Saturday, 19 June 2021

19/06/2021 - Pilgrimage to Nothing Bound Brewery

One of the few things to shout about in 2020 was the opening of a new Taproom in our home town, Stourport-on-Severn. We've been with it through the lock downs, the sitting outside in December with bowls of Vegetable Chili and the shared hope for better days, now just around the corner.

Lombard Street Tap Room
An unassuming exterior...
Lombard Street Tap Room
... leads to a suntrap Terrace.  Right Hand table booked for my Son.

I must admit that I was a little sceptical as to whether it would be a success, but this worry was completely unfounded.  One of the main reasons for this, is the permanence on tap of the wares from a new local brewery, Nothing Bound.

There's something about their beers that has captured the imagination of the town.  The bar is always full.  Pre-booking is advised.  Even then, on some evenings, we have exceeded our allotted 2 hour window and politely asked to vacate to allow the next shift to take over.

Importantly, a shared love of beer has developed between myself and my 23 year old son. After many sessions, he has developed a theory that these Craft IPA's contain something that is sending middle aged men loopy but not affecting his age group.  To be fair, today's youth have grown up on the plus 5%'ers.  We cut our teeth on Banks Bitter.

His observations include previous law abiding middle aged citizens running away without settling the bill.  The night we ended up with all the left overs from Pat's chippy, without paying.  And a story about a friend of a friend who required help being put to bed, following an incident that cannot ever be mentioned.

It didn't take long for us to realise that the brewery had a tap room - which despite a systematic social media campaign from yours truly to include Bank Holidays in their opening times, only opens on a Saturday.  Two months after the release of semi lockdown, three of us have a spare Saturday to make the pilgrimage. A walk was fashioned from the metropolis to Chapel Farm, Heightington

The walk was better than expected.  Troops motivated with hot sausage rolls, we meet at the bridge and head on up (ever up) through Arley Woods, wild flower meadows and the odd encounter with beasts of the field.

Arley Woods
Through Arley Woods
Sheep that were bothering us

Three miles uphill is about the correct distance that refreshments are required.

The brewery is hosted in a barn at Chapel House Farm.  Indoor seating can be booked, but when the sun is shining, there's few places better than sitting outside on long benches, with a beer menu to work through.

The Menu
Today's Plan
Nothing Bound Brewery
Chapel Farm
Nothing Bound Brewery
The Brewery Tap Room
A First Ever Untappd Checkin of Quiet Spring?
The Untappd race is on....

Naturally, we started at the top of the menu.  Quiet Spring is a brand new beer.  Checking Untappd, I looked at the details and realised that worldwide Check Ins were zero.  This was a chance for a unique record.  Photos were arranged.  The text was written and I announced to the table, my record breaking feat.

Only for the head brewer to overhear and say "the bloke on that table has beat you to it".

A very pleasant couple of hours were spent, trying the other two pales/ipas and watching the place fill to capacity.

The word is out and its great to see a success story.  If the news spreads to Kidderminster, they will need a bigger barn.

A wrench to tear ourselves away, even if the best views were waiting for us.  

Way Home Views
Four pints and I was ready to challenge the Romantic Poets

Eagled eyed viewers will have noted that the route stops abruptly at the Dog in Dunley.

Lola, the little dog in the first walking picture, was getting tired - so we called emergency services for rescue.

No one wants a dog to have to suffer.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

12/06/21 - The Hat, Seaton - One for the Dubious Pub Ticking Panel

Good Beer Guide Tick = #557 (Maybe)

The punchline first - I brought beer from there, so regardless of the purists, I'm claiming it.

The horrors of a 4.5hr drive, the first traffic jam since lockdown on the M5 and the misery of Bridgwater Services needed to be extinguished from my memory.  The Good Beer Guide can show me the nearest place to do this - but suspicions are aroused by the name.

The Hat with No Cattle, Seaton.   Its going to me a micro isn't it?

Will it be open?  Friday 6pm seems like a good time to chance my arm.

Will we fit in?  There are 6 of us.  I have brought my adult children, my wife and parents-in-law - who, having experienced geocaching, are equally keen to see what else I get up to on a weekend?

Will it be wheelchair friendly?  Only one way to find out.  Plonk my mother-in-law into the chariot and work up a thirst by pushing her the 1.5 miles along the river Axe into town.

This all works out fine - until we reach a hill.  Being experienced in micros, I decide the safest thing to do is to head off alone, text back if we are good to go and get my adult son to take over pushing duties.

The Hat but no Cattle, Seaton
The Hat Seaton

Some notes on the micropub - a former butchers shop that has four real ales on Tap.  There is no fizzy beer or lager.  A no mobile phone policy in operation.  The unusual name courtesy of the landlord who always wears a hat.  Google Map shows it as a 5pm opener.

All pre-requisites for a micro met.

Naturally, at 6pm, it was all locked up.

The Hat but no Cattle, Seaton
But there is hope, for I am here on Saturday

I return to the posse and a look that will haunt me for the rest of my days.  The disgust on my Mother-in-law's face when I tell her the pub is shut.  It was very similar to mine after I had been served an appalling Otter Ale at the near-by Malt House.

I'm not easily put off.  The following day, I complete a wonderful walk from nearby Beer and have finished by midday.  I head back to investigate.

The door is indeed open and I look around for instructions, a bar, tables to sit at - something pub-like.  All I see is a butcher's chiller cabinet and some shelves with consumable food products.

Mask on, I ask the stupid question "Hello, is there a bar here?".

The lady replies "No, this is a delicatessen" 

Have I gone through the wrong door?  The mystery is solved when the landlord comes out and breaks my heart with tales of running a micro in lockdown.  Just no space.  They have relaunched the business.

Thinking about the beer ticking community and feeling mighty sorry for our landlord - I ask if they sell beer.  

I exit with the last four bottles of Exmoor Brewery ales they have on the shelf.   

And a pork pie.  

Footnote:  I think it was the landlord.  He was hatless. 

12/06/21 - Beer to Branscombe

Distance - 6.5 Miles

Geocaching - 3

Walk Inspiration - Jarrold South Devon and Dartmoor - Walk 20

It had to happen.  A Real Ale Walking Blog that comes from Beer.

And what a delightful place it is. A narrow high street, with a stream running down the side of it.  Gorgeous beach, with several choices of refreshment.  Three pubs to choose from, post walk.

From the cliff top car park, I am straight out onto the Coast Path, where a life long ambition is realised.  I geocache at Beer Head.

Looking back over Beer
Looking Back towards Beer - on the way to Beer Head

A choice is presented at Branscombe Cliffs - I can stay high and walk on the cliff tops or I can meander down onto the landslip - which presents a "land that time forgot" walking experience.  Shielded from the sun under a tree canopy, with impressive views in the occasional gaps.  Top walking, even if I know the climb back up top awaits.

Branscombe Cliffs
Branscombe Cliffs from above

Land Slip route
The Land Slip that is waiting to be explored

Under the Cliffs
Waiting for a Boris Carving to be added.  Or maybe not.
Branscombe Ahead
Back up top and you can see where I am headed

Branscombe Mouth offers refreshment, with a cafe - and access to the beach.  It also offers an escape route to shorten the route - but there's no need for that on such a glorious day.   Another stiff climb up the headland but the reward is a pretty church and the Mason's Arms.  Unless its before midday.

Branscombe Church
Branscombe Church 

Masons Arms, Branscombe
Find me a prettier pub!  (One open, is the required response)

Its easy inland walking on the way back - more hill climbing but once at Mare Lane - its all gently downhill to Beer.

A choice of three pubs are available.  The Dolphin looked interesting, in an old school hotel way.  The Anchor could compete for "Best View from a Beer Garden" competition but the free house that is the Barrel of Beer won the Mappiman dollar.

It nearly provided the title of todays blog.

Of course I have
I certainly have

Barrel of Beer, Beer
The Barrel of Beer

On a day like today, I only poked my head through the door.  The umbrella on the left had my name on it.  I can report there were two real ales on.  I can also report the LocALE Branscombe Brewery Golden Fiddler was a fitting finale to fine day.

Golden Fiddle, Branscombe Brewery
Afternoon Entertainment Sorted 

Monday, 7 June 2021

05/06/21 - A Good Beer Guide Pub Crawl in Bristol

Good Beer Guide Ticks - #553 - 556

It was a chance conversation with the waitress at Stourport's new tap room that said if we liked this place, we should really go to Left Handed Giant in Bristol.

It was the heady days of the first Friday after what ever stage of easing it was in April, when we could sit outside. Without leaving our table of six, someone had booked Premier Inn's and a date was set.

I didn't mind. There is much work to do in Bristol, which had the honour of being the last new city crawled before all this madness started, back in January 2020.

Lets see if my friends were so keen, after a day of randomly ticking off places in the bible.

Left Handed Giant, Compressor Building, West Coast Pale

A nice walk, through the Saturday Shoppers and Castle Park and the only complexity is how to cross the water.  For this brewpub is moated.

Left Handed Giant, Bristol
Not a Micro

Unbelievably, we failed to observe the winding bridge seen in the photo.  There were strange smells wafting around Castle Park and that can be the only reason for two man/two woman confusion.

Following a group of six lads, there was quite a wait to get through the scanning checkin in. We were then escorted to a high table, under exposed ducting (you know the drill) and had the rules explained.  How to order. Where the loos were. 40 minute wait time on pizzas.

App related faff that required a side venture in setting up apple pay. Then we had to get our heads around the fact that only two size of beers available were - 1/2 pint or 2/3 pints.

This we can cope with. The snacks we could not. £2 for a bag of lightly salted cardboard squares.

Bring back scratchings!

The Cornubia, Temple Street, Elland Brewery Nettle Thrasher

Cornubia, Bristol
My sort of Pub

This is where it gets tricky, pub crawling in the current conditions. Do you risk losing your table, where you have sorted out how to order to head off to the next place and run the risk of not getting in?

I have experience and I was also keen to explore the Cornubia, as it was closed on my last Sunday Evening visit.

The cunning plan involved me heading off solo - seeing if I could get in - and then texting back to the party to say it was safe to leave.

And this worked perfectly. With a large beer garden, there was plenty of space. I sat down, waited to be served by a human and then won the prize for thirstiest man in Bristol by ordering four drinks.

They've seen this, and worse, before.

A perfect traditional pub that unexpectedly had a lot of beers from West Yorkshire, rather than the West Country.  

The Shakespeare Tavern, Prince Street, Bristol Beer Factory Lauch Approval

Shakespeare, Bristol
A Narrow Terrace to sit out out the front

A mooch around the waterfront to dodge electric scooters and see if we can find a statue that needs toppling before I direct to posse to a back street that is a relative oasis of calm.

Another fine traditional pub - which the Bible claims to have the longest continuous ale licence in the city.  Inside, its all wooden paneling.  Outside, a little terrace of garden furniture.

Waiter service here and asking whats on provides our host with the chance to impress.  Eight real ales on and he can reel them all off, with type, brewery and ABV.

We had all glazed over by pint two - which of course, was what was ordered and was indeed, gorgeous.  

Oh for the days when you could go for a look.

The Old Fish Market, Baldwin Street, Fullers ESB

Old Fish Market, Bristol
More Pubby Lovliness

We'd walked past this handsome pub earlier in the day and I was rather pleased to determine from my hastily assembled google map that it was in the bible.

For it is a Fullers pub - they will have ESB and fortunately, its only just gone pay day.

Outside - we had some seating where we could sit and observe the deliveroo bike riders crash into each other. It makes quite a sound and from the moment we started walking around Bristol, we could see it was going to be an inevitable experience in our day.

Inside - the pub is a delight - huge bar, chesterfields, nooks and crannies.

Everything you need and more.

With most of the centre ticked now, I will be back for the exotic sounding suburbs of Bedminster, Henleaze, Horfield and Hotwells.

Monday, 31 May 2021

31/05/21 - Fox and Hounds, Lulsley

Distance - 3.5 Miles

Geocaches - 17

Good Beer Guide Tick - #552

A case of "what to do" on a Bank Holiday Monday.  It could have been a walk to Bewdley to get the two new ticks - a Tap Room and a non-woke pub that will no doubt be under pressure to change its name.

The thought of battling the tourists hoardes for a space proved too much.

Geocaching in the Worcestershire Wilds its is.

Buttercup Geocaching

But that's not nearly enough booze related fun, even when you are walking through the Bulmers Orchards at Woodhouse Farm.

Bulmers Orchards
Where Cider comes from

Learning from previous mistakes - I have checked the Good Beer Guide Bible and found that the Fox and Hounds in Lulsley is previously unrecorded.  Their website is also checked and although it's normally closed on Mons and Tues - there is dispensation on Bank Holidays.

Lulsley Fox and Hounds
Pubs in the Sunshine

We are there at the scrape of the bolt and although I was quite prepared, I wasn't prepared enough to have actually booked a table.  We can be squeezed in to the extensive garden - provided we vacate in two hours.

City rules - even when a reasonable percentage of punters will be turning up on horseback.

Choice of two beers and my hearing is getting as bad as my eyesight.  I have to delete my Untappd checkin on Ludlow Gold for this is a first ever Ledbury Gold.

Ledbury Gold at Lulsley Fox and Hounds
Gold from Ledbury, not Ludlow

It was OK but if I was rushing to get to Ledbury, it would be for the Prince of Wales.

Good food, efficient service and great to see the place filling up - justifying their decision to open under special circumstances.

Saturday, 29 May 2021

29/05/21 - Hospitality goes wrong at the John O'Gaunt - Hungerford

Good Beer Guide Tick - #551

Beers - Vale Brewery Gravitas, Elusive Brewing Mechanism

After an afternoon in Newbury, the Good Beer Guide Ticks keep on coming.  A stones throw from our Greene King Hotel is West Berkshire's CAMRA Pub of the Year.

In the interest of balance, I would like to state that I would happily return to the John O'Gaunt.  This blog is going to sound like a moan but as a punter, I have learned a bit of patience is required.  

Even when we reach Fawlty Towers levels of service.

John O'Gaunt, Hungerford
What a Pub of the Year looks like

Despite its imposing interior, its a little anti-tardis inside.  With low ceilings and entrance via a small corridor, its actually appears smaller inside than out.

We were met by the landlord and offered a seat inside or out, but once we had the tour, there was only one choice.  Experiencing their garden is akin to how the kids felt when they went exploring in the wardrobe that lead to Narnia.

Its a delight of high quality tee-pees, with individually controlled heaters.  Each table has a collection of blankets, the seats are fur topped.

The first mistake we made was by choosing a table next to a lemon jump-suited, "only way is Essex" reject who must have been on the porn star martini's since lunch.  My mastermind specialist subject is her life, as she spent our entire visit screeching it to the table of strangers on the next table.

Once seated, we eventually got hold of a drinks menu and 15 minutes later, an average Vale Brewery was delivered.  Probably no fault of the beer or how it was kept, through lockdown I seem to have lost my taste for traditional Pales and Golds.

So far - So Ok.

All smiles at this point

So what went well, what went wrong? To summarise, Mrs Ms romanic night consisted of 2 hours and 45 minutes of staring at a table adorned with a knife and fork, with only the occasional gin to alleviate the misery.

Here's the details for those I haven't lost in a blog of misery.

When re-negotiating the bill, we had a a good chat with the landlord's daughter.

She told us exactly what the media have been saying.  They cannot get hospitality staff and recruiting non-experienced people who are furloughed from other careers.  The girl who had taken our order and gone home is an Air Hostess.

There's nowhere to escape when she makes a cock up in her day job.  Although the consequences are potentially more serious than a fat Brummie not getting his meatballs.

Role on the (Original Plan) for June 21st. 

29/05/21 - (Some of) The Good Beer Guide Pubs of Newbury

Good Beer Guide Ticks - 548-550

Approaching Newbury on the Avon and Kennet Canal, we were greeted by the grizzled old seadog, operating the electric swing bridge.   

"Are you coming across?" - he shouted, before pressing go and cutting off the opposite bank until we had at least walked another 50m.

"Is the Good Pub on that side?" - I replied - which was met with "Yes, its the best pub in Newbury.  And also the most expensive".

He was correct.   It was a Fullers House - who need to make money since they stopped the brewing.

Lock, Stock and Barrel, Northbrook Street, ESB

Lock, Stock and Barrel, Newbury
Technically, still on the Walk from Hungerford

Nothing - and I mean nothing would be stopping me from my first cask ESB of 2021.

Not the velvet rope.

Not the man asking if we had booked.

Not the thought of taking out a second mortgage.

Negotiation with "The Man" - who left us at the rope to watch him de-fumigate -  and we were offered a little table under the right hand umbrella you can see in the above photo. 

I left Mrs M to work out the App booking and went in search of facilities.

My return was both greeted with a prime example of what I had been missing and a cry of "£11.50".

Lock, Stock and Barrel, Newbury
TBF, her Stowford Press was more expensive

The Catherine Wheel, Cheap Street, Otter Ale

A pork pie on a bench (don't ask, I forgot to include a lunch stop on the walk) and an amble through the pretty town that is Newbury.  Less thirsty punters would have stopped to peruse the street market but I was on a mission to get the three good ticks before the 15:03 train.

To explain - the micro - the Cow and Cask - although easily on route would not have presented the most socially distanced of experiences and there probably would have been low odds of gaining entrance in any case.  Regular blogfans will now that Mrs M will not cross the threshold of a JDW.

So this left the Cathernine Wheel - a fine traditional pub, that we briefly saw as we were shown to a rather charming courtyard.  Observations?  No one wants the news on the 65" screen when they go for a pint.  Its all 3rd Wave this, Prince Harry that.

Catherine Wheel, Newbury
The footpath was narrow.  The road was busy.

A menu was presented and if the sun was over the yard arm, I may have experimented with bottles of 10% Belgian Dancing Juice.

Catherine Wheel, Newbury
Otter in a Good Old Boy Glass

Instead, I settled on a unexpectedly thin Otter Ale.  I suspect gravity fed barrels but have little proof.

Mrs M found a dog - and its owner to talk to.  She explained that we were ticking off the good beer guide pubs - which he found more fascinating that the reaction normally elicited.  He may be the next ticker, as despite living in Newbury for 16 years, he was unaware of the Cow and Cask.

He agreed with us about JDW - where he had previously been chucked out for sitting at a pavement table outside with his dog.  He recommended the next pub, the KC and gave us the lingo that meant we would be accepted by the regulars.

The King Charles, Cheap Street, Exmoor Ale

This is all going swimmingly well, this is both a short distance away and we are making our way to the station.

But wait - Mrs M spots a problem.   "Aren't Greene King Pubs a bit shite?" she asks.

Sometimes I don't know whether she is joining in with the pub ticking a little too hard.

King Charles, Newbury
Eezer Goode...  Mrs M spotting danger signs

Anyone who had tasted Greene King IPA would surely agree with Mrs M, but I am reasonably sure that this was not on offer.

Instead, on our side of the bar, we had a choice of many of the West Country's finest.  Dartmoor Jail Ale, Wickwar Bob and Exmoor Ale.  It felt like we were on our holidays.

King Charles, Newbury
Pub Ticking - 2021 Style

Train tickets ordered from the above table - with realisation that a 12 minute journey for two could have bought a round at the Lock Stock and we are whisked away for a freshen up before tea at West Berkshire Pub of the Year.

Lovely afternoon - but will the evening continue in the same vein?  Future blog to report.