Monday, 26 December 2011

Frog In Your Throat

You know when you've stayed up till 2am the night before. You were drinking all day from 10am; Mikkeller Beer Hop Breakfast, Orval, Great Heck Bah Humbug, Westmalle Tripel...

You promise yourself you're not going to drink today, after all you've been drinking for the past five days.

And then you spot that bottle. You can't take your eyes off it. You get itchy. Before you know it the cap's been popped... there's a frog in your throat.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Famous Last Words

You're not going to find me in the pub on the last Friday before Christmas. Oh no.
If you think I'm fighting my way to the bar pushing amateur drinkers out of my path just for a pint of my usual you can think again. Sharing the room with idiots in Santa hats, leaving the pub at 23:10, heading home skipping over puddles of vomit, no thanks!

I'm going straight home.

I think.

The next day....

Urgh! Where am I? What happened last night?

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Confessions Of A Craft Beer Co Alcofrolic (X)

I have a confession to make. I was in a bad mood the first time I went to the Craft Beer Co. I was hacked off with the fact there was a load of men in suits buying beer with credit cards taking up a third of the elbow space at the bar. What a grumpy git, their money or rather their plastic was just as good as mine.

Anyway, I drank some bloody fine beers that day. Beers by Mikkeller, Stateside Artisanal, Evil Twin and Nøgne Ø. I knew I wanted to head back when it wasn't so busy.

So, I'm back at Leather Lane again, where a pasty from Greggs costs about £1.20 and where the same folk that brought you the excellent Cask Pub and Kitchen have this wonderful watering hole. Yes, I love the place. The clean coolness. It's unfussy, smart and even has its logo printed on the wallpaper. The mirrored ceiling, you know you've drank too much when you can see your reflection in it. The friendliness of the knowledgable staff. Tasters seemed to be encouraged by the staff rather than asked for by the customers.

What are there, 21 keg fonts and 16 cask lines? Something for everyone here. The Lord Marples was very popular with the afternoon session crowd, whilst I drank the Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout and Magic Rock Bearded Lady.

It's easy to spend a lot of money in here on draught beers and bottles you're not going to see in other London pubs. If you run out of cash you could always sell some jewellery to a shop on Hatton Garden.

The Craft Beer Co
82 Leather Lane

"Mind your guppies."

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Got To Ouse: York Tap and Pivni

A visit to York usually means trying to cram as many pubs into the day or days as possible. Brigantes, The Three Legged Mare, The Blue Bell, The Rook and Gaskill are just a few of the places I've bent my elbow.

This time I couldn't be bothered to crawl for a couple of reasons; it was freezing cold and I needed to sit by the warmth of a fire, plus I was heading to a pub that was going to have about 32 beers on draught.

OK, my fellow drinkers and I did have to visit a couple of other places too. Firstly, the Trembling Madness shop on Stonegate to pick up some bottles. This shop improves its stock on each visit. Loads of The Kernel, Buxton and Mikkeller amongst UK, Belgium and US beers.

We also bent our knees in Pivni. You probably know Pivni, it's like the Sheffield Tap in miniature. I don't mean it looks like the Sheffield Tap, I mean it sells the kind of beers you'd also find at the Sheffield Tap. So we drank Summer Wine Brewery Diablo (keg), Magic Rock Dark Arts (cask), Magic Rock High Wire (keg), and Pivovar Broumov Opat Kvasničák Coriander lager. That lager was one of the highlights of GBBF this year, so we were really chuffed to see it here.

It was hard to drag ourselves away from Pivni, but we managed somehow.

York Tap was busy. Travellers with suitcases, Christmas shoppers, professional alcofrolics. All kinds of folk.
Magic Rock Cannonball, Magic Rock Curious NZ, Cantillon Gueze, Black Isle Chilli Porter, Thornbridge Raven, Magic Rock Rockstar, some Tempest beers, the usual Bernard lagers. All served from a huge central circular bar. I never had to wait longer than 15 seconds to be served. These guys are good.

I will always have a soft spot for the original Tap in Sheffield, but the York one with its stained glass windows and domes has an opulence that cannot fail to impress. You've got to go and see it for yourselves, and spend a few hours working your way around that circular bar.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Golden Pint Beer Awards 2011

1. Best UK Draught Beer - Magic Rock Curious, Oakham Ales Green Devil IPA, and Buxton Brewery Axe Edge

2. Best UK bottled or Canned Beer - The Kernel Imperial Brown Stout, BrewDog Hops Kill Nazis

3. Best Overseas Draught Beer - Southern Tier Imperial Crème Brûlée Stout

4. Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer - Stone Brewing Sublimely Self-Righteous, Bear Republic Racer 5, Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock

5. Best Overall Beer - Buxton Brewery Axe Edge

6. Best Pumpclip or Label - Uinta Crooked Line Detour DIPA

7. Best UK Brewery - The Kernel

8. Best Overseas Brewery - Stone Brewing

9. Pub/Bar of the Year - The Sheffield Tap

10. Beer Festival of the Year - Derby Winter Beer festival for the company, Buxton Axe Edge and total carnage.

11. Supermarket of the Year - Morrisons

12. Independent Retailer of the Year - The Offie, Leicester

13. Online Retailer of the Year - My Brewery Tap, Beers of Europe

14. Best Beer Book or Magazine - London's Best Beer, Pubs & Bars by Des de Moor

15. Best Beer Blog or Website - Ghost Drinker

16. Best Beer Twitterer - Simon H Johnson. Who else could I have a public conversation about the price of bull sperm with?

17. Best Online Brewery presence - Summer Wine Brewery

18. Food and Beer Pairing of the year - Buxton Axe Edge and Pipers Sea Salt & Cider Vinegar crisps

19. In 2012 I'd most like to drink less

20. Hype of the year - Scotch Eggs. They're just Scotch Eggs. Get a life.

Monday, 12 December 2011

When In Camden: BrewDog

I remember this place well. It used to be the Laurel Tree pub. When Britpop was about to explode there used to be a club night upstairs called Blow Up. You'd see members of Blur, Buzzcocks, Prolapse and Huggy Bear drinking whilst the DJ threatened to play Scott Walker to calm the dancing crowd. Yes, it really did feel like the floor was going to collapse at times.

So here we are 17 or more years later in BrewDog Camden. Who'd da thought it?
What's it like? It's like a BrewDog bar. If you've been to any others you know what to expect; bare bricks, second hand furniture and the kind of beers some folk call "world class".
It looks nothing like the Laurel Tree, that's for sure. It's small but there's a downstairs bar too.

On the bar: Wasabi Stout, AB:06, BrewDog/Lost Abbey Lost Dog, Prototype 17, Tokyo*, Riptide, Mikkeller Vikings Revenge plus more.

I like it. Another great boozer for pre gig drinks in Camden.
BrewDog Camden is a short walk from Camden tube on Bayham Street.

Location:Bayham St,London,United Kingdom

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Monkey See, Monkey Do. Blue Monkey Brewery Shop

Guy and Biggins finally made it to the Blue Monkey brewery shop. It's only been open about a month, but as soon as they knew it had opened they wanted to go. They'd heard the Blue Monkey bottled beers were only available at the brewery shop and possibly another couple of places. In a word, rare.

They had some trouble catching an omnibus at first until Guy disguised himself as a human and Biggins hid in his bag. They caught the Rainbow 1 on Derby Road, Nottingham. Guy asked for a return ticket to Ikea in Giltbrook and handed £3.70 to the driver.

Around 20 minutes later they were there.
Bottles of Big Blue, Evolution, Guerilla, BG Sips, Magic, Nuts and loads more packed the shelves. There were stacks of 5 litre mini casks and Blue Monkey mugs for sale too.

Biggins loves a bargain and the friendly chap working in the shop told them that if you bought 12 bottles you get a discount meaning you only pay for 10. At £2.60 each that means you pay £26. Biggins was so excited he wanted to jump around and fling his poo. Guy told him to calm down, he could chuck his muck when they were at the bus stop.

They thanked the friendly man at the brewery and headed home, bags clinking, to impatiently watch the sediment in the bottle conditioned beers drop.

Blue Monkey brewery shop
Open Monday to Saturday, 9:30am until 16:30pm

10 Pentrich Road
Giltbrook Industrial Park
Giltbrook, Nottingham.
NG16 2UZ

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Beer Too Many In Derbyshire

A friend's birthday and the chance to try a new pub, The General Havelock in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

First stop, The Brunswick Inn, Derby. I've been drinking in this pub for more years than I care to remember. I love the building. I always drink the beers brewed here. Sadly, the beer quality recently has been hit and miss. The last time I was here I ditched a sour pint of Father Mike's for Budvar. Today the Triple Hop was better. It wasn't outstanding, but it wasn't off. The pub sells up to 16 cask ales at once, and I wonder if that's too many if the quality is going to suffer.

We jumped on the Ilkeston Flyer bus and were outside The General Havelock in about 20 minutes.

First impressions on entering the place are jaw-dropping. A fair bit of cash has been spent on doing the place up, and it shows.
Lots of the original Art Deco features have been uncovered in the restoration. The floor alone looks amazing.
The Gents urinals are in posh black marble, I noticed if I stood in one spot that it was almost like a mirror. I made sure I stood in a different spot when I went to spend another penny.

The beer then, loads of it. I didn't count how many cask ales were on but there were at least 12 by names such as Marble, Oakham, Blue Monkey, Abbeydale and Marston's. I've heard this pub can have up to 30 beers on at a weekend. If they can shift that many pints before the beer goes off then that's some going. There must be a lot of thirsty people in Ilkeston.

If I'm honest I have to say a couple of the beers I had were under conditioned; we went on a Tuesday so maybe they'd been on since the weekend. The Marble Little Jim was excellent though, but at 6.9 % abv I was only going to have the one. I will definitely be returning, preferably at a weekend to drink in the cellar bar where you can choose 3 3rd pints with cheese for £4.99.

Back in Derby we just had time for a short visit to the Exeter Arms, the Dancing Duck brewery tap. Another interesting pub interior, we sat in a room that looked like it hadn't been altered for at least fifty years.

A swift pint before we made a move for the train home. Out of time again. Too many beers.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Oakham Ales: Baby Belma

Oakham Ales have pulled off something special again. A couple of years ago they were the first UK brewery to brew using Citra hops. This time they're the only brewery in the world to brew commercially with the Belma hop.

So what does it taste like?
It definitely tastes like an Oakham ale, it's got their typical dry bitter finish. More bitter than JHB but less so than Citra. The citrus flavours are understated, so it does taste more like a UK hop than an American hop, as others have also said.
Easy drinking. You could quite easily drink this all night.

There were only enough hops for one brew, so you best hunt some down whilst you've got the chance. The more I drink the less chance there is of you getting some. Sorry, that's how it goes sometimes.

Location:Grange Ln,Leicester,United Kingdom

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Hallamshire House. My new favourite pub

Thornbridge have done it again, put a shed load of money into refurbishing a pub in Sheffield. I was only here for one pint (Jaipur brewed with Belgian yeast) and was given a quick tour by Reluctant Scooper.

I like the Greystones but I like this more. Small rooms at the front of the pub with a central bar area connecting to large rooms at the back. One of these has flocked wallpaper and a full size snooker table.

I think next time we're going to have to get there early and sink a few snooker balls as well as pints.

The Hallamshire House,
49-51 Commonside,
S10 1GF

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Beest Inside...

... tells me I must return to Beeston several times a year. And drink.
Beeston is a town just under 4 miles from Nottingham. For years it's been known by folk as a boozing destination simply because the Victoria Hotel has such a good reputation for its ale and its food. There are a couple of other good reasons to head there too.

Well kept cask ale is to be found in The Crown Inn, a multi-roomed pub on Church Street. Since it became part of the Everards Project William scheme the licensee can sell more or less whatever ale they want.

There were 14 cask ales on but I wasn't there to work my way through the list, sticking to a couple of pints. The Dark Drake stout by Dancing Duck was smooth and chocolatey, the best beer in the brewery's range I reckon.
Afterwards I chose Leatherbritches Bounder. Faint whiff of eggs. Taste of lemon zest. A decent pale blonde 3.8% beer at about £2. The pub was very busy. It's always busy.

A couple of minutes walk away on Chilwell Road is the Local Not Global deli.
It's a small place but stocks some impressive beers alongside some nice looking food. I noticed some Oakham Ales and Magpie bottles but my eyes were immediately drawn to the shelf crammed with Buxton and Thornbridge.
Moor Top, Buxton Best, Wild Boar, Kill Your Darlings, Raven, Versa...

The obvious last stop for drinks has to be the The Victoria Hotel on Dovecote Lane. It's easy to relax here knowing the railway station is only a short walk away. You know this place, up to 15 beers on and always a stout or porter and a mild. A good mix of ales local and from further afield. Another popular pub, a visit usually involves walking from room to room scanning for seats, and it was no different this time. I should mention that the Vic and the Crown don't have TVs, fruit machines or pool tables, this is a plus in my opinion. The Crown has a dartboard.

If you're thinking of visiting Beeston give these places a look.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Kevin Goes Scooping

Sheffield is the city Kevin feels most at home in. Here's a short film, part of a previously unseen collection documenting his life.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Wagons Roll.... I'm Off!

After sixteen days of unintended abstinence it was time to reacquaint myself with beer.

I'd received a box of Summer Wine Brewery bottles earlier in the week and was dying to try some. On Friday I got the itch I could only scratch with a pale ale.
Summer Wine Hermes Pale Ale it was to be. An hour in the fridge whilst I got restless.
19 hundred hours and the bottle was opened and poured. I had a good long sniff; I couldn't even remember what beer smelt like, let alone tasted like.

Trust Summer Wine not to disappoint, the Hermes was gorgeous. Masses of grapefruit. Unpretentious. Unfussy. Just damn good refreshing pale ale.

What the next day required was a hobble to the Swan and Rushes for a pint of Oakham JHB. Another hop-fix but at only 3.8%abv. It did the job and I was feeling reckless so I ordered a pint of Oakham Redneck.
Redneck is one of those beers Oakham originally brewed as a special for Peterborough beer festival. It's now brewed once a year on the small kit at the Brewery Tap as part of their Oakademy of Excellence.
It's not one of my favourite Oakham ales, it's a bit unbalanced for my palate. With a red ale I'd expect a lot of malt and body to the beer, but this is all about the hops.

My stomach craved chunky chips and they were only a three minute walk away at The Font. Still the best pub chips in Leicester until I find better. I've had my eyes on the chips in The Pub, maybe I should give them a go.
The chips were floury on the inside and crispy on the outside. Filling. Washed down with a pint of almost tasteless Vedett Extra Blond I was stuffed.

That was it. Enough. Back home to feel a hangover developing. Yes, a hangover after three pints.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Seven Dry Days

Just over a week ago I enjoyed a half of kegged Magic Rock Brewing Dark Arts Surreal Stout. My wife had brought back a carry out from the Sheffield Tap.
It was a special treat, not only because the beer itself is currently the best UK stout around, but because I wouldn't usually be drinking alcohol on a Tuesday evening.

On Thursday all hell broke loose in my guts. A stomach ache grew into what I realised was appendicitis.
I was taken to A&E and given several doses of morphine.
By the time I finally went to theatre on the Friday afternoon the appendix had ruptured, filling my abdomen with poisonous pus.

A thirty minute keyhole op took two hours.

And here I am, still in hospital. Recovery is slow. The high temperatures and vomiting have been really unpleasant. I'll be here a while yet.
Messages of support on Twitter have been really heart warming and have brought tears to my eyes. There really are some lovely people out there.
Hopefully I'll see you soon out there, not on a dry day.

Location:Woodborough Rd,Leicester,United Kingdom

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Return Trip... Supersonic Festival 2011

Supersonic Festival. A music festival where the beer gets better each year.
Until a couple of years back it was the usual mass produced swill, then Purity bottles began to appear.
I gave the festival a miss in 2010 but there were enough bands playing on the Saturday this year to warrant a Return Trip...

Mixing drinks with enormous sonic assault was going to be fun.
First up, Purity UBU from the cask in Space 2 where the grumbling doom of Orthodox warmed up our bowels.
The UBU was a good balance of sticky sweet malt with a dry finish.

Next, Purity UBU again but poured from a bottle in the Boxxed stage. I preferred it from the bottle today. Livelier and easier to quaff. I was struggling with the plastic pint cups though, spilling almost as much as I was drinking over myself.

Bardo Pond were plodding psychedelic tedium. The last time I saw this band was over ten years ago when one of my alter egos was playing on the same bill. I didn't think much of them then, and I wasn't that keen on the Hogan's cider I was drinking whilst I watched them either. The taste was somewhere between sausages and halitosis.

Next in the schedule was Wolves In The Throne Room and a pint of Veltins. I wouldn't describe myself as a Veltins fan but this evening it tasted clean and refreshing after that cider. Cascades of blue-lit fog surrounded the band as they flayed our ears with icy Black Metal.

I fancied another lager, and so it seemed did Electric Wizard, as roadies carried 11 or more pints onto the stage. So, another Veltins as the band crushed us with their heavy satanic sludge. They owned Supersonic and so did the Purity UBU. I had another pint before watching the loudest band at the festival, Monarch.

Tired and soaked in spilt beer, that was it for another year. It was time to leave. Fingers crossed next year for a Burning Witch reunion.

If you're brave enough to watch Electric Wizard's performance of Witchcult Today click on \m/


Friday, 21 October 2011

Scotch Eggs

Suddenly everyone has gone crazy for Scotch Eggs.
They're thee snack of choice in all the best pubs in London town.

It's nothing new. It's not exactly re-inventing the wheel, more a case of re-discovering the cojones. Big spherical breadcrumbed cojones.

In the Guinness guide to profitable snacks (1961) you'll find Scotch Eggs, alongside ham salad sandwiches and cheese and onion pies, in the chapter Farmers' Specials.

Surely the time is right for all pubs to bring back the heated pie cabinet. And more cheese and onion cobs.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Brew Company Starburst

I've been missing out on the Galaxy hop. I'd heard whispers it was like an amped up Citra. Whomever uttered those words wasn't far off the mark.

The Brew Company Starburst is a 4.3% pale ale that's like stuffing your mouth with a handful of Roundtrees fruit gums (can you still buy them?) and swigging on grapefruit juice.

It's bloomin' marvellous.
Zingy, sparkling citrus flavours dancing all over my taste buds.

Same again, please.

Location:Butt Close Ln,Leicester,United Kingdom