Wednesday, 29 May 2013

City Of Ale Norwich - Saturday

It was going to be a long day.  Me and my two mates began with a Wetherspoons breakfast at the Bell Hotel.  Suitably refreshed, we headed for the brewers market outside the impressive Forum building in the centre of Norwich.  There was lots of jangling of bells and clashing of wooden batons from a team of morris dancers when we arrived and my first stop was to see Kevin from the Golden Triangle Brewery to sample their Citropolis.  It tasted suitably citrussy so I was determined to find a pint of it during the day.  There were about a dozen stands featuring Norfolk brewers offering samples and selling bottles of their various beers along with a City Of Ale stand selling glasses and giving out their excellent programme.  I sampled lots and went away with a bottle of Poppyland Dr Rudis New Zealand Saison (6.3% ABV), an Ole Slewfoot Citraville (3.9% ABV), a Norfolk Brewery Moon Gazer Ruby Ale (4.0% ABV), three from Grain Brewery and three from the Panther Brewery.  These will all be enjoyed and reviewed over the next few weeks.

It was now time for the beer festival to begin.  The excellent City of Ale programme contained details of 42 pubs which would be selling in excess of 200 beers from nearly 40 local breweries.  Plenty of venues to choose from and plenty of beers in each.  On top of all that, renowned Norwich beer blogger, Nate Southwood, had arranged a visit to Redwell Brewery in the afternoon for us so with that in mind the first couple of pubs were to the East of the city centre.

Both myself and Ian have worked at Aviva in the past so we know the city well.  My last work assignment here was in 1999 so it was going to be interesting to see how the pubs had changed and which ones had disappeared.  On my first assignment here back in 1989 I organised a Friday night pub crawl every week taking in five different pubs each time so my knowledge of the city pubs back then was pretty extensive.     

Trafford Arms

The Trafford Arms appears to have changed little over the years.  It is a comfortable locals pub away from the city but within easy walking distance of the busy St Stephens Street.  It was great to see two Lacons Ales beers available (Encore and Legacy) but I went for Winters Mild (3.5% ABV) from a local brewery situated on the outskirts of Norwich.  This was full of flavour with strong roast malts and coffee notes along with some caramel.  My friend Martin went for the Lacons Legacy (4.4% ABV) and a quick taste of this confirmed to me that this was also a winner alongside their Encore.  Other beers available included Adnams Lighthouse, Woodfordes Wherry, Oakhams Green Devil and Revolutions Manifesto.  A superb selection indeed.   

The Rose

Heading away from the city on Queens Road we came to the Rose.  This pub is a former Adnams house that was bought by Kevin and Dawn Hopkins in 2003 which they now run alongside the Ketts Tavern on the other side of the city as well as the Norwich Bear Brewing Co which supplies the beer to both pubs.  The Rose was always a good street-corner local convenient for Carrow Road and a bit of comfort has been added to it along with a recently installed micro-brewery.  The full range of Norwich Bear beers were available and I went for the Norwich Pale Ale (4.7% ABV).  This was a superb beer.  Golden in colour with a citrussy hoppiness it was beautifully balanced and very drinkable.  It turned out to be my best beer of the day.

We met Nate and his friend Alec at the Rose prior to our visit to Redwell Brewery and the lovely Dawn Hopkins dashed over from the Ketts to say hello.  With the Ketts Tavern on our list of pubs to visit later it would not be the last we would see of Dawn either.             

Redwell Brewery

From the Rose it was a reasonably short walk to the home of Redwell Brewing.  Here we met Stuart and Andrew Pickard, two beer lovers from Yorkshire.  The visit was a huge success and deserves a post all of its own so click here to read about this.

Coach and Horses
We had plenty to drink at Redwell Brewing so we were in need of a good walk back into town.  We headed towards the railway station and up Thorpe Road to find the home of the Chalk Hill Brewery within the Coach and Horses.  It was early evening now but the pub was buzzing.  The brewery opened in 1993 bringing back to life the pub that had been closed for a number of years.  I opted for a pint of Dreadnought (4.9% ABV).  It was quite a rich malty beer with a slight earthiness to it although the aftertaste I found to be a little dry.           

The Jubilee

The Jubilee has long been a favourite pub of mine and it is situated a short walk from the Coach and Horses in a largely residential area.  A street-corner local it has a small front bar leading into a back bar that has an adjoining conservatory where there was a pop-up shop with plenty of Woodfordes Brewery merchandise.  There were a couple of local beers available and I went for On The Huh, a 5.0% ABV beer from the Beeston Brewery.  It had a strong malty taste with a lovely smoothness to it.  A very nice beer.
The William IV

For some reason Nate took us into this pub next.  It had very few redeeming features and I had a lovely glass of water.

Ketts Tavern

From the William IV we headed down to the river and turned right to come to the Ketts Tavern where we were welcomed by Dawn Hopkins and a 90s disco.  I chose a pint of the Coffee Pawter (5.0% ABV), a festival special from the Norwich Bear Brewing Co.  The Ketts is a superb pub, much improved from how I remembered it under previous ownerships in the 1990s.  The front bar is spacious and we retreated away from the disco to the relaxing conservatory at the back which overlooks a delightful garden.  My favourite pub of the day.

Plasterers Arms

Stuart and Andrew Pickard had a few more days in Norwich so left us after the Ketts Tavern for an early night.  The rest of us headed round the inner ring-road to the next roundabout where we turned right into a quiet backstreet.  The Plasterers Arms is a great pub in Cowgate, a quiet road slightly away from the busy Anglia Square and it has a massive cask ale selection alongside craft and bottled beers but we all chose the Citropolis (3.8% ABV) from the Golden Triangle brewery.  This was the beer that Nate named and we were able to tell him what an excellent name it was for such a lovely citrussy hoppy pale bitter.  This was the beer I was looking forward to the most and it did not disappoint.  It sent Nate to sleep but we woke him up in time to make one last stop.

Norwich Taphouse

We were hoping to visit the Ribs of Beef but it was closed (it was nearly midnight) so we went to Nate's local where we were served once the guy behind the bar realised who we were with!!  This new modern craft beer bar was still fairly busy and it was fitting that we should end the day with a Redwell Steam Lager.

The City of Ale turned out to be a fantastic event.  Myself and my two mates have visited the Great British Beer Festival virtually every year since the mid 1980s.  This year we decided to try this event as an alternative (due to me booking a holiday during the GBBF later this year).  We all concluded that a beer festival spread across an entire city is a much more enjoyable event.  Beer festivals often preach to the converted but these kind of events can take beer to a wider audience as well as giving pubs much needed support.  Cask beer is also a drink that is always best when consumed within a pub that knows how to keep and serve it.  City of Ale is now an established event in Norwich.  It would be great to see similar events in cities all over the country.

Happy drinking.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

City of Ale Norwich - Friday evening

I was certainly in need of a drink when I arrived in Norwich on Friday evening after spending the previous five hours getting held up in numerous traffic jams.  Me and my two drinking mates arrived at The Murderers for the 'Grain to Glass' evening organised as part of the Norwich City of Ale Festival.  For me, the highlight of the evening was to be the beer tasting with the legendary Roger Protz.

Due to all the delays we missed the first part of the event and we entered when the man from Crisp Maltings was explaining how the barley is transformed into the malted form which is used by the brewer.  My one criticism of the event was the background noise from the boisterous bar making it difficult to hear much of what was being said which was disappointing.

The beer tasting itself made up for the earlier disappointment.  Six generous samples were provided and the first four all came from the Beeston Brewery of Kings Lynn.  The frst sample was Squirrels Nuts, a 3.5% ABV mild.  The first beer had plenty of roasted malts with coffee and chocolate notes.  For a low-strength mild it had plenty of flavour. 

Roger Protz clearly loves talking about beer and the many flavours that can be detected from both the aroma and the taste.  He's a very good speaker and thankfully I was able to follow most of what was being said.  When someone clearly knows what they are talking about my concentration levels go up and it is easier to listen to.
The second beer was called Bloomers, a 4.0% ABV pale golden ale.  This beer was a sharp contrast to the first.  There was plenty of citrus notes with strong lemony characteristics.  There was a dryness to it and a clean refreshing finish.  The third beer, Stirling, was a 4.5% ABV traditional best bitter with a rich fruitiness and some caramel and hints of chocolate.  I did not catch the name of the final Beeston beer, a 4.8% pale ale, so it was probably The Dry Road.  Not making notes I also have to rely on a somewhat hazy memory!! 

The fifth beer came from the recently opened Lacons Brewery of Great Yarmouth.  Roger was present at the opening and he gave us the history behind the original Lacons brewery, closed down by Whitbread in 1968 which put an end to more than 200 years of brewing history.  Last week, after a few years of hard work and negotiation the name has been revived and brewing came back to Great Yarmouth using the original Lacons yeast.  It was great to sample Encore, a 3.8% modern classic brewed with the Citra hop.  It is simply delightful with a gentle grapefruit and lemon buzz.  Highly refreshing and I have no doubt it will become a classic session bitter. 

The final beer was called Crazy Horse, an 8% IPA from the Norfolk Square brewery.  Described as an American IPA it was certainly crazy.  I saw it on the bar earlier in the evening and I'm glad I had not ordered a pint of it.  Brewed with three American hops I think these flavours were lost by the rich malty fruit flavours bursting through from all sides.  To me it tasted more like a barley wine.  It was just too rich to drink much of.  It was certainly a very interesting end to the tasting session.

The Murderers is a superb pub and one that I am very familiar with.  The Murderers is actually the pub's nickname due to a gruesome murder committed many years ago as the official name is The Gardeners Arms and the pub sign has a different name on each side.  On Friday it was extremely lively and when I arrived I chose a pint of Junga (4.4% ABV) from the Grain Brewery.  This was an excellent beer from their 'year of hops' series.  Junga is a new hop variety from Poland.  It was a rich brown colour with plenty of caramel  notes along with a complex spicy character.
After the event was over we obtained another pint from the bar.  I went for Polly's Folly (4.3% ABV) from the local Buffy's Brewery.  This amber coloured ale was disappointing and my two friends agreed that it lacked any sort of flavour.  Was this due to the rich complex beer we had just sampled?  Whilst drinking the beer we met up with Nathaniel Southwood (Nate), a renowned beer blogger from Norwich.  Nate confirmed he too was not a fan of the beer so it got a thumbs down from all of us. 

Nate introduced us to Kevin from the local Golden Triangle Brewery.  I had heard great things about their beer, Citropolis, that Nate was quick to tell me he had named.  Kevin informed us where we would find it over the weekend so I was looking forward to finding out whether the name was suitable.  He also informed us that a sample would be available at the brewers market next morning.  This was part of our plans so with that news imparted to us we moved on to the Sir Garnet pub with Nate and his friend Alec for  more beer.

The Sir Garnet is located in the centre of the city adjacent to the famous Norwich market.  This pub was a bit of a dive when I lived in Norwich many years ago and I always avoided it.  This multi-levelled pub has recently reopened after a refurbishment and we were all impressed with it.  The ground floor bar was small and cosy with lots of people coming and going at this late hour.  Three Norfolk beers were available and I chose a pint of Cabarrus Gold from the Ole Slewfoot Brewery (3.6% ABV).  This was a delightful golden ale beautifully balanced. 

The evening was completed with a pint of Lacons Encore (3.8% ABV).  I was very keen to try this after sampling it at the beer tasting and the full pint did not disappoint in any way.  It was a magnificent pint with lots of gorgeous citrus notes and it was my first 10/10 beer of the weekend.  The citra notes were well balanced by a mellow fruitiness and a little earthiness.  My opinion was backed up by my two friends who also gave it high praise.

The evening drew to a close as the midnight hour was struck and after a good sleep we would be raring to go again tomorrow. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

City of Ale Norwich - a photographic journey

More details will be added later about this excellent weekend but some photos to wet your appetite.

Murderers Arms - venue for beer tasting with Roger Protz

Sir Garnet - final pub Friday evening

Morris dancing at the brewers market

First pub of the day - Trafford Arms

Lacons Encore - voted by me and my friends as best beer of the weekend

Pub number two Saturday - The Rose

Arriving at Redwell Brewery

Tanks full of beer

Filling our glasses

From L - R - Andrew, Patrick, Nathaniel, Alec, Ian and Stuart

Coach and Horses - home of Chalk Hill Brewery

Martin and Andrew outside The Jubilee

Pint of On The Huh - Beeston Brewery

Alec, Nathaniel, Martin and Ian in The Plasterers Arms

The end of a long day - sleepy Nate

Monday, 20 May 2013

A trio from Partizan Brewing

This weekend I decided to try three bottled ales from Partizan Brewing, a new craft brewery based in Bermondsey SE London.  All three came in 330ml bottles and the label contained the hops varieties used to make the beer.  This is something I'd like to see more often from breweries.  Pictured below from left to right we have a Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) made with Amarillo and Pacific Jade, an IPA (7.4% ABV) made with Cascade, Chinook and Colombus and finally a second Pale Ale (6.0% ABV) made with Chinook and Wakatu hops.  

1. Pale Ale with Amarillo and Pacific Jade (5.5% ABV)

This first beer was a mid golden colour and I managed to keep most of the sediment in the bottle for once.  It certainly looked inviting.  It had a sweet fruity aroma.  Upon first taste there were distinct orange notes along with a little spiciness and there was a lingering bittersweet finish.  The bitterness increased the more I drank and it was a very nice beer indeed.  Score 8/10. 

2. Pale Ale with Chinook and Wakatu hops (6.0% ABV)

This second beer had a slightly deeper golden colour.  It again had a spicy fruitiness to it but it was distinctly more earthy than the first.  The aroma was one of rich fruit and the beer did not display much bitterness.  The rich spicy fruit notes increased as I drank more and the bitterness remained low.  A little stronger than the first and this was apparent.  Score 7/10.

3. IPA with Chinook, Cascade and Colombus hops (7.4% ABV)

This final beer also had a deeper golden colour than the first making it difficult to spot the difference from the second and again the sweet fruity aroma was not strong.  There was a noticeable difference when it came to the taste though.  With the first sip it was noticeably quite dry with hints of vanilla alongside the fruitiness.  This dryness continued throughout.  The fruit notes were sweeter and less spicy than the first two beers and with this beer there was also a gentle bitter aftertaste.  For an IPA it was certainly not massively hopped.  Score 7/10.

Overall these three bottled beers were enjoyable although I must confess to being slightly disappointed with the IPA as I prefer my IPAs to be much hoppier and bitter.  It was probably the fact that it was not what I was expecting that caused my disappointment though as opposed to the actual taste which was far from unpleasant.  I normally prefer stronger beers but on this occasion it was the 5.5% ABV Pale Ale that came out on top.  I liked the labels and I like the fact that the hops are displayed.  My main gripe would be the 330ml bottles.  I much prefer standard 500ml bottles even with stronger beers.  I guess I'm just greedy.  However, next time I see their beers available I will certainly be choosing three more to try.

Happy drinking.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Pubs of Felpham

Last night I braved the wind and the rain to visit some of the pubs of Felpham village with my fellow Western Sussex CAMRA branch members.  Felpham now appears to be just a part of the greater Bognor Regis area but historically it existed long before the town as it is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  The only thing separating Felpham from its neighbour is the Butlins holiday village.  The poet William Blake was Felpham's famous resident having lived in the village for a few years where he wrote his famous poem 'Milton'.  The old centre of the village is still evident just a few hundreds yards from the sea and within the village, which is bypassed by the A259, there are four pubs.      

The first stop last night was the Old Barn. This pub was closed down by the local authorities a few months ago but with new management it reopened a few days ago with certain restrictions imposed upon it. Hopefully, this former Good Beer Guide pub will once again get a reputation for selling good beers rather than attracting troublemakers. Based on the evidence of last night it has a chance. I last visited this pub a few years ago when it was a basic village local and the interior hasn't changed greatly.   It has a small bar at the front adjoining a similar bar in the centre and to the rear there is now plans for a dining area. In the middle bit there is a dartboard and plans for bar billiards too. There is a small drinking area outside at the front too.  

As well as the four beers above to choose from there was a cask of Palmers 200 on the bar.  However, for my first pint I went for the Dark Star Hophead (3.8% ABV) as I have heard such good reviews of this beer.  I was not disappointed.  It is a lovely pale beer with a bit of a citrussy hit to it along with some elderflower notes giving it a full hoppy floral flavour for such a low strength.  An ideal session beer.  This is one beer I'd like to see as a regular on the bar.

There was time for a second pint before moving on so I opted for the Brighton Belle from the local Hammerpot Brewery (4.6% ABV).  This is another beer I have not tried before and it was a pale golden colour with mild floral notes with a hint of lemon and a gentle bitter finish.  It was another delightful pint.   

By now our group of CAMRA members had grown to nine and it was time to move on to the second pub.  The Fox is situated in the heart of the old village.  You enter into an oak panelled bar and tucked away to the left is a large dining area.  Outside there is a large garden which will be very popular in the Summer if it ever arrives.  There were seven beers on offer.  These were Hobgoblin, two from Otter Brewery (Ale and Amber), the dreaded Doom Bar, St Austell Tribute, London Pride and Courage Directors.  Nothing too unusual then but I went for the Otter Amber (4.3% ABV).  The name describes the colour to perfection.  It had some sweet honey flavours along with a gentle malty character.  It was certainly a pleasant pint but not my favourite kind of beer.

The plan was to then move on to The George, a pub on the outskirts of the old village, but when we arrived it was closed.  It had been open earlier in the evening as I had walked past it so why it had shut early I have no idea.  On the way we had passed a Fullers pub, The Old Thatched Tavern.  Curiously named because it has a plain tiled roof, this had a single bar open with one customer observed as I peered through the window.  Felpham was clearly a buzzing kind of place so it was back to the Old Barn for a final drink.  This pub was nearly empty now too but thankfully the doors were open and the owners seemed pleased to see us back.

My final pint was the Palmers 200 (5.0% ABV) served straight from the cask.  This was a delightful copper coloured ale with a rich malty taste.  First brewed in 1994 to celebrate the brewers 200th anniversary it has become a regular ale and I can see why.  Plenty of caramel and orange notes made it a very robust beer with plenty to enthuse about.  I loved it.  

That brings the events of the evening to a close.  Some excellent beers in a couple of very different pubs and in good company.  Hopefully the newly reopened Old Barn will be a success and will continue to offer a good range of beers as it did last night.  If you are visiting the Sussex coast Felpham is an ideal destination away from the tackier Bognor Regis and when the tide is out you will also see a decent stretch of sand.  You can go there safe in the knowledge that a few yards away from the sea you can get some good beer.

Happy drinking.


Monday, 13 May 2013

A tale of two citras

I was really looking forward to reviewing these two beers over the weekend.  I am a recent convert to the delights of the Citra hop although the hop itself was only created and released as recently as  2007.  I brewed with it on my day at Sadlers Ales last year as it provides the fantastic hoppiness to their JPA and I have enjoyed drinking beers brewed with this hop ever since. 

My first bottle was Oakham Ales Citra (4.6% ABV).  This cost £2.50 for a 500ml bottle and according to the label Oakham Ales were the first UK brewer to use the Citra hop.  I enjoyed the cask version of this beer last year marking it a score of 9/10.  The bottled version is slightly stronger and I had high hopes for it.  After pouring it looked delightful with a very clear look to it as you can hopefully see below.


It has a pleasant citrus aroma but it was not overpowering. The grapefruit flavour is immediately apparent but as with the aroma it isn't totally dominant. It has a lovely spicy zing to it and it moves into a gentle bitter aftertaste.  It really is a classic refreshing beer perfect for a warm Spring day.  I would have to award it a gold (10/10).  I was left regretting only having purchased a single bottle. 

This brings me on to bottle number two.  This was from the London based Kernel Brewery.  The label resembles plain brown wrapping paper with the name of the beer simply stated.  So simple I think it actually stands out from the crowd.  It is the second bottle I have tried from this brewery and I was not disappointed with the first one.  This Citra Pale Ale comes in at 5.3% ABV so somewhat stronger than the Oakham Ales version but it did have a premium price of £3.50 for a 500ml bottle.  

After pouring, it had notable differences to the Oakham Ales Citra as you can probably spot below.  It has a deeper golden colour and it was not as clear in the glass.  This is probably my fault as the bottle does contain sediment and my pouring is not always as it should be.

It has a massive citrussy aroma but the immediate taste is not a hop hit as it is balanced by an earthy maltiness. Then, the more you drink the more the grapefruit notes kick in along with that sublime bitterness.  There is more complexity to this drink which I really like.  It is richer and more robust which adds to the citrus flavours without detracting from it.  It will probably not surprise you then to realise I have awarded top marks to this beer too.

These two superb beers certainly met my expectations.  The price difference is annoying but not enough to put me off buying the more expensive.  The Oakham Ales is probably more refreshing and hoppy whereas the Kernel Brewery version is stronger and more robust with more balance.  However, if you like one you will undoubtedly like the other one too.  Differences yes but there is always that underlying bittterness and citrus hit from the Citra hop that I adore.  If you haven't tried the hoppy hit of Citra then I recommend it. 

Happy drinking.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Shepherd and Flock, Farnham

When driving along the A31 from Guildford to Farnham along the hog's back you will probably get stuck in a traffic jam as you approach a large roundabout / gyratory system.  The left lane steers you past Farnham via the bypass and the right hand lane steers you round this enormous traffic island where you have further choices to make.  Staying in the inside lane after going through the first set of traffic lights you notice the inside of the island contains a somewhat small settlement of a few houses and a pub.  A few hundred yards past this first set of traffic lights there is a road to the right that leads you onto this island.  Miss it and you can go all the way round and try again!

The pub is called the Shepherd and Flock.  I first visited this pub way back in the late 1980s and I remember it as being a lively pub with a good beer selection.  Since my company moved offices to within a few miles of Farnham a decade ago I have made occasional lunchtime visits.  It had acquired a name for itself due to having a good food menu alongside a selection of five or six locally sourced beers.  After working away for some time I decided to try it once again for lunch and see if it had changed.

The pub looks out onto the constant stream of traffic heading off in all directions.  With tables on the grass in front of the pub it is a perfect place for vehicle spotters!!  The traffic fumes may not be quite so good for your lungs though.  Entering the pub via the front door you soon forget where you are as you never notice the fact that you are inside a large traffic island.  It has the warm and cosy feel of a village local.  The bar is immediately in front of you with a large dining area off to the left.  To the right of the bar is a less formal area where you are also free to enjoy the food on offer or to just get a beer and relax.  There is also an outside garden area to the rear.

The beer selection was not quite as interesting as I remembered from previous visits.  My heart sinks when I see the very average Doom Bar for sale but this was the only disappointment.  There were three beers (Fresh Spring 4.0% ABV, TEA 4.2% ABV and Englands Glory 4.4% ABV) from the excellent Hogs Back brewery which is literally a couple of miles up the road from the pub.  There was also a beer from the Isle of Wight brewer Goddards as well as Otter Head (5.8% ABV).  The TEA, Otter Head and Doom Bar are constants with the other three beers changing regularly.

It is over a year since I visited  the Hogs Back Brewery so I chose the Englands Glory.  This is probably one of the few beers from this brewery that I have never tried before.  First impression was excellent.  It had a deep golden colour and it looked nice and clear in the glass.  The first taste was beautiful.  A malty base was followed by notes of orange and toffee.  Their website describes it in a similar way which I find is not always the way with beers I taste.  The beer was simply in perfect condition.

I am not a food gourmet but I did enjoy an excellent sausage and mash in an onion gravy (£9.75).  The menu is supplemented by a daily specials board that always has something interesting.  The website link has their current menu so if food is what you are after then take a look.

Next time you are stuck in traffic as you're approaching Farnham and you fancy a break then don't forget this 'little pub on the big island' .  You won't be disappointed.  A word of warning though.  If you are in need of a comfort break you need to know whether you are a ram or a ewe.

Happy drinking.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Wadworth Brewers Choice No.5

Last week I received a mini cask from Wadworth Brewery.  This gave me 8 pints of their brewers creation no.5 to sample and enjoy.  It was described as a 5.5% ABV golden coloured ale, brewed with Munich and Crystal malt, three different hops, elderflower, orange peel and grains of paradise.  It was brewed by Wadworth's Quality Assurance Brewer, Andy Weaver, to celebrate the coming of Spring.  Well better late than never I say.  This beer is part of the Wadworth's Brewers Creations range which is to see a new ale brewed each month and I considered myself very lucky to receive this to review.  Apparently, the brewing team at Wadworth's have been given total freedom to produce the beers they want to brew and to try new ingredient combinations and brewing techniques. 

The beer had been drawn straight from the cask so once opened I had to consume it quickly (well that's my excuse).  In the glass it was a nice deep golden colour and the aroma was magnificent.  Lots of fruit with a subtle maltiness creeping in.  The first taste had quite a zing to it.  A spicy fruitiness with quite an intense orange hit to accompany it.  Not wanting to keep it all to myself my wife joined in and she noticed more elderflower than I did.  Despite the intensity of fruit though it had a full robust underlying maltiness to it that gave it good balance and a potent strength.  I do find many fruity, summery beers a bit too light  and lacking flavour so it was great to taste something that had a good strength but was very refreshing too.

Only a handful of casks of each brewers creation is available to tied Wadworth pubs so if you were lucky enough to find this for sale then I'm sure you were not disappointed.  Otherwise, you will just have to take my word for it - it was extremely pleasant.  

Happy drinking.

Friday, 3 May 2013

More gold awards

Now that I have completed my work assignment in the West Midlands and returned home it is probably a good time to list my latest gold medal beers.  It will be interesting to see if the beers down south match up to the quality I have enjoyed in the Midlands.  Without further ado and in alphabetical order here is my latest list of winning beers.

Beowulf Dark Raven (4.5% ABV).  I had a pint of this in the Post Office Vaults, Birmingham back in March.  I found this beer to be very warming with plenty of chocolate and coffee notes being balanced by spicy fruits and caramel.  This very dark mild also has a good strength and it really hit the spot on such a cold evening.

Byatts Brewery Pheonix Gold (4.2% ABV).  This beer was enjoyed at the Golden Bee in Stratford-on-Avon.  Brewed with a blend of three American hop varieties this was a superb pale gently hopped bitter.  Yet another beautiful beer from this relatively new Coventry based micro.      

Elgoods Thin Ice (4.7% ABV).  This was a very pleasant find at the Wetherspoons pub in Coalville, The Monkey Walk.  It was a superb deep brown malty ale.  My only criticism of this beer would be the name.  It bears absolutely no relation to the taste.  Instead of a crisp refreshing beer I got a full bodied malty offering with a spicy warming finish.  Totally bizarre.    

Elland Eden (4.2% ABV).  This was another beer served in perfect condition at the Golden Bee in Stratford-on-Avon.  This superb session bitter is brewed using Chinook and American Cascasde hops.  I found it to be a delightful blonde with plenty of citrussy notes but this was well balanced by a sweet spicy fruitiness.

Ilkley Mary Jane (3.5% ABV).  This is my latest award winner which I had at the Wild Boar in Warwick a couple of weeks ago.  Having recently sampled some lovely bottled beers from this brewery I was delighted to find one of their beers in a pub for the first time.  This is a simply awesome pale hoppy bitter.    Brewed with Amarillo hops it had all the tangy citrus notes I was expecting and it had plenty of flavour for such a low strength beer.

Lincoln Green Tuck Porter (4.7% ABV).  This beer was enjoyed direct from the cask at Nottingham micropub Doctors Orders back in February.  I love porters and I must say this was one of the best I have ever tasted.  It was incredibly smooth and full of flavour.  Jet black in colour it had the right amount of chocolate and coffee notes with hints of blackcurrant too to smooth out any bitterness.

Muirhouse Magnum Mild (4.5% ABV).  I found this gem from this Derbyshire brewer on my first visit to the Craven Arms, Birmingham back in early March.  A classic black mild as smooth as silk with plenty of roasted malts giving it a full flavour. 

Thornbridge Jaipur IPA (5.9% ABV).  This long time favourite of mine was found at the Shakespeare Inn, Birmingham and it certainly did not disappoint.  I normally drink this in bottles as I rarely see it on my pub travels so this was a rare delight.  This classic award winning IPA has a light golden paleness.  Bursting with citrussy hops and a lovely bitter finish it is a classic IPA.   

That's it for this update.  Now I am back home and it will be interesting to see what gold medal beers I can discover.  With a visit also coming up to Norwich and the City Of Ale Festival at the end of May I will be looking out for some Norfolk winners too. 

Happy drinking.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Things I will miss ...

Well it has been 14 months working away from home and it has now come to an end.  During my time in the West Midlands I have started this blog, tried some excellent and some not-so-excellent beers, embraced the world of Twitter and discovered some wonderful new pubs.  This post is simply a look back at what I will miss the most from my time there.

The Breweries

It is one year since I had my one day brewing experience at Sadlers Ales.  My day spent brewing JPA has ignited in me an even greater passion for beer.  It kickstarted everything that has happened since.  It is hard not to fall in love with a brewery where you have got to spend a day with them but I genuinely love their beers.  Some of their monthly specials have not always hit the spot for me but their JPA (3.8% ABV), Hop Bomb (5.0% ABV), Red IPA (5.7% ABV) and Mud City Stout (6.6% ABV) are all simply superb.  It is because of this that, of all the breweries I have discovered in the past year, I will miss Sadlers more than any.

A close second to Sadlers will be Byatts Brewery of Coventry.  I have tried five different beers from this relatively new micro and I gave four of them gold awards (10/10).  These are XK Dark (3.5% ABV), Coventry Bitter (3.8% ABV), Phoenix Gold (4.2% ABV) and Urban Red (4.5% ABV).  It is good to know that whatever I try from this brewery will always be a delightful pint.

Church End Brewery has never failed to impress me too.  I have tried five different beers from this micro in the north-east corner of Warwickshire and none of them have disappointed.  The Gravediggers Ale (3.8% ABV) comes out tops with me with the Fallen Angel (5.0% ABV) a close second.

Other breweries I must mention are the Warwickshire Beer Company, the Slaughterhouse Brewery in Warwick and the Weatheroak Brewery in Studley.  It's always good to see Warwickshire Beer Company beers on the bar especially the impressive Shakespeare's County (3.4% ABV)  and the Darling Buds (4.0% ABV).  For Slaughterhouse and Weatheroak I will say nothing more for now.  Instead I will now move on to the next section which is the pubs I will miss.

The Pubs

I have been to some fantastic pubs in the past year and I have been amazed by the overall quality and friendliness of most of those I have visited.  Some of these I have already reviewed in earlier posts so I will only cover the very best pubs here that I will miss the most. 

I will begin in Stratford-on-Avon where I was staying each week.  The local Wetherspoons, The Golden Bee, has transformed itself since I last worked in Stratford.  The staff are excellent and the beers are superbly kept.  I can honestly say I have never received a bad pint in the past year from this pub.  The same can be said of The Bear at the Swan's Nest which has deservedly won the local CAMRA award for pub of the year.  These two pubs were visited every week.

In Warwick, the Wild Boar became a pub I fell in love with to such an extent that I frequently caught the train over there.  This brings me back to the Slaughterhouse Brewery as this pub showcases their excellent beers as well as having its own micro brewery onsite to brew specials.  If I had to pick out a favourite beer of the many I have tried at this pub it would be their Starboard Porter (4.8% ABV) with the Pacific Pale Ale (4.2% ABV) a close second.  If you are ever in Warwick you MUST visit this pub.  In addition to the Slaughterhouse beers you will find two or three from Everards (the pub is a joint venture between them and Slaughterhouse) along with a further two or three ever changing guest beers.

More recently I have travelled up to Birmingham a few times to see what their pubs are like.  From those that I visited it is safe to say I would probably be going up there on a weekly basis if I was still working there.  The Wellington Arms and The Craven Arms are both Black Country Ales pubs offering a massive selection of beers alongside the three house beers.  Along with the Post Office Vaults, these three pubs would keep me content for all time I think.  The Wellington Arms is currently being refurbished but it is a typical city centre boozer.  The Craven Arms is more your backstreet local and the Post Office Vaults has the feel of a cosy secret backroom that nobody else knows about.

Many excellent pubs I only visited once or twice due to having to drive there as well as always wanting to try new pubs.  This is of course a constant problem for me.  Pubs in this category are the lovely Clarendon Arms in Kenilworth, The Boars Head at Hampton Lucy, Wood Farm Brewery and the Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill.   

Finally, I cannot leave out the Victoria Works in Studley.  The Weatheroak Brewery tap was impossible to get to without driving which limited my visits but it would be wonderful to have this pub as a local.  The full range of excellent beers from the Weatheroak Brewery were complimented by a couple of changing guest beers.  Best of their beers is Victoria Works (4.3% ABV) with the Keystone Hops (5.0% ABV) and the St Udley (3.4% ABV) a close second.     

And the rest

Top of this list is the awesome beer shop Cotteridge Wines.  I have always enjoyed trying new bottled ales from both the UK and around the world.  There are very few specialist shops in the south of England that I have found and even those that I know of, they don't come close to the selection available at Cotteridge Wines.

The close proximity of the East Midlands is something else I shall miss.  This enabled me to visit a couple of the new micropubs that are popping up in some parts of the UK.  Both Little Chester Ale House in Derby and Doctors Orders in Nottingham are offering the beer drinker something different in terms of how to enjoy excellent cask ales in a unique and friendly environment.  I am sure they are pioneers in what will become a very popular trend in the coming years.

I will miss the numerous local CAMRA publications I have picked up in many of the pubs I have visited.  With so many CAMRA branches in such a small geographical area it was easy to come across many different publications and each and every one was able to offer new destinations and beers to explore.

It has been an excellent year.  It began with a brewing experience and after a comment from a friend that I should begin writing about beer it has taken off.  Now I am back home for a while with plenty to ponder on as to my future direction as well as a renewed interest in beer which will see me exploring the beers and pubs closer to home for a while.

Happy drinking.