Pub in the Park, Warwick, July 2019

Let’s start with the name of the event first. It should be called “Good Food Pub in the Park”. If you are presenting your pub in a park, it should be all of the facets of the pub. Most importantly, it should showcase the great beer from your area that you serve in your pub.

What is a pub? A pub, or public house, is an establishment licensed to sell alcoholic drinks, which traditionally include beer and cider. It is a social drinking establishment, and a focal point of the community. In his 17th-century diary Samuel Pepys described the pub as “the heart of England”. As I’ve said before, it’s the original social network.

Here we are then, in the heart of England, celebrating the pub. Except we are only celebrating the more modern part of it, the food offering. We’ll come back to that later, as it was really rather good. I want to talk about beer for a moment, which will probably come as no surprise.

The event is sponsored by macro brewer Greene King. They have their fans. I am not one of them. They own a lot of names, and make a lot of dull brown beer. Hardys & Hansons, Morland, Taylor Walker, Belhaven, Ridley’s, Ruddles, Tolly Cobbold and Trader Joe’s are all Greene King under another name.

Given this event is supporting and promoting independent pub/restaurant/cafe people, it should be doing the same for breweries. There are plenty in the Warwickshire area, as well as more in neighbouring counties. So why do we have Greedy King instead? I can only assume it is all down to money. If you have £2,000,000,000 in revenue for the year 2018, operating over 3,000 pubs across at least 8 different chains, then you can probably chuck a few quid at events like this and keep the (better) competition away.

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So that’s the moaning bit over, let’s get on to all of the good bits. We were here with long time MOFAD companions Karon & John, to enjoy a relaxed day of food and drink so let’s talk about the pubs/restaurants/cafes.

The event is the brainchild of Tom Kerridge, so you’d expect Marlow’s The Hand & Flowers to be there, as of course they were. In fact it was the only “pub” to have a constantly large queue all day long. We tried all of their dishes, with Kerridge’s Fried Chicken (do you see what he did there?) being the favourite, but the smoked hog taco was a close second, followed by the minted lamb pie.

We didn’t have anything from The Cross at Kenilworth, but the beef pie looked nice. The same goes for The Hardwick, although I was a little tempted by the breaded corned beef hash. We also missed The Rose and Crown, with the sea bass looking very tempting.

Angela Hartnett’s Café Murano was represented, with the calzone being sampled by three of our number.

Again, three of us visited The Churchill Arms for Lobster Arancini, with shellfish mayonnaise, which was lovely.

My day had begun with a visit to Sindhu, where TV’s Atul Kochhar was cooking and chatting, and serving up chicken tikka pie, with onion and tomato mash and berry chutney (which did resemble the IKEA berry sauce).

I also visited The Half Moon and enjoyed the panko blade of beef and black stick blue cheese burger, although it was a bit too small for my liking. All of the dishes were “tapas size” but this one definitely felt too small.

In between visiting the pop up pubs/restaurants/cafes, we were also visiting the stalls of the various smaller producers that were there. These were at least 50% gin, or that’s what it felt like. From Kent’s Anno Distillers, to Yorkshire’s Haworth Gins, via the Jelley Distillery (set up next to Briscoe’s Artisan Jellies), Riverside Spirits, Warwickshire Gin, Ian Beale’s Neat Gin (ceated by actor Adam Woodyatt and his wife Beverley, and not called Ian Beale’s Neat Gin, just Neat Gin), and finally New Zealand’s Cardrona distillery.

A large number were sampled, and Cardrona’s “Source” gin was the clear winner with everyone who tasted it, whilst also being the most expensive. Of all the gins tasted, it was the most complex, with layers of botanicals revealing themselves. Their “Rose Rabbit” liqueurs (orange or elderflower) were also delicious, although they need a little revision on the definition of liqueur, since they are typically 15-30% ABV, and theirs were both pushing 50%, much closer to navy strength gin (a 1990s marketing invention) than a typical liqeueur.

Where were the beers from all those aforementioned local breweries? Muscled out by Greedy King I suspect, with just Dartmoor Brewery selling warm bottles of beer to take away (no drinking non-Greene King beer on site), and Black Storm Brewery (also appearing as Autumn Brewing Co) showing non-cold chain cans of beer. Whither local breweries like Church End, Church Farm, Fosse Way, North Cotswold, Tunnel or Warwickshire Brew Co?

Enough moaning about beer, back to more food things, with lots of nice cakes on display, tasty cheeses, posh chocolates, posh nut butters and ice creams. We sampled lots of these in between getting dishes from the pubs, and trying gins.

There were two stages, one for chef demos, the other for music. We heard but didn’t see Tom Kerridge’s demo (too many people, not enough seating) but didn’t catch the others due to eating crisps and sampling gin.

The music stage could be heard all across the site, so we listened to The Christians in the shade of the chef demo stage, enoying the music of one of the most under-rated bands of the late 1980s. Their brand of polished lyrical pop/soul kind of got lost amongst all of the dance music of the era. As you would expect, they played most of their big hits from the debut album like Forgotten Town and Ideal World, as well as their cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Harvest for the World”, and Bob Marley’s “Small Axe”.

A bit more shopping and trundling happened next, and we also listened to The Rifles under the shade of the demo stage, which was being dismantled behind us. A bit more food and drink and then we crossed the site to stake out a patch of grass for Will Young, who was headlining the music stage.

It’s fair to say that his brand of bland pop is not to my taste, but it was largely inoffensive, save for a cover of Light my Fire by The Doors. I’ve never been a huge Doors fan, but turning their iconic psychedelic rock sound into easy listening cheese would definitely have made something start spinning in the famous Paris cemetery Père Lachaise on this warm Sunday evening….

A very pleasant afternoon in the park. Nice to meet and chat to lots of small producers of food and drink, and to sample lots of it as well as some great pub food. A cross between the BBC Good Food Show and a small town festival. A shame about the beer, but I already knew that in advance and concentrated on enjoying everything else instead. The Christians were definitely the best band, but this was an event that was more about the food and drink. If you’re thinking of visiting another event for the music, the Sunday evening line up at Chiswick looks good…

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #19 – July 2019

It’s box number 41, and what could be better for summer evenings than some crisp and refreshing session pales? In fact, there are only two that are session in here, with the rest weighing in at 5, 6 and 7 or more percent.

Amundsen – Pillars of Light – Lemon – 7.5%

Milkshake IPA with Amarillo, Citra, Lemondrop, Mosaic, Lactose, Lemon and Vanilla. Pillars of Light is a small series being produced throughout 2019, mixing up fruit and flavour to create a new milkshake experience every few months. This one is all about lemon.

Arbor – Zero Zero – 4.3%

A session strength New England IPA brewed with lots of Citra and Mosaic hops. Should be murky and juicy without being a 9% beast.

Framework – Jackpin – 3.9%

Your friends and mine, with a new design. Had this one 18 months ago, a delightful bitter ale that has flavour way beyond its session strength. This is their first ever canned beer.

Howling Hops – Pinball – 6.7%

A NEIPA brewed in collaboration with Track Brewing Co and heavily hopped with Galaxy, cryo Citra and cryo Amarillo. A light hazy yellow appearance and a pillowy white head mixes with aromas of citrus and peach. A beautiful soft and delicate mouthfeel with a bit of hop bite at the end. Stone fruits dominate the juicy flavour with a slight late bitterness. The real life equivalent of an added time multi-ball bonus!

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Polly’s Brew Co – Ekuanot Mosaic – 5.1%

The artists formerly known as Loka Polly present two great hops combined into a hazy golden beer. The aroma has notes of citrus fruits, hops, and malt. The flavour is sweet with notes of hops, citrus fruits, and malt, leading to a bitter finish.

Ridgeside x Black Iris – What we Brew in the Shadows – 6.0%

New Zealand IPA collaboration with Black Iris. They’ve gone all Kiwi with the hop bill: Motueka, Nelson Sauvin & Waimea dry hop, alongside a pale barley, wheat and oat grist for a soft, pillowy mouthfeel.

No #fomo – Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 2019

No #fomo for me as I have acquired one of this year’s beery box sets.  The rainbow collaboration sets have been the headliners over the last few years and now new sets of collaborative brews have been appearing.

Last year saw North Sea Bridges which saw Scotland’s Black Isle, Fallen, Fierce Beer, Fyne, Pilot and Six Degrees North pair up with Amundsen, Beerbliotek, Dry & Bitter, Dugges, Rocket & To Øl.

Northern Powerhouse was originally set up by Newcastle-based Wylam Brewery in 2018, and sees independent craft breweries from across the North of England coming together for collaboration brews.

The first series of beers was brewed in 2018, to coincide with the launch of the Great Exhibition of the North. The project was so successful that Wylam decided that it should be an annual event and given to a different brewery to host each year.

This year’s Northern Powerhouse series was brewed entirely at Northern Monk’s Leeds brewery and comprises collaborations with Wylam, Track, North Brew Co, Donzoko, Buxton, Cloudwater, and By the River.

Let’s see what this year’s box of goodies holds…

Northern Monk x Track – Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 001 – Small IPA

Track, who have a track record for session beers, have put together the lightest of the Powerhouse beers. This small IPA is loaded with Citra, Ahtanum and Blanc hops for resinous tropical and stone fruit notes backed up by a floral, gooseberry finish over a robust malt bill designed to boost the beer beyond its restrained ABV.

Northern Monk x North Brewing Co – Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 002 – Triple Fruited Gose

North Brew Co are neighbours of Northern Monk in Leeds, and they put together a fruit sour. Showcasing the fleshy cactus fruit prickly pear, we then backed it up with the zingy tropical notes of guava, a touch of tangy raspberry and rounded everything out with milk sugar and salt.

Northern Monk x Donzoko – Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 003 – Bavarian Pilsner

A crisp, modern take on the Bavarian Pilsner with one of the up-and-coming brewers of the UK, Donzoko. A simple grist of German pilsner and vienna malt is supported by the floral, citrus notes of American Loral hops and stone fruit undertones from Hallertau Blanc.

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Northern Monk x Wylam – Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 004 – Tropical Sour IPA

Northern Monk joined series originators Wylam for this tropical sour IPA. Kettle-soured overnight and whirlpooled with Mosaic, 200g/l of pureed tropical fruits were then added and it was dry hopped with El Dorado and Citra.

Northern Monk x Buxton – Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 005 – IPA

It’s not secret that Buxton quietly continue to make some of the best IPAs in the UK so it was an obvious choice to team up with them to revisit the west coast IPA. Packed with classic US hops, this beer is resinous, piney and packs a long citrus finish over a sticky malt back bone.

Northern Monk x Cloudwater – Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 006 – Double IPA

For the double IPA in this series, Cloudwater came in to help brew this Nelson Sauvin-led offering. Backed up with the classic tropical notes of Citra, NZ Nelson brings tons of gooseberry and sauvignon grape character to this smooth, oat-rounded beer.

Northern Monk x By The River – Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 007 – Imperial Maple Brown

Newcastle brewers and brown ales are made for each other. This imperial take on the style features heritage malts, a range of crystals and of course, brown roast malt. We then loaded the FV with rich maple syrup for a decadent treat.

Looking forward to checking all of these out…

The Pilot, Greenwich, June 2019

South of the river? Whatever next. Greenwich is in the famous bend in the Thames, so you can easily spot it on the Eastenders title sequence. It’s also the bit where you’ll find the O2 (Millennium Dome in old money). Sadly, James Bond was nowhere to be seen.

The Pilot is situated in a little block of old London Georgian cottages (grade II listed) constructed for workers from the nearby tidal mill and chemical works, and dates back around 200 years, built in the early 1800s to serve the local coal workers. A painted stone tablet on the wall of the pub reads “Ceylon Place New East Greenwich 1801”, so it could be the oldest surviving building on the Greenwich Peninsula. It certainly sticks out amongst all of the modern tower blocks and student flats that are just a stone’s throw away. Several of the massive O2 car parks can be seen across the road.

You might be aware of the cottages and the pub, as they featured in the video for Blur’s “Park Life”. You know what I mean?

Anyway, on to the pub. You can get here by cable car (not many pubs you can say that about), plane (London CIty airport is just on the other side of the river), boat and train. Or you can just walk from your nearby hotel, which is what I did. It’s a lovely old London pub, one of many in the Fuller’s estate that they are now concentrating on since they sold all of their brewing activity to Asahi earlier this year.

It’s definitely got the feel of a “food pub” as opposed to a “pub pub”, lots of dining space, and staff on the prowl as you arrive to find you a table to eat at. There is a little spot along the bar where you could have a pint and a chat, but on this overcast June evening, most people were dining.

I was shown to a little table just up the stairs and my order was taken. The barman/waiter seemed to struggle with it a little bit, as I’d ordered Misprized, one of the recent Fuller’s and Friends collaboration brews, and I suspect most tourists who come in here order London Pride. It was soon sorted out and my pint arrived.

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It wasn’t really worth the wait. Slightly woody, slightly mild, and mostly meh. I think I can see what they were trying to do, but it just didn’t work for me. However, the food was much better.

Even though we are just ten days away from midsummer night, it felt very much like a pie and mash kind of night, and a steak and ale pie with caramelised shallot & button mushrooms, spring greens and red wine gravy was enough to warm the cockles on a grey evening. A proper pie, completely encased in lovely crusty pastry, and none of this “pastry lid on a small casserole dish” nonsense.

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It was very tasty (juicy meat, crisp pastry and very nicely seasoned) and it was also soon hoovered up and I made my way off into the grey night. Some more veg and gravy wouldn’t have gone amiss, but everything worked well together.

A nice little food pub which offers a small number of menu options that they probably do well (based on a sample size of this one pie) rather than twenty different things in five or six cuisine styles which are all done to mediocrity.

Recommended if you find yourself looking for some food when you are south of the river.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #15 – June 2019

It’s box number 40, and whilst the evenings are getting lighter (it’s light until 10pm in Cumbria at the minute), the beers in here are getting darker. These ones are pretty much all absolute units, with just a couple of five percenters in the mix. As I don’t have my selection yet, I’m borrowing N&P photos again 🙂

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Arbor – Breakfast Stout – 7.4%

An elegantly creamy strong stout whose soothing and silky character combines evocative coffee notes with luxurious bittersweet chocolate.

Atom – Into the Abyss – 10.5%

For this collaboration Atom drew inspiration from eating s’mores. They took a biscuity, roasty and chocolatey imperial stout, boiled it for 12 hours to intensify the flavours then added a copious amount of vegan marshmallows.

Box Social – Cry Agony – 7%

A bit of a wildcard this one. Its nether dark nor pale, but Box Social brew some great quirky beers, and this is one of them! A pale beer, with a rich, rounded mouthfeel and savoury sweetness from peanut essence. Real oak wood provides a depth of flavour layered with peanut notes. Hops give a further layer of sweet/vanilla aromas. Safe for those with peanut allergies.

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Moor – Stout – 5%

Moor were asked if they would ever consider a simple request to brew “something purely enjoyable to drink, not a curiosity beverage to tick off.” This is that beer. No unicorn hair, solar dust or celebrity nail clippings. Pontificate if you must, but please just drink and enjoy.

Prairie – Double Dunk – 11.9%

Imperial Stout from Tulsa, Oklahoma (the home of the Danny Flowers song “Tulsa Time”) brewed with Oreo Cookies. A deep dark stout with no head. In aroma, sweet fruity chocolate malt with light vanilla, alcohol warmth, very nice and smooth. In mouth, a nice sweet fruity chocolate malt with loads of vanilla, coffee crisp, oily mouth feel, alcohol warmth, very nice and rich.

Three Hills – Rhubarb Crumble Stout – 5%

This is a very special beer indeed, brewed by three N&P customers at Three Hills. It was launched back in March. It has got better and better over the three months or so that it has aged for so far. Dark roasted flavours with a sweet twang of rhubarb and a hit of dark sugar and vanilla.

Church House Pub, Sutton, May 2019

We have been staying at Jarman Farm in Sutton again, with regular MOFAD companions Karon & John. It was the second outing of Mrs MOFADs shiny new camping machine. The weather hasn’t been kind this weekend, so we’ve been straight out to the pub each night.

It’s a pub that we are familiar with, having been three times in 2016 when we were staying at Jarman Farm over two weekends. It’s a lovely village pub, friendly and welcoming, and with great food and drink, so it’s a very easy choice to decide to come back, even though there are several other pubs within walking distance. If a pub is good, why risk going somewhere else that might be less good?

We came here three nights in a row, over a rather soggy and cold Whitsun bank holiday weekend. The usual drill of decent walks during the day (with the added challenge of waiting for the rain to stop on Sunday morning) and then dinner in the pub. It was not weather for sitting around chatting on the camp site, so it was a weekend of early nights.

On to the pub and the meals then. Friday night saw hunter’s chicken (a pub classic) with chips and token salad (sad iceberg), followed by a deliciously gooey chocolate brownie. Liquid accompaniment was provided by Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch (a lovely cask pint) and Silk of Amnesia from nearby Storm Brewing Co, a classic caramel bitter.

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On Saturday night, we were back at the same table, this time tucking into the classic burger and chips with token salad (sad iceberg), and a decent apple crumble. This time last year it would have been way too hot for a crumble, and we were tucking into strawberry pavlovas at The Lazy Trout in Meerbrook. A warm crumble was very welcome on a dull night.

Liquid accompaniment was provided by Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch again, and Exmoor Gold, a simple malty golden ale.

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Sunday was very much a day of rain. We waited for it to stop. It didn’t stop. We drove out to Alderley Edge (the actual edge, not the bit where all the footballers live). We waited for the rain to stop. It eventually stopped. We went out for a walk, and got a bit more rain for our trouble. The sun did eventually come out towards the end of the day.

Once again we were back at our usual table, and tonight it was the turn of my pub yardstick, gammon. I judge most pubs that serve food by their gammon, because it’s easy to get right, but horrible if you get it wrong. Sadly, it’s another pub where you have to choose between pineapple and egg. I want both. You can have both if you pay an extra £1.50, for a slice of pineapple. No thanks, I could buy a huge pineapple for that. A lovely piece of gammon, a perfect egg, chips and peas. And more of that token salad.

Once again, liquid accompaniment was provided by Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch and Exmoor Gold. Not a big turnover on casks this weekend, but they were all in good condition.

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A lovely long weekend in a lovely village pub. I’m sure we’ll be back at Jarman Farm again in a year or two, and we’ll be back here when we do return. A great place to go if you’re staying nearby.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – sour beer selection box #7 – May 2019

The 39th selection box overall, and the seventh selection of sours. All about the fruitiness this time, which is a very good idea with summer approaching. Can’t beat a fruity sour on a warm summer’s night. Another selection where I’ve borrowed the N&P photo because I didn’t get time to take one!

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Box Social – Ride Over Me – 6%

Tart and sweet raspberry, balanced by lactose creaminess make up the body of this unique beer. This brew is full of oats and caramel malt to provide a full on malt base to compliment the fruit notes, reminiscent of a perfect cheesecake. Box Social beers are well loved at the N&P and this is one of the first ever cans from Box Social. I visited their little railway arch on a very rainy night in Newcastle in June 2017.

Brick – Manhattan – 5.9%

There have been some fantastic sours from Brick (I’ve picked up a few from St Pancras), and this is no exception. Great label designs too. Manhattan Sour has a robust malt body and is flavoured with sweet cherry and bitter orange, before being spiced with ginger and cinnamon and aged on cherry wood.

Cloudwater – Peach Bellini Slushie – 8%

The original idea for this quirky beer came when Cloudwater’s Paul and Evil Twin’s Jeppe added Champagne to a slushie machine full of sour beer at a festival. To recreate that, they blended a grape juice-infused Brut IPA fermented using Champagne yeast with a fruited sour. This edition is one in a series based on Champagne cocktails, so peach has been used to replicate a Bellini.

Evil Twin – G is for Grapefruit – 4.5%

A fresh tartness, a twist of salt and a balanced fruitiness of grapefruit – apparently a complete reflection of your personality

Hackney – Millions of Peaches – 4%

Yes, to mark the start of evenings being light enough to enjoy the last of the sun in the evenings, Millions of Peaches is back! With the third year of its release, Hackney have packed in more peaches than last year but have kept the rest the same. If it ain’t broke…

Vibrant Forest – Actinia – 7.1%

Actinia sees massive quantities of mango, guava, passion fruit and mandarin layered onto an oat and wheat heavy malt bill that’s been soured with Lactobacillus. The result is explosive fruity mayhem. Sticky tropical purees coalesce around a scintillating acidity, itself smothered in a thick, oaty mouth feel. Juicy, puckering, indulgent, this is Actinia. Really looking forward to this one.