Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Take Me Home Country Roads

Friday 5/9/14

On our arrival back in NE Lincs from them there Southern climes, we felt that, after a short period of re-acclimatisation, Northern beers needed taking back on board. With this in mind, on Friday Evening, T'other 'arf and I found ourselves on the Waterfront in Grimsby, staring, nay, salivating at The Ice Barque. This enigmatic watering hole never fails to amaze me. Either the “clientèle” is loud, offensive and colourful, or the atmosphere is as relaxed as a Horlicks addicts' pyjama party. This evening, the latter applied. The only beer to really grab our eyes was “Kalamazoo Amber Ale” from the Bell's Brewers Inc. in the US.
This 5.8% brew was produced in conjunction with Wadworth's in Devizes and Bell's John Mallett, and came across as sweet and biscuity, with very little hopiness. Not an unpleasant beer, despite a strong, almost fruity taste, but a style that needs some getting used to. Before the snoring started, we left and headed to The Friary in Victoria Street. The beer here can be “hit and miss”, but the welcome is generally warm and friendly. The choices are also somewhat limited. Greene King IPA or Well's “Bombardier” the usual offerings. This visit we had just one, the “Bombardier”, to pick from. I am quite indifferent about this beer. It is malty, with an underlying caramel taste and, although not a favourite, I have had a few nights in the past solely on this brew. This pint was as average as most pints of this are. Our drinks finished, we headed out the back door,across the road to The Yarborough Hotel. Aha, this is where everyone is hiding on this fine evening. A good range of beers was on display at both bars, and we plumped for a pint of Summerskill's “Ninja Beer” a light coloured 5% Premium Bitter, and a half of Wharfe Bank's “Rye Stone Cowboy” an Amber Ale of the same strength. Mine was clean tasting with a pronounced fruity bitterness in the finish, whilst the half was similar but with a spiciness to the taste. We then had “Celt Native Storm” from Wales' Celtic Experience Brewery, a dry tasting ESB with a 4.4% ABV and a spicy/biscuity finish, while T'other 'arf went for Otter Brewery's Otter Ale a fruity and malty 4.5% Premium Ale. We finished off in JDW's with a pint of Backyard's “Hellbound”( an Old Ale of 5.4% which reminded me off a thick slice of fruit cake, in a glass. Not very aromatic but a big gob-full of flavours) and a half each of Cameron's “Strong Arm”, an old favourite which,sadly, died in the glass, and Burton Bridge “Battle Brew”. The latter is a bitter tasting Pale Ale, packed with hops, and ,at 5%, certainly not a session beer. Time was, unfortunately, ticking and we left to hunt down a bag of chips for our return home. A typical beery night out in Grimsby complete. Enjoyable? Well, to be honest, just comfortable, and probably predictable.

Saturday 6/9/14

Today, we had our Grandson for a few hours. As usual, swimming was on the agenda. I decided to go down my allotment whilst T'other 'arf did the dutiful stuff ,the first time I have visited the plot for 8 days. Shame on me!! I have a few fruit trees on the plot. Although quite new, only 3 years in the ground, my pear tree has produced very well this season. When we left, there was a good 20 almost ripe pears dangling from the laden branches. My growing season has been somewhat poor this year, due to flooding and unpredictability of the weather, so we were looking forward to our pear harvest, those sweet, juicy fruits. Arriving at the plot, I hastened to the top, near the shed, to check on the progress...............only to find ALL apart from one were were missing from the branches. Oh dear. They must have dropped off whilst we were away. As I approached the tree, I was expecting to gather a few bruised fruits at the bottom, on the ground. Not one in sight. We had been robbed. Yes. Fruit rustlers. How pee-ed off was I ? With plenty of fruit trees full, and within arms length, down on our allotment site, to single out ours was, I believe, particularly despicable. Oh well, I hope our little pear tree produces fruit as plentiful next year, and I hope this years fruit was full of bugs and insects.
Feeling fed up, after swimming and dropping off of our charge, we found ourselves in The Parity.
Anonimity assured !
On offer were a couple of Brains' beers, the ever popular “Rev James” and the Dylan Thomas inspired “Organ Morgan”. A thirst quencher of a Golden Ale, at 4%, this subtly citrus beer has a good aroma and clean taste. We stayed with this brew for the duration. On remarking about the beer's name and its origin, I was surprised to find that the young lady who served me had not even heard of Mr Thomas!! “He was one of our (British) most famous writers and poets” I offered. “Nah, never heard of him” Again I offered some clarity “ Have you heard of “Under Milk Wood” or “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” ?” “Nope” “You can Google his name if you want” I conceeded. “Did he play rugby or something?” I left with my glass to the brim with goodness, and sat, cogitating on the fact that the literature taught in modern English probably ain't wot it oughta be, innit! I wonder when the X-Factor inspired beers will appear.

Saturday 13/9/14

Work on Monday. Just over two weeks of annual leave were coming to an end.The last 3 days, I had been reduced to my knees, grazed and bloodied, with hands in a similar state, laying a patio at home. This had also allowed my troublesome achiles to flare up yet again. Now, it was time to ease my aches and pains with the last ales of my holiday. T'other 'arf and I started out at The Parity, and were not surprised that Dylan Thomas was still quite anonymous, and his “Organ Morgan” may gone, but it had been replaced by the equally light and refreshing “Heavenly Blonde”. A zesty fruitiness complements the dry, crisp finish of this 3.8% Golden Ale from Oldershaw's. There were a few in here catching the football on Sky but the atmosphere was very low key. After a couple of these refreshing ales on board, we bade farewell and left the dejected Liverpool fans to water down their beer with tears (Villa were 1-0 up). The other day, I had noticed The Ice Barque had a beer “available soon” that I was anxious to taste. As we entered, its pump clip seemed to shine out, like a beacon, drawing us ever closer to its expectant pleasures. Another American craft beer, brewed exclusively for Wetherspoon's at the Caledonian Brewery, Barley Brown's “Black I.P.A.” at 5.2% poured
A lovely dark brew
from the USA.
beautifully in the glass. The taste was, at first, quite ordinary, but then, the complexity of its flavours and depth of the aroma hits home. Smoothness gives way to a wonderful hoppy bitterness in the finish. A beer well worth waiting for. I forced another down, gratefully, and we wandered the little way up to JDW's other pub, The Yarborough. In here, I opted for Naylor's “Old Ale”. A strong , 6.2% full bodied ale, with a long fruity finish. Nice, but not special. The half was Goff's “Jouster” A much lighter, tawny coloured ale with a well balanced maltiness and bitterness. The hops gave it a fresh after-taste. 4% ABV. To finish, I went for Hawkshead “Red Ale” , a 4.6% Premium ale. I found the flavour good, but also a little sweet and overpowering. The round was completed by “Terrapin Red”, a slightly stronger ale at 5.3%. This has a rather biscuity aroma and a citrus flavour which leads to a satisfying spiced rye finish.The balance seemed spot on, and it was pleasing to finish on an ale like this.
Where and when next, I cannot say. With Summer now at an end and the darker nights now enveloping us, gradually, the draw of the closed curtains, and the warmth within, may be stronger than the gravitational pull felt by the local hostelries. There will be breaks in it, that I am sure, but maybe not so frequent. Until the next time, Cheers and keep it “Real”

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Canterbury tale.......via Broadstairs and Westwood Cross.

After a quiet morning, a couple of Daily Mail cryptic crosswords and endless cups of coffee, we popped onto the Thanet Loop bus (an excellent service which can be used for the purpose of damn good pub crawls around the area.) for the 15 minute trip to nearby Broadstairs. Famous for being the place that Charles Dickens holidayed in and based the novel "Bleak House" on, as well as "Morning Cloud" Skipper and former PM, Edward Heath's birthplace (among other numerous notables) this is a very old style resort, steeped in history. On the way to the seafront, we stopped at the Chapel Pub in Albion Street, the sister pub of Margate's Lifeboat. This little micropub has been created in an old bookshop and still hosts many traits of its past including the mustiness particular with these establishments. We chose the Hopdaemon "Incubus" a 4% copper coloured bitter which was smooth and malty. Again, all beers are straight from the barrel in here, a sight I wish we had back home. We took the early afternoon air along the promenade and onto the pier before heading for an ice-cream in the drizzle. Then the stroll back,taking in the deli's and cakeshops, in search of Gypsy Tart. No, not one of those ladies one bumps into down Freemo (Freeman St in GY) on payday...allegedly, but the very sweet,sickly favourite of Kent's school dinners (so I am told). I experienced this once before when "T'other 'arf" baked one at home. That must be at least 4 years since and I can still detect the cloying sweetness on the back of my teeth. I managed to steer the tart hunter towards another "must visit" inn on my mental list and soon we were admiring the vast display of beers behind the bar in The Thirty-Nine Steps.
A small selection of beer pump clips
at the Thirty-Nine Steps
The name comes from the John Buchan novel. The steps are supposed to be those still there at North Foreland and this tale of espionage has been lapped up by many through a few film varients (Kenneth Moore's was my favourite), stage plays,TV series et al.The beer?? Well, straight from the barrel and perfectly served. I understand that this micropub features beers from a particuler brewery en-bloc which, I believe, is a good way to get a full taste of the different varients in ales from each area. York's Rudgate Brewery beers were well in evidence here with 7 of their brews on tap.I chose the "Chocolate Stout" whilst a half of "Jorvik Blonde" was also quaffed.Mine was smooth, full bodied and very flavoursome, with a wonderful chocolate finish and was very moreish, and, I am told, the lighter beer had a lovely freshness to the taste with a bitter finish( still training T'other 'arf's tastebuds, but were are getting there!) It was a shame to have to go after just one, but we had arranged to have a meal out that evening.Leaving, we admired the 800+ pump clips from over 500 breweries to have been presented at this gem of a pub since opening a mere 2 years ago.And so that was that for this tour of Broadstairs.We never managed the welcome in The Tartar Frigate, the view from The Charles Dickens or the relaxing atmosphere of The Dolphin as we have in the past, but these guilty pleasures are to come. That evening we went out collectively for a meal.We first tried the Toby Carvery at Westwood Cross but an hour for a table on a Monday night?? We set off back towards the coast and ended up at The David Copperfield, a Harvester pub. The meal was adequate, and drinks (including my coke!) ok but the company present,relaxing and most welcome. Tomorrow is Canterbury.


One thing about Kent is evident. The public transport system is great. We boarded the number 8,"The Breeze" service from the Thanet coast to Kent's capital, and within 50 minutes we had arrived. After a bit of window shopping and trying to find an ankle support for my troublesome leg,we settled down in The City Arms, Butchery Lane. After a fire in 2001, this alehouse re-opened in 2004 and is a showcase for Canterbury Brewery's beer and local ciders. I had a pint of the very aromatic "Little Red Rye" 4.5%, whilst a half of Henderson's "Toffee Apple Cider" ,a 6% delight, was also taken. A busy pub and a pure gem with knowledgeable staff and a friendly feel.After this,we popped around the corner to The Old Buttermarket. A pretentious looking pub and bland tasting ale was my summing up once we had struggled to finish a pint of Nicholson's "Pale" at 4% and half of the 4.4% Woodfordes' "Norfolk Hawker". Both lacked that fresh taste of a good conditioned beer.A disappointment.In the meantime we had received an expected phone call from "T'other 'arf's" brother and sister-in -law  Andrew and Jayne , who, along  with Tom their son,would be meeting us for a few.Did we know where The Parrot pub was? Of course we did. The Beermonster had sniffed this one out on a previous visit. Canterbury's oldest pub was soon on the horizon and we were presently sat in the comfortable beer garden enjoying various measures of  Shepherd Neames "Whitstable Bay Pale ale" , 3.9%  and "Spitfire"at 4.2% along with the 4.8% "Samuel Adams Boston Lager" brewed under licence by the same brewers. These went down well and we accompanied these with some rather filling posh sarnies from the lunch menu. We decided to walk round to The Foundry Brew Pub in White Horse Lane,
The bar at The Foundry.
home of The Canterbury Brewery. A full collection of therir wares were on display and during our visit we tried sampled the Amber ale "Torpedo" 4.5%, "Street Light Porter" an excellent dark beer of 5.8%, ,the Golden Ale,"Foundry Man's Gold" 4% 5.6% "Red Rye", "Topaz", "Hop Doctor" and, somehow I managed to down two pints of the 7.4% and very smooth drinking "Revenge". For such a strong  set of beers, these are all very enjoyable on the tastebuds and all go down a little too easily. This is the perfect showcase for these ales and I will never tire of visiting The Foundry. We left late in the afternoon to visit, if memory serves me right,The Bell & Crown in Palace St. Here I had, according to my notes Wantsum "Red Raddle" a 5% Summer Ale , and the same strength Old Dairy brew "Gold Top".My notes suggest one of our company,at least, chose the Old Fountains' brew of "Whitstable EIPA" a +4% IPA. My memories at this point are somewhat sketchy and with my achilles throbbing like Billy-o, my capacity of alcohol almost exceeded, we should have popped on the bus back to Margate. We should have,I know but with such great company, we went back to Fordwich and The George and Dragon where we met up with the final family member, Ellie.I have been to
The George & Dragon,Fordwich.
If memory serves me right !!!
The George a few times, and a lovely family pub it is. It always carries a good range of local ales, and one can struggle to leave the welcoming atmosphere here. After quite a while and a few more beers (can't remember exactly which but I do remember a lovely Porter), we went back,or struggled back, to our hosts' for an improvised supper of pizza,chips etc. as the Chinese Take-Away was shut. We thoroughly enjoyed our day and, as we set out for the last bus back, we felt absolutely shattered. With the motion of the bus, a loving and long suffering partner to rest my weary head on,& enough booze in my bloodstream to float the QE2,I was soon embarrassingly snooring my way back to Thanet. Ooops.The next day we had planned a crawl on The Loop. I was aware, as we entered Margate at 00-10, this may not happen!!


On Wednesday, we had a run out in the car to Ramsgate, only a couple or so miles away. As expected, we did not partake of the liquids but, on first appearances, it certainly has much to offer the connoisseur of ales. We had a lovely "Whippy" ice-cream by the harbour,a wonderful area with so much maritime history abounding it, and watched the people go by.The range of real ale pubs around the harbour area was many and varied. We promised ourselves an afternoon in this historical resort next time we visit, but our time in Thanet was coming to an end.It is nice to leave a couple of places on ones "list" to re-visit in the future. All that Shepherd's Neame, Gadd's and the rest of the Kentish brewers' wares, would have to wait. The next day, we were heading back to North East Lincolnshire. 
We left Kent, and Tony to a bit of peace and quiet, just before 09-45, gypsy tart safely stowed for the long journey home. We made good time, and, after a 15 minute stop for fuel near Peterborough, arrived back home around 2pm.Another trip over,and another tasting session ! Roll on the next one.
Cheers and keep it "Real"

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Wherefore art thou!

Birds singing, 
Sun shining like an Inca god's jewelled adornments
Giggsy, Tony's cat (Yes, another “Sarf East Man Utd fan!!), farting and sprawling in the garden. Time for a walk into town. We scrubbed up, dressed and, by 2pm we were on the right Northdown Rd heading towards the Seafront.
Spencer Finch's cloud thingy. I got this.
But the rest...????
We decided to give the Turner Centre a coat of looking at. Now, I know I am not an expert, but I do appreciate art. I used to be a keen photographer, and I can hold a pencil but, what is this modern stuff about. Some pieces are very clever and thought provoking, others........I won't comment because I just fail to grasp what they are about. Good job it was free. With our minds expanded, we wandered back down to the Harbour Arms and whilst Jane enjoyed another “Gold Digger” I sampled a Burton Bridge “Porter” an extremely dark, but not black pint at 4.5%. A good tasting beer but I was not sure that the Southern style of serving it, headless, or dropping it from the barrel, fully complemented this beer. I wasn't disappointed by it, but having tasted it in the Midlands before, it did lack just a little something. Just a little aside here. Margate on this particular Sunday had a live artist at the Lighthouse bar, whilst outside the “cafe” area on the seafront, several acts performed live throughout the day. It made it busy and pleasant. Free live entertainment fetches in the people who stay and enjoy it AND the other facilities. Maybe other resorts need too take that on board. We headed next, after a lovely toasted

panini in the ever popular Huckleberry's cafe, to Barnacles, overlooking the Harbour. This pleasant boozer seemed to be a good locals' meeting place and was quite busy. The beer we chose was Adnams' “Fat Sprat” as the only other cask was from Courage, and I am not a fan. Personal taste I know, but I have heard stated before that “you need courage to drink Courage”. Our beer was light in colour, but tasted superb and was really refreshing, commanding a long hoppy finish. At 3.8% it would be a good summer session beer. We finished our drinks and then wandered (or in my case,winced and hobbled on a rather sore Achilles) our wary way home. Another wonderful day in Thanet.
Cheers and keep it "Real"

Friday, 5 September 2014

We're going down to Margate .

The trip to visit T'other 'arf's spiritual home and birthplace,Kent, was on. We were staying with Jane's dad, in Margate, while we were here, and visiting relatives, so best behaviour expected. As if I know any other way of behaving.
The promised early departure failed to happen. The 06-00 start ended up 08-10 !!Never mind. At least the weather was set fine and we only had 250+ miles to journey. I usually travel via the A46/A1/ route, but, with time on our hands, we decided on the A16/A17 route down to Peterborough before joining the A1. Although we probably didn't save much time in reality, it did seem quicker somehow, and more pleasant. After a rather uneventful journey we approached the outskirts of Margate, the birthplace of Buster Bloodvessel (Douglas Trendle), Ballard Berkeley of “Fawlty Towers” fame (The Major) and actor Peter Barkworth, then, customarily, we got, well not lost, more misplaced!!We hove to 5 hours after leaving, which wasn't too bad if you are not suffering with Achilles Tendonosis. Ouch. Thank you painkillers.
What is it? Not seen at home in years!
After dropping off our bag and presenting “The Ol' Man” (Tony) with his trophy of Lincolnshire's finest Haslet, Pork Pie and Plum Bread ( all sadly lacking in our homestead,I might add. Even after regular protestations and much begging by the Author!!!!) we walked the 100 yards or so to “The Wheatsheaf” on Northdown Park Road. A Hungry Horse eatery, this was definitely a “locals” boozer which, sadly, was reflected in the service. Whilst we waited for our “Old Speckled Hen” and “Greene King IPA”, one of said locals just walked up, tapped his glass on the bar and was served his lager straight away. As I mentioned earlier, Douglas Trendle used to frequent the area. His band anyone??? The beer was no more than OK and although welcome, not outstanding in anyway, so we left and rallied the troops, in the form of Tony's stepson and wife, Darren and Wendy.We arranged to tour the seafront and Old Town area, a place I have wandered round before.
We arrived at the “Turner Contemporary” and first, ventured down the Harbour arm.At the bottom was the “Lighthouse Bar” a very nice establishment, but no real ale, just “posh” bottled beers. I had already espied the “Harbour Arms” micropub on our walk past, so we encamped back to there. Wow! What a boozer. All
Says it all,really.
 Margate's Harbour Arms
on the harbour arm at Margate
beers straight from the barrel. All £3 a pint. “Get in there, my son” I thought. This refurbished fishermens store is wonderful. Nothing flash. No toilets (public lavs next door) but the ale sold it.I started on Cumberland Breweries “Corby Noir” an Irish style Stout at 4.5%. I was joined in the round by halves of “Raspberry Twist” cider, 4% and “Gold Digger” from Northumberland also weighing in at 4%.Wendy, our “des”, was on soft drinks for the evening I finished off in here with a beer from Lancashire's Old School Brewery, “Textbook”, a pale bitter and only 3.8%. A repeat perscription, with an increased dosage on the cider,was the rest of the order.This is a must visit pub. I will be visiting again soon.
The Lifeboat micropub.
After these, we made our way to a favourite place of mine,The Lifeboat, in Market St. Another straight from the barrel micropub, serving good beer. We chose Wantsum's “Dynamo”, 4.6% and quite fruity tasting Golden Ale, Hook Norton's 5.3% "Flagship" Pale Ale and Gadd's 3.8% "FestivAle", another quite fruity pale beer.All enjoyed immensely and hats off to these little micropubs and their understanding of what "serious" drinkers want.
T'other 'arf and I stayed in town for one more, and headed for Margate's oldest pub, The Northern Belle. We were quite surprised at the lack of people in this once popular inn. A place that has a good range of Shepherd Neame beers on should attract a few more followers. Anyway, we opted for the "Brilliant Ale" a 4% beer that was a brilliant ale to look at and taste.We certainly enjoyed the atmosphere in all the pubs visited in the "tourist" area, and I am sure that this area has the potential to pull in ale drinkers from far and wide with the offerings we experienced. Well, now the walk back, kebab in hand. Nothing can go wrong. A word to the wise. Northdown Road and Northdown Park Road are different roads.They sort of go the same way but end in differing areas. Get them wrong and it's microwaved kebab time. "DING" Oh dear!!
Cheers and keep it "Real"

The Northern Lights (and "Heavies")

"Stone of Destiny"
The prelude to our Kent excursion was spent in Good 'ol GY by the sea!!.T'other 'arf was preening herself and having the old Barnet trimmed(Cockney/Kentish rhyming slang: Barnet Fair = hair) so off I popped to sample Northern beer for the last time for a week. I try not to be predictable but' as this was just a quick taster before the journey “Darn Sarf”, I entered The Parity. This week the offerings were Tom Woods' “Harvest Bitter” or Brains' “The Reverend James”. I decided on the “Harvest” and it was thoroughly enjoyable.As this was a Friday night, there were a few more “patrons” in. Although a good atmosphere was in flow, I chose to give The Yarborough a look and wandered across. I started here on Inveralmond “Lia Fail”.I am reliably informed this means "Stone of Destiny" in Gaelic. I would describe this wonderfully aromatic beer as a “heavy” and the flavour was full and satisfying.I followed this with a beer I sampled many years ago. Elgood's “Cambridge Bitter”. An old fashioned tasting bitter, this ale transports you back to smokey rooms and wooden floors covered in sawdust.This beer has a rather dry and long finish and was as good as it was when I first experienced it. To finish the night I decided on Tom Woods' wonderfully dark “Bomber County”. This is always a good ale to finish on and, like a fine port, always leaves you with a warming glow. With an early start the following day, I was soon on my merry way home. Next port of call? Margate. The Jewel of Thanet.
Cheers and keep it "Real"