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Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.65.

We left Welford the next day and took a couple of days getting to Crick.

Our overnight stop was on a good towpath and in the sun so I took advantage by washing and polishing the side. Not my favourite task, but it certainly looks better for doing. This stretch has regular bridges and we only met one boat at a bridge hole!

The clour of the new leaves made this living mile post stand out more than usual. The plaques are not painted with white lettering so are easy to miss. They are planted up by the Old Union Canal Society who look after the Leicester Arm and the shorter arms off. Stragely they are not close by the GJCCo mile posts so they must measure from elsewhere.

After stooping at Yelvertoft for water and a dash to the shop for the paper we were soon approaching Crick hearlded by Cracks Hill. It is a drumlin left by the ice age and I suppose it was our first scenery when we took our boat out on a test drive before putting in our offer.

There was plenty of room on the moorings opposite Crick Marina so we decided to walk up to the village to eat. We walked past the Red Lion and went to the Wheatsheaf.

The Wheatsheaf is at the cross roads in the village and has been a licenced premises since 1770 when a fee of £10 meant they could sell alcohol. It doesn't sound much but it is the equivalent of around £1800 today. At this time the room was thatched but after a fire in 1886 the tiles replaced it. The Pytchley Hunt used to regularly meet outside until the 1960's when the construction of the M1 made hunting in the area more dangerous. The original rooms have been opened out, but still provide distinct areas. The food was okay but there were several beers on hand pull.

Froth Blowers Brewing Co was set up in 2012 and sold their first beer in 2013. The name comes from a charity that was in being between 1924 and 1931, Ye Ancient Order of Froth Blowers that was set up originally to raise a little money for a children's charity. In the 7 years they raised the equivalent to around £6 million today. In 2005 became the Chair of the Friends of the Froth Blowers and naturally used the name when he set up a brewery with his two step sons. They started with a 6bbl plant in Erdington, and have since moved next door, and with a 20bbl plant. The old unit they use to experiment and small batch brew. The motto of the brewery is also that of the AOFB 'Lubrication in Moderation' as they wanted to be taken seriously as fund raisers and not just a drinking club.

I tried a pint of their Riverside Oatmeal Stout, 4.8%. The brewery is best known for their hopped beers so  it was good to test a dark one from them. The recipe was developed in a brew pub in Singapore in 1997 by a friend and has been tweeked for the UK. They use 'powdered' oats and a little Weyermann's smoked malt for the finish. The result is as it says on the tin. It is not too heavy, nice colour with a nice cream coloured head. The smokiness of the malt comes through and overall a good drink.

I had a second beer to wash the food down and another from The Grainstore Brewery. (See previous post).

This time it was another dark beer called Rutland Beast at a big 5.3%. It is the colour of an old fashioned mild, chocolate brown, but is certainly not mild. It has three malts and seven malts and wheat. The first taste feels nicely sweet in the mouth, giving a full and well balanced drink. A really good drink. It was nice to have a pub with two dark beers and I took full advantage.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.64.

We didn't have far to go until we gave to the Husband Bosworth Tunnel. Dates above the entrance states it was opened in 1813 and then rebuilt in 1923. It is a wide one with no tow path and of course we did meet a boat coming through. I waited whilst it completed its journey though

The cuttings leading to the tunnel are quite atmospheric and the hill is also the watershed between the River Welland that drains into the Wash and the River Avon, of Stratford and Shakespeare fame drains into the Severn and Bristol Channel.

At the junction with the Welford Arm we decided to head to the small time as we had a little time to kill. This was out first port of call on our first voyage with 'Holderness', as yet un-named in 2013 when we brought her from Crick to Debdale Wharf. I like this mile post and the Grand Junction Canal Co on it.

There is only the one lock on the arm that was originally built to bring water from reservoirs to the main canal, but was soon enlarged for traffic. The narrows behind the boat are the site of a lift bridge and the post is all that is left of the mechanism.

At the end of the arm is a warehouse, not amenities block, that was once a very place for coal improts as well as clay and lime as there was a series of lime kilns here. The boat partly hidden is the Mikron Theatre's 'Tydesley'. We were to keep missing performances around the cut as we went this year.

Also at the end of the arm, and next to the old warehouse, is an inn. It was originally run by the same family who imported the coal and burned the lime. This was an important spot before the canal arrived as there was the turnpike between Northampton and Leicester that made use of the ford across the River Avon at this point. The Inn  was built in 1814 and was originally called the George being run by the Dobson family along with the the coal and lime business. In 1894 the Gilbert family took over. It was at this time that the castellations on the building were added. After the husband died in 1904 his wife took over and ran two narrow boats that were in the family for 50 years. One was named Gwen Mark after one of their daughters. Gwen lived in the Wharf House until 1990 when she died at  90 yo. The Inn became a cafe in 1950 but in 1970 once again took on a licence and became the Wharf Inn. It is a popular place for eating on a Friday evening and has five or six hand pulls on offer, although for our visit there were no dark beers or milds.

I tried a beer from Newby Wyke Brewery. This sounds like it should be a Yorkshire Brewery as Newby Wyke is near Scarbrough, however the brewery is near Grantham in Lincs. The brewery is named after the brewer's Robert March) granddad who was skipper of the Hull steam trawler Newby Wyke H111. She was built for the West Dock Steam Fishing Co who named all their vessels after villages near Scarborough and Bridlington. She was transferred to the Lord Line during the depression of the 1930's, but kept her name until she was scrapped in 1975, along with many others. The brewery started in 1998 in his garage with a 2.5 bbl set up. Things went well and by 2001 they expanded into a 10 bbl plant producing around 30 barrels a week. They are at capacity now and are just waiting for the right time to expand again.

I tried a pint of their Bear Island a 4.6% blonde beer. Most of the beers are named after something connected with fishing in some way. Bear Island was one of the well known fishing ground for Hull trawlers of the past so the Newby Wyke will have fished there are some stage. Bear Island is one of the permanent beer range and has one several prizes a beer festivals. It is brewed with four acidic hop varieties that gives it the expected fruity aroma and initial taste followed by an almost bitter like after taste. Well worth a try.

I also had a pint from the Grainstore Brewery. They are found in a old railway transhipment store for grain. (hence the name). They started when an engineer and brewer who had worked for Charles Wells and Ruddles, a local brewery that got taken over, got together with a vision for the old building. It was turned into a classic tower 15 bbl brewery in 1995. They also added a pub/brewery tap in the building and the combination appears to wrkt very well as the pair regularly win awards. The brewery is in Oakham in Rutland.

I had a pint of their special Raddleman. A raddleman is described as a native of Rutland. In 1997 the brewery were asked to brew a celebratory drink for the new independence of Rutland from Leicetershire. In 2017 they were once again asked to create a pint for the anniversary. The brew actually starts about 40 years ago though as head brewer Tony Davis once worked for Ruddles and this is an old Ruddles recipe from 1971, when Rutland Water was started. The name was chosen from a list provided by the listeners to the local radio station. The 4.5% beer is a red gold colour, with a nice head. It uses German hops that give the fresh spring taste to it. A nice refreshing hoppy beer.

A short diversion up the Welford Arm is well rewarded with a trip to the Wharf Inn for the beer as well as a meal. A nice friendly pub.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No. 63.

We arrived back after  a quite long stay at home, a long weekend to France with my brothers and a barbershop chorus weekend singing competition. Once back we headed south again, but being late leaving Debdale we stopped below Foxton Locks.

We only had a short delay befor heading up yhe ten locks and 75' rise. We completed the climb in 45 mins.

There are occasional nice views through the hedges to the Welland Valley. It flows to the Wash and that is eventually where we were headed this year.

We moored up not too far at Bridge 46 near Husband Bosworth so that we could go into the village and post a letter. The village was in the Domesday Book of 1086 but didn't attract the Husbands part until the 17th Century. The Husbands denotes farmers (husbandry), probably to distinguish it from Market Bosworth not too far away.

There were once seven pubs in the village. This one still has the Phipps Brewery sign on it. It was the Grazier Arms. It obviously wasn't this one that we were aiming to call at.

The Bell Inn is the only surviving one left in the village. The village was of some import  and other outbildingsas it was at the crossroads of two turnpike roads. There are some lovely buildings around and there is a guided walk around the village. Leaflet available on line and from the shop. The first mention I have of the Bell was in 1787 when it was let or sold. A year later it was sold at auction and was said to  have a large yard, stabling for 14 horses. The building seems to have been rebuilt around 1815 and in another sale  was said to have a large kitchen, 2 parlours with convenient bar, 6 sleeping rooms in front and 2 at back, kitchen dairy, cheese room, brewhouse, 2 cellars with chambers over, out buildings with stabling for 24 horses with granaries and lofts over. A yard with pump and well with gardens and 5 acres of pasture. Despite being altered inside you can still see the coaching in layout. It was okay with a few people in too. I seem to remember that they did food, but I was more looking at the fact that they only had one hand pull for real ale!
Caledonian Brewery was started in 1869 by George Lorimar and  Robert Clark. George's father died when he was 18 and was well off. He spent a lot of time playing golf and mixing with the business men of Edinburgh. We he got to be 21 and inherited the family estate we had already decided to set up a brewery. Clark came from another brewery as the Head Brewer. A few years later they built a brand new up to date brewery and carried un until George died in 1936. At this time the outfit was purchased by Vaux's of Sunderland and in 1986 they decided to close the Edinburgh business down. However a management buyout of the brewery kept it alive and brewing. In 2004 Scottish and Newcastle were attracted to it as they had bought McEwans brewery and promptly closed it, but needed somewhere to produce the McEwans beers. A new Caledonian Brewery Co. started up from shareholders of the old company and they kept the recipes and brewery despite Scottish and Newcastle having 30%. They brewed their beers under licence. The new CBC bought Harviestoun Brewery in Alva during this period. By 2008 Scottish and Newcastle bought all the shares in the new Caledonian but not the Haviestoun Brewery so it continued there. S&N were then bought by Heineken! What a convoluted story that is.

Caledonian are well know for their 80/- and the IPA. They had the IPA on hand pull, so the decision was made. At 3.8% it is a good session drink. It pulled with a lovely thick white head over the white gold colour of the liquid, very pleasing to the eye. There was definitely plenty of citrus hop aroma going on too. The taste didn't really live up to the smell of the pint but at 3.8% I suppose that isn't too surprising. It was an okay pint, but as it has won over 40 awards including CAMRA Supreme Champion beer and World Champion Cask Ale, it must be me!

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.62.

It isn't very far to Foxton from Market Harborough but always seems to take longer than you expect. As we were in no hurry it did not matter. We were booked into Debdale Wharf for a few days as we had to go home.

The old Wooden Step Bridge No.14 has given way to a new road bridge to access the large number of houses that are being built on the other side of the canal. Land by canals certainly does seem to be prime real estate. Like the C&RT are always saying, being near water is good for you, and the bank balance it seems.

The bone factory wasn't smelly today. Modern emissions standards working I assume. The company that own the business pick up about 10,000 tonnes  aweek of animal by products, fallen animals (fellmongering in the old parlance) and food waste to make into animal feeds, oils, fertilizers and power station fuel, as well as generating electricity from it themselves.

We have always been on the way somewhere previously so have never stopped to have a walk around the site of the Inclines plane and museum. This time we did as we were ahead of schedule. The museum is small but perfectly formed and it is well worth a walk around the place too. It is interesting to see that the inclined plane only lasted 11 years before it was broken up. 

I narrow boat was sunk while loaded the scrapped equipment. I wonder if that was the reason this rail was left or this is a bit of a mock up of what it used to be like. It took 12 minutes to go up or down, including the floaring in and out of the caissons.

At the very foot of Foxton Locks were some stables and a blacksmiths I think. They were near derelict in 1966 when Tony Matts moved in to set up Foxton Narrow Boats. He soon had them converted into a tea room and shop for the many visitors. He had quite a battle with British Waterways in 1980 when he wanted to convert the lower buildings into a pub, but procession is 9/10th of the law and in 1980 Bridge 61 was opened and after several refits it still is. I believe it is still owned by the Matts family too. It has two smallish room and the tiniest hatch of a bar to serve. When we visited they had three real ales on, one of which was Adnam's Southwold.

Two of the three beers were from Langton Brewery which is only about 4 miles away as the crow flies. The brewery was started in 1999 at the back of the Bell Inn at East Langton, about 4 miles from this pub. They were supplying the pub and the cricket club over the road. Inevitably the beers grew a fan base and they had to expand with a move in 2005 to Grange Farm Thorpe Langton. The 4 bbl plant installed soon had to be further added to in 2010 and again in 2016. Their sales area is spreading so keep your eyes open for them.

This 3.9% golden ale seems to be one of those that some really like and others don't. I'm afraid I was in the later camp. I wont say I didn't like it, just that there wasn't really very much to it. It just didn't do anything for me at all. Perhaps that is just as well that it is a seasonal beer, but having said that it seems to have been around from April to November last year. It is obviously named after the top lock of the ten at the Foxton flight.

I then tried their Thomas Lift. A bitter at 4.4%. It poured with a nice creamy head and a deep chestnut colour. There were lovely caramel notes with the generous malts in the beer. This sweetness was ofset with the next taste on the buds of hops. Plenty to keep you going so definitively more my style. The beer is named after Godon Cale Thomas who was the architect of the inclined plane lift. It is a shame it isn't still in assistance as it would be definite 'wonder of the waterways'. A bit like this beer. I'm keeping my eyes open for their best selling beer Inclined Plane.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.61.

After a peaceful night we set off for Market Harborough. It doesn't seem to take long to get to the bottom of Foxton Locks. I am always a little wary of this area as the locks concentrate the boats and added to by the hire boats from Market Harborough, a lift bridge, a junction and boats waiting to go up the locks combined with those leaving the locks can lead to an amusing spectacle for the many onlookers that are hanging about, waiting for any incident to film on their phones.

As tunnels go Saddington is a pussy cat. Whilst there is no towpath you can see down its length and it is wide and dry. It was built in 1797 for when the canal opened and is 880 yards long.

A little after the tunnel is a small aqueduct over the Langton Brook. This was the scene of a canal breach in 1917. I wonder if this was when the concrete coping was added.

For a short branch canal the Market Harborough Arm offers plenty to offer the boater. There are two swing bridges and plenty of good bends and narrows to catch the helmsman out. The bridges are quite distinctive been with a low arch and lower parapet.

It always seems to take a lot longer than it should when heading to Market Harbrough, especially if you are behind another boat. We reached the Basin, and Union Wharf with its hire base. The services are on the left but we winded and headed back out before heading down into the town for a look around.

We have been to Market Harborough several times and I had always been a little disappointed in the pub selection in the town. This time I had heard of  a new addition to the scene a micro pub called the Beerhouse. It sounded promising and we found it easily. It is a converted furniture showroom, complete with plastic tiled suspended ceiling. It doesn't sound very promising but it is all about the beer (and cider). Although termed a micro pub there are three rooms and plenty of space, tables bar stools and sofas for all styles of lolloping about with a pint. There were twelve beers on the stillage, all gravity fed (not my favourite method of pouring) and plenty of ciders and craft too. There is a monday quiz night and looked to have plenty of musicians playing through the week too. 

Plenty of small and local breweries were represented and I chose a pint from the Nene Valley Brewery. The brewry was set up in 2011 in some outbuildings on West Street in Oundle. They then expanded into a 15bbl unit that was the old Water Board.s building a year later. 2016 once more they needed more space and moved to Oundle Wharf where they are today. There is the Brewery Tap and Kitchen on site too

I had a pint of their Egyptian Cream. This is a 4.5% stout. Here it is drawn from the barrel by gravity so a big headed beer was not to be expected. What head there was was a beautiful caramel colour. The beer itself was a lovely lustrous dark colour. It looked good, and first sip proved it tasted good. It was velvety smooth in the mouth. There are eight different malts used which is bound to give it a balanced feel. This is a great beer and I awarded it a 4 on Untapped, making it in my top ten for 2019. Most of which were stouts and porters it seems.

Just for a change I tried a beer from another local'ish brewery Three Hills Brewing. By the look of their logo you would think that they are an oriental outfit, but no, they hail from Woodford near Northampton. However owner and head brewer Andrew Catherall worked brewing in China for seven years so has brought that to the new venture started in 2017. The Name comes from three neolithic barrows above the town. They are a small and artisanal brewery and they love to experiment with their small batch plant. They mainly bottle the beer, with keg too, and occasional cask. The bottle art work is line print and very chic.. Nice to look at.

I had a pint of Mildavator. It seems to have been one of their experimental cask beers as I can find no record of it anywhere other than this one barrel at the Beerhouse! The beer was a pleasing darker bitter colour and had a nice malty toffee taste. It is an unfined beer that means it is cloudy, deliberately so. It certainly wasn't my best beer of the day but was a good enough pint non the less. I wonder if it will ever be brewed again.

The beerhouse is a must in Market Harbrough for those that like a different beer and a pb with now music and TV or slot machines. I will be going again next time at Union Wharf.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.60.

After leaving the Golden Shield we went to find the Coop for the milk, and right opposite was another pub so we decided to have a look see. Purely for research you understand.

The Old Crown Inn was built around 1798 from an old cottage. I'm not sure why the Old Crown as I can find no evidence of another Crown in the village. One of it's longest serving families was the Spokes'. Willaim was born in the village in 1797 and eventually became the landlord from at least 1838 until his death in 1848 when his wife and daughters took it on until at least 1855. The pub was sold several times and was said to consist of the pub and cottage, yard, stables, gig shed and piggery! In 1904 it was leased for £100 a year by the Market Harborough brewery of Eady and Dulley that has started in 1881. In 1921 Everard's bought the place out right and it is still one of their pubs. It is now essentially a one room pub with different alcoves. Food is served but they only have one hand pull to serve. There was loud music at one end and at the other there was loud football on the large screen, but we did find an alcove out of the way. Not going to be one of those pubs I want to return to.

A history of Everard's Brewery can be found at Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.58, so I wont repeat it all here.

Tiger is Everard's best selling beer and is called a copper ale by them, (best bitter on the pump clip above). It comes in at 4.2% and does have a nice coppery colour if a rather thin head. To sniff it has a slightly hoppy aroma from the fuggles and golding hops, and to taste there is a little toffee flavour that will be from the Maris Otter malt. It is neither sweet or bitter in the mouth and so comes over to me as a little bland. I suppose a good session beer that would be quaffed with a meal. It was first brewed in 1972 and is named after the nickname given to the Royal Leicestershire Regiment after they returned to England in 1825, following a long posting in India. Obviously the Rugby Union team in Leicester is also called the Tigers. Not a bad beer at all but I do like to try different beers out, and in this part of the world this is not unusual by any stretch of the imagination. Still as the pub is about a pleasant 15 min stroll across the fields from the canal, and close to a Coop, we could well end up back here at another time.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.59.

The next day we spent the morning having a little look around Leicester again before setting off after a bite of lunch back at the boat.

This is the newish Friar's Mill mooring pontoon. The development is not completed yet so will be busier when all the apartments are let but it is a nice and handy spot for town with a good addition of moorings to Leicester.

Not too much further up stream is West Bridge. This actually marks the change from the River Soar Navigation to the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal. Just on our port side are the Castle Garden moorings too.

There is this large weir at the foot of Freeman's Meadow Lock that gives you a good view of the King Power Stadium of Leicester City. They seem to be doing quite well once again in the 2019/20 season.

Nice reflections from Blue Bank Bridge, 102. We stopped for the night above Ervin's Lock and lit the fire as it was a bit of a miserable day and we had got chilled.

The next day we stopped off at Kilby Bridge Services to top up with water and part with our rubbish, a job not made any easier by the moored C&RT work boat and long term moorers being almost up to the services.

It was a long day heading up hill with I think fourteen locks and about the same miles. Helen takes a breather whilst the ,lock fills and admires the countryside. We stopped at Bridge 73 so we could walk into Fleckney for some milk.

We walked into the village and decided to find the Golden Shield pub on Main Road. It seems that this building has only been a pub from about 1910 as the maps show the pub opposite. However that one seemed to have been built around the 1600's and first licenced in 1752. The first mention I can find for the Dun Cow is in April 1812 when auctions for land and properties are being held there. Why it moved over the road I don't know but when it did it was known as the Dun Cow Inn. It kept that name until 1979 when it became the Golden Shield. However by 1990 it had changed its name back again, and actually couldn't make its mind up as the name changed backwards and forwards several times, with it being the Golden Shield at the moment. There is an L shaped bar with the locales seemingly favouring just by the door, or Amen Corner. There is a dining area round the back that had room so that is where we sat. The pub had been in the Good Beer Guide at one time but I was disappointed with the beer choices. Just a 'normal' selection on show, Abbots, Old Peculiar and Doom Bar. They did have another beer from Sharp's though.
Sharp's Brewery was started as a very small affair in 1994 by Bill Sharp. He did very well and soon had to expand his production. In 2011 the brewery was producing 75,000 barrels a year but attracted a buy out from Molson Coors for a cool £20 million. They stated they were going to continue brewing in Rock and keep the cask beers brewed there. It seems that they have been good to their word as they are still there and have expanded production to around 100,000 barrels a year.

The Golden Shield had 'Atlantic', 4.2%, on hand pull as well as Doom Bar, so I tried that. It came into the glass as a nice golden colour with a good white head. You got a whiff of citrus and tropical fruit as you brought it too your lips and at first there was a sweetness, but there are two malts in the beer which takes the edge off an out and out pale ale. At the end the hops bring a dryness too. The beer was first brewed in 2012 and is obviously named after the large expanse of water near the brewery that they don't use in their brewing process. At one time they donated a small percentage of money for every pint to the RNLI, but I'm not sure if that is still the case. A long way off my favourite beer, but I prefer it to the ever present Doom Bar from Sharp's.