Enjoy Playing Away From Home . . .

Tuesday 26 June 2012

St Peter's Ale at the Dolphin Inn, Hastings

OK, a lovely morning by the sea, so a wander along the beach to the Dolphin at Rock-a-Nore opposite the fishermen's huts in front of the 'Old' Town.

I arrived to enjoy chatting to Mark, the landlord, Steve the customer (more than just one of us) and Louise behind the bar this morning.  The usual regular ales were among the 6 on offer, ie Hophead, Sussex Best and Directors, plus the seasonal regular, Dark Star APA, and two guests, Fullers Summer Ale and...

St Peter's Ruby Red Ale, a 4.3% unsurprisingly 'ruby' coloured ale, with the taste of roasted malt, but bitter, remarkably light in the circumstances, and undeniably thirst quenching!  Usually, you only see St Peter's ales in bottles like below...

...and the only previous time I have had beers of their's from the cask, was before a midweek match in London, at the Jerusalem Tavern, the brewery's flagship, which is open 11-11 on weekdays only, so a big treat today, see their website.


Saturday 23 June 2012

Swan & Rushes, Leicester

Just received a report from Dan about one of my favourite pubs in the country, the Swan & Rushes (website) in Leicester, still living up to my expectations, still selling Oakham Ales (website).  Dan is there right now after I recommended it to him following his request, but I've visited quite a few times for sports reasons, it being an excellent pub, plus near the rugby and football grounds, and also near the Infirmary! I was there on the same weekend as the Leicester Beer Festival a few years ago, and the Swan had its own beer festival with many ales out the back!  

Anyway, 6 ales here and many Belgian beers, Dan drank the Oakham Bishop's Farewell (4.6% of pale, hoppy fruitiness, smooth and slightly bitter), the other 2 regulars being Oakham JHB and Batemans XB.  They also have 3 guest ales, today they include Oakham Citra (4.2%), which I still have to try, but believe I may get the chance in Hastings very soon, and Dark Star Summer Meltdown at 4.8%, a golden bitter from one of my local brewers down in Sussex (website). 

Dan is impressed by the pub, liked the music too, but said that no food was available today, though usually food is available at lunchtimes Monday to Friday and Wednesday and Friday evenings, and I've always known sandwiches, at least, to be available during the football season Saturday lunchtimes too. 

Cheers for the update and photograph Dan!

Thursday 21 June 2012

Bohemia Developments...

OK, St Leonards, Bohemia Road, whatever, so, developments and latest ales in the area, ie the 4 pubs I do visit in the area and heading back into town...

My first stop was the Tower, still selling great ales at reasonable prices for the area (though I do miss the prices in Sheffield from my trip up North last week ;-) -  OK, so this is the best value ale house in the area, the ale is well looked after and nicely priced well below £3 a pint, and Louise remembered me, nice one, cheers!  So 4 ales on sale, and two of my favourites, Dark Star Hophead and APA, were still both on, plus Batemans Hop Bine Bitter (3.6%) and yet another old favourite Hop Back Summer Lightning, 5.2% of pale, bitter and wonderful hoppy ale... I re-tried the Summer Lightning, well you have to, don't you? Plus I drank a pint of the Hophead, well, I drank that first, actually, then a pint of Lightning, and, maybe not a surprise, because tastes develop, I prefer the Hophead, but Summer Lightning is still a crackin' ale!  Nice company, nice chat, great ales, I'll be back again, Louise, cheers muchly!

I then visited the Dripping Spring for the latest tales of managers coming and going, yet! There is actually a couple installed as managers here now, and they have both been in the area for many years, so here's hoping we see them continue the good name of this pub and its ales: a warm welcome to Jeannie and Dave :-)

And, yes, real ales back on the bar, the previous manager having been asked to run down all stocks meant that when Jeannie and Dave took over last week there was no beer at all, so, orders were put in and they re-opened last Monday 18th June, no doubt much to the delight of regulars. So, very happy to see the excellent 2 Dark Star ales here too, Hophead and APA, plus Rother Valley Level Best, and because of the 'Euros' England's Best.  In addition, the two old regulars, the ubiquitous Sussex Best and Wye Valley HPA.

I next visited the North Star, sporting a completed 'loyalty card' (9 pints gets you a free pint), but no sign of Jamie about, no doubt down at his other venture the General Havelock, but, as ever, great service from his colleagues, thank you. 5 ales on sale, as ever, Landlord, Doom Bar, Sussex Best, Jennings Cumberland Ale, and Wadworth Red, White & Brew (4%), which I entertained as my complimentary loyal pint; it's a light bitter, not overly bitter, with a slight roasted flavour from the malt. 

Walking back down the hill into town and my final call was to the Dripping Well, with the ever friendly Rick behind the bar, and good banter from both sides of the bar.  The 4 ales today were Henry's IPA, Adnams Bitter, Directors, and Hastings Best Bitter (4.1%).  I had a pint of the Directors first, an ale I used to drink so much of in my youth, but my everchanging palate, which is getting to like more and more bitter and dry ales (not so malty), means that drinking Directors and the like is becoming like drinking liquidised Caramac to me, I just have to accept it...

Anyway, Nick informed me he is giving the Hastings Brewery a try out, dropping out the Adnams, and has Hastings Blonde and HPA to come on.  I drank the Best Bitter, which is quite a well balanced and enjoyable bitter.  Good luck with that venture, Nick, it would be great to see the Hastings Brewery develop their brewing skills and get some regular outlets!


Tuesday 19 June 2012

Dolphin, Hastings

I visited the Dolphin yesterday, back to Hastings now, and had to continue my research into the quality of Dark Star Hophead, obviously. Unsurprisingly, it was as good as it was in the Kelham Island Tavern in Sheffield, actually, I think it was better, but only fractionally, crackin' ale! 

In addition to the Hophead, the other regular ales, Directors and Sussex Best were on offer, plus the semi-regular, at the moment, Dark Star APA and Hop Back Taiphoon, and Anchor Springs Riptide, a 4.1% medium coloured bitter from the Littlehampton-based brewery. By today, a 4.4% ale called On Tap should be on the bar, Beer Rocks is named as the brewer on the pumpclip, but research shows they are a beer supplier, not brewer, that appears to use a number of different breweries to produce their own labelled ales!

The Dolphin has continued with its excellent value menu since the Jubillee celebration, but should be changing this weekend, so get in by Friday if you want to take advantage. I love the pub, but this isn't advertising for them, it's saying to anyone who wants a great value meal, including the price of a pint of beer or glass of wine, to get in for their 'Best of British' menu; includes Fish & Chips, Sausage & Mash, Pie & Mash, Curry or Ploughman's.  Get in there!

Part V - Ending the drinking and leaving Sheffield

Well, we'd done the great majority of ale drinking already, and hadn't met up with Lindsay yet, though we did at The Blake, James Burkett's new pub, and my debut here! 

I think I drank Titanic Steerage here, certainly two pints, but maybe I had a different ale too? My notes start getting less legible now. Whatever, it's a decent ale house, and well worth the visit, with 6 mostly local, but all microbrewery ales on the bar.

We then walked downhill to an old 'local', I literally lived a minute walk away before leaving Sheffield, this is the Hillsborough, with its own micro, Wood Street Brewery.  The photo shows Jeff and Lindsay rushing ahead of me to get into the pub, which has 8 ales on sale, including 3 of their own. I had their 4.5% Here We Go bitter, which would have benefitted with more hops, but I believe they are seeking a new brewer, and I do like my hoppy ales. 

We parted company from Lindsay, and Jeff and I went to the Sheaf Island, a 'spoons in Ecclesall Road, for dinner, and we even had another pint of a Millstone ale in the Porterbrook before heading for the comfort of 'home'... I woke up still sitting on the sofa at 04.00 the next morning.

Thursday, meant leaving Sheffield, via yet another 'spoons, the Francis Newton, for breakfast, and a couple of pints at another new pub for me, the Hop, an Ossett Brewery pub in the centre, overlooking Devonshire Green. Here Jeff and I met up with Anna, another very lovely ex-colleague, happily pregnant... Jeff was off to work, she is pregnant, so I had to take up the job of drinking 2 of their own ales, ie Ossett Excelsior (5.2%) and Yorkshire Blonde (3.9%).  I preferred the Yorkshire Blonde, though both good beers, but it had the edge on bitterness for me.

So, goodbye to Sheffield, yet again, thank you to all who helped me to enjoy it, and cheers!

Part IV - 13th June, the drinking...

I soon came to realise, last Wednesday, that I really do miss Sheffield, certainly the ales, pubs and friends, not necessarily in that order... First to drink at...

The Wellington at Shalesmoor sells great ales, and they have their own brewhouse out the back Little Ale Cart brewery... Absolutely approved of their 4.3% Naworth Castle, pale, hoppy (7 different hops used), fruity, bitter, delicious! I also tried their 4% The Badsworth (6 different hops) and 5% Spion Kop (a mere 5 different hops used). No keg beers here at all, not even the better quality lager they used to sell, just 8 different real ales, only Millstone Baby Git (4%) a regular, and always including at least one dark ale, a stout or mild. Met up with my mate Rob here too, and chatted to Gary (barman) Gee (manager and brewer) and Richard (owner) - I do miss the place!

Rob and I then visited the Fat Cat, also the brewery tap for Kelham Island Brewery. Dave Wickett, the man behind the businesses, sadly died a couple of weeks ago, RIP Dave; but it's still a great pub.  Rob came down here with me and this is where we met up with Jeff and Bob. The Kelham Island Pale Rider is still good!  I tried their 5.5% Wild Rider too, but not as good as the Pale Rider, and apart from the usual Kelham Island ales and regular Landlord, there were 5 other guest beers on sale. Enjoyed one of their excellent pork pies, baked with their own ale in the recipe as well. Had a brief chat to Duncan (the manager), cheers mate!

Round the corner, to the Kelham Island Tavern, and back down to just Jeff and me now; what more can you say about this pub than it won CAMRA's NATIONAL pub of the year 2 years running, the first pub to ever do that, I believe, and Sheffield's pub of the year about 10 years running.  

Shouldn't have done this, as 13 ales on sale, but I drank Dark Star Hophead here, a crackin' ale, and it travels well; only drank it as an experiment - honest!

Before leaving the area we visited Shakespeares, another recently refurbished and reopened pub under new ownership. Still just Jeff and I, and up to 9 ales on sale here. They have one regular, Abbeydale Deception, but today I had Full Moon Brewery's Celestial Blonde, 4.3%, smooth and creamy with a bitter aftertaste, nice one, cheers!

Part III - The calm before the booze

The White Lion, Sheffield - only passing on Wednesday morning, on way into Sheffield, too early to drink there...

Bacon sandwich and mug of tea for just £1.99 at the Benjamin Huntsman in central Sheffield, near Barkers Pool.

Still too early, though, soon to meet mate, Jeff, so visited my favourite restaurant, Mama's and Leonie's, had a coffee, chatted to Tracey and John (chef), great to see friendly faces yet again at Mama's, good to see Adele, Romy et al yesterday too.

Finally, near to first drink now, the oldest pub in Sheffield, according to one theory, The Queens Head, by the Interchange (Thwaites house) - still early, though...

Went on to meet Jeff, who took my bag off home with him, he's not visiting my next port of call, so, ale next blog...

Friday 15 June 2012

Part II - Chesterfield (the town)

After lunch at Mama's & Leonies with Debra (more soon) and dinner at Phil's and Amanda's, Phil and I met Will at the Rutland Arms in Chesterfield... 

As he prefers darker ales, Will was a bit put out by the lack of beer to his taste at the Rutland, though hard to see why, he tried a half of The Brew Company's Crystallised (5.5%) but said it was too much to my taste for him... I tried the Idle Brewery's Idle Tongue (4.3%), a pale and bitter ale, as did Phil. They also had Doom Bar, Abbot Ale, and The Tap House Dark & Dangerous (5%).   

From the Rutland we chased behind Will to the Gardeners, where we watched the football, well, the second half of it. Tried the Ringwood Boondoggle (4.2%), their only real ale on, though they can have two ales, and another ale was coming on the other pump very soon. The Boondoggle is a very easy to drink pale ale, not too bitter, and the lad behind the bar, a great bloke, and I had a bit of a chat about ales, food and blogging, he also gave us a free drink each, I think he was just glad to have people in his bar that appreciate and like to drink real ale... 

Our final stop with Will was Joplins, where Will complained about the loud music on the speaker, well, apart from us three, the only other person present was the barman (a couple were leaving as we entered, not sure of the loud music drove them out or not). Hook Norton Hooky and Old Hooky were on sale, together with Hopback 25th Celebration Ale (4.6% and 35 years behind the times ;-), a pale dry bitter.

Will went home from here (to catch the train back to Sheffield), as I was staying with Phil and Amanda in Chesterfield we headed for the bus stop on leaving Joplins, but had enough time for another pint at the Rutland, where we had the Crystallised, and it was the best ale of the evening!  In my humble opinion... 


Thursday 14 June 2012

A tale of 2 cities + a town - part 1 - London

11th and 12th June 2012, arrived in London, Clapham Junction to be more precise, on Monday 11th, and left for Sheffield on Tuesday 12th. On my way over to the family 'seat' in Southfields, I soon passed, well nearly got by, I soon entered the Roundhouse, 2 Northside, Wandsworth Common...  

The Roundhouse, as I'm sure I've said before, was an old haunt of mine in my yoof, it's a bit more upmarket now, but very pleasant, with charming barstaff, many thanks to them.  It doesn't open for lunches until the weekend, so be careful if planning a visit (see website); music provided on Saturday afternoons is jazz.

They sell 3 ales, today they had Sambrooks Wandle Bitter, Sharps Doombar and Mad Goose Purity Pale Ale at 4.2%, the last of which I drank before embarking further towards my goal. Pretty much what you'd expect from such a beer, and knowing my tastes, light coloured pale beer, bitter, loved it! 

I then visited the Pig & Whistle, on the corner of Penwith Road and Merton Road in Southfields SW18, a Youngs house, which I remember as a kid being an off licence, shop and a house. I had a pint of the Ordinary, which was in fine condition, and a slice of Chocolate and Zucchini cake, which was also pleasant!

On Tuesday, I caught a train up to Sheffield, but, as Kieran wrote such a fine piece on the new Fullers pub at Kings Cross station, The Parcel Yard, I thought I should visit too, being in the area (St Pancras). 10 ales on 12 handpumps, including the usual Fullers and Gales ales you would expect, and guests from Adnams (Ghostship at 4.5%), Butcombe Bitter, and a 'seasonal' Fullers Hope and Glory (4.7%), yes, a 'jubilee' ale, slightly sweet and malty, with a nuttty and dry aftertaste.


Sunday 10 June 2012

Axe the Beer Tax Escalator!

A reminder, if you agree with the campaign and haven't already done so, please sign the petition to get this debated in Parliament, at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29664/?friendly_id=saveyourpint 

Excuse the use of Jennifer again, but it's a good campaign for beer drinkers, cheers!

Saturday 9 June 2012

8th June 2012

A very windy day in Hastings, and I reached the Dolphin in about 5 minutes quicker time than usual (wind behind me!)

First port of call was the Dolphin, the whole family here today, though only for a short time together ;-) Ales on were the usual Hophead, Directors and Sussex Best, plus Dark Star APA, Hopback Taiphoon and Adnams Broadside.  Then walked back westwards and against the wind now, lost my shades!

To the White Rock Hotel, met a couple of Charlton fans here, including the barman and a postman this side of the bar called Darren, cheers gents! Ales on were Hastings Best Bitter (which I had a few pints of), Dark Star The Original and a 2% ale from Weltons called Light Duty, despite the low gravity it actually had some flavour, and was a medium coloured bitter, surprisingly... Sadly, I had just missed drinking the revelation that is Dark Star Revelation!

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Tuesday 5 June 2012

The Bear at Swans Nest Hotel - Stratford-upon-Avon

I visited friends in Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday afternoon and naturally gave Steve a call to see if he could recommend a pub to visit.

With a pregnant girlfriend, it was important that there was a good atmosphere, access to food and toilets and that for my own benefit, there would be somewhere to watch the England v Belgium game.

My question stumped Steve, but after consulting one of his Beer guides he came up trumps with the suggestion of The Bear at the Swans Nest Hotel. Who needs google and smartphones eh?

Pubs in Stratford seem to follow a thespian theme or have references to Shakespeare in one way or another, but pleasingly the Bear had neither. This is effectively the bar to what looked like a fairly smart hotel situated right on the Avon.
All manner of ales were on offer but I plumped for a smooth Old Hooky from the Hook Norton Brewery and must say it was a nice drop. Showing my age with comments like that. I must halt this decline.
Aside from the beer, service was polite and efficient but what really impressed me was the framing of the flat screen TVs in rather ornate old, erm frames.

If you're looking for a pub away from the tourists, this is a good one.

The Parcel Yard - New Fullers Pub at King's Cross Station

Fullers have opened the largest station pub in the country in the new concourse at London's King's Cross.

The Parcel Yard is set in the original station building overlooking the platforms and is conveniently located next to Platform 9 3/4 for anyone wishing to catch the Hogwarts Express back home after a couple of ESBs.

As you'd guess from the name of the pub, the setting was originally used to store mail freight coming through the station. The pub has a relaxed "waiting room" atmosphere and features plenty of references to our country's railway and brewing heritage with plenty of signage taking you back to a bygone age.

Much like Paddington's Mad Bishop & Bear there are screens up giving departure and arrival information so there need be no reason to miss your connection home.
Amongst a wide selection of ales, ciders and lagers, I had a pint of London Porter which somehow seemed appropriate given the surroundings.

The area around Euston, King's Cross & St Pancras have seen an amazing regeneration in recent years and can rightfully be visited as a destination in itself rather than purely a hub for transport links into the more established areas of the capitol.

The Parcel Yard is worth a visit for commuters and day-trippers alike.

Monday 4 June 2012

Dolphin, Hastings

So, a bank holiday Monday in Hastings, not great weather, what does one do? Yep! The Dolphin... Good ales, good food deals, even better, though, Laura and Maz working behind the bar, consequently, crackin' cakes for nowt for the regulars (always fun to see Maz working here, not only from the selfishly greedy point of view either).      

Despite the amazingly quick to change weather, not such a bad day then, chatting to Mark, Laura and Maz, and Mo for a while, behind the bar earlyish (later, Debs and 'Scootah' too), good ale and better company.  This side of the bar and I chatted to Steve the (retired) fireman and Jim (family in South Yorkshire) as well as to Mark.  

Laura and Maz (not in that order, thanks to Marcus for the photo) 

The 6 ales were Dark Star Hophead and APA (you need to look no further than those 2 to know what I drank), Directors, Sussex Best, Broadside and Hopback Taiphoon...