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We make the best beer in the world!

8 Oct

This is something I hear often from Czech after Czech after Czech. This week I told a Czech that I work with that I had been to a brewery open day to which the response was that this wasn’t important because it was English beer and only Czechs can make good beer and the Czechs make the best beer in the world. Full Stop.

I challenged the guy to explain himself and he was unable to name a single English beer, a single Belgian beer and didn’t know Americans made beer. OK, so I asked him to tell me about Czech beer and he told me that Pilsner Urquell was the only good beer in the world apart from Budvar.

I was recently talking to a German who swore that only German beer was worth drinking and Germans made the best beer in the world. English beer was rubbish and Belgian beer was just stupid. After some of the hangovers I’ve had, I wondered whether he had a point about the latter.

I was in the low countries of late when I bumped into an Englishman. In a land where there was plenty of choice he claimed that he was desperate for a proper beer. What do you mean by a ‘proper’ beer? Dunno, Fosters, Carling something like that. He knew what he wanted.

I’ve nothing against people’s personal choice of beers or Czech people or German people nor their respective countries, but I do find it interesting that people can be aware enough of something to shout about it from the rooftops but so unaware that they cannot recognize or accept difference, variety and quality.

I haven’t come across many Americans recently but wonder if the same blind nationalism penetrates the light discussion of what is basically a refreshingly unhealthy drink over there.

 

 

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Taking my Probe out in Public!

11 Jul

Before you read on, I’d like to openly admit that this behaviour is a little on the sad side. If I were to imagine myself doing this even 5 years ago, I would be more than a tad perturbed. It’s not really the done thing to pull it out in public places, let alone dunking it in someone’s drink. My mate Bob thinks I should be locked up and is threatening to stop being my mate unless I get some help. Such things really should be confined to the privacy of your own home, he says.

Well, I’m not the only one to enjoy getting theirs out. Heston swears by his. This lady does too. However, I don’t know whether either of them have taken their probes out in public. Curiosity is a cruel mistress. It drives a man to distraction and this particular distraction began with my mate Bob whingeing about the temperature that beer was being served in pubs. My mate Bob does like it served on the cold side, whereas although I can enjoy it across a whole spectrum of temperatures, I’m more likely to whine if it is too cold.

It got me a thinkin’. Again. If I had my probe with me, maybe I could measure the temperature of the beers that we were served over the course of a night or two, come to a rather neat little conclusion and put the matter firmly (but lovingly) to bed! So that’s what I tried to do.

However, there were a few flaws in my plan. Mainly, I hadn’t bargained on all the attention pulling it out would receive. I’m quite proud of my probe and I’m not bragging but it isn’t exactly a subtle one, you can’t slip it into a pint glass unnoticed.  After the first attempt, everyone wanted a play. In the end I just had to explain to people that it was my probe and nobody was to touch it except me.

Another issue was that my probe has the appearance of an offensive weapon in some people’s eyes and I hadn’t bargained on having it confiscated by security guards at a football match. I tried to argue that it was more likely to save someone’s life than take it, especially with some of the old codgers I stand near. It held no truck with the men in black bomber jackets mind and they stood firm. Understandable in a way, I mean, you wouldn’t want me taking your temperature in the crowd with 2 minutes to go, would you? Fortunately, for me, and the world if they are remotely interested, I recovered my probe in good working order.

Fearsome…Grrr!

So what were the results, well they are either in my spare room under a mountain of paper or being recycled by the local council but the long and short of it was that all pints were not served at the same temperatures. If my memory serves me correctly, the warmest was at 16.5 degrees and was too warm to enjoy and the coolest was at 10 degrees, which was agreed to be acceptable. Those in the 11-12.5 range were perceived as the most enjoyable because you didn’t really think it was too warm or cool, you just got on with enjoying them!!

Needless to say, I won’t be repeating the exercise!!

Reblogging

2 Jun

Just thinking about nutrition, which, despite all my blethering on about beer, does concern me, I came across this post on Glen Pendlay’s Blog. The comments section makes fantastic reading with lots of interesting ideas and opinions, along with a bit of spam! I liked it so much I wanted to post it here too.

I myself do eat in a particular way but have resisted going on about  it here as I don’t want to come across all evangelical and would also feel a little hypocritical eulogizing about beer and trying to promote a way of eating as healthy. For the record, I don’t think there are real health benefits to beer and I no longer kid myself that there is (I used to). I do still enjoy the culture that surrounds it and like the taste!

Low ABV disillusionment!

28 May

Today I’m a little dissatisfied with the beer world. After enjoying a lovely beer from the Kernel Brewery in the garden, and then another, I found myself feeling a bit skew whiff (if that’s how you spell it!). This narked me somewhat as I would have like to have continued out there, drinking lovely beer after lovely beer until the sun went down unaffected. It seems to be a sad fact of life that if you really want to hit those heights in your beer, alcohol is necessary. I’m not 16 any more. I don’t drink beer (more or less my only vice these days) just to get swerved up. I like to enjoy it and when I do it doesn’t seem fair that I have to stop.

If I had one wish it would be that someone would brew a really low ABV beer that tasted magnificent and different. Yeah! You can keep your world peace, cutting greenhouse emissions and cures for yellowfoot!!

I might feel differently tomorrow….

Silly Pils, Silly Photos!

23 May

Beermerchants.com sell beer. A lot of nice beer. I’ve ordered beer from them before, it’s been prompt and I have been pretty satisfied with the service. Buying online does tend to put you on mailing lists and you do get a few mails from time to time. In the case of Beermerchants it’s not such a bad thing as the mails can keep you abreast of some developments in the beer world (i.e. new stuff they’re selling, or old). How else would I have been dumbfounded by the idea of Orval coming in cans.

Well, when I received their latest e-mail where they were doing a special offer on Silly Pils, I got a bit spooked out. The photo at the top of the ‘brewsletter’ looked as if it had been taken in my back garden. Closer inspection seems to reveal that it had been, on a table in front of my heather!

The thought of them sneaking round to do a photo shoot for Silly Pils while I was out crossed my mind but I quickly told myself not to be a plum. Then I realised… I’d posted the photo on this sight before!! They must have lifted it.

To be honest, it wasn’t exactly a great picture and they must have thought the same because they’ve done some rather nasty photoshopping on it!! However, I don’t know whether to be indignant that they are using it to make money from or take it as a compliment.

At the end of the day, I think I’ll just think nothing!

Mine

Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant

22 May

Ghent, in Belgium for the ignorant, has many plus points for someone like me. First of all, it is very close by. Well, that’s relative I suppose. It’s not that close but it is only 3 train rides away (Lots of my favourite London locations are 3 train rides away.) and one of those is the Eurostar, which is mildly pleasurable with the exception of its poisonous buffet carriage. Secondly, it’s architecturally beautiful and historical. I haven’t ranted on too much about architecture but no doubt will do in future, from a layman’s perspective. It’s also a student location, which lends it a little more life to the old place. It’s a bit more real than it’s more celebrated cousin Bruges. Thirdly, and rather obviously, it has some great Belgian beer!

If you have ever seen the film In Bruges with Colin Farrell, who is actually quite good in it, you’ll recognise Bruges as being both really interesting but really boring and conservative in equal measures. This is also true of Ghent. However, there is enough sexy beer in sexy beer glasses to keep my attention for a day or too. It’s always nice to have a decent beer list in any restaurant or cafe you rock up to. Something that here, through snobbery, foolhardiness and a tendency not to celebrate things we do well, is only just appearing in restaurants. There are some good pubs/bars there too, many institutions that you have to (try to) visit.

Het Waterhuis aan Bierkant

Situated on the canal just along from the market, Het Waterhuis aan Bierkant is a fairly busy place in town. In the daytime when we were there, it was just too busy, being a bank holiday and all. Roll forward a few hours and the crowds had fallen away revealing quite a chilled out little bar. The weather was a little balmy before moving aside for a short rainstorm, which looked almost romantic on the surface of the canal from the pub window.

The service was interesting in the bar. You had to order from behind the counter and then the barman would sort out your drinks before giving them to the waiter who brought them to your table where you paid. I’m sure there is logic there somewhere, maybe they like you to have a seat before serving you.

The beer list was pretty immense and you can check it out on the website. However, what are the chances of me having all those beers in an evening. I had to choose something that I hadn’t had before, I always have to, which is a bit of a chore at times.

chill

There was also a good mix of ages in the place, something I would aim for if I ever opened a pub. The locals were very friendly and were happy to help out with information and a little bit of banter. I’m a sucker for a bit of memorabilia really, or brewerania as some call it, and there were some good little bits and bobs around the place including this:

Xmas box!

I was reliably informed by one of the locals that this was a savings box. Regulars would have a slot where they would put some money aside over the year and it would only be opened around Christmas time, presumably for an almighty blowout in the pub itself. If you ask me, it sounds like a bit of a ruse by the publican to ensure the punters don’t go home with their own change in case they should spend it on the kids or something equally disturbing.

Reinaert Gran Cru

The above beer was fairly interesting. A 9.5% dark beer which was sweet and spicy smelling but with an underlying sourness. It was a thoughtful beer or rather a thought-provoking beer. It provoked me into thinking what I should go for next. After all the talk of choosing beers I hadn’t had before, I went for an old favourite in Saison Dupont. A marvellous choice it was too. I always think of straw bales and barns when I have this beer and it never lets me down. If I were to write tasting notes for this one they would be along the lines of .. bloody lovely  mmm straw bales! It’s quite easy to get my mitts on over here too so I did feel a little guilty choosing it from such an extensive menu. But I wanted it.

Brewerania that you can’t see very well. Still it looks chunky enough.

Overall, I liked the bar, liked the beer and enjoyed the company!!

A Tale of Two Stations

14 May

I like St Pancras station.

I do not like Brussels Midi station.

St Pancras station has a lovely roof.

Brussels Midi has concrete and washing up bowls catching the rainwater as it leaks through to the basement.

This is not a poem!!

Brussels Midi does serve this beer in one of life’s more preposterous receptacles though. Every cloud!

Preposterous

All that is Belgium, is not gold!!

14 May

This stuff …

Bellegems Witbier

…. tasted like it had been squeezed out of a ewe’s bladder!!

While that’s certainly no mature verdict on a beer, it does express my profound disappointment upon tasting it. However, top marks must be added for the faux heather (?) and label matching.

The Humble Beer Mat

13 May

I take it all back. A while back I had a rant about ‘real ale’ in which I touched on the ludicrousness of collecting beer mats, actually I didn’t say anything about beer mat collecting but in my head I was suggesting that it was ludicrous and I questioned the need for this particular book.

Bargain

While I still feel it’s a little on the pricey side, I take back all I err thought on the subject. Basically, I was in a pub in Peckham way, I went to the toilet and came across this beer mat wall.

Beer mat wall

Not only did I think it looked great, it was interesting to look through the designs and see how the brands had changed. As well as pushing a few nostalgia buttons, it also made me remember that I like seeing pump clips plastered around pubs, many of them are great design!

From another angle

So I suppose the message is – keep collecting those beer mats!

Remote Brewing – Nether Wasdale’s Strands Pub and Brewery

9 May

I probably go to the Lake District in the North West of England about once every year and a half. Each time I have been, I’ve found myself in awe at how beautiful the place is. There is something in the combination of colours, light and stone that is individual. The farmhouses and stone walls are fantastic, the walking is superb and there is plenty of good food and beer to be had to boot.

Cumbria

The West side of the lakes is less visited but equally beautiful. I started a walk from Gosforth village where I saw an excellent bakery which doubles up as someone’s home. Nice. I like that kind of thing.

Gosforth Bakery

The village itself is very pretty by normal standards but certainly not a jewel in any Cumbrian crown. My walk was through the village for about 5 miles in the direction of Nether Wasdale. Another of the great things about being in this part of the world is that the light changes every 5 minutes and the views are in a constant state of change. There are also plenty of animals to look at and, of course, plenty of animal shit to tread in. Oh the great outdoors!

Moo

Goat

Deer

Sheep

I also came across that most rare of things. A fox. Not just any fox, a fox that was actually frightened enough by your presence to bolt off into the fields on seeing you. A far cry from your urban fox with its devil-may-care attitude and its disdain for all things human (as exemplified by the holes in my garden and the ‘little messages’ left outside my front porch).

Road to Wasdale

Nether Wasdale is a stunning place and when I entered the village I came across a young man knocking posts into the ground and fixing some bunting along the roadside. ‘Why?’ I asked. Well, there was to be a May Day Fair in the village that weekend and they were expecting quite a few people. From where I’m not sure I could guess as there seemed to be more pubs in this village than houses (there were 2 pubs). Nevertheless the small green still had its maypole in good working order and apparently the local (?) children were well versed in the ways of traditional country dancing.

A signpost

All good walks in England ought to take in a pub at some point or other and mine did just that. If I’m being completely honest I’ll admit that I had slightly engineered this walk because I had heard about one of the village’s pubs, The Strands pub and microbrewery. We’ll keep quiet about that one though!

As pub location go this is up there with the best of them. We shared the pub garden with a load of hens while a group of brown cows looked over the fence at us. The views towards the mountains were great and sitting back with an ale after a bit of a trek was just what the doctor didn’t order, but I did it anyway because I’m rock and roll! So off to the bar.

Strands handpumps

There is nothing so welcoming as a line of ale pumps set on a pub bar as you walk in. In this case there were 5 from the pub’s own microbrewery. Great – Responsibly, Brown Bitter, Red Screes, Pied Piper Mild and Irresponsibly. It was nice to see a selection of different styles of beer on offer. I didn’t check the food out because I’d brought my own packed lunch (this is also rock and roll). I wasn’t entirely sure about the triangular pump clips but they did catch the eye, or rather I remembered them. The barman happily took me through the beers and made appropriate recommendations along the lines of ‘they are all nice.’ This happened to be true.

Red Screes & Irresponsibly

The beers on the right were halves because I was trying to get into the spirit of the rambler! My first half was Responsibly, again in the spirit of the rambler, a slightly hoppy, light, dare I say largery 3.7% beer.  Their website says it is slightly smoky but I didn’t really get that. I would certainly have a couple of these again though. The two in the picture are Red Screes 4.3% and Irresponsibly 5%. The Red Screes was my favourite of the three, it was tasty, refreshing and interesting. I contemplated it down to the bottom of my glass, much to the chagrin of the Profesorette, who was hoping for a little bit more adult conversation.

Being a saddo who photographs pump clips turns out well sometimes as the owner came out and told me he was setting up a tent in the garden for the next week’s beer festival and that if I gave him a few minutes he would put on all 25 pump clips for me to photograph. Now in the real world I would have taken this as a sarcastic threat but in the beer world people are genuinely nice and I took him up on the offer.

Chickens, or are they hens?

After I finished my beer, I left the Profesorette playing with the hens/chickens and joined him for a while while (ahem) he was setting up. Despite him and his co-worker looking extremely busy he stuck some pump clips on for me and let me take photos. I felt a bit guilty so rushed them. He also took me into the microbrewery where he was brewing up some Angry Bee honey beer and happily answered my questions. If I had known he was going to be so accommodating I would have prepared some more!!

Mark Corr, I believe his name is, brews around 26 beers and many of them look really interesting. Unfortunately, I won’t be there to try them all as the festival is on 11th-13th May 2012. This weekend. He brews for the pub mainly and he mentioned one other pub in another valley that he supplies to as well. He sells bottles from the pub and they are all bottle conditioned and very popular by all accounts.

It’s always quite impressive when a brewer tries his hand at so many different types of beer and even more that he manages to get different beers all ready in time for one festival. Remember they are all beers from the microbrewery and in cask form!!  Unfashionably, I love a TBB (that’s Traditional Brown Bitter apparently) and like the idea of drinking a beer called … Brown Bitter. I’d also love to get my hands on his Barley Wine (and no that isn’t a camp euphemism). There is also a cheeky lager style ale name Corrsberg. (That’s a play on words, you see his surname is Corr and there is a Danish brew…)

It’s a shame the beer is only sold in the pub but next time I go to that part of the world, I will definitely time it right so that I’m there for the festival or if not, I’ll stay the night in front of the fire after a long day walking, supping ales and waxing lyrical about the time I jumped over a stile and nearly fell full force into a great big round cow pat, and we’ll all laugh heartily!

Angry Bee in the tank

 

The cheeky one is on the left!

Pumps

More handpumps

Tea, Beer and a Mallet – 2 Great British Institutions and a potentially lethal murder weapon!

Bored yet?

 

 

If you are in the area. You won’t regret going there if not for the pub then the scenery!

The pub

The pub opposite

Het Velootje Pilgrimage Quashed

6 May

Pilgrimages are all well and good if you’re  religiously insane but what about the rest of us?

A recent beer pilgrimage of mine was a funky little trip to Ghent to visit the legendary Het Velootje bar or pub or whatever they call their drinking establishments over yonder. I’d looked forward to this for some time because, like the religiously insane, I too enjoy long trips of hope and expectation. Only in my beer pilgrimage, I was to actually get to meet a slightly disturbed man with long hair, a beard and dirty fingernails! Better still, I would be able to have a beer with him or at least have a beer served by him. See, we’re all a bit mental!!

Sadly, while the arduous journey through some of the hardest terrain known to humanity (Belgium on the Eurostar) taught me to love myself and to respect other people (allowing other people off the train first), it did not prepare me for the crushing disappointment that was to await me when I found the place.

Het Velootje is situated in the Patershol district of Ghent, a very pretty historical area and the building must be quite old. It is in all the guidebooks as a weird bar with a weird owner and the latter is certainly true.  It’s a bar crammed with bicycles and junk with a roaring fire (by all accounts). I arrived there early in the day just so that I knew where to come later in the day and found a small but lively little street. The place was closed but I was happy that I would be back there later on in the day.

Het Velootje

Great bin location. What looked like a bunch of Romanian cleaners
had just shut themselves inside before I took the photo.

I went back. I dragged the Profesorette. We rocked up and were pleased to find a bevy of lunatics outside. I was beside myself with joy until I found out from the horse’s mouth that, because of problems with the electrics, the fire department had decided to close them down for the time being. What? Seriously? Well, I can’t tell if they were having me on to this moment. “It ish alsho political, oh yes and the neighboursh” is what I was told.

She holding the veggie box, He holding my hopes and dreams in his tool box

Well, I was happy to have met the madman and his friend, who seemed lovely, like a Belgian Pam Ayres. There was another particularly mad fellow who was trying manfully to translate what the creator was trying to explain. Unfortunately, he had to disappear on his bike either for a trip to the dentist or to get his grey roots dyed so I never had the chance for a photograph.

The bar

When all was said and done, I wasn’t really disappointed. I came away content because I’d had quite the most bizarre conversation outside the place of pilgrimage with the legend himself. I didn’t get in for a beer but it just sets me up for the next time. Assuming it is still there that is*. And after all, it’s not every pilgrim who gets to meet the man with the beard!!!

*Apparently, people should write on his website about how much they want to visit, and how disappointed they were that their visit was in vain because the comments are being compiled into some sort of book that will be delivered in front of the powers that be, or something like that, I didn’t understand every cryptic remark that was shot my way!

OK sometimes it really is grapefruit I can taste!!!

24 Apr

Well, yesterday I was blethering on about that elusive grapefruit taste in beer. I recognized the taste but didn’t really think it was grapefruit, at least not the grapefruits I eat. I’ve always known what people are referring to but it just wasn’t really grapefruit, was it?

Hopsacked with Citra Hops

Well today it really was grapefruit and it really was lemon. It wasn’t grapefruity or lemony, it was grapefruit and lemon, both on the initial smell and the tasting. The beer was OMNOM by Mallinsons Brewing Company 4.3%, who hail from Huddersfield UK. This was a winning beer for me. Very light tasting but with good body, there is some sweetness which helps with the aftertaste. It’s tart and hoppy without being too bitter.  It was a fantastic refreshing beer. All in all, I think this is one of the most enjoyable beers of the year so far for me and I hope I can get it into the summer months.

I believe OMNOM is the sound you make just after drinking it or at least it was after I was drinking it.

More like this please.

Bruegel Amber Ale 5.2% and Global Beer TV

23 Apr

Quite a low strength ale for a Belgian this one, which was quite welcome under the circumstances in which I found myself. It is fairly easy-drinking and a bit floral. It tasted a bit of what people tell me is grapefruit but I never actually taste as grapefruit. I say the word for the benefit of others who do taste grapefruit. The taste doesn’t linger long enough for me to get excited about, it could be a nice summer drink but I’d probably opt for another drink, especially if I were over here.

However, I wouldn’t even have mentioned having this if it were not for the fact that, upon looking up the history of this beer, I came across this gentleman from Global Beer TV. I’d not heard of Global Beer TV before but will look it up more often if Johnny Fincioen keeps presenting. Listening to people murdering your mother tongue as much as I do does tend to wear you out a little so it’s wonderful to hear someone speaking with an accent and enthusiasm that brings a smile to your face.

To be honest I’m not even sure if this is supposed to be a send up of an enthusiastic native Flemish speaker indulging in his beer passion in English or not. It certainly could be from a sketch show!

Check this one out – ‘Shouldjerz did not drink vater’ Classic!

The world needs more Johnnies!! In every sense.

By the Horns Brewery Open Day

23 Apr

Summerstown is a very nice name. It sounds like the name of a happy village from a charming fictional storybook. Well, the reality is quite different. It’s the crap bit that sits between Earslfield, Tooting and Wimbledon where all the pubs are boarded up and green spaces concreted over. It might be wild west country were it not for the fact that nobody lives there. It is basically a rather dated industrial estate with a dog track.

So spending a Saturday afternoon alternating between a garage-sized industrial unit and a small car park drinking beer wouldn’t appear to be the most attractive way of spending a Saturday afternoon. Just as well I didn’t do it. I arrived a bit later for an hour or so to have a brief look at what now must have become my local brewery.

By the Horns

I’ve mentioned By the Horns Brewery on here before but was unable to make their last open day. It’s been set up by two lads in their twenties (I think) called Alex and Chris, who say they saw potential in the market and just went for it. I can’t remember which one was which but the tall bloke said that he hadn’t long been into appreciating ales as such whereas the shorter one was the avid homebrewer. Together they seem to be putting their respective strengths to good use and have been making a few waves around the local area since they started production in November 2011, not even 6 months ago. I recently missed out on their beers, which also appeared at the Hope’s London Beer Festival last month, too many beers not enough of a beer gut to put it all in I’m afraid!

Menu

OPA

The open day would display (sell) some of their cask ales, some keg and their bottle-conditioned range, as one might expect a brewery to on such an occasion. They were also having some food put on from a deli in the altogether nicer part of town not 5 minutes away. Unfortunately, which is an adverb I often use when I’m describing how I never pull my finger out of my arse in time, I arrived too late for the food. And whatsmore, they’d ran out of beer!! A welcome sign indeed for the lads but not so for me! My initial fears of a wasted journey were not completely borne out, most of the bottled range was still being sold albeit a little on the warm side.

Having a little chat with the brewers was also quite nice as they were two enthusiastic and personable young men (I’m not sure I’m old enough to say that!) who spoke openly about what they were doing and appeared to have time for everyone.

The people who attended, at least while I was there, were not just the usual suspects but had quite a young bias. I only counted one beard, not that I’m knocking beards, after all they are nature’s bibs. It appears to be a good sign for the brewery as they look to (also) tap into a younger, perhaps trendier market, as may be evidenced by the 33cl bottles and branding. They also appear to be tapping into their status as a London brewer with their brews often named after something iconic, Diamond Geezer Red Ale and Lambeth Walk Porter and good luck to them.

Garage

I tried their new beer 6 X 6 Oat Pale Ale 4.4% which was pretty hoppy without being overwhelming and had a decent mouthfeel and flavour for the strength. The one I liked the most was their Bobby on the Wheat 4.7%, it didn’t ask too many questions was good in the mouth and didn’t smell of old socks. Their Diamond Geezer Red Ale 4.9% felt like it might be quite interesting but I thought that it had a touch of the vinegars about it. Stiff Upper Lip was a Pale Ale at 3.9% and was good and the most sessionable one on offer, light with a hoppy finish. I also tried a sample of the Lambeth Walk Porter and was a bit disappointed to miss out on the Doodle American Pale Ale 5.9%.

Makeshift Keg Taps

I’m glad I went. I brought home a few bottles but I think I’ll reserve judgement on the beers themselves until I’ve tried them on cask. Cask ale is a different beast after all. Considering these fellas have only being going since November, I think  it is quite exciting to think what they might end up producing for us.

Good luck to them and it’s certainly good to see a brewery in South West London again.

They have another open day on the 19th May but no details are available as yet.

Ghostly Clerkenwell!

21 Apr

Woooah!

Clerkenwell is a ghostly place all right. At least it would be, were it ever quiet enough to be so. The nearest I ever got to it being quiet and spooky was at weekends when I used to go walking around town getting myself lost or when I used to scramble out of  the Talc Room at The Jazz Bistro’s Happiness Stan’s, Smithfields Market, at 4am on a Sunday morning not knowing which way to turn to get back home. However, there’s certainly no shortage of history in the area.

Flicking through some early digital pictures the other day, I came across this window with a much quoted paragraph stencilled onto it.

Bleedin' Hell

This is the window of the Bleeding Heart Tavern, which dates back to the 1740s as a public house. The era, I think, was the time of the gin explosion in London. You’re probably aware of William Hogarth‘s portrayal of Gin Lane and the misery and destitution therein. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the era you refer back to, this is now a French restaurant.

Hogarth Gin Lane

It is behind said restaurant where the spooky goings-on were purported to have taken place. Bleeding Heart Yard once belonged to the Bishop of Ely before Queen Elizabeth I gave the land to one of her ‘favourites’, Sir Christopher Hatton. She may or may not have been a few sheets to the wind at the time, we all know how she enjoyed a few tankards, but give it she did. Both of those men are now immortalised in local street names, Hatton Gardens being famous for diamonds nowadays and Ely Place is famous for a) being officially part of Cambridge and b) having a really good pub on it.

As one might expect with the Queen carrying on with her husband, Hatton’s trouble and strife, Lady Hatton, got the right pip. So while Betty and Chris were getting down to the Volt, Lady Hatton decided to have her own little dance with a tall, dark stranger – the devil – and in the process just so happened to sell him her soul.

Anyway, after a while, relations with the Hattons began to improve. However, one night, when they were holding a bit of a shindig in their ballroom, who should pop along uninvited but a tall robed figure, all in black. He walked through the heaving dancefloor until he found Lady Hatton, who herself was a little too merry on meade for her own good. It was the devil himself. He took her by the hand and led her outside. All through the room the atmosphere changed in an instant, then there was a flash of lightning followed by roaring thunder as the rain started to tip down. The guests covered their ears as a spine-chilling scream shot through the room from outside.

Afterwards, all the guests ran out to the yard to see what had happened but all that they saw was a large bleeding human heart……..

Of poor Lady Hatton, it’s needless to say,
No traces have ever been found to this day,
Or the terrible dancer who whisk’d her away;
But out in the court-yard — and just in that part
Where the pump stands — lay bleeding a LARGE HUMAN HEART!
And sundry large stains
Of blood and of brains,
Which had not been wash’d off notwithstanding the rains,
Appear’d on the wood, and the handle, and chains,
As if somebody’s head with a very hard thump,
Had been recently knock’d on the top of the pump.
That pump is no more!– that of which you’ve just read,–
But they’ve put a new iron one up in its stead,
And still, it is said,
At that ‘small hour’ so dread,
When all sober people are cosey in bed,
There may sometimes be seen on a moonshiny night,
Standing close by the new pump, a Lady in White,
Who keeps pumping away with, ‘twould seem, all her might,
Though never a drop comes her pains to requite!
And hence many passengers now are debarr’d
From proceeding at nightfall through Bleeding Heart Yard!

And that, as my dear old mother would say, is as true as your trousers!

Check out the original poem here.

Otley O1 – We don’t need bubbles!!

20 Apr

I opened a bottle of Welsh brew Otley O1 today expecting a grassy light golden ale with citrus! What I got was quite different. I opened the bottle and poured out a very flat beer indeed. It was slightly darker than I expected too. I’d tried this beer before, a long time ago at the Beer Experience in Islington, but my recollection was of a very light golden ale.

To me, it was all toffee and caramel in smell and taste. What’s going on? I really liked it though and it made me wonder, do we really need carbonation at all? No head means more beer in the glass – result. On the other hand, more beer means less head and head is very saucy indeed. But whatever was going on with this particular bottle it worked out very well indeed and the flatness actually added to my enjoyment. The smoothness and toffee together were a light and slightly fruity Werthers Original, if that makes any sense to anyone other than me!! But don’t get me wrong, there was nothing heavy about it at all and if you were of that nature then you would happily sink a few of these.

I know it’s a stupid question but why aren’t more beers brewed to be served with near zero carbonation? After all, if Michael Jackson didn’t need Bubbles….