Friday, 29 May 2015

Burnt Pig Ale 'Ouse - Opening Night

On the night of Thursday 28 May I was lucky enough to be a part of the opening night of a new micro-pub in Ilkeston: The Burnt Pig Ale 'Ouse and a very nice opening night it was too! Plenty going on, of which more in a moment, and a great selection of local ales on offer - two of which were brewed within four miles of the pub itself - and good company. I was button-holed, in a positive way, by one bloke trying to convince me to join CAMRA. I have gained beer-bore chops!

Entertainment was provided by the Border Black Pig Morris Dancers and they were a refreshing blast of typically British anarchy - the sort that really ought to have led a revolution by now if you ask me - and that was great fun. I'm not usually the sort of person who champions folk traditions, but this group from Awsworth were a riot of colour and bawdy humour.

Not sure what the local denizens of the area though of the proceedings but I can see the small premises becoming a decent haunt, and I do need to start haunting ale houses. It will make a nice pair with the Muirhouse Brewery Taps (here) locally and a couple of others. I can see that I shall be going out of an evening more often.

Would you like to know more?

For me, the evening opened with a trip to Jackson's Chip Shop who were offering free sausage with portions of chips in honour of the new business. Good call and a good portion of chips about which I can't complain. Being of my disposition I ended up standing by the main road and watching traffic as I had the small meal, seeing the local press photograph with the staff of the new pub, and only dared enter once I had finished.

The interior of the pub was nice and traditional, as one would expect from a converted town house, and the small bar was awash, as I said, with local ales. I immediately plumbed for the one that I recognised and had been hankering for for a while: Nutbrook Black Beauty at 5% ABV (originally reviewed here). I think I must have got an early part of the cask as it lacked the biscuity head that I associate with the ale, and that I saw plenty of around the pub as the evening progressed, and seemed a little watery. That said, it had the normal aroma that such dark ales provide, being honey roast nuts atop a light bittering of hops. Taste was smooth and cool, perfect for a warm evening, and the evening was warm enough to warrant it, but not as creamy as I was expecting. I want to blame the pump but, like I say, I suspect I just got one of the first of the evening. It was well pulled, good ale, I think I just preferred it from the bottle.

Second on my list, after wandering about and finding a decent back area of the pub that would make a great back-bar for a micro-brewery (like Muirhouse) and I know is on the owner's plans for the future, was the locally brewed North Star Pathfinder at 4.5% ABV. This was a decent amber ale and brewed very locally indeed. The Boy and I had previously attempted to walk there but had been foiled by the new Morrison's and the fact that the Boy wanted some chocolate. I still intend to get there on foot just over the canal. In any case, the ale was much better in terms of when it was pulled and had a decent head that rapidly diminished but hung around as good pulled ales do. I found a nice little niche in which to drink that was out of the way - the opening night had drawn quite a crowd, and meant that I could see the Morris men and women as they arrived. This had a rich malt aroma with a small amount of hops on the side. Spritely taste that moved quickly and with agility into the hoppy bitterness, a brief flowering of that roasted malt, then down to business with a full mouthfeel and a good amber taste. Aftertaste remained vaguely bitter but the overwhelming impression was the malt.

After that I decided to partake of some scratchings, noting that there was a box of them rather than packets, with my next sampling. I asked after the Fun Fair and was informed that it had been brewed in Ilkeston too, though I'm not at all certain that this was the case. Mind you, it wasn't too far away methinks. This was Waltzer and was another amber ale, possibly pale, at 4.5% ABV. This had a very creamy malt aroma, unlike the roasted of Pathfinder, and was much smoother into the glass and a smoother head too. There was still a burnt edge, suggesting that it had been carefully chosen to showcase the name of the ale 'ouse itself, and that was sufficiently different that it had me wondering more about it. Taste was straight into a spice of yeast, unusually, then the malt took over with its burnt edge proudly worn, before entering into a strong third of hops. This initial explosion chased down to the aftertaste with a definite bittering tone, and a memory of cream and smoothness like the mouthfeel. This tasted like a much stronger ale but avoided being overpowered by the alcohol, rather using it to effectively deliver the hops and yeast explosion.

By now I had enjoyed my little enclosure a fair amount, there was the cellar door and there were hints of what is likely to happen with the decor using extra bottles and a decent looking clock. More to the point there was the bar mirror above, from the '70s if the art style was anything to go by. I don't know what amused me more: the fact that the walkers were smoking and thus probably needed more stops than shown by the pub or the blood stains on the floor leading to the bar! Anyway, it was time for another half as the Morris music started in earnest outside and I plumbed for the Lincoln Green Archer at 4% ABV. This was definitely an American IPA in that it set the hops alight from the get-go, going straight for the aroma of grapefruit on the nose, strong and powerful. In that initial wave of hops on the tongue there was not room for any malt, though there was the passing impression of some, with a quick and bitter mouthfeel. This was a quality ale and well chosen to complement the ambers doing the main job and the depth that was promised by Black Beauty. Again, despite being the weakest ale on offer, this tasted much stronger, reminiscent of the IPAs at Northern Monk (see here). It was a fizzy and lively ale, perfect for watching Morris dancing outside, with a good grapefruit aftertaste as well.

Finally there was the Marlpool Brewing Company Scratty Ratty at 4.4% ABV. This was another amber and, by this point, close company and good chat with some CAMRA members as well as some of the Black Pig had helped me realise that I was well lubricated with ale and thus my senses were a little dulled. Still, there was a creamy and smoky malt on the nose, implying good use of yeast, that came with a nice sort of head. Taste was a journey into a fizzy, lightly-hopped creamy amber ale that was quite nice. A fitting end to the evening in many ways and a good cap to the ale tasting. There was a limited bitter aftertaste after finishing but this was very much overshadowed by the experience of the Waltzer previously. I think I could have enjoyed this on its own, but after the ales of the evening it definitely came off second-best. It also provided the backdrop to the best local beer festivals and a growing feeling that this blog ought to touch on more local ales and ale houses more often than it does.

Winner of the night was definitely Waltzer and I am certain that I shall be returning to the Burnt Pig a few times yet. I can see a nice, quiet, local ale selling house that would be a good place to retire to of an evening with decent pricing on pints and some chances to have local brews. Muirhouse Brewery Taps offers a similar experience but with much more widely-sourced ales, and thus a different kind of quiet evening.

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