own. This makes sense, because this is a (largely) thoughtfully compiled list of elite venues, so if I were to compare them to all the beer bars of the world, then the rankings would almost always be 8, 9 or 10 out of ten, and therefore unilluminating.
The White Horse Pub is in the garden of London- Fulham. After a few stops hemmed-in on the underground, accountants and actuaries emerge after a busy day of sitting into a leafy suburb. A short stroll brings you out on Parsons Green, where the White Horse Pub sits proudly.
There can be a certain uniformity to London pubs (Health & Safety Codes?). I get the feeling that The White Horse Pub is so close to an excellent interior, but the manager’s imagination is shackled by the need to accommodate the huge amount of foot-traffic and certain idiosyncrasies Londoners have come to expect. The outdoor area is fantastic- not simply a post-smoking ban renovated yard, but an open area overlooking a park with a guy grilling meat over an open flame. This works.
But let’s get down to business: beer. They are certainly not shy. The offerings include a decent selection of traditional draft ales, of course, and also a bold range of international (in style or origin) beers served from the right pumps, at the right temperatures, in the right glasses. They get this very right indeed, better than anywhere else I’ve seen in London (happy to be proven wrong, of course).
Not everyone enjoys beer and instead orders Fosters or Heineken or some other interchangeable yak piss. A publican can’t really avoid this without taking a hit (although the novelty might work in London?). Thankfully, The White Horse Pub have gone for a lager of real quality- Pilsner Urquell. Sometimes, an ale isn’t what you need (as you kick back on your yacht in the sun after a jog up the beach), and lager is the necessary thirst-quencher. Urquell is the boss.
Clean, undeniably, but perhaps to its detriment. The interior lacks that indefinable charm which so many others hold. Good outdoor space with grill.
London doesn’t seem to understand foreign beers (or care?), but The White Horse Pub puts in a great show, without neglecting local local brews. World-class.
I’m not sure you can unequivocally beat this international beer selection in London, but the décor is a little too spartan.
Just off Fleet Street, London (but oddly off Google Maps), is a museum of a pub. A heavyweight holding a candle to anywhere.
Nestled down an alley, it is has been worth seeking-out since at least 1667. Even Dickens thought so.
The front bar is probably the best- ancient yet robust-looking dark wood encloses a quaint little room with a fireplace and more pumps than you’d think one would need for the amount of customers that could be squeezed in. The floor is covered in sawdust, as this was the normal way to mop up spills and debris and old people fear change.
The excellent front room will of course fill-up quick, but Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is the gift that keeps giving; there is an overflow room on the ground floor, then a further two basement levels. People will have preferences, but you can’t really lose.
Apparently the food is tosh, but who really cares? It’s not that sort of place; not that sort of blog.
Rebuilt in 1667. No need to improve it since.
Samuel Smith’s pubs are a stalwart on the English ale scene. Not unique to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Not complaining.
Worthy? Oh yes.
The UK is blessed with (an unfortunately dwindling number of) old pubs. But this one stands out- did Charles Dickens drink at your local?
Near London Bridge, hiding in a back-alley around Borough Market, is the curiously named The Rake.
London, for a city so large, is not resplendent with ‘Little insert-part-of-the-world-here‘. Sure, there’s a Chinatown, but I’m not looking for tea (or msg). So it comes to The Rake to single-handedly prop up the Little American-dive-bar area of town.
It does a pretty good job. I like dive bars. I like the worn, rough individuality, and how they always seem to have better tables than their ‘renovated’ cousins (see The Market Street Porter nearby). The Rake has used the scribblings and wisdom of craft brewers to decorate the walls, with brewer memorabilia to add flair.
The garden is bigger than the venue, and in truth this is the front-end of a beer distribution business. This ensures a great selection and rotation of international beers, the best I’ve sampled in London. One particular member of staff let these efforts down, as he shrugged his shoulders when I asked if they stocked any Dutch beers; I then sat down and put my beer on a Texels coaster.
If you like this sort of style, you’ll feel at home. Top effort, given the space limitations. A little bright and hard to relax in during the day.
Great for London, merely above-averaged for the States.
Probably the second best bar in London, for those who want to sample from the international faucet.