Sunday, 27 January 2013

January blues and bottled ale

I find January a difficult month to do any visits to a pub. Because it's after Christmas I feel like a fat bloated mess, even though this year I was actually pretty good and barely put on any weight at all. I just can't seem to scarf down chocolate coins, "Christmas" wine and fourth helpings of roast potatoes like I used to. The heady days of having a third helping of trifle after finishing a Chocolate Orange are behind me. In fact the days of receiving a Chocolate Orange at all for Christmas appear to be over as I didn't receive one of the spherical faux fruity treats. Luckily for me my poorly wired brain lets me feel all the guilt and worry of putting on a few pounds anyway.

Another reason January is difficult for a pub visit is that nobody has any cash after Christmas, and with beer prices going up and up with no sign of stopping it's getting harder to justify a night out at the pub. Having starting to hit the limits on what they can tax on cigarettes and petrol before the public hit the streets and lynch an MP it appears some sections of the government have targeted booze as the next easy money maker. Luckily most MP's enjoy getting sloshed so I'm not sure how far they will take thesetax rises. Still you know things are getting bad when the Wetherspoons in Victoria Station has reached £3.30 a pint for the guest ales. I might as well go to a proper pub for those prices.

The poor weather isn't helping pub custom either, with our ever reliable transport system effectively making sure I can't visit any decent pubs. I also don't trust myself with a belly full of ales and a pavement full of  ice.

January has probably been even more difficult this year for pubs due to the Dryathlon campaign. I have mixed feelings about the campaign. I understand the sentiment of asking people to give up drink for a month for Cancer Research, and holding it in January means people can feel better about their new years resolution by donating to charity. But it seems a bit unfair to me to hold it during the most difficult month for pubs. With pubs closing down at the rate of two a day they need all the help they can get. Of course many of the pubs closing are flea ridden, vomit soaked pits of violence and despair, but plenty of good ones go as well.

I'm aware I'm being a terrible hypocrite by bemoaning that pubs get no custom in January when they really need it, and I've barely visited any pubs myself. In fact the only couple I've been to this month have been Weatherpersons. However I have been supporting the ale industry in my own little way this month by enjoying some good bottled ales. With Winter here in full force a warming Sneck Lifter from Jennings hit the spot perfectly. This is a full bodied strong ale with subtle raisin notes that is always a winner. I also enjoyed a bottle of Victory Ale from Bateman's which was another solid strong ale this time with caramel undertones. There's nothing more pleasant than a sturdy strong ale on a chilly Winters evening and I can recommend both of these for such an occasion.

While at the Wetherspoons in London Victoria Station I tried a half pint of Hopslinger Red Rye, from the fledging By The Horns brewery based in merry old London. Their brews are a bit of an acquired taste at the moment and I get the impression they're still finding their feet. The Red Rye was an OK attempt at an American Red Ale, but it got a little sickly and I was glad I only had a half.

With payday coming soon I think a lot more visits to pubs are going to be on the horizon. Maybe next year I'll make it a resolution to visit more pubs in January, if only so I don't feel guilty when I inevitably berate Cancer Research for holding Dryathlon a second time. See you in February.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

And a Happy New Year

I hope you had a good Christmas. Mine was pretty good, thank you for asking. I'm lucky that I didn't have to go to work between Christmas Eve and New Years Day, which meant I had plenty to catch up on some of my favourite activities:  stuffing my face full of chocolate, watching terrible TV, and drinking some fine ales. I only got one ale gift this year, a Dutchy Original Old Ruby Ale which came with a fetching tankard. Although branded as Waitrose own, it's actually brewed by the Wychwood Brewery. This was a perfectly suppable brew with some nice caramel and citrus undertones. I certainly enjoyed it and the gift tankard was pretty good with a very attractive sparkly bottom.

Over the Christmas I ended up Southampton to visit The Lovely Jemma's Nan. While we were down there we visited the Hampshire Bowman, a delightful country pub that is located in the middle of nowhere. I don't know how people found this pub before the days of Sat Nav - presumably it was just pure chance. After a endlessly winding road through empty fields the pub magically appeared, like driving into a boozy Twilight Zone. This comfortable boozer has four changing real ales, most of them from the local area. I tried the Bowman Brewery Wallops Wood, a satisfying best bitter with a lovely hoppy finish. I also went for a pint of Alliance Best Bitter, which unfortunately wasn't as good and had a rather insipid taste.

The pub has a strong food focus so I ordered a Fish and Chips. It was both bad and good. The batter for the fish tasted delicious. It was made using the Wallops Wood ale which really boosted the flavour. The texture of the batter was all wrong, doughy and not at all crispy. I didn't know whether to like it or hate it. However I had no problem shoving the fish into my gaping maw so I guess it can't have been that bad.

The pub was full of children and dogs at lunchtime but luckily most of them were fairly well behaved. There's also a £1 charge if you use your mobile phone in the pub so I spent the majority of time after eating my lunch nervously twitching, desperate to record the ales I had consumed on to the Untappd app on my phone, but not wanting to pay a quid. Eventually I could stands no more and popped out "for a wee." Once safely outside the pub, I feverishly pulled out my phone, the familiar glowing brick feeling warm and comfortable in my hands. It then turned out there was no mobile signal anyway so I couldn't really do much. 

Strangely all the children appeared to be on their smartphones and weren't charged a penny. Maybe it's different for the kids - at least it keeps them quiet. Overall the Hampshire Bowman is well worth a visit if you are in the area, perhaps after parachuting out of a plane or chasing a naughty dog through the fields as those are the only ways I could see people getting to this pub by chance.

I've been a bad beer blogger and not tried many Christmas ales at all. The few I have tried have not really been any good. I tried a pint of Skinners Jingle Knocker which sadly was as average as Christmas beers come. I can't write much about it as it was completely forgettable. The same goes for Batemans Rosey Nosey, which although pleasant to drink was not particularly noteworthy, hence why I have no notes about it. Sorry for these essentially useless descriptions of the ales but I really can't think of much to say about them. Not that this will stop me typing this inane drivel in my blog anyway.

My New Years resolution is to remember to take photos for this blog, so expect the next update to be a photo filled extravaganza. As a IT man it's also my duty to say that my other New Years Resolution is 1440x900. Apologies. So far I've managed to avoid signing up for "Dryathlon" so there may even be some beer chat. I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year!