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.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Exeter Brewery – Fall’s Over

WP_20161027_18_49_55_ProWhat they say: “Our winter special. Fall’s Over was created in November 2011 as our full-bodied full-flavour winter season warmer. Fall’s Over is a deep ruby-red bitter with warm malt flavours and a crisp berry-fruit finish.”

Hmm, lovely stuff. As described above and a great ale for the colder months but at 5.0& A.B.V to might want to go easy. The malt flavours certainly dominated the fruits.

The Brickmakers Arms, Berkswell, Coventry. October 2016

Church End – What The Fox’s Hat

WP_20161026_19_49_41_ProWhat they say: “A full golden coloured beer with a soft hop flavour and finish.”

One of the clearest beers I’ve had on this trip. Very enjoyable too and from nearby Nuneaton. The hops were subtle and while I usually prefer a darker ale I would happily drink this again given it’s quality. The food was superb too, certainly the best we’ve had so far this week. 4.2% A.B.V

The Red Lion, Corley Moor, Coventry. October 2016

Mitchells & Butlers – Brew XI

WP_20161024_20_01_49_ProWhat they say? Well, www.perfectpint.co.uk reckon this: “A sweet malty beer with bitter hoppy aftertaste brewed in Burton.”

Bearing the M & B name but now brewed it seems by brewing giants Coors. Reviews online suggest it is a poor imitation of the original. They may well be right. Inoffensive and a good session beer but a little insipid. 3.6% A.B.V.

The White Lion, Hampton-in-Arden, Solihull. October 2016

Hobsons – Best Bitter

UntitledWP_20161024_19_27_02_ProWhat they say: “The pale brown to amber medium bodied beer has a strong hop character. It's a bitter but with unconventional warm tones of malt that lingers on the palette, the complex malty flavours gives richness, balanced by the clean hoppy finish. A good session bitter brewed with local British hops picked from the farm seven miles down the road in Worcestershire - Fuggles, Goldings, Challenger and Progress.”

Lovely. Didn’t find it too hoppy, just a good honest bitter. From nearby Shropshire. Great food here too.

The White Lion, Hampton-in-Arden, Solihull. October 2016

Elgood’s – Black Dog (cask)

WP_20161023_21_34_46_ProWhat they say: “An award-winning cask conditioned traditional dark mild.  Well balanced malt and hops gives a pleasant aroma and taste, with splendid roasted bitter flavours.

Black Dog is a traditional dark mild at 3.6%ABV.  It has many CAMRA awards to its name and is a well-known brand in the free-trade.  The beer is well balanced with a full roast flavour.

The use of crystal malt and roast barley give a deep underlying characteristic flavour, which is balanced with Fuggles hops as the sole variety.”

The last on our ale trail in Birmingham and clearly my taste buds have changed – or evolved - a bit. I didn’t enjoy this much when I tried the bottled version, however the draught went down quite well.

The Shakespeare, Lower Temple Street, Birmingham. October 2016.

Roosters – Red State

WP_20161023_19_53_34_ProWhat they say: “ Four different malts ( Golden Primrose, Melanoidin, Crystal and Red Rye Crystal) combine with for different hop varieties (Azacca, Walmea, Admiral and Ahtanum) to create a hop forward red ale that displays moderate citrus notes and a refreshing level of bitterness.”

I do like a red ale, this was no exception and one I’d happily drink again, it not being as sweet as some I have tried, however there was plenty of choice. Seventeen, yes seventeen hand pumps in this terrific pub.

The Wellington, Birmingham. October 2016

Hadley Brewing Co. – Moonstone IPA

WP_20161023_19_05_45_ProWhat they say:” Golden, caramel, fruity…. An American style IPA. Straw coloured with tropical fruit and pine notes”

The first ‘new’ beer I found on our trawl around some of Birmingham's Pubs, sorry, research venues.

The Hadley in the name is Tony Hadley – yes, he of Spandau Ballet fame whose own micro brewery  works with the Great Yorkshire Brewery where the beer is produced on the North Yorkshire Moors.

Not my favourite style of beer but the surroundings were convivial and the company good. 5 % A.B.V.

The Shakespeare Inn, Summer Row,  Birmingham, October 2016 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Warwickshire Wanderings - Part 2

With the body clocks still set to wake at silly o’clock it was no surprise that we stirred early but it was nearly lunchtime when we eventually emerged and pointed Rosie in the direction of Coventry in general and it’s Transport Museum in particular.

It was well signposted and we even happened upon a car park nearby that had spaces and was reasonably priced – by Brighton standards anyway. The only problem was, we didn’t have any change.

So we jumped back in the car in search of a shop, found one and jumped out. It was a busy road so I said I’d see Trev back at the car park. Eventually. No luck in the first shop, but another one across the road was happy to take my money although I did have to remind him that it was a twenty I handed over and not a tenner. In the meantime, Trev was having a nightmare negotiating Coventry’s ring road and one way system, but eventually our paths crossed again and we settled down to a restorative coffee before commencing our look around.

Following the trail around the museum takes you through a timeline of Coventry’s motor manufacturing history charting it’s rise – and fall. There is plenty to look at, from the earliest cycles to the latest concept cars including a gas turbine powered Jaguar. You will see cars and bikes bearing names, once famous and now long gone, such as Alvis, Hillman and Humber.

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I picked out my favourite – a 1935 Jaguar SS. You can guess the colour:

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The best – or certainly the fastest is kept for last. As you round a corner you are greeted by the stunning sight of first the Thrust 2, then Thrust SSC, the latter holding the current land speed record of a bowel emptying 763 miles per hour. In the flesh – or metal – they look absolutely awesome.

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The museum is well worth a visit – not least because it is free – and you could spend considerably longer in there than we did. For more photo’s go to Coventry Transport Museum Photo Special.

Lunch was taken on a pub on the road out of the city. Again an opportunity to try a new ale was thwarted. The house ale – brewed by the Black Sheep brewery up in Yorkshire was the target of my attention, but sadly it was cloudy and on the turn. The wait for something new would continue.

Somers Wood caravan park is in it’s 20th year of operation and a party was held to celebrate on the Saturday night. As dusk fell many of us gathered around a warming log fire, partaking of the lovely food – a stew, two soups and a seemingly unlimited supply of hot dogs. Later on,  the Travelling Wannabies  - two former site wardens - entertained us with a great selection of songs that had folk singing along and dancing. It was a great evening.

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With the prospect of a tour of some of Birmingham’s hostelries later on, we did little on Sunday other than a quick drive in to the nearby village of Meriden to procure some provisions. On the village green there is a Sandstone monument that is said to mark the very centre of England although that is now disputed. Also on the green is a memorial to all cyclists who died in the service of their country and the village is a popular stopping off point for cyclists from all directions. Meriden can also boast of being the home of Triumph motorcycles for over forty years.

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At 5:30pm we met with Richard again for the short drive to Birmingham's International Station, less than 10 minutes away, to board a train into the city. Over the next few hours we saw a good portion of the city – and some of it’s pubs obviously, starting just around the corner in John Bright Street and Brew Dog, heading through the Mailbox shopping centre and along by the canal to the Canalside Cafe.

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Next up was The Malt House but, given that they had appeared to have run entirely out of real ale we didn’t stop. Further on was The Shakespeare in Summer Row, a beautiful old Victorian watering hole and it was time to go on to pints. Yes, I had been sensible and stuck to halves – at least for a while.

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The Old Joint Stock was to be our next port of call, but sadly it closed on Sunday nights. A shame because it looked wonderful too. Fortunately just a short walk away was The Wellington and wow, what a choice. Seventeen, yes 17 hand pumps, many of which featured ales which were new to me. Sadly I could only sample the one but a return visit – on this trip or next – is definitely on the list.

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Last but not least was another The Shakespeare where the opportunity to absorb some solid as well as liquid nourishment was a welcome one and the pies were delicious.

Richard’s wife Diane had again offered to be chauffer and she picked us up from the station and dropped myself and Trev off at the campsite. They lived only a few miles away and were off to Wales in their motorhome first thing in the morning. We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening, both entertaining and informative and would both like to thank Richard & Diane for looking after us. It was really appreciated.

Look out for Part 3 soon…

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Warwickshire Wanderings – Part 1

After the longest rest since we’ve owned her – thanks to an unusually long first half term – we are at last away again in Patsy, our beloved and reasonably well preserved Coachman caravan. Although, having said that, she has begun to exhibit signs that she is ageing. I’ll explain more later but put it this way, if she was a human we’d be reaching for the Tena’s…….

First stop off was not in Warwickshire at all but at Gatwick – not at the airport but virtually right by the side of it at the Caravan Club’s site there. We hadn’t planned to get away until Friday, but taking the gamble that Thursday’s INSET session at school would finish on time we decided to squeeze in a night on the way.

The journey was straightforward enough from Patsy’s new storage place in East Sussex and Rosie handled the climb out of Brighton and up Handcross hill admirably returning an unsurprisingly low 27mpg over the 40 mile journey.

Set up was swift mainly thanks to intermittent rain showers but when things did brighten up a little I was able to get out and get some shots of the site and put the new lens to the test capturing some of the take-offs.

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Go to Gatwick CC for more photo’s of the camp site on Patsy’s Places.

We’d spotted a chain carvery on the way in and decide that would be sufficient for our culinary requirements. There were no new ales to try but the London Pride was gratefully received while Trev opted for Doom Bar. Sadly there were no pubs within walking distance so ‘research’ was by necessity, limited. We did call at another pub on the way back though where the draught offering was that well known West Sussex ale called er, Doom Bar. Oh well.

There are so many take offs and landings at Gatwick that the noise almost blurs into the background – although it must be a nightmare putting up with it day after day. So it seemed eerily quiet at night once movements had ceased. Just before six am though it all started again although we did nod off again for another couple of hours.

The 140 miles to our next destination – Somers Wood near Meriden in Warwickshire - was a straightforward trundle on a variety of motorways – M23, M25, M40 & M42, before arriving at the site a little before 1pm. Rosie acquitted herself much better managing as near as dammit 30 mpg.

The welcome was friendly and once again it was a case of at last putting a face to a Twitter handle as we’d been interacting on and off for a while. We’d also been given an upgrade to a serviced pitch which was fantastic. Some traditionalists may sneer at this, muttering that it’s not proper caravanning – like electric hook ups and heating, but I’m always grateful for things that make life a little easier. Particularly when I don’t have to pay for them. Thanks again Angela, it’s really appreciated.

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Have a look at Somers Wood for more photo’s of this lovely site

It was after connecting the water and waste and generally having a look around to see that all was good I noticed some water dripping from places it shouldn’t. An examination revealed that water was leaking inside the van, by the inlet and running along and out further along. Closer inspection revealed a hairline crack where the flexible pipe from the pump enters ‘van via a plastic faceplate. A new one was needed. At least we knew what the problem was, we just had to get it sorted. I called a mobile service engineer who I used before but we were, as I suspected, quite a way out of his area. The information hut on site had cards for a least six mobile services so I grabbed them all and set about making calls. The first one was on holiday, another was about to go on holiday, another was fully booked for another month, two more ‘didn’t really cover that area’ – which begs the question why they left their cards, and the last has to date not called me back. Great.

So, the only option was DIY. Fortunately Jacksons of Old Arley was not too far away – and we’d had reason to visit them around this time last year on a mercy mission for a fellow friend and caravanner.  Service was once again excellent – they could not have been more helpful – and less than two hours after first diagnosing the problem we’d fitted the new part and water was once again running where it should have been. Whilst it would have been easier to hand over cash, there was a great satisfaction in sorting it ourselves, although the credit card still took a pounding as we decided to get a spare pump as well.

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Friday night we met up with camper, freelance journo and digital marketer Richard and wife Diane for a meal in nearby Meriden. Diane kindly offered to drive so we could partake of a little research too. We lucked out in the first The Bulls Head as although there was a good choice of ales there was nothing new. The food was excellent though. The Queens Head had two ales that had not as yet tingled the blogger in blacks taste buds. Or so I thought. The one I picked turned out to be a re-branded version of one I’d tried a year or so ago. But it was very nice at least!

Look out for part two soon – a transport museum, a party and the Blogger in grey?

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