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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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I Love Tiles

22 Apr

I might be a bit weird. It’s not just beer and food that I love, I love tiles too. I love the tiles that you see forgotten between shops, tiles that you see in old pubs, tiles that you find on the floor of Victorian porches and tiles that you see down tube stations.

Tiles in the tube

I’ve no interest in bathroom tiles mind!

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.

When you don’t want to be in the pub

15 Apr

I didn’t choose the location to meet last night, nor would I have. It wasn’t a horrible pub, it was just that there wasn’t anything I wanted to drink, which made me feel a bit awkward. Most people I was with didn’t really care what they were drinking as long as it was alcohol of some description. I’m not drinking too much in one night these days so I personally like to make each drink count. For that to happen I need something with some degree of quality. This generally means good beer as there isn’t really room in my life for all the good beer there is in the world AND another alcoholic drink and of course beer is far more versatile than, say, wine is, so it fulfills most of my needs.

I’d almost forgotten that there were pubs where you can only buy rubbish. What was more galling last night was that every other establishment in the immediate vicinity had brilliant options! But Hey Ho, I wanted to be with the people I was with and they were content enough so I didn’t make a fuss. I sipped on the worst pint of beer that I’ve had in a long time. Called London’s Glory, it was anything but. It was in good condition but I can honestly say I have nothing positive to say about it at all, it was simply a waste of everybody’s time, money and effort. I didn’t finish it. Water was the better option. I don’t eat mini babybels so I’m not going to waste my time on crap beer.

Once I’d made up my mind that that was what I was going to do, I had an OK time despite the jibes from my mate Bob.

So where was this excuse for a pub? ……..The George Inn in London Bridge!!

This pub is actually a must see pub in London. It is owned by the National Trust and is the last surviving galleried coaching inn in London. There are parts of it where the likes of Dickens and Thackery would have sat and quaffed themselves into their top hats. There is one lovely room underneath the original galleries and if you enjoy wood, which I do, there is enough to hold your attention. I love the small corner seats which obviously date from a time before cellulite and there is also a tiny bar, which isn’t often open but is worth sticking your nose in to see the old-fashioned beer engine. On top of all this, there is a seated outdoor area, which in zone 1 is something of a rarity.

So, on the surface there is much to admire but quite honestly this venue depressed me. The place is a national treasure and should be great in all respects but just seems to exist because it can. Tourists will always pop in for the ‘pub experience.’ It is no surprise to find out that this is run by Greene King, who could do so much better with their other pubs scattered around the capital, or indeed the country, not to mention their woeful beer and food (I don’t include their XX Mild or Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale in this but you hardly ever see them so it doesn’t really matter!) We might as well have met in the park.

This pub is in dire need of some lovin’. If you are in the area, I recommend that you go there take a couple of photographs, look at the old beer engine, then bugger off elsewhere for some decent food and drink, you won’t have to go far!!

Classic Apples #2 – Cox’s Orange Pippin

26 Mar

Everyone should know this desert apple. It’s popular and tasty and if you rattle it you can hear the seeds inside. I’ve chosen it because I have a small tree in my garden and this is how it looked at the weekend.

Apparently, Mr and Mrs Cox were responsible for this thing of beauty. Mr Cox was a Bermondsey brewer and a keen gardener who moved from London to the country to retire. The story goes that in 1825, Mrs Cox, his wife, was watching a particularly interesting bee working over some blossom on one of the apple trees and was so impressed that she marked the tree with a piece of ribbon. Her other half, took the apple pips from the apple his wife had marked and sowed them. Most of them died but two survived, one became the first Cox’s Orange Pippin and the other Cox’s Pomona. The tree didn’t become public until the 1840s and in 1857 this new upstart of an apple won first prize in the Royal Horticultural Society’s Grand Fruit Exhibition, much to the dismay of the traditionalists of the time!

A good story and if it isn’t true then I don’t want to hear about it. The Coxs themselves never heard about the full success of their apple, as they died beforehand. Trees being trees don’t like to be rushed. I’m taking this information as 100% evidence that the bee on the blossom part was true. The original tree survived until a few years before the outbreak of World War I, when it succumbed to high winds.

It is very, very nice and is very ‘complex’. A word I don’t like which means it has a range of different flavours that you may pick out as you eat it. Each apple is an edible journey. I can’t remember ever having one of these from the supermarket because there always seems to be someone giving you spares from the trees in their gardens. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fare too well outside England so I’ll just have one on your behalf if you’re not from round these ‘ere paarts!!!!

 

 

Cheese of the Moment #1

17 Mar

Cheeses, like beers, are too difficult to rank. I can rank my 5 best paintings but not my 5 best cheeses. Cheeses, like beers, are of the moment.

It’s a great time to be a cheesehead in the UK at the moment. There are more artisan cheesemakers in the UK than in France believe it or not. Though I don’t buy into the idea that everything should be compared to France, internationally perhaps this gives a little perspective.

The cheese of this moment is a cheese named after the tax collector that used to collect taxes from 100 shires before the UK was separated into counties. The county of origin is East Sussex in the south of England. It’s an unpasteurised hard ewes milk cheese which has been brined and matured for between four and six months. The rind is gold in colour and it has a ‘nutty’ flavour and a dryish texture. I love it.

Give it up for LORD OF THE HUNDREDS 

Prohibition dodging in Whitehaven

7 Mar

Situated on the sea to the west side of the Lake District is a small town called Whitehaven. It has an old harbour, a festival and some nice old buildings in the old town.  However, unless you get a clear, sunny day, you’d probably come to the conclusion that this town has definitely seen better days. It’s a place that you might like a bit more for what it has been or what it could be rather than for what it is.

US servicemen prohibition dodging in Whitehaven

I struggled to find any good food there, but am willing to be set straight on that, and didn’t really find any of the pubs too welcoming or discerning either. However, Whitehaven has three priceless things to offer, to my mind at least. It has a museum entirely dedicated to Rum.  It’s called the Rum Story, I thought it was great. It traces the town’s history with rum, how to make it and recreates various scenarios involved in the whole trade – slave ships, coopers quarters, rainforests – it’s got it all. You even get a free drink of rum at the end, bottles of which could be purchased in the shop there. I happily spent the best part of an afternoon wandering through the different rooms and thought it very well done and then I bought some rum, drank it, got a headache and went to sleep.

The second gem in this town is a damp smelling secondhand bookshop. It was great, books everywhere in every corner, and corridors and rooms and more rooms around the corner ….. you get the idea. I also spent quite a while in this shop, which has curiosity and charm imprinted into its soul. Unfortunately, I forgot the name. It was a few doors down from the Rum Museum and a little bit of internet research suggested that it is called Michael Moon’s Antiquarian Bookshop, but don’t quote me on that. I loved the smell and I loved the weird books, pictures and ‘whatnot’ I found in there. There used to be a bookshop like this in the place where I grew up but the last time I saw it it had been transformed into a rather boring estate agents! Let second hand book sellers trade rent free I say, preposterous as that suggestion is!

Finally, fairly near the waterfront, is our third gem. A greengrocers. This just looks fantastic and I wish it could be preserved this way forever. I saw nothing exciting in the produce being sold but this derelict looking shop just bellowed charm at every passer-by, or maybe it was just at me! Whatever. I loved it. So much so I bought a cabbage. In my view it would grace any high street and it’s certainly more individual than Boots and WHSmiths.

Kinsella & Sons fruit and veg miracle!

I’ll return to Whitehaven at some point. I hope I find more to enjoy.

Act of Barbarism – The Euston Arch

5 Mar

Whatever is happening with the Euston Arch?

Built in 1837, the Euston Arch was a Victorian landmark of sizeable proportions. It used to be the gateway to Euston station, which was the world’s first mainline terminus in a capital city. It was over 70ft tall and pretty imposing. I, however, am too young to have ever seen it, so must at this point out that that last adjective was merely conjecture on my part, although I have seen a few photos!! Nevertheless, it must have been impossible to pass such a classical structure without feeling some emotion. Indeed, when the decision to pull it down was made in the early 1960s, it was met with an early conservationist outcry, notably from John Betjeman. The removal of this London landmark has been described as ‘an act of barbarism’, I would agree, more so in light of the subsequent development of the station, catatonic in its mediocrity.

Demolition job

It’s fair to say that Euston is certainly no St. Pancras. The only redeeming features are the two surviving stone lodges left outside the station, which now house the Euston Tap and Cider Tap, both worthy occupants in my book. Britain often seems to specialise in mediocrity in much of its town planning, as any one glance at the standard of design and quality of public urban spaces or much of the housing erected over the last 15-20 years will reveal (slums of the future no doubt). The station, rather than becoming a proud symbol for our capital, became a station in desperate need of redevelopment.

And then there was light!

Back in the 90s in a BBC television programme, the very individual Dan Cruickshank, went in search of the remains of the Euston  Arch itself and with some success. He located large portions of the demolished arch in one of the demolition engineers’ back gardens and a whole load more dumped into an East London waterway. This seemed to spark a campaign to restore the arch to its former glory and some development plans that have been discussed for the station area seem to have included the possibility of including the arch in the new design and that, I’m afraid, is all I know…..

So what is happening now?

Every area needs good space, good design and heritage and these can sit well together and instil a sense of pride and identity in a locality. As the now, Patron of the Euston Arch Trust, Monty Python’s Michael Palin says:

“The enormous popularity of the restored St. Pancras, soon to be followed by a restored King’s Cross, has shown that celebration of the past and potential for the future are not mutually exclusive. The restoration of the Euston Arch would restore to London’s oldest mainline terminus some of the character and dignity of its great neighbours.”

More here, here and here