Saturday, 11 November 2017

Badges

Hello,

   am guessing that many Sheffield readers will know straight away what this post, or rather whom this post, is about. To those not in the know, Badges Andrew is the subject - known by many other names am sure, and according to Beer Matters, as Andrew Smith. I never knew Andrew's surname whilst he was alive. That is the same for many of the people I know and drink with in Sheffield pubs. Andrew passed away in October this year. Here are some thoughts on his drinking life.

I use that phrase by the way because I didn't know Andrew outside of pubs. That, as above, is something that applies still to many people I see in boozers regularly. One of the benefits, if you look at it so, of social media, is that you can often find out lots about people you meet in pubs by exchanging online details. I realise this is also potentially a bad thing. I met Andrew in 1994. It was ten years before I owned  a computer.

Due to my woeful UJR* I don't know what condition Andrew had. I spoke to someone recently who said he didn't speak to him because he thought he was a freak. I was quite shocked, since to me it was obvious that Andrew had some kind of illness or condition which determined the way that he acted in social situations. There was no malice in the chap. He was a jolly, unendingly enthusiastic, probably overly verbose and loud gent who loved his cask beer. He may well have had a behavioural condition, but one thing I would say is that this never stopped him coming out to drink. Sometimes too much. Sometimes too often. These are not characteristics I would criticise in anyone, for obvious reasons.

Andrew's passing is one where the term rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated is actually accurate. About five years ago he disappeared from the pub scene altogether and there were suggestions he had passed away. And then I saw him in the Bath Hotel, addressing the bar staff, as he always had done, as if they were about 30 feet away. It was impossible to miss Andrew. For a start you may have remembered him from working shifts at Sheffield Beer Festival for many years. And even if you went deaf you would always recognise his hat, weighed down and bedecked in number by badges. Unfortunately I never got to find out what the badges said since, alas, Andrew suffered from spouty mouth, a term I have invented. Lets just say it was advisable to cover one's drink with a beer mat whilst conversing with Andrew, lest one wanted a top up, consisting almost entirely of saliva.

I once met up with Sean in the Cask and Cutler and mentioned I was going to Chesterfield the next day with my other half. He had asked if I was going to Keighley beer festival. It seemed Andrew was also, as he loudly advised. As we were about to leave the Derby Tup the next afternoon I heard Andrew's distinctive voice. He was a trifle refreshed. I said hello to him on our way out and headed with my partner to the Red Lion on Whittington Moor. Or whatever the Old  Mill pub was called. As we were also a trifle refreshed we decided that Andrew was a bit too much for us and were therefore seeking  refuge there. I even jokingly said to the barman, that if he came in, could me and our lass hide behind the bar. Five minutes later he did, and so did we. He spotted us. He didn't think to ask why we were crouching behind the bar. He just told us, in great detail and with some volume, about the beers he had tried at the festival and the Tup. All of which had been very nice, really.

The final thing I want to share is from way back in 1994. Me and Helen and Ieuan and others were in the beer garden of the Fat Cat, along with Alan Gibbons. Andrew walked in and started telling Helen in great detail about something that had happened earlier that day (which would no doubt have been really really good,  or very nice actually) and then spotted Alan. And then, this happened....

Andrew: "Ooooh" Alan! Its funny you being called Alan Gibbons.....
Alan: silence
Andrew: "cuz you could have been called Alan Baboon!"
Alan: silence
Andrew: "Alan Chimpanzeeee!"
Alan: silence
Andrew: "Alan orangutan!"

I would like to think that Andrew's notable attention to detail meant he would have listed many other types of apes or simian creatures but I can't be sure. I do know that whilst we pissed ourselves laughing, Alan did not find this in the slightest bit amusing. Never before have I heard someone so enthused about monkeys, nor seen someone so stern faced in the receipt of such unbridled enthusiasm.

Back to reality, and I don't know how Andrew died, but am sad to see his passing. I have only been drinking for 26 years but have already lost many friend and acquaintances from the world of pubs which I started frequenting in 1993.

If you are out tonight, please raise a glass in tribute to Andrew. And do mention the simian possibilities of his surname to Alan Gibbons.....

Cheers

Wee Beefy

*Usual Journalistic Rigour

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Sheffield Steel City Beer Festival 2017

Hello,

       well, for the 24th consecutive year I have attended the Sheffield Beer Fest, and I think I have to admit that the Kelham Island Museum is my favourite venue. There have been many venues used since 1994, Nelson Mandela Building, St Phillips Social Club, Ponds Forge, Cemetery Road, Darnall Liberal Club (eek!) but the Kelham Island Museum trumps the lot. Its such a great Sheffield place - the museum exudes Sheffield history (as of course it should) and is sufficiently close to, and in, the Don Valley of beer to be ideal.

I was in at 18.00 n Wednesday as I had two arrangements to keep - one was to judge some of the beers, the other was to meet up with Wees K and F, with WF being a long term abstainer for reasons that in the proceeding years thereafter have become unknown. I will say now, I have no idea if WF enjoyed the beer festival, as I haven't spoken to him since, but at least he went and got to see what the festival is all about.

The tasting was for speciality beers. This is a broad church, and the standard was once again poor, which is surprising since every year I have been involved in the tasting I have enjoyed fabulous festival beers and roobish tasting/judging beers. So what did I sup as a punter?

I started on a third of the North Riding and Offbeat DIPA at 8.1% on cask. It was bloody excellent. This is one of only a couple of beers I tried twice. Rather than list (and surprisingly I can) everything I tried I will just concentrate on the best. I had the Neepsend Double Century IPA at 7.2%, also on cask, and it was exceptional - very very hoppy but well balanced and incredibly tasty - must have been the malt....

I also tried the Magic Rock Bearded Lady Dessert version Bourbon Barrel Aged at 10.5%, on keg. Like a meal in a glass, but a very luxurious meal. I tried and enjoyed the Abbeydale and Blue Bee are there hops in hell at 7.2% on keg and it was very nicely hopped with a wonderful aftertaste, and I also tried my favourite beer of this year, the Verdant Maybe One More PSi, also on keg, at a comparatively bargain price of just over £7.00 a pint - alas funds prohibited my purchasing that much.

The Steel City Demons are Back on cask was delicious, but strangely it was clear? What is going on Dave? I also tried the two Siren and To Ol collaborations on keg, the wonderfully hoppy Ten Finger discount at 7.4% and the frankly preposterous Tickle Monster Imperial IPA at 12%, a lupilous monster that currently also awaits me in my fridge. The Alpha state American pale was a surprisingly hoppy Kentish Ale, and the Thornbridge Cortiani, both on keg also, was made entirely with British hops giving a mellow bitterness.

Back to cask I tried the Anarchy Citra Star, which is a punchy refreshing pale, and my two pints of the festival were Fyne Ales Jarl and Buxton Battle Horse, the latter a bit of an unwise undertaking which proved difficult to complete.

Am fairly certain that the keg bar sold out, and when I left at 19.30 or 20.30 on Saturday there wasn't much cask left so am going to suggest the festival was a roaring success in terms of sales. It was certainly a success in terms of beer range, the picking of which is an undesirable art. I like a certain style of beer as you can tell, and not everyone else likes the same - I would have preferred more sours whereas many people I know won't drink them. Overall, for me to enjoy so many beers, shows a very good and varied range was available. There was only one I didn't like, which is why the list is so long.

A final mention must go to Matty whom this year got to wear the coveted red T shirt of a bar manager on the International Beer bar. He certainly enjoyed his shifts and will hopefully be returning to volunteer next year, recommending a no doubt fine selection of bottles and cans once again, or even casks or kegs.

Well done to all of the numerous volunteers who strove to make the festival a success for free, and of course, to the organisers for another exemplary showing, and for once more making Sheffield a fantastic beer festival.

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Verdant

Hello there,

       verdant eh?. Verdant fields of green. Verdant skies of...um...no wait. Cape Verdant in Africa? Erm...wait! Hoppy cloudy fruity zesty beer producers! That's them! Now its all coming back. This post hopes to explore details and my observations of Verdant Brewing, in that there far away Cornwall.....

Verdant are bloody excellent. A bold opening gambit, based on my promise of exploration, but in my opinion that is a cold hard fact. Absolutely bloody excellent. Never had a beer of theirs I didn't like. Never balked at the price (which is significant), never turned down the opportunity to sample their wares. Why is this?

Well, excellence is the simple answer, but it almost wasn't the case. I think the first time I saw one of their beers it was a wheaty type of ale on keg at my house, Shakespeares. I wrongly assumed they were American, for some reason, and immediately discounted the recommendation of Adam. Who wants to drink a Belgian-y American wheat beer anyway? I remembered saying to myself, inside my head. In the end, I didn't try any of their beers until a chance tasting of a very fruity beer at Hop Hideout, and a conversation with Seanio at Beer Central who recommended their Pulp DIPA in cans. I bought one. It was delicious. I was hooked.

In the last two weeks a lot of Verdant, which is pronounced Ver-dunt, as opposed to V-daant, as I have been miscalling it, has been spotted in Sheffield. Shakespeares had their Headband (which found its way into the Riverside of all places a month or so ago!) on keg, which is a 5.5% pale ale, and the eponymous Pulp DIPA, on at £7.20 a pint on keg at 8%. Bar Stewards meanwhile have had their 6.5% IPA Even Sharks need water, and two DIPAs, Jacob the Canary brewed in collaboration with Deya, and the truly astounding Maybe One More Psi, both DIPA's at 8%. Mind you, they were on sale at £9.80 a pint. That is new territory for me.

I tried the maybe one more Psi DIPA in can when myself and Matty had one of this year's many beer tastings. It was up against at least two Cloudwater DIPAs and other impeccable output but was probably the beer of the night. It is so fruity, yet gloriously hoppy. Its like a meal in a glass. A friend of mine described the Even sharks IPA as being "meaty". I know what she means. Talk about a beer you can get your teeth into.

I have long been a fan of unfined beers, and then Cloudwater started doing unfined DIPA's at 9%. All of a sudden, the world of easy drinking but stupidly strong hopshakes started to become real. A lupulin smoothie in a glass is a delight. And thus far every Verdant beer I have had is basically just that. A wonderful exercise in opaque beauty.

I have to say I was surprised to find they were based in Falmouth. I have been to Falmouth once, in 2008, and drank in the fabulous Seven Stars with the old landlord giving myself and WK a tour. I loved the pub, I loved Barrington which is what I recall his name was, but until the bookstore with a bar up an alleyway opened a few years ago I never associated Falmouth with good beer. To find that many hops in a Cornish beer was a surprise, but somehow the way they excellently blend with the fruit and other ingredients (oats?) makes sense, given they are brewing for the noticeably different Cornish palate.

That said, the fact that Verdant have now done collabs with North Brewing, and Wiper and True to name two, and are so sought after oop ere, shows their growing popularity continues unabated.

I am looking forward to trying numerous other Verdant beers, not least their license payers IPA, as shown on their website , brewed with the excellent brewery North, and indeed anything else they may care to brew in the future. I understand that this unshakeable belief in the produce of one brewery leads only, eventually, to disappointment, but for now, whilst it leads to boundless joy, its very much good by me. 

Hooray for Verdant. And hooray for dank, juicy, hoppy, cloudy IPA!

Cheers

Wee Beefy

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Scotland 2017 - Diabaig, Applecross, Plockton, Roy Bridge, Innerleithen, Penrith

Hello again,

      this post finishes the details of the pubs ales and scenery encountered during myself and Wee Fatha's epic 10 day tour of the West of Scotland.

We awoke in Archgarve near Laide to a lovely breakfast, and were nearly eaten alive by midges when we left. We headed back past the Old Inn and nipped in to get  a card (since the phone number isn't in the ever so reliable GBG!) and then headed inland and out again towards Inveralligan and the mountain of the same name. The weather was glorious and the scenery was breathtaking throughout, and the "road" down to Inveralligan prepared us nicely for the other track to Diabaig.

In 1993 we parked at what WF calls Upper Diabaig across from the Post Office to walk 5 miles across bog in the dark to Craig Youth Hostel. Despite that description, that was one of the highlights in terms of location. This time, noticing no sign of the made up part of the village (although the address of the below is Lower Diabaig), we parked down by the front and visited the Gille Brigdhe, which as all you Gaelic speaking readers will know, is the Oystercatcher. The licensed restaurant, with a link to their website, serves high quality food but most crucially, has a range of about 30 all Scottish bottled beers to drink in or take away.  As fans of Scottish ales we bought about 12 bottles between us including Lerwick IPA, Cromarty Red Rooster and Windswept Weizen, and ate a fabulous large chowder each which was absolutely packed with beautiful seafood and fabulously creamy. Well worth a visit.

From here we headed towards Applecross and climbed the impressive Bealach Na Ba pass before ending up in Applecross in the car park. This was my third visit, and WF;s 5th or 6th, and inside the Applecross Inn I did have to laugh when the barman joked that a pub without beer would not be a pub. When WF and Mumrah visited in 1972 they asked to be seated for a meal and were told they weren't doing food. They opted for just a drink but were told the bar was closed. On asking for a room, they were told they weren't doing accommodation. Suffice to say, things have improved since.

I have never eaten here but I hear the food is excellent, and the views out over the water are amazing. There were two real ales on, Loch Carron Black Cow porter and Skye IPA. I had a half of each, since WF was driving, and enjoyed both. We got chatting to one of the, I think, sisters who runs the pub and thoroughly enjoyed our albeit brief visit. And then, we headed back up over the Bealach Na Ba and on towards Plockton.

Here the Plockton Inn serves a few real ales including Plockton Starboard. This was a well kept and very tasty golden beer, although we did not buy the bottles. Plockton, if you've never been, has a wonderful harbour and coastline, and we sat eating our chips in the car enjoying the view. That night, further on inland, we stayed at the Claunie Inn. Two real ales were on, Orkney Corncrake, and a red ale of unrememberable producer. I enjoyed our drinks, possibly five pints of the Corncrake, in the bar with a bloke called Alan, or similar, and a lady who may have been from Shrewsbury. I didn't enjoy finding an out of date English fiver in my change. Have now put it in the bank.  

The next day our first stop was at Roy Bridge in a real ale pub selling three real ales - I had halves of Cairngorm Trade Winds, and Wild Cat, whilst WF had a pot of tea. I had forgotten how sweet the Trade Winds was, but the ales were well kept.

Our next stop was to have been at the Hikers bar at the Kings House Hotel at the top of Glencoe - alas its being refurbished. There is a cafe and bar on site, and we had halves of a Swedish pale ale on keg with our quite substantial late lunch. From here it was a mad dash to Innerleithen after a brief stop off in the Falls of Dochart Inn in Killin. Fyne Summer Skies and Harviestoun Wheat Beastie were both tried, and on goo form, with the Fyne one of the beers of the holiday.

That night we got to the Traquair Arms just in time to order tea and I had several pints of the Tempest Pale Armadillo session IPA, and took away some bottles of theirs including the Loral IPL. I also tried the Stuart Ale from Traquair House Brewery. With thanks to the barman, who may have been called Alan or Adam or something similar, for his help and company. The Pale Armadillo was excellent.

Our final day featured few stops, apart from a half of Sam Smiths Extra Stout in the Eskdale Hotel in langholm - since the Crown was shut til 14.00. Our only real ale stop came in Penrith in the Dockray Hall Hotel in the centre, one time home of king Richard the third. Cumbrian Legendary Ales featured with four casks and one from Barngates which was a red, and three or four kegs. All the beers were well kept, and the Oakham Green Devil was a welcome hoppy surprise.

All in all the beer scene in Scotland continues to expand, improve and innovate, and we thoroughly enjoyed the ales sampled, well, almost all, whilst in the West of the country. Heres hoping we can get back again next year to sample more delights, and witness more breathtaking scenery.

Your very best health!

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Scotland 2017 - Loch Erisort, Lewis, Stornoway, Ullapool, Gairloch

Hello again,

          this post continues the details of our trip to Western Scotland and its Isles, at the beginning of this month. We were up very early - 5.00AM, to get out for before 06.00 following a continental breakfast, cereal and sarnies and tea! We just got to the ferry at Berneray for 06.55 and were on Harris a little later. After a quick drive and visit to Scalpay we arrived at the Loch Erisort Inn on Lewis for dinner.

When we had last visited, the man from Huddersfield had said that they only had cask beer on for a week every year - it now transpired that last year he had poured away as much as he had sold. He said there had been days when he could have sold a cask in two busy nights but there hadn't been sufficient of such when he had it on so he wouldn't bother this year. However, our fabulous dinner of smoked haddock and mussel chowder with bread and chips was washed down with a very agreeable bottle of Isle of Skye Gold.

We were soon heading for Carishader on the Uig peninsula on Lewis, and the sky cleared as we approached. Its wonderful scenery in the area, and we arrived at a decent time to get our keys and have a fantastic afternoon tea, before heading off to buy beer and wine from the Uig Community store. They sold a range of about 30 or more Scottish bottled beers including Jaw Brew and Cromarty so about 5 bottles were picked up and a bottle of wine. Our tour of the peninsula involved dead end roads that became tracks and was conducted in fabulous sunshine en route to Breanais, before heading back to the nearby former Loch Chroistean school, now an informal restaurant,  for a fabulous meal.

The next day saw another circular tour including Cliff and Vlatos before we headed across the moors to Stornoway. Short of time I agreed to head for the Edge o the World micropub run by Hebridean Brewing Co. I found nine beers on, three keg and six cask, plus bottles, and tried four. The Beserker is not really to my taste, so I had the Hebridean Black on keg, half, and halves of Moo Coo Broo and the barman's favourite which was possibly Highlander, on cask.

Its really good to see real ale in Stornoway but I only really enjoyed the Moo Coo, which had a description which suggested I wouldn't like it. The brewers, and owners I think, Alan and Lorna, have moved up from England and their beers are oddly thin and slightly sweet. I do wish them all the best selling real ale in Stornoway though.

We caught the ferry to Ullapool next and drank more bottles of Fyne Ake, and then intended to stop having heard that many bars in the town sell real ale. The Ferry Inn, where we have been before, had three real ales but apart from Deuchars it was Greedy King and Slaters. Really, we were after An Teallach which is brewed nearby. We followed the GBG advice and went to the Morefield Motel and they had three real ales on, although the Ullapool one was a "joke beer" with nothing but a charity tin on it, and there was no An Teallach apart from their keg lager. The Cairngorm Highland Gold was on good form but the Orkney Northern light was very poor, and WF was by now tired and hungry, so we headed for Laide and Archgarve where we were to stay.

I suggested we drove on to Gairloch which is about 20 miles further on from Laide, as the Old Inn may serve food later than the hotel nearby. The roads are fairly windy and single track and we took a long time to reach Gairloch, which we haired through before pulling up where we thought the Old Inn was - not to find it. With WF now fuming about "my stupid idea" we headed further up the road before we turned round and he accused me of taking us to a pub that had clearly closed down. I checked the GBG for info on the brewery since the pub is no longer in it, and noticed the address as Flowerdale Glen - just as we spotted a sign  for the Old Inn, now virtually hidden behind a gallery called Solas.

I ran in whilst WF got parked and secured the last table to eat, in the family room, and ordered drinks. A pint of An Tealach Ale for me and a half of the Old Inn brewery North Coast pale were had, and on excellent form. The food in here was a little pricey but outstanding - the rare venison steak I had was cooked to perfection (which with such a lean meat is difficult to do) and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite WF's moaning. Further An Teallach and Old Inn brewery beer was also sampled.

We got to our accommodation after 21.00 but that was fine and had a lovely breakfast the next morning before heading back to Gairloch and on towards Torridon. The final post about the tour includes the journey there and on back to home in fab sunny Sheffield, and ill come soon.

You very best health!

Wee Befy

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Shakespeares recognised as best pub in Sheffield

Good evening readers,

    regular visitors may have read the post title and assumed I had got stuck in some kind of memory relapse, and repeated my oft written assertion that Shakespeares is Sheffield's best pub due to some kind of recollective malfunction. Luckily, I have not. Sheffield's the CAMRA have voted Shakespeares as their September 2017 pub of the month. And rightly bloody so.

Interestingly, as a non CAMRA member and having been in the wilds of Scotland for the week preceding the award, I hadn't realised this was to be bestowed on my favourite pub, and also missed the presentation. I saw a note on Facheache and remember thinking " I must find out when that is" about an hour after it had finished.

Since returning from my trip to Western Scotland and its isles I have, its fair to say, spent rather a lot of time in the Shakespeares's. Recent lupolic highlights encountered have included  Fourpure Deuceboox tropical DIPA, Abbeydale Voyager 5 unfined IPA, a Beavertown and Basqueland brown, and Cloudwater NW DIPA Galaxy. There was also an excellent cask of Neepsend Pale which had a name, and everything, and a very agreeable North Riding, along with Wild Beer Co Jambo stout of many Vimtos. None of the above choices of beer reflect a lack of hoppy ales north of the border I should point out, rather they represent a stunning line up of ales to tempt my palate.

For the uninitiated, Shakespeares (still) does pork pies and sandwiches at 70p, so an after work pint can become a meal, and there is now a chip shop threatening to open after 20.00 across the road, so sobriety is much less unachievable. The beer garden continues to impress, and it still warm enough to sit out remember, and the line up of acts upstairs, along with the games room facilities, continue to impress.

The real qualities of my favourite pub however are represented in its staff. Admittedly I have not yet come to know or make nicknames for the two new yoot, but Chris, Nate, Adam, Derek, Rory and Brettmorgan continue to excel in their customer service, toleration of my nodding off, and knowledge and skills used to choose a frankly exceptional range of bose (lets not forget the excellent range of gin and whisky available).

I would in this rare moment of sobriety like to thank Shakespeares for putting up with me and for being so absolutely bloody excellent at being a pub. Now, rightly and entirely agreeably recognised as the best pub in Sheffield by the CAMRA. Finally bringing us into line with Ratebeer's assessment of the pub as being the best for beers in South Yorkshire this and last year. Hurrah!

I look forward to joining you all in said bowzer soon, or at least, as soon as I have paid off someone's  tab...

Cheers!

Wee Beefy


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Scotland 2017 - Tyndrum, Oban, Lerags, Barra and the Uists

Hello,

      this month we went back - we being myself and Wee Fatha, to the West coast of Scotland, an area I hail from, and one to which we wanted to return. WF had ventured away in May 2017 and to be fair to him that was too early after his heart attack - he had said he never wanted to go to Scotland again. I knew this was not true. Two weeks ago that was proven.

Our first stop was in Moffat  at the Stag. Having previously been at the Star and been underwhelmed with the choice of real ale, we found two real ales at the Stag, a Greedy King standard and Inveralmond Lia Fail. A half of each was had, with me finishing most of both. WF was restricted to a half a day or similar so usually only had a few sups of each or a soft drink.

Next up after numerous traffic jams we ended up at the Village Inn at Arrochar, with five real ales including Fallen Just the ticket pale ale and Fyne Avalanche and Jarl. One of the Fallen alas ran out before I tried it but the range and setting at this pub is always excellent.

We didn't stop again until we finally reached Tyndrum to stay in a huge hotel full of coach parties. Food and Caledonian Highlander or similar was at the Tyndrum Inn. Despite its somewhat remote location Tyndrum is an incredibly busy place. The food was spot on, as was the beer. I even went to the hotel bar on our return for a half a Belhaven Saltire lager. It was as good as you would expect.

The next day we undertook the short drive to Oban and having booked in at the B and B we drove through the rain to Ellenabaich on Seil Island. The Oystercatcher was open so we went in and had pints of a Fyne ales red and their excellent summer skies - perhaps the most ironically named beer of the trip, but one of the best. We then caught the small ferry to Easdale and went for a wander and a few bottles in the Puffer Inn. Matt said they used to sell real ales on handpump but am not sure where on the tiny bar, but the range of bottles was excellent. Lawless Village IPA, Orkney Norseman Pale and Colonsay IPA were all sampled, along with lovely food.

Later that evening we went to the Barn at Lerags, down a resurfaced winding track from the main road. Two beers on here if I recall, and I had about three pints of the Orkney corncrake - unless it was the Fyne ales beer.  Alas the name escapes me. Our final stop on day two was in the Corrywreckan Wetherspoons in Oban where I had two Oban Bay brewery beers. They were OK, but not my style, but at least there are usually some on in this pub.

Day three we were meant to be going to Barra - but WF, exhausted by the drive on the first day, was really not very well. The kind owner of the Inverasdale bed and breakfast let WF go back to bed and put her guest up in her friends house next door, allowing WF some sleep and myself chance to explore Oban.

I started in the Oban Inn on a pint of Fyne Jarl. This is a beautiful old pub with an upstairs dining room selling three Fyne Real ales, Jarl, Highlander and Vital Spark. All three were tried and found to be on top form, as was the food I had there later on. The barman seemed interested to know what I thought and recommended two further stops selling Fyne ales in the town. My next stopping point was the Lorne on Stevenson Street.

Two Fyne Ales on cask here, Jarl and Highlander, but its nice to get to try the same beer in different pubs. I only stopped or a quick pint but the food looked and smelled delicious. The penultimate new stop took some finding - having forgotten its name I had to pop back in the Oban to ask, and then wandered  aimlessly for 30 minutes before getting specific directions from a local.

Marky Dans is a cellar bar down some steps underneath accommodation near the Gaelic centre. They do food all day and sell one real ale in the quirkily decorated bar. Here the Fyne Summer Skies pale was on excellent form. The music was good for the most part as well, and this seems like the sort of place I would like to go back to an a January Monday afternoon - potentially to have the whole place to myself.

Having checked on WF and found improvement, I returned to the Oban Inn twice, the later time chatting to fellow tourists from West Kirby and Helensborough, whose names I can almost remember, Karen and a tall man called Chris or Tom. Or John. Um..... several pints of Jarl were once again enjoyed and I got back late for our final snooze before the ferry.

As forewarned, the ferry journey, 5 and half hours long, can get quite rough once you leave the minch. I had already eaten crisps and a bottle of Fyne Avalanche before eating a curry as we sailed past Mull. As a direct result of the absurd rollercoaster journey I ended up wearing it. I only dared leave the table to get back in the var. Once I had removed all traces of vomit from my arms and facial hair, we met our accommodation owner Mari and set about trying to find food. The Castlebay Hotel was booked but we got a table at the Craigard Hotel. Caledonian Coast to Coast pale on keg was a decent sup, and the hand dived scallops in Grand Marnier creme sauce were exceptional. Good to see a poster in the dining room saying you are more than welcome to breastfeed in here - quite why people object to such a natural process is beyond me.

The next day we spent time travelling round Vatersay, and stopped at the Castlebay Hotel for a bottle of Skye Gold, and also a taste of the Barra gin - distilled in London using Barra ingredients its being sold to raise the funds to build a distillery on Barra.

A short ferry hop to Eriskay followed before we stopped in the Borrodale Hote in South Uist. No real ale, but two bottles of Hebridean, Clansman, and Beserker. Both off, had the first replaced but drank the second anyway. Probably should have gone to Polochar....

That night we ate at the Lochmaddy Hotel in Lochmaddy and they had St Kilda Challenge Ale on at 3.5% on cask from an unnamed brewery. I din't ask who it was as the beer was a little underwhelming, but it was our first cask since Oban. Afterwards we went to the Westford Inn at Clacdach Kirkibost on North Uist.

I had wanted to come here for so long, so tried hard to manage my expectations. I think the pub is incredibly popular and very busy, and the hassled tones of the lady on the phone was disappointing if understandable. On getting in we had pints of Skye Tarasgeir and Red, half a Skye Gold as well as more Barra gin for me. The Tarasgeir was not quite what I expected, but it had a very distinct flavour, the red was well kept, as was the Gold, indeed all were. The pub was still busy when we arrived at 21.00 and am sure the food is lovely, but we couldn't stay longer long due to an extra early start the next day. More details of our trip to Lewis Ullapool and beyond soon.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Dentdale

Hello,

       its unusual for me to go away over the Bank Holiday weekend. Even more so these days, when an early in the month thirst has usually robbed me of all funds. So it was this year, and planning on working every day over the holiday weekend, when Wee Keefy invited me away I said no. I needed to work those days to get another overtime payout, but even as I said that, I knew it was madness. WK would pay for the petrol and camping anyway, and would give me some funds for food, and, um, refreshments. So I said yes.

We headed up through Bradford, Skipton and towards Keighley before heading to our first stop in sunny Settle. Here I used the amazing online National Inventory website to completely fail to find Settle's entry. At home on my PC the site is easy to navigate. On my phone its next to useless. Giving up (I thought the pub was the Royal Oak, we found one, but it was not the one I thought I was looking for) we followed signs for the Talbot Arms. Hidden away on a back street there were six real ales to choose from in this (probably) former Theakstons pub. WK had a half of Settle Brewery Railway siding or similar, myself a pint of Wishbone Ginnel Pale. We sat in the garden in sunshine and enjoyed both. A most acceptable start. Incidentally, the pub I am thinking of is not in Settle. And the pub in Settle is the Royal Oak. Fail....

We headed up to the Ribblehead viaduct and stopped for a quick picture before heading over to Dentdale via the Dentdale viaduct. We passed the pub in Cowgill and got to Ewegales farm about 15.00, and after getting stuck in and pushing ourselves out of, the mud, we met up with Sue and Kev and got set up.

Tea was a barbecue, and much needed, after which we headed out to the pub. Kev and Sue are currently looking after a rescue dog called Edie, who is a well behaved, older stray with a good temperament. Alas, the Sportsman's Inn in Cowgill does not allow dogs in. So we sat outside. Getting eaten alive by midges.

Now, I don't own a dog so am not that bothered but none of us expected a remote country boozer to ban dogs. They do serve food but am sure in a separate room. And if memory serves the floor is flagstoned. When we arrived there were only three other customers. Kev and Sue stayed less time than us, since none of us enjoyed being eaten by midges. This was an oddly Quiet Woman a Earl Sterndale type of situation which put a dampener on our night.

Mind you the two beers on offer were good. I had a number of pints of the Settle Pale ale, which had a name, and WK, Kev and Sue all had the Pennine Blonde. All beers are £3.40 a pint, which isn't a bad price. Once Kev and Sue had headed back to the camp me and WK went inside and caught up with the farmer of the farm we were staying at and it was an enjoyable nights drinking. It would have been far more so if we could have brought Edie into the pub with us.

The next ay I was up very early and went for a walk to Birk Rigg and back before breakfast.  We started the day looking at the Dentdale viaduct before heading back to the Ribblehead, or Batty Moss, viaduct. After a walk to the top of the far end we discovered that a steam train was due in an hour, so we decided to head back to the river and then come back later to photograph the train. Ribblehead is a beautiful, bleak place full of strange people. Visitors I should point out. Mostly super fit 50 year old Dads dragging their kids and partners along on exceedingly grueling treks. It reminded me very much, except that I was willingly involved, of my childhood. The steam train was ace by the way.

A dawdle followed, through a maddening Ingleton traffic jam and then along a gated road to Dent where we parked up for two hours. Its last century since I was in Dent and we soon found the brewery tap the George and Dragon. I had a pint of Aviator and WK a half of their Blonde and Towd Tup strong dark ale. Initially we sat outside on the steps in glorious sunshine observing the comings and goings of village life in the small cobbled streets, but we had to go back inside, if nothing else so I could charge my phone. The young lad behind the bar very kindly plugged it in for me and I got chatting to him and a guy called Adam.

WK headed to the local shop for dinner, which was a box of "oat flips" or flapjacks, and some bottled Dent beers, whilst I enjoyed another pint of the Aviator and some crisps and then two more whole pints of the towd Tup. I may have been a trifle refreshed. The pub and village was friendly and I would have spent longer in there were it not for a desire to nip into the other pub the Sun Inn.

Here I had half an Andwells brewery beer which also had a name, and a pint of Kirby Lonsdale Monument Ale as this was the hoppiest on. I went and sat outside in the sunshine and waited for WK to join me. There was an interesting mix of folks in the beer garden and the atmosphere was once again spot on. I really enjoyed my trip to Dent.

Later on we popped into the Moorcock Inn at Langdale End (or a Moorcock Inn somewhere else) for tea and I had a pint of something pale which was enjoyable. Alas my earlier slaking seems to have removed some facts about this beer, most noticeably its name and producer.

Once back at the campsite I made plans to return to the Sportsman's Inn but everyone else, perhaps understandably, decided to stay at the campsite drinking some Dent bottles. I arrived about 20.00 and immediately got a pint of the Settle Brewery Attermire session IPA at 4.2%. It was the hoppiest beer of the trip away by far and went down a treat, although I only had enough for a pint and a half and returned to the campsite before 21.30. The pub was empty when I left.

Its always nice to get away and to not have to work but even then this was a really enjoyable few days holiday to an area I scarcely knew. We didn't have a bad beer all holiday and the ale was sensibly priced. It was interesting to taste the Dent brewery beers for the first time in a while, but more so the Settle brewery, who appear to be a bit more "future leaning" in their styles of ale, whilst still producing traditional cask beers.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy  

Friday, 25 August 2017

Dronfield

Hulloo,

       this post, in keeping with ongoing issues of procrastination, is fairly late. I went to Dronfield at the beginning of the month, but hey, the facts are still there. Those that I can remember at least. Not the ones I have conflated with other events at random points in the past. Not them. Um.....

So, I had been to Beer Central once again for my monthly catch up - where am introduced, in what is becoming a veritable smorgasboard of equal delights and surprise, to beers I may have said I would buy whilst online in the preceding week. s. As always there were some shocks, not in terms of prices, more in terms of my not remembering ordering some of them. There was also a lot of Cloudwater. Hooray for me!

I cut down past the Lord Nelson and wandered up to the Rutland to get a couple of drinks before I headed off. Continuing the Cloudwater theme I had  a half of their London Ale DIPA at 9%. Its come to something when you have to express surprise at a beer being on at less than £7.00 a pint, but that's what it was, and that is what I paid for. I also got a frankly sublime half of Lervig Passion Tang, a passion fruit sour at 7.0%. Having never disliked a Lervig brew this did not disappoint.  Both beers were on keg and in excellent condition. This was a good start to my trip.

Once at the station I didn't have too long to wait for the unfeasibly small Nottingham train to trundle into view and was quickly in Dronfield and heading for the Dronfield Arms. In the days before I had tried a number of pints of Hopjacker Stargoon on cask at Shakespeares - one of the best cask beers I have had this year. Alas there was none on cask at the Arms, and also no Edd, but still lots of excellent beers to choose from.

I started with a pint of Hopjacker beginning with M - it was about 3.8% and having lost some of my memory I have searched Google to find a suggestion of "mock draft". Is this even one of your beers Edd? If not, the one I tried still began with M. The beer was easy drinking, and accompanied some delicious olives which may or may not have been stuffed.

Next up I discovered that Stargoon was available, on keg. So I had to have a pint of that, along with a cheese and pickle pork pie. The pub was starting to get busier, and it was good to see plenty of customers with dogs. The Stargoon on keg was actually not quite as good as the cask at Shakespeares. Its a weird one, but that remains even now after other tries, the best I have ever tasted it. A cracking beer from a fab brewery.

Off next to find the Dronfield Beer Stop, which, it turns out, is about 3 minutes walk away. Spotting the lane the shop was on I then noticed the shop itself, and so headed in. The guy was friendly and chatty and didn't mind serving me a beer on keg, which I had promised to drink quickly, despite him soon being closed. The beer was from a brewery based not in the UK. For reasons of crapulence, I cannot recall it or the beer's name. We had a good chat about what was good and available and I bought a can of Verdant Some Fifty Summers, a 4.8 or similar percent dry hopped pale. I made it clear that I liked Verdant, as did the man, who had an identifying sound, AKA a name. Names eh......  

My penultimate stop was at the Coach and Horses down the road - passing at least two former pubs, one closed down and one now a restaurant (although that may not have been a pub.....). The Coach was busy when I got in and I initially sat outside with my pint of beer, which was definitely pale, and also owned one of those defining noises which one makes when identifying or remembering it. Neither of which I can. Alas it soon started to rain so I nipped back inside and finished my enjoyable but alas unmemorable beer.

I finished the day's supping back at the Dronfield Arms having another pork pie (plain this time) and at least one more pint of the Hopjacker Stargoon, a fabulously cloudy, hoppy, fruity American style and hopped (probably) IPA. I tried a pint of this last time I was in Shakespeares and it remains a truly wonderful beer.

All too soon alas I had to return to the station and get the train, and once back in Sheffield I ignored the draw of the Tap and went home to indulge in one of my cans of Cloudwater, which was a 4.5% double hopped pale if memory serves. It does, but alas it double faulted.

I am well aware that there are other venues to tempt me to Dronfield but in fairness this was something of a whistlestop tour so apart from my first visit to the Beer Stop I stuck with what I know. Luckily, when beer is as good as it is at the Dronfield Arms, there seems little point going anywhere else.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Fresh

Hello folks,

     "when did people start giving a shit about how fresh a bottle of imperial stout is" I remember moaning, probably in early 2013, after reading the "Drink fresh" advice on the side of a bottle of Kernel. Then, less so now, I was into collecting beers, storing them for a period of time and opening them to find a changed and often much better product. I still have a bottle of Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardy Ale which I bought in 1994, and a few other vintages, along with other strong bottled stouts. The last thing I would want to do is drink them fresh.

Having checked my write up of that post about the tasting am afraid there is no mention of my horror, but in the four  years since I have started to hear more and more people comment, praise and rave even about the freshness of beers. As a libatious enthusiast, I have neither the time nor sobriety to look into "facts" or similar muddleheaded musings about the capacity of hops and malts to keep their flavours over long periods of time in a can or bottle. So instead am going to rely solely on observations, memories and, mainly,  guesswork.

At Tramlines's I was in Shakespeares nursing a two thirds of Siren in the clock room, which I own. In came Rodney who I know from serving him at Archer Road Beer stop years ago. He was raving about two brand new cans they had at Hop Hideout. The Cloudwater N.W DIPA (I think), and the Verdant Further DIPA, were both brewed within the last ten days and this had made him very excited.

We looked at the cans and as a massive fan of both breweries I started devising plans to go up and sample some of the same at the earliest opportunity.  I only bought the Verdant Further in the end, but that was absolutely fantastic. Did it matter that it was so fresh from the brewery? I would say yes. If nothing else, because of the style of beer produced -  a hoppy, cloudy, fruity IPA.

There is no discernible price difference (although both Cloudwater and Verdant are "high end")  so in effect you are now able to get the freshest beers straight from the brewery (almost). I think this improves the hops  - their flavour, bitterness and citrus notes appear to be more noticeable, and the beer seems, at least, easier to drink. I know this may seem like a hoodwink kind of plan by micro brewers but I would buy their beers anyway, so in effect all that is happening is I am enjoying their beers fresher, and probably all the more.

The other evidence in between 2013 and now about freshness, bearing in mind of course that all cask beer needs to be as fresh as possible once tapped, is that IPAs don't seem to work well when kept for any period of time. Its simply a style that doesn't suit ageing. I remember years ago when Blue Bee aged their 6 or 6.5% Tangled Up IPA in cask for 6 months or so. I tried it twice and found that the astringency of the hops had diminished, and the beer although more rounded, was more like a strong English ale. That is not a flavour or style that I want from an IPA.

When Shakespeares had a Cloudwater IPA on cask at New Year 2015 it had been ageing in the cellar for a period of months. Many regular drinkers, not all of whom were IPA fanatics I should point out, noticed that it had decreased in hoppiness and wasn't as vibrant as when fresh. Cloudwater no longer do cask beer but their kegs always say drink fresh. Their beers are invariably excellent, as are Verdant and Kernel's output.

It seems therefore, that another notable benefit of the excellence of brewing in the UK microbrewing scene is that fresh ales are becoming more popular, and since thus far they cost the same (if sell out quicker) I can only see this as a benefit.  And I still have numerous ageing dark or traditional English strong beers to enjoy when I want something heavier, for years to come.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy