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Friday, 31 December 2010

Another Thursday Another Curry?

Visited The Staple Hill Oak last night together with Jim, Geoff, Pet, Duncan, Mary, John, Alannis and her friend. Started the night with O'Hanlon's Goodwill Bitter 5%. I decided against a curry for the second week in a row and elected to try the Thai Egg noodles, cooked with coconut and yellow Thai-style sauce, flavoured with garlic, basil and chillies – mixed with shiitake mushrooms, mange-tout, red pepper and spring onion. With chicken. I also order a nan bread on the side. It was very tasty and quite spicy. Have to say that I enjoyed it. The others had the usual curries. On then to another festive beer Cottage Brewing Norman Conquest Xmas Ale at 4.5%. Norman Conquest normally comes out at 6.8% to 7%. However, the Xmas Ale is relatively weak at only 4.5%. We went on to a pint of Bath Ales Festivity 5%. Once again I could see that my companions and myself were getting very good looking and highly intelligent. So as not to spoil this obvious effect we had a final pint of Goodwill.

Of course our debating skills were also improving by the pint. At this point I would like to reassure the reader that more bullocks were talked last night than at any other time over the festive season. Then all of a sudden it was time to go home as Alannis and her friend were asked to leave. Children not being allowed after 9.30 and as it was fast approaching 10 we smiled to the nice deputy manager and shuffled our way out to the car park. All in all a very successful and enjoyable evening. No major criticism of either the food, beer or service. All is well at the Staple Hill Oak. May it long be so.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Wednesday Yet Again

OK you probably know the routine by now. Onto the number 42 bus and an uneventful journey down to Corn Street and the Farmers Market and the pieman that has not been there lately. He was missing again this time but so was the whole of the farmers market. So I bravely went in search of a Pieminister PM pie within the hollowed halls of St Nichols Market. Seek and you will find. So I sought and I did find. Bought two PMs because I will not be able to make it next Wednesday for my day out. Also I found by diligently searching the Internet that PM pies can be frozen. So one was consumed for lunch and one went into the freezer for next Wednesday non day out.

On then to the Commercial Rooms to meet Pete and hopefully a festive pint. My hope was full and I was not disappointed this time; the festive ales were there. However, the service was not. Once again I had to wait for what I felt was an inordinate amount of time. One guy who came in after me got fed up and left. However, eventually I was served with a pint of Goodwill 5% (sorry this is the best web site I could find) kind of ironic I thought. Pete joined me at the bar and I scuttled off to find a table that was out of the draught caused by two sets of swing doors. Because there were not many customers and even fewer staff we decided to stay for one more pint. This time we had a Holdens Blaster 4.8%. Not, I thought, as nice as the Goodwill but as Pete pointed out the old palate needed to be cleansed. So we put the world to rights once again. This time it came down to the manufacturers of TV sets being a bit naughty in the way they measure the screen size. Which should be from corner to corner and they do. However, the actual depth of the screen can vary enormously. Try it measure a TV set that is say about 3-4 years old and then measure one that has been manufactured more recently. First from corner to corner and then from top to bottom. You will be shocked. You will be stunned. You will be annoyed if you have bought one recently. Rant over we went to the Seven Stars. However, for some reason it was really packed out. Must have been some sort of Camra convention or some such. So we forsook the Seven Stars and crossed the road to the Cornubia. Whose range of festive real ales were better than Wetherspoons. Started off with a Santa's Beerd 3.7% from Northumberland Brewery. A very nice beer made even nicer by the discount offered to card carrying members of Camra (that's me by the way). By now I was beginning to forget what we talked about. But it must have been very important and profound. I could feel my good looks and intelligence increasing by the minute. We finished off with a pint of Jingle Balls 4.2%. Halfway through this pint the landlady called last orders. We didn't rise to the challenge and finished our pints in a sedate way. On the way out we had a nice chat with the landlady about her terrapins and the new fish tank she had put in. Then it was time for home.

Once again I missed the number 42 and had to get the number 43. The usual journey and nap followed and I got off at Kingswood shopping precinct. Walking down the road the number 42 passed me. Oh well! The walk I have no doubt done me the power of good.

Curry night tonight. Watch this space. Maybe a curry is not what I will have. Though I feel that Wetherspoons as losing it. There are other pubs and curry houses that are just waiting to fill any gap left in the market.

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Last Curry Night Before Christmas

Twas the last curry night before Christmas.
No one was drinking not even a pint.
In search of beer went Michelle, Jim, Allan and Pete quite a sight.
Lo and behold after following a star.
They found the Staple Hill Oak and made for the bar.
Serving curry, ale and all kinds of good cheer.
Hydes Yule Be Back 4.5% was the first of their beer.
Followed by Chilli Con Carne, with extra chips of course.
Not the best, I hate to admit and wondered what was that sauce?
It was chewy but there again somewhat tasty.
So one shouldn't be a tad too hasty.
In consolation we ordered more cheer.
This time in the form of a beer.
Rudolph's Reward 3.7% did not impress I fear.
Too watery and lacking in beery taste.
So back to the bar in a bit of a haste.
Redressing this mishap.
We ordered Yule Be Back.
At least this libation in taste did not lack.
The end of the curry they dispersed into the night.
Slipping and sliding twas nearly a fright!
After another lovely curry night.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Out and About with Pete

Slummed it on the number 42 bus, this week and headed for the farmers market in Corn Street, Bristol. The pieman was present at his stall for a change and a quick transaction later I had secured my pie for lunch today. Caught a number 1 bus up Park Street to The Berkley. I was excited to see that the posters outside and table stand up thingies inside The Berkley were advertising a host of Christmas and Festive ales. I met Pete inside at the bar where we waited and waited and waited in a very short queue for the lone barman to serve us. Eventually all was well but where were the Christmas and Festive ales so avidly advertised. Not a one in sight. Just about four real ales and the usual Ruddells and Abbot and a couple of ciders. Get your act together Weatherspoons for goodness sake.Your prices are rising your service is slipping and most pubs now offer three or four real ales. The incentive for anyone entering a Wetherspoons is, at least for me, beginning to fade. Poor service at the bar, rising beer prices and tables not being cleared and cleaned as quickly as this customer would like. All this points to a Wetherspoons clone being able to enter the market and clean up. What I want is a place that sells a good selection of real ales. Provide decent food at reasonable prices. No television, no music, no fruit machines and no children. If all this sounds familiar, it should. That was Wetherspoons original charter which they did extremely well up until a few years ago and in my opinion have been getting it wrong ever since. There are now a few pubs that offer what I want (and I don't think I am alone) and the numbers are growing. End of rant. On to Out and About with Pete. We both had a pint of Bees Knees 4.2%. A pleasant golden beer with just a slight subtle hint of honey.

The Berkley was beginning to fill up and with only two barmen on duty it was obvious that getting a further pint would take some time. So we decided to leg it over the road, past the university and head down St Michael's Hill where we entered the White Bear. A reassuring notice outside the pub said that a nice warm cosy welcome was within. However, it was a bit cold inside but the barmaid said that the heating had been sorted out and it would soon warm up. There was not a great choice of real ales to pick from, in contradiction to my rant above.  Doombar was off so we settled for the Otter Ale 4.5%. After a brief discussion about Christmas and the coldest conditions we had every worked or lived under we drank up and left. Further on down the hill we entered one pub, which shall remain nameless (mainly because I can't remember the name). It doesn't really matter because we could not find anyone to serve us anyway and besides the choice of real ale was very limited. Ever hopeful we pushed on down the hill and found the Colston Arms. A small but proper pub. Here I met a dog called Harvey and a cat called Mouvey although the person who told me about the cat didn't know how to spell or pronounce the cat's name. Anyway had a very nice pint of Hobgoblin 4.5%. However, time was getting on so we decided that a further pint of Hobgoblin would probably turn into two or three so we stretched our legs and found the Colston Yard. There was small range of real ales but we had the Butcombe Christmas Steps 4.2%, well it is Christmas after all. After setting the world to rights and giving some relationship advice to a couple (not to their faces you understand) who were part of a larger Christmas party we decided to call it day and try and get out of Bristol before the rush hour began in earnest. So ended being Out and About with Pete and we made our merry way down to the Centre to catch our respective buses home.

At the bottom of Colston Street Pete spied a number 1 bus at a stop and hastily headed off. I thought he would not make it as the bus was a fair distance off and Pete has only got little legs. I had a choice either to head over the Centre or up a side street to hopefully catch a number 42 or number 43. I opted for the side street. Making my way there a number 42 and a number 43 passed me by. On reaching the bus stop I spotted a number 1 with a glowing Pete on the top deck. Why is it that Pete just manages to catch his bus and I just manage to miss mine. Are there dark forces at work here or am I destined to always to 'just miss my bus'. However, after a 20 minute wait a number 43 turned up and I climbed aboard. A number 43 meant a 10 walk from Kingswood shopping centre to my house but at least I was in the warm. 40 minutes and a small nap later I arrived in Kingswood. Getting in the house there was a very welcoming bowl of ox tail stew awaiting me. What could be nicer after a hard afternoon drinking real ale and talking bullocks. Tonight is curry night although I might not have a curry. Watch this space to find out what I decide to stuff down my throat.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Curry on a Thursday

I travelled with Geoff, Jim and Tony to the Staple Hill Oak last night for a curry and few drinks. The place was pretty lively with about 4 separate Christmas parties going on. However, it did not effect us and the bar was quite clear. I started with a Dorset Brewing Company Adventageous Xmas Bitter 4.5%. A pleasant pale coloured beer. With my Lamb Chettinedu I had a Santa's Sack 4.2%. A dark beer but very nice just the same. Pete had a steak and kidney pie with chips and peas. But the centre of his pie was still cold and not hot so he sent it back. Five minutes later a brand new plate of pie complete with chips and peas appeared. Problem solved. Curry scoffed it was back to the beer. However, a limited choice for new beer so I returned to Adventageous. Then from somewhere out of the blue a bottle of red wine appeared. I weakened and had a glass. Unfortunately this turned an ordinary curry into a talking curry. As apparently I was 'fighting someone' in my sleep. I don't remember and as far as I can recall I had a deep and pleasant night's sleep. Barry pitched towards the end of our curry night and dished out his annual round of Christmas cards. Thank you Barry much appreciated.

I don't think I will be making any new brews this side of Christmas but watch this space.

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Another Wednesday - Another Day Out

I agreed to meet Pete at the Commercial Rooms at twelvish. Geoff gave me a lift down to Bristol. Thank you very much Geoff. So after a quick look around a couple of music shops I made my way to the the farmers market in Corn Street to purchase a pie. This route meant that I had to pass the Commercial Rooms. The place was full to the rafters. Customers three deep at the bar and nowhere to sit. On then to the pie staff. The pieman was missing yet again so I had to rely on the attentions of another staff holder. I asked for a PM pie but neither the helpful lady stall holder nor I could find one. So I settled for a Moo pie seems to be the same ingredients as the PM less the kidney. I will find out later when I scoff my lunch. I meet Pete as he walked through the market and told him of the chaos within Weatherspoons. So it was off to find a substitute pub and some real ale.

We found the King William Ale House in King Street. On entering we noticed that there were not any hand pumps. So I asked the bar maid if the beers were cask conditioned. She said yes so we opted for two pints of Old Brewery Bitter 4%. The beer was served with a massive head so we asked for the glasses to be topped up. After being asked if we wanted a flat pint there was a little bit of muttering but the glasses were topped up. Now, the taste of this brew was not too bad. However, it was extremely gassy and if we had realised that the beer was brewed by Samuel Smith we would have walked out without ordering any beer. So after a few moans and finishing our pints we struck out afresh for another pub. Found the Old Duke also in King Street. We opted for a pint of Doombar 4%. However, this beer was also not up to scratch. We just couldn't put our finger on it but there was something not quite right with this beer. So we drank up and fell back on one of our old favourites, The Shakespeare Tavern where we order a pint of 3 Speckled Hens. However (there are a lot of howevers in this posting!) we got Old Speckled Hen 4.6% and very nice it was too. Especially in comparison with the beer we had already consumed. At the same time we order a portion of chips just to ward off the cold you understand. After about 20 minutes there was no sign of the chips so Pete made an enquiry at the bar. Aparently the bar maid had forgotton to place our order so we had to wait another 10 minutes or so. Lo, the chips arrived and shortly afterwards the barmaid brought us each a halp pint of Old Speckled Hen by way of any apology. Now why don't more businesses, pubs or otherwise, do this sort of thing. It costs a small amount of money but goes an extremely long way to keeping customers happy and more importantly keeps them coming back and spending their hard earned cash in you premises instead of someone elses. Ranting aside now.

Tonight is curry night. Watch this space.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Curry Night - Thursday

Travelled with Geoff, Jim and Alannis to the Staple Hill Oak for our weekly curry and real ale night. After the disappointing showing of real Christmas ale at the V Shed on Wednesday I am happy to report that the Oak had quite a few festive ales. Started off with a Christmas Bonus 4%. I can't find anything on the Internet. I could have the name wrong I suppose. Anyway it was a golden coloured easy drinking beer. The curry I ate was beef madras. A bit on the hot and spicy side for me but very tasty nonetheless. With the curry I had a Stonehenge Rudolf 5%. A darker beer which went down very well. Exmoor Wild Cat 4.4%  was next. This also went down well. Now there's a surprise. Then onto a Brains Festive Cheer 4%. Alannis had a Luxury Hot Chocolate which she said was and I quote, yummy. We talked quite a lot of bullocks last night and I am glad I declined to partake in a bottle or two of wine and stuck with the beer.

I will probably be barrelling my latest brew sometime over the weekend or on Monday. Watch this space.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Wednesday Outing

Braving the biting cold I made my way, via number 42 bus, to the farmers market in Bristol. The man selling the pieminister pies was once again absent from his post. I only had to wait a few minutes however, until he came bouncing back from wherever it was he was at. Bought my pie, which by the way, was delicious (ate it for my lunch today) and made my way to the Commercial Rooms to meet Pete. There was about 7 or 8 real Christmas ales on offer. I opted for a Cotleigh Reinbeer 4.5%. A dark ale pleasant enough but not really to my taste. Pete came in about 10 minutes later. We put the world to rights, finished our beer and made our way to the Shakespeare Tavern and a pint of Hydes Jekylls Gold 4.3%. There were quite a few customers enjoying their lunch with a roaring fire at the end of the bar room. After sorting our all the problems of all the peoples in the world we made our way across the river to Weatherspoons Llyods No 1 Bar the V Shed. Looking forward to sampling a couple more of their Christmas real ales were disappointed that not one was available. In fact of the 4 real ales on offer on two were actually available. Ruddles and Gem. Only once choice for me I am afraid so I had to have to Bath Ales Gem 4.1%. Looking around there were a lot of promotional posters and stand up cardboard leaflets extolling the fact that at least one christmas real ale would be available. Shame on you Weatherspoons. If you ain't got the beer don't advertise it. You dash drinkers expectations and hopes. If it was possible for Christmas ales to be available in abundance at the Commercial Rooms a mere 10 minutes walk away why ain't it possible to have at least one of those beers available in the V shed. Again shame on you Weatherspoons. You are beginning to treat you customers with contempt like so many other large companies. Shame and shame again. Enough ranting. Said goodbye to Pete and made my disappointed way home via the number 42 bus.

Ah Well. At least it is curry night tonight. Watch this space.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Thursday - Curry Night

travelled with Geoff and Jim to the Royal Oak Staple Hill on Thursday night. Here we met Alannis and Pete. Not a very great deal in way of choice of real ales at the bar, in my opinion. However, started with as it turned out a Ringwood Forty Niner . No idea of the ABV, at the time, because the chalk board come pump clip had been partly erased. There was not much help forthcoming from the bar staff and again I had to ask for the glasses to be topped up. I urge everyone to support the full pint campaign. With VAT increase due in January and Weatherspoons putting up their prices it is essential that beer drinkers get full value for their hard earned cash. Rise up I say and overcome the capitalist beer barons who are literally raking in millions by serving short measures of beer. If you bought a bag of spuds from the supermarket you would not expect them to take a couple out and still charge you full price. Likewise with petrol. You would not except a short measure of petrol for which you had paid for a full litre. I understand that some people may find it embarrassing to ask the bar person to top up their glass. However, it is your wallet they are ripping off. Stand strong and usurp the demon pub co's. OK enough of the rant. Back to the curry night. With my Chicken Jalfrezi I order a Bishops Finger 5%. This was followed by a bottle of Primavera Frascati a nice refreshing dry white wine that was too easily drinkable. The curry was really enjoyable. I know most people like to see big portions on their plates when they go out to eat. However, I would be quite happy with a slightly smaller plate of food if they were to use the extra revenue to reduce the cost of beer. However, I am not naive enough to think that they would pass on any savings to their customers. It would all disappear into the corporate pot and probably be used to train staff on how to get away with serving short measures of beer. Damn their eyes. Slipping back into rant mode there for a while.

A pleasant evening spent in the company of some old gits. Jim showed us a few photos of his New Zealand trip on his mobile. Especially around the wonderful Mount Cook. Not that I am envious or anything. Why would I be envious of anyone who had just spent 4 weeks travelling around New Zealand. Not me. Not bloody much!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Wednesdays - Back On Track

I travelled by bus to Bristol. I caught the number 42 which has replaced the number 41 which has been withdrawn. Confused? Keep reading. On my way back I knew I had to catch the 42 or 43. If I caught I caught the 43 I would have a 10 minute walk from the bus stop to my house. If I caught the 42 I would only have a less than 1 minute walk. Fine! You would think. I went to the bus stop that were used by the the 43 and 41 services. These numbers were not listed on the information/timetable. After walking up and down the centre looking for the correct bus stop I gave up just in time to see the 42 go past me and disappear up a side road. I knew there were some bus stops in that road so I made a brave effort to run after it. Alas the traffic lights beat me and knowing that Bristol drivers don't take prisoners I barely made it back to the safety of the pavement. When the lights changed I crossed the road and found the 42 and 43 bus stops. I waited for about 20 minutes before a 43 arrived. Not idea but a little walk at the end of the line would not hurt me. As I was getting my ticket from a machine which was totally reluctant to issue one I noticed that a 42 had pulled up. I made my apologies to the bus driver and made a dash for the other bus. Now I know what you are thinking. He didn't manage to get to the 42 before it pulled away and turning back missed the 43 also. But no, dear, probably confused and long suffering reader, I did manage to get onto the 42 and it pulled away and around the 43. As I have written before the public transport operated by First, in the Bristol area is very bad indeed. Buses are frequently late, noisy, dirty and driven by surely drivers. No wonder the city is slowly choking to death on cars and fumes. Still enough of that rant. Onward to the days outing.

After an uneventful bus journey I made my way to the Farmers market in order to purchase a Pie Minister beef and kidney. Not having had one for 4 weeks I was beginning to feel the pangs of withdrawal that were hammering and playing tricks inside my stomach. The stall was laden and groaning under the weight of wonderful mouth watering pies but alas the man whose job it was to serve these delectable items was missing. The lady running an adjoining stall tried to help but was unsure as to which were the PM pies, as was I. Determined to have a PM and not some other pie I waited being reassured by the lady that the man would be back in a few minutes. 15 Minutes later I, and several other customers who were waiting in the biting cold gave up and sought warmth. I was a bit miffed because, although I intended to return, the very popular PM pies may have sold out. So I sought succour in the warm bowels of the Commercial Rooms and there was Pete wrapped up like a wayward but cold gnome. He was busy fiddling with his wrist watch. The back was off and he was trying to replace the battery which didn't want to go into the battery cavity and insisted on slipping about on the table. After securing a beer token from Pete I went to the bar and lo and bloody behold got ignored by the bar staff who served an interloper before me. This is a very bad habit at nearly all the Weatherspoons I have visited over the years and I do wish they would address it. So if this has happened to you please complain to Weatherspoons stating the location, the time and the what happened. I have.

Another day another rant. Back to the beer. I ordered an Adnams Yuletide 4.5% which had that distinctive lovely Adnams bitter tang. I enjoyed that one very much. After listening to Pete's magical tales of 3 old gits down under in New Zealand we drank up our Yuletide and headed for the pie stall.  By this time the man had arrived by this time and he hadn't run out of PMs so I got one quick and it will form today's lunch. Braving the bitter cold (get it) we arrived at the Seven Stars and surveyed the real ale offerings. Arbor Ales had a couple of pumps on but we settled for the Bushcraft at 3.9%. Their web site is not up to date. However, I enjoyed my pint of Bushcraft. A very tasty light coloured ale. Next on the tasting menu was Plunder 4.8% from the Jolly Boat brewery in Bedford. They don't appear to have their own website. However, Plunder is a good ale and I will be drinking it again if I come across it. The next and last beer to pass our lips was Keystone, Xmas Pale Ale. I can't find it on their website but I think it was about 5%. Anyway Pete and I finished our beer and make our way to our respective bus stops. See earlier for my adventures in getting home.

Tonight is curry night at the Royal Oak in Staple Hill. Wonder if I will have any rants, moans or other news from tonight. Look out for my next exciting posting. I am looking forward to it because I think Jim will be in attendance and it will be interesting to get his views on his recent adventures in New Zealand.

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