Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Giant’s Rest – Wilmington

This is a lovely (and very popular) little pub in the middle of the East Sussex countryside. Good selection of real ales which don’t seem to change much but the choice of Hopback’s Summer Lightning, Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and Harvey Sussex Best are all very well kept, so no complaints there! For those whose tastes aren’t beer related they have an excellent selection of wines and a good selection of soft drinks. Unusually for most pubs we have been in, they are happy to keep on making hot teas and coffees right up until closing time something you rarely see in London.

The food menu is brilliant, my first meal of home cooked ham and bubble & squeak was superb. Lovely thick slices of ham with a side chutney which was spicy and figgy and set off the ham beautifully, they also did the bubble & squeak with local sausages which was really good (these were the sausages used for the B&B's breakfasts as well...lovely!). Main advantage to going to places like this with like minded friends is the fact you can try more dishes and pints and without a hesitation I can say the Giant's Rest's food is superb even the veggie African Sweet Potato & Peanut stew that one friend had looked and tasted gorgeous too, it is really nice to come across a pub which does good meat dishes as well as veggie ones.

They even have two B&B rooms above the pub which are comfortable and have the advantage of getting to enjoy yourselves in the bar for longer and not having to worry about getting home. We had a really nice weekend in Wilmington which is a good base for walking in this part of the country, not that we got much walking in due to the heavy snowfall and ice which was everywhere.

Be warned though, this is a real food pub with tables booking up fast especially for Sunday lunchtime so if you are just popping in for a pint you may find it a tad crowded around the bar. In fairness I don’t consider this a fault; a busy pub is more likely to keep going than one which is empty. Even though we were staying there we had to book our dinner tables but the staff did inform us that this would be the case and reserved the tables for us. The staff here couldn’t be more helpful, cheerful and knowledgeable about the pub’s menu. Even in busy times they are fast and efficient making the place even more enjoyable.

The whole weekend and the pub were a great joy, can’t wait to return!

The Giant's Rest
The Street
Wilmington (near Polegate)
East Sussex
BN26 5SQ
Website: www.giantsrest.co.uk

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Oh Where 'O My Beero?

Just where has Young's Christmas Pudding ale gotten too?

I have been searching for this one for most of the month, managed to get a couple of bottles last year from a small shop but so far this year it has not been spotted. Has it been discontinued as part of the Wells-Youngs changes, don't know, not even a mention of it being discontinued on their websites.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Nethergate – Essex Beast

ABV 6.2%

And what a beast this is!

When placed on the bar fresh from being pumped it has a terrific head which soon settles into a slightly brown froth, it is a dark pint with those rich ruby red highlights when lifted to the light. It is brewed with chocolate malt according to the Nethergate website and this can be smelt in the moreish toffee/coffee scent of the pint.

Onwards to the best bit, the taste! It is a pretty full on pint this one, packed full of flavour. One really important thing to note about this beer is the ABV which is reasonably strong but it doesn’t taste it at all. It is very drinkable, dangerously so. The toffee really does come though tempered with that bitter coffee flavour drawing it out nicely and unlike Wadworth’s 6X it doesn’t finish with a sweet toffee but a bitter toffee which makes it especially nice and warming in wintertime. Some strong tasting beers I can manage perhaps a pint and whilst really enjoying it won’t have another as it is too much, Essex Beast is different, I would more than happily drink a second. This is a fantastic beer and I certainly look forward to seeing it again.

For more information: http://www.nethergate.co.uk/

Monday, 14 December 2009

Seasonal Cheer?

I know that a lot of beer blogs out there have been bemoaning the Christmas beers and sadly I have to agree. The last couple of years it has been difficult to source them in bottle or cask form and increasingly we only see a small percentage of them in our pubs. The ones we do see are ones which are similar to the other ales on tap; I guess this is a business decision to sell what they know sells. There are some cracking ones out there but the lack of them in the pub removes a small part of the magic of the season for me.

Whacking up the ABV not a seasonal ale make, is a lesson I would like to see taken to heart. Fuller’s have heeded this with Jack Frost, which I tried for the first time this year and I really enjoyed the subtle seasonal-ness of this beer and it has an added bonus of a lowish ABV (for Christmas beers) means that it can be enjoyed for more than two pints if desired. But majority of seasonal beers we see in the pubs are well done if normal beers, slightly stronger but nothing about them particularly says Christmas in neither smell nor taste. For example I tried Tom Wood’s Christmas Cheer and Nethergate’s Frank Incensed this weekend and whilst really enjoyable they weren’t Christmassy. I wouldn’t be upset to be given a pint of either of these but they just don’t spell out the seasonal magic.

However it is not all gloom, I see from the copy of London Drinker that there are more different Christmas beers to try than the ones I have seen. I guess the upshot is to taste those beers which make you think of Christmas and look forward to the next year means we the drinkers, are going to have to get used to planning and research our seasonal quaffing.

So let raise a glass to the potential and go and find it!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Joseph Holt of Manchester – Maplemoon

ABV 4.8%

Despite the colouring and scent this ale remains me a lot of some of the darker lagers out there, not a bad thing, as the ones I am thinking of are excellent in their own right. Very easy drinking ale and I have the feeling that on a summer’s day and slightly chilled this would be a sheer pleasure to go along a bbq with friends. As winter time goes, it works well with sweeter chocolate so I would recommend having this on hand for those chocolate selection boxes that are so popular at this season. My fear was this was going to be too sweet with the maple as most maple influenced drinks I have tried ignore the dry maple flavour and go straight for the sweet side but rest assured while it is a sweet ale but not that sweet with the malts and hops rounding it off nicely. The maple comes though but as the sweetish top note and the dry finish which makes this quite a moreish ale.

Looks-wise the ale pours nicely out of the bottle with a dry sweet note from the maple coming though the light hoppy scent of the beer. A good rich head which settles down to light foaming in the glass and the colour is a medium golden-ish brown which looks appealing too.

This was my first time of trying beers from the Holt brewery and with this as an indicator I will be trying to source a few more bottles from them soon.

For more information http://www.joseph-holt.com/

Moorhouse – Black Cat

ABV 3.4%

I have to confess to enjoying all of Moorhouse’s beers I have tried, quite happy to work my way merrily down a line of them as I did at the Wandsworth Common Halloween Ale Festival a couple of months ago. However I do have a soft spot especially for this one, it lovely for a session drink due to its low abv but it is also packed with taste.

Smoky burnt chocolate nib taste which finishes with a light bitter end which lingers well. Not tried this from a bottle as luckily for me as one of the pubs near my partner seems to have it quite regularly and as a cask beer it works beautifully. It doesn’t retain a head for long, normally disappearing before you even finish paying for the pint but that is not necessarily a bad thing, I don’t buy for the foam but for the pint after all. Considering this is a mild it is very dark in colour with the usual ruby red hints when lifted to the light and this can lead to some confusion if people assume this is a stout type affair if you are getting them random ale in a round. However I do make it my goal to get more people trying this, after the confusion most have succumbed to its subtle charm.

For more information: http://www.moorhouses.co.uk/

Fullers – Jack Frost

ABV 4.5%

Very surprised I liked this, normally I dislike fruit beers intensely but here the blackberries enhanced the beer rather than being the focus of the pint. The brewery website describes it as having a ‘dash of blackberries’ which unlike the way of fruit beers this one is not sweet (or sickly as I prefer to call it) but dry and works really well with the hoppy bitterness which develops.

The pint itself is a beautiful rich red-brown colour with a good head and a lovely malty toffee smell on it. I love the way that the fruit doesn’t whack you around the taste buds but instead you have to hunt for it yourself only to find it was here all along entwined with the other flavours. Gorgeous and I recommend you try this before it disappears at the end of January; it is certainly one I will be keen to try again and again.

For more information: http://www.fullers.co.uk

The Antelope - Tooting

Turns out this pub is owned by the same brand who owns the Tramshed which is also in Tooting, what a difference. The Antelope is a really superb pub, nicely situated up the road from the tube station and well designed to fill out on a busy night without becoming too crowded or awkward to move around. With four pumps for real ale always on it, makes a nice change from the usual Wells-Youngs selection normally found in the High Street here. On Saturday we had a choice of Sambooke’s Wandle, Sharp’s Doom Bar, Adnam’s Suffolk Bitter and George Gale’s HSB, all of which were nicely kept. The Wandle needed changing part way though the afternoon but this was done efficiently and fast so that it wasn't off for very long, one of the signs of a perfectly run bar.

The building has had a bit of a refurb since it's days as Jack Beards, as said above it is well designed. The toilets are designed well for both sexes and I have to say full marks for them for cleaniness! Bright, airy building with music kept at a low level so people don't have to yell at their partner across the table. I don't go to pubs to listen to music and it is great to see a pub which gets this. The Antelope's decor is pleasant if bland but they have made the most of the space with a large back area which doubles as the dining area with it's own bar.

As we are on the subject of the bar, let’s look at the staff here; polite and fast would be a good description and each time we have come here they are the same. They may chat to each other but they do keep an eye for people who want serving whilst also keeping the bar clean and well stocked. This is at odds with the Selkirk which is another pub in Tooting I like going to, but the staff members there tend to flock to one end of the bar and chat away not noticing people who are waiting to be served.

The Antelope’s food is excellent, not had a bad meal here yet. If you order something which turns out to be finished they do come up to you promptly to help you chose something else which is great. One downside however is the lack of hot veggie food, whilst neither I or my partner is vegetarian it does mark this as a pub that I can’t recommend to mates who are. The bar food on Saturday only had one good hot option for veggies and their menu is very meat based. Having said that, the bar menu is nice value for money with a nice selection (for meat eaters), the pie and mash I had was very tasty and the mash was freshly made whilst my partner’s hot dog turned out to be a bratwurst and very filling. We haven't eaten here in the evening yet but the Sunday lunches are really well done. The beef was cooked just the way I like, rare in the middle with a nice lot of roast potatoes and the red cabbage give a really nice bite to the meat.

This is a pub which we will keep on returning to and one that I hope will give the other pubs a nice friendly competition. Something I like to see as it keeps them ALL on their toes and that is good for us customers.

The Antelope
76 Mitcham Rd
SW17 9NG