Saturday, 26 December 2015

Hull of a Day Out, and Other Jottings.

The People Bar.
As I sit here writing this, Christmas, with all its baubles and glittery bits adorning many a previously blank facade, is now upon us.We have had a very gradual build up to the  Season of Goodwill, and with bloated stomachs and a promise not to over indulge next time, still prominent in the memory, it is time to take stock of our recent outings, of which, I will share with you now . T'other 'Arf and I managed a nice little afternoon in Cleethorpes on the first Sunday of the month, managing to "tick" a couple of new bars to us during our excursion. We jumped on the bus from Grimsby, and on arriving in the resort, spared no time at all in visiting the recently opened beer emporium, Message in a Bottle. This shop, selling, obviously, bottles of beer, is situated in Cambridge Street, and carries an excellent range of brews, from Local, National and International brewers. The range is quite good, and service is very knowledgeable and friendly. Our next port of call was just a stones throw down the same street, the newly opened People Bar and Kitchen, a small establishment with a nice "feel" to it. The range of Ales is not massive, but adequate, The decor is very simplistic, with good usage of re-cycled pallets intertwined into the bar area. Bateman's "Prohibition Lager" and Meantime "London Pale Ale" being our choices. The "Prohibition Lager", a keg beer of 4%, I found to be quite rounded, with a fruity flavour, which is light and combines well with the hopped finish. A good craft beer. The bottled Meantime brew, at 4.3%, was very dry, with grassy strains mixing with fruit, and leading to a big citrus punch. Also on the bar was Shipyard Brewing Co "American Pale Ale", which was my original order, but there was a problem putting another barrel on, which left the poor staff covered in beer, as they attempted to get it back on. I was offered the half glass already poured, free and gratis, which I accepted, and found it very nice, to be honest. There is a big grapefruit taste to this APA, and a really refreshing  bitter and dry finish. There was a good selection of bottled beers also available. It is very tight in here, and more than a dozen people in here would definitely make the place packed, but we did enjoy our visit, and will be back. Our next pub was Dexter's Alehouse. The Christmas beers were much in evidence, and we went for the "old" favourite, Thwaite's "Yule Love It", and a half of  Tetley's "Christmas Cracker". The pint, at 4%, was just a good Bitter, with a nice malty body, and bitter finish, with a reasonable hoppiness. The only "seasonable" flavouring I could detect was a hint of orange, or maybe tangerine, and a slight spiciness in the finish. The Tetley's was OK, but nothing more than that. There were hints of berries, and a slight nutty taste in the initial mouthful of this rather thin 4.3%  Bitter, with a slight spicy finish, but it failed to get anymore interesting than that. We then proceeded to The Nottingham House, where we sampled four more beers. My first drink was Exmoor Dark, a 4.2% Bitter, with a nice nutty taste nestling among the dark, sweet caramel and a hint of biscuit in the finish. Jane chose the 4.3% Timothy Taylor "Landlord", with its nice fresh taste and fruity bitter-sweetness, which always makes it a Pale Ale to be reckoned with. We followed these up with a half each of Sadler's "Sherlock Bones", a 4.3% Golden Ale with a light malty taste and wonderful, if short lived, floral hints, along with Weetwood "Southern Cross", a 3.6% New World Pale Ale. This beer was light, zesty, with lemon to the fore, and had hints of pine. Although we felt very settled here, we decided to have a mooch about, before heading back home. This is how we ended up in The Riverside Bar. This is a pleasant place, but is more of an eatery/cocktail bar than a pub. With a selection of keg beers, the usual suspects, on the bar, we decided on a couple of bottles. Our picks were Budweiser "Budvar",5%  the original "Bud", from the Czech Republic, with a good malt and hop marriage, and Blue Moon Brewing Co "Belgian White". This 5.4% Belgian White Beer is quite floral and fruity, with lemon and orange peel hints.  Both were unsurprising, really. Next boozer on the list was The Swashbuckle, a real down to earth pub, just a short walk from the railway station. This can be a very lively place, and is host to quite a few characters, at times. It has live music on at times, mostly sing-a-long and crooners. On its day, this can be a real interesting place to "drop anchor". The beer in here was Sharp's "Doom Bar", and was OK, but not outstanding. The people watching, though, was excellent. This is a place you either love or hate, but on some occasions, those emotions, inexplicably, get reversed. Our last place was the previously reviewed bar, The Bobbin. With it being a Sunday, we were, again, treated to live music, which certainly seems to have a positive effect on numbers. I sank another bottle of the 5.6% Anchor Brewing Co "Porter", which I am definitely getting a taste for. T'other 'Arf had a Stowford Press Cider. Aah, what a nice way to end a lazy Sunday Afternoon. Before jumping back on the bus, we also managed a bag of chips each. What more could you ask for?

Monday saw the "Team 1" works night out. It was decreed that we would meet in the village of Laceby, just outside Grimsby, at the 1815 Restaurant, formerly known as The Waterloo (Those with an interest in history will know what year The Battle of Waterloo was fought, the rest of you can just guess!). A good meal was partaken of, and a lovely evening had by all. There was Doom Bar on the pump, but, unfortunately, this was off, and much more welcome on last night's chippy meal. I struggled on with the Worthington's Creamflow until the end. What a hero. We had a good turnout, with Maggie and Mark, Tara and Jess, Tracey, Jim, Mike, and T'other 'Arf and I enjoying the Christmas Menu. No karaoke, no wine stained shirts, and no dirty dancing injuries. Success.

Lion and Key, Hull.
The following day, we decided we would have a bit of a change, and headed for Kingston-upon-Hull, the City of Culture for 2017. Hull is a place which doesn't hide from its down to earth roots. It is rugged in places, and has a working class feel to it. It also has an easy going, friendly, Northern atmosphere to it, which is especially reflected in the Old Town area. On tracing my Family Tree, I found branches of my tree extended into, and grew this area of the City, with a call from the trawlers seemingly too strong to ignore. This, I assume, lead, eventually, to my Ancestors crossing The Humber to ply their trade in Grimsby. Anyway, I will now get back to the review. After a wander around the shops, we headed for the Old Town, deciding to eat, and have a few beers. Our first pub, which was also where we had agreed to eat, was The Lion and Key, on the corner of High Street and Scale Lane. With our Fish and Chip meal, which was well worth the price, and would have sustained a deep sea fisherman for half a voyage up to Icelandic waters, We decided on a pint of Titan "Stout", and a half of Wentworth "Ruby Robin" for our liquid accompaniment to the meal, but the choice was much more than just these two. There are at least 8 or 9 hand-pumps on the bar, with Real Ciders also being dispensed. The decor is very "past times" with old advertising signs and bottles, from brewers long forgotten, adorning this old style tavern. This is a great place to rest, after all that window shopping. The Titan brew, 4.8%,  was dark, with roast oats and caramel in the rounded taste. The finish was long, with a nice dryness on the palate. "Ruby Robin", 4%, was a robust and pleasing Bitter, which had a reasonable fruitiness, balancing the crisp, but satisfyingly bitter malt finish. We both needed a bit of a walk after our lunch, so we decided to waddle down to The Minerva, about a 10 minute walk away, close to The Deep. With fine views over The Humber, this Inn is in a lovely location, although only the brave would sit out and enjoy watching the working boats passing by, on the river. The inside is quite modern, but reminders of yesteryear shine out from the many old pictures, which hang on the walls. Although not as extensive as the previous pub, the beer selection is still quite good, and varied. Our choices here were Five Towns "Nowt", a 6.7% Stout, which was packed with full bodied roasted malt flavours and a great Liquorice taste. A good beer served excellently, whilst Jane decided on a Tetley's "Bitter". This pub also plays host to the smallest pub room in Britain. After our drinks, we strolled back to the Old Town and into
Wm Hawkes
The Wm Hawkes
, a pub opened in an old gunsmiths, in Scale Lane. The decor is very much of the Dickension period, with gas lamps and candles lighting the darkness of the back room. The bar is adorned with 10 Hand pulls, serving a varied selection of real ales and ciders. There is a large choice of spirits too, but, if lager is your tipple, forget it. They do not stock any.A brave choice, some might say, but the correct one, in my opinion. Wentworth "Winter Warmer", and Milestones "Comet" were our chosen drinks in here, with the "Winter Warmer" weighing in at 4%, imparting a dark malt and fruit mix, with a bitter-sweet finish. I thought it was a bit thin, really, but not bad tasting. "Comet", a Christmas regular, was quite light, with hints of fruit, with biscuit also present in this 4.2% ale. It isn't a classic, but OK all the same. Next stop was straight across the road, and into The Manchester Tavern, a cheap, friendly, if rather ordinary Marston's outlet. We decided on a half each of Banks's "Sunbeam" and Marston's "Pedigree". Both drinks were delivered perfectly. I have reviewed both of these beers before, so I shall not repeat myself. Our last port of call, before our bus trip home, was Walters. a pub which has scored a few accolades over the last few years, This sister pub to The Lion and Key, and Wm Hawkes, has a more modern look, although retro album covers  are the wall decorations. The beers are mostly local, and the bar boasts Hull's largest selection of Real Ales. As time was short, I only managed a pint in here, but it was a good one.BAD "Chocolate Invasion", a 5.5% Porter is a nice chocolate infused beer, with just a trace of mint in the background. The dark malt really shines through, and the subtlety of the background flavours do not obscure that, only compliment it. Drinking finished, and shopping, in the main, avoided, we hopped on the bus home. Any visit to Hull must include, where possible, a trip around The Old Town. Besides the four pubs I have mentioned, there are quite a few others dotted around, equally as good, like The Old Black Boy, and Ye Olde White Hart, each with its own character, and all steeped with the maritime history of this area.

Retro in Walters.
Since then, we have had a couple of little trips into town, tasting a few of those Christmas brews, but these can wait until next time, when I will try to get down my thoughts about these seasonal ales.Until then, seasons greetings, Cheers and keep it "Real".

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Dark Skies May Cloud My Day...

I seem to have been reasonably busy in the partaking of those Ales of late. I am certainly making up for lost time. Towards the back end of November, as my rest days from work fell right, I managed a trip, or two into town. This was to , later, include a day in Cleethorpes, and a mini tour of Hull’s Old Town added to the afore mentioned, as we entered the Christmas period of December. More of the Cleethorpes and Hull trip next time, but firstly, let me bring the November tastings up to date.
Inbetween Stout & Mild for
this Brown Ale
November’s late offerings were, usually, in JDW’s two Grimsby establishments, The Yarborough Hotel and The Ice Barque, but not exclusively, and combined a bit of shopping, (I needed some bits and bobs for my Xmas Cake and Puddings, or that was my excuse) a curry evening, JDW's Monday Mayhem and a touch of Black Friday shopping, but not in those bloody sales! We also had the rarity of a Saturday Night out together, which was very pleasant indeed. The beers have been, somewhat, interesting, with the Christmas Ales making, in my opinion, an early bow alongside the variations of the expected Autumnal beery delights. One non-Christmas beer of note, which was greatly enjoyed, was a beer from the Sudwerk Brewery, from Switzerland, in conjunction with Everards. The beer in question was “Inbetween”, a 4.8% Brown Ale, which was very much like a Mild, or possibly a Stout,  with a wonderful almost black colouring, with burnt caramel and malty nut taste prominent. The finish was bitter-sweet and dry, and very satisfying. Another very satisfying beer I experienced was Caledonian “Winter Brau”, which imparted a lovely spiced flavour, cinnamon and nutmeg especially, leading to a combination of fruit and lovely dark malts, not dissimilar to a Christmas pudding. This one definitely complimented my curry in JDW’s on the night in question. We have also sampled, during the penultimate month of the year, Milestone’s “Magna Carta”, a Blonde Ale of 5%, which had a good Tropical fruit taste, and was well hopped, “Comet”, from the same brewery, a fruity and pleasant Bitter of 4.2%, which has a good dry finish, O Hanlon “Goodwill”, a 5% beer with orange hints combining well with the subtle spicy taste, and Three Kings, from Coach House. This brew weighed in at 6%, and was very heavy in the fruit flavours, with vanilla strains also finding the way to the palate. There was a big bitter and dry finish, but it just did not seem to balance too well, leaving you glad to finish it. It was OK, but that is as far as it went. In between these beers, T’other ‘Arf has been very pleased on the re-appearance of the JDW’s “Mulled Cider”, served piping hot, and with a nice mixed spice flavour throughout. I don’t mind a little taste of it, but find it a touch sweet. What was Jane’s opinion? “Ooh, so nice, it’s really lovely”.
The madness of Black Friday by-passed me just a touch, but with my half-pinter working in retail, I did hear how hectic it was. Not wanting to miss out totally, I decided to nip out for a couple of bargain beers, or, rather, beers at the usual price which I pretended were cheaper. I started in The Curious Cat, and selected the bottled version of “Old Engine Oil”,
Poor picture, Good beer!
which Harvistoun put out at 6%. This is dark, rich and very smooth, with a fabulous bitter-sweetness stretching from first taste to the last. Leaving here, I popped into The Yarborough, where I had a pint of Bath Ales “Festivity”, and “Nutcracker”, Everards winter offering. I found the 5% “Festivity” a wonderful bitter-sweet Porter, which had chocolate, liquorice and vanilla combining well with a dark fruit flavour. There were hints of spice, but it was, for all that, not too complex. The “Nutcracker”, also at 5%, was far fruitier, very malty, with a caramel vein running through it, culminating with a well-balanced, and greatly appreciated, bitter-sweetness.
The last hoorah of the month was our Saturday Night out. After dropping the youngest pair of our Grand-children off, I started off in The Hope and Anchor, whilst I waited for T’other ‘Arf to arrive. After waiting 2 or 3 minutes for the bar maid to finish her texting, I duly ordered a Tom Woods “Bomber County”, which was poured, as is usual, three quarters up the glass, at which point, money was exchanged, and the beer left to settle, as the texting resumed. A further period of time passed, until a polite cough was issued by my good self and a glare and tut received in return. The message was finished and my service re-commenced. This charade restarted on the arrival of T’other ‘Arf, and her eventual serving experience. This is not good for a pub’s business with only 6 other punters leant against the bar, surely? The beer was OK, but not outstanding, and we soon re-located into The Barge. Surprisingly, the beer in here was not up to its usual top quality. I have always though that the best pint of Wells “Bombardier” in the area is served in here, but on this occasion, it just lacked the brightness and crispness I have come to expect of this bar’s wares. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was still a good pint, but it just was not as good as I have tasted before, especially in here. We left here and made our way, a short distance, to Old Lloyds. This is not a regular boozer for us, but a change is as good as a rest, as some say. This is a place where rock music is the staple, and the natural habitat of older Rockers, and the Goth fraternity. On entering, we espied Doom Bar on the single pump, unfortunately, it wasn’t available, although the brilliantly helpful bar staff did try to source me a pint of it, but just pulled a much clearer liquid through the pipes instead. Next time, maybe, next time…Not deterred, I went for “Caffreys” instead, whilst “Strongbow” was taken by Jane. We stayed in here for an extra pint, and half, mainly enjoying the music, and feasting our eyes on the clientele of this establishment. It is nice to be in such an amiable pub, and we hope that they sort the Real Ale problem out soon. We visited The Curious Cat next, where I had the previously reviewed Meantime “Chocolate Porter” to begin with, followed by another  “Old Engine Oil”. Jane decided on an expertly made “Moscow Mule”. It was interesting to see all the various cocktails being concocted in here, with smoke, vapours liquids of various colours and strengths shaken, stirred and gyrated. Alchemy at it’s very best. We finished our night out in The Yarborough Hotel, where, in a flat and quite boring atmosphere, our final drinks, a pint and a half of Caledonian “Winter Brau”, were taking in a subdued silence, as a depressing "mumble, mumble" enveloped us, before we escaped to the excitement of the local Kebab House. That was that, a couple of weeks of easing ourselves from autumn to the winter period. December was now beckoning, and we were not to turn away, merely embracing it as well as we might. December already had a few pencil strokes jotted in my mind's diary, which I would turn into bolder strokes soon.
Until the next time, 
Cheers and Keep it “Real”

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Home for the Festival.

A great bar near Lincoln Station.
After the recent Nottingham trip, my previous post, it was back to all   that North East   Lincolnshire could offer. With the days definitely shortened, the sunshine hours giving way to persistent, depressing and, certainly, not in the least, glamorous wind, rain and general gloom. Oh, joy! The Journey back from Nottinghamshire to Lincolnshire, on the very punctual 15-29 train, necessitated a 50 minute stop at Lincoln. Previous knowledge of the County’s capital City meant that we knew, with the time being tight, the best place to refresh our thirsty selves, and still be in time to finish our trip home. Our hostelry of choice would be The Treaty of Commerce, on the High Street, about 250 metres from the station. I have popped into this Bateman’s run pub quite a few times over the years, and found it very friendly, and offers a reasonable range of the brewery’s ales, and, usually a couple of guest beers. This time was no exception, and I decided to fore go the XB, XXXB, and other brews on tap, to try a pint of “Impy Dark”, from the Brampton Brewery. This 4.3% Mild was jam packed with wonderful chocolate and coffee flavours, and the bitterness in the finish is well balanced with a hint of sweetness. If in this neck of the woods and, like us, have a little while to waste between trains, this is a great place to drop into.

Upstairs at The Matrix Bar
Festival Time.
The rest of the journey back was, well, uneventful. On disembarking, we nipped into the adjacent Yarborough Hotel, where we had a pint and a half of Goff’s “Lancer”. This was a Golden Ale of 3.8% which was reasonably malty, but with a nice fruitiness in the after taste. The finish was dry and not bad at all.  We had (or rather, I) an idea of shooting home, dropping of our bag, a quick spruce up and back out to The Grimsby CAMRA Beer Festival, but with the rain now teeming down,accompanied by a stiff, cold Northerly blast, we decided to curtail our evening there and then. A busy day “grand-parenting” followed on Saturday, so by teatime we were ready for a drink or two. With this in mind, and in bloody awful weather, of the same type as yesterday, but more ferocious,  we put our heads down and staggered to and The Matrix, a student venue next door to JDW’s,Yarborough Hotel  in Grimsby for the local CAMRA branch’s 2nd Annual Beer Festival. We arrived windswept, soggy but not beaten, at the bar situated upstairs, and were met by quite a reasonable selection of 22 of the 24  brews previously advertised, along with  4 Real Ciders. By the end of the evening's events, we had managed to “complete the card” between us, so  to speak, mostly in ½ pints. The list and my notes are as follows.

Axholme Brewing Company "Cleethorpes Light " 4.4%
Fruity, light and full of hoppiness. Buckthorns from the sea at Cleethorpes are used to add a nice tang. Very nice indeed.

Bellhaven "80 Schilling" 3.9%
Rich, smooth ruby coloured beer, with a nice caramel sweetness backing the bitter, dry finish.

Bateman's "Salem Porter" 4.7%
An old favourite which is full of fruit and nut flavours, and hints of biscuit. Liquorie, spice and nuts also combine to make this an excellent beer.

Double Top "Wonderland" 4.4%
Another Ruby Ale, well hopped

Fulstow Brewery "Hewitt's Strong Ale" 7.5%
A beer brewed for the first time in over half a century. This was a dark, robust beer, and had a lovely dryness in the finish. I hope it is on offer again soon. I can't wait until I reach 102 for my next taste of it !

Fulstow Brewery "Soulby Sons & Winch Ltd Pale Ale 5%
A nice crisp Pale Ale with coffee hints

Great Newsome "Sleck Dust" 3.8%
Very floral, increasingly dry, and good bitterness in the finish. Great session ale

Harvistoun "Bitter and Twisted" 3.8%
Another old favourite, which is rounded, with malty sweetness and hints of fruit in the main taste which leads to a complex and zesty in the finish.

Horncastle Ales "Wicked Blonde" 3.9%
A very fruity session ale which imparts lovely citrus flavours in the finish

Imperial Brewery "Black IPA" 5%
I like these black IPA's, and this one was very nice indeed. Dark, hoppy and bitter-sweet to begin, and plenty of dry citrus in the refreshing and long finish.

Intrepid Brewery "Trade Mark IPA" 4.5% 
A lot of flavours, honey, citrus and hints of tropical fruit, and a long hoppy finish make this a big punchy beer.

Lincoln Brewing Company "Friendly Rottweiller" 4.5%
Another crisp, dry session beer, with subtleties in the hopped finish.

Lincoln Brewing Company "Great Tom" 3.7%
A good dark ale, mild like, with hints of chocolate, and coffee, Fruit and a balanced bitter-sweetness lead to a long enjoyable finish.

Mr Grundy "Big Willie" 4.3%
A very crisp, dry Golden Ale, with good bitterness at the end.

Rowett Brewery "Six Hour Lunch" 4.2%
An unfiltered, unfined Bitter from a local (North Thoresby) nano-brewery. A very nice beer, with subtle fruit and hops throughout, and a crisp finish. I will look out for more beers from this brewer.

Rowett Brewery "Rowetts Stock Ale" 7.5%
A big warming mouth-feel greets the drinker of this brew. Aged in Whiskey barrels and double fermented using historic yeast strains, this is a true classic ale. Tasting notes suggested dried fruit, burnt sugar, leather and tobacco. Sound like a used sofa ! The taste, though, was absolutely wonderful.

Sheffield Brewing Company "Crucible Best" 3.8%
A mish-mash of flavours make this beer interesting. Sweet fruit and harsh bitterness, with citrus and caramel all come together to balance perfectly. Not bad at all.

Sheffield Brewing Company "Five Rivers" 3.8%
Another easy drinking beer from this brewer. This one was a lot more floral and hoppy in the finish. Light, refreshing and pale in looks. Hints of grass also evident.

Wentworth "Firecracker" 3.8%
A Session Bitter with the taste of cinder toffee in the finish. OK, but a touch ordinary.

Wentworth "Vanilla Stout" 4.5%
The vanilla, alongside the well balanced coffee hints combine excellently and lead to a lovely bitter finish in this wonderful Stout.

Willy's "Festival Special" 3.9%
An American inspired bitter, which was quite reasonable. Big in hop flavours, but still a little subtle. Nice bitter-sweetness.

8 Sail Brewery "Chocolate Stout" 4.6%
A good solid stout, with nice flavours. The chocolate bitterness is still quite smooth, and keeps on coming right through the long satisfying finish.

Overall, not a bad festival. Not the biggest, or best I have visited, but a really good showcase for Real Ale for this area.The beer range was quite good and varied.  The venue chosen was OK, but not really ideal, and I understand the financial reasons to it being held at this venue, but as the downstairs started to fill with students, and grunge music volumes increased, it did  drown out the folk based entertainment, which was going on in our dark loft area, more than a touch. Hopefully, next years bash will, again , fall on my days off, and I hope this local Festival goes on for many years to come.
Oh, one last thing. Thanks to my Name card win, I did manage to procure a bottle of Grants Whiskey. Happy Days.
Cheers and keep it "Real"