Sunday, 28 February 2016

Pub of the Year 2016

I went to Stockport last night for the presentation of my CAMRA branch's Pub of the Year award to the Boars Head, a Sam Smith's pub on the marketplace which serves their only cask beer, Old Brewery Bitter.

I drank in Sam's Smith's other pub in the town, the Queens Head, a few times when I worked in Stockport in the late 90's and early 2000's, but hadn't been to the Boars Head before. It has the older male working-class clientele you expect in a Sam Smith's pub, no doubt attracted by the very reasonable prices: a pint of Old Brewery Bitter is £1.80 (not a typo, London readers). It has also the kind of rambling corridor and multi-room layout and Victorian-type decor that I'm a big fan of.

I'd guess that the Boars Head is the only CAMRA Pub of the Year in the country which only serves one cask beer. I hadn't drunk Old Brewery Bitter for a while; it was the heavy malty, bready Yorkshire bitter I remembered and was well-kept. I also tried Sam Smith's keg Extra Stout on draught and was impressed by its roasty taste, a cut above that of the Guinness it replaced.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Lenten beer?

The start of Lent last week got me thinking about why, in England at least, there are no beers associated with this part of the liturgical calendar.

There are beers brewed for the seasons (golden summer ales and darker winter ones) and for other religious festivals, especially Christmas when most breweries bring out a seasonal beer. Maybe it's because Lent doesn't lend itself to Yule Love It/Good Elf-type puns. There's also probably the thought that, unlike at Christmas, people will be giving things up rather than enjoying them,

Strong, malty beers are drunk in Lent elsewhere in Europe. The Doppelbock known as Fastenbier in Bavaria and the high-gravity Trappist beers of Belgium were both supposedly first brewed by monks as sustenance, "liquid bread", when fasting in Lent. Whether that's true or not, it does show that at least some of our continental cousins see beer as an essential part of daily life, rather than an occasional luxury, which also reflects different attitudes to drinking in Catholic and Protestant areas.