Showing posts from December, 2010

Live From Spoons

Christmas Day is full of traditions. The Queen’s Message, Deal or No Deal: Scrooge or Santa, and, of course, a surge in domestic violence. Following in those footsteps is my legendary, eagerly awaited, live Spoons blog.

This year, as always, it comes from the resplendent Robert Peel. Which is full, as always, at this time of year with the unwashed, the unwanted and the old school drunk. It’s slightly busier than last year. But then Trackside Mick said he’d been in the Knowlsey (the only other pub open) had a pint and spewed up-that’s Greene King for you.

The conversations range from the likelihood of Man Utd winning the league (high) to the likelihood of getting a Christmas snog from the barmaid (highly unlikely) and the drinks of choice are Wobbly Bob, Robert Peel IPA and Black Market.

Cheers and please remember that pubs aren’t just for Christmas.

Merry Christmas

And so to my, by now, traditional Christmas greeting. Somehow, more than ever, it seems appropriate this year, but, hey, let’s not get too political. Yes, 2010 may have been a shit year and Santa may have got the sack, but let’s try and be positive and look forward to 2011. It just might not be as bad as you think.

So dear readers, Happy Christmas to one and all. In the words of John Lennon, I hope you have fun. The near and the dear ones. The old and the young. Except, of course, for Aso Mohammed Ibrahim. He can roast his chestnuts on the fiery coals of Hell as far as I’m concerned. Hopefully shortly.

Merry Christmas.

Breakfast Beer: Nanny State

Today’s breakfast beer is Brewdog Nanny State. This is the original version of their Imperial Mild. It may only tip the scales at 1.1% ABV, but it packs a (theoretical) punch of some 225 IBUs. That’s International Bitterness Units for the uninitiated. With Holts Bitter coming in around the 40 IBU mark, that’s some serious bitterness.

Initially it didn’t seem too bad. The russet colouring seemed to actually complement the washed out brown of the Oatabix. The aroma was more of a stench really, but the strong vegetated hop notes didn’t seem to bother my hangover too much. What was a problem was the taste.

There was a one dimensional bitterness that marked it out as a gimmick beer. I could have handled the extreme bitterness, but the sheer wateriness of it made it seem like a glass of hop tea rather than beer. It wasn’t doing anything for me and frankly the Oatabix was lost in translation.

Like a true professional-you won’t get pissed on it anyway-I threw it down my neck. But this, althou…

BABPOW: Oatabix & Brewdog Punk Monk

Ok, it’s awhile since I did any beer and food matching so, in an attempt to also catch up with some beer reviews, I decided to initiate this first review in, hopefully, an occasional series.

Now with all respect to the great & the good, when they try beer matching, they invariably try different foods in an attempt to perfectly complement the beer. This can be a little hit and miss and doesn’t strike me as good methodology.

For my purposes, I need a benchmark. Something that will not only allow me to evaluate the beer, but offer an opportunity to possibly find the ultimate food and beer pairing. Now this would mean eating the same dish-and nothing too racy-each time. Possibly a little dull and impractical to do that at various times of the day.

With this in mind, I have decided to go with a breakfast and beer theme: BABPOW. The universal nature of this meal seems ideal and the timing will not impinge on the rest of the day. Plus it gives me a perfect excuse for having a beer early…

No Booze Shortage At Westminster

Good news. There’s no need to worry about how the severe weather may affect the booze supply at the Palace of Westminster. According to information released under the Freedom of Information Act, the government and their select chosen ones have a stockpile of bottles to tuck into.

Yes, when they said we’re all in it together, they obviously weren’t referring to the mountain of booze that they have access to. It seems Whitehall is awash with the stuff. Some 36,000 bottles of wine and spirits, some worth £3,000 each, are included in the £2M valuation.

Of course theses bottles aren’t available to all and sundry. Apparently each bottle comes with instructions as to how and to whom it should be served. All bottles are graded, with A1 being reserved only for VIPs and C grade being the stuff that is served at receptions. Good to see standards haven’t slipped under our new ConDem masters.

Phoenix Nights

Tony Allen of Phoenix Brewery in Heywood has been brewing fine ales of various hues for over 25 years now. In that time the North West has been quietly carving out a reputation for itself as a producer of hoppy beers. Of which, Tony has more than his fair share. Although it should be stressed that Phoenix isn’t a one trick pony and does brew some excellent dark beers as well.
That being the case, an opportunity to sample at source is a prized invite and explains a sell out crowd for Tuesday’s Christmas bash. The great, the good and even Tandleman were all there. There was a choice of three beers: Hopsack, Snowbound and Christmas Kiss. The first two didn’t survive the night’s festivities, but an 18 of Kiss proved just beyond ever our capability to finish off in the permitted time.
So thanks to Tony & Mel for hosting the event and for putting up with all of those other drunks. And if you get the chance, try some Phoenix beers. You know it makes sense.

The Bartons Arms

The Bartons Arms in Birmingham is renowned for its opulent, turn of the century, decor and for being home to some fine Oakham beer. What few customers may be aware of are the many rooms upstairs and the extensive cellar that lies beneath their feet.

Of course the pub itself is a large Grade 11 listed masterpiece. Built in 1901 for the princely sum of £12,000, it was intended to be the flagship of the Mitchell & Butler estate. Serving the Aston Hippodrome, it could boast guests of the quality of Laurel & Hardy, Caruso and a certain Mr Charlie Chaplin.
But times change and the Bartons was in a sorry state by the time it was rescued by Oakham Ales in 2002. I’ve visited many times since then, but have never had the pleasure of a guided tour until recently.

Under the direction of the very amiable and very knowledgeable General Manager, John Wilson, I had the opportunity to view the upstairs and the aforementioned cellar. The upper level was interesting with its boardroom and dance…

Beer Of The Week: Darkstar Thornstar

Darkstar/Thornbridge Thornstar is 4.7% and was sampled in the Sheffield Tap. On paper, a marriage made in heaven. Two great breweries joined in holy unison. But how many marriages have foundered on the rocky shores of relationships. Ok enough already with the marriage metaphors, what was this like?
I’m informed it’s one of these new fangled Cascadian Dark Ales or a Black IPA as they're known in the cheap seats. Well it was certainly black, but seemed to lack the classic IPA hop aroma. This had a pungent earthy, agricultural, nose that wasn’t particularly appealing on first sniff. 
The taste was chewy with a little roast malt, some sour fruit and a little hop kick followed by a short, slightly sour, finish. Not great. Quite underwhelming really. Which is somewhat of a surprise as a passing beer guru told me that it contains 6 varieties of New Zealand hops.
It's been compared to Thornbridge Raven and whilst not that bad, definitely more one for the beer geeks rather than the mass…

More Cheese, Gromit?

Yet another welcome donation to the cheese cupboard. Many thanks and please keep ‘em rolling in folks. At this time of year, more than ever, it’s important that poor cheesehounds are given the sustenance they need.
This is the Wallace & Gromit “Crackers about Cheese” gift set. It contains a truckle of finest Yorkshire Wensleydale (naturally), a jar of caramelised onion chutney called “Middle Aged Spread” and a packet of oatcakes.

It all looks very tasty. I was saving it for nearer Christmas, but seeing that someone has emptied the rest of the cheese cupboard, I fear its time has come.

Another One Bites The Dust

The New Inn on Walmersley Road, Bury has shut and will be reopening as a nursery.

It’s a roadside boozer that is surrounded by plenty of potential custom, but it has been ill-served over the years and after a very long lean period, the closure comes as no real surprise. You have to go back to the late 70s/early 80s to find its heyday.
The 1979 GBG detailed the pub (then the Walmersley Arms) as selling Wilsons Mild & Bitter and described it as “Large emporium set back from main road. L shaped lounge, pool table in vault”.

Of course this comes only 3.5 years after the smoking ban came into force. Coincidence? You decide.

Pubs Look Back To The Past To Save Their Future

In these tough trading times, more than ever, it seems, pubs need to diversify if they want to survive. That’s the thinking behind the White Hart Inn in Spilsby Lincolnshire deciding to bring the joys of the cinema to pub goers.

The pub, which is a 35 minute drive from the nearest cinema in Skegness, is thought to be the first granted a licence to show films coming to the end of their general release, but crucially before they are released on DVD.

Licensee Angela Morgan-Knight explained: “We have a really big function room with a 9ft screen and projector and we can have 100 people in there.” There are plans for a Sunday matinee incorporating meal deals and family tickets. There is some irony here as many pubs are in a similar situation to cinemas when they reached their low point and could do worse than look at how cinemas adapted to bounce back.

Of course pubs have a long history of incorporating technology to attract punters. Currently 3D is leading the chase, but before that we ha…

A Christmas Appeal: Stephen Neary

Many injustices, both large and small, go uncorrected of every hour of every day. Perhaps this Christmas we can help to right the balance sheet. Perhaps by moving a stone, we can help move a boulder.

November's Beer Of The Month: Hardknott Light Cascade

Sampled in the Grove in Huddersfield, so naturally in top condition. I’ve been wanting to try this much discussed 3.4% for awhile and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Now a lot of beer geeks/brewers go ga-ga for stronger beers, but you can hide a multitude of sins in stronger brews, but the truth will out at this strength.

Yes, it’s in the tiddlers like this that the true mettle of a brewer lies. How to pack in plenty of flavour without the weight of alcohol? And on that basis, this passed with flying colours. A well-hopped thirst quencher that builds to the kind of dry finish that demands you have another. So I did.

Runner Up Beer Of The Month: Yates Garlic Beer

This one does what it says on the tin: It’s not hoppy, malty, sweet or dry, nor full of chocolate or spices. It’s got a strong garlic aroma, tastes of garlic and has a strong garlic aftertaste. It’s liquid garlic. Not recommended for vampires or anyone expecting a goodnight snog.