Derby City Bimble picturebook: what you missed

Bimble. verb walk or travel at a leisurely pace noun a leisurely walk or journey, a simple amble but with a little more discipline


.. we ate biscuits shaped a bit like a cock and balls

... we met in the Alexandra Hotel and drank Oakham Green Devil. And then some more.

... and the Lovely Unicorn jumped over the Rainbow Pinata

... although the Rainbow Pinata seemed in need of a ladytrim

... and then we went to the Smithfield

... and ate pickled onions from bags of crisps

... before drinking pints of Chiron in the Exeter Arms. And eating £16 worth of chips. And not even having to suggest to Richard Mackney that he dress up like Obi-Wan Kenobi

... before an impromptu game of football against the Silk Mill gates

... and making it eventually to the Furnace Inn for Salty Dog crisps

... and golf with Rainbow Pinata

... which was eventually decapitated by a man with a lower handicap than mine

There was also a water pistol fight, a broken finger, beers so rare that they will never officially exist and that shot wot I struck with the outside of my right foot that took out a pint glass which landed upside down on the concrete floor without smashing.

But everyone's batteries seemed to have run out by then.

So... just an average Saturday afternoon out with some never-average people.

Want to be involved in the future destruction of children's toys and eat whatever free stuff I can blag?

Advance notice - Derby Summer Bimble will be sometime mid-August. Expect dress to be fancy and faces to be painted.

Thanks to Colin Mitchell, Richard Mackney and other bimblers for the photos >


So, like, there was this bloke who had like a pint of whatever and we were like, dude, whatever! Seriously? Dude! Get an app!

Then, like, this guy who does video about beer dissed this guy who dissed this other guy by drinking beer on video that the other guy who does video about beer should have given to this other guy who does video about beer to drink but drank in on video instead of passing it to the other guy who drinks beer on video to drink it on video.

And then there was the beer that everyone wanted* that everyone went to buy except everyone bought it so you couldn't buy it even if it you wanted it but it turns out that if you really wanted it then your mate in salmon coloured trousers bought three bottles and only gave it 3.4 anyway which is OK but not really awesome though he got a T-shirt but he already sold it on eBay. And it's still on tap anyway.

Deep breath, people.

Have your harrumph.

Get back to just having a beer and chilling the fuck out.

You know how to enjoy beer, don't you?

You just part your lips and...

* not everyone actually wanted it. They'd like to try it. But then they'd also like to try a zero-G blow job


Bimble Update

The Derby City Bimble is getting so close you can almost feel its breath on the back of your neck. Which is quite creepy.

Here's a very, very rough running order. All times subject to change depending on the weather, the availability of chips and how many times people fall in the river.

Saturday 18th May - Derby City Bimble

1000 Pre-bimble breakfast at Baked on The Strand if anyone's interested

1100 Meet at the Alex Hotel for Reading Of The Rules and beer

1300-ish Arrive at Smithfield for more beer

1400-ish Arrive at Exeter Arms for beer and chips.

1530-ish Maybe find another pub close by if the weather's not peeing it down.

1700-ish End at Furnace Inn for a few special bottles, Salty Dog crisps, Freedom Of The Balloon ceremony and the Ritual Beheading of the Pinata Donkey. And more beer. Followed by taxis / police vans home.

If you're not going to be at the Alex for 1100, updates to route progress will be posted on the Facebook page and tweeted @simonhjohnson. Probably.

Update: Because Richard Mackney likes doing this sort of thing, here's a map of the route. Albeit we'll deviate slightly. And it doesn't show the lapdancing class that I've booked for the afternoon...

View Derby City Bimble in a larger map >

Money for old rope

You know it. We know it. Craft rope is AWESOME! You want to know more? You want to know about its history and how it's now been twisted into something AWESOME!

Then sign up NOW for our tutored session!

Your guide* will make you suffer entertain you with a multimedia-socially-networked-crowdsourced presentation **  that features:

- the history of traditional old rope and its crafters

-  a fully interactive session on how the building blocks of old rope are brought together in the magical equation of yarn + strand +  twist = rope.

- the myths stories behind how the export of old rope to India revolutionised the market for old rope

- how old rope now inspires a whole new generation of AWESOME braided rope artisans who work with cutting-edge materials in a converted nuclear bunker to supply hand-crafted new rope to the discerning new rope aficionados (and Tesco)

The price includes three samples of locally sourced old rope for you to love and cherish. And, maybe, pass on to your grandchildren***

* Identity of guide is subject to availability and whoever's written a blog we liked that week. Red trousers available in Camden only. Ironic beard and tattoos available at all venues.

** Words and pictures from Wikipedia

*** old rope may rot to buggeration if not kept within tight quality control parameters. And we don't know what those parameters are. Sorry.

Note - any resemblance between this lame parody and certain beer tasting experiences that really ought to know better is purely intentional. But it's not the one you're thinking of. Honest. >

Sheffield suburbs for a Thornbridge trio

A Saturday to explore the suburbs of Sheffield. Well, to get out to three Thornbridge-owned pubs and bars. If I can leave the railway station.

It’s only 10:30 but the bar of the Sheffield Tap is already almost full. Football fans are passing through on towards grounds away from the city as well to watch the Blades later. Yet the splendidly-restored Edwardian dining room at the back is empty.

The panorama takes in ornate tiling and sparkling chandeliers, plump leather chairs and the buffed copper of the onsite Tapped Brewery. I sit at the back in a studded, oxblood-red, wingback Chesterfield, listening to the brewery splutter softly and sip slowly on a glass of Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. It’s difficult to leave it all behind.

Abbeydale Road goes by slowly; the bus stuttering past an almost never-ending parade of sleeping takeways (Noodle Love, Magic Wok, Deli Bellyz) and retail gems (Rhythm and Booze, the body-building supplement shop called MyWhey). Eventually, there’s a sliver of green; Millhouses Park leading down to a crossroads and The Beauchief Hotel.

It's easy enough to find Jack's Bar, through a suntrap garden and into a muted green room where lazy tunes are playing to no-one. Maybe seven Thornbridge beers between cask and keg. A sharp-moustached barman appears. Am I too early? "Never too early for Jaipur", he says, as he pours me a just-cold-just-so kegged pint. I sit down and look out over the garden; red carpet waiting for a bride later. Half a dozen bar and kitchen staff help shift a piano between rooms. As I leave, someone tries to tease it into tinkling.

One wrong turn, one ceaseless hill in a hailstorm and one late bus later, the Cross Scythes. Planked floors, wooden inlaid panels behind the bar, a hint of green glazed brick, striking wallpaper that's... foxgloves? A similar range of Thornbridge beers as before plus bottled gems like Heather Honey and Bracia in the fridges. Tzara on tap is itchy with a dough undercurrent. Jaipur on cask is sweeter than her keg sister but I'd still spend all evening with both of them.

A gentle ebb and flow to the place, buggies negotiated in and out of the billiard room, newspaper readers rise infrequently to the bar and back. My friend's Alsatian does an excellent impression of a large, dead Alsatian, stretched out across the floor. I'm too busy chatting to explore; to nose into the glass-fronted function room, to wonder if there are foxgloves on the walls of the billiard room too.

Then, a proper walk; downhill. We drop through Meersbrook Park where the south of the city stretches out up front. Where a man sits with his back to a tree and his hand down his trousers because, I am reliably informed by my friend, he is playing with his ferrets. Then through another hailstorm, across arterial roads, along evergreen avenues, to the Stag's Head.

A buzzier feel to this place. It's late Sunday afternoon and the Sharrow Vale set are out for a late lunch. We bag a large table by the window; hipsters and yummys and dinkys crowd the bar. Tzara continues to scratch a thirsty itch. Baize is indeed a mint chocolate stout but it's in the mould of Aero, slightly slick, slightly sticky, almost fatty. Chipolatas with Wild Swan are OK. Black pudding fritters fried in Lord Marples batter are slices of genius.

The geographer in me likes to put in the footwork and go discover a city. Not just its obvious treasures, but its backstreets and ginnels, fringe parkland and long views, rainy lanes and relentless hills. And in Sheffield's case, now more than ever, gems of pubs and bars.


A beer for Alex Ferguson

And lo, it came to pass. Sir Alex Ferguson, despite eleventy-dozen years of success with Manchester United, finally retires. Twenty-six years, from the golden age of hip-hop to the urgent need for hip op.

I feel the need for someone to brew a commemorative beer. If anyone wants to take this on, here's a few style pointers.

- must be red
- laced with Scotch
- slight whiff of horse blanket acceptable
- very bitter
- late additions mandatory (up to seven minutes after the brew has gone off the boil)
- to be served with an overbearing sense of self-belief and arrogance (so it's proper craft too)
- not for sale in Liverpool
- late ingestion may result in squeaky bum*

Optional bottle label text: "The greatest challenge is not what's brewing at the moment, the greatest challenge is knocking craft brewers right off their fucking perch. And you can print that".

His legacy may be aged in a dry Portuguese cask to enhance the nutty characteristics. As opposed to being aged in a Watford plastic Jackett.

Any takers?

* thanks to Matt Clarke** for that suggestion. Not, not that Matt Clarke. The other one.

** make that Matt Clark. Without the E. As opposed to the Matt Clarke with an E***.

*** not a drug reference


Think of a colour

Word association time. I'm going to give you a beer description; I want you to think of a colour.


Here we go...


Thought of a colour? Was it...

auburn or beige or bistre or bronze

or camel or chestnut or coffee or copper

or fallow or khaki or ochre or russet

or sandy or tawny or tan or umber

or... BROWN?

I started thinking about this at a beer festival recently; the Holly Bush at Makeney had this key for its beers:

And then found this on Marston's website to describe their beer range:

(interesting amber = pale suggestion there).

And I've seen beer boards give scales of 1-5 to indicate colour from light to dark, like this at Derby's Furnace Inn:

Is brown boring? It is stock full of connotations; Manns and Newcastle and Nut Brown? Is it beyond post-ironic; Indian Brown and Hazel Brown?

Does brown = twiggy? Pale = hoppy?

Is brown beer the jazz equivalent of trad? If so, does that make pale the equivalent of bebop? White stout the equivalent of acid jazz?

Too many questions? Let's stop with one more.

If brown beer didn't exist, would you want to invent it?


Sh!t beer geeks say

There's an \m/ awesome \m/ video doing the rounds in promotion of Good Beer Week in Melbourne, Australia. Like all the best satire, it's funny because it has more than a grain of truth to it.


Put a few beery scamps together and there's often attempts at nailing jelly to the table - I mean, describing flavour and aroma to an nth degree: "rotten fruit, peat moss, marzipan or almond"... yeah, I've been there.

And, yes, we can be a tad overexuberant: "WOW! SNIFF THAT!"

But the ones that really made me wince are those that combine arrogance with ignorance and end up sounding embarrassing; hands up if you've ever wanted to slap someone when they say:

"That's hideously infected - unless it's a lambic, in which case it's awesome!"

"This brewery's really gone downhill since they added the extra capacity"

and my all-time fave,

"That definitely could be hoppier".

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Try and make it an informed one.

Understand how off-flavours and taints differ in their cause and effect.

Understand that changes to capacity can make you think differently about a brewer but the actual physical taste differs rarely. If you want to think big is bad, your taste perception will change.

Understand that a brewer brews a beer to their specification. For their market. If it's not hoppy enough for you, drink different.

Don't criticise a beer for not being what it doesn't set out to be - that's like moaning about white chocolate not being bitter enough.

Anyway. Grab a beer and watch this: more of the same but different from Two Girls One Pint:


Derby City Bimble, Saturday 18th May

It's bimble time.

Saturday 18th of May. Meet at the Alexandra, Derby from 11am. Wander upriver via several pubs (Smithfield, Exeter Arms, maybe the Peacock, maybe the Little Chester Ale House). End up at the Furnace Inn for their Shiny beers, hopefully some new keg stuff, possibly some bottles, maybe a game of darts. Or human Jenga.

Facepaint not mandatory but certainly encouraged.

If you have any of the following, bring them along;

- ukulele
- pantomime horse costume
- inflatable surfboard
- Inigo Montoya wig
- Border Morris troupe
- My Little Pony helium balloon

Prizes will be awarded for Most Outlandish Shirt and Best Use Of The Word 'Wibble'.

Bonus points if anyone orders a pint of mild.

See you at the Alex. if you haven't met me before, I'll be the chap standing at the bar with an inflatable surfboard. Saying "Wibble". >

Boris drinks Bass in Burton

"Evening, Boris!"

It had been a long, long afternoon. Taking a hangover to the cricket seemed the decent thing to do. Derbyshire v Notts developed slower than a Pinter play. I slept the sleep that only county cricket fans know;  inevitable yet dangerous, as a thud through point peppered the seats nearby.

But I'd promised to go to Burton that evening. To be fair, Beer Town has very few reasons to make even the most beeriest of beer fans go there. But the Coopers Tavern is one of them. And the Honourable Order of Bass Drinkers is another.

Formed in 1967 by sports writers on the Manchester Evening News, the HOBD still gather and revel in their love of draught Bass. Every year they journey to Burton to tour the brewery (now at Marston's) and drink at the Coopers Tavern. And I took up their invitation to join them.

For those readers unfortunate enough to have never met me in person, I am blessed with a corpulent mien and a hairdo that resembles an exploding hay bale. Not dissimilar to a certain journalist-cum-politician with whom I share a surname. And a love of bangers and mash.

Hence the bellowed welcome.

After that? Well, what happens at the Coopers stays at the Coopers. Suffice to say that the chairman ensures that glasses never remain empty, a swift nod to the treasurer leads to more and evermore Bass arriving at table. Banter is redefined by a bunch of blokes who have been taking the piss out of each other for a long time. Grown men cry with laughter.

And all because there's a beer called Bass, one that some drinkers felt was worth fighting to find, one that they pride themselves on draining nowadays wherever available. From before CAMRA was founded, a mission undiluted, a motto pure and simple - "Never do things by halves".

The next time I meet up with them, I promise I'll actually ask them some questions. Like, was Bass really better back in the day - whenever that day was. Like, what draws you towards drinking Bass to the practical exclusion of other beers?

Like, what do I need to do to be voted in as a full member and be awarded one of those ties?


Pubs & me & Gin & It

Quarterly journals are growing in popularity. Strong on content and low on adverts, they provide a platform upon which feature writing can shine.

Some of my favourite cricket and football writers are featured in The Blizzard and The Nightwatchman; publications characterised by high-quality production values and engaging journalism.

If only there was something like that for thinking drinkers...

(drum roll / cymbal crash)

Gin & It is an elegantly illustrated journal crammed full of quality writing on a whole host of drink-fuelled shenanigans. The current issue romps across twenty-four topics such as accidental cocktails, notes from a helixophile and the art of bespoke gin making. 

And I write about being down the pub and drinking alone but not being alone. Sort of.

I'm proud to be part of this. It goes to show that the printed word isn't ready to shuffle off for last orders just yet.

You can subscribe to Gin & It via their website or buy single issues from Foyles and Magma in London. If I find out anything more about distribution elsewhere, I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, you can follow Gin & It on Twitter  (@ginanditmag).

I wish to make a complaint

My old mate Hugh has sent me a letter. He can't quite remember which establishment provoked his splenetic outburst, so he's asked me to post it here in the vain hope that some licencee will recognise themselves.

"I wish to make a complaint. Last night I was SHOCKED and APPALLED to find you retailing beer at SEVEN POUNDS A PINT. It said it was beer; however it appears to have been some of that so-called 'craft' NONSENSE with a stupid name that I couldn't understand. I was even offered a taster. I proudly refused. That's how CRACK PUSHERS get people 'hooked'.

Now I was - of course - actually drinking my usual, Throxheard's Old Unobtainable, which was was perfectly cask-conditioned AND very reasonably priced at THREE POUNDS STERLING a pint EVEN THOUGH you still persist in NOT OFFERING A DISCOUNT based on your flimsy logic that it's brewed next door to the pub and so couldn't possibly be sold any cheaper.

Just because this so-called craft-so-called-beer has high production costs due to the high quality of ingredients used and has then been shipped half way around the world and been subject to punitive taxation and import charges and is best appreciated by the half-pint with food DOES NOT GIVE YOU THE RIGHT to charge SEVEN POUNDS for a 'beer' that is TOO COLD and NOT BROWN.

My wife agrees, of course, although she is, of course, a wine drinker. By the way, she says that she is happy with the very reasonably priced house white wine of yours. 

And that she was more that happy to pay twice its price for a glass of that limited-release from the small vineyard that you got in. She said it offered great levels of depth and complexity and was unusual to see such a wine on offer in a UK bar.

In fact, she's even happy to have the occasional glass of that cold, fizzy wine that costs four times the price of the house white. On occasion. 

Whereas I am still VERY ANGRY INDEED that you deign to charge TWICE THE PRICE OF MY USUAL PINT AT LEAST for some beers, if they are indeed beer. I know EVERYTHING about beer- I went on a brewery tour in 1983 AND SPOKE TO A BREWER.

If you persist in this DISCRIMINATORY PRICING and offer SO-CALLED CRAFT - which nobody wants and nobody can afford and is basically more offensive that HITLER SHITTING ON MY GRANDMOTHER'S BED - I shall take my custom to the local Wetherspoons. Or I would, except the Daily Mail once ran a story that said their SO-CALLED CUSTOMERS are actually all immigrant ex-bankers with COMMUNICABLE DISEASES.


Hugh Jarse
Little Dribblington,

PS - if I win the meat raffle, can you fix it for me to have the sausages? Venison gives me heartburn"


Drinking About Life

Get my hair cut, go meet an old mate in the town where we grew up, go to Nottingham for a gig, drink beer.

It's good to have a plan.

As the day involved walking into some pubs I hadn't drank in for over twenty years, I'd no idea what beers I'd find. So maybe looking into what I drank, where I drank it and why would give me clues as to why this scooper is getting ever more Reluctant.

Babington Arms, Derby. Good George Pacific Pearl (cask). Because the barber's was shut and I fancied a pint. And I was glad of the opportunity to try the beer (which was lovely: hints at coffee, treacle, grapefruit, marmalade)

Standing Order, Derby. Vasileostrovsky Siberian Red (cask). Because the barber's up the road was shut too. And a few people had mentioned that this beer was one of the more impressive ones in the Wetherspoon's festival (which is was; strawberry on leather)

Exeter Arms, Derby. Thornbridge Chiron (keg). Because I was waiting for a bus and had twenty minutes to spare. And I bloody love Chiron (which was born to be kegged and let no cask evangelist tell you otherwise)

Sun Inn, Eastwood. Stella Artois (keg). Because I fancied a lager. And this pub, birthplace of the Midland Railway and mentioned in the works of D.H.Lawrence, is where I began as a largar drinker. Good to be back.

Old Wine Vaults, Eastwood. Blue Monkey Infinity (cask). Because I drank nothing but Guinness or cider in this pub when I warra youff. Because the cask beer were Shipstone's. And it was shit. So I fancied trying a decent cask beer here. And it wa.

Wellington, Eastwood. Greene King IPA Chilled (keg). In a branded handle glass. Because I'd never drank Greene King IPA Chilled. In a branded handle glass. And now I have. Verdict: not hemlock.

Hayloft, Giltbrook. Stella Artois (keg). Because I drank nothing but Guinness or cider in this pub when I warra youff. And I can't remember what the lager used to be. So I fancied trying a Stella here. And it wa.

Brewdog, Nottingham. Punk IPA (keg). Because I like it. Because I like the bar. Because I was with friends who'd never been and I wanted them to try Punk in a Brewdog bar. They liked it too. We liked the black pudding pork pie even more.

Spanky Van Dykes, Nottingham. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (keg). Because the Tap And Tumbler nearby was busy and looked shit. Because I've never been to a place billed as an "eatery / funhouse" before. Because it was just round the corner from the gig we were going to. Because I was about to order a pint of Aspalls cider and then saw the SNPA.

Rock City, Nottingham. Red Stripe (can). Because I was there to see The Wildhearts. And cans don't smash and lacerate people. And if you're going to a gig that celebrates an album's twentieth anniversary, you may as well drink the same beer that you drank when you first saw them.

So, what does this reveal about my drinking habits?

I guess I'm happy to go with the flow. I guess I'm well past the snob-point of passing on a pint just because I don't think it'll rock my world. I know that beers with friends in places old and new are the canvas onto which you daub your day; they're not the masterpiece to stand back and admire.

And it reveals that ten venues for beer plus a hot, heaving, sweaty, air-punching, pogo-jumping, bruise-inducing, ear-pounding, fuck-yeah gig leave you gagging for nowt more than a pint of iced water when you make it up the hill to the Organ Grinder. Sorry guys, I'll drink twice as much there next time.

That's me, three rows from the front. Credit to the band's manager, Gav McCaughey, for the pic.

"It's my body, and if I choose to abuse it with my lifestyle and my music, what the fuck! I can't lose! It's my life..."


Meat Raffle and the Albert Tatlock Negotiators

"Would you like a ticket for Meat Raffle?"

Good Friday of the Easter Bank Holiday festival at one of my almost-locals, the Holly Bush Inn in Makeney. I'd been drinking steadily for several hours. Thornbridge's imperial IPA, Halcyon, was being spliced into Thornbridge's black IPA, Wild Raven. A cask and keg shotgun marriage.

"Um... pardon?"

"Would you like a ticket for Meat Raffle?"

Meat Raffle? A resurgent grindcore band playing at the pub later on? Or a play maybe, satirising the recent horse-in-food-chain debacle?

"It's a raffle. For meat".

Now, that makes sense.

I remember meat raffles in pubs but hadn't come across one for years. I thought they had gone the same way as the bloke selling cockles late on a Saturday or the Sally Army lady selling War Cry. Although I suspect that they still do the rounds of pubs somewhere.

Do I want a ticket? Hell yeah! The Holly Bush has its meat supplied by Owen Taylor, a quality local butcher.

"It's two pounds a strip. Write your name and phone number on the back. We'll call you if you win".

That's when my five-pint lack of logic kicks in.

"Don't I need a ticket? 

The reply was surprisingly patient.

"No... because you write your name on the back of this one. We keep the ticket, draw a winner and then call you".

IPA clearly leads me into fuzzy logic.

"So how do I know if I've won?"

She's deadpan.

"We call you. You write your phone number on the ticket. Then we can call you".

It finally makes sense to my IPA brain. I buy a strip of tickets and get back to cod-mixology.

And a week later I get a call to say I've won a pack of sirloin steaks. Which made for a cracking Sunday supper.

Apologies to whoever has a phone number similar to mine and took a call about winning a meat raffle. Apparently I didn't write my number down very clearly. After an afternoon of mixing IPA. Funny, that.

As for the Albert Tatlock Negotiators, they're not really relevant to this post but will have at least some tangential bearing to the next one. I just wanted to give them a mention today because I like their name.


In Sainsburys

I shop at Sainsburys. Mainly because it's on my way home. And I'm quite partial to their beer range. Very partial, actually.

It's where I started buying bottled beer in the early nineties - Hobgoblin, Fiddler's Elbow. It's where my lager experimentation phases began - Czech, maybe German, definitely those Taste The Difference four-packs by Meantime (remember those)?

And it's where there are gems that find their way into my fridge today. I'm partial to beers by Fuller's and Adnams so am happy to pick up Bengal Lancer or Broadside. There's the smaller brewers who've won over shelf space thanks to the store's Great British Beer Hunt.

And then there was Brewdog. First listed thanks to the Beer Hunt in 2009 - when Chaos Theory was probably the best bottled beer to ever be sold in a British supermarket - they've gone on to promote Punk as a regular beer, albeit one that gets moved around the shelving. When bombers of Punk (well, 66cl bottles) came into stock, I had me a new fridge beer.

But no longer. And it's the price point that's done it for me. Prices have nudged up. When that 66cl bottle sold for £2.50, it felt competitive. When it was two bottles for £4, it was a steal. Now with that bottle at £2.99 and a 33cl bottle at £1.80 - and no multibuy offers - it feels like a raw deal.

Why? In part, because so many of the other beers appear on the 'three for a fiver' deal. And one of those beer is Goose Island IPA.

I like Goose Island IPA. And the three bottles I picked up tonight are fresh and hoppy and oily and zippy and prickly and, and, and... everything I'd expect a US import on a UK supermarket shelf not to be.

And it's three bottles for a fiver. And it tastes more exciting than Punk.

The bottom shelf of the fridge at Scoop Towers has a new resident beer. >

Stella Artois to be cask conditioned

In a bold move to subvert the nascent craft beer market in the UK, Stella Artois is to be relaunched as a cask beer.

Brewed to its original 5.2% ABV and with less maize for fuller flavour, Stella Tonneau will be matured for almost twelve months in casks made from wooden panels ripped out of medieval houses. At least three brewers with ironic facial hair - including one brewster - will be responsible for controlling the maturation process. They will be chained to the casks which are to be buried somewhere underneath a motorway in the Brabant region of Brussels. Or Preston.

An extensive social media campaign, including Facebook, Twitter and direct neural implantation, will begin in late 2013. Entitled "Giving You The Horn", it will involve plenty of slow-motion footage of barley fields. Mainly because slow-motion footage of maize fields isn't quite as interesting.

Spokeswomen Avril Tromper said  "These so-called craft beers just don't have the heritage and upscalability on the forward-sales margins that Stella has. Plus they all taste perfectly adequate but are ultimately bland. According to a focus group we ran in Wandsworth".

The key difference between Stella Tonneau and every other lager relaunch will be the maturation and dispense methods employed. Avril explained. "We have used farms of interns to innovate what we call "Cask Utilising NeoLagering Technology Solutions". We'll license this technology. In future, when you hear of C.U.N.T.S, I hope you'll think of us!"

Stella Tonneau is scheduled for release on April 1st next year.


Fancy a pint?

It's Easter Sunday. For the first time in what feels like weeks, there's enough blue up above to make a sailor a natty pair of tailored shorts. I wander down to the village shop to buy a newspaper and then I do something hardly ever do...

... I fancy a pint.

Clarity: I fancy a pint quite often and act upon that fancy with abandon. Just not in the village where I live.

So today I call in on a pub where I used to be a regular. I buy a brown beer and sit outside. Sit under a dirty, knackered plastic sheeting roof. A manic blackbird shrills at nothing in particular. Snow stubbornly refuses to melt on the barbecue. Bar runners wave in the breeze, pegged on a clothes line alongside t-shirts and odd socks and knickers.

A lazy dog refuses to acknowledge its finger-clicking owner. Kids are told to stop doing whatever they're doing out of sight but within earshot of a fence splintering.

I think.

Much of my pub time is defined by specifics. A great saltbeef sandwich. A pint of Jaipur. A range of beers I've read about on Twitter. The prospect of a quality Scotch egg. The promise of a certain cask. Meeting friends. Escaping meetings. Into a festival. Out of habit.

This time? It's just for the fun of sitting in the spring sun, with a pint, with the newspaper, outside a pub. Because I could. Because I fancied it. >

It's back! And it's LIVE!

Reluctant Scooper is back in full effect. And to celebrate, we're blogging live and loud. Hopefully. We have the technology.

Just as long as the fat organic lump on the end of it remembers to blog, we'll be fine.

The time is 0855 GMT. I'm off to a beerfest once I've found breakfast. Stay tuned in for further updates.

0955. About to have breakfast. Doesn't involve beer. But as I tweeted this morning, beer without bacon is like sex without foreplay.

1044. Cappuchino at the best little coffee shop in Derby, Caruso's. It's busy. There's a ten minute wait for drinks and a table. That's because it's great. The owner shakes you by the hand and takes your coffee to a table. You just don't get that in Starbucks.

1214. Let's get fested. First up, Moor Top by Buxton. Pale, grapefruit-bitter, dry-hopped up its wazoo. 3.6%, could be mistaken for a bold IPA of twice that strength. A first fest pint that could easily embarras others to come

1235. More Moor Top. And here's the beer list:

OK. Can't get the photos to upload. Never mind, eh?

1241 Just realised I haven't said where I am. It's the Holly Bush at Makeney, Derbyshire. Sat in a snug on settle. Part of the pub thsat's older than the USA. Three tables, a range fire. Five people, two dogs and a steady stream of people looking in disconsolate that they can't get a seat in here.

1308 Half a Marble Lagona. The ABV ups to 5% but the lupulin threshold dips a bit. That said, it's still a beautuful beer, the hops deep-set and assured in comparison to the Moor Top's whirlygig hit.

The main bar is by the snug and the banterchatter is fantastic. Two old blokes order pints of Ruddles. Served ftom the jug from the cellar. "We've a beer festival on", says the barman. "S'alreet. We like Ruddles" says the blokes. Now, *that's* reluctancy for you.

1330 Ladies and gentleman, it's Halcyon o'clock. Served in a statuesque Tim Taylor halfpint stemmed glass. It's a subtle doorman of a beer: knows it's strong, flexes knuckles, has quiet confidence. And could rip your face off.

1347 I won't be correcting spelling mistakes. Consider them dropped stitches in this blog's rich tapestry.

1401. More Halcyon. And a cabal of drinkers and brewers is forming. Take this as notice of sporadic updating from hereon in

1531 Thornbridge keg Raven is being mixed with Thornbridge cask Halcyon. Outlook: messy

1843 There was more of everything plus great banter with brewers.

Now? Goose Island IPA in the freezer, curry ready for the oven and a grand day out to recount further.

And I haven't done the video yet.


1904 Drinking Goose Island IPA, waiting for curry, time to say g'night to all this.

But this first.

Huge thanks to Chris and all the staff at Holly Bush, Makeney for a top notch fest.

To Phil & Kat & Ian & Carla & Macey & JK & Kelly and Amelia and Mike... you make the difference between a good fest and a great fest. I'll keep saying this til I'm blue in the face; great beer is about the company you keep in the place where you drink it.

I'll finish with this. With a beerfest, you've got to have a system. Let the customer know what they're up for.

This was today's guide. I don't think I've seen a finer one.

Derbyshire represent \m/


We've had the decorators in

Apologies if things get skewed around here. I'm updating the design and have to carry some of the work out whilst the blog is live.

Abnormal service will be resumed next week. >

Watch umbrellas fly

There are schools of thought attached to beer blogging. Apparently.

Some say you should blog in brief, often.

Others say you should blog infrequently, with gravitas.

I suppose I fall in between and subscribe to:

Time for my sabbatical. If anyone severs that Möbius strip whilst I'm away, let me know. 

Doubtful. But ever hopeful.

Back for Easter. Play nicely. If you can remember how to ;-)

* for the record: today's blog has been brought to you with one of the best pop videos ever burrowing into my head

The Session #71: Brewers and Drinkers

This month's Session Beer Blog on the topic of Brewers and Drinkers is hosted by John at Home Brew Manual.

And he hands over a loaded gun.

"Do you brew? If so why? If not, why not? How does that affect your enjoyment of drinking beer?"

My relationship with beer and how it's made? It's complicated.

I brew. Sort of.

I've cleaned mash tuns and added hops and connected hose A to FV B.

Sometimes it's been at commercial breweries. Sometimes it's been in Brew School.

So: I love beer. I 'brew' for the shits and giggles. And to learn. And to blag free beer. But mostly to learn stuff about kettle geometry or isomerisation or who once slept with who. Whilst connecting hose A to FV B. Eventually.

I've brewed, but I'm not a brewer.

(I got soul but I'm not a soldier)

Does that affect my enjoyment of beer?

Understanding the scientific principles of brewing enhances my enjoyment of beer. As does:

- my mood
- the weather
- the company I keep
- the place where I drink
- the time of day
- the time of the year
- whether I'm working the next day
- whether I'm sleeping soon
- whether I'm feeling like a session at George Best's best session rate
- whether I'm ready to uncork a bad boy and stare the night down til dawn

You don't need to brew to appreciate beer. Like you don't need to butcher to appreciate steak. >

Beer and sensory science: the Aroxa flavour standards

Let's start with an apology; this post should have been published in December 2011. Something went wrong. I blame the organic lump at the end of the keyboard...

Whilst reading up about the science of beer taints, I found the aroxa website. This has a wealth of information on how tainted flavours originate, why they're important to recognise and, interestingly, which flavour notes professional tasters have mistaken for others.

One product that caught my eye was the beer uno kit. This offered ten flavour notes - four positive beer flavours, four off-flavours and two taints - which could be used to run a two-hour tasting session for ten people. And so a plan was hatched. Aroxa kindly donated me the kit; Thornbridge Brewery kindly rounded up some of their licensees and staff and so I ended up running a tasting panel session at their bar, DAda.

The mechanics of the session were very simple. Each flavour standard is a powder in a colour-coded capsule; the powder is dissolved into a jug of beer (we used a cask pale ale) and left for a couple of minutes to dissolve. Everyone had a tasting glass measure poured for them and then followed the assessment criteria for that standard (e.g. short sniff or sip & swallow).

Everyone shared their opinions of the flavours and aromas experienced and then we then talked through the information on the specification card that accompanied each flavour standard. These cover the importance and confusions data also found on the website plus details of the flavour's threshold and its chemical formula.

The tasting led to plenty of animated discussion. It was interesting to see how different people had different thresholds. Off-flavours were identified as issues encountered previously. And even the positive standards sometimes produced a negative reaction - "it smells too hoppy!"

Everyone agreed it had been a really useful insight into not only being able to experience the flavours and taints in a controlled environment but to learn more as to why it may be an issue - and what the likely cause could be.

This kit would make an ideal session for many brewers to run for their staff and the information cards and website backup could prove to be a valuable resource. Larger kits and single flavour standards - over a hundred of them - are available and cover cider, water and wine as well as beer.

I'd be more than happy to run the session for any brewer and their staff; get in touch if you want to know more.

Many thanks to Dr Bill Simpson from Aroxa for the beer uno kit and to Thornbridge for their time, beer and staff. >

Of hobgoblins and baked beans

It started with Guinness; available everywhere from pub to bar to club, lovely with chips, even better with Pernod.

Newcastle Brown was next at polytechnic; couldn't be watered down, almost as ubiquitous as the black stuff, topping up a halfpint glass in the student union, glugged from the bottle in the pool halls.

Then Ind Coope's Burton Ale when the Railway Inn in Stafford ran out of Newcy Brown one night. Then an occasional Bass. My first cask beers.

Which led to beer bottles in my food hampers sent from home. My Mum would put together a parcel of essentials - tins of baked beans, Irish stew, meatballs - and then this appeared.

Although she never mentioned it, I think my Mum chose it because of the picture on the label. Which is maybe-ironic; the illustrator of Wychwood's distinctive labels and pumpclips is now one that my Dad collects. He's Ed Org and his work looks like this:

There's more than a touch of Burne-Jones about his work, which is why my Dad is drawn to it I guess (he's a Pre-Raphaelite kind of guy).

As for the beer... well, it's heavy on the crystal malt, Fuggles and Goldings. It's rather chewy toffee. I don't buy it when I'm in the supermarket but I do get given the odd bottle at birthdays and Christmas.

I'm not really a fan of the 'lagerboy' marketing. The goblins & mythology approach is something I've been moving away from since my Runequest-playing days*. But everytime I drink Hobgoblin, like now as I write this, it brings back memories of student bedsits, burnt beans and a beery journey that had only just taking its first stumbling steps.

* Always Runequest, never Dungeons & Dragons. Although I was more of a Traveller kind of guy myself.  >

You've Come a Long Way, Baby


A railway arch in South London. A corner of a rockshop warehouse in Huddersfield. Industrial units on the edge of the Peak District. Shoebox-sized rooms in the rear of pubs across London.

All waiting for world-class breweries to start.

Thornbridge were brewing on a secondhand kit squeezed into a converted stonemason's workshop. Brewdog were brewing cask.

London had yet to get a real hard-on for beer.

The thought of buying a locally brewed craft keg Black IPA in an English bar was unthinkable.

Five years later, British beer has come a long way.

Dare you imagine where it's going next?

Meanwhile... celebrate it, baby.

Praise it like you should.

Happy New Year. >

The Scoopies 2012

It's that time of year again. And what a year it's been. The best of times, the worst of times. But always the beeriest of times.

I promised myself I wouldn't drink myself into a situation where I'd have to award the How Long Have We Been In This Pub? award this year. Sadly, I went to the Thorn Tree in Waingroves with a bunch of muppets. We drank Steel City and Buxton. There was Smurf face painting, crude pubic hair jokes and kissing of brewers. I made a small child cry. There was six-ish hours of beer-addled relaxed mayhem. And there was Mike James from Buxton Brewery infiltrating a puppet show:

This year's Top Referral Source To My Site Of Readers Who Really Ought To Know Better goes to the Grauniad who referenced a post from last year about ten-sided beer glasses. Which means I can now stop blogging and live off the hits from that for years to come.

The Googlefail Awards for the thirteen most obscure search terms that resulted in a visit to my site were:

- 4 letter word for beer
- cartoon hairy bollocks
- budweiser bottle tits
- big massive coffee tables
- amber notts porn video holly howard
- contour ploughing in India
- is phil lowry the english brewer married?
- is it normal to have all kinds of shit in the bottom of a straffe hendrik
- playmobil cow
- reluctant to strip in a bar
- wet rubber apron
- sue holderness cleavage photos
- beer bullshitter

Good to see Sue Holderness's cleavage making the top thirteen for two years in a row. For the record, it looks like this:

The Worst Beer Photo Taken When Drunk award goes to this. No explanation needed:

Best Beer Photo had stiff competition this year. The double-merkin action of me and Brewdog Becca was good...

... as was Jen's super clown ginger muff at The Bimble That Went Wrong:

But this year there could be only one. Step forward Richard Chamberlin, the departing Brewster's brewer, painted up in a death metal stylee. Holding a rubber chicken. And two inches away from fellating a priceless stuffed squirrel at Brewdog Nottingham.

The inaugural Pricking About With Photoshop award would have gone to one of those My Name Is badges that are far too offensive to show again. Especially that one about Matt Wickham.

So it has to be this. Apparently I have irrevocably scarred several people's fond memories of their cartoon childhood.

Good to find several brewers vying it out for the Shit Me, Where Did That Brewery Come From? award this year. In the end it was a dead heat between Tiny Rebel and Beavertown. Both excelled with a robust beer range, smart marketing and consistent quality.

Here's a few self-congratulatory awards for my own posts.

The Shits And Giggles Award for the Post I Enjoyed Writing And You Lot Seemed to Have Enjoyed Reading Too goes to The Craft Beer Manifesto. Awesome!

The Cashing In On An Internet Fad To Post A Cheap Joke With Sexual Innuendo Award goes to Fifty Shades Of IPA.

The Pretentious Sixth-Form Poet Twat Award for Most Affected Blog Post With Over-Ambitious Literary Ambitions goes to any of the dozen posts still sat in draft, written around 2am after a long drinking day. You've no idea how close you came to having that guff inflicted upon you.

New for 2012, the Bribery Will Get You Anywhere award goes to Gazza Prescott from Steel City Brewing and soon-to-be-brewing Hop Craft, bringing you awesome beer from the heart of Ponyclub Pontyclun. Cheers for buying me that beer last night, Gazza!

The City That Put A Self-Satisfied Smile On My Face Award goes, maybe surprisingly, to Derby. Pubs started to do the simple things well: The Furnace Inn offered interesting beer from breweries never seen in the city before (like Magic Rock, Tiny Rebel). The Alexandra Hotel kept delivering superb beer, a great atmosphere, humongous cheese cobs and a pub rabbit. And the Exeter Arms just kept getting it right: beautiful cask by Dancing Duck and guests, quality keg in the shape of Chiron by Thornbridge, superb food (the British Tapas board in particular), open fires, leather sofas under cover outside, a nineteenth-century cottage you can drink in...

Beery Person Of The Year? Simple. You knew her as Mrs Scoop. She's Bec Emerald on Twitter. She's the demon behind the wheel of the Little Orange Beer Taxi. And she's bloody lovely.

And that's all that's fit to blog. Many, many, many thanks to the brewers and licensees and writers and academics and louchebags and barflys and mates and total numpties who've answered my questions, put the world to rights, inspired me, reviled me and picked me up when the pavement swallowed me.

And I got through this whole post without mentioning cask versus keg.


Have a merry New Year. See you on the other side at the bar.


Golden Pints 2012. Probably

I struggle with the concept of 'best'. Ever since I drank a pint of 'best' bitter that was 'best' only if the definition of 'best' was 'baby vomit after one too many Farley's Rusks'.

So, here's my Golden Pints. But substituting the qualifier 'best' with 'I remember that this was a rather interesting...'

UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer

Thornbridge Chiron. Keg. Because when I saw it on a bar, I drank it. Ditto for Oakham Green Devil. Cask.(1)

UK Bottled or Canned Beer

Adnams Ghost Ship. Because I drank it on a train near Ely and was thankful for a decent, hoppy beer in a can. And, let's face it. Everyone likes it in the can (2)

Overseas Draught Beer

I've had nothing this year that's excited me madly. I can't believe I've just typed that.(3)

Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer

Orval. Surprise? Pucker up, buttercup.(4)

Overall Beer

Orval. Obviously.(5)

Pumpclip or Label(6)

UK Brewery(7)

Three stood out for me.

Thornbridge for continued innovation. And Buxton.

Tiny Rebel for being a brewery that excited others and made me excited enough to want to find their beers. And then drink them like I stole them when I found them.

Beavertown for brewing "America Fuck Yeah", a spiced pumpkin ale. A pumpkin ale. With spice. That wasn't a clusterfuck. And, as my first beer by them, was one fuck-yeah of an introduction.

Lovibonds kept subverting expectation. Brodies too. And Moor are massively under-rated and all the better for it.

And that's not three. So sue me.

Overseas Brewery(8)

Orval. Get with the program.

Pub/Bar of the Year(9)

If only there was somewhere that sold decent stout and kegged hoppy stuff and had an eighteenth century cottage as a drinking den. And made hot Scotch eggs. And had deep leather sofas outside. And Mrs Scoop could recover me from a nearby car park. Oh, wait. There is.

Exeter Arms, Derby

Beer Festival of the Year

IndyManBeerCon. You were great. A whole bunch of brewers and rare beers with enthusiastic punters to serve them to - I even worked behind the bar on my night off.

But.. you still weren't as great as Nottingham. Because you didn't have a castle.

Supermarket of the Year

Sainsburys.  For bombers of Punk. And when they ran out, Meantime London Pale, 3 for £5.

Independent Retailer of the Year

Not telling. OK, I'll say. Liquid Treasure in Belper. Only because there's only four people I know who will go there. And you already go there. And you don't buy all the Cantillon.

Online Retailer of the Year

Beermerchants. Yes, there's the rare shizzle. But there's also all the usual suspects lined up in a row.

Beer Book or Magazine

IPA. Hands and feet and other organs above anything else I've seen this year(10).

Beer Blog or Website

It's me. I demanded a recount. It was me again.

But this old bugger was close.

Best Beer Twitterer

Gunmakers. The vicarious pleasure of reading their menu, seeing their locals and being privy to Jeff have a good old rant reminded me of the good old days...

Online Brewery presence

Not sure I understand this. But if it's the overall way in which a brewery uses and abuses social media, it's got to be Magic Rock. For the dodgy webcam, their elegant website and Stu's tweets about pizza.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year

Every time I remembered to pair food and beer. Because when I didn't, having a surfeit of the latter and little of the former, I fell over.

In 2013 I’d Most Like To…

Drink in Germany. If only to drink kolsch in Koln. And rauch in Bamberg.

Open Category: You Choose

For everyone who has an attitude about beer in the UK to do this: look back five years. The beers you drank, the styles they were, the brewers that brewed them. Look what's happening NOW. Imagine what could be in another five years time.

Be positive or negative?

You choose.

Scoopies tomorrow. Peace and love xx

(1) It has to be about the beer that I would buy without hesitation or deviation. But definitely with repetition.

(2) You may need to have listened to the Session to get this joke.

(3)  Don't get me wrong. I've enjoyed a shit-ton of foreign beer this year. But nothing grabs me knackers as I write this. Which speaks volumes. Hopefully.

(4)  Still can't find where I know the line 'pucker up, buttercup" from. I suspect it's from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Can't be arsed to check.

(5)  I refer the honourable visitor to a blog I blogged some moments ago

(6)  Just looking at that tickles my willy in a special way

(7)  Exclusion is not a slap in the face. Difficult to nominate the best of the best of the best. It just turns into a circlejerk if we're not careful.

(8)  Once again, for the record

(9)  I'd award this to the Grove in Huddersfield. But with that slow train back, I need to piss into a bottle. Not easy with Orval's narrow neck. And an audience.

(10)  Why Beer Matters by Evan Rail came within a gnat's chuff >

Pints D'Or 2012

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer

None. I only like Orval

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer

Which part of the above answer did you not understand?

Best Overseas Draught Beer


Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer

Orval. Like, duh!

Best Overall Beer

Greene King IPA Orval

Best Pumpclip or Label

Best UK Brewery

Ones that try to make something like Orval. Which is none. Even in their wildest dreams

Best Overseas Brewery


Pub/Bar of the Year

Any that sell Orval. Like this one

Beer Festival of the Year

Uh, any that sold Orval.

Supermarket of the Year

None, coz the one's round here don't sell Orval

Independent Retailer of the Year

Ones that sell Orval (should have been Bellini's but they'd sold out today. Grrr.)

Online Retailer of the Year They sell Orval. Except when they're out of stock

Best Beer Book or Magazine

Ones with Orval in it. Like this one

Best Beer Blog or Website

Ones about Orval. There hasn't been a better one since this

Best Beer Twitterer

Orval aren't on Twitter, fool

Best Online Brewery presence


Food and Beer Pairing of the Year

Orval and chips

In 2013 I’d Most Like To…

Drink more Orval

Open Category: You Choose

I choose to drink more Orval

With slight apologies to the Golden Pints Awards 2012. A semi-serious blog about it tomorrow.

Honest. >

Beery book review roundup

It's Boxing Day*. You've got a platter full of cold turkey sandwiches, a hangover that would scare a pig and a stack of vouchers to spend. You like beer. You like beer books. If you're rabidbarfly you like beer books with big pictures in that you can point to and grunt.

So, if you're sat on your sofa in just your pants, turkey in your navel, muttering to yourself "I wonder if there's a handy and impartial internet guide to buying the kind of books that I wished I'd asked for so I would have ended up with better presents than novelty socks and some out-of-date Toblerone?" then

a) you really need clinical help, but

b) here's a round-up of some books wot people wrote about beer this year. Ish.

IPA: brewing techniques, recipes and the evolution of India Pale Ale - Mitch Steele

Let's cut to the chase: buy this book. If you haven't any vouchers, sell other stuff so you can buy this book. Diligently-researched history, fascinatingly-detailed recipes, insightful prose, clearly illustrated. Destined to be the cornerstone reference work on IPA.

Beer, food and flavour - Schuyler Schultz

A classic example of how to make one not-great book out of four potentially good ones. There's very little about flavour; what there is hints at the importance of sensory elements but seems to lose itself before it's started. Forty pages of fine dining menus and recipes start to get rather repetitive. The beer and cheese chapter is OK - although I don't need eleven pages of cheese photos, I know what it looks like. But then a third of the book is no more than a guide of US breweries along with regular features about Alesmith. An opportunity lost.

Shakespeare's Local - Pete Brown

I visited the subject of Pete's book - the George Inn in Southwark - a couple of weeks ago. It was difficult to conjure up an imagine of how this galleried pub would have hustled and bustled over the last six centuries. Mainly because I was looking out over a courtyard of skinny hipsters drinking pinot grigio. But this book does the trick. Pete has a canny knack for engaging narrative and so the tales and tribulations of the George seep from the pages. It's not a straight-up historical tome; put it this way, if you don't think references to the Sugababes and Trigger from Only Fools And Horses are suitable for a beer book, take your vouchers elsewhere. And maybe buy a sense of humour.

Let me tell you about beer - Melissa Cole

Yes, I know it was published last year but it's still the most cogent and entertaining book about beer on the market. One that I buy for others. And read myself. Just for fun. Like you should.

Beer & Philosophy - ed. Steven Hales

Yes, I know it was published in 2007. But I only found it this year. A collection of fifteen papers by a brewer or two and a fair few philosophy professors. Oh, and a Canadian attorney. I sat under the leaf-dappled sun by the walls of Nottingham Castle reading this during this year's CAMRA beer festival. After reading Peter Machamer's piece on beer evaluation, vocabulary and context I put the book back in my bag, drained my glass and did nothing but think about what I'd just read for a good twenty minutes. Particularly about the last line, in relation to offering others your evaluation of beer:

"We all like to play Pygmalion. We just have to learn when to stop".

Thanks to the Brewers Association and Skyhorse Publishing for review copies of the first two books. Thanks to Derbyshire Libraries for running a sterling reserve-and-collect service and for stocking brand new books like Shakespeare's Local in the face of egregious cost-cutting.

* this may or not be the case. Like beer itself, this blog is context-dependent


Have a merry, messy Christmas

If auto-update works and you're reading this on December 25th, congratulations. I am either drinking Cantillon for brunch or I'm trapped in the nuclear heat of an in-law's Christmas lunch.

Now switch off your phone/tablet/monitor and go do something else. It's Christmas.

Have a merry, messy, happy, laughing one.


Oh, I don't know. Something about beer, Nottingham and Derby

I've forgotten what I wanted to write about.

It may have been about the baked-lemon, slightly-cereal Navigation Pale in the Cross Keys, a place that's become one of my favourite pubs in Nottingham.

It certainly could have been about Ilkley Siberia, a rhubarb saison brewed in collaboration with the grande dame of beer blogging, Melissa Cole. Or the warm Scotch egg I had with it. Every other pub with craft semi-credentials seems to make one nowadays; I'm not saying the Keans Head make the best, but I'd put it in my top one.

Maybe it was the rather-meh pint of Punk in Brewdog Nottingham. Perhaps it was actually the pint of Alice Porter that followed; a beer so good I had to double-take and make sure I'd been served what I asked for. Don't get me wrong; Alice Porter is gooood, this was so gooood it was off down the bottom of the garden to dance with the pixies.

Was it drinking Magic Rock High Wire? On keg? In Derby?

Ah... I remember. It was the fact that I can stumble around the cities on either end of the Brian Clough Way and drink world-class beer. Which, twelve months ago, I wouldn't have expected.

Which is nice. >