Back From Paris & London: Guess Where I Drank More Beer?

I spent the better part of two weeks in Paris and London, ending yesterday, which explains the absence of posts here. It’s not that I didn’t have my computer with me or experience things worth blogging about; it’s just that I frankly couldn’t convince myself that sitting in my hotel room blogging was a better idea that being out and about it two of the world’s greatest cities.

Were I to have blogged during my trip, I might have written something along the lines of what Ron just posted over at his blog, entitled, simply enough, I Love Pubs.

Because, while I might not be as much of a purist as is Mr. Pattinson — hell, who is? — I am a great fan of the British pub. I’ve supped in literally hundreds of the places, written stories about them, and hardly ever found a (studiously selected) one I didn’t like. The pub is a great, great part of why I have such affection for the United Kingdom in general and London in particular, even as pointless idiots try to burn both to the ground this week.

The pub is why I often find myself frustrated drinking in my home city of Toronto, since almost every pub in these parts is part of some cookie cutter chain or another, all of which believe that I pub starts with old brewery bric-a-brac and ends with overly cheerful servers in girl’s school kilts. (And what is up with that, anyway!?) Although difficult to explain, a pub is something much more than fittings and fixtures, more, even, that centuries of history and experience. A pub is a social entity, not a physical one, and that is something most patrons and, sadly, customers around these parts just don’t get.

Best first-time pub for me on this trip? Although there were many contenders, most notably the Prince Albert and Draft House, both steps from Battersea Park — and both proof that chains can run decent public houses! — I’ll have to give the nod to north London’s excellent Jolly Butchers, a recently transformed pub which provides ample evidence that cask ale and craft beer, old neighbourhoods and new interiors, families and ordinary punters can all co-exist quite happily.

I miss it already.



3 Replies to “Back From Paris & London: Guess Where I Drank More Beer?”

  1. Coincidentally, I was also in the UK last weekend. I agree with much of what you wrote. I found a new love there: The Bell in Aldworth (

    The pub had five cask beers on and, happily, no “craft beer” although all five beers had been made with skill and craft. All were “modern” versions of traditional milds and bitters. The beers were served flat and warm, just as they should be. It was quite wonderful.

  2. Mike’s comment makes me think the concept of beers made with skill and craft enables a more rational use of the term craft beer than exists in Britain now. Craft beer would mean any cask beer – made by a brewery of any size or age since cask beer is a traditional process entailing a certain amount of skill and craft, and a brewery-conditioned beer that is unpasteurized which uses mostly traditional ingredients (malt and hops). Yes, there will still be grey areas but such is always the case with any classification.

    The concept removes focus from the size of a brewery or the era of its founding, and puts the accent on how the product is made. I’d exclude pasteurized beer because unusual cases aside (e.g. Anchor Brewing in CA), the method seems consistent more with mass production and distribution rather than a craft scale of operation.


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