Category: Booze


Don’t it always seem to go…

Hi, it’s been a year since I last posted (I know, shit blogger or what!) and I wasn’t planning on blogging about this either, that is why there are no pictures. I’ve decided to ruminate over what happened to me last week more as a cautionary letter to myself than anything else.

Please be aware, I didn’t think I’d be blogging so all images are an artists impression, although I don’t think you can tell.

It was a Saturday and I was stuck in London. I had to get the train back to work but, advanced fares being what they are, I could only get one train at a semi-reasonable price, which meant I was stuck in the capital until 4pm. I had woke up, showered and checked out by half 10 and got myself a breakfast at the Polo bar outside Liverpool Street station (a bit pricey but highly recommended – and they’re open 24 hours!). A quick tube across town and I was outside Paddington with three hours to spare. What shall I do…

The previous night I had been out with a friend at The o2. I’m sure you will know that the drink availability is not only eye-wateringly expensive but also dire in its variety. Infact the bars that were near my seat at the gig had two offerings on tap either Budweiser or Bud Light. At nearly £6 a pint is it any wonder that the pub next door is always full of people trying to time it until the last possible second before running into the gig!

So, a pint of something actually nice was required. You will by now know that I prefer real ales and I’m always on the search for a new really god pub to add to my mental list of places worth drinking in. I therefore went to my phone, opened the cask marque app and took a punt one of the pubs around Paddington.

The Pride of Paddington was my first port of call and all I have to say was, it was lovely. Real ale on tap, friendly bar staff, quiet enough to read my magazine, clean toilets, wood panelling on the walls and soft furnishings to sit on. It was all reasonably priced too! I ordered a pint of Tribute, scanned their cask marque certificate and sat down to read my magazine. Before I knew it my glass was empty and I decided to try another pub down the road.

Just down the road and back towards the station is The Dicken’s. It’s a Greene King pub (which usually means the beer is at least well kept if nothing else). I walked through the door and was met with the screeching cacophony several TV screens all blaring out the football. This was a bit of a shock to the system after the calm, quiet and relaxing embrace of the Pride of Paddington. Nevertheless I joined the substantial queue at the bar and ordered a pint of something dark, Winter Star by Twickenham Ales. By the time I sat down I was thirsty and had several large gulps before I realised it was off. It tasted fine in the mouth but the aftertaste was repellent. I tried a few more mouthfuls but it really wasn’t up to scratch, but it was only in the aftertaste. I could swill it around in my mouth all day and it would have been fine. I know I should have told the bar maid but to be honest with all the noise I just couldn’t be bothered to stay in the pub anyway.

There were two other pubs to try, The Sawyers Arms (which was across the road from The Dickens) and The Beer House (actually on the concourse of the station). I went to try the Sawyers but as I approached I could hear the football before I even opened the door. I turned on a sixpence actually said “NO!” out load and went to the Beer House. I thought that this might be a good idea anyway as time was now moving on and it would be easier to catch the train.

The beer house is a small black wooden box sat on the floor between two platforms. Whilst inside it is a reasonable sized pub it is dwarfed by the canopy of the station. After my problems before I went back to reliable Tribute. I know tribute well and if it is off I can say with some authority. It was quiet.There were televisions on but they were muted with subtitles and they were showing some sort of long distance running. Whilst not really a problem it did keep catching my eye while I was reading, which was a distraction. The beer was good but they seemed to have an o2 pricing structure on their beer. I dread to think what the more exotic bottles would have been charged at! Otherwise not much to write home about.

I think the moral of the story is that while it is nice to try different pubs, sometimes it is also nice to stay in a good one that you have found. A friend of mine always joked that when we die we will all end up with a trump card of our lives with all the possible statistics imaginable. Some statistics (number of jobs:1) will probably be quite low but others (number of pubs visited: hundreds) will be the reason why my card will keep a player from losing but is it really worth it? Is training up this cosmic playing card going to help me enjoy life more? Answer, probably. I love discovering new pubs and always visiting the same one over and over would be dull. That being said, when I find a good one and the mood is right, I don’t think I’ll be as quick to move on just for the sake of an extra tick in the book as I used to be.

The session – Porter

image

This months beer blogging session is titled porter. We’re  supposed to talk about  the style in whatever capacity we feel is appropriate and quite simply, I forgot. So tonight I was in the supermarket desperately looking for a porter to drink.

The Guinness was nice by the way.
It is amazing how few porters there are available in British supermarkets. In fact I could only find one, Guinness West Indies Porter. It is amazing that so few are available. There are loads of IPA’s but nearly no porters. Is the style doomed? There are a few stouts (mostly other Guinness  brands or equivalent competition). My question, are dark beers really just for beer geeks because the powers that be think most people dont want to drink it.  I have no answers. Does anyone else?

Luton Beer Festival 2016

Another year and another round of all our favourite beer festivals begins. There are several local festivals in and around the Bedfordshire area and they are nicely spread across the year. Always the first is Luton, which is run by the South Bedfordshire CAMRA branch. Despite the hectic nature of life I had a free day and was able to attend the Thursday session. I could be lazy and just right “for details see last year’s post” but as I went to look for last year’s post I found that it has not posted or has been lost. So for the first time on this blog let me introduce you to Luton.

For my money Luton beer festival has one major problem, its location. The venue itself is perfectly fine, just getting to the venue can put off some of those who have heard the details of what Hightown is like after dark. If you are local-ish you will know what I mean. If you are from the Anglia region, I’m sure you will have heard about it on the local news. If you are from further afield, just Google it.

Once you have braved the badlands of Hightown you are perfectly safe inside what is normally a local sports hall, given up for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, as a the place to go for the beer drinkers of Bedfordshire and beyond. There are two main rooms. One has the LocAle bar and the cider bar. The other room has the  national parks bar, the everywhere else bar and the bottled beer bar. As variety is the spice of life I suggest a wander around to try something from all the bars. There are great beers to be had at all of them.

Staff of the Black Lion receive their award from Local MP's

Staff of the Black Lion receive their award from Local MP’s

We happened to be in the first room when the local MP’s for Luton (North) and Luton (South) stood up on stage to declare the festival open, even though people had been drinking for six hours by now. They then went on to present the South Bedfordshire CAMRA pub of the year to the Black Lion in Leighton Buzzard. I was again with my mate Jonny on this outing and he took much dislike to this. He found that politicising what should be a fun evening out was a step too far for him. Especially as two barrels of beer (one in each room) was sponsored by the Labour party.

Strangely sponsored Barrels!

Strangely sponsored Barrels!

There were some other curious barrel sponsorships as well. One barrel just said “Luton Haiku” with no contact details at all. Google tells me there is a Twitter account that just does Haikus about Luton. That is all I could find on the subject. Apparently Clod magazine has made these short form poems into books, it is now on its third volume. More mystifying that this, however, was the barrel which mealy said “ALAN WHEELER LEGENDARY LUTON LIBRARIAN”. Err… yes, well done Alan.

The important bit to remember is that it’s all about the beer. With that in mind here are a few of my highlights. First of all it was my first chance to try something from the Ampthill Brewhouse. They are a relatively new brewery, taking over from the short lived Ampthill brewery and they are the nearest brewers to where I live. I am pleased to report that their 3.4% Session ale is a beautifully easy drink to settle into a night at the beer festival. Continuing the local theme Leighton Buzzard Brewery had their 4.2% Cuckoo originally only meant to be served in the Cuckoo micro pub in Toddington. Also, staying local I tried a medium/sweet Evershed’s Town and Country Cider, from the north of the county.

Brewdog's Vagabond - Gluten Free Pale Ale

Brewdog’s Vagabond – Gluten Free Pale Ale

Moving further away we tried several beers from far and wide in the non-local room, however the stand out for me in here was a bottle of Brewdog’s Vagabond, 4.5%. We had a lengthy discussion with the chap behind the bar about whether CAMRA should even be serving Brewdog products, not being real ale an’ all. I doubt there will ever be a definitive answer.

One final beer I want to mention was Sorachi City by Golden Triangle, 3.9%. If anyone out there has had a try of this fantastic beer please get in touch and tell me what that flavour is I get on the nose! It is driving me mad. I asked the guy behind the bar and he instantly said blue cheese, his speed in response proved that there has been previous discussions about this beer. I can see where the cheese idea comes from but I can’t be sure that is it. There is certainly a very creamy mouth-feel to the drink which could convince some of the cheese flavour but I’m not so sure.

If you like the sound of Luton Beer Festival it is on the third weekend of February each year at the Hightown Community Sports & Arts Centre, York Street, Luton LU2 0JD. For more information: http://southbeds.camra.org.uk/