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Monday 29 July 2013

Hastings Brewery "Handmade" Ales, an update, following chat with Brett...

More on a very tasty ale from Dark Star recently drunk at The Tower in a coming blog, and about their ex-brewery member of staff who appears to have been the creator of Hophead, and lots more of course!

However, whilst at The Tower, I did have a chat with Brett, the creator of the above 2 ales from Hastings Brewery, both made with Australian hops, but the series isn't about Aussie hops, but the idea is to use just one variety of hop, and make them 'hoppy' too...  Anyway, I missed both of these, which says a lot about how quickly they were knocked down!

Hopefully, I'll get to try No6!

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Swinging from the scaffold with a flagon of ale in each hand...

... not really, though the scaffold's still up, but even more great ales! Latest, at The Tower, St Leonards, with 4 great pale hoppy bitters!  2 from Hop Back Brewery, the famous Summer Lightning (5%), and the lemon grass flavoured Taiphoon (4.2%), which I hadn't drunk for a while, so I gave a pint a try.  It had a maltier flavour than I remember, maybe I'm just getting too used to the excellent pale and hoppier ales now brewed by Dark Star, amongst many others. So, I also drank a pint of Dark Star Hophead (3.8%) at £2.40 a pint, and more than one of the excellent American Pale Ale (APA, 4.7%) at £2.50, and had a good chat with Louisa, the landlady, cheers!

Louisa also suggested I note these upcoming ales from Hastings Brewery, apparently, single hopped beers "handmade" by Brett, a regular drinker at the Tower. Both of these use Australian hops: No4 Australian Blonde Ale (4.4%), which was brewed using Ella hops, and No5 Hop Forward Pale Ale (4.8%), which used Galaxy hops.  If I do get the chance to try either of these ales, I'll write up about them, and it looks like I must have already missed 3 of the brews... 

Back at the Dolphin, Rock-a-Nore, Hastings Old Town, down opposite the fishermen's working beach, the same regular 4 ales have been available, and I have started getting much more into the Dark Star APA, though still have been drinking the Hophead too, both excellent.  2 other ales of note that have been on sale there very recently include Triple fff Moondance, a nice pale 4.2% bitter, with citrus flavours and nose, initially a sweet taste, with a drying out on the palate, and a bitter finish, "sweet & sour" beer, nice one! Also, on Sunday in particular, I've drunk a few pints of an ale I've reported on before, and it is still outstanding, ie Salopian Hop Twister, 4.5%, obviously hoppy, tasting of grapefruit, with good body, and a very dry and bitter finish, love it!

I've visited the First In Last Out (FILO), High Street, Hastings, a couple of times too, and have grown back into their own FILO Gold (4.8%), amongst their own 5 ales on sale; they have had Dark Star Hophead on too, a good choice for the summer, which appears to have arrived.  Anyway, the Gold is a nice pale golden bitter with plenty of body, and you know you've had a drink too. I was even talked into helping out as a traffic 'marshall' in the old town for Pirate Day (last Sunday, 21st) by Adam there, and I had a couple of pints of Gold after 7 hours standing in the sun, Hastings does love to dress up and 'party', cheers Adam!

Finally, for this blog, I had a pint of Palmers Dorset Gold (4.5%) in the Jenny Lind, further down High Street, with the wee Pre-Raphaelite, Sarah serving up. The Dorset Gold is another pale dry golden full-bodied bitter, but don't let the aroma put you off, it's a decent beer... Oh, and, for a change, I've included a photograph of their cider pump clip, with the locally produced Trappers Laughing Jester (Pear) Cider, it tastes like ciders should taste from my memory of living in Devon, nice one.


Tuesday 16 July 2013

2 new pubs in the High Weald.

The Routemeister and I decided a shorter walk was required after the 'marathon' yesterday (Rye Figure of 8, last Tuesday), so we didn't add on to the already reasonably challenging walk planned in the High Weald, but we did get in hop fields, and 2 new pubs for us...

Our lunchtime destination was Burwash, where we visited The Bear Inn (website), which had a very interesting looking menu, and the food we saw being dished up to others appeared of good quality and measure.  They also have a good view from their garden, and we had a wee watch of the Ashes cricket match...

Ale-wise, there were 2 regulars, Sharp's Doom Bar (4%) and Harveys Sussex Best (4%).  There was only 1 guest ale this day, but they often have 2 guest ales. We went for the guest, Cottage M.G.A. (4%); they seem to like the 4% strength, probably related to drivers visiting the pub/hotel for food, which did seem to be being devoured by most customers there, other than us, we had a packed-lunch, of course.  I recounted the story of a lad I used to know who had built an MGA from scratch, following finding a chassis and body in decent nick, then scrounging around all over the place for parts; it was an impressive car when he'd finished building it.  The beer itself, described as "a golden cask ale", had a slight nuttiness in the flavour, and was quite refreshing, but lacked hops for a hoppy lad like me; and Dan is becoming a bit of a hop freak too! 

We carried on for a bit of a walk, passing by Rudyard Kipling's old home, Bateman's (named after a brewer, obviously, not), and our second 'tick' pub of the day, The Wheel Inn, Burwashweald (facebook), which is just down the road from Burwash, if driving, but we did our usual circuitous route through fields, to avoid roads as much as possible, and following the established walk from Dan's book.

The Wheel Inn had 3 ales on, 1 regular, the ubiquitous Harveys Sussex Best (4%), and 2 regularly changing guest ales, which, on our visit, were Sharp's Doom Bar (4%) and Morland Old Speckled Hen (4.5%).  We had the Old Speckled Hen, which I hadn't drunk for quite a while, it still remains an enjoyable dark bitter with plenty of flavour. The young barmaid was friendly, as was another customer, sitting at the bar as I asked questions, quite chatty and good to meet, cheers!

Sunday 14 July 2013

Beer consumption down in Belgium!

A wee change of tempo, though my next blog will be about my walk with the Routemeister on Wednesday last, and 2 new pubs.  However, he (my brother Dan), brought with him when he visited, a copy of an article from the Belgian Metro newspaper he thought I'd be interested to read the article (link).

Amongst other things, the article states that, according to official figures, the Belgians are drinking less beer per head than ever, ie it has dropped from 80 litres per head annually to just 74 litres per head, shameful! However, this is against a background of a 1% increase in annual production, due to sales to countries outside the European Union increasing.  Indeed, in the last 12 years, exports to countries outside the EU has increased by 613.3%... 

If Belgian beers weren't so expensive over here, I'd be very happy to help contribute to the increase in production too, especially my favourite, the excellent 'trappist' Westmalle Tripel, a mere 9.5% of beautifully hoppy beer, and 'real' too, as bottle conditioned.  Anyway, the next time he returns from Brussels, the Routemeister will be bringing back some bottles for me, as he'll be coming back by car for a change, nice one, I'm looking forward to helping the Belgian brewers, cheers! 

Friday 12 July 2013

26 mile pub crawl, Hastings to Rye, and back...

I'm hampered with ankle and lower lumbar injuries at the moment, so time to report on walks, pubs and ales experienced before yesterday. On Tuesday (9th July), the Routemeister, my brother Dan, and I walked a little over 25 miles in a 'figure of 8' route, starting in Hastings, over the cliffs and Hastings Country Park to Pett Level then along the Military Canal to Rye, where we popped into the Queens Head (twitter), where we were treated to the efficient and friendly bar service of the bar manager (I do believe she is), Kate. 

The ales are on sale here for £3.30 a pint, which is a decent deal when considering the strength of most of the ales, especially the one I drank. There were the 4 in the photograph, plus, being served by gravity directly from a barrel on the bar, Long Man Blonde (3.8%), so 4 of the 5 ales are brewed in East Sussex, nice one.  Indeed, there is regularly at least one ale each from Long Man and Franklin's breweries.  The 4 you can see are Franklin's Grumpy Guvnor (4.5%), reported before, all the way from Somerset, Cotleigh Buzzard Dark Ale (4.8%), and the 2 we drank.  Dan enjoyed the Long Man Golden Tipple, a 5% very pale golden bitter with a hint of cider in the flavour, and I had the, favourited many times in the past and excellent, Dark Star Revelation, 5.7%, and in your face hops, delicious, many thanks Kate!  

Anyway, we came back via the Castle Water wildlife sanctuary, and seafront, to Pett Level and the Smuggler Inn, now run by the 2 sisters from the Hastings Arms, Sue and Hazel, this was where we came to the middle of our 'figure of 8', and some more sustenance.  4 ales on, Sharp's Doom Bar (4%), their regular ale, Harveys Sussex Best (4%), a semi-regular, Youngs Bitter ("Ordinary" in Wandsworth terms, and 3.7%) which is soon to be replaced by Youngs Special (4.5%), and the very good Otter Bitter (3.6%) that I drank.  Good to see this fine pub open again, and glad for the sisters, cheers!  

We then walked up to Pett Village, and revisited the Two Sawyers, another fine hostelry.  The ales on this day were Ringwood Fortyniner (4.9%), Harveys Sussex Best (4%), and Youngs Special (4.5%), all regularly seen, and discussed before. There was also Old Dairy Brewery Red Top (3.8%), a darker bitter than my usual, with a dry roasted bitter taste, not bad at all!

We then finished off with a walk back to Hastings and a visit to the Dolphin at Rock-a-Nore, where Jason was working this night, with Mark, the landlord, in attendance too, and fine chat and imbibement was had by us 3... 2 guest ales on, including the Elgoods EP (4.3%), a "rich malty bitter", but we ended up knocking back a few pints of the excellent Dark Star American Pale Ale (4.7%) aka APA. Dark Star are certainly maintaining a decent version of the APA, much more bitter than when I first tasted it.  But I shall be adding more about the Dolphin in a future blog, very soon.


Thursday 4 July 2013

The excellent ales keep on coming, starting with:

This has to be the most extraordinary, very different, maybe even 'Belgique' in style, because it is SO fruity, personally, I'd have called it "Bramble Porter", but I didn't brew the stuff, so what do I know?!?

The Blackberry Porter, all the way from the Suffolk brewer, Mauldons, has been on at the Dolphin, Rock-a-Nore, Hastings 'old' town, I have had a drink here and there of it, in addition to my usual Dark Star Hophead, and on Tuesday evening, I enjoyed the 'Irish' music, a few cheeky halves, and the craic with Mark, the landlord. It was a good night, not upset by just how easily the 4 pints of Blackberry Porter went down! This is 4.8% of very deep dark red porter, VERY fruity with plenty of body, and, how can I describe it?  It has a very dry raspberry beer flavoured aftertaste, hard to describe accurately really, but excellent!
It has been so different to my usual, that, well, I can't say enough of how good it is. Anyway, apart from the Hophead, the usual regular ales include Dark Star APA too, and the Harveys Sussex Best and Youngs Special. The other guest ale on has been Whitstable Winkle Picker (4.5%), a quite pale amber coloured bitter, with good body, and quite a dry aftertaste. I tried a pint of it side by side with a pint of the Hophead, it was very good, but still, my taste buds opted for the 3.8% Hophead in preference, but that's me, as it has been going down very well with others of the regular clientele.

Ah! And the Tower, London Road, St Leonards, with a regularly supply of excellent Dark Star ales at excellent value prices, plus, on my last visit Sharps Doom Bar. The 3 Dark Star ales on that visit were the American Pale Ale (APA), 4.7% of  pale fruity hoppy bitter flavoured and 'bittered' with hops from the USA; Hophead, 3.8%, pale hoppy and an excellent session beer, can say no more; and Sunburst, 4.8%, nice pale golden bitter, that I have drunk before, and another great ale from Dark Star, they certainly are a very good East Sussex brewer. I only drank the APA this visit, a few pints, and very good it was too; cheers to Sara, on the day, and Louisa, for her choice of excellent ales at great value prices, served at her pub, ta muchly!

Ooh, where else have I been since London, and what else have I imbibed? From their 6 real ales and real cider on offer, I chose to have a pint of Butcombe Gold, from the West Country, at the Jenny Lind, High Street, Hastings, served up by the lovely Pre-Raphaelite Sarah.  I tend to try their guest ales when I visit, and was not disappointed with my choice on the day, which was a nice golden coloured and quite bitter ale, cheers m'dears!  I also met a couple who now live down here too, and with whom I shared experiences about London AND Sheffield; nice to meet fellow Londoners who know South Yorkshire well too, cheers to Paul and Jackie.  Sadly, no sign of the Pied Piper, oh well... 

Finally, what and where else? I also popped into the First In Last Out (FILO), also in the High Street, and with the usual 5 of their own ales, as seen above, with a nervous looking barman behind, but he only looked it, I think. Anyway, in addition, they had a guest, Adnams Bitter (3.7%), which was never going to tempt me away from the FILO Gold, 4.8% of deep golden bitter with good body, brewed just a very wee way up the hill, nice one, and thanks to John for buying me a pint and leaving before I could buy him one back, cheers! The other FILO ales were Crofters (3.8%), Mike's Mild (3.4%), Old Town Tom (4.5%), and Churches Pale Ale (4.2%).
Remember, drink sensibly (see)... Cheers!