The Friday Pint #141 – Musings on the anonymity of the British pub.

Drinking in America feels very different to how drinking was back in the UK. To begin with, the main method of dispense here is keg. Whilst there are cask taps around the country, there are none within my area.

Another noticeable difference is the type of beer available. Back home, pubs were filled with Best Bitters, Brown Ales, Pale Ales and Lagers. Here, in the USA, heavily hopped Pale Ales and IPA dominate the market alongside the “Domestic” beers like Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Other styles are available, but you have to search to find them.

Luckily for me, I live in a place where I don’t have to do much searching. Black Bridge Brewery has a nice range of styles, from 4% stouts to 14% wheat wines. Meanwhile, across the road, the recently opened Rickety Cricket Brewing (attached to the House of Hops) has  doubled the number of taps to 64. Surely this should be great for a beer drinker like me, yet for some reason with so much choice I struggle to find something I want to drink.

The difference I’m going to write about tonight is the experience and environment within the different establishments.

Back in the UK, when I would write these posts I would often do so from the comfort of a pub. I could usually find somewhere I could sit and write, whilst drinking and observing the comings and goings of other folk. I could do this and be relatively undisturbed. It was in a way, somewhat relaxing.

Here in the US, writing with a similar sense of relaxation is much harder. For one thing, US bars lack the nooks and crannies that British Pubs do. For another thing, most seating, at least in the bars in my area, sit high off the ground. I find it very difficult to feel comfortable in a chair in which my feet don’t touch the ground.

I have also found it harder to write. This may be partly because I’ve not been doing this for a while. When I first started writing this blog, part of the intention in doing so was to improve my writing skills, as well as my knowledge and understanding of beer. Whilst not writing, elements of both of those have declined. Hopefully now that I have an income again, I’ll be able to start writing more often.

Another factor that adds to the atmosphere in a drinking establishment is the décor and lighting. In a British pub, the lighting is usually warm, whether it be provided by natural sunlight passing through the windows, lightbulbs, candles, or firelight. In an American bar, the lighting feels colder. Neon bars signs and fluorescent bulbs add little more than electrical noise to a cubic blank space with seating.

In a British Pub the seating is often mismatched. Cushioned chairs sit alongside chairs without cushions. Some have arms, some don’t. Sometimes there’s a “comfy chair”, a high-backed leather upholstered chair often situated near an open fire. Small round tables mix in with square tables of varying sizes. In general, the furniture in a British Pub is wooden, and a shade of dark brown.

In a US Bar, the seating is much more uniform. Whether the tables and chairs are wooden or metallic, they will generally all be the same, at least in style. Back in the UK, I had a number of places where I had a favourite spot. I can’t really say that about anywhere I’ve drank here in the US. Everywhere is open and the same. There’s nothing really special about them.

Lastly, the anonymity of the establishment. Back in the UK I could order a drink from the bar, pay my money, and retreat to wherever I would be sitting that day and not talk to another person until it was time to order another beer. I could read, write, watch videos or even play video games.

Here in the USA, I’m regularly asked if I’m doing okay, if I would like another drink. If I’m sat at the bar, I don’t mind partaking in conversation. I’d expect it sat there. If I’m sat in the corner though, I probably don’t want to be regularly disturbed. I know they’re doing it to drive sales and increase their tips, but it annoys me.

I like the choice I have here when it comes to drinking, but I miss the comfort and anonymity of a British Pub. Eventually I’ll get back to the UK, and having gotten used to the way things are here, the world of the British Pub will seem strange and quaint. I think I’ll always choose a lack of choice and comfort and atmosphere over a wide choice and a lack of atmosphere though.

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The Friday Pint #140

 

It’s 25 minutes to Wednesday afternoon. Today’s lunch special at Rickety Cricket Brewing in downtown Kingman is a BLT with a choice of fries or salad. I order one, with fries, alongside a $2 brown bag craft beer. This time I end up with Samuel Adams Tropic of Yuzu. Supposedly, it’s “Exotic & Juicy. I’m getting neither.
The food comes out quick, it is still quiet after all. The fries, whilst seasoned nice, seem slightly undercooked. The sandwich on the other hand, is sufficient. Whilst not the best food I’ve had here, it’s still good enough to warrant a return. Previous trips to Rickety Cricket saw me try their pretzel and their cheese pizza, both of which were awesomely delicious.
Rickety Cricket as a venue has been open for a few weeks now. Recently their food menu expanded to include more burger options and the aforementioned pretzel as a permanent option, rather than a lunch special. It is next door to the House of Hops, and between the two venues, they now have a menu consisting of 64 beers. Décor wise, it reminds me of a cross between The Platform Tavern and The Dancing Man in Southampton. Metal structures and other trinkets adorn the walls and hang from the ceiling. While the building is a new construction, it feels like it was converted from an older building that had stopped being used.
The brewing equipment sits to the left of the bar, all shiny and new, waiting for the food side of things to be as flaw free as possible before it’s put into action. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the first grain is mashed in, and eventually the first beer is served.
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Since then, I have moved over to Black Bridge Brewery. I started with a pint of Chichester (which is frustratingly pronounced by many of the staff here as “chi chester” rather than “chich ester”). It’s a beer which is becoming something of a regular for me here at the brewery. I think it may be because it reminds me somewhat of the beers I could get at home.
For a while, Tim (the brewer) was sat at the bar with me. We talked brewing and among other things, Star Trek Voyager. He’s working a lot recently on getting beers brewed ready for the Oktoberfest on the 6th and 7th October.
As I type now, I find myself drinking an Evil Red IPA. I tried it a couple of times during my early days of drinking Black Bridge Brewery beers. I’d long not bothered with it as I wasn’t really excited by the beer when I had it before. This time around though, there’s something different. It may be that I’ve not really had a beer in this style for some time. This time around, I’m actually enjoying Evil Red, and I’m now much more open to having another one sooner.

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The Friday Pint #139 – Bells Kalamazoo Stout

After a week away (mostly spent looking for somewhere who will employ me so I can do this more often) I return with a delve into my somewhat small stash of beer at home.

I obtained the bottle of Kalamazoo stout I drank for this post as part of a six pack I purchased from the Hualapai Kwik Stop for just $4.99 plus tax. It is the fourth bottle I have opened, and probably the best so far.

The first bottle I enjoyed. The second was a disappointment compared to that first taste. The third was somewhere between the two. By this bottle, I’ve become used of what to expect. My expectations are neither too high, or too low. As such, I find myself able to enjoy it much more.

I wouldn’t call it an astounding beer. It’s not one that has made me run to social media, or my friends, and say “you must try this, it’s great”. That being said though, it’s closer to being one of those beers, than it is an “avoid at all costs” beer. I also think it’s good enough not to be grouped in with the large swathe of forgettable beers in the middle.

It is made with brewer’s licorice, and named after the city in which Larry Bell began his brewery. It’s a rather easy drinking 6% stout, and one that I like a slight bit more with each sip. I wouldn’t say go out of your way to try it, but if it comes your way, it’s worth at least a few moments of your time.

 

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The Friday Pint #138 – Uncle Bear’s Blueberry Saison

Uncle Bear’s Brewery is located in Phoenix, AZ. Uncle Bear is actually a Labrador, and his image can be seen in the brewery’s branding.

On February 10th, I tried Uncle Bear’s Blueberry Saison as part of a number of Arizona brewed beers.

Based on the name, I was expecting to somewhat enjoy this beer. I was expecting a refreshing fruity beer, with a few of the flavours I’ve come to expect from traditional saisons.

What I found was a beer that disappointed expectations. The aroma, unsurprisingly, was very strong in blueberries. Blueberries were also present in the taste too. Again, this is to be expected in a Blueberry Saison. The beer did seem much more dry than I was anticipating, and nowhere near as refreshing as I would have liked.

If I had to recommend an Arizona brewed beer with blueberries, I would probably pick Big Blue Van from the College Street Brewery in Lake Havasu. I found that beer to be much more refreshing and thirst quenching than this one.

 

On an historical note, I’ve been made aware that it’s been two years since the Dancing Man Brewery opened in the old Wool House in Southampton. It’s now been over five years since they first started in The Platform Tavern. I may have been slightly disappointed with the initial offerings, but over time things improved, and Dancing Man soon became one of my favourite things about Southampton.

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The Friday Pint #137 – Kingman House of Hops Golden.

This week’s beer is one of six Arizona brewed beers I drank on February 10th at the House of Hops in Kingman, AZ.

Golden is the House of Hops house beer. I had tried it once before drinking it for the purpose of this blog. Neither time offered up anything that could really get me enthused about the beer.

Whilst drinking, I noted that it seemed bland and boring. It might be a beer that reveals more over time, but it’s not really a beer I’d want to drink again and again, especially when there are other choices on the same bar I know I’ll enjoy and get more out of.

I also wrote that Golden is “not a beer to sit and devour, and not a beer to refresh and enjoy without thinking about it either”. This was followed up by “balanced in a boring way”

The House of Hops will soon have a brewery right next door to it. Rickety Cricket is currently being built ready for opening later this year. I’m not expecting to like everything (even my favourite breweries have had brews I wasn’t a fan of) but I’m hoping they’ll have brews that are more exciting than Golden.

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The Friday Pint #136 – Black Bridge Brewery Cliffdweller DIPA

This week is Arizona Beer Week. As a result, I took myself back down to Downtown Kingman to sample some of the Arizona beers available in the House of Hops. They will be featured in future installments of The Friday Pint.

Before I made it to the House of Hops, I paid another visit to the Black Bridge Brewery. This time it was to try Cliffdweller DIPA, a collaboration with the State 48 brewery of Surprise, AZ. Cliffdweller stands at a mighty 10.8%, and whilst not the strongest beer available on the tap list, it arguably drinks like it is. Wicked Poison in contrast, is a deceptively easy drinking 14.2%

The description of Cliffdweller posted on the brewery’s Facebook page stated that it was brewed using fresh hops from the Pacific Northwest, including Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade. These hops aren’t used lightly either, and it would seem many were used in the bittering stage of the boil. Cliffdweller is easily the most bitter beer I’ve had since moving to America, and quite possibly since I moved out of London a few years back.

The bitterness is to the point where it becomes rather difficult to pickup or think about anything other than that. I did however get hints of pine, which in that moment reminded me of Art Brew’s Pine Tree Beer. Other than that, I was unable to note anything about this beer.

Whilst I was there, the bartender also gave me a small sample of Cliffdweller mixed with 80 Shilling. The harshness of the bitterness was reduced slightly, but not enough for the mix to be something I’d drink reguarly. I would though, drink Cliffdweller again, albeit in a smaller amount than I did on Friday,

Cliffdweller DIPA will be available at Black Bridge Brewery, and at State 48 brewery whilst it lasts.

At the time of posting, Arizona Beer Week is approximately half way through. For those of you reading near Arizona who might like to pay a visit, it ends on Saturday February 18th.

 

On a related note, Black Bridge Brewery won gold at the Arizona Strong Beer Festival with their Katastrophic Humiliation barleywine.

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The Friday Pint #135 – Black Bridge Brewery No Pricks Allowed

A new year, a new numbering system. Out with the old way of starting from zero each year, and in with the new way of numbering each new Friday Pint post sequentially. Is this actually #135? I’m not sure, but it’s close enough, and if any of you actually bother to go back and count, you might want to reconsider your life choices.

As for the matter of why I’m here, typing; I actually went out and drank some beer today.

Back when I last wrote something for this segment, way back in March of last year, I was living in Pittsburgh, looking forward to trying all the beers the local area had to offer. Now, I find myself in Kingman, Arizona, a small city in the northwest of the state. Fortunately for me, Kingman just so happens to have it’s own brewery, with a second being built across the road from it.

The brewery that exists now is Black Bridge Brewery. It is situated on East Beale Street in the Downtown Kingman area. It was founded in 2013.

I have visited the brewery a few times since moving to the area in July. On a couple of occasions I have even written posts for here, yet they have not made it. By now, I have more or less tried each beer from the main range at least once. There are those I have enjoyed, and those that I have not. Eventually, I’ll tell you what those beers are.

As for today’s beer, today I drank No Pricks Allowed.

No Pricks Allowed is a 7.9% Prickly Pear Belgium Blonde. It’s rose in colour, and was co-brewed by Janelle, who was my server today. Based on my first impressions, I wasn’t really impressed with the beer. It’s not something I’d rush to drink.

That being said, I do think I was drinking it in the wrong circumstances. No Pricks Allowed seemed like a very easy to drink beer, and one that would make a great addition to summer parties. I think I would probably drink it with some added fruit, or as part of a cocktail or mix.

Which brings me nicely to Prickly Ginger (4.1%), a blend of the aforementioned No Pricks Allowed, and Black Bridge Brewery’s ginger beer. The addition of the ginger beer for me gives the drink a much needed flavour kick. Whilst there wasn’t anything overtly wrong with No Pricks Allowed, I personally found it lacking in flavour.

The last beer I tried whilst at the brewery today was Angry Elf, a 9.5% Russian Imperial Stout that was originally brewed as a home brew by one of the brewery’s bar staff. It will be featured at the Arizona Strong Beers Festival on February 11th, along with No Pricks Allowed, and Wicked Poison.

Angry Elf is among the most stoutiest of stouts I’ve tried in a long time. It is certainly the stout that has tasted most like burnt treacle I’ve had. Imagine a glass of liquid treacle toffee. Now imagine that sugar burnt even more, enough that only a hint of the sugar remains. That’s more or less where Angry Elf sits. It’s very much a cold winter’s night by the fireplace sipping stout. If only we had more of those in Arizona.

In the next edition of The Friday Pint, I’ll be trying beers from elsewhere in Arizona. Arizona Beer Week runs from the 9th to the 18th of February.

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The Session #120 – Brown Beer

This month’s edition of The Session is hosted by Joe Tindall of The Fatal Glass of Beer. He asks us to contemplate brown beer. A commonly neglected and unloved form of beer.

I have been in the USA for just over a year now. I have found many good IPAs, and many good stouts. Brown beers, or rather beers resembling the sort of beer I could easily find back home (in the UK) are somewhat harder to come by. When I do come by them, many don’t live up to what I was drinking for over 10 years of my life.

This makes me think that brown beer, or rather an English Bitter in this case, is something I (and possibly many others) take for granted. It is one of those styles that most breweries have in some shape or form, and more often than not, it will be their best seller.

There’s a good reason for this. A well balanced bitter is often the choice of a drinker who wants to spend a long session enjoying a beer or two over a few hours. A number of 4% bitters is going to be much more palatable than the same number of 7% stouts or IPAs. For those of a certain age, whose early beer drinking days were formulated on a limited selection of “boring brown beers”, returning to them on occasion can provide comfort, and also a reference point for the wide range of other beers available today.

As for English Bitter style beers in the US, I think the problem is one of dispense. Whilst lagers and IPAs are suited to being dispensed by keg, I think beers like English bitters (and to a lesser degree stouts) are much better dispensed on cask. As I’m now some distance from the nearest bar that serves cask, I guess I’ll just have to make do.

At least there’s the option of Fuller’s London Pride in bottles…

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The Friday Pint 2016 #9 – Festival!

So, last week saw me at the Pittsburgh Winter Beer Festival. There were some good beers, some not so good beers, and a few old favourites.

I started with Anderson Valley’s Blood Orange Gose, which I believe was the first beer I had last year (only this time round, it wasn’t new to me). I drank this whilst standing in the queue for the Dogfish Head stand, where I got to try Romantic Chemistry for the first time. Romantic Chemistry is an IPA brewed with mangos, apricots and ginger, first released this year. It’s a beer I’ve been on the look out for on the local store’s shelf since I first saw Dogfish Head post about it on Facebook. It more than lived up to expectation, perhaps more than so, and I’d be tempted to buy a pack if I saw it on the shelf in the future.

Next up for me was an American Pale Ale from Stoudts Brewing Company. It was okay, but not enough for me to remember it a week later. North Country’s Lurnberry Stout however was nice enough for me to want to visit their bar and drink more of their beer.

Which is also the case with War Streets Brewery, a nanobrewery located in the Mexican War Streets neighbourhood of Pittsburgh. Whilst I didn’t particularly like the IPA they had on offer, the Resaca Red Ale, and Sherman St Stout (my favourite beer of the night) impressed me enough to make War Streets a brewery I want to drink more from.

Other beers consumed over the course of the evening included Thirsty Dog’s Old Leghumper, Ballast Point’s Victory At Sea, and Church Brew Works’ Spring Hill Sour.

This year was my second experience of the US style beer festival, where a single ticket price is paid, and all beer is included in that price. Whilst not having to worry about having enough money for beer is a good thing, I do find myself thinking “have I drunk the ticket’s price worth of beer yet”. Even if I take $10 off to cover admission and the glass, I don’t think I did.

If I took into account the rarity, and normal value of the beers I consumed, I probably actually did drink somewhere close to what the ticket cost. For all my focus on whether on not I got value for money from my visit, I’d still go again.

Only 51 weeks to go…

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The Friday Pint 2016 #8 – Flying Dog Lucky Sob Irish Red Ale

As I removed the cap from the bottle it occurred to me that I probably should have saved this weeks beer for St Patrick’s Day. As it is, that thought came too late, and I now have Flying Dog’s interpretation of an Irish Red in my glass.

I’m going to come straight out here and say I’m not a fan. I like red ales, and the irish reds are amongst the best I’ve tried. It’s not so bad that I can’t drink it, yet it’s nowhere near what I wanted or hoped for when I bought the six pack.

For a start, it’s not really red enough. In fairness though, colour is irrelevant, as can be seen by the many attempts to challenge perceptions through styles such as black IPAs or white stouts. Next up, it’s too bitter. I expect a red to have more malt based flavours. It does seem to be getting better as it warms up, but first impressions count, and currently I’m not impressed enough to buy another six pack.

This is one of the problems with buying beer in quanity. If you don’t like it, or it doesn’t live up to your expectations, you have the rest to drink. That being said, I can always use a couple of bottles for making beer bread.

Next week I’ll be spending my evening at the Pittsburgh Winter Beer Festival. If signal allows I’ll be live tweeting what I’m drinking, otherwise there won’t be anything from me until Saturday, when I sum up my festival experience.

If you’re reading this back in the UK, next week is birthday week in Southampton, with The Butcher’s Hook entering its third year of business, and The Dancing Man celebrating its first anniversary. Go and pay them both a visit.

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