Sunday, 7 August 2016


It has been a while since I went around pubbing and Willow had said that I ought to go to my local, so it seemed like as good a time as any. The observant will have noted, however, that my usual notation for just heading down the Burnt Pig Ale 'Ouse is missing: that is because I didn't stay put. A hot day, a warm night in the offing and the feeling that I wanted to be moving all contributed to me not sitting still. That and the fact that the Burnt Pig continues to attract large crowds of friendly people (and I am not very good at being alone in friendly crowds) - no criticism of the place, but it did mean that I got to see some parts of where I live that I have not seen before and have, well, a bit of an explore of an evening.

Also, there was the small matter of the lovely sunset-thing that I saw and think I even managed to capture on my new phone camera. There's a function that messes with the brightness that allows me to take some shots I would simply have been unable to capture in the past.

Now that I have thoroughly bored all five of my readers, would you like to know more about the important parts of my trip: the beers?

Of course you would.

First and foremost, then, I headed to my local and fought my way in. I sized up the bar and decided on the Pale Elder at 4% ABV. Looked decent.
It poured well and with nary a head atop the largely copper colour of the ale, much as one would expect from the pale moniker come to think of it. This was brewed by Intrepid Brewing Co. and it became very clear very quickly that I would be unable to do my usual and nip into the snug, so I took a seat down by the door and found a guestbook. A fellow drinker spotted this and naturally assumed I'd come far, which I hadn't, The ale itself smelt mainly of malt with a citrus background, which was fine but lacking the interest I think I was looking for. The taste was decent enough, an innocuous background pale that was made for being imbibed in the middle of a conversation so that it wouldn't intrude. It does a decent job on the tongue, all light malt delivering small amounts of subtle hops to the mouth-parts before fading to an unobtrusive and inoffensive bitter aftertaste. The main problem here wasn't the ale but the discovery that I can't keep notes on my mobile now that I've upgraded, like I used to, and keeping all of this in my head is not the best substitute!

Anyway, the ale was fine but there was nothing else tickling my fancy and I had sweet sweet time to spend drinking so I left my local and headed out into the wide world of Ilson, hoping to find a different hostelry. I recalled that on the mild trail that had been a thing a while back (and in which I had totally failed to go anywhere other than the Burnt Pig) there was an entry for the Spanish Bar. I also believe that it is the pub of choice for my next door neighbours. So it was there I went next.

Nice place with rather modern decor and a thriving ladies darts team from what I could tell. I plumbed for their Hartington IPA at 4.5% ABV from Whim Ales.
With a brewery named like that I thought I had a good chance of finding something of interest and curiosity. I was not totally disappointed. A wander out to the back of the bar revealed a huge and rather nice beer garden in which to try this one. Good nose here, with plenty of hints at multiple hops (all of which carried a harsh citrus edge) and a feeling that this was a bigger hitter than it was. Indeed, it smelled like it weighed in somewhere over the 6% mark and the first taste duly delivered a bit of a big hops hit on a bed of barely there malt for delivery. Carbonation was fine, there was that usual creamy undertone from being pulled, and the brew did a nice job of cleansing the palate, though I wasn't eating. Conversation was buzzing here too, though it was decidedly quieter on the inside, where I returned after having a proper nosy round the beer garden. This looked more like a standard amber despite the defiantly IPA taste to it and I'm not complaining. At this strength it would have stood another but the wanderlust, if it could be called such a thing, had decided that I wasn't going to rest on my laurels. In all, this wasn't a bad little IPA and certainly did the job of competing with the warmth of the evening but it was on a par with the Elder in terms of how much I enjoyed it and wasn't going to threaten trips out in the past.

From here I turned down to the south and wandered over to the Three Horseshoes, which was a place I tried at the end of the summer last year with a colleague of mine and found them to have their very own brew on sale. It turns out that this is not a standard thing, they only brew small batches, and that was a bit of a shame. However, and this was the best bit, they did have a brew on tap that I have been missing at the Burnt Pig - something they've had at least three times on nights I wasn't going out - and coupled with quite the largest beer garden I think I've ever seen, this made for a good stop.

I am speaking, in veiled terms, of the rather lovely Titanic Plum Porter at 6% ABV and the sort of colour that is to die for.
This instantly sated the part of me that had been looking for something a bit special and sure enough the colour was quite plummy and the smell was gorgeous. Big and heavy and yet not so heavy that it clashed with the humidity of the evening. The beer garden was massive, much bigger than when I visited last, and they'd opened a new building that may one day provide a back bar. For now it just has three quiet rooms to sit in and pass the time, which I did as my mother rang. On to the ale, that opening aroma was carried into the flavour where there was a definite fruity aspect to the hops that flowed from the beginning, mingling with a fiery malt and bedrock of yeast so that the whole thing became something of an adventure. Slight carbonation shot through the velvet creaminess that dominated this one and the slow drain to the aftertaste at the back of the throat spoke of big adventures and smoke filled cities of old. The after was almost barbeque like in that it was smoky and dry, quite a nice contrast to the moist and fruity opening and yet seemed to work well with that. This stood some tarrying and I did indeed take my time with it. Each drink had the same adventure and whilst you wouldn't down this one nor would you have it with an in-depth conversation - this is to be savoured but concentrated on a little, maybe some light conversation or, and I shudder as I say this, small-talk.

By now I had an appetite for exploring further and had spotted a street down by the side of the pub that looked of interest, and I knew I could cut across to the main road and loop back to the General Havelock, which I had determined would be a good next and potentially final stop. So it was off again and into the wilds of the place, where I discovered a still working lace mill and some rather lovely old mill houses for workers, now probably very small and pokey but still having a sort of quaintness about them that makes me all nostalgic for a place and a time that I have never been. Also, that sunset-thing was still going on and I rather liked how it looked and how the light was touching the buildings.

Thus I came to my final stop of the evening at the General Havelock and chose a Milestone Lock Keeper because the amber looked a little red in the small tester to one side. At 4.4% ABV it seemed nicely mid-range too.
It poured well, with exactly the hue in the jar, and did indeed look not totally dissimilar to the Plum Porter from the last place. I didn't stick around at the bar as I had a taste for beer gardens and noted that there were some doors outside. I was greeted by a lovely little 1930s style garden, hard to tell if it was built then or has been made to look like it since, and a proper look at a clearly 1930s building that fits in nicely with the Toll House across the road. This was old Ilson back when it was still a tad fashionable and still had the wealth to make its presence felt. It was actually all rather agreeable. The ale did a good job of keeping me company as the evening drew in and the light faded, the aroma being one of almost autumnal flowers and the taste being awash with comforting malt mixed with the points of a thousand floral prickles. In many ways it tasted a bit like walking on newly mown grass feels, when the broken leaves have been removed and all that remains is the small hint of new growth above the stubble. Then you get a newly-mown taste down the sides and it rushes in to a rather innocuous dry aftertaste that is just enough not to be moist but no so dry that you feel you are going to end up having to have a soft drink to offset it. I sat back, watched the sky, and let the ale do the job of keeping me company whilst a cover act crooned her way through some 80s and 70s pop hits inside, quite well actually.

Then it was off again and a chance stop into the Manor Chippy for some chips and gravy, which went down rather well, as I walked home and thence to bed. I had stayed out and had a good time, checking out some bars I had not before and visiting two again that I really need to make part of my repertoire rather than once-a-year stop-offs. The winner of the evening for ambiance was definitely the General Havelock but the best actual pub of the evening, and this was somewhat surprising as they were playing sport on the TV, was the Three Horseshoes. Best ale was, by far, the Plum Porter because it was just what I had been looking for without realising that it was what I was looking for.

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