Friday, 28 September 2012

Running On Beer Again...

It is that time of year when you finally find out if you have got a ballot place in the VLM or as most know it the London Marathon and finally after three attempts (and I know many have attempted for longer) I have got in.

I received the Congratulations magazine yesterday and after my initial 'MEEP' thoughts, started to tell everyone. My fee has been paid, running plan downloaded and trainers are ready to go from half marathon distance to full. Of course this means running over the festive period but hopefully getting that long long run of 22 before snow fall in March but I'm positive and feeling good about getting to take part in this iconic race.

My time is estimated at 4.10 hours, wish me luck folks!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Parsnip Stout

3.5 lb. Parsnips
1 Gallon Water
1oz. Hops
0.5 lb. Malt Extract
1Tablespoon Caramel Gravy Browning (apparently liquid gravy browning is just caramel..who knew?)
1.25 lb. Demerara Sugar

Scrub the parsnips, slice roughly to half inch pieces and place into boiling water with the hops and caramel colouring, boil for 20 minutes.
Strain onto the malt extract and sugar, stir well to dissolve and then allow to cool to 70F, then add the yeast, cover  and leave for 7 days.
Then siphon into bottles.

Yes, it's a bit Good Life but well the government suggests that we have five portions of fruit and veg so......

The interesting parts of home brewing books for me is the more unusual recipes, these are usually under the heading mock beer despite containing hops and the other bits I would associate with real beer. It is interesting What was considered brewable back then, just goes to prove that there is nothing under the sun, all the 'new' beer ideas have been done in one form or another, it's just they are being remade for our tastes. A small tweak on the old recipe after all.

I will be brewing soon, although my quantities will be smaller than most due to space but for the present I'm back to reading the books and enjoying a small glimpse at the past.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Great Orme Brewery's Welsh Black

4.0% abv

I would describe this as a mild, but it pours very flat and despite my best efforts I couldn't raise more than a lacing on the glass which disappeared very fast, leaving behind a dark chocolate coloured pint.

Whilst I enjoyed this beer it is very thin in the mouth, which is due to the abv and lack of carbonation in the beer. However the coffee notes though are lovely which must be from all the malts they use to make this beer and it has a long bitter chocolate finish but there was just something about it that just didn't work for me, could be I had some poorly stored bottles (brought online) but it just was a bit off.

All in all it is a good mild but the Merlyn from this brewery which has more caught my fancy.

Sambrooks Birthday Bash 2012

It's hard to believe that on this rainy, windy and miserable Monday morning that Saturday was a glorious sun filled blue sky day with only a hint of autumnal chill in the air.

But glorious it was, with live music from Dr Bluegrass, piggy goodness from Ginger Pig and beer from Sambrooks.

Dr Bluegrass
Luckily I had won tickets from the Sambrooks Twitter competition for hubby and I, although the fee of £10 was rather good as this included three and half pints of beer, not to be sniffed at I'm sure most of you will agree! Held again at the brewery in Battersea it was only a short bus ride for us to arrive at the door after lunch at a local cafe.

Unlike last year the only beer was Sambrooks own, this was fine by us, last year the only disappointing beer we had were from the guest beers. The hubby was pleased that they had the Lavender Hill beer on, it was one of the few beers we haven't tried and it fast became his favourite of the day. As honey beers go it has a lighter flavour than most, it didn't have any waxy taste and just the tang of honey dryness. This meant it was more rounded than alot of honey beers we have tried, unlike say Fullers Honeydew or the old Youngs' Waggledance, it wasn't just about the honey but the hops and malts came though too. Lovely.

Last year my favourite beer was the Powerhouse Porter and whilst still a lovely beer, this year it was Junction that became my favourite with a warm toasty note to it this year. The only point and niggle of the day wasn't anything that can be controlled by the brewery but more some individuals, if you spill some drink on another person then don't stand there and just talk louder, say sorry. Manners don't cost anything!

The surprise for us this year was the introduction of Pale Ale on keg, this came in a special glass but unlike many Sambrooks avoided the 'chalice effect' that has hit many a brewery, opting for a standard pint glass. The glass is designed on the similar technology for the newer champagne glasses, it is designed to keep the fizz so I know that some won't like the fact its on keg but the market is there for this version. Personally I liked it, yes its cold and fizzy but far more importantly it has a lot of flavour and I felt it works well and on a hot summers day (we may get some of those next year, you never know!) it would be a good addition to any bar.

The day was another fantastic event by Sambrooks, I'm hoping these come a yearly regular event.

In the words of Withnail and I, "I seem to have gone on a brewery tour by mistake!"

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Great Orme Brewery's Merlyn

4.9% abv

According to their website this is the strongest beer they brew, it certainly is a lovely beer.

It pours lively and settles into a warm dark coppery pint with a fluffy top, very attractive and I would love to take up the suggestion of drinking it by an open fire in a pub. Maybe one day...

The beer itself is more a sipper, despite its strength not being that high (by modern standards), it has a big mouthfeel, initially quite sweet but mellows out with a long dry bitter finish. Despite your slow sipping you will find yourself getting to the bottom of the glass and wondering where it went, it is a cracker!

It is a shame whilst on holiday I missed this brewery on pump a few times with the clips just being turned around as I approached the bar so I'm glad that we got a couple of beers whilst we were in Conwy.

For more info:

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Liverpool Organic Beers

It was on our last day in Chester that we came across Liverpool Organics beer, the bar had just the two beers in bottles and so as there was only two of us we thought that this was meant to be.

Hubby jumped in first with his order and so got the stout (rats!);

Kitty Wilkinson Stout 4.5% abv

Initially neither of us liked this beer because it was served ice cold rather than the recommended chilled on the bottle. When this cold all we could taste was bitter chocolate and what I can only describe as a vanilla chapstick mushed into the beer. This was the fault of the bar for practically freezing the beer in their fridges.

However...... once the beer warmed up, it was gorgeous.

The chapstick effect melted into a chocolately vanilla stout which was coupled with a long roasted cocoa bean finish. Despite its lower abv it coated the tongue and wouldn't let go, truely a lovely beer. For me it ranks up there with Rogue's Double Chocolate stout as I didn't get the coffee nor butterscotch notes that are suggested on the brewery website.

My beer was the Shipwreak IPA at 6.5% abv

This beer was again served freezing cold but fared better than the stout which wasn't a surprise.

Lovely beer again, if you like Stone's Arrogant Bastard, you will like this one. If anything it reminds me an awful lot of that beer.You have the chewy hops and sweet caramel flavours that I have grown to love with the higher abv IPAs with a long pine tasting finish.

Once more, a lovely beer from this brewery, I think I have seen their bottles on sale at a specialist beer shop in London so maybe I'll be able to try a few more and maybe I may see them in London bars soon.

These two beers were vegan friendly, not that either myself or partner are but it is interesting to see as a few years ago I would have only been able to name one brewery who did vegan products now I can name about four or five with confidence.

For more info:

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Brewdog for Cheap Cats

My morning email from Groupon have the offer for the tasting evenings at Brewdog bar in Camden, instead of the usual £20 with this offer it will be £12.

I've not done one of these cheese and beer evenings because whilst I like the bar it is a bugger to get there after work but for your money you get five Brewdog beers and cheese to munch on, whats not to like?

If you are interested I would head over to Groupon and bag a voucher.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Bear and Billet Pub

Just out the road from the Brewery Tap and the Crossed Keys  so not far to wander should you wish to try out another set of beers in an evening. To be honest Lower Bridge street in Chester has a fair few pubs on it!

Again is is another pub which takes pride in its bar and wares, five pumps all with well kept beers and the usual keg lagers plus wines and spirits. The Bear fills up fast in the evenings with most wanting to be downstairs although there is an upstairs area not many seem to want to sit up there despite the fact it looked nice. Like most of the pubs in Chester, the Bear and Billet does do food, we only tried the lunchtime ones which were nice and filling, especially for our first lunch in Chester and being absolutely starved as the only food before was breakfast and one bar of chocolate on the train.

We got to try a fair few beers from Titanic, which were all very nice indeed, I had tried the Plum Porter at a beer festival and remember being not very impressed as in it was ok, but here it was gorgeous. Dark coffee porter with a slightly sweet plummy overtone. Maybe it was a duff barrel at the festival but this beer seemed totally different here.

The pub itself is a lovely period building and was one of the pubs in the Heritage week leaflet we picked up. I wish I could claim there was a historical angle to my pub visits but to be honest it was more wanting to try good beer in lovely surroundings. The pub does become very noisy in the evenings so not a place for a quiet chat but that was down to the usual problems of folks trying to talk over each other than loud music.

I did see that they do music folk evenings on a Friday but it wasn't on when we were there, but when they are, it is upstairs. A lot of the pubs seemed to advertise music nights which is something I don't seen a lot of down here unless you count karaoke, which I don't.

Another lovely place to go!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Albion Ale House - Conwy

Yep, we took a day trip out to Wales as someone wanted to climb a castle. The weather was windy, cold and rainy.... It was nice the rest of the week according to folks there though..typical.

However the draw here to shelter out of the awful weather was this lovely pub, owned by four breweries, one of which is the Purple Moose Brewery, it is a really nice place. It is apparently one of the best examples of a 1920 public house, frankly it is a stunning building. There are lots of beers on the ten pumps with two extra pumps for local cider, including the tasty but lethal Black Dragon cider.

All the beers were in tip top conditions and they also have changing lagers, from either the uk or Europe applying the same common sense for their beers to the 'evil' that is lager. As we all should know there is a wealth of difference between a good lager say from Freedom to one by a multinational flogger of yellow fizzy water.

There was also a good selection of wines which the local wine merchant helps them with in the main street, also the shop sells the breweries beers in bottle for those of us who would like to take a little bit of Wales home in our suitcases. So three beers in a bag plus a branded pint glass for someone. :)

The idea for this pub was to have a drinks lead pub so no food other than the pork pie, nuts, crisps or other various bar snacks. After a long walk around the castle this place is a welcome sight for sore eyes, it is a warm pub both in physical building and also in the greeting you get from the staff.  I really would like to say this is the future for drinks lead pubs, if they make that effort with the local community and also bring in beer tourists then I think they will be there for a long time.

The fact that four small breweries had the common sense to realise whilst they couldn't own their own place outright but as a forward thinking group they could end up with a lovely and original place like this, is amazing.

Ten out of ten guys!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Stonehouse Beers

Thanks to the handy local CAMRA magazine I picked up on our first day here in Chester, I found out about the Marlborough Arms in St John Street and their range of Stonehouse beers. These are all rather good, albeit the pub itself is not to my taste, the beers are well kept and four stocked pumps is not a bad thing at all.

Sunlander 3.7% abv was my first beer, if you like well hopped citrusy beers then you will love this one, it is very drinkable but for me it was a little bit too hoppy but still very enjoyable. My partner really liked this one and it would be a very nice pint to have in a sunny pub garden.

My partner on the other hand picked the one I was going to go for which was Off the Rails 4.8% abv, which turned out to be a rich almost chocolately strong bitter. This one was to my taste so I had to kept distracting my partner get a sip now and then, despite it's strength being under 5% it still packed a punch with flavour and was a half to enjoy and savour.

My next beer was Station Bitter 3.9% abv, this is the beer in the picture. Lovely golden carmel colour and was a lovely bitter which had rum overtones in the taste, certainly a beer for a session I felt, as it's finish was subtle and morish. The other beer in the round was Cumbrian Gold 4.2% abv, this was hoppy like the Sunlander before it but less punchy and more rounded with hops being more fruity then citrus.

All in all we were very impressed by Stonehouse and their beers, with four pumps we got to try most of their range. I will be keeping an eye out for their beers in the future.

The Brewery Tap - Chester

This was about the only pub which was recommended to us for our stay in Chester by friends, owned by the Spitting Feathers Brewery in Waverton it is a unusual looking pub set in Gamul House. It is a grade 2 listed building so the interior being kept as a high vaulted ceiling hall is probably not a shock to lovers of old buildings. The street level rooms are shut to the public and used as storage by the pub for barrels, you have to wander upstairs for the bar.

The Spitting Feathers beers are always on cask here, lovely to go with the food that comes out of the kitchen which includes some interesting vegetarian dishes as well as steak and ale pie. This variety means that it appeals to a broad cross section of people which can only help to keep the pub as busy as it is. Other beers are mainly from the local area although they also had two different Tring beers on during our stay. Seven pumps are always on, one for cider and six for beer, smooth operation means that once a beer is done a new one is soon pulled though and ready for drinking.

This pub has very good staff, I'm guessing a lot of training goes on in this pub as the service you get is smooth, friendly but above all very professional. They reminded me more of the staff in a high class restaurant than a pub, some may not like this approach but it works well here. I only had one bad beer here, which on pointing it out was tipped away, another beer given, pump clip turned around and different beer shortly back on that pump. As I said smooth.

Apart from that one time, all the other beers have been in fine condition. Favourites from the Spitting Feathers were Wavertonian Stout and the Thirstquencher, the stout was lovely to have in the pie as well as a pint by the side! 

I would easily recommend this pub myself, as somewhere for a good meal and a drink with friends. It's not the sort of place that I would go for a drink on my own as the tables are all designed for larger groups and the bar stools seem to have regulars on them but for couples and larger groups it is a cracking place.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Falcon - Chester

Upstairs bar open but downstairs still restoring so this is a full deal.

Still could have told the heritage week folks.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Crossed Keys - Chester

Before coming to Chester I had never heard of the Joules Brewery in Shropshire and after reading about them on their website I wouldn't have done either. They are that rare type of brewery who control their beer supply to keep the quality as they want it served to the customer, as such they don't sell via wholesalers and prefer to sell their beers direct to the pubs in the nearby areas and deliver it too. Sadly this means I won't be getting a pint of Slumbering Monk in London or Essex any time soon.
The Crossed Keys is their tap in Chester and on redoing up the pub they commissioned stain glass windows to represent all of their other taps. So in one window is a Crossed keys, another has a red lion, another has a white horse and so on and forth. This makes this pub a very attractive place to come for a pint, they state outside that there is no football on the tv or machines in the pub so all in all you get folks in who want to enjoy a drink and talk to friends and colleagues. This pub was always busy, not mega busy but always ticking over which means its customers are a loyal sort and not going to ebb and flow with what's the most fashionable place to be seen.
All the beers on cask are the Joule's own with lagers and ciders also available, the beer was in perfect tip top condition each time we came in. The Slumbering Monk my favourite although my partner prefered the Pale instead.

Unfortunately we won't be here in October which is when this pub arranges a coach tour to go to the brewery, we watched as one bloke came in for a pint, saw the sign, quickly phoned a few people on his mobile then promptly booked 14 tickets for this. Apparently accordingly to the bar man when they first did this tour idea they booked a small hopper coach not expecting to get much interest but they could filled in three times over so now they book a big coach. Shows how popular a brewery can be with good beers, lovely pubs and excellent staff to promote them!
If you are coming to Chester this is definitely a pub you have to try. It is again a fantastic pub.

Joules' Slumbering Monk

4.5 % abv

What can I say but what a superb pint. Malty, creamy toffeeish and morish. Holiday beer of the week.

This beer is just what the doctor ordered for this time of year, refreshing but warming when the wind kicks up. Just lovely. 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

More a Tit than a Hawk

Picture a city arranging an heritage week, knowing that it has a rich history from saxon and roman onwards. It prints a brochure for the week with locations and a bit of blurb.

One of these locations suddenly shuts with no warning for restoration, despite the fact they would have been very aware of this heritage week. How I know as a tourist this is the case is every local I have met in a pub has been complaining about this unannounced closure.

Now ok, this brewery do fantastic restorations of their pubs and should be congratulated for their work but timing here is wrong. For a short restoration to be done now.......that is poor form.

The pub is The Falcon and owned by Sam Smiths.....

Pied Bull - Chester

There will be pictures to this post once I'm back off holiday... Promise.

Anyways Chester is a lovely city with a lot of good pubs and the reason I am starting with this one is because they have their own microbrewery in the cellar, a one barrel brewery no less. Apart from their own beers they also have regular guest beers on our visits there was a couple from Hardknott, Phoenix and Adnams.

The pub's own beers hold up well to these guys beers, personal favourite of these beers so far is Red Bull which whilst hoppy had a lovely malty finish. Although my partners favourite was Sensia-bull which at below 4% abv was an apt name, this wasn't as hoppy as the other Pied Bull beers but for me lacked the full flavour that I loved in the Red Bull and Matator. Unfortunately Black Bull (you may note a theme with the beer names!) which is their porter won't be on until the winter months, shame but if there is no market for it beforehand it is understandable. Shame we won't be in Chester then as judging by their other beers it should be a cracker of a beer.

The pub itself is next to the Nicholsons in the town so easy to find and unlike the Nicholsons provides a busy but peaceful place to have a drink and food should you want, which we did with some very filling sandwiches and the husband wanting to go back for a steak later this week. The staff are friendly and do make you feel very welcome. It is very much a traditional looking place and just off the square by the Catherdral.

They also do rooms, so this could a pretty much perfect place for anyone wanting a place with great beer and food plus not too far to bed.

Fantastic place and if you are in Chester I highly recommend you visit!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Holiday Time!


Not long until I leave the South of this fair isle and travel northwards. Apparently we are no longer travelling by cart once past Watford but by train and neither are we given whippets and flat caps to fit in.

Shame, I like whippets, very friendly dogs which seem to love pubs and crisps.

Those of you who know me on Twitter also know I have a new shiny phone which is apparently capable of blogging with some input from me. However to all those email suggesters that I need to add bumpt my postings with videos or crap information from dodgy sources I will not be taking advantage of you.

So I will be heading to sunny Chester and as luck would have it we are staying a stone's throw from some very nice places. I'm looking forward to trying a pint of Cheshire Cat which I'm hoping will give me a grin like said cat. :)

Now just to finish the last couple of days here.....