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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.


York.

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.

Lincoln

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"