Sunday, 23 August 2015

Notes on Statistics etc.

As I have hit a fairly pub-free patch at the moment, I thought I would keep things ticking over by sharing how I will resolve some of the stats on this blog. There are a couple of things I would like to share on this post...

Number of Visits...

At the bottom of each pub review is a little statistic that details the amount of visits I have made to that particular establishment. Before the slash is the amount of times I have visited the pub/festival etc. since I started up the blog and after the slash is an approximation of the amount of visits prior to starting the blog (unless I can actually remember the exact figure).

The first number is easy to keep track of but the second statistic/statement is worked out according the table below...

A few : approximately 3 or 4 previous visits
Several : up to around a dozen visits
A dozen : from around a dozen to twenty visits
Dozens : more than twenty visits

These numbers are not exact as I have several decades of visiting drinking establishments under my belt and I will have lost count of the amount of times I have visited some of the featured establishments. However, these stats will serve to remind me which pubs I have visited previously and how often, which shows how popular they are/were with me in the past.

I will eventually create pages on this blog to list all of the pubs I have visited by area. This list will also include a link to the pub's website and more information about the establishment by way of easily gathered stats. All of this should allow me to aid my failing memory and allow you, dear reader, to plan for a drink i a new pub if you happen to be in the area.

How I Drink Beer...

This is not as daft as it sounds. Yes, like everyone else, I open my mouth, pour it in, savour it a bit and then swallow. However, there is actually a method to how and what I drink during an evening's session.

I was told many moons ago that real ale should be drunk in order of alcoholic content - I do not know if this is particularly the true and official way to drink beer but I have stuck to it and not gone wrong. If I recall correctly I was told that this was because as beers got stronger the flavour also becomes more obvious. So, if a weaker beer is drunk after a stonger beer then it is more likely to taste 'soapy' or be rather flavourless.

So, when I head into a decent pub with several beers on offer (usually chalked up on a black board of some sort, again usually in order of alcoholic content) I check out the menu and start at the bottom. I pick out the beers I wish to try and work my way up through the percentages. If there is a particularly strong one I wish to try, I usually drink it last and usually only a half. I find I can only drink porters nowadays by the half anyway, so if I fancy one, they are usually last on my list for that particular session.

I hope you find these little snippets useful and that they go a little way to explaining some of the things that may seem arbitrary on the blog.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A Big Pub-Crawl in Brighton

All day drinking in Brighton - Saturday 9th August

My brother-in-law (my wife's brother) is due to be married soon, so he had to have the big lads' night out. However, the night out turned out to be an all day event in Brighton with overnight stay.

The day started off with the groom, his father-in-law and five more of us in a local greasy spoon to line our stomachs and then it was off to the station to catch the train to London to meet the rest of the lads (there were to be 18 of us in all). The trains were all up the creek, so we had to phone some of the women-folk to come collect us and drop us off at another station that was working. Things went well for a while as we met the rest of the party and caught the coach. Unfortunately, our joy was short lived and we got stuck in traffic for several hours before deciding to jump out at a nearby station and catching the train down instead. We beat the coach's sat-nav arrival time by two hours!

On the way down we all got through a few (3 in my case) cans of lager (not my favourite tipple, but there was nothing else available) and arrived at the hotel ready and raring to go. LS, the best man had it all planned out for us, so twenty minutes later we were all changed and ready to go. We stuck to the main station to beach road (West Street I think it is called) and managed to get in 5 pubs before getting to the two on the pier. The weather was scorching and Brighton was absolutely heaving with day-trippers and tourists; all making for a great party atmosphere.

Before we go any further, I need to stress that this was an unusual day and I do not usually drink the quantities I got through this day. That said, I limited my intake a fair bit by mostly drinking halves or bottles rather than pints. Due to the length of the session and the few soft drinks interspersed throughout the session, I actually felt OK the next day, so the quantity was obviously at a slow but steady pace that my body could cope with. One of us had to stay soberish to look after the groom to be and the 'whip' afterall.

Anyway, on with the round-up of pubs and beers...

1) The Queen's Head

The Queens Head 69 Queens Road, Brighton BN1 3XD
The first pub we visited was The Queen's Head, just opposite the hotel we were staying in, and just down the road from the railway station. The old-fashioned style outside disguises the very noisy sports bar inside. There were about four or five pump ales alongside all the usual pub fare, so a good session could have been held in just this pub alone. After ordering our first drinks we decided to stand on the pavement outside to soak up the sun's rays.

2) Yates
Academy House, 59 West Street, Brighton BN1 2RA
The second pub was a more modern affair and a little closer to the beach and pier. The photo above is an older one taken from Google; the pub has had a makeover since then and looks a bit slicker due to its new grey and orange external decor. It has a more traditional interior and a great selection of beers at a reasonable price. The bar staff were great and very patient with a bunch of rowdy lads, even after a minor accident with some glasses (nothing serious, just a few knocked over accidentally).

3) The Bright Helm (Wetherspoons)

20-22A West St, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 2RE
Just down the road but on the opposite side is another beer co. pub, this time a Wetherspoons. They often get a bad name, but as a company they do manage to safe-keep many old buildings and facades that would otherwise be pulled down to make way for more flats or offices. They are also quite cheap and I believe they also had a hand in making real ales popular again. The outside of this building is very ugly indeed, but the multi-level interior is very nicely decorated.

This one had several choice beers on pump, but I plumped for a half of an unusual looking IPA. Everyone liked this pub and we decided later that this would be our evening's session pub before heading off to the clubs.

4) Name Unknown

When some of our party popped outside for a cigarette, they were accosted by a young lady offering 5 Jagermeisters for £5 in a bar on the opposite side of the street. It was decided we would partake of a shot each as it was going so cheap and would break up the beers a little.

It was also at this point that we began to get hungry. My favourite Brighton fish 'n' chip takeaway is pretty much at the end of the street, so we all grabbed a portion of chips and something on the side (sausage in batter in my case) to soak up a little of what we had drunk.

5) Victoria's Bar
Brighton Pier, Madeira Drive, Brighton BN2 1TW
After a stroll along the promenade and then a quick skip along the pier we ended up in Victoria's Bar just in time for the footbal results. I am not a football fan but it was something the rest of the party wanted to see. There was no choice of ale or beer on tap so I had to move onto bottles. The only real choice was London Pride.

6) Horatio's Bar
Brighton Pier, Madeira Drive, Brighton BN2 1TW
After the footie results, we all decided that Victoria's was not that great a bar after all, so we headed down to the final pub on our day time pub crawl. We had an hour or two left before we had to return to the hotel to get changed, so we stayed here for a couple. This was the first pub that we really got into the party atmosphere; we bumped into a couple of hen parties and got into our stride.

The day time session drew to a close around 7:30pm, so we returned to the hotel for a shower and quick change before heading back out on the town at around 9pm. We had earlier decided that The Bright Helm would be our best bet due to the location and price of the drinks. Around 11:30pm, some of us older ones headed back for a good night's sleep but the younger members of our party stayed out until the early hours. I was sensible and just stuck to soft drinks on our return to the Wetherspoons. A habit I continued when I got back to the hotel room - I had a bottle of water whilst watching the end of Match of the Day with my father-in-law.

Beers drunk on this pub crawl:

Remember that all of these drinks were half-pints, cans or bottles.

1) Can of Budweiser on the coach
2) Can of Becks on the coach
3) Can of Stella on the coach
4) Saison d'Ete (3.7%), Firebird Brewing Co., Horsham, Sussex - Belgian style farmhouse summer ale
5) Dead Pony Ale (3.8%), Brewdog, Ellon, Aberdeenshire - Americsn Pale Ale
6) Summer of 1842 (5%), Wadworth, Devizes - a good session IPA
7) Jagermeister
8, 9, 10) London Pride (4.7%), Fuller's, Chiswick - a great session beer (one of my favourites). This particular beer came in 500ml bottles

Visits: This is an easy one for this particualr pub crawl. It was my first visit to all of these pubs except for Horatio's Bar on the pier which I have visited on several occasions previously.

Friday, 7 August 2015

A Mini Pub-Crawl in the West End

Mini Pub Crawl in the West End of London - Tuesday 4th August 2015

I met up with one of my old rugby pals, SH, this evening. We see each other maybe four or five times a year plus any rugby finals that our team (Wasps RFC) manage to get to. SH is also my main Oktoberfest buddy - we have been to six in the last eight years and are due to go to his year's one too.

Back to this evening - I met up with SH after grabbing a quick bite in a new burger bar called "5 Guys". It feels like an American diner inside and they serve a basic menu of burgers and fries with a selction of soft and alcoholic drinks. I went for a basic cheeseburger, onto which I could add as many 'free' toppings as I wished from their list - I went for mustard, ketchup, tomatoes and pickles, and a small portion of fries. It was tasty and very filling, just what was required to line my stomach for the evening's drinking session. The only downside was that for what you get it is very expensive. The quality, in my mind, lies betwen Burger King and Byron's, but the price is up there with Byron's. If they were maybe a couple of quid cheaper then they would be perfect.

Sorry about the aside there. Anyway, I met up with SH in the Punch and Judy in Covent Garden after my repast. We have met here the last few times we have gone for a drink in London before heading off elsewhere. We had a couple of drinks here and then headed back down to The Strand to see what was on offer there.

The Punch and Judy, Covent Garden

40 The Market, Covent Garden Piazza, London, WC2E 8RF

The Punch and Judy is a rather expensive tourist trap but a lovely pub all the same. They offer many of the usual lagers and wines and so forth, but only three beers on tap. However, unusually for many a pub, they offer around half-a-dozen bottle ales too!

The pub is on two levels, but the majority of the patrons frequent the beer 'garden' (as shown in the photo) or the inside bar downstairs. We sat inside whilst we had our two beers and a neck and shoulder massage from a couple of lovely young ladies from the Marie Curie Cancer trust - for a small donation. The upper balcony is usually reserved for the smokers and is actually the easiest way into the main bar downstairs.

Beers drunk on this visit:

1) Best Bitter (3.8%), Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, North Yorkshire - a light, golden hoppy bitter
2) IPA (3.6%), Greene King, Bury St Edmunds - a good session IPA

Visits: 1st / several previous

The Lyceum Tavern

354 Strand, London WC2R 0HS

This is a pub that I walk past every day on my way to and from work. I used to drink in here on a semi-regular basis (along with The Wellington a few door down) with a friend of mine after work who I have since lost touch with - Graham (Madam X fan I met on a Charing Cross to Bexleyheath train) get in touch if you ever get to read this, it would be great to see you again.

This is a great pub with loads of character. There is an upstairs bar that serves food but the downstairs bar with its side booths and airy main snug is great. They are a Sam Smith's house but the tied status does not detract from the great beer on offer. They have four pumps of Sam Smiths Old Brewery Bitter and around four of those old fashioned 'taps' - those wierd pumps that have the lit cubes above them advertising what is contained within.

Beers drunk on this visit:

1) Old Brewery Bitter (4%), Sam Smiths, North Yorkshire - a malty, toffeeish bitter

Visits: 1st / a few previous

The Coal Hole
91-92 Strand, London WC2R 0DW

This is a pub that I have just started to go back to after many years. They have 12 pumps of ale on (although, upon chatting to the barman, during the summer they reduce the number of beers to about 7 or 8 and double up or switch off some pumps due to people switching to lagers in the hot weather) and a large selection of usual and premium lagers and wine.

Again, it is on my way to/from work, so is perfecly situated for an after work drink. That said, I only partook of one ale as time was marching on and I had already had three drinks in the previous two pubs. SH is usually a lager drinker but for The Lyceum and here he joined me on the bitter/ales. I think he enjoyed them as much as I did.

We managed to carry on talking the hind legs of our proverbial donkeys as the beer loosened our tongues and we pomised to meet up at least once more before Oktoberfest to sample a few more pubs in the area.

Beers drunk on this visit:

1) Tribute Ale (4.2%), St, Austell Brewery, Cornwall - a light, hoppy easy to drink session ale

Visits: 1st / a few previous

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Nell Gwynne Tavern

The Nell Gwynne - Saturday 1st August 2015

1-2 Bull Inn Ct, London WC2R 0NP

After heading to the Vaudeville theatre to watch The Importance of Being Earnest matinee with my wife and then grabbing a tasty burger in Byron's a few doors down, we decided we would like a nice drink to round off the afternoon. As this pub is situated only a few short yards from the theatre and restaurant we decided that this was the best choice.

It was absolutely packed to the gunnels but we were served very quickly by the efficient bar staff. I chose a tasty ale from the five on tap whilst my wife went for a more staid JD and coke after we found they would nit do sparkling wine by the glass (I can understand why, but other pubs do offer this service, so I can only assume they do not get enough requests for it to make it worth their while opening a whole bottle for one or two servings).

We managed to grab a seat after about ten minutes of standing at the bar and had a great conversation whilst we waited for when our train was due to leave from Charing Cross just down the road.

Beers drunk on this visit:

1) T.E.A. Traditional English Ale (4.2%), Hogs Back Brewery, Tongham, Surrey - a golden hoppy bitter

Visits: 1st / a few previous

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Great Welling Beer Festival : 31st July - 2nd August

The Great Welling Beer Festival at The Guy, Earl of Warwick

This entry will be a double post as I will be commenting on both the beer festival and the pub that it was held in.
This is a relatively new beer festival - it is only just on its fourth year, but it seems to have become a very popular feature in the local calendar. The fun games and local bands that play at this festival add a great party atmosphere to what I normally find are actually quite boring events that carry the name 'festival'. They are cover bands and play a great variety of tunes from the 60s to the 90s and beyond, so that everyone has something in the eclectic mix that they will enjoy listening to. Anyway, after a few beers, most people are in the party spirit and are busy enjoying themselves.

This is the third GWBF event that I have been to (I missed the first one), and as usual I got to keep the glass (the proceeds of entry go to charity via the Welling Round Table). I am slowly building a small collection of beer fest glasses, but for some reason the first couple of dozen I went to I did not keep the glasses - I cannot remember if that was through choice or whether they had to be handed back to be honest.

This year on offer was a great variety (30) of ales, (8) ciders and a few lagers in addition to teh beers that the Guy Earl of warwick usually sells. I managed to sample 4 of them to myself and took a quick taste of one other from MB my drinking buddy for the night.

Park View Road, Welling, Kent, DA16 1TB

I do not regularly go to this pub as there are so many more that I prefer in the area. They do have a couple of ales on tap but on this occasion, due to the beer festival, I only used the pub for buying the obligatory pork scratchings and for using the facilities.

It is a large pub which plays my favoured kind of music (heavy metal) on the juke box but I have never really considered it a local watering hole - I think I will nee to visit a little more often. All I can say though, is that because of its large garden they can host such a great event.

Beers drunk on this visit:

1) Samba (3.7%), Leeds Brewery, Leeds - A blonde bitter with fruity undertones
2) Citra (4.1%), Caveman, Swanscombe, Kent - A hoppy pale ale with citrus flavours
3) Pickwick (4.2%), Mauldons, Suffolk - A tawny bitter with a hops and fruit flavour
4) Saisonniers (4.5%), Hop Stuff, London SE18 - this is labelled MAD in the brochure an dit certainly is! Absolutely mental flavours of rosemary and thyme - but it works!

Beers also tasted on this visit:

1) Potbelly Best Bitter (3.8%), Potbelly, Northants - a chestnut bitter with a nice malty taste
2) Howbury (4.5%), Bexley, Kent - an amber ale with an international blend of hops rounded off with a citrus flavour

Festival Visits: 1st / 2 previous
Pub Visits: 1st / several previous