Beer Guide London Visits 4 – Kentish Town & Camden
If I have one major gripe with visiting bars in London it’s the fact that so few of them seem to open before 12:00 but maybe that’s just me. This week however I spotted that one of the places on the Guide “To Do” list opened at 10:00. Result! I worked out that I could spend a hour there and still get down to my next area for when everywhere else started to open.
Of course the biggest downside to this is the need to leave home even earlier! I managed to drag myself out on time and headed for Tottenham and my first target, the “first” Beavertown Brewery pub, the Corner Pin. I guess I must have imagined them starting up as a brew pub. The extra bonus of visiting here is that I had found out earlier in the week that the beer that they brew on the kit within Spurs Stadium across the road was available here.
The Guide lists Beavertown as having three sites now, Tottenham Hale, the new larger plant in Enfield and the micro kit within the Stadium. The Stadium beer is indeed one of the regular beers available in the pub, the only place other than within the Stadium on matchdays. So, me being me, I asked the question “Is it possible to know which beers are brewed at which plant?” The staff, unsurprisingly, hadn’t been asked that before, but they felt it was a perfectly valid question to ask and they said to leave it with them. Whilst enjoying my first taste of One Of Our Own, and I did enjoy it, it is very drinkable, they came back to me. They spoken to a couple of people and the information is that all core beers, ie the ones you are likely to see everywhere, are brewed in Enfield, the Tempus Project beers and all other small run beers are done at Tottenham Hale. This was pretty much what I had assumed but it was good to hear it confirmed, and very good that they had made the effort to find out. I still had plenty of time so I had another couple of beers and in the process managed to “tick” all three breweries in the one visit! Well worth getting up early for.
It was time to move on and head to today’s chosen area, the Guide entries of Kentish Town and Camden. A bus, train and short walk brought me, shortly after opening time, to one of the classic back street pubs in London, The Southampton Arms. This place is always a pleasure to visit with a guaranteed selection of good beers on both cask and keg as well as an impressive cider list. It feels like the pub hasn’t changed in decades, and it is much the better for it. It’s a bit out of the way, but that tends to be the nature of back street pubs! In reality it’s less than ten minutes from Kentish Town station and well worth seeking out.
I walked onwards to the next stop arriving at The Oxford Tavern at 12:40. The doors were locked! Luckily there was a member of staff at the side door so I asked if they were open. They were opening at 13:00. I queried this, saying we had them down as opening at 12:00 and do we need to update their entry, but no, it was just today. I had no choice but to sit and wait, albeit armed with something from Greggs across the road. This is a freehouse that is closely aligned with West Berkshire Brewery and as a result a large number of the beers are from there, although they had none of their beers on cask available today. I spotted that they had a beer from Seattle based Reuben’s Brews on tap so I ordered that. Untappd then showed that there is a UK version of this beer. Given the ties with West Berks I made an assumption that it is contract brewed there, and after mentioning it on Twitter had confirmation back within a few minutes, together with a link to an article detailing the news. A good beer but not quite the rarity that I had first thought.
It is a relatively short walk through the back streets to the next stop, the recently reopened Camden Beer Hall, home of Camden Town Brewery. This is an impressive tap room with twenty beers available. Now, Camden are another of those breweries that have opened a second plant, co-incidentally also in Enfield. I felt that, in the name of research, it was my duty to again ask if it was possible to tell what was brewed where. I was passed up the chain of command behind the bar but eventually had a great chat with somebody who confirmed that all beers in the Tap Room were brewed on site in Kentish Town. It is only the Hells, and very occasionally the Pale, that is brewed at Enfield, plus the canning operation. They have Hells on at the Tap but it is served from the tank. Basically if you see Hells in a pub anywhere it will have come from Enfield. I sampled three of the beers on offer and they were OK, not amazing, but good solid beers.
I made the short trip around the corner to another great back street pub, Tapping The Admiral. The usual good selection of beers, but I spotted that they had Camden Hells on tap and so the completist in me made me order that. I know, don’t hate me, but do try and remember that as well the Guide revisits I am trying to drink beers from as many of the London breweries as possible, so this counted towards that. OK? Good. The Admiral also picked up the days bonus points for serving Tayto crisps.
At some point I crossed the border between Kentish Town and Camden whilst making my way to my next stop, BrewDog Camden. Luckily the route I took avoided the main tourist areas so the walk wasn’t too bad. The big bonus in here was that they had their newly launched collaboration with La Trappe, Practice What You Preach, available on draft. It wasn’t cheap, but at least I had my discount, and you have to try these things. It is a 10% Quad that is surprisingly drinkable, and whilst not the best example of the style that I have ever sampled it was a good solid beer. In conversation with the manager we agreed that it was definitely a beer that will stand aging and it would be interesting to see how it develops.
It’s only a matter of going around the corner to the next stop, The Black Heart. It’s a bar and music venue, it’s always dark inside and there is always rock music playing. I absolutely love it. Oh yes, it also has some good beers available, and often unusual ones. On this visit I picked up a new beer from Brooklyn Brewery, The Stonewall Inn IPA, that was very good indeed.
One last short walk to my final stop of the day, Camden Road Arms. Part of the Draft house chain that was taken over by BrewDog all of the bars received a branded makeover earlier this year which also resulted in them all being renamed. Now fully incorporated by BrewDog with the bars being listed on their website and now also included in the new BrewDog Visa loyalty scheme. It also means that you can claim your BrewDog discount. To date, although there is obviously an increase in the number of BrewDog beers available, the range of guest beers on my visits to various branches is still good.
I had included the possibility of carrying on to check out the Guide entries in the Kings Cross area, but in an almost unheard of moment of sense I decided that they could wait for another day. I blame the quad…