Enjoy Playing Away From Home . . .

Saturday 31 August 2013

Congratulations to CAMRA

Congratulations to CAMRA on reaching 150,000 members, with a significant increase in women members too, article @ CAMRA

The main bullet points from the article are: 
  • Women trying real ale grows from 14% to 34% in last three years
  • CAMRA toasts 150,000 members – more than doubled – with 20,000 more women members in last decade
  • There are now more than 1,000 British breweries brewing over 8,000 different real ales
  • Adults trying Real ale grows from 34% to 53% in last three years 

Nice one :-)

Friday 23 August 2013

The Beer Goddess

I got the idea of writing this blog from reading Travels with Barley, written by the American journalist Ken Wells, within which he discussed the idea of the "Beer Goddess"; a book, incidentally, sent to me by a good friend of my yoof, Anne (I was her witness at her wedding), who now lives in Florida. I immediately thought of the Sumerian Goddess of Beer, Ninkasi, as you do...

But, no, Mr Wells was really looking at the influence of women on men drinking beer in the USA, we could be talking about poor lagers, of course, but we are also talking about the craft beer revolution that has been going on over there for quite a few years now! Craft brewers in the USA have, in recent years, been instrumental in, not just the development of new strains of hops, but also the use of hops++ in the brewing process, most of their beers aren't 'real' beers as us Brits expect, but they can certainly pack a punch with flavour, and strength!  


Women have had an enormous influence on brewing over the years, indeed, many many years! As far as the history books show, women dominated brewing from the first beers brewed in Sumeria 4,000 years ago, and for most of the centuries since, and there are quite a good number of women brewing  for micro brewers now, thank the goddess of brewing! 

But, Mr W also was referring to what we in the UK call "barmaids", which apparently, is too sexist a term for the Americans and their pressure groups, so, to him, a barmaid is a "beer goddess" apparently. However, although the Bavarian barmaid can carry many glasses of foaming beer without spills, as this photograph attests to, and which may show a propensity towards being superhuman, they are well oversized glasses, so nowhere near full. Us ale swilling Brits, not always the most beautiful aesthetically, do enjoy the company of barmaids, let alone goddesses. However, I have only ever had one relationship with a barmaid in my life, when I was in my early 20s; maybe many are goddesses, whatever, they've certainly avoided me! 

More seriously, though, in recent years the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has used the female image to help its cause too, eg with this more up to date image of the goddess, Ninkasi, which I imagine was partly a way to encourage more women to drink real ale, as well as to encourage more men to drink even more real ale! Now this is an image of Ninkasi I am happy to remember...

Since then, Jennifer Ellison has been used very recently as part of CAMRA's successful campaign to stop the Government's beer tax escalator; she may well be a caricature of how barmaids are supposed to look, maybe a 'beer goddess' even. However, barmaids and barmen are usually much like the rest of us, ordinary people, not gods or goddesses, carrying out a wonderful role serving up quality ales to us, and may they continue to do so, many thanks.

Mr Wells also mentions a beer writer in the USA who calls herself "The Beer Goddess", Lisa Morrison, whom I have started to follow on Twitter and Facebook, and I look forward to reading her articles, whatever...

Hale Ninkasi, cheers!

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Battle and its environs...

For a change, I'll start with the last pub we visited, for a number of reasons, including my forgetting to photograph the building myself, very unusual for me; so, many thanks to the Bull Inn (website), whose own photograph I've borrowed. 

Also, we'd walked quite a way by now, my brother, Dan the Routemeister, and me, so were well deserving of a drink, and a great pub too, rebuilt in 1688, with Caen stone from France, via the virtually destroyed abbey kitchens (during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries).  This is a lovely old inn, selling 3 real ales, the regulars being the ubiquitous Harveys Sussex Best (4%) and, brewed especially for the Bull, Old Dairy Top Bull (4%), though, unluckily for us, they were out of this (another trip will be required, obviously). However, this was replaced by another Old Dairy brew Gold Top, a nice refreshing 4.3% golden bitter. Their 'guest' ale was from Hastings, ie the FILO Churches Pale Ale (4.2%).

We also met many people here, on entry, I straight away headed for the 2 lads at the bar, the 'Battle Boys', Chris and Al, more often seen by me at the Dolphin in Hastings, also Al's daughter, the lovely Claire (always pleased to see a young woman happy to be out drinking with us older types). Our ale was admirably served by Joss, and I also had a chat with the landlady Kerri, nice one. Sadly we had to leave after just the one pint as the last bus from Battle to Hastings left at 18.20hrs! But I'll be back...  

The first pub of the day we'd visited at lunchtime in nearby Catsfield, The White Hart, a 17th century building, but only a pub from 1840. Another nice friendly pub, with a low ceiling and quite large bar, and just the 2 real ales on sale. They had Sharps Doom Bar (4%), all the way from Cornwall, and, you guessed it, Harveys Sussex Best (4%). Anyway, I hadn't drunk Sussex Best for a while, and for the thirsty me, it hit the right spot, not a bad bitter, if a bit light on hops. 

After negotiating confusing woodland paths, that apparently weren't open to the public, we managed to get to The Squirrel Inn, on the A271, 15 minutes before it closed at 15.00hrs. Surprise surprise, the 2 regular ales were Sharps Doom Bar and Harveys Sussex Best, but there were 2 local ales from smaller breweries as guests. We didn't have the Long Man Best Bitter (4%), but each had a pint of Pig & Porter Ashburnham Pale Ale, a 3.8% light copper coloured bitter, very easy to drink, which was just as well. Not the easiest of pubs to get to on foot, but a nice building, and definitely worth a visit, but allow yourself time.

Anyway, amazing how there was a place called Battle in this part of Sussex, quite convenient for the Normans to ring up the Brits and say "let's battle at Battle", and, well, there's another story...


Monday 19 August 2013

Update - The Scarlett Arms in Walliswood, Surrey

I received an update (and important correction, oops!) from Martin Farley, today, 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 a "the 'inn' place to be!"  


Thursday 15 August 2013

Returning via the White Horse and Bricklayers Arms, and more...

When we left Earls Court, our initial target was to walk down to the White Horse on Parsons Green, which the Pubmeister, Mark, had never visited before. Obviously, I felt obliged to aid his learning experience, and it is a mighty fine pub, so we headed southwards, however, on the North End Road, we had to make a logistical stop, OK, had to use a loo, so we stopped in a pub, that I shan't tell you any more about, as I'd hate for anyone to think I was recommending it, which I wouldn't. What we did have was London Pride without any pride or life in it, oh well, at least we felt more comfortable, if aggrieved, when we continued our walk to the White Horse.  

Here, we were served by the excellent Michelle, who went out of her way to find out some important information for me.  Anyway, we sat outside at the front, under one of the umbrellas provided, drinking our choice from the White Horse. This was an interesting beer from another 2011 founded micro, the London Brewing Company, called Zingibier (5.4%), a ginger flavoured beer, very fresh and bitter too; now, we had had a few by now, but I can read my notes easily, so still intelligent analysis, and I drew a smiley face next to my notes, noting that plenty of ginger flavour "but still a beer". There you go, we liked it, and the Pubmeister liked the pub too! We now were heading further south (slightly west of south actually) to Putney...

The Bricklayers Arms in Waterman Street is, what I like to think of, as my Putney 'local', even though it's my brother, Dan the Routemeister, who actually lives near it, though he only comes here when I visit him. So, I surprised Dan when I telephoned him from the White Horse to say we were in the area, would he fancy meeting up? Consequently, we met the Routemeister at the Bricklayers.  Here, from the 12 ales available, we tried two of them, the Aylesbury Pure Gold (3.8%), a pale golden session bitter, pretty good, and the stronger Vale Brewery Gravitas (4.8%), a 'fresh' pale bitter, dry and bitter, but without as much flavour as I'd expected for its strength. Anyway, Mark found this to be his favourite of the pubs, indeed, he's since repeated a couple of times how much he liked it, so that's a "nice one" to the Bricklayers!  

We caught the 337 bus from Putney to Clapham Junction, where we were catching our train back to Hastings, and had a final London drink of the day at the Falcon, on the corner of St Johns Hill and Falcon Road, a Victorian Nicholsons pub, carefully preserved, with 20 or so ales, and the longest continuous bar in the country, so say the Guinness Book of Records. The Pubmeister was impressed by the building and its interior too, and we tried 2 of their ales. Both were pretty interesting, Itchen Valley Belgarum (3.9%) was described on the pump clip as having a "twist of honey & elderflower" flavour; I didn't really pick up the elderflower, yep, it was pale and hoppy, and a bit sweet, not bad, but... The second beer was Box Valley Brewery Funnel Blower (4.5%) a "dark vanilla porter", though I picked up a chocolate malt flavour rather than vanilla, the aroma being more vanilla; very nice too! 

So we caught the train back to Hastings, and managed to get back to Mark's pub, the Dolphin at Rock a Nore, in time to catch a bit of the 'Irish' music and I drank the Dark Star Red Shift (5.5%), which I've already reported about, ie it has a dark ruby colour with a blackcurrant aroma, plenty of body, very nice. The Pubmeister had a half of the Salopian Oracle (4%), another nice pale, dry and bitter ale. So we ended the day still drinking excellent ale... 

Though my day wasn't quite over as I decided to walk along the beach back to my flat, it was a lovely clear sky, and I wanted to see if I could spot any meteorites, as the previous night had been widely reported that many sightings of 'shooting stars' or whatever, I'm not sure of the physics, had been made. This was coming close to midnight now, and there were quite a number of fishing boats out to sea, I could see their lights. I may have seen a meteorite or two, I certainly made out a bit of activity in the sky, but my most interesting find was 2 badgers foraging in a bin near the beach (I forgot to change my mobile phone camera to 'night' so was unable to capture a photograph). Anyway, I hadn't seen a live badger since I lived in Devon a few years ago, and now 2 turn up at once... 

That's it for now, cheers!

Wednesday 14 August 2013

CAMRA Great British Beer Festival

The Pubmeister, Mark, and I visited the Trade session of this years CAMRA Beer Festival at Olympia in London yesterday, previously held at Earls Court, where I've visited a few times with the Robbos, ie Kieran, and either Graham or Kath, my brother the Routemeister, and various combinations of other friends.  From the information I have, Earls Court is going to become a massive housing, shops, cinema, whatever project, similar to the Battersea Power Station plan. 

Anyway, as you'd expect, there were a few ales, and other styles of beer too from across the world, and ciders and perry, and not a few I've already had much experience of drinking; I was surprised not to see more ales I didn't know, but your Wells, Fullers, Harveys etc don't seem to want to bring in many surprises, experimentation being left to the smaller brewers, no change there!  I had a couple of beers I've had before, eg Butcombe Bitter (4%), a good bitter I used to serve when I worked in the Boringdon Arms in Devon, it does what it says on the label really. Also, Gadds She Sells Sea Shells (4.7%), which I've drunk at the Tower in Hastings, still very good, a dry paler bitter, my personal like, as ever. 

Obviously I couldn't try everything, but I did try the Slaters Citrus (4.8%), not quite what I expected from Slaters, whose 'ordinary' Bitter is one of my favourite session beers. This was more like a 'real lager' described by them as a "Pilsner" style, with Hallertau hops used; slightly malty, hint of lemon in the aroma and taste and a dry finish, it was actually very good! Also, Crouch Vale Citra (3.9%), pale and hoppy, not bad, and Goachers Silver Star (4.2%), a very pale and bitter ale, a wee bit 'sour', not unlike a lambic, I liked it. 

However, my favourite of the session was the Oakham Citra (4.2%), which I drank before trying the Crouch Vale version, which was unfair to Crouch Vale really, because the Oakham Citra was packed with aroma and flavour, and body. Oakham brew some excellent ales, and this is no exception, pale and bitter packed with fruit, most obviously grapefruit, but maybe peach too, loved it, cheers to Oakham! 

I had to add this photograph again of the XT XPA, which, sadly, wasn't on at this beer festival, but of which I have a great memory (see an earlier blog when I had this at the Bricklayers Arms in Putney). Anyway, I mention them because my previous experience was positive and I met a couple of people who work for XT yesterday, including Hannah, with whom I had an interesting conversation, and I feel like the brewery deserves a bit more exposure, so their website is at www.xtbrewing.com

Oh... there was a great selection of food styles too, and many thanks to Harveys for the tickets!

My next blog will deal with the pubs we visited after leaving the festival, where we met our first Londoner, ie my brother, at the Bricklayers Arms in Putney, after my meeting up with a few old contacts from Sheffield at the festival, and our meeting a few people from Sussex too. I even spotted Dawn from Norwich (Bear brewing, Ketts Tavern, The Rose), but she passed so quickly, and I was stuffing a steak sandwich, so I missed the opportunity to chat with her... 

Cheers for now!  

Monday 12 August 2013

More 'Red Shift', and something very interesting coming from Hastings Brewery...

The Dolphin in Hastings, Rock a Nore, was my target today, and not just because they have 2 firkins of Dark Star Red Shift (5.5%) to sell, but that's a good enough start! There were the usual Dark Star Hophead and APA, Harveys Sussex Best and Youngs Special, and the other guest was the fruity pale bitter from Salopian, Oracle (4%).

And, sitting by the Dark Star APA pump was the same brewer's Red Shift (5.5%).  I've already reported on it, but just to say again, this is a deep ruby bitter with a pronounced fruity Ribenaesque aroma. It still has a fruity taste, a subtle hint of roasted malts and plenty of body, it is a very nice ale, indeed, a warning though, you probably only have a few days before it's provision is ended here!

Oh yes! And the news connected to Hastings Brewery and one of their 'Handmade' ales to come... I was recently at the Tower, more of soon, but Louisa, the wonderful landlady, let me have a taste of the Handmade Number 6, Columbus, from an advance sample she had been provided me with because I keep on missing Hastings 'handmade numbers', many thanks Louisa!  The Columbus is a 4.8% pale bitter, single hop, with a very peachy aroma, it has plenty of body and a nice dry bitter finish. I liked it very much, so am hoping I'll catch it from the cask...

Anyway, lots going on, a visit to London to come, the CAMRA Beer Festival at Olympia too, and even more from the Tower, etc etc, cheers!   

Friday 2 August 2013

Yet another excellent ale, plus more...

A trip or two to the Tower at St Leonards, Hastings, found, not just the, now regularly, excellent Dark Star American Pale Ale (APA, 4.7%, and at a great value £2.50 a pint), but also, among it's 4 ales, the same brewery's Sunburst (4.8%, and already reported on) and Red Shift, and Sharps Doom Bar (4%).  The Red Shift, well, is something else!  Yes, it's a fine 5.5% ale, but the aroma is like taking in strong alcoholic Ribena, and the extreme fruitiness doesn't get lost in the flavour either, full of body and 'fruits of the forest' with a dry aftertaste, very nice; and Louisa behind the bar for much of the time too, cheers m'dear!

The Dolphin at Rock-a-Nore, Hastings, too, in addition to the usual 4 ales at this time of year, Dark Star Hophead (3.8%) and APA, Youngs Special (4.5%), and the ubiquitous Harveys Sussex Best (4%), has had two from Woodforde's, Norfolk, recently.  The quite regularly found Nelson's Revenge (4.5%) and the one off 'special', I presume, Bure Gold (the Bure being a river in Norfolk). The Bure Gold (4.3%) is a golden bitter with a hint of malt, slightly fruity and quite dry, not bad at all! Oh yes, and the Dark Star Red Shift will be available here next week, you heard it here...

I have also been to the First In Last Out (FILO) in High Street, Hastings, again, pleasant company both sides of the bar, and, from among their own 5 FILO ales on sale, the Crofters is a very good session ale, and the Gold (4.8%), an enjoyable stronger pale bitter, which I have been trying quite a few pints of recently, nice one! They also recently had St Austell Trelawny (3.8%); that brewery having improved their selection of ales very much since I lived in Cornwall and only had Tinners to (hardly) appreciate, and every now and then, their very good HSB.

That's about it really, for now, having a week or so off ale for financial reasons, and it doesn't hurt to drop a few pounds in weight either, though I do have some subjects around beer to chat about, so I shan't be completely quiet, it just depends on my access to the internet, which may still be difficult for a week or so, we'll see...