The Bartons Arms, Birmingham, England

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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.

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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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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!

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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

 

Chicago: The Public House

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The Public House (Gastropub and Dining Hall) is an expansive and sharp looking downtown bar with a front patio, which can be viewed from the inside from tables situated just behind folding glass windows. There is a fine tap list to behold alongside some tasty treats on the menu.

On the beer front, there is plenty of variety, from West Coast IPA from Green Flash in California, to Fist City from the Revolution Brewing Company located in Chicago.

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At the back of the house there is an unusual display of inverted green glass bottles contained in a wooden framework and back-lit to good effect. Here at the back you will also find eight-people stations with three taps for drinks, be it beer, wine or whatever you may want to choose from the menu on the computer.

There also an upstairs seating area for special functions and spill-over. While it was certainly a hit with the younger crowd, older people would not feel out of place during the noon hour, though this may change after dark.
Check them out at 400 North State.

Chicago, The Map Room

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Chicago, Illinois, the third largest city in the United States, is a vibrant modern place situated on an intricate water system that includes the Chicago River and linking canals covering over 100 miles of waterways. Water is the backdrop to stunning skyscrapers, none more infamous than the Wrigley Building, one of the few places in the world that goes by its name and not a number.

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Further afield, The Map Room, which dates from 1992, in the Bucktown area of Chicago serves up beer from 26 taps, including a cask ale, alongside over 100 bottle offerings. On draught, I found Three Floyds Alpha King, 6.7 percent abv, with a ship load of citrusy hop flavours, hit the mark neatly.

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It’s an open concept bar with high ceilings, giving it a funky and friendly feel, with an engaging atmosphere that has the bar hopping at all hours. This cash only bar has no kitchen, with alcohol sales under way as of 11 am. People are invited to bring in food or to order from the local take out menus available at the bar.

Head on up to 1949 North Hoyne Avenue by taxi and settle in for a relaxing time at the Map Room.

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.

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.