Beer of the month, May 2017 – Blacklight Banana by Siren Craft Brew

Another of those months where all the beers in the shortlist for beer of the month were not sampled in a pub, bar or similar. This is partly the reason why there was no pub of the month in May 2017.

Let’s take a look at some of the beers in the running, sampled at home or at a campsite…

First up we have Flat White by Alphabet Brewing Company, a white coffee stout. Yes, white stout. This had a big coffee nose and a very smooth finish. My first white coffee stout and if they are all like this (which they probably won’t be) then it won’t be the last.

Next up, a Heathen by Northern Monk, full of Citra fruity hoppiness. Northern Monk are knocking out consistently good beers, I have several other cans in stock.

Off to pun land next, for a Viennese Cranberry Rye Pale Ale called This Means Nothing To Me by Alphabet Brewing Company. Oh Vienna! Hops, rye, green tea and cranberries. That’s a first. Good dryness and bitter/sourness from the fruits. A very interesting combination that I really liked. Mrs MOFAD was not so much of a fan.

A few Cloudwaters in quick succesion now. Motueka Pilsner had fruity, crisp, sweet bready notes and a nice hop profile. Cloudwater have nailed the lager market with some of their recent output.

Another May favourite was the Session IPA Chinook Mosaic, an all day IPA with hoppiness, bitterness and some resin. The Autumn + Winter IPL Vic Secret Comet had a piney nose, very lagery to start and a minty/lavender herbal finish.

We move to Weird Beard Brew for something a little different next. Out of Office Ethiopian Coffee IPA. Coffee and hops? Yes please!

Back to hoppiness with Fantasma by Magic Rock Brewing. The best gluten free beer that I’ve ever had. Hoppy, bitter, juicy, dank, orange and pineapple flavours. Lovely stuff, really easy drinking. If you have to avoid gluten, you don’t have to avoid enormous flavours.

We go back to the 2016 Rainbow Project for this month’s winner. Blacklight Banana by Siren Craft Brew. Big alcohol, big coffee, big roastiness. Yes, we have no bananas. It’s a really nice beer but I was actually hoping for a big banana flavour from this. If it’s in there, it’s very subtle (some others have tasted it).

banana.

This goes forward to beer of the year, the second dark beer in the pot.

Advertisements

Pub of the month, May 2017

There isn’t one. For the first time since records began, I don’t feel able to award pub of the month this month.

A bland chain pub with no frills? Meh.

A quibble over an optional 10% service charge? Nope.

A dull pub paella? Narp.

So there is no pub of the month this month. This gives the other (probably) eleven pubs a statistically improved chance of taking the overall title at the end of the year.

Orange Tree, Loughborough, May 2017

A local post! It’s not often that such things appear here during the spring and summer months, but tonight there was a work birthday to celebrate, so we popped out to the Orange Tree in town. Adnams Ease Up IPA kicked things off, a tribute IPA which is better than the bottled version, but nothing to write home about.

Dinner next, an interesting take on a paella. Not something that you find in pubs very often (so hard to get right and easy to get wrong). This was kind of right and kind of wrong. Who puts a tuna steak on top of a paella? Who lobs some limp rocket on the top? It was not that bad, it’s just that my version is much better. That does sound like a bit of a humblebrag, but there you go.

This was accompanied by a Curious Brew lager, which is light and refreshing. Whilst they claim it is re-fermented with champagne yeast for a drier taste, it could be drier. It’s a little sweet, but that would go well with something spicier than this paella.

Not a bad town centre pub. It’s a bit battered around the edges (popular with students) but it does have a certain charm. Three cask lines with no cask ales on is not great though, particularly when there is a great choice not a few hundred yards away. Even the ‘spoons does better than this. Not bad, just not breathtaking.

Bridge 61, Foxton Locks, May 2017

A busy bank holiday weekend on the Grand Union canal. In its heyday it could take 5 hours to navigate this flight of ten locks, the longest set of staircase locks in Britain. Nowadays it takes about 45 minutes. These Grade II listed locks on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union canal are over 200 years old. They demonstrate how 19th century canal engineers solved the problem of getting boats up and down a steep hill.

Alongside the locks there are side ponds which provide reserves of water for the locks and prevent wastage. Behind the boiler house is evidence of another amazing feat of engineering, the inclined plane boat lift, which was the other way of getting boats up and down the hill. This was in operation for 10 years at the start of the twentieth century until it became uneconomic, with parts sold for scrap in 1928.

There are 2 pubs here (you can see the other one in the background of my beer photo), and they were both absolutely rammed on this sunny-ish Sunday afternoon. We’d already tried to find a table at the Foxton Locks Inn (where we’ve been a few times before) but it was all booked up all day.

We managed to grab a picnic bench outside the other pub, Bridge 61, which is housed in what is believed to be the old accommodation quarters for the workers on the inclined plane. They have a simple and competitively priced menu which enables them to cope with the enormous demand on busy days such as this. All the usual stuff is here, pies, pastys, sausage rolls, jacket potatoes and various sandwiches such as bacon, sausage, cheese, ham, tuna mayo, pork, chicken and beef. There’s also a chilli, a stew, a curry and that pub classic of a ploughman’s. You pay at the bar and collect your order at a little hatch when sitting outside.

My lunchtime pint (above) was a Sigma Gold from The Langton Brewery who are just round the corner from here. A crisp golden ale which went very well with the Ploughman’s, which was standard pub stuff.

This is a no-frills pub which seems to cope reasonably well with the huge demand, although they could probably do with a few tips on the most efficient way to take orders on a busy bank holiday.

The Red Lion, Sibbertoft, May 2017

Another camping/pub post. We were camping just down the road, and wanted a nearby pub for our Saturday evening dining. A bit of googling found us The Red Lion and we rang ahead and booked a table (always a good idea on a Saturday night at a village pub).

Proceedings kicked off with a pint of Sharps Sea Fury, a decent malty bitter that should replace Doom Bar in all pubs that sell that tired old ale. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s a reasonable pint.

A lovely main course here, cod wrapped in parma ham on top of a creamy risotto. This was absolutely lovely, one of the best dishes I’ve had in a pub this year. Fish can often be a dull choice but I’ve had some lovely fish dishes out and about recently.

Another pint of fury from the sea, and it was time to choose a pudding.

If I recall correctly, there was no chocolate option, and I wasn’t opting for the “Eaton Mess”, which sounds like it comes from Derbyshire instead of Berkshire. Instead, I chose this fruits of the forest pavlovian interpretation, sharp berries, crisp meringues and a dollop of fresh vanilla ice cream.

This is a lovely little village pub, really good food, very reasonable prices, and reasonable macro ale. Ideal for a Saturday night dining experience, and I suspect that they do a great Sunday roast too.

Spirit of Harborough festival, May 2017

You may already have read all of the individual posts from the places that we visited when strolling around Market Harborough for the Spirit of Harborough festival. This is just a quick wrap up to look at the event as a whole.

The Spirit of Harborough festival is a new event for 2017, set up to be a celebration of the finest locally produced wine, beer, gin and cider. Over the weekend there are a number of activities taking place such as taste tours, tastings from local brewers and tours and demonstrations from local producers.

We embarked on the “Taste Harborough Mini Taste Trail”, which started out at “The Square” in the town centre, where a pop up stall was available for you to collect your map and booklet (£3 per person) to take to the various outlets to receive your samples. The first sample was on the stall itself, a genuine Leicestershire pork pie, which was a delicious start. We studied the map and then plotted our route around the town.

Our next stop was the indoor market, where we strolled around the stalls and then sampled some tasty cakes from  – we also ended up buying a box of gin and tonic cupcake bites to enjoy later (we have a plentiful supply of doughnuts but it’s nice to have other cake-y offerings).

We then strolled along the River Welland and down to The Oat Hill, to sample some local vodka and beers from the Langton Brewery (just to the north of MH).

This was a lovely pub which we would like to come back to one day, and it was lovely to sit out in the beer garden sampling the beers and vodka. There was more taste touring to do, so we crossed over the river and then down to Beerhouse, who were hosting Market Harborough Brewery for the day. They didn’t have far to travel, situated as they literally across the road from Beerhouse.

Down in the “back room”, we met Ivan from the brewery, who took us on a little tutored tasting of five of their bottled beers. More details on that here.

Our next stop was Emerson & Wests, a delicatessen and bakery who had some sweet and savoury treats to sample, including the lesser known Harborough Cheesecake, a baked cake with a pastry base, curd and sultanas. I also stocked up on a few beers from Langton Brewery as well as a little something else for Mrs MOFAD 🙂

We had to make some tactical decisions, because not all outlets were open all day. Tip for next year – get everyone to offer their wares for a longer period to stop this from being necessary. We gambled on The Angel Hotel, who had some sausages and meatballs on offer to try. I’m not sure that they really entered into the spirit of Spirit of Harborough though, since they just had a couple of plates of food in the reception area, and they had just about run out of sausages. A bit of a token effort really, no-one to engage with about the food.

Our final stop was much better, Duncan Murray Wines. They hold regular tastings each Saturday, so they really knew what they were doing. We tasted Brynne Vineyard Phoenix, a white wine with “an English hedgerow and cutgrass nose, leading to a smooth, soft, citrus fruit finish.” We then had a couple more beers from Market Harborough Brewery, as well as some different ones from The Langton Brewery. There was also time for a bit more shopping…

Our tour was over, so we retired to Square Cafe Bar for some lunch. We then headed off to the final stop, Farndon Fields farm shop. We went by car as it was on our route back to the camp site. Sadly, they had run out of free samples (more bad planning) so we had to make do with a wander round and a spot of shopping instead:-

img_6928

We had a lovely time exploring Market Harborough. The good weather (the threatened rain never materialised) really helped things. I hope that this festival goes from strength to strength. Given time and with more producers on board, it could grow to rival Ludlow (our favourite town food/drink festival).

Farndon Fields farm shop, Market Harborough, May 2017

As our Harborough exploration came to a close, we headed off to the final stop, Farndon Fields farm shop. We went by car as it was on our route back to the camp site. Sadly, they had run out of free samples (more bad planning as witnessed at our previous stop) so we had to make do with a wander round and a spot of shopping instead:-

img_6928

A classic modern farm shop this, blending produce that they have just harvested with lots of deli-style stuff, local meats, well known sauces, rubs and marinades and a good selection of local spirits, ales and ciders.

A lovely little farm shop, they even have their own loyalty card – no good to us as we live too far away!