Two more London pubs ya gotta see. I know, you’re thinking: More pubs? Can’t count any more! Already got my shoes off and running out of digits!
I offer this simple truth: You cannot visit too many pubs. Even a couple of lifetimes might not even do the trick. But, I see your problem and I’m sympathetic.
How often does a person get to London? In my case, the answer is EVERY CHANCE I FREAKING GET! But then, I’ve been going there for some forty years and I get back an average of three times a year. When my brother and I meet in London, every two years, we manage to hit about thirty pubs in a week and I still carry a list of “must go to” pubs we haven’t set foot in.
So, when I bother to stoop to your amateur-pub-experience-level, do yourself a favor and pay attention! Here are two names to jot down:
The Old Bank of England
The Counting House
Both are owned by Fuller Brewery and both went through years of refurbishment before any barkeep pulled a pint. I’m talking about refurbishment in the grand sense of the word. Soaring, intricately festooned ceilings, carefully carved dark wood, sparkling chandeliers, majestic windows, and of course, fabulous ales, pulled from the cask by hand pumps.
What’s with the hand pumps? you may well ask. Not easy to say in one sentence, so allow me time to explain. Let’s start with the difference between English ales and American and Continental style beers. Most American and European beers are either lager, or lager-style. In a phrase: for lagers, yeast falls to the bottom of the vat and that’s where the sugar turns to alcohol and carbon dioxide bubbles its way to the top. It’s called bottom fermentation and the result is a light colored, carbonated beverage. To keep the carbonation, the beer is either bottled, or stored in pressurized kegs. Additionally, commercial gas is used to pull the beer from the keg to your glass./
English ales, on the other hand, are a product of top fermentation. Few to no bubbles. Ale is placed in kegs for a secondary fermentation and storage. There’s almost no carbonation to pump it out, so the ale must be hand-pumped directly from the keg. In some cases it’s called cask conditioned, or gravity ale. As the name implies, gravity ale flows directly from the spigot in the cask, with no pumping required.
Ok, it’s a bit more complicated, but those are the basics. The result is (in my considered opinion!) a different beverage from the beer Americans’ taste buds are used to. Sometimes the English beverage is derided as warm, flat beer. No so. Normally, kegs are kept in a pub’s cellar, where the temperature is about 55-60ºF. Cool, not warm.
And with top fermentation, the result is deeper, amber color, and robust flavor, not the same thing you’d get if you let an American beer go flat.
Lest you think I’m knocking American and European beers, I’ll confess that an ice cold, fizzy brewski, after mowing the lawn on a sweaty summer’s day, is just the thing to bring you back to life. Time and place for everything.
But, I’d much rather be ensconced in an English pub, sipping an English pint. There’s something about the sheer romance of hand-pulled ale and the atmosphere of an old and wonderful watering hole, that’s the thing of comfort and dreams. Plus, the rich, complex flavors of English ale are to be sipped and savored.
Check out the photos of The Old Bank of England and The Counting House and see if you don’t yearn to join me for some polite chat over a pint.
|Inside The Old Bank of England|
|All you really need to know|
The Old Bank of England (194 Fleet Street) is in what once was the bank branch in the Courts of Law. Don’t miss the gallery, which gives a magnificent view of the entire pub. And don’t just come here to drink. It’s famous for it’s English fare, including heavenly meat pies.
|Inside the Counting House|
The Counting House (50 Cornhill) dates from 1893 and as the name implies, was once a Victorian banking hall. As with The Old Bank of England, The Counting House gleams and glows with 19th Century luxury and charm. It also sports a wondrous gallery that allows you to observe the full sway of the crowds while you calmly sip your ale.
|Ready to pull a pint?|
Both pubs are spectacularly adored and spaciously comfortable. The perfect spots for gentlemen and their ladies to while away a few hours in the almost magical atmosphere of old London.
Make sure you check the opening hours on these pubs before you go.
Next blog, I'm going to treat you to a Brewery tour!