A few London pubs – Cross Keys, Lamb and Flag, Old Red Cow

When in London on Wednesday afternoon I visited three pubs with some friends – the Cross Keys in Covent Garden, the Lamb and Flag, Covent Garden, and the Old Red Cow, Barbican. Each pub is very different with its own character and personality.

Cross Keys ExteriorI was last in the Cross Keys a few years back where I sat on the benches outside enjoying a beer or two, gazing at the colourful hanging baskets and foliage covering the ornate exterior of the pub and watching people wander by. With these memories in mind we’d arranged to meet a friend outside for a drink on the benches on the hottest day of the year so far. Upon arrival, however, we discovered that the outdoor seating no longer existed. There was nothing to sit on at all. Ah. That’s our plans scuppered then. ‘It was the council’ the barman told us. ‘They told us we had to choose between standing or seating outside – so we went for standing.’ ‘When was this?’ we enquired. ‘Five years ago’ he replied. OK. No sunny beers for us then.

Interior of Cross KeysSo we took a seat inside the dimly lit pub, next to the fan and open window where we could gaze at the hot world outside. It was probably for the best anyway – that sun and 32 degree heat was harsh.

The pub itself is a tiny one-bar pub, with small lamps lining the walls above the dark red leather seats, providing a red glow. The pub is covered in clutter – photos, mirrors, brass ornaments, everything you can think of. It’s beautiful.Brodies beers

We ended up staying in the pub for a few hours (some time was spent standing outside, it wasn’t all in the dark), during which time I worked my way through the Brodies range on offer at the bar and started over again. There were 4 Brodies beers available – Citra, London Fields Pale Ale, Bethnal Green Bitter, and Old Street Pale, plus a Windsor and Eton Guardsman. The Citra was only 3.1% and was just what I needed – light, lemony, refreshing, very neckable and not strong at all – wonderful citrus hop flavours for its low ABV. London Fields Pale Ale, 4%, had a hint of smokiness to it and was also quite citrussy (lots of US hops) – this also went down well. Bethnal Green Bitter at 4% was quite a dark bitter, and although pleasant enough, it was a touch too malty for me, I was on a hop kick. Then the Old Street Pale Ale gave me back the hops I was after, a 5.0% American Pale Ale loaded with Simcoe and Citra – lovely. It was hard to follow this, so when I went for the W&E Guardsman next it didn’t do it for me – another best bitter, tangy, malty. I guess I just needed hops at that point. Lots of them. It was one of those days.

Outside Cross Keys

Lamb and FlagWe then headed down the road to the Lamb and Flag. It was heaving as always, this time with the after work crowd. The alleyway and courtyard outside was filled with men in suits – well, shirts; it was too hot for suits. This low wooden beamed pub, the oldest in Covent Garden (if not in all of London) dates back to the 17th century and is very atmospheric with lots of dark wood, mirrors and panelling. Charles Dickens apparently used to frequent the establishment. It used to be pretty violent –  its nickname was the Bucket of Blood.

This Fullers pub had several of their beers on offer: London Pride, ESB, Chiswick Bitter, etc. I went for their seasonal Wild River, another APA with lots of West Coast US hops including Willamette and the ubiquitous Citra hop. Very nice.

Beer boardWe then moved on to Smithfield, where a couple of minutes’ walk from the Barbican/Farringdon Tubes is the Old Red Cow, right opposite the meat market. This is a 2-floor light and airy craft beer house, with loads of beers on draft and keg and a beer menu chalked up on the wall- one of the biggest selections in London they say. Again, busy with post-work drinkers, it was hard to get a seat (and far too hot to be sitting inside anyway) so we stood outside for a quick one before the train home. It was hard to choose just one beer from that massive selection, but I stuck with the light and citrus hop theme and went for a Buxton Special Pale Ale, 4.1%. Beautiful mellow flavours and full of Citra but not overpoweringly so; not top-heavy – it was really nicely balanced.

So that was that, time to catch the train home after a lovely day with friends. I’ll definitely return soon to some of these pubs – maybe the Old Red Cow first next time and try to work my way through their enormous range – but then again, if I do that then I probably won’t make it anywhere else…

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London for Beer Lovers

I recently wrote an article for Viator Travel about the beer scene in London, showing how it has been changing and developing in recent years. I mentioned some of the pubs and bars worth visiting for the best craft beers in the city, as well as a few to try. Here is part of the article – click here or the link at the bottom of the page to read the complete article on Viator.

London for Beer Lovers

Not so long ago London was seen as one of the worst beer cities in the country, with only a handful of breweries remaining, despite once being the brewing capital of the world and the birthplace of traditional beer styles such as porters, IPAs, and stouts. But now new beers and bars are starting to appear in every corner of the city as part of this craft beer explosion; there are now over 30 breweries in London, around 5 times more than in 2006, and this number is increasing rapidly.

Micro-breweries such as Redemption, Kernel, Brodie’s and Camden Town are experimenting with beer styles and creating a new wave of craft brews, making it an exciting time to sample what’s on offer, and London has something for everyone on a beery quest. Here are some ideas on where to find fine beer in London, which brews to try, and which breweries are worth a visit.

Craft Beer Pubs

The resurgence in brewing in London, which was partly due to the discerning drinker’s desire to try more diverse, well-produced, flavoursome beers rather than the mass-produced beers that dominated the industry, has brought about the opening of a whole new breed of bars and pubs. These craft beer establishments showcase quality beers from innovative local and regional breweries and also feature unusual beers from around the world.

The Craft Beer Company  — Nearest tube: Farringdon

Craft Beer Company

Photo credit: calflier001 via Flickr.

The Craft Beer Company on Leather Lane, off Holborn, is a great place to start your craft beer crawl. This Victorian pub was taken over only a year ago, but with its ever-changing beers sourced from some of the best microbreweries in the country it has become very popular very quickly.  There are 37 beers on tap including 16 cask and 21 keg taps, and beers range from the light and hoppy Camden Town Pale Ale and the full-favoured Dark Star Espresso Stout (around £3.95 a pint), to interesting German, Scandinavia and US hop monsters on keg (at around £3.95 for a half pint).

There are also over 300 bottles on sale, including many rare small-batch US artisan beers—you won’t find big US names like Flying Dog or Anchor here. The pub has been nicely restored; in the downstairs traditional but sleek bar there is a lavish mirrored ceiling and chandeliers, and upstairs there is a small light and airy lounge. It’s very easy to settle yourself down here on one of the comfy chairs, but it’s not so easy to leave.

The Euston Tap — Nearest tube: Euston

Euston Tap

Photo credit: Bernt Rostad via Flickr.

The Euston Tap is housed in a 19th century station gatehouse opposite Euston Station, and this miniscule square bar has an impressive beer list with about 8 beers on draft and 20 on keg, the names of which are scrawled on a blackboard behind the bar, plus shiny fridges lining the walls stocked with around 150 bottled beers.

It’s not cheap if you go for a US keg beer—a half pint can set you back around £3–4—but a pint of UK beer from micro-breweries such as Redemption (just up the road in Tottenham) should cost less than £4. It’s sparse inside and there isn’t much seating downstairs apart from a few stools—it’s more of a standing pub, inside and out—but up the steep spiral staircase you will find comfy sofas and a few tables. The pub also has a cute terrace, which can be a nice little suntrap in the summer. Despite its small size, the Tap has a kitchen and offers New York style pizzas so you can have something to munch on to soak up some of the beer. It’s great spot to stop off when waiting for your train. Just be aware that you’ll probably end up missing it.

READ FULL ARTICLE  (link takes you to Viator Travel)

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