Monday, 15 December 2014

Advent Calendar - 15th December 2014

Beer Advent Calendar
Salopian Brewery - Holly Bush 5.5%
15th December 2014

So we're nearly there, but not so nearly that it's heads down and eyes focussed on the prize, we all have our Christmas rituals, things we like to do and things we have to do this time of year. Maybe you like to go to a pantomime, visit a particular set of friends or relatives, and of course there are the inevitable Christmas parties.

My children had their after-school club party tonight, games were played and apparently much food was consumed, and they had to be picked up at a certain time in order to be brought home. My wife is a teacher, and it's her school play tonight so she has the car, so as it was up to me to collect them. Having an hour or so to kill before I needed to be there I took a walk down to The Olde Dog Inn in Herongate, Essex, the pub that I consider my local.

The Olde Dog isn't the closest pub to my house, I pass three others on my way there, however due to it's well kept cask beer selection it's a pub I've frequented for more than a quarter of a century. I used to travel to it on special occasions when I used to live in Barking, but for the last sixteen years I've been able to walk there in around forty-five minutes. We've taken our children there as they were growing up and over the years we've developed a good relationship we some of the longer standing staff. It feels relaxed, never threatening, a real home from home and we like it a lot.

Getting there involves a walk down some country lanes, but when I round the corner and see it's lights ablaze it always puts a smile of my face as I know a warm welcome awaits me. It's an old building, parts of it dating from the early sixteenth century, and with its exposed beams and open fires it looks it, but not in a shabby way as it's always well kept, tidy and spotless, but rather in a well loved and cared-for way. Pump clips from bye-gone breweries and bye-gone beers (we're talking twenty or so years, not centuries here) adorn the ceilings and there are just the right amount of other nick-nacks around to promote interest without making it look cluttered.

Tonight I only had time for a quick pint, so I took my glass of Dark Star Winter Meltdown and went and sat by the fire, the heat driving the chill from my bones and flushing my place pink in the process. As I sat there enjoying my drink it suddenly struck me how incredibly lucky I was to have a place such as this within such close proximity, and I also felt a little guilty. It would be ever so easy, particularly at this time of year with all the attractions and distraction, to miss out on nipping in to your local pub because you're too busy with this, that and everything else to find the time to do so. Had I done so tonight I would have missed out on an experience to treasure, one of life's true pleasures, and I'm very happy that I didn't. So if you've got a few hours to spare early one evening this week I urge you to call in to your local, I'm positive you won't regret it.

Now I feel all warm and cosy inside I'm off to get today's beer from my Ales By Mail Advent Calendar box, and set up a suitably festive picture. Whilst I do that here are the answers to yesterday's quiz questions.

1. Porter

2. 60, 70, 80 and 90

3. Joseph Holt

4. Boddingtons

5. St Peters, Suffolk

Congratulations go to Michael McGrorty who was straight back at me with the correct answers almost as soon as I posted my blog. Well done matey, some good knowledge there, but now we turn to the beer, and I have to admit I'm rather looking forward to this one.

Salopian brewery, based in Shropshire from whence it takes its name, have quietly been doing their thing since 1995, but my goodness they certainly do it well. Starting out in an old dairy building on the outskirts of Shrewsbury, I first came across them when I visited that city two years later and was pleasantly surprised to find a UK regional brewery producing a wheat beer and a smoked beer. Over the last couple of years they have started to gain reputation amongst discerning drinkers for the quality of their beer and readiness to adapt to modern styles. I haven't had this beer before so I think it's time I opened the bottle. 

It pours a murky ruby red colour with a soft creamy-looking off-white head and an incredibly fruity pine-edged aroma encompassing figs, dates, cherries and raspberries, all topped with a twist of lime zest. Prickly and slightly vinous over the tongue it unleashes a beautiful wave of cherry and raspberry caramel, thick and delicious, but this dries very quickly via some of the lime zest I detected in the aroma, until all of a sudden all that's left is the remnants of all those gorgeous flavours, and thankfully this lasts a long long time. This is a beer that is very up front in that all the good stuff happens right at the beginning, however there is no downside to this as all the flavours are so satisfying it's well worth the ride. It's simply wonderful.

So as I finish another cracking Salopian beer, here are today's quiz questions:

1. Name the brewery established in 1992 deep in the Royal Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, whose name refers to a local iron mine opened by two Oxfordshire bankers.

2. Which US brewery giant owns the Toby Bitter, Bass and Worthington brands?

3. The late lamented George Gale & Company brewery, closed by Fullers in 2006, used to brew a beer called HSB, but what did HSB stand for? 

4. And talking of brewery closures, Ridley's Brewery was bought and closed by Greene King in 2005, but has since been resurrected by the then Chairman's son. What is the new brewery called?

5. The Arkell brewery of Swindon used to brew a 3B beer, but what did those three B's stand for?

Quite a tough one today but I'm sure you're up to it, and now, because it's late and I don't want to hang around here's that dreaded Christmas cracker joke;

Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars?

Because their days are numbered

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