Tag Archives: English beer

Dartmoor Brewery’s Legend at The Castle restaurant, Bude, Cornwall

Dartmoor Brewery's Legend at The Castle Restaurant, Bude, Cornwall

Right. Here’s my last write-up from my recent visit to England. Really must get back the matter at hand – ie Italian stuff, notably Italian beers. And baking. More baking to follow.

I had this ale in the old-fashioned English seaside town of Bude at The Castle restaurant. The Castle isn’t actually a castle – it’s the former house of a local chap who went by the stupendous Dickensian name of Goldsworthy Gurney. Brits can be so dull with their naming conventions these days. I don’t know anyone called Goldsworthy. I don’t even know anyone with a pet called Goldsworthy. Fy, for shame.

Gurney was a remarkable figure – one of those enterprising, inquiring inventors and engineers who helped shape Victorian Britain. Not only did he build himself a bunker-like miniature castle on the dunes where the River Neet (aka the River Strat) empties into the Atlantic, alongside the mouth of the canal (itself another great bit of Victorian engineering), he even invented one of the first horseless carriages. This was basically a somewhat volatile steam engine bolted onto a traditional coach. He also invented an efficient heating stove, which is still in use today in a few locations. His most successful accomplishment was a gas injection lighting system that was used in the House of Commons for 60 years.

We went to the Castle on a typical north Cornwall summer’s day, dashing indoors in heavy rain, and passing a Gurney Stove (sadly out of commission). The Castle restaurant is one the area’s best eateries, though I was disappointed the waiter couldn’t actually give me the provenance of the fish on the menu. Still, at least they had a couple of decent bottled beers. I had Legend from Dartmoor Brewery.

Dartmoor Brewery’s blurb says “Situated in the very heart of Dartmoor National Park at 1400 feet [427m in new money] above sea level we are the highest brewery in England and we believe the best!” Modest. The brewery focuses on three types of beer from a purpose-built brewery opened in 2005 with a capacity of “300 brewer’s barrels (1200 nine gallon casks) per week.”

Honestly, the UK might have managed a bit more metrication than, say, the US of A, but the brewing industry still adores old-fashionedy weights and measures. As much of the world is (very sensibly, logically and practically) metricated, and much international brewing talks in hectolitres (hl; 1hl = 100 litres), I’m going to try and always include an hl measure.

So 300 UK barrels is about 49,000l, or 492hl.

So a little bigger than the previous brewery I was talking about, Holsworthy Ales, but then Dartmoor Brewery is a bit longer established, having been opened in 1994.

Their three products are: Jail Ale, “a full bodied mid-brown beer with a well rounded flavour and a sweet Moorish aftertaste” (Do Moors drink beer? Surely they mean moreish? Or is it a pun on Dartomoor? [thanks for pointing that out Fran]); Dartmoor IPA, “a highly drinkable amber coloured beer. It has a deliciously smooth thirst quenching taste and subtle hop aroma”; and the Legend, “a classic cask conditioned beer smooth full flavoured and balanced with a delicious crispy malt fruit finish.”

Dartmoor Brewery's Legend at The Castle Restaurant, Bude, Cornwall

Mine was bottle conditioned, though it was indeed smooth and balanced, a kind of easy-going bitter, with some fruitiness and some biscuity, fresh-baked-fresh malt. It was an amenable beer to wash down my fish and wedges (the menu lies – it says chips, but they are wedges; always a disappointment when you want chips) but, I dunno, considering it’s made with Dartmoor water, Devon malts and English hops I really wanted to like it more. It was pleasant but just a bit… generic. Maybe I’ve been drinking too many nice, easy balanced golden ales and mellow bitters of late. Time for a trip to Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà? for some challenging Kriek or suchlike methinks.

Still, eating it in Goldsworthy’s old withdrawing room (or whatever), replete with the same wallpaper we used to have in our old house in London, with the rain lashing the windows and the Atlantic surf churning a few hundred metres away, it was part of a dining experience that was, overall, very satisfying.

The Castle Restaurant, The Castle, The Wharf, Bude, Cornwall EX23 8LG
thecastlerestaurantbude.co.uk | enquiries@thecastlerestaurantbude.co.uk |+44 (0)1288 350543

Dartmoor Brewery Ltd, Station Road, Princetown, Devon PL20 6QX
dartmoorbrewery.co.uk |ale@dartmoorbrewery.co.uk |+44 (0) 1822 890789

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Thornbridge Tzara at the Cut Bar, London

Thornbridge Tzara at the Cut Bar, London

Yes, yes, I know Bread, Cakes and Ale seems to be focussing more on ale at the moment, but, well, I just spent a week back home in England and it’s a lot easier to booze than it is to bake when you’re on the road (figuratively speaking. Don’t drink and drive kids!). Meanwhile, back in Roma, it’s too darned hot to really embrace the baking. I’ve only been back since Tuesday, but it’s been reaching about 40C every day, or 104F is you’re an adherent of ye olde Fahrenheit and enjoy the drama of saying “It’s over 100 degrees today!!”.

Anyway. To continue my coverage of beers sampled and pubs (etc) visited while in Britain, on my one evening in London I wanted to go somewhere near Waterloo railway station, so my sis could get home easily on the train. Google told me the Cut Bar had some real beer, alongside sparkling wine and fruit-based drinks for the ladies, so the Cut Bar it was.

The Cut Bar is a fairly cavernous, gloomy boozeria that’s part of the Young Vic theatre. Hence, you may or may not see the stars of the current production (see below). It was pretty busy when I arrived and met friends around 6pm. As I’ve said before in my coverage of Roman boozing, Brits like to go straight out after work, unlike Romans who have their aperitivi a little later (frustrating my programming). Sadly the nice-looking balcony was already full so we perched on stools.

It’s not a specialist beer bar, but at least it tries to cater to beer drinkers with three taps and some bottled brews. I just cut to the chase and went with the guest beer, which was Tzara from Thornbridge. This is a brewery located in Derbyshire. It began producing beer under the Thornbridge brand in 2005 in a shed at Thornbridge Hall, a private stately home. In 2009, they opened a new “state of the art” brewery called Riverside.

Both facilities still brew, the Hall site, with a 10 UK barrel (16 hl) capacity, focussing on the “traditional infusion mash ale system”, while the 30 UK barrel (50 hl) Riverside site “highlights our ability to innovate through technology”. Which sounds great. I’m not into fusty dogmatic adherence to tradition – I’m more keen on a knowledge of and respect for tradition seasoned with an openness to experimentation and new ideas. This seems to be Thornbridge’s attitude too – their motto is “Innovation Passion Knowledge”.

Thornbridge call Tzara a 4.8% ABV keg beer that’s described as “a hybrid beer, fermented like an ale but matured like a lager. A broad, almost fruity palate with some bready notes. A crisp, refreshing beer.” I was intrigued. Did it mean it’s top fermented then conditioned at cold temperatures? A visit to Thornbridge’s blog tells me Tzara is a Kölsch-style product. Kölsch is a type of beer specifically from Cologne (Köln) in Germany. And my guess was right: it is indeed an a top-fermented beer, and it is fermented and lagered at a lower temperature.

The Thornbridge blog gives all the details of what defines a Kölsch and what they’ve used to make Tzara: Pilsner malt and wheat malt – both sourced in Germany. Likewise the hops. They also explain that while an authentic Kölsch is filtered, Tzara isn’t – instead, it’s centrifuged which “allows us to clarify the beer without stealing those delicate flavours we put into the beer in the first place.”.

It was another very pleasant summer beer, like the Pacifica Pale I’d drunk at lunchtime at the Cask. Indeed, it tastes similar to a classic golden ale, light, crisp and subtly fruity with well balanced sweetness and mellow hoppiness – but it’s not an ale. The Thornbridge blogger says “It does ferment at near ale temperatures, but one has to consider how the Germans themselves classify Kölsch – ‘Obergäriges Lagerbier’ – top-fermenting lager beer. Calling all top-fermenting beers ‘ales’ is simply misusing the name.”

I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

Oh, and just to finish, in case Chiwetel Ejiofor, of Children Of Men, 2012, Serenity,  American Gangster etc fame and one of the best British actors of his generation, happens to chance upon this blog: I wasn’t trying to take a picture of you, honest. I was taking a picture of the guest beer sign on the wall and you walked into frame.

The Cut Bar, The Young Vic Theatre, The Cut, London SE1 8LZ
info@thecutbar.com | +44 (0)20 7928 4400 / +44 (0)20 7922 2906

Thornbridge Brewery
, Riverside Brewery, Buxton Road, Bakewell DE45 1GS
info@thornbridgebrewery.co.uk | + 44 (0)1629 641000


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Tyne Bank Pacifica Pale at Cask Pub & Kitchen, Pimlico, London

Tyne Bank Brewery's Pacifica Pale at the Cask, Pimlico, London

The reason I went to Britain last week was the get a new passport. The UK embassy in Rome no longer has passport renewal facilities (though they do quite a pleasant Guy Fawkes party) and there was no way I could get it in the post as I don’t have any official documents for my address in Rome. Ergo, I did my bit for climate change and joined the budget airline masses.

The passport offices are located just near Victoria station in London. As I assumed some hanging about would be involved, I hunted about online for a suitable place to get some lunch – and have some real beer. A search presented me with the Cask Pub & Kitchen in Pimlico, a five minute walk from the passport office.

Although I lived in London for around 15 years, I left a few years ago. It’s amazing how fast things change there. Not only is there now an acre-wide hole in the ground right beside Victoria, but there are several new breweries and real beer joints too. Although the Cask opened back in 2009, this was my first visit.

Despite being surrounded by handsome Victorian housing stock, the pub itself stands out as it’s located in a 1970s red brick building on a corner. Inside, it’s fairly spacious and uncluttered, with a long bar and several fridges. It’s the sort of place that can cater to all beer requirements, having bottled beers, keg beers and hand-pumped cask beers.

When I visited several of the taps were dedicated to Tyne Bank Brewery, which is located… on the banks of the Tyne, no less, in Newcastle. The friendly, helpful barman said they do “meet the brewer” events, and where many pubs have a guest beer, the Cask has guest breweries. Tyne Bank is a microbrewery producing “60 barrels or 17,000 pints per week”.1

The Cask Pub & Kitchen, Pimlico, London

The Cask site says “All our hand pumps serve nothing but the absolute best ale available from the UK’s top micro-breweries.” The keg taps, meanwhile, offer a more international selection; ditto the bottled beer, with the site modestly claiming “We have a staggering collection unrivalled anywhere else in the UK.” They didn’t have any Italian craft beers at the time though! Not that I wanted to drink any. I’m always keen to eat and drinklocal produce as much as possible, though in this case I was keen to sample Tyne Bank’s wares. It may not be local to London, but I used to live in Newcastle so it at least had a personal connection.

My beer tastes are pretty broad so I tried a few things, and discussed the (innumerable) options with the barman. It was a fairly warm-ish summer-ish day, so I went for the Pacifica Pale, a golden ale.

Tyne Bank beers at the Cask, Pimlico, London

This was one of those very unchallenging beers. I probably should have gone for something a little more interesting, but as I was having a burger too I guess an uncomplicated golden ale was a nice accompaniment. The beer had a fruity, honey-ish smell, minimal head and low carbonation. The colour was dark gold, and slightly misty. The taste itself was easy and even, an undemanding mix of sweetness and mellow hoppiness. Tyne Bank’s site says it uses four different hops, but I can’t say it made it especially distinctive. Pleasant, but not distinctive.

After I’d eaten and finished the pint, I chatted some more the barman and tried a few one. Certainly more distinctive was another Tyne Bank brew – Tropical Haze. This one’s a festival wheat beer – made with mango puree. This gives it a notable sharpness. Which probably wouldn’t have gone as well with my burger.

All in all, I really liked the Cask, it was friendly, practical and unpretentious. Though next time I might ask them for a more challenging pint. And a fork. They don’t seem to serve their food with forks. What’s that about? Some kind of phobia?

Cask Pub & Kitchen, 6 Charlwood Street, Pimlico, London SW1V 2EE ‎

Tyne Bank Brewery, Unit 11, Hawick Crescent, St Lawrence Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE6 1AS
enquiries@tynebankbrewery.co.uk | +44 (0)191 265 28 28

1. One UK barrel is 36 imperial gallons or 164 litres. So 60 barrels is nearly 9840 litres or 98.4 hectolitres [hl] a week. Slightly confusingly, 17,000 pints is 9660 litres or 96.6hl. Either way, they have the capacity to produce around 5,000hl a year. 5,000hl is the progressive beer duty threshold for a brewery in the UK and as such, since the policy was introduced in 2002, has been a form of definition for “microbrewery” in the UK.

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Ruddy Darter at The Black Boy, Winchester

Ruddy Darter at The Black Boy, Winchester

My hometown is Winchester, in Hampshire, an hour southwest of London out of Waterloo railway station. Although small, it’s technically a city, the ancient capital of England, boasting a cathedral – with the longest nave of any Gothic cathedral in Europe, apparently. My mother says she often overhears tour guides saying the high street is the oldest in Europe too, but I’m not sure how that’d be qualified. (When it was a Roman city, the main drag was in the same position, if that’s any help.) It’s got an Iron Age hillfort, King Arthur’s Round Table (honest), some bits of medieval city wall, and even a few city gates, despite the Victorians’ best efforts to destroy the historical infrastructure.

It’s also got a lot of pubs, though many of them are pretty mediocre. Among the not-mediocre Winchester pubs is my old local, The Black Boy. (My old old local, The Mash Tun, died the death and now seems to be a tapas bar.)

I’ve been going to The Black Boy for, well, probably decades. It’s a great little pub, in a low-ceilinged old building, replete with plenty of novelty clutter (taxidermied beasts, eviscerated books), fireplaces (that are actually used in the winter), and plenty of nooks and crannies. More importantly, however, there’s also a decent selection of real beers. Not only that, they have a policy to stock local real beers, so expect stuff from breweries and Hampshire (mostly) and other parts of ye olde Kingdom of Wessex, like adjacent Wiltshire. Oh, and it’s friendly too – not something you always experience in British boozers.

The Black Boy, Winchester

The Black Boy always seems to carry Flowerpots Bitter from The Flowerpots Brewery in Cheriton, a few miles away from Winchester. I often choose their 3.8% bitter (so mild-mannered after all the strong Italian beers I’ve been drinking lately!), but for this visit to The Black Boy I sampled some of the other ales they had on and chose Ruddy Darter.

Although it’s classified as an English bitter by Beer Advocate and a Premium Bitter/ESB by Ratebeer, more specifically I’d call Ruddy Darter an amber ale, with its deep coppery-red colour. Andwell, the Hampshire brewery that makes Ruddy Darter, refer to it as a Ruby Ale, in a Premium Ale style. (Andwell, by the way, was founded in 2008; Ruddy Darter is their most recent beer.)

However you define it, Ruddy Darter is delicious. It’s got a fruity smell, which continues into the taste, which is also warmly malty, with a good sweet caramel flavour and mellow hoppiness. My pint was hand-pumped, with low carbonation, though I suspect the bottled version would be bubblier. (Something I experimented on a few days later with some beers from Holsworthy Ales, in Devon. Will write that up shortly.). Oh, and it’s named after a dragonfly, which is pretty cool. All in all, a very pleasant quick visit to an old haunt.

[Usual apology for quality of photos. One of my reasons for visiting Winchester was to get a new phone with a good camera, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to sign up for another 24 month contract or whatever.]

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