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Friday 28 February 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.67.

We did have a drink in the Daventry Weatherspoon's, The Scarenshead that had been an old coaching inn. However for the first time I can recall there was no different beers on offer so I wont record it here. We then left Braunston, once the stoppage was clear. We were the first boat in the queue, but there were plenty of folk trying to organise everybody but themselves. The chaos hence caused dissipated at Hatton Junction as we stopped and met up with John and Marilyn on their boat. We then descended the Buckby Locks but unfortunately, due to the lock restrictions for water saving, we caught them up again!

Anchor Cottage Craft shop is by Lock 8 on the Buckby flight. There was a bit of the queue at the locks with the numbers going down so Helen had enough time to go and have a poke about. She came back empty handed and as you can see the whether didn't even lend itself to an ice cream!

Our next stop was Weedon Bec where we visited the antique shop and came away with a corner unit for our daughter's new house. We also walked up to the military arsenal building from the Napoleonic wars through to well after WWII. The picture is of the gatehouse that was where the goods were brought via the Grand Union Canal. There is still a portcullis below. The canal passed down the route of the street between the new houses top left. The gatehouse has a little museum in it now and well worth a poke about. Check for times when it is open, but you can now walk around the site, rather than dodge the security guard as in the past.

Another night we moored not far past Stowe Hill Wharf of Rugby Boats fame and decided to walk into Nether Heyford for a look see. It is a large village, with a very big green with shops and pubs etc. The oldest part of the town has some lovely old buildings and a nice stroll around on a Sunday.

 Our next stop was at Gayton marina where we left the boat for a week for a visit home. When we returned the weather had smartened up somewhat and when we set off down the Northampton flight the sun was shining. As we passed under the motorway we could see the elevator tower in the distance so knew we were getting close. Once moored up we sett off to track down the several pubs that the town has to offer. The first was not far away at all.

Just on the street from the canal and head up towards the town and just before you cross the bridge over the Nene is the Pomfret Arms. At first glance it maybe thought that this was an old coaching inn, but the size of the building and the low height of the passageway reveal this not to be true. In fact in 1805 it was advertised for sale as a yard owned by a carrier and it was going to be very close to the the river/rail basin that was just about to open. The agricultural machinery factory was moving out, although it may well have been a pub or beer house before hand as it was already called the Pomfret Arms! A later sall advertised that its cellar could hold sixty hogsheads of beer! The pub is named after the Earl of Pomfret 1770 to 1833, although there is a type of fish by that name! The 4th and 5th Earls were soldiers but as the last died without issue the title died with him. The has a nice front bar with a games room off and extensive gardens leading down to the river. They have live music frequently. It used to be owned by the Phipps Brewery that was just a little further up the road.

The other great thing about the Pomfret Arms is that it is the tap for the Cotton End Micro brewery that actauly brews using a small kit in the stables that are alongside the garden. The brewery started in 2014 and pretty much only brewed for the pub. They now pass it on to other local pubs too. It was started up by four fellers, enthusiastic beer drinks, and they wanted to experiment. I remember the last time I was in here I went  for a pint of beer that had lemon grass in the title. I'm not sure if it was the same spaced wheat beer that they brew now, but it was enough to put me off ordering any beer with lemon grass in the list of ingredients. The brewery is named after the area that was just out of the town called Cotton End.

They had five hand pulls on the bar but only one of them from the Cotton End Brewery so I chose that, the Conker Classic at 4.3%. This was brewed to celebrate the 10th anniversary of an autumn classic English festival when a conker tournament is held in the pub garden below the boughs of an old horse chestnut tree. It is an amber ale and came with a rather this head but a nice colour. It was pleasant enough but seemed to fall between two stools, failing to be sweet or bitter etc, and so you could say it was well balance I suppose. It was pleasant enough but not standing out in any way. The pub is well worth a visit and next time I'm there I hope they have their award winning coffee porter on the go.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.66.

Heck, it has been difficult to find time for the blog lately. Major building works plus detailed returns and grant bids added to all the rest of life seem to claim more than their fair share of time. Any way here goes for the next installment.

We left you last at Crick and our next port of call was following a slight diversion to Braunston to pass a little time.

First thing was through Crick Tunnel. It wasn't wet this time through and a clear run too.

We had a little wait at Watford Locks, just enough time to top up the water. Today was the first day of restrictions when the locks are only open from 10am to 3.30pm. There was a queue top and bottom when the lockies arrived!

We were soon at Norton Junction and despite the lockies telling us the No.4 lock in Braunston was to be closed for repairs for a couple of days we turned right and headed there.

After the lock had closed and on the way back from the village in the evening sun the bottom lock and shop seemed strangely quiet with no boats, but very photogenic.

With the lock closed we decided to catch the bus and visit Daventry as we had never been. Of course I was on the look out for a new pub, or two as well. 

The Early Doors micro pub, the first in Northamptonshire, is found up an alley, Prince William Walk, that is off the pedestrian street of  Sheaf Street. It opened in an ex mobility shop in 2015 but had recently changed hands with a local father and son team running the show. It lives up to the micro pub title but was welcoming with old wooden doors being the decoration in part. There are tables and benches around and the beer is all on gravity, kept in its own cooler, purpose built by the look of it. There were six beers on tap and plenty of ciders for Helen to choose from, some boxed but three on hand pull. It had been Northants. cider pub of the year. As it was mid afternoon it was very quiet in the pub.

I choose a beer from the Vale Brewery from Buckinghamshire as I had enjoyed one of their beers previously. The brewery was set up in 1995 by Mark and Phil Stevens in Haddenham, but by 2007 they found a new site not too far away in Brill (near to Ayelsbury). The business did well and they grew their brew plant to a 20bl unit that produces 5616 pints at every brew. They do run tours and own several pubs too, one where sister brewery Aylesbury Brewhouse is found. They only use Maris Otter malted barley and hops from around the world.

I tried the Black Beauty Porter 4.4%. As it was gravity poured there was little head on the beer. With a dark beer it is always nice to me to see the contrast between the beer and the head, so that was missing. I have said several times I do like a beer hand pulled. The colour was a deep black and the first sup was very complex. The first note was of chocolate and then a bitter coffee came through, probably the roasted malt. As stated on the pump clip it was very full bodied and a meal in a glass. I really enjoyed it and would seek it out again. I will also return to the pub too. If you are a trip to Daventry look it out.

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!