Sunday, 30 November 2014

Hong Kong Part 1 - Afternoon pubbing

Last week I was in Hong Kong, affectionately nicknamed "Honkers" by ex-pats when they're not going to underground fight clubs or enjoying a Tetley's after murdering two prostitutes. If he is found not guilty for the murder he should definitely be locked up for choosing Tetley's when he could have chosen a much better beer, as it turns out that Hong Kong has a decent beer scene going on. Before the trip I did extensive research on TripAdvisor and Time Out on places to go, and after filtering out the local dives that TripAdvisor reviewers love because it's "so local," and the hipster hangouts that Time Out likes to recommend, I had a list of respectable pubs and bars to visit in this vibrant, cosmopolitan city.

First up was The Globe, a facsimile of a modern London pub, except it has table service. I love table service in pubs and I wish more places in London did it. Sure it's fine to get up and order your drinks from the bar but as I get older I prefer someone just bringing the booze to me. Usually table service means a service charge is plonked on to your bill but The Globe doesn't bother, so you can happily leave a terrible tip and run out before the staff notice. The pub is accessible from the Mid-Level escalators, a series of long escalators which whisks commuters and tourists through the hilly terrain of central Hong Kong Island. On arrival at the pub we were handed what looked like a small novel but was actually the list of beers they had on offer. It seemed endless, with draft and bottled beer from all over the world.

All the draft is keg, in fact I didn't see any cask beer in any of the pubs I visited. I started off with a Evil Twin Little B, which was about £4 a half during happy "hour" (11am - 8pm.) This is a beast of a beer, it's basically boozy treacle. It was actually pretty good but I can't imagine anybody having more than a half of this. Next up was Yeastie Boys Golden Perch. This was a light, fruity golden ale from the New Zealand craft beer scene. It was almost too fruity and could of easily passed as a fruit juice if it wasn't being served in a beer bottle. On a Tuesday lunchtime the pub was full of ex-pats enjoying comfort food (pies, burgers etc) and good beer. Service was professional throughout and prices weren't too expensive. Well worth a visit and a good start to our beery trail.

BrewDog? Euston Tap? No it's Craft Brew & Co!
Around the corner from The Globe is Craft Brew & Co. This place has lovingly "borrowed" or perhaps "ripped off" the design of BrewDog pubs with its industrial, metallic stripped back feel. There's also a nod to the Euston Tap with a beer wall behind the bar. I tried the Hitachino Nest White Ale and it was really rather good, an excellent example of a witbeir. We took a seat and had a good look at just how formulaic the design of the bar was. I could of easily believed I was sitting in BrewDog Shoreditch, except the place wasn't full of people I'd quite happily punch in the face if I wasn't such a timid nerd, and they were playing PJ and Duncan's "Lets Get Ready to Rumble" which you probably wouldn't hear in a BrewDog unless it was for "ironic" reasons. The food menu was mainly centred around gimmicky sausages made out of exotic meats like alligator or kangaroo. The beer list was pretty solid  and I would have stayed for more, but sadly the bar is situated across the road from a large construction site, and the din of constant drilling was to much for me and The Lovely Jemma so we had to head off.

The final stop on our beer tour for the afternoon was The Roundhouse Taproom, a small bar again reminiscent of BrewDog, complete with BBQ menu and beers from all over. They also brew their own beer and I tried Smoky Baby #1, which was a solid, hoppy pale ale. Couldn't taste any smokiness though. The place was empty as we were there after lunch but before the end of work, but the staff were friendly and the atmosphere relaxed. Again this was a perfectly serviceable pub that I'd be happy to visit again - and maybe try the BBQ.

Next Sunday I'll be telling you about the last two pubs we went to - Rockabilly and the Trafalgar Brewing Co. Look forward to seeing you then!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Out of office

No update this week as I've not nothing exciting to report, and no update next week as I shall be in Hong Kong. I've got my list of decent pubs and bars to visit over there ready. I'll hopefully get to try some local beers and maybe some craft offerings from the US or Australia that are hard to find in the UK. Whatever happens, I'll be blogging all about it on my return.

In the meantime why not follow me on Twitter? Just search for @bitterbloke, or click on the button on the right hand side. As well as my usual musings I might actually do some live tweeting from Hong Kong. Cheers and see you in three weeks time!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Old Jail, Westerham

The Lovely Jemma's parents live in leafy Biggin Hill, right on the border of London and Kent. When visiting we often take a walk around the surrounding countryside. Biggin Hill is in the London borough of Bromley but walking through the rolling fields it feels a million miles away from the big smog of the capital. There are plenty of pubs in the surrounding area for the thirsty rambler, including the Queens Head and the Aperfield Inn, both of which I've written about previously. Be careful when going into the Queen's Head though, as humble man of the people and millionaire city banker Nigel Farage lives in the area, and you may just find him in the pub necking 100 pints in one sitting or whatever down to earth activity the papers are portraying him doing.

When on our walks there is one pub we frequent more than others, mainly because it's just far enough to make the walk worthwhile but not long enough to get me whining like a little girl who has dropped her ice cream down a drain. The Old Jail is a Enterprise inn with a comfortable countryside feel inside, all low beams and old wooden furniture, and a sizeable beer garden outside. I think the reason I haven't written about this pub is that it's a bit, well, "vanilla." The ales are in good nick but the selection doesn't get any more exciting than Harvey's Best Bitter, and the food is good but I'm writing about pubs, not restaurants. It's certainly a nice place to stop if you happen to be in the area but it's not worth making a special journey for. However last week they held a beer festival which is just about noteworthy enough to write about, and quite frankly it's been a quiet week for blog content.

My heart sank a little when the beer list posted on their Facebook page included Doom Bar and Bombardier, but I also noticed there were a couple of local Westerham Brewery beers on which I hadn't tried before so I headed down. The festival setup was quite jolly, with a decent food tent and some arts and crafts stalls. After nosing around the stalls and buying some delicious home made salad dressing, I popped to the back of the garden, where the beers where being served in a hidden corner behind fencing. The beers seemed to be the shameful secret rather than the main event. The Westerham Brews were available so I tried their Bonfire and Hop Bomb. The Bonfire was very pleasant, a solid best bitter perfect for a slightly chilly autumn afternoon. The Hop Bomb was OK but it had a slight sourness to it which I didn't find appealing. I also tried a Sharps Special which despite my low expectations was actually pretty good, a strong bitter which would easily warm the soul on a long autumn night.

Despite the slight chill the sunshine was out and we enjoyed hog roast sandwiches along with the beer. There was a good turn out and hopefully it will encourage the Jail to do more beer fests in the future as it was pretty good overall. It always pleases me to see pubs doing these community days, and if some local traders and breweries get some business out of it all the better. Cheers.