Wikio - Top Blogs - Wine and beer The Real Ale Girl: 2009

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Beero at Pig's Ear

What larks this year's Pigs Ear Festival brought- all cushioned with an amazing selection of winter warming porters, stouts and strong ales and sponsored by the lovely Brodies.
Wednesday night saw me and bro go as punters- nice to get to a festival early on for the full selection, but a little tricky on the head the following morning. We spent the night cramming in as many of the Christmas beers and porters as we could, including the intriguingly wierd Christmas Wheat by Pitfield and Milestone's Harry Porter. Magic. Brodie's festival special, Piggy Winkle's Christmas Tinkle, was deceptively festive for the light hoppy flavour- I reckon there's some cloves in there somewhere. We had a lovely chat with James Brodie (who, according to Facebook, felt even more hungover than I did) and I got confused for Lizzie several times due to me T-shirt. We left feeling festive, more than merry and with some good tips about beer festivals in New York.
Friday took me behind the bar as a volunteer, something that every CAMRA member should do at least once, if for nothing else but  the random chats with very, very drunk people (and all the free beer). After 4 hours behind the bar, I'd been offered 5 pints, asked out by a 60 year old South African, had 8 conversations about why a girl like me hangs out with 'all these old men' and advised lots of very enthusiastic but decidedly clueless young beer drinkers. One guy declared me a 'beero' (which is apparently a beer hero) after introducing him to the joy of Saffron's heavenly Chestnut Grove. Brilliant fun, and we even got a lock in with the full range to choose from. Now there's why I like to hang out with all these old men. And the fact that they are (on the whole) rather lovely.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

ale is cool- its official!

So the Wetherspoons fest finished with a flourish in the guise of the Crosse Keys Superfest. We made it down for the rather quiet but actually very relaxing Sunday, which despite being nothing on Saturday, apparently, still had a full cohort of beer beauties, including the yummily fund raising Armistice by 1648 and the crippling X- terminator by Oakham.We left that one for last. Enjoying a constant commentary from the fellow next to us and chats with some festival reguars, we made the most of a fine 24.
Last night, however, brought a rather different type of ale festival-  the week long ale fest at Spitalfields ultra cool Pure Groove records. Oh yes, in case you doubted, ale is officially cool, with three aes at a terms being served from casks on the counter in this record shop/cafe/bar/live music venue. So this trendster of a venue needs cool beer, so who do they go to? Brodies, of course! I enjoyed a couple of pints of Amarilla, despite it not being my normal choice of style- it just goes to show those Brodie siblings know what they are doing. The manager/DJ said the festival has been amazingly successful and they may well get an ale on permanently. Let it be a Brodies, being East London and all that!
This morning took to me to school football on Blackheath, and then to the Princess, which is another cool place that is recognising the grooviness of real ale, with Holden's spooky pump clipped Horn Dance (so yummy it made me exclaim with delight, even though I was alone)and Springhead's un-chocolate orangey Chocolate Orange Twist. I couldn't decide between the two so ended up having a half of both. Before 12.30. And I was on my own for the second one. Oh dear. Sometimes a girl just can't choose.
Probably because I'd virtually downed these halves, I then decided it would be a good idea to go to ZeroDegrees for a 5l minikeg. The special, Rauchbeer is beautiful and looks very nice chilling on my window sill. Problem was,  I bought it before I went shopping, and so fumbed around the boutiques of Blackheath knocking things over, with condensation dripping down my arm. Sometimes though, some beers are just worth the effort.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


So the weekend arrived with the rain pouring down, soaked through shoes, mud splashed tights and a stackfull of work left on my desk that I didn't finish. Only one thing for it; The Crosse Keys, mid fest. It was the first time I'd been able to get down to the Megaspoons during this festival and despite having tried a few of the 24 at other wetherspoons over the last couple of weeks, there was still a whole Powerpoint presentation's worth of ale to get through. Having munched our way through the de riguer bargain sausage, chips and beans, we settled in and I worked my way through 19 thirds. I love that you can drink 19 beers and still come out walking, its pure anti-binge genius. Sort Of.

Star of the night, and possibly the festival, although I am only just over half way through the programme, was Oakleaf's Old Navy Custom. Nutty, caramelly, yummy. Bring back Old Ale, I say.
I've got a couple more opportunities to find a rival though- the normal Wed night meet up on Lewisham Wetherspoons and then back to the Crosse Keys on Sunday for the Superfest. Bring on the ever changing Powerpoint.

Monday, 2 November 2009

1000 ales!

Welcome to Naughty November!
Having spent a few days in Swansea for a lovely wedding in a groovy, modern hotel (which sadly only served a rather warm and vinegary Reverend James), I was back in London on Saturday night and ready to wipe away the late night, all day wine drinking of the wedding with a good ale session.
Luckily, we heard about the Halloween festival at the amazing 'gothic' Patriotic Building in Wandsworth. Having never been to its normal freehouse Le Gothique, the sight of this eerie, intimidating pile was perfect for Halloween night, and the beers were gloriously as dark and spooky as the costumes. (My 'costume' was only my Brodies Special T-shirt, but it did lead to a weird conversation with a man who claimed to love Brodies and their pub, but didn't actually like any of the beer.)
Anyway, this wasn't just any old beer festival event for me- this fest would hold claim to my 1000th different real ale (since records began), and I celebrated it in style with Dark Star's Winter Meltdown, the multi -talented and bewitching Seasick Steve's music and a cheers with our long haired friend from The Pigs Ear Festival Games Division, who offered us some homemade pickled onions if we attend the next one.On that note, I am intending to volunteer on a couple of nights- will keep you posted.
My 1002nd beer Downton's Chocolate Orange Stout, however, was the business and had me making all sorts of inappropriate noises of appreciation, but then so, surprisingly, did the 10% Thomas Sykes from the fabulous Burton Bridge. Drinking any of their beers takes me back to our Easter Burton pilgrimage, but being 10%, I was expecting to find this too sweet and overbearing, but it was dangerously easy drinking. Seek it out, strong beer fans.
I finished the night having been made to jump 5 times by the same masked man but on a new score of 1011. How long until I reach 2000?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

London Bridge- sorted!

What a week we are having- I love half term! Following our mammoth day on Saturday at the Wenlock and Hoopers, we followed it up on Sunday with a London Bridge area crawl with the main aim of trying each beer on in the Market Porter and the Wheatsheaf. Add the newly vamped up selction in the Horniman to the mix, and there is a permenant beer festival waiting at the end of a 10 min train journey.
We started off the day in Lewisham Wetherspoons to use the WIFI, but of course could'nt escape without a couple of halves; the obligatory Welton's on offer today was Old Cocky, and they also had Brewster's Decadence, a bit too bland to be that decadent, to be honest!
Hotfooting it up to the old LB, we went striaght to the tourist haven that is the Horniman at Hays to make the most of the riverside seats in the sunshine. No such luck, lots of South American teenagers had got there first. The bar was a little understaffed for the manicness of a Sunday Roast frenzy, but an American OAP came to rescue and asked the barman to 'serve this young honey next, sir!'. How chivalrous, but I had to stop thanking him when I saw he ordered Fosters. So much for 'Ye olde English ale' that American tourists usually hunt out. At least he asked the barman to top his pint up, but that didnt stop him dramatically underfilling my glasses too. The tragic thing is, there are so many people who just accept a poor measure. Don't let 'em get away with it folks!
We'd read about The Horseshoe in The London Drinker and after a Dickensian style romp through railway arches, we found it tucked away but heaving with people looking out for beach balls during the Liverpool v Man U match. We snuck upstairs to the roof terrace with Hogsback TEA and Robinson's Wags to Witches- yum yum yum. Even if it did make me think of Colleen Rooney while I was drinking it.
We headed further away from London Bridge into the surrounding residential area, and stumled upon three or four backstreet pubs, like one which had a seemlingly encylopaedic range of whiskey, but was sadly shut. if anyone knows anything about these pubs, I would love to hear about them. We did find one that was open though, the tiny fronted Whitesmiths Arms, that whilst only serving Courage Best, was charming witha lovely garden which had a TV mounted to the wall under a gazebo on which we watched the rest of the Liverpool match, whilst chatting with the Chelsea supporting locals.
From here, we made our way to the Southwark Tavern, were we tried Adnam's Kolsch from thier new Around the World range (which was really good, for Adnams!) and the Autumnly perfect Cameron's Fireside.
After bargainous gourmet cakes from a desperate end of the market day baker, we settled in for a session at the Market Porter. Despite the Lewisham knocking from the fellows we met at the bar, we had a good chinwag with a couple of fellow 'tickers' who never quite seemed to accept that I might know what I'm talkign about. Sadly, considereing the season, the beers on offer were all quite pale and golden, even the Halloween themed ones, and we left, after trying them all, hankering for something dark and rich (and an Autumnal beer would be nice too!).
On to the wonderful Wheatsheaf which has not left me disappointed yet, and Nethergate's Holy Smoke rescued me from the abyss of bland beer with its peaty, almost bacony flavour. It was Frazzles in a glass. Our second Fireside of the day, this time by Black Country, was as warming as the label suggests and ensured that todays contest finished as Wheatsheaf 1 Market Porter 0. I never thought I'd see a day when I preferred somewhere to the 'Porter. Goodness. Well done Wheatsheafers and big up to South of the River.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

I'm back!

Woohoo! Am back on the ale, and what a way to start- pub festivals at the legendary Wenlock and the delightful Hoopers.
We made our way over to Old Street for the '7th CAMRA and Wenlock Arms Beer Festival' and setted upstairs in the strangest of rooms with their Scottish Beer Selection with a collection of folks I recognised from other fests, and the man who ate a whole cheese on the Meantime Brewery Tour a couple of years ago. Its weird how I remember these people. We enjoyed the most bargainous jumbo sausage in a roll (beautiful and only £2) which went perfectly with Broughton's Exciseman's 80 which I first had in Glasgow in 2007.  Five comments from strangers about my (admittedly stunning) Dark Star T-shirt later, we headed downstairs to the usual pub area and spotted the lovely lads from WOOFTA. I now know this stands for Wenlock 'Oxton Old Farts Association  who I first met in the Market Porter a couple of years ago, and recently ran into some of them at Brodies on the brilliant birthday festival weekend.  The boys certainly don't look as old as they must be and are big champions of my cause! Great Heck's Super Dave was the star of the show here, and am gutted to have missed Brodie's Deep Fried Mars Bar!

For our second festival of the day, we made our way back down south to Hoopers in East Dulwich for their Champions' Beer Festival. After the usual warm wecome from landlord Jamie (pictured, in a shot from a good while ago!), we were tackling a fine batch of award winning ales, think my festival favourite was Prospect's Nutty Slack (I do love a nutty one), closely followed by Cairngorm's Black Gold ( more Scottish ale!) An strange array of talented guitarists, chats with some fellow SE London CAMRA members, and ladies with green hair entertained us and kept us there until almost midnight.

Both fine festivals in lovely pubs, not bad for a first day back on ale, and following it up today with a London Bridge/ Borough crawl. Won't be having another break soon, if I can help it!

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Home Strait, brought to you by Kaliber.

My antibiotic driven abstinence has been tested and taunted this weekend, whilst galavanting around Kent during a visit to the parents'. Ambling around Hever was lovely, but would have been lovelier if followed up with a cute mini bottle from the Meantime range they had in the cafe!
This was then topped by a trip to worthy Good Beer Guide new entry The Royal Oak in Tunbridge Wells (no free jelly beans this time) where the boys had Dark Star's Over The Moon. I wish I hadn't sipped it, as going back to Soda and Lime instead was mighty tricky. Rich, dark, malty, a perfect Autumn ale from those amicable Ansty folk (We had an amazing day at Dark Star's brewery in the summer, by the way, I recommend it).
Sunday took us to an apple festival (Brogdale Farm) and 14 ciders that were out of bounds. According to the boys, the two by Double Vision were the best to go for, and bro got me a 2 pint take away for when the drugs are finished with (bring on Friday!) But, cider or not, the festival was well worth the visit, as, unbeknownst to us, playing away in the band tent, was the mighty talent of my long lost little brother Adrian Benn! What a dude, even if he did use me as his cider minder as he knew I wasn't able to sneak any sips. We aso ran into Mike and Lorraine from SE London CAMRA, and just as I thought I could'nt feel any more schmoozy, we spotted a moody looking Suggs well we did approach him when he had his mouth full)
Anyway, am on the home straight, have got bottled beers cooling ready for the weekend (may be tempted by one on Thursday, in fact- drugs permitting), and a mammoth ale weekender planned- pub festivals at the Wenlock Arms and Hoopers on Saturday, and perhaps a Borough/ London Bridge crawl on Sunday... will let you know. Until then, I'm drinking Kaliber.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Entering the wilderness

I never thought I'd see the day. Me, not drinking.

Thanks to an 'infected rupture' (you don't need the details) I am on a veritable cocktail of 3 types of antibiotics and mega strong painkillers. And 2 weeks of no alchohol (and indeed no dancing). I feel a little bit lost, to be honest. No alcohol means no Real Ale.

So some plans have needed changing.
I could'nt do the midweek Wetherspoons meet up, so instead of an  (almost certain) pint of Weltons, I was in, drinking costcutter Cherryade (thank you D) and Twinings Lemon and Ginger Tea (thank you bro). Both very nice, but would have preferred to be washing down the foul sulphur tasting pills with Bartram's Cherry Stout and Beartown's Ginger Bear.
On a quite slow and painful trip to Sainsburys for supplies, I found myself perusing the squash and cordial aisle, and went for an apple and mango high juice, in the hope it may have some similarity to real cider. It does'nt.
However, as disturbing as all this is, by far the biggest problem this rampant rupture has caused surrounds the quaint yet delightful Wallington Beer Festival. Due to be going tonight with a cool crew of beer drinking youths, and volunteering behind the bar tomorrow, I had to be very strong and realistic to admit that neither of these were gonna happen. Sorry Wallington- I'll do a double slot next year. And a little note of thanks to all those lovey folks whose plans are also having to change to accomodate me- I'm baking apple cake this afternoon and you are all welcome to some! x

Sunday, 4 October 2009

St Albans 09 and a very starstruck real ale girl

Was nursing a slightly sore head this morning, but I think that has more to do with Saharas nightcub in Lewisham than the St Albans Beer Festival. Nothing sore about that place!

A swift, and surprisingly bargainous train journey from the stunning St Pancras took us to St Albans, home of CAMRA. Last years festival was great and I was ready for another good session.

Boots meal deals in hand, we made our way over to the Alban Arena and enjoyed a queueless entry (well, it was 1.30pm!) It was also free entry for CAMRA members- another excuse to try even more ales. The glasses were served by other young real ale girls which I was excited to see- we are growing in number, and it also meant they didnt try to force me into a half pint glass. One of the best things about this festival is the time of year it is held, as it means lots of Autumnul ruby beers, porters, stouts and really flavoursome milds- my favourite was Tring's Mansion Mild and Cropton's Honey Gold was pure caramel in a glass.

We found ourselves partcipating in the quiz, a raucous romp through the beer list in the form of a general knowledge challenge, and I soon ended up on a busmans holiday by marking lots of quiz papers on stage. We didn't win, but did jolly well for a team of 2 youths! We also got a free botte of Trings Death or Glory just for taking part. What a deal!

The rest of the afternoon passed in a warm swirl of addictive ale (except Alehouse's Robust Porter- DON'T try it!), lookalike spotting, getting mistaken for a volunteer, weird harmonica players, and old people stressing over spilt drinks that were coming nowhere near them.

Then ... Roger Protz arrived for Good Beer Guide signing. All ideas of meaningful ale discussion and seamless promotion of Real Ale Girl disappeared as soon as I tried to speak to him, having turned into a giggling teenager. I was behaving like I was meeting Take That. Justified really, though, he is the writer of the most useful book in the country and a moustached hero. He also happily posed for photos- a meeting of 2 groundbreaking real ale writers. Legend.

Somehow I managed to regain my strength enough for the walk back to the station (the chilli con carne helped too.) Can't help thinking the meeting didnt have as profound an effect on Roger...

Friday, 2 October 2009

Happy Weekend!

Well here it is. Well done for making it to Friday night! St Albans beer festival tomorrow, anyone else going?

Managed to fit in some surprising mid week drinkage this week, kicking off on Monday with The Museum Tavern, opposite the British Museum, where we had just enjoyed an exceedingly sophisticated and indulgent soiree at the Members' Evening. Now, I'd always thought the Tavern was an overly touristy place, catering for museum goers looking for something ye olde. But, coaxed in by a Brew Dog display, we were plesantly surprised with Brain's Merlins Oak (yum yum yum!) and Gales Seafarer. Sadly, nothing was actually on by crazy boys from Brew Dog, but thanks to Sainsburys Beer Competition, have been drinking loads of their bottles at home recently.

As I mentioned before, on Wednesday we headed to our local Wetherspoons (Lewisham) to use up as many of our CAMRA discount vouchers while we still could. Sausage,chips and beans, nicely washed down with Woodfordes Nog, which I'd forgotten was as good as it is. We also had something else from their endless supply of Welton's ales (they've had so many on recently that I can't remember what this one was even called.) Little tip- fancy a Welton's? Head on over to the 'joy' that is Lewisham Wetherspoons. We did'nt even see a fight this time!

Well, intending on a night in, but may well pop up to our local, The Holly Tree, later for a little something. Need to keep a clear head for St Albans fest though... x

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

I'm here! Finally!

Well here it is. The muched hyped and deliberated blog. Am so excited that I don't really know where to start. Currently drinking a nice Shropshire Lass... ooo-er.

Its amazing how the 'quiet' weekends often end up having the most ale action. Friday night was a lively night out on Lordship Lane with the work massive, and I managed to squeeze in a dull pint of London Pride in the EDT and an even duller pint of Ruddles County in the Bishop. But I can't complain really, at least its on, at least they serve a full pint (which took quick effect after the mega week we'd just had). Tip though, don't top up real ale with JaigerBombs and Black Sambuca. NOT pretty.

Saturday took us for a lovely cousin trip to Masons where they serve the gorgeous Belgian Kwak in the proper wooden holders- and the waitress couldnt quite understand my excitement. I am used to the weird looks. And on to the Ladywell tavern, serving something by Otter, in a very attractive branded glass. I wonder where it ended up... ;-)

On Sunday, after baby visiting in West Wickham, we ended up on a spontaneous crawl around the area- and ended up walking (several) miles from West Wickham, via The Crown beer garden (a pleasant half of Thwaites Wainwright) to the Cricketers on Shirley Road. I had read and heard so much about this place that I was thoroughly let down when only 2 of the 6 pumps were on. A pint of the magnificent Dark Star's Hophead down, and we made the decision to abandon ship for the certain joy that would await in the relatively nearby Claret Freehouse in Addiscombe. It didnt disappoint, and the middle aged man who tried to warn me against the Palmers 200 in case it was too strong for a 'young lady' (its 5%) just added to the quaintness.

Right, have let the Shropshire Lass get warm whilst writing. That certainly won't do.