Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Pubs of Stratford-on-Avon

I constantly praise three pubs in Stratford-on-Avon but there are quite a few I have not even visited yet.  I thought I would right those wrongs tonight and see what they have to offer.  My first stop was to be the Lamplighter Inn.  I have visited this pub a couple of times many years ago and at the time they sold Jennings Cumberland Ale and Banks's Mild.  So what could they offer me tonight?  Nothing.  That was a quick visit then.

My second port of call was the recently refurbished White Swan Hotel.  This Fullers pub is somewhere I have never visited so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like.  It was lovely.  Both to the left and right were comfortable drinking areas with leather sofas and chairs with plenty of privacy for many of the tables.  The dining areas were hidden away and one of these to the far right was within a room with gorgeous wood panels.  As a pub to visit for a quiet relaxing pint it was perfect.  Could the beer match the surroundings?  The choice was the usual Fullers selection.  ESB, Gales Seafarers and London Pride were all available and Bengal Lancer was 'coming soon'.  I chose the ESB, one of my favourite beers over the past 30 years.  I was delighted to see it served in the ESB glass but the quality was not brilliant.  It wasn't off but it was not what I would expect either.  At £3.75 a pint it was reasonably expensive too.  Despite this, I will probably give the pub another chance at some point to see if the beer quality improves.

The next stop was going to be No.7 Windsor Street.  However, the sign outside said the pub was 'To Let' and the signs inside told me why.  The place was empty.  Onwards we go.

Next stop was The One Elm.  This pub was always popular with my work colleagues when I originally worked in Stratford-on-Avon many years ago.  It is quite a trendy bar which isn't normally my kind of establishment but I was pleasantly surprised by it.  To the right was a colourful lounge and on the bar there was a choice of Doom Bar, Greene King Abbot, Purity Pure Gold and Purity UBU.  I chose the Pure Gold (3.8% ABV) as I had never tried it before and it was served in the correct glass and in perfect condition.  It was a delightfully refreshing hoppy session bitter.  No complaints then about the beer or the pub.

Three pints was going to be my limit tonight so my next stop, The Pen and Parchment, would be my final port of call.  This former GBG pub had a reasonable beer selection in the past but now it is limited to Greene King.  I am assuming that the beer labelled Poet's Ink was from this brewery.  They are becoming pretty good at hiding the origin of some of their beers and my past experience kept me away from it.  The pub itself is nothing special anyway.  The food has always been good when I've eaten there but it is not a pub for relaxing in.  I did not wish to try anything on offer so I left.

I crossed the road to go in The Encore.  The large corner pub (a former Beefeater if my memory is correct) had Purity UBU and Pure Gold available.  I was looking for something a little different as I could find a decent pint of this back at the hotel so I moved on.  The pub itself though had much more appeal than the Pen and Parchment and it is Cask Marque accredited so I will go back there at some point.

My final stop was The Garrick Inn.  Reputedly the oldest pub in Stratford-on-Avon it is owned by the same pub company as The Pen and Parchment and the  beers avalable were also from the Greene King stable.  The pub was small, cosy and welcoming but, once again, I am on a downer where Greene King are concerned so I did not stay for a drink. 
Will any of these pubs become regular haunts for me?  The Bear remains my top choice as it has everything.  Comfortable surroundings, friendly staff and a fantastic rotating beer selection from local micro breweries.  For me this is the perfect ingredient for a regular pub.  However, The One Elm turned out to be an excellent bar with well-kept beer including two from the local Purity Brewing Company.  What I did find disappointing though is in a county full of thriving micro breweries I did not find any other local ales available, and in the case of one pub, no ales at all. 

Happy drinking.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

In praise of beer shops

Where I live in West Sussex it is difficult to find unusual bottled beers.  There was a specialist beer shop in Chichester a few years ago and it really was awful.  This was extremely disappointing because I love browsing in shops dedicated to beer.  I do not like to buy beer online.  I'd much rather go to a specialist shop and spend time reading the labels and picking out new beers to try.  It's like my 7 yr old boy and his love of Lego.  He gets little pleasure from receiving a parcel from Amazon but every month his eyes light up when we take him to the Lego Shop in Brighton.   

To find a good beer shop I have to travel quite a distance.  The Southwick Brewhouse near Fareham has a decent selection of UK bottled beers as well as draught beers.  The shop is sited in a former brewhouse (brewing ceased in 1956) and it is worth visiting as it also serves as a museum as the brewhouse remains intact.  Even further afield, there is the Good Beer Guide listed Bitter Virtue in Southampton.  This shop has a good selection of draught ales as well as a varied selection of beers from all around the world. 

Travelling north, close to where I normally work, is the beer shop attached to the Hogs Back Brewery in Surrey.  As well as their own beers on draught, in bottles and within gift packs, they have a good selection of bottled beers from all over the UK as well as others from around the world.  This is my usual port of call when I'm looking to stock up for Christmas and at other times. 

Moving back into Sussex there is Beer Essentials in Horsham.  In 2000 I was working and living in Horsham and to me, Hall and Woodhouse took on the role of the devil when they took over and closed down this much loved brewery.  Former King and Barnes retail sales manager Gareth Jones found himself out of work and the following year he started up this excellent business filling the beer glasses of many of his former customers.  They usually sell four draught ales from local brewers as well as a fine selection of bottled beers from around the UK. 

When travelling around England I have always found there to be many more beer shops to choose from than there are in the south.  Last week I ventured into the suburbs of Birmingham to visit Cotteridge Wines.  The owner has been running what was essentially a local off-license for 18 years before deciding to specialise in bottled beers from all around the world.  He has a genuine passion for what he is trying to do and it was like walking into beer heaven.  A long aisle was dedicated to beer and many of them were from breweries I had never even heard of.  I had no idea where to start so he helped me out before letting me browse on my own.  He has a massive selection of craft beers from America as well as many from Scandinavia, Belgium and Germany.    He is constantly looking for new products and he is already stocking over 700 different bottles.  In terms of choice this is by far the best shop I have visited and the friendliness and enthusiasm of the owner made it even more pleasurable. 

So what did I choose to put in my basket?  I began in Burlington, Vermont with some Magic Hat No.9 (5.1% ABV).  I visited this brewery in the late 1990s and this beer will bring back happy memories.  More memories come flooding back with my second choice, a Celis White (5.0% ABV) from Austin, Texas.  In 1989 I was lucky enough to work in Austin and I made myself very popular with my American colleagues by organising a trip around this brewery (so popular they forced me to organise a second trip before I left).  I could write a whole article on Pierre Celis, one of the great names in Belgian brewing, who sadly passed away last year and perhaps I will one day.  However, for now I will move on to my next choice, a Sierra Nevada Stout (5.8% ABV), another great name in American craft brewing.  My last American choice was Black Jack Porter, a 6.8% ABV beer from Colorado, another great American state for craft brewing.

For my next choice I moved to Norway.  When I worked in Copenhagen a few years ago I was delighted to find some wonderful stouts and porters and one of these was Nogne O.  There was no hesitation in adding this to my basket of goodies.

For the remaining choices I stuck to the UK.  Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout (5.0% ABV) has long been a favourite and frustratingly hard to find in my part of the world.  Brodies Smoked Rye Porter (7.3% ABV) from London is totally new to me as is Celebration Ale 60 (4.5% ABV) from the Red Rock Brewery, Devon, Winter Dunkel (4.6% ABV) from the Allendale Brewery, Northumberland and Bearskinful (4.2% ABV) from Beartown Brewery, Cheshire. 

My last two bottles I picked out came from the Durham Brewery.  I was able to purchase their beers some years back at the Hogs Back Brewery and they instantly became a favourite.  Redemption (10.0% ABV) and Bede's Chalice (9.0% ABV) are both fantastic and were both enjoyed over Christmas a few years ago.  I have not found their beers available anywhere since so I was delighted to find them here.  I chose Redemption, my earlier favourite, and a new one to me, Bombay 106, a 7.6% IPA. 

So a tasty dozen to enjoy over the next few weeks when I am home at weekends.  I thought the prices were excellent and Cotteridge Wines will be my port of call when stocking up for Christmas.

Finally, may I urge all you beer lovers out there to visit your local beer shop.  If they are like the shops I have mentioned here then the owners all love their product and will provide you with great service and knowledge about what you are buying.  It really is the adult equivalent of the Lego Shop.  You will always find something new.

Happy drinking. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Warwick Pub Crawl

Last night I decided to catch a train from Stratford-on-Avon and make the short journey to Warwick.  I had no particular plan or list of pubs to visit except for the first two stops.  The first stop was always going to be The Wild Boar which is very close to the station.  The Wild Boar is a magnificent pub that houses a microbrewery which can be viewed through a window at the back.  It is a collaboration between local brewer, Slaughterhouse, and the large regional brewer Everards of Leicester.  From the latter, Tiger Best (4.1% ABV) and Sunchaser (4.0% ABV) were available.  From the former I could choose from Saddleback (3.8% ABV), Rare Breed (4.2% ABV), Wild Boar (5.2% ABV) and Alt Bier Extra (5.5% ABV).  If that wasn't enough there were three guest beers from Arkells, Box Steam Brewery and Weatheroak.  I figured I'd find a Slaughterhouse beer elsewhere tonight on my travels so I chose Arkells Wiltshire Gold (4.0% ABV).  This pale golden bitter was quite hoppy with a pleasant bitter aftertaste.  It was served in perfect condition and it made a good start to the evening.

Leaving the Wild Boar I turned right towards the town.  After passing underneath the trainline I veered off to the left passing a pub called The Railway on the corner.  I came to The Coten and turned left where I came across the Millwright Arms.  It is a lovely looking building and reputedly one of the oldest buildings in Warwick.  The bar was quiet and central.  To the right was a small room lavishly decorated and to the far left was a more formal area.  Apparently there is a fabulous large garden to the rear and there is also outside seating at the front of the pub but you will have traffic fumes to contend with here.  The beers available were St Austell Tribute (4.2% ABV), Sharps Doom Bar (4.0% ABV) and Wye Valley HPA (4.0% ABV).  I love the latter but amazingly I have never tried Tribute before so I decided to put that beer to bed.  As for Doom Bar, I have never understood the popularity of this very ordinary beer and I am always dismayed to see it with such regularity.  The Tribute surprised me.  It was a pleasantly smooth golden bitter with citrus notes but quite a sweet finish that wasn't to my particular taste.  It certainly does not compare to the magnificent Hicks Special Draught which has always been one of my favourite beers but frustratingly difficult to find outside the South West.

I headed back towards town and it wasn't far to my next stop, The Oak.  This tiny pub had an excellent beer selection which is good because it is a real drinkers pub with limited seating, a pool table and dartboard to the rear and a function room at the back.  I could choose from Oakham JHB (3.8% ABV), Brains Rev James (4.5% ABV), two beers from Lincolnshire micro Newby Wyke,  Banquo (3.8% ABV) and White Squall (4.8% ABV) and the house beer Oak Ale (4.0% ABV).  The barmaid could not tell me where the house beer was brewed but she did offer me a sample of White Squall.  It had a powerful hoppy taste but I opted for the weaker Banquo.  This was also a pale, floral hoppy beer with a pleasant bitter aftertaste.  I liked this pub.  It was great to see that not only did the pub have a dartboard but it was also being used.

It was now time to head into the centre of this beautiful historic town.  I passed a couple of lovely looking hotels and a few upmarket bars before finding myself in the old market square.  I had a choice of the local Wetherspoons or a similarly large establishment called The Tilted Wig.  I had no desire to see another Spoons so I chose the latter.  Bad choice!!  It started off well when I chose a pint of Jewellery Porter from Birmingham micro Two Towers for just £1.99.  It was then downhill all the way.  The pub had large comfortable seating areas to both sides.  It was busy with plenty of people eating.  I wanted a packet of salted peanuts and I was informed they served them in small pots.  This is something I have become used to at a number of pubs in Stratford-on-Avon where they serve a variety of snacks in small dishes.  These can cost up to a pound so how much was it going to be here?  £2.50.  Sorry did you say £2.50?  That's more than the cost of the pint.  The ridiculousness of this pub did not stop there.  At both ends of the pub was wallpaper resembling bookshelves.  I had just come from The Oak which had real books on real bookshelves for the benefit of customers.  This was just hideous.  Special mention must go to the barmaid who was last seen ignoring all and sundry whilst studying her mobile phone with intense concentration.  This was in stark contrast to the friendly host in the Millwright Arms who was chatting to one and all.  Finally, the beer was very poor quality.  The slight sweetness hinted it was well passed its best which was very disappointing.  I hope to find this beer served in peak condition in the near future at a proper pub so I can find out what it really tastes like.

After finding a drinking establishment of such poor quality the simple solution is to stick with what you know.  I had time for one more beer so I headed back to the station and revisited the Wild Boar.  I wanted a beer brewed in Warwick and two new beers had arrived on the menu which were missing earlier.  Both were from Slaughterhouse - Space Trotter (4.3% ABV) and Starboard Porter (4.8% ABV).  After my disappointing porter at The Tilted Wig I thought I'd try my luck again.  This was totally different and was everything I look for in a porter.  Very smooth with a chocolate malt bitterness it was absolutely divine.  An excellent beer to end the evening with.  Whilst enjoying this I picked up a copy of The Beer and Ragged Staff, the local CAMRA newsletter from the Heart of Warwickshire branch.  An excellent read that gave me plenty of ideas for pubs to visit next time I come to Warwick.  It was such an easy journey it is certainly a place I will come back to before Christmas and next time I would like to find more pubs serving local beers.  As for The Tilted Wig.  That's one pub I will never set foot in again!!

Happy drinking.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Winter warmers

It was really damp, dark and depressing yesterday.  The sort of evening when you want to curl up in front of a roaring fire with a glass of something warming.  When it comes to beer I love dark winter warmers but are they a dying breed?  It is certainly harder to find stronger barley wines in pubs and even harder to find a pub that will serve it to you in a pint glass.  I will split up my favourite dark winters brews into three categories.  The first can often be found all year round but I prefer to drink them on nights like last night.

Stouts and Porters

Stouts are very black beers.  To use a Michael Palin line from TVs Ripping Yarns out of context, these beers are so black even the white bits are black.  Using heavily-roasted malts they can be quite harsh with coffee flavours giving some bitterness but my favourite stouts have a sweeter taste.  They normally have a strength of about 4.5% ABV and the one that fits my palate to perfection is Hop Back's Entire Stout.  The Wiltshire brewer should be commended for such a fine beer.  A more recent favourite is the much stronger Mud City Stout from Sadlers Ales in the West Midlands.  At 6.6% ABV this potent stout is very rich, has a long sweet finish but with quite a complex mix on the palate with chocolate and raisin flavours to the fore.  Tonight I tried a Black Widow Stout from Bird's Brewery of Worcestershire.  At 4.5% ABV this was again quite a traditional stout with subtle sweetness and hints of coffee and a little bitterness in the aftertaste. 

I include porters with stouts as they are often linked together and the flavours can be very similar but I find them to be more mild than stouts although technically there is probably very little difference.  However, I have had porters that are lighter in colour to stouts with a dark dark brown tinge to them.  An example of this is the magnificent Wickwar Station Porter (6.1% ABV) which I have not seen for quite a few years.  Fullers used to do a very nice London Porter and it is still available in bottles.  London is where the name originated from as it was a popular ale with porters working in the capital in the 18th century. 

Last night I tried a very splendid Celtic Smoked Porter brewed by Isle of Man brewer Okells.  This beer had a subtle bitterness and was a very smooth pint. I am told this beer has just been voted best European Smoked Beer in the 2012 World Beer Awards.  I was dubious about trying it as the last smoked beer I tried was awful.  It is amazing how you can be put off a particular beer style by trying something unpleasant.  I will no longer avoid smoked beers though.

Old Ales

Old ales are my favourite winter beer style.  As with porters, the style originated a few hundred years ago.  They are stored for months or even years (hence the name).  Some old ales are strong but they do not have to be.  I'm not sure if my two favourites are still available.  King and Barnes Old Ale (4.1% ABV) certainly isn't but Bill King continued to brew it when he resumed brewing with his new micro and the taste was remarkably similar.  Following his retirement W.J.King still advertise an Old Ale (4.5% ABV) so I will have to check it out this Winter.  The King and Barnes connection is maintained by the other Horsham micro, Hepworths.  Andy Hepworth was the former head brewer of King and Barnes and he began his micro in 2000 and they produce a lovely bottled Old Ale (4.8% ABV).

My other favourite was Adnams Old Ale which had a similar strength to the King and Barnes beer.  I do not think they brew it any more but I'd like to think I am wrong.  Perhaps it still appears as a winter special.  It  had more bitterness than the King and Barnes version but it was still a fantastic beer for those winter months.

Stronger old ales worth checking out are Robinson's Old Tom (8.5% AB) and Lees Moonraker (7.5% ABV).  Also falling into this category is the amazing Norfolk Nog brewed by Woodforde's.  At 4.7% ABV this beer is truly fantastic and one I must endeavour to find on the bar this winter.    

Finally, it may be wise to be wary of beers prefixed by the word 'Old' though as they may not be genuine 'Old Ales'.  However, that does not mean they will not be worth drinking.  Check things out with the brewer via their website or the retailer if you want to know about a particular beer.

Barley wines

Another beer style a couple of hundred years old, barley wines are always a favourite of mine.  They often had a strength in excess of 10% ABV but nowadays this is not necessarily so.  Woodforde's Headcracker (7.0% ABV) has always been a particular favourite of mine.  As with old ales, they could be stored for up to two years and some of the stronger old ales could also be classed as barley wines perhaps.  It is often difficult to categorise some beers and classification can be further obscured by what the brewer says about a particular beer.  Barley wines hit the headlines earlier this year with Coniston Brewery winning the Champion Beer of Britain at the 2012 GBBF with their beer No 9 Barley Wine (8.5% ABV).  I was lucky enough to sample this at the festival and it was a delightful beer.

A perfect place to sample an excellent range of the very best in stouts, porters, old ales and barley wines is the annual winter ales festival at the White Horse, Parsons Green in SW London.  When I lived in London in the mid 1980s this was a regular event for me every year.  It is still going strong.  It is usually held over the last weekend in November which is a perfect time to sample such beers. 

So the onset of winter is not necessarily a bad thing.  There are plenty of beers to enjoy around a nice warm fireside.  I would like to hear from anyone who can recommend some nice winter beers I have not mentioned that are worth trying.  With so many new breweries in the UK there must be many many winter beers waiting to be discovered.  A word of warning though.  I do NOT like beers flavoured with winter spices or laced with other additions.  In the past I have bought a number of bottled winter ales where I have been unaware of such ingredients.  They have always been poured straight down the sink.  I'm sure some people enjoy them but they are definitely not to my taste. 

Happy drinking.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sperrin Brewery

This weeks trip was to the Warwickshire CAMRA pub of the year for 2011.  The Lord Nelson Inn is in the northern tip of the county situated in the village of Ansley about 10 miles north of Coventry.  Last week I went to the far south of the county to visit the Warwickshire CAMRA pub of the year for 2012, the home of Patriot Ales as described in an earlier blog.  If you read that article you will remember I was not impressed by the pub or the beer.  So how does the Lord Nelson compare?  Well, you could not find two pubs that are more different.  From the outside you would probably not choose to enter the Lord Nelson whereas The Norman Knight appeared to be the perfect village pub.  However, the warm welcome was totally missing last week.  The Lord Nelson may look like a scruffy roadside pub with a door handle that was probably a toilet roll holder in a past life but it was a genuine friendly local selling beer brewed on the premises and an excellent family friendly menu.  I do wonder though how the same group of people could choose such vastly different pubs as their favourite from one year to the next!!         

Ansley has two breweries apparently and the Sperrin Brewery (also known as Victoria Beers) began brewing this year at the back of the Lord Nelson Inn.  This evening the pub had two of the Sperrin beers available (Head Hunters at 3.8% ABV and Band of Brothers at 4.2% ABV).  Also available was a beer from the nearby Church End Brewery, Wychwood's Hobgoblin and Hopnotch, a 3.6% ABV brew from the Hopping Mad brewery of Buckinghamshire.  Sadly, nothing was available from the Tunnel Brewery, the second brewery in Ansley.  I decided to sample the Head Hunters and it turned out to be a good choice.  It was a classic traditional bitter.  This very smooth session bitter had a lovely bitter finish.

To sum up, The Lord Nelson Inn is a pub I would visit again and the beers are worth seeking out too.  It has a comfortable front bar with a noticeable nautical theme and the bar also serves the back dining area.  It is a large pub and I'm sure it has more rooms hidden away.  I may not return for the advertised 80s night (well actually I can guarantee I won't) but it is a pub serving a local close-knit community that is also welcoming to outsiders.  Let's hope that the people who chose it as the Warkwickshire CAMRA pub of the year for 2011 get to choose the winner for 2013.

Happy drinking.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Cask Ale Week in Stratford-on-Avon

Cask Ale Week is a great reason to indulge.  I always try and sample new beers so this week I decided to also try and visit new pubs.  During the week I stay at the Legacy Falcon Hotel in Stratford-on-Avon.  This is a delightful hotel.  I've stayed in most of the hotels in Stratford-on-Avon over the past six years and this is the best.  Room 308 is a room to avoid and there's always something missing from the breakfast tray but the friendly staff make it far superior to the rest.  In the bar they serve an excellent pint of UBU (4.5% ABV) and Mad Goose (4.2% ABV) from the local Purity Ales

However, I digress.  This was not the week to drink in the hotel bar.  The Sunday Telegraph issued a free pint of cask ale voucher for Cask Ale Week so on Monday I had to seek out a pub that accepted this.  The Old Tramway is a pub on the outskirts of town so after visiting The Bear at the Swan's Nest, my Stratford favourite, where I sampled the Wye Valley Butty Bach (4.5% ABV), I walked on and discovered a delighful pub.  The elegant building houses a single open-plan bar serving Fullers London Pride and a guest ale from the Rudgate Brewery of York, Viking Bitter (3.8% ABV).  The barman knew nothing about the latter and it was not a name I recognised but I decided to give it a try (it was free after all).  It turned out to be a delicious beer.  A subtle malty taste with a delightful bitter finish.

Last night I drove out to one of my favourite pubs, The Victoria Works at Studley.  The Weatheroak Brewery tap is a delightful drinking establishment that is well worth a visit.  I chose a pint of their brilliantly named St Udley (3.4% ABV), a very tasty traditional mild.  They were serving the full range of the Weatheroak Brewery beers in addition to a guest ale from the Slaughterhouse Brewery (Wild Boar 5.2% ABV).  I find it disappointing that the last bus back form Studley to Straford-on-Avon leaves ridiculously early so driving is the only option and a single pint was my limit.  Arriving back in Stratford-on-Avon I found time for a pint of Byatt's Coventry Bitter at the Golden Bee.  A lovely session bitter that is incredibly smooth and has a lovely bitter finish.

Tonight I decided to visit three Stratford-on-Avon pubs that I had previously avoided.  The first of these was The Windmill.  The Flowers and Son sign on the outside wall brought back memories.  Flowers Original was a decent beer when I was in my twenties.  Tonight the beers available were Greene King Abbot (5.0% ABV), Morlands Old Speckled Hen (4.5% ABV) and Purity Ales UBU (4.5% ABV).  All three are fairly strong.  Where's the session bitter?  I chose the latter.  UBU is easy to find in Stratford-on-Avon so I rarely drink it but it is a delightful pint.  Malty, full-bodied and very drinkable.  I will be drinking more of it in the future.  It reminds me of one of my favourite long lost beers, King & Barnes Festive.  The pub is very pleasant too.  An old beamed building with comfortable spacious seating areas and a separate dining area.

Next stop was The Queen's Head.  The only available beer worth drinking was Adnams Southwold Bitter (3.7% ABV).  The pub is one to avoid.  I have stayed in Southwold many times.  I have visited every Adnams pub when I completed the Adnams Ale Trail in the 1990s and I have been given a tour of their wonderful brewery by the head brewer as a reward for completing the aforementioned trail.  Adnams Broadside is my favourite beer and all their beers are delightful.  Tonight it was not such a pleasant beer.  I was the only person in the pub.  Now I know why.

Finally I visited The Rose and Crown.  The pub is opposite the Wetherspoons pub, the Golden Bee.  This Taylor Walkers pub brought back memories from when I lived in London in the 1980s.  Taylor Walker did not brew any decent beer from what I remember but they had a large number of pubs in the London area.  This pub was a very pleasant suprise.  It is a vast cavernous building with a long bar running from front to back.  It has numerous TV screens but they do not intrude due to the large number of seating areas.  At the very back there was a pool table.  The first suprise was the beer selection.  This was enhanced by a two week Cask Ale Festival featuring 14 cask ales.  Three were available tonight, Oakham Ales JHB (3.8% ABV), Beartown Brewery Ginger Beer (4.0% ABV) and Inveralmond's Lia Fail (4.7% ABV).  I chose the latter.  A malty concoction full of coffee and toffee flavours it was a lovely beer.  In addition to the festival beers, Youngs Bitter (3.7% ABV) and Doom Bar (4.0% ABV) were also available.  With a festival loyalty card and a 10% discount for CAMRA members I will be visiting the pub again next week.  It is good to see that what is essentially a pub company is now committed to delivering fine ales and I read somewhere in their literature that all 114 of their pubs are Cask Marque accredited. 

That brings me to the end of my Cask Ale Week adventures.  Tomorrow I will be drinking again of course but that will result in a totally new blog post.  The week so far has been a reason to discover new beers in new environments.  I have my favourite pubs whilst in Stratford-on-Avon and during the week I have discovered a couple more that I will definitely visit again so it was a worthwhile exercise .

Happy drinking.