Not posting today!

11 May

I was going to write another irrelevant post today but instead I peered into my spam folder. So entertaining did I find it that I decided to read through them all, well almost all there was quite a bit of repetition down there.

Apparently my website is ‘rely nice’ and ‘I share my sex dating’ – must have been this post.

More prose:

‘I used to be recommended this blog via my cousin. I’m no longer certain whether this post is written by way of him as nobody else understand such designated approximately my difficulty. You are wonderful! Thank you!’

He’s dead right, it’s not written by way of him any more but I do try to understand his such designated approximately difficulty, really I do!

‘I truly appreciated this gorgeous weblog. Make confident you maintain up the very good function. Very best Regards’

Always nice to be appreciated. I certainly will make confident I maintain up the very good function. He must be talking about my liver!

‘I’ve been browsing on-line greater than three hours nowadays, yet I never discovered any attention-grabbing article like yours. It’s lovely price enough for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the internet will likely be a lot more useful than ever before’

Too bloody right mate. I’ve always insisted that my just right content was a lovely price enough for anyone.

Does this count as an irrelevant article? Maybe today hasn’t been wasted after all.

So much the time ever did I make the function, if you get my meaning!

Dandelions

10 May

Dandelions get bad press in my opinion, unwanted in gardens and dismissed as ‘just weeds’ by heathens out there but they are so much more. They are a lovely plant. Striking flowers and dreamy fluffy seeds.

Dandelion Frootz

Not only do they look nice but they have many uses. They can be medicinal. They are good for digestion and the liver and kidneys. They are a diuretic and are also known as piss-a-bed, presumably for that very reason! Liquid obtained from boiling the roots and leaves in water can be used as a cleansing wash.

It can be used as a dye for clothes.

They are edible. The young leaves can be put into salads or cooked in butter. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine. Dandelion and Burdock is a classic country drink in this country, a kind of root beer not to be confused with some of the horrible industrially produced versions in supermarkets. Brewers also put them into more modern beers. In addition, the roots can also be roasted and made into a caffeine-free coffee. Need I say more?!

Anyway, I don’t think I can be bothered to do any of the above for the time being so I’ll make do with some photos of them. Far less time-consuming.

Fluffy Clouds n ting

Admittedly this one is rubbish but all of the essential parts apart from the root can be seen!!!

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!

Why? Oh Why?

6 May

When Arthur Galston invented Agent Orange to increase the yields of soy beans, he probably had no idea that his invention would lead to the deaths of 1/2 million people and result in another 1/2 million disabilities in Vietnam.

When Thomas Midgley added tetraethyl lead to petrol to prevent “knocking” could he have imagined causing the deaths and health problems that arose worldwide from the ensuing lead poisoning?

Similarly, the man who first invented pebble-dashing was probably just joshing on a building site with his pals. You know the kind of stuff these fellas get up to on site – throwing hammers at each other and using staple guns on one another’s goolies. It was probably just one big dido where 3 burly builders threw a load of old stones in the cement mixer while the bloke responsible had been barricaded up inside the site portaloo. Little were they to know that they had unleashed a beast that was to blight towns and cities up and down this country of ours even to this very day.

Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian period properties have fallen foul of this insensitive rendering of outside walls. Why? Why? Why? Who ever thought that it might look nice? When Joe Bloggs first pebble-dashed the outside of his house way back when, which one of his neighbours was jealous enough to want to do the same? And having seen two such examples, who was the third, even more guilty, party?

OK. So we’re in this mess. What do we do? I suggest the current government put aside such trivial matters as the economy for the time being and focus on the real issues. They should break with their current non-interventionist ideals for the sake of everyone in the land and legislate. Yes, start by outlawing the practice based on its visual toxicity – no new pebble-dashing can be allowed to take place. Secondly, any existing pebble-dashed buildings should be painted – under no circumstances can they be allowed to remain brown or grey. Perhaps this could be helped by the introduction of grants to allow people to buy the necessary paint –  after all, this would be a fantastic way of putting all those savings the government has been making to a useful end. Thirdly, they could invest in some research that might lead to a clear and simple method of removing the dastardly stuff once and for all.

Along with wheelchair access for disabled cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay, this is clearly one of the foremost problems currently being faced by society today and one which has been swept under the carpet for far too long. By addressing this concern, the government have the perfect opportunity to re-connect with its public and contribute to the greater good all at once.  Seize the moment Mr Cameron! What would 007 do?

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

Things I no longer like #1

21 Apr

If being positive is all about making yourself happy, I’ve come to the realisation that moaning often makes me very happy indeed. I very much like the idea of things not being as good as they used to be as it’s something we can nearly all relate to in one way or another. We all get older after all. However, I’m going to spin that on its head and list a number of things that I used to like but don’t any more. To be fair, that’s not really spinning anything on its head but I wanted to use that phrase so I did.

Sweets

Sweets are really just poison in chewy form. I cannot imagine how I derived any pleasure from sticking a luminous rubbery hose in my mouth and masticating! Hang around groups of school kids after school and you’ll see what I mean. They stink of sweets and all have multi-coloured mouths. On second thoughts, DON’T hang around groups of school kids after school, it’s entirely inappropriate. Chocolate is not included in this category.

Shaving

When I was young, I wanted to have a five O’clock shadow more than anything else in the world, that is with the exception of a good grope with C***** P******. You’ll understand I can’t reveal details. Having stubble would be a passport into adulthood. With stubble I could buy cigarettes more easily, buy beer in the pub and more importantly finally get off with someone! I would go into the bathroom when everyone was out and try and shave the bum fluff off my face in order to stimulate more growth. Fast forward and shaving is the most boring part of the day. Even when I’m going through a positivity stage, shaving is an ordeal and expensive too! If I had a tad less self-respect and didn’t really want to maintain relationship with a woman, I might just have grown a beard by now.

Dairy Lea Cheese

Time was when I used to whoop for joy upon opening my school lunchbox and finding a silver triangle sitting there. When I used to peel apart two thin slices of bread and see the plasticky creamy stodge there, it made me feel like I’d arrived. All the other kids used to have it all the time. Mostly, I used to get this horrible, strong, ‘proper’ cheese that only grown ups liked. It used to burn my mouth!

Skin-tight Jeans

And in particular, skin-tight faded light blue jeans (don’t worry I never liked snow-washed jeans!). Everyone had them. The pleasure of squeezing your ever-growing plums into these little tubes of material and snatching yourself in the zip was one of the coolest things a growing boy could do. These days I would most likely be cautioned by the local constabulary were I to wear them.

Music Videos

Music videos were a passport into another world. A story drawing you in. Just getting a 30-second glimpse of a music video on TV was exciting back in the day. Nowadays, when I land on a music channel on the TV, the videos are all the same. Lots of people do stupid dances and make shapes with their arms behind a lead singer. The background may change but the format does not. And whatever happened to ugly pop stars, pretty people just don’t do it for me any more…… well..

Only Fools and Horses

Controversial I know, but this died a sorry death for me once Grandad left. He carried that series. Well, OK, it did have a bit more life left in it than that, but you can’t really replace a character whose middle name was Kitchener, can you? I can’t stomach watching later episodes with Cassandra and Raquel in them and as for that piss-poor Christmas special in Miami, it was like watching some you love suffering from Alzheimer’s, only not quite as bad!

Grandad AKA Edward Kitchener Rossiter

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….

Fuller’s London Porter

17 Apr

It’s hard to choose a favourite beer but Fuller’s London Porter comes pretty close. After my recent dalliances with sorry beer that ended up down the sink I was happy to find a bottle in my beer cellar (the garage.) It didn’t let me down and I knew it wouldn’t. Some of my all time favourite pints of all time ever have been London Porter but I can’t remember the last time I had it on cask. Well, yes I can actually. It was a couple of years ago when I was doing jury service at Southwark Crown Court. I had decamped to the Royal Oak on Tabard St. in Borough, swished me way through a couple of Harvey’s offerings before settling down to some of the best pints of my life.

‘Rich, dark and complex’ says the advertising and if you know me, you’ll know I’ll struggle to add anything meaningful to those extensive tasting notes. Well, how about ‘Rich but moreish, really dark and definitely complex’? This beer is available in bottles (non-bottle conditioned) and from a keg in some Fuller’s pubs. While both of these are still nice they don’t hit the giddy heights of those perfectly poured cask versions.

Deeply Rich, no, moreishly nice, no....

Of course, having not had the cask version for a couple of years, it is still possible that I might not be as impressed with it now, as has happened with other enlightening beers over the years, but somehow I doubt that. I still enjoy the other versions immensely. At least they could give me the chance to be disappointed.

So my message to Fuller’s is to make this available on cask regularly. They could have it on at select pubs around London which have a lot of turnaround and advertise that these were the pubs where you could drink it. I’m sure they would get saddoes like myself making the trip for a pint or two. Or, as Steve Marriot once said, am I only dreaming?

He’s Selling Up!!

17 Apr

I’ve learned two interesting things recently. The first is that I’m a bit anal about people leaving kitchen unit doors open and the second is that our neighbour is selling up and moving on. No more sparks flying over the fence from his electric saw, no more screaming through the walls, no more carpets and bathroom cabinets left in the front garden, no more not so surreptitious phone conversations with lovers down the bottom of the garden, no more verbal abuse of his dog and no time left for him to concrete over his back garden, which I fear he surely would!

I think we might miss him. He’s a good sort really and you know what they say, be careful what you wish for….

Look what they’ve done to my beer, ma….

17 Apr

Lordy! Lordy! What HAS happened?

The excitement of finding the 330ml bottle, a more manageable quantity for a 7.2% beer, has given way to a touch of despair and incomprehensibility!! Can I say that word? Incomprehension doesn’t quite cut it somehow. Anyway, I opened a bottle of Brakspear Triple, which I was hoping I could savour and swirl and thrust under the professorette’s nose every two minutes, but was alarmed to find a very ‘wet’ tasting beer hiding out inside. Closer inspection revealed no yeast residue in the bottom of the bottle either. I tried a little more of it and again thought something quite essential was missing from this once classic ale! In the words of Melanie … it’s turning out all wrong!

What trickery is this?

Ils ont changé notre biere ma….. Ils ont changéeeeeee……. 

Cor Blimey!! Cockney Food Gone All Posh!

16 Apr

Didn’t we ‘ave a loverlee time!

Time was when these were a working man’s staple down in ‘ole London town. A little bit of malt vinegar and a toothpick to pull out the grit and you were away.

Dirty Whelks

Whelks are sea snails and grow around the coast of Britain and elsewhere and these days our whelks seem to have found themselves a market in South Korea. There is more information from the Marine Conservation Society here. I was actually unaware that there was any pressure on them when I bought this lot but still it’s a bit of a shame that there is no longer a natural market for them over here. Apart from some very good restaurants or the dying breed of cockney fish vans traditionally found in pub car parks, there doesn’t seem to be anything in between.

under water

I’ve eaten whelks but never cooked them. It always sounded like a bit too much effort. When I’ve had them before, they’ve been either very nice or very rubbery. Still, I couldn’t resist picking up some to see how they would turn out once placed in my foolish hands.

I said it sounded like a bit too much effort and I half still think that. Basically, this is because you have to clean the blighters forever to get rid of the grit.  Now, there is a man whose recipes I generally trust and who goes by the name of Mark Hix, you may have heard of him as he is quite famous over here, and I chose to follow a recipe of his from his book British Regional Food.

Basically, it’s a simple snails in garlic butter recipe but strike-a-light it was blummin’ long-winded. The first step was cleaning them as best you could, which I did. It has to be said they were quite dirty on the whole and it was good 10 minute job. I was glad the Profesorette wasn’t taken with the idea of having a serving or I would have had to have spent more time at the sink. They were then drained and put into a bowl with some salt and left for two hours. I was already bored by this stage but did eventually find something else to do to fill my time. After this step, you are supposed to leave them rinsing under the tap for 30 minutes but in these dry, dusty days of hose pipe bans I decided not to be quite so wasteful and just rinsed them in a couple of changes of water.

The next stage was creating the cooking liquor. 1 onion, 12 white peppercorns, fennel seeds, thyme , 1/2 lemon and some white wine were all put into a pan and the whelks were added. The pan was then topped up so they were covered with water and some salt added. This was brought to the boil before lowering the heat and simmering for 45 minutes. At this point, I was a bit worried that 45 minutes seemed a long time and that they would be sure to come out rubbery but, uncharacteristically perhaps, I stuck with the recipe.

After the 45 minutes, they were taken off the heat and allowed to cool down in the liquid for yet another hour, and to think I had originally planned to have them for breakfast! Fortunately, I was around the house most of the day yesterday so when they were cooled, I plucked them out of their shells and chopped them up, being sure to remove the foot and any grey sacks from them.

Whelks and Beer

The butter mixture was made with garlic chives, butter, lemon, salt and pepper and the meat was mixed into it. The shells were then given another clean and the mixture stuffed into them. Nearly there! Puff, deep breath!

Salt was spread along the bottom of an oven dish and the filled whelks were rested on this to prevent them slipping and the butter leaking out during baking. Needless to say, I didn’t quite get this right!

Just put the ruddy things in the oven!

Last bit!!!!! Into the oven at Gas 6/200C for 12-15 minutes and they were ready. Finally! It’s tiring me out just writing this.

Verdict/Conclusion: Really nice, better than garden snails and best of all I managed not to make them rubbery – take note Essex! However, I wish more restaurants and pubs would do them properly so I could eat more of them without having to hang around all day preparing them. Would I make them again? If I had a sous chef maybe.

Non-gritty, non-rubbery, cor blimey Whelks done all posh like!