Monday, 31 August 2015

Message in a Bottle

Oh, the red hot summer of 2015 is drawing to a close, with the gossamer kiss of a gentle breeze, caressing one's cheek, soon to be replaced with the ruggedness, associated typically with the the approaching Autumnal months. (Yeah, I know. Summer 2015 was NOT too good. I thought at one stage I had got a tan. It was later diagnosed as rust !, and the wind has been "unseasonal" too. Poetic licence is a wonderful thing to exploit.) Through this Summer, I have found myself turning more towards bottled beers than I would usually have done. This is mainly due to my, and T'other 'arf's, work patterns not quite synchronising, a dose of shingles, suffered in good grace by my half-pint taster, and the Leeds outing. That doesn't mean I have not ventured out, just a little less than expected. Over the last few weeks of Summer, we have, usually, in fact, besides Leeds, exclusively, been frequenting Grimsby's Top Town. The turn of this month found us meeting, along with friends, in The Hope and Anchor, raising a glass to a friend of ours, Big Phil Revill, who sadly passed away, enjoying life in Cambodia, at the age of just 47. He was a big, friendly guy, an ex-taxi colleague of mine who was as soft as, well, you know what, but was built like an outhouse. I have many fond memories of Phil, but I will always remember him, as quite a few party-goers in this area will, as the cabbie who would grow a big white beard, every year, and don a red and white Santa suit for the Xmas rush ! Legend. After swapping a few stories, and a pint or two of Bateman's "XB", their well balanced 3.7% Best Bitter, which is dry, bitter, and perfectly hopped in the finish, but has a pleasing hint of a nutty sweetness running through, we all moved on to Old Lloyd's Bar, a good pub with good music, but no real ale. Oh, well, you can't have everything. Best choice was the Guinness, which was as average as this brew usually is. We ended our celebration of Phil's life in The Barge, some attempting the quiz, others just managing to work out how bar stools work, at the 2nd or 3rd attempt. I have said before how"Bombardier" on here, is, probably, the best pint of this Charles Wells (Wells & Young's as it is now ) beer in the area. It didn't fail this time either. We, the sensible part of the group, bade farewell, and made our respective ways home. The others ? They could still be on there for all we know !! A fitting, if slightly mad, send off.
Big Phil, 2nd right in Cypus 2007.
Another boozy afternoon.

Otherwise, our sampling has been done in The Yarborough Hotel. Our last visit, a refresher after taking my 6 year old Granddaughter for a day's fishing, we sampled, first the wonderfully dark, rich and choco-coffee "Honey Porter" from those wizzards at Milestone's. This Porter was reasonably sweet, with a dryness in the finish. The initial aroma is chocolate, which is evident in the well balanced taste, along with a hint of fruit and a lovely coffee back taste. The honey is there but it is not a big part of the taste, I really enjoyed this beer. T'other 'arf had the Caledonian "Golden Promise" an Organic Harvest Ale of  5%, which leads with a grainy aroma, quite malty taste which leads through to a dry, slightly citrus, but well balanced finish, A very quaffable Ale. Whilst Jane stayed on the Caledonian brew, I moved on to my last drink in here, a brew by USA's Dan Kopman of The St. Louis Brewery, in conjunction with Leicester's Everard's Brewery. "Schlafly", a 4.4%, Pale Ale, and promoted as a session beer, is delicately spiced in the aroma and taste, along with a light caramel maltiness. There is a hint of fresh bread, and a fruitiness combines well in the dry, well balanced finish. We decided to pop home, tidy ourselves up a touch, and have the evening out. We eventually strolled down to The Wheatsheaf, where we were soon sitting outside, with the setting sun's last embers flickering their last, through the trees. In hand, we had a pint of Ramsgate Brewery's "Al Murray's Beautiful British Beer", and a half of the 3.8%  "New World Pale Ale" from Marston's Pedigree stable. The "Beautiful British Beer", at 4%, was a good malty brew, with hints of biscuit, spice and fruit combining well to really lift this beer, so much so that Jane decided to have my pint, whilst I ended up with the half !! I wasn't too disappointed though, as the "New World Pale Ale", a beer I have had quite a few times before, was it's usual dry, zesty and refreshing punch lasting right down to the finish. It always leaves the palate with a satisfying tingle. After a couple more, we wandered down The County Hotel, which had a group on, whose name, sadly, escapes me. Although three pumps bedeck the bar, dispensing different brews. Sharp's "Atlantic" and "Doom Bar"as well as "Black Sheep Bitter". I was not too impressed with the condition of any of them. Very disappointing. The group, on the other hand, were excellent, playing covers of Franz Ferdinand, Bon Jovi, Kinks, among others. The night finished with a Whyte & Mackay whiskey in my hand, boogieing along, embarrassingly, to some great music.
Back to JDW's Yarborough Hotel. On a previous visit here, I had a couple of really good pint, worthy of a mention here. One of these was the 5.1% Wharf Bank Brewery "Yorkshire IPA", a lovely golden, crisp and zesty Ale, which had a hint of floral notes combined with a lovely dry and bitter finish. A really enjoyable IPA. This is a great summertime brew, and would quench many a thirst quite swiftly. The other beer was the quite malty 3.9% American styled Pale Ale from Roosters, "Wild Mule". There is a slight tropical fruit taste in the background, which doesn't distract from that maltiness, and the finish is reasonably dry and bitter. I liked this one, but have spoken to others who thought it bland. Best to make up your own minds I think.

Now, on to those bottles.
As I have mentioned, I have been sampling more by the way of bottles just recently, so I will share with you now some of my humble opinions.
First, "London Porter" from Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range. This 5% beer is brewed by Shepherd Neame and, although a touch thin, isn't too bad. The taste is of chocolate, burnt malt and a hint of liquorice lurks in the background.  For a "home brand", this is quite reasonable, and on par with the other supermarket's offerings.
Fuller's "Honey Dew" is a beer I have also recently tasted in cask form too, and , besides the carbonation being much higher, both variations come out good to the tasting. There is a waft of fresh mowed grass in the aroma, which carries on into the sweet, slightly rich malt body. The honey is there, in  the background, but is not overpowering at all. There is a mild bitterness in the finish of this 5% Organic Golden Ale. Definitely a summer drink, and one for the BBQ parties.
Badger's "Hopping Hare", a crisp and zesty 4.4% beer, is a light coloured Bitter, which is not that heavily hopped in taste, considering it is "thrice hopped", but it is very refreshing, with biscuit, cinder toffee and a hint of citrus fruit in the main, followed by the tangy flash of grapefruit in the medium finish.
Now a true classic, and one that has been well written about for quite a while. It is another from the Fuller's Brewery, one of their most popular brews, "Bengal Lancer". This IPA, at 5.3% is full of flavour and character, with a rich malt and spice, which tantalises the palate , and leads to a sweet, but not sickly, tropical fruit taste, with mango very evident, in the main. The finish is a lovely mild bitter one, not overly long, but one that does linger. A good solid, and well received brew, which deserves all the plaudits I have seen.

I have enjoyed one or two (or so !) bottles of Titanic Stout of late, on offer, among other beers, at the local Spar shop, conveniently situated on my way home from work (so, that's why they are called convenience stores). At 4.5%, this a a very velvety smooth beer, with rich chocolate and a hint of vanilla. There is a nice, warming bitter-sweetness in the pleasing medium finish. 3 for a Fiver ? Bargain.

Back to those random bottles now. Lidl's have recently improved their selection in the beer aisles of late, and one of the beers to take my eye was "Blanche de Namur" a Wheat Beer of  4.5% , brewed by Brasserie du Bocq in Belgium. I am I am getting into these cloudy beers, of late, and this was a very refreshing beer, with a big yeasty punch, and a heavy citrus taste, with orange and lemon at the fore. The mouthfeel is, somewhat, waxy, but not unpleasant. Corriander and a little bit of ginger also make an appearance in this quite complex, but easy drinking Belgian beer. Other beers sampled from here included another Belgian brew,"Bornem Abbey" a 6% Blonde Beer from Brouwerij van Steenberge. A fresh tasting beer, with a perfumed aroma, slight yeast taste and a dry bitterness throughout. Not bad, but I did prefer the previous offering from Belgium. Next up was Badger "First Call", a 4% Bitter with a good, if slightly uninspiring, "earthy" malted aroma and taste. Quite a standard bitter, really, with not a great deal to lift it from being, well, just a bitter. "Yorkshire Gold" from Leeds Brewery, has become a regular on the shelf here, and the bottle is equally as tasty as the cask version, which I have praised in my last post. The last one I will review in this session is Bank's "Mild", a drink which has been around for years. Although a little thin, the flavour is light caramel, a bit nutty and quite sweet. It soon drifts away though, leaving a slightly watery fruitiness, but, at less than a pound a bottle, it is about what I expected. It is not unpleasant, but certainly not a robust Mild Ale. With a few more bottles to review, a Holiday abroad, not to mention a night out in Didsbury upcoming, I will leave it there. Until the next time.

Cheers and keep it "Real".

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