Bermondsey Beer Mile: British Invasion, Day 5

Saturday was essentially what Gabbie likes to call as “stay-home day.”*  We weren’t going to hang out around the house, but we weren’t leaving Bermondsey, the little area of Southwark in which we were staying.  As ever, we’d done our pre-trip research**, so we knew that on Saturdays our little corner of London was home to the Maltby Street Market.  The Market basically crams as many artisan food, drink, etc. stalls as possible into a little alleyway between two bigger roads, and everything in it looks and smells amazing, and I would have been perfectly happy to spend all day there, if there hadn’t been the promise of beer in the very near future.  However, given that it was 9 a.m., we figured we’d better start with some breakfast.

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Yep, those are all different kinds of Scotch eggs.  And behind them are these yummy potato, meat roll things.  The guy who sells them is at the market most Saturdays, and he said he finishes making them at 3 a.m. the morning of, grabs a couple of hours sleep, and then drives them in to sell when the Market opens.  This means they’re not “warm”, but they were still pretty darn delicious.  We grabbed some coffee as well, found a curb, and got down to eating.

Mine.  I tried one of the potato roll things.   I mean, there was a bit of sharing, obviously, but I was technically the owner of this plate, if you will.

Mine. I tried one of the potato roll things. I mean, there was a bit of sharing, obviously, but I was technically the owner of this plate, if you will.

Jon's.  I think he got the sausage Scotch egg.  That's chutney on the side of both plates.  Mmmm, chutney.  So good.

Jon’s. I think he got the sausage Scotch egg. That’s chutney on the side of both plates. Mmmm, chutney. So good.

We perused the Market a bit more, and then…it was Bermondsey Beer Mile time.

Before I get too far into my (our) cups, I’d like to give you our…manifesto on English beer.  By and large…we were not fans.  The cask-style ales were not to our liking.  They tasted flat and flavorless to us–very little in the way of hops or malt.  Mostly just yeasty.  Plus, being “cask” there’s very little carbonation, and they tend to be served at about room-temp.  Basically, every stereo-type you’ve heard about English beer was, at times, proven true.  I took to mostly drinking wine and gin by the third day, but we’d been planning to do the Beer Mile since we were four months out, so do it we must.  (Disclaimer:  Most of the beers on the Mile were much more like American craft beers than English.  There were some I didn’t like, but that’s par for the course with any brewery, and I enjoyed them much more than any of my pub experiences thus far had led me to believe I would.)

Our first stop was Anspach & Hobday, were we tried a tasting flight each.  Unlike most American breweries, some of these places had flights and some didn’t.  However, almost all English drinking establishments offer half-pints, so you can still sort of sample a few.  It’s dicey, though–if you want to keep remembering the various nuances of different beers.

The only one from here that I specifically remember standing out (I should have been taking notes, I guess...) was a very good sour beer. It could have been the Miami Weisse, but I'm not sure. Their website isn't incredibly up to date, and they didn't sell bottles of that one, so I couldn't take any home, sadly.

The only one from here that I specifically remember standing out (I should have been taking notes, I guess…) was a very good sour beer. It could have been the Miami Weisse, but I’m not sure. Their website isn’t incredibly up to date, and they didn’t sell bottles of that one, so I couldn’t take any home, sadly.

Next up were Brew by Numbers (BBNO) and Partizan.  Almost all of these little places are set in railway arches, so they’re tucked under old train lines.  (Looking back, I really wish we’d taken more pictures of the outside of the shops.)  Some of them were really close together, but then you’d have to walk several blocks to get to the next stop, hence the mile.  (Also, no idea why the Brits and their metric-loving hearts decided to call it the Mile.  I mean, it does sound better than Bermondsey Beer Kilometers, but still.)  This is also nothing “official.”  It’s a fairly recent development, which is why you’ll find blogs about it, but I couldn’t find an entry on, say, Trip Advisor.

I think BBNO was first, but they were right next to each other, so I honestly can't remember the order.  BBNO had at least one beer I liked a bit--a saison I think, and they had very interesting glasses, one of which Jon purchased as a souvenir.

I think BBNO was first, but they were right next to each other, so I honestly can’t remember the order. BBNO had at least one beer I liked a bit–a saison I think, and they had very interesting glasses, one of which Jon purchased as a souvenir.

Every. single. stop my friends.  He's lucky I'd gotten so used to drinking almost warm beer by this point.

Every. single. stop, my friends. He’s lucky I’d gotten so used to drinking almost warm beer by this point.

Partizan was probably our favorite brewery on the Mile.  They make several different kinds of flavored saisons, and we enjoyed these quite a bit.  The red one is a rasberry saison, I think, or maybe cherry.  It was excellent.

Partizan was probably our favorite brewery on the Mile. They make several different kinds of flavored saisons, and we enjoyed these quite a bit. The red one is a rasberry saison, I think, or maybe cherry. It was excellent.  They also have very cool label art, so it’s worth clicking over to their website, just to check that out. 

Next up was EeBria Taproom, which isn’t technically a brewery, but they serve all kinds of regional beers on tap (and only on Saturdays), so we went in and made a few flights.

They decorated with an impressive array of old bottles from beers brewed to celebrate or remember specific events in UK history.

They decorated with an impressive array of old bottles from beers brewed to celebrate or remember specific events in UK history.

Throughout our beer journey, Jon and I were “pipe dreaming,” taking ideas and arrangements from this brewery and that, discussing how we’d incorporate them into the brewery we’d like to open some day.  (Note:  This most likely will never happen, but you should know that is absolutely is a genuine dream we share.  We’d love to make and sell beer–brewery culture is one of our favorites.  We just need some time, some capital, and some, um, actual beer recipes.  Yeah…that last seems key.)  Anyway, these paper flight holders were one of the ideas we liked–just when you’re getting started, until you can afford to have some nice, wooden ones made.

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Finally, we wandered on to Fourpure, our last stop on the Mile.  (There are other stops, but I think you’ll agree that five is enough to be getting on with.  One more, and I don’t think I would have made it back out that evening…)  This place was definitely the closest thing to “American” brewery culture we experienced that day.  While the tasting room was still very much in the brewery, it was much bigger, and they had BBQ going outside (and port-a-potties).  They seemed like they were expecting and prepared for a crowd, whereas most of the other places had limited seating and facilities.  (This isn’t bad, and I don’t know how they’d manage to squeeze more into the tight spaces they occupy.  It’s just an observation.)

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In short, this reminded me a lot of smaller breweries I’d visited in Minneapolis, and Jon was reminded of several he’d visited in San Diego.  None of the immediate polish that a lot of new breweries around here seem to have, but still a fairly big operation.  The beer was all right.  I think we both liked the red ale.

This will be the last beer pic of this post, promise.

This will be the last beer pic of this post, promise.

Thoroughly hungry, we wandered back to the Market in hopes of destroying a large amount of food, but alas, a lot of stuff was closing.  We did manage to snag some macaroons, a fruit tart, some chicken and waffles, and some oysters, but my level of sadness over missing The Cheese Truck and spilling chili oil on one of my favorite dresses*** seemed to indicate that it was probably time for a nap.  Ahem…

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After said nap, at the suggestion of two of our hosts, we hit up The Garrison for dinner and 214 Bermondsey for drinks.  The former was a very classic pub-style restaurant, but the menu had just been updated, and it was very good.  The latter was an underground gin bar–very crowded and full of hipster bartenders and their mustaches.  Much as any underground bar should be.

This is a Hendrix fix.  And one slice from a GIGANTIC cucumber.

This is a Hendrix fix. And one slice from a GIGANTIC cucumber.

We threw back a couple of Hendrix Fixs, watched a group do a couple of gin flights (they give you descriptions of three gins and their names, but they don’t tell you which they pour in which glass–then you taste them all and guess.  It looked fun, but Jon especially isn’t much of a straight booze kind of guy, so not for us), and then headed for home with a quick stop for a nightcap at The Gregorian Arms, the pub that had so charmed me with it’s proximity and available toilets on our first day.

Almost finished.  Only one London post left.  Then I’ll get back to yammering about what ridiculousness my kids have been up to lately.  (Hint:  It does NOT involve sleeping.  Ugh.)

*This is her term for any day she doesn’t have to go to preschool.  She loves stay-home days.  Me, too, kid.  Me, too.

**Pre-trip research is one of Jon’s absolute FAVORITE things, evar.  Like, sleep, Jayhawks, beer, good food, and pre-trip research.  Desert island top five.  He almost, sincerely, likes it more than the actual vacation.

***The dress ended up being fine.  I know you were worried.