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Wednesday 30 April 2014

Much Ado about Hops, Great Ale, and a New Pub...

You'll probably guess from my brief last blog, I'm a bit unhappy at losing the original of this blog, it was a fair piece of authorship, and I don't think I'll get up to the mark again... Oh well! This was, and still is, designed to review some very hoppy and excellent ales, provide some news, and mention a pub I'd previously been told to avoid, but now selling some very good real ales, more later... 

Oakham are probably my favourite brewery, and that is saying something! Anyway, this very tasty offering from them, the 4.6% Bishop's Farewell, does the business for me, pale, fruity, hoppy, with plenty of body and a lovely bitter finish, great stuff, and recently available at the CAMRA South East Sussex Pub of The Year 2013, and now 2014 too: Congratulations to Mark and family at the Dolphin, Rock a Nore, Hastings 'old town'! And many thanks for the photograph too, presumably this thanks going to Laura, cheers m'dear! 

In addition to the 3 regular ales always on offer here, including the very hoppy session ale from the Sussex brewer, Dark Star Hophead (3.8%), and the Bishop's Farewell as a guest ale, there are always 6 ales in total, so 3 guests as well as the regulars. Another quality brewery recently represented was from Yorkshire, and goes by the name of Roosters (also brewing 'specials' under the alternative name of 'Outlaw'), an ale I've had up int' North, the excellent pale and bitter Yankee (4.3%). I also have to mention an ale that I found quite magnificent, but not what would be called my 'usual tipple', Yeovil Ruby, a deep red slightly sweet bitter with a malty aroma and clean taste, finishing off nice and dry! 

Whilst reviewing the Dolphin, they have recently started selling 3 'crafty kegs', 2 varying ones from Meantime, to me still tasting 'tinny', which comes from the unnatural gases used to pressurise and dispense the beer, I presume. But also one that is a collaboration between Charles Wells and the American brewery, Dogfish Head, called DNA - New World IPA (4.5%). In effect, this is a weaker version of the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (6%), brewed originally last year as a cask conditioned ale, but now a crafty keg. It's not as tinny as the other 2, but I wish I had had the chance to try the real ale version! 

When discussing drinking hoppy ales in Hastings, thoughts immediately go to The Tower in London Road, upper St Leonards. This is like drinking in a certain Sheffield pub, in the Shalesmoor area, but with fewer South Yorkshire accents! Just look at the photograph above, and 3 Dark Star ales, brimming with hops. Regular here is their American Pale Ale (APA, 4.7%), semi-regular is the Hophead (3.8%), both well-reported before. The 2nd and 3rd Dark Star ales in the photograph have also been reviewed before, and packed with hops, though slightly darker and dark, the revelation that is Revelation (5.7%), and the dark revelation that proves that it's not just strong ales that pack a punch, so does the 3.5% The Art of Darkness! Louisa has also served up their Six Hop Ale, subtitled "Extreme Hops", a 6.5% full-bodied darker golden ale, packed with fruity hops and a lovely dry bitter finish, quality! 

Another 2 Sussex brewers having their ales served here include the new (old) boy on the block, Burning Sky. 2 of their ales have been quite regularly served at The Tower, both brimming with hops, and well reviewed by me already, the 3.5% Plateau and the stronger Aurora (5.6%), even better quality! Also, even closer by, and featured in the photograph above, number 14 in the Hastings 'Handmade' series, their 3 Cs American Pale Ale (5.5%). The clue is in the name, not their usual 'Handmade' single hop brew, but 3 hops were used for No 14, and I was only 1 out with my guess at what they were, that is Columbus, Centennial and Cascade. You can probably write this for me, but I'll write it anyway: plenty of body, a pale golden bitter with a strong citrus aroma and plenty of varied citrus flavours coming through, finishing off with a pleasant crisp dry aftertaste, not bad at all! 

From further afield have been 2 ales from the apparently very consistent Red Willow, including Mirthless (3.9%), pale, citrus aroma and grapefruit and tangerine in the flavour, finishing off dry and bitter, and Wreckless (4.8%), a bit maltier, with a biscuit aroma, less fruity, and a wee bit darker. I doubt they'll bring out a "Tasteless" or "Hopeless", but they do brew a 4.1% Feckless... Oh, and another newer favourite brewer of mine has been represented too, Tiny Rebel Goldie Lookin Ale (4.5%), a collaboration with the Newport band, 'Goldie Lookin Chain'; though I doubt the music is to my taste! But the ale is, I'm guessing it's 4.5%, because of 45 RPM, sounds about right, and this is a golden bitter with a fresh aroma and tangerine and orange in the flavours, definitely worth a try (the ale)...     

And the new pub? This is The Clown in Russell Street, just behind Queens Road, and very close to the town centre. It's always seemed a bit rough, from observing the clientele smoking away outside, and doesn't look much from outside either, does it? But I'd had a whisper they were selling FILO ales now, so I had to make a visit... It's actually quite a fun wee pub inside, decent juke box, decent banter, and 3 handpumps for real ales. The first time I visited there was just the very good Churches Pale Ale (4.2%) from FILO, but they do still serve up more common ales such as Wells Bombardier. However, I very recently visited and they had 3 FILO ales, the Churches Pale Ale, which is now a regular, plus Gold (4.8%) and Crofters (3.8%). So things are looking up in Hastings Town Centre... 

Oh, I've only visited early lunchtime, and even the lad behind the bar advised me that I may not appreciate the pub at other times, cheers Alan!     

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Lost a blog!

Yep, no idea how, but I lost a whole blog, bar the last 2 sentences, and it looked good, so sad and angry with myself! No idea how I managed to lose it, no idea how to get it back, no doubt the words are in some electronic ethereal universe now, allowing the I.T. gremlins to read at their content... 

Anyway, it is very unlikely to be as good, but I know what it said, mostly, so will re-write later today, it will be worth the wait, honest! 

Cheers for your patience ;-) 

Tuesday 22 April 2014

FILO Beer Festival Report 17-21 April 2014

I visited the beer festival at the First in Last Out (FILO), High Street, Hastings, only on the first day, Thursday 17th. Due to circumstances, on the day, I only sampled 7 of the 20 ales available, and their own have been reviewed by me before, so were not included this time. In order of strength, below are my reflections on those 6 festival ales, and I was surprised at both my favourite and least preferred ales... 

First, I tried the Elgoods Spring Challenge (3.7%), which was 'pale and refreshing', as the tasting notes said, and with a dry bitter aftertaste, a pleasant start at 6.5/10. Then, I drank the Dark Star Seville (4%), their first ever 'fruit' beer, first brewed 3 years ago, and including a hint of bitter orange, as you'd expect. I'd tasted this at the previous beer festival reported on this blog, and had been a bit underwhelmed. This time, however, I got a lot more flavour, and it was quite bitter and dry, and very good, obviously improved with time settled in the cask, 8/10. The third ale, in turn, I was disappointed with, surprisingly, as I usually enjoy Roosters beers. This Roosters, 41 Degrees South (4.1%), was pale and fruity, dry and bitter, but neither quality was as pronounced as I expect from this brewery, 5.5/10. 

The fourth ale was Hop Back Spring Zing (4.2%), which was very pale, dry and bitter, very refreshing, and very good too, 7/10. Nine Standards Silver Standard (4.3%) was a wee bit different, described as "a classic pale ale", and the hoppy aroma and taste did make me think English hops, though I have no idea what was used, though I'd guess Fuggles if questioned, but please don't quote me on that! It had a light malty aroma, was quite a dry bitter with a nutty aftertaste, not bad at 6/10. My final ale, or finale, was the slightly stronger Cairngorm Wild Cat (5.1%), all the way from Scotland! This had a malty aroma with a hint of burnt oats, and received 6/10 too.

Today, I sampled my seventh ale, Elgoods Golden Newt (4.1%), which was also pretty good, and I think I may have had this before. The malts used seem to include lager malt, at lest that's what my tastebuds told me, and this is, apparently, dry hopped. The dry aftertaste supports the dry hopping, and there was a fruitiness about it hat I just couldn't quite distinguish, but, considering this is near the end of the cask, in very good nick and got 7/10!  

Consequently, I was surprised that the Roosters came last in my marking, perhaps my high opinion of the brewery made me more critical as a judge? Whatever, the local Sussex brewer, Dark Star, came out tops in this small sample, their Seville being much more to my taste, even more so than it did when I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago!


Sunday 20 April 2014

Guest blog from The Routemeister

I've been talking about visiting the Sussex Oak in Warnham, West Sussex, (website) with my brother, Dan, The Routemeister, for ages, and he went and done it without me! Oh well, he's become a 'guest blogger' for the trouble, cheers Dan, and many thanks for the photographs too! 

The Sussex Oak has 6 real ales served from handpumps on the bar, including Fullers London Pride, Harveys Sussex Best, and Timothy Taylor Landlord, all well known and regulars at the Sussex Oak. Dan, though, tried one of the guest ales, the Surrey Hills Ranmore Ale, a 3.8% golden ale, that he enjoyed, and recorded its flavour as "lemony and zingy!" They also had Dark Star Partridge and Hophead, both reviewed by me in the past, as people will be well aware, NB the Hophead...

Dan also visited The Scarlett Arms (website), a fine 16th century pub in Walliswood, just over the border in Surrey, and somewhere I have been to before, and reviewed in an earlier blog. This is a Badger (Hall & Woodhouse) house, and Dan tried a pint of their seasonal ale, Badger Holy Moley, a light golden/pale amber bitter made with spring water from this Dorset brewer's own spring (I presume). He said it was very agreeable, though he believed it to be a "bit thin" for a stronger ale at 4.7%. So there you have it, The Routemeister's debut blog.

Cheers Dan!

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Another Beer Festival starting tomorrow! In Hastings this time...UPDATED 17th April

For this weekend, From Thursday 17th in the evening to Monday 21st of April, though I doubt all the planned ales will still be available by Easter Monday, and to be held at the First In Last Out (FILO), High Street, Hastings 'Old Town', East Sussex TN34 3EY. The 'festival' ales will be sold in the room at the back, and FILO's own ales will be available at the bar, of course...  

The photograph below shows last years offerings, but this year include: 

FILO Mike's Mild (3.4%) 
Elgoods Spring Challenge (3.7%) 
Moles Moles Gold (3.8%)
Dark Star Seville (4%) 
Hammerpot This England (4%) 
Elgoods Golden Newt (4.1%) 
Roosters 41 degrees South (4.1%) 
Hopback Spring Zing (4.2%) 
Lymestone Flagstone (4.2%) 
St George's Midas (4.4%) 
Wharfebank Golden Ticket (4.5%) 
Cairngorm Wild Cat (5.1%) 

As you can see, ales from all over the country, and many typical of the month, ie Spring and St George's Day 'specials', plus FILO Crofters Best, Churches Pale Ale, Old Town Tom (flavoured with ginger), Cardinal Sussex Porter and Gold in the main bar. No doubt a couple of surprises will appear on the bar, indeed, today (17th) there is Nine Standards Silver Standard (4.3%), plus 2 real ciders will be available as well: Westons 1st Quality and Thatchers Cheddar Valley, plus food...

Thursday evening 18.00-20.30 Indian Thali. 
Friday and Saturday evenings 18.00-21.00 Hot bar snacks. 
Monday evening 18.00-20.30 Tapas.
Friday, Saturday and Monday Lunchtimes 12.00-14.30 Regular FILO menu. 

Not sure when the Beermeister will be there, but it has to be done and enjoyed, cheers! 

The FILO's own website is www.thefilo.co.uk 

Friday 11 April 2014

Bexhill Beer Festival Part IV (Final Resolution)

OK, back to Bexhill for the second day, and a new pale hoppy bitter had been put on upstairs in the Club bar, ie Lacons Affinity, a 4.5% fruity bitter, not bad at all, but not on a par with the 3 mentioned at the end of the previous blog, which I had to try again before comparing beers, of course, if only for scientific purpose... Anyway, here goes for the darker beers... 

I started from the weakest again, and one that others had spoken with great warmth about yesterday, whilst dunking bourbon biscuits in their pints (true!), the Sonnet 43 Brewery Bourbon Milk Stout (4.3%). Yes, the biscuits did work with this stout, very pleasant, though I didn't 'dunk', just ate a few. However, I found it a bit 'thin', hardly surprising as it was the weakest stout/porter here. Then I tried the very good 4.8% Deeply Dale Breakfast Stout, which had much more body. lovely and well-balanced, and a wee bit bitter too, it hit the spot!

Actually, I came to find that the 4 darker beers downstairs were all very good, and not too much to chose between them really. The next 2 had mucho body, the Londinium (5.5%), brewed by Roosters Brewery, was very well balanced again, I tasted more coffee than the tasting notes suggested, too easy to drink at the strength though! The final stout I drank was the impressive 7.4% Russian Rouble, brewed by Flipside Brewery, another very good beer, if a wee bit too sweet for me. I liked them all! 

I had to try the 3 real ciders too, it would have been very poor not to, and quite a few visitors to the beer festival, certainly seemed to be here for the cider, not the ales! Memories of the old Cider Bar in Newton Abbot came to mind, in the days when I first went there and they still had only 3 draught ciders, before their expansion in the 1980s, and, like there then, Geoff had brought in dry, medium and sweet ciders. So a good choice, and all 3 certainly were true rough-ish ciders, one was even called a 'scrumpy', the 'dry' PalmersHayes Kneebender Scrumpy (6%), which, like they all did, did what it said on the label, it was dry and real cider, indeed, very good!

The other 2 were similarly true to their labels, the 'medium' cider, Hancock's Real Devon Cider (6.5%), was also quite dry really, and very nice (I could have drunk this all day if there hadn't been ales to drink). The stronger 'sweet' cider was the cloudier Gwatkin Yarlington Mill Cider (7.5%), which was certainly a wee bit sweetish, but with a nice dry aftertaste. All in all, 3 pretty decent real ciders reminiscent of my years living in the West Country, cheers! 

Anyway, I changed my mind and gave the Derventio Cleopatra (5%) the winners certificate, well, there wasn't a certificate, but you get the meaning... after resting the night and certainly developing, and my directly tasting all the leaders from the day before, it just shaded it from the Niamh's Nemesis (5.7%)in second place; with Deeply Vale Breakfast Stout (4.8%) coming in third, best of the stouts! As regular readers will know, I do like hoppy bitter beers, so this may not surprise them...

An excellent beer festival, indeed, and another will be held very soon at the First In Last Out in Hastings (more to come very soon, as it will be held over the Easter weekend), I shall be able to stand back and make more critical judgement as I'll not be working there, unlike I did at the Bexhill festival, cheers!

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Bexhill Beer Festival Part III (The Early Beers)

Obviously, sampling ales needs some sort of benchmark on which to base your comparison, so the 'unlucky' beer you drink first becomes that baseline mark. I started with the weakest first, it being unfair to drink weaker ales following stronger, more full bodied ales...

On the first day, I only drank pale and medium coloured bitters, leaving the dark beers, the porters and stouts, plus the ciders, 'til the following day, and the baseline was set by Redwillow Headless (3.9%), which I have had before, a bitter dry bitter with fruit and malt in the flavours, not a bad start. Then, another ale I think I've had before, Saltaire Blonde (4%), which uses Czech and German hops, another pale beer in which I detected a hint of wheat, if they don't use wheat malt in this, then the hops confused me! Again, not bad at all, and very different. The third was the only local ale of the festival, incredibly, Dark Star Seville (4%), which, I was assured, by the locals, ain't as good as it used to be (I still have my theory about our tastes changing, remember). Anyway, yep, a fruit flavoured beer, though very subtle, a deep golden bitter, shading it as the best ale so far...

My 4th ale was, and I assure you I wasn't drinking pints of everything, Hopstar Lush (4%) a slightly darker coloured bitter flavoured with Amarillo hops, not bad. The next two were heading upwards from 4%, ie Big Hand First Hand (4.2%), paler, with a biscuit flavour, dry and bitter, and Dancing Duck 22 (4.2%), a slightly darker bitter. Both were very drinkable, but not up to the level of the local ale, Dark Star Seville, which still had the edge for me. 

So, we were now heading towards the stronger ales, where you would expect more flavours, but the next choice disappointed me, especially after everyone else had said how good it is, but it just wasn't to my personal taste, and became my least favourite ale of the festival. This was Hand Drawn Monkey What Would Jephers Do? (4.5%), others loved it, but not for me. The next bitter was much more to my taste, Heavy Industry 77 (4.9%), 2 ales with numbers as names, great for bingo callers, though this was much more interesting to me. Described as a "big amber IPA", which gives it a job to follow up, but it did, plenty of body and a nice dry and bitter finish, it did the job for me, cheers, so now became the leader!

But 2 ales were now coming up on the blind side, both pale and hoppy bitters, but very different! Derventio Cleopatra (5%) was, quite frankly, full of apricots, both in aroma (and the aroma could be detected from a distance!) and in taste. The tasting notes mentioned other fruit, but I only got the apricot, but very refreshing and very nice. The final ale of the session, 5 Towns Niamh's Nemesis (5.7%), did win the day, though, a great dry pale bitter with grapefruit in the aroma and taste, I loved it!

Cheers for now, because, much more to come!  

Saturday 5 April 2014

5th Bexhill Beer Festival 4-6 April 2014 Part II

OK, I've given the early warning re planned ales... only very slightly different, but the 14 seen below, plus 4 upstairs in the Albatross Club, now I've been there... 

Anyway, I've just got home from Bexhill, and some crackin' ales, indeed, were drunk by me earlier this evening! Only 4 to try of the above still, ie the dark ones, the stouts and porters, and 4 upstairs. I shall report further on these after I have slept... But also, some good music too...   

So! Good ales, good music, and I've been assured, good food too, until 9pm, so come to the festival over the weekend, much more good fun to be had with excellent company as well, what's not to like? Cheers!