Pub of the Year Award 2017

Following on from my top 10 ticking pubs in 2016, I thought I’d take a quick look at my 2017 ticking pubs.

As I said last year,  I’m a beer ticker – I like to try as many different beers as possible and as such I’ve ranked my top ten pubs in order of the number of ticks that I’ve had there.  I’ve not included beer festivals.  Ticking isn’t the be all and end all of pub life, but it just so happens that I rather do like most of the pubs I’ve visited.

1. Friends of Ham, Leeds (Up from 2 in 2016)
Since it opened, FoH has always been my top ticking pub, although it was relegated to second place last year.  This year, it’s back in the top spot.

2. Tapped, Leeds (Down from 1 in 2016)
After spending a year in the top place, Tapped is back down to second. Still a great pub but the thing that lets it down is that they don’t serve beers in third pints unless they’re really strong or expensive.  In this part of Leeds, there’s such a choice of pubs and bars and many of them do serve thirds so given the choice, I’ll go there first.

3. The Queen Crafthouse & Kitchen (New entry into top 10) – top Doncaster pub
Straight in at number 3 is the Queen.  They only opened in September 2016 so didn’t make last year’s rankings but with a great selection of cask and keg and great staff and a great vibe, they’re definitely there with the front runners.

4. Piw Paw Parkingowa and Piw Paw Foksal (Down from 3 in 2016) – top non-UK pub
The combined score wouldn’t have got them to number one this year!  Still 150 different beers between the two branches but while the selection is good, the quality of breweries used isn’t always the best.

5. Bundobust, Leeds (New entry in top 10)
Not quite sure why they didn’t feature in last year’s list, but they’re here now! Not the biggest selection out of the pubs here, but always very good quality.

6. Doncaster Brewery Tap (Up from 11 in 2016)
Aided by their beer festival and continuing guest ales from other breweries as well as keg beers now, this pub goes from strength to strength.

7. Arcade, Huddersfield (New entry into 2016)
The bar has been here a little while, but was a while before I discovered it.  A little strange as they don’t serve cask – only keg, bottle and cans.  Their position has been helped by quite a number of takeaway bottles.

8. Sportsman, Huddersfield (Down from 6 in 2016)
They’ve slid a couple of places although quality and quantity haven’t.  Still an enjoyable visit as well as great beer

9. The Corner, Huddersfield (New entry into top 10)
Another new entry in the fabulously beery town of Huddersfield.  Just like The Queen, this fantastic pub that’s owned by the owners of Mallinson’s brewery opened at the end of 2016.  Great choice of cask and keg beers, all available in third, half, two-thirds or pints, brilliant staff and tasty home cooked food.

10. Alexandra, Derby (New entry into top 10)
It’s always a pleasure to visit the Alex.  It’s just down from Derby station and has a strong railway theme in it.  I’ve seen pub cats and dogs before but they have a pub rabbit!  As well as great beers on the bar, always a good stop off for train beers too.

11. The Draughtsman, Doncaster
I had an eleventh place pub last year so I thought I’d do the same this year.  Only opened in April, I’ve written a full article here.  I wonder where they’ll be next year?

So – out of eleven pubs, only three are in Doncaster.  All independent, with no ties to breweries or pub groups with enthusiastic owners and staff.  Says a lot, doesn’t it?

Pub of the Year Award 2016

Seeing as it’s that time of the year for my local CAMRA branch to award their Pub of the Year 2017, I thought I’d look back over the pubs I’ve visited over the last year and choose my favourites.

I’m a beer ticker – I like to try as many different beers as possible and as such I’ve ranked my top ten pubs in order of the number of ticks that I’ve had there.  I’ve not included beer festivals.  Ticking isn’t the be all and end all of pub life, but it just so happens that I rather do like the pubs I’ve visited.

1. Tapped, Leeds
Since it opened, Tapped has been in my top ten ticking pubs but has never made number 1.  Knowledgeable staff, good range of beers – some brewed on site, excellent home made ‘real’ pizzas and a clean and bright environment.  What more could you ask for?

2. Friends of Ham, Leeds
Since they opened, FoH has been my top ticking pub each year but sadly, pipped to second place by their friends round the corner.  What have they got going for them?  Again, knowledgeable staff, brilliant beers and perhaps the big selling point for me – they do a taster tray of 3 or 6 beers for a set price, and that can prove quite economical for the dearer beers.

3. Piw Paw Parkingowa and Piw Paw – Foksal – Warszawa – Top non-UK pub
Both these branches of Piw Paw are entitled to their own place in my beery top ten, but as they are very similar, I’ve included them as one.  If I were to combine the number of ticks from both then they would have smashed number one place.

Both have a really good selection of beers (Parkingowa have 64 and Foksal have 90-odd).   Staff can be a bit surly at times but the absolute best thing they do is tasting glasses – just a mouthful – for 1zl – about 20p!

4. Cask Corner, Doncaster – top Doncaster pub
Often features in my top ten and usually have a good range of beers.  Only thing that lets them down in my opinion is the loos and the music.  They have a lot of live rock which really isn’t my cup of tea but there’s nowhere to get out of the way of the bands and because of the layout of the pub, the bar gets crowded when a band is on and it can be difficult to get served.  One big plus point is the staff (there seems to be a theme here…)

5. Brunswick, Derby
Great brew pub – ever changing range of beers and convenient for Derby station.

6. Sportsman, Huddersfield
I really enjoy coming to the Sportsman.  Usually the first port of call in Huddersfield, a nice spot to drown my sorrows after not managing to meet Felix the Huddersfield Station Cat.  Great beers, third pints, brilliant staff and has this strange sort of atmosphere.  It’s a traditional pub, but doesn’t seem to attract the sort daytime drinkers that a lot of pubs do.  It’s a bit like the Belgian vibe where couples, friends and folk on their own pop in to try great beers, have a couple and then move on.

7. Red Lion, Doncaster
JDW spent a fortune refurbishing this pub and I like it.  One of the only decent outside drinking areas in Doncaster and used to have a really nice, warm indoor fire pit until some idiot decided to wreak it.  Only downside is that the fairly narrow channel between the front of the pub and the main area at the back is where a lot of drinkers congregate.

8. Sheffield Tap
Very convenient stopping off point between trains.  Took a long time to convince the wife that we did actually have to change at Sheffield!  Sister pub of the number one place, it too has good beers and staff.

9. Marketplace Alehouse & Deli
Quirky little place in Doncaster Market place and yes, you’ve guessed it, great beer, great staff and brilliant food.  Only a small range of beers compared to some others in the top ten but a constantly changing selection.

10. Gatehouse, Doncaster
I suprised myself at Gatehouse featuring, but it does.  I dont seem to frequent as often as I used but but clearly do.  As with all JDW branches, quality seems to depend on the latest manager.  There’s been a change here at Gatehouse but still seems to be up and down.

11.Doncaster Brewery Tap
I decided to also include the 11th place pub as I thought it was worth a special mention.  For a while, they’ve only served their own beer but now do have one guest on the bar.  They don’t produce a different beer every week (much to my dismay!) like some places do, but concentrate on brewing the beers they do really well.  It’s probably one of the only pubs in Doncaster that I will call in when I know there isn’t a tick – why?  I don’t know – just a good blend of ambience with good cheer thrown in from customer and manager / brewer alike.

More about Poland – Krakow and Warszawa

A week off from work and the wife was working so another trip to Poland.  I visited a number of bars I’d been to before along with some new ones.

An earlier article – ‘The Polish beer explosion’ contains information about Multi Qlti and Grodzka 42 in Krakow which were visited again.  At the bottom of that page ‘Warsaw to follow’ didn’t materialise…

Pubs visited on this trip (some new, some visited on previous visits) included…

Tap House – Pracownia Piwa i Przyjaciele

Świętego Jana 30,  Kraków
Mon – Thu 14-01; Fri-Sat 14-02; Sun 14-01
Smaller measure pricing: Excellent

Brewery tap for the Pracownia brewery.  Around 20 beers featuring their own along with the likes of other Polish brewers and some of the big players from further afield.  Not a bad bar really.

Browar Lubicz

Lubicz 17J, 30-001 Kraków
Mon-Thu 12-00; Fri-Sun 13-01
Smaller measure pricing: Excellent.  Tasting tray available

On the site of an old brewery, this new brew restaurant has only fairly recently opened.  They seem happy enough to serve drinks only – the food looked quite tasty too.

Core range of beers – some better than others along with seasonals too.

Kufle i Kapsle

Nowogrodzka 25, Warszawa
Mon-Thu 14-02; Fri 14-04; Sat 12-04; Sun 12-00

Smaller measure pricing: Ok.  Tasting tray available which is good value

One of the small group of bars that are close by in this part of Warszawa.  Serving beer from 10 keg lines and 2 handpumps, there’s a good range and the staff are knowledgeable, as they tend to be in the ‘craft’ beer places.  The place can get very busy so get there early to get a good seat!

Piw Paw Parkingowa

Żurawia 32/34, Warszawa
Mon-Sun 24hrs
Smaller measure pricing: interesting

The first of the Piw Paws to open, with a range of 57 keg lines, 4 handpumps and a mere 200 bottles.  Fancy trying all the beers?  Well, they’re open 24 hours and sell three measures of beer – 1.5l bottles that are filled using an adaptor on the tap.  The more usual 1/2 litre glasses are available along with a tasting glass containing a mouthful for the princely sum of 1zl – about 20p!  Each time I’ve been, staff don’t seem to mind serving multiples of these tasting glasses.  Can get quite busy.

Piw Paw BeerHeaven

Foksal 16, Warszawa
Mon-Sun 24hrs
Smaller measure pricing: interesting

The second branch of Piw Paw to open, bigger than the original serving 95 taps. Similar formula to this branch but serve food too.  Staff seemed a little more hesitant serving the tasting thimbles but I had asked for quite a few!

Piw Paw Mazowiecka

Mazowiecka 9, Warszawa
Daily 10-02
Smaller measure pricing: interesting

The newest branch to open with around 65 taps and not open 24 hours.  By the time I’d visited this branch, there were some duplication between branches.

Jabeerwocky

Nowogrodzka 25, Warszawa
Mon-Thu 13-00; Fri-Sat 13-02; Sun 15-00
Smaller measure pricing: so-so.  Tasting tray good value

Another bar in the Piw Paw / Kufle i Kapsle area.  17 beers and fairly basic food.  Yet again, a good selection.  Lots of good information listing the beers and styles etc.

Cafe Bla Bla

Nowogrodzka 25, Warszawa
Mon-Thu 14-02; Fri 14-04; Sat – Sun 12-04
Smaller pricing measure:  better than good!

Yet another bar near the others in this area, but even though the address is Nowogrodska, it’s not actually on Nowogrodska – you’ll find it a few doors up on the pedestrianised area towards Aleje Jerozolimskie.  There’s only 10 beers and they don’t do tasting glasses like the others in the area.  However, they don’t seem to have caught on that with some of the beers, the price per ml for a smaller glass is cheaper than a bigger one, so if you prefer a pint, you’ll pay more!  Staff not as knowledgeable as other places but a nice little bar with a good vibe.

Beerokracja

Marszałkowska 99/101, Warszawa
Mon-Fri 16-00; Sat-Sun 16-??
Smaller pricing measure:  ok

An interesting place and only over the road from the Novogrodska crowd.  I arrived just before closing time but the guy serving was happy for me to score another couple of beers while he was tidying up, although he spent more time chatting and trying to improve his already excellent English!  Seemed quite a nice place.  Beer range seemed to feature some smaller, rarer Polish breweries.

Bierhalle

Nowy Świat 64, Warsazawa
Mon-Thu 12-23; Fri-Sat 12-23:30; Sun 12-22
Smaller pricing measure:  ok

Part of a chain of identikit brew pubs.  Shiny brew kit, female waitresses in Bavarian style outfits…  When I arrived, they’d already stopped doing food but it looked at.  Beers very average.  Not a lot to say really!

Bermondsey Beer Mile

Yesterday, I visited the Bermondsey Beer Mile (here’s a map).  I’ve heard a lot about it so thought I’d see what all the fuss was about.  For the uninitiated, much of the railway line out of London Bridge is built up with arches underneath.  Some of these arches are road and pedestrian tunnels but most are small businesses – including a number of breweries and beer ‘places’.

I followed the route the opposite way round to most of the maps, so jumped on a train to South Bermondsey which was ‘interesting’ as Millwall were at home and that’s the nearest station to their ground!

I missed out Fourpure – sorry guys!  Nothing against your beer but you’re slightly off route and I was already pushed for time, so first stop was EeBria to try a couple of beers from Orbit as they had a tap takeover.  Good beers, reasonable venue and had a nice chat to Orbit’s brewer.

Next stop was a few arches down at Partizan.  I like their beers generally – a good selection of styles and aren’t afraid to do crazy things with fruit, herbs and the like.  However, first grumble of the day – they only served beer in two-third pints.  I didn’t want two-thirds – I wanted one-third.  What if I wanted just a half.  No – I had to drink the measure they wanted me to have.  I still had one though and took away a couple of bottles.

Moving on, next stop after the longest walk on the route would have been Kernel, but they no longer open as a tap, only as a beer shop and close at 1400.  The reasons are on the picture shown on Stonch’s Beer Blog.  More about Stonch’s beer blog later…

Not too much further was Brew by Numbers.  I was looking forward to visiting there as I like their beers but unfortunately, and grumble number 2, was the queue.  Yes, it’s great that they’re doing well and people want to visit, but a queue that was snaking out of the brewery and had at least 40 people in it was crackers.  There weren’t that many staff serving so it was moving very slowly indeed, so I opted just to get a couple of bottles to takeaway as that had a separate queue.  If you’re always that bust, and I’m told you are, then why not do something about it?  Put extra staff on; become ticket only; do a Kernel and not open at all.

On the opposite site of the railway but via a walk via the nearest tunnel, was UBREW – a different concept with them renting out small scale brewery equipment, space and expertise to allow budding brewers to pop along and brew their own beer – home brew I suppose, but not at home.  They did have some of the bottles brewed there on sale, but they weren’t priced.  The draught beer were all brews from elsewhere and a repeat of grumble 1 – beer only served in two-third pints.

After UBREW ubrewand on the home stretch was The Bottle Shop.  They had a really good selection as well as Moor beers on draught (tap takeover) along with a few others.  Good news as they offered beers in sizes the customer wanted, apart from the really strong ones which were only available in smaller measures.  One beer I chose only had prices for half and pint, but they were happy to serve me a third – thanks!

Anspach & Hobday - spot the stout!
Anspach & Hobday – spot the stout!

A couple of doors down is the Anspach & Hobday brewery.  Again, beer in whatever measure you wanted and I opted for three thirds as there were some really exciting sounding beers – I had Experimental IPSaison, Sour Dryhop and White Coffee Milk Stout.  If you’d closed your eyes and drunk the latter, you’d have sworn that it was dark!

Last stop was Southwark Brewery.  These were a bit different as most of their beers were cask – nearly every othersouthwark during the day had been keg.  Again, beer in any size the customer wanted and plenty of space to sit down.  There was something about Southwark though – it was so much more chilled than most of the other venues.  Their beers weren’t necessarily the best – I’m not saying they were bad but the quality everywhere was good but for me, a good beer experience is not just about the beer – it’s about the venue, staff, ambiance, toilets and so on.

As Stonch said in that blog post – ‘beer bloggers Boak and Bailey reported on this phenomenon, quoting beer enthusiasts whose noses have been put out of joint by “boozy stag dos” and “huge groups of lads getting pretty drunk”. I’ve done the Mile twice, and on both occasions that was certainly our game: getting hooned up on a sunny day’.  Yes, I saw all of that, along with people who were just ‘there’ – they clearly there to be seen.  In one venue, a tweed jacketed youth came in with two pretty young women – only he had a beer and at that didn’t really didn’t seem to like either.  They had no interest what so ever.

To one extent or another, that was pretty much the same everywhere to one extent or another, apart from Southwark.  People were there for the beer, not to be seen.

So – would I go again?  Maybe.  Bearded hipsters I can put up with.  People who don’t really enjoy being there I can’t.  Brewers / shops – employ extra staff if you need it and serve beer in glass sizes that people want, not that you say.

 

 

 

 

Everyday’s a festival in Leeds

I like Leeds.  There’s an amazing selection of pubs within minutes of the station.  In fact, out of these 7, the furthest one is no more than 3 minutes walk away!  Yes, there are other great pubs but when I do my Leeds mini-crawl, these are the ones that feature.  Why bother trekking further afield or visit a festival – there’s nearly 100 beers available!

Brewery Tap

18-24 New Station Street, Leeds LS1 5DL
Mon – Thu 12-23; Fri-Sat 11-00; Sun 12-22:30
Beers: 6 cask, 7 keg, bottles

One of the Leeds city centre outlets for Leeds Brewery beers and also brews their own lager on site.  A reasonable selection of beers but can get very busy.

Friends of Ham

4-8 New Station Street, Leeds LS1 5DL
Mon-Wed 11-11; Thu-Sat 11-00; Sun 11-22
Beers: 4 cask, 10 keg, bottles

For the last two years, Friends of Ham have been my top UK beer ticking pub!  No mean feat when you consider it’s a half hour train ride away.  A great choice of beers and knowledgeable staff.  Prices aren’t the world’s best, but not really much different to others in the area – you might pay more than you would normally, but then you wouldn’t neck a something like an 11% stout!  The tasting trays can work out to be excellent value, especially for the stronger beers.  On the other hand, you pay for what you get- usually great beer served by people who know what they’re on about (gormless staff is one of my gripes – see this post).

Tapped Leeds

51 Boar Lane, Leeds LS1 5EL
Mon-Wed 11-23; Thu 11-00; Fri-Sat 11-01; Sun 11-23
Beers: 13 cask, 14 keg, bottles

Certainly the biggest venue in my mini crawl of Leeds, this place doesn’t do things by halves.  27 draught beers, 100+ bottles, pizzas freshly cooked in a proper pizza shiny pizza oven, oh – and they brew their own beer on site.

Again, an excellent range of beers – sometimes too good and they sadly don’t sell third pints, except for the strongest beers.  Once again, great staff who know what they’re on about.

The Griffin

31 Boar Lane, Leeds LS1 5DF
Mon-Fri 11-00; Sat-Sun 09-00
Beers: 4 cask

Bit of a change here at The Griffin.  All the other pubs so far have been part of the ‘new wave’ beer movement.  This place is definitely more old school.  It’s owned by the Taylor Walker group.  Quite often, the beers aren’t uncommon but it still has great 1870s architecture.

Bundobust

6 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ
Mon-Thu 12-23; Fri-Sat 12-00; Sun 12-22
Beers: 1 cask, 12 keg, bottles

Wowee – what do you get if you mix beer (mainly keg) and Indian street food?  Bundobust!  Now, I’m still not entirely convinced about mixing spicy food and beer, but these guys at Bundobust do it remarkably well.  The food isn’t your standard run of of mill ‘Indian’ but more authentic South Indian vegetarian food.  Back to the old ‘great beer and great staff that know what they’re on about’ again.  Just watch out for the beer on the permanent Mikkeller tap – it can be pricey!

Head of Steam

12 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ
Mon-Thu 11-00; Fri-Sat 11-01; Sunday 12-23
Beers: 7 cask, 11 keg, bottles

Bit of a strange mix this one – it’s more of a traditional boozer that has a number of keg taps, but tend not to be new era British keg beers but rather more run of the mill Belgian, German and American ones – not that there’s anything wrong with these.  Yes – knowledgeable staff.

Scarbrough Hotel

Bishopsgate Street, Leeds LS1 5DY
Mon-Thu 10-00; Fri-Sat 10-01; Sun 08-22
Beers: 8 cask

And – the final pub on the route (or the first if you go the other way round) is the Scarbrough Arms.  Definitely one of the old breed of boozers but as can be expected in a Nicholson’s pub, not a bad beer choice at all.  Sadly, not in keeping with the knowledgeable staff though- with some of them it’s quite difficult to get them to understand your order.  One plus point is the Nicholson’s mobile app that gives cut price beer!

 

Beer count: 43 cask, 54 keg.  Grand total – 97!

Beer from Poland – Krakow

My first trip to Poland since the beer revolution started.

Grodzka 42

Ul. Grodzka 42, Kraków
Mon-Sun 17-??
Smaller measure pricing: not known
Arrived just as the member of staff was opening the doors to be met by a waft of stale smoke and damp. Dark and dingy, this rock bar may appeal to some but wasn’t quite my cup of hertbata. They’ve got a reasonable selection of beers though at competitive prices.

BeerGallery – Dominikańska

Dominikańska 3, Kraków
Mon-Fri 14-00; Sat-Sun 14-02
Smaller measure pricing: daft
Visited here last year as well as this and on the face of it seems to be a reasonable bar. This year though, the staff were a bit surly – very old school Polish and when I tried ratebeer.com’s current number one Polish beer, it was just thrown into the glass and the all important sediment left in the bottom. They’ve got a great range of bottled beers but for some reason they wouldn’t tell me who brewed the house beer, apart from it was a brewery near Poznan.

Would I visit again? Last year I would have said yes (and I did!) but now? I’m not so sure. It’s easy to be overtaken in a fast moving world such as this.

Multi Qlti Tap Bar

Szewska 21, Kraków
Mon – Thu 14-02; Fri-Sat 14-03; Sun 14-02
Smaller measure pricing: between so-so and fab
Wow. This place is great. Knowledgeable staff (inlcuding Gosia from Krakowbeertour) and a superb range of 20 draught beers and lots of bottles. They give a 10% discount before 20:00 if you ‘Like’ them on Facebook and as I only spotted this at 19:52, I took advantaged and lined a few up! I went back on my second night and found four or five new additions to the menu. Great location

Tap House Pracownia Piwa i Przyjaciele

św. Jana 30, Kraków
Mon-Thu 14-01; Fri-Sat 14-02; Sun 14-01
Smaller measure pricing: so-so
Another reasonable bar just a few steps from the main square with a good range of beers, With most (if not all?) from the Pracownia brewery. The reviews on beerpubs.pl (to me) don’t seem fair. The decor was minimalist, but that’s the nature of the place

TEA Time

Smaller measure pricing: fab
ul. Dietla 1, Kraków
Mon-Fri 12-23; Sat-Sun 12-01

See separate post

Strefa Piwa

Smaller measure pricing: daft
Józefa 6, Kraków
Mon-Thu 16-23; Sat-Sun 16-02; Sun 16-23
One of the older, more established bars over in Kazimerz. I’ve been in twice and always seems so quiet. Staff seemed a bit surly but again the beer selection was good.

Omerta

Smaller measure pricing: so-so
ul. Kupa, Kraków
Mon-Wed 16-00; Thu 16-01; Fri-Sat 16-02; Sun 16-00
Another of the bars that have been at the craft beer game for a bit longer. A nice bar, seems quite quirky with great staff and once again a good selection of beer. Running out of things to type now! Only thing to let it down is once again the pricing for smaller measures.

Chmiel Beer Pub

Smaller measure pricing: bottles
Stradomska 15, Kraków
Mon-Sun 16-??
Difficult to find – through an archway, round a corner and down some stairs. Apart from a couple of ‘fizzes’, all exciting beers are bottles. A fairly reasonable selection but nothing that couldn’t be found elsewhere. There’s supposedly a large selection of pinball machines to play on but I didn’t see them. I don’t know why, but there was just something about this place that I didn’t connect with.

Viva la Pinta

Smaller measure pricing: daft
ul. Floriańska 13, Kraków
Mon-Sun 12-??
Outlet for Pinta beers along with beers from other breweries great food. I had the bigos and it was excellent. Nice modern interior, good beers but yet another let down by silly pricing.

Warsaw to follow…

Edge Brewing, Barcelona

Edge Brewing, Barcelona

Carrer de Llull 62, Barcelona 08005
Metro: Bogatell L4-Yellow Line
Open Doors: Fri 18-22. May be open on other days.

My wife and I visited Barcelona and one of my aims was to suss out the growing beer scene in the region. Overall, we were a little disappointed in what we saw but Edge Brewing was a delightful change.

They have an ‘Open Doors’ event on a Friday, but we weren’t there on a Friday. Following an exchange of emails, we were told to just pop along one particular afternoon and we could visit the brewery.

We arrived, wandered in and were met by Alan who showed us the shiny new brewery equipment. We had a quick chat about what he was trying to do with the brewery before heading to the bar. Yum.

They had no less than 10 of their own beers on tap, with a similar range available at the open doors event. We tried all of the beers available before settling on a couple of large ones of the ones that we enjoyed. I don’t generally make notes on the beers I’ve tried but they were all in excellent condition and a good range of styles. Too many breweries concentrate on just one style of beer – generally pale and hoppy these days but not at Edge.

All in all, a great afternoon chatting with Allan (and the brewery assistant whose name escapes me!) sampling probably the best of the beers we’d tried while we were in Barcelona.

Keep up the good work!
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Cask Pub vs Keg Pub

There’s a lot these days surrounding the cask versus keg debate. Personally, I don’t mind keg beer as long is it is good. I don’t like bad keg or cask beer, but I do like good beer, be it keg or cask.

However, in my travels around the UK, I’ve started to see a distinction between the types of pub that serve keg beers and those that are cask only. So many times, you can walk into a ‘traditional’ pub and ask what a beer is like, only to be met with “soz mate – I don’t like ale”. On the other hand, go into a pub that serves keg beer – ‘craft beer’ if you prefer – and quite often, staff know what they’re on about. I’ve just been into the excellent Friends of Ham in Leeds and a customer came in and asked for a particular type of beer. The server showed the customer which were which and then went on to describe what they were like. From what I understand, staff only get a job in this bar if they know and like beer. This though seems to be the norm amongst the growing trend of ‘craft beer’ bars.

So, even if you don’t like keg beer, if you pop into somewhere that serves both styles, you’ll probably get far more knowledge ‘behind the bar’ in one of those craft places.

Wetherspoons, third pints and the beer festival

Twice a year, JD Wetherpoon hold a beer festival. At that festival, third pints are available, and generally people have them in threes, although you can order different quantities.

CAMRA members receive a number of vouchers each year to use at Wetherspoon’s and these may be redeemed against a pint of real ale. Unless you want three thirds as the system doesn’t recognise it as a pint.

I emailed head office and they replied saying yes, vouchers were valid with three thirds (subject to a couple of conditions).  This is the letter.

Beer in France

I’m planning a few days in the sun in France and I thought it would be good to have a look at France’s growing beer scene. There’s quite a few small breweries in France, but they tend to be far and few between.

I discovered this map. “Great”, I thought. Until I found it terribly out of date. I looked along the south coast of France and found the following errors…
Mare Nostrum in Castillon is missing
– Though strictly not in France, Brasserie de Monaco is missing
– Au Royaume du Boeuf in Cannes is no longer there – I tried to call in 2008 and the picture on Google Street View looks less than inviting!
– ‘Brasserie of Marseille’ is closed – when I visited in April 2007, there was brewery equipment in situ but no brewing done – evidently the brewer had died and they couldn’t find anyone else to do it. Since then, the building looks to have changed hands.

Not good.

It looks like RateBeer is the place to be – and there’s even a map!.

Now… where to go?

Brugge

I often get asked about Bruges, or to be more correct, Brugge. It’d be hard to say which my favourite bars are in the city or which I think the best, but here are a few that are in close proximity to each other and should give the first time visitor a taster. There’s a bit of a problem in so much as some of the better bars only open in the evening, although there’s still plenty to go to. Many places serve a small (free!) snack of peanuts, small biscuits or even cheese!

To get to the city centre from the station (the P&O shuttle bus drops off here too) catch a bus. Buy your ticket from the kiosk (and the return trip too) as you’ll pay €1,40 per journey as opposed to €2,00 from the driver.

De Garre

De Garre 1, Brugge
(just off Breidelstraat down a very little alleyway – tread very carefully! )
Each day 11:00/12:00 – 00:00/01:00

Once you’ve found this tiny watering hole and managed to get a table, perhaps with a ‘stranger’, a must try is their house beer at a very deceiving 13%!!! A great way to start a mini tour of the town!

 

Brasserie Strijdershuis

Hallestraat 14, Brugge – just the other side of the town hall.
Open from 10:30

‘Only’ about 50 beers but the food’s good. The midweek cheap lunch menu is supposed to be excellent value.


Cambrinus

Philipstockstraat 19, Brugge – opposite corner of square to the road where Strijdershuis is
Open from 11:00

Lots of good beers and what looks to be excellent food too. Quite a decent size bowl of peanutty snack things too!

 

Brugs Beertje

Kemelstraat 5, Brugge
Mon, Tue, Thu 16-01; Fri – Sun 16-02
** Usually closed Tuesdays Jan – April

Tucked into a side street, Daisy and her crew will expertly guide you through the 300 or so beers. The only slight downside is everyone knows this is one of the best beer cafes in Brugge and probably also Belgium and so attracts beer tourists, ranging from the loud mouth typical tourist to the ones who can appreciate the cafe. It can’t be all bad as it attracts a few locals, including Black Beasty – he’ll be at the end of the bar drinking De Koninck!

Want to try a few more? Try these less touristy places…

Rose Red

Cordoeaniersstraat 16
Mon-Thu 10-11; Fri, Sat 10-00, Sun 10-22

It’s rare to find a bar in Brugge with decent beer and a beer garden. This place has both! Well, it’s more of a terrace surrounded by buildings, but it’s still nice on a sunny day!

 

Comptoir des Arts

Vlamingstraat 53, Brugge
Mon, Wed-Sun 18-03

Run by Bram, formerly at ‘t Brugs Beertje, this cellar bar has 90 beers, a selection of whiskies, funky music and art on the walls. Mind your head as you descend the steps (I’ve forgotten several times!)

 

Poatersgat

Vlamingstraat 82, Brugge (over the road from Comptoir des Arts)
Open from 17
Not sure why I like this bar – I just do! It can get quite busy later on at weekends, but there’s usually a table somewhere.