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.