Ogletree, Sachin Patel, Ed Hamrick and Jeff Rapp visited London in
August of 2009 to cover the Great British Beer Festival. When not
at the festival, we visited several of the best pubs in London (see the
photos below). Anyone
who fancies him/herself a lover of flavorful craft beer should be
certain to seek out authentic, cask-conditioned, real ales in the UK's
best pubs. A beer revolution is underway in the UK - with small
breweries popping up all over - producing delicious examples of real
ales packed with personality and elegant malt and hop flavors. Don't
bother with UK pubs that do not sell cask real ale - stick to pubs that
care enough about traditional UK ales to stock these delicate and
subtle cask beers.
You may find these pubs listed in any of the fine guidebooks from the
Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). See the link to their 2010 Good Beer Guide to the left or the
two useful books shown at the bottom of this page. Of
course, the best opportunity to sample a multitude of the UK's best
real ales is the annual Great British Beer Festival - held each August
at Earl's Court in London. Take a look at our tasting list and notes at
the bottom of this page.
and notes by Owen
Ogletree - Posted August 2009
Rudgate Ruby Mild -
2009 Champion Beer of Britain
CAMRA's Roger Protz describes the ingredients, tasting notes, and
history of Rudgate Ruby Mild at a special tasting held at the 2009
Great British Beer Festival in London, UK. Rudgate Ruby Mild was chosen
as the best beer of the festival by a panel of expert judges.
Tutored Tastings at
Attendees at the Great British Beer Festival wanting to learn more
about the history, brewing and flavor profiles of classic UK real ale
should be sure to purchase passes to the special tutored tastings
offered each day at the festival. These tastings tend to sell out
quickly. Above: Jeff, Owen and Ed sit in on the Champion Beers of
Britain tasting hosted by Roger Protz.
Owen Ogletree (center front) poses at the GBBF with pub owner friends
he met on a
recent pub outing to Toronto, Ontario. Owners of Victory Cafe and Volo
pubs are pictured above, along with other friends. These Canadians are
true fans of cask conditioned ales, and Victory Cafe even hosts a very
popular cask ale festival at their pub each year - featuring only real
ales from Ontario.
Meet the Brewers
Tasting - GBBF
Six UK brewers
shared samples of their best bottled beers...
(Hogs Back Brewery) - A very characteristic, traditional English ale.
- Clouded Yellow (St. Austell
Brewery) - An interesting beer with wheat, coriander and cloves. A
traditional, UK-style ale yeast is used.
- Summer Lightning (Hop Back
Brewery) - 5% ABV single hop (E. Kent Goldings) ale with hints of lemon.
- Fullers 1845 - 6.3% ABV with elegant crystal
malts and biscuity, raisiny flavors.
- Empire Pale Ale (Burton
Bridge Brewery) - 7.5% ale kept in casks for six months at 20-23
degrees C to simulate the sea voyage of a real IPA. Spicy, with clove
and bubblegum hints - very complex and historic.
- Titanic Stout (Titanic
Brewery) - Roasty, biscuity stout with beautiful burnt flavors. Fuggles
and Northdown hops provide a fresh, herbal hop flavor.
69, Cobourg St, NW1
A few years ago, Craig and his wife Karen took over this pub and turned
it into a much-loved destination for lovers of real ale. Voted CAMRA's 2009 North London Pub of
the Year, the Bree Louise stocks four
hand-pump casks in the main bar and a big selection of gravity-poured
casks to the
right of the main bar. Visit soon and order a dozen or so half pints
BRITANNIA 1 Allen Street, W8
This is a modernized Young's pub with the full range of Wells/Youngs
ales. Upscale gastro-pub food is available as well. The Britannia
serves as the ideal place to enjoy a fine meal alongside a pint of
BRITANNIA TAP 150 Warwick Road, W14
A friendly Young's pub just a short walk northwest of Earl's Court,
Britannia Tap offers up fresh pints of Wells and Young's best cask
YE OLDE CHESHIRE
CHEESE 145 Fleet Street, EC4
Dating back to 1667, this ancient pub drips with history - and the
single real ale hand-pump flows with Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter.
Pictured above is the stuffed remains of the old pub parrot - a
much-loved pet well versed in profanity.
CITTIE OF YORKE 22 High Holborn, WC1
This historic pub contains an eccentric blend of architecture and
Another classic London pub owned by Samuel Smith's, Cittie offers only
Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter on cask. Be sure to admire the beautiful
old wood-fired stove in the center of the main pub room.
COAL HOLE 91 Strand, WC1
This central London pub stands within the frontage of the Savoy Hotel
serves a nice selection of cask ales usually including Fullers London
Pride and Timothy Taylor Landlord. Be sure to sample the outstanding
fish and chips and house-made meat pies.
CROSS KEYS 31 Endell Street, WC2
This pleasant pub offers real ales that are somewhat difficult to
find in the city. In the warmer months, the front of the alehouse is
adorned with an impressive array of flowers and hanging baskets.
Here are Ed, Sachin and Jeff sipping half pints of Harvey's Best Bitter
and some fine UK golden ales inside the welcoming Cross Keys. The pub
be found just a few blocks north of the Covent Garden tube station.
DICKENS INN St. Katharine's Dock, E1
Dickens is a touristy, riverside pub that's quite attractive. There are
separate ordering areas for pub fare and pizza. We visited on a hot
summer day, and a couple of the four cask ales we tried were a little
off. Ask for a sample before ordering a full pint.
DOG AND DUCK 18 Bateman Street, W1
Found in bustling Soho, Dog and Duck is a traditional, tiled pub among
the frenetic nightspots of the area. Grab a London Pride or Tim
Taylor's ale and have a gander at the attractive glazed tilework.
1 Eversholt Street, Euston, NW1
Located near busy Euston station, Doric Arch sports a railway theme and
offers an excellent selection of the best cask ales available in the
city. Also, for the best chicken you've ever tasted, be sure to visit
Nando's next door.
FOX & ANCHOR 115 Charterhouse Street,
Interesting real ales served in pewter mugs, an excellent cheese
platter, and cozy back snugs highlight this delightful London pub. Six
sleeping rooms are located upstairs.
GUNMAKERS 13 Eyre Hill, EC1
There are two cozy rooms in this friendly pub, and the owner takes
great pride in his excellent range of real ales.
THE HOPE 94 Cowcross Street, EC1
Another gorgeous example of a Wells and Youngs London pub, The Hope
features attractive mirrors, glazed tilework, and some extremely hardy
and traditional English pub menu items.
95, Chancery Lane, WC2
This is a beautiful example of one of the best London pubs in the UK's
Wetherspoon's chain. Wetherspoons is known for its tasty and affordable
food items and an excellent range of real ales from all over the island.
94 Lambs Conduit St, Bloomsbury, WC1
This attractive Young's pub is famous for its glass "snob screens" at
the bar and old photos of actors from the London stage of bygone days.
Above: Jeff, Ed and Owen enjoy half pints of the excellent Special
London Ale on cask.
MAGPIE & CROWN 128 High Street, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8
Pictured above are the guys of Brentford's wonderful Magpie &
Crown. Out near Kew Gardens, there is no better pub in the area in
which to have a lively conversation and an excellent example of a
well-kept, rare real ale.
OLD BANK OF ENGLAND
194, Fleet St, EC4
Located in one of London's financial districts, this is one of Fuller's
most attractive and formal pubs. Being in a business area, be aware
that many of the pubs in this part of the city do not open on the
OLD BELL 95 Fleet St, EC4
This pub was once frequented by printers from the many print houses
located on Fleet Street in the last century The pub is filled with
history and serves up four or more cask ales.
YE OLDE MITRE Ely Place, EC1
A bit hard to find down a small alley, Ye Olde Mitre is very much worth
the effort. In the photo above, Sachin poses alongside the sign
announcing that the pub would be offering 20+ guest ales over the week
of the Great British Beer Festival.
PILLARS OF HERCULES
7, Greek St, W1D
Located in busy, noisy Soho, Pillars of Hercules is the only place in
the area to sample a pint from the excellent Bateman's Brewery of
Wainfleet, Lincolnshire. Be sure to try the XXXB ale on cask.
THE PRINCE EDWARD 73 Princes Square, W2
One of the few pubs in London that offers Badger real ales from the
Hall & Woodhouse Brewery. Worth seeking out.
PRINCESS LOUISE 208 High Holborn, WC1
Here's Ed reading up on the history of the beautiful Princess Louise
pub in Holborn, London. This pub was closed for a short time for a
recent makeover by Samuel Smith's.
The Princess Louise possesses one of the most gorgeous interiors of any
London pub - even the men's toilet has a national preservation order.
Check out the sample of luxurious tilework shown above.
THE BREWERY TAP 47 Catherine Wheel Road,
This is a delightful, small Fuller's house for locals. It is
located on the very quiet Catherine Wheel Road that branches off High
Street. The Fuller's ales are superb -- along with live music
from local musicians in the evening.
QUEEN'S LARDER 1 Queen Square, WC1
Located on a somewhat quiet corner near Russell Square, this pub is
packed with humble history, and offers some interesting seasonal ales
(including Old Speckled Hen) on cask.
RED LION 93 Linkfield Road,
The Red Lion is a local institution in the suburb of Isleworth near
Brentford. Locals pack the place on a regular basis to sample the fine
cask ales, chat, and compete on trivia nights. This pub has won awards
for local CAMRA Pub of the Year,
but is quite isolated and difficult to find.
RED LION 48 Parliament St, SW1
One of the few really traditional, non touristy pubs in a very touristy
area of London, this Red Lion offers some very well kept cask ales and
a fine upstairs restaurant.
STARS 53 Carey St, WC2
This small, busy pub's interior is adorned with old film posters and
political cartoons from many years ago. The nice range of cask ales
really makes this place worth seeking out. Be sure to pet the pub cat.
& SHOVELL 1-3 Craven Passage, WC2
The lovely Ship & Shovell offers a quiet real ale oasis just a few
steps from busy Trafalgar Square and actually has two sections that
face each other across the narrow pedestrian street.
13, Uxbridge St, W8
This traditional pub for locals offers a comfortable interior and
traditional real ales from regional breweries.
ARMS 160 Warwick Road, W14
Located almost next door to the Britannia Tap (listed above), this
comfortable and somewhat basic Fullers pub is a fine locale for a pint
of London Pride or ESB,
CASTLE 114 Campden Hill Road, W8
This old pub got a makeover in the early part of the 1900s and offers
lots of small, individual sitting rooms, dark wood paneling, low
doorways (mind your head), and admirable real ales from popular
Don't think of visiting London without
a good pub guidebook.
With detailed pub descriptions and maps, these books below are two of
the best resources for getting to all the best real ale, cask pubs in
city. Search for them on www.Amazon.com...
2009 GBBF Champion
Beer of Britain winners (with tasting notes from Owen Ogletree)...
Champion Beer of Britain - Rudgate, Ruby Mild (York, North Yorkshire)
Second - Oakham, Attila (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire)
Third - West Berkshire, Dr Hexter's Healer (Thatcham, Berkshire)
Mild category Rudgate, Ruby Mild
(York, North Yorkshire)
sample had a slightly vinous, licorice aroma with notes of fruit and a
hint of latex. Gorgeous ruby color and beautiful hop profile from
Challenger, Cascade and Styrian Goldings.
Bitter category Surrey Hills, Ranmore
Ale (Guildford, Surrey)
golden in color for an English Bitter style ale - very clear with a
complex, spicy bitterness and subtle hop aroma. Best Bitter category Southport, Golden Sands
and hoppy with a very pleasing sweet malt and spicy/citrusy hop
balance. Light gold in color.
Golden Ale category Dark Star, American
Pale Ale (Ansty, West Sussex)
in color with citrusy hop notes alongside a floral, lychee-like fruit
note. There was also a slight smoky phenol hint in the firkin that we
Strong Bitter category West Berkshire, Dr
Hexter's Healer (Thatcham, Berkshire)
in color with fruity, caramely, toffee, burnt raisin bread malt notes.
Hops are spicy in flavor. Contains pale, Maris Otter, crystal and
chocolate malts along with Bramling Cross, First Gold and UK Cascade
hops. Loaded with character!
category Nethergate, Umbel Magna
cedar notes meld with pine resin hints and cracked coriander and
cereal/wheat character. Challenger and Fuggle make up the 27 IBU hop
bill. Dark brown in color with red highlights and a herbal, smoky note.
Winter Beer of
Britain winner (announced
in January 2009) Oakham, Attila
- This beer was not tasted.
Bottled Beer of
Gold - Titanic, Stout
biscuity stout with beautiful burnt notes. Fuggles and Northdown hops
provide a fresh, herbal hop flavor.
Here's the list of
outstanding (some are award-winning) UK real ales we managed to
sample over two sessions of the
2009 Great British Beer Festival...
Gun Dog Freddy Mild (3.8%) Brains Dark (3.5%) Brains SA Gold
(4.7%) Brains The Reverend
James (4.5%) Brimstage Trappers Hat
(3.8%) Cairngorm Black Gold
(4.4%) Cairngorm Nessie’s
Monster Mash (4.4%) Castle Rock Screech Owl
(5.5%) Dark Star American-style Pale Ale (4.7%) Exmoor Beast (6.6%) Fullers Vintage Ale
(8.5%) George Wright Pipe
Dream (4.3%) Highland Dark Munro
(4%) Highland Orkney Blast
(6%) Hobsons Town Crier
(4.5%) Hobsons Twisted Spire
Independence (3.8%) Inveralmond Lia Fail
(4.7%) Jarrow Rivet Catcher
(4%) Mighty Oak Burntwood
Bitter (4%) Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde
Mild (3.7%) Nethergate Mary’s Ruby
Mild (4.5%) Nethergate Umbel Magna
(5%) Nottingham Broadway
Reel Ale (4.3%) Nottingham Extra Pale
Ale (4.2%) Oakleaf Maypole Mild
(3.8%) Otley O-Garden
(4.8%) Purple Moose Cwrw
Eryri/Snowdonia Ale (3.6%) Purple Moose Cwrw
Glaslyn (4.2%) Rhymney Export Ale
(5%) Rudgate Ruby Mild
(4.4%) Skinner’s Heligan Honey
(4%) Southport Golden Sands (3.8%) Stationhouse Splash (3.9%) Surrey Hills Ranmore
Ale (3.8%) Thornbridge Kipling
(5%) Thornbridge Lord
Marples (4%) Timothy Taylor Golden
Best (3.5%) Timothy Taylor Landlord
(4.3%) Triple fff Alton’s
Pride (3.8%) Triple fff Moondance
(4.2%) Twickenham Grandstand
Bitter (3.8%) Wentworth Bumble Beer
(4.3%) West Berkshire Dr Hexter's Healer (5%) Windsor Castle Hop Monster
(4.3%) Windsor Castle
Mud City Stout (6.6%) York Centurions Ghost