Saturday, 25 March 2017

Weird Beard Tap takeover at Shakespeares

Morning!

        am late with this as always since it was last Friday, but am going to tell you what I experienced at Shakespeares on the day when people wear hats and act like twats (mostly, but not all). I never like going out on St Patrick's day because of the twat in the hat element. Luckily, with Thrash band Regulus (I think?) launching their new album and playing upstairs, along with the Tap takeover, Shakespeares was T.i.T.H free all night....

Arriving about 18.00 I was not all that shocked to find it absolutely chuffing rammed. I spotted Dan H, Ian and Richard in the clock room which, of course, I own, and having failed to get a seat went and stood with them. Richard loved the Weird Beard Boring brown beer, a brown non boring beer on keg at 9.6% which he was sampling, and went back for another. I meanwhile was on a half of Holy Hoppin Hell on cask at 9.5% and a pint of Mariana trench American pale ale at 5.3. This was going to be a night of hops!

I was soon joined by my friend Mr G and he had a drink whose identity escapes me, whilst I went for halves of Fire, a smoked chipotle Rauchbier, and another half of Holy Hoppin Hell. This is one o the hoppiest beers I have ever had and only just escapes having a paracetamol flavour in the background - there is sufficient fruity tropical notes in the mix along with the giant slabs of bitter hoppiness to make this a beer to savour.

Mr G had a pint of the Little things that kill next, a viciously hopped pale at 3.9%, brilliantly showcasing the, am guessing, astringent US hops used at a very quaffable volume, whilst I had halves of Fade to Black Black IPA and Five o clock Shadow, a 7% American IPA.

By this time we had managed to grab some chairs and a table to sit at, and were enjoying the buzz, and loud thrash coming form upstairs - we even toyed with the idea of going up to watch the band play, where I would have bumped into my mate but in the end we decided about 20.30 to leave and head across the road to the Bar Stewards. It was slightly more quiet here....

I returned on Sunday for another pint of he HHH, and also a half of the Double Perle imperial coffee stout (this and the Five o clock may be the wrong days round by the way....). Given the number of excellent strong stouts available this was an amazingly easy to drink strong stout although the coffee was slightly lost in the overall flavour.

Once more Shakespeares pulled off another Sheffield beer week supershow, and although I did not get to meet the brewers (who may or may not have been there) it was still an excellent showcase of one of my favourite London breweries.  Well done to the staff at Shakespeares for a brilliant night and line up of beers and music.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Serious Lervig

Morning,

      I have now managed to attend a further two and a half beer week events in sunny Sheffield. The first of which came on Wednesday when, having planned and then not gone to Huddersfield, I ended up out and about with Tash and went to the Lervig tap takeover at the Rutland Arms.

Chris and Dave have not long ago taken over the Rutland and in my two visits thereafter little has changed - its still kooky, still has an excellent jukebox, still sells an excellent range of beer in all formats, and am assuming the food remains excellent. The other trait continuing is it being chuffing rammed. Always the sign of a good show of ale.

Lervig, or Lervig Aktiebryggeri, are a brewery from Stavanger in Norway with a cool slightly understated logo and who produce very tasty beer indeed. I first heard about them in 2015 when me and Tash went to Indyman beercon. There were four or five of their beers on offer, none of which, of course, I can remember, but I do recall them being very good, against a fairly stunning selection fo ales from elsewhere. That they had a tap takeover at the Rutty was reason to celebrate and of course, attend.

One interesting thing is Tash drank their beers all night. Those of you who know us well will be aware that since June last year she has really struggled to drink beer. She still can't touch more than a taste of cask and limits herself when she feels OK to strong keg and canned beer. Its easy to guess that yeast is the issue, but much of the keg and canned beer I drink is unfined so that's not so straightforward. Whatever the cause, or found solution, Lervig was acceptable to her constitution... #rhyme

When we got there we had already missed the Magic Rock collab Farmhouse IPA. To be fair I would definitely have had a pint, but in its absence we both had a pint of Hop Drop sour IPA. This cloudy 6.5% (remember kids, these are just numbers) sour hoppy potation which hit the spot nicely. On keg it was pricey, in comparison to cask, and crucially for me, was slightly above the horrid pound a percent mark. That said, Norway is a very expensive place to drink in and but beer from, and as the alcohol level became higher the value improved. The beer was, as suggested, terrifically hoppy whilst rejuvinatingly sour in the aftertaste.

Up next was a half of the Sverd I Fjell Double IPA at a whopping 10.5%. A relative bargain for that strength at £7.80 a pint, this was a wonderful strong ale with plenty of hops but a balancing tropical tinge and good malt in the background. It was, worryingly, far easier to drink than its strength suggested. It was am American style IPA so am guessing had American hops but am not sure which but I thin Centennial featured.

Our final finisher was a half each of the Lervig collaboration with Hoppin Frog,  Slipping into darkness, a huge 12% imperial stout made with chocolate malt and aged in martini barrels. Sumptuous, wonderful and not that sweet after the first drink it tasted fantastic. Although this was more of a challenge than the previous beers, it was a wonderful way to end our three hour stint at the Rutland, once again as part of Sheffield beer week 2017.

It will be interesting to see if Lervig show up in Sheffield again soon and what ales are on offer - there were three or four others on sale at the takeover. I understand one or two may still be on at the Rutty as well so do pop down and have a try for yourself.

More details of Sheffield beer week 2017 events to follow. Huzaah!

Cheers

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Sheffield beer week, thus far (ish)

Hulloo,

        am writing this post partly as an apology for all those wonderful folk who have worked tirelessly to get the event off the ground initially, and running for its third year. Have not really planned to do much this year for various reasons, apart from the Beavertown and Weird Beard Tap Takeovers at the Hallamshire House and Shakespeares respectively. Meanwhile, all I have done so far is go to the Three Tuns and Shakespeares.

In there on Monday I found a slip of paper on my table as I indulged in some Berlin IPA from somewhere overseas. It was wonderful, very citrus hoppy which I hadn't been expecting. It was strong so perfect to start with, and had a very refreshing taste but with a big slab of hops in the background.

The slip of paper said Imperial Stouts cellar list, and listed three very strong dark beers. These were Abbeydale and Beer Ink Smore than a feeling at 9% (which I didn't have because it said it tasted of Smores, and I don't know what they are!), and Steel City and Lost Industry Pastor of Muppets at 11.5% which had communion wafers in the cask and is a pale stout blended, or perhaps brewed with the addition of, Chateneuf Du Pape, one of my favourite red wines. The final was Atom Neutron Star, a 12 or 12.6% vanilla coffee stout.

Halves of the latter were ordered from the cellar and I sat in the front room supping them, along with finishing my IPA. I spent much of that time talking to a Sheffielder called Matt - someone who I have no doubt seen many times but only just got to tale to. Hello! Please remember to be impressed that I think I can remember your name....

Beers wise, both stouts were excellent. What I like about the Atom brewery is that they know how to make surprisingly easy drinking very strong beers. Their philosophy of using herbs, botanics and flowers in their beers and am led to believe, almost no hops, makes them stand out, and this beer was no exception. It tasted its strength, of course, but didn't cloy or hang in the mouth. It was smooth and powerfully delicious, like a faerie oil slick of loveliness....

The Pastor of Muppets was also excellent - not so much pale, likely because of the hue of the red wine which if I recall is fairly dark, but sumptuous to taste - am not sure I could identify flavours of wine but this was, in a good way, unlike almost any stout I have had before. Another outstanding offering.

No doubt at some point I will google smores and attempt the Abbeydale beer as well. I finished, strangely with halves of Alechemy, just because I love their stuff, and what may have been the excellent Breakfast IPA V3 from Neepsend and Hopjacker. Both well below the percentages of the others. Five of the excellent ales that night were brewed in Yorkshire. Tha norrs.

Am hoping to have further updates in due course but as I said I haven't planned that much. And, for info, as well as the excellently East Lancashirely pronounced Chinooook from Blue Bee, the Three Tuns also had the excellent Blue Bee Waimau single hopped pale ale on. Not linked to Sheffield beer week I don't think, it was nonetheless an excellent beer which told me a lot about its inclusion in and the flavours it imparted in their excellent Land of the long white cloud pale ale recently.

For those of you more organised, dedicated, and perhaps with a surfeit of funds (!) here is a link to the list of events between now and the past and future.

lease do everything you can to support and enjoy this wonderful annual event.

Cheeeeeers!

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Derby

Hellall,

          its been over two years since I was last in Derby, in the daytime at least. I was there with Tash for the trade session of the Derby Winter Ales festival, a fabulous showcase of winter ales (and other styles) from around the UK which included numerous free samples. We got to a few pubs but after a few pints of Oakham Green Devil in the Alex we came home, sated. On Tuesday I headed down to see what had changed, if anything, in its numerous watering holes.

I started as I almost always do at the Station. Worryingly there was a sign outside saying "New landlord wanted" which didn't fill me with confidence about the present incumbent. As I went in there was one pump clip turned round and he was just putting a sign up to say there was no draught Bass as he'd had to send the barrel back. A disappointing bass-less start to my crawl.

Round a couple of corners is the Brunswick. I asked them if they still sold bass from the cask in the cellar and was told no. A surprisingly grumpy response, but the beers were obviously far better in here, and I had a half or a pint of Tres Bien Topaz, which I understand is brewed at Market Harborough brewery. This was a fantastic hoppy ale which started the day off well.

The Alexandra was my next port of call - I had decided I had to try at least one new pub but couldn't remember the name or address of the new micropub. In here I had a pack of fish and chips, a half of Pipes Midnight IPA on keg and a half of Blue Monkey Marmoset on cask. The Pipes was not really what I expected but the Marmoset was in prefect condition and tasted superb.

On to the Smithfield where I did find some Bass, but it was on handpull. Instead I had a sensibly priced half of Magic Rock Inhaler juicy IPA on keg. I sat in the room at the back on a comfy seat and soaked up the wonderful flavours, and bright sunshine.

I nipped into the Exeter Arms next and had a half in here as well - not caning the bose, as I was actually drinking quite fast. The beer in here was from Hartsthorne (?) brewery and was a crisp and hoppy pale which I enjoyed sat in one of the smaller rooms to the right with the bar behind you. The pub have now knocked through one of the walls at the back enabling easier access to the amazing cottage attached to the pub.

I headed under the ring road next and visited the Furnace Inn. I understand Shiny have stopped brewing there and moved to a purpose built brewery somewhere else - whether this is true or not is of course another matter! Either way there was plenty of Shiny real ale on but to my delight there was also Fyne Ales Ragnarok IPA on keg. There was no way I was going to miss this so I got a half and went and sat to the left. I got chatting to a couple, the lady of which was from Sheffield and whom both had recognisable human names. Alas, recognisable is not the same as rememberable for me. Lets call them Tom and Helen. Their surname began with B. Or P.....

I discussed with them various subjects including language and communication, Eastern European language in the UK, and also the Station. Sadly, it seems that having retired to Skegness Dave who used to run the pub so well had died. Its such a shame to hear this and for this to happen so soon it seems after he finally retired from the trade.

Off next to the Peacock where I knew they would have draught Bass from the barrel - they did. So I had a pint of that and another pale beer from Hartsthorne, along with a slice of huntsman pie. All three were excellent, although when the landlord returned he gave me a free half of Bass as that on previously hadn't been up to standard. Great service and cracking food and ale in here as always.

From here I headed towards the bottom of Uttoxeter old road and the Last Post, postage Stamp, postage Inn or whatever the new micropub in Derby was called. With the "luxury" of home internet I have found it in about a second complete with its address which is 1 Uttoxeter Old Road - and photos of the outside which show I didn't have to go the way I thought I had to, and may even have walked past it on the opposite side of the road. Anyway, I didn't know and ended up after a long wavy walk with a need to address and popped in a back street local off Uttoxeter Old Road. I may have had a half of bass in here!

Just round the corner I found myself in the Rowditch which I knew was much further up but popped in anyway for a fabulous pint of hoppy ale, the name or maker of which I have no idea of. I decided at this point that it was probably time to head home, as my earlier speed slaking had caught up with me.

So no new pubs for me but an enjoyable traipse around some of the old favourites in Derby. Showing once again that time changes little, and Derby remains an absolutely excellent place to go for a pub crawl.

Cheers!


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Great tasting Gluten free beer shock

Hello,

         I was in Shakespeares the other day (obviously) and having recently finished the last of the phenomenal cans of Magic Rock Clairvoyance - quite simply the finest beer I have had in a can for a long time - I was asking bar-meister Christopher Keith Wadsworth which can I should choose next. In a moment of apparent sobering madness he recommended Magic Rock Fantasma, a plus 6% IPA which was gluten free. I checked my pockets for smelling salts but none could be found, but his insistence it was good made me agree to buy a can. Am glad I followed his sage  recommendation.

Years ago, between one and twenty, I heard about gluten free beer. It had no doubt been around longer but we in the UK are often slow to recognise, possibly distrustful of, developments and improvements, especially regarding at that time lesser known illnesses. So the first one I heard about was from Hambleton. With the greatest respect to them (I love their Nightmare and their strong pale which has a name I have since forgotten) it was a noble effort to make such a beer, but it tasted rank.  As did the Greens, and less so the Wold Top one. The removal of gluten seemed to take away any resemblance to a balanced beer.

Magic Rock Fantasma is not that kind of show. Admittedly I was told it was gluten free and that came for me with its own raft of expectations, but am fairly sure if I hadn't know it prior to supping I wouldn't have known it was gluten free. The only minor difference to other Magic Rock pale ales of a similar strength was that it lacked...something, maybe a tang of sweetness from the yeast or malt used? What it did have however was a wonderful, and crucially balanced, blend of hops with a delicious tropical bitterness. It would am sure, stand up against peer pales in a blind tasting.

In a reprehensible display of lazy journalism, I haven't spoken to Stuart or anyone else at Magic Rock about how they made a masterpiece from such a potato cut outs and paint template of a beer style. And am sure if I needed to drink gluten free beer I would want to know, so if nothing else I could share that with other brewers. But I don't. And also I haven't seen Stuart in some time. Journalism, eh. Whats it all about? Like memories.

Anyway, one good thing that might come from this, as well of course of the opportunity to drink excellent gluten free ale,  is greater awareness of those who have to drink gluten free beer. I refer of course to coeliacs, although that may not be all those affected. Funnily enough I was discussing the restrictions of and improvements in such beers with Liz at the Devonshire Cat last year - she was intending to have one completely gluten free handpump at the Dev. I have no idea if this has been taken on board following the refurb but if so that would be a really positive development. I understand that gluten or its constituents can still be present in the lines following the sale of non gluten free beers so a dedicated line would wipe out such a problem.

The addition of an exemplary pale ale also without gluten is a similar bonus.  Lets hope brewers can start to push forward improvements in gluten free beer so it can become a product that coeliacs actually want to drink rather than feel they have to.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy



Monday, 6 March 2017

Broomhill crawl

Morning!

     myself and Mr P went out on payday for the second Wanderiains of the year. I had more or less finished my tablets (although have started some more the day after) so decided that, and the arrival of funding, would be a good reason to meet up for bose. Having been at the osspickuw anyway, I asked Mr P to meet me in the York in Broomhill.

I first went in the York when I was 17. I had long hair and a leather jacket and glasses and sounded oldish. I was drinking Bass at that age in the York, and was only asked my age once when buying a cider for younger looking but older than me Rob Noble. At the time, the York was a 15 minute walk away, traditional boozer, in Broomhill. Soon it became a fake oirish pub (am guessing around 1994) and apart from having a decent jukebox, where I once played all of Faith no More's Angel Dust, it was a poor version of the former. After a few refurbs and different owners its been run by the Forum/True North Group since 2012 or similar.

The York looks fab in its new guise, but is prone to high prices and the staff don't always recognise words such as hoppy. That said, the food is excellent and they usually have some decent ales on - this time there were four from Shiny in Derby so I had a pint of their  Disco Balls pale and another pale called memory loss if memory is memories. Mr P joined me just as the Disco Balls ran out so had a pint of the Shiny Pail, one of their series of two or three hopped pale ales around 4.0%. This was a good start to the nights slaking.

Round the corner and across the road is the Itchy Pig micropub. Its a regular feature of recent Brummell visits and features four real ales, many local, and three or four kegs plus cider and, inevitably given its name, numerous types and flavours of pork scratchings. No Ted this time but the younger bloke was behind the bar, and he didn't need to recommend my choice - a pint of Dark Star Revelation, that gloriously hoppy 5.7% IPA from Sussex. Mr P got a pint of the Abbeydale lower strength special, and we shared a pack of cheese-n-o, sat to the right of the bar.

The pub got quite busy before we left, which means about twenty or so people, and we had two halves of getting (or don't get?) caught in the rain by Blue Bee on keg. Am sure Josh told me it was primed with pineapple, but whatever it is with, it creates a slightly odd balance of sweet and very bitter. Still a good choice for a keg Blue Bee offering.

Back up onto the main road we went to the Little Critters brewery Tap at the Fox and Duck. This is a place I have warmed to since my first visit last year when I was slightly underwhelmed - I admit that this increase in residual temperature is down partly to an improvement in their fare. The pub was busy when we got in, mainly due to football being on, and we both had pints of C-hop from Little Critters, which I think in this case was Citra. The beer is nicely hoppy and not too full-mashy (am not suggesting its full mash, just that their weaker beers remind me of Frog and Parrot output) and was a lovely last beer in actual Broomhill, which we finished whilst watching some footy with some yout (plural).

Further down the road, bypassing the Broomhill Tavern and the Notty, we went in the University Arms. I haven't been in much of late, and it was good to see it was still very much open, still serving real ales and keg, and still popular. We sat at the end of the main room and supped, beer, which came from a handpump, in glasses. I have to admit that my memories of the beers we had that night are at best disparate from here on. Whatever I had was pale and about 5.0%, which is about what I would expect.

From here we headed to our final destination the Bath Hotel. Still, at the end of February, with almost no spirits (I understand the stock has finally been replenished) we both definitely had pints in here. Am not even going to guess what we had, but will claim it was incredibly strong. Since I remember Mr P saying "don't fall asleep" and then waking up by myself. Beefdozing is something am going to have to reign in during 2017.....

The above crawl is short in distance, but peppered with good pubs (and there are others of course in the area) and is, once again, another excellent demonstration of the quality of beers and venues in Sunny Sheffield.

Cheers!


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Crackers

Hello,

         not ones that go crunch or pop, nor a oft used term for mental illness light, instead a description of three beers I have had in fine sunny Sheffield this last week. As you may have noted from previous posts, I am rather a fan of drinking excellent ales in Sheffield pubs - as are my bank and credit card firms. Whilst I negotiate repaying that slab of debt (and am nearly there by the way) I have recklessly used the last of my savings, funds, credit, and payments in kind, to secure excellent, or rather cracking, ales.

On Sunday I ended up in Shakespeares, in a radical departure from my established drinking patterns. The last three Sundays (I think, they are just numbers after all) I have been in after work and they have had a stunning Kernel Pale ale on. Its no exaggeration to say I have very much warmed to Kernel since early disappointments with their Table beer and a lingering distrust of filthy keg. Their 4 hop IPA at 6.7% was one of my beers of last year (it was Citra Centennial Mosaic and something else if memory fails). This one was Mosaic and Vic Secret. Given that Mosaic remains one of my favourite hops it was not going to disappoint. It did not. A sumptuous, refreshing, opaque masterpiece of hoppy goodness. I may have had quite a few pints. It was bloody fab.

Neepsend Brewery have been knocking out some rather fantastic ales of late. I blogged at a point in the past about their Century IPA which was a fantastic hoppy cask ale - probably more impressive in terms of the citrus, tropical hoppy bite given that it wasn't served on keg, which is usually the better way of serving such beers.

At the Three Tuns last week, as well as having the excellent company of the Director of Andrew Inns, I also had the wonderful choice of drinking the Neepsend and Hopjacker Breakfast IPA 3 - coffee black IPA.

I realise that those long in the tooth or indeed short in the patience with novelty beers may think the above described pottage is just that, but in fact its not a novelty at all - instead its a desperately clever brew. The coffee element in a black IPA is brilliant - giving it a roasted, smooth and hoppy flavour - which is surely what a black IPA should be (comments on what a Black IPA should be, as well as, the definition of "craft", are permanently closed). I had several pints including the last one with, as the barman honestly, if a little too so, put it "all the crud in the bottom". As I explained, I am not averse to crud. Not that kind anyway.

The final sharpshooter is from Blue Bee, another renowned and favourite Sheffield brewery. Arriving once again at the Three Tuns I noticed a new Blue Bee beer called the Land of the Long White Cloud. It featured Motueka, Rakau and Waimea hops and it sounded lovely but to my horror I noticed it was only 3.5%. Gah! Nearly half my starting strength! However, a man with facial hair and limbs and MC Miker G behind the bar both recommended it over the Intrepid Pale (which being that I had already discounted) and so I had a pint.

As the entry on the Blue Bee section on the Sheffield CAMRA website states "although low on alcohol this beer won't be short in flavour". Never a truer word spoken. A monumental wall of citrussy and, having been prompted, piney flavours hits you and lingers long in the mouth. There's plenty of bitterness but the resiny notes balance the brew perfectly. You could easily have this beer to follow a hoppy IPA as it holds its strength of flavour so well. I had two and a half pints last night and savoured every mouthful - I strongly recommend you go to the Tuns today and do the same.

Full marks as always to both pubs, and all four breweries for consistently producing, keeping and serving excellent and crucially. well balanced beers in cask and keg in Sheffield.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Toolmakers Brewery Tap, Forest, and Yellow Arch

Hullo,

  this is not a pub crawl I have done....

However, I have been to all three, two in one night once, and recommend you do the same. Here are some details (and guesses to fill in the blanks) a few facts and some opinion about the three venues above.

I was at Toolmakers earlier this month for Kirsty's birthday. You know, Kirsty. Kirsty? She is Kirsty who I work with. You are bound to know her....enniz, I went to the Toolmakers Brewery Tap for her birthday and really enjoyed it. My only issue is, I don't know when its open to just pop  in for a beer, if it is at all...? So although this serves as a review, I would consider calling the brewery or the Forest pub (there is a link here to their brewery website) to check when or how you can visit!

The bar room itself is long and has seating for 20 or 30 and a big log burner (although that wasn't working when we went so they had electric heaters!) The bar is at the right hand end and features three handpumps with two Toolmakers (Sonic Screwdriver being one) and a guest ale on handpump - at his time it was Steel City Forked Tongue so I was chuffed to bits -  a seriously hoppy pale ale at a birthday bash!  All the beer was well kept and sensibly priced at £2.80 a pint and, if memory serves, was served in large lined glasses allowing for a decent head.

It was my first visit to the brewery site and its quite difficult to find if you haven't been before, but you really just need to walk up Rutland Road to the Forest and Botsford Street is your next right, so behind the pub almost. There is a small metal A board/swing sign at the end of the street but it was dark when I went and I didn't see any signage! That said, there is almost nothing else on Botsford street.

Just round the corner is the Forest pub. Following brief spells as the Forest show bar (open for rent) and then the Woodside Inn, the Forest is now run by Marion and Olie, and has has had some work done on its interior and exterior. It sells three or four Real ales, mainly from Toolmakers but also one or two guests. I recognised the lady behind the bar at the Tap from the Forest who I think is Marion, and I understand her and the landlord run both.

The pub does Sunday lunches (or did) which I understand are very popular, and the beer once again is well looked after and sensibly priced. I went in after the birthday do and it was still busy, although I was only there for about an hour or so with my pint of Sonic screwdriver. A quick look on Google shows a lunchtime menu so I may try and pop in for a bite to eat soon.

The final place I want to mention is Yellow Arch Studios. I had heard about it for a long time but never went until September last year. I went to see a friend of ours Trev at his birthday do where he played and had other performers with him in the main hall.

The venue is easy to spot on Rutland Road and you enter through the arch and up some steps. It is  Moroccan themed inside and you walk through a corridor to the small bar and large performance area in front of you. The bar has three handpumps selling Kelham Island beers, and they sell a decent range of cans and bottles wines and spirits. It may have been Trev's influence but there was exceptional Greek food on offer in a room near the entrance - as a lover of Greek food this was very good quality I can assure you.

As with the Tap, I am not sure what the requirements are for getting to the bar - the bar is licensed, and it looks like its fine to simply wander in get a pint and sit down in the back room, however am guessing that the bar is only open when there is a band on so I expect you would have to pay to get in - for info, the link to their website is here.

In terms of the earlier mentioned crawl element, if you walk up Hicks Street to the left of Yellow Arch you come out on Rutland Road and its a short hop from here to either the Forest, Tap or in the other direction to the Gardeners Rest. All of which are worth a visit in Sheffield, the variously venued city.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy  

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Bridge of Aln Hotel, Whittingham, Northumberland

Hello,

        I was recently sent a link to a report by Tash from a Professor of Entrepreneurship and Regional Economic Development at the University of Northumberland. This was about the important influence on the happiness of locals versus the often equal frailty of the local pub, in small communities. The link is here, and the report uses statistical analysis and sources including the Office for National Statistics, and Actions with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) to support the claim, that pubs in small communities are a positive focal point within them.

What I found interesting was I was sent this a couple of days after reading that the Bridge of Aln Hotel in Whittingham, Nortumberland, an isolated community not too far from Netherton with its famous Star Inn, was currently closed. No details were provided, but I always worry when an isolated pub closes, especially one on the National Inventory. There is a link to the listing here which gives some details and beautiful photos of this unspoilt former hotel.

I visited in 2013 with Wee Fatha. We were staying in Long Framlington, a long finger of habitation on the A697 just down the road. Having eaten in the village we headed for Whittingham and then to the Star at Netherton. The Bridge of Aln didn't look particularly open and you enter through a door at the back, having parked in the courtyard. I don't think the large front door is any longer in use. There were lights on so we knew it was open but am guessing it doesn't attract much passing trade.

Having found our way to the bar we found a gaggle of locals enjoying drinks and conversation about local life - despite its remoteness, the area has numerous small villages and hamlets and it appeared all those drinking there were local. It was quiet (if that makes sense given my description of the conversation) warm and relaxing and the locals soon started asking us where we were from and going. I had a pint of Youngers of McEwans on keg and WF a soft drink and we went for a wander about in the actually quite large building. To note, the Whatpub website states it sells real ale - am guessing this is seasonal, as there was none there when we visited.

The bar is 1950's in style, as are much of the furnishings, and one of the doors (maybe for the bar?) has a sign stating "Select Bar" on it. This is a feature I have never seen before and am guessing it relates to its former days as a hotel.  We didn't get to see the rear right room but it looks rather fine on the National Inventory pub website. When we got back to the bar we explained that we were going to see Vera at the nearby Star at Netherton and we were told to hurry as if there was nobody in around 21.30 she would shut - we arrived just as she was saying goodbye to the last customer so just in time!

Another pub in the area that, alas, I have not yet visited, is the Star at Harbottle. It is only 3.8 miles away from the Star at Netherton and is similarly isolated. I was disappointed to read that this pub is also currently closed - especially since the pub has diversified to provide a tourist information service, and sell crafts as well as becoming the local shop. In his report, Professor Ignazio Cabras states" this positive effect increased threefold between 2000 and 2010 (the period examined) - possibly because pubs have become increasingly important as other local services such as post offices and village shops have closed."  

It is interesting that both pubs are in Northumberland, given the provenance of the report, and that in this case, the diversification has (temporarily I hope) not kept the Star at Harbottle trading. Especially since in other rural communities the pub taking on the shop - such as the Sycamore at Parwich in Derbyshire, seems to have helped keep the pub open, and strengthened its place in the community.

Perhaps the details in the report show that, sadly, the pressures upon rural and isolated pubs are increasing ever more since 2010 and that even necessary diversification of the business is no guarantee of pub survival. In the end, you still need footfall. If people aren't coming to the pub to drink it will close. Lets hope both pubs reopen and continue to serve their communities, and that both communities in turn do their best to support them.

Your very good health

Wee Beefy


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Can conditioned

        You might like this one Beefy - its can conditioned....

So were the words, or similar sounds, uttered by Sean Clarke at Beer Central. I had been into collect a can of Big Dipper and decided I wanted something else - to be honest, its apparent conditioning didn't attract me as much as the fact that it was Moor Brewing Entanglement Red IPA at 9.something percent. It was only when I got home that I thought - what the chuff is can-conditioning when its at home?

In an inescapably poor situation of no research whatsoever (stick with what you (don't) know after all) I don't actually know what can conditioning is. I can hazard a guess, having drunk cask conditioned, and bottle conditioned (and ruined) beers over the years with yeast sediment present. The beer in question was excellent, and poured cloudy, but that doesn't mean there was any yeast in it. What I can say is, for a strong over 9% beer, it drank very easily. It was smooth, but not widget artificially smooth, rather pleasant and refreshing.

Bottling with yeast is meant, in perfect conditions at least, to make the beer fresher, and more carbonated and to continue to "brew" in the bottle using live yeast. Bottle conditioning is not, in my experience, a guaranteed art. Its fraught with potential hazards, probably more so than cask, where at least a decent proportion of those handling it have some idea about what to do with it. So far, by way of absurd comparison I have tried two cans of can conditioned beer, both from Moor, and liked them both.

The other was their Illusion session Black IPA, and this was more casky, if that's a word, than the stronger one. I understand Marble also condition their or most of their cans, and another well known brewery that aren't well known enough for me to recall have also taken the practice on board. There is promise therefore that the practice may take off, at which point a more accurate comparison can be made.

Meanwhile I am still not sure about the likelihood of exploding can conditioned cans, probably down to discombobulation about brewing processes, and a general lack of relevant knowledge re yeast. I know there is no point putting live yeast in a keg (so said Stuart from Magic Rock, probably) because it makes it too fizzy, but that hasn't been my experience of the two Moor beers.

The best thing that I can see coming pit of this is the fact that the CAMRA may now start taking canned beer seriously, now its no longer Worthington Creamflow and Skol. Obviously one can never tell in such areas, but to me there are now four excellent ways of serving perfectly brewed beer and at least three should meet one or other definitions of real ale.

Which means more choice for the consumer. Which is, after all, what we all want.

Huzzaah!

We Beefy