Category: Beer


It’s been a while since I have done one of these beer blogging sessions. I intended to always join in but life gets in the way. Sorry guys. Never mind though, I’m back now and the first topic is “snowed in”. Being hosted by Jon Abernathy at The Brew Site and he asks us what beers do we go for when we are stuck in the middle of winter with nowhere to go but the beer cellar.

Thanks Jon, thanks for posting for my first topic after my long hiatus a subject which is near impossible for me to answer. I live in Bedfordshire, England, a place which does get the occasional snow shower but never anything to leave you stranded in your own home. In fact it I have to cast my mind back three of four years to remember a snow bad enough to even affect the traffic.

I have been giving this some thought, however, and I have a few little snippets of my past that were very cold and I remember the beers I reaches for then. Here is one small account of beer and the cold:

Last year we had a lads weekend to Amsterdam. It was October and not all that cold. We have been several times before and we know which bars we like and which serve some really good beers. That being said we always try and seek out a few new places. This year it was suggested that we visit the Ice bar. Now I know it’s a tourists trap and there is nothing authentically Dutch about it and I know there is one in London which is only 40 miles from where I live, but it’s a lads weekend, if we were there for the culture we’d have visited much more sensible places than that.

For those who haven’t been, here is a little description of what it’s like. First of all you have to book your time slot. You then arrive about have an hour before where you are let into an ordinary bar provided you have a ticket. You are given a few tokens, some to spend in the first bar and some to spend in the Ice bar, these are part of the ticket price. You drink with the tokens in the first bar for about half an hour, until your time slot is called up. You then queue with approximately 30 other people who are all given gloves and huge coats to wear before being let in. Above you is a video playing which is a flagrant rip off of Pirates of the Caribbean meant to suggest that we’re all going on an ocean voyage which ends in us all being shipwrecked in a tiny ice cave. You are then walked into the ice bar. The bar itself is made of ice (no surprises there) and the walls too are made of frozen water. You could almost believe it is a frozen ice cave if it wasn’t the red LED clock giving you constant temperature read outs. It was about -10°c if memory serves. You spend the two tokens you were given outside and nothing else. No cash in the Ice bar. They time it all about right so the next group comes in just as you are finishing your second beer. The beers are served in a glass made of ice (no licking or eating of the glassware, by order). All in all you have three or four half pints, two of which are even colder that usual. You are then ejected from the premises where you wander off into the  (relatively) warm Amsterdam night. You then bump into a bunch of girls who were on your flight who you try to avoid but end up having a conversion with before leaving the final bar of the evening to raid the Febo machines. *

So there you are, in a cold room with a cold glass. Your fingers are slowly numbing and your face feels like you’ve been slapped with a shatterproof ruler. What sort of beer do they serve? There is only one option. Logically there is only one thing it could be. Which beers taste best when they are on the verge of freezing themselves? Beers that have always been known for their refreshing clarity and crispness? Of all the beers which taste the most repellant when warm? It has to be Lager. And which Lager? Well we’re in Amsterdam, you’ve got two choices and its not Amstel.


*That last part may not happen to you, it is just an example of what can happen in Amsterdam when the beer flows. There are numerous other outcomes to an Amsterdam evening which you can Google for yourselves.

Two posts in one day for you lucky, lucky readers of this infrequent little blog, how exiting!

There are three things which my life revolves around, my work with The Friends of Bedfordshire Society, my love of music (especially live) and my love of beer. I had a bit of an update on the music front a earlier today. Now to address the other two.

I realise that I haven’t really talked on my blog much (actually, at all),  about my work with The Friends of Bedfordshire Society, so briefly… we are a small group which tries to promote the historic and ceremonial county of Bedfordshire with our main interest being the pride of the community itself. As part of this we’ve set up BEDFORDSHIRE DAY (28th November) – a day of celebrations across the county which is just there to say “ain’t Bedfordshire great!”.

There are many things going on but what I wanted to draw attention to on this blog, given it’s beery bent was Leighton Buzzard Brewery. They are a fairly new brewery but who are going from strength to strength with a range of fantastic ales all brewed in their industrial unit on the edge of Leighton Buzzard.

To celebrate Bedfordshire Day they will be opening their brewery for the day and releasing a new beer, Bedfordshire Best. As well as the beers the Little Buzzard Bakery will be selling Bedfordshire Clangers to the thirsty beer loving masses. So why not head down if you are in the area, they are open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Leighton Buzzard Brewery 

I know it’s been a long time since I last posted but truthfully there hasn’t been much to blog about. I haven’t really been drinking anything that interesting and work has meant that life has been plodding on without going anywhere or doing anything of any note. Or at least that is what I thought. Looking back over the past few months I have had a few tales to tell, situations where I’ve thought “that might be worth blogging about” but never really got round to it, then forgot about. So prepare yourself for a short barrage of posts concerning all the things I’ve been too lazy to type up until now.

First up as the title suggests: ale. A while ago now I was expecting to get a few days off and relax for a long weekend all of a sudden the bat-phone goes off. “An emergency installation of lockers in Cornwall, can you get there tomorrow?” So much for the long weekend, but a trip to Cornwall is always a good thing right?

Cape Cornwall

Cape Cornwall

Bags packed we head down to Cape Cornwall Golf and Leisure club, who require our assistance with their new locker room. If you ever get the chance to get down to this part of the world just go because it is breathtakingly gorgeous. Even on the the worst days, when the weather was throwing everything it had got the rugged landscape stood up to it with ease and still held a bleak magnificence. Even when the fog rolled in off the sea, just knowing it was there beyond the think fug was enough to make the hairs stand on end and bring out the inner poet from the soul (don’t worry I won’t inflict poetry any on you).

If that wasn’t good enough the golf club was good enough to put us up for the duration in one of their on site hotel rooms (result) with a sea view (result++). Sitting in the evening watching the waves crash against the rocks was great.

On the first evening the bar wasn’t open, not enough guests to warrant it, so we ventured into the village. The village in question is called St. Just. It’s a small town set a mile or so inland. Village amenities include a butchers, a bakers, a candlestick makers, a green grocers, a deli, a chippy, two newsagents, a post office and a garage, nearly all independent. On top three pubs which all, from the outside at least, looked wonderfully charming and full of character. I’m sure that in season they are booming with business and out of season the locals will be enough to keep things ticking over, because despite its appearances, St. Just is actually quite big. We had a quick fish and chip supper before returning to the hotel with a few bottles of beer from the newsagents.

The next night the hotel bar was open so we didn’t need to drive anywhere for food or drink. The bar always stocks Sharp’s Doom bar and also one other ale which is the choice of the Golf captain. The captain chose wisely with another Sharp’s, this time Atlantic. An appropriately named beer considering we were at Cape Cornwall. [For those who don’t know and are slightly interested Cape Cornwall is the point where the Atlantic currents meet and split to either go south and round the English Channel or north  and up into the Irish Sea.]

Now it is to my shame that up until this point I had not had Sharp’s Atlantic, even though it is in my local Tesco. It’s just one of those things that I never got round to. But I was about to rectify that with an accompanying rib-eye steak that was cooked to perfection. It was a beautiful pint, filled with juicy flavours of orange and mango with a rounded sweet malty after-taste that was sublime. I probably had one more than I should but I just couldn’t help myself, it was just so nice, and after a long day at work it was just a real treat, especially with the food accompaniment which was first class.

*     *     *

Fast forward a few days and you find me at another job staying at another stunning location, this time in the Cotswolds, just outside Hook Norton. Now, if you read this blog because you’re interested in beer I don’t think I need to tell you where this is going but for everyone else (Hi Mum!) you should know that Hook Norton is mostly famed for its brewery, and a fine brewery it is too.

The Gate Hangs High

The Gate Hangs High

The rolling hills are a fine setting for a golf club and made for a pleasant days work, but they make for an even greater setting for  twee little English country villages which look like the backdrop to Midsummer Murders. The sort of village which we all think the rest of the world thinks that we live in (did that make sense?). I’m trying to think of another way of putting this without using the phrases “Chocolate-box” or “picture -postcard”. From the golf club we drove for several miles through village after village passing several pubs and even a distillery before finally arriving at a cross roads just outside Hook Norton itself where on the corner sits the perfectly proportioned building that is The Gate Hangs High, a Hook Norton pub.

Beautiful location, real ales on tap, well appointed, comfortable rooms. I was getting a feeling of deja vu (except in the Cotswolds there isn’t much of a sea view and we didn’t get the room for free but hey, you can’t have everything). There was quite a selection of ‘Hooky’ beers on tap and in bottle and I endeavoured to try several of them. The stand outs for me we the cask ones. The bottles, while  nice enough, just didn’t cut it. Lion and Old Hooky were the two which I went back to the most and with good reason. They weren’t going to set the world alight with some brand new highly technical hop combination or an astronomical ABV, they were just really well executed ordinary, down to earth beers. This was for me especially true of the Old Hooky with the subtle dark fruit flavours which add a special quality to the beer, just luxury in a glass without pretension.

*     *     *

Fast forward a few more days and I’m back in Bedfordshire and in Tesco and what do you know both Atlantic and Old Hooky are in bottles and are sitting on the shelf begging to be bought, which is exactly what I did. That evening I got them out of the fridge and tried them in turn. Atlantic first and then the Old Hooky. I was disappointed with both. Now it could have been something to do with being at home and having not worked that day not needed the calming refreshment and relaxing hug of a nice beer, but I just didn’t get it. The Old Hooky was OK and perfectly drinkable, just not quite as amazing as it was in The Gate Hangs High. The Atlantic, however was dreadful by comparison, so dull of taste compared to the vibrant, flavoursome drink I had in Cornwall. In the end I took to telling myself it wasn’t the same beer while I tried to finish it, so much was my disappointment.

So like the title says Real ale really is the real thing.