This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Whitsun Wanderings –part 1 – Wiltshire

Good morning, it’s half term and it’s raining which can only mean one thing – we’re away in the caravan. Yes, Patsy 2 seems to have acquired her predecessor's traits and since we’ve been away I’ve had to get the bucket and sponge out. Twice.

Since the last blog we’ve been away again a couple of times – firstly over Easter up to Crystal Palace for a long weekend of erm, research and the chance to test out some products kindly sent in by companies eager for feedback on their products. Click HERE for a link to the reviews page to see how we got on. We also got to to see the excellent ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ at the Savoy Theatre in town starring Robert Lindsay. Very entertaining and well worth it.

The May Day long weekend saw us just four miles from home at the Caravan Club site in Brighton with my cousin and his wife. We had a great weekend showing them around our adopted home county. IMAG2099

Patsy has had some attention lavished on her too. A complete wash and polish the other weekend and the addition of a nautical style clock, hygrometer & thermometer trio procured all the way from the States – although made, not in China as you might expect but India. Anyway, back to the matter in hand.

It all began last Saturday, arriving at the storage compound nice and early and Trev put the clothes and food away whilst I carried out the pre-flight checks outside. All though clearly not all of them. We were about five minutes in to the journey when I noticed that we hadn’t put the towing mirrors on. Now, Trev was doing the first leg and many of you will know that he was a cabbie in a previous life so, not noticing the absence of the mirrors was hardly surprising. He does, on occasion actually use indicators these days but clearly old habits die hard.

We were travelling a little lighter too. Only one pair or leather jeans and even a pair of shorts and some  t shirts made it in to my side of the wardrobe and I reluctantly left my trusty old leather coat at home – in hope rather than expectation that it would be too warm.

We were heading back to Wiltshire. Some may recall that we stayed in Devizes back in February, after switching sites due to the appalling weather. Our destination was Stonehenge Touring Park, which as the name suggests, is near to Stonehenge. Funny that.

I took over driving around half way, and having studied and printed out maps, was happy that I new where we were going, so I completely ignored the brown camping sign and instead carried on thinking there was a better way to the site further up. There wasn’t of course and we found a layby to pull into just as the heavens opened.

The Sat Nav app on my phone suggested I was right though so we carried on, turning off in to the next village as indicated and ending up at the back of a farm. Thankfully there was adequate space to turn, so my rudimentary reversing skills were not overly challenged.

Heading back, we turned off at the sign on to the caravanners favourite – a nice single track road with high verges and a bumpy, muddy passing place which I utilised when an impatient looking driver in an Audi appeared from the other direction. Is it me or do all Audi drivers look impatient? Anyway, after what seemed like ten miles although was barely more than one – caravanners will know what I mean – we found the site, tucked away in the little village of Orcheston. DSC_0055

The welcome at reception could not have been friendlier, and even the rain eased as we were shown to our pitch. Setting up was quick and we soon had the kettle on.

So, what of the site? Well, it’s really pretty – and compact. Just a dozen hard standing pitches for caravans and motorhomes and a large grassed area for tents of which there were many and the site was approaching capacity. Hardly surprising given that it was a bank holiday weekend AND half term. Our hard DSC_0053standing was quite narrow – room for the caravan and nothing else, although there were some larger ones at the far side. Facilities looked clean, tidy and well kept. The shop looked well stocked and mobile reception – on Three and Virgin  - our networks of choice – was good. The site DSC_0054offers free WiFi – there’s no timecodes, cards, registration or logging on. It’s an open network though so perhaps best not to do your banking on it but it was very welcome nonetheless and something more sites should consider in my opinion. TV -  the signal was weak but reception was fine. Also on offer was the chance to rent fire pits or a chiminea. What a great idea.

After a little snooze we decided that a research expedition was in order. The nearby village of Shrewton yielded two pubs but one had recently closed down and the remaining one did not open until 4pm. A drive around proved fruitless, however there were frequent IMAG2101reminders that you were on Salisbury Plain – in the form of signs warning of tanks crossing at various intervals. For those with blank expressions Salisbury Plain is where the army likes to practice and there are lots of camps around here too.WP_20140526_004

Eventually we happened upon the village of Tilshead – just up the road from the site – which yielded a hostelry which was actually open. No new beers to try, but the 6X was excellent and a large black Labrador made the most of the extra attention. On leaving I grabbed a photo of the pub sign – tacky or clever – what do you think?

That evening with the sun making a belated effort to put in an appearance we got the bbq out. The site was, by now, pretty full and the kids were loving it.

DSC_0023Sunday saw us in Salisbury, passing the already heaving Stonehenge Visitor Centre on the way. We’ve had the dubious pleasure of traversing the Ring Road that partially encircles Salisbury a couple of times so it was nice to at last get the chance to see the city itself. It’s Wiltshire's only city and it’s star attraction is without doubt it’s pretty cathedral, which is where we headed after a stroll through the market square. Entrance is free, although donations are strongly suggested but there are no restrictions on photography except in the Chapter House which houses one (and best) of just four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, which next year will be 800 years old. Incredible. Translations from the tiny Latin scrawl are available in many languages.

 

 

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Back in the Nave you will find what is believed to be the worlds oldest clock – dating from 1386 and a stunning modern font with water that, despite a constant flow, is so still it acts as a mirror.

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A walk around the boundary walls of the cathedral brought us back in to the town and the car park. Salisbury really deserved more of our time but once again my feet had had enough. Something that is starting to become a problem.

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Monday, and it being a bank holiday, the rain was doing its best to make it’s presence felt, although we did manage a bbq’d breakfast before it got too bad. Andover was our chosen destination, not least because it meant traversing the A303 and a glimpse of the famous stones of Stonehenge. Clearly we weren't the only ones with the same idea and traffic was heavy and slow. We found a farm track to pull off in to and stopped to grab a few pictures. Now, I know I’m supposed to be impressed by them, and perhaps close up they  look great. However, to be honest, they didn't do much for either of us and we were both glad we had decided not to fork out. Heathens? Probably but there it is.

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For the record It’s nearly fourteen quid per person but free for National Trust or English Heritage members.DSC_0027 Trev actually had the gift of a National Trust membership for his recent 60th birthday – thank you again T, J, S & l – but we have decided not to start it until after the summer holidays as we shall be in Ireland for most of them.

Andover. Well, functional is probably the best way to describe it although I guess only locals could tell you if that’s true. The weather was grey, damp and the rain was coming and going and to be fair nowhere looks at it’s best under those conditions. The expedition did yield something though – some new and more sensible footwear which will hopefully make things a little easier when we’re out and about. Early indications are promising. You will not be surprised to learn that they are, of course, black. Standards have to be maintained!

Tuesday saw us back on the road with Patsy 2 for the second part of our trip – south and west to Melplash, near Bridport in Dorset. Look out for another blog soon!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Dark Star - Partridge

WP_20140518_001 What they say: A Best Bitter brewed in a traditional Sussex style using Maris Otter, Crystal and Chocolate malts with East Kent Golding hops.

We’re up to date! ‘Researched’ only yesterday and another beer from West Sussex – this time the well renowned Dark Star brewery.  A good traditional best bitter. loved it. All I want in a beer. 4.0% A.B.V.

Morland - Original

WP_20140516_002 What they say: A moreish and refreshing ale with a subtle malt and fruit character and pronounced bitter finish.

I like the description – no mucking about and more to the point it’s accurate. Currently guesting at our local I’ve now had several pints of this – over several visits I might add - and have quite enjoyed it. There is a hint of Greene King IPA about this beer, although whether that has something to do with the fact Morland is now owned by Greene King I couldn't possibly say!

Harveys - Porter

WP_20140512_002 What they say: We have taken a Porter recipe of 1859 from Henry Harvey's brewing journal and reproduced it faithfully using pale ale, malt, crystal malt, black malt, locally grown hops, our own spring water and yeast strain.

A rare midweek tipple – but only a half pint bottle mind, this is only brewed once a year. Tasty but not as overpowering. 4.8% A.B.V

Anchor Springs – Anchors Aweigh!

WP_20140421_001 Another guest at our local a month or so ago from just over the border in West Sussex. It does not feature on their website so I can only assume it was a special. Sadly my emailed request for tasting notes has, so far, gone unanswered and a search on the net has yielded nothing.

From what I recall, somewhere in the middle of the golden – bitter scale with a malty presence too. Neither good or bad but clearly not that memorable either!  4% A.B.V.

Adnams - Mosiac

WP_20140505_002 What they say: The Mosaic hop variety was released in 2012 after a successful crossing of two hop varieties called Simcoe and Nugget which captured the best of these varieties to provide clean bitterness and outstanding flavours and aromas. Mosaic hops are similar to Citra, but has an even more intense flavour.

Interesting beer this and whilst I usually prefer more bitter ales I really enjoyed this. Another great ale from the popular Suffolk brewery. 4.1 % A.B.V.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Hogs Back – HBB

WP_20140504_001What they say: A light amber session bitter, biscuity flavour with fragrant hops leading to subtle malty citrus fruits with a long aromatic, hoppy finish with a light malty after-taste.

Guesting at our local only last week – yes, believe it or not I’m nearly up to date! Another excellent ale from the gang at Hogs Back. Only 3.7% so kinder to the head and the liver – if not the wallet. Very tasty.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Green Jack – Rising Sun Pale Ale

WP_20140420_011What they say: ……brewed with Brewers Gold hops for both bitterness and aroma the backbone of the beer is Norfolk grown Flagon pale ale malt with small additions of caramalt and lager malt to balance the crisp bitterness and fruity yet spicy aromas of the hop……

Coming from Britain's most easterly brewery in Lowestoft, a powerful pale ale at 5% A.B.V. Guesting at one of our regular haunts when in Crystal Palace, the excellent Grape & Grain

Clarence & Fredericks – Golden Ale

WP_20140420_008What they say: This 3.8% pale golden ale has a citrus aroma with an initial refreshing bitterness of grapefruit hoppiness giving way to a dry bitter aftertaste.

Another local brewery’s fare on offer in Crystal Palace. A bit too fruity for me but it still went down well – as they usually do!

Sambrooks – Wandle

WP_20140420_007What they say: ….golden sunshine colour; clean and fresh, its sweetness cut by a delicate lingering bitterness..

Our second Sambrook ale of the Easter weekend in Crystal palace – this is the lighter stable mate of the excellent Junction. A classic bitter at 3.8% A.B.V. Again, very tasty.

Brick Brewery – Kinsale

WP_20140420_005What they say? Well, nothing on what is a very basic website. Reviewers on the various beer guides seem to rate it between 3-4 out of 5 but of course taste is largely subjective. However, think traditional bitter and you’re not far off. I liked it. 4.1% A.B.V

Crate – Bitter

WP_20140418_005What they say: Brown caramel malts, soft berry fruits, biscuity malts, toasted malts, light toffee and soft English hops.

On the bar during the Westow House Easter Ale Festival over er, Easter and brewed only a few miles away in Hackney Wick.

I like the pump clip – it does – or is – what it says – and very nice it was too. A good traditional bitter.

Sambrook’s – Junction

WP_20140418_004What they say: a traditional English bitter, using only English hop varieties, lots of crystal malt, and a touch of roasted barley to give it an inviting auburn colour.

Yep, you’ve guessed, I loved it. Discovered this whilst in Crystal Palace on what was surprisingly our first visit to the White Hart. A great pint from a local brewery. 4.5% A.B.V

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Celt – Dark Age

WP_20140418_002What they say: Elegant smooth chocolate and caramel body with a spice finish. Inspired by the tranquility of the myths of Avalon. King Arthur and Merlin histories emerge from ancient Pagan myths tracing dark ripples through shared legends.

Yeah ok, not sure about the last bit but a very nice dark ale from this relatively young Caerphilly based brewery. 4.0% A.B.V . Guesting at Wetherspoons Post & Telegraph in the Crystal palace triangle over the Easter weekend.

Westerham – British Bulldog

WP_20140418_001What they say: A rich, full bodied best bitter in the traditional Kent style. Finest Maris Otter pale ale malt and crystal malt for colour and richness. Hopped with local Kent Northdown and Finchcocks’ Whitbread Golding Variety and finished in the Hop Rocket with Progress hops from Scotney Castle for a full flavour and aroma.

Tried this in the bottle whilst away at Christmas which you can read here where you will see I didn’t realise it was bottle conditioned and poured all the sediment in to the glass.

This was first cab off the rank during our stay in Cryatal Palace over Easter. Much better on draught without me buggering it up 4.3% A.B.V

Harveys – Old Ale

WP_20140414_004What they say: This dark, full-bodied beer combines sweetness and strength to produce an exceptionally smooth palate for a discerning public.

Tasty – I love an old ale, especially in the colder months, which is when this produced and the taste belies it’s strength of only 3.6% A.B.V

Harveys – Tom Paine Ale

WP_20140414_003What they say: Tom Paine is a premium dry hopped bitter named after the celebrated radical who lived in Lewes in the late eighteenth century.

Another tasty one from our ‘local’ brewery based in Lewes. A nice strong bitter coming in at 5.5% A.B.V.

Crouch Vale – Essex Boys

WP_20140403_028What they say: Full bodied and malty with hops shining through. A classic session beer.

Can’t argue with that. This was the only new beer we sampled on our stay near Rochford on the way home from the north. Very tasty and at 3.8 A.B.V easy drinking too. Would have liked to have tried this on draught but it wasn’t to be.

Shepherd Neame – Double Stout

WP_20140414_001What they say: This magnificent example of a classic double stout delivers a velvety-smooth palate of dry, burnt flavours - complemented by roast, cocoa and coffee notes.

Those who see the word stout and think this is just an English Guinness will be in for a shock – or surprise. The flavour is intense. Very intense. I struggled to finish it, not because I didn’t like it – it was just so powerful. Tame it with some hot spicy food to enjoy it best and treat it with respect – 5.2% A.B.V

Shephered Neame – Kent’s Best

WP_20140403_029What they say: An ambient bitter, which successfully merges the biscuity sweetness of English malt with the fruity, floral bitterness of locally grown hops from the Kent countryside, to give a clean, satisfying and moreish drink.

Ale aficionados will instantly recognise this as a Kentish ale with that distinctive hoppy taste which doesn't overpower. A good session beer coming in at 4.1% A.B.V.

Shepherd Neame – Canterbury Jack

WP_20140403_011What they say? Well, it’s not on their website, however the nice chaps at Perfect Pint came up with this: Lemon peel present in the short tart aroma. Pale malts give a juicy grapefruit flavour with lemon grass notes. Dry dusty bitterness floods into the aftertaste with floral zest.

Yeah, a bit too fruity for me, would taste nice on a hot summers day with some spicy chicken though I would imagine. 4.1% A.B.V.

Shepherd Neame - 1698

WP_20140403_010At the end of March a load of caravanners gathered for the second Twittercamp in Rutland. One of those caravanners was Allison who lives in Faversham in Kent, also home to the Shepherd Neame brewery. How convenient. Knowing our love of ale Allison brought with her a whole boot full (well almost) of ale straight from the brewery shop. Obviously, they had to be shared, so I didn’t get a chance to sample them all, never mind get a picture. The next few blogs are a record of those I DID manage to get my mitts on!

What they say: ….this copper-bronze, bottle conditioned beauty is an intense yet uniquely intricate offering thrice-hopped during the brewing process. This adds rich resinous notes and spikes of citrus to a moreish strong ale already rife with notes of liquorice, Masala wine, caramel and spicy orange. A frisson of dark fruit freshens the finish….

Full of flavour and at a mighty 6.5% A.B.V, one be treated with utmost respect.

Grainstore – Rutland Bitter

WP_20140327_002What they say: ……predominately bitter in taste but also possessing some sweetness and a fruity, hoppy aroma.

On offer at The Plough in Greetham who made us all so welcome during our stay at the nearby caravan site for Twittercamp. Loved it and drank rather too much during our few days there. 3.4% A.B.V so the head wasn’t too sore. Another good ‘un.

Timothy Taylor’s – Golden Best

WP_20140327_003What they say: The last of the true Pennine light milds, this amber coloured beer makes a refreshing session ale. The smooth and creamy flavour made it the popular choice close to the Brewery. Today its popularity is becoming more widespread.

Having moved south from York, this was found on  the first research expedition to The Plough near to our new site in Greetham in Rutland.

Simply put – delicious. Another fine offering from TT & Co. 3.5% but the flavour belied it’s strength. In my top 10.

Sinclair Breweries - Wayfarer

WP_20140325_001What they say? Well, due to mergers and takeovers it took  a few minutes to track this down as it didn’t  appear on their website. However, I eventually came across this: A pale ale brewed with small additions of Crystal malt, Caramalt and Malted Wheat and spicy Bramling Cross hops for a strong but smooth bitterness.

Another bargain from our forage in to a discount store in Whitely Bay. Perfectly acceptable and at 4.4% A.B.V full bodied.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Wensleydale – Penhill Porter

WP_20140324_005 What they say? Well nothing about this particular beer on their website but Perfect Pint quote this: A rich, dark ale brimming with roasted malt, bitter chocolate, spices and molasses with a lingering fruity bitterness

Well, after the insipidness of John Smiths and a trio of pale light ales this gave the taste buds a wake up call. A full blooded porter brewed to 6.0%. Potent stuff to be treated with respect  but it went down well.

Copper Dragon – Golden Pippin

WP_20140324_004 What they say: A light refreshing blond ale brewed using a new variety of hop creating a citrus fruit flavour.

Originally a seasonal ale but it proved so popular they now brew it all year round.  As you may have guessed again, not my favourite type of ale but very drinkable.

The proliferation of paler lighter beers in pubs from breweries large and small suggests to me that they are going after lager drinkers big time – and why not. Just don’t forget us more traditional staid old farts!

Atom – Pale Ale

WP_20140324_003 What they say: our core pale ale, lots of malt, bags full of hops, always changing, first up cascade & Chinook!

Yes, lot’s of hops, so not my favourite type of ale as you might have guessed. Perfectly acceptable though. 4.5% A.B.V so no lightweight.

Half Moon - Kismet

WP_20140324_002 What they say: A light coloured ale, hoppy with gooseberry and grapefruit flavours and a crisp finish.

Yep, as regulars might have guessed not my cup of tea – would happily enjoy on a hot summers day though – assuming we get one! 4.3% A.B.V.

John Smiths - Cask

WP_20140324_001 What they say: …..is a malty, bitter sweet ale with a slight fruitiness and a bitter aftertaste…

Hmm. Have had John Smiths a number of times – usually from a can at a party  - from hosts clearly not used to catering for ale drinkers. Occasionally too in it’s gassy extra cold form in a bar that wants to offer a bitter but can’t be arsed with real ale. I’ve always found it fairly insipid and sadly the proper cask version tasted no different – although at least it wasn’t gassy or cold. Cheap enough though and one of several ale on offer at the Old Ebor, a short walk from the Caravan Club site by Rowntree Park in the lovely city of York.

Nine Standards - Original

WP_20140323_003 What they say: An amber bitter with a fruity, spicy nose.

Discovered during our first ‘research’ expedition in York on a Sunday afternoon at The Swan.  Ok, but  a bit too fruity for me. Only 3.7% A.B.V so a good session beer.

Mordue – Workie Ticket

WP_20140322_003 What they say: A tasty, complex beer with malt and hops throughout and a long, satisfying bitter finish. Well worthy of the title 'Champion Beer of Britain' award 1997

Procured at a bargain basement price – certainly less than £1.50 for a 500ml bottle – whilst in Whitley Bay, it’s won a host of awards – and I can see why. A lovely ale – full bodied at 4.5% A.B.V so take it easy and it wont let you down.

Rudgate – Battle Axle

WP_20140321_005 No, not a beer for mother-in-laws but a classic best bitter, brewed to 4.2% for a fuller flavour. Pleasant but didn’t excite.

Mithril Ales – Skater Boy

WP_20140321_004 On offer at the Red Lion in Cotherstone, home of the lovely Doe Park caravan site. A bargain at £2.40 even in this neck of the woods where – in our experience – ale is generally cheaper than down south. A bit golden for me but perfectly drinkable – especially at the price!