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.

 

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CAMRA Approved Pub…Not Behaviour!

The…Central London, England.

Mr. Happy at a pub in London.
I asked for a taster of an ale and then, having liked it, asked and was served two pints of the same sampled cask ale.

Nice brew. Spey Valley IPA at 4.6 per abv., with a malty start and then the hops kicked in with abandon. A very fine brew. Please, don’t blame them!

The initial exchange was less than cordial, a disapproving grunt at best.

So. Mr Happy. Why are you so out of sorts?

<The verbal bits imagined as the barman was unable to speak!>

Well. Let me tell you.
As if you will listen?
First. You want a free taster. And then. Having had that. You expect me to pour two full pints.
And then you expect change from a tenner.
And then you expect me to be cordial after all those demands!
You people are beyond belief!
You fuckin’ foreigners!
Bloody hell!
Make my life miserable, or what?
Thanks so much!

“Love you too!”

Obviously, a pic would give it away!

 

St. George’s Day Festivities for Charity

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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 robert.hughey@sympatico.ca

$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!

heartpcc

The Ebrington Arms: Classy Goodness

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Whether you come for a pint of cask ale in the front bar, have exquisite food in the dining room, or just wander out to the walled-garden, wherever you land you can be assured of a great experience at The Ebrington Arms.

Located an easy trip of just two miles from Chipping Campden, this is one great pub, dating from around 1660, that one should get to know intimately.

Pause at the bar and you might be engaged by a local farmer with tales galore to share or locals who love beer and want you to taste the best cask ales available locally, there is usually enlightenment to be had!

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The Ebrington Arms brews its own ales, namely: Yubby Bitter, sliding in at 3.8 percent abv, this copper coloured bitter with strong caramel and malt notes carries through a fruity hop character to a pleasant bitter finish. The ‘Yubby’ is the traditional nickname for the pub; Yawnie Bitter, pops up at 4.4 percent abv, and is a full bodied chestnut coloured ale that is balanced with toffee and malt notes, with a complex hop character driving toward a bitter finish. A ‘Yawnie’ is an affectionate term for a village idiot. Brewed with 100 percent British ingredients, Yubby Goldie Ale, YPA, strides in at 4 percent abv and is a refreshing IPA style with a strong, hoppy flavour.

And they also offer a fine selection of guest ales from local breweries such as Box Steam, Donnington, Goff’s, North Cotswold, Severn Vale, Stanway, Stroud and Uley.

316As if this is not enough enticement, you could book a room, one of five, and stay a night or three!?

The Ebrington Arms
Chipping Campden
Gloucestershire
GL55 6NH

 

Hughey’s Gold: A Developing Story

For years I have been brewing beer and, in particular, a version of this beer as a cask ale. It has always been a passion that I have pursued without restraint and now I have moved one of my beers into the marketplace thanks to the fine brewers at Junction Craft Brewing in Toronto.

Reminiscent of the luscious coloured stone of the Cotswolds, Hughey’s Gold is an English style golden ale that showcases pungent English Fuggles and Goldings hops in the gentle embrace of Maris Otter 2-row malt. Aromas of fresh floral hops permeate its soul, alongside a zesty fruitiness from the yeast. The finish is boldly bitter and refreshingly crisp in its timeless structure. Brewed by Junction Craft Brewing, Toronto, it tops out at 4.6 percent abv and a tantalizing 42 IBUs.

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

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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.

CAMRA GBBF Winners Announced!

176Champion Beer of Britain 2015

CAMRA are pleased to announce this year’s Champion Beers of Britain as follows:

Supreme Champions

Supreme Champion Rosette - Gold

Gold 
Tiny Rebel – Cwtch

Silver
Kelburn – Jaguar

Bronze
Dancing Duck – Dark Drake

Mild

Mild Rosette - Gold

Gold
Williams Brother- Black

Silver
Rudgate – Ruby Mild

Bronze
Great Orme – Welsh Black

Best Bitter

Best Bitter Rosette - Gold

Gold
Tiny Rebel – Cwtch

Silver:
Highland – Scapa Special

Joint Bronze:
Barngates – Tag Lag
Salopian – Darwin’s Origin

Speciality

Speciality Rosette - Gold

Gold
Titantic – Plum Porter

Joint Silver 
Kissingate – Black Cherry Mild
Saltaire – Triple Chocolate

Bronze
Hanlons – Port Stout

Bitter

Bitter Rosette - Gold

Gold
Pheasantry – Best Bitter

Silver
Acorn – Barnsley Bitter

Joint Bronze
Purple Moose – Madog’s Ale
Timothy Taylors – Boltmaker

Golden

Golden Ale Rosette - Gold

Gold
Kelburn – Jaguar

Silver
Adnams – Explorer

Bronze
Blue Monkey – Infinity

Strong Bitter

Strong Bitter Gold

Gold
Dark Star – Revelation

Silver
Salopian – Golden Thread

Bronze
Grain – India Pale Ale

Champion Bottle-Conditioned Beer

Bottled Beer Rosette - Gold

The Bow Bar, Edinburgh, Scotland: Top of the Table

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The Bow Bar is a classic single room ale house that uses traditional Scottish air pressure to dispense its ever changing range of cask ales. There is often a mini-cask fest on tap, as there was when I was there, causing me to attentively watch the chalk board when one ale was being rubbed out and its replacement cask name and style was chalked-in. Cairngorm IPA and Trade Winds come to mind as a splendid pints of real ale.

It is a friendly upright bar, meaning there are only a few table and chairs scattered about. On my first of several visits a couple obligingly gave my wife and I seats near to the bar before they departed.

Crime novelist Ian Rankin can sometimes be found here, as I am quite sure he can be spotted at any number of other great pubs in this fine city, such as the Oxford Bar, where he is known to frequent when he is not on tour promoting his latest crime novel. I didn’t see Rankin at the Bow Bar but I did meet him a few months later in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where he autographed a book for me following a lively question and answer session, which was live to air.

We had a laugh when I said: “Ian, when I was in Edinburgh in the summer I didn’t see you at the Oxford or the Bow Bar.”

Cask Conditioned Ale Making Its Mark

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Real ale, or cask conditioned ale, in the U.S. and Canada is still catching on but not to the same extent as in England, and for good reason. There isn’t the cask conditioned ale heritage in the U.S. and Canada that there is in the U.K., and in North America, brewers and pub owners are still learning the intricacies of handling and serving real ale. The English never totally lost real ales, as had happened on this side of the Atlantic, though cask conditioned ales were in serious decline in Britain when the Campaign For Real Ale, CAMRA, began the turnaround in the early 1970s.

Pubs on this side of the Atlantic, even the pubs imported lock, stock and barrel from the U.K., never seem to quite come up to being a real English pub. Is the real ale good on this side of the Atlantic? Yes, some of it, very good, actually. And it would seem brewpubs offer the best way for a brewer to ensure cask conditioned ale is properly maintained from brewery to glass. As an example, The Granite Brewery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, deserves to survive and thrive because it unerringly offers fine pints of cask conditioned ale. Indeed, some English visitors agree, the Granite sells some of the best pints of real ale they’ve had, outside of England, that is. And to me that’s high praise coming from the Brits.

Admittedly, real ale has latched on to my palate. I prefer the more rounded, full flavour of a cask conditioned ale to a gassed-up filtered beer, though, of course, there are always exceptions. I always drink best available, whether it is cask or keg. If I don’t like a malty brew on offer on cask, I will turn to a hoppy keg or craft beer.

But certainly not all real ale is good. Muddy beers passed off with the ubiquitous, ‘that’s the way it’s supposed to be, or taste’ have ruined a beer experience for more than one adventurous beer drinker in North America. For example, at Chicago’s Goose Island Brewing Company a cloudy, yeast laden IPA with no hope of the much anticipated hop bitterness surfacing, caused me to quickly switch to Goose Island’s Honker’s Ale, a fine pint of filtered ale.
I remember seeing but did not chance drinking a muddy, unfiltered HefeWeizen served in a Portland, Oregon, brewpub that could have floated a sand barge and yet this identical beer populated many nearby tables. I accept the haze factor for this style of beer but not to this extreme. The same brewpub did a credible job of fining its real ale, a slight haze was not uncommon, but my friend, a brewer who once brewed real ales at the former Godson’s Brewery in London, England, preferred the filtered version of the same cask ale I was drinking.

Disappointment also came from the cask conditioned Scottish ale offerings from the much heralded Highland Brewery in New York City, obviously before it closed, where, after a light refreshing 2 Penny Ale and a somewhat thin 60/Dark Mild, which had hints of underdeveloped character, a persistent graininess in the Ben Nevis 80/Brown Ale and a cardboard staleness in the Highlander Special Bitter followed. Is it any wonder the public did not take to these unappealing and ill kept beers? Is it that surprising that the brewery closed? And yet, hardly anyone wants to talk about the downside of real ale and the microbrewery industry.

Will real ale catch on in North America? In time it will find favour with some, a niche product for those beer drinkers lucky enough to be situated near a place where the beer is kept in good nick. Certainly, groups such as CASK! Toronto have helped to make in-roads in that city for the brewers who are willing to go the cask ale route.

But for me there is still nothing quite like visiting an English pub for the right atmosphere for having a pint of cask conditioned ale. Call me spoiled or spoiled for choice, it’s all fine by me.