Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
The adventure began as a great quest.
My wife, Gayle, was presenting a talk at a
conference at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge University, in
England. We had an opportunity to spend a few extra days in London
before and after the conference.
If I could live in any city in the world, I
would live in London. I love the history, the literacy, the
architecture, the rhythm of the city.
My ancestors were English. Years ago, when I
was disillusioned by industrial beer brewed in the United States, it
was British beer that reignited my passion for brewing and beer.
British Bitters drew me in, and then introduced me to Porters and
This was my chance to explore English pubs I
had missed in the past.
My favorite pub from past visits is the Churchill
Arms in Kensington, which is
known for its delicious Thai cuisine and Fullerís
London has become more cosmopolitan, and
the first beer I tasted was a Menabrea, an Italian craft beer blonde
lager, at Zizzi in
Earls Court. It was not bad, but it was not the authentic English
beer I was seeking.
The weekend took us to Cambridge, where
we visited The
Punter, an excellent local pub
in a renovated coaching house. I enjoyed their fish and chips and
Returning to London after the weekend, our
quest began in earnest.
We found a guidebook with a London historic
pub crawl, and set out to "settle back with a pint and drink in all
The list in the guide included pubs
mentioned in books by Charles Dickens and pubs frequented by William
Shakespeare. The descriptions were filled with historic details, but
not necessarily with clear directions.
Gayle and I decided to begin with Ye Olde
Cheshire Cheese, where Dr. Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens,
Voltaire, Oscar Wilde, and even Americans like Mark Twain and
Theodore Roosevelt had preceded us.
We were able to find Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
on Fleet Street, and make our way down two flights of stairs. The
historic atmosphere was authentic.
This was the first stop on our crawl, and we
were excited to be there. Our expectations were high, shaped by our
experiences in craft breweries back in California.
We got to where we thought we were supposed
to go, and waited. We waited for some time. No one talked to us, or
even made eye contact. It may have been "English reserve," but it
was unusual in London. Our wait lasted long enough that it did not
feel like hospitality to us.
We decided to move on to our next stop.
The next pub we decided to visit was Ye Olde
Mitre (No, not all pubs in London are called "Ye Olde.") We followed
our guide, which described Ye Olde Mitre as "hidden-away." We walked
the streets it describes. We asked people, and no one knew where it
was. We searched, but could not find it.
By that time we were tired, hungry, and
thirsty. It was, as it often is in London, sprinkling rain. We
decided to give up and head back to near where we were staying and
visit a decidedly non-historic London pub for dinner and a pint or
Our quest, though, was not over. The next
afternoon we headed to the historic village of Rotherhithe to visit The
Before we left on our trip, I had let people
know I would be away from my blog for a week or so. I mentioned my
interest in finding pubs. A new friend named Michael Moore
responded, suggesting we meet at The Mayflower.
It was great to meet Michael, and to visit
The Mayflower. We sat on the pubís patio deck listening to the
lapping of the Thames underneath our feet. We sat and talked,
drinking their Best Bitter, Mayflower Scurvy. It was an excellent
The Mayflower is the oldest pub on the River
Thames. The captain of the Mayflower which carried pilgrims to
Plymouth Rock, Christopher Jones, is buried at Saint Maryís church
adjacent to the pub. Rumor has it that Captain Jones tied up
alongside the pub to avoid paying mooring taxes and passengers
boarded the ship. They continued on to Plymouth to pick up the
remaining passengers before they sailed to America.
We are thankful to Michael, and to The
Mayflower for being our favorite historic London pub. I can hardly
wait to visit again.
Greg Richardson is a leadership and
organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena,
California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and
monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney, executive,
and university professor. Gregís website is StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.