Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Ale at the Foundling Hospital

A month or two ago, I visited the Threads of Feeling Exhibition at London's Foundling Museum. The Foundling Museum tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, London's first home for abandoned children.

The exhibition consisted of 5,000 small swatches of fabric dating from the middle of the eighteenth century. They are pinned to the registration documents that recorded the entry of each baby to the hospital. They were kept by the hospital as a means of establishing an identifyable link between the child and its mother.

Among the scraps of material were other similar tokens left as identification. The one above was among them. It leaves an unknown story. Who was the mother ? How did she come by this token ? What became of the child ?

A poignant representation of a bygone age.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Beer Geek Meets Girl

Sometimes, when you are the sixty fourth in the top beer bloggers in the UK, it is easy to take yourself too seriously.

Every now and then something pops up to haul you back and remind you that "it's only beer"

I first found this video on Brookston Beer Bulletin but do not think it has been widely shared on this side of the pond. (The original creator is liquidhorseplay)

Very VERY funny .....

Royal Wedding Beer - Windsor & Eton, Windsor Knot 2011

Enough, Enough, I have supped enough royal wedding beers from 1981 and at last someone has saved me. My friends at Windsor & Eton Brewery took pity on me having to drink stale ale and kindly sent over a bottle of their Windsor Knot fresh from the fermenter.

Although W&E are a new brewery, they have quickly stamped their mark on the beer scene in London. Their first two beers, Guardsmen and Knight of the Garter were a fine introduction but it was when the Conqueror hit London pubs before Christmas that it became clear that this was no ordinary new microbrewery. Conqueror is a "black IPA" and was considered at the time a risky experiment for such a new boy on the scene. However it really hit the mark and was a great success. I gave it a plug here and can still vouch that it remains a most tasty beer that is still a first choice whenever I see it.

The Royal Wedding beer, Windsor Knot - not the only beer of that name but clearly the one with the strongest provenance - is another beer packed with hop character. Sovereign (UK)and Nelson Sauvin (NZ) to represent the home and away of the Empire, oops I mean Commonwealth.

Golden in colour, with a refreshing taste and aroma of tropical fruits, this beer really hit the spot. Only 4% in strength but with the fortitude to satisfy and a long bitter finish that begs the next sip.

I am a big fan of 330ml beers especially for strong beers or those that need to be drunk cold. However on this occasion it was not enough, I wanted more. This beer was so good that I could have managed a 5 litre mini-cask and still not been satisfied.

On Twitter the other day, @thegunmakers tweeted "I'm calling it : @WindsorEtonBrew is the best new brewery in SE England for a long while ..."

I going to try to get down to the Gunmakers beer festival before the week is out to reacquaint myself with this beer in its cask form - and in a measure greater than 330ml.

You have not got long to take advantage of this year's wedding beers but if you want something with which to toast the happy couple, and the subsequent happy coupling, you should snap up a bottle or even a 5l mini-cask of Windsor Knot. Recommended !

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Two Weeks of Beer Festivals

Strewth ! The country seems to be closing down in anticipation for Easter, a Royal Wedding and four bank holidays. This is an opportunity not to be missed and there are plenty of beer festivals in which to enjoy the holidays.

I cannot promise to be everywhere but you are highly likely to catch me supping in many of the following places in the coming week or so :

Egham United Services Club beer festivals have quickly become UNMISSABLE. This one runs from Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th. I cannot seem to see the beer list on the web-site though I remember that there will be 7 beers from Ascot Ales and 4 from Windsor & Eton so I won't have to think too hard or too long to make a sensible choice.

The Willoughby Arms in Kingston us having a monster effort covering the whole holiday with their usual St George's Day festival extending through to a Royal Wedding festival the following weekend - a beer festival of two halves from Thursday 21st to Mon 25th, then Tues 26th to Mon May 1st. A good effort and well worth a visit.

Brodies Bunny Basher at King William Fourth, Leyton on 29th, 30th, 1st and 2nd, for over twenty Brodies beers on pump at all times at £1.99 a pint. Unbeatable value for a beer festival.

If the consistent quality of the beer through the pumps is anything to go by, it should be worth making a trip to the Gunmakers in Clerkenwell next week. Their first beer festival is on from Tuesday 26th to Friday 29th and promises Kernel beers, so rare in cask, Ascot and Windsor royal wedding beers plus ales from two of the best Tyneside breweries, Jarrow and Big Lamp.

An Easter holiday trip to the seaside is always a must. Refreshment in Margate is available at the Winter Gardens where CAMRA host the Planet Thanet Beer Festival on Good Friday and Saturday.

CAMRA's Bexley beer festival is at Sidcup Sports Club on 28th, 29th and 30th.

New ale venue Mason & Taylor in Bethnal Green Road will be having a single hop festival over Easter from 22nd to 25th

For those who like to drink a little farther afield, the Toer de Geuze is on Sunday 1st May, when all of the Belgian sour beer breweries in Payottenland throw open their doors to visitors. A special day that only occurs every two years.

Diary note - CAMRA Kingston beer festival 13th and 14th May, CAMRA SE London 1st Beckenham beer festival 28th and 30th May at Beckenham Rugby Club. Finally Ealing beer festival this year is from 6th to 9th July.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Royal Wedding Beer - Hall & Woodhouse 1981

Moving through the brewing family tree I now open a bottle of the beer that Hall & Woodhouse brewed in 1981 to celebrate the wedding of Charles and Diana. Looking through the bottle I was certain that the beer was cloudy and stale.

Upon opening I was surprised to hear and see some condition in the beer and it poured with a small tight white head and was crystal clear.
It was the glass of the bottle that had failed not the beer !

Although not quite the eureka moment of the King and Barnes effort, this beer was definitely still drinkable. The carbonation and gentle sweetness coming through to disguise any stale flavours leaving a pleasant nutty, bitter aftertaste.

The beer was served in a 275ml brown bottle with a crown cap and a foil neck label. The bottle was individually numbered and the label was marked "for royal toasts".

Hall & Woodhouse have also lasted the test of time.
In 1981 they owned 158 pubs of which 100 served real ale. They now have 240 pubs all selling cask ale.

The brewery in Blandford Forum has only just lasted the last 30 years and it is now creaking a little under production pressures and red tape bureaucracy.

Unlike Young's who in a similar position decided to close the Wandsworth brewery and de-camp to Bedford, Hall & Woodhouse have taken the bold decision to build a new brewery on the existing site.

At a cost of £5 million, it is a decision to be applauded and shouted from the rooftops. Building and commissioning is under way and trial brews are expected in the autumn.

I, for one, look forward to visiting the new brewery and raising a glass of Badger beer to progress.

Friday, 15 April 2011

How many pubs in a marathon ?

On Sunday 17th April the streets of central London will be pounded by the feet of the runners of the London Marathon. London's favourite brewery, Fuller's, are again showing the health benefits of a beer before, during and after exercise by sponsoring the event with the official beer of the marathon, London Pride.

This will also be demonstrated when the man dressed as a bottle of London Pride again beats the bottle of Lucozade to the finishing line. Fuller's staff will also be manning the various official cheering stations where you will be able to pick up your flag and enjoy a taster of the official beer.

Fuller's have also published a spectators guide - downloadable here - which shows a map of the course, the locations of the cheering stations and details of the real marathon, the 13 Fuller's pubs on or near the route plus a further 5 near the finish.

13 pubs in less than five hours - a marathon but slightly more achievable for me than 26 miles.

Cheers !

By the way, a funny thing happened yesterday. A kind person posted a link to my blog to the news stream

As a result, instead of a couple of hundred people visiting, in the last 24 hours over 3,000 have dropped by.

If any of you have popped in for a second look, you are most welcome. It might just help to improve my Wikio blog ranking from a lowly 64th !

Otherwise I am going to be pretty embarrassed at the beer bloggers conference when they ask "now, which one of you has the lowest ranking blog ? "

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Top Hats for Brewers ?

I have shamelessly lifted this short article from a recent newsletter of the Brewery History Society thinking it worthy of a slightly wider readership.

It describes the preferred headwear for brewers early in the twentieth century.

Nowadays, you are lucky if you find a brewer in a hairnet and a white coat, with perhaps a baseball cap and hoody being the 21st century version of the top hat and frock coat.

Taken from Brewers Guardian published in October 1935

It is said that top hats are coming into vogue again, but very few are seen about the streets at present. In the days of our youth every brewer wore a top hat and frock coat and even the clerks in the brewery offices wore them.

At Courage's brewery the top hat is still de rigeur among the firm's brewing staff, and whenever we have met Mr Le May, their head brewer, he has always worn a top hat and morning coat.

A director of the company explained that formerly all brewers wore silk hats.

"Breweries usually being badly lit and invariably having quantities of pipes at the most inconvenient heights, top hats served the dual purpose of feelers and crash helmets. As the pipes and the bad lighting are still fairly common, I can only suppose that the brewers must now have become too artful at dodging to need any protection."

These top-hatted brewers once had the active support of the directors, but in 1920 even the board deserted silk hats for the bowler. For the same reason the under-brewers at Burton wear straw hats. some of the Birmingham brewers do likewise.

I have pinched the photo used to illustrate this from and it shows Mr Samuel Charles Allsop from Burton c1885.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Southwold - A Photo Diary

Last week, I took my good lady away for a few days to celebrate her significant birthday. There follows my story of the trip. Her story may be different.

<<< Is that a brewery that I can see through our bedroom window ?

Do you know, I think it might be >>>

Darling, I think I can see the sea ! >>>

<<< Ooh look that's an off licence.

No, THAT'S an off licence ! Result, bottles of Tally Ho.>>>

<<< I think there's a lighthouse somewhere in Southwold. Let's ask in the pub where it is.

Did you know that Adnams now have a distillery ?

<<< Great hotel, warm welcome, beautiful room, award winning restaurant, comprehensive wine list, choice of cask ales, shame about the Tally Ho.

There you are, a great location for a few days away from the smoke.

A shame that birdwatching commitments meant there was no time to take a closer look at the brewery or distillery but in truth, wherever you visit, you should always leave a reason to return. We'll definitely be back soon.

PS The story of the lack of Tally Ho in the hotel restaurant is not really for public consumption as the only thing it really proved is that a beer-geek can be easily as bad as the worst wine bore when it comes to sharing the passion. Perhaps I'll pluck up the courage to elaborate more someday.