Sunday, 23 December 2018

Golden Pints 2018

No preamble, no waffle, let's get on with it (after all, we have Hopinions for all of that!!)…...

Best UK Keg Beer

Now, this was a tough one for me, given that I usually look to the cask options first when out and about, with keg being my second choice. However, I was playing darts recently at lunchtime and enjoyed a few pints of Beavertown Neck Oil. At 4.3%, I think it qualifies as sessionable, and, it was tasting absolutely top drawer (didn't help improve my darts though, pretty dreadful I was!).

Best UK Bottled Beer

At the moment, it's anything from North Riding, a wonderful, pretty recent find for me and all because Michelle keeps ordering them from Sean at Beer Central. Traditional in appearance perhaps (500ml bottles) but, impressively tasty beers with bold flavour profiles at the sort of abv where if you want to enjoy more than one, you can. I need, and want to sample their beers on cask.

Best UK Canned Beer

At home, we tend to have a lot of one-off cans in the house, although that did change when Thornbridge released Jaipur in 330ml cans available in Tesco, we definitely had more than one can of that in Dave's Beer Cupboard! I have also really enjoyed the Cloudwater small beer series, lower abv they might be, but, big on flavour and mouthfeel they most definitely are.

Best UK Cask Beer

Thornbridge Jaipur and Adnams Ghost Ship (guessing that's not a shock to anyone!). Sorry, I really can't choose between the two, both to me are superbly drinkable and while I like all formats that these two beers can be dispensed from, it's on cask where they truly shine, in my opinion. Honourable mention to the stalwart that is Timothy Taylor's Landlord.

Best Overall Beer

This award goes to a beer I have tried only twice - Beavertown Tempus Project Heavy Lord. A 14.5% beer that I had on tap, at Beavertown, one warm sunny afternoon with Michelle and very recently at SXBottleShare (remains a highlight of my month, every month), on a not so sunny Tues evening in December! That last tasting merely confirmed what I already knew to be true - astonishing beer.

Best Collaboration Brew

While some UK breweries seem to be almost ashamed of their West Coast IPAs, my honourable mention goes to a beauty of a beer created by Thornbridge and Cigar City - Jai JAI, all that's good about a style of beer that I fell in love with a number of years ago, thank you!
But, the winner is Beavertown Tempus Project Heavy Lord, their collaborators in crime - 3 Floyd Brewing Company.

Best UK Brewery

While Beavertown have scooped two of my awards (forget the Heineken investment, that's the cherry on their 2018 cake!), it is Thornbridge and Adnams, in a dead heat once again who scoop my best UK brewery award. They consistently deliver fantastic beers in all forms of dispense and are both here to stay, as are their flagship beers (I really hope that hasn't jinxed anything!!). And, to cap it all, they both launched excellent no alcohol beers this year, cheers đŸș.

Best Overseas Draught

Cigar City Jai Alai, a few pours of which I enjoyed in Boston while consuming 12 wings for $3 - WIN! (I almost missed it, in amongst the vast array of taps at Blackmoor Bar and Kitchen)

Best Overseas Bottle/Can

Half Acre Vallejo, West Cost IPA that comes in at 6.7%. Absolutely bang on! Clear, crisp, piney, bitter and leaves you wanting more. If I go to Chicago, I will be visiting the tap room.

Best Overseas Brewery

Half Acre, Chicago. Producing the style of beers that i fell in love with back in 2011, and doing so very well. Had a pint of their pilsner in New York back in october and they "smashed it".

Best Pub/Bar

The Victoria Inn - My preferred option in Colchester, a proper pub is a very apt description for this wonderful place, and 6 months on from leaving Colchester, i still miss it (although i guess that's testament to how good it is in the first place).

The Ale House - My preferred option in Chelmsford (and home of the UKs longest running Bottle Share), always a great choice available - cask, keg, bottle and can.

The Globe - Near the office, a Nicholson's pub, with up to 8 well kept beers on cask, full macro range offered also (great for colleagues who regularly think I am tricking them when I order cask with a slightly odd name), and a few crafty cans in the fridge.

Best Taproom

UK - The start of the 2018 Crimbo Crawl - Lost & Grounded in Bristol. Plenty of space to enjoy their beers and the surroundings, if in Bristol and they are open, go visit, if for no other reason than to drink Keller Pils at the source.

ROW - Harpoon in Boston. Set alongside the waterfront, the taproom is a rather large affair that encompasses plenty of seating, a big bar, shop where you can get a wide variety of their beers and merchandise too, AND, pretzels. Oh my god, these were bloody wonderful, more like warm soft bagels, with a choice of dips - quite possibly one of the best foods i have ever had to go with beer. Special thanks to the guys who gave Michael and myself a tour and tasting before we relaxed in the taproom.

Supermarket of the Year

M&S – Choice & Accessibility, they provide me with the bulk of the train beers I consume. Honourable mentions to Tesco and Waitrose. The Supermarkets have been upping their game throughout 2018.

Train Beer of the Year

Four Pure Session IPA, I just find this beer super consistent and easy to drink on the go, and, available in M&S (no change from my 2017 award).

Independent Retailer of the Year

Liquorice - Ever expanding range of craft beers, 2 mins walk from a mainline station I go through every day so easy to get off, stock up and get back on the next slow running train. I need to pop in more often, sorry Dan, I'll do better in 2019!

Online Retailer of the Year

Ales by Mail are sadly no more, but, would have been my clear winner. I don't order much online to be honest (apart from work beer tastings), but, Michelle does, and she loves the service Sean at Beer Central provides.

Best Branding

Harvey's canned range that i first discovered on the cruise back in April with Michelle, some simply stunning artwork, and the beer in the cans wasn't too shabby either!

Beer Festival of the Year

Peakender - Really was going to be only one winner this year. I can see why people have been raving about it previously, the only "downside" was that it was so damn popular Saturday afternoon which lead to quite long queues for the two bars. However, I think Thornbridge will be all over this next year. This festival also featured "Hopinions Live", a very enjoyable experience, so, thank you everyone who came along an joined in, hope to do it again some time in the future.

Harwich Redoubt Fort & Chappel Beer Festivals both receive honourable mentions, stalwarts of my beery calendar.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer

Everyone who takes the time to comment on the weekly Hopinions polls, without which we wouldn't have a lot to talk about on the show.

Best Beer Blog

Mark Johnson wins again (Beer Compurgation, also a 2016 & 2017 winner). Always thought provoking, and always well written. He shoots, he scores, it's a hat trick, well played that man, take a bow.

Beery Podcast of the Year

In 3rd place - Beers Without Frontiers
In 2nd place - Rhythm & Brews
And, the winner is - Men Beerhaving Badly. Well done guys, looking forward to hearing your dulcid tones as the journey continues!
Honourable mentions - Steve & Roland’s Beer Podcast and of course, my good friends - The Irish Beer Snobs.
(Shout-out to Rob @HopZine for his pioneering work on You Tube)

And, there we have it, that's my look back at 12 months in beer, I'm pretty sure I've forgotten something/someone/a particular beer or festival so apologies in advance as they say.

Looking forward to 2019, cheers one & all!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Northern Powerhouse Brew Series - "His 'n Hers"

Disclaimer & caveat(s) incoming.......
These were bought on a whim from Honest Brew utilising The Beer O'Clock Show discount, my thoughts on the beers were not impacted by this, however, the first 5 beers were consumed during the World Cup Quarter Final between England and Sweden, so, I most definitely wasn't 100% focussed on the beers. 
Grateful thanks to Michelle for choosing the order, taking the pictures and pouring the beers so I barely had to move during the match (yep, she's a keeper).

Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 006 Wylam x Hawkshead
Hers: Refreshing start to the series, tropical fruits on the nose and a slight bitterness at the end. Lovely for a 5%
Untappd rating - 3.25 / 5
His: Juicy session pale ale, slightly oniony bready quality to it
Untappd rating - 3.5 / 5

Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 002 Wylam x Cloudwater
Hers: This is absolutely delicious, coffee and chocolate in the aroma which I wasn’t expecting and a wonderful chocolatey taste
Untappd rating - 4 / 5
His: Initial chocolatey toasty notes, lovely smooth mouth feel too, well balanced
Untappd rating - 3.75 / 5

Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 004 Wylam x Thornbridge
Hers: Beautiful wheat beer, lovely orange aroma and taste
Untappd rating - 3.75 / 5
His: Finely balanced pale ale which is just as well, with the addition of wheat and Jasmin
Untappd rating - 3.5 / 5

Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 007 Wylam x Northern Monk
Hers: All the fruit on the nose with a very odd colour to it. But bags of flavour and very drinkable
Untappd rating - 3.25 / 5
His: Visually, it's very unappealing, like a cold milky cup of tea. On the nose, fruity and savoury.....lighter mouthfeel than expected and it's a bit fruity
Untappd rating - 3 / 5

Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 005 Wylam x Magic Rock
Hers: Absolutely delicious bags of flavour with all the cherries and raspberries. Simply amazing. I need more.
Untappd rating - 4.25 / 5
His: They should make a Slush Puppie out this, it would be bloody fantastic! As it is, it is just a very nice fruity sour, really well balanced too, gateway?
Untappd rating - 3.75 / 5

Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 003 Wylam x Black Lodge
Hers: Awesome, delicious and amazing
Untappd rating - 3.25 / 5
His: Definitely Belgiany notes for me, got the farmhouse thing going on.
Untappd rating - 3.5 / 5

Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 008 Wylam x Box Social
Hers: All the juice, all the bitterness
Untappd rating - 3.75 / 5
His: I didn't have much to say on this one, simply not a style that ticks my box, but, it was well made.
Untappd rating - 3.25 / 5

Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 001 Wylam x Buxton
Hers: Beautifully smooth, vanilla ice cream and all the chocolate with that wonderful alcohol burn at the end.
Untappd rating - 4.25 / 5
His: By far and away the best of the Powerhouse selection. Chocolate vanilla ice cream with a touch of alcohol added (well 10.5% of it)!
Untappd rating - 4.25 / 5

Well, that's what we thought about them, hope you enjoyed our reviews. All in all, a nice little series brought to us by Wylam & friends, stunning artwork on the cans and it was great to share the 440ml pours with Michelle. Cheers guys! 

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Hello, Goodbye

I'm leaving Colchester, Essex to move in with my fiancĂ© Michelle (her lovely daughters and of course Dave the bulldog), also of Essex, but, south rather than north. I have lived in Colchester since January 1995, 5 years before my son Michael was born and 20 years before I met the woman who will become my wife in 2019. Basically, it's been a while! I like Colchester, but it's time to move on, time to say goodbye, so I thought I'd have a little wander round the pubs I like to frequent or use to visit on a regular basis. Now, I think Sundays can be an underrated drinking day, and, fortunately my friend Karl is also of the same mind, so, he agreed to join me on a Colchester crawl (also partially inspired by friend and fellow beer communicator Justin Mason who went on a ramble down memory lane, and, when I say ramble, I am being literal......) a few weeks ago, here's where we went.......

Pub number one was the Hospital Arms, an Adnams pub, opposite Essex County Hospital, just on the edge of where Colchester town centre starts (well depending which direction you are heading in from). Now, you know it's going to be good day when this is available:

It's no secret I am a big fan of both Ghost Ship and of Adnams and I am rarely disappointed by the beer or the pubs, I am definitely going to miss this aspect of being closer to Suffolk than I will be in the future. The beer didn't last long, so, off to the second pub - The Kings Arms.

The eagle eyed amongst you will already have spotted that this is a Greene King establishment, however, it is a pub I have frequented over the years, especially on a night out with the lads as it's a big pub and always lively on a Friday or Saturday night. Having said that, it's been a while since I last popped in and I was both surprised and very happy to see Timothy Taylor's Landlord on offer.....

Sunday was getting better and better despite the fact that the weather wasn't much kop which in turn meant there was no need to visit the rather large and spacious (and very busy in the summer) beer garden out the back.

Disclaimer: Before these first two beers I had thought about having only half pints during the course of the day, well, that lasted long didn't it?!?!?

Pubs three and four are opposite each other on Butt Road - The Fat Cat and The Ale House.

The Fat Cat might well have Adnams bar towels but none of their beers are usually on offer (well, not in my experience), they have a mix of hand pumps, taps and beer on gravity, however, the day we visited the choice was a bit lacking so we both opted for a half pint of Pilsner Urquell, always refreshing and hit the spot as expected.
Over the road to the pub previously known as The Dragoon until it was taken over by the previous landlord of The Bricklayers (used to be an Adnams pub at the end of my road) and renamed The Ale House, run by Pauline. Again, they have a mix of hand pull and gravity, we opted for a lovely tasting pint from Tiny Rebel, Apache and discussed which pub would be lucky enough to see us next.......

The Odd One Out on Mersea Road is a favourite pub for many in the area, however, I've never taken to it, but, we decided that since it had changed hands recently (now run by Colchester Brewery) we should pop in. We popped in, had a half, we departed. I still don't get it.

Heading back towards the town centre, we call into the Queen Street Brewhouse, quite a quirky building, but not displeasing to the eye. Decent size bar area with a mix of keg and cask available, we opted for the Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland and as the weather had improved, too ourselves off to the "secret" beer garden.
The next stop was the Three Wise Monkeys, and, like the Queen Street Brewhouse is a relatively recent addition to the beer drinking scene in Colchester. Split over three floors it feels like a "craft bar by numbers", and that's not a criticism on my part, this type of place was most definitely needed in Colchester. Somewhere where a good mix of people can meet, eat & drink, it ticks a lot of boxes. 1/2 pint of Gamma Ray - thank you very much!

It might come as no surprise that we were aiming to finish in The Vic, however, there were a couple more destinations to visit before we ended up at my favourite pub (see the picture at the top of this post). So, we headed to the Purple Dog, situated off the main high street in what I like to refer to as  the older part of the town centre, where you might find a few quirky shops and cobbles. 

It's a pub I have often overlooked, especially in my "younger" days (yes, there were some, thank you very much!!), but, it well worth a visit I'm must say. Now, I am sure there are cynical amongst you that will say "it's all about the Ghost Ship...", however, the cask selection was pretty good that day in addition to the aforementioned offering from Adnams and there's a comfortable feel about the place, almost café like at times.
Almost time to hit up The Vic, but, one more pub en route first.....Wetherspoons Playhouse.

It's a bloody beautiful building and I am so grateful that it has not been left to rack and ruin unlike the old Odeon in town. You can still pick out the stage at the back, and look at the audience in the circle, I love it! Finally, Karl & I end up in The Vic. We drink a few more beers in here, and as ever, could have stayed until asked to leave! 

Will I miss Colchester and the pubs contained therein? Yes.
Will I be back to visit some of them? Yes, of course!

I'm ready, willing, able and looking forward to my new beginnings with Michelle, the girls and Dave (currently barking at thin air), now, I just need to find a few decent public houses.....cheers guys.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Golden Pints 2017

Where did 2017 go? Time for Golden Pints already? Can't be!?!? 

I've drunk a lot of beer, I've been lucky enough to drink some really good beers, and, been to new places to drink them, both here in the UK and further afield. So, here goes.......

Best UK Keg Beer
The Kernel 'IPA Ekuanot Vic Secret'. This beer has stuck in my mind since I had it at the Craft Beer Co in Clerkenwell with co host Steve, and fellow podcasters Andrew and Luke from Rhythm & Brews. It was simply brilliant (like so many of the Kernel beers), although not strictly sessionable, more than one pint was consumed that night!

Best UK Bottled Beer
Time & Tide / Weird Beard 'Call Your Friends'. Had this on the show and both of us were blown away by it. Black IPAs can be so good, when done right, and, some can be woeful, this falls into the former category - bloody delicious. Well balanced between the flavours of the roasted malts and the hops, very drinkable and belied it's 9.7%.

Best UK Canned Beer
Magic Rock / Thornbridge ‘Exaltation’. Tried it at the Bath Hotel in Sheffield as part of the Crimbo Crawl, absolutely delicious - fruity, bitter and refreshing - pretty much everything I love in a beer and everything I expect from these two amazing breweries.

Best UK Cask Beer
Thornbridge Jaipur. Whenever and wherever I see this beer on cask I buy it (The Sheffield Tap in early December can definitely testify to this as can my bank account!). I even bought it, in a bar, in Amsterdam on gravity, at a whopping €8!
Best Overall Beer
Thornbridge Jaipur (cask version).......see above!

Best Collaboration Brew
Time & Tide / Weird Beard 'Call Your Friends'......see above.

Best UK Brewery
Thornbridge. Surprised? Probably not I'm guessing. As well as everything else I have already said about Thornbridge beers, the online shop is pretty damn good.
Honourable mentions to Adnams and Magic Rock, who never fail to deliver / impress.

Best Overseas Draught
Dragoon Brewing 'IPA' - I had this on tap, in a bar, in a shopping mall (shopping centre to you and I) in Phoenix. If only all such places had a bar called the Yard House with around 100 taps to choose from. The Dragoon was a delicious straight down the line piney bitter West Coast IPA.

Best Overseas Bottle/Can
La Debauche 'Black Ale India Stout', had this in Beerz in Cherbourg with Michelle, a lovely little bottle shop found entirely by accident, this beer was simply fantastic, such an easy drinking stout, but, still complex in its make up, if you see it, try it.

Best Overseas Brewery
Stone - San Diego & Berlin - Love being able to get Stone beers over here from Berlin, but, when I was in Phoenix I was lucky to find a few Stone beers on tap, including the Tangerine Express which I really enjoyed.

Best Pub/Bar
The Victoria Inn - My preferred option in Colchester, a proper pub is a very apt description and anyone who has listened to the Sparklers episode of Hopinions will now know just how seriously they take their beer dispense.
The Ale House - My preferred option in Chelmsford (and home of the UKs longest running Bottle Share), always a great choice available - cask, keg, bottle and can,
Sheffield Tap - Been there three times, a Friday night, a Saturday night and Sunday lunchtime, in less than 48 hours (Crimbo Crawl in Sheffield was such a good weekend), did I mention they sell Jaipur on cask?!?!?

Best Taproom
BBNO revamped taproom - Paid them a visit with Michelle back in August. A very welcoming space, good selection of their beers available and barrels, what more do you need?

Supermarket of the Year
M&S – Choice & Accessibility, they provide me with the bulk of the train beers I consume, however, their stock rotation at times leaves a bit to be desired, I now always check the BBE date before I purchase, especially on the hoppy numbers!

Train Beer of the Year
Four Pure Session IPA, I just find this beer super consistent and easy to drink on the go, and, available in M&S.

Independent Retailer of the Year
Liquorice - Ever expanding range of craft beers, 2 mins walk from a mainline station I go through every day so easy to get off, stock up and get back on the next slow running train and now the Hopinions main studio of choice (for which, we are eternally grateful).

Online Retailer of the Year
Ales by Mail - I primarily use ABM for the in house work beer tastings and they never let me down.

Best Branding
Fullers & Friends - I absolutely loved the beers, and, the branding was clever yet simple. Each collaboration bottle was different but, at the same time had a uniformity about them.

Beer Festival of the Year
Manchester Beer & Cider Festival, way back in January, Steve and I paid this festival a visit and we were very impressed with the venue (Manchester Central), the choice of beers and last but not least the choice of dispense, who could forget having Track Sonoma on cask and keg, wonderful.
Leeds International at the Town Hall in Sep, which as you can see is held in a lovely old building (the Town Hall) and they also arrange for the sun to shine, that's what you call organisation. Great selection of beers/breweries and I could choose what size measures I wanted and simply paid for what I consumed, not sure it's a concept that will catch on....????
Verde Canyon Railroad in Arizona holds a beer festival during the course of October on certain days before the train ride heads off on its out & back journey (a fabulous experience), luckily for us (yes, of course Michael was excited too) we had booked our tickets for one of those days. A selection of local Arizona beers in cans and bottles available, both before and during the excursion, best train journey I've experienced for quite some time!

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
Sparkyrite (2016 winner) and Steve @ BeerNouveau - Both of these guys make me smile, and, luckily enough for me I got to meet both of them this year.

Best Beer Blog
Mark Johnson (Beer Compurgation, also a 2016 winner), with a shoutout to Myles Lambert & Pete McKerry. These are the blogs that I read as soon as I can, well done chaps, keep it up in 2018 please,
Plenty of other blogs out there that I enjoy, these are listed on my own homepage.

Beery Podcast of the Year

Steve & Roland’s Beer Podcast and the Irish Beer Snobs are joint winners of my beery podcast award(It’s all about the banter on both of these podcasts). Steve & Roland and sometimes Gary, review the weekly BeerBods offering and although I am no longer a subscriber I still enjoy listening to these guys. The Irish Beer Snobs might well have been the outright winners if only they'd recorded and released a few more shows during the course of the year (I know Wayne was studying, only thinking about himself and his career, all a bit selfish really!!). Honourable mentions to NE Sippin Forecast, Beernomicon, Rhythm & Brews and Men Beerhaving Badly, so many beery podcasts, so little time!

And, there we have it, that's my look back at 12 months in beer, I'm sure I've forgotten something/someone/a particular beer or festival so apologies in advance as they say.

Looking forward to 2018, cheers guys!

Monday, 28 August 2017

How I Feel About GBBF '17


We've been together quite some time, you and I, 16 years in fact, having joined way back in the summer of 2001, probably at the Great British Beer Festival. A lot has changed, we're both older, a bit more mature, perhaps even a bit wiser (??) but I feel something has changed between us and that something is definitely connected to how I felt in the days after this years GBBF at Olympia.
I was sad, and, a couple of weeks on, that feeling of sadness remains.
I look at beer festivals from the point of view as a punter who really enjoys beer and loves good/great beer, both new and old alike. With this in mind, perhaps you can help me understand why there are so many stalls and areas devoted to pretty much everything other than beer? I get that we need to eat and relax, but, far too much space was given over to non-beer sales or information stands. Yet, despite this, no water stations were available to allow me to hydrate (surely this is something you as an organisation should encourage??) and rinse my glass, meaning that a switch between a stout and golden ale might not be in my best interests, i'm not a fan of blending beers. Other festivals, both beer & wine, offer this very simple but essential service, why don't you?
What logic is applied to how the beer stands are set up? It's never obvious to me I must admit. And, why isn't all the British Beer in just one part of the rather vast space that is Olympia? Why make me walk round the whole place? Last year the American Cask bar was in the smaller of the two halls, a good idea as when it runs out (which it inevitably does) it's out of the way. This year, on the Saturday the bar was simply a blot on the landscape at the back of the main hall, empty.
Really, my question here is simply "Is Olympia too big for a beer festival?" I think it might be you know, especially if you are devoting 50% of the space available to anything other than the Great British Beer you should be showcasing. Out of curiosity, how does beer get selected for GBBF?
I like the option of the brewery bars, but, I would much prefer it if the people involved in the brewing process were present serving the beers, it would add so much to the experience, rather than the support staff and CAMRA volunteers, while doing a fantastic job don't necessarily have that first hand knowledge for the product being sold (all the volunteers concerned should be congratulated for their hard work, time and effort).
I should point out that I really enjoyed all the beers I had (bar one that my mate Karl chose, I thought I could trust him!!) and all were delivered in good condition, no mean feat during the summer I imagine.
But, where to go from here? What is to be done? I'm not leaving CAMRA, as i think there is much to admire about what you have done and are doing in the world of real ale and pubs and I continue to support these aims and values. However, maybe we need to take a break, maybe I should focus on the other great and varied beer festivals during the year and simply omit the big one in August? Yes, I think that might be the answer, after all, they do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

A weekend in London with friends and family Part Three

Now, if you have read parts one and two, it might come as no surprise that on Sunday, the day started a bit later than on the Saturday, but, breakfast / brunch was still provided by Costa's CafĂ© on the Kings Cross Road (can well recommend a visit if you want a decent bit of grub, as the saying goes "it does what it says on the tin"). Last Sunday was a lovely sunny day and time was on our side, so, we got a bus over to Hackney Wick, you see a lot from a London bus (also, as the Oyster machine was out of order, it was a free ride), I definitely spotted a few places I'd like to visit including pubs that advertise football and real ale / craft beer - heaven!
As you can see from the picture above, we paid a visit to Mason & Co. This my second visit to Mason & Co., the first was when they were in Shoreditch before Brewdog flashed the cash, and, if I am being honest I probably preferred the set up then versus this one now. Having said that, there's a lot to like about where they are now, especially when the sun has come out to play. The deck chairs and shades were all out in force on the River Lea at "Here East Campus" on the edge of the Olympic Park.
The service is top notch, as was the food we enjoyed, and I quite like the fact that it attracts a very mixed crowd, from the achingly hip (although I think a bloke in their 30s with the jeans halfway down his arse is uncalled for), to the families enjoying the Sunday carvery to the old guy with his greyhounds, which to be honest made him a bit of a babe magnet.
And, most important of all, a decent range of beers on tap (bottles and cans available too, but, I didn't avail myself of any). During London Beer City they had a Whitelocks (Leeds pub of note) Tap Takeover, Yorkshire beers it was then! We both started off Roosters Londinium, a chilled porter on nitro, very refreshing it was too. I was keen for us to try the two LBC beers, South London v North London was the theme, and the South, much to Michelle's pleasure, won hands down with the South Pacific Pale Ale, sadly the Pineapple inspired Agadoo was a real disappointment.
Time to move on. Following the waterway took us to the Howling Hops Tank Bar, a place that Michelle and I hadn't visited since November 2015, and, we immediately felt comfortable once inside. Hard to put my finger on why though, perhaps it is simply the sight of all those lovely shiny sliver tanks that are full of delicious fresh beer.
We found a little table against the wall near the bar and proceeded to work our way through a number of the beers on offer, we stuck to 1/3 pints, which worked perfectly for us. Recently, Michelle seems to be loving her sours & saisons, and, today she threw a wheat beer into the mix (the sour was really nice, sharp, fruity and tangy).. For my part I enjoyed all the beers I had, but, the NEIPA was a bit of a standout I must say. We both finished on the 11% Fighting Ale Imperial Stout, and boy did we both love it! My Untappd comments - "Easy drinking delicious impy stout. Coffee, bitter chocolate flavours without the alcohol burn." Michelle said "Awesome impy stout, smooth, great mouthfeel and delicious."

And, that as they say, was that. The beery bit of the weekend was finished. Great fun with my girlfriend, family and friends with some awesome beers and venues thrown in for good measure. We walked back to Stratford, past the fun fair (which I wasn't allowed to visit by Michelle.....) and saw the crowds on their way to the last night of the World Athletics Championships, it was an inspiring sight. As was this.
London, I love you.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A weekend in London with friends and family Part Two

A very good breakfast consumed at Costa's Café meant that all four of us were ready to head off to the Great British Beer Festival. The sun was shining and we were in good spirits, despite a night in the 'Lodge. This was a return visit for Michelle and Karl, but, Hannah's first for me, let's just say I've been a few times over the years!
Here are four beers that I tried that I really enjoyed, all them in great condition, the 360 Degrees and Roosters went especially well with the pork scratchings I bought and shared (when I say shared, Karl had one, and the girls declined my kind offer.....oh well). And, I was very pleased to see Chiswick on the Fullers bar, an underrated session strength bitter than should still (in my opinion) be part of their core range. With regard to the experience as a whole, I think I am still processing my thoughts on this so might be subject to separate post (you lucky lot!).

As Karl & Hannah were only in London until mid afternoon and Michelle & I were due to meet up with my brother and his partner, I decided there was only one place we could all go/meet - Brewdog in Shepherds Bush, and, this is why:
Need I say more? A Kernel tap takeover @ Brewdog..........yeah, it was such a tough decision!
While supping a rather excellent Export India Porter Zeus, we concluded that we should paddle our way through the range of beers on offer.
However, after paddle number one Karl & Hannah handed over their baton to Brian and Alison (the aforementioned brother & partner), who quickly got into the swing of things with their own paddles. In total I sampled 13 of the Kernel beers and threw in a Tokyo taster for good measure (courtesy of SXBottleshare friend, Andrew, cheers pal!) across a 6 hour stay in Brewdog. I won't bore you with all the details, but, according to Untappd, the lowest score was 3.5, with the highest being 4.25 - all of them I would have again, with the highlights being the Biere de Saison Honey, Biere de Saison Chardonnay and London Sour Damson. Don't get me wrong I loved the Pale Ales, the IPAs and the dark beers, but, the three I have noted above were so well balanced, so drinkable that they deserved the special mention (the burgers Michelle and I had are also worthy of a shoutout, we bloody loved them!)

Reluctantly, we all agreed that we needed to get over to Kings Cross (train for Brian & Alison, hotel for us), however, rather than sensibly stopping with the alcohol consumption, we decided to visit Belgo again, more Belgiany drinking fun ensued, plus we watched GB & NI win some medals in the 4 x 100m relays - get in, the spirit of Super Saturday lives on. The food that Brian & Alison devoured late on looked pretty damn good I must say, however, I was too busy enjoying my Bush Ambree and Troubadour Obscura to concern myself with food, although a cheeseboard might have been a good idea. Then the night was over, goodbyes were said, hugs and kisses all round and off we went.......or did we?
Michelle wanted to sample the cocktails next door in the posh place beside Belgo (my debit cried out in pain), while I opted for some gin. Saturday was finally over, so over, it was now Sunday! Goodnight all...........zzzzzzzzzzz.