Tuesday, 21 June 2016

A Crawl Around Colchester

Since Sammie is going to be doing a course at the University of Essex from October, we decided to pop down to Colchester on Saturday so that she could ask a few questions and figured it'd be rude not to check out the drinking establishments of the town whilst we were there.

After we'd done at the university, we got the bus back into the city centre and stopped at The Castle Inn which is one of those historic pubs that attract tourists. Touristy pubs generally aren't that great, and don't care about the beer in my experience so I feared the worst, but my pint of Adnams Ghost Ship was tasting very fresh and delicious, and Sammie seemed to enjoy her Broadside. The pub itself wasn't particularly busy, but there were a few people mostly drinking lager and cider. It had one of those pub scratchcard machines that I didn't realise still exist.

Next up was Queen Street Brewhouse which is attached to the local Pitfield brewery. As I walked through the door, the barman looked over and I heard him say "oh shit" so I was thinking "Erm... what the fuck?" but we proceeded to the bar and chatted to him, when I finally realised that I do know Alex from the last time I was in Colchester - he'd previously been working at The Vic (which I'll get to later) and recalled a story of me being completely smashed, ordering a pint of Dark Star APA and spilling it all over myself. Sounds about right! Queen Street Brewhouse is a long, narrow, wooden clad pub with 8 keg lines pouring beers from all over Europe, as well as cask lines from local breweries and the wonderful Green Jack in Lowestoft. I had a half of kegged Northern Monk Neapolitan Pale which tasted remarkably like Neapolitan ice cream; incredible scenes. Sammie had a half of a local stout which was alright too. One thing that astounded me was how cheap Delirium was at £6 a pint!

We were warned that The Odd One Out is rather odd and that it's a very old fashioned pub, and that's exactly what it was. The pub is split into two rooms and when you first walk in the door, you see a bunch of keg taps sitting on the bar, all branded founts, no craft but instead, the lesser spotted Oranjeboom. You go through the arch to the left into the main bar to find a bank of four or five hand pumps adorning the bar, prices proudly displayed to the penny. A very reasonable price of £3.24 was paid for two halves of Billericay Mayflower Gold and that's when we discovered how old fashioned the pub really was; the stern faced lady behind the bar had finished pouring one of our halves into a stemmed glass and Sammie passed it to me, but the lady would not allow it "No, that's for you because it's a girly glass" she said in an almost threatening manner, before finishing pouring my nonic half and grunting "that's a slightly more manly glass, hmph". We sat down with our drinks and felt uncomfortable, too much so to even half a conversation out of fear that the stern lady would tell us to be quiet. Needless to say, we swiftly finished our beers and headed off.

Our next stop absolutely had to be The Fat Cat because the original in Norwich is our local and we were dying to see whether it looks exactly the same as all of the Norwich ones, but much to our surprise, it didn't! It was bright and fresh and new. There were 5 or 6 handpumps adorning the bar but they were out of  use, with all of the ales being served from gravity in the back room. There were a few keg beers and given how I was very hot, I just wanted a nice glass of Pilsner Urquell. The cask selection was predictably Fat Cat Brewery, Adnams and Crouch Vale, so rather uninspiring really.

Popped across the road to Alehouse next; a large pub with football on TV and a billards table. Again, several hand pumps on the bar but all of the beers were actually served from gravity. I had a Maldon Endeavour, and the lady serving us warned that it was brown which struck me as odd because all of the beers on offer were brown. It was a nice brown beer, according to Untappd. Sammie had Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde, which was what it was.

The New Inn came next with it's charming WWII bomb sign hanging off the building. We walked in to what I imagine were fairly new owners because we kept getting disturbed by someone doing DIY in the pub, putting a curtain rail up. Had a very decent half of Fuzzy Duck Muddy Duck, a stout, and watched the football whilst having the occasional laugh about the noise with the lady behind the bar.

Not on our list was The Fox and Fiddler but we just thought we'd pop in since we were passing; we sat at the bar and I had a very decent Mighty Oak Ace, a sorachi ace hopped best bitter though the pub itself was rather unremarkable.

Right next door to that, a sign peaked my curiosity; that sign belonged to a Wetherspoons pub called The Playhouse appropriately because it's an old theatre. Said sign was advertising itself as a craft beer bottle shop so we popped in. The bottle selection was the same as every spoons pretty much, but they had a dedicated 5 tap "craft" T bar sporting Shipyard, Devil's Backbone, Adnams Mosaic, Adnams DHL and Thwaites 13 Guns - the latter I was most surprised at - they also had Wetherspoons craft bottle shop branded 4 bottle carriers. I decided to go for a very reasonable pint of Thwaites 13 Guns (even though I got sick of it after drinking an entire case of 24 that I won, to myself within a week the other month) whilst Sammie had the latest Yeastie Boys JDW special, Nerdherder which was pretty damn good. The pub itself certainly is beautiful, with all of the original theatre fixtures and fittings and an island bar. It might just be my favourite Spoons I've ever been to (and I've been to a lot).

We discovered The Purple Dog next, which I wasn't a fan of and looking at the ales on offer, all of which I'd had, curiosity got the better of me and I made poor judgement in a kegged Caledonian Coast to Coast, which I assume was meant to be named for travelling from the east to the west of the USA but was more like Aberdeen to Prestatyn if it were a beer. Horrible.

Three Wise Monkeys came next, which was definitely on my hitlist. It's a massive space with tables dotted around everywhere and seemingly very few chairs. Standard keg taps on the back wall affair, with handpumps on the bar. I had Kona Longboard Lager, which I've been a far of for quite a while, whilst Sammie went for my mate Jack's Hellhound Black Shuck which was tasting brilliant as always.

We popped into The Marquis next and just had a half of Guinness because it just seemed like a dreadful place. Sammie insisted on popping in considering she used to drink there when she used to have to visit Colchester for work.

The last stop was the only pub in Colchester I've ever been to, despite not remembering the first time, The Victoria Inn which had a beer festival on. I wish I wasn't a little bit tipsy this time too as I would have absolutely loved to have stayed for a few more but alas, it had been a long day (on top of a hangover) so I just had a couple that I didn't even log on Untappd. The Vic is a truly outstanding pub, and I'll definitely go back, although maybe the first stop next time...

All in, Colchester pubs are pretty good. Managed to drink quite a few decent beers that we don't see frequently in Norwich so I can't complain! Definitely worth it for a pub crawl.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Places We Drank in Nuremberg

Christ Almighty, this post is way overdue. It's 3 months since we were in Nuremberg. I tried writing a blog that incorporated more of the art galleries, the castle and various things we saw but I realised it would have sucked; it would have been a long, drawn out babbling about things the readers of a beer blog don't really care much for (generally speaking).

You guys want to know about the beer, and maybe the general feel of the city.

Nuremberg is a beautiful, peaceful, friendly city. The large medieval castle, with it's high towers stare down in majesty over the city; buildings, pastel in colour, all have their own unique and outspoken charm, despite all being pretty similar with their 3 million windows a piece; the large front of the train station in the city centre, with its big stone face is a beautiful, big bastard. It feels homely. If I could, I'd make it my home.

We ate and drank a lot in Nuremberg. Mostly drank, if I'm honest. I just wanted to document for you the bars we went to.

Hausbrauerei Altstadthof: Lunch on the Wednesday afternoon. As the name suggests, this place has its own brewery deep in the caves underneath the city. They only sell beers that they brew there, on draught anyway. There's also a bottle shop around the back in which we found Brewdog, Tiny Rebel and erm, Greene King. The Helles was unfiltered, crisp and fresh and went well with the large plate of Bratwurst and Potato Salad. Sammie had their Schwarzbier which was even better.

Next up was Barfüßer which yet again had its own brewery, proudly sitting in the middle of the large bar. This is what you imagine a German bierhaus to be like, long tables, open and wide. Servers bustling around. Again I went for the Helles, and I wish I didn't because it was far too sweet unlike Sammie's Schwarzbier (can you see a theme yet?). We came back here later in the week to eat; I went for pork shoulder which came with a potato dumpling and I wasn't impressed whereas Sammie went for Schnitzel with potato salad, which made her a little ill as it turned out to be probable veal, which she can't eat.

A couple of galleries came next, including one which had an installation that was literally just an air bed up against a wall. Not art.

We wandered for ages trying to find somewhere that was on our hitlist, because we couldn't be bothered to use google maps. Yes we got lost walking the wrong direction of the castle, but as a result we saw lots more of the city!

We found ourselves at an Augustiner bar, Zur Schranke which was much like walking into your nan's living room. Dark, floral carpets and curtains. Gingham tablecloths. We were seated and the young lady serving us didn't seem too happy to find that we were British. When asking about the beers, she bellowed "LIGHT OR DARK?" so I went for a half litre of Augustiner Helles which I just cannot get enough of whilst Sammie lucked out on Augustiner Maximator, the 8.5% beast which was priced at exactly the same as the Helles. We swiftly finished our beers and left as we felt a little uncomfortable.

Next we found Hutt'n which I'd heard really good things about. To my delight we discovered that every night from 6:30pm they tap a barrel of their house brewed Marzen on the bar; now, I'm not the biggest fan of Marzen but I just had to try it and was pleasantly surprised; dark with chewy caramel notes and grassy German hops. I then had their Helles, which again I regretted as nothing will ever be as good as Augustiner. I believe Sammie had the Marzen then bought a bottle of a barrel aged rauchbier.

On the way back to the station it was almost impossible to find any bars that would happily let us pop in just for a drink as presumably they want people to eat because of profit margins but we did pop into Bratwursthausle where I went for a pint of Tucher Helles Weisse, which was drinkable.

Hunger struck and because we'd had our fill of bratwurst for the day, we decided to go to McDonalds where we had a double McChicken sandwich which was wonderful!

Before heading back to the hotel we decided to do something decidedly un-tourist-like and pop into a heavy metal bar that we had walked past earlier in the day. It was called Brown Sugar and quickly became one of our favourite bars of the week. Again, the draught choices were: Light Lager, Dark Lager, Wheat Beer (Erdinger) and Guinness, which looked like it was not being poured through nitrogen which is odd. I was curious of it but not that curious so I stuck with the light lager and Sammie had the dark. I believe both of which were from Schwabenbrau.

Brown Sugar itself was absolutely brilliant; great surroundings, covered with memorabilia, and the people who were drinking there were EXACTLY the same as you'd find in a similar bar in the UK.

I then decided or order a pint of Erdinger because Erdinger at €3 a pint, what?! but that plan was foiled when the lovely lady behind the bar did something I wasn't expecting - she told me not to drink it and that I should drink what the locals drink, a bottle of Guttman Weisse (at which point she warned that it was 20 cents more expensive, though) so I did and oh my, it has become my favourite Weissbier. It was simply beautiful.

The rest of the holiday was largely visiting the same bars as we had before, which featured more time in LandbierparadiesBarfüßer, and obviously Brown Sugar.

Nuremberg is such a beautiful city, and I'd highly recommend a visit.