Beer of the month – September 2016 – Foreign Extra Stout by Dancing Cows

It’s another month featuring only bottled beers, and only one of them from a bar or pub. This is another “a few drinks at home” month, with a few others at a camp site with friends.

We start with a Spring + Summer Session IPA Simcoe Enigma by Cloudwater Brew Co.

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A very good gentle session IPA, full of happy hoppiness but it lacks the pleasing punch of the DIPA series such as DIPA v3

Another DIPA next (you’ll know that I do like some hoppy beasts). This one is Mr. President by BrewDog, described by them as “an All-American gung-ho of a beer, the first amendment in full on, full tilt flavour. A star spangled banner of big fruit. A Cadillac of chewy toffee malt rolls down the interstate and accelerates hard into relentless bitterness, with sniper bursts of apricot, mango and pine. The Defcon I of IPAs. An all-out bedrock patriot, hell-bent on global domination.”

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Piney, sweet and resinous but lacking the big hop hit you might expect from a BrewDog beast, particularly with all those big words to accompany it. Dare I say that it needs more hops?

We venture out for our next beer, a Spreadsheet Ninja Citra Pils by Weird Beard Brew Co. (who love a comedy beer name). Aromas of melon, peach and zesty citrus are met with bready malts and caramel. Similar flavours appear in this lightly sweet yet balanced lager.

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Hoppy pils! Yes please! This was very nice and further proof that lager can be good and not just associated with the F word.

We now take a trip to the camp site, for a couple of campfire beers with friends.First, an Imperial 15 by Red Cat Brewing, full of coffee, molasses, chocolate and dried fruit. The balance of flavours belies its strength.

This month’s winner is Foreign Extra Stout by Dancing Cows, a deep, complex and strong stout, perfect for sipping on a cool evening outside.

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Fruity flavours, roasty flavours, coffee flavours, smoothness. A very worthy winner of beer of the month. Delicious!

Pub of the month – September 2016 – The Globe, Alresford

Despite visits to the pub this month entering double figures, there are only four pubs on this month’s shortlist. Two of them are a couple of hundred yards from a camp site we stayed at (which also has 2 other pubs within walking distance), and the other two were also visited as part of another camping trip.

We start with Ye Olde Kings Head which is on the border between Gurnett and Sutton in Cheshire, which was marginally the closest to our camp site. An extensive menu to choose from and some good local ales to try, such as this session pale ale, Seamless from Redwillow Brewery.

The food was lovely too. With lots of things to choose from, like pie of the day (several of our party had this), lasagne, gammon, lamb casserole, steak, a burger, chicken, pork and more, you might have a hard time choosing. My choice was sea bass, pan fried with lemon, garlic and parsley butter.

Some more liquid accompaniment was required, and I had Feckless by Redwillow Brewery, a classic malty English bitter. Very nice indeed and the maltiness worked well with the garlic. Don’t get caught out by “Ye Olde Kings Head” ale though – GK House Ale by Greene King, which is often found in their pubs rebadged as “Insert Name of Pub Here” ale.

A lovely little village pub, well worth a visit, although they don’t take dogs, which is why we didn’t come back on our next trip to the village a few weeks later.

The following night, and a few weeks later, we visited the Church House Inn, Sutton. Three visits in total (although one was on 1st October). Much like Ye Olde Kings Head, this is a classic village pub with good food and local ales, such as this Concept #14 from Mobberley Brewhouse, a fruity red ale, heavy on the malt and very tasty.

Lots of good food to choose from, a standard menu and specials board. For me on our second visit, it was fish pie, something I make loads at home, but rarely have when out and about (for just that reason). This one was a good effort, served simply with peas and a few straggly bits of rocket.

This fish pie also contained boiled egg, which is a very classic addition, although it seems I was the only one of our party who was aware of this. You can catch a glimpse of this, as well as other dinners in the next photo. There’s also a pint of Bosley Cloud in the foreground, a good pale ale that went well with the fish pie.

As we had the Suzy the Ninja Hound in tow, we were squeezed into a little side room, but she was as well behaved as ever, and made a good impression on everyone, particularly the friendly staff. This led us to get “upgraded” in to the main room on our visit the following night. A lovely and friendly village pub.

On to another one, in Cheriton, Hampshire. The Flower Pots has the added advantage of having a brewery attached to it. No beer miles here, just beer yards as the barrels are transported across the car park from brewery to pub. Once again, we were camping down the road and given there were very few facilities on the camp site, pub dinners were in order.

I started our first visit with a pint of Perridge Pale, a light and hoppy delight to refresh the weary traveller.

As you might expect in Hampshire, there are also ciders available and Mrs MOFAD enjoyed a couple of these. This is an uncomplicated place, and that’s reflected in the menu. All food is freshly prepared and they will even stop taking orders for a bit if they can’t get them out in a reasonable time. Simple food done well isn’t something we see enough of in places like this, so it’s always nice when you encounter it. You’re not going to get people drinking out of jam jars with straws, or things served on slates, bread boards, skateboards or anything other than a sensible plate or bowl.

There were several stews on offer (so easy to do and so tasty when you get it right). Mrs MOFAD had one of those, and dining (& camping) companions Chris & Caroline also did. The stews were very tasty indeed, and the garlic bread accompaniment was also well endowed with garlic.

There was another option on the menu, which echoes my sentiment about simple things done well. Steak and chips. No messing around with trying to get you to pay another 2 pounds for a peppercorn sauce, onion rings, or some garnish. Just steak and chips. Meat from a local butcher. Uncomplicated, brilliant. It was delicious.

We stayed on to drink some more and play some card games. A pint of Goodens Gold was a good and hoppy golden ale. It was so good we came back the next night for another drink and some more gaming. Dog friendly too (we met several nice dogs).

The Globe in Alresford is this month’s winner. After a lovely day out at the Alresford show we had booked a table at The Globe for dinner. We ordered some food and drinks and relaxed. There was also some local cider for Mrs MOFAD, which we had sampled at the show a few hours earlier. Meon Valley Cider was lightly sparkling from the bottle, a classic cider with toffee apple flavours.

Lots of nice choices on the menu, and I was on a fishy quest again, pan fried fillet of hake, with watercress (if you don’t have it on your menu in Hampshire, something must be wrong), burnt pineapple puree (much nicer than the word burnt implies), roasted sweet potato, ginger, chilli & coriander dressing. This was absolutely delicious, a lovely piece of fish with great flavours to accompany it.

This was joined by the always reliable Bath Ales Gem, a balance of malt and hops that makes for a classic English bitter.

It would be rude not to have pudding. Sticky toffee pudding in this case, with salted caramel sauce and vanilla clotted cream. Sweet and tasty.

A really nice meal at a really nice pub. Nothing was rushed, everything was relaxed, and their was a friendly atmosphere. Lots of diners on a very busy Saturday night, but the team were able to cope with everyone. A worthy winner of pub of the month.

Church House pub, Sutton, September 2016 visit #2

As promised just a few weeks ago, we are back. The forecast for this weekend looks reasonable, with rain only likely to visit during the nights. As mentioned last time, Suzy the Ninja Hound is with us this weekend (now that Mark has returned from dancing on the sand in Rio), so we have to limit our pub options to dog friendly pubs…

If that dancing on the sand reference is too 80s for you…

So, how do you communicate a specials board to a room of 7 people and a dog? Take a photo and pass your phone round. Here’s what was on tonight…

Beer first, and a pint of Concept #14 from Mobberley Brewhouse, a fruity red ale, heavy on the malt and very tasty.

Much to catch up on, particularly Mark’s Rio adventures and brushes with royalty whilst working for the BBC at the Olympics and Paralympics. Whilst all that catching up was happening, food arrived. For me it was fish pie, something I make loads at home, but rarely have when out and about (for just that reason). This one was a good effort, served simply with peas and a few straggly bits of rocket.

This fish pie also contained boiled egg, which is a very classic addition, although it seems I was the only one who was aware of this. You can catch a glimpse of this, as well as other dinners in the next photo. There’s also a pint of Bosley Cloud in the foreground, a good pale ale that went well with the fish pie.

There was still more catching up to do, so time for another pint, this time Robinsons Unicorn, an ever reliable dark golden ale

As we had the Ninja Hound in tow, we were squeezed into a little side room, but she was as well behaved as ever, and made a good impression on everyone, particularly the friendly staff. We finished up our drinks and then booked our table for tomorrow night. We will be back once more. A lovely and friendly village pub.

400th post!

Another two months have passed since the 350th post, and once again a chance glance at the statistics tells me that this will be the 400th post.

Just one day after the 350th post, there was a little trip around town visiting a few local hostelries such as The Swan in the Rushes, The White Hart, The Organ Grinder and my favourite, The Needle & Pin. It was also time to say farewell to Moomba, celebrate IPAs on #IPAday and witness a Motown legend at Wicked Hathern Fest.

We then move on to one of my most popular posts, on the subject of Cloudwater and their IPA experiments. That also spawned a post about one of the beers from the batch, the V3.

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Quite a few posts about chains followed, including Wagamama, Vintage Inns and Wetherspoons and then a trip to Derbyshire resulted in several pub visits including the Royal Hotel and the George Hotel. August finished off with a quick trip to my most local brewery, Charnwood Brewery.

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There are still September posts to come, but I’ve already covered a Cheeky Nando’s, a chaotic trip to a pub named after the founder of Lord’s, an update from a brewery that I helped to crowdfund, a mushy pea travesty and a pub near an atypical henge.

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There are another 20 posts in draft with plenty more still to come.

August was the busiest month ever with over 500 views including visitors from Venezuela and the UAE (not looking for triple pork nirvana I guess), with September bringing Latvians and Romanians to the party. It’s looking like a busy autumn for the ministry!

The Priory, Loughborough, September 2016

It’s another Priory post. A regular haunt for a catch up and a gossip after work, always good food, but always provokes one reaction. #wewantplates

That same reaction will be coming soon, but first a new beer (to the Priory, and to me). I have had a few of the new Caledonian beers recently and have seen this one in a few places. A Coast to Coast pale ale, which lacks paleness but is a pleasant pint to accompany your dining. Another cool glass to add to their range too.

On to dinner. I’ve been working my way through some of their burgers on previous visits, so it was time for another. This time it was the turn of the cajun chicken burger to come under scrutiny. It comes with emmental cheese, tomato chutney, pesto mayo, coleslaw, a whole pickle (gherkin) & chips

It doesn’t come with a plate though. Again, the boards have been replaced, but by bashed up metal trays instead. I’ve done enough moaning about this, so let’s move on. The cajun chicken burger is really nice, subtle cajun spices unlike some that are just all cayenne pepper and nothing else. It doesn’t swamp everything else, so you can also taste the cheese, the pesto mayo and the tomato chutney.

The chips have escaped the silly metal cup, so they are at last free to frolic in salt and vinegar. But I’m never a fan of waxy paper. These little niggles detract from a nice meal. I should probably get over it, but I can’t. So get over it.

Another nice meal at The Priory. Despite the minor annoyances, I will keep coming back. Always good food.

Rose and Crown, Tilshead, September 2016

This is going to be one of those rare posts that does not have a happy ending. It all started happily enough. We were camping nearby (that’s a common sentence for the summer). We had planned to come here for dinner. We had contacted the pub in advance to book a table for fifteen. Would you mind awfully pre-ordering they said. No problem we said. We pre-ordered for fifteen.

We arrived on time and ordered some drinks. A pint of innocence by Plain Ales was my choice, a standard golden ale.

And then 45 minutes later, some pre-ordered porky goodness for Mrs MOFAD, with an Old Rosie cider and apple sauce:-

Fishy goodness for me, supreme of salmon with asparagus and a light creamy cheese sauce:-

Rather a long delay for a pre-ordered set of meals.

The food was good (apart from the lasgne which was a poor effort). The 14 plates that all arrived were good. The fifteenth appeared to have got lost. The pub were adamant that only 14 meals had been ordered. Even when presented with the e-mail that that clearly showed 15 orders. They did relent and cook the missing meal, which eventually arrived after nearly everyone else had finished. But there was no apology. No offer of a free drink. No compensation. No remorse.

We were planning to stay for the rest of the evening, drink some more beer, play some games, have some laughs. But the attitude that we had received didn’t really make us feel like doing that. The waitress and bar staff were lovely, but the landlady was just not interested in her customers.

Very nice food (with one exception), good beer, but a poor attitude make this hard to recommend.

The Bell, Amesbury #henge

Today was all about one thing. This thing:-

A henge (atypical). The most famous of henges. Stonehenge.

Before all of that, some lunch was called for. We decided to visit nearby Amesbury to dine at The Bell. Being a Wetherspoons, we knew exactly what we would be getting, consistency and decent service. When fifteen people turn up, some pubs get into a bit of a panic. Not in a ‘spoons. They can cope.

There was an obviously new lad behind the bar who was struggling a bit (it looked like his first day on the job). But he did his best and apologised for being a bit slow, and all of our party eventually had their orders in whilst the rest of us had been reorganising the tables to get everyone sat together.

As I’ve said before, ‘spoons are everywhere, and wherever you go, you know what it will be like. Whether you’re in Hammersmith, Harlow or Hexham, you’ll find the same food menus and a great selection of real ales, bottled craft ales and some ciders, alongside the usual selection of fizzy watery stuff.

With 15 people ordering, there were lots of things coming out of the kitchen. Burgers, sandwiches, soup for Mrs MOFAD and a few others. I opted for the BBQ chicken & bacon panino, simple and tasty with some chips on the side. A simple lunch, and just right for today.

Beer was also on the menu, and you can usually keep it local when ‘spooning. This Great Bustard from Stonehenge Ales was a classic Ruby bitter, and cheaper than buying a bottle from the Stonehenge visitor centre!

Stonehenge is a fantastic day out (you’ll find that you can spend a lot of time wandering round in a circle looking at old stones), and The Bell makes a great place to refuel.

The Marquis Wellington, Leicester, September 2016

Does this pub look familiar? Four visits last year (although just one so far this year). Yes, it’s our usual pre-show haunt when off to see something at De Montfort Hall. Tonight, that something was Sarah Millican’s latest show “Outsider”. It’s been a long time coming, having bought the tickets way back in March 2015. It’s become a trend for big touring comedy shows to go on sale so far in advance. We will return to the show later.

On to the Marquis. Ideally situated on the way from the train station to De Montfort Hall, it was very busy on this Thursday night, being a pleasant autumn evening. There were loads of people sat outside on the “beer patio”, and the doors were open. Unfortunately this meant that cigarette smoke was drifting in from the patio, which was not so pleasant.

The other thing that was not so pleasant was the long wait at the bar. It’s a very wide bar, which means there’s plenty of room for lots of people to get served. If there are only 2 people serving behind the bar, and they are not particularly speedy, this does lead to a long wait for everyone, with the queue building as more people start arriving.

Eventually I managed to order our dinner and some drinks. Thursday night is burger night, so you can choose any burger and one from a limited range of drinks for a fixed price. Mrs MOFAD ordered the Beer Battered Halloumi burger, with garlic mayo and sun-dried tomatoes. It had much less garlic than last time, although Mrs MOFAD found it to be overly greasy.

I opted for fish’n’chips, a pub classic. It was supposed to be served with mushy peas. Look what turned up.

A thimble with some green stuff in it. Travesty. When there is more tartare sauce (home made, very good) than mushy pea, you know there’s something not right. How can you serve that up in all good conscience? The fish’n’chips were decent (small portions of chips as ever), but what on earth is going on with that green goop? Either serve up some proper peas, or don’t bother. Weird green slime does not enhance your dining experience in any way.

Mrs MOFAD had a pint of Symonds cider (the only decent thing included in the “meal deal”). I opted for something new, IPA from Phipps NBC (which stands for Northampton Brewery Company). This was a bitter blonde ale, brewed to an authentic 1930s recipe (so they say), but in no way an IPA by today’s standards.

So a bit of a mixed visit to one of our favourite haunts. Not enough to put us off coming back soon, but a few things they need to ponder!

In other news, Sarah Millican was fantastic, supported by the excellent Tom Allen again. You’ve missed your chance to see this show though, as these were some of the penultimate dates. The DVD will be out soon.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #1 – September 2016

Once again, this feels like one of those “London things” that has come to Loughborough. My favourite local, The Needle & Pin, announced a while ago that they were setting up a “craft beer club”, essentially a monthly selection box where they curate 6 different beers for you in exchange for cold hard cash. The kind of thing that various beer selling web sites can do for you. But without the whole web site and delivery issues mixed in.

No deliveries. No waiting in for the postman. No couriers lying to you that they’ve tried to deliver when they’ve just driven by and thrown a piece of paper in the direction of your letterbox. No useless online stores that crash when you’re attempting to buy an exclusive selection of beers.

A nice man called Sean picks out 6 beers, and after some trials and tribulations getting hold of them he sticks them in a box, and then lets you know when they’re ready. He also knocks up some tasting notes for you and then looks after the beers until you can pick them up.

This first box (two more coming before the end of the year) was ready on the 1st of September but I haven’t been able to collect until now. The only slight problem (which is not really a problem) with having to go to the N&P to pick it up is that you’ll always be tempted to grab something else from the shelves/fridges. And yes, I did just that, as well as paying for a couple of other items that I’d “reserved” after some Facebook posts.

Sean is a very nice guy, but he really knows how to push your beer buttons 🙂

So here is the first selection box, with my added extras:-

Look for reviews of most of them over the coming months. Here’s the list of beers:-

Beavertown / Heretic – Peacher Man Peach Cobbler witbier – the brewers say that they started by breaking down the recipe; peach, toasted oats, lemon zest, muscovado sugar and bourbon vanilla pods. They fermented the beer out with a delicate Belgian Wit ale strain to add hints of spice and fruit and completed the picture by dry hopping lightly with Nelson Sauvin to add another layer of the aroma. Sean has a story to tell about trying to get hold of this one.

Hardknott – Elixir of Invicibility – their first new beer of 2015, a 7.3% Double IPA. Nose of bananas and pineapple smuggled under a grass skirt, followed by a teaser of biscuit with a crashing wave of fruity hop bitterness and a 10 mile long finish. One of my favourite Cumbrian breweries.

Siren Craft Brew – Proteus IPA Vol II – Proteus is a series devised to make the most of three hops, with this volume using Mosaic, Chinook & Cascade. Siren have brewed three pale ales using the combination before creating this dialled-up IPA version, based on everything the brewers have learned about the hops and how they work together.

Tiny Rebel – Clwb Tropicana – after last year’s champion beer of Britain, they have kept on producing great beers. This “grown up fruit salad” is as colourful as the most hideous Hawaiian shirt you’ve ever seen. It’s super juicy and crammed full of fruity hop flavours that will have your mouth watering. Imagine sitting by the pool in the blazing sun with a cocktail in one hand, but instead of a dainty little glass it’s served by the pint! Packed full of American hops, amplified by Peach, Passionfruit, Pineapple and Mango flavours!

Thornbridge – Bear State – West Coast IPA, brewed in the spirit of the West Coast of the USA. A massively hoppy beer, balanced perfectly with a touch of malt sweetness and an intensely citrus hop character to finish.

Wild Beer Co – Pogo – a draft only release earlier this year which was such a hit with both customers and staff that they decided it needed a more accessible package. A big juicy fruit bomb with a low enough ABV to be session. Head brewer Brett built the recipe around his favourite tropical fruits, passion fruit, orange, guava and some more orange. The name comes from two pogo sticks acquired by the brewery at the same time. During tank transfers and when waiting for boils you could apparently hear the regular spring and thump of pogos in the yard…

You’ll also spot a Fourpure Juicebox IPA, a Tiny Rebel Cali American pale ale, and two more Wild Beer Co bottles, Epic Saison and Gazillionaire, a Non-Imperial Non-milk stout with vanilla and cardamom. If that’s not enough to pique your interest then I don’t know what is.

Looking forward to trying all of these – watch this space!

Wildcraft Brewery Update

In case you’ve been wondering what’s been happening at Wildcraft, the brewery I helped to back earlier this year, apparently they have been “building, foraging and praying…”

It turns out that setting up a brewery can be quite a challenge, especially when you have a barn to convert, a car park to lay, water treatment tanks to install and red tape to cut through. The good news is that they are now completely licenced to trade. There is also a bit of bad news, in that they are still in the middle of building works and utility installations.

Wildcraft believe that site works will take another month to complete, at which point they should be able to use their new equipment for the first time. It will then be another 6-8 weeks before they can send out beer to everyone. The launch party will be around the same time and they are trying to book in two dates to ensure everyone can make at least one.

Here are a few pictures showing the equipment that they have purchased and some of the foraging they have been doing to get ingredients to make their beers and spirits. It currently spans 5 large chest freezers!

If you enjoy foraging, why not get out into the countryside and earn some beer vouchers while you are at it? Wildcraft offer beer vouchers for every kilo of fruit you pick. They are currently looking for blackberries, damsons and sloes (although it’s probably a bit early for sloes).

Photos (c) Wildcraft Brewery.