Postal London - January 1999

One of my new year resolutions is to drink a pint in every London postal district. There are 119 postal districts in London and the district boundaries are drawn by the Post Office solely for the purposes of mail delivery and do not always coincide with local government and other boundaries. The districts cover a wide variety of areas and each district can cover a very mixed area which may have changed a great deal since the district were created in 1917. The largest districts can have nearly two hundred pubs while one (SE28) has only two.

My knowledge of the districts also varies quite considerably so while some pubs will be carefully selected others will be chosen on a pot luck basis. I live near East London and for ten years my job involved travelling round West and South West London. I know far less about North, North West and South East London which seem to have a lot of small districts with few pubs.

I am not claiming that my choice is the best in the district although I will try to choose one that is representative of the area. I will also try to get a mixture of types of pubs and beers over all the districts. Some pubs will be chosen because I am going there or that part of the district for some social or other reason. There may be a bias in favour of pubs near stations and other transport links especially if I am doing more than one pub in a day.

If you disagree with my choices please feel free to write in as I am sure the editors welcome all correspondence. It all helps fill up the pages of London Drinker. As I give up alcohol for Lent this gives me ten and a half months to complete the 119 pubs. This works out at an average of just over eleven pubs a month.

New Years Day normally finds me with my worst hangover of the year but this year have entered for a 10k road run in Hyde Park on New Years Day morning so I restrict myself to a couple of pints at the local and a couple of Belgian beers at my mates party. I make it to Hyde Park for 11am and complete the race and then head off to start the crawl.

The first pub is the Britannia in W8 (Kensington) where the 135 Association are having their first social of the year. There are about a dozen members in this small Young's pub in Allen Street, off High Street Ken, and I have an excellent pint of Young's Bitter (Ordinary). As I haven't seen some of the 135 members for some time it is pleasant to have an hours chat with them. The Britannia is a small two bar pub although as the landlord and landlady are leaving there may be changes in the near future.

When I leave I make my way to High Street Ken tube station and get a tube to Wimbledon. On my arrival at Wimbledon a train to Wimbledon Chase arrives so I board it to go to SW20, a small district to the south of Wimbledon with few pubs. The nearest one of these to the station is the Emma Hamilton a large pub with two bars and a function room. As it is mid-afternoon only the saloon bar is open but there are quite a few locals there. Both Courage beers are on and I have a pint of Best. The pub also does a changing guest beer but none was available on my visit.

After I finish my pint I get the train back to Wimbledon. Instead of doing a Youngs pub for SW19 I walk down the Broadway and Merton Road into Merton High Street. In Norman Road off the High Street is the Sultan, which is the only Hop Back tied house in London and a London Drinker advertiser. Only one of the two bars is open but all five Hop Back beers are on and I have a pint of Entire Stout. Although stout is not a beer style I am particularly keen on this one does strike me as a very good example of the style. The other four beers include two bitters, a wheat beer and Summer Lightning and I would recommend a visit here. Several clippings from Whats Brewing adorn the walls.

As I head back to South Wimbledon Station I notice an off-licence on the corner of the High Street and Nelson Road advertising a large number of foreign beers and twenty five rums. Unfortunately is shut so I can't check how true this is. At the station I get a tube up to Clapham. My original choice for SW4 was Bread and Roses, the Workers Beer Co pub, but it is shut for News Years Day. There is another pub in Clapham Manor Street, the Manor Arms so I go in there.

This is a small Whitbread pub with three beers on and I have a pint of Marstons Pedigree. The anoraks among you will be interested to note there are two Pedigree pumps with slightly different pump clips. Both have the Brewed with Yeast from the Burton Unions legend on the clips. The beer itself is quite pleasant but does not have the distinctive aroma that I remember. The pub itself is a locals pub which has a meat raffle on Sundays and quite a good quiz team to judge from the certificates round the bar.

Two stops further up the Northern Line is Stockwell (SW8) and down Lansdowne Way is the Priory a free house which is another London Drinker advertiser. The Priory has five beers from which I choose Harveys Bitter. A wide variety of German and Belgian bottled beers and a selection of fruit wines are also available. The walls of the pub are decorated with several hundred pump clips which show the wide range of beers they have sold. Again another pub I would recommend a visit.

A couple of weeks later there is an ELAC social at the Old Spotted Dog in Upton Lane, Forest Gate (E7). This is a free house with a restaurant attached which is next to the Clapton F.C ground. There are four hand pumps selling three beers and a cider or perry. The cider on tonight is advertised as the last ever Gibbonstrangler made by David Kitton who edited previous cider guides. The beers on are Courage Directors, Youngs Special and Crouch Vale SAS. Personally I would prefer one weaker beer to be on but when I talk to the barman he advises me the regulars will not drink anything below 4 per cent. The beers are changed regularly and mostly come from the Courage guest beer range. There are plans for a Wetherspoon pub in Upton Lane which the management seem to welcome as they feel it may bring more passing trade to the area and benefit them.

Later that week I have to go to Belsize Park which involves a trip on the Barking to Gospel Oak Line, a neglected railway line which runs through East and North London. One the way back I get off at Harringay Green Lanes to look for a pub in N4. As it is starting to rain I dive in the nearest one I can find which is the Old Ale Emporium. I must confess that I can not remember it from previous visits to N4 and I can not see anything in the pub to indicate who the owners are. The name is a bit of a misnomer as although there are four handpumps they all dispense bitter. I have a pint of Boddingtons and read the paper to pass the time until the next train comes. The pub is decorated vaguely in the Hogshead style and most of the beer seems to be from the Whitbread range of beers and guest beers.

I break my journey again on the way back at Woodgrange Park station in Manor Park (E12). There are only three real ale pubs in E12 and the one I choose is the Earl of Essex. This is a large Victorian corner pub with both Courage beers on sale so I have a pint of Courage Best. Those of you who are interested in bottle conditioned beers will be please to know that the Earl also sell Imperial Russian Stout. The pub has a mainly Irish clientele and Gaelic games are shown on the TV on Sundays. Dublin made crisps are also on sale. While it would be exaggerating to say the Earl is worth going out of your way for it is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Also worth a visit in E12 is the Golden Fleece on the edge of Wanstead Flats.

The last three pubs of January are in South London. I go to Forest Hill one Friday night to visit an old friend and we go into Catford (SE6) to visit the Good Beer Guide pub the Rutland Arms in Perry Hill. The Rutland usually has live jazz or rhythm and blues but Friday is a music free night. Both Youngs and Fullers beers are on and we have a pint of Youngs Winter Warmer each. It is also interesting to notice that Worthington White Shield is displayed on the bottle shelves as it is a long time since I have seen it on sale. We also visit the other pub in Perry Hill, a Courage pub called the Two Brewers

which has both Courage beers on sale.

As the weather is fine on Saturday morning I decide to walk some of the way back. After walking through Catford and Lewisham I reach the southern outskirts of Greenwich. I pass a Shephard Neame pub the Royal George which prompts me to try the Ashburnham Arms, a back street Shepherd Neame pub, which is in the Good Beer Guide. Unfortunately it does not open until 12 so rather than wait for half an hour I go back to the Royal George. This turns out to be a mistake and the first real disappointment of the year. Only one beer, the bitter, is on and the barmans response ``do you want keg or handpump'' hardly inspires confidence. The beer is of poor quality and hardly worth drinking. Maybe I am just unlucky but I can not be bothered to complain and wait for the barrel to be changed.

Perhaps I should have waited for the Ashburnham to open or gone to the Youngs pub, the Richard I, in Royal Hill.

I take my leave and head into the centre of Greenwich and then turn west to Deptford (SE8). Here I try the Dog and Bell, a back street free house which is one of Deptfords three Good Beer Guide pubs. Five real ales are on and I choose Nethergate Umbel, a beer brewed with coriander. While this is pleasant enough I can not detect what difference the coriander makes. The pub has a bar billiards table and a shove-hapenny board and has a team in a local shove-hapenny league. It also has a large selection of malt whiskies.

This makes eleven pubs for January so I will finish here. Februaries pubs will be featured in the April London Drinker.

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