Thursday 28 April 2011

Cock Hotel, Welington

This is a fine pub situated in Wellington (Postcode TF1 2DL) on the historic Roman route of Watling Street.
Although the new town of Telford has swallowed up Wellington it retains a small town feel.


Although the pub itself is older it retains features from the early part of the 20th century. The partition between the bar and parlour has been opened up but the two area retain their distinctiveness. The entrance and reception has kept its original panelling and acts as an overspill drinking area. The comfortable lounge has a large end window giving panoramic views of the passing traffic. This room has now been designated as ‘Bar de Haan’ and stocks a range of forty foreign beers, mostly from Belgium. There is an outside drinking area which is quite a sun trap.


One wall of the bar is covered with award certificates and this CAMRA Regional Pub of the Year for 2009 deserves the plaudits. There are eight handpumps in use, one of which is reserved for real cider from Moles. On the day of my visit all the beers available were sourced locally and comprised Hobson’s Bitter and Mild, Ironbridge Centennial, Holden’s Golden Glow, Three Tuns’ Cleric’s Cure, Wood’s Shropshire Lad and Titanic Stout.


I sampled four of these all of which were in excellent condition. The price of each beer is clearly displayed on the handpumps which is good to see. There is no hot food but superb cold pork pies from Paddy Ryan in Much Wenlock were in heavy demand.


The Cock is a short stroll from AFC Telford’s football ground and should be on any visiting supporters’ list for a pre-match drink. It is about 15 minutes walk from Wellington railway station. It has letting rooms so why not stay the night?

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Price of beer

According to data from the Office for National Statistics the declining value of money (i.e. inflation) means that a pint of beer could cost £8 by 2060.

I would find it more believable if they'd said £8 a pint by 2016, and even that may be a generous target.

Sunday 24 April 2011

New beer from Brimstage Brewery

Brimstage Brewery launched their new '400 Not Out' beer this week. brewed to mark the 400 years existence of the Wheatsheaf pub in Raby, a top seller of Brimstage beers. It is a traditional 3.7% brown bitter brewed with Maris Otter, Crystal and pale malts with Fuggles and Goldings hops. There is a distinct coffee nose, and the full flavoured tasty bitter suggests a beer of a higher strength.

Some of the brew will be sold in other pubs where it is badged as '40 Not Out' to recognise CAMRA's 40 years of campaigning. Outlets include O.C./Knockaloe, Brombrough; Red Lion, Parkgate; White Lion, West Kirby; Cheshire Cheese, Wallasey and Roscoe Head, Liverpoool.

The beer has been very well received to date and is selling fast so may well become a permanent addition to the range.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Belgian beer in Lidl

Lidl are selling packs of 6 different beers from the Van Steenberge brewery for £9.99. There are three from the Augustijn range, Leute Bokbier, Piraat and Gouden Draak. As the weakest of these is 7.5% it's good value. I'm sure many of you are more likely to have a Lidl nearby than a specialist beer shop so hurry along before the offer ends. If you live in the Tory shires drop me a line and I'll explain the concept of Lidl.

Courage Imperial Russian Stout

One of the great bottle conditioned beers that was available at the dawning of CAMRA, Courage Imperial Russian Stout was 10% a.b.v. and brewed from a combination of pale amber and black malt plus unusually, a small amount of Pilsner malt. It was heavily hopped with Target hops and had a very intense and bitter chocolate taste with a smooth texture.
In the 18th Century Thrale’s Anchor Brewery in Southwark was one of the premier exporters of Stouts and Porters to the Baltic. The brewery was eventually sold to a banker named Barclay whose name is still used by the bank today. Another banker named Perkins joined forces and they became one the major brewers in London.

The brewery was taken over by Courage in 1955 and closed with production and brewery name moving to the Courage site nearby. The Barclay Perkins name continued in use until the early 1970s. Imperial Russian Stout was matured in wooden pins for one year before bottling.

The Courage brewery in London closed in the 1980s with brewing of Imperial Russian Stout moved to John Smith’s at Tadcaster. However the beer was no longer matured and it was released young. It was no surprise when production ceased in 1993.

Friday 15 April 2011

Worthington bottle

Baron Orm requested that I publish a photo of this old bottle of Worthington beer of mine. I was told that it dates from the late 1920's although I haven't been able to verify if the Royal Coat of Arms on the bottle is that of Goerge V or George VI.

'Brewers By Appointment To His Majesty The King' the label proudly proclaims. It will be a familiar sight to many older drinkers, being very similar to that used for Worthington White Shield until comparatively modern times. The name 'Masseys Burnley' indicates where it was bottled. Massey's was taken over by Charrington United in 1966.  Embossed on the reverse is 'J. Grimshaw Ltd. Burnley.' The latter brewery was itself taken over by Massey's in 1928 so the bottle is well over 80 years old.

The bottle is cork drive and there has been little evaporation over the years althoug the beer appears to be hazy. I have another bottle from this batch so I think I'll sample one during the OpenIt! weekend and let you know if it is drinkable.

Thursday 14 April 2011


The Royal Wedding is enough to drive anyone to drink, so it's a good time for the next OpenIt! Use the long weekend break to dig out those beers that you put away for a special occasion. You really should drink them some time instead of just admiring them.

I've decided to open a bottle of De Dolle '21'. This was a one-off brew commissioned in 1997 (?) to commemorate 21 years of the famous Erasmus beer bar and hotel in Bruges. The beer was exclusive to Erasmus but I've obtained a few bottles over the years. I've only ever drunk the beer in said bar but now is the time to take the plunge and liberate a bottle.

So what's going to be your tipple?

Friday 8 April 2011

Cask & Kitchen Pimlico

Out in the sticks we can only marvel at the offerings from some of the pubs and bars in London. Metropolitan types can turn away now, you're probably not going to learn anything new.

Situated a short walk from Pimlico tube station or slightly longer from the theatre district around Victoria there's nothing from the outside that stands out from the hundreds of London street corner pubs. In fact at the moment it is even less enticing as it is mostly covered in scaffolding.

Inside it is a different matter. The pub has been opened out but still retains a cosy feel with a range of comfortable seats and pillars to loiter at. What strikes the drinker most is the range of beers on offer. There are numerous handpumps, a number of draught fonts and a growing number of fridges stocked with bottles, some of the fridges now encroach into the drinking space. Originally, the bottled beers majored on German beers but as new fridges have been added the range of Belgian, U.S. and other beers has increased markedly.

On my latest visit the the photo of cask beers shows such diverse sources as Ilkley, Arbor, Darkstar Summer Wine and Otley. Amongst the craft beers were a couple from from Mikkeler (Denmark) an IPA from Southern Tier (U.S.A) and a selection from Nøgne Ø (Norway). The bottled range was superb with obscure but classy beers from around the world. I went for a Viven IPA, a strong Belgian beer that is hard to find in Belgium.

The staff are not at all snooty which can be the case in some specialist bars. Excellent bar meals are not expensive by London standards and the pub offers regular tasting events. Seek it out next time you visit London.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Flying Dog brewery and the cartoonist Ralph Steadman have launched a claim for damages against the Michigan Liquor Commission in a row over censorship. The commission banned the beer label and slogan for Raging Bitch IPA on the grounds that they were "detrimental to to the public health, safety and welfare".

Steadman said "Freedom of Speech and artistic expression is as fundamental to our being as is the alphabet itself. I thought censorship went out with DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover about 50 years ago."

Flying Dog's excellent beers can be found in an increasing number of pubs and bars in the U.K. Someone else who wouldn't approve is Roger Protz who is astounded that anyone could possibly want CAMRA to embrace keg beer.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Do you know what you're drinking?

It's happened to me twice this month so I thought I'd share my experiences with you. I go into a pub and order a pint of a cask beer that I know well. The beer is in excellent condition but something is amiss. The taste isn't quite right and the colour seems wrong. A few more swigs and I'm convinced that what I'm drinking isn't what the pumpclip states.

A quiet word with the bar staff ensues. On the first occasion the barman sticks to his guns -"Definitely Hawkshead Bitter". However he does go into the celllar to check. "Hawkshead Windermere Pale" he says satisfied that all is correct. "But the pump clip says "Hawkshead Bitter" I reply. "It's not the same beer". The conversation continues amicably enough but I note that the pump clip remains unchanged.

The second time was yesterday after Rovers' game. "I spot Trapper's Hat" says Bill as we walk in. We need cheering up after another defeat so pints are ordered. Wait a minute though. The beer is very pale and tastes a bit thin. I offer my opinion that this isn't Trappers' Hat but Sandpiper, a weaker beer from the same Brimstage Brewery. My friends aren't immediately sure but I'm convinced. It's my round next so I query the pump clip with the barmaid. She consults a colleague and it is soon evident that a mistake has been made. The cask had run out and seeing the name 'Brimstage Brewery' on the new cask she had presumed that it was 'Trapper's Hat'. There was much amusement that none of the regulars had spotted that their favourite beer wasn't what it seemed.

I won't name the pubs because I'm sure that there was no intention to deceive. So how often does this happen? O.K. I know a bit more about beer than some. But during the year I drink lots of beers that I'm not familiar with. Well how do I know that I'm getting the beer named on the pump or font? The answer is I don't.

Friday 1 April 2011

I love Paris in the Springtime

I had a romantic weekend in Paris to celebrate Mrs. Birkonian's birthday. Apart from the touristy stuff I visited quite a few bars with acceptable beers and thought I'd draw your attention to one.

'Duvel Cafe' is owned, as you'd suspect by the excellent Belgian Duvel Moortgat group. it stocks the beers from it's three breweries, Moortgat, La Chouffe and Liefmans plus a well selected range of other Belgian beers giving a choice of approximately 70 beers. There are also some French specialty beers and a few from Germany also. Regrettably, Coreff handpumped beer from Brittany was not available during my visit.

A big plus point for the bar is its position. Turn left out of Gare Du Nord railway station and it is the first buiding that you encounter, less than 50 yards away. Perfect for those travelling to or from Paris on Eurostar.

Internally, the decor is 'Fin-de-siècle' with ornate plasterwork, mirrors and a pewter bar top with a beautiful mosaic front. The new owners have added lots of modern brewery paraphernalia to give it the feel of a typical Belgian beer cafe. Food is available in the form of croques, burgers and pasta. Out front in the sunshine are tables where you can watch the world go by or keep an eye on the sex shop over the road.

Highly recommended for a quick drink en route to/from the station or a longer session in a part of the city.