The Bartons Arms, Birmingham, England

bartons arms exterior

The Bartons Arms, Villa, Birmingham, dates from 1901 and is a grade II listed building with a stunning interior. It is owned by Oakham Ales of Peterborough. It serves authentic Thai cuisine of a very high standard. Expect a good range of Oakham’s cask ales, a few guest taps and some cider.

bartons arms interior

The Oakham Citra was in fine form and paired very well with the excellent Thai food.

While we walked here from the Bullring, we opted for a quick taxi ride back into the core of Birmingham, landing near to the Wellington and our hotel.


St. George’s Day Festivities for Charity

st-g-flag     canada-150

Please join us on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 6:30 PM for St. George’s Day festivities at the Granite Brewery Restaurant!


Join us for St. George’s Day festivities in support of charity on Saturday, April 22rd at 6:30 PM at the Granite Brewery and Restaurant, 245 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto.  Celebrate all things English with co-hosts Maz Brereton and Robert Hughey and guest speaker Nick Pashley. Door prizes, silent auction, plus a live auction with auctioneer Julian Mulock.

In honour of the 150th Birthday of Canada join Nick at the podium and bring your ‘England to Canada’ story, in words, song, pictures or mementos. The event features a delicious four course gourmet dinner with four matching fresh Ontario cask ales.

Please show your support for England and Canada and raise funds for Prostate Cancer Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Tickets are now on sale and you can buy them by calling 416 462 3788 or emailing

$70 per person (taxes and with partial tax receipt included)

This event organized by CASK! Toronto, which has helped raise over $20,000 for charity over the last few years! Sign up and buy your tickets now.

Hope to see you there!


Childswickham Inn, Childswickham, Worcestershire: Incredible Food!


While the Childswickham Inn is more of a restaurant than a pub, it did have a decent jar of cask ale, the name of which quickly succumbed to the sublime food on offer.

DSCN3610Outdoors in glorious late autumnal sunshine, I relished these incredible curried salmon and prawn (shrimp) fishcakes with sauteed Pak Choy crispy  chilli noodles and Thai green sauce that were brilliantly presented and most amazingly good!

The Royal Oak, Gretton, Gloucestershire, Hits all the Right Notes!


It is always a thrill to find a new and outstanding pub in an area of England, in and around the stunning Cotswolds, which I have traversed and happily explored over the years. Such a pub is The Royal Oak in Gretton, Gloucestershire, near to Cheltenham and Evesham and Broadway, Worcestershire, by car.

Set on two acres, this pub has fine views of the Vale of Evesham with steam trains running by on the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire railway at the foot of the property. Inside you will find warming wood fires, a conservatory, engaging staff, cask ales such as the hop happy Stunner from the Cotswold Spring Brewery in good nick and precise food with tempting flavours.

pints gretton

I had the roast Gressingham duck breast with Dauphinoise potato, roast root vegetables, crispy coated poached egg and red wine jus one time. And on another visit I had a delectable Sunday roast of pink pork and a dessert of sticky toffee pudding.

view out Gretton

I returned to The Royal Oak, which dates from around 1830, a number of times during a three week stay in Broadway because the atmosphere and all the amenities collectively made it feel just right.

Allen’s: A Nod to Ontario Craft Beer Week 2015

DSCN0975Allen’s on the Danforth in Greek Town, Toronto, Ontario, one of my local haunts because of its completeness of offerings, is situated amid a plethora of restaurants featuring all manner of world cuisines, from Greek to Japanese.

Allen’s is a long narrow American style bar and restaurant with a few booths facing the sturdy polished oak bar at the front of the house and at the back an eclectic scattering of wooden chairs and tables that are draped in fresh blue and white gingham tablecloths. The erudite proprietor John Maxwell runs a good house with crisp service.

Chalkboards list a good range of interesting beers on tap with, for example, the hop-driven Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale ale from the Flying Monkeys Brewery in Barrie, and the finely crafted crisp King Pilsner, a Czech style pilsner brewed in Nobleton, and the crisply hop-driven Rhyme and Reason from Collective Arts Brewing of Hamilton as the featured Ontario microbrews on tap, with the always excellent Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic,as well as some 100 diverse offerings in bottle. There is also an excellent selection of around 200-plus single malts available for tasting, as well as superb Ontario VQA wines cellared by Maxwell.

Here in summer you will find a fabulous naturally shaded backyard featuring good food such as barbecued rack of lamb, steaks, burgers and ribs, all served with several creative side salads.

The Horse and Groom: A True Village Local

271Overlooking the mellow village of Bourton-on-the-Hill in Gloucestershire, The Horse and Groom is a Grade II listed Georgian building made of honey coloured Cotswold stone. It has fine views from its back garden and five tastefully furnished rooms to let. The main floor of the interior is divided into a pub, accessed by the front door, and a dining room beside that. This pub serves memorable meals freshly prepared such as Asiatic salmon or pinkish duck breast with suitable vegetables. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable. The private parking lot, however, can get busy and crowded.

On the beer front, there are three cask ales, with the malt-accented Jouster from Goff’s Brewery usually on, with two rotating taps from such local notable brewers as the North Cotswold Brewery, Cotswold Lion Brewery, Prescott Ales, Stroud Brewery, Butcombe, Purity and Wye Valley. 262

I’ve been coming to the Horse and Groom for a good few years now, though maybe not all 10 years it has been in the very capable hands of the welcoming Greenstock family, and I have never been disappointed with the impeccable food and fresh ales. This is a pub of and for the people, whether you are a lucky local or a yearly visitor, the high standard of hospitality is served up in equal measure, making it a true village local.

Munich, Germany: Beer and Surfing

When you think of Munich and Germany, beer comes quickly to mind, but not so surfing. I went to Munich for beer and stumbled upon the surfing. But first the beer, priorities being upheld.

Munich is the capital and largest city, population 1.5 million, of the German state of Bavaria. It is located north of the Bavarian Alps on the banks of the River Isar.

Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, Schwemme, the main beer hall

Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, Schwemme, the main beer hall

I went first to the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, a Munich institution, to sample German beer on draught in
Schwemme, the main beer hall and the heart of the Hofbräuhaus, which has seating for around 1,300 drinkers and diners. Festsaal, the ball room, has a further 1,500 seats, and other more private rooms hold another 1,000 people. And there is seating for another 700 in the spacious and well-treed beer garden.

Wherever you land in this glorious beer emporium, try one of their best summer beer offerings, Hofbrau Munchen’s Munchner Sommer Naturtrub, which is an unfiltered bottom fermented draught beer hitting 5.1 percent abv. It is a veiled amber in colour,Munchner Sommer Naturtrub at The Hofbrauhaus Chinesischer Turm beer garden showcasing a refreshing hop character upfront and a pleasant hop bitterness underneath a refined malt base. Its crispness on the palate makes for perfect summertime drinking, especially so outdoors in one of HB’s many beer gardens around Munich.

The large warm pretzels and spicy German mustard make for a fine accompaniment to the beer.

Later I set off to visit, in the heart of the Engslischer Garten, The Hofbrauhaus Chinesischer Turm beer garden, (Sommer Naturtrub pictured left in beer garden) which is the second largest beer garden in Munich with some 7,500 seats in the open air. Steins of HB brands are happily served in quantity to ever-eager consumers, many in large groups of friends or with extended family members.

Surfing in Munich!

Surfing in Munich!

Along the way I came upon canal surfing in the heart of Munich, which is quite something to behold. I may have read about it in a guide book but it didn’t make any sense until I actually saw men and women in black wet suits skimming over the surface of hundreds of gallons of water forcefully gushing and frothing from a closed canal into a wider open channel. And then it did make sense. Boy did it ever. Inner-city Munich is a most unusual surfing destination but it really was quite a brilliant spectacle.

But, alas, there was more beer to be had in Munich, much more, and to that end I set my feet in motion.

Curries and Casks for Charity Update


Please join us on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 7 PM for St. George’s Day festivities at the Granite Brewery.

CASK! is holding its fundraiser, Beer for a Cure, in support of Prostate Cancer Canada on Saturday, April 26th at 7 PM at the Granite Brewery and Restaurant, 245 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto.

The event features a delicious four course gourmet curry dinner with four fresh Ontario cask ales, three of which will be only available at this event.

Please sign up and buy your tickets here


Welcome Beer: Junction Craft TBA

Served with Curried nuts and vegetarian samosas

Granite TBA

Matched with Carrot and onion salad

Great Lakes TBA

Heralding Spiced almond chicken

Curried vegetables and spiced Basmati rice

Accompanied by cucumber raita and mango chutney

Black Oak 10 Bitter Years

Dessert-Chef’s treat

Celebrate all things English with MC Robert Hughey, guest speaker Nick Pashley and auctioneer Julian Mulock.

Please sign up and buy your tickets here

Book now!

The Ingham Swan, Ingham, Norfolk, England

the swan inn ingham1The Swan, a 14th century thatched and flint building, is owned by Woodforde’s Brewery and as such you can expect a well-kept pint of Wherry Best Bitter, as well as many of the other cask ales from the full and exquisite range.

Having driven from Yorkshire, and taking three and a half hours in the last stretch from Lincolnshire, mainly in a light misty rain in the pitch dark, which descends sharply at four p.m. in December, I had developed a powerful thirst. I pulled into the parking lot just after the six p.m. pub opening. I went straight in to the bar and ordered a pint of Wherry Best, which I quickly consumed. Deliciously hoppy. I ordered another pint of Wherry cask ale that slid down almost as easily as the first. When I asked for a third pint on the trot, the frowning barmaid interjected–she wanted to know if I wanted to be shown to my room? To which I replied, not until I had finished another pint of Wherry. My car was parked for the night, I reasoned, and my room was only located across the courtyard so no harm could come.

Paul and Jan, the landlord and landlady, who are very friendly, served up fine food and ale. Admirable accommodation was located just across the courtyard in a separate building, a former horse stalls.

Apparently, the farmer who owns the adjoining land has a right of way through the heart of the property and over the courtyard and doesn’t fail to use it at times inconvenient to the pub’s outdoor festivities such as weddings and summer fetes.

Not to be missed for the pub itself, both interior and exterior, the friendly welcome, the fine ale, the excellent food. I’d highly recommend the rack of lamb with rosemary cooked to a deliciously tender medium rare.


Next door at the Anglican church there are two enormous, as in as big as trees, rosemary bushes bracketing a side door to the church. Now if we can only get the lambs to dine on rosemary and garlic as well as lush, green grass.

Beer and Cheese Matching


Neal’s Yard Dairy, Borough Market, London, England

How do you develop a beer and cheese pairing – what are some of the flavours/tastes you look for?


         You have to taste the cheese first and then write notes while thinking about whether there are flavours that need highlighting or things such as high saltiness in the cheese that might benefit from having the saltiness subdued so that other flavours in the cheese might step forward. What happens in the mouth when cheese meets beer reveals as much about the cheese as it does about the beer being tasted. Sometimes you hit a brilliant combination on the first go round and without much effort. And sometimes it requires some educated guesses and some serious tasting to hit just the right flavour notes in the mouth. Having said that, everyone’s palate is different and it changes day to day depending on the food and drink consumed by an individual. Fatty foods, cigarette smoking and spicy foods deaden the palate. People have different thresholds to different tastes, from salty to buttery to bitter, which can heavily impact on the recommended cheese and beer pairings. It may be perfect for me but not necessarily to everyone else at the tasting, which is fine. After all, any exercise in finding matches, perfect or otherwise, is really about finding what works for the individual.


Some of the main cheese flavour components are saltiness, nuttiness, butteriness, creaminess etc., depending on the style of cheese.


         Then I think of one or two beers that might cozy up to the cheese and accentuate certain flavours, depending on the cheese. I also check out the contrasting side of things. Then I taste the cheese again, then one of the beers, write more notes, and then have a bit of water and or plain bread. Then on to the next one, cheese, beer, water and so on, writing down initial and secondary responses to each, while building a profile of each beer and cheese combination. What do I like about each cheese and beer pairing? Is there an unusual flavour that maybe I hadn’t expected, which would cause you to drop a given pairing? Then I rank what I have tasted and then drop half of the beers and then re-taste, thereby narrowing toward what should be the best match.


Do you think there are specific styles of cheeses that go best with craft beer styles, and if so, please mention a few favorite pairings? (See pairings below.)


         Depends on the specific cheese. You can find a microbrewed beer match for just about any cheese but it truly involves some trial and error. But with an educated palate, you can narrow the field quite quickly. Craft beers by their nature offer such a variety of flavours that you instantly have a head start to finding something in a beer to pair up with a given cheese flavour.


When presented with a pairing of beer and cheese unfamiliar to you, do you recommend tasting the beer first or the cheese first, and why?


         I’d always taste the cheese first, get inside its essential flavours and then think about the presented beer match. I usually already know or have a very good idea of the essence of many beers, either from the stated beer style and therefore expected flavour profiles, or from personal tasting experience. I’d also make a few tasting notes, especially of first impressions of the cheese and then when the cheese meets beer. 


What advice would you give to a consumer who wants to set up a beer and cheese tasting party at home?


         Unless you know all of your guests are really big into hops, I’d leave the IPA and double IPA pairings out for the first time. When it comes to a mixed group of people, the maltier beers seem to have more of what the majority would think of as a good match. It’s really quite a subjective thing when trying to find a beer to match a cheese but with a little practice it becomes much easier.


         Go up the scale, starting with a mild cheese go up to full flavoured cheeses such as blue cheese and parallel that with the beers, from light lagers to stronger, full bodied beers such as stouts. At the same time, go from low hopped beers up through to highly hopped, bitter beers.


         Try three cheeses, say a soft goat cheese, a firm cheese such as the Reserve Gouda, and a blue cheese alongside a variety of beers and then taste away. It’s a learning experience. You can’t go wrong. Try a variety of beer styles to see what works best for you and for each type of cheese. You simply have to do some tasting with various beers to find what will make the best match with a given cheese.

 Nutcracker and blueA few other things of note about beer and cheese

 Beer and cheese form a natural partnership as their origins are both from the farm. Originally, women known as brewsters made beer, and they also made cheese, and they would have wanted the beer and cheese to be complimentary.

There are now over 100 clearly defined beer styles in the world, from understated lagers to highly complex Belgian ales. 

 There are over 120 malts and malt variations, more than 57 hop varieties, over 207 yeasts, plus variants, different water combinations, as well as fruit and even vegetables such as hot peppers–all are available to the brewer to create a vast array of flavours in beer, resulting in far more potential flavour combinations than wine. 

 Hop bitterness in beer equates to the acidity in wine.

One thing that beer does very well, is cut through the richness and fat in cheese, and thus cleanses the palate.


For best tasting results at home, serve bottled beer at cellar temperature of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. But please don’t open the beer until you are ready to serve it. While oxygen may be good for opening up a wine, it can oxidize beer rather quickly and leave it smelling and tasting like wet cardboard.


Try a variety of beer styles to see what works best for you and for each type of cheese. You simply have to do some tasting with various beers to find the best match with a given cheese.


Cheese and Beer matches with tasting notes


Violet Hill, Milky Way Cheese, Shelbourne, Ontario, Canada, sheep milk

A beautiful ashed pyramid with cool, mushroomy aromas at the rind, and a delicate citrus freshness at the core. Gentle, sweet and slightly tangy, as you’d expect from someone named Violet Hill.


Denison’s Weissbier, an unfiltered German style wheat beer, is made with at least 50 percent wheat malt, barley malt, German hops and a Bavarian yeast. Weissbier conveys the goods in spades. An invigorating and spritzy wheat beer at 5.6 percent abv, Denison’s Weissbier delivers a refreshingly fresh banana and cloves aroma and lively citric notes on the palate. Denison’s Weissbier is contract brewed at the Cool Brewery, Toronto.         


The citric notes in Denison’s Weissbier slip past the damp cellar taste and envelope the lemon zest at the core of the Violet Hill cheese, enriching this flavour, while standing in gentle contrast to the hint of blue cheese from the ash.


Comfort Cream, Upper Canada Cheese, Jordan Station, Ontario, Canada, Guernsey cow milk

The velvety bloomy rind smells of white mushrooms, and the paste of melted butter with an earthy undertone. Extra rich Guernsey milk gives the cheese a dense, fudge-like texture, and clean lactic flavours. It’s impossible to eat this cheese and not say the word ‘cream’.


Black Oak Nut Brown Ale is a 5 percent abv Brown Ale brewed by the Black Oak Brewing Company Ltd., Toronto, Ontario. This rich ruby red coloured ale has a mocha coloured head. Aromatically, embracing nutty aromas with underlying chocolate notes surface alongside roasted ones. Medium in body. Mouthfeel is of roasted and toasty elements smoothed out by a good dose of sweet pale malt. Roast, nutty, chocolate and hop flavours all vie for attention in the middle. Roast, chocolate and a defining hop bitterness play on the palate in a fairly elongated and drying finish. Brewed with reverse osmosis water, which allows the brewery to add minerals and salts back in according to the water required for each beer style brewed. Tastes very much like a lighter porter. Also, hoppier than most brown ales.


Black Oak Nut Brown Ale adds complexity and a certain nuttiness to the cheese, while achieving a better overall flavour balance as it seemingly reduces the tangy saltiness found in the Comfort Cream. It is interesting to note that during a tasting another beer similar in flavours to the Black Oak Nut Brown Ale actually intensified the saltiness of the Comfort Cream.


Snow Road, Back Forty Artisan Cheese, Lanark, Ontario, Canada, raw sheep milk

The sticky pinkish, brown rind is very aromatic, with piquant, fruity/floral, blue-cheese-like notes. Luscious paste melts smoothly delivering balanced sweetness, acidity and salt, with nutty, woodsy flavours. Seriously sensual.


Black Oak Pale Ale is a 5 percent abv Pale Ale brewed by the Black Oak Brewing Company Ltd., Toronto, Ontario. It’s a burnished orange amber coloured ale with a fine, off-white foam. Fruity aromas in the lead here, with fresh malt and then hops in tow. Malt quickly gives way to a lasting hop attack. Medium in body. Mouthfeel is of peppery hops poutingly playful on the palate.  Long finish sees a continued hop bitterness pressing down on a malty spine, with a distinctive and defining dryness throughout. Also brewed with reverse osmosis water. 


Black Oak Pale Ale makes for a very interesting interplay of flavours in the mouth, while counter-balancing the intensity and chalkiness of the Snow Road cheese, as well as highlighting the delicious bittering hops of this fine beer.


Bonnechere, Back Forty Artisan Cheese, Lanark, Ontario, Canada, raw sheep milk

An unusual cheese with a toasted rind, inspired by examples from the Pyrénées. The semi-firm paste absorbs smoky, hickory-wood aromas and slightly sour flavours from the charring. Well-balanced and ultimately gentle, considering all it’s been through.


Hockley Dark is a 5 percent abv English style dark mild ale brewed by the Hockley Valley Brewing Company, Hockley. It’s quite a tasty dark chocolate brown coloured ale with reddish hues and a heady nose of roast, toast and chocolate tumbling forth. A fairly full bodied ale, on the palate, Hockley Dark delivers chocolate flavours set on a firm malt base, with a roasted element stepping out boldly from beneath this malty cloak. The middle has chocolate and roast dancing evenly together with a little background hop bitterness present. The finish is fairly extended with roast, toast, and a developing dryness from the roast barley, as well as a backdrop of malt sweetness, with a late surge of warming alcohol from beneath.


The roast element of the Hockley Dark marries with the charred rind and enriches the natural nuttiness of this cheese, while reinforcing and complimenting the underlying caramel flavours found in the Bonnechere cheese.


Reserve Gouda, Thunder Oak Cheese, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, cow milk

This traditional gouda develops complex aromas and flavours through long aging. The very firm but melting paste smells caramelized and spicy, and tastes sweet and gently tangy. The long finish expresses wood, soy and cumin spice. Can you say “umami”? Okay, just say “yummy”.


King Pilsner is a 4.8 percent abv Bohemian Style Pilsner brewed by the King Brewery, Nobleton, Ontario. This polished golden coloured lager is packed with highly aromatic Saaz hops, much akin to sticking your head into a hop pocket just after harvest.  Low end of medium in body. Hops pepper the palate increasingly, releasing joyful hop notes that sing merrily to the taster throughout. It has a long, lingering bitter finish with a strong supporting malt quotient to keep it all together. Resolutely bitter but not overpowering.  It’s the real deal. This well crafted and delightful pilsner, slots nicely in between world classics Pilsner Urquell and Budvar from the Czech Republic.


The hop bitterness in the King Pilsner positively sings with this aged gouda, creating a harmonious whole in the mouth. Don’t hops grow on the barnyard fence?