Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Mash Tun, Norwich (Pub review)



The Mash Tun. Such an appropriate name for a craft beer establishment. They could have used “Hop Store” I suppose, but that gives the image of being rather cold.

It’s situated on Charing Cross in Norwich and is in the building that was previously known as The Hog in Armour, a pub that I recall being awful.

Luckily for us, The Mash Tun isn’t. In fact, The Mash Tun is rather good.

When you walk in you’ll notice that the main room is incredibly long and narrow, and right in front of you is a large board displaying the names of breweries (Weird Beard was spelt wrong), the beers, ABV and prices. Oddly though, only the keg prices are listed. Not cask.

You glance to the bar on the right and you’ll notice the unique keg taps which have a chamber above it, showing you the colour of the beer as well as beer menus on tables which give you a brief description of the beer. This can be incredibly helpful for customers in deciding what to drink based on their preference BUT it does have a big disadvantage in that it kind of limits interaction between the customer and the staff. You’ll also notice the HOP INFUSER which is a hollow keg font which you can fill with hops, fruit or whatever else you want to infuse the beer with to give it a crazy twist. On my visit it was Redwell Wheat w/ Oranges, Lemons & Blueberries which made it deliciously tart and even fruitier.

15 kegs and a few casks you'll find and the beer selection was great… a load of Redwell, 3 Weird Beard (Hit the Lights, Fade to Black & Black Perle), Bruges Zot Dubbel, Bavo Pils and quite a few more on keg, with Blue Monkey BG Sips & Oakham Green Devil on cask.

The prices are quite good considering there’s a lot you can’t get elsewhere in Norwich. I certainly wasn’t complaining at £4.90 for a pint of Weird Beard Hit The Lights, anyway!

You’ve also got food which is a pop up called “Madder Mash Kitchen” that does various small plates that look delicious, but I’ve not tried yet.

At the moment, only the main bar floorspace is open but there is going to be another raised seating area which is great as there’s not much space at the moment so I can imagine it’ll be horrible when busy. There’s also going to be a Gin Palace upstairs, which will apparently have 150 different varieties of gin!

All in all, it’s a very cool bar with an awesome beer selection and definitely one that I plan on visiting whenever I can!

Nate

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Georgian Townhouse, Norwich (Bar review)



The Georgian Townhouse is an iconic building, right at the top of Unthank Road in Norwich. It was previously a rather upmarket hotel, paired with RARE Steakhouse but closed maybe last year, I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention.

Now it has been refurbished and reopened, not as a hotel but as a Restaurant/Craft Beer Bar, with private function rooms.

I was first alerted to it on Twitter a couple of months ago, before it opened. They tweeted me a photo of Budvar Dark, saying they’ll have it on tap when they open and I remember thinking “oh, that’s nice”, not quite expecting the rest of the beer list, but more on that later!

Walking into the car park, you get a real sense of scale when you look at the big, beautiful building. It really is a sight to behold. Although there are a few doors at the front, you have to walk to the furthest right to get in. You’re greeted by a host who asks if you’re dining, in which case they’ll show you to your seat, otherwise you’re left to your own devices.

It’s an incredibly big and bright building and you’ll not be stuck for a place to sit as there are a hell load of tables and chairs everywhere. It’s beautifully and comfortably furnished meaning you’ll not want to leave!

You walk out into the garden and wow. It’s a garden of epic proportions! There are standard picnic benches that you’ll see in most beer gardens, along with some more comfortable and bigger tables at the edges, which look like they can easily be covered in the winter. Over to the left there are rather nice looking beanbags that you can hang out on, and plenty of space for the kids to run around. Not only that, there’s a professional ping pong table to keep you entertained – I think this is a great idea!

Anyway, I said I’d talk about the beer…

On the keg front, it can rival any pub in Norwich. There is no Guinness… instead you get Camden Ink, if you want a creamy stout (this is almost always what I choose) along with Camden Pale for something lighter. Local heroes Redwell also appear, but I forget which beer was on at the time. From up north you’ve got Magic Rock High Wire & Thornbridge Jaipur, from the Czech Republic you have Budvar Dark and from the USA you can get some Lagunitas IPA! There are also a few cask pumps on which I noticed Adnams & Grain Brewery, which definitely is a good option!

While the selection is amazing right now, I really do hope they change some things around from time to time to mix it up!

If beer isn’t your thing, they also have an extensive wine list and an even more extensive gin list!

The food menu looks great too – they do BBQs as well as small plates and a more A La Carte menu and I can’t wait to try it sometime!

As for the beer prices, they’ll rival anywhere in Norwich when it comes to craft keg. I only had a pint of Camden Ink, which was a respectable £4.20 where it’s been seen elsewhere locally for quite a bit more.

All in all, I think this has potential to be one of my favourite places to drink in Norwich. Great beer selection, atmosphere and an amazing garden, something you don’t find too often in ‘craft’ establishments.

Well worth a visit if you’re in the area, especially given it’s so close to the city centre!

Nate

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The New Entertainer, Gorleston (Pub Review)



As I’m walking down pier plain in Gorleston, a couple of blocks over from the docks, on a warm Sunday evening that’s slowly getting dimmer I see the pub that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. Emily was out cruising with her friends, like she does every Sunday night, so I thought it’d be my perfect opportunity.

I see the pub on the corner and I stop for a moment. It doesn’t look like the kind of pub I’d want to go in. It’s on a street corner and it looks beaten up, and it looks like entering will get me beaten up.

I slowly pluck up the courage to walk closer to the pub and circumvent the building to find the entrance. There is a sign pointing to the right side of the building, but there are about 5 doors. Of course, it had to be the last one.

I push the door that feels like it’s going to fall off of its hinges and walk through the tiny corridor and walk in.

It’s a weirdly narrow pub, very traditional looking, with seating around the edges, a massive mirror above the fireplace, a pool table at one end and a bar adorned with several hand pumps and keg taps.

Right off the bat I’d suggest holding your nose in this pub. As soon as I walked in I could smell the stench of stale smoke. The pub obviously hadn’t been re-carpeted or anything since god knows when. I’m a smoker, but it was vile. I almost left due to the smell, but I was meeting a friend so I couldn’t.

I walk up to the bar and notice that there are 6 real ales on hand pump including many of the usual suspects you’ll see in Norfolk, from the big breweries – Greene King IPA (the house beer, naturally), Adnams Bitter & Woodforde’s Wherry, along with the very local Lacons Pale Ale and Hop Back Summer Lightning.

I went for Dark Star The Art of Darkness, a beer I have loved since it was first released and a beer I will always buy if I see it on cask. It’s deliciously confusing as it has all of the hops you’d expect in a pale ale, but it’s black and carries the body of a beer way above 3.5%.

There wasn’t anything to speak of on the keg taps – just your usual suspects like Foster’s, but they did have Stella Artois Black which is probably the fanciest keg beer you’ll see in that part of the county.

The bottles were fairly standard too, but on the way out I noticed they were selling bottles of Greene King Light Ale. I’ve no idea what it’s all about as I can’t seem to find much information about it, but I may try it next time.

I took a seat in an empty corner and studied my surroundings. There were a group of very drunk women attempting to play pool, another solitary chap reading the paper behind me and your obligatory locals sitting at the bar chatting to the girl behind the bar.

Just looking around, it is a very nice pub. The beers were well kept too (I had a half of Lacons Pale Ale after, and it was also delicious), completely bright and at the perfect temperature.

After a while sitting there, chatting to my buddy, I started to feel more comfortable. The smell didn’t go away, but I started to realise that I wasn’t going to get any shit from being in what looks like a very tight local pub, as I had first imagined.

It’s a great pub for what it is, a street corner boozer, and if I can put up with the smell I may return there.

Nate

This is the start of my discovery of Gorleston pubs. Since I spend a lot of time there because it’s where Emily lives, I figure I may as well report on the local watering holes.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Foster’s Lime and Ginger Radler (beer review)



Radler. A traditional German beer based mixed drink. It comprises of a 1:1 or 3:2 ratio of various types of beer and some form of fizzy drink, like lemonade.

It’s basically a shandy, really. I have fond childhood memories of going away to terrible holiday parks and enjoying the even worse nightlife while drinking cans of Bass Shandy, with a straw hanging out.

It’s odd how we have the same things in different countries, yet they’re seen in different ways. In the UK, a shandy is something you give to kids to make them feel like they’re drinking beer like dad. Here a shandy is mainly made with bitter, or at least some form of ale. It’s brown, like the ale dad is drinking. In Germany, a radler is commonly seen as a sports drink… hell, Radler basically means “Cyclist”.

Anyway, I’d tried the original Lemon Foster’s Radler when it was released last year and I liked it. It was basically 2% ABV cloudy lemonade, which I’m not sure anyone could hate; unless, of course, you hate lemonade you weirdo.

Well last week I was kindly offered a sample of the new Lime and Ginger Radler, which I’d seen a poster for and was considering buying anyway as it sounded great.

It’s 2% and a mix of Foster’s Lager and Lime & Ginger soft drink… the part that says “Foster’s Lager” is enough to put many people off, but not me.

And it shouldn’t put you off either.

Essentially what it tastes like is Ginger Ale with a wedge of lime in it, and it’s really bloody refreshing.

It may not be ‘craft’ but I like it.

It’s a perfectly good, inexpensive, low ABV beer for summer drinking.

Thanks to Matt from TVC for sending me some, for my honest opinion!

Nate

P.S. I was also sent a bottle of the non-alcoholic lemon version, which I didn’t like as much. I’m generally not a fan of alcohol-free beers, and this wasn’t an exception. It just had an odd malty aftertaste which I couldn’t get on with. Emily seemed to enjoy it though, as she necked the bottle in double time!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

#DawgDay (Dawgocalypse 2) - The Aftermath

On Saturday 31st of May, the day arrived. The one that we had been waiting for, for months. DawgDay - my 25th Birthday pub crawl in Norwich!

I arrived at The Compleat Angler at about 12:20pm with Rob after a horrible bus ride, to find friends already there, drinking pints. There was Jay & Alec, my two good friends, as well as Chris & Katie who had come from London. I got a pint of Adnams dry-hopped lager, which is always delicious and reliable! Steve then rocked up, and to my surprise he'd brought me the gift of a Franziskaner glass that he had promised me a year ago, but we'd not had the chance to meet before now! Chris kindly gave me a cans of Fourpure IPA & Pale Ale, which I consumed late at night with KFC, they were amazing! Soon, David arrived as well as Kat & Yvan, then Andy in all his glory! Another half was consumed, this time it was Green Jack Orange Wheat; a beer I once disliked, but am now a fan of. Yvan and Kat also came bearing gifts, 2x 3 different beers from Great Heck Brewery - Amish Mash, Yakima IPA & Black Jesus, which I can confirm were also delicious!


Onward we march to Norwich Taphouse, which I think was probably the main pub people were interested in going to. My first beer was First Chop TEA, which was deliciously malty with a nice amount of fruity hops to add a bit of a kick, followed by Moor Illusion, a black IPA that I've been rather fond of for a while! It was at this point I got a call from the legendary Chris Dixon to meet him as he hadn't a clue where he was going! We got back to the Taphouse, and another beer was had - this time I shared a bottle of Wiper and True Mosaic IPA with Andy - I've had mixed experiences with Moasic hops, but can confirm that this was a good one!

The gang was split here, with a few people heading to The Rumsey Wells for a sneaky half of Lagunitas IPA, but the rest of us headed to The Plough which yet again people were fairly pumped for. I had two pints in here - Blonde Ash & Poter, which are always delicious and reliable. Especially the Blonde Ash, in the hot sun!

The Reindeer came next and I was delighted to see Magic Rock High Wire on keg... I ordered a pint as it would have been rude not to, then my brother rocked up and bought me another. Yes, I was on my way to being ruined!

After this, Yvan and a couple of others split off to The Fat Cat as he was collecting the City of Ale stamps in order to further decorate Colin the Squid, but the rest of us stuck true to our plan and made it to the White Lion. In retrospect, at this point during the evening, a pint of Milton Marcus Aurelius at 7.5% was not wise, but it was delicious. I think I had another beer here, but I can't be sure what it was as I wasn't bothering to use Untappd much!

My final stop of the night was The Plasterers where they were having a fined Vs unfined beer tasting but I didn't get involved. I was contacted by Ben earlier in the week with a beer list and asked to choose one to have on for my birthday crawl, that Yvan was going to deliver... I chose Moor Nor'Hop so I probably had about 4 pints of this, as well as Oakham Citra. People were dropping off here, having to get their trains home. I then went out to meet Emily and bring her to the pub to meet everyone, since she had been ill in the morning so couldn't make it for the full day. It was at this point she decided that it'd be wise to take me home, so I said my goodbyes and we dropped Chris & Katie at the train station.

By all accounts, the others who were still around decided to visit some other pubs in the city but I wouldn't have been able to cope with that!

My night ended by going to KFC, getting confused because I didn't know where the line was then returning with a bottle of Troubadour Magma, much to Emily's confusion! Luckily, my girlfriend is awesome and was happy to drive me to a different KFC so I could get my fix! You've probably seen the photo that Emily took of me later that night, but yeah, that's where the night ended. Drinking cans of beer and passing out in bed!

All in all, it was a fucking brilliant day and I seriously appreciate everyone who came out, especially those who came from far and wide - you are all awesome and I really hope you all had a brilliant day too!

Cheers,

Nate

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Harry Brompton's London Ice Tea (booze review)

Alcoholic Ice Tea. Why the hell is this a new thing?

I mean, when you think about it, alcoholic ice tea has always made sense but we never seemed to have thought about it before. I mean, when you look at summer beverages you think of Ice Tea when you're talking about alcohol free drinks, but drinks with alcohol are basically Pimm's and beer.

I've always been a fan of ice tea, when I can get the good stuff. You can forget Lipton's. It needs to be properly brewed ice tea. So when I heard about Harry Brompton, I just needed to try it!

Harry Brompton's London Ice Tea is the world's first premium alcoholic ice tea. It's 4% and made with ethically sourced Kenyan Black Tea as well as craft-distilled grain spirit and infused with citrus.

It sounds perfect for the summer, right? Well it is.

It's absolutely perfect the way the citrus flavours play with the delicious icy cold teas, without being able to taste the alcohol. You get some of the grain, which is natural, but none of it is in your face. It's a really refreshing summer drink, and my preference is to stick a wedge of lime in the bottleneck and drink it straight up!

There are many ways you can serve it, and Harry's minions have kindly provided some cocktail recipes on his website: http://www.harrybromptons.com/mixology/

It's now available in some Waitrose stores, larger Sainsbury's stores and any bar with half a brain.

Harry Brompton's London Ice Tea really is the feel good drink of the summer!

Nate

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Two Types of Premium


These days I usually don’t bother with posts like this, but something is frustrating me. That something is people complaining about prices of beers they don’t drink.

Complaining about prices of a beer you have no intention of drinking is like complaining that your cock has been chopped off when in fact it hasn’t. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

It’s got me thinking though, because the same people who are complaining about the price of ‘craft’ (which they don't want to drink - i.e. really hoppy or strong beers) are the same people who are complaining about the price of mass produced beers (that they don't plan on drinking) and this all boils down to not understanding why some beers have a premium price.

Why mass produced beer costs more:

You can make a completely valid point in saying that in theory, mass produced beer should in fact be cheaper than ‘craft’ because it’s made on a massive scale and bulk buying cuts the costs of the already relatively cheap, poor quality ingredients. That would be totally fair, but…

Have you seen the sheer size of those breweries? Have you seen the price of energy costs? Have you seen the amount of people who work for an international company? Have you seen the fleet of trucks? Have you seen the logistical nightmare it can be to get beer from A to B?

And then there’s advertising, which is arguably one of the biggest costs. Breweries like Guinness (Diageo) spend so much money on advertising and image to make sure that everywhere you turn your head, you see them. They have a tap in almost every pub in the world so you can’t even go on holiday without seeing them; they sponsor sporting events; hell, Guinness spends millions ensuring that pubs know how to serve their beer, the ridiculous two pour method (that turns out to be a pointless exercise and leaves you standing at the bar, looking like a bit of a knob); releasing a silly looking new font every year; and ensuring their beer mats & bar runners are on tables, and staff are wearing their t-shirts.

All of those things when put together raise the cost of each brew massively, along with the fact that it probably costs publicans £2 a pint to buy in so then you have to factor in basically all of that stuff for them too – their staff, their building, their utility bills… you get the image by now.

And that is why, in so many places, Guinness and the like is now costing around £4 a pint.

Why ‘craft’ beer costs more:

I do feel that I need to open this one by saying that I’m not exclusively talking about keg beer, as so many people are still ridiculously misguided and believe ‘craft’ to be keg. You know me though; I’m not entirely sure what craft beer is myself so this is kind of annoying. I guess what I’m really talking about is a lot of the new wave breweries like Magic Rock, Brewdog, Thornbridge, Weird Beard etc.

See, mostly this is going to be about economies of scale. They’re buying a lot less ingredients which is comparatively more expensive, adding to the price being raised by the fact that they’re using better quality ingredients and they’re using a lot more of them in each brew, instead of replacing 60% of the barley for rice or corn.

They’ve also got to factor in rent or mortgage costs because unlike the big guys, there’s a chance they don’t own the building outright. They’re also probably paying comparatively more expensive utility bills since they can’t get bulk discount on gas and electricity like those.

Essentially, they have basically the same costs as the big brewers but on a smaller scale and therefore pubs end up having to charge £4+ a pint for something between 4-5%.

At the end of the day, nobody is making a great deal of money on ‘craft’ beer. None of these ‘craft’ brewers or publicans are sitting in a sprawling mansion, drinking their beer out of a solid gold goblet, laughing at the fools who are spending £6 for a pint of their IPA. In fact, I’m sure many ‘craft’ brewers actually feel bad that people are having to pay that kind of money for their beer, but everyone needs to make a living.