Wednesday, 13 February 2008

How about a virtual pub crawl?

I'm an avid contributor to the review website Qype, and among my contributions are, well, quite a lot of pubs. I've actually produced a guide to my favourite real-ale pubs. As the guide says, the key criteria are: decent real-ale; a friendly welcome; and pleasant surroundings.

The real-ale bit is very important: my other half and I are both members of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. Founded in 1971, it is regarded by many as the most successful single issue consumer campaign group in Britain. Prior to its formation, real ale - the traditional British pint, with centuries of history and pedigree behind it - was rapidly disappearing, being replaced by sterilised and uniform keg beers, and in danger of becoming extinct. So a group of real-ale enthusiasts got together and tried to do something about it - leading to the formation of CAMRA.

As well as campaigning for real-ale itself, CAMRA has also campaigned for greater choice in pubs, resulting in legislation to reduce the number of tied pubs and introduce the concept of guest ales. It also campaigns these days to try and keep pubs open, with events such as the Community Pubs Week; for full pints (ie without excessive heads of froth); and against high levels of duty on beer. It also, famously, organises the Great British Beer Festival every year in London, now held in Earl's Court. Local branches help to organise many smaller beer festivals around the country as well.

But I digress. One of the other Qypers suggested that we could put together a pub crawl from my reviews, although he noted that they were fairly scattered across the country. So this crawl has to be virtual, I'm afraid. (OK, I know a virtual pub crawl doesn't really work - they haven't yet developed a web-link that dispenses beer - but it's just a bit of fun!). An added advantage is that we can teleport - very up to the minute with the release of the film 'Jumper' - although that might have been much more fun if he'd 'jumped' between pubs, like we are going to do.

So, where to start? Well, Brighton is a favourite haunt. Getting off the train, you could go to the Evening Star for starters, with its fantastic selection of its own, sometimes quirky beers; and then up the hill to the Prestonville Arms, with its fierce Sunday night pub quiz, perhaps via the Shakespeare's Head for some hearty sausages and mash on the way. Then - you'd have to teleport this bit - you could go to the shabby-chic and friendly Barley Mow over in Kemp Town, bypassing the City Centre.

Then you'd have to teleport again - beats BR, this, doesn't it? - this time to the lovely Sussex town of Lewes, perhaps dipping by the little village of East Chiltington to drop into the formidable gatro-pub that is the Jolly Sportsman. (Actually, as it's a virtual crawl, we could eat here too - budget no object). In Lewes itself, there's the real-ale paradise of the Gardener's Arms, the greatly-loved Lewes Arms (now with its Harvey's beers famously restored, after a campaign that reached 'Private Eye'), and the Brewer's Arms - a nice old traditional pub on the High Street - ending up in the curiously named Snowdrop (named, incredibly, after a tragic avalanche).

Where next? Well, close to Lewes there's the Trevor Arms, just down the road from Glyndebourne. And then, it's back to teleporting to London to finish off. After nine pubs, I think we can only manage a few, but the choice is so overwhelming. So, let's go for the renowned Wenlock Arms, just south of Islington, and beloved of real-ale aficionados, and then down to Trafalgar Square for a tipple in the splendid art gallery that is the Harp. And to finish, a short amble across the Square takes us to a pub I really like, the Ship & Shovel near Charing Cross. Uniquely, this pub is in two halves, across a narrow lane.

Phew! After all that beer, teleporting may not be a good idea, so it's an easy ride home on the tube...


Toque said...

Will you support the campaign to get Alistair Darling banned from every pub in Britain?

Simply print off the poster and get your landlord to put it up in your local.

I live about 100 yards from the Gardeners. It's a great pub, just come from there actually, having enjoyed a few pints of Harvey's Porter. The Hand in Hand in Kemp town is interesting - if a little strange - reputed to be England's smallest brew pub.

David J said...

Thanks for the comment. I'd read about the campaign in the press - what I don't understand is duty on beer went up by more than on spirits, when it's alcopops that are the cause of much of the trouble?

I have been several times to the Hand in Hand - I've never found it that great a place to drink in, and the beer was a bit variable. I prefer the Barley Mow as a pub in that neck of the woods.