The Old Monk Exchange

umbelale.gifYet another halfway decent if slightly charmless Westminster pub, the Old Monk Exchange usually offers a biggish range of foreign bottled beers. Recently, though, they’ve also upped their game on real ale.

This month, they’re having a “real ale festival’. In practice, that means they’ve got a rotating selection of ales, with four or five from cask at any one time, with another ten or so in bottles.

Tonight, I drank Nethergate Umbel Ale, Nethergate Suffolk County and Sharp’s Doombar (which is fast becoming ubiquitous). All were in good condition — it’s depressing that that’s noteworthy in London — and the first two were really quite interesting.

Umbel Ale in particular struck me as a well-made beer. The pump-clip makes much of the presence of toasted coriander seeds, but I’m sure there are some American hops in there too. Citrus and coriander is a classic combination. Would C-hops would work in Belgian-style wheat beers?

Update on the Speaker

We popped along to the Speaker last night. All their guest beers this week are from Somerset. We tried Cotleigh Barn Owl (pleasant), Moor Revival (great) and Newman’s Wolvers Ale (funny tasting, but drinkable). As Tandleman pointed out, this pub is from the 70s — there’s a big tin of Henri Winterman’s cigars behind the bar, ploughmans were on offer, and there was a man drinking at the bar who looked like Peter Sutcliffe.

Wetherspoons: desperate?

pedigree_logo.jpgWe just received a glossy little magazine full of vouchers from Wetherspoons, like the ones you get from ASDA or Iceland. It contains such exciting voucher offers as:

  • Coors Light — £1.49 a pint — new!
  • Efes Pilsner — £1.49 a bottle!
  • Finest real ale — Pedigree and Abbot at £1.29 a pint!

Hmmm. No, that’s going to get us down to Wetherspoons, especially as our nearest one is full of tramps with the shakes.

Stella Artois has successfully marketed itself as a premium brand in the past, and so now we see Marstons and Greene King seeming to do the opposite. Marston’s Pedigree — “worryingly cheap…?”

One thing that’s rather heart-warming, though: this flyer appears to be aimed at what Location, Location, Location calls “cost-conscious neighbourhoods”, but still finds room for a page on Wetherspoon’s (sort of) ethical food sourcing policy. It’s nice that we’re getting over the idea that working class people don’t have a moral code.

Bit of politics, there.

Bailey

Waiter service in pubs

waiter.jpgWaiter service in bars is one of those things you often hear British people complain about when they come back from holiday.

Queuing at the bar is so ingrained in our culture that the idea of a bloke in an apron bringing our drink (and expecting to be bloody tipped for it, too, cheeky sod…) is almost as upsetting as having to use a funny foreign toilet.

But we’d like to see a bit more waiter service in Britain, now. More and more, we’re put off going to particular pubs because we know we’ll have to stand in a crowd for what feels like 30 minutes, craning our necks, hoping to catch the eye of a barman. How much more civilised to pay a measly tip for the privilege of sitting on one’s behind while fresh glasses of tasty beer are brought to your table.

This would also save us the sight of tourists in England sitting glumly waiting to be served, too. And, vice versa, standardising across Europe would save your continentals from having to watch British people whispering awkwardly near the door:

“I can’t tell if it’s waiter service. Should we go up and order? Maybe we should go up. That looks like a bar. Oh, but look, they’re getting served at the table. Shall we go up?”

“No, Brian. That would be a breach of etiquette, and then they’ll kill us or, worse, laugh at us. Let’s just go back to the hotel and drink from the mini-bar for the next week until the holiday is over.”

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Picture by independentman, under a Creative Commons license from Flickr.

Mild is dead, long live mild?

westquay.jpg Having posted yesterday about the decline of mild, we went out to the Fountain Inn, Bridgwater, only to find… mild on tap.

The mild in question was called “Pint-sized brewery mild”, and was a mere 3.3%. The Pint-sized brewery in question turns out to be a microbrewery on Wadworth’s premises, at least according to this old press release from 2004. The idea being that they develop new products and test them on the market on a small-scale first.

Anyway, the mild itself was rather drinkable, but not particularly exciting in terms of flavour or aroma. No hops and a very subtle toasted malt flavour. Probably quite true to the original milds, or at least their incarnations by the late seventies..?

It’s strange — on the one hand, it’s nice to see the resurgence of a British style, especially one you can drink pint after pint of with no ill effects. It’s also positive to see the Camra campaign having an impact — they’ve really done a lot to promote mild and other endangered styles in the last few years, and I do think you see it around more frequently.

On the other hand, what if its sole selling point back in the day was that it was weak (therefore cheap) and inoffensive, taste-wise? Did it pave the way for keg?

There are some great milds out there — Oscar Wilde, from the Mighty Oak brewery, is a regular favourite of ours — but are these new generation milds particularly representative of the mass-produced stuff that was being downed in the post-war period? Is something like Wadworth’s pint-sized mild a more “authentic” version?

I think I’ll take flavour over authenticity.

Notes

The Fountain Inn is at 1 West Quay, Bridgwater TA6 3HL. It’s a Wadworth house, but was also serving an excellent pint of Butcombe bitter. It’s a very friendly place, but in no way “poncey”, and worth some of your time if you’re in the area.

The picture is the old logo of the Starkey, Knight and Ford brewery, which used to own the Fountain.

Boak