Monday, 29 October 2012

On tour

Since it's half term, Mrs Nam, the kids and me have been visiting pals around the south east of England. One such excursion was to Rye, in East Sussex, where one can be cheerfully overwhelmed by a heavy dollop of English history. The town itself was once coastal in medieval times, through to Tudor England and beyond. Henry VIII built fortifications there and nearby (at Camber Castle), but these days the English Channel has retreated leaving a flat salt marsh and an enigmatic and beautiful town on a hill.

In the town, near a ruined city gate, there is a hostelry called The Ypres Inn. Despite being named after a French coastal town, the locals call it "The Wipers". Pronunciations come and go, but one great constant of English pubs is that they sell beer. This one is no exception, and I had a pint of the Old Dairy Brewery's Wild Hop, at 4.0%. Classical ale, lots of malt, lots of hops and no nasties. An easy going seven out of ten. Lovely.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Mr Windy and the Random Guinness #4

I got to the pub late today and was confronted by a large crowd of those already there ahead of me, which included Heath, Addie and Mr Windy, amongst many others. I wondered what we were celebrating, but it turned out everyone had simply decided to adjourn for lunch because it was just one of those days.

Happily, Addie had already lined me up a pint, and I was delighted to discover that it was a Sambrook's Junction. So soon after our successful and enjoyable brewery trip, it was like catching up with an old friend.

Several of us including Heath indulged; but Mr Windy won't give into to the crowd. Today was a Random Guinness day. That's what he wanted. That's what he had. If you're a regular reader, you'll know that's how he plays it sometimes. There's not rhyme or reason to it, it's simply what makes his world go round.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

More Sambrook's beer? Oh, OK then.

As Addie has seperately reported, we went last Thursday evening for a trip around Sambrook's Brewery, a recent startup in Clapham, South London. I thought it was high time we took our journalistic responsibilities seriously, and even Addie has had a fair crack at a sensible review of our evening (so I won't repeat his findings). However, roving reporter Heath, co-writer of almost nothing that has appeared on this blog, had other ideas.

Still, after a few liveners in various hostelries en route, we reached the Sambrook's Brewery, a few minutes walk from Clapham Junction station, with something between fifteen and twenty of us looking forward to the proceedings yet to come. I was delighted to be greeted by this sight:


At that moment I knew this would be my type of place, and I was not disappointed. Tom, with his red T-Shirt and enthusiastic demeanour, proceeded to place a pint of Wandle in my hand (the last usable one from the barrel, much to my colleagues' discontent), and off we went. Wandle is a proper session beer, and I was immediately happy.

But Tom was dishing out pints (those who missed out on Wandle got a pint of one of Sambrook's recent creations, Lavender) and dishing out beer wisdom in equal measure. And Heath dished out heckles. And drank more beer.

Unfazed, Tom worked us through the sources and treatments of the Maris Otter barley (malt) which forms the root of all of Sambrook's beer. There were various roasts and we crunched our way through them all, trying to pretend we were sagely appreciating the various subtle notes to each one (though the one for the porter was obviously very darkly cooked compared to the other two). Then we had another pint of beer (I had Lavender this time round).

Next, we had a look at the hops. Rubbing them between your hands you can appreciate the real floral root of many great ales, the smell being released and wafting up your nostrils in the same happy, hoppy, beery way that the chemically air fresheners you can buy for your car or lavatory don't. It's a wonderful smell -- away from the beer, why doesn't someone harness this for use as a commercial scent? I mulled this over as I received a pint of Junction. Dear me, I'm really starting to have a lovely time now.


Having had our talk and our Junction, it was time for a wander round the area where all the action happens. I think this was now about my sixth pint of the day, and by this point I was trying to pay attention but finding it much harder than I had when we'd started. I gleaned that they could make about 3000 litres a time, using local (but "Burtonised") water, and that they tried various quantities of the various malts and hops, and different temperatures, amongst other techniques, to give the various commercial and experimental ales they brew their particular characters.




I listened as intently as I could through a happy haze, only temporarily woken from my stupor by an abrupt "BOOM!" shouted by Heath into one of the large empty metallic vats (what a reverb -- recording artists everywhere should consider these acoustic qualities seriously). Tom was still unfazed and took us through to a second area where the actual four (ish) day fermentation process occurs, and where (I gather, based entirely on the evidence of my iPhone's camera) it is subsequently filled into barrels.


We got to the other end of the brewery -- really not too far. To my immense pleasure, there were some barrels full of more beer. We'd been advised to bring our glasses with us, and I was very happy I had done just that. Another Wandle -- thanks very much.

And so it went on. Eventually back in the bar area, we had a go at the Powerhouse Porter (dark and moody -- a black classic, exactly as a porter should be), and quite possibly one or two others. I couldn't say; I only know that we came away happy, and that I probably said thanks and goodbye to our ever-smiling and charismatic host Tom about ten times, shaking his hand frequently.

Then we went to the pub. Well, that's what you do, right? Somehow I made it home, and let me tell you I knew I'd had a few the following day. But don't let Addie fool you. He was feeling hopelessly sorry for himself, having overshot his station by four stops on the way home, and waking up early to be a little unwell. In the office the next day he was the lightweight with bloodshot eyes.

Addie certainly can't complain he had a bad pint -- we had a wonderful evening filled with amazing ales, and we are in Sambrook's debt for a their excellent, educational and entertaining hospitality. Cheers guys! Can we come again next week?


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Ouch my Head Hurts

So, after several weeks of planning, and a selection of people saying they would come and then drop out, and late attendees, we have finally made it to Sambrooks Brewery.

You will have seen I did complete one blog on the night, but after we started the brewery tour, I was totally engrossed, so I didn't have time to write any more at that time.

  

Tom, our guide, is not a full time employee at the brewery, so he completes these tours out of pleasure. Given this was not his full time job he was able to tell us a lot about the brewery, how it started, and how the make the beer. It was interesting to think that when Sambrooks was starting there were only three brewers in London, and now there are over thirty. This shows how people have been changing their drinking habits, and how this is driving the production of more traditional ale (over the mass produced lager we get in England).

Some brief facts (as I recall them):-
  • Sambrooks use locally sourced ingredients
  • the water is.. tap water.. which is 'burtonised' (this is adding of minerals etc that gives it the perfect start in life) 
  • the beers are named after local landmarks (Wandle - river, Junction - Clapham Junction, etc)
  • each brew is 3000 litres
So we started the evening with Lavender Hill, described as a honey beer. I like light ales, but I though this had a strange back of the throat aftertaste I can only describe as cardboard like.

We then tried some malt, at different stages of toasting. The lightly toasted barley reminded me so much of barley sweets, it was lovely (I'm guessing this isn't surprising really).

We had a pint of Junction, which is a lovely hoppy beer. I have reviewed this before and since it is only three miles from the local, it tasted just as nice as it did down the pub.

We had a look at the hops, and learnt about the flavour they add to the beer.

At this point I'm going to mention Heath. He'd had a couple of earlier meetings (in the pub) and was just a little bit tipsy before he started. He spent quite a lot of time talking very loudly and sometimes over Tom. If the tour hadn't been interesting it wouldn't have bothered me but today, this chap was talking and I was learning.

We had another Junction, as we then made our way through the brewery works, after which we had a pint of Wandle. To be honest I can't really remember much about the beer at this point, but Siddie tells me he preferred it to the Junction.

On our way back to get our bags, we tried a pint of the porter. I do remember this tasted like porter, but by this point things are getting a bit hazy.

All in all this was a fantastic evening. Not only did I learn a lot about Sambrooks and the way beer is made (when they try a new mix of hops/malt they make a full 3000litres, if they don't like it they throw it away), but had some excellent beer as well.

As you can imagine this lead to a some what thick head on Friday morning, which I have finally recovered from. The good news from me, is that Siddie was in a worse state than I was.




Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Last Pint.

So we are at Sambrooks Brewery an the first man to taste the beer has drunk them dry.

So I would comment on Wandle, but not until the barrel is replace.

At least we are in the right place.

Thanks Goodness Siddie is Busy

Siddie has been In one of his weird moods. For some reason he can't do anything himself. Addie, that meeting invite can you resend it. Addie, that Internet link you sent me last week, can you resend it.

This is most unlike Siddie, as normally he is on top of these things, and uses all sorts of technology to help him out. For instance, when we blog, some whizzy stuff automatically tweets it and publishes it to Facebook (I'm sure it does more, but by this point I'd switched off).

So when Mr Windy and I went out for lunch it was a bit of a relief as Siddie was tied up in meeting. Mr Windy and I talked about normal stuff (how's the family, what did you do last weekend) which can be refreshing from the highbrow conversations with Siddie (theory of relativity, suspension of disbelief).

Now I know Siddie has already reviewed Hop Garden Gold from the Hogs Back brewery (4.6% in case you missed it), but today is my turn. It doesn't have the classic hoppy taste of TEA, it's more subtle, it has no overtones of fruit or anything else, so is very pleasant to drink. It's flavour belies it's strength, so after a few you are going to know it. A very happy 8 out of 10 from me.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

One day to go

It's just one day to go until we visit Sambrook's Brewery in south London, home of beers such as Wandle and Junction. Addie and I, as well as several other gang members, are all excited. It's fair to say we're very much looking forward to it. Watch this space, and I'll blog all about it for your reading pleasure.

Meanwhile, Addie and I had almost no time for a quick livener today due to various work pressures and deadlines, so as a matter of principal we snuck out anyway, opting for the hostelry which is, as the crow flies (or our ageing feet walk) closest to our office. We don't usually go there as it has a more limited set of fairly well-known commercial ales (albeit well cared-for and pleasant), although Woodforde's Wherry has appeared since my last visit.

I gave it a try. Perfectly pleasant and drinkable, and easygoing at a comfortable 3.8%. Not too bad, if a little unspectacular. I'll give it a six out of ten.

From the pub window, Addie and I watched briefly while a team of workmen were repairing the road (and the landlady bemoaned the effect on her trade). I wonder if we'll get steamrollered tomorrow?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Tufty

Poor Addie. He does get some trouble from me (for example, see my sister blog, Too Wordy For Twitter, here: http://siddienam.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-non-temporary-disbelief-in.html). But I sincerely believe he brings it on himself. I am simply trying to help him.

Anyway, Addie doesn't exactly sport the world's finest mop of lush, thick locks. But what he has got, he keeps carefully trimmed using a home version of those sheary things they have at the barbers. At least, he thinks he's careful. I was wondering if the tufty bit he'd missed made him look more like Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa Laa or Po.

We dwelt on this over a pint of Hogs Back's Hop Garden Gold. At 4.6%, it doesn't taste as strong as it actually is. It's light, and clear. It's beery and pleasant. I liked it, but I'm afraid it isn't a match for TEA by the same brewery. Still decent though, seven out of ten.

So Addie, I'm just trying to help. By telling everyone I made sure you wouldn't forget to tidy it up overnight. Kind, aren't I?

DON'T FORGET! The drink up at the brewery is this week -- Addie and I will tell you all about the producer of some London Ales very soon. Exciting, huh?

Oh No What Have I Done

Siddie is upset with me. The title of my last blog, was one he was planning to use, so he has warned me that he may take the 'mick' just a bit. So I'm expecting all sorts of 'spelling mistakes' examples of 'poor grammar' and other such nonsense.

For those who read this, I apologise for the boring Siddie blog that is upcoming, but he has a bee in his bonet and will be venting very soon.

Today we managed a couple the first was Gem by Bath Ales at 4.1%, personally I'm not keen on this one, it has a slightly caramel taste. 5 out of ten.

Second was Old Growler by Nethergate, at 3.9% more traditional hoppy beer, much more up my street, 7 out of 10

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Suspension of Disbelief

As part of Siddie's and my discussions we were talking about a recent video release, Prometheus.

In our chat it was strange how Siddie wonders about space travel and where they are off to that takes 2 years (the nearest star is 4 light years away). Whereas what bothered me was that the android used 36 hours in a description of years, months , days , hours and minutes. But we both agreed it's a good movie.

Most importantly what did this discussion take place over? Well it was a pint of Hancocks HB at 3.6%. I won't be discussing the ale, as I've had this before (in fact we sold it in a bar where I worked) and today it tasted old. I don't think this is how it should be and therefore unfair to score it low based on the way it has been looked after in the pub.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

So The DIY is Finished

In a rather unexpected turn of events Siddie turned up for work today. Did he look all bloody and bruised? No. This leads me to suspect that the DIY at home is all fixed and Mrs. Nam is now happy with Siddies' handiwork.

After a long and rather tedious meeting Siddie suggested we go out and get some lunch. This seemed like a great idea, as we could have a beer at the same time.

So at the local we had Nethergates Dragons Revenge at 4.3%. This is a light coloured beer, which has a pleasant light taste to start but finishes slightly sour and woody (maybe slightly smokey). For me a nice change, but no session beer. 5 out of 10.

Back at it

It was tough going on my first day back in the office for some time. This was partly because I had to spend several hours in a meeting with Addie, and partly because it was my first day back in the office for some time. A late lunch beckoned, and Addie and I agreed to adjourn to our classical local haunt and try out what the pumps had to offer.

It was so late that we could persuade no other colleagues to join us, but in a committed piece of investigative journalism, Addie and I decided we owe it to our readers to have a pint and report back. We opted for Nelson Brewery's Dragon's Revenge, at 4.3%. (Addie has inaccurately reported it as Nethergate's on his blog post, which also contains a photo of the pump that directly contradicts this. Excellent, careful work from Addie, as usual.) This beer starts off as a decent light coloured ale, classical and golden. If it stayed like this, it would have scored quite highly, but unfortunately it's got a weird after taste, reminding me of the kind of woody smell you'd get if you were cutting a piece of pine with a power saw. Not exactly unpleasant, but not really for me, so I'm giving it a five out of ten. A decent attempt which some people might enjoy.

Perhaps its name is a reference to this slightly burnt flavour. Unlike the next pint, the name of which is most certainly not a reference to its taste. There it was, a renowned favourite, TEA from the Hog's Back Brewery. 4.2%, and malty, hoppy and excellent, as usual. What a pity we had to rush it for more conferences back in the office. I'm only giving it 9 out of 10, because the holy grail perfect pint is out there somewhere, but I'll tell you right now, this is a brilliant beer, and one of the few things Addie and I ever agree on.

Coming next week: Addie's Drink Up In A Brewery. We're off to where they brew the magical liquid. Keep an eye out for some serious reportage. Or drinking. Or something.


Monday, 8 October 2012

Bloody Noses and Birthdays

After what can be only described as a dreadful week at work last week, I was full of hope that this Monday would bring new hope and joy in the work place.

I brought some doughnuts in to share amongst the team which brought some smiles into the workplace.

Siddie should be able to help with the feel good factor as today is a special day for Siddie, as he is one year older than he was before. This would suggest he should have his card behind the bar and be buying everyone a drink. So where is Siddie?

No one knows, a quick text and it turns out he is off to the doctors, his nose won't stop bleeding - apparently. Now I'm not sure if this is because of his age, or just Mrs. Nam is fed up with him and punched him on the nose (maybe there is a leaky tap or something that needs fixing at home and the doctors is a ruse for a day out of the office). Whatever it is Siddie was no-where to be seen, and no doubt will regale us with tales of his bravery when he can be bothered to make it into work.

So today Mr Windy had a lager, whilst I feasted myself on a pint of FireFly by O'Halons at 3.7%. This is a hoppy and very sour bitter. Interesting to drink, but not a session beer. 6 out of 10 from me.

Siddie, I'm sure, will blog again at some point, until then I'll do my best to keep abreast of the local brews, with a trip to Sambrooks and the Woking beer festival in the very near future.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Real Ale Today

Oh what a week. Siddie, being the boss, has been all do this and do that, along with a bit of , why haven't you done it yet. He even suggested he was too busy to go to lunch.

Fortunately he changed his mind.

Naked Ladies by Twickenham Brewery at 4.4%. This has the citrus Tate to it which I dislike. So 5 out of 10.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Connect 4 and Coke

Yellows win. Yay.

So, it was one of those happy days when all the gang was able to convene for lunch. Mr Windy was there, NOT having a Random Guinness. And Heath, the world's finest teetotal and word-free beer blogger, was also incumbent when we reached the bar. He looked comfy and happy, and was sipping a pint of Coca Cola through a straw and playing Connect 4 with a colleague. It was like going to the pub with your seven year old, and I wondered if there was a swing and a climbing frame in the beer garden, or whether we'd get a big roll-around-on-the-floor tantrum if I refused to let him have a packet of crisps.

Addie was there too, iPhone 5 finally working. He was determined to show it off, so I was even kind enough to dial it for him from my own phone. It made a ringing noise and I was able to talk to him from across the table. So impressive; no wonder Bond films no longer focus on gadgetry. There's no competing with a real-world display like this.

We'd gone to a different pub than our usual haunt, mainly because we wanted some decent food and this place is the best locally for home made burgers (made of things like springbok and wildebeest, since the owner is South African). Unfortunately, the beer choice was a bit limited and I had to have a bottle (or two) of Old Speckled Hen. Perfectly fine, if a bit too cold and fizzy, as Addie suggested it was going to be at endless droning length before proceeding to have a cold and fizzy bottle of San Miguel.

Scrabble and soda tomorrow, anyone?


I Don't Like Mondays

Surprisingly Siddie was in the office today, obviously no decorating at home to be done. Given Siddie is the boss, you'd think that he'd be organised. But no lunch at 12:30, then 12:15 and then now, what is going on!

When we finally get to the pub, not our usual, but one with good food. Heath is tucking in to a good quality glass of cola and playing connect 4, how cute, my daughter would love this. He regales some tale of drinking beer at the weekend, London Pride, Guinness and a real ale, none of which have made the blog. Well done Heath.

Mr Windy is with us, contemplating which beer he should have. This is (what I would call) a posh bar, they have table service. So Mr Windy, orders a beer, the bar man returns, as they have run out. This repeats a couple of times until he hits upon one they actually have (he should have stuck with Guinness).

Siddie is scouting for a real ale, no chance here, the food is good, but the real ale choice is poor. He has a bottle of Old Speckled Hen. Now I would normally like this ale, just a tad strong, but full flavoured. But bottled ale isn't to my taste too cold and too fizzy.

I do what I normally do in a bar like this, and have a lager, in this case San Miguel. As we don't make the bar, I have no idea of the strength, but it's like any other lager - cold and fizzy.

Oh well, lets make it a real one tomorrow.