Saturday, 26 March 2011

Wandsworth Common Beer Festival Spring 2011

On the spur of the moment we decided last night to head out to this beer festival, it was busy and got busier as the night got on but hardly any beers were off on this friday night so perhaps we have cracked the way to success for this lovely festival. Sadly I don't get many days holiday (just the legal minimum *sniff*) so taking a day off just to go to a beer festival isn't going to happen but turning up at 7pm on a friday works well.

Again the lovely Royal Victoria Patriotic Building was the setting, it truely is a beautiful building and on a warm night it is nice to stand in the garden with a drink. Seats were in short supply but that didn't bother folks at all, this festival is popular with all age groups from 18 to 80-odd and has the same mix of the sexes that you get in any pub around here.

We decided to pretty much stick to breweries we hadn't tried before or beers we just hadn't had luck in trying before. Andwell Brewing Company is a new one for both of us and both the beers we tried were top notch, King John 4.6% is a rich fruity beer with very hoppy overtones and the Ruddy Darter 4.6% was a lot like Sarah Hughes Mild but more abv friendly, we will be looking out for their beers in future. From Ascots Ales we tried the Ascot Cob 4.5% which worked although I wasn't initally sure of the idea, it was a soft hazelnutlyness to porter flavours and it worked really well. I tried their Anastasia's Sloe Stout 5.0% which smelt strongly of sloes but taste wise was very subtle, not bitter at all which as anyone who tried made sloe gin will know what I mean by that.

My partner couldn't resist Dark Side of the Moose 4.6% mainly because of the name I suspect, I loved the fact this brewery's barrels were a purple colour. Neither of us had heard of the Purple Moose Brewery in Wales but the beer was nice and again we will look out for them in future, in my case because I would be interested in seeing what their pumpclips are like! Redemption Brewery's Fellowship Porter 5.1% was the best of the porters I tried last night, gorgeous coffee fruitiness that slipped down easily.

The only duff notes of the night for me were that Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild wasn't in good condition, cloudy and a bit socky (end of the barrel maybe, it looked like they had been rocking it) and the Brodies' Romanov Empress Stout had run out but these are minor duff notes and happens at any event.

The beers we had and the atmosphere last night was fantastic so if anyone is free today and is looking for a friendly beer festival, get yourself here.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Hare Raiser – McMullen

ABV 4.0%

This is the latest in seasonals for the McMullen brewery, it is a lovely golden bitter which slips down nicely on a warm spring day. This would be a great pint for a balmy summer’s evening too come to think of it. It’s made according to the McMullen website with one hundred per cent Styrian Golding hops which are the reason for its citrus notes but it is citrusly without being astringent unlike a lot of the lighter beers I have had before in spring.

These lighter beers are not normally my taste at all and usually I just end up avoiding them but so far all the ones I have tried this year have been lighter and less in your face than last year’s versions. While I don’t mind being challenged there is a point where enough is enough, I drink beer generally in a relaxed atmosphere with either a book or with friends. I enjoy the flavour and taste of beer and it doesn’t need to slap me in the face to get my attention. So this type of beer with it’s soft easy going charm is wonderful.

It is a cracker of a beer which I heartily recommend folks try whilst it’s around before like the crème eggs it disappears for the year.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Victoria Tavern – Loughton

This is the best pub as far as I am aware of in Loughton, just nearly bordering Epping Forest. I remember vaguely going to this pub with my parents when years ago we lived around here; it was no children allowed in the bar back then too.

The Victoria Tavern is lovely old fashioned looking pub with a small bar in the middle of a long narrow room. There are five hand pumps offering a selection of beers, on this occasion it was Adnams’ Bitter, Green King IPA, Doombar, Taylor’s Landlord and Black Sheep. The beers we tried were well kept and enjoyable after our long walk in the forest to find Loughton Camp an Iron Age fort. The Black Sheep was especially gorgeous here. They don’t accept cards here which is unusual now but as Loughton High Street with its numerous banks is only a short walk away it’s not a problem. It surprised us how peaceful the pub is despite being very busy and only a five minute walk from the very busy high street.

Food at the Victoria Tavern is outstanding, all the food we saw coming out of the kitchen looked amazing. The hubby had bangers and mash whilst I went for the steak and ale pie with mash however we both saw other dishes we would like to come back here to try. The meals were large enough for our heightened appetite after the 4 mile walk though the forest yet not to large that you would feel intimidated by the portion size.

Good food and beer by the forest, what more could you want on a sunny spring day?

You do have to put up with some daft folks in Loughton and for a very good description there is a great review here on the 20th Feb 2011:

Victoria Tavern
165 Smarts Lane
IG10 4BP

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Why I Like Pubs

By Meer for Beer aged 30-odd years old

Just thought I would write about the good things about pubs instead of reading about pubs closing or going downhill. Pubs are great places when the balance is right, with good management from the landlord who is backed up by a good brewery or just a good landlord in his own freehold.

I like the way that they all have their own personality stamps, well all the nice ones do. Yes, some breweries are ‘upgrading’ their pubs into wine bar type affairs but the ones which are busy day in and day out I have seen are ones that have that independent feel to them. For example The Harp or the Cask Pub & Kitchen in London both have a unique and independent vibe despite being totally different pubs. The Crown in Waltham Abbey is brewery owned but is a more relaxed pub which is different to the other same brewery pubs in the area.

Pubs I go to on a regular basis have good staff and rarely have a duff moment, I like the smile hello you get when you come in the door even if you aren’t a regular and the fact that I can if I want have a coffee in peace without someone’s child under my feet unlike the local cafes. I love being able to sit with a pint and a good book and be left in my own world.

Beer is always served in good condition without any input from me other than asking and paying for it, no storing bottles carefully because of sediment and pouring carefully, just a foaming pint of beer in my hand ready to drink. Brilliant.

Just a few reasons why I like pubs.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Don't Just Think25 but Think!

Flattering as it was on Friday night to be asked for ID to prove I was at least 25 (I'm a good 6 years older than that), it highlights some major problems for the system if you don't carry the correct ID with your date of birth on it.

It is difficult out there for businesses with councils and police using very deceptive traps to catch places serving to underage folks. I understand this but... seriously I don't get asked for ID normally and as such I don't carry my passport around nor a driving licence. The passport is safely hidden away at home for when I need for a holiday and my driving licence is also at home because I only have a learners one which is kept with my folder for lessons.

I was paying with a credit card, it is not a form of ID but to have credit card at still proves I'm old enough to legally drink in this country. If it's not my credit card then there are more serious problems here than underage drinking.

All I ask is that a bit of common sense is applied to the Think25 campaign, which I do consider a good idea in general but it has been reduced to two forms of ID for most places. It appears others have had serious problems with Sainsburys, folks with national ID cards (italian and portguese cards) with photos and date of birth are not accepted, if you don't have a passport or driving licence it's tough.

Last of all, I was the only person stopped with my single bottle of wine. Everyone else was buying multipacks of lager/cider I note none of them were asked on the other tills. I feel sorry for the cashier who had to ask but Friday night is felt like I was a tick box to make sure that she asked someone for ID that night.

On the other hand it did give my partner a bloody good laugh when I told him. He laughed for a solid five minutes.......