Tuesday, 25 October 2011

London, South Bank - London Bridge to Greenwich: 22nd October 2011

I don't get down to London too often, but this weekend I was in The Big Smoke for the NFL American Football game at 'Weeemmbeeerrrleeeey' Stadium. Fortunately there have been quite a few blog posts recently about the resurgence of decent pubs/bars in London and new microbreweries - see The Beercast and the beer monkey, and it does seem to be a genuinely exciting time to be be a Londoner with a taste for new and interesting beer (hmm - shades of a Dick Van Dyke line in a musical somewhere there).
I thought I'd try a number of new and more traditional pubs on my short trip to London, combined with a walk on the south bank of the Thames along the Thames Path, starting near London Bridge in Borough and ending up in Greenwich on a lovely sunny afternoon in the capital.

View London - South Bank in a larger map

First of all there was the matter of getting from the Gatwick Express terminal at Victoria Station to London Bridge. Normally an easy journey, this was made far more difficult by the closure of the entire Victoria and Circle lines this weekend. My London Transport iPhone App was indicating a nightmare on the now overcrowded District line, so I decided to walk to Westminster and then take to tube to London Bridge.
Coming out of London Bridge station I resisted the serious temptation to wander into Borough Market and spend the afternoon in various pubs there, and instead turned into Tooley Street, past the hoards queuing for the London Dungeon, and along to The Draft House at Tower Bridge. This has only been open for a year or so, with a couple of sister pubs around London, so with their website proclaiming an impressive selection of cask and kegged beer I was definitely looking forward to trying it out.

Inside it was pretty quiet, with the tables just starting to fill up for lunchtime. There's a lot of smaller tables set around the outside of longer benches, so it can hold a fair amount of people. There's also a Tasting Room and Party Rooms which I didn't get a look around, so it's a big place. From my table at the window at the front there was great view of The Shard (almost completed).

Beer-wise there were 5 on hand-pull (including Harviestoun Hoptoberfest - nice to see) and about 16 on draught (some Mikkeller, Pale Creatures, Meantime and Schremser among the selection). I was persuaded by the friendly barmaid to go for the Arbor Alpha Ale, which although quite nice and slightly Marzen-like, had a bit too much alcohol for me for that time of the day.
Food was definitely required to keep me going for the walk and I ordered the fish-finger sandwich. This was slightly more impressive than the Bird's-Eye varieties that I remember having when I was a kid, and I liked the slight sprinkling of capers for that additional bite - good food and a great place to go to try some kegged beers.

From The Draft House it was only a matter of 2 minutes to the Dean Swift - recently reviewed in a bit more detail here. I can really only agree with Kenny's description - it's a really nice, friendly place with a great selection of cask (~6 on hand-pull) and kegged (~10 on tap) beer to spend some time in, probably over some food. They also provide 750ml 'sharing' bottles of more expensive beers (e.g. Duvel, Brooklyn Local 1) to allow a slightly different / more relaxed(?) style of drinking compared to sinking lots of pints.

There was only time for a swift half of a very nice Dark Star Saison here, because I wanted to get along to the Kernel Brewery - recently reviewed by Rob here - before they decided to shut up shop for the day.
The Kernel are part of the Maltby Street traders (fruit, veg, coffee, cheese, masses of amazing deli-stuff) and they sell their beer as part of an 'open' day every Saturday from 9am to 3pm, a nice idea, and when I got there around 2ish the whole of the area around the back of the railways arches and in particular the Kernel 'stall' was mobbed.

After a bit of a wait I managed to a glass of the (really bitter and really fruity at the same time) Pale Ale Galaxy from their in-house tap and bought a bottle of Citra Amarillo (just to help me sleep - of course). I also managed to get shown around the inside of the railway arch and was (like Rob) amazed at how small the brewing area was (thankfully I didn't have to dig out the Mash Tun).

It seems they are relocating to larger premises real-soon-now with additional bottling capacity, so hopefully that will mean more of their lovely beer reaching further afield - in particular - Scotland (see comments).

After a couple of beers I now needed if not a decent walk, then at least a stroll along the Thames. I had noted a cluster of pubs a mile or so away near Southwark Park - these were The Angel, The Ship and The Mayflower, with the latter looking the most welcoming, but when I walked in I was completely ignored by the staff - so I just walked back out again - maybe it was the effect of the Kernel Pale Ale Galaxy !

Continuing east along the the Thames Path, I was walking in and out of apartment block complexes and short esplanade areas, but the views of Canary Wharf were pretty impressive on this clear day.

Next it was another mile or along the bank of the river in Rotherhithe to the next couple of pubs on my list, the Blacksmiths Arms and the Clipper. Neither really had a decent selection of real ale in (apart from London Pride) so I decided to keep walking.
Eventually I came to the huge Greenland Dock, home to a large marina as well as a mass of condo-type apartments.

On the north side of the dock is the Ship and Whale, a Shepherd Neme pub - this afternoon pretty much full of diners. I don't mind the non-core Shep beers and when I was eventually served chose the Kent's Best - an OKish bitter, but nothing too exciting.

I resumed my walk by crossing the docks and heading into Deptford. After passing a large dockide complex and heading inland somewhat, the next stop was the Dog and Bell, situated on the edge of a building site.

This is a cracking little boozer - fairly quiet on a Saturday afternoon with regulars watching the racing, but there were notices for a Pickle/Chutney Competition and a very well looked after billiard table in the back room, so I'm assuming it can get very busy. The pump-clips were indicating a lot of guest ales and today's selection was also pretty good, with the Hog's Back Hop being a really smooth, nicely balanced bitter.

There also seemed to be an oasis of a beer garden / smoking area situated in a courtyard at the back of the building.

Now it was time for the final push into Greenwich. This involved crossing the Deptford Creek before heading into the heart of Greenwich. I wanted to end up in a place which sold beers from the local Meantime brewery, and so chose the Greenwich Union, one of Meantime's pubs.
(photo from the Greenwich Union web-site)

It's a long, narrow place, again probably more orientated to diners, but they obviously had a large selection of Meantime beers - Pale Ale, London Lager, Stout, Porter, and various wheat beers - most of which were on draught (and kegged), but also some guest cask ales. I chose the Meantime Pale Ale and with the late afternoon sun still warm, the outside seating area with a nice cool, hoppy beer was a most pleasant place to end the walk.

1 comment:

  1. As of 31st March 2012 The Kernel have moved to new premises just along the road - Arch 11, Dockley Road Industrial Estate, London SE16 3SF - see http://thekernelbrewery.com/