Enjoy Playing Away From Home . . .

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Playing cards at the Tower?

Pale and hoppy ales actually, not playing cards, though there is a connection, also a connection with the previous blog about 'black IPAs', starting off very obviously, though also about hoppy pale ales. Maybe trying to be too clever, and just trying to explain it to myself, but this blog starts by reporting a beer I drank early last week, Black Jack at the Tower in Hastings. Black Jack Shuffled Deck is a 3.8% pale bitter with a hint of fruit in the aroma, slightly sweet taste at first, drying out into a decent bitter, very much enjoyed by me and many others. 

Maybe not so obvious, but on Sunday the 4 ales pictured below were available at the Tower at the same time, "Four of a Kind"... From the right, Sussex brewer Dark Star's well known, and reported on in these blogs many times, American Pale Ale (APA, 4.7%), pale, hoppy, and gorgeous... Next, from further afield, Bristol Beer Factory's Nova, a weaker 3.8% 'session ale', a dry and pale bitter with decent body for the strength, and very refreshing too... 

The third ale, again from Sussex, is Burning Sky's response to Dark Star's APA and Revelation combined, though being closer to the strength of Revelation (5.7%) and with a significant use of hops, the Aurora (5.6%) also has already been reported on by me... but I am quite happy to make further comment, this is a stronger 'APA' style bitter, a pale amber, with much fruitiness, peach and grapefruit, in the aroma and flavour, with a dry and bitter aftertaste, and, quite frankly, it is gorgeous! 

The furthest on the left is another pale and hoppy ale, this time from the Kent brewer Caveman, their 4.1% Citra, which, as you'd expect from the name, and from the American 'Citra' hops used, is a pale strongly citrus flavoured bitter with a dry and slightly nutty aftertaste. So, four of a kind indeed... 

Another connection to the previous blog though? The Citra had replaced the very hoppy, but dark, Dark Star The Art of Darkness discussed in depth in my previous blog... See? It all comes together, cheers!  

Thursday 20 February 2014

Black IPAs - oxymoron maybe, but...

I shan't waffle about what an oxymoron is, particularly as I may be reporting on all the 'Black IPAs' I have ever had as a cask ale, so I don't want to lose your interest. But how is such an ale brewed? I checked with a few brewers I know, including Brett who has recently left Hastings Brewery; good luck with your future career Brett, and many thanks for your advice! Primarily, usually malt that has been de-husked is used to provide the dark colour with as little roasted malt flavour as possible. Then, a significant amount of hops are used to provide the hoppiness, eg hops from the USA, Australia or New Zealand like Cascade, Columbus, Nelson Sauvin, Ella and Galaxy. 

OK, so lots of photographs and less writing... I drank my first Black IPA at The Wellington, Shalesmoor, just before I left Sheffield 3 years ago, and brewed by Steel City Brewing; of said brewery I've consulted with Dave "Unpronounceable", as I couldn't remember the name of the ale, and I've borrowed the photograph too, many thanks. You can guess that I haven't any notes of my drinking their Shadowplay (5.6%), but I do remember enjoying the ultra-hoppy flavour of the ale (this was early Steel City Brewing, remember, and the lads do like their hops!), and anything I was to drink later, would have to compare favourably... 

I didn't then experience a Black IPA for nearly 2 years, until I visited The Bricklayers Arms, Putney, in October 2012, where I drank Triple fff Brewery's Jabberwocky (5%), which I reported as being "a very dark bitter with hints of liquorice, very enjoyable, see, I don't just drink pale bitters!" I cannot find a record of the hops used, but am guessing American, as these Black IPAs have also been called "American", based on the style coming from the USA, and usually using just American hops at first. Indeed, I've seen this one commented on as an "American Indian Pale Ale", and I don't think they meant Native American!  

I first had Dark Star's The Art of Darkness (3.5%) a little over a year ago at The Tower, London Road, Hastings St Leonards. This isn't labelled as a "Black IPA", but strength-wise, I'd compare this like Green King IPA to stronger IPAs with hops used, only, The Art of Darkness has more hops used than most IPAs! Warrior hops are used for bittering, and flavouring is provided by an array of hops, including Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial. I have drunk this many times, as it is, well, this is how I described it the first time: "the surprise was The Art of Darkness, Dark Star adding a whopping amount of hops to make this session beer, by strength, a 'full flavoured black beer'... Not too bad a description... Yes, full of hops, refreshing, with a dry aftertaste, and I was very happy to drink more than just the one pint, excellent!"

Windsor & Eton's Conqueror (5%) was my next brush with the style, at the White Horse on Parsons Green, London SW6. This showed a difference to most of these Black IPAs, as smoked malt was used in the brew, however, substantial use of Summit and Cascade hops appeared to help the flavour acquire fruit, nut and bitter hoppiness. Incidentally, the beer label design is based on William the Conqueror's shield. 

Back to a more 'typical' Black IPA, and brewed by my old buddies at Steel City Brewing again, this time at The Albatross Club (Royal Air Force Association) in Bexhill on Sea, their In The Nightside Eclipse (5.5%). Hops used were Columbus and Magnum for bitterness, and what they term their "holy trinity of Galaxy, Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin for flavour." Extra Galaxy and Mosaic were added to the fermenter, and casks were dry hopped with Mosaic, this was another genuine hoppy ale from Steel City, Sheffield, bitter with even a hint of grapefruit, nice one!

I'm nearing the end of this blog, so you've done well, cheers! In October, at The Gardeners Arms in Lewes, I had the Black Iris Black Mountain (5.9%), I cannot find any information about the brew, but am guessing Cascade hops were used, to keep in with the American style, maybe... I found this did what it said on the label, it was very dark, full bodied, and very hoppy, as I said then, "gorgeous!" 

My penultimate ale, for this blog, is Blue Monkey's Bonobo (5.3%), which I had in January, during my first ever visit to the new-ish Oakham Brewery pub in Kennington, London, The Mansion House. Again, I cannot find anything about the brew itself, but guess Cascade hops were used, seems likely anyway, or something like them... I found it to be a lighter flavour than I'd have expected before gaining experience of Black IPAs, and a bit too easy to drink for its strength! But, to my last word for now...    

Brewed on my own doorstep, and let's hope they keep up the good work that Brett appears to have been highly influential in with their very good hoppy 'Handmade' series, Hastings Brewery No 11 Black IPA (5.4%). This is brewed with Ella hops (formerly Stella in name, until a certain brewery company stuck their legal nose in), and is close to what I would always expect from this style. Very dark, very hoppy, tastes 'lighter' and more citrus fruity than a dark ale really should, nice and dry too, I like it... I have had this at both The Tower and The Albatross Club recently, both being very supportive of local and microbrewers, nice one, cheers!  

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Reading, Berkshire, not reading the GBG...

This is a collaborative effort by 2 Guest Bloggers, both called Robert, both from Sheffield, but supporters of rival football clubs, the Owls and Blades... Not bad for me to bring them together, though I don't think they have ever met each other, despite me knowing them both from different areas of my past life up in t'North. What they have in common, apart from both knowing me, is a love of football and real ale, a great combination for the Beermeister Blog, indeed! The most recent visitor (very recently) was Rob the Owl, who passed on details of The Alehouse, Broad Street GR1 2BH, which Bob the Blade (also happy enough to be called "Rob", but I need to differentiate a bit here) has told me is his favoured first port of call when in Reading.

The Alehouse (website), formerly called the Hobgoblin, is an "excellent pub, just 5 minutes from the railway station" reports Rob, where he enjoyed drinking a "nice pint of Havant Decided, a 3.8% hoppy IPA style of beer". This is a small pub with wee little "nooks and crannies" away from the bar, allowing for children, dogs and mobile phones to be 'tolerated' at the pub, because they are banned from the bar itself! There are 8 handpumps providing real ales from microbreweries, 3 dedicated to the 'locale' West Berkshire brewery (website), and 5 rapidly changing guest ales. 2 keg 'craft' beers (my last view of the website showed from Art Brew and Magic Rock breweries), cider, perry and mead are also available, and a fair selection of bottled Belgian beers too. 

Bob added that he would then move on to the Nag's Head, Russell Street RG1 7XD. The Nag's Head (website) is a "friendly pub with loads of pumps, good food, but best of all, they lay on a double decker bus to and from the Madejski Stadium for about £3. Straight back to the pub after the match!" There are 12 handpumps serving up constantly changing real ales from mostly local breweries, and usually more than a dozen varieties of real cider and perry, plus an eclectic mix of bottled beers. 

Cheers Rob and Bob!   

CAMRA’s National Winter Ales Festival starts tomorrow at...

CAMRA's National Winter Ales Festival starts tomorrow at The Roundhouse in Derby, not a bad place to go to for real ale at any time! (See Beermeister website). The festival will be held from Wednesday the 19th to Saturday the 22nd of February in the oldest roundhouse in the world, built in 1839, and Grade II listed, and close to the railway station, of course, so easy to get to.  

Further details can be found at the Festival's website (link), enjoy if you do go there, and I'd be very grateful for any feedback, as I cannot make it to the festival, cheers!

Saturday 15 February 2014

Natural Phenomena and Latin Nature...

As you're reading this, I take it you know about how 'natural' real ales are; unless other natural substances are added, eg spices, herbs and fruit, ales are brewed using just 4 natural ingredients. First, malted grain is used to provide sugars to ferment, as well as provide flavour, this is usually barley, but can include other grain, eg wheat and oats, and un-malted roasted barley can be used for flavour, particularly for stouts. The second ingredient is water, called 'liquor' by brewers, hot liquor is used when converting the starch in malt to more simple sugar, stimulated by enzymes in the malt; this liquid, now termed 'wort', is boiled in the kettle or 'copper'. At different times during the boil, the third ingredient, hops, are added for preservation, but also to add flavour and bitterness. The final natural additive is yeast, which converts the sugars in the cooled solution into alcohol. OK, it's a wee bit more complicated than that, but that's the basic art of brewing...      

So, with all the potential flavours and types of ales, why is it that we have preferences for one over another? People who know me well, or who have read a few of these blogs, will know I prefer pale bitters, the more pale, dry and bitter, the better. I can love ales that are just bitter, or some that have fruity flavours added by hops, eg typical of many hops coming from the USA, like Citra, Cascade or Amarillo, which provide citrus-like flavours. But, I also can enjoy good ales of all types, eg winter warmers, stouts and porters, but I'm not really into beers that are just 'malty', or lack hops, though others happily enjoy such ales, that I find boring or too malty. Such is life when considering real ales, there really is something to suit most people's tastes, or to go with different types of food, very similar to wines, but with even more variety. 

Now, I do like Dark Star's paler and hoppy ales, indeed I like ultra hoppy ales brewed elsewhere, eg by Steel City, Oakham, Crouch Vale, Saltaire, I could go on... However, there is a 'new kid on the block', well, not that new, as he had been brewing at Dark Star for a while previously, and had devised the recipe for Hophead, a pale hoppy bitter I first tasted in Sheffield many years ago. Indeed, I have already commented on Burning Sky's 3.5% Plateau "Pale Ale" previously, which I even prefer to Hophead! Burning Sky also brew a stronger ale regularly too, the 5.6% Aurora, and what a lovely ale I savoured at The Tower, London Road, Hastings St Leonards very recently, after searching it out for quite a while now. The Aurora is subtitled "Strong Pale Ale",, which belies the flavours and substance of the ale: this has grapefruit aroma smacking you across the cheeks as it wafts up your nostrils, it's tastes fruity, it has loadsa body, it finishes off dry, it is very delicious indeed!   

But it's not just Dark Star and Burning Sky ales offered down in East Sussex, many more hoppy ales are provided from near and afar. At The Tower I have also enjoyed drinking Wild Cat, from The Fat Cat brewery attached to the Norwich version of a Fat Cat very recently. This is a 5% bitter subtitled "An ultra-pale hop monster", though not as 'ultra hoppy' as Steel City, and not too much aroma, this is still a very good dry pale bitter, nice and easy to drink, and liked by me very much! There has been all manner of other lovely ales at The Tower recently too, of course from Dark Star, eg Hophead and American Pale Ale, the Burning Sky Plateau again, and now an apparently regular beer from Hastings Brewery, their No5 Hop Forward Pale Ale. Excellent stuff, reported on many times, cheers Louisa!  

But we are blessed with other very good providers of lovely ales in East Sussex too. For example, from the First in Last Out (FILO), High Street, Hastings 'old town', who do not only provide 5 of their very own brews from 7 or 8 regular and seasonal beers, eg FILO Gold "Premium Ale" (4.8%), Churches "Pale Ale" (4.2%), the very good session bitter Crofters "Best Bitter" (3.8%), and the excellent full-flavoured and full-bodied Cardinal "Sussex Porter" (4.6%), but guest ales too. Sadly, for me, they've run out of their, far too easily, very drinkable seasonal Our Auld Ale (6.5%), reported on before, but are considering brewing this again before next Christmas. I don't want to wish my life away, so I shall be patient, but I'm looking forward to it again Tony... 

As I said, they don't only provide their own crackin' ales, they also provide a couple of guest ales from other breweries too, in recent times, for example, the Oakleaf Brewery's Quercus Folium (4%), which we accurately translated in the bar, from the latin, as "Oakleaf". The Oakleaf Oakleaf, or Quercus Folium is what I call a 'traditional' bitter colour, ie, how I remember bitters from when I first started drinking, and before I experienced a 'pale' bitter, even 'pale ales' in those days were a darker colour than they are favoured to be now! This had a slight caramel flavour, with a nice bitter aftertaste. More recently, they had the Essex-based Crouch Vale Yakima Gold (4.2%), which I have recently commented on when I drank it at the Dolphin, together with a note on it's Native American name. Indeed, it is still a refreshing pale bitter with a fruity grapefruit and peach aftertaste, very nice again, cheers Mike and Adam!       

Meanwhile, further down in the 'old town' of Hastings, opposite the fishing beach and huts, is the Dolphin, Rock-a-Nore, the reigning local CAMRA Pub of the Year. As ever, the 3 regular ales are Dark Star Hophead, Harveys Sussex Best, and Young's Special, all reported on previously numerous times. They also provide 3 guest ales, rumoured to be increasing by one to a total of 7 ales overall later this year, variety indeed! 

Guest ales recently have included, from near and far, from Swindon, Arkell's Moonlight, a 4.5% dark golden bitter, with a slight caramel flavour and nice bitter aftertaste; from the newish local venture Brighton Bier, Underdog, a 4.2% bitter with a nutty aftertaste, a bit like the flavour of the inside of a hazelnut, and very nice indeed; and from Scotland, Cairngorm Trade Winds, a 4.3% pale, slightly sweet bitter. In addition, also from the West Country, the excellent Salopian Hop Twister, a 4.5% pale dry bitter, with a hint of citrus and grapefruit aroma, cheers Mark!  

Finally, for this blog, I have recently visited The Albatross Club (RAFA) a couple of times, the local CAMRA Club of the Year, where you need to be signed in by a member; CAMRA members being very welcome. It's a good 10 mile walk (round trip) for me along the coast to Bexhill-on-Sea, a wee bit tiring in the strong winds and rain recently, but it had to be done! The welcome here is always very friendly, and the 4 ales on offer are regularly changing, so do not expect to drink the same ale 2 trips running, unless you visit daily, but even then... What has been available recently? 

I loved it, of course, the 3.5% Burning Sky Plateau, with a grapefruit aroma, grapefruit in the taste, pale, dry and bitter, delicious! Other local ales have included Rother Valley Exit (5.7%) and Isfield Flapjack (5.3%). Also, a collaboration between the local Dark Star Brewery and Yorkshire based Saltaire Brewery, Bock, a dark 'rusty' brown coloured 5.6% bitter with full body and roasted flavour. From much further afield have come Just a Minute Time Tunnel, a 4.1% dark golden bitter, and Summer Wine Espresso (4.8%), you can guess what flavour that has, and Zenith, a 4% pale refreshing dry bitter, very nice too. Also, from the dependable Essex brewer again, Crouch Vale Amarillo, a 5% pale hoppy ale, grapefruit flavour, dry and bitter, it hit the spot, cheers Geoff, another nice one! 

Cheers folks!!      

The Smuggler - Pett Level

The Routemeister and myself walked over from Hastings, in the mud, wind and rain to The Smuggler at Pett Level, t'other day, and, not long after taking this photograph, hailstones, and then a rainbow impressed themselves on us... 

I hadn't been to The Smuggler for a while, and it's a bit of an achievement, worthy of an ale certainly. 3 ales on at the moment; they had Doom Bar and Sussex Best, not my favourite ales, but OK when nowt else available, but on this day they had a pearler! The Dark Star Hophead (3.8%) was in crackin' form, we enjoyed it immensely, pale and hoppy, as you'd expect, luvverly, indeed... 

More to come very soon, ales aplenty, cheers! 

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Coming back from Sheffield via London and even more Steel...

I got back to Victoria, and what a lovely day it turned out to be, anyway, I crossed over Chelsea Bridge to walk through Battersea Park, and up to the mouth of the River Wandle, which, following it upstream, soon brings you to this pub in Wandsworth... 

The Armoury, which used to be called The Crane, in Armoury Way, virtually opposite the back of the old Ram Brewery of Young's, which, sadly, doesn't brew anymore. Indeed, the plan to sell up the real estate has fallen on lean times, it looks like no-one wants to build there in the current financial climate. Anyway, as we all know, Young's ales are now brewed by Charles Wells, Young's now being just a 'pubco'! 

The Crane used to be a Young's pub, of course, and I remember it as a bit of a bikers' pub from my youth, now it appears to be a clean and bright pub, and there was some pretty good music too, for ' bright young things' in still up and coming Wandsworth. There were 2 Young's ales and 2 ales from the new local brewer, Sambrooks (website) Wandle (3.8%) and Junction (4.5%). The Young's ales available were the 3.7% Bitter (or 'Ordinary' to us ex-locals) and the seasonal Winter Warmer, which I had a couple of pints of, a smooth deep dark red beer, full-bodied, with dark fruit in the flavour, still a very nice beer and well worth drinking if you get the chance! 

Anyway, that was it for that day, and I kipped at the old family HQ, still inhabited by my Stepfather. The next day I retraced my steps down the Wandle, then the Thames, to St Mary's Church, Battersea, and headed for the High Street. Just before you reach the Prince's Head, you come upon The Candlemaker, on your right, which used to be called The Greyhound, when I went to school further back up the High Street. This is another pub in the Borough of Wandsworth that has undergone a very good makeover, or having gone upmarket in effect. I had a good chat with a fellow customer, an Irish lad called Steve, and the barman.

There are 5 handpumps on the bar, but only 3 were being used last Monday, including one for their regular ale, brewed by King in Horsham, I do believe, and not at the North Laine brewpub in Brighton, ie the Laine's Best (4%), which I have reviewed before. They also had another Sussex brewed ale, Dark Star Partridge, a 4% 'Best Bitter' not one of their ultra hoppy pale bitters, and Truman's Swift (3.9%). I've had all these before, but wanted to give the Swift another taste, as I hope that the revived Truman's continues to prosper now they're brewing their own ale at their new brewery in East London (website). The Swift is described as a 'golden ale', and it isn't bad at all, maybe not quite the 'gorgeous' it is also branded as though. It's a bit sweet at first, with a slightly bitter dry aftertaste, again, I found it just a wee bit 'sour', and am looking forward to trying more of their ales over the coming years.      

I wanted to get closer to Clapham Junction station, to ensure I didn't miss my train home, but also to visit another couple of pubs I would never have gone into when I was a young man! This is a bit of a theme I hadn't planned to use in this blog, but realised it as soon as I started writing. All 4 of these pubs, discussed in this blog, in Battersea and Wandsworth, are all pubs that I wouldn't have entered in my youth, have all been given a makeover, and are all in the Borough of Wandsworth... and all now are pretty good pubs selling real ales too. The third pub I visited was The Northcote, on the corner of Northcote Road and Battersea Rise... 

There were 4 real ales on sale at The Northcote, including the 2 regulars, Young's Bitter (3.7%) and Sharp's Doom Bar (4%), hardly inspiring, but the guests offered something a bit more interesting. OK, I've had the Adnams Ghost Ship (4.5%) before, and it's certainly one of Adnams' better ales, but they also had an ale from a reasonably local brewery that I hadn't had before. Back to Twickenham Brewery, and this time a 'special' brewed with Australian and New Zealand hops, Galaxy and Pacific Jade, the Summer Down Under. This 3.9% very pale bitter certainly bursts with citrus flavours, I couldn't work out the aroma, but it was very refreshing. 

I decided to get to my fourth pub of this blog with enough time to have another drink before catching my train, so hurried to The Falcon, on the corner at Clapham Junction, diagonally opposite what was the local Department Store, Arding & Hobbs, but which is now a Debenhams. The Falcon is a Nicholsons pub, and, as I have said before, has the longest bar in the country (it is built in a long irregular circular fashion) according to the Guinness Book of Records; my second pub of the long weekend that is listed in that book, including The Dove in Hammersmith from the last blog... and my fourth pub of todays theme, it's all coming together!  

The Falcon has up to 20 real ales on at a time, but I only had time for one pint... so I had to have 2 halves, as seen in the photograph, first the Fullers Steel, a 'blonde ale' as it says on the pumpclip. This has been brewed in collaboration with my old friends, the 2 hop crazy brewers at Steel City Brewing in Sheffield, so my second ale of their's of the long weekend; see 2 blogs ago. This is a nice dry pale bitter, with a sour fruit aftertaste, not your usual Fullers, a few extra hops indeed... 

I also had a half of the Blueberry Ale, a 4.3% beer brewed by Lancaster Brewery, subtitled "Tales from the Brewhouse", which I'm guessing means it's what they term their 'specials'. There are New Zealand hops, and blueberries, unsurprisingly, which provides a very fruity aroma for this slightly darker golden ale. First taste gives you a mouthful of fruit, which is maintained throughout the drinking experience, with a slightly sweet, but drying out aftertaste. Another 2 fine ales from The Falcon...


Friday 7 February 2014

On the way... to Sheffield via London...

On the way to Sheffield, I had stayed the previous night at Dan the Routemeister's residence in Putney, ie with my brother and niece, and, before tea/dinner/supper (depending on your social or territorial grouping), we walked along the Surrey bank to Hammersmith Bridge, crossing to reach the excellent Fullers pub, The Dove, Upper Mall, W6 9TA.  

The Dove (website) was built in the early 18th century in rural, yes rural at that time, Hammersmith, overlooking the river; indeed, its balcony at the back of the pub is a pleasure to sit on, when not too busy, and warmer. On this day, however, we sat near the fire, which is in the main bar that you walk into when entering the pub. If you decide to go through the door to your right when you immediately enter The Dove, you will enter the "smallest bar room in Britain" (Guinness Book of Records) at 33 sq ft in area. If you had ignored the pub and walked further on, you would  have soon reached Kelmscott House, that was the home of William Morris and is now the site of the William Morris Society and museum (website). Indeed, The Dove has had an impressive number of historic and literary figures visiting over the centuries! 

The Dove has been a Fullers pub since 1845, serving good food as well as good ales, and you can't get much more locally sourced! You'll usually find their Chiswick Bitter (3.5%) and London Pride (4.1%) as regular ales, and the stronger and full-bodied ESB (5.5%) is often available too as one of the 2 guests, as it was this day; the fourth ale was the seasonal Jack Frost (4.5%). Dan hadn't tried the Chiswick before, so, as it is quite hard to find, even in Fullers pubs, we went for it; this having been the favourite ale of the famous beer writer, Michael Jackson, RIP. A lot of people may knock the Chiswick, and, if you've drunk something with lots of hops, or lots of flavour like ESB beforehand, you may find it lacks a bit. However, as the first drink of the day, and if you carry on drinking it, it is superb, consequently, Michael's love of the beer! A lovely bitterness comes through a nutty flavour, with a hoppy dry aftertaste, the result of, I believe, each cask being dry hopped before sealing, nice one!  

We then came back along the Middlesex bank and crossed Putney Bridge, and visited another excellent pub, The Bricklayers Arms, Waterman Street SW15 1DD, a freehouse, much visited and written about by me. The Bricklayers (website) is a regular CAMRA (and other) award winner, and has up to a dozen real ales on sale. I've gone on about this many times, as Dan reckons it's MY local in Putney, but they tend to bring in many ales from a specific brewery, this time from the local Twickenham Fine Ales, including the excellent Naked Ladies (4.4%), which I've written about quite a bit before, Redhead (4.1%), Sundancer (3.7%), and the seasonal Winter Cheer (4.4%). 

I drank the Sundancer first, pale and dry, with a nutty flavour coming through, and nice and bitter, yes, nice one. Then I finished off our pub drinking with a half of the Winter Cheer, a darker chestnut coloured ale, a bit thinner than I'd expected, nutty, with a hint of spices and a roasted malt finish, and quite bitter, not bad at all! 

We then wandered back to Dan's having luckily missed a shower, cheers!  

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Sheffield Part II - even more greater ales!

Where do I start when visiting a City with a plethora of genuine free houses and microbreweries, and consequently, loadsa luvverly ale!?! The easiest way would be to start at the very beginning, as a certain governess said in The Sound of Music, so I shall... but I shall also deviate a wee bit from convention, and leave the second pub visited that day until last, particularly as I was drinking there twice that day... 

I was going to have a cheapo breakfast in one of the many Sheffield Wetherspoons, but kept putting it off and didn't in the end, as I don't like the last 'spoons I reached that morning, the one at Hillsborough Corner, it feels reyt unfriendly; though I did meet an old neighbour in there, Dave, before I used its toilet facilities. So, instead, I decided to walk to Hillsborough Stadium, through the Park, and visited the memorial to the Tragedy; a visit here has always helped me to put things into perspective. Then, as I was in the area, I did as people are meant to do whilst in Rome, do as the locals do, so I had a pork sandwich (to my Southern readers, that's a soft bap, called a bread cake there, with pork in it) for my late breakfast, followed by a £1 poke of chips for my early lunch; healthy eating... 

Anyway, a short walk from nearby Malin Bridge tram stop is the bottom of Stannington Road, a wee way up which, on a corner on the right hand side of the road, is The Anvil, an Enterprise pub, now run by long-time friends, and more, Tom (full-time at The Anvil) and Brigitte (who also works full-time elsewhere), as I mentioned in Part I. Tom being a chef, I have no doubt the food will be very good, but I only stopped in for a pint as I had much more to do that day, so cannot report on the food, but the lovely barmaid (I've forgotten her name, as in forgot to write it down) served up a decent pint of Derbyshire brewer, Derventio's Winter King, a 4% pale hoppy bitter with a dry aftertaste. As I hadn't let them know about my likely visit, I also surprised both Tom and Brigitte when I turned up. Good luck to the both of you with your venture! 

Anyway, after visiting the second pub of the day, reporting further down in this blog, I had some more food, and a rest from alcohol, before visiting one of the most recent additions to good ale houses in Sheffield, Shakespeare's on Gibraltar Street, a music venue as well, and for a while closed, when it desperately needed refurbishment. Indeed, this is one of 28 Sheffield pubs in the 2014 CAMRA Good Beer Guide, and 26th of those that I have had an ale or three in over the years, though I had been here in the past under different management. I had arranged to meet up at 6pm with Noel (fellow R), and other mates, Lindsay and Jeff MacDoughnut, all 3 living in Sheffield still, though none of the 4 of us are from South Yorkshire, being 2 Southerners (me with mucho Celt in me), a Scot and a Paddy; good company indeed! 

We all turned up within a couple of minutes of each other, and I was pleased with the work done in the pub, which has not noticeably changed at all architecturally. It was great to meet up with the 3 lads, who are great friends I hadn't seen for a couple of years. This being a beer and pub blog, though, I shan't go over our conversations, but just add notes on the 2 ales I had from their 12 real ale handpumps. The only regular ale is the Sheffield brewer Abbeydale's Deception, a 4.1% pale, fruity hoppy ale, though this wasn't one of the two 'guests' I tried. No, I had ales from further afield, though still from 2 Yorkshire breweries. First, the 4.3% North Riding Brew Pub's Galaxy (4.3%), another fruity pale hoppy bitter, presumably using Galaxy hops, and very nice too. Second, Great Heck's Five, a 5% pale hoppy bitter with plenty of grapefruit aroma and flavour, I liked this very much!     

We then ventured to the Kelham Island Tavern. Shakespeare's has already won awards, which is great, but the KIT, as we like to refer to it locally (oh dear, I'd became a local all over again, if only for 48 hours), has won the CAMRA Pub of the Year, in recent times, NATIONALLY... and 2 years in a row, which is some feat! Immediately, we saw Pete (who works part-time behind the bar at the Wellington) as we entered, the pub was tightly packed, though, with a great variety of people as we expect in here; young and not so young, male and female, it is an excellent success story for Trevor and Louis, the owners/landlords. Indeed, I had a good chat with Trevor whilst there, and with Dave, who I keep in touch with on facebook, though he'd probably deny we are 'friends' ;-) was serving behind the bar, together with a few others, including a rather fetching young lady who, again, I hadn't added her name to my notebook, but she made an impression... 

Ales-wise, there is an excellent choice of ales served from 12 handpumps, regular and guests, as you would expect from such a prolific award winning pub, from local microbreweries, and some from further afar. Indeed, I drank an ale brewed over t' Pennines in Rochdale, Pictish Polaris, a 4.5% dry pale bitter, perfectly suiting my taste, and as recommended by Dave, cheers! 

From the KIT, we wandered round the corner to the Fat Cat (get it? KIT-CAT, as locally referred to) and bumped into 2 more great friends, Bob and his wife Marie, as they left the Cat, which sits in front of Kelham Island Museum, and which has it's own brewery Kelham Island (where I worked for a while at the turn of the Millenium until 2001/2). Bob and Marie were on the way to the KIT with a couple of friends I didn't know, but you can appreciate the general mobility of regulars in this area... 

So, our penultimate destination was the Fat Cat, one of the earliest exponents of real ale in the country, a very early brewpub of modern times, and started up by my old employer, Dave Wickett, who sadly died in 2012, following a lengthy illness with cancer: RIP Dave. We met up with a few folk in here too, and Duncan still the manager too, though it was too busy to chat with him, another pub packed with young and old, male and female alike; who said real ale was just for old men? I didn't drink one of their own ales, from the array on offer, but had a 'guest', from another Yorkshire brewer, Salamander's Scarf & Mittens (5%), a very good pale hoppy winter ale at £3 a pint. Whilst at the Fat Cat, another mate, Will, contacted me to say he'd meet up with us at our next port of call, which he did...  

My second visit of the day to The Wellington (previously, Cask & Cutler and, previous to that, The Wellington), so my second and ultimate pub of the day, which serves up many of its own ales under the label of 'Little Ale Cart Brewery' that used to be brewed out' back, but now brewed elsewhere in the city. They brew excellent pale and hoppy ales, but, as I'd let Will know, this day they had their own dark bitter, and a stout on sale too, hence ensuring his joining us! They also serve, from their 10 handpumps, a real cider, and guests from other micros too; their only 'regular' being Millstone Baby Git, an excellent 4% pale hoppy oxymoron of an ale at £2.40 a pint. There are no keg beers and lagers only in bottle; and quite a few Belgian bottled beers too. 

As soon as we walked into the 'Welly', sans MacDoughnut (who has an issue with Richard the owner here) standing at the bar already were Andy and Jan, two former regular customers at the Bath Hotel; which is why I hadn't seen them at the Bath the previous night, they've moved allegiance. It was good to see them, plus the rest of the regulars here; it was like going back 3 years, and I'd have known everyone who would be there, virtually. Indeed, my earlier in the day visit had seen me meeting up with a few old friends too, NB the other Richard (not owner) and Pete, who was serving behind the bar then. It was excellent to meet up with so many people I hadn't seen for years and who I like; too many to mention individually, but great stuff! 

Little Ale Cart ales? The 2 dark ones that enticed Will to visit and appreciate were the 3.9% brown bitter Farmer's Boy, the pump clip featuring Richard the landlord/owner as a wee lad on a tractor even further up North, as can be seen above; he's not so cute now! The other dark ale was Daft Sheep Stout, 6.2% and just £3 a pint. The 4 pale hoppy bitters I tried during the 2 visits included 2 featured in their steam engine series, Alnwick Castle, a 4.3% fruity bitter and Flying Scotsman Mk 4, 5% with more body and more bitter. 

The other 2 were 'Harley's Dog's Dinner 97' (Harley is Richard's, the owner, dog, and 'Dog's Dinners' are mixes, generally using up ale left over following racking off brew lengths) Sleekit Beastie, a 4% slightly darker beer than usual, in that Farmer's Boy was one of the ingredients, and my favourite ale of the weekend, a 'Harley's Hop Special', Tornado, 4% as well, but much paler, dryer and more bitter with plenty of grapefruit aroma and flavour, and just £2.30 a pint, luvverly!   

Next blog, my journey home via London, cheers for now!

Monday 3 February 2014

Bath Hotel - Sheffield

A brief reminder... 

... of the prior publican at The Bath Hotel, as mentioned in my previous blog, Brian together with Rick, who is now brewing a wee bit up in Aberdeen, purely for private consumption though, and who's elegantly wearing a Beermeister t-shirt.