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Friday 28 December 2012

Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas, Bon Noel, whatever... Christmas and St Stephen's/Boxing Day were spent in Hastings for me and with no work this year, yay!  Most of my drinking outside my home was spent at the Dolphin, Rock-a-Nore, opposite the fishermen's huts, and Santa Claus/Father Christmas/St Nicholas/whoever, had landed a bit early on the lower roof.  The day started very wildly, with driving wind and rain, but the sun later came out, so it was a very mixed bag of weather of, what will become, the wettest year on record in the UK.

Ales at the Dolphin included the usual Dark Star Hophead, Harveys Sussex Best and (lately) Youngs Special, all very well known to readers, if not most ale drinkers in the World, by now, and the seasonal regular Harveys Sussex Old Ale, and RCH Pitchfork (4.3%), which I believe I have noted elsewhere to be a decent pale ale, nice and bitter, and all the way from Cornwall, Sharp's Winter Berry Ale, more about below.

However, before I visited the Dolphin, on both days, I walked up the hill to the Tower, on the corner of London Road and Tower Road, (upper) St Leonards, and bordering Bohemia.  Good to see Louisa, the Landlady, here on Christmas Day, when she had Dark Star American Pale Ale (APA, 4.7%) and Critical Mass (7.4%, hence why I gave it a miss at 11am), a darker strong ale from the Sussex brewer; Sharp's Doom Bar, seen all over the Country and only £1.99 a pint here until 6pm on New Years Eve. 

The previously reported Rother Valley Golden Valley had finished at the end of the previous evening, but Kent Brewery's KGB, aka Kent Golding Bitter (4.1%) was being pulled through as I left, hence my Boxing Day visit to try that one too.  So, Christmas Day saw me drinking the more bitter than usual APA, a very nice surprise, and the single hopped (presumably) KGB was my drink on Boxing Day, a nice refreshing golden hued bitter with a dry aftertaste, worth the revisit indeed!

I had planned to try a half of the ludicrously strong Dark Star Imperial Stout (10.5%) at the White Rock Hotel on Boxing Day, but it was not on and they only had two ales, not the most exciting either, so I made a deviation to the Dripping Well, Cambridge Road, and a wee drink and chat with Mark the landlord (and other patrons, of course).  OK, no Christmas ales here either, but I had a decent pint of Hastings Best, and the usual Wadworth Henry's IPA and Adnams Broadside were on sale too.

So, I ended my 2 days Christmas 'bar drinking at the Dolphin, where I met up with all the family barstaff, though not all working both days, including Mark and Mo, and Laura and Louise, and had drinks bought for me by Joe and Mark, cheers mateys! Following a pint or two of the Dark Star Hophead, I finished both days, actually, by drinking the Sharp's Winter Berry Ale, a seasonal ale flavoured with morello cherries, and very tasty too...

Seasons Greetings to everyone who reads this... well, to everyone anyway, cheers!

Friday 21 December 2012

19th December - Hastings 2nd Christmas Fun Day for me.

I'll try to get to many of my regular pubs and bars in Hastings before Christmas, but for logistical and monetary reasons, I shan't make them all, sadly, but I'll have a bash!  First this Wednesday was the White Rock Hotel down on Hastings front, near the pier, and Kerry behind the bar, always a pleasure to see her there, very knowledgeable and a great barperson too.

The ales here are usually £3.10 a pint, unless over 5%, and consequently, we see the 7.8% Harveys Christmas Ale at £4.00 a pint, which was certainly worth trying a half of (I hate to think of people drinking too much of the 10.5% Dark Star Imperial Stout that is due to come on very soon, I'll probably only have a half of that too!).  So, the Christmas Ale, very nice, if a tad too sweet for me, full-bodied, as you'd expect, a bit of a 'Christmas Pudding' of a beer really! I also had the Rother Valley Blues, much easier to drink at just 5% (I'll try to keep seasonal exclamation marks to a minimum), a very nice dark, roasted malt of a stout, very much enjoyed by me.  They also had Dark Star The Original (5%) and Hastings Brewery's best ale to date (in my opinion) their 4.5% Porter.

Up London Road at St Leonards, and on the corner of Tower Road, I reached the Tower, which I still am not sure of the reason for the name, was there an old Norman tower here, or is it named after a church tower? I shall find out, have to really... Anyway, my favourite St Leonards pub, great ales at good value prices and friendly female bar staff, what more could a Beermeister want?  I did mention ales, yes Dark Star's not quite strongest yet Critical Mass, a mere 7.4%, and their APA too, 4.7%, call that strong?!?

Anyway, I avoided the two Dark Star ales, being a bit worried about falling over sometime today before I get near to my bed, so I decided between the other two, Hop Fuzz English (4%), which I have already had before, so it had to be the wheat beer from Rother Valley Golden Valley, and a very manageable 4.2%.  This was a very pale, quite dry and bitter beer, very much to my taste, cheers!

I then crossed Bohemia Road to the North Star, where I found 5 ales on that I've drunk at least a pint of every one in the past, though some very interesting Christmas ales, and Dark Star 'mad' ones, to come on soon, bother... Anyway, the ales were Moorhouse's Pendle Witches Brew (5.1%), always a pleasant dark ale with a strong flavour; the ubiquitous Harveys Sussex Best (4%), OK if you like a dependable bland session bitter; Timothy Taylor Landlord (4.3%), so well written about elsewhere, and a decent pint when well kept, as they do here; Hogs Back TEA (4.2%), it was a bit like being in a Kent pub, see my previous blogs re Kent; and Rudgate Jorvick Blonde, 3.8% and my choice for this visit, a nice pale hoppy bitter, well, that's my taste.  After wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas, if I don't see you before" I decided to go down to Hastings Centre and visit the North Star's sister pub...

the General Havelock.  5 handpumps, which had 4 ales and a cider on, Westons Twist (4%), a "mulled cider", apparently with "a warming winter spice flavour".  Anyway, I looked to the ales, Dark Star Hophead, Timothy Taylor Landlord, and Harveys Sussex Best, and the 4.3% Sussex Old Ale, that I gladly had a pint of, and gratis too, a reward of the sister pubs' loyalty card, cheers and Merry Christmas Jamie!

13-14th December, back in Hastings

On the Thursday morning I visited The Albatross Club at Bexhill on Sea, five miles walking there, along the front, and 5 miles back, for a pre-Christmas drink and to meet up with the folk of the RAFA, as, in my capacity of being a CAMRA member, I am allowed to imbibe there, thankfully. As ever, great company and Geoff had 4 excellent ales on, including old favourites Dark Star Hophead (3.8%) and Youngs Special (4.5%), both of which I've written plenty about before.  There was also the excellent stout from Anchor Springs, the 5.2% Black Pearl, and Franklin Citra IPA (5.5%), both very good beers! A merry Christmas had commenced...

That evening, and the following afternoon, I had missed the Dolphin, so I attended the quiz on the Thursday night, then just a 'normal' visit in the pouring rain on the Friday, following a bit of a beer drenching too at the Hastings Arms, which I shall add about at the end of this blog.  Didn't do too bad in the quiz, our team came third, in a very difficult pre-Christmas Quiz Christmas Quiz, yes... Ales on were the usual Dark Star Hophead, Youngs Special, Harveys Sussex Best and Old Ale, and Wadworth Swordfish (5%) and a not a bad little pale beer from Isfield, their 4.1% Straw Blonde.

On the Friday afternoon, I popped into the Hastings Arms to try one of Shepherd Neame's seasonal ales, and to dry-off in front of their fire, and found out the latest news of the Smugglers at Pett Level, which sadly isn't now re-opening soon, the once prospective 'deal' being off, it is now rumoured that it will not open until Easter at the earliest and no-one knows who will be doing the opening, if it happens at all, sad, that pub needs some loving!  Anyway, Shepherd Neame ales, the well-known Spitfire (4.2%) and Late Red (4.5%) were on, but a much lesser known ale from their 'pilot' brewery, which I cannot find out about on the internet, and I've noted as South Downs Premium Ale (4%), a nice 'ordinary' bitter, and the very seasonal Christmas Ale (5%), which I thought would be a dark beer, but was a very easy to drink reddish brown ale, I do enjoy being seasonal! 

Oh yes, I was nudged by a friend whilst he quickly turned in the pub, hence the ale down my fleece and trousers, and me smelling of beer until I got back in that evening, I suppose drinking ale helped too...

I returned to the Hastings Arms on 20th December to find the Late Red replaced by Bishop's Finger, 5% of dark strong flavour, always loved this beer, certainly my favourite of their ales ever since I drank it in my youth at a pub that was nicknamed "The Bishop's Finger" and was situated at the edge of a thriving Smithfield Market, I cannot remember the real name of the pub, but just looked it up on the internet to find it is now called "The Bishop's Finger", well well! 

Oh yes, and Sue of the Hastings Arms was involved in the brewing of the South Downs Premium Ale at the Shepherd Neame's pilot brewery in Faversham, so it really is a one-off, so if you want to try this good session bitter get in quickly, nice one Sue.


Wednesday 19 December 2012

12th December - A new pub for me in Battersea!

On my way back from London, I left Putney and walked along the Thames Path again to Battersea, and made my way down Battersea High Street to a new pub for me, The Candlemaker, which I'd seen about in CAMRA's latest editon of London Drinker, and which had only opened at the beginning of November.  I ventured alone this time, as the Routemeister had caught an early Eurostar to Brussels, and was probably in Brussels by the time I got to the top of Battersea High Street.  

The Candlemaker (website) is one of 4 pubs recently opened in London by a Brighton company, this one re-opened in what used to be The Greyhound at 136 Battersea High Street.  Their opening times are 12-12 on weekdays, and 10-1 and 10-10 on Saturdays and Sundays respectively, consequently, as it was only 11.00, I made a detour to Clapham Junction (where I would be shortly catching my train from) and back.

So, only 10 minutes walk away at Clapham Junction is an old 'friend' The Falcon (website), what can I say to add to previous comments about the pub with the Guinness Book of Records label of having 'the longest bar in the country', and hence 22 handpumps?  Well, they have up to 20 ales at any one time and, remarkably, for so many ales, they do keep up a good quality of ale too!  They also had Renata, an efficient and friendly young Polish woman working behind the bar when I was there; many thanks for your advice on the day, Renata, a pleasure. 

Ales? I shan't mention every one of them, just the two especially brewed for Nicholson's, yes, this is a Nicholson's pub, if you weren't aware already, and the 'seasonal' ales.  The 2 brewed for the company were Brentwood The Only Way is Santa (5.2%) and Petersfield (London Style) Porter (5%), which I had a pint of, which was a smooth, sweet even, creamy dark porter. I liked it very much.  Other seasonal ales were Vale 5 Gold Rings (4.8%); Andwell Ding Dong (4.2%); Brains Captain Cat (4.2% and something to do with Dylan Thomas, a character from Under Milk Wood, I believe) a winter ale; plus many many more!  

So, back at The Candlemaker, where I was waiting on the doorstep of for them to open, and they kindly let me in a little early, feeling sorry for me.  There were 5 ales on, including their own (I do believe, or at least it's an associated brewery from Brighton), Laine's Best, see below, a 4% malty best bitter, not bad, but not particularly to my taste. They had 2 old favourites from Sussex brewery, Dark Star, ie the Hophead and APA, crackin' ales! They also had the very local Sambrooks Wandle bitter, more about which is written in previous blogs, and my favourite ale of the day, Buxton Target (3.8%), a 'single hop' ale.  Target is a good hop, and this was a very drinkable pale and quite bitter ale, very enjoyable!  

At The Candlemaker, I met Kathryn (two friendly barmaids in one day cannot be bad) and Freddie, two very likeable young characters who had both moved up from Brighton in connection with this new venture, and who were enjoying their time in Battersea, well, it's certainly changed a lot since my youth, Battersea, that is! 

I'll be back, cheers! 

Tuesday 18 December 2012

11th December and London SE1.

Started off early last Tuesday, 11th, walking along the Thames Path from Putney to Tower Bridge and a new pub for us both, Simon the Tanner, which is situated near the Tower Bridge end of Long Lane, and pleased we were to have made it at last, just after opening, so it was empty... 

This is another great find for me, yet another lovely pub near my Victorian paternal forebears' south east London homes, the interior is nice and simple, bare floorboards, and wooden tables to seat fifty or so.  Of course, the real cider and 3 real ales served from handpumps was my main quest and delight. 

The cider was Crazy Goat Lilley's Cider (6.8%), actually a cider and perry blend, and the 3 ales were O'Hanlon's Port Stout (4.8%), Saltaire Bavarian Black (4.9%), and Titanic White Star, which we both drank.  I have to own up, I love Titanic ales, and the 4.8% White Star is no exception, a full-bodied pale ale, a peachy aroma, but more of a dry bitter grapefruit flavour, and beer flavour, of course, loved it! 

We then ventured back to Borough Market, and decided to go to The Rake this time, which was serving up Summer Wine Brewery (SWB) Mokko Milk Stout (6%), Coniston No 9, an 8.5% barley wine, and Roosters YPA (Yorkshire Pale Ale), a 4.1% pale and hoppy, yet smooth drinking ale. I also had a bit of a debate about pubs in West Yorkshire with a fellow customer, which I won, of course, though I did later check on one of my assertions with the Teameister up int' Haworth, who confirmed my belief.

We then walked back westwards and, coincidentally, a BBC film crew we had seen in the Bricklayers on the Monday were this day filming on the south bank opposite the Houses of Parliament.  I guessed they must have been covering the following days mass lobby of Parliament in connection with the extortionate beer tax, which seemed a reasonable reason to be interviewing someone in the Bricklayers, and the exact same half a dozen people filming opposite the home to democracy in the UK... but no! I later found out that the person doing all the talking is an Oxford professor, and they were filming a programme to come out on BBC about Oliver Cromwell, oh well... 


Sunday 16 December 2012

10th and 11th December - Bricklayers Arms, Putney

2 drinking shifts for me earlier this week at The Bricklayers Arms in Putney (website) whose landlady collected an award, on the 14th, as a finalist of 'Headway Campaigner of the Year', warm congratulations to Becky!   

Anyway, the Monday was spent in the company of my brother, the Routemeister, but solo on Tuesday whilst he was running an errand for my niece.  The Monday was virtually a Yorkshire beer festival, with ales from Ilkley Gold (3.9%) and Best (4%), the Gold is a nice pale bitter; my brother tried the Acorn Barnsley Gold (4.3%), having drunk many Acorn beers in the past and having worked with their head brewer (not sure if he still works there, though), I gave this a miss purely because I know their ales, and they are very good; Wold Top Bitter (3.7%), a nice traditional bitter, and the excellent Wold Gold, 4.8% of full-bodied golden bitter, very nice.
Amongst the other ales, there were also 2 from Bath, the 3.7% Spa and 4.1% Gem, and Downton Chocolate Orange Delight (5.8%), which I was hoping to drink the following day, but missed out on, that's life and ale drinking at 'London's Permanent Beer Festival', aka the Bricklayers Arms, my Putney 'local'. Oh yes, and yet another real fire for me...  

On the 11th, I returned early evening, missed the Downton choccy one, but tried the very good Bowman Quiver, a 4.5% pale bitter ale and the equally very good, but very different, Vale Brewery Black Swan, described as a 'dark smooth rich mild', certainly plenty of body for a 3.9% mild and very drinkable!  There were also, from Vale Brewery, Red Kite (4%), a 'chestnut red malty bitter' and the 3.4% Brill Amber, and many other ales on their 12 handpumps, including another Yorkshire ale, Clarks Twister (4.2%) from Wakefield.
2 enjoyable sessions... Cheers!

Friday 14 December 2012

8th December - Wigan and The Orwell

Why name a pub at Wigan Pier "The Orwell", goes without saying really, doesn't it? Certainly one of my favourite authors and political influences, but, sadly, I couldn't make the visit last Saturday, but have had this feedback from Paul, and the model in the photograph is Tom; 2 lads I first met many years ago when I was returning to Sheffield on a train, and they were returning to York.

Anyway, I recommended The Orwell (website) at Wigan Pier, a converted cotton warehouse originally built in 1877 by the canal there.  This is Paul's contribution, who went to the football in Wigan that day, many thanks mate.  Paul found The Orwell to be a large pub with lots of seating, fans from both teams getting along with no problems, children-friendly, and non-football fans too. Good value food is on offer, including a range of pies and pasties, and a £3 pie and peas 'match day special'; a more detailed menu can be seen on their website. 
The ales available were from the local Prospect Brewery (website) which was first established in a garage in 2007, moving to larger premises in Standish in January 2010.  Both ales Paul tried were a "nice drop": ie the Silver Tally (3.7%), a pale hoppy bitter with a citrus aroma, and the 4.5% golden ale, Gold Rush, a hoppy bitter.
Cheers Paul!

Thursday 13 December 2012

Much to come!

True!  Just back from London, I'll be blogging soon...

Whilst resting, however, just a comment on the Hastings Porter I recently drank at the Dolphin; it's 4.5% and the best ale I've so far had from them so far, pretty damn good, cheers!

Thursday 6 December 2012

5th December and The Tower, London Road, Hastings

I get a bit confused if this is St Leonards up the hill here in London Road, or Bohemia?  Whichever, I visited the Tower and Louisa, and had a few ales. The photograph below is from a few months ago, but I forgot to take a photo this time, and it's quite nice and sunny in this picture, anyhow, I did take a photograph of the beer pumps and fire, further below:

Louisa is great company, keeps a friendly house, and serves up well-conditioned ales at some of the lowest prices in Hastings.  The 4 ales on offer today were Fullers London Pride (4.1%), I hadn't drunk a pint of Pride for a few months, so had to taste it, still a good ale, no doubt about that, despite my tastebuds now going for more pale and bitter ales, and at £2.40 a pint, had some mates of mine, I bragged to by text, very envious.  Similarly, I bragged about the excellent 5.9% Thornbridge Jaipur at £3.00 a pint to another set of friends; I'd forgotten how good Jaipur is, so I can only imagine what it would have been like to be drinking their Kipling!

Louisa also had two Dark Star ales on, the American Pale Ale (4.7%) at £2.40 a pint and Rock Star (6%), an "American Brown Ale" that was a collaboration with Magic Rock Brewery, at £2.90 a pint.  A Christmas visit could well be a priority for me, as for the week from 18.00 hrs on Christmas Eve, until 18.00 hrs on New Years Eve, she will be selling Sharps Doom Bar (4%) at £1.99 a pint!  As the pub is also open on Christmas Day from 11 to 3pm, I may just pop in on Christmas Day, just to wish everyone a merry Christmas, whatever, I will be there at some time during the festivities...
...and another real fire!

Cheers Louisa :-) 

30th November Part II

We caught the bus back to St Mary's and walked into the Marsh to St Mary's in the Marsh and the Star Inn, cracking country pub, friendly landlord and patrons, had a good couple of hours here drinking Youngs Bitter (3.7%) and Hop Fuzz English (4%), and they also had Youngs Special (4.5%) and Shepherd Neame Kent's Best Invicta Ale (4.1%), and Skinners Ginger Tosser (3.8%) came on as a replacement whilst we were there.

The bus didn't turn up to return us to New Romney, but we received a lift from one of the many patrons who volunteered to drive us to New Romney, friendly bloke who dropped us dead opposite the Cinque Ports Arms, many thanks!  We had a half each in here of Youngs Bitter ("Ordinary" to us ex-Wandsworthians) - they also had Skinners Ginger Tosser - and then a half of Sharps Doom Bar (4%) and egg and chips (a pickled egg in a packet of crisps each) in the New Inn before catching the bus back into East Sussex.

We got off at Icklesham and dropped in at the Queens Head, nice and busy, fun to be had, the Pubmeister being more of a regular than me here, so banter with those behind the bar, who had shaved off their 'Movembers' earlier in the day. 

Even better, Mrs Pubmeister, the marvelous Mo, collected us from outside the pub and returned us to the Dolphin in Hastings, where we had commenced the day.  As usual, wonderful staff, great ales, music (it being a Friday evening), and interesting fellow patrons, nudge nudge...

Mark drank the Wadworth's Swordfish (5%) and I drank the excellent 5.2% Anchor Springs Black Pearl, both of which I have reported on before, then he made his way upstairs, and I wandered along the beach home; many thanks for a classic day! 

An assessment of the day? Kentish folk like medium coloured bitters, Youngs for example (I believe they are pushing hard in Kent), not a lot of variety in the choice of ales on offer, though quite a few different brewers, but similar ales, oh well...

Pub of the Day?  The Three Mariners in Hythe, cheers!

Saturday 1 December 2012

30 Nov - Hythe, new pubs + another real fire

A lovely bright, if a bit chilly Friday, and I met up with Mark (the Pubmeister) at the Dolphin, Hastings, where, as you can see below, two drays were delivering ale, including from Hastings Brewery, great timing! We had a coffee before leaving to catch the 10.17 bus to deepest darkest Kent.

We had considered visiting the Red Lion in Snargate, but it was just too complicated to fit in yesterday (that will be for another memorable day, no doubt), so we undertook the near 2 hour bus trip straight to Hythe, on a lively number 100/101 bus, and the time seemed to pass very quickly too. Good chat one of the reasons for that.  Anyway, we arrived in Hythe shortly after noon and made straight for our first destination, The White Hart in the High Street.

The White Hart is a lovely big pub, originally built in 1395 as an inn, but now more of a restaurant and also selling two real ales, sometimes 3 during busier times.  This Friday the two ales on were Greene King IPA (their regular ale) and the guest was the Kent brewer Hopdaemon's Incubus, a 4% nutty flavoured bitter, not bad at all, which will be replaced by the same brewer's 5% Green Daemon, a great shame that wasn't on yet (Hopdaemon website).

From there, we crossed back over the Military Canal and walked the short distance to The Three Mariners in Windmill Street where we met the very friendly, efficient and enthusiastic manager, Sarah, and chatted to a few of the 'locals' too. The Three Mariners is a freehouse and regular CAMRA awards winner, and has 8 handpumps, in usual circumstances serving 5 or 6 ales, and a real fire, and you know how much I like real fires...

Anyhow, we had halves of 3 of the ales on offer, missing out on Caledonian Autumn Red (4.4%) and their only regular, the 3.7% Youngs Bitter (more of in my next blog). The 3 we drank were all Kentish ales, Gadds (website at the Ramsgate Brewery) Seasider, an easy to drink 4.3% pale amber ale; Westerham (website) British Bulldog, a golden coloured 4.3% best bitter; and Goachers (website) 4.5% Imperial Stout, a dark stout brewed with roasted barley and Fuggles hops, a too easy to drink ale, and both of our's favourite in Kent this day, I do believe.
Unless you include crisps and nuts, The Three Mariners is not somewhere to go for food in Hythe, but it is the place to visit if you want convivial company and well conditioned ales, nice one!

Our final port of call in Hythe was The Red Lion Hotel, Red Lion Square, another large interior well set out as a restaurant too. We met Debbie behind the bar here, who asked to be remembered to Brian at the Star in St Mary in the Marsh (more of in part 2 of this day's blog, I'll probably publish that tomorrow). usually 3 ales here, the guest was the 3.6% Greene King IPA, and two regulars Wells Bombardier (4.1%) and the Kent brewer Old Dairy's (website) Red Top (3.8%), which we had, a nice mixture of hops in this easy to drink session bitter.
Well, more to come in Part 2 of Friday 30th November, but for now, cheers!

The Pubmeister

 The Pubmeister (aka Mark)