Flogging a Dead Pony?

The Brewdog #Collabfest2016 seems to be what a lot of people are talking about right now. Starting today, Friday 21st October, through until Sunday 23rd October. It’s the fourth year now for #Collabfest2016 and they’ve got twenty seven different beers, all brewed in collaboration with a brewer local to each of their bars. There’s some impressive alliances going on and if the North Brewing Sour-bru collaboration I drank at IndyMan is anything to go by, everyone ought to be getting a bit excited. Quite a lot of people are actually, I’ve got a mate going down to London for the weekend, on the premise he should be able to sample all twenty seven beers by visiting each of the capitals Brewdog bars? Sounds a promising venture to me.

What’s that? Which Brewdogs am I going to? Errr … I’m not, I’m flying out to Malta with a list of things to do including a visit to an old friend of my parents to see if he’s still alive or not? You have to do these things when your Mum and Dad get old because they haven’t been able to get insurance for the old man to fly for a good ten years now, they don’t do technology either. I’ve got my fingers crossed that when I get back to San Pawl il-Bahar that Guido will be alive and kicking, and still rabidly following Arsenal. Don’t worry about me though, I’ve got a bit of beery exploration planned, including a trip to Gozo.

The #Collabfest2016 thing got me thinking about Brewdog and how they’ve, perhaps not dropped off the radar, so much as been a bit quiet for a while. Unless you live in York where their latest bar seems to be taking an age to open, and is beset with myriad problems. Come on York do you want it or not?

Apart from the usual same old, same old, this and that, yawn, yawn Elvis. The last Brewdog thing which really made my ears prick up was the summer release of live Dead Pony Club. Only thing is, it sort of fell flat in the water, and that’s the last I’ve really heard of it.

As soon as the opportunity presented, I instantly went out and tried it at The White Cloth Hall  branch of the Ellon brewer. I mean it had to be good didn’t it? Even the authority that is Pete Brown says it’s good on the BrewDog Blogsite. He would say it’s good wouldn’t he, I mean, they’d be paying him to say so, wouldn’t they. Having said that, I don’t think he would say it was good just for the moneys sake, would he?

So what’s this live DPC like then? A bit lively, it took a few pours and a while to settle in the glass. There’s a nice head on it at first, which quickly dissipates after a few sips. It is definitely less carbonated and the mouth feel is much smoother and silkier than the original version. It also felt slightly warmer than the standard BrewDog dispense temperature. The bar man confirmed this, and told me it needed to be kept warmer so the live yeast could work and maintain the condition in the keg. Obviously, in this case the beer is contained in a Key-keg. He told me that they hadn’t experienced any problems with it from the outset and that it had been selling well.

The biggest difference I perceived is the live version isn’t as much ‘in your face’ as the original. It’s just not as vibrant. When I drink DPC I always get the feeling I’ve been clobbered by the hoppy brother of the orange Tango man. How else do they get something so hop forward in such a low ABV beer? Anyway, the invisible, to the naked eye, little hop man doesn’t run up from behind and whack you with the live DPC, it’s more of a gentle tickle.

Seriously, it’s DPC but different, not quite as edgy. Again the helpful barman made an explanation, saying that the lack of carbonation meant the hoppyness was not as coruscating. I’m not sure about this one. I hear the other end of the argument from stuck in the mud real ale connoisseurs.

One thing I really did like was being able to submit an NBSS score through CAMRA’s Whatpub. I wonder when we will get the first BrewDog pub in the GBG? Yeah, I know, over someone’s dead body. Maybe that’s what it really will take to change the die hard CAMRA members mentality?

The only other point to strike me was the appearance. Although the live DPC is not murky, it’s not bright neither. Hazy, yes, but nowhere near clear. I guess that means the ‘looks like diahroea – gives you the shits’ brigade, will write it off straight away, without ever trying it.

Overall verdict. A pleasant drink, but I’m not entirely sure why they’ve bothered, unless it’s the start of something bigger? If I’m honest, at the end of the day, I don’t think live DPC is the game changer it might have been. For a start, those that enjoy this style of beer aren’t really bothered whether their beer is live cask, dead or partially resuscitated, so long as it tastes good. On the other hand the die hard real ale drinkers aren’t going to be tempted into a BrewDog bar because they have some ale, that in their blinkered opinion, might just be real ale. And then again, it might not, so they don’t go in and they don’t try it and the CAMRA Revitalisation project is all a bent sham. I’m sorry, but you’ll never change some people. Me, I prefer the original fizzy version of DPC which in my opinion is a very pleasant modern session beer. I’m glad I went and tried the live version, thought about it and made my own mind up, and No! BrewDog aren’t paying me for this neither.

Steve Staindale, may he rest in peace

You may have read in CAMRA’s What’s Brewing about the sad passing of Steve Staindale, Warren Yabsley’s touching eulogy was also reprinted in the latest edition (#137) of New Full Measure, the magazine published by Leeds CAMRA branch. Many have known CAMRA stalwart and Leeds CAMRA branch committee member, Steve, for a long time. I first met him at a CAMRA beer festival organising meeting at the beginning of this year. Warren describes how Steve was responsible for him becoming a key part of Leeds CAMRA, and I will offer similar sentiments. After chastising me over unkind ‘Weard Beard’ comments in a blog post he went on to prohibit me from taking any photos of him at meetings or during the 2016 beer festival set up. Mind you, he was keen to know what I was going to do with all the photos I was taking. This obviously struck a chord because a few days later he pulled me to one side and said the branch were in desperate need of a press and publicity officer and he thought I should do it; so I did. I thank him for that.

Lots of other people were also very grateful to Steve for both his friendship and support in promoting real ale and on Saturday 8th October a number of them gathered at Ridgeside Brewery in Leeds, the home of hop forward pale ales and beers from the wood, and Steve’s favourite brewery, to have a beer or two and celebrate Steve’s life. There was a good turnout at the Meanwood Road brewery from Leeds CAMRA branch, which included a large part of the branch committee.


What I didn’t know was how highly Steve was regarded in other circles, principally the supporters of Steam Rallies. Until I got talking to them, I assumed the Dorset Rats were from Dorset. How wrong could I be? The four members of this collective had travelled from Northampton and Watford, which is 186 miles from Leeds I was told by a gent with a cracking beard, and I thank them for coming all that way.

Apparently there are quite a few Dorset Rats up and down, they are often to be found accompanying their mentor and performer Dr Busker. These particular ones were close friends of Steve’s, something you could tell instantly as they all shared the same wonderfully warm eccentricity. I really enjoyed their company, and the merry chorus of ‘More beer, more beer … ‘ each time their glasses were emptied, which was frequently! They will be at Keighley & Worth Valley Music and Beer Festival on Saturday 22nd October with Dr Busker, if you want to go and meet some of them. In the meantime have a look on Youtube for some hilarious songs and accompaniment.


A big thank you has to go to Ridgeside Brewery, for hosting the event, and for donating two casks of beer: Vienna Pale and Black Night. Both were on top form, as you would expect, and expertly dispensed by brewer Juan Mendoza. The observant might have noticed from the photo that the hand pumps had grown beards, as sported by Steve and his male Dorset Rat friends, another fitting tribute to the guy with the Gandalf beard, who had one long long before hipsters were ever invented. Although no money changed hands for any beer, everyone made substantial donations to Wheatfields Hospice. This was boosted by the sale of badges made by Leeds CAMRA resident artist Christine, who had produced a collection of colourful badges with a Steve Staindale avatar, based on the profile photo from Steve’s Facebook site.

All in all a good send off for a wonderful person who will be sadly missed by lots of people in lots of places. Rest in Peace Sir.


Indy Man Beer Con


I guess people will see this and think WTF, it’s been going for four years and everyone’s been. They might have, but I hadn’t, and neither had lots of other people judging by the speed the tickets sold. So, I thought it was about time I popped over to the dark side to have a look. Only thing was, all the tickets to the best sessions had gone, and it looked like my expedition to Manchester had gone West, if you pardon the pun. Then all of a sudden a tweet popped up saying, ‘Volunteers still required for all IMBC sessions.’

So a few weeks after sending off an email, I set off to the North Western Metropolis. My first discovery was IMBC is nowhere near Manchester city centre, it’s well … just don’t bother walking. I caught a 147 Oxford link from outside Piccadilly station, it cost me 80p and a short walk along Hathersage Road to the venue.

From outside the Victoria Baths looks like just another old building, from inside it’s something else and quite a venue. If you like faience tiles, empty swimming pools surrounded by redundant changing cubicles, many still with barber striped curtains, then you will be in your element. Seriously, it’s an architectural gem, there was even a very extreme, early whirlpool/jacuzzi chamber set into the floor of the volunteers room!

Strangely, the first person I spoke to was a familiar player in the Leeds beer scene and we got way laid chatting. By the time I’d caught up with the volunteer familiarisation tour it had nearly finished, but they said, they knew I knew what I was doing, gave me a volunteer specific, turquoise t-shirt, a meal token and pointed me in the direction of Hall 2.

Things continued as they’d started and the next people I met were the good folk from Leeds brewers and post modernist beer bar, North Brewing. I then spent the next five hours dispensing quality beers from behind the North Brewing Bar.


Now it might have been the fact that other Leeds people gravitated to a bar they know and love, just to say hello, but there were an awful lot of them who had come over to Manchester in the crowd, which consisted of predominantly Mancunian(ish) accents, lots of Liverpudlians, a fair few Scots, and quite a few who’d travelled up from London. It sort of gives you an idea how highly regraded IMBC is. This starts to elicit comparisons between other similar festivals and which is best; IMBC, Leeds International Beer Festival, Craft Beer Calling, Craft Beer Rising (there are others)? I’ll tell you straight, IMBC is as good as it gets for me.

Overall the atmosphere was brilliant, and everyone I spoke to was of the highest calibre and definitely out for a good time, that included the staff, particularly the Wild Beer girls. There were of course an odd one or two who will have been sat in the Victorian changing cubicles with the curtains drawn, cracking one off over a bottle of the latest version of Cloudwater DIPA, you’ll always get that, and as I often say, different isn’t wrong.

That leads nicely into, ‘Why was the Cloudwater bar the one with the biggest queue?’ In fact, the only one with a permanent queue throughout the whole day. I’ve a lot of respect for this Manchester brewer, they make some belting beers. I also get the, ‘we’ve come up to Manchester so we’re going to have some Cloudwater,’ attitude. Obviously there were three Victorian baths full of top brewers, but the attention shown to the Cloudwater bar was unbelievable. I didn’t have any, I just can’t be arsed to queue, I get agitated, however good it is. I will allow someone to queue on my behalf though.

Prize for best bar has to go to Beavertown with their wacky outer space theme and lurid colours, they even had their own spacemen. I asked Logan what the spacemen were called, he didn’t know himself what he was supposed to be, but fair play to him, it’s got to be good when the top man at a leading craft brewer gets donned up in fancy dress to please the punters. I suggested the spacemen should be called Gamma Guys, or even Gamma Ray! Beavertown, I want a cut if you adopt one of those names, please.


Granted it was mixed trade and public for the Friday day session, but another feature was the presence of an awful lot of brewery owners and brewers. So much so, it would have had any self respecting craft beer groupie running for the nearest cubicle and instantly pulling the curtains. They weren’t all dressed up as spacemen neither and most were freely chatting with punters and clients alike.

Most brewers thought the event was as much a show case as a market place. The potential future sales outweighing the sales on the day. One thing I didn’t realise was the brewers supplied the beer to IMBC who then purchased it from them, before giving them it back to sell through their own branded bars. Confused? This gives IMBC the authority to hold back beers, avoiding the scenario where all the best ones sell out at the first session. This strategy and the ever changing line up of brewers means that effectively there should be as much choice and variety at every session, right up to the last one.

I guess the question has to be asked as to why an active CAMRA member, indeed a branch committee member is working, enjoying and actively promoting beer at an event like this? Firstly, a lot of the beer was real live ale in key-kegs. I didn’t do an exact count, but I reckon it was 50/50 between pasteurised keg and key-kegs. If I’m honest, I’m not really bothered. I tasted some awesome beers. I tasted quite a few that were far too powerful and not balanced, as well, and I guess that’s where the brewers art comes in. I didn’t taste any bad ones though. I’ll shout up, but I won’t die in a ditch fighting for any particular type or style of beer. I will however, fight strongly for freedom of choice and for a quality product. I also see a fight looming around large producers, they’re not brewers, pushing bland products in average pubs, effectively removing choice from the masses. Thankfully, there was no chance of bland beers at IMBC and plenty of choice. There were some ciders too! There were also other active CAMRA members volunteering, you know who you are! Which suggests attitudes are changing on both sides of the Pennines.


Pricing has to be mentioned. I was none too bothered personally! My volunteering session got me free entry to the Friday evening session and fifteen tokens. That’s about £37.50 in real money, each token is worth £2.50 and buys you one third of beer. Yeah, I know, that’s £7.50 a pint. Having said that all the beers were the same one token per third, which was obviously promoting the strategy of, ‘If I’m paying £7.50 a pint, then I’m going for all the strong ones!’ If you did that you lost out in my opinion. There were some strong ones, several over 9%, but there were lots more that were as good or better at lower ABV’s. I suppose you pays your money and takes your chance, a sort of FIFO (not the IT acronym) mentality is required.

As far as it went, I thought the choose your beer, fill and have your own can sealed on site was a bit of a gimmick. Interesting to see the canning process in operation. Nice as a souvenir  but I’d rather have just taken an empty, open topped can home if I wanted a souvenir to put my pencils in. It wasn’t just me that thought the five day beer life, once canned, was over optimistic and the beer would probably have been all lifeless after anything other than a quick journey home. There were plenty running up to the bar at the end of the session with the special pink token (equivalent to two standard tokens or £5!) and a request for their favourite beer to take home.


Abiding memories of the day? Ian Curtis’ voice in my ears, singing the words, ‘Radio … Live Transmission,’ every time I pulled a third of North Brewing’s finest West Coast style IPA. On the way home, I also thought I saw Thomas Jerome Newton’s family sat desiccating, in their flimsy shuttle-cum-shelter on the platform at Oxford Rd station, but I could have been mistaken? Anyway, thank you for everything  IMBC and see you next year.

Having embarked at Leeds city station, I went back to where it all began, and I sat waiting for the bus home drinking a cracking pint of North Riding Cascade, the IMBC glass sat on the bar beside it. Pints of cask ale or thirds of craft beer, you can get them all at 24 New Briggate, both good, and remember … Different isn’t wrong.


Cellar 59, Lyme Regis

The first time I encountered Gyle 59’s beer was last summer (2015), in The Tiger Inn, Bridport, a place I spend quite a bit of time in during our annual pilgrimage to West Dorset. I really enjoyed the IPA and the Toujours Saison, not so much the Ginger IPA; purely on personal preference rather than quality.

They’re a relative newcomer to the beer scene and brew their beer at Sadborrow, near Thorncombe, where they have a brewery tap; open every Saturday 11 till 4. Although I hadn’t seen any Gyle 59 beers since I was last in Dorset, I’ve been following their development with keen interest, and when I saw they’d opened Cellar 59 on Broad Street, the main thoroughfare in Lyme Regis I couldn’t wait to visit.

As suggested, Cellar 59 is in a cellar. Quite a nice one actually, flagged floors, bare stone walls in a sort of modern spartan style. There’s plenty of room to stand in front of the bar, a few tables and seats if you prefer to sit. There’s even a couple of windows where you can gaze out at, the knee only view, of passers by. The background music was, I thought, very good and at one point I wasn’t sure whether they were actually streaming direct from my i-pod. If I had to catalogue it, then it’s a bar, rather than a pub, but with a definite pubby feel to it.


There is an upstairs, reached from separate staircases within and without, depending on your line of attack. From within you would probably be heading for the absolutely spot on toilets. From without, your approach would be into the excellent bottle shop, which a little research tells me is the only decent one around these parts, with the exception of the one at the nearby Gyle 59 brewery. You could of course run around in circles, up, through shop, out, down and out onto the street, back down into bar, up, etc. Children would love to do that, I would have revelled in it as a kid. They allow children in (and dogs), I seriously hope they don’t let them do this though, because this just isn’t that sort of place, and is my friends, a serious drinking emporium, beer for the consumption of, on or off the premises.

If I’m honest, I’m not a bottle shop groupie. I had a look in though, and if you couldn’t satiate yourself here then you must be pretty extreme. Maybe there weren’t any rarities or unusual finds, excepting Gyle 59’s own fare, of which there was the full complement, but there were some decent bottled and canned beers.


This got me wondering. Faced with a choice, stood on the street outside, which steps would you take – down into the bar or up into the bottle shop? The thrifty might say never go into a bottle shop after you’ve had a few, sort of the opposite of going shopping when you’re hungry. There’s some would immediately fly into the store and pore over everything, mentally cataloging, categorising and comparing. Which one are you? I’m definitely a straight into the boozer person, only realising there’s a shop upstairs when I visited the lav half an hour later.

As advertised, there were fourteen draught beers OTB, four cask and ten on keg. The cask ales included three of their own; Pale and Bitter, Maracana & GIPA all unfined and unfiltered, plus Dorset Pearl, an offering from the nearby Lyme Regis Brewery. Oddly the latter was also unfined and unfiltered, something I hadn’t encountered when I visited the brewery tap a couple of hours before (this anomaly will be subject of a future post).

I’d been drinking the Pale and Bitter (5%) back in Bridport, and I can tell you it is both. It’s a cracking drink too, so it seemed a good idea to do a comparative of the cask version in what in effect is the Gyle 59 Brewery Tap (Mk II) with what I remembered from drinking it the night before elsewhere. Now I’m not sure where CAMRA stands in relation to hazy unfined and unfiltered ales on NBSS – cloudy/hazy/bright? I’ve simply put 5 in my note book, it really was a 5 and it just shows what pubs can do to beer, even supposedly good pubs. Prices were £3.60 a pint for the cask ales, in an area where you won’t come across many pints of beer for less than £3.30 I was happy to pay the small premium for something of this class.

Whilst I stood at the bar chatting with the bar staff, as though we’d known them for years, trying to decide what to have next, my first thoughts were maybe it could have done with some bar stools? My second thought was, I was definitely going keg this time, only thing was, I was un-familiar with the brewers on offer. Vibrant Forest ? I thought that finished with the decline of Brian Clough? They politely told me it was actually Lymington in the New forest where Vibrant Forest and wild ponies come from.


You sort of know you’re getting screwed when the prices are in halves; £2.20 for both on this occasion. I’m not getting at anyone here or getting into the debate about keg pricing, but they were £4.40 a pint for average to middlin’ strength ales; Citra (5%) and Cydonia (4.7%). They were however jolly good beers and I enjoyed them, just not as much as the Pale and Bitter. There wasn’t that much info on the beers on the tap list behind the bar, there was however a more detailed beer menu floating around the premises, a copy of which is regularly updated on the Cellar 59 web site, so you can see what you’re going to have before you set off. When I read into things a little more I was very surprised that Cydonia was a Martian red ale, no wonder it was nearly four and half quid a pint Ziggy!

It was nice to see local, or relatively, brewers being showcased and the next one I tried was Parabolic (4.5%) by Eight Arch of Wimborne, also £4.40 a pint. To finish off, I went all Starstruck (6.6%) on Gyle 59’s own Porter, which at that strength should have been priced in the £5 bracket. I guess it shows where the added cost is because their own brew was a reasonable £4.20/pint for this very strong accomplished dark beer. It was sort of chocolate mint chip at first, and as it warmed in the glass, as most keg beers need to, it became pure Pontefract cake liquorice. I know it was their own bar, but to my mind Gyle 59 had the edge over the other two breweries I tried. Not just on price neither.

The appointed hour for the carriage soon arrived and carrying a pint bottle of Gyle 59 7.3% DIPA (£2.85) we climbed back on the X51, only for it to break down just outside the town, requiring us to either wait an hour for the next bus or summon Craig’s Taxis to rescue us. I got a little depressed on the way back, and no it wasn’t the £15 fare! It was more a thought, even a prayer, that Cellar 59, and the other micro-breweries whose beer we tried, who both have their own tap house, continue to thrive. I really hope they do, the visit to Cellar 59 and Lyme Regis Brewery was a well needed breath of oxygen in what is essentially a Palmers vacuum. You just wonder whether there are enough punters for them to survive in a sparsely populated rural area full of retired folk, empty second homes, holiday cottages and seasonal trade. I sincerely hope they do, because I want to go again next summer.

Verdict: Go to Lyme Regis, the addition of  Cellar 59 to the existing excellent Lyme Regis Brewery, and the presence of a GBG listed boozer have made it a proper beer drinkers destination town now.

PS The bottle of Gyle 59 DIPA (7.3%) safely found it’s way back to LS23 and was found to be very, very nice.





Real ale, canned?

Last week CAMRA gave the thumbs up to the first ever canned real ale, allowing Bristol’s Moor Beer to use the ‘CAMRA says this is real ale’ logo on their canned beers.

Tests were made on the the canned beers during GBBF and it was found that there was indeed live yeast which had produced the carbonation present in the Moor Beer cans. At this stage I’m unsure exactly how they have achieved this, but it does seem that Moor Beer’s micro-canning process has taken real ale to the next level. Reading Moor Beer’s website, it seems as far back as October 2105, they were claiming to have managed to get sufficient yeast in their canned beer to achieve a secondary fermentation, without the presence of any noticeable sediment.

If I’m honest, I like cans. They’re portable, they stack better in the fridge, they don’t smash on a hard floor when you drop one, and I quite like drinking out of a can, something I wouldn’t say about a bottle. Indeed the Crown Beverage designed 360 cans, where virtually the entire top of the can comes off, actually function as a glass and let the aroma out without decanting the beer. There’s also the argument about keeping light out and keeping the beer fresh; a valid one I would say. Cans are also lighter to transport and fully recyclable, providing that our local authorities actually do recycle all our sorted waste; that’s an entirely different argument altogether though.

I’ll shoot the elephant in the room now – do I think that this new system will threaten sales of real cask ale in pubs? No, I don’t, but I think it will serve to further bust some of the myths and prejudices currently running between real ale and, if you must call it that, craft beer; blurring the boundaries if you like. I also think there’s a definite market for the booming bottle shop and online trade where people are purchasing beers to drink and enjoy at home. The thing is, drinking at home just isn’t the same as drinking in a pub for me, but different isn’t wrong.

I was really heartened to read CAMRA’s press release, which I thought, was very progressive. I will quote part of Colin Valentine’s sound bite in the CAMRA press release, ‘I’m delighted that we’ve been able to show that “micro-canned” beer under the right circumstances can qualify as real ale, which means that more drinkers can get access to what we believe is the pinnacle of brewing skill – live beer which continues to ferment and develop in whichever container it’s served from.’

If the CAMRA national chairman is saying this, then there appears to be some real forward thinking going on that might just take CAMRA forward into the 21st century. Granted the forward thinking is on the part of Moor Beer, but CAMRA are positively embracing it.

Before I pass final judgement, I’d like to try a few cans. From past experience, I know Moor Beer make some very fine ales, and I’ve never been disappointed. Similarly, one of my local favourites, Northern Monk have been canning their beers for a while, there’s some in my fridge now, and I very much like them, even though they do not qualify as real ales. On that basis, real ale in a can from a progressive brewer sounds like a winner to me.

I guess there will be some die hards out there who will be reeling at the whole concept of this. We all know who they are, the ones who still haven’t got over key-kegs. Thing is, beer congregates in a very broad church, which should have room for everyone. Sometimes you’ve got to move on a bit.

The Lyme Regis Brewery


Glasses of fine ale, blue sky, warm sun, sitting in a cobbled courtyard outside a brewery …  doesn’t get much better does it?

The Pearl of Dorset is a lovely little place, famed for fossils, scenery, seaside holidays and The French Lieutenants Woman. More importantly, it’s the home of The Lyme Regis Brewery, and I’d heard, now boasts Cellar 59, a  bar showcasing local newcomers Gyle 59 brewery, making it a must visit destination for beer lovers in the area. So one sunny morning we set off on the Jurassic Coastliner X51 from Bridport, the drivers announcement of the price of a return ticket prompting a chorus of the Yorkshire war cry!

The Lyme Regis Brewery is located in Town Mill, which some may recognise, as prior to 2015 it was also the name of the brewery. It’s worth a visit just for the historic mill, and the pretty setting. Interestingly the mill has it’s own hydroelectric generator and you can walk along the goit from it’s juncture with the Lymm right to where it disappears into the turbine. You can also pay and go for a toby inside to see the original workings, which are still in operation and regularly used. The impressive thing for me is it’s all self sustaining, and they actually sell power back to the national grid. What price a self sustaining hydro electric brewery? I bet there is one … somewhere? As well as the brewery and mill there are a few crafty type shops, including a working pottery, and a tea room to keep partners and family happy while you have a pint.


The micro brewery has been going since 2010, brewing on a four barrel kit which is on full view to the public. In fact everything is on full view as the brewery, tap, and shop are almost sat on top of each other in the small building. They’re open every day from 10 till 5, except for January and February, for the sale of bottles, cider, and draught ales. The winter hibernation is probably a good thing as there is no inside seating, and the ale has to be enjoyed at one of several tables and benches in the yard outside. If I’m honest, although I’ve spent some pleasant afternoons sat outside in the summer, I don’t think I would fancy sitting outside with a pint once it starts to get parky.


They used to sell the ale in jugs and provide the glasses, it’s now dispensed in pints, halves or third taster flights. There’s five beers in regular production and when I visited there were two of these, and a seasonal special on the bar; Summer Breeze, Lyme Gold and Revenge. All the beers are drawn through a beer engine without a sparkler, they appeared to be traditionally fined ales, of the highest clarity, and in excellent form, prices were reasonable for the area.

Summer Breeze (I didn’t get the ABV, it tasted 3.6 – 3.8%) a, not particularly originally named, summer beer, was pale gold, dry and citrus hoppy. It felt just a bit thinner in the mouth than Lyme Gold (4.2%), one of the staple brews which I thought was much better; a fleeting honey sweetness at first, followed by smooth citrus notes and then a dryness at the end with almost sour hints.

I liked the Lyme Gold, but my out and out favourite was Revenge. Billed as a strong IPA (5.3%), it was firmly in the category of English IPA, although it is hopped with Cascade as well as Fuggles hops. Pale in appearance, hoppy and bitter with a nice crisp bite. I could have sat and drank this one until I fell off the bench! I reckon this ale would have suited traditionalists, as well as those with a more progressive taste looking for a ‘big C’ hop kick.

The other regulars are; Cobb, a 3.9% Bitter, Town Mill Best, a stronger (4.5%) Best Bitter and Black Venn, a very dark (5%) Porter. I’ve drank all of them in the past, the stand out for me being Black Venn, named after a local cliff renowned for being rich in fossils, and coincidentally an ammonite is the brewery logo.

No, I’m not hinting that these beers are relics. Okay it’s a traditional sounding range of beers, but they’re very good beers, well brewed, balanced, clean tasting, and several including noticeable additions of Cascade hops. Overall I reckon these are very good ales, brewed with just enough modernity to make a difference, without breaking the traditional mould.


Anyone looking for The Lyme Regis Brewery ales on the bar in a pub should concentrate on the Dorset area, as 80% of current distribution is within a 2o mile radius of the brewery. I’m informed, they have recently managed to get as far as Bristol, and I recall them being in one of the Weymouth Wetherspoon’s when the Olympic sailing was on. It’s worth pointing out that although a lot of supermarkets are selling huge quantities of bottled real ale, which aren’t real ales. You can buy from The Lyme Regis Brewery with confidence as all their bottled beers are bottle conditioned, something we seem to be seeing less of in mainstream outlets.

Verdict: Excellent traditional beers served in a delightful setting. Wrap up when there’s an ‘r’ in the month. Enough alternative attractions on site to keep non-drinkers happy for a good hour or so.


Is your glass full (or three quarters empty?)


It seems every beery commentator has to include this one periodically, but it’s noticeable as soon as you venture down South there’s one massive difference with the beer served in pubs – The Sparkler effect.

If I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure where the deictic ‘down South’ starts? As a very young man working in a factory in Chesterfield, I reckoned it was somewhere about half way along the Dronfield by-pass, yet the last time I visited Chesterfield, I got a pint with a head on it.

If you look at Tandleman’s blog site, you can see a map of the Midlands defined with an iso-sparkle. I’m sure he’s not far off the mark, but it would be interesting to do a statistically viable study of this. Perhaps CAMRA branches could help here?

The merits, or otherwise, of the sparkler are well documented elsewhere. Personally, I think it’s what you’re used to, or get used to. I lived in the South East and South West for a time and rapidly got used to un-sparkled beer. Flat beer, most Northerners would call it, flat and warm in the SE too. I’ll throw in one of my catchphrases here – different isn’t wrong (but warm beer is inexcusable!).

I get the argument around beer styles. I couldn’t ever fancy a pint of Sam Smith’s OBB without a creamy head on it, but people sup large quantities of flat OBB in London and elsewhere. There’s even a bloke in my local asks for a pint of it pulled with the sparkler off, much to the disgust of the locals, obviously he’s a Southerner; again different isn’t wrong.

What about the long gone creamy pint of Tetley Bitter, created by the sparkler and the auto-vac pump, served up in the Gaping Goose, Garforth; or one of many other pubs that unofficially vied for the title of ‘Best pint of Tetley Bitter in Leeds’? Modern folk might turn their noses up at the auto-vac system, but surely that over a flat pint of Tetleys? I refer here to the original Joshua Tetleys Bitter brewed in Leeds and not the insipid brown liquid purporting to be Tetleys Bitter now brewed in a factory in Wolverhampton.

There is one area where there are significant benefits of having un-sparkled beer, or beer drawn directly from the cask. Chiefly, you get a full measure every time, a pint full to the brim of the glass. There’s no letting it settle for a minute and the rigmarole of, ‘Can you top it up please.’ In praise of the sparkler, I do think that the later addition of a ‘top up’ dramatically spoils the ‘whatever’ the sparkler gives it.

If you are serving beer through a sparkler, the arguments of oversized glasses filled to the line are valid, and necessary in order to obtain a full pint. Whichever way the licensed trade want to argue the case for, I see a lot of short measures passing over the bar in ‘pint to the brim’ glasses, and I do think that beer pulled with a head on in these glasses can be a big earner for the pub/brewery. How do you think Sam Smith’s managers attain their mandatory 5% surplus across all sales, for heaven’s sake?

If I’m honest, I’m ambivalent, and when in Rome … Having said that there’s nothing better than a creamy, foaming, three quarters of a pint of Northern Bitter. Like I said, different isn’t wrong and privately, I might be coming round to thinking those good folk in the Southern parts of our fair aisle might just have something here. And they say that us Northerners are tight!

Acknowledgements to Beernexus for the photos.