Pub of the month – July 2016 – The Needle & Pin, Loughborough

A slightly different pub of the month post this month.

It’s been a quiet month for pub trips, with most of my visits to pubs coming in just one day, during a small and impromptu “walking tour of Loughborough”, much in the style of last year’s walking tour of Skipton.

We start with The Swan in the Rushes, a previous winner back in March 2015, and the second stop on our walking tour. It was a warm day, so we had a couple of drinks. First, a Barista Stout from Theakston. With a name like that, you’d be expecting big coffee flavours, and there’s no false advertising here. Good coffee flavours in this classic stout. A little more coffee would not have been a problem.

We’d spotted BrewDog Elvis Juice in the fridge, so decided to stay and have one. Elvis Juice is a grapefruit infused IPA, and once again, no false advertising , as it’s full of lovely, happy, grapefruit hoppiness. A classic BrewDog brew.

The White Hart is next in the list. Our detailed planning of this walking tour (a few tweets earlier in the same week) had identified The White Hart as a suitable dinner stop.

The White Hart is a pub that I have been visiting on and off for the last 24 years. Way back in October 1992, a group of fresh faced students came down here on a Sunday night and won the pub quiz. I do recall drinking lots of Addlestones cider here (I was a cider drinking youth, ale came much later into my life).

As with so many pubs nowadays, it has had several makeovers since 1992, and the latest one is very tasteful, giving it both an old and new feeling at the same time.

We enjoyed a pint of Crazy Like a Fox from Totally Brewed, who live just up the A60 near Trent Bridge in Nottingham.

We also ate here, my choice was the classic beef burger, which was juicy and delicious. The cheese and bacon were also good, and the gherkin mustard went very well. Just one problem. No plates! We want plates! Boards are for chopping, plates are for eating from 🙂

We did enquire about another drink, but the five different bottles above the bar from Eden brewery in Cumbria (one of my favourites) were for display purposes only. They display beers that they do not sell. This confused us, so we moved on…

The Needle & Pin was the winner back in May 2016, when I probably mentioned that it was my new favourite Loughborough pub. With the temporary (24 hour) return of former regular MOFAD drinking companion Bruce, we decided that we had to start and end the day here.

A Magic Rock High Wire “unapologetically hop forward in character” started proceedings, and it delivers on that promise with mango, lychee, grapefruit and hops hops hops.

An international mash up followed. New Zealand hops (motueka, and it was amusing to hear Alec’s attempted pronunciation) made into a beer by North Riding Brewery in Scarborough. Sadly it needed loads more hops to bring out that distinctive NZ hoppy goodness. Pleasant, but not a showcase for this hop.

We returned to the fridge and another reliable Magic Rock brew, this time Inhaler, their take on a session IPA with a total of six hops (Amarillo, Citra, Equinox, Galaxy, Mosaic, Simcoe). It could have had a few more chucked in there for my hophead palate, but it was still a very decent session IPA. (Edit: at the time of tasting it was a limited release, but has since become part of their core range).

Always a pleasure to be at The Needle & Pin, it’s just a great pub with so many great beers to choose from, and changing all the time.

Beer of the month – July 2016 – Buxton Tsar Bomba

A fairly even mix of beers in and out of the home this month. We start off with something from Aldi, a Spill The Beans by Brains Craft Brewery, full of coffee, chocolate and hazelnut flavours. This was the best of the Aldi range of beers that they have commissioned so far.

We move to another supermarket commissioned beer next, a Marks & Spencer Black IPA by Purity Brewing Co, a good mix of dark maltiness and hop flavours. A good nose and well balanced. This trend of supermarket commissioned beers shows no sign of going away, and on this evidence, that’s ok with me.

We take a trip to town next for a High Wire West Coast Pale Ale by Magic Rock Brewing at the Needle & Pin. This was another beer to be tarred with the epithet Hoppy McHopFace…

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Just an hour or so later, an Elvis Juice by BrewDog at The Swan In The Rushes was passing my lips, a beer full of happy grapefruit hoppiness. Thank you very much.

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To finish off this month, we go dark. First, we are off to a field just outside Chipping Norton for some Bourbon Oktober by Vibrant Forest Brewery. This was quite stunning. Vibrant took their existing beer, Black October, a full bodied strong stout (with aromas of dark chocolate and liquorice) and then aged it in a fresh bourbon barrel for nearly 6 months. It was certainly worth that extra work. Bourbon barrel brilliance.

In other months, that would have been an obvious winner. However, this month it came up against a formidable opponent indeed. Let’s have a little story.

In 1978, The Courage Brewery brewed a batch of Imperial Russian Stout, aged it in infected wooden barrels and some time later it was put into bottles. In 2012, someone at Buxton Brewery opened a bottle, drank the beer (which was apparently amazing) and then rescued the intruiging combination of sedimented yeasts and debris from the bottom of the aged vessel. They then inocculated a barrel of their own Russian Imperial Stout, Tsar, with this precious sludge and left the beer to its own devices for 9 months. The only attention they gave it was a weekly “roll around the brewery”, apparently the same as the Courage barrels got.

Following this 9 month ageing, the beer changed in character thanks to the Brettanomyces strain of yeast that had laid dormant in the bottle for all those years waking up when being introduced to some young, fresh Imperial Stout, adding a delicious tartness to the beer to go with the hop bitterness and deep malty and dark fruit flavours.

The Tsar Bomba was born.

I bought my one back in May 2015. I’ve been letting it rest, but I couldn’t let it rest any longer. Good call. Dark. Bitter. Sweetness. One for slow sipping and a strong contender for beer of the year.

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Sadly, you won’t be able to buy one like it, until they make the next generation version (much like Cloudwater and their DIPA releases)…

Farewell to Moomba

My first farewell post.

Today I heard that Moomba, Loughborough’s first and only Australian restaurant has just closed down. Very sad news indeed. It was one of our favourite restaurants in town, although not somewhere that we have visited recently, for no other reason than there have been so many other places for us to explore.

Moomba is a combination of 2 Aboriginal words, but its etymology is unclear. The alleged translation is “let’s get together and have fun”, but the word is a compound of “moom” which means bottom or rump, and “ba” which means at, in on or up in Victorian Aboriginal dialects. Some say that the president of the Australian Aborigines League proposed the name to Melbourne City Council to get back at them, although his wife is later supposed to have said that he chose it as a generic term for ceremony or celebration.

Enough of words, let’s talk a little more about the restaurant itself. I’ve lost count of the number of visits we made. It opened some time in the famed year 2000, and they initially avoided the more “clichéd” Aussie dishes of kangaroo, crocodile and the like. However, lots of people turned up expecting this, so they did add these items to the menu, alongside their take on modern Australian cuisine, lots of fusion food and Asian inspired dishes. The Backpackers BBQ was a great menu item, a very good value take on a mixed grill, with various meat items, a fluffy jacket potato and interesting salads and a lovely seedy/fruity slaw.

Here’s Mrs MOFAD from October 2013 when we were getting in some practice for the 2014 “Oz Odyssey”:-

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We had many great nights there, including quite a few work meals out. The night that Jim’ll ordered the garlic bread starter and was faced with a bread board with a 24 inch ciabatta with a knife stuck in the middle will now live longer in the memory than Moomba itself.

Moomba is where MOFAD companions Gemma and Ian revealed their pregnancy news (although we had guessed it!) and also a place where we have had a meal with most of the people that have come to stay with us.

They were always evolving, changing things around, but retaining the essence of Moomba, which had an authentic Australian feel to it, but without that ever feeling forced. They always had some good wines on, as well as better examples of Australian beers than those that most people are used to. Their cocktail menu was a good one too, with such comedy names as Sex on Bondi and Matilda’s Chuff.

The dessert menu was also something special. Not your standard chocolate fudge cake or strawberry cheesecake here, lots of interesting things to choose from, again with Australian flavours like wattle seed.

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Sadly, we must bid farewell to Moomba, one of the nicest restaurants to grace the streets of Loughborough.

Hooroo Moomba mate!

The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, July 2016

You’ve probably worked out by now that The Needle & Pin is my new favourite Loughborough pub, so any excuse to go down there is always welcome. Today it was the return of former regular MOFAD drinking companion Bruce, who happened to be back in the area for the weekend. After a morning of DIY shenanigans, it was nice to escape to town on a lovely sunny summer afternoon.

There was a turn on in the pub, playing some good acoustic tunes. But you don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear about the latest beers in the fridges and on the taps.

Hops were needed first, and those lovely Magic Rock types always deliver the goods. They describe it as “unapologetically hop forward in character” and it certainly is that. Mango, lychee, grapefruit and hops hops hops. You couldn’t find a much better start to a gentle walking tour of Loughborough.

An international mash up next. New Zealand hops (motueka) made into a beer by North Riding Brewery in Scarborough. Sadly it needed loads more hops to bring out that distinctive hoppy goodness. Pleasant, but not a showcase for this hop. We did enjoy Alec trying to pronounce its name a few times though.

Should we stay for another in the pub that has the best beer selection in town? Of course we should. Back to the fridge and another reliable Magic Rock brew, this time Inhaler, their take on a session IPA. Let’s count the hops, Amarillo, Citra, Equinox, Galaxy, Mosaic, Simcoe. A total of 6. It could have had a few more chucked in there for my hophead tastes, but it was still a very decent session IPA.

At this point, the walking tour of Loughborough commenced. Inevitably, we returned here to finish off our walking tour. We concluded with a Wild Woods from Tapstone brewery in Somerset, desribed as a “succulent IPA”. It has decent bitterness, cloudiness from being unfined (fine by me) but it’s just not an IPA. Both of the Magic Rock ales described earlier had more hops, and neither of those called themselves an IPA. It was nice, but not an IPA.

Always a pleasure to be at The Needle & Pin, it’s just a great pub.

The Organ Grinder, Loughborough, July 2016

This one is a very quick post.  We were on a short walking tour of Loughborough today and decided to pop in to the Organ Grinder for some refreshment – thirsty work this walking, and it’s important to stay hydrated in hot weather.

The Organ Grinder was voted Loughborough & North Leicestershire District CAMRA pub of the year in 2013. They usually have eight cask ales on the bar, with the vast majority being from Blue Monkey brewery (the pub owner), and occasional guests. There are also a range of keg beers available and some ciders, including local ones. There’s a small “beer yard” out the back, dogs are welcome, and they have a few snack foods available (pork pies and sausage rolls).

Tonight we decided upon a guest beer, Marquis, from Brewster’s Brewery in Lincolnshire, a classic English bitter, which was just that, nothing much more to say. Totally standard refreshment.

If you’re after a cask ale, you’ll find plenty to choose from at the Organ Grinder.

The White Hart, Loughborough, July 2016

Another stop on the walking tour of Loughborough. Our detailed planning (a few tweets the other day) had identified The White Hart as a suitable dinner stop.

The White Hart is a pub that I have been visiting on and off for the last 24 years. Way back in October 1992, a group of fresh faced students came down here on a Sunday night and won the pub quiz. I’m not sure how popular that made us with some of the regulars back then. I do recall drinking lots of Addlestones cider here (I was a cider drinking youth, ale came much later into my life).

It has had several makeovers since then, and the latest one is very tasteful, giving it both an old and new feeling at the same time. It’s really opened up, as soon as you enter the front door you can see all the way through the back door into the beer garden.

On to the beer. A pint of Crazy Like a Fox from Totally Brewed, who live just up the A60 near Trent Bridge in Nottingham. This is very much a traditional English bitter, and a good dinner time pint.

Food next. Their menus change throughout the year. At this time of the year they have several summer salads on, ham, beef or cheese cobs (rolls where I come from) and burgers. Four of those to choose from, the classic beef (with cheese and bacon), crumbed chicken fillet (with pesto mayonnaise), halloumi and roasted pepper (with hummus) or crumbed cod fillet (with tartare sauce). They also have a few side dishes too.

A simple choice for me, the classic beef burger, which was juicy and delicious. The cheese and bacon were also good, and the gherkin mustard went very well. Just one problem. No plates! We want plates! Boards are for chopping, plates are for eating from 🙂

We did enquire about another drink, but the five different bottles above the bar from Eden brewery in Cumbria (one of my favourites) were for display purposes only. They display beers that they do not sell. This confused us, so we moved on and carried on with our walking tour.

The Swan in the Rushes, Loughborough, July 2016

Another quick post. If you want to read more about the Swan, travel back to November 2015 for a more rounded review. This afternoon we popped in on our walking tour of Loughborough for a couple of drinks.

First up, a Barista Stout from Theakston. With a name like that, you’d be expecting big coffee flavours, and there’s no false advertising here. Good coffee flavours in this classic stout. A little more coffee would not have been a problem.

We’d spotted BrewDog Elvis Juice in the fridge, so decided to stay and have one. Elvis Juice is a grapefruit infused IPA, and once again, no false advertising here, full of happy grapefruit hoppiness. A classic BrewDog brew.

350th post!

Two months have passed since the 300th post, but it’s time for another milestone, which I’m mainly marking because I have just spotted that I was on 349…

Just a day after the 300th post, a return trip to The Alma in Wandsworth saw a very tasty steak and some tasty ales combine with a bitter tasting defeat for Liverpool in the Europa League final. An eventful (from a food point of view) camping trip to Oxfordshire followed soon afterwards, a relatively new camp site cafe that struggled with Bank Holiday weekend demands.

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Edinburgh was the first of June’s highlights, including a third trip to BrewDog – great beer, great pizza, great tunes from “The Wandering Man”. The Potting Shed was another food and drink fest, a perfect anniversary meal. The next afternoon saw us wandering on to a film set (Trainspotting 2) and then a visit to a pub with some history.

Another great night out at The Needle & Pin, with so many new beers sampled. Have just missed the next one, but there’s another one being planned in a month or two. Whilst this was going on, a new brewery were achieving their goals on Crowdfunder, and their beers will be on the way to all backers in September.

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A trip to the Lakes soon followed, with great meals out at the Royal Oak, The Wainwright and The Pack Horse Inn and a few takeaways thrown in for good measure. It was a lovely trip, with lots of great walks. The fun didn’t stop there, with a superb day out at Wimbledon following on just 2 days after we got back. It was an utterly fantastic day out, very highly recommended.

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We arrive in July, which opened with a cycle ride along the Cloud Trail to the Crewe & Harpur for a tasty lunch, and then the Hook Norton beer festival, followed up with a couple of recipes, for Gooseberry jam and creamy seafood pasta.

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There are 32 posts still in draft, including a few more from the New Zealand trip that I haven’t got round to finishing yet. Perhaps August will be a little quieter which will give me time to catch up 🙂

This week has also seen the most likes on posts, and over the last few months we have seen new visitors from Brazil, Poland and the British Virgin Islands. Whoever would have thunk it?

The MOFAD continues!

Creamy seafood pasta recipe

It’s another recipe post. I’ve got plenty up my sleeves, just have to get around to writing them and publishing them.

Tonight’s one is a quick pasta dish that makes a nice change from bolognese or carbonara and is almost a no-cook recipe.

You will need:-

some seafood
some pasta
some cream
some eggs
some seasoning

For 2 people, I used the following:-

150g crab meat (whatever you prefer)
100g cooked squid rings
50g cooked, peeled prawns
50ml cream
2 egg yolks
50g grated cheese (cheddar, parmesan, whatever you prefer)
166g dried pasta
Your preferred amount of seasoning (salt, pepper or something more exotic such as cayenne also works)

Here’s the “work” bit. Quickly whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, then add the cream and cheese and whisk again. Add the seafood and mix well. Season as preferred. Job done. It will look a bit like this:-

Cook your preferred pasta as per packet instructions. You’ll note my very accurate weight of pasta above. It’s 500g divided by 3, which produces a good portion for two people. When the pasta is cooked, quickly drain it and return it to the hot pan. Then add the seafood mixture and stir quickly – the heat in the pasta and the pan will cook the sauce in just a minute or two.

It looks a little something like this:-

There you go, a quick and easy pasta meal.

Gooseberry jam – a recipe

What do you do when someone (Mrs MOFAD in my case) comes home from work with a kilo of gooseberries? Make jam of course. I do like a gooseberry jam. It’s something you don’t see from the big producers, the kind of thing that you find at a farm shop or a market.

You will need:-

some gooseberries
some jam sugar (aka jelly sugar, aka gelling sugar aka pectin sugar)
some cold water

You might want something a bit more accurate than that. It’s a ratio of 1:1 gooseberry to sugar, with 15% water.

So if you have 500g of gooseberries, you need 500g of sugar and 75ml water, and so on.

Before we begin, start to sterilise a few jars – wash them in warm water then leave to dry in a low oven (100-120C) whilst you’re doing the rest of this. At the same time, put a small plate in the freezer – you’ll need that to test if it has set later.

First, wash your gooseberries, and chuck away any that have gone too squishy, mouldy or are too blemished. Remove the tops and tails, and pop them in a large saucepan.

Add your water and bring to the boil, then simmer for around 10 minutes until the fruit softens and starts to break up, giving it a good stir a few times. It will start to foam a bit.

Now add your sugar and stir until it has dissolved.

Increase the heat again and boil hard for about 10 minutes. Again it will really start to foam up and bubble away like a sugary volcano.

After 10 minutes, check to see if it has set. To do this, take the small plate out of the freezer and spoon a small amount of jam on to it. Let it cool down for a minute and then drag your finger through the jam – if it goes wrinkly then it is ready. If it doesn’t wrinkle, keep boiling for another minute or two and then test again.

If it is ready, turn off the heat and then skim off any scum (the white foamy bits). Leave it to stand for 20 minutes (it will start to form a wrinkly skin).

Remove your warm jars from the oven and spoon in the jam (or use a handy jam funnel, available from Lakeland, Wilkinson and elsewhere). You’ll notice that it goes from green to brown.

And there you go, gooseberry jam in about an hour.