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Category Archives: Pubs

The Dulcimer Real Ale Festival

Every once in a while, I like to go on a little pub crawl. Not necessarily a huge three-day affair like my epic trip round Sheffield, but just a gentle afternoon amble, taking in three or four pubs that are not too far apart.

My most recent such foray was prompted by a beer festival held at a pub called The Dulcimer in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester. I’d never heard of the Dulcimer before. I found that it was not listed in this year’s Good Beer Guide, but that does not mean it’s a bad pub, or even that it’s not excellent. There’s a lot of local politics in what goes into the GBG. Browsing the GBG, though, I did notice that it had several entries within easy walking distance of the Dulcimer. It seemed an excellent opportunity for an easy pub stroll.

So it was that on a miraculously mild Saturday in early May, a day nestled between the Never-Ending-Winter and the Never-Starting-Spring of 2013, my mate and I were dropped off on Chorlton’s Wilbraham Road by Lady Alebagger, who was going that way anyway. Wilbraham Road is the main east-west artery through Chorlton, and is a moderately busy thoroughfare.

Dulcimer Ext

The Dulcimer sits at the western end of Wilbraham Road, and was festooned with a brightly coloured banner advertising the beery delights of their real ale festival. We walked in and checked out the beers available on the bar. There was something wrong here, surely? The handpumps were there, but not in great number – is this the beer festival? Are we in the right place? Hoping inspiration would strike, we took off our coats and sat at a table to consider our options.

Within a few seconds, inspiration did strike, in the form of Otto Rhoden, a man who seems to live at beer festivals. After the obligatory back-slapping effusive greetings, Otto said “Festival bar’s upstairs, lads,” Ah! We wandered upstairs to the upper bar, in a long room with windows at the far end overlooking Wilbraham Road. The bar here looked far more promising. This bar positively bristled with wickets, each with an intriguing pump clip attached.

Dulcimer Int 1

I started with a Wild Beer Stalker. Now I know that most people will start with the weaker beers and work their way up to the stronger offerings, but  my problem is that I don’t read the pump clips properly, and so began the afternoon with a 7.0% strong ale. But, wow! What a start! Stalker is dark orange in colour, very smooth and creamy. It is sweet with a mild malty undertaste and a slightly hoppy finish. The whole taste is mild and gentle and washed over with a swell of butterscotch. It is an exceptional beer, and dangerously drinkable. ‘7%? No way!’ you will cry as you stagger out of the pub.

My second jar was Buxton Dark Nights at 5.0%, described on the pump clip as a ‘US style porter’. So I knew what to expect. Masses of hops, and that is what I got right from the first tentative sniff. The taste starts smoothly maltily and is followed quickly by a strong hoppiness. I’d be happier calling this a black IPA than a porter. Of course, I’m not really happy with the phrase ‘black IPA’, either. It’s self-contradictory. It’s not an IPA, it’s not a porter. It is what it is, and it is very good.

Thinking now would be a good time to move to a lighter beer, so I opted for a Moor Revival, a pale ale with a modest 3.6% ABV. It’s pale yellow and a little bit hazy. The taste is bright and hoppy with clear notes of grapefruit pith and a touch of elderflower. Nicely bitter and lip-smackingly good.

Next was a golden ale and despite my misgivings about many golden ales (see here), this was brewed by Thornbridge, so it had to be worth a punt. Thronbridge Lumford is a palish yellow beer that weighs in at 3.9%. I’m sorry to report that my issues with golden ales were raised again by this offering. It has a slightly odd flavour that I can’t quite place. Otto thought it was lemon. He may be right. Average.

Dulcimer Int 2

Back to the stronger brews, next was Hardknott Azimuth, a strongish, orange-yellow ale with an above average ABV of 5.8%. This is more like it! Dark malt blended with a quite strong hoppiness, rich in texture and flavour. Splendid.

I had to double-check the ABV of the next beer. 2.8%? Is that right? Yep, 2.8%. I somewhat unenthusiastically agreed to a half. Kernel Table Beer is a perfectly decent orange colour, and I prepared myself for a rather taste-free experience as I sipped. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Table Beer is wonderfully hoppy, the hops being quite sharp and up-front. Full of flavour, this is astonishing for a 2.8% beer. I do hope this starts a trend. Lower alcohol beer means lower tax, and is a driver-friendly alternative. Kudos to Kernel for a great beer.

Having been a little disappointed with the Thornbridge Lumford, I was determined to recover Thornbridge’s reputation in my own eyes. Fortunately, another beer on offer allowed me to do that. Thornbridge Seaforth is a strong ale (5.9%) with a warm orange colour. There was a slight whiff of sweaty socks about this beer, but only very slight. The mouthfeel is pretty smooth, and the flavour is well-rounded with some nice fruitiness. Good.

With Thornbridge back in its rightful place, I chose my final beer for this festival. I decided on Blackedge Stout. Blackedge brewery is in Horwich, pretty local to me, so I feel a strange sort of parochial patriotism when I see one of their beers on a bar. I’d not had their stout before, so was keen to try it. It proved to be a fine way to finish. The ABV is 4.5, spot on for a stout, and the colour is black, likewise. The mouthfeel is smooth, as it should be, with well-balanced roasted malt flavours. Excellent, I’ll be looking out for this one.

With that we were done at the Dulcimer, and prepared to leave for a short pub stroll before going home. We had been very impressed with the pub and its staff. All the bar staff were knowledgable and friendly. Beer served with a smile always tastes better. I cannot for the life of me imagine why this excellent watering hole is not listed in the Good Beer Guide. I will be returning to the Dulcimer.

On to another couple of pubs now, but that must wait for another day.

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Posted by on 28 May, 2013 in Beer Festivals, Pubs

 

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The Moon and Mushroom

Lurking at the bottom of possibly hundreds (or even more) of suburban gardens, there can be found that most superlative of garden sheds – the private pub. I’m aware of several around where I live. Not all garden sheds, there are converted garages and spare rooms (some rooms not so spare!), all lovingly crafted by their owners into their vision of the perfect little pub.

MM5

I’m going to concentrate on one as an exemplar of them all. Otto Rhoden, doyen of northwest beer drinkers and sometime guest blogger on this blog, has created his own little slice of beer heaven in his back garden. It is housed in a slightly outsized garden shed, quite unremarkable from the outside, and is called the Moon and Mushroom.

Whilst the outside may be innocuous, inside, the ‘Shroom is a lovingly created riot of beer memorabilia, and all the fiddly little knick-knacks that can be crammed into every nook and cranny. Little details like the little tables entirely covered with bottle tops, sunk into a think resin surface speak of the hours of patient work that have gone into this place. The bar supports three handpumps, and a smaller shed next door serves as a cellar. On most occasions, three casks of real ale are available, providing plenty variety for the fortunate invitees.

MM1

The ‘Shroom is the venue for regular gatherings held by Otto and Margaret for invited guests. It’s a private pub, for private parties, and so no licence is required. The cost of the beer is shared amongst the participants, making it a private beer drinking club. ‘Shroom days are normally themed, and everyone at least makes a stab at dressing the part. Recent events have included the Hawaiian ‘Shroom, the Hallowe’en ‘Shroom and the ‘Shroom of Love (hippies, not orgies!)

MM8

Of course, every pub needs a smallest room, and the Moon & Mushroom is equipped with the ‘Heineken Suite’, useful for the gentlemen, but the ladies must go into the house to use the facilities in there. The Heineken Suite is richly decorated with memorabilia of that particular horrible fizzy commercial brew. You get the association, I don’t have to draw you a picture.

MM4

‘Shroom events are always accompanied by good food, barbecue on warm days, home-made pies and casseroles on colder days.

It’s a fabulous little venue, where friends can come together, usually in fancy dress, for an afternoon and evening in appreciation of great beer, great food and great company.

MM6 MM7 MM3 MM2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on 30 April, 2013 in Cask Ale, Pubs

 

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Two Pubs on Railway Platforms

In the past few months, I have had two occasions on which I have been on Real Ale Rail Trails. The first was a birthday celebration of a young lady, very active in the local CAMRA scene and shameless promoter of real cider, who for reasons probably best left to herself, wishes to be referred to as Madame Hoplash. The second was a stag do, certainly amongst the best-behaved and least-wild that I have ever been on.

More about those in later blogs. For now I’m going to concentrate on the first pub we went in on each occasion. This is not as random as it seems, because both are pubs which actually stand on railway platforms.

Stalybridge Buffet Bar

In the case of Madame Hoplash’s crawl, this was the Stalybridge Station Refreshment Rooms (also known as the Buffet Bar). This is a fabulous pub, converted, as the name suggests, from the station’s buffet bar. The bar runs the length of the building. Drinking is not allowed on the actual railway platform here, but there is a spacious seating area to the side of the bar – sort of in the car park, really. When I was there, there were seven handpulls on, including beers from George Wright, Millstone, Timothy Taylor, Partners, Greenfield and Hornbeam. A quick review of some of the beers on offer –

Inside the Stalybridge Buffet Bar

Millstone Tiger Rut, a golden ale with an ABV of 4.0%. It is a pale yellow in colour, and my pint, it must be admitted, was somewhat murky. Nevertheless, there was nothing at all wrong with it. It’s very smooth with distinct citrus and hops notes and a hint of pithiness. It’s very good and somehow manages to be sweetish and yet bitter at the same time.

Partners Ghost. Another golden ale, slightly stronger at 4.5%. The colour can only be described as yellow, at least by me. Another smooth beer with an interesting underlying graininess. There’s a nice hop finish to this one, and I found myself enjoying it.

Hornbeam Galaxy Pale Ale is a pale ale (it’s a very pale yellow, so the description is accurate!) with an ABV of 4.1%. This beer was highly carbonated, so I assume it’s had a good old secondary fermentation in the barrel. The taste starts in a slightly pissy way (sorry to be indelicate, but you probably know what I mean) but develops quickly to be very hoppy and very bitter. Despite the unpromising start (which fades after a while anyway), this beer is very enjoyable and worthy of your attention.

Greenfield Four Hop One – a 4.1% golden. Unfortunately there were very distinct chlorophenol flavours in this beer, so I didn’t progress beyond the first couple of sips. This disinfectant or TCP taste is usually caused either by cleaning fluid being left in a pipe somewhere (either in the brewery or in the pub), or the brew could have been infected by a wild yeast. Either way, it’s unlikely to recur, so I’ll be trying this one again.

Millstone True Grit is a strong ale at 5.0%, again yellow (no dark beers were on at this time). The first thing you notice about this beer is its excellent mouthfeel. Full, smooth and a little chewy. There’s something wonderfully mellow about True Grit, in the way that only stronger beers can manage. Whilst remaining smooth and mellow, there is also plenty in the way of hops and bitterness.

The Trackside

The platform pub visited on the stag do was the Trackside on Bolton Street Station in Bury. This station is on the East Lancashire Railway, a track run by rail enthusiasts from the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society. They have some magnificent old engines (diesel and steam) and carriages, and a dedicated Rail Ale Trail.

The Trackside is a very similar dimensioned building to the Buffet Bar, buildings on railway stations tend to be long and thin. The bar in this case is along one of the short walls, but still bristles with nine ever-changing handpumps. The bar gets a little more crowded here simply because it is shorter. Unlike the Stalybridge Buffet Bar, the outside seating area is actually on the platform.

The Trackside bar

The bar featured beers from local and local-ish brewers; Timothy Taylor Landlord, York Minster Ale, Phoenix Flash Flood amongst others. I started with a Riverside Green & Black, a 4.5% stout. It’s a lovely deep red in colour with a stable head. The mouthfeel is smooth. There are flavours of smoke and a very slight hint of soap. Perfectly drinkable but not terribly flavoursome.

There were two beers from Sheffield brewer Bradfield. I tried their Farmer’s Stout first. Again, the beer has a nice deep red colour. The flavour is non-smoky with a spicy undertaste that I’m afraid isn’t too successful, at least not for me.

Bradfield Farmer’s Blonde, on the other hand, I found to be excellent. A 4.0% blonde beer (quelle surprise), it pours a pale yellow colour with a white head of tightly packed tiny bubbles. This one is very smooth, with a luscious mouthfeel that is almost creamy. There’s something of cream in the taste, too, and there’s a delightful bready aftertaste.

In conclusion, both these pubs are worth going out of your way to visit. Both feature a good wide range of beers, often from smaller and less well known brewers. The Trackside is not on the national railway system, but is an excellent starting point for the East Lancashire Rail Ale Trail, about which more later. The Stalybridge Buffet Bar is on a national station, and you can hop off here and straight into the pub. You won’t even mind if you miss your connecting train.

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Posted by on 27 November, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs

 

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The Victoria Inn, Durham

My recent trip round the northeast of England took me to many fine pubs. When arriving in a new region, I always like to pick up a copy of the local CAMRA magazine. I find that the articles and adverts give me a good feel for the local beer scene, and some excellent ideas for pubs to visit during my stay. When I arrived in the Durham branch’s region, I quickly found a copy of the Durham Drinker, their publication. I was delighted to see that it was their Awards Issue in which they listed the winners and runners-up of the various awards given by the branch, including the Durham Pub of the Year.

This year, the POTY was won (not for the first time) by the Victoria Inn on Hallgarth Street in Durham itself. Hallgarth Street is a residential street running out of the town towards the south. The Victoria itself is a somewhat unusually shaped brick-built Victorian pub. It’s a grade-2 listed building, and the fact that its interior is virtually unchanged since its construction in 1899 has earned it a place on CAMRA’s National Inventory of historic pub interiors.

All of the above meant that the Victoria hit the top of my ‘must visit’ list for Durham. On arrival, I found the Victoria to be busy and full of animated conversation. Lady A and I found a bench to sit on and we sat for a few moments taking in the atmosphere. The internal fittings retain a real 19th century look and feel, and I felt that I was but a whisper from that time. The clientele was very varied; I saw a gentleman who must have been 80 years old having a conversation with an attractive young woman, a man in a business suit, a small group of matronly ladies and a gathering of what looked like post-graduate students – from their accents clearly gathered from all corners of the world.

All were enjoying beer from the many handpumps that lined the bar. I started with Durham White Velvet, a 4.2% golden ale. To be honest, the flavours here are all rather muted. There are slight hints of cream and a bit of citrus pith. It’s far from unpleasant, but there’s not a lot to make this beer stand out.

My second was Hambleton Nightmare, a 5.0% dark ale that is coloured a very deep red. This beer packs a great deal of flavour. There is a smooth mouthfeel with creamy notes of coffee and a mild chocolate finish. Along with the chocolate, the finish also packs a nice hoppy kick. Great stuff.

Third up was Wylam Gold Tankard, a 4.0% golden ale. Frankly, by this stage on my tour of the northeast, I was getting seriously tired with dull golden ales. This will be the subject of a future blog, but for now, suffice it to say that I found little to get my teeth into in this beer. It’s a little bit hoppy. Big deal.

Finally, I had a Big Lamp Bitter, at 3.9%, more properly a best. It’s a fairly standard best, probably with wide appeal. There’s a malty start and a hoppy finish. Perfectly drinkable and most likely would not have been out of place if served here in 1899.

Towards the end of the evening, the landlord came over to chat with us. I always like it when that happens. I started by congratulating him on his POTY win, but with the number of awards on the wall, this clearly wasn’t a new experience for him. He’d been running the pub for over thirty years, he explained. ‘I always like talking to customers, and for them to talk to one another. You see there’s no telly and no music, so people have to talk to one another.’

I found myself agreeing with him. I hate televisions in pubs. A big ‘Sky Sports’ banner is one of the best ways to repel me from a pub. I handed the landlord one of my cards and told him that I’d be writing about his pub in my blog. ‘Oh good,’ he said. ‘Don’t forget to mention me. My name’s Michael.’

Michael Webster clearly takes his pub and his beers very seriously. He’s a big supporter of local microbreweries and his list of ever-changing beers is impressive indeed. His insistence on having nothing in the pub to distract from conversation is refreshing and very welcome. In all, this is a great little pub, well deserving of its Durham Pub of the Year accolade.

http://www.victoriainn-durhamcity.co.uk/

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Posted by on 8 October, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping

 

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Dipton Mill Inn and the Hexhamshire Brewery

A couple of miles south of Hexham, in an achingly lovely spot, sits the Dipton Mill Inn. The Inn is an old farmhouse dating to the 17th century. The Mill (actually two mills) of the name, dating to the 1300s, burned down in 1783, though the mill-race still circles the grounds of the current inn.

This little gem of an inn is also home to the Hexhamshire brewery, founded in 1993 and currently operating from Ordley, less than two miles away up Dipton Mill Road. There are plans to move the brewery to the Inn itself in the near future.

The first impression of the inn is of a picturesque, almost chocolate-boxy looking pub, quintessentially English. Unfortunately, it was too dark to take a useable photograph when I was there, but see their website (address below). Inside, the pub is snug. Low-beamed ceilings, panelled walls and half flagged/half carpeted floor all add to a sense of cosiness. There are only a few tables, and the bar is compact but bristling with handpumps, most dispensing the Hexhamshire beers.

The atmosphere is friendly inside, each time a local walks in, cries of greeting hail them. I was standing at the bar, ordering a couple of sample jars and the landlord, Geoff Brooker, was standing next to me. He spends as much time leaning on the punters’ side of the bar as he does behind it. “So,” I started, “you brew this beer then?”

He shook his head emphatically. “No, no, no!” He pointed at a chap sitting at a table behind us. “He does it.” The chap looked up from his beer. “No, no, no I don’t!” he said. Puzzling. “Unless you like it,” he added. Ah.

As it happens, the gentleman pointed to was actually the brewer, John Henderson. After a couple of pints he came over and sat with Lady Alebagger and myself in the way that friendly locals do in these places. Warms your cockles, so it does. John does the actual brewing, following recipes devised by Geoff. The beers have been very successful, with Hexhamshire Lightside winning an award at the Newcastle Beer Festival in 2010.The brewery’s stout, Blackhall English Stout, goes down so well that Geoff has taken Guinness off the bar (this momentous event has also taken place in my regular watering hole, where Titanic Stout (from a keg, no less) has replaced Guinness).

We chatted for some time with John, who seemed only too pleased to talk about his brewing. His own favourite is Whapweasel, which is the only Hexhamshire beer I had tasted before. The brewery mainly supplies to local outlets, but with some leakage into Yorkshire and Lancashire, where my local got some in March 2011.

John Henderson

So, what of the beers themselves? I’ll start with the Hexhamshire Whapweasel, a 4.8% brew described as a bitter by the brewer, but I would class as a best. It’s a mid orange colour, just about right for type. The first flavour is fairly sweet, redolent of caramel. A nice overlying hoppiness grows throughout the taste to finish with a satisfying bitterness. I’d be happy to drink this any day of the week.

Hexhamshire Shire Bitter is a 3.6% bitter (no argument over this one). It’s a pale orange, again, just right for the type. The beer is clear and bright and packs a good deal of refreshment. Having said that, all the flavours in this beer are very slight, and I had to concentrate a bit to discern what they are. Caramel is in there, as in Whapweasel, but much fainter, as is the bitter hops. This is a very popular brew and is the pub’s regular bitter.

The next brew I tried was Hexhamshire Devil’s Elbow, slightly stronger than the Shire Bitter at 3.8%, but what a difference! The mouthfeel is really smooth. The flavour is rich and full-bodied, with toffee dominating, and just a hint of bittering hoppiness at the end. Given the choice, I’d have this over the regular bitter any time.

I then moved on to the famous stout, Hexhamshire Blackhall English Stout. 4% and a deep black, it looked very inviting. I took a small sip. John looked at me closely. “What do you think?” he asked. I sat still, letting the beer give me its full complement of flavours. “It’s exceptional,” I said, and I wasn’t exaggerating. During my trip to the North East, I spent over two weeks sampling beers from pubs in Northumberland, County Durham and Yorkshire, and out of all of them, this was to be the best. It’s simply gorgeous. Velvety smooth with flavours of coffee, cream, almond and a hint of smoke at the back of the mouth.

Hexhamshire Blackhall English Stout

I returned from the bar with a Hexhamshire Devil’s Water, a 4.1% ale with an orangey red colour. “Now I don’t like that one,” confessed John. Neither did I. It was vinegar. However, Geoff was good enough to take the trip down to the cellar to connect up a fresh barrel for me. I’m afraid I still didn’t like it. It tasted quite harsh and not very pleasant. Ah well, can’t win ’em all.

I was persuaded (quite easily, now I think of it) to have a jar of Hexhamshire Old Humbug, a dark orange, slightly hazy beer, weighing in at a very respectable 5.5% and named after the landlord. “Do you know a beer called ‘Old Peculier’?” asked John. Do I! “Well this is better!” he declared. Throwing down a challenge to my favourite beer? Bring it on! Old Humbug is sweet and malty with distinct spirituous overtones and a thick mouthfeel. Almost a meal in a glass. It is very, very good, but better than OP? Weeell…

I must also mention the food at the Dipton Mill, prepared and served by Geoff’s wife Janet. I had minced beef with dumplings and vegetables, whilst Lady A had haddock with tomato and basil. Both were utterly superb.

www.diptonmill.co.uk

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Posted by on 26 September, 2012 in Breweries, Cask Ale, Pubs

 

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A Pub Crawl Round Sheffield – Part 5

This blog carries on from where I left off here.

The Shakespeare

Last time, I left my epic pub crawl round Sheffield at the famous Kelham Island Tavern. We now stretched our legs a little bit to get to the Shakespeare on Gibraltar Street. This pub has the sort of story behind it that just warms the heart. It was a noted live music venue, owned by Punch Taverns, who closed it early in 2010. After a period of 18 months, the pub was re-opened in July 2011 again as a live music venue and more importantly (for me, at least) as a true real ale pub. The man you should thank for this is William Wagstaff, the Shakespeare’s landlord.

To be honest, the Shakespeare is in a bit of a run-down area, and has a frontage that imposes rather than invites. Nevertheless, it is an impressive building (an 1820s coaching inn). Inside, it’s all wooden floors, wood panelling and a real feel of how pubs used to be. The rooms have been nicely refurbished and are full of interesting items. The seating consists of benches and stools. The bar is very impressive, with nine handpumps in use at the time of our visit.

We liked the Shakespeare, and so stayed for three rounds. I started with Craddock’s Saxon Gold. Craddock’s is a new brewer to me, they’ve only been brewing for about a year and are based in Stourbridge in the Midlands. If Saxon Gold is anything to go by, then I predict that they’ll be making big waves pretty soon. Saxon Gold is 4% golden ale, light and highly refreshing. The finish is excellent, hoppy and yet somehow almost sweet. Lovely stuff.

Next up was a brew from the local Steel City brewery, a 5.7% dark ale called A Slight Chance of Overhopping. I’ve had a number of these hoppy dark ales now, and I’m growing to like them very much. This one is dark in flavour with strong roasted maltiness coming out in the initial taste which then morphs into a good strong hoppy finish. It’s jolly good, but not, I think, overhopped.

The final offering from the Shakespeare was Rudgate Fuggle Trouble, a 3.6% bitter. This is where it all went a bit flat. Just not enough flavour. A bit of malt, a bit of hop. Big deal.

The Wellington

Onwards then. The next pub was the Wellington, a traditional Victorian end-terrace street-corner boozer, and what a little gem. It has its own in-house brewery, Little Ale Cart, and the bar positively bristles with ten handpumps. The landlord clearly supports small breweries, and I got to sample beer from more new-to-me brewers.

First was Newman’s Creative Cat. Newman’s is a joint enterprise with Celt Experience brewery of Caerphilly. Creative Cat is a mid-yellow coloured 4.3% bitter. It’s nicely hopped with a touch of graininess to the mouthfeel.

Essex brewer Mighty Oak provided the next jar, Enter the Dragon, a 4.5% porter. It packs a mouthful of roasted malt with a very pleasing smooth sweetness. I wanted another, but more curiosities awaited me on the bar.

The on-site brewery Little Ale Cart was represented by two beers on the bar. The first one I had was Gay Crusader (yes, really!), a 5% strong bitter. This is a smooth, full-bodied beer with a slight spirituous overtaste. Very nice – my list of beers to session on at a later date was growing steadily.

Little Ale Cart Lumley Castle was next, a 4.3% bitter. Quite a contrast to the previous bitter, this one was very mild flavoured. That is not to say it lacked flavour, because it didn’t. The hopping at the end was light and gentle.

For my last beer at the Wellington, I tried Millstone Vale Mill, another bitter, slightly lighter this time at 3.9% – session ale strength. Vale Mill is light, fruity and refreshing. The taste turns gently to hops providing a light, creamy finish. Three bitters, all quite different from each other.

The Gardner’s Rest bar

Our next port of call (some distance away) was the superb Gardner’s Rest, on the wonderfully named Neepsend Lane. The main bar area is light and airy and there are comfortable seating areas to the rear of the pub. A mannikin sits, looking rather bored, at one of the tables. The bar is well stocked, with eight handpumps and three fizz dispensers. The Gardner’s Rest is the brewery tap for the Sheffield Brewery, and four of its beers – Porter, Five Rivers, Crucible Best and Seven Hills were on offer. Being something of a contrarian, and because I was a bit cold after the hike through the chilly streets of Sheffield, I opted for a Bingham’s Hot Dog, a 5% chilli stout. Just what the doctor ordered. It is rich and malty with a strong chilli flavour to put a bit of fire into the coldest of bellies. Great stuff.

Bored mannikin

Hunger gripped us at this stage, and we repaired to the Hillsborough Hotel on Langsett Road for food. After a very satisfying meal, we caught a tram for the seven thousand mile trip back to our hotel.

Coming next… the final three pubs!

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Posted by on 28 August, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping

 

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Bir e Fud, Rome

My recent sojourn in Rome has already been mentioned in two previous blogs. One about bottled beers bought in a local  Spar shop and one about the fabulous Ma Che Siete Venuti. In my short trip, another couple of places stood out for me as beer drinking venues. The first is a pub/restaurant literally on the opposite side of the tiny Via Benedetta from Ma Che Siete Venuti. This is Bir e Fud.

Bir & Fud

Bir e Fud is famous for its pizzas and, of course, its beer. Located in a bit of a corner, Bir e Fud has annexed a small part of the street as an outside drinking area. Slightly chill as it was at the time of our visit, we proceeded inside.

Bir & Fud bar

The bar has a long copper pipe all along it, punctuated with taps. This unusual piece of bar furniture is placed at just the right height that you have to duck down under it or stand on tippy toes to order your drinks over it. That doesn’t matter, because the beer is fantastic. Bir & Fud prides itself in serving a wide range of Italian artisanal beer, and the large beer menu on the wall testifies to this.

Lady A and I found a table at the back of the dining room and ordered food. The menu is in Italian and has no English translations, so what you get is anybody’s guess if your Italian is as bad as mine. Anyway, when it turned up, it was beautifully prepared and very tasty. Whatever it was. Lady A asked for a fruit juice, but was told, politely, that if she didn’t want beer, she could have water. Those are the only choices.

My first beer from the extensive menu was Borgo Ketoreporter, a wonderfully black 5.2% porter. It is beautifully rich and creamy in the mouth. The flavours are predominantly of dark fruits and liquorice with a clever and distinct overlay of hoppy bitterness. A lovely porter, and bang on what I would expect a good porter to taste like.

Next was another Borgo ale, Hoppy Cat, a 5.8% Black IPA. It’s not quite black, but is a very dark red. It pours with a clean white head. The smell is strongly hoppy with just the right amount of citrus to balance it out. The dominant themes of the smell carry through into the taste, and I was reminded very strongly of Toccalmatto B Space Invader, another artisanal Italian Black IPA that I had tasted over the road in Ma Che Siete Venuti just a couple of nights before. Hops are strong and dominant throughout, with a hint of liquorice at the end.

Feeling confident in the beer menu now, I ordered a Ducato Golden Ale. At 4.5%, this was lighter in every sense of the word than the last two drinks. Sadly, I felt a little let down by this beer. It wasn’t bad, but not up to the standard set by the first two. Golden Ale has a bright white head and is yellow and cloudy. The taste was somewhat ashy. Overall rather thin with not much to it.

I determined to give the Ducato brewery another chance, so next I opted for a Ducato Verdi, and 8.3% Imperial Stout. This beer truly is black, with a dark brown head. From the first sip, Ducato redeemed themselves. I am a great fan of Imperial Stouts, or imps, and this is a proper imp. Dark roasty malt flavours mingle with bitter black coffee and a slightly spirituous overtaste, reminding you of its significant ABV. Verdi is beautiful but very bitter. Superb.

Ducato Verdi

Unfortunately, I was only able to make one trip to Bir e Fud during this trip. Like Ma Che Siete Venuti across the road, it’s a popular haunt with Romans, and once again we were the only non-Italians in the place. The staff, of mostly young people, were friendly and helpful. Certainly the young man who served us was quite proficient in English, and knew a lot about the beers he was serving. It’s odd that probably the two best places for drinking artisanal beer in Rome are within a few yards of each other, but you can easily visit both in an evening. It has to be said though, that both these places deserve more than a flying visit. My next trip to Rome will certainly have good amounts of time allotted to these pubs. Next time, though, I’m going to have learned a little Italian, so I know what I’m ordering.

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Posted by on 15 June, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping

 

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