Sunday, 21 January 2018

Little Critters Brewing Co

Evenorl,

   I think its fair to say I was underwhelmed by my first taste of Little Critters beer. I may even have referenced the "full mash" brewing style beloved of Whitbread's regiment of brewpubs in the 80's and 90s. I was pleased to see that it was well priced, but it wasn't until they brewed their Hazelnut Milk porter at 6.0% that I started to take any serious notice. This has been joined in their range by the 6.5% C Monster, which, their website tells us, features Columbus, Centennial, Chinook and Cascade hops in the mix. Regular readers my realise that this combination of hops and strength makes me a happy chap.

I may be wrong but am sure there has been more than one version of C monster with different hops - there are certainly two pumpclips. If anyone can confirm that would be much appreciated. On Saturday I was meeting Wees K and F, Tash, Mumraah, Meathouse and Martin for a birthday celebration for my Mum and Tash at long time haunt the Ball on Crookes. The C Monster was on cask at £3.40 a pint at 6.5%. I had three pints, and it was excellent.

I had found recently that every time I went into Shakespeares, with few exceptions, I had looked at the keg line up first. The last time I was in they had the Kernel pale on at 7.0% or similar for £5.40 a pint. This has been the standard Kernel price for a couple of years now and represents  good value for money. Alas I cannot recall which hops were in the mix, although there may be a piccy on Faceache..... (update, their post says Mosaic, Simcoe and Ekuanot. It was absolutely ace, I can confirm).

The point is, there are in fact excellent cask hoppy ales, but less so than on keg and in can or bottle, which does not have a k in it. Northern Monk Heathen and Neepsend Double Centennial (or century) are notable exceptions but am drawn to cask less than I used to be. This means that the C monster, with a decent level of IBU and wonderful hops list, is a reliable fall back when in pubs of um...less stature. That regards beer choice I hasten to add, before anyone gets knicker-twisty.

For years we have had many small micro and nano breweries in Sheffield but apart from Blue Bee, Steel City and Abbeydale, very hoppy strong pale ales have been hard to come by in many pubs. Recently however the scope and reach of the three previously mentioned brewers has extended, as has that of Little Critters, meaning a hophead like myself now has a choice of decent quaffable lupilous pints in many more boozers.

Lets hope this trend continues, so that I am able to go out to different pubs once in a while and still come home hop sated every time.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 13 January 2018

New Year's new beers

Good evening,

  I haven't been out that often this year so far. No Dryanuary nonsense or dark artistry at work here, just restricted by  lack of funds. I have however, tried lots of lovely new beers on those two nights out, thus.

I picked up the other half of the humongous box of beers I had bought from Beer Central last week and headed to the Rutland Arms. I hadn't gone in specifically to see their new bar fonts but I have to admit I was impressed. New bar, same pub, great pub. Despite the longer length of the keg font displayeriser I was assured that they had exactly the same number of keg beer on, but now they would be easier to spot and choose. The handpumps are also more together. No problems with the beer range either, I had halves of the Northern Monk Patrons Project something point numbery which I recall was a citra lager. Facts aside it was excellent. The other half was better still - the Buxton Centennial IPA at 7.0%. Its the first of these single hop IPA's I have seen (I think they have Simcoe on at the mo) and since I love Centennial this was understandably a fabulous hoppy pale ale. All good at the Rutland it seems.

Not too far away I went to the Old Queens Head, partly based on info they posted on Faceache about a beer they had on. It was reasonably busy and I got the last table in the back, looking at the fine Christmas tree and over to the fireplace and sat down with some crisps to enjoy my pint. Hopjacker Medved is an imperial stout with a hint of chilli and weighs in at 7% but is troublingly easy to drink. So much so that I had two pints.

As any fule kno, Medved is Czech for bear, hence the ursine beasty on the pumpclip. Matty (who with Tash share the name of the beer, although Nedved is slang for bear am led to believe) was worried about the chilli as he doesn't like it in beer but he needn't have been. The roasted malt and creamy texture were simply tickled by an underlying subtle heat, finishing this excellent beer off perfectly.

My other foray was to home number two, Shakespeares. I had arranged to meet Davefromtshop there already, so was pleased to see on Faceache that they had the excellent Deya Falling into Place DIPA at 8.3% on keg. Arriving late, and as Adam noticed at pretty good speed, I was asked at the bar by a gent I didn't know if he could buy me a pint. Being short of funds I agreed and so started on a pint of the Abbeydale Voyager IPA. I started on a cloudy hop packed beer, and continued thus. Dave was somehow persuaded to buy me a further pint of the Deya and I may have had a third before moved onto bottles.

I tried the Basqueland and Lervig Nor Jose pale ale on Adam's recommendation, and it didn't disappoint, and we finished by sharing a can of the Evil Twin Even More Jesus imperial stout at 12% or whatever sledgehammer strength it is. A fab finisher, although I would suggest the emphasis should be on finish, since the amalgam of ale and cold air combined with my unsteadiness resulted in not one but four falls onto the ground in the short distance from Shakepeares to taxi and taxi to house....

So, Tryanuary despite its restrictions is underway, and I have already tried five new beers from a total of seven consumed. Don't give up the fight pub drinkers!

Cheers

Wee Beefy  

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Once a year drinkers?

Good moaning,

       in a moment of lucid mollification earlier, an event which occurred in the twenty minute fight for warmth twixt waking and rising, I realised that I have been labouring under a delusion, or had fallen into the comfortable armchair of a pub conversation trap. Not subject to any malice you understand, but I had started agreeing with the claim that the worst people to find in a pub at Christmas and New Year are the much vaunted "once a year drinkers".

Firstly, the time of year I am thinking about this phenomena occurring is between Mad Friday and New Year's Eve. The three worst days in that period are Mad Friday, Christmas Eve, and New Years Eve. Straight away therefore, the phrase "once a year drinkers" seems awry. Unless these fearful of bowze roustabouts congregate in such mass that there are sufficient in their group to individually affront us on each of the above three days?

I spoke in my last post about the unpleasant nature and behavior of large groups of imbibers near Christmas, or in what am now going to called the new year era, or new yeara. The unpleasantness unleashed mainly on bar staff but often other customers (who may or may not be reguluzz) is widely thought to stem from once a year or novice drinkers.

Now I know a fairly large number of folks from different backgrounds, and with different levels of supping experience. I can only think of one who maybe only goes out in the New Yeara. They might fall foul of over indulgence, and perhaps also bail early upon that realisation, but the deplorable characteristics displayed in this period are not theirs.

When I was 19, so had been drinking regularly for two years (this is a fact, but not a boast I should point out) I used to go on a lengthy pub crawl on Christmas and new Years eve with  my regular drinking buddies. Did we get drunk? Yes. Was this because it was Christmas or New Year? Yes. We saw it as our duty to consume an insensible amount of alcohol because of religious doctrine and public holidays. We often screang (screamed and sang that is) loudly, although mostly in tune, in pubs and on streets (sorry if you lived in Crookes in the nineties and heard someone screaming Nirvana songs in the early hours, that was me....). We talked loudly, staggered and swayed, and made unprovable claims of our abilities in numerous areas of life, including insobriety. That was, however, the limit of our trespass.

I know time makes ones memories rosier, but I don't remember us ever getting into a fight, only once being asked to leave, and never being abusive to staff. Well, there was one time in the Springfield, but that was our regular spot and this in no way mitigates our behaviour, but there were ongoing issues. What am saying is, the New Yeara made us drink differently, but we were no booze babies, we had already become insufferably thirsty folk by this point, and crucially, the excess of New Yeara alcohol didn't turn us into aggressive, confrontational, twats.

I heard that prior to this Christmas a person I wrote a song about had been physically assaulted behind the bar. Having seen friends in the industry withstand absolutely unjustifiable amounts of personal abuse from revellers enjoying the immoral freedoms they wrongly assume they are entitled to, its a mark of respect to all that they haven't lamped a number of exceptionally rude customers. The thing is, to behave in such a reprehensible manner requires practice. Therefore, the mumblous miscreants I loathe are far from once a year slakers. They are, instead, regular drinkers but also, full time aggressive simpletons.

I think once a year drinkers, should they exist, should in fact be encouraged to come out, and find out what parts of our lives they are missing. I think more importantly than that, seasoned drinkers need to remember that whilst their drinking habits can change in the New Yeara, their behaviour should comprise respect, and forethought of speech. Its one of the things I absolutely don't miss about working behind a bar, and every year swathes of rude and abusive drinkers remind me of that fact.

Here's to a new year, and a new era of calmer, less rude drinkers.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Stick

Ey oop,

     some factions of the world that observes my musings may identify me as a singe de critique - as I do not speak French (which may be obvious) I apologise if the above says critical hairy potato in French as opposed to criticism monkey. Blame Google translate if it does. Its on those basis that I should clarify that the stick in the title is not a byword for criticism or other mumblous malcontent, instead its literally the shapen wooden thing I use to regain balance following my stroke. I don't really recommend having a stroke if am honest, but it has given me a new perspective on the lives of those with limited mobility.

Pre stroke, the idea of walking amongst the unobservant would already have boiled my piss, because I walked quite fast. Now that I have less ability to change direction or stop at short notice, streets awash with the impulsive directionless and stop start simple minded makes me even more annoyed. And thats before have even reached the pub.

 To be fair, as I drink almost exclusively in pubs where I know the owners and bar staff, most employees have been lovely and caring and worried about me, so that has been fine. And in the two places which don't fit that description my stick and sad face warranted similar concerns, and I was given longer to sit down and carry drinks. The only minor mobility issue I had was climbing the step into the Beer Engine when I first went out. I had to be almost hauled up it by Matty. Last night I found no such issue with the same, so am happy to let those people who don't improve as quickly as I have to continue to suffer.....

The main issue has been that in the scrum at the bar people pay almost, or indeed no, attention. In the Bath Hotel I was stood back from the bar to allow the two gents buying their drinks the space to get out. After 5 minutes with just the stick for support I was tiring and two lady children came in. clocked me, and barged into the space between the furthest customer back from the bar and me, almost knocking me over in the process. I did say "woah!" as they marched off but were likely listening to Joe Dolce and playing Donkey Kong in their heads, so that explains why they didn't hear me.

One issue is that am trying not to rely on my stick lest my walking style changes forever. That means I get some funny looks when walking to and from the loo. In Shakespeares I actually got abuse from a group of drinkers who assumed I was paralytic.

I had left my stick on the chair in the front bar with my coat whilst I went to get two halves. Whilst doing so a group sat in front of the table and seat so I asked if they could let me get through to sit down. It took a while to get their attention and the left arm is still not back to normal so as I tried to wobble through the beer in the glass in that hand spilt a little as it tilted. The guy I splashed said "Don't you piss yer fuckin beer all over me" as I struggled to clamber over his legs. I saw no benefit in responding and besides I was too tired to argue. Having finally reached my seat they moved to the next table and my arm started playing up again, so I had to use my right to prevent further spillage, and had to watch my left in case it spasmed outwards and knocked my drink over.

After 5 minutes of slowing down my breathing to settle my heart rate a lady in the group asked if I was alright and I said " yeah, its just have had a stroke and its affected my balance" and the whole group went ashen white and started apologising. They asked me to come and sit with them and if they could help, and apart from the unkind outburst they all turned out to be fine folks. I did make sure I used my stick to walk the short distance over to them though...

I have mischievously thought about using the stick, after I need it, at busy times to get a seat. However, I couldn't. Not for reasons of morality, but because using it would slow me down to the point where I might lose my mind.

The main impact has been on balance and resistance to alcohol so have seriously cut back and now go out less to avoid the wearying walks between pubs that I would usually undertake. On the whole, however, its been a mainly positive experience being a mobility impaired drinker in Sheffield's best pubs, which is a credit to them.

Your very best health

Wee Beefy


Thursday, 28 December 2017

Pre Christmas pints

Good evening,

     am sure regular readers will know that I don't go out that often around Christmas time, usually entirely based on outrageously drunk and crucially, rude drinkers, feeling that the time of year gives them the right to behave in any way or say anything they damn like. Obviously this revulsion has not lessened, but have been more aware of getting a seat since have got my stick, and am still getting tired walking, so pre Christmas supping has been further reduced. Luckily this period of comparative sobriety should mean some details of beers drunk and where are actually correct.

Two weeks ago I went out for the team Christmas meal to Las Iguanas. It was great to see everybody for the first time in weeks, and I had a couple of bottles of Alhambra Reserva with my meal. I had also arranged to meet Meathouse in the Bath Hotel afterwards. Alas he cancelled as I was heading up, but I decided to pop in for one anyway. I got a pint of the Thornbridge and Magic  Rock collab which may have been called Exaltation, and which was a 5.5% alt style beer. I somehow managed to get the last seat in th pub, but it was fearsomely busy so I decided to head off for pastures near.

The Three Tuns came next and mercifully there was a seat. There was a Blue Bee American 5 Hop on and I had most of a pint of that, and since it was the end of the barrel did so for free. Some of the world's loudest humans were in, but not too near, but I still opted only to stay for one, passing on my Yule best wishes on leaving.

My final stop was in Bar Stewards and they had the Verdant I played bass on that tune double dry hopped on keg, so all other beers were not in contention, despite its somewhat keen price. As I had expected, this was hoppier but just as well rounded as the none DDH version and tasted fantastic. A great opportunity to catch up with Charlie, and to sup great beer, as the bar came to closing time.

My final escapade came on the Tuesday with my good friend Mr G. Knowing how paralysingly crap the 52a had become for Christmas I gave myself a while to get there but was still 15 minutes late. I did however walk quite fast with my stick to find Mr G waiting for me outside Shakespeares. Its almost like he knew about my poor financial status...

On entering he looked for lower strength cask, since he was driving and I spotted a Cloudwater on keg. Being as it was on "the stout line" I asked Chris to confirm what it was and to my delight it was their collaboration DIPA with Dry and Bitter called Mobile Speaker. I'll have a pint of that please I stated, and was advised that it was £8.10 a pint. I thought about mentioning to Mr G that it was Christmas, and then did, but he had already agreed. We repaired with our drinks to the clock room, initially sitting at the knee breaker table before escaping to our usual spot, the long table across the back.

I have known Mr G for over ten years and its always good to catch up with him and to find out how, of late, his new job is going. He is aware that I only have a short period where I can buy us both drinks and didn't even quibble when I finished my first pint and asked for another. I fully intend taking him out at the beginning of the month in return.

The conversation ebbed and flowed naturally and he had another half, before moving onto soft drinks. On seeing my get to half of the second pint he asked if I wanted another half. I answered honestly. I wanted a third and final pint. One of the bar staff said, on discovering it was me, that I was unstoppable. "Apart from his stroke" Mr G quipped. I laughed my head off. Its the kind of joke that only good friends can have.

One of the best things about this night was that it involved just one pub, two friends and some frankly fabulous beer. It was undoubtedly the lull before the storm, but was quiet on that night, and all the better for it. In comparison to other near Christmas nights out, even at such an excellent pub, this was probably the best. Your very good health Mr G.

One thing that I intend to do if I manage ti cut down is still go to the best pubs in Sheffield, but perhaps just stick to one. Am looking forward to putting this plan into action in the doom laden weekdays of January ahead. Remember, your boozers need you.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Back to Derby

Hello,

     I made this trip, with Davefromtshop, in mid November. Whilst slowly piecing back together the memories of this lupilous escapade I delayed writing it, and then had a stroke. There is a chance that this event may make some of my memories a little unclear, but that has been a feature of my blogging for many years now and salient memories are not going to make a sudden unwelcome appearance in my musings. Please therefore find below details of our trip to Derby, some of which may be subject to guesswork....

Arriving before 11.00 we found the Brunswick was more than half an hour away from opening, so went for a quick wander down the backstreets trying to find a starting point. That we did, at 11.00, which was the Victoria, possibly next door to a boozer called the Merry Widows. They had two or thirty five real ales on if I recall (I don't) but I know we bought a half each of Purity UBU and sat in comfy chairs facing the fireplace in the bar. A relaxing start to our soon to become scarcely achievable task.

We continued on a familiar path thereafter, heading round to the Brunswick next, where we had beer. For reasons unclear I made no notes whatsoever and also took no pics of pumpclips in this pub and two others. Even my Faceache posts suggest nothing about the Brunswick. All I know is that I had a pint of something pale, based on a pic I took. If you know what was IPAish and on there on 14 November 2017 then that is what I had.

The Alex had a rather smashing range of ales on and I had a pint of Littleover Epiphany at 4.1%, made of citra, simcoe and mosaic - it tasted as good as it sounds. I also had a half of Clouded Minds Dolce Vita West Coast IPA at 6.2 with Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra and Columbus to tickle the taste buds. After a pork pie, we headed through the park to the Smithfield where I had a half of Two by Two West Coast IPA, also at 6.2%. Its worth pointing out that at all three pubs Davefromtshop would also have had beer. I just don't know what it was.

To the Exeter Arms next where we sat in the house next door and had two halves of Tollgate Eclipse BIPA with malted Rye. An odd mix but quite an enjoyable drop, and as always, a pleasure to walk round the many rooms to admire the interior.

The Silk Mill came next and I had a pint of Pentrich Kiama which was a 5% IPA or similar, and this went down really well. This was three hours into our tour and we had consumed five pints. We tried to slow down consumption a little, before heading to the Peacock, which was Dave's first visit. Alas they have stopped selling Bass from the barrel (and at all) but they still usually sell good pies, and I had a pint of Oakham Citra.

Heading back into town we soon found Sadler Gate and went to the Old Bell Hotel. A first for us both, there were four real ales on offer and maybe some keg in this old and recently refurnished building. We both had halves of a local brewery beer, so based on guessing that Lenton Lane Brewery is, we had their Citra. It may have been Littleover though.....

A short wander followed and we found a venue called The Horse and Moon. I know this, because we planned on going there. So we must have, right? There were four handpumps, and as soon as we walked in the barman said "am sorry, all the real ales are not on today". Luckily my drinking universe has widened in my old age so neither of us complained, instead we perused the extensive can and bottle menu. Dave had an American brown Ale, possible from Firestone Walker, and I had a can of the same brewery's collab with Beavertown called West Side Beavo, which Google tells me is 6.5%. Both beers were lovely, and the barman recommended the Forge, craft beer burger bar in a courtyard just down the road. Here we had a half of something unwisely strong, before heading to what may or may not have been our penultimate stop, Suds and Soda.

There is no point my pretending to remember what we had in here, apart from concern about how hungry we had become. Am willing to bet it was delicious. Am certain we didn't go to the nearby Flowerpot, and our last Derby pub was the Standing Order where I locked myself in the toilet cubicle (whilst forgetting to push the unlocked door, like a complete pisshead) and we ate food, am led to believe. On returning to my seat Dave had left my stuff and wandered off, forgetting I was with him, but we were soon reunited in the square where that DJ from Derby filmed the video to I want to be your woman, or similar.

After a good sleep on the train I awoke at Sheffield and found a message from Dave, and headed to Shakespeares for a last one, at least one pint of the 6.5% Cloudwater DDH IPA, which I remember was fantastic.

Derby, as always, provided some excellent boozers, and a fine range of beers throughout. And we also got to visit three new pubs. Am also willing to admit that we probably had too much to drink. Almost half of my beers were 6% or above. I bloody enjoyed it though!

Cheers

Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Golden Pints 2017

Yeesh!

     seems like a while since I did this. Am not sure its something one needs inviting to do but whether it is or it isn't it makes no difference, here are my answers (to the questions posed on John Clarke's blog since I don't know who's hosting it this year...). Have also added some I remember from the last time I did it, which occurred in the past, whilst I watched....

Best UK cask Beer.
Contrary to popular misbelief I do drink cask beer, quite a lot. There have been some fantastic beers on cask this year but the two that stand out are Neepsend Centennial and Northern Monk Heathen. The Centennial may actually have been brewed in 2016 by the way. But they are just numbers. It was incredibly well balanced and easy drinking for a stupendously hoppy pale ale and I loved it. The Northern Monk Heathen was over 6% and cloudy as a British summer's day, packed with an excellent hop hit, balanced perfectly by the malts and was overall a fantastic ale.

Best UK keg beer.
I could list many but the Verdant Maybe just one more PSi at 8.0% was a clear winner. Superb, hoppy, fruity, cloudy,  smooth excellence.

Best UK bottle.
Have probably drunk less bottled beers this year but of those that I have the Marble Imp of the Perverse was a highlight, approximately 72% alcohol and sliced when removed from the bottle. Another excellent product was the Weird Beard Holy Hoppin Hell at somewhere in the 9s. A fabulously ascorbic imperial ale with sufficient balance to make each mouthful refreshing and enjoyable whilst your tongue tingles.

Best UK can.
Oof. There is a lot to choose from! It has to be five day fresh Verdant Further for me. A fantastic 8% DIPA bristling with zesty fruit and hops, as easy to quaff as Vimto. The Northern Monk I want to Moob it Moob it was also a top drop, whether you liked the naked man artwork or not is another matter.....

Best cider or perry.
I don't drink much am sorry to say but the Cats Tongue at Shakespeares was very nice if I recall (the maker of which I do not).

Best Overseas Draught beer.
Stigbergets Bryggeri Sweden Amazing Haze IPA, which I tried at Shakespeares' stupidly delicious  beers tap takeover. It was wonderfully balanced and had the perfect blend of hops and malt to make a zingy satisfying hoppy pale ale.

Best Overseas Bottled beer.
I bought a gueuze from Hop Hideout that was rather special and quite rare, possibly a collab between Cantillon and other gueuze brewers. I can't for the life of me remember its name but it was fantastic. Alas this muddle of memories will have to suffice as an answer.

Best pub or bar(s).
Shakespeares. For achingly obvious reasons. Old Workshop as its a very interesting and innovative bar with fabulous beer and food. Beer Engine for virtually the same reason. Bar Stewards and Walkley Beer Co for being brilliant micropubs (amongst many) and Hop Hideout, where you can drink their range of excellent keg beers.

Best beer festival.
Sheffield, and any at Shakespeares. Always excellent!

Best book.
Am guessing beer books exist, so whichever you liked I may have.....

Best bottle or pumpclip label design.
Magic Rock or Odyssey.Excellent label designs from the latter, overall excellent branding from the former.

Best collaboration brew.
Cloudwater and Pilcrow Pub Missing piece IPA. A fabulous double dry hopped IPA from this excellent brewery and a pub I have not yet visited. Superb.

Best Overall Beer.
Verdant Maybe just one more PSi.

Best UK Brewery.
A three way tie alas between Verdant, Deya and Northern Monk. So many excellent brews from theses fine people!

So, there are my half remembered answers to the official and added question for the Golden Pints Awards 2017. I hope the winners of each receive significant adulation.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy


Sunday, 17 December 2017

Queens Ground, Hillsborough

Hello there,

       as you may know, my consumption of frol has been limited severely for the time being whilst I recover from my stroke. However, so as to not miss out on social drinking in pubs altogether I have been out a few times in the last two weeks.

On Tuesday I made my way to Hillsborough to meet Tash and Matty and Tash and I went to the cafe in Wortley to sing some carols with Mumraah and Martin. Not very rock and roll I hear you say, but we did sing Fairytale of New York, although my Mum went to the loo for most of it, bless her. Arriving back in Hillsborough we were cold so although I had suggested heading for the New Barack a god ten minutes walk away, we headed instead to the Queens Ground.

This is my fourth visit, the first being about 2010 when they didn't serve real ale, and the other two in the last year or so where I have enjoyed the real fire and numerous original features. Indeed, these are detailed in the new free to download Sheffield Heritage Pubs guide from the Sheffield CAMRA  website .

They currently serve four or five cask real ales and from the choice on offer I decided to have a few pints of the Bradfield Belgian Blue. I noticed its strength has dropped to 4.9, and am sure it was over 5% when it came out ten years or so ago. Its taste changed about four years ago and it has lost its deep warming notes a little, and am not sure why the strength has decreased. Five or five point five percent is standard strength for many beers theses days and I can't imagine they save that much money by brewing it weaker. No comparisons can be drawn with Whitbread reducing the strength of Tennants Gold Label and changing from gold foil to silver foil to save a few quid prior to stopping brewing it. It remains a mystery.

That said it wasn't a bad drop (I did have three pints after all) and cost about £3.10 a pint. I sat with my back to the roaring fire which they kept stoking and which remained at a good temperature throughout, and looked at the seating in the bay window where Tash was sat drinking wine. There was a shudder and rumble as the tram went past and I noticed that the Wards Wheatsheaf in the excellent Wards bay windows looked a lot like a mushroom....

We were joined by Matty and got chatting to the barmaid and one of the customers, whilst the fire kept me warm, and I went to the bar and toilets without my stick in order to build up my strength. The pub had a steady trade but was peaceful, mainly because it was about 15.30 when we got there.

The ales I have had on my recent visits have been well kept and sold at a good price and although they don't sell viciously hoppy or London opaque DIPAs like I love its still a cracking spot to nip in for a relaxing pint. Lets hope the pub continues to sell decent real ale and maintains its excellent interior features for many years to come.

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Shakespeares IPA Tap takeover 3

Hello,

       some of you may know that I had an issue recently known as a stroke. Am telling you this now so that you can judge me and then read with a clear head. I am not for a minute suggesting I have been sensible in my recovery. So lets now get on with the gen....

I had heard about this takeover a few weeks ago and had already enjoyed two of the beers in can in the last month, so no amount of minor brain injury was going to keep me away. It did take a while to walk from the Wicker, and it was cold, but I had my stick my phone and company. The beers did not disappoint.

I started on two halves, of Northern Monk and Wylam I want to moob it moob it, and Cloudwater and the Pilcrow pub Missing piece IPA at 7%. The Northern collab was fabulous, very cloudy and tantalisingly hoppy and absurdly easy to drink.

I had heard some in the tiny village of my drinking universe suggest that they were tired of Cloudwater and of the DIPA style. I found this quite interesting. I realise that price is an issue (the Northern Monk Wylam collab was £6.60 a pint at 8.8 and the Cloudwater collab was £7.20 at 7% for example) and also that their DIPA series of 9%ers had probably run its course before it finished. However, their New England DIPAs and Double dry hopped 6% pale ales have been far better, in some cases amazing,  and the idea of double dry hopping a DIPA whilst also maintaining its balance and easy drinking smoothness brings the style to a whole new level.

The missing piece IPA with Pilcrow was very interesting and featured Citra, Eukanot and Mosaic and was double dry hopped, pulling off the hoppy and balanced trick perfectly. It was also thick yellow in colour - not that this matters, but it suggested different malts or yeast to usual had been used which perhaps contributed to the flavour. It was quite frankly exceptional. A proper hop smoothie.

I also tried the Weird Beard and Odyssey Brew Co Fuck you I won't brew what you tell me, a 9.2% West Coast IPA. I have a lot of time for Odyssey and the only thing that let this down was that the strength possibly gave the beer a noticable sweetness.

The final IPA I tried was the Deya Into the Haze, a wonderfully cloudy tropical IPA at 6.2%. This was perhaps the beer of  the night in terms of mouthfeel and taste, and its the only beer I had a pint of. Deya are another good brewery whose products thus far have not disappointed me. A fantastic, smooth, hoppy end to a short tasting. Alas I did not get to try the Chorlton Mandarin sour or the Amundsen from Norway, and I didn't try the Lost Industry Landlocked streets in the sky because I had tried it in bottle and didn't fancy its unavoidable sweetness (although it is a very good beer).

Having   missed two excellent pub fests whilst in hospital or recovering am glad I risked a trip to Shakespeares to sample some truly fantastic ales from some influential breweries. Looking forward to another which I would recommend should take place in February when am good and better.....

Cheers

Wee Beefy


Friday, 1 December 2017

Fiddichside Inn Craigellachie, Moray

Hello all,

     I wanted to write a few words about the above pub, and its landlord Joe Brandie. It may seem strange to pay such a tribute when you discover that I only went once, but that visit was special and affecting. I heard last month that Joe Brandie had sadly passes away at the age of 88 and that the future of the pub is unknown. Lets hope that someone can be found to purchase and run it for many more years.

I visited the pub about five or six years ago with Wee Fatha on a trip up to Aberdeenshire. We had visited the nearby Arbelour distillery and were heading, I think, for the West coast and Seil Island from Fortrose. At least some of the above statements are true....

We stopped first at the Highlander Inn which has an astoundingly large range of whiskies and two or three real ales, which we both enjoyed. I don't remember if the Fiddichside had a car park, but I do remember walking over the bridge and along the side of the road before walking down the steps to the tiny pub to find it open, and landlord Joe stood behind the bar.

Many references to Joe that I have read mention his enjoyment of welcoming visitors from all over the world, and that is one of the first things he said to me. He also didn't seem to mind being in my photos. Myself and WF got halves of Belhaven best and sat down at one end of the tiny, impeccably clean, basic bar room. Mr Brandie returned to his place, and stance, behind the bar. For five minutes we supped in silence before striking up a conversation about our route and destination. The silence, by the way, was easy and glorious.

The pub is on the National Inventory of Unspoilt Pub interiors and was likely unchanged inside for fifty or sixty years, maybe longer. The most amazing feature was just how small the boozer was. I recall the loos were near the entrance but can't remember there being a second room. The bar could probably hold about twenty people. There was a fantastic mirror on the wall facing the bar and a few small stools and tables and a bench that me and WF sat on, and that was it. Basic, unspoilt simplicity.

One thing that we didn't talk about was his wife Dorothy. Not that there was any reason why we should have done, having only just met. However whilst searching for info about the pub I learnt that she had been licensee for many years and had died in 2009 aged 89. The longevity of the couple is notable, but its quite sad to think that Joe would have run the pub by himself for seven or eight years.

I ended up buying some crisps and another drink, and found to my delight that he had started selling Cairngorm or Fyne Ales bottled beers, am fairly sure I had a bottle of Trade Winds to finish my visit.

The pub is in a fantastic rural location, sat in an idyllic spot just past the bridge next to the Fiddich outside the main part of Craigellachie. This factor may raise the price of the building and deter potential buyers from keeping it going as a pub. As yet there are no details of its future. I do hope it reopens, and remains as it appears to have done for so many years, unaltered.

Wee Beefy