Tuesday, 13 October 2020

You Can Gdansk If You Want To.

The last few months have been extremely challenging for us all. Lives have been lost across the globe, our health services have been stretched to their limits and we have had to re-educate ourselves in the art of social distancing. Jobs at risk, workers being put on "furlough". Economies have ended up left on the brink of collapse and life has changed immeasurably for the foreseeable future. All this from an invisible interloper called Covid-19, a coronavirus which is indiscriminate. It has. though, been very interesting during these strange times  to see how innovative some people have become. Where politicians have failed in in keeping our spirits up, every social media platform has been full of  silly video clips, animations and little humorous anecdotes which has kept us all entertained. Some TV producers have also come up trumps with some excellent "isolation" programmes. Another thing that has been noticeable has been the way, at least in the UK, that independent brewers and craft beer suppliers have rallied round and kept the beer flowing. Online deliveries, click and collect and even personal drop offs have all been available, keeping the morale of the nation, or at least the beer drinking section of our society, on the up. My regular monthly beer clubs, Beer52, and Flavourly have been delivering quite normally, as have as have my orders from, among others, Beerwulf, so I haven't run dry. Locally, I doff my hat to Docks Beers, and Message In A Bottle, who have also helped keep my beer fridge well stocked. The supermarkets have also had reasonable stocks of craft ales to dip into too. 
Pubs and restaurants have now eased open again, sensibly, in most cases but not all, regrettably, keeping to social distancing and table service. Unfortunately this may not be altogether possible soon again due to more case rises. The dreaded second spike has started to take a grip. Let's hope we can guide ourselves through this phase. It's enough to turn one to drink.
Thanks to all those out there that have strived to combat this disease, and also those just trying to keep some normality in our unprecedented times. I, myself, worked for the first three months of the crisis, which at times was quite trying, before going on to a "flexi furlough" work programme. Although I have had a little more time on my hands, I seemed to gallop through any downtime I have had. For some reason, I don't know why, I have let my social media posts on MeWe and Twitter almost dry up. The blog too has not been updated in a while. Now, perhaps, that we are gradually easing out of this nightmare, and before we face the full blast of a second wave, I can get an appetite back for slinging a few words together. To start with I would like to tell you about our last beer trip, which was back in February and saw us flying out to Poland. After our delightful trip a couple of years ago to Poznan, HERE we decided this time on the Baltic city of Gdansk, which is part of the Tricity area which also includes Gdynia and Sopot. I hope you enjoy my review of our little break.


We, that's Jane and I, along with our friends Steve and Dee, had decided on having a bit of a drinking holiday. Planned for the end of February, we opted for a the cold northerly winds of The Baltic, as opposed to the gentle warm breezes of The Mediterranean, or sunning ourselves on one of a cluster of islands off the west coast of Africa. Why? Why not. Our choice was the city of Gdansk. As I said, this was a drinking holiday, the Polish do brew some very good craft beers, and it was only £200 per couple for return flights and 3 nights in a lovely hotel, which certainly made it so easier to agree on.
We flew out with Wizz Air from Doncaster Sheffield (or Robin Hood) Airport late on a Sunday evening, touching down in Gdansk shortly after 00-30 on Monday morning. Our hotel, Celestin Residence, was only a 10 minute taxi ride away, so we were soon sorted and arranged to have a wander around the  city once we'd had a sleep, and after breakfast.


The following morning, after a good night's kip, and a bit of solid fuel, we ventured out. The morning was crisp, but not too uncomfortable when wrapped up. We all wandered down to the waterfront, a lovely area with bars and restaurants aplenty, and feasted our eyes on the historical buildings which housed them. After a good walk, taking in both sides of the Motlawa river and pausing for a ride on the AmberSky Ferris Wheel, our first beer was beckoning.
Shwarzbier in
Brovarnia Gdansk

I suggested we try Brovarnia Gdansk, a boutique hotel with a very nice cafe-bar which serves its beers brewed on site. Whilst the girls sampled the Lagerbier, Steve and I sampled the Schwarzbier, and very nice it was too, with treacle notes at the back and a freshness on the palate at the start. This was a good beginning to our break. We retraced our steps partly and then headed to our second port of call, Polskie Kino. This bar showcases the Polish film industry, with plenty of old film posters adorning the walls. It also serves a good selection of Polish beers too. The beers we sampled in here were, Reden Milkolak Milk Stout, 5.6%, Amber Brewery APA, 5.2%, Rowing Jack IPA, 5.7% and Amber Brewery Pszeniczniak, 5.2%. All were quite solid in their styles and went down very well. After these we headed to The Long Market (Dlugi Targ) area for a another couple of beers, and a bite to eat. We decided upon Jack's Bar, situated pretty centrally along the street. It is a quite roomy and spacious bar, with friendly staff, although the beer offerings are limited. We ordered a pizzas and opted for the Browary Książęce (Asahi) Złote Pszeniczne (Golden Wheat Beer), 4.9%, which complimented our meal well.
After this visit, Jane and Dee decided to go and take a look at the bargains on offer at the local shops and cordially enquired "would we like to join them?", "Erm??..." I was already for practising a form of social distancing after this invitation, then steered my drinking partner, Steve,  in the direction of the nearby Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa, a bar chain that is themed in the 1960's style subsidised milk bars. Just 3 or 4 beers are on offer, alongside vodka and basic food, but the prices are unbelievably cheap. Some other spirits are also available but this isn't a swish wine or cocktail bar, so don't expect row upon row of different liquers from all over the world.. We started on the beers, Steve opted for the Warka, whilst I went for the Brackie, both were, well, as expected, then it was on to the Soplica, flavoured vodka. We sampled hazlenut and cherry, then sampled them again, and again! What a place. 
2 of the Piwnica 
Rajcow beers

We were reunited with the girls and headed off to our last bar of the afternoon, 
Piwnica Rajców Browar Restauracja, which houses a multi-tap micro brewery in the cellar under Artus Court. The range of beers in here is very good and also features a self service "Beer Wall", which is available by purchasing a pre payment card at the bar. As we were only having the one, we chose the bar selection. Between us we sampled two of the beers on offer, Piwnica Rajcow Marcowe, 5.5%, a nice balance of sweet malt and hop bitterness with slight honey notes at the back, and a 6% Piwnica Rajcow Black IPA, which was typical of the style with moderate caramel hints over a good, but tempered hoppy bite. We enjoyed our beers and then decided to return to our hotel for a breather and to get changed for the evening session, but not before having popping into the Wisniewski Shop for a glass of warm Wisniewski Cherry Liquour, 16%, on the way back. It had to be done, don't you agree?

That evening, after a walk along the aesthetically illuminated Gdansk waterfront, taking quite a few snaps along the way, we stopped just to have a drink in one of the many fish restaurants, choosing the nearest to us, Ryka na Wartkiej. Whilst the others went for Książęce Złote Pszeniczne, I opted for the dark 4.1% DunkelKsiążęce Ciemne Lagodne. Both were very refreshing. After assessing our position and that of our next hostelry on Google Maps, we decided to saunter to Lawendowa 8, a 12 tap bar only 5-10 minutes away. The selection of beers on in this small, but very welcoming bar, is quite large, and equally varied. The seating is also rather quirky with different styles of chairs and sofas adorning the each seating area. As we were beside the Baltic, I had made my mind up I was going to have a Baltic Porter this evening, so this lead me to having the strongest beer I have ever sampled.
Lawendowa 8
The big one!!

Weighing in at 22%, my beer of choice was Podgorz Imperialny 652 m n.p.m. z Malinami (with raspberries) Wymrazany. I found it incredibly smooth with berry fruit teasing the palate and masking the alcohol superbly. This was definitely a sipper, not a supper. As you may imagine, by this stage I was not really keeping tabs on what my drinking partners were enjoying, but they were enjoying something! The second, and last, beer in here was Holy Moly West Coast IPA, a beer of 6.6% from Brewery Hills. My notes on this were, by this stage, rather sparse and almost unreadable, but I did write down "gd crisp, back long", so it couldn't have been too bad. 
By now, we had had our quota and Steve was hankering for a kebab ( not a typical Polish late night snack, granted, but never mind) which saw us wandering a few blocks further out from our current location, finding an outlet, scoffing our kebabs with an accompaniment of Tyskie, before heading our way back towards our hotel, then taking the wrong turn several times causing us to be not lost but misplaced. Not to worry, our first day had gone well.


It rained quite heavily overnight, but by the time we were ready to emerge from our base, some blue skies were already showing. The girls wanted to do some "proper" shopping today, so after walking with them towards the taxi rank, Steve and I decided on a bit of a walk around the town, clearing the previous nights excesses from our heads prior to taking to the local brews again. Shortly after midday, we entered the first bar of the day, Restauracja Barbados, home to Mini Browar Trojmieski (Tri-City) Lubrow. Only two of their brews were available, due to the brewery in the middle of a relocation, and both of these were duly sampled. First up was Lubrow SKM Pils, 5.1%, an easy drinking pils, followed by the slightly sweet and grainy Lubrow Piwniczne Kellerbier, 5.3%.
Our next port of call was just over the busy main road, or rather under it, and situated at the railway station, the Browar Gdansk Craft Beer Hotel, which also housed it's own brewery, PG-4. The pumps had 6 of the brewery's beers on, and as paddles of 4 beers were available, we managed to try all that were on tap.
The PG4 Paddles

These were PG-4 Starogdanskie, 5.2%, PG-4 Pils, 4.9%, PG-4 Irish Red Ale, 5.1%, PG-4 Gdanskie Mocne, 7.3%, PG-4 Dry Stout 4.4% and PG-4 Pszeniczne, 5.2%. We couldn't fault any of them, all solid examples of their styles. My favourite though was the Dry Stout, whereas Steve preferred Pszeniczne (wheat beer) which we further enjoyed in 500ml form. After being joined by our intrepid shoppers, we had some lovely food in this quite modern and stylish bar, with another beer, of course, before retracing our steps back to Restauracje Barbados. one more in here and we were off again, this time to Labeerynt, a bar situated underneath the Polskie Kino bar. Steve and Dee carried on back to the hotel while Jane and I popped in here, before finding a place to eat for later that evening. In this basement bar, which carries  a good selection of mainly Polish beers, I enjoyed a Pinta Bawarka Weizen, 6.1%, following it up with Tre Kumpli Pia, New Zealand session IPA, which was 4.4%. Another good session over, and not a bad beer to be had. Marvelous. 
That evening we went out for some authentic Polish cuisine, and the venue we chose was Gdanski Bowke, a restaurant that has an old maritime theme running through it, and which has been trading directly on the waterfront, not far from The Long Market, for over 200 years. Gdanski Bowke's products are all freshly prepared from quality ingredients. They also have a local brewery to supply the house beers, which are unpasteurised. Steve and I started on the mixed paddle, showcasing their three house brews, Lager, Wheat and Dark. All three were spot on, and were worthy companions to our excellent food.
The Vodka paddle in
Gdanski Bowke.

After this, whilst Steve had another paddle, I opted to go for the Vodka selection, 5 different shots of the local spirit. The selections were Wheat, Rye, Potato, Barley and Clear and the difference between them was clearly noted, as was the smoothness. With bellies full and an earlier night beckoning, we left the banks of the Motlawa river and after dropping back in at Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa for a couple of Soplicas, we headed for one last beer at Pub Red Light, just a couple of streets away, but on the way back towards our hotel. This is a very busy night time pub, but we managed to squeeze in, and were served reasonably quickly. There is a large interior to this boozer and we did manage to be seated with not a lot of trouble. My beer of choice in here was a bottle of AleBrowar Sweet Cow Milk Stout, 4.4%. No surprises to this one, sweet, tempered white coffee at the fore and a smooth sweetly bitter finish. Not bad, to be fair, just a touch on the thin side. Over the hustle and bustle in here I couldn't hear what my partners in drink had chosen, but there didn't seem to be any pulled faces or grimaces, so I assume they were happy with their drinks.


Our last day in Gdansk was a bit cooler. After we packed and stored our cases, we set out to grab a spot of late breakfast. There was plenty of choice around the Long Market. Zapiekanka was my preference, the open pizza style sandwich which has been popular since the 1970's in Poland. I wasn't disappointed, and it soon filled a void in my stomach. Our flight was due out at 8pm,so an easy session was planned.
The S.S. Soldek
seen from Cala Naprzod.
To this end, we had a reasonable walk around the waterfront again, one last look at the sights we had started to grow accustomed to, before dropping in at Cala Naprzod, on an upper floor of Osrodek Kultury Morskiej (Centre of Marine Culture) at the Dlugi Pobrzeze. This restaurant and bar offers a wonderful view of the Motlawa Riverfront, and across to the S.S. Soldek museum ship, and was a great vantage point to reflect on our last few days here. We did this over a quartet of Polish beverages. What other way could it have been done? Jane's drink was Sopocki Cydr, 4.5%, cider from neighbouring Sopot, Dee had a Browar Gosciszewo Lager, 5.7%, whilst Steve and I opted for Ksiazece IPA, 5.4% and Komtur Piwo Ciemne, 6.5%, also from Gosciszewo, respectively. Suffice to say all of them were very pleasing, especially with that vista stretching out before and below us. 
Our next port of call was Cafe Lamus, situated behind Lawendowa 8 and seems to share the same taste in furniture. There is an adequate selection of beers available and we were soon settled at the back of this friendly bar with a selection of drinks, among them Maty Rohozec Skalak Tmave Black Lager, 5.9% and a 6% AIPA from Browar Podgorz called Siostra Bozenka. We doubled back to Polskie Kino, and whilst the rest of the party had the same as our first visit, I sampled the local Browar Amber Grand Imperial Porter, 7.8%, which was sweet an rich at the front, with some lovely plum notes punching through at the finish. As Steve hadn't visited the bar downstairs, Labeerynt, we popped down for a quick pint while the girls chattered away upstairs. We had a glass each of the Hazy Disco Original DDH IPA, 6.7%, which imparted lovely zest and grapefruit notes over soft fruits, very nice indeed.
The time had come to visit our last venue and to enjoy the hospitality of this inviting city for one last time this trip. Pulapka, a modern, stylish bar with several taps and a huge selection of craft bottles. The girls opted for soft drinks in here, Steve forgot what he'd ordered soon after sitting down but I opted for a memorable Harpagan Skowyrna Wyderka Farmhouse Polish Pale Ale, 5.6%, a very light and refreshing beer with a wheat beer character. Another good beer in another good pub in a lovely city. 

So that was it. Gdansk, pre-pandemic, was certainly a place that offered the craft beer drinker plenty of options. There are quite a few local and regional beers to be had. Poland seems to have some super craft brewers in general and, when the chance arises, I would certainly not hesitate in going back.
Until the next time, stay safe and:-

Cheers, and Keep It "Real"

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Home and Away. ( or from Docks to the Trent)

As we enter the start of another year we all tend to look back over the previous twelve months, or so, to see what has altered, good or bad, in our little bubbles. As I reminisce I thought it correct to sing the praises of our improving beer scene in North East Lincolnshire. For all too long I have been forced to admit that this neck of the woods has been bereft of a thriving beer scene. Yes, the big brewery chains kept a foothold (M&B's Ember inns, Greene King's offerings, and the ubiquitous JDW's all have retained pubs here), serving some reasonable brews, but many a time just pretty average ale, and the same beers usually found in most of their outlets everywhere else in the land. Now don't get me wrong, to see some cask beers on the bar was encouraging, but they were usually overshadowed by the John Smith's, Worthington and Guinness pumps, dispensing their Smooth, Cold, Extra Cold and similar variations to the masses. We did still retain a few independent bars we could be pleased of, flying the flag for the more discerning tippler, such as The Nottingham House, Willy's Wine Bar, and The No2 Refreshment Rooms for instance, but on the whole it has been pretty dour. A decent day out had to be sought elsewhere. Then things started to change. Craft ales started to just squeeze itself into one or two establishments. Bottles and cans of the more popular and better known craft brewers, like the American brewers Brooklyn and Lagunitas and the UK's Meantime, Brewdog and Campden were appearing in the fridges, albeit next to the continental lagers. Gradually, beer seemed to somehow get a bit trendier in the area, and then, within a relatively short period of time, a specialist beer shop, Message In A Bottle, opened up in 2015, Axholme Brewing Co, situated in neighbouring North Lincolnshire , and brewing since 2012, started to push bottles and casks of the excellent Cleethorpes Pale Ale more prominently in the area, as well as some of their other noted ales (such as Best Bitter, Special Reserve and the odd commemorative Grimsby Town beers too) which secured a locally brewed real ale option. The fuse was lit. Since then the progression in the local real ale and craft ale scene has been steady but obvious. It has taken time, but it is more than holding its own. Noticeably in the make-up of Message In A Bottle, Axholme Brewing, and the newest kids on the block, Docks Beers, there is also a shared DNA. The faith shown in the region by this group of entrepreneurs is being recognised by us drinkers, but more than that. It has, in my opinion,  given others a chance to see the lay of the land, and led to others investing in this sector of imbibing in the area. I would like to pay homage to a couple of these now.

Docks Beers

Docks Beers. 
Since the demise of Hewitt Brothers Ltd, in 1968, Grimsby has never really had a commercial brewer in the town, not as I recall anyway. Beer was coming out of the small plant behind Willy's Wine Bar which is over the old borough border in Cleethorpes, but this has never been on a large scale. All this changed just over a year ago, October 2018, when Docks Beers opened a brewery and taphouse in the town. This is the offspring of the cask brewer Axholme Brewing Co. After more than half a decade of successful real ale brewing, the brewery's business partners, Will Douglas, Charles Lumley and Sharam Shadan, who had joined forces back in 2017 with Jules and Mike Richards, the founders and brewers of Axholme, decided to spread their wings a little, up the production of the beers and with local knowledge, and roots firmly in the town, made plans to set up shop to brew craft ales in a second microbrewery, in an old church, the former St Barnabas Church in King Edward Street. This is not far from Grimsby's town centre, and a stone's throw from the still beating heart of the famous docks. As I mentioned, this was not only a brewery, the building was to house a taproom and bar as well. This new venture was eagerly anticipated by those who enjoy a good beer or two. To say it gradually grew would be fantasy. It more like exploded onto the local drinking scene.  On opening, the place was buzzing, and, I'm pleased to say,  still is. The premises plays host to the brew plant (although the original brewery at Crowle is still very much up and brewing) and a canning area which all can be scrutinised from the comfort of the bar and seating area. It is clean and modern in design, and the vibe is very friendly. The core beers are Hard Graft, 4%, an excellent Pale Ale, Never Say Die, AIPA, 6%, which has a good bite to it, the sweet and creamy choco-coconut Graveyard Shift Stout, 4.5%, which accompany the very refreshing Pale Lager Overtime, 4%. Also available at various times have been Wind Power Session IPA, 3.5%,
The bar at Docks Beers.
Midnight Oil,
a very moreish BIPA, 5.5% and a Brut IPA also of 5.5%, Brut Force. Add to these a string of very good collaboration brews with the likes of Magic Rock, Brew York, Salt and Vocation, you can see this is going to be the bedrock of the local drinking culture for years to come. There have been the very successful Tap Takeovers too, staged on a regular basis and showcasing other brewers of note. Street food is another key element, with everything from dirty burgers to Canadian style poutine being sold from the vendors' stall outside, usually at the weekend. Local bands have appeared here on occasions as have the popular Indie Rock group The Sherlocks. So, as the first Anniversary of its opening has recently been celebrated, what is in store for the future for this venue? The next step for the company  has been announced, it is to open the room upstairs, which boasts a wonderful arched, beamed and open area. It is to be named The Docks Academy, a  music, comedy and events venue, with around a capacity of 300 . This happens in March 2020, with famous local choirboy, comedian, celebrity goalkeeper and former Soccer AM funnyman (among other talents) Lloyd Griffith already selling out for the opening nights which are included on his UK tour. More comedy acts are to follow and I am sure that it will become a big draw for musicians too. (The Sherlocks have just announced a return visit.) What a fantastic boost to the community this venue is. More original beers are in the pipeline, further collabs promised and bright outlook is envisaged. Oh, did I mention the excellent selection of cans and bottles for on and off sales, and some cool looking merchandise?  Cheers Docks Beers.

Vittles & Co

Vittles & Co
Just tucked away near the railway station is this newly opened cafe-bar. The tap selection is small, Vittles & Co are from over the Humber. It has, in fact, probably the smallest commercial brewery in Hull, with a brewing capacity of  about 50 litres. It runs a quite successful bar and bottleshop situated on the city's Trinity Market. It is against this back story that  Hull and East Yorkshire beers feature so regular on tap in the Grimsby bar, or have done on my limited visits. Atom Parsec DDH Pale, 5.4%, a lovely crisp, fresh citrus APA that imparts a nice dryness on the palate, was the tap offering on my last visit a couple of weeks ago. The fridge selection is quite good and includes, amongst a host of others, Docks Beers, Bricknell Brewery and Brew York as well as a quite a few continental brews. The staff are very friendly and take time out to engage with you, which is also very pleasing. This is a sit and chill venue, a place to meet up at, something we all need to do sometimes. Although this review is a little short and concise, it hopefully relays the fact that this is another good business venture that is evolving in a more cultural Top Town area of my home town. Coffee and a cake, or a good beer and a yarn. Both are in style here.
just one in fact, but it is always local-ish.

Although I haven't had chance to visit yet, The Cleethorpes Taphouse and Kitchen, situated by the resort's Boating Lake, has a rather good selection of craft ales on too. It also comes highly rated for its pizzas. I intend to get there to experience their delights soon. Add to this another new craft bar in Grimsby town centre, Annie's Bar, and you can see how things are growing. And on that encouraging note, I will move on.

Nottingham. Re-visited.

For the first time in 4 years, Jane and I made a return visit to Nottingham in November. Our last visit is recorded (Here) . A bit of Christmas shopping was on the agenda, but beer was to be boss with me.

Arriving by rail at Nottingham, via Lincoln and Newark, through a landscape that had begun to look more like Venice after record breaking rainfall, we started our 3 day break with a visit to some old favourite haunts on our way to our hotel. First up was Fellows, Morton & Clayton, just a stone's throw from the station, in Canal Street. A friendly and relaxed welcome, as is afforded in most of Nottingham's pubs, was offered, and accepted. The cask selection isn't massive but ample and varied enough. My choice was Shipstones Nut Brown, 4%, brewed in Nottingham at Little Star Brewery. A solid enough start, no frills, no surprises. Next up was the neighbouring Castle Rock Brewery owned pub, The Canalhouse. The selection in here never fails to impress me. Cask and craft sit cheek by jowl on the bar in this boozer, as well as an impressive array of bottled and canned beers in the selection of fridges. It is a quandary sometimes to make your mind up. I eventually opted for Castle Rock Twistin' My Melon Man, a watermelon IPA of 5% and full of fruitiness. I followed this with a Belgian inspired Dark Strong Ale from a collaboration between Torrside Brewing and Solvay Society, the excellent full flavoured dark fruit and boozy back noted Give Thee Peace, 8.2%. Marvellous. Our next port of call was the tourist magnet of Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem
Ye Olde Trip.
The oldest inn in England is always worth a trip (no pun intended), with all that history oozing from every wall in this tavern. The beer selection is OK, but not as extensive as some local bars. Nottingham Brewery Extra Pale Ale, 4.2%, a light and refreshing Pale ale with tempered fruit highlights was the beer I decided upon. Again another good beer had been savoured before moving on to our last port of call of the afternoon, before checking in to our hotel, The Crafty Crow. Two beers were sampled in this establishment, both of top quality too. First up was Ten For A Time Of Joyous Bliss, a 4.7% Christmas Cake Brown Ale from Magpie Brewery, which did impart fruit, spice and a rich sweetness expected of beer with such a culinary inspiration. Next was the 6.3% Banana and Coffee Milk Stout from Totally Brewed, Let's Modify The Van, which was decent enough, but slightly lacking in the banana notes. Again, this is another great boozer with plenty of cask and craft keg on tap.
After checking in at our hotel and chilling out for a couple of hours, we were out again, just to top up! First of the evening's stop-offs was The Ned Ludd. In here, whilst Jane had a G&T, I had a Salem Brew Co (Bateman's) 4.4% Dark Fruits Porter. A reasonably fruity beer, but not as as big on those dark fruits as I was expecting. Next, after browsing Nottingham's lovely Christmas market, complete with a huge outdoor ice rink, we dropped anchor at The Six Barrel Drafthouse, towards the Hockley area of the city. This busy pub offers a varied selection of beers, mostly local. Our drinks in here were Totally Brewed See You At Six, a stout of 6% with a smooth mouthfeel. Coffee and vanilla notes combine which helped  to push this over the line, and Pheasantry Excitra. This blonde ale imparted slight resin notes over gentle citrus, with an uplift of sweetness towards the end. Our penultimate venue was found just around the corner in Stoney St. The Angel Microbrewery. On entering I scanned the pumps but couldn't see any of the beers that are brewed on site. T|hat isn't to say there wasn't any on, but more the fact that my sensory system by now could have become a little impaired! Anyhow, there was Navigation Brewery Rebel Golden Ale, 4.2% on, which I duly sampled. My scrawled notes on this one, found on a beermat the next day, read "OK. Swt b4 cit..bit dry sum frt..." next to an undecipherable doodle, which just about summed it up. We should have headed back to the hotel after this but, alas, this resulted in us passing, and entering Nottingham's Brewdog. Who could resist, I ask. Jane by now was on soft drinks, whereas I opted for a sensible(?) half pint of Brewdog Fanzine #28 Serial Imperial. I recall finding this one a little too sweet and sickly for my taste, but manfully still finished it before staggering back to our digs, via the almost closed Christmas Market, and possibly buying, and devouring, the last Bratwurst left in the city at that time of night. What a wonderful first day it had been

Annie's Burger Shack
After yesterday's indulgences, we decided upon an easy paced morning, starting with an excellent The Three Crowns on Parliament Street, which was very good, and excellent value. There was some Christmas shopping to be had, which I took part in merely as an unwilling spectator. I was, eventually, relieved of my duties and set out for a bit of a walk and some casual sightseeing. Soon after, I ended up with a pint of Totally Brewed Crazy Like A Fox, a Copper Ale weighing in at 4.5%, in my hand whilst seated at the bar of the American themed Annie's Burger Shack. Although food is king in here, especially burgers and ribs, the drinks selection is quite reasonable. My choice was laced with light biscuit notes and a gentle floral finish. Not a big hitter but certainly a more than welcome hair of the dog (or fox). Next stop was The Head Of Steam. Surprisingly I appeared to be the only customer in, but, hey-ho... Among the good number of pumps I espied Northern Monk Festive Star, 5.2%, a porter with vanilla and cinnamon over a lovely smooth chocolate maltiness. I opted for just the one beer in here.
breakfast at
I met up with my festive shopper, Jane, in The Pitcher & Piano, the pub facing the previous hostelry where I had a bottle of Founders All Day IPA as there was no cask ales on at the time. sited in a former church, this is a beautiful bar to finish, with years of ecclesiastical worship looking down on you. Most of the fittings seem to be untouched, including the stained glass windows. We moved on after one in here, dropping in at The Old Dog And Partridge. I enjoyed a wonderful pint of Nottingham Brewery Rock Mild, 3.8% in here, which was spot on. This is a great "locals local", with quite a few characters within, but it is also very friendly and welcoming. It is part of the Greene King empire, so you can also expect to see the chain's usual stock on the bar. Our next ports of call were Hop Merchants, where we were soon sampling the lovely Laine Brew Co Ripper IPA, 4.8%, a nice hoppy IPA which cleanses the palate and imparts good citrus notes throughout, and  Copper Cafe, where I enjoyed a  light, citrus and fruity beer, New Dawn Pale Ale, 3.9%, another from Navigation Brewery.
We'd booked to eat out at the fantastic Mowgli Street Food that evening, so grabbed a quick drink beforehand in Lloyd's No1. Jane had a cider whilst I quaffed the more than reasonable Bell's (brewed by Banks') Light Hearted Ale 5%. After this we popped across the road for our Indian meal. Our meal, probably the best experience of Indian food we have encountered, was complimented perfectly by Curious Brewing Session IPA, 4.4%. After this we wandered back towards our hotel, dropping in at The Barrel Drop on the way for our last drinks. I finished off in here with Siren Yu Lu Session IPA, 3.6%, before a final pint of Goff's Jester Brew 10 "Skinny" Latte Stout, 4.7%. Both were good beers.

Friday saw us grabbing a coffee and bacon bun in what used to be The Flying Horse, now 200 Degrees Coffee Shop & Barista School. A good start to our final day. I decided on some shopping of my own this time, at The Brew Cavern in the adjacent Flying Horse Walk. The selection is quite varied and features many local microbreweries. After making my purchases, I had another wander around the centre, ending up at The Malt Cross, where I enjoyed two of their beers. Adnams Blackshore Stout, 4.2%, and a Black Iris Snake Eyes Pale Ale, 3.8%. Both were true to their styles. As time was now getting on, I met back up with Jane, and we decided to head back towards the station area, initially dropping back into The Canalhouse, where I sampled Counting Crows Red Ale, 4.4%, before adjourning just around the corner to The Barley Twist, another Castle Rock pub, (and brewers of my beer choices in both establishments) and enjoyed a 4% Session IPA. Our last stop before returning home was
Squeezing in at BeerHeadz
BeerHeadz Cabman's Shelter,
a tiny pub tucked away at the rear of Nottingham Railway Station. A sympathetic restoration and an ever changing selection make this an interesting find. I opted for a beer flight in here, featuring Squawk Brewing Roller Bitter, 4%, alongside The Woodford Experiment Experimental English Bitter 4.8% and, finally, Baker's Dozen Magic Potion No20 Hallertau Blanc Pale Ale, 3.8%. All three were just right.
So, that was that, another thoroughly agreeable break in this great city. My delight of spending some time here never seems to diminish.

Well, all that remains is to wish any long suffering followers of this blog a very Happy New Year,( or maybe a Hoppy New Beer) and I hope to be able to share with you a few more of our drinking trips in the coming 12 months. Our next trip away is to be to Gdansk, on the Baltic coast of Poland which will be in February, so until then:-
Cheers, and keep it "Real".

Saturday, 14 September 2019

The Italian Job And A Bit Of Porec

So, another British summer is in full swing. Well, it has poured it down on and off for the last six weeks, with lightning strikes aplenty, making some nighttime scenes resemble something from The Hammer Film Studios. Recently the Cornwall coast seemed to be disappearing under the constant storminess of Atlantic low pressure trends, Derbyshire came close to making a sequel of "The Dambusters" AND as we battened down to "very unseasonable" 50-60 mph gusts of wind, half the country was struck down with power cuts partly due, ironically, to the North Sea wind farms suffering generator failures! But at least we are not in meltdown, as we were recently. The mercury on that occasion rose above the 30 ° C mark, leaving roads, rail tracks and office workers buckled in the heat. As I said, just another British summer. At these junctures I find myself reflecting on some of our little jaunts, and also remembering that I have failed to get these down on the blog! With that in mind, here is my latest write up. I do hope you enjoy it.

Sorrento and The Amalfi Coast.

As some of you who follow me on MeWe and Twitter know, Jane and I have recently returned from 7 days in Sorrento, with its tight maze of Old Town back streets, cosmopolitan café bars and majestic views over The Bay of Naples and Vesuvius. It is quite a busy, bustling place to stay, not a sleepy beach resort, which was a bit of a change from some of the summer breaks we often choose. Our hotel, Zi' Teresa, was situated quite centrally, but still far enough away from the centre to offer some respite from the crowds. The staff here were excellent. The friendliness was as warming as the Mediterranean climate. Our room was serviced everyday and kept spotlessly clean. We had chosen well. As always, I had done my drinking homework, and had my list of of  establishments I would like to visit over the week. Luckily some of these were only metres away from our base, so would be easy to tick off. Before all this though, a walk around the area was decided upon, just to get a feel of our locale, giving us time to soak up the view, and some of those warm sun rays, as well as having a pint (or the metric equivalent) before grabbing some nosh. Most of our requirements were accounted for at The Foreigners' Club, which holds a prominent position high up, overlooking the bay. The view from terrace here, across the water, is simply beautiful. The experience was further enhanced by the slowly sinking evening sun and an ice cold Birra Moretti (although I would have preferred it if the bar had have stocked at least one craft beer)
The hustle and bustle of the Old Town were sampled next, highlighted for me by the free tastings of Limoncello. Jane always finds a strange enjoyment in dragging me round the artisan retail outlets so I can see how much tat I am missing out on. Following on from this, and in search of a touch of air to ease the humidity found in the enclosed environment of the tourist shops, we retraced our steps back towards our hotel, dropping in at the neighbouring pizzeria, Master Hosts. A pizza each (way too much to eat in a single sitting, believe me), a portion of fries and two bottles of Peroni were feasted upon in this most amiable of eateries before we trudged, tiredly, back to our awaiting room. From tomorrow I would be sniffing out some of those Italian craft beers and those bars I had researched.

Over the coming days, we found, and enjoyed quite a few local bars, and Italian brewed craft beers, along with one or two World beers too. So, here is my list of those bars, and the beers we sampled within.

The Horse Shoe Pub.
Situated on the periphery of the Old Town,on the Corsa Italia, this is a really friendly boozer. Inside you will discover 9 taps for the dispensing of craft beers, and a couple or so craft bottles alongside the usual contenders. There are a few tables on the front outside were you can watch the world go by whilst imbibing on your beer of choice. In here we sampled a couple of brews on our first visit, both from Birrificio Angelo Poretti (Carlsberg Italy) and both weighing in at 6.5%. First up, I was told, was a Brown Ale, (although the tap did say Pale Ale), which was quite smooth and malty with delicate chocolate notes at the back. Next, Birrificio Angelo Poretti Pale Ale, (which WAS the same as the pump clip). This was light, fruity and had a nice lift of bitterness at the finish. On a later visit, I had a lovely fruity 5.9%  Weissbier brewed by Carlsberg under the branding of Jacobsen. (J.C. Jacobsen was the founder of Carlsberg in 1847).

The taps at La Bottega
Della Birra.
La Bottega Della Birra.
This excellent bar and beer shop is tucked away from the Old Town, on Via San Nicola.Every question you may want addressing about beer will be expertly answered here by the staff. They know their stuff. 7 pumps dispense a selection of European Craft beers, among which is the local Birrificio Sorrento Syrentum, 6.5%, which we sampled, twice. This Saison styled golden beer is moderately fruity, some honey notes within, with citrus bitterness, from lemon peels, at back.  Also in here is a monumental selection of very good local, national and worldwide bottled beers. The selection of glasses from the different brewers is quite impressive too. If you can't find something you fancy in here, give up!! I sampled the following beers in here over our couple of visits. Birrificio dell'Aspide Gairloch Strong Scotch Ale, 7%, an excellent brew with  dark fruit and light chocolate notes, Jurmanita IPA, Caramel, hoppy and a touch of floral hints, with tropical fruit at the edge. Toccalmatto Maciste Heroic DIPA, 8.5%, which was big, punchy sweet malt over a slightly complex, but perfectly balanced fruity, citrus dry finish. From the vast selection of bottles, I also took the opportunity to fetch a  few Italian Craft Beers home from here.

Star Pub Burger Bar.
An interesting find, at a quite busy area of town. 4 or 5 draft taps and a handful of bottled craft ales on offer alongside some excellent cocktails AND burgers to die for!! But I am here to tell you about the beer. Jane had a wonderful G&T in here whilst I had a lovely Brasserie Du Boq St Benoît Brune, a lovely dubbel of  6.5%. Eat, drink and feel very satisfied..

Frankie's Bar Pizzeria
Not far from The Horse Shoe, this place has a hidden depths of beery delights. You will find a dozen Craft ales here across the taps and bottles, efficient and knowledgeable bar staff and great food. In here I had San Gabriel Birra Nera Optergivm, a good solid Porter of 5.5% followed by a Hibu (Heineken) Gotha Tripel, 7.7%, which was wonderfully fruity, with pear and yeast esters at the back but very noticeable.

Bar Del Carmine.
We had walked past here a few times before settling down to a late night pizza, and enjoying one of their occasional selection of craft beers from the Karma Birrificio. On our visit, not all the beers were available from the menu, but the  Karma Carmina American IPA, 6%, was definitely worth a look. Malty, with fruit notes and hints of spice, this was an enjoyable beer, especially with a view onto the Piazza Tasso.

The Banana Split Bar.
Although this was our "local" bar, we only had 3 visits here during our week, but, we were always greeted with a smile and efficient service. Irish, Italian and some US beers are available, and the cocktails are good too. Among the beer range here, I found the Birrificio Angelo Poretti (Carlsberg) 6 Luppoli Bock Rosso, 7%, very agreeable. Guinness, the friendly dog, is always around to be stroked and you are always made to feel very welcome here.

The Golden River Pub.
Just a short amble from The Banana Split is this good boozer. Although we didn't eat here, we were told the grub was excellent, but for me the beer fridge was my draw. Over a score of bottled beers await your palate, along with the regular Italian mass produced beers. We dropped anchor here a couple of times, during which we sampled K Birr Natavota Lager, 5.2%. Also from the same Italian brewery, we tried the Cuore Di Napoli APA, 6%. Another local brew was the Stimalti Sta TIPA, 5.5%.We also had the Belgian brewed Brouwerij Haacht Tongerlo Prior, 9%. Not a bad brew among them.

The Corner.
Only a ten minute walk away from our hotel base was this pub. We only managed one trip here, but it was well worth it. Italian and Belgium beers sit side by side in the fridge. We sampled 3 bottled beers in here, and all were good. These were Birra Antoniana Marechiaro, 5.2%, Browerij Huyghe Mongozo, 5%, and also Chimay Red, 7%. Another friendly bar with excellent staff.

Just a twenty minute walk away from the Piazza Tasso area, you will come along to the former fishing village of  Marina Grande. The view out to sea is peacefully stunning, with the high cliffs rising up behind the , adorned with hotels and a spattering of restaurants, offering an interesting backdrop. There is a very relaxed atmosphere here, shielded from the busy heart of Sorrento. The bars and restaurants here are, mainly, part of the local fishermens' co-operative, and, from our impression, good food is the high on the agenda . We settled down here on our couple of visits at Taverna Azzura, mainly because it was near the selection of Birrificio Angelo Poretti taps. The beers sampled were all from this brewery. 4 Luppoli Lager, 5.5%, which had a good malt and hoppy balance, 7 Luppoli Floral (La Fiorita) 5.3%, elderflower, straw notes abound, and 8 Luppoli (Citrus Taste) 5.5% Saison style, which was tangy and zesty. All were served cold and, as they gradually warmed, imparted different depths of interesting notes.

Hotel Montemare, Posistano. 
A trip around the Almalfi Coast is a mainstay of any tourist's agenda, and we were no exception. We went by the service bus, which was interesting. We ended up packed in like sardines, the heat rising inside, as well as out, but it was an experience. We had a couple of hours in Amalfi before travelling back to Positano. Both are picture book towns, clinging on to the high terrain whilst still dangling their toes into the blue seawater. We didn't find any craft ales in the bars we passed by in Amalfi, although I had a cracking Limoncello Spritz, as we watched the people scurry by in the crowded main square from our quiet little haven. In Positano, after a stroll round the promenade area, we settled down at the beach-side at Hotel Montemare. In here we had Birrificio Sorrento Minerva Amber Ale, 6%. I found this one had a nice moderately sweet caramel opening with a balanced orange citrus bitterness at the finish.

We also managed to pick up a few beers from the local supermarkets in Sorrento. Among them we managed tastings of Birrificio Angelo Poretti (Carlsberg Italy) 3 Luppoli, 4.8%, a rather malty, but well balanced Pale Lager, Peroni (Asahi) Gran Riserva Rossa a Vienna style Lager, 5.2%, also the fruity, sweet malt brew, which was herbal in parts and gently spiced Mastri Birrai Cotta 37, 5.5%.
Three other beers we came across were also from the Heineken Italy stable. First up was Birra Moretti Baffo d'Oro (White Moustache), 4,8% followed by the 6.8% fruit, orange citrus and bread inspired Birra Moretti Gran Cru, and also Birrificio Di Assemini Ichnusa Non Filtrata, 5%. I found this one just a bit over sweet, with slight citrus and yeast notes at the back, but still quite drinkable.

Talking to some local drinkers, and tourists returning to the area, The Sorrentine Peninsular, it seems has had an awakening, in some bars at least, on the craft ale front over the last few years, with microbrewers popping up all over. It is available in quite a few bars, but you must still do your homework to find them. Is it worth digging them out? Well, on the whole, yes, there seems to be a good variety of most styles to have a look at. We did think the prices were a little on the high side, the cheapest bar prices for craft keg or craft bottles (usually 330ml) was upwards of 7 euros, but there again the usual popular Italian branded draft lagers were not a lot cheaper.

Porec, Croatia.

September 2018 saw us spend two weeks on the Istrian Riviera, staying in a self catering apartment on the Plava Laguna complex, surrounded by wooded parkland, just over a mile away from the picturesque historical town of Porec. With the relatively small tidal rise and fall of the Adriatic on the doorstep, and plentiful bays and inlets along the coast. the area has a lakeside feel to it. Along the walkways, through the trees, there are a number of restaurants and bars serving the neighbouring hotels and holiday apartments dotted about the lagoon. 
Porec, is easily reached by either the coastal path, the walkways through the parkland or the "Noddy Train". The tight streets lead to open squares and an abundance of eateries and drinking establishments. This is a good place to increase your waistline!
What of the beers, then? Well, as in most continental places, lagers are quite prominent, and we sampled most of the popular Croation ones during our period here. To be fair, they all stand up quite well to most other lagers from the Mediterranean region. The market leaders here are Ozujsko, brewed by Zagrebacka Pivovara (now owned by MolsonCoors ) 5%, which has a light malt start, some fresh grass notes before a medium bitter finish. Solid enough stuff really. Next on the list is the Heineken Hrvatska controlled Karlovacko, also 5%, which was sweet, lightly bitter and, although very refreshing, wasn't quite punchy enough for my taste. Favorit Pivo (Istarska Pivivaro) a pale lager of identical strength, was very much down the same route, thirst quenching but just a touch bland towards the finish. Others we came across were the 5.2% Istarsko Pivo (brewed by the obvious!) which had a few highlights of bread dough, but not much more, Pan Lager ( Carlsberg brewed) 4.8% which was light and watery, and the sweet, rather metallic tasting, Union, 4.8% and the Slovenian Lasko Zlatorog, (owned by Heineken and, as far as I can ascertain, brewed at the same brewery as Union) 4.9%. As I said, quite standard stuff. Things do get more interesting when you see some of the other beers on offer from these brewers. Some dark beers are available if you look. My favourite was one of Croatia's strongest commercially brewed beers, Tomislav Crno Pivo. This 7.3% medium sweet Baltic Porter styled brew (from the Ozujsko stable) with dark berry fruits at the opening, had some pleasing chocolate and coffee grounds hints coming through to make a good balanced finish. Ozujsko Rezano 5.9%, was another good one. This Dunkel style beer is a brewery mix of 60% Ozujsko Amber (which I failed to find) and 40% Tomislav. Both Karlovacko and Pan have dark beers too in Karlovacko Crno, 6% and Pan Tamni, 5.5%. 
So, What of the Craft Ales? During our stay, we were quite lucky and managed to tick of a few Croatian Craft Ales quite easily. Not only did we find a few bars stocking a good selection of these brews, the supermarkets also carried a few AND our stay coincided with the annual Tuna Fish Festival, which not only had loads of street food on offer, along with free entertainment, but also boasted a Craft Ale pop-up bar.  What follows is a list of the beers we managed to source during our stay, with just a brief description. I would say though that I never tasted a bad beer, and I was more than happy with my selections.

Bura Brew
in The Beer Garden
Bura Brew. are based in Porec and have been brewing since 2016. Their beers are Optimist Golding Ale 5.5%. A crisp Golden Ale with a touch of yeast over malt at the front. Some honey notes before a bitter, dry finish. Redsand Amber Ale 5.8%. Bitter-sweet start, some fruit and biscuit and a dry finish. Tornado IPA (Istrian Pale Ale), with a nice citrus crispness, 6.2%. Hurricane IPA, 5% has nice rounded tropical fruit notes coming through. This is the core range. I did manage to try two limited editions whilst I was here too. Istrian Belgian Ale (IBA), 6.1% which was fruity, with back spice notes and nice yeast spikes in the finish. Trippin' Tripel, 8.1%, is a lovely well balanced brew. Moderately sweet at the start, then hoppy bitterness over candied fruit leads to a dry and long finish. Very nice.

Gold, Always Believe
In Your Soul.
Bujska Pivovara, based in Buje near the Croatian-Slovenian border, is the home of the San Servolo beer range. The six bottled brews available around Istria are San Servolo Lager, 5.1% which is a clean, crisp brew, with grass notes and slight back bitterness, Premium Crveno Pivo (Red Lager), which has a lovely medium sweet malt signature throughout, Tamno Pivo (Dark Lager), 5.6% that has a rich velvety mouth feel, and has nice, but subtle, coffee and chocolate notes. The 6% India Pale Ale has a good hoppy bitterness tempered well by the floral hints, whilst the American Pale Ale, 6.4%, has nice tropical fruit and zesty citrus at the back. There is also the Limited Edition San Servolo Gold, 7.1%. Biscuit and caramel over light fruit at the start, which leads to a nicely balanced bitter-sweet and dry finish. Quite a lively beer.

SUXO Brewery are in Pula and produce 4 beers. We managed to taste three of the range at the Tuna Festival. The Butcher 5.7% Red Ale had a good rounded malt and fruit body and a reasonably dry, slightly bitter finish. The Reaper Golden Ale, 6.2%, is quite sweet, backed by stone fruit and has a slightly acid tang in the finish. Dark Maid, 6%, was smooth, slightly creamy and had coffee and milk chocolate towards the finish.

Pivovara Medvedgrad. We found a few of these beers in the supermarket, although they are available in some local restaurants. Dva Klasa is a Weissbier  of 4.6%, Zlatni Medvjed 4.4%, a pretty solid Pilsner. Crna Kraljica, is a Black Lager of 4.8%, which has some good choco-coffee back notes, Baltazar is an India Pale Lager, with an increasing hoppy bitterness in the crisp and dry finish. The 7% Fakin IPA is a bittersweet brew with subtle notes of berries and citrus (and quite moreish) whilst Ljeto u Zagrebu, 5.2% Witbier  had a nice spikes of orange and coriander.

Pivovara Daruvar  brew many beers. Among them are the 5th Element beers.LELA, a Blonde Ale of 4.5%, an American Blonde Ale, 5.3% and an Imperial IPA, 7.5%, which we picked up from the local supermarket. We found them all quite sound.

Zmajska Pivovara,  Brewery based in Zagreb, we tried 3 different beers in Porec, Zmajska Pale Ale, 5.3%, malty start with a dry and crisp citrus finish. Pozoj IPA, 7.3%, slight sweet tropical fruit over pine resin. Citrus finish. Porter, 6.5%, a very good mix of roasted malt, chocolate and coffee, very nice.

We also had 4 different brews from the excellent Garden  Brewery, which were their Pale Ale,5.1%, Craft Pilsner, 4.5%, Citrus IPA, 7.2% and their lovely, velvety Stout, 5.7%, and beers from Hotel Golf (Varionica  Pale Ale, 5.2%) Also sampled were the 4.5% Patak Pale Ale, from the Pivovara MBC, Slawoner, Pivovara Medimurski Lepi Decki MINA Brown Ale, 4.6% and Lepi Decki Kaj-El APA, weighing in at 5.2%. There were other a few other Croatian brews available too, alongside beers from Belgium, Austria, Germany and some from the neighbouring countries.

Beer Garden, from the
Bar wise, the wonderful town of  Porec can offer quite a few Craft Ale outlets. Epulon Bar , in the middle of the Old Town, is mainly a Garden Brewery pub when it comes to beer, Beach Bar Jedro has bottles of  Tomislav on the menu (with a great view of the lagoon), Caffe Bar Corner, which is on the north side of the peninsular, offers a few bottles in the fridge, including Sierra Nevada Porter, 5.6%. Wine Corner another cafe bar in the OldTown centre, has San Servola on offer too. My favourite two pubs though were Terra Magica and The Beer Garden. Both bars share a frontage, a parkland which has live music most nights.Food is available at both venues too.  The staff are very friendly and attentive and with San Servolo on at Terra Magica, and a full range of the Bura Brew bottled beers, and Zmajska Pale Ale on draught at The Beer Garden, you can't go wrong. We loved Porec, and would love to return soon.
For now, as we look to getting away again, I would just like to finish by saying :-
Cheers, and keep it Crafty

Friday, 22 March 2019

Paphos, Mandria and Nicosia. More Beer and Fun In The Sun.

As you are probably aware by my previous postings on this blog, (HERE) and (also HERE) over the past few years Jane and I have been extremely fortuitous to have been able to spend a little time each summer visiting friends of ours, Geordie and Lynne, on the beautiful island of Cyprus. Last year, back in June, we would be joined by Doug and Sharon, 2 more of our hosts' friends, also from North East Lincolnshire.
For the first time we would be flying from London Stansted airport, a departure point I last visited during the early part of my taxi driving days in the 1990's. Then, as I recall, it boasted a sizeable and modern terminal building but lacked the air routes and passenger footfall it has now. In fact, on my previous visit, I arrived, parked outside the main entrance to the terminal, as you could then, and was amazed that I was almost the only cabbie dropping a fare off there. How times have changed. It now has around 25 million passengers a year using the facilities with queues seemingly everywhere. This is accompanied by the constant rumble of aircraft noise, as they are either taking off or landing. After we arrived, and dropped the car off at the Meet and Greet, we made our way into the terminal and, after eventually clearing security, we decided on a drink and a bite to eat. Among the adequate number of restaurants, cafe bars and eateries is The Windmill, a Wetherspoon's outlet which, although not as cheap as its High Street cousins, did have a reasonable selection of cask and craft beers and a good selection of food on the menu.We ordered a pizza and, during our wait to be called to the gate, sampled three of the beers on offer. Starting off with the solid tasting fruit and citrus Golden Ale from Hanlons Brewery , the 4.2% Yellow Hammer, before a bottle of Redemption Brewing's Big Chief IPA, 5.5%, a good hoppy beer, with just a hint of honeyed sweetness. These were swiftly followed by a malty, slightly fruity bottle of East London Brewing Co. Cowcatcher APA, 4.8%. After these it was time to make our way to the gate, board our already slightly late Jet2 Boeing 737 aircraft, taxi out and wait.....wait for another 50 minutes. Apparently we, as many others, had become victims of an industrial action within France's Air Traffic Control.
We arrived at Paphos Airport around 10-30pm, remarkably just after it had stopped raining, the last bit of precipitation we would experience for the duration of our trip, and we were soon being chauffeured by our hosts back to Mandria. Tonight would be a quiet night, just a few local Cypriot favourite Keo or Leon beers to wind down, catch up on the gossip and enjoy the company.
Over the next few days we would be out for meals, both in Mandria and Paphos, but the choice of drinks were usually Keo or Leon. There were exceptions, but one must dig around, or do some prior research, to find Real Ales or Craft Ales. Luckily by now I did have that little bit of prior knowledge of the area, and I don't mind the usual Cypriot lager beers on a hot day either. So here is a potted review of what we managed to find on our most current expedition.


The Wooden Pub 2,
Tomb of the King's Road.
One bar we had visited on previous trips is The Wooden Pub. Situated overlooking Paphos Harbour and Municipal Baths, it is in a good area to start, finish or base yourself for a few drinks when you are in the resort. It is one of a couple of the local Aphrodite's Rock Brewery pubs in the resort. The selection is quite good, with some cask from Aphrodite's Rock and local beers in bottles from True Ale and Hop Thirsty Friends, nestled with the Greek based Septem brews, alongside which are some British beers, such as Brewdog and St Austell. The vibe is easy going, and if you just want to chill and watch the world go by,it is the perfect place. For the slightly more athletic, there are the options of board games available to help you exercise your brain, if nothing else. Just a 15 to 20 minute stroll away from here is Wooden Pub 2, on The Tomb of the Kings Road. Offering a bigger site, which includes a quite sizeable outdoor beer garden, this a good place to chill out too. I believe it does offer a bit of entertainment, local bands and singers, during some evenings. The beer selection is much the same as its sister pub and the staff are very friendly, taking the time to have some interaction with the punters. During my visits to the two Wooden Pubs I managed to sample the couple of beers on offer from Hop Thirsty Friends. First up was Humor Weiss, 5%. This Wittbier is mildly fruity, some banana notes are evident, before a viscous, fruity finish. The second brew, brewed, incidently, for Hop Thirsty Friends by Greek based Septem Microbrewery, was Humor IPA, 6.5%. Quite a solid, if typical IPA, to be fair. There is a reasonable bitterness, balanced well with citrus fruitiness, and a long dry finish. A good beer to quench your thirst on. I also had chance to re-sample some of the disappointing True Ales I tried last year and some new ones. I started with the spicy Vienna Ale, followed with the reasonably fruity Porter and finished on the quite grainy Blonde Ale, all 5%, which is an improvement in ABV's on the previous offerings. I also bagged a True Ale Ginger Ale, coming in at the same strength, which was quite malty, with yeasty esters at the opening, before the subtle ginger heat kicks in. I would say that they are not quite there with these brews just yet, but there has been a huge improvement in the last year and they are not too far away from producing a decent selection of beers.
There are, of course, quite a few bars and restaurants in and around these two areas of Paphos, but most other places usually offer just Keo, Leon and Heineken. It is worth just asking, or looking at the beer fridge behind the bar though. Some do carry Aphrodite's Rock in bottles, and I did notice Wadworth's 6X on tap (keg I would guess) in a couple of establishments. Although I didn't get to visit this time, both the Old Fishing Shack Ale and Cider House in the resort, and The Beer Seller beer shop, just outside in the Geroskipou area, are going strong under the stewardship of Athos. There are a few bottled beers, some from the UK and Belgium, appearing in the supermarkets too.
On our last visit we found the major rebuilding works were still ongoing in the Old Town area. Roads were dug up, pavements non-existent and, to be honest, a right mess. I can, happily, report that almost all the work is finished. It has made it a bright and airy place to walk around, steeped in history but with a modern facade, although I haven't had chance yet to sniff out any real ales or craft beers in the bars.


8.5% Duvel in
You will find Mandria just a short drive south of Paphos Airport and, although quite modern, it does have a certain type of old village charm to it. It is a growing area with a mixture of resident ex-pats, holiday home renters and owners, International tourists and, of course, local Cypriots. Raves and night-clubbing it isn't, but more than half a dozen cafe bars and restaurants adorn the village centre, each with its own character. The food choices are more than ample, Italian, Fish and Chips, traditional Cypriot dishes, and take-away options are all catered for. There seems to be a local competition as to whom can supply the biggest pork chop or the most spare ribs so the meals in the village are very good value for money, whoever you choose.The six of us enjoyed quite a few "competitive" meals here. As for beer, two neighbouring bars deserve a mention. Klimataria offers all the usual suspects but, if you ask, you will find bottles of 8.5% Duvel Belgian Strong Beer on offer from the fridge here. They are quite reasonably priced too, and, lets face it, this beer, with its grassy and floral notes, spice at the back leading to a long citrus finish, rarely disappoints. Directly over the road is Kentrpoikon. You can find two of the Erdinger Weissbrau beers, Weissbier Hefe-Weizen and Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel, on tap here. Both are 5.3% and as”standard” as you would find anywhere.

A trip to Nicosia

On our first ever visit to Cyprus, back in 2005, we stayed in the Protaras area. One of our many highlights from that trip was a visit to the only divided capital city in the world, Nicosia. It was quite fascinating and crossing the fortifications of the “Green Line”, (UN buffer Zone) showed more than the physical divide between the Greek influenced Republic of Cyprus and The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Back then, a visa to cross over the border cost £1 CYP and restrictions over goods were very strict. Now it's more relaxed and it has more border crossing points, making it somewhat easier, although tensions still exist. But this isn't a history lesson, nor a political analysis. I will leave that to those who are more qualified.
No Craft beer. Just a light lunch,
Northern Cyprus style
On our trip, after taking the bus from Paphos to Nicosia, we stayed just a couple of blocks away from the crossing point in Ledras Street. We cooled down with a couple of Keo's (of course) on our arrival at the nearest street cafe-bar before crossing over to the TRNC for a bite to eat. Now, if you want real ales or craft ales in the north you will struggle. On our trip over, I did have a couple of “possible” bars on my list. Unfortunately, with it being late afternoon, a few bars were not open which curtailed our beer search, so food (which was very cheap, plentiful and absolutely wonderful) and Efes were our rewards. Our next trip here might uncover those elusive brews I have been searching for. Afterwards we wandered around a little while before crossing through the checkpoint and proceeding back over the border. We'd had a rather pleasant afternoon, one we hope to do again. Our next stop was Brewfellas, a friendly craft ale bar, just off Ledras Street. It has a pretty good range of beers on tap, as well as a great selection of botles and canned craft beer. Also there is a beer shop adjacent. We had planned to go out later that evening, so we just had time for a quick drink before heading back to our digs. My choice was Tempest Brewing's Elemental Porter, 5.1%, a nice bitter-sweet brew with coffee and Dark Chocolate, whilst Jane had the Budweisser Budvar Czech Pilsner, 5%. Both were very well kept.
Pivo's beer menu.
After freshening up back at our digs, we strolled out to a microbrewery and taphouse not too far away from were we were staying. This was Pivo Microbrewery, nestled close to the city's divide. This is a bright and airy bar, and has a mixed customer base of tourists and locals, but the love of beer is the the draw, along with knowledgeable staff and what looked like excellent food (although we didn't eat here ourselves after our huge plate fulls of grub we received over the border!). There are quite a few in-house brewed beers on tap and in bottles, and the range should suit most beer seekers. We started off with the 4x 0.2l Beer Tasting selection. This consisted of Pivo's Sitarenia Bavarian Weissbier, a malt driven brew with subtle stone fruit and bubble-gum at the back, 4.5%, Blondie, a 4.3% nicely balanced Bohemian Pilsner, a Czech Dark Lager, 4.2% Noir which imparted a nice mix of dark fruits tempered by light chocolate onto the palate and Hoppy, a quite complex American Pale Ale of 4.5% its fruit, floral notes and a tingle of citrus at the back which forces through to dominate in the finish. After sharing our four beers, Jane carried on with another Blondie whilst I went for the last 2 beers on tap. Smoked Fish, an American Smoked Ale of 4.9%, certainly has plenty of smoke in the taste with sweet fruit and just slight strains of citrus adding to a quite heavy mouthfeel, whereas Hopfish is totally opposite. This Summer Ale is light, hoppy and has a good citrus buzz to it. A very refreshing beer of 4.1%. It was now time to move on, so we headed back to Brewfellas, which, by now, was quite busy. A G&T was Jane's order, which was poured with a very generous spirit measure. I decided to go for a half of Tempest Marmalade on Rye, a big robust tasting DIPA of 9%, where sweet fruitiness is balanced its citrus and a lovely back bitterness. Last up was another half, this time Northern Monk/Against The Grain Collaboration Peanut Butter & Jelly Brown Ale, 10%. Wow! What a big punchy flavour. Jammy,malted caramel and biscuity sweetness on the outset, then the nuttiness of the peanut butter, and more fruit combine to lift the sweetly dry, but balanced, big finish. The high alcohol strength is not noticeable in the least. A surprisingly easy to drink beer, especially with that high ABV.
We had really enjoyed our night out in Nicosia and the following day, as we sat outside another friendly and quaint cafe-bar, sampling more generous food servings and local hospitality, we had already made our minds up to return here on our next break in Cyprus.
Brewfellas, Nicosia.

Another highlight of our visit was Sunday dinner, Cypriot style, taken at a traditional Taverna up in the hills beyond the Asprokremmos Reservoir, overlooking Paphos. There is no menu, or set meal, you book in and sit back and, over a cool beer, wait. Then it arrives, almost meze style. You are not quite sure what will come next, but you will get fresh bread with mixed starters, plenty of vegetables and huge roasted potatoes, piles of whatever meats are being cooked, and followed up with a dessert. Last, but not least, the zivania spirit comes out! Marvellous, and good value for money too.
Our 8 days in Sunny Cyprus seemed to be over so quickly. As we reflected at the airport, awaiting our flight back to Manchester, it was clear that we would returning soon as this is still one of our favourite places to visit.

Cheers and keep it “Real”

Sunday, 14 October 2018

A welcome Return to Blogging

Here we are, entering the second quarter of October 2018 and I still have not blogged about anything that has happened since our trip to Poznan last November!. How rude of me. This is partly due to my work and free time balance, as well as a gradual change in my drinking habits. With the allotment, grandchildren and jobs around the house taking some precedents, my habits have been slowly going from “Big Nights Out” to drinking in leisure at home, enjoying the garden and sampling beers delivered from beer suppliers Flavourly, Beer52 and Honest Brew, along with others sourced from the Cleethorpes beer shop, Message In A Bottle, as well as any additional beer shops we come across on our travels. I must admit that the supermarkets seemed to have upped their game too when it comes to supplies of better quality bottled and canned beers. The Beermonster does still manage a trip out to the pub, from time to time,mostly away from my hometown, and, because of that, there are tales to be told. I will now try to expand on these tastings just a little further.

Now open. Docks Beers
Brewery and Taproom, Grimsby.
First of all, though, a little bit of better news from our local beer scene, namely North East Lincolnshire. The Craft and Real Ale offerings has, at last, started to improve slightly over here in Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Axholme Brewery have managed to expand its availability of their cask and bottled ranges into more pubs in the area, especially their Cleethorpes Pale Ale Cask. They have also just put the finishing touches to a second brewery, this one in Grimsby, between the main shopping area and the town's dock, which will go by the name of Dock Beers.There is also a Tap Room bar on site. I can't wait for my first visit. Meanwhile, up in neighbouring Cleethorpes, The Counting House, and Arthur's House and a new and relocated Society Bar have all emerged to plump out the growing craft beer and cocktail offerings in the resort. We have visited The Counting House on a couple of occasions, which is housed in a former bank in Sea View Street. The range of beers, which isn't huge, usually contains one of the Axholme Brewery beers. There are plenty of cocktails on offer though. During a couple of our trips to Cleethorpes, we have also popped into The No 1 Rereshment Rooms on the station, which is not to be confused with the other excellent real ale bar situated on Cleethorpes Station, the No 2 Refreshment Room, or Under The Clock, as it is known. The No 1 has a good selection of cask ales, spread over two bars, and the clientele are very welcoming. Although the upholstery, on our last visit, certainly needed an upgrade, the memorabilia spread around this multi-roomed bar certainly adds to the character. We usually pop into The Bobbin whilst we are in the resort, and, on our last visit, we opted to go for each of their three new craft cans on offer from Cork's Franciscan Well Brewery (part of Molson Coors). First up was Friar Weisse Wheat Beer,4.7%, which had a fruit and clove aroma, which is followed by citrus, some yeast and soft spice. Next up was Chieftain Irish Pale Ale, 5.5%. This one has a solid malt backbone, with tropical fruit, hints of vanilla, some citrus along with a nice hoppy lift at the back. Last up, Rebel Red Ale, 4.3%. Plenty of caramel throughout, with some berry fruitiness coming through at the end. It is, at last, looking a slightly more promising beer scene in our neck of the woods. One only hopes that this continues.


The Consortium in Louth.
One of our days out earlier this year was to The Capital of The Lincolnshire Wolds, Louth. This visit was days after the last snows of a very long winter, and saw the last vestiges of the white stuff still draping over the the base of the hedgerows, and the River Lud angrily thundering through town, brown and moody looking. We have been to this market town many times before, and I have also reviewed most of the drinking establishments within it. This time, after a meal in The Woolpack, followed by a couple of beers in The Gas Lamp Lounge, we wandered back into the centre of town to the recently opened microbrewery and micropub, The Consortium. This former coffee shop is the smallest bar in Louth, and probably one of the smallest in Lincolnshire. Although space is at a premium in here, the ambiance is friendly and the decor tasteful and fitting with the ethos of the place.It has a good half a dozen cask brews on offer, some of which are The Consortium's own. The beers we sampled in here were all from the house brewery. I started with a 3.9% Lincolnshire Porter, a nice plummy porter with just an edge of coffee at the back and a nice dry finish. Jane went for King Lud, 4.4%, a nicely crafted Pale Ale, with a citrus fruit over a balanced bitter-sweetness in the main which leads to a zesty bitterness at the back. Whilst Jane stuck with her choice, I went for Consortium Brewing Co's Street Beer Series IPA, 4.5%. Although not quite as punchy and hoppy as some IPA's, this was still a good refreshing brew. Red berries and some soft fruit combine well with zest and leads to a crisp finish. 
After our session here, we decided to visit a pub that has won many Real Ale awards over the years, The Brown Cow Freehouse, in Newmarket. Being short of time, the last bus was due to leave in 30 minutes, We quickly ordered our drinks, Fuller's London Pride, which we enjoyed in the packed surroundings of the bar before rushing back to the bus station. The beers all seemed to be in good order, the bar staff are friendly and, by the size of the portions on the plates, the food is well received by the many punters who frequent this freehouse.
What a good day we had experienced yet again, and we often wonder why we don't nip on the bus there more often, although the 40 to 50 minute ride back on the bus with no toilet does suggest one reason!


The Cosy Club's interior
Jane and I (well, Jane really) decided on a bit of pre-holiday shopping, and, as we hadn't been there together for a while, we opted for a day out in Lincoln. Arriving by train, we wandered up towards the High Street area to do the retail therapy bit before heading to our first pub of the day. We decided to give The Cosy Club, housed in the recently renovated Corn Exchange building, a look. This is a wonderfully and sympathetically decorated bar with original marketplace advertising on the walls joined by paintings of the custodians of this former trading place. I would feel the need to grow and wax a fancy moustache if I were to be a regular here, such is the authenticity of the surrounds. On our visit the only cask ale on was The Lincolnshire Brewing Company's Cheeky Imp, a 4.6% nutty and malty Bitter with a nice bitter-sweetness throughout. Part of the profits go towards Lincoln City FC's Future Imps programme. Being a Grimsby Town fan that was a big sacrifice to make in the name of beer reviewing, but the beer did win. Next up, whilst my Good Lady visited another couple of shops, I was let off the reigns for an hour to do my own bit of exploring. My next port of call was The Dandy Lion Alehouse, in Newland. In here I chose a Lagunitas Day Time Ale,4.6%, a nice floral and citrus IPA style brew, with a wonderful lemon sherbert like tickle in the dry finish. The pub has a relaxing feel, and is quite modern in its interior design. After this it was back to the hustle and bustle of the centre, and another bottled beer in The Curiosity Shop, situated at the beginning of The Strait. Inside, the decor is best described as shabby chic, I suppose, but an amiable warmth is forthcoming from the bar staff. My beer of choice was Brooklyn East IPA, weighing in at 6.9%. I sat outside and savoured the bitter opening to this one, which is followed by a hint of treacle sweetness and some citrus zest. There are hints of dark fruit in the depths but citrus and zest are the main players. Nice. 
The cask beer flight selection in
The Carinal's Hat.
Now reunited with a happy shopper, we popped across the road to The Cardinal's Hat. I have previously reviewed this pub ( Here and also Here 2) so straight on to the beers. Jane had decided to keep to cider in the main today so that was  an easy pick. I decided to go for the Beer Flight, four of the 1/3 pint measure sampler cask beers for £5.25. My selection was Pentrich Brewing Rain of Ruin, at 9% a lovely big and punchy Imperial Stout, 4.5% Factory Pale Ale from Manchester Brewing Co, and two from Dukeries Brewery. These were Lord Furnival Strong Golden Ale, 5.1%, and Castle Hill Best Bitter, 4.2%. All four on my flight were good solid beers and certainly well looked after. The food is good here too. We shared a platter of meats, which came with bread, olives etc. Fed and ready to go, we took a gulp of air before marching from here up The Strait and Steep Hill towards its summit, and our next bar, BeerHeadZ. Another first visit to this bar, and what a place! I counted 15 cask and craft keg pumps and a fridge full of more craft ales. We sampled three beers in here, First up was Fyne Ales Loch & Key, 5.5%, a nice brew with soft flavours of citrus, berries and just a touch of pine. This was followed by a Kinver Brewery Kinver Egdge, a nicely balanced nutty 4.2% Bitter, with soft hops at the back. Jane, meanwhile, deserting the apple juice, had the Wellbeck Abbey Brewery National Treasure, a Golden Ale of 5.4%. Although nothing exceptional, it was still a solid brew with a medium biscuity sweetness and dry and bitter finish. Our next stop, the final one at this altitude, was The Lincoln Tap House and Kitchen. There is a lovely roof terrace here, which gives a nice view over Bailgate and towards Lincoln Cathedral. The bar, downstairs, hosts 10 different pumps and from these we ordered a Beavertown Neck Oil, 4.3%, a light, crisp and refreshing Pale Ale and an Aspall's 5.5% Suffolk Dry Cider, before taking in the view. We, finished our drinks, bathed in sunshine but with an edge of coolness still in the air, and decided it was time to retrace our steps towards the bottom of Steep Hill, grab a final drink or two, before moving on to the train station. On the way down the hill, towards The Strait And Narrow pub, we popped into The Crafty Bottle Beer Shop, this was for MY retail therapy. After picking up a few little treats for home we settled ourselves in the large but cosy interior of The Strait And Narrow and ordered our drinks. This time it was Waen Brewery Lemon Drizzle, a 3.7% Golden Ale with, obviously, a cake and lemon tang to it, and a 4% Timmermans Peach Lambic. A sweet and fruity ending to our Lincoln visit, and, besides a slight bag malfunction which enforced a hurried game of "Chase the Bottle" down the lesser slope of this area of Lincoln, our enjoyable day out uneventfully came to a close. We boarded our train back to Grimsby in the knowledge that our next big day out would be in the warm Mediterranean sunshine of Paphos.....but that is another story.

Cheers and Keep it "Real"