Saying goodbye to my old local, and hello GBBF

Photo of Steve Bolton by philfromdublin on flickr

Is a blog without updates really a blog?  The generous folks at CAMRA seem to think so, and have granted me a pass to the Great British Beer Festival trade session.

I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go, especially after hearing Laura and Dave had to give it a miss this year.  But then I was lucky enough to meet up with Laura this weekend, as she was visiting for the Knit Nation extravaganza.  We ended up at the Market Porter fondling roving and wool Laura had found at the knitting event and drinking halves of Harvey’s Bitter and Deeside Talorcan (a hearty, chocolaty stout with an impressive beige head and just enough bitterness and wood notes to really make it complex).

We then made our way to the Rake which was more than hospitable.  We sampled most of what they had on at the moment, as well as some remarkable bottled ginger beer and the Williams Brothers’ Kelpie which had a warm salinity at the back that was fascinating.  We met Nick who’d just come from the Utobeer stall, fully stocked with De Molen bottles.  We marvelled at their elegant, mysterious labels in true beer fanatic fashion.  Everyone prompted me to get the blog going again, and as you can see they were very persuasive.

The only sad news of the day was seeing the landlord of my old local, the Magpie and Crown, pulling pints at the Rake.  I asked him what the situation was and he told me he’d been forced out due to excessive rents after running the place for 14 years, offering stellar real ales from local breweries and lovely cider as well as the best Thai food I’ve had in London.  This is a common story all over London, another example of greed pushing out places with individual character , history and personal vision.  I never really liked living in greater west London, but the Magpie and Crown was one consolation.  I relished the notion that I could go down the street and never know what I might try, but knowing there would be something that I was perfectly in the mood for, and the music would be good and at the right volume and the punters just strange enough to be interesting.  And, you know, I’d always have the corner seat by the window.  The pub is still there but it won’t be the same without Steve, and I thank him for helping to make the time I lived there much happier, welcoming and full of fantastic beers.

Cartoon over the Hearth of the Magpie and Crown

So now it’s on to forming my beer festival game plan.  Last year I had a list which became useless within minutes as I realized the beers I most wanted to try weren’t there yet or were MIA or were trumped by bigger and better ideas from the beer hounds surrounding me.  Which brings me to the real reason I’m going.  It isn’t really for the beer at all (don’t tell anyone!) but for the fellow beer writers and brewers– where good beer is you find good people, it’s as simple as that.

9 Responses

  1. Oh, what a shame about the Magpie & Crown. I’ve been there a couple of times (most recently in June 2009) and rather liked it.

    Don’t suppose you might be at the GBBF on Wednesday as well as tomorrow night? I’m there on Wednesday and it would be cool to meet up if possible.

    • Hi Kake, I really liked the Magpie and Crown also. I know it’s still open, but there’s a different landlord. I have no idea what it’s like now. I don’t think I’ll be at the GBBF on Wednesday. Is that when the whole Randomness posse is going? Shame to miss you guys!

      • Aw, oh well, maybe we’ll manage to meet at some point anyway!

        • Maybe we should do a pub crawl at some point!

  2. Awright: Impy’s back on the prowl. Kick out the jams, muthafucka!

    Darn shame about Steve’s pub tho. It was the saving grace of Brentford.

  3. As far as I can see the Magpie & Crown isn’t a very attractive proposition for anyone, judging by how long it’s been on the estate agent’s website. I noticed it there a while ago.

    • Hi Jeff, I guess they did find someone after all, unless that fell through and it’s been listed again? It isn’t the most pleasant area– there was a lovely shop a few doors down from the pub that sold pristine vintage clothing & always had a lovely window display and of course that didn’t last on that street either. It’s just quite grim.

  4. So glad to see you blogging again, you’re very much missed from my feed of blogs! Thank you so much for meeting up with me. I had a fabulous day. Great company, lovely beer and great chat with some knitting thrown in, sure what more could you want?
    Have fun at the GBBF, looking forward to the blog posts.

    • It was fantastic to see you! I hope to come visit you soon. If you need any knitting gear from London, let me know! You were missed at the GBBF! Hopefully next year you and Dave can make it over. I will post tomorrow about it all– some stellar beers and since I was hanging with the IBC, of course, super friendly & fascinating company!

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