Sunday, 28 January 2018

Burn's Night 2018

The Furze Wren - Friday 26th January 2018

Broadway Square, Bexleyheath Shopping Centre, 6 Market Place, Bexleyheath DA6 7DY

As I was otherwise engaged on the actual Burn's Night this year, MB and I decided to head to our local Wetherspoons to sample some haggis and single malt the following day. As we had missed our usual trip to the Robin Hood and Little John we had to find somewhere that still sold haggis - Wetherspoons have it on the menu for a week so, like last year, we headed there for our annual fix.

Tonight was rather fortuitous in other ways too as it was the start of yet another of their famous beer festivals. One look at the five or six ales on offer though meant I was limited to only a couple of them unfortunately, and one wasn't being offered on the beer festival night but was there for the Burn's Night celebrations. One had a coffee infusion, and as I have an intolerance to caffeine would not touch it. The others were all way over 4.5% and out of my league. This left me with a choice of the Burn's Night special brown ale and a hoppy golden ale.

The two beers I chose were actually very nice indeed, as was the Glenmorangie I supped with my haggis, tatties and neeps. MB and I decided that we should try to get back again before the end of the festival to see if we can sample a couple more of the beers on offer. Due to a major change in my life recently I can no longer get out during the week, so I am limited to weekend drinking, and only imbibing the lower alcohol content beers due to the running I do every Saturday and Sunday morning.

The evening in the Furze was very lively, with lots of youngsters in the bar enjoying themselves. It took MB and I over an hour to secure a table and then be bale to order our food, so we were both very hungry before it arrived.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Bow Bells (4.2%) - Truman's Brewery, Hackney Wick, London - a hoppy, citrusy golden ale
2) Robert Burns Brown Ale (4.2%) - Belhaven Brewery, Scotland - a very tasty traditional brown ale

The Ship Aground

The Ship Aground - Saturday 20th January 2018

33 Wolseley Street, Bermondsey, London SE1 2BP

Last weekend (13th January 2018) saw my sister hit the big 5-oh. She went out for a meal with her partner that weekend but wanted a party to celebrate with the rest of the family. She decided to choose the following weekend at her local - The Ship Aground.

It is a true locals pub with a good atmosphere and very friendly bar staff. The buffet food put together for us was good quality standard fare (sandwiches, pork pies, sausage rolls, satay chicken etc.), and there was plenty of it.

Unfortunately, for me, there was only one beer on tap although they have 3 pumps at the bar. Luckily it was London Pride, and it was very well kept. After a few pints of this, in celebration of my sister's birthday, I switched to the prosecco which everyone else was on.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) London Pride (4.1%) - Fuller's Brewery, Chiswick, London

Thursday, 18 January 2018

New Year Rugby

London Scottish vs. Yorkshire Carnegie - Saturday 13th January 2018

I was an avid rugby fan until just a few years ago when life just got in the way of my hobby, and would watch every match I could. As an ex-player myself, I would enjoy the spectacle for more than just the sporting competition. I'd watch players for their sublime skills, applaud great passages of play no matter who made them (home team or opposition) and generally just soak up the atmosphere of a great day out. One key factor to these days out was a few pints in a local watering hole. As I haven't been to a match in a long time (3 or 4 years?) I jumped at the chance of a day out watching Championship level (one below the Premiership) rugby with my good friend RT (known as Mr. Angry to most of his associates).

The match was a British & Irish cup match that ended with the hosts winning by 29-19. It was a good match with both sides dominating for periods of time with some great rugby being played and a couple of really outstanding tries being scored.

The Hope, Richmond

115-117 Kew Road, London TW9 2PN

Anyway, this is all good excuse to have a few pints with a good friend. We met up in the Hope in Richmond a couple of hours before kick-off. This pub only opens at the weekend according to the landlady and as a result she only puts on one ale at a time so as not to waste a half-barrel if it is not drunk in time. Today's beer was Timothy Taylor's Landlord; RT wanted to come to this pub today especially to grab a couple of pints of this particular ale. It went down well, and suitably whet our whistles in time for the game.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Landlord (4.3%) - Timothy Taylor & Co Ltd, Keighley, West Yorkshire - a hoppy, full-flavoured pale ale

After The Hope we went into the ground (about a three or four minute walk from the pub) and grabbed a pint before the match and another at half-time. The only ale they had on tap was Fuller's London Pride, which went down a storm.

To help the pints go down we both sampled the food available at the ground. RT had a couple of Scotch Bonnet pies which he exclaimed were amongst the best he has ever tried and I sampled their Cornish pasty, which wasn't bad at all.

The Triple Crown
The Triple Crown Inn, 15 Kew Foot Road, Richmond TW9 2SS

Directly after filling our bellies with pies we wandered stright out of the ground into The Triple Crown. This is a bit of an older persons' pub judging by the clientelle, but there was a post match buzz in here none-the-less. There was only one beer on this evening, but again it was an OK one.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Bitter (3.7%) - Young's & Co Brewery, London - fresh and fruity taste for an easy drinking bitter
The Sun Inn

17 Parkshot, Richmond TW9 2RG
After a brief call-in at the Triple Crown we decided to fit one more in before wending our merry ways home. This is a pub I have been in before when I used to work up the road in Gunnersbury. I have drunk in maybe three or four pubs in Richmond but only on a very few occasions. It has been nice to revisit some old ground and then some new.

The Sun Inn is very much a rugby pub. The staff all wear rugby shirts and every screen has a rugby match showing on it. This evening it was very busy and there was a really great buzz on. Ordinarily I would have stayed for a few in here but RT had to get on home. Luckily, the earlyish finish worked in my favour too as all stations out of London going southwards were closed except for Blackfriars and Victoria. Luckily I was able to catch a series of trains and buses to be home in just over two hours.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Gale's Seafarers Ale (3.6%) - Fullers Brewery, Chiswick, London - a malty, sweet easy drinking ale

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas Drinks II

Lamb and Flag - Saturday 16th December 2017

33 Rose St, London WC2E 9EB

There was another comic signing this weekend to see out the 40th anniversary of 2000AD. I attended the signing as usual and had also arranged to then meet MB, whom I haven't seen for several months now. All went very quickly at the signing so I got to the pub a lot earlier than I was intending to. When I arrived (around 4:40pm) it was absolutely heaving inside and stayed this way pretty much for our entire time there.

As I had plenty of time to kill before MB arrived I decided to start at the weakest and work my way up through the beers. In quick succession I got through 4 of them before having to then buy a round for two. The atmosphere in the pub was fantastic with different bands of revellers popping in and out all the time. This must be the only city in the world where, in one pub, one can encounter, a dozen turkeys all gobbling away between sips of beer, over 200 Santas and reindeer, as well as people from all over the globe going about their everyday Christmas celebrations. Everybody was friendly and I enjoyed some short chats with several of the other patrons.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Seafarers (3.6%) - George Gale & Co. Ltd (Fuller's Brewery, London) - a hoppy, malty easy drinking bitter
2) Harvest Pale (3.8%) - Castle Rock Brewery, Nottingham -a golden coloured, light, fruity beer
3) Wise Men (4.0%) - Fullers Brewery, London - a golden hoppy beer
4) Oliver's Island (3.8%) - Fullers Brewery, Chiswick, London - a golden crisp, slightly malty ale
Two of the beers were created for helping out with charities - each pint of Seafarers has Fullers Brewery donate a small sum to the Seafarers UK charity, and likewise, each sale of Wise Men puts money into the coffers of the Prostate Cancer UK charity.

After all this beer, I needed something to eat to soak it up and slow down the effects. MB and I decided to grab a burger just round the corner at Five Guys. We took it easy and only ordered up a burger each (no fries or drinks) and then ehaded back out into the London night time.

Mr. Fogg's Tavern
58 St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4EA

I had walked past this a couple of times already today and it had piqued my interest. As MB and I wandered around the Covent Garden area looking for another pub to frequent, we came across it again. We couldn't remember what was on the site of this pub previously, so decided to give it a go as we had not been in here before.

This pub was full to the brim too with revellers of all kinds. The bar staff were dressed in period costume which really added to the atmosphere. MB and I propped up the bar whilst supping our ales and managed to get chatting to a few people on occasion. The bar service was fantastic - on one occasion I overheard a conversation between one of the barmen and a customer - the customer was deciding what to order when the bar man quoted back his previous order and wondered whether Sir would care for the same again - call me impressed! We noticed that alongside the ales many different types of gin were sold (possibly a nod to the period and the sister gin bar that I have just discovered with a Google search) in half-pint glasses no less! What I liked about this bar was that the ales were served in handled jugs and the half-pint gin servings were in those traditional dimpled glasses that we no longer seem to be able to get in oubs these days.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) Mr Fogg's Best Bitter (3.7%) -
2) Mr Fogg's Pale Ale (3.9%) -

Not sure who the brewer is of these ales - presumably the tavern owners? I will need to find out more details for a future visit and entry on the blog. As a result I do not have any pictures of tap labels.

Christmas Drinks I (work)

640 East bar - Friday 15th December 2017

Montgomery Square (in the middle), Upper Bank Street, Canary Wharf E14 5JJ

As this bar is very close to where we work, my team decided that this would be a good place to have a few beers to finish off the year, and the first part of the project we are all involved in.

There have been a few amendments to the bar since I last went there. The two container blocks still form the "body" of the bar and coffee/snack room, but a lot of chipboard woodwork has been erected to cut out most of the cold breezes from the nearby River Thames. Overhead heaters keep the drinking space relativley warm (as did the crowd) and the glass panels still allowed the views to be taken in.

The bar is currently all decked out with Christmas lights etc. and it looks quite nice considering its usual industrial feel. This afternoon/evening, the bar staff were on great form and their ratings went up even further in my opinion when they popped round with a tray of doughnuts for their customers, which were free!

The choice of beers here is not great, but there is the Lagunistas IPA on tap as well as a few craft beers in cans. PH and I opted for a can of the Welsh brew called Cwtch (an award winning brew in 2015 apparently). I thought it was OK, but I have definietly had better. As PH and I had grabbed the final two cans, we had to move onto Neck Oil for the rest of the evening.

Beers drunk on this visit:

1) Cwtch (4.6%) - Tiny Rebel Brewery, Newport, Wales - a Welsh red-ale with an unusual hoppy but fruity flavour
2) Neck Oil (4.3%) - Beavertown Brewery, London - an easy drinking session IPA

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Catch Up - Oktoberfest, Crisis, Bree Louise and Punk at the Dome

I have been very remiss in updating this blog recently. I have been out to quite a few nice pubs and venues recently but many have got lost in the mists of time (well, last two months anyway). Following are a few of those that I actually made a note of or actually remember the dates for, but not to the same depth of detail as I usually report...

Friday 29th September to Monday 2nd October 2017 - Oktoberfest, Munich

I managed to get back to the Oktoberfest in Munich with SH again this year. We went for the final weekend this time as it should not have been so busy, but it was just as busy as normal! We did a lot of our usual things and ended up in many places the same as last time, but one special event was that we managed to bag a table in the upstairs hall of the Hofbrauhaus. We drank many different local brews and got onto talking terms with the manager of one of the stand-up bars in the Oktoberfest grounds. Next time I will make sure to make a note of the breweries and beers tried and then get all of the photos up onto the blog in a timely manner.

3rd November 2017 - Da Gianni pizzeria, Antwerp

I made my yearly trip to Antwerp for the Crisis gaming event with number one son over the Guy Fawkes weekend. We usually stay over for a couple of nights which gives us the chance to sample some of the local delights. On the day of our arrival (we go by car and Channel Tunnel) the journey took a lot longer than usual - it was a perfect storm of events; two sets of long term roadworks that the city council decided to focus on more this weekend, two major accidents and two concerts hosted in the city. The entire journey time would have been the same as in a normal year, except that the events outlined above delayed our final three miles by over five hours!

Anyway, our arrival was extremely late and, after checking into our hotel, we had to hunt around for somewhere still open for a bite to eat. We found a great little pizzeria that also sold some lovely choices of beer. Due to the time available though I decided to stick with just a couple of bottles of the same brew to save thinking power.

Beers drunk on this visit:

Grimbergen Dubbel (6.5%) - Brouwerij Alken-Maes, Belgium

4th November 2017 - Pulled Taco Bar

After the show, which runs all day Saturday, we got showered an dchanged and decided to head into town - #1Son fancied Mexican cuisine this evening. Unfortunately it decided to tip down with rain whilst we were looking around for somewhere to eat, so we ran back to the first Mexican restaurant we came across after we couldn't get into the rib house earlier on our walk.

I have to say that the prawn filled soft tacos and nachos starter were amongst the best I have ever eaten from a Mexican restaurant. They only had a small selection of beers available, but strangely (or maybe not as it was a Mexican restaurant) all of them, were American.

This restaurant has a fantastic cellar section that they presumably open up on busier evenings. It appears to be carved from the bedrock in places and makes for a very atmospheric experience.

Beers drunk on this visit:

Gooze IPA (5.9%) - Goose Island Brewing Company, Chicago, USA

After the meal, we headed back out into the pouring rain towards our hotel. I was looking for a bar to frequent along the way but in the end we wound up back at the hotel. I am glad we did really as I found a really tatsy beer that I had not tried from their menu before.

Beers drunk at hotel:

Tripel Karmeliet (8.4%) -Brouwerij Bosteels, Buggenhout, Belgium

11th November 2017 - Bree Louise

69 Cobourg St, Kings Cross, London NW1 2HH

I hadn't seen one of my old rugby friends for a while, so arranged to meet RT, a Saracens supporter, at the Bree Louise in Euston. I have not been to this pub, renowned for its pies, before so I was glad RT chose it as our venue; unfortunately it is due to close down in January 2018.

We had a great chat over a few more beers than I ordinarily would have drunk on a day out in London Town until he got called home by 'er indoors. Obviously I had to sample one of the pies (steak and kidney) too, which helped to soak up the alcohol.

Beers drunk on this visit:

1) Knight of the Garter (3.8%) - Windsor and Eaton Brewery
2) Routemaster Red (3.8%) - Southwark Brewery
3) Grandstand (3.8%) - Twickenham brewery
4) Powerhouse Porter (4.7%) - Sambrooks Brewery
5) Iceberg (4.1%) - Titanic Brewery

11th November 2017 - The Dome, Tufnell Park

2A Dartmouth Park Hill, London NW5 1HL

This was a spur of the moment event for me. Earlier in the day I had looked up to see what was on this evening at The Dome only to find that the all-day Lenmania event was sold out.

After having a few beers with RT, I mentioned this to him and he said why not chance my arm and hea dupithere anyway and if I can't get in have  acouple of pints in the Boston Arms next door. I took him at his word and, as luck would have it, I managed to get in on a returned ticket - for which I paid nothing! So a big thank you to the person who returned that ticket.

I managed to see two bands; Employed to Serve - a very heavy, hardcore band (not usually my cup of tea but it was made all the better for being live); and Jamie Lenman himself (a great punk artist who gets a great sound out of just his guitar and a drummer). The Lenman set was enhanced with guest musicians from the bands that were on throughout the rest of the day.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, the first gig I have been to in many, many years. I will definitely return when I can get the free time and the right kinds of bands are on.

Beers drunk on this visit:

3 Hop Lager (4.5%) - Caledonian Brewing Company

Friday, 20 October 2017

640 East bar

640 East Bar - Friday 25th August 2017

Montgomery Square (in the middle), Upper Bank Street, Canary Wharf, London E14 5JJ

I started a new contract back in June after six months of unemployment. It is great to be back in work and meeting friends new and old. I am back working with a couple of my colleagues, MS and GW (who I often go out for a beer with), from a previous contract and have met some other great guys to have a beer with.

After a particularly hectic week we decided to pop outside the office after work for a couple of beers before heading home. That couple wound up being a few more.

It is not a bad little bar but they only have the one beer (Lagunistas IPA) on tap,  plus a lager and a cider. Everything else is from a can. Luckily the choice of cans available isn't too bad. Attached to the bar is also a small food kitchen and a coffee lounge. Not a bad little venue for the nice summer evenings but it does get cold during the autumnal days (I went there again Friday 20/10/17, but only for a soft drink, so I won't be blogging that visit) when coats are required due to it being open to the elements.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1) IPA (6.2%) - Lagunistas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California, USA - a well, rounded, drinkable IPA with caramel undertones
2+) a variety of Brewdog and other small brewery beers in cans that I forgot to make a note of