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    Monday, 29 September 2008

    Around York

    I've had many a pub crawl around York over the years, and have seen good pubs come and go. To do the beer scene in the city justice you need a couple of days at least. I had an hour!

    For some unknown reason, my three year old daughter has a fascination with churches. We'd already been to Pickering and Helmsley churches and Ripon Cathedral on the holiday and now York Minster just demanded a visit. I'm sure she's rebelling against my atheism and will one day end up as the first female Archbishop of Canterbury, or some such other lofty post in the church. Not wishing to go in myself I was therefore granted a small wander round.

    Time didn't permit me to stray too far from High Petergate so just three pubs were visited. It's with regret I didn't get to old favourite The Ackhorne, or new kid on the block Brigantes; they will have to wait until next time. Where I did visit though was The Maltings, The Three-Legged Mare, and The Golden Lion.

    The Maltings is an essential visit. I've been there so many times over the years, enjoying the beer and the monstrous lunchtime chili and chips. This is a real beer pub, with an intelligently selected range of both bottled and cask beers, and a good number of ciders and a perry. I'm not sure the beers are as eclectic as they once were, but there's always something of interest. I enjoyed Roosters Silver Creek (there's nearly always a Roosters beer on), and Milestone Colonial Stout. Black Sheep Best Bitter is a permenant beer here, and it has been said that more Black Sheep is sold in this pub than anywhere else.

    It seems silly not to go in a York Brewery pub while in town, and the nearest to the Minister is the "Mare" otherwise nicknamed The Wonkey Donkey. Five York beers and four guests were available from which I had the house beer, also known as Wonkey Donkey, and Burton Bridge Top Dog Stout. The Stout is a beer which has alluded me forever and it was odd to find it here rather than nearer to home. Having said that I found it very thin for a stout, so I've not missed much.

    I had hoped to go to Koko , recommended by Boak and Bailey next, but it was closed. Is it always closed in the afternoon I wonder? What made it worse was that it's what was the BeerRitz off licence. I didn't know that previously, so two essential visits were scuppered in one go - what a bummer.

    To drown my sorrows I had a quick half in The Golden Lion. Wentworth Strawberry Silk was my beer of choice - regrettably. Still at least I got to use the loo which my main reason for dropping in.

    That was it then for my drinking in York. I did find Pivo , also recommended by B&B, which looked really interesting through the windows even if only one customer appeared to be present. I shall aim to go there next time. Having said hat though, there's a load of pubs I want to do next time, and I'll never get to them all. Seems like a couple of trips are in order!

    Saturday, 27 September 2008

    The New Inn, Cropton

    Our next beery adventure in North Yorkshire was a trip to The New Inn, Cropton; home to the Cropton Brewery. We'd been to Pickering first thing to see the steam trains, and then drove to the village which is on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors.

    We arrived in Cropton before opening time and clocked the pub as being a good size with a large car park to the rear. A short drive then through the wilderness of the moors passing signs explaining how many sheep had been killed on the roads in the last year, imploring you to slow down. I'm not quite sure how you can drive fast enough in those windy roads to cause damage to large mammals, but even so we did see two dead sheep on our short drive.

    We returned to the pub shortly after opening time, and spotted a coach out the front. Parking in the otherwise deserted car park we headed into the "conservatory/family room". A number of pensioners from the coach were seated at the dining tables, but it was still just half full, so we found a table in the corner. My first task was then to view the pump clips to see which beers were on offer. Six handpumps sat proudly on the bar, yet only one had a pumpclip. Oh dear; not a good start I thought; even that beer Honey Gold did not fill me with joy as honey is one of my least favoured ingredients in beer. So a walk to the front bar via the toilet was in order. Ah, much better (in more ways than one) as all six pumps in that bar had clips. At least I knew I was going to get a decent choice of beers and could avoid the honey concoction.

    I returned to the conservatory to witness the waitress telling the rest of the family that our table was, in fact, taken. No reserved sign or anything, but perhaps extra sensory perception is the order of the day? Apparently half the coach party were elsewhere (I doubt they were looking round the brewery or taking a smoking break, so where they were is anyone's guess). It all worked out for the best though as we were able to sit near the top bar, and away from the chattering and clattering pensioners.

    So what of the beer? I had halves of Endeavour, which I found bland and not as hoppy as that commercial description might suggest; Two Pints which was more full flavoured and nicely balanced, and Old Goat, which tastes every bit of its 8%, and is full bodied and vinuous. I didn't spot the ABV when I ordered the beer, so it was a good choice as I would have definitely chosen it had I spotted it, as 8% cask ales are too rare in this country for my liking.

    Our food was good too. The Whitby Cod was excellent (far better than the haddock we had in Whitby itself later in the week), and the sandwiches were perfectly acceptable.

    After a poor start the staff were attentive and the beer was good. There are enough good pubs in North Yorkshire for me to probably avoid going back, but anyone in the vicinity who's not been should probably pay it a visit.

    Tuesday, 23 September 2008

    Haxby Village

    Whilst at The Jug & Bottle, I picked up a copy of York CAMRA's excellent newsletter Ouse Boozer. In it I found an advert for Haxby Working Mens' Club. It turns out Haxby was less than five miles from where we were staying, and also hosted a Good Beer Guide listed pub The Tiger Inn.

    Armed with my CIU card, we therefore went there on the Sunday afternoon, and found the WMC down a narrow street. The large car park was fairly deserted, but a table full of drinkers outside showed us that the club was open for business. Unlike my local club, the door was not receptible to a push or a pull; in fact it was necessary to push a buzzer attached to a CCTV camera to be allowed entry. In spite of our unknown faces, the door was remotely unlocked and in walked the four of us. The entrance lobby had a few fruit machines and doors to the left and to the right. Short of tossing a coin to deceide which way to head, we plumped for the left hand route. The large room in which we found ourselves was resplendent in its large screen television showing Motors TV, and occupied only by a card playing school of male customers. I walked to the bar to peruse the pump clips - Tetley, John Smith's and Ossett Silver King were my disappointing three choices - and the barmaid walked towards us. From the card table came the unexpected call of "Are you gonna tell 'em or shall we?". What crime had we committed? Was the bar about to close? Were children not allowed? No nothing as trivial as any of that. It transpired we were in a men only bar. I thought such things were the property of Lords' Cricket Ground and golf clubhouses only, but no. Here we were in Yorkshire, and my wife and two daughters were the wrong sex to drink in that particular room. We were good humouredly shown into a lounge where persons of both persuasions (and hopefully hermaphrodites too) were allowed, where I had an underpar pint of the Ossett, after which we slunk out to the pub.

    In all fairness I saw one of the men from the other room as I went to sign the visitors' book, and he was quite apologetic, and my wife found the sexism quite 'quaint'.

    We encountered no such sexism in the pub which is a Samuel Smiths house. Therefore cheap prices and just one real ale were the order of the day. My Old Brewery Bitter was suitably dry, and reasonably tasty and just £1.77 a pint - dearer than the beer in the club.

    I shan't forget my trip to Haxby in a hurry. I don't know if men only bars are commonplace in Northern clubs; it's certainly a new one on me.

    Sunday, 21 September 2008

    The Geese Are Coming

    Yet more exciting news regarding good imported beers is to found on Roger Protz's Beer Pages. Four new beers from Chicago's Goose Island Brewery will soon be available in the UK thanks to James Clay.

    We've had IPA, and Honkers Ale here for a few years, but soon we'll have Matilda and Pere Jacques, both Belgian styled ales. 312 Urban Wheat Ale, and the 13% Imperial Stout Bourbon County.

    That all sounds good to me. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled.

    The Jug & Bottle, Bubwith

    After you've packed a toothbrush and a couple of pairs of spare pants, there's nothing you really need for a holiday than a few decent bottles of beer. Choosing to leave my stash at home, I searched t'internets for a decent offie en route to our destination and really hit the jackpot with The Jug & Bottle in Bubwith.

    Not just a beer shop, this is a superb and essential visit for any body interested in the finer aspects of food and drink. As mentioned on their beer page, they stock a good range of beers which are not usually found on your average high street. They also stock a few beers on draught for that essential take out. It would have been easy to but boxes full of beer, but in all seriousness I only had room in the car for a few beers so purchased a bottle conditioned mild from Brown Cow, a couple of bottles I'd not seen before from Timothy Taylor, an unseasonal Christmas beer from Otley, and old favourite Traquair Jacobite.

    We also bought some very good cheeses, olives and sun dried tomatoes for our evening grub. The proprietor was all too happy to let us sample the cheeses before purchasing, which is always a nice touch.

    As well as these, there's a great selection of wines as well, all of which would make it very easy for me to spend a ton of money on a regular basis if I lived nearer.

    Bubwith village is less than 15 miles from York. It's well worth a detour for anyone travelling to that beautiful city.

    Saturday, 20 September 2008

    Hello. I'm Back

    So have you missed me? I've been to North Yorkshire for a week. Thanks for playing nicely with your comments while I've been away; they've made good reading.

    I've got a few articles up my sleeve from my time away although I've not been able to do as much drinking as I would have done in my pre-kids days. I went to a great deli, an interesting village working mens' club, a brewpub which was intially less than welcoming but improved during my stay, and had just a few beers around York.

    I've learnt a few things since being back reading the comments. I think Tandleman is less than positive about Deus, and apparently Emmanuel Adabayor is reading my blog. I'm not sure he's really invited but there you go. Anyway normal service will resume very shortly.

    Thursday, 11 September 2008

    Deus Does Exist

    I spotted bottles of Deus Brut des Flandres in my local Waitrose earlier this week. The 75cl bottles were priced at £12.15 each.

    I've never quite understood why Belgian beers using champagne yeast such as this, and Malheur Bière Brut are so expensive. After all Kasteel Cru is also brewed using this ingredient and is not sold at such a premium price.

    I'd be interested in how well it sells. Waitrose is, of course, quite a posh store, but is it really ready for such expensive beers?

    This Lager's Not For The Queen

    It would appear that staff at Windsor Castle didn't fancy having an almighty session on twelve barrels of lager delivered there by mistake.

    I'm pretty sure the Queen has better taste than to drink this fizzy stuff which was destined for football fans at a nearby pub. Indeed ma'am was later spotted necking pints of warm frothy ale whilst taking in a live Rugby League match (allegedly).

    Tuesday, 9 September 2008

    Rushden Historical Transport Society

    I attended last night's CAMRA meeting at RHTS. Renovating old station waiting rooms into bars is not a unique thing but using a stationery train as a drinking area, complete with pub games such as Northamptonshire Skittles, is something I've not seen before.

    As the bar is currently being decorated, a lot of the decorations normally in the bar are currently housed in boxes within the train. Thus I found myself seated next to a couple of boxes of old bottled beers, some of them empty but most of them full. An empty Phipps XX bottle was of particular local interest, but a full bottle of Gales Prize Old Ale, which at a guess judging by the label dates from the 70s or 80s takes the prize for the beer I'd have liked to smuggle home and drink.

    The bar itself sells between five and seven real ales; the full quota was on last night and are priced wonderfully at between £1.90 up to £2.2o for the strongest beer on offer (5%). It's great to see a members' club showing commitment to real ale, and this has been rewarded with numerous club of the year awards from Northants CAMRA over the years.

    If you should ever find yourself in the Rushden area pay this place a visit, whether you are in to trains and other transport, or more sensibly, into beer, you will be rewarded.

    Sunday, 7 September 2008

    Beer Of The Month - August 2008

    August was always going to be a mad month with GBBF and Peterborough Beer Festival. Thus I sampled 108 new beers during the month.

    I listed the best beers I tried at Earls Court during my round up of GBBF. Some of them were real crackers, and could have been Beer Of The Month under normal circumstances. The near misses for beer of the festival were Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, De Molen Tsarena Esra Reserva, Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale, Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and De Molen Bloed, Zweet & Tranen. These were excellent beers and give away more than a little bit about my love for strong dark beers.

    The Tommyknocker beer is the only one of those listed which came from the bottle and wins the bottled beer of the month

    Of the English beers I had during the month, a number are worthy of mention. Loddon Ferrymans Gold is a nice light hoppy beer served very nicely in my local Lloyds No 1 Bar; Son Of Sid Muckcart Mild at Peterborough was my first beer from this Cambridgeshire micro, and was full of flavour being roasty and fruity. Twickenham Naked Ladies, and Alehouse Enormous A.P.E, both of which I had at a local pub festival were lovely hoppy beers, both making fashionable use of US hops. (I've since been informed the Twickenham beer actually uses Stryian Goldings only(oops))

    The best English beer though was Ascot Anastasia's Exile Stout, again at Peterborough. A roasty burnt, yet hoppy stout from a micro which is really impressing me.

    I've left the best to last though, and that is the Beer Of The Month and it was cask conditioned too. That was Lost Abbey's Bourbon Barrel Aged The Angels Share, one of the truly special treats at GBBF. I can't resist barley wines of any type, but an American 12.5%er aged in bourbon barrels is very special. The bourbon comes through on the amazingly boozy and fruity taste. There's brandy in the nose, and it's an all round smooth beast of a beer. It certainly wouldn't be to everyone's taste, but the people around my table seemed to like it.

    It'll probably take another year and another GBBF for me to get another beer like this.

    Tuesday, 2 September 2008

    On Being All Man

    I really cannot argue with the fact that beer contains chemicals which makes your body alter shape. One look at my belly is enough to tell you that. And the fact that oestrogen-like chemicals are present in our favourite beverage as well is demonstrated by my moobs (and no I didn't enter that competition, I don't live anywhere near Essex).

    What I do object to, however, is the use of the phrase gender-bending. I'm happy with my body thank you, and am 100% man. Actually half of that sentence is untrue, but it's certainly not part two!

    Monday, 1 September 2008

    Frogs And Beer

    The green frog on the left with his tankard of beer is causing a bit of kerfuffle with the Catholic church.

    The brownish frog on the right with a tankard of beer in his hand supplied me with a very nice lunchtime half pint today.

    Let's keep beer(and frogs for that matter) out of the Church I say.