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, 22 June 2016

Bar Keepers Friend – Powder, Spray & Cream

WP_20160519_20_04_52_ProFollowing on from my review of the Damp Clear Moisture Trap & Blast Away Mould the good folk at Kilrock sent me some products from their Bar Keepers Friend Range. I knew nothing about their products but a friend swore by them, so lets have a look. There are three products to look at - Power Spray, Stain Remover which comes in powder form, and Power Cream, which you may have deduced, is a cream like product!

First up was the Power Spray - and our kitchen sink. The sink normally gets a regular wipe over but I’d deliberately left it longer to see what the product could do. That’s my excuse anyway!

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As you can see, a nice finish, though perhaps not the sternest of tests. What I like though was that I didn’t need to use a lot of the spray and therefore rinsing after was easier. It coped easily with the areas where scale tends to build up - around taps and so on.

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Of course this was at home in the flat, but it was equally effective in the sink in the caravan too.

Next was the powder stain remover. I tried this on a wire shelf from the oven, sprinkling some of the product onto a damp washing up sponge, then applying, rinsing off under the tap. As you can see it was pretty effective.

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Next up, and perhaps the sternest test was a teapot. Let’s just say that it’s been a while since it had anything other than a run under the tap to rinse out. Even multiple cycles on the most intense programme on the dishwasher failed to dislodge the dried encrusted tea dregs. I used the spray first and this dislodged some of the lighter staining higher up the inside, but made little impression further down and the base. The cream was better but the real star here was the powder. I wont pretend it was easy, such was the level of caking, but we got there in the end. I would apply the powder liberally, work in with a damp sponge, leave a few minutes then work in more with a metal scourer. Rinse, then repeat. The effort was worth it:

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The powder was also pretty effective on the Cadac gas grill, although like a numpty I forgot to take pictures. To be fair it struggled a bit on the deflector – the bit where all the fat and grease runs on to before ending up in the trough – but that’s at the stage where a hammer and chisel would be more in order!

I used the cream on the bath yesterday and whilst it didn’t appear any more or less effective than my usual cream cleaner – rinsing down was easier. It may be simply that less of the product is needed so there is less to rinse away at the end.

The powder was without doubt the most effective at stubborn stains and dirt and it’s formation means you can alter it’s strength – wetting the surface or applicator more or less. I would recommend a metal scourer rather than a sponge though where possible for tougher jobs.

The spray is a good all rounder and requires minimal rinsing. Great for larger surfaces, and you don’t need too much of it.

So, an impressive trio of products from BKF. A quick search on the ‘net reveals a considerable difference in pricing. I’ve seen the powder and power spray on sale for between £1.99 - £2.99 each and the cream cleaner for between £2.50 - £3.50. For more information, check out the distributors website HERE.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Piddle - Premium Ale

WP_20160602_14_39_37_ProWhat they say: “Full bodied and amber, sweet and malty with a fruity nose leading to a resinous hoppy flavour with a twist of citrus fruit, giving way to a dry bitter finish”

A nice pint this from nearby Dorest during our stay in Hampshire. I enjoyed it but wasn’t crystal clear, so look forward to trying a better example at some point. 4.1 % A.B.V.

The Three Cups Inn, Stockbridge, Hampshire. June 2016.

Camerons - Strong Arm

WP_20160604_21_06_24_ProWhat they say: “The brewery’s flagship beer. Well rounded, ruby red ale with a distinctive, tight creamy head. A good balance of malt, hops and bitterness.”

It was a Cameron’s beer that got me in to drinking real ale – back in 2007 in Robin Hood’s Bay. It wasn’t this one sadly, but this rich dark red beer was very enjoyable nonetheless 4.0% A.B.V. June 2016.

Moorhouse’s - White Witch

WP_20160605_20_04_53_ProWhat they say: “A refreshing blonde ale with a fruity springtime flavour and a touch of citrus flowers and rich peppery spice on the aroma”

Another one from Aldi and yep, a bit too light,  fruity and flowery for me but a nice summer ale I guess. 3.9% A.B.V. June 2016.

Red Cat - Tomcat

WP_20160608_20_39_39_ProWhat they say: “Having a rich golden colour, Tomcat is packed with 6 different modern style hops providing a very full fruity hop character with just the right level of bitterness. It’s an American Pale Ale, a beer which has seen great popularity over recent years.”

Another ‘local’ find whilst staying near Winchester, this was a bit pale and hoppy for me but then A.P.A’s aren't really my thing. Had to try in the interests of ‘research’ though! 4.7% A.B.V. June 2016.

Greene King - Purple Reign

WP_20160614_19_04_30_ProWhat they say: “A majestic floral and fruity ale, brewed to mark the Queen's 90th Birthday”

Not a description that would normally excite me but it was very enjoyable – although maybe that fact that it was a warm evening after a challenging day helped – possibly anything would have gone down well! 4.2% A.B.V.

The White Horse, Rottingdean, East Sussex. June 2016.

Greene King - Back of the Net

WP_20160614_19_04_35_ProWhat they say: “Back Of The Net from Greene King is the perfect, easy drinking beer as the Amarillo and citra hops create a refreshing beer with an intense citrus zing”

This followed on from Purple Reign and whilst I didn’t enjoy it as much -  hardly surprising given the description – it went down well.  Again, the occasion and circumstances may have played a part! 4.1% A.B.V.

The White Horse, Rottingdean, East Sussex. June 2016

Navigation – Mayflower

WP_20160604_14_36_31_ProWhat they say: “A British “ Mild bitter beer” that’s dark in colour but light bodied. The flavour is dominated by roast malt with a subdued hop character. The Pilgrim Fathers drew their numbers from North Notts and the name of their ship from the delicate pink and white blooms of May.”

A seasonal from the Nottingham brewery is the latest guest at our local. I really like this. Tasty but easy drinking. Keep those hops subdued! 3.6% A.B.V

The Rottingdean Club, East Sussex. June 2016

Skinners – Betty Stogs

WP_20160604_14_36_07_ProWhat they say: “Betty Stogs is an award-winning, copper-coloured bitter brewed since 1997 using Cornish water; whole-flower Celeia, Northdown and Aurora hops; Cornish malted barley and wheat; and Skinner’s unique yeast……………..Copper-coloured, with a light malty aroma, a floral, even cedar taste, and a sharp tang of bitter grapefruit, this is an ale that has the strength of character to take on tasty dishes like stews, hard cheeses and meat-packed pasties.”

The latest guest at our local was a very welcome return for old Betty. Most definitely had this before – both in our local and down in Cornwall, but it must have been before the Archive was born. A lovely pint – robust and malty. 4.0% A.B.V.

The Rottingdean Club, East Sussex. June 2016

Sunday, 19 June 2016

George Gale & Co. HSB (Bottle)

WP_20160601_20_53_52_ProWhat they say: “A silky-smooth premium ale, Horndean Special Bitter was originally the flagship beer of Gales Brewery in Hampshire. First launched in 1959, it’s still brewed with the same passion and pride today – and the age-old recipe continues to go down a storm.”

Just as enjoyable in the bottle as the draught version. Rich and full bodied. 4.8% A.B.V. June 2016.

Andwell – Resolute

WP_20160601_19_49_44_ProWhat they say: “Taking its name from a town within the high Arctic, despite its cool name this is the sort of bitter that we’re sure you’ll easily warm to. Andwell’s Best Bitter combines the finest malt and hops to produce a well balanced malty and hoppy flavour with a light amber colour.”

Yeah, nice this. A good best bitter, nicely balanced and from Hampshire too during our stay near Winchester 4.1% A.B.V. June 2016

Arundel – Castle

WP_20160529_21_21_48_ProWhat they say: “A tawny coloured beer with a hoppy aroma. The flavour has a good balance of malt, fruit and hops with a dry hoppy finish.”

From just across the border in West Sussex during our stay in Hampshire. Another one to be enjoyed slightly more chilled on a nice warm day (or night).

June 2016

Hop Back – Entire Stout

WP_20160529_16_29_30_ProWhat they say: “A rich dark stout with a strong roasted malt flavour and a long, smooth aftertaste. Suitable for vegans”

Not my first choice in ale but I do enjoy a nice stout sometimes. This was inoffensive and pleasant enough but not particularly memorable for me - I’ve enjoyed others more. 4.5% A.B.V

May 2016

Hogs Back – Rip Snorter

WP_20160529_15_44_08_ProWhat they say: “A reddish amber bitter, malty but with refreshing hoppy high notes on the taste. RIP Snorter is brewed with the finest English pale malt combined with some crystal malt and a touch of chocolate malt. Then we add a combination of local Fuggles and Golding hops at three stages during the copper boil. “

Probably better known for the excellent T.E A - Traditional English Ale - was the equally enjoyable full on ale from the guys at Hop Back. Subtle it wasn’t but tasty it was! 5.0% A.B.V. May 2016

Itchen Valley – Pure Gold

WP_20160529_14_51_53_ProWhat they say: “It takes a lot to make our “Rob the brewer” smile (there are substantial liquid prizes on offer for anyone who can perform this feat). But a pint of Pure Gold usually does the trick. The first thing you may note in our premium ale is the strongly aromatic American specialty hops with hints of caramel. To drink, the beer is lightly effervescent with initial bitterness from the choicest Czech hops leading to a full, sweet malty flavour.”

It’s also nice to sample something local when away  - and this was one such beer procured during our stay just north of Winchester in Hampshire. As the name suggests, a golden ale and not usually my favourite style but it certainly tasted good. Best enjoyed slightly more chilled than usual and on a warm summers night I reckon. I realise one of those is a lot easier to arrange than the other! 4.8% A.B.V. May 2016

George Gale & Co. – HSB

WP_20160528_18_51_16_ProWhat they say: “A silky-smooth premium ale, Horndean Special Bitter was originally the flagship beer of Gales Brewery in Hampshire. First launched in 1959, it’s still brewed with the same passion and pride today – and the age-old recipe continues to go down a storm.”

From the Fullers stable - but that’s no bad thing in my opinion - a tasty ale of premium strength. Had only the same afternoon purchased the bottled version so was delighted to stumble upon this. Enjoyable but too strong for me to enjoy in a session. 4.8 % A.B.V.

The White Hart, Stockbridge, Hampshire. May 2016

Felinfoel – Double Dragon

WP_20160601_19_49_31_ProWhat they say: “Double Dragon has an ABV of 4.2%. It is a full drinking, premium Welsh Ale, which is malty and subtly hopped. Double Dragon has a rich colour and smooth balanced character. This deep copper red ale has a tangy red fruit flavour with nutty, toffee overtones.”

The first canned beer outside of the USA apparently and I got to sample the tinned version a couple of years ago when we were staying on a campsite in south Wales and a fellow caravanner who lives just up the road kindly deposited some at reception for us.  This bottled version also came courtesy of another caravanner who we met up on site recently thanks to a foray into Aldi who are now stocking it.

It reminded me of some of the lovely Irish reds we got to sample a couple of years ago - very drinkable and one I’d happily ‘sample’ again. May 2016

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Winchester & Watercress

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – It’s great working for a school. The job itself has it’s ups and downs like any other but I am of course talking about the holidays. There’s lots of them, so in between I’m happy to put the hours in – there’s been plenty of overtime around this last term. I’ve had additional driving work nearly every day, as well as the school bus runs and Trev – on top of his full time job as caretaker – has been helping out ‘on the buses’ too to help fill a gap left by a driver departing at Easter. It’s fair to say we were both looking forward to a bit of  R & R on this trip. So how did we get on?

We were heading west – to just north of Winchester in Hampshire, which meant of course traversing the miserable A27 along past Worthing, Arundel and Chichester. On a bank holiday Saturday. Yeah, quite. Fortunately, the campsite owner said we could arrive early, so we were at the storage site soon after seven and Patsy was hitched up and on her way well before eight o’clock.

It was around 0930 when we arrived at Folly Farm, situated on the road between Winchester and Stockbridge. The sat-nav app on the phone had guided us almost seamlessly through Winchester itself, only coming unstuck slightly when it wanted to send us down handy shortcut rather narrower than Patsy. Fortunately we ignored it and the re-route soon got us back on track. WP_20160528_11_12_49_Pro

I spoke to the site owner through an intercom and he told us where to pitch and we trundled off into the paddock. The six metre between ‘vans rule was easy to observe as our new neighbours seemed to have set up a used car dealership judging by the number of motors surrounding their pitch. With a large tent opposite there was little room to manoeuvre so Patsy was motor moved into position – that’s our excuse anyway…

WP_20160528_11_12_40_ProWith set up completed and wallet emptied thanks to a foray to a nearby Waitrose – not our usual supermarket of choice I can assure you - we settled down in the recliners to make the most of the sun. Every attempt to slip into the land of nod though was thwarted by a loud snoring sound emanating from my direction. A sign that the pollen from the surrounding trees was already making incursions.

We clearly did nod off at some point though because the next thing we knew Alison had arrived, having set out with her ‘van from Kent earlier. The kettle was pressed into service. A pub in nearby Stockbridge provided the necessary solid and liquid sustenance later on.

Sunday brought with it’s arrival more sun – probably the last of the week according to the forecast. Alison went off exploring and we made the most of the sun. To be honest it wasn’t the most relaxing of mornings. A large number of noisy single prop planes passed overhead at vaguely regular intervals disturbing what would have been, a nice peaceful morning.

The little Cadac was fired up for the for the evenings cremation and we managed to eat outside even though with the sun vanishing from our side of the site it made it pretty chilly early on.

Dull and overcast on Monday, but dry at least so we had a drive into Stockbridge and an amble around the shops, procuring some rugs for Patsy. A pretty little town with most businesses clustered around the wide high street.

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An afternoon drive around and about confirmed what we’d already suspected – this was a wealthy area. There were some beautiful properties in idyllic little villages that were way, way out of our modest reach. No doubt the area’s proximity to London helps keep prices high.

The promised rain arrived Tuesday morning but by the time it did we were safely inside Winchester Cathedral and enjoying a guided tour by a very knowledgeable and interesting lady. Many will know that Jane Austen is buried here.

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One of the more unusual exhibits – for a cathedral anyway – is an old fashioned divers helmet. The silly sods built it on waterlogged ground and diver William Walker worked for six YEARS from 1906 diving down in total darkness to shore up the foundations and prevent the building from collapse.

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The south transept was closed off for renovation so we were unable to see the ‘Fishermens Chapel’, burial place of Izaak Walton, the unofficial patron saint of fishermen.

The Crypt, still prone to flooding houses a solitary statue by Anthony Gormley.

With the rain still persisting we abandoned any thoughts of looking around Winchester and headed back to the site, stopping off for a quick bit of ‘er research on the way. Just the one. Honest.

Wednesday, and it was time for Alison to depart, her stay being over far too quickly. We said goodbye in the knowledge that we’ll be meeting again soon in the upcoming Twittercamp in July.

With the weather still unsettled we decided against a return to Winchester and headed east instead to Alresford, the starting point of the Mid Hants Railway or Watercress Line. So called because trains used to haul watercress from the nearby beds to the good folk up in London town. 10 miles of the track remain, going through to Alton where you can hook up with main line trains, passing through Ropley where the restoration work of both steam and diesel engines, as well as the carriages is carried out.

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Spanning the line at Ropley is a green bridge that some might recognise from the Harry Potters films. It became redundant at Kings Cross station in London when the redevelopments took place and was saved from the scrapheap to end up here.

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Whilst it’s really all about steam – and the wonderful sights, sounds and smells that accompany – I would like to have seen one of the old big powerful diesels have a trundle too. A great experience though and thoroughly recommended. Take my advice though – start at Alresford as we did. Parking is considerably cheaper, than the other end, at Alton where they have commuters pockets to empty.

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It was Thursday when we returned to Winchester for a mooch around – and I’m glad we did too. If you park in the Brooks Shopping Centre car park, don’t be put off by the view as you exit into the city. The rest is much, much prettier. We certainly didn’t get to see all of it, but the statue of King Alfred was mighty impressive. We paused at the City Mill – considered the Western gateway to the South Downs Way, which will take you – eventually – all the way to Eastbourne.

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We headed alongside the river, past Wolvesey Castle and along past Winchester College, returning to the centre through the grounds of the Cathedral.

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Friday was to be our last full day at Folly Farm but we decided to have a leisurely clear up and we headed off around 2:30pm. This, my friends was a mistake. Large sections of the miserable excuse for a road that is the A27 were doing an impression of a car park. The sections where traffic was moving provided a reminder – were it needed – or the number of thoughtless selfish idiots there are on the road. Some of them so called professionals too.

So, that was Winchester finally ticked off the list and I feel I should have been more impressed with it. To be honest I would have been happy just to lounge around with a book for week – particularly if the decent weather had continued, so I think I was less enthusiastic about sightseeing than usual. Still, there’s always another time.

The site  - Folly Farm - was nice and extremely busy over the weekend – hardly surprisingly – and to be honest I thought the facilities would struggle but they didn’t. For those that like to keep in touch with the outside world pitch nearer to the entrance and your TV signal wont suffer from overhead power cable. Free Wifi was available around the office but David, the owner was looking to extend it. Mobile wise, Vodafone and 3 were ok. O2 was the best out of our selection and that was the SIM card that went in the dongle.

Right, that’s it. Just a short run now to the end of term, then the summer jaunt begins. We’re staying this side of the English Channel this year, heading first to North Devon and the lovely Warcombe Farm before returning east to Bedfordshire for Twittercamp, then on to East Anglia for the rest of the holidays.

So, until then….

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