I've been busy with this and that including family illness, but of course beer has featured. A trip to Glasgow brought two bonuses. Firstly the beer revolution (a real one) that has been sweeping through the Nicolson's chain has reached the immensely handy for Glasgow Central Station, Drum and Monkey. Pints of Jaipur on the way to and from my Mum's were both excellent and reasonably priced. Now up to six cask beers are offered which is good news. Nearby, I used to like the huge and imposing former Bank of Scotland building that is now the JDW Counting House, but the beer range has failed to impress on my last few visits. It seems stuck in a dark, sweet, Scottish beer groove, chosen from a select band of breweries, most of which need a kick up the arse. On my last visit a few weeks ago, I noticed that a new JDW was being worked on a mere 20 yards or so from the Counting House. Camperdown Place is now open and offers a very decent selection of beer in a pub that is most unJDW-like. A very fine spot for a quick pint before descending (or ascending depending on destination) into Queen St station. Acorn IPA did not suck at all.
Back on home ground, I introduced the lovely E to the Port St Beer House. On Friday night it was healthily busy and while unable to paint a surreal picture of it for you, I was, not for the first time, slightly underwhelmed by the cask beers on offer. Not the condition mind you which was and has been on every visit, excellent, but am I alone in thinking that Prospect and Boggart are less than inspiring choices? That and Lord Marples, the runt of the Thornbridge litter made my beer selection easy. I was completely impressed by Hardknott Dave's Interstellar Matter, a porter of considerable complexity and poise, which deserved more than just a second half, but I was limited severely by driving. E was less than taken with the keg Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, that she thought tasteless and gassy and as she remarked, not a patch on the bottled version. She also remarked on the almost complete absence of beards among the fairly affluent customers and then wryly added that "you can't say that about the bar staff". Indeed all four men sported beards of which Jim Morrison or indeed Ulysses S Grant would have been proud and were as hairy as their customers were not. Not sure what that does to those who like to stereotype. All offered fantastic service though and I must put on record that unfailing good service has been noticeable on my visits so far. We will keep coming back, so another winner, albeit qualified by a niggling concern about cask selection, though of course I accept fully that I may just have been unlucky.
On Saturday a trip by coach to Hawkshead Brewery to their new Beer Hall. Well ,extended Beer Hall. I was unable to take up the opening day invitation, by my wish to have E accompany me, so ironic it was, that after all, she had to stay at home with her unwell mother. Still with Tyson and his coterie, John Clarke, a clutch or Marble and ex Marble brewers and many others I know, it was still a fine place to be. The investment here is tremendous and the beers were, as Tyson reports, unfailingly good and served to perfection. I want to proclaim Hawkwshead as one of the most underrated breweries in the UK. Their range is superb, their attention to detail second to none and the presentation of the beers absolutely spot on. "Quality in everything" could be their motto. Seek them out. I worked my way through the hard to move away from Windermere Pale (3.5%) dominated by Citra and drinking like a 4% beer, to the wonderful, full bodied and bitter Lakeland Gold and then to Citrilla with its cunning and stunning blend of Citra and Amarillo hops.*
So to copy Tyson. Beer of the week: Hawkshead Citrilla. Pub chain of the week, Nicolsons.
*I missed out on Stringers Yellow Lorry and Fyne Ales Jarl. Rumour has it that Tyson supped the last of both.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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