Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Trip to Carlisle

So we progressed Oop North recently as part of the Christmas rounds. This was before Anna had spent three days in hospital and had the kidney infection rear it's ugly head for a second and third time. She's home now, as I write up this review, but she's still in pain and not fully well. However, this is not a personal blog, it is a beer blog. And, to that end, I had two ales whilst up where I used to live and they were almost local. Well, one was local. The other was a princely £1.50, which I thought good value. Except I saw it today for 89p. Damn.

Anyway, yes, I shall be reviewing Corby Noir by Cumberland (Carlisle) and Bumblebee by Ballistic Beers as these were the ones I had that rainy, cold evening whilst trying to get the children to bed in my mother's house.

Would ye like to ken meir about the ales? Then travel wimme doon the road at the edge of the Batable Lands an' schott any meetings ye may ha' instead of bidin' wimme a while.

Yes, terrible attempt at the Carlislian dialect. I lived there for a goodly portion of my formative years but, like where I hale from, I am unable to accurately depict the accent with which one would assume I am most familiar. Anyway, long story short, we were there and there was little chance of the mammoth drive we had assumed the following day; instead there was a chance of some relaxation. So I wandered off down the road to see what I could find locally. I did find just the one ale that was local and the other was from Wiltshire. I also picked up Dr Thirsty's No. 4 Blonde from Wychwood (who are stalking me it seems) and had it later on, very passable, but I failed to review it so that shall have to wait until another time. On the night, two ales were thus imbibed and enjoyed.

First up was the local effort of Corby Noir. Having been through Corby a few times it was quite odd to be having an ale named after it. You'd think I'd have got used to the idea with the Ilkley Black (here) but apparently not. As one would imagine with a dark stout-like ale there was much character on the pour and little in the way of obvious fizz or big head. Immediate aroma was biscuity - putting me in mind of a Cabernet Sauvignon - rich and powerful with a hint of brandy on the edges, quite unexpected and pleasing given the darkness and wildness of the evening. Earlier, the Boy and I had watched the rain drive in from the north and the sky grow dark. It was a real northern night and pitch dark outside - the once luminous glow from the city centre seemed dulled by my time in larger cities for the past decade or so. Nevertheless, the ale brought a real sense of winter with it and, though the room was centrally heated, it may as well have been warmed by a crackling log fire. There was coffee on the nose as the first taste was taken, a surprisingly fizzy texture on the tongue with deep chocolate biscuit taste at first. This was followed by roiling malts and a faint yeast in the bubbles, before that lake of coffee burst through the punctured dam. There was some space to be had around the sides of the ale, but not a bad stout overall and, at 4.5% ABV, quite forgiving and potentially sessionable. Over the rest of the bottle the taste became increasingly dry and biscuit-like, much as the families of the Reivers were slowly forced out of the Batable Lands. Like the Grahams, later the Mahargs, one sensed much history lost to the drinker and I suspect a visit to the brewery would yield much in the way of extra knowledge.

Second in the short session was Bumblebee, a lovely little golden ale with a nice label and a small little 330ml bottle - so almost a US pint. At 4.5% ABV it was as big a hitter as the larger looking and more powerful feeling stout, but there was no hint of this in the cheery golden colour and playful little head that appeared before slowly diminishing toward the west. Rain was in full flow now, the pattering waking both children on and off, and for most of this one I ended up chatting to my mother as Anna was away dealing with the children - not because I wasn't up for it but because it was her turn and she simply didn't come back. A crisp floral scent greeted the nostrils as I started this one, clear and light, with the first taste bringing honey and meadow grass to mind. The coloration was one of burnished bronze that had a summery feel to it. A playful malt took centre-stage but maintained a hoppy character, difficult to place, with the remaining base of honey throughout, like thick syrup at the bottom of the experience. As the whole thing moved to aftertaste the rich honey remained, almost roasted in feeling, with a light nutty undertone. This is definitely a session ale and would be brilliant in late summer or at a party gathering. In the gloomy north with a small group setting and in winter, it is less effective. Not to say it doesn't hold its own just that it was sadly out of place.

And thus the clear winner was the Corby Noir and I suspect that it would be even better on tap rather than from a bottle. If I can find a place that does it then it will no doubt be up there with my initial choices. Alas, where I am now is unlikely to stock it, even if it does have Bumblebee at 89p. Which, by the way, is a good price and well worth the float!


  1. The Corby Noir sounds good and I enjoyed the post

  2. Good post, as usual. Hope all is well with your young lady.
    I remember having a few pints in The Beehive in Carlisle, before football at Brunton Park. Not a bad boozer then, even as an away fan. I wonder if it is still there........?

    1. Many thanks! And she, at least, home. Not out of the woods, but at least heading in the right direction. Follow the rivers!

      And yes, I can confirm that the Beehive is still going, or that it was when we went north. Never been in, it was at the wrong end of town for me, but it's always seemed nice as I drive past it to the M6.

      My old haunts were the Turf, the Griffin, King's Head and a couple of others long forgotten. Mostly I never went pubbing when I lived there, sad to say. :)