KING’S ARMS – LONDON

King’s Arms
11A Buckfast Street
London
E2 6EY

SEVENTH VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014

SIXTH VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014

FIFTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014

FOURTH VISIT: SUNDAY 4 MAY 2014

No thanks to you, a detour along Bethnal Green Road had taken me to the King’s Arms where I finally purchased a can of Westbrook’s White Thai. It was alright. Pleasant enough. But at the end of the day it is still a wheat beer and wheat beers aren’t really brewed for me. Nice can though. My travelling companion was feeling a tad under the weather and needed some fresh air. But I couldn’t resist the pull of the gnome and returned to the bar for a half of Hobblen Chouffe. But I’m not a total scumbag so I scooped it down a new world record time of no hours, no minutes and no seconds.

THIRD VISIT: SATURDAY 19 APRIL 2014

I wandered past Rough Trade East but they were queuing out the door – evidently that guy who used to be in Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized is more popular than I thought. I wandered past BDShoreditch but it was rammed – not quite queuing out the door rammed but rammed. I wandered past the Well & Bucket but it was rammed – not quite BDShoreditch rammed but rammed. Thankfully, the King’s Arms was quiet – not empty quiet but quiet.

As usual there was a great selection of beers available. The one that caught my eye the most was Custard Pie by Magic Rock and Toccalmatto. I like beer. I like custard. I like pie. How could I not like a beer called Custard Pie! And you know what? It does taste like a custard pie. Not all the way through, just a little bit on the finish but it is definitely there. Custard Pie Beer. Genius!

Once again I’d found myself in the King’s Arms and once again I’d found myself wanting a can of Westbrook White Thai but once again I had to leave before getting a chance to have one. Next time I’m in the King’s I’m having a can of White Thai – DO NOT LET ME FORGET, thank you.

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SECOND VISIT: SATURDAY 12 APRIL 2014

A busy day. I’d been south of the river. North of the river. Beyond the confines of the M25. Back within the M25. North of the river. South of the river. And now, once again, north of the river.

When I arrived in the King’s I was informed I only had time for one beer as we would soon be departing on a quest for food. Bummer. I didn’t even bother scanning the beer board as I’d already been told that Earl of Denmark – a collab between Mikkeller and Earls (the brewing arm of the Earl of Essex up N1) – was on and tasting great. I’d been in the Earl of Essex the night before but the beer had failed to make an appearance by the time I departed at 8, despite tweets stating it would be on by the early evening. It tasted great. I would’ve happily bedded in for the night and had as many pints of it as possible. But friendship is a democracy so I had to go with the majority and leave.

Buckfast

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FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2014

Alight at Shoreditch High Street. Walk east along Bethnal Green Road. Pass BrewDog. Pass the well and bucket. Walk a bit further. Then a little bit more. Take a right into Buckfast (Tonic Wine) Street and there you will find the Shoreditch’s best kept secret. It’s a nice space. A traditional London boozer that sells quality beer. The bar occupies most of the man room but tables line the perimeter and there are some barstools. The back room is the place to head if you want to be (mildly) boisterous or conspiratorial. The walls are lined with framed butterflies and moths. Not pictures of butterflies and moth but actual butterflies and moths. I’m not sure if there is an actual reason for such decoration or if the owners just thought it would look cool, which it does. As is becoming the norm, beers are listed on a beer board.

We took up residence at one of the front room tables. Unfortunately, the bench that runs along the length of the wall is rather thin and I quickly realised that I would not be able to get comfortable. But if you’ve got toned buttocks (unlike me) and don’t slouch (which I do) you’ll probably be fine. My opening gambit was a My Antonia by Birra del Borgo (originally brewed in collaboration with Dogfish Head). It’s a beer that I’d only previously enjoyed from a bottle. The bottles are delicious but the draught adds a whole new dimension to it but perhaps that’s only because I had a whole pint of it. I was getting way too uncomfortable so we relocated to a couple of stools at the bar. Despite the place have a decent amount if people in there wasn’t so many that we would be causing any annoyance by choosing to sit there. We ordered a couple of Old Freddy Walkers (a 7.3% Old Ale from Moor). As we suspected it was served too cold (the curse of keg) so we ordered a couple of pints of Birra del Borgo’s Cortigiana to allow it some time to warm. Even after we’d consumed the Cortigiana the OFW was still too chilly. We gave it a bit of hug. And a little bit more time. But it still wasn’t at the temperature that it should’ve been at. But we gulped it down anyway. There were plenty more beers that I fancied but I needed to get my south of the river.

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WHITE SWAN – LONDON

White Swan
Upper Street
London
N1 1RY

SECOND VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014

Another pre-gig trip to the Swan. Tonight’s gig of choice was Future of the Left at the garage. Tonight’s beers of choice were a can of Bengali Tiger and a pint of Devil’s Backbone IPA. We sat on the outside terrace and waffled pish and when the beers were gone we pissed of to the Garage.

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FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 2014

The White Swan is a big cavernous Spoons located a short stroll from the Emirates Stadium. If you are an Arsenal fan I’m sure it’s a great place to hang out on match days. I like the fact it is deep in Gooner territory and has the word white in the its name. It’s almost as amusing as The Cock being the first pub you encounter when you live Highbury & Islington tube station.

We were here because we were attending the Neko Case gig across the road at the Union Chapel. Theoretically we only had time for one beer but thanks to technical problems at the venue we ending up having enough time for three beers. Every single one of those beers was a can of Bengali Tiger.

BREWDOG (SHOREDITCH) – LONDON

BrewDog Shoreditch
51-55 Bethnal Green Road
London
E1 6LA

EIGTH VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014

SEVENTH VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014

I was meeting a mate for lunch but I’d arrived in Shoreditch slightly too early. Two choices: go straight to the Well & Bucket (our lunch destination) or nip into a BrewDog for a swift two thirds of something. I’m always eager to grasp at every opportunity to flash my Equity For Punks card so BrewDog it was. After an initial read through of the beer board I had a shortlist of three: the Russian Doll Pale, IPA or DIPA. I decided to go middle of the road and ordered am IPA. It was good – decent mouthful of chewy hops with a nice oily bitterness but it’s not quite the taste sensation that Jackhammer currently is.

A customer approached the bar and ordered some drinks. The barman gave him a price. The customer asked if the shareholder’s discount had been applied. The barman apologised and said ‘you’ve been coming here for months so I really should remember that you’re a shareholder.’ The customer replied ‘you served me ten minutes so, yeah, you really should have remembered.’ The barman gave a nervous laugh. The customer remained stoic. I was tempted to see if the barman remembered I’m a shareholder but decided that it would piss me off too much if he didn’t.

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SIXTH VISIT: FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 2014

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FIFTH VISIT: THURSDAY 19 JUNE 2014

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FOURTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014

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THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 4 MAY 2014

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SECOND VISIT: WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2012

So here I was back in BrewDog Shoreditch on a Wednesday but it wasn’t quite the afternoon as I had planned and hoped for. The place was reasonably quiet. Most of the tables were occupied but a few were still devoid of people. I went straight for a pint of Punk. My friend paid for the drinks. The server remembered him from previous visits and remembered that he was a shareholder, which is a nice touch. I can’t think of any beer – in the craft beer world – that is debated and discussed and dissed and dissected as much as Punk. Sometimes it is great. Sometimes it is rubbish Thankfully, this was a quality pint of Punk. When the Punk’s were dead I returned to the bar. The place was getting busier. There were two folk working behind the bar and they were both serving. A third member of staff appeared with glasses in his hands. He put the glasses down but instead of asking what I would like he started chatting to a woman at the end of the bar. It was apparent from their body language that they were a couple. After a minute or so he asked what I would like. I was tempted to say ‘someone who serves customers before they chat to their girlfriend’ but I merely asked for two Gonger IPA. I’d never had a beer by Stronzo before. I’m not even sure if I had heard of them before. The Gonger was good in a slightly weird way. Chewy and brown leafy was what I wrote for my Untappd check-in. We were sitting by the door. For some reason whenever anybody came in they left the door open even though it was closed when they got there. It wasn’t exactly freezing but it was still an annoying development. At the table next to us a member of staff was conducting a mini beer school and she kept getting up and closing the door, which saved me having to do it. I returned to the bar for a final beer – Blitz! Raspberry. This time it was a painless transaction. But I shouldn’t have bothered as the beer tasted dangerously close to vinegar.

I’m still not in love with BDShoreditch.

BDShore

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FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2014

I’ve visited every BrewDog bar south of Burton-upon-Trent and Shoreditch is the only one I’ve not entirely taken to. It’s the only one where the other customer’s seem to think they are more important than everyone else in the bar. It’s the only one where the staff have seemed more concerned with flirting with their colleagues than providing the excellent service that is prevalent in other BrewDog bars. But, hey, we can all be a bit of dick on occasion and we all like a bit of an ego boost every now and again. Perhaps I’ve just been unfortunate in the past. Perhaps this visit would be different… Oh! Hold on. I would be arriving at the same time that all the trade session attendees would be getting booted out of Craft Beer Rising.

I arrived shortly after five thirty to find the place busy but not uncomfortably rammed. I snaked through the throng and found a spot at the bar. A cheery and attentive member of staff sidled straight over and enquired about my beer based needs. So far so good. I ordered a pint of Punk and a couple of Lumberjacks (order them at 5.30pm and they are just about warm enough to drink when breakfast rolls around). I flashed my EFP Card and didn’t have to remind him to apply the discount when he returned from the till and quoted a price. Even further and still good. I slowly supped my Punk while I awaited the arrival of my cohort. There was no way I was going to fight my way back through the swelling crowd with three drinks and reasonably sized bag without spilling a drop so I held court at the far end of the bar. It was a silent court but I held it well. The bar staff served new arrivals promptly and explained and chatted when that course of action was required. In those rare moments that no beers required pouring and the bar was clean and tidy the staff chatted amongst themselves but no backs were turned to the audience and whenever service was required they stopped mid conversation and happily stepped forward, which was good to see.

My drinking companion for the next few days arrived and relieved me off a couple of glasses then vanished into the melee. The place was getting full towards bursting and I was now swimming against a crowd a drunken craft beer enthusiasts. It always saddens me that people trying to get to the bar don’t realise it makes more sense to let people away from the bar first. Sadly I was saddened by such a scenario in Shoreditch. But I made it to my destination with my beer and my anger intact. The world is generally a better looking place when viewed from a booth table in an busy bar. We sat and chatted for 90 minutes or so. I happily worked my way through a Libertine and an 8 Wired Rewired before, finally, the Lumberjack was at an acceptable drinking temperature… it was worth the wait. Before leaving the premises I politely pushed my way to the gents where I encountered a couple of guys taking photographs of the record sleeve artwork that adorns the walls. Weird but preferable to folk shagging or snorting coke. As I departed I gave the bar a brief examination. People were queuing two or three deep. The staff appeared to be serving with speed and compassion. Nice.

I still wasn’t totally won over by BrewDog Shoreditch but my previous problems with the staff were fully exorcised. And I know I will return. Perhaps I’ll see how they cope with a Wednesday afternoon visit. Maybe then I can declare my love to the world.

BEER HOUSE (PADDINGTON) – LONDON

Beer House (Paddington)
Platform 11
Paddington Station
London
W2 1HA

SECOND VISIT: SUNDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2014

My train was ‘delayed’ so I decided to pop into this place and have a beer while keeping an eye on the train boards. The draught beer was unenticing – Meantime stuff or GK Noble or a £6 pint of 5AM Saint. I looked in the fridges and spotted nice neat rows of Camden Town Hells. In honour of my favourite beer writer, Matthew Curtis, I decided to buy a bottle. After much tapping at his EPOS, coupled with a look of mild anguish, the bartender told me that it was £5.05 a bottle but there was a special on which meant I could get two bottles for seven quid. I was on my own and didn’t really fancy two bottles but even though it meant spending an extra £1.95 it made more fiscal sense to get two bottles. I poured one of the bottles and had a few gulps. It was okay. It was arguably better than okay. It is certainly one of the better lagers that you can easily purchase in central London. I looked at the train boards and the ‘Delayed’ had changed to ‘On Time’. Fucking hell. I had five minutes to down two bottles of Hells then make it over to Platform 4. Obviously, I made it with a couple of minutes to spare.

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FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2014

The Beer House is effectively a train station waiting room. But a train station waiting room that sells expensive beer. For a few years it was known as the Isambard and in those days the most exotic drink you could acquire was a pint of Guinness. Even then the beer was 50p more expensive per pint than Paddington station’s other pub, the Mad Bishop & Bear. The current incarnation sells Brooklyn Lager and 5AM Saint and a revolving selection of Meantime offerings. The rise in the quality of the beer range has also seen a rise in prices. You’ll be lucky if your pint comes furnished with any change from a fiver. Actually, you’ll probably have to hand over some coins with your crumpled blue note. A pint of 5AM Saint cost £5.60 (or it did back in May 2013 – it might have gone up!) Decor wise, the place is dark and uninspiring. There’s a big telly that usually shows the news or sport (sound down, subtitles on) and free wi-fi but other than that the place makes no real attempt to coax you to stick around for anything other a quick bite to eat and a swift pint or two. The toilets can only be accessed if you know the secret code. But the bar staff seem happy to give the code to people who have asked politely to use the loo but not actually bothered buying a drink. Despite the inflated prices and the fact that it has nothing to recommend it, I still enjoy having a beer or two in the Beer House. Probably because it’s dark. Like my heart.

I ordered a half of Meantime’s Smoked Porter, which I didn’t think was particularly smoked or porterish but it was decent enough. I also had a £2.00 pork pie, which looked like it was an Asda Smart Price Mini Pork Pie and had next to no flavour. The Colman’s mustard helped jazz it up. Pie dispatched and beer downed it was time to go as the 1536 to Cheltenham Spa (via Swindon) was departing in less than three minutes.

CAFE OTO – LONDON

Café Oto
Ashwin Street
London
E8 3DL

SECOND VISIT: SATURDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2014

Momus does David Bowie karaoke…

I fell asleep and missed at least half of the gig. I was given a bottle of Kernel something-or-other. I put it under my seat for safekeeping while I had a little snooze but by the time I woke up it wasn’t there. Either I knocked it over or my mate decided I didn’t need it and consequently claimed it for himself, which is fair enough.

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FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014

Momus does Howard Devoto karaoke…

MAD BISHOP & BEAR – LONDON

Mad Bishop & Bear
1st Floor
Paddington Station
London
W2 1HB

SECOND VISIT: SUNDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2014

I’d missed a train by a few minutes and now had almost an hour to wait for the next one… may as well go for a pint. Sadly, the beer choice was a little poor: no Bengal Lancer, no Chiswick and no interesting looking guests. I settled for a pint of Wild River. It’s a decent enough pale ale but it’s at least 215 miles away from the being in the same realm as Gamma Ray. The comfy seats were all taken so I plonked my ass down on one of the high stools near the door. Nothing exciting happened. I didn’t even see any skanky pigeons pecking at crumbs on the floor. I had no desire to drink another Wild River or any of the other beers on sale so I rode the escalator back to the platform level.

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FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2014

Ride the escalators up from Yo Sushi and the statue of Paddington Bear and you will arrive at the Fullers operated Mad Bishop & Bear. It’s a big place. It looks and (to a certain extent) feels like a pub from days gone by. Beer is cheaper up here than it is down on at station level and the staff are usually polite and full of smiles. As far a train station bars go it is pretty decent. Despite it’s size, if you arrive anywhere near the peak times for getting your ass out of London it can be difficult to get a table as most of them are occupied by lone travellers. They sit in their own little bubble, tapping away at phone screens, slowing sipping a pint or a white wine spritzer. I’m sure most of them are texting their partner and once again bemoaning that the meeting has overrun or the trains are delayed.

I ordered a pint of Fuller’s Frontier Lager. It was alright. Certainly a lot better than GK’s attempt at a craft lager. I watched some skanky pigeons pecking at crumbs on the floor. I was tempted to make their day by chucking them a whole cheese n onion crisp but decided I needed it more. I sent a text to my partner. And left.