Years Back - England part 3

Being the 18th or so episodic review of Bob & Terry's trip to Europe in 2005.
Only one more post to go.
This time we're holed up in southwest England in Stow-on-the-Wold.

Stow is a fine place to hole up. We got a holiday cottage (it's the off-season), met the locals, joined a CAMRA chapter, and saw one small snowfall.

Many of the pubs around this area have a regular range of real ale. Our local, The Queen's Head, has Donnington's BB and SBA and hasn't changed for years. In fact, of the 8 pubs in Stow-on-the-Wold, only one has a changing tap - a monthly beer from Goff's Brewery. There are a few, though, that always have a changing range. The Tite Inn in Charlington and the Horse and Groom in Charlbury are both just over the Oxfordshire border. Five of the CAMRA-listed pubs in Cheltenham, 20 miles west of Stow, all have different beers every time I stop in.

There are more winter ales available now but the new ales I've had are still mainly Bitters, Golden Ales, ESBs, etc. Golden Ales are a relatively new breed in England and are gaining in popularity, especially since the Crouch Vale Brewers Gold (basically an American IPA) won the Champion Beer of Britain at the 2005 GBBF. Cascade hops have also become more prevalent in the last few years and especially in the last year because of this beer.
  • Adnam's Oyster Stout - Served cooler than the bitters at the Plume of Feathers. Black, creamy, mild. Belies the 4.3% ABV.
  • Archers Hadley Hall. Non-hoppy Golden. 4.3%.
  • Archers Loverboy - Edgy.
  • Archers Old Frostie - Golden ale.
  • Archers One Eyed Snake - Either a dark Golden or light Pale ale. Maybe there's a fine line but they do seem to run together. The 3.9% ABV probably means it's a Pale Mild.
  • Arkell Moonlight - 4.5%.
  • Badger Bitter - First Gold hops, nice and earthy. Good body. 4.0%. A+
  • Bank Top Dark Mild - Way overdone burnt toffee. Roast. Very complex. 4.0%. (N).
  • Bateman's Hooker - Very bitter.
  • Bath Festivity - Dark but thin. "Hints of rum mingling with coffee and vanilla". Coffee aplenty. Not a favorite since the coffee is not mitigated by any redeemable character. 6.6%. (T).
  • Bath Gem - Mahogany ale with little hops. 4.1%.
  • Battersea Power Station - Porter. Thick and clammy. Roast. Just a touch of burnt toast. Complex. Not black or could be a stout. Maybe the rightful heir of the term London Porter. 4.9% A+
  • Battledown Brigand - Cheltenham brewery opened just a couple of months ago. 4.7%.
  • Battledown Saxon - This is where all the Cascade hops are going in Britain. A golden American IPA of about 80 IBU. Clean and tooth-scraping. Very unbalanced.
  • Belhaven 80/- (80 Shilling) - Deep brown. Malt and tart. A bit roasty. Even some smoke notes. 4.5%.
  • Beowulf Dark Smoke - Dry stout. 4.7%.
  • Beowulf Wig Laf - Malty, spicy, and acidic. 4.3%.
  • Black Sheep Special Ale - Deep brown. 4.4%.
  • Brains SA
  • Brains The Rev. James. 4.5%.
  • Brakspear Special - ESB with long bitter on the back of tongue.
  • Burton Bridge Bitter. 4.2%.
  • Butts Barbus Barbus - This was anticipated highly by the beer-savvy folk at the Rose & Crown. Didn't seem anything special. 4.6%
  • Buts Traditional. Organic. Light copper. Fruity. Fresh grass. 4.3%.
  • Caledonian Six Nations - Golden Ale. Brewed for the international Rugby competition.
  • Caledonian XPA - Golden Ale with East Kent Goldings throughout. Very nice. 4.5%.
  • Charles Wells Bombadier
  • Churchend Gravedigger. Dark malty mild. 3.8%.
  • Cotleigh Barn Owl Bitter - Full bodied. Hoppy start and slightly tart bitter finish. 4.5%. (N).
  • Cotleigh Buzzard - Dark ale. Smooth and a little incisor-coating. 4.5%.
  • Cottage Brewery Between the Posts. For the rugby season. Bold and fairly sweet. 4.6%.
  • Cottage Brewery Double Century. For the 200th anniversary of Isambard Kindom Brunel who built the first transatlantic steamship, the Great Western. Malty and seemingly stronger than the 4.5% should be.
  • Cotswold Spring Winter Royal - Dark Winter Ale with anise, coffee. Spicy sharpness. Excellent. 5.0%. (T).
  • Daleside Bitter.
  • Dark Star Hophead - Yellow tending to a green tinge. Not enough alcohol to be a Golden Ale. Maybe it's a Golden Mild. Hops are Fuggles and Goldings and aren't overpowering at all. 3.8%.
  • Dark Star Winter Meltdown - Dark copper. Brewed with chocolate and crystal malt. Goldings hops. Ginger. Bitter and dry. 5.0%. (T).
  • Darwin's Ghost Ale - Nice bitter Golden Ale. Crisp. Some citric fruit. Dry finish. 4.1%. (S).
  • Dorset Steam Beer - Not an Anchor "California common". A lot of Old Ale characteristics but at 4.5%.
  • Eccelshall On The Pull - 5.2%.
  • Enville Chainmaker Mild - Sweet licorice throughout. 3.6%. (N).
  • Everards All-Black - Light bodied stout named for the New Zealand rugby team.
  • Exe Valley Devon Glory - This same beer is sold in Devon as Devon Bitter.
  • Exmoor Gold - Deep yellow. Fuggles and Goldings. Quite bitter. Light IPA.
  • Frog Island Best Bitter. Another miss-named beer. It's a pale mild. 3.8%.
  • Frog Island Natterjack - Lightish colored bitter. 4.8%.
  • Fuller's Jack Frost - Winter Ale less dark than Young's without the fruit or spice.
  • Glastonbury Hedge Monkey - 4.6%.
  • Grainstore Rutland Panther - Black mild. Very drinkable. 3.4%. (N).
  • Grainstore Winter Nip - Mahogany barley wine with fruit and alcohol coming through strong. Great. It was the festival best of show last year. 7.3%. (T).
  • Great Oakley Harpers - Malt Shovel's tied micro. 4.3%.
  • Great Oakley Wot's Occuring. 3.8%.
  • Greene King Fireside - "Full bodied ale" - Dark ruby, fruity, and yes, full-bodied. Fruity. First pour of the day without cleaning the lines. 4.5%.
  • Goff's Black Knight - Pure black roasty porter. 5.3%
  • Goff's Camelot - Dark, dry bitter. Very distinct raw coffee bean taste. 4.4%.
  • Hampshire Heaven Can Wait. 4.8%. Had the first or second glass from a new keg and it was replaced with another title when I complained.
  • Hanby Black Magic Mild - Near black Dark Mild. A bit of red. Bitter but a little stale / oxidized. 4.0%. (S).
  • Hart Nemesis, Goddess of Revenge - Unhoppy and creamy.
  • Harvey's Sussex Best.
  • Hexhamshire Devil's Elbow - Full Pale Mild. Amber. Plenty of hops and fruity goodness. 3.6%. A+ (S).
  • Hidden Brewery Hidden Quest - New brewery near Salisbury but the server thought it was local so their ploy is working.
  • Highgate Churchill's Pride - Made for Churchill's Taverns from a WWII recipe. 4.3%.
  • Highgate Old Ale - Dark reddish. Roast malt. Hops. Complex. Big and brutal. Very low alcohol for an Old Ale but that can certainly be forgiven since it has all the other characteristics. Well done. 5.3%. (T).
  • Highgate Special - A great-tasting rich dark mild but it gave both of us gas. 3.8%.
  • Itchen Valley Hampshire Rose - Very nice Golden Ale with some red hints. 4.2%. A+
  • Itchen Valley Tower Bridge - Balanced to the malty side. This is the only viable reason to visit one of the Wetherspoon's pubs near the tower as it's made especially for them.
  • Lichenfeld Hoppy Days - Complete with a picture of an almost-Fonz on the pump clip.
  • Loddon Country Cheer. Big hop. Centennial. This brewery doesn't stint on the hops. 4.2%.
  • Loddon Hoppit. Centennial hops are distinctive to Loddon. 3.5%.
  • Marlow Rebellion Overdraft Ale.
  • Marston Sweet Chariot.
  • Mighty Oak Down the Hatch.
  • Moles - Lang Syne - Rich golden ale.
  • Moor Old Freddy Walker - Rich black Old Ale that could be a stout, but not at 7.3%. Slides down nice. Lots of black malt but not roasty, chocolate, coffee, etc. Just thick black.
  • Nelson Brewery Devon Patrol.
  • North Cotswold Resolution - 4.5%
  • Oakham JHB - Golden ale with Fuggles.
  • Oak Leaf Blake's Gosport Bitter. Not an old ale but as dark and strong as one. With ESB & Porter characteristics. 5.6%.
  • O'Hanlon Yellow Hammer. "Devon's Golden Ale". 4.2%.
  • Old Stables Black Beauty Stout - Thick. Lingering roast flavor. 4.2%. (N).
  • Orkney Dark Island - The program said "chocolate malt character" but it's pure roast coffee. A bit thin for a stout or a bit light for an Old Ale. Long bitter finish with some vanilla sweetness coming in late. 4.6%. (S).
  • Orkney Northern Light
  • Otter Mac Otter - Hoped it would be a Scotch Ale. Some bitter-sweet chocolate malt but pretty rough. 5.0%. (T).
  • Outlaw K.I.S.S. - Golden ale with lots of Fuggles hops.
  • Palmers St. John's College, Oxford, 450th Anniversary Ale - Proper ESB. Big apple fruity finish.
  • Potton Shannon IPA - Good balance but weak. 3.6%. (N).
  • Ramsbury Deer Hunter. "Premium Bitter". Jet black ESB. Strong and balanced with lots of hops. 5.0%.
  • RCH Steam Sale - Named for a train wrecking yard. 4.5%.
  • Ridley Pride of Cheltenham. Dark Mild - Brewed for the Jolly Brewmaster pub. 3.9%.
  • Robinsons Old Tom - Strong but with delicate flavors. Chocolate. Plum. Port. Long bitter-sweet finish. Best of show. 8.5%. (N).
  • Rooster's Yankee - A Golden Ale with Cascade hops. Yep, an American Pale Ale. 4.7%.
  • Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter - The classic.
  • Severn Vale Monumentale. Pure black mild stout. Roasty background. 4.5%.
  • Sharps Doombar - 4.0%.
  • Sharps Sharp's Own - 4.4%.
  • Slater's Supreme - Best Bitter category to a tee. Pump clip proudly says "2001/2004 Champion Best Bitter Bronze Award Winner CAMRA". 4.7%.
  • Smiles Bristol IPA - Quite pale Golden ale. US NW hops in moderation.
  • Spinning Dog Mutley's Pit Stop.
  • Spinning Dog Organic - Lightish mild. 3.7%.
  • Spinning Dog Top Dog - Moderate hoppy but otherwise not remarkable. 4.2%.
  • Springhead Charlie's Angel - Light pale ale. This beer from Nottingham is supposedly named for something to do with the Cromwell era rather than 1970s American TV. Don't ask me, ask brewer Shirley Reynolds.
  • Springhead Roaring Meg - Pale yellow. 5.2%.
  • Springhead Rupert's Ruin. 4.2%.
  • Stanway Bitter - Local Cotswold brewery. Very light color. Very very bitter. No compensating sweetness.
  • St. Austell's HSD
  • St. Austell's Tinners - Thick rich pale session ale. Caramel malt comes through. 3.7%. A+
  • Stonehenge Pigswill - Very nice.
  • St. Peter's Lemon and Ginger Spiced Ale - Ooooh. Way overdone. Lots of ginger and the lemon comes through harshly. Worst of show. 4.7%. (N).
  • Sussex Draught Biter. 3.5%.
  • Theakston XB - Rich ESB.
  • Thwaites Lancaster Bomber - Not a favorite. Notes, though are unreadable.
  • Timothy Taylor Golden Best - Not a Golden Ale. Also not a Best Bitter. Really a session ale. Light colored bitter. Delicate malt and hops combine to give a light taste. 3.5%. (N).
  • Twaites Original
  • Wadworth Old Timer - Buttery smooth and bracing. 5.6%.
  • Wizard Black Magic - Very chocolaty stout.
  • Westbury Midnight Mash - Southern Brown style. Fruity. Dry lingering finish. Good but not great. 5.0%. (T).
  • Weymouth Steam - 4.5%.
  • White Horse Dragon Hill. Dry, astringent, bitter. Lots of Goldings hops. 4.2%.
  • Whittington Cat's Whiskers - Local brewery. Last pull from the cask.
  • Wickwar Rite Flanker. "The unofficial beer of Rugby". Strong apple notes. Probably past it's prime. 4.9%.
  • Williams Fraoch - Heather grass and peat come through more in cask conditioned form than in the bottle. 4.1%. (N).
  • Windrush Ale - From a brand new brewery in Witney (15 miles east of Stow). In fact this was their first batch released. Lightish but full of malt and Fuggles goodness. They should do well - hope to visit. 4.3%.
  • Woodforde The Usual - As in "I'll have a pint of The Usual". Has to be the best name for a beer. Ever. The beer, though is a darkish pale mild. Thin. Almost watery. 3.6%.
  • Wychwood Dirty Tackle - Amber brown. Bold fruitiness. Burnt caramel flavor. 4.4%.
  • Wye Valley HPA - Hereford Pale Ale - Golden ale. Very bitter IPA of East Kent Goldings hops.
  • Wye Valley Victory - Buttery diacytl. 4.4%.
  • Wye Valley Winter Tipple. Dark ESB. 4.7%.
  • Wylam Silver Ghost - All Maris Otter with Bramling and Fuggles. Fresh grass. 5.0%. (S).
  • York Brewery Last Drop Bitter - Dark and sweet. 4.0%.
  • York Brewery Yorkshire Terrier - Well balanced and refreshing. Long bitter aftertaste. 4.2%. (N).
  • Addlestone's Cloudy Cider
  • Barker's Upsydaisy Real Perry - Acidic. No pear taste. Yuch. 6.3%. (T).
  • Brooke Farm Cider - Medium dry. 6.2%.
  • Brooke Farm Perry - Sweet and tart at the same time. 8.4%.
  • Weston's Hereford Country Peary. Lots of pear. Tart but within control. A+.
  • Pivovar Herold Breznice (Czech) Bohemian Schwarzbier - On the handpull at a JD Wetherspoons. Brown head. Massively chocolate and coffee and black malt. Sweeter than German schwarzbiers. A bit of dreg in the last sip. For £1.69, quite a surprise. At another Wetherspoons this same brew was labeled 'Herold Weissbeir" - maybe a typo on the menu board.
  • Regal Christmas - Belgian Brown on tap. Plum, fruit, grape.
(T) - At the Tewkesbury CAMRA Winter Ale Festival.
(S) - At the Dun Cow Supernatural Beer Festival.
(N) - At the St. Neots CAMRA Beer Festival.

We've been to many of the pubs in the Gloucestershire Costwolds but keep finding a few more.
  • Bourton on Water - The Mousetrap - Really a restaurant without a proper pub seating area. Still, a quiz on Sundays.
  • Cheltenham
    - Adam and Eve* - The most "local" local I've been in.
    - Cheltenham Motor Club* - A private club that has many members who race and rally. Pictures of member's cars in action adorn all the walls. Very friendly, especially since I can talk the lingo.
    - Jolly Brewmaster* - A big circular bar dominates this ex-family house. Erudite clientele (quizzes, crosswords, puzzles, etc.). Good selection. Cider. Perry. Open all day. And best of all, it's only a block from a quilt store.
    - Little Owl* - Pub, restaurant, and event hall with very friendly locals. Also serves cider and a perry from the bagged box.
    - The Moon Under the Water - JD Wetherspoons chain pub. Dim cavern. No charm but quite cheap and has 9 changing handpulls with prices from £1.60 to £1.75. (Most pubs are £2 to £2.50).
    - The Norwood (Lecklade) - Big food pub on a busy corner.
    - Royal Oak* - Restaurant by day on one side and local pub by night on the other. Skittles alley out back.
    - Sudeley Arms* - Victorian local in a downtown corner pub. Beer enthusiast landlord. Served the new local's beer from a bagged box until the quality turned out to be not up to snuff.
    - The Swan* - Cheltenham CAMRA Pub of the Year 2005. A good selection of well-kept beers but the ambiance is similar to a not-very-well-kept neo-yuppy sandwich shop.
  • Chipping Campden
    - Dover's Bar - Busy hotel pub that had a handpull visible through the window. The handpull turned out to be a farmhouse cider so it wasn't a complete waste.
    - Eight Bells - Quiet restaurant bar with good selection.
    - Lygon Arms - Hotel pub with indifferent service.
  • Ebringdon - Ebringdon Arms - New landlords just took over this pub in the center of a very small village. The locals helped them remodel, lose the posh dining, put back the dartboard, etc. We predict it will be in the Good Beer Guide in 2008. Recommended it to the powers that be for 2007 but now, in January 2006, it's too late for that.
  • Paxford - Churchill Arms. We were looking for lunch but food was really pricey. Had one beer and left.
  • Tewkesbury - White Bear* - Manically busy place with 19 taps (only 4 handpulls), pool table, darts, bar seating for 10, couches, 30 people, 3 dogs, 4 kids; all in about 500sq ft.
A trip to London found some more good pubs.
  • Ashorne - Cottage Inn* - Town local with no lunch in the wintertime. Wish the GBG was a bit more detailed about this.
  • Christmas Commons - Fox & Hounds* - Rambling gastropub with 3 taps.
  • London - Anglesea - Anglesea Arms* - Non-ritzy bar in a ritzy section of town.
  • London - Greenwich - Plume of Feathers* - Beautiful 2-room interior surrounding a 3-sided square bar. Beer is dear. Food is highly regarded and our quick lunch was superb.
  • London - Greenwich - Mitre Hotel - Town sports pub with fruit machines (a complicated gambling device) and big-screen TV. Crowded for the games.
  • London - Greenwich - Richard I* - Young's 2-room local.
  • London - Greenwich - Trafalgar Tavern* - Historic pub with a great Thames-side location. Busy dinner crowd. Still, the soap scum glasses turned me off.
  • London - Parson's Green - White Horse* - Much fabled of CAMRA and Michael Jackson song and story. It's been "found". Obscenely busy local house and meeting place. On a Friday evening it was shoulder to shoulder suits and 30-somethings. 5 handpulls are tripled on a three-sided square bar. Reasonable food. Good Belgian beer menu and some on tap. Fuller's London Porter on nitrogen(!). Early on Saturday was the same situation and the same 5 ales.
  • London - Tower of London - There's a JD Wetherspoon's both north (Moon Over the Water) of the Tower and south (Pommelier's Rest*) of Tower Bridge. Ignore both of these.
  • London - Westminster - The Speaker* - Corner downtown pub with lots of suits, lots of history, and a 70's refurb decor. Two suits on a break from the office block across the street sent us on a 4-pub scavenger hunt quest for the afternoon to the most distinctive London pubs they could conjure up. Thanks guys. We wouldn't have found 3 of the next 4 pubs without you.
  • London - Charing Cross - Ship and Shovell - A 2-part pub where there's a street running between the two halves.
  • London - London Bridge Station - The George - Timeless classic half-timbered sloppy-floor multi-room outside-loo Dickensonian pub in the heart of the city. Occupies one side of a galleried courtyard down an alleyway. Even more delightful is the £1.80 price for a pint of ale.
  • London - Faringdon - Ye Olde Mitre - Again, down a small alley. Claimed to be the oldest still-standing pub in London, from 1546. Front public bar holds about 20 people. Rear saloon bar, maybe twice that many. Posh in an 18th century way.  This small alleyway and the half-dozen old buildings on it are actually part of Cambridgeshire, not London due to an ancient deed to some lord or other. This anomaly is actually still honored on the tax roles and the London police can only enter this half-block if invited.
  • London - St. Pauls - Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese - "Rebuilt in 1667" after the fire of London. Dickens haunt and he included this pub in his books. Now owned by Sam Smiths and seems to have been enlarged with a basement section since we last visited here in the 1990s. Old Brewery Bitter on the handpull for £1.70 per pint! That's the equivalent of $8 for a 4-pack of the 16-ounce bottles we can get in the states.
  • Northampton - Bold Dragoon* - Residential suburb local. Big place that doesn't serve food all day regardless of what the GBG says. Churchill Taverns chain.
  • Northampton - The Trumpet - A Wetherspoons wannabe clone chain outlet (John Barras). Only go here if you're desparate for cheap food.
  • Northampton - Malt Shovel* - WOW. One of the best beer pubs in England. 13 ever-changing handpulls. Friendly landlord and staff. Friendly locals. A blues band on Wed night packed the place. Thursday quiz night is £2.50 per person and that includes a meal. In three hours one night two casks ran out and were replaced with different titles. The owner also has started a small brewery (Great Oakley) nearby to supply his and a few select other pubs. Right across the street from the Carlsberg/Tetley brewery makes the smells in the rear beer garden magnificent. The Frog Island Brewery 2 blocks away also supplys fresh beers.
  • Stoke Goldington - Lamb* - Small town local known for food.
  • Watlington - Carrier Arms*
* - In the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.

Michael Jackson's favourite London haunt.

The George near London Bridge.

I've been to local branch CAMRA meetings in Longborough, Charlbury, Cheltenham, and Chipping Campden. From 5 to 30 people come and they are quite similar to a pub crawl put on by the Beer Advocate folks in the States. Visit 2 or three pubs. Swap stories and recommendations. Excellent evenings.

The Tewkesbury sub-branch of the Gloucestershire chapter of CAMRA held their 11th Winter Ale Festival on Feb 3 & 4. On Thursday evening, the 2nd, they had a free preview for CAMRA members and about 200 people showed up. Got a chance to re-meet people from the Cheltenham and North Gloucestershire sub-branches and some folks I just met at pubs. 7pm to 11pm. Had 7 half-pints of Winter Ales and Old Ales. They had 61 available.

Another festival at a pub in north Oxfordshire, The Dun Cow, had 7 casks on the counter with a complete range of styles (Pale Mild, Dark Mild, Bitter, Best Bitter, Golden, ESB, and a Stout (or was it a weak Old Ale)). The names had a supernatural theme - Ghost, Magic, Devil, etc. On a Saturday afternoon about 40 people crowded into the back room where the heat had been left off to keep the beers cool.

Terry joined me at a beer festival in St. Neots, Cambridgeshre, and we had a very interesting evening at a table with two local bobbies. Even met the Mayor of St. Neots but resisted turning that into a photo-op.

Also visited the Stanway brewery with the North Gloucestershire sub-branch of CAMRA. 25 people crowded into the small brewing room before heading out for a dinner and drinks courtesy of the brewery.

The old manor house at Stanway, with 86 workers, had a brewery back in the 1700s. A small affair with iron kettles fueled by fire. It continued until 1913. Alex Pennycook felt the need to resurrect it in 1993 and moved into the room, replacing the iron vessels with stainless steel. He did, though, keep the WOOD FIRED kettle and now uses 50 tons of wood each year, all picked up from the floor of the surrounding estate.

It's an "almost 5bbl" system with just 3 brewing vessels and 3 fermentation/aging tanks. A small hot liquor tank added recently lets him sleep in until 7:30 instead of getting the fire going at 6am on brewing days. It feeds the open mash ton about the time a wood fire heats more water for sparging - the plumbing is original to the 1700s. It's all pumped back to the wood-fired tun, hidden behind a circular brick wall, for boiling before being fed back to the sparge which is by now converted to a hop back.

Alex uses a proprietary yeast that he describes as "doesn't rise or fall" so it's evolved to be not a traditional ale or lager yeast. He also uses a water-transfer chiller rather than the original oak pan that is now the floor of the upper story and now a store room. One last change is the use of mains water rather than from one of the numerous springs on the property. He "Burtonizes" this water with gypsum as is the current ale fashion.
10 pubs are served with his ales on their guest taps from one or two brews per week.

The boiler is behind the bricks. A wood fire goes in the slot on the side.

Finally, wrote an article for Beer on Tap, the hand-out bi-monthly newsletter of the North Oxfordshire CAMRA branch.

An American Beerwolf in Oxon
 Warm flat beer. Maybe that’s how most American Bud-swillers think of Real Ale, but not all by any reckoning. My wife and I are Yanks from Indianapolis where race cars are more famous than the 9 breweries in this city of a million people.

All the breweries serve one restaurant each, brewpubs, and only 2 produce bottled beer. Most are big restaurant chains, the type that make up half the 2500 brewpubs in the States. Most brew typical American Ales, Wheats, Browns, Porters, and Stouts; while one makes only Belgian Abbey and Wit styles.

One, though, is a true British pub open now for 15 years and owned by a Yorkshire ex-pat named John Hill. The Broad Ripple Brewpub has two handpulls where cask-conditioned Bitter, ESB, Porter or Stout are served along with 6 other keg ales at any one time. Walking in, any Brit would be right at home. Order at the bar, no TV, no music, a darts room, oversized lined glasses, and lots of Fuggles hops. What more can you ask?

So why go to ground in the Cotswolds over an English winter? In fact warm flat beer is why my wife and I have moved to this area until spring. Winter warmers, barley wines, bitters, milds, ESB, great stuff. Since November we’ve had a chance to try over 200 Real Ales, visit 50 pubs in Gloucs, Oxon, and Warwickshire, and meet dozens of CAMRA members and other conversationalists at those pubs.
 We’ve also met the owners of some of the smallest breweries around. Mike Garner at Wizard and John Pilling at North Cotswold Brewery have been very generous with their time, showing off their kit and explaining the idiosyncrasies of their business here in England. In some ways their job is easier than an American equivalent since guest taps are more prevalent here than at the Bud-Miller-Coors-only bars that make up 90% of the States. In other ways it’s more difficult because the shelf-life of Real Ale is considerably shorter than a lager or keg ale and planning must be a lot more precise.

It has been surprising to see some pubs that don’t change their beer selection at all. Understandable that a Donnington, Wadworth, or Hook Norton-owned pub will stick with the same range but even many free houses seem to have an unvarying menu. That’s why some real gems such as the Tite Inn and the Rose and Crown get our repeat business – every time we go there there’s a new beer or two on tap. (Most of the CAMRA GBG pubs in Cheltenham do the same so much of our time is spent there also.) We still have much of the area around Banbury to explore and are savoring the anticipation.

Come March we’ll be heading back across the pond with memories and ideas of how to publicize good beer in Indiana. The Good Beer Guide, of course, has been invaluable but Beer on Tap, The Tippler, ShakesBeer, and The Beer and Ragged Staff have also proved great tools to find the best pubs and best beers. Thank you very much for publishing them.

And a side-trip.

To repeat myself, we stayed in a holiday cottage in Stow. Holiday - as in being kicked out for two weeks during Christmas due to a prior reservation. Turns out hotel and food prices are WAY up during the holidays. Guess everyone in England treats that season as a "lets go see the family" extravaganza.

So we took the cheaper way out. A sea cruise. The QEII's final trip. And we can't say enough bad about this tub / floating potential reef. (It's now in Dubai and since 2008 people have been going bankrupt trying to change it into a hotel.)

Went to Lisbon to get my pocket picked unsuccessfully; Barcelona which was almost deserted; Gibralter so Terry could wrestle Barbary apes; and the great Canary Islands; and a horrible stop in Dakar for fuel.


Likely looking bar in Funchal.

Local wines and brandies. The three on the left are very local, being
formulated, mixed, and aged in the back. A dry sherry-based, a sweet port-based,
and a chamomile brandy aged with twigs and flowers in the bottle.
Spicy, big aroma, grape background, big alcohol burn.

We can suggest getting some chamomile and sticking it in some brandy. Wait 6 months for a real treat.

New Years Eve fireworks in Funchal.

And of course some beer. Brit on the say to Southampton to catch the boat.

Some Hampshire pubs:
  • Burghclere - Carpenters Arms - Friendly Arkells pub and great food in a very small town.
  • Southampton
    • Duke of Wellington* - 1340s inn that was a brewpub in the 1500s. Wadworth owned.
    • The Village Bell (Eling Hill) - Local that wasn't worth eating lunch at.
    • The Platform Tavern* - Boisterous adults every afternoon. Evening is actually quieter. Free house with a big variety of ales.
  • Winchester - Old Market Inn - Downtown business pub.
* CAMRA Good Pub Guide listed.
  • Arkells JRA (James's Real Ale) - Rich but low alcohol.
  • Arkells Noel - Winter warmer. Light color. Quite bitter. Alcohol adds bite.
  • Gales HSB - Walnut colored ESB.
  • Goff's White Knight - Very bitter golden ale. 4.7%.
  • Itchen Father Christmas - Port wine thickness and sweetness. 5.0%.
  • Itchen Godfather - 3.8%.
  • Wadworth Old Timer - Sulphur notes. Long finish.
  • Wadworth Bishop's Tipple. Very little malt but lots of alcohol. Medium gold. Similar sulphur notes.
  • Whitestar Crafty Shag - "Pilsner style" real ale. Dark ale with plenty of Noble hop aroma. Quite bitter. Served on the handpull in Southamption.
The Canary Islands brews Tropical Pils, Reina Oro, and Dorado. All decent all-malt helles lagers.
Funchal, Madeira the Coral brewery. They make an uninspired light lager as well as Coral Tonica - a decent dark lager.
A bitters from Switzerland that we picked up in the Canaries. 44% ABV.
"Made from a selection of the finest aromatic herbs from 43 countries. The unique blend of valuable herbal ingredients and premium-quality alcohol make Underberg a perfectly natural herbal digestive.
Underberg worldwide after a good meal."

Reina and a sea-food tapa.

Duke of Wellington - Southampton

Cemetery at Winchester Cathedral
In Memory of
Thomas Thetcher
a Grenadier in the North Reg.
of Hants Malitia, who died of a
violent Fever contracted by drinking
Small Beer when hot the 12th of May
1764. Aged 26 Years
In grateful remembrance of whose universal
good will towards his Comrades, this Stone
is placed here at their expence, as a small
testimony of their regard and concern.
Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier
Who caught his death by drinking cold small Beer,
Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall
And when ye're hot drink Strong or none at all.

These Scots are really a joyous couple.
You missed celebrating New Year on the QE2 with them.

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