Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Wee Beefy Drinks in Dalriada - Day 2 (finally)

Day 2

Welcome to my celebration of celtic casks, in 7 parts (time period between posts not specified!)

We woke up at Taigh Lusnambansith to a fantastic Scottish breakfast which set the scene for a week of quality morning foods, and 20 minutes, or rather 90%, of the day's sunshine. After a quick wander round the centre of Clackmannan we headed off to Loch Leven castle, in thick grey cloud and a biting wind.

The castle is situated on an island in the centre of the Loch and is reached by a small boat. We had a good hour or two there looking round the castle and grounds before we headed off up over the Tay bridge into Dundee for our first pub stop of the day.

The Speedwell Tavern is one of Dundee's most famous pubs, and shares its place on the Regional and National Inventories with Frews bar, The Clep, and the Tay Bridge Tavern just down the road. Inside is a magnificent multi roomed pub with a panelled room on the left, a long bar curving to run parallel as you enter with an ornate back, a second lounge room on the back left, and a fantastic ornately plastered ceiling, all bathed in warm subdued lighting that shows off the wood brilliantly.

There are two real ales, Deuchars and a Greedy King offering which was off. The Deuchars was OK so we had that in the back lounge admiring the ornate fixtures and fittings - not least the excellent tiling in the gents.

Next we headed down the road to the Tay Bridge Tavern, sporting a red and cream colour scheme with angular almost futuristic style writing and signage on the outside. The main room as you enter is a magnificent high ceilinged bar with a good bar back and a small snug off on the left, reached through a separate entrance within the room, all topped by the striking patterned red and cream ceiling plasterwork. There is another room through a door on the right, with a distinctive sloping (or self emptying) spittoon, also accessed via a small and likely unused side entrance off the main entrance.

The room was not in use on our visit but we asked if we could take a few pics and the barman obliged, before we took our seats, supping McEwans 70/-, in the raised seating area looking towards the entrance.

After dinner we travelled north to the fabulous Dunnottar castle, a sprawling and well preserved picture postcard castle on a rocky outcrop on the Aberdeenshire coast. We managed to get round almost all of the enormous site before struggling back up the path to the car park and heading for a deserved pint at the Marine at Stonehaven.

This is a CAMRA award winning real ale pub on the harbour, with a great reputation for food, and a rather optimistic pricing policy for its accommodation. The old 1900's bar is long and narrow with about 7 handpumps and a board at the end displaying the beers available, next to which is the restaurant.

Alas even the best of pubs can be plagued by idiots who insist on blocking the bar and your view of the handpumps, but we overcame this annoyance to order and enjoy a pint of Burnside Mpire (thats what the clip says anyway), half a Strathven Summer Glow, and an Inveralmond Dunnottar ale, all in excellent condition. The pub two doors up on the quay also does real ales, but we wer short of time and so did not visit.

Before reaching our destination for the night we headed to the Creel Inn at Catterline, the least photogenic pub I have ever visited (unless you are stood on top of a Double Decker bus), but which hides within a small cosy local with an emphasis on real ale as well as their famed food menu. Here we enjoyed a pint of Orkney Corncrake and half of the Iveralmond Lia Fail.

Our final stop was at our accommodation. The Douglas Arms at Banchory is on the Scottish Regional inventory of unspoilt pub interiors, with a splendid unchanged traditional bar retaining the features of a 1900 refit, with a stunning collection of mirrors inlcuding huge Devhana and Thompson and Marshall ones at either end of the room. The room next door is traditional but slightly altered and the rest of the hotel radically changed to encompass a restaurant, a hotel bar and its hotel rooms, all in a sadly jarring modern style.

The food attracts restaurant prices but, despite WF's complaints about the portion size, was fantastically prepared and presented. There were two real ales in the bar, Caledonian Deuchars and Kelbun Pivo Estivo, a fantastic pale ale that I had 3 or 4 pints of just so as to be sure not to miss out.

Alas WF retired early after the exertions of walking to and from and around the castle and his driving, so I retired to a corner of the smaller bar with a copy of Private Eye for my Kelburn appreciation society meeting.

Up next time - more Aberdeenshire drinking, and real ale near Fraserburgh, without a Brewdog in sight.

Wee Beefy.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Wee Beefy's beer bites part 2

Hello suppers of ale,

developments and trips out continue a-pace for Beefy at the moment so am afraid its a whistlestop rundown of recent news rather than polished prose.

Whitby Ales.

First weekend in August I was with Bert on his stag do in the seaside town of Whitby. I have been many times and had fallen out of love with the place considerably, a situation inescapably linked to its dearth of good pubs. Things have changed in the last few years though as this trip proved. On our first night we ventured out after midnight and still found a pub or two open - the Ship, on the station side of the harbour, had an acceptable pint of Black Sheep on offer.

Saturday saw us slow off the mark but our fist stop in the afternoon was The Shambles over the shops in the market place. A large lofty room with comfy seating, a snooker room and a small quay side balcony this pub had 9 real ales on, mainly from super regionals but some unusual offerings from Cotleigh and Wold Top. I also managed to sneak in a very enjoyable pint of Black Dog Whitby Abbey Ale in the Station, formerly the Tap N Spile.

Later we headed out and stopped off (having walked past the Granby/Gatsby? advertising 5 beers including Snecklifter) at the Little Angel. This is a multiroomed very old pub up from the station selling Tetley and Mordue Workie Ticket which was a nice surprise. Being a large group we couldn't visit the tiny Black Horse over the bridge so headed up to the Duke of York at the bottom of the Abbey Steps. This had 5 or more beers on including Deuchars IPA and Taylors Golden Best. The less said about final real ale free stop the Wellington the better.

On the final day only I walked into town for beer (was not that thirsty it turned out!) and I visited the Black Horse. Definitely saving the best for last, i sat at the far end of the back bar room and then next to the entrance in the front bar supping two excellent pints of the Black Dog again. Overall most pubs seemed to advertise real ale and I would suggest that Whitby is well worth a visit.

Robin Hood Little Matlock, Stannington

There is less than a week now until the pub is closed forever, I was in a fortnight ago with Mr P and the sole beer on offer was Tetley, although it was a good pint of it. Usually there are Bradfield and Burton bridge beers if you are considering a last visit - however it might pay to ring and check they have real ale on if they are thinking of exhausting their cellar stocks prior to closing - there were beer glasses and plates and cutlery for sale when I was last in. Only 6 more nights of trading starting tomorrow if you fancy a look.

Walkley news.

Most recent Walkley trips have centred on the Blake so have no recent news or visits to report on, however, on a frustrating hunt for a bus to town recently I noted that the Freedom House had closed. I understand that some of the staff have moved to the Walkley Cottage but as yet do not know what the plans are for the Freedom. It would be a crying shame to lose it, but I would suggest that pivotal to any revival is the retention and availability of the comfy left hand room, which is the antithesis of the stark and less welcoming environment in the bar on the right. Customers love choice - so give em a choice of rooms and all is well.

Trippets, Trippet Lane.

Continue to serve a decent range of real ale although reduced slightly midweek on a recent visit. I tried the excellent Kelham Island Festival Ale and Thornbridge Chiron pale ale, both in excellent form although with contrasting flavours. Across the road I note the Dog and Partridge does not appear to open Monday lunchtimes.

The Lescar

Gawd love um the Lescar are striving to win an award I haven't yet created called "most disorganised and /or perplexing pub experience". On my last visit I was caught out by a yo yo price for the Moonshine, as were the bar staff. On a recent visit it was virtual chaos behind the bar. I spotted the excellent St Peters brewery IPA on handpump and opted for a pint. Although cloudy I wasn't concerned until I smelt and tasted vinegar. The pint was swapped graciously for an excellent pint of Northern Star from Moor Beer Co in Somerset - note this was also served in a handled beer mug, an increasingly common sight in pubs once again. So far so good...

My second pint was Moonshine in the same glass but that ran out and my replacement, back to Northern Star was in a straight glass. Its may seem unimportant but surely my handing back the mug means I require a mug? Although I admit I did not stipulate. My friend asked for an Erdinger from the same barman and he told us they didn't sell it any more, despite us having had two already and him going straight to the pump when I asked. And throughout, the IPA remained on the bar, on sale.

If you have a drinks menu, which the Lescar do, and I have to say its very good and offers a brilliant choice of beers and wines; then any claims made about the real ale need to be supported in real life. The menu proclaims " we know our beer "(unq.) and references Cask Marque accreditation but am not sure that the blurb matched my experience. On returning later the Northern star had run out so it was Doom bar, now a Coors puppy that travels poorly, or the IPA from earlier. I tried a mouthful in the sample glass and here's my admission - it tasted OK, so I ordered a pint. The thing is, as soon as I tasted the now clear pint I realised it was not in fact, any better. I have no idea how I made this mistake and am aware it made my argument a little weak thereafter.....

To their credit they refunded my money and I bought another none real ale - they didn't have to since I had tried the beer - but no-one would admit the St Peter's beer tasted of vinegar (albeit slightly, but noticeably ), and claimed that IPA tastes sharp - as opposed to astringent, or bitter one assumes. When I'd mentioned the yukky taste earlier they suggested it was because it was fresh on - erm, what?

Either that means they don't clean the lines (and I have had too many good beers in there to believe that) or they think that beer at the beginning of the cask is normally sour. I think perhaps a better knowledge of IPA is in order and perhaps a top up of staff and management product knowledge would bring the pub in line with its printed claims, and we could all be happy then. Must try harder, 6/10.

The Firth Hall, Sheffield University

On Saturday I attended a wedding bash at the above and noted that, even on a bar crammed in a corner, the length of a school bench, they had real ale in the form of Kelham Island Pride of Sheffield. Not that this is a venue open to the public (as far as I understand ) but I have to say I was surprised and pleased to be at a wedding with something worth drinking on offer. The Firth hall shows the way, wedding venues!

Real ale to take away

The Crookes branch of Rhythm and Booze has started doing take away real ale, usually from Kelham Island brewery. Whilst this is a welcome development for Crookesians and visitors alike, lets remember who the daddy of take away real ale in Sheffield is, and always will be. The Archer Road beer stop still carries a range of real ales to take away along with cider and bottle conditioned or otherwise conditioned British and world beers. Go there now and buy some beers!

Am awaah in York this weekend then in the Home Counties and Midlands in September so after that normal service will hopefully resume. In the meantime, drink well and live long

Wee Beefy.