When it comes to good pubs, Ealing is very much a Fullers town – not surprising when you consider how close Ealing is to the Fullers brewery in Chiswick.
Pretty much 80% of the local pubs (as opposed to the branded bars and theme pubs) are tied to Fullers, and whilst Fullers beers are fantastic, the sheer number of pubs they own in Ealing means that having a change is actually a bit difficult.
Most of Fullers Ealing pubs are managed outlets, selling Chiswick Ale, London Pride and ESB as well as the Fullers seasonal range. However there are usually no guest beers.
The Red Lion, a Fullers tenanted pub, has a fifth handpull, home to a guest beer which changes monthly, and you get the odd appearance of a second guest inbetween seasonal ales.
Fullers are good but so is the odd bit of variety.
There are some non-Fullers pubs in Ealing. There’s the Ealing Park Tavern (nice beer but just too far away), The New Inn (hmm quality) and The Grange.
The Grange is actually not five minutes away from where I live, tucked away from main roads, in the depths of a heavy residential area. In the two and a half years in the area, I can count on my two hands the number of times I’ve been to The Grange.
The reason has been that the beer was pretty dire.
Bitter is best!
Being a big fan of the old handpulled ale, the quality of the beer is very important to me. The Grange didn’t offer a good beer – in fact it was truly awful.
I keep talking in the past tense as before Christmas I heard from a man from the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) that he’d been hearing some good things about the Grange. So mid December we payed a visit and enjoyed a few hours of good quality ale.
It took over two months before our next visit – last night in fact. We’re creatures of habbit and The Red Lion is a lovely pub. However we just fancied doing something different, so we decided to check back on The Grange and see if we’d experienced a fluke or not.
New manager, better beer.
Taking a look at the Ealing website, Lammas.com, it transpired that the Grange had a new manager who arrived at the end of last year. And what a difference he’s made to the beer. It’s truely wonderful!
The Grange’s three handpulls are now shared between two guests and Directors. I enjoyed a happy couple of pints of Titanic New World as well as a pint of Yeoman 1767 Strong Ale. The pump clips behind the bar gave a good indication of the wide range of guests that had been before us – from big names to small. In an amusing state of affairs, one of the guests had been Fullers Jack Frost!
It’s amazing how much a good quality beer can make to your visit to a pub though. It can put it into a completely different context. Instead of sitting there moaning about the quality of the beer, feeling miserable, I could complement the beer and feel happy.
Why can’t all pubs be run by people who care about what they sell?
The sad thing is that it took a change in management before The Grange actually sold beer that is worth drinking. Sadly some people running pubs are lazy and uncaring. Looking after beers on a handpull takes work – lagers etall are much easier to look after and some people just can’t be bothered with the hassle with looking after their products.
But what happens when you don’t? You loose customers like myself who want handpulled ales to be treated with the respect it deserves.
The new manager at The Grange seems to genuinely care about his beers, even to the extent of making two of the three handpulls for ever changing guest beers – giving the place a bit of a selling point amongst the rest of Ealing’s pubs. And with some well treated beers, you can attract in the ale lovers like myself in.
There is a huge market for real ale drinkers, as can be seen in the majority of pubs which sell good real ales. Unfortunately very few pubs or bars even bother to cater for this market – a sad and short-sighted decision in my opinion. So it’s always good to see a pub go from bad to good, as it gives me somewhere else to drink.
And as long as the beer quality at the Grange keeps being that good, I’ll keep on popping in every now and then.
But with the good comes the bad.
Unfortunately just as the Grange has got good, something bad has happened – Ealing Common’s branch of Threshers closed last night. It appeared to be rather sudden. No closing down sale, just a hand written sign in the window that wasn’t there on Friday.
It was the only dedicated off-license near our flat, after a branch of Victoria Wine closed about 2 years ago, and was the only place to sell bottled ales. Whilst there are other shops, the bitters are canned, and the bottles are mainly continental.
I have to be honest and hope that the other shops take on that bottled beer mantle, but I’m not optimistic alas. Looks like I’ll have to start walking the extra 15 minutes to Sainsburys from now on.
Update: 10 May 2003. The Grange has changed again… Read the latest in Back to Boring Beer At The Grange, Ealing.