Category: Food & Drink


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.

TLDR?

The great Darjeeling debarcle

I was about to start writing a post about The Great Escape Festival, but as I was writing I kinda got into a bit of a rant about tea. So I’ve chopped and changed it about a bit. Great Escape to follow, I promise.

Lets begin at the beginning. It was a Thursday, it was overcast. I was tired and hungover. I’m lucky that I can get a direct train to Brighton, no faffing about changing in London or any of that crap, just a straight line there, sitting on the train for two hours, which turned into three because it was raining and apparently it was the wrong kind of rain. Before I even got on the train I was a little bit put out because… OK, let me explain.

Every time I get a train I stop at the little kiosk on Platform 4 to get a cup of Darjeeling. Now I’m not just saying Darjeeling as some do to mean tea I mean Darjeeling. Now I don’t use the train very often, so every time there is a new person working behind the counter and every time I have to go through the rigmarole of trying to explain to them what I mean by this strange statement of “a cup of Darjeeling, please”, especially as this time the girl behind the counter tried to palm me off with an Orangina.

A Bottle of Orangina

A Bottle of Orangina

Cup of Darjeeling

Cup of Darjeeling

 

I don’t mind that she doesn’t know what darjeeling is, a lot of people don’t, but when there is a box of the stuff right by your left ear (it was in a box at head height) you would have thought she could put two and two together, wouldn’t you? And wouldn’t you have thought the manager would familairised the staff with what products there is in their outlet? And even so, don’t you think Darjeeling and Orangina sound different enough to question the order? I am aware that both words have a j sound in them but so does Gerbil!

After we all figured out what everyone wanted, I wanted a hot drink and she wanted £1.30, we did have quite a pleasant chat about tea in its various forms, and she did say she would give the Darjeeling a go. Perhaps a convert to the “Champagne of teas”, possibly.

I’d like to say I may sound overly aggressive in this post but that it is because I’m shouting here and now to vent, not at the girl, who clearly had no idea.