Tapping The Admiral: Kentish Town derelict squat is transformed into CAMRA best real ale pub in a year

PUBLISHED: 10:49 30 April 2013 | UPDATED: 13:55 30 April 2013

Left to right: Owners Kirk McGrath and Paul Davies with general manager Spike Williams showing off the pub's recent award. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Left to right: Owners Kirk McGrath and Paul Davies with general manager Spike Williams showing off the pub's recent award. Picture: Polly Hancock.


How do you take a derelict squat and turn it into one of north London’s best pubs in just over a year?

Ask the team behind Tapping The Admiral, the new Kentish Town boozer every real ale aficionado this side of the Thames is talking about.

The pub, in Castle Road, was recently voted Pub of the Year 2013 by the north London branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) little more than a year after it opened in November 2011.

Co-owner Paul Davies, 60, landlord of another Kentish Town favourite The Pineapple, in Leverton Street, credited Tapping The Admiral’s manager Spike Williams, 53, with the new pub’s rapid success.

“A year ago, this place was a run-down squat – it had no roof and no cellar equipment – it had been closed down for six years,” said Mr Davies.

“What most pubs can’t achieve in 10 years, Spike has achieved in one year. He has taken on a very old, run-down den of a pub and made it into a real gem. He’s done it by running a good cellar.”

Tapping The Admiral’s cellar fuels an impressive eight pumps in the bar upstairs, with ales sourced predominantly from breweries within the confines of the M25.

Closest to home is Redemption Brewery, based in Tottenham, with whom Tapping The Admiral have teamed up to create their very own unique ale - titled Nelson’s Victory - a Redemption label stocked exclusively at the Kentish Town pub.

But stocking such a variety of ales requires diligence and commitment to maintain, an operation headed by Mr Williams.

“With real ale you’re talking about something which is alive – it’s got yeast in it – it’s still brewing when it’s in the cellar,” he said.

“Once you start selling a cask of ale you’ve got five days to sell it otherwise it’s degenerating. You could get people really ill with real ale if you don’t do it properly.

“You have to make sure everything is sterile – the cellar almost has to be like a hospital in terms of the environment.”

Sharing ownership of Tapping the Admiral with Mr Davies is Kirk McGrath, 48, who also co-owns The Pineapple.

The pair had previously run the renowned Sir Richard Steele’s pub, known as the Steele’s, in Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park, for 24 years and have a reputation Mr Davies’ is confident will serve them well.

“We are known in the area and we are well-known for being individual-type blokes,” he said. “We probably spend more on candles than some pubs spend on their staff.

“We are tucked away, we don’t have the passing trade. We are definitely a destination pub, people have to come and find us.

“The vision is to build up our clientele base for people who enjoy real ale and good food with a splattering of craft beers.

“A place where you can sample beers of all shapes and sizes with people who know what they are talking about.”

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