Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Ales in April

Well, at last the weather seems to be waking up to the fact that it is supposed to be Spring. And is that a cuckoo I can hear? (No, actually - not in Earl's Court). But you get my drift. Spring is here, and with it, one of the traditional times for Real Ale Festivals - usually in association with St George's Day. Spring Ale is after, a popular beer type in its own right, and what better way to drink it than to sample several?

So, where can we find such gatherings within easy reach of West London?

Well, for start, there's Ye Olde Mitre in the City, tucked away just a few minutes' walk from Farringdon and Chancery Lane tube stations. This wonderful 16th Century hostelry is simply a great place for a pint, and between 21st and 24th April are having a festival for St George's Day.
Unsurprisingly, the beers tend to feature references either to St George himself or the unfortunate dragon.

Featured beers will include: St George's Best
from the Acorn Brewery; St George's Bitter from Arundel; Dragon Slayer from Banks & Taylor; St George's Ale from Daleside; Dragon's Head Stout from Orkney; St George & The Dragon from Manns; and St George's Flag from the Phoenix Brewery.

A little closer to home, there's the Speaker, another no-nonsense beer lover's pub. From the name, you can probably guess that it is close to Parliament, actually located just behind Strutton ground off Victoria Street. Their festival runs from 21st to 27th April, but as yet they have not announced their ale selection. But they are also renowned for their great traditional pub grub, so get there early if you fancy some food with your beer. (NB They open Sunday lunchtimes, but not on Saturdays).

Down in South Wimbledon, the Trafalgar - South West London CAMRA's pub of the year for 2008 - is planning a two-day St George's festival on 25th and 26th April. This is a very small, down-to-earth pub, and a wonderful antidote to any pretensions the rest of Wimbledon may have.

Those in Kingston can visit the Willoughby Arms, which between 23rd and 27th April will feature 40 English Ales and Farmhouse Ciders in their twelfth St George's Day festival. Check out their wacky web-site...

Out in Twickenham the Ailsa Tavern is also having a St George's beer festival, this time with 17 different ales, beginning on 21st April, and running until the ales run out (literally). The Ailsa is a favourite with rugby fans before and after the match (well, depending on the score, I guess) but is also well-known for its pizzas, if you fancy one of those with your pub.

Still staying with the Twickenham area, there's the fabulous Red Lion in Isleworth, CAMRA's pub of the year in 2003-04, no less. You'll have to wait a little longer, as their festival is not until the beginning of May, but with 50 ales as well as cider and perry, it should be worth waiting for (one for the diary, I think).

And if that's not enough for you, then you only have to wait for May and the Mild festivals being planned!

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