Friday, 23 January 2015

"Diverse and inviting, The Finborough Arms is almost magical"

There's a lovely review of my new pub the Finborough Arms in the Telegraph today. Adrian Tierney-Jones is the author. Have a read of it here online.

The Finborough's Winter Ale Fest starts today (Friday 23rd Jan) at 5pm and runs through to the end of Sunday. All the beers are served from our cellar via our eight handpumps and six keg taps, with changes throughout the weekend as the first beers run out and taps become free. Just click the link below the blog title or the image at the top of the sidebar for more details and a beer list.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Throwback Thursday #9: indecency

Every Thursday I dig up some old posts from the archives of the blog's first life (2007-2009).

I've had complaints from two pals (Jack Attack and Mothmun) that there's been no Throwback Thursday today, so I'm phoning this one in. I can't think of a decent theme so instead let's go for indecency.
How not to do a beer tasting: in October 2007 I committed a sin that will offend beer geeks everywhere. 
Strippers in a brewery tap: in February 2008 I managed to use the words "winking anus" in a beer blog. I'd note that the pub I wrote about was subject to an extensive refurbishment in 2014, but retains its character and key original features.
Sex toys, courtesy of Sam Smith's: in September 2008 I encountered a vending machine selling cock rings in the gents' bogs at the Cittie of Yorke. I didn't buy one. 
Plastic pissers: in March 2009 I reported on the appearance of handy temporary urinals on the streets of Clerkenwell.
 So there you have it. Throwback Thursday.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Worthington's White Shield - 1992 edition

Back in July 2007 I wrote about a 15 year old, limited edition bottle of Worthington White Shield I'd acquired. Here's the blog post.

As any fule kno, White Shield is an old-style IPA that - for a brief time - was the only bottle-conditioned beer available in the UK. It's still around today. It enjoyed something of a revival in the late 2000s. There was even a marketing campaign by brand owners Molson Coors - including an advert on this blog (yes, bloggers used to get paid for ads back then, not just bribed with freebies to write nice things). Right now it doesn't seem to be getting much attention. Beers with history are drowned out by the craft beer frenzy. If you haven't tried it, you really should.

Well, that bottle was to be 23 years old this year. It's been gathering dust on a bookshelf since I acquired it. Time to finally open it up. A Jinn didn't pop out (a good thing) but neither was there a satisfying hiss and that little wisp of vapour you usually get with real ale in the bottle.

Corrosion inside the bottle cap wasn't a great start, but in the glass and down the hatch it went. I poured it carefully, but there was still plenty of gunk in suspension. It looked - and tasted - like Bovril with chunky bits. Oh, well.

I remember a few years ago an undisturbed room was discovered in the cellars of the old Allsopp's Brewery in Burton. Inside were dozens of bottles of Victorian beer. One from the 1870s was opened and tasted by none other than Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide and CAMRA prophet. He had great things to say about the beer, but I remember being highly dubious at the time.

My question is this: considering how bad my 1992 bottle tasted, what hope can there be for a truly venerable beer?

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Final word on Dry January

I bashed out a rather venomous piece for the Morning Advertiser this week on the subject of "Dry January". You can read it here. By now you've probably figured out that I have little time for the "third sector" organisations that masquerade as charities these days. Paul Bailey, in a post on his blog today, provides a little more colour on this subject:
"We all know charity is big business these days; a drive past the flashy head-office of the Charity’s Aid Foundation at the nearby Kings Hill Business-Park yesterday confirmed this. It is also no big secret that the large charities, and quite a few of the not so large, pay their top executives massively inflated salaries."
Take that, Alcohol Concern. Final word on Dry January: if you've decided to give your liver a break, then maybe that's good for you. You only have a couple of weeks before you can rejoin civilisation. The rest of us don't need to know about it in the meantime, though.

The Park Brewery tap takeover at the Finborough on Saturday was a big success. The pub was busy all day. I'd post photos but the only one I took was just after we closed, and shows a CAMRA official arm wrestling a local. More events of the same nature are planned (brewery tap takeovers, not geriatric arm wrestling), and of course we've got a winter ale festival this coming weekend. I'm banjaxed after a few heavy days on the pop so will need a few dry days myself to prepare.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Throwback Thursday #8: my first pub job

The Steamboat in South Shields, County Durham
This tweet from Bill at Cullercoats Brewery of Tyneside brought back some memories. The Steamboat in South Shields - where he was delivering his fantastic ale today - is where I worked during my A-Levels. It was my first pub job. In fact, it was my only pub job before I became landlord of my own in 2009 (I don't count ostentatiously pulling pints behind the Oxford Union bar during my term as President).

I wrote about the Steamboat - and Vaux, the defunct brewery that once owned it - in this post from October 2007.

We're having our own delivery of Cullercoats beers at the Finborough this week. There's also casks from Mordue and Anarchy - other top North Eastern breweries - on the palett. Among them are seasonal ales for our Winter Ale Fest which starts on Friday 23rd of this month and runs throughout the weekend. More details of the festival can be found here.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

"Mini mini brewery making five hoppy ales"

Josh at The Park Brewery, Kingston-upon-Thames
Here's a photo of Josh of The Park Brewery at work this afternoon, taken by his wife Frankie who runs the nanobrewery with him. The title of this post is their very straightforward twitter profile description.

The couple will be at the Finborough on Saturday when we'll have all five of their ales on tap. That's a first for this tiny Kingston-upon-Thames brewery that launched in November.
  1. KILLCAT PALE (3.7%) - a refreshing pale with 100% New Zealand hops (Galaxy and Motueka) - £3.90 for a pint
  2. GALLOWS GOLD (5%) - an amber ale with English hops and crystal malt, dry hopped with Simcoe and Cascade - £3.90 for a pint
  3. SPANKERS IPA (5.9%) - hopped with Centennial and a mixture of other varieties that changes with every batch - £4.90 for a pint
  4. DARK HILL (6.2%) - a heavily hopped black beer dry hopped with Polaris from Germany and Topaz from Australia - £3.90 for 2/3 pint
  5. TWO STORM RUBY (7.1%) - dark ruby, brewed with Munich malt and hopped with Columbus and Pacific Jade - £3.90 for 2/3 pint
The Finborough will be open on Saturday from noon to midnight. Food is available. You can order Firezza wood fire pizzas at the bar all day, then in the evening from 6pm-9pm we'll have food truck My Pie London at the pub, with owner Chris serving pie and mash. His beef pies are made using Park Brewer's Dark Hill beer.

Finborough Arms, 118 Finborough Road, SW10 9ED (GOOGLE MAP)
If coming by tube, the pub is five minutes walk from Earl's Court (use the "Exhibition" exit and turn left, keep heading in same direction onto Finborough Rd) and West Brompton (turn right then right again after the cemetery entrance and you're there).

Friday, 9 January 2015


This is the sight that greeted me after hiking 15 miles or so through the wooded hills of the Fränkische Schweiz. After a day of lousy weather and a few steep climbs, I descended to Büchenbach just as the sun broke through the clouds and cast a warm glow over the rooftops of the village. My heart soared.

I've already written about my October trip to Franconia, Germany, focussing on the Grädl brewery tavern in the village of Leups. Looking through the photos I took, I came across this one and wanted to share it.

I'd set out walking from Pottenstein after breakfast, climbing the steep crags that surround the town in steady rain. I was heading for Pegnitz where I'd booked digs for that night. A few miles north of Pegnitz (not somewhere worth visiting in its own right, but possessed of a railway station with a direct connection to Nuremburg) is the village of Büchenbach. This being Franconia, and my hiking trips almost always having a beery agenda, the village has a brewery: Gasthof Herold.

When I located the brewery the door was unlocked but the lights were off and nobody was about. Bollocks. My heart was no longer soaring, but I cheered up when a gruff but friendly old boy emerged from the kitchen door. He didn't mess about, asking immediately if I was here for a glass of his beer, "Beck'n". Within quarter of an hour his granddaughter had rustled me up some sausages and I was on my third pint.

My host - once the brewer himself, judging by the old photos of him on the wall - sat at the table next to mine, reading his paper while enjoying his own beer. The sunshine that had greeted me as I entered the village streamed in through the windows.

After a while a couple pulled up in a car. They were soon joined by other customers, and before long we threatened to get into double figures. It was only then that our host saw fit to turn the lights on. With only two hours of daylight left and a few more miles of walking ahead of me, I finished by fifth mug of beer, handed over 15 euros and said my goodbyes.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Throwback Thursday #7 - two famous Belgians (three more needed)

Every week at 2pm on Thursday I link to a few old posts from this blog's archives from 2007-2009.

De Struise Brouwers Aardmonnik
In contrast to the majority of those who blog about beer, I'm really a pub man first and foremost. I make no apologies for that. But sometimes it really is what's in the glass that grabs you, and the setting isn't the most important thing. I wrote about a few moments like that in the past. Here are the reviews I wrote of my two favourite Belgian beers of all time:
St Bernardus Abt 12this wordy but enthusiastic post was one of my very first efforts in January 2007 (you can see it was pre-smoking ban from the ashtray on the table). Back then there weren't any other active beer blogs in the UK (Pete Brown had started but stopped again in 2006), so a load of guff about a beer I drank at home was enough to attract readers. It wouldn't be today, of course.
De Struise Brouwers Aardmonnik: I drank this sour Flemish ale at the ever-moody Quinn's of Camden in May 2007. What the blog post doesn't tell you is that I'd just had a steaming row with my then girlfriend. She'd stormed off and expected me to follow. Ordinarily I would have done just that, but when I took a sip of this beer I'd just bought I decided to let her calm down by herself. Lesson for all you youngsters: don't be a melt. You never know when it might stop you enjoying good a really good beer.