Tuesday, 29 July 2014

London Craft Beer Festival 2014 preview

Imagine being able to go to a beer festival, where all of the bars are manned by the breweries representing them AND beer is included in your ticket price.

I’m just going to let that sink in for a while.

You ready yet?

Yes, at London Craft Beer Festival all of the beer from each the 24 breweries is included in your £35 (+booking fee) ticket price. For that money you can have a ‘small pour’ of every single beer in there, if you wish, as well as 4 ‘big pours’ which amount to 1/3rd pint each… you also get your LCBF glass and a program with information of all of the breweries involved.

This kind of beer festival is based on ones you find in America. They’re not like the ones here where you pay to get in, pay for a glass then pay for all of your beer. You get to try everything if you want, for one price. I think it’s a great concept because for me, a beer festival is all about trying as many different beers as possible.

Amongst the breweries represented will be British household names like Thornbridge and Brewdog, with smaller London breweries such as Howling Hops and Pressure Drop alongside foreign legends like Sierra Nevada from California & Evil Twin from Denmark/Brooklyn.

It’s an exciting line-up this year for sure, especially since the people pouring your beers are from said breweries!

I’m incredibly excited about going to the Sunday Session and hopefully I’ll see you there!

Check out the website for more information on the event, and to buy tickets: http://www.londoncraftbeerfestival.co.uk/


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!


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!


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.


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.