Monday, 16 February 2015

The Importance of Being Idle........( I wish!)

Well, my week of laziness, according to T'other 'arf, has drawn to an abrupt end. Week off ? Yeah, right. We have sanded, stripped and painted the bathroom door, sweated, with forks in hand, at the allotment as the frost thawed, and the weeds and couch grass became more apparent, switched the bedrooms round, juggling with beds, furniture, toys, and all the other collections of crap one finds in the corners of our upstairs living areas, helped out with grand-parental babysitting duties and a myriad of other “little favours” and projects we needed to get round to. On top of this, braving still frozen waters, I have had a couple of days fishing. “Not work !” I hear you cry. Well, let me tell you that lugging rods, tackle boxes, nets, and an assortment of other bits and bobs, downstairs and into the car, 200 yards from car to peg, then sitting 5 hours, awaiting the possibility of a stray piscatorial visitor to swim by and hungrily take a fancy to my bait, followed by a return from peg to car, car to house and up those bloody stairs, is not a picnic! The things we do for the love of our sport. During all this, we have hardly had time to collate any information for The Beermonster's Blog, but, doggedly, we did manage a couple, or so, excursions, of which I will divulge you with now.

Friday's Starter.
Ahh, Friday. Last Friday, to be exact. My last early before a week of presumed relaxation (we already know the outcome of that one). On the way home I was drawn into the vortex of the local Morrisons'. I was spinning and swirling, almost giddy with dizziness. I really ought to slow down around that roundabout! Here I picked up a 3 for £5 deal, consisting of Robinson's “Dizzy's Dark Side” and a couple of bottles of Marston's “New World”. Once home, I opened the wonderful malty 3.8% Robinson's brew. Described as a dark oak ale, it's lovely long dry finish is preceded by a satisfying coffee hit. Smooth and well balanced throughout, from first sip to last slurp. An excellent bottled beer. I followed this with one of the Marston's. This is a beer I have tasted before, and which has been richly reviewed by many of my peers recently. All I can say is, this brew is a willing accompaniment to most situations. It is refreshing,zesty, light and has a lovely citrus aroma and a long, long dry, bitter finish. The malt is present, but just as a hint in the background. After these, I decided to have a walk into town. With a bit of shopping in hand (I do love those pound shops!) I gave the Ice Barque another try. Hooray! Real ale was available, albeit in very small amounts. They did have on tap “Birra Armada” from Spanish brewer Alberto Pacheco, in conjunction with Adnams. 4.8% and with a nice dry, but fruity flavour which leads to a biscuity, long grapefruit finish, this speciality ale was quite moreish. After this I met T'other 'arf from work, and we proceeded to The Yarborough Hotel. A much better display of Ales, shining like beacons from the bar top, were evident in here. I decided upon a pint of “Monkey Wrench”, Daleside's 5.3% Premium Ale, whilst Jane tried “Welsh Pride”, a 4% Conwy's Brewery Bitter. My beer was dark, with a good balance of sweetness and bitter, and a spicy undertone throughout. The half-pint was slightly orange in taste, with a dry bitterness which followed through to the finish. To finish we opted for a pint of Wibbler's “Polar Beer” a straw coloured 4.2% Winter Ale, which was fresh, slightly malty and a punchy, dry finish. A nice start to the week off. As the last few weeks has been bent towards the Churchillian era, I flippantly, but with deep respect, would like to quote the great man by saying this was not the end, it was not even the beginning of the end, but perhaps it was the end of the beginning of my week off. Tomorrow, a long awaited meal with our friends, in Cleethorpes, was on the cards.

T'other 'arf's last day at work today. I merely slobbed around all morning, enjoying Soccer AM and then indulging in the North London derby. I have no real football allegiances after my beloved Grimsby Town, although, as a pup, I did support Ipswich Town in the 70's. Why? Well, the only football we would get as kids was Match of The Day, national coverage on a Saturday Night, followed by The Big Match on Sunday, featuring the local teams. As Yorkshire TV was also picked up in North Norfolk, after the local games had been shown, these Northern most of the Anglians were treated to a weekly fix of their local football teams. At this time Ipswich were really THE team. Good football, brilliant young manager in Bobby Robson, and great players like Kevin Beattie,Paul Cooper, Bryan Talbot, Dutchmen Thijssen and Muhren, Eric Gates, South African born Colin Viljoen and oh so many more. What a team. I was the only kid in James Meadows Junior School to follow this iconic group of sportsmen, and proud of it too, until they won the FA Cup in 1978. I was at Havelock Comp then, 14 years old and fed up with being told I only supported Ipswich because they had won the Cup. By now I was already a regular at Grimsby's games, so I just discarded may casual dalliance with those Blues from far(ish) away. I would struggle to name a single player in the present set up. Never mind. On with the main event. We had arranged to meet our friends for a drink and a meal. It was a belated celebration dinner for our closest friends. Steve had retired in January, whilst Dee, as young at heart as she is, celebrated her BIG birthday on Boxing Day. We met for a quick drink in The Yarborough, where I had a pint of the 4.9% Flack Manor “Hedge Hop”. I found it quite complex, with malt, citrus and a high hoppiness seemingly bombarding you in every mouthful. It wasn't unpleasant, just hard to discern what I was tasting at times. After this, we hopped on the train to Cleethorpes, alighting at, and entering the No2 Refreshment Room. As I have mentioned before, “Under the Clock”, as it is also called, is a good real ale pub, and holds several POTY titles from the local CAMRA branch. We enjoyed a a couple of beers in here, among a varied clientele, some of whom were former regulars of mine in my taxi-driving days.Tales were swapped and reminisced whilst I sampled 2 different ales in here,
A good beer, not just
in theory
York Brewery's “Eine Stein Bitte”, and “Snow Wonder” from Rudgate's. York brewery's brew was quite biscuity to begin with with the slight maltiness leading to a dry and long citrus finish. Very zesty and crisp tasting with a ABV of 5.5%. The “Snow Wonder”, at 3.6%, was very pale, and, although quite dry and initially refreshing,the citrus undertone pales away with a short lived bitterness to end. Not one of Rudgate's classic brews, but still drinkable. We decided to try The Coliseum Picture House (JDW's) next, and between us we tasted 4 different brews over two rounds. With the help of my fellow tasters, we reviewed them thus. West Berkshire's “Good Old Boy”, an amber toned Bitter of 4% was fruity, with hints of coffee and an underlying sweetness. We found the finish reasonably dry, but quite long and refreshing. The American based Sixpoint brewery, in conjunction with Adnams, had the 4% “Importer” on cask. We found this nice, with caramel coming to the fore, over an initial fruit taste, but a little thin. It wasn't like an Irish stout, more like a Mild. Rudgate were represented by the ever popular “Ruby Mild”, which is always lovely, smooth, easy drinking and rich, with caramel and a nutty flavour lasting right through to the medium bitter long finish. Something lighter now. Newby Wyke and the wonderful Golden Ale of 5%, “USS Winston S Churchill”. You get an enjoyable orange hint with this Ale. It was well liked by us all, with waves of spice giving way to citrus, and a bitter finish that leaves your palate refreshed and wanting more. A lovely relaxing afternoon was now turning into the gathering gloom of evening, and the cold in the sea air was highly evident. We moved on, through the old fishermen's alleyways, to Sea View Street and, quite aptly, The Fisherman's Arms. This is very much a locals pub, but, nonetheless, very welcoming. Here, again, I bumped into faces from my previous employ as a cabbie. The range of ales in here is usually 2 or three, and tonight was no exception. We all chose the “Golden Pippin” an excellent Golden Ale from Copper Dragon. This Blond Ale is light, refreshing and has an enjoyable citrus finish. I have cradled a few of these over recent years, and think it is a great session beer at 3.9%. We certainly agreed on that. Time had ticked by, as it does, and we headed off 20 yards down the road to the Nottingham House for our dinner reservation. I won't bore you too much about the food but, suffice to say the welcome was incredibly warming and genuine, all our meals were excellent, the staff incredibly attentive, and the company half-cut! The ladies enjoyed a bottle of wine with their meal, whilst Steve and I had the 4.3% Pale Ale, “Moonshine”, from Abbeydale Brewery. It was light, golden and hints of grapefruit gradually worked through with an almost floral finish. A really good beer to accompany any meal. To finish the night, we enjoyed one for the road, Steve choosing Timothy Taylor's “Landlord”, whilst I quaffed a Tetley's “Mild”. Both were poured as they should be, and certainly tasted absolutely perfect. As we waited for our taxi home, we chatted away, and our newly retired member reminded us of what we have got to look forward to come pension age (leaving the house to walk the dogs, only to find you have forgotten your key, returning and setting off again, then forgetting your wallet,back again, then out, and, finally,leaving the dogs!!) I think I will stay at work.....unfortunately so does the Government's Dept. of Work and Pensions.

We didn't do a lot on Sunday, besides walking down to the allotments, surveying the jobs ahead, sighing, audibly, and then continuing the leg stretching antics, eventually homeward bound. We did get stuck in, for a couple of hours, down the plot on Monday. This meant that come tea-time, both of us felt as if we had been through a mangle, with aching backs and limbs and slightly grubby looking from the mudbath. There was a cure, I insisted, a hot bath followed by a stroll into town. Yes! Hook, line and sinker. And so, Monday evening we were back in The Yarborough, I with a pint of 5.2% Titanic “Capt Smith” and T'other 'arf with a Salopian “Darwins Origin”. I found the Titanic dark, malty with a clinging head. It was very smooth, and had a hoppy finish that lasted well, whereas the “Darwin's Origin” at 4.3% was dry, almost tart with very little sweetness but a refreshing bitterness. My half-pinter wasn't overly keen but all our tastes differ. Next up were Mauldon's “Suffolk Pride”, a 4.8% Bitter, which we found very full bodied, with the malty flavour really cutting through, with a fruitiness evident in the long dry finish, and Rogue Brewery's “Brutal”. This was a typical American IPA, with punchy grapefruit and citrus taste through to the dry, fruity and bitter aftertaste. A nice beer, I believe it was 6% (I'd left my reading specs at home!).To finish off I ordered a half each of White Horse Brewery “10th Anniversary Pale” which was very hoppy, with a slight biscuity hint. 4.4% and quite dry in the finish, along with Bateman's 4.5% “Hooker” (another light, hoppy citrus laced ale, very much the same as the 10th Anniversary) and Caledonian's “Great Scot”. This 4.1% Speciality Ale was totally different to the other two. Dark, nutty and heavy on the malt gives it a creaminess and a bitter sweet experience. It was a pleasing change to the lighter beers that seem to be in favour at the moment.

After a day deep-freezing maggots at a local still water, in the name of sport, and finding my appendages as warm as an eskimo's outside toilet, a hot bath, glass of Glayva, and a walk into town was needed on Wednesday. Jane was visiting her daughter and the Grandchildren, they were in the midst of moving house, so we decided to meet up in town. I initially popped into The Ice Barque, and quickly popped back out again (only one cask on, and that was off!) so I met the bus, and we went back to The Yarborough. We only had a couple in here, with Jane opting for the safety of “Abbot Ale”, I started on a pint of Acorn Brewery's “Bullseye” a Red coloured Bitter of 4.5%. Caramel , with a slight nuttiness and medium carbonation made this extremely easy to drink. A wonderful Bitter from this Barnsley based brewery.This was followed by another delightful, and easy drinking beer, this time a Mild from Ilkley called “Ruby Jane”. 4% and full of flavour, this smooth, sweet mild has won many awards. There is slight biscuit hints to it and only a faint bitterness. It is incredibly smooth, with the head gripping the glass to the last.
Thursday. Curry & a Drink.
We stayed in on Thursday night, even though the pull of curry night at JDW's was quite strong. I cooked a Jalfrezi instead, supplementing it with a few bottles, and a wine for the Lady. It was nice just slobbing, watching rubbish on TV, with a full belly. The beers sampled were two from Portobello brewery, under the guise of Madness brewing, namely "Night Boat London Porter", and "Lovestruck", along with Saltaire's "Blonde". All were good bottled beers, with the Porter, at 5%, oozing with a coffee, chocolate, hazelnut and fruit flavours, whilst  "Lovestruck", an Amber Ale of 4.4% also offered a fruit and chocolate back taste, along with a floral hit from the hops. The 4% "Bonde" really accompanied the warmth of our curry excellently. With a dry bitterness throughout, and just a hint of malt and spiciness. I really enjoyed this trio of bottled beers. Compliments to the Chef too.

We did manage a quick couple of drinks on Saturday, after doing a bit of shopping, and a touch of bickering, but with yours truly back to the grindstone the next day, it was obviously going to be fleeting. We still managed to sample three beers on offer at the Yarborough which were Ringwood “Thumper”, Quantock “Plastered Pheasant” and Blindman's “Icarus”. The “Thumper” at 5.1%, was full of malty bitterness, with fruit delicately balanced throughout. The aroma was quite spicy but, again, a fruitiness was still noticeable. A good old fashioned beer. Quantock's Winter Warmer offering was dark, and rather like a Mild, with a bitter sweet taste of coffee and toffee smoothly caressing the palate. It was no lightweight though, with an ABV of 4.8%. To finish the session, and 8 wonderful, blissfull days away from work, Blindman's “Icarus” seemed the right brew to sign off on. A rich, Ruby Ale of 4.5%, it was warming, medium bodied and had a smooth, but slightly bitter, biscuit taste. An extremely well balanced ale. One to enjoy and savour, not to glug down. A beer that, with empathy, bades you farewell, but will welcome you back soon, with the same warmth and intensity. Sentimental old sod at times, aren't I, especially when it comes to beer!!
Cheers and keep it “Real”

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon.

NOT the usual suspects,
A run of later than usual lates at work,due to the weather, and a week of dieting, including the avoidance of alcoholic dalliances, meant that come Sunday, the first of my scheduled 2 rest days, I was ready for a little beery taster. We popped out to the local Aldi (other supermarkets are available), to reap any bargains, and, as usual, we were not disappointed. Besides the food savings, the drinks aisle always throws up a few good deals, as do the Lidl shops. Rummaging through, I came across two Innis & Gunn brews, as well as a German beer, all at “sale” price. Whoo-hoo ! Sunday afternoon was now sorted. I must hasten to add that there were a few more good bottled ales, all at the lower price ranges, also available, which was pleasing to see. Anyway, back to our chosen ones. First on the menu was Schwaben Brau “Das Helle”, a lager of 5% ABV. With it's straw colour, medium carbonation and thin veneered head, it certainly looked nice. The taste was very refreshing, with a grassy hint accompanying the initial maltiness and slight fruit flavouring to follow. The finish was long, crisp and dry. Not being a lager drinker, unless holidaying abroad, I was quite surprised at my overall enjoyment of this Germanic tipple. I thought it much better than the many “English” lagers I have tried to embrace. The second beer we sampled was the Innis & Gunn “Canadian Cherrywood Finish Oak Aged Beer”, weighing in at 7.4%. Presented in a 330ml bottle, and gift boxed, the anxiety abounded. The colour was definitely red-hued, and the head, although present on pouring, disappeared quicker than an opening batsman on an England overseas Cricket tour, and was no more than a memory by the time we came to tasting . The taste itself, we agreed, was rich, with caramel, malt and a sweet, almost sugary, punch. There was a hint of fruitcake in it, and, although not unpleasant, we both thought one glass was plenty. With me not having a "sweet tooth" didn't help, I suppose. To finish off this little tasting session, we tried the “Treacle Porter”, another from the I & G brewery. Dark, but not black in colour, this looked more like a Premium Bitter, or a Winter Warmer, rather than a porter, and, with a seemingly thin body and very little head, it came across, visually, as a little disappointing.. The taste was OK, but not outstanding, and, again, was very sweet. The treacle taste was apparent, but not in big way. Again, not unpleasant, but, certainly, an acquired taste. I would like to taste both of the Innis and Gunn beers in cask form, as I believe the bottled versions lacked that “something” which the packaging hinted at.
The bottled beers will take a back seat next weekend, as we are out for a few cask beers, and a meal, in Cleethorpes, a much anticipated sojourn in the company of friends of ours. Until then, it's back to the diet, self administered alcohol ban and those cold and snowy early morning expeditions to work, followed by lengthy attempts of thawing out those appendages caught out by the icy fingers of Winter. Never mind, it'll soon be Summertime, I hope!

Cheers and keep it “Real”.