The Friday Pint 2015 #14 – Back to work again…

So, where were we? I believe the last time I wrote something here I was just about to turn 30, and my fiancee was about to come over from America. As things stand now, I am currently almost three weeks into my 31st year on this earth, and my fiancee is back in America, teaching kids music.

We had a good couple of beer and food filled weeks, with a couple of noteable beer related vists.

First up was a trip across London to Greenwich, and Meantime’s recently opened brewery tap room and shop. If all you’re after is a couple of pints of Meantime beer, you’re probably best off with either The Old Brewery or the Greenwich Union, depending on where you are in Greenwich. If you want Brewery Fresh Lager, the opportunity to buy a multitude of branded goods, and some bottles to take away, the taproom is certainly worth the walk. You can also admire all of the shiny brewing kit as well.

Over the first weekend we went up to the Midlands to visit a couple of friends. During this visit we went to Burton and Nottingham, popping into the National Brewery Museum and Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem whilst in both places.

For myself, it was the second visit to the museum. When I first visted, back in 2010, the onsite brewery was still under construction. It was nice to see everything finished. It was also nice to be able to try Bass and for it to actually taste okay. I had a pint in a pub in Bath a couple of years ago that tasted awful.

As for Ye Olde Trip, I can’t remember what I had to drink in there (it was a ruby ale, the name and brewery of which I forgot as soon as I left the bar) but I can say that the food, particularly the chips that came with my fish and chips, was very nice. The building it’s self was under some sort of construction, so unfortunately, some of my favourite parts of the pub weren’t accessible.

On the Tuesday, we met up with my brother and his wife at The Dancing Man. I can’t speak for anything else on the menu, but the Beef Rag and Bone meal was exceptionally good. It was also better than the description of braised brisket, cheese and roast potatoes. With two months having now passed since the doors opened, the venue has settled well. I’ll be writing a more detailed post on it soon.

The following weekend saw us head down to Devon for the Maltings Beer Festival. Unlike previous years (Bristol Beer Factory’s Southville Hop in 2013, and Penpont’s Chateaux Chiverac in 2014) there wasn’t really a beer that stood out for me over the three days this year. I did however, open my first bottle of Armand 4 (the autumn one). As neither my future wife, or best man enjoy sour beers, I had the hideous task of drinking the whole bottle to myself. Which I did. I fully expect I’ll be doing the same with my second and third bottles in 10 and 20 years time.

After the festival, we stopped off in Exeter on the way back for a family meal at The Fat Pig. It’s a small pub with a brewery on site, and a rather meat based menu. I liked it, and would quite like to return on a weekday to try something from their smoked menu.

As for what else happened whilst I was away, 10 more breweries for the Birmingham Beer Bash have been announced. Time is ticking if you want to get tickets, especially for Saturday. If you’ll be travelling by train to the Beer Bash, cheap advance tickets for the weekend should be going on sale soon. You should buy them so you have more money to buy beer with.

Just a suggestion.

As for this weekend, Vibrant Forest are celebrating the birthday of their first brew tomorrow with a party, including 10 beers on tap. If you’re in or around Lymington, you should make the trip down.

I’ll be back next week, with some sort of rambling. Until then, have a great weekend. (42)

The Friday Pint 2015 #11 and #12

So, I missed a week.

I’ll try not to do it again, though given how busy my life is likely to be in the upcoming months, I wouldn’t be surprised if I miss a few more weeks.

In terms of beer, last week didn’t really give me much to talk about. I had a few pints at Spoons, but nothing special enough to spend a small part of my Friday talking about.

If I’m honest, without a subject or influence, writing this post each week isn’t easy. Which is, I suppose, the point. I’m supposed to take this, and find something to write about.

I could write about the future. My friend, and soon to be Best Man, turns 30 today. Tomorrow we shall be drinking a few pints to celebrate. In just over a week, it will be my turn to turn 30. As I’ll be working, my celebrations will not be until the Maltings Festival, two weeks later.

I could also write about my upcoming marriage. The time between now and it seems to be shortening rather quickly, and there’s still a lot that needs to be done. I recently did asked around for some quotes to send my possessions over to America. It will be just over £1000 for 55 cubic feet of my stuff, which I won’t see for another 8 weeks.

It’s a situation that prompts the question, what should I keep? There are somethings that are obvious. Photographs, sentimental items that can’t be replaced, and souvenirs of one off events seem obvious.

When it comes to my music, film and TV, and book collection,  I will most likely have to sell or give some of it away. In fact, I already have been taking some of it to exchange shops or charity shops, depending on how much I can get for them. There are some things which will be automatically making it across the ocean. My Manics and They Might Be Giants collections for example. Also, any other records that mean something to me, or I think any future children I have to look after should hear.

As for my beer collection, which still takes up two shelves in my old bedroom back in Southampton, what is left will be staying. There are a few bottles which I will be keeping back for special occasions in the future, but the majority of it will be drunk before I leave. Given the quality and age of some of the beers I have left, it should be a good few months.

So, that is part of the future for me. There are also the small matters of my Dad’s 60th birthday, and the third Birmingham Beer Bash, in July. More on that at a later time.

I will be back next week, I promise.

Until then, have a great weekend. (106)

The Friday Pint 2015 #9 – Beers That William Bought Me

Whilst I was on my recent visit to America, my good friend, Will Roesch, gave me three bottles of beer he picked up on a recent visit to Missoula, Montana. The three beers all came from the Big Sky Brewing Company. I took the bottles home with me, and shared them with my dad.

The first, Moose Drool Brown Ale, wasn’t undrinkable, but then again, it wasn’t great either. There was too much carbonation for my liking, with the number of bubbles feeling like hundreds of tiny pin needles on the mouth.

The second beer, a 6.2% IPA, was more to my liking. In my notes for the beer, I wrote down the word “pine”. Unfortunately, I neglected to note down whether this is in relation to the aroma, or the taste. From the fact that I also wrote down “not enough flavour for me”, I’m going to assume it was the aroma that reminded me of pine.

The third and last beer was probably a lost cause for me from the start, given the fact that I don’t like coffee. It was Camp Robber Coffee Porter. The aroma of coffee on the beer was rather strong, as was the taste of coffee within it. I do have it on good authority from those who actually like coffee, that this beer was quite nice.

Whilst none of the beers really made me want to drink more of them, I thank Will for giving me the chance to try them. If he wants to pick me up more from somewhere else on his travels, I certainly won’t turn down the chance to try those. (212)

The Friday Pint 2015 #8 – Beer In the USA Part 3

By the time you read this on Friday, I will have been back in the UK for a couple of days. As it is, for me writing this post, I have only been back for a matter of hours.

Thankfully, all of the bottles I brought back made it intact, including the three purchased for me by my good friend Will on a recent trip to Montana. I’ll be talking about these in a future post.

Friday night saw us head to the convention center in Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Winter Beer Festival. The geek that I am copied the 95% beer list that had been made available on the website, and stored it in an excel spreadsheet I could access on my phone. This helped a lot in trying most of the beers I wanted to try.

One thing that would have been nice, and that we probably missed, is some maps or floor plans. Alternatively, sticking the breweries in alphabetical order. Much of the evening was spent hunting for the beers I wanted to try (or in certain cases, try again).

The weekend took us out to Columbus, where on the Saturday night we celebrated Will’s birthday, and also his engagement to his fiancee at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. I started with a pint of their pale ale, which was a pleasant companion to the food. They offered flights of four 5oz glasses, so I took advantage of this to try their IPA, DIPA, Porter and Imperial Stout. If I’m honest, first impressions of those four weren’t overly great. If I was going to consider trying one again soon, it would be the IPA.

Sunday was the turn of Fado’s and World of Beer in Easton. Fado’s is a chain of Irish pubs, that does rather nice food (at least, the Columbus one does). We went there so I could watch the Southampton vs Liverpool game and my fiancee could meet up with some of the people she went to College with. Saints lost to a rather good goal and we ended up staying at Fado’s much longer than expected.

Eventually though we made it to World of Beer. I like World of Beer. I usually end up drinking flights (4 5oz glasses for $10) and still rarely drink all that I’d like to each time I visit. Whilst I’d quite like there to be a World of Beer nearer the Pittsburgh area, I also think the absence of one would be good for my wallet.

So, that has been my visit to America, my last before I move out there to get married. I should probably get working on that… (178)

The Road To The Wool House #5 – First Impressions

Last night I was able to attend the second preview evening for The Wool House before this evening’s grand opening. For those of you who will be reading this beforehand, the ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for 18:00.

Upon entering the building, one of the first things I noticed was the music playing. It was the same style of blues music you will hear playing in The Platform Tavern if you visit there. As Aidan said when I mentioned the similarity, their taste in music isn’t going to change.

In terms of the bars, there are 8 cask taps downstairs, and four upstairs. With the exception of Last Waltz and Congo Driftwood, the full core range was represented, alongside First Dance (the first brew on the new kit) and Sea City Gold (the beer brewed to celebrate Southampton’s 50th year as a city in 2014).

As well as the additions of many tables and chairs, one thing that has been improved since I was last in the building is the lighting. It makes a big difference too. In a previous post in this series, I said that The Wool House felt smaller than The Platform. Now that the tables and chairs are in, and the lighting has been improved, that clearly isn’t the case.

Some of the walls have had framed pictures put on them, with many of the images relating to the Titanic. Next to the Timber Jib Frame, stands a metal robot. Looking at the photo that I took last night, I wonder if it is supposed to be dancing. On the opposite side of the building, near the entrance to the brewery itself, is a smaller metal robot. These additions could easily feel out of place, yet in a way, they add to the industrial feel of the building.

I’m going back tonight for the proper opening, I’m expecting it will get busy. These are only my first impressions. Whilst I enjoyed the beer, I’ve chosen not to say anything about it. In a couple of months time, once everything has settled, I’ll come back to do a more detailed post. For now though, I’m going to celebrate that the new place is finally here, and drink a lot of beer.

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The Road To The Wool House 4a – First Dance

I am currently sat in The Platform Tavern, drinking my first pint of beer since returning from America. It’s rather warm here in comparison, and a lot less white.

The beer I am drinking just so happens to be First Dance, the first beer brewed on the new brew kit installed in The Wool House. This would probably be a good time to remind you that The Wool House opens this Friday (27th February).

To me, it’s a rather enjoyable and quaffable ale. In fact, I’d probably spend whole afternoons drinking it. As it is, I can’t really spend all afternoon in here drinking it. I have things to do.

If you’re going to be in Southampton this weekend, don’t forget that The Butchers Hook are celebrating their first birthday with a lineup of Magic Rock beers. They’re open from 6pm tonight, and I’d bet that a few of the casks and kegs will run out before the weekend. (148)

The Road To The Wool House #4 – Beer

For all the stories there are to be told about the building, the people, and the process, there is perhaps one aspect that will interest people more than others. I am of course, referring to the beer.

The first brew on the new kit took place on the 27th January 2015. It was a Centential Pale Ale, and will appear on the bar over opening weekend as First Dance. I was at The Wool House on the day, taking many photos, and being shown round the still relatively empty building.

Whilst there were some issues, these were soon fixed, and much to Aidan’s joy, the original gravity of the beer going into the fermenter was spot on. There was very much an element of erring on the side of caution as Aidan and Ned started to learn their new kit.

During my talk with Aidan back in September 2014, I asked him about the beer plans for the new location, and also the plans for the old brewing kit.

The Wool House will open with six core beers in the Dancing Man Brewery range. These will be complimented by seasonal beers, and the Snake Oil series, a range of one off brews.

The six core beers are:

  • Pilgrims Pale Ale, a 3.9% pale ale
  • Congo Driftwood, a 4.2% pale ale, with mango and passionfruit
  • Jack O Diamonds, a 4.5% red ale
  • Fiddlers Jig, a 4.8% brown ale
  • Big Casino, a 5% IPA
  • Last Waltz, a 5.3% black IPA

Among the seasonal beers will be beers such as Cloud Cuckoo, Pole Axed, DNA, Organ Grinder, and Smoke Rye Sin.

The larger brew kit in The Wool House will give the Dancing Man brewing team a much better efficiency compared to the brew kit in the Platform Tavern. That old brew kit will be put to good use, with plans to use it to start a sour beer process, and for small bottle run processes.

The brew kit in The Wool House is very much the focal point of the building (if you ignore the spiral staircase, and the building itself of course). As Stewart said to Aidan during the first brew, “You’ll have to get used to brewing with an audience”.

The Wool House opens to the public on Friday 27th February. The same weekend sees The Butchers Hook in Bitterne Triangle celebrate their first anniversary with a Magic Rock tap takeover. If you don’t have anything planned for next weekend, come on down to Southampton.

The fifth part of this series should appear at some point on the 27th. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this video of the first hop addition on the new kit…

  (562)

The Road to The Wool House #3 – New Space, New Ideas, New Identity

Whilst the beers will be familiar to Dancing Man’s current customers, the plans for The Wool House are to create a different space to The Platform Tavern. When I spoke to Aidan back in September of last year, he described The Platform Tavern as being a cosy and comfortable pub. The Wool House on the other hand, has been planned more as a brewery and an event space.

In talking about the plans for The Wool House, Aidan was keen to make it clear that they wanted to show off the building to as many people as possible, providing a space for all kinds of people, young and old.

It is hoped that The Wool House will build on the good reputation already developed by the Dancing Man Brewery and Platform Tavern team. It will also give people another reason to visit the quay area of Southampton. In my conversation with Aidan in September, he said that some people won’t visit The Platform Tavern, as it’s too small and often busy.

I’ll admit myself, that I have often wanted to visit on my way back home on a Friday evening. I haven’t because its often busy. (I also prefer pub drinking in the afternoon with a book or some comics, but the point stands, I’m put off visiting in the evening because of how busy it can get).

 

From the start of the project, the plans for the expansion of the Dancing Man Brewery were always centered around the local community. It was this that helped secure support from the council and the Bridging the Gap fund.

It would have been easy to find a bigger premises on the outskirts of the city, but they wanted to be located in the center of town. It’s hoped that the new venture will help to improve the quality of beer on offer in the town quay area. They also plan on working with local businesses, improving the local economy.

Amongst the local businesses who have already benefited from The Wool House are the builders firm employed for the project, the architect, and those within the Council and English Heritage who worked on approving the plans for the building. Along with those jobs created by the building of the new brewpub, there are also those which have been created by the need to run the new location. A general manager, shift managers, bar staff, waiting staff, kitchen staff and extra brewing staff will have all been employed by the time the doors open to the public on the 27th February. Depending on the success of the business, it’s possible that further expansion of the workforce will occur.

On my last visit to The Wool House the building was far from finished, yet the building had a very industrial feel to it. This is apt, given the building’s long history in which it has seen many uses. The additions to the interior also have a history befitting of making new use out of old things.

The bars use wood reclaimed from old railway carriages, and allegedly, Kentucky Racecourse. According to Stewart , this is what the seller on ebay claimed. Whether it’s true or not is unknown, but for the benefit of a good story, lets assume that it is. The downstairs bar also features a section made from an old snooker table, minus the wood and the felt. The downstairs floor has been made with the wood of barrels from a Scottish distillery, and the wooden pillars (part of the building’s structure for it’s 800 year old lifespan), have been carbon dated as being 1000 years old.

With the brewery installed, the downstairs area feels a lot smaller than it previously did. The spiral staircase and pulley system take up a lot of the downstairs spare now that the brewery and bar have been installed into the back half of the building. In many ways, it feels like the ground floor of The Wool House has the potential to feel smaller than The Platform.

The upper floor on the other hand, seems like it will be much more spacious. A mezzanine level has been added which includes offices, a green room for bands, and a balcony on which bands can perform. The addition of this balcony means that space isn’t lost when making room for the band, a problem encountered at The Platform Tavern.

Leading onto next week’s installment, in which I shall be covering the beer plans, I shall finish by saying that when I entered The Wool House I was hit with an aroma of hot wort. It’s an aroma I expect will become even more common as industry and productivity returns yet again to The Wool House. Eventually The Wool House will be used for something else, continuing it’s long and varied history. For now though, it’s purpose is beer, and being a space for people to come together. It’s a venue I believe that many people will enjoy, whether they are beer drinkers or not. (208)

The Friday Pint 2015 #4 – B³ 3

Regular readers of this blog will know that for the past few years, I have been part of the Birmingham Beer Bash team. For those of you who may have missed the announcements on Twitter and Facebook, there will be another Beer Bash this year.

As in previous years, this year’s Bash will take place at The Bond in Digbeth, over the last weekend in July (Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th). This year’s trade session will be on the Thursday evening, with four public sessions over the course of Friday and Saturday.

Whilst I have seen some of the plans and breweries we hope to get for you, I will as always, be leaving the reveal of those details to the official channels, so go and follow those Twitter and Facebook feeds. You’ll also be able to find information about this year’s event, as it gets released at http://birminghambeerbash.co.uk/

Tickets haven’t been released yet, but you can still book your hotel. Get ready, and prepare to hover that finger over the F5 button waiting for the tickets to go on sale. (135)

The Road to The Wool House #2 – Securing the building, planning and delays.

The bidding process for The Wool House was won at the end of the Summer of 2013. Over the course of the summer, the building had been used on a temporary basis by Element Arts, who used it as a space to display art, and put on a number of workshops, activities and events that drew over 10,000 visitors to The Wool House. In December of 2013 a separate group, calling themselves Wool House for the Community started a campaign to stop the Wool House from becoming a brewpub, and to keep it as a community arts centre.

The Southern Daily Echo news article on the Campaign’s demonstration outside The Wool House in December of 2013 (http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/10882055.Groups_campaign_against_pub_plan_for_historic_building/) gained many comments, both in support of and against both points of view. If people wanted to express their views on the proposed use of the building officially though, the Wool House for the Community group had a petition set up that they could sign.

The petition (http://www.southampton.gov.uk/moderngov/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=55) signed by 414 people by the time it closed in mid January 2014, was met with a response in support of the brewery’s plans. In their response, the council highlighted The Wool House’s long and varied history, and also pointed out that they were already developing a number of arts spaces, including the new Arts Centre to be opened in 2016.

Whilst it certainly drew attention to the Wool House project, the campaign didn’t affect the date that had been set for the committee to make the final decision on whether or not the plans would be going ahead. The application for planning approval was received by the council in mid January 2014. In mid April, after three months in which the public and local residents were given the chance to express their viewpoints, the planning committee unanimously gave their approval to the project.

On the morning of the 23rd April, the news was broke that approval had been given for the Brewery to start converting the building into a brewpub. At this point, it was hoped that the new venue would be up and running around mid-August, certainly in time for the Southampton Boat Show in mid September. Health and Safety and structural issues however meant that building didn’t even start until August.

Whilst the initial plans and timescale may have been a bit overambitious, Aidan admitted when I spoke to him in early September that better decisions were being made due to the delays. Back then, it was still hoped that The Wool House would be opened before the end of the year.

During my visit to The Wool House in late January, Stewart Cross, owner and Landlord of The Platform Tavern, restated what Aidan had said. It was somewhat underestimated how long converting The Wool House would be. As a Grade 1 listed building, any changes had to be approved.

In addition to this, further delays were added by the delivery of the kitchen and lift, which were held up by Christmas. When I was at The Wool House last, neither the kitchen or lift had yet to be installed, but both were due to come in the next week.

All that being said though, the brew kit is in, and brewing commenced on it on Tuesday 27th January 2015. In a couple of weeks time, this series will look at that beer and the others you’ll be able to drink when The Wool House opens on the 27th February.

Next time on The Road To The Wool House: New Space, New Ideas, New Identity (356)