Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Three Hampshire Beers

On the Easter Good Friday, 6th April,  I visited Portsmouth and sampled three beers from Hampshire microbreweries. At the White Swan, Guildhall Walk, a Wetherspoon outlet (left), I first tried a half of Upham Stakes Ale. Upham Brewery are based at Stakes Farm, Cross Lane, Upham, Hampshire. They began brewing in 2009 using a 3.5 barrel plant.

The Stakes Ale is a chestnut coloured beer with low carbonated head. Distinctive stilton notes on the nose with toffee-caramel and just a hint of grassy spearmint. Stilton again on the first taste along with toasted malt is followed by very peppery, spicy hop notes giving a lingering astringent finish. The flavours are restrained rather than demonstrative and rather too subtle for my personal tastes. The mouthfeel is smooth but a little thin and understates its 4.6% strength.

At the same pub I then sampled half of Oakleaf India Pale Ale.

Set up in 2000 by Ed Anderson and his father-in-law Dave Pickersgill, Oakleaf Brewing Company Ltd are at Unit 7, Clarence Wharf Industrial Estate, Mumby Road, Gosport, Hampshire. The IPA is a gold coloured version of this historic style with a froth of white lacing. Marmalade, tangerine, citrus hops - even peaches and cream are conveyed in the intense and complex aroma. The smooth and creamy body conveys the full alcoholic 5.5% strength. Hop bite carries through into the taste, initially underpinned by fruity malt but building to a powerfully bitter finish. Very enjoyable.

Later at the Sir Loin of Beef, Highland Road, in the Eastney area of the city, I had a half of Vibrant Forest Stormbrew. Experienced home-brewer Kevin Robinson is the Vibrant Forest Brewery. He began commercial brewing in the summer of 2011 from his home in Totton, Southampton, on the 1-barrel plant previously in use at Havant Brewery.

Stormbrew is a 4.7% dark amber/copper coloured beer with low carbonated head. Liqueur at first on the nose with plenty of milk chocolate notes. Chunky malt mouthfeel and burnt sweetness with dark fruits, treacle and even more chocolate define the character before an emerging bitterness becomes predominant. An excellent beer in my opinion.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Woodman, Brighton

You cannot have a drink in this early-Victorian built pub at  49 Guildford Street –  no one has for over sixty years, since the days in 1949 of its last ever licensee Fred Sparshott. But the photographs present a perfect example of its history literally etched on the exterior.

Faded but visible high up on the near corner above the street sign is THE WOODMAN. Very distinctly on the architrave above the Doric capitals of the Guildford Street door appears C. BRIGGS. In the recess below, appended almost apologetically is T. RICHARDS. Charles Briggs was the first recorded licensee in 1854 (I like to think that his customers in their conviviality called him Charlie). An F. Richards and a Mrs. Richards appear at this address in street directories of 1868. More difficult to discern is the scanty script on the stone wall to the right. Just traceable with some patience is:


This is signage from the Victorian owners of Brighton’s defunct West Street Brewery - surely the only surviving example of its kind on a building. Those of you reading this Blog from outside of the UK will, I think, know what London Stout is. But as beer historian Ron Pattinson tells us, Fine Ales did not in those days did not mean ‘good ales’, as we would now understand the term, but ‘clear’, as in reference its clarification. Hence: finings used to clear beer. The advertising tablet below the window further along (scroll along the large photograph below) possibly once read BITTER ALE or perhaps the last word is PALE. Generically speaking, ale was lightly-hopped in comparison to the Bitter Beers and Pale Ales (which confusingly belong to the beer, not ale family) that became increasingly popular from the 1860s onwards.

Despite the dilapidated appearance of what was once the Woodman, the plastic doorbell, clean net curtains and two modern replacement windows make it obvious that the premises are occupied.

Postscript: these passages on the pub were originally written in 2009 for the ‘Brighton Heritage Pubs’ issue (No. 24) of The Quaffer magazine. It was put to me at the time that the signage, faded as it was, had survived at all only because the local Tamplin & Sons brewery had painted over it after acquiring the pub in 1899. The exterior had gradually given up its Victorian secrets as it decayed during the last six decades. Some months ago, when walking past the Woodman, I was taken aback to find the building looking smart and spruce. The names of the landlords had been spared but the brewery signage was completely obliterated, protected once more under a new coat of paint but no longer visible again for decades to come.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Anchor Springs Hornblower

At 4.5% ABV, 1045° OG, Hornblower is brewed with pale, crystal, chocolate and amber malts. Challenger is used as the bittering hop with Target in the middle and EKG at the end.

Light notes of berry fruits on the nose; decidedly sweet initial taste; biscuit malt in the mouth; delicate milk chocolate and redcurrant mix on the palate; brewer Frank McCabe’s trademark lingering hop finish.

All aspects combine to create a superb bitter-sweet balance to this lightly-hopped copper-coloured traditional beer.