SECOND VISIT: THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER 2014
FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 2014
SECOND VISIT: THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER 2014
FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 2014
Bridge End Road
SEVENTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2014
We needed to go food shopping but I knew if I didn’t eat beforehand I would end up stabbing someone to death with a baguette while in the supermarket. To the Dockle!
The carpark was rammed. I’d never seen it so busy. I was concerned that the pub was having some sort of Bonfire themed family fun night and little darlings would be running amok but indoors it was all relatively sedate. It would later transpire that the pub next door was having a fireworks display and people who couldn’t be arsed walking there had commandeered a rival pub’s parking facilities.
As seems to be the norm these days in Spoons the cask selection was pretty uninspiring. In the end I settled on a pint of Edinburgh Pale Ale from a brewery called the Edinburgh Brewing Company. Of course, I didn’t realise until I searched on Untappd that the Edinburgh Brewing Company is actually Innis & Gunn. Oh the horror! The beer was shit. We made our food choices and I returned to the bar. The guy before me spoke with a Scottish accent (so I presume he is Scottish). He ordered food and a coffee (as a gnarly old trucker once told ‘Tea’s an Englishman’s drink’) and half of the Whisky cask Thistly Cross Cider). I liked him even though he looked like he was a bit of a psychotic nob. I ordered the food and my now usual food drinks: a pint of Devils Backbone IPA and a can of Bengali Tiger. I’ve tried the DBIPA in all four of Swindon’s Spoons and the Dockle’s is by far the tastiest. Thankfully it was on form. The Bengali Tiger tasted a bit old but was venturing into Barley Wine territory so I was happy enough.
Outside the next door fireworks display was into its grand finale. I noticed some spent fireworks lying on the ground. Then one attached to a metal pole clattered down beside me. Phew! That was a close one. Thankfully, the walk to the car didn’t bring an further near misses.
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SIXTH VISIT: THURSDAY 23 OCTOBER 2014
A quick lunchtime visit. I started with a pint of the Spoons Fest special from Two Birds. It wasn’t unpleasant but it wasn’t very good. Food wise I settled on the Flaming Dragon, which was a lot tastier and hotter than I was expecting. I liked it. To accompany my curry I had a pint of Devil’s Backbone IPA and a can of Bengali Tiger. The Bengali Tiger did a far better job of cutting through the chili heat.
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FIFTH VISIT: SUNDAY 5 OCTOBER 2014
I needed food. But I couldn’t be arsed making any. I fancied a beer. But there was nothing in the house that wasn’t being saved for another day. To the Dockle!
I kicked off with a pint of Devils Backbone. It tasted better than it did at the Groves the day before but perhaps not quite as good as it did here at the Dockle on Wednesday. I’m enjoying my research. Lunch was a large beef roast couple with another pint of DBIPA and a can of Bengali Tiger – you can’t forget your old buddies just because there’s a new kid on tap. I fancied a bottle of Lagunitas IPA and a Rogue Amber but decided to be a good boy and go home.
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FOURTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 1 OCTOBER
This week’s Wednesday movie was What We Did On Our Holiday. It wasn’t a film a particularly wanted to see but sometimes you’ve got to do things you don’t want to do. It was a beautiful little movie. One that made my eyes wet quite a few times. A very pleasant surprise.
Today saw the launch of the new Spoons food and beer menu, which meant that BrewDog and Devil’s Backbone were now on (keg) draught and Lagunitas and Rogue were in the bottle fridges. Crazy Craft Times! I had a cursory glance at the cask offerings – they were all dull and uninspiring. I had a look at the keg line-up – the Devil’s Backbone was on but no BrewDog. I ordered a pint of the Devil’s Backbone IPA and pointed at the tap. The bartender looked a tad confused and then went and looked at the clips on the cask beers. I told him it was a keg beer and once again pointed at the tap. He turned round and started looking in the fridges. Once again I informed him that it was a keg beer but the perplexed look upon his face suggested he didn’t know what keg meant. Oh dear. I know someone who works in a different Swindon Spoons and he’s told me that the get quite extensive training (and tastings) when new products are launched – I can only assume that the chap before me had been sick on the day of his training session. I was close to giving in and shouting ‘Just give me a can of fucking Bengali Tiger’ but another member of staff arrived and intervened and I was served a pint of Devil’s Backbone. Phew! Thankfully, it’s a pretty damn tasty beer. It was served way too cold – so cold that I initially felt that I could’ve done with a glove to pick up the glass – but after a couple of minutes sat on the table it was at a perfect temperature and it slipped down beautifully. I won’t bother mentioning that it’s brewed at Bank’s.
But it’s not all about new beer at Spoons today. There’s also some new food on the menu. I had a quick look and decided on the Philly Cheese Steak. I had a happy little moment when I discovered that Devil’s Backbone (and BrewDog) are part of the free drink meal deal. Nice. Sadly, the Philly Cheese Steak was off the menu. Apparently, it had been so popular that the pub’s initial stock had gone by 7pm – a new delivery was arriving at 11pm. We couldn’t be arsed looking at the menu again so opted for the good old Spoons staple that is a Gourmet Beef Burger. The second pint of DB IPA slipped down as deliciously as the first, perhaps even more so – I can see me drinking quite a lot of this in the coming months. Once the food had been despatched I was tempted to go for another pint but decided instead to go for a bottle of Lagunitas IPA. The bartender who had intervened earlier served me. This time it was his turn to look confused. I made it easier for him and said ‘the bottle that has IPA written on it big letters.’ ‘Ah, so that how you pronounce it – La-gun-ee-tas.’ I decided it wasn’t wise to tell him that it’s Spanish for Big Fucking Dog. He asked if I’d like a glass – ‘Of course’. He picked up a half pint tumbler but must have read the look on my face and swiftly replaced it with one of the ‘craft’ glasses. It seems the Dockle isn’t as hot on staff training as the Savoy is. Hey ho!
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THIRD VISIT: WEDNESDAY 2 APRIL 2014
Wednesday night is (usually) movie night. This week’s choice was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It was great fun. But some of the fight scenes move so fast that it’s almost impossible to make out what it happening. I guess it saves the studios forking out loads of dosh on top class choreography as if it’s all moving superfast any imperfections will go unnoticed. And it assume it reduces the time the fight training ties up an actor’s schedule. Or perhaps I’ve just so old that my eyes and brain can’t keep up with the action. But, yeah, I loved the film.
With the movie done our attention turned to food (and mine to beer). I fancied some of the Yeastie Boys’ Gunnamatta. Sadly, it wasn’t on. But the Nøgne Ø Brown Ale (brewed at Bateman’s) was on. I love Nøgne Ø. I’ve had quite a few of their beers and never had a bad one. Thankfully, the Brown Ale, despite the fact that I’m not a fan of browns, was another winner. Time to order food: veggie burger with bacon and cheese accompanied by a can of Bengali Tiger. I think I’m starting to enjoy Bengali Tiger far more than I will ever be prepared to admit – much like the debut album by the Strokes. Burger and beer dispatched I returned to the bar to get one of the ‘festival specials’ – six beers served from gravity and sold for only £1.49 a pint. When I arrived at the bar there was one member of staff serving and a three people waiting to be served. A manager tried to pretend he was busy by moving bits of paper around, occasionally he’d glance at his customer’s with thinly veiled contempt. As a rule I find managers in Wetherspoons to be excellent and always happy to serve and clear tables and generally work hard. Not this chap. I decided to go for Fermin brewed by Mateo & Bernabe at Shepherd Neame. I also ordered a J2O for my special lady friend and a can of Bengali Tiger. I asked if the can could be left unopened as it would easier to carry it back to my seat. The server’s eyes darted towards the idle manager and she remarked that she wasn’t allowed to sell the cans unopened. Fair enough. The Fermin was mistake. It was grosso. I left half of it on the table as I departed with a cunningly concealed open can of Bengali Tiger.
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SECOND VISIT: FRIDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2014
I’d only popped in for some breakfast and wasn’t intending on having a beer but I made the mistake of perusing the pump clips and when I noticed they had The Bruery’s Oatmeal Stout (brewed exclusively for Spoons at Caledonia) my fate was sealed. It’s a good stout. Perhaps too rich and sweet for everyday consumption but as an occasional pre-noon treat it works quite well. If you are a fan of bakewell tart smothered in chocolate sauce this could be the beer you’ve been looking for.
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FIRST VISIT: WEDNESDAY 22 JANUARY 2014
Wetherspoons operates four pubs in Swindon. The Dockle Farmhouse is the only one that’s not in the town centre. And it’s the biggest. As the name suggests, it’s an old farmhouse. The original building was constructed way back in the 1800s. These days it is flanked by two sizeable extensions that were added sometime during the 1980s. The Dockle is effectively two pubs under one roof. The right side, as you look at the pub from the road, is affectionately known as the Butlins End, allows children whereas is the left side is adults only. As I never rock up at the pub with children in tow I always choose the left hand side. I have wandered into the Butlins End just to see if there’s anything different on the bar but each time I’ve had a look it’s always been stocked with just GK beers.
This purpose of this visit was to score some cheap food. Actually, I’ve never been to the Dockle for just a drink. Burns Night was just a few days away so things were getting a bit Scottish. Whisky was on special offer and the food specials were Scottish themed. But there was no Scottish beer. The Stone/Adnams DIPA was on the bar but sitting on top of the pump clip was an ‘Available Soon’ ticket. While I awaited the arrival of the DIPA I ordered a pint of Infusion from Bragdy Conwy – it wasn’t astounding but it was pleasant enough to slake my thirst. For food I ordered a Highland burger, which was a burger that had haggis where you usually find the cheese and bacon. The DIPA still hadn’t arrived so I got a pint of Loddon’s Hullabalo. In June 1993 I was in a band called Hullabaloo. We recorded an album called 25 Years of Avant-Garde Viola Music. The only people who heard the album were the four of us in the band. And my neighbours as we recorded it.
The DIPA didn’t arrive before I departed.
Sir Daniel Arms
SEVENTH VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014
I’d caught an earlier bus than planned so I had a few minutes to kill and I either had to do that killing at the train station or in a Spoons with a beer. I chose to kill it with a Bengali Tiger. The barman, who I think was the manager, asked if I wanted a glass. I replied that I did. He replied that he thought I would say that, which made me wonder why he’d bothered asking. I had no desire to engage him in conversation so I merely smiled in response. I took my beer in a glass to a vacant table. I took a hearty swig then gave the pub a quick sweep to see how many other folk were having a pre-10am alcoholic beverage. A load of men dressed in hi-viz jackets and steel-toecap boots were just finishing off their breakfasts. Most of them also had a pint glass containing beer. A couple of pints with breakfast then a couple more with lunch – it’s no wonder that the majority of construction projects in Swindon never get completed on schedule. I glugged down the last of the Bengali then sauntered off to catch the train to London.
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SIXTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 8 OCTOBER 2014
Downstairs was busy. There was barely an unoccupied table and the tables that were occupied were occupied by dodgy looking reprobates. I ordered a pint of Devils Backbone IPA and a can of Bengali Tiger and took them up to the next level. Upstairs was busy. There was barely an unoccupied table and the tables that were occupied were occupied by OAPs.
I sat down on a couch and swigged my Bengali Tiger while I waited for the DBIPA to gain just a little bit of warmth. I hadn’t planned to visit Sir Dans today. The only pub I was going to visit was the Savoy but when I encountered a bad tasting pint of DBIPA there I decided I needed to visit Sir Dans and see what their DBIPA was tasting like. There are four Spoons in Swindon. The DBIPA tastes pretty damn fine in the Dockle, it tastes okay in the Groves and, as just mentioned, it tastes bad in the Savoy. And now I was sitting in Sir Dans with a pint of DBIPA. It tasted good. Not as good as it tastes in the Dockle but way better than the pint I’d recently had up the road in the Dockle. How can the same keg beer taste so different in four branches of the same pub chain in the same town? Odd.
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FIFTH VISIT: SATURDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2014
Aye, I was very drunk but I really should have known better than go in this place at such an advanced time on a Saturday. I was surprised the door staff let us in especially after I asked ‘Can we come in, please?’ I didn’t bother looking at the beer pumps, I just ordered a can of Bengali Tiger. The place wasn’t very busy for a Saturday night. Men outnumbered woman by about 6 to 1. The atmosphere wasn’t nasty or violent but it certainly didn’t feel like a nice place to be. I was almost drunk enough to be tempted to start dancing but I felt that wouldn’t be fully appreciated by the folk already on the small dancefloor. I looked at the sleazy guys sleazing at the women half their age and I was struck by the sad realisation that a lot of the people present were probably thinking that I was a sleazy guy sleazing at woman half my age. Time to go.
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FOURTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 3 APRIL 2014
The continuing quest for Yeastie Boys…
For this visit to Sir Dans I did something that I don’t normally do. I went upstairs. There’s a whole new world up there. Different beers on the bar. And slightly more respectable looking customers. Apart from the people out on the balcony. They are well dodge. Don’t go out there unless you are looking for a fight that ends in death.
There was no Yeastie Boys on so I opted for a Nøgne Ø Brøwn Ale. I’m not usually a big fan of brown ales but I am fan of this beer. It must be the best thing to come out of Wainfleet. I fancied another but my presence was required at home. But only because I was buying chinese takeaway for tea.
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THIRD VISIT: THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2014
I departed London on the 1536 to Cheltenham. Smooth running meant I touched down in Swindon the correct side of quarter to five. I couldn’t be arsed with the hour long walk home so I decided to get the bus. Fortunately, the route from train station to bus stop goes right past Sir Dan’s… well, it does if you want it to. I rocked up to bar and ordered two cans of Bengali Tiger. I didn’t even bother scanning the taps. The bartender made a well-mannered complaint about having just finished facing them up. I asked if they were selling well and she said ‘yeah’ and smiled and nodded. One can was part-poured into a ‘craft beer glass’ and a second glass was then picked up. I quickly interjected and said I only required one glass. Thankfully the second can was presented to me unopened. Nice. One for the pub and one for the garden when I got home. The place wasn’t busy but all the comfy couches were taken. I selected the seat that allowed me the best opportunity of slipping the unopened can into my bag without being seen by anyone. I doubt anybody would actually bother about me sneaking out a can but I’ve been informed by a staff member of a different Swindon Spoons that all purchases must be consumed on the premises – strictly no takeaway. I’m a nice and thoughtful chap so I wanted to do my best to ensure nobody was embarrassed by my actions.
The actions of two women at the table nearest to mine forced me to drink up quicker than I had initially planned. One of them went to the bar. Then she shouted that she’d ordered the drinks but needed to go pee so her friend would have to go stand at the bar and await their booze. The friend duly obliged. They were both pretty plastered. That’s fine. I have on occasion been plastered in a Spoons. But never when I have been responsible for a young child. I was also pissed off that they didn’t want their drinks to be left unattended but they were happy to leave a child unattended. The child was asleep in a buggy. It was too big to be in a buggy but too young to be left alone. And from the bar it would’ve been impossible to see the child. I waited until the women were reunited with the sleeping child then left. I should have said something. But, ultimately, what would it have achieved? A mouthful of abuse for me and the child would still be left alone the next time the women needed a drink at the same time as one of them needed a pee. Sad.
* * *
SECOND VISIT: SUNDAY 9 MARCH 2014
Today I became a statistic. Today I scooped Sixpoint in Spoons.
Since Wednesday Twitter has been buzzing with tweets about beer geeks drinking cans of Sixpoint. Most of those beer geeks don’t normally dirty themselves by stepping over the door of a Spoons (or so they so) but for a can of craft USA beer they’ll happily comprise their standards and integrity (and, if they are a fan of Beyoncé, their xtianity). In a bid to justify just how evil Spoons is there has been countless horror tales of the sinister characters that folk have encountered while procuring their can based beverage. Whenever I read those tales I can’t help thinking that those sinister characters are exactly the same folk who have always frequented ‘local pubs’, which perfectly reinforces my belief that Spoons is the new ‘local’. As a famous poet once told me: ‘If you’ve been to the pub and at least one cunt hasn’t threatened to stab you then you haven’t been to a pub.’
As I awaited my turn to purchase a slice of history a guy standing beside me was informed that he wouldn’t be served unless he put on a top. Despite the fact that he had a t-shirt tucked into one of the belt loops of his jeans he politely said ‘Okay, fair enough’ and left. Before he received his ultimatum I thought he was a bit of dick but after he departed I couldn’t help having a strange and grudging admiration for him. He was still a dick but he was a dick who wasn’t prepared to compromise his integrity (perceived or otherwise).
I ordered a can of The Crisp (No one gets to see La Crisp! … Nigel…) and a can of Sweet Action. It would appear that the two for a fiver deal doesn’t truly exist in Swindon as both cans rang through the till at £2.50 each. Same result different formula. I was given two glasses and two unopened cans. Nice. I retired to a comfy couch to record my findings.
The Crisp is a lager/pilsner that clocks in at 5.4%. Due to my former life where I consumed a lot of Stella and Staropramen and Lowenbrau, being Scottish, Tennent’s and McEwan’s lager I still have a soft spot for lagers. Sadly, this wasn’t for me. It was certainly an improvement on the predominant UK brands but it still had next to nothing on the nose and next to nothing on the palate except a slightly oily finish. No. I won’t be drinking it again.
Sweet Action checks in at 5.2% and is described as a cream ale. It smells lovely: like a Thursday afternoon session in the Mikkeller Bar. The flavour is a decent blend of malt and hops but they both get on too well together and I couldn’t help feeling that I would’ve liked one of them to take control and push the beer onto the next level. It’s good but it feels a little too safe and friendly. I’ll possibly have it again but only as an occasional oddity.
Bengali Tiger is the big boy of the threesome and boasts a reasonably impressive 6.4% ABV. After I’d received The Crisp and Sweet Action unopened I decided to buy two cans of BT. The plan was to scoop one in the pub and have one in the sunshine of my garden. Unfortunately, as my eyes were turned towards the rugger both cans were part poured into rather stylish tulip glasses. Bummer. Bengali Tiger is the best of the three but even before we’d tried any of them we all knew that would be the case. It packs a decent juicy hop hit but nothing that several British brewers aren’t already doing and to a better standard. Will I have it again? Yeah, probably. But only if there’s nothing on draught that I fancy. And even then I’ll be more likely to opt for a bottle of Goose Island IPA.
I was only planning on having one of each of the cans but when I noticed that the Sixpoint/Adnams collab was on I thought it would be a gross injustice if I went home before having at least a pint of it. Ah, it was alright. It’s not going to inspire you to write a long and detailed letter to you granny proclaiming its merits but it’s certainly not the kind of beer that makes you feel that western civilisation is an steep and terminal decline. Decent enough.
And then it was time to go home to drink Courage Imperial Russian Stout and listen to cover versions of David Bowie songs. No. Really. It was.
FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 30 JANUARY 2014
The Sir Daniel Arms is the only of Swindon’s four Wetherspoons that at the weekend turns into a discotheque. So, unless you like that kind of thing, it’s best avoided at those times. Arguably, Swindon town centre is best avoided at those times. I always find Sir Daniel Arms way too dark, which, admittedly, is occasionally a good thing. And more often than not I’ll see someone lurking in a corner who makes me think of the strip club scene in Beverly Hills Cop. No! I don’t mean the woman who Billy Rosewood kindly gives some money to. And there’s often a load of mothers who think it is acceptable to leave their empty prams and buggies in the middle of the main walkways. It’s a strange place. Even for a Spoons. But sometimes the quest for a certain beer means you have to venture into places you usually avoid. This time I was on a quest for the semi-mythical Stone/Adnams Double IPA. I’d already been into the other two town centre Spoons but had failed to find the DIPA (and subsequently left both places without having a drink) so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Sir Dans had the beer I desired. And they also had Saltaire Blonde and the Sixpoint/Adnams Righteous Ale. Not too shabby at all. Naturally, I ordered a DIPA. I’d heard the stories of it only being sold it halves so I decided to save everyone’s embarrassment and just ordered a half. Subsequently, the barman asked ‘Just a half?’, which suggested he would’ve happily sold me a pint of it but I sensed a trap and decided to stick with my initial sizing. It’s a good beer. I’m not sure I’d be happy paying the standard Stone in the UK price of 4-5 quid a half but at less than £2 for a half I thought it was a reasonable bargain. It has a nice fruity and juicy hop hit but it does finish with a rather annoying lingering sticky dryness. I think a half a time is more than enough and then it’s best to get a pint of something else to perk your palette back up. Half dispatched I returned to the bar and ordered a pint of the Saltaire Blonde. I like Saltaire beers but, although they are starting to make inroads, I don’t find them in my little corner of the world very often. Thankfully, it was another Saltaire success. I was tempted to grab a pint of the Righteous but I’m not especially fond of red ales so I headed to Glue Pot on a quest for Entire Stout.
THIRD VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014
SECOND VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014
FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 19 APRIL 2014
Leyton High Road
FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 18 APRIL 2014
The Leyton Technical started life as a pop-up during the Olympics but almost two years later it is still on the go. And it still has a pop-up vibe: mismatched furniture, decoration and renovation projects that look they have been abandoned before they were half completed. I liked the place. The beer list wasn’t mind blowing but Lagunitas IPA is always a welcome sight. We sat on a couple of high stools that circled a high table. We watched the people come and go. We might have stayed for a second beer but we had somewhere else we had to be.
FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 21 MARCH 2014
I was little bit trashed when I rocked up at the Deflector’s Weld. It seemed like a big place. It seemed like a bit of a style bar. I had a Lagunitas. I can’t remember if it was IPA or Dogtown. Pretty sure it was IPA though. And it was certainly served in a Lagunitas mason jar. I have a vague recollection that I went to the gents and found them impressive. I have a vague recollection that I was chatting to someone but when I started hiccuping they stopped chatting to me. Nobody looked like they wanted to be my friend so I finished my Lagunitas and left on a quest for food.
Craft Beer Rising
Old Truman Brewery
19 Brick Lane
FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2014 (AFTERNOON SESSION)
Craft Beer Rising launched in 2013. Even before it had opened its doors to the paying public the word on the street was that it was nothing more than a corporate wank fest. By the time it had gently shepherded out the last of its drunken punters that word on the street was that it was nothing more than a corporate wank fest but it was also whatever you chose to make of it. In due course the 2014 edition was announced and I initially had no plans to go. But then I was informed that the Saturday sessions were taking place on the same Saturday as a gig by The Coal Porters. A beer festival followed by a gig? Count me in. Over the coming weeks the brewery list began to emerge. It was certainly more than decent enough but not exactly epoch slaying. There were several great breweries on the last but hardly anybody that you’d struggle to find if you went searching within the confines of the M25. But, hey, a beer festival is whatever you choose to make of it.
I had a great time. Caught up some old acquaintances. Made some new ones. Chatted face to face with some folk who I’d previously only chatted to on Twitter. Bumped into quite a few people who I know from the excellent Bristol beer scene. And, perhaps most importantly, I got drunk on super tasty beer.
The Old Truman Brewery is a great space. The festival occupied several rooms of varying shapes and sizes – like a giant beer lined rabbit warren. Some the areas were way more cramped than others but even in those spaces the traffic was flowing reasonably smoothly and swiftly and you rarely had to wait for more than a few seconds to get a beer. Some criticism has been levelled at the amount of branding at the event but I liked the fact that each brewery had their own little stall and it was easy to see exactly who they were before getting too close as it made it easy to avoid having to make the embarrassing choice of walking away emptied handed or buying a beer you didn’t really want. Oh, the queue for the gents wasn’t anything to be overly concerned about, which is always a bonus. The people manning the bars and food stands were all friendly and helpful. And the stewards and security staff were numerous and easy to spot but certainly not obtrusive. All in all it was a job well done.
Anyway, for those interested, here are the beers I consumed:
Attaboy by Truman’s – 4.6%
Sour Saxon (Cell Rebirth) by The Celt Experience – 4%
Ola Dubh 18 by Harviestoun – 8%
Original by Thistly Cross Cider – 7.2%
Fifth Element by Beavertown – 7.3%
All Day IPA by Founders – 4.7%
Discovery by Renaissance – 4.5%
IPA by Lagunitas – 6.2%
Re Hop by Toccalmatto – 5%
Delirium Tremens by Huyghe – 7.5%
Black IPA by Brighton Bier – 7%
Sour Saxon (Cell Rebirth) by The Celt Experience – 4%
In The Pines by Wiper & True – 5.3%
Independence by Bristol Beer Factory – 4.6%
Imperial Raspberry Stout by Thornbridge & St Eriks – 10%
I suppose the simple fact that the only beer I had more than once was the Sour Saxon strongly suggests that it was my beer of the festival. It arguably was but it should be noted that I didn’t have a bad beer all day, which is something I’ve never managed to say after a session at the Great British Beer Festival.
If Craft Beer Rising returns in 2015 I will return to Craft Beer Rising.
FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 31 JANUARY 2014
If you travel home from work via Canon Street station then I’d imagine that the Pelt Trader is a bit of a godsend. But, for the rest of us, the Pelt Trader is more than worth an occasional detour. It’s not a huge place but it uses its space reasonably well. A few tables are situated along the side walls, some of those tables are in their own little alcove, but the majority of the drinking is done from a standing position – I suppose most folk pop in for one or three before heading home and have no real need to gouge out in a seat. Décor is minimal – mostly fake pelts – and lighting is subdued. Beer, as is becoming the norm, is served from taps located on the back wall. The beer that each tap holds is chalked underneath.
The best thing about the Pelt Trader is the toilets. Not the actual toilets themselves, which are fine even though they feel at bit like a posh portaloo. The best thing is the fact that it’s easy to imagine that if get past one of the heavily bolted doors (no not the cubicles!) you’ll find yourself alone in tunnels belonging to the London Underground and you can then go and explore places that most mere mortals don’t get to tread. Of course, the reality is that you’d barely get more than a few metres before someone shouted ‘Oi! You! What the fuck do you think you are doing down here?’ If you chose to walk towards the voice your adventure would be over and you’ve very possibly spend the night in a police cell. If you chose to run away from the voice your adventure would very possibly end with you spending the night in the morgue because the armed response squad had gunned you down. Best just to go and urinate and then head straight back to your seat or standing spot.
I arrived shortly after 5 and the place wasn’t too busy. Some of the tables were taken but I was left with some choice. The beer choice was more extensive than the seating choice. After a moment of two of deliberation I plumped for a pint of Arbor’s Why Kick a Moo Cow. I love Arbor and I’m always happy to drink their beers and especially so when it’s one that I’ve not had before. After a gulp or two I realised that I had tried it before. No worries. It’s more than decent enough to be paid a repeat visit. I sat on one seat and draped my jacket over another in an attempt to ensure nobody tried to commandeer it. Initially my table was empty but I was soon joined by a one guy who slowly sipped a pint and read what appeared to be a novel written in a foreign language. Ten minutes after his arrival a couple of lads turned up and plonked their asses down opposite the guy with the foreign novel. They began talking excitedly. The guy with the foreign novel clearly wasn’t happy. The two lads were oblivious. The guy with the foreign novel shot them a filthy look then departed even though he still had half a pint of beer left in his glass. The place was rapidly filling up. People were starting to look eagerly at the seat with my jacket over it. I hooked a foot around one of the chair’s legs and pull it closer to me. Gently. Gently. I didn’t want people to notice I was doing what I was doing. I didn’t want to make a scene. But just in case anybody came across and asked for the chair I had created a little bit of back story. It was occupied by a friend who had just nipped out to the cash machine. And should the questioner give me a look of disbelief I was going to add that they had been gone longer than I expected and I was beginning to become concerned about their welfare. While this exchange was taking place I planned to keep glancing worryingly at mobile to help reinforce my concern. Of course, nobody wanted my seat until by friend turned up a 5.45, which is exactly when he said he would turn up. The place was now packed. But there was a good atmosphere and the staff were excellent and worked hard to ensure nobody had to wait long to be served. I had half of Sumpin (there are other words but I forget who they go) from Lagunitas followed by a half of Arbor’s Breakfast Stout (even though it was way past tea time).