Sunday, 3 April 2016

Downt'pub: I want it all

My local, in Ilkeston, is a nice place. Maybe you've heard me talk about it before? It's the Burnt Pig Ale 'Ouse, and has really gone from strength to strength since I went to the opening night. From having a buffet on for free over Christmas to opening a new room at the back to accommodate the punters and having a good selection of constantly shifting interesting ales this place is very much a place that I have enjoyed coming back to again and again. And I'm not even being paid for writing all this puff, it just is that nice a place. I can't claim to know any of the staff well enough to be recognised, I don't go often enough, but there is definitely a community feel to the place and so it was when I found myself with time of an evening that Willow suggested I go there for a swift half.

I don't need telling twice, despite what my wordiness might suggest!

So, care to walk with me to the local ale 'ouse and sample some of their wares? You would? Excellent, then let's adjourn there now, shall we?

The first thing to note was on the walk down. My phone's camera was totally unable to capture the semi-sunset going on, but there was still enough light to get a decent image of the front of the place and, despite it being early, the first room was already pretty decently full of people having a chat. Not much ale in evidence, in the sense that these were not crowds of raucous drinkers, but there was a feeling that here was British pub culture at its finest. I had a look at the ales on offer and instantly chose the darkest one on tap, because that's what I do. It was Slater's Black IPA on at 5% ABV that was single-hopped with cascade, so something to look forward to. Sure enough there was minimal malt on the nose with a faint fruitiness, rather than an edge of citrus, that hung around the aroma. I retired to the second room to sit and have a rest, intending to stay only for a second half at that point. The taste was good, creamy carbonation offered by the pull was the initial impression that faded into the bubbles that delivered the bittering hops, surprising given the lack of citrus on the nose, came to the fore. A leisurely stroll through the middle, that was mainly the cream, before reaching the back of the throat and hanging around for a bit before imparting the aftertaste from a dry finish. This contained a delicate call back to the initial hops and then stuck around subsequent tastes to get settled in. For a single-hopped brew this was a good pale, but lacked the madness that I like in my IPAs and so was a good start but not quite the dark ale I was hoping for. The back room, behind me, was buzzing with talk and it was time to get a second in.

I think I was still hankering after a bigger hit and the one that I was hoping to snaffle, being Oakham Ales JHB, had suddenly run out. Dang. I opted to go for the promising looking Thornbridge Rattle Snake on the grounds that it was a decent looking IPA from a brewery I always think I should be having more of. At 6.5% ABV it was slightly pricier but I wasn't going to complain. Good pour too, with a decent head that the staff were happy to remove leaving me with a fairly full half all told. This came with a much heavier hit of floral hops on the nose with plenty of character as one would expect from the brewery. A light head remained, hiding the citrus edge 'neath the cream of the pull and the faint malt that carried it all forward. Colour was good too, with a golden hue that reflected the lighting well. By this point I had made a decision to stay in the front room and ended up standing about looking like a spare part - I actually preferred this to sitting so I'm not complaining - and the remodel means that my old snug space was a bit busier with people going in and out. Quite the community too, everyone seemed to know one another and I was very much the outsider. Anyway, onto the IPA! This did what a good IPA should do and opened with a strong hit of floral and fruity hops that carried tropical hints - imagine passionfruit and melon more than grapefruit and oranges, though the latter were around somewhere in amongst it all. Good full mouthfeel that kept you interested with a modest malt that did what it needed to do in smoothing the whole party down to prevent insanity - entering the room after the madder moments and calming everything down. There was a dry finish to it all but a moistness that remained due to the hoppy character of the whole thing. I was impressed enough to wonder about sticking around.

All of which was enhanced by the publican handing round the excess of an order to the chippy two doors down (which is also worth a visit) because... well, I don't know but I wasn't complaining! Not for nowt is this my favourite pub!

I had to nip out to get more cash in as I saw the replacement for the JHB going on, it looked interesting and seeing it get poured into the little jam-jar to show the colour was enough to convince me to make the trip and get more funds. On my return I wasted no time in a now much busier pub ordering the Redfire from Cotleigh Brewing Co. at 4.8% ABV. Strawberry jam, was the descriptor used by the publican as he brought it out and made the necessary arrangements (like adding it to the chalk board of ales on tap). I would have suggested a deeper red than strawberry jam but that does rather depend on what jam you get and I suspect my penchant for cheap and nasty jams puts me at something of a disadvantage. Anyway, this aside, I thought this was a proper ruby affair with a full hoppy aroma. This was more full-bodied than the Rattle Snake and much more tropical in character, I suspect that someone may suggest lychees but as I have never tasted them I can't really comment. To me, and my uncultured approach, it was very reminiscent, in a complimentary way, of Um Bongo in the 1980s. The deep reed was almost black and there was a spice in the air with an almost fiery undertone. Really, who would have guessed from the name? Initially it was a bit thin but then launched into the warm hops with wet sides that slopped like a welcoming floppy dog. It lacked the cream of the first two offerings but that was very much in its favour and the dry quenching nature of it turned out to be just what I had been looking for all night. I was very glad that I had come back for it.

Finally, convinced by the quality of the ales on offer and because I like symmetry, I went for the final half of the evening. Lots of people had been trying the Affinity from Shiny Brewery on at 4.6% ABV and I thought I would get me in on some of that Pale ale action. So I did. And I was immediately very glad. A lively one, as the publican put it, due to its massive head and highly carbonated nature. But, once again, they were good enough to top up and remove the froth without being asked, leaving me with a little over half an ale. Again with the fruit in the aroma but this time decidedly more toward the citrus end, making it more of a pineapple, say, than a melon or a lemon. It put me in mind of a Citra, actually, with a strength of alcohol to it (but not unwelcome), and plenty to shout about. I could immediately tell why so many people were ordering it and then going back later for another. There was a copper aspect to the colour that fitted the surroundings nicely. The taste was big hops, very citra for my tastes though I have no idea if that was what was being used, that cleansed and cleared the palate nicely. This would have gone well with spicy food or even just a meal of fish and chips. I can see me seeking this out again too. The pineapple noted earlier returned with more of a tropical bevy of friends over the top of a mini-malt that does the job and then leaves quickly, which is something I found I rather appreciated. There was plenty of character with this one too, it was exactly as described, being lively and heady. No smoothing of the insanity as it chased to the back of the throat and left a pleasant fruity aftertaste. I liked this one, I really did, but it couldn't quite match up to the Redfire previously.

The winner of the night, then, was clearly the Redfire with the Affinity coming a surprisingly close second and the pair of them leaving the others for dust. That's not to say either of the others were bad, but is a testament to the quality of these brews, neither of which I would have chosen under normal conditions. Well, okay, maybe I would have chosen the Redfire. But definitely two to watch for!


  1. Sounds an excellent boozer, and a good selection of beers.

    1. It's a very good boozer indeed and I really ought to go more often than I currently do - which is once in a blue moon!