Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Model of Craft work

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

Cheers and keep it “Real” Crafty!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Aldi, Aldi, Domino Dancing.

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

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

Harper's Brewing Co. Beers

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great British Collection.

The Great British Brewing Co.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 20 January 2017

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleethorpes Beer Festival.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers and keep it "Real"

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Cyprus. Aphrodite's birthplace and Brewery.

Most forays to the popular beach hotspots of Europe do not, usually, include a visit to a brewery producing “traditional” real ales. Reasonable local keg, bottles, cans and sparse offerings of craft beers are possible to find, and in the hot, arid and sunny climate a cool local beer, usually lager in style, seems to suffice the quenching of the thirst, although a repeat performance with your chosen tipple, in the cooler, damper breezes of home after finding your favoured holiday beer in a local supermarket, almost always ends with disappointment. So, where is this blog posting heading? Well, back in September, we flew off to our destination of choice, armed with fond memories of previous beery offerings, and a promise to visit a proper Real Ale brewery which has been highly rated by many since it opened only a few years back. So, here goes. A review of one of Europe's most beautiful and enchanting islands. Cyprus. Also the home of Aphrodite's Rock Brewing Company.
Cyprus. Reputed to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love. A beautiful Island in the Eastern Mediterranean. Hot, sunny and unbroken blue skies greet the visitor. What a place to spend your holidays. Cyprus is one of our favourite destinations, and this year we were able to re-kindle our love of the island, the first time for about 10 years. Previously, we had stayed on the east coast, around Protaras, but this time the West coast beckoned, so we decided to try Paphos, a city of archaeological interest, on our return. Following our flight, we arrived rather late on a September Sunday at our base for the next two weeks, Tasmaria Apartments, on the main road through the small, but vibrant, city. The busyness of the road initially came as a shock, but with the hotel sitting slightly back from the new dual-carriageway, and our room being at the back, we can honestly say we didn't get bothered by the traffic in the least. We were soon booked in, and then decided to stretch our legs, all of the 20 yards to Tramps Bar, right next door. This is a very friendly bar, which always has a eclectic mix of locals, usually ex-pats, and tourists. Alongside the KEO, Leon and Carlsberg, I did espy a pump proclaiming Everard's “Beacon”, which I later found out was brewed under licence on the island. Hey!, it was holiday time, around midnight and we were still basking in 20° C of warmth, so we chose the Leon. I will reflect on the more usually served beers of Cyprus later, but I will admit that a cold Leon on a warm night, after quite a few hours travelling via car, plane and coach, was more than welcome. Over the next couple of days, many a bar in Paphos was discovered (there are plenty, and they are not hiding) and the KEO and Leon were partaken of. I did have the phone number of a friend, an ex work colleague of mine, Geordie, who had retired to these parts a couple of years back, and having promised to have a drink or two with him if we were ever to re-visit Cyprus, I gave him a quick text on the Wednesday evening. The plan was for Jane to do some retail therapy on Saturday afternoon at the local Mall, whilst I would meet up with Geordie, over the football, sink a few beers and have a good old yarn about what we had both been up to over the last biennial period. This is were I had underestimated the generosity and friendship of my old work mate.
Lynne & Geordie.
Best tour guides on
“Where are you two stayin', Fozzy?” was the reply to my opening gambit of football and drinks.
“Can't make it on Saturday. Charity raft race for the local Animal Welfare Shelter (PAWS). I'll pick you and Jane up tomorrow, and give you the Grand Tour......”. And so it was. The very next day, Geordie, his lovely wife, Lynne, and Dexter, the dog, pulled up outside our hotel at the start of one of the most wonderful holiday experiences we have ever had. We visited bars nestled in places even the locals would need reminding of, with views which would bring a tear to a glass eye they were so beautiful. Churches, beauty spots, secluded beaches and even shipwrecks, among other things, were shown, and lapped up gratefully by us. The tour was more than Grand, it was Magnificent. All in all we enjoyed their company for the best part of 7 days of our 14 on the island, and never tired of it once. We cannot thank them enough, and were very humbled at their insistence to “stay over” for a couple of nights at their homestead in Mandria, which allowed us to explore so much more of this area. Sunday, after a trip around Pissouri (Aphrodite's Rock, and all) and the areas nearby, saw us eat at the brilliantly situated Bonamare. With a great view of the local airport, and one of the best positions for dramatic sunsets in the area, it is a great bar to visit. That evening, after some of the largest food portions we have both ever experienced at a pub, and washed down, back at Mandria, with a bottle, and a bit of a quite reasonable brandy ( described as “9 Euros a litre bottle from the Bulgarian shop. Asda price!”), Geordie kindly insisted to pick us up and run us out to the Aphrodite's Rock Brewery, in Tsada, the following Tuesday. What a Gent! It is not the easiest place to reach via public transport.
Up the Creek with a
So, moving on to Tuesday, we were picked up and, after a tour of the area around Tsada, we visited Minthis Hills Golf Club, which contains a 12th Century monastery on the course. Next stop was the much awaited visit to Aphrodite's Rock Brewing Company. On arriving, we were quite surprised at how busy this little place can be. We were soon shown to a table though, and settled down to sample the selection of real ales on offer. The choices are quite good, to be fair. There are real ales, ciders, wines and soft drinks all available, with brewery tours, drink and pizza combos, Sunday lunch deals, drinks, and food separately. We decided to taste the wares, and just have a spot of lunch alongside. To enable us to taste the full range on offer, I decided on a paddle of 5 of the beers on offer, served in 200ml glasses, whilst the other beers were sampled between us as pints. Our findings were as follows.

Yorkshire Rose. 3.8%
What a great Yorkshire Bitter styled beer this is. It is smooth, full bodied and has a slight floral hint to it. A touch of spice is also there, after the initial sweet, caramel and toffee opening. It would be as much at home in The Pennines as it is in the Mediterranean sunshine.

Lian Shee. 4.5%
I first encountered this brew in its bottled form, in the Harbour area of Paphos, and as much as I enjoyed it then, I liked the cask version a lot more. It is a creamy Irish Red Ale, with a big boost of malt and caramel at the start. There is a nice controlled bitterness towards the end. A really nice beer indeed.

Extra Special Bitter. 5%
This is quite like a Brown Ale, but not quite as sweet. It is driven by a malty sweetness, but well balanced and tempered by an earthy back taste.

Oktoberfest. 4.8%
German by design, but undeniably a beer crafted for British tastes. Again, a malt sweetness leads, but the hoppy bitterness lurks in the background, waiting to help in the final balance of this nice beer. There is also a slight, but noticeable, fruitiness, with just a hint of plums on the palate.

West Coast IPA. 6%
This is a good IPA. It isn't as punchy and “in your face” as some of the beers of this style, but the well hopped flavour is there. Just giving you a nudge towards the end of the initial mouthful. It is rounded in the main, but that telltale bitterness really allows this beer to reach new heights.

London Porter. 4.8%
The paddle beer today
I had heard good reports of this one, and was not disappointed. The beer sat in the glass rather proudly, with a fine and dandy creamy white head atop. Now, I have had drinks before that have been good looking in the glass, but have failed in the flesh, so to speak, but not this one. The aroma is of chocolate and roast malt and the choco-malt theme carries through into the main taste, with liquorice and a hint of spice sitting alongside these very nicely. Carob is listed as one of the ingredients, and possibly adds to the chocolate vein, dark iridescent colour and smooth mouth feel. Make no mistake, this is a great London Porter.

Rock Premium. 4.8%
A Bavarian styled craft lager, with a bready aroma and quite a light, subtle taste. There is a quite floral aftertaste, and the bitterness is not too prominent. A good thirst quencher.

Sorrella Fine Traditional Cider. 4.2%
One of four bottled ciders on offer from the brewer, and quite a reasonable tasting one too. I am no expert but T'other 'arf definitely enjoyed it, as the empty glass and satisfied smile proved.

What an excellent afternoon. Add to this some nicely prepared food and a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside, with dramatic hills drenched in sunshine, and I struggle to believe there is a better place to be to have a piss-up in a brewery!

Some of the
Refreshments for the balcony.
What of the other beers available on Cyprus? As I have mentioned, KEO and Leon are the local mainstream beers, with a pump or fridge full at most places. We did stumble upon a few other beers in the local Lidl, but these were only imports, although, probably available as staples. I have included these in my reviews as well.

KEO Pale Lager 4.5%
The most popular beer on the island, and has earned the odd award along the way. It was first brewed, in Limassol, back in the 1950's. It is light, with sweet malt shining through before a very slight bitterness from the hops. The finish is dry, with floral hints on the palate. To be fair, it is a quite refreshing and reasonable lager, and easy drinking. I don't mind it. It was usually my drink during the heat of the day.

KEO Light. 3.5%
The name sums it up really, it is the same as the original, but a lesser ABV value, a touch thinner in taste and a touch less carbonation. Nothing special, but not a horrid brew either.

Leon All Malt Beer. 4.5%
I remember drinking this on my first visit to Cyprus, and found it a touch darker and heavier in taste than I found this time. It was first brewed in1937, but the company, Photos Photiades Breweries, suspended production in 1962, after it acquired the licence to brew Carlsberg here. It was brought back in 2003, but I believe a slight tinkering of the recipe has since taken place. It has a smooth sweet malted flavour throughout, and a hint of grass in the after taste. Medium bitterness, and carbonation is not heavy.

Ermis Argus Hellenic Lager 5%
I found this in Lidl. It is light, with slight fruit aroma, and the taste is reasonably fresh. Quite highly carbonated, and a metallic backtaste at the finish.

Ermis Gold Hellenic Lager 5%
This was very much the same as Argus, but a much sweeter taste towards the finish. They are not classics, by any means, but at only a few cents for a can, they are worth a punt to keep one hydrated in the sun!

Perlenbacher Radler (Cloudy) 2.5%
Refreshing, but not anything more than a very lemonade driven shandy. Not a lot more to say, really.

Perlenbacher Weissbier. 5%
This was not so bad, really. It starts out with yeast and fruit on the nose, and leads onwards, with more fruit, some herb hints and nice yeast esters. There is a smooth creaminess in the mouth, and only a light carbonation. I am no expert when it comes to this style, but I did enjoy it.

Kamenitza Lager. 4.4%
A bottle from the aforementioned Bulgarian shop in Paphos, this was a quite malty brew, with a astringent bitterness in the finish. The aftertaste is a little sour. I suppose “acquired taste” sums this one up.

The Old Fishing Shack Ale and Cider House.
"Gone Fishin'"

There are a myriad of pubs, bars and restaurants in, and around, Paphos. We found our way around quite a few. You have the Tomb of the Kings' Road, with, Thomas's Jungle Tramps, Yiamas, The Green Corner, to name but a few, and the web of streets leading off, and the Old Paphos Town area, a bus ride or energetic walk away with its selections, then on to the famous Bar Street, just off from the Harbour is, well, full of bars. Most around here are much of a muchness, but if that's your gig, who am I to say otherwise? The Harbour has quite a few more up market establishments, and a nicer ambience, but no matter where you wander, you will find a refeshment station to suit your needs. One place that is worth digging out is The Old Fishing Shack Ale and Cider House, tucked just away from Bar Street. The owner has a terrific knowledge of his wares, and the selection of beers here is vast. There are beers from all over the World, and many rare ones and vintage Ales too. It is not a cheap place to drink, but a very enjoyable, and interesting diversion. You will be amazed at the collection.Off sales as well as bar sales. It certainly is not a cheap night out, though, with almost all the beers having to be imported, but carefully reading the “menu” can avoid you choosing a 100 euros plus vintage beer by mistake. We had four different beers in here, firstly I had a Belhaven Scottish Oat Stout, a lovely heavy stout of 7%, which had a nice sweetness that combines well with coffee and the bitterness of dark chocolate, Jane opted for Greene King St Edmunds Golden Beer, 4.2%. This is a straightforward tasting beer. No complexity at all. There is a slightly sweet malt flavour to start, then a pronounced full stop of dry bitterness at the end. We followed these with a Barock Dunkel, courtesy of Weltenburger Kloster, a 4.7% dark brew with a rich smooth fruity taste that has a fine vein of spiciness to it, and a nicely bitter-sweet finish, and a Fucking Hell. This beer comes from the Austrian village of Fucking, and, to be fair, is a bog standard lager. It is 4.7% and light, hoppy but, besides the name, not that memorable. It looks good in a photo though.

Brandy Sour and Ouzo
Ouzo, Brandy, Zivannia, and the various cocktails (the best Brandy Sour was at La Boite 67, whilst the best Ouzo Special was in the Rose Pub, both in the Harbour area) that just about covers our trip to Paphos. We enjoyed it immensly, and have vowed to return soon. We managed to get to a Mediterranean real ale brewery, and a beer shop-come-tavern , soak up loads of sun, ate like hogs and enjoyed Lynne and Geordie's rich hospitality. What's not to like. As they say on the Island of Cyprus “Yiamas”.
Well, besides the
Oh, that Everard's Beacon, brewed here under licence. It is the smooth version, and quality does vary, but find a bar where it is popular and it does make rather a change from the lager.

Cheers and keep it “Real”,

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Local Links in Lincs.

 With the Real Ale pub scene in my home town at best being somewhat, erm...unpredictable, with a local choice of either of the 2 JDW's (one being turned into a hotel and the other due to close) or a couple of other pub chain outlets, which are probably the safest havens for a reasonable variety of cask ales, it is fair to say it does not boast of too many cask establishments, although we do meander through the town centre more often than we should. The thing is, though, it can become a little boring and monotonous to be going out and visiting the same hostelries again and again.....and again. You get to the point where it is almost a chore, rather than a pleasure, to go out for a couple of beers. With this in mind, I have been “sniffing out” a few places around the locality where we can have a bit of a “jolly”. The main problem to that in our part of Lincolnshire is the lack of public transport links, especially after the sun is on its downward trajectory. That, although problematic, hasn't stopped us altogether, just slowed up the process, and has lead to more of an afternoon imbibing nature! So, what is out there in our locality, beyond the boundaries of North East Lincolnshire's two biggest towns, Grimsby and Cleethorpes? Let's have a peep.

Tetney Lock.

This small village, not to be mistaken for its neighbour, Tetney (which also has a pub, The Plough),
Walk to, or stagger back from
 The Crown & Anchor
is only around 6 miles from the Caravan Parks of Cleethorpes, by road, or a 4 mile walk across public footpaths, bridleways and the odd field. We, my recently retired friend, Steve, and I, chose the latter. It was a pleasant, but rather cold February day when we set out on our journey. The walk itself took about an hour and a half each way, with beautiful views of the Mouth of the Humber (no, not me, before you start writing your own script!!). There is a wealth of wading birds and the like in this area, as well as the various sized ships either heavily lumbering up to the deep water ports of Immingham and Hull, or the smaller craft zipping in and out to the new growth of offshore wind farms. As a boy, I used to make my way, usually with my dad, to the waterfront of the Humber, and watch the many trawlers, jockeying for position, waiting for the lock gates of Grimsby's Fish Dock to open, sadly, just a memory now, as our fishing industry has almost disappeared. Back to our walk. We arrived a little further down from Tetney Lock, and strolled along the banks of The Louth Navigational Canal, until we reached our destination.
The Crown and Anchor has been here since Victorian times and is the only pub in the village. After the locals, most of the daytime clientele are either walkers or anglers from the adjacent canal, although we have been told that the restaurant side of the business also attracts quite a few from the area on a night. On offer were “Doom Bar” and “Black Sheep”. There is a third beer usually on, but not today. We sampled both, and found them in good form. Not a bad place to have a wander to, but next time we might do it in the Summer sun.

Barnetby, Wragby and Brigg.

I like Brigg. I have had many a good afternoon and night here, but it has become a bit of a bind to get here. There used to be a regular bus service straight from Grimsby, to Sheffield, via this charming town. Alas, no more. The direct train only runs on Saturdays, to serve demand from Brigg to Grimsby, so the easiest way is to get the train to Barnetby, and either hope to catch the Wolds Villager bus service or, walk the 4 miles, mostly with the company of the noise from the busy A18. My last visit was for a meal to bid farewell to Tracey, a good friend and former workmate, who had left to pursue a career as a postie. I chose to jump on the train and do the walk, having a stop on the way. Arriving at Barnetby station, I espied the Whistle and Flute public house, just at the side of the platforms. I am told that the tribute acts on here at weekends are quite good, and although I didn't pop in this time, I will visit here on my next trip. I left the town, passing by the Railway Inn, which appeared closed, and on to the A18. After 50 minutes, or so I arrived at Wrawby, the home of The Black Horse, and The Jolly Miller. During the week it is rare to find either of these pubs open before 3pm, as I found out! I arrived at The Jolly Miller just before opening time, and was ushered round the back to the bar, where I found a selection of three real ales. My choice in here, to help quench my thirst before setting out on another mile or so's stroll, was Bateman's “Pilgrim Fathers IPA”, an Ale of 4.4%, which was light, refreshing a full of punchy grapefruit notes. The young lady serving in here was polite, chatty and very friendly. I enjoyed my 20 minutes in here. One to return to.
Mr Day outside his favourite local.
 I then stepped out to Brigg, and had agreed to meet up with another ex-workmate, Steve Day, in his favoured local, The Yarborough Hunt, a Tom Woods pub. This place had a good, old fashioned feel about it, with many posters and ornaments of a previous era on display. I now know why Steve feels at home here, he could be part of the d├ęcor, the silly old sod! The beers are mostly from the Tom Woods stable, but it does also have guests Ales on. I started on “Bomber County” at 4.8% (Reviewed Here) , before joining Steve on “Lincoln Gold”, 4%, the core Golden Ale, with a nice fruitiness to the taste and a smooth, gradually bittered long finish. Another beer to slake ones thirst on a hot day. After an hour of chewing the fat, and putting the world to rights, including the fortunes of our beloved Grimsby Town FC, it was time to move on. My next stop was the former Black Bull, now Dexter's Alehouse and Kitchen, to meet up with for a meal and drinks with Tracey and the others. Dexter's is a very compact bar, which lends itself more towards eating, but there is room for the casual drinking visitor too. I ordered my beer, St Austell “Proper Job”,(Reviewed Here) one of the reasonable range of three cask ales, and then we sat down to have our meal and celebrate Tracey's new job. The beer was well kept and the food more than adequate, and reasonably priced. Not a bad place to pop in to at all. We then moved down the road a little to the local J.D. Wetherspoon's pub, The White Horse. The interior here is bright and airy, with a modern look, but, otherwise, just a typical JDW pub. There are 7 cask pumps on display, and the staff are friendly. In here I had a 5% ale from the New York based Ithaca Beer Co. “Nut Brown Ale”, brewed in conjunction with the Caledonian Brewery. It is a very malty brew, with hints of chocolate and coffee. The nut taste comes in the finish, and makes for a nicely balanced beer. Not too bad at all. I followed this with a pint of Ascot Ales “Anastasia's Exile Stout”. The taste of this 5% brew is a nice blend of roast malt, chocolate and good strains of vanilla. The finish is sweet and smooth, with a tad of bitterness. I enjoyed my visit to Brigg, as I always do. Besides the pubs reviewed here, there a a few more, all within easy walking distance of the town centre. It is just a shame about those transport links from Grimsby.

Sunny Sutton on Sea via South Reston.

I have an Aunt who lives out near Alford, pretty much in the sticks. There aren't a plethora of hostelries in her immediate area, but a little way away you can usually find a village pub or two. In South Reston is the community hub pub The Waggon and Horses, which, besides the bar, also boasts a thriving restaurant, picnic and play area, caravan and camping site and a local shop for supplies. The Lounge Bar is roomy and wood panelled, with a selection of Bateman's Ales, and a house beer on tap. We only had a couple of halves, as we were in the car, but it was noticeable what a busy village pub this is, and an integral part of the local community, and passing holidaymakers from nearby Mablethorpe.
Bacchus beers on the bar.
Speaking of Mablethorpe, just next door is the small town of Sutton on Sea. This is a holiday resort in miniature, with a frontage of about a mile, nestling between Trusthorpe and Sandilands. You can drive through it within a blink of an eye. We, on the other hand, chose to visit for a meal, and a few drinks, at a couple of establishments, and were quite pleased we did. Our first stop was for a meal at The Sea Breeze Restaurant, on High St. the food is well cooked, well presented and very tasty. Beer, as well as wine, is available, either draught lager, or, as I chose, bottles of Bateman's. In stock was “XXXB” or “Combined Harvest”, both sampled and both enjoyed. I have reviewed both previously, so I shall not expand any further. After our meal we left, crossed the road and entered The Bacchus Hotel. What a gem of a place. We entered, just as the quiz was coming to an end, and managed to squeeze in on a table near the bar. The beer range not only has guest ales but also prominently features a couple of beers from the on site micro-brewery. It was these beers we sampled. First up was Bacchus “Sutton Pride”, a 4.3% Bitter which is quite solid, to be fair. It isn't a World beater but is a good malty brew, with sweet caramel balancing the bitterness well. The other brew on offer at the pump from this brewer was “Sutton Blonde”, 4.2%. This is a light tasting beer with a citrus bite to it. The finish is quite floral, but quite moreish. All in all, not a bad little place to drop anchor, and I hope the brewery enterprise goes from strength to strength.

The Number 5 Route.
The Stagecoach No5 bus runs from Cleethorpes through to Immingham, which, after leaving Grimsby via The Trawl pub, runs down the B1210 and passes through the dormitary villages of Healing and Stallingborough. This route, which also runs to a reasonable time in the evening, opens up the Immingham corridor to 3 more real ale establishments. First stop is Healing, and The Healing Manor. Recently refurbished and improved greatly, there is no a pub on sitge, The Pig and Whistle, which, on my last visit, served cask ales, one of which is the Tom Woods brewed house bitter. Modernity is the feeling of this place, but stylish too. The next stop suggested is Stallingborough roundabout. Here you can go left and find the up-market Stallingborough Grange, featuring Thatcher's Inn, which I haven't visited in a while, or right to The Green Man. This is a Stonegate pub, and not only offers a range of ales, but also has a CAMRA card discount.The meals in here are also supposed to be very nice. There is another pub a little further down the B1210, The Farmhouse, but, although I pass it most days to and from work, I have yet to stop there.
Add to this little list the likes of Barton upon Humber (Here) , Lincoln (soon to be re-visited), and Louth (Here), which are all a little easier to reach by public transport, along with a few villages along the way, things maybe are not too bad in the area. With a little more effort by our local publicans to promote real ales (and to look after it better), or a more expansive and better timed public transport system, things could be a whole lot rosier.
Cheers and keep it "Real"

Friday, 19 August 2016

Malta. Sun, Beer and Olly's last outing.

This, I suppose, is just a continuum (Ooh, there is another word, besides vacuum, that contains 2 consecutive u's) from my last post (Here) .After we got married, we shot off to Didsbury, to stay overnight at The Britannia Country House Hotel, before jetting off to Malta the following day. On the way, travelling via our favoured of Doncaster, Barnsley and then over the the Pennines on the Woodhead Pass, we decided to drop anchor for a spot of lunch. Just past the Flouch roundabout on the A628 there lies a Country Inn and Hotel, of which I have often wondered what was lurking behind their doors, as I, on many occasions have driven along this route. We agreed that this looked as good a place as any to have a break, and we were soon settled inside The Dog and Partridge, a 16th Century hostelry with hotel, restaurant and a reasonable range of cask ales. We ordered a couple of sandwiches off the lunch bar menu, and settled down to wait with our chosen ales. Jane chose the 3.8% “Barnsley Bitter” from the Acorn Brewery, a bitter disappointingly served in our last write up, this half pint though was much better. A rich malt taste, with caramel and a hint of biscuit precedes a medium sweet, and balanced dry finish. My tipple, also shared by T'other 'Arf, was from the Bradfield Brewery, “Farmer's Blonde”, 4% ABV. Fresh and zesty, this was a good thirst quencher, with just a tad of summer fruits on the palate with reasonable citrus and a slight oiliness detectable. It was a shame we couldn't have had a little longer here, but our absolutely huge, and delicious, sandwiches had arrived, and been eagerly devoured, and I was driving, so it was time to move on. Within an hour we were at our hotel in Didsbury. We had a meal booked for later that evening, which meant we could have a wander round this now more familiar part of Greater Manchester. We started off in The Art of Tea, a Cafe Bar on Barley Moor Road. Although not a cask lover's paradise, this bar has quite a reasonable selection of bottled beer, and amongst these we chose to sample the ever popular 5.9% IPA from Thornbridge, “Jaipur”, with its lovely plum and peach fruitiness balancing the zesty citrus backbone. It is as good in a bottle as it is in cask form. Jane had a 6% Organic Cider, with a nice red apple taste and a good bitter-sweetness, fromWyld Wood, whilst I finished on a Tickety Brew “Coffee Anise Porter”. At 5.1%, the porter was a delightful beer, with, obviously, coffee and a spice punch to the smooth sweetness in the malt. A really good beer. We're beginning to enjoy this cafe culture of drinking, although the prices for civility and a relaxing ambience do seem a shekel or two more than the traditional pub scene. Our next ports of call were The Slug and Lettuce ( Wells “Bombardier” were the drinks tasted in here), then the very Irish pub, The Station, for a Power's Whiskey, before partaking in a couple of cocktails, A Devil's Manhattan and a Porn Star Martini, in The Didsbury Lounge (Pubs Reviewed Here) We then moved back up towards our hotel, and enjoyed a lovely meal in Albert's Restaurant, ultimately finishing off at The Woodstock with Thwaite's “Waiwright's Golden Ale”. A lovely evening indeed.
The following day we set off to Manchester Airport, after a stroll around the grounds at the hotel, sharing our taxi transfer with another couple from our location. We alighted at Terminal 1, collecting our hold luggage and cabin bag from the driver at the boot,checked in and headed to security. “I'll just take your tablet out of this bag” said I, followed by “How much coffee are you taking?” as I discovered a huge jar in the top of the case. “Just a little bag full, it's in the hold bag though”. Oh dear, or words to that effect, as the realisation of having the wrong case, with our holiday documents, Euros and Pounds Sterling along with the car and house keys now elsewhere on the airport. “Ring somebody!” Jane exasperatedly shrieked. “Ring the taxi”
“What? He'll be on the motorway now, and won't have time to search his boot, or find who he dropped off” “
“Well, ring the taxi firm, the hotel, err.....”
It was then a voice said “Oh great, I've found you. I looked for my husband's medication and realised it was the wrong bag.” After a few deep breaths, sighs and skipped heartbeats and many a Thank you, we were both reunited with the correct bags. Note to self: Make sure to ID and mark ALL your bags!
We needed a drink. Terminal 1 has a few options for food and drink, mostly fizzy keg rubbish at high prices, but the departure lounge upper level does have The Grain Loft,which serves cask ales, mostly from local breweries. So, after a quick pint of “fizz” lager in Cafe Balzar, downstairs, we popped up the escalator for a “proper” pint. In here we went for a Weetwood “Cheshire Cat” a 4% Blonde Ale, which is packed with citrus and zest, but has a nice rounded bitter-sweetness throughout, and a “Manchester Bitter”, 4.3% from the Marble Brewery. After a nice citrus burst, this beer leads to a lovely dry bitterness, and is very easy drinking. I did finish off on another ale, but it was presented to me by T'other 'arf as I returned to our table after a visit. Because it was so busy at the bar Jane was unsure which one she had chosen, and I wasn't about to push through a crowd to find out. It was very good all the same.
We then proceeded to our gate, onto our aircraft and, a touch later than planned, Jet2 whisked us to the lovely Islands of Malta.


We stayed in the town of Mellieha at The Solana Hotel. We found it a wonderful friendly place. The rooms to the rear are much quieter than those on the roadside front. The facilities are more than adequate, with restaurants and bars, 2 swimming pools, the outdoor one giving a splendid rooftop view of the local church, spa and staff who are really helpful. The area has the usual collection of bars, restaurants and cafe bars, and we did manage to visit a few. Most serve the Island's most popular lager beer, Simonds Farsons “Cisk.” It is often in bottles or cans, but is also available on tap in a few outlets. The Farsons range is quite broad, to be fair, and I have reviewed most of the range below.

Cisk Lager Beer. 4.2%
Not a bad thirst quencher to be honest. There is malt, and a grassiness is noticeable. There is a definite astringency in the finish. This is available in various guises, the bottle and can versions are similar, but the keg variant is certainly more lively, and feels fresher on the palate.

Cisk Export. 5%
A bit more bite than the ordinary lager, but the taste is basically the same. My tasting was bottle only, but it is also available in cans.

Cisk Excel Low Carbohydrate Lager 4.2%
Not too bad, really. A little lighter in carbonation, and hints of bread are noticeable in the finish.

Cisk Pilsner. 5.5%
Now this is a good beer. A touch more malt taste to it, with a nice earthy back taste. The finish is dry, reasonably bitter finish. There are also light floral notes in the aroma. Very refreshing.

Farsons Hopleaf Pale Ale. 3.8%
This Golden coloured Pale Ale has a touch of citrus, followed by caramel in the initial tasting. A faint nuttiness is determinable, but it is not a big punchy pale ale taste, more an average bitter. OK, but not a memorable beer.

Farsons Blue Label Ale 3.3%
Not bad, really. It is rather Mild like, but with hints of an old Nut Brown Ale. The nutty maltiness carries through to the finish, but doesn't overpower. There is a reasonable bitterness in the dry finish. I did have this on tap in Valletta and found it quite smooth and creamy, more so than the canned version.

Farsons Lacto Milk Stout. 3.8%
A rather thin stout which pours almost black in the glass. The taste is quite sweet, with raisins and other dark fruit coming to the fore. There is a slight coffee hint and the finish has a good dry bitter-sweetness. Overall, not bad at all.

Cisk Chill Lemon flavoured Lager. 4%
Chill comes in two types, Berry and lemon. I chose the latter. Reading some reviews, this has been a heavily criticised brew. Personally, we thought it made a pleasant change. Admittedly, there is not a strong lager taste to it, but it does rear its malty head at the end. The lemon is unavoidably constant, and there is also a lot of sweetness. OK, I wouldn't order it on a wet, cold Wednesday night in Grimsby, but in 30 degrees Celsius, looking out at Mellieha Bay in the distance, just the job.

Cisk Shandy 2.2%
Yes! I tried a shandy. It was quite refreshing, and I was very hot. It also made me reminisce about growing up and, as a pre-teenage brat, enjoying a Shandy Bass as a treat with the “gang” on the local park. This one was very similar to that drink of yesteryear, still lodged in my memory, but didn't come with bits of picnic sandwich floating about in it. The sharp citrus of the lemonade perfectly tempers the maltiness from the beer, and, although I would sooner have a beer most times, it made a refreshing change.

The Island of Gozo and its Craft Beers

We had a day out on Gozo, visiting the capital, Victoria, and wandering around the streets and, eventually up to the Citadel. This is a lovely island, quieter and less busy than the main island, which, itself, can hardly be described as hectic. There are plenty of food and drink distractions around the area, giving it a nice cosmopolitan feel, and it is rather agreeable to sit back with a nice cold beer just watching the world go by. I was aware of a Craft Beer brewery on the island, Lord Chambray Microbrewery, but knew we wouldn't have enough time to find and visit it. Fortunately, walking back to the Bus Station, we popped into a tourist craft shop and, lo and behold, 3 of the brews produced by the brewery were stocked there. They weren't cheap, though, costing over 4 Euros per 330 ml bottle. The three beers I sampled were;-

Lord Chambray San Blas English IPA 5.7%
The first of these bottle conditioned beers was a full blooded IPA, with hints of tangerine and slight grapefruit strains. The overall taste is very citrus driven and the finish increasingly dry. The balance is very good, with the bitterness not too heavy, but definitely present.

Lord Chambray Fungus Rock Dark Ale/Stout 5.5%
Not too bad a dark beer, but more like a Black IPA than a Stout, I thought. The roast malt has hints of liquorice and a good bitter-sweetness. There was a slight floral aroma which also returns in the dry finishing taste.

Lord Chambray Blue Lagoon Blanch/Witbier 5%
Orange and coriander a very noticeable in this, the best of the three brews sampled. Spice and a touch of yeast esters are also prominent. The beer is very well balanced with hints of darker fruits in the long satisfyingly dry finish.

All in all, not a bad selection from the Lord Chambray Brewery. They aren't the most brilliant craft beers you will sample, nor are they terrible, nowhere near, just pleasing to find, and worth a punt. There are more beers in their portfolio, and I hope to track these down when we re-visit The Maltese Islands, hopefully next year.


Just a quick run down of a few bars we visited whilst in Malta. As in so many Mediterranean resorts, there are quite a few outlets selling beer, not just “pubs”, but a host of other places with bars, or even just a fridge and a counter. I won't include every hostelry we visited, just a few we really enjoyed.
In Mellieha we discovered a few good ones. First up was The Cross Keys, a bar and adjoining pizzeria. We popped in the pub for a quick drink before nipping for a pizza next door. Inside, we were served by one of the most amiable of barmen. Sorry, I didn't catch his name, but he was friendly, talkative, interested in our meagre lives, but not pushy or obtrusive. A native of The Emerald Isle, he gave us a few tips about the island and places worth a visit. He is certainly an asset to this great establishment, and, although we didn't get time to pop back in until our last night, he remembered us and greeted us with a wonderful Irish warmth. The pizzas were to die for too.
Just around the corner from our hotel was Charlie's Bar. There is a pool, and outside area to relax in during the day. The bar itself is It has an unmistakeably British feel to it, and is run by two ex-pats, Michael and Mary. Walk in a stranger and walk out a friend. On the main street, there are a few reasonable bars, Bar 120 has a bit of more modern music on and is worth a look, and further down you will find Greystones Pub and Restaurant. Up towards the Parish Church of Mellieha, sits Square Bar, set in a quieter part of the town, but the real “gem” is just across from here. The Imperial Band Club is open to tourists, and is a place where locals, band members and proud supporters, gather, set the World to rights and relax over a cold beer. (The Mellieha Imperial Band perform all over the World) The view is of the Church, which is a wonderful sight during the day, but absolutely captivating when lit up at night. The prices are cheap and the service efficient. One quirkier place is at the Pergola Hotel. This is The Cave Bar, which just about describes exactly what it is.A bar in a cave.

The Pub, Valletta.
Valletta, the capital, has wealth of drinking establishments within the city, and also offers cheap ferry links across the magnificent The Grand Harbour to the Three Cities (Birgu (Vittoriosa), Senglea and Cospicua) and across to Sliema, via the Marsamxett Harbour. This gives you even more choice. Sliema, very much a bustling resort, has the usual array of cocktail bars and tourist pubs and those cafe bars too. We popped into two of the latter on our visit, Black Gold and Tony's Bar, both overlooking the harbour with great views of Valletta across the water. A very nice way to watch the World, and his Wife, pass by. The Three Cities area is a mixture of expensive yachts, with seafront apartments, and quiet Mediterranean squares among the sprawl of domesticity. We found the lovely sun trap, Victory Square, in Birgu just a short amble from the waterfront and perched in the sun to enjoy a delightful light lunch and, of course, a few beers, at Cafe du Brazil. A very nice lunch indeed, with excellent food and efficient service. Back in the Valletta, I had one place I wanted to visit, and after a couple of stops along the way, we found The Pub. Why was it on my list? Well, hell-raiser, brilliant actor and the original Beermonster, Oliver Reed, star of stage, screen and many a bar, took his last drink in this pub before departing this Earth back in 1999. After abstaining from the booze for a few months, he was filming the film “Gladiator” in Malta. During a break, he was enjoying a few casual beers in this establishment when the crew of a Royal Navy frigate descended on it. Legend has it, and who is to doubt it, that a drinking competition broke out and, after several bottles of rum, many a beer and a few other drinks were partaken of, poor old Olly's ticker gave way. He was rushed to hospital but could not be revived A tragic but some may say, fitting end.The Pub is very, shall we say, “earthy”. It is not a venue for best suits and party dresses. The ambience though is warming and the walls are, along with the Oliver Reed memorabilia, adorned with hat bands of the various HM and Commonwealth Naval ships whose crews have visited this place over the years. One quick story. I could have sat anywhere inside on our visit. I just plumped down, with an excellent pint of draught “Blue Label”, and thought no more of it. After nipping to the loo before leaving, Jane enquired ”Do you know where you've been sitting for the last half hour ?” Thinking it may possibly have been Mr Reed's last perch, but still really at a loss, I invited an answer.
Coincidental seating plan in The Pub.

“Look” Jane replied, pointing to the hat band, among the hundreds in here, of HMS GRIMSBY.
What were the chances of that.

Well that is my review of Malta and Gozo. Some but not all of the beers to be found, a few of the bars we discovered on our visit, and a bit of the feel of this lovely sun drenched craggy Island group in the middle Mediterranean Sea. We loved our visit, and have already vowed to return. I will also return with a few more posts and reviews in the beermonster's blog very soon.

Until then, Cheers and keep it “Real”