Tuesday, 7 November 2017

We Had Joy, We Had Fun, We Had Craft Beer In The Sun...

Jane and I have been really fortunate to enjoy two Mediterranean breaks this year, both times we found ourselves returning to previous haunts. Firstly, in June, we visited Malta and Gozo, following up with a September excursion to Cyprus, which took in the Paphos area as well as an overnight stay in The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. As was expected, the weather was fabulous in our chosen locales during our visits which was very encouraging for us to move in the direction of liquid refreshment. So, out and about, what did we discover on our re-visits to these wonderfully picturesque and very hospitable Island nations lapped by the Blue Azure sea.Well, let's find out.

Malta and Gozo

After spending a week on Honeymoon here last year, and enjoying a few of the beers ( Reviewed Here ) we decided to return for a fortnight this year, and soak up a bit more of what the islands had to offer. I was especially on the lookout, as always, for a few different beers and ales, and craft ale bars, which my research had showed me existed across the Islands. We arrived late evening at our resort, so had a low key first night. Staying in Mellieha again , we sank a couple of Farson's Hop Leaf  beers and Cisk  Lagers locally, before turning in. Tomorrow I would have my "beer radar" tuned in and turned on and the search for new beers to review would start in earnest.
Catching up with Farson's
A trip to the supermarket the following day threw up the usual Farson's offerings, but I did manage to get my hands on a trio of this brewers' beers that I had managed to miss out on last year. First up was Farson's "Double Red". This 6.8%  Premium Strong Ale has a big, bold sweet malt body but is well balanced with a back hop bitterness. The hop bitterness carries on to the finish and helps create a rather palatable brew, especially in the hot sunshine. The second brew was Farson's India Pale Ale 5.7% This is a light, quite floral IPA with just a hint of hoppy bitterness at the back. There is some well balanced malt sweetness within the body, and I found it a very enjoyable beer. At 9%, Cisk Strong was the last of the three I sampled, which puts my tastings of this brewer's wares up to a round dozen. Strong is quite sweet, but not cloying, and there is a dark fruit lacing to the opening. The high ABV is quite well disguised and the finish has a sort of sherry barrel infused warmth. I was surprised at how drinkable this one was, especially after some "cheap" beers I have suffered at these inflated strengths. Speaking of which, may I introduce to you Cody's. These beers are brewed by Oettinger Bier Gruppe, Germany and the two I purchased from the local supermarket were very cheap. Cody's Extra Super Strong, 12%, was very sweet, sickly, and every percent of alcohol within was evident. Spicy on the back of the palate, but not in a nice way, which leads to an unbalanced alcohol burnt finish at the back of the throat. This was not a good brew. The "lighter" 8.9% Super Strong was a touch more palatable, but was still too sweet, cloyingly so, and still imparted an awful alcohol burn as it went down. I felt these were beers made for a certain market, those who wanted to reach a certain state of stupor as quickly as possible for whatever reason. I wouldn't have them again. They were certainly not to MY liking, but each to their own.
Other bargain bucket beers we encountered included a refreshing but rather thin and watery lager, imported from Poland's Van Pur SA, by the name of Barley Classic. At 4% it merely acted like flavoured water in the heat, and as cheap as 50 cents in some places, I could see why it sold. We also encountered the EU brewed (no specific location but for Malta's Cassa Camilleri), 1565 Victory Lager. This, brew at 4.5%, was another no frills, average Euro-beer, which was slightly sweet, medium grass notes at the back with an OK, medium finish. We also discovered, in the Spinola Bay Labour Party bar, cans of Zagorka Special Lager.This, too, was a run of the mill beer. Imported from Bulgaria, it slaked a thirst, but very little else.
You must be wondering by now if, besides some of the Farson's range, there are any half decent beers in this small archipelago. Well I can tell you that Craft Ales and Bars are available, especially if you do limited research beforehand. Lord Chambray, based in Gozo, Phoenix Raw Beer, produced in Naxxar, and Stretta, a Euro-brewed beer made from a Maltese recipe, are all in evidence if you look beyond the numerous tourist bars, and in Sliema there is a micro-brewery and pub, The Brew, which is now producing its own beers. So, are any of them any good? I'll begin with the Lord Chambray beers, or rather the ones I didn't get round to sampling last time.

Lord Chambray Special Bitter. 3.8%
Quite a nice brew, with a good dry bitterness throughout. The finish has a reasonable citrus twang to it. I would say this is nearer a Pale Ale in style than a Bitter. An enjoyable beer.

Lord Chambray Golden Bay 5.2%
Another refreshing brew, with medium malt and hop notes. To be honest, I found this one just a touch on the plain side. Pleasant, but just lacking in interest.

Lord Chambray Winter Ale 8%
I really liked this one, my favourite from the Lord Chambray Brewery. Full flavoured, with dark fruit and a medium sweet malt combination at the outset. The spice kicks in next, with cinnamon and nutmeg springing out to announce themselves. The finish is smooth and packed with fruity flavours and a good bitterness that creeps in. A very good winter ale, drank in near 30 Celsius.

That concludes this brewery's beers, with the exception of Flinder's Rose, which is a seasonal brew which wasn't available when we were there. All in all, they are not too bad at all. They are available at quite a few bars, restaurants and the bigger supermarkets. They are not the cheapest of beers, but they are worth a try if you come across them. The other Maltese Craft Ales I have included below.

Stretta India Pale Ale No 1 6.3%
Stretta & Rust
 in La Bottega
A confusing bloodline precedes this beer, crafted from a Maltese recipe. The bottle label states "Brewed & Bottled: Brouuwerij Troost Westergas, ....Amsterdam" but on line sources state the brewer as Opperbacco, an Italian micro-brewer. Whoever brewed this IPA, they certainly did a good job of it. Smooth malt at the outset with floral notes coming through, just a hint of oranges is detectable at the back. There is a wave of tropical fruits, some yeast esters, then a long, crisp citrus edge that works its way to the bitter and dry long finish. Very nice. We still have the new Stretta Muzajk Atlantic Pale Ale to sample the next time we visit.

The Phoenix Raw Beer
A collection of 4 beers, brewed in Naxxar. These bottle conditioned ales are reasonably easy to find, mostly in the craft bars around the island. Here are my reviews of the range.

Blonde, Floral Ale. 4.7%
Quite effervescent on uncapping. First taste is sweet malt. There are veins of honey, yeast esters and soft fruit also in the opening mouthful. This then leads to a more balanced bitter-sweet finish with a touch of grassiness right towards the end. Not bad, just a tad too sweet for my palate at the start.

Rust Rabat Ale. 3.9%
An English style Bitter with good malt and a hint spice tones and the start. Hoppy and dry at the finish with a hint of citrus bitterness. Quite well balanced.

Rubin Double Ale (Dubbel). 6.5%
Rich roast malt opening with toffee and caramel enveloping the taste-buds. Dark fruits linger and spice combines with citrus notes  towards the reasonably long finish, which is crisp and very dry.

Tar Robust Porter. 5.1%
The first thing noticeable is the carbonation, but after the opening gush, chocolate, coffee and cinder toffee creeps out. It is quite well balanced and eventually yields some dark fruit at the back. A good bitter dryness is at the finish.

All taken into consideration, these are not too bad. Are they World award winning ales? I doubt it, but they are not bad beers at all. They are an enjoyable distraction from the usual and I would not hesitate to have another of any of the range. I do think the fizz needs sorting out a bit though, which is going to be hard to control in these temperatures, I would imagine.

The Brew Bar and Grill.
A micro-brewery and bar  producing its own beers on the waterfront in Sliema. On our couple of visits, it had 5 of its 6 beers on tap. The missing beer during our stay was Vienna a 5% Pale Ale.

Pilsner. 4.8%
This is a nicely hop bittered beer, with just a hint of tartness to add interest. Long bitter and dry at the end with a touch of yeast esters towards the final fling. Very refreshing.

Honey. 5.3%
Sweet, but not cloying, with a nice caramel taste before the floral honey notes arrive. The finish is nice, bitter and long. Quite nice, if you are a fan of honey beers.

Dark. 5.5%
Chocolate and dark fruits are the backbone of this one. After the well balanced opening sweetness comes a good bitterness, which is carried on to the end and leaves a tart aftertaste. Simple opening, complex finish. Nice one.

Golden Ale. 6%
A fruity and quite creamy ale. Berries at the back and nice yeast esters at the finish. Very refreshing.

Ginger Ale. 4.5%
Now, if you were expecting a "Crabbies" style ginger beer, forget it. This is a good malty beer with a nice rounded pale ale styled taste, but with a subtle ginger infusion. It is extremely well balanced and the infusion of ginger at the back really works well.

The Beer Menu in
67 Kapitali
Not a bad selection of "home" beers, but add to that a quite adequate selection of International beers, spirits and cocktails, this is a good place to drop anchor, people watching, with the dramatic backcloth of Valletta's skyline and Manoel Island, and enjoy the sun and beer. Speaking of bars, there are an increasing number of Craft Ale bars dotted around the Island. Starting in Sliema, well, just next door in neighbouring Gzira, just a 10 minute walk from The Brew, we found Good Thaimes. This laid back bar is tucked away just a street back from the main road and just beyond the entrance to Manoel Island. It has another reasonable selection of International bottled beers, among them quite a few Belgian brews and a good selection of the Maltese Craft Ales. One we missed out on was
The Hole in the Wall, which also gets good reviews for its ales. Across in Valletta, the Craft Ale scene is also beginning to take off. We had a couple of day trips here and enjoyed the hospitality of two really good bars. First, La Bottega, in Merchants Street. This is a small coffee shop styled bar. On entering, the array of beers available soon manifests themselves to you from the shelves. The staff are very friendly and have a good knowledge. It is another place to watch the world pass by, accompanied by a good cold Craft Ale. The next bar on our list of the Capital was 67 Kapitali. Now this is a must-visit place for beer drinkers. Owned by English ex-pats Lena and Dom, this bar, in Bakery Street, has a wonderful vibe. it is also the only place we saw Craft beers on tap, and an excellent selection of beers from all over the world. Lena and Dom are really serious about beer, and never shy from answering any questions about the cafe-bar's wares.The rest of the staff we met were also enthusiastic about their beers and ales too. A truly excellent way to unwind in Valletta. There are a few other bars in the city offering Craft Ales, StrEat Whisky Bar and Bistro and Gugar Hangout Bar are two of the others nearby although we didn't have chance to visit them. St Julian's Band Club, Spinola Bay, is a good bar to drop into in St Julian's. Along with the usual Farson's selections, one will find a fridge of Craft Ales too. This being a local band club, the prices are cheaper than many of the surrounding hostelries, although Tony's Bar, just across the way from here, also offers a limited number of Craft Ales at a reasonable price. All taken in to account, this was another enjoyable break in Malta and Gozo, a place we hope to return to again in the future.

Cyprus. Both sides of the Green Line.

The last time we were in Cyprus (Here) we stayed in the centre of Paphos and were lucky enough to be shown around by good friends of ours, taking in, among other highlights, the great Aphrodite's Rock Micro-Brewery and Brewpub based in nearby Tsada, which produces some very good Real Ales on the Island, not to mention fantastic meals. This time we wanted to see what other beery offerings were out there. During our previous visits, we had always enjoyed the two best selling Cypriot brewed beers, Keo and Leon, and this time they again tasted just as good in the heat of The Med. We were based just south of Paphos airport in the village of Mandria, at the home of our friends with a very loose schedule, apart from an overnight stay over the "Green Line" in The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus later in the week. Arriving late on Sunday evening meant our first foray out was not until Monday afternoon. We were offered the use of the car, after chauffeuring Geordie, one of our hosts, to the beautiful Aphrodite's Hills Golf Club for a round. Golf isn't our "gig", so this type of round was not for us, so after a little while, we were again on the B6 road, heading towards the British Sovereign Base Area of Cyprus around Episkopi, eventually stopping at The Bottle Shop, a lovely well stocked off licence on the outskirts of Ypsonas, near Kolossi. I had heard of a brewery around here, True Ale, run by a Russian family, which was producing four bottled craft beers, so this shop offered a good starting point to find them. Unfortunately, I was informed by the shop proprietor of some "exploding" bottle issues with their wares so these, we were told, had been recalled. That meant we had drawn a blank on them on this occasion. More of that to come. Whilst we were here I decided to grab a couple of beers anyway, it would be daft not to, and eventually I decided to pick, amongst the ample bottled stock, two beers from Belgium. We sampled these later, back at base camp, although Jane, who had chosen her favourite Cypriot tipple, ouzo, back at the shop, declined, preferring to enjoy that instead. First up was Floreffe Bierre d'abbaye Prima Melior, 8%, a beer with sweet caramel as its backbone, followed by liquorice and dark fruits lurking before a very long slightly bitter finish. Next, Waterloo Triple Blonde from Anthony Martin Brewery. This is a lovely fruity brew with some yeast esters at the back, with a floral kick coming through. The finish is very dry and moreish. A mixed start to my Craft Ale quest then. I would eventually track the True Ale beers a little closer to our holiday base, at The Wooden Pub 1 in Paphos a few days later. After the wait, and anticipation, I was reasonably pleased to actually have them in front of me. How did they fare? Well, not so good. Here are my reviews.

Muddy Water ?
True Ale Porter. 4.5%
A very thin tasting brew, slight hints of liquorice and a faint dark fruits lacing, but not much else. It is very lively, in fact too lively which is reflected in the dirty-looking pour. It is not a memorable beer at all.

True Ale Blonde Ale. 2.5%
A touch of orange and soft fruits in the opening taste, bread and yeast esters then seep in. The flavours are too subtle and this, again, gives it a very thin taste on the palate. The finish is very short and leaves very little to get excited about.

True Ale Pale. 3%
This one is easily summed up. It is better to be concise about these as one would struggle to expand further. This Pale is a bit fruity, a bit yeasty, a bit boring.

True Ale Wheat. 3%
Three down, one to go. Surely this one will bowl me over. This was served with a slice of orange, as suggested by the knowledgeable staff member who served me, which was a good idea. The beer had no taste at all, pre and post orange slice, but the orange slice was very nice and refreshing.

I had been given fair warning by the bar staff that these were not the best beers on offer here, this is a Aphrodite's Rock Brewery pub after all, but if you don't try, you can't comment. I was also advised about the high price too. I have to agree that these beers have a long way to go before I would sample them again. They are too expensive, coming in at €5.90 a bottle, too weak in ABV and just lacking in any taste. Add to that the vesuvius style uncapping and you can see major improvements are needed. I hope these problems can be ironed out and, maybe, my next visit will yield a few positives for this brewery.

The outlets for Craft Ales in the Paphos area is a touch limited, although most supermarkets sell one or two British bottled beers. The beers in the bars are the usual suspects, although more are stocking the Aphrodite's Rock beers, which is good to see. Incidentally, Aphrodite's Rock have also opened a second outlet in the resort, The Wooden Pub 2, just standing back from the Tomb of the King's Road, which is very good to see. On our previous visit to Paphos, Everards' Beacon, brewed under licence on Cyprus, was on tap in a few bars but this trip we noticed that this seems to have been replaced by Wadworth's 6X. We assumed this is by similar agreement. There is, however, an excellent Beer and Cider shop, by the name of The Beer Sellar, on the edge of the main town, heading towards Geroskipou (Anthipolochagou Georgiou Savva 34, to be more accurate) This is owned by Athos, who also has The Old Fishing Shack Pub. Now, if you want to talk passionately about ale, beer and cider, surrounded by  a massive selection of world beers, and stock up on a few bottles, this is the place to go. Athos will share his knowledge freely to like-minded connoisseurs of the brewers art and steer you in the right direction. On our visit we managed to pick up a great selection of beers from the Greek Micro-brewer Septem. Each represents a days of the week. As we know, the eighth day was when the Big Man upstairs created beer. Here is my sampling notes.

Septem Monday's Pilsner. 5%
A nice well hopped Pilsner, with lovely grassy back-taste. There is a smooth fruitiness, a hint of citrus and a rounded bitterness at the finish. A very well balanced beer, and a very refreshing  Pilsner.

Septem Wednesday's Wheat IPA. 6%
Bitter orange and sweet caramel are the opening gambit of this IPA. Citrus zest gently envelops the palate soon afterwards. The citrus zest then drives this beer to a dry and bitter finish. A really good IPA.

Septem Thursday's Premium Red Ale Beer. 4.5%
A big malty brew with dark fruits and caramel combining to give this beer a real solid base. There is a tingle of spice evident which stimulates the taste-buds with gentle warmth. The finish is very long and dry.

Septem Friday's Pale Ale. 4.7%
A really nice pale,with a smooth rather earthy taste. A touch of grass, some floral notes at the back and a lovely bittersweet finish that is incredibly well balanced.

Septem Saturday's Porter. 5.5%
Roasted malt and slight burnt toffee hints are in the opening to this beer, which adds a nice backcloth to the ensuing coffee and slight chocolate flavours. Sitting at the back there lurks an almost red grape type richness that carries on into the long, warming and dry finish. One to savour.

Septem Sunday's Honey Golden Beer. 6.5%.
A rather sweet beer with caramel malt opening before a real whoosh of honey takes over. This then leads to a bitter-sweet and quite dry finish. I am not a big fan of honeyed beers but I did rather like this one.

Eighth Day, but not a
 week ending.
Septem Eighth Day IPA. 7%
This brew opens with a good tropical fruit taste, some yeast esters are also present and give it a real depth of flavour. There is a lovely creaminess on the palate and this all eases through to a wonderful dry bitterness at the finish. This is a really solid brew and one I enjoyed greatly.

Septem Lava Imperial India Red Ale. 9%
Well, you will probably notice that Tuesday is missing. I don't know if it was there in the first place! Anyway, in its absence I chose this one. Lava taste quite like a Scotch Ale at the outset, with traits of rich dark fruits coming through turning it almost into a Christmas cake in a glass (without the lumps!). At the back the smooth rich flavour has a port wine kick to it. The high ABV is very well hidden and  makes it very drinkable indeed.

This is a good selection of beers from this Evia, Greece based Micro-brewery. They are packed with well balanced flavours and seem to cover most bases and styles. I would gladly give them all a second sampling next time around. Another couple of beers we picked up at The Beer Sellar were Marea Blonde, 4.5% from Elixi Brewery, which was filled with floral notes, some peach hints and yeast esters at the back, and a collaboration brew from the Newcastle and Caledonian  Breweries. The collaboration beer, Caley Amber Ale, 6.5%, was quite a sweet tasting beer at the start, with the malt slowly ebbing to allow a hint of fruit and some citrus bitterness through. The finish is increasingly dry and quite long, making it a very interesting and quite complex ale.

Whilst in Cyprus, we had planned a night, over the Green Line, in The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. We had been across the border in the past, using the the Famagusta crossing and Ledra Street in Nicosia. This time we would be crossing at Kato Pyrgos, up towards Morphou Bay. We arrived via the picturesque road passing through Polis,and  Pomis and were very much surprised to find only a single car waiting in front of us. The paperwork was swiftly dealt with and within 10 minutes we were through and admiring more stunning scenes as we drove up into the mountains, before gradually winding our way down towards the coast and our destination, Lapta. We booked into our hotel and then ordered a beer. I had heard of a brewery here, Lion's Heart, but this had subsequently closed, so our options on the beer front would be mainly from Anadolu Efes Brewery in Turkey. Whilst there we managed to sample the following beers.

Efes Pilsen. 5%
Malty at first, some grass tones and a reasonable, but short lived, bitter finish. Refreshing, but ordinary, lager. A welcome beer in the heat.

Efes 100% Malt 5%
A moderately sweet beer, some slight honey style traits, a hint of a metallic twang at the back, but overall another drinkable, but average, brew.

Efes Xtra. 7.5%
Very sweet, quite metallic and unbalanced throughout. An acquired taste but not mine.

Efes Xtra Shot 9%
Quite similar to Xtra but more sickly sweet than that. The metallic taste is still there, very distracting and making it more unbalanced. A beer to forget in a hurry although others may think otherwise.

Bomonti Red Ale. 5.3% ( brewed by Efes)
To be fair, not bad. A wave of caramel malt leads before a nice bitterness, and hints of citrus, leads you to a bittersweet and reasonably long finish.

Bomonti Filtresiz. 4.8% ( Efes )
A clean and crisp lager taste with some grass, and slight citrus notes at the back. There are bread-like tones that come through and the finish is slightly sweet but dry. Not too bad at all.

Tuborg Gold 5% ( Túrk Tuborg/Carlsberg)
A sweet caramel opening with a touch of fruitiness before a balanced bitterness takes over. I thought this was a fairly decent beer.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants in Northern Cyprus, Kyrenia, especially, is a bustling place full of watering holes. Craft Ales, though, are not so prevalent. On our visit, we didn't find a single establishment stocking any of these brews. That is not to say they are not available, but just quite hard to find. A nice place to visit, but not a beer tourism hot-spot.

Malta, Gozo, Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have quite a lot in common, beautiful beaches lapped by the azure sea, hot summer sunshine and that laid back Mediterranean way of life. There are differences when it comes to the beer drinking culture though. The Maltese Islands seem to have embraced the Craft Ale revolution, with Valletta seemingly leading the way with cafe bars being "The" places to chill. Most major villages and towns have at least one outlet for the local craft brews, which is quite promising. Cisk will still be top of the bill, but years of Farson's producing the other varied brews in their portfolio has given the "other" styles more of a chance of getting a foothold in the market. The Paphos area of Cyprus, on the other hand, is a place one has to do a little bit of leg-work and research to help you discover a few Craft ale bars, although the Real Ales from Aphrodite's Rock Brewery are getting more freely available, especially the bottle conditioned brews. It is usually quite rewarding when a new outlet for beers and ales is found here on your travels though. Keo and Leon, understandably, will still probably remain the top sellers across the whole of the south of the island for the time being, though, because, let's face it, it is very hard not to enjoy cold lager in that heat. Northern Cyprus,admitedly, certainly has a lot more to do, but I am sure, eventually, things will change.
I must just mention at this juncture the bars of Mandria, and neighbouring Kouklia. For two small villages each boasts a good handful of eating and drinking venues. The competition in each location certainly helps boost portion sizes and keeps the beer prices down. Kouklia also boasts Fozzie's Bar, although we merely share a name, not any profit!

Our next overseas trip will take us to a slightly cooler part of the Continent, Poznan, in Poland, which, we are reliably informed, has a lot to offer the beer tourist. We will soon find out.

Cheers, and keep it "Real"

Thursday, 27 July 2017

All Day And (nearly) All of The Knights in Lincoln.

A Knight to remember?
Or Steve enjoying a
 Blue Moon
Just prior to Jane & I flying off on our Summer vacation to Malta, I had arranged a day out with a friend of ours, Steve, in Lincoln. Now, although we only live an hour away from the County capital of Lincolnshire, we are not what you would call frequent visitors to this history steeped cathedral city. Steve had been there fleetingly, by car, on shopping trips, being dragged around as part of his partner's retail therapy. This was usually followed by hitting the nearest pub to the car park for a spot of lunch and a quick pint, then the drive home. He forlornly admitted to not being aware of the lay of the land when it came to the cask beer bars and craft ale establishments of the city. I, on the other hand, had been a couple of times over the last couple of years, my last trip as recently as December (Here). So, we set a date, found the times of the trains and arranged to meet up. Our chosen Friday morning duly arrived, and with newly acquired tickets in hand, not to mention 30 minutes to waste before departure, we re-adjourned to The Yarborough Hotel, purchased a couple of beers and waited. I chose a can of Sixpoint Brewing Co "Bengali", an IPA of 6.5% with slight tropical fruit tones coming through on the back of a wonderful bitterness, which leads to a good zesty grapefruit finish. Steve, meanwhile, plumped for the creamy, orange and coriander laced "Blue Moon", the 5.4% Belgian White Ale brewed by MillerCoors. Whilst enjoying these beers in the hot May sunshine of North East Lincolnshire ( and, yes, it was hot!) I relayed to my drinking partner the recently acquired news that "It's the Lincoln CAMRA Beer Festival this weekend too!"
"Oh, we're not going to get pissed and miss the train home, are we?"
I assured him all would be well. A Beermonster has a homing instinct like a racing pigeon when it comes to relying on public transportation after several beers. Well I hoped I was correct in my assumption. I was also aware that there would also be the distraction of some Street art to contend with on our crawl. We finished off and headed back across the road to the station.
A small selection of The Cardinal's Hat
beer selection.
Around 60 minutes later, just after midday, we alighted our train at our desired location. I took my unofficial Beer and Pub Guide stance next to my willing-to-learn hostelry tourist, advising ".....just one to start in the T.O.C.", as we headed round the corner to The Treaty of Commerce. In here I sampled the B&T Shefford Brewing Co 3.8% "Plum Mild", which had a reasonable liquorice malt taste at the fore before the plum back tones hit the palate. The finish was dry and satisfying. Steve went  for a favourite of his, Bateman's "Gold", 3.9%. Unfortunately, he had to wait a while for the barrel to be changed, and when his favoured beer did arrive, it wasn't, shall we say, on top form. It wasn't undrinkable, but just not at its best. Being outside now, it did not deter us from enjoying the lovely rays of sunshine allowing us to bask in the pub's beer garden. After these, we partly retraced our footsteps back, before heading up the High Street, (passing many a Knight on the way, as part of Lincoln's A Knight's Trail, celebrating 800 years since The Battle of Lincoln. I think we encountered a fair few of the 30 odd statues on our meandering) and onto The Strait to the next pub on our agenda, the well stocked Cardinal's Hat. "Lilith's Lust" a Bitter of 4.1% from Horncastle Ales was Steve's choice, which had a good malty body with a slightly spicy bitterness, and was as traditional as any bitter should be. I went for Brass Castle "Hazelnut Mild". This 4.2% brew had coffee, slight chocolate and moderately sweet toffee hints at the outset before the nuttiness steers you to a bitter-sweet finish. I enjoyed this one, but the sweetness would become a bit cloying if drank as a session ale. After taking on these brews as sustenance, we were ready to face Steep Hill in one controlled, exhausting push. A couple of landmarks, more Knights and places of interest were intimated to, briefly, with gasps of breath taken in between, but on the whole it was a pretty silent transit up the slope. Our next stop was the Samuel Smith's managed Widow Cullen's Well. This lovely pub, in the Cathedral Quarter is as cheap as chips, friendly and in keeping with its historic surroundings. It also boasts its own well underneath it, which can (almost) be seen through a perspex  viewing hatch on the way to the toilets. There was just the one cask ale on, Samuel Smith's "Old Brewery Bitter", the only cask beer brewed by this brewery now, and there was no guest cask beers, as is the norm, although the keg range was quite ample. Oh, well (no pun intended), we would have to have a pint each of that, then. To be fair it is quite a reasonable beer to sample, with slight biscuit and hints of fruit helping to lift this 4% ale to a reasonable bitter and moderately dry finish. Next up on the tour, after finishing our reviving pints of OBB, and situated just round the corner from our previous hostelry, was the recently opened Cask-Restaurant and Brewhouse, in Drury Lane. This alehouse is in the footprints of both the Cathedral and Lincoln Castle, with great views of the latter's formidable walls. There were half a dozen cask ales on offer, all local, as well as a brew plant situated inside the pub. On our visit we were informed that the pub's very own beers would be available in a few weeks, so we settled for pints of Dukeries Pale Ale, 4%, and 8 Sail Brewery's 4.7%  "A Knight's Ale". Both had fruity undertones and citrus at the back, but "A Knight's Ale", my chosen brew, had a satisfying malt vein running through to the finish, which was quite long.
It had now been over 4 hours since my drinking partner had eaten, so, solids had to be sought out. Curtis, the Butcher was our next port of call, (having passed another Knight, or two en-route ), as it was the nearest grub outlet to where we had left, in the direction of our next pub, The Strugglers Inn. Steve eagerly awaited his Big baguette, filled with chicken, salad and whatever else could be crammed in, whilst I was perfectly happy, if I had to graze, with a Lincolnshire sausage roll.
The Strugglers beer garden
"Is that it?!, ...A sausage roll?....Just one?......Nah! I couldn't do that.......Just A sausage roll??!" went the conversation as we made our way round to the other side of Lincoln Castle, finally coming to rest at The Strugglers. My last visit here, in December, was marred by an alcohol induced self inflicted dose of amnesia, so, it would be nice to see the place again to discover what I missed last time, even with only one sausage roll on board. Steve went for a pint of 4.6% "Minerva" from Milton Brewery, which is a Golden Ale which after initial fruit and caramel, had a big hoppy punch, and  refreshing bitterness. I had a half of Newby Wyke "Nagato", 6%, which was dry and fruity at the outset and followed by a big as a beach-ball grapefruit finish. Wow! This was a good beer.
"Only half, is it?", Steve enquired, followed by "I couldn't do that"
" Well, Yes. To be fair,.." I replied, "...  sometimes less IS more, somehow, especially  with some of these bigger flavoured brews. You don't get bogged down with all those flavours and subtle undertones which are going on if you savour them,and don't just sup them......equally important if you have only had one sausage roll!!" After more beer garden tanning, we left to reconvene  at The Victoria, barely two minutes walk away. Now back in the pint envelope, it was to be Bateman's "Mr George" Golden Ale for me, and a pint of Timothy Taylor's "Landlord" for Steve. "Mr George", 4.4%, is a light, slightly fruity beer with a pleasant, quite floral hopped finish, which is extremely refreshing. It was most welcome on this warm afternoon as we, again, chose to sit outside and bake a little more in the sun. Our minds, or rather my guided tour itinerary, started to turn towards the Beer Festival, taking place in Lincoln's Drill Hall. The plan was to head off there next, but on retracing some of our footsteps, coinciding with a visit to The Crafty Bottle beer shop, I needed to stock up on some beers at home, We, complete with a carrier bag containing half a dozen "home" beers, entered the Strait and Narrow for one more before the Festival. I like the modern and cosmopolitan feel in here, and the range of beers, cask, craft and bespoke International lagers is quite impressive, as is the spirits and liqueurs line-up. Steve once again went for Timothy Taylor's, but I could not pass up a Bude Kreft Beer "Draco Raspberry Milk Stout", 4.5%.. Chocolate, toffee and raspberry, of course, are in the main of this smooth stout. The flavours combine extremely well and are well balanced. The finish is moderately sweet at the front with a dry bitterness gradually taking over. Very enjoyable.
We arrived at the Beer Festival (via more of those Knights) around 5-30 pm and there was a very good turnout. With this being the second day of three we had missed out on some of the beers , the good ones always run out first, but there was still an enormous array to choose from. We took the beer list, ticked off the ones we had tried previously, and then picked out a few we would try to get through. Sensibly, we both decided on sampling halves instead of pints. We managed to sample eight different brews between us. Other than ticking the sheet, we didn't bother making our own notes but suffice to say, they all  kept pretty much to their festival descriptive billing.Our beers were:-
Great turnout at a good location.
Axholme "Dockers Mild" 3.5%.- described in the Festival notes as "A classic dark mild."
Castle Rock "Hemlock Bitter" 4% -" Full flavoured with fruity notes on the palate, hop ending."
Chadwick's "Castle Mill  Mild" 3.6% -"Black full bodied dark mild, smooth rounded, with a liquorice aftertaste"
Ferry Ales "Smokey Joe Porter" 4.9% -" Classic style Porter with slight smokiness"
Lincoln Green "Big Ben" 6% - "Dark mild with hints of toffee & treacle. Sweet finish"
Marble "Pint" 3.9% -"Dry session bitter with notes of citrus & grapefruit"
Mighty Oak "King's" 4.2% -"Deep golden beer brewed wit NZ Nelson Sauvin hops. Long bitter finish
Peerless "Triple Blonde" 3.8% -"Blonde beer with fruity, citrus finish"
We finished off, and decided to make tracks for the station. "Just one more on the way back?"  I suggested. It was agreed we would pop in the Jolly Brewer. "Where is it?" enquired Steve, as we came out of the Drill Hall. "There" I said, pointing at the green painted facade of the pub directly opposite.What a good place to have another pub!  2 minutes later, we were entering the pub which, surprise, surprise, was also holding its own Beer Festival! Talk about lucky, eh. The Jolly Brewer had the its usual offerings on the bar inside, and a dozen festival ales in the beer garden to the rear, not to mention a good line up of real ciders. This being a sort of celebration to Lincoln, its pubs and local Ales, we decided to raise a glass to a fantastic day out with a pint each of Lincolnshire Brewing Company "Festival Beer", 3.7%. Brewed for The Jolly Brewer Festival. All I can say is this beer reflected our day. Easy going, pleasing and good for a session.
Next post on The Beermonsters Blog will be a surprising return to Malta and Gozo.
Cheers and keep it "Real"

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Model of Craft work

It has come as no secret, or any surprise, that the brewing of Craft Ales, once looked upon as rather a gimmick by beer lovers, and, seemingly by others, a bohemian and almost dark art indulgently practised in the far corners of the brewery, or even the shed, by geeky individuals, has now become more of a staple part of the discerning beer drinkers' arsenal. There was also a time, not too long ago, that the bottled beer market was dominated by just a few “foreign”, or continental, lagers (mostly brewed under licence in the UK), along with a smattering of pasteurised examples of the leading keg beers of the day. A can of beer always tasted “tinny” and was merely there to wet your whistle after the pubs closed. There were exceptions, of course, but my own forays always ended in memories of blandness. So, fast forward a touch. People initially wanted better beer in the pubs, CAMRA, among with other organisations, helped deliver its members wishes and now, with cask ale seemingly, going from strength to strength since that popular rebirth of living beer styles, what has fired this interest in craft ales? My own experience and curiosity in this field has been driven from my obvious love of the aforementioned cask beers, and my disappointment of sourcing good beers locally. I have grown up and still live in an area that has struggled to satisfy the thirst of Real Ale drinkers for as long as I can recall. Over the last few years, Grimsby has lost a raft of decent cask houses, and the selections at some others has been reduced down to one or two “safe” brews (Doom Bar, Greene King etc), or removed altogether. The Tap & Spile, once offering up to eight different ales, has gone, Swigs, a Willy's Brewery outlet that also had ever changing guest beers, now a restaurant, The Royal Oak is a solicitors offices and Walters now only offers Doom Bar ( as does The Parity alongside the Greene King.) after an array of pumps stopped offering a decent choice. The local Wetherspoon's is still open, which does give a reasonable choice but at times service and beer quality could be better, and with the closure of our second JDW in town, the clientele can be rather...erm...earthy at certain junctures. Neighbouring Cleethorpes is much better, with new bars selling some cask and bottled craft making shoulder room against the long established Real Ale boozers, but when I fancy a quick pint, or two, I don't want to be jumping on the bus or train there and back, which also adds to holiday resort prices at the bar.
Typical supermarket range. Some craft
Some not, some in sheep's clothing!
I have tried the supermarket ranges, some good, some not so, but regardless of the size and variety of the stock, one can soon exhaust the offerings and, lets face it, many are repeated from one chain to another. The thing is, though, there has been a progression. First, bottled versions of cask pub regulars, alongside German and US lagers, and a smattering of Belgian beers. Then the start of the craft revolution hit. Big punchy IPA's seemed to be the thing, mingled with Golden Ales and barrel infused dark beers. There are more craft beers now appearing in these bigger shops, admittedly, many “home brand” beers, usually produced by one the big brewers, have also diversified in style a touch and got better, which must be commended. But, as is usually the case, we craved for more. Supply and demand kicked in and Boom, The Craft Beer Revolution takes place.You could go safe, but still find a host of different beers all under the same style, all just a tad different, or you could be adventurous, with an AIPA, a Witbier or, maybe, a Watermelon Sour to experiment with.  Another pleasing aspect of the Craft Revolution is the growth of the Beer Shop. When I was growing up, every little community had at least one grocer, butcher, bakery, paper shop, green grocer and “beer-off” (or off-licence) . Each sold what it said on the facade. Simple. Then, well,we all know what happened when convenience was the buzz word in local retail. You could now buy a banana, newspaper, bread loaf, sausages as well as a bottle of beer without having to move further than the one shop. Some of the independent traders either closed, moved on, became more bespoke and niche or embraced the new one size fits all form of trading and became franchisees. We, the consumers, on the other hand, over the last couple of decades or so, have had our horizons broadened, by foreign trips and tourist travel in the UK, through to trawling the Internet, not to mention social media."New" foods from every corner of the globe are now sought after. Specialist deli counters and the like have sprung up and prospered. Beer drinkers are no different. We want to try these new brews and styles. Like minded entrepreneurial beer lovers wanted to supply us. The result is a shop that almost exclusively sells beer. What it says on the facade is what it sells  Brilliant. Almost a throw back to the old days. Jobs a good 'un. (deja vu, anybody?)
I have sampled a few of these premises and find myself like a child in a candy shop, as I stare in awe atthe vista presented to me. It is always fun to try and find one on our visits away from our own area as most do stock beers from breweries specialising in that locality. Some of those I have visited are mentioned here. Our local beer shop is Message in a Bottle,
Message in a Bottle in Cleethorpes
based in Cambridge Street, Cleethorpes. Run by Charles Lumley and family, who also has business links with the excellent local (Crowle) brewers Axholme, it features a great range of local, national and World beers. It is a wonderfully friendly outlet, with a nice relaxed atmosphere. If you are a CAMRA card holder, a discount may be available. On my last trip here, I managed to espy an Amarillo IPA brewed by East Coast Brew Co., a new brewer based in my home town. There is always a local beer in here to raise the eyebrow. On the Strait in the Cathedral Quarter of Lincoln, you will find The Crafty Bottle. Although owned by Lincolnshire Brewing Co., the range of beers in here are very varied, and not just from the host brewers. It is also well placed for the local Real Ale bars too. Now, the next mention goes to, the shop with the largest beer selection I have ever experienced on my trips. This one, situated in York, is The House of Trembling Madness. This magical drinkers' emporium has beers, beers and more beers on the ground floor, spirits from every corner of the World on the next
Still Trembling at the stock range.
, and a wonderful bar and eatery at the top. It is a proper shop in the heart of this historic City, not a faceless warehouse.The beers are from near and far, local, national and continental, and it is a not a challenge to find a bottle never tasted before, whoever you are.
Most breweries, nowadays, have a craft beer shop on site, or nearby, which is very handy. Adnam's in Southwold is a very good one, but there are many, many more across the country, and most sell on-line as well. These beers are also available at the growing number of beer wholesalers nationwide.Drop in and buy or log on, pick your beers, pay the p&p and, hey presto!,your order turns up within a day or two. The mention of on-line sales leads me to the my latest way of beer purchase. The Beer Club. In the UK there are quite a few. The deal is, usually, a fixed subscription, honoured for an initial 3 monthly deliveries, and then, it's up to you to keep the boxes coming or cancel when you wish. I am currently a member of two of these clubs, Beer 52 and Flavourly, both easily found on Google, and I have had no problems in getting my beers, which are usually small brewed batches, or from a featured brewer. I will, no doubt, join one or two more clubs in the future, and order a few from other internet suppliers.
So, where does this leave traditional cask ales? Are they under threat? Well, no, I don't think so. Some less consistent brewers of quality beers and ales may struggle, but I do believe that, on the whole, those discerning drinkers making the choice to try bottled craft beers for the first time, and seeing the different and sizeable range, style and varied tastes available may will be driven by curiosity to give the pub handpumps a go. (I have noted that the student fraternity seem to quite interested in the bottled craft market which, in turn, could secure the cask market growth for years to come) Let's just remember that a few years back the Gin market was struggling. There were a few labels out there, struggling along, then the Gin Revolution hit with a bang! Small Batch Gin is now big business, different flavours using interestingly different aromatics and botanics, and has encouraged the partaking of the big brand gins down the local. Enough said. Now, where's my delivered box of beers gone.

Cheers and keep it “Real” Crafty!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Aldi, Aldi, Domino Dancing.

As most of you are aware, Aldi, the German based discount supermarket which has a foothold in many countries worldwide, has always been quite competitive along the beers, wines and spirits aisle. The recent sea of change across the food retailers in this sector has shifted somewhat of late. All the major supermarket chains have been adding to their beer lines with a more tailored style of wares. The cheap, nasty shop brand beers, (and I can remember, usually at someone's barbecue or house party, having some truly awful cans of pish wrapped up as bitter, best bitter and the like, usually 4 units for a giveaway price), are now being nudged to one side of the shelves, to be superseded by the new kids on the block. Craft ales. At the discount priced end of the market, Lidl released a very good selection of “Hatherwood” beers in 2015 (Reviewed Here) and have received many plaudits, so would rivals Aldi, with a range of beers grouped under two umbrellas, “The Great British Brewing Company” and “Harper's Brewing Co” all fall down like dominoes, or would they be dancing down over my taste-buds ? I will review each group separately as they really need that respect.

The Harper's range with a stray
German lager also  lurking.

Harper's Brewing Co. Beers

These are a collection of 5 different 500ml bottled beers brewed by the Marston's Brewery, and the variety is quite reasonable, with Amber, Brown, Golden, Red and India Pale Ales all represented, although a Stout or Porter would have been nice to see alongside these. So, what did I make of them?

Golden Crown 4.1%
This is the beer with the least ABV of the range. It pours with a straw coloured golden hue and a finger of white froth on top, but the head soon dissipated. The mouthfeel is quite carbonated, and fresh. The initial flavours are of biscuit and slight caramel, with fruit slowly coming through. The finish is also reasonably fruity, but well balanced as a nice tang of bitterness. This is not a bad beer, to be fair, and went down very well.

Amber Stone 4.4%
This is a fruity Amber Ale, with a caramel backbone. There is a fair raisin hint to it but the malt drives it. This is not an overly sweet brew though, in fact it is quite reasonably balanced. The carbonation is evident at the pour, but the froth soon subsides. This would be a nice beer for those lazy days in the garden, rather than a session beer in the winter, huddled round the fire.

New Bridge Brown Ale. 4.7%
This beer bears quite a striking resemblance to another World famous Brown Ale, which comes from the North East, Northumberland to be more exact, ….oh, sod it, This beer is just like Newcastle Brown Ale in its looks. The clear bottle and simplistic labelling could easily lead to it to be mistaken for the other more well known Ale. There is less ABV, but only marginal. What of the taste? Well, I preferred the North Bridge brew. It is sweet, with good strains of chocolate coming through with that lovely nutty caramel taste. I don't like too much sweetness in my beers, and I found that it was well balanced in this one.

Medusa Ruby Red Ale. 5%
Malt drives this ale. The backbone is nice and sweet, but not cloyingly so, with dark fruits easing themselves through, pleasingly, to give a nice roundedness. There is a well balanced bitter-sweet finish which all goes to make a very good brew, especially at this level of the market. I tasted this one, initially, with a friend of mine, and, as his was a blind tasting, there was a certain amount of persuading that this was NOT Wychwood Hobgoblin. I can understand that close comparison.

Wild Bill's IPA American IPA 5%
Dry, bitter and sharp are three words that spring to mind when tasting this brew. There is biscuit and fruit at the fore, with a good lacing of toffee notes ready to come through. It is an easy drinking brew, which has most of the characteristics of a Craft A/IPA, but just holds back a touch and is not quite as full flavoured and “in your face” as some. It is still one to enjoy, maybe whilst just chilling in front of the TV, or on a lazy afternoon.

The Great British Collection.

The Great British Brewing Co.

This is a selection of 5 craft ales, brewed by Brains', Sadler's, Twickenham Fine Ales, along with 2 from Hog's Back Brewery, are presented in 330ml bottles and also cover most bases for the discerning drinker. They are simplistically labelled, and bear the Great British Brewing Co tag around the neck. The origin is not disguised in the least, and is prominent on the front. Each carries a description of its merited tastes, and, to be fair, you do get what it says on the label.

Sunny Dayz Golden Ale (Hog's Back) 3.8%
Hoppy, with citrus fruit lingering on the palate. The dry finish sparkles with floral notes. A very pleasant, light and refreshing ale.

Spill The Beans Coffee Porter (Brains) 4.4%
Not a heavy Porter, but quite reasonable. The sweetness and choco-coffee back taste does stay until the last and, overall, not too bad at all. It is a porter aimed more towards the session drinker, I would assume, and not a one-off explosive dark beer, like many Imperial strength stouts and porters out there at the moment.

All For One 4 Hop Lager (Hog's Back) 4.5%
Quite a fresh tasting brew. A nice depth of flavour hides beneath the straw colour. The initial malt tingles on the tongue, then slight honey and biscuit tones lead you through to a well balanced bitterness at the finish.

Red Rye IPA (Twickenham Fine Ales) 4.7%
This is a beer that seems to build slowly. First fruity raisin like hints, then caramel takes over, followed by the bitterness. I found it an OK beer, but a bit unbalanced.

Land of Liberty American IPA (Sadler's) 5%
There is quite a sweet taste to this one, which masks the tropical fruit and citrus from coming through. When it does appear, it is quite reasonably balanced, and has a nice bitterness at the finish. It's just that opening sweetness that lets this one down.

Well, that is the Aldi line-up. Two separate  beer lines for the same ,supermarket. One for the more traditionalists, and the other bending more heavily towards the craft market. Both are quite solid, and, apart from a couple of questions about the interpretation of the styles, they do come across quite well. If you want beers for a lazy afternoon watching the sport on TV, or to stock up with a few bottles for those long awaited barbecues at a smart price, then you can't go wrong with either collection.

Friday, 20 January 2017

A Tale of Two Cities.....and resorting to a Beer Festival.

Well another year has come, and gone, with a few refreshments partaken of (quite a few, in fact) . I, unfortunately, have struggled to keep up on this blog with tales of my imbibing of the beverages on High Days and Holidays,( even the general pee-ups!)over the last few months Never mind. I will strive to keep you all up to date. (Another New Year's resolution to to be kept in a sad state of disrepair there, then). So, to try and catch up a touch, I will give you my drinkers opinion on 2 of the most popular tourist cities in our neck of the woods. York and Lincoln. Both have had the privilege of my beer tokens in the past, but not for a while. Here we go, then.


On a cold, wet and depressing day in November, we, that is Jane and I, along with my Aunt Pauline, set off from Alford on a coach bound for one of my favourite locations for real ale drinking in the country, the fine City of York. Back in the day, when t'interweb was around, but still a novelty, I was given a downloaded piece of paper stating, and directing a young Beermonster to, the 39 pubs situated within the City walls. Over the course of two weekends during that year, I, rather we, managed to reach 31 of those on the list, PLUS find another 2 unlisted outlets! Those were the days. Our trip today, though, was to be much shorter in length, around 5 hours before returning back to Lincolnshire. Still, with a smartphone, CAMRA Good Beer Guide recommendations slipped neatly in the wallet, and the ladies happy to do the shopping malarkey,  I was confident of giving York a good looking at. The weather was awful, so after getting from coach park to shopping centre, we headed for the first pub we could find, and so starts my review in earnest. These are the pubs, and drinks enjoyed.

The Golden Fleece. The Pavement.
This is a pub with two bars, as well as history, and ghost stories, oozing out of the walls. It is said to be the most haunted pub in the country, although the only spirits we saw came with a mixer and ice. The staff were pleasant, and the beers on offer quite reasonable. We chose to sample Timothy Taylor's "Landlord", and Rooster "Yankee" and both beers were presented excellently. I have reviewed both beers previously, but we certainly had nothing to complain about here.

A Stouter Stout
The Duke of York. King's Square.
This pub is part of the Leeds Brewery group of pubs, and has a good range of the brewery's wares on the bar. It is modern, but tasteful inside, and a lovely, comfortable ambiance. I chose a pint of 4.7% Manchester Marble Brewery "Stouter Stout" which was rich, dark and had wonderful roast flavours throughout. There was a good hint of dark chocolate, coffee and raisins, in the main, and the finish was pleasingly dry and oh, so long. What a nice brew. A great pub with good beers.

Pivni, York. Patrick Pool.
My radar was a bit askew looking for this one. I probably walked almost past it at least twice, but, eventually, I found myself sitting in this den of real ales and craft beers. It offers a fairly extensive range of cask beers, craft kegs and bottles and cans, so you should find something to tickle your fancy. I went for the "house" Tapped "Dry English Stout" 4%. It was quite a nice brew, with roast flavours throughout, but a touch thinner than I expected. Nonetheless, this is still a good beer and, maybe, could be a good "session" stout. 

The House of Screaming Madness. Stonegate.
Beers Screaming out at you.
Wow! What a place. The facade is quite ordinary, shop-like, in fact, and is easily passed by. When one enters here,though, it is the most complete beer and drinks establishment for miles, and would put in the shade any similar off licence-cum-pub I have ever visited before. The downstairs is a beer shop, with a myriad of brews from all over the UK, Europe and the World. The second floor houses an almost complete range of Spirits, Liqueurs and Aperitifs from every corner of the globe. Finally, the Jewel in the Crown. The upstairs bar and eatery. It is tight, busy but rewarding with a few hand pulled ales on the small bar, and those dispensed are all of a good quality. Being almost 1-45 pm, and feeling peckish (we had arranged to meet up again around 2-15 pm for lunch) I opted for something with substance. A meal in a glass, Arbor "Breakfast Stout", a 7.4% Oatmeal Stout which was absolutely rammed to the brim with lovely sweet chocolate and roasted coffee flavours. This was an brilliantly crafted ale, and was really smooth to drink. The finish had a viscous feel, but was tempered by a nice dryness. This is a true paradise for any beer drinker.

The Shambles Tavern. The Shambles.
Is this a beer shop, cafe or pub? Whatever it is, it is doing it well. We ate in here, the food was well cooked and portions large, and also enjoyed the "house" ales, brewed by Rudgate Brewery to accompany them. As we were table served, I can't really tell you a great deal about the beers, other than they didn't disappoint. It is another great place to stumble upon, and the prices for food and drink were not "tourist" rate.

Pavement Vaults. Piccadilly
Part of the Pivovar Group, who own the York Tap, Sheffield Tap and Pivni, among others, this is a very modern looking bar with a cosmopolitan feel about it. It is quite a cafe bar styled place, and very welcoming. I chose the local 4.8% Arbor "Smac My Brew Up" Pale Ale, whilst the ladies went for the Gun Brewery "Project Babylon Pale Ale" 4.6%. The Arbor brew was light, with slight grass and a decent enough citrus kick at the start, with a bready hint in the main. The finish is dry, bitter and has a good zesty orange peel bite to it. The Gun Brewery offering was also light, but a touch more fruity before the onset of the dry hoppy bitterness.

This was our last pub of the day as we had a coach to catch back to Lincolnshire. It was only a sample of the vast array of real ale, and craft, pubs in the City, and it was a rather like standing standing at the edge of an ocean, wanting to go swimming to the other side, when you know the best one can manage is a quick paddle! One thing is for sure, you are spoilt for choice whenever you visit this Minster City.


Again, it has been a while since I last visited here. I had arranged to have a long promised few bevvies with Andy, a former work colleague, friend and Lincoln resident, oh, and an Aston Villa  fan, but we can forgive him that! So, on a very foggy December lunchtime, after a couple of beers in Grimsby's Yarborough Hotel, I boarded my train for the short 1 hour journey to the fine cathedral City of Lincoln.The plan was to meet up, have a couple or so beers, then drop my overnight bag back at Andy's before going back out for a leisurely tipple or two later on. The plan didn't quite work out like that, but never mind. This is a review of our day and evening out in Lincoln.

The Treaty of Commerce. High Street.
With this Bateman's run pub being only a stone's throw from the station, it is a place I have always gravitated towards on my trips to Lincoln. It always offers a good range of the brewery's own wares alongside a small range of guest ales. It is a busy little boozer and, although a little more dog-eared than my initial visit about 15 years ago, it is still as welcoming as ever, and serves a bloody good pint. I settled down and waited for Andy with a pint of the 4.1% Adnams "Jack Brand Mosaic Pale Ale". This straw coloured Pale Ale is light on the malt tastes, with fruit, pine, citrus and hints of doughy bread lingering on the palate. It is not heavily bittered which makes it a very good session  beer. I followed this with a pint of Gales "Firecracker", a 4.8% Spiced Winter Ale which, since taking on the George Gale & Co label in 2005, is now brewed by Fuller's. There is a real malt driven backbone to this beer, with good strains of Christmas spice (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are noticeable, along with a few others, all nicely balanced) and dark fruits. It is pleasingly sweet, but with a nice bitterness to round the complexities. I found it to be a very good seasonal ale. All in all, a very homely pub with good ales.

The Hop and Barley. High Street
A good selection at the Hop & Barley.
This is billed as Lincoln's first Micro-pub, and is on the road leading out of the City centre, about 10 minutes walk from the station area. It is sited in an old hairdresser's premises and has a modern, quite sterile feel to it on first entering. The bar is not large, but has a wonderful array of ales to choose from. I opted to start on the lusciously dark and smooth tasting Derventio Brewery "Barbarian Stout", 5.5%, which was packed with coffee and chocolate flavours and had a lovely dry and long finish. The chocolate lingers quite a while on the palate, and gives one a nice mouth feel. My next brew, also a Stout, was the Chesterfield brewed Spire Brewing "Yaroslavna" 6%. Alongside the coffee notes, which were pleasingly punchy, lies a subtle vein of liquorice. The strength is well hidden, and the flavour, along with a smoothness on the palate and the increasingly dry finish, make this a very moreish ale indeed. A word about the toilet facilities in here. If you are into the Marvel comics, you may be quite surprised at the decor in the smallest room.

The Ritz ( Wetherspoon's) High Street.
Situated half way between the previous two pubs is this former cinema, now part of the JDW chain. The drinks range is pretty typical, with a few local ales alongside National and guests. It is quite busy, as these pubs usually are, but what does make this place worth a visit is the Art Deco facade and the tasteful decorating inside. It is nice to see these old buildings being restored and saved for future generations. Instead of a cask ale, I chose to sample one of the craft cans on offer here, namely Flying Dog's "Snake Dog" a punchy, full flavoured 7.1% American IPA.

The Jolly Brewer. Broadgate
I have passed this pub quite a few times on previous occasions, don't ask me why, but I s shall definitely make sure to pop in again. The green, slightly garish, exterior here doesn't do justice to the bright and airy Art Deco interior. There is a range of 2 regular, at least 4 guest ales on in here, The beers sampled in here were Welbeck Abbey's 3.6% Golden Ale, "Henrietta" and Dukeries "Baronet", a bitter of 3.9%. This is a place were you arrive a stranger but leave a friend, and it had a quite eclectic mix of customers.

The Dog and Bone. John Street
This award winning local, just away from the main City centre is well worth finding, although on our discovery we were well on our way to those wobbly legs one acquires after drinking on an empty stomach! So there we were, slurring and giggling, and I with an overnight bag still slung on my shoulder at 8-45pm. Oh well, best laid plans of mice and men. It serves 2 Bateman's Ales along with 4 ever changing guest ales. I opted for the 4.2% "Dark Secret" from Horncastle Ales, although besides noting in the memo app of my phone that "I liked it", my memories of it are sadly blurred. I do recall that it was very homely and tidy, and that the bar staff were very engaging about there wares. Undoubtedly, the pubs we had visited were all well worth it.

After finishing our drinks in The Dog and Bone,we shot back to Andy's, dumped my bag and shot back out, this time up around The Bailgate area. We visited a further 3 pubs, The Strugglers in Westgate, were a pint of 4.5% Dukeries "Mining Stout" was partaken of, The Victoria in nearby Union Road ( Wadworth's Pusser's Rum infused "Swordfish" 5%) before finishing off at The Strait and Narrow, situated on The Strait. I finished off in here with a Manhatten cocktail, whilst Andy kept on the beer. All in all it had been a good session, but a very heavy one, and I am pleased I only "go for it" like this every once in a while! There are quite a few other real ale establishments in this Cathedral area of Lincoln, which are all worth visiting, but even I have my limits. Next time, definitely next time. We grabbed some food, I chose the ubiquitous greasy kebab, which I was really looking forward to eating, and jumped in a cab back to my digs for the night. Early the following morning, I awoke, surveyed the pile of cold supper still in the box and ceremoniously condemned its body to the bin. What a waste. A few coffees later and I was ready for my long walk back towards the railway station, but not before another couple of visits.

The Cardinal's Hat. High Street
Hats off to the Cardinal's Hat.
Situated just at the beginning of The Strait, The Cardinal's Hat is housed in a Grade II listed building which dates back to the 1500's. History oozes out of every pore of this excellent Alehouse. The cask and craft beer selection is excellent, and they are available by the pint, half and one-third of a pint, as part of the "beer flights" deal.On entering, you are greeted warmly, and the staff try to steer you towards your favoured beer style with a genuine wealth of knowledge. I decided on North Riding "Rum and Raisin Dark Mild" for my tipple, and this 4.3% brew was absolutely delicious. It tasted exactly like its descriptive title, and was wonderfully long and dry in the finish. I was very pleased with, not only my final pub of my visit to Lincoln, but also of my last beer tasting. Marvellous.

The Crafty Bottle. The Strait.
I had one last place to pop into before hurrying back to the station, and that was to pick up a few bottles from The Crafty Bottle beer shop. The selection is, maybe, not the largest you will find, but still quite extensive. There was a reasonable number of local bottled ales available, along with a good representation from many other UK brewers. The US and Europe were also on show, so I would think most discerning beer lovers could find a tipple to their liking in here.

I chose my beers, and managed to get back to the station with 5 minutes to spare. Relaxing as I looked out on the now bright and sunny County capital, I reflected on a my 24 hours, promising to come back soon.

Cleethorpes Beer Festival.

Back in October, before my visits to Lincoln and York,  we, Jane and I, along with a couple of our friends, were lucky enough to be able to attend this year's Cleethorpes Beer Festival a visit. This was Message in a Bottle, which was selling its wares either to drink in, or take-away. There was hot food available, as well as a stage which had appearances from local up and coming bands. After choosing a bottle of Axholme "Promotion Pale Ale" from the beer shop people, brewed to celebrate my beloved Grimsby Town's rise from Non-League football back to Division II of the Football League, we found a table and sat down to explore the beer list. The World Lager Bar had 6 beers on tap,( 3 from Belgium, 2 German beers and one from the Fourpure Brewery in London.) and 4 ciders from Snails Bank, with The Orgasmic Cider Co having a single representation. The Real Ale and Cider Bar across the room had at the outset 26 beers and 12 Real ciders on offer. Not a bad selection, to be fair. I had tasted a dozen of the beers before ( Timothy Taylor "Boltmaker", a few Bateman's ales, "Proper Job" from St Austel, and the like), so concentrated on the ones new to me. So here we go, a run down of those beers we savoured at this great little beer festival.
The stage is set.....
the 2nd year it had taken place, at The Beachcomber Holiday Centre in the resort. We arrived around 6pm and were pleasantly surprised at the set up. There was an World Lager Bar, a Cask Ale Bar, both of which had ciders, either bottled or on tap, as well as a bar manned by the owners of Cleethorpes' own Beer shop,

Willy's Pub & Brewery "Wai'Me? 3.9%
A light Amber Ale with slight caramel backbone. OK bitterness, and a refreshing citrus finish. I found this beer pleasant, but not outstanding.

Bateman's "East Coast Screamer" 4%
A Golden Ale with pleasant bitterness and punchy citrus kick. A nice American IPA styled beer but maybe just holds itself back, in a dignified way from those "in your face" IPA's offered by our cousins across the pond. Nicely balanced.

Longhop "Plain Jane" 4%
A crisp well balanced session ale, which has nice citrus notes throughout, with floral hints in the finish. A good beer indeed.

Cameron's "Thirst Blood. 4.3%
You usually get a good beer from Cameron's, and true to form this American Rye styled ale, with a sweet malts and bready hints, which combine well with citrus in the finish, certainly ticked a few boxes. The finish wasn't overly bitter, but quite satisfying all the same.

Charles Wells "Golden Cauldron" 4.1%
This Golden Ale is sweet, slightly herbal and has subtle fruitiness to it. It is a touch thin in the mouth but is not too bad as a session beer.

Bateman's "Texan Triple Hop" 4.2%
Although the name hints towards something different, this ale was not as hoppy as we expected There is a reasonable sweet malt body to it, but the anticipated dry bitterness does quite get there, although it was still quite refreshing and definitely quenches ones thirst.

Axholme "Cleethorpes Pale Ale" 4.3%
I was eagerly awaiting tasting the cask version of this beer, which has as one of its ingredients local sea buckthorne berries. Well it was worth the wait. It is light, fresh and has an almost sherbet tingle to it. The citrus stretches almost undiminished into the long bitter finish. This was my favourite beer by far.

Steamin Billy "Skydiver" 5%
This is a sweet, warming bitter, with dark fruit evident, along with hints of treacle. The finish is long, but it lacks in bitterness. Not too bad a beer though.

Castle Rock "Screech Owl" 5%
This is an excellent quite well balanced IPA. There is good bitter-sweetness, slight grassiness and reasonable fruitiness. The finish is hoppy and long with some floral notes. Very nice.

I really enjoyed the Cleethorpes Beer Festival. It was well run, even though not under the CAMRA stewardship.There was a good selection of beers, ciders, craft ales and country wines. Oh, I nearly forgot. There was also a International Gin Bar in one of the adjoining buildings too!! Add to this a good varied mix of all ages, live music and good friends and you are on to a real winner.

Cheers and keep it "Real"