Saturday 27 February 2016

All Change

The area around Aldgate East and Leman Street in London has changed beyond all recognition since we acquired our flat there around 18 years ago. It is so well connected that it has become very fashionable and after many years of little change, in recent years new flats are springing up like crocuses in spring.  It shows no signs of abating. In that time pubs have come and gone, mostly, gone, taken over and demolished or turned into flats. If only some of them had stuck it out, as now the population is huge and growing and amenities are open all the time. Back in those distant days the area was as quiet as a mouse on a Sunday. No longer.

One new pub has opened this month. The Leman St Tavern directly on Leman St itself. Very unlovely from the outside, it is owned by Geronimo Inns, the Youngs offshoot and is the kind of classy affair that will attract the many suits that are kind of thick on the ground around these parts.  All wood, metal and glass, with delightful old railway prints on the wall, it is comfortable and the welcome is pretty genuine.  The menu looked good too. It was also great to see the handpumps are obvious and facing you as you walk in, not hidden round a corner, as is often the case. The beer was in pretty reasonable shape, with my Truman's Blindside being cool and reasonably conditioned. It wasn't however golden or hoppy as stated. Why do brewers have such a problem identifying colour? Light brown is not golden!  Price wise a whopping £4.50 a pint.  As an aside, the £4 cask beer is probably the norm in London now and the £5 barrier is likely to be broken soon I fear

Riding out all this newness has been the Dog and Truck which I wrote about here. We scurried round for a soothing pint of Harveys. Shockingly it was closed. The builders are in and the inside, with all its 1970s gloriousness has been torn apart. It is to be one of Enterprise Inns new managed houses, under the Bermondsey Pub Company (based in the West Midlands oddly) banner. This was devastating.  Now I know that refurbishment is long overdue and that likely we'll get something with decent beer, but another charming piece of the past has gone and we mourned it over slightly too warm pints in the Dispensary.

I'm willing to bet we'll pay something well north of £4 a pint too for the privilege.

I'll mention some prices in my next blog. Well one in particular, for which I am still getting therapy.  It also involves Truman's Beer which somehow I think, just doesn't suit me.

Tuesday 16 February 2016

New and Newer

Two things to tell you about. Firstly I'm invited to the formal launch of a new brewery in my CAMRA Branch area and even better, the brewery is run by two of my active members. How good is that? The official launch of Serious Brewing, run by Ken and Jenny Lynch, is in a couple of weeks but tomorrow night, despite the brewery initially concentrating on bottles, there will be a cask of their stout on in the Flying Horse and I'll be there to run my palate over it and give my verdict. I'm really looking forward to it and to sampling some of the Belgian influenced beers they'll subsequently produce. Their first core beer, Goldrush, a 5.6% golden pale ale is based on Trappist and Abbey beers and two other core beers are planned, a farmhouse saison and a Belgian stout as well as seasonal beers throughout the year.  I'm not sure if the stout is Belgian influenced, but only one way to find out. It all sounds quite exciting doesn't it?

Exciting in a different way is the news that my area will be getting its first micropub. The Old Post Office hopes to open next week in nearby (to me) Castleton. Cazzy (or is it Cazzie?) is between Middleton and Rochdale and not far from my two local pubs, the THT and the Ship.

Regretfully in terms of attending any opening night next week, I can't, as  I'll be in London for London Beer Week events, but I'll be going this week to interview the new owners for our CAMRA Magazine, More Beer, so I'll hopefully learn all about them and their plans. I'll let you all know.

Whatever else you can say about the beer scene in Greater Manchester, it is in constant flux and showing great confidence and resilience. I'm really excited about both.

Part of that flux will see Outstanding Brewery move to Salford from Bury. A little bird tells me that business rates had a big hand in that. Win some, lose some.

Twitter: @seriousBrewCo; @TOPOAleHouse

Photo shows (top) Jenny and Ken Lynch and Bottom, the Old Post Office mob.  I couldn't make my mind up where to place the photos, so I've just plonked them in.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Pretty Good Stuff

Now I have known to bang on about poor cask beer in London and sometimes I get told off for it. Can you believe that? Well I'm usually right on that subject, but it isn't just that the beer is badly kept in London, but that some of it, honestly, isn't that good.  It is only fair then, to fess up when I come across good London micro brewed cask beer.  Step up to the plate please Five Points Brewery of Hackney, London.

In the excellent Blackjack Taphouse - or is it the Smithfield Market Tavern? - I had my first pint of Five Points Pale. What a great beer. Trust me on this one. It has an easy drinking elegance, is bitter and hoppy without going over the top and above all keeps the body that you need to hold beer together.  Served at the peak of cask conditioning and through a tight sparkler, it was so good I had to have two more.  The true test of a good beer is surely that one pint isn't enough? Now I haven't, to my best recollection, come across this beer in London, but I will look out for it. I just hope I don't find it warm, flat and wishy washy.  I reckon too that it illustrates a point I have often made before, that the best new wave breweries do cask as well as keg and bottle.  When you get your cask beer spot on, you really are a brewer. There is no place to hide when you produce real ale. Well done on that front and shame on those that produced great cask and then gave it up.

I should point out too that I recall Matt Curtis mentioning the brewery, so I looked up the article. It was his cask beer of 2015.  Well done that man.  I can see where he is coming from.

Tonight, having shaken off my lurgy, more or less, I'm going to try some of the new version of a beer I brewed and had a big hand in the recipe, Rammy Craft's Chocolate Chilli Stout. The chilli has been upped. Hooray!

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Two Things What Happened

Mudgie is always banging on about children in pubs. In fact he admits it to being "a bit of a hobby horse". Frankly I don't tend to come across them too much in the pubs I go to, though we do often get quite a few on a Sunday afternoon in the Tavern, but thankfully most are very well behaved.  We get far more trouble from dogs. My other haunts tend to be relatively child free, though the Rose of Lancaster, where I am often to be found of a Friday tea-time, usually has quite a few eating with parents.  It is though so well run, with high standards and a manager that is always there and having a word if needed, that I am not bothered by them one bit. That's as it should be.  Well behaved children enjoying themselves are a delight.

Not so on Saturday night.  In a pub near me which won't be named, I entered around seven in the evening with my lass. Firstly, in a heaving pub, we could see that almost every table was inundated with uncollected glasses and empty plates. Food was till being served and we did find a seat after moving glasses to a nearby table.  Children were running about shrieking and chasing each other, using the steps as a jumping playground and getting under the feet of the customers, and dangerously, staff bearing plates of hot food.  They were unchecked by their parents.  This is the kind of thing that really annoys.  To me, together with the uncleared tables and the absence of a manager taking control,  this is a sign that the pub is being run badly.  Children aren't the issue really, as children will be children, but the failure of parents to apply discipline was magnified by the failure of pub management to apply standards.  We supped up quickly and left and won't be back at a time when children are there. It was just a bit of a nightmare.

On a different tack, last night at our CAMRA Branch meeting in the Baum, I had a beer from a brewery in Kent whose beer I know quite well, as it is often available in London.  Having had it in less than optimal conditions in London, I nonetheless think it as a pretty good beer and was looking forward to trying it under the assurance of the highest possible standards, in this former National Pub of the Year.  This example wasn't. It was distinctly phenolic.  Now here's the thing. Discussing it with some of my fellows, only one out of four of five that tried it identified the distinct (to me) TCP overtones.  I recalled Mark Dredge writing about this and stating "this is another off-flavour which some people are more susceptible to tasting than others". Too true and a reminder that we all perceive flavour differently.  How many times have you thought a beer dreadful while someone else loves it - or, indeed, vice versa?

So two issues. One easy to tackle and one less so. The joys of the pub.

Now someone is going to say "Why didn't you complain?" Well, I have complained about this pub before to the owners and clearly nothing has changed. maybe the potential revenue loss might be an issue.  I'll just vote with my feet.