imageA fine trip.   We met old friends and made new ones.  While in Belgium we attended some very cool festivals, visited a number of breweries, and sampled the world’s most unique and special beers.   Can’t say enough about England – beautiful countryside & cities, great culture, and wonderful public houses.

Below is a listing of the pubs, breweries, and festivals we visited.  There’s a lot!  Although it may seem all we did was sample the fine libations that Belgium and England have to offer, we spent much of each day hitting the museums and tourist sites, and walking – a lot of walking.   Honest.

The List:

Cambridge Pubs
Castle Bar
Earl of Derby
Elm Tree
Flying PIg
Free Press
Kingston Arms
Live and Let Live
Mill Pub

Chelmsford Pubs
Ale House
Hop Beer Shop

Maldon Pubs
Farmer’s Yard
Might Oak Tap Room
Queen’s Head

London Pubs
Argyll Arms
Barrowboy & Banker
Bree Louise
Cheshire Cheese
Churchill Arms
Craft Beer Company
Crown & Anchor
Doric Arch
Euston Tap
Friend of the Hand
Hope & Sirloin
Hung, Drawn & Quartered
Jerusalem Tavern
Lord John Russell
Mabel’s Tavern
Marquis Cornwallis
Museum Tavern
Prince William Henry
Princess Louise
Resting Hare
Shipwright’s Arms

London Breweries (micros)
Anspach & Hobday
Brew by Numbers

Belgium Festivals
Gueuze & Kriek Festival – ‘Night of the Great Thirst’
Rondje Roodbruin – Flanders Red/Brown Fest
Zythos Bier Festival

Belgium Breweries & Blenders
De Brabandere

Microbrouwerij Urthel
Omer Vander Ghinste
Oud Beersel
Struise Browerij

pic: Our final pub stop in London – Mabel’s Tavern


London Brewers, Bermondsey

Saturday, April 30th.  

Big day today – the London Amateur competition is being held at the Ubrew location in Bermondsey, South London.   It’s a pretty good-sized event with 350+ entries from across the UK and the republic of Ireland that’s a BJCP certified competition.  I’m judging and Ryan is assisting as a steward.  

My tasting categories couldn’t have worked out better.   The first grouping  was Specialty American IPAs,  one with which I am intimately familiar.  I’m paired with Sarah, president of the Welsh amateur group.  The entries are uniformly well crafted with a few quite outstanding.   Clearly less focus on hop presence that would be expected back home – not surprising, I guess.   My second grouping was English Porters, not a style seen much in the US.  Again, uniformly good-quality entries.  

The ‘Bermondsey Mile’ refers to a mile-long stretch of Bermondsey Road that is the center of the London micro scene.   The road parallels an elevated railway, under which arched columns have been converted to brewery and tap-house space.  On Saturdays, the breweries all open for visits and tastings.  It’s quite a scene and is considered a must-do for beer tourists.  

Alex, one of our fellow travelers on the Belgian tour, lives in Bersmondey and volunteered to hook up with us after the competition and point out the Mile’s highlights.   He knows all the brewers so we get special attention and discounts.  A good man!  Some really nice offerings:  Southwark, Anspach & Hobday, and Brew-By-Numbers were standouts.  

We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening working our way back to the hotel.  It’s a great city to walk with history, architecture and pubs almost every corner.  It’s been a blast.  

Pics: London Amateur Competition, Bermondsey brewery, Alex – our ‘guide’,   Jesmond Hotel


The first half of our last full day in London was spent at the London and South East Brewing Competition and Festival at the U Brew in Bermondsey, where Dad judged and I was a steward. It was very interesting seeing everything involved; the judges I helped were very attentive and deliberate, and I was able to learn a lot from them.

Afterwards, we caught up with Alex, whom we had met during the Belgian portion of our trip. He took us to several breweries in Bermondsey, which were mostly housed in the arches under the rail bridges. Small but intimate places, and understandably very busy on a Saturday. We visited Southwark, Andspach & Hobday and Brew by Numbers, before returning to U Brew, where Weird Beard Brew Company had done a tap takeover.

We finished up the evening with pints at Shipwrights Arms, The Barrow Boy and Banker (where we also had dinner), The Doric Arch, Crown & Anchor and Mabel’s Tavern. It was back to the hotel after that, to rest and get ready for the flight home.

Museums & Pubs

Friday, April 29th

We head out to the West End today.  Ryan has located one of the few remaining police boxes in london so we depark at Earl’s Court for a photo opp.

Just down the road is my favorite traditional pub, the Churchill Arms.  Very cool interior with multiple tributes to the Queen’s 90th, burning fires in a couple of the rooms, a nice set of cask options, and great food.  Oddly enough, the menu is all Thai.  I’ve been looking for something hot and got it big-time.

While at the Churchill, I spotted an advert for a book ‘Pub Dogs of London’.  A regular in the pub suggests I try the local bookstore and grab the last copy. Hilarious with a number of the hounds featured from the Chuchill itself.   While there, ‘Busters’ owner stops in and graciously autographs his page.  Love it!

We’re walking as much as we can and wander through Kensington down to the museum cluster where we check out the Victoria and Albert, Science, and Natural History museums.  The Victoria and Albert Museum is especially wonderful. I’s really hard to believe there’s no admission fees for such beautiful facilities.  While passing through Trafalgar Square we run into Jean-Paul, from Toronto, and one of our fellow travelers in Belgium.  He’s just come from the pub we’re heading to, the ‘Harp’, one of the finest London has to offer. How we connected there given there were a few thousand in the square is a pleasant mystery.

pics: Churchill Arms, ditto, Flaming Tuba, Police Box

More Museums

The day started with a trip to Earl’s Court to see one of the few remaining police boxes in the wild (I’m a Doctor Who fan, this had to be done). Afterwards, we headed to the Churchill Arms, a cozy pub decorated with artifacts of the former Prime Minister and Britain in general. One room featured pictures of U.S. Presidents and bedpans hanging from the ceiling (I will leave it to my readers to decide if these are connected). The pub served Thai food, and very good food at that.

Our travels took us to the Science Museum, where we saw exhibits on space and communication technology.

We then took in the Victoria and Albert Museum, keeping our focus on European history. Two galleries were entirely of plaster casts of other artifacts, including a life-sized cast of Michelangelo’s David.

Our last museum trip was to the Natural History Museum, solely to see the dinosaurs. I liked how the exhibit mounted the dinosaurs close to the ceiling, to take advantage on the floor space for more information displays.

The evening finished with pints at The Admiralty, The Harp, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and The Lamb. The crowds made it next to impossible to get food, but a local restaurant was able to provide adequate sustenance.

Continue reading “More Museums”

(Tate) Modern Love

After breakfast, we paid a visit to the Tate Modern gallery, which, as its name implies, showcases modern art. Pieces by Picasso, Dalí and even Warhol can be found here. My favorite was Babel 2001, a massive tower of radios each tuned to a different station, creating a cacophony reminiscent of its Biblical namesake.

After lunch at the Prince William Henry, we vidited the Imperial War Museum. My favorite exhibit there was on World War I, not only because it showed the conflict from the perspective of soldier and civilian alike, but because it offered a view from a country that had been in the conflict from the beginning, rather than joining later as the United States did.

We them walked along the Thames, getting our views of the Houses of Parliament, the Elizabeth Tower (which holds Big Ben, the bell), Westminster Abbey and the London Eye.

I had intended to step into the National Gallery to buy a birthday gift, but the gallery was closing and I had picked the wrong shop of several in the building. I did, however, get the chance to see Trafalgar Square, with all its hustle and bustle around Nelson’s Column.

After a pint at the Craft Beer Company, we headed to Foyle’s Bookstore, where Dad checked out Ray’s Jazz and I was able to find the gift I wanted.

After dinner at the Argyll Arms, we headed back to the hotel for an early night.

South Bank

Some culture interspersed with pubs today.

The Tate Modern on the south bank has been a target for Ryan and I since we started planning this trip. It’s an easy underground to Blakfriar’s Station and walk across the Thames to the museum.  The free admission policy always surprises me, especially for such a well-respected museum.  Good stuff – a lot of really special modern work along with some pretty wierd installations.

After lunch at one of the Fuller pubs (The Prince William Henry), we hike down to the Imperial War Museum – about a 30 minute walk .  The WWI and Holocast exhibits are outstanding and quite moving.

It’s a pleasant, but cool evening so we take our time walking  back to the hotel with an occasional pub stop along the way.  Thankfully, there’s plenty of CAMRA rated places to choose from!

pics: ‘3 eggs’ at the Tate, Parliament, Ben, Argyll Arms 


London Walkabout

Our hotel is well situated – close to a number of under ground stations, restaurants, and pubs.   Breakfast is in a common area with full English or more healthy options.  They provide a same day laundry service at 7 GBP per load that should keep me from having to wash socks in the sink for the rest of the trip.

We toured the Tower of London in the morning.  It looks quite different from when Mary and I were there in ’14 during the WWI centennial.  Then, the entire moat was filled with red poppies in remembrance of the war dead.  Our tour guide was hilarious – he really got into the gory details of the executions and tortures.  The kids loved it.  We did the ‘Tower Bridge Experience’ in the afternoon which included a visit to the engine room.  Reminded me of the 4-stand mill basements at Gary Works.

Shaun hooked up with us at the Euston Tap after he got off work.  After a few pub stops and an excellent Indian dinner we bid him farewell and headed back to the ranch.

Pics: Euston Tap, Bree Louise, Eggs, Tower scene

To the Tower!

After breakfast, we made our way to the Tower of London. Sitting on the north bank of the Thames, the Tower has served many purposes, including fort, royal residence and prison. Our excellent tour guide was a Yeoman Warder (commonly nicknamed Beefeaters), who showed us the moat, several streets and towers before ending at the chapel where several nobles are buried, sans heads in most cases.

While there, we also saw the Crown Jewels, a wonderful exhibition of armor and foreign gifts, and a small area displaying implements of torture.

Lunch followed at the Hung, Drawn and Quartered, possibly the best pub name in existence. We then headed to Tower Bridge for its Exhibition, which included short films on its construction and footage shot in the 1890s. We also walked along the top walkways; both had a section in which the floor was replaced with glass, so you could see down to the deck and water. I am not in any way ashamed to admit I walked around that section. The Exhibition also featured a tour of the bridge’s engine rooms. 

We headed to Borough Market, just south of London Bridge. The market has just about any foodstuff one could imagine, tucked away among various arches and overpasses.

After a pint at the Rake, we walked along the south bank of the Thames, pausing to snap a picture of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. We headed north on the Millennium Bridge and made our way to Euston, stopping for a half-pint at the Swan along the way. We met our friend Shaun at the Euston Tap, then went for Indian food. After a couple more pints at the Hope and Jerusalem Tavern, we parted company and returned to the hotel for a nice rest. Continue reading “To the Tower!”

Back in England

We had a few hours to kill in Chelmsford before we catch our train back to London.  

Neither of us felt like a hotel meal. so we headed down to one of the local pubs, the Plough, across from the train station for something with a more local vibe.  Great place with a CAMRA designation, cool interior and a fine full English for breakfast.   We walk to, and tour the beautiful Chelmsford cathedral.  Gorgeous. The stained glass on both sides of the entry are a tribute to the American military.  

A short train and metro ride and we’re at our lodging, the family-owned Jemson Hotel in Bloomsbury.  The British Museum provides hours of stimulation. Thanks to our personal pub planner, Ed Vidunas, we locate and enjoy some of the best London has to offer.  Thanks Ed! and also thanks for a great write-up of our evening’s activities by Ryan .

Pics: the Plough, Chelmsford glass, British Museum