Friday 31 October 2008

The Blogosphere

I see
Tyson is back. Hooray!

The Oldham Hop Fields

Lees, the district of Oldham, not the brewer, is 700 feet above sea level and is a bloody chilly place
, believe me. Two overcoats colder than Manchester as they say up here. Not the place to grow hops then you'd likely say? Well no, but my CAMRA mate and Treasurer for our CAMRA branch, Clive, an Oldham lad through and through, poo poos such trifling concerns as huge amounts of rainfall, wind and cold. He grows hops!

Last night I was at the launch of a new beer brewed by Peter Percival, Head Brewer and co-owner of Greenfield Brewery. Held at Oldham's premier free house, the Ashton Arms, the new beer, Gardener's Hop included Clive's very own Lees grown hops. It was very pale, using only pale ale malt and was early hopped with Whitbread Goldings Variety and late hopped with Clive's locally produced hops, which he reckons are probably fuggles. I did get a chance to inspect one cone. It was very spicy and aromatic and while this didn't come through as strongly in the finished beer, it was nonetheless a splendid and unusual effort. Greenfield Brewery’s Head Brewer, Pete Percival, said: “Clive’s hops are really good. We have never used fresh hops in our brews before — they have always been dried varieties. But my business partner and I were so impressed with the quality and flavour of Clive’s, we decided to give them a go.”

In our CAMRA branch Clive is nicknamed "Hoppy" such is his love for humulus lupulus. He is a keen home brewer and modestly pleased with his efforts. Said Clive:“I have always loved good beer and I started growing the hops really as just a whim. I used them in my home-brew ales. Originally I purchased some hops from Kent but, to be honest, I never thought they would ever grow strong enough in be used in a commercial brew".

The hops have produced more than 1,000 pints of bitter, with an alcohol by volume of 4.2 per cent to give a pleasing aromatic flavour.

For the tickers out there the beer will be available at the forthcoming Bury Beer Festival to be held on 14th and 15th November and at the well known Shovels Beer Festival on the Fylde.

The top picture shows Clive with Peter Percival of Greenfield Brewery

Thursday 30 October 2008

The Monkey Makes Sense

They say if you give a monkey a typewriter and leave it to it, sooner or later a coherent sentence will be produced. Whether the monkey would be aware of this is quite another matter. Thus it was today at JDW in Middleton. This has to be around the bottom of any qualitative list of JDWs, at least as far as cask ale is concerned, but today, on the first day of JDW's Autumn Beer Festival there occurred a moment of simian lucidity. The list was good, even if they didn't know it.

I had thought it might take me some time to pick up the most desirable beers on the list, but here, in the Harbord Harbord*, all but one of my chosen few, was there for my delectation. This was unprecedented, of proportions so unlikely that I had never thought it possible. One would have been a bonus, but four, yes four, all at once? Never. But it was so. I was in a daze as I ordered.

First up was a trio of Mikkel's Viking's Return, brewed by a Dane in Jennings Brewery in Cumbria, then, Firestone Walker California Pale Ale brewed at Marstons and lastly Yo-Ho Yona Yona brewed at Bank's in Wolverhampton. All promised an American style approach to hopping so how did it turn out? Well, good and not so good really. The first one I tried was the Viking's Return. The nose was a blast of resinous cascade hops, though there was a bit of chocolatey malt there too. Beer was dark, sumptiously bodied, with a full on cascade bitterness which got deeper the further into it you got. It finished bitter and hoppy. It is a very good beer indeed. Next was the Yona Yona. This was a bit different. Thinner bodied, no discernable nose with a subdued floral bitterness, a crystal malt edge and a bitter resinous finish. It was clean and reminiscent to me of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, though lacking that beer's complexity and panache. I had been realy looking forward to the Firestone, but it was thin, weedy, slightly sulphurous with a short, bitter finish. Hmm. Not what I was hoping for, but it is early days. I'll try it again if I can find it.

My second trio of thirds included Spinning Dog Autumn Gold which was not a golden ale despite what they say. It was bitter, slightly alcoholic and malty, but not too sweet. Just OK to my palate, but no more. My other "tick" was CAMRALE, brewed by Wadworth and chosen it seems by 12 CAMRA types in a tasting of five beers all brewed by Wadworth. Well yes. If it was the stand out best as alleged, goodness knows what the rest were like. It was OK in a typical Wadworth way, but again dominated by sulphur and the typical house Waddies taste. I'm guessing here, that the panel of CAMRA peeps were not from the North West. In fact I'll bet my bottom dollar on that!

My last third was a repeat of the Viking. Of course! So that's it. Just the Baron's Black Wattle Original left that I'd really like to try. I'm betting it will prove elusive!

* Sir Harbord Harbord was born on 26 January 1734. He was created 1st Baron Suffield in 1786 and gave the land on which the present pub stands. I'd have called it the Lord Suffield myself.

The Enduring Appeal of the Local

I am not the biggest fan of Greene King though I respect them as Britain's biggest producer of cask ale, but they have just done something I very much approve of, though I dare say their intentions were not entirely altruistic. What have they done then? They have commissioned a report named as above, from the social anthropologist, Kate Fox. Now I am familiar with Kate's work through a fascinating book she wrote called "Watching the English" - quite a useful handbook for me - and the more pertinent to this blog, "Passport to the Pub" -A Tourist's Guide to Pub Etiquette, both of which are are a fantastically well observed, good read. She also wrote a smaller book with Desmond Morris, the zoologist called "Pubwatching."

So what does Kate find? She concludes with "As the pub adapts without losing its essential element of community it ensures its survival in a modern world. In the increasingly faceless anonymity of the urban environments in which most of us live, a sense of belonging and being part of a genuine community become all the more important. We can sit at our computers and exchange stories and pictures via Facebook or Myspace. Or we can go to the pub........I find it fascinating and highly revealing that in all of the focus groups and interviews I have done about online social interaction, people invariably, without exception, compare their online conversations with what they would or would not say in what they always call ‘real life’. Emails, chatrooms, networking sites, online forums and so on have their place in our lives, and it is an important place, but we all seem to be aware, if only subconsciously, that it is different and separate from ‘real life’. ‘Real life’ is still what happens in our homes, and in our homes-from-homes, the pub."

I suggest you read it for yourself here. You won't be disappointed and if you are a regular pub goer, you will recognise the picture she paints. If you are not a regular pub goer, stop reading this rubbish and get some real life down the pub!

I don't know whether the photo is Kate or not, but it accompanies her biography on the Social Issues Research Centre, where she is a director. It suits either way!

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Condoms Outsell Beer at Weis'n!

Cold, rainy weather resulted in lower beer sales at the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Six million visitors drank only 6.6 million litres, a reduction of at least five percent from last year. The cold weather apparently encouraged visitors to snuggle up a bit more, though: condom sales were through the roof. Manufacturer Durex reported 1.5 million were sold in just the first two weeks of the festival. "With that kind of turnover," exclaimed Durex marketing manager Gerald Schreiber, "maybe we should think about developing a special Wies'n condom!" (Weis'n is local Bavarian for the Oktoberfest). Schreiber did not indicate whether the company would consider naming any future Oktoberfest condom the Weißwurst, or if they would opt instead for the more traditional Bavarian blue and white checked colour scheme.

Now I have never heard of the Oktoberfest being a great place to cop off, but respect! Maybe with the recession and the price of a litre of festival beer having broken eight euros, the alternative is more attractive? Or is 1.1 litres the maximum visitors feel they can cope with before sexual congress? Usually it takes a bit more than that before the sap rises!

Either way only 1.1 litres per visitor. Hardly worth going for that. Or maybe you just can’t get served - with beer at least!

I thank for this story and the photo and my mate John for pointing it out to me!

Monday 27 October 2008

The Royal Toby

On a rare Sunday lunch out, I perused the bar at the Royal Toby near Rochdale for inspiration. They used to serve Draught Bass here until recently and in a perverse way, I always enjoyed having some, if only to remind myself in that most salutary way, that "fings aint wot they used to be". The Bass has gone now however and somewhat to my astonishment has been replaced by Timothy Taylor's Golden Best, that rarest of breeds, a genuine Light Mild. What an usual choice I thought. The beer was decent enough, but served too cold. You can't win 'em all.

Also on the bar was a beer I have wanted to try for some time. Grolsch Weizen is a German style cloudy wheat beer. It had most of the usual flavours of banana, clove and spice, but tasted to me, rather stale and cardboardy. I've tried it now and won't be trying it again by choice. More evidence for my anti pasteurisation file.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Another Two Thirds Anyone?

I see that the National Weights and Measures Laboratory (NWML) are proposing in a consultation document that two third of a pint measures be made a legal measure for the dispense of draught beer in the UK. The NWML said the plan for two-thirds of a pint measures “has been proposed by the beer and pub trade to allow greater flexibility in the service of draught beers, especially those with a higher alcohol content”. It would be in addition to current legal measures of a pint, half-pint and third of a pint.

A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association said: "It would be a small change in the law, but a useful one – it won’t be for every venue or every customer, but it’s about giving customers more choice."Third pints are a legal measure, so why not make the law consistent and make two third legal as well? For some customers, some styles of beer will just seem right for a two thirds pint. So let’s allow the choice."

Well I didn't know that we had a National Weights and Measures Laboratory, but it is certainly an interesting proposal though I feel if the trade want it, then they must feel that there is something in it for them that isn't, to me at least, immediately obvious. That of course isn't a bad thing if there is something in it for the customer too, but it would mean buying a stocking different glasses and pricing would be an issue too. I haven't seen the trade rushing to supply the already legal third pint measure.

I'm not against this, but wonder what the driver really is. No-one has ever said to me that they would like this, but the trade obviously think there is some kind of advantage. What do you lot think?

Friday 24 October 2008

(Nearly) All Smiles in Yorkshire

It isn't that usual for me to spend a day drinking with the legendary Beer Hound, Tyson, late of this parish,
but yesterday, in a persistent drizzle, I did. Huddersfield, considered by many to be a beer Nirvana was the destination. Naturally we warmed up a little first with a pint at Sinclairs in Manchester City Centre. Both of us felt that the Sam's Old Brewery Bitter was, on this occasion, just off the mark, but it set us up nicely for our rattly train trip over the Pennines.

Our first stop was the well known Rat and Ratchet. It is years since I've been there and Tyson had to be dragged off his usual wrong route to the place, which is admittedly in a bit of an awkward spot, being down a hill across a very busy ring road with many unforgiving motorists. It was quiet when we arrived and the welcome was warm from a knowledgeable barman. We sat in the main bar which has wooden floorboards and has a very cosy feel to it. We tried six or seven beers each, with for me, the stand out being the locally brewed mild from Mallinson's. The Ossett beers were excellent too in this Ossett tied house which does guests.

Next after a trek back up the hill and a hoof through a car park is the Grove, which neither of us had visited before. An end of terrace local, it has a lounge and a tap room and is done up simply but attractively, with many prints and cartoons on the wall. Around twelve cask beers were on offer and a number of draught foreign beers too. The eclectic beer list for bottles is umpteen pages long. Even the snack menu - and I'm talking packet snacks here - is nearly four pages long with some dangerous chilli concoctions and flavoured crickets being noteworthy. Cheese and Bacon cricket anyone? The menu advises you to have A & E on your speed dial before eating and may well not be kidding!

The super landlady was friendly and welcoming and guided us happily through the various offerings and made us feel most at home. The beer? More Mallinson's, this time Town Pride Bitter which was very bitter and various other halves of this and that including for me, Vale Black which was overpoweringly chocolatey. Then the landlady mentioned she had Moravka Lager, the krasnicove (unfiltered) version. We had both been keen to try this for ages and ordered two halves eagerly. We tried to like it. Honestly we did, but it had a strange spoiled fruit aroma and a slightly eggy taste did not add to the enjoyment. We should have tried the "ordinary" Moravka, but didn't realise it was on too until looking at the web site today. Much better was the excellent Jaipur IPA which for once was almost clear and had good body and condition as well as excellent bitterness. Reluctantly we took our leave, Tyson sighing about the lengthy list of things we simply didn't have time to try. We'll be back and you should go. It is a classic already. You could spend all day there and not tire of it. One odd thing though. All the cask beers are served through short necks and no sparklers. Strange for this part of the world. Their website is here.

It was all downhill from there, both literally and figuratively. In steady dripping rain we hoofed down to the Cherry Tree JDW as it is run by a regular at my local pub. Maybe for that reason the welcome was again warm and service was prompt. Pints of Phoenix Last Leaf were thoroughly enjoyed, though a taste of Abbott Special Reserve didn't make me keen to have any. It was easy from there on in. Just round the corner to our last two destinations, both on the platform of the station. The Head of Steam and the King's Head complement each other very nicely, though for me the sheer cosiness of the right hand bar of the Head of Steam takes some beating, though you'll probably find more interesting beers at the King's. A Swift One 's Beer Blog describes it all very well here, so I won't and my camera battery had died by then anyway. We drank E&S Beyond the Pale under the doleful eye of the dour Czech barmaid, who had obviously modelled herself on the sinister Polish lasses from Harry and Paul. We only found out where she was from by a long and challenging guessing game, where each guess was met with a single word "No". Not the merest hint of a smile was forthcoming as our guesses got wilder and wilder, though she did utter the word "Brazil?" with a modicum of disbelief. As we shrivelled under her withering gaze, we left and went to the barn like King's Head where we drank lots of something pale and hoppy - their speciality - and mine, though by now note taking and remembering was a thing of the past.

Back in Manchester common sense took over for me at least. Under Tyson's unerring guidance we weaved our way through the back streets to the Hunter's Indian Caff where rice and three sorted us out. No more beer for me, but Tyson is made of sterner stuff. He was off to meet a mate in the Northern Quarter for more liquid refreshment.

It was a good day. Apart from the Head of Steam - and perversely that made the visit all the more interesting and nothing could take away from the sheer comfort of the place - we were greeted warmly throughout by bar staff who were genuinely glad to see us and made us feel appreciated. Well done Huddersfield.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Calling Time

There is a long and interesting piece, titled as above on the plight of pubs in the Guardian today. Read it here

Old Brewery Bitter

Way back in December last year, I mentioned I had CAMRA business at Sam Smith's Yew Tree, just outside Rochdale. A committee meeting took me there again last night.

Old Brewery Bitter is still served from wooden casks. At 4% abv, it is a decent strength without being overwhelming. Just edging the top of the "ordinary" bitter band or, if you like, just missing the "best" sobriquet, it is a very malty brew, full bodied, with slight forest fruits, just a hint of woodiness and a nice clean, malty bitter finish. I don't think it has the sheer drinkability that an ordinary bitter needs to have, but it is a good old fashioned brew when on form, which it was last night. I quite enjoyed it.

It was just £1.38 a pint.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Too Busy For Me

I complained about pubs being empty the other day. Not so the Marble Arch. When I picked E up off the train, we popped in for one, but were hardly able to squeeze in the door. It was full of happy and happily pissed people enjoying the various beers on offer.

We stayed for one. My pint of the ludicrously named "Pint" was fine, as was E's half of Manchester Bitter. Two thoughts occurred to me as we fled. Thank goodness smoking was banned and why do drunks converse with each other at the top of their voices?

E remarked in the car - "That's probably how our table at the THT sounds on a Sunday". Um. Yes. Probably!

Thursday 16 October 2008

Sending Out the Wrong Signals

The Beautiful Beer Awards scheme was launched in March 2006, to recognise and reward pubs who deliver ‘excellence in beer’. To gain an award, pubs have to pass a thorough inspection of all aspects of beer service from cellar conditions to the beer in the glass. Successful pubs receive a Beautiful Beer plaque to display outside, as a guarantee to drinkers that the beer inside is of excellent quality. The aim of this campaign, owned by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), is to encourage more consumers to make beer their drink of choice on more occasions.

All fine and dandy you may well say. What a good thing you might say. So what has happened to this laudable scheme, primed with £600,000 of BBPA money? Well, they have axed both the founding director and the Public Relations Manager (who was the main contact and really ran the show) to concentrate funds on "political issues such as alcohol strategy and taxation." Don't know about you, but I rather like the idea of sorting out beer in pubs and spending a little on that. If they want to campaign on political issues, maybe they should find the funds out of another budget, rather than the beer quality one.

Awards have to have support and credibility to make them work and be seen to have value to the pub and the consumer. That means a proper structure, publicity and staffing. In a time when many pubs are empty, this move would seem to be taking an eye off the ball.

The awards scheme will continue it seems, but to me it has lost a bit of cred.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Everards Innovation.

Long established Regional Brewer Everards of Leicester has picked up three awards from SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, the most interesting of which is for an initiative to buy and refurbish closed down pubs, which they then let to newer and smaller brewers such as Titanic.

This re-opening of pubs is good to see, imaginative and I wouldn't mind knowing a bit more about it. Could this be a way forward for more of our closed pubs, not all of which are beyond saving?

Everards were founded in 1849.

Draught Duvel Green in the UK

Quite a few years ago, I visited and toured the Duvel Brewery in Moortgat, In the hospitality suite afterwards, among the beers offered, was Duvel Green Label. This is a chilled and filtered version of the stronger Duvel that is available as a bottle conditioned product. It was enjoyable in its own right, but not as complex as the "real thing".

Already on sale in the US, where it is known as Duvel Draft, this beer is now available in the UK in selected All Bar One outlets and in the free trade. I look forward to trying it.

Lees Autumn Range

All of JW Lees current range of beers can be seen in this photo. Certainly makes me thirsty!

The bitter has a flash to denote its status as silver medal winner in the bitter category at the Great British Beer Festival. It is drinking very well at the moment.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Champion Beer of Greater Manchester

Announced yesterday at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, it is Pictish Alchemists Ale, a clear, golden, hoppy, little number which, alas, wasn't on my panel's list of beers. Second was Phoenix Spotland Gold and third was Greenfield Black Five. All are brewed in my CAMRA Branch's area, so a clean sweep for us. Hooray!

Pictish are fine brewers. In fact some would say that Richard Sutton of Pictish is producing some of the most exciting and drinkable beers around in the UK.

They are right. He is!

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Scotland's Other National Drink

I am not sure if it is still the case, but until recently, Scotland was the only Western European country where Coca-Cola is not the leading soft drink. In Scotland, Irn Bru reigns supreme. First launched in 1901, it is made by AG Barr to a secret formula and is available everywhere you go up North, including pubs, who get a somewhat posh looking bottle, rather than the more common can. I wouldn't say I grew up on it, but I had it a lot!

In the pub this is used to mix with spirits, usually vodka. It is also particularly recommended as a hangover cure.

The old adverts used to be more subtle, but I couldn't find any. This is quite funny though.

Penrith A Brief Visit

You couldn't call Penrith a Beer Mecca. Not unless your idea of such a thing is a endless sea of crap British lager and John Smith's Smooth. The Good Beer Guide has two entries. Our coach parked at one, the Agricultural Hotel, a Jennings tied house. Most of our thirsty mob swarmed in. Me, E and Tyson thought we'd make a start at the furthest away pub, the Lowther Arms, figuring it would be quieter and we could nip back up the hill and, with the coach handily parked outside, sup to the last available second. Clever huh?

Now the Lowther Arms isn't a cheery pub exactly, being decorated in rather brown colours, but it was empty and had six beers on. We scanned the pump clips for inspiration, with all of us settling on Adnam's East Green. Served by a gorgeous bow fronted barmaid, who ran the pub charmingly on her own (it got rather busy soon after.) We all enjoyed this golden beer with its spicy and bitter notes. So good in fact we drank it dry before the hordes, tiring of Jennings, swept down the hill. Also decent was the rare Palmer's Copper Ale. A half of Everard's Tiger was also tried by E and was frankly rather poor.

On the way back up the hill, we passed quite a few pubs. Tyson and I nipped in to each. Most were keg or had one pump selling Black Sheep and most were empty. The Agricultural was devoid of our party when we got in - the tactic worked. We chose the seasonal, Swan's Lake. It was a copper/ chestnut brown, full bodied and malty with a good hop finish. It was a good old fashioned best bitter. I liked it a lot. We switched to Cumberland Ale, which Tyson preferred and then back in my case to the Swan's. Alas the barman was nowhere near as attractive as the server in the Lowther - not to me anyway - but the beer was immaculate and the place was packed. See? A decent choice of cask ale in peak condition always attracts customers. But we knew that didn't we?

Photos show some of the cask choice at the Lowther Arms and Tyson being startled by a beer drinking ghost!

Food and Drink Festival

This annual event is under way at the Spinningfields area of Manchester. I've been helping doing some set up. On Friday, the Best Beer Brewed in Greater Manchester will be announced from entries submitted from the region's many breweries. All the beers will be on sale to the public and I'll be chairing one of the tasting panels.

As if that isn't enough good beer, the well known Marble Arch Pub is hosting another beer tent along with The Crescent and Knott Bar.

There is as you would expect, lots of good food and the setting is interesting with all the new towering glass buildings surrounding us. Why not pop in if you are around?

Monday 6 October 2008


After our disappointment at the Old Dock Bar we went next door to the brilliant and sparkling Teuchter's Landing*, a bar and restaurant which was welcoming in every way. It was warm, spotless and indeed shining, had a decent range of ales for its size, a vast array of whiskies and for Edinburgh, was reasonably priced. It was a great place to be. The Ossian's Ale from Inveralmond Brewery was perfectly kept and perilously drinkable. We left with considerable reluctance and didn't even bother joining our colleagues, who were in the nearby and grubby Malt and Hops.

Edinburgh is such a good place to drink cask ale. It accounts for 75% of all cask ale drunk in Scotland. I'll mention a few old favourites and one or two new to me. The Bow Bar rarely disappoints with its air pressure dispense and good choice. Kelburn Goldihops was well worth supping. The Blue Blazer, changed beyond recognition from its grim days as a keg pub with "go-go dancers", is expensive but has immaculately kept beer and a great atmosphere. Have a look at the rare, old windows depicting Bernards and Youngers Ales. The Oxford Bar, so beloved of Inspector Rebus is if anything, better than Rankin tells it. Full of character and characters. The Cafe Royal is opulent and beloved of well heeled Scots and has a good range of cask beer and oysters by the dozen or half. The Abbotsford has a wonderful island bar and a good range from Scottish micros. The Dome is a restaurant until half past three, has no cask beer, but is the former HQ of the National Commercial Bank of Scotland. It drips granite and marble and is probably one of the most impressive drinking places anywhere in the world. The Cask and Barrel has wonderful beer - the Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted was in perfect nick - and a great display of mirrors from defunct Scottish Breweries as has Thomson's which again features Scottish micros. I could go on. There simply wasn't time to visit them all and I didn't get a bad pint once.

Edinburgh is great for beer and great for pubs and atmosphere. Go there.

* A Teuchter is a derogatory term for a Highlander. The Edinburgh - Aberdeen Steam Packet used to arrive near the pub, hence the name.

The first photo of beer pumps shows the Blue Blazer. The air founts are in the Bow Bar.

Dry Dock!

The Old Dock Bar in Leith is listed in both the current 2008 Good Beer Guide and the new 2009 one. When I arrived on Saturday, trying to track down our lot who had gone on the piss, while E and I enjoyed some culture, it had a splendid array of handpumps. Alas it had no cask beer whatsoever. The lass behind the bar said they had been "let down by deliveries". Hmm.

Maybe if anyone from Edinburgh CAMRA is reading this, they could look into it?

Fire Down Below

Given my disinclination to drink Deuchars IPA and my feeling that this isn't quite the beer it used to be, I had mixed feelings about visiting Caledonian Brewery, which I did on Friday night. I had been round it some years ago and in those days Deuchars was the beer a lot of people raved about. Would it be better in its own brewery?

The tour was good. Not too long and not too short. John, our guide, mentioned up front the plague of fires that has littered the brewery's history, which is an interesting one, beginning with the initial owner being burned to death at the theatre and ending with a disastrous fire in the early 1980s which all but destroyed the brewery, mercifully being stopped before it wiped out the brewing kit, but wrecking nearly everything else. The only fire now that is welcome in the brewery is the flame that heats the directly fired coppers. The brewery is splendidly old fashioned, with the beer being fermented in traditional open squares of 50 barrel capacity. Full flower hops are used and the brewing seemed to me, to be done in an entirely traditional manner. No party gyle, no high gravity brewing and quality ingredients, including top quality Scottish malt.

In the hospitality suite we were offered Deuchars, XPA and Caley 80/-. The Deuchars was actually very good, though it still has that kind of dull undertone of toffee which sits ill with it. The very pale XPA was disappointingly bland, though it did have some spicy hops at the end. Perhaps best of all was the very traditional 80/- with its biscuity malt, a good dash of crystal to lift it and a a toffee and malt finish. I think the directly fired copper produces a little caramelisation which sits well with a darker beer, but maybe not so well with a paler one.

The hospitality was generous and lasting. We were in the sample room for two hours plus and the Scotch pies, a new thing to most of our party, went down well. It was a good night in a brewery where they are certainly proud and committed. They didn't mention Heineken once!

The second photo is of the Steel's Masher in Caledonian's brewery. For Ron Pattinson as he likes this kind of thing and I am sad enough to like it too!

Thursday 2 October 2008

Not Stonch

I had been at our pub briefly for a quick word with the landlady and I was driving back down the rutted and pot holed lane, in driving rain, beyond the sole house along the lonely one mile stretch from the main road to the pub. Going back to the road, a half mile away up the steepest part of the lane and heading towards the pub, my headlights (the lane is unlit at this point) picked out a bedraggled figure plodding upwards. Nothing too unusual about that, except this geezer was on crutches.

Was it Stonch looking for a decent pint and overdoing his exercise. Alas no. This guy was better looking and taller, but it was odd all the same!