Thursday, 19 June 2008

Cains Brewery Tour

The more I blog, and read beer/pub blogs, the more I want to know about beer. So, last weekend, while on a trip to Liverpool, I went on the Cains brewery tour.  I have had quite a few pints of Cains beer in the past as it is one of the sponsors of the Liverpool Irish Festival of which Mrs. Mouse is the director. I am particularly fond of their Raisin Beer which has a sweet, and savoury taste to it which makes it go down a treat.
Cains has had quite a history. It is the only brewery left in Liverpool, and even then nearly didn't make it. The Dusanj brothers took Cains over in 2002 at a point where production had all but stopped. Since then they have worked tirelessly on bringing the company into profit, and growing year on year.  I don't want to go too much into the history here as the full story can be seen in the history section of the website.




I am not a brewery tour aficionado, the only other tour I have been on being the De Koninck brewery in  Antwerp. I think the Cains tour was better than the one in Antwerp mainly for the accessibility and openness of the tour. We got to see quite a lot of the Terracotta Palace moving our way from the entrance with the Super Lamb Banana, through the canning area, up past the fermenting area, into their craft beer lab, and culminating in the old Hops storeroom just below the big chimney on the top of the building. I think my favourite place on the tour was the beer lab. It was interesting to see some of the different ingredients which go into their craft beers. It was also interesting to hear that Cains is going to be brewing Cobra, formerly brewed somewhere in Poland. Cobra is made using maize and rice instead of hops and barley, which makes it a very delicate beer to brew. Cains have been busy trying to nail down the brewing process in preparation for full scale production.

After the tour, we went to The Brewery Tap, the Cains brewery pub for our buffet and two complimentary beers (not bad for £7.99). The pub is a clean, well kept, bar which has all the Cains beers currently on sale (some are seasonal beers only, and so weren't available). So what to choose? The 14 taps contained a whopping 11 beers to choose from, Finest LagerLiverpool Lager, Organic Wheat Beer (the seasonal choice for July), Finest Bitter, Raisin Beer, 2008 Culture Beer, FA, IPA, and Mild. Or should I choose one of their bottles (Dragonheart, or Double Bock)?
Since Mrs. Mouse wasn't drinking I had a choice of four. With so much choice I found it hard to get my mind around what I wanted. In the end I opted for a pint of Finest Lager, a pint of 2008, a bottle of FA, and Dragonheart.   


First the Finest Lager, which was properly 'lagered' for three months. This was one of the finest pints of beer I have ever had. Crisp, clean, with a grapefruit-style citrus aftertaste. The fullness of flavour was amazing. I firmly believe if I ever see this in a pub down London way, I would start drinking it as a matter of preference. You really realise what you are missing by drinking the commercial lagers.
My second pint was of the 2008 Culture beer. Now I am mainly a lager drinker, but am attempting to broaden my palate. I am very pleased for this attitude of mine as I got to try '08 (as everyone else called it). This bitter was light, not too sweet, and had a dry citrus taste to it which made the pint a pleasure to drink.
Since we had to leg it to the Klimt exhibition at the Tate Liverpool we took the two bottles with us. I have since had these and they were yummy.
The Dragon Heart Brown Ale is "brewed to a 19th century recipe". I quite enjoyed this. It had a sort of smokey toffee taste which made the beer go down smoothly and hides it's 5% ABV.  I think I would quickly get through a few of these and then fall over. I did look down at my pint glass and wonder where my beer had gone.
My final beer was chosen by the landlord and was the Cains FA. Quite honestly, this is the reason I prefer lager to ales/bitters. It was flat. It tasted warm even though it had spent two days in the fridge. Even though I drank it last night, I can't remember what it tasted like (sort of watery and smokey, I think), even though it supposedly the cask conditioning produces a 'fuller flavour'. I will avoid this one in the future.


  So there you have it. I had an excellent time on the tour, and learnt quite a bit about Cains, and beer in general. I think Cains is an excellent brand which you will probably see more and more over the next few years. Their Seasonal Craft Beer initiative is a stroke of genius which will keep drinkers coming back all year round. The light buffet and two pints included in the tour makes the £7.99 more than worth the price.

Finally, I would be interested to hear of any London pubs which are serving the Finest Lager on tap. I  can't wait to try it again... and again... and again....


Cains brewery tours take place Monday through to Friday and begin at 6.30pm - Saturday & Sundays at 1.00PM . Tours must be pre-booked. Tours Cost £7.99 per person (not suitable for the less agile due to being a Victorian Brewery and the number of stairs). Please Telephone Cains Sales office Mon - Fri 0151 709 8734 - or All tours must be pre-booked.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Beer Blogging: Papastonch

A recently created blog is Beer, Walks, & History by Papastonch. It is a blog which is being written by Stonch's father. Papastonch started by writing the odd article for Stonch's blog, but I believe he enjoyed it so much he decided to start his own blog .

In Beer, Walks, & History Papastonch recalls many of his experiences in pubs during walks and visits across the county (and indeed across the world!).
I always look forward to reading his articles as they are very well written and always contain some quirky little tit-bit which makes  you want to wander in the vicinity of his footsteps to see what he was talking about.

I recommend adding him to your blogroll, as I have.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Siempre Sol, Sosua (Dominican Republic)

One of the towns I visited on my honeymoon was Sosua. It was about halfway between Cabarete and Puerta Plata. It's a small town which is dominated by its market on the beach. This is the place to go if you want to get your souvenirs. Beware though, the shopkeepers are very insistent, and there are a lot of stalls. You have been warned.
Anyway, if you survive the onslaught of shopkeepers  trying to get you into their shop, you will find yourself in need of a drink (I certainly did!). This is handy, because at the end of the market area is a lot of pubs. These mainly cater to the Canadian and German tourists as they are the mainstay of Sosua. 

This little bar is the Siempre Sol, where we sat and wiled away a good bit of time. Not so much retail therapy, more therapy after retail! This is typical of all the bars along the beach, an open fronted shack with some chair outside. This isn't bad, per se, but don't expect a trendy wine bar. You won't find any.





The one great thing about working up a thirst is that the first sip of beer tastes all the better. While in Dominican Republic, I mainly drank Presidente Beer. This was a pilsner style beer. Light and refreshing, and best served ice cold. There are other beers made in the Domincan Republic, but this is the main one.
On my visit to the Siempre Sol, I opted for the grande version which came in the bamboo cooler to the right. This did a lot to keep the beer cold in the sweltering tropical heat. One tip for drinking beer in tropical countries: drink fast. Your beer is delivered cold, it won't stay that way for long.

Sosua is a good place to visit. If you are in the Domincan Republic, give it a go. I personally couldn't run the gauntlet of shops again (I would walk down on the waters edge), but would visit the pub/cafe area to enjoy some more Presidente beer.

Viva El Presidente!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Chesham Beer Festival 2008

What are you doing this weekend? Why not go to the Chesham Beer Festival. Details are as follows:

When: 24th at 12 noon until the beer runs out
Where: Chesham Town Hall
Entrance Fee: There is no entrance fee as such but the beer is priced at about £3 per pint but is cheaper the more tokens you buy.
What: 18 ales and 5 ciders ranging from a dark mild through to old peculiar and a range of ciders including "old rosie" at 7.3%

See you there!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Bell, Chartridge

The Bell
Chartridge Lane



High up on the top of the hill that is Chartridge, near the golf club, is The Bell. It is a small gastro- pub which looks like it has benefited from a lot of love from the landlord. We arrived there after an hour and a half of walking through the countryside, but it can be reached easily from Chesham by walking/driving up the Chartridge Lane.  As  you can imagine, I was rather thirsty after 90 minutes of walking, and really wanted my pint of cider. Unfortunately, the tap cider is Scrumpy Jack, which I find too sweet. Instead I went with one of those bottled ciders which they serve with ice (yes I know they are sweet too!) for the refreshment factor.

With such a relatively small bar area (the white part seen in the picture on the right), it is no surprise that there aren't many taps. There were, however, three hand pumps dispensing Brakspear, London Pride (I think), and Bombadier. There were the usual euro-pop lagers Carlsberg and Stella, Scrumpy Jack, and Guinness.

The food was very well cooked. The menus were single sheets of printed paper which suggested that the menu gets changed often, something I like in a gastro-pub. I opted for the Chef's Fish and Chips, while Mrs. Mouse opted for Pork Sunday Roast.
The Fish and Chips were perfectly done; obviously being battered upon ordering and then fried.  The result of this was a beautifully golden and crunchy batter. The tartar sauce which came with the fish was also obviously freshly made; I love fresh tartar sauce.
Mrs. Mouse's roast pork was also of the same high quality. The pork was freshly carved and came with freshly steamed/boiled vegetables roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. Topping all of this off was a freshly made apple sauce.
Finally, Mrs. Mouse finished off the meal with a coffee and a pudding. I cannot remember which pudding, but it tasted very nice, and the coffee was of a very high quality.

Our overall impression of the pub was that it was lovingly cared for. The food was of high quality, but the portions were perhaps a bit small for the price; there are pubs within a 90 minute walk which serve slightly higher quality food, in larger portions, and at the same price. It was a shame that the cider on tap was Scrumpy Jack, but did not detract from the pleasure of the visit. Both Mrs. Mouse and I agree that we will visit there again, but perhaps only for a drink this time.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Everyman Bistro, Liverpool

Everyman Bistro and Bars
5-9 Hope Street
L1 9BH

Phone: 0151 709 0249



Tucked away below the Everyman Theatre on Hope Street in Liverpool is the Everyman Bistro.  This is the place to go if you want an excellent atmosphere, great food, and be able to chat amongst yourselves until the wee hours. 

First of all, the beers. They have the general Becks Vier, and Stella on tap, but they also have two guest beers on tap at any time. When I went there last weekend it was De Koninck, and Maredsous Blonde.  De Koninck is one of my favourite beers and I will have at least two "Bollekke" whenever I see it on tap. Maredsous is a beer I had never tried before. Apparently this very drinkable Belgian beer is from the Duvel stable. The flavour is that of a slightly richer Leffe Blonde, but not as heavy as Leffe Bruin. If I see it again on tap, I will definitely have to sample it more extensively.

The food at the Everyman is excellent. Everything is made to a very high standard, and the portions are of a decent size. Their soups come particularly highly recommended as a decent lunch, or even mid-evening snack.

Like the food, the service is excellent. The staff are attentive and polite. Even at its busiest I have never had to wait long to be served at either the bar or food counter.

I think that if you live in Liverpool, or are just visiting, the Everyman Bistro is a place to go if you would like some good food and drink in a clean and welcoming atmosphere. You may also see the odd celebrity there!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Hole In The Wall, Waterloo

The Hole In The Wall
5 Mepham St.

Phone: 0207 928 6196



Last night I met up with a friend in the Hole in the Wall pub next to London Waterloo station. It wasn't my first time there, nor will it be my last. I quite like the HITW. It is just obscure enough to never be overly full. If there aren't any seats, there is usually ample standing room for you not to get jostled too much.

The pub is situated in an arch beneath what I believe to be the one of the main routes used by trains to enter Waterloo station. Every few minutes there is a rumbling throughout the pub which is not due to the food.

The food is very simple fare, chips, burgers, baguettes. This is never going to be a gastro pub, but it fills a gap.

The pub does have a rather large selection of beers on tap. There are five ale hand pumps, but I did not get to see. They also do Leffe Blonde on tap, which is one of my favourite beers. I was rather disappointed to see that they no longer serve Peetermans (of the Stella stables). It is a great tasting lager, which I try to drink whenever I can.  Other beers on tap include Hoegaarden, and Becks Vier, the latter of which I have never really been impressed with. Tastes like someone has watered down a normal Becks.

The staff are quite attentive. I was there during a football match night, and it never got deeper than three at the bar, which was during half time. Whenever I ordered, I barely had time to look around (hence missing what ales/bitters they served).

Overall, a good pub to go to for a nifty-swifty before your train, or for a full on meet up.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Beer Blogging

I have mentioned before that one of the blogs I enjoy reading is The Beer Nut. His link is on the right. Through one of The Beer Nut's posts, I have started reading Stonch's Beer Blog.

I find Stonch's writing to be informative and concise. Since starting in January 2007 Stonch has covered quite a diverse amount of topics including international beers, beer festivals, home brewing, and pubs reviews. He has a London Beer Map which is very helpful. I am currently working on getting a map of the pubs I have visited onto this blog as I feel it will add an extra element. I recommend giving his blog a read.

While writing this post, I realised that I have never said anything specific about The Beer Nut's blog. Given that I visit his blog on a minimum of a weekly basis, I feel that I have not done my duty in pointing out a very well written and informative site about various types of beer. It appears that there is no beer that he is not willing to try and give a well thought out review of.  If there is a beer you have seen but are unsure what it will taste like, go to The Beer Nut's blog to see if he's tried it. That's what I do.

Monday, 17 March 2008

The Bricklayers Arms, Flaunden

 The Bricklayers Arms
Hogpits Bottom

Tel: 01442 833322



Yesterday we visited The Bricklayers Arms in Flaunden. For us, a good place to stop when doing the Chess Valley Walk is Latimer. It is about one and a half hours walk from central Chesham. The only problem is that Latimer doesn't have any pubs. The last time we ended up there, we asked around and were pointed to The Sugarloaf Inn in Little Chalfont. We weren't impressed. It's a shame, then, that we didn't walk in the other direction towards Flaunden. We may have come across The Bricklayers Arms.

The Bricklayers Arms, Flaunden

This wonderful pub has won a host of awards, which they are not shy in stating in their pamphlet on the bar, the trophies behind the bar, and on their website. And rightly so, I say.

First of all a comment on the drinks. There were your standard lagers, and Guinness. The cider on tap was Scrumpy Jack, which is unfortunate. When out on a Sunday jaunt, I usually have a cider. I am a fan of Harvest Dry which I first sampled in The Rose and Crown, Hawridge. If they had this cider on tap, I would have gone a bit nuts, I think.
There were standard ales on hand-pump (London Pride), and one offering from the Tring Brewery called Royal Poacher. I am becoming quite a fan of this brewery and consider it a mark of quality to see the brewery's products on sale in a pub. I tried the Royal Poacher and it blew my mind. As a bitter goes, this is one of the top. It had so much depth to it; it continued to hit me with flavour long after my sip had gone down. I do recall a quite strong citrus flavouring, which gave quite a fresh aftertaste.

The food was superb. We were actually very lucky as we walked in without a booking, and were able to sit at one of their bar-area tables and eat. I get the idea that if you want to sample the food here, book. So, back to the food. On Sunday's they only do a roast menu. This was by no means an offering of four dishes and a random pudding. No. It was a fully featured menu with superb looking starters, mains, and desserts. Mrs-Mouse-To-Be had the chicken, I had the pork, and Mr. O (our luncheon companion) opted for the vegetable and basil soup. All  three of the dishes were cooked to perfection. I think I won with my pork dish. It was heavenly. The vegetables were fresh enough to have a bite to them, the Yorkshire pudding was crisp, and the potatoes were roasted and not deep fried.
Due  to time issues we weren't able to sample any of the desserts, but they did look good and we will be back to try them.

Overall, this is a well run, well cared for pub which seems to be at the top of their game. The Sunday roasts were excellent, and the service was very good. I would suggest getting there early as the place fills up very quickly, and to the brim.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Newcastle Brown Ale on Tap?

First of all apologies for not posting here in a while. I wanted to write a great big post about my exploits in Chicago covering all of the bars I took photos of, but never got round to it. They will appear here over the next couple of weeks.

Now to this article...

Although this blog is primarily about pubs, I have started taking more notice of what beers are on tap in the pubs I visit. This is primarily due to The Beer Nut whose blog I read regularly and enjoy his analysis of the beers he drinks. The man has the most adventurous palate of anyone I know.
So, while I was in Chicago I went to a bar called English Chicago. I unfortunately didn't get a photo of the place, but did get a photo of the beers they had on tap. 

The reason for this is that I was completely taken aback at seeing Newcastle Brown Ale on tap, something I have never seen before. I must admit, I have never tried the drink before, but I have seen what drinking lots of it does to people, and that is not pretty. I appreciate that in the UK the bottles that Newcastle Brown is sold in is 550ml (about a pint), but to see it available on tap is quite surprising. Personally, I  have always found it easier to keep track of my drinks when drinking bottles compared with drinking pints. 

I am also quite glad I took the photo of the taps in the pub because it is a fine example of the oversized tap handles that seem to be the norm in American bars. I guess that in the UK the tap surround does the advertising of the beer, whereas in the US the brass T coming out of the bar top is standard, so the tap handle does the advertising of the beer.  I must admit, I have no real preference, but the American taps all seem to be leaning at various angles, looking like they are all trying to see around each other to grab your attention; think people standing in a queue waiting for a bus. In the photo above, it looks like the Guinness looks you in the eye, but the rest of the beer taps are only interested in the people coming in the door. :-)

The bar itself was quite nice. It has an English pseudo theme to it. By pseudo theme I mean that it is not trying to be a "Ye Olde Englishe Pubbe" type venue. Instead, their food and drink menus have an English theme to them.  One of the beers they have which I didn't try is Duchy English Ale. It's the ale sold under the Duchy Originals brand, the Prince of Wales's own brand. While I was there, I thought, "if the beer is anything like the biscuits, it will be a fine brew." I have since read The Beer Nut's thoughts and am not sure I care for it much (maybe I can convince him to do a re-test).  On a side note, the ale is brewed by the Wychwood Brewery, which is certainly one of the more interesting independent breweries in England. It was also known for it's chain of Hobgoblinns pubs which I always enjoyed drinking in.

Finally, for this rather long entry, I was going to give an honourable mention must go to the first and only Dutch vodka I have encountered, Effen Vodka. I know the Dutch are big on their Jenever, so you would think they might branch into vodka as another strong spirit.
I was actually quite excited when I saw it being sold, being the first place I have seen it.  However, as I looked around the internet for information about Effen and it's origins, all I could find is that it is "made from premium wheat from Northern Holland" by "modifying a century-old Dutch recipe" as opposed to made in the small town of XYZ in Northern Holland. Rather, I  suspect it is distilled somewhere in Chicago since the company that owns the website, and just about every other hit I got from Google had something to do with Chicago (including the launch party). So, instead of adding my photo of the Effen bottle and linking to their website, I am not. I feel that the company behind Effen is stretching the 'imported' label a bit too far, especially in America. They aren't breaking the law, but I dislike this kind of marketing, and so will refrain from linking to any sites to do with Effen.
Besides, if you want a decent vodka, give Finlandia a go.

Monday, 25 February 2008

The Atlas, London

If in the Earl's Court area, perhaps for a show, I recommend paying a visit to The Atlas pub which is  less than five minutes walk from the exhibition centre. This small pub does excellent food and has a nice welcoming atmosphere. The prices are a bit steep, but what do you expect for a pub just around the corner from Earl's Court.
There are the standard ales on tap (Spitfire, London Pride), as well as the usual suspects for regular lagers, including Hoegaarden.
The food was excellent. I had their steak sandwich which was filling and extremely tasty. Their oxtail stew also looked quite nice.

Click on the picture to see the pub's location.