Two Stops for Real Cask Ale in London

I had one goal on my extremely short trip to London: drink as much good cask ale as I could find. It turned out to be a bigger challenge than I expected! I had everything from the clearly very old to the straight up vinegar (looking at you The Royal Oak.).

Two pubs were my favorites by a massive order of magnitude: The Princess Louise and The Harp.

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I have to thank Bill Simpson (and also maybe fate??) for recommending The Princess Louise just a week before I left for my 50ish hours in London. Marked only by the standard hanging bar sign the facade doesn’t lead to much expectation.

Inside, there are a bunch of booths separated by ornate wooden and glass walls surrounding a giant oval bar in the center. Most of the structure of the bar is original from 1891 it’s so well preserved that it is protected as a historical site all the way down to the marble urinals in the Men’s room. (I didn’t get to see these but I hear they’re pretty neat!) The booths give you a feeling of a loud and lively bar environment without being crowded. It made us want to sit there for hours in our little private booth and watch all the Londoners trickle in for an after-work beer. But alas, Princess Louise is owned by Sam Smith’s and I needed to get my hands on other varieties of cask ale. 

The other pub that really made an impression in both quality and character was the Harp. Upon walking in it’s hard to miss the walls plastered with labels from Fuller’s beers (and that’s mostly what they are serving on tap) but the real atmosphere is waiting out back and up above the bar.

A crowd of pub-goers gathers in the alley behind and beside the building and even up the street aways. I guess in London they don’t have a problem with glassware growing legs and walking off the premises like we do in the U.S. because no staff was visibly keeping watch. The people outside aren’t too boisterous, they (mostly men) are just getting a pint or two after work peppered with the occasional passionate conversation about sports (yes, of course I mean football).

I want this art from the 2nd level of The Harp in my apartment!

I want this art from the 2nd level of The Harp in my apartment!

The scene in the back alley of the Harp is crowded with drinkers (but doesn’t feel like a frat party!)

The scene in the back alley of the Harp is crowded with drinkers (but doesn’t feel like a frat party!)

A winding staircase behind the bar takes you up to the second floor that is bursting with old world time. Tiny tables fit with even smaller stools (I truly felt like I was crouching) fill every inch of a wooden room that seems unchanged for at least 50 years. The walls are adorned with Victorian era paintings (many of them depicting beer or drinking). It felt like an authentic British experience that was once more prevalent in London. (I get into the craft scene here!).

All this before I even say a word about the beer! My goal was thoroughly accomplished at The Harp with more than half a dozen hand-pulled casks plus a selection of beers on tap that wasn’t exclusively Fullers. It was also one of the few bars serving a mild on cask (a dark British session ale that has waned in popularity in the last couple decades.) Between the fresh air in the back alley, the loud bar area, and the quaint if crowded upper level it would be easy to lose a whole day at The Harp.

The Best Little 15 Minute Walk in London

The best little 15 minute walk for a beer lover in London is the trek from the Princess Louise, through Covenant Garden, with a stop at the National Gallery, and down to the Harp.

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The Princess Louise and The Harp were my *top picks* for traditional bars in London. But, Covenant Garden is packed with quintessential English pubs including some that serve food. I stopped in both the White Lion, a great location for people watching, and The Lamb & Flag, at one time a favorite of Charles Dickens, for its old fashioned construction and real ale.

With so many pints along the way this short journey needs a non-boozy stop that is easily fulfilled by the free to the public National Gallery. The collection is astounding and can be enjoyed by both the art-inclined and tourists. In my opinion, one of the highlights is the only equestrian portrait Rembrandt ever painted located on the second floor. I have heard that the tea room at the National Gallery is an unforgettable experience, but I didn’t make the time on this trip…too many beers!

At the White Lion in Covenant Garden located right across from the Nags Head pub.

At the White Lion in Covenant Garden located right across from the Nags Head pub.

Why Visit The Bermondsey Beer Mile When in London?

When I first asked around about what I should do in London so many people suggested The Bermondsey Beer Mile. A “mile” built around beer? Seemed like a natural fit.

Even though I was only in London for three short days, I knew I wanted to make time on Saturday to hit up the beer mile especially Brew By Numbers and Cloudwater breweries which I’ve heard so much about.

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After visiting the touristy Bourough Market (where they not only offer you pink prosecco while you shop, but encourage it.) we made the scenic walk down Bermondsey road, past many colorful shops and cafes. (It’s about a 20 minute walk, perfect for a pretty day if you’re planning a trip to London!)

We ended up at the Maltby Street Market, which though it was prosecco-less I much preferred to the overcrowded Bourough Market. There is an eclectic mix of street fare from cities all over the world. I was devastated that the “African Volcano” was closed but was satisfied with my falafel plate and a Taiwanese dessert called dhan. There were also two very small bars pouring craft beer, I had a Belgian blond that wasn’t too bad, but maybe a bit reminiscent of starting out as a homebrewer.

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All this pre-beer-mile-arrival explanation because the beer mile was…..fine. I may be jaded by living too close to the packed taprooms of Brooklyn or so fascinated by the traditional beer culture of London that the craft simply pales in comparison, but I was left questioning my decision to make my way out to Bermondsey while in London.

The feel of the beer mile is very industrial, freight containers line the walk and the breweries are situated under large archways in a rail line.

Sure, there are a dozen breweries lined up so in some sort of Goldilocks principle situation, there must be at least one that I liked. But fusel alcohol laden saison gave way to metallic pale ales and left me uninterested in the journey required to unearth a gem.

Brew By Numbers was my favorite of the breweries, a spot where I found a decent pale ale and a corner to stand in with a ledge to rest my beer (aka the bare minimum for me to survive in a bar.) I gave up and caught a train over to Mayfair for a break from beer with a martini at the Connaught Hotel.

I mean tell me this doesn’t look like Brooklyn?!

I mean tell me this doesn’t look like Brooklyn?!

An industrial feeling tap room at Brew By Numbers

An industrial feeling tap room at Brew By Numbers

I hate being negative so I will caveat to say I had about 50 hours in London so every moment felt precious, if I had more time I may have just generally shrugged off the detour to brewery road. Plus, if I hadn’t ventured out I wouldn’t have discovered the Maltby Market, one of my best memories from this visit.

All in all, if you’re looking for London style “craft” beer and the direction English beer culture may be headed in make a visit to this strip mall of breweries but if you’re looking for something that feels London-y spend your time elsewhere.

What to do When You Visit Weihenstephan 

An easy train ride out of Munich, Freising (pronounced fry-sign) is a perfect day trip for beer lovers that want to get a little history in during their stay in Germany. Weihenstephan is the oldest continuously producing brewery in the world (a fact not easily forgotten as it is plastered all over the brewery campus) and is best known for its impeccably brewed wheat beers. Here’s what I suggest doing when visiting this picturesque town and historical brewery.

The main street in Freising had a little construction going on

The main street in Freising had a little construction going on

The town square in Freising (Yes it’s on a hill!)

The town square in Freising (Yes it’s on a hill!)

Explore the Town of Freising

Freising is a quaint German town that almost seems torn from a movie set (or maybe Disney World’s Epcot?). If you’re planning to tour the brewery, try to get an early train and give yourself a few hours to explore the old town area. The town square with three (beer serving!) cafes and the old church is a great place to relax, people watch, and take in the unique architecture and statues.  

Go to an Eiscafe 

I was shocked at how important ice cream is to the German diet. At any time of day, early morning, lunch time, very late at night, people are sitting outside eating massive ice cream sundaes. My friend who lives in Berlin laughed when I texted her on our second day in Germany “Ok, everyone is always eating ice cream? Or am I crazy?” She confirmed, yes in Germany, there’s no wrong time to eat an ice cream. Freising’s main road is lined with Eiscafes that are a little less commercial and more charming than the ones you’ll find in Munich, a perfect opportunity to try the mid-day ice cream trend...maybe the Germans are onto something with this?? 

Such a cute spot for some beers and snacks!

Such a cute spot for some beers and snacks!

Pure joy drinking the Weihenstephan Pils!

Pure joy drinking the Weihenstephan Pils!

Go To Das Bräustüberl Weihenstephan (The Brewery’s Restaurant)

It takes about 25 minutes to walk from the center of the town up to the brewery. If you’d rather skip the exercise, it’s easy to find a cab near the train station. It’s a bit of a steep walk, you’re mounting the hill that the brewery sits on, but the elevation also provides a unique view of the city and scenic gardens as you make your way toward Weihenstephan. If you have time before your tour definitely stop in at the restaurant for a few beers. There is counter service through a window out back in the garden or you can opt for a full blown table service lunch of traditional German fare and beer. Beers are affordable at around €4 a liter and the whole line of Weihenstephan beers are available. It was my first time having their pilsner and I gotta say...come for the wheat beer, stay for the pils! 



Just one of three bottles on the tasting! (You can see the empty basket of pretzels too!

Just one of three bottles on the tasting! (You can see the empty basket of pretzels too!

Couldn’t help but pose with the boil kettle…I am a tourist after all!

Couldn’t help but pose with the boil kettle…I am a tourist after all!

Take a Brewery Tour 

The tour may seem like the main event, and it may be that I’m a bit tour-ed out, but I would say the tour is rather generic. It is cool to see the old equipment and the “room where it’s made” but I didn’t learn anything new or specific to Weihenstephan. The tours happen Monday-Wednesday and are available in English so you can ask as many questions as you want...and take photos of course. Be sure to make a reservation, these tours fill up! It was a really hot day so being in the brew room was almost unbearable, on a cooler day I’m sure we would have spent more time there. In my opinion, you should opt for the tour with the tasting. The tasting at the end is where I learned the most about German drinking culture and got to see the “proper” pour of a wheat beer...yeast and all! Plus at just €9 for the tour, three bottles of beer, and a souvenir tasting glass it’s a great deal. 

One of the views from the Weihenstaphan brewery tour

One of the views from the Weihenstaphan brewery tour

Enjoy the Views 

Like I said, Weihenstephan (and the college campus it is a part of) is on top of a hill that overlooks Freising. There is a great little view from behind the restaurant, but don’t forget to take a few moments to walk around to the other outlooks. Behind the beer museum is an outlook that allows you to see for miles with all of the small towns and their cathedrals speckling the landscape. I might over romanticize it because I’m used to looking at NYC every day, but it’s literally less than a minute out of your way to give it a look.  


Hit the Gift Shop 

Speaking of walking around the campus, there is a small gift shop in the main restaurant, but there is a much larger gift shop (packed with beer!!) on the brewery campus. If you’re looking to bring home gifts for anyone or a few memories for yourself, it is definitely worth the stop. Pretty much every piece of merchandise is plastered with the “World’s Oldest Brewery” slogan which is pretty iconic if nothing else. Also a great place to grab a few really well made beers you can’t get in the states. 

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Getting There 

From Munich take the S1 train all the way to the end of the line. It’s about 40 minutes from the Marienplatz stop (in the center of the city’s old town). The trains are comfortable and air conditioned so it’s a relaxing trip.  

Getting Your Hands on Trillium Brewing Company's Crazy Hazy IPAs AT FORT POINT

My mission was simple. Get to Boston acquire the beers. Get home without drinking them all. 

Why the mission? I, like every craft beer drinker recently, have heard SO MUCH about this East Coast IPA (also called the NEIPA or North Eastern IPA). It seemed to be like The Alchemist's Heady Topper by sweeter. No like a pale ale, just cloudier. It's harder to make than a West Coast IPA. No, it's for lazy brewers who don't filter. I'd heard to many contrasting opinions and read about one too many think pieces. Trillium consistently came up as an example for a brewery that was in the North Eastern IPA game for the technique, not the trend. 

Trillium Brewing Company's Scaled IPA fresh and hazy off the tap.

Trillium Brewing Company's Scaled IPA fresh and hazy off the tap.

So back to the mission: the get to Boston part was easy. JetBlue has amazing sales on tickets from NYC. $40 each way? Don't mind if I do!

I stayed at the Boston Seaport Hotel (which by the way was fabulous) located just a short walk from Trillium's Fort Point location. It's denoted by a small chalkboard sign out on the sidewalk and the entry is on the side of the building. I walked by a few times so keep your eyes out!

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The Fort Point location is really more of a shop than a taproom. There is no consumption allowed onsite, but there are growler fills, cans, bottles and stacks of merch. 

If you're in Boston for business, or on a trip with people who don't want to spend hours with craft beer, the Fort Point shop is perfect for you. It is truly an in-and-out experience, even if there is a line. The cans aren't too heavy to carry around if you're being a tourist for the rest of the day so there's really nothing holding you back. 

We left with what seemed like a pallet of cans and two bottles. Plus a set of snifters and a tshirt because c'mon that flower logo is so great! It was hard to leave behind the zip up sweatshirt but suitcase space required me to make decisions. 

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Even with this smashing success, my Trillium experience in Boston wasn't over yet. First, I still had to taste the product!! And we still had to head out to Canton. I'll get to that in the next post. 

Tips for a Trillium Brewing Company, Fort Point visit: 

  • Bring something to carry your cans and growlers in. They give you a box but that's not ideal if you plan on exploring the city for a little while.

  • Row34, which has my favorite lobster roll in Boston, is right next store. Row34 also serves a well-curated selection of local and international craft beer and a raw or cooked seafood menu to die for.

  • City Tap House is kitty-corner from Row34. If you're looking for a big ol' beer list, more of a nightlife scene and some interesting twists on bar-food standards this place is worth a stop. When I was there they were working to get Trilium on tap, so keep an eye out for that!

Boston Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company at Canton

By the end of this post you'll be ready for the perfect visit to Trillium Brewing Company's Canton location because you'll know what to expect and how to set yourself up for the most fun!

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Trillium Brewing Company has two year-round locations in the Boston area: One at Fort Point, and their main location outside the city in Canton. My visit to the Fort Point shop left me wanting more from my Trillium experience. So I booked a very long uber out to Canton. 

Canton is a pretty quintessential north-eastern suburb. Big houses, snow covered yards, novelty mailboxes, everything you would expect. I was pretty surprised to find that the Trillium Taproom was tucked in this neighborhood. 

Pulling into the parking lot I was met with lots of dudes carrying boxes of cans out to their cars.

“Uh oh, the beers all gone!” one joked with me. Judging by the packed parking lot, I almost believed him.

I continued on past the retail door to the taproom door and wowza - look at that line. Upon walking through the door you all but collide with the center of the line to order beer by the glass. I took my place wayyyy at the back and suddenly wished I had brought a book - or at the very least that I had more phone battery. 

As the line inched forward I passed many groups huddled around barrels or leaning on the small bar that ran along the wall. There is not much in the way of seating in this taproom. I then past the “food truck of the day,” severing oysters, but at 3pm there were not many takers for their fresh-ish shellfish sitting out on ice. 

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Finally, I came into view of the tap list which was extensive and offered more options than the Fort Point location. The GABF medals dangling from the board were an obvious reminder of the quality that made the line so. so. long. 

Ordering was efficient and by the time I swiped my card I had a beer in my hand. The perfect beer in hand for getting back in line - ha! Is it just me or does a line move faster when you have a drink involved. I got the Double Dry Hopped (DDH) Summer Street for the line and it was a perfect waiting beer. Light, floral, and fruity, not too heavy of a mouth feel and a clean finish. No wonder this place is so crowded! 

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By the time I made it to the registers again, I had a plan. I wanted to order three very different beers. Again, a quick ring up and this time I found myself a spot leaning against the divider between the “taproom” and the active brewery. 

I tried, Trillbomb!, DDH Scaled, and the Free Rise Nelson. They were all great and definitely in the style of Trillium. The IPA was sweet and ended with the gypsum bite I have found characteristic of East Coast IPAs. The stout was big and strong with a potent nose of Bourbon. The free-rise, while slightly funky was more of a pale ale than a saison. 

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After considering another trip to the back of the line, I decided against it and summoned yet another car back to Boston. I had fun and I learned a lot. 

Is the trip to Trillium's Canton Brewery Worth It?

I pondered this on my long ride home from Canton - still thinking about that zip up sweatshirt I decided not to buy again. I think the answer is it depends! Boring...but true. 

If you're a big beer fan that doesn't mind standing for a while Canton is the only place that you're guaranteed to try several Trillium beers in one spot. You can even skip Fort Point and just head to Canton for both your beers on tap and to-go. 

If you have someone in your group that needs to sit down, this might not be great. You can hope for a friendly stranger to give up their seat, but I don't gamble on friendly strangers often. If you are on a trip to see Boston - it's a tough call! Canton is quite a way out of the city and there are many great locations in Boston that carry all kinds of beer and have a little more scenery, plus you can go to Fort Point for your to-go beer needs! 

Tips for visiting Trillium Brewing Company at Canton:

  • Check the food truck for the day. I wasn’t about to eat oysters. I wished I had a meal in me or a snack so I could go on sampling.

  • Expect a line. It’s not a let down if you’re expecting a wait. Bring a friend, or three and wait together time flies when you’re waiting in line with a beer in hand.

  • Wear comfortable shoes. As someone who doesn’t follow this rule in my day-to-day life it’s worth putting in here. You’re standing on concrete and, yes, you’ll be standing.

  • Bring your pup if you want! There were several dogs in the taproom when I was there and they definitely provided some entertainment while waiting in line.

  • Don’t drive or dedicate a driver. Their stouts are great, you’re going to want to try them, and trust me, one is enough to knock you on your butt.

  • You can get cans, bottles and merch to-go! While the major attraction of the Canton location is getting to sample multiple of the famed breweries beers, there is also a line for to-go items.

Are you headed to Trillium or the Boston area? Find @beerswithmandy on twitter. I love nothing more than talking about beer trips! 

How This "Beer Thing" Got Started

Ok, if a human could have an FAQ section (can we?) this is my number one. "How did you even get into beer??" so it just fits. My very first post is the answer to this question. 

I have enjoyed eating and cooking my whole life but I truly fell in love with the idea of what food could be as the hostess of The Lonesome Dove, Tim Love's restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas.

Every week or so the whole staff would get to try the new items on the menu and at nights sometimes the pastry chef would share leftover desserts with us. It was the first time I tried many things, including rattlesnake and kangaroo. It was also the first time I met people fully dedicated to food. Not just the chefs, but the entire staff was totally committed to  providing unforgettable meals and food experiences. Working among them taught me what food could be and inspired me to try everything and attempt to replicate it when I can. 

A true passion for beer came later in my life. I had never been a fan of the light American lagers I was offered at tailgates and I sort of wrote-off beer as a way to get drunk on the cheap (not something I was so interested in.) I can point to three specific beers that changed my view forever. The first is Magic Hat #9. I now think of this beer as totally tame, but the first time I tried it I was home from college and share one with my dad. "Woa," I said, "this is beer?" Naturally, he laughed at me inquiring what else it could be. I had never tasted a beer that had fruit and bread flavors. I wanted to try more. 

June 2010. My hair was too blonde and Golden Monkey was too good.

June 2010. My hair was too blonde and Golden Monkey was too good.

Back in Texas I tried out my local breweries and random things I spotted at the liquor store. I found these far more enjoyable than those tailgate beers, but still nothing too thrilling. Once again, back in Pennsylvania, I visited Victory Brewing and tried Golden Monkey, a Belgian Tripel style brew. I was floored by the aromas, flavors, carbonation, and even the appearance of the beer. My father and I talked with the waiter for a long time about the beer style and what else to try.

January 2017. A little freshen up in the Victory branding still lookin' good.

January 2017. A little freshen up in the Victory branding still lookin' good.

After this brewery tasting...I really went nuts. No beer was too strong, too dark or too hoppy. I would occasionally go out of my way to special stores to find new beers. In 2013, I went to Monks Cafe in Philadelphia and tried the Guez from Drie Fontinien. I can specifically point to this as the moment I went from curious to obsessed. I couldn't understand why a beer would taste so sour, and be so 'rare'?

Well I spent a long time researching, eventually going all the way to Belgium to find the answer. This journey led me to where I am today, making beer, studying for my Cicerone exam, and traveling far and wide to try beers at their freshest and best. I'm so happy you're here with me!

Do you have a specific beer that changed the way you drink - or make beer?! Share in the comments!