Enjoy Playing Away From Home . . .

Saturday 30 March 2013

FILO, Hastings, Easter Beer Festival

The beer festival started on Thursday evening, I visited yesterday (Good Friday) and it is due to finish on Easter Monday. The Full list of ales available can be downloaded from the FILO's website (site) and many of the available ales can be seen in the photograph below.

Mike, the landlord, who was in fine form, was serving in the festival bar in the conservatory towards the rear of the pub, which houses the ales and ciders below, and 2 ales, the Castle Rock Harvest Pale Ale and Pig & Porter Red Spider Rye, were being served from handpumps in the bar, together with the 4 of their own ales I have recently reported on. Except for the 2 stronger guests (£3.50 a pint) the guest ales were all £3.40 a pint, and their own ales at their usual prices, starting at £3.00 a pint for the FILO Crofters (3.8%).  I shall only report on the 5 ales I drank yesterday.

The 5 ales I sampled were the Pig & Porter Ashburnham Pale Ale, a 3.8% bitter with a hint of roasted malt; an old trusted favourite of mine, Oakham JHB, a pale hoppy 3.8% bitter; also, Oakham's even better Bishops Farewell, a 4.5% pale and hoppy bitter, with good body and a grapefruit aroma and taste, excellent as ever; Milk Street Beer, fuller bodied at 5%, a bit sweet, with a slight citrusy aroma, I'll borrow Mike's description of 'mango', and a dry aftertaste; and my personal favourite 'beer of the festival', the Salopian Hop Twister, 4.5% and here was hops and aroma 'in your face'! This had a peachy aroma, with grapefruit too, and tangerines in the flavour, and with a dry aftertaste, I loved it, it was excellent.

Try to get there before they run out of ales, certainly the Hop Twister, and the food looked excellent too, cheers!

Thursday 28 March 2013

FILO Beer Festival, today until Monday

Just a reminder, there's a beer festival at the First In Last Out (FILO), Hastings 'old town', in the High Street, from this evening until Easter Monday (site), I am planning to make a visit, of course, probably tomorrow...

If you go to the festival, have a good time tasting a variety of ales, if not, still, have a good time over Easter, it looks to be sunny, if not too warm, at least down here, cheers!

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Wandering Part II

Part II of my research saw me visit the Jenny Lind, High Street, Hastings, and The Stag, All Saints Street, Hastings.  My first stop was at the Jenny Lind, which I hadn't visited since the new ownership, and was suitably impressed.  I received a warm welcome from Sarah behind the bar, who even admitted to reading my blog, nice to be appreciated, many thanks!

So, apart from a lovely barmaid interested in the ales, always a good sign, there were 6 real ales (all having 1p off a pint since the budget, this is a first!) and a real local cider, Laughing Jester (5.5%). The real ales included 2 from Hastings Brewery, Blonde (3.9% and £3.19 a pint) and Pale Ale (4.7%); 2 from Theakstons, Best Bitter (3.8%) and Old Peculiar (5.6%); Courage Directors (£3.49 a pint); and my ale for this visit... 

The 'guest ale' was Wadworth's Bishop's Tipple, 5% and a typical tasting ale from that brewer, pale 'amber' coloured, a bit sweet at first, but actually quite bitter with a nutty aftertaste, a very nice beer that I seemed to remember from my last drinking this many years ago, cheers Sarah.  A friend, Tony, also came in whilst I was drinking there, and I was next going to visit his own pub of choice (a burden of course). 

The Stag is another Shepherd Neame pub in Hastings, this and the Hastings Arms are the best 2 of many, in my opinion.  Of course, they sell their own brewery brands, and there was a 'guest' from Okell's, a nice 3.7% bitter called Bitter, a good choice of name, if unoriginal, which I drank (£3.50 a pint). Their own ales were Kents Best (4.1%), and 2 'seasonal' ales, that I have recently reported on, the pale golden 4.3% Early Bird and the very good Double Stout (4%). I had a good chat with the landlord, Alan, and with another customer (who knew too many people from Sheffield that I do for comfort!), and Tony came in towards the end of my visit.
So, in Hastings 'old' town, the FILO is the leader for the best value ales...
Cheers all!

Monday 25 March 2013

Six Hops from Dark Star!

A quick visit to the Albatross Club in Bexhill on Sea and a crackin' reward...

Quite a few people have asked me if I've tried it yet, well now I have, Dark Star's Six Hop Ale, a 6.5% pale bitter with mucho body, flavours++, and a treat to drink, loved it, catch it if you can... cheers!

Saturday 23 March 2013

Wandering round Hastings and its environs...Part I

What with all the good news about beer duty, and following a bit of a hint by a fellow customer at the Dolphin, I thought I'd start reassessing beer prices in Hastings, and anywhere else I visit.  So, where better to start my research, than at the pub that sells its own ales, where you would expect a bargain, hence, to the First In Last Out, or FILO, to the initiated, and joy! Mike and Sharon, the landlord and landlady, were in attendance this side of the bar, so I had a good chat with Mike, but Sharon had her attention more drawn by other customers, sadly for me.

There are now 6 real ales and a real cider at the FILO, 4 of their own, which were the Cardinal, Old Town Tom, Churches Pale Ale, and the 3.8% very good session bitter Crofters (£3.00 a pint), that I had a pint, and a half of, cheers Mike.  The 2 guest ales were Westerham British Bulldog, a "bronze, malty, hoppy" 4.3% bitter, and my old favourite, Dark Star Hophead at £3.30 a pint. The real cider was the locally sourced 5.5% Laughing Jester.

The FILO is holding a beer festival for the Easter weekend, starting on Thursday 28th March, in the evening.  Mike assured me there would be a variety of very interesting ales from independent breweries, sounds like a must go to me!

The Dolphin was where this quest had all started, following their increasing the price of ales by 20p a pint, sounds harsh, but they hadn't increased prices when the brewers had earlier in the year, and they were envisaging the Chancellor increasing prices significantly; we'll wait and see if there are any more changes in their pricing structure to come.  Anyway, all their ales are now £3.50 a pint, which is a bit expensive for Hophead etc, but a good deal locally for the stronger ales.  Changes to ales since my last mention are the Portobello Star being replaced by Great Yorkshire Yorkshire Golden, a 4.2% rather malty pale golden ale, and the Trade Winds has been replaced by Okell's Castletown, a pale and very easy to drink, as in quite nice thank you, 4% bitter.  

For this blog, the Hastings Arms was visited as well, and, incidentally, they have already taken over the Smugglers Inn at Pett Level, opening on Wednesday just gone. Good to see them keeping on both pubs, and excellent to see the Smugglers coming back to life, for now, opening at 12.00 daily, and no food there yet, but selling Fullers London Pride, Harveys Sussex Best and Sharps Doom Bar.
However, back to the Hastings Arms, and 4 Shepherd Neame ales, the regular Bishops Finger (5% and £3.60) and Kents Best (4.1%), and two seasonal ales, Early Bird (4.3%) and I drank the 4% Double Stout at £3.60 a pint.  This was a surprise to me, plenty of flavour, full flavoured, but slightly thin, as I'd expected at 4%, but certainly a very nice pint!
So, for now, the FILO leads as selling the best value ale in Hastings, but more to come in Part II, and at least Part III, cheers in the interim!

Thursday 21 March 2013

The Bell Inn, Bath

Following the Chancellor's decision to get rid of (we hope for ever) the Beer Duty Escalator, today's news is about the offering of shares in a cooperative to own the CAMRA Good Beer Guide entry, The Bell Inn, Bath (site).  OK, we're not likely to see any decrease in the price of ales in pubs due to this tax reduction, but it should help publicans to keep increases in prices to a minimum, taking into account the brewers' own price rises, which many pubs have already passed on, but some have not awaiting the Chancellor's announcement.

The Bell Inn is a music venue, as well as offering 9 real ales, and has the support of many celebrities, including Peter Gabriel, Clare Teal, Robert Plant, Midge Ure and Will Gregory of Goldfrapp, who should all be able to contribute a few coins between them.  This looks to be an interesting project, and great if it keeps a good real ale house, and music venue, alive and kicking.
The Bell has 7 regular ales, that include quite a few I have recently commented on: RCH Pitchfork (4.3%); Stonehenge Danish Dynamite, a 5% light golden ale much enjoyed recently at the Dolphin in Hastings, and both soon to be available there again; Abbey Ales Bellringer, a 4.2% amber ale; Otter Brewery Otter Ale, a 4.5% bitter; Bath Ales Gem, a 4.1% ale that includes wheat and barley malt; and 2 of my favourite all-time ales, the excellent 4% Butcombe Bitter and the 5% pale and hoppy trendsetter from Hopback, Summer Lightning, always sampled by me if available. 
In addition, 2 weekly changing guest ales are available, usually chosen from a host of reasonably local small brewers, including Arbor Ales, Cotswold Spring, Milk Street, Plain Ales, Spinning Dog, and many more.  If you're ever in Bath, I'd suggest you pay this pub a visit, if you do, I'd be happy to publish your findings, cheers!

Tuesday 19 March 2013

The Dolphin, Hastings - CAMRA SE Sussex POTY 2013

A few visits since my last post about the Dolphin, and the usual 3 regular ales have continued to be served, ie the Dark Star Hophead (3.8%), Youngs Special (4.5%), and Harveys Sussex Best (4%), the other 3 ales have changed a few times. Harveys Porter (4.8%) has become the ‘seasonal regular’, it does what it says on the label, it’s a fine porter.

The 2 guest ales yesterday were Cairngorm Trade Winds, a 4.3% easy to drink pale bitter (website), not quite as ‘in your face’ as I expected from the pump clip’s description of “Citrus, Wheat, Elderflower”, but you get the message.  I could go on about meeting their brewer in the middle of nowhere up in Scotland a few years back, but I’ll hold back on that anecdote…  
Also, the new West London brewer, Portobello’s Star was quickly flowing from the pump, as described very recently, this is an amber ale, and yet another 4.3% beer (website). There’s not much on their website yet, though you can catch them on facebook and twitter too.

Other ales that have gone since have included Mauldons Suffolk Pride, a 4.8% medium coloured bitter with a hint of roasted malt (website), and Kelham Island Easy Rider, a 4.3% pale and hoppy bitter (website), I have myself brewed when I worked at that brewery, still a very nice refreshing ale, though I’m sure it was better when I brewed it (only joking).

The team I compete with won the quiz on Thursday, I watched music there on Friday, a duo called the ‘Luvverlies’ were very entertaining, and on St Patrick’s Day, we were treated to roast potatoes by Maz, and she also had these lovely Guinness and Baileys Irish Cream buns available, and very nice too, ta.
Just a reminder, the presentation for the CAMRA South east Sussex Pub of the Year is to be on Tuesday 11th; no doubt more on that beforehand, and all I can say is, may your God go with you, cheers! 

Friday 15 March 2013

Portobello - Newish West London brewery

A visit to Pissarros in Hastings, and what did I find?  Only an ale from W10, West London, ie from Portobello Brewing Company, which I believe started brewing at the end of 2012, or thereabouts.  As I live so close to the bar, I have to visit fairly regularly, obviously, despite they're not selling Hophead, and, on this occasion I was served by the delightful Czech lass, Lucy, cheers m'dear...

So, 3 ales on, 2 that appear to be regular now, certainly the ubiquitous Harveys Sussex Best (4%) is, and I drank the very good Long Man Old Man (4.3%) on my last visit, so must be fairly regular now. Yesterday, though, I tried the Portobello Star, a 4.3% "amber ale", which was certainly a good pint of bitter, not bad at all for a new recipe, which I presume it is; good things come from West London, cheers! 

Thursday 14 March 2013

Scarlett Arms - Walliswood, Surrey

Last Thursday, my brother Dan (The Routemeister) and I walked a rather muddy clay-like walk from Warnham to Ockley, got lost a couple of times (I forgot my compass and we had no proper map), but we did find this treat at Walliswood, The Scarlett Arms (website), and, not by chance, we actually found the specific hostelry we were looking for as a watering hole!

A fine looking 16th century pub this is too, and we received a warm welcome, despite being the only two customers when we arrived; though a lucky lad, with 2 very fine looking women, arrived before we left for lunch, as in food. However, because we'd already lost significant time, getting lost etc, we'd already eaten our provisions, so were too full up already to sample their menu, which looks very good indeed.  The landlord, Oliver served us 2 pints each (not at the same time!); though we did not have the pleasure of meeting the female side of the management, Samantha, we did meet Tracey, I believe her name is, and I think it was Hannah too, but not being a regular visitor, just guessing from the photograph on their website.

The ales are from Hall & Woodhouse, whose beers I first sampled when I moved to Exeter in the 1980s, and I seem to remember staying B&B at a pub in Frome a while ago, where I drank a few too many pints of Tanglefoot, a crackin' ale!  However, Oliver advised that they do not have Tanglefoot as a regular, something to do with the strength (4.9%) and the beer not getting through the pump quickly enough, though they do have the same beer in bottles, should that be your tipple of choice.
They do sell as regular Hall & Woodhouse ales, Badger (4%) and Sussex (3.5%), and a changing seasonal ale, for our delight it was Firkin Fox, at 4.3% a fresh easy drinking quite pale bitter, labelled as "amber". We enjoyed it very much, hence not changing our ale when we had our second pint. The name brought back memories of my past work at Lewisham Hospital and drinking at the Fox & Firkin, and my favourite t-shirt of the time I bought there bearing the legend "For Fox Sake Give Me A Firkin Pint", they don't make them like that anymore... 

Not only were they extremely friendly, but Dan's mobile phone/computer thing had run out of juice, and Tracey went out to her car and brought in an adapter he could use to charge it up, and Oliver allowed Dan to plug in at a socket behind the bar, now that is service, many thanks! Oh, and there are 6 or 7 real fires here too, scattered round the rooms, one of them photographed here.
Well, we left, envious of the chap and his two lovely ladies chomping their lunch, and, well, frankly, we got lost again, but not until a couple of miles later, but that's another story for another place...
This is a pub I definitely recommend if you are in the area, cheers! 

I received an update from Martin Farley, today (19th August 2013), many thanks Martin. Tracey is now the landlady at the Scarlett Arms, and has carried out work on the interior and garden of the pub since taking over. Martin has praised her work and recommends this as "the 'inn' place to be!"  Cheers!!

Wednesday 13 March 2013

London 6th - 8th March 2013

I arrived at Clapham Junction on the 6th, and departed from Clapham Junction on the 8th, as you can see, a bit wet then, so a trip to The Northcote, Northcote Road, now it's a nice safe pub to visit, and not just for me, but a very woman friendly environment, together with a wide range of customers, young and old, as well as my age, in the middle a bit, haha, and, of course, male and female.  I was served a pint of the ale shown below by the delightful Ruby, who has been present on a previous visit too, and she asked me to mention their having a young Brazilian lad working behind the bar too, presumably, for my female readership?

So, apart from the obvious, other ales included Youngs Bitter (3.7% and called 'Ordinary' by us older Youngs drinkers, or someone like me who worked in a Youngs' pub in my yoof, when their ales were still brewed in Wandsworth) and Sharps Doom Bar (4%). I'm sure I must have drunk this before, anyway, I tried a pint of the Adnams Ghost Ship, a 4.5% reasonably pale coloured bitter, though not quite the "ghostly pale ale" the brewery describes it as, but a decent bitter nonetheless; and, of course, a pint of the local Sambrook's Junction, a 4.5% medium coloured bitter, what I always think of as a typical London bitter colour, I'm sure you know what I mean, and it tastes like a typical London bitter, very nice too, cheers! 

Previously, my brother, The Routemeister, had met me in The Candlemaker, Battersea High Street, on the 6th, where Kathryn appeared shortly after our arrival (I think that's how to spell her name, sorry if I'm wrong, K) and we were served by a very friendly Antipodean, Holly, who also has family links to South East Sussex. We each had a pint of the Sambrook's Pale Ale, a nice pale and hoppy 4.2% bitter from the local brewer.  They also had available the same brewery's Wandle, a 3.8% session bitter, Kings IPA (5.2%), which I'd have loved to try, but a bit strong for the middle of the day, and their own brewery, Laine's Best Bitter (4.1% and reported on before).  

Finally, we had a drink at The Bricklayer's Arms in Putney, where there were still many ales on from their 'Yorkshire Beer Festival', too many to mention now, but have a look at their website (site) for more information. We had a pint each of Great Heck Brewing Dispensible, a 4.5% pale beer, we were a little disappointed with, as, frankly, it needed more hops. Also, I was a wee bit upset I'd missed the Kelham Island Pale Rider, though I was to drink their Easy Rider at my local, the Dolphin, in Hastings, less than a week later (both ales I have brewed when I worked for Kelham Island). 

Monday 11 March 2013

Congratulations to the Dolphin in Hastings for...

Congratulations to the Dolphin in Hastings for winning the local CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year for South East Sussex!

I shall very soon be blogging about pubs in London from my visit last week, and in WEST Sussex too, cheers for now!

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Weekend in Hastings (1st-3rd March)

A bit of chat about ales at 3 Hastings bars from over the weekend, and I think my good mate and colleague, Kieran, is going to add a blog about Southampton soon...

It was a bit overcaste, so this is an old photograph of the Tower, London Road, upper St Leonards, not far from Bohemia Road, an excellent place to visit, though, sadly, no Louisa to say "Trouble's here" when I walked into the pub, but her colleagues are all efficient and very lovely young women, so I have no complaints, and ale-wise, no complaints either.  Out of the 2 Dark Star ales, I drank the American Pale Ale (APA), 4.7% of excellent pale and hoppy beer, but there was also their Porter (5.6%, and a bit too strong for me on the day, sorry).  They also had 2 Bath Ales beers on, their Golden Hare (4.4%) and Gem (4.8%), at least one of which I have reported on before, another good brewer!

I hadn't been to the Dripping Well for a while, walking back down the hill (Bohemia Road) to reach it, where I called Nick, the landlord, by the wrong name! See, I said it had been a while...  I drank the Brains The Rev. James (4.5%), and Adnams Broadside (4.7%), which was in excellent condition, really enjoyed it. There was also the 'cooking bitter' Wadworth Henry's IPA (3.6%), sorry, I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but you know what I mean, and they usually have the Hastings Best (4.1%), but the pump clip was turned round, so I guessed it wasn't on at that time.

I also met a great couple there, Simon, originally from up in the North West of England, and a more Southern Belle, I do believe, from her accent, anyway, Rachel.  If you read this, Simon, the art deco pub I was trying to describe, is the Ship & Mitre (I could only remember Ship being in the title, if you remember) on Dale Street, Liverpool.  Well worth a visit if any readers are ever in Liverpool, as are The Philharmonic and Doctor Duncans, and, well, there are a great number of good pubs up there really!

At the Dolphin, on the 3rd March, there were the usual 3 regulars, Dark Star Hophead (3.8%), Youngs Special (4.5%), and Harveys Sussex Best (4%), and the three guests were 2 Sussex ales from Isfield, Flapjack, a 5.3% ‘oatmeal stout’ and IPA, Imperial Pale Ale, at 4.2%, both self explanatory, and Elland Tomahawk.  The Yorkshire brewery describes their Tomahawk as a “strong aromatic bitter”, which doesn’t really do it justice, it is aromatic and 4.7%, and a full flavoured pale bitter, and it is very good indeed!

Debbie and Maz were working behind the bar of the Dolphin, with an excellent plum cake from Maz for the regulars to enjoy, many thanks Maz, great Tomahawk to drink, cheers both, and good company that included an intriguing French woman, Florence, and, later, dinner at Trattoria Italiana, an Italian restaurant in Hastings, obviously.  A good day in all!   

By the 5th, the guest ales were all different again, the ‘semi-regular’ seasonal guest is now the very good Harveys Porter (4.8%), of which they currently have 6 firkins, so it will be on for a while, and the other 2 guest ales included an ale from a very new local brewery, Pig & Porter, Red Spider (5.5%), a full bodied bitter with roasted malt as a contributory factor; this is what I would call a ‘special bitter’, and very nice.   
The sixth ale was the excellent Salopian Golden Thread, a 5% pale bitter with a ‘peach’ fruity aroma and plentiful body, a cracker of an ale, and the Hophead was in very good form too, by the way!  Company today included the landlord, Mark, and behind the bar the two very delightful daughters of the family, Laura and Louise.  
I enjoyed my time as ever, of course, cheers!