Tuesday, 31 August 2010


Bury St Edmunds
The weekend just past saw me back in Bury St Edmunds. I met a friend for a lunchtime session in the town’s premier real ale pub The Dove. I've blogged about this pub before. The beer quality in this pub is so incredibly good and it’s so frustrating that it wasn’t open when I used to live but ten minutes walk away.

A comment on a previous post reminded me of this. In the days when Stonch ruled as beer blogger supreme there was talk of him and his mates paying a visit to Norwich on a mega pub crawl. Anyone else remember that? Norwich was actually the winner in a poll he ran for readers to dictate where they went. I don’t think that the visit ever took place which is a shame as I feel sure that it would have highlighted how lucky we are in Norwich for both quality and choice when it comes to real ale. It certainly has to be one of the top real ale destinations in the country.

Not to be taken seriously
War Of Words Brewing In Real Ale World
In-fighting within long-time protector of Britain's real ale traditions, the Campaign for Real Ale (CamRa) threatens to break out into war, ...”

Monday, 23 August 2010

Classic - a classic

Norwich is well on the way to having a new brewery. Norwich Bear Brewing has been launch by the people that own The Rose and Ketts Tavern. They have two beers at the moment. Classic a 3.8% session ale, light golden in colour, crisp with a musty hint of hop lemon rind and an acceptable bitter finish that curiously makes you want to have another sip. Classic is a beer that I would go out of my way to drink. This is a beer that's not easy to put down. I was starting to wonder if I’d be able to get out of the pub in a sober state. The answer was to switch to its only current stable mate Legend 4.3% a very fresh brown beer. It is what it is. You can't fault it. Not a wow but I’d happily order it in preference to many others. I look forward to trying the Platinum Blonde 5% when it’s available. It could be argued that The Rose is my real local in terms of distance. There is probably not much between it and a Wetherspoon pub. On our side of the river it is the nearest yet I don’t frequent it that often, choosing instead to walk by and on to the Kings Arms. I’m not 100% clear why. Both do a varied selection of ales with a reasonable changing selection. Beer quality is usually good. Both pubs are clean and comfortable yet the Rose, despite ticking so many boxes, always seems to lack a certain je ne sais quoi that I can't pin down. Now that they are doing their own beer perhaps I’ll have to work a bit harder at getting to love it.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Fleet Beer Festival

My thanks to Daniel Franklin for this report/press release on the recent Fleet Beer Festival:

Fleet's fourth annual beer festival at Ancells Farm Community centre on Saturday was a tremendous success despite the wet weather.

Fleet Lions raised over £3000 profit to help good causes, and nearly 500 people knocked back almost 2000 pints of beer and cider.

The theme for this year's festival was 'A Stone's Throw', and the motto was 'local beers for local people'. There were a tremendously diverse range of beers on offer, including some unusual brews for a real ale festival. Even lager fans had something to tempt their palates, such as Czech Mate from Loddon Brewery - a Czech-style Pilsner that was very well received indeed, selling out in record time. Festival organiser Ken Carter said, "Once again the festival was a huge success, and the 'Stone's Throw' theme proved very popular indeed. Guests felt they were not only having fun supporting local charities, but local businesses as well. I'm really pleased with how it all came off."

For new Lions member Daniel Franklin it was a completely new experience. He said, "Although I've been on the other side of the bar at previous Fleet beer festivals, this was the first time I've been involved in organising it. Ken entrusted me with ordering the beer and acting as bar manager on the day. It was a really busy day, starting early and finishing late at night by the time we'd cleared up the hall, but a lot of fun."

Next year's festival is set to go ahead again on the middle Saturday in August.

Monday, 9 August 2010


I find the concept of a tab in a pub to be a bit ridiculous in this day and age. In fact I had assumed that this anachronistic form of credit had long since expired. But not so. A regular in the pub tonight was keen to settle his. It might be a tradition from bygone times but surely it is about time that it was consigned to the dustbin of history, isn’t it? Now it’s a different thing if you've organised a function in a pub and agreed to pay for the drink that's understandable and is normally settled at the end of the session/party. But a tab for everyday use would seem totally unnecessary. It seems unfair of a punter to expect it and foolhardy of a publican to allow it, but on the other hand it’s quite quant.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

One of my favourites

It’s an ale I’ve written about on a few occasions and it’s an ale that has never disappointed so I’m glad to see that castle Rock Harvest Pale has today been named as CAMRA Champion Beer of Great Britain. Well done Castle Rock.


Three weeks ago saw the Lady and me in Edinburgh. The Lady was there to do something politically unsound but we’ll gloss over that. We’d decided to add a few extra days on and make a little holiday out of it. Having rented a rather nice flat in a stone tenement in West Bow just off the Grassmarket, a pretty useful spot as it turned out, we went forth to sample some of the local culture. This was my first ever trip to the city, but it felt like going home. I found a little bit of time to visit the odd pub or so. Here are three that stood out:

The Canons’ Gait
Despite being on the Royal Mile, this is a wonderful pub and a great use of the apostrophe. Newly decorated and complete with a freshly installed charmingly lofty barman, I was comfortable here. I like pubs that have quotations painted on the walls or around the edge of the ceiling. The Canons’ Gate ticked all the boxes on this front. It is a clean and modern pub that somehow manages to remain traditional. It might best be described by the popular oxymoron of ‘classic modern’. The excellent quality beer is another reason to recommend this fine establishment. Beers consumed were:

  • Scapa Special 4.2% The Highland Brewing Co Ltd - a lush ale is fruity with a hoppy finish and very little bitterness, mouthfuls of cream. Truly wonderful. “One of the nicest beers I’ve ever tasted” – The Lady.

  • Northern Light 4% Orkney – a modicum of bitterness with citrus notes.

Inside the Canons' Gait

The Café Royal Bar
The Café Royal Bar is an outstandingly quant bar from a more genteel age. An age when bright young things called Algernon and Henrietta larked about having a jolly spiffing time. An age when the economically illiterate government of the day plumped for austerity and mass unemployment over Keynesian righteousness, an age that the ConDem knob-heads are hell-bent on mimicking. You half expect Poirot to be sitting sipping whilst sharpening his moustache. Spats, you don’t see many of those worn these days. Upon the walls are tiled pictures depicting romantic scenes of trade and commerce in a way that they’ve never been conducted. U fortunately my photos (as always) don’t do it justice. Whilst the décor is suspended in time the prices have most certainly moved on. A round of drinks in this establishment is quite steep. But I suppose you get what you pay for as the service was excellent and the ale was well looked after. I quaffed a pint of Pivo Estivo 3.9% from Kelburn – a tart lemon marmalade of an ale. Sweet and smooth to begin with but followed up with a tangy finish don’t you know.
Inside the Cafe Royal


The Bow Bar
This bar was my local for the duration being just a couple of floors below our flat. A small one roomed bar with wooden floors, wood panelling, tables and chairs loiter around the perimeter. I especially liked the diddy little tables, thin two-legged affairs with their two legs firmly screwed to the floor. This is very much a locals’ bar as well as catering for the passing tourists.
The bar has an amazing deep red ceiling; promotional mirrors and enamelled advertising signs adorn the walls. Coat hooks are affixed to the edge of the bar and around the top of the wood panelling. This is a bar designed for standing and drinking. If the Bow Bar was my permanent local I would not be an unhappy man
All the cask ale is dispensed by air, something I’ve rarely seen before although I had been warned by the Good Beer Guide prior to entering that this was the case, otherwise it could have been quite disconcerting to be served with something that more resembled a cream-flow nitro-keg rather than a real ale. Eight cask ales appear to be always available with Deuchars IPA, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Stewarts 80/- being permanent fixtures, so I understand. I’m not a big fan of most 80/- beers that I’ve tried but you can’t go to Scotland and not have at least one. So I took the opportunity which in the Bow Bar to have a pint of the Stewarts 80/-. I was pleasantly surprised. This plum-ruby ale was fruity, with no bitterness but a goodly amount of hessian. It could almost be described as sweet, but don’t let that put you off. It is a kind forgiving ale that nobody could dislike.

As I sat drinking in the Bow Bar late on the Tuesday afternoon enjoying the relative calm whilst the Lady was off doing something despicable it all felt close to perfect. Unfortunately the peace was broken by a half a dozen middle-aged female American tourists entering the bar all in search of malt whisky, all wanting something different from their companions and all requiring detailed tasting characteristics before they made their purchase. These were the only tourists that stayed for a drink at this fine bar whilst I was there. A number popped their heads in a then made swift exits, not sure why, but it was definitely their loss.
A couple of other outstanding ales I sampled at my Edinburgh local were:

  • Houston Killetton 3.7% - a superb session ale, but then you’d expect nothing less from Houston. It’s a dark golden ale with a great hop finish and not too unlike a good pint of Greene King IPA but with a creamier body.

  • Ascalon from St Georges Brewery 3.6% wheat beer. It is a bit like a less alcoholic version of Thornbridge Jaipur IPA – a brilliant session alternative and you’d never know that it was a wheat beer.

I like Edinburgh and hope to return sooner rather than later.