Monday, 6 July 2009

Eastern Promise

What a glorious day for a pub crawl - warm weather but not as stupidly hot as earlier in the week. Liz and I had got to the Wenlock Arms a little before opening so we had a pleasant sit down in the small park next door.

Following the machinations of the AGM, it was time to sort out the teams for the Pub Crawl Treasure Hunt Quiz Thingy - only four teams in all to take on the course but all as keen as mustard to get started.

Our Plymouth-supporting chum, Geoff, accompanied me as we aimed to wander around behind the teams and check all the clues were still intact. Liz meanwhile went off to buy some prizes from the nearest Pound Shop.

(left) The Marksman

The first point of call for the teams was the Marksman on Hackney Road - a healthy little schlep from the Wenlock via Columbia Road Market - just enough of a hike to generate a thirst.

Geoff and I had wandered there via the nearby Royal Oak to try the cask-conditioned Meantime London Pale Ale but alas it was off.

The Marksman commemorates the death of Nelson and it sits of the corner of Horatio Road and Hackney Road and it currently offers just one cask beer, Landlord. The landlord reckons they can't really run to another handpump but they're doing their best and the menus look extremely tasty. They're also offering the chance to barter for a pint. I'm not sure that will catch on somehow.

When I first came to London this place was an Everards house, one of the few decent places in East London for real ale in those days.

From here it was a short walk to the second pub, the Albion, which is certainly a football pub. The place is a homage to West Bromich Albion and the walls are covered in pennants and photographs from their dim and distant past.

It's just such a shame then that the beer was so lousy. The Pitfield Organic was positively vinegrescent and the Landlord little better.

However it did allow most teams to check out the final quarter of the British Lions victory against SA on the big screen - and even the beer garden had it's own screen - but no one hung around after that once they got the required answers.

Another short-walk then took everyone to Broadway Market with two opportunities for point scoring by the teams.

The Dove a very popular pub - and is the sister pub to the Dovetail in Clerkenwell - and the place was overrun with trendy young things (which is generally everyone younger than me).

(left) Get yer eels here!

A fairly decent selection of 6-8 cask beers with the likes of Maldon Gold and Golden Duck from Crouch Vale, Speckled Hen, Landlord (again), Flowers IPA, Pedigree and Abbot.

There was also a variety of Belgian beers on draught - I opted for the Brugse Zot which is always drinkable - plus a good choice of bottles.

The other place for teams to score points was at Cooke's pie and mash shop just a few yards down the road. Most teams tried the pie and mash but only one team tried the jellied eels as well. Brave boys!

Liz and I had tried out their pie and mash a couple of weeks earlier when checking out the route and the current owner is a real friendly chap and was proud of what's probably the most verdant liquor I've yet seen. However his mash had too many eyes in it for my high exacting standards and the pies were only so-so.

From the bustle of the market, it was nice to get down to the relative calm of Regents Canal towpath and walk to the next pub. Well, it would be if it wasn't for 99% of cyclists bombing along the route as well. Bastards!

The towpath is a great route to take to miss out some of the more miserable roads around here but a pain as you have to have eyes in the back of your head to see these proto-Lance Armstrongs.
(right) Token arty shot

From the towpath Geoff and I had to scale the fence into neighbouring Victoria Park in order to get to the fourth pub, the Approach Tavern.

The Approach is another old haunt of mine from the mid 1980s - it has changed a little internally but offer a decent selection of beers, mainly Fullers but also an Adnams beer. Some decent foreign beers on draught too. Liz and I have been here a couple of other times recently and the place is always busy - the beer is kept well and the food is excellent. And most people sit outside on the terrace so it's nice and quiet indoors.

Whilt Robert, Clarkey and Peter went off to find more answers at the Crown, found at the corner of Grove Road and Old Ford Road, Geoff and I rejoined the towpath and wandered off to the final pub of the crawl, the Palm Tree.

Now the Palm Tree is very well known to Darlo and Rotherham fans as an after-venue for Dagenham and Redbridge games and quite a few on the crawl had been there before but probably not via this route.

The pub occupies an eco-park next to the canal and so can get quite busy with passing walkers and local students - that we have only one person serving a busy bar is not a surprise but which does mean the wait for a beer was longer than we'd want.

John and Bev had managed to join us at this point - unfortunately the lure of domestic duties had meant they couldn't start the crawl but they'd eventually tired of carpet shops and made it in time for the last leg of the crawl.

As ever two cask beers were on offer - the very drinkable Roy Rogers (3.8%) from the Brentwood Brewery and Jake the Snake (4.0%) from Mighty Oak - but by the time we'd got served the latter had all gone - we bagged the remnants of half a pint but found it to be a bit bland.

We eventually persuaded Rob, Clarkey and Peter to leave the Palm Tree a little after 7pm and headed to nearby Mile End tube, eventually arriving back at the Wenlock just after 8pm - in the end we weren't far behind the Three Gentlemen of Norbury who had stopped off for a fish supper.

Liz proceeded to give out the answers to her carefully crafted questions - most of the teams did quite well even if some googling was done for some answers (you know who you are!). And then time for the prizes - quite predictably Liz's brother and his teammates came last despite being the only team to take on jellied eels.

Once the prize giving was over it was time to relax and have some more beer. And listen to the jazz.

One pleasant surprise at the end of the night was bumping into Richard Stedman, or Stedders to his mates, who visiting the capital and who had decided to re-visit a few of his haunts.

DAFTS got to know Stedders very well when he first put together the Football and Real Ale Guides a few seasons ago when we were able to help out with pub recommendations in the lower divisions.

Since then, Richard has spent time running a cracking little pub in sunny Colne but he's now returned to his native Bristol where he can keep an eye on his beloved Rovers.

The Football and Real Ale Guide is now online where it is much easier to maintain and Stedders is always on the look-out for new pub recommendations as well as updates and reviews so that it can kept up-to-date and useful to fans. We'll certainly be doing our best to help out.

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