It usually takes me a day or two in England to get sick of pies. In the meantime, however, it's pies all the way. Mmm, pies. And beer. Battlefield Farm Shop, outside Shrewsbury, is a bit of a pie and cheese and beer mecca. For some reason my sister thought I'd be interested in going there...
I took away a chicken, blue cheese, pear and walnut pie, and a pork and Stilton one, with a bottle of Hobsons Old Henry. It's a lovely strong ale, spicy at first, followed by some weighty toffee and then finishing roasty and dry. First rate pie lubricant.
The other bottled local I gave a spin was Darwin's Origin, picked up in the beautiful surrounds of Tanners Wine Merchants (Darwin is the local celeb in Shrewsbury). This pours fizzily a dark amber colour. There's quite a bit of body to it, but it's still very much a hop-driven beer. The hops are English and give it dominant flavours of sweet mandarin oranges. Not a million miles from Adnams excellent Innovation.
The same brewery, Salopian, also brew Oracle, a hoppier-yet pale ale: sharp at first, then giving way way to flowers and soft fruit, before finishing up sharp and perhaps a little bitterly harsh at the end. We had this at The Boathouse, a lovely riverfront pub by the park. They also had Stonehouse Station Bitter on, a plain but nicely quenching amber ale.
Upstream on the Severn as it flows through Shropshire there's The Armoury, a vast pub-restaurant crammed with bric-a-brac and fashionably mismatched furniture. It's part of the Brunning & Price chain, which has a house Original Bitter brewed by Phoenix. Rather like the Station Bitter, it's brown, simple, unassuming and with a touch of toffee. I liked it for what it was, but was glad of pale, hoppier options too. Like Woods Shropshire Lass: a golden ale packed with Saaz spiciness for that quality lager sensation.
Three Tuns XXX was another lagery beer they had on though not as good: throwing candy sugar in with the grassy, cabbagey hops. Weetwood Cheshire Cat looked like a lager, a poor one, but didn't taste as watery as it appeared, saved by an interesting mineral chalkiness.
And then there was Twisted Spire. I brought a half to the table for my sister. She didn't like it. I sniffed it. It was vinegar. Traces of the sweet blonde ale were detectable on tasting, but mostly it was vinegar. So I brought it back. Two twentysomething barmen in rugby shirts with turned up collars should really have been a clear indication I was wasting my time. The first said it was fine and passed it to the other, he said it was fine too and then they just went on serving other customers leaving me slack-jawed with half a pint of off beer and a thirsty sister. Not great service there, The Armoury.
My pie fetish had worn off by the time we headed south to London (the story picks up in this post from last week). I believe it was, in fact, a sandwich that went with my last beers in Shrewsbury, at The Three Fishes. It's a delightfully ramshackle boozer in the historic heart of the town, and seemed to be something of a pilgrimage point for elderly CAMRA types. Which is a good sign, beerwise. My first pint was Bath Gem, a highly buttery brown bitter with lots of toffee. Smooth and warming and I liked it, even out of season. The second was something of a celebrity: I'd heard lots -- all good -- about Oakham Citra. It didn't disappoint, despite a little bit of cloud in my pint and a resulting yeasty sharpness. But I tuned that out of my palate and sat back to enjoy the massive lemon and grapefruit smack from the Citra hops. Yes, it's one-dimensional, but one of those dimensions I can happily spend an afternoon in.
Unfortunately, London was calling so off we chugged. Next on the blog is what happened when we came out the other side.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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