Archive for May, 2010

May 20, 2010

The Rake. Preaching to the converted?

I would think I’m preaching to the converted in writing about Borough’s, The Rake so I’ll keep it brief. It’s one of those placesthat has been on the list for some time, is by no means a trek from work, yet I’d never been. We won’t count the weekend when i found it closed and all I could do was stare through the window and vow to return.

The return was with Cockles, Captain English and Hadedar. A relatively brief visit but all the same as I type my head is pulsating with every tap. Let’s just say it’s like being a kid in a sweet shop, albeit an
alcoholic sweet shop. Where to start? Do I start on the pump or bottles? Arrrr too much choice!

The Darkstar American Pale Ale seemed like a good starting pint. It’s maybe here that I should have settled on this as my nights choice. However faced with such choice the Six Hop and Saison came and went. As I made my home the avoidance of the 9% Brewdog had me feeling rather smug, though with my frontal lobe throbbing I feel anything but smug and it isn’t helped by seeing today’s choices tweeting in my feed. Hair of the Brewdog perhaps?

May 19, 2010

Climbing Off The Fence: Back Tracking

In the spirit of my previous post – Climbing Off The Fence – I feel it only right that I post this update. I portrayed myself as a normal CAMRA member. Not in the slightest like the sinister Mr Deltics portrayed by Pete Brown. At the time of posting it was the truth. However since then (a matter  of mere weeks) I have some shocking and rather shameful news. I have been dabbling in Steam. And I liked it. What does this mean? Is this the early onset of an addiction to Steam? It’s a real worry. An addiction like this could spiral downward and before long I’m living in a Croydon bedsit eating from unlabelled tins and surrounded by cats dressed as station masters.

After spending the weekend at All Tomorrows Parties surrounded by the achingly cool, the prospect of a steam train was a strangely welcome one. I’d spent three days watching the likes of Broken Social Scene, Camera Obscura, The Fall, Pavement and The Clear but The West Somerset Railway was just too much of a pull. Running between Minehead and Bishop Lydeard it transports one at a more genteel pace through country and coastal views. Preferable to being thrown round bends on a sweaty bus full of hungover hipsters? Or maybe this is just a cover? I ask myself how long it will be until I am living with the cats and carrying my magazines in a plastic bag.

Does anyone know of any possible treatment?

May 16, 2010

The Ship Aground: Mankini Man

Leaving Butlins we were back in the real world and looking for a pub. A proper pub. One without a theme. We found it in The Old Ship Aground; ideally placed by the quayside. Picnic tables looking out to sea; the perfect spot to soak up the rare glimpse of sun and enjoy a pint of Dartmoor Best. Having passed the Quay Inn further down the road this looked like the more local choice.

We could have happily sat for longer eyeing the Ploughmans, which looked to come with a months cheese intake. It wasn’t to be as approaching we saw a gang of blokes approaching. I say blokes but they probably referred to each other as “chaps”. A safe guess was that this was a stag do as one of their number was Mankini clad. For those who are uninitiated as to Mankini you want to think twice about googling it. Let’s just say it’s a piece of Lycra that leaves very little to the imagination. Initially the group caused some amusement as only a man half naked in fluroescent Lycra can, but told that they couldn’t be inside unfortunately found the table next to us. If Butlins was Shoreditch on Sea this particular part of Minehead had become overrun with Claphamites. No need to Google this just think public school boys. As we left without eating I did get berated by Lou and Hadedar for being too judgemental. The advantage of writing a blog is that I can say I was 100% right. I’ll let you decide. A selection of comments:

• Dan Dan Dan has never been to Prague…

• OHHH MY GOD they were real locals…. Then I chundered haw haw haw

• Thats well loco man

And my favourite

• Edward, get me a Real Ale with a top.

Standing this no more we headed down to the Quay Inn.  It’s a second choice and seems to be struggling with the slight increase in their custom. The laminated menu isn’t a good sign as is the potato Smiley Faces; or the grinning face of your childs future heart attack. Ordering Ploughmans we are told it will take upto an hour as they are serving in order. Despite the wait and the inability to get a pork pie, cheese and pickles out in under 60 minutes it’s preferable to the view of the Mankini.

May 15, 2010

All Tomorrow’s Parties, Butlins, Minehead

I’ve made a break for the coast for the weekend for a stay at Butlins with a difference. It’s All Tommorrows Parties curated by Pavement. A 3 day music festival in the unlikeliest of places: Butlkns, Minehead. With not a Red Coat in sight the camp has taken on a look of Shoreditch on Sea with no shortage of skinny jeans or trilby’s. This is festival in a more civilised form. The only tent is the main Pavillion, there are no Portaloo’s and you queue no more than 5 minutes for a beer.


Choice of drinking establishment is like the worst town centres in Britain with a mix of theme pubs and chain clubs. Having travelled from London on 2 trains, tube and bus I felt I deserved a drink. It’s hardly an arduous journey but any excuse. With Lou travelling after work and Hadedar resting I ventured out with Captain English to do the shop and a crafty pint.

The Swinging Shillelagh is as name suggests an Irish pub. Correction. It’s a pub themed loosely on Ireland. Guinness and shamrocks do not make anIrish pub. The pint of the aforementioned black stuff takes all of 10 seconds to pour into a plastic glass, part of which is down the side. This explains why every surface is sticky. Whole tables like human fly paper.   

Day one highlights are Calexico covers cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart. When I think of Calexico I think of the Dead Mans Shoes soundtrack, dark and brooding. The mariachi tendencies came out here. An uplifting start to the weekend.
Broken Social Scene headline the first day and continuing a theme of politeness they thank the audience and Pavement multiple times. Who said rock n roll couldn’t have manners. In a Spinal Tap moment the lead singer proclaims “so hey, you’ve got a new government, what’s up with that… Let’s hope there’s change people”. No one I guess has filled him in on the Tory past.
By 1am we’ve seen post punk journeymen Mission of Burma and Portland trio Quasi perform on a stage usually used for talent shows and karaoke. While the skinny jeans dance until we retire for the evening. We have two days to go after all.

May 12, 2010

Trafalgar Arms (judging a book by its cover)

Is it possible to judge a pub by the cover of the newspapers available on the bar? There were multiple copies of both the Mail on Sunday and the News of the Screws on the bar at the Trafalgar Arms when I visited with Meister. Neither publication are high on my Sunday reading list, my preferences leaning more to the left of “hang em all”. I should have maybe taken heed and done an about turn to find a pub with proper Sunday sized papers. The type you need a week to read fully. An overreaction perhaps? After all I don’t walk out of the newsagents fearing I may come into contact with a Mail reader, preferring to just duck behind the pick n mix.

A sparse mix of locals and students underwhelmed the large interior; a mix that often coexists for a pubs survival. The lone student offer was chalked behind the bar as was the existence of the Fat Frog which I assume to be a noxious cocktail of some kind (most likely green and served with multiple straws). The white wine list, also chalked up, was a curious sight. All Pinot Grigio. All the exact same price. It seems it’s not just the papers which were limited.

It’s the last day of the season and Moscow Rovers were just about to crush plucky Wigan 8-0 to clinch the title. You would expect a crowd, even if this is not exactly Chelsea, but besides a group around the pool table there were only a handful of lone drinkers and a group of students most of which weren’t taking much notice. The staff and their friends seemed to be the largest and most vocal group. Lounging on sofas in front of the lit fire grate they looked to have commandeered the best spot in the pub. This leads me to one of my pub gripes, of which there are many. Pubs becoming a private club for owner and staff alike. Where you are interupting the party by daning to request a drink. When that drink could then be classified as a crime against Guinness the feeling of annoyance grows. If the marketing is to be believed it takes 119.59 seconds to pour a perfect pint of Guinness. The Trafalgar has obviously introduced efficiency measures as this was more likely 10 seconds. The result a murky pint which has a detergent edge. It’s almost understandable when the bar is three deep as the title race is coming to a dramatic conclusion but when you are the only customers at the bar it’s just plainly shoddy.

The half time whistle is a reprieve. We put our unfinshed drinks on the bar and leave. In future I will unleash the inner Mail reader and succumb to my knee jerk reaction and do an about turn without thought.

May 11, 2010

Climbing off the fence

I have a secret. A dirty little secret which I keep from colleagues, friends and loved ones. They wouldn’t quite understand. No I don’t steal under garments from washing lines. No I didn’t vote Cameron. I’m a… a… I am a card carrying member of CAMRA. I pay about 20 quid a year to join with ohers who love Real Ale. Yes, some have beards and books to tick; and a mind for facts whether they be about great English battles or the age of steam. I have neither beard nor tick book and as for facts let’s just say I don’t know my Battle of Worcester from Bosworth. Our common interest, love and in some cases obsession is of supporting brewers and sellers of real ale. And obviously there is the odd pint involved as well.

A cosy world of appreciation one may think? Little did I know before dipping my toe in the blog pond that tensions exist, with esteemed commentators as non members and a debate around the “noxious culture of entitlement” raging. Who’d have thunk it? It’s debates of this like that make me question whether I should request that my What’s Brewing and Beer be sent in plain brown paper. I should maybe point out that I’ve never been a joiner. Not since being thrown out of the Boys Brigade. So as I took the unusual step to ally myself I must be happy to say I’m a member and share my loose reasons (in no particular order) for joining:

1. Discounts. I am a Yorkshireman, and if there’s one thing we love, it’s a bargain. Either that or we’re tight. As much as 33p off a pint sometimes. I figure I only have to drink in the region of 350,000 pints, pocket the discount and i can buy my own pub.
2. Information and Support. Who doesn’t want to sit on the train at 7.30 reading Beer? If you’ve ever bemoaned the lack of a decent pint, a lack of choice then CAMRA is worthy of support. I could at this point write a serious commentary around the Campaign but I would direct you to the website, while I continue with my ramble.

3. Being in my thirties. On turning 30 many of the preoccupations I had in my teens and twenties (I would write “in my youth”, but that would be too depressing) were replaced by an attitude of doing exactly what I wanted to do, as opposed to what I ought to do. My iPod wasn’t playing just the latest indie band which I should be heard listening to. They were unashamedly rubbing shoulders with John Coltrane, Dolly Parton and Dean Martin. On occasion Jamie Cullum (ok, I may have gone too far with the honesty now). Being associated with stereotype beardies, bores and beer obsessive’s doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

4. Annoyance. Not why I joined but possibly why I will renew. If I knew there was such dislike of members in purist circles (perhaps too worthy to join?) I would have stumped up for membership years ago, got on a train to Sheffield and declared loudly in the Tap “BARMAN. FREE BEER OR I WILL UNLEASH THE WRATH OF CAMRA”… I would expect to be shown the door and sentenced to the local Wetherspoons, but it could be worth it, although the train would cost me at least the discount of 230 pints. What can I say I just like a bit of antagonism.

So that’s it in short. The secrets out. I’ve climbed off the fence. Time for a pint perhaps. Now where’s my membership card. Can’t forget the discount.

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