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Thursday 27 June 2013

3 pubs in London and even more great ales!

Another long walk, following the Thames from Putney to Tower Bridge and back, crossing the Thames via Chelsea, Vauxhall (both twice), Tower and Blackfriars bridges, not far off 20 miles in total, and we saw the new Routemaster on the way.  Though I was more impressed than the Routemeister himself, he pointed them out to me, but he does favour the original versions, which I do too, of course...

Anyway, not too far off halfway in our walk and we came to Borough Market, near London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, ie we reached The Rake, one of my 3 favourite bars/pubs in the area. Ooh! There's inspiration, another "3 of" to come...

3 ales on at The Rake, as usual, I tried 2 of them, though not the 5.8% Celt Experience Cat Scratched Celt, a bit too strong for so early in the day... So we each had a pint of the less strong Glastonbury Golden Chalice, a mere 4.8% slightly sour pale golden ale, very nice and much enjoyed by the Routemeister himself. Anyhow, I couldn't stop myself buying a quick half of the 6.4% Art Brew Orange IPA!  Dan didn't enjoy his sip, but I do prefer the more intense hoppy ales, and this was intense, indeed, hops and bitter orange in the taste with a slightly fruity aroma, dry and bitter plus plus! Loved it, one of my 2 favourite ales of the day... 

We then carried on to Tower Bridge; there are a few more photographs on my personal facebook page, by the way.  We crossed Tower Bridge, came back on ourselves, passing the Tower of London and St Pauls Cathedral, to Blackfriars Bridge, where, just north of it is the Blackfriar, a pub I used to frequent in my teens and early 20s, particularly with Gill, an old friend and muse of mine from work in those days, a 1905 fantastic art nouveau pub with marble, wood, copper and brass in abundance, and now a Nicholsons pub, so plenty of atmosphere and much food too.
Among the 8 ales available were included Bath Ales Summer Hare (3.9%), Squirrel Brewery Jack Black London, a "black IPA" (4.8% and more of on another day), and Growler Brewery Gladness (4.2%).  However, the one we each had a pint of was Lancaster Brewery Lemon Grass, 4% and pale and dry, very nice, with a hint of lemon grass in the taste too.  Another pub I love! 

So, back along the Thames and the regular visit to my Putney 'local', the Bricklayers Arms where, among other ales from its total of 12 handpumps, were many beers from 2 breweries I had little or no knowledge of.  From Andwell Brewery, a Hampshire brewery opened in 2008, there were King John, a 4.2% "amber ale"; Resolute, a 3.8% "light amber bitter"; Ruddy Darter, a 4.6% "ruby ale"; Golden IPA, a 4.8% ale that, apparently, does what it says on the pump clip; and the one we tried a pint of each.  The Gold Muddler was 3.9%, and a dry light golden ale with a hint of roasted malt flavour, very refreshing after 20 miles of walking!
The other 'stranger' was the XT Brewing Company, that opened in 2011 in Buckinghamshire; shame we weren't aware of this for our previous days walk, though likely it would have been too complicated to include a visit.  Anyway their ales were XT Pi, sorry, can't work out how to add the image of pi, but that's what it is called, a 3.141% mild ale, yeh, I know; XT 6, a 4.5% "rich ruby" ale; XT 8, a 4.5% "dark roast" ale; and, OK I had to try a half, the XT XPA.  Dan wasn't so excited as I was, again, but the XPA is a 5.9% very pale bitter with grapefruit aroma in your face, dry, and well, it was excellent, my favourite ale of the day! 

Wednesday 26 June 2013

3 pubs in the Chilterns, Buckinghamshire.

On Saturday 22nd June, my brother Dan, the Routemeister, and I walked a rather long pub crawl in Bucks, a roundabout overland route from Chesham to Amersham; more than 20 miles, so I slept well that night. Our first port of call was the Cock & Rabbit in The Lee, a hamlet near to Great Missenden; at the bar of which this photograph of Steve the Beermeister was taken ;-)

The Cock & Rabbit has been run by an Italian Landlord for getting on for 30 years now, and featured regularly in John Nettles' television series, apparently, Midsomer Murders and is well known for its good Italian food. This is a lovely multi-roomed building that has been licenced since the mid-19th century, has food, of course, and this includes a large bowl of olives (gratis) in front of the ale handpumps.  

Not too exciting regarding the ales, though, just the 2, Greene King IPA (3.6%) and the house ale, brewed by Morlands (now Green King too), ie Cock & Rabbit Original, a not too bad, actually, 3.6% medium coloured bitter. Decent ale, nice food, an interesting building and garden, though it was a bit damp to use the garden on Saturday, I liked the place!

We walked onto Little Missenden and the Red Lion, a 17th century pub that has also featured in Midsomer Murders, see website.  More traditional English pub food sold here, you can see the menu at the website, and 3 ales served up. There were a couple you'll see anywhere in the country, true of most ales now anyway, ie Skinners Betty Stoggs (4%) and Wadworth 6X (4.3%), an ale I used to love many years ago, still nice, but my tastes have moved on a bit since I first tried it. We had the third choice, Tring Sidepocket for a Toad, a nice refreshing 3.6% light bitter, oh yes, and the nicest Kiwi (the warm and friendly, Lyn the barmaid) since I drank Dark Star's version in September last! The Red Lion is another very good local with history too...

Finally, we reached Amersham, a reyt old town, and the Kings Arms, a 15th century inn with 34 bedrooms to let, and, oh yes, history (see website). Also featured in Midsomer Murders, of course, plus Four Weddings and a Funeral and Miss Marples, the history? Previous guests include Oliver Cromwell, whose troops were stationed in Amersham during the English Civil War/Revolution, and the pub part, to the left of my photograph, is still an old wooden beamed 15th century pub, though the clientele wasn't that old, but mostly people waiting to eat in the restaurant.  

So, a hotel, restaurant, and 3 ales too: Adnams Lighthouse (3.4%), Skinners Lions Pride (4.3%), presumably a one-off to celebrate the current British and Irish Lions rugby union tour down under, and we drank the (Marlow Brewery) Rebellion Mutiny (4.5%). The Mutiny has a deep red colour, with plenty of body, a rich, but still fresh and fruity, and a slightly roasted malt flavour that comes from the crystal malt used, I'd imagine.  The High Street here is full of 15th and 16th century buildings, and there's an even older road round the corner!

A return could visit well be on the cards, cheers!   

Tuesday 25 June 2013

2 Riverside pubs. Back to London and the Thames, again...

Back to London, turning up at Clapham Junction, on Friday 21st June. Gave the Youngs pub, The Waterfront, a miss, poor quality overpriced beer, but the Routemeister, my brother Dan, insisted we visit the Wetherspoons pub by Putney Bridge, the Rocket.  This is situated by the historic St Marys church, on the South bank, and seems to have a decent clientele, not what you'd usually expect; indeed, a very interesting couple of fellow clients shared interesting discourse about the merits of limes over lemons with G&T. Anyway, we had a very good pint of Youngs Special (4.5%) each for just £2.29 this time, giving the Youngs pub next door a miss, and I got the 50p reduction for being a CAMRA member, so just £1.79 a pint!

We then crossed Putney Bridge and walked to the Dove at Hammersmith, a great riverside pub, and, where, thanks to Matt the manager, though he assured me it was just a stock email from Fullers themselves that issued the invitation to me to enjoy a free pint of London Pride (4.1%).  Anyway, Pride was enjoyed, by the Routemeister, actually, I enjoyed the more bitter seasonal ale from Fullers, Wild River (4.5%).  There were also Fullers ESB and Summer Ale available. 

We then crossed Hammersmith Bridge and returned to Putney via the South bank, cheers!

Friday 21 June 2013

Beer Festival at the Red Lion, Snargate, Kent

If you've not been before, get there this weekend, starting this evening and extending through Saturday and Sunday, the Red Lion at Snargate is holding its annual beer festival.  This is an amazing ale house, been in the family for a hundred years, with no keg beers, and like a museum with its many artefacts.  It will be crowded, but there will be many lovely real ales, including from local microbreweries. If I was around the area I'd certainly be there, already missing you!

Enjoy the weekend, whatever, cheers!

Hastings and even more great ales!

So, starting with the Tower, London Road, St Leonards, and, as you can see, it is about to get a makeover, hence the scaffolding... Anyway, great to see Lousia behind the bar, always good to keep in touch and be aware of the local updates.  Because of the refurbishment, Louisa has put the price of ale up by 10p a pint, hardly bank breaking, and very understandable, Louisa, and you do keep your prices extremely competitive; great ales at great value prices still, so, what to drink this time?

Whilst watching England thrash South Africa in the cricket, I drank a pint of all the 4 ales on offer, starting with the 3.9% Hopback Hop Medley, a slightly biscuity flavoured and dry pale bitter, very nice and just £2.40 a pint. Then the 4.4% Bristol Beer Factory Sunrise, a dry pale golden bitter with plenty of body at £2.60 a pint, followed by a pint of the 4.7% near-regular here Dark Star American Pale Ale (APA), the brewery having certainly kept up the excellent quality of this ale in recent months, pale and very hoppy, and at a great value £2.50 a pint! Finally, another excellent ale, Triple fff Brewery Ramble Tamble, the most expensive ale here on Wednesday at £2.90 a pint, but for that you get 5% of a pale-ish bitter with plenty of body and a fruity aroma and flavour that smacks your palate into submission!  Great stuff again Louisa, cheers!

I sat outside the White Rock Hotel bar, looking at the Channel and pier, (it was a bit foggy over the sea) and I sampled 2 of the 3 local ales they were serving on Tuesday, all at £3.10 a pint; 1 handpump not being used this day. I ignored the ubiquitous Harveys Sussex Best (4%), and, as you will see from my photograph, I had a half of the Arundel Sussex Gold, a 4.2% "golden bitter", quite pale though, with a slightly tart flavour, very nice by the second mouthful.  I also had a pint of the 1648 Saint George, a slightly darker bitter with a sweetness to the initial taste, then dry, slightly malty and bitterness coming through with the aftertaste. Not bad at all, and I do like to sit beside the seaside!

Finally, at the Dolphin, where all the ales are £3.50 a pint, here in the posher end of town, there were the usual 4 regulars, Sussex Best, Youngs Special and Dark Star Hophead and APA, and the ale pictured above from Nottingham.  Castle Rock ales are being seen a lot more of down here these days; they also have Elsie Mo (4.7%) coming on soon, and it's like never having left the North, with beers from Yorkshire breweries too, notably Kelham Island and Rudgate, more of shortly.  Anyway, one of the guest ales was Castle Rock Preservation "Fine Ale", a 4.4% 'heavier' ale with plenty of body, sweetish to taste and then with a dry aftertaste, not bad, but... 

...I'd missed them having the excellent Oakham Bishops Farewell, sadly, as it is a favourite of mine, it must have gone down a bit too easily, but now, on the bar, there was the Rudgate Norse Necta, 4.3% of pale dry bitter, reyt easy to drink, so I did!  If you see it anywhere, and you have a similar taste to mine, go for it...


Thursday 20 June 2013

Bexhill update

I recently visited the Albatross Club (Royal Air Force Association club) in Bexhill and tried a pint of Reedley Hallows Monkholme Premium, all the way from Burnley in Lancashire.  This is a 4.2% pale and dry bitter, very refreshing following the 5 mile walk here, and still just the £2.60 a pint!

There are still 4 ales served from handpumps at the Albatross, though another handpump is still planned for, but a wee bit of carpentry is required to make room for glasses, then the pump shall arrive...

Whilst in Bexhill, I had to try a pint of the Shepherd Neame India Pale Ale (4.5%) at the Royal Sovereign there, and found it to be a reasonable pale bitter with a slightly fruity aftertaste, not bad, cheers!

Thursday 13 June 2013

Congratulations to the South East Sussex Pub of the Year!

Congratulations to all at the Dolphin, Rock a Nore, Hastings, for winning the CAMRA South East Sussex 2013 Pub of the Year!

A good 'finger buffet' supplied by the landpersons, apparently, but the CAMRA peeps whacked it back very quickly, so no chance of a bite there for me! So, thank goodness I'd already eaten before coming down on Tuesday.  Anyway, a good night was had, and the ales included the usual 3 regulars, Hophead, Youngs Special and Sussex Best, also the seasonal regular, APA, and the returning Milk Street The Usual ( 4.4%) and, from my old employer up int' North, Sheffield, Kelham Island Easy Rider (4.4%).  Good stuff!

Nice to have another of my 'locals' win an award; the RAFA Club in Bexhill, and the Kelham Island Tavern, Cask & Cutler/Wellington and Fat Cat/Kelham Island Brewery, all in Sheffield, being previous winners of CAMRA awards...

I know how to pick my locals, indeed, cheers!

Saturday 8 June 2013

The Pied Piper of Hastings

OK, not a local myth, well not yet, anyway, though it may soon become one, the (definitely) female Pied Piper of Hastings, not to be confused with the German male one or St Patrick...

The day started off with my painting the second coat of red and varnishing the barer boards of  the hull of RX134, the Stacey Marie, then I had a quick pint of Dark Star Hophead (3.8%) in the Dolphin (in the background of the photograph).  The gulls that are nesting just behind the wheelhouse (camera shy here) were a wee bit upset at my daubing paint around their abode, but didn't attack me, thankfully.  Anyway, after my nice refreshing pint, I headed off to the Bourne, spotting 2 young women walking close by.  The youngest one, the "Pied Piper", had shortish blond hair in a bob, so looked nothing like the picture below, but you try finding a suitable picture, 'tain't easy!

I crossed over the Bourne, taking advantage of a gap in the traffic, then looked across at the 2 women, and walking in the opposite direction to them, a bloke, looked like he may have been a fisherman, and his border collie. The young blonde just seemed to ignore any traffic, bringing both directions of traffic to a halt, the collie slunk after her, then the bloke, then her friend, and no drivers swore, shouted, or even seemed that upset. I was gobsmacked! She crossed right into my path and I saw she wasn't as young as I originally thought, but quite an attractive young, but mature, woman. I made a reasonably trite comment, carried on up the hill, and thought she was probably going to the Jenny Lind, no idea why I thought that, I just did.

So, I wandered up to the rear of the First In Last Out (FILO), where the landlord's son, Adam, was behind the bar, the lovely Elina was in charge of the kitchen, and I had a wee chat with Tony, the manager, when he dropped in too. Very pleasant company, and a great pint of their own FILO Gold (4.8%), good stuff, and £3.30 a pint. They also had on their own Crofters (3.8%), a nice session ale; Mike's Mild (3.4%); Old Town Tom (4.5%), a ginger flavoured beer which the FILO was forced, under threat of legal action (it's not just the BIG boys who bully smaller brewers!) by the Robinson's Brewery up North, to change it's original name of Ginger Tom; and Churches Pale Ale (4.2%). There was also a guest from another Sussex brewer, Isfield Straw Blonde (4.1%).

So, I then wandered down High Street to the Jenny Lind, where the Pre-Raphaelite, Sarah, was behind the bar, and I had a rather good pint from another local brewery, Arundel Stronghold, a 4.7% deep red 'premium ale', which had plenty of body and a slightly roasted malt flavour, very nice too. Amongst their other 5 ales was the also very good Otter Ale (4.5%), which appears to be making quite a splash in Hastings! 

Anyway, have a guess who was there too, sitting out in the back garden with her friend, presumably, their garden being a nice peaceful wee spot to sit in, though I kept to the bar area of course... Yes, it was Kristina (the Pied Piper of Hastings), I had a wee chat with her as she came to the bar whilst I was heading off, so found out she was Kristina with a "K", daughter at Uni in London, lives near Alexandra Park, not far from me, and quite enjoyed telling me she often just goes off across roads on a whim.  It would be good to meet her again, I have little doubt, a personality and a half, and pretty as well.  Anyway, the Beermeister was still working, but first, dropped into home for a shower and change of clothes before heading up to...

...the Tower at St Leonards.  This is one of my library photographs, I forgot to take any photographs whilst there, too busy drinking and chatting really.  At the moment, there's scaffolding outside as the pub is about to be redecorated, so just think of this photograph with scaffolding up, that's what it looked like.  Louisa was working there today, good to chat with, as I hadn't seen her for a while, and a new barmaid started too, Charlotte, a young lass with amazing big blue eyes! Good banter this side of the bar too, including with Rob and Sean.

And ales, of course! Sharps Doom Bar (4%), and Dark Star Sunburst (4.8%), Hophead (3.8%) and American Pale Ale (APA, 4.7%).  As usual, I had my fill of lovely Dark Star ale, mostly Hophead at £2.30 a pint and APA at £2.40 a pint, great value.  Excellent ales, good company, and a great day, many thanks to all the characters in this (true) story, cheers!

Even more ales!

So, ales on, and ales to come in the near future at the Dolphin, Rock a Nore, Hastings 'Old Town'; especially noting that next Tuesday evening (11th June) at 8pm, or 20.00 hours, depending on which you prefer, they receive the CAMRA award for East Sussex Pub of the Year, be there, or be not there, whatever... 

The usual 3 ales and regular seasonal 'guest' are Youngs Special, Harveys Sussex Best, and Dark Star Hophead and American Pale Ale (APA).  Recent guests have been RCH East Street, a 5% amber ale, and regularly returning from the Yorkshire brewery, Ilkley Lotus IPA, an excellent 5.6% pale, dry bitter ale with plenty of grapefruit, and a hint of peach, up your nose and attacking your taste buds, and with plenty of body, as I've said before, pretty damn good! 

To come on? Obviously quite a few, but including one from a previous employer of mine and another Yorkshire brewery, Kelham Island, their Riders on the Storm, a 4.5% golden pale ale, one of the 'Riders' sequence, named after the Doors' track; others include Pale Rider and it's wee sister Easy Rider.  Update, in error, the suppliers delivered the Easy Rider, bother! Oh well, that's not so bad...

Others to come on include returning ales already approved of by the landlord and customers alike, and reported in previous blogs, Otter Ale (4.5%) from Devon, and Milk Street The Usual (4.4%) from Somerset. 


Wednesday 5 June 2013

More excellent ales...

OK, ales recently enjoyed in two Hastings pubs, the Dolphin, at Rock a Nore in the 'old town', and the Tower, London Road, St Leonards... First, probably my favourite of the bunch...

I've had some excellent ales very recently, including the Saltaire Challenger Special (5.2%), an ale from this excellent Yorkshire brewery, which obviously uses the challenger hop in the process. It is has a deep red colour, has good body with fruity flavours, and you'd be hard pressed to guess it was such a dark beer if you drank it 'blind'.  Sorry if I overuse the word in this blog, but it is excellent!

Another dark beer, a wee bit darker than the Challenger Special, and this time from a Scottish brewery, The Orkney Brewery's Dark Island (4.6%). Nice again, but a bit more like a stout in flavour, at least how I always think of a stout, with the roasted malty flavour I'd expect in a stout.  Carry on...

Thanks to Maz for modelling this pump clip of the Stonehenge Great Bustard, a 4.8% amber ale that I really had to mention as their ales are consistently so good, and I have an anecdote this particular one lends a hand to share... I was at a football match up North with many mates, and a son of one (son of Teapot Dave, that is), purposefully ensuring I didn't swear in front of him, I shouted out "BUSTARD!" instead of another word at one highly charged moment, the little bustard told his dad I said the other word! Can't win, not so exciting, but always happy to share ;-)  

OK, to the ales at the Tower, and you'll be unlikely to be surpised I'm about to mention a very good Dark Star ale, or two, served up here, as there are usually 2 or 3 being served at this pub always! Todays newby for me was the 6% Victorian Ruby Mild, a crackin' dark beer, and I also had the much paler 4.8% Sunburst, mentioned before; this brewery doesn't seem able to do much wrong! 

Finally, for now, Sara was serving up Crouch Vale Apollo (4.3%), labelled "intensely hoppy", and not wrong! Nice and pale, bitter, fruity with body, grapefruit up yer nose and dry grapefruit flavours, loved it! OK, this was my favourite pale ale of the bunch, excellent...