We’ve reviewed a few of Samuel Smiths’ ales and lagers here at The Brew Club, and the reviews and comments have been for the most part, very complimentary.
You might recall in my review of the brewery’s Old Brewery Bitter, that I mentioned that the brewery has an estate of about a hundred and sixty ‘tied’ pubs, including around twenty in London. There’s a rather neat interactive map here – . When I was a teenager (of legal drinking age – natch) these pubs were, and still remain, an oasis of fine Yorkshire Ales. For the most part the pubs have retained their original character and have resisted modernisation. Some are absolute gems.
So, when I learned that a bunch of guys that I occasionally drink with were planning ‘Sammy Smiths Pub Crawl’ I decided that it would be an interesting way to spend a Saturday, there were twelve pubs on the list, but it was a braver man than me that would attempt them all.
We met at my local station mid-morning, and took the train up to central London. Our journey was delayed due to vandalism on the route so it was two sweltering hours later that we arrived at our first pub ‘The Glasshouse Stores‘ which is literally a stone’s throw from Picadilly Circus – the heart of London’s tourist area.
Within moments a pint of Sam Smiths organic wheat beer was poured and it went down a treat. Again, this was a subtle ‘German’ style wheat beer, soft, with hints of banana and clove – not ‘in your face’ like Hoegaarden. It took some restraint to not order a second, but I knew it was going to be a long day.
From the ‘Duke’ we ventured north to the ‘John Snow’ which is just off Carnaby Street – which was the heart of ‘Swinging London’ in the sixties. The John Snow is named after a London physician who stopped a Cholera outbreak in 1854 by locking the local water pump. This proved the link between Cholera and water, and while there is a pump in the centre of the road, the site of the actual pump is marked by a pink granite kerbstone outside the pub.
There was little chance of cholera amongst our group, by now the thought of drinking water was furthest from their minds! By now I had moved on to the Old Brewery Bitter, and it was a fine ‘nutty’ Yorkshire ale. On a day with the temperatures touching eighty degrees I would normally have stuck with the lager and the wheat beer, but I was on a mission, and was determined to sample as many of the Sam Smiths brews as I could.
We called in to the ‘Red Lion’ – behind the famous Liberty store, near Oxford Circus – en-route to ‘The Cock’ on Great Portland Street. This took us from the area known as Soho and into the area known as Fitzrovia. Probably the most distinctive feature of ‘The Cock’ is the row of small windows at face height above the bar. According to the bar staff this was to prevent infections being spread to the bar staff by the customers. It’s an interesting tale, but I haven’t managed to verify this anywhere else.
‘The Champion’ was our next pub, which features fabulous stained glass windows. I moved on to Taddy Stout and was taking a few pictures of the interior when I was berated by an old boy sitting in the corner of the bar. “You’ve just taken my picture without my permission. I was a war photographer, behaviour like that would have got me shot.”
I apologised, bought the old boy a half of stout and sat down to chat to him. More than just a war photographer; when I mentioned that I worked in computers he responded “I did a bit of that, back in the old days. Of course we couldn’t tell anybody about it. Colossus, that was the chap, with young Alan Turing, a troubled soul.”
Well even if 90% of what he spoke of was total tosh – and I doubt it was – I spent a very pleasant hour in his company along with a couple of pints of stout.
Of course by now the rest of the lads had moved on, so I set off with my itinerary in hand to find them. I tried the next two pubs on the list, they’d been in one, but not the other, so I headed back to the main rail terminus to head home… only to bump into the gang. We journeyed home together on the train, and then as they headed off to their various locals, I retired to the Village Hall for a final pint while waiting for a taxi.
All in all a splendid day was had by all.
We consumed far too many excellent ales, and my head the next morning served as a reminder me of what a good time we’d had. They’re already talking about the next one… I’m not sure that my liver could cope!