Beer of the month, May 2015

There was tough competition for May’s beer of the month. Two camping trips, one of which included a polypin of Shardlow Cavendish Gold and a polypin of cider, another 50 beers across the month, a trip to a brewery, the fantastic Buxton Tap House and the Blenheim Palace food fair (lots of ales from Two Cocks brewery). So, there were a lot to choose from, and right up until yesterday, a Buxton brew was going to be the winner.

However, after a visit to The Wainwright, I had no choice. The Belgium Salted Dark Ale from Fell Brewery was fantastic, complementing my game pie perfectly. Malty, roasted, chocolatey, a touch of sweetness, a touch of saltiness, a great balance. A very unusual yet very drinkable beer. In fact, all three of the Fell Brewery ales yesterday were great (YOLO and Progressive Pale being the other two).

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I have no hesitation in awarding Fell Brewery Belgium Salted Dark Ale the beer of the month for May 2015. See you in the final!

Pub of the month – May 2015 – Buxton Tap House

Our first entry this month is the Red Lion in Little Compton, Oxfordshire. A Red Lion? How surprising, since it is supposed to be the most common pub name in Britain. This one gave us a lot of laughs, and will be forever associated with the phrase “any mayonnaise for yourselves at all today?” It will become clear why that is shortly.

We were on a lovely long walk in the Bank Holiday sunshine, designed to take in this pub. It has a lovely big beer garden, but you have to duck your head when you go inside, as there are lots of low beams. Very nice to enjoy a pint of Donnington Gold in the sunshine.

And with triple pork nirvana at stake, it had to be the sausage baguette. The portion of chips was very stingy, as was the salad, but the sausage was very tasty, a perfect walking lunch.

However, the real highlight of our visit was the waitress. Have you ever seen this character from The Catherine Tate Show?

This was who we met at the Red Lion. Very entertaining!

In any other month, The Wainwright in Keswick would probably have won. We visited on the first night of our holiday, having been out on to the fells and up on the top of Latrigg by 4pm, looking down on glorious views of Keswick. It was around 7pm when we got back down into the town, so we decided to go straight to the pub (always a good decision).

The Wainwright was somewhere we had visited many years ago, when it was previously The Four in Hand. It was pretty busy despite being relatively early, but we grabbed some drinks and ordered some food and sat in the high stools near the door whilst waiting for a table to become free. To start off, a Yolo (but not #yolo) from Fell Brewery, who are only 2 years old. Three of their ales were on the bar tonight, and this was the perfect start, a great golden session ale to quench the thirst after a good walk, and while you are contemplating your soon-to-arrive game pie. And served in a dimple pot too!

What a pie it was. A proper effort, baked with lid on, not just some filling plopped in a dish and a separate lid dropped on afterwards. Very flavourful game filling, good thick gravy, accompanied by excellent chips and some nice peppery roasted vegetables. A cracking pie. Mrs MOFAD had the beef pie, which was also very good.

This was paired with another Fell Brewery ale, their Belgium Salted Dark Ale complemented the pie perfectly. Malty, roasted, chocolatey, a touch of sweetness, a touch of saltiness, a great balance for a game pie. And it won beer of the month too!

On to the winner, Buxton Tap House. After a morning of pottering around Buxton, I suggested the Buxton Tap House as a suitable lunch stop, as I’m a fan of their beers, and I’d heard that they do good food. I was right. We wandered in around 1pm and managed to find a table. On Sunday lunchtimes, they serve full roasts, or just a roast in a bap, with roast potatoes, parsnips and gravy. This was a perfect choice for all of us.

There was plenty of time for a drink or two whilst waiting for the lunch to arrive. For Mrs MOFAD it was a Pure North Fusion cider. I found it a touch on the vinegary side, but it did work well with the food. My first choice was a Moor Top, a lovely mixture of floral hoppy bitterness. And then some more bitterness. American Chinook hops and a hit of grapefruit. A great session pale.

After this came a Wild Boar, another floral and hoppy ale, with hints of mango. Very good indeed.

As this was going down with great ease, the food arrived, and it tasted as good as it looked. Very nice beef, a good and hot horseradish, good spuds and a really tasty gravy (if no-one else had been watching, I would have downed that too). A perfect Sunday lunch bap, if only more pubs did this on Sundays rather than the “full roast or nothing” option!

As we hadn’t got too much planned, there was just time for another, this time a Jaw Gate, an American IPA made with NZ hops. Very good indeed, another one that you could drink all day.

If that wasn’t good enough, you can make a quick stop at the bar on the way out, to buy a nice little selection to take away. These lovely people will also let you taste a few more if you’re trying to make up your mind, so there was an opportunity to have some Pic Tor, a passion fruit sour which was pretty amazing.

A worthy winner of pub of the month, and I’ll definintely be back the next time I’m in Buxton. That might be a while though 😦

Booths – Britain’s greatest supermarket

What? A food and drink blog singing the praises of a supermarket? Shouldn’t I be banging on about farmer’s markets and craft ales? Be a localvore. Go organic. Blah blah blah.

Well, in this case, the praise is fully deserved. E.H. Booth & Co. Ltd was founded in June 1847 by Edwin Henry Booth, a 19-year-old tea dealer no less. His first shop “The China House” was opened in Blackpool, and it went to to sell wines and spirits, and then further stores opened. And it is still owned by the same family today.

They win awards for responsible business practice, they pay farmers more for their milk than any other supermarket. They even have speciality food shops inside their main shops. And they stock excellent products. There’s all of the “normal stuff” that you’d expect to find, from Robinson’s squash to Kit Kats to Dairylea Dunkers (are they still a thing?) and plenty of fresh local produce, fruit and veg, meat and cheeses, bread and cakes.

Alongside this is a fantastic range of ales and ciders, without a doubt the best in the country. And this is one of the main reasons why I love them so. Again, they have the “big names” such as those of the Marston’s empire – Marston’s, Banks’s, Jennings, Ringwood and Wychwood, and then descending through the fame stakes until you find lots of little gems such as Beavertown, Camden Town brewery, local favourites like Barngates, Hawkshead brewery, Stringers, Ulverston brewery, Hardknott and Coniston as well as imports from the US craft ale scene such as Flying Dog and Founders.

Look at this little lot:-

What a great selection, and you probably won’t find any of them at another UK supermarket. Cheers to Booths!

Find it on the MOFAD map!