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Friday, 28 November 2014

Rock the Boat, Don't Tip The Boat Over.

With the Friday and Saturday off, the promise of more damp weather preventing my progress at my allotment plot ( leeks still in situ in the ground, as are the parsnips, whilst the overwintering onions await in the shed) , and the ingredients to be sourced and purchased for my Christmas cake and puddings , not to mention the preparation (yes. I know they seem late, but there are some really good “late” recipes to be found on this new fangled t'interweb thingy), it should come as no surprise that The Pub could command a visit.........or two. We took a wander into town, pockets filled with “recyclable” carrier bags, old ones, in other words, and bought a few of the bits needed for my festive wares. Not all ingredients were obtained, not all carriers were used, so we decided to treat our unused bags, and those containing my base building blocks of culinary celebrations, to an afternoon out in the pub.Whilst Jane went about a bit more Christmas shopping, I wasn't allowed to look, I bypassed the pan pipe playing CD salespeople, and headed for The Barge, at the Riverhead, Grimsby.
The boat that Rocks!
This old grain barge, a great place to visit, has a permanent list to one side, and takes a few seconds getting used to. During the day, foodies and shoppers frequent this historical vessel, but at night, VERY HEAVY rock (yes I know that is highlighted in capitals) is king, and students, goths and ageing denim clad air guitarists effortlessly mingle.The beer range isn't extensive, “Bombardier” and “Hobgoblin” only, usually, but I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, the “Bombardier” in here is the best I have ever tasted. The covered top deck here gives a good view of the shopping centre, Freshney Place, and also gave me the opportunity to play an impromptu game of “Treasure Hunt” by mobile phone, to my own Aneka Rice, the long suffering T'other Arf.That killed 15 minutes, and Jane took it in good faith, I think! Eventually found, and drink supplied I was then whisked around the Farmer's Market until thoroughly miserable. Another break from the tedium of shopping was needed.We retired to the solace of The Yarborough, which, over this weekend at least, had a selection of beers from the Black Horse Brewery, a small brewer from Grainthorpe , Lincolnshire. Not far off Louth, this former pub brewery has now relocated to the market town and, presumedly, increased their output. We decided to try Black Horse “Where's My Fiorucci?” a 3.8% Ruby Ale. Personally, I found this ale disappointing. Initial malt, and a very faint hoppiness just seems to dissipate. Whereas the finish was short and bland. Never mind, maybe the next choice will tick a few boxes. We, my bags, dried fruit and I,Jane had decided to do a bit more shopping and then wend her way home, went for another of the Black Horse brews, “Saturday's Blonde” a 4% Bitter made with pale malts. Bright and light in the mouth, a bit fruity in taste, with a long and bitter finish, this was a much better beer. After this, the next pump offered the curious Brains' “The Rev's Golden Cracker” from JDW's Christmas range of beers. I know, a bit early for that kind of talk, but they still have to be tasted! With a good pine and fruit aroma, malty taste and a crisp citrus finish, this is a lovely beer to sample, and at 4% , a good festive session Golden Ale. I finished off in here with two halves, one of JW Lees “Plum Pudding” (rather apt, considering my shopping bag contents,), and the other, Salopian “Holly Bush” .The Lees, I found, was undeniably fruity and rich, but not too overpowering. Well balanced, this subtle 4.8% Winter Ale went down well. The Salopian offering, at 5.5%, was packed with different aromas and flavours. Grapefruit, toffee, biscuit, pine and a myriad of others, all rush at you. I found it very complex, maybe confusing, and, although a really good beer, just too hectic. To put a Christmassy slant on it, it is more like a busy gift shopping expedition at the height of the pre-festive season, than Boxing Day by the fire, slippers on and in a relaxed state. Just one more, I thought, before the walk home. I decided to pop to The Parity. In here I was greeted by Oldershaw's “Old Boy”, a favourite of mine. No review is necessary,as I have already given my opinions before, but suffice to say, it was dark, rich and chestnut, and, as I gazed out onto the Town's Christmas Tree, kindly donated by the good people of Norway every year, with the lights twinkling, like a faraway universe brought down to Earth and delicately unfolded, the adornments (crackers,reindeer,Angels, giant baubles et al), gently swaying in the breeze, and the last of today's shoppers, weighed down by heaven's knows what,splashing through the remaining puddles, I realised, although content now, soon I,too, would soon have to face the crowds and do a bit of gift shopping. Bah! Humbug!

On Saturday, we had a list of little jobs to do, and, eventually, we found ourselves looking at fishing tackle for our Grandson's upcoming Birthday, whilst trying to remember what ingredients were still required for my cake and pudding project. After a couple of hours, we were home again. At this point I became aware of a slight shortness of crown caps for my ready-to-be-bottled home brewed stout. As a trade off from an earlier promise, all jobs done or no pub, I would put the blind up in the bathroom ( Venetian blind, not offer the bathroom as an abode to those with impaired sight ), after which, we would go back out to top up my supplies of brew paraphernalia, and, of course, the inevitable pub trip.Jobs done, the Yarborough had loomed into view and on entering, we were not too surprised at the busy scene which greeted us. The Christmas beers were, again, quite prominent, although the actual day was still another 33 days away, and I chose a pint of “Head Master's Christmas Sermon”, a 5.2 brew from Mordue's, whilst Jane opted for Hardy & Hanson's 4.2% “Captain Christmas” My dark and rich brew was packed with the complimentary flavours of fruit, chocolate and spice. With a blackcurrant aroma, and a finish that was reminiscent of Christmas cake, this is an excellent beer. T'other arf's” half went down well, but was a little too full bodied for her liking. My follow up pint was from the Lancaster Brewery's Tales from the Brewhouse range of season ales, “Rum & Raisin”, a 4.7% Ruby Ale, which tasted of rich fruit with an underlying rum taste. The finish was long and satisfying. A very moreish ale, which was evident by the fact that they ran out of it 20 minutes later! My erstwhile companion's chosen tipple was Titanic “Festive 35”, a 5% golden coloured beer, made with pale malts, which tasted quite light for a Winter ale. Quite sweet, with a big hoppy hit, it tasted really refreshing. It was so good, we finished off this session with another each.
Just an after thought. Beer, for me, is to be experienced. New styles, old styles, seasonals or specials, if I haven't sampled one, I do try to give it a whirl. I am not a Roger Protz, far from it, but I know what I like. The thing is, are pubs (or for that matter Breweries) pushing these Christmas beers a tad too early? I know it is almost the 1st of December, but some of these beers have been “on” for a couple of weeks now. I am aware most are just a twist on Winter Ales, and could have just been re-branded (remember Bateman's “England Expects” and “We've Blown It” back in my June blog offering “England Fail, Barton by Rail”), but, as a bit of an Ebeneezer, but not a full Cromwellian (open for debate on that one!), I sometimes despair at being force fed Christmas, foie gras style, when my appetite for it does not build, or peak, too early. Do I hear ghostly chains and “Whoo hooo's” of Jacob Marley in the background ?

On Wednesday, my last early shift, I had a plan. Home, bath and out to meet T'other arf from work. Now, I was told that my “Half Pinter” finished at 3-30, or something like that.I always try to be attentive. So, on arriving home, at a shade after 1 o'clock, I had plenty of time on my hands. Enough time, in fact, to see “Come Dine With Me”.......and another one. Where do they get those people from? I keep threatening to enter, but, although adept at the food stuff, the social interaction bit would probably leave me facing a court case for mis-use of a spatula! Still only 2pm, I put the laptop on, just for 10 minutes, and at 2-50pm got into the bath. I still had 40 odd minutes to play with, so relax. At 3-15, with me wearing nothing more than a grin, the front door opened, and in waltzed Jane. “What you doing in? I exclaimed “Oh, thanks for the welcome! I told you I finished at 3-00” Quizzically, I enquired “When? When did you tell me that? You said ….....That's tomorrow isn't it?” At this point, a raised eyebrow can speak volumes. This was an Encylopaedic raised brow of many leather bound volumes. Oops.As it was dreary and drizzly, my Beloved, quite sensibly, didn't fancy going back out again, which is why I found myself in The Ice Barque, as damp as a line full of winter washing, by myself, all alone, a forlorn and forgotten figure (has anyone said “Aaah” yet?) Well, beer time now, you heartless lot. On gazing at the pumps, I didn't catch sight of anything new, so, as a promise made to myself earlier this year, I decided to try the bottled Craft Beers which are well advertised in every establishment run by JDW's. I decided on Lagunitus “IPA” a beer well reviewed on the web. The bottle I had was 335 ml at £2-49, so not cheap, but at 6.2% certainly not a lightweight.I found it had a strong citrus taste, with a quite floral aroma, which leads to a big hop kick.The finish is long and bitter. A beer to savour, not to guzzle. As with most bottled beers, I found it a touch gassy, but the highest compliment I could pay to this brew is it was definitely worth it. An excellent bottled beer. After this little treat I decided to take a look at a pub I havn't been in for over a year. Tucked away from the Town Centre, in Pasture street is The Duke of Wellington. This pub(formerly known as Hewitt's Tavern) is packed with old pictures from the days of Hewitt's Brothers Brewery, which stood next door. Bought out by Bass Charrington's in the 60's, and closed a decade later, this brewery holds quite a bit of family history for me. My Grandfather started work here as a drayman's assistant, from school,
A sadly missed sight. I wish I
had experienced these Ales.
I believe, working on horse and carts, and retired as a lorry driver many years later. It was also the place both my parents worked at before they met and married. Beer is in the blood, you see, and it saddens me I never got to taste any Hewitt's Ales..Now let me get one thing straight. This boozer is not a Wine Bar or Bistro. No, this is a back street drinkers pub.The “C” word and the “F” word are used in the normal formation of sentences here. It is not for shrinking violets, but the wealth of characters is amazing. The welcome is incredibly warm and friendly and that, somehow equals things out. The only cask ale on was “Bombardier” I have to admit it wasn't a brilliant pint, but it wasn't bad enough to return. I perused the old photographs on the wall, warmed by the roaring fire, and listened to the language of the Old Fish Docks, in some quarters, sadly missed.
Another Yarborough visit awaited,(am I getting predictable?) and I was soon weighing up my options at the front bar. The “Black Diamond” Ruby Ale (?) caught my eye, and I soon had a pint of this, almost, black, stout looking beer in hand. I found this 4% brew from Banks' ok, with an initial caramel taste, but in all honesty, it didn't offer much after that. The finish was short and uninspiring, and, overall I found it bland. Next up was a Marston's brew, “Cinders Doppleganger” a 4% Amber Ale, which, although more flavoursome than the Banks' offering, with smooth malt and subtle biscuit tastes and fruity aroma, I could not determine any overriding festive flavours, and it just seemed to fade away in the mouth, and memory.

I left soon after chatting to an acquaintance from the old “Swigs” bar in Town, now an eatery. We discussed many things sport related, including, unfortunately, the terrible incident in Australian cricket, which had left Phillip Hughes in hospital with a head injury he, tragically, would later die from, (my thoughts immediately go out to his family and friends).The word tragic is used far too often in sport. Is it a tragedy your team fails to score against lower opposition, or your 'keeper is out for 6 weeks? No. Let us get things in to perspective. A tragedy is what happened to this young, talented sportsman in Sydney.

I finished off the evening with another good pint of Oldershaw's beer in The Parity. This was the previously enjoyed “Heavenly Blonde”. This 3.8% pale coloured Ale is, simply heavenly, with a floral and citrus aroma, followed by a sharp, hoppy bitterness which leads to a crisp, zesty and satisfying finish. Lovely.
Cheers and keep it “Real”