Saturday, 26 December 2015

Hull of a Day Out, and Other Jottings.

The People Bar.
As I sit here writing this, Christmas, with all its baubles and glittery bits adorning many a previously blank facade, is now upon us.We have had a very gradual build up to the  Season of Goodwill, and with bloated stomachs and a promise not to over indulge next time, still prominent in the memory, it is time to take stock of our recent outings, of which, I will share with you now . T'other 'Arf and I managed a nice little afternoon in Cleethorpes on the first Sunday of the month, managing to "tick" a couple of new bars to us during our excursion. We jumped on the bus from Grimsby, and on arriving in the resort, spared no time at all in visiting the recently opened beer emporium, Message in a Bottle. This shop, selling, obviously, bottles of beer, is situated in Cambridge Street, and carries an excellent range of brews, from Local, National and International brewers. The range is quite good, and service is very knowledgeable and friendly. Our next port of call was just a stones throw down the same street, the newly opened People Bar and Kitchen, a small establishment with a nice "feel" to it. The range of Ales is not massive, but adequate, The decor is very simplistic, with good usage of re-cycled pallets intertwined into the bar area. Bateman's "Prohibition Lager" and Meantime "London Pale Ale" being our choices. The "Prohibition Lager", a keg beer of 4%, I found to be quite rounded, with a fruity flavour, which is light and combines well with the hopped finish. A good craft beer. The bottled Meantime brew, at 4.3%, was very dry, with grassy strains mixing with fruit, and leading to a big citrus punch. Also on the bar was Shipyard Brewing Co "American Pale Ale", which was my original order, but there was a problem putting another barrel on, which left the poor staff covered in beer, as they attempted to get it back on. I was offered the half glass already poured, free and gratis, which I accepted, and found it very nice, to be honest. There is a big grapefruit taste to this APA, and a really refreshing  bitter and dry finish. There was a good selection of bottled beers also available. It is very tight in here, and more than a dozen people in here would definitely make the place packed, but we did enjoy our visit, and will be back. Our next pub was Dexter's Alehouse. The Christmas beers were much in evidence, and we went for the "old" favourite, Thwaite's "Yule Love It", and a half of  Tetley's "Christmas Cracker". The pint, at 4%, was just a good Bitter, with a nice malty body, and bitter finish, with a reasonable hoppiness. The only "seasonable" flavouring I could detect was a hint of orange, or maybe tangerine, and a slight spiciness in the finish. The Tetley's was OK, but nothing more than that. There were hints of berries, and a slight nutty taste in the initial mouthful of this rather thin 4.3%  Bitter, with a slight spicy finish, but it failed to get anymore interesting than that. We then proceeded to The Nottingham House, where we sampled four more beers. My first drink was Exmoor Dark, a 4.2% Bitter, with a nice nutty taste nestling among the dark, sweet caramel and a hint of biscuit in the finish. Jane chose the 4.3% Timothy Taylor "Landlord", with its nice fresh taste and fruity bitter-sweetness, which always makes it a Pale Ale to be reckoned with. We followed these up with a half each of Sadler's "Sherlock Bones", a 4.3% Golden Ale with a light malty taste and wonderful, if short lived, floral hints, along with Weetwood "Southern Cross", a 3.6% New World Pale Ale. This beer was light, zesty, with lemon to the fore, and had hints of pine. Although we felt very settled here, we decided to have a mooch about, before heading back home. This is how we ended up in The Riverside Bar. This is a pleasant place, but is more of an eatery/cocktail bar than a pub. With a selection of keg beers, the usual suspects, on the bar, we decided on a couple of bottles. Our picks were Budweiser "Budvar",5%  the original "Bud", from the Czech Republic, with a good malt and hop marriage, and Blue Moon Brewing Co "Belgian White". This 5.4% Belgian White Beer is quite floral and fruity, with lemon and orange peel hints.  Both were unsurprising, really. Next boozer on the list was The Swashbuckle, a real down to earth pub, just a short walk from the railway station. This can be a very lively place, and is host to quite a few characters, at times. It has live music on at times, mostly sing-a-long and crooners. On its day, this can be a real interesting place to "drop anchor". The beer in here was Sharp's "Doom Bar", and was OK, but not outstanding. The people watching, though, was excellent. This is a place you either love or hate, but on some occasions, those emotions, inexplicably, get reversed. Our last place was the previously reviewed bar, The Bobbin. With it being a Sunday, we were, again, treated to live music, which certainly seems to have a positive effect on numbers. I sank another bottle of the 5.6% Anchor Brewing Co "Porter", which I am definitely getting a taste for. T'other 'Arf had a Stowford Press Cider. Aah, what a nice way to end a lazy Sunday Afternoon. Before jumping back on the bus, we also managed a bag of chips each. What more could you ask for?

Monday saw the "Team 1" works night out. It was decreed that we would meet in the village of Laceby, just outside Grimsby, at the 1815 Restaurant, formerly known as The Waterloo (Those with an interest in history will know what year The Battle of Waterloo was fought, the rest of you can just guess!). A good meal was partaken of, and a lovely evening had by all. There was Doom Bar on the pump, but, unfortunately, this was off, and much more welcome on last night's chippy meal. I struggled on with the Worthington's Creamflow until the end. What a hero. We had a good turnout, with Maggie and Mark, Tara and Jess, Tracey, Jim, Mike, and T'other 'Arf and I enjoying the Christmas Menu. No karaoke, no wine stained shirts, and no dirty dancing injuries. Success.

Lion and Key, Hull.
The following day, we decided we would have a bit of a change, and headed for Kingston-upon-Hull, the City of Culture for 2017. Hull is a place which doesn't hide from its down to earth roots. It is rugged in places, and has a working class feel to it. It also has an easy going, friendly, Northern atmosphere to it, which is especially reflected in the Old Town area. On tracing my Family Tree, I found branches of my tree extended into, and grew this area of the City, with a call from the trawlers seemingly too strong to ignore. This, I assume, lead, eventually, to my Ancestors crossing The Humber to ply their trade in Grimsby. Anyway, I will now get back to the review. After a wander around the shops, we headed for the Old Town, deciding to eat, and have a few beers. Our first pub, which was also where we had agreed to eat, was The Lion and Key, on the corner of High Street and Scale Lane. With our Fish and Chip meal, which was well worth the price, and would have sustained a deep sea fisherman for half a voyage up to Icelandic waters, We decided on a pint of Titan "Stout", and a half of Wentworth "Ruby Robin" for our liquid accompaniment to the meal, but the choice was much more than just these two. There are at least 8 or 9 hand-pumps on the bar, with Real Ciders also being dispensed. The decor is very "past times" with old advertising signs and bottles, from brewers long forgotten, adorning this old style tavern. This is a great place to rest, after all that window shopping. The Titan brew, 4.8%,  was dark, with roast oats and caramel in the rounded taste. The finish was long, with a nice dryness on the palate. "Ruby Robin", 4%, was a robust and pleasing Bitter, which had a reasonable fruitiness, balancing the crisp, but satisfyingly bitter malt finish. We both needed a bit of a walk after our lunch, so we decided to waddle down to The Minerva, about a 10 minute walk away, close to The Deep. With fine views over The Humber, this Inn is in a lovely location, although only the brave would sit out and enjoy watching the working boats passing by, on the river. The inside is quite modern, but reminders of yesteryear shine out from the many old pictures, which hang on the walls. Although not as extensive as the previous pub, the beer selection is still quite good, and varied. Our choices here were Five Towns "Nowt", a 6.7% Stout, which was packed with full bodied roasted malt flavours and a great Liquorice taste. A good beer served excellently, whilst Jane decided on a Tetley's "Bitter". This pub also plays host to the smallest pub room in Britain. After our drinks, we strolled back to the Old Town and into
Wm Hawkes
The Wm Hawkes
, a pub opened in an old gunsmiths, in Scale Lane. The decor is very much of the Dickension period, with gas lamps and candles lighting the darkness of the back room. The bar is adorned with 10 Hand pulls, serving a varied selection of real ales and ciders. There is a large choice of spirits too, but, if lager is your tipple, forget it. They do not stock any.A brave choice, some might say, but the correct one, in my opinion. Wentworth "Winter Warmer", and Milestones "Comet" were our chosen drinks in here, with the "Winter Warmer" weighing in at 4%, imparting a dark malt and fruit mix, with a bitter-sweet finish. I thought it was a bit thin, really, but not bad tasting. "Comet", a Christmas regular, was quite light, with hints of fruit, with biscuit also present in this 4.2% ale. It isn't a classic, but OK all the same. Next stop was straight across the road, and into The Manchester Tavern, a cheap, friendly, if rather ordinary Marston's outlet. We decided on a half each of Banks's "Sunbeam" and Marston's "Pedigree". Both drinks were delivered perfectly. I have reviewed both of these beers before, so I shall not repeat myself. Our last port of call, before our bus trip home, was Walters. a pub which has scored a few accolades over the last few years, This sister pub to The Lion and Key, and Wm Hawkes, has a more modern look, although retro album covers  are the wall decorations. The beers are mostly local, and the bar boasts Hull's largest selection of Real Ales. As time was short, I only managed a pint in here, but it was a good one.BAD "Chocolate Invasion", a 5.5% Porter is a nice chocolate infused beer, with just a trace of mint in the background. The dark malt really shines through, and the subtlety of the background flavours do not obscure that, only compliment it. Drinking finished, and shopping, in the main, avoided, we hopped on the bus home. Any visit to Hull must include, where possible, a trip around The Old Town. Besides the four pubs I have mentioned, there are quite a few others dotted around, equally as good, like The Old Black Boy, and Ye Olde White Hart, each with its own character, and all steeped with the maritime history of this area.

Retro in Walters.
Since then, we have had a couple of little trips into town, tasting a few of those Christmas brews, but these can wait until next time, when I will try to get down my thoughts about these seasonal ales.Until then, seasons greetings, Cheers and keep it "Real".

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Dark Skies May Cloud My Day...

I seem to have been reasonably busy in the partaking of those Ales of late. I am certainly making up for lost time. Towards the back end of November, as my rest days from work fell right, I managed a trip, or two into town. This was to , later, include a day in Cleethorpes, and a mini tour of Hull’s Old Town added to the afore mentioned, as we entered the Christmas period of December. More of the Cleethorpes and Hull trip next time, but firstly, let me bring the November tastings up to date.
Inbetween Stout & Mild for
this Brown Ale
November’s late offerings were, usually, in JDW’s two Grimsby establishments, The Yarborough Hotel and The Ice Barque, but not exclusively, and combined a bit of shopping, (I needed some bits and bobs for my Xmas Cake and Puddings, or that was my excuse) a curry evening, JDW's Monday Mayhem and a touch of Black Friday shopping, but not in those bloody sales! We also had the rarity of a Saturday Night out together, which was very pleasant indeed. The beers have been, somewhat, interesting, with the Christmas Ales making, in my opinion, an early bow alongside the variations of the expected Autumnal beery delights. One non-Christmas beer of note, which was greatly enjoyed, was a beer from the Sudwerk Brewery, from Switzerland, in conjunction with Everards. The beer in question was “Inbetween”, a 4.8% Brown Ale, which was very much like a Mild, or possibly a Stout,  with a wonderful almost black colouring, with burnt caramel and malty nut taste prominent. The finish was bitter-sweet and dry, and very satisfying. Another very satisfying beer I experienced was Caledonian “Winter Brau”, which imparted a lovely spiced flavour, cinnamon and nutmeg especially, leading to a combination of fruit and lovely dark malts, not dissimilar to a Christmas pudding. This one definitely complimented my curry in JDW’s on the night in question. We have also sampled, during the penultimate month of the year, Milestone’s “Magna Carta”, a Blonde Ale of 5%, which had a good Tropical fruit taste, and was well hopped, “Comet”, from the same brewery, a fruity and pleasant Bitter of 4.2%, which has a good dry finish, O Hanlon “Goodwill”, a 5% beer with orange hints combining well with the subtle spicy taste, and Three Kings, from Coach House. This brew weighed in at 6%, and was very heavy in the fruit flavours, with vanilla strains also finding the way to the palate. There was a big bitter and dry finish, but it just did not seem to balance too well, leaving you glad to finish it. It was OK, but that is as far as it went. In between these beers, T’other ‘Arf has been very pleased on the re-appearance of the JDW’s “Mulled Cider”, served piping hot, and with a nice mixed spice flavour throughout. I don’t mind a little taste of it, but find it a touch sweet. What was Jane’s opinion? “Ooh, so nice, it’s really lovely”.
The madness of Black Friday by-passed me just a touch, but with my half-pinter working in retail, I did hear how hectic it was. Not wanting to miss out totally, I decided to nip out for a couple of bargain beers, or, rather, beers at the usual price which I pretended were cheaper. I started in The Curious Cat, and selected the bottled version of “Old Engine Oil”,
Poor picture, Good beer!
which Harvistoun put out at 6%. This is dark, rich and very smooth, with a fabulous bitter-sweetness stretching from first taste to the last. Leaving here, I popped into The Yarborough, where I had a pint of Bath Ales “Festivity”, and “Nutcracker”, Everards winter offering. I found the 5% “Festivity” a wonderful bitter-sweet Porter, which had chocolate, liquorice and vanilla combining well with a dark fruit flavour. There were hints of spice, but it was, for all that, not too complex. The “Nutcracker”, also at 5%, was far fruitier, very malty, with a caramel vein running through it, culminating with a well-balanced, and greatly appreciated, bitter-sweetness.
The last hoorah of the month was our Saturday Night out. After dropping the youngest pair of our Grand-children off, I started off in The Hope and Anchor, whilst I waited for T’other ‘Arf to arrive. After waiting 2 or 3 minutes for the bar maid to finish her texting, I duly ordered a Tom Woods “Bomber County”, which was poured, as is usual, three quarters up the glass, at which point, money was exchanged, and the beer left to settle, as the texting resumed. A further period of time passed, until a polite cough was issued by my good self and a glare and tut received in return. The message was finished and my service re-commenced. This charade restarted on the arrival of T’other ‘Arf, and her eventual serving experience. This is not good for a pub’s business with only 6 other punters leant against the bar, surely? The beer was OK, but not outstanding, and we soon re-located into The Barge. Surprisingly, the beer in here was not up to its usual top quality. I have always though that the best pint of Wells “Bombardier” in the area is served in here, but on this occasion, it just lacked the brightness and crispness I have come to expect of this bar’s wares. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was still a good pint, but it just was not as good as I have tasted before, especially in here. We left here and made our way, a short distance, to Old Lloyds. This is not a regular boozer for us, but a change is as good as a rest, as some say. This is a place where rock music is the staple, and the natural habitat of older Rockers, and the Goth fraternity. On entering, we espied Doom Bar on the single pump, unfortunately, it wasn’t available, although the brilliantly helpful bar staff did try to source me a pint of it, but just pulled a much clearer liquid through the pipes instead. Next time, maybe, next time…Not deterred, I went for “Caffreys” instead, whilst “Strongbow” was taken by Jane. We stayed in here for an extra pint, and half, mainly enjoying the music, and feasting our eyes on the clientele of this establishment. It is nice to be in such an amiable pub, and we hope that they sort the Real Ale problem out soon. We visited The Curious Cat next, where I had the previously reviewed Meantime “Chocolate Porter” to begin with, followed by another  “Old Engine Oil”. Jane decided on an expertly made “Moscow Mule”. It was interesting to see all the various cocktails being concocted in here, with smoke, vapours liquids of various colours and strengths shaken, stirred and gyrated. Alchemy at it’s very best. We finished our night out in The Yarborough Hotel, where, in a flat and quite boring atmosphere, our final drinks, a pint and a half of Caledonian “Winter Brau”, were taking in a subdued silence, as a depressing "mumble, mumble" enveloped us, before we escaped to the excitement of the local Kebab House. That was that, a couple of weeks of easing ourselves from autumn to the winter period. December was now beckoning, and we were not to turn away, merely embracing it as well as we might. December already had a few pencil strokes jotted in my mind's diary, which I would turn into bolder strokes soon.
Until the next time, 
Cheers and Keep it “Real”

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Home for the Festival.

A great bar near Lincoln Station.
After the recent Nottingham trip, my previous post, it was back to all   that North East   Lincolnshire could offer. With the days definitely shortened, the sunshine hours giving way to persistent, depressing and, certainly, not in the least, glamorous wind, rain and general gloom. Oh, joy! The Journey back from Nottinghamshire to Lincolnshire, on the very punctual 15-29 train, necessitated a 50 minute stop at Lincoln. Previous knowledge of the County’s capital City meant that we knew, with the time being tight, the best place to refresh our thirsty selves, and still be in time to finish our trip home. Our hostelry of choice would be The Treaty of Commerce, on the High Street, about 250 metres from the station. I have popped into this Bateman’s run pub quite a few times over the years, and found it very friendly, and offers a reasonable range of the brewery’s ales, and, usually a couple of guest beers. This time was no exception, and I decided to fore go the XB, XXXB, and other brews on tap, to try a pint of “Impy Dark”, from the Brampton Brewery. This 4.3% Mild was jam packed with wonderful chocolate and coffee flavours, and the bitterness in the finish is well balanced with a hint of sweetness. If in this neck of the woods and, like us, have a little while to waste between trains, this is a great place to drop into.

Upstairs at The Matrix Bar
Festival Time.
The rest of the journey back was, well, uneventful. On disembarking, we nipped into the adjacent Yarborough Hotel, where we had a pint and a half of Goff’s “Lancer”. This was a Golden Ale of 3.8% which was reasonably malty, but with a nice fruitiness in the after taste. The finish was dry and not bad at all.  We had (or rather, I) an idea of shooting home, dropping of our bag, a quick spruce up and back out to The Grimsby CAMRA Beer Festival, but with the rain now teeming down,accompanied by a stiff, cold Northerly blast, we decided to curtail our evening there and then. A busy day “grand-parenting” followed on Saturday, so by teatime we were ready for a drink or two. With this in mind, and in bloody awful weather, of the same type as yesterday, but more ferocious,  we put our heads down and staggered to and The Matrix, a student venue next door to JDW’s,Yarborough Hotel  in Grimsby for the local CAMRA branch’s 2nd Annual Beer Festival. We arrived windswept, soggy but not beaten, at the bar situated upstairs, and were met by quite a reasonable selection of 22 of the 24  brews previously advertised, along with  4 Real Ciders. By the end of the evening's events, we had managed to “complete the card” between us, so  to speak, mostly in ½ pints. The list and my notes are as follows.

Axholme Brewing Company "Cleethorpes Light " 4.4%
Fruity, light and full of hoppiness. Buckthorns from the sea at Cleethorpes are used to add a nice tang. Very nice indeed.

Bellhaven "80 Schilling" 3.9%
Rich, smooth ruby coloured beer, with a nice caramel sweetness backing the bitter, dry finish.

Bateman's "Salem Porter" 4.7%
An old favourite which is full of fruit and nut flavours, and hints of biscuit. Liquorie, spice and nuts also combine to make this an excellent beer.

Double Top "Wonderland" 4.4%
Another Ruby Ale, well hopped

Fulstow Brewery "Hewitt's Strong Ale" 7.5%
A beer brewed for the first time in over half a century. This was a dark, robust beer, and had a lovely dryness in the finish. I hope it is on offer again soon. I can't wait until I reach 102 for my next taste of it !

Fulstow Brewery "Soulby Sons & Winch Ltd Pale Ale 5%
A nice crisp Pale Ale with coffee hints

Great Newsome "Sleck Dust" 3.8%
Very floral, increasingly dry, and good bitterness in the finish. Great session ale

Harvistoun "Bitter and Twisted" 3.8%
Another old favourite, which is rounded, with malty sweetness and hints of fruit in the main taste which leads to a complex and zesty in the finish.

Horncastle Ales "Wicked Blonde" 3.9%
A very fruity session ale which imparts lovely citrus flavours in the finish

Imperial Brewery "Black IPA" 5%
I like these black IPA's, and this one was very nice indeed. Dark, hoppy and bitter-sweet to begin, and plenty of dry citrus in the refreshing and long finish.

Intrepid Brewery "Trade Mark IPA" 4.5% 
A lot of flavours, honey, citrus and hints of tropical fruit, and a long hoppy finish make this a big punchy beer.

Lincoln Brewing Company "Friendly Rottweiller" 4.5%
Another crisp, dry session beer, with subtleties in the hopped finish.

Lincoln Brewing Company "Great Tom" 3.7%
A good dark ale, mild like, with hints of chocolate, and coffee, Fruit and a balanced bitter-sweetness lead to a long enjoyable finish.

Mr Grundy "Big Willie" 4.3%
A very crisp, dry Golden Ale, with good bitterness at the end.

Rowett Brewery "Six Hour Lunch" 4.2%
An unfiltered, unfined Bitter from a local (North Thoresby) nano-brewery. A very nice beer, with subtle fruit and hops throughout, and a crisp finish. I will look out for more beers from this brewer.

Rowett Brewery "Rowetts Stock Ale" 7.5%
A big warming mouth-feel greets the drinker of this brew. Aged in Whiskey barrels and double fermented using historic yeast strains, this is a true classic ale. Tasting notes suggested dried fruit, burnt sugar, leather and tobacco. Sound like a used sofa ! The taste, though, was absolutely wonderful.

Sheffield Brewing Company "Crucible Best" 3.8%
A mish-mash of flavours make this beer interesting. Sweet fruit and harsh bitterness, with citrus and caramel all come together to balance perfectly. Not bad at all.

Sheffield Brewing Company "Five Rivers" 3.8%
Another easy drinking beer from this brewer. This one was a lot more floral and hoppy in the finish. Light, refreshing and pale in looks. Hints of grass also evident.

Wentworth "Firecracker" 3.8%
A Session Bitter with the taste of cinder toffee in the finish. OK, but a touch ordinary.

Wentworth "Vanilla Stout" 4.5%
The vanilla, alongside the well balanced coffee hints combine excellently and lead to a lovely bitter finish in this wonderful Stout.

Willy's "Festival Special" 3.9%
An American inspired bitter, which was quite reasonable. Big in hop flavours, but still a little subtle. Nice bitter-sweetness.

8 Sail Brewery "Chocolate Stout" 4.6%
A good solid stout, with nice flavours. The chocolate bitterness is still quite smooth, and keeps on coming right through the long satisfying finish.

Overall, not a bad festival. Not the biggest, or best I have visited, but a really good showcase for Real Ale for this area.The beer range was quite good and varied.  The venue chosen was OK, but not really ideal, and I understand the financial reasons to it being held at this venue, but as the downstairs started to fill with students, and grunge music volumes increased, it did  drown out the folk based entertainment, which was going on in our dark loft area, more than a touch. Hopefully, next years bash will, again , fall on my days off, and I hope this local Festival goes on for many years to come.
Oh, one last thing. Thanks to my Name card win, I did manage to procure a bottle of Grants Whiskey. Happy Days.
Cheers and keep it "Real"

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Nottingham Crawl. Narrowboats, a Crow and a Trip to Jerusalem

A few years ago, I was a quite regular visitor to the East Midlands, and Nottingham in particular. I found it a vibrant, but laid back, City, which was always a drinker's Paradise. Now, after the sands of time have thinned out in the top of the glass a little, would my next visit here, around 12 years since my last, be as interesting, enjoyable and beer filled as my last expeditions ? We will soon find out. We boarded our train from Grimsby Town station, shortly before 11-20 , and soon we were away. One change ahead at Lincoln, before, eventually, being disgorged, from the comfort of our East Midlands Train service, into the bustling atmosphere of Nottingham. The first thing I noticed was the building work going on, seemingly, all around the station area. The next was The Bentinck Hotel, a place I had rested my head before, with its, then, dubious reputation, I was once told, is no longer a pub. No, it is now a Starbuck's ! Not that that was too much of a problem, we were to spend a couple of nights in The Travelodge, Nottingham Central, on Maid Marian Way.

Wednesday Afternoon.
The time was now 13-30, and we couldn't check in until 15-00 so Canal Street, just a stone's throw from the station, beckoned.

The Fellows, Morton & Clayton, Canal Street.
Situated in the old FMC Company's former offices in Canal Street. It is building steeped in history from when canals were the transport highways, and carried the lifeblood, of the country. There was a good choice real ales on the bar, and we eventually settled on a pint of Wellbeck Abbey “Portland Black”, a 4.5% Black Beer ( according to the pump clip, somewhere between a Mild and Stout) and a half of a Blonde Ale, which Jane chose . I thought the “Portland Black” a very nice Ale, with malt and chocolate coming to the fore. It was thinner than a good stout, but more than ample as a mild. The Blonde Ale was rather bitter and grapefruit driven, which wasn't quite to T'other 'Arf's taste. This is a nice, busy place, within 2 minutes of the station. Our next stop, though, was to be right next door.

The Canalhouse. Canal Street.
This Castle Rock house is a pure gem of a boozer. It offers a wide range of real ales, and ciders,
You won't find these parked in
many local pubs !
along with a range of over 240 bottled and keg craft ales. It also has two narrow boats moored in the pub ! The bar staff are really excellent too, and will chat about the beers, just to ensure you get something that suits your taste. My first drink in here was Castle Rock “Black Gold” , a wonderful Mild of 3.5%. It is a well balanced beer, with a bitter-sweet finish. There is a nice hint of vanilla and dark fruits in the background. I followed this with a Cheddar Ales “Potholer”, a Golden Ale of 4.3%, which, after an initial maltiness, was light, fruity and zesty. Jane went for an Orchard Pig “Explorer” Cider, which she enjoyed immensely. This is a must visit hostelry, a place to drink good beer and unwind.

The Cask Room (at Via Fossa) Canal Street.
Unfortunately, I think we didn't see the best of this place. The front bar, The Cask Room, was closed, so we had to use the back bar. This room, though, looks out onto a patio area, which stretches all the way down to the canal. The beer in here, I'm afraid, was not so good. It was brought from the front bar, I had a “Gangly Ghoul” , a 4.2% Bitter from Greene King, which was rather flat, lifeless and not a good pint at all, neither was the “IPA” from the same brewery, which looked slightly cloudy. Maybe it was just an off day. After this drink, we headed to our “base camp” for the next couple of days.

Wednesday Evening.
After relaxing for a couple of hours in the Travelodge, we were ready to stretch our legs, once more, sample a few beer, and catch a bite to eat.

Oaks Restaurant. Bromley Place.
This popular restaurant is easily overlooked by the drinker, but worth a visit. With plenty of natural materials adorning the place, interesting furniture, it is hard not to be tactile with the décor. There is a good selection of Craft bottles, and, although it wasn't pointed out to us when we entered, we noticed two “regulars” enjoying cask ales from a couple of partly hidden hand-pull pumps at the bar. Hey-ho ! The beers we had in here were Einstok “Toasted Porter”, and “Dead Pony Pale Ale”. Both these bottles were enjoyable, with the Pale full of fruitiness, with lime, citrus fruit and pine evident in the fore, which leads this 3.8% beer to a long very dry and bitter finish, whereas the 6% Porter was full on, with a smokiness coming through the sweet malt, before the hoppy bitterness excites the taste buds.

The Roundhouse. Royal Standard Way
The Roundhouse
Situated just over the Maid Marion Way, this building, the former Jubilee wing of the old Nottingham General Hospital, has been sympathetically restored, and is a delightful bar which oozes history. The range of real ales was quite good, six in all, and we chose 2 from the Dancing Duck Brewery, in Derby. My beer was the wonderful “Dark Drake”, an Oatmeal Stout of 4.5%, which was filled with liquorice, caramel and hints of coffee in the finish, whilst Jane opted for the “house” beer, the 4% Bitter, “Roundheart”. This was a good malty bitter, and has hints of chocolate and fruit lurking in the background.

The Crafty Crow. Friar Lane
10 hand pumps, serving guest ales, as well as those from The Magpie Brewery, who own it, and a large selection of Craft Keg, and bottles are all on offer. The selection process could take as long as the drinking, if it wasn't for the excellent staff, who listen to your likes, and dis-likes, and advise you on the best drink for you, with a taster or two along the way. We eventually went for “ A Tempting Murder”, a 5.6% Porter with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and hints of vanilla prominent, but with a back taste of a complexity which allows it to remain interesting throughout, and the 4.2% “Best Bitter”, a well balanced beer with a nutty fruitiness, and a hint of caramel. both from the Magpie Brewery. We also sampled a half of “Lacerated Sky” a 9% IPA from Black Iris, which was, as advised, like having a pudding in a glass !

Fothergill's. Castle Road
As food was now firmly on our minds, we popped into this small, but friendly eatery, which also has a selection of cask, and craft ales. We were immediately advised that a table would not be available for 40 minutes, but the staff worked some magic, and within 15 minutes, we were seated. Our food soon arrived, and it was delicious. The beers we chose were a pint of Freedom “Indian Pale Lager”, a 5.5% beer combining the two styles of IPA and a Lager, which was fruity,zesty and very refreshing, and a half of Springhead “Roaring Meg”, the much reviewed flagship beer from this brewer, which was as good as we have tasted (and reviewed) anywhere.

The Castle. Castle Road
Last stop of the evening was this bar, the adjoining pub to Fothergill's. Pub, kitchen, movie room, cask and craft ales. One wonders how they fit it all in ! I had a pint of Shipstone's “ Bitter”, 3.8%, which I found solid and unpretentious. There was a touch of grassiness in the aroma, but caramel and malt in the main body leads to a reasonable bitterness in the finish and makes this beer a good session drink. My partner in crime decided on a soft drink for this final round.
After these, we sloped back to the hotel, just a 3 minute waddle away, and prepared for the morrow. For some, it would include shopping, for others, or me, at least, pubs and beers.

Thursday Afternoon.
I tried it, I valiantly attempted to enjoy it, but M&S, Debenham's, and the rest, just don't fill me with the same pleasure as it does T'other 'Arf. On this bombshell, I parted company with Jane, just for a wee while, and set off exploring, just after 11-30. The first pub I was looking for didn't open until 12-00, so I wandered the short way up to the other end of Canal Street, to start my quest.

The Newshouse . Canal Street.
A bit of Voodoo.
A traditional pub, just a short walk from both the station, and Broadmarsh Centre, this boozer offers a good range of cask and craft beers. It is the brewery tap for Totally Brewed Brewery, as well as carrying Guest Beers and, of course, beers from Castle Rock, the pub's owners. The décor is very much 1960's and 70's themed, with wooden floors and neon evident, even a bar billiards table, which gives it a comfortable feel. My beer in here was “Papa Jangles Voodoo Stout”, a 4.5% Stout, from Totally Brewed, which was dark, chocolatey and had a coffee back taste, with dark fruits also evident. The finish was nice and bitter, but with just a hint of sweet fruit.

The Cross Keys. Byard Lane
Between the Victoria and Broadmarsh centres, and a stone's throw from the Lace Market is this popular pub. This free-house has a good range of The Navigation Brewery beers, as well as a couple of Guest ales. I chose Navigation “Apus” in here, a 5.5% American style IPA, which was packed with tropical fruit flavours, slight spice, floral notes and big hoppy bitterness in the finish. This is a full on beer, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I enjoyed it that much that, after meeting up with T'other 'Arf, we popped back for another in here, that shopping must be hard work ! I stayed on the “Apus”, but Jane settled on an Ossett “Big Red”, a Ruby coloured beer of 4%, which has a lovely, if subtle, chocolate malt taste, reasonable bitterness, and a good touch of citrus in the finish.

Bunker's Hill. Hockley
Anyone visiting The National Ice Arena must pop in to here. It is packed with local ice hockey memorabilia, and good beers, both craft and cask. It is a touch away from the City centre, but worth the trip. I had another of those Totally Brewed Ales in here, namely “Oatally Brewed”, a 4% Golden Ale, with a nice sweetness at the start, which cedes to a long bitter finish. Great beer to quench the thirst.

BrewDog. Broad Street.
This was the first BrewDog pub that I have been in, but I have heard so much about them and, although sparsely decorated, and rather industrial in ambience, I quite liked the feel and atmosphere. The selection of keg, and bottled craft, is vast, and the bartender, a pleasant young man, was enthusiastic and well educated in the wares before us. I sampled a “collaboration” beer, BrewDog/Black Iris “Perfect Storm”, a light, very dry and hoppy ale of 4.9%, but opted for 2/3rdLibertine Black Ale”, at 7.2%. This is a big punchy beer, with roast flavours prominent, initially, but soon followed by the bittering hops. A beer to savour, not gulp.

Kean's Head, St Mary's Gate.
Head of Operations.
Another Castle Rock establishment, with guest on tap. As with all their estate, a good selection is available. It has a bar at one end of the fair sized room, and plenty of brewing memorabilia on the walls. Ilkley “Fireside Porter”, a 4.2% beer, with a hint of spice,dark fruits and liquorice, was my choice, and very nice too. I liked this pub, but would have preferred a few more customers to make an atmosphere. There again, it was now 16-30 pm, on a dark Thursday.

Pitcher & Piano, High Pavement.
I met back up with Jane in this absolutely stunning former church. With stained glass windows, and many ecclesiastical bits and bobs in situ, you can certainly reflect the error(s) of your ways in here ! The beers of choice were a pint of “BG Sips”, from the Blue Monkey Brewery, a 4% pale ale, with a sharp berry fruitiness and nice long lingering bitter finish, and a half of Jennings “Bitter”, the typically full malty beer of 3.8%.

The Salutation. Maid Marian Way.
Our last port of call, out of curiosity, was this tavern, next door to our hotel. I would best describe it as dark, friendly, slightly Gothic and a place for younger drinkers, but real ale was on, and the pint and a half of “Hobgoblin” we had was as good as I have tasted anywhere. Enough said, not a bad boozer, just a little niche, I suppose.

Thursday Evening.
After my excesses of reviewing during the afternoon, and all that heavy shopping done by T'other 'Arf, it was not surprising that our exploits to follow would be a tad more subdued than normal.

Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem. Brewhouse Yard.
Enjoying the Trip.
Is this quirky, and quaint, tavern, reputedly the oldest in England, a museum, souvenir shop, tourists trap, or traditional boozer ? Well, to be fair, all four. With caves, magic pregnancy chair, horn and hoop game, 7 great cask ales and merchandise, not to mention the local characters which frequent, and entertain the visitors. The Lord, and The Legend of the Ring are in most nights, I believe, so do try the old game of Hooking the Horn, it only took me 10 minutes to swing it on. The beers in here were quite good too, I had Greene King “Fireside Ale”, a big malty brew of 4.5%, which has plenty of dry citrus notes, very refreshing. Jane had one of her favourite ales, “Abbot Ale”. An interesting place to spend some time.

The Malt Cross. St James Street
Wandering back across Maid Marian Way, we headed for a former Variety Theatre, run by a Christian charity, and the home of an art gallery, caves, live music, oh, and the base for the Street Pastors. What a place. It has been tastefully restored, with many original features, and serves a good half dozen real ales. My pint “Charles Henry Strange IPA” a 5.5 Ale from The Navigation Brewery,( which was “Apus” re-named, but still as enjoyable) with my Half Pinter choosing the 3.9% Brewster's “Malt Cross Music Hall” a light, hoppy session beer with good bitterness throughout. Another interesting pub in this Great City.

The Approach. Friar Lane.
Just a stagger away from our previous establishment is this Navigation Brewery run Alehouse. It is modern, clean and reasonably light, and there is a good selection of the brewery's beers on, along with a couple of guests. The truth was, though, as it was empty, apart from another 3 or 4 punters, it had no heart, and this made it feel, somewhat, sterile. I think this is a place to be on a weekend, filled with people, creating an atmosphere. The beer we chose was a Navigation brew, “New Dawn Pale Ale” a 3.9% beer which was crisp, full of citrus and displayed a very dry finish.

The Bell Inn. Angel Row.
This pub was very busy, and we had had plenty to drink by this time. It is, also, the oldest pub in Nottingham., but not the country (not sure how that works with Ye Olde Trip). My memories of the beer in here are sketchy, I can remember ordering 2 halves, and paying a shellfish vendor a fiver for some cockles, for charity, but besides this, everything had become vague. I do know it was really busy, I will have to visit again, sometime

It was now time to eat, and we decided on an Indian. Wandering back towards the hotel, we made up our minds, with a bit of help from a passer-by, that Chutney, right next door to our Travelodge, was the place to be. Our starter, shared dips and chippattis, were very tasty, and the Tikka Masala and Jalfrazi Rogan, spot on, but the Peshwari Nan, oh, it was to die for. We kept cool with Kingfisher. Sorry about the tablecloth, chaps,those dips just dripped.

Well, time to check out, do our last little bits, and head home. After a JDW breakfast in the Joseph Else (without beer, I do have limits), which overlooks the Market Place, and a visit to a couple of shops, we went our separate ways for an hour.

The Barrel Drop. Hurts Yard
Well hidden down an alleyway, Nottingham City Centre's only micro-pub is well worth discovering. The service is excellent, and I could have stood there chatting about beers all day. Although not a big pub, it has 3 distinct areas. If you visit the city, make sure you pop in. I had a great pint of Bedlam “Porter”, a smooth, dark chocolate flavoured beer, which caressed the palate on the way down. The finish of this 4.5% beer was wonderfully bitter-sweet. Great bar, great beer.

The Company Inn. Castle Wharf
Unmissable canal side building.
A very busy JDW Lloyd's No1 bar near the canal. It shares part of the former British Waterways building, and, although unmistakably a “Spoons”, it is quite well appointed. We went for the Navigation “Wise Guy” in here, a malty brew of 4%, which has, after initial sweet berry hints, cinder toffee and citrus drive it forward. The finish is slightly sweet, but increasingly dry. A very good Bitter.

The Navigation Inn. Wilford Street.
Just a stones throw from the Canal Street/Castle Wharf area, but still overlooking the canal and towpath, is The Navigation. A traditional pub, which has a “locals” feel about it, but is extremely welcoming of visitors. There are 12 hand pumps on the bar, all dispensing different beers. Music is on a times, and food is also available. Our beers in here were “Pigs Might Fly”, Jenning's 3.9% Bitter, which had a good malt and toffee taste, and a satisfying bitter finish. Jane really enjoyed this one. I went for a pint of Marston's “Pedigree”, 4.5%. It tasted as Pedigree always does, to be fair, slight sweetness, hint of citrus and a tickle of spice in the finish. A reliable pint.

The Canalhouse (Re-visited) Canal Street.
With an hour left before the train left for home, we decided to pop back into the first pub we had visited, just over 48 hours previous. It was a bit busier in here today, but the staff still as attentive and friendly. T'other 'Arf went for a steaming mug of Mulled Wine, but I chose “Midnight Owl”, a lovely complex and warming Black IPA of 5.5%, from the Castle Rock Brewery, which was a pure delight to experience. I followed this with a pint of Dark Star “Partridge” Best Bitter. This 4% Ale has a nice sweetness, a touch of plum, I would suggest, and leads to an uncomplicated bitter finish. Not spectacular, but satisfying.

And that was the trip to Nottingham. 22 different pubs visited (not including Chutney & Joseph Else) 37 different beers sampled and in excess of 33 pints imbibed between us. There are many, many more Real Ale pubbs in, and around, the City. We may have only scratched the surface on our excursion. I could now honestly answer the questions I started out with. No, It wasn't the same place I visited years ago, it had grown up a bit, matured a lot and, from being absolutely fantastic, it had, in my eyes just got even better. We are hoping to return sometime in the New Year, spend a little time in the pubs we really loved, and visit some of those pubs we had listed, but not sadly missed out on.. Thank You Nottingham, we can't wait until the next time.

Cheers and keep it “Real”

Monday, 9 November 2015

Start All Over Again.

 “Pick yourself up, dust yourself down, start all over again.” So goes the words of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields' little ditty, performed by Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire, in the 1936 movie “Swing Time”. What relevance has this to me, on November 1st 2015 ? Bugger all, really. I did have a skip in my step, a song in my heart, and, after October's sabbatical of sorts, I suppose I was sort of starting over again with the Ale, but I can't remember having to pick myself up, and I was already quite dust-free. It's funny how a song can stick in your head, after inadvertently catching it on the radio (Talksport is my usual preference, but previously,catching the Grimsby v Cheltenham result, which we lost, on the local channel, I forgot to tune back, and ended up the following morning listening to that drivel) So, musically speaking, That was that. Opening my first beer for 31 days whistling a song from yesteryear, I painlessly and easily slipped back into The Beermonster's persona again. My first beer of the day was from the
First drink November 1st
Wychwood “Dunkel Fester” 4.4%. It was somewhere between a Mild and Stout, with slight roast nut, malt and coffee flavours coming through. There was a good bitterness in the long finish. Not a bad beer to reacquaint my palate with. T'other 'Arf, and I had planned to have the afternoon out, so, after a quick bite to eat, and appropriately attired, we shared a bottle of “Das Helle” a brew from Dinkerlacker-Schwaben Brau, and a beer I have reviewed before, back in February 2015, and headed out. First stop was The Curious Cat, which I am fast becoming a fan of. I, and others I have talked to, would like to see a Real Ale added to the bar, though, but the bottled beers are quite good, and the welcome, friendly. I had a bottle of the wonderfully flavoured Meantime Chocolate Porter, whilst Jane went for a bottle of Brooklyn Lager, 5.2%. The lager was more like a Pale Ale, in taste, and quite palatable, with a good malted caramel and hop balance, and not too carbonated. Our destination was to be Cleethorpes, via the train, but having 4o minutes to wait, and the Wetherspoon's Beer Festival holding its final day, we popped in the Yarborough Hotel for a selection of 6 tasters (festival thirds, that is ). We did pop into the Coliseum Picture House, in Cleethorpes later that day, and finished off, back here, in the Yarborough, so I will review the JDW's festival's delights later. After our journey down the line to Cleethorpes, we decided to have a look at the The Pier, the resort's iconic landmark, recently revamped excellently, and sympathetically,by a local businessman's consortium. What a fantastic job they have made. It
The iconic Pier, Cleethorpes
boasts a restaurant, tea room and a wonderful ballroom, with chandelier, as well as a public bar. There is only one Real Ale on, Sharp's “Doom Bar”, which was quite OK, but nothing special, unlike the venue. I did observe the “technique” of the pull of this pint, which made me smile. Not a drop was wasted, each pull was administered only after the previous ones head had subsided. I took a while for a pint and a half to be poured, but there was definitely NO wastage ! It was nice on here, gazing out to the twinkling lights of the river, and the hustle of the Promenade behind, but, with a few more visits to fit in, we were soon on our way again, up to the Nottingham House. It was very busy in here, as usual, but we were soon served, with me choosing a pint of North Star “Trailblazer” and T'other 'Arf a half of “Dave”, a 3.8% Bitter from Great Heck Brewery. My beer, at 4.5%, was a lovely Golden Ale, with a sharp, citrus and zesty orange punch to it, with a subtle berry hint, which seemed to temper it perfectly. “Dave” was a dark, malty session ale, with a rich taste, with berries coming through at the end. It was rather Mild-like, I thought, but what do I know ? On finishing these, looking out onto the, now, rapidly darkening light outside, we popped down the street to Dexter's Alehouse. The beer we had in here was “Poppy”, a 3.6% Bitter, brewed by Charles Wells to commemorate the Remembrance. 10p from each pint sold will go to the Royal British Legion charity funds. We found it a good malty brew, with a very dry finish, and a beer to savour. We left here, wandered past the new beer emporium in the resort, Message In A Bottle, who's wares looked quite extensive, and where a visit is long overdue, and ended up at The Bobbin, a bar opened about a year ago. It doesn't stock Real Ale, unfortunately, but does carry a few bottles of Craft Beer. The ambience was relaxing and warm, and an added bonus was live music courtesy of a local duo performing in the bar. “A What !!??” I stammered to the request of a “Strawberry Bellini”, but The Lady wasn't for turning. So there we sat, a great big glass of fizzy pink stuff, and a US brewed Anchor Porter a bottled beer of 5.6% between us. All I can say of the cocktail is it tasted sweet, but the Porter, I thought, was complex, but well balanced. There was liquorice, coffee and dark fruits in here, along with a touch of vanilla, and toffee, but the finish is bitter-sweet, and fruity, with a nice dryness. As the glass of fruity stuff was only half empty, I chose another craft beer from the bar, namely Einstok “Pale Ale”, 5.6%, from Iceland (NOT the supermarket !). This was another good bottled beer, with a good malt body, which has undertones of toffee, and a nice bitterness in the finish. Not a bad beer at all. After here, we popped into the aforementioned Coliseum Picture House, before travelling back up to The Yarborough, to finish off. After my break from the beer, I certainly enjoyed the afternoon/evening. Now, if I may, I will give you a brief review of the Wetherspoon Real Ale Festival.

With only one day to enjoy the delights of this latest JDW offering, I am afraid this is a rather short summary of the beers on offer here. Luckily, in the past, I had sampled a few before, but the others I got to sample, in third of a pint taster glasses, are as follows.

Ishii Brewing/Wadworth Brewery “Minagof Smoked Porter” 5.5%. Where do I start with this one ? Well, the over bearing taste of this beer was coal tar. For me, it did nothing at all. I tried to finish it, but could not get past the, positively, medicinal taste of this awful beer. I, The Beermonster, could not finish 1/3 of a pint of “Minagof”! Enough said ?

Nogne O/Wychwood “Nordic Noir” 4.5% This was better. An oatmeal stout, with a smooth malty taste, with coffee and oaty caramel coming through. It wasn't a classic, by any means, but, all the same, a reasonable brew.

Coach House Brewing “Ale of Arrows” 4%. A best Bitter that was rather mellow. A nice, if subtle bitterness is the mainstay of this beer, with a crisp zestiness in the finish.0

Shepherd Neame “Red Sails Cherry Porter”. 4%. Tasted recently on our Leeds trip, this is a lovely fruity Porter which never really fails to excite the tastebuds. And, yes, you can taste the cherries.

Wood's “Ebony” This Stout, of 4.5% had a nice chocolate lacing to it. The initial sweetness soon combines with the dry-bitterness, to satisfy the thirst. There is dry biscuit flavours in the finish. Very nice indeed.

Brewster's “Et Citra, Et Citra.” 4% This Golden Ale is full on with malt at the start, but soon gives way to fruit and zesty citrus flavours. One to freshen the palate with.

Bateman's “QED” Another 4% offering, this beer was sweet, slightly spiced and had a good quantity of fruit in the taste. A good beer, but not quite the classic it proclaimed in the notes.

Butcombe “Chinook APA” 4.2% Big on hopped flavours, this Golden Ale was clean tasting, dry and citrus, with a refreshing finish. A good beer.

Strathaven “Festival Ale” 4.5% A Best Bitter with a complex flavour, but not too distracting from the main malt body. I could detect spice, slight tropical fruitiness, orange zest and a slight nuttiness in this beer, but none dominate, and all compliment each other.

Tring “Maloko” 4.5%. A good chocolate and slight nutty Milk Stout, which slides down well, and leaves a good long,smooth finish in the mouth.

Sixpoint Brewing/Adnams “Bengali” A big tasting 6.4% beer, with a character like an American IPA. The taste is predominently citrus, with pine also evident. There is a good bitterness in the finish. I liked the “full on” flavours of this, and it certainly get your brain working again at the end of a session !

Other beers on the list, which I had sampled at previous festivals, or in other pubs were Young Henry's/Bateman's Real Ale 4%, Theakston's Infallible 4.2%, Zululand/Marston's “Zulu Blonde” 4.5%, Green Jack “Rising Sun” 4.8%, Fat Head's/Hook Norton “Yakima Sun” 5%, Moorhouse's “Pendle Witches Brew” 5.1% , Kelham Island “Wild Rider IPA” 5.5% and Wychwood “King Goblin” 6%, so, by default, I am claiming a total of 19 out of 50 for this one !

We have a few bits and bobs lined up over the next few weeks, including 3 days in the City of Nottingham, sampling the fine brews of that locality, and those lovely boozers I last visited a few years back, and we will be visiting the 2nd Annual Great Grimsby Beer Festival (held at the Matrix bar, November 12th to 14th), on our return, so, plenty to pop into my little notebook, but until then, Cheers, and keep it “Real.”

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Right Back Where We Started From.

Towards the end of September, after our Algarve holiday, I managed a couple of really enjoyable sessions out in North East Lincolnshire. The first was a get together from work, With the rarity of a Saturday off, and no Sunday early start, we agreed to meet up in Cleethorpes, to chew the cud, and let our hair down. T'other 'arf was absent on Grandchildren duties, so I was flying solo. After a couple of bottles at home, I set off for the train, missing it by seconds. Oops ! Never mind. There was a new bar in town which had recently opened,
A New bar in Town.
The Curious Cat, so I decided to pop in to check it out. Well, very nice, indeed, was my first impression. It is quite modern, with mood lighting and an easy going atmosphere. The beers, Heineken led, are mostly keg, but some “craft” bottles are available. I hope that they may consider a cask offering in the future, as it would certainly be well accepted. My choice of drink was Meantime Brewery “Chocolate Porter”, a 6.9% bottled beer. The chocolate flavour certainly comes through, balanced perfectly with vanilla, and sweetness from the malt and, overall, this lovely Baltic style Porter, seems to belie its reasonably high ABV, and is an excellent bottled beer I look forward to sampling again. After this little visit, I moved across to The Yarborough Hotel, as I still had 30 minutes to wait, and in here I opted for another dark brew, namely Springhead “Drop o' the Black Stuff”, a 4% Porter with hints of coffee, liquorice and a bitter dry finish to boot. I thought this another good brew from this Nottinghamshire brewery, and my only criticism was it had a rather thin mouthfeel about it, but, alas, that is the way many Porters and Stouts are heading nowadays, possibly to pamper for the “younger” market ? I had a second pint of this, before jumping on the train to meet up at The Coliseum Picture House,in Cleethorpes. On arrival, before tracking down the rest of the posse, I ordered a Springhead “Roaring Meg”, a beer I have had a few times, and which never seems to disappoint. I joined the rest of “Gang” in the roof garden, enjoying the late September Sun. Other beers I sampled in here were Exe Valley “Autumn Glory”, a 4.5% Bitter that was full of malty flavour, with slight fruit and floral hints, but a little lacking in interest, Wychwood “Dirty Tackle”, a mildly caramel led flavoured brew of 4.4%, which was quite bland, to be honest. My last beer in here was Yeovil Ales “Glory”. A Bitter of 3.8%, this was just a typical English style beer. There was a slight fruit hint and a touch of nuttiness, but not a lot else going on, a pretty standard, uninteresting brew. I finished off with a glass of the cinnamon flavoured Whiskey liquor, Fireball, which was the best drink I had had in this JDW's all afternoon, apart from the “Meg”. We headed to Bar Babylon, in The Market Place, and, as I had a sticky badge slapped on my chest, entitled me to a free shot of something looking like, and probably tasting like, mouthwash. This was followed by another shot, bought by one of our party, (Cheers, Dave, but I think my mouth is clean enough now), before I managed to order a Sharp's “Cornish Pilsner”. By this time, my senses were beginning to leave me, but I do recall a fruitiness to this cold, fizzy beer. After another couple, and I recall a bit of an attempt at “boogie-ing” on, or near, the dance floor, some horrific karaoke by Tara and Jess, and then the need to get a taxi, before the brain cells recovered from the mouthwash, and demanded something with a beery flavour to re-awaken them. It was a good night though, even if the casualty list read that Jim's white shirt was ruined by wine of the rose variety, and Dave ended up in a leg brace after”strutting his stuff” and pulling his ligaments in another nightclub later in the evening, which necessitated a trip to A&E. Oh, the joys of drinking.
My last outing before October started was to The Wheatsheaf, in Grimsby. With a month of the booze awaiting me, I kissed the Ale a fond farewell in here with 3 really good beers. The Cask Club in these Ember Inns are quite good, in selection, and with a discount for CAMRA card holders, they are worth a visit. Those I enjoyed in here were, Moles “Mole Catcher, Itchen Valley “Godfathers”, and Exmoor “Silver Stallion. Mole Catcher is a 5% Strong Bitter, is a big malty brew, which is a well balanced bitter-sweet beer, containing a lovely spicy kick, with a nice dry, but refreshing finish. “Godfathers”, a 3.8% session Bitter, was rather biscuity, with a vein of sweetness and a hint of toffee throughout. The finish is a very bitter one, but not unpleasant. Exmoor “Silver Stallion” was my last beer of that evening, and had quite a lot going on within. Malt,biscuit,spice and berry fruits all make an appearance, but do not detract from each other. At 4.3%, this beer was one to savour, which, gladly, I did. We called it a night after that, and strolled home. That, for me, was the last alcoholic drink I faced for a full month. As I sit here, gazing at the clock, I notice that it is now 00:15. My Macmillan Cancer Support “Go Sober For October” challenge is over. I had planned a celebration at Mid-night, the opening of a beer, with the flourish that a celebrity may bestow on the ribbon outside a new Supermarket, but, truth is, I can't be arsed. I am just draining my coffee cup, and then to bed. Tomorrow? Yeah, too right, the beer will once again flow.

Cheers, The Beermonster is back among you, so, Keep it “Real”.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Sobering thoughts !

 “Go Sober For October” said the advertising placards, and those on the radio and TV. “Hmm”, I thought, “Could I take up the gauntlet?” After all, I had had a good Summer of Ales and Beers. So I did. Therefore, that's were I am now, sat in full sobriety, in front of my laptop. With my voluntary prohibitionist challenge now over three weeks into it's 31 day duration, taken up on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support, a very worthwhile charity, I have had a chance to look through my scraps of paper, memo notes on my phone and other indications to boozy afternoons and evenings I have had over the last 2 or three months which, due to time mostly, had been omitted from The Beermonster's Blog. That, I suppose, is something we all find hard to utilise. Time. The measurement of our lives. Time. Harder to juggle with than hand full of eels on a wet day, so this little break from sociable pleasures has given me a chance to wrestle some back. I will not bore you with all the usual trivialities I put into my reviews, but I will try and give you some more honest opinions on the Cask Ales, and bottles which have quaffed of late, and with that in mind, here goes.
My opening part of this post will include the beers I have been sampling in our local Wetherspoon's, The Yarborough Hotel, in Grimsby. There are a few new faces behind the bar here, which is nice to see. The elbows leaning on the other side of the counter, though, never seem to change, only age. The turnover of the brews and breweries is a little hard to determine from one visit to the other, but, usually, the varieties are quite good. Alphabetically, those sampled of late are as follows:-

Black Horse Brewery, “Pleasant Blond” A locally brewed beer, of 4.2%, this Blonde Ale was quite tart, with an almost soured taste. It gets your attention, that's for sure, but the citrus taste was a little too overpowering for me.

Brecon Brewery “Red Beacons”. I was expecting a more malted taste from this 5% Premium Bitter, but found it a more complex mix of fruit, breadiness and soured cherry hints. There was plenty going on in here, with a touch of dry bitterness in the finish, but I am not sure if it quite worked. It wasn't a bad pint, just not for me.

Great Newsome “Holderness Dark”. Now, this was better. A 3.4% Mild Ale which was smooth, almost creamy in the body, with good nutty and liquorice hints. The finish is quite dry, but with a nice bitterness. A very good Mild, a great session beer, which leaves you wanting another.

Kelham Island “Mr Red American Pale Ale”. This brewery is so consistent in quality in the turnover of all their beers. This APA, was no exception. Big malt taste to start,which quickly leads the taste buds to fruit and hops, with large whooshes of tropical fruit, at 6%, this is a heavyweight of a beer. The complexities of the flavours are always there, but compliment each other perfectly. There is a slight pine oiliness throughout, and the really long finish is dry, with grapefruit coming to the fore. This is a thoroughly enjoyable beer, and one of the best APA's I have had.

Lymestone Brewery “Ein Stein” 5% Golden Ale. This Ale is rather like a German lager, but has a punchier collection of tastes within. The first to raise its head above the parapet is biscuit, followed by crisp citrus, with grass and a spicy peppery tingle towards the finish. This is quite a refreshing beer, but just seemed to lack a little “something”.

Newby Wyke “Blackbeerd Extra Stout”. 4.6% I tried this beer back in 2014, but have not seen it since. It is a good stout, but a touch thin, which, I have noticed, seems to be the “norm” nowadays. The flavour is big, malty and choco-coffee in the main, with a bitter-sweetness to follow. The finish displays a bitter dryness. I suppose you could describe it as a session Stout, and quite moreish.

Newby Wyke “Peterborough Gold” This 5% dry, rather thin Golden Ale had a hint of hoppiness, and the finish was equally dry and lingering. The flavours are not prominent enough for me, and I struggled to detect much at all. Unfortunately, it came across rather disappointing.

Ringwood “Showman's Tipple”. This refreshing 3.8% Bitter seems to be popping up all over at the moment. Under the stewardship of Marston's, since 2007, this brewery's core beers are still brewed in Dorset. This brew had strains of biscuit, berry fruit and just a hint of caramel. The finish displays a slight floral hoppiness, It is what it is, a session Bitter. An OK beer for the masses. Honest, straightforward, but nothing special, really.

Rooster's “Wild Mule”. This American Pale Ale, from Yorkshire, is 3.9% and is a pleasant drink. It has a nice citrus aroma, which carries on into the hoppy taste, with just a touch of malt.The finish is very long, with a good bitterness.

Three Castles “Corn Dolly” is a Premium Bitter of 4.7%. The colour is copper, and the aroma and taste, quite malty. Fruit is apparent, but doesn't interfere with the maltiness. There is a slight floral hint in the long, dry finish, and also just a tad of spice.. It is, in my opinion, the subtleness of some of the flavours make this a good brew.

Wychwood “Dirty Tackle”. A bitter of 4.4% which was quite bland, to be fair. It has a hint of caramel, a touch of aromatic spice, but never really goes anywhere. Not a lot more to be said,really.

Young Master Brewery (in conjunction with Wadworth) “Summer of 1842”. Hong Kong meets Devizes. An interesting brew, with a vein of maltiness, tempered with fruit and a slight citrus bitterness. The hoppy finish is dry, tart and not unsimilar to black tea. It is advertised as a session IPA, but this 5% brew does have a more alcohol driven taste leaving you not quite ready for seconds. I thought it was OK, but my drinking partner wouldn't agree.

During this period, before I took the Go Sober Challenge, besides a night out,or two, of which I will inform you of next time, I did partake of a few bottles, and the odd can. Most were from the “budget” Supermarkets. I think that both Aldi and Lidl have really excelled thereselves in the beer selections of late, and the variety is much bigger than it once was. I have managed to enjoy the company of the following beers.

Wickwar Brewery “BOB” 4%, a Bitter which had a nice caramel malt body, with hints of dark fruits. A slight citrus tint in the finish.

Box Steam “Derail Ale” 5% IPA. I bought this for 0.99p. I thought it a touch ordinary, but certainly drinkable. There are hints of sweetness, probably caramel, a slight hopped bitterness, but overall, not a lot going on. I can't be too upset about it though, as the price was a steal, and it was far from awful.

Wooden Hand “Pirates Gold”. This Pale Ale of 4% was quite sweet, with hints of nut and berries. The finish was reasonably bitter and tangy.

Holt's “Maple Moon”. A heavy tropical fruit aroma oozes out on the opening of the bottle, and the initial flavour is more sweet than bitter, but still quite balanced. It remains light, but has a hint of syrup from the maple. Not a bad drop, to be honest. I would definitely get a few of these 4.8% bottles of Premium Bitter in if I see it again.

Robinson's “Unicorn”. A Golden Ale of 4.3%, A reasonable beer with spicy malt at the fore. It is very refreshing with a good bitter-sweet finish.

The Perlenbacher Challenge. Bottle v Can.
Keep taking the Pils...

twice daily with meals 
Back in August, watching the rain slide down the window, I thought this would be an interesting experiment. Sampling the “same” beer in two packages. I nipped out and bought them both from Lidl, the bottle, at 0.87p, whilst the can was 0.71p. There is not a lot of difference to be fair. First the pour. The can had a bigger head, and it lasted longer than that of the bottle. The colour is the same in both, which was not a surprise. The aroma is not huge, but what there is is best described as slightly grassy, but not massive, and a little more concentrated in the bottle. Now the taste. Both have a slight bitterness in the finish, after an initial sweet malt opening., which helps lift Perlenbacher from “just another lager”, but I did find that the bottled version carried a touch more sweetness, and a fresher, slight grassy, taste. I did prefer the bottle, but, surprisingly, both were more than adequate in taste and flavour for a budget priced Continental Lager.

Battle of the Bottles #2  
Tied in Notts
A correction and an apology now from a previous post which, due to me getting my notes mixed, I gave a repeat of my Battle of the Bottles #1. Thick or what ! For this one, the beers in question are both from Nottinghamshire. Springhead “Roaring Meg” versus Castle Rock “Elsie Mo”. Both are Golden Ales, but the Springhead brew is slightly stronger, at 5.5% to the Castle Rock's 5%. “Elsie Mo”, a bottle conditioned ale, is quite floral and malty in aroma, which carries through to the initial taste, with a little sweetness also evident in the main, balanced well with a good bitterness, The crisp citrus back taste leads to a good hoppy finish. It is a decent beer, with a refreshing finish. The “Meg” is cold filtered, but still seems to retain some “living” attributes. The aroma is rather toffee like, with some citrus. The taste is, first of all, roast malt and nuts, with raisins slowly pushing through, and the medium finish is citrus fruit. It is not over carbonated, and works quite well. I find it hard to seperate these two, but, alas, I think the “Elsie Mo” just tasted that little bit more rounded, but I would happily sink a few of either of these two contenders. As I have a few days booked in Nottingham soon, I may well have to try a head to head of the cask versions.

Until the next time, Cheers, and keep it “Real”.

( If anyone would like to donate to The Macmillan Go Sober fund, they can through this link :- )