Sunday, 30 September 2012

Genius in a bottle?

Good evening,

     Wednesday 1st July 1981 was a good day. I was 7 years old, probably doing something carefree in the garden, most likely involving a hosepipe or climbing frame, and it was probably sunny. It always was. That's a fact, using rose tinted glasses. To be fair, even if it wasn't sunny, it was certainly a good day for me because Davefromtshop graduanded in Bournemouth and purchased at least 2 bottles of Eldridge Pope Thomas hardy Ale, brewed on that date. We tried one in 2006 and it was astonishingly good. Kept for 25 years, as the bottle promised you could, the beer was in amazing condition.

One bottle remained, and it was getting to the point where Eldridge Pope'/s claims about it still being drinkable were seeming less likely. Dave mentioned to me a while back that he as looking forward to opening it and kindly asked if I'd like to partake of half the bottles contents. Unsurprisingly I said yes, and have been looking forward to the prospect ever since.

So 11,412 days after it was brewed, we hoped to find out if 01 July 1981 is still a date worth remembering, as we opened the second bottle.

I wasn't writing a blog in 2006, which is a shame because I don't have any written details about the taste or even appearance of the 25 year vintage, in order to make a clear comparison. All I can do is fossick through my obfuscate cupboard of beer memories to note a few things - like its colour, which was a beautiful chestnut orange (memories don't seem to wheedle out absurd sounding colour combinations it seems), that it was incredibly strong, that you could still taste the hops in amongst the overpowering alcoholic punch and that crucially the yeast was still alive, and doing its job.

We opened this one with trepidation. It fizzed, but it was more like a tiny cough and straight away we could tell the bottle was not carbonated as the brewer had intended. It smelled very similar to the last bottle, if that's even possible, with a huge sherry and slightly musty aroma in amongst an unsubtle blast of alcohol and , I swear this is true, leather. However, here the similarities with the 25 years old version ended.

It was a far darker colour. It tasted sharper, and there was no hint of hops. It even managed to taste slightly musty, and also had the sherry flavour that was present in the George Gales Prize Old Ale. It was better than that though, really much more fruity and the strong alcohol flavour was faintly reminiscent of port. There wa also just enough sweeteness to balance it out, similar to the taste of barley sugar sweets

One really interesting feature was the bubbles. We had poured the beer quickly into each glass to teases some otherwise missing carbonation from the brew. They were a really beautiful white, really large in size and they didn't seem to disappear as we drank. Taking a close up in the glass, with the bubbles grouped round teh sides, the image below nicely shows the beer with a deep russet red colour, flanked by the sparkling pearl like bubbles.

We kept aside a small amount of the yeast, and we did actually add it at the very end. It was clear from the less harmonious flavours that the yeast had died. This was disappointing, but I think the yeast does pretty bloody well to last 25 years, which our previous bottle demonstrated it had.

There are, as with all live bottled beers, numerous factors that could have contributed to the yeasts demise and the slight spoiling of what is a truly incredible beer. I have tasted a 1 year old, 8 years old, 15 year old and a 25 year old prior to this. And I still can't say what the best age is to drink it given the myriad of possibilities that there are for how the beer could turn out. The 25 year old was amazing, but Dave mentioned that this bottle had been mistreated over the years, kept at different and unsuitable temperatures amongst other things, so perhaps the beer is drinkable aged 31, but only if its kept at a constant suitable temperature?

Who knows, but if you see a vintage for sale I would still recommend shelling out for it. I am still taken aback by how brilliant the 25 year old was, and the slightly off flavours in amongst the overwhelming vinous qualifies reminded me that this was probably only a random event away from being one of the best beers I ever tasted. So near, yet maybe a year or two too far.

Next year my oldest bottle turns 20. I only have two left now, and both are different vintages so I'm going to have them both at 25 years and hope for the best. Despite this minor upset, I am really looking forward to it.


Wee Beefy 

Thursday, 27 September 2012



    I was going to write up a few recent beery delights that I have encountered, but aside from the fact that if my Diabetic consultant ever read this we might have to have a "chat" it also occurred to me that what I had embarked on last night was a regular monthly pub crawl. So I thought I might personalise the journey, literally, and tell you how to do that same route, and what you might expect along the way.

Me and Mr P have, on our last 3 monthly, after work, beer wanders, gone and done the same route. The things is, we always used to go to the Harlequin then the Kelham without even thinking about it, rarer still we wandered to the Blake or the Sheffield Tap but recently we have settled on a regular trail.

Starting on Bridge Street (think Whitbread's brewery) we walk up past Irwin Mitchell's and follow the road round past Plum Lane and out onto and across the dual carriageway. Theres a cashpoint here for butter memories like me who never have any cash on them...

Round the corner next, then we walk past the Fat Cat, at which point comes your first choice. Obviously, the KIT and the Cat are here, and well worth a visit - but we usually walk onto Green Lane, then right over the bridge past the Milestone, up Ball Street. For a more scenic walk take the next right, Cornish Street, follow to the end and walk down the jennnel to join Waterloo walk which comes out at Rutland bridge. We normally take a left over the river off Ball street and follow the path out onto Neepsend Lane, which we follow to the Gardeners Rest (if going tother way turn left at the junction over river).

Here of course there are beers a plenty and outside seating. There;s nothing finer than sitting by the river on a sunny day, or sheltering in the conservatory during a heavy shower. Somehow, half of the time, the latter happens.

Last night was no exception. We were nearly drowned out chatting over our pints - we started with pints of Eden Best for me, which was a light refreshing little dryness in the aftertaste, whilst Mr P had a pint of a Tintagel ale, which I had low expectations of, but was in fact probably gutsier and more hoppy than my choice. Mr P had another of these, and I had a very unusual tasting but very enjoyable Wharfebank Treacle Toffee Stout, which smelt like Dandelion and Burdock and tasted of vimto and roasted barley. Despite this clumsy mix of descriptors I assure you it tasted fantastic.

Should you be able to tear yourself away, you could go mad and ditch the crawl and head for the Hillsborough - this of course is part of the rather longer and rightly more famous Don Valley pub crawl. What we do, however, is head back down Rutland Road and turn left onto Old Penistone Road, and head onto Shalesmoor.

At this point, assuming you didn't fancy a saison or other invented beer, you could cross the ring road and tram track to visit the Wellington, and try their excellent Little Ale Cart beers plus guests. What we usually do, however, is press on to the Ship.

Now, the Ship is a pub that I like very much but we're never quite sure of the opening hours. We consistently aim for 19.30 but at different times before now the landlord has insisted its 20.00, or, presumably in jest (!) 21.00. Either way, I think a sensible plan would be to aim to get their for 20.00, to avoid disappointment.

On our last visit there was Abbeydale Moonshine, Kelham Pale Rider and the excellent Welbeck Abbey Red Feather, which was our tipple of choice, perfectly kept and on sale at a decent price - £2.60 a pint. I understand that Kelham Wild Rider and the Barlow brewery stout are to feature soon, along with another few from Welbeck. Should be well worth finding out.

Our final stroll is fairly simple, just along Shalesmoor and keep right up Gibraltar Street to Shakespeares. Last time in Mr P was on the Axholme Best Bitter and I was trying, enjoying and all round being impressed by a sumptuously orangey bitter called Mudhopper from Mallinsons. Alas we were both pushed for time and it was getting really busy in the pub what with events on upstairs and down it seemed so this was our only drink. I could easily stayed for many more Mallinsons to be honest.

From here we usually go our separate ways, if I am being a good boy (which of course I always am), I go home as well, although its not unfeasible that I might instead head off for DAda or the Three Cranes. The KIT, Cat, Riverside and Harlequin are all 5 minutes away of course, so if you so wished you could walk on round the ring road and check them out aswell.

I hope you get chance to try out this trail sometime, if the weathers nice (ahem...) its a lovely walk for the most part, and crucially its populated with excellent pubs. Which is nice...

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Looking forward to a pint


    if you are, then I have a few morsels of info, from the immediate to the further ahead. But first, some info from the last couple of days.

Recently I have sampled Abbeydale Chocolate Stout and their Dr Morton's Break Fluid at Shakespeares. The Break Fluid was an unusual but enjoyable mix and the chocolate stout was good, and satisfying, perhaps better for not having an overtly chocolate taste, although it was more pronounced than I imagine a beer with just chocolate malt in normal quantities would taste. I also tried a half of Oldershaws Cascade, a beer I'm sure they were making long before the current fascination and desire for hoppy single varietal brews. At £1.25 a half this was also a decent price as well.

DAda was serving up a slightly different range to that of late with Thornbridge Black Harry and Kelham Island Easy Rider. It was a bit busy so I didn't hang around but had an enjoyable pint of the Harry, and a pleasing half of the Schlenkerla.

I also popped in the Dog and Partridge on Trippet Lane, open since August I believe. There are 4 handpumps, the GK IPA was off, but there was Black Sheep best, Courage Directors and Taylors Landlord on offer. The Courage sample I had tasted a little sharp but the Landlord was quite nice. Alas, in a terrible faux pas, I had arrived with no money as I was planning to go straight to DAda and pay on card. So I had to make my excuses and leave without buying anything!

Those of a venerable age will remember rock DJ Les from, er, the 80's at least, and he is doing a set/gig/night there next week. Meanwhile the interior doesn't seem radically different, although I didn't get in the amazing snug, and there is now a pool table...hmmmm...must pop back to actually buy something!

The Hop had a less than salubrious line up when I called into purchase my ticket to the Green hop festival. A stellar line up of brews and brewing types is promised along with tastings and hop taste and sniff (my words) sessions showcasing different varieties. I would have stopped for a  half but even buying a £5.00 ticket and that would take me below the preposterous £10.00 limit and I would be charged 50p. What? I have no idea how this instills any determination to visit, but am duty and financially bound to attend in October now (link here ) for their celebration of hops.

My final stop was the Bath Hotel where excellent if cloudy (none the worse for it) Dark Star Hophead was on at £2.80 (or 70?) a pint which is a decent price, plus the Kelham Back to Black which was a decent half as well. Thornbridge Topaz and Beadecas Well are promised so there should be a few treats on the bar soon, although the Hophead will take some matching.

This weekend, indeed, Thursday onwards, the Ripley beer festival is on at Butterley station, AKA the Midland Railway Centre. Scene of recent music fest off the tracks (?), this promises t be an interesting venue for a festival, with a pretty large beer list, and excellent hostelries in nearby Ripley Waingroves and Alfreton nearby. See link here .

On the 19th til the 21st October is the Sheffield Cathedral beer festival as reported in Beer Matters, and everything. Probably the first time this has happened I understand though cannot confirm that this is the handiwork of the Kelham Island Brewery team. See Beer Matters or the Sheffield CAMRA website for info.

Sheffield beer festival happens soon as well! No shit will follow as early as feasible.

Next up, those lovely folks at Shakespeares Ale and Cider House on Gibraltar Street Shalesmoor are having another beer festival starting Friday 16th November (although this may need confirming, only in that it may start Thursday). This promises to be another excellent do with a cracking range. Look out for the staff brewed real ale on the bar soon at the pub as well.

Finally, Cropton beer and cider festival is on once again at the end of November at the New Inn Croptn, North Yorkshire, when the weather is great. Nut cases like me and Wee Keefy can camp, and erm, well, no doubt yer can shell out for better accommodation than us! If you missed it last year its well worth a visit - see their website, which does not yet appear to confirm the dates, so you'll have to take my word for it - for details.

So, that rounds up beery treats here and now and further ahead.


Wee Beefy

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Lancashire pubs and beer escapade


     well, as mentioned in my previous post, I went out all day yesterday in the automobile with Wee Fatha to the far away land of Lancashire (and Cumbria, briefly) for a day of culture, ruins, beer and most importantly, pubs. More precisely, I wanted to visit one particular pub that I had known about for years. Would my much vaunted failure to visit unspoilt pubs by procrastinating over arranging to visit them scupper my plans once again?

Well, in order to find out, Wee Fatha arrived at 8.30 and we set off out over the snake pass to Glossop, then on to them there Motorways, before we eventually got onto roads promising scenery, and headed for Whalley, near Clitheroe.

Now, Clitheroe is an interesting enough place for me, because every time I go there or meet someone from their I inadvertently cause offence. Its an inescapable fate which makes such visits problematic. More importantly, the excursion I took last time I was there many many years ago, involved suffering the indignity of going by taxi to Whalley, and going to a nightclub, the name of which escapes me, which cost about £6.00 to get in (a stupendous amount back then) and which only played happy hardcore. It was immeasurably shit, and I have hated Whalley ever since.

So it was with some surprise that driving through in glorious sunshine I noticed it was actually quite nice, had a seemingly decent real ale pub according to the GBG, and also some decent ruins for me and Wee Fatha to visit. Finally I can put my irrational fear of Whalley behind me - although, there is still a nightclub, called Rendezvous. I'll have to block that from my mind.....

Off next through spectacular scenery in the impressive trough of Bowland and on over the fells to pop out near the sea, heading for the ruins of a premosntratensian abbey. WF, who helps out at Sheffield's own premosntratensian abbey, at Beauchief, has decided to set himself the challenge of visiting all the orders relics in the UK, and further afield. Given that he does not use the Internet, or visit the library, his depth of knowledge is fairly impressive. And so it was we were off to Cockersands abbey, now just a single circular building and some walls, stuck out on a remote headland near Glasson port. The views back to the Bowland fells, and out towards Overton were spectacular, but all this walking was making us thirsty....

Our first refreshments came near here as well. The Stork at Conder Green is a large old building with a multi roomed but modern tweaked interior, on a corner near where the river Conder snakes its way into the Glasson Marina. There were 4 real ales on the bar, 3 from Lancaster Brewery and Taylors Landlord. WF had a half of Lancaster Amber, myself a pint of their Lancaster Black. It came to £5.20. Yep, that means had they both been the same beer they would have been about £3.45 a pint. Hmmmm

Don't get me wrong, the pub was nice, the food looked delicious, and the garden was sunny and comfortable if a little muddy, but I can't see how the beer would cost that much. It wasn't immediately obvous that the prices were displayed either, and whilst that isn't the end of the world, its particularly galling when you end up paying over the odds. Still, drinking the Lancaster Black on cask gave me the excuse to get another monkey off my back - because I was fairly underwhelmed by it in bottles. On cask, and it was well kept at the Stork, it tasted far better, with a hint at what it perhaps was intended to taste of in bottle. Delicious.

Off next into Lancaster, where we fortuitously got parked near the Sun Hotel, which is where we were going for a beer. Wee Fatha had reasoned that being on Church Street it would be near the Cathedral, and so he went off to find that whilst I went to sample the wares. The Sun Hotel is a Lancaster Brewery venue (it does rooms like what a proper hotel does), in so far as their beers are the predominant ales on offer and their logo is on the menu. It has been modernised, and maybe lacks a comfy chair or two (sofa's are too low for Wee Fatha) but is a nice place to relax and sup. I was also impressed to be able to buy a packet f Lancashire sauce flavoured crisps - not everyone has heard of Lancashire sauce, so to make it a crisp flavour was a commendable feat.

Beers here were once again pricey, although they averaged less than the Stork at around £3.15, with the "strong" Lancaster Black (4.6%) £3.25. The prices were in the menu. Of the 5 of their offerings I had halves of Golden Feather, a 2.8% light ale, Straw, at 3.5%, and their Black, along with a half of Purple Moose Snowdonia Ale. The 2.8% beer was malty but tasted overwhelmingly of biscuits (and I don't think it was sub £3.00 a pint either, despite the apparent tax break...) and the Straw, also quite a weak malty beer, had little depth of flavour, but was sessionable.

Here the visit was soured slightly by the importance the staff placed on clearing tables at all costs. I had a swig or two of Straw left in my half glass, along with my two newly bought beers, when I popped to the loo. As WF was getting ever later, I knew he would have neither the time or the desire what with driving, to buy another half, so I figured he could have a bit of the Snowdonia, and the remaining taster of Straw. When I got back, the beer had gone.

I asked the lass clearing the tables if she had took it and she said no, and I explained why it was annoying and she did say sorry, but laughed and walked away. Now, I get that its only a modicum of beer but which school of bar training tells you to take away a beer from a table where someone is clearly still sat, whilst they are in the loo? Given the swish modernity of the establishment and its high quality looking menu, I would imagine this is meant to be a sleek operation, but what should have happened is that the glass should have remained on my table until it could be ascertained that it was finished with.

As this didn't happen, someone should have come back with a replacement sample once the situation was made clear, which it was. Since I was unable to locate WF, and with time running out to get back to the car within the hour I didn't really want to go and wait at the bar to wrangle some of my beer back, but its still shoddy. Two Lancaster Brewery outlets in and it was expense and getting the basics wrong which stood out, although I concede the Lancaster Black was excellent once again.

Ruskins View, Kirby Lonsdale
Off next to Kirby Lonsdale, in Cumbria, via a rather fruitless search for a premosntratensian nunnery which WF conceded was likely just a farm built on the spot. The path along the Lune disappeared before I could reach it so the search was called off. Kirby Lonsdale is of course in or at the very least overlooking Lunesdale, and boasts a brewery and their Tap. The Orange Tree is just past the church and sells, according to the ever optimistic GBG, about 6 of their Kirby Lonsdale brewery beers plus guests.

I don't mind at all that they don't, but at least be realistic - theres only 6 handpumps! We got in about  10 to 6 intent on ordering food and supping their Lonsdale beers. There were two on, Radical Bitter (oh dear) and Monumental. I went for a pint of the latter as it was stronger, and WF a half of the Radical. We were told we'd have to wait 10 minutes to order food, and then whilst we waited for my pint to settle, and having sent WF to secure a table, the lass behind the bar informed me there was no change in the till, so could I wait a moment. She then went on to serve a number of other customers, before another staff member came to ask if he could help.

I explained I wanted to pay and only then the lass confided to him they needed some change which he went to attend to. I now noticed WF's half hadn't even been poured in the 5 minutes I'd waited so asked for that, and got a very lively beer - but the wrong one. That finally rectified I went and sat down, having set up a tab rather than wait any longer to pay, to find no menus on the tables, in a pub where almost everyone was going to eat.

By this time everyone else had made up their minds what to order and was queueing in a throng at the bar whilst we deliberated. Almost all the food was burgers or Mexican, but with none of the affordability that you associate with such foods. There were a few pub standards but they were expensive. We were slightly pushed for time and they didn't seem very competent or organised, and also, there would probably be a long wait for food. So we decided to pay for the drinks and leave.

The beers were good, both about £2.80 a pint, the Monumental had a very pleasing bitterness, and the darker beer had a fantastic roasted barley/red ale sort of flavour. But ultimately the pub was poorly run on this occasion, which was a shame.

We went round the corner and spotted a Theakstons pub with signs along its front proclaiming its food, and cask ales, so went in. Black Bull and Best were on offer, but when we asked for a menu they said they'd stopped serving. It was 18.15. Words fail me.

Our saviour was the Red Dragon, a Robbies pub with 5  beers and a fairly large menu. Not too expensive, not especially exciting, but I knew what to expect having eaten in Robbies pubs before, and although it was basic mass produced fayre it tasted fine and filled a hole. Crucially, the staff were well organised and competent, the beer was under £3.00 a pint, (the Triple Hop was going off but we had good halves of Hartleys Cumbria Way) and we were out not much later than we had wanted. Good on them.

Our final call was to be the jewel in the crown for me, the Limeburners in Nether Kellet. Wee Fatha plotted a route through the lanes and we raced the sun to get their in daylight. Even though we stopped to photograph a magnificent sunset over Morecambe bay there was still daylight when we reached Nether Kellet. But would there be a pub to visit?

As I mentioned before, usually my desire to visit an interesting or unspoilt pub ends in disaster. Notable examples include the Dun Cow at Billy Row, the New Inn in Springthorpe in Lincolnshire  and the Queen Adelaide on Snelston Common near Ashbourne. On ringing the phone number Friday it seemed not to exist, and the village newsletter, which is quite informative, made no mention of the pub in the copies I read from 2011, so all looked bleak....

But it was open. And it was every bit as excellent and unspoilt as I had hoped. The pub has a plain frontage, being one half of two large cottages,  with an old 60's or 70's illuminated sign and circular stone steps to the door. There is then a small lobby with the lounge off to the right, which wasn't in use, and the main bar room to the left. The bar is in front of you slightly to the left with a door to the other room and out through the back to the toilets which are in the yard. As you walk out to the yard you can see into and indeed could walk into the bar, much like at the Seymour Arms in Witham Friary, Somerset.

On the bar are two old handpumps, with Matthew Brown Bitter and Mild pumpclips, and a couple of keg fonts, with the handpump in use being at the back of the bar, dispensing the guest ale (I think the Boddingtons referred to may be keg, but we didn't investigate). Unfortunately we had just missed a beer form the local Cross Bay brewery but the one we tried from Wadworths was very nice - Wee Fatha said he said he couldn't remember what it was, but my pictures show it was Horizon, which is 4.%. Crucially though, it was £2.20 a pint. That's right, AKA fantastic value. Are you listening Lancaster Brewery?

We got chatting to the locals and the landlord Joe, and he let me and WF take photo's whilst WF was given a tour of the bar by a local bloke who sometimes opens up the pub when Joe is busy at his farm. At one point a local lady came in with some apple pie for the landlord so he had a break to eat that whilst we chatted about pubs. We were told it gets busier around 21.30, which maybe reflects the kind of work that most of the regulars do. The Duke of York at Elton doesn't open until 20.30 because Mary has to finish off at the farm then drive over. This is a similar set up for the landlord and customers here, it seems.

I knew about the Limeburners from the GBG recently but in fact had been told about it by a couple we met in the Turf Tavern in Bloxwich about 5 years ago. I had remembered the conversation, but only the description, I only knew the pub they told me about was in Lancashire and has some sort of boiling or burning or melting in its name. Fruitless searches of the Internet for the smelters, leadboilers and similar resulted in nothing until the Limeburners appeared in the 2011 GBG. Thank God it did.

The atmosphere was convivial, the locals and landlord friendly, and the pub was every bit as unchanged as I had hoped. However, unfortunately we had to leave about 20.30 for the long drive back to Sheffield, satisfied with our days travelling and the fact that we had got to visit the excellent Limeburners.

What I found out based on this trip was there was a predominance of expensive pubs and malty light flavoured beer in North Lancashire, (and Cumbria)  in fact, the Lancaster Black was by far the strongest beer I saw all day. Its not fair to make a full assessment of the "scene" on the basis of this limited visit, but I think on my next foray we might want to try a few more free houses to see if the pricing, and range of styles and strengths improves.

And we definitely want to get back in the Limeburners again!

Wee Beefy.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Continuing excellence

Now then,

     following on from my Tuesday epiphany, I returned to abstinence on Wednesday then back to reckless abandon as I careered towards the weekend.

My indulgence started with a meal. Not my usual way of supping, usually I find that eating interferes with the process of ale consumption but, albeit after a pint, I was starting with a meal at the Rutland Arms on Brown Street.

I knew thew food here was excellent based on every time I had eaten there but that doesn't help explain my lack of foody visits, and the dearth of minutes partaking in joyous mastication at its tables. I started with a pint of Dark star Sunbeam or similar - alas Dark Star do two ales with Summer in the name, and one of them, which I don't particularly care for, has ginger or something similarly wrong in it. This was it. perfectly kept, but doing nothing for me. Humph.

Instead I went for the excellent Welbeck Abbey Brewery King Tom(?) red ale, and ordered what, from the ingredients alone, appeared to be a dream meal. Ignoring the somewhat unfortunate name (Sports Pork? I'll get me Profanisaurus) I was bowled over by the suggested parts and ordered it without a second thought. Heeley City Farm boar loin with mushroom and black pudding mash, peas, carrots and red cabbage in an excellent possibly ale gravy. And it was only £8.00. Stupendous value.

I had another Welbeck here but all too soon my companion for the night Middlemarch, was struggling and had to go home. So I went to the Sheffield Tap for a couple of halves.

Tempest Into the Light, 4.1% and an excellent Great Heck Porter were my liquid companions here, and both were fine ales, although I concede I much preferred the roasty bite of the excellent porter. Great heck are a brewery who's beers I have long enjoyed but recent offerings, especially those with the distinct pumpclips, have been rewarding.

Dada provided my finishing flourish, more excellent McConnells came my way, as did the fine company of the Jims. There was a singer on, which was mildly annoying in terms of conversational quality, but he wasn't too bad. Several pints of McConnells passed my lips before I opted for a half of the Schlenkerla, by way of comparison.

I was also forced, on pain of death, by the Jims, to sup a half of the Chiron. I accept its a punchy hoppy pale beer that's not too strong but I still had to let it stand for 20 minutes to start getting the flavours. I'm not sold on this!

I also popped in the Riverside recently. Spiro was leaving for pastures new and I joined him and his mates for a pint or two. The beer range can be very good at the Riverside, but there can be a reliance on samey Brew Company output and also much of the range is unavailable! I mentioned I hadn't seen or tried the Freedom Stout - then noticed the glass on the dispense and conceded that this situation would remain unchanged.....

Sat outside under the shelter proved very enjoyable (especially when a wall of rain fell), and I enjoyed a pint of Crouch Vale Summer Breeze. Alas this ran out after my pint so I migrated to Brew Co Summer instead, which was a decent golden pint.

Round the corner I popped in the Fat Cat. Having a funding malfunction I had cleverly arrived hungry, with enough for either a half, or a pork pie. I wanted both. I opted for a half of the Salamander Warpath 4.5% stout in the end. I didn't stop long, but loitering with intent in the hallway I spotted seminal starlets Alison and Diane, and redoubtable bar wizard Steven.

It was great catching up with all three, Diane taking time out for a chat in the corridor. It's no exaggeration to say that I cut my drinking, erm, cliche finishers in here in the nineties, especially honing my solitary supping skills whilst on the dole (my other doley mates didn't want to squander their money on an afternoon or more likely dinnertime of pints, so I often ventured in alone). That I could still wander in and find the familiar friendly faces of the team makes the Fat Cat a must visit pub, even if I accept that I go in less now tan I did when I was broke.

Shakespeares was my final call on this occasion, and I was pleased once again with the choice on the bar. A half of the Salamander (again), a pork pie and a pint of the excellent Brass Castle Bad Kitty vanilla stout secured a card payment, and I settled down to a read and a long and interesting chat with Dave in the bar about photography.

The Bad kitty is a little heavy (I only had a pint and a half) but is so luxuriously fine as to warrant savouring every last delicious drop. For the second time in a week I was in Shakespeares contemplating the practicalities of draining an entire cask of a beer by myself. Luckily I was more sensible than that and was home before 21.00.

Finally, I am going to Lancashire with WF tomorrow so need to be up early. I hope to write on Sunday about my trip to the Limeburners Arms in Nether Kellet. I have wanted to go there for about 18 months, but I am worried that whenever I want to visit an unspoilt pub, one outcome usually prevails - it shuts. Finding that the number does not exist earlier doesn't fill me with confidence.

Lets hope this isn't another unspoilt treasure that I miss.

More news soon

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Not another fined mess


    now regular readers may wish to admonish me or mumble under their breath in dissatisfaction at the fact that my detox and stop at home money saving plan lasted only 2 days. However, any such scathing disapproval would only prevent you from sharing in my joy at drinking two utterly faultless beers last night, in ideal surroundings. So forgive me, and allow me to tell you why breaking my abstinence was so worth it...

I left work with a significant thirst after a day of frustration and poorly executed projects by those above me. I decided to go straight to Shakespeares Ale and Cider House on Gibraltar Street, not five minutes away (well, literally, if you walk slowly) without even stopping to secure myself some cash first.

Having checked the card machine was working, I selected a pint, a half of somethiong strong and a packet of crisps. It came to a fiver. Myself and the lass behind the bar were impressed, and I paid on card and got some cashback. I realise I may have mentioned this before, but giving cash back, especially in the form of for example, charging £12.80 for a pint and giving a tenner back, is simply good business sense. Punters stop around longer, and assuming they purchase more beer, don't pay by card thereby saving you the transaction fee...

Anyhoo, todays business lesson aside, lets talk about the incredible beer.

Revolutions Brew Demo, 4.5% unfined late hopped ale. A glorious amber, possibly slightly chectnut ale which, was crystal clear. Initially I was disappointed about this. However, my sense of let down evaporated, after one swig told me straight away I had picked the best beer on the bar. As my visit continued, it became obvious that I had probably picked the best beer on any bar, anywhere, on that night.

Demo drinks so easily as to be embarrassing. There is a distinct and pleasing nutty flavour lurking in the bitterness which I swear I have detected in unfined beer before. That its colour is so glorious maybe an anomaly, since I was expecting a cloudy offering, but it was suggested to me that the finings weren't there to clear the beer, rather to keep the yeast at the bottom. Arguably, one is the same as the other -  I found out though that the beer had been in the cellar at Shakespeares for a good while. So you could suggest that all the "matter" i.e. yeast and hop debris had naturally settled to the bottom of the cask.  I still don't understand if or how that could have contributed to the beer being so damned amazing though....

Five minutes after my first purchase, without even having entertained the idea of starting to sup my half of Raw Pacific Ghost, 5.9%, I was back at the bar using my tenner to purchase a sarnie and another pint of Demo. This time I had to force myself not to drink Demo until I had finished my Raw beer. It was a very enjoyable and impressively balanced hoppy beer in itself, but it possibly didn't receive a fair assessment in the face of the competition.

All too soon I was once again delighting in the absurdly pleasing quaffability of the tremendous Demo. Had I the money, time and physical capacity, I think I would have drunk the beer until it ran out. It was that good. That it was also safe to drink plenty at a sensible 4.5% made it all the more satisfying. An unrivalled start to any night's drinking.

I was off oop troad next to pop in Dada as Tuesday's demand. The two other Tuesday regulars were in and we chatted about darker beers, mild at the Temple, and the National Inventory of Unspoilt Pub Interiors. On the bar there were no guests, which would normally annoty me immensely, but I didn't care, because they were selling Thornbridge McConnells. Which is bloody excellent. I haven't drunk it since December, and it was well worth the wait.

Plenty of Thornbridge favourites have fallen from grace recently for me. Most notably Kipling, Jaipur and for a while now, Lord Marples. So to find McConnells in such fantastic form was reason to celebrate. And I did so by buying several pints of the wonderful drink.

The enjoyment of my visit was enhanced by chatting with beer genius Emily and James, the youngest man in the world. There are times I have been to Dada and been non-plussed about the beer, but not minded in the face of excellent company. I have already written at length about why I like the place so I won't go over old ground, but its safe to say that my trip there, on this occasion of beer excellence, was the perfect end to the evening.

This year has seen me bowled over and blown away by Brodies Citra, Red Willow Faithless, Magic Rock Bearded Lady Bourbon Cask and Magic 8 Ball, Blue Monkey BG Sips (again), Steel City 666, Dark Star Saison and now Revolutions Brew Demo.

It looks like I've nearly settled on my top ten beers of 2012....

Wee Beefy

Monday, 17 September 2012

Learning to blog

Now then,

    I almost feel I should apologise for this in a way, because I have no news to report from the world of Sheffield pubs and beer, breweries or bottled products. I overstretched my budget, and T Shirts, in an unjustifiable orgy of self indulgence over the last 3 weeks, and now I need to get a grip and have a break. So now for the come-down.

Luckily, on the day I returned to the peculiar world of work, I was cheered by seeing another blogging stats milestone passed, and was, I admit, quite pleased with my efforts. So I decided to have a quick look at some of my older posts to see what the actual number of page views were, since Blogger finds this infinitely confusing for some reason.

In doing so, not only did I confirm my suspicion that I hadn't blogged about beer in 2008 (which Blogger tells me I did on the all time history stats) but I also got to see a couple of great examples of my faltering steps in the world of blogging, thus :

*A post with no title, or indeed, any tags. (although it did generate some hits, somehow...)
*A post simply titled "Welsh Wandering" (part 1 of a 5 parter which, erm, I only wrote 2 parts for...)
*The second post about Wales, ingeniously titled "More Welsh Wandering", this time with a tag - "Welsh Wandering"

And, my absolute favourite.

A post entitled "Big lad goes for a walk"
With no tags
And 2 pageviews.
And I know who they are.

I laughed at my own ineptitude. It was humbling.

So please can I ask that you don't ruin the magic of my aimlessness by searching out that post and increasing the number of views beyond 2....

Thanks all

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sheffield beers and bars news


     over the last few days, with my well earned break drawing to a a close, I have been out and about at some of my regular haunts, and some less well known, sampling what Sheffield has to offer.


Thursday saw me meet Brazilian football legend Janinio for a few pints. We started at Shakespeares, where she was on the Timmermans, and I started with ever reliable Deception. It always manages to be a great place for a catch up, with plenty of good beer.

The prime example of which was an excellent collaboration brew from two of my favourite breweries, Revolutions and excellent newcomers Brass Castle. Their dry Cool for Cats stout was one of my beers of the week, and just to make sure, I had a couple of pints of it. Although dry as I said, it had a roasted malt bitterness followed by a satisfying smooth creaminess, which matched my expectations of these two good breweries output.


Later we escaped to a different type of quiet in Dada, witnessing a stellar staffing line up of Emily, Steph and James. On the bar, once again, was the excellent Saltaire Cascadian Black which once more I had several pints of, although I also had a half of the Schlenkerla Rauchbier so that Janinio could try it, and which she seemed to quite like.

To my initial annoyance there was a "band" playing a mainly acoustic set later on, but I didn't mind too much as it gave me chance to take some pictures whilst enjoying the beer.

Cold Lazarus

I was back in again on Friday after the food fest bar had closed. This time the band was on over a few hours so there was less chance to chat at the bar, i.e. none. However, the band were very good (pictured above) and I managed to secure a decent spot to take pics and enjoy more Cascadian Black and a bit too much Schlenkerla. I still much prefer a quiet Tuesday or Wednesday but my late night visit made a nice change.

Sheffield Tap

I was in briefly Friday afternoon to meet Fluffy for a quick pint before he headed off to Manchester, to, amongst other things, find some despairingly poor pubs near Piccadilly. At the Tap it was Ilkley in the main, both the Sunny Republic and the Kirkstall Three Swords went off whilst I was there. I had two pints of the delicious Ilkley Dark, plus a rather odd cloudy half of their Dinner Ale, which states on the pumpclip is brewed to an original 1884 recipe.

It was nice to sit outside in the sun drinking dark beer, and also a good opportunity to try more of the Ilkley offerings on cask, which you very rarely seem to see.

The Sheffield Brewers Co-operative Craft Marquee, Sheffield food fest, Saturday.

On the premise of meeting some folks from the world of the Internet, and of course to warn up (literally) for the beer festival later, I was in  a packed Peace Gardens around 14.00. There were queues at the bar for most of the time I was there, and the combination of crowds, stalls and delicious Sheffield real ales proved quite a draw, especially with the warm sunshine.

This time I was back on the Blue Bee Glitterati, and chatting to Andy from the brewery. I also had halves of Welbeck West Australian (and a pint as well) and their Red Feather. Alas, the only dark beer, Kelham Island Back to Black, ran out as I was buying Andy a pint. Doh!

One of the good things about this visit was that it afforded me the chance to study the festival programme, albeit mainly to assess what I was about to or had already missed, and also to unexpectedly bump into quite a few people - Fluffy was there, because his Mum got married in the Town Hall (so I am on a wedding pic!) as was Lou, and despite missing Redpola, I spotted Badpandabeers and MissieCindz from the world of Twitter. Real people eh? Donchajussluvvum?

It was also nice to see some more brewers behind the bar, although there were a lot there Saturday who'd done a shift Friday as well. Well done to them for finding the time to put in the hours behind the bar.

Some, but not all, of Sheffield's brewing nobility

Alas this dreamy sun-kissed drinking could not last, and I had to leave for the beer festival, but I can safely say that I have seen enough from this years Sheffield Food Festival to warrant a much more involved visit next year. Lets hope the breweries bar makes a return appearance as well.

That's all the news I have for now, stay thirsty and all the best

Wee Beefy.

The 4th Sheffield RUFC Beer & Cider Festival


       I'm coming to the end of my three weeks off now, back to the unseemly drag of generating pay on Monday, but I have finished off my celebrations and relaxation with a trip to the Abbeydale Rugby Club beer festival.

I arrived after 17.00, a bit later than planned, due to some classic First Group incompetence - no 97 or 98's for over half an hour - then 3 came at once. Luckily, some time was saved by now knowing the correct bus stop to get off at. It was interesting to note that this year the SRUFC had excelled themselves by having ABSOLUTELY no signs whatsoever about where the festival was, or even its existence. It was only because I'd been before that I had any inkling where to go.

I'm not really sure I understand the idea of "enticing" new visitors by being invisible, but it seemed busy, if not as much as it could be, although far fewer of the customers seemed to be from outside the family of the Rugby and Sports club.

It was also smaller than last year, with a slightly reduced range, but as promised, the prices remained the same, which is an admirable achievement, and it cost precisely nothing to get in. Tickets were 4 halves at £1.25 which were marked off as you went through. A brilliantly simple procedure that required no tills, and importantly, no confusion or small change. And the volunteer staff behind the bar were cheerful and helpful throughout, as they were last year.

Old Stock Ale - inspirational

I started on a half of the Dancing Duck Dark Drake, which I had really enjoyed at the Exeter Arms on my last two visits. It didn't disappoint, and dark beers were to be the signature of my drinks for the night. Next, I finally got to try the excellent Abbeydale Old Stock. Not as brown as I was expecting, with a slightly amber colour, and some tremendous malt, caramel and spirit alcohol flavours that reminded me, as it should have, of a good quality aged beer. Unfortunately, at 6.9%, this was my only taster - I intended to remain compus-mentus for the event as far as was possible.

Next up was the Elland Nettlethrasher, a beer that has come through more brewery name incarnations than I care to remember (I seem to recall the first was as Eastwoods, along with Ecky Thump - anyone concur?). It was a decent enough bitter, with some hoppiness, maybe requiring a tad more.

Men. Talking about stuff.

I also tried a Blue Bee Rugbee Rugbee Rugbee, launched at the festival last year, and which was ironically a drink that a third of was spilt down me by some rugby players forming a scrum in the tiny bar tent. Thanks nobheads. A good tasting beer though, and one of a brace that I had before settling on my beer of the night - the other being the tasty Spire Chesterfield Best Bitter.

Said offering was the excellent Raw Dark Peak Stout. Without the usual Black Mass to slowly remove me from proceedings I opted for a sensible strength (4.5%) dark beer to finish on - I think I had 3 fantastic pints in all. A cracking way to round off my drinking, until the next time...

Thanks to Blue Bee Rich, the authoress K E Page from the world of writing, Geoff, Wee Keefy, Carlos, Half Pint, Lauren and finally my fellow Dark Star attired tweeter T_i_B, from the world of the Internet, for their company and chat during my enjoyable 5 hour stint. I even made it out for the bus in perfect time and was home for a much needed feed before midnight.

Roll on the 5th event, hopefully, for first time punters sakes, with some signage...


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Sheffield Food Festival 2012 - its a beer thing...


    its true that in fact, the Sheffield Food Festival 2012 (not the Sheffieled, as I typed yesterday whilst hungover!) is still on, throughout today and into Sunday, but I don't have time to wait for all that to happen! This is hot news so I'm going to throw it out there early....

So, this is my first year visiting the food festival. I never really heard about it before, perhaps because if its about the same time each year am usually on holiday or thinking about Sheffield beer festival, a far beery-er and potentially finer event, I'm sure you'll agree.

This year, I understand in contrast to previous years, the main draw is a Sheffield Breweries Co-operative Craft Beer Marquee, in a tent in the Peace Gardens. Now its important to get ones sniggering out of the way early on,  at the hilariously ironic concept of freely available alcohol in the Peace Gardens, which of course unlike the rest of the week, its not being drunk from green plastic bottles by outdoor lager enthusiasts. Oh no, this comes in, albeit plastic, glasses, and is served by the brewers themselves. What's not to love?

A brewers dozen. Minus 3.

The beer tent features , according to the website link here and as seen with my own eyes, beers from nine Sheffield breweries, and there are tutored beer tastings and information about the ingredients and processes used.

For reasons of pedantry its important to set straight a few anomalies here. For instance, Welbeck Abbey brewery, no matter how generous your interpretation, isn't in Sheffield. Its also worth noting that the Sheffield food fest website described the tent as a marque, not a marquee, and also that erstwhile Sheffield brewing giants On The Edge Brewery, Little Ale Cart and Steel City Brewing weren't represented. But lets not get tangled up in facts. As regular readers will know, I rarely let them encroach on my writing...

Last night there was Rich from Blue Bee, Dan from Abbeydale, Pete from the Brew Company, Mick (I didn't speak to this gentleman, so hopefully someone identified him correctly) from Kelham Island, and Alison from the new Wood Street Brewery. All but Rich were behind the bar, on which there were a selection of ingredients, some instantly familiar and some less so, for smelling, and I assume tasting, although I wasn't tempted to try.

Dave can sense crystal malt and fuggles nearby...

The crystal malt interested me straight away (indeed, I did spot Dave U, above, from Steel City Brewing, and I reckon it was the presence of crystal malt on the bar that forbid his and Steel City Brewing's involvement) and I quickly identified that smell. Sorry, that's not very professional. I mean, aroma. For ease of recognition, Pete had brewed a beer (with a red label, I didn't have the heart to tell him I couldn't read the bugger) which I tried, and it did, indeed, taste of the caramelly, slightly sweet crystal I had in front of me. He explained to me about the different colour of malts, and how the roasting process caramelises the malt, lending, I think, that distinct flavour.

The sample of fuggles hops was less obvious. Not as much aroma by a long way, as with the maris otter, which reminded me very faintly of biscuits, and without an obvious single varietal example on offer, it was very difficult to translate the aroma into a beer flavour. On the other hand, just one whiff of the dried citra hops told me straight away that I was back drinking the matchless Brodies Citra. A powerful pungent aroma which just said refreshment.

Speaking of which, whilst at the bar of course, it would have been rude not to have had some beer. I started with a half of the Yellow Wood IPA from Wood Street, which was OK, but lacked the hoppiness I and it, craved, as well as two excellent pints of the Blue bee Glitterati. It was nice to taste it again in the sobering environment of the festival - I describe it thus because somebody turned up in a short sleeved shirt. It was chuffing perishing.

I finished on a half of Back to Black from Kelham Island. It was just about the only dark beer on (I understand suppliers were encouraged to only supply pale beer, which is presumably down to Sheffielders love of pale beers, but not exactly complimentary about the scope of our collective palates) and went down a treat. Alas, it did nothing to warm me up.....

Unfortunately, planning has not been my forte of late so I hadn't considered that in fact the bar may close quite early. That being 20.00. And this, after having arrived at 17.00 to find most of the food stalls winding down for the day (although I did get an excellent sausage butty from the Whirlow Hall Farm BBQ, and not a bad price at £2.50, which couldn't be said of the absurd costs in some of the more exotic stalls) proved to be my undoing. I did manage 2 hours schmoozing with brewing nobility, but I really will have to pop back again today en route to the Abbeydale Rugby Club beer festival. There are still a lot of stalls and products that I fancy trying.

So, that's all the gen I have on the Sheffield Food festival 2012 for now, more precisely the all important beer tent! Many thanks to the brewers I met for their advice and company, and beers. (and apologies to any foodies reading this, I concede I didn't really go into the whole "food" aspect of the festival very much...or at all)

In conclusion, with the weather promising to warm up today I think the peace gardens will be an enjoyable venue for a pint this afternoon, maybe to accompany some fresh hot food. I'd warmly recommend a visit. And don't forget the Abbeydale RUFC beer festival...


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Wee Beefy's beer roundup


     I have been out and about a little lately, flexing my drinking muscles on my week off. Heres some of what I've encountered....


The venerable Da was quiet as is often the case, Jamie was dispensing drinks and conversation from behind the bar and James milled around busily in the background. Thornbridge Jaywick was available, but a little heavy at 5.9% to start, and the night was to be remembered mainly for the excellent Saltaire Cascadian Black. The beer had been poor at the Bath but was its usual excellent self here, bursting with hops and creamy dark malt for a lovely finish.

I tried the Jaywick next and in comparison to the Saltaire it was a little disappointing, but it was still an enjoyable beer in itself. I also had a half of the excellent (albeit keg) Schlenkerla Rauchbier which was likewise in great form, as well as the cask Wild Swan which was admirable. I then had several more Saltaire...

Apart from excellent company and chatter from the Jims I also had a taste of the new Puja Jasmine Pale from Thornbridge. Not exacly sold on it first time, I was horrified to discover it now tasted of raita dip! I don't know what they did with the already debatable merits of the recipe but this was a hugely unpleasant offering. When you brew beer that tastes of yoghurt based dips you've crossed a line gents, seriously.


Earlier that day I'd had good beer in the guise of half of the excellent Blue Bee Lustin for Stout at the Three Cranes. I had nipped in for a quick half and was dismayed to discover that the Lustin warranted another go - alas I had no time....

Rutland via the Internet

I had noticed that the Rutland was selling Potbelly Beijing Black,  Magic Rock Curious and SWB Diablo, whilst fannying about on social media earlier that day. True to their word I arrived at 15.00 to find all 3 available, plus the immeasurable quality of Great Heck Yakima IPA at 7.4 %.

I started on the excellent (if cloudy) Magic Rock Curious which was potentially a little drier than I remembered  but still delicious. I then had the Potbelly Beijing Black. This is the third time I have tried the beer lately and I have always been underwhelmed. The beer was a little sharp with what I subtly described as a strawberry or cherry finish - euphemistic beer parlance for it being on its way out.

A further Magic Rock pint followed, and then, having dallied with the idea of a pint of Dark Arts, instead I went for a half of the fantastic Great Heck Yakima IPA. This was a refreshing citrussy bitter pale beer with perhaps too much alcohol given its easy drinking qualities, and the bitterness was complimentary, not jarring. An excellent beer. Just a shame the Blue Bee Nectar and Bees Knees were so poor, as I was looking forward to finishing on the Bee.


I haven't been in the Sheffield Tap for seemingly yonks so decided to pop in. I was richly rewarded with a range of ales from Ilkley brewery and others, so went for halves of Sunny Republic Hop Dog, Kirkstall Pale Ale and a pint of the tremendously enjoyable Ilkley Stout Mary, 4.5% oatmeal stout. I have only ever had lower gravity Ilkley beers and have sometimes been a little underwhelmed but this was just the right balance of flavour, body and weight.

Whilst there I bumped into John the barman from the Wellington, who was in for a quick half on his way home. It was good to get his angle on Keykeg, and real ale, and, erm, drunk bloggers who misidentify their work colleagues whilst in the Wellington......


Off next to the criminally under patronised venue which is the Blake. I got in after 18.00 so was worried that I would have no chance for food but mercifully pies were to hand - so I bought two. It was in the end only a short stop in here, although it did afford me the pleasure of finding that the Kolsch that they sell is called Gaffel. So that mystery is cleared up.

I had a pint of the Wood Street Brewery Ebony Stout, a bit of an odd choice since I was heading their next, but I wanted to compare and contrast. It was a decent roasty dark pint, if unexceptional.

Hillsborough, The

I was down in the pub before long and thinking over what to have. The bar staff recommended their new Wood Street offering which was brewed with honey and am afraid its name somehow escaped my memory. It really wasn't my thing at all, but that's not to say it was a bad beer, it was perfectly well kept, just too poorly balanced for my taste. The staff seemed quite shocked that I had bucked the trend of punters liking it!

Instead, having tried the Beijing Black which was dire, I went for a pint of their Wood Street Brewery Gold, a rich golden, maybe a bit amber bitter which was very easy drinking at 4.1%, and a steal at £2.20 a pint, as is their bitter. I sat outside at the back with some gents talking about Crete and  holidays, having been invited to join them on the only dry seats.

On coming back in I had just enough time and funds for half of the Ebony Stout which I have to say was better than at the Blake, much more rounded and satisfying, and only £2.50 a pint at 5.0% once again represents good value. It was noticeable and perhaps a little disconcerting that the pub was really quiet. After myself and the three blokes I'd been talking to left there was probably only the couple stood at the bar throughout and some people in the room on the left.

I hope the Hillsborough does well, but I think it could be testimony to just how poor the beers had become at the previous incarnation, The Hillsborough Hotel, that people may still be staying away in protest. Either way I hope trade picks up for them.

So, all in all an interesting few visits to some cracking pubs with some truly excellent and despairingly woeful beer along the way. Hopefully wherever I get to with my Brazillian football star friend Janinio later will provide us with a flawless clean sweep of excellent ale!

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Erm, do I want to be known for this?


    just had a chuckle.

I noticed a particular referring site when assessing my "audience/referrals" stats on Blogger, yer know, how one does, to see who is interested in your posts. Seeing "webwiki" I was quite pleased as I assumed it was linked to Wikipedia and therefore atrributed me a certain level of Kudos...

Except no. The website described this blog thus : - Wee Beefy's beer and pub blog

The website is about Blog, Beer, Pub and Wee. is little known and stands for Wee Beefy s beer and pub blog.
Keywords: blog beer pub wee

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Devil's in the detail


    I have to stifle a snigger when I read the phrase of the title because its one of many I have attributed to "management" at my employer, and is therefore, of course, to be used sarcastically, and to mock the inconsistencies of messages received from such people.

How apt then, that this cliche applies to bottle conditioned beer labelling, what I see plenty of.

I know from years of experience of Bottle Conditioned Beers (BCA), that there's a tried and tested formula to avoiding fountains, fobbing, foam and frustration. Admittedly this formula relies on the product being drinkable, and Christ, that's a whole other story, but for now I am concentrating on beers you can, or at least could, drink.

I usually chill the BCA in the fridge for half an hour, then let it come back to room temperature. That way its less lively on opening but can still be drunk less chilled if desired. Yet only recently have I noticed any suggestion on BCA bottle labels that the beer should be served cool, or that it could be lively. Here is a range of advice found across a number of excellent bottles, giving mixed messages to the consumer:

Brampton Winter Bock, one of the best bottled beers I tried this year, simply advises that for best results the beer should be "served cooled but not cold, at between 12 and 14 degrees Centigrade".

The Durham Jubilate India Pale Ale advises "Serve at 10 degrees C. This beer may be lively so have a glass to hand when opening". Their 2010 vintage of Temptation advises only "do not serve below 8 degrees C.", and the May 2007 vintage advises that to enjoy the full complexity of flavour it is "best not to chill".

Thornbridge Islay cask reserve stout, bottled 2006, advises only that you "store upright in a dark cool place and pour carefully". Their Alliance sherry cask strong ale, confirms that the bottle contains champagne yeast, and instructs the drinker to "age upright in a cool dark place and pour slowly to allow the natural sediment to remain in the bottle".

Dunham Massey Porter is significantly less verbose and states only that the beer should be served between 12-13 C.

Meanwhile Blue Anchor Spingo advises to "serve slightly chilled and pour with care".

George Gales Prize Old Ale advises "stand for some hours at room temperature" and then, "carefully withdraw the cork and pour slowly"

And finally, Penlon Stock Ram Stout, advises you put the bottle in the fridge for 30 minutes before opening as it is lively! Hurrah! Some decent advice at last! *

The problem with these mixed messages comes when a lack of info results in a poor drinking experience for the consumer. Because the only consistent message seems to be to drink at 8-14 degrees C., and to pour carefully. Only the Spingo (which is an unfailingly dire BCA) suggests chilling to any extent, along with the Penlon beers. The Gales advice is quite detailed, which is ironic, considering how unsophisticated their sherry like offering was, but crucially none of the stronger ales including those you are positively encouraged to age, make any proviso for the obvious result of natural carbonation from the live yeast. Why?

BCA is already a seriously maligned concept suffering from terrible practitioners and poor retailer knowledge. As this shows, a lack of useful labelling advice potentially exacerbates the problem. The label is the producers last chance to influence the consumer's drinking experience, so, whilst label space is limited, maybe include words along the lines of "this beer is conditioned naturally in the bottle and can be lively on opening. For best results please open the bottle chilled to reduce the carbonation. The beer can then be left to reach room temperature, allowing you to fully appreciate the flavours."?

OK, so there's no career for me writing succinct bottle instructions, but the label content is a manageable factor for producers in their products journey to the glass, and easier to control than elements such as the vagaries of staff and retailer knowledge.

Some BCA's don't need chilling. Very few. If chilling reduces the likelihood of more indefensible fountains of failure, then surely that's good advice to impart?

Wee Beefy

*amusingly, Wee Fatha keeps all his BCA's in his "chilled" hallway (non scientific, not always accurate). Without reading the Penlon label I went to open the bottle from the hall at the table, since, last time, there had been a war of attrition between me and Wee Keefy and Wee Fatha to persuade him to refrigerate a wheat beer, which he vehemently opposed as beer "shouldn't need to go in the fridge". And when the Penlon escaped in foam all over his table? He said " you should have put that in the fridge". Thanks for that. The Devil's in the detail it seems....

Monday, 10 September 2012

Try the Internet - you'll love it...

Afternoon all,

    Keeping everyone up to date using social media and conventional websites is an incredibly useful tool - so why, one wonders, is it underutilised and poorly executed?

This may seem a bit rich coming from a social mediaphobe who didn't join Faceache until last year and whom has only been Twitting since April, but you can't learn about something without being exposed to it and what I have seen is quite encouraging.

For example, I noticed a Tweet from the Harlequin, announcing they would be shut for a 24 hour period for maintenance. Similarly, the excellent 3 Tuns in Hallowes, Dronfield tweeted that they wouldn't be serving food as normal on Sunday. All useful to know.

On a more instantaneous note, numerous pub beer festivals I have attended have often updated beers coming on via Twitter, or indeed just what is on the bar at any given time. All this info is useful to me as a customer, (and as a blogger/someone who may have the time and funds available to a pub specially) and may be the deal breaker on whether or not I visit.

And, of course, being online is useful for confirming current OPENING TIMES as happened with the Bulls Head at Belper Lane Ends back in July (particularly beneficial considering I had to travel by horse drawn omnibus for some considerable distance to fit in my planned visit). Meanwhile offers and events are well publicised on social media, resulting in visits that would otherwise perhaps not have been made.

I realise this is a bit no shit Sherlock, and I'm not saying that all eventualities can be covered just by being online, but being so and providing accurate information does help, and is a great generator of trade.

I also recognise not every pub would benefit from a social media account or website, I'm thinking the Royal Cottage in the Staffordshire Moorlands here (in fact, interestingly, any expectations I have of a pub being unspoilt are usually shattered upon my discovering they have a website at all, but I digress) but if pub owners and landlords and breweries do set up an online facility, in whatever form, for God's sake keep it updated!

Websites for pubs that have closed, websites that only show summer opening hours (when its winter), websites last updated in 2007, websites that list real ales coming soon when the site seemed new and interesting but which haven't listed any since, and worse still, Twitter and Facebook accounts that aren't used. Aaaaaaagh!

What could be easier than logging on and posting a message or update?

I'll leave you with a great example from NCP car parks about how to completely fail to get the most out of online content  - in 2008 we visited Edinburgh and needed to park near to the B&B which had no such facility. The NCP Car Parks website told us where its nearest venue was, and we drove there. It had been demolished. What a tremendously impressive utilisation of the Internet that was.

In short, don't forget the rules :

Don't look stupid. Keep it updated. Your customers Need You!


Wee Beefy

Open No Hours


        I thought I might write a word or 200 about opening hours today. My indignation at standing in front of a closed Coach and Horses in Dronfield is still raw, and, I appear to be failing to "get over it" but there's history here. Not just in terms of inexplicable Coach and Horses closings, but also in my whole drinking and particularly beer travel experiences, over the years.

Here, by way of cathartic naming and shaming and general bad tempered mardiness, is a list of some of the choicest examples :

Cherry Tree, Stoke Row Oxfordshire c1999: before this became a homogenised Brakspear eatery with a bar, (along with the also formerly excellent before it became a restaurant Crooked Billet not far away), the Cherry Tree was in the GBG and described as an unspoilt traditional pub. We were on a whistle stop tour of the area, and rang them two days prior to confirm their opening hours. They closed at 15.00, but as long as we were there by 5 to it was flexible so we'd get served. We arrived at 14.45 to find them locking the door.

King William 4th, Ipsden, Oxfordshire c1999: Also on the above trip I wanted, having somehow found the Black Horse at Checkendon, the challenge of finding this pub which the 2001 GBG states opens 11-14.30 Saturdays. We rang two days in advance to check and arrived at 14.00 to find it closed.

King John Inn Tollard Royal Wiltshire 2004 - used to be in the GBG, advertised conservative but prevalent rural opening hours of 12-15.00 when we were there (as well as on the board on the wall of the pub). We arrived at 14.20 to see a large A frame outside saying "customers wanted". Happy to oblige, we went inside to find the manager with the keys heading off out. When we queried why he was shutting early when we would have wanted to come in for a few pints  he said it was because he was going out. Couldn't wait that extra 40 minutes it seemed.

Royal Oak, Ledbury, Herefordshire 1995/6 the brewery tap for the Ledbury Brewery this was quite a large building which sold the Ledbury Brewery Ales and their hard to get beer mats. It was meant to be open (all day if memory serves, but, erm, its yonks ago) and we found it at just gone 13.00 with no signs of life. We noticed that the licensee was milling around and we asked when he opened, which was later that evening, and when we asked if we could come in for a few pints, which would not require him to put the lights on even, he said it "wasn't worth the effort and cost".

Grainstore Brewery Tap, Oakham, Rutland 2007(ish). I admit I didn't believe the GBG when it stated that the pub opened at 10.00 on a Sunday because that's very rare but we had a lot to fit in so arriving at 10.30 this would have been a useful first stop. The lights were on. The staff were in and working. To all intents and purposes the pub was open. But you couldn't go in because they didn't officially open until 11.00. Saving who what, one wonders? Note : I can't find the offending GBG, so it could have been a typo, but GBG 2006, 8,9,10 and 11 have its Sunday opening hours swapping between 11-11 and 12-14.30 in that period.

These are just 5 great examples of the determination of licensees, managers, landlords or tenants to steadfastly shut the doors and not serve pesky customers, with their "cash" and other inconveniences. I'm well aware that there are costs associated with opening the pub (but then, why not keep one room locked and rely on sun/natural light, like the Gate at Troway?) but in my experience the better pubs let you in early if that's the issue or stay open until their advertised hours have passed, or remain open when someones in. Remember, there is no greater persuasion in the mind of the drinker than the spectre of expectation. Fail to sate that thirsty beast, and bad feeling prevails...

The long and the short of it is, I can't spend my money in your pub if the pub is shut, and if I am travelling from afar, or by infrequent public transport, and you are closed, then I will be annoyed and likely not come back.

That's my outlook - but am I being too rigid? Do I just need to get over it?

Or should I just avoid pubs with a Royal or agricultural theme to their name? I don't know, but as you can see from the dates above, I've definitely got over these experiences in the intervening years......

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Wee Beefy's Chesterfield wander

Now then,

    as with other weekend sojourns of late I didn't plan this particularly, nor indeed did I allow myself a whole day to do it, I just wanted to go somewhere new and enjoy some great beer. What with their proximity and easy access on a single bus route, Dronfield and Chesterfield seemed a good choice, especially since I was yet to sample the delights of the White Swan in Chesterfield. Here's what happened when I did.

I set off from town on the 15.30 number 43 to Dronfield, and after some initial confusion ended up paying for a return ticket. This, after I had explained I was going to Chesterfield and then making my way back via different stops. I still don't know even now if I bought the right ticket but I didn't have a problem being allowed to catch the bus so that all worked out fine.

First stop was a new pub to me, the Victoria in Dronfield. It was lovely and warm, but there was restricted sunny space n the beer garden. That said, I didn't want to be indoors on a day like this, so bought my pint of Framers Blonde (£2.95) from a choice of that and Banks and Hobgoblin and sat in the shade.

The Victoria is an L shaped pub with an L shaped bar and a telly in the right hand corner as you come in (keeping the attention of the punters as the football was on). There's also a long room on the left with a settee at the end, and outside is a smoking shelter and some tables. The Bradfield was a decent pint, a little cloudy but not to its detriment, and a nice start to my days drinking. 

Back on the bus after waiting in the hot sunshine I arrived in Chesterfield and found - warm cloud. All my concerns about awaiting my seat in the sun were allayed when I realised it was just dull, and the warmth was receding. Good job I came in shorts then...

First stop here was Coco bar on Station Approach. Its a little easier to see the seats for drinkers in daylight (although I would have felt awkward taking up a settee for 5 by myself), and I opted to sit at the bar and have a pint of Dancing Duck Ay Up.

This was a pleasant if unremarkable slightly sweet beer with some bitterness, from a choice of that and Thornbridge Lord Marples and Colorado Red. I also tried a half of the latter, to give it another go, and it was not much different to how I remembered it - too much of something not immediately obvious left a thick chewy slightly sweet beer that despite some admirable hoppiness was too poorly balanced to excite. It was also a little cloudy, which isn't the beers fault, or at least I assume not!

Off next to my intended destination the White Swan. Large bright and airy inside with a decent White Swan mosaic in the doorway, the important feature is the bar, which sits at the end of a long room with approximately 429 handpumps on it. Its immense. From the dazzling array on offer I decided to narrow it down to a dark beer so had the choice of Raw Anubis Porter, which I rate, and Buxton Black Nights, which I haven't had before. An offered taster confirmed that this was a seriously good beer, so I had a pint. The barstaff were friendly and helpful on all my trips to the bar, and given the diverse range of customers (lets just say many probably hadn't drunk real ale before) this is a great virtue for a pub to have.

I wandered outside initially but that was packed so picked a table facing the door on the raised seating area on your right as you come in. It soon became obvious I needed something to read whilst I supped, so sought out an Innspire. None to be found alas, and in an unfortunate twist, only fascist tory rags in the papers line, so I settled for a bottled beer list. This proved to be a good choice.

The first thing I noticed was Lion Stout from Sri Lanka. I haven't had it for years and had wondered if they were still brewing, so I ordered a bottle of that. Here's the next bonus - I paid on card (no lower limit) and was also able to get cash back, thus saving me a walk to the cashpoint, and encouraging me to spend more money in the pub. Are you listening pub owners? This is a radical idea!

Recently my fave pub the Rutland appeared to have set their lower limit for card purchases at £10.00. *

If I wanted a pint and a half and some crisps I could usually clear the old £5.00 limit but that's just ridiculous. Meanwhile I got a £4.00 bottled beer on my card in the White Swan and used the cash back to order a delicious meal. Everyone wins.

The menu showed there were further albeit even more expensive beers on offer from the U.S, U.K, Germany France and elsewhere (but only 2 saison? Come on!) but I noted the strength of the Lion and decided to opt fore  half of water instead of more bottled stuff, before I got a half of Raw NYC Pale which was a really interesting hoppy flavour and went down really well. I could easily have tempted myself with one of the many other ales on offer but was being sensible. Overall, a very good first impression of an excellent pub.

Off next for the bus and I was soon at my second Dronfield stop the Three Tuns. Its seems the more times I visit the more I like this place. It was rammed when I got in with another bewildering array of delights to tempt. I had J W King Brighton Blonde and a Spire Deepdale Pale for under £3.00 and sat down with a copy of Private Eye I found to read. The Kings was a bit light and lacked any discernible flavours but the Deepdale was excellent. I only had half an hour here though as I needed to catch the next 43.

J W King - an ale rarity oop ere

My penultimate stop was to have been the Coach and Horses. Getting off the bus on Sheffield Road I asked the driver if there was another bus (otherwise I'd have got back on, obviously) and he said yes, but it was another hour - and then waited, whilst I assured him I would find something to occupy me. Perhaps his pause was recognition of my next discovery.

I walked round the corner to find the Coach and Horses shut, at 21.30 on a Saturday. I stood, stared, muttered some strong and largely Anglo Saxon words, and walked back up towards the Victoria, livid. I could have wandered in the dark to see if their was an apologetic notice on the door but I was too annoyed at the 50% failure rate of the C&H to be open when I visit. Curiously for a Thornbridge associated pub (God, don't get me started on trying to understand the link, who knows) it doesn't have a website and its Facebook page is next to useless for info. So I couldn't even find out the opening hours in advance without calling them. Except, why would you expect to call a pub to see if they were open at 21.30 on a Saturday night? Who do they think they are, the Ale House Fraser Road?(now holding a world record for never being open).

Anyhoo I used my spare time to pop in Sainsburys for supplied then settled down in the Victoria, now with the landlord behind the bar, for another pint of Farmers Blonde and the hub-ub of conversation. The beer range may not be stellar but the atmosphere is traditional and friendly, and the pub wins a great slab of points for bothering to open.

I then waited for the 43 (it was 20 minutes late, which is palpably ridiculous) but it did get me to the Rutland for 2 minutes to 23.00 so I could pop in and find myself with just enough money for a pint of the Blue Bee Light Blue. Alas this wasn't really up to its usual standard, maybe it was getting a little low, but it was still a decent pint to finish and again the pub wins points for being open - which it then loses for its new minimum card payment limit. Cest la via...

So, a good afternoon and evening out in Derbyshire with the excellent White Swan taking the plaudits, closely followed by the Three Tuns and Victoria.


Wee Beefy

*Doh! A misunderstanding. Its a fiver. So yer pint, half and crisps should see you safe. WB