Bricklayer’s Arms Wins Best London Pub Award

CAMRA declares it one of top sixteen in the country

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The Bricklayer’s Arms, tucked away in Putney’s Waterman Street, has been declared the best pub in Greater London by the Campaign for Real Ale and will vie with 15 other pubs around Britain for the coveted national award.

It’s the only London pub to sell the whole range of beers from the Yorkshire-based Timothy Taylor Landlord brewery and is run by landlady Becky Newman, who promises a huge party if she wins the national prize when it’s announced in February.

Just seven years the historic pub, the oldest in Putney, was shut and set for redevelopment as housing. But Becky’s brother-in-law John and her sister Helen were determined to save it from the property developers and bought it at auction, re-opening it as a free-house pub six months later. Sadly Helen died unexpectedly in 2005, but John and Becky decided to keep running the pub and it has grown from strength-to-strength, winning several awards on the way.

It became a southern home for Timothy Taylor Landlord beer because Becky had a cousin who worked in their brewery and he helped set up the pub’s cellar. Becky said it took a year to learn how to look after the beer properly, and she decided to stock the brewery’s full range because it looked so beautiful to walk into a pub and see the complete row of handpumps.

She also sells beers from other breweries to help meet her aim of offering drinkers a “rotating beer festival”. She said: “In an area of London where there is little or no real beer choice, I try to offer a full range and I feel grateful that people have responded. Although we are in a good location, we are tucked away, with no passing trade. We are definitely a destination pub and rely on our reputation.”

We thought it only right we should test its reputation by sampling the range of beers on offer. It was certainly popular on the night we chose to visit – we hadn’t planned for a Fulham home match at Craven Cottage, just 15 minutes walk across Putney Bridge. But that didn’t stop us trying eight of the nine real ales on offer.

As well as the full range of Timothy Taylor Landlord beers, they were offering two beers from the Salisbury-based Downton Brewery. Their golden-hued New Forest Ale was my favourite of the night. It had a zesty, almost grapefruit, edge to it and at 3.8% was very easy to drink. Alongside it was Downton’s Tettnang Red (4.3%), which was also fruity, but a darker ale with a much more distinctive, malty, finish. It was certainly more suited to the cold evening - my friend said it was “fiery and peaty”.

We moved onto each of the five Timothy Taylor Landlord (TTL) beers. It’s unusual to see all on offer at one pub, so it was great to have an opportunity to compare them. First up was the Ram Tam (4.3%), which was dark and tasty, with a hint of treacle and an almost black coffee aftertaste. The pub had a real fire glowing, and it would certainly be an ale to sup around the fire after a winter evening’s walk along the Thames.

The pub’s most popular tipple is the TTL Golden Best. Another golden-coloured beer, this had a rounded, creamy flavour. At 3.5% it certainly slipped down well – “easy-going” was how my companion coined it. The TTL Best Bitter is slightly stronger at 4%, but another smooth ale, with excellent clarity. The more familiar TTL Landlord (4.3%) seemed to have a hint of butterscotch after the three other TTL beers and it’s a beer you can’t go wrong with – reputed to be Madonna’s favourite drink. I’m not normally a mild drinker, but the TTL Dark Mild (3.5%) was pleasantly tasty – an obviously thicker texture than the other beers, but it was easy to drink and had a fruity aftertaste.

One of the other non-TTL beers was Studland Bay Wrecked (4.5%), from the Isle of Purbeck brewery in Dorset. This was a taste switch from the TTL beers as it had a nuttier, more bitter, flavour. Also on offer was the Wandle beer (3.8%) from the nearby Sambrook Brewery in Battersea. This is the pub’s LocAle beer – an initiative by CAMRA to get pubs selling beers brewed close to their area. I confess I didn’t try it during my visit, as it’s already one of my firm favourites. But I’m sure it was in tip-top condition like the rest of the pub’s beer and it’s now their second-best seller.

All the beers were £3 a pint, apart from Ram Tam, which was £3.20. The pub also sells organic cider and perry from Weston’s, and lager drinkers are catered for as well. Although “The Brick” doesn’t sell food, it does carry a ‘Scoff’ takeaway menu and will put an order through and plate it up ready for customers to dine with their beer.

Sue Choularton


October 21, 2009

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