Not particularly a propos of drinking Courage Imperial Russian Stout as brewed at the Anchor Brewery, I called at the Anchor Tap in Horselydown Lane, round the back of the old Courage Brewery and a tourist’s gob from Tower Bridge, just for an update.
Architecturally it’s a fine old pub with an interior layout dating back 150 years at least, and in a style now hard to find – two bars, lots of little rooms off those, and rooms off corridors, there’s even a darts board … Of course. the wasp in the pintpot is that the beer is now Samuel Smith’s, which means, as it does in most Sam’s pubs in London, no handpumps, and their own eccentric choices of fizzy keg beers that are apparently meant to be Tadcaster’s answer to the best-sellers from other brewers – Sam Smith’s wheat beer instead of Hoegaarden, Sam Smith’s Extra Stout instead of that stuff from Dublin.
I feel when I’m in a Sam’s pub that I have entered the premises of a peculiar cult, where nothing from the outside world can be allowed to sully the Yorkshire purity that exists between these four walls: “Tha keeps thy Guinness to thissen, lad! Us’ll ‘ave nowt but gradely beer from God’s Own County!”
Still, Sam Smith’s wheat beer and Extra Stout mixed is a pleasant pint, the wheat beer lowering the volume on the stout so that I don’t feel I’m being smacked in the face with roast barley – except that my order, naturally, confused the Southern Hemisphere barman, who has never heard of the like, and who tried to serve me a pint each of wheat and stout. But it got everybody around the bar talking, as they recalled mixed drinks of their wasted youths (youths spent wasted, that is – lager and light? Please …) So – drink wheat-and-stout. and break the ice in strange Sam Smith’s pubs …