Is your life today what you pictured a year ago ?” prompts Word Press this morning.

Well, a year ago I was in Sheffield Waitrose, no doubt buying provisions for an arduous journey up north for my birthday (22/12). I can’t say I pictured my life much beyond 57. Sorry, self-reflection isn’t my style.

20 years ago I couldn’t have imagined many new entries in the GBG selling McMullen’s, so hurrah for the George IV, an occasional Sawbridgeworth newbie.

“Sawbs”, as the kids would call if, if there were any kids in this smart commuter town between Harlow and Bishops Stortford, is a joy.

It’s hard to find a duff pub among the weatherboards here,

and the most recent Guide entry was the Bull, which served a joyously good Doom Bar.

This guy stands guard against the invasion of craft into the Herts/Essex borders.

You can trust a place where the blind tasting is of pickles, not DIPAs.

But if Sawbs is a mini-Saffron Walden, the the George IV is pure Harlow.

Due to woke requirements I can’t actually repeat much of the conversation inside. “I don’t suppose you wanna **** do you ?” is the first thing you hear, followed by “Tiny Dancer“, which tells you all you need to know. Later we get “Sultans of Swing“, obvs.

Inside, half a dozen blokes my age (though I always assume I’m younger) each take their own table and read the Sunday papers or phone their mates.

This is the sort of pub that just doesn’t get in the GBG anymore in an era of micros and brewery taps open weekends, so I presumed the George was in the Guide due to some cutting edge guests or McMullen’s craft keg. But no.

Well, McMullen’s AK it is then, first AK for several years.

Like other regional brewers (Arkells, Wadworth, Palmers spring to mind), McMullen have struggled in the GBG in this century, but AK is still a mighty beer, cool and tasty (NBSS 3.5) even if most of the trade here is lager.

Some CAMRA branches might add a note to What Pub along the lines of “not for the fainthearted“, as the landlady asks (in complete innocence)

What does “woke” mean ?

I’ll let you guess the responses.


  1. Four people I know who all lived in Bishops Stortford in the early 80s all called it Sawbo City. I think there was a hint of sarcasm in the name. My list has seven pubs visited there in all.

    Ian Worden

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I do not think we have. It is one of the first regional brewers you have written about that I don’t think we have tried. Now we have a good reason to visit the Sawbridgeworth area!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sorry Dave, after a search through 1700 ales, I found that we have had the McMullen Country Bitter at the Bell Inn at Ivychurch. Since I never pass up a bitter, I believe it was I who had it. The other two beers were Sharp’s Atlantic(Joan?) and St. Austell Trelawney(Dave?).

        But I still think I would like to seek it out!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m surprised to see that McMullens now have EIGHT pubs in Central London, some of them quite large, after many years of just the Nags Head in Covent Garden.
        Maybe they’ll be as successful as Humphrey.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Martin,
        McMullens not having pubs in the GBG has always been from their use of cask breathers which keep cask beer fresh for a few more days.


  2. Looks like Macs’ makeover team haven’t got their hands on it yet, thank goodness. They did terrible things to The Wonder in Enfield recently.


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