Sunday, 21 June 2015

Father's Day

It's not often that I get sentimental on this blog but today is as good a day as any to do so. Now, a couple of caveats: I don't hold with Father's Day because it's a bit like celebrating Men's Day to go with Women's Day - fathers get more media attention, more positive support and more societal benefits than mothers already so that pretty much every day is father's day already. The second thing, I do not believe for one moment that the day is about fathers if done right - it ought to be about sons and daughters doing things with their family and father-figure present. In that second point we had our day today as a family and, due to a snafu on my marking, I had a free day to spend on it for the first time in ages.

So my children know me very well. Apparently our eldest, on learning that Father's Day was approaching, suggested to Willow that something needed to be bought for Daddy. And, she reasoned, "Daddy likes beer" so they got me a couple of ales and some money to spend on my own ales. I am not complaining. However, I haven't managed to partake of the ales bought for me yet, they will come later. Instead we went out for a meal and on a whim for me to show Willow and the children the two local micro-pubs of which I have become rather enamoured.

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The day had been shaping up to be a good one from the beginning, after having a couple of ales last night I slept through initial furtive movements but spotted that sunlight was lighting up the room from the window and that the room was warm. A leisurely start to the day followed with plenty of not much happening, which was a blessing. Both the children had been up late last night - the Boy had been carefully creating an envelope of artwork to go around a card he had chosen (it took him over an hour of careful work) and he had even managed to write his own message inside. The girlie had spent a lot of time writing her card, adding additions to the verse, and both of them had been rather excited. So it was that they were both up past 10pm and up before 6am this morning. Much deep joy.

The girlie had been promised a ride on her bike today, down in the local park, and so the family set off on an expedition in the scattered sunshine and light wind. I'll admit that I even went so far as to wear my shorts for the first time in the year so far. A good time was had, but the Boy was very tired indeed and couldn't really muster the energy to pedal much so retired to the play equipment and sat on the swings for much of the time. The plan had been to find a chippy and then hit The Brewery Taps but that fell at the first hurdle when the sky became overcast on the way into town and we diverted to The Observatory - a Wetherspoon's pub that I have previously patronised - and decided on having a meal there. The burger came with a free drink that could have included a pint but, for reasons that made more sense at the time, I forewent a pint and trusted to the range at The Brewery Taps instead. I was also hoping for a dash across to see The Burnt Pig afterwards and the chance of a half there I suppose.

I do have a bit of a soft spot for The Observatory. It is housed in an old supermarket on the edge of the original market place, overlooked by the rebuilt Anglican Church, of Ilkeston and maintains a kind of charm allowed by the huge glass frontage and small first floor and roof garden. This, I feel, a holdover from the former function. The meal was nice enough, though not my usual favourites (I think I'll push the boat out and either have the pint or else go for gammon next time) but I did get plenty of extras as the children were really too tired to cope with their meals. I must say that the staff were very friendly and helpful and we seemed to have picked a good moment between waves of people and families coming for Father's Day.

After that it was a swift walk down the new market place to The Brewery Taps where we found that there were games for the children as well as a sofa - Willow had been concerned about them allowing children in - and time for us both to sample ales. I went for the Stout on tap: Great Oakley Abbey Stout.

This was a lovely colour in the glass and a biscuit head set the whole thing off. Aroma was coffee and caramel with deep earthy tones lurking beneath and the overall feeling was a good one. Despite the fact that we're entering summer and I have plenty of lighter ales waiting to be tried I think I do prefer the creamier and darker ales in general. It may be an acquired taste, it may even be some function of me being contrary, but I do enjoy them. First taste was as expected, heavy, milky and smooth with minimal carbonation and a viscous texture that clung to the sides of the mouth and swirled like something this thick and caramel ought to. Coffee was heavy on the tongue, the caramel and toffee waiting until it had passed to the back of the throat and there was the barest hint of some hops cresting throughout. At 5% ABV this was a decent strength and proper stout territory. It lacked the excitement of, say, Barbarian Stout (here) or Titanic Stout (here) but it definitely did the job.

Hats off to the staff at the Taps for rolling with the punches that our children bring and even prompting Willow to try Raw's Amarillo - which she enjoyed - being a light pale ale with, well, amarillo hops carefully balanced. Nicely floral and fruity with a light malt that barely troubles the surface and a good bitter tang at the end that leaves one feeling quenched and refreshed.

We did walk round to The Burnt Pig and I did show my family the innards of the place but, alas, by this point both children were past their best and looking close to mutiny or sleep so we headed on back home for an afternoon of low impact screen time (and, apparently, a short Daddy-nap-let) and thence to bed.

In short, this was a very nice Father's Day, inasmuch as I've had them directed at me, and an experience that I should like to repeat. Maybe having the children a little more awake would be nice but both micro-pubs had pork pies on and the chance of additions, with a chippy close to The Burnt Pig there's a strong possibility that I could get the whole tribe out there again in the summer and a bit more planning would allow us to have a good time in The Brewery Taps as well. Yes. A good day.

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