Sunday, November 29, 2009
If you can drag yourself away, then a short walk to the Rat provides their 'Z Rod'. This is a stronger beer which I have not seen about for ages but, if my memory serves me well, is another brilliant Pictish recipe. Hopefully it will still be on the bar for me to try, unless my fellow editors get there first and drink it all, in which case they can do the tasting notes!!
Just for good measure, the taunting pole at the Star shows two new up and coming Mallinsons, 'Trabant' and 'Gator', offering an ideal way to spend a wet Sunday.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The Kings Head provides Yorkshire Dales 'Blackstone'. At 5.9%, a thick black stout that goes down a treat like most of the breweries beer, and provides a useful benchmark against other dark beers showing me why I think a lot of darker stuff, especially milds, taste so thin. To be dark and tasty I feel they need strength to carry off the malts used, and to allow some of the hop character to show through. This one certainly scores on all counts.
If you make your way to The Grove, they provide three dark beers at present. The Brentwood 'Marvellous Maple Mild' is 3.7%, and not marvellous but I cannot dispute it being a mild, but lacks body. There is also Wentworth 'Short & Stout', which at 4.5% is certainly stronger, but again I expected more as it was thin and short on flavour. The third is Thornbridge 'Raven' at 6.6%. Unfortunately I feel Thornbridge beers are not what they were, and this offering seems to fall between two stools. It is a dark beer certainly, but the clip describes it a 'Dark IPA', which I would think could be a deliberate contradiction in terms! There are plenty of hops but they are masked by the malts and the whole offering tasted unbalanced to me.
The Star does offer a couple more variations. The Bridestones 'Whisky Dark Mild' comes in at 4.5% and was not to my personal taste, but those who know their Highland malts say that there is an underlying peatiness which characterizes the breed and translates well into the beer. It is certainly different. The pick of the bunch along with the previously mentioned 'Blackstone' is the Crown 'Django Reinheart'. This is a 6.3% 'Damson double porter' whatever that means. It does have the body that others lacked and has plenty of fruit flavour, but does not overpower, making it far too drinkable for a beer of its strength. In short, it is a dangerous beer!
It is well worth a wander about to try these beers as your opinion may well be different to mine - I just hope you find some that you enjoy. And on the subject of dark beers, look out for Mallinsons 'Oatmeal Stout' which has now started to appear in bottles - a great Xmas present for the dark beer lover.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Locally we have Brass Monkey, using their Monkey theme with names like 'Capuchin', 'Silverback' and the like; Empire, where Russ seems to come up with winners like the Goon Show series, or daft names from comedy programmes, 'Eccles' and 'Ooh Matron' being examples; and Mallinsons where Tara has themes ranging from Not so Classic Cars to Yorkshire Follies. Going further afield, Will mentioned Cotleigh and their bird themes a couple of posts ago, whilst Moorhouses stay true to their roots in Burnley with their Witch beers, and Yorkshire Dales seemed to have named beers after every conceivable part of the North Yorkshire Moors. And how many know that Ossett 'Silver King' was originally part of a railway series?
Talking of trains, it seems the norm rather than the exception for brewers to name their beers after old steam engines. Cottage do a lot, but Little Ale Cart has a massive range of named engines on their clips. Being a bus enthusiast, I seek in vain for bus related beers, just the occasional 'Routemaster Red' makes its appearance on the bar.
It used to be usual for brewers to call their beers 'Best', 'Mild', or 'Strong'. At least the unwary drinker had a clue what sort of beer he was getting. It is now equally common to name beers after the hops used. Pictish for one has a massive range of single hopped beers, (check their web site for proof, and see how many hops you have never heard of). For some reason, there are very few beers named after the malts in the beer though.
But it's the really daft names that seem to attract the attention. Who for instance can forget 'The Dogs Bollocks'? And just whose idea was it to name it such? A flick into the Halifax Steam archives shows beers called 'Child Catcher', 'Christmas Crapper', 'Extra Pillows' and 'Luftkissenfihrzeug' (don't tell me I spelt it wrong, I copied it from the book!). As an aside, this must have been the longest pump clip in history covering about 2/3 of the bar!! Inveralmond have taken up the challenge as well, as 'Inkie Pinkie', 'Llama's Lament' and 'Rocking Horse Poo' all illustrate.
Talking of the daft, who at Northumberland decided that to name beers after footballing legends of the Tyne would be a good seller; obviously not in Sunderland, as they have now produced a range of footballing legends(?) - sorry, Iain! - from the Wear to balance it out and hopefully sell some beer south of the Tyne as well.
Anyway must stop, have to get to the Star festival and sample some 'Folly's Dog Collar Blues', 'Viva Cas Vegas'and 'Firkin Dark', to name but three. All I can say is keep the names coming, it always creates a talking point at the bar.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
On the outside bar came the usual suspects. A couple of dry hopped Mallinsons, two Goose Eyes, three from Yorkshire Dales plus beers sourced from further afield. From Williams, Atlas and Devon ales in Scotland, from Box Steam, Hidden and Two Bridges in the South West, and Montys in Wales. It is easy to see why this is such an interesting festival for the 'ticker'.
The range covered all sorts of beers from the light and hoppy, to the dark and chocolatey via ginger beers, ruby beers and winter warmers, in fact beers to suit every taste. Of the one's I tried, the Mallinson's stood out, (no surprise there I hear you say) but the real star of the show, no pun intended, was Yorkshire Dales 'Hit For 6'. Not an indictment of the English cricket team but a light beer crammed with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops. The dark beer lovers seemed to be well impressed with Great Heck's ' Dark Star' weighing in at 5.5%.
If you want something a little different for a Christmas present, there are Mallinsons gift packs with 3 bottled beers, and all varieties of cheese, along with some Christmas cakes with beery themes. Why not make time to call in, the festival runs all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and see what a good, well run pub festival should be. Congratulations Sam, you have done us proud again. (map)
Star pooch Folly prepares to declare the 8th Winter Beer Festival officially open!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
And so it was with great good fortune that, whilst perusing the line up at the King's Head on Huddersfield's station platform this afternoon, I bumped into Great Oakley's knockout 3.9%er, Wagtail. Brewed, according to the GBG notes, with New Zealand hops, this beautifully scented and perfectly balanced award-winning session ale would easily make my top ten beers of the year, even without the exquisitely detailed motacilla alba on the pump clip.
From the wonderful initial lychee aroma to it's final lingering bitterness, this ale has all the hallmarks of a classic - very much in the mould of Roosters Yankee back in the days when that particular revolutionary beer destroyed all in it's path. Seldom have I been so impressed with a beer I had little prior knowledge of - the only negative being that the rest of my day was all downhill taste-wise!
Although largely unfamiliar with this four year old Northamptonshire brewery's output, I did note that birds aren't a recurring theme as they are say at Cotleigh, so I guess there's probably a story behind this particular brew. Whatever that is, I'm inspired enough to put together a list* of my all time favourite bird-themed beers, possibly by Christmas, so watch out for that. In the meantime go get your lips around a wag, it most certainly won't have you spitting feathers!
* Note to Timbo: Your Castle Rock recommendations (Sparrowhawk in particular) need not apply!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Having attended the last two Lions Club fests I can wholly recommend this friendly, well organised event, especially as the recently reopened Commercial just a couple of hundred yards away has made a visit to Slaithwaite even more rewarding for the ale connoisseur. The Moonraker Beer Festival is held in the first floor function room of the Conservative Club on Britannia Road (map).
Another popular festival, a little further afield, is at Sheffield's Harlequin on Nursery Street (map). At least forty beers from all over the shop can be sampled here this weekend including plenty from new and lesser known producers. See below for the full list and the sidebar calendar for dates.
New Charnwood Beer List
Moonraker Beer List
Harlequin Beer List
On the bar were Mallinsons Motueka at 3.8%, a single hopped beer with the aromatic New Zealand hop showcased to perfection; Pictish Pioneer (4.8%), another single hopper but this time with far more body and bitterness and finally Steel City's Hop Manifesto again at 4.8% and massively hoppy with American hops this time.
In addition, Goose Eye provided Gooseville at 4.6% but after the other three this tasted more of caramel. It was just hard work to drag myself away from the bar!!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Moored in Wells-next-the-Sea's little harbour and serving an excellent pint of the norky nectar, this one hundred year old Dutch sailing barge is also available for charter when not gainfully employed as the town's most popular real ale venue. Two beers are generally available on gravity and both usually supplied by the Woodbastwick brewery.
The single below-decks drinking area also finds room for regular live music (god knows how!) and an interesting (though pricey) menu full of locally caught produce might persuade you to tarry a while. Just getting down to the bar is challenge enough though and I would imagine returning to the quayside after a session on the Nelson's Revenge is downright dangerous!
The Albatros is great fun and immensely popular with families - a must visit if touring this beautiful coastline! More about the history of this remarkable old vessel can be found here.
Interestingly this is the only CAMRA beer guide entry for Wells in the latest edition, with last year's Edinburgh Hotel failing to meet the criteria despite being the busiest I've ever seen it and serving a larger selection of ales than before. Round the corner The Globe was suffering from poor quality Adnams and an identity crisis!
Monday, November 09, 2009
And this is just what we've been lacking recently, a local pub festival with an attitude problem! Well I'm game - and whilst it seems deliberately timed to begin on that most-feared day in the (superstitious) calendar, we can only hope that any 'disaster' that befalls the Charnwood this weekend is confined to running out of beer a little early!
LIST JUST ADDED!
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
The reason for this article is to remind people that a local brewery did indeed benefit from the demise of Firkin, when Andy Moorhouse, erstwhile landlord of the Rat & Ratchet in Chapel Hill decided to try his hand at brewing.
He, with a couple of other regulars, tripped off to Surrey one day and returned with the brewing kit from the Firkin in Crawley - and if I can't remember the name of the local Firkin I am unlikely to to remember the name of one 200 miles away am I!
He managed to cram the brewing kit into the cellar at the Rat and started brewing in late 1994. He would be offended if I called the brewery a 'Heath Robinson' affair, so I will say that it was a tribute to his engineering and skill that he managed to fit all the gear into such a small area and before long beers with rodent names were appearing on the bar (below). Usually light and hoppy, they were a tribute to his ability and it was always a pleasure to walk down Chapel Hill and smell the brewing process wafting up the hill towards you.
Andy not only used his ingenuity in the brewery, his search for rodent names provided some of the most memorable beer names ever. 'Silver Shrew' and 'Rattus Rattus' were easy to explain, 'Lord Derby's Flying Squirrel' and 'Splinter' less so. Nevertheless, the brewery went from strength to strength and I recall his pleasure, or maybe amazement at being awarded the 'Beer of the Festival' at Woking one year. (Suppose, light hoppy beer was a shock to Southerners!!).
Anyway all good things must end, and Andy decided to turn his hand elsewhere and the brewery was sold on. Firstly to the Fantasy Brewery in Nuneaton, which was a fairly short lived affair and then on again. I believe it was the basis for the Ashover Brewery in Derbyshire but I could be wrong. They are still brewing, so if you come across their beers it is entirely possible that they have come from the original Rat plant.
Andy did brew again, using Golcar's plant, where he produced a handful of beers under the 'Sidecar' name. However, his real success came at the Rat with beers that attracted attention from far and wide. Who can forget 'Infestation', a beer that is still talked about to this day. It just shows what a good brewing pedigree Huddersfield has, and is a tribute to Firkin that their kit has lasted the test of time to still produce good beers over 20 years on.