One of the problems with sharing strong opinions with the world is that someone who has some affiliation with the object of your passion may take the opinion as an affront. It would probably sting less if the editorial commentary was delivered with a bit less smarmy tone, but the very few people who read this would be disappointed if it wasn’t there (especially in response to something like this). Among the small readership, I usually get publicans and other business proprietors/proprietresses for an entry or two after they find out that their venue has appeared here. Believe me, my opinion holds no more sway here than it does at work (where the fuckers should actually listen to me).
So, if I gave the Tap Social a bad review it might actually be better for them than what I am about to lay down more concisely than that cryptic lead paragraph. Better still are the ones about places that made so little impression on me that I just make shit up. I can’t do that here. The house is flawless. Go there the next time they are open and you’ll probably make regular stops from then on (check the website…they are open tonight, and then again on the 27th and 28th of January 2017 with future dates pending).
Now, it’s not a pub, per se … yet. It doesn’t even have regular opening days, much less regular opening hours. It is so open-plan that the warehouse blends into the 1000 liter brewery (yeah, it is a microbrewery, as well), and those are only distinguishable from the pubby area by a large carpet rolled out in front of the rudimentary bar.
Their product is especially grand, too. I was met at the door by the Head Brewer who enthusiastically described the set-up and the core beers that were on offer. I got a flight of one-third pints (only the single pint, total, as this was roughly the mid-point of a 7½ mile run and I needed to get back to check on something in the lab before heading home) that included the oatmeal stout and the two sour ales — I would recommend all of them but do the Bleeding Heart Numbskull last as it overpowers everything in its path.
My second micropub in a row (see the Beer Asylum from Friday night), the Hop & Vine opened Saturday night and I finally made my way over Sunday for a lunchtime pint of porter. The atmosphere is industrial but the Hop Inn (Swindon) made it work so well that it has been district CAMRA pub of the year several times in the 3 or 4 years it’s been open and there’s no reason this one can’t do likewise, here.
The ales are gravity fed but the taproom is visible across the bar. They have several gins and a large variety of bottled beers. I’m especially interested in the 2L refillable growler for takeaway purposes (although, I have to smirk whenever someone here uses the term “growler” in the American context knowing all to well what the vernacular definition is).
The couple that run the joint are still excited and friendly so it might be good to catch them before they get surly and rude. I, along with 1000’s of others, supported their license with the Hillingdon Borough Council and now it is time for us to support them with regular custom.
Friday night, I went to Pinner to see if I could round out my candidates for the remaining days in the Sout & Porter Advent Calendar at Beer Asylum. I probably could have bought the entire 26 days worth there. “This is a wonderland,” I said to one of the proprietors as I picked up my second 1/2 pint at the bar. He nodded then smiled broadly — a proud grin — and agreed, almost excitedly, “yes. It is. First time here?” “Mmm-hmm,” I nodded, just as eagerly. “But, not you’re last?” I raised an eyebrow, “of course, not.”
I had a BBNo 08/06 (Oatmeal Stout) to start and followed it with an Old Hands Rauch Bier, a Weiß as as German as the Royal Family and brewed not far from their house. I talked with the beardy other proprietor about the new craft beer place opening in Ruislip this weekend and he seemed excited at the prospect of Northwest London becoming a haven for this sort of shop.
Name: West Indies Porter
Rating (1-5): 4 out of 5 Bootsies (Santa Collins)…
Notes: My ratings system isn’t perfect so I convoluted Funk and Caribbean themes. Deal with it, mofos.
Day 2 of 26, Friday, and reading the newspaper after work with a fine porter ahead of making a delicious fish pie for supper … I love the weekends.
Name: Black Cab Stout
Rating (1-5): 4.5 Drunken Elves
Notes: Compared to a previous effort, the notes in this Advent Calendar will have less to do with tasting as they will with thoughts on the day. For instance, Tuesday I had my first run in the two weeks since I tore a calf muscle in my sleep; today was run #3 as I ramp up, from zero, to a long race in April. We had a little cold snap (-7°C yesterday) which put a wee edge on the 4.5 miles but I also purchased 5 stouts and porters to start the Advent Calendar with.
So, this is the first day of Advent and the plan is to make this one entirely celebrated with black beers — stouts and porters. Of course, there will be other beers, wine, liqueurs, and booze but once a day I will settle in to meditate on the meaning of the day and the season with one of the Calendar picks. After 3.2 easy miles on black ice in the dark, the stout this evening was well-earned.
This one was yummy. 25 to go (Boxing Day included). Suggestions for the Christmas Day selection are warmly welcomed.
Flights from Bristol to Bremen require a plane change in Amsterdam and with the layover and the arbitrary airport nonsense it takes nearly as long (and is just as expensive) to fly to Bremen as it does (is) to take the train from Amsterdam Schiphol. The train requires a change in Hilversum and I decided to grab some pot for the journey and to have a few beers before continuing. I was a fan of the Lion when I used to catch the train back to Amsterdam Z.O. after long runs when we lived there so I stopped there for a little White Widow.
They have a sort of segregated smoking area, which is nice and convenient if a little weird (it is a glassed in room crammed with people while the rest of the house is kind of open). I guess it dates to the smoking (tobacco) ban in workplaces but it wasn’t like this in the old days. From there, I wandered up to De Kroeg for a few glasses of Jupiler.
Football (Ajax vs ADO Den Haag) was on the projection screen but a couple came in and asked for music and the bartender begrudgingly put on some really nice stuff including Dylan doing some blues. Everyone was a regular except me. And, the Jupiler was cheap and cold. Perfection. Plus, the bartender had an interesting shaped head and facial features that would have let him be cast in period dramas set in the bulb-eating days (or earlier); this thought crossed my mind, I remind you, after the first marijuana I’ve had in a year followed by 3 or 4 Jupilers (Jupileren?).
In Bremen, I dropped the luggage at the hotel then dashed to Shanti Shop (location 6 on the running map, below). Prepped for the week, the only thing remaining was dinner each evening and runs in the morning. Well, that and work but my colleague was doing most of that bit so I just had to show up and pay attention.
The runs and the walks are consolidated on the map, here, with the restaurants and some other sites also marked. The mileage added up like this
Sunday was a slow jog due to ice on the streets and resulted in 3.9 miles to the east (and to the head shop) and ended with a stop for a feast at Mexcal (“1” on the map), where I got a platter of mild Mexican food with a slight German spin on it, and a pitcher of beer (ice-cold Haake Beck).
Monday morning I headed up the Weser but in the dark I made stupid choices and found a dead-end just past Übersee Park. The run logged 6.5 (net 10.4) more miles in the cold (it never got past freezing, this trip).
The Monday commute saw some awesome colour in the sunrise and, after work, my work mate and I went to find an Italian place I regularly hit but, lost and too cold to keep looking, we opted for the first thing that looked good. I think his words were, “this MUST be good, there are scads of old locals in here,” which is how we came to dine at Kreta (#2 on the map); I had a meat platter, some sort of cabbage based salad, potatoes, tzatziki sauce…yum. The walks to the lab, to Kreta, and back to my hotel added another 6.6 miles (17.0 total) and took me past this odd sculpture:
Tuesday yielded another pre-dawn run on icy paths in the dark past the football stadium and on to the island (6.9 miles for the loop). This was the worst of the snow and ice days and the commute walk found me layered with snow. The evening was clear and the wind died down so I explored the abandoned town centre before taking a chance on Zui Yuan (3 on the map), where I was treated to some unremarkable but at least not salty Chinese (Szechuan beef and a bit soggy fried rice). The walks added 7.5 miles for 31.4 total.
Wednesday morning, the dark-time run went out to Weseruferpark where I still managed to find a dead-end peninsula (which is good since I logged another 8.4 miles and almost made myself late for work in the slow going). The commute and dinner hikes saw another 6.5 miles and some sunlight and clear skies in the late afternoon. For dinner, I did more Greek at the spectacular Plaka (4, where the Dolmides are to die for).
The lunches throughout were at the dining room of the business I was visiting; these are always good but also always kind of heavy (liver and onions with mashed potatoes and gravy one day, a giant burrito-like thing they called a Turkish pizza another). Sandwiches of meats and cheeses plus a little bit of fruit served as breakfast (I gain weight here).
Thursday morning I had a train to grab at 8:30 so I made a shorter (5.5 miles) run to and around Burgerpark which I believe is technically closed that time of day. It was a bit spooky and I think I rousted some rough-sleepers. With that, the Bremen runs ended on 31.2 miles (with the walks making the total coverage 51.8 miles).
The staff at the Greek places brought out ouzo with the beers and another round with the bills. They pour it like water — some older dude at Plaka kept coming upstairs and, on his odd gesture (he had more elaborate ones as he and the ouzo tap became more and more lubricated), another ouzo would be produced and in a single move he would pick up the glass, down the liqueur, and place the glass on the condensation ring it came from. Opa:
Oh, right…number 5 on the map is the Meisenfrei, an old favourite. They had some aging rockers on Wednesday night and — with nothing but travel ahead and gyros, kalamari, dolmides, beer and ouzo behind — I made a bit of an evening of it. Decent bar, could have used a better band.
Bitterballs and beer at Murphy’s Schiphol…heading home
The Globe was friendly enough, but I should have stuck with the lager…the Doom Bar tasted a bit ‘sweet’ like something other than Doom Bar had been in the lines (another ale? cleaning solvents?). Not bad enough to send it back, mind, but not right.
Watched a few horse races on telly whilst deciding I didn’t have enough time to catch another pub before the bus home even though it was a short gallop to the station. At 8 miles in two runs on the day, I decided to let the beer races be a draw (the earlier one winning by a furlong, while this one should be shot and sent to the dog food cannery) instead of going for Best-Two-Out-Of-Three.