Category: Pubs

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 Curfew Club is a monthly musical gathering in a small and intimate setting showcasing some of the local talent, especially those with acoustic or Americana bent. The session was first bought to my attention while reading The Bedford Clanger, a magazine highlighting all the cultural and art stuff going on in Bedford as well as getting behind local businesses and local talents. It was only a short article, not much more than an advert really, but it intrigued me. I mentioned it to Jonny, who is always up for a gig, and we decided to go.The Curfew Club poster

The first thing we had to do was sort out some drinks. Not only is this event free to get in but it’s also BYOB, so a great way to spend a cheap night out. So, because we are classy, we made straight for Lidl. A cornucopia of delicious and tempting ales it is not, however it is cheap. I through a few bottles of ale in the basket, Jonny went for the cheap pear cider.

The Weillie's interior

The Weillie’s interior

We had deliberately got into town early for two reasons. Firstly, being a small gig in a small venue it is limited to 40 people and Facebook said that there were 48 going. We wanted to make sure that we got in any queue early as to avoid disappointment. The second reason for going early is that just down the road from the venue, #44 Harpur St., are a couple of pubs (I think you can see where this is going).

Pint of Welsh Black

A Pint of Welsh Black in the wellie

First of all is the Wellington Arms, or the wellie as it is more commonly known. Previous visits to the wellie and its 14 handpumps had shown us the delights of B&T’s Fruit Bat and bottled beers such as Timmermans Kriek. With it’s range constantly changing who knows what we had in store. It’s always hard when you walk through the door of a pub and the bar maid immediately asks you what you would like. There are 14 choices and you haven’t even read them all yet. I went with Great Orme’s Welsh Black. As the name suggests it was a dark beer, a mild in fact and as dark as they come. It was a nice, if a bit lifeless, I’m guessing it was coming near to the end of the barrel.

A Pint of Doom Bar

A pint of Doom Bar in The Flower Pot next to an open fire (which isn’t blue, unlike this picture makes out)

After the wellie we moved on to the Flower Pot, I always thought it was a Greene King pub, but not serving any of their beers I guess I was wrong. They do serve Fuller’s London Pride and Sharp’s Doom Bar. Jonny and I both went for the Doom Bar. We sat by the open fire with views out of the window down Harpur Street so we could look out for any queue that might form.

No queue did form and we ended up having two in the Flower Pot, who can argue with a pint of Doom Bar and a warming fire on a drizzly February evening?

We were admitted into the venue at around opening time, it all seemed very friendly. I had worried that I had misunderstood the BYOB thing but no one queried our bags of beer as we walked through. Eventually the room filled out with more and more arrivals. I didn’t notice anyone getting turned away but I would have said that there were about 40 people there.

Gwinny performing at 44 Harpur St.

Gwinny performing at 44 Harpur St.

By about half 8 the first act was on stage and doing what she does. Her name was Gwinny and it was just her and an acoustic guitar. The act had two very distinct parts for me. The first half were all songs which had a distinct Laura Marling bent to them. This is a girl who clearly liked the album alas, I cannot swim. The second half of her songs, were much less easy to pin down, more individual in many ways and just as enjoyable as the first songs. For me the stand out song was Come away with me, which isn’t anything to do with the Norah Jones song of the same name. Gwinny was accompanied, for me at least, by a bottle of Bornem Abbey Blonde Beer which I found to be quite a sharp and didn’t settle well after the well served Doom Bar in the Flower Pot.

The Darling Mundaring performing at 44 Harpur St.

The Darling Mundaring performing at 44 Harpur St.

The headline act was The Darling MundaringAfter the bread and water that a girl + acoustic can be it was great to hear the full roast dinner that a full band can be. A much more polyphonic affair but nevertheless taking the same acoustic route as Gwinny had before but with added cello and percussion. It was a gorgeous , rich and beautiful noise which I loved listening to.There were several songs which they performed which I could easily see, given the right set of circumstances, could get picked up by the mainstream. October, Books, and As good for me are all stand out tracks that could get these guys on the radio. Their accompanying beer was a bottle of Hatherwood’s Golden Goose, a beer brewed specifically for Lidl (Not all that great either).

To sum it up them The Curfew club provides a showcase of some fantastic local talent in the Bedford area and allow you to discover some great new acoustic music. Both of the acts we saw were great. Lidl provide beer that is cheap.

More information of the Curfew Club’s Facebook page:, the next session is on 9th March at the Cavalier Barber Shop.

Golden Pints 2013

The Golden Pint Awards 2013

The Golden Pints 2013 – With Thanks to Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg

I have been writing this blog for a few years now, but this year is the first year in which I feel that I have been varied enough in the beers that I have tried to justify writing up the list of my Golden Pints . Sure in past years I have drunk a lot of different beers, but I usually struggle to even think of any foreign beers that I will have tried over the past twelve months. Like many of us beer bloggers I have quote a bad memory. I’m not going to do much of a short list, just the winners. So here are my thoughts on the best beers of 2013…

  • Best UK Cask Beer
    • Elland’s 1872 porter – I first tried this in a Wetherspoon’s in Manchester city centre. The weather was cold and I was still a bit hung over from going to the National Winter Ale Festival  the night before but never the less it was still a fantastic pint, and it was still a fantastic pint when we had some at the St. Neot’s beer festival later in the year. I wish I could see it on more often in the pubs need me because I need more of it in my life.
  • Best UK Keg Beer
    • Hepworth and Co‘s Conqueror – Although not the most mind-blowing beer in the whole world, it is exactly what is needed when you’re in a heavily packed music venue. This is a beer, which along with it’s siblings from the Hepworth Brewery, followed me around Brighton a lot  during the Great Escape Festival this year. No doubt we’ll meet again next year as well.
  • Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
    • Brewdog‘s AB:12 – When I first thought about this category I was so ready to shrug my shoulders and just say any old thing that popped into my head. Then I looked back at my untappd account and realised all of the beers which I have had this year that were bloody excellent. I’m also going to give a nod to Orkney’s Dark Island, Tullibardine 1488 whisky beer and The Celt Experience‘s Bleddyn 1075. Brewdog’s AB:12 however was the most different, standout, un-beer-like-beer with such a smooth warming finish, it was more like drinking a port than a beer. Whether that is a good thing or not in a beer is up for debate but for me it was a revelation.
  • Best collaboration brew
    • Dogfish Head and Charles Wells DNA – For me it has to be. Not only does it get Charles Wells out of their public image of just doing things like bland old Eagle IPA but it also tastes juicy and refreshing. It’s just fruity enough to be a good drink on a night out, and just relaxingly malty enough that you can curl up with a pint in front of the fire in the cliché old world pub scene. I have drunk this beer in both these cases and can tell you that it works fine in both.
  • Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
    • Steven’s Point IPA – This isn’t a strong category for me, I can’t think of many beers which were all that great, but Steven’s Point does stick out as a good one. An honourable mention  also: Schlenkerla‘s Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier.
  • Best Overseas Tap Beer
    • De Bekeerde Suster‘s De Manke Monnik – A group of us had a pint of this each whole we were at the brewery in Amsterdam. Such a hit with all of us that we are still looking of an effective way to get it imported.
  • Best Overall Beer
    • Taking in all of the above beers, as well as all of the other beers which I have drunk in the past twelve months I can’t help but think that all of these beers don’t really reflect what I drink overall. In fact, most of the time I drink standard stuff from the supermarket, because for the day to day beer has to be reasonable value as well as taste good. That is why my over all beer has depth of flavour, a good mouth feel, a sessionable ABV (so I can go to work in the morning), character, visually appealing in the glass and in the can, as well as a reasonable price tag. drum roll please…. Thwaites Champion Dark Mild.
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
    • Lancaster Brewery – I try not to be swayed by such things, but we all know that I am, along with everyone else. I like a brewery which has a theme running through their beer labels. The recent Greene King rebranding of the IPA range certainly gets my approval, but the best branding for me Lancaster Brewery. Their bottles are printed so well, and their pumpclips as well are of high quality, with a classy understated design which doesn’t try and distract or frog-march you to a decision with jokes and wit. It just sits there, on the bar, quietly understated.
  • Best UK Brewery
    • Adnams – For me a brewery which, although not getting  mention in the above individual  beer categories above, consistently produces high quality ales as well as innovative new brews that I know I am going to enjoy. You never hear the conversation; Someone:”Hey Looke, try this beer, it’s the new one from Adnams.”  Looke:”Hmmm, I dunno, is it any good?”. Of course it’s going to be good, it’s brewed by Adnams.
  • Best Overseas Brewery
    • Brouwerij ‘t IJ – Back on our Amsterdam trip we visited the giant windmill in the middle of Amsterdam that it the brewhouse of this brewery. Not one of their beers was bad. And they were still good when we tried some at the Bedford Beer Festival as well.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2013
    • CAMRA says that 187 new breweries have started in the past 12 months but I have no idea which one’s they are and it I have tried their beers or not.
  • Pub/Bar of the Year
    • While some places on my travels do come close, The Albion in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, still is the place to go for a night in the pub. Plenty of real ales to try, some from the local B and T Brewery. It has guest spirits, guest ales and Guest ciders. A great community atmosphere where you are always welcome.
  • Beer Festival of the Year
    • St. Alban’s Beer Festival. While most CAMRA beer festivals are fairly similar to one another and St Albans is no exception (you buy a glass, get it filled, drink it, get it refilled, drink it, eat something, refill the glass, drink it while being amused by the entertainment etc.) it does make more of an effort with the entertainment. I feel the food is also slightly better quality than most other festivals that I have been to this year. And of course, any evening that you come home with a pocket full of cheese is a good evening.
  • Supermarket of the Year
    • Morrisons – I was all but ready to write Waitrose, like every other blogger for their wide range of generally good beers, then I had a little think. Tesco, they don’t even deserve a link for their poor array in my local branch. Sainsburys? There is always a choice but it is all a bit bland to my mind. Asda isn’t bad, and neither is Waitrose (although it is expensive). The more I think about it the best beers I’ve bought this year and more importantly have found me something new and different to try when I needed it most… Morrisons.
  • Independent Retailer of the Year
    • Dart’s Farm, Topsham, Devonshire – The more I think about all of the different shops I’ve been in since January to buy beer, none of them have been helpful, especially the little independents who look at you like your about to rob the place. Whilst not strictly speaking a beer retailer on its own, it does have a HUGE selection of beers within it’s farm shop as well as a selection of wines, spirits and ciders (including a house cider which was being pressed in the next room). On top of all that the staff asked if they could help and were friendly and nice. It makes all the difference, a difference I am willing to pay a little extra for.
  • Online Retailer of the Year
    • – I have used a few different online suppliers this year for different beer related purchases. They all delivered on time (kudos to the delivery company which delivered by bottle of Gin from Adnams, all of the problems caused were my fault and they were so helpful). Most of the websites were reasonable to use, none really blew my mind in the way of helpful user interfaces. But was stick out for me was the level of packaging and the amazingly quick delivery time, considering they are in Denmark, was, the online seller of all things Carlsberg. My wish for their Mermaid Porter was their command and they carried it out with the most efficient diligence.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine
    • Beer Blast by Philip Van Munching – It may not be a book released this year, but it is one of the best beer related books I have read this year. You can read my full report here.
  • Best Beer Blog or Website
  • Best Beer App
    • Feedly – Not strictly a Beer app, but an app I use a lot for the purposes of trawling the internet for Beer news, information and opinion. It is basically a one stop shop for all the blog feeds I follow, presenting them in an manageable way. Since Google Reader went down it has been my salvation.
  • Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
    • I haven’t really had much time for twitter this year, I have a new tablet PC now, which may help with this though.
  • Best Brewery Website/Social media
    • Lancaster Brewery – I’d love to say but like everyone else I was disappointed with the end result of the entire thing. Lancaster brewery, while not a social media is a good Brewery website which tells you what you need to know and nothing more. Clean and simple. Also it keeps the corporate imagery, logo’s and fonts running throughout, tying it in with its product nicely.
  • Biggest Dick in the world of beer