WHEATSHEAF ROOMS – LLANTRISANT

Wheatsheaf Rooms
High Street
Llantrisant
CF72 8BQ

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 5 JULY 2014

Ah, good ol’ social media. If it wasn’t for social media I doubt I’d even know there was a town called Llantrisant never mind the fact that it is home to a boozer that belongs to The Celt Experience. I first heard people banging on about The Celt Experience late last year. The word on the street was that they were shit hot but that word appeared to be fuelled by a deluge of free beer so it wasn’t a word that could be trusted 100%. But then I went to Craft Beer Rising and tried Sour Saxon (Cell Rebirth) – it was the only beer I went back for a second helping of so that should give you a rough idea of how much I enjoyed it. Between Craft Beer Rising and rocking up at the Wheatsheaf Rooms I’d only tried one more Celt Beer – 614 Annees, which was most delightful… for a porter. So why, on the basis of just two beers and one of them a porter, did I sweet talk my girlfriend into driving a round trip of 180+ miles? Social media is the answer. Whoever, runs the Wheatsheaf Rooms FB page decided to politely tout for business by posting a photo and an invite on the Bristol Beer Industry Group FB page. I saw that photo and invite. The rest, as they say, is geography…

The Wheatsheaf Rooms has only been open since the 19th of June. It still smells of new and requires a little bit of cosmetic finishing here and there but for all intents and purposes it is a fully formed pub of the craft beer variety. There are six cask taps and eight keg taps. All are served from a back board. As is becoming the norm these days, the beer list is chalked up on the wall. The fridges are home to some Celt bottles. There’s also a modest selection of spirits if that’s your bag. And if, like my designated driver, you enjoy a nice glass a lemonade you can choose from bottled Schweppes or Fentimans Victorian. I must admit that whoever designed and built the bar area of the Wheatsheaf Rooms did a most excellent job. As expected there were a few Celt beers on draught, which were served alongside offerings from. Wiper & True, Summer Wine and Willaims Bros and probably some others that my memory has erased.

I figured that as I was on Celt turf I should start with a Celt beer. But then I noticed that they were serving Bristol Meth, which is a collab between Celt & Wiper & True. I’ve recently started re-watching Breaking Bad so it seemed like the obvious choice. I like Wiper & True. I’ve meet the guys a couple of times and they seem like very amiable chaps and the beers I’ve had by them have all been great. I’m pleased to report that Bristol Meth is another success story.

We took our beverages to the table by the window by the bus stop. Somebody was waiting for a bus. They looked like Andy Warhol. I wondered if Andy Warhol ever caught the bus when he lived in New York City. Warhol Goes To Yonkers On The Bus sounds like an art house movie that needs to be made. I might setup a Kickstarter page. By the time the Andy lookalike had caught their bus to somewhere that probably doesn’t look like Yonkers my Meth was dead so I popped back to the bar for round number two. This time I decided to order a hit of the Sour Saxon. It went down nice and quick but I’m not sure I found it quite as amazing as I did at Craft Beer Rising – it was still damn fine though. Damn fine indeed. I required another beverage and we both required food so I set off on a quest for both.

I hadn’t noticed any menus floating around so I asked if food was just an evening thing. Thankfully food was available: pizzas with a wide range of toppings and skin-on fries with a wide range of toppings. The menu is usually chalked onto a wall but it had been removed that morning so it could be reapplied with a slightly more stylish flourish. After a conference in the Andy Warhol Annexe we decided to go for a pizza topped with brisket, mushrooms, black pudding and a fried egg accompanied by a pile of skin-on fries topped with pulled pork. While at the bar I ordered a half of Celt’s Castell Coch. But I ordered it by number as I wasn’t sure of the correct pronunciation and I was concerned that any attempt to say Coch would come across as Cock and I wanted to avoid such an eventuality. I explained to the barmaid the reason I was ordering by number but without going into specifics and she laughed politely. Coincidentally, I have been to Castell Coch – it’s a cool place. The beer was good. Perhaps not one I’d choose to drink again and again but I know a few people who would be more than happy to do so. As I was approaching the bottom of my glass the chef/manager/dude came to our table and apologised for the slow arrival of the food and promised it would arrive within a few minutes. I didn’t think we’d waited long enough to warrant an apology (and I can be quite an impatient fucker when it comes to food service) but I took the three minute warning as a sign to nip back to the bar and procure a Wiper & True Table Beer. Oooooh! This was by far the tastiest beer of the day. I’m a big fan of The Kernel’s Table Beer offerings but the Wiper & True version is on another level. Absolutely delicious! Hopefully I’ll have the chance to drink it many times in the future. The food arrived, as promised, within a few minutes and was fantastic. The pizza was one of the best I’ve ever scoffed. There was time for one last beer before we went and took photos of the crazy druid who hangs out in the Bull Ring. I was very tempted to go for another Table Beer but decided it would be impolite not to end on a Celt beer. The Silures was good but it sadly wasn’t quite good enough to follow on from the Wiper & True. But like all Celt Experience beers I’ve tried it certainly didn’t disappoint. And so ended this excursion into alien lands.

The Wheatsheaf Rooms is a great place. Put it on your must visit list.

Wheatsheaf Rooms

CRAFT BEER RISING – LONDON

Craft Beer Rising
Old Truman Brewery
19 Brick Lane
London
E1 6QL

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.