Monday, 13 April 2015

Winds of Change.

 A few weeks ago, T'other 'arf and I had an afternoon back in Cleethorpes, part of Lincolnshire's holiday Riviera. Taking advantage of the awaiting train from Grimsby to the East Coast resort, a mere 8 minutes later, we alighted at our destination. As is typical, it was peeing it down, which, along with the strong North-Easterly wind (we call these winds “lazy winds. They'd sooner blow through you than go round you), did not suggest anything like a warm welcome. Talking of the weather, I once had a long conversation with an old boy, ex-trawlerman he was, with a face as red and craggy as a mountainside sunset, and a wealth of tales and superstitions from a life at sea. “You know what's the best thing for forecasting the weather, you kid ?” he said, with hardly a mere flicker detectable in those dark, thought filled eyes. “ Pine cone ? “ I chipped in, “....or the clouds, you know cirrus and all them ?” I offered as an aside. “Nah !Bloody pine cones, hah” came his stinging rebuke, “ I'll tell you what. A piece of rope “ I was now to enter in to a nautical secret, I thought, one probably passed down over the years from Man to boy. “You nail it to the fence at the bottom of the garden” was this Sage's priceless information. “Oh, How's that work then ? Is it the strands ? Do they react differently in different weathers?” Here, the vital part of my meteorological education was due to arrive. “No ! You nail it there, then you look out on it every morning. If it's wet, it's raining, if it's dry, it's not, if it's swinging it's windy, and if you can't see it, it's foggy !” Sometimes my tolerance of our previous generation does wear rather thin. Anyway, where was I ? Oh yes, cold and wet, on Cleethorpes seafront. We buttoned up our coats, tightened the scarves and headed on to The Nottingham House. The Notts, as I have reviewed before, is a cracking, traditional old boozer, which is always quite busy. Today was no exception. With a pretty full bar, rugby was on, and the lounge also nearing it's seating capacity, we opted for the snug, at the back, with it's log burner, helping us forget the bracing climate outside. I quickly ordered Marston's “Help For Heroes “ a 4.2% Blonde Ale. This light coloured beer has a slight biscuit taste, which gives to a creamy, but quite tangy, fruitiness. The finish is a little zesty with a slight floral hint. I found that a faint sulphur aroma persisted throughout, which was, rather, off-putting. It was an OK beer, but not great. Next up, we tried York Brewery's “Centurion's Ghost” , a 5.4% Mild. With big hits of caramel, chocolate and fruit, which last all the way to the long and slight bitter finish, this is an excellent beer. The taste is full, but not overpowering. A very well balanced, and easy drinking Ale. The upcoming Beer Festival was well advertised, and noted, which I promised to visit the following week, but that is another story! We had another of the same in here before heading down the road, a full 50 yards, or so, to the former Fisherman's Arms, now, apparently, re-named as Dexter's Ale House.
A Coalition that works !
The choice of beers in here was, again, quite good, and we opted for a pint, and a half of “DNA New World IPA” from Charles Wells, which is brewed by using a reduction of Dogfish Head's “60 Minute IPA”. How that works, I am not sure, but the resulting 5.4 % Ale is worth the effort. A rich biscuit taste gives to a bitter citrus kick, which makes for a very refreshing Ale to savour. A lovely peach taste is also evident. Next, we had a pint of the 3.7% “First Dawn”, a Ruby coloured ale from Caledonian, which was zesty, citrus and fresh tasting, with a good grapefruit taste dancing on the palate, and a half of Bateman's “Spring Goddess”. This Blonde Ale of 4.2% was crisp, dry and very floral. It was extremely refreshing, and a good thirst quencher.
We left here to wander down to the local Wetherspoon, chasing a Festival beer, or two, of which I have already posted about, and then back to Grimsby, and home.

I did manage an early evening at The Notts Beer Festival the following week, which boasted a good selection of beers both on the pump and gravity drawn, although I had tasted quite a few of them before.(I always strive to experience a new beer when possible) Jane was down South, in Kent, visiting her father and I had just finished my early shifts, which prevented me having the time off to drive down there myself. My first beer was from Totally Brewed, a 4% Blond Ale called “Slap in the Face”. This extremely fruity brew, with orange and grapefruit prominent was an excellent starter, and the flavours lasted through to the long finish, leaving one's palate feeling quite refreshed. I followed this with a half each of the dark 4.5% “Sherwood Reserve” from Castle Rock, and Dark Star “American Pale Ale”. The first one was quite malty and heavy tasting, with a strong bitterness to the rich taste. It was not unpleasant, but it did take a couple of good mouthfuls to get used to it, whereas the APA, with it's fruity sweetness, driven by an almost apricot jam-like taste, was very easy to drink, even though it was the stronger of the two beers, weighing in at 4.7% . I was intrigued, and invited to try, the Big Puncher of this festival, namely Burton Bridge Brewery's “Thomas Sykes”. The cake like aroma, followed by a cascade of fruit and caramel tastes, is very evident, with a big fruit packed and syrupy finish. The most noticeable thing about this brew was how easy drinking it was, even at 10 % ABV ! What a good beer this was. I finished on “Cherry Porter”, a 5.5% beer from Firebrand. Another good beer to try, with liquorice and chocolate eventually pushing this ale to the long and bitter-sweet finish. My only complaint of this beer was it seemed a little thin, and this seemed to hold back the flavours at the start, but still a good beer. At this point I dropped my pen on the floor, bent to pick it up, knocking over my bar stool in the process. I picked up the stool, in turn, unable to halt my mobile phone slipping out of my top pocket. I stooped back down, to pick up the phone, again, almost spilling the bar stool. Amidst raised eyebrows and chuckles from around the bar, Mr Bean decided that it was probably time to catch the bus home. Although it was uttered “Good beer, that 10% stuff” and “You don't want many o' them”, I firmly believe the beer wasn't to blame, I think I am just clumsy. Any other comments on a postcard, please! Unfortunately, this was my only visit to this Festival. Maybe next time I will experience a couple or more sessions to this event.

The events of the next few weeks at home were to take us both by surprise, with very different emotions being experienced. Firstly, I applied for, and was accepted in, a new job, which I start very soon. Not long after this, just before Easter, Jane's dad, in Kent, fell ill, and, unfortunately, passed away. With other, more important, matters coming to the fore, you will understand that, over the next few weeks, I may be posting and blogging a little less. We will raise a glass to Tony after the funeral, and celebrate his life.

Cheers and keep it “Real”

Friday, 3 April 2015

A Third in the Hand is worth a pint in the Snug !

 Well, they think it's all over. “Slurp” It is now. The Wetherspoon International Real Ale Festival is, anyway. So, how did it go ? To be honest, I thought the beers on offer in our local JDW's were OK, with some really worth tracking down, whereas others all seemed to be much of a muchness. One noticeable thing about the Festival was that our local selections, and we do "boast" 3 JDW outlets in this conurbation, seemed quite sparse and repetitive at times, but never mind. Luckily with the beers available in "Festival Thirds", I did not have to crawl home once, on all fours,after several pints, singing songs of yesteryear. I'll leave that for another Festival !! Of the 50 brews on offer, T'other 'arf and I managed to taste 35 in all, slightly down on the last festival's total of 47, due to a slight downturn in pub visits, due to work.  In compiling these notes, I decided to include them in order in which they were displayed in the “tasting notes” leaflet.

  1. Elgood's Spring Challenge 3.7% Did not Sample
  2. Hawkshead Jester 3.7% Did not Sample
  3. Robinson's Mojo 3.7% Quite rich and malty, to start, with a fruity flavour cutting through. The finish was crisp, dry and bitter. A good session ale.
  4. Bank's & Taylor's Bedfordshire Clanger 3.8% Did not Sample
  5. Bath Cobblestone 3.8% This Golden Ale was light and very fruity, with peach and, possibly, summer fruits leading one towards a gentle, dry, bitter finish. A good beer, but I felt that this ale just held back on the flavours a touch, which I found unusual, as Bath Ales are usually more “punchy”.
  6. Bank's Archer 4% A very floral aroma is immediately noticeable from this Amber Ale, which has a very citric taste through to the finish. A lovely bitter-sweetness is in the medium finish. A very well balanced beer.
  7. Black Sheep Monty Python's Holy Grail 4% This Golden Ale is filled with fruity flavours and is very distinctive to the taste. Biscuit is there, alongside peach and zesty undertones. We found this extremely refreshing, crisp and dry in the finish, which was quite long.
  8. Devil's Backbone Spider Bite 4% Rather dark in colour, but not a heavy beer. There is a woody taste at first, which is followed by sweet caramel and “bubble-gum” traces, leading through to a spicy kick at the end. I enjoyed this one, but thought the finish was a little on the short side, although still satisfying.
  9. Everard's Ascalon 4% This Brown Ale had a lot going on. Malt, orange zest and a hint of chocolate all create a lovely rounded ale, with an almost perfect finish, which was well balanced.
  10. Purity Rivet 4% Did not Sample.
  11. Mauldons Bronze Adder 4.1% Medium malt taste, but not much else comes to the fore. The finish was short and, well, rather lacking in anything mentionable.
  12. Hyde's Paddock Wood 4.2% This fruity Chestnut Brown Ale is full bodied, wonderfully balanced and a pleasure to sample. The sweetness of the fruit is well complimented by the bitterness in the finish.
  13. Jennings Golden Host 4.2% This Golden Ale was very delicately balanced and had a light refreshing crispness and zesty flavour mixing well with the bitter-sweetness of the barley, throughout. A grassy aroma was also evident. Although light in colour, this was quite a full bodied beer. The dryness of finish made it extremely moreish
  14. Rudgate Brew No 11 Milk Stout. 4.2% A rich, creamy, full flavoured stout. I really looked forward to tasting this one, and was not disappointed. With its lovely creamy head prominent to the end and a nice roasted malt taste to the body, this is one of THE beers of the Festival. A typical, but very good, stout.
  15. Brains' Pocket Full of Rye 4.3% Did Not Sample
  16. Phoenix Play It Again, Sam 4.3% This pale coloured Golden Ale has a light base of biscuit and citrus, which is followed by hints of blackcurrant. The finish is medium sweet. A very pleasing beer, and one to savour.
  17. Celt Experience A False Dawn 4.4% Did Not Sample
  18. Hanlon's New Moon 4.4% T'other 'arf and I tried this a couple of times, at different locations. It seemed to offer so much, as an IPA styled beer, but the over-riding flavour was, well, very woody and resinous. As one guy at the bar advised me, after receiving the 2nd of our tastings, “Had that 'un last week, and it reminded me of when I was in hospital. It tastes like them places smell” Maybe a little over-egging of the pudding by my advisor, but I did think that the taste was too complex and hard to explain. I would not have rushed back for another, even a third !
  19. Morland Tanner's Jack 4.4% Fruit, biscuit and nutty malt flavours abound in this amber coloured Ale. The aroma is floral. A good, but not outstanding, beer. No nonsense to this one. It is certainly not pretentious in any way !
  20. Otter Otter's Progress 4.4% Another Ale which has a touch of woodiness in the aroma. This beer, though, leads you to a lovely bitter sweet taste in the main and the finish is tantalisingly pleasing with grassy notes noticeable.
  21. Dungarvan Irish Stout 4.5% A typically good Irish Stout, brewed in conjunction with Wadworth's. This was smooth, full in flavour, with roast malt and hints of chocolate coming to the fore. Vanilla was there at the long, satisfying finish. Not quite as creamy as some stouts, but nonetheless a good beer.
  22. Lancaster Albion Connection 4.5% This reddish hued Ale was rich, fruity and left a spiciness in the long, bitter finish. Quite well balanced and one of the Festival's better beers.
  23. Mountain Goat Hightail Ale 4.5% The first of 2 Antipodean Ales on offer at the Festival, this one brewed at Hook Norton's Brewery. The initial taste of this amber coloured is roast malt and caramel, but, very quickly, citrus and bitterness join in to ensure a well balanced flavour, which ends with an enjoyable dry finish. A marvellous beer.
  24. Nottingham Salsa 4.5% Light and fruity, with a pleasing hoppy flavour throughout, this Amber Ale was a beer that made one sit back and dream of the upcoming Summer months.
  25. Orkney Puffin Ale 4.5% A Golden Ale with punch. With nut flavours, from the malt, and a sweetness which works well with woodiness and spicy fruitiness, this complex tasting beer offers so much, and, thankfully, delivered it all in a well balanced way.
  26. Wharfebank Othelia Gold 4.5% Did not Sample
  27. Daleside New Dawn 4.6% Did not Sample
  28. Hook Norton Inspired 4.7% Did not Sample
  29. Wolf Lazy Dog 4.7% Did not Sample
  30. Adnams' Jester 4.8% Did not Sample
  31. Caledonian Merman XXX 4.8% Did not Sample
  32. Golden Road California Breakfast Ale 4.8% Another Stateside offering, in conjunction with Adnams', this light coloured beer had a floral aroma, big hit of fruitiness, slight coffee hints and a rich spicy vein running throughout, finishing with a rather smoky taste, just like a barbecue sauce. We found this a very intriguing mix of flavours. I loved it, but T'other 'arf was not that keen on it. Everyone's someone's favourite.
  33. Hilden Nansen Street 4.8% Dark in colour, malty and a big hopped bitterness is the only way to describe this. It is just a good old fashioned Old Ale style of beer.
  34. Acorn Sovereign 5% This was not the best Acorn brewed beer I have ever tasted, but in the context of this Festival, not a bad one by far.It is golden in colour, delicate in taste, with grassiness, and a slight herbal hint, but when the dry finish has run its course, it does not inspire you to order more. It is certainly not a bad beer, no, no way, it's just much of a muchness in taste, and is not that outstanding from many others, or individual.
  35. Bateman's Lincolnshire Red 5% Bateman's many and varied seasonal, or special Ales have always been in the marketplace, and never fail, in my opinion, to please. This particular brew, with a fruitiness, citrus and lime hinted taste was very refreshing, with a tart bitterness in the uplifting finish. Another fine beer from my home County brewers.
  36. Cameron's Vermillion 5% Did not Sample.
  37. Shepherd Neame Boadicea IPA This golden IPA was light in colour, initially, mellow in taste, before a mix of citrus and maltiness washes, refreshingly, over your palate. There is a sharp zest in the finish. A really good beer.
  38. Titanic Wit Stout 5% Rich, black and biscuity, this was a good stout.The finish was dry and smooth. The head clung all the way down to the bottom of the glass. I enjoyed this beer, but that was because it was so simple in flavours and taste. Less is definitely more in this case.
  39. Vale SPS 5% Did not Sample.
  40. Wdaworth Ye Ole Admiral 5% Pale and amber in colour, this Ale is full of taste. A well rounded bitterness at first leads to zest and hints of fruit, with orange hints in the satisfyingly dry and bitter finish.
  41. Barley Brown's ESA 5.1% With Marston's, Tyler Brown offered this Golden Ale. Full, but not heavy, like some American beers, the pleasing biscuit taste, leading on from the initial bitterness, and citrus hints in the finish, make this a complex, but easy drinking Ale.
  42. RCH Boadicea 5.3% This Golden Ale was slightly resinous, but with a light maltiness and a spicy back taste, it all sat together well to produce a refreshing beer. The aroma was distinctly floral and fresh.
  43. Salopian Indigenous 5.5 I was intrigued by this, near black, IPA. The fruit flavours, blackcurrant and berries, sit next to a heavy spice kick, but none seem to demand more than a courtesy mention. A balance that lasts into the zesty,refreshing, but equally understated, finish.
  44. Townshend's JCIPA 5.5% The second of the Antipodean beers offered a full malty aroma, with spice and citrus leading to a sweet, spicy and medium bitter, and dry, finish.
  45. Inveralmond Rascal London Porter 5.6% A very mellow tasting Porter, which, although having an intense spiced aroma, was very smooth and velvety on the tongue. A chocolate, maybe slightly coffee, flavour is evident, and made it quite moreish.
  46. Shongweni Durban Pale Ale 5.7% All the way from South Africa, via Wainfleet (Bateman's), this light, hoppy beer, with hints of caramel, marmalade and spice, was quite a mouthfull. I enjoyed trying to piece together the flavours, but it was not overly distacting from the overall taste. The complexities of this ale really worked well.
  47. Cerveceria Fort English Style IPA 5.8% This Spanish brewers' representation, brewed in Kent at Shepherd Neame's brewery had a full bodied taste, which gave way to a noticeable fruity, mostly raisin, hint. It had an aftertaste of a fortified wine, or port, and the finish was long, dry and extremely refreshing.
  48. Bodebrown Wee Heavy 6% A beer from Brazil, prepared in Scotland at the Caledonian brewery, this dark ruby beer was rich, malty and reasonably sweet. We found it quite easy drinking, even at the ABV strength. Another good beer.
  49. Lighthouse Shipwreck IPA 6.5% We found this Canadian beer, brewed at the Whychwood brewery, quite sweet, fruity, but with pleasant bitterness running through it. The finish was long and dry. Personally, a little too sweet for me, but still a reasonable brew.
  50. Welton's Churchillian 6.6% Did not Sample.

Overall, not a bad line up of beers, with 10 from overseas. I thought that there were quite a few of them a little too similar, but, there again, that is probably inevitable. I recently visited the Nottingham House Beer Festival, which I will write up next time, which, although offering the same number of beers, had many I had tasted many times before. I suppose getting the balance right at these events is a nightmare at times. My favourites ? I suppose that Rudgate's Brew no 11 Milk Stout was, arguably the best stout/porter at this season's bash, but I really enjoyed the other 4 of this style too, and the  Titanic Wit Stout came very, very near. The Lancaster Brewery, Mountain Goat and Boadicea IPA from Shepherd Neame all need a mention, as does JCIPA. The Wee Heavy and Durban Pale Ale both hit the mark,though. Hmm decisions, decisions. My top 3, and in no particular order, therefore were  Shongweni Durban Pale Ale, Rudgate's No11 Milk Stout and Mountain Goat Hightail Ale. A special mention must go to Golden Road California Breakfast Ale, which was certainly an intriguing taste, and, although very complex, worked well.
Thank you for reading my ramblings, and remember, not ALL the 50 were tasted by T'other 'Arf and I, so YOU may have sampled THE Ale of the Festival which may not have been on offer in our neck of the woods.Until the next time.
Cheers and keep it "Real".