Here we are, entering the second quarter of October 2018 and I still have not blogged about anything that has happened since our trip to Poznan last November!. How rude of me. This is partly due to my work and free time balance, as well as a gradual change in my drinking habits. With the allotment, grandchildren and jobs around the house taking some precedents, my habits have been slowly going from “Big Nights Out” to drinking in leisure at home, enjoying the garden and sampling beers delivered from beer suppliers Flavourly, Beer52 and Honest Brew, along with others sourced from the Cleethorpes beer shop,Message In A Bottle, as well as any additional beer shops we come across on our travels. I must admit that the supermarkets seemed to have upped their game too when it comes to supplies of better quality bottled and canned beers. The Beermonster does still manage a trip out to the pub, from time to time,mostly away from my hometown, and, because of that, there are tales to be told. I will now try to expand on these tastings just a little further.
Now open. Docks Beers Brewery and Taproom, Grimsby.
First of all, though, a little bit of better news from our local beer scene, namely North East Lincolnshire. The Craft and Real Ale offerings has, at last, started to improve slightly over here in Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Axholme Brewery have managed to expand its availability of their cask and bottled ranges into more pubs in the area, especially their Cleethorpes Pale Ale Cask. They have also just put the finishing touches to a second brewery, this one in Grimsby, between the main shopping area and the town's dock, which will go by the name of Dock Beers.There is also a Tap Room bar on site. I can't wait for my first visit. Meanwhile, up in neighbouring Cleethorpes, The Counting House, and Arthur's House and a new and relocated Society Bar have all emerged to plump out the growing craft beer and cocktail offerings in the resort. We have visited The Counting House on a couple of occasions, which is housed in a former bank in Sea View Street. The range of beers, which isn't huge, usually contains one of the Axholme Brewerybeers. There are plenty of cocktails on offer though. During a couple of our trips to Cleethorpes, we have also popped into The No 1 Rereshment Rooms on the station, which is not to be confused with the other excellent real ale bar situated on Cleethorpes Station, the No 2 Refreshment Room, or Under The Clock, as it is known. The No 1 has a good selection of cask ales, spread over two bars, and the clientele are very welcoming. Although the upholstery, on our last visit, certainly needed an upgrade, the memorabilia spread around this multi-roomed bar certainly adds to the character. We usually pop into The Bobbin whilst we are in the resort, and, on our last visit, we opted to go for each of their three new craft cans on offer from Cork's Franciscan Well Brewery (part of Molson Coors). First up was Friar Weisse Wheat Beer,4.7%, which had a fruit and clove aroma, which is followed by citrus, some yeast and soft spice. Next up was Chieftain Irish Pale Ale, 5.5%. This one has a solid malt backbone, with tropical fruit, hints of vanilla, some citrus along with a nice hoppy lift at the back. Last up, Rebel Red Ale, 4.3%. Plenty of caramel throughout, with some berry fruitiness coming through at the end. It is, at last, looking a slightly more promising beer scene in our neck of the woods. One only hopes that this continues.
The Consortium in Louth.
One of our days out earlier this year was to The Capital of The Lincolnshire Wolds, Louth. This visit was days after the last snows of a very long winter, and saw the last vestiges of the white stuff still draping over the the base of the hedgerows, and the River Lud angrily thundering through town, brown and moody looking. We have been to this market town many times before, and I have also reviewed most of the drinking establishments within it. This time, after a meal in The Woolpack, followed by a couple of beers in The Gas Lamp Lounge, we wandered back into the centre of town to the recently opened microbrewery and micropub, The Consortium. This former coffee shop is the smallest bar in Louth, and probably one of the smallest in Lincolnshire. Although space is at a premium in here, the ambiance is friendly and the decor tasteful and fitting with the ethos of the place.It has a good half a dozen cask brews on offer, some of which are The Consortium's own. The beers we sampled in here were all from the house brewery. I started with a 3.9% Lincolnshire Porter, a nice plummy porter with just an edge of coffee at the back and a nice dry finish. Jane went for King Lud, 4.4%, a nicely crafted Pale Ale, with a citrus fruit over a balanced bitter-sweetness in the main which leads to a zesty bitterness at the back. Whilst Jane stuck with her choice, I went for Consortium Brewing Co's Street Beer Series IPA, 4.5%. Although not quite as punchy and hoppy as some IPA's, this was still a good refreshing brew. Red berries and some soft fruit combine well with zest and leads to a crisp finish.
After our session here, we decided to visit a pub that has won many Real Ale awards over the years, The Brown Cow Freehouse, in Newmarket. Being short of time, the last bus was due to leave in 30 minutes, We quickly ordered our drinks, Fuller's London Pride, which we enjoyed in the packed surroundings of the bar before rushing back to the bus station. The beers all seemed to be in good order, the bar staff are friendly and, by the size of the portions on the plates, the food is well received by the many punters who frequent this freehouse. What a good day we had experienced yet again, and we often wonder why we don't nip on the bus there more often, although the 40 to 50 minute ride back on the bus with no toilet does suggest one reason! Lincoln
The Cosy Club's interior
Jane and I (well, Jane really) decided on a bit of pre-holiday shopping, and, as we hadn't been there together for a while, we opted for a day out in Lincoln. Arriving by train, we wandered up towards the High Street area to do the retail therapy bit before heading to our first pub of the day. We decided to give The Cosy Club, housed in the recently renovated Corn Exchange building, a look. This is a wonderfully and sympathetically decorated bar with original marketplace advertising on the walls joined by paintings of the custodians of this former trading place. I would feel the need to grow and wax a fancy moustache if I were to be a regular here, such is the authenticity of the surrounds. On our visit the only cask ale on was The Lincolnshire Brewing Company's Cheeky Imp, a 4.6% nutty and malty Bitter with a nice bitter-sweetness throughout. Part of the profits go towards Lincoln City FC's Future Imps programme. Being a Grimsby Town fan that was a big sacrifice to make in the name of beer reviewing, but the beer did win. Next up, whilst my Good Lady visited another couple of shops, I was let off the reigns for an hour to do my own bit of exploring. My next port of call was The Dandy Lion Alehouse, in Newland. In here I chose a Lagunitas Day Time Ale,4.6%, a nice floral and citrus IPA style brew, with a wonderful lemon sherbert like tickle in the dry finish. The pub has a relaxing feel, and is quite modern in its interior design. After this it was back to the hustle and bustle of the centre, and another bottled beer in The Curiosity Shop, situated at the beginning of The Strait. Inside, the decor is best described as shabby chic, I suppose, but an amiable warmth is forthcoming from the bar staff. My beer of choice was Brooklyn East IPA, weighing in at 6.9%. I sat outside and savoured the bitter opening to this one, which is followed by a hint of treacle sweetness and some citrus zest. There are hints of dark fruit in the depths but citrus and zest are the main players. Nice.
The cask beer flight selection in The Carinal's Hat.
Now reunited with a happy shopper, we popped across the road to The Cardinal's Hat. I have previously reviewed this pub ( Here and also Here 2) so straight on to the beers. Jane had decided to keep to cider in the main today so that was an easy pick. I decided to go for the Beer Flight, four of the 1/3 pint measure sampler cask beers for £5.25. My selection was Pentrich Brewing Rain of Ruin, at 9% a lovely big and punchy Imperial Stout, 4.5% Factory Pale Ale from Manchester Brewing Co, and two from Dukeries Brewery. These were Lord Furnival Strong Golden Ale, 5.1%, and Castle Hill Best Bitter, 4.2%. All four on my flight were good solid beers and certainly well looked after. The food is good here too. We shared a platter of meats, which came with bread, olives etc. Fed and ready to go, we took a gulp of air before marching from here up The Strait and Steep Hill towards its summit, and our next bar, BeerHeadZ. Another first visit to this bar, and what a place! I counted 15 cask and craft keg pumps and a fridge full of more craft ales. We sampled three beers in here, First up was Fyne Ales Loch & Key, 5.5%, a nice brew with soft flavours of citrus, berries and just a touch of pine. This was followed by a Kinver Brewery Kinver Egdge, a nicely balanced nutty 4.2% Bitter, with soft hops at the back. Jane, meanwhile, deserting the apple juice, had the Wellbeck Abbey Brewery National Treasure, a Golden Ale of 5.4%. Although nothing exceptional, it was still a solid brew with a medium biscuity sweetness and dry and bitter finish. Our next stop, the final one at this altitude, was The Lincoln Tap House and Kitchen. There is a lovely roof terrace here, which gives a nice view over Bailgate and towards Lincoln Cathedral. The bar, downstairs, hosts 10 different pumps and from these we ordered a Beavertown Neck Oil, 4.3%, a light, crisp and refreshing Pale Ale and an Aspall's 5.5% Suffolk Dry Cider, before taking in the view. We, finished our drinks, bathed in sunshine but with an edge of coolness still in the air, and decided it was time to retrace our steps towards the bottom of Steep Hill, grab a final drink or two, before moving on to the train station. On the way down the hill, towards The Strait And Narrow pub, we popped into The Crafty Bottle Beer Shop, this was for MY retail therapy. After picking up a few little treats for home we settled ourselves in the large but cosy interior of The Strait And Narrow and ordered our drinks. This time it was Waen Brewery Lemon Drizzle, a 3.7% Golden Ale with, obviously, a cake and lemon tang to it, and a 4% Timmermans Peach Lambic. A sweet and fruity ending to our Lincoln visit, and, besides a slight bag malfunction which enforced a hurried game of "Chase the Bottle" down the lesser slope of this area of Lincoln, our enjoyable day out uneventfully came to a close. We boarded our train back to Grimsby in the knowledge that our next big day out would be in the warm Mediterranean sunshine of Paphos.....but that is another story.
In November, The Wife and I had a few days booked off together and, after looking around for a cheap UK break with no success, we decided to see what was on offer a little further afield. We found that Eastern Europe was very affordable, with flights as cheap as £12-99 each, each-way from nearby Robin Hood Airport. "Fancy Poland?" I asked Jane,and having given her brief lowdown of what I knew of the area, bolstered with a few stories shared with me by a former Polish workmate, Evek, it was agreed we would give it a look. Our chosen destination would be the city of Poznan Poland has long been a country that has intrigued me. It is situated at the northern crossroads of Europe, which has meant it has become pivotal in the expansion plans of many a neighbouring state. Skirmishes there have been plenty. The changing face of Northern Europe over the last 250 years ago has mostly seemed to include either the partitioning, annexing or redrawing of the nation's boundaries. That is not to say that Poland, or its people have just rolled over, no, far from it. Brave is a word often used in describing the Polish in the history books. This, though, is a beer blog, so I shall leave the rest to those more qualified. Our flight, with Wizz Air, which was late evening,checked-in, boarded and departed on time, We soon arrived in Poznan just after mid-night, got a taxi to our hotel, Hotel Vivaldi, and, being that we had enjoyed a few relaxing beers earlier in the day, before turning in, we settled for a mini-bar Lech for a nightcap, which was crisp, refreshing with a nice bitter uplift at the back. It is a basic lager, no frills, brewed in Poznan, albeit under the Japanese Asahi umbrella, and, well, not a lot more can be said. We would have almost five full days to explore the city, starting after a good nights sleep. Poznan is quite a well appointed city for things to do, with a myriad of museums, castles and the like for those with an interest in history, along with galleries, huge parks and at least a couple of big retail therapy centres, for those with other wallet draining pastimes on their minds. Most of the facilities can be easily reached by the local trams. The starting point for most visitors, and the Jewel in the Crown, is Stary Rynek (The Old Market Square) with the postcard perfect Town Hall and its picturesque former Merchants' Houses which envelop it. The Town Hall plays host to two mechanical butting goats, which are a big tourist magnet here, especially on the stroke of noon, as they emerge from the clock tower and perform their party piece. The surrounding buildings are a mixture of bars, restaurants, craft and souvenir shops, and gives this area a nice busy and bustling feel. From this central point, the streets spread out like a spiders web and it can be quite easy to find yourself if not lost, then certainly in a different place that you thought you were! Mind you, most of theses streets can offer more drinking and eating establishments to rest in and regain ones' bearings.
The first Porter Balticki from Brovaria
With all this in mind, on a cold November morning, we walked into the city's old town, which took around 30 minutes, and a couple of directional adjustments, to experience what was on offer. After a good look around at the picture perfect surrounds, we entered our first bar of the trip. This was Brovaria, and after a very polite welcome from the bar staff, we were soon seated, looking out on the Stary Rynek, Jane, warming her hands on a coffee, whilst I sampled an excellent 9% Brovaria "Porter Balticki". This brew was full of roasted coffee and dark chocolate flavours with a good back taste of sweet dark fruits at the finish. I was really surprised at how easy this one slid down, it was incredibly easy drinking for a beer of this ABV. A quick check of the watch saw noon arriving, so we finished up our drinks in favour of what was on offer atop the Town Hall. After the duo Capra cranial entertainment, we relocated to our next bar. Pijlnia Wodki i Piwa, just away from the square in Wroclawska, gives the impression of an old 1960's style American Drive-in, but with a noted East European slant. Again, the welcome was genuinely warm. In here we sampled Zamkowy Brackie, 5.5%, a rather sweet and creamy pilsner with a reasonable back bite of bitterness, and the slightly malty and grassy Warka Classic, also 5.5%. Both beers were more than OK, and were setting us up nicely.Guliwers Bar, opposite the Town Hall was to be our next port of call. The beers in here all seemed to be Polish major brands, so we shared three of the Tyskie (Asahi) Ksiazece brews. Ksiazece "Czerwony Lager", 4.9% has slight caramel opening and then leads through to a slightly bitter-sweet and floral finish. Ksiazece "Chiemne Lagodne" is a 4.1% dark Lager, and the taste has a nice touch of bitterness throughout, balancing an IPA type backtaste of resinous hops, with yeast esters just coming through to balance it further. The final of this trio was Ksiazece "Zlote Pszencizne", a golden wheat beer offering, which was bright, slightly fruity and had a reasonable hoppy backtaste, 4.9%. To be honest, I have had better beers, but I would not hesitate giving them another go if lack of options dictated it. Feeling a bit peckish now, we headed to get some street food before having another drink. We decided to try zapiekanka, a sort of foot long Polish pizza. Very nice, with a topping of mushrooms, cheese and a chilli ketchup being my choice. Grazing done, we headed back to Brovariaand sampled Brovaria "Wheat", a beer full of little jabs of flavour, some fruit, then a hint of spice, a bit of citrus. The beer is quite complex but not overly so. Brovaria "Pils", is an acquired taste. Slightly astringent, some viscous traits and a mish-mash of fresh, but slightly conflicting citrus flavours. It isn't bad, but just sort of tries too much to please. Overall though, not a bad first day. Now the walk back to the hotel faced us. We headed this way, then with a surety we were going correctly, turned a corner, and another and.....Oh, this doesn't look right. A few more twists and turns later, punctuated only by finding an excellent Craft Beer shop and exchanging views on my map reading skills with the long suffering Jane, we finally, and luckily, arrived back at our hotel. We put some beers in the fridge, which I will review at the end, chilled out ourselves and then headed to the hotel's bar. Jane was on G & T's tonight, so I plumped for Kolobrzeska Fabryka Piwa "Colberg Black Lager" , 6%. A sweet malt opening, with plummy dark fruits at the back tantalise the tongue but do not overpower all else. The finish is long and pleasantly bitter-sweet before a waft of dryness satisfies the palate still further. I liked this one, in fact I liked this one a further couple of times!
We started the day with a hearty buffet breakfast, a walk around the extremely interesting Park Cytadela, stopping off at the Muzeum Ubrojenia and the War Memorials, before buying a multi-trip ticket for the trams. Shortly after noon, yes, we would miss the goats today, we were on the tram going back to the centre. Today I would have to embrace shopping into my day. First stop though would be Green Line, a cafe bar with an impressive selection of local beers, situated in Stary Rynek. We chose Fortuna "Imbir" (ginger) stout 6.1%, and Miloslaw "Pilsner" 5.4% to start. Fortuna "Imbir" has a slight cola taste at the start, then a rich stem ginger flavour comes through. The finish is medium long. I like ginger so I quite liked this, others may not. Jane's Miloslaw "Pilsner" is not an average tasting lager, floral herb opening, then a bright light sweetness followed by subtle hoppy bitterness. Very nice. I followed "Imbir" with Fortuna "Miodwe Ciemne" (dark honey beer), 5.6%. Good strains of honey sweetness greet the taste buds from the off, some malt follows, but honey is in charge. I found it quite nice, even for such a sweet beer.
The cathedral-like Stary Browar
Following these drinks we wandered off to do some shopping, or rather I was encouraged to show my Good Lady where the closest of the shopping centre was. To be fair, I wanted to see it too, as it was housed in a former brewery. Stary Browar, was the home of the former Hugger Brewery from the mid 19th Century until around 1945. After being left in ruins it was partially reconstructed and in 2003 eventually turned into a shopping centre. Inside this mammoth, almost cathedral like, building, over 200 stores and restaurants are sited. A good amount of the original architecture seems to have survived. We decided to have another quick drink, back near the centre, and then jump back on the tram to our hotel, for tonight we would be sampling the local cuisine. Our last drinks of the afternoon were enjoyed in Chmielnik, a bar just away from Stary Rynek. This extremely well stocked pub, it carries an excellent selection of Polish craft brews, is surprisingly large on the inside, considering its street-front facade. It also boasts a decent sized beer garden too. On our visit, just at opening time, it was very quiet, but we were advised that peak times here see the place rammed. Jane's choice in here was Miloslaw "Marcowe", a 6% Marzen styled beer,which was reasonably tasty, some malt and bready hints coming through before a balanced dry hop finish. I went for a Miloslaw "Black IPA z Yuzu", 5.6%. There is a good roast malt hit at the start of this one, then a deep citrus back taste comes through. There is a slight resinous feel on the palate which I believe must be the Asian Yuzu fruit strains coming to the fore. Interesting, and not bad at all.
Later that evening we returned to the Old Town area for a quick drink in The Tropicana Bar, "Lech" and "Warka Classic", whilst our table at Wiejskie Jadlo Restaurant was readied. The meals in Wiejskie Jadlo are authentic, extremely appetizing and are not served in small portions. For starters we had Barszcz Zurek (soup in a bread bowl) and Bigos (hunters' stew) which were absolutely beautiful. We followed this with a mixed Polish meat platter to share. Oh my goodness! A huge pork cutlet and a steak each, plus a pork knuckle to share, along with all the trimmings, pickles AND Polish dumplings (pierogi) What a feast. We washed this banquet of food down with two local beers apiece. Jane chose the Ksiazece "Czerwony", which we had previously sampled, whilst I went for Browar Czarnkow "Noteckie Ciemne Pelne" 5.6%, a full flavoured brown ale which had lovely coffee taste, tempered with rich dark fruits. The finish was long with a good bitter dryness.
We had agreed that today would see us(?) do some Christmas shopping at the big Posnania Shopping Centre, a 20 minute tram-ride away. With this in mind we left Hotel Vivaldi in torrential rain and eagerly waited for our tram. As usual, it arrived on time and we were on our way. In Posnania there are over 200 boutiques, 40 cafes and restaurants as well as many medium-sized stores. Whilst my beloved would be bargain hunting, I had my own agenda, a visit to Bierhalle. After our initial wander, we decamped to the Man Creche so the main event could begin. This is a bright and airy two-storey bar in a German style. The beers are unfiltered and unpasteurised. We started of with a 400 ml Bierhalle "Pils", 4.9%, whilst I indulged in a 1 Lt glass of 4.8% "Dunkel". The "Pils" was lightly bitter at the start, some grassiness with just a hint of spice at the back. The "Dunkel" had bready hints, some nuttiness all wrapped up in a nice sweet caramel body, ending with a nice spike of bitterness. Left to my own devices, I followed up with the smaller 400 ml Bierhalle "Weizen", 4.8%, which started out with a nice sweetness, before yeast esters and lovely soft fruit come in to play.There is more fruit at the back and some herbal aromatics. I really enjoyed this one.Next was Bierhalle "Pumpkin Ale", a nicely spiced ale, cinnamon, nutmeg and the heat of ginger were definitely evident, and complimented the maltiness and light floral hoppiness. 5.8%. Jane had now returned and was indulging in another "Pils". On paying neither of us could believe how little it all came to. All that beer for just a few pennies over £12-00. Cheap as chips. Shopping done, with a few Christmas pressies for the Grandchildrenin hand, we headed back to the tram stops. With the weather still bad, we decided to head straight back to the hotel and come out later for a bit of a night out.
Piwna Stopa beer board menu
Early evening saw us heading back out towards the highly acclaimed Piwna Stopa bar, just away from the centre. With it still being relatively early, we were surprised at how busy it was. Along with a roaring log burner, and plenty of people, we were greeted by an array of local, national and world bottled beers as well as 16 beers on tap. This was taking Craft Ale seriously. We decided to try the taps, firstly having a 6.5% German brewed Aecht Schlenkerla "Rauchbier Urbock", a lovely brew with sweet caramel leading you to a nice smokiness, almost like a Christmas ham!, and Browar Stu Mostow "WRCLW Pils", 5% which was a touch biscuity, with grapefruit coming through at the back, making it more an IPA, I thought. Second up were a lovely heavily fruited Brown Porter (although it poured very clouded off-white) called "Lost Berry" from Maryensztadt 5.2%. We also tried "Jack Strong", a 7.6% Imperial IPA from the same brewer, which had a big bold malt flavour, some herbal traits and a rich sweetness. The finish is increasingly dry and makes it quite moreish. Next up was The Brothers Bar, a much quieter place just 5 minutes walk away. There was a reasonable selection of keg beers in here, but not much in the Craft line so I opted for a Czech brewed Zubr "Schwarz" a 4.1% Dunkel, which was bitter-sweet with a delicate, almost floral hoppy finish. Jane had a small shot of the local Soplica hazlenut liqueur, which, by the smile on her face, went down very well. Draft Board Game Pub was the next bar of the evening. This is a quirky place, Craft Ales at the bar and an area downstairs for games devotees. Serious stuff if you play. We ordered our drinks and then popped downstairs, out of curiosity, and were amazed at how focused these players were. The games are all free and some are still being developed there before going on to be enjoyed in the outside world. Apparently we were rubbing shoulders with World Champions in a Star Wars game. Our host, who was there to show interested parties how to play, was excellent company and took the time to just chill and discuss Polish life, history and an insight into the following day's Independence and St Martin's celebrations. What a nice guy. Browar Za Miastem "Wlasne Sprawy American Pale Ale", 5.6% was my selection from the bar, which I found solid enough, some nice sweet malt then hints of sour bitterness at the back. "Tyskie Gronie" was Jane's favoured tipple. By now we were getting peckish. We decided to head back to Stary Rynek and were invited in to sample the delights of Rynek 95 Restauracja. Goose, all the trimmings was offered, at a price one could not refuse, so we were soon sat downstairs, in the catacombs, almost, waiting for our meal.To go with the food Jane had a "house" beer, by this time my memory chips had started to go on the blink, so I can't quite recall which Polish lager it was. I, of course, could remember, through my memo app and photo evidence, my choice. Paulaner "Hefe-Weissbier", a Dunkel which imparted nice sweet malty flavours with fruit and bready yeast coming through. By this time, we were both getting a little tipsy, so decided one more bar and a taxi back to our hotel was the order of the day. One place high on my list was Basilium, just a stroll away from Stary Rynek. Off we went. Good decision. This was a modern bar, that had a brilliant selection of local brews and a very, very knowledgeable barman. The clientele were extremely friendly, and the
Basilium, Great bar, good beer.
ambiance very relaxing. In here, after suggesting our preferences, we were served with our beers, and went to sit with the locals. Waszczukowe "Lycha Zbycha Whiskey Stout", 6.9%, a beer with a smokey peat vein running through with slight coffee and light chocolate at the back, was my first beer, which was followed up by another from Waszczukowe, "Ruda Maruda". This Red AIPA, 6.2%, has a balanced caramel opening as bready notes and some citrus gradually ease through. The finish has slight tropical fruitiness, a reasonable hoppy bitterness with just an edge sourness. We could have stayed here longer, enjoying good beer and friendly conversation but it was Polish Independence Day the following day and Saint Martin's ( swiety Marcin) Day in Poznan in particular, which would feature a colourful parade, street food and, of course, the locally produced and certificated croissants, or "rogale" which are eaten in great numbers, and we would like to experience it.
We awoke quite early and I immediately set about prising my tongue off the roof of my mouth before having a couple of cups of coffee, slowly nearing a state of readiness for the day. We eventually left the hotel, jumped on the tram and headed off to the aptly named Saint Martin's Street. The weather by this time was awful, but the street food was interesting, tasty and very traditional, and the parade was well worth catching. Colour, firecrackers, smoke and a glimpse of history mixed with the aromas of the food stalls made for a quite a spectacle. We were glad we joined the throngs of locals on their big day of celebrations . Still slightly hungover from yesterday's imbibing, and now rather cold and damp as well, we decided on a quick drink and then back to the hotel. Our hostelry of choice was to be one of the two Ministerstwo Browaru bars. This one is just off St Martin's Street. The place was very busy, and only had one member of staff on at the time of our visit. I went for a local "dark" ale whilst Jane chose a lager styled beer. Because of the lively and hectic nature in this crowded bar, caused by the day's poignancy, observance, merrymaking and jollification, I failed to note with which beers we were supplied, but needless to say, both were excellent. We would have stayed for more but being cold, wet and still quite weary after last night's excesses, we decided to head back to the hotel. Once ensconced in our room, Jane settled down to watch a Polish film with Polish subtitles about the post war independence, whilst I settled down to write up my beer and pub notes whist enjoying a glass of Soplica, and one of my shop bought beers.
Komes in Motownia
Our last day in Poznan, for this trip, was now here. We went down and enjoyed another hearty and varied breakfast in the hotel. We decided another walk into town and a visit to Stary Rynek would set us up for the journey home. The weather was bright, sunny but cold and pleasantly bracing, which added a little haste to our meander. We were soon back in the centre, ready to bid farewell to the familiar facades we had become very acquainted with during our stay. We wandered round, took some more photos, bought a few goat related souvenirs and then went for a drink. This time we chose to try Motownia Premium Bar and Pub. We were, again, warmly welcomed into the large and friendly bar and soon decided on our drinks. Jane went for "Grzaniec Galicyjski" (the local mulled wine) whilst I went for Fortuna "Komes Baltic Porter", 9%. The "Komes" has a really big dark chocolate backbone with a fair lacing of liquorice and some dark fruit. There is a slight sourness which helps raise it further.The finish is dry and the high ABV is well hidden. This was followed up by a Fortuna "Mirabelle" (Plum) beer, 5.1%. Another enjoyable brew from this brewery which was full of fruity flavour. A sweet, almost jammy, plum taste sits proudly on top of a good malty opening, alongside a mild tartness. What a nice, satisfying fruit beer. Time was ticking, so we decided on a last visit to Basilium before heading back to our hotel to pick up our bags. On entering we were remembered and greeted as regulars. The barman recalled my tastes, and which beers I had experienced last time. I was offered a local dark beer I had not had before, Browar Waszczukowe "Grazyna Sprezyna Toffee Stout", 4.5%. a beer which has a reasonably sweet malt opening, with that toffee pushing through. Some chocolate is evident, as is vanilla. Jane opted for a locally brewed cider which she assured me was very good, if a little sweet. My last..
Jane and I have been really fortunate to enjoy two Mediterranean breaks this year, both times we found ourselves returning to previous haunts. Firstly, in June, we visited Malta and Gozo, following up with a September excursion to Cyprus, which took in the Paphos area as well as an overnight stay in The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. As was expected, the weather was fabulous in our chosen locales during our visits which was very encouraging for us to move in the direction of liquid refreshment. So, out and about, what did we discover on our re-visits to these wonderfully picturesque and very hospitable Island nations lapped by the Blue Azure sea.Well, let's find out.
Malta and Gozo
After spending a week on Honeymoon here last year, and enjoying a few of the beers ( Reviewed Here ) we decided to return for a fortnight this year, and soak up a bit more of what the islands had to offer. I was especially on the lookout, as always, for a few different beers and ales, and craft ale bars, which my research had showed me existed across the Islands. We arrived late evening at our resort, so had a low key first night. Staying in Mellieha again , we sank a couple of Farson's Hop Leaf beers and Cisk Lagers locally, before turning in. Tomorrow I would have my "beer radar" tuned in and turned on and the search for new beers to review would start in earnest.
Catching up with Farson's
A trip to the supermarket the following day threw up the usual Farson's offerings, but I did manage to get my hands on a trio of this brewers' beers that I had managed to miss out on last year. First up was Farson's "Double Red". This 6.8% Premium Strong Ale has a big, bold sweet malt body but is well balanced with a back hop bitterness. The hop bitterness carries on to the finish and helps create a rather palatable brew, especially in the hot sunshine. The second brew was Farson's India PaleAle 5.7% This is a light, quite floral IPA with just a hint of hoppy bitterness at the back. There is some well balanced malt sweetness within the body, and I found it a very enjoyable beer. At 9%, Cisk Strong was the last of the three I sampled, which puts my tastings of this brewer's wares up to a round dozen. Strong is quite sweet, but not cloying, and there is a dark fruit lacing to the opening. The high ABV is quite well disguised and the finish has a sort of sherry barrel infused warmth. I was surprised at how drinkable this one was, especially after some "cheap" beers I have suffered at these inflated strengths. Speaking of which, may I introduce to you Cody's. These beers are brewed by Oettinger Bier Gruppe, Germany and the two I purchased from the local supermarket were very cheap. Cody's Extra Super Strong, 12%, was very sweet, sickly, and every percent of alcohol within was evident. Spicy on the back of the palate, but not in a nice way, which leads to an unbalanced alcohol burnt finish at the back of the throat. This was not a good brew. The "lighter" 8.9% Super Strong was a touch more palatable, but was still too sweet, cloyingly so, and still imparted an awful alcohol burn as it went down. I felt these were beers made for a certain market, those who wanted to reach a certain state of stupor as quickly as possible for whatever reason. I wouldn't have them again. They were certainly not to MY liking, but each to their own. Other bargain bucket beers we encountered included a refreshing but rather thin and watery lager, imported from Poland's Van Pur SA, by the name of Barley Classic. At 4% it merely acted like flavoured water in the heat, and as cheap as 50 cents in some places, I could see why it sold. We also encountered the EU brewed (no specific location but for Malta's Cassa Camilleri), 1565 Victory Lager. This, brew at 4.5%, was another no frills, average Euro-beer, which was slightly sweet, medium grass notes at the back with an OK, medium finish. We also discovered, in the Spinola Bay Labour Party bar, cans of Zagorka Special Lager.This, too, was a run of the mill beer. Imported from Bulgaria, it slaked a thirst, but very little else. You must be wondering by now if, besides some of the Farson's range, there are any half decent beers in this small archipelago. Well I can tell you that Craft Ales and Bars are available, especially if you do limited research beforehand. Lord Chambray, based in Gozo, Phoenix Raw Beer, produced in Naxxar, and Stretta, a Euro-brewed beer made from a Maltese recipe, are all in evidence if you look beyond the numerous tourist bars, and in Sliema there is a micro-brewery and pub, The Brew, which is now producing its own beers. So, are any of them any good? I'll begin with the Lord Chambray beers, or rather the ones I didn't get round to sampling last time.
Lord Chambray Special Bitter. 3.8% Quite a nice brew, with a good dry bitterness throughout. The finish has a reasonable citrus twang to it. I would say this is nearer a Pale Ale in style than a Bitter. An enjoyable beer.
Lord Chambray Golden Bay 5.2% Another refreshing brew, with medium malt and hop notes. To be honest, I found this one just a touch on the plain side. Pleasant, but just lacking in interest.
Lord Chambray Winter Ale 8% I really liked this one, my favourite from the Lord Chambray Brewery. Full flavoured, with dark fruit and a medium sweet malt combination at the outset. The spice kicks in next, with cinnamon and nutmeg springing out to announce themselves. The finish is smooth and packed with fruity flavours and a good bitterness that creeps in. A very good winter ale, drank in near 30 Celsius.
That concludes this brewery's beers, with the exception of Flinder's Rose, which is a seasonal brew which wasn't available when we were there. All in all, they are not too bad at all. They are available at quite a few bars, restaurants and the bigger supermarkets. They are not the cheapest of beers, but they are worth a try if you come across them. The other Maltese Craft Ales I have included below.
Stretta India Pale Ale No 1 6.3%
Stretta & Rust in La Bottega
A confusing bloodline precedes this beer, crafted from a Maltese recipe. The bottle label states "Brewed & Bottled: Brouuwerij Troost Westergas, ....Amsterdam" but on line sources state the brewer as Opperbacco, an Italian micro-brewer. Whoever brewed this IPA, they certainly did a good job of it. Smooth malt at the outset with floral notes coming through, just a hint of oranges is detectable at the back. There is a wave of tropical fruits, some yeast esters, then a long, crisp citrus edge that works its way to the bitter and dry long finish. Very nice. We still have the new Stretta Muzajk Atlantic Pale Ale to sample the next time we visit.
The Phoenix Raw Beer A collection of 4 beers, brewed in Naxxar. These bottle conditioned ales are reasonably easy to find, mostly in the craft bars around the island. Here are my reviews of the range.
Blonde, Floral Ale. 4.7% Quite effervescent on uncapping. First taste is sweet malt. There are veins of honey, yeast esters and soft fruit also in the opening mouthful. This then leads to a more balanced bitter-sweet finish with a touch of grassiness right towards the end. Not bad, just a tad too sweet for my palate at the start.
Rust Rabat Ale. 3.9% An English style Bitter with good malt and a hint spice tones and the start. Hoppy and dry at the finish with a hint of citrus bitterness. Quite well balanced.
Rubin Double Ale (Dubbel). 6.5% Rich roast malt opening with toffee and caramel enveloping the taste-buds. Dark fruits linger and spice combines with citrus notes towards the reasonably long finish, which is crisp and very dry.
Tar Robust Porter. 5.1% The first thing noticeable is the carbonation, but after the opening gush, chocolate, coffee and cinder toffee creeps out. It is quite well balanced and eventually yields some dark fruit at the back. A good bitter dryness is at the finish.
All taken into consideration, these are not too bad. Are they World award winning ales? I doubt it, but they are not bad beers at all. They are an enjoyable distraction from the usual and I would not hesitate to have another of any of the range. I do think the fizz needs sorting out a bit though, which is going to be hard to control in these temperatures, I would imagine.
The Brew Bar and Grill. A micro-brewery and bar producing its own beers on the waterfront in Sliema. On our couple of visits, it had 5 of its 6 beers on tap. The missing beer during our stay was Vienna a 5% Pale Ale.
Pilsner. 4.8% This is a nicely hop bittered beer, with just a hint of tartness to add interest. Long bitter and dry at the end with a touch of yeast esters towards the final fling. Very refreshing.
Honey. 5.3% Sweet, but not cloying, with a nice caramel taste before the floral honey notes arrive. The finish is nice, bitter and long. Quite nice, if you are a fan of honey beers.
Dark. 5.5% Chocolate and dark fruits are the backbone of this one. After the well balanced opening sweetness comes a good bitterness, which is carried on to the end and leaves a tart aftertaste. Simple opening, complex finish. Nice one.
Golden Ale. 6% A fruity and quite creamy ale. Berries at the back and nice yeast esters at the finish. Very refreshing.
Ginger Ale. 4.5% Now, if you were expecting a "Crabbies" style ginger beer, forget it. This is a good malty beer with a nice rounded pale ale styled taste, but with a subtle ginger infusion. It is extremely well balanced and the infusion of ginger at the back really works well.
The Beer Menu in 67 Kapitali
Not a bad selection of "home" beers, but add to that a quite adequate selection of International beers, spirits and cocktails, this is a good place to drop anchor, people watching, with the dramatic backcloth of Valletta's skyline and Manoel Island, and enjoy the sun and beer. Speaking of bars, there are an increasing number of Craft Ale bars dotted around the Island. Starting in Sliema, well, just next door in neighbouring Gzira, just a 10 minute walk from The Brew, we found Good Thaimes. This laid back bar is tucked away just a street back from the main road and just beyond the entrance to Manoel Island. It has another reasonable selection of International bottled beers, among them quite a few Belgian brews and a good selection of the Maltese Craft Ales. One we missed out on was The Hole in the Wall, which also gets good reviews for its ales. Across in Valletta, the Craft Ale scene is also beginning to take off. We had a couple of day trips here and enjoyed the hospitality of two really good bars. First, La Bottega, in Merchants Street. This is a small coffee shop styled bar. On entering, the array of beers available soon manifests themselves to you from the shelves. The staff are very friendly and have a good knowledge. It is another place to watch the world pass by, accompanied by a good cold Craft Ale. The next bar on our list of the Capital was 67 Kapitali. Now this is a must-visit place for beer drinkers. Owned by English ex-pats Lena and Dom, this bar, in Bakery Street, has a wonderful vibe. it is also the only place we saw Craft beers on tap, and an excellent selection of beers from all over the world. Lena and Dom are really serious about beer, and never shy from answering any questions about the cafe-bar's wares.The rest of the staff we met were also enthusiastic about their beers and ales too. A truly excellent way to unwind in Valletta. There are a few other bars in the city offering Craft Ales, StrEat Whisky Barand Bistro and Gugar Hangout Bar are two of the others nearby although we didn't have chance to visit them. St Julian's Band Club, Spinola Bay, is a good bar to drop into in St Julian's. Along with the usual Farson's selections, one will find a fridge of Craft Ales too. This being a local band club, the prices are cheaper than many of the surrounding hostelries, although Tony's Bar, just across the way from here, also offers a limited number of Craft Ales at a reasonable price. All taken in to account, this was another enjoyable break in Malta and Gozo, a place we hope to return to again in the future.
Cyprus. Both sides of the Green Line.
The last time we were in Cyprus (Here) we stayed in the centre of Paphos and were lucky enough to be shown around by good friends of ours, taking in, among other highlights, the great Aphrodite's Rock Micro-Breweryand Brewpub based in nearby Tsada, which produces some very good Real Ales on the Island, not to mention fantastic meals. This time we wanted to see what other beery offerings were out there. During our previous visits, we had always enjoyed the two best selling Cypriot brewed beers, Keo and Leon, and this time they again tasted just as good in the heat of The Med. We were based just south of Paphos airport in the village of Mandria, at the home of our friends with a very loose schedule, apart from an overnight stay over the "Green Line" in The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus later in the week. Arriving late on Sunday evening meant our first foray out was not until Monday afternoon. We were offered the use of the car, after chauffeuring Geordie, one of our hosts, to the beautiful Aphrodite's Hills Golf Club for a round. Golf isn't our "gig", so this type of round was not for us, so after a little while, we were again on the B6 road, heading towards the British Sovereign Base Area of Cyprus around Episkopi, eventually stopping at The Bottle Shop, a lovely well stocked off licence on the outskirts of Ypsonas, near Kolossi. I had heard of a brewery around here, True Ale, run by a Russian family, which was producing four bottled craft beers, so this shop offered a good starting point to find them. Unfortunately, I was informed by the shop proprietor of some "exploding" bottle issues with their wares so these, we were told, had been recalled. That meant we had drawn a blank on them on this occasion. More of that to come. Whilst we were here I decided to grab a couple of beers anyway, it would be daft not to, and eventually I decided to pick, amongst the ample bottled stock, two beers from Belgium. We sampled these later, back at base camp, although Jane, who had chosen her favourite Cypriot tipple, ouzo, back at the shop, declined, preferring to enjoy that instead. First up was Floreffe Bierre d'abbaye Prima Melior, 8%, a beer with sweet caramel as its backbone, followed by liquorice and dark fruits lurking before a very long slightly bitter finish. Next, Waterloo Triple Blonde from Anthony Martin Brewery. This is a lovely fruity brew with some yeast esters at the back, with a floral kick coming through. The finish is very dry and moreish. A mixed start to my Craft Ale quest then. I would eventually track the True Ale beers a little closer to our holiday base, at The Wooden Pub 1 in Paphos a few days later. After the wait, and anticipation, I was reasonably pleased to actually have them in front of me. How did they fare? Well, not so good. Here are my reviews.
Muddy Water ?
True Ale Porter. 4.5% A very thin tasting brew, slight hints of liquorice and a faint dark fruits lacing, but not much else. It is very lively, in fact too lively which is reflected in the dirty-looking pour. It is not a memorable beer at all.
True Ale Blonde Ale. 2.5% A touch of orange and soft fruits in the opening taste, bread and yeast esters then seep in. The flavours are too subtle and this, again, gives it a very thin taste on the palate. The finish is very short and leaves very little to get excited about.
True Ale Pale. 3% This one is easily summed up. It is better to be concise about these as one would struggle to expand further. This Pale is a bit fruity, a bit yeasty, a bit boring.
True Ale Wheat. 3% Three down, one to go. Surely this one will bowl me over. This was served with a slice of orange, as suggested by the knowledgeable staff member who served me, which was a good idea. The beer had no taste at all, pre and post orange slice, but the orange slice was very nice and refreshing.
I had been given fair warning by the bar staff that these were not the best beers on offer here, this is a Aphrodite's Rock Brewery pub after all, but if you don't try, you can't comment. I was also advised about the high price too. I have to agree that these beers have a long way to go before I would sample them again. They are too expensive, coming in at €5.90 a bottle, too weak in ABV and just lacking in any taste. Add to that the vesuvius style uncapping and you can see major improvements are needed. I hope these problems can be ironed out and, maybe, my next visit will yield a few positives for this brewery.
The outlets for Craft Ales in the Paphos area is a touch limited, although most supermarkets sell one or two British bottled beers. The beers in the bars are the usual suspects, although more are stocking the Aphrodite's Rock beers, which is good to see. Incidentally, Aphrodite's Rock have also opened a second outlet in the resort, The Wooden Pub 2, just standing back from the Tomb of the King's Road, which is very good to see. On our previous visit to Paphos, Everards' Beacon, brewed under licence on Cyprus, was on tap in a few bars but this trip we noticed that this seems to have been replaced by Wadworth's 6X. We assumed this is by similar agreement. There is, however, an excellent Beer and Cider shop, by the name of The Beer Sellar, on the edge of the main town, heading towards Geroskipou (Anthipolochagou Georgiou Savva 34, to be more accurate) This is owned by Athos, who also has The Old Fishing Shack Pub. Now, if you want to talk passionately about ale, beer and cider, surrounded by a massive selection of world beers, and stock up on a few bottles, this is the place to go. Athos will share his knowledge freely to like-minded connoisseurs of the brewers art and steer you in the right direction. On our visit we managed to pick up a great selection of beers from the Greek Micro-brewer Septem. Each represents a days of the week. As we know, the eighth day was when the Big Man upstairs created beer. Here is my sampling notes.
Septem Monday's Pilsner. 5% A nice well hopped Pilsner, with lovely grassy back-taste. There is a smooth fruitiness, a hint of citrus and a rounded bitterness at the finish. A very well balanced beer, and a very refreshing Pilsner.
Septem Wednesday's Wheat IPA. 6% Bitter orange and sweet caramel are the opening gambit of this IPA. Citrus zest gently envelops the palate soon afterwards. The citrus zest then drives this beer to a dry and bitter finish. A really good IPA.
Septem Thursday's Premium Red Ale Beer. 4.5% A big malty brew with dark fruits and caramel combining to give this beer a real solid base. There is a tingle of spice evident which stimulates the taste-buds with gentle warmth. The finish is very long and dry.
Septem Friday's Pale Ale. 4.7% A really nice pale,with a smooth rather earthy taste. A touch of grass, some floral notes at the back and a lovely bittersweet finish that is incredibly well balanced.
Septem Saturday's Porter. 5.5% Roasted malt and slight burnt toffee hints are in the opening to this beer, which adds a nice backcloth to the ensuing coffee and slight chocolate flavours. Sitting at the back there lurks an almost red grape type richness that carries on into the long, warming and dry finish. One to savour. Septem Sunday's Honey Golden Beer. 6.5%. A rather sweet beer with caramel malt opening before a real whoosh of honey takes over. This then leads to a bitter-sweet and quite dry finish. I am not a big fan of honeyed beers but I did rather like this one.
Eighth Day, but not a week ending.
Septem Eighth Day IPA. 7% This brew opens with a good tropical fruit taste, some yeast esters are also present and give it a real depth of flavour. There is a lovely creaminess on the palate and this all eases through to a wonderful dry bitterness at the finish. This is a really solid brew and one I enjoyed greatly.
Septem Lava Imperial India Red Ale. 9% Well, you will probably notice that Tuesday is missing. I don't know if it was there in the first place! Anyway, in its absence I chose this one. Lava taste quite like a Scotch Ale at the outset, with traits of rich dark fruits coming through turning it almost into a Christmas cake in a glass (without the lumps!). At the back the smooth rich flavour has a port wine kick to it. The high ABV is very well hidden and makes it very drinkable indeed.
This is a good selection of beers from this Evia, Greece based Micro-brewery. They are packed with well balanced flavours and seem to cover most bases and styles. I would gladly give them all a second sampling next time around. Another couple of beers we picked up at The Beer Sellar were Marea Blonde, 4.5% from Elixi Brewery, which was filled with floral notes, some peach hints and yeast esters at the back, and a collaboration brew from the Newcastle and Caledonian Breweries. The collaboration..
Just prior to Jane & I flying off on our Summer vacation to Malta, I had arranged a day out with a friend of ours, Steve, in Lincoln. Now, although we only live an hour away from the County capital of Lincolnshire, we are not what you would call frequent visitors to this history steeped cathedral city. Steve had been there fleetingly, by car, on shopping trips, being dragged around as part of his partner's retail therapy. This was usually followed by hitting the nearest pub to the car park for a spot of lunch and a quick pint, then the drive home. He forlornly admitted to not being aware of the lay of the land when it came to the cask beer bars and craft ale establishments of the city. I, on the other hand, had been a couple of times over the last couple of years, my last trip as recently as December (Here). So, we set a date, found the times of the trains and arranged to meet up. Our chosen Friday morning duly arrived, and with newly acquired tickets in hand, not to mention 30 minutes to waste before departure, we re-adjourned to The Yarborough Hotel, purchased a couple of beers and waited. I chose a can of Sixpoint Brewing Co "Bengali", an IPA of 6.5% with slight tropical fruit tones coming through on the back of a wonderful bitterness, which leads to a good zesty grapefruit finish. Steve, meanwhile, plumped for the creamy, orange and coriander laced "Blue Moon", the 5.4% Belgian White Ale brewed by MillerCoors. Whilst enjoying these beers in the hot May sunshine of North East Lincolnshire ( and, yes, it was hot!) I relayed to my drinking partner the recently acquired news that "It's the Lincoln CAMRA Beer Festival this weekend too!" "Oh, we're not going to get pissed and miss the train home, are we?" I assured him all would be well. A Beermonster has a homing instinct like a racing pigeon when it comes to relying on public transportation after several beers. Well I hoped I was correct in my assumption. I was also aware that there would also be the distraction of some Street art to contend with on our crawl. We finished off and headed back across the road to the station.
A small selection of The Cardinal's Hat beer selection.
Around 60 minutes later, just after midday, we alighted our train at our desired location. I took my unofficial Beer and Pub Guide stance next to my willing-to-learn hostelry tourist, advising ".....just one to start in the T.O.C.", as we headed round the corner to The Treaty of Commerce. In here I sampled the B&T Shefford Brewing Co 3.8% "Plum Mild", which had a reasonable liquorice malt taste at the fore before the plum back tones hit the palate. The finish was dry and satisfying. Steve went for a favourite of his, Bateman's "Gold", 3.9%. Unfortunately, he had to wait a while for the barrel to be changed, and when his favoured beer did arrive, it wasn't, shall we say, on top form. It wasn't undrinkable, but just not at its best. Being outside now, it did not deter us from enjoying the lovely rays of sunshine allowing us to bask in the pub's beer garden. After these, we partly retraced our footsteps back, before heading up the High Street, (passing many a Knight on the way, as part of Lincoln's A Knight's Trail, celebrating 800 years since The Battle of Lincoln. I think we encountered a fair few of the 30 odd statues on our meandering) and onto The Strait to the next pub on our agenda, the well stocked Cardinal's Hat. "Lilith's Lust" a Bitter of 4.1% from Horncastle Ales was Steve's choice, which had a good malty body with a slightly spicy bitterness, and was as traditional as any bitter should be. I went for Brass Castle "Hazelnut Mild". This 4.2% brew had coffee, slight chocolate and moderately sweet toffee hints at the outset before the nuttiness steers you to a bitter-sweet finish. I enjoyed this one, but the sweetness would become a bit cloying if drank as a session ale. After taking on these brews as sustenance, we were ready to face Steep Hill in one controlled, exhausting push. A couple of landmarks, more Knights and places of interest were intimated to, briefly, with gasps of breath taken in between, but on the whole it was a pretty silent transit up the slope. Our next stop was the Samuel Smith's managed Widow Cullen's Well. This lovely pub, in the Cathedral Quarter is as cheap as chips, friendly and in keeping with its historic surroundings. It also boasts its own well underneath it, which can (almost) be seen through a perspex viewing hatch on the way to the toilets. There was just the one cask ale on, Samuel Smith's "Old Brewery Bitter", the only cask beer brewed by this brewery now, and there was no guest cask beers, as is the norm, although the keg range was quite ample. Oh, well (no pun intended), we would have to have a pint each of that, then. To be fair it is quite a reasonable beer to sample, with slight biscuit and hints of fruit helping to lift this 4% ale to a reasonable bitter and moderately dry finish. Next up on the tour, after finishing our reviving pints of OBB, and situated just round the corner from our previous hostelry, was the recently opened Cask-Restaurant and Brewhouse, in Drury Lane. This alehouse is in the footprints of both the Cathedral and Lincoln Castle, with great views of the latter's formidable walls. There were half a dozen cask ales on offer, all local, as well as a brew plant situated inside the pub. On our visit we were informed that the pub's very own beers would be available in a few weeks, so we settled for pints of Dukeries Pale Ale, 4%, and 8 Sail Brewery's 4.7% "A Knight's Ale". Both had fruity undertones and citrus at the back, but "A Knight's Ale", my chosen brew, had a satisfying malt vein running through to the finish, which was quite long. It had now been over 4 hours since my drinking partner had eaten, so, solids had to be sought out. Curtis, the Butcher was our next port of call, (having passed another Knight, or two en-route ), as it was the nearest grub outlet to where we had left, in the direction of our next pub, The Strugglers Inn. Steve eagerly awaited his Big baguette, filled with chicken, salad and whatever else could be crammed in, whilst I was perfectly happy, if I had to graze, with a Lincolnshire sausage roll.
The Strugglers beer garden
"Is that it?!, ...A sausage roll?....Just one?......Nah! I couldn't do that.......Just A sausage roll??!" went the conversation as we made our way round to the other side of Lincoln Castle, finally coming to rest at The Strugglers. My last visit here, in December, was marred by an alcohol induced self inflicted dose of amnesia, so, it would be nice to see the place again to discover what I missed last time, even with only one sausage roll on board. Steve went for a pint of 4.6% "Minerva" from Milton Brewery, which is a Golden Ale which after initial fruit and caramel, had a big hoppy punch, and refreshing bitterness. I had a half of Newby Wyke "Nagato", 6%, which was dry and fruity at the outset and followed by a big as a beach-ball grapefruit finish. Wow! This was a good beer. "Only half, is it?", Steve enquired, followed by "I couldn't do that" " Well, Yes. To be fair,.." I replied, "... sometimes less IS more, somehow, especially with some of these bigger flavoured brews. You don't get bogged down with all those flavours and subtle undertones which are going on if you savour them,and don't just sup them......equally important if you have only had one sausage roll!!" After more beer garden tanning, we left to reconvene at The Victoria, barely two minutes walk away. Now back in the pint envelope, it was to be Bateman's "Mr George"Golden Ale for me, and a pint of Timothy Taylor's "Landlord" for Steve. "Mr George", 4.4%, is a light, slightly fruity beer with a pleasant, quite floral hopped finish, which is extremely refreshing. It was most welcome on this warm afternoon as we, again, chose to sit outside and bake a little more in the sun. Our minds, or rather my guided tour itinerary, started to turn towards the Beer Festival, taking place in Lincoln's Drill Hall. The plan was to head off there next, but on retracing some of our footsteps, coinciding with a visit to The Crafty Bottle beer shop, I needed to stock up on some beers at home, We, complete with a carrier bag containing half a dozen "home" beers, entered the Strait and Narrow for one more before the Festival. I like the modern and cosmopolitan feel in here, and the range of beers, cask, craft and bespoke International lagers is quite impressive, as is the spirits and liqueurs line-up. Steve once again went for Timothy Taylor's, but I could not pass up a Bude Kreft Beer "Draco Raspberry Milk Stout", 4.5%.. Chocolate, toffee and raspberry, of course, are in the main of this smooth stout. The flavours combine extremely well and are well balanced. The finish is moderately sweet at the front with a dry bitterness gradually taking over. Very enjoyable. We arrived at the Beer Festival (via more of those Knights) around 5-30 pm and there was a very good turnout. With this being the second day of three we had missed out on some of the beers , the good ones always run out first, but there was still an enormous array to choose from. We took the beer list, ticked off the ones we had tried previously, and then picked out a few we would try to get through. Sensibly, we both decided on sampling halves instead of pints. We managed to sample eight different brews between us. Other than ticking the sheet, we didn't bother making our own notes but suffice to say, they all kept pretty much to their festival descriptive billing.Our beers were:-
Great turnout at a good location.
Axholme "Dockers Mild" 3.5%.- described in the Festival notes as "A classic dark mild." Castle Rock "Hemlock Bitter" 4% -" Full flavoured with fruity notes on the palate, hop ending." Chadwick's "Castle Mill Mild" 3.6% -"Black full bodied dark mild, smooth rounded, with a liquorice aftertaste" Ferry Ales "Smokey Joe Porter" 4.9% -" Classic style Porter with slight smokiness" Lincoln Green "Big Ben" 6% - "Dark mild with hints of toffee & treacle. Sweet finish" Marble "Pint" 3.9% -"Dry session bitter with notes of citrus & grapefruit" Mighty Oak "King's" 4.2% -"Deep golden beer brewed wit NZ Nelson Sauvin hops. Long bitter finish Peerless "Triple Blonde" 3.8% -"Blonde beer with fruity, citrus finish" We finished off, and decided to make tracks for the station. "Just one more on the way back?" I suggested. It was agreed we would pop in the Jolly Brewer. "Where is it?" enquired Steve, as we came out of the Drill Hall. "There" I said, pointing at the green painted facade of the pub directly opposite.What a good place to have another pub! 2 minutes later, we were entering the pub which, surprise, surprise, was also holding its own Beer Festival! Talk about lucky, eh. The Jolly Brewer had the its usual offerings on the bar inside, and a dozen festival ales in the beer garden to the rear, not to mention a good line up of real ciders. This being a sort of celebration to Lincoln, its pubs and local Ales, we decided to raise a glass to a fantastic day out with a pint each of Lincolnshire Brewing Company "Festival Beer", 3.7%. Brewed for The Jolly Brewer Festival. All I can say is this beer reflected our day. Easy going, pleasing and good for a session. Next post on The Beermonsters Blog will be a surprising return to Malta and Gozo. Cheers and keep it "Real"
It has come as no secret, or any surprise, that the brewing of Craft Ales, once looked upon as rather a gimmick by beer lovers, and, seemingly by others, a bohemian and almost dark art indulgently practised in the far corners of the brewery, or even the shed, by geeky individuals, has now become more of a staple part of the discerning beer drinkers' arsenal. There was also a time, not too long ago, that the bottled beer market was dominated by just a few “foreign”, or continental, lagers (mostly brewed under licence in the UK), along with a smattering of pasteurised examples of the leading keg beers of the day. A can of beer always tasted “tinny” and was merely there to wet your whistle after the pubs closed. There were exceptions, of course, but my own forays always ended in memories of blandness. So, fast forward a touch. People initially wanted better beer in the pubs, CAMRA, among with other organisations, helped deliver its members wishes and now, with cask ale seemingly, going from strength to strength since that popular rebirth of living beer styles, what has fired this interest in craft ales? My own experience and curiosity in this field has been driven from my obvious love of the aforementioned cask beers, and my disappointment of sourcing good beers locally. I have grown up and still live in an area that has struggled to satisfy the thirst of Real Ale drinkers for as long as I can recall. Over the last few years, Grimsby has lost a raft of decent cask houses, and the selections at some others has been reduced down to one or two “safe” brews (Doom Bar, Greene King etc), or removed altogether. The Tap & Spile, once offering up to eight different ales, has gone, Swigs, a Willy's Brewery outlet that also had ever changing guest beers, now a restaurant, The Royal Oak is a solicitors offices and Walters now only offers Doom Bar ( as does The Parity alongside the Greene King.)after an array of pumps stopped offering a decent choice. The local Wetherspoon's is still open, which does give a reasonable choice but at times service and beer quality could be better, and with the closure of our second JDW in town, the clientele can be rather...erm...earthy at certain junctures. Neighbouring Cleethorpes is much better, with new bars selling some cask and bottled craft making shoulder room against the long established Real Ale boozers, but when I fancy a quick pint, or two, I don't want to be jumping on the bus or train there and back, which also adds to holiday resort prices at the bar.
Typical supermarket range. Some craft Some not, some in sheep's clothing!
I have tried the supermarket ranges, some good, some not so, but regardless of the size and variety of the stock, one can soon exhaust the offerings and, lets face it, many are repeated from one chain to another. The thing is, though, there has been a progression. First, bottled versions of cask pub regulars, alongside German and US lagers, and a smattering of Belgian beers. Then the start of the craft revolution hit. Big punchy IPA's seemed to be the thing, mingled with Golden Ales and barrel infused dark beers. There are more craft beers now appearing in these bigger shops, admittedly, many “home brand” beers, usually produced by one the big brewers, have also diversified in style a touch and got better, which must be commended. But, as is usually the case, we craved for more. Supply and demand kicked in and Boom, The Craft Beer Revolution takes place.You could go safe, but still find a host of different beers all under the same style, all just a tad different, or you could be adventurous, with an AIPA, a Witbier or, maybe, a Watermelon Sour to experiment with. Another pleasing aspect of the Craft Revolution is the growth of the Beer Shop. When I was growing up, every little community had at least one grocer, butcher, bakery, paper shop, green grocer and “beer-off” (or off-licence) . Each sold what it said on the facade. Simple. Then, well,we all know what happened when convenience was the buzz word in local retail. You could now buy a banana, newspaper, bread loaf, sausages as well as a bottle of beer without having to move further than the one shop. Some of the independent traders either closed, moved on, became more bespoke and niche or embraced the new one size fits all form of trading and became franchisees. We, the consumers, on the other hand, over the last couple of decades or so, have had our horizons broadened, by foreign trips and tourist travel in the UK, through to trawling the Internet, not to mention social media."New" foods from every corner of the globe are now sought after. Specialist deli counters and the like have sprung up and prospered. Beer drinkers are no different. We want to try these new brews and styles. Like minded entrepreneurial beer lovers wanted to supply us. The result is a shop that almost exclusively sells beer. What it says on the facade is what it sells Brilliant. Almost a throw back to the old days. Jobs a good 'un. (deja vu, anybody?)
I have sampled a few of these premises and find myself like a child in a candy shop, as I stare in awe atthe vista presented to me. It is always fun to try and find one on our visits away from our own area as most do stock beers from breweries specialising in that locality. Some of those I have visited are mentioned here. Our local beer shop is Message in a Bottle,
Message in a Bottle in Cleethorpes
based in Cambridge Street, Cleethorpes. Run by Charles Lumley and family, who also has business links with the excellent local (Crowle) brewers Axholme, it features a great range of local, national and World beers. It is a wonderfully friendly outlet, with a nice relaxed atmosphere. If you are a CAMRA card holder, a discount may be available. On my last trip here, I managed to espy an Amarillo IPAbrewed by East Coast Brew Co., a new brewer based in my home town. There is always a local beer in here to raise the eyebrow. On the Strait in the Cathedral Quarter of Lincoln, you will find The Crafty Bottle. Although owned by Lincolnshire Brewing Co., the range of beers in here are very varied, and not just from the host brewers. It is also well placed for the local Real Ale bars too. Now, the next mention goes to, the shop with the largest beer selection I have ever experienced on my trips. This one, situated in York, is The House of Trembling Madness.This magical drinkers' emporium has beers, beers and more beers on the ground floor, spirits from every corner of the World on the next
Still Trembling at the stock range.
, and a wonderful bar and eatery at the top. It is a proper shop in the heart of this historic City, not a faceless warehouse.The beers are from near and far, local, national and continental, and it is a not a challenge to find a bottle never tasted before, whoever you are.
Most breweries, nowadays, have a craft beer shop on site, or nearby, which is very handy. Adnam'sin Southwold is a very good one, but there are many, many more across the country, and most sell on-line as well. These beers are also available at the growing number of beer wholesalers nationwide.Drop in and buy or log on, pick your beers, pay the p&p and, hey presto!,your order turns up within a day or two. The mention of on-line sales leads me to the my latest way of beer purchase. The Beer Club. In the UK there are quite a few. The deal is, usually, a fixed subscription, honoured for an initial 3 monthly deliveries, and then, it's up to you to keep the boxes coming or cancel when you wish. I am currently a member of two of these clubs, Beer 52and Flavourly, both easily found on Google, and I have had no problems in getting my beers, which are usually small brewed batches, or from a featured brewer. I will, no doubt, join one or two more clubs in the future, and order a few from other internet suppliers.
So, where does this leave traditional cask ales? Are they under threat? Well, no, I don't think so. Some less consistent brewers of quality beers and ales may struggle, but I do believe that, on the whole, those discerning drinkers making the choice to try bottled craft beers for the first time, and seeing the different and sizeable range, style and varied tastes available may will be driven by curiosity to give the pub handpumps a go. (I have noted that the student fraternity seem to quite interested in the bottled craft market which, in turn, could secure the cask market growth for years to come) Let's just remember that a few years back the Gin market was struggling. There were a few labels out there, struggling along, then the Gin Revolution hit with a bang! Small Batch Gin is now big business, different flavours using interestingly different aromatics and botanics, and has encouraged the partaking of the big brand gins down the local. Enough said. Now, where's my delivered box of beers gone.
As most of you are aware, Aldi, the German based discount supermarket which has a foothold in many countries worldwide, has always been quite competitive along the beers, wines and spirits aisle. The recent sea of change across the food retailers in this sector has shifted somewhat of late. All the major supermarket chains have been adding to their beer lines with a more tailored style of wares. The cheap, nasty shop brand beers, (and I can remember, usually at someone's barbecue or house party, having some truly awful cans of pish wrapped up as bitter, best bitter and the like, usually 4 units for a giveaway price), are now being nudged to one side of the shelves, to be superseded by the new kids on the block. Craft ales. At the discount priced end of the market, Lidl released a very good selection of “Hatherwood” beers in 2015 (Reviewed Here) and have received many plaudits, so would rivals Aldi, with a range of beers grouped under two umbrellas, “The Great British Brewing Company” and “Harper's Brewing Co” all fall down like dominoes, or would they be dancing down over my taste-buds ? I will review each group separately as they really need that respect.
The Harper's range with a stray German lager also lurking.
Harper's Brewing Co. Beers
These are a collection of 5 different 500ml bottled beers brewed by the Marston's Brewery, and the variety is quite reasonable, with Amber, Brown, Golden, Red and India Pale Ales all represented, although a Stout or Porter would have been nice to see alongside these. So, what did I make of them?
This is the beer with the least ABV of the range. It pours with a straw coloured golden hue and a finger of white froth on top, but the head soon dissipated. The mouthfeel is quite carbonated, and fresh. The initial flavours are of biscuit and slight caramel, with fruit slowly coming through. The finish is also reasonably fruity, but well balanced as a nice tang of bitterness. This is not a bad beer, to be fair, and went down very well.
This is a fruity Amber Ale, with a caramel backbone. There is a fair raisin hint to it but the malt drives it. This is not an overly sweet brew though, in fact it is quite reasonably balanced. The carbonation is evident at the pour, but the froth soon subsides. This would be a nice beer for those lazy days in the garden, rather than a session beer in the winter, huddled round the fire.
New Bridge Brown Ale. 4.7%
This beer bears quite a striking resemblance to another World famous Brown Ale, which comes from the North East, Northumberland to be more exact, ….oh, sod it, This beer is just like Newcastle Brown Ale in its looks. The clear bottle and simplistic labelling could easily lead to it to be mistaken for the other more well known Ale. There is less ABV, but only marginal. What of the taste? Well, I preferred theNorth Bridge brew. It is sweet, with good strains of chocolate coming through with that lovely nutty caramel taste. I don't like too much sweetness in my beers, and I found that it was well balanced in this one.
Medusa Ruby Red Ale. 5%
Malt drives this ale. The backbone is nice and sweet, but not cloyingly so, with dark fruits easing themselves through, pleasingly, to give a nice roundedness. There is a well balanced bitter-sweet finish which all goes to make a very good brew, especially at this level of the market. I tasted this one, initially, with a friend of mine, and, as his was a blind tasting, there was a certain amount of persuading that this was NOT Wychwood Hobgoblin. I can understand that close comparison.
Wild Bill's IPA American IPA 5%
Dry, bitter and sharp are three words that spring to mind when tasting this brew. There is biscuit and fruit at the fore, with a good lacing of toffee notes ready to come through. It is an easy drinking brew, which has most of the characteristics of a Craft A/IPA, but just holds back a touch and is not quite as full flavoured and “in your face” as some. It is still one to enjoy, maybe whilst just chilling in front of the TV, or on a lazy afternoon.
The Great British Collection.
The Great British Brewing Co.
This is a selection of 5 craft ales, brewed by Brains', Sadler's, Twickenham Fine Ales, along with 2 from Hog's Back Brewery, are presented in 330ml bottles and also cover most bases for the discerning drinker. They are simplistically labelled, and bear the Great British Brewing Co tag around the neck. The origin is not disguised in the least, and is prominent on the front. Each carries a description of its merited tastes, and, to be fair, you do get what it says on the label.
Sunny Dayz Golden Ale (Hog's Back) 3.8%
Hoppy, with citrus fruit lingering on the palate. The dry finish sparkles with floral notes. A very pleasant, light and refreshing ale.
Spill The Beans Coffee Porter (Brains) 4.4%
Not a heavy Porter, but quite reasonable. The sweetness and choco-coffee back taste does stay until the last and, overall, not too bad at all. It is a porter aimed more towards the session drinker, I would assume, and not a one-off explosive dark beer, like many Imperial strength stouts and porters out there at the moment.
All For One 4 Hop Lager (Hog's Back) 4.5%
Quite a fresh tasting brew. A nice depth of flavour hides beneath the straw colour. The initial malt tingles on the tongue, then slight honey and biscuit tones lead you through to a well balanced bitterness at the finish.
Red Rye IPA (Twickenham Fine Ales) 4.7%
This is a beer that seems to build slowly. First fruity raisin like hints, then caramel takes over, followed by the bitterness. I found it an OK beer, but a bit unbalanced.
Land of Liberty American IPA (Sadler's) 5%
There is quite a sweet taste to this one, which masks the tropical fruit and citrus from coming through. When it does appear, it is quite reasonably balanced, and has a nice bitterness at the finish. It's just that opening sweetness that lets this one down.
Well, that is the Aldi line-up. Two separate beer lines for the same ,supermarket. One for the more traditionalists, and the other bending more heavily towards the craft market. Both are quite solid, and, apart from a couple of questions about the interpretation of the styles, they do come across quite well. If you want beers for a lazy afternoon watching the sport on TV, or to stock up with a few bottles for those long awaited barbecues at a smart price, then you can't go wrong with either collection.
Well another year has come, and gone, with a few refreshments partaken of (quite a few, in fact) . I, unfortunately, have struggled to keep up on this blog with tales of my imbibing of the beverages on High Days and Holidays,( even the general pee-ups!)over the last few months Never mind. I will strive to keep you all up to date. (Another New Year's resolution to to be kept in a sad state of disrepair there, then). So, to try and catch up a touch, I will give you my drinkers opinion on 2 of the most popular tourist cities in our neck of the woods. York and Lincoln. Both have had the privilege of my beer tokens in the past, but not for a while. Here we go, then.
On a cold, wet and depressing day in November, we, that is Jane and I, along with my Aunt Pauline, set off from Alford on a coach bound for one of my favourite locations for real ale drinking in the country, the fine City of York. Back in the day, when t'interweb was around, but still a novelty, I was given a downloaded piece of paper stating, and directing a young Beermonster to, the 39 pubs situated within the City walls. Over the course of two weekends during that year, I, rather we, managed to reach 31 of those on the list, PLUS find another 2 unlisted outlets! Those were the days. Our trip today, though, was to be much shorter in length, around 5 hours before returning back to Lincolnshire. Still, with a smartphone, CAMRA Good Beer Guide recommendations slipped neatly in the wallet, and the ladies happy to do the shopping malarkey, I was confident of giving York a good looking at. The weather was awful, so after getting from coach park to shopping centre, we headed for the first pub we could find, and so starts my review in earnest. These are the pubs, and drinks enjoyed.
The Golden Fleece. The Pavement.
This is a pub with two bars, as well as history, and ghost stories, oozing out of the walls. It is said to be the most haunted pub in the country, although the only spirits we saw came with a mixer and ice. The staff were pleasant, and the beers on offer quite reasonable. We chose to sample Timothy Taylor's "Landlord", and Rooster "Yankee" and both beers were presented excellently. I have reviewed both beers previously, but we certainly had nothing to complain about here.
A Stouter Stout
The Duke of York. King's Square.
This pub is part of the Leeds Brewery group of pubs, and has a good range of the brewery's wares on the bar. It is modern, but tasteful inside, and a lovely, comfortable ambiance. I chose a pint of 4.7% Manchester Marble Brewery "Stouter Stout" which was rich, dark and had wonderful roast flavours throughout. There was a good hint of dark chocolate, coffee and raisins, in the main, and the finish was pleasingly dry and oh, so long. What a nice brew. A great pub with good beers.
Pivni, York. Patrick Pool.
My radar was a bit askew looking for this one. I probably walked almost past it at least twice, but, eventually, I found myself sitting in this den of real ales and craft beers. It offers a fairly extensive range of cask beers, craft kegs and bottles and cans, so you should find something to tickle your fancy. I went for the "house" Tapped "Dry English Stout" 4%. It was quite a nice brew, with roast flavours throughout, but a touch thinner than I expected. Nonetheless, this is still a good beer and, maybe, could be a good "session" stout.
The House of Screaming Madness. Stonegate.
Beers Screaming out at you.
Wow! What a place. The facade is quite ordinary, shop-like, in fact, and is easily passed by. When one enters here,though, it is the most complete beer and drinks establishment for miles, and would put in the shade any similar off licence-cum-pub I have ever visited before. The downstairs is a beer shop, with a myriad of brews from all over the UK, Europe and the World. The second floor houses an almost complete range of Spirits, Liqueurs and Aperitifs from every corner of the globe. Finally, the Jewel in the Crown. The upstairs bar and eatery. It is tight, busy but rewarding with a few hand pulled ales on the small bar, and those dispensed are all of a good quality. Being almost 1-45 pm, and feeling peckish (we had arranged to meet up again around 2-15 pm for lunch) I opted for something with substance. A meal in a glass, Arbor "Breakfast Stout", a 7.4% Oatmeal Stout which was absolutely rammed to the brim with lovely sweet chocolate and roasted coffee flavours. This was an brilliantly crafted ale, and was really smooth to drink. The finish had a viscous feel, but was tempered by a nice dryness. This is a true paradise for any beer drinker.
The Shambles Tavern. The Shambles.
Is this a beer shop, cafe or pub? Whatever it is, it is doing it well. We ate in here, the food was well cooked and portions large, and also enjoyed the "house" ales, brewed by Rudgate Brewery to accompany them. As we were table served, I can't really tell you a great deal about the beers, other than they didn't disappoint. It is another great place to stumble upon, and the prices for food and drink were not "tourist" rate.
Pavement Vaults. Piccadilly
Part of the Pivovar Group, who own the York Tap, Sheffield Tap and Pivni, among others, this is a very modern looking bar with a cosmopolitan feel about it. It is quite a cafe bar styled place, and very welcoming. I chose the local 4.8% Arbor "Smac My Brew Up" Pale Ale, whilst the ladies went for the Gun Brewery "Project Babylon Pale Ale" 4.6%. The Arbor brew was light, with slight grass and a decent enough citrus kick at the start, with a bready hint in the main. The finish is dry, bitter and has a good zesty orange peel bite to it. The Gun Brewery offering was also light, but a touch more fruity before the onset of the dry hoppy bitterness.
This was our last pub of the day as we had a coach to catch back to Lincolnshire. It was only a sample of the vast array of real ale, and craft, pubs in the City, and it was a rather like standing standing at the edge of an ocean, wanting to go swimming to the other side, when you know the best one can manage is a quick paddle! One thing is for sure, you are spoilt for choice whenever you visit this Minster City. Lincoln
Again, it has been a while since I last visited here. I had arranged to have a long promised few bevvies with Andy, a former work colleague, friend and Lincoln resident, oh, and an Aston Villa fan, but we can forgive him that! So, on a very foggy December lunchtime, after a couple of beers in Grimsby's Yarborough Hotel, I boarded my train for the short 1 hour journey to the fine cathedral City of Lincoln.The plan was to meet up, have a couple or so beers, then drop my overnight bag back at Andy's before going back out for a leisurely tipple or two later on. The plan didn't quite work out like that, but never mind. This is a review of our day and evening out in Lincoln.
The Treaty of Commerce. High Street.
With this Bateman's run pub being only a stone's throw from the station, it is a place I have always gravitated towards on my trips to Lincoln. It always offers a good range of the brewery's own wares alongside a small range of guest ales. It is a busy little boozer and, although a little more dog-eared than my initial visit about 15 years ago, it is still as welcoming as ever, and serves a bloody good pint. I settled down and waited for Andy with a pint of the 4.1% Adnams "Jack Brand Mosaic Pale Ale". This straw coloured Pale Ale is light on the malt tastes, with fruit, pine, citrus and hints of doughy bread lingering on the palate. It is not heavily bittered which makes it a very good session beer. I followed this with a pint of Gales "Firecracker", a 4.8% Spiced Winter Ale which, since taking on the George Gale & Co label in 2005, is now brewed by Fuller's. There is a real malt driven backbone to this beer, with good strains of Christmas spice (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are noticeable, along with a few others, all nicely balanced) and dark fruits. It is pleasingly sweet, but with a nice bitterness to round the complexities. I found it to be a very good seasonal ale. All in all, a very homely pub with good ales.
The Hop and Barley. High Street
A good selection at the Hop & Barley.
This is billed as Lincoln's first Micro-pub, and is on the road leading out of the City centre, about 10 minutes walk from the station area. It is sited in an old hairdresser's premises and has a modern, quite sterile feel to it on first entering. The bar is not large, but has a wonderful array of ales to choose from. I opted to start on the lusciously dark and smooth tasting Derventio Brewery "Barbarian Stout", 5.5%, which was packed with coffee and chocolate flavours and had a lovely dry and long finish. The chocolate lingers quite a while on the palate, and gives one a nice mouth feel. My next brew, also a Stout, was the Chesterfield brewed Spire Brewing "Yaroslavna" 6%. Alongside the coffee notes, which were pleasingly punchy, lies a subtle vein of liquorice. The strength is well hidden, and the flavour, along with a smoothness on the palate and the increasingly dry finish, make this a very moreish ale indeed. A word about the toilet facilities in here. If you are into the Marvel comics, you may be quite surprised at the decor in the smallest room.
The Ritz ( Wetherspoon's) High Street. Situated half way between the previous two pubs is this former cinema, now part of the JDW chain. The drinks range is pretty typical, with a few local ales alongside National and guests. It is quite busy, as these pubs usually are, but what does make this place worth a visit is the Art Deco facade and the tasteful decorating inside. It is nice to see these old buildings being restored and saved for future generations. Instead of a cask ale, I chose to sample one of the craft cans on offer here, namely Flying Dog's "Snake Dog" a punchy, full flavoured 7.1% American IPA.
The Jolly Brewer. Broadgate I have passed this pub quite a few times on previous occasions, don't ask me why, but I s shall definitely make sure to pop in again. The green, slightly garish, exterior here doesn't do justice to the bright and airy Art Deco interior. There is a range of 2 regular, at least 4 guest ales on in here, The beers sampled in here were Welbeck Abbey's 3.6% Golden Ale, "Henrietta" and Dukeries "Baronet", a bitter of 3.9%. This is a place were you arrive a stranger but leave a friend, and it had a quite eclectic mix of customers.
The Dog and Bone. John Street This award winning local, just away from the main City centre is well worth finding, although on our discovery we were well on our way to those wobbly legs one acquires after drinking on an empty stomach! So there we were, slurring and giggling, and I with an overnight bag still slung on my shoulder at 8-45pm. Oh well, best laid plans of mice and men. It serves 2 Bateman's Ales along with 4 ever changing guest ales. I opted for the 4.2% "Dark Secret" from Horncastle Ales, although besides noting in the memo app of my phone that "I liked it", my memories of it are sadly blurred. I do recall that it was very homely and tidy, and that the bar staff were very engaging about there wares. Undoubtedly, the pubs we had visited were all well worth it.
After finishing our drinks in The Dog and Bone,we shot back to Andy's, dumped my bag and shot back out, this time up around The Bailgate area. We visited a further 3 pubs, The Strugglers in Westgate, were a pint of 4.5% Dukeries "Mining Stout" was partaken of, The Victoria in nearby Union Road ( Wadworth's Pusser's Rum infused "Swordfish" 5%) before finishing off at The Strait and Narrow, situated on The Strait. I finished off in here with a Manhatten cocktail, whilst Andy kept on the beer. All in all it had been a good session, but a very heavy one, and I am pleased I only "go for it" like this every once in a while! There are quite a few other real ale establishments in this Cathedral area of Lincoln, which are all worth visiting, but even I have my limits. Next time, definitely next time. We grabbed some food, I chose the ubiquitous greasy kebab, which I was really looking forward to eating, and jumped in a cab back to my digs for the night. Early the following morning, I awoke, surveyed the pile of cold supper still in the box and ceremoniously condemned its body to the bin. What a waste. A few coffees later and I was ready for my long walk back towards the railway station, but not before another couple of visits.
The Cardinal's Hat. High Street
Hats off to the Cardinal's Hat.
Situated just at the beginning of The Strait, The Cardinal's Hat is housed in a Grade II listed building which dates back to the 1500's. History oozes out of every pore of this excellent Alehouse. The cask and craft beer selection is excellent, and they are available by the pint, half and one-third of a pint, as part of the "beer flights" deal.On entering, you are greeted warmly, and the staff try to steer you towards your favoured beer style with a genuine wealth of knowledge. I decided on North Riding "Rum and Raisin Dark Mild" for my tipple, and this 4.3% brew was absolutely delicious. It tasted exactly like its descriptive title, and was wonderfully long and dry in the finish. I was very pleased with, not only my final pub of my visit to Lincoln, but also of my last beer tasting. Marvellous.
The Crafty Bottle. The Strait. I had one last place to pop into before hurrying back to the station, and that was to pick up a few bottles from The Crafty Bottle beer shop. The selection is, maybe, not the largest you will find, but still quite extensive. There was a reasonable number of local bottled ales available, along with a good representation from many other UK brewers. The US and Europe were also on show, so I would think most discerning beer lovers could find a tipple to their liking in here.
I chose my beers, and managed to get back to the station with 5 minutes to spare. Relaxing as I looked out on the now bright and sunny County capital, I reflected on a my 24 hours, promising to come back soon. Cleethorpes Beer Festival.
Back in October, before my visits to Lincoln and York, we, Jane and I, along with a couple of our friends, were lucky enough to be able to attend this year's Cleethorpes Beer Festival a visit. This was Message in a Bottle, which was selling its wares either to drink in, or take-away. There was hot food available, as well as a stage which had appearances from local up and coming bands. After choosing a bottle of Axholme "Promotion Pale Ale" from the beer shop people, brewed to celebrate my beloved Grimsby Town's rise from Non-League football back to Division II of the Football League, we found a table and sat down to explore the beer list. The World Lager Bar had 6 beers on tap,( 3 from Belgium, 2 German beers and one from the Fourpure Brewery in London.) and 4 ciders from Snails Bank, with The Orgasmic Cider Co having a single representation. The Real Ale and Cider Bar across the room had at the outset 26 beers and 12 Real ciders on offer. Not a bad selection, to be fair. I had tasted a dozen of the beers before ( Timothy Taylor "Boltmaker", a few Bateman's ales, "Proper Job" from St Austel, and the like), so concentrated on the ones new to me. So here we go, a run down of those beers we savoured at this great little beer festival.
The stage is set.....
the 2nd year it had taken place, at The Beachcomber Holiday Centre in the resort. We arrived around 6pm and were pleasantly surprised at the set up. There was an World Lager Bar, a Cask Ale Bar, both of which had ciders, either bottled or on tap, as well as a bar manned by the owners of Cleethorpes' own Beer shop,
Willy's Pub & Brewery "Wai'Me? 3.9% A light Amber Ale with slight caramel backbone. OK bitterness, and a refreshing citrus finish. I found this beer pleasant, but not outstanding.
Bateman's "East Coast Screamer" 4% A Golden Ale with pleasant bitterness and punchy citrus kick. A nice American IPA styled beer but maybe just holds itself back, in a dignified way from those "in your face" IPA's offered by our cousins across the pond. Nicely balanced.
Longhop "Plain Jane" 4% A crisp well balanced session ale, which has nice citrus notes throughout, with floral hints in the finish. A good beer indeed. Cameron's "Thirst Blood. 4.3% You usually get a good beer from Cameron's, and true to form this American Rye styled ale, with a sweet malts and bready hints, which combine well with citrus in the finish, certainly ticked a few boxes. The finish wasn't overly bitter, but quite satisfying all the same.
Charles Wells "Golden Cauldron" 4.1% This Golden Ale is sweet, slightly herbal and has subtle fruitiness to it. It is a touch thin in the mouth but is not too bad as a session beer.
Bateman's "Texan Triple Hop" 4.2% Although the name hints towards something different, this ale was not as hoppy as we expected There is a reasonable sweet malt body to it, but the anticipated dry bitterness does quite get there, although it was still quite refreshing and definitely quenches ones thirst.
Axholme "Cleethorpes Pale Ale" 4.3% I was eagerly awaiting tasting the cask version of this beer, which has as one of its ingredients local sea buckthorne berries. Well it was worth the wait. It is light, fresh and has an almost sherbet tingle to it. The citrus stretches almost undiminished into the long bitter finish. This was my favourite beer by far.
Steamin Billy "Skydiver" 5% This is a sweet, warming bitter, with dark fruit evident, along with hints of treacle. The finish is long, but it lacks in bitterness. Not too bad a beer though.
Castle Rock "Screech Owl" 5% This is an excellent quite well balanced IPA. There is good bitter-sweetness, slight grassiness and reasonable fruitiness. The finish is hoppy and long with some floral notes. Very nice.
I really enjoyed the Cleethorpes Beer Festival. It was well run, even though not under the CAMRA stewardship.There was a good selection of beers, ciders, craft ales and country wines. Oh, I nearly forgot. There was also a International Gin Bar in one of the adjoining buildings too!! Add to this a good varied mix of all ages, live music and good friends and you are on to a real winner. Cheers and keep it "Real"
Most forays to the popular beach hotspots of Europe do not, usually, include a visit to a brewery producing “traditional” real ales. Reasonable local keg, bottles, cans and sparse offerings of craft beers are possible to find, and in the hot, arid and sunny climate a cool local beer, usually lager in style, seems to suffice the quenching of the thirst, although a repeat performance with your chosen tipple, in the cooler, damper breezes of home after finding your favoured holiday beer in a local supermarket, almost always ends with disappointment. So, where is this blog posting heading? Well, back in September, we flew off to our destination of choice, armed with fond memories of previous beery offerings, and a promise to visit a proper Real Ale brewery which has been highly rated by many since it opened only a few years back. So, here goes. A review of one of Europe's most beautiful and enchanting islands. Cyprus. Also the home of Aphrodite's Rock Brewing Company.
Cyprus. Reputed to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love. A beautiful Island in the Eastern Mediterranean. Hot, sunny and unbroken blue skies greet the visitor. What a place to spend your holidays. Cyprus is one of our favourite destinations, and this year we were able to re-kindle our love of the island, the first time for about 10 years. Previously, we had stayed on the east coast, around Protaras, but this time the West coast beckoned, so we decided to try Paphos, a city of archaeological interest, on our return. Following our flight, we arrived rather late on a September Sunday at our base for the next two weeks, Tasmaria Apartments, on the main road through the small, but vibrant, city. The busyness of the road initially came as a shock, but with the hotel sitting slightly back from the new dual-carriageway, and our room being at the back, we can honestly say we didn't get bothered by the traffic in the least. We were soon booked in, and then decided to stretch our legs, all of the 20 yards to Tramps Bar, right next door. This is a very friendly bar, which always has a eclectic mix of locals, usually ex-pats, and tourists. Alongside the KEO, Leon and Carlsberg, I did espy a pump proclaiming Everard's “Beacon”, which I later found out was brewed under licence on the island. Hey!, it was holiday time, around midnight and we were still basking in 20° C of warmth, so we chose the Leon. I will reflect on the more usually served beers of Cyprus later, but I will admit that a cold Leon on a warm night, after quite a few hours travelling via car, plane and coach, was more than welcome. Over the next couple of days, many a bar in Paphos was discovered (there are plenty, and they are not hiding) and the KEO and Leon were partaken of. I did have the phone number of a friend, an ex work colleague of mine, Geordie, who had retired to these parts a couple of years back, and having promised to have a drink or two with him if we were ever to re-visit Cyprus, I gave him a quick text on the Wednesday evening. The plan was for Jane to do some retail therapy on Saturday afternoon at the local Mall, whilst I would meet up with Geordie, over the football, sink a few beers and have a good old yarn about what we had both been up to over the last biennial period. This is were I had underestimated the generosity and friendship of my old work mate.
Lynne & Geordie. Best tour guides on Cyprus.
“Where are you two stayin', Fozzy?” was the reply to my opening gambit of football and drinks.
“Can't make it on Saturday. Charity raft race for the local Animal Welfare Shelter (PAWS). I'll pick you and Jane up tomorrow, and give you the Grand Tour......”. And so it was. The very next day, Geordie, his lovely wife, Lynne, and Dexter, the dog, pulled up outside our hotel at the start of one of the most wonderful holiday experiences we have ever had. We visited bars nestled in places even the locals would need reminding of, with views which would bring a tear to a glass eye they were so beautiful. Churches, beauty spots, secluded beaches and even shipwrecks, among other things, were shown, and lapped up gratefully by us. The tour was more than Grand, it was Magnificent. All in all we enjoyed their company for the best part of 7 days of our 14 on the island, and never tired of it once. We cannot thank them enough, and were very humbled at their insistence to “stay over” for a couple of nights at their homestead in Mandria, which allowed us to explore so much more of this area. Sunday, after a trip around Pissouri (Aphrodite's Rock, and all) and the areas nearby, saw us eat at the brilliantly situated Bonamare. With a great view of the local airport, and one of the best positions for dramatic sunsets in the area, it is a great bar to visit. That evening, after some of the largest food portions we have both ever experienced at a pub, and washed down, back at Mandria, with a bottle, and a bit of a quite reasonable brandy ( described as “9 Euros a litre bottle from the Bulgarian shop. Asda price!”), Geordie kindly insisted to pick us up and run us out to the Aphrodite's Rock Brewery,in Tsada, the following Tuesday. What a Gent! It is not the easiest place to reach via public transport.
Up the Creek with a Paddle
So, moving on to Tuesday, we were picked up and, after a tour of the area around Tsada, we visited Minthis Hills Golf Club, which contains a 12thCentury monastery on the course. Next stop was the much awaited visit to Aphrodite's Rock Brewing Company. On arriving, we were quite surprised at how busy this little place can be. We were soon shown to a table though, and settled down to sample the selection of real ales on offer. The choices are quite good, to be fair. There are real ales, ciders, wines and soft drinks all available, with brewery tours, drink and pizza combos, Sunday lunch deals, drinks, and food separately. We decided to taste the wares, and just have a spot of lunch alongside. To enable us to taste the full range on offer, I decided on a paddle of 5 of the beers on offer, served in 200ml glasses, whilst the other beers were sampled between us as pints. Our findings were as follows.
Yorkshire Rose. 3.8%
What a great Yorkshire Bitter styled beer this is. It is smooth, full bodied and has a slight floral hint to it. A touch of spice is also there, after the initial sweet, caramel and toffee opening. It would be as much at home in The Pennines as it is in the Mediterranean sunshine.
Lian Shee. 4.5%
I first encountered this brew in its bottled form, in the Harbour area of Paphos, and as much as I enjoyed it then, I liked the cask version a lot more. It is a creamy Irish Red Ale, with a big boost of malt and caramel at the start. There is a nice controlled bitterness towards the end. A really nice beer indeed.
Extra Special Bitter. 5%
This is quite like a Brown Ale, but not quite as sweet. It is driven by a malty sweetness, but well balanced and tempered by an earthy back taste.
German by design, but undeniably a beer crafted for British tastes. Again, a malt sweetness leads, but the hoppy bitterness lurks in the background, waiting to help in the final balance of this nice beer. There is also a slight, but noticeable, fruitiness, with just a hint of plums on the palate.
West Coast IPA. 6%
This is a good IPA. It isn't as punchy and “in your face” as some of the beers of this style, but the well hopped flavour is there. Just giving you a nudge towards the end of the initial mouthful. It is rounded in the main, but that telltale bitterness really allows this beer to reach new heights.
London Porter. 4.8%
The paddle beer today
I had heard good reports of this one, and was not disappointed. The beer sat in the glass rather proudly, with a fine and dandy creamy white head atop. Now, I have had drinks before that have been good looking in the glass, but have failed in the flesh, so to speak, but not this one. The aroma is of chocolate and roast malt and the choco-malt theme carries through into the main taste, with liquorice and a hint of spice sitting alongside these very nicely. Carob is listed as one of the ingredients, and possibly adds to the chocolate vein, dark iridescent colour and smooth mouth feel. Make no mistake, this is a great London Porter.
Rock Premium. 4.8%
A Bavarian styled craft lager, with a bready aroma and quite a light, subtle taste. There is a quite floral aftertaste, and the bitterness is not too prominent. A good thirst quencher.
Sorrella Fine Traditional Cider. 4.2%
One of four bottled ciders on offer from the brewer, and quite a reasonable tasting one too. I am no expert but T'other 'arf definitely enjoyed it, as the empty glass and satisfied smile proved.
What an excellent afternoon. Add to this some nicely prepared food and a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside, with dramatic hills drenched in sunshine, and I struggle to believe there is a better place to be to have a piss-up in a brewery!
Some of the Refreshments for the balcony.
What of the other beers available on Cyprus? As I have mentioned, KEO and Leon are the local mainstream beers, with a pump or fridge full at most places. We did stumble upon a few other beers in the local Lidl, but these were only imports, although, probably available as staples. I have included these in my reviews as well.
KEO Pale Lager 4.5%
The most popular beer on the island, and has earned the odd award along the way. It was first brewed, in Limassol, back in the 1950's. It is light, with sweet malt shining through before a very slight bitterness from the hops. The finish is dry, with floral hints on the palate. To be fair, it is a quite refreshing and reasonable lager, and easy drinking. I don't mind it. It was usually my drink during the heat of the day.
KEO Light. 3.5%
The name sums it up really, it is the same as the original, but a lesser ABV value, a touch thinner in taste and a touch less carbonation. Nothing special, but not a horrid brew either.
Leon All Malt Beer. 4.5%
I remember drinking this on my first visit to Cyprus, and found it a touch darker and heavier in taste than I found this time. It was first brewed in1937, but the company, Photos Photiades Breweries, suspended production in 1962, after it acquired the licence to brew Carlsberg here. It was brought back in 2003, but I believe a slight tinkering of the recipe has since taken place. It has a smooth sweet malted flavour throughout, and a hint of grass in the after taste. Medium bitterness, and carbonation is not heavy.
Ermis Argus Hellenic Lager 5%
I found this in Lidl. It is light, with slight fruit aroma, and the taste is reasonably fresh. Quite highly carbonated, and a metallic backtaste at the finish.
Ermis Gold Hellenic Lager 5%
This was very much the same as Argus, but a much sweeter taste towards the finish. They are not classics, by any means, but at only a few cents for a can, they are worth a punt to keep one hydrated in the sun!
Perlenbacher Radler (Cloudy) 2.5%
Refreshing, but not anything more than a very lemonade driven shandy. Not a lot more to say, really.
Perlenbacher Weissbier. 5%
This was not so bad, really. It starts out with yeast and fruit on the nose, and leads onwards, with more fruit, some herb hints and nice yeast esters. There is a smooth creaminess in the mouth, and only a light carbonation. I am no expert when it comes to this style, but I did enjoy it.
Kamenitza Lager. 4.4%
A bottle from the aforementioned Bulgarian shop in Paphos, this was a quite malty brew, with a astringent bitterness in the finish. The aftertaste is a little sour. I suppose “acquired taste” sums this one up.
The Old Fishing Shack Ale and Cider House.
There are a myriad of pubs, bars and restaurants in, and around, Paphos. We found our way around quite a few. You have the Tomb of the Kings' Road, with, Thomas's Jungle Tramps, Yiamas, The Green Corner, to name but a few, and the web of streets leading off, and the Old Paphos Town area, a bus ride or energetic walk away with its selections, then on to the famous Bar Street, just off from the Harbour is, well, full of bars. Most around here are much of a muchness, but if that's your gig, who am I to say otherwise? The Harbour has quite a few more up market establishments, and a nicer ambience, but no matter where you wander, you will find a refeshment station to suit your needs. One place that is worth digging out is The Old Fishing Shack Ale and Cider House, tucked just away from Bar Street. The owner has a terrific knowledge of his wares, and the selection of beers here is vast. There are beers from all over the World, and many rare ones and vintage Ales too. It is not a cheap place to drink, but a very enjoyable, and interesting diversion. You will be amazed at the collection.Off sales as well as bar sales. It certainly is not a cheap night out, though, with almost all the beers having to be imported, but carefully reading the “menu” can avoid you choosing a 100 euros plus vintage beer by mistake. We had four different beers in here, firstly I had a Belhaven Scottish Oat Stout, a lovely heavy stout of 7%, which had a nice sweetness that combines well with coffee and the bitterness of dark chocolate, Jane opted for Greene King St Edmunds Golden Beer,4.2%. This is a straightforward tasting beer. No complexity at all. There is a slightly sweet malt flavour to start, then a pronounced full stop of dry bitterness at the end. We followed these with a Barock Dunkel, courtesy of Weltenburger Kloster, a 4.7% dark brew with a rich smooth fruity taste that has a fine vein of spiciness to it, and a nicely bitter-sweet finish, and a Fucking Hell. This beer comes from the Austrian village of Fucking, and, to be fair, is a bog standard lager. It is 4.7% and light, hoppy but, besides the name, not that memorable. It looks good in a photo though.
Brandy Sour and Ouzo Special.
Ouzo, Brandy, Zivannia, and the various cocktails (the best Brandy Sour was at La Boite 67, whilst the best Ouzo Special was in the Rose Pub,both in the Harbour area) that just about covers our trip to Paphos. We enjoyed it immensly, and have vowed to return soon. We managed to get to a Mediterranean real ale brewery, and a beer shop-come-tavern , soak up loads of sun, ate like hogs and enjoyed Lynne and Geordie's rich hospitality. What's not to like. As they say on the Island of Cyprus “Yiamas”.
Well, besides the
Oh, that Everard's Beacon, brewed here under licence. It is the smooth version, and quality does vary, but find a bar where it is popular and it does make rather a change from the lager.
With the Real Ale pub scene in my home town at best being somewhat, erm...unpredictable, with a local choice of either of the 2 JDW's (one being turned into a hotel and the other due to close) or a couple of other pub chain outlets, which are probably the safest havens for a reasonable variety of cask ales, it is fair to say it does not boast of too many cask establishments, although we do meander through the town centre more often than we should. The thing is, though, it can become a little boring and monotonous to be going out and visiting the same hostelries again and again.....and again. You get to the point where it is almost a chore, rather than a pleasure, to go out for a couple of beers. With this in mind, I have been “sniffing out” a few places around the locality where we can have a bit of a “jolly”. The main problem to that in our part of Lincolnshire is the lack of public transport links, especially after the sun is on its downward trajectory. That, although problematic, hasn't stopped us altogether, just slowed up the process, and has lead to more of an afternoon imbibing nature! So, what is out there in our locality, beyond the boundaries of North East Lincolnshire's two biggest towns, Grimsby and Cleethorpes? Let's have a peep.
This small village, not to be mistaken for its neighbour, Tetney (which also has a pub, The Plough),
Walk to, or stagger back from The Crown & Anchor
is only around 6 miles from the Caravan Parks of Cleethorpes, by road, or a 4 mile walk across public footpaths, bridleways and the odd field. We, my recently retired friend, Steve, and I, chose the latter. It was a pleasant, but rather cold February day when we set out on our journey. The walk itself took about an hour and a half each way, with beautiful views of the Mouth of the Humber (no, not me, before you start writing your own script!!). There is a wealth of wading birds and the like in this area, as well as the various sized ships either heavily lumbering up to the deep water ports of Immingham and Hull, or the smaller craft zipping in and out to the new growth of offshore wind farms. As a boy, I used to make my way, usually with my dad, to the waterfront of the Humber, and watch the many trawlers, jockeying for position, waiting for the lock gates of Grimsby's Fish Dock to open, sadly, just a memory now, as our fishing industry has almost disappeared. Back to our walk. We arrived a little further down from Tetney Lock, and strolled along the banks of The Louth Navigational Canal, until we reached our destination.
The Crown and Anchor has been here since Victorian times and is the only pub in the village. After the locals, most of the daytime clientele are either walkers or anglers from the adjacent canal, although we have been told that the restaurant side of the business also attracts quite a few from the area on a night. On offer were “Doom Bar” and “Black Sheep”. There is a third beer usually on, but not today. We sampled both, and found them in good form. Not a bad place to have a wander to, but next time we might do it in the Summer sun.
Barnetby, Wragby and Brigg.
I like Brigg. I have had many a good afternoon and night here, but it has become a bit of a bind to get here. There used to be a regular bus service straight from Grimsby, to Sheffield, via this charming town. Alas, no more. The direct train only runs on Saturdays, to serve demand from Brigg to Grimsby, so the easiest way is to get the train to Barnetby, and either hope to catch the Wolds Villager bus service or, walk the 4 miles, mostly with the company of the noise from the busy A18. My last visit was for a meal to bid farewell to Tracey, a good friend and former workmate, who had left to pursue a career as a postie. I chose to jump on the train and do the walk, having a stop on the way. Arriving at Barnetby station, I espied the Whistle and Flute public house, just at the side of the platforms. I am told that the tribute acts on here at weekends are quite good, and although I didn't pop in this time, I will visit here on my next trip. I left the town, passing by the Railway Inn, which appeared closed, and on to the A18. After 50 minutes, or so I arrived at Wrawby, the home of The Black Horse, and The Jolly Miller. During the week it is rare to find either of these pubs open before 3pm, as I found out! I arrived at The Jolly Miller just before opening time, and was ushered round the back to the bar, where I found a selection of three real ales. My choice in here, to help quench my thirst before setting out on another mile or so's stroll, was Bateman's “Pilgrim Fathers IPA”, an Ale of 4.4%, which was light, refreshing a full of punchy grapefruit notes. The young lady serving in here was polite, chatty and very friendly. I enjoyed my 20 minutes in here. One to return to.
Mr Day outside his favourite local.
I then stepped out to Brigg, and had agreed to meet up with another ex-workmate, Steve Day, in his favoured local, The Yarborough Hunt, a Tom Woods pub. This place had a good, old fashioned feel about it, with many posters and ornaments of a previous era on display. I now know why Steve feels at home here, he could be part of the décor, the silly old sod! The beers are mostly from the Tom Woods stable, but it does also have guests Ales on. I started on “Bomber County” at 4.8% (Reviewed Here) , before joining Steve on “Lincoln Gold”, 4%, the core Golden Ale, with a nice fruitiness to the taste and a smooth, gradually bittered long finish. Another beer to slake ones thirst on a hot day. After an hour of chewing the fat, and putting the world to rights, including the fortunes of our beloved Grimsby Town FC, it was time to move on. My next stop was the former Black Bull, now Dexter's Alehouse and Kitchen, to meet up with for a meal and drinks with Tracey and the others. Dexter's is a very compact bar, which lends itself more towards eating, but there is room for the casual drinking visitor too. I ordered my beer, St Austell “Proper Job”,(Reviewed Here) one of the reasonable range of three cask ales, and then we sat down to have our meal and celebrate Tracey's new job. The beer was well kept and the food more than adequate, and reasonably priced. Not a bad place to pop in to at all. We then moved down the road a little to the local J.D. Wetherspoon's pub, The White Horse. The interior here is bright and airy, with a modern look, but, otherwise, just a typical JDW pub. There are 7 cask pumps on display, and the staff are friendly. In here I had a 5% ale from the New York based Ithaca Beer Co. “Nut Brown Ale”, brewed in conjunction with the Caledonian Brewery. It is a very malty brew, with hints of chocolate and coffee. The nut taste comes in the finish, and makes for a nicely balanced beer. Not too bad at all. I followed this with a pint of Ascot Ales “Anastasia's Exile Stout”. The taste of this 5% brew is a nice blend of roast malt, chocolate and good strains of vanilla. The finish is sweet and smooth, with a tad of bitterness. I enjoyed my visit to Brigg, as I always do. Besides the pubs reviewed here, there a a few more, all within easy walking distance of the town centre. It is just a shame about those transport links from Grimsby.
Sunny Sutton on Sea via South Reston.
I have an Aunt who lives out near Alford, pretty much in the sticks. There aren't a plethora of hostelries in her immediate area, but a little way away you can usually find a village pub or two. In South Reston is the community hub pub The Waggon and Horses, which, besides the bar, also boasts a thriving restaurant, picnic and play area, caravan and camping site and a local shop for supplies. The Lounge Bar is roomy and wood panelled, with a selection of Bateman's Ales, and a house beer on tap. We only had a couple of halves, as we were in the car, but it was noticeable what a busy village pub this is, and an integral part of the local community, and passing holidaymakers from nearby Mablethorpe.
Bacchus beers on the bar.
Speaking of Mablethorpe, just next door is the small town of Sutton on Sea. This is a holiday resort in miniature, with a frontage of about a mile, nestling between Trusthorpe and Sandilands. You can drive through it within a blink of an eye. We, on the other hand, chose to visit for a meal, and a few drinks, at a couple of establishments, and were quite pleased we did. Our first stop was for a meal at The Sea Breeze Restaurant,on High St. the food is well cooked, well presented and very tasty. Beer, as well as wine, is available, either draught lager, or, as I chose, bottles of Bateman's. In stock was “XXXB” or “Combined Harvest”, both sampled and both enjoyed. I have reviewed both previously, so I shall not expand any further. After our meal we left, crossed the road and entered The Bacchus Hotel. What a gem of a place. We entered, just as the quiz was coming to an end, and managed to squeeze in on a table near the bar. The beer range not only has guest ales but also prominently features a couple of beers from the on site micro-brewery. It was these beers we sampled. First up was Bacchus “Sutton Pride”, a 4.3% Bitter which is quite solid, to be fair. It isn't a World beater but is a good malty brew, with sweet caramel balancing the bitterness well. The other brew on offer at the pump from this brewer was “Sutton Blonde”, 4.2%. This is a light tasting beer with a citrus bite to it. The finish is quite floral, but quite moreish. All in all, not a bad little place to drop anchor, and I hope the brewery enterprise goes from strength to strength.
The Number 5 Route.
The Stagecoach No5 bus runs from Cleethorpes through to Immingham, which, after leaving Grimsby via The Trawl pub, runs down the B1210 and passes through the dormitary villages of Healing and Stallingborough. This route, which also runs to a reasonable time in the evening, opens up the Immingham corridor to 3 more real ale establishments. First stop is Healing, and The Healing Manor. Recently refurbished and improved greatly, there is no a pub on sitge, The Pig and Whistle, which, on my last visit, served cask ales, one of which is the Tom Woods brewed house bitter. Modernity is the feeling of this place, but stylish too. The next stop suggested is Stallingborough roundabout. Here you can go left and find the up-market Stallingborough Grange, featuring Thatcher's Inn, which I haven't visited in a while, or right to The Green Man. This is a Stonegate pub, and not only offers a range of ales, but also has a CAMRA card discount.The meals in here are also supposed to be very nice. There is another pub a little further down the B1210, The Farmhouse, but, although I pass it most days to and from work, I have yet to stop there.
Add to this little list the likes of Barton upon Humber (Here), Lincoln (soon to be re-visited), and Louth (Here), which are all a little easier to reach by public transport, along with a few villages along the way, things maybe are not too bad in the area. With a little more effort by our local publicans to promote real ales (and to look after it better), or a more expansive and better timed public transport system, things could be a whole lot rosier.
This, I suppose, is just a continuum (Ooh, there is another word, besides vacuum, that contains 2 consecutive u's) from my last post (Here).After we got married, we shot off to Didsbury, to stay overnight at The Britannia Country House Hotel, before jetting off to Malta the following day. On the way, travelling via our favoured of Doncaster, Barnsley and then over the the Pennines on the Woodhead Pass, we decided to drop anchor for a spot of lunch. Just past the Flouch roundabout on the A628 there lies a Country Inn and Hotel, of which I have often wondered what was lurking behind their doors, as I, on many occasions have driven along this route. We agreed that this looked as good a place as any to have a break, and we were soon settled inside The Dog and Partridge, a 16thCentury hostelry with hotel, restaurant and a reasonable range of cask ales. We ordered a couple of sandwiches off the lunch bar menu, and settled down to wait with our chosen ales. Jane chose the 3.8% “Barnsley Bitter”from the Acorn Brewery, a bitter disappointingly served in our last write up, this half pint though was much better. A rich malt taste, with caramel and a hint of biscuit precedes a medium sweet, and balanced dry finish. My tipple, also shared by T'other 'Arf, was from the Bradfield Brewery, “Farmer's Blonde”, 4% ABV. Fresh and zesty, this was a good thirst quencher, with just a tad of summer fruits on the palate with reasonable citrus and a slight oiliness detectable. It was a shame we couldn't have had a little longer here, but our absolutely huge, and delicious, sandwiches had arrived, and been eagerly devoured, and I was driving, so it was time to move on. Within an hour we were at our hotel in Didsbury. We had a meal booked for later that evening, which meant we could have a wander round this now more familiar part of Greater Manchester. We started off in The Art of Tea, a Cafe Bar on Barley Moor Road. Although not a cask lover's paradise, this bar has quite a reasonable selection of bottled beer, and amongst these we chose to sample the ever popular 5.9% IPA from Thornbridge, “Jaipur”,with its lovely plum and peach fruitiness balancing the zesty citrus backbone. It is as good in a bottle as it is in cask form. Jane had a 6% Organic Cider, with a nice red apple taste and a good bitter-sweetness, fromWyld Wood, whilst I finished on a Tickety Brew “Coffee Anise Porter”. At 5.1%, the porter was a delightful beer, with, obviously, coffee and a spice punch to the smooth sweetness in the malt. A really good beer. We're beginning to enjoy this cafe culture of drinking, although the prices for civility and a relaxing ambience do seem a shekel or two more than the traditional pub scene. Our next ports of call were The Slug and Lettuce ( Wells “Bombardier”were the drinks tasted in here), then the very Irish pub, The Station, for a Power's Whiskey,before partaking in a couple of cocktails, A Devil's Manhattanand a Porn Star Martini,in The Didsbury Lounge(Pubs Reviewed Here) We then moved back up towards our hotel, and enjoyed a lovely meal in Albert's Restaurant, ultimately finishing off at The Woodstockwith Thwaite's “Waiwright's Golden Ale”. A lovely evening indeed.
The following day we set off to Manchester Airport, after a stroll around the grounds at the hotel, sharing our taxi transfer with another couple from our location. We alighted at Terminal 1, collecting our hold luggage and cabin bag from the driver at the boot,checked in and headed to security. “I'll just take your tablet out of this bag” said I, followed by “How much coffee are you taking?” as I discovered a huge jar in the top of the case. “Just a little bag full, it's in the hold bag though”. Oh dear, or words to that effect, as the realisation of having the wrong case, with our holiday documents, Euros and Pounds Sterling along with the car and house keys now elsewhere on the airport. “Ring somebody!” Jane exasperatedly shrieked. “Ring the taxi”
“What? He'll be on the motorway now, and won't have time to search his boot, or find who he dropped off” “
“Well, ring the taxi firm, the hotel, err.....”
It was then a voice said “Oh great, I've found you. I looked for my husband's medication and realised it was the wrong bag.” After a few deep breaths, sighs and skipped heartbeats and many a Thank you, we were both reunited with the correct bags. Note to self: Make sure to ID and mark ALL your bags!
We needed a drink. Terminal 1 has a few options for food and drink, mostly fizzy keg rubbish at high prices, but the departure lounge upper level does have The Grain Loft,which serves cask ales, mostly from local breweries. So, after a quick pint of “fizz” lager in Cafe Balzar, downstairs, we popped up the escalator for a “proper” pint. In here we went for a Weetwood “Cheshire Cat” a 4% Blonde Ale, which is packed with citrus and zest, but has a nice rounded bitter-sweetness throughout, and a “Manchester Bitter”, 4.3% from the Marble Brewery. After a nice citrus burst, this beer leads to a lovely dry bitterness, and is very easy drinking. I did finish off on another ale, but it was presented to me by T'other 'arf as I returned to our table after a visit. Because it was so busy at the bar Jane was unsure which one she had chosen, and I wasn't about to push through a crowd to find out. It was very good all the same.
We then proceeded to our gate, onto our aircraft and, a touch later than planned, Jet2 whisked us to the lovely Islands of Malta.
We stayed in the town of Mellieha at The Solana Hotel. We found it a wonderful friendly place. The rooms to the rear are much quieter than those on the roadside front. The facilities are more than adequate, with restaurants and bars, 2 swimming pools, the outdoor one giving a splendid rooftop view of the local church, spa and staff who are really helpful. The area has the usual collection of bars, restaurants and cafe bars, and we did manage to visit a few. Most serve the Island's most popular lager beer, Simonds Farsons “Cisk.” It is often in bottles or cans, but is also available on tap in a few outlets. The Farsons range is quite broad, to be fair, and I have reviewed most of the range below.
Cisk Lager Beer. 4.2%
Not a bad thirst quencher to be honest. There is malt, and a grassiness is noticeable. There is a definite astringency in the finish. This is available in various guises, the bottle and can versions are similar, but the keg variant is certainly more lively, and feels fresher on the palate.
Cisk Export. 5%
A bit more bite than the ordinary lager, but the taste is basically the same. My tasting was bottle only, but it is also available in cans.
Cisk Excel Low Carbohydrate Lager 4.2%
Not too bad, really. A little lighter in carbonation, and hints of bread are noticeable in the finish.
Cisk Pilsner. 5.5%
Now this is a good beer. A touch more malt taste to it, with a nice earthy back taste. The finish is dry, reasonably bitter finish. There are also light floral notes in the aroma. Very refreshing.
Farsons Hopleaf Pale Ale. 3.8%
This Golden coloured Pale Ale has a touch of citrus, followed by caramel in the initial tasting. A faint nuttiness is determinable, but it is not a big punchy pale ale taste, more an average bitter. OK, but not a memorable beer.
Farsons Blue Label Ale 3.3%
Not bad, really. It is rather Mild like, but with hints of an old Nut Brown Ale. The nutty maltiness carries through to the finish, but doesn't overpower. There is a reasonable bitterness in the dry finish. I did have this on tap in Valletta and found it quite smooth and creamy, more so than the canned version.
Farsons Lacto Milk Stout. 3.8%
A rather thin stout which pours almost black in the glass. The taste is quite sweet, with raisins and other dark fruit coming to the fore. There is a slight coffee hint and the finish has a good dry bitter-sweetness. Overall, not bad at all.
Cisk Chill Lemon flavoured Lager. 4%
Chill comes in two types, Berry and lemon. I chose the latter. Reading some reviews, this has been a heavily criticised brew. Personally, we thought it made a pleasant change. Admittedly, there is not a strong lager taste to it, but it does rear its malty head at the end. The lemon is unavoidably constant, and there is also a lot of sweetness. OK, I wouldn't order it on a wet, cold Wednesday night in Grimsby, but in 30 degrees Celsius, looking out at Mellieha Bay in the distance, just the job.
Cisk Shandy 2.2%
Yes! I tried a shandy. It was quite refreshing, and I was very hot. It also made me reminisce about growing up and, as a pre-teenage brat, enjoying a Shandy Bass as a treat with the “gang” on the local park. This one was very similar to that drink of yesteryear, still lodged in my memory, but didn't come with bits of picnic sandwich floating about in it. The sharp citrus of the lemonade perfectly tempers the maltiness from the beer, and, although I would sooner have a beer most times, it made a refreshing change.
The Island of Gozo and its Craft Beers
We had a day out on Gozo, visiting the capital, Victoria, and wandering around the streets and, eventually up to the Citadel. This is a lovely island, quieter and less busy than the main island, which, itself, can hardly be described as hectic. There are plenty of food and drink distractions around the area, giving it a nice cosmopolitan feel, and it is rather agreeable to sit back with a nice cold beer just watching the world go by. I was aware of a Craft Beer brewery on the island, Lord Chambray Microbrewery, but knew we wouldn't have enough time to find and visit it. Fortunately, walking back to the Bus Station, we popped into a tourist craft shop and, lo and behold, 3 of the brews produced by the brewery were stocked there. They weren't cheap, though, costing over 4 Euros per 330 ml bottle. The three beers I sampled were;-
Lord Chambray San BlasEnglish IPA 5.7%
The first of these bottle conditioned beers was a full blooded IPA, with hints of tangerine and slight grapefruit strains. The overall taste is very citrus driven and the finish increasingly dry. The balance is very good, with the bitterness not too heavy, but definitely present.
Lord Chambray Fungus RockDark Ale/Stout 5.5%
Not too bad a dark beer, but more like a Black IPA than a Stout, I thought. The roast malt has hints of liquorice and a good bitter-sweetness. There was a slight floral aroma which also returns in the dry finishing taste.
Lord Chambray Blue LagoonBlanch/Witbier 5%
Orange and coriander a very noticeable in this, the best of the three brews sampled. Spice and a touch of yeast esters are also prominent. The beer is very well balanced with hints of darker fruits in the long satisfyingly dry finish.
All in all, not a bad selection from the Lord Chambray Brewery. They aren't the most brilliant craft beers you will sample, nor are they terrible, nowhere near, just pleasing to find, and worth a punt. There are more beers in their portfolio, and I hope to track these down when we re-visit The Maltese Islands, hopefully next year.
Just a quick run down of a few bars we visited whilst in Malta. As in so many Mediterranean resorts, there are quite a few outlets selling beer, not just “pubs”, but a host of other places with bars, or even just a fridge and a counter. I won't include every hostelry we visited, just a few we really enjoyed.
In Mellieha we discovered a few good ones. First up was The Cross Keys, a bar and adjoining pizzeria. We popped in the pub for a quick drink before nipping for a pizza next door. Inside, we were served by one of the most amiable of barmen. Sorry, I didn't catch his name, but he was friendly, talkative, interested in our meagre lives, but not pushy or obtrusive. A native of The Emerald Isle, he gave us a few tips about the island and places worth a visit. He is certainly an asset to this great establishment, and, although we didn't get time to pop back in until our last night, he remembered us and greeted us with a wonderful Irish warmth. The pizzas were to die for too.
Just around the corner from our hotel was Charlie's Bar. There is a pool, and outside area to relax in during the day. The bar itself is It has an unmistakeably British feel to it, and is run by two ex-pats, Michael and Mary. Walk in a stranger and walk out a friend. On the main street, there are a few reasonable bars, Bar 120 has a bit of more modern music on and is worth a look, and further down you will find Greystones Pub and Restaurant. Up towards the Parish Church of Mellieha, sits Square Bar,set in a quieter part of the town, but the real “gem” is just across from here. The Imperial Band Club is open to tourists, and is a place where locals, band members and proud supporters, gather, set the World to rights and relax over a cold beer. (The Mellieha Imperial Band perform all over the World) The view is of the Church, which is a wonderful sight during the day, but absolutely captivating when lit up at night. The prices are cheap and the service efficient. One quirkier place is at the Pergola Hotel. This is The Cave Bar, which just about describes exactly what it is.A bar in a cave.
The Pub, Valletta.
Valletta, the capital, has wealth of drinking establishments within the city, and also offers cheap ferry links across the magnificent The Grand Harbour to the Three Cities (Birgu (Vittoriosa), Senglea and Cospicua) and across to Sliema, via the Marsamxett Harbour. This gives you even more choice. Sliema, very much a bustling resort, has the usual array of cocktail bars and tourist pubs and those cafe bars too. We popped into two of the latter on our visit, Black Goldand Tony's Bar, both overlooking the harbour with great views of Valletta across the water. A very nice way to watch the World, and his Wife, pass by. The Three Cities area is a mixture of expensive yachts, with seafront apartments, and quiet Mediterranean squares among the sprawl of domesticity. We found the lovely sun trap, Victory Square, in Birgu just a short amble from the waterfront and perched in the sun to enjoy a delightful light lunch and, of course, a few beers, at Cafe du Brazil. A very nice lunch indeed, with excellent food and efficient service. Back in the Valletta, I had one place I wanted to visit, and after a couple of stops along the way, we found The Pub. Why was it on my list? Well, hell-raiser, brilliant actor and the original Beermonster, Oliver Reed, star of stage, screen and many a bar, took his last drink in this pub before departing this Earth back in 1999. After abstaining from the booze for a few months, he was filming the film “Gladiator” in Malta. During a break, he was enjoying a few casual beers in this establishment when the crew of a Royal Navy frigate descended on it. Legend has it, and who is to doubt it, that a drinking competition broke out and, after several bottles of rum, many a beer and a few other drinks were partaken of, poor old Olly's ticker gave way. He was rushed to hospital but could not be revived A tragic but some may say, fitting end.The Pub is very, shall we say, “earthy”. It is not a venue for best suits and party dresses. The ambience though is warming and the walls are, along with the Oliver Reed memorabilia, adorned with hat bands of the various HM and Commonwealth Naval ships whose crews have visited this place over the years. One quick story. I could have sat anywhere inside on our visit. I just plumped down, with an excellent pint of draught “Blue Label”, and thought no more of it. After nipping to the loo before leaving, Jane enquired ”Do you know where you've been sitting for the last half hour ?” Thinking it may possibly have been Mr Reed's last perch, but still really at a loss, I invited an answer.
Coincidental seating plan in The Pub.
“Look” Jane replied, pointing to the hat band, among the hundreds in here, of HMS GRIMSBY.
What were the chances of that.
Well that is my review of Malta and Gozo. Some but not all of the beers to be found, a few of the bars we discovered on our visit, and a bit of the feel of this lovely sun drenched craggy Island group in the middle Mediterranean Sea. We loved our visit, and have already vowed to return. I will also return with a few more posts and reviews in the beermonster's blog very soon.