Wednesday, 24 December 2014

It was Only A Winter's Ale.....

Louth, the Lincolnshire Wolds market town just 16 miles down the A16, was to be our pre- Christmas day out on Saturday. The previous evening, I had spent a couple of hours in town, watching the World go by (which at this time of the year is usually made up by the once-a-year boozers, hell bent on destroying either their reputation, or everybody else's peace and quiet.) with them stopping, frequently, to gorge on the many and varied alcoholic offerings available in every bar, annoyingly upping the volume of inane works chatter, staggering, queue jumping and, basically, just being obnoxious, flirtatious and loud. Works Parties are like chicken at a barbecue. Served up right, enjoyment ensues. Get it wrong and you will end up with your head in a bucket, wishing you hadn't bothered !!
Back to the main subject of this posting. Louth. Quaintly old fashioned, definitely middle classed, and, undeniably, a bloody good place to have a pint or two. We, eventually, jumped on the 09-45 bus, after a determined route march to the Bus Station because of hidden scarves, lost gloves and decisions to be made over dresses before we left our abode (not mine, I hasten to add. I chose trousers on such a cold day!!!). The chatter on the No 51 was of all things festive, and most of it still to be done. One aside was a little conversation concerning the military and the Officer class. T'other 'arf confidently spoke of the training they do “ Sandringham”, been on the telly, apparently, “Yes, They do so many weeks there.” I resisted for a full 30 seconds before adding “ Must be a Bootifull Acadmee” Quizzically, it was enquired if Sandringham was not the place she was waxing lyrically about. “No, Jane. Sandringham is in North Norfolk, where HRH has a holiday home. Just near Hunstanton, where we caravanned, twice, in the past. I believe you meant Sandhurst !!” I almost never heard the cussing, but I know there must have been some.
We alighted our charabanc, adjacent to the market, perused the stalls, avoiding the 6 quid Xmas sweaters but failing not to buy a couple of bacon butties. I cannot visit Louth without thinking of those TV shows that depict life out in the “sticks” in those bygone ages of the 60's and 70's. Time does seem to have stood still here, and I like that. I like that very much indeed. It gives a warmth to your visit, whatever the weather. Green waterproof country jackets, with check shirts, matching flat-caps and, either, brown brogues, or stout outdoor boots are much in evidence, with tweed also popular. The agricultural roots of Lincolnshire are very conspicuous in this neck of the woods. So, on to the purpose of our trip. After a quick coffee, I turned the beer radar on, and we headed off towards our first port of call. This was to be The Gas Lamp Lounge, near the Riverhead area of Louth, in
The easily missed Gas Lamp Lounge,Louth
Thames Street. As we turned into the street, although I was confident of my bearings, T'other 'arf was a bit more, well, unsure. This bye-way is slightly residential, but also quite industrial, with several little companies dotted about down its path. The pub can be easily overlooked, based in the old offices, adjacent to the home of the recently re-homed Fulstow Brewery, but is a must for any Real Ale fans. The welcome was very convivial, even as the place was initially occupied by a single patron and the Barmaid. This warmth seems to linger all around the bar. The offerings where all very tempting on the pumps and I eventually plumped for the “Marsh Mild” at 3.8% whilst Jane's tipple was the 4.2% “Northway IPA. We were also invited to try the Christmas Ale,a rum and raisin infused beer, pump clip and details not yet available, which we duly did. I thought it was quite smooth, if slightly sweet, but both the rum and raisin were clearly evident, whatever it was called! We took our wares and sat next to the log burner, admiring the assorted local brewing artefacts of Brewers long gone, and the collection of Matchbox and Corgi toy trucks, which tastefully adorned the walls, all bearing breweries or malsters lodged in memories of yesteryear. Why is it called The Gas Lamp Lounge?, you may ask. Simple. Just gaze upwards and you will be able to see the gas piping which feeds the gas lamps. Yes, real gas powered lighting, quite a novelty. Our beers were absolutely perfect. The Mild, dark and caramel tasting, with a wonderful, but not overdone, bitterness in the finish was soon devoured, and the IPA, with its fully hopped punch, which leads to a long dry finish, was also greatly received. I followed this up with another of the Brewery's staple beers, “ Pride of Fulstow” a copper coloured Bitter at 4.5%. This was an excellent malty beer, with a nice, balanced hoppiness leading to a blackcurrant noted finish. Drinks finished, we bade farewell, with a promise of a swift return, and headed back to the Riverhead, and to The Woolpack. This is a busy, bustling pub, one of the many Bateman's pubs in this part of Lincolnshire, and is, clearly, as reliant on it's good food as much as it's excellent beers. Again, we received a honest warmth in our welcome, as we chose our beers. Jane went for the “Yellabelly” a Golden Ale of 3.9%, which was served to perfection, enhancing the dryness and refreshing citrus flavours of this lovely brew, whilst I couldn't resist the old Christmas favourite of “Rosey Nosey” coming in at 4.9%. I love this beer at Christmas, with the big malty punch, which combines so well with the spicy fruitiness. A lot of flavours unfold in your mouth, but, somehow, with a subtlety in the balance. I know it is the Season to be jolly when I am caressing a glass of this classic Ale, with the aroma, gently drifting up to my nasal passages,
A Seasonal Favourite.
making the moment magical, and comforting. I dream of roaring open fires, glittering fairy lights on pine trees, which, to a Scrooge like me, is quite amazing! We were meeting my Aunt in here for a meal, and a good natter, which will be one of the highlights this Christmas, besides seeing Jane's Daughter and Son, and, of course, our 4 Grandchildren. Food ordered, and a repeat round, plus a J2O, the three of us chatted, reminisced, and, generally, just enjoyed each others company. Our food was excellent, and the service attentive. I finished off this session with St Austell's “Proper Job” the cask version of this supermarket bottle beer. I found this 4.5% Ale very refreshing, with a crisp hop bitterness overcoming an initial citrus taste, and finished with a grapefruit dryness. A good beer, which helps cleanse the taste buds after a hearty meal. Even Auntie Pauline weighed in with the great session beer Bateman's “XB”, although, because she was driving, her session was restricted to, sensibly, just a half of the 3.7% Bitter. We exchanged fond festive wishes, promised to “ this again very soon” and went our separate ways. We, Jane and I, decided to venture back to The Gas Lamp Just as the pub loomed into sight, I realised I had left my hat, bought for £1 last Winter, back at The Woolpack. Pride, or embarrassment, stopped me going back to search for it, after it was only a quid!. On entering the pub, we came upon the local dog walkers' Xmas Party, with Golden retrievers, terriers and the odd Heinz 57, all mingling together, quite agreeably, the same as their Owners. A nice sight to behold, we thought, and a nice touch on by the proprietors for looking after their regulars. We both had our relevant measures of “Northway IPA” before I had my final pint, in this absolute gem of a pub, of “Fulstow Common” a 3.8% Ale which is medium bodied, but strong in it's hopped character. The place was filling quite quickly as we left, with all ages anxious to taste those well brewed beers on offer, but we had a bus to catch, so getting a little closer to the town centre seemed a better idea. Off we set, into the cooling wind, which had plagued us most of the day. It was at this point I noticed my head had started to get a touch colder. I did miss my pound shop hat after all. The original idea was to try either The Boar's Head, which, unfortunately, was closed as we passed, or The Brown Cow, a little stroll further on. A quick glance at our watches deemed a change of plan. We had The Irish Lotto to put on at the bookies, so found ourselves wandering towards the local J.D.Wetherspoons immediately after parting with our cash, in vain. The aforementioned 2 pubs would have to wait for another day. The Joseph Morton, Louth's JDW, is a clean, well kept bar, which carried a good selection of their Xmas Ales, along with a couple of local ones. I opted for one of the locally brewed Black Horse Ales, which I cannot remember the name of,as I had to visit the “smallest room”, leaving the bar duty to T'other'arf. I found it quite fruity and dry, but quiet moreish, the total opposite to the Mulled Cider enjoyed by my beloved. One for the road was decided on as we scurried down to where the Market stalls were being tidied away. Would it be The Queens, The Masons, or Ye Olde Whyte Swan? With it's roaring fire, Olde Worlde charm, and the thoughts of previous visitations, and of characters we had experienced before, Ye Olde Whyte Swan it had to be. The selection of beers was not fantastic, but the pint and a half of Greene King's Morland “Old Golden Hen”, which is a lovely Golden beer at 4.1%, full of Tropical Fruitiness, and a very dry finish, were well worth it. With our faces as sweaty as a busy Blacksmith's, and redder than a Rhesus Monkey's bottom, after a long bicycle ride, due to the kiln like temerature being given out by the coal fire, we left the pub, drew in some oxygen and, luckily, jumped straight onto our bus for the jouney back home to Grimsby.
To finish the day, once back in our own Borough, we alighted from our transport outside The Wheatsheaf, rather than travelling on to the Bus Station. Although less than a week away from the Big Day, The 'Sheaf was very quiet, but I sometimes prefer that. We went for the McEwan's “Signature” a 4.8% chestnut brown Bitter, which was full bodied, quite rich and fruity, but pleasantly balanced. The creamy head lasted all the way down to the bottom of the glass. Another swiftly followed, and then the lights of our own Christmas Tree beckoned. Setting off home, surrounded by all the twinkling lights and festive scenes, I felt quite content with my little lot in life, and this leads me to thank anyone who is still following me, and this meandering blog. Thank you, Happy Yuletide, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Zarathosht Diso (I hope I have not missed anyone's celebration out ) and may you all enjoy this time of the year as much as is possible.

Cheers and keep it “Real”

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