Wednesday, 31 March 2010

April’s Bunny Beers

Ah, the sometimes sunny month of April. It’s that time of year when chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate is ok for you eat with the excuse of Easter Eggs to use up. Wonderful month in itself which can only be improved with more cheery beer, so here is again a brief monthly round up of beers that are out for this spring month;

Gales’ Festival Mild 4.8%
Shepherd Neame’s Dragonfire 4.5%
Hook Norton’s 303AD 4.0%
Adnam’s Extra Special Bitter 4.3%
Hogs Back’s Spring Ale 4.0%
Moorhouse’s George’s Cross 4.4%
Titanic Brewery’s English Glory 4.5%
Loddon Brewery’s Gorgeous George 4.3%

Not had much luck myself in trying a lot of the monthly beers but this situation can only get better now my financial situation has improved. I like seasonal beers as they are as fun to find as they are to drink.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Wandsworth Common Beer Festival

This was a slight letdown for me, admittedly I had been looking forward to this because last year’s event was really good, so my mental build-up was part of the disappointment but the lack of beers probably did it more. We guessed that there were going to be a few beers off when on entry we got an extra sheet of new beers sourced for Saturday & Sunday. However in the extra line-up there was a new brewery and a couple of favourites such as Ballard’s Wassail and Sambrook’s popular Wandle so it was looking good although we were a bit worried about which beers would be off.

On entry I got my free half token and wandered off to the bar to order Hogs Back’s ‘A over T’ as I like to start with the strongest beer I fancy from the line-up when go down the scale to the weaker ones. I wasn’t disappointed at all with this one, strong and sweet with a lovely long finish, gorgeous and better than the Thomas Sykes I tried last year. A friend ordered the Sarah Hughes’ Dark Ruby Mild and that really does deserve its reputation as a great festival beer and one that has gone on my list of trusted must tries for events. I am awaiting payday so I can get in a few bottles of these bottles for those self indulgent moments at home although so far I can’t see where to get the Dark Ruby Mild but Hogs Back’s online shop is now a bookmarked page!

The disappointment started when I went up for my second beer of the day, unfortunately due to space issues they didn’t remove a lot of the empty barrels so a typical conversation with the beer staff ran as below;

Me: ‘Can I have half of Old Slug Porter please?’
Staff: ‘Sorry, it’s gone’
Me: ‘Not a problem, I’ll have a half of Midnight Sun Porter then’
Staff: ‘Off again I’m afraid’
Me: ‘Comfortably Numb?’ (Desperate here with a small pleading note in my voice)
Staff: ‘Er…no, sorry’ (I was feeling very sorry for this poor guy)
Me: ‘Shepherd Neame’s Ghost?’
Staff: ‘Yes! We have that’

The staff were great and very helpful but there is only so much good bar staff can do when you are running out of beer even before 1pm on a Saturday. Partly I realise I will have some problem at a Spring Beer Festival as I do prefer darker beers and Spring is the time for lighter brews but the amount of beers were out was by 4pm becoming a joke.

The festival must have realised this was an issue by sourcing new beers quickly for Saturday and Sunday but a fair few were going for ones they really wanted to try because of the advertising, the suggested ladders should have been removed from the bars because they were impossible to do with the amounts gone. They did do printouts for bar listing beers off but beers were running out faster than they could update it.

The Shepherd Neame's Ghost was a lovely smooth stout which I am assuming is called something else as I can't see a stout called Ghost on their website yet. The Manx Pride was very citrusly so much so it shook you awake type rather than the hint of citrus suggested on the tasting notes which would make it a nice pint for a hot summer's afternoon.

From the new brewery Art Brew there was some interesting beers, the Tempest Stout was really spot on, big taste with a lovely long finish. The vanilla beer originally drew the attention of all three of the people I came with but when we first came in it hadn’t settled yet so it wasn’t until later on in the afternoon that we could try it when my partner got it as his next. If it worked then it would have been a interesting taste experience but the so-called ibeer was like taking a sip of a vanilla car freshener, it give amusement to my friend as my face was apparently a picture, serves me right for nicking a sip of someone’s else’s drink without asking whilst they nipped off to the toilets. Of course we shared the ‘joy’ around the table, just too strong on the vanilla and reminded everyone why you don’t make shandy with cream soda. My partner liked their Art Nouveau but it was a tad bitter for me but then I do find that with very hoppy beers with a low abv, however he has said that he would happily drink this as a session beer. Sadly we couldn’t try the Renaissance beer as that was off.

We did enjoy ourselves at the Beer Festival but it was nice to head back down the Falcon and order a beer and actually get your first choice. I am guessing that the success of this year's event caught them by surprise hence the problems we even got the same glasses as last October’s ones last year so they ran out of glasses too!

I know you don’t go for the glass but it is a nice keepsake… *sniff*

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Pre-Wandsworth Beer Festival Review

I, like many others have been receiving emails from the folks at the Wandsworth Beer Festival to remind us of the event which starts today. The positive advertising that they have employed thoughout is really nice. The emails are enough to make you look forward to the event, this is a hard balance to achieve so well done there. So, to get one yesterday wasn't a great surprise but I have won free entry and a free half pint now that was a surprise.

I like surprises like that..... need more of them.

Unfortunately I have started a new job which means that I just have the crappy holiday allowance which you are entitled to by law so I really can't afford to have today and Friday off to enjoy this festival in full. However this is just building up my excitement for Saturday so I will have to practice patience and wait for then... Can't wait! :)

Monday, 22 March 2010

Wheatsheaf - Waltham Abbey


We have been going to this pub on and off for the last five years but ever since the previous landlord left it has been going down hill at a rate of knots. Actually, I think since the good landlord left they have had a couple of others in, of course this could explain some of the problems like staff members and cellar quality. With a large garden with play area it is a real draw for families especially in summer, whilst I don't like children running around in a pub I can see that for many pubs the money drawn in though sales of children's drinks and food is a welcome sight for pubs in the current financial situation. It also used to be one of the few good pubs which do food on the weekends in Waltham Abbey hence we used it a lot for seeing friends for lunch or dinner or for taking relatives out.

However if they keep on dragging down the quality than this cash cow will be a dead horse instead. The last few times we have been meals have been burnt and tough as old boots from sitting under a hot lamp for too long or like the ham I had this weekend, just defrosted via a microwave leaving the food with a soggy unappealing texture. They could learn a few lessons from other pubs or even the Weatherspoons in Waltham Cross than keep on going the way they are. The food improves for one weekend then heads straight back down, when you are spending money as a group on food and drinks then this is really not good. We actually worked out that we would have a cheaper bill by waiting for the local indian to open and go there, plus we would be almost 100% guarenteed for having a good meal unlike the pub at present.

Staff are rude and are more interested in chatting to their friends than serving, with no clear management it has gotten worse each and every time we have gone in there. I have no problems with slow service in busy periods but when you have ten people in a big pub and what looks like a full rota of staff I don't expect to be waiting for twenty minutes. The barman who finally broke off from his conversation with his mates after twenty minutes to serve me acted like he was a three year old child being made to be polite to a visiting aunty, then wandered off for five minutes to get another member of staff from the kitchen to serve me so he could go back to chatting to his mates. Charming...not.

This weekend was the final straw and quite frankly it is the last time I will be heading into this pub and a letter has now gone off to the brewery.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Quit Hogging!

We have all done it, arrange to meet in the pub and hold onto a table waiting for friends to arrive but come on…. trying to hold onto two tables for over two hours waiting for your friends to turn up is not on.

You do not ‘own’ the tables or chairs and quite frankly if you are trying to hold onto tables without booking the area with the landlord then it is tough luck when people sit at the other table ignoring your moans and whines. You aren’t entitled to the area after all and it is quite anti-social to do it.

If you all really want to meet in a busy pub for a drink then how about the main bulk of you turn up together? It’s not hard to do, heck even I can manage to herd into turning up roughly at the same time.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Well, That’s My Birthday Present List Sorted!

Pub and book vouchers only in my cards this year please!

Rather than reading about it I actually overheard this on the television last night as I was reading and a brief look-see on the interwebs has revealed I wasn’t going mad but it is a real promotion. I have long been a fan of book tokens as a big reader ever since my first one at the tender age of about eight years old, so the thought of pub vouchers sounds a wonderful idea to me.

This is one of the better ideas I have seen for helping pubs increase their trade. I can see a few people buying these vouchers for relatives or friends they have no idea what to buy for as vouchers always seem a little better than just giving money in a card.

From the 12th of November this year ‘over a thousand’ pubs will be accepting these vouchers, although at the moment I can’t find a list of the breweries or pubs actively involved. However the reports do mention Tangle Foot beer so fingers crossed that means Hall-Woodhouse are doing the voucher scheme.

I look forward to seeing how this goes.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I'm Getting Married In The Morning

Well, not quite……

However by the end of the year I will indeed be a Mrs and this leads me to the beer related point. Our wedding whilst the ceremony is not being held in a pub nor a brewery (although that would have been pretty cool) the reception is a pub. Years ago folks thought it was a bit down market to have a reception in a pub but this is not the case anymore. There are pubs to match budgets and styles of any kind; this is especially true in London. Pricing can vary so much depending on brewery, location and whether you have exclusive hire. The pubs themselves can vary a bit too; you have the choice between a simple countryside pub and something a lot grander depending on whereabouts you look.

In London some of the pubs in the banking areas are shut on weekends yet are happy to open for your wedding if you guarantee a minimum spend. And this great for credit-crunched brides & grooms out there, you can really come up trumps by looking at this option. One of the best parts of pub receptions are you can do a spot of “do it yourself mystery shopping” if you like. You will know that the food quality is going to be good and the drinks a good price because you can try them at different times by wandering in there for a meal together as a couple. Staff appearance and attitude can be seen and general goings on looked at. This is different from venues where you can get a small idea but not in so much detail as you can with a venue that is open to public.

Fullers are the brewery which got my vote as did many of their pubs in London. In the end only one place could win and as it is a week day opening pub it meant we could claim the whole pub for our reception. The landlady has been very helpful and offered us some ideas we hadn’t thought of before, so far she has really made the process a lot smoother for my partner and I. To be honest I am looking forward to having fun and merriment with my family and friends with a glass of something special at a reception which is personalised to us. It will be a great day!

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Fog - Earlsfield

Hidden in a back street nearby Earlsfield station there is treasure disguised as a pub, The Fog is one of those places that you don’t ever seem to find out about unless it is by luck. It is a Jack Beards which I don’t find a problem unlike a few people, when they are run well they are good pubs. They had on two beers on pump which were the usual Youngs Bitter and the unusual Theakston’s Mild, the last one was a bit of surprised and a pleasant one. The beers were all well kept which is better than the Half-Way House manages these days.

The pub itself has a weird design, with a public bar, saloon bar and a meals room which contained the pool table. Apparently there is, according to Beer in the Evening a private bar, which can’t be reached though the others but goodness knows where that one was. It is one of the oddest pubs I have been in, almost like stepping into a time warp in a way, prices are more like the ones in my local outside London rather than a pub sitting in zone three. You do get a sense of this is a pub for local people when you first walk in but this is soon gone.

A charming place to visit, bizarre but certainly worth going back to.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Mad March’s Brews

Lovely weather we are having this time of year so far… rain, snow, wind and sunshine often in the same day. So this is my round up of some of the seasonal beers that are out for this time of the year;

The Loddon Brewery’s Hare Brained 4.0%
Greene King’s Hare Raiser 4.1%
Little Valley Brewery’s Pontus Hebanus 4.0%
Hook Norton Brewery’s First Light 4.3%
Arundel Brewery’s Sussex Giant 5.0%
Brakspear’s Henley Bridge 4.0%
Tom Wood’s Lincolnshire Legend 4.2%
Harvey’s Porter 4.8%
Wychwood Brewery’s Paddy’s Tout 4.3%

Surprisingly there aren’t too many hare ones although at the moment any hares will be using armbands to keep their heads above water!

Edited to add we found another last night, Downton's Mad Hare, which my partner tried.