The Barge Inn, Honeystreet – Croppie HQ

After having just returned from a trip to Wiltshire and Somerset where we visited lots of great pubs I thought I’d write about one of them – the Barge Inn in Honeystreet.

This pub, located in the magical landscape of the Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire, is a pub like no other. If you approach from the north you drive through a prehistoric landscape of burial mounds and ancient settlements. You then reach the cusp of a hill and start descending; you might be lucky enough to spot a crop circle or two as this area seems to attract them – maybe something to do with being halfway between Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle.  Just outside the village of Alton Barnes you’ll spot a sign for the Barge Inn. Once you take the turn you’ll feel you have taken the wrong road as you drive hesitantly through a sawmill and are surrounded by planks of wood – how can there be a pub round here? But then as you are just about to turn back, you come across it – the Barge Inn, a 200-year old inn located right next to the Kennet and Avon Canal, overlooking the White Horse of Alton Barnes carved into the hillside.

The newly refurbished pub, CAMRA local ‘Pub of the Year’ 2012, is now run by the Barge Inn Community Group after being revamped with a Big Lottery Fund Grant and featured on BBC Village SOS. But this is a pub with a difference. It’s known as Crop Circle Central, or Croppie HQ. Everything looks perfectly normal from the outside – nice grassy canal-side beer garden with a great view of the white horse, large camping area out the back, big barn being built on the side to house a new arts space – but once you step inside and walk around the bar you will spot the crop circle room. This room’s walls are covered with photos of crop circles discovered in the surrounding area –and there are a lot of them. The crop circle images vary from simple plain circles to intricate geometric patterns  that would challenge even the most experienced mathematician – every shape and size of circle is displayed in this room, with dates when the photos were taken. I actually remember one crop circle appearing in a field next to the campsite years ago, and everyone flocking over to see it to take photos.

The ceiling in this room features a beautiful mural of the surrounding mystical landscape painted by artist Vince Palmer, showing Silbury Hill, Avebury, Stonehenge, Barbury Castle,  the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water – and of course, crop circles. The mural was painted in 1997, but was updated when the renovation work took place and one of the walls was taken out (the back bar used to be a separate room, but is now more open plan). The ceiling looks as great as it ever did, with new little touches added, such as a constellation above Silbury Hill and the odd UFO.

The pub as a whole looks a lot smarter since the renovation and is still very welcoming. This is the place to come if you are a crop circle aficionado, whether you just see the circles as great works of art, or consider them to be coded messages from other worlds. Whatever you believe, you’re sure to experience the special energy that hangs around this place.

The beer on tap is brewed by Honeystreet Ales. Beers available were Croppie, 1810 (the year when the first pint was served) and Roswell. They’ve also brewed a green beer called Alien Abduction, but that was a limited edition beer so it wasn’t available.

Croppie Ale

I chose a Croppie, ordered some chunky chips, and sat out in the garden, staring across at the white horse on the facing hill and watched a canal boat mooring. The Croppie was really tasty, quite a malty drink with some hop and sweet caramel flavours. @pintsandpubs ordered a Roswell. And upon one sip of his Roswell I went straight in and ordered myself one. What a beer. It tasted magical – that was the word I kept repeating, sheer magic in a glass. Sherbet, grass, lemon, honey, herbs, and resins – it conjured up everything magical about the mystical landscape, crop circles, UFOs, the white horse… I could’ve drunk it all day. Seriously.

Kennet and Avon Canal

I went in to investigate and to ask whether they bottled Roswell or Croppie. Alas, no. But I did discover after some digging that Honeystreet Ales are actually brewed by the Danish Stonehenge Ales brewer and MD, Stig Anker Andresen, and after having tried more Stonehenge ales in Marlborough that evening (Danish Dynamite) I discovered that they are one of my new favourite breweries. Now I just need to track down some of their bottles. Should’ve done that when I was in Wiltshire really, would’ve made things much easier.

White Horse

For a pub with a difference then track down the Barge Inn if you are in Wiltshire, and enjoy a pint of Roswell for me whilst admiring the white horse from a canal-side table in the beer garden. Oh, and watch out for those little green men…

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Published in: on September 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm  Comments (4)  
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Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival 2012

It’s that time of year again – the Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival. This is a great festival to really kick-start the year – lots of dancing, lots of music, and lots of following a Straw Bear around from pub to pub drinking good beer. I won’t talk about what the festival is all about as I have done this before on previous posts, but click here and here  if you want to know more.

Straw Bear parade

Straw Bear parade

We took the train to Whittlesey from Cambridge – we decided this was the best mode of transport as last year we saw that every pub in the town was holding a mini beer festival. We changed at Ely; the journey only took just over 40 minutes. On Ely platform it was pretty obvious that most people were festival-bound – many passengers were carrying musical instruments, and some were Morris dancers with bells and bright clothes hidden under their thick overcoats. It was bitterly cold; one poor chap could barely drink his coffee as he was shivering so much. The fields were white with frost, the mist was rising from the rivers and streams and dykes, and at one point we had a white-out. Mist was all around us in the heart of Fenland.

Morris dancers outside the George

Morris dancers outside the George

As soon as we arrived in Whittlesey we headed with the crowds up Station Road and made for The George in a prominent position on Market Place for a big warming breakfast. This lovely old Wetherspoons pub was heaving at 9.45 am and we were lucky to find a seat. On at the bar was Grainstore Cooking, a great beer brewed in the town of Oakham (not brewed by Oakham) which I have enjoyed a couple of times in the Grainstore brewery tap. There was also the lovely Oakham Straw Bear on draft. I decided to opt for a warming cup of tea at this point, but others had already started on the beer.

Straw Bear and his minder

Straw Bear and his minder

Hubs Place beer fest

Hubs Place beer fest

We made it out for 10.30 to watch the parade which was bright and colourful with its 250 dancers and musicians. We watched a bit of dancing, and then headed indoors to thaw out. We chose Hub’s Place on the Market Square as I remember there being a beer festival in the courtyard garden last year. I wasn’t wrong; there was a cute outdoor bar set up selling Oakham Straw Bear, Oakham Inferno, Elgood’s Straw Beer, Everards Tiger, Woodfordes Wherry, Woodfordes Nelson’s Revenge, and Black Sheep Ale. I chose a Straw Bear at 4.4%, and sat inside by the fire, joined soon after by lots of Morris and Molly dancers with their painted faces. Straw Bear is a lovely straw-coloured peachy tasting beer, very refreshing, but not an awful lot of conditioning in this one which was a pity. It was pleasant enough though.

We moved around the corner, checking out the Falcon and its beer festival in the yard where they were also selling Elgood’s Straw Beer amongst others, and moved onto the Letter B. It’s quite unassuming from the outside, and it was only when we were inside that I realised it was Peterborough’s CAMRA pub of the year 2012. And what a fantastic little pub it was too; a traditional proper pub, and heaving with Morris and Molly dancers. On the bar was Oakham Straw Bear, Elgood’s Straw Beer and Tydd Steam Beartown. I bought a wonderful hoppy and sweet Beartown. I then realised that they had more beers out the back in the Grufton bar. (I found this out when I heard a man ask the barmaid: ‘Do you have any proper beer-coloured beer, rather than this pale stuff?’ and she directed him there).

Bruce's beer

Bruce's beer

I spotted that Oakham had brewed two special beers for this pub, and on asking the barman about them he told me they were brewed for the landlady and the landlord for winning the Pub of the Year award. The landlady’s beer, the Special, had already gone, so I had the landlord’s beer – It Has to ‘B’ Bruce’s Beer, with a picture of Bruce on the pump clip. It was chestnut coloured, maltier than a normal Oakham, but still with that Oakham sherbet hop flavour – the hops became more apparent and the malt less so the more I drank. It was good to meet up with Alcofrolic Chap here  who was also enjoying the beers on offer in the many great pubs in this small market town.

Hero of Aliwal beer fest

Hero of Aliwal beer fest

Next up was The Hero of Aliwal, round the corner and by the river, where we stood and watched some Morris dancers performing outside, followed by the solemn and black-faced Old Glory Molly who took a girl from the crowd  and performed what she found out later to be a fertility dance. Her friends were aware of this and were laughing all the way through. We went inside this pub that felt like more of a clubhouse and found an indoor beer festival. There were several Greene King casks, but they also had on Oakham Preacher which was a new beer and a nice find. It was 4.3%, relatively dark and full flavoured with sweet hop notes and a touch of fruit. We then decided to cross the road to the Boat.

Oakham Preacher

Oakham Preacher

Inside the crowded Boat there were several Elgood’s beers on tap. We moved to the courtyard outside to the mini beer festival where it was freezing cold (Alcofrolic Chap said it’s always cold here as it’s close to the water, and he was right!) and saw that there were 3 more Elgood’s barrels: Straw Beer, Black Dog and Cambridge Bitter. I hadn’t had a Straw Beer yet so opted for this, which was light and honey-flavoured, and very tasty. And freezing cold. We were about to leave when we spotted the Straw Bear himself entering the pub with his minder and followers. He had a bit of a dance, then set off for the Hero of Aliwal where we followed him. His minder patched him up where his straw was coming loose, I posed for a photo with him (you have to, don’t you) then we followed the parade of bears, dancers and musicians around the little back streets, where he ended up in the Falcon.

We walked to the heaving New Crown Inn and then to the Black Bull on the High Street, but couldn’t even get in the door.

Bricklayers Arms

Bricklayers Arms

Bricklayers beers

Bricklayers beers

We then went to the Bricklayer’s Arms, down Station Road, a small, crowded and very lovely traditional pub. There were lots of Morris dancers in there, and some musicians were playing in the corner which added to the atmosphere. There was a bar with about 6 barrels set up in the corner, including Bombardier, Tydd Steam Dr Fox’s Cunning Linctus, Marston’s Pedigree, and Tydd Steam Barn Owl – I went for the latter as I fancied finishing with another straw coloured ale (it’s Straw Bear Day after all). Very sweet, hoppy and refreshing. Old Glory Molly walked in, with their entourage of female musicians wearing hats of ivy and long black coats, and they proceeded to dance in the tiniest of spaces with their jerky, forceful movements – I had to squeeze past them, trying not to be elbowed as we left for our train.

All in all, it was another great Straw Bear and I look forward to the next one. And with all the good pubs in Whittlesey and the many beer festivals, the train is definitely the way to do it.

           

Green Man Grantchester Christmas Beer Festival

Mulled wine steaming at the bar – tick. Giant marquee out the back containing lots of barrels of really cool well-sourced beers from some of the best local (and regional) brewers around – tick. Stage and a live jazz band – tick. Tons of fairy lights (6000 to be precise) – tick. And lots and lots of Santa hats. This can only mean one thing – the Green Man Grantchester Christmas Beer Festival.

After a 10 minute bus ride to Grantchester (No. 18 from bay 5 in Drummer Street, Cambridge, Mon-Sat only) we arrived at the village and made our way down the High Street to the beautiful 500 year old Green Man pub. The aroma of mulled wine hit us as soon as we entered the building, and we made our way through to the back to the marquee.

At the bar, the bartenders were wearing Santa hats – they needed them to keep warm on this chilly day, but there were several heaters inside the marquee so all was OK. Fairy lights were strung up all along the bar, the ceiling, the seating area opposite – everywhere, and very pretty. There were about 25 or so barrels of beer on at the bar, plus several barrels of cider. Breweries of particular interest to me were Cambridge Moonshine, Redemption, Buntingford, Tydd Steam, Summer Wine and Blue Monkey – mainly because I like their beers, or they were offering new beers I hadn’t tried before. We were handed some printed out tasting notes (much appreciated!) and spent a little while pondering over which beer to go for first. We had a voucher from Explorer mag which meant we got one free pint on our first round (again, much appreciated!) and I went for a Buntingford December.

Redemption Fellowship Porter

We took a seat inside the old pub, by the Christmas tree, and munched on some tasty chunky chips – they go so well with beer. (Inside the marquee they also had a snack menu on offer, including burgers, sandwiches and chips). The Buntingford December, 4.2%, was a pale ale, and light, hoppy, fruity with that unique Buntingford flavour and smell. And freezing cold – hardly surprising considering the weather. Adam’s Redemption Fellowship,5.1%, was a porter full of rich flavours of chocolate and roasty goodness. Lovely beer from an exciting London brewery, and this one was a SIBA gold medal winner.

Next up was Blue Monkey 99 Red Babboons, 4.2%, a ruby red porter crammed full of berries. I couldn’t taste any of the coffee flavour said to be in the beer – just deep berries. Very pleasant. Then it was the Prospect Nutty Slack, 3.9%, a dark mild which won a SIBA National Silver Medal in 2009 – lots of roasted malt flavours and smokiness and very easy to drink.

The Cambridge Moonshine Chocolate Orange Stout, a strong 7.6%, was tasty, rich and dark with a slight bitterness from the chocolate and coffee flavours and lots of hop flavour. I had a nice chat with Mark from Moonshine the other day in Bacchanalia where he was doing a beer tasting session at the Mill Rd Winter Fair, and he is single-handedly making a massive quantity of wonderful beers covering all different beer styles (well, with the help of his dog). I think the Moonshine beers are really exciting and becoming even more so – if you like a massive hop kick see if you can get hold of some Incomparable Beauty (try Bacchanalia). Anyway, I am veering off the subject.

Summer Wine Barista

Next it was Summerwine Barista at 4.8%. This beer shocked me. I ordered a half, thinking that I would find it tough to get through this rich coffee-style beer (named an Espresso Stout) but had to give it a try as this is one of the newest most exciting breweries around. But no. I could have drunk a pint of the stuff if not more. It was like drinking a coffee truffle laced in strong alcohol – which is heaven to me. The aroma of an espresso hits your nose as you take a sip, and this flavour carries through. It was sweet, not bitter at all (although pintsandpubs disagrees with me on this), smooth, roasted malt flavours. Stunning. My beer of the festival.

The last beer was Fellows Jolly Snoutsman, 6.0%, a beer exclusively brewed just up the road in Cottenham for the Green Man. This ruby beer had berry flavours combined with hop and malt flavours and slight spice (cloves?). It wasn’t as effervescent as I would have liked, but was pleasant to drink and had some lovely flavours.

The festival was really well organised, and the staff were very helpful and friendly, offering tasters of the beers available and passing on their knowledge. For a small pub beer festival, they are somehow managing to get hold of beers from some of the most sought-after breweries in the country which even the CAMRA beer festivals don’t always manage to do, so well done guys for making it so exciting. Oh, and if I didn’t say so already, I love all the fairy lights 😉

The Green Man Christmas Beer Festival runs until today, 18th December – get down there before it’s too late!

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 10:27 am  Comments (2)  

The Empress at Christmas

The pictures just don’t do it justice. You just can’t see from the images just how dazzling, how sparkling, and how incredibly intense the Christmas lights are in the Empress. It bills itself as the most SPECTACULARLY Christmas decorated pub in the world! (Well… almost certainly in Cambridge)” and I have to agree. There is nowhere quite like the Empress at Christmas. It’s fantastic – a glittering winter wonderland. Even the biggest Scrooge would have to muster up a Christmas smile in this pub, however hard he tried not to. Surely.

When you enter the front bar you are immediately bathed in red light, thanks to the berry fairy lights covering the walls and ceiling. Santas hang from every available hook and are also tucked behind the optics at the bar, and giant ones adorn the walls. And I haven’t even got round to talking about the snowmen yet.

When you pass through the archway into the jukebox / pool table / darts bar, the rooms turn blue and white, with incredibly bright flashing LEDs hanging from everywhere you look. The ceiling is plastered in Christmas wrapping paper, and baubles hang from a net of lights, and still the Santas hang from their red hoods taking up any previously available space. Oh, and there is tinsel. A lot of it.

The lounge bar also has a red theme, but it’s a bit lighter in there (as in the lights are not dimmed like in the main bar) so you could sit and read a paper in this bar. Possibly. There is a decorated tree, more giant santas and snowmen and baubles and fairy lights. And a nice smell of mulled wine.

We opted to sit in the main bar (the red berry one) and I spent ages just looking around the walls and ceiling.  This must have taken days to decorate – and good on em for doing it! I ordered some Buntingford Brewery’s Silent Night, (4.1%) one of many good beers on at the bar (there was also Thwaites Wainwright Ale, Timothy Taylor Landlord straight from the cask, St Austell Tribute and Adnams Broadside).

Silent Night

Buntingford brew a beer called Silent Night every Christmas – but it’s different every year, they change the recipe to spice things up and to confuse people (to their own admission). Sometimes it’s pale and hoppy, sometimes it’s dark and malty. But it’s always good. This time, it was light brown, with a nice balance of caramel flavoured malts and US citrus hops (Summit). The citrus was the first flavour I tasted, and then this developed in to a lovely rounded flavour. Very moorish.

Thus ended our brief but enjoyable visit to the Empress on this cold winter’s night. Then all that was left to do was leave Romsey Town to walk home in the wind and freezing temperatures. Why can’t this pub be closer to home…

A bit of an Oakham ales week

It’s been a bit of an Oakham ales week this week. Which is never a bad thing.

My drinking of Oakham ales mainly took place in The Cambridge Blue, with the Live and Let Live thrown in for good measure.

I started off with a Red Neck at the wonderful Cambridge Blue early Sunday afternoon, after the Christmas lights switch-on ceremony at the Grafton – I needed a beer after the Santa Show. (No, really, it was actually quite sweet especially if you have kids. Even though I don’t). The Red Neck was an amber beer full of wonderful sherbet flavours (I swear there are Cascade hops in there) and was quite a strong 5.2%. This was my sort of beer – but the conditioning wasn’t quite as its best, it was rather flat, so that was the only thing letting it down.

The next Oakham ale was in the Live and Let Live. This pub is tucked away on Mawson Road and I don’t visit as often as I perhaps should – it’s a traditional pub with loads of characters, lots of wood furniture and old décor – it’s a hidden gem. I had a Scarlet Macaw which was incredibly peachy and hoppy, really effervescent with a lovely big cream foamy head, and served at a great temperature. Perfect. It went down a treat. Such a refreshing beer. Nice pump clip, too.

Baby Belma

I finished off my Oakham week back in the Blue. I heard there was a new brew available, Baby Belma, brewed with the brand new Baby Belma hop in the Yakima valley in the US, and it was exclusive to Oakham. Cool. So me and @pintsandpubs were the first people to have a pint (him) and a half (me) of the stuff. It was copper coloured, really hoppy, and the flavour changed after a few seconds to that of slightly rotten fruit. That sounds bad – it really wasn’t. If you have tasted the durian in Southeast Asia, the large, spiky fruit that is banned from many places due to its pungent smell, you will know what I mean – the flesh smells rotten, but actually tastes, well, surprisingly good. The finish was really well rounded, with hops and warming malts. Lovely. I went back for more a couple of days later. Get it while you can.

Published in: on November 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Town and Country Show and Covent Garden Street Party, Cambridge

Food stalls and ferret racetrack

I just had a very enjoyable day in Cambridge. First of all we strolled down to the Town and Country Show on Parker’s Piece, an Oakleigh Fairs event. This festival has craft and food tasting marquees, a beer tent with live music, food stalls, animal demonstrations, ferret racing, steam engines, kids rides, mediaeval village, battle re-enactments, and more – it’s a nice friendly festival in the centre of Cambridge. And it was sunny. Result. Naturally we headed to the beer tent. The ales on offer were Oakham JHB (3.8%),  Dark Star Hophead, (3.8%)  Woodforde’s Wherry (3.8%) and Titanic White Star (4.8%) – a good selection of very nice beers. I went for the Titanic, Adam had the Dark Star.

Beer Tent

Beer Tent

Both were good but the Titanic came out on top with its hops, smooth tones and mellow fruity character. The Hophead was a bit more bitter, but very hoppy and drinkable all the same – just not as lovely as the Titanic.

We then had a wander along Mill Road en route to Bacchanalia (a fantastic beer shop where we go for our bottled beers, they have a wonderful selection and very friendly staff – the wonderful Brewsters Pale Ale was one of the beers we came away with ) and came across the Covent Garden Street Party taking place on a closed off Covent Garden, where the tiny Six Bells pub is situated.

Covent Garden Street Party

Covent Garden Street Party

Covent Garden Party Ale

Covent Garden Party Ale

It’s a traditional old pub and in a nice spot, tucked away on a side street off busy Mill Road, and hosts pub quizzes and open mic nights. It’s just a real shame this is a Greene King pub (in my personal opinion). The beers are just regular GK offerings; there were no interesting guests on ( and am I not counting Ale Fresco even though GK would want me to, another of their uninspiring ‘guests’). Anyway, the pub was bustling inside and out, and the street was decorated nicely with lots of bunting, stalls, a stage area for musicians and poets, and dancing, all to raise money for local charities. I was very pleased to come across a stall at the end of the road near the drama centre selling Covent Garden Party Ale from the barrel (and cider from a barrel too).

Covent Garden Party Ale is a brew from Cambridge Moonshine – not a rebranded beer, but one specially brewed for the street party. How nice. Lovely and golden, light and hoppy with malt flavours coming through, easy to drink. Nice job, Moonshine, one of your nicest beers I have tried.

We then headed to one of our favourite pubs, the Cambridge Blue. Lots and lots of beers on tap, as always. We took advantage of the nice weather and sat in the large beer garden; I drank Oakham Bishops Farewell, similar to JHB but stronger, with a more rounded flavour but bursting with citrus hops – not to the extent of their Citra though. They also had the lovely Oakham Inferno on at the bar. Adam had some tasty Tydd Steam Roadhouse, a bitter with beautiful hoppy flavours. Then we left by climbing over the wall into the cemetery (yes, they left a gap in their trellis especially so you can do this – nice way to enter and leave the premises I think!).

Cambridge Blue beer garden from the cemetary

Cambridge Blue beer garden from the cemetary

I reckon we’ll probably head back to the beer tent at the Town and Country Show tomorrow; it’s on for two days after all, so it would be rude not to. More Titanic is in order. Let’s just hope the sun is shining still by then…

Oakham Citra in a bottle

Well, Oakham Ales have gone and done it now. One of my favourite breweries has only gone and bottled one of my favourite cask beers, Citra (you may have heard me mention this beer once or twice) . That’s me done for.

Oakham Citra

Oakham Citra

No, really, if you haven’t tried Citra then I recommend you get your hands on some bottles. It’s straw coloured, pours with a frothy white head, and the grapefruit aroma knocks your socks off. Then the first sip blows your head off. The beer fills your mouth with powerful citrussy hops and sweet fruit flavours with an underlying bitterness. It’s truly magical, just like it’s cask version, and impossible to stop drinking once you have started. It’s lovely. The beer label is also beautiful, a magical ivy-covered green hop man – the label would jump out at me and shout ‘buy me!’ even if I wasn’t intending to.

I found my bottled Citra in the Cambridge Wine Merchants on Kings Parade; however, I know Bacchanalia on Mill Road, Cambridge, stocks them too – this fantastic store would have been my first port of call if I hadn’t spotted them first when I was in the city centre.

Thanks Oakham, yet again you inspire me to write about your beers!

Published in: on February 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm  Comments (3)  
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Trashy Blonde v. Eurotrash

I was recently given a couple of bottles of BrewDog’s Eurotrash, a prototype beer which is a reworking of their regular Trashy Blonde recipe – the difference being Belgian yeast is used as opposed to American yeast. Should this make much of a taste difference? Only one way to find out – fight!!

Appearance

Trashy Blonde poured with quite a large foamy head and was golden in colour, whereas the Eurotrash had a flatter head and was slightly paler.

Trashy Blonde v Eurotrash

Trashy Blonde v Eurotrash

Aroma

Trashy Blonde had a wonderfully sweet and pungently hoppy aroma which made me want to drink it all immediately. But I held back. Eurotrash, incredibly, was completely different and gave the aroma of, well, a European lager beer, with what seemed like a hint of wheat. I didn’t want to drink this one straightaway. Not pleasant.

Taste

Trashy Blonde is a taste sensation. Crazily hoppy, sweet, citrussy, and very very moorish. A special beer. It’s those USA Amarillo and Simcoe hops, and possibly the American yeast. I already wanted to drink more after my first sip. Wow.

Eurotrash didn’t have the same effect on me. In fact, it had the opposite effect. It just tasted of a Belgian lager beer which I really don’t enjoy to be honest, give me ale any day. I couldn’t taste the wonderful hops, drowned out by the unpleasant Belgian yeast, but it did taste quite sweet which was unexpected. It was also slightly more carbonated than the Trashy Blonde.

To sum up…

The original Trashy Blonde is the far superior beer. It’s special, full of unique character, drinkable, fruity, moorish, tasty, whereas I didn’t see any redeeming qualities with the Eurotrash, in fact I gave mine away as I couldn’t finish it. And that doesn’t happen very often. Eurotrashed. BrewDog, you have a fantastic recipe with Trashy Blonde. Please don’t change it.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 6:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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Top Beers of 2010

I thought I would make a note of my Top 10 beers of 2010 so I don’t forget my favourites. But picking out just 10 beers proved a bit too difficult, so I ended up with a long list which I managed to edit down to 15; I just couldn’t get it any lower. So here they are, my Top 15 beers of 2010 (not particularly in order of preference, that’s just too difficult to do):

Oakham Citra, 4.2% – Pale and grapefruity, bursting with Citra hops, very light and drinkable
Oakham Tranquility , 6.5% – Strong, highly hopped,  citrussy and very powerful
Bungtingford Imperial Pale Ale, 6.2% – Absolutely delicious. Full of American hops. I need say no more
Buntingford Chinook, 4% – Golden ale with American hops, grapefruity and very moorish
Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, 5% – Full of Cascade hops, an easy-to-drink, sweet beer
Rogue Dry Hopped St Rogue Red , 5.2% – Red ale and bursting with hops and a piney taste sensation
Stone Levitation, 4.4% – Similar taste to the Rogue with the piney hop flavour, but not as strong. Loaded with a variety of American hops
Odell St Lupulin EPA, 6.5%- Delicately dry hopped and gentle, a pleasure to drink. Lovely beer label too.
BrewDog Punk IPA, 6% – A beer that smacks you in the face. Lots of NZ and USA hops, fruity, floral, zesty – an assault on the senses. Love it.
BrewDog Trashy Blonde, 4.1% – A weaker, not so face-smackingly blatant as Punk IPA, but light and delicious and bursting with hop flavour. Punk’s little sister. That’s how I see it, anyway.
Red Squirel White Mountain APA, 5.4%  – I loved this beer at the Cambridge Beer Festival 2010, it was my beer of the fest. Full of Golding and Cascade hop flavour and aroma. Lovely.
St Austell Proper Job, 4.5% – Golden and light, full of American hops, citrussy and thirst quenching. Very easy to drink.
Thornbridge Halcyon, 7.7% – Imperial IPA, so strong, how could I have drank it as quickly as I did?! Green hopped, fruity, utterly delicious. Intensely powerful.
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, 5.9% – Smooth but bursting with citrussy hoppy bitterness. Easy to drink fast.
Thornbridge Kipling, 5.2% – Jaipur’s little sister. Intense grapefruit aroma and flavour, sweet, fruity and hoppy. My second favourite ale at the CBF.

So that’s it for my 2010 beers. I’ll be surprised if some of these amazing ales don’t make it onto my 2011 list in 364 days time.  But there’s plenty of time for lots of new brews to come my way, and I look forward to them finding me! Oh, and it’s the Cambridge Winter Ale Festival on 20-22nd January in the USC on Mill Lane. See you there, and Happy New Year!

Christmas Beers

I have tried a few Christmas beers this month,  for obvious reasons.  Some were good, some not so good. Here’s my take on a few of them.

Humpty Dumpty Christmas Crack, 7%, was a very enjoyable dark ale which went down very smoothly considering its strength. I don’t generally go for dark (or strong) ales, even at this time of year, but this was a very nice surprise, and it was very warming! A spicy taste due to late hopping, but no actual spices added (these words are from the brewer himself, who told Adam when he asked which spices were in it). We originally found this bottled, but were pleased to come across this on tap in the wonderful Cambridge Blue and it was just as lovely. Great pump clip too!

The Cambridge Blue

The Cambridge Blue at Christmas

Another beer I enjoyed there was a beer with cranberries, Newby Wyke Festive Ale, quite light and easy to drink at 3.9%. On their website it mentions that it’s brewed with white port, but no mention of cranberries – a different brew? It was very nice nonetheless.

Also in the Cambridge Blue I had a lovely Oakham Citra, 4.2%. Not a Christmas ale, but what the hell, I love the stuff – light, hoppy, grapefruity, sets the mouth buzzing with freshness and flavour. My sort of beer.

Beer! Beer! Beer!

Some of the beers on at the Blue

In the Hardwicke Arms in Arrington, another wonderful old inn and hotel (and decorated beautifully for Christmas)  I tasted a couple of pleasant enough beers but nothing spectacular – Brains Party Popper and Shepherd Neame Tins’ale, 3.7%. They were both very similar, malty, dark amber coloured, and not very exciting. But the atmosphere and decorations  made up for the beer.

Hardwicke Arms

Hardwicke Arms, Arrington

A not-so-great beer I tried was Rockin Rudolph, cleverly branded as the brewery Hardy and Hansons but is really Greene King. And you can tell. It’s dark red with some malty bitterness but plain, dull and so very unexciting. I wish GK wouldn’t try to catch us out like this. This was served in the lovely Royal Oak pub in Barrington.

Royal Oak

Royal Oak, Barrington

Another ale which was not as nice as expected was Thwaites Santa’s Sack. This beer at 4.3% was on draft in the Regal, Cambridge, and was dark with a frothy head, but was tasteless. I have never tasted such a tasteless ale. It had a slight aroma of spice, but unfortunately this was not evident in the tasting. What a shame. Maybe it was just a  bad batch.

A beer that Adam tried was Salopian Christmas Rappin, which was a quite nice ale initially, light and golden (5%), but the taste of cloves or dried fruit, or whatever that overwhelming flavour was, became too much for me so I couldn’t drink much of it.

Santa's Sack, Christmas Rapping and Jingle Knockers

I must say I enjoyed Skinner’s Jingle Knockers, also served at the Regal, Cambridge. I just presumed it was their rebranded Cornish Knocker, and I knocked back a couple as if I was drinking water (the beer went down very well, nice and light), but didn’t realise it was actually their strong Christmas beer at 5.5%, too strong for little ol’ me to be drinking like that.  Nice, light, sesssion beer taste  (or so I thought), with a fruitiness and pleasantly hoppy.  Anyway, I liked it a lot and would definitely drink it again. Just more slowly.

This is just a handful of Christmas beers I have tried and I am sure I will be trying plenty more before the season is over. If any ales are exceptional I will give them a mention on here. Happy New Year all!!

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