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Dales Way Pubs: Burgundy’s Wine Bar, Kendal, Cumbria

Last week Kate and I did The Dales Way, in reverse and slightly foreshortened, when we walked from Kendal to Ilkley.  We were extremely lucky with the weather and it was a truly beautiful walk over 5 days of 12-16 miles a day.  I was looking forward to enjoying a few beers along along the way, and at the end of a long day we certainly felt that we’d earned a drink.  In my next few posts, I intend to cover the pubs along the way, for those who are doing the walk or are just in the area.

Before starting out on our walk we stayed in Kendal for a couple of days.  The Dales Way doesn’t actually run through the centre of Kendal, but does pass through the nearby villages of Staveley and Burneside and a lot of trekkers will stay in the area on their final night before tackling the last section of the full Dales Way, in the usual direction to Bowness.

Kendal town centre is pretty good for beer generally, and you can usually find some Cumbrian beers from Coniston, Jennings and Hawkshead breweries.  Burgundy’s in Kendal (sometimes referred to as “The Wine Bar”) is a fairly regular visit for me when we visit Kate’s parents.  It has a few (four?) handpumps with a range of local beers.  It’s a decent size, spread over three levels, and a rooftop smoking area/beer garden and is usually fairly busy.

However when we visited last week the pub had expanded even further into a new area on the lower ground floor.  The new bit includes a brewkit behind glass, as in The Brewery Tap in Leeds, and it will be interesting to see what their own beers are like.  We were lucky enough to visit in a week where they had set up a temporary bar downstairs for a Cumbrian Beer Festival, expanding the range to around 20 beers.

We tried quite a few of the beers, including Stringer’s Yellow Lorry, Dent Brewery Baas & Stripes (an American-style pale ale with a typically painful name) and Ulverston Laughing Gravy.  On a warm spring day, we were in the mood for golden hoppy beers and there were two very good beers in that category in Hardknott Continuum and Hawskhead Citrillo.  The last two beers were from the two most interesting breweries in Cumbria that I’ve had a lot of exposure to; although I should mention that I’ve only tried a couple of Stringer’s beers, although I did have a Stringer’s IPA from MyBreweryTap recently and it was excellent.

The Hawkshead Citrillo did stand out as the best beer of the day.  Presumably made with Citra and Amarillo, it’s a big, bitter, fruity pale ale in all the right ways, on a par with Thornbridge Jaipur and Marble Dobber, and coming across like the tough big brother of Hawkshead Windermere Pale, which also uses Citra and is almost certainly the best 3.5% beer in the country at the moment.

Burgundy’s won’t always have such a wide range, but it usually has a good one and if there’s nothing on the pumps to interest you, there is a well-stocked beer fridge with probably the best selection of imported bottles in the town centre, including a selection of Belgian beers and even Goose Island IPA.

Other good beer bars in Kendal include The Vats Bar in The Brewery Arts Centre (near the youth hostel) and The Rifleman’s Arms on Greenside, near a lot of the B&Bs.  It would be foolish to pass through Staveley without visiting the superb Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall (but check opening times in advance) or as an alternative The Eagle & Child.

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The State I Am In: BrewDog Nanny State

April 19, 2011 4 comments

I’ve been a bit wary about opening this bottle of BrewDog Nanny State, which I’d bought in a slight rush from Utobeer as they were closing up one evening a few weeks ago.

Nanny State is described as an “Insanely Hopped Imperial Mild” and is a very low ABV “beer” that was first produced a couple of years ago in response to a controversy over the the 18.2% Tokyo.  I’m not sure how good a beer brewed as satire is supposed to be, but I thought I’d give it a go.

This bottle was actually of a newer, even lower ABV batch: the original Nanny State was 1.1% and this one was half that, at 0.5%.  This version is supposed to be an improvement on the original, after a rare admission of remorse from BrewDog for their prioritising of publicity over taste in the original.

 

Having not tasted the 1.1% version, this lower ABV Nanny State first surprised me with its smell.  I didn’t expect the rich, very hoppy, unusually malty aroma that reminded me of one of those big malty American IPAs.  I remember speaking to a barman in The Ginger Man in New York last year and he said that the thing he disliked about Punk IPA was a lack of maltiness which he expected in most hoppy US beers.  He would have no complaints here, based on just the smell.

It poured a caramel colour and there was initially a light bitter hoppy sweetness in the taste.  However the thing that probably can’t really be got around in a beer of such nominal ABV is the thinness.  The lack of body made it seem very fizzy.  A slight raspberry taste in the bitterness was quickly overcome with the unrelenting fizziness.  After knocking the bubbles out a bit however I was left with a slightly alkaline aftertaste.

I see that Martin describes it as a “quinine bitter finish“.  Maybe that’s fair, but it definitely started to bore after a while: smelling that pleasant rich hoppy malty fruitiness before each taste, whilst always being disappointed when it reached the tongue.

I had started out thinking that I wouldn’t mind having this beer when I was driving.  I had Becks Blue recently, the 0.05% lager which seems to be this decade’s Kaliber or Tennents LA, available in Loch Fyne, The Living Room and similar decent midmarket working lunch restaurants.  Nanny State is an improvement on Becks Blue, but it’s a real shame that the fantastic smell doesn’t carry through to a correspondingly nice mouthfeel or a lasting pleasant taste.

All in all, if I’m not able to drink properly for whatever reason, I’d rather have a smaller amount of a good session beer (like the fantastic Hawkshead Windermere Pale) than a lot of this.   But all credit to BrewDog for trying and trying again, like another famous Scot.

BrewDog @ North Bar: IPA Isn’t Dead. It Just Smells Funny.

February 18, 2011 13 comments

On Wednesday night Kate and I went to North Bar for their IPA Is Dead launch night. BrewDog have released four single-hopped IPAs, all with the same level of bitterness (75 IBU) and using the same base beer, a 7.5% “mini-Hardcore”. North Bar had all four on keg and it was £7 for a taster tray, in which you got a third of each.

I was particularly interested in this project as it really serves to showcase the hops, one of which I was very familiar with (Citra) and three less so. All of the beers were relatively sweet with a light carbonation. Kate (who has a more sophisticated palate than me generally) also took some detailed tasting notes.

Citra

The Citra IPA had a strong, sweet mango nose. The taste was the fruity bitterness as expected although I think the finish was more sweet fruitiness than sharp hoppy bitterness. The slightly cloying sweetness gave an overall impression of cheap sweeties.

Sorachi Ace

The second IPA I tried had a much more subtle nose, but Kate thought it was flowery. The principal taste I got was a tingling black pepper flavour. Behind the pepper there was a lemony, herby base. As well as the lemons, Kate noticed peaches and lychees.

Bramling Cross/Bramling X

A really noticeable blackcurrant nose and a rounded, sweet, almost Ribena taste. Kate also detected a cakeyness that reminded her of blackcurrant crumble. She also noticed a slightly chalky mouthfeel.

Nelson Sauvin

I’d had Mikkeller’s Nelson Sauvin Single Hop IPA before and this came across as really quite similar. It had a sweet and sour aroma, by which I mean a smell that was both sweet and sour, rather than smelling like Chinese food.

I got a strong, sour, white winey, but really quite meaty flavour. The combination of sweetness and meatiness made me think of those tropical plants that smell like rotting meat to attract flies. Kate noted that the rotten grape and umami reminded her of the things she dislikes about white wine.

The Citra was a bit too sweet for both my and Kate’s liking without a stronger bitterness to balance it out, possibly as we’ve tried a lot of very good Citra beers recently (Summer Wine Diablo, Hawkshead Windermere Pale, O’Dell IPA).

The Bramling Cross was perhaps also a bit less to my tastes, due to the berry flavour, but was a very interesting beer. The Sorachi Ace and Nelson Sauvin were the most complex and rewarding to drink and I opted for another half of the latter.

Speaking to Rob, Matt and others there did seem to be a general consensus forming that Nelson Sauvin was the best, although Kate plumped for the Sorachi Ace, which was a close second for me.  All of them were good, interesting beers and I would be very happy to drink each of them again.  I’d buy the bottles if they turned up in Beer Ritz so I could avoid the postage.

As well as the IPA Is Dead beers we got to try some unique Alice Porter that Matt had bottle-conditioned himself, which tasted less punchy than when it was on cask but nice and rounded.  Alice Porter contains both Bramling Cross and Sorachi Ace.

I also brought along a couple of cans of new Punk IPA which I’d just received in the post. It had a really fruity nose but lacked bitterness both in the initial taste and the aftertaste: I would concur entirely with The Beer Monkey on this.

However, having not tried the new Punk in bottles or otherwise it’s difficult to know if it’s the new recipe or the canning process.  However again this is a minor niggle and I do have another 10 cans to get through, which I don’t consider a hardship.

All-in-all it was another nice, friendly night at North trying great beers and chatting to beery people I already knew and some I didn’t (Tunks, Tuff).  Again, Twissup in York in a couple of weeks looks like it’ll be great.

Things to look out for at North Bar in the coming months include a Belgian Beer Festival in March and a very exciting Thornbridge event where their core range will be available on keg!

For another take on the North Bar event see Eating Isn’t Cheating, and for a similar event at the Euston Tap see Maltjerry.

Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall, Staveley, Cumbria

February 6, 2011 11 comments

Having walked the six miles from Kendal in pouring rain and driving wind, we arrived through the doors of Hawkshead’s new Beer Hall in Staveley Mill Yard looking like an especially windswept Atlantic trawler crew.  After stripping off the waterproofs and sitting down in two comfortable leather armchairs, we felt that we definitely deserved a beer.

Hawkshead beers are always something to look forward to when I go to the Lake District: consistent and reliable in terms of quality but also interesting.  After the long walk the first beer we went for was Windermere Pale, a lovely light juicy pale made with Citra hops.  Unusually for Citra beers this was only 3.5% and I enjoyed it to the point that I wanted to buy some bottles to take home.  However, unfortunately I was told that it was too weak for bottling.

After the walk I would have been quite happy to knock back three pints of Windermere Pale and be done with it, but there were four more beers to try.  Next up was Brodie’s Prime, a deliciously fruity, bitter, slightly smoky porter.  The complex citrus taste with a decent level of bitterness reminded me of Crown’s recent Brooklyn Black, a highly-hopped porter which might be mistaken for a black IPA.

The previous, smaller Beer Hall at the Brewery had relied on the cafe Wilf’s next door for food orders but now they have their own kitchen serving a selection of “beer tapas”.  With the Brodie’s Prime we had a great Brodie’s Prime Scotch egg and picalilli and a nice chunk of Lancashire cheese with chutney and pickled onions.

I’m afraid I drank the beers in entirely the wrong order for a serious tasting, but next we tried the Hawkshead Bitter, a slightly sulphurous bitter with a floral elderflower taste.  Hawkshead Red is an amber beer, dominated by a woody dryness and maltiness.  Finally, Lakeland Gold, made with Cascade and First Gold, swept the pine and grapefuit into a rounded creamy bitter finish.

Whilst all the beers we tried were very good, the Brodie’s Prime and Windermere Pale were real standouts.  Off-sales include a number of Belgian and other imported bottles as well as Hawkshead bottles, minikegs and even beer-in-a-box.  I bought a few Lakeland Lagers to take away, which had a nice floral taste.

If you fancy going to the Beer Hall – which you definitely should for great beer and great food in a great pub – it’s open from 12 noon every day but is only open into the evenings on a Saturday, when they often have live music.  They’re having a Winter Beer Festival on 18-20 March 2011 and a Summer Beer Festival on 21-24 July 2011.

Hit The North: National Winter Ales Festival 2011

January 20, 2011 5 comments

Yesterday I had the good fortune of going to the National Winter Ales festival in Manchester.  I was especially lucky to get trade tickets and also to go with a few brewers and bar folk.  After getting the train over from Leeds I met up with James and Andy from Summer Wine Brewery and Dean from Mr Foleys in the Marble Arch on the Rochdale Road.  A great pub connected to a wonderful brewery, yesterday the beers included the spectacularly hoppy Utility Special IPA and the great Driscoll’s End, Dominic’s goodbye beer to the Marble brewery, before he heads across the Pennines to sunny Thornbridge.

It was good to meet members of the beer literati who we hadn’t met before, including Rob from Hopzine, Matt from Hawkshead (who had been judging) and Brian from The Grove, Huddersfield (along with a whole posse of Grovers).  Even as a newcomer, it was a really nice, friendly, festive atmosphere, before we even got to the venue.  Unable to resist, I bought myself two big Marble bottles before we left: a Utility Special and a Stouter Port Stout.

At the venue, which is a perfect size for the purposes, we were also introduced to more titans of the beer world from darkest Cumbria, the legendary Jeff Pickthall and the semi-mythical Hardknott Dave.  Jeff was kind enough to give me a bottle of Croglin Vampire to review.  We also bumped into Matt, Jim and some of the other staff from North Bar, as well as Matt’s wife Alice, now immortalised as the namesake of Brewdog’s Alice Porter, brewed with Matt’s input.  We were even able to witness the elusive Tandleman working diligently at the festival, apparently unconcerned by the lack of Northern Methods Of Dispense despite the Mancunian setting.

Of course the beers were good too.  Although the general view is that most of them were a bit on the fresh side, it being the first day and all, everyone who tried it seemed to be very impressed with James and Andy’s Diablo, a great IPA with dominant Citra flavours (although it also contains Centennial).  Thornbridge’s Hark was a very nice beer, and was a little more interesting than Merrie, which was by contrast merely good.  It was good to enjoy Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime on cask and Thornbridge St Petersburg was also very good.  I liked the Fuller’s Brewer’s Reserve too.  I enjoyed festival champion Entire Stout by Hop Back, although it wasn’t necessarily the most interesting beer I tried.  I’m sure the other beers I tried will come back to me over the next few days.

Of course after all that it was very clearly time to get a taxi back to Piccadilly for the long, challenging train home to Leeds and the struggle to recover adequately for work the next morning.  Nevertheless the day was very enjoyable and well worth the hangover. Thanks to Tandleman and the rest of the organisers, but as I say, I was especially happy to meet so many friendly members of the international brotherhood of beer, who were far more welcoming to a mere prole than they had any reason to be.  I’m looking forward to Twissup, by which time I should almost have recovered.  Cheers!

There’s two days of NWAF left, so get along to the Sheridan Suite on the Oldham Road if you have the remotest opportunity.  Check out the rest of the winners here.

The Rifleman’s Arms, Greenside, Kendal

November 9, 2010 4 comments

Kate’s parents live in Kendal, so quite often we end up spending the weekend in the Lakes, enjoying a walk during the day then going out for a drink in the evening.  The two places that we end up in most often are The Brewery Arts Centre (disappointingly no longer a brewery; just a very good arts centre) and Burgundy’s.

The Vats Bar at The Brewery Arts Centre is relatively expensive, but does usually have a few ales from around the Lakes on, notably their excellent house beer Ale N Arty from Hawkshead.  Burgundy’s similarly has a range of around four local cask ales at a time, often including Coniston beers, as well as a good bottle fridge with Orval, Trappistes Rochefort and even the odd bottle of Goose Island IPA.

The Rifleman’s Arms is a less obvious choice.  It’s on a nice green, after what on the first climb appears to be a horrendously steep walk up the hill from the main street, appropriately called Beast Banks.  Postman Pat was conceived in the imagination of children’s author John Cunliffe when he was living on Greenside, a few houses up from The Rifleman’s Arms and the former Beast Banks sub-post office.

The Rifleman’s is a pub which has reportedly gone through a few shakey moments in recent years but now seems to be on the path back to good health.  On a Friday night it seems busy with locals playing dominoes, darts and also in the side room, pool.  Posters advertise a weekly knitting circle and the new landlady/manageress seems to be involved in a number of events on the green and keeping the pub involved in the local community.

They have beer from the SIBA list and when we were in two weeks ago that included Ossett Spellbound and Moorhouses Pendle Witches Brew, alongside the Tetleys and Abbot Ale which seem to be the standards.  Spellbound in particular was a nice pale ale to enjoy by the gas fire on a wet windy night, whilst the dominoes clattered in the background.  However it was served in incorrectly branded glasses.  Hardknott Dave would not approve.

Perhaps symbolic of the decline and resurgence of The Rifleman’s is the literature on offer.  On a sideboard by the toilets (pictured) is a complete collection of Good Beer Guides for the years 1995-2003.  This might be indicative of when the management lost interest.  But now they have up-to-date copies of CAMRA’s “Beer” magazine and the local CAMRA newsletter, “Lakes & Ale”. 

The Rifleman’s isn’t in the Good Beer Guide at the moment, but it is a friendly local on the edge of town, with a relaxed atmosphere and some good beer.

There’s just one thing though, which is a bit jarring when you go to relieve yourself in the (clean but typically freezing) toilets after a few: the urinal has lumps of coal in it.  Coal.  Moreover, I am informed that exactly the same lumps have been there for years.  Coal apparently gets rid of odours and I assume that’s what they’re for.  But I’ve never seen this anywhere else.  Have you?

The Rifleman’s Arms, 4-6 Greenside, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 4LD

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