Sunday, 31 July 2016

Beer Review: A Second Brace of Brews

Still on holiday and still having a relax, of course the evening was dominated by beer and reading Rivers of London, which isn't half bad. Tonight's efforts brought forth a second gift from a good friend and colleague of mine, given as he is leaving our hallowed halls to take up the mantle of leadership elsewhere. He shall be missed but hopefully not too much, I am planning a beery trip sometime over or after the summer down his neck of the woods.

In the meantime, it has been a lovely day and plenty going on here. The lodge is quiet, the children are mostly asleep and the limbs are limber from riding cycles. Thus it is that I propose to have a couple and then off to bed for a trip home in the morning, it's a long drive, but we don't need too early a start. We still have flies buzzing about, not too many but enough to be annoying. Anyway, yes, I have a Joseph Holt Maplemoon and Robinson's Unicorn Black on hand and I'm not afraid to use them.

Would you like to know more?

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Beer Review: A Brace of Reviews

The adventure continues! A lovely sunny and warm day, a quiet and pleasant evening in the lodge with the view of the woodland out of the back door and the feeling that nothing is impossible. Some cycling managed both in the morning and the afternoon with the eldest and some time now to settle with my other birthday present, Rivers of London, and get some reading done. Something I've not done in a very long time indeed. Whom should my companions be for such an auspicious evening but two ales?

Of course, tonight I have the pleasure of Portcullis IPA from my father as a random not-quite-birthday-gift that was imparted last week when I went to see the Pet Shop Boys. This is only the second ale I've had from Windsor and Eton Brewery, the first being way back when I was in London last year around Easter time. And I have also plumbed for the first of two ales from a much esteemed colleague and friend at work: Gnarly Fox Lager from Hatherwood Craft Beer Company. Both of these should serve me well as I attempt to unwind and relax, let the last few days at work and the journey here fade a little and bask in the evening glow with my wife.

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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Beer Review: Yakima Red

Aaaah, that's nice. I'm now officially on holiday following my awful mix up in booking dates to go and have caught up the family who set off ahead of me. The first point of order, of course, is meeting up with my mother and her husband, who treated me to this little number in his place of work, which was very kind of them indeed. The meal was lovely, they were showing replays of the recent cricket twixt Pakistan and England and the children disappeared to play in the soft play place when the meal was done (having actually eaten all their food, will wonders never cease?).

However, in the Meantime I had this Yakima Red - which is not nearly as pun-tastic as I had hoped when I came up with it. Never mind, it came in an odd-shaped bottle and looked rather interesting and I was treated to it so what better way to mark the beginning of a few days' holiday and put the stress of travel behind me? I can't complain, the Scotch Corner charge went perfectly well and the A66 was actually a rather pleasant drive. And now it's bloomin' 'ot and lovely.

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Sunday, 24 July 2016


I was treated this weekend to seeing the Pet Shop Boys at the Royal Opera House doing their residency to celebrate the release of their new album, Super, which of course I have had since the release date back in February. My father was to be my guide for the evening and ensured that we were in London earlier than we needed to be so that we could spend some time having some ales and visiting a couple of pubs in preparation before having a meal and then seeing the show. I can't say that I was anything other than enthusiastic at the prospect.

After travelling down via the Victoria Line (one of only two Underground lines that are totally underground) and then wandering about the old fruit market outside the Actor's Church with it's vast false portico on one side (and the burial place of the first victim of the Plague in 1665) we walked out onto the road outside the Royal Opera House and found our first place of repose and ale, much welcome in the stifling heat and bright broad sunshine. Would you like to join me on this journey?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Big Ale: Sink the Bismarck

I believe that it is something of a rite of passage that anyone who is pootling about talking about ale, in my case being a beer-bore, has to try something bonkers from Brewdog at least once. The ale of choice is usually the rarely brewed and surprisingly hard to locate Sink the Bismarck both because of it's ridiculous 41% ABV and the over-the-top nature of its production in an ice cream factory following a friendly spat with a German brewery over who could brew the most ridiculous, sorry, the strongest ale. My wife and enabler, Willow, kindly bought me a bottle from the proceeds of her own fantabulous career (no, seriously, I'm not jealous) in writing and so it came to pass that I, too, could pass into the halls of those idiots that have tried this ale and lived.

I have to say that I was very much looking forward to this and had gathered together many people to try it with me over the course of a few days, meaning much mooching around and sharing tiny glasses with other people and refusing to divulge the 41% ABV until after they'd tasted it because I am a mean-spirited and cruel individual Hell-bent on making people cough. Or something. Also, just look at that bottle: who doesn't feel like they want to try that when they see the wrapping?

It's a triple IPA just jam-packed with hops and hop oils because Brewdog are legitimately insane and it looks like something out of the 1970s. All of these points make it an ale worth trying even before you get to the actual ale itself. So, be honest, would you like to know more? Of course you would, follow me please, keep your hands and feet in the car at all times and ensure you have fastened all the safety devices securely!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Beer Review: Wet Your Whistle

Another day of marking and another day of summer. It's been a particularly wet one round our way and there has been a sudden spike afterwards of humidity, as befits the calm before a storm, but then we've had some pretty high wind instead so... who knows? Apart from that I can claim to have had a rather nice day all round if I'm honest. Plenty of warning before tea allowed me to put the ale in the fridge to prepare and a happy accident of forgetfulness allowed me to have it after food, thereby allowing the Wet Your Whistle from Box Steam Brewery to be properly chilled before opening.

On top of that, it was a pretty posh meal. Very middle class and privileged - hand breadcrumb-coated plaice fillet with potatoes that were rolled in grated garlic, Parmesan and that stuff you put on pasta and Italian food that you get in jars and can be green or red. I forget the name all of a sudden. Dang, and the jar is all the way over in the kitchen so I can't even get out of my chair and check. Oh well, so much for the illusion of class. Onto the ale!

Would you like to know more?

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Beer Review: Maple Gold

Tonight I am writing this on a new way to access these here intertubes I have a new phone! In celebration, if that is the right term of this affront to the laws of man and god, I have cracked open the bottle of golden ale that I have waiting for me in the pantry. I know, I took the precaution of chilling it in the fridge for a bit. I am referring to the lovely Maple Gold by Joseph Holt, a brewery last seen in a cultural exchange evening here. After the pain of Sunday, see here, I elected to chill this brew a while before sampling and I think that was a good idea all round!

So, what to make of it? For one I can say that, swanky as this phone is (don't ask, it's a long story!) I shan't be using it any more than I really have to because it is an absolute bugger to type with!

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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Beer Review: Velo

It's a Sunday and it's time for an ale, because why not. Still embroiled in marking - I recall that this time last year I had successfully completed my main jobs and some extras, not yet this year - and so the time had come to try something that I've had sticking around since the beer festival back in June in Aldi. Yes, time for the venerable and powerful Black Sheep Brewery to enter the fray. Ever since I was up in Masham every week for the best part of a year and never got the chance to visit the actual brewery (or even have an ale, curse my driving) I have had something of a soft-spot for these guys. Riggwelter (here) used to be my favourite ale. So I am rather excited about this, their offering commemorating the cycling heritage of Yorkshire: Velo - not least because a good friend and ex-colleague used to be quite into the cycling.

I had intended to drink this in the garden and so I did for a while but I was also in sole charge of a small child and he wanted to be indoors with the games - battleship and the like - on the carpet. Who am I to argue? Answer, no one. So, would you like to know more?

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Beer Review: Two Tribes

What ho! The summer trends continue, another golden ale, sir, your very finest to match the hue of the day and the high temperature tempered by chilling in your refrigerator. Indeed, pop on some decent clothing with plenty of tweed, get a good seat by the cricket and read carefully of these finely crafted words about a drop of the golden stuff as you peer in your electronical device in the bright sunshine. Smell the mown grass, applaud the gutsy bowler and take care to wear your straw boater in just the right way.

Tonight, fair companion, you shall be regaled by tales of drinking ale, no mean feat, and tonight we shall be looking at that classic of good old Frankie, he went to Hollywood you know, and the brewery that named their contribution to British brewing Two Tribes. I believe they could go to war, what?

But, seriously, did anyone think that I could see that name of an ale and a) not buy it, b) not have that song stuck in my head enough to post the video here? I thought not.

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Sunday, 3 July 2016

Beer Review: Little Willie

And so an ale that commemorates the Somme. I knew it was going to happen, a 100th year anniversary of a conflict long gone that totally transformed British psyche and society. I knew that it would be all over the press and there would be a plethora of talking heads discussing the disaster of the first day, the role of the generals and the politicians and the countries. Then came the Referendum and the result and I had a int of what people would focus upon. They would talk about what the people who fought in that day fought for, they would suggest various reasons with absolutely no backing and, of course, with no surviving people to challenge. Cherry-picked quotes, starting that morning with an item I heard on the radio, would suggest blazing patriotism and love of freedom, a narrative that the army was something to be proud of and an underlying assumption that people then fought for freedom.

I am a student of History. I am a researcher of the First World War. I have read the accounts of many many soldiers who were interviewed, left diaries and sent letters. I have never met one, of course, but who has? Also, I know many did not talk of their experiences. But of their reasons for fighting, of their reasons to be there on that awful fateful day they have spoken. And do you know what? None spoke of freedom, that's amorphous and intangible and impossible. Few spoke of patriotism, that too was beyond the ken of most of the men who huddled in the trenches then went over at the whistle. No, it turns out the main reasons were things like Peer Pressure; propaganda (that they later regretted) and poverty. Their friends were going, they didn't want to be seen as cowards and the wages would put food on the table for their families that wouldn't be there otherwise.

It will come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that I despise the kindling eye of the smug-faced crowd that has returned with a vengeance. To that end I bought an ale, because why not.

Today's review is all about Little Willie. It is named after the first tank that was built and sold in Lincoln as that was the site of one of the first factories to churn out these armoured beasts so that they could take place in the battle of the Somme, doing so finally in November at Flers-Courcellette.

My historical rant is over, would you like to speak of ale?