OLD COFFEE HOUSE – LONDON

Old Coffee House
Beak Street
London
W1F 9SF

SIXTH VISIT: THURSDAY 19 JUNE 2014

A couple of beers before heading back to Wiltshire. The Brodie’s keg taps were buggered so I had to settle for the cask options, fortunately they were plentiful and varied. I decided to kick off proceedings with a Shoreditch Sunshine, which I must confess was pretty dang tasty. Before entering the pub I’d bought Julian Cope’s debut novel. I read the first chapter as I supped my Sunshine. Hmmm… the book certainly wasn’t as instantly as great as the beer was. I’d happily drink Shoreditch Sunshine again but I’m not sure I’ll ever read beyond chapter one of One Three One. From outside I could hear someone shouting something that I couldn’t make out but it sounded like the shouter had an Irish accent, perhaps a slightly comically exaggerated one. I assumed it was just some random street inspired nonsense but then the barman shouted back. It quickly emerged that there was some Sectarian abuse getting hurled back and forth but it was obvious from the genuine smile on the barman’s face and the warmth and humour in both the voices that it was a bit of good natured banter. Shortly after the shouting had subsided the barman came across and told me wasn’t a bigot and the other voice belonged to a good friend who works in an actual coffee shop a few doors down.

I got a pint Kiwi – it was good, not as good as the Sunshine but very good enough. I tried to persevere with Cope novel but I had no real interest in battling with his excessively out-there and whacky writing style. I finished the Kiwi and was tempted to indulge in another pint of the Sunshine but time was ticking ever onwards and I’d arranged to meet someone for lunch in BrewDog Shoreditch.

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FIFTH VISIT: SUNDAY 15 JUNE 2014

The plan had been to catch the Raid double bill at the Prince Charles but as we hadn’t been insightful enough to buy tickets in advance our entry was barred as it had sold out. What a bummer. So we went for some Chinese food then headed to the Old Coffee House to sink a beer while we made a plan for the rest of the evening. I opted for a pint of Elderflower Sour. Brodie’s truly are the Masters of Sour. While we consumed our beer we half heartedly watched a World Cup match on the big screen. I think it was Switzerland v Ecuador. I have a vague recollection that it had an excitedly climatic finish. The game was done the same time as our beers. The decision had been made to head south of the river. First stop: Stormbird.

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FOURTH VISIT: SUNDAY 20 APRIL 2014

Yet another weekend in London draws to a close and yet again I find myself in the Old Coffee House.

Out to the east the Bunny Basher was ramping up for another day of excess. I wanted to revel in its splendour yet again but I knew that in the grand scheme of things to do so would be a bad idea. I’m getting old and consequently bad ideas are less appealing than they once were. But if I couldn’t go to the Bunny Basher I could do the next best thing – visit Brodie’s Old Coffee House!

A few beers and perhaps a burger or maybe a pile of sausage and mash was the plan. It was only a few minutes past high noon but all the tables were already occupied. The plan was immediately altered to sit at the bar and drink – no real disaster. As usual there was a grand array of Brodie’s beers available – several on keg and several more on cask. Even though it was afternoon the fact that I hadn’t eaten anything yet meant that it was still, theoretically, breakfast time. I ordered a Chinook Coffee IPA. Just a half in case it was too heavy going for a first drink of the day. Nope. It was delicious and it slide down perfectly. Ten minutes later I ordered my second half.

As is often the case in the OCH football was on the telly. A couple of Liverpool fans were getting excited about the possibility of their team winning the League for the first time since the pass back rule was invented. Two halves of the Chinook Coffee IPA had now been consumed. I was experiencing a nice little buzz. I couldn’t quite tell if it was the alcohol or the coffee. Perhaps it was both. Once again my mind was turning to food. But still all the tables were occupied. I wasn’t sure if the OCH allow their customers to eat at the bar, and even if they do I’m not really that kind of man. I’d have to skip lunch and keep on the breakfast trip. As everybody knows, the key components of a good breakfast are coffee and bacon, which made my next beer choice easy: Half a Chinook Coffee IPA and half a Chinook Bacon IPA – breakfast in a glass… well, two glasses. One of the Liverpool fans sidled up to the bar and ordered a pint of Stella and while he awaited the arrival of his beverage we made eye contact, which must have made he feel like he had to speak to me. He asked what team I supported. I replied Raith Rovers. Cool he said. But his expression suggested he wasn’t sure if Raith are a real football team. They are from Scotland and they are not Rangers or Celtic so in many people’s eyes they aren’t a real football team. My two IPAs were going down beautifully: a bite of bacon followed by a gulp of coffee – yum! When the Bacon was down to about a quarter of the half I tricked in a few drops of the Coffee – it wasn’t a total success but my attempt at brewing without brewing made me smile. With my first breakfast out of the way I decided to indulge in a second breakfast: half a Coffee IPA and a bag of pork scratchings.

While sitting there a thought popped into my head: Although I love drinking beer with good people I really love drinking alone, and I actually feel a little bit sorry for people who don’t enjoy drinking alone in a pub. I idly glanced around to see if anybody else appeared to be drinking alone – perhaps they’d like to join me. I spied a solitary Brodie’s branded coffee mug lurking behind the bar. Now there’s a piece of beer-related merch that I wouldn’t mind owning.

A group of lads arrived. One of them pointed at the Brodie’s keg font and asked if they were lagers. The Scottish barman said ‘No. These are craft beers. Those are the lagers’ and he waved his hand towards the end of the bar. I don’t know why but hearing him utter ‘craft beers’ made me chuckle to myself.

Time was ticking away. Liverpool had stopped playing football and a team who used to be from south of the river had started playing football. I needed to leave. If I didn’t leave soon it was highly unlikely I would leave until I was pretty much unable to leave in a respectable manner. I ordered a final Chinook Coffee IPA. It truly is one of the finest beers I have encountered in many moon. And with that one gone it really was time to go.

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THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 13 APRIL 2014

Another trip to London ends in the Old Coffee House. Once again the football was on and once again nobody seemed to paying it much attention. This time I managed to discover more of the oddities that grace the walls: an Ali v Cooper, which took place at Highbury, ticket stub; a signed photo of Pele; a framed Garth Brooks CD – WTF!

My drink of choice was a pint of Brodie’s excellent Awesomestowe IPA. I was tempted to go for a Chinook Bacon but decided to play it safe. Bloody wimp that I am. The pint was gulped down. I said goodbye to my companions and stepped out onto the mean streets of Soho.

If I lived in London I’d spend a lot of time in the Old Coffee House.

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SECOND VISIT: SUNDAY 23 FEBRUARY 2014

48 hours after arriving in London I was in the Old Coffee House to bring the weekend to a close. The football was on but nobody was paying much attention to it apart one woman who occasionally got excited when Norwich came close to increasing their lead. She is probably a Gooner.

As usual there was a wide selection of keg and cask beer from Brodie’s available. I decided to start of proceedings with a pint of Hoxton IPA – a beer I’ve had a few times and always found very enjoyable. Time was ticking away. It wasn’t exactly late but I still had 2+ hours of travelling ahead of me and the weekend’s adventures had left me feeling very tired. But there was time for one final beer. Better make it a big one. Only Human (13%) was just about big enough.

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FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 31 JANUARY 2014

I love the Old Coffee House. I love its weird artwork. I love its wartime motivational posters. I love its signed Kiss photograph. I love its guitar that is signed by people whose names I can’t make out. I love its ancient clocking-in machine. I love its rickety staircase down to the bogs. I love its adverts for food products that no longer exist. I even love its semi-legendary Scottish barman. But most of all I love the Old Coffee House because it sells a fantastic range of Brodie’s Beers.

I was in London because at 9am the next morning I was flying to Stuttgart for a Slim Cessna’s Auto Club gig. I was in the Old Coffee House because, as everybody knows, there is no point getting up at 6am to catch a flight if you don’t have at least a bit of a hangover (or are still drunk). By the time I rocked up it was just after 4pm and all the tables were already taken (do Londoners work on Friday afternoons?) so I grabbed a spot at the bar and ordered a pint of Hackney Red. I think I must have been weirdly seduced by the word Hackney because usually I avoid red ales. But it was great. Admittedly, it’s a Brodie’s beer so it wasn’t likely to be anything else. Next up I ordered a pint of Mild and a half of the Oyster Tea Stout. The Mild was flavour packed and very probably the best mild I’ve encountered. The Oyster Tea Stout was weird. At first I thought it was amazing. Then I thought there was something wrong with it. Then I thought it was astounding. Then I thought I’d inadvertently pissed off the barman and he’d slipped a few drops of drain cleaner into my beer. Then I was back to thinking it was great. Weird as fuck! I want to drink it again. I need to drink it again.

Time was against me. I had to be somewhere else. I said my goodbyes. The semi-legendary Scottish barman said ‘Cheers, pal. See you again, eh, Chief.’ Perfect.

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KING WILLIAM THE FOURTH – LONDON

King William The Fourth Leyton
High Road
London
E10 6AE

FRIDAY 18 APRIL 2014

The Bunny Basher is the annual beer festival that Brodie’s host in their King William The Fourth pub, which is located in the wilds of Leyton, which is out where the tubes don’t run. Easter 2014 was witnessing the fifth edition of BB and it was being touted as the biggest and best yet… we’ll see, we’ll see…

The plan was to be there as soon as the doors opened but the plan didn’t come to fruition. Plans often end up in the bin when you drink until 4am. But we were still there not too long after midday. And we even managed to stop off for breakfast. We secured a table and awaited the arrival of those crazy kids who are collectively known as the Craft Wanker Elite. The King William is a great pub. I won’t bore you with the minor details but suffice to say it doesn’t look like the kind of pub you should go in unless you are an extremely hard bastard or you know at least twelve people who have each drunk there for thirty years… or if there’s a great beer festival on. I’ve only been to the King William twice and both times it was on Bunny Basher duty so I’ve no idea what the clientele is like under normal conditions but during the Easter weekend it is home to fantastic cross section of the alcohol consuming world: lager scoopers, whisky sippers, gin guzzlers, beer geeks, CAMRA spods, dilettantes and dalliancers. As I said, it a great pub.

My Untappd records reveal that I had 13 beers (I may have had more). Here’s the list annotated with a three word review for each beer:

Dry Hoppin’ Mad Sorachi Ace (5.5%) – needs more sorachi
Brodenbach Grand Cru (5%) – a slight letdown
London Sour Blackcurrant (3.7%) – like sour ribena
Kentish Town Oud Bruin (5%) – grand cru plus
Bacon Chinook IPA – (6%) – a prefect brunch
Baby Mild Vanilla & Coconut (2.7%) – vanilla ice cream
Elderflower Lager (4.5%) – odd but refreshing
Big Mofo Stout (10.5%) – getting serious now
Citra (3.1%) – slow down pint
Mocha Milk Stout Naga Chili (9%) – this is sublime
Jamaican Stour Chili (5.4%) – not quite naga
Ghost Face Killah (5%) – not for sale
Elizabethan (22%) – time to go

I would’ve happily stayed until kicking out time but we had a prior engagement at the jazz club what Stewart Lee saved… maybe we could find a Nando’s en route.

Matt Curtis of Total Ales has written a great Bunny Basher review – go read it!