Shouting Lager, Lager, Lager

From the beginning of my drinking days I have always loved lager and the frequency of tweets from the Campaign for Excellent Lager @CAMELager on my Twitter feed has made me feel empowered to shout it from the rooftops. There is often negativity shown towards the major brands of lager within craft beer circles that has led me to write this love letter to lager.

On looking through old photographs from my early drinking days it appears I regularly had a lager in my hand. When my best friend and I first started going to the pub (we may have been slightly younger than 18) lager was always our drink of choice, she’d order Carling and I would order Carlsberg. We did this to try and give an air of maturity, as if having a preference over two different brands made us look older than our years. I don’t know if this had a bearing on our ability to get served in the pubs of Wakefield and Leeds but I don’t ever remember an occasion where we were refused our beloved lager. Maybe it was the silver eyeliner and crop tops – we’ll never know!

When jetting off on our 18-30 holidays we would look forward to trying the local lagers like Keo in Ayia Napa and Cisk in Malta and they always tasted so much better for being supped in the sun. Imagine my delight when they started importing this amber nectar to the U.K so I can relive these heady days.

At University I moved on to wine like a lot of students because we were poor and wanted to get as much booze in as possible before leaving the house but my love of lager remained.  The recent hot weather has brought my desire for a lager to the fore, there is nothing I crave more on a hot summer’s day than a cold can of Red Stripe or a bottle of Corona with a slice of lime. I don’t know what it is about sunshine that makes lager taste so much better. I am particularly enjoying the Aldi Rheinbacher Pilsner which has become the perfect BBQ accompaniment.

I do love craft beer and when I’m out in town I would be very unlikely to order a pint of lager when there are other delights on offer. When opportunity presents itself I enjoy being in an establishment where a pint of Fosters or the like is on offer, be it a trip up to our local or a day in the sun at the Cricket. It is nice to just drink a pint of lager, to be familiar with the taste and not think about the flavours or what you’re getting on the nose. For me lager is like an old friend, consistent and reliable and I look forward to seeing more of the Breweries I love brewing this style of beer.

Is this the best blog I’ve ever written?…………Probably.

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Goodbye Gran

This is not the next blog I thought I would be writing but here goes…..

My Gran died today.

I have been lucky in that I have not experienced grief like this since my Grandad died when I was 5 years old, so not really old enough to process what had happened. I never thought I would do a blog about how I feel on the passing of my Gran but my brain is so full of the stories she used to tell me and my time with her that I am hoping in writing them down it will assist with the crippling sadness I feel at knowing I will never see or speak to her again. My Gran was in her early 90’s but she has always lived in her own home and it is only recently she has seemed less and less like herself. Whilst it shouldn’t have been such a big shock I am devastated and feel like the world is a smaller place without her in it.

As anyone who has read my other blogs will know my Grandma was a Landlady for many years at The Two Pointers in Woodlesford, Leeds. I have spoken before about the warm, comforting feeling I get from the smell of stale cigarette smoke and furniture polish. She was, like a lot of publicans a force to be reckoned with and a grafter. From the tales she used to tell me I got the impression that there were very few punters who frequented the pub that would have taken my Gran on.

As children me and my brother spent a lot of time in the pub. She only had one children’s film on VHS – Mary Poppins and it is down to my Gran that I have a love of Dick van Dyke and know every word to this film off by heart. It never seemed to occur to her that there may be other films out there we might like to watch and it never occurred to me to ask. We just loved Mary Poppins. It was probably this early introduction to Dick van Dyke that resulted in me missing all lectures at University which clashed with Diagnosis Murder.

There were many stories my Gran told me about her time in the pub but my all time favourite was about a lengthy game of eye spy with a regular. One night it had snowed really heavily so the pub was very quiet. My Gran was working the bar on her own and one of the regulars had come in and taken up his position sat at the bar in the tap room. To pass the time they decided to play a game of eye spy in between Gran serving the other drinkers who had ventured out that night. So the man said ‘eye spy with my little eye something beginning with t’. The game went on all night with my Gran pulling her hair out trying to guess the answer to no avail. The pub closed and Gran went off to bed trying to figure out what the item was so she could finish the game when the man, whose name has escaped me, was next in the pub. Several days later the man returned to the pub and took up his residency sat at the end of the bar. When she got the opportunity she said to the man that it had been driving her mad what it was that he had spied beginning with ‘t’ and that he must tell her the answer. The man replied – t’oven door.

During her time in the pub they managed to acquire an African grey parrot from a regular who had passed away. The parrot used to sit in his cage on the bar and swear and make jokes at the drinker’s expense. It always seemed like it would have been a pleasure to drink in her pub and that there was always something entertaining going on.

There seemed to be a lot of regulars who were in the Police and one was a Detective on the Yorkshire Ripper case. I remember Gran telling me how he had been in the night the Yorkshire Ripper had been caught by the police in Sheffield. He was noticeably out of sorts and confided in my Gran that the Ripper had been caught but how devastated he was that it had been by another force. I always got the impression that my Gran acted as counsellor and confidant to many of the regulars in the pub. When I started to drink in there in my late(ish) teens I was always greeted by people who couldn’t wait to tell me how much they loved my Gran and how the pub was so much better when her and my Grandad ran it.

So my Gran is gone and I now need to come to terms with a life without her in it and all the things she will miss. I will never forget the last things she said to me, that she loved me and that my girls were a credit to me. I am eternally thankful that I saw her so recently and have this memory. Goodbye Gran – I love you.

Dare I say wineforwives?

Anyone on Twitter who is into craft beer will be aware of the incident last year around the Beavertown Extravaganza when someone tweeted Beavertown asking about wine for his wife. With want of a better way of putting it Twitter went fucking mental! The hashtag #wineforwives was all that was on my timeline along with a lot of anger towards the individual who sent the tweet. Now I don’t know the man and I don’t know if his intention was to provoke such a reaction. It may be that he does have an archaic attitude towards women and beer in which case I’m glad that he was made of aware of the error of his ways and it was pointed out to him that he is wrong. However at the time I said to my husband maybe a better reaction would have been to suggest the beers that his wife, as a wine drinker might like? I haven’t always been a beer lover and it’s only through attending beer festivals, drinking in the likes of Friends of Ham and Cross Keys then being open to suggestions of the style of beers I might like that my love of beer has grown. It’s only in the last six months or so that I have grown to love dark beers after the hard work and efforts of Leanne @leannegirt to persuade me to keep trying different styles.

So in light of the above I decided I would practise what I preach and would take a non-beery friend out on a bar crawl and would introduce her to the magical world of craft beer. So I took out my friend Bianca, who I knew was partial to a lager and liked a pale ale, but in general would usually drink wine on a night out.

To make the evening even more exciting she hadn’t been to the majority of the bars that we were going to visit. We began in North Bar and Bianca arrived a half hour before me. When I arrived she was happily sat drinking Taras Boulba from Brasserie de la Senne which was on as part of their Lowlands Festival. She’d gone in to the pub not knowing where to start and the lovely manager at North Bar had taken her under his wing and made this suggestion. I thought a good place for us to start would be a Saison. This was a gateway beer for me and for a long time was the style of beer I would instantly gravitate towards when faced with a long beer menu. We tried the Burning Sky – Saison Le Printemps and Brouwerij de Glazen Toren – Saison d’Erpe-Mere both of which Bianca loved so the experiment was going well! She loved North Bar and the atmosphere but who doesn’t!

We moved on to Turks Head and again the bar itself was a big hit. Bianca’s exact comments were that she loved the ambiance. I threw sours into the mix this time – we had Ridgeside – Small Times and The Kernel Brewery – London Sour Damson. They didn’t go down as well as the Saison we’d had in North Bar, which she found a smoother easier drink. The barman recommended Ridgeside – Tonquin, an old ale which we both loved. It tastes like Christmas Cake and Bianca felt it was like drinking a hug. We could have stayed in here all night but Tapped was calling. We moved onto Gose with a Magic Rock – Salty Kiss and one of my all time favourite beers To Øl – Gose to Hollywood. I had hoped that Bianca would love them too but I think maybe it was a bit adventurous for a first trip down craft beer lane. This was her first time in Tapped and she thought it was a cool bar for people spotting and loved that they had the fermenting vessels along the wall.

From this point on everything gets a bit blurry and the plan I had set out to stick to certain styles all fell out of the window as we were both having too much fun. We went to Head of Steam for one so I got Bianca to try another of my favourites, Northern Monk – Heathen. Again, this was well received and I can’t wait to introduce her to Northern Monk Refectory in the future.

Lastly we went to Bundobust. We should maybe have started here so I have a clearer memory of the beers we drank but I can assure you seeing the pleasure on someone’s face when they go to Bundo for the first time and try a Vada Pav made the whole experience worthwhile. Bianca stepped up and chose the beer this time, and went for a Magic Rock – Inhaler and Dry & Bitter – Juicy Bhangra – my work here is done!

Of all the beers we tried, perhaps surprisingly based on my experiences, the Tonquin Old Ale was Bianca’s favourite in the Turks Head. She loved the bar crawl and trying all the beers so we will be doing Becky’s Bar Crawl, take 2 sticking to the dark side.

So the next time someone asks for #wineforwives why not suggest #beerforbeginners.

You can’t give a baby booze….but is it ok to take them to the boozer?

My recent attempts at organising an event for Tryanuary has led me to dust off my keyboard and do a blog. (Or re-download WordPress and spend half an hour trying to remember my password!). I am in the process of arranging a ‘crafty babies’ event where parents who love beer can meet up along with their children and talk about what all parents who love beer talk about – poo and beer.

This got me thinking about the much discussed topic of children in pubs.

So here goes….our generation are pretty fucking awesome! We are from a time when playing involved knocking on your friend’s door to see if they were lecking then riding your bikes or going to the park. Not sitting in your bedroom drawing on your eyebrows and taking selfies, trying to see how many likes you can get on social media. With the passing of time we are now at an age where some of us are procreating and luckily for us this has coincided with the emergence of a wealth of amazing child friendly bars/taprooms.

With this has come the debate as to whether children in pubs is a good idea.

I grew up with Grandparents who were publicans so I spent a lot of time in the pub as a child! The smell of fresh furniture polish and stale cigarette smoke is the most comforting smell in the world for me. Spending all this time in the pub as a child taught me some essential life skills:

1. Always check the coin tray on the bandits! Drunk people are very careless.

2. An abundance of swear words and the correct context within which to use them.

3. How to play five and three’s (a skill I still possess if anyone is ever up for a round of doms).

5. Most importantly how to talk to grown ups and how to behave in an adult environment.

So when my husband and I decided to make our own little people one thing we both agreed on was that the children would fit into our lives as well as us fitting in with theirs. As such one of the first places both of my daughters went to as babies was Friends of Ham. We don’t think twice about taking them to the pub with us and as a result they know how pubs work (Matilda is 4 months old so her pub behaviour involves sleep/looking around in amazement at all the new things she can see). My eldest, Jessica is 4 and we always go armed with entertainment (often in the form of Simon and Leanne @leedsbeerwolf and @leannegirt). I like taking my children to the pub, not only because it means they learn how to behave in such environments but because I like going to the pub! There has been more than one occasion where a beer has been released that I’ve wanted to try and I would have had no opportunity to do so if I didn’t go out with my family with me. Some months due to our lack of babysitters the only time I get to go to the pub is with the bin lids in tow. In my day I would have been plonked in the beer garden with a Panda Pop and a packet of Seabrooks but times change.

Now don’t get me wrong I fully understand why people don’t like children in pubs. In the absence of alcohol all children have it in them to act like that pissed up arsehole you try to avoid on the late bus home. They can talk too loud, they can’t sit still, they are completely unreasonable and are prone to erratic and unprovoked outbursts! That being said I still enjoy taking my children to the pub with me and importantly they enjoy going. In my defence I will add that if my daughter starts to run around like a lunatic and is beyond reasoning I’ll be the first to down my £5 third of one off DIPA and bundle her into the car to return to the safety of home and Doc McStuffins.

So in conclusion I do get why people aren’t keen on the idea of children in pubs but as I see it I’m raising the next generation of craft beer drinkers. What’s to say Jessica won’t be the first ballerina brewer? She already shows an interest in the brewing process and is desperate to do the Magic Rock brewery tour….so watch this space!

Victory at Waterloo (Tap)

Waterloo Tap

I recently went on a trip to London with my Mum to do some sight seeing and go to a show. As ever when I go anywhere without my other half I asked for a list of good pubs where I could get a decent beer. Here’s how I got on….

I had a list of three pubs I was going to try and fit into my trip without my Mum realising she was on a mini bar crawl with me! After tiring her out round Covent Garden I suggested we ‘rest’ in one of the pubs on my list. This is where my plan falls down….I am useless at reading maps! My husband can look at a map for five seconds and navigate us around a city he’s never visited before, I on the other hand am map blind. I had pinpointed the locations on Google maps and studied them on the train on the way down but still I find myself standing on the street looking at my phone, trying to step in to the map like Mary Poppins with one of Dick Van Dyke’s street drawings. Eventually I managed to navigate us to The Harp on Chandos Place which unfortunately due to the Friday lunchtime rush was heaving so much to my Mum’s delight I trudged her back in the direction we’d just come from to The Porterhouse.

This was the one from my list that I was looking forward to visiting the most as I’d been to the one in New York (Fraunces Tavern), which was amazing. I remember sitting at a bar with taps as far as the eye could see and being spoilt for choice. Unfortunately my experience at The Porterhouse in London was not as awe-inspiring!

It is lovely outside with a large beer garden to the front so I was optimistic that it’d be as nice inside, however the only way I can think to describe it is tired looking. I appreciate it is in essence an Irish bar but I was expecting more Crafty O’Neills but instead I got Shabby O’Connors.

It was dark and dingy, so much so that coming in from the sun I struggled to see what beer they had. There was a big beer menu of bottles and cans on the bar but as I was trying to look through the eyes of the barman began to bore a hole in my head so I looked up and shouted out the name of the first IPA I saw. I am so used to the beery establishments of the North where the bar staff want to talk to you about what you like and give suggestions that I was taken aback by the abrupt service and it put me off my stride. As anyone who has read my first blog will know I am the least confident craft beer buyer in the world, and regularly make a tit of myself. However on this occasion even under pressure I managed to complete a beer buying transaction without looking like someone trying to eat their own tongue rather then speaking. To top it off on my second visit to the bar I spotted a dusty collection of cans and bottles on top of the bar almost completely hidden from view with a sign saying ‘Want it all – Yes you can!’ Some of the best beers I’ve ever drunk were being so shabbily displayed to my complete horror! There was one of my go to beers Thornbridge – Jaipur, Magic Rock – Highwire Grapefruit and Northern Monk – Eternal, to name but a few. I felt like a child in a charity shop spotting her favourite toys unceremoniously dumped in the bargain bin!

On a positive note the beer was good and the beer garden was perfect for the weather. Halves of Eton Rifles by Windsor & Eton and a Longhorn IPA by Purity Brewing Co went some way to make up for the service.

The last bar on my list was the recently opened Waterloo Tap. Unfortunately between my visit to The Porterhouse and Waterloo Tap was Champagne in the ‘Eye Bar’ and a Champagne flight on the London Eye. Needless to say my map reading skills after this had further diminished and despite the knowledge that the restaurant we were going to (Archdukes) was in one of the railway arches and that Waterloo Tap is also in a railway arch it didn’t occur to me that they were in the same location. So I went on to walk my poor Mum ten minutes in the wrong direction back towards Waterloo Bridge – that’ll teach me to take the name of a bar so literally. After a brief pit stop on a wall we headed off in the right direction with my Mum insisting we take a taxi back to the hotel after our meal.

At first we thought all the bars and eateries under the railway bridge were closed due to the amount of scaffolding but when we got to the other side it was clear this was not the case. There are still some finishing touches required to the outside of Waterloo Tap with a few missing paving stones (not good after so much Champagne!) but inside did not disappoint. I thought it would be dark and cold but with large glass windows and doors on either side of the arch it is light and airy. It was like walking into a warm beery hug after my Porterhouse experience. We got seats at the bar and the bar staff were what I’ve come to expect from real ale/craft beer establishments. The beer list is up on two large TV screens so they can update when the beers change or go off easily. To my drunken amusement they also have any tweets with the bar tagged in scrolling along the top of the screens – so obviously I tweeted them A LOT whilst I was in there!

Screens

The first beer I wanted had just gone off so the lady serving me went through the list with me and suggested what I might like to try instead. I did my usual beer ordering trick of not checking the ABV and went for a Citrusinensis Pale Ale by Lagunitas Brewing Co and it was divine….it also tipped me over the beery edge. Whilst standing at the bar with my Bundobust tote over my shoulder a man in a Magic Rock t-shirt came over to tell me how much he loved my bag (and Bundobust). He then went on to tell me that Waterloo Tap are going to be doing a collaboration with Bundobust soon! Since getting in to my beer this is the kind of welcome I have come to appreciate in bars and after the aloof reception I get in The Porterhouse, Waterloo Tap reaffirmed my love of craft beer establishments. Further affirmation came when I had finished my first beer and the lady who had served me came back over to tell me the Hefeweizen Zäpfle by Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus had come back on. I was glad it had as it did not disappoint and is definitely a beer I will seek out again! To my amusement I spent the whole time I drank it trying to explain to my Mum that the beer was not off – it was cloudy because it’s a wheat beer.

Now as a beer-loving lady there are two things that are important to me – taps and toilets (my beer loving Mother in Law will verify this!). I would say the only slight downside of this bar is that there is only one toilet and by the time I got in there it had clearly been well used if you know what I’m saying. That aside I wish I could pick this bar up and bring it back up to Leeds with me! I will be back and you’ll know when I am as no doubt I will be sat at the bar tweeting away and giggling to myself as they scroll up the beer list TV screens.

 

 

Beer Festival for one

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Talking about beer for me is still a bit like when I try to talk about football – it’s something I really enjoy but it’s only a matter of time before I say something stupid and negate myself from the conversation. For example I made a trip to Bier Huis in Ossett recently, I held my own in conversation with the owner and skipped out with a bag full of goodies. I then checked my phone to find a text from my husband as follows:

‘I have a beer order if you’re going to Bier Huis……Old Rasputin x 1 million’

I sat in the car for a while wondering how to play it – do I go back in and trawl the shelves looking for said beer or risk engaging the shop keep in conversation again. I went for the later and asked for a bottle of Old Rasputin times a million. It was only as I saw the bottle on the shelf that I realised what my husband’s intention was with the wording of his text! Head hung in shame I quickly paid and scurried out of the shop.

So it is with some trepidation that I embark on a blog about beer so I’m sticking with the format of the ’12 Beers of Christmas’ blog I contributed towards last year.

I’m missing Beertown in Malton so I’m having a beer festival for one- I have five beers to drink and will share my thoughts on each. Expect more witticism than knowledge of beer….

I’m starting lowest ABV first in an attempt to still be coherent at the end! So first up a Sour Suzy by Lervig. Beliner Weisse is my favourite type of beer at the moment, however I have to be honest it was the label on this bottle that first appealed to me. I like that mermaid’s style just as much as I like this beer. It’s like a lemon sherbet but without being jaw crampingly sour. I’m glad it’s only 4% as I’m going to stock up for this years Cup Final Day party.

Now for my first Cloudwater beer of the night – Table Beer Juniper (with the lowest ABV first system I get to save the best Cloudwater beer until last!). I’m yet to find one of their beers I haven’t enjoyed but this is my least favourite to date. When I first poured it I was certain I’d like it – it looked light and fizzy which when I had zero knowledge about beer was what I looked for. But the aroma is peppery rather than fruity and any other flavour is lost for me by how bitter it is. Once the bitterness passes it leaves a floral taste which isn’t unpleasant but still not one I’ll rush to have again.

Up next a Weird Beard pale ale – Mariana Trench. I was a massive fan of their Saison 42 and haven’t had another Weird Beard beer since my last bottle of it over two years ago. Now I’m not one to hold a grudge but it’s just cruel to make a beer that good as a one off! This one is another corker – it’s refreshing and fruity. The only downside is I wish I’d bought a few more when they were on sale from Beer Merchants. *whispers sorry for ignoring you for two years quietly under my breath*.

My penultimate beer is a wheat beer from Maui Brewing Co – Mana Wheat. This is another brewery I turned my back on and I’m still in mourning over the Lemongrass Saison they brewed a couple of years ago. I never used to be a wheat beer fan but recently I’ve had some lovely ones, particularly Wu Gang Chops the Tree by Pressure Drop Brewing. I know from smelling this beer I’m gonna love it. It has the yummy taste I’ve grown to love in this style of beer which I can only describe as like Hubba Bubba. This is definitely my favourite so far – I think I’ll stock pile a few of these just in case!

Last but by no means least is the much discussed Cloudwater DIPA v3. I bloody love a band wagon and I’m so glad I got on this one. Like Lilt it’s got a totally tropical taste! We are in love, that is all.

So that’s it, my mini beer festival has run dry. The bottle of Old Rasputin is still in the fridge but if I drink that it wouldn’t take more than one attempt to kill me.