Archive for the ‘beer reviews’ Category
[Note: Tesco had 4 beers for the price of 3 and Funny Names was the first theme I spotted; previous entrant here.]
Ahh, if any beer name is good for a juvenile chuckle, it would have to be Deuchars. On the other hand, it has a smoked malt mouth that really earns the respect of a mature drinker. As an IPA, it has floral hints that are like honeysuckle but the hops also strip the fats of the snacks from the tongue. Consistently one of the best beers on the shelf or, now that the amusing name beer fest is over, I should say USED to be on the shelf. Time to restock.
[Note: Tesco had 4 beers for the price of 3 and Funny Names was the first theme I spotted; prior entrant here, next one here.]
Butcombe ales always make me snigger like a 13-year-old. The Brunel 200 IPA was very good, though, floral and citric with a bitter aftertaste like furniture wax solvents (the palate wants what it wants). With only one more left in the amusing name beer fest we have already done Old Peculiar Lech Butcombe.
[Note: Tesco had 4 beers for the price of 3 and Funny Names was the first theme I spotted; prior entrant here, next one here.]
The sofrito for the paella was cooking down (I let it go for 3 to 4 hours) and the movie, No Country for Old Men, was harrowing. The appetising odours, the west Texas landscape and the dramatic tension demanded chorizo and lager and, as luck would have it, both were hiding in the fridge. The lager, chosen for the amusing name, was Lech, a strong and bitter Polish brew.
So, thus far, it looks like Old Peculiar Lech are the theme for the day.
[Note: Tesco had 4 beers for the price of 3 and Funny Names was the first theme I spotted; next one here.]
Settling into an afternoon watching No Country For Old Men and cooking a pan full of paella, I cracked open a lovely bottle of Old Peculiar out of respect for my new place in racing society. How àpropos that this was the first beer of the amusing name beer festival. As viscous as milk and dark like swamp water, the flavour is complex and satisfying. At times like a mild and at others like a lighter bitter, this is one of my favourites to chop onions and crush garlic to.
Correct about the grapefruit notes, the back label is a bit wrong about the origins of the hop varieties used, both of which come from Washington State on the West Coast of the New World. The beer is quite nice despite the editorial sloppiness and rounds out my Adnams mini-festival quite nicely (earlier entries were Ghost Ship and Gun Hill). Now…back to work.
Agree with the ‘pithy bitterness’ and the citric highlights but the malt escaped my sad palate. Still, as the second of the Adnams gift bag I really had no complaints. Perfect way to recover from the Saturday shopping trip.
The run from the Plough in Great Haseley went past the Black Bull in Great Milton (which was closed) via some lovely paths through fields. From there, the trail was a busy, narrow track with high hedges at the verges–harrowing, no pun intended as I soon found myself at yet another Plough, this one in Wheatley.
And, lo-and-behold, they had XT beer on tap as well. This time it was a 6, deep ruby in colour and with a flavour evoking burnt chestnuts…much nicer than the 4 I had at the other Plough.
Running between pubs is thirsty work
This one reopened since the last time I passed through and it appears to be a fairly modern restaurant inside the ancient walls. Too swank for my sweaty ass, I politely retired to the garden to reflect on my runs.
I arrived a little before the five o’clock opening time and talked with the builders doing the architecturally sympathetic renovations/additions to the Plough in Great Haseley. It is a fantastic old house that the villagers bought just over a year ago and are still putting the finishing touches on.
I had an XT 4 when the landlord/manager popped out and invited me in. “You’ve had this before, then?” he asked in the terrifying way that someone asks when you order something exotic. “Er, no, and I DO like Doom Bar [the other ale] but I thought I’d give this a go.”
The 4 was a bit odd, citric like underripe lemons mixed with the peels of overripe oranges. It had a very astringent, turpentine-like finish and not a lot of depth but that all makes it sound very bad and it really wasn’t bad at all. The XT Brewery is run by a couple of dudes out in Thame, a few miles away and seem to be on good terms with several of the local bartenders.
The pub is something of a secret and frequented only by the villagers for the most part. The big addition at the back will house a large dining area and a modern kitchen but if you want to have a look before the crowds descend upon it I would encourage a visit soon.
A colleague went on a short holiday last week and I picked up the slack while she was gone; even though it is part of my job, she felt the need to say thanks with a bag full of Adnam’s beers. First out of the bag, Gunhill was very bitter and left the palette feeling clean from the astringence. Floral hops and none of the promised (on the back label) chocolate and a gorgeous deep ruby-and-brown colour made this a Sunday morning gardening delight. Thanks to the colleague, I hope she goes on many such vacations.
Eight pubs, eight pints and about 13 miles into the day’s effort (I got, erm, ‘lost’ on my way to the town centre from the Ship), I was closed to famished and soaked through to the bones. I needed a dry place to change into my dry clothing and the King’s Arms seemed to suit the bill. I couldn’t very well go in just for that so I had a Rite Flanker by Wickwar (very floral hops in this delight) which I now think had a rugby theme (Right Flanker) but at first thought it was a play on Right Wanker.
There is a pub map of Bath that is designed like the London Underground map on the wall nearest the bar and front door. I can kick myself for not having the presence of mind to take a photograph but also am fairly proud that I DID have the presence of mind NOT to just tuck it under my arm and walk out with it.
I was absolutely drenched when I showed up at the Pearl (formerly The Navy Oak, if you look it up on Google Streetview). There were some ales on offer but as this doubles as a Chinese restaurant I decided to go native and had what turned out to be a quite nice lager: Sun Lik beer. Quite strong, too, I would assume from the advertising campaign:
From the Killingworth Castle there is a lovely and steep downhill saunter through the gorgeous Cotswold village of Wootton to a creek where the road turns west and flattens for about a quarter-mile before an even steeper climb up the other side of the stream. It is exhausting work but a half mile farther along you will find the Duke of Marlborough beckoning.
Inside the house is lushly appointed and seems geared to the travelling diners along the highway between Chipping Norton and Oxford. The landlord reminded me of John Oliver albeit bald, a little more conservative and not nearly so thin; he was friendly and took an interest in my route but like almost everyone I have talked to mid-run the past few years he assumed I was cycling. He pulled an Old Hooky while I grooved on the rock-steady he had playing softly in the background…very nice.
I got the Old Hooky because I knew it was a little darker than the Hooky and I was ready for a stronger beer but on the run from the Killingworth I began to appreciate the Windrush ale I so brutally judged there–the after tastes kept building as I laboured up the hills in the fresh breezes. They were fully in force by the time I settled into this Old Hooky and completely obliterated the flavours I was hoping for…how rude.
I left the sub-competent Sturdy’s Castle and ran down a wooded bridleway that, while solid, has been muddy in the recent past and is now fairly uneven and difficult to negotiate…a very technical run. At the top of a hill near an intersection with another long distance trail and the entrance to some fields I spotted hash markings which I suspect are for the Bicester HHH trail Monday.
The path from Sturdy’s Castle
A perfect spring day, I ran slow enough to take in the variety of trees and terrain as the hill peaked and then fell off toward a churning creek with a tempting creekside trail…tempting but not irresistible since I was heading to the Killingworth Castle (which was closed down the last time I ran through this village a few years ago). Another small hill climb of about a 2/10 mile distance and 40 meters elevation change and I spotted the target from the peak:
The place was busy and yet the three fellows running the show had it under control and chatted easily in multiple conversations whilst pulling me a pint of Windrush (North Cotswold Brewery‘s award winner this year). The colour was deep and dark like a stained oak beam inside the fortress-like pub, but it seemed weak both in a.b.v. and flavour–subtle and with floral hints but not really a beer that I would associate with soaking up some Vitamin D on a breezy day like this.
Realised upon editing…the sign has the pub on it including the sign with the pub on it including the sign with the pub on it….
There were two tables of four inside Sturdy’s Castle and another couple was sitting at a picnic table with their dog out front; there was a waitress (maybe two) and some cooks were helping out with this intolerably mad rush (that’s sarcasm, there, for you literalists) while the manager struggled to key in two jacket potatoes and two beers and the queue for drinks enlarged…I was third in line. Ten minutes on, she finally got the ticket down to something less than the £45 she initially demanded of first-in-queue for the snacks and poured the half pint for the fellow in front of me and then promptly walked away for a couple of minutes, obviously to catch her breath.
I had a few moments to admire this solid, Cotswold stone structure but only in the Lounge as I feared giving up my place at the bar. My patience was eventually rewarded with a pint of Hooky (£3.20) that would prove to take less time to consume than to purchase and that was sharp and citric like I remembered from my last Hooky. I took it outside to enjoy in the cool breeze and beneath a willow mapped out my path to Wootton, a few miles northwest from here.
This was quite a nice find. While hunting an early lunch from the copious collection of takeaways on the Cowley Road (none of which would be able to put a kebab or fish & chips together until noon:30) I noted the Big Society‘s doors open and followed the reggae beat inside.
A bit self-consciously hip, it is hip nonetheless and has a splendid line of beers on tap including several from Mean Time Brewing (I had the Pilsner which was floral and astringent with a citric aftertaste). The bartender was keen on this brewery from Greenwich and gave me a rundown of what to expect from the full range (first and only customer gets all the attention). They also do food.
Oh, the glass size is 2/3 of a pint if you are pacing yourself (or have a quota to fulfill).
The return run from the Pelican came over a steep hill and descended into Hungerford eventually near the Town Hall almost directly across from the Plume of Feathers (an alternative name for pubs originally called the Prince of Wales, describing the symbology of the pub signs).
The staff get really mixed reviews but they seemed friendly enough to me (and I was drenched with rain, covered knee-high in mud, and sweating profusely thus not in a state to expect the warmest welcome). They were quite attentive to the old codgers that appeared to be in the same places they have stood since the Coronation and greeted other strangers at least cordially.
One of the ancients commented on the colour of the Oakham Citra I ordered in such a way as to suggest it was an effeminate choice but the bar lady said it had been very popular the past week or so. It was very astringent and hoppy with an almost skunky floral aftertaste…very nice.
So, four years now (or, rather, next week it will be…here’s the annual reports for years Three, Two, and One for historical perspective).
We just received our new visas valid until 2016 but plan to take the next step toward citizenship in a year, Indefinite Leave to Remain…sort of the British Green Card. There is an exam, first, but in general it is all downhill from here.
The view from Western Street near the new house…also all downhill
Additionally, we are in the process of moving house (which is why I rushed the annual report a week forward) from just north of the Oasis over to Old Town to a house situated close walks to either the Beehive or the Castle or the Globe (recently reopened!)—three locals instead of one and all three of high quality—and dozens of others a short walk. The new house has three bedrooms each larger than its counterpart in the old house, the two receptions are larger and made into more of an open-plan configuration, the bath is larger and has a tub (not just a shower), and there is a finished basement; on the down side, the kitchen is a little narrower and more primitive as is the small garden but everything we do and everywhere we normally go in Swindon (save for the butcher) is so close.
The only races I did this past year were the London Marathon (5 pubs plus a can of Carling on the last mile) and the Beerathon (5 miles with a pint and a hefty food item between each) and the mileage run for the year suffered from this lack of focus—1950 give or take about 25 (most estimates pretty good using gmap-pedometer), while the last several years (except for the year of the wreck) were in the 2200-2500 range.
On the runs, I visited 255 new pubs with a stunning 67 new ones (steep part of the graph) in September when I took two weeks off work and ran at least 10 miles per day in new territory each day. The 1000th wasn’t as big a thrill as I thought it would be, but I saw some really nice places and met some really fine folk. The September holiday found me visiting Gloucester, South Wales, Slough (exotic, I know) and Exeter along with some nearer-to-Swindon trips. The 100 Yellow Beer Challenge was responsible for a lot of second visits to pubs I might not otherwise have gone to after an initial stop and many of these seemed better the second time around. Oh, and my Workingman’s Club appears to have failed or at least hasn’t been open the last several times I’ve popped by (I have a grand one scoped out for the new neighbourhood, though).
Best pubs in Year Four (reverse order by First Visit write-up):
The Southgate Inn, Devizes
The Hop Inn, Swindon
Dicey Reilly’s, Teignmouth
The Brass Monkey, Teignmouth
One Eyed Jack’s, Gloucester
Ye Olde Red Lion, Tredegar
The Rose of Denmark, Woolwich
The Volunteer Rifleman’s Arms
The Green Dragon, Marlborough
The British Lion, Devizes
The Blue Boar, Alsbourne (for the Dr. Who connections)
British Citizenship Exam Prep
Assize Court, Bristol
Paul Simon in Hyde Park
The Bremen Musicians (German children’s story)
Sex Tourism in Wiltshire
Modern Algebra for Omid
Burns’ Day Lunch
There are others search for ‘made me laugh.’ The blog may or may not have made some of the over 100,000 visitors laugh, but the damn fools keep checking in (that’s you, that is).
I thought the King Alfred’s Head would be charming and ancient and then I saw this (yikes):
But, it is undergoing renovation and you have to overlook that for now. Inside is also scourged by builders but it is coming along nicely and there is a good selection of drink available (mmm):
Even the garden is suffering from the renewal pains, but the folks are friendly and the house is huge (and they will threaten you with delicious morsels if you cast even a sideways glance toward the menu).
Walking from my Ridgeway sloe forage I by-passed Letcombe Bassett because I wasn’t certain there was a pub in the village whereas I had it on good authority a fine one existed in Letcombe Regis. I was certainly not disappointed by the Greyhound when it emerged on the serpentine streets.
My boots were muddy but I had an oozing blister on my heel I didn’t fancy either seeing or trying to put shoes back on over, so I stayed in the flagstone public bar rather than join the ale fanatics in the carpeted lounge.
I had a Rudgate Deathly Pale, their seasonal for Halloween. Despite the tasting notes on the pump clip, it was bitter with a lingering funky-sweaty sweetness…not that I’m complaining at all, but I wouldn’t think it was for everyone.
From my seat there was nice view of the village, the wealthy village I would think from the large and beautiful houses leading out to the manor-like farms. Just around the corner on the way to Wantage, though, is a much more down-market strip with hoodlum children and counsel bungalows so there’s something for everyone.
The newest pub in Swindon is the Hop Inn, occupying a former sex shop in Old Town. The comments section to an article about the pub in the Swindon Advertiser included a number of alternate names for the bar including “The Dog and *uck,” “The Black Knobbler,” “The Brown Paper Bag,” “The Privates’ Hop,” and my favourite “The Onanist’s Arm.”
Always trust a bar with bar animals
The Hop Inn [Onanist's] was really jumping in at the deep end since there are so many fine pubs in Old Town, and the building is truly an old storefront and not precisely what you might think of as a traditional pub; don’t be deterred from going in, though–it is quite a wonder with five good and quite interesting ales on, ‘fizzy’ beers of rare varieties and Pheasant Plucker cider which I am very fond of. I had an Inntrigue from Plain Ales which was dark and mild in the mouth and left a very pleasant bitter/cigar-like aftertaste.
Clicking photo takes you to the location on the pub map, but this entry is on the 6th page of pub push pins (feel free to browse, though)
Rambling thoughts on the adult industry: I don’t know if you’d exactly call it nostalgia I felt there in the Hop Inn, but the location takes me back to late 1985. At the time, I owed a scary amount of money to some very scary people but possessed a white, middle-class face and demeanour (should a visit to court become necessary) and a Union Card as a Projectionist. These details prompted them to “let” me work off my debt in seven 16 hour shifts per week for six months, editing and exhibiting 35mm porno in what I can only imagine was a money laundering operation. The vagaries of DeKalb County vice legislation prohibited any depiction of penetration and Georgia law (and I think one of these hoodlum’s traditional Viet Namese mothers) would not allow undeniable depictions of “sodomy,” so I had to cut out multitudinous strips anywhere from ten frames to 20 feet from each film before exhibition then return these bits to the reels before returning to the distributors. I lived in an adjacent projection booth where the other cinema had suffered a fire (purely accidental, I was assured).
None of this has anything to do with this pub, except it was once a wank shop.