Sunday, 5 August 2018

Craft Beer Guide to Berlin

It's taken me a while to get round to writing this post; it's something I probably should have written two years ago, and then a year ago but having come back from Berlin a month or two ago I think it's finally time to share my craft beer experiences!

I love traditional German lager and drinking in the proper locals pubs when I'm away but I also really enjoy seeking out the modern craft beer scene and Berlin certainly has a cracking one, so I'm going to tell you about some of my favourite craft beer spots in Berlin that you should visit.

Brewpubs:

Berlin has quite a few little brew pubs which are small and range from the traditional to the modern, all of which are pretty cool.

Vagabund Brewery - Vagabund is very modern and owned by American's I believe. It's a tiny, bright bar with a bit of street seating outside and maybe around 6 taps. You're probably not going to hear many conversations in German here! I had their American Pale Ale which was bright and hoppy as you'd expect.

Hops & Barley - This is a cool little place with the tiny brew kit proudly sitting in the main bar area; again, it's small with maybe around 4 taps. When I went, I had their IPA which really didn't impress me sadly.

BRLO - I've been a big fan of Brlo for quite a while after visiting their Brwfest last year (which sadly we missed by a week this time) and it was nice to come back and visit their massive, open sun trap of a beer garden. Brlo seems to encapsulate all styles of beer from traditional German pilsners and hefeweizens, all the way to hop forward pale ales and IPAs. I'm a big fan of their German IPA but I can't say I've ever had a bad beer from them!

Stone Brewing World - Yup, you'd expect this to be on the list! We visited last year and it is ridiculous... I don't think I've ever been in a bar that has so many taps (75!). It's just a big, beautiful building located in an old gas works and it's well worth visiting if you have the time, despite being around an hour from the centre of Berlin. Their core range beers which you've likely seen in Tesco are all good, but try some of their more experimental beers.

Heidenpeters - Located in the awesome Markthalle IX on the edge of trendy Kreuzberg, Heidenpeters is a must visit for modern and experimental styles of beer. Come here on Thursday evening for Street Food Thursdays where you can find any kind of food you could possibly want, and a deliciously creamy and hoppy Milkshake IPA.

Brauhaus Lemke - My advice is to visit the smaller Lemke under the railway arch and not the massive bar because the service is dreadful there. They brew a decent range of beers, the best of which is their Berliner Weisse.

Eschenbrau - This is my favourite brewpub that I've been to in Berlin. Weirdly, it appears to be attached to a kindergarden, so I can only assume that the brewer gets the kids to dig out the mash tun. They only have four beers on tap but we were so in love with the place that we decided to have all four.

The Bars:

Honestly, there are so many craft beer bars to choose from in Berlin ranging from international brands to new kids popping up selling all the craft beer that Germany and the rest of the world has to offer.

Brewdog - I guess I should probably mention the large international Scottish brewery. It's not much different to their bars here as they have a large amount of their own beers as well as other beers from around the world. The good news is that if you're an EFP shareholder, you can still redeem your discount here!

Mikkeller - Very bloody expensive but definitely worth popping in for some Scandi craft. It's a very modern and clean looking bar. Always a decent range of beers ranging from IPAs to sours and imperial stouts.

Protokoll - This was new to us but recommended by a few people. The focus here isn't so much on German craft beer as much as beer from the rest of the world. Naturally, I decided to go for the lagers that were available, Nordic Kiwi Brewers Lingon Lager was particularly crisp, dry and fruity.

LabOr - We fell in love with this bar after stumbling upon it accidentally! Apparently it's Hungarian owned so they mostly sell beers from their homeland, most notably from Mad Scientist Brewery. We ordered a tasting flight of 5x150ml beers to share which only cost around €9 which was really good value. All of the beers were pretty good but the standouts were West Coast Samurai IPA and Colonial English Bitter.

Hopfenreich - I think this was possibly the first craft beer bar to open in Berlin and definitely one of the best; it doesn't look like a modern craft beer bar as it's an old school street corner dive with the banks of taps converted from old industrial machinery and a taxidermied hedgehog. The line up here is predominantly German, and you'll always find beers from the Spent Collective; I usually order a Red Oat Ale which is full bodied, juicy and biscuity.

Monterey Bar - The last couple of times I've been to Berlin we didn't make it here so I made a point of doing so on our last trip. Again, it's a bit of a dive but I love it if only for the fact that you'll find heavy metal music blasting out of the speakers. The only negative for many people, however, will be that it is a smoking bar.

The Muted Horn - And finally, what is for my money the best craft beer bar in Berlin. Reasonable prices and a massive selection of beers from across Germany and the rest of the world. You'll usually find one line dedicated to a Franconian lager, a few Canadian beers, some Cloudwater and an ever changing range of German craft beer. It's always a difficult decision as to what to choose but you can't go wrong with anything on the board really! They'll occasionally have a street food truck outside but the great thing is that you're free to bring your own food in or order takeout!

There we have it; my almost complete line up of craft beer bars in Berlin. I'm sure there are loads more that I've not managed to go to so let me know where else I should head on my next trip!

Monday, 16 April 2018

Lidl Currywurst - A Review

Ah, Currywurst! A Berlin institution and indeed, if you've been to Berlin and didn't eat Currywurst whilst you were there, I'm not sure we can be friends.

My first Currywurst was on my first ever trip to Berlin in August 2016 where I stumbled upon a stall at the Street Theatre Festival on Alexanderplatz; I grabbed a cheap €3 plate as well as a beer and sat in the warm sun, and fell in love. Later on that trip I visited the Currywurst museum (yes, such a thing exists) and although a novelty, I feel it was possibly the wurst (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) eleven euros I've ever spent.

The premise of Currywurst, for those who don't know, is simple: It's effectively sliced boiled and fried sausage coated in a sweet curry ketchup and topped with curry powder; you'll usually find it served with chips and mayonnaise on nearly every street corner in Berlin.

I'd seen the famous CurryKing brand of microwavable Currywurst in supermarkets in Germany but never did I expect my eyes to cast upon microwavable Currywurst in a lowly Lidl in Norwich, and of course that's what led me to this review.

The Product:

A 220g plastic package of sliced bockwurst in curry ketchup with a sachet of curry power, and a wooden serving fork to give you that authentic Berlin street food experience. In fact I decided that instead of eating this at my kitchen table, I'd go stand outside the local corner shop with a bottle of Beck's in hand, but they told me to go away.

The Price:

It's a very reasonable £1.19 for one, or £2 for 2. Actually cheaper than CurryKing in Germany.

The Review:

They've used Bockwurst, which is possibly the worst German sausage they could have used. Bockwurst is a notoriously chewy sausage with a thick skin which makes it incredibly chewy and not ideal; it also has a very strong flavour by itself.

Currywurst sausage is typically more of a hot-dog/butchers sausage hybrid, and for the authentic East German way to eat it you ask for it without the skin.

The sauce itself is sticky, syrupy and sugary sweet; I'm not even really picking up any tomato flavour, but I get a bit of paprika. Looking at the packaging, it actually contains a whopping 26g of sugar.

The curry powder, although relatively mild, sprinkled on top really is the saviour of what is not a very good dish at all.



Conclusion:

What I thought could be a total game-changer for convenient and reasonably priced microwavable snack food is in fact a sticky, sweet mess with the wrong sausage. Of course, I didn't expect it to be on the same level as Curry Mitte on Torstrasse in Berlin, but I was indeed hoping for more.

Don't rush out. Just have a hotdog instead.

Nate

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Nuremberg Altstadtfest - Feeling the Culture

When we learnt that our last trip to Nuremberg would coincide with the Nuremberg Alstadtfest - or Old Town Festival - we got the impression that it was just a beer festival but as we discovered, it was so much more than that.

The Altstadtfest which happens over 12 days every September is effectively a festival which celebrates the beautiful city of Nuremberg. It spreads across the whole of the old town and as we discovered, it was incredible.

The main square is bustling full of stands selling traditional German food such as Drei Im Weggla (3 small Nuremberg Bratwurst in a bun, and for the love of god don't you fucking dare put ketchup on it) as well as various traders selling clothes and handmade items, and there's a giant stage where live music of all kinds takes place over the course of each day and evening until around midnight.

If you stand on the bridge on the south bank of the river Pegnitz, if you're lucky you might catch the water jousting which is a highly entertaining activity to watch.

And then you'll find the beer.

What I had imagined was something akin to Oktoberfest in Munich with tents and long tables but what we walked into was even more incredible. Around 30 breweries and establishments construct wooden restaurants and pubs with full kitchens, long tables, beer taps and honestly, it's like being in a proper restaurant; not like being in temporary construction that's only up for 12 days of the year.

We found the first small chunk of restaurants on Hans Sachs Platz, the smallest area, which has 10 places to sit and have a beer. We stopped at Pyraser first as we like their beers and it was unlikely we'd get a chance to visit Hutt'n where their beers are served this time. I had their Kellerbier which was a nice, slightly bitter, herbal and grassy hazy lager whilst Sammie went for the dark and roasty Schwarzbier.

After this we decided to wander to the main part of the Altstadtfest at Insel Schutt where we were overwhelmed by the choice of a further 20 bars and restaurants! We stopped for a quick hot dog and St Georgen Brau lager at the first stand we went to, the frothy and soft lager being served as I like it, in a stone mug.

We then stopped at Herrnbrau which was quiet during the day as it was tucked away at the back, behind everything else for yet another delicious lager.

Our next stop was the Bierwerk restaurant where I had some kind of amber lager which I wasn't a massive fan of as I'm not into amber beers. This was even quieter than Herrnbrau which I figured could be because they're a slightly more daring brewery among more well known and traditional Franconian brewery.

We were then wandering and about to go to Schanzenbrau as we loved their pub in Gostenhof the night before, but we saw Gutmann and had to go because Gutmann Hefeweizen is possibly my favourite hefeweizen of all time.

It was here we had quite a lot of beer because we struck up a conversation with a bunch of German chaps on the next table. They really know how to charm the British with one of the guys' opening lines being "Ah, so you're British. You are all fucking stupid for voting for Brexit" to which we could only respond with "Well we didn't, but your point stands. Fair play". The conversation, unsurprisingly, was rather political from then on. Lovely chaps who ended up buying us what they described as a "Brexit sympathy beer", which is fine as I'll always accept a free beer from a stranger! We bought them one back anyway in order to strengthen UK-German relations, and also because we wanted another beer!

Of course, this wasn't our only trip to the Altstadtfest whilst we were in Nuremberg because whilst pubs and restaurants fill up really quickly in the evenings, you've always got a spot on a bench next to a stranger!

I've never really seen anything quite like it; sure, in Norwich when we have an event like the Norfolk and Norwich festival on, they usually put a bar in a tent in Chapelfield Gardens but you're fucked if it rains, and you're lucky to get served a lukewarm hot dog let alone a full main meal of schweinbraten whilst chugging decent pints and chatting to random people who are also doing the same.

We absolutely loved the entire experience! Sure, it's not the cheapest way to drink in Nuremberg because beers are coming in close to €5 where the city average is probably around €3,50 but it was an awesome and sociable experience which I'd love to go back to and spend an entire day or two visiting each of the bars that we'd missed before grabbing a couple of bottles to watch the music in the hauptmarkt with!

Don't go to Oktoberfest, go to Nuremberg Altstadtfest instead.

Nate

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Craft Beer In Nuremberg - Step Away From Tradition

The first time we ever went to Nuremberg we were pretty unaware as to whether what we refer to as "craft beer" existed over there. Of course, we did research beforehand but I guess since it was our first trip there, we really just went to the obvious traditional restaurants, pubs and brewpubs that we'd read mostly about.

It wasn't until the second time I went, with Alec, that the craft beer scene was discovered; and then the next time last September with Sammie I discovered even more of this, outside of traditional lagers.

I absolutely love Nuremberg and I'd highly recommend visiting, so I just figured I'd share with you some places where you can step away from the tradition of Germany and find some delicious craft beer...

Mr Kennedy - When I first visited Mr Kennedy, it was a tiny dark and dingy little bar on what seemed like quite a sketchy and dark street just behind the city walls, and then they moved location to a bigger dark and dingy bar in the old town, just a couple of blocks over from the castle. Mr Kennedy is associated with New Beer Generation brewery so you'll always find a good bunch of theirs on the bar as well as a guest or two, and fridges full of bottles from all around the world (stands to make sense that they've got a decent American selection since Luke, who you'll usually find on the bar is American). The last time I was there I had a NBG Hop Pop IPA which was juicy and full of bubblegum, and was quite well balanced. [Location: 22 Brunnengäßchen Nuremberg]

Bierwerk - Quite a large and sterile craft beer bar which has a whopping 13 beers on draught which is probably the biggest selection of draught beers in Nuremberg. 3 of those beers are their own core range, as well as some of their seasonals, and the rest is sourced pretty much from all over Germany, as well as bottles from across the world. It was ragingly busy when we went, but thankfully it was a very warm September evening so we grabbed a half litre of their Marzen (Oktoberfest beer) from the bar and sat outside. I much preferred their Marzen to many I've had before because it had a decent hop bite and thankfully wasn't as sweet as the style usually dictates. The most random thing about this bar was that we found a Blue Monkey Brewery (Nottingham) beer mat! I'd like to go back for a cheese board sometime when it's not so busy. [Location:  Unschlittpl. 9, 90403 Nürnberg]

Boeheim Bar - This is the first of the Boeheim Brewery's two locations which are both in the centre of Nuremberg. This is a tiny, and very shiny bar with a familiar back of the bar tap wall which has 5 taps, as well as a few bottles. As well as drinking in, they also have 1L bottles that they'll fill for you to take home. When I visited, the only food available were hot dogs that were warmed up in one of those novelty home hot dog makers. I recall having their IPA and Hell here, which were both respectable; the IPA being more malty and English style, but still with a decent chunk of citrus. [Location: Klaragasse 11, Nuremberg]

Boeheim Bierhalle - A slightly larger bar/restaurant and literally only a couple of streets over from their original bar. This has outside seating, 6 taps and serves BBQ food (which I will be coming back for). I had yet another Marzen here, and it was good. It had a slight candy sugar sweetness but it seems they're trying to modernise it with a little more fruitness. [Location: Brunnengasse 11, Nuremberg]

Kater Murr - Again, this is very much in the city centre, just off of Konigstrasse, so it's easy to get
to. I believe the name translates to "Tomcat" which is funny since we met a lovely doggo here. This place is quite big, bright and I'd go so far as to describe it as "very Shoreditch" as people sit sipping coffee with their mac books. This bar has Teku glasses. I had a fairly unremarkable Green MONKey Hersbrucker imperial pilsner but Sammie chose correctly and went for Orcabrau Kirschenwäldchen cherry gose which was deliciously sour, salty and bursting with fruit. [Location: Johannesgasse 14, Nuremberg]

Café Bar Wanderer & Bieramt - This is probably my favourite craft beer bar in Nuremberg. It's only a VERY tiny place with a few taps, only a few tables and some seats at the bar but in the summer, it spills out into the streets with wobbly tables on the cobbles. The square that it's in is a proper sun trap and the ideal place to soak up the sun with a beer. Last time I was there was a very hot September day so we sat outside drinking juicy and hazy pints of Braustelle Helios, a Kolsch but not as you know it. I could be so bold and say that it was hitting the juice levels of citra heavy Kernel beers; it was just so good. [Location: Beim Tiergärtnertor 6]

I love Germany, in particularly I love Franconia. Nuremberg is such a nice, traditional city with plenty of old buildings and in a way it reminds me of Norwich with the sheer amount of churches and cobbled streets.

Underneath the tradition and in the background, modern beer is starting to poke through if my extensive research is anything to go by. There are some great bars and breweries doing more fun and untraditional beers which is great to see and again, seeing the craft beer scene in Nuremberg develop reminds me of how I've seen the scene in Norwich grow and I'm excited to see what happens next!

if you just want more traditional beer in the city, check out my blog from a couple of years ago: http://www.boozebeatsbites.co.uk/2016/06/places-we-drank-in-nuremberg.html

Nate

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Golden Pints 2017

Last year I tried my hardest to write my Golden Pints and ended up giving up because it was a year in which I did so much and visited so many different places so I just couldn't make any decisions. This year I've possibly visited even more places, and tasted even more beers so it's still difficult but I'm determined to get something down.

Best UK Cask Beer:

Honestly, I'm still drinking less and less cask beer than I ever have in the past although I've still drunk a lot of it. Here I could just default to a beer that I know I've loved for ages, but I won't. The cask beer from 2017 that really sticks out in my mind is Elusive Brewing Level Up Red IPA; I spent a night in the Plasterers for landlord Craig's birthday a few weeks ago and he'd invited Andy from Elusive down to Norwich along with Iain from Wild Weather to host a tap takeover, and out of all of the great beers I tried that night I just kept going back for Level Up with its juicy, tropical and almost dank and sticky hoppiness paired with a strong red malted backbone. I went back the next day for more, naturally.

Other notable cask beers I've enjoyed a lot are Grain Rye Pale, Almasty Session IPA and Tiny Rebel Juicy.

Best UK Keg Beer:

This is an easy one given my love for quality lagers... Lost and Grounded Keller Pils is as good as any top of the line lager I've had in Germany. It's crisp, fresh and highly smashable. I just wish it was available on tap here all of time.

Other notable keg beers from this year are Thornbridge Lukas, Adnams Earl Grey Lager & Three Blind Mice Juice Rocket.

Best UK Small Pack:

To be honest I'm pretty much blind to whether a beer comes in a bottle or can; it really doesn't matter to me so I don't think it's necessary to have separate sections like many people do. Fourpure Juicebox has been outstanding every time I've had a can of it this year because it does what it says on the tin, it's bursting full of hoppy fruit juice flavours but isn't overly sweet so I can literally chug a bag of cans.

I've had a lot of other great small pack beers too obviously, with highlights being Burnt Mill Pintle, Magic Rock Shredder & Weird Beard Gumball.

Best Overseas Draught Beer:

This is possibly even harder than the British section considering I've spent 5 days in Prague and 16 days in Germany this year (as well as a few hours in Austria) and have had the pleasure of visiting many little towns and villages whilst I've been there.

The thing is, as many decent IPAs or other non-traditional European style beers I've had it's the lager I go to the mainland for. It was only this year that I first tried Tegernseer Hell (Germany) and it fast became a favourite after finding a bar in Munich in May where I sat alone chugging pint after pint at the €2,50 Happy Hour. It's just crisp, refreshing and so chuggable because in Germany the beer is never overchilled.

Other highlights were Orcabrau Wanderlust (Germany), Permon Cryohop Mosaic (Czech Republic) & Mahrs U (Germany).

Best Overseas Small Pack:

I'll be damned if this isn't one of the easiest sections, even though I've been spoiled rotten with even more great bottled and canned beers from abroad. When I visited Stiegl Brewery in Salzburg for a day back in May I was lucky enough to try some rare bottled beers from their cellar. The beer that absolutely blew me away was Stiegl Jahrgangsbier 2015 - Sonnenkönig II (Austria), a tequila barrel aged double witbier. Holy fuck, it was beautiful. You could taste the barrel ageing and sweet agave from the tequila which married well with the classic orange and coriander flavours of a witbier. I only had a few mouthfuls in the tasting cellar but popped the cap back on and snuck it out with me, only to drink the rest on the train back to Munich.

Some other packaged overseas beers I've really enjoyed are Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout (USA), Evil Twin Old Fashioned Lemonade IPA (USA) & Berliner Kindl Pilsner (Germany).

Best Collaboration Beer:

I've got a bit of an issue with collaboration beers unless it's for a particular special event, but I'll save that for another time. One thing I'll say though is that I've probably had tons of collaboration beers this year, but they're not always labelled properly in pubs.

My favourite has been Duration / Left Handed Giant Strategic Partnership which I spent an evening drinking with Bates & Miranda from Duration. It was murky as hell, and juicy as hell. Would totally drink again.

Other notables include Duration / Deya This Ain't My First Rodeo & Brewdog Berlin / BRLO Dr Frank's Happy Pils.

Best Overall Beer:

Lost and Grounded Keller Pils. Just send a keg to my house please.

Best Branding:

The new Suffolk brewery Burnt Mill have awesome branding. The keg badges look great and the cans look even better.

Best UK Brewery:

This is bloody difficult but I reckon Magic Rock because I will order one of their beers every time I see it on keg or cask, and grab their cans every time I see them. They're just consistently good and have a broad range of beers.

Honourable mentions for Thornbridge and of course Oakham.

Best Overseas Brewery:

Again, I've been spoiled this year but I'll go for Pivovar Matuska (Czech Republic). They brew hop forward beers like Raptor and Apollo Galaxy IPA and I'll order them every time I see them. In fact this year in Prague I think we walked about 2 miles to a bar we'd not been to before just in the hope they had a Matuska Beer. They did.

Special mentions for BRLO (Germany) & Stiegl (Austria).

Best New Brewery Opening:

I've really been impressed with two new breweries locally - Burnt Mill & Ampersand and can expect to see big things from them in the future. And of course you have to look out for Duration because if their collabs have been anything to go by...

UK Pub/Bar of the Year:

The Plasterers Arms in Norwich, obviously. Everything from the best cask & keg beers in the country, to the biggest bottle list in Norwich that's packed full of rarities from around the world, the frequent tap takeovers, the delicious pizzas and the complimentary rude service from Craig, the Manager makes it the best pub in Norwich.

Other pubs I enjoyed drinking were The Stoneworks in Peterborough and Brewdog Norwich.

Best New UK Pub/Bar of the Year:

Downstairs at Hawthorne in Norwich. It's not a craft beer bar and primarily a cocktail bar, but they do have decent beers like Trumans Lager on tap. Besides, mine's an Old Fashioned.

Best Overseas Bar of the Year:

The Muted Horn in Berlin was an absolute standout bar for me this year... 22 taps of incredible craft beer from all around the world at reasonable prices in the heart of Berlin along with the friendliest service we got in Berlin.

Other overseas bars I absolutely loved were Klub Malych (Pilsen) and Pivovarsky Klub (Prague).

Best New Overseas Bar of the Year:

I have to pick Beertime in Prague for this one because we stay in Smichov every time we go to Prague and up until now, the immediate area to where we stay has been devoid of craft beer up until now. Prices were reasonable, the courtyard was sunny and you can get a pint of Double IPA served in a Nonic pint glass for around £3.

The only other I can think of is Boeheim Bierhalle in Nuremberg which was great.

Best Brewery Tap of the Year:

Obviously Stone Brewing World & Bistro in Berlin. 75 taps of deliciousness in a massively awesome space. Only downside is how far out of the centre it is!

See also Schanzenbrau in Nuremberg and Stiegl Brauwelt in Salzburg.

Best Beer Festival of the Year:

I've already written about this but BRLO Brwfest is exactly how it should be done. We had an awesome day there, drinking beer from all around Europe in the sun with new friends.

Supermarket of the Year:

Without a shadow of doubt it's Marks and Spencer. They seem to have cut their range down quite a bit now, but it's for the best because they've really looked at which beers sell and focus on them. Plus they're making waves with selling full cases of beer from the likes of Fourpure and Adnams, which is a tick in my book.

Independent Retailer of the Year:

I am so, so happy that ABV Store opened on Norwich Market this year because it's an absolute blessing. Dan mostly only ever seems to buy one case of each beer which means that almost every time you go in there you'll find something new, but on the flip side if you miss it and it's only a special you'll miss out. Thankfully it's right in the city centre so I can visit on my lunchbreak. Norwich has needed a central bottle shop forever.

Best Beer Blog or Website:

Mate, of course it's Mark Johnson with his blog Beer Compurgation because he's a bloody good and passionate writer, and 99% of the time I can't disagree with anything he says.

Shout out to Andrew Fitchett with his blog Hot Break, too because he's the other Norwich Beer Blogger!

Simon Johnson Award for Best Twitterer:

I'm gonna go for Pilot Brewery because they're just hilarious. I'll leave you with this tweet below:




And I think that's it for this year. I drank so many great beers, in awesome places with some really nice people and it was just so difficult trying to write this in the first place. See you soon for more blogs.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Pubs of Norwich: The Dyers Arms

This is a series of posts where I am planning on visiting every single pub in Norwich regardless of any preconceived views about them. Even if I have been to a pub previously, I won't blog about it until I revisit it for this specific purpose.

It's one of those pubs that nobody has ever heard of unless you've lived near it; it's been there for years, so what's it like?

The Location:

It's on a street corner near several other pubs, and a couple of kebab shops in the Sprowston area of Norwich.

The Pub:

It's grotty and grimey, not exactly small and has a double sided bar, a dart board, a TV and weird seating around the edges of the room instead of in the middle.

The Food & Drink:

Any hopes of a gastronomic or craft experience can go out of the window, and on my visit you couldn't even hope for a brown, twiggy real ale as both hand pumps looked like they haven't seen any use since the conception of CAMRA 40 odd years ago.

The keg taps were blessed with delights such as Carling, John Smith's, Kronenbourg and Theakston Mild.

No Guinness on tap here, but there was a surger on the bar.

If you're wishing to dine, you're in luck because you can have a probably out of date packet of crisps or nuts.

Events:

Late enough on a weekend night you'll probably see a lot of eventful happenings, but a tap takeover it is not. I was told once by an ex-colleague that about 20 years ago he was at his girlfriend's house one night and decided to run across to the pub to buy a packet of condoms from the vending machine; he walked in and someone hit him with a bar stool. Never found out whether his condom mission was a success.

Oh, they show sports too. Unclear whether they actually pay for a Sky TV pub license.

Atmostphere:

Whatpub describes it as "a homely, cosy & friendly pub" but I would certainly not. It's grim and dusty. Not been cleaned since 1963. 

My Visit:

I walked in and got weird looks; I stepped up to the bar and scanned the taps before ordering a pint of Carling because it doesn't seem like the kind of place where you're allowed to order a half. Once the locals (who were shoving as much double cheap spirit and coke down their necks as possible) realised that I'm not a cop, it was OK but still weird.

I took my pint of Carling outside in the cold and stood at a bench that looks like it'd collapse beneath me if I sat on it and contemplated the fact that I never really have any intention of returning.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Pubs of Norwich: The Fat Cat

This is a series of posts where I am planning on visiting every single pub in Norwich regardless of any preconceived views about them. Even if I have been to a pub previously, I won't blog about it until I revisit it for this specific purpose.

Of course the first I start with is an easy one as it's my local; it's a pub I've been going to on a regular basis ever since I was first legally old enough to drink alcohol, and now it's my local being a 2 minute walk from my house.

The Fat Cat is a pub that every fan of real ale has heard of, from Penzance to Dundee, and indeed I've met people from outside of the UK that has heard of it's legendary status.

The Location:

The Fat Cat is located on a street corner just off of Dereham Road in Norwich, on the corner of Nelson and West End Street. It's easily a 15 minute walk from the city centre.

The Pub:

It's a fairly spacious pub with tables on the street outside, and plenty of seating inside including a back room which they open on busy evenings as long as it's not hired out for a private event.

Everywhere you look, the pub is covered in vintage breweriana and advertising from Black Cat Cigarettes, original Bullards windows that are still intact, and old Adnams signage. Looking up at the ceiling you'll see tons of old serving jugs and tankards hanging there.

Food and Drink:

It is primarily a traditional real ale pub so on the bar you'll find 12 hand pumps, along with another 15 beers served from gravity. The Fat Cat owns its own brewery so you'll usually see at least four of theirs on the pumps which start at a reasonable £3ish a pint for their Best Bitter (oh I remember when it was £1.80 and I'm sure some people remember when it was even cheaper). They always have a good selection of almost every style you can think of on cask, so there really is something for everyone. Usually you'll find Oakham Green Devil, something else local from Adnams or Lacons, and treats from further afield like Dark Star or Marble. If you're lucky they'll be serving Bass on gravity.

Moving on to the keg taps, they have 6 taps that always serve Belgian fruit beers, a standalone ornate Erdinger fount, a group four lagers/ciders which delightfully serves Budvar and 4 taps dedicated to craft keg. Usually a good mix too, but nothing too crazy or expensive and usually contains something from Marble, so I'm happy.

There's not much in the bottled selection anymore, a few Belgians and Sam Smiths but when there's so much choice on draught that's not an issue.

They also have a large selection of real ciders, a small selection of wines and some spirits for those not into beer. Soft drinks come in the form of cans of coke, and a selection of more interesting canned soft drinks.

Good luck if you're hoping to get a decent meal here because you have three options for food, just as an old fashioned pub does: Crisps, mighty pork pies and, if you're lucky, hand made cling film wrapped rolls which run out VERY quickly.

Events:

You don't really get events at the Fat Cat because it is what it is... just a pub. Although they'll usually do something like dedicate a certain amount of pumps to a certain brewery to coincide with Norwich Beer Festival, like recently they had Timothy Taylor Week.

Atmosphere:

You'll be hard pressed to find a time when it isn't busy, and when you don't struggle to find a seat which is usually the mark of a good pub. In the summer, you'll see people lined up on the curbside outside, hoping their pint glass doesn't slide off the window ledge, then diving for a bench the moment it looks like a group is moving on.

My visit for this post:

It was relatively quiet for a Friday night and we managed to get a seat without any hassle. We noticed that they'd decided to get in on the trendy mulled cider game, which Sammie indulged in, whereas I had my standard couple of pints of Oakham Green Devil which was a very nice drink and went down well.

All in all, the Fat Cat really is a must visit pub for anyone coming to the area.