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Monday, 29 December 2014

My Way

With Saturday's little trip to Louth over, I experienced the rarity of a quiet couple of days off, if you exclude the ritual of present buying, wrapping and hiding. Besides a couple of bottles of my home brew (“St-out in the Cold”, from the Wilko's velvet stout kit, and a Tom Caxton's Real Ale I played with and bottled as “Bitter This, That & T'other”), I resisted the temptation of nights out with the throngs. It helped that I was on lates during the run up to the Big day.
Pre-Xmas drink selection.
We were only working until 6pm on Christmas Eve though, so we had planned a couple of hours out with friends later in the evening. Unfortunately, illness struck in their camp, so that was that. We had a couple of beers at home, notably the Shepherd Neame brew, “Rudolph's Reward”, the Kent brewery's 3.8% bottled beer, which I found in Lidl for only 99p ! To be honest, it isn't packed with Christmas flavours, in fact I found it very much like any bog standard bottled bitter of the same strength. A slight caramel taste tries to come through the sweet maltiness, and the finish, although quite short, is dry and refreshing, but it is what it is. A cheap bottle of beer. I won't be pouring the rest down the sink as a protest to blandness, I will just enjoy them for what they are.
Christmas morning came, and we loaded the car up for the short journey across town to see the three youngest Grandchildren. It was lovely to see their faces light up as we arrived. After explaining why Santa had left some of their pressies at our house, the cacophony of excited noises continued. We stayed a couple of hours, and then popped home, to get our own dinner on, before popping back out to The Yarborough for a couple of beers. Before my current employment, I was 20 years a Private Hire Driver (taxi) and worked every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I could never work out why the Christmas Day in the pub tradition was so strongly adhered to, but having experienced it for the first time last year, with everyone in a festive mood, it certainly leaves one with a warmness, and not just from the alcohol. I started off with Caledonian “Knee Deep”, a beer already reviewed here (http://fozzy21.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/the-pub-with-no-beeralmost.html) This pint, though, was clearly struggling to reach the heights of the previous tasting. Very much bottom of the barrel, I would say. After that I chose the same as T'other' arf was drinking, Wickwar “Christmas Cracker”. With a plum pudding and nutty taste, which leads you from the sweet malt through to the long hopped finish, this 4.2% Ale certainly lives up to it's name.
We met up with T'other' arf's son, and his girlfriend, enjoyed the afternoon, and then we went back for our Christmas Dinner. Now, I don't like to blow my own trumpet, but my cooking skills were greatly appreciated, and the offerings, eagerly scoffed. Smoked Salmon Pate with Capers, followed by Stuffed Turkey Breast, served with Roasted Veg, Brussels Sprouts with peanut butter, bacon and Chestnuts, Red Cabbage in balsamic vinegar and Buttered Leeks, with one or two little ingredients added. We had no room left for the Home-made Xmas Pudding or the Home-made Christmas cake! Our Grandson also came round a little later, and we had a lovely evening, just relaxing and watching a Norman Wisdom DVD. The simple things in life are sometimes the best. T'other' arf and I were both back at work Boxing Day, so the excesses in the drinks department were curtailed early. We were on opposite shifts too, so as Jane was entering the house, I was just leaving. We are rather like the figures on one of those old weather houses, at the moment, and I don't mean just gathering dust on a mantel-piece.
On Saturday, I was off, so, I met my half-pinter from work, as we had arranged, and had ourselves a bit of an afternoon session. I am not off again until after New Year, so this was to be our little treat, although, with Jane on earlies tomorrow, we would not be making a night of it as well. We started out in the Ice Barque (I know, glutton for punishment), and, after waiting an age, we eventually got served. I fancied a Sixpoint beer, displayed on the pumps, “Xporter”. After several unsuccessful pulls, it was announced that “It's gone” . The only other choice I fancied was Milestone's “Donner & Blitzed” a 5.4% Ale which was reasonable, but lost it's head far too quickly. Quite a heavily malted beer,I thought,with occasional spice and nuts coming through to a quite rounded finish. I would have liked to try this beer a bit fresher, as I think it wasn't done any justice by being served, shall we presume, near the end of the barrel. T'other 'arf tried the “Devil's Backbone”, which she enjoyed. Another beer I had tasted and reviewed before, this American Craft Ale is excellent, for a keg beer. The rain, by the time we left, was slinging it down, making for a miserable outlook, so our next port of call needed to be a short distance away, which we decided would be The Hope and Anchor, just around the corner. This one-roomed pub, with a central bar, used to be a regular haunt of ours. We used to have our quiz nights in here back in the Noughties. The pumps displayed 3 Real Ales, and we decided on Tom Woods “Christmas Cheers”, a 4.5% seasonal offering, which, so I am reliably informed, is “Bomber County” with a splash of Whisky flavour added. The taste was, undeniably, “Bomber County” but the Whisky was very subtle. Very well balanced and not too overpowering in taste or aroma, a pleasurable drink indeed. The pub staff, and clientele, were all very amiable and welcoming at this boozer,which is just away from the main shopping centre, and the beer was served as it should be. We stayed for another before setting sail for The Duke of Wellington, just a stones throw away. “The Duke” is another friendly “locals” pub, but with a bit more grit and character. The “Bombardier” we were served here wasn't the best, but still quite passable. We warmed ourselves by the raging fire, surveyed the many old Hewitt's bits and bobs, before making our way back towards town.
Hewitt's Bottle Labels.
Before leaving, Jane pointed out a couple of acts, appearing in the coming weeks, at this venue. “Someone called “Steve” is here at New Year. Strange time, though, 5pm?” I said nothing. “What do you think “Robbieshop is?” I had to point out that “Stevie S” was appearing at 9 and later that week, a local DJ called “Rob Bishop” was also booked. Should have gone to Specsavers!! It was time for some food, I realised. We wandered back to The Barge, had the best pint and a half of “Bombardier”, I believe, in the area, and Jane ordered a Cajun Chicken Baguette. When it turned up, it was HUGE. Easily enough for us both to share, and very well prepared and tasty. We could have stayed a little longer, but as the shopping centre was still open, we thought we would make our way across, and pass through it, rather than get a soaking walking round to The Yarborough via the main road later. I took advantage of a “bargain” watch, from one of those barrows one glimpses in every shopping centre, whilst walking through. £3-00 it cost, ( I could have had a box with it for an extra 2 quid, I declined!) The young lady even set the correct time on it for me. What service, eh? When we eventually reached The Yarborough, the Christmas Ales were still evident in their numbers. We tried to steer clear of any we had already tasted, but that was getting harder. In the end, after a pint of the Moorhouse's “Ice Witch”, a 4.3% Ale already quaffed and enjoyed on a previous visit, we settled on a pint of J.W.Lee's 4.8% “Plum Pudding”, which was rich, dark and filled with fruit flavours. The finish was quite dry, and very satisfying,along with a half of Cotleigh's “Red Nose Reinbeer”, a regular Christmas offering. This 4.3% seasonal Ale, with it's toffee and nutty undertones in the long hoppy finish, preceded by a rich maltiness, is an excellent session beer for the Winter. I glanced up at the TV news showing on one of the screens, dotted around in here. 17-02 said the little box in the corner, looking down at my new, bargain watch, it was displaying 16-40. “Have you been messing about with the telly?” I exclaimed to T'other'arf.

Time was ticking, or not, as the case may be, so we decided to stroll on home, picking up the Lotto on the way. During our amble, which took us past The Parity, I couldn't resist another glass of Tom Wood's “Christmas Cheers”, also on sale here. Sitting there, I realised that, with 2014 soon coming to an end, I should, maybe, sing us out with a little ditty. I will offer you this. Apologies to Mr Sinatra, but I have always attempted to do it this way

  "My Way"

And now, the ale is clear
I'm served a drink from the final firkin
My friend, I'll have my beer
Half a case of which I'm certain
I've drank many a glass that's full
With T'other'arf on our away days
One more, and a half this, we drank it our way

Bad beer, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
We sipped a good ale or two and saw it through less late bar extension
I planned each charted round, each careful brew along the barway
One more, and a half of this, we quaffed them our way

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
Faced with Ale you could almost chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I'd review, not spit it out
I shared it all and I told it all, and blogged it my way

I've sipped, I've quaffed and cried
I've had my fill, my share of boozing
And now, as beers subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I tasted all that
Gargled all, not in a shy way,
Nitro keg?, oh, no, “Real Ale” for me, I'll drink it my way"

For what is a man, what beer's he got?
If not Cask Ale, then he has naught
To drink the beers, those lovely Ales, Browns, Milds Stouts, and the Pales
The record shows we lapped up the brews and supped them our way!

Cheers, A Very Happy New Year to you all, and, remember, keep it “Real”