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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.

Wednesday 8 January 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.58.

We left Loughborough and headed for Leicester. We took a couple of days getting there but didn't get to a pub until our destination though.

We didn't stop at Mountsorrel this time but I nearly got the tiller swans neck stuck under a timber on the gate as we rose up the lock though.

In the past we have stopped at Sileby Mill Lock, but again not this time as we continued onwards.

All those arches, and it isn't until the last moment that you see the navigable one. 'Til then I was thinking we will need to take down a bit more than the chimney to fit under those!

The Leicester Space Centre building looked quiet menacing as we passed. What with the dark sky behind it felt like we could be in a parallel universe or something.

You could be forgiven thinking you were on the Rochdale or Huddersfield Canal from this photo, rather than arriving in Leicester.

We got to North Lock at Frog Island and were stopped. There was a fire in a van in the car park, just by the lock and the Fire Brigade were pumping out of the lock. It turns out that it was a burning acetylene bottle in the back of a van. They couldn't put it out so just secured the area to let it burn out. We were told it could be about 2300, but as it turned out we were allowed through at about 18:00 and found a spot on the Friars Mill pontoon and decided to head to the pub for a pint with the Kiwi couple on a hire boat who we had shared a few locks with.

The Knight and Garter was not the sort of place I was looking for, but with another couple, and getting quite late it was almost the fort pub we came across. The Knight and Garter has been refurbished around spring 2018 and is now quite a classy gastro pub place, again not the sort of place I would have looked for beers. In fact the pub has a long history on the site. It seems that there was a pub here from 1312 when it was granted to Leicester Abbey. It was known as the Saracen's Head. The pub survived until 1904 when it was demolished to make way for the new. However, by then it was owned by Everard's and they  didn't want just any old pub so commissioned architects to come up with a suitable building. It sits well on the corner of Market Street South and Hotel Street. It has also been known as Molly O'Grady's when every town had to have an Irish pub for some reason I could never work out. It is about 15 minutes walk from the moorings at Friar's Mill so a good place to eat and drink.

Everards still own the pub that they took over around 1900. As can been seen in their logo above Everard's was started in 1849 when a farmer from Narborough Wood House called William Everard took over the Wilmot and Co Brewery in Southgate Street in Leicester as the partners were retiring. William's partner was a Thomas Hull who was actually the brewer and maltster. In 1875 William's nephew designed a new tower brewery for the company at the corner of Southgate Street and Castle Street with its own well water. By the 1880's the brewery had over 100 pubs too. William died in 1892 and his son Thomas took over. By this time 10% of all beer brewed in the kingdom came from Burton upon Trent and Everards leased Bridge Brewery and were producing about 10,000 barrels a year. In 1898 they took over the newer Trent Brewery in Dale Street Burton when it went into liquidation. (What else would a brewery do!). In 1970 the Trent Brewery was renamed the Tiger Brewery after their best selling beer. Southgate Brewery was retained for distribution and offices. By 1971 beer production peaked at 55,000 barrels a year.  In 1985 they opened a brewery again in Leicester, Castle Acres, and the brewery in Burton became a museum, still producing beers for the company under licence. By 1990 the capacity was up to 70,000 bbls a year and the contract with the museum ended so all Everard's beers were then brewed in Leicester for the first time since 1892.  The company had gone public in 1936 but by 1997 had bought back all the shares and become a family business once again. The family business is once again in the forefront as they are close to completing another brand new state of the art brewery at Everard's Meadows, south of the city. It will be their head office and will have lots of attractions around it too. Due to open autumn 2020.]

I had a pint of their Suffragette IPA 3.5%. It is said to be a bold IPA. It poured well with a good white head and personally I would almost class it is a cross between an IPA and a bitter as although it had the 'citrusness' of a hoppy pale ale there was also a bitterness afterwards. Maybe this was where the 'bold' comes from! The beer was a limited edition brew as it was 100 years since some women got the right to vote, and is brewed for one Alice Hawkins who was a very active suffragette from Leicester who was imprisoned five times. She helped set up the suffragettes in Leicester. She was a little different in that she was a machinist in a show factory, and that her husband was fully behind her efforts for women's rights and also went to prison. She died in 1946 and was buried in a paupers grave. However in 2018 not only was she to have a beer named after her, but a statue was erected in Leicester to honour her memory and efforts.

The Knight and Garter is only about 15 minutes from the Friars Mill mooring pontoon so is well worth a look, and the food looked very good too.