An evening of German mulled cider, Somerset Pomona and Somerset Ice Cider
It’s been over a year since my last post but it certainly hasn’t been an uneventful time: I’ve put out my sacroiliac joint, had a nasty cycling accident with significant concussion, and couldn’t stand, walk or even sit down for much of that time. The blog was the last thing on my mind.
Anyway, one consequence of my enforced rest is that I’ve been thinking hard about the future of the blog. More about that soon but for now I thought I’d announce my return with a quick post looking at some interesting apple-based booze I’ve consumed over the holiday period.
From my oldest whisky to my newest. Thursday December 5th marked the commercial debut of the first two whiskies from Southwold, Suffolk-based Adnams Copper House Distillery, the third English distillery to successfully bring its own whisky to market since the revival in making uisge beatha south of the border. (Adnams follows St. George’s Distillery in Norfolk’s English Whisky Company and the “Hicks & Healey” cooperation between St. Austell Brewery and Healey’s Cyder Farm in Cornwall.)
Number two in my Christmas rundown, and probably no surprise after my last post, is Mighty Oak’s Wilde Spirit (40%). For those coming here without reading that entry first, Wilde Spirit is distilled from the Maldon, Essex-based Mighty Oak Brewery’s Oscar Wilde mild (3.7%) beer at the English Spirit Distillery in Cambridgeshire, after which it appears to receive a dose of rapid wood ageing gaining an attractive honeyish sheen on the way.
The last day of November took me to Essex brewer Mighty Oak’s annual free beer open day at its brewery in Maldon, to the east of Chelmsford. The event provides a showcase for the brewery’s wares – including selected barrels of its regular brews and an extensive lineup of seasonal specials – designed to create good will and to help secure take out orders of 36 pint pins and 18 pint mini pins for Christmas.
Both looked to be well on the way to selling out by the time I left, so the effort was clearly a worthwhile one. I didn’t myself end up walking away with an order for Bingle Jells, Rockin’ Reindeer or one of the seven other Christmas ales on offer (I’m not convinced that Yellow Snow was an obvious draw, though the beer itself was more than decent). What I did walk away with was rather more unexpected. Continue reading “Mighty Oak: Free Beer and the Spirit of Oscar Wilde (Mild)”
As a reasonably established member of Whisky Squad I recently took up the offer of a Saturday “field trip” to The London Distillery Company (or TLDC for short) in Battersea. The first whisky distillery in London for over a hundred years – the former Lea Valley Distillery, in Stratford, east London apparently ceased making the spirit in 1905 – is the brainchild of Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Glenmorangie alumnus Darren Rook and investor (and former microbrewery owner) Nick Taylor.
I’d previously met Rook at last October’s TWE Whisky Show when TLDC was still little more than a business plan and was intrigued to see how far the project had progressed. Situated in a former dairy in a remote corner of Battersea, next to Ransome’s Dock, TLDC now boast two stills (Christina the gin still and Matilda the whisky still) and four mash tuns and washbacks (two of each I think). There’s also room for a dedicated spirit still (Matilda will serve as both wash and spirit still for the time being), some limited barrel storage (the rest will be kept in a bonded warehouse somewhere in London) and desks made from wood reclaimed during the dairy conversion.
Cider may be experiencing its greatest period of popularity for many a decade but the foundation of that success owes little to traditionally made products. Rather it’s been the products of marketing departments – and countries not typically regarded as cider lands – that have led to the explosion of cider consumption (my guess is that genuine interest in these products is rather lacking among their drinkers, however). I don’t need to name names as you’ll know which brands I mean.
Yes, yes, I know I’m writing about Adnams again but that’s because it’s perhaps the most progressive of the old established brewers in Britain and regularly has new things to shout about.
Anyway some friends and I, including fellow blogger The Guest Ale (until this point an Adnams sceptic, you can read his take on the same event here) couldn’t resist the offer of £10 tickets for a guided tasting of Adnams’ many beers in September in the company of its head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald. And what a well spent £10 it proved to be.
Given the surroundings, downstairs at the Adnams Cellar & Kitchen store in Bloomsbury, a tasting of Adnams ales in cask-conditioned form would have been impractical. And the company doesn’t produce bottle-conditioned beers due to their wide distribution and requirement for a decent shelf-life. Nonetheless, Adnams beers seem particularly resistant to the brewery conditioning process that often knocks the stuffing out of many other breweries’ products, managing to maintain the house character derived from the Southwold brewer’s uniquely spicy yeast. Either that or Adnams has developed a far more sympathetic process.
Giving column space over to non-alcoholic drinks might seem at odds with the name of this blog but then I’ve always left the door open to writing about any drinks-related topics that interest me, whatever their provenance. And in the case of Mr Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall, north of Bury in Lancashire, I’m very much interested.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s is a temple (well, actually more like a chapel), dedicated to the 19th century temperance movement, an ill-conceived effort started by well-meaning religious types to persuade the ‘oi polloi away from the demon drink.
Although temperance bars were once common in the north west of England, Mr Fitzpatrick’s is now the last of its kind. Opened in 1890, Mr Fitzpatrick’s unspoiled, uncomplicated interior of wooden counters and floors, jars of old-fashioned boiled sweets and other ingredients, is a piece of living history that might also provide ideas for the future, as a better alternative to modern soft drinks for those who can’t or don’t want to consume alcohol for whatever reason.
A recent trip north to the land of my paternal grandmother (yes, I’m a quarter Lancastrian) on a quest to see five of the remaining six “Deltic” diesel locomotives gathered in one place (I’m no trainspotter but these monsters took a hold on my imagination as a kid that remains today) also gave me the opportunity to sample a wide range of ales in some interesting bars and pubs in Manchester and in around Bury.
While there are many worthwhile pubs in the vicinity, including historic gems such as Manchester’s famous Peveril of the Peak, I’ll focus on some of the more unusual ones here, in keeping with the leaning of this blog and lack of time and space to do the others justice. Two of these were bars in central Manchester notable for strong emphases on beer while breaking the normal rules of pubs. Another was an on-site brewery bar in Ramsbottom, just north of Bury, while the last was the station buffet at the Bury end of the preserved East Lancashire Railway. Continue reading “Lancashire hot spots: four unusual beer outlets in Manchester environs”
I’ve written a few times now on my interest in finding good quality beers brewed deliberately to a low strength (3% and lower). When successfully executed such brews (mainly ales; lagers struggle to be palatable below 4% in my view) offer an excellent alternative for drinkers who want to limit their alcohol intake – especially during long pub sessions – and avoid the ignominious need for a Diet Coke or mineral water halfway through.
Brews such as Redemption Brewing Co’s Trinity (3%) – which I’ve been fortunate to sample several times and which definitely has my approval when cask conditioned – have now been joined by quite a few others and I’ve been gratified to see that several larger breweries around the country have noticed the opportunity and risen to the challenge, though I’ve failed so far to happen upon them in “real ale” form.