Quiz night at The Pack Horse Inn, Keswick, January 2019 #tryanuary

Our fourth visit to the Pack Horse quiz night. On our last three visits, we’ve won every time. What happened to “My Pointless Friend Richard” tonight? Find out later.

Today we climbed Whiteside, our 120th Wainwright. It was one of the trickier ones, very much a straight up and down visit, and it took quite a bit of effort. A good feed was required, and a decent home made burger and a pile of chips was just what the doctor (me, definitely not a doctor) ordered.

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The burger was fantastic. You’ve read this from me many times already, but when properly done, a decent burger is hard to beat. Really tasty beef, extra tangy cheddar and some proper English mustard. Big fat chips which were crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. A decent salad and some dressing too, not just a pile of limp iceberg (the excuse for salad that I usually moan about).

The only fly in the ointment was the lack of a plate, a silly bread board having taken its place. To be fair to them, they would have needed a decent sized plate to accommodate this tasty portion.

On to the #tryanuary bit. I was hoping to taste a new beer from Robinsons who own this pub. They have made over 150 different beers but this doesn’t seem to be a market where they are wanting to test anything new, as they always seem to have the same ones on. So it was Double Hop and Dizzy Blonde, which still hasn’t been rebranded, despite this being announced back in May 2018.

On to the quiz bit. For the first time, we lost. Beaten by our neighbours, a table of 8 which felt like a bit of an unfair fight, but we were well and truly thrashed. We shall return to reclaim our crown another day.

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Thornbridge night, The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, December 2018

Oh yes it’s Thornbridge night, and the feeling’s right, oh yes it’s Thornbridge night, oh what a night.

The annual Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin. Now in its third year, but with a new host, as Meg has moved on to Beavertown (a gentle and fairly playful boo and hiss rippled around the room from the people who hadn’t already heard this news). We met James, field sales manager for Thornbridge.

We talked all things Thornbridge. Having (between us all) been to the previous two Thornbridge nights, been on the brewery tour, and been fairly regular attendees at Peakender (just me on that one), we had a fair bit of Thornbridge knowledge (we wiped the floor with everyone else in last year’s quiz) so bandied around a few topics for discussion, including the popularity of of good cask beer, getting so many beers into Tesco and future beer plans.

And of course there was beer. One of the new variations of Lucaria, Salted Caramel Lucaria, full of toffee, coffee, chocolate and creaminess. A lovely pint to savour.

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Whilst that was going down, so was Thornbridge bingo, Sean’s latest game. Pretty much as you would imagine, bingo cards with names of Thornbridge beers on, and then beer names drawn out of a box to tick off on your card. We had time for a couple of rounds, and we won a couple of lines on our table, with prizes on all of the other tables too. Great fun.

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More chat, and then James remembered something. He disappeared downstairs and returned with two bottles of Serpent to share around. Serpent was the subject of our first Thornbridge night, so once again I think we scared James a bit with our knowledge of it. I bought a bottle that night, and we had it on New Year’s Eve last year. It had aged well.

We had some more tonight, surprised that there was still some in existence. It has continued to age well, still dominated by apple, with some bourbon smoothness in the background. It continues to be the beer that is not a beer.

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There was time to sample Necessary Evil, an absolute malt bomb full of all the malts.

Another great night out at The Needle & Pin. Great fun with lovely people, and perfectly kept beers as usual. Looking forward to the 2019 version already!

Hotel Teatro, Denver, October 2018

A spooky evening and another quick Denver post. This evening picks up where this afternoon left off, networking with the people that I met at The Renaissance earlier on today, along with a few more who couldn’t make it, as they have only just rolled into town.

Another buffet meal, with the usual selection of meats, breads, salad bits and other things. There was an added tasty bonus here, lots of plates full of churros, the Spanish doughnut which is probably from Portugal by way of China. These were lovely, as they almost always are, crunchy and sprinkled with lightly spiced sugar.

Tonight I got to sample Sour Apricot from Dry Dock brewery in Aurora, Colorado. A nice balance of sweet apricots and sourness, tart and fruity with sourness from the brewing process. It went well with some nice bits of cheese from the buffet.

There was also a Tivoli Helles Lager, another Denver brewery, who are based on the Auraria College campus of Metropolitan State University in Denver. A very easy drinking lager with a very German taste, which is probably because it is brewed from entirely imported ingredients.

Finally a “Face Down Nitro Brown” from Telluride Brewing, also in Colorado. A bit of a hybrid of an English and American style brown ale (the beer that your Uncle drank in the 1970s) that is silky smooth and super malty.

Afterwards, I found out that this is a four time award winner, taking gold in 2012 and 2014, and bronze in 2016 at the Great American Beer Festival for “American Style Brown,” and also a gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup.

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A pleasant evening of chat and beer and food.

The Swan Inn visit #2, Hanley Swan, Worcestershire, August 2018

I’ve said pretty much everything I need to about this pub with Saturday night’s post. We booked the table tonight whilst we were finishing our dinner on Saturday night, which pretty much sums things up. Before we have a quick gander at tonight’s dinner, a quick note on poncy menu pricing. I’ve mentioned this before, but if something costs £6.50, please display it on the menu as £6.50 not 6 1/2. I don’t want to be told that a pudding is 7 3/4, it is £7.75 – why the need for fractions? What does it achieve apart from annoying people?

Anyway, on to dinner, and another beautifully kept pint, this time Butty Bach from Wye Valley Brewery, a classic malty bitter. And in a proper dimple pot too.

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More amuse bouche crisps soon came our way…

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For main course, something a bit different for me, hot smoked salmon nicoise salad. After the glory of Saturday night’s steak, I had to make a hard decision not to have that again, but it was a good decision as this salad was also glorious. And that’s not something I often say about salads!

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Mrs MOFAD had rack of lamb with polenta (another first) and that was also delicious.

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Another pudding was in order after more exertions on bikes and on foot today, so this dark chocolate and seville orange fondant with walnut and hazelnut granola and grand marnier and orange ice cream was an indulgent delight, melting in the middle.

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A second great meal at this great village pub. If we’re ever in the area again we’ll come here again.

The Swan Inn, Hanley Swan, Worcestershire, August 2018

A pub not far away from a camp site is something to always be explored. The Marton Arms in Thornton (Yorkshire) is probably our favourite “close to camp site” pub, given that it was just a few minutes walk away from the site.

The Swan Inn is about a mile away from where we were staying, but it had been recommended by regular MOFAD companions Karon & John, and looked really good on the web site. We had booked online, a quick and easy process, and they even e-mail you on the morning of your booking for you to confirm it. Very efficient and modern – I heartily approve!

We arrived a little early and ordered drinks from the bar. A very friendly barman handed us drinks and menus and we waited a few moments to be shown to our table. We had a nice little “mini booth” in the corner. We sipped our drinks and perused the menu, lots of nice things to choose from.

A waitress came over, looked at us drinking our drinks and reading menus, and asked us if we wanted to order drinks. Errrr, no. We’d like to order food. Oh, ok, I’ll get someone to take your order. She goes back to the bar, puts down her notepad, picks up a different notepad, and then comes back to take our order. Odd.

I continued to sip an excellent pint of HPA from Wye Valley Brewery. Really nice to see that a “foodie” pub is also capable of looking after their beer and presenting it in tip top condition.

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A little “amuse-bouche” arrived, a small basket of freshly cooked crisps and a little pot of salsa. This was a nice surprise, a freshly cooked crisp is a rare sight, and it was a pleasant little mouth pleaser. The salsa could do with a bit of a reduction though, rather watery tomato.

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On to the main courses, and most excellent they were. Mrs MOFAD opted for the asparagus risotto which was very flavoursome.

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After 10 miles of cycling and 5 of walking (both of which involved plenty of uphill), I needed some big tasty protein, in the form of a lovely bit of sirloin steak.

There was a time when I would almost always have steak when out and about. Now, it’s something that I only have only rarely (and always rare). Rareness (or lack of it) is one of the reasons why, it seems that it is a struggle to find places that cook steak to your liking (and it’s a personal preference which should be easy to honour).

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This one was cooked to perfection (for me) and was really tasty. Classic accompaniments of triple-cooked chips (we do love a bit of a triple cooking nowadays), a mushroom, roasted/grilled tomatoes and a few leaves on the side (with interesting parmesan shavings bringing another flavour into play). With the addition of some nicely warm English mustard, this was a perfect plate of steak and chips. More like this please!

After the exertions of the day, it’s fair to say that we had earned ourselves a pudding, and given there were plenty of lovely options on offer, we decided to indulge.

Mrs MOFAD had apple and cinnamon crumble with a scoop of ice cream. It was quite tart and might have benefitted from a spoonful of sugar. There was also a lot of cinnamon, which is exactly why I avoided it. Keep cinnamon out of my puddings 🙂

I had the roasted peach pavlova, which was a sweet delight. A very firm meringue, half a peach, nicely whipped cream and some cheffy squiggles along with some micro leaves, a couple of flowers and some fruity dots. It was lovely, although some more peach wouldn’t have gone amiss.

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A really nice dinner in a lovely pub. Whilst we waited for our plates to be cleared, I booked online for Monday night too. A fantastic village pub!

Bull’s Head, Thringstone, August 2018

Only the second ever appearance of Thringstone in these hallowed electronic pages, and both have come this year. The weather forecast this morning looked promising for the evening, so we decided to venture out for a short walk before retiring to the pub for tea.

Due to rather black clouds gathering overhead after the first part of our walk, we decided to cut it short and dive in to the pub a little earlier than planned.

The Bull’s Head has had a number of incarnations over the years. It’s somewhere we regularly pass on the A512, and it comes as no surprise to see it with new branding once a year. It’s now a Stonehouse pub, which means that it specialises in pizzas and carvery (it had been a carvery in a previous life). It was fairly busy for a random Thursday night in August, probably a reflection of the competitive pricing.

We took advantage of that, with the Thursday night deal of 2 pizzas and a bottle of prosecco for £20. This was quite welcome, given that the beer on offer was awful, and there was nothing interesting in bottles. Despite being on the outskirts of the village, this is very much now a “food pub”, not a classic “village pub” where you would expect to find a friendly landlord proud of their well kept cask ales.

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That said, it’s a reasonable food pub. The pizzas were good, a decent crisp base and a good amount of topping (not skimping and saving on the more expensive crispy duck to keep profit margins up). Free salad too, in a classic Harvester/Pizza Hut “go and help yourself” style.

Good post-walk fodder to keep you satisfied. And I do love to see a crispy duck pizza on the menu, even though I suspect Italians are self-combusting at the thought of such a thing!

Wheatsheaf Hotel, Ingleton, July 2018

It’s the classic “first night of holiday” trip to the pub. We are in Yorkshire for a week of camping, and we have the Yorkshire three peaks ahead of us this week, as well as some other, flatter, walks. We decided to stroll down to the village of Ingleton from the camp site, and settled on the Wheatsheaf Inn. It seems that a local couple had also settled on it as their wedding reception venue, as there was a lot of activity out the back, and a large number of wedding guests milling around the bar.

The first pint was a familiar one from across the border, Moorhouse’s Brewery’s Pride of Pendle, full of caramel and malt.

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What to choose to eat when in an unfamiliar pub? Gammon of course, my “go to” dish when trying out a new pub. It was off to a good start before it even arrived, as it was to be accompanied by egg and pineapple. It should always be accompanied by both, never a choice of one or the other. Pineapple has a definite place in savoury dishes, and boo to all those pineapple haters out there (you know who you are). It was also to be accompanied by big fat chips and peas, the classic partners.

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As you can see, it was exactly as advertised, and was really nice. The only let down was the mustard, cheap stuff in a sachet which is never as good as something freshly made. Accompanied by a pint of Gale’s Seafarers Ale, now a Fuller’s beer.

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This was Blandy McBlandface. I swear it was better before they were taken over by Fuller’s but it’s been quite a few years since I had it, so the mind could be playing tricks.

A pleasant town centre pub, just a bit too popular on this particular Saturday night.