Beer Guide London Visits 22 – Elephant & Castle / Borough
With the art trail out of the way it was time to head for beer. I made my way to the Mercato Metropolitano food market in Elephant & Castle which convenient contains two Guide entries. First up was Italian Job @ Mercato Metropolitano, one of a small chain of bars run by the Italian brewery Del Ducato, and in my opinion the best of them. 16 taps, usually split equally between Italian beers and others plus a good packaged selection. But. Oh dear. Like all of the Italian Job bars this had gone downhill, and by a long way. Just one Italian beer on draft and a mere handful of bottles remaining. A real shame and the final nail in it’s coffin with this visit confirming it’s removal from the Guide.
Luckily the other bar here is a much better bet, the original German Kraft Brewery Tap. A bar tucked away in one corner with the shiny brewing kit visible behind. As the name suggests they brew German style beers, and they do them very well. They proudly display the Rheinheitsgebodt certificate on the wall and all of the beers I have had from them have hit the style perfectly. Add in the wide choice of food available here and you can spend an enjoyable time working through the list.
After finishing up here I made my way to the Borough area, starting in the Market. The first visit here was the Market Porter, an imposing boozer that is usually very busy. When I started in my beer adventures many years ago this was one of the must visit places in order to find new and unusual beers. Not any more, beer wise it is a shadow of it’s former self. This visit was saved by the fact that they had some bottles from the Ukrainian brewery Varvar in the fridges, but this was the second bar of the day to be removed from the Guide following my visit.
Luckily it was only a short walk around the corner to the Rake. This is probably the smallest bar in the Guide currently but it comes with a great reputation and a very good beer range. As well as an excellent draft range it also has a large packaged beer selection, as is to be expected given it’s connections with Utobeer, the beer stall in the Market proper. The autographed wall of visiting brewers tells you everything you need to know about it’s place in the London beer scene. Limited indoor seating but with more seats under cover outside, it can get very busy. Be patient. It’s worth it.
A pleasant stroll through Borough and away from the crowds got me to a great London pub, the Royal Oak, everything you’d expect from a British pub but with the added bonus of it being the only place in London where you can get the full range of Harvey’s beers. I’m often asked what my favourite beer is, and I always explain that it is an impossible question to answer as there are too many variables involved. But, if you put a gun to my head and made me choose just one beer for the rest of my life then I reckon I would die a happy man drinking nothing but Harvey’s Sussex Best!
Normally my next stop would be closed as it doesn’t open on Mondays, but I figured on taking a chance that they would open on a Bank Holiday. My hunch paid off and stop six was Simon The Tanner. This is a fairly unimposing local pub in a relatively quiet residential area but it always has enough beers of interest on to make it worth a visit. As it would normally have been closed it was very quiet, indeed for most of my visit I was the only customer, but this just meant I was able to have a good chat with the friendly, knowledgeable staff about all things beer. It’s this kind of encounter that adds to the experience and often results in picking up on useful tips about what is happening in the local area beer wise.
My final stop of the day is a bit off the beaten track but it is worth the effort to get here. Spit and Sawdust looks like many other pubs throughout London, but once you get inside you find yourself looking at an above average beer selection. This is obviously a locals pub, so all I can say is the locals around here are very discerning! On this occasion I finished the day with an 11.5% Quad from Wylam. That’s the kind of place it is.