Postal Drinker - September
Welcome to the latest instalment of Postal Drinker, my attempt to drink a pint of real ale in every one of the hundred and nineteen postal districts in London. So far I am keeping up with the schedule of eleven pubs a month, allowing for giving up for Lent and have completed seventy-six so far. Back in February I visited the Queens Arms, a Young's pub, in NW6 when it was in the process of renovation. I have since been back there and can report that the renovation is now complete, the beer in fine condition and the pub well worth a visit. I have also revisited the Gilpins Bell in N19 for a drink with a friend and we had several good pints including Smiles Golden Brew and something from Pilgrim.
As previously mentioned all my articles are available on the internet at the Hassrale website http://www.edmund1.demon.co.uk. An OAP I know told me that he liked my articles and was pleased to see someone writing about traditional beers and traditional beers. I then explained to him how I typed up my articles on my PC in Word 6, saved them to a floppy disk and took them to a friend who has an Internet account so I could e-mail them to appear in London Drinker and to be put on the World Wide Web. I rather fear I put him off his beer.
Early September finds me still working in Central London and on the first Saturday I leave work about four and head out to West London. The first district I try is Maida Vale (W9), which is a bit neglected and cut-off from the rest of West London. I used to visit the area occasionally from work about fifteen years ago and have a vague memory that that the best pubs are near Warwick Avenue tube station on the Bakerloo line. The first one I try, the Prince Albert, appears to be an unspoilt Victorian pub but is full of customers watching the football and no longer has any real ale available.
The next pub I try is the Warrington hotel, an unspoilt two bar Victorian pub. The saloon bar is empty as all the customers are either outside enjoying the sunshine or in the other bar watching the end of the England v Luxembourg game. Six real ales are available from Young's, Fullers, Greene king and Brakspears so I have a pint of Brakspears Special which is in good condition despite the warm weather. As I drink my pint the bar starts filling up and I am reminded of Richard Bostons comments in Beer and Skittles that the most unspoilt pubs are often in neglected areas as no-one can be bothered to spoil them.
For the next district and pub I get the tube one stop back to Paddington. when I get there I wander south away from the touristy pubs near the station and chance upon the Victoria. This is a small Fullers pub apparently visited by Queen Victoria when she opened Paddington Station which is showing the other game in Englands group, Sweden v Bulgaria. I have a pint of Chiswick and the landlord is most insistent on serving me a full pint. It transpires that he noticed a Camra logo on the top of a local beer guide in my jacket pocket. While I drink my pint I think what a fine fellow the landlord is then I notice a poster saying that he is leaving next Thursday and for his farewell do various drinks will be available for 99p including pints of Chiswick.
His new pub is the Drayton Court in West Ealing (W13) a larger Fullers pub by West Ealing station which I reported on in my April visits. I did find the Drayton a bit impersonal on my visit although that was a weekday mid afternoon. However Mark and DJ do seem to be the people to liven up a dull pub.
Leaving the Victoria I go to Lancaster Gate tube station and get a Central Line Tube to Notting Hill and the walk up to the Cock and Bottle. This is a small free house in Needham Road on the very eastern edge of Notting Hill (W11). Although it is a free house only Brakspear Bitter and Special are on handpump and I have a pint of the letter. The pub has an interesting mix of customers, including a large gentleman wearing a Camra baseball cap and another man wearing a Gaelic football replica shirt who presumably has been to Mass at the Roman Catholic Church opposite. The television is showing yet another football match, Finland v Germany. When I ask the barman why it is on he tells me that a German customer asked if it was possible to watch it and he eventually found it by flicking round all the satellite channels.
As I leave the pub it occurred to me that it might have been a good idea to have a pint of the Bitter and Special mixed. Anyway I walk down to Ladbroke Grove and then turn right and head north to North Kensington (W10). There used to be a Fullers pub here but it was demolished to widen the road but I remember a free house called the Lads of the Village in Kensal Road at the top of Ladbroke Grove. When I reach it I find that it is now called the Village Inn and is now a semi-Irish pub with only one real ale available.
This is Fullers London Pride so I have a pint which is in reasonable condition. The preliminaries for the Croatia v Republic of Ireland game are being shown on Sentana, a cable station specialising in Irish sport and mainly available in pubs with an Irish clientele. Unfortunately when the game begins the transmission is blocked and no pictures are available. However as I have nearly finished my pint I just drink up and leave. As I head back down Ladbroke Grove to the tube station I notice that the Eagle, a pub that used to be famous as a bus terminus, has two handpumps on that appear to be in use.
For the next pub I get the tube to Shepherds Bush (W12) and then walk to Melina Road, a small back street with a Fullers pub the Crown and Sceptre. This is a two bar pub with only London Pride on so that is my choice. The pub is close to the QPR football ground and a large number of programmes are displayed, some dating back to the Sixties, and there is football on the public bar TV. This time it is Bosnia v Scotland. If you are a real ale drinking QPR fan then this is the pub for you although you would probably know that anyway.
For the last pub of the night I walk down to Hammersmith (W6) to the Thatched House near Ravenscourt Park station. This used to be a two bar locals pub which was Michael Jacksons local. However on entry I have a not entirely pleasant surprise. The pub has been refurbished into a wine bar with a heavy emphasis on wine and food. However both beers are on and I have a pint of Ordinary which is in good condition. To be fair the pub is just as full as the others I have visited that night and everyone there seems to be enjoying themselves. If a pub exists to satisfy local demand the as an area changes then so will its pubs. The days newspapers are also provided, an idea I am increasingly in favour of.
On the Sunday evening I get the tube to Plaistow (E13) to visit the Lord Stanley. This is a small back street local which was formerly a Shepherd Neame pub but is now a free house. Two beers are available and I have a pint of Marlow Rebellion IPA, an interesting dark beer. The saloon bar has large screen TV and occasional entertainment while the public bar has two pool tables. To get to the Lord Stanley from the station turn right and then turn right again at the Black Lion, a Courage pub which is also worth a visit.
Later that week to celebrate the reopening of the Northern Line I make a trip to South London. The first station I visit is Tooting Broadway (SW17) which has two pubs nearby. There is a Wetherspoon outlet, J J Moons, but I choose the Young's pub, the Castle, and have a pint of Youngs Ordinary. The Castle consists of one largish bar mainly occupied by people having a pint or two after work. There are three dart boards and a pinball machine but none of them are being used. There is a promotional offer of a four pint jug for the price of three pints on various beers including Special.
I then get the tube two stops up to Balham (SW12) were there is a Wetherspoon pub, the Moon Under Water, near the station. It is a small pub full of local characters and two of the handpumps dispense Westons ciders. However as my aim is to have a pint of real ale in every district I resist the temptation to have a pint of cider and order a pint of Morrells Graduate which I understand is now brewed by Eldridge Pope.
For the last pub of the night I get the tube to Borough and visit the Royal Oak. This is the only Harveys tied house in London and sells the full range of Harveys beers so I have a pint of Harveys Mild which is my first pint of mild on the crawl. I am not a great fan of mild but this seems a good example of the style. If you are planning a visit to the Royal Oak, which I would recommend, do note that it is not open at weekends.
I decide to finish September with a visit to W1 as I am working near there. Rather than touristy Soho or up-market Mayfair I visit the area north of Oxford Street which is more residential. Wandering round I notice that the Northumerland Arms, a Nicholsons pub, has Taylors Landlord on so I pop in for a pint. It is in superb form and I can see how it won the Champion Beer of the Year. Also available are two beers from Adnams.
I have an interesting conversation with the barmaid and some of the customers about other Nicholsons pubs including the Fox and Anchor which has an early morning license. This was a haunt of mine when I worked nights a few years back. I also tell them about a visit I made to Keighley where Landlord is brewed. One of the customers tells me the jukebox is free which seems a bit odd to me but on inspection it turns out he is correct so I put a few records on.
Halfway through my third pint the mystery of the free jukebox is solved when the repairman turns up to fix the broken coin mechanism. What a spoilsport. This now brings me to eightyseven pubs for the year with thirty two left for the final three months.