Cheers to our Pubs of the Year!

In the last issue I reported how well refreshed I had been on cycling outings to pubs across London serving takeaway cask beer during lockdown. Since July when pubs started to reopen, I thought it would be timely to visit all of our Branch Pubs of the Year. More cycling beckoned!
It was Friday 24 July when I rode out to Hanwell for an evening’s pub crawl with Roy Tunstall and found that the Dodo Micropub had just reopened despite the limit on numbers. Hooray! Four unusual cask beers were on offer; I tried at least two and they were tasty. A tiny place with a great atmosphere. Lucy was delighted to hear she’d won the West Middlesex Pub of the Year award.

The next day, my companion Bernard and I headed from Colliers Wood first to Walthamstow for a lunch time pub crawl with my old friend (and occasional LD contributor) Greg Tingey. Then, as the weather got worse, it was up to Tottenham for local Redemption beers and a burger at the welcoming, community owned Antwerp Arms.

From there it was not far to the Little Green Dragon at Winchmore Hill where Richard was pleased to see us and offer seating outside. Two more good pints from small breweries set us up for the longish ride back through some heavy rain.

On 8 August there were shorter cycling distances on a tour that took in first the Masons Arms at Teddington, where we sat in the delightful garden with GBBF colleague Ian Sutherland, enjoying a hoppier and then a maltier pint from the four cask beers available. A similarly appetising range greeted us at the Willoughby Arms in Kingston. Again we sat outside, enjoying televised cricket on the patio and admiring large fish and small turtles in the clean pond. Next stop was the Hope at Carshalton, a fair ride via Worcester Park and Sutton for two more refreshingly different pints, then back via Mitcham to the Railway near Streatham Common station. ‘App’ service via Bernard’s ‘phone didn’t quite work but staff were happy for us to order for our table at the bar.

A week later, I had to look at the maps carefully for our vaguely triangular route to sample the three south eastern winners. Bernard and I met our friend Karen at the charming Dog & Bell in Deptford, where we arrived just after opening and sat in the comfortable back patio, enjoying two out of the four, mainly local, cask beers available. Then it was up the hill to Blackheath, across the top and along Shooters Hill Road – up and down the other side, through Welling and on to Bexleyheath. The Robin Hood & Little John was as good as ever. I enjoyed the Bexley, Harvey’s and Adnams, as well as the special prawn pasta, as the rain poured down outside. It eased back to drizzle for our ride on to Bromley, where it was good to dry out in the Star & Garter over some more wonderful cask beers. The journey back somehow didn’t seem that long, though we could have found a much shorter route through Croydon.

Dog & Bell

Jason, like Bernard, a fellow bell ringer, joined me on 22 August. Leaving Raynes Park just before 2pm after one of CAMRA’s ‘virtual’ conference call meetings, we headed to the Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty in Heronsgate, breaking the journey in Southall to check backstreet pub reopenings. From Uxbridge we followed the Grand Union Canal towpath towards Rickmansworth before cutting west and under the M25, then some way up Long Lane (it is one). Martin was glad to see us and for a while we sat out in the garden with Steve Barnes, whom readers will remember from the Wenlock Arms. His ride from Chorleywood had been much shorter, but steeper. Downton and Tring beers tasted very good (others were also on offer) and a hot Cornish pasty set me up for the three hour ride back, with lights.

I’d bought a second Cornish pasty for the next day’s trip, and this time I had no volunteers to join me. The Gidea Park Micropub is as far beyond Ilford as the Land of Liberty is beyond Uxbridge but after two and a half hours’ cycling I was happy to be there and Trevor was most welcoming. I spent some time enjoying the cask beers (and the pasty) before deviating, at his suggestion, to visit the Hop Inn, a new micropub that had opened at Emerson Park at the end of last year. I’d recommend it. Returning, I forked off to the east of Wanstead Flats and cut across to Leytonstone for the Northcote Arms, two great pints of local beers and a pizza. After meeting up with Greg at the Nag’s Head in Walthamstow, I took the shortest route home. It had been a long day.

One more to go: last but not least, the Harp near Charing Cross was CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year ten years ago, the only London pub ever to win that accolade. I had wondered if Fuller’s would find a way to follow the guidelines, but they have, thank goodness. I visited on Monday 7 September, less than a week after they reopened and met Alex Lines from CAMRA’s South East London branch. The bar staff were welcoming and six cask beers were available. I found the Mad Squirrel Green Hop and Five Points Pale equally refreshing.

The Star & Garter

Apart from the Land of Liberty which belongs to Hertfordshire, all of these pubs, by default, collectively share the Greater London Regional Pub of the Year award for 2020 as that competition could not take place. They deserve it, but more important, they deserve drinkers’ custom. We are lucky to have them. And if public transport does not appeal nowadays, I’d recommend the bike!
Geoff Strawbridge
CAMRA Greater London Regional Director