Today, Sunday, I am sat here, tapping away at my laptop, looking for some literal inspirations to flow along the communicative strands, which invisibly join the grey matter to my fingertips. Why am I finding this so hard ? Well, today is the second leg of the Vanarama Conference Premier Play-off Semi Finals. I am keeping a close eye on Bristol Rovers' attempts to reach the Wembley final, against Forest Green Rovers. Later, my beloved Grimsby Town will kick off against Eastleigh in the second of today's matches. Already short in the fingernails department, I might have to resort to alcohol to help steady the nerves before the end. I may interject this post with various “Oohs” and “Ahhs” and maybe more random sounds, but don't worry. Sanity will prevail. Well here goes then, with my latest mutterings, musings and mumbles about beery stuff and boozers, I hope you enjoy. As you may, possibly, have read in my previous post, the last few weeks have been very up and down for T'other 'arf and I. I have now finished an intensive 2 weeks off training for my new job, which followed immediately on the back of a trip to Kent to attend the funeral of Jane's father. We have both been very wrapped up in other matters of late, but, thankfully, a little normality is now steadily resuming. During this period, we still got a chance to sample a brew or two, which I am hoping to review for you now.
(It's all over at The Memorial Ground. Bristol Rovers 1-0 v Forest Green. 2-0 on aggregate.)
We started the month off with a couple, or so, beers at home. On offer were Shepherd Neame's “Master Brew”, Belhaven “Black Scottish Stout”, Master Brewers Choice (part of the Shepherd Neame brewery) “IPA” and a bottle of Weston's “Scrumpy” Cloudy Cider. The “Master Brew”, a solid tasting 4% Kentish Ale, has initial maltiness, which gives in to a slight toffeeness, with fruit and nutty undertones rising to the fore. After so many years in the game, (after all, they are Britain's Oldest Brewery) it comes as no surprise that this beer is so consistently good. Belhaven, at 4.2%, I found, was quite thin. It was full of hints and slight undertones, but never really championed any of them. Coffee, chocolate, malt and an overall sweetness are detectable, but soon seem to dissipate, leaving one a little disappointed. It was an OK beer, but nothing special.
(Yeeeeeesss !! Palmer scores for Grimsby. 1-0 up, 3-1 on agg)
The 7.4% cider, I was advised, went down well. Quite sweet, but with a dry finish. Staring at the empty glass, I can definitely vouch for that ! The following week, I picked up a selection of beers from our local corner shop, 3 for a fiver, I think. These were............
(2-0, Lennell John Lewis aka “The Shop” slots it away.)
Sorry, distracted there. Where was I. Oh, yes, I picked up Hook Norton “Hooky Gold”, a 4.2% Golden Bitter, which, although, light tasting, carries a wonderful crisp and zesty punch throughout. This was followed by Titanic “Stout”, a 4.5% brew with a good, roasted malt taste with a good hop finish. A beer that has won many awards, and that is clearly evident. Last up was “Combined Harvest”, a 4.7% Premium Bitter, which is quite sweet, but gives in to an underlying Nutty hint towards the end. Another very reasonable beer from Bateman's.
(Whoo-Hoo 3-0, Palmer again.)
Overall, not a bad selection of beers. I am finding more and more better beers available on the shelves nowadays, not just the bog standard offerings which once graced most outlets all of the time.
(That's it. Wembley now beckons and, ultimately, a place back in the Football League)
Back in Thanet.
We travelled back down to Margate for more sombre events in the middle of April, to bid farewell to Tony, Jane's father. A character who enjoyed life, who had a wicked sense of humour, was, sometimes, blunt and forthright in his opinions, but always, I found, a man who it was a pleasure to “have a yarn” with, and whom we will sadly miss. After a lovely Humanist ceremony, and celebration of his life, we raised a glass in his memory at the Salmestone Grange, a 14th century building, in Margate. No hand-pulled beers, but bottles of Shepherd Neame's beers were available. We didn't venture anywhere on the night-time, just those places our minds wanted to wander, unchecked.
The next afternoon, we wandered into town, and re-visited The Lifeboat Inn. Always a favourite place of mine, you are never disappointed with the range and quality of the local ales, or the charismatic owner, who welcomes all and sundry in his own gregarious way. I started with a wonderful Ale called “Coalman's Porter” from a new brewery based in St Nicholas at Wade, by the name of Attwell's. This was a lovely beer of 3.9%, which had a good choco-coffee taste right through to the end. It was not one of those thin, wishy-washy stouts that pales into insignificance after the first gulp, nor one of those which you need a knife and fork to get through it. This was superbly balanced and a real joy to sample. T'other 'arf chose the 3.5% Wantsum Brewery's “More's Head”. I am a big fan of this brewers beers, and this was another fine Ale. Initial malt gives way to a roasted nut hint, which is followed by a floral, citrus trace in the finish. The last beer sampled was in The Lifeboat was the Ramsgate based Gadd's “East Kent IPA”. This was a full-on 6.5% IPA with a heavy fruitiness in the body, and aroma. The hoppy finish is huge, but the end note is more bitter-sweet than dry. Wow, this is a well crafted beer. We wandered back to “home” picking up a range of local ales from the supermarket, rang for a Chinese take-away, and reflected on our last couple of days
On Saturday, we decided to spread our wings a touch, and, shortly after jumping on the Thanet Loop bus, dayrider in hand, we arrived in sunny Ramsgate.We strolled around the harbour, looked at the various arty shops and, eventually, came to The Hovelling Boat Inn, another of Thanet's great micro-pubs. We walked in, or rather through, looking for the bar, only to be advised that there wasn't one ! “ Just look at the board, order what you want, sit down and I will fetch it to you” And the young lady did. I ordered a brew from a Buckinghamshire brewery called “XT10 Stout”, a 4.5% brew with an excellent full bodied, roated flavour, which is not too overpowering of the delicate hoppiness. Jane chose “Abducation” from the Dancing Duck Brewery. A 5.5% IPA, with a full malted flavour, which sits comfortably with hints of tropical fruits.We followed these with Butcombe “Rare Breed” a 3.5% bitter-sweet Pale Ale, which was extremely refreshing with citrus and floral notes, and a half of Bowman's “Wallop's Wood”. This was another good beer. It is more malt than hopped in flavour and at 4%, a session beer of some note. Very well balanced from the first sip to the lingering finish. We then jumped back on the “Loop”, and ended up in Broadstairs, hunting down the sickly sweet Gipsy Tart, famous in these parts ( I had a sausage roll instead!) before re-acquanting ourselves with “The Thirty-Nine Steps”. We grabbed a swift beer in here, namely Wantsum's “Imperium” a smooth 4% Bitter, which had a lovely biscuit taste to it. Another good beer by this Thanet brewery. With delicacies in hand, we, again, boarded our transport for the return trip to Margate. We, later, popped back out meeting up with family members, as it was our last evening in Margate, and visited the quirky Yard of Ale in nearby St Peter's. Set in the yard of a local funeral directors, this encapsulates what the micro-pub phenomenon is all about. Local beers served excellently in surroundings which would usually be overlooked. We, the customers, don't need acres of bar space, or more chrome finishings than a Harley Davison factory. We just want well kept beer and good company. We certainly got that here. I had a pint of The Canterbury Ales “Merchant's Ale” a 4% Kentish Mild Stout. It was smooth, dark and quite fruity, with malts and a slight hoppy nose. I failed to notice which beer was the chosen half, but I can report that Rhubarb and Strawberry Cider was sampled by our collective. After these we popped our heads into the nearby Red Lion, a lively, but friendly, “local”, We chose the Sharp's “Atlantic” a pleasantly bitter and zesty IPA of 4.2%, before jumping back on the “Loop” into Margate for an Indian meal. With a 5 hour journey awaiting us the next day, that was where the evening ended. The circumstances of our visit were not those we would have chosen, but we are back in Kent later this month when we can, maybe, enjoy the gems this County always offers visitors a little more.
Cheers and keep it “Real”
(Sorry for the interuptions !)