At last we’ve taken a well-earned break down the A303 to Cornwall. What is there for beer and Cider lovers in the vicinity?? Well plenty!


Life is busy; hence I haven’t had much time to blog for months and months but at last we’ve taken a well-earned break down the A303 to Cornwall.

We stay in the beautiful village of Boscastle.  You may be familiar with this gorgeous bolthole .  To some the name may ring a bell as sadly in August 2004, the village was devastated by a flood which destroyed properties wiping out resident’s homes and businesses. 

We were in Boscastle when it flooded and watched with horror the destruction mother nature can unleash.  In Cornwall it is easy to see how powerless we are in the face of the elements.

The Cornish however are resilient and Boscastle and nearby Crackington Haven which also flooded recovered in time and are now every bit as beautiful as before the flood.

So, what is there for Beer and Cider lovers in the vicinity?? Well plenty!

Boscastle has three excellent pubs all serving a good selection of Cornish beers.  It’s worth familiarising yourself with the various event schedules of each to really make the most of this paradise which is where we are going to start.

Boscastle starts at the top of a hill and tumbles all the way down the beautiful Valency Valley into the harbour, iconic with its two breakwaters and headland.  At the top of the hill, near Paradise Road -never was a name quite so apt, in the High Street is The Napoleon Inn. 

A 16th Century inn with walls at least 12 inches thick it’s worth noting the Napoleon or Nap as we know it, has two bars.  Entering by the side entrance the Officers Lounge is the first door on your left and straight ahead is the smaller Funs Bar which has seating and Sky TV – useful if you want to catch up with the football.  Generally speaking, the locals use the Funs Bar and tourists the Officers Lounge where a huge open fire welcomes you and beers from Cornish St Austell brewery are served straight from the barrel. 

On our first visit I had the Trelawney Ale, mild carbonation,toffee notes and a woody finish.   

You can also get wonderful food at the Nap, as a result it can be busy so it may be a good idea to reserve a table. On our second visit I went for the Crab and Prawn Linguine with Garlic bread. I’d had this a few months previously and really enjoyed it. On that occasion I also had a starter of Mackerel caught some seventy or so miles away in Newlyn which was sublime.

With the Linguine I had a pint of the beautifully fresh St Austell Tribute Pale Ale.   Perfectly served; floral and lip-smackinglyrefreshing ! The Tribute paired well with the pasta and seafood.

Live music is on every Friday night and local singers The Boscastle Buoys meet here every Tuesday. 

The Nap is a cosy pub, which oozes history from every corner.  If you are staying down in the harbour, it’s a bit of a trek up thesteep hill – maybe 10 minutes through pretty streets past cosy cottages.   It is worth every step however as the Nap is a great place to kick back in front of the fire with a good pint and a wonderful meal.

Heading down the hill, just as you enter the harbour is the Wellington Hotel. 

A 17th Century Coaching inn , The Wellington – or Welly as it’s known locally has a spacious pub serving Skinners beers as well as comfortable accommodation and a separate restaurant if you fancy a bit of fine dining.

We have stayed here a few times and chose it as the rooms are lovely.   The Welly is reputed to be haunted although luckily, I’ve seen no evidence of this.  There are two luxurious rooms in the turret, and the Welly is dog friendly.  They serve a breakfast that is a welcome sight if a few beers have been enjoyed the night before and will set you up for the day. Full Cornish , Veggie Fry Up, Hot Smoked Salmon with Scrambled eggs or Kippers are some of the choices.

In the bar, there is a great food menu with daily specials and classics such as Fish and Chips and Sausages and Mash which I would highly recommend being a generous helping of three delicious sausages and lashings of gravy.   You can also opt for dishes from the restaurant’s menu.

The Cornish beers on offer were St Austell Tribute, Sharp’s Sea Fury Special Ale and one of my favourites Skinner’s Lushingtons, a refreshing Pale Ale.   On keg were Harbour Brewery’s Pilsner and Sharp’s Atlantic Pale Ale.

The Welly was badly hit by the flood in 2004.  As the flood took hold of the village, I went into the Welly to use the loo. As I was talking to the barman the then landlord told us in no uncertain terms to evacuate the bar as the building was unsafe.  Subsequently the interior of the building was severely damaged. When rebuilt, what had been the floor above the bar was reconfigured as a mezzanine area now called The Minstrels bar.  There is a plaque hanging here showing the point where the water reached.

The Welly has a clean and cosy feel to it.  The bar food is excellent and the whole operation is extremely professionally run.    There are weekly folk nights each Wednesday when anyone is welcome to join in so feel free to rock up with your Ukulele , Bodhran, Didgeridoo or vocal cords.

Around the corner from the Welly, opposite the visitor’s car park is the Cobweb Inn.

Stepping through the door onto the slate flagstones of the Cobweb feels like coming home.  It’s the stuff of dreams – well mine at least.  Whether it’s when I am sitting at my desk in London, struggling to get served in a generic pub in the metropolis, or trundling on the cross trainer at the gym, I often find myself wishing I was in the Cobweb.

The building which was formerly a warehouse is as unpretentious as they come.    Hundreds of old beer bottles hang from the ceiling. Other decorations include amusing brass signs, old photos of the staff and various pub sports teams and a bar price list from 1971 which makes for interesting reading – 10p for a pint of bitter!

This pub doesn’t have to try hard. The staff are fantastic, and the beers are perfectly served with a good range available. On offer were Skinners Lushingtons, local Tintagel Brewery’s Cornwall’s Pride, a malty session and their Harbour Special at 4.8 abv a richer ale with toffee notes.  Also, on was St Austell’s Tribute.

For a cracking night out come on a Saturday when there is normally a live band and lots of enthusiastic dancing.   

Adrian the landlord welcomes us like old friends no matter how occasionally we manage to visit.  The Cobweb is a real family pub with a separate family room, games and outside seating with heaters.

Good generously portioned bar meals are available including vegan options and a Sunday Carvery. There is also a great restaurant upstairs.  We saw the New Year in here, having an excellent meal before heading down to the bar where the live music was still going.

A visit to Boscastle would not be complete without a visit to the Cobweb, in fact I would say a visit to North Cornwall would be incomplete without visiting at least the Cobweb but even better spending time in Boscastle and enjoying all three pubs.

Now we feel so at home in Boscastle that it’s easy for us to forget that Cornwall extends beyond it but extend it does and here are a few recommendations beyond Boscastle.

One of the joys of visiting Cornwall is discovering new places such as a lovely beach or a good pub. One day driving to our favourite beach at Crackington Haven we saw a sign saying simply  ‘Cider’. Partial to the odd drop we followed the sign alonga country lane where we found the Crackington Cider Company.

The Crackington Cider Company is a wonderful set up. Run by a couple who started the whole operation from scratch.   From planting the apple orchard amid the beautiful Cornish countryside to building the cidery.

There currently are four ciders in the range all of which are still.

Available in bottles are a fresh tasting, easy drinking Dry which would be fantastic with pulled pork.   A Medium which is moreish and would complement a strong Farmhouse Cheddar Style Cheese, and a sweet that works well as an alternative to sweet wine.   Finally, there is the Farmhouse Cider, midway between the dry and the medium and available in flagons.

There are plans to release a table cider, a cider aged in whiskey casks and a mulled cider later in the year.

The Crackington Cider Company are living the dream producing a fantastic cider in an idyllic setting. Clearly love and care have gone into this. The branding is fabulous, and the cider shop a welcoming place to visit and try the ciders. 

We were really pleased to discover the Cobweb had just started selling the Crackington Cider and fear we may have diminishedtheir supplies somewhat.

Away from the beach, a drive out towards the moors and a visit to the Rising Sun at Altarnun is a good way to spend a couple of hours. 

We have been popping into the Rising Sun for several years.   It has smartened up a little since we first started coming but thankfully has maintained its character.

The warren of rooms are all very clean and it is still a super cosy retreat from the windswept moors.   

The service is very friendly and there is another wonderful and extensive menu including Cornish Mussels, ‘Penpont Brewery Reared’ Bangers and Mash with sage and onion gravy, and Cornish Crab Sandwiches or Salads .  

I had Smoked Haddock,Clam and Potato Chowder which warmed me up perfectly after scuttling in from the car park in typically Cornish horizontal rain.

I followed the chowder with a half of local brewery Penpont’s St. Nonna’s.   The Bartender told me this is brewed just a mile up the road from the pub and she gave me a sample to try – always good!    

St Nonna’s is 3.7% amber beer, easy to drink with light malt notes.  Aside from this there were three other beers on; Tintagel Brewery’s Harbour Special, Skinners Lushingtons and from Welsh Brewery Boss Brewing Company, Blaze, an English PaleAle.  On tap also was the Crackington Cider Company’s  Medium cider.

It’s worth mentioning the Rising Sun has a camp site, so if canvas is your thing and you are a member of the Camping and Caravan Club here would be a great place to hitch up your tent.

Now head in another direction along the breath-taking Widemouth Bay to Bude.

Despite not being exactly the quintessential picturesque Cornish fishing village, Bude has charm.  Amazing surfing beaches, some great independent shops and North Cornwall’s first Micro Pub The Barrel. 

Opened two years ago we popped into the Barrel on a Thursday afternoon and met owner , the gregarious Ian.

Ian gave us a warm welcome talking us through the beers on offer which were House beer Mentone Gold, Firebrands West Coast IPA, Harbour Brewery’s Cornish Bitter and Forge Brewery’s Black Gold Porter which I had a half of ; lovely treacle notes and a finish of tobacco .  There were also beers on keg and in bottles as well as Crackington Cider.

The Barrel is just perfect!  Ian makes a great host keen to get his punters chatting amongst themselves.  He invited us to change the record on the turntable –real Vinyl!   We put on ‘Northern Soul Floor Fillers’

The Barrel has a no mobile phones policy – if yours  rings expect to pay a £1 fine which goes to a local charity. They also offer CAMRA discount.

I particularly liked the back section of the pub which is the back of an old cottage and has great black and white framed photos on the walls of local brewers and cider makers.

We left vowing next time we’d book a taxi from Boscastle maybe making the most of the Sunday afternoon session where there islive music and beer till the barrel is dry!

Finally, if you are a bit of a brewery groupie, the not too far away Tintagel Brewery is worth a visit.  Brewery tours where you meet the brewer and get to try beers from their range are held on a regular basis. There is a very smart restaurant and a shop in the purpose-built site where you can buy bottled beers to take home.  I particularly like Caliburn.   Named after the sword belonging to King Arthur, Caliburn is a dark warming ale with an abv of 5.8%.   Take some home to warm the cockles!

Now once upon a time Boscastle had 22 pubs.  I think I would need at least a month to fully appreciate all 22 so maybe it’s for the best that nowadays there are just the three.  But as I hope  to have shown there is plenty to keep you occupied in the area. 

Enjoy and as the Cornish say Yeghes da!

 

 

Winter has arrived, and it feels bitterly cold here in London. Not to be deterred The Hopflower ventures to North London to try a couple of Tap Rooms.

IMG_3148 (1)

Suddenly Winter has arrived, and it feels bitterly cold here in London.   Not to be deterred by this abrupt change of temperature however I ventured to North London at the weekend to try a couple of Tap Rooms.

I blogged last week about tap rooms in South London and I have previously blogged about Hackney, so in the interest of balance I feel it’s only right that I do a quick blog about my trip up North.

Now this trip was actually a birthday present from my wonderful siblings.  I’m a woman of simple tastes and I don’t need much so when it comes to Christmas or Birthday presents I’d rather have a nice day out.  My Brother and Sister decided to take me for lunch then to the taprooms at Beavertown and Pressure Drop breweries in Tottenham – they know me well!

IMG_3158 (6)

Now if there’s one thing we have all learnt its that prep is important; when going drinking its vital to line your stomach first.    So, we went to El Botellon, a Tapas and South American Restaurant on Seven Sisters High Road which proved to be a great choice.   It was packed and lively for a Saturday lunchtime.   After a few Tapas I had King Prawns in a coconut sauce which came with both Fries and Rice – a king-size portion of carbs to absorb a beer or two, job done.

With fully tummies we braved the cold – blimey was it cold,  and walked to the unassuming looking Lockwood Industrial Park around the corner from Tottenham Hale tube.    We headed first for Beavertown’s tap room.

IMG_3179 - Copy (2)

In amongst the brewing equipment were tables of people enjoying  a Saturday afternoon beer.  I made the point in my last blog that I like the family friendly aspect of Brewery Taprooms and Beavertown’s dog and child friendly atmosphere is no exception.

As well as the tables inside the brewery, there are tables outside and in a large heated gazebo.   It was very busy, and the atmosphere was buzzing ; Young, old, scruffy, smart or lycra cycling gear, no-one cares as it’s just a lovely relaxed place to spend some time.

The bar is in a side room and has a queuing system which is really efficient.   There is also a great take away selection which I took advantage of.  We perused the list of beers hanging outside the bar and I particularly liked that Beavertown mentioned Pressure Drop’s tap room on the bar menu.

IMG_3185

I started with Hop Harvest 2018, 5.2%, a fresh hopped Saison with a bite of carbonation followed by mild tart notes as you’d expect from a Saison.    I thought the fresh hop notes added an interesting twist.

Next, I tried the Black Betty Black IPA, 7.4% .   I always love a Black IPA and this one is particularly good with notes of smoke and blackcurrant.  I liked this so much I bought  a couple of cans to take home.

I also tried a slurp of my brother’s  Beavo Lager, 3.9%, absolutely crystal clear Beavo is beautifully fresh.  Finally, I nicked a mouthful of my sister’s Farewell to Arms Sherry Sour with Cherries, 7%, which is a good well balanced Sour.

A selection of Street food including Vegan options was available and smelt tasty, but we were still full from our lunch and decided to move on to Pressure Drop’s tap room.

IMG_3227

Around the corner, past a fleet of funky looking Beavertown vans bearing the brewery’s distinctive graphics Pressure Drop’s lovely brewery tap room was welcoming  in the cold weather.   Inside were a mixed clientele including toddlers, twenty something’s dressed up for Halloween and pensioners;  bright fairy lights and again plenty of seating on bench tables amongst the FVs; I love it !

First, I tried the fabulously pink Orla, a Blackberry, Damson and Bay Berliner Weisse which at 3.8% was a good beer to start with before hitting the Alive and Well Session IPA, 3.6% with Motueka and Columbus hops.

A cloudy blond beer with a hoppy nose, Alive and Well is bursting with resinous hops and has a finish of orange peel.

IMG_3207 (5)

By now it was early evening and getting chilli so something dark and warming was called for.   I had a bottle of Pressure Drop’s Street Porter, 6.5%.   This is gorgeous with notes of treacle and smoke.

Both breweries take deposits for their glasses.  The Beavertown glasses are straight sided tumblers like the ones used for cider in Spain.   I kept mine along with the cans I had bought as a little souvenir.   Pressure Drop also offer you money back on your glass or rather cleverly I thought a bottle of beer in exchange.   Unsurprisingly I took a beer.

IMG_3232 (1)

The Taprooms closed at 8pm which is probably just as well as we had got very cosy amongst the FV’s and mash tuns.   But off we went into the night, heading south of the river with our beer and glasses clinking in our bags.

Don’t let the cold weather put you off venturing to these tap rooms.   The staff are friendly and the crowds happy, so the atmosphere and great beers are enough to keep you warm!

IMG_3187

Cheers

Pride of South London. Maybe I’m just a bit of a Beer Groupie!

We’re the Pride of South London Crystal Palace fans sing as we enjoy a prolonged stay in England’s Football PremierLeague.   These days South London also has a lot to be proud of beer wise too.

I remember not too long ago admiring the Brewery Tap rooms in the States and being a tad jealous we didn’t have so many here in the UK. Not only providing great places to enjoybrewery fresh beers, tap rooms like breweries provide employment and are often family friendly; during a trip to the Brooklyn Brewery four years ago I was amazed when my New York friend was able to meet me in the tap room with her two-year-old son in his buggy.

Tap Rooms also help demystify breweries making beer attractive and accessible to a wider range of people.

Happily, things are changing with more and more breweries opening tap rooms nationwide.

In South London The Bermondsey Beer mile has long been a pilgrimage for beer lovers.  There are also tap rooms at the Brockley Brewery and Gipsy Hill Brewery.

Slightly closer to where I live two more Brewery Tap rooms have sprung up so I decided to visit a couple of Fridays ago.

I kicked off my evening at the Ignition Brewery Taproom in Sydenham which opened in September.

What makes Ignition a brewery to be truly proud of is the fact that it is a micro-brewery set up to train and provide supported jobs for people with learning difficulties in the area.

I met the founder of Ignition Brewery, Nick O’Shea  a few years ago through mutual friends.  At the time Nick was busy trying to win funding and support for the Brewery.   

Fast forward three years and Ignition Brewery have a brewery and tap room in Sydenham High Street.   

In my opinion surpassing Nicks original mission To increasethe number of jobs for people with learning disabilities and to produce great beers the Tap room also provides a community hub.  It is bright and welcoming with a relaxed feel.   The staff cheerful and helpful, and the choice of beer satisfies all tastes.   Ignition’s core range of three; Lewisham Pale Ale South of the River 4.2% abv, Jumpstart IPA 4.6% abv and Well Oiled Machine Porter 4.8% abv are all available in bottles.   On tap the night I visited were South of the River andJumpstart plus specials Blood Orange IPA 4.5% and Lewisham Brown Ale 3.8%.   

I had a bottle of the Well Oiled Machine, a sumptuous Porter, followed by a pint of Lewisham Brown Ale.   Not normally a favourite beer style of mine, the Lewisham Brown was great; rich and full bodied.

Other drinks including the ever-popular Gin are available so fear not if you have friends who have not yet been converted to the hopped beverage.

As well as drinks, there is a good selection Ignition merchandise for sale so opportunities to support this great business abound!

I was lucky enough to be shown round the gleaming brewery by a member of staff.   I always love a nose around a brewery – maybe I’m just a bit of a beer groupie!  The guys pride when showing us around was evident.   

The ultimate plan is to provide a model that can be replicated nationwide.   I hope to hear of similar projects in the future.   

This is such a great idea so keep up the good work Ignition.

Down the hill from Sydenham, is Penge Hight Street.   Like Crystal Palace Football club, Penge is also enjoying somewhat of a renaissance.   

With an emphasis on community not for profits community group the Penge Tourist Board are working hard to enhance life if this corner of South London by engaging with residents and local businesses.

One of the events on their website is a late night at the Alexandra Nurseries in November with beer from Southey Brewery.  

On the site of the now defunct Late Nights Brewery, Southey began life a few years ago and later opened their tap room

Tucked away down a tiny side street Southey Brewery’s tap room is charming and characterful .  Vintage fixtures and fittings, book shelves and a comprehensive drinks menu, this tap room is a little gem.   

Another great selection of beers were on offer the night I went with six on keg including Penge Pilsner 4.8% and a Belgian Wit 5.5% with Session Bitter and Pale Ale on cask.

I enjoyed a couple of pints of keg Black IPA which is always a favourite of mine but managed to resist the tempting packs on monster munch and the bowls of peanuts on the bar.

For non-beer drinkers or if you perhaps simply fancy a change there are wines and spirits including Tequila available as well as soft drinks if you have the misfortune to be the designated driver for the night!

The cosy atmosphere of the Southey Tap room made it an absolute pleasure and I was sorry when it was time to get my train home .   

Cheers

 

 

 

I love Spanish food, it always brings a smile to my face. The Hopflower is intrigued by Tasting Asturias

 

IMG_2818

I love Spanish food.  From the simplicity of a bowl of Padron peppers sautéed in olive oil, with a sprinkle of sea salt to a hearty plate of paella, it always brings a smile to my face.

If you’ve read my recent blog on San Sebastian, you will know how much I also enjoy the Pintoxs experience.

I was therefore intrigued when just a few days before heading off to San Sebastian I received an invitation to Tasting Asturias, a Cider and Food event being held at Spanish Restaurant Hispania in London.

Cider is a drink I have dabbled with in the past.   Living in Kent where apples grow in abundance, there is a good choice of Cider producers such as The Kent Cider Company, Rough Old Wife and Dudda’s Tun to name but a few.

When I first took up the role of Women’s Rep on the Bromley CAMRA committee a few years ago I hosted a Cider and Food pairing event.   Bromley CAMRA are very keen to promote Cider, holding an annual Cider Festival.

My knowledge of Cider is however limited but keen to learn more, plus try some Asturian food I headed off to Hispania last Wednesday.

IMG_2792

Asturias is a region in northern Spain west from Santander on the Bay of Biscay.  Gastronomic director of Hispania Marcos Morán is the fifth-generation chef from the Morán family who opened ‘Casa Gerardo’ in the region between Gijón and Avilés in 1882.

Housed in the Lloyds Bank building, Lombard Street right in the City of London, I hadn’t been to Hispania before but a peruse of their menu indicated I was in for a treat.   Tapas such as Crujientes de Quesos  ‘Toffee flavoured filo pastry filled with a blend of Spanish cheeses’ and mains ranging from a whole roasted suckling pig ‘ Segoviana Style’ which is carved at the table to the sumptuous sounding Degustacion de Fabada Asturiana ‘ Casa Gerardo’ a ‘Traditional Asturian bean stew with smoked chorizo and black pudding.’  Fabulous!

IMG_2806

Hispania is exquisite.  The interior was designed by Spanish Interior Designer and Antique Dealer Lorenzo Castillo and features beautifully tilled floors and walls adorned with rows of pictures.   I was directed up an impressive staircase in the centre of the building to the Mezzanine floor for Tasting Asturias.

The Mezzanine floor has a bar and cosy seating areas in front of large half circle windows, not the sort on environment in which I’d normally expect to be drinking cider.

This of course is the point of events such as Tasting Asturias, and indeed this and other alcohol related blogs.   We want to raise the profile of drinks such as beer and cider, get them taken seriously and the let people know about the heritage behind them.

IMG_2857

There were four producers exhibiting a wide range of ciders plus coffee, fish and meat producers all from Asturias.

It was of however Cider I was here to find out about, so I headed for the stands and chatted with the exhibitors.

Each exhibitor has a range of ciders aimed at different markets.  Some aimed at local markets or informal drinking in small bottles and cans.   Some of the Ciders were higher end, intended as an alternative to Wine at celebrations.  I was told Cider is a popular choice at Christmas in Spain and Spanish speaking countries in South America.   There were even Cider cocktails; combinations of Cider with Vermouth or Sangria

I set about trying as varied a selection as possible in between nibbling on delicious food including mini croquettes, cured meats and a little dish of black pudding and quail’s egg which was gorgeous.

IMG_2875

I started with Sansidra, from Manuel Busto Amandi SA, www.mayador.com  a family run company based in La Rasa, Asturias since 1939.  A cocktail of Cider and Sangria, golden to the eye, tarty nose, moderate carbonation and, not surprising, sweet.  The Sangria comes through in the aftertaste.

Sticking with the sweet stuff I then sampled a Red Grape Cider from El Gaitero, Villaviciosa, Asturias.     www.sidraelgaitero.com.   This was a gorgeous dark pink colour which looked very grown up served in a wine glass.   A faintly tarty nose.   Again, sweet and very drinkable.

IMG_2824

The second Cider I had from the El Gaitero Group was recommended to me by a fellow attendee, a Cider enthusiast, and somewhat of an expert I got talking to.  El Gaitero Dry.   This fabulous golden Cider was light on the carbonation, and although dry had a rich mouthfeel and a lot of depth, a great Cider.  Looking smart packaged in a bottle with a foil wrapped top, a Cider fit for any celebration.

El Gaitero Group also have a high-end Cider, Pomarina in their collection.  Beautifully presented in a dark brown bottle and simple, stylish branding, as well as alcohol free Cider and Cider in cans – pretty much got the market covered then!

IMG_2865

Switching brands, I moved onto Trabanco.   www.sidratrabanco.com  Producing Cider since 1925, this Cider company’s headquarters and first Cider mill is just a few kilometres from Gijon and they have a second mill in the region.

The first Trabanco Cider I had was their Home-Grown Natural Cider.  The green bottle with its brown and gold label was held high, the glass held low and the Cider poured expertly into a smooth sided Cider glass by the exhibitor.   Not only did this ritual take me right back to being in Spain but the taste did too.  Exactly as I expect a Spanish Cider to taste, this pale Cider had a slight whiff of sulphur and a wonderful dry, young and fresh taste.

IMG_2863

The next Trabanco Cider I tried was a move away from the traditional.  Everyone was talking about this drink, the demand so high I had to wait a minute whilst the barman grabbed the last bottle.

Alma de Trabanco, served like a G & T with ice and a slice in a wine glass.   Containing Cider, White Wine and a whole list of ingredients as long as the arm of the guy who poured the previous cider.  Botanicals such as Star Anise, Coriander and Thyme.  And there’s fruit in there too; Orange peel, Lemon and Cherry.   And packing a punch at 15% abv.

Alma is pale with notes of Vermouth with an apple twist.   Very fresh and again so very drinkable.

IMG_2870

Also exhibiting were Castañón   www.sidracastanon.com.   Producing Cider since 1938, based in Quintueles, Asturias, Castañón were promoting their Vermouth Cider, Rox Mut and the zappy named Xiz.

When I spoke to Marta on the Castañón stand, she told me Xiz was designed to rival wine.

Yeast is added and fermented with single variety apples.   The result is a lightly carbonated golden drink with notes of pears from the yeast.   Medium sweet, I would certainly serve this to wine drinkers and I thought it would be perfect with apple crumble and custard.

Not very Spanish I know and despite the gorgeous Asturias tapas, the fact that I was craving apple pie led me to make Xiz my last Cider and head off – it was only Wednesday after all.

IMG_2874

I wasn’t surprised by the wonderful food at Hispania, but I was surprised and really impressed by the range of Ciders on show at Tasting Asturias.  Dry, sweet, fruity, cocktails, even non-alcoholic.

Tasting Asturias has really opened my eyes to the variety of Ciders available and I hope this blog has inspired you too.

It’s getting autumnal so maybe this weekend would be a good time for me to go apple picking, make a pie and open some of the lovely Cider I brought back from Spain!

Cheers

Spicy Sunday

I live in Petts Wood, up until recently a pretty unremarkable suburb on the Kent, London borders.  A commuter district full of 1930s semi-detached houses, a railway station and the usual array of estate agents, hairdressers and charity shops.

Things brightened up a few years ago with the opening of Micro pub One Inn the Wood.  Since opening OITW has won Bromley CAMRA’S Pub of the year twice and Regional Pub of the Year.   A great place to go for a beer or two, the focus is on local produce and community.

Just a couple of hundred yards from OITW is Indian Essence. A contemporary Indian restaurant which has Michelin star winning chief Atul Kochhar as an investor.   Also award-winning, Indian Essence has been given the Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

I must confess, I wasn’t familiar with Atul Kochhar until I went to Indian Essence, but a quick look on the internet tells me that in 2001 Atul was the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star whilst Head Chef at Tamarind, London.   He later opened Benares Restaurant & Bar and was awarded second Michelin star in 2007.

I have been to Indian Essence a few times for the fixed price Sunday Lunch which is excellent value at £19.95 for three courses.   The selection varies but is always comprehensive with popular choices such as Khasta Murg – Chicken Tikka pie, served with Spiced Prune compote as a starter.  For main course my favourite is Nariyal Gosht; cuts of lamb cooked in a sauce of coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves which comes with a tasty lentil pancake.   And for desert, I would highly recommend the Peanut Butter chocolate fondant – but watch out as the pot is hot so you must be a little patient.

I normally go to Indian Essence with my family which spans three generations and all of us with our various requirements love it.  My parents who don’t generally do spicy food often pop along for a mid-week lunch and my youngest nephew raved about it for months after his first visit – when you’ve got a twelve-year-old raving about your food, you are doing something right.   On our last visit our party included a vegan, a pescatarian, a sufferer of lactose intolerance as well as two teenagers.   We all went home happy.

If you have read my previous blogs you will know that as well as loving beer, I LOVE food and in particular love a cookery course.   As well as enjoying learning new dishes to cook I like finding out about the traditions, regional variations and culture surrounding food.   I find this fascinating, so my interest was triggered when I saw Masterclasses with Atul advertised on the Indian Essence website.

I had a birthday coming so dropped a couple of subtle hints to my husband who very kindly booked me on the Masterclass held last Sunday.

So, after a light brunch , I skipped off to Indian Essence for a spicy Sunday. Note book in hand I left my Husband at home anticipating or should that be dreading watching the football- Everton playing his beloved West Ham on the telly.

The Masterclass consisted of twelve people.   We were given samosas and wraps filled with a mildly spicy filling before we even got as far as the kitchen.

Once in there Atul talked us through five different curries from his new book ’30 Minute Curries’ .  We were given a little bowl of each to try.

First a chicken curry using thigh meat, followed by King Prawns from Brixham, both delicious.  Then an unusual egg and Potato curry.  I’ve had egg curry before but hadn’t been too keen but Atuls’ Egg and Potato curry was really good made more interesting by the different textures of the hard-boiled eggs.   Atul told us that a good option was to soft boil the eggs, so the yolk would pour into the curry sauce.  I was intrigued by this and want to give it a try; looks like I’ll be getting our trusty egg boiling machine out to experiment.

Atul finished with two vegetable curry’s, one Okra and a Beetroot curry containing coconut milk.  I really liked this and plan on giving it a bash too.

Atul made the experience an absolute joy.   His friendly nature set us all at ease as he told us about the dietary requirements of different sects as well as how regional diets of India vary.   I didn’t know for example that different regions use different oils.   Furthermore, the oils varying smoking points affect the way the spices react giving different results – if you’re a foodie like me you’ll understand why I find this all fascinating.

It was a really friendly class and I was surprised how far people had been prepared to travel.   One guy had come all the way from Cardiff, and I got talking to another couple from Essex.  They had a real passion for food, and especially liked Atuls’ work.

All the way through Atul was happy for us to take photos, cheerfully posing with each of us after the class – what a gang of chef groupies!

He also answered our questions throughout the class.   I had to ask the question that had been burning on my lips; Why invest in a restaurant in Petts Wood?

The answer … simple, family connections.

The Masterclass finished, and we were treated to a three-course meal which my husband joined me for, obviously he hadn’t realised the meal would clash with the West Ham game…I had consoled him beforehand by saying that it was probably for the best that he’d miss the second half…

The starter was Tandoori Rattan, a platter of Fennel Scented Lamb chops, Lehsuni Malai Tikka and Lime Scented Prawn.  Very tasty and just the right size.  The main course was an equally tasty selection of Murg Makhni, Kosha Mangsho, Malabar Seafood Curry, Saag Corn, Garlic Coriander Naan and rice.

Finally came the dessert platter of Raspberry Bharat Doi, Pista Kulfi and the obligatory Peanut Butter Infused Chocolate Fondant.

We washed this all down with a couple of large bottles of Cobra which was perfect! Cooling down the spices and refreshing my palate which had been well and truly indulged all afternoon.

If I am eating curry at home my choice would always be beer, but I would avoid the robust American Style Pales ( APA’s) opting instead for lighter beer styles such as Pilsner Lager or Pale ales.

If I was sticking to local brews Old Dairy’s Gold Top Pale would be a good choice as would Westerham Brewery’s Bohemian Rhapsody Czech Style Pilsner or their fabulous Summer Perle Extra Pale Ale. Another great beer to accompany curry is Wimbledon based By the Horns’s Rye Blond Ale, Samba King. If you fancy spreading your wings to an overseas number you can’t go wrong with Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Lager.

I asked Atul how he felt about beer with curry?  He answered ‘it’s great’ adding however that it depended on the day, sometimes he fancied wine and, on another day,he’d have a whiskey.

Taking his example, we finished our meals with Indian Whisky Amrut Single Malt. Despite a powerful nose which packed a real punch, the whiskey itself was incredibly smooth.  The perfect end to a wonderful afternoon oh and West Ham won 3-1 so we were both happy.

Cheers!

‘This is nightmare and any minute I am going to wake up in the hotel room, right?’ The Hopflower looks back on a recent trip to food heaven San Sebastian

Pintxos

‘This is nightmare and any minute I am going to wake up in the hotel room, right?’ I asked my husband last Monday morning as I dragged myself out of bed ready for my first day back at work after a two week break.

The hotel room in question had been in the city of San Sebastian on the north Spanish coast in the Basque country.

San Sebastian or to use its Basque name Donostia has it all; the breath-taking sweeping la Concha Bay with its sandy beach stretching from end to end, Surfing, Football, interesting architecture and plenty of shopping.   It’s no wonder that along with the Wroclaw, Poland it was joint European Capital of Culture in 2016.

Foodies amongst you may know San Sebastian’s reputation for good food and it’s Michelin starred restaurants.   But the thing that keeps us going back is the culture of the Pintxos bars of which there are many in the city.

Pintxos are a type of tapas.   Gorgeous little morsels consisting often of a slice of bread, topped with all manner of delicacies such as cheese, Tuna, peppers or meats to name but a few possibilities.  They range from the simple to the downright extravagant.  Exquisitely topped pieces of bread aside, little pots of Gazpacho, mini skewers, and range of delicious croquettes also come under the Pintxo heading in San Sebastian.

sidra and tapas

To clarify, what makes Pintxos different from the tapas you get outside the Basque region is the ritual that accompanies them.

According to all the travel books and articles I have read, the etiquette is you go from bar to bar having just one Pintxos at each with a drink.

When faced with bar tops heaving with platters of these works of art which in some cases look almost too perfect to eat, it is however hard to resist taking a few.    It really feels like the proverbial kid in a sweet shop scenario!

Coming from a family of food lovers who have been known to swoop on a buffet, removing clingfilm with absolutely no shame I have managed over the years to maintain a little decorum and resist piling up the large plate so readily handed to me by a smiling bartender.    But each time I arrive in San Sebastian, this discipline tends to go out of the window until I settle into the routine.

The Pintxos bars are spread throughout the city, but the largest concentration is to be found in San Sebastian’s Parte Vieja – Old Town.

old town

Here you can wander the narrow streets finding great Pintxos bars next door to each other.   You may approach what looks like a quiet street only to turn the corner and be met with a wall of voices and laughter as crowds enjoy the outdoor air.

Each bar will have its own speciality and I read recently the suggestion that to find out what this is you should watch what the locals eat.

In reality the bars are often packed so my advice would be just tuck in, taking whatever catches your eye.   Some Pintxos bars label their Pintxos but part of the fun for me is taking a chance.  I have yet to find one I haven’t enjoyed.

To my shame I speak very little Spanish and even less Basque, so once I have picked a few Pintxos, I show the bartender and at the same time order drinks and pay in one go.  In some bars they will offer to heat up Pintxos for you.     The costs may vary slightly from bar to bar but are pretty consistent with Pintxos averaging around 2.50€ each.

Don’t be put off if a bar looks busy.  Often the crowd will disappear into the night, probably respecting the ritual and moving on, leaving the bar you are in strangely quiet for a few minutes before another group suddenly appear.

It’s an informal way of eating and drinking which means that unless you really are unshakeable in your habits, no two nights in San Sebastian are going to be the same.

Pintxos and beer

Over the years we have found a few favourites which we always visit such as Meson Portaletas  http://mesonportaletas.com/  at the harbour end of Portu Kalea.   A smart bar with a large sit-down restaurant.  If you are having Pintxos, there are bar stools and as is common with many of the Pintxos bars, high tables and ledges outside on which to rest your drink as you devour a pintxo or five.

Around the corner is a lively spot at the end of Mayor Kalea.   Overlooked by the beautiful church Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro, this corner of the old town is where large numbers convene.   Right here is the recently refurbished Casa Vergara.  We always loved the laid-back feel of this bar in its former incarnation and it has a very different feel now.  it is however still very good.  The food delicious and the staff friendly and helpful.

We normally finish the night next door at Casa Alcalde www.casaalcaldedonostia.com/es/restaurante-tipico-donosti.html.   This being our favourite for a few reasons.  There is a huge and varied range of Pintxos on offer which are arranged beautifully so very tempting.   The staff are friendly and extremely efficient which makes for speedy bar service.   This bar has a lovely feel to it possibly due to its great history illustrated by the old photos displayed on the walls.

casa alcalde

If this slightly frenetic way of eating really isn’t for you, a lot of the bars have seating areas to the rear where you can enjoy a slightly more sedate meal.  You will however probably pay more this way, and quite frankly miss out on the fun.

But let’s not forget the drinks this being a beer blog after all.   In most bars, if you ask for a beer you will get familiar faces such as Estrella Damm or Cruzcampo.   There is however a local award-winning lager called Keler which is sold in some places including Casa Alcalde.

Beer is reasonably priced averaging 3€ for a large glass – quantities can be a tad random, but you will always get a fair amount for your money.

 

If you don’t fancy beer there is a good selection of local wines including Txakoli.    A light white wine made from young grapes so not complex but refreshing and being a local speciality is readily available.  In the bars of San Sebastian Txakoli is ceremoniously poured from an arm’s length into the glass, thus splashing against the glass, releasing the fresh, slightly citrus flavours.

 

FYI another local tradition of the bars in San Sebastian is ringing the bell when a customer leaves a tip so don’t be alarm if you hear the bell, it doesn’t signify last orders!

Also available in abundance is Sidra.  There are many Sidra houses selling a selection of the local Sidras straight from the cask.   Like Txakoli, Sidra is a significant part of the local culture, and with a good glass of Sidra costing as little as 2€ it’s a great option.   It is possible to visit local Sidra producers for a tour and tastings – definitely on my to do list.

Sidra from the cask

 

What I have yet to see in a Pintxos bars sadly is local craft beers which is a shame as San Sebastian has a good selection of microbreweries.

In 2014 I blogged about a craft beer bar I had visited in San Sebastian, which when we checked last year sadly appeared to have closed.  There is however a craft beer bar also in Parte Vieja called Iratxo Taberna, (San Juan Kalea, 9), where I enjoyed a gorgeous drop of the local Basqueland Brewing Project’s IPA in 2017.

I am a fan of the Basqueland Brewing Projects beers, a favourite of mine being their Arraun Amber Ale.  I used Arraun in a beer tasting at the Hoppers Hut micropub, Sidcup, South London last year when I suggested it’s caramel notes make this ale great with burgers.  It would however compliment many a Pintxos perfectly.   It is a really good beer.

comb

 

Parte Vieja contains a high density of Pintxos bars, but San Sebastian comprises different neighbourhoods with different personalities.   Across the river, a block or so back from the surfers Zurriola beach is the district of Gross.   Small shops and cafes line the sunny open streets and it was amongst these that two years ago we discovered the Mala Gissona Beer House.

Stumbling across the Mala Gissona Beer House amongst everything else that San Sebastian has to offer was the icing on the cake.   The bar has a bright, contemporary design with wood and metal furniture and brickwork wallpaper depicting the whale imagery used in Mala Gissona’s branding reflecting the Basque heritage of Whaling.

When we visited this year a mixed bag of non-obtrusive music played; everything from The Jam, Reggae and 1950s Rock and Roll.  The staff were super friendly, helpfully taking me through the range of beers on offer and advising me about a forthcoming tap takeover of Barcelona brewery Black Lab.

Between us we had their Red Bay, a rye red ale, the Apatxe APA and another Basque favourite of mine their Höfn Porter   From their food menu, we had locally produced Burgers topped with cheese, a fried egg, accompanied by mayo and fries – perfect before a snooze on the beach!

mala gissona lunch

The Mala Gissona Brewery have been going for four years and the Beer House opened around two and half years ago.   If you went to Craft Beer Rising in Brick Lane earlier this year you may have seen their stand and they also hosted a Beer tasting at the Tapas Room in Tooting Broadway Market, London.   All good news as it signifies I hope the intention of Mala Gissona to play a part in the UK beer market.

 

The Basques are very proud of their heritage and tradition.   Around San Sebastian are numerous shops selling local produce such as locally mined flavoured salt, meats, tinned sardines and increasingly local craft beers.   Mala Gissona’s beers as well as being available from their Beer House can be bought in bottles and cans in the old town, Basqueland Brewing Project Beers are also available as are other brewer’s such as Gross.   All positive signs that beer has been embraced as part of the Basque Heritage.

San Sebastian is a feast in so many ways.   We tend to go at the end of August which coincides with the 31st August celebrations marking the razing of San Sebastian by Allied forces in 1813.   Brass and Drum Bands in traditional dress march through the Parte Vieja, the sound is incredible.   Also, on the first two Sundays in September boat racing is held in La Concha Bay.   Rival teams battle it out on the sea and their supporters can be seen around the city and in the bars in their team’s colours.   This makes for a lively but friendly atmosphere.

marching band

Towards the end of July is the annual Jazz Festival.  Live music echoes around the city with the bay as an amazing backdrop.

 

Year round the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of San Sebastian are a treat.   So, I say forget what the guide books tell you and load up your plate!   Holidays don’t last forever after all, a fact I am all too aware of as I sit typing this with memories of Pintxos still fresh in my mind…

bay

 

There’s a Buzz around South London; The Hop Flower conquers her fear of bees for the sake of Beer

IMG_2473

What do you buy the man who has everything? This is the problem I face every Christmas when trying to pick presents for my husband. He loves shopping and has a birthday soon after Christmas so it’s a tough job thinking of original gifts.

Luckily he has lots of hobbies and also aspirations to own a smallholding in the country so when I saw the Hiver Experience – Urban Beekeeping and Craft Beer Tasting advertised, I thought Bingo!

Now a few years ago I took him on a Bee and Chicken keeping course at Bourne Place in Kent.   It was great,we met some adorable chickens but we didn’t get to meet any bees or drink beer!

FullSizeRender - Copy

I first heard of Hiver a while ago and although I am not always a fan of beer with things added – fruit, chocolate, chilli etc when it’s done well the results are fantastic. Hiver don’t add honey at the end of the brewing process but add it for the fermentation. The result is subtle notes rather than overly sweet beer.

So last Saturday we headed to Bee Urban in Kennington Park. Really easy to get to just a few minutes from Kennington tube station, we were greeted by the lovely Floriane who along with Beekeeper Barnaby looked after us.

The two hour session started with a talk from Barnaby who explained about the hive inspection we would make and showed us a few of the tools used by bee keepers.

IMG_2427

I should add at this point that I am terrified of bees, wasps, spiders , daddy long legs in fact anything smaller than a cat freaks me out a little but particularly all things bug size that fly and/or sting . So when Floriane explained how during the hive inspection we should hold the frames, despite her calm reassuring manner I felt a tad nervous.

I sometimes tell myself that it’s good to do things that scare me plus in this instance I reasoned I would at least get some beer at the end of it !

So clad in our beekeeper suits looking a little like telly tubbies we went with Barnaby to the hives.

FullSizeRender[371]

Barnaby opened a hive and passed the frames around one by one pointing out the various cells and types of bees. I took the first few frames remembering Floriane’s instructions. Despite being nervous of passing the frames I soon felt at home with the bees buzzing around me and actually enjoyed observing them close up.

To be honest I felt safe in my bee suit and looking at the bees was fascinating but I was convinced I would drop one of the frames and hurt all the bees. They are such amazing little creatures !

IMG_2480

Once out of our beekeeping suits and in the safety of a nearby gazebo Floriane gave us a talk on the Hiver Beers including a beer and food pairing.

First we had the Hiver Honey Beer.   Described on the bottle as a ‘British Blond Beer’ this has an ABV of 4.5%.  Golden Blond in colour with a creamy white head consisting of tiny bubbles, this Blond has an interesting nose of honey and malt.   The local honey used in this beer which we also got to try gives this Blond subtle floral notes of elderflower.  There is just enough natural carbonation to give a tingle on the tongue and the honey notes are subtle throughout.

FullSizeRender - Copy (2)

Refreshing and very drinkable the Blond paired beautifully with the manchego cheese we were given.

We then had Hiver’s Honey Ale, a British Brown Ale also 4.5% .   Containing Blossom and Heather honey the Brown Ale is actually more of an inviting reddish brown with a creamy loose head.   The nose has malt with medicinal notes from the honey.

Like the Blond, the honey notes although present throughout are subtle.  However in the Brown the honey gives more depth with caramel and fruit notes. The roasted notes from the darker malts also came through making this a rich but balanced Ale.

Good with the salami we had been given I felt the Brown Ale complimented the fruit loaf fantastically.

FullSizeRender

Floriane’s knowledge of beer , bees and honey was brilliant and made for a really enjoyable tasting session.

Bee Urban are a community project who are involved with educational work. I’m sure you’ve heard how important bees are to the environment and our survival but if like me you are nervous of these little fellas a visit to Bee Urban will give you a new respect and fondness for bees and the amazing work they do. For example Floriane told us that during it’s lifetime a bee will produce just around half a teaspoon of honey – yes just half a teaspoon and they never stop working!

As well as introducing me to some great Honey Beers, the Hiver Experience helped rid me of my fear of bees.  If however you really can’t face meeting the bees Hiver have a tap room in Stanworth Street near Tower Bridge so you could cut out the middle bee and head there to enjoy some Hiver Beers .

Wherever you try Hiver beer however remember how hard the bees work and savour every mouthful!

IMG_2440

Cheers.

To San Diego, Como, San Sebastián, Copenhagen and Swanley via a micro pub in Sidcup!

The first Beer School at the Hopper’s Hut Micropub – Sidcup

As I crashed back down to earth after a chocolate fuelled Easter weekend I felt a little guilty as what I should have been doing was going for a long run. Instead I was going to the pub.
The pub in question is the Hopper’s Hut, a micro pub in Sidcup, Kent. 

My reason for going to the Hopper’s Hut however was exciting as I had been asked to host a Beer School, the theme – World Beers.

After weeks of perusing beer lists the line up was concluded and so ran like this:

First off we went state side with Lomaland Saison from Modern Times Brewery based in San Diego, California. Named after a utopian community Modern Times also sell coffee, brew one off and special beers and have a tasting room where events are held – I particularly like the sound of the ‘Smoketastic Voyage and Tie Dye party’ being held tomorrow!

Saison which means season in French was historically brewed in Belgium by farmers in the winter months. This provided work in what was otherwise a quiet season in farming plus it provided beer not so much for commercial sale but for the workers to enjoy during the following summer. 


Lomaland is straw coloured and has a funky sour nose. Notes of pears and tart make this a fruity little number which went down well with the Beer School attendees.

Next we went to Italy. Not a country renowned for beer but with a long brewing history going back thousands of years Italian beers shouldn’t be overlooked. See my blog from November 2015 ‘Ferrari, Pasta, Chianti, Fabio Cannavaro…-when you think of Italy , beer isn’t normally what springs to mind’.

We had chosen Tipopils, a Pilsner from Birrificio Italiano. I often bore anyone who will listen about the virtues of lagers – I am sad to say members of my own family still refuse to drink lager thinking it all taste like fizzy mass produced rubbish. But as you may know Pilsner is a long established beer style first brewed in the middle ages in the city of Pilsen, western Bohemia, in the Czech Republic.

Pilsner – or in a lot of cases imitations of it account for 95% of global beer consumption and it’s not hard to see why. Poor imitations aside, Pilsner is clean cut, fresh, floral and soooo drinkable. It’s refreshing and perfect with so many foods; spicy foods, seafood, light cheeses, I could go on.  

Staying in Europe we then went to Northern Spain, or the Basque region to be precise with Basqueland Brewing Project’s Arraun Amber Ale. 

The Basqueland Brewing Project was set up by some American guys who are based in San Sebastián – arhhh San Sebastián! One of my favourite places where I am off to again this summer. It has it all, breathtaking beaches, great shopping, amazing food and an exciting beer scene- if you want to know more see my blog ‘Beer tourism abroad’ although as this was written in 2014 things have moved on since. 


Arraun has the most amazingly fresh hop nose. Once you tuck in however this is a lovely malty ale with notes of burnt toffee. Comments from the other drinkers were interesting with one guy saying he could taste rose petals and someone else agreeing with the inclusion of leather in the brewery’s own tasting notes. This just goes to show how differently we can experience beer!

Arraun Amber is a great ale and I will be seeking out this and more from Basqueland when I next visit San Sebastián.

Next we headed north to the colder climes of Copenhagen for the warming Mikkeller Porter. This will warm your cockles on a cold Scandinavian night at 8% abv. A wonderful porter with an inviting nose of treacle and notes of tobacco. This was extremely popular, even with those not normally Porter drinkers. I wished I could have had more!

Finally we returned home, not just to the UK but to nearby Swanley with Brew Buddies English Hop IPA.  

I wouldn’t normally select an English IPA after such a full-on Porter but I had a sneaky suspicion that some conscientious pupils would be staying on after class so thought this would head them in the right direction when they next went to the bar! 

A great IPA to finish on. Brew Buddies beers are unfined which means they are not filtered with isinglass – fish bladders. This leads to cloudy flavoursome beers which have the added advantage of being vegan friendly.   This IPA was a crowd pleaser all right.

Thanks to all the ‘pupils’ who attended the Beer School last night. If you’d like to study any of the beers mentioned above, the Hopper’s Hut have a good supply and also sell them to take out – oh lucky people of Sidcup, you have the beer world at your feet it seems!

Watch this space for news of future beers schools.


Cheers

Lisa

Rising like a pair of Phoenix First Truman’s in 2010 and two weeks ago the Eagle Pub in Ladbroke Grove

 

To use an avian metaphor, rising like a pair of Phoenix first Truman’s in 2010 and two weeks ago the Eagle Pub in Ladbroke Grove reopened it’s doors.

I am a fan of Truman’s beers as mentioned in a previous blog so I was delighted to be invited to the launch of their first Tank Lager RAW.  

The launch was in the Eagle pub, a few minutes from Ladbroke Grove tube last night. 

Impressive shining Truman’s tanks are perched like nests

The Eagle which had previously been a Truman’s pub back in the days of the original brewery is bright and welcoming. Impressive shining Truman’s tanks are perched like nests above the central bar. The decor is warm and slightly quirky with a mix of furniture and fittings including some Truman lanterns and iconic eagle statues on the bar. As we were led upstairs I noticed some rather fine wallpaper and fabrics from the company I have my day job with….
You would have absolutely no idea the Eagle has been open just two weeks. Hippo Inns who own the Eagle have done a fantastic job at establishing this pub totally in keeping with the area which is one of their policies. 

Each beer I had was expertly served

The staff were extremely friendly and efficient, each beer I had was expertly served often in traditional jugs. Apparently one of the first training exercises they were taken on was a day trip to Truman’s Brewery to see exactly how it all works – nice work if you can get it!

A range of Truman’s beers were on offer in addition to RAW. Pacing myself I stuck to halves – a long journey home and work in the morning sadly curtails midweek drinking somewhat but this didn’t stop me from trying three beers.

The Zephyr Australian Pale is one of Truman’s core beers and a favourite of mine. Packed with Australian hops and so called after the gentle trade winds from Australia that used to accompany exporters on their journeys.

Truman’s like their beers to be sold as fresh as possible and distribute mostly within the M25. They brew a succession of seasonal beers which they aim to get into pubs in 7-10 days. The current seasonal offering is Gypsy Queen, a wonderful Oatmeal Pale Ale.

In keeping with Truman’s tradition of giving a nod to their East London heritage Gypsy Queen is named after an Iron Steam Boat built close to the present day site of the brewery during the nineteenth Century.

Gypsy Queen is dry hopped so gives an instant hop hit followed by a backbone of malt. The addition of oatmeal gives Gipsy Queen a smooth fuller mouthfeel – wonderful so grab it while you can!          

I opted for Ale Battered Cod, Chips, Tartar and Mushy Peas


To accompany Truman’s beers we were lucky enough to try a selection of the Pub’s Bavarian inspired menu which includes dishes such as Chicken Schnitzel served with fried duck egg and a huge Crispy Knuckle of Pork served with Fried Potato dumplings. 

The menu is the creation Head chef Stan Perry (ex Soho House).

Stan told us beer and food pairing is something they are looking into and that he’s a great believer in using beer in cooking.

We started with sharing plates from the starters selection of Pickled Herring, Salmon Tartare, a lovely earthy Venison Carpaccio and a simply heavenly twice baked Gruyere Soufflé.  

As RAW is a Lager I opted for Ale Battered Cod, Chips, Tatar and Mushy peas for my main. To say the portion was generous doesn’t do it justice! After the wonderful starters I felt as though I could barely scratch the surface but the chunky cod wrapped in crispy light beer batter was perfection. The RAW sliced through the richness and was just the right depth of flavour so as not to overpower the dish. 

I should also give a mention to the amazing puddings served last; Bitter Chocolate Fondant with cherry, Rhubarb Panna Cotta with Shortbread, amazing Banoffee pancakes and Mulled Pear and Apple Crumble, needless to say I could manage just a mouthful of each but they were all delicious.

RAW is as clean and pure as it gets


RAW is Truman’s first tank beer and is Truman’s say and I quote ‘completely untouched by light, added gas or any other processes – it is unpasteurised and unfiltered which means it tastes as if the beer were poured ‘raw’ straight from the tanks in the brewery’ .

My verdict…RAW is a wonderful refreshing Lager with plenty of body. Sadly a much maligned beer style, a good lager whether it’s a crisp Pilsner or a smooth rounded Helles is a joy which too many people risk missing out on.  

With Lager there’s nowhere to hide Jasper from Truman’s said, and RAW is as clean and pure as it gets! Well done Truman’s, I look forward to your next tank beer!
Cheers 

 

 

 

For the love of good beer and food…The Hop Flower’s Blog on deserting South London for the day and heading East to West Ham territory and the Truman Brewery

Until my mid Twenties I had an on-off relationship with football. As a child I supported Liverpool. When I hit my teens however I discarded the beautiful game, Kevin Keegan and Emlyn Hughes in favour of The Jam, Two Tone, cigarettes and boys, – preferably those resembling Terry Hall or Paul Weller.

In the early nineties a friend took me along to the old Den to see Millwall play Leicester City. Apart from spotting Danny Baker behind me on the terrace Millwall left little impression on me. I should add I have since developed an aversion Leicester City FC, the reasons for which will become clear….  

Around the same time I also started going to Selhurst Park to watch Crystal Palace and by the time I met my husband in 1995 I was a confirmed Eagle.

he is a lifelong West Ham fan – This has at times been tricky


On the plus side my husband introduced me to real ale – I had previously been drinking Guinness or mass produced fizz masquerading as beer. But where there’s a yang there is often a yin and in this case he is a lifelong West Ham fan… 

This has at times been tricky. In 2004 six weeks after our wedding in a cruel twist of fate, we travelled to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff where Palace met West Ham in the Championship play-off final. Palace won with a late goal and I will never forget meeting my husband after the game. Me in my Palace colours and him draped in his West Ham flag looking extremely down in the mouth. 

I tried to be sympathetic. I had been at Wembley a few years before in 1996 when Steve Claridge had popped up in extra time and done the same to us for Leicester City. Now you see where my hostility towards Leicester City comes from – unlike the rest of the country I wasn’t elated when they won the Premiership last season. I still hold a grudge which I know I should get over of but I just can’t!

Reflecting beer’s current renaissance football fans demand decent beer

Now combining football with drinking may not sound like a good idea if you believe sections of the popular press but plenty of supporters indulge in a social pint before a game without dire consequences. Let’s face it a majority of us know our limits plus having paid to see a game we aren’t likely to render ourselves incapable of remembering the ninety minutes although sometimes we would rather forget.

Reflecting beer’s current renaissance football fans demand decent beer. I have previously blogged about the award winning Supporters Club bar at Leighton Orient. Palace have an annual beer festival and this season West Ham fans have been offered a selection of real ales at their new home in the London Stadium.

Grasping an excellent opportunity the Truman Brewery based half a mile from the London Stadium have a match day membership scheme for hammers called TruRib. For a small membership fee of £10 TruRib members can go to Truman’s bar at their Eyrie Brewery before matches. My husband has signed up which is great as members can take a guest along.

Now that explains the Tru but the Rib part of the name..? Moving from his patch outside West Ham’s previous home, the Boleyn Stadium to Truman’s yard is Rib Man   

The opportunity to stuff my face with this amazing food whilst drinking Truman’s beer was just too good to pass up

Rib Man alias Mark Gevaux is a West Ham supporting ex-butcher who serves baby- back rib meat in rolls with sauces he has created which aren’t for the faint hearted. With names such as Holy Fuck and Christ on a Bike you get the idea.  

I read an article about Rib Man in the Observer Magazine last March and the opportunity to stuff my face with this amazing food whilst drinking Truman’s beer was just too good to pass up. So despite West Ham beating Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park the previous week, for the love of good beer and food last Saturday I deserted South London for the day and headed East to West Ham territory on match day and the Truman Brewery to get my hands on a beer and a Rib Man rib meat roll.

We arrived at Truman’s yard just after 1pm. It was just getting busy with people sitting under a gazebo watching the Spurs game.   We headed for the bar first. There were three beers straight from the cask and three on keg , their Lager, Roller IPA and Pale Ale. Cider and soft drinks were also available.

We started with Truman’s cask Pale Ale Lazarus 4.2% ABV. I’ve had this beer in the past and know it’s excellent. A refreshing easy drinking session Pale with a malt finish.  

The smell in the yard from Rib Man’s stand was enticing so tentatively eyeing up the sauces we ordered our rolls, Husband opting for a small and me a medium. When offered sauce, hoping for clemency we asked rather pathetically if a mild one was available? Smokey BBQ Sauce was suggested so we took our chances.   

You know when you are eating something so good that you just don’t want it to come to an end?


I love my food and every so often I find something that knocks my socks off. Normally something simple like when a Spanish friend introduced me to Padron Peppers cooked in olive oil and sea salt or my recent conversion to Shish Kebabs after years of overlooking them. Don’t ask me why I had always overlooked this skewered delicacy but on my way home from Wembley after watching Palace beat Watford to go through to the FA Cup Final in my euphoria I fancied a take away. I tried a lamb Shish from my local kebab shop – Eureka! I am now addicted! 

The religious references in Rib Man’s sauce names are wholly appropriate as his rib meat roll really was a heavenly experience! You know when you are eating something so good that you just don’t want it to come to an end? Well this is how I felt whilst greedily devouring the rib meat roll. The meat was beautifully tender and moist. The BBQ sauce which seeped through to the bread roll turning it a luscious shade of amber had just the right amount of kick to enhance the whole experience-Oh why didn’t I order a large?!?

Rib Man’s divine creations


The Lazarus was perfect for washing down this divine creation.

Next from the now busier but well organised bar I ordered Fire Starter. Also a cask with a 4.2% ABV which as it says on the pump clip is a hoppy red ale. An instant hit of hops leading to rich, sweet notes with a finish of burnt toffee. I really liked Fire Starter and it made a great liquid pudding after the rib meat.

If you are not lucky enough to have a West Ham Fan in your life do not despair, Rib Man is at Brick Lane on Sundays.

Hackney Wick is a vibrant district with a good feel and for us Beer lovers it’s an oasis


Truman’s is a name synonymous with brewing. Originally established in Brick Lane in 1666, sadly the brewery closed in 1989. But in 2010 it was re-established by a pair of beer enthusiasts. Going from strength to strength in 2013 not only was the Eyrie opened in Hackney Wick but they also recovered the original Truman’s yeast from the National Collection of Yeast Cultures where it had been stored since the 1958.

Heritage is important to the guys at Truman’s hence their desire to forge a direct link with the past by using the original yeast. They are passionate about East London and there’s a lot to like about the area. The Olympic Park and Stratford shopping centre have transformed this corner of London. Hackney Wick is a vibrant district with a good feel. The architecture is a mix of new builds, old warehouses and eye catching graffiti. And for us beer lovers it’s an oasis with breweries such as Five Points, Hackney Brewery and Pressure Drop.

As well as Truman’s there are tap rooms at Crate Brewery and Howling Hops. So having waved my husband off on his way to West Ham versus Sunderland, I did the short walk along the River Lea to pop my head into Crate and Howling Hops Tank Bar.


I last visited these two tap rooms on a lovely sunny August day last year when Queens Yard where both are located was packed with people enjoying the weather and the beer. Despite being a mild October day there were less people around however this Saturday. The last few stragglers were leaving for the West Ham game as I arrived.

Crate Brewery’s bar and Pizzeria


Crate Brewery’s bar and Pizzeria sits on the River Lea. The bar staff were friendly and helpful offering tasters of beer. I had a half of the Crate Amber Ale 4.5% on cask. The Amber has a good mouth feel with dry almost tea-like astringent qualities- lovely! 

There is a monthly menu of beers including guest bottles ranging from Lambics to Darks as well as cider and wine. 

The aroma from the amazing looking stone baked pizzas served straight from the oven was too much! I would have ordered one if I hadn’t gorged myself on Rib Man’s wares . Currently on the pizza menu amongst traditionals such as Margherita or Prosciutto and Rocket are Sage with Truffle and Kashmiri Dahl.


This bar has a great feel to it so don’t be put off by the Canada Geese outside who looked expectantly at me as I ambled along the riverside.


Finally I popped into the Howling Hops Tank Bar. Ten different beers are served from tanks behind a long bar such as their American Brown, West Coast IPA and Pils. The Tank Bar has long benched tables which stretch the length of the room and like Crate there is a turn table which although wasn’t in use I can imagine you would have a good night here. I saw posters advertising a cheese and beer event from the previous night which looked good.     

Howling Hops offer wonderful looking food from Billy Smokes Barbecue such as Beer Sausage Sandwiches – hot-smoked beef and pork sausages containing Howling Hops Beer or as an alternative to all this meat how about a smoked Pepper and Avocado Sandwich with (not mega hot) House Hot Sauce.   


Fed and watered I headed back to Stratford for a bit of post lunch shopping mayhem.

West Ham 1 – 0 Sunderland


West Ham beat Sunderland 1 – 0 with a late goal so I guess Hackney and Stratford were happy places Saturday evening. As for Palace…? We lost 3-1 to, yes you’ve guessed it… Leicester!


Cheers

Lisa