Regensburg again, and a new brewery

It was in Regensburg, Bavaria, in 2007, that we first decided to start blogging, so excited were we by a glass of Spital Pils. On our recent holiday, we scheduled a one night stop-over to break the long train journey back to London, and had the chance to see if our opinions of the city had stood the test of time.

In 2007, we enjoyed Kneitinger Bock. We were nervous this time — what if it wasn’t as good as we remembered? It was, although Boak found it a bit too sweet this time. This time, though, we also tried the pils, which was a revelation, and one of the best beers of the holiday (“Good enough to be Czech,” we noted).

Our plan to re-drink all the beers we tried first time round was derailed, however, when we came across a new brewpub right in the centre of town which was crammed and lively. The Regensburger Weissbrauhaus was set up around a year and a half ago (despite a cheeky “Anno 1620” claim based on the age of the building). They make a standard wheat beer, a dark wheat beer, and dark and light lagers. The light wheat beer was pretty exciting (modelled after Schneider, we thought, and really juicy) although a good part of its appeal was probably its freshness. The others were not so impressive — yeasty, sweetish, with the hops missing in action.

But, what the hey — it’s got to be good that the number of breweries in this beautiful city is increasing, right?

JW Lees, at last

We’ve been wanting to try some or any of Manchester brewery JW Lees’ beers for a while now, but they don’t turn up in London much. This week, I (Bailey…) finally got the chance, taking Tandleman’s recommendation of a trip to the Netherton Hall near Frodsham, Cheshire.

It’s been refurbished in the last month and is now a very classy, very cosy flagship JW Lees pub. There’s a portrait of Mr Lees himself over the fireplace, which is nice. It’s obviously also a with its eye on diners, but not in a way which is likely to be an issue for even the most sensitive gastro-pub hater (there was an uncomfortable looking skinheaded lad who’d been forced into a pair of slacks and a shirt pretending to be a waiter, but that was about it).

The beers on offer were the plainly named Bitter (4.0%) and two seasonals — Autumn Glow (4.2%) and Plum Pudding (4.8%).

Autumn Glow was a nice starter, served with a creamy sparkled head and pleasantly soft around the edges. It was reminiscent of another beer, but the similarity took a few sips to pin down. Fuller’s Jack Frost? Maybe — there was some blackberry flavour there, amongst the crystal malt. But no: with eyes closed and imagination engaged, it could have passed for a very light-coloured German festbier. At any rate, very nice and quite complex.

Plum Pudding was a stunner — very fruity, but not at all sickly. A bit tart, if anything, and reminiscent of Liefmans Framboise. The best and most balanced English fruit beer I’ve ever tried, anyway, and one which Boak is now keen to have a crack at. it would mull nicely, too!

Drinking these in completely the wrong order, it was Bitter to finish. Is it a dull, or was that just the contrast? It got better when the head had was out of the way, starting out as boring Bombardier or Spitfire but finishing more bitter and fruity, like a less in-your-face version of Plum Pudding. But who knows for sure? My tastebuds were shot by this point, and I’d failed to bring the prescribed dry bread, bottled water and spitoon…

Read Tandleman on Plum Pudding here. Oh– and Lees grip glass is very peculiar, like something an alien would drink out of.

Bailey

Pubco sets up pretend freehouses

UK pub company Mitchells and Butlers are apparently planning to open a series of unique “concept bars”. They’ll be part of a chain but designed to look like they’re independent.

The UK pub chain company owns, among others, O’Neill’s, Scream Pubs and All Bar One, but has clearly recognised (as we’ve pointed out before) that big companies and boringly ubiquitous brands are going out of fashion. They’re not going away, though — just into hiding.

Interesting to see how this business model works out. Our bet is that one of the bars will do better than the others and then turn into a chain…

Via Marketing magazine/Brand Republic.

Wot no gose?

Statue of JS Bach outside the Thomaskirche, Leipzig
Statue of JS Bach outside the Thomaskirche, Leipzig

Leipzig is blessed with yet another excellent brewpub, the Brauhaus an der Thomaskirche, right in the middle of town. When we went, they were offering a pils, a Rauchbier and a “Spezial” schwarz.

The Spezial reminded us of Sam Smith’s Oatmeal stout — goopy and warming and definitely not one of those thin German schwarzbiers. The Rauchbier was outstanding — straight out of Franconia, with its balanced malt and smoke mix. So nice that we had another, instead of trying the pils.

The Brauhaus was doing a roaring trade both on premises and in their takeaway service, and it was good to see how popular the Rauchbier was. Perhaps there’s hope for diversity in German brewing after all. Now if only they would try their hand at a Gose as well…

Brauhaus an der Thomaskirche is next to the Thomaskirche (surprisingly), where JS Bach composed hundreds of works. The pub is also an Italian restaurant.

Badger Pickled Partridge at the Mason's Arms

We’ve been down on Badger beer since a holiday in Dorset last year where we struggled to find a decent pint of anything, and where even Badger’s own pubs in the area were serving dish-watery, boring, stale beer which made us feel a bit sad.

But the Mason’s Arms (recommended by Jeff “Stonch” Bell here) is a Badger pub which knows how to look after its ale. The seasonal beer, Pickled Partridge, is a dark, 4.6% ‘winter warmer’ and very, very drinkable.

The emphasis is on fruitiness and hop flavour, with very little bitterness — just enough to make it moreish. There might be some spices in there somewhere, but subtly done, with none of the overwhelming cinnamon and cloves that have ruined so many Christmas beers over the years.

In short: a nice cosy, quiet pub, and a very nice beer! Badger are back in our good books.

We’ve spent a fair bit of time on Seymour Place recently, for no particular reason. The Mason’s Arms, the Carpenter’s Arms and the Austrian Imbiss are all good reasons to visit if you’re in the area.