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.
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!