Thursday, 29 August 2013

Beer Review: Jorvik Blonde

Another of the ales gifted me by my students, this one was done because "you like Vikings". Basically a colleague and I had created, well, he created and I just filled in some details, a double lesson of awesome-ness about Vikings as raiders and traders. It was a fantastic day, I don't mind saying myself, and a supreme act of imagination by my colleague. So, the students were part right. I am fascinated with most things historical and Norsemen catch my fancy (one need only trace the influences in the poetry in this blog) but it was my colleague rather than I that deserved the beer for it.

Nevertheless, tonight it is the turn of Rudgate's Jorvik Blonde that describes itself as 'flaxen blonde ale' and thus straight away gains bonus points!

I was hasty and so forgot to wash up the all important glass and so I cannot comment on the colour. Aroma wise it was dry and strong, which is good in my book, with a good mouthful of hops to bring the bitter and citrus tones that I enjoy in my beers. At 4.8% ABV it is a pretty meaty ale for my latest adventures and showed this quickly in the first mouthful. A good opening of fizz allowing a mellowness and maltiness to peek through and then straight to the bitterness of the hops and ending with a taste not unlike Black Sheep. After taste is a lingerer but this is not a bad thing and brings you up short enough that you want a second taste, so not really a sipping beer as it is a serial sipping beer.

I am impressed by it, despite the weight it didn't have me dizzy or anything like that and sometimes these beers around 4.8% can do that, and it means that I got through the entire bottle relatively quickly. Having it with fish and chips rather than my usual spicy pizza helped and meant that I was able to kick back and relax a little whilst drinking. Alas, it means that I have not got much detail on it. I liked it, I liked it so much that I kind of forgot I was reviewing it at the same time.

Enjoy in the depths of a dark night, wrapped in a fur cloak, whilst reciting tales of Erik the Red in the old Norse language, the crackling flames from your fire making shadows dance off the walls of your round house. Drink through the fronds of a long beard, carefully braided for battle, and use it to ease the legal discussions that inevitably follow any raid as you debate whether there was sufficient permission to take slaves and kill or maim your foes.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Beer Review: Cultural Exchange

It was my grandfather's 80th birthday bash and so my brother and I decided to tool up and have a DVD night. It didn't quite go according to plan but we did bring along some ales that were local to us (well, my grandfather misunderstood and brought some Tetley's in cans). Again, I shan't do full reviews on each of the beers but the guests were, in order of being drunk, Cascade Pale Ale from Saltaire Brewery, Manchester Brown Ale from Joseph Holt, Ilkley Black from Ilkley Brewery and Maple Moon (Joseph Holt again). We had Leeds Best (Leeds Brewery) and Champion 1849 (Joseph Holt again) on hand but these were consumed after the fact and in isolation.

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Sunday, 18 August 2013

Moving Experiences I

Looking from the ruins of one of the guest houses. These are
not my photos. I can't find those. I've had to rely on good old
Mister Google. However, I am sad enough to know where
each one was taken. I have some in snow somewhere.
We've had the Boy's Goblin over the last few days. It's been a good few days. We had two full days out, which is rather unheard of in our family with our two, and the children are predictably shattered from the experience. Having an extra adult whom they both adulated made things much easier though, so that was nice.

It's also helped in the ongoing moving in that the places we went are peculiarly connected to where we live now rather than where we are going to live. Yesterday we went to a place that holds a special part of me forever. I have been leading coursework trips there for an actual decade and so have visited it almost 40 times in that period. I have led tours of it for students about eight times too, so it really is a place that I know exceptionally well and a place in which I enjoy performing, so to speak, by showing people around. The Boy's Goblin was very kind and offered to be shown around, she showed interest and asked questions and I ended up practically running a coursework tour for her. It was like I was saying goodbye to the place in a way that I hadn't done when I last took kids there from school.

My favourite building. That wall you see there is scarred with
history over 850 years and, well, I am a frustrated architectural
historian, so it's a mild nerdgasm for me.
It is Fountains Abbey and, though you won't get me offering paeans of praise on here to it, you will see that I do feel that I will miss the place. A UNESCO World Heritage site with the oldest working mill in the world (850 years in case you were wondering) and the largest vaulted Cellarium in Europe (and thus the world) that also has a pretty location and some of the best thought-out museums that I have seen on such sites. It is one of the best preserved monastical ruins in the UK and has many features that you simply won't find anywhere else as a consequence of it being the wealthiest Cistercian Abbey in the British Isles in its heyday and then, latterly, being considered and rejected for a cathedral before being used as the centrepiece for Victorian water gardens. The main asset has always been the mill that ceased commercial function in 1927 but remains working and used, mainly for demonstrations now but also to provide power for the exhibits and Fountains Hall.

Atmospheric look up the aisle to the
Chapel of Nine Altars
One of my great loves of the last decade and a significant part of my life, I think I have taken most people that meant something to me to visit whilst I've lived where I do. And now, looking at where we're going to live, we are going to beyond the 'day out' distance for driving, which it was already on the outside of (what can I say, the UK is much smaller than most other countries and our road network lacks the space to be as long-winded as other countries, as a consequence we travel less distance on a day). In other words, no chance of running a coursework on it, less chance of it being a significant part of my teaching any more and limited opportunities to visit. I said goodbye yesterday.

I love what the artist has done here. Tres atmospheric. It's from
the ruins of the Brothers' Infirmary.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Beer Review: Against the Grain

It's been a long-ish day with some highs and lows - we went to the seaside today you see with the childrens, and so I am now going to kick back with another of the beers that were kindly bought for me by my students before I left my last school.

This one is the Wold Top Against the Grain which I confess to have been looking forward to. It was bought because my lessons are apparently very much against the mainstream, thus against the grain (this was a compliment, I think: I shall take it as such anyway). Also, the artwork on the bottle (see below) is very close to the Socialist Realism style around the Five Year Plans (actually, I think it's more like the style associated with Constructivism, which is far superior). Bless my students, we hadn't studied the Soviets yet so they must have gleaned that tidbit from a colleague of mine.

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Sunday, 11 August 2013

Childhood Shared

This blog is really supposed to be patriarchal, in that it was supposed to be about the Boy and I and my quest to create a mythical past for him. Alas, as you can see, that aim has really rather stymied (I blame the stress of moving) and it has become something... else.
I remember seeing these posters
at the cinema in 1986. I saw it on
TV in 1988, we taped it. Yes,
my childhood memories of this
were a grainy VHS copy from

However, part of it has been a development to a more parenting based blog than solely one on fatherhood and having a son. Tonight this takes a new turn. The Girlie is now old enough to watch a film with her Daddy before bed. And I shared an old favourite of mine with her: The Flight of the Navigator. This was made in 1986 and has one of those standard 1980s draw ins of being about a child and aliens. It was a genuine thing back then after E.T.

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Thursday, 8 August 2013

Beer Review: Best Bitter

Another night of me drinking ale and another beer bought for me by my students. Tonight it is the turn of St Peter's Best Bitter in a specially created bottle that is modelled on one presented to some fella as he crossed the Delaware in the War of Independence and was produced in Suffolk. I confess to being a little bemused by that particular reference, but there it is.

First impressions of this were good, there was minimal carbonation and the bottle was in fact pleasing to hold and pour from. The colour was pleasant and chestnut with a frothy head that soon disappeared after pouring. It is a warm colour with a good aroma to it of spices and citrus from the hops. At 3.7% ABV it is on the weaker end of the spectrum of ales that I review but it is not harmed by that. First taste is an assault by hops and very bitter but with a fresh aftertaste that means you feel ready for a second sip rather quickly. Not a downing beer by any stretch of the imagination, this is one to be savoured and enjoyed. Little malt to this, though enough to stop it being thin and cruddy, and it is dominated by those bitter hops. Not sure of variety but they are less smoky than I would expect of Fuggles, perhaps close to Cascade or Pearl. Very enjoyable on the tongue and weak enough that I don't have to be too wary with it.

This was had after my evening meal and so doesn't have to compete with my food for flavour, but I get the impression that it would work well with salad or summery foods generally. Probably not going to work with fish or strong red meat in gravy but a friend of anything vegetarian methinks. I wouldn't pit it against a curry or a chinese but that's not a criticism as I really like this ale. It's simple, uncomplicated and gets straight to the point at a level of strength that means I don't fall asleep or fall over.

Enjoy this on a bright evening or a dark winter night with either a fine summery meal outside or the crackling fire of a campsite. Get a few in if you can because you'll want to repeat the experience a few times!

Sunday, 4 August 2013


What better thing to talk about than my children. The Boy has very much identified with the new place we're hoping we can buy with help from my parents (we'll be paying them back).

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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Beer Review: Nutty Black

My students got me this, and three others, as a present to say thank you when they heard I was leaving where I worked. Each of the ales they got had been thought out and carefully considered with reasoning given for each. I shall relate that here as well as reviewing it because, well, that's just very cool and slightly humbling.

Tonight I decided to try Nutty Black from Thwaites because I could. This was chosen because my teaching style is slightly 'nutty' (I prefer 'scatty professor type') and the black in the title was simply there. The fact that it had two types of hops was apparently testament to my many different styles.

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