Thursday, 30 August 2012

Weatheroak Hill Brewery

Tonight I decided it was time for a little trip again so once I finished work I got out my Good Beer Guide.  The Coach and Horses at Weatheroak was my chosen destination and after plugging the post code into my satnav I was on my way.  A mere 16 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon  by avoiding the motorways and it wasn't long before I found myself pulling up into their large car park.  The pub had a somewhat strange appearance.  The modern attachment housing the restaurant looked a little out of place but I skirted around that to enter into the older part where I had a choice of bars to the left or right.  Choosing the door to my right I found myself in a split level bar.  The busy lower level area around the bar had no vacant stools so after choosing my pint (the mid-strength WHB at 4.2% ABV) I stepped into a larger lounge area with very comfortable seats around quite a number of tables.  To be busy so early in the evening means they are obviously doing things right.  The bar menu was tempting and the beer selection was excellent with a couple of guest beers (Holdens Special and Wood Shropshire Lad) in addition to the Weatheroak Hill  brews. 

WHB was a lovely chestnut coloured best bitter and it had a distinctive nutty tang to it.  As I was driving I stuck to my usual single pint but with a collection of books available to read I could happily have stayed there all evening and sampled a pint of everything on tap.  The pub was welcoming and had a lovely friendly atmosphere.  If you are ever in the area (the pub is within touching distance of the M42 south of Birmingham) then do pay a visit.  You will not be disappointed.

Happy drinking.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Special occasion ales

Tonight I went to the Golden Bee, the local Wetherspoons pub, expecting to try one of my favourite beers, Sadlers Mud City Stout.  The beer was labelled as 'Coming Soon' on Monday but sadly the label was sgtill there tonight.  The Olympics is over but I chose a pint of Golden Flame brewed by the excellent Burton Bridge brewery.  This beer was brewed specifically to celebrate London 2012 and at 4.5% I was expecting a pleasant pint.  However, it was disappointing.  A standard golden bitter with very little aftertaste.  Perhaps I was destined to be disappointed due to expecting a lovely pint of stout.  However, I can categorically state that I have never found an above average pint of beer that was brewed for a special occasion.  It may be that my taste buds are telling me not to enjoy it because it won't be around for long.  Let's face it though, if a beer proves popular enough, it will be given an alternative name at a later date and reappear.

Similar to special occasion beers, many breweries are now experimenting with special monthly beers.  In the case of these monthly specials though, I have had many fine beers.  King and Barnes, the Horsham brewer sadly no longer in existence, was one of the first breweries I remember doing these special ales.  Intially, they did seasonal brews and eventually they became monthly.  The one I remember with great affection was their Corn Beer.  This pale 6.0% ABV beer was absolutely delightful.  It was so easy to drink too which was dangerous due to the strength.  If a current brewer is out  there reading this please experiment with corn and let me know when it is available.  I'd be a very happy man.

Happy drinking.

The Brandy Cask, Pershore

Last night I ventured out to Pershore to visit a brew pub called the Brandy Cask.  As well as being an excellent traditional pub it is also the home of the Brandy Cask brewery.  Approaching Pershore from Evesham you cross over a bridge  crossing the River Avon and the Brandy Cask is a few hundred yards on the right hand side.  The street consists of an amazing row of terraced three storey buildings.  Virtually every building in the terrace has a different height and although they all seem to consist of three floors the height of these three floors varies dramatically.  I initially thought it was a bit drab and run-down partly due to a closed pub two doors down from the Brandy Cask but looking beyond this you see a lot of character. 

I got to the pub at which is opening time for this particular pub so be aware of this if you are visiting early evening.  It is a very traditional pub that would not have looked out of place 30 years ago and it has probably not seen much change in that time.  The food menu is very traditional too and if I'd been eating I would have chosen the faggots and mushy peas !!  Three house beers were available and I chose the medium strength Brandysnapper at 4.0% ABV.  Tradition continued when tasting this fine beer.  A very tasty bitter which is harder to find nowadays due to the proliferation of 'golden' ales and 'blondes', especially in the Summer months.  If you are lucky to stay long enough for a few pints then you could choose one of the two guest beers or even the real cider on offer. 

Overall, Pershore appears to be a small quiet town.  It is situated on the outskitrs of the beautiful Malvern Hills and if you are ever in the area be sure to visit this superb traditional brew pub.  You won't be disappointed.

Happy drinking.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Great British Beer Festival 2012

It is more than a week since Kensington Olympia closed its doors to the nation's beer lovers for another year.  Earls Court had been the venue since 2006 but due to it being an Olympic venue CAMRA had to return to the venue that had successfully hosted the Great British Beer Festival since 1992.  This was my 23rd GBBF.  My first was way back in 1985 when it was held at the Brighton Metropole.  In those days the small venue was a bit of a problem as Brighton proved a very popular place to visit in August for obvious reasons.  After a lunchtime session you could sleep on the beach for a few hours before returning for the evening session and at the end of the day there were plenty of cheap guest houses to provide a comfortable bed and a hearty breakfast. 

The move to Kensington Olympia in 1992 was a great success.  The glass roof caused a few problems with regard to keeping the beer at a drinkable temperature but that was overcome by an effective cooling system.  When the event moved to Earls Court in 2006 I felt the event lost some of its appeal.  It had become too big and too commercial and despite being larger it had a claustrophobic feel to it.  This brings me to this years event. 

I did not know what to expect this year.  Would the venue be too small?  Would the Olympics reduce vistor numbers or increase them?  Would the beer have run out by Saturday as it had done a few times in recent years?  I am delighted to report that the event, which had obviously been scaled back, was an absolute joy.  The beer selection was fantastic, the atmosphere was tremendous and there was plenty of space.  All the usual activities and stands were there.  The table skittles was well staffed and efficiently run.  The CAMRA stand had its usual fine selection of books (more about my purchases on a later post).  The food stands were offering the usual wholesome fare.  The stage was in a sensible place and had plenty of seating. 

I am delighted to report that next year the venue will once again be Kensington Olympia (August 13th - August 17th).  Earls Court is being pulled down so it will be interesting to see if Olympia will once again be the regular home of this magnificent event.  I for sure will be there once more.

Happy drinking.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Wye Valley Brewery

Tonight I paid a quick visit to my favourite Stratford-upon-Avon pub, The Bear In The Swan's Nest, before settling down to another evening of Olympic viewing.  One of their regular beers is Butty Bach (4.5% ABV), yet another delightful golden hoppy ale of good strength.  These type of beers are all I seem to be drinking at the moment but I shouldn't complain.  Brewed by the Herefordshire brewer, Wye Valley, the brewer is probably more famous for the pump click for its wholesome stout called Dorothy Goodbody's, after a female MP asked for it to be banned from the House of Commons bar.  I find it totally amazing that such people find enough people to vote for them to be elected to govern us.  I was pleased to read that sales of the beer took off following these ridiculous comments.  It really is time for some people to get a sense of humour transplant.

Happy drinking.

Swan In The Rushes

I got back to my hotel late last night so I did not have time to post this.  After meeting up with my sister and nephew for a meal my sister went home and left 'the boys' to quickly visit one of my favourite pubs.  Situated in The Rushes (hence the name) it was a very rundown pub named The Charnwood when I turned 18 in the late 1970s.  It was then purchased and turned into a real ale paradise in the 1980s becoming part of the East Midland pub chain, Tynemill.  In the late 1990s a partnership between Tynemill and the Bramcote Brewing Company created the Castle Rock Brewery.  This brewery is situated close to Nottingham's historic castle rock from where the name is derived.  Eventually the pub group bought out the original brewery founders and The Swan In The Rushes is now an excellent advert for their fine beers.  Tonight I sampled a pint of Elsie Mo, a strong hoppy golden ale (4.7% ABV) that is very popular so my nephew informs me.  I can certainly see why.  Delicious.    

I now try and visit this wonderful pub every time I go 'home' to Loughborough.  It comprises two quiet comfortable rooms to the front with a livelier back bar (the Charnwood vaults).  The walls are adorned with breweriana and with newspapers and good conversation it has everything you need to settle down with a pint of fine beer.  As well as the range of Castle Rock beers there is up to six guest beers available.  Added to that, an inventive loyalty scheme, makes this a perfect local.  Loughborough is blessed with some excellent pubs but this is the best by far.  Pay it a visit if you ever pass this way.