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 décor, 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”

Friday, 22 July 2016

Pull out the Stopper, Let's have a Whopper

The Happy Couple
After the last blog post, I, or rather We, (Jane and I) became a little, shall we say, busy. That meant a slight break from posting on the blog. The reason? On the 2nd of June, T'other 'arf and I tied the knot! In a very private ceremony, just the two of us, along with Coral and Sally, who work in the local British Heart Foundation shop in Cleethorpes and agreed to be our witnesses, met up at the Registrars' office in the resort, and, with the 2 officials also in attendance, T'other 'Arf became my Better 'arf. This was, and will always remain, the best day of my life. We had kept this a secret from family and friends for a whole 9 months, although they had been advised for years that if we were ever to get married, this is exactly how we would do it. Some people never listen! We had decided to honeymoon in Malta, so immediately after the ceremony, we were in the car and off to a hotel in Didsbury, via The Dog and Partridge, near Flouch, a Pennines pub situated on the A628 Woodhead Pass, before flying out to this wonderful Mediterranean island the following day.

Catching up.

But, hold on a while, I am getting ahead of myself. In my last post, I signed off with a promise of a review of The Nottingham House, Cleethorpes, Beer Festival, so here we go. Steve, my recently retired friend, and I agreed that, as our womenfolk were on a work's night out, we should plunder the spoils available at The Notts'. On arriving, we were soon perusing the “menu” of beers, a reasonable mixture of local and nationwide ales. When I say “we”, I really meant I, as vain Steve, as usual, hadn't brought his reading glasses. I was now, not only offering my limited advice on said beers, but also reading out the tasting notes, brewers, ABV, and pointing out where the toilets are ( “Big sign over there, and through the door, mate”). We started off in here with two from the Dancing Duck Brewery, “Dark Drake”, a 4.5% smooth drinking stout with a big coffee punch complimented by hints of liquorice and caramel, and the 4.3% Blonde Ale, “DCUK”. This is a beer with a strong citrus backbone, with pine and zest throughout. Both of these beers were well received. Next up I chose a Mild, Nottingham Rock Ale's “Mild”, a 3.8% beer with a lovely balanced mix of coffee, malt and sweet caramel. I thought it an excellent, easy drinking beer of this style. Steve's preference was for the light, citrus Ale, brewed from malt and torrefied wheat,namely, Grafters “Moonlight”, 3.6%. Next up Steve kept to one of the lighter brews, and chose Bridestones “Sandstone”, a Lager styled beer of 3.9%. A very fresh tasting beer, with a nice hopped finish. I opted for another dark beer, the lovely,
fruity, coffee and chocolate tasting “Black Sabbath”. Far from leaving me Paranoid (sorry! Couldn't resist that one) it left a wonderful taste in the mouth which was sweet and rounded. This Brunswick Brewery beer with an ABV of 6% was a real gem, and certainly belied its strength. My fellow taster then went for Thornbridge “Wild Swan”, a 3.5% light Golden Ale which imparted lovely flavours of lemon, slight herb tones and just a hint of spice, whilst Titanic “Chocolate and Vanilla Stout” was next up for myself, which was exactly as it said on the tin, so to speak! A great tasting stout of 4.5%. To finish on at this good festival, we chose the same beer, “Crop Circle” a 4.2% Golden Ale from the Hopback Brewery. This is a light, fruity beer, with hints of citrus, and an excellent bitter dry finish. With its mix of gravity and hand pulled beers, The Notts Beer Festival is always a pleasure to visit. If you are ever in the area, festival or not, get yourself in to this great traditional boozer. The night fast ebbing, we felt the need to head back up to Grimsby, and meet up with our beloved ladies, which is where this chapter ends. Back now to the secrecy, and a couple of days out doing some deceptive wedding shopping. We are sneaky you know!

Hull. Re-visited.

The Old House, Hull.
Part of our secret wedding plans necessitated my future wife to purchase certain “accessories” ( shoes and the like), from sources outside of North East Lincolnshire, secrecy and beer hunting to the fore. We started our shopping spree back in November with a visit to Nottingham, where ale was consumed and dresses browsed, (Here), and carried on with trips to Sheffield (Here) (rings purchased at a lovely jewellers called Morris Bywater) and a previous trip to Hull, (Here) . A further trip to Hull was planned, as was an excursion to Doncaster. I could get used to this wedding planning malarkey! So off we popped, across the mighty Humber Bridge on the Humber Flyer bus. An hour later and I was thirstily stood outside The St Stephen's Shopping Centre whilst some browsing and perusing was going on inside. We then decided to follow separate pursuits, with me deciding to have a look around the Holy Trinity Church and Old Town area, whilst some shops were on Jane's agenda! I was quite surprised at the interior of Holy Trinity. I am not a religious person, but do like the architectural look and feel of these ecclesiastical monuments. As you walk in, the high ornate ceilings and fantastic commemorative windows dominate, and light floods in some areas and dapples in others, leaving an ethereal sight to take in. There are wonderful treasures and reminders of the hard life of the area's fishermen, and their losses, all around. An area for The Falkland's War,( Hull sent the North Sea Ferry MV Norland to the conflict), is also respectfully covered. After this interlude it was time (11-55 ) to find a hostelry for refreshment purposes. I wandered back to the Scale Lane area and dropped into a bar we somehow missed on our last visit. Situated at number 5 Scale Lane, the Old House is the city's oldest domestic building. The interior is a little dark, quite small but very homely. The beer selection isn't huge, but it does carry beers from the local Yorkshire Brewing Company. My pint was “Mutiny” a Porter of 3.6%. There was a really good fruity backbone to this beer, which then leads to a coffee edginess with a faint, but certainly noticeable, dark chocolate hint. Although a little thin in the mouth, it does leave a nice taste on the palate. Heading back towards the centre of the city, I walked past, stopped and then walked back to Oscar's Cocktail Bar. I had noted the chalkboard outside proclaiming “Cask Ales”, so I had to investigate. Well done, Sherlock! In side this modern bar, which was showing the Hull City early kick-off game on the screens, were a selection of beers from the Great Newsome Brewery. Of the four cask beers on offer, my tipple was to be “Holderness Dark”, a Mild of 4.3%. This was a lovely creamy mild with a well rounded nuttiness on the palate. One to savour and very enjoyable. T'other 'Arf had joined me by now, and her Great Newsome beer was “Frothingham Best”, also 4.3%. This was a delightful Best Bitter, with a fruity taste at the outset, which is well balanced by medium bitterness in the finish. I liked this bar, and I will certainly pop back in again on our next visit. Do they show Grimsby Town games on those screens??!

Just a 5 minute stroll away, in the wonderfully named Land of Green Ginger, (nobody knows how this area of the Old Town, formerly Beverley Street, got its name, but reading up on it I think the most likely theory has to be it originated from the Dutch immigrants who lived and traded here in the middle 1600's onwards. Whether it is a corruption of one of these emigres, Lindergroen Jonger, who had set up business here, or a play on another possible trader's name, Lindegren, which leads to the street being “Lindergren's Ganger” or walk, are also up for discussion) along here is The George Hotel. A former gatehouse to the long demolished hotel of the same name This friendly boozer has a very striking Edwardian interior, with large mirrors and plenty of panelling on show. 5 cask ales are on display. The welcome is warm and genuine, and we were soon settled down with our drinks. Jane went for a half off “Otter Ale” from the brewery the same name, whilst I indulged in another dark beer, “Queen Rat Stout”. The 4.5% “Otter Ale” was mahogany in colour, and leads with a big malt aroma and opening taste. Fruit and hints of a floral nature then impart themselves on the palate. The finish is medium in bitterness, and very satisfying. Rat Brewery's offering, a Stout of 5% was rich and wholesome in the mouth, with chocolate prominent but not overpowering. There were hints of spiciness, and a good bitterness in the finish. Another very good beer. We decided on a visit to The Hop and Vine for our last drinks of the afternoon. This Hull CAMRA award winner is situated in Albion Street and since opening 9 years ago has dispensed over 1150 different cask ales through the 3 hand-pulls on the bar. It has also been cider Pub of the Year locally, and been in the mix for the National title too. Not bad for Hull's smallest pub. My beer of choice in here was “Triple Chocoholic” a 4.8% stout from Saltaire Brewery, a beer I have had before, and one absolutely rammed with chocolate flavours. A very satisfying brew, if you like chocolate. Jane chose a “Long Day IPA”, also from Saltaire, an ale of 3.8% which was very dry on the palate, but gave a good citrus rush, mainly oranges, but some lemon hints. Quite a refreshing brew. Although tucked away just a little, this is a bar one must eke out. The beers and ciders are very well kept, and for the discerning drinker, that means so much. What a good day we had, again, across the river. Its a shame there are no late buses back to Grimsby, but at least a reasonable afternoon session can be enjoyed. Next up? Doncaster, of course.

Doncaster mini trip.

The Doncaster Brewery and Tap.
I needed to get suitably attired, apparently jeans or shorts and t-shirts don't go well at a wedding, especially as the groom! Off we went again, this time on the train to Doncaster. After a few shop visits, a wander round The Frenchgate, and before Lakeside, we ended up in The Plough, in West Laith Gate. The welcome is friendly, the pub cosy but, unfortunately, our pint and a half of “Barnsley Bitter”, from Acorn Brewery, lacked its expected sparkle and was a less than average pint. It wasn't off, it just wasn't quite “on”. I have been told this is quite unusual for this establishment, so I will give it the benefit of the doubt and re-visit in the future. Later, our next pub visit was to St Sepulchre Gate, and The Corner Pin, a good locals local, but very accepting of passing strangers. Our beer in here was Leeds “Pale Ale”, at 3.8%, a good “session ale, and it was served up to perfection with a fresh taste, slight citrus hints and a nice bitter-sweetness in the finish. As time was ticking, and we had a train to catch, we left here and popped into the nearby Leopard, also in St Sepulchre Gate. This is another very friendly hostelry, and has an excellent range of Real Ales. The ales are from local Yorkshire breweries and we chose two from the York Brewery. Jane chose the “Yorkshire Terrier”, the 4.8% Premium Golden Ale, a favourite of ours, whilst I went for a Fruit Beer from the York stable, 4.7% “Off the Wall Black and Weiss”. The taste of this beer is distinctly blackberries, which is evident all the way to finish, and the tart bitterness is well balanced though, within the sweetness of the ale. A very unusual, but satisfying pint. We could have stayed here a while longer until our train was due, but I had been advised of another “must visit” alehouse, just five minutes away, so off we went to find The Doncaster Brewery and Tap, in Young Street. Doncaster Brewery ales in here.The pub is quite airy and modern and seems to be a good place to drop anchor and have a natter. The beers are brewed on site at the brewery in the back of the premises, and the selection offers most people with an option. Between us, we sampled three excellent First up was “Peppercorn Dunkel”, a 6.3% dark ale which leads with dark fruits and hints of liquorice and has a nice dry finish with just a touch of balancing heat from the peppercorns. I really enjoyed this one. “Three Legs Bitter” was next, which was a typical malty Yorkshire Bitter of 5%, with a creamy smooth mouthfeel, and a well balanced bitter-sweetness. A beer that is very moreish. Last up was the truly gorgeous tasting “Stirling Single Coffee Stout” It certainly hides little away by its title. Coffee it says, and, by crikey, coffee is what you get in this 4.5% ale.. With only 20 minutes left, we regretfully headed back towards the station, and onward to Grimsby. We had a good day in “Donny” and enjoyed the pubs we visited. Who knows? I may go shopping again!!

After our ceremony, which, unbiasedly, we thought was lovely, and after a few snaps, we drove away from North East Lincolnshire, en route to Manchester and romance in the sun. A beer or two were  partaken of, and soon I will posting about these and I will also be reviewing some of the beers of Malta and Gozo. Until then:-

Cheers and keep it “Real”

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Food, Glorious Food, and an Ale or Two besides

It's been a while since I the had time to rattle the keys on my trusty laptop. I haven't shied away from a glass or so of the the ale, though. The reason is I also have an allotment, and with this Spring being so wet, then frosts late in the season, T'other 'Arf, and I, have had to try and concentrate on that, mainly. Throw into the equation our gainful employment and grand parenting duties, it all adds up and eats away at our recreation time, which includes my blog entries. Never mind, a couple of weeks of steady, more seasonal weather has allowed us to almost get where we would like, and backs, joints and muscles can testify to that. We have managed to sample a wide range of beers in this time, First, we had a meal and beer-tasting evening at the home of our closest friends, Dee and Steve, with whom we enjoyed a trip to Leeds with last July. The Wetherspoon's World's Biggest Real Ale Festival was also given a coat of looking at, as was Cleethorpes' Nottingham House Beer Festival, which I will review next time. We have also had a few beers from the supermarkets, and enjoyed another afternoon out in Hull, as well as a couple of hours in Doncaster. We have also had a few bottles from the local supermarkets to boot. So, there you are, so much to get down on the blog, before the mind wanders, or other pursuits get in the way.

The Meal

We were invited out for "a bit of tea..." at our friends' house, which we duly accepted. We have been taking it in turns to cook and host for a few years now, even though it may take 6 months or more for us all to be able to fit it in! Anyway, as this is a beer blog, I shall not go into the culinary delights which Mein Host, Steve, carefully, and excellently prepared us, but suffice to say, we were not disappointed. We then blind sampled the beers Steve had got in for us (his tastings obviously weren't as blind as ours!) After our samplings, the beers were revealed, and the notes discussed. Beers and notes were as follows.

1/ Anchor Brewing Co Liberty Ale. 5.9%
This is a quite floral American Pale Ale. The beer has a hint of haziness in the glass. The initial taste is of  malt, but not overly sweet. A grass and pine after taste ensues, then a dry citrus dryness controls the palate in the long finish. A very pleasing beer.

2/ Anchor Brewing Co Anchor Steam Beer 4.8%
With a malty aroma and sweetness in the initial caramel taste, this is a reasonable beer. The flavour is balanced, with a slight oiliness and then a dry finish. Overall, this is a solid beer, not too shabby at all, but nothing exceptional.

3/ Axholme Brewing Co Cleethorpes Pale Ale 4.4%
There is a slight haze to this beer, which is brewed using local sea buckthorn berries. The palate is hit by a nice citrus taste, with a resinous mouth feel. A slight tropical fruitiness is detected, and the finish is sharp, zesty, long and dry. A very good Pale Ale.

4/ Axholme Brewing Co Clearwater Pale Ale. 4.3%
Another slightly hazy glass of beer, which doesn't detract from the taste. This is another zesty beer, with a slight breadiness to the taste. There are slight fruit flavours within, which eventually come out in the finish. Very well balanced bitterness in the finish.

5/ Les Brasseurs de Gayant La Blonde de Ch'Nord 7%
A Biere de Garde, which is well carbonated. The aroma is very floral, with hints of grass, and damp cardboard? . The taste is slightly metallic, with a toffee apple sweetness balancing the grassiness and zest, which leads into bitter, long and lingering finish. We really enjoyed this one.

6/ Great Newsome Brewery Jem's Stout 4.3%
We found this a decent Stout, with a slight richness to it, but not too heavy. Raisin and dark fruits are in the aroma, with a lovely plum bitter-sweetness coming to the fore, followed by liquorice and hints of coffee. It is a touch thin in the mouth, but still pleasing.

7/ Cooper's Pale Ale. 4.5%
Australia offered us this brew to cogitate over. On the blind tasting, this one came across more lager, or Pilsner, in character. it is reasonably hoppy, with a good bitterness and bright, crisp taste. It is quite high in carbonation, with a pronounced maltiness in the long finish. On a hot day in the beer garden, or at a barbecue, this would be a good choice, but I found it rather bland, although a little bland.

8/ Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. 5.6%
Initially there is a grassy aroma to greet you, then the tasting of this brew picks up citrus hints, including a touch of grapefruit. There is a good bitterness, with slight spice tones. Caramel is also lurking in there, with the finish best described as long and dry. This is a well loved beer, and I must admit that it is well brewed and, although not one of my all time best beers, a very good bottled Pale Ale.

We also sampled Golden Ghecko, and Amber Adder, from Lidl's Hatherwood range, along with Blanche de Namur and  Rheinbacher Weissbier, all of which have been reviewed in full on this blog, so I shall not repeat my findings, as they were exactly as my previous findings, but after this the beers got a bit muddled. Mein Host, Steve, became a bit, shall we say, confused with the5 offerings, and eventually admitted "I'm pishhed, hic, Wery pinsed, Rie nead to gun to bid, hic goornart" Which translated to " Oh, dear. I appear to be over the limit. Please, let me take to my bed, as slumber is necessary." Dee, Steve's partner put it thus. "Pissed up old fart!" Oh, well.

The JDW's Beer Festival.

Over the 17 days of this March festival T'other 'arf and I managed a few tasting sessions at our 3 local outlets. On receiving the menu,though, I noticed that, unlike previous Wetherspoon's festivals, there were quite a few beers we had already sampled. Never mind, The list contained 50 beers, and I will try and point out those original brews which, not only I, but T'other 'Arf enjoyed.

1/ Acorn Barnsley Bitter 3.8%
A good solid Bitter, recently reviewed.

2/ Long Man Session IPA 3.8%
Golden coloured, light , bright and refreshing, with citrus notes very prominent throughout.

3/ Pheasantry Best Bitter 3.8%
This award winning Ale is malty, with nice fruit, and citrus hints.Bitterness is well balanced and the dry finish is quite long.

4/ Elgood's Lazy Dog. 3.9%
I like Elgood's beers, and tasted quite a few in the past, unfortunately, this brew with "subtle, tropical, hoppy notes" was a little disappointing. Its flavours were not prominent enough and it seemed to just fizzle out, going nowhere on the palate. It wasn't a bad beer, just a bit boring.

5/ Devil's Backbone Bravo Four Point. 4%
Brewed at Caledonian Brewery, this Golden Ale was very fresh tasting, with hints of grass and a light floral note at the outset. It had an zesty fruit backbone and a tangy tropical fruit hint to the balanced bitter finish.

6/ Everards Yakima 4%
A Ruby coloured Bitter, which opens with citrus flavours, before becoming a bit sweeter in the mouth. I thought the mouth feel a touch soapy, whilst the finish was average really. Crisp but not punchy. Overall, another rather bland beer.

7/ Marston's (Whychwood) El Dorado 4%
Rather sweet for my taste, but not too bad. There is a reasonable fruitiness to be found and the finish was rather refreshing.

8/ Timothy Taylor's Boltmaker 4%
What can you say about this often reviewed beer? Well, it tasted like Boltmaker always does. Malty, with a balanced hoppy flavour, and a lovely, satisfying finish.

9/ Brains Phonics 4.1%
Did not sample

10/ Caledonian Vienna Red. 4.1%
Did not sample.

11/ Inveralmond Amber Ale 4.1%
Did not sample.

Festival Thirds of
Numbers 11,4 & 16
11/ Lancaster Admiral Archer. 4.2%
A Golden beer which after an initial hoppy infused aroma, leads the drinker to a balanced and dry finish. Nothing outstanding, just another dry, bitter ale.

13/ Sambrook's Red Ale. 4.2%.
An American style Red Ale, which has a good balanced tropical fruit in the main, which is accompanied by a refreshing, crisp finish.

14/ Williams Black 4.2%
Did not sample,but previously found the bottled version very good.

15/ Wood's Redwood. 4.2%
Another slightly fruity, but increasingly dry beer. This IPA is good, but, as so many brews in this line-up, nothing special.

16/ Adnams Explorer. 4.3%
I first tried this beer in Southwold a few years back, and really enjoyed the fresh, citrus and hoppy flavours within it. I have also had the bottled version, which is not quite as good as the cask version. Tasting the cask version again, I found it very flavoursome, with the lovely grapefruit and other citrus tones dancing on the palate. It was nice to re-acquaint myself with this brew.

17/ Hydes Bruges. 4.3%
On first tasting this beer, I found it quite bland, with a hint of toffee and slight spice, then, surprisingly, biscuit and caramel seem to appear, lifting this beer greatly.

18/ Marston's Irish Peated Ale. 4.3%
I just did not like this beer at all. It had a soapy mouth feel and taste, and was increasingly medicinal on the palate, leaving an almost resinous in the mouth. Nah! Not my cup of tea.

19/ Salopian Darwin's Origin. 4.3%
This was a well balanced and excellently crafted Bitter, with has a nice fruitiness, and a solid malt vein. The delicate fruit hints run through to a nice hoppy finish, which is reasonably long, dry with an underlying bitter-sweet and floral character.

20/ Wolf Spring Ale 4.3%
A nice Golden Ale with Blackcurrant detectable towards the end. The maltiness is also evident throughout, which combines well in the slightly sweet finish with the fruit strains.

21/ Bateman's Dark Lord. 4.4%
A beer sampled and reviewed previously which is  always enjoyed, and this sampling was as good as ever.

22/ Orkney Norseman. 4.4%
Did not sample.

23/ Rudgate Ruby Mild. 4.4%
Another often reviewed beer which was excellent, with a lovely nutty flavour, balanced well with a rounded maltiness.

24/ Thunder Road Pacific. 4.4%
Did not sample.

25/ Bath Cubic 4.5%
Did not sample.

26/ Black Sheep Bighorn 4.5%
Did not sample.

27/ Celt Experience The Afanc 4.5%.
I was pleased I finally saw this one on sale, albeit after the Festival, as I had seen a few rave reviews about the Premium Bitter. Was I disappointed? Certainly not. This is a well rounded, full bodied beer, which has good caramel and dark fruit flavours, with a hint of spice. The finish is dry, zesty and very moreish. Well worth the wait, and the extra pennies I paid (post festival prices) for the privilege.

28/ Mordue Wheat. 4.5%
There has been quite an increase in Wheat beers (or Weizens, Witbiers and their Continental variations) of late, and I am really beginning to enjoy this style. This particular brew had a touch of pine and floral notes in the opening gambit, which wafted through on the spicy malt body. The finish had a hint of peach, and was nice and dry, with good bitterness. All in all not a bad beer.

29 O'Hara's JDW Irish Red. 4.5%
Brewed at Everards Brewery by Conor Donoghue,this Best Bitter we found to be very sweet. There were hints of coffee, and caramel, a slight hoppy bitterness, and caramel and a caramel maltiness. I didn't go a bundle on it. Too sweet for my palate, but, to be fair, I had sampled a few dry and zesty beers beforehand.

30/ Oakham St Bibiana 4.5%
Did not sample.

31/ Wadworth 6X Gold. 4.5%
6X used to be one of my favourite beers back in the day, so the introduction of the Gold was to be interesting. The initial taste is of citrus, with a hint of malt. The zesty bitterness is nice and the citrus zest runs all the way to the lingering bitter finish. A good thirst quencher, and a worthy partner to the original brew.

32/ Nottingham Trentsman. 4.7%
Did not sample.

33/ Daleside Spring Rye 4.8%
A very light, refreshing beer, with just a hint of herbs at the outset. The sweet caramel malt is there in the main, before the well balanced crisp fruitiness takes over in the dry and fairly long finish.

34/ Hanlons Port Stout 4.8%
I have reviewed this one previously, and, as then, found this Dark Stout, quite nice, with coffee and a hint of chocolate there for all to discover, but the port flavouring doesn't seem to appear at all. A good Ale, but it lacks the Port billing.

35/ Otter Fusion. 4.8%
A woody aroma precedes this nice fruit and pine flavoured Bitter. There is a slight spicy hint, before a dry, medium length finish

36/ Saltaire Triple Chocoholic. 4.8%
There is no mistaking the flavours in this stout. If you havn't guessed by now, it is chocolate, chocolate and chocolate! It is well balanced with hops though, and, strangely enough, a nice bitterness to temper the sweetness. We both liked this beer, but one was enough.

37/ Shepherd Neame Hog Island APA. 4.8%
Did not sample.

38/ Wharfedale Crimson Rambler.4.8%
Did not sample.

39/ Titanic Plum Porter. 4.9%
Another previously sampled, and reviewed, beer. This is a lovely rich, well-rounded Porter that wends its way through to a satisfying plum flavoured finish.

40/ Banks & Taylor's Little Sheff. 5%
The flavours in this blonde Premium Bitter are quite complex, with berries, lemons and spice aroma  vying with hints of herbs and citrus fruits, but all combine perfectly to deliver a wonderfully tasting beer.

41/ Greene King Benjamin's 5%
Did not sample.

42/ Hawkshead Vienna Lager 5%
It amazes me that more cask lagers are not available regularly at the bar. This one, for example, has a light malt body which is balanced well with the bittering hops. The finish is sufficiently long, crisp and refreshing.

43/ Hook Norton Crafty Fox. 5%.
Summer fruits and citrus provide the main body of this Ale, before a satisfying, and very dry, finish takes over. I did find that the dryness off the finish did overwhelm the delicate fruitiness of this Premium Bitter a touch, but it is still a very good brew.

44/ Vale Punk Is Dead. 5%.
Did not sample.

45/ Mauldons White Adder. 5.3%
A Strong Ale which is very fruity in character and carries a full hoppy punch to boot. Th finish is increasingly dry and satisfying with a nice bitter bite to it.

46/ Brouwerij 'T Ij Amsterdam Blonde. 5.5%
The Dutch brewer set up shop at Banks's to produce his wares for this festival.The beer had a nice fruit and hops balance, built on a good malt backbone. The finish was fruity, fresh and lingering. A really good beer.

47/ Hilden Mill Street. 5.5%
We found this IPA to be quite sweet at first, before a nice bitterness takes control. Citrus and hints of grass are evident in this Northern Ireland brew. The finish is quite dry and long.

48/ Dark Star Revelation. 5.7%
A good beer I sampled and reviewed in my last post (Sheffield).

Italiano Bibock.
49/ Birrificio Italiano Bibock. 6.2%
I'm not sure what I expected from this Italian Strong Ale, brewed at the Wadworth Brewery, but the berry, biscuit and nut strains within blend marvellously the bitter-sweetness of the main spine of this brew. The complex finish is a lingering kaleidescope of flavours which compliment each other so expertly.  Probably my beer of the Festival.

50/ Robinson's Trooper 666. 6.6%
A big malt flavour combines reasonably well with the zesty citrus tang in the lingering finish. Is it better than the original Trooper ? No, I don't think so. It is still an OK Strong Ale, but no world beater though.

And that just about sums the JD Wetherspoon International Real Ale Festival. I thought it a reasonable selection of beers, even though T'other 'arf and I had sampled a few of them previously. There were a few which had featured at previous festivals, and others which are available as brewery staples, but overall there were enough original brews to make it interesting.
Anyway, I am now preparing for a couple of days away, so I will leave it there. As always, I assume a beer or three may be partaken, and maybe a tale to be told, so until the next time Cheers, and Keep it "Real"

Monday, 21 March 2016

Lubricating the Wheels of Steel. The Sheffield crawl.

Sheffield, the Steel City. A city which is Home to 2 former Premier League football teams, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United, and the oldest football club in the World, in Sheffield F.C. It. is the venue for The World Snooker Championships, the birthplace of a couple of unrelated musical Rockers (or Cockers), Joe and Jarvis, as well as the location for the eight largest retailing emporium in the UK, Meadowhall Shopping Centre. With a few days off work, it was decreed that T'other 'arf, and I, would pay the city a visit. Retail therapy was in the air, and I fancied a bevy or two, so why not? We arrived on a cold, but pleasant, Monday lunchtime towards the end of February, and soon made our way off the station, to be confronted with The Water Cascade, a bold and impressive statement of art in Sheaf Square. The roads around here are busy and bustling, but we were soon making our way away from the hustle and bustle to our first port of call, and the latest review was under way. I will now indulge you with our opinions of the pubs and beer of Sheffield.


The Sheffield Tap. Sheaf Street
The Sheffield Tap.
This former railway refreshment room is accessible from both the station platform, and the street. It is a multi roomed bar, which has been very tastefully decorated in the style of its Edwardian heyday. High ceilings, and plenty of wood panelling, alongside huge mirrors and tiles keep the curious historians happy, but the display of bar taps is also an eye opener. 11 traditional hand-pulls, and 12 “continental” swing taps dispense cask and craft keg beers, being just a facade to a collection of, so I was told, over 200 bottled beers. A lazy beer lover could drop anchor here, and spend the rest of their stay in this fine bar, but we would only be having a swift one before moving on. I chose one of the Thornbridge Brewery ales, “Sequoia”, an Amber Ale of 4.5%, which was light, fruity and had a lovely nut taste to it. It isn't packed with flavours, but that is the point, I guess. It is as smooth as velvet in the mouth, the finish is medium, but satisfying and, above all, it is just oh, so easy to drink. If it was a gentleman's attire I would describe it thus. It isn't top hat and tails, or denims and trainers, more dressing gown and slippers. Nice. My Half-Pint taster chose a Chantry “18 Eight”, a 4.6% Bitter. This was another good beer, with sweet malt at the fore, and a good dry bitterness in the long finish. A good pub with great beer.

The Rutland Arms. Brown Street.
The “Slutty Rutty” is a pub I have been in before, many years ago, and it isn't what you would call glamorous. Traditional? Yes, but definitely not a posh wine bar styled boozer. There are 8 cask ales on, as well as some craft beers. The décor is a touch dated, but, I suppose, fitting with the surroundings. The bar staff are very friendly, and soon we were choosing our ales. Jane chose the “Hilltop Best Bitter” from The Blue Bee Brewery, which, unfortunately, didn't clear at all in the glass, and was changed for a half of Jennings' “Sneck Lifter”. I have always found this 5.1% Old Ale full of complex flavours, with caramel, fruit, toffee and hints of liquorice all combining well, with a slight spiced back taste, and T'other 'arf endorsed this. My beer, from Dark Star, was the 5.7% American Pale Ale, “Revelation”. I found it packed with peach, tropical fruits and a whisper of nuttiness. The sweetness of the malts come through well, and then the bitterness takes over and leads the drinker to an increasingly dry finish. Marvellous stuff. A pleasing APA/IPA.

Henry's Cafe Bar. Cambridge Street
A good selection in Henry's
After a bit of window shopping, our next port of call was to be The Brewhouse, but this venue wasn't open until the evening, so, the Brewhouse's adjoining, handily placed sister bar was our location for the next drink. Henry's is smart, modern and a comfortable bar to drop into, whether you are having a coffee and a bite to eat, or one of the real ales which adorn the counter. The selection of beers is quite good, eight on tap, I think, and I chose the locally produced Sheffield Brewery Co “Winter Double Porter” to accompany T'other 'arf's glass of Draught Bass. The Bass, at 4.4%, was as good as I can remember this old favourite tasting, with a rich malty vein prominent throughout. My “Winter Double Porter” also imparted a good malt taste, with lovely burnt caramel giving way to a mix of chocolate, liquorice and strains of coffee. I didn't remember to get the ABV, but with a porter as enjoyable as this, who cares!

The Tap and Tankard. Cambridge Street.
Pork Pies and a Beer. Tap and Tankard.
Just a little way down the road from Henry's is the Kelham Island Brewery owned Tap and Tankard, a traditional boozer, with a reasonable selection of both the “house” beers and guests ales. Also on sale at the bar are the “famous” Kelham Island” Pork Pies. The beers we chose in here were 5% “Bitter That”, an Extra Special Bitter from The Brew Foundation, and a pint of Kelham Island “Bete Noire”. The half pint of ESB was light, fruity but had good maltiness to it. It was easy drinking for its strength, and was enjoyed on this cold afternoon, as much as it would have been in a beer garden in the summertime. A beer for all seasons. The “Bete Noire”, a 5.5% Hirisk Stout is smooth dark and fruity, with bitter dark chocolate in the main, and a wonderful bitter-sweetness to finish. A very good ale to savour, especially when accompanied with a pork pie.

J.D.Wetherspoon's The Steel Foundry, Meadowhall Shopping Centre.
After a bit of window shopping, I was dragged, like a naughty schoolchild, to this man-crèche, otherwise known as The Steel Foundry, based in the shopping centre. This “Wethers” is a little lacking in character, but, to be fair, the retail environment does nothing for it. The range is typical of the company, and all the favourites, including food deals, are available. The beers I chose to have in here were White Horse “Wayland Smithy”, a 4.4% Ruby coloured Bitter, and a Brewsters “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo”. The “Wayland Smithy” imparted a good maltiness, with slight fruit and caramel sweetness coming through before an almost grassy and bitter finish. “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo” a 4.3% Bitter has a touch of dark fruits in the initial taste, balanced with a biscuit maltiness. The dry bitter finish is adequate, but no more. I thought both these were OK, but nothing special.

The Old Queen's Head. Ponds Hill.
The exterior to this Alehouse is steeped in history, and, it is said to occupy the oldest dwelling in the City, add to that the tales of hauntings and Ghost tours by arrangement, this Thwaites' pub is certainly interesting. Inside, the décor is tasteful, but also quite modern, but the old beams and timber work are still apparent. After the “retail” gig, and freshening up back at the hotel, we decided we would have our evening meal in here, to start our night off. The food is reasonably priced, and the beer selection is quite good too. After ordering our food, we chose our drinks, with Jane deciding on refreshing, light and citrus backed 4.1% “Wainwright's” Golden Ale, and I, the 4.7% “Symphonic”, both by Thwaite's. Symphonic is a rich, full blooded Stout, which is packed with fruit flavours, noticeably plum, with hints of chocolate and coffee. There is a slight spicy tang in the fruity but dry finish. A really enjoyable beer. My second drink was “Nutty Black” from the same brewery which is a 3.3% Mild. The taste is roasted nuts, with a bitter-sweet character to it. This is a good mild, which was, sadly, overwhelmed by the flavours of my original Ale. The beer, the food, the general friendliness found in here make it a place to return to.

The Brewhouse. Wellington Street.
The periodic table of Ale and Beer
Bright, light and modern is the best way to describe this bar. It feels comfortable, but with a brash attitude, with that “bubble-gum” American Diner atmosphere to it. Saying that it isn't “in your face”, but certainly not a pipe and flat cap local. The bar has its own brewery, and features up to ten different cask ales, usually from local sources, along with a wall of craft keg taps. The Stella Artois glasses forming chandeliers above the bar is a nice touch, as is the periodic table of beers on the wall. Add to that the extremely friendly bar staff, who also man, or woman, the pumps next door in Henry's, and it makes a nice place to drop into. Our drinks in here were Sheffield Brewing Company “PhilanthropicAle” and “Hill Top Best Bitter” from Blue Bee Brewery. The “PhilanthropicAle” is a Chinook IPA of 4.7%, and is quite a spicy ale, with a good, but subtle, citrus edge, which is refreshing on the palate and, although light, is very full flavoured. Jane's 4% “Hill Top Best Bitter” was quite malty, with hints of fruit, and a biscuity aftertaste. A good solid no-nonsense traditional bitter.

The Three Tuns. Silver Street.
To view this pub from the outside, at night, after a long day, and wearing beer goggles, set my mind back to those old photographs of New York, and the Flat Iron Building on 5th Avenue, although our building is not so tall, boasting a mere 3 storeys, and not the twenty that its Manhatten cousin has. No matter, size isn't everything, and the beer and boozer in which it is served is what it is all about on this blog! The décor in this triangular shaped pub is tasteful, with a Victorian feel to it. Mahogany is well evident throughout, and the shape gives it a nautical feel, especially towards the “pointy” end. Again, the beer selection is good, with a good local representation. I chose an “Argentinian Cascade Pale Ale”, a 4% brew from the North Riding Brewery, whilst T'other 'arf went for the Kelham Island “Easy Rider”, the classic 4.3% golden coloured Pale Ale. “Argentinian Cascade Pale” is a dry, fruity and solid tasting beer, with a strong bitter finish, whilst the “Easy Rider” is a big punchy brew, with a fruity backbone, a nice balanced bitter-sweetness and a finish that is long and quite bitter. A nice way to finish our first evening in Sheffield.


The Old House. Devonshire Street.
With a bit more “retail therapy” proposed to get under way, I was shoo-ed off to find my own entertainment. With my list in hand, I set of to find The Old House. This is a very friendly cafe bar, near the University campus and the Devonshire Quarter's shopping area. Inside, one will find an airy layout, with old records on the wall and bare floors. Not only are there a good range of cask ales on in here, they are also backed up with a eclectic selection of World Craft bottled beers, not to mention the 100+ gins! There are, in fact, monthly Gin Schools, where you can make your own gin, by adding whatever botanicals you want. My beer in here was “Sheaf Blonde” a True North Brewing Co, This 4% beer is light, zesty, with a good hoppy taste. The bitterness is well balanced and the finish is quite dry. A refreshing beer to start today's session with.

The Devonshire Cat. Wellington Street
Just around the corner you will find this modern, friendly boozer. It has around 12 hand pumps and Abbeydale brews are well evident. Next to the bar is a little shop, which sells bottled beers, presumedly as off sales. I chose a pint of “Dev Cat Stout” in here, from The Blue Bee brewery. This is a 4.8% Stout with smooth malty bitter-sweet flavours throughout. I thought it just a bit thin, but still an outstanding brew. I liked the ambience of this place, which was just getting busy with lunchtime clientele as I was leaving to meet back up with the diligent shopper.

The Fat Cat. Alma Street, Kelham Island.
The Fat Cat
Now re-united, T'other 'arf and I made our way across the busy A61, to Kelham Island, and The Fat Cat. This pub has won many accolades, both locally and nationally, and is as traditional as it comes. The interior is small, but the welcome huge and warm. There are 6 ever changing guest beers alongside a couple of Kelham Island brews, Timothy Taylor's and a cask cider, or two. The pork pies are also evident. Many original features adorn the bar, with brewing and steel making memorabilia also on show. Our beers in here were both from the Kelham Island range (when in Rome.......and with the beer plant only 20 something yards away!). I went for the excellent “Pale Rider” which is wonderfully fruity, with a hint of peach evident, and has a lovely bitterness to it. There is a resinous feel on the palate before the long satisfying finish. This is a very moreish 5.2% Golden Ale. Jane chose the “Best Bitter”, and, again, this was a very good beer. 3.8%, and well balanced, with sweet caramel and nutty strains, this is a very easy drinking bitter.

The Kelham Island Tavern. Russel Street.
Another traditional boozer with original features, and up to 13 real ales on. This is a place to rest awhile with one of the excellent beers that are on offer. The range always includes a mild and stout, as well as a gluten-free beer, and many fruit beers, wheat beers and continental drinks. Jane opted for the “Barnsley Bitter”, while I chose “Gorlovka Imperial Stout”, both from the Acorn Brewery. My stout was full bodied, with a nice richness. Liquorice and roast malt flavours are abundant, with fruit and slight chocolate hints. The finish to this 6% beer is smooth, slightly bitter-sweet and long. The Bitter was also well received, with its hints of toffee and fruit well balanced all the way to the good bitter finish.

Shakespeare's. Gibraltar Street.
Just back over the A61 you will find this pub. It has up to 9 real ales on tap, alongside Continental lagers and a good range of over 50 bottled beers. Upstairs is The Bards Bar, which features live music, whilst folk music is also featured in the downstairs rooms, one of which has a 1950's Juke Box, free to use. My half-pinter went for another “Barnsley Bitter” in here, this time from the Stancil Brewery. It was nice and malty, with a smooth and almost silky mouth feel. Another well balanced beer at 3.8%. “Abandon All Hop”, a collaboration brew from Raw Brewing and Steel City Brewing was my tipple. No hops in beer? Well, although tasting a touch sweet, almost like cola, it worked. There was some bitterness there, from other herb infusions, and a touch of orange peel, but it is a nice floral, fruiy tasting ale. Interesting, if nothing else.

BrewDog. Devonshire Street.
BrewDog Sheffield
How do you describe a BrewDog pub? Well, it was just like a BrewDog pub! They are what they are. Why alter a tried and tested formula. The staff are very friendly, and informative of their wares, which makes the experience enjoyable. “This Is Lager” at 4.7%, and “Jet Black Heart”, also 4.7%, were our choices. Both were good beers, which is expected, with the lager full of malt to begin with, then the bitterness takes control, before ending the jouney with a spiciness. Not bad at all, for a lager. My beer was a Milk Stout, with a complexity to it. Coffee, chocolate and oatmeal are first to appear, before a mouthfull of fruitiness, and vanilla make an appearance. The finish is long, and very worthwhile. When Craft beers are as good as this, it certainly makes this marketplace one to dabble in.

With our stay now coming to an end, we wandered back to the station, stopping back off at The Sheffield Tap. What a good break we had had in the City of Sheffield. You may have to wander a little further between good pubs, but it is worth it. Being just a short train ride away, we will definitely be back. We have a few more inns and taverns to experience yet. We discussed this as we sipped our final beers. Now both on halves, we savoured The Kernel Stout, a strong viscous brew of a high 8% ABV. The roast flavour is full on but a subtle fruitiness and a dry finish follow and Brass Castle “Pale Stout”, which we thought was not so nice. This 6.4% strong ale is copper coloured and far too sweet for my taste. It has a rather sickly mouth feel, but others may love this strange style. The alcoholic strength is very evident, with strains of sherry in the finish. With room for one more, Thornbridge “Black Harry” was sampled ultimately, with this Mild of 3.9%, full of roast coffee flavours, and a lovely fruitiness in the body. It was the perfect pint to end a great couple of days.
14 different pubs, and 28 different brews sampled in our combined total of 24 pints (including those halves). Not a bad return, if my maths are correct.

Cheers, and keep it “Real”