A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Up the Orient, Down the Pond

Posted by Alan on April 18, 2010

Yesterday was pretty good day. The sun was shining (and still is). There were no vapour trails in the sky (Thanks volcano – I wonder if our air quality has got better?!).

We started the day here with the arrival of a new TV. This is about 4 months late but a failing on my part to actually pick one to buy! Never mind… it’s here now and last night we could finally tune into HD via freeview.

Come lunchtime it was time for some Saturday afternoon football. I’m not really a football person but when it was suggested at work I thought why not. We started with a pre-match pint in the William IV, Bakers Arms and then headed for the game.

Leyton Orient

Leyton Orient Football Ground

Pie at half time and we watch Leyton beat Stockport 2-0. Not a huge surprise since Stockport are going to be relegated anyway… a post match pint in the lovely beer garden at The Birkbeck, Leyton gave us time to enjoy the sun and the sky. (Sadly the Supporters Association at the Orient who have an awesome bar wouldn’t let us in…)

Lastly… I went down to the pond in the fading sunset light to see if I could get any decent shots of the birds on the pond and practice a bit more with the D-SLR. I think perhaps an hour earlier would make a lot of difference but here’s the best few.

Eagle Pond

Do not feed the birds!

Snaresbrook Crown Court

Snaresbrook Crown Court & Eagle Pond

Canadian Goose

Canadian Goose


Swanning About

Pond and Bus

Passing the pond by W12 bus



Sometimes I do have the remind myself I live in Z4 and not in the vast countryside of Essex…

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Spring Beer Festival

Posted by Alan on March 27, 2010

Today and tomorrow sees the bring beer festival at the William IV in Leyton (Bakers Arms). Myself and Jon popped in for a couple of beers.

The William IV - Bakers Arms, Leyton

For about 2 years now this place has been a brew pub – i.e. a pub that brew’s it’s own beer. Today they had put on a range of about 15 beers to sample, from the lightest lager to the strong Romanov Empress Imperial Stout (12.1%).

The Beer Menu

Romanov Empress Stout


Favourite beer of the day was probably Red Sun – a blend of Brodies Red and Brodies Sunshine. Dark but also light – lovely.

Last beer of the day was Brodies’ blue – which is surprisingly red…

Brodies Blue

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Secret Nuclear Bunker

Posted by Alan on March 20, 2010

Today we took a trip out to the secret nuclear bunker near Brentwood, Essex. Brentwood is just outside of Zone 6 so not too far into deepest darket Essex to scare us much!

The bunker itself is much less secret that it used to be.

Subtlety defined eh?

About 14 quid north of Brentwood by taxi we found ourselves next to what appeared to be a farmhouse with a few ex-military things littered around the yard.

A Tractor & Green Goddess sleep peacefully

A peaceful missile

Bunker History

From here on in it was stranger still. The museum was largely based on what felt like 1980s technology and honesty. On entering the unassuming looking door, we picked up a red handset about 30 cm long. Not too dissimilar to an early 90s telephone this was our guide for the next couple of hours.

There was no attendent.

There was no cash desk.

There were plenty of signs however…

Photography from here on in was only allowed with a permit – but since I am still awful at low light photography I decided to give that a miss, especially after we had found someone who appeared to be staff to ask and he presented us with many forms…

The bunker itself is very interesting. Many fittings and fixtures have been put back representing it’s varied life – from radar station to government emergency HQ. I’m not sure how well I would cope in a small windowless concrete box shut off from the world for up to 3 months – the designed life span in the event of a nuclear attack. In it’s role as government HQ up to 600 people would have been incarcerated here – with just 200 beds. And I complain at having to hot desk sometimes!

Helpfully, plenty of videos and the wry humour of the red phone commentary reminded us how much devestation a nuclear attack would cause and how unlikely that if a HQ had been setup here there would have been much left to return to after 3 months.

After ending up in the gift shop, returning the red phone and paying for the trip we headed back to closest village to find some food & beer.

Kelvedon Hatch

The Eagle provided us with decent enough pint of Doom Bar and a chance to watch Scotland win a 6 nations match – their first this season!

All in all a cracking day out.

State of Security

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The Trip to Nottingham

Posted by Alan on March 14, 2010

I visit Manchester far too often. It probably helps that my parents live there and many of my uni/college mates still do. But once every now and then we have an agreement to meet somewhere vaguely halfway – hence the trip to Nottingham.

Silhouette of Ruth at St Pancras

The early (0900) train north beckoned

Nottingham is a kinda of strange halfway – it’s 2 hours from London, 2 hours from Manchester. London to Manchester takes just 2 hours 10, but at least the concept is there!

First up we were to head to the Castle and wander round with my Grandma. This was quickly rearranged to a coffee and a chat as the mistle hung miserably above the city.

I think this London bus may be lost...

The afternoon however… was much more pub based. We’d ‘planned’ to visit two pubs – but got so cozy in the Trip that we didn’t move out very quickly…

The Trip to Jerusalem

The Trip to Jerusalem - below Nottingham Castle

‘The Trip’ is allegedly England’s oldest in – and the rooms go far back into the rock on which the castle sits.

Holey Rock

If you get the chance to visit Nottingham this place is worth it for the novelty – decent beer too, nicely kept. I’m sure there are other places to go too though…note this all happened about 2 or 3 weeks ago (27/02), I am just rubbish at keeping up to date!

All the pictures are heading for flickr as I’ve decided I need to backup everything online in the highest quality possible. Flickr pro seems to do the job – check out this set.

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Give me a brew

Posted by Alan on March 2, 2010

I did finally last year brew and bottle a kit. Now I have sort of made a label to go on the bottles ready for when they need drinking… it’s a bit lo-fi as I haven’t had time to think too much about it.

A Forest - Because beer is the cure and cause of all evils...

If anyone feels suitable inspired to produce a better one, I will swap for a bottle or two!

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Cemetery Gates

Posted by Alan on February 1, 2010

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people all those lives
Where are they now?
With the loves and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
And I want to cry

* * *

I haven’t really done any proper new year’s resolutions for years now. Probably just a lack of willpower but I tend to flunk them before February has started like most other people. But I do try have a ‘theme’ (or vision if you want to be caustically corporate). Last year this was achievement. Targets included getting a good job (tick), finding a better flat (tick) and reading more (sort of achieved…).
This year, arguably, the theme is consolidation (yeah, I *do* know that doesn’t sound awesome). Essentially though doing more with what I have achieved and being a bit better at delivering anything I promise. So, this weekend when we got invited to wander around the cemetery at Nunhead I jumped at the chance. Time for the new camera to come out to play and also chance to learn a bit more about the city we live in.
It also helps that Ruth has a strange obsession with death from her archaeology days.

Cemetery Gates

We'll meet you at the cemetery gates

Nunhead is in South East London, about 5-6 miles from the centre and we took the 2.15 tour from the gates. It is sister cemetery to Highgate (where Karl Marx is buried) but being South London it doesn’t boast the same kind of clientèle Highgate aspired too. Not that there aren’t famous people buried there, it’s just they have faded from memory as time has passed.

Cemetery Chapel

Nunhead Cemetery Chapel

The cemetery was hit several times by bombs during WWII, which has led to gaps in the trees/monuments. Some 250,000 people are buried here so the gaps are very misleading!

Amongst the formerly famous were several local philanthropists and also a Labour MP responsible for introducing the first old age pensions back in the 1930s.

It’s quite forested place – during it’s heyday some 200 people were employed to maintain the grounds but as death became less profitable the numbers dwindled and eventually nature started to claim back the land. Today it’s maintained in part by the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery who also run the tours.



The cemetery boasts a view of St Pauls from the top of the hill. Sadly I don’t have a lens capable of really showing that view!


Sculpture carving

There are some fantastic examples of carving amongst the memorials. Sadly, during the 1970s many were vandalised and removed. Those that do remain are often missing limbs, noses or unrecognisable. This one was very lucky indeed.

So. If you have some time on a Sunday and are inclined either to play with photography or learn a bit of history go find it! We plan on Highgate sometime later this year (maybe when it is less cold!)

The trip was rounded off by a pint in the Market Porter and in the Royal Oak (Borough). Also worth a look in if you fancy a pint though weirdly the Royal Oak was still full of xmas decorations…

The Market Porter, Borough

The Market Porter, Borough

Enough drivel for now. To finish with the start…

Cemetery Gates – The Smiths (The Queen Is Dead, 1986)

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people all those lives
Where are they now?
With the loves and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
And I want to cry

You say: “ere thrice the sun done salutation to the dawn”
And you claim these words as your own
But I’ve read well, and I’ve heard them said
A hundred times, maybe less, maybe more

If you must write prose and poems
The words you use should be your own
Don’t plagiarise or take “on loans”
There’s always someone, somewhere
With a big nose, who knows
And who trips you up and laughs
When you fall
Who’ll trip you up and laugh
When you fall

You say: “ere long done do does did”
Words which could only be your own
And then you then produce the text
From whence was ripped some dizzy whore, 1804

A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re happy
And I meet you at the cemetery gates
Oh Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re wanted
And I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
But you lose because Wilde is on mine

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Catching Up

Posted by Alan on January 25, 2010

I really am falling behind with this blogging lark. There’s still stuff from Christmas that I want to write about. Oh well… it obviously can wait a little bit longer yet.

This Friday I had the afternoon off. Straight to the train and by 4.30 I was at the Winter Ales beer festival in Manchester. For a long time this was in the convenient New Century Hall, but apparently that needs refurbishing so is no longer available. Hence we meandered on the bus up to Miles Platting, just short of Collyhurst where Shameless is meant to be set.

Even at half 4 it was standing room only.

Winter Ales - Dan on the Floor

Winter Ales - Dan on the Floor, and just ½pt no. 1!

Some bloke (who later turned out to be deputy organiser!) wheeled out some extra chairs making a joke about how just because the venue was in Beirut, the young ‘uns on the floor should stop making it look so! Eventually we found two chairs at a table and gradually invaded…

Old Tom - Best Ale?

Old Tom - Best Ale? We disagree vehemently!

Beer, Here

Beer, drunk best in halfs or nips (1/3rd pint)

By the end of the evening someone had balloons. Just some random person.

Balloons + beer = comedy balloon shapes & animals.


Balloons can be made into many things. Or not.

This was also the first social trip out for the EOS 500D. I’m starting to like it a lot and I think I really need to get out into the City and shoot a few of the more beautiful parts. And maybe clock up how many S44 Stop and Search I can collect in an hour!

* * *

Winter ales wasn’t the first beery outing this week though. On Thursday, I took a trip out to Old St to check out a crawl for ELAC with Dickie. We had fun (sticking just to halves again – it was a school night after all). Found some places to drink and one not to drink.

The journey was: Old Fountain, Wenlock Arms, William IV, Eagle (“Hoxton”),  Bavarian Beerhouse, Artillary Arms. Each pub had it’s own merits – the Wenlock full of character (and characters), the William IV with pretty good Jazz but the Bavarian Beerhouse was a bit disappointment to say the least. £3 got you ‘0.3l’ of beer (of any sort) – though the glass was lined at ½pt (less than 0.3l!). If you felt flush you could spend £8.10 on a stein (1l). Whilst there were saw at least 4 smashed which is perhaps why they cost £8.10!

That’s enough for now… I will get back to older news (olds?) later in the week…

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Long time no update

Posted by Alan on December 22, 2009

A friend of mine always says that ‘happy people don’t keep diaries’ and given the utter deafening silence here that could be true. More likely is that busy people have Outlook to manage their diaries for them and thus never notice the gaps…!

As ever, December descended into the mental abyss of Christmas do’s, beer festivals, rounding off with a couple of quiet weeks at work as people start to disappear on their jollies.

Pigs Ear 2009 (ELAC CAMRA/Hackney Beer Festival) was a great success. More people through the door than ever before and some excellent beer on hand. Even got a few of the grads from work out for an excellent night at the foreign bar. As a pigs ear worker, I got stuck in helping run the games including the awesome roll the barrel:

Action Shot - Barrel

Mind the rolling barrel...

Needless to say, I was bloody awful, despite all the practice I had to drum up a crowd!

Action Shot - Punters

Action shot of the happy punters...

I finally bought a proper camera but haven’t had time to use it in anger yet. I guess one more thing to plan in for the new year.

Not much to do now but pack for xmas. I have half a kilo of excellent bacon, some rather special cheese and a bottle of Orkney Dark Island Special Reserve to bring North. Mmmmm…

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The gig race

Posted by Alan on October 27, 2009

Been a bit of a frantic week for gigs. Firstly, last Thursday the Highbury Garage for Capital/Swimming/I Like Trains (iLT). I do like the garage – went there for the first time to see I Am Kloot not so long again and it’s good. Beer is a bit crap and expensive (£3.90 per pint of Guinness / metallic ‘cider’) but then it’s a gig venue, not a real ale pub!

I Like Trains

I Like Trains @ Highbury Garage

It wasn’t a great gig for photos either. Last time I saw iLT (way back in 2007 at the Scala) I managed to get some great shots on my phone. Alas even with a glass lens the C913 didn’t quite cut the mustard.

I Like Trains II

Close up of the lead singer

Of course, photography isn’t really why you go to a gig. Swimming were pretty good – after I’ve digested the latest pile of new CDs I’ll look into them more. iLT themselves played quite a few new songs which was OK. Highlights of the evening were Spencer Perceval and Terra Nova (Spotify required)

On Sunday, it was the turn of Bellowhead – a modern English folk band. This was up in the Academy 2 in Manchester (yes, resulting in the early morning start for London on a Monday. Owch!)


And it was pretty awesome.







A very lively gig with much audience stomping along 🙂

To check out: London Town, Widow’s Curse and The Outlandish Knight. The latter is my favourite track of theirs but they didn’t play it. (Bastards!). The studio recordings don’t quite capture the essence of the live performance but are worth a look nonetheless.

I also saw Bellowhead back in 2007. Perhaps it’s time I found some new bands to go see…

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London Slow Food and Beer Matching

Posted by Alan on July 24, 2009

Last night we headed out to a Slow Food and Beer Matching event hosted jointly by the London Branch of ‘Slow Food’ and East London & City CAMRA.

And what a brilliant idea it was too – my thanks go out to Bill Green of ELAC for choosing the beer and arranging the venue. £20 bought you 8 combinations to sample – each with their own subtleties.

Seven of Eight

Seven of Eight

(The 8th was a lager therefore needed to be chilled).

Pretty simple concept really – we were guided though the beer by our host, Bill, and after pouring a sample (around 1/3rd pint) some food would arrive. Taste, match and enjoy. So without much futher ado… here’s what I thought.

1. Umbel Magna (3.8%) + Serrano Ham Crostini

Beer has a lovely sweet start. Cuts though the grease of the cheese/ham. Very nice contrast between the flavours.

2. Heather Ale (5%) + Quail Egg wrapped in Haggis (a la scotch egg) with Hollandaise

Mmmm. Nice. The spicy of the haggis works really well with the floral flavoured beer.

3. Taiphoon (4.2%) + Thai Chicken and Coconut Satay (with Sweet Chilli Sauce)

Not very keen on this. The beer didn’t really have a strong enough flavour to match the Chicken, especially with the sweet chilli sauce.

Chicken and Tempura

Chicken and Tempura Pimento

4. Dandelion (4.5%) + Tempura Roast Pimento

Love the pimento and the very subtle dandelion flavours. Works well for me.

5. Grozet (5.0%) + Wild Boar and Apple Chipolata

The only lager amongst the set tonight, I was really impressed with this. It complimented the sausage really well and was very drinkable on it’s own. Apparently it’s main flavour was Gooseberry. Having never eaten a gooseberry I can’t confirm that! Nice anyway.

Grozet, Lager - Sounds Eastern European but is actually Scottish!

Grozet, Lager - Sounds Eastern European but is actually Scottish!

6. Greenwich Meantime Chocolate Strong Ale (6.5%) + Beef Teriyaki

Flavoured with Chocolate rather than Chocolate Malt. Not really my thing as a beer. Goes OK with the Beer, but perhaps a little too similar as both are quite “heavy” flavours. Apparently they had to switch supplier of Chocolate as the quakers who own Cadbury’s were non too impressed their chocolate was being used to brew beer!

7. Greenwich Meantime Raspberry Wheat (6.5%) + Mini Summer Pudding

Based on a weissbeer style this was ok, though I think I would have preferred a non-flavoured weissbeer. It didn’t match the pudding very well either – the sweetness of the pudding made the beer taste uber-tarte.

8. Chalky’s Bite (6.8%) + Breaded Chilli Camembert

Beer and cheese combo works very well. This beer is flavoured with fennel and is the first of the strong beers to taste strong in alcohol. Provides an intermission to the cheese flavours. Lovely.


If you get offered the chance to do something similar, take it up! A very enjoyable and inexpensive night!

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