Route Beer

So your journey is coming to its end today, Toby. May I take this opportunity to say what a privilege it has been to witness your beautiful and inspirational odyssey, dear friend. Looking forward to joining you for the last few miles and, even more so, to the debrief in the Dolphin. (AA.)

Rising Sun, Upper Beeding, Wednesday, 17th August

Toby reports:

Dark Star, Hophead.

The drinker longs to be a poet,
The poet longs for his muse.

Essence of invigorating flowers leaps from my glass and infuses my soul with lightness of being.

Don’t give up the day job, mate. (AA.)

~

The Izaak Walton, East Meon, Monday, 15th August

Toby reports:

Sweet, golden nectar at The Izaak Walton in East Meon. Flower Pots’ Gold: a veil of forgiveness, an intimation of affirmation that all is well with the world.

Ah! Toby is on his walk again, God is in His heaven and all is right with the world! All except for the cryptic tasting notes. (AA.)

~

The Westgate, Winchester, Sunday, 14th August

Toby reports:

Red Cat – Scratch. This is interesting – challenging. At first I thought it was liberally laced with acetic, but no, it’s hopped with a hop (unidentified) which puts the drinker in mind of wetland vernal vegetation; bitter herbs wrapped in the aroma of whetting, spring flowers. Whether pleasant or unpleasant I’m not sure, but it obliges the supper to sup yet another to fathom the enigma.

AA: I assume the Red Cat tastes better than your description of razor-sharp flowers suggests?

Toby: It’s razor sharp. That’s the curious thing. The brewer hasn’t gone for ‘nice’ but something which challenges. Brave.

Later:

This Red Cat is still superb. Pint No4: I’m getting pissed.

Nice to see Toby hasn’t lost his edge. Avanti amico! (AA.)

~

STOP PRESS (literally!):

We are all very sorry to learn that Toby has been forced to postpone the remainder of his odyssey until he has fully recovered from his stomach bug – not least because we are all awaiting (with bated breath) his next State of the Nation Address regarding the Augustinian delights and hostelries of the South Downs Way.

There has been much conjecture regarding over-ripe wild plums being the cause of his demise (see day 69). However, I would venture to suggest that pint of Tennent’s Lager he consumed on the 24th June has finally caught up with him! And the moral of this story is… (AA.)

~

Duke of York, Salisbury, Sunday 31st July

Toby reports:

The taste of hedgerow flowers on a dusty summer’s afternoon. (No comment – AA.)

Do you get the impression that the landlord supports the Union? An optimist!

Is that you, me and Rude Pete (at the bar) in about 10 years’ time? If so, at least you and I have (partially) amended the leggings/shorts crime! (AA.)

~

The Woolpack, Sutton Veny, Saturday 30th July

I settled for Butcombe Pale.

Clean your lens, Toby! – or does that reflect the state of your inebriation? (AA.)

~

Tucker’s Grave, Friday 29th July

… booking confirmation sent by Tucker’s Grave Inn & Campsite. If only Toby had received this advice when TOSS met there last year, it could have saved a certain amount of embarrassment. They must have remembered us! (AA.)

Pete and AA met up with Toby for an overnighter here. (Pete was a surprise addition to the party.) Excellent pints of Butcombe Original were quaffed, but they ran out before we had exhausted the possibilities. However, all was not lost; we were saved by some very pleasant real ciders (Tucker’s Grave’s speciality). Can’t remember what they were now! (AA.)

~

Beaufort Arms, Hawkesbury Upton, Wednesday 27th July

Toby reports:

Butcombe Original. Sublime! This is a fantastic pub.

Ah! Butcombe Original – still a West Country classic. I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with that baby at Tucker’s Grave. She’s like a treasured aunt. (AA.)

Toby: Bristol Beer Factory on too.

AA: BBF is proving itself to be a peerless young(ish) brewery (2004). Every one of their beers I’ve tasted has been superb.

Toby (hot off the press): BBF Mission. Very Good, but the Butcombe has got experience on its side.

AA: BO is a tough act to follow when served well.

~

Old Crown, Uley, Tuesday 26th July

Toby reports:

Will and Amy and a pint of Wye Valley HPA. It is the friendly helpfulness of them and one of the customers – AND – the best beer in ‘The South’ so far.

~

Royal George Hotel, Birdlip, Monday 25th July

Hope in the midst of despair!

Toby reports:

The Greene King legend beneath ‘The Royal George’ was not a good sign, but Bespoke Brewing Company’s ‘Beware the Bear’ was a marked improvement. Autumn leaf mold is evoked. Musty and a little bitter.

Leaf mold, eh?! Were you a badger or something in a previous incarnation, Toby? (AA.)

~

The Lion, Winchcombe, Sunday 24th July

AA makes a surprise appearance – just in time for the pub! Excellent!

Toby reports:

The Cheltenham Gold was like a weasel in the trousers: it gets into you and surprises you at every turn.

Never having had the inclination to put a weasel in my trousers, I’ll have to take your word for it, Toby. (AA.)

~

The Swan, Fadley Junction, Wednesday 20th July

Toby reports:

Everard’s Tiger. It’s old fashioned but solid, professional slaking of an afternoon.

~

Burton upon Trent, Wednesday, 20th July

When in Rome… (AA.)

~

Burton Bridge Inn, Burton upon Trent, Tuesday, 19th July

Toby reports:

Third consecutive evening at The Bridge Inn. I have to say that the two previous days were better. Whilst it only got up to 39 Centigrade in Burton today (well short of the record-breaking 40.3) I guess two days of that is enough to upset the beer. The Bitter tasted stale and mediocre; the porter – perhaps it was the wrong day for porter – is kind of a bit sherry-ish and a tad acetic; I guess no one is drinking it in this weather. The Bridge is one of those wonderful, old-fashioned pubs in which you can become part of the dry rot in the corner, nodding over a half of bitter all evening.

Call me Sherlock Holmes, but I get the feeling Toby likes this pub. (AA.)

~

Burton upon Trent, Monday, 18th July

AA: With temperature forecast for 40°C, how are you going to keep your fluids topped-up in Burton over the next 2 days, Toby?!

Toby: Tea, Guy, tea! At least this morning.

(Later): This BBB Bitter is sublime!

So much for tea then. (AA.)

~

Burton Bridge Inn, Burton upon Trent, Sunday, 17th July

Old-fashioned pub, with an old-fashioned finger before the lens!

Toby reports:

Enjoying a pint of BBB Bitter. It has a certain cunning flavour, which eludes description: it plays to the back of the pallet, yet the effect is subtle, sweet, and a certain… I think it must come from the sulphidic water. It’s old-fashioned – no doubt about that; lightly hopped and with an emphasis on the malt – but enigmatic: hoppy beers just aren’t enigmatic. There’s a place for them all.

… And that place is in your gob! (AA.)

Toby continues:

Burton on Trent’s historic importance may be the most significant thing these days; however, this third pint, Stairway to Heaven, is curling round my taste buds as the other two did; subtlety which keeps the drinker engaged and guessing is what it’s about.

~

Shire Horse, Wyaston, Sunday 17th July

Toby reports:

Beautifully-kept pint of Marstons. It’s a pretty, rural pub in a tiny, tourist-less hamlet; I bemoan the loss of rural pubs, so rather than moan about it, support them!

~

Pack Horse, Hayfield, Friday 15th July

Toby reports:

Supping the best kept beer in England so far – Thwaites Original – just shining with flavour at 3.6%.

Back in the day when I had no option but to drink it, I always found Thwaites Original somewhat dull. However, one can sometimes be surprised by the most unlikely of beers if it’s kept well and allowed to mature in the cellar a little longer than usual. (Even Courage Best could very occasionally be quite gratifying in such circumstances!) Notwithstanding all that, as Peter Grevatt has suggested, one might conjecture that Toby may be suffering from a little too much sun? I leave the reader to decide. (AA.)

~

Hare and Hounds, Lothersdale, Monday 11th July

Toby reports:

Dark Horse, Hetton. A woody pale ale, which invites pinpointing the flavour… granary floor, I would have said, with a hint of moist leaves. Is that too pseudish?

AA: Sounds dodgy! Would you like to use different adjectives?

Toby: I stand by my adjectives: I was trying to get the rough muskiness (granary floor) with the light, aromatic hoppiness, which I yet liken to the gentle smell of damp beech leaves! … Just think of a spring or early summer’s day … I ask you to imagine damp, nubile forest in springtime and transfer your olfactory image (if you can have an olfactory image) to the equivalent in hops.

AA: OK I’ll take the poetic interpretation then.

Toby informs me that ‘granary floor’ is a recognised tasting term used by professionals in the brewing industry. Sadly, we lesser mortals seldom get the chance to lick a granary floor, so the fullness of the simile is lost to us. Does anyone have a granary which I could sample? (AA.)

~

Lister Arms, Malham, Sunday 10th July

Toby reports:

Fabulous pint (Kirby Lonsdale Momentum) at the Lister Arms: Thwaite’s and Kirby Lonsdale – best beer in England so far, but Loch Lomond still the best overall. It tantalised the back of my throat with its clever, cheeky hopping, somehow reminiscent of summer hay lofts.

It can’t be easy getting a summer hay loft into the back of one’s throat. (The things one must do in the pursuit of poetic tasting notes!) I imagine a winter hay loft affects the back of the throat in quite a different way. (AA.)

~

Board Inn, Hawes, Saturday 9th July

Toby reports:

Not such a great choice of beer, but when black Sheep is well-kept (as it is) I ask not more. Same can be said of the Tan Hill Inn, except that the food was overpriced.

I heartily agree: a well-kept pint of Black Sheep is everything I want a classic Yorkshire bitter to be. If I’m not mistaken, I espy an handpump of TT’s Landlord lurking in the background as well – another old-school classic when presented competently. You could safely give the Theakston’s a miss, however. (AA.)

~

Turk’s Head, Alston, Tuesday 5th July

Toby reports:

The Turk’s Head was dreadful. I had a pint of Something Rivet, which was full of acetic – only three quid, but I’d rather just have decent beer – so I had one pint and then retired* to bed.

(* edited – AA.)

I hang my head in shame having suggested patronising the aforementioned establishment! Someone needs to alert Camra. (AA.)

~

(Stop press! Toby has arrived at the Twice Brewed Inn, Once Brewed, near Haltwhistle. It could all go horribly wrong! …)

Twice Brewed Inn, Once Brewed, Monday 4th July

Toby Reports:

Fallen on my feet this time. The Twice Brewed, six handpumps, all their own. I so nearly stopped and pitched my tent in a wood, by a lake, four miles back – but decided to press on. 23.4 miles today – the most so far – and oh boy, does this beer taste good! PLUS, they let me camp in the pub garden! Hangover? No, I need to get to Alston tomorrow.

I won’t be taking bets on that outcome! (I’m not convinced you’re really doing all this for the walking, Toby.) (AA.)

~

Border Hotel, Kirk Yetholm, Friday 1st July

Toby reports:

Hadrian Border Brewery. Something which tastes of intelligent brewing at last.

This one wins the day. Intelligent AND professional brewing!

~

King’s Arms, Melrose, Wednesday 29th June

Toby reports:

I had a Scottish-tasting pint of Kings and Queens IPA and am hoping for better things in Yetholm tomorrow.

Enough said. *Sigh*. (AA.)

~

Gordon Arms Hotel, West Linton, Sunday 26th June

Toby reports:

Some days you just land on your feet. The Gordon Arms Hotel is welcoming, has decent ale, a cheery locals’ bar, and rooms at little more than a hostel. The point is that it’s decent beer and a cheery backdrop of happy drinkers. It’s decent rather than fabulous beer: tastes of the mash tun rather than the hop back; but hey, it’s soft and clean, has flavour, and is kind o’ Scottish.

What in God’s name is that beer glass about?! Egad, it’s an affront to the senses! Greene King don’t only brew aesthetically challenged beer then – they also seek to present it in aesthetically challenged vessels! A double-whammy of tastelessness. (AA.)

~

Douglas Arms, Bothwell, Friday 24th June

Toby reports:

The most welcoming pub in Scotland to date. Beer was s..t though – Tennent’s Lager.

Odds bodkins, you must have been desperate, Toby! (AA.)

~

Bon Accord, Glasgow, Wednesday 22nd June

Toby reports:

Ahhhhhhh! This is more like it: Loch Lomond Silkie Stout. Smoky, but with dark, seductive fruit underlaying a wicked sweetness. You may remember my eulogising about it back in Fort William. But, whaah!: this is sublime beer – and in an unprepossessing pub next to the M8. Home at last; and a great whisky selection to round the evening off too!

~

The Arlington, Glasgow, Wednesday 22nd June

Toby reports:

The Arlington is no better than Inn Deep; however, it feels like a decrepit pub, which is trying (and failing) to capture the younger drinker; and hence the squealing middle-aged women (their actual clientele) and the thundering music, which largely drowns their squealing, thank God, give it a kind of worn-out-sack-ish, over-stretched-knickers-ish sort of an atmosphere which is not wholly unpalatable; likewise, the Drygate Disco Forklift Truck, which I am drinking, which is somewhat reminiscent of pale ale, softens the pain…

~

Inn Deep, Glasgow, Wednesday 22nd June.

Toby reports:

Just craft beer – it’s not that so much as the brash, noisy-youth atmosphere: sometimes one needs more than just beer from a pub.

Isn’t ‘craft beer’ just a marketing department’s reinvention of real ale? (Not that real ale needs reinventing.) In my experience, when the term is being used, more often than not it only serves to forewarn the drinker that what is being proffered is ‘gimmicky sh…te’ or ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ (Not that there’s anything wrong with mutton, of course.) (AA.)

~

Rowerdennan Hotel, Sunday 19th June.

Toby reports:

Drygate Brewing Co., Seven Peaks Session IPA. What a joy to sip hoppy, refreshing beer in the warm sunshine.

~

Tyndrum Inn, Tyndrum, Friday 17th June.

Toby reports:

Deuchar’s: When good beer is not in abundance, or alternatively if you’re just knackered, it’s amazing how good decent, professionally brewed beer can taste.

It’s a respectable pint. (AA.)

~

Kings House Hotel, Glencoe, Thursday 16th June, lunchtime.

Toby reports:

The Glen Spean on draught is fabulous (unlike my comments from three days ago). Sweet and husky – quite different from the aromatic beers we usually go for, but beautifully finished. Not sure whether I’ll make it to Bridge of Orchy today.

Toby goes on to say that his ankle is still playing up after twisting it on the way to Fort William. The less generous among us might venture that today’s potentially shortened stage may have more to do with the liquid lunch he’s enjoying than the ankle injury he has sustained. I wouldn’t be so bold as to comment. (AA.)

~

Tailrace Inn, Kinlochleven, Wednesday 15th June.

Toby reports:

Belhaven Best. Everything one would expect of a traditional Scottish pint.

Well, if you don’t read my recommendations before going to the pub, Toby…! (AA.)

~

Grog and Gruel, Fort William, Monday June 13th. (AA suggestion.)

Toby reports:

The first really good beer in Scotland. Loch Lomond Brewery ‘Right Turn Clyde’ – oranges with a walnut finish, yet in the tradition of a true best bitter; as beguiling as a dark-haired, nubile Mediterranean lass in want of recreation. The Wildcat has a husky bitterness, like a … (edited).

Suffice it to say that Toby wasn’t quite so enamoured of the Wildcat. (AA.)

~

Glen Nevis Hostel Fort William, Sunday June 12th – Tuesday June 14th.

Toby reports:

I’ve found my beery homeland in the hostel with Arran Blonde. It has a huskiness, which so many of the beers I’ve sampled recently have had, but is more gently balanced. I suspect it may be an attempt to be distinctively Scottish. Hops don’t grow this far north, so rather than relying on hop-bitterness or citrusy aroma, I wonder whether there is an attempt to capture the husk-bitterness, which you get if you sparge past the point we would stop further south. Just a thought.

Heather in the copper? – c.f. Fraoch (AA).

Glen Spean Pale Blonde – OK-ish – a bit sweet, but has a Belgian tang: something I can’t put my finger on. The Red Revival tastes a bit Belgiany too. I think it may be a dodgy brewery. The Gold, whilst still Belgiany, has the edge on the other two.

~

Kintail Lodge Hotel, Shiel Bridge Wednesday June 8th.

Toby reports:

Skye Eilean-Or – it’s OK-ish; I suppose it’s supposed to be a gold. At least this place feels like a pub; it’s a place which wants customers. Orkney Brewery only one worth mentioning so far. I finished with a Rassay whisky. Sweetish. Lagavulin from the peace of my tent.

~

Oykel Bridge Hotel, Wednesday June 1st.

Toby reports:

Orkney Gold – an excellent keg ale. Fabulous brewery.

~

Ferry Boat, Ullapool. Tuesday May 31st.

Toby reports:

Punk IPA as ALL the cask ales were off. Well, it’s a step up from McEwan’s!

You could do a lot worse than Punk IPA, Toby. (AA.)

Toby also mentions:

What is it that Harvey’s does that run-of-the-mill breweries don’t?

~~~

Dear all. Toby has (perhaps foolishly) entrusted me (Guy) with this most important of chronicles. It seems I have been appointed his Augustinian Advisor (AA) for hostelries of which he has no prior knowledge. He is sending me updates and I will be regularly posting details of the watering holes he has frequented on his epic journey, along with any comments and any of his ex-cathedra tasting notes (assuming they are fit for publication). There may also be the occasional Offermanian observation – particularly while he is in Scotland.

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