Friday, 21 July 2017

Adnams Brewery Tour, Southwold

For Christmas my mum bought all of us (the family and our respective partners) an Adnams Brewery tour. A few months later I relocated to Kent, sending my mum into a panic that she would 1, never see me again and 2, have wasted money on a perfectly good gift that I would never use. She needn't have worried, on either count. I love a good brewery tour and Southwold (home of Adnams) is one of my favourite places on the planet, despite it becoming over-populated by weekend Londoners.

I've been going to Southwold since I was about 3. Sometimes in the winter my mum would drive us there, park on the seafront and just watch the waves. We wouldn't even get out of the car. Somehow just being there made things a little better. As an adult I would visit occasionally and in recent years it became a place I would spend rainy Valentine's Days. I'd not been back since the last Valentine's visit a couple of years ago, I couldn't quite bring myself to go after the relationship that took me there had ended. It's funny how places can become synonymous with a particular time in your life. Until the actual date for the tour had been booked, I'd resigned myself to never going back.

Don't worry, I'll get to the beer bit soon.

As we pulled into Southwold town my eyes pricked with tears, but as soon as I saw the sea front and pier any sadness disappeared. I saw brightly coloured snowglobes in the pier gift shop and immediately bought one. I collect snowglobes from anywhere I visit but had never seen a Southwold one before. I decided it was a sign. After a picnic on the seafront, where my mum had brought enough food for twice the people present, as she always does, we headed towards the brewery. While two of our party went for their gin making tour, the rest of us had a quick pint...

Where: The Red Lion
What: Ease Up IPA, Adnams

When in Rome... Ease Up IPA is a favourite of mine and as we sat on a bench outside I could see the sea and, as I always find when I am enjoying a beer-by-the-sea, I felt at home. Ease Up is an IPA with flavour, from Adnams' Jack Brand, perfect for a warm day. I enjoyed it so much I forgot to take a picture before I drank it.
We would have stayed for another but turning up to a brewery tour already a few beers in is bad form.

Where: Adnams Brewery
What: Clementine pale ale, Mosaic pale ale, Ease Up IA, Innovation IPA, Blackshore Stout, First Rate gin, Spirit of Broadside and Limoncello (yep)

I'm fairly sure that's the complete list...The tour was informative and the guide honest (including which Adnams beers she really didn't like). She also said most tours don't finish all the sample beers, but as this tour was mostly men she wasn't surprised (I was the only female in the group), as men drink more beer than most women. I'm not most women and my dad reassured me that I was an exception to the rule. I didn't think I would find the process of brewing and seeing the vats etc as interesting as I did, but brewery tours might be my new favourite thing.

The two beers I wanted to try but couldn't were the Crystal Rye and the Earl Grey lager. My dad had the Blackshore Stout (I only sniffed it, not being a stout fan) and I really liked the Innovation IPA that I not had before and enjoyed the Clementine pale again. After staring a cockatoo in a tree outside the sample room, trying to work out if it was real or not, we were ushered to the gift shop via some free spirit samples.

The gin with Elderflower tonic was delicious and the Limoncello an oddly welcome shot of sweetness, but I passed on the Spirit of Broadside as I'm not a fan of whisky tastes. I collected my free bottle of beer (went for Ease Up, couldn't see a Crystal Rye but I was a little beer-buzzy so I could have been stood right next to it for all I know) and we all headed to the pier. We watched the water clock, as is traditional, and got our photos taken in the pirate cut-outs meant for children. As we drove home I ate some leftover picnic snacks and pondered where my new favourite snowglobe would go.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Canterbury (T)Ales

A few years ago a friend of mine moved to Canterbury. A month ago I moved to Gravesend and with the free time proffered me by being 'in between' jobs (or 'unemployed') I decided to take advantage of my new proximity to my old friend and spend the day in the cathedral city.

As I got off the train a creepy bloke started smiling and trying to talk to me, then followed me out of the station. I hastily googled nearby pubs and began to walk to the nearest. The White Hart was technically my closest port of call, but I fancied something other than Shepherd Neame for a change so I carried on a little further to a pub that brewed its own beer on site.

Where: The Foundry
What: Invasion of the Hop Monster, Canterbury Brewers

My friend met me shortly after I arrived at this pub, set (unsurprisingly) in an old foundry. It smelled weird inside (probably because of the brewing) but the weather was so nice outside there was no way we were sitting indoors anyway. I chose the Hop Monster, mainly because I like a hoppy pale beer and it seemed a reasonable strength (3.9%) to be starting my afternoon with. It was a nice session ale, with enough about it to avoid being forgotten. My mate had just come back from a poker playing trip to Vegas and, as promised, had brought me back some tacky souvenirs which made me very happy indeed. I spent two pints looking at his photos and asking more and more in depth questions about poker. He didn't seem to mind though. After grilling him about all things casino, we took a wander down the high street in search of a beer garden and some pub food.

Where: The Lady Luck
What: Dry Hopped lager, Adnams

I had heard of The Lady Luck many times, but had yet to visit it. My fella had played there with his band (although it's hard to imagine where a band might fit). It was dark inside and despite it being mid-afternoon on a Friday, had a few tattooed drinkers at the bar already. I wasn't in the mood for a Doombar, and I already knew I didn't enjoy Musket's 'Trigger', so I probably should have plumped for Pure Gold by Purity ales, but my mate suggested the Adnams lager and I agreed. When will I learn that even 'real' lagers give me crazy hangovers?! My mate bumped into a pool league friend at the bar and we all sat in the cosy walled garden at the rear of the pub. We discussed jobs, cats, the pool league. I watched a couple of women sit opposite each other for 45 minutes, not saying a word, while one constantly took selfies and the other looked as though she was just trying to stay awake. After having something to eat we decided to have a wander. I suggested a pub we had walked past earlier. My two companions were not entirely convinced.

What: Hop House 13, Guinness

This little pub looked like a proper old english pub, had nice looking tables outside and seemed to be busy so I thought it might be good for a beer. My friends hadn't been there in quite a while but were open ti the suggestion, despite some reservations. It was my round and as I stood looking at the pumps and finding no real ale I wanted, instead of saying 'hey lets try a different pub', I found myself saying 'three pints of Hop House 13 please'. Again with the lager!! As I waited for my beers, a bloke at the bar said...something unintelligible. I replied "I'm sorry, I have no idea what you just said". He repeated, with a little more effort on not being so pissed and said "you look like her, with hair" motioning to the barmaid with the Sinead O'Connor cut. The barmaid looked nonplussed. "Because we both have glasses?" I replied. He said something even more slur-ey and I repeated that I had no idea what he was saying, while feeling increasingly uncomfortable. 

Back at the table the change in the feel of the pub was the topic of discussion, as well as people they knew who had been barred and the infamous (and awful sounding) Pig F*cker cocktails they sold. After the barmaid came and joined us for a cigarette, and a shoulder-shrug about the drunken barflys, we moved on.

What: No. 5, Gadds

This pub was chosen because of it's location relative to the train station, as I'd just discovered my last train was at 9.30pm. We grabbed one of the last tables outside and my friend went to the bar. He came back with a best bitter, not my first choice and it didn't go down too well but it did stay down. We discussed relationships while watching the street traffic starting to busy for the Friday night ahead and I was a little pleased to be heading home soon. 

After promising to let him know when I got back safely, I put in my headphones and started to dance on the platform. I can't remember a time when I  cared so little about anyone else around. My fella and his friends were in our local, and he asked me to pick up some beers on my way back. Unfortunately the shop was shut at 10.30pm, so I joined them for a beer anyway.

Where: The Windmill, Gravesend
What: Birds & Bees, William Bros. Brewing

I had my usual, in my new local and joined the conversation, blissfully unaware that I was a fair few beers ahead of everyone else. It didn't stop me trying to get a job as a barmaid though or from carrying on at home for a couple of hours. I had that moment many drinkers have - it's only when your friend finally says 'I think I'm going to go home' that you realise just how tired you are. I slept into lunchtime on Saturday and swore never to drink lager again. 

The York Tavern

I wrote this for my PSB column in Outline Magazine, but it wasn't used, so here it is in full!

Where: The York Tavern, Norwich

What: UBU, Purity Ales

It’s been a good few years since I last visited The York Tavern (I have to make a concerted effort to get over that side of the city). From memory it was a spacious pub, with a pool table and outside smoking area (I never made it as far as the garden), wooden floors and unintentional mismatched furniture.  A little rough round the edges, but nicely worn in. This time I walked into a pub painted what my dad would call ‘fashionable greige’, with candles on the tables and a trendy menu serving artisanal pies. The place was spotless, the barman was friendly, knew his stuff, and the plush red booth-chairs looked inviting. The atmosphere was comfortable and as I ordered an UBU, from Purity Brewing, I wondered why I felt so odd. Much like UBU, a drinkable amber ale at a middling 4.5% with nothing offensive or challenging about it, The York Tavern had become standard. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t complain about a decent, clean pub with friendly staff (or a perfectly drinkable beer), but I realised that sat in this pub I could have been anywhere. It looked like any other upmarket gastro-accessible pub (The Unthank and The Rosebury spring to mind). Nothing wrong with it, lots of things right with it, but nothing to make it stand out either. As my party decided the pool table was never going to be free, we played a card game (of which I still don’t understand the rules), laughed and drank and went home to eat Chinese food. Standard.

The Kings Head, Magdalen Street

My last PSB (published) column for Outline Magazine before I moved away from Norwich -

Sometimes I want to go to a bar with tattooed bar staff, retro yet trendy music, a wide selection of craft beers and some kind of mash-up, Tex-Mex tapas-pizza street-style food available. Other times (more and more frequently these days) I just want to sit in a pub with a few (preferably local) real ales to choose from and few (preferably local) old man drinkers in a (preferably local) local and a have a quiet evening catching up with friends. The Kings Head on Magdalen Street fits this desire perfectly. Read the full column here. 

The Rumsey Wells and Christmas Drinkers

I know I'm behind on my column posting but, here's my December column for Outline Magazine

Ah, the work Christmas party. Some people look forward to going, others make their excuses, some (like me) feel like they should go and hope it’s not too much of a disaster. I generally try to avoid drinking in city pubs during December – too many part-time drinkers who can’t handle it and either get aggro or paralytic, taking up space at the bar usually reserved for all-weather beer lovers like myself. Read the full column here. 

Norwich Cocktail Week

My column from Outline Magazine - 

I usually prefer a pint, but sometimes I fancy something a little…fancier. Norwich Cocktail Week has been going a few years now and Norwich has a lot more cocktail bars than I imagined. Read full article here

Friday, 24 February 2017

National Winter Ales Festival

I got given some guest tickets to the National Winter Ale Festival (thanks Outline Mag), handily being held in my home city of Norwich this year. I took my dad with me and between us we made quite a dent in the beer list seeing as we only had 3 hours. Dad even squeezed in a portion of macaroni cheese.

I tried to at least mark every beer we had, my dad sticking to porters generally and me sticking to blondes and pales we covered a lot. I made no attempt to make notes (I didn’t have anywhere near enough hands) and managed to take three pictures before giving up and just enjoying myself. At festivals I always try to drink beers and experience breweries I’ve not had before, which I managed for the most part. I tried a beer from Boudicca that I’d not had (even though I’m familiar with the local brewery) and was really disappointed when the Weird Beard ‘Little Things That Kill’ wasn’t on (mostly for the name alone) so settled for the Marianna Trench which I’ve had before.

My dad complained that all porters listed chocolate and/or coffee as tasting notes, then complained that there were tasting notes at all, then said my pale ales tasted like water. I said his porters tasted like burnt toast and wrinkled my nose. He loved the Lacons Old Ale (he wrote ‘V Nice’ next to it, which is as close to a glowing review as m’dad does). The recommended Pale Four from Tring stood out for me, in a good way, but other than that I just walked up to a space in the bar and asked for a recommendation. As usual the volunteers were beyond friendly and happy to chat about beer and the festival in general.

At points in the evening I lost my dad, thinking he’d wandered off, only to realise I was looking for him in the wrong place and should probably have eaten some mac and cheese myself. The evening went so quickly but I was still glad when my mum pulled up outside to give me a lift home yes, I'm in my thirties and still get lifts with my mum). I think the number of beers combined with the storm I might have ended up in the river if I'd have walked home…

Below is our final list, in no particular order:

Fyne Ales – Jarl
Boudicca – Golden Torc
Mordue - Northumbrian Blonde
Loch Lomund – Southern Summit
Tring – Pale Four
Weird Beard – Marianna Trench

Fullers - London Porter
Monty’s – Dark Secret
Adnams – Old Ale
Moor – Old Freddy Walker
Sulwath – Black Galloway

Lacons – Old Ale