800th post!

Just 2 months since 750, and we’ve now reached 800 posts. There are still another 70 in draft format, so despite knocking out a good number in recent weeks, the to-do list has increased by about 10%, in part due to a couple of trips to London.

Since the last post, there has been some ‘Spoons action, and the start of a new hashtag, #swadisodd, spawned by this pub fish’n’chips with peas and salad. Yes, salad. Odd. The tag is #swadisodd as the pub was in Swadlincote, affectionately known by locals as Swad. The home of the “Swadside Massive” which is a grafitti tag that we saw in the area many years ago.

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Some tasty pink beer and a pizza in Brewdog Nottingham was followed by another trip to Centro Lounge and then another outing for “My Pointless Friend Richard” in Syston. We were not able to wrestle our crown back this year.

February saw two boxes from the Needle & Pin craft beer club, the seventh dark beer selection which contained a few to drink now, and a few to stick away for a rainy day in a year or so. The second sour beer selection box also had some very interesting beers within, including a fruit grisette, a lemon zest and grapefruit conditioned summer Belgian beer. That should do nicely when the days start to warm up.

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A London trip saw something a bit different, including a coffee stop at the Royal Albert Hall. Impressive place. There was a lot more snow around than shown in the photo, and it was bitterly cold, but a nice wander around Kensington Gardens and the royal parks needed something to warm things up a bit.

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A tasty pub dinner at The Crown & Two Chairmen was to come later that evening, followed by what might be the comedy highlight of the year (which considering it came two days after Bill Bailey’s latest tour show is quite a feat). The warm up show for Flight of the Conchords at the Soho Theatre, which was superb, despite being rough round the edges (the whole point of warm up shows). Given that the tour has now been rescheduled after Bret broke his arm, I’m considering it a double win that I got a ticket!

More comedy the next night, with my first visit to a room that I’ve heard over 200 times, the main auditorium of the Leicester Square Theatre, with the ridiculously good value Machynlleth comedy festival preview show. Where else would you see Sara Pascoe, Rachel Parris, Josh Widdicombe, Ed Gamble, Jen Brister, Tim Key and James Acaster, all compered by Kiri Pritchard-McLean, the 2018 Chortle award winning best compere, and all for 12 quid? The answer is nowhere.

A couple of tasty beers followed at the Craft Beer Co “Covent Garden”, although I still maintain that it’s not in Covent Garden.

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There was just time for another selection box from the N&P craft beer club, a night of To0l beers at the very same pub, and then another London trip which has generated a lot more posts.

So it’s time to stop procrastinating and get back to writing posts. I have a feeling it won’t be long before we get to 900!

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Plank & Leggit, March 2018 #2

The sun is out, the sky is blue, and we are hopping across borders. We started our walk in Shardlow, Derbyshire, crossing briefly back into Leicestershire and then after lunch we will go over to Nottinghamshire. All of this within a few miles, because we are in that odd “three counties corner” that is found just up the road from us.

The route of our walk found us not far from the Planl & Leggit for the second time this month. This time it was our choice, but largely because it’s hard to find a pub that serves a normal menu on a Sunday lunchtime, so this will do for today.

Not just some sad looking sandwiches either, a chicken and bacon baguette with melted cheese, leaves, and some finely chopped red onion (for some reason).

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There was also a side of decent pub chips, although they were in a weird plastic basket with that weird waxy gingham paper that seems to be finding its way into more and more pubs.

No beer once again, because Greene King IPA doesn’t count, so lime and soda saves the day, and we were soon on our way and crossing the border to finish our walk.

The Head of Steam is coming to Leicester

On Thursday April 5th, a new pub is opening in Leicester, replacing the Reynard on Market Street (which I never visited and didn’t particularly want to). The Head of Steam is the fifteenth pub of that name to be opened by Hartlepool-based Camerons Brewery, and I’ve heard good things about the other ones around the country.

Like other pubs in the chain, it will be presenting beers from local breweries such as Framework, Charnwood, Langton and Brewsters, alongside some of the best beers and ciders from around the world, which will be pouring from its 30 lines. With cans and bottles also available, there should be around 120 different beers/ciders available at any one time.

The HoS team pride themselves on hand-selecting the perfect range of beer for customers using expert knowledge from their team of passionate beer sommeliers.

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There will also be food available, served from 11am until 9pm, including breakfasts until 3pm (full English, pancakes, porridge and a veggie breakfast). Sandwiches and wraps are available until 5pm, with pulled pork and fish fingers among the fillings alongside light bites such as soup and nachos. There are eight burgers to choose from including vegetarian and vegan ones, as well as three foot long hot dogs, including Homer’s favourite “foot long chilli dog”.

Wait, there’s more. Five pizzas including pulled pork and chicken tikka varieties. There are three pies, served with mash, peas and gravy. Then we get to the main courses, with classics such as fish’n’chips, sausage’n’mash and steak’n’chips. There are also more international offerings in the form of Moroccan harissa marinated salmon, boeuf bourguignon, chicken tikka masala, mussels and chicken Milanese. There are puddings too. And many of these dishes come with suggested beer pairings too.

They have already become a verified venue on Untappd, which helps you to see what beer will be available when you visit. There will also be regular events such as quiz nights and live music, and the VIP floor can be reserved for your function. If it ever warms up, there’s a beer garden too.

Looking forward to checking it out on a future trip to Leicester.

Benugo, St Pancras International, London, March 2018

It’s another in the “quick post” series. After a late breakfast this morning (more like brunch) we weren’t starving at lunchtime, so delayed our lunch plans until we got back to the station. After the freezing cold weather, we wanted something warm, so headed to Benugo for some toasted sandwiches.

The “New Yorker” is apparently the most popular sandwich, consisting of shaved turkey breast, crispy bacon, Gruyère, sliced tomato, iceberg lettuce and Dijon mayo on dark caraway ciabatta.

It certainly makes for a tasty sandwich, although the iceberg lettuce didn’t really need to be in there, as it didn’t add anything worthwhile to the sandwich.

There are various dining options at St Pancras, Benugo is not a bad choice.

The Devonshire Arms, Kensington, March 2018

We decided not to back into central London tonight. After a day out in Bermondsey we came back to the hotel to unwind with a cup of tea, and then headed out just around the corner for a hearty pub dinner.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we are in Derbyshire, given that is full of pubs called The Devonshire Arms (the various Dukes of Devonshire having owned much of the land in the area), but we are still in Kensington.

This was another pub taking part in the Thornbridge “craft beer residency” and once again my Thornbridge polo shirt caused a little confusion, as I was mistaken for an employee again 🙂 However, I didn’t have any Thornbridge tonight, because they were approaching the end of their residency, and I’d already had the one that they had left on keg. “What about these bottles” came the reply from the lady behind the bar. “Nope, had them too.” In fact I’ve had 58 different Thornbridge beers according to Untappd, so it was statistically unlikely that they would have one in stock that I hadn’t had.

Although perhaps I should have just had one anyway, as my first pint of Adnams Fat Sprat proved to be nothing more than a bog standard malty bitter.

On to the food, and a rare sight in a pub, a “fish pie for 2” served with beans and broccolini. Given that it has been freezing cold all day, and with snow swirling around outside as we arrived, a warm and hearty fish pie was just the thing, presented in this big cast iron pan to allow you to serve yourself.

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It was suitably delicious, very much hearty and warming, and certainly just what we needed on this bitterly cold night. Mrs MOFAD accompanied hers with a Stiegl-Weisse Naturtrüb by Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg, a very nice herbal wheat beer from Salzburg in Austria.

I decided to risk an ABInbev subsidiary, Blue Point’s Toasted Lager, which was not toasted in any way, but was a perfectly pleasant amber lager, certainly a change from the general cold fizz that you might find in a London pub.

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A lovely dinner at The Devonshire Arms, well worth a visit if you’re in the area, and very handy if you’re staying in the nearby Holiday Inn. Lots of posh houses/flats to have a nose at on the way there and back too.

Ubrew, Bermondsey, March 2018

[Editor’s note #1 : this post has been updated in light of June 2019’s mailshot from Ubrew where they explain some of their recent problems. These can be seen in some of the experiences that we had before, during, and after the brew day.]

[Editor’s note #2 : there is no editor, it’s just me.]

A day out brewing beer. A great gift to give someone who likes beer, and is interested in the brewing process, but is not about to get into home brewing any time soon, for various reasons. A great gift for me, from Mrs MOFAD.

It had taken a while to organise, because Ubrew are based in London (with plans to expand to Manchester and Copenhagen). [June 2019 edit : the expansion plans have been shelved to allow them to concentrate on core business.] I am not based in London, so we made a trip down for the weekend in order to do the brew day, as well as doing some touristy bits and pieces, and going to a (comedy) show.

The first thing to establish was whether it would be possible to do the brewday. You are expected to come back to pick your beer up after around 2-4 weeks. After a bit of back and forth, they confirmed that this would be possible and that they could ship the beer out using UK Mail. This was reconfirmed on the day with the staff, to make sure they knew the score.

So we arrive at the day itself. It was a bitterly cold day, only a few weeks after the “beast from the East” froze us all. Getting to Ubrew involves going south of the river, to Bermondsey on the Jubilee line. After that it’s a short walk to the railway arches along Old Jamaica Road to find Ubrew tucked away in the corner. On the other side of the railway you’ll find lots more beery goodness from Brew By Numbers, The Kernel Brewery and a few more besides. [June 2019 edit : you’ll now find Cloudwater down at 73 Enid Street too.]

The brewing experience day includes beer tokens too, so you can drink some tasty brews during the day. We’d arrived in good time, so whilst things were being set up I was enjoying a Chorlton Peach Lactose Sour and a collaboration brew with Old Kent Road, which was a lovely hoppy pale.

On to the brew. There were three groups brewing today, and it was too many, with only one “proper” brewer on hand to supervise and direct operations. Packing everyone in like that meant that everyone got a lesser experience.

The liquor was up to temperature, the malts had been weighed out, and it was time to mash in with my team mates (two nice chaps from Kent). We got on with the job, with some help and advice from Olga the brewer, who was also talking about the science involved.

After that it was time to sparge. Sparge means to “moisten by sprinkling with water”, and is the process for separating the sugar from the barley. After the mashing process is complete, the grains, water and sugar are all in the mash tun. On bigger brewery kits, this is usually done with a sparging arm, so that hot water is sprayed across the top of the malt, and sinks through, picking up those lovely sugars on its way to the next vessel, where it will be boiled. This is “wort”. Sparging is best done slowly so that the maximum amount of sugar can be extracted from the malt.

Our process was more manual, with some foil with holes poked in it on top of the mash, and warm water poured over the top, which pushes its way through the mash thanks to gravity, and then out through the bottom.

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Once it is all sparged, the spent malt is left in the mash tun. Next is is time for the boil. The boiling process takes that lovely sweet wort and sterilises it. Boiling releases the alpha acids from the hops that you have just added, and they in turn release some bitterness to complement the sweetness.

While the boil is on, it’s time for some lunch, with some warm fried treats from neighbours Bone Daddies, very welcome on this cold day. Some more beer too, Peckham Pale from Brick and some lovely Export India Porter Mosaic from neighbours The Kernel Brewery.

After the boil, the beer is cooled and the hopped wort is transferred into a fermentor (FV) where the yeast is added, and the magic really starts. The yeast gobbles its way through the sugars, turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is where your beer experience day stops, and your beer goes away to do its job.

An automated system labels up your FV and sends you an email with the next steps. All very efficient. You leave feeling happy with a day’s work, and confident that great beer will be coming to you soon.

This is where things start to break down. The beer was supposed to be ready 2 weeks later, when it would be bottled and shipped. A week on, and this still didn’t happen, so an e-mail goes back to enquire and suggest delivery dates. Six days later, a response arrives, very apologetic, and offering some extra goodies to make up for this. Another e-mail goes back, with two new potential delivery dates.

The new delivery dates sail by. Another e-mail goes back enquiring as to what is going on. Another three days later, and a response arrives, explaining that this is not a standard service. I know that, I’ve had countless discussions to ensure that this would be ok.  Extra goodies are promised again.

Two days later, and it still hasn’t been shipped. Another enquiry. No response, but four days later the beer eventually arrives. Less than the amount that was agreed on the day, and without any of the bonus goodies promised on two separate occasions. By this point I’ve given up the will to live, and have written it off as a bad job. E-mails and tweets just seem to be ignored.

To add insult to injury, the beer was awful, just malty liquid, flat as a pancake. Even after leaving it to mature in the bottle for a good few weeks, it was still rubbish. The whole thing has left a rather nasty taste in the mouth, a shame after such an enjoyable day. Lots of friends were looking forward to trying a beer, but no-one got any because it was not fit for consumption. How did it get let out in the first place if it wasn’t good enough? Is there no quality control? It’s a lot of money to pay for 24 bottles of brown liquid that you’re not going to drink.

June 2019 update

Looking back now, you can see that the rot already appeared to have set in nearly 18 months ago. Some quotes from the e-mail sent out today:-

“Our members, course attendees, clients,  stakeholders, and the team deserved so much more and we failed you in many ways. We / I sincerely and honestly apologise. We are embarrassed about how we acted or did not act in many cases. From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry.”

I hope that they get things back on track, but they have really destroyed the trust of a lot of people with their methods over the last year or so. I’ve since had an amazing brew day experience at a proper brewery, and the beer was brilliant. Maybe Ubrew can turn things around, because they were making some good beer, with great people. Maybe they can repair the reputational damage in time.

 

Brewdog, Soho, March 2018

It’s a Friday night in London. Everyone is out out. Trying to find somewhere for a drink is a bit of a tricky proposition. After a bit more wandering (our dinner plan A turned into about plan F after lots of wandering), we settled on Brewdog, based on the fact that it’s not the cheapest night out in London, and we might just be able to get a table.

After working our way through to the bar, we spotted a table becoming vacant, and Mrs MOFAD slipped through the crowd to grab the table whilst I grabbed some drinks.

For me it was Siren’s Kisetsu, a Japanese Saison with yuzu for a tart and zesty citrus kick, sudachi (another small, tart citrus fruit) and cedar, created with Tonkotsu Ramen bar. There are also Oolong tea leaves and Saison Dupont yeast brings it all together, and you really get the fruitiness from the citrus fruits.

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Mrs MOFAD was also on a sweet and sour kick with this Shanghai Noon from Cleveland’s Platform Beer Company, a prickly pear (aka Indian fig opuntia) and lychee sour, fruity and sweet with a nice tartness to it.

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As you will have noticed from the interesting hue, we once more found ourselves sitting underneath some neon in Brewdog, much like York last year. Despite that, it was good to be in here for some quality beer.