Monday, March 29, 2010

40 Beers - the final.

And so it ends. If this was The X Factor i'd say I'd been on a journey.

33) Acorn Blonde (cask): Very pale with intense hop whiffs. Loads of orange and citrus tang. Long dry hoppy finish (though my lasting memory of this is of it being sweet). Great.

34) Phoenix Spooky Brew (cask): Dark gold with a tight head. Coffee flavours up front with tangy toffee and bitter malt. Well balanced with a dark, fruity finish.

36) Einsiedler Brauhaus Gutenberg Original Helles (bottle): Lemony-gold body. Faintly hoppy nose. Refreshing, unremarkable helles - but OK. A mystery this. I have it in my notes but not a clue where or when I drank it.

37) Moorhouse Mistletoe Madness (cask): Dark copper body with one-finger head. Very hoppy nose, with fresh and tangy toffee flavours and a bitter ending. Gorgeous - another winner from Moor'ouse.

38) Jollyboat Heart Of Oak (cask). Dark mahogany, treacly nose and a coating, sticky malt sweetness. Tangy and sort of tickly. Not bad, but one's enough.

39) Nethergate Augustian (cask). Light mahogany body, with an instant wallop of fruit - apple, plum, raspberry. Smooth, light malty finish with a bit of appley-dryness. Good session beer.

40) Bathams Best Bitter (bottle). Very lagery appearance with a surviving pillowy head. Faint peppery, spicy nose. Sweet, biscuity with butterscotch and a light malt hit but with a good hop balance and a long sweet finish. Lovely.

So. There we are. I've actually had many more than 40 since my birthday last August, filling in the last field of my nerdy little tasting booklet sometime in December. I hope my notes have been OK - they haven't always made sense to me, either - have a look at number 39; "A bit of appley-dryness". You what?

All new to me, but nothing really exotic - try as I might I couldn't get hold of a Westvleteren 12 - but I enjoyed (almost) every single one. Like Barry M says over at The Bitten Bullet: Every new beer is a risk. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.

The highlight for me was Brewdog Punk IPA. Just a superb beer, and the real stinker was Fraoch Heather Ale. Even worse when I gave it a second chance. Disgusting. I wouldn't wash a dog in it.

Best of all, though, was discovering regional heroes - like Bathams. Their Best Bitter was the last beer entered on my list - and a fine ale it was too. I'd never heard of them until I got a Christmas box o' random beers from Mrs TIW's aunt and uncle. I especially liked their idiosyncratic labelling and the bull on the crown cap. The fact it was drunk from a ludicrous souvenir of Sharm-El-Sheik didn't detract one bit. In a time where everything seems to becoming evermore homegenised, bland and beige goo, it's great to know there are independents hardly known (to me, anyway) outside their locale who are just getting on with knocking out wonderful brews. Cheers.

If you're bothered, the full list is here. Hopefully it should be clear what was bottle (or tin) and what was draught - all of which were cask (or vom fass in one German case).

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Monster Of Durham

A lot of places back home pride themselves on serving up 'Yorkshire Portions' - you'll see it proclaimed on blackboards outside pubs and cafes. It's one reason we Tykes are so big and strong. And fat.

However, I've never seen anything like this monster, served up last week when my mum and dad were at the Bay Horse in Brandon, near Durham.

Your move, Yorkshire.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who asked him?

I don't know much about cider, but I know what I like. When I'm at the in-laws in Devon it's pretty common to find a barrel of a very local and often nameless cider in some of the more remote pubs. It's always delicious, and the equal or better of anything I've had in France. Then there's the more common 'consumer' stuff like Gwatkins, Dunkerton's and Aspall, Chucklehead, Winkleigh... there's a list of good British stuff as long as Peter Mandelson's face.

Northam, Devon

Comparing this stuff to trampagne like White Lightning is a bit like comparing a cabbage with a football. Ignorant of cider as I am, i'm certainly better informed than desperate wine bore Malcolm Gluck, who's moaning about British cider over at The Guardian like he did about beer in february 2009. He got his not-inconsiderable fundament handed to him back then and no doubt it'll happen this time too. And I still don't buy The Guardian.

(I haven't any pictures of cider. Hopefully Evans' greengrocers will do. They sell apples, and they're in Devon).

Thursday, March 18, 2010


When they're not burning Popes, they make a mean pint in Lewes. Harvey's Sussex Best Bitter is a classic English ale, made with love in their handsome steampunk brewery. On the rare occasions I've seen it as a guest up North, it's the only beer I've asked to be served unsparkled. It's a permanent fixture at the Harp and at the Market Porter in Borough, near to where I work. There are worse ways to spend a summer evening than blowing the froth off a pint outside the Market Porter, even if their standards can be a bit hit and miss. Borough is stuffed with good pubs - and quite a few that should be good that aren't (The George, I'm talking to you). One of the very best is the Royal Oak on Tabard Street, a short walk from Borough tube station.

This is Harvey's sole London outpost, a street corner boozer with a largely unspoilt two-bar layout and a rare (but unused) offsales counter. There's bare floorboards, balding rugs, old refectory tables and creaky windsor chairs. It's the kind of pub that has a book sale and don't mind if you take a shortcut to the bog by walking behind the bar. There's even that London rarity, beermats. Why do so many London pubs think it's acceptable for the punters to sit with their elbows in a little puddle of lager?

Tabard street might seem a bit of a backwater, but the area has definately moved up since my first trip when I took a wrong turning and found myself in an estate full of small hoodies with large dogs. I was there again on tuesday night for a long-overdue visit with a couple of mates, and despite the full complement of Harvey's gear on pump, we stuck to the Sussex Best, enjoying the balance of hops and fruitiness of one of my favourite beers. The Oak manages to serve up decent nosh, too, without coming over all self-consciously 'gastro'. Prices have crept up since I was last in and there was no sign of their massively enjoyable pork sandwich which felt like eating an entire pig between two loaves.

We had a better night than a chap on a neighbouring table of what looked like social workers. All was quiet until one stood up and shouted "I've had ENOUGH of this!", dropping his pint and rushing out in tears, followed by a chum shouting "KEVIN! KEVIIIIN!!" who then came straight back in and apologised to the whole pub. Given the amused, roll-eyed looks of the bar staff as they cleaned up Kevin's mess, this was a regular occurence. Still, I hope Kev got home OK.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Design Classic

Warning. Graphic design related humour.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Zo Sorry

Snapped near work. I wonder what the story behind this heartfelt message is?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

40 Beers, Part Nine

Almost there.

28) Orkney Red MacGregor (cask): A real tangy mouthful, lots of bitterness and zip. The colour of black tea that's been stewing for a couple of hours. Darkly fruity nose.

29) White Horse Village Idiot (cask): Colour of light straw with a tight creamy head and a frothy crown. Summery citrus nose with light hops and a gentle bitter finish.

30) Titanic - Another Pint In The Wall: (cask). Faint but not unpleasant metallic smell. Tangy with a long bitter finish.

31) Asda Own Brand (Shepherd Neame, apparently) Gentleman Jack (bottle): Polished bronze body, sustained head, fruit 'n' nut. Very decent for a quid.

32) Asda Own Brand (Shepherd Neame, apparently) Whitechapel Porter (bottle): Opaque, almost black body with a big beige head. Intense coffee fragrance. First swig gives a huge coffee hit with a lasting, very bitter espresso finish. Good stuff, and a real bargain. Why has it got a hotel commissionaire on the label?


(the picture- a Dark Star Hophead, enjoyed at The Harp on saturday - explains why my old flatmate in Munich felt the need to ask me; "Vy are you Briddish haffing pipes all offer your valls?" )

Monday, March 8, 2010


Leytonstone, home of Ten-Inch Villas is a good place to live. It's affordable, safe, and twenty minutes from the West End. It ain't a fashionable area, but having seen our old locale of Brick Lane go from a characterful backwater of Dickensian streets, leather workshops and artists quietly getting on with life, to a urine-soaked party zone for 25-year-olds with legs like Kermit The Frog, we'll cope with that.

Leytonstone High Road is slowly improving. It's still pretty dowdy, but up near the Tube Station some new restaurants have opened. There's a smart florists and a new jewellers shop. The old Woolworth's has been in use as an arts centre, but is reopening as an Argos. A lot of this inward investment is presumably linked to the £1.5bn mega-mall being built down the hill in neighbouring Stratford. Now, I used to think Stratford was the worst place I've ever been - and I've been to Lens - but the Westfield development is already making the place look much better. It's coming from a very low base, mind.

All this hasn't helped one of the oldest local businesses. Rivett's opened in 1889, giving it a claim for the UK's oldest motorcycle dealer. It seems to have sold only clothing, consumables and other bits and bats since the business changed hands in 1999, though a hint of former, oilier, skills can be seen in a surviving Dunlop sign above the door. Unlike Double S Motorcycles over the road, the staff of Rivetts didn't sneer if you rode up on an Italian Hairdryer to buy two-stroke, so they always got my custom if I needed any spark plugs or a new helmet. Sadly, the shop shut up for good last month, with a jam of punters picking over the remaining stock - bales of XXS Frank Thomas leathers and XXL Caberg Helmets. What will open in Rivett's stead is anyone's guess, but I bet it won't be half as useful.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lazy Blogging, Part 20.

The Dells: 'Wear It On Our Face'

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Brew

I think it was the Sunday Independent who once described Airedale as 'the Loire Valley of beer brewing'. There certainly are some respectable er, chateaux in the area; There's the mighty Taylor's of course, as well as Goose Eye, Naylor's and Old Bear, all in or around Keighley. Further up the Dale there's the reborn Litton, the mysterious Dark Horse and Copper Dragon - who are doing really well or are about to implode, depending on who tells the tale. Back toward Bradford, there's Saltaire and Salamander. Further still, there's the Leeds Brewery which will be flying the beer banner for that great city when Tetley hits the road. A cricket ball chuck from Airedale is Harrogate, where you'll find Daleside. The list goes on and on. Breweries everywhere.

These brewers are about to get some extra competition in the shape of Bridgehouse. This is the realisation of Keighley man Grahame Reynoldson's childhood dream of brewing his own cask ales. This will be a 10-barrel plant, working out of Pitt Street in the town, not far from the original site of the Taylor brewery. Pitt street is also current home to Old Bear until they move to a bigger site later this year.

The five core beers will be: Diken Gold at 3.6% - "a golden/straw coloured ale"; 3.8% Best Bitter - "traditional style, well balanced"; A 4% "dry and malty" Buffers Bitter; 4.4% Barnstormer - a "chestnut coloured, well balanced"; 5% Headshunt Stout - "rich, intensely flavoured". Expect to see these on sale at the Boltmakers, The Brown Cow and probably the Cricketer's in Keighley town centre. Hopefully some of these will make it South. Bridgehouse are having an offical launch event on 28th of March, from 2:30 until 4. Admission is £6, with a pound donated to the Sue Ryder charity.

More info here. As Fuggled pointed out recently, a lot of microbreweries have shockingly bad websites, so it's good to see that Bridgehouse aren't following that trend.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Goodbye To Yorkshire

It's offical. Tetley's is to be brewed by Marston's in Warwickshire from 2011. That's proper, Tetley cask ale - not the weird 'Smoothflow' beer-flavoured drink with all the character of a McDonald's Thick Shake. That will continue to be synthesised in God's Acres, albeit in Tadcaster rather than Leeds. I'm not actually a Tetley drinker - but a lot of people are, especially in West Yorkshire which must still be the beer's core market. It's the pint of choice at my dad's club, despite the Taylor's brewery being 200 yards away. There will probably be some sort of boycott by the more patriotic Tykes, but ultimately the once-legendary brand will fade away to nothing more than a memory of a monocled hunstman.

Pete Brown has interviewed Darran Britton of Carlsberg about this sorry state of affairs.

(picture from newswampthing)

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Stench Of Neglect

Cats have many owners. Their official one of course, and all the indulgent neighbours. It's like that where we live, with portly felines begging at each kitchen door. At least three cats claim our front yard and back garden as their personal territory. We've got used to the screams of Genghis and Jamie slugging it out at 3am over who wins the right to spray all over my scooters. We no longer jump put of bed, wide-eyed, thinking that someone's being strangled on our doorstep. Mind you, when a fox joins in it sounds like an attack by a phalanx of Samurai, and every bedroom light in the street clicks on.

This morning was the first time I'd had the PX - "Dino" - out for six months and the cover was especially "catty". While the engine warmed up, kicking out great billows of white smoke, the scoot smelled like the lion house at London zoo. It hadn't quite worn off when I got to work. Later today, Dino will be dropped off at the workshop for some running repairs. I've finally got round to ordering a replacement for the wonky centre stand, a victim of metal fatigue. If you've got a traditional Vespa, sooner or later you're going to have to replace the stand, it's one of the few weak spots. The front brake shoes need to be replaced and there's a problem with main headlamp - it won't come on. Then, nearer summer, it'll be the turn of Bella, my beloved Sprint Veloce, for a pre-season fettle. I hope the mechanics like cats.