BrewDog Liverpool, September 2017

I can be a bit of a predictable creature. If you look at some of my recent city trips (Edinburgh, York, Newcastle and now Liverpool), you’ll spot a pattern. Whenever I arrive I go to BrewDog. I don’t *just* go to BrewDog, but it will usually be one of my first stops. Why? Well, it’s because I know what I’m going to get. I always want to check out local bars and brewery taps and the like that you don’t get in any other city, but I’m always happy to start off at BrewDog. As well as their always evolving line up, the range of guest beers is always interesting.

As a review printed on their new staff t-shirts says, “unless you’re into beers and trying new ones, this place isn’t for you”. I am into beers and trying new ones.

So here’s the first of those, Sidewalk Shark, part of the “Small Batch” project. It’s a light, effervescent German-style sour wheat beer; lemon peel, herbal lime leaf, notes of orange and a fresh bready malt base. Sharp, sweet and sour, with a tiny salty note – a lovely refreshing beer.

The other thing you will find in BrewDog bars is a food offering. In Liverpool, this is a burger and hot dog offering. I had the Patriot Burger, brioche bun, 6oz beef brisket patty, smoked bacon, cheddar, pickles, onion, baby gem & bbq sauce.

It was a decent juicy burger, good flavours and nicely put together. Unfortunately it was served on a silly tin tray with a silly tin cup of chips. We want plates.

To accompany this, another couple of beers. First, the Prototype Blonde Ale. I didn’t think BrewDog did bland, but this tasted of nothing. Nothing bad about it, just a very middle of the road blonde ale. I could go to most other pubs and bars in this city to find that, so I just don’t expect it here.

Thankfully, the last one was more interesting. Another of the Small Batch series, this time the Imperial Pilsner where a quintessential pilsner malt base and German lager yeast combine with some modern German aroma hops to make an interesting lager. You can feel the strength in this one.

As ever, a pleasant trip to BrewDog. Tonight was also the monthly bottle share club. Sadly I couldn’t stay as I had friends to meet elsewhere but I was sorely tempted.

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The Beer Hall, Staveley – Hawkshead brewery tap, August 2017

All good things must come to an end. Our Lakes camping break is one of those things. We have bagged another 9 Wainwrights, enjoyed some great walking, and had some lovely pub dinners and decent local ales.

Handily, our route home involves going within half a mile of Staveley, the home of Hawkshead brewery (who outgrew Hawkshead itself many years ago) and The Beer Hall, their brewery tap. We came here twice in 2016, once for lunch and a shopping trip (you can read more about the brewery and The Beer Hall on that post), and once for a shopping trip. Today was another 2 for the price of 1 visit, with lunch and shopping on the agenda once more.

Lunch first, and a couple of drinks. A Solar Sour for Mrs MOFAD, a refreshingly sour wheat beer. For me, the August Session IPA, packed with Jester, Citra, Mosaic and Centennial hops, delicious fruity hoppiness.

Food next, and we both opted for the ploughman’s, two cheeses from a choice of many, some salad, a couple of slices of bread, a lovely ginger chutney and coleslaw.

Decent portions of cheese, a nice smoked cheddar and a brie were my choices. The smoked cheddar was really nice, a decent level of smokiness but not too much to overwhelm those who are not big smoke fans (I like a lot of smoke). The brie was a squishy delight. There’s also a pickled onion peeking out from behind the coleslaw.

As ever, the choice of a bread board to serve it all on makes life difficult, a piled up salad is always in danger of slipping off at some point, and we both lost salad items to the floor. Plates were invented in order to eat food from.

We lingered over lunch for as long as we could (a 200 mile journey still awaits), but the time had soon come to do a bit of shopping before departure. A good range of Hawkshead beers are available (I picked up 6 on my last visit) as well as an ever changing range from British breweries and a few very interesting European beers (mostly from those lovely Belgian types).

Let’s have a quick look through.

Mrs MOFAD opted for a Great White, two Chuckle Berry Sours (been waiting for ages to find bottles of this) and a Floris Mango.

My shopping basket contained Fallen Brewing’s Grapevine (a new world pale ale), two from Marble Brewery, Murk du Soleil, the excellently named double IPA, and Prime Time, a collaboration Kolsch style beer brewed with beer writer and “sommALEier” Melissa Cole.

The red can is Sputnik from North Brewing Co, a dry hopped pale ale and there’s a bottle of Thresher from Siren Craft Brew, a spelt IPA triple dry hopped with Galaxy, Mosaic and Citra, which just happened to be the first collaboration brew at Siren’s new brewhouse.

The remaining items are a can of this year’s batch of Key Lime Tau (2π) by Crooked Stave and Hawkshead Breweries. The 2015 version was brewed for the 2015 Rainbow Project, and was my runner up in August 2016’s beer of the month. It has been brewed in the last two years, and the 2017 version had to go in my shopping basket. If you love lime like I love lime, you’ll love this.

Finally there are two bottles of Brodie’s Prime Export. I’ve already got one of these in stock, so these are for MOFAD drinking companions Matt & Steve. I think they’ll like it.

Another lovely visit to The Beer Hall. It’s the place to go if you are passing by on the A591. Today we had the added bonus of driving out over Britain’s newest bridge, the new Gowan Bridge in Staveley. The old bridge was destroyed as a result of Storm Desmond in December 2015, and there’s even a sign on the A591 inviting you to visit Britain’s newest bridge.

The Brotherswater Inn, Sykeside, Cumbria, August 2017 #4

Moist.

That has been the over-riding theme of today. The forecast was very specific. Rain coming in around lunchtime. And not leaving until late evening. So we were up and out, off to bag another Wainwright. Very much a “there and back” walk, get up, get back down, and get back under cover until the rain passes.

After an afternoon of unceasing rain, we wondered if it would ever be dry again. When we arrived on Thursday, we had to pitch our awning in a swamp. The swamp had started to recede, but as the afternoon wore on, the swamp was back and bigger than ever. Squelch squelch. The only sensible option is to retire to the pub.

We did just that. After a good effort at finishing it up, the Eden Valley had gone, and was replaced by Ullswater Blonde, also from Eden Brewery. I’ve had this beer every year for the last three, and the current batch seems lighter in colour than previous brews. An easy drinking golden ale.

Food next, and after a cool and wet afternoon (if only we’d brought our radiator in August!) a warming bowl of smoked haddock chowder was just what was needed. A lovely mini loaf of bread accompanied it, but I wasn’t convinced about the salad. It doesn’t seem to fit with the creamy chowder (which was very nice).

And after plenty of properly plated meals, we have a double whammy of disappointment. A slate set into a bread board. Why, cruel fate, why? Why not just a plate?

Luckily, the plate was around for the pudding (often a prime candidate for a slate). This dark chocolate delight with raspberry ripple ice cream and a few raspberries was a lovely end to the meal, the richness of the chocolate being cut through by the raspberries.

Mrs MOFAD opted for the Cumbrian classic of sticky toffee pudding, which was sticky and delicious.

We’ve had lots of lovely meals at The Brotherswater Inn. When you are a captive campsite audience, it’s always a worry in case it doesn’t turn out to be very good, or there’s a limited menu. This was not the case. A lovely pub with lovely food and beer. Perfect for a campsite.

Hop and Cleaver, Newcastle, June 2017

Oh the weather outside is frightful. Hopefully, smoked meat and beer will be delightful.

Despite being early June, and the start of summer, it is absolutely hammering it down with rain. It should have taken 3 hours and 5 minutes to get here by train. Due to crashes, things burning down, and a general build up of delays, it took more like 5 hours and 3 minutes to get to Newcastle. After a moist stroll from the station to the hotel, a quick dry off and then out into the rain again, back down towards the famous river and some dinner.

I’d already identified Hop and Cleaver as my dinner destination. Not even the horrendous rain could keep me from the gentle downhill stroll from Newgate Street to Sandhill. I did get rather wet. As I’m not a native of these parts, a coat was required. It protected me from the worst of the rain, but it was not enough.

Even when I got inside the Hop & Cleaver, a coat was still required. The ferocity of the rain was such that they had sprung a leak – the main bar area was rather soggy, and the large party of people arriving for an event were all milling about in a specific configuration that kept them away from the water leaking from the ceiling.

No time to worry about that, what with plenty beers to choose from. This menu needs studying…

I was swiftly shown to a table and ordered some food and drink. The first beer was Hop & Cleaver Rye IPA, a decent rye ale but not an IPA. The letters I, P and A get attached to far too many beers nowadays.

Food arrived. It had to be the “pit sarnie”, three kinds of smoked goodness in a very sturdy bun. Pulled pork, brisket and smoked sausage stuffed in a brioche bun with BBQ sauce. Man vs Food has come true on the banks of the Tyne. As you might expect in such an establishment, a distinct lack of plates, with dinner being served on some graph paper inside a bit of a seed tray, with chips in a kind of chicken wire basket…

It was utterly delicious. I love smoked and slow cooked meat. I love Man vs. Food. This was lovely stuff. And it paired well with the Hop & Cleaver Sorachi ale, although I couldn’t detect any Sorachi hop flavours, which is unusual for such a distinctive hop.

This is a great place if you like smoked meat, a quirky venue and beer made on the premises. It was definitely the right choice for dinner. I loved it, despite the lack of plates. If there weren’t other places to explore, I could have stayed here all night. Once more unto the breach my friends, once more…

The Crag Inn, Wildboarclough, April 2017

It’s another Peak District pub post. We are in the Cheshire bit of the Peak District once more, in the small village of Wildboarclough in the Macclesfield Forest. Our walk today took us past The Crag Inn, so we popped in for lunch.

This was a pint of Beartown Best Bitter, a good solid bitter.

Lunch next. Whilst we were enjoying some spring sunshine, the kitchen were working overtime with a busy Sunday lunchtime stretching out ahead of them. As well as the usual Sunday roasts they were also serving soups, sandwiches, burgers and more. Big queues at the bar, but we managed to get our orders in and they come out reasonably swiftly. A posh KFC – fried chicken goujons in a bun with some salad, sweet chilli sauce and good fat chips, but once again I have to say we want plates!

We were also visited by a very friendly pub cat who was in search of fuss not food, and rewarded us with head boops. A pleasant pub lunch in the beer garden on a sunny April Sunday afternoon. A nice pub in the middle of a very quiet little valley. Walker friendly, so definitely good to arrive on foot.

Buxton Brewery Tap, April 2017

We’ve been here before. In May 2015 to be precise. Ever since that visit we’ve been wanting to come back. It took almost 2 years, but we made it 🙂

After a leisurely morning of strolling around Buxton, including a little shopping at Beer District, we were ready for some lunch. There was only ever going to be one place we were going to go. I had been singing the praises of Buxton Brewery Tap for a while, and with MOFAD drinking companions Matt & Steve as well as Mrs MOFAD, Hazel, Janette and Andy and Kerrie all in tow, I was hoping that there would be something for everyone here.

There was.

My choice was Myrica, a tasty session IPA with oaty smoothness and hazy hoppiness

Mrs MOFAD opted for the Sky Mountain Sour, a collaboration between Buxton and To Øl which has resulted in a nicely balanced sour ale. Mrs MOFAD was a fan of this.

Matt & Steve both had a Rednik Stout which was right up their street. Kerrie tried the Lemon Meringue Pie, which both Mrs MOFAD and I really like. She was not a fan, but surprisingly Hazel (the queen of tea who is not a beer drinker) liked it, and ended up with a bottle to take home.

On to that lunch, I had a buffalo burger with potato wedges, which was very tasty and a perfect portion for lunch. Mrs MOFAD opted for chicken souvlaki, marinated in yoghurt, mustard, lemon & oregano and served with sautéed peppers, tzatziki, sunblush salad & pitta breads. This which was also very nice. My burger came from the specials board, so it might not be available when you visit. Perhaps plates will be though, as this burger appeared on a board.

On then to the shopping. You can’t come here and not take away a bottle or two. Or ten. You’ll spot the “Belgians” on the left, a Bourbon Skyline (barrel aged Berliner weisse), another Sky Mountain Sour and Lemon Meringue Pie for Mrs MOFAD, a Trolltunga (just another gooseberry sour IPA), a Superluminal (sour IPA) and one more.

That last one is Bomba Generation 4, the sequel to Tsar Bomba Generation III which was almost beer of the year for me in 2016. Generation 4 of the Buxton Brett fermented Imperial Stout has been born. The yeast strain from 1978 is alive and well and has chewed relentlessly through the regular Russian Imperial Stout to bring us the Great Grandson of the original batch. This one will go into storage for a while, and come out on a special occasion. If it’s as good as Generation III then it will be rather special.

Matt & Steve also did some shopping, although none of us could convince the nice people behind the bar to thrown in a free glass, despite the amount that we were all spending…

Another great trip to the Buxton Brewery Tap. If you are ever in Buxton, go there. You will find good food and great beer to drink in and take away. End of.

Walmgate Ale House, York, April 2017

Another place that was on our “to go” list for York. Walmgate Ale House and Bistro is housed in a 17th century listed building on Walmgate. It was originally opened in 2001, as Melton’s Too, by Michael and Lucy Hjort. Their family has owned and run businesses in York since 1990. Before the Hjort family took over the building, it was owned by Ellerker’s. From 1795, Ellerker’s sold saddles, harnesses and rope. Ellerker’s was commissioned to make the hangman’s nooses for York Prison (now York Castle Museum). This led to the phrase “For me there is no hope – was Ellerker’s made this rope.”

Walmgate Ale House and Bistro has kept the horse’s head at the front of the building from the Ellerker’s days as a symbol of pride in the building’s heritage. The interior also reflects the history of the building with ropes, saddles and old photographs from the days of Ellerker’s.

Downstairs is the bar area, and you wait at the bottom of the stairs to be shown to tables upstairs in the restaurant area. There was a table free (we hadn’t booked) and so we were taken upstairs and sat down to order. I had a pint of Flummoxed Farmer by Ainsty Ales, a good session pale ale, hoppy and bitter, but light.

Mrs MOFAD had Yorkshire Cider from The Great Yorkshire Brewery, a pretty standard cider.

My choice was a fairly easy one – the pulled pork burger which was simple and tasty, with some good chips, and a little bit of slaw on the side. And on a plate, although it was made of wood like some medieval trencher.

Mrs MOFAD had the standard burger, which was less good.

We had more places to explore so asked for the bill. And then asked for it again, since someone else’s drinks had been added to it.

A pleasant enough meal in characterful surroundings, but with so many great places to choose from, you don’t have to settle for pleasant enough.