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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

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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.

Meet the London Brewers

31 Mar

Down, down, deeper and down. Down, down, deeper and down…..

These, I believe, are the words to the famous Status Quo hit single. They also represent the feelings of many a misguided Londoner who is forced to travel beyond zone two of the London travel system. To some, a  journey to zone 5 might put them in mind of the journey of convicts going down under all those years ago, does a man ever return and if he does will he ever be the same again? But those of that mindset would be missing out on the local phenomena which is The Hope.

London Beerfest at the Hope

The Hope is a small, local pub run  It has won awards and it is easy to see why. It still falls slightly into the category of ‘old man’s pub’ in that it would be slightly difficult to persuade someone not of the beer persuasion to go there but it is so much more than this. It’s a local pub in one of London’s so-called villages. In fact, you can still easily see the villageyness of the surrounding area despite it lacking Dulwich or Wimbledon Village levels of wealth. The pub sits well in its environs, not being t0o olde worlde but retaining enough of that classic pub charisma. Its owners put on regular festivals and some very traditional events such as wassailing, hog roasts, straw jack and fireworks. It also serves its community well and includes regular meetings of a local environmental group. The place even has its own ‘joanna’!!

I’ve had beer in a lot of pubs with good reputations which have fallen woefully short of my expectations, the Bree Louise near Euston station being one that springs to mind. Not so in the Hope. I’ve visited on quite a few occasions now and have been extremely impressed not only with the condition of the beer but also the variation on offer. The pub is run extremely well by people who seem to care about what they are doing. They seem bright, friendly and very knowledgeable about their products.

Thursday night saw the opening of their latest beer festival, one which was showcasing the new breed of London brewers.  Two of the brewers, from Brodies and Redemption, were there to talk and answer questions about their breweries and beers and there was a decent turn out for them. Not so many years ago, the brewing situation in London seemed pretty inadequate with Young’s moving out and only Fuller’s and Meantime flying the flag. As one of the brewers pointed out on the night, this situation was absurd when we remember that about a fifth of the population of the country live in the London area. Fast forward and now the situation is far healthier with Sambrooks, Kernel, Brodies, Redemption, By the Horns, Twickenham Fine Ales, Moncada, Camden, East London, London Fields, Ha’penny….

In a marquee in the pub garden, the brewers turned out to be very open and friendly and, amongst other things, talked about their history, inspiration, plans for the future and the difficulties they faced getting hold of new world hops . They passed round sample hops in plastic bags and looking around the room one could be forgiven for thinking they were at a middle-aged glue sniffing convention.

Hopsniffing

Well, man’s not a camel as they say so I did sample a few of the beers on offer. The following are not intended to be tasting notes but they are the nearest you’ll ever get to them from me.

Boggart Dark Mild 4% (This was off the bar and not actually a London beer – OK)

Brodies London Lager 4.5% (A very hoppy lager, Simcoe and Centennial hops – Quite nice, interesting but I wouldn’t have too many)

Moncada Notting Hill Blonde 4.2% (Session pale ale Citra and Cascade hops and Maris otter and Munich Malt, the most laid back of the beers I tried but perhaps, boringly, the one I really liked)

Brodies Brainwave 4% (Simcoe hops. Described as a session pale ale but far too grapefruity and even peachy for me, very, very hoppy, belied its strength)

Redemption Port and Brandy Porter Special 5.8% (brewed exclusively for the festival, this was the first time I’d had brandy added to a beer, more of a christmas beer to my tiny mind)

Brodies Summer Saison 8% (Felt like a much weaker beer, a little fruity, citrus, didn’t really taste like the classic Belgian saisons but was very enjoyable)

All in all I’ve only got high praise for The Hope, if there was one drawback it’s the lack of food but then that’s not really the point of going there. In a month from now they are having another beer festival and the theme for this one is ‘extreme beers’, sounds like fun. I, for one, will be returning.

Short video here

‘Real Ale’ Gets up my Nose

15 Mar

I even say that sentence through gritted teeth as the expression ‘real ale’ really gets up my nose. Maybe there’s a touch of the snob about me, maybe I don’t want to be tarred by the real ale bogbrush,  the beer mat collecting, the box ticking, the frankly ludicrous wearing of oversized crappy beer-related t-shirts.  After all, I’ve always considered myself quite cool, able to dance and beyond all that 1950s air-fix-plane-making boyishness. Who would possibly want to collect badges of breweries and where would they put them? Someone might say to me ‘Oh! You’re into ‘Real Ale’ and I can feel my skin leathering up from the toes. ‘It’s beer’ I would think, slowly but firmly, gnarlishly. ‘It’s a ‘Real Ale’ pub’ someone might say, ‘No, it’s ‘kin not! It’s a pub and it serves nice beer!’

Let me put the record straight, I love beer, and that includes the ales that are served from casks, I have often gone to beer festivals, I have books on beer, I have sought out pubs in strange places and beers with strange tastes, I have tried to preach to people about how nice beer is and scorned those drinking what I didn’t approve of, I have taken my beer interest to foreign countries and even having drunk thousands of different brews, would never forget having tasted one.

So what makes me so different then? Well, I’m better dressed than the average beer enthusiast, a lot thinner but other than that not a great deal. I’m certainly not cool any more (I like flowers for god sake.) Any analysis of my behaviour would reveal that I’m just as boring as the next man, I’ve just hidden the fact. I suppose I’m just now shaking off the snobbishness of youth and perhaps I’m becoming happier for it.

I still hate that expression mind! And as for the T-shirts….

More Beer in food

14 Mar

After talking about the fantastic De Heren Van Liedekercke and its great nosh, two more pieces of beer and food news have come to my attention.

The first, is that the Michelen-starred restaurant Galvin at Windows, located on Park Lane and with some great views over London, is doing a beer and food matching menu for their own little British beer festival. It kicks off on St George’s day, April 23rd, and is available every lunchtime until 7th May. I tried to get a butcher’s at the menu on their website but it doesn’t seem to be up yet. £45 per head, but reports from my mate Bob say that the food there really is very good indeed.

Hops in September

The second is slightly more down-to-earth. Apparently, there will be a London Hop Shoot Festival happening in various pubs across the capital (London) on 27th-29th April.  The area of Kent, in the South East of England is famous for its hops. In the past, the seasonal picking of these hops encouraged a mass exodus from East London of people looking for work and some good times. There’s even an old folk song reminiscing about the good old honest fun that was had by all and everyone during this merry time.  Anyway, hop shoots were eaten frequently in our past and a quick search on the net reveals that people still do, but perhaps not often enough. I’m all for eating every naturally occurring thing we possibly can, as long as it’s good for us of course. The hop shoots, being a by-product of the hop cones grown for beer, seem a sensible food to eat. The hop shoots available in the festival pubs will be from the spring thinning of the hops. Great. I wanna try some.

I believe these pubs are participating:

The Bull  – Highgate; The Euston Flyer – Euston;  The Victoria – Bayswater;  Duke’s Brew & Que  – Hackney; Horseshoe  – Hampstead; The Draft House – Clapham Northcote Road; The Draft House – London Bridge; Old Red Cow – Smithfield; The Clifton – St Johns Wood; Crown & Anchor – Chiswick; ;White Swan – Twickenham; The Botanist  – Kew; Ben’s Canteen –  St John’s Hill

I shall endeavour to get out to one of them. Hopefully, it will be more successful than British Pie Week.