On yer beer bike!

Tales of my cycle trips for takeaway beer during the Covid-19 crisis

One man’s desperate attempts to give orphaned beers a decent home!

Contents (click on an item):


Craft Metropolis at Penge – there and back again! (24/06/20)

A beautiful summer’s day, perhaps too warm for cycling, but I was determined to get out on my bike to see if my right leg had recovered enough from its injury to resume my takeaway beer runs. “What’s that?” I hear you say – “an injury?” Yes, unfortunately, on my last beer run I received a nasty gash to my right calf. Don’t bother to look it up on my “On yer beer bike” blog just yet, as I am still smarting from the embarrassment of it. Never fear, it will be there in all its gory detail very soon. (Edit: now posted).

Meanwhile, back to this beer run, which was deliberately nice and local. I was cycling to Penge and back. A straight, easy run from my house of 2 miles each way along the main road between Beckenham and Penge. But I ended up doing 8 miles, as you will read further down.

My destination was the Craft Metropolis Taproom at the north-west end of Penge High Street. Let me first say this was not the most scenic of rides that I have done as I chose to use the busy main road for directness. The journey was not helped by being forced to stop at one point outside the door of a rather smelly fishmongers at Penge cross roads. However, the view of the taproom as I approached was delightful. Especially as several beer kegs were positioned outside in a wonderful display of modern sculpture!

The Craft Metropolis and my bike

Once inside, the ‘new normal’ social distancing counter awaited me, but behind it were an amazing number of beer cans all carefully stacked in tall glass fronted fridges.

Cans at social distance!

But it wasn’t canned beer I was after and a quick look at their chalkboard showed me there was plenty of draught beer to choose from, albeit of the ‘craft’ variety rather than real ale. There were six beers in all: Yeastie Boys Digital IPA, Weird Beard Mariana Mango IPA, Weird Beard Black Perle Coffee Milk Stout, Brew York Calmer Chameleon American Pale Ale, Mondo All Caps American Pilsner, and Overtone Berry Belter Sour Berry beer.

Chalkboard of beers with funny names

Where do they get these names from? Not to worry, this is not the time to be a CAMRA purist! So I purchased 4 pints of Yeastie Boys Digital IPA at 5.7%. Now, you will remember on one of my last beer-bike runs to a craft beer takeaway (The Alma), I was rather shocked at the cost of buying 2 x 4 pints which worked out at £40.80. So this time I decided 4 pints at £18 was enough and had only brought one container with me.

Overfilled, but wiped clean

After being served by the very pleasant barman, and obtaining his permission, I reached for my mobile to take the mandatory photos. Then I discovered my phone was not in its secured pocket. Had I lost it on the journey, or simply left it in the bike shed when I got my bike out? Paying with my bank card, I hastily left for the journey back home. As I pedalled back along the route I kept looking to see if my phone was lying in the gutter on the other side of the road. Upon my arrival back at my house I immediately checked the shed, and to my relief the phone was lying on the tool shelf. Breathing a sigh of relief, I gulped down a quick pint of the Yeastie to restore my shattered nerves.

Now, you can’t do a beer bike run to a takeaway and not have photos to enhance the sharing of the journey experience. At great personal sacrifice, I decided the only thing to do was to pedal straight back, take the necessary pictures, and just possibly buy more beer to make a second trip worthwhile. Hence, all the shots you see above were taken on my second trip back and that is also the explanation of why the trip mileage doubled.

When I got back to the tap room, the barman thought I had returned to complain as I had seen him less than an hour ago. When I told him I simply wanted more beer and put my new empty container on the bar, he said he was amazed I had drunk the first lot so quick! I quickly reassured him that if I had drunk 4 pints of 5.7% beer I would not be here now on my bike! This second time at the taproom I decided to buy 4 pints of the American Pilsner. Another £18 hit the dust, but at least I had my photographs.

So what of the beers? The Yeastie Boys Digital IPA 5.7% is a classic kiwi IPA: clean malt, citrus and tropical hop, with a bold bitterness. Digital IPA is defined by its heavy use of late kettle hopping and very restrained use of dry hopping.

The Mondo ALL CAPS 4.5% American Pilsner is a classic American Pilsner with a focus on flavour and drinkability. Corn-like sweetness is balanced out with a massive dose of Czech Saaz hops for bitterness and American Cascade hops for flavour and aroma. Full, rich malt and hops dominate, but are complimented by distinctive grainy sweetness.

Yeastie Boys Digital IPA
All Caps American Pilsner

Both beers, in spite of being ‘craft’ were very tasty and just perfect for the wonderful hot sunny weather we are currently enjoying. I shall certainly visit this taproom again, but only once next time!


To Cronx and a chronic injury (15/06/20)

Not a bad Monday morning. Nice and sunny with only a slim chance of rain. Time to do something on my trusty beer-bike again as my beer stocks were running low. This time I decided I would go to a brewery takeaway instead of a pub one. Now the nearest brewery to me is Southey at Penge, just 2 miles up the road. Hardly an exertion. However, although their beer is very good, it is not always to my style, being more aligned to the American, cloudy, very hoppy type of pale ales. I wanted something dark and more traditional – perhaps a stout or porter.

Looking at the CAMRA ‘Brew2You’ app I realised that Cronx brewery was only 4.5 miles away as the crow flies and only 6 miles by road. Strictly speaking, Cronx at New Addington, falls under the Croydon branch of CAMRA and not my Bromley branch, but it was also more or less on the Route 21 cycle trail. It would therefore fit very nicely with my desire to push my cycling limits a little bit further and get takeaway beer at the same time.

What of the Route 21 cycle trail? This is one of the routes on the Sustrans National Cycle Network (https://www.sustrans.org.uk/find-a-route-on-the-national-cycle-network/route-21). Route 21 runs south from Greenwich out of London to Eastbourne. This 95-mile route makes for a great short break or a wonderful start to a holiday on the south coast. The route passes through Beckenham about half a mile from Beckenham High Street on its way to South Norwood Country Park. It would therefore be very easy to pick the route up. However, I had no intention of pedalling all the way to Eastbourne. I thought perhaps a 30 mile round trip, including the beer pick up, was just about right. My turn-around point on the route would be the cycle bridge across the A22 dual carriageway at Caterham Valley. This looked a very pleasant route and most of it once I got past New Addington would be on quiet country lanes and woodland cycle tracks. There were a few climbs and some steep descents, but it all looked quite manageable.

I didn’t take my empty 4 pint containers with me this time. I planned to buy a 5L mini-keg of Entire. My previous experience of handling these giant cans on my bike had shown that I could successfully transport one (see Going to Jail at Biggin Hill). The Cronx Brewery collection times were from 10:00 to 14:00 Monday to Friday, so after a late breakfast I left at 11:00. I picked up the route just after Clockhouse Station and headed SW to South Norwood Country Park.

South Norwood Country Park – such a delightful name, perhaps reminiscent of some of the more well-known beautiful national parks we have in the UK. Those of us who have lived in the area for some while will know that it was once the Elmers End sewage farm, and indeed raw sewage was handled there from 1865 up until 1967. After that, left alone, the fields regenerated naturally and this led to the formation of undisturbed wetland and grassland. I believe locals also grew some wonderful tomato plants there! From 1988 onwards it was landscaped and gradually turned into the attractive country park we know today. To be fair, it does have some really scenic walking and cycle trails and plenty of wildlife can be seen. This web page will tell you more of its history: https://friendsofsncp.org.uk/history/.

Route 21 South Norwood Country Park

I left the park and turned SW towards Monks Orchard and Shirley, passing along quiet suburban streets. Just after crossing the A232 Croydon to West Wickham road, I found another delightful stop to pause and take a photograph. This was Millers Pond by Shirley Way. Millers Pond is a 4 acre park which was originally part of Spring Park Farm and was acquired by Croydon Council in 1934. It was named after the last family to work the farm. The pond was the largest of three ponds. Formerly a working pond, it didn’t drive a mill, but was used for watering the animals and soaking cartwheels to prevent them from shrinking. Now it is a popular place for wildlife lovers, bird watchers, dog walkers and families.

Millers Pond

A pleasant track through Shirley Heath Woods now brought me to the very busy Kent Gateway, which I gingerly crossed via the pedestrian traffic lights. Once across, the ascent to New Addington began. The New Addington estate, like many modern housing estates, is pretty soulless. Started before the war, development continued through to the 1970s. Until the arrival of the tramway in 2000, it was pretty isolated and was nicknamed “Little Siberia”.

Unfortunately for New Addington, it has continued to suffer from various reports of violence and public upset for several years, reflecting upon anti-social behaviour and gang violence involving youths on the estate from the 1970s to the present. The area was affected during the 2011 England Riots. A supermarket was destroyed by firebombs and stolen property was found in the area. An inquiry supported the provision of a local police station. A councillor has praised local recovery since the riots, claiming the area is now a stronger community than before and rates of anti-social behaviour have declined.

What I will say about the folks at New Addington, however, is that they do seem to like modern art, à la Tracey Emin and her famous “My Bed”. There is obviously a great deal of competition between neighbours to see who can do the best arrangement of old mattresses and broken furniture in their front gardens. A few thoughtful residents have even placed these notable exhibits on the public kerbsides, thus giving delightful vistas for passers-by to admire.

Modern art on display at New Addington

Upon arrival in central New Addington, I temporarily left Route 21 at King Henry’s Drive for the industrial estate at Vulcan Way and the Cronx Brewery. The ascent up the Drive was a killer – far worse than getting up Anerley Hill when I did my Crystal Palace beer-bike run. Indeed, I am ashamed to say that for the last 500 yards to the brewery I pushed the bike. I wish I could say that upon arrival at Cronx I was met with a beautiful sight, but I wasn’t. It was an ugly modern industrial building, but there again, the beauty is contained inside.

Cronx Brewery New Addington Industrial Estate

Parking up my bike, I walked towards the open brewery doors.

Steed at rest

A quick look inside the brewery proved interesting and reminded me of a giant version of my own hobby brewery set up.

Inside the Cronx brewery

And there, suitably socially distancing, was waiting my orphaned 5L mini-keg just begging for a loving new home.

Take me home please Daddy!

I carefully loaded the 5L min-keg into the right hand bicycle pannier and proceeded south down King Henry’s Drive, where at its end I picked up Route 21 again. The rest of the journey I was now looking forward to, as it was very rural. Turning east, I took a woodland track towards Fickleshole.  Leaving the track and joining a quiet lane, I cycled past The White Bear at Fickleshole itself. The bear looked at me in a very miserable way, obviously upset that he couldn’t be open to growl at the customers.

The White Bear Fickleshole

Not wishing to dwell on the misery of a closed pub, I cycled on. Turning west now, I cycled through many more woodland tracks on the way to Chelsham. It was hard-going westwards out of Fickleshole. Many of the woodland trails had very deep ruts in them going downhill where water had badly eroded the track. At times, the paths were so bad it was impossible to cycle and very hazardous, so you had to push the bike. At one point the track here was completely blocked by a fallen tree and impassable. I had to use considerable force to lift it and push it to one side so that I could pass. Had I used the track in poor light conditions this obstacle could have killed me.

Where’s that lumberjack?

After more woodland cycling, I found myself at the top of a steep descent alongside the Woldingham Golf Club and the Halliloo Plantation. Although man-made, the views across the golf course were very pleasant.

Woldingham Golf Course

Here, some of the woodland tracks were very overgrown with ground level vegetation and only a few inches of cyclable space was available for my trusty steed to pass. This is where my happy cycle ride turned into a nasty incident. As I proceeded down the steep and narrow track my leg caught on something sticking out from the low undergrowth. When it happened, it was no more than a slight tickle. However, when I reached the clearing at the bottom I realised my white sock was totally red. Gazing down at my right calf I noticed a deep 4 inch slash with a sight of my calf muscle just poking through. Any deeper and the muscle itself would have been lacerated. Although the wound looked nasty and was bleeding badly, my first concern was for the 5L mini-keg – had that been lacerated too? Thank God no! “No beer has been harmed in the making of this story”.

Fortunately, I always carry a first aid kit on my bike journeys. Reaching into the left pannier I pulled it out and began cleaning and dressing the wound. With my careful attention the bleeding soon stopped. The wound itself didn’t look too good, but I was still mobile and in no significant pain.

WARNING! A gory photo of the wound follows.

Just a scratch!

After leaving the golf course at Woldingham, the trail now took me northwards past Woldingham Garden Village. It was road cycling here, but very quiet lanes and delightfully flat as I journeyed through Marden Park and past Woldingham School. Set in 700 acres of beautiful Surrey countryside, this private school for girls looked very posh and I understand the fees are around £14,000 per year. A group of school girls sitting on the grass gave me a cheery wave as I cycled past and wished me luck – at Least I think they did, but judging by their giggles at an old man in his shorts, maybe they actually uttered something completely different!

Marden Park

After a gentle swing to the west I now found tougher ground to cycle on. I was on woodland tracks again and climbing up and then steeply down as I crossed into the North Downs. I was now on the final leg of my journey before the turn round point. And then, just across the field I could see the cycle bridge across the A22 Godstone Hill Road at Caterham valley.

Cycle bridge at Caterham Valley

Here, a perfect lump of concrete by the path made an ideal sitting place for me to have my packed lunch. No beer with it I’m afraid, but the homemade bread with cheese and pickle was very tasty. I washed it down with strong tea from my flask.

After eating I took a look at my wound and decided going back the way I had come was not an option. The tracks were too bad to chance getting another injury. So I made up my mind to come back the quickest and easiest way and use the roads. Crossing the A22 on the cycle bridge, I took the lane into Caterham. From there I took the Croydon Road and picked up the A22 going north into Purley. From Purley I took the A235 to South Croydon. At South Croydon I took the quieter back streets and went via Lloyd Park and Shirley. A short trip through Monks Orchard and Eden Park brought me back home to Beckenham again. I carefully unloaded the undamaged mini-keg and put the bike back in the shed. Checking the GPS, I had done 32 miles in all.

The wound to the leg was now starting to smart a bit. I thought it best to wash it again, so had a shower and showed the injury to my wife. When I saw the shock on her face I realised it was worse than I thought and she insisted I went to the emergency department of the local Beckenham Hospital. When the duty nurse saw it she expressed surprise that I had actually managed to walk there. Praising my cleaning of the wound, she then proceeded to stitch it up. She told me it would need the thickest thread they had. The wound being on the back of my leg I couldn’t see what she was doing and I tried to count the stitches, but after 15 I lost count. She was very deft at her work and I didn’t feel too much pain. Picture of the finished neat and bandaged job below.

Nicely packaged

And finally, what of the beer? It was superb and I can only quote from the Cronx web site as to its providence:

“Inspired by Croydon brewing heritage. Entire was a blend of ‘Three threads’ that were made by a Croydon brewery – Ale, hopped beer & tuppenny – which were mixed together by a barman in Shoreditch, where it became so popular with manual workers, later becoming known as ‘Porter’. Hints of chocolate, coffee and dark fruits on the palate.”

Here is a picture of the first pint pulled at home, with PPE in place of course:

First pint out of the keg

All in all, it was a very enjoyable cycle ride. Apart from the injury, one of the best I have had. And what of the leg I hear you say? Well, 10 days later I had the stitches out and now after a further week it is nicely healed, as you can see below.

My badge of honour

The scar will be proudly worn as a mark of my determination to get decent beer!

Back in the saddle again, I am now looking forward to my next beer-bike run. I’m thinking that maybe Southey Brewery 2 miles down the road doesn’t seem so bad after all.


Velocipeding to Crystal Palace and The Alma (11/06/20)

Terrible weather this Thursday morning, but as soon as the skies cleared after lunch I mounted my velocipede for another beer run. Looking at Bromley CAMRA’s list of ‘unvisited takeaways’ I decided to be very brave and see if I could make it up to The Alma at Crystal Palace. This was probably going to be one of the shorter rides I have done at around 8 miles return, but because of the long steep hill up to Crystal Palace from the Penge direction, I knew it was going to be one of the hardest!

So I gave the bike a thorough inspection to make sure I had all I needed for the journey: spare inner tube, bike tools, puncture kit, panniers securely hooked, waterproof packed, padlock, water bottle, GPS, odometer, – everything checked out OK. Time to go!

I proceeded up Beckenham High Street and took the main road to Penge. At Penge, I turned into Maple Road for old time’s sake. There was a Fuller’s pub in this road that I used to go to regularly four decades ago when I lived nearby because it was the only place you could get ESB on draft. The Lord Palmerston I think it was called. I knew it was shut 20 years ago, but it was sad to see as I passed that it was now a kebab house!

Although this was a short run, the route I chose actually had some fascinating sites of interest along the way. Water and the men who worked on it play an important part in Penge history. For example, just before you turn into Maple Road you have Waterman’s Square on the right and The Royal Watermen’s Almshouses. There are 46 almshouses in all. The almshouses were for aged watermen and lightermen and were built in 1839. The almshouses were built in the days when Penge was a rural hamlet surrounded by Penge Common. The residents moved out in 1973 to bungalows in Hastings. The almshouses are now privately-owned. These are nationally and locally-listed buildings. Unique in this country, they are one of the glories of Britain, let alone Penge.

St John’s Cottages in Maple Road are another historical interest. A group of twelve one and half-storey cottages built in 1863/64 as a philanthropic development by Miss Dudin Brown for a 3% return. She was the daughter of John Dudin Brown, a local landowner and freeman of the Company of Watermen, who was instrumental in providing the land for the nearby Royal Watermen’s and Lightermen’s Almshouses, where his monument was erected in 1855.

At the end of Maple Road I turned right into Anerley Hill for the steep ascent to Crystal Palace. As soon as you turn right you have Betts Park on the left. Betts Park is one of the seven Penge Parks. A post-Victorian park, the land was donated by Frederic Betts, a notorious and prosperous property owner of the period. The land once housed the grounds of Oak Lawn, the vicarage to Holy Trinity Church. Opened in 1928, the park was named after Frederic’s mother, Sarah Betts, possibly because Betts did not want his own somewhat unpopular name linked with the park.

Now how many people who live in the Bromley Borough know we have our own canal? As you pass Betts Park you can see a stretch of water from the road. This is the only surviving part of the former Croydon Canal. It was opened on 22nd October 1809 following an act of parliament in 1801, “for the making and maintaining of a navigable Canal from or near the town of Croydon, onto the Grand Surrey Canal in the Parish of St. Paul, in Deptford”. Its 9.5 mile length enabled lime, timber, chalk, clay, Fullers earth and agricultural produce to be sent to London, in return for coal being handled to Croydon, then an ancient market town.

Croydon Canal

The canal took 8 years to build and meandered through the long lost picturesque beauty of Penge Common and Penge Forest, along its route to the capital. The route of the canal was very scenic and tranquil but also a very lonely place and several murders and suicides took place here. One story tells of a Mary Clarke in 1831 who was last seen one evening in a boat with a young man. The next day the empty boat was found floating on the canal & her bruised body found several days later.

Regretfully, the canal was a financial failure, and was sold to the new London and Croydon Railway Company in 1836 for £40,239. The railway opened in 1839 and is the second oldest passenger line in London. Much of the line was built along the sections of the old waterway; which had now been filled in. Many of the loops and shorter sections of the old canal silted up and eventually became sites for the mammoth housing boom in the 19th century as London expanded into the suburbs. Had it not been for the canal and railway, it is likely that the tiny hamlets of both Penge and Anerley would never have grown in importance so early, with their stations and connections to London. West Croydon Railway Station is built on the former terminal basin of the canal, and some of the old canal buildings can still be seen opposite the new bus station. One of the reservoirs made to feed the canal still exists as an ornamental lake at South Norwood Country Park.  Davids Road, Forest Hill has a raised pavement which is a descendant of the former towpath itself, while the adjacent houses are built on the canal bed. The Brockley Barge pub at Brockley was named in memory of the Croydon Canal.

Looking back down Anerley Hill

So at last I reach the top of Anerley Hill at Crystal Palace after a tough 1 km at nearly 12% gradient. Did I manage to cycle all the way up? No – unfortunately I had to walk the bike the last 300 metres as my legs ran out of steam! And now I have reached my goal – The Alma in all its glory. The Alma has been at the heart of the Crystal Palace triangle for many years. Built in 1854, it is now a well-established part of the Crystal Palace eating & drinking scene.

The Alma and my trusty steed

Now this is where I have to admit to a certain amount of embarrassment. I mentioned in the second paragraph of this epistle how I thoroughly checked my bike before leaving home. I padlocked the bike to the convenient cycle rack outside the pub and went to the panniers to get my two empty 4 pint containers for the takeaway. Horror of horrors, the panniers are empty. I had forgotten to pack the containers!

Come on in and buy me!

The open pub door beckoned me. Inside there are countless numbers of bottles of wine on tables awaiting the eager purchasers. I make straight for the bar and its inviting faucet towers. Shyly I ask if they can supply containers. Yes they say, but only four pint ones. No true real ale was on I’m afraid, but the craft beers still look rewarding. Now I knew this place was going to be expensive as so-called craft beers always are. But, as I have always done at other beer takeaways, I asked for four pints each of the two ales on tap. The landlord Boydy gives me a really warm welcome and we chat for a long while about the unfair advantages of the big pub groups.

Meanwhile, a very pleasant lady busily fills my two four pint containers. She smiled at me in a beguiling way and reached for the card payment machine.

My beer being poured

And then the price shock – £40.80 for 8 pints. That’s over £5 a pint! Too late now to say no, my mobile phone was only too eager to accommodate the daylight robbery.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here!

I left the pub much poorer with the only consolation that the journey back was all downhill. As I passed the abandoned Grape and Grain pub on the return, its miserable looks made me think that this could be the fate of many pubs due to Covid-19. The route back I chose took me via Crystal Palace Park and a very pleasant ride it was. I left the park at Penge High Street and took the back streets off the main highway just past Penge East Station to Beckenham. This is where I passed another of Penge’s historical highlights at King William IV Gardens.

King William IV Gardens

Originally owned by the King William IV Naval Asylum, the red brick and stone almshouses opened in 1849. They were founded by Queen Adelaide in memory of her husband William IV and were establish to house twelve widows of naval officers, each of whom would have an endowment of £30 per annum besides the residence. A deep well was sunk in the grounds and a lodge was built to the south. Various changes took place over the years; in 1973 the residents moved to new almshouses in Hampshire and the site was sold for council housing. The houses were renovated and sold to a private property developer in 1985 and remain in private ownership. The central landscaped garden was retained and is simply laid out, while individual gardens at the rear are more elaborately planted.

The rest of the route was plain sailing and I reached home in no time, but my legs were quite weary. As for the beers, in spite of the price, I was pleased with my catch. I had Cowcatcher from East London Brewing Company. At 4.8% this American Pale Ale is named after the grille at the front of the old US steam trains. Generously hopped and full bodied, it is a refreshing and a great summer beer. My other beer was from Brick Brewery at Peckham. Called Peckham Session IPA, it is hazy, juicy and punchy. At 4.2% this beer delivers body and mouthfeel way above and beyond the strength would suggest. A combination of Citra, Simcoe, Ekuanot and Amarillo hops provide a big hit of citrus, mango and peach, which coupled with the soft and pillowy body results in the ultimate summer smasher, or so it says on the label!

Cowcather APA and Peckham Session IPA

Poorer in cash, but richer in spirit, I am now busy planning my next cycling adventure. Although it might be to the nearest Wetherspoons when opened or to a supermarket to get something a lot cheaper!


Going to Jail at Biggin Hill (03/06/20)

Another week and another ‘secret’ beer bike run is required to keep the local ale houses in business. So yesterday, I thought I would use the new CAMRA ‘Brew2You’ app and saw The Old Jail at Biggin Hill on the Covid-19 beer takeaway list, just under a twenty mile round trip from home. Of course, any lexicologist will know that ‘Jail’ should be spelt ‘Gaol’ in the Queen’s English but, due mainly to the influence of the Internet, Americanisms are everywhere! However, the choice of beers was showing my favourite bitter – Harvey’s – so I ordered 4 x 2 pint containers. A good price as well at £3.25 per pint. So what do words matter as long as the beer is good?

After plotting the route on my handlebar mounted GPS, off I went. Not a warm, sunny day, but never mind. There was a light drizzle coming down, which would keep me refreshed along the way.

As I cycled along my chosen route, it was sad to see so many pubs in “Mary Celeste” mode on the way. The Jolly Woodman at Beckenham, The Greyhound and The Fox Inn at Keston, The Crown Inn and The Kings Arms at Leaves Green, The Black Horse at Biggin Hill, and coming back, The Railway Hotel at West Wickham – all boarded and shuttered as if drinking beer had suddenly become a mortal sin.

It was a very pleasurable ride through the outcrops of the North Downs. The valleys and hills gave some very pleasant views. I passed many places of interest along the way. This included the Keston Windmill, the wartime Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes at Biggin Hill (sadly, not originals but fibreglass mock-ups as they became too valuable to exhibit), and Down House (home of Charles Darwin).

Quite a tough ride, with many hills on the way. Once again, bicycles with hidden electric motors were overtaking me on the way up. Two of the younger riders that sped passed me had small bikes with stabiliser wheels attached to the rear frame, but I couldn’t see where their electric motors were hidden.

It was a joyful sight as I rounded the bend in Jail Lane to see the pub.  It is a Grade II listed building, dating back to the 18th century and with a large well-kept garden. And much to my surprise, the door to the bar was open!

Come on in!

But alas, the door was only open because the landlord was taking advantage of the lockdown and had the decorators in.

A lick of paint here, a lick of paint there ..

I parked my bike up and rang the door bell as directed. An affable man came to the open door and smiled at me in a very welcome manner. But then a bit of gloom set in. He told me there had been a mistake on the Brew2You website and that the cask of Harvey’s Bitter was no more. Had I cycled all this way for nothing I thought? Happily, no. Although I had paid for eight pints, he offered me a 5 litre mini keg of Harvey’s Bitter in its place at the same price. A quick mental calculation showed I was getting 8.8 pints in a mini keg, so I willingly accepted the replacement.

However, it was not until he brought me the mini keg that I thought “that won’t fit in my pannier!”

Fitting a quart into a pint pot!

But, after some adjusting of the straps I managed to get it in.

I’ll get it in there somehow!

Now normally, when I buy my eight pints of beer to cycle home with, it is in 2 x 4 pint containers and I balance the weight in the left and right panniers to prevent any wobble. With a big can of 5 litres in the right hand pannier only, cycling back was difficult and I had to maintain a permanent list to the left to balance the bike. The downhill runs were positively exciting with the unbalanced force of gravity trying to topple me over – right hand bends were particularly interesting and I nearly slid to the tarmac more than once. I wasn’t concerned about the cuts and grazes I would get if I fell. I was far more worried about the possible damage to my valuable cargo!

However, I am sure you will all be pleased to hear that I managed to cycle home safely.

So here I am tonight sampling the beer and the effort was truly worthwhile. Orange-amber in colour. The aroma somehow brings autumn rain and ripe apples to mind. There are herbal, smokey notes mixed with a whiff of toffee. Now I truly regret not bringing two 5 litre cans home as a balanced load!

Liquid gold


Up and down to Downe and The Queen’s Head (29/05/20)

Fellow Agents,

The secret service branch of CAMRA, known as DARCRA, has once more asked me to carry out a mission. I was to journey from Beckenham to the Queen’s Head at Downe. For those not part of the cognoscenti, DARCRA stands for Drink Any Rubbish Called Real Ale. As we all know, it’s not the quality of the beer that matters, only the dispense method is important.

It was now time. Dusk was forming, although the night was yet to arrive. There was still some daylight, but there were enough shadows along the quiet byways to shield my journey. If unlucky and caught by the Covid Stasi, I had mentally prepared myself for the inevitable interrogation. I knew how to foil their harsh questioning and had rehearsed my answer numerous times – I would say I was on my way to Durham by order of Dominic Cummings. Taking a deep breath, I squeezed awkwardly into my camouflaged lycra suit. Apart for the odd unexpected bump in my smooth body line (too much information I here you say), I was now dressed to kill and ready to go on my vital mission.

I carefully loaded the ammunition holders into my panniers. 2 x 4-pint canisters disguised as empty milk containers. No one could possibly guess what they were really for as I had cunningly left the “semi-skinned” labels on the container sides.

I carefully fitted the panniers to my Specialized Global City 5.1. This was no ordinary bike. With carbon fibre forks and its highly secret SRAM Dual Drive epicyclic gear box, I could outrun anything on two wheels. This was far better than any James Bond car, but I did think a machine gun hidden behind my front dynamo light would be useful.

I mounted my GPS onto the handle bars and switched it on. I eagerly waited for it to pick up the direction signal from the orbiting satellites. It reassuringly bleeped and I noticed 5 satellites were online. Surely this would be enough to guide me on my 8 mile journey from Beckenham to Downe? With one lingering look back at my home in case I never saw it again, I pedalled off on my dangerous journey.

The first peril on the way was passing through the known savage tribes of Hayes. I would be passing dangerously near to the zombie cave known as The Real Ale Way micro-pub. Many a moderate drinker has been lured there and shipwrecked by the enchanted voice of the Siren called Greg. Many are never seen again.

Apart from the jeers as I past, the tribes let me journey in peace. I had now reached the dangerous crossing of Coney Hill Road and the dreaded A232. The river of traffic was ceaseless. Many a cyclist had pinged their last bell at this point, but I was determined to cross. Gates Green Road was my aim, directly opposite on the other side of the maelstrom. Unexpectedly, an opening occurred and with a super-human push on the pedal I was there.

The ride along Gates Green Road and Jackass Lane went without incident. It gave me a chance to enjoy the open fields and singing birds. I even spotted wild hop bines growing among the hedgerows. Approaching the badlands on the outskirts of Downe, I was met by a wall of water two feet deep running towards me. As I pedalled through it my legs from knees to toes were soaked. I then saw the burst water main. It is incredible what the people here will do to keep you out of their village. After pausing to let a group of wildebeests wade across, I continued on the final stretch.

Arriving at Downe, I noticed the immigration barriers were unmanned. Silently, I slipped through. As I entered the village, people were standing at their doors and looking at me in a strange Kentish way. More than once I was asked “Are you local?” I replied with the well-known get-out clause “My name is Dominic Cummings” and they waved me through. Not for the first time I noticed that everyone in the village had similar features. I concluded the inhabitants here seldom go beyond the village boundaries. No wonder Darwin chose this place as a base to write his “On the Origin of the Species”.

And then I successfully pulled up outside the Queen’s Head. Not believing my good fortune so far, I received a hearty smile and discreetly handed over my empty ammunition carriers.

The Queen’s Head
Take your pick!

After what seemed an eternity, I was equally discreetly given the containers back, filled to the brim with “The Special”. With a nod and a wink, the candy man wished me on my way. The first half of my ‘County Lines’ run was over.

Fruit & veg, as well as beer!

As I struggled back I pondered on the origin of the name ‘Downe’ for the village. No matter if you are pedalling there or back it is always ‘Up’, never down. I was also shocked by how many other pseudo cyclists were overtaking me along the route, even uphill. Surely they were all fitted with electric motors. It’s quite amazing how modern technology can make these motors so small that you can’t see them.

Heavily loaded with ammunition, my journey back was difficult. Going up the hill of Hawes Lane into West Wickham, I had to get off and push the bike up the last few hundred yards. From then on, it was easy going. Upon my arrival at my house I slipped silently up the drive. I quickly unloaded “The Special” before anyone could see it. I manged to get it into the house without being mugged of the valuable contents – this was far more desirable than any Rolex on your wrist. My mission was accomplished and now I could enjoy the fruits of my dangerous labours.

Right. Returning to reality. What were the beers then? Well, I picked up 4 pints of Westerham Summer Perle and 4 pints of Northdown’s Pale Ale Mary. I last had Summer Perle at the Beckenham beer Festival in 2019. I thought it was one of the best of the 60 or so casks we had. The Northdown is a new one to me, so I will enjoy that. They are based at Margate. Maybe it will have the taste of the sea in it!

Here are some pictures I took of the beer. The Perle is on the left. My trusty steed is in the background.

Perle and Mary!


Orpington Liberal Club – Fine beer knows no politics! (24/05/20)

Did another beerxercise cycle run today. I’m getting more ambitious and pedalled to the Orpington Liberal Club for my takeaway. Round trip was about 18 miles from Beckenham.

Orpington Liberal Club is a small and friendly social club in Orpington town centre, facing Tesco just up from the war memorial and near to the station. They have a strong reputation for real ale, cider and perry and have multiple awards from CAMRA having been local and regional Club of the Year and a National Club of the Year finalist.

Man at work!

Getting there was easy enough, but the hills coming back were a bugger! Especially the one from the Club past Orpington Station to Crofton Lane. I made it all the way up in the lowest gears possible, but thought were legs were going to fall off by the time I got to the top. Not helped by younger cyclists passing me uphill and saying “keep it up – you’re nearly there old timer”.

Well insults apart, what did I buy? Feeling in a dark mood, I was after some stout, so bought four pints of Café Brasilia by Kent Brewery. I really wanted some bitter ale to compliment it and was after Spanker Bitter from Nelson Brewery at Chatham. Unfortunately, the Club had sold out and the barman said I would have to wait 20 minutes while he flushed the serving pipes for another bitter. So, remembering it was CAMRA Mild May month I asked what mild he had. Ended up with four pints of Safe Anchorage Mild from Whitstable Brewery. Given the spanking my bum and legs got cycling home uphill, the mild was probably the better choice!

Prices were very reasonable. £3 per pint. Some pictures of my takeaway attached.

Keep safe everyone. Enjoy what beer you can.


One Inn The Wood at Pett’s Wood (14/05/20)

Hope everyone is keeping well and able to get a tipple. I went on another of my cycle exercise outings this Sunday afternoon, and pedalled to Jubilee Park at Petts Wood via Norman Park. It was a cloudy start, but by the time I got there the sun was out. It’s not all nasty out there – It felt really good to cycle through parks and woodland, passing horses running in fields on the way.

At 15:40 I found myself outside a parade of shops on the east side of Petts Wood Station. I paused to watch a van pull up and start to unload several kegs of beer. A smiling man opened a door within the parade of shops and the kegs were gently rolled through it. It was now 15:50 as the van pulled away, with the driver shouting to the smiling man that more was to come over the weekend.

I then noticed by a strange coincidence that I was resting my bike outside the One Inn The Wood micro-pub, which according to a nearby sign opened at 16:00 for takeaways. At this point the smiling man at the same door asked me if I wanted to buy beer. I thought it very impolite to say no.

Miraculously, I then found two four pint containers in my cycle panniers. Following him at social distance into the shop, he gaily chatted to me about the various merits, or otherwise, of Wetherspoons. Not wishing to upset him at this delicate moment of sale, I nodded in acquiescent agreement. I left joyously happy with one container of Blue Monkey Bitter and one container of Infinity IPA. As I left, I was also pleased to see a fellow CAMRA member outside and we exchanged merry greetings. I wonder why she was here?

I carefully loaded the containers into my panniers and rode off into the sunshine to journey home. Surprisingly, in spite of the extra weight of the liquids, cycling home seemed a lot easier and faster than getting there. Maybe it was because my wallet was a lot lighter by nearly thirty quid! I am now sampling the Infinity whilst recovering in my armchair, watching a delightful programme on the TV about walking in the Lake District. There’s many a delightful pub there that I’ve supped in whilst walking the hills and dales, and the programme brought back memories of happy times.

Oh, and the beer? A rich, creamy gold-coloured bitter with intense hop appeal, but not in an American grab-your-throat kind of way. Good hop aroma with fruit notes. Initial complex taste of hop, fruit and malt, followed by a refreshing hoppy and bitter finish. I think I can taste a hint of torrified wheat as well. The beer is in excellent serving condition and I may be forced to have another. Oddly, it tastes very similar to Cocker Hoop, brewed by Jennings in the Lake District – or is my mind wondering again?

As Beautiful as The Lakes themselves

Best wishes to all, and enjoy drinking whatever you can get.