La Ronda – New year's beer resolutions

This month’s “round” is paid for by Andres of Culturilla Cervecera, and it’s a follow-up to a previous question on building and maintaining a good beer culture. He asks us what our resolutions for 2009 are to help further the cause.



This month’s “round” is paid for by Andres of Culturilla Cervecera, and it’s a follow-up to a previous question on building and maintaining a good beer culture. He asks us what our resolutions for 2009 are to help further the cause.

Apart from the obvious answer (“drink more beer”), we do have a number of beer-related resolutions;

1. Try to persuade our local to rotate the range of beer a bit.
Our local pub has got a great atmosphere, friendly staff, and the beer it does serve is usually in good condition. We’re usually there at least once a week for all these reasons. We’ve often thought that it would be perfect if they took advantage of having five handpumps and being a genuine free house to have at least one pump offering something different each week. So our first resolution is to talk to the landlady about it.

2. Organise a cheese and beer tasting
We’ve wanted to have a go at this ever since seeing Garrett Oliver do one at BeerExposed. Could be a fun way of getting some of our friends interested in beer? After all, everyone loves cheese.

3. Go on more beer expeditions
There are lots of great pubs in London, some of them in the suburbs. There are also many great beer destinations that are within a short train ride. We always have fun when we go exploring, so we’re going to do that some more. At least one a month.

P.S. Jeff Pickthall has an interesting resolution — to provide almost instant reviews EVERY beer he drinks via modern technology. Anyone else got any beer-related resolutions?

Stout at the Speaker

The Speaker in Westminster (one of our favourite London pubs, in a funny kind of way) is having a month of stouts, porters and wheat beer. Here’s what they’re expecting to serve up throughout January:

Acorn Gorlovka Stout 6%
Allendale Tar Barl Stout 4.5%
Brysons Patrick Stout 5%
Burton Bridge Bramble Stout 5%
Dark Star  Espresso Stout 4.2%
Hop Back Entire Stout 4.5%
Itchen Valley  Treacle Stout 4.4%
Little Valley  Hebden’s Wheat 4.5% (Cloudy)
Mauldons Peggoty’s Porter 4.1%
Milestone Raspberry Wheat Beer 5.5%
TSA Scotch Mist 5%
Westerham Puddle Dock Porter 4.3%
Wylam Haugh Porter 4.6%

We’ll try to pop in once or twice as we’re wholeheartedly in favour of every pub serving up at least one dark beer at all times and, as TV’s Dr Tanya Byron would say, we want to reinforce this positive behaviour.

Brighton binge

It was a gorgeous sunny day yesterday, so we decided to go to the seaside. Brighton was the natural choice — it has a range of pubs and bars for everyone’s tastes, plus it’s only 50 minutes by train from central London.

Once we’d chucked some stones in the sea and played on the slot machines for a bit, we looked around for some refreshment and stumbled across the Bath Arms. This is a very good pub. It has a nice mixed crowd, extremely friendly staff, good food and five ales in tip-top condition. It’s not in our edition of the Good Beer Guide (2007). Not quite sure why. We suppose the beer selection might be criticised as conservative (Adnams, Summer Lightning, Pride, Sussex Best and Bombardier). Then again, there are a number of places that are listed in the GBG in Brighton which have a much less exciting selection (Greene King IPA, anyone?).

On to another good place not in the Guide — the Victory. We were attracted into this place by the offer of local Arundel ales. Arundel Stronghold was an interesting sweetish brown ale which I might have said had too much crystal malt if it wasn’t nicely balanced with the hops. Bailey had a rich, fruitycakey Theakston’s Old Peculiar. Again, the staff, though busy, were very friendly.

You can’t go to Brighton and not go to the Evening Star, the original outlet for the magnificent Dark Star Brewing Company. There are 10 handpumps, seven ales and three ciders. There are usually four Dark Star beers on, and three guests. This time the guests were from local brewery Rectory Ales. In addition to the cask ale, there is Blonde, an organic lager, and some pumps for kegged beers from Belgium and America. Then there are the bottles, some of which are world classics that are always on offer, others change with the seasons.

We started on the Dark Star offerings. The American Pale Ale was like a sweeter, fuller-bodied, more grapefruity version of their flagship Hophead, and very nice too. The Sussex Extra Stout mimics the Guinness branding, and it’s obvious that it’s targeted at Guinness fans who won’t drink anything else. It’s perfect for this purpose, tasting similar to Guinness but fresher and more chocolatey. Really, really good. “Critical Mass” is their Christmas special, a strong dark ale (7.8%) which contains spices , according to the spiel on their site. Unfortunately, we didn’t like this one — we can’t really put our finger on what was wrong with it, but there was too much alcohol and not enough other flavours. A brave effort, though.

American brewery Stone’s Ruination IPA was on tap, so we had to try it. This reminded us of a more heady Liberty Ale, and regular readers will know how much we love that. Onto the bottles, and we went for a Franconian Christmas theme — Christkindlmarkt beer from Tucher, and Weihnachts-Festbier from Forchheim brewery Greif. Both beers tasted a bit anemic next to the Stone, but the Greif offering was noticeably more flavoursome, and was exactly what we’ve always expected but rarely found in festbiers.

We finished on Bush Noel, also on tap. We like this one, and think it’s clever of them to make a beer so drinkable at 12%. It’s never going to become a regular beer for us at that strength, but it makes a classy nightcap, with all kinds of pleasant brandy and sherry aromas.

It would be easy to assume that, with a line up like this, the pub would be for beer geeks only. However, there was a very mixed crowd, and it was pretty busy from mid-afternoon onwards.

Could this be the perfect pub?

Happy new year – here's to a boozy January

So, ’tis the time of year for resolutions. I resolve to have a pretty beery January. January’s just the worst time to give up alcohol — not only is it cold and miserable, but you’d be missing out on all those great pubs in central London during their quietest time. You can actually get a seat in the Blackfriar in January, for example.

Happy New Year!


Prague pub roundup

It’s been a busy month or so since we got back from our travels — so busy we haven’t got round to mentioning all of the fascinating pubs and breweries we visited in Prague.  So, a quick summary is in order.

Straight after U Fleku, we headed to the Novomeststky Pivovar, probably the second most touristy place in Prague.  It was very empty, and had quite a dismal atmosphere as result.  The beer was great, though — very yeasty — so much so that it smelled like rising rye bread.  We completed our touristy trio by popping into the legendary U Medvidku.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get into the ‘pivovar’ bit, where you go to get the well-regarded Oldgott Barrique on tap.  We settled for a bottle of the same in another section, which tasted a bit sour and watery. Not really worth the bother.  The boring old Budvar on tap was great, though!

The two most interesting brewpubs took a bit more effort to get to.  Although Klasterny Pivovar Strahov isn’t that far from the Castle, it is up a ruddy great hill.  The beer and the food is a tad pricy by Czech standards, but we’d say it was worth paying the extra for.  On tap was a tmavy and the ‘jantar’ (amber), which was one of our favourite beers of the holiday.  It was almost like a British ale in its bitterness and fruitiness.  Lovely stuff.

Out in the suburbs, Pivovar U Bulovky is worth the trip for a lively and cosy atmosphere (although there’s a very scary waitress) and great beer.  Can’t really see the coach parties rocking up to this place, although we thought we spotted a few other beer geeks, notebooks and beer guides in hand.  U Bulovky offer a good lezak and a lovely polotmavy (amber), as well as a changing range of other beers. The ‘ale’ was more interesting in the fact of its existence than its flavour though — definitely a few too many pear drops going on.

One other pub we have to mention is Baracnicka Rychta, up a side street in Mala Strana.  It offers excellent beers from the Svijany brewery, the nutty “red” being the highlight.  We ate a lot of nakladany hermelin there, and felt very contented with the world.

Apologies for the lack of appropriate accents.  Life’s too short.