London to the core

A one way ticket to Pimlico, please


“Pimlico is where I was born, so I am both fairly biased and a rare bird in London these days,” says Martin Hayes, worldwide traveller, London native, and owner of Pimlico’s CASK Pub and Kitchen, the city’s first craft beer focussed pub. As much as Martin is a champion of the area, he’d be the first to say that Cask’s little corner of Pimlico was about as unloved as London’s beer scene, when he first came across the premises, in 2008. 

“Most people think Pimlico is south of the river, but it's actually a corner of real London, where prime ministers, film stars, dinner ladies, burglars and even humble publicans all live together,” says Martin. “People who live here don't really shout about it, because I think we like to keep it a secret for ourselves, but you can reach the West End in minutes, you can hear Big Ben's chimes, you can live in a vibrant and truly mixed part of London and can know your neighbours.”

It was this vibrancy and dynamism that made Martin question why “the world’s greatest city” offered pub goers such an appalling selection of industrial, mass produced beers, for the most part. “Even fifteen years ago, supermarkets offered 30-plus types of olive oil for example, but Londoners were offered the same 6-10 sad generic looking lagers in every pub. You didn't need to be a genius to see that was not sustainable nor would it last, so we took a small, unwanted pub, in a corner of London no one really knows, and opened CASK Pub and Kitchen.” 

Martin says that pretty quickly, queues were out the door. People were gasping for a proper beer, and there was such an obvious hunger for good pubs that operations were able to expand in 2011, when the CASK team launched The Craft Beer Co, now the parent company to a collection of craft beer focused pubs around London. “We still own and operate all of them,” says Martin. “We try to offer up the best beers in the world with a smile and joke, but we never take ourselves too seriously.”

Martin says that too many times he’s been humbled by the support people have shown to the pub. For instance, he mentions times in the past when “a customer arrived at the pub with luggage to tell us they came straight from Heathrow and literally are visiting because they heard about us from some friends. The most amazing and rewarding part of our journey is the sheer volume of 'locals' and regulars we have, many of whom don’t actually even live within walking distance. We have customers who travel 40 minutes every day to come to us, that is an honour and something for which we are extraordinarily grateful.” 

It’s thanks to the fervent support of regulars and locals that CASK will this year celebrate its 15th anniversary. “It's been a roller coaster” says Martin. “As London's first craft beer focussed pub, we helped create a totally new category of pub in the capital. We would like to think we have the UK's finest range of beers and we work damn hard to ensure that is the case, but we are first and foremost a pub that cares about people. We exist to give people a perfect place to celebrate, commiserate or simply hide from the increasingly arctic realities of life in modern Britain.”

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