Monday 15 April 2024

Only With (more) Love!

It was as recent as September 2023 (blog) that I was last asked for my opinion of beers brewed by East Sussex (Uckfield) brewer Only With Love (website). I have written about a cask ale of theirs before (blog), but these were in tins again, although I doubt it would have made much difference regarding my analysis and opinion if they were from the pump.

So, the first beer I'm sharing my opinion of with you is their 5.9% All Star, brewed with Citra, Nelson and Galaxy hops. The selections of hops used for all these ales are very much to my taste, as I often say (sorry for boring you 😉), I do like my beers pale, dry and bitter, like me, and these are the types of hops to help provide me with my preferred taste. It was a bit too 'thick' for me, and I did my best to leave as much sediment in the bottom of the can as possible (for all 3 beers) without wasting any! They say 'hazy' but this is an understatement, it was thick. Lovely big fruity aroma, and sweetish taste, with citrus, tropical fruit, and gooseberry, and a dry finish.

One of the beers I had tried last year (blog) was a 5.0% version of their Bongo Tropic IPA (4.5% this time). Again brewed with El Dorado, Cascade, Mosaic, Citra, Sabro and Simcoe hops, this still produces a big citrus and tropical fruits aroma and taste, with a decent dry finish, and I noted 'pretty good!' However, it still could be a belter if it wasn't so thick, add some vegan friendly finings and/or adjunct and I'd be singing its praises, oh well, too pretentious for moi.😉

Also, I drank a similar, less than 0.5%, Juicy AF as last year (blog), although lacking the Citra hops this time, only having Columbus, El Dorado and Mosaic hops used in the brewing process, before taking out the alcohol. But I really don't know why they bothered with hops because mango was added to the brew! You can guess what I'm going to say looking back at last year's blog, but this time I may as well have drunk a mango smoothie. A waste of brewing time, I couldn't even taste the hops used, because the mango dominated the taste.

Overall, the brewery uses great hops, but wastes great hops. I'm obviously not trendy enough for them, and quite frankly m'dears, 'I don't give a dam!' 😞

Sunday 7 April 2024

Another Day in Brussels!

We walked westwards into the City centre via Ambiorix Square (, the angle looks a bit weird in this photograph, but it's just the angle I took the image at. 😉 Oh yes, and just after passing this fountain we saw a wee drug deal, it happens everywhere, even during a quiet morning in a scenic Brussels square!

Our first port of call on this, mostly, nostalgic wander around Brussels, was to the Comic Art Museum (website), which is situated in an Art Nouveau building designed by Victor Horta in 1905. Originally a department store, it opened its doors as the museum in October 1989.

Getting closer to our first beer (and lunch) destination, we stopped briefly by La Monnaie (website), the national opera house, where a dear relative of mine sings... In addition, this is where the Belgian Revolution of 1830 first erupted. Essentially from 1815 Belgium became the Southern Netherlands following the Congress of Vienna (Britannica), and the Belgian bourgeoisie began to tire of King William I of the Netherlands, and now he had forbidden the presentation of Daniel Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at La Monnaie

The opera included what the King considered a potentially inflammatory story of nationhood, courage and freedom, and he was correct! The opera had been banned since the 3rd of August, but it was performed on the 25th of August 1830, and its language incited the audience to riot, leave the theatre and take to the streets, soon joined by the working classes, because there were other factors, of course, including unemployment and the harvest failure. By the 4th of October 1830 independence was declared, a week after the Dutch forces retreated from Belgium.

Closer to the City centre we reached Le Cirio, Beursstraat 18, 1000 Brussels (website), next to the old Belgian Stock Exhange, La Bourse (Brussels). This is an old favourite bar of ours, originally an Italian Delicatessen founded by Francesco Cirio in 1886, the present interior was redesigned by Henri Coosemans in 1909 in the style of an Arts Nouveau Italian cafe.

Together with our tasty food in Le Cirio, we each had a beer from Hoegaarden (website), their 8.5% Grand Cru, a spicy wheat beer, which has developed since the monks of Hoegaarden started brewing in the 15th century. Hoegaarden suggest that their early wheat beers were extremely sour, and the monks began experimenting with orange peel and coriander, which comes through in the taste still, together with forest fruits, peach and pear, and slightly malty. An interesting mix of wheat beer and Tripel, with spicy undertones, still pretty good.

Just around the corner in the Grand-Place is the City of Brussels Town Hall (website), a majestic Gothic building originally built in the 15th century, but much of it rebuilt after 1695 when it was damaged by fire when French troops bombarded the City; the original tower and walls survived. I decided to buy myself a map in the Tourist Office in here for a Euro, my previous map having been lent to a friend who didn't return it, life... Interestingly, the tower and building dwarf the Duke/King's House opposite (website), guilds people being wealthier?

Then we wandered southwards and just before the Sablon we reached one of the most interesting bars you'll ever find, La Fleur en Papier Dore, Rue des Alexiens 55, 1000 Brussels (website), 'the flower made from gold foil'; it's many years since I last visited, but it hasn't changed a bit, with very friendly bar staff! It really is an 'arts' bar, created by Gerard van Bruaene and filled by artists and musicians, such as the Surrealists including Rene Magritte, and Jacques Brel. Bits and pieces here and there, much unmatched furniture, and pictures and all sorts adorning the walls, and reyt laid back! Surprisingly, I went for a pilsner as I hadn't drunk Maes for years, and it was in 40cl glasses, which amused me: Maes Pils (website), 5.2% and, well it's a pilsner, brewed with Saaz hops, and what more can I say, other than refreshing and still very enjoyable!

We carried on walking southwards where, very soon after passing Saint-Gilles' Town Hall (where my older Belgian niece's birth was registered), we reached Chez Moeder Lambic, Rue de Savoie 68, 1060 Saint-Gilles (website). This was the first of their 2 bars selling Moeder Lambic beers, and specialising in Lambic and Geuze beers (as you can see in the photograph below), and they sell many others as well as their own, indeed they stock over 300 different beers!

I drank a bottle of their very own 8.0% Moderation (I've seen it called La Moederation elsewhere), and I think Dan did too. It's not a lambic, but a very pale golden ale, refreshing and bitter, with a nice dry finish. I wrote 'between a lager and a bitter' to my taste, and not bad at all!

With our dinner that evening we had a bottle each from the St Feuillien brewery (website), their 7.5% Blonde, with a deep golden colour. Hints of malt and spices, and a light bitterness and dryness to the finish. This isn't a bad beer of its style at all, and you can buy it in M&S if you fancy a bottle... Tasty, and you can buy it locally in Britain, there you go!

Oh yes, and I came back the next day, another dire travelling experience, although I did get back £32 from Eurostar, for it was their fault, cheers for now!

Friday 29 March 2024

Heralding Easter with Eostre!

Yes, Kent Brewery (website) have once again brewed a 'seasonal' Eostre (4.2%), essentially, as they say, brewed "with a full-on dose of Citra hops" (hopslist). Indeed, it is refreshing, pale, citrusy and bitter with a dry finish. Another excellent version of a Citra ale, and only what I expect from the brewery, notably grapefruit in the taste, but a hint of forest fruits too. Nice one! 👍

But why the name Eostre? I've done a wee bit of research, and it's a bit complicated. Depending on where you read, Eostre was a Germanic, Norse, Anglo-Saxon, even Celtic, goddess of the dawn, spring and fertility, whose name was previously associated with the month of April, when a festival in honour of her occurred. Whatever, her name was adopted by the Christians for the Easter festival, another example of Christianity taken over pre-existing festivals. An interesting read and analysis about Eostre can be seen at the History Cooperative website.

Happy Easter folks, cheers! 

Monday 25 March 2024

A Day in Bruges


Many years ago, circa 25 years, I met a lad called Jannes in Sheffield, and we had a few bevvies; Jannes who came from Bruges recommended I visit Bruges, particularly for the beers and bars. Many years later I have now visited Bruges, not only encouraged by Jannes, but also after seeing the film In Bruges (YouTube). The bell tower pictured above, the 13th century Belfort (website), is at Markt 7, 8000 Bruges, and has significance comically and tragically in the film.

Café Vlissinghe

Our first disappointment was the 1515 Café Vlissinghe, Blekerstraat 8000 Bruges (website), the oldest continuously running café in Bruges. Disappointment only in the fact that it doesn't open Mondays and Tuesdays, we were there Tuesday, oh well...

I had to photograph a canal and bridge

De Vloamse Trine

Anyway, we had a wee wander around, getting hungry, so thinking about food, obviously, but the centre of the city was very busy, however, we managed to find a quieter bar still pretty much in the centre, and quiet, although it started filling once we had found seats. De Vloamse Trine, Kraanplein 5, 8000 Bruges (website) became our food and drink provider, and not a bad price for food or drink either. Enjoyed the food and I drank another Duvel (website), as I had done the day before, and as I've written about before (blog), a very dependable tasty ale to go for indeed. 

Kruispoort Gate

We decided to walk off the food so headed towards the main canal that encircles Bruges and reached Dampoort, then just east of south to one of the remaining 4 city gates to Bruges, Kruispoort Gate, built way back in 1402 (website) and in wonderful condition!

A little further south is the Hof der Gefusilleerden (Courtyard of the Executed - website), Kazernevest 8000 Bruges, where memorials to the 13 civilians shot there for giving assistance to Germany's opponents by the German occupiers between 1916 and 1918, now stand. Included is the monument above for the second British civilian executed during World War I (the first was the British nurse, Edith Cavell in 1915) Captain Charles Fryatt (Merchant Navy), who was court-martialled by the Imperial German Navy and executed on the same day, the 27th of July 1916. His crime was to not stop his ship the SS Brussels when confronted by a German submarine, but he headed full steam towards the submarine. A year later he was arrested whilst leaving the Hook of Holland, from where he was transported to Bruges for trial and execution (Historic UK).

De Garre

We wandered around a bit more, next to canals mostly, and then headed for the Staminee De Garre, De Garre 1, 8000 Bruges (website), literally down a very well hidden alley off Breidelstraat, off the Burg. We missed the entrance to the alley (like a small doorway between shops) once, and Dan had been there before! So don't rush if you want to find it. As you can see, it's in an older building, but De Garre will celebrate its 40th anniversary next month (21st April).

Drink-wise I had the 8.7% Brugge Tripel (website) in De Garre, a very nice tripel that I hadn't had for many years, not since Dan had given me a box of said ale with a complimentary glass, very similar to the glass in the photograph, as a present; I still have the glass. Dan had their very own house beer on draught, their De Garre Tripel, brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge (website), and 11.0%, Dan was surprised, but he enjoyed it, right enough! 😉

't Brugs Beertje

Our final port of call on our way back to the railway station was the bar that Jannes had specifically advised me to visit, and with over 300 beers on sale here, he was certainly a good advisor! That is 't Brugs Beertje, Kemelstraat 5, B-8000 Bruges (website), where we drank Straffe Hendrik Tripel (website), 9.0% of full flavoured ale, with hints of citrus, caramel and banana, with a gentle bitter finish, nice one to end with, cheers!

Oh yes, and we met a nice couple of couples from East Anglia  at 't Brugs Beertje too, I had to pry Dan away to catch our train, then we took a wrong turning and missed the train anyway... Then we caught the wrong train, but there's another story!

Back to Brussels we eventually went...

Sunday 24 March 2024

A Day in Brussels

I did have a couple of drinks on Eurostar, sadly they no longer sell Duvel in their buffet bars, but they do sell Leffe Blonde (website), which is very nice too, but drinking on a train isn't drinking in Brussels, so... I stayed nearby at my sister-in-law and brother's flat, on the other side of the Parc du Cinquantenaire to our first bar on the day, and the first bar I ever drank in on my first visit to Belgium many many years ago (apparently changed ownership since my last visit), that is the 120 years old La Terrasse, Avenue des Celtes 1, Etterbeek, 1040 Brussels (website).

I've already been questioned by a friend about my drinking lager here, as I'm more of an ale drinker, but for me the 5.2% Jupiler pils (website) is the best pilsner there is, indeed it is the highest selling beer in Belgium with 40% of the market share! It has flavour but is refreshing and very easy to drink, and okay, it is a pilsner style lager... 😉

We wandered through the Parc du Cinquantenaire (visitbrussels) and on to Chez Bernard at the Cafe L'Espérance, in the small square at Pl. Jourdan 47, Etterbeek, Brussels 1040, with my brother diving in ahead of me in the photograph above!

It was very quiet inside, much busier outside, but we sat down with this view of the bar (above) and Dan ordered the ever-good 8.5% Duvel (website), and I drank a trappist ale, the 9.5% Westmalle Tripel (website), my favourite Belgian ale indeed.👍Indeed, I wrote about both of these beers in my blog a couple of years ago.

We ate with my sister-in-law, after she got away from work, at Restaurant Volle Gas, Pl. Fernand Cocq 21, 1050 Ixelles (website). To the right of where I took this photograph from (above) is the Ixelles' Municipal Hall, where my youngest niece's birth was registered. If you visit, don't be surprised by how far back the restaurant goes, even if it does look quite small, there's much room downstairs, not to mention upstairs. I drank Westmalle Tripel again, as did Dan, it so goes with food, and I ate a hearty... I'll not say what, I don't want to upset any vegetarians reading this, but excellent food, and many thanks to my 'sis' Shirin for treating me, cheers m'dear!

Next stop Bruges! 🍺

Monday 11 March 2024

Dark Star Brewing (& Meantime) Moving Again!

Hmmm... Yes, the brewing of the Dark Star range of ales is moving yet again! It began when Asahi bought up Fuller's (blog), which had previously taken over Dark Star, and then started brewing Dark Star Hophead at the Griffin Brewery at Chiswick to 'maximise' production. On realising that Hophead just wasn't up to scratch whilst brewed in West London, brewing Hophead was returned to the Dark Star brewery at Partridge Green. Then! Asahi decided to close down the Dark Star Brewery at Partridge Green and move brewing of Dark Star ales to the Meantime Brewery in South East London (blog).

Meantime had trouble getting the formula right and Hophead again began tasting nothing like Hophead, but recently it seemed like they'd sorted it out and the quality of Hophead improved again, thankfully. But now Asahi have decided to 'maximise' again, indeed, have decided to close down the Meantime Brewery in South East London (The Drinks Business) and move all brewing to the old (Fuller's) Griffin Brewery in West London... 😣 It doesn't bode well for the future of the quality of ales with Asahi I'm afraid, although, apparently, there's some sort of plan to have a smaller brewery and brewing experience in Greenwich (The Drinks Business). 

We'll wait and see what happens, it's all we can do...

Sunday 10 March 2024

The Eight Bells & Sambrook's Black Forest

On my way to London yesterday I noticed on their Facebook page that The Eight Bells, 89 Fulham High Street SW6 3JS, had put on a very interesting ale, so we visited for a couple of pints. The 18th century building became The Eight Bells about 1754, although a pub had been on the site as far back as 1629, when originally licenced as the Blue Anchor. The pub is situated just north of Putney Bridge in Fulham High Street, which used to run down to the older wooden bridge, originally Fulham Bridge, that was built in 1727-29; the present Putney Bridge (opened in 1886) is a hundred yards or so to the west of where the older Fulham Bridge's north end was.

The ale that had interested me is brewed by Sambrook's Brewery (website), which is now situated in the old Young's Brewery site in Wandsworth, London SW18 1UR, and was their 4.5% Black Forest. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it wasn't the stout or porter I was expecting, but a cherry flavoured bitter! OK, I wrote "I get the cherry, but quite subtle with dry bitter finish." Much easier to drink than I thought it would be, and not bad! 

My brother drank Fuller's London Pride, which he assured me was one of the best pints of Pride he's drunk for a while, and the 2 pints together came to £9.80, which is pretty good for the Fulham/Putney area. Overall, a very nice pub, pleasant service, happy bunnies, cheers! 👍