Saturday IV

By now it was pushing towards evening. Reunion with the Lady in his Life was due, and Malcolm was mellow.

There really were only a few trivialities left to report.

More fodder. More drink

Nothing much to say about that. Islington is stuffed full of eateries and drinkers. Some quite interesting.

You really need to venture out of Islington Green to find the better watering holes (The Bull, in Upper Street, is none too distant and there are several in the Liverpool and Caledonian Roads). If barking dogs (and by this stage, Malcolm’s feet were killing him) dissuade you from extended movement, there’s always the Camden Head in … err … Camden Passage.

This was where, allegedly, the urinal wall first featured the classic graffiti exchange:

— My mother made me a homsexual.
— If I gave her the wool, would she do the same for me?

The Camden Head

Malcolm has been coming here, off-and-on, since the later ’60s. It remains an unreconstructed  Victorian gin-palace, and is well avoided at crunch times (which means weekends and later evenings). The clientele tends to be young, trendy, affluent and loud. Yet, choose your moment, and all is well.

On this occasion, with just half-an-hour to himself (the Lady in his Life was still to be met on the other side of the Green) Malcolm found space in a corner.

Inevitably, on the pump was Sharp’s Doom Bar, a decent — if unexciting 4% bitter. It’s everything one would expect as a massed produced item (it’s absolutely everywhere!) from the Molsom/Coors stable. It appeals to the Pert Young Piece. Say no more.

One can usually do better; and Malcolm reckons he did.

Still, it started a train of thought.

The meeting with the Lady in his Life was at Brown’s, an attempt at a bistro atmosphere and so very popular with the yummy-mummy and media wannabes of Islington. It’s also an easy place to retire and eat. And, also also, right next door to Waterstone’s bookshop.

It doesn’t sell real beer,

However, and hello! Among the fizzy continentals is Korev, which is the St Austell brewery’s attempt at a lager. And, putting prejudices aside, not a bad one. And so the train of thought was back on the tracks.

One by-product of the Doom Bar phenomenon is that Cornish beers (or, to be more exact, brews branded from Cornwall) have become commonplace in London, and further afield. Some of them are very good stuff. Malcolm goes, happily, for a couple in particular:

St Austell Proper Job

This is a step up from 4.2% Tribute, itself no slouch.

The extra gravity (this one comes in at 4.5%) gives it a bit more “elbow”, and the American hoppiness gives it extra sharpness. Sadly, it doesn’t turn up as often as it should, but the Nicholson’s houses across London seem to have Tribute as a regular.

Which is no bad thing.


This is a smaller brewery, based in Truro, and its products don’t get the coverage they deserve. Not, one suspects, because of lack of demand: more of supply.

The one to look for is Cornish Knocker, a 4.5% golden ale. Get past the “funny” beer pump clip (these are an omnipresent menace), imbibe slowly, and allow some complex flavours to emerge.

The “quaffing” session-beer from Skinner’s is Betty Stogs. Again, the label is unnecessarily “advanced”: the legend is that Betty was a Cornish trollop, who one morning found the pixies had taken pity on her neglected child, cleaned him up — and so Betty became a reformed character. What we have is a 4% ale, again with that complex flavour. By the look of it, Betty has been given a recent image social upgrade of late (see below).

Finally: home to roost

One of the joys of ending the evening in Islington is the 43 bus runs regularly, and all the way home to Muswell Hill.

Coming up the Archway Road, normally a noxious exhaust-filled chasm, there was a superb autumnal sky, egg-shell blue with radiant shocking-pink con-trails.



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Filed under Beer, Britain, London, Muswell Hill, pubs

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