First port of call was the brewery shop so I could get my hands on the "Past Masters" XX (or XXK to those in the know). It was four quid a bottle, which I suppose is fair enough but I was a bit peeved to see the latest Vintage Ale (which I also had to have) was a fiver a bottle. I'm sure that in Waitrose last year it was £3.30 so I'm not sure why buying it direct from the brewery is this costly.
There was a slight hitch early on as the pub on the corner of the brewery, and the one next door ;-) , was shut but we managed to meet up with our mate Dan without much bother and were soon safely ensconced in our first pub, the BlackLion.
Two of the beers here were off leaving the choice of Adnam's Broadside or Wells and Young's Courage Best. Now Courage Best, or Courage Worst as we more commonly called it, was one of the beers I had to drink in my youth when big breweries owned most of the pubs. I was mystified when Wells and Young's decided to revive it and have steered clear of it so far. But as I was starting a pub crawl, and I didn't fancy a Broadside I thought it was time to give it a go. The beer was recognisably Courage Best, though perhaps slightly better than I remember it. Still pretty dull though, so is one to avoid generally. The round of two and a half pints came to just under a tenner which really made me think "Toto, we're not in Wetherspoons anymore". It was a nice looking pub but to charge prices like that their business model must be based on ripping off tourists.
Moving swiftly on we soon came to a Young's pub, the Old Ship. I had a pint of Winter Warmer in this one but it wasn't on form. I thought there was a strange tang to it giving it a hint of dodgy homebrew. Still, it wasn't off putting enough for me to take it back so it can't have been that bad.
Dan was quite taken with his kegged Double Chocolate Stout and it's another nice looking pub, though the water dripping from the balcony was annoying.
Moving further along the Thames we soon came to a couple more pubs and after peering inside the windows we decided to call in at the Blue Anchor. After some deliberation we went for a beer called Fagins from the Itchen Valley brewery. This was a well balanced bitter at a very drinkable 4.1% ABV.
Continuing our wanderings I was surprised to see we'd passed William Morris' house. I wonder what he would say about breweries producing up to six million barrels a year being called "craft breweries".
Close by was The Dove , a Fuller's house. I believe this pub's claim to fame is that it has a tiny snug, and sure enough there was a very small room on one side of the bar. The hand pumps were on that side of the bar, but with the badges turned round so you can see them from the main room. Whether this odd arrangement influenced my friends choice of drinks I couldn't say but the lovely Lisa had a bottle of Bengal Lancer and Dan had a bottle of porter, having recently discovered its delights at the Sloaney Pony winter ales festival. I don't really hold with drinking bottled beer in pubs as a) I can usually get the same beer for cheaper from shops and b) I can't get cask beer anywhere except in pubs. So I had a pride.
At this point we stopped doing original research and wandered on to one of our favourites the Bricklayers in Putney. Sadly it seems there are still problems with deliveries from Timmy Taylor's as none of their beers were there. There was an excellent selection though with lots from Dark Star. Unfortunately my beer nerdery let me down and I went for Acorn's Barnsley Bitter. I could remember Pete Brown writing about this and it was the first time I've seen it so I couldn't miss it. I wish I had though as it wasn't much cop. Maybe my pallet was a bit jaded by this point.We went off for some food next, where I had a Mahou to wash my tapas down. Drinking lager can't be good for you though as I felt a bit rough in the next day.
After it was on to Dan's local, the Pelican, for a pint of Harveys Best.