Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Everything Counts in Small Amounts....

Promise, Promises ! 

After declaring, demonstratively, that, I, The Berrmonster, would be saving myself, almost virginal, for the up-coming Wetherspoon World's Biggest Real-Ale Festival, it may appear that I have succumbed to the temptation of an Ale or two during the interceding period. Why ? Well, the Great British weather, true to form, has been typically shocking, with days of wind, hail and snow making appearances most days, with frost biting at one's appendages during the very late and extremely early passages of the day, both periods very familiar to me.This prevented any worthwhile journeys down to our allotment. On top of this, I was on my late shifts for the first 3 days of March's opening week, which, with a lunchtime start and a 10-30 pm finish, doesn't encourage one to rush out to the pub, especially as, on my arrival home, T'other 'arf, my loving Partner, has, usually, slipped a couple of hot water bottles under the duvet, in a bid to expel the cold out of my joints and half-frozen lower limbs. By the time Thursday arrived, and cabin fever set in, we, Jane and I, had finally managed to get a day off together. A foray into the newly re-opened Lidl store, which, incidentally was offering several Shepherd Neame beers, was on the agenda. I procured a trio of these bottles for the coming weekend's F.A. Cup matches. Such stress. I was ready for a pint after that, so, with T'other meeting “The Girls” from work for a pre-arranged Curry Night meal a Wetherspoon, I decided to keep her company until the Tribe arrived. I had an important meeting to attend the following morning, so over indulgence was never on the menu (although several fine curries were!!). Scanning the pumps in The Yarborough Hotel, just a shade after 5pm, we decided on a pint of Burton Bridge's “Golden Delicious”, (GD), a Golden Bitter of 3.8%, and a half of Acorn “Bullseye” The “GD” was a mildly citrus beer, with a slight sweetness at the back, gently pushing it to a lingering dry and bitter finish, whereas the “Bullseye”
Bully for you.
at 4.5% was a Best Bitter with a floral and spiced aroma, which combined with a malty, sweet caramel base, giving way to a medium hoppy finish. Both very good. As “The Girls” arrived , I said a cheery “Hi”, then bade them “Farewell”. Although I was aware I could have stayed, I left the Coven to Yap, Yap, and Yap, infinitum, as I popped over to the Ice Barque. The visit was brief, due to diminished Real-Ale stocks (again). I struggled through a half of “London Pride”, before moving on again to The Hope and Anchor to test their wares. With Tom Woods “Bomber County” on tap, and at only £2-60 a pint, I decided to indulge in a measure of this rich, dark beer. As usual, a really good glass of this Tom Woods favourite was dispensed, and was quickly devoured by my good self. It was now the wrong side of 6-30pm, but the right side of 7pm. I sensibly set off home for a bite to eat, slipping into the bath a little later, before settling down to some rubbish TV.

After Friday morning's appointment, I set off for a couple of hours work down the allotment. The rest of the day was spent lazily watching more rubbish on Catch-up TV, whilst my erstwhile beloved one flogged her guts out at work (or so She said !) Mind you, I ensured dinner was served on her arrival home, along with a glass of wine, whilst I chose one of my Shepherd Neame bottled beers to relax (further) with. The bottle of choice? “Up and Under”, A Hoppy Ale of 3.8%. I found this Bitter quite fresh, with the hops strongly prominent in this medium dark coloured beer. The aroma is sweet and a nuttiness seems to appear in the finish. Quite a pleasing beer, from a bottle. I then settled down to watch the “Soaps”, whilst my own were bubbling in the slowly filling bath I was drawing, to help ease away my backache. Work tomorrow at 04-30.
While we endured a freezing cold weekend at work, the only thing to cheer me was the thoughts of the F.A. Cup games, on TV, and trying my remaining 2 bottles of Shepherd Neame beers. The first I tried, as I watched Aston Villa's 2-0 win over local rivals West Brom was the “Double Stout”. This 5.2% beer was a classic Double Stout, with a smoothness throughout, with burnt caramel, toffee, cocoa easing you through to a dry, but bitter finish. A beer to savour as you relax in front of a roaring fire ( or, as I did, with the central heating nipped up a bit) Sunday's offering, for the Liverpool v Blackburn match, an average 0-0 encounter at times, was SN's “India Pale Ale”, a 6.1% version of their 4.5% cask beer. This is a strongly hopped beer, with fruit, citrus and a touch of caramel coming through from, seemingly, all angles. There is also a spiced bitterness that arrives towards the end. I liked it, but others may find it a little too complex, maybe. And that was that. It was all over. There were no-one imitating sick parrots No people were on the pitch but the celebrations of these three ales was no less excitedly accepted than any winning goal.
Monday's weather was atrocious, which swayed me to meet T'other 'arf, after we had both finished our toils, for a spot of lunch, and to wind down after those thankless early starts. We walked up to The Parity where we ordered our food, Chicken Melts, and washed it down with Tom Woods' “Old Codger”. The 4% ruby coloured Bitter was well balanced, with the bitter-sweet taste balanced with a nutty, maybe even biscuit, aftertaste. Both the food and Ale were well received. Predictably, we then wandered to The Yarborough, where we relaxed, gazing out on to the wet streets, and sodden pedestrians, squelching past Lowry-esque, to and from imaginary Satanic mills (more likely the local offices and shops.), as we enjoyed a Bath Ales “Cobblestones” and a half of Milestone's “Magna Carta”. The “Cobblestones”, a 3.8% Golden Ale, was light and very fruity, with peach and, possibly, summer berries leading towards a gentle dry bitter finish. This was one of the Festival Ales. The “Magna Carta”, a Bitter of 5%, on the other hand was also quite golden, but with a more sweet taste, with a burnt toffee flavour cutting through. We finished in here with another from the upcoming Festival, an Ale from New Zealand's Townshend's Brewery, “JCIPA”. At 5.5%, this beer had a full malty aroma, with citrus and spiciness leading the drinker to a sweet, spicy and medium bitter, dry finish.
With Jane having a bit of shopping to do, and my thirst not yet fully quenched (my last early shift has that effect), we went our seperate ways, for an hour or so. I ventured, I don't know why, to the Ice Barque. Encouraged by the sight of one of the Festival brews, namely “Dungarven's Irish Stout”, on the bar, and thought drifting towards the Cheltenham Festival, Ireland's horse racing Enclave during March, I felt a sort of “coming together” was in hand. No such luck. “Available Soon” was the nearest I got. With very little else, I opted for the “Ruddle's”, which , well, was just “Ruddle's” Very average all the way round. Bitter-sweet, with no suprises expected, or received. Quite predictable and almost boring, but not as bad as some of these bog standard brews. A beer to drink, not savour, I find, but not in huge amounts. I voted on the selrections with my feet, and left, to end my early evening in The Hope and Anchor, with a pint of Bateman's “Black and White” before me. This Mild, of 3.4%, is rich, creamy and contains a wonderful mix of nutty, fruity and slight cocoa flavours. This is a good beer, in my opinion, and a beer to really relax with. Being content and half asleep, I was away, to catch the last Quarter-Final of The Cup at home....which....yawn.....I didn't quite.....zzzz zzzzz. What was the score?
We managed another 2 or 3 hours digging on the plot on Wednesday, before a spot of shopping, and, as T'other 'arf was visiting a friend later that day, I shot home, put our groceries away, and nipped into Town, grabbing 4 beers I had not sampled previously. I tried a brace of halves from the Festival brews, still not started though, and another 2 halves besides.The first was the non-Festival  Hanlon's 4.8% “Port Stout”. This was dark and smooth with the taste more coffee than chocolate. The finish was long and rounded, but the Port flavour was not that obvious to me. Next up was Nils Oscar, a Norwegian India Ale, from a brewer, the identity of which was sadly a blur, due to small print and the wrong spectacles. Doh ! That was a shame. The beer, on the other hands was a very well rounded ale with sweetness to start but leading quickly to a lovely bitter taste. It had slightl blackcurrant hints and a long, bitter-sweet finish. Hmm nice.The 2 Festival halves were “Spider Bite” from the Devil's Backbone Brewery, and Lighthouse “Shipwreck IPA” The first offering, a 4% Ale, was sweet caramel and quite malty at the onset, with a “bubblegum” taste peeping through, but not enough to imbalance the bitter finish, which was not too long, but very satisfying. The Lighthouse IPA, weighing in at 6.5% I found quite sweet, fruity with pleasant bitter undertones. A little too sweet for me, and I found the finish long and dry. Not a bad beer, but I maybe expected more.

Well, I shall try to ease a Festival third (or 3!) down my neck over the next couple of weeks, but work may prevent my attempts to get the full house at the JDW's bash. We will see. Until the next time. Cheers and keep it “Real”

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Get Set For The Weekend...

Well, here we are again, inked quill in hand, hovering over the parchment, hoping to spew a paragraph or two out before my tip runs dry, as it forms new categories to the Rorschach test, spilling, drip by drip, away. Hang on. I am using Open Office. Where did this feather come from, and worse still, what are those stains, and who the bloody hell is Hermann Rorschach ?? You can tell I have had a quiet week or so, with very little to stimulate my grey matter. Even the Daily Mail and Daily Express did very little in their respective cryptic crosswords to tease me. Since my last rambling tome of beery expeditions, I have not had too many excursions of pleasure to report on, but The Hermitage is not yet ready for us.
I was back to the paid vocation on Monday (16th), (believe it or not, I do this serious reporting of liquor for free!!!) and after the following days toils, I had my 2 rest days to take off. What to do? Too cold and wet to go fishing or digging on my allotment, too warm to build snowmen in the garden, and so we, T'other 'arf and I, managed a spot of lunch in the local JDW's ( Yarborough Hotel) where we also sampled a couple of glasses of Real Ale. We started off with an offering from the Tring Brewery, by the name of “Redshank”. This medium dark bitter, of 4.2% ABV, is smooth and rounded, with the sweet maltiness giving way to the slight hop bitterness, with neither becoming too prominent. The complimenting of this is very pleasing with a long and satisfying finish. An extremely good brew, which went down well with our light lunch of Paninis. Whilst my Half Pint expert stayed on Redshank,
Watch your nuts !
I espied an Isle of Wight brew on the bar pump. Goddard'sWight Squirrel”, to be precise. A very dark and quite bitter beer at first ,this leads to a caramel sweetness and malty taste towards the end.. This Best Bitter, of 4.3%, is quite moreish, but just a touch too sweet , in my humble opinion. With food and ale in our bellies, comforting feelings abounded as we left 'Spoons and wandered home. I was back to work on Thursday, working on late shifts, until my next rest day on Monday. Sounds OK, but (there is always a but) I was back to work on Tuesday morning at 04-30, so we decided, as usual, to forsake any liquid imbibing from our Licensees, until the coming weekend. I may have hinted that I was disciplined!!

Friday arrived. I cocked an eye at the offending alarm at our bedside. Yippee. 03-20, time to get up and get ready for work. Peeping out into the street, hiding behind the drawn curtains, frost was apparent. Oh well, a freezing awakening awaits, as I dangle in a cherry picker, de-icing our first aircraft out a little while from now. I did have a couple of beers waiting, expectantly, at home, for me, after finishing work, to help get the circulation going.
I have started that Twitter lark recently, but not having an all singing, all dancing phone, my tweets are more afterthoughts than hot off the press news items, as I have to wait until I can get on my laptop at home. I did find out, though, through this medium, a brewery from 30 odd miles down the road, Axholme Brewing Co, would be dropping off a barrel at The Nottingham, in Cleethorpes. Not having tasted their brews before, I had decided to give The Notts, and Axholme a coat of looking at.
But first, the bottles. I started on the lighter “Dr Thirsty's No 4 Blonde” 4.1% from Wychwood.
A lovely fresh tasting Ale, bordering, almost, into the realms of a Continental lager, but with a more bitter taste in the finish. I really enjoyed this, and would love to sample this again, especially in my shorts and flip-flops. The 2  nd offering was Morrison's Marston's brewed Stout, from their “Specially Selected “ range. A good, velvety Stout, at 4.5%. This is just a re-packaged Marston'sOyster Stout”, but a good beer all the same. It is not too adventurous, or bland, just a bog standard Stout. The roasted taste gives way to a slight coffee/chocolate finish, with none of the flavours being too pronounced. It is just what you expect, really. No shocks or surprises. Bathed and ready to go, I jumped on the bus up to Cleethorpes, and The Nottingham. As I entered, the board proclaimed several ales, but not, unfortunately, the Axholme brew I had come in search of. Oh bugger ! Never mind. I ordered a brew I had recently reviewed Rudgate's “Snow Wonder” which was hoppy and fresh tasting on the palate, and was enjoyed just as much as my last experience of this Ale. I followed up with Theakston's “Old Peculiar”, an old favourite of many. 5.6% and having a rich, fruity but not too sweet a taste, a beer to be heralded. This is a true British brewing classic. Great beers served in an equally great pub. What more do you need to encourage you to enjoy the first afternoon of your weekend off. I jumped on the bus back to Grimsby, to meet T'other 'arf in The Hope and Anchor. On entering, Jane was in the company of Big Gaz, an acquaintance of ours since our quiz nights in the nearby Royal Oak, sadly now a solicitors office. We swapped stories of nonsense, cringed, but still laughed at Gaz's earthy humour (aided and abetted by Gaz's workmate, Alan, whose humour was almost as dry as mine !!),passed judgements on various news stories, but, strangely, we mostly discussed that sodding dress. Who cares (well obviously we did, for at least half an hour!) All this discussion was carried out with a pint of “Bomber County”, and a half of “Lincoln Gold” (or was it blue??) from the Tom Woods' Brewery.
I am sure it isn't Black and
White stripes, I think??
Both of these beers are well known, well liked and well reviewed, not only by myself, but many others as well. Suffice it to say, there were plenty enjoying both these brews in here today. We wandered on to our last port of call, The Yarborough, which was quite busy, as usual for Friday evenings. I opted for Elland “1872” a Porter of 6.5% and T'other 'arf fancied the “Welsh Dragons” from Milestones' Brewery, a Golden Ale of4%. The award winning “1872” was smooth, dark and very nice, with a wonderful aroma of aromatic fruits and the coffee and chocolate undertones ever tempting you further into the complexities of this beer, but still remaining balanced, all the way through to the bitter-sweet finish, it is no surprise that this carries a gong or two. The Golden Ale, on the other hand, was clear, extremely zesty, but not outstanding. It was pleasant, without being memorable and that is as poetic one could describe this average Ale. To finish, and to prepare ourselves for Good Ol' Grimsby Fish and Chips, open with scraps, of course, my beer was Warwickshire's Whale Ale Brewery's “Ruby Moby”, a 4% ruby coloured beer which imparted a strong caramel taste from the off, which gave way to a wonderful hop finish. A good old fashioned tasting beer, I thought. Great for a session, or just before Fish and Chips ! Jane decided on the 3.7% “Ruddles Best” , JDW's staple on the pumps. I used to quite like this beers years ago, when it was the only oasis in the desert of kegs and lagers, but tend to overlook it now. I don't know why ? Sweet, nutty and hints of toffee being cut through by a florality, make this Ale nice, not outstanding, but definitely nice. Along with it's Big Brother, the 4.3% “County” which is very similar with just a hint of refinement in the smoother finish, these brews seem stand strong and proud, where others, better beers, shall we say, often fade away when the next fad comes along. Now, where's that chippy?, I hope it's still open !

Saturday was very much taken up with other pursuits, with T'other 'arf and I rising early, (stop making your own sordid details up !) We decided on the suffrage of allotment digging and then baby-sitting. Let's just say it was a blessed relief flopping back onto our own sofa after a hard day tweaking forgotten muscles on our plot, and a rather noisy, hectic and tantrum tinged evening with 3 grandchildren. It was then decided that we may, after shopping and housey bits and bobs, wander out on Sunday for a couple. As the howling wind of the Sabbath greeted us, any lingering thoughts of outside work subsided, so Aldi's became our main focus. To gloss over the myriad of food bargains here, there are quite a few bottled treats here, most at a good price. We chose 4 bottles to share over dinner. It ain't SO bad shopping, is it ? On arriving home, we got on with a couple of little chores, before relaxing with a bit of “catch-up” TV and sharing a bottle of Aldi's “Sainte Eienne” lager (Yes, Lager! ) I found it quite refreshing, if I am honest. Sweet and malty with a hint of biscuit, this 4.8% golden coloured lager certainly surprised me. We followed that by sharing a bottle of Williams Bros. “Chieftain Pale Ale” along with “Bob Servant” on TV. The beer was medium sweet, quite hoppy with citrus flavours noticeable throughout. A very refreshing Ale. The TV? Extremely funny. I know people like Bob Servant, and, sadly, Frank too. I have only just started watching this Neil Forsyth comedy, starring Brian Cox, so I will be chasing up the first series ASAP. I wonder if Broughty Ferry has any Real Ales? “Stewpot !” We finished off at home with half each of Jennings Bitter, enjoyed along with our meal. Dark, nutty and a lovely malt taste greets you, encouraging you further down the glass. The finish is long and satisfying with a slight hoppiness tickling the taste buds towards the end.. What a way to waste an afternoon. After a laze in the bath, we decided on The Wheatsheaf, a good 15 minute walk away, to walk off our dinner, and to finish off the weekend. The “Sheaf” is a reasonable boozer, attracting a varied clientele. Part of the Ember Inns group, there are always a selection of guests' on offer, but not a huge array. This allows you to sample all the wares without falling on your back, gurgling! On offer this evening were, “Rivet Catcher” a 4% Golden Ale from Jarrow,which was fruity with citrus, almost grapefruit, flavours giving it a pleasing kick. Bitter, but not too sharp this beer was very nice and the dry finish, just long enough to enjoy and savour. Next on the list was the standard, it seems, of Ember Inns, Abbeydale's “Moonshine”, a Pale Ale of distinction. It is unashamedly citrus in the main, with a floral nose. A slight candy sweetness comes through towards the end. A damn good beer. We finished off the evening, and our weekend away from work, with Brakspear's Bitter
Reliable as ever.
. A comforting malty bitter, of medium sweetness and slight bitterness, this is just so typical of an old fashioned English style beer. Others have differing tastes and deep complexities, some are wrapped in fancy packs and are suggestive of hidden flavours and tinges, alien to some, but this pint, like the aforementioned Ruddle's, is a reliable beer in a, sometimes, confusing Ale marketplace.

I shall not be partaking again until JDW's International Real Ale Festival, later this month, so until then, as always,
Cheers and keep it “Real”