This is the first and longest established branch in SPBW. It was founded in 1965 at the Windsor Castle, Campden Hill Road, Kensington, London. Hence the name. The pub was the Branch’s HQ for several years afterwards, although we have changed meeting places several times since. The branch has always had a variety of events like Branch meals, Memorial dinners and walks, Awayday trips out of London, a Not the Christmas meal and even a darts competition as well as pub crawls. The branch has produced many members of the SPBW NEC over the years including Chairman, Vice Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary. This tradition continues to this day. Our members are friendly people and we don’t bite!
Before the lockdown, we had on 28th January 2020. we had a Burns Supper at the Castle, Isleworth, hosted by SPBW member and pub chef Alasdair. He really pushed the boat out and the event was a great success. 24 SPBW member and guests attended from many areas and thoroughly enjoyed the food and the poetry reading and singing afterwards. It’s a pity that we won’t be repeating this, this year as we would like this to be an annual event like it used to be in the past. On 17th February 2020, we held the Keith Hudson Darts Trophy night at the Horseshoe, EC1. This was one by Ian who beat Ken in the final. Then on 16th March we had the Bloomsbury branch meal. We met at the Holborn Whippet, a sister pub of the Euston and Waterloo Taps. We then dined at the Bloomsbury Street Kitchen, which had a Japanese, Italian and vegan menu. Three of us tried sake too. We were the only customers in the place with more staff then our group of six members and on guest. So, we were well taken care of and the food and drink was excellent.
After the lockdown, on 28 September 2020, we had the Camberwell branch meal. We met at the Stormbird. We only had one pint there as the service was so slow. Then our group of three members and one guest ate at the Zeret Kitchen Ethiopian restaurant. The food, drink and service was second to none. The highlight was the availability of the Ethiopian honey beer, Tej that was delicious. We also held branch meetings in September, October and November and the AGM in November at the YOM. Thanks to the second “national” locksdown and guidelines before and after it, we had to cancel several events, including the Mike Hall Memorial Pub Walk and the Not the Christmas Meal. Now thanks to the third National lockdown there won’t be any branch meetings and events in the foreseeable future, since it will take months to vaccinate everyone that needs or wants it and only then if it works.
Thursday 16th January 2020 – A walk of some of Andy’s Old Favourites in WC1.
Tuesday 18th February 2020 – Patrick’s walk of the Oxford Street, W1 area.
The Three Tuns, Portman Mews South was a cosy Greene King pub with the usual suspects, not too bad for GK. Next Devonshire Arms, 7 Duke Street, a spacious pub with new wood interior with no cash transactions. Trendy hipster beer. Then Angel in the Fields, 37 Thayer Street, a classic Sam Smith’s pub, OBB from the wood, usual fine wooden interior, no music, just the sound of conversation. Finally Lamb and Flag, 24 James Street, a Grade II listed building GK pub with the usual suspects and 3 changing beers. Very traditional.
The branch hasn’t had any events since then because of the average age of the members. The branch social organiser will let us know when they will start having their Pub Evaluation and Memorial walks as soon as it is feasible.
The branch managed to have 2 meetings before the lockdown in March. Then it had it’s next social in July at the usual venue, the Blyth Hill Tavern, SE23. 8 people attended plus 3 more Zoomed in from Norfolk, East Sussex and North London. There were 4 beers on at the pub. More meetings happened after that until London went Tier 2.
Have suspended their meetings and events for the foreseeable future, but have an active WhatApp group. SPBW members are welcome to join. Send a request to the branch contact to join.
Our only American branch.
COMMON AND ALDBRICKHAM
On the first day after the first lockdown 4 members met up at one of Reading’s 2 Wetherspoons pubs. Other members, however, are still shielded because of health concerns and not venturing forth! In August, two or three of us were able to attend the beer festival at the Royal British Legion, Marlow. There is concern over our current ‘spiritual home’ the Hopleaf, Reading, which has remained closed since the lockdown since making the managers and bar staff redundant. It has been keeping a deafining silence over its future intentions for the pub. Happily, another of our all time favourites, the Retreat, has been open although it closed in August for a four week refurbishment which we are told will maintain the ambience while improving amenities as the toilets.
Some members enjoyed the annual SPBW Beer and Curry (or Bagel) in February. The last meeting before lockdown was in March at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston as usual. We have met regularly since using video conferencing and this included a pub quiz on the 22nd April. Since then there has been another quiz, a sit down comedy night and discussion of favourite admired person, building, record album, book, film etc. Once restrictions were lifted a bit we cycled to local parks to meet with each other with socially distanced beers. After pubs reopening we went to the Sussex Arms, Twickenham to celebrate a member’s birthday. In July and August we cycled to the Bell in East Molesey (Greene King but with decent guests), Rifleman, Twickenham (operated by Twickenham Fine Ales) and Woodies Bar, New Malden. Later in August was a Surbiton pub crawl starting off at the Lamb which had an open sided “marquee” with divided into sections. The Black Lion opposite was full of people watching football and given a miss. Then couldn’t get into the Coronation Hall, so ended up in the Victoria. A Youngs Pub Company pub and it was well managed that day and had the most customer-friendly service of the evening. St Austells Proper Job was consumed there. Lastly that month, a few members visitied the Marlow RBL’s beer festival. Beers were served to distanced tables in a very large function hall. The Rifleman and Lamb were revisited in September and October. Our branch meetings took place at the Willoughby in August, September and October. The latter was noted for the last orders bell being rung at 10pm, the first time any of us had heard such a sound in that venue.
It held a virtual meeting on 2nd April, the minutes of which are no less bizarre then those of the actual ones. Our HQ, the Fat Cat (the original one) has been performing sterling social work through the ‘beer hatch’. They also constructed ten tables for external enjoyment until it reopened. It was announced as the CAMRA’s Norwich pub of the year. Congratulations to Colin Keatley and his team.
Due to the pandemic there wasn’t much activity until a social in early July at the Heaton Tap. It was great to see the members again.
NORTH IRISH SEA
After the pubs reopened in late June, branch members made a gluttonous start with dining at three venues on the first day at the Barbary Coast, Creg Na Baa and the Shore in Gansey to comply with all the rules! There has been one new cask pub, the Blind Pig, a return to cask for the community owned Pinewood Estate social club and a new beer Triumph from Okells. The pubs have since been fully open with no restrictions since compared with the whole of Europe. The pub stock has remained relatively intact with about 4% losses. The new brewery Odin’s beers have sold spectacularly thanks to the shortage of guest beers on the island. Hooded Ram brewery has now closed. We have been very busy rediscovering outlets on the island including Manx Legion, Peel Legion (sells Manx Cider), yacht clubs, and the Buffs Club in Ramsey. Run by the Royal Antediluvian Order of the Buffaloes, started in 1822 in the Harp Tavern, opposite Drury Lane Theatre.
Have been holding monthly meetings on Zoom. Attendance has been good and conversations lively. Traditionally the branch doesn’t have a formal meeting in August usually because of beer festivals, but that was different this time round. In September, we decided to review the situation about having live meetings for 20 or more people. So far all our members have remained safe, but looking forward to a “real” meeting before long.
Forbadillians always look forward to the annual trip to Tower Brewery in Burton upon Trent on the 4th March and we weren’t disappointed. As in previous years we were royally treated by the master brewer John Mills. He is an engaging host and he allowed an open bar with 4 beers on. After an entertaining and informative tour of the historic building, there was a generous fish and chip supper provided for everyone. Planned visits to several beer festivals after that were cancelled thanks to COVID. After the end of the lockdown Fordbadillians continued to visit their local hostelries in the towns and villages of Staffordshire, but we have not met as a group at the Bitter Suite in Lichfield since the new pandemic restrictions came into force.
TYNE AND WEAR
The branch visited Theakstons and Black Sheep breweries in early March. A great day and we managed to catch up with Master Cooper Alastair Simms for a couple of pints in the Black Sheep brewery tap room. A wander and a meal around Masham followed, ending with an overnight stay at the King’s Head just off the main square.
We managed to get in a couple of events before the great lockdown. At the end of February we had a pub walk in Temple, WC2, visiting 4 pubs. Starting at the Devereux, Devereux Court. The latter takes its name from Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and a famous parliamentary general in the Civil War; his bust adorns the facade. A limited selection of beers and rather busy with an after-work crowd. Almost next door is the Edgar Wallace, Essex Street. This is a friendly and cosy free house and we relaxed in the upstairs room. Castle Rock Pale and Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold were our choices among several on offer. The pub is decorated with an abundance of vintage adverts and the shelves are lined with the works of the eponymous author. Another short hop took us to the Cheshire Cheese (Not Ye Olde!). This is an undistinguished Shepherd Neame pub with only one cask beer available, Whitstable Pale Ale with the other pumpclip turned round. We then finished at the Temple Brew House back in Essex Street, a basement bar which offered a fair range of cask and keg beers brewed on the premises. We then made a return visit to Mangal1, just off Stoke Newington High Street, N16. Excellent Turkish food cooked over a large open flame grill. Pre-dinner drinks were at the Farr’s School of Dancing on Dalston Lane, on of the Antic chain. Five handpumps offered beers from Volden (Antic’s own brewery), as well as Five Points and Thornbridge Jaipur, a temptation we couldn’t resist. After the national lockdown, we managed to meet in our usual venues in August and September, but new COVID regulations ruled our an October meeting. When we had visited the Chesham Arms in August there was a distinct lack of real ale. That is until Joe, the friendly manager, took pity on us and cracked open a cask of Five Points Pale that was due to go on the following day. Naturally we took full advantage!
We had a presentation at the end of February to the Black Horse, Otley (a Kirkstall Brewery pub) for our Winter Pub of the Season, that was attended by over two dozen people. After reopening we had seen permanent closures within the branch. The branch has been having their events online since as mentioned in the current and previous editions of their newsletter below, as it remains in lockdown mode.