Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Circle Line Pub Crawl - September 2012

Another re-publish post, this time from Emma's (friends only) Live Journal. We thought a wider audience might appreciate it, so here it is in all its glory.

The Circle Line Challenge – September 2012

This pub-based challenge was inspired by a book one of my colleagues loaned me about a man who decided to walk every tube line but over ground instead of underground. When the author came to do the walk for the circle line he opted instead to do the circle line pub crawl: 27 stations, 27 pubs.

Obviously I’d heard about this pub crawl before I read the book but it’s something I have always written off as impossible (with my sensible head on). But this book relit my fire. I liked too many of the elements (walking around London, drinking, visiting new pubs, challenging myself) to say no.

However, it’s been disappointing how many supposedly mature and intelligent people I know who have utterly missed the point of me wanting to do this challenge. It’s about getting round the whole circle line and visiting 27 pubs in one day. It’s NOT about having 27 pints (or even 27 alcoholic drinks) in one day. It’s no secret to those who know me well: I like a drink. But I’m not a moron. Once I'd accepted doing the circle line crawl with a limited alcohol intake it became a challenge of logistics and timing...

If anyone thinks I’m weak/wussy/whatever to do this thing without having 27 drinks then feel free to stop reading now. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from friends and acquaintances who tried having a drink at every stop. As a Biomedical Scientist I disapprove of drinking that much alcohol in one day. And finally, I’m too bloody old for that kind of stupid now. I’ve made my peace with my decision and I feel like a grown up. :)

Here’s how we did it... ‘we’ being Chris and I, plus various friends and colleagues of mine who dipped in and out of the challenge at various points.

*indicates I’ve not visited this pub before

The drinks listed were consumed by me. The descriptions of breweries were for the benefit of friends reading my personal blog, where this report was originally posted.

1. ST PANCRAS/KINGS CROSS – The Betjeman Arms* (St Pancras)
½ pint Adnams Explorer
(this brewery is in Suffolk, they make lots of tasty ales which are increasingly appearing on tap in pubs)

Chris and I were properly organised for this mission. We got up at 7am (on a Saturday), arrived at the station for 9.30am, to allow plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast, followed by additional coffee, some wandering around, and gawping at people. The ‘people watching’ at this station is great as it has train departures to the Olympic stadium, plus Eurostar trains, mainline trains and tube.

It still surprises me how many people are bang on it, knocking back pints of crappy lager, at 11am. When choosing pubs for this station we thought long and hard about kicking things off in the champagne bar or one of the other swanky bars up on the grand terrace (upper level of the station where the Eurostar trains depart from). But in the end, good sense prevailed and we picked an ‘ordinary pub’ instead.

Beckie met us here just after 11am, making it three of us starting the epic challenge. I receive a pair of apologies from other participants who would be joining us later. Clearly, 11am is too early a start for some people even with there is Serious Business involved. Tut tut. We opted to walk to the next station instead of using the tube, to enjoy some fresh air.

2. EUSTON SQUARE – The Bree Louise
½ pint Wandle (a local London brewery, located south of the river, not too far from where we live)

We pick up a stalker, in the shape of Neil, on our way to the pub, so now we are four. :) I used to visit this pub ten years back with my classmates from Birkbeck College when it was called the Jolly Gardener. It is now a CAMRA award winning pub which serves LOTS of real ales and ciders. Sadly for us, the bar staff were super slow in pouring our pints, which cost us five minutes of standing around at the bar empty-handed. We sit outside and enjoy the grey, yet mild weather before walking on to the next station since this was faster than going back to the tube station.

Diet coke, annoyingly flat

Sensible behaviour prevails – we all have a coke in this non-descript pub then cross the road to the tube station.

4. BAKER STREET – The Metropolitan Bar*
½ pint of Salopian Lemon Dream (Shropshire brewery)

Another handy location – this pub is right above the station. It’s a Wetherspoons pub, which means: cheap prices and a choice of real ales. They often have attractive locations for their pubs too and this one is no exception, very light and airy. I’m thinking I’ll probably go back here at some point. I have a really nice beer, a bit like Hoegaarden, except lemony. Lots of beers taste ‘citrusy’ due to their hops, this one tastes properly like a lemon-flavoured beer. I strongly approve. We’d had a good Salopian ale at the Great British Beer Festival, so I was excited to see one of theirs in a pub. Then it’s back underground.

5. EDGEWARE ROAD – The Windsor Castle*
½ pint Adnams Broadside

Now in a part of London I’m unfamiliar with, I use a map to find this 5 star rated pub. Always wanted to visit this pub, but never got round to it before. It’s very, very quaint. Almost every surface in the pub is crammed with royalist memorabilia, including the ceilings. It’s fascinating. The chap who served us requested that we use beer mats for our glasses. SO CUTE. Good job we came here while we were civilised and sober. Paul rings to say he is at the tube station. He seems very confident he can find the pub without me giving full directions. Then he calls back five minutes later to say he is lost. We collect him as we leave this pub and head to the next one on foot. I think it was at this pub that Tom got in touch to say he was getting on the tube soon, or something like that. But my spidey-senses informed me that this interchange wasn’t going to go smoothly.

6. PADDINGTON – The Victoria
½ pint of Blue Moon, in adorable Blue Moon half pint glasses.

Ems and Neil enjoying the ambience in The Victoria

Tom rings just as I am trying to order a round. I make Chris take the call and break the shocking news to him that when attempting to meet up with a bunch of people doing a pub crawl (where time is a key element), you may have to travel ahead of them and wait in a pub further along instead of trying to get to the pub they are already drinking in/about to leave in the next 5-10 minutes.

Again, there was a bit of self-indulgence here – this pub is not right next to Paddington but it’s such a nice place I couldn’t help but include it on the tour. A friend held their 30th birthday party here a few years back and I took a shine to it back then.

I was planning on a soft drink here but caved when I saw they had Blue Moon. The very nice girl behind the bar was fascinated with our quest and whilst looking over my list of proposed pubs told us that one of our choices is actually closed for refurbishment. She also suggested we get a bus instead of walking/getting the tube. I’m feeling full of happiness and good cheer and yet at the same time, thinking shit: we haven’t even completed ¼ of the route yet.

7. BAYSWATER – The King’s Head*
Diet cokes all round & excess amounts of crisps

I don’t know this area all that well either. Luckily the pub is right by the tube and is surprisingly empty for this time on a Saturday afternoon. Tom is waiting there already with a phone charger for me - all this 'checking in' and tagging the participants on facebook is killing my battery. The guy behind the bar is possibly too attentive. :/  Luckily we are leaving soon. Back onto the tube.

8. NOTTING HILL GATE – The Prince Albert*
½ pint of Fruli & more crisps

Again, I don’t know this area which I demonstrate by getting momentarily lost thanks to confusing tfl signs. Chris thinks he knows where the pub is, yet that doesn’t stop him enabling my poor directional skills. LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY y/y? I got a bit fatigued by my cat herding role at this point. We find the pub, 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Whoops. Probably only lost five minutes in the process. The pub is a typical gastropub. *shrug* I put my contact lenses in, feel more with it but realise I need a soft drink interlude. Back onto the tube. Are we heading eastbound now instead of west? I think so!

9. HIGH STREET KENSINGTON – The Elephant & Castle*
Sparking water – so needed, so refreshing

We stand outside in the sun and an 18 year old Dalmatian licks my shoe. My colleague Sarah arrives and her first words are, ‘Emma, you’re looking a bit tired.’ I find this offensive. Call me old-fashioned, but I tend to say ‘hello’ and/or ‘how are you?’ before offering my friends some abuse. Paul disappeared to get a pasty, for which we harass him as he is trying to go from veggie to vegan. His argument that it is a wholemeal pasty does nothing to stop me shouting that you can’t make pastry without butter. At this point we realise we are really behind for time (possibly because some people leave the pub to get a pasty when it’s their round?) and decide the roll two nearby stations into one. The tube is against us and we wait five mins for a train. :/

Flat water – I asked for sparkling, the guy behind the bar did not understand the concept. Tom gets to enjoy that hot chocolate he wanted last time we were here but was denied.

My friend, Deej (sadly unable to join us today) works at Imperial College which is round the corner from this pub so I’ve been here plenty of times. It’s an adequate pub in a very touristy area (this is where the Royal Albert Hall, Science Musuem, V&A, and Natural History Museums are). Sarah tells us about a friend’s experience with the circle line crawl where passports, VISAs, clothing and house keys were lost. Again, I feel validated for not consuming alcohol at all stations. Back on the tube our luck for transport timing continues to be poor...

12. SLOANE SQUARE – Fox & Hounds*
G&T – I need perking up!

Our original choice of The Antelope is closed so Chris finds us another option, which turns out to be perfectly fine. This pub is in a residential area and as we approach it we fear it may be closed. But no, it’s just VERY posh and civilised and quiet. At this juncture, Chris and I begin to feel a bit defeated. We are really behind on time. It seems unlikely we can ever get round all 27 stations. Plus, we know that some of the ones in the city might not still be open when we get there. *sad face* We drink up and pile back on the tube asap.

13. VICTORIA – Namless Wetherspoons Pub
½ pint Darkstar Hophead & excess of crisps

Chris and I realise we don’t know the name of this pub even though we both use this station to commute home from work, so we probably walk past it most days... it transpires that it has no name. But being a Wetherspoons it does have a decent ale selection. We leave on foot, marching past aimless tourists toward our next twofer.

14. ST JAMES’S PARK & 15. WESTMINSTER – The Buckingham Arms*
Diet coke - staying in control of this thing :)

We are continually serenaded by a loud drunk here. Well, he’s actually serenading his drunken girlfriend, but his volume ensures the rest of the pub gets to enjoy it too. This pub is cute. I never socialise in this part of London. Chris repeatedly points out on our walk that it’s a boring area to work in. I smugly point out how pleasant it is to work in Bloomsbury. Not for the first time. We are skipping Westminster so it’s back on the tube to Embankment. Is there light at the end of the tunnel yet? I’m not sure.

16. EMBANKMENT – The Ship & Shovell
½ pint of Badger First Gold (a Dorset brewery – I <3 Badger beers)

Home made pork scratchings and Badger beers. WIN!
I <3 this pub too. So much so, that I arranged my first date with Chris here. Lots of fond memories. Including another one pointed out by Tom (the first time I visited the pub was with him) when I gave him a severe dressing down for shredding a pile of beer mats and leaving a mess for someone else to clean up. I believe it is the only pub in London which is on two sides of a street – it’s actually two separate pubs on either side of a street running under Charing Cross station. But never mind all of that stuff. It has HOMEMADE PORK SCRATCHINGS. NOM NOM NOM. Feeling a bit more energised now. It’s too far on foot, so we jump on the tube again.

17. TEMPLE – The George*
½ pint of ‘Sunspear’ (it wasn’t actually called Sunspear but it was pretty similar (we’re all GRRM fans) and I failed to record the name at the time of drinking it, whoops, it’s been a long day) & excess crisps + potato wedges

We planned on hitting The Edgar Wallace here but it’s closed. GAH. Bit of a funny one, Temple. Right on the north bank of the river, but also as its name suggests it’s in the area of Temple Church, the historical centre of English law. And much like the City of London, it can appear to be closed on weekends. The default for this station on ‘the traditional Circle line crawl’ is the Walkabout bar *shudder*. I really didn’t want to sink that low unless it was absolutely necessary. Eventually we elect to walk north through Temple and onto The Strand. We lose Sarah to her date at this point. She manages to escape without Paul and Tom, who were keen to join her and her date for dinner. Then Tom goes home because he’s feeling a bit tired.

ETA: There was this really nice moment where I realised that there was a teeny bit of communication difficulty due to mixing people with different accents together (Cumbrian, Bradfordian, Bristolian, Northern Irish, and whatever you want to call Tom and I... I guess Tom doesn't really have an accent, whereas I have a hint of Essex).

18. BLACKFRIARS – The Black Friar
Bottle of Blue Moon

We lose Beckie at this point, also for a date (why people can’t bring their dates along I do not know!). And then there were four. Love this pub, the decor inside is awesome. We sit outside as it is just about warm enough still. I get cross with having two gingers gushing about comics and ignoring me and feel tempted to split the group into separate ‘comic loving gingers’ and ‘non-gingers who are microbiologists’ factions at this point. Ok, so now we are faced with some decisions re. drinking in the City on a weekend. Time is getting tight now so we opt to roll three stations into one.

Diet coke, musn’t peak too soon!

For the umpteenth time, I bemoan The Banker being shut on weekends. *sad face* We resign ourselves to visiting an O’Neills. Urgh. These three stations really are very close to each other and the thought of finding three different pubs round here that are all open and not super lame just defeats me at this point. It’s been a long day and what I really want is to get to the end of this bloody circle and unwind a bit. It’s not been a relaxing day at all.

22. TOWER HILL & 23. ALDGATE – Bavarian Beer House*
Glass of white wine. Feels like a cop out but I didn’t fancy ANY of the beers on the menu.

Oof. Sad times when we see that The Cheshire Cheese is closed. Seriously, fuck the City of London. Possibly some of these pubs were open earlier in the day and I am a bit to blame for ending in the City, rather than starting there. We watch some of the Paralympics on TV. Time is ticking and we need to move on. My irritation in full force I vote that we skip Annoying Aldgate and head direct to Liverpool Street.

24. LIVERPOOL STREET & 25. MOORGATE – The Hamilton Hall
Diet coke, saving myself for some real ale at the next one

The pub I’d chosen for Liverpool St, The Lord Aberconway, was shut. I’ve been there on a Saturday afternoon before so can only assume it shuts early on Saturdays. RARRR. We fall back on the Wetherspoons in the station. Visiting the toilet I struggle to wash my hands as there are overdone girls piling on more slap at the sinks. I am sprayed with perfume against my will. ANNOYED! Paul disappears, returning with noodles, which he eats standing at the pub table. A glass collector tells him off for eating Outsider Food in the pub and then goes to tell his manager about it. Paul and the manager argue about whether one guy eating some noodles in an uber-transient Big Station-based Wetherspoons is really that much of a big deal... The advantage of a pub crawl is if you manage to piss off the staff in one pub you’ll leaving soon anyhow. Neil goes for restorative food. Chris and I hope that our next pub might still be serving food. *crossing fingers*

26. BARBICAN & 27. FARRINGDON – The Old Red Cow
½ pint of Somerland Gold

And relax... it’s done. But unfortunately the kitchen is closed. We don’t blame them as it’s after 10pm. This place is perfect for you if you love real ales and quality food. We had lunch here a few weeks back and we like it. A LOT. There are a few people in the small bar downstairs but we go upstairs where it’s dimly lit and one of staff is eating his dinner. We disturb him for our beers then he goes downstairs and we enjoy some peace and quiet. Paul has a really, REALLY nice smoked beer brewed by Robert Plant’s son**. He is super impressed by this fact. I broach the option of ‘closing the circle’ – when you do this pub crawl you’re meant to return to the station you started at for a final pint. We kid ourselves that St Pancras International is precisely that – international – and it’s not going to stop serving at 11pm, is it? IS IT? We go to find out...

**to this day we cannot definitively ID this beer. You might assume it was Beavertown’s Smog Rocket... Paul thinks not after I made him taste that a few months later... (I think it has to have been though). The mystery beer has attained an almost mythological status at this point. :)

28. ST PANCRAS/KINGS CROSS – O’Neill’s across the road (The Parcel Yard was shut, ok?!)
Large glass of wine – I’ve earned it

Seriously, what the fuck else do you expect me to drink in this place. Not beer, that’s for sure. We tried Kings Cross for a drink, since we’d done St Pancras earlier. Nope. The pub is no longer serving. It’s barely 11pm on a Saturday night, for crying out loud! Then we try St Pancras as well. Nope. I begin to rail at the lameness of London for closing so early. Now, this isn’t usually an issue for me as I usually tend to go out during the week and then it’s straight from work. Being an early riser I tend not to stay out late, so early closing isn’t an issue for me... until today. We resign ourselves to a second trip to an O’Neill’s in the same day. We sit and chill out properly, knowing that the next time we get on a train/bus/tube it’ll be to go home. THANK GOODNESS.

Chris and I get home at almost 2am after we’ve hit the KFC at Brixton on the way home then enjoyed some in-house entertainment on the bus back to the flat. We fall into bed exhausted. Next morning the ONLY thing that can motivate us to i) get out of bed, ii) go into the outside world, iii) visit Sainsbury’s , is an all consuming need for carbs and fat - and we are short on supplies. We don’t feel sick or hung-over; we don’t even have sore heads, really. Just feel SO shattered. Once we have sated our need for bacon, melted cheese, diet coke, tea, chocolate, and the food network on TV we reward ourselves with a mid-afternoon nap. :)

Later on we get out the tube map and start looking for the next challenge. I am being deadly serious. Join us?


Total number of pubs visited: 21
Total number of alcoholic drinks consumed: 5 pints beer, 1 bottle beer, 1 G&T, 2 glasses of wine
Total number of times I had to tell people to 'drink up': 38
Things I learned: The more people in your group, the longer it takes you to get round, it's that simple. And nagging people to get on does get tiring. Had it been just us two we'd have managed 27 pubs, I'm sure. The whole thing was a valuable learning experience actually. And I love to learn. :)

Next challenge turned out to be the Northern Line Loop. Watch this space... 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Cask vs. Keg - A Beer Consumers View

This week most beer bloggers have been writing about their experience at London's Brewing. We have some things to say about that too, but first we wanted to finish this post we started writing a while back on the cask versus keg debate...