Oakham pubs and Rutland ales

Last weekend we paid a visit to Rutland. It’s a beautiful county, like an undiscovered Cotswolds with pretty limestone buildings, ancient country pubs, and in the centre of it all, Rutland Water. We stayed in Oakham, a few miles from the water’s edge. This market town is home to several good pubs, giving us a good excuse to sample some Rutland ales.

In the Grainstore

In the Grainstore

Our first stop was the Grainstore Brewery, next to the station. This is a brew pub, and their Grainstore ale is distributed all over Rutland which is evident in many pubs in the area and is great to see. It’s a traditional pub with a light wood and brick interior decorated with hops intertwined with twinkly lights. The pub was pretty busy on this Saturday afternoon as the rubgy was on the big screens, and there was a good atmosphere helped along by a very friendly landlord.

Beers at the Grainstore

Beers at the Grainstore

We tried the Grainstore’s own Cooking ale, 3.6% (another word for session ale) and the Phipps NBC Red Star at 3.8%. The Cooking was golden, light, quite sharp and malty, but Red Star was a winner, a darker red beer but very tasty and easy to drink. We bought some of their bottled beer to take home, the Rutland Panther (a mild) and Phipps NBC IPA. We will definitely be back.

Later in the evening we went to the Wheatsheaf opposite the illuminated All Saints church, and sat by the beautiful log fire in the cosy lounge drinking Everards Beacon at 3.8% (light, slightly hoppy but that’s about it) and Holden’s Black Country Special (5.1%), which tasted even stronger than it is; it was quite meady and malty and smelt like a spirit. The beers were smoother than I normally like, I think they were served with sparklers. It’s a shame as I believe this can change the taste of a good beer. However, this was a nice and friendly local’s pub and we could imagine this being a much frequented establishment if we lived in Oakham.

The lovely fire in The Wheatsheaf

The lovely fire in The Wheatsheaf

The Wheatsheaf

The Wheatsheaf

We wandered over to the Odd House, but were not inspired by the choice of beers and it didnt feel very cosy with kids running around (although we are told that the food there is very nice) so we then headed to the Merry Monk. This pub was heaving with a young crowd; it was obviously the place to be on a Saturday night. On tap there was the wonderful Oakham JHB (nice to see an Oakham ale in Oakham!) and the other guest beer was Swing Low. The Merry Monk also has a large open fire and a gourmet burger menu.

We finished up in the lounge of our hotel, the Whipper In, and tried some Grainstore Triple B which was the only ale on tap, and again very smooth, but not a bad brew, I did prefer the Cooking however.

The Railway Inn, Ketton

The Railway Inn, Ketton

On the way home the following afternoon we stopped off at the Railway Inn, Ketton, a beautiful little village pub ‘probably not changed for a hundred years’ we were told by the landlady. Two old men sat by the open fire drinking their ale whilst putting the world to rights. I drank Phipps NBC IPA, 4.2%, which, I understand, has replaced the regular GK IPA at the bar. I discovered that Phipps NBC as a company has been revived; they  were bought by Watney Mann in 1960 and the last Phipps NBC brew was in 1968. The brewery was eventually demolished in 1974 to make way for the Carlsberg brewery in Northampton. The new owners have now pieced together the old recipes and have started again to brew Phipps NBC IPA, the flagship brew. They are on a mission to establish this beer as a regular in the region’s pubs and then introduce more historical Phipps NBC beers.  Best of luck to them, the IPA and Red Star were certainly my beers of the trip.

There are so many lovely old village pubs in Rutland, too many to visit in one trip – luckily we are only a short drive down the road so can visit this lovely county as often as we like!

Published in: on February 22, 2010 at 11:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cambridge Beer Festival 2009

The beer event of the year is upon us – the 36th Cambridge Beer Festival. I love this festival; it is held around the same time every year (18th-23rd May this year) on Jesus Green in a series of large marquees and has a wonderful outside area with lots of grass, chairs and tables, and several food stalls (Thai, curry, veggie, etc) for when you inevitably get peckish after sampling lots of fine ales.

There are over 200 real ales on offer during this festival, as well as ciders, perries, foreign beers, wine and mead. Every year I say I must try some real cider, but with so many fantastic beers on offer I never seem to get round to it. This year the festival is focusing on local ales from local brewers, although there are many ales available from far and wide.

So, so far I have been to two sessions of the festival, and tried some great ales. At the moment, Buntingford brewery is coming up tops for me – this has to be one of my favourite breweries as all the beers I try from them are somehow fantastic. Yesterday I tried Golden Plover (3.8%), which was golden and light with a fresh smell, and went down well. My favourite so far is Polar Star (4.4%) – I shouldn’t advertise this as I don’t want it to all go before I get to try some more of it, but the sherbet smell and citrussy flavours blew me away.  Very similar to Western Musketeer, my beer of the festival last year. Buntingford are great.

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I tried some Cambridge Moonshine beer, the 800 Years of Engagement (3.8%), after reading the tasting notes that mentioned it was a ‘fruity, floral and light session bitter’. I actually found it to be slightly eggy, with hint of a vanilla, and it didn’t go down as easily as I would have liked. Never mind.

I really enjoyed Oakleaf’s Hole Hearted (4.7%), brewed with 100% Cascade hops – lovely! My sort of beer. Adam had some Essex Boys Bitter (3.5%) from Crouch Vale, being a fan of Brewers Gold, but it was just ‘boring and brown!’ – I tasted no hops whatsoever and no taste to speak of. It was just… well, brown.

I also tried some Spingo Jubilee (4.5%) from Blue Anchor in Helston, having been to the brew-pub myself and got myself  into a bit of a state after too much of some of their extra-strong Spingo beers (can’t remember which ones for some strange reason..). Anyway, I was slightly disappointed with the Jubilee, slightly bitter and not particularly hoppy, even though described as such. I was eager to finish it and move onto the next beer.

Everards Sunchaser Blonde is a pleasant, hoppy, light, golden beer at 4% – it went down quite nicely thank you! Adam enjoyed some Stonehenge Sign of Spring (4.6%), which instead of coming out as a nice blonde ale as we expected, it was green! Very interesting, and a nice flavour of hops and malt.

Green beer!

Green beer!

So that’s about it for now – roll on Cambridge Beer Festival 2010!

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