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Saturday 18 October 2014

Current Hastings Beer Festival Tasting Notes!

So, having visited the FILO Hastings Week Beer Festival (still on until tomorrow, though I can't see all ales still being available tomorrow!), here are my early-ish tastings notes of the 12 ales I already referred to a couple of blogs ago! First, I should say that I would be happy drinking any of these ales if the others weren't present, but I am going to put them in preferential order, of course, or I wouldn't be me... 

'Pale Ales' - Skinner's River Cottage (4%) uses Cascade hops, is quite light and easy to drink, with a dry aftertaste I couldn't quite work out, not bad at all. 
Whitstable East India Pale Ale (4.1%), another pale hoppy ale that would be happily consumed by me all day, not so bad either! 
Caveman Prehistoric Amber (4.5%), described by the brewer as being an "atypical pale ale", and with a definite roasted malt flavour in there, I wasn't so sure at first, but then, as it went down, I came to enjoy the aftertaste!   

Not-so pale - Rudgate Battleaxe (4.2%) uses East Kent Goldings and Challenger hops, and is a decent chestnut coloured bitter, slightly malty and with a nutty aftertaste. 
Hanlons (I'm sure they used to be called O'Hanlons!?!) Copper Glow (4.2%) uses Phoenix, Willamette and Cluster hops, is copper coloured, too sweet for me though... 
Bespoke Running the Gauntlet (4.4%), another slightly sweet malty beer, but with a hint of roasted barley and dry aftertaste, not bad. 
Loddon Russet (4.5%), with Slovenian Styrian Goldings and Fuggles hops and multi-grain, a "red" ale that has a lovely aroma I couldn't quite fathom out what is so nice about it! Very interesting at first taste, quite complex mix of flavours with a nice dry finish, really easy to drink, but I felt there wasn't really anything to stand out in the end, very strange, complex to rate this bitter, but not bad!?!  

Runners Up - Oakham JHB (3.8%), no need to say much about this excellent session bitter from the ever-dependable Oakham Ales, it started as my bench-mark for the tasting! Pale golden bitter using Mount Hood and Challenger hops, refreshing and fruity with a dry crisp bitter finish, I love it! 
Orkney Dragonhead (4%), which is a stout and a half despite the low gravity strength! Uses Goldings hops, and is a very very dark black stout (probably the darkest I've ever seen!), with much body, roasted barley++ and a dry bitter aftertaste. Quality stout! 
Triple fff Rock Lobster (5.0%), named after the B52s song, uses Australian Ella and Galaxy hops and is a deep copper colour. It is a bitter, though with a dark berry flavour and aroma, and finishes dry, I really liked this! 
Rudgate York Chocolate Stout (5.0%) uses Challenger hops and is a very complex dark ale, not as chocolatey as the Youngs and Saltaire Brewery versions of chocolate stouts, but not bad at all. You get a lotta beer!

And the first prize goes to (regular readers will not be surprised with my choice) Oakham Citra (4.2%), though they do brew even better ales! The hop's in the name, obviously, and described as having "grapefruit, lychee and gooseberry aromas", well I always get the in your face grapefruit! Pale golden, fruity, with a dry refreshing bitter finish, if this was the only ale left in the World, I could cope, cheers!  

Friday 17 October 2014

London Beer Flood 1814

Today is the 200th anniversary of the little known London Beer Flood that happened close by what is now the Dominion Theatre, on the 17th of October 1814 (though some reports record this tragedy to have been on the 16th, the evidence to support the 17th looks to be more voracious). 

In those days, London drinkers were supplied by dozens of competing breweries, and competition saw some of them build enormous vats in which to ferment and condition their ales. The enormous porter vat of the Maux & Company had a capacity of over a million pints! At about 6pm, on this day, 200 years ago, one of the steel restraining bands that enveloped the vat broke and released the contents of the vat. Together with this million plus pints of porter, other vessels in the brewery released more beer into the flood too. The resulting deluge damaged the brewery and a nearby pub, the Tavistock Arms, and flooded the basements of nearby homes.   

Sadly, depending on which reports you read, between 7 and 9 people died as a direct result of the flood, most drowning in their own basements, and many more were seriously injured, including some of those who came to help rescue survivors. 

Some may joke "what a way to go!" But I say R.I.P. to those who died... 

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Another Beer Festival in Hastings starts on Thursday!

Yes really, another wee beer festival, this time in the restaurant area, ie the room down at the back of the First In Last Out (FILO); which is an event for Hastings Week 2014 (today being the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings). The FILO is in the High Street, Hastings 'old town' (website). The beer festival starts on Thursday evening (16th October) and ends on Sunday 19th October, though I wouldn't put too much money on many festival ales remaining by then. 

Ales at the festival are session ales and stronger, dark and pale, from the North and South, and from East and West, you've got it, there really is no theme other than a variety of different ales for Hastings Week! From the North and far-North (Scotland) come Rudgate Battleaxe (4.2%) and Chocolate Stout (5%) and Orkney Dragon Head Stout (4%). From over to the West there will be Skinners River Cottage (4%), O'Hanlons Copper Glow (4.2%) and Bespoke Running the Gauntlet (4.4%).

We'll be universally challenged by ales from the counties of Cambridge and Oxford, 2 of my old favourites from Oakham Ales JHB (3.8%) and the single hopped Citra (4.2%) and Loddon Russet (4.5%). Then from closer to home in Hampshire and Kent will be Triple fff Rock Lobster (5%), Caveman Prehistoric Amber (4.5%) and Whitstable Brewery East India Pale Ale (4.1%). Hard to imagine a more eclectic choice of ales! 

Of course, in the bar will also be a selection of ales from the pub's own microbrewery, ie the FILO Brewing Company at Hastings Old Town Brewery. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to it, cheers! 


Monday 13 October 2014

Promenading in Hastings...

Only a short stroll along the seafront, in the sunshine, from The America Ground to the bottom of London Road, St Leonards, and I found 3 bars that sell real ale, at prices mostly cheaper than the town centre, ie at £3.20-£3.50 a pint, nice!

Almost immediately I start walking, below the Grade II listed, late Victorian, 'gothic' Palace Court (star of the vampire film Byzantium, which I still haven't seen), I reach the Pig in Paradise, which changed hands earlier this year. I didn't eat at either of these establishments on the day, and they all serve food, but the Pig also has regular 'comedy club' nights, and music, a recent gig saw The Lambrettas playing! 

In addition, they have 2-4 real ales available, always an ale from the East Sussex brewer Long Man, and regularly a more common beer like Wychwood Hobgoblin or Sharps Doom Bar. On this visit I had the Long Man Best Bitter (4%), which was very pleasant, I do like their ales, as recently discussed. They also have a huge range of bottled beers, including 'craft' beers, eg from Meantime Brewery,  BrewDog and many American beers, and not a few Belgian beers either! They also sell a crafty keg from Long Man, ironically (to me) called Crafty Blonde (4.1%).

Next stop was the regular CAMRA Good Beer Guide entry, the bar of the White Rock Hotel, with its fine balconies looking out onto the seafront and pier. Here, one is blessed with a choice of 4 Sussex-brewed real ales, on this visit including the ubiquitous Harveys Sussex Best, Rother Valley Golden Valley, and Dark Star Hophead and The Art of Darkness, a pleasant easy to drink 3.5% deep dark red bitter with loadsa hops used. I do understand how they make these dark hoppy 'pale ales', but it's still an oxymoron, and still I'm always amazed at the flavours coming through from the hops... I do like this ale!  

My final port of call was in-between Warrior Square Gardens and London Road, St Leonards, the Gecko Bar & Bistro, 22 Grand Parade, which also has regular music, and which is a very recent find for me, though David, the licensee, assured me he's been here for 2 years now! Anyway, beers, in addition to the one real ale they have available, which David is planning to increase to two, and we had a bit of a chat about this, they sell a couple of BrewDog beers on draft. OK, crafty kegs, indeed, but BrewDog do know how to get the best out of the hops for their Punk IPA (5.6%), though a bit more costly at £4.60 a pint, though I've seen it for much more.

The Gecko Bar has an ale from Long Man as its regular, and it looks like it should be their excellent 4.2% bitter, Copper Hop, for some time to come now, and what a good choice too, though I'm looking forward to seeing what other ales may be appearing in the future, cheers! 

Sunday 5 October 2014

Ales @ the Welsh Beer Festival in Putney...

As per my last blog, sorry I'm taking so long these days, I seem to have more obligations than I used to! Anyway, I made 2 visits to The Bricklayers Arms (website) over the weekend, and had quite a fun time, though with family obligations, I couldn't drink too much, which was probably just as well...

For those who haven't read my previous reports on The Bricklayers, it is, as my brother says, my "local pub in Putney". Sometimes I visit, and there are hardly any ales available from their 10 handpumps, but on other visits, like last weekend, they had approximately 100 ales on stillage, with most of them in their beer garden (some of them in the photograph below), and more on handpump inside, or waiting to be connected up in the cellar, 'twas good, though, sadly, nothing from Tiny Rebel Brewery, shame! Anyway, I only drank 11 of them (which meant I missed out on nearly 90!), mostly half-pints, a few pints, and a few repeated that I particularly enjoyed, but I'll start with the ones that come at the bottom of my list and work my way up... 

OK, so scoring at the 'average' scale, to begin with, came a pale golden bitter with a hint of cider, being a bit tart, and from a VERY new brewery (so they have time to improve), Tomos a Linford Cmrw Canu (4%). Next, slightly above average, was the 4.3% Jacobi Red Squirrel, dry, with a hint of roasted barley and nutty aftertaste. 9th was Pixie Spring Deliverance (4.5%) an "American style pale ale", very dry and bitter, but I was disappointed there was less grapefruit in the taste than I expected! Then came Grey Trees Diggers Gold (4%), more US hops, a golden bitter and very subtle citrus aroma and taste. 

Then came a 'black IPA', and from Brains too, not usually my favourite brewer, I have to admit, but this wasn't bad! Their Black Mountain (5%) does what it says on the label, though a very deep red in colour actually, roasted barley aroma, plenty of body, bitter with a dry aftertaste. Then, from Caffle, came a paler ale, Darker Side of Pale (4.4%), nearly a bronze colour, not much aroma, but decent bitter. In fifth place was the unfined Axiom New Dawn (4.2%), clearer than I thought it would be, and a pretty good pale golden bitter too. Next was Big Hand Havoc (5%), pretty good, though it tasted nothing like the tasting notes, being very dry with a hint of roasted barley in the flavour, not like an APA at all! 

The top 3 were all very good, and my scoring was finely balanced, but... drum roll... in third, I put Otley APA (4.3%), not labelled as a rye beer, but my tasting notes say it is, with a hint of elderflower too, nice one! In second, with a lovely fruity aroma and dry aftertaste, came the very good 4.5% Celt Double Dose, but my winner, of not much more than a 10% sample of all the ales remember, was the Borough Neath Full Blast... A fruity aroma, I got plum as well as citrus, and very dry and bitter, I did like this 4.7% ale, cheers!