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!



Full Steam ahead…for a few real ales whilst being transported through time and the Hampshire countryside on the Mid Hants Real Ale Train.

In my last blog I talked about hitting a scary landmark birthday. The trauma of reaching this age was made not just bearable but a joy by all the wonderful and thoughtful gifts I received – I am a very lucky hop flower!

So as well as being treated to a Korean cooking course (If you don’t know what I am talking about, please see my last blog) last weekend I was taken for a trip on the Real Ale Train or to use it’s nickname the RAT in Hampshire for a few real ales whilst being transported through time and the Hampshire countryside.

taking you down memory lane with a vintage style of old railway posters, signage and furniture.

The RAT’s location is the restored steam locomotives on the Mid Hants Railway known as the Watercress Line after the local cargo it used to take to London. There are four stations on the ten mile line, each taking you down memory lane with a vintage style of old railway posters, signage and furniture. Such is the charm of this picturesque line that it has featured in films and TV including my favourite Midsomer Murders plus Countryfile and a Richmond Sausage ad to name just a few.
RATs are held on most but not all Saturday nights from February through to the beginning of December and feature different breweries either local or from neighbouring counties. Last Saturday night it was the turn of Triple FFF , Hammerpot and Downton – no TV connection…

step back in time before the days of Networkers

Triple FFF Brewery who being in Alton couldn’t be more local to the RAT have been brewing since 1997. They offer a comprehensive range of core beers and seasonals with interesting names such as Pressed Rat and Warthog, Comfortably Numb and Dazed and Confused.
Based near the Sussex hamlet of the same name is the Hammerpot Brewery. Set up in 2005 Hammerpot have brewed award winning beers and take great pride in their local heritage.

Over the Wiltshire Border, the Downton Brewery use some interesting ingredients in their beers such as fresh apples, Coriander and locally grown pumpkins.

I wouldn’t fancy pouring pints on a moving train!

As the trip was booked well in advance we each got a voucher for a free beer as it seemed did most of the other passengers as immediately upon boarding most people headed for the carriage where the real ale was served. Rather handily this was the next carriage from us so although we were initially hemmed in by keen and thirsty real ale drinkers, the queue actually moved quickly. In fact throughout the evening I waited just seconds to be served such was the efficiency and dexterity of the bar staff – I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t fancy pouring pints on a moving train!  
Being seasoned pros at this drinking business we had lined our stomachs with an early dinner at the White Hart in nearby Holybourne where we were staying the night. Hot food is available on the train however plus there is a separate bar serving wine and a selection of bottled beers including some from local breweries which also has a selection of crisps and chocolate bars should you get the munchies.

so to the beers

So to the beers, I kicked off with the 3.9% ABV Quadhop from Downton. A refreshing pale bitter with a nice dry finish.
I then moved on to Hammerpot’s Shooting Star Bitter 3.8 ABV which had great citrus notes but also a touch of spice.

New beers were added during the evening one of these being Triple FFF’s award winning Moondance. At 4.2% a lovely hoppy pale. Loads of floral notes from cascade hops and very drinkable!

I finished the trip with Hammerpot’s Bottle Wreck Porter, 4.7% ABV. Bottle Wreck has also won numerous awards including Champion Beer of Britain, Porters category, at the 2012 CAMRA National Winter Ales Festival. It has warming rich notes of burnt coffee but being a porter was not overly heavy.

Also available on the real ale bar at various points during the evening were Hammerpot’s Red Hunter, Downton’s Honey Blond and their Pumpkin Ale plus Cirrus Minor Cider from Mr Whitehead’s Cider Company.

We arrived back at Alton at around 10.30pm and did the mile walk back to the White Hart where we continued our evening. 
Obviously if you are into good beer and/or steam trains you will love the RAT but if like two of our group you aren’t into either the RAT is still a wonderful night out. The atmosphere was lively and friendly and who doesn’t love the sound of a steam train letting off steam?

If I have inspired you to take a journey on the RAT be aware this popular event sells out well in advance so have a look at the website for booking details. The RAT is timed to get back to Alton Station in time for the 10.44pm to London Waterloo but there are later trains.  

If you fancy making a weekend of it I would recommend a stay at the White Hart. We walked the mile to Alton Station but cabs are available. The White Hart menu is fantastic. Pre RAT I had a cheese and bacon burger with delicious chips washed down with a half of Manx Brewery O’Kells Bitter – yes half I didn’t want to peak too soon after all!   The traditional fried breakfast I had Sunday morning set me up for the day. Clean rooms, great staff in a village pub serving a good selection of beers surrounded by countryside walks – what a great place to complete the weekend!

The RAT is a fun evening out. As mentioned the staff were excellent and the beer selection excelled my expectations. Think I’d better book for 2017!