Friday, 30 January 2015

Since you been gone

Since the turn of 2015, it seems that I have been in a hermitage, if you look at my blog, and my Google+ postings, which, is not strictly true. I have been kicking of my work boots, when opportunity arises, and helping to clear some space in the kitchen by removing those bottles of home brewed Bitter and Stout that T'other 'arf keeps tripping over and tut-tutting at.
Never mind the bloody juniper bush,
 there's a new bar open in Cleethorpes!!
Dedicated to the cause, I have also made space where the Whisky, Vodka and Port live. I am sure the Glayva and Gin are in the way and soon to be tidied up too ! (At this point I would like to stress that I, angelic and almost salvationist, am not the only one in the Ancestral home who has partaken in, and removed us of the Spirits lurking in the dark cupboard, I suppose, like an exorcism.) I have managed to escape the immediate environs of The Homestead, making it to the relaxed atmosphere of those debauched bars one frequents, on occasion, which I will review now.
Two weeks ago, on a cold,bright Wednesday, T'other 'arf and I, jumped on the train for the short journey to Cleethorpes. With a brisk, biting wind swallowing us , we huddled up, and bent over, like penguins, strode, or waddled, down the seafront. A delightful walk was taken, as bracing as it was, and after ending up at the far end of the resort, behind Pleasure Island, an unimpressive 2 miles had been completed. Invigorated, I suggested, whilst in the immediate area, we pop into the new Premier Inn's Brewer's Fayre. This agreed upon, we entered and were greeted by a spotlessly clean and tastefully decorated bar. The staff were friendly and attentive, with an air of confidence in their newly taken positions.Beer choice was the usual keg varieties, with the addition of “Black Sheep” Bitter and, if memory serves me right, Fuller's “London Pride”. We opted for the 3.8% “Black Sheep” which was expertly dispensed, even with the polite enquiry if a top-up on the pint was needed. Now, the only criticism. Our beer was too cold. It was served at a temperature more suited to those “special” lagers, and real penguins. This had the effect of tainting the flavours slightly, before the warmth of the room, and our cupped, gloved hands came to a partial rescue. Shame really, maybe it was the outside air temperature which knocked the cellars' temperature down too far, but I will visit when the weather warms up, just to clarify that. Drinks finished, we headed off for the return to our point of departure. I had it in mind to visit another new Cleethorpes bar, The Bobbin, situated on the High St. Billed as a venue for “craft” beers, I wondered what it would offer. Approaching, the place was open but empty, so we decided to try it another time, when we could also sample some atmosphere, as well as those quoted “craft beers”. You are also slightly more noticeable if you decide on leaving, should the “craft” beer not be as one expects, or hideously priced. We will give it a look in the near future, though, so watch this space, but for now, diplomacy reigns. We opted for a couple in The Coliseum Picture House instead. I went for the locally brewed 3.4% “Mild Midlander” from The Black Horse Brewery, whilst my half pinter chose “Thanks PA” a very floral, dry finished 6% IPA from the same stable (I'm sure I have used that as a witticism before, but we all recycle now!). Jane didn't go a bundle on her beer, so later switched to an “Abbot Ale”. I found my brew a touch bland. The rich creaminess and slight coffee undertones promised to excite the palate but, sadly disappeared quite quickly. I followed this with a pint of the “Thanks PA” myself. This is beer with a punch.It is full of flavour from the US hops used, and has a dry bitterness that never ends! The citrus taste prevails throughout with hints of grapefruit apparent. I thought it a very good IPA. After these, we popped into The Number 2 (Under The Clock) back at the station, to await our mode of transport home. We both chose the Cottage Brewery “ Somerset and Dorset Ale”, a traditional Bitter, which, at 4.4%, was rich, malty and carried a lovely red hue. It was also served at the correct temperature, allowing the beer to give off all it's deep flavour and hop aroma.
Look what's blown in.
The following week, I met Jane in town after a trip the Ice Barque, giving it a trial after recent disappointments. I tried a couple of US beers in here I had not tasted before. First was “Full Sail Wassail” brewed by Wadworth, in conjunction with the Full Sail Brewing Co. I found this Winter Ale full of malt flavours with a wonderful fresh hopped aftertaste. Very moreish, but at 6%, one to respect. I also tried the Sixpoint/Adnams “Xporter” another  6% Ale full of chocolate and roasted coffee flavours, with a citrus kick to it. An excellent tasting beer of this style. Now in company, we made our way to the The Yarborough, where we sampled a couple each of the Oakham “JHB”. A classic Golden/Blonde Ale with plenty of fruitiness in the hoppy flavour, mixing amicably with malt, this 4.2% beer is always a welcome sight. We could have stayed for more, but we had other plans, so, content with our lot, we sloped home.

I have decided that 2015 may not be so much quantity driven, more quality. I intend to try more places, new and old, home and away, many either never visited, or last enjoyed a few years ago, to give my blog a little more “depth”. With a friend of ours, Steve, recently taking retirement, it seems we may have another taster to bounce opinions and views off. We, Jane and I with Steve and his partner, Dee are already planning a meal out, back in Cleethorpes,which will also be enjoyed with a few drop-offs on the way, soon, followed by an idea of mine to try a few local pubs by public transport at a later date. Anyway, as always, Cheers and keep it “Real”

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Everyone's A Winner, Baby

After a dose of flu' suffered over New Year, (which drove me to the solace of my bed by 8pm New Year's Eve, and, after stupidly dragging myself to work the next day, I spent most of the next three days back there, cocooned in a sweat dampened duvet), I curtailed my socialising just a tad. Whilst laying in my pit, awaiting a resurrection of sorts, and facing my return to work on lates, my mind was drawn to what I would put down as the personal highlights of my year of imbibing. T'other 'arf and I, as you may be already aware, have had a few sessions, home and away, during the last 12 months, but, because I have only been blogging since May 2014, I decided to only include those locations, beers and events which have appeared on my blog. So, what to call these inaugural awards? We have Oscars, BAFTAs, Golden Globes and a host of others for cinema and TV, and in literature we have The Pulitzer and Booker awards. Being boring, I decided on The Firkin. If anyone out there already has or issues these awards, I apologies. I googled all the Firkin awards and didn't find a Firkin winner anywhere. So here we go

The Firkin Best Local Pub (N E Lincs) 2014

As has been evident in my blog, whilst on “home” territory, I have kept to a select few pubs. Over the next 12 months, I shall be trying to poke my nose in some of those I have, either, never visited or haven't visited in years. That said, I have a choice to make. In Grimsby, my regular haunts of The Yarborough Hotel & The Ice Barque, both JDW's run establishments, although at times present an excellent pint at a good price, with a huge selection of “new”, untried beers and ales to sample, can, also, be lacking in personality and atmosphere. They are what they are. You can pay more and get less at other places, and vice versa, albeit very rarely though. The International Beer Festivals must be mentioned, which has introduced me to some wonderful US, Antipodean and European beer styles and brands, not always available in cask form in this country. The Parity, is a good “sports” pub that can rival and, sometimes, beat JDW's on price. Beer is quite good, and with 3 regularly changing real ales, a good place to visit. Big matches do make it a touch boisterous at times, although not threatening. The Friary, I'm afraid, does lack beer quality from time to time, as does The Duke of Wellington, even though the latter has a quite unique atmosphere about it!. I do enjoy The ambience, well served ales, excellent meals, and heavy metal music, on The Barge, whilst The Wheatsheaf offers a fair selection of ever changing Ales and a good menu. The County consistently serves up great live music at weekends, if not always accompanied by cask beers, and The Hope and Anchor is also worth mentioning. Millfields. I feel, is gearing itself more towards the food trade, but, as with all the rest, I will be able to determine more on my next visit.
In neighbouring Cleethorpes, The Coliseum Picture House seems to be holding its own, offering a good selection of local beers alongside the usual national JDW selections, and it is rare to find The No2 (Under the Clock) with a glut of empty seats, such is it's reputation for good beer. The No1 also offers up some excellent brews. Moving down the resort, Sea View Street, and the surrounding area, offers the discerning drinker some good hostelries, Willy's (with it's own brewery) with the Marston's run Smuggler's Arms,just a peanut's throw away. The Fisherman's Arms shares the same footfall as The Nottingham Hotel but seems to attract totally different clientele. The Fish' is more a “locals” pub, brash and loud, but somewhat engaging, and funny, whereas The Notts' has a more warming, old fashioned charm about it. It also has a great selection of beers, all served expertly by extremely efficient staff.
I think in Grimsby, my top 3, in no particular order, would have to be The Parity, The Wheatsheaf and The Barge, although I will still, probably, spend most of my time in The Yarborough! In Meggies, my treble would be The No2, The Coliseum Picture House and The Notts. There can only be one winner though, and that boozer to get the Firkin Accolade is :-

The Firkin Best Pub (Lincolnshire)

My excursions around my home county have been a little short this year, with 2 exceptions, my (more correctly, our) Barton trip, and Louth. Both very different places, but also very similar. Barton, a market town which is bustling and busy, with the facade of industrialisation, yet still, somewhat, sleepy. There are quite a few Real Ale pubs here, and to pick the best is a hard choice. We enjoyed the olde worlde feel of The Sloop, as well as the welcome in the very modernly decorated White Swan, but I decided that The George Hotel and The Wheatsheaf, close neighbours, need special mention. Both have excellent beer, and, in each of them, food is reasonably priced and eagerly devoured. I would, though, just edge towards The Wheatsheaf purely for the bigger range of beers.
Louth is also busy and bustling, offering a good range of Real Ale, but with it's agricultural roots ever evident. The pubs choice is certainly varied, but on our visit, which I reviewed back in December, it would come down to two. The Gas Lamp Lounge, basic, welcoming and the brewery tap of a Louth based brewer or The Woolpack, a pub at the heart of the community, with great food and beer. T'other' arf and I have discussed this a few times since our visit, and we both eventually decided on The Gas Lamp, by a fag papers thickness!! Who will get a Firkin Award for Lincolnshire's best pub though? Well, that will go to :-

The Firkin Best Pub Nationally.

Again, my travels have not been extensive in 2014, but I still managed visits to The Isle of Thanet, Canterbury and The Norfolk Broads during my stewardship of the beermonsters blog. My favourite place to visit was The Broads, but, having the Grandchildren certainly restricted my research, although I frequented some lovely public houses whilst here. Canterbury is always a great place to explore, whilst Margate surprised me immensely, with the micro-pubs springing up all over. The pubs in all these localities were friendly, embracing of Ales and knowledgable of their craft. I would put the following on my shortlist, but that is not to dismiss the others. The Lion Inn at Thurne, Horning's Ferry Inn are definitely good mooring places to any Broads visitor, and The Foundry, and The City Arms, both Canterbury Brewery run establishments, always demand a visit, when in Kent's Cathedral City, along with the brilliantly run George and Dragon, in nearby Fordwich. The Lifeboat, Harbour Arms, 39 Steps and The Chapel represent Thanet, and the Micro-pub revolution. Beers straight from the barrel are a wonderful way to experience the Brewers' craft, and this has swayed my decision. The Foundry almost stole the award, and would have been a worthy winner, but there is just “something” about those micro-pubs which fulfils me. Tradition, maybe, alchemy, possibly, enjoyment definitely. Of the 4 I drank in, my favourite, and winner of Firkin Best Pub Nationally is:-
I honestly could not split them. Firkin prizes everywhere!

The Firkin Best Beers Tasted 2014.

Everyone's tastes are different, so to pick “champion” beers must be a thankless task. I, on the other hand, am only picking beers I have enjoyed, and are memorable to me. I don't want to start cataloguing every beer I taste on every night out, for a start, I haven't the time. In essence, that is why I blog, so I can look back on my outings myself, as well as sharing my experiences. That said, maybe I should keep a little list of scores in a secret dossier. A beermonsters Bible (or Imbibe Ale, yeah, I like that.) with which I could cross reference. Hmm. Right. On with the show.

The Firkin Best Beers Tasted 2014 have been grouped into their relative styles, although I admit, some styles may overlap and some may not be distinctive enough to stand alone. I have tried to pick 3 in each group.

I have tasted a few this year, a style that seems on the up, but my pick of the most satisfying milds are as follows

Well, this is where it gets difficult, with so many breweries producing bitter, best bitter, and a myriad of others under the same umbrella of styles. Unfortunately, a superfluous amount of ales in this style doesn't mean quality throughout. With this in mind, I have chosen 3, to carry the flag, all good session beers, and all extremely consistant wherever they are enjoyed.

A style, sitting between Bitters and Pale Ales, which offers so much for the summer drinkers. It can, though, be quite confusing as to which group some Ales belong. My choices in this category are:-

A good Pale Ale is getting easier to find, an outstanding one, though, is another matter. I hope I have chosen correctly here, I think I have. My Firkin treble are:-

There seems to be more styles within the IPA range every time I go drinking. English IPA, American IPA, Black IPA et al. The ones I was particularly drawn to, and enthused about are:-

Good when they are good, but quite insipid when poorly produced, I have a passion for this style. I like to assure myself that not all stouts have to come across the Irish Sea, to be served almost sub-zero in temperature, with the addition of a silly hat proclaiming another Country's Patron Saint's festivities. Since starting my blog, I have been lucky to have tasted some really excellent beers in this style, but the three outstanding brews chosen are:-

4 beers that don't sit in the above groups, but definitely need a mention are:-
LAGUNITAS IPA (Bottled beer)

My favourite overall? I think I would have to say, either the HAZY HOEDOWN, or RUSSIAN ROUBLE would be the winner of The Firkin Best Beer of 2014.

Remember, this is only my opinion on the places I have visited, and the beers sampled since May 2014. If you agree, OK, if not, do your own Firkin list !!!
Cheers and keep it “Real”