King’s Arms – Bury St Edmunds

7 05 2012

When I was working in Bury St Edmunds the King’s Arms was our favourite spot to head to for lunch and a few pints on a Friday.

It is a reasonably quiet pub owing to it’s location just off of the main shopping area in town and as such has a nice relaxing vibe that is perfect for winding down after work or chilling out of a weekend.

The pub itself is of a reasonable size and is pretty much what you would expect for a traditional pub in a bustling market town; there is one main bar area with a good amount of seating, a smaller dining area off to one side and a lovely little beer garden which magically seems to always be in full sun….

Food was always good with the usual pub grub that one would expect done to a high standard and served with commendable speed, always a plus when you are on a “working lunch”!

The selection of beers is, or was as the case may now be, excellent. Usual suspects from Greene King, Ruddles and Morland accompanied by a nice choice of two or three guest beers on tap.

All things considered the King’s Arms is well worth a visit if you are passing through this charming little market town.

The King’s Arms, 23 Brentgovel Street, Bury St Edmunds Suffolk
http://gkpubs.co.uk/pubs-in-brentgovel/kingsarms-pub/




Jay Emmanuel-Thomas joins Tractor Boys

26 07 2011

 

 

  It’s not often I get to see transfers involving my two favourite teams =  Arsenal and of course the “Pride of East Anglia”, Ipswich Town… well today is one of those rare days.

The transfer in question is of course Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ permanent move to the tractor boys for a figure somewhere in the region of £1.1 million.

JET came to prominence when he captained the Arsenal side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2009 but has subsequently struggled to find a place in Arsene Wenger’s plans and has had successive loan spells at Blackpool, Cardiff and Doncaster.

JET can play anywhere up top and has even deputised at left back before but seems to be at his best when employed in an attacking midfield role. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a very talented youngster and flashes of his brilliance have crept through on occasion however on seeing some of his appearances for Cardiff on loan he is also a player who can frustrate fans and doesn’t always look as if his heart is in it…perhaps that is why Wenger hasn’t given him the same chances shown to Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey in recent seasons.

Whether Paul Jewell can get the best out of him remains to be seen but I think it is a decent bit of business for everyone involved, especially as it would seem that Arsenal have had a hefty sell on clause written into the deal…





Iceni – Men of Norfolk 6.2% ABV

30 01 2011

Men of Norfolk is a strong (6.2%) dark beer from the Iceni brewery in Norfolk.

The Iceni Brewery is situated on the edge of Thetford Forest and takes its name from the Iceni tribe who were ruled by Queen Boudicca (yes, the famous one in the chariot) and occupied most of Norfolk and Suffolk around 61 AD. They have been producing beers since 1995 and even have their own hop garden on site…

I first came across the Iceni Brewery selling bottled beers in a food hall at the nearby Elveden Estate and picked up a couple of bottles for my uncle and I to  have later that day – Roisin Dubh if my memory serves correctly.

Well those couple of bottles went down well and since then I have tried pretty much all of the beers that Iceni have produced.

I have seen Men of Norfolk listed as a couple of different styles over the years, a few pubs have put it down as a porter and I have often seen it listed as a mild… I am going to stick with my original assertion that this is a strong dark ale and will try to steer clear of pigeon holing it unduly.

The pint pours to a rich black colour with a fairly thin cream coloured head that lasts well through out drinking – you could be mistaken for assuming it to be a stout based on looks alone.

The aroma is definitely there but isn’t too pronounced with roasted malts, raisins, chocolate and liquorice coming through clearly, there is also a slightly sour/bitter note almost like a bitter coffee that comes through in the background.

The main flavours are roasted malts chocolate, some sweet dark fruit – raisins, sultanas etc,  caramel and there is a nice cocoa bitterness in the finish The sweetness from the fruits and the slight bit of bitterness from the cocoa work well to balance out the rich roasted malt.

The carbonation is a little light and gives  a very soft mouthfeel that might not appeal to everyone but overall this is a small complaint to have.

I really enjoyed Men of Norfolk, the flavours work well together and have enough punch to carry the strength of the beer so you don’t just end up with that sour alcohol note that can plague some strong ales. 

 A very good beer from a small local brewer 4.5 / 5





Abbot Ale – 5% English Ale

13 12 2010

Abbot Ale is Greene King’s flagship beer and is also one of the first real ales that I ever had the pleasure of trying back in the day.

As such it is probably a little surprising that it has taken me quite so long to work my way round to writing a review on this particular beer.

I guess the biggest reason is that of choice; there are so many other beers out there and I am so keen to try them all (ambitious I know!) that if I am out in the pub I will drink pretty much anything before I consider heading for an Abbot, likewise if I am in an off-license there are literally hundreds of bottles that would come home with me first.

First things first let me state that this is a cask pint from the Hamilton Hall at Liverpool Street Station. It is NOT – note the capital letters –  from one of these cans with a widget in. I don’t really like most ales in a can and Abbot is no exception.

When poured properly, not like my first pint that was slopped into the glass whilst the barmaid was chatting to her friend, you should see a clear golden/amber pint with a decent white head of about 2 fingers width which slowly fades away to a thin layer which stays throughout.

You can quite clearly make out the smell of malts, some fruity sweetness and a touch of hops but everything is fairly muted with no one aroma standing out from the crowd.

The first flavour that really hits you is a sweet toasted maltiness but before that can start to seem a bit too much you get the hops kicking in, there are some floral notes and a slight Earthiness – some have even said it seems a bit skunky on occasion. After the hops have started to recede a little you get the bitterness of the beer coming through along with a slight hint of citrus/orange  as well.

The flavours in Abbot ale are all quite crisp, strong and well-defined the only slight issue that I have is that everything is a little bit mish-mash and all over the shop, for example there is a fairly distinct cinder toffee note that you get right towards the end of the beer and because there is nothing around to balance it or cut through it you are left with a slightly burnt after taste. Not unpleasant by any standards but possibly a little disconcerting to some.

I have an old friend who always accuses me of being more complementary of Abbot Ale than I should be as a result of it being one of my first real ales. He might have a point but then again sod him,  there is something to be said for flavours or smells that take us back to a certain time or place and if Abbot Ale does that for me then so be it!

When all is said and done I still  have my original problem with Abbot; it is a good beer, there is nothing about it that is unpleasant or even less than pleasing but it isn’t a great beer – I wouldn’t ask for a pint to be bought to me on my death-bed.

If you are looking for a good example of an English Ale than Abbot will see you just fine but there are better beers to be had.

4.0/5





Adnams launches range of handcrafted spirits

24 11 2010

Following on from 138 years of turning out excellent beers Southwold based brewer Adnams has recently launched it own range of artisan spirits.

Their recent opened Copper House distillery makes Adnams the first joint brewery and distillery in England, a pairing that is quite common on the continent.

Adnams handcrafted gin and vodka are now available for sale on the Adnams Website and from any of the 10 Adnams Cellar and Kitchen stores. These initial offerings will be joined by whiskey after a 3 year maturation in oak casks.

Chairman Jonathan Adnams OBE said: “We have been brewing great beers in Southwold since 1872, and our business now incorporates five hotels, 70 pubs, ten Adnams Cellar & Kitchen stores as well as our online store. Hand crafted spirits are the next exciting step in our journey and we are proud to add distilling to our expertise.

“Small scale distillation produces spirits of a quality and character that far surpass mass-produced products”

Adnams are keen to promote the fact that all of the grains being used in the distillation of their spirits are locally grown in East Anglia all of which is in keeping with Adnams tradition of being one of the most ecologically friendly brewers around.

If there spirits are anything like their beers then I look forward to getting my hands on a couple of bottles and wish them the very best of luck.

The pot still





Greene King Harvest Ale

24 11 2010

Harvest ale was one of several seasonal ales released by Greene King.

I say was as unfortunately Harvest Ale is now “retired” and is increasingly difficult to find.

The aroma is rather pleasant with predominately malty tones and a hint of dried fruit creeping in.

In terms of appearance Harvest pours to a very dark brown – imagine coca cola almost with a thin beige head which lasts reasonably well.

Harvest is quite sweet but it isn’t sickly there is a nice dark malty taste with elements of raisins and a nice hint of red berries which carries through to the finish adding a slight element of sharpness which helps to cut through the sweetness.

Considering that Harvest is a mere 3% ABV it is surprising that there is as much body as there is, it is nicely rounded  with a fairly soft carbonation.

All in all I always found Harvest Ale to be a really good example of a brown ale and thought it was a damn shame when GK decided to retire it, especially when you compare it to some of their recent offerings!

4.2/5





Greene King Hop (formerly The Beer To Dine For)

22 11 2010

 So we meet again Mr Bland….

 I was working at Greene King when The Beer to Dine For officially launched, unofficially it was the launch of butt plug beer but we wont go into that here…

Whatever it was called one thing is for certain it is still kicking around today, now under the interesting name “Greene King Hop”. The premise behind beer to dine for was that it would be the perfect accompaniment to food and would help win people over to real beer, particularly women.

The reality was a little different:

It looks fairly good, both in the bottle and when poured, having a nice clear honey gold colour with a fairly small head that quickly dissipates to nothing; I can well imagine it being poured into fancy glasses at some dinner party in suburbia and  fitting in well amongst the Blossom Hill and Jacob’s Creek.

The worry started to set in when I realised that there is no aroma, not just that it is faint but that there is quite literally nothing at all, not good.

The worrying lack of anything continues when you take a sip the best thing I can say about GK Hop/Beer to Dine for is that it is bland.  There isn’t really anything about it that jumps out and grabs your attention. There is some sweetness there and a slight amount of bitterness but being brutally honest there isn’t really much more flavour then you would find in Carlsberg or any other mass-produced lager.

Now correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the whole point of proper beer to steer people away from tasteless crap and onto something with a bit more going for it? Well you will never achieve that goal if the alternative is just as bland and unassuming.

The finish isn’t really anything you would be impressed by either it is thin and just helps contribute to the fact that this might as well be a bottle of fizzy syrup that has been allowed to go a bit skunky.

Oh yes did I mention the fact that due to the naff clear glass bottle 4 out of the 7 I tried had a nice skunky essence to them, just what I would want with my coq au vin!

I don’t go in for the idea of slagging off Greene King because they keep buying up smaller brewers but at the same time they really should know better than to put their name to this muck. It is marginally better with food but that is only because it is bland and inoffensive and doesn’t detract from what you are eating.

1/5





Rocking Rudolph 4.2% Seasonal Ale

15 11 2010

Greene King launched Rocking Rudolph as a seasonal ale in time for Christmas 2008.

It wasn’t launched directly under the Greene King name but rather under Hardy’s and Hanson’s who were traditionally a Nottingham based brewery but were snapped up by GK in 2006 and since then their beers have been brewed in Bury St Edmunds.

The label on this beer is quite striking, if not quite to my liking; it shows rudolph sporting an Elvis quiff and playing a guitar and has a very modern CGI like look to it. One thing is for sure you would have to be blind not to realise this was a beer for christmas.

The beer pours to a nice dark ruby colour with a very small thin white head, sadly this vanishes away to nothing within a minute or so of being poured.

There is very little if anything of an aroma to this beer which is always  a let down as it usually implies a lack of taste as well…

Guess what there is no real taste to this beer either! When I think of a Christmas ale I am thinking of sherry or rum and rich fruit cake with caramel sweetness and a hint of spice and citrus.

I am certainly not thinking of a general vague maltiness not a single identifiable flavour and just a slight bitterness towards the finish

The body of this beer is a real let down, it is just wet, there is no oomph to it at all. This really isn’t helped by the fact that the carbonation is very flat indeed.

This is only the 3rd beer that I have been unable to finish, there isn’t anything that is overly bad or unpleasant about it but I might as well have been drinking tap water.

1/5





The Nutshell – Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

11 11 2010

According to the Guinness Book of Records the Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk is the smallest pub in the UK.

 Whether this is the case or not is up for dispute as at least 2 other pubs that I am aware of make the same claim, either way it is bloody small, about 15ft x 7ft according to the barman.

You can fit about 15 people in The Nutshell in moderate comfort but the record stands at a massive 102 back in 1984, having spent many evenings in the Nutshell all I can say is I hope they all knew each other well, if they didn’t prior to going in they did when they came out!

There is an awful lot to look at in the Nutshell, especially considering it is such a small pub, there is a stags head on one wall and there used to be a stuffed black cat as well, apparently it was found during renovations bricked up behind an old chimney!

Unsurprisingly as it is only 5 minutes down the road Greene King is well represnted in the Nutshell with their I.P.A and Abbott Ale always in residence.

The Nutshell is always popular with tourists and during the summer months can be a bit busy regardless of when you pop in, the rest of the time it is just a regular local pub, all be it in miniature.

Well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.





Greene King Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale

30 04 2010

Strong Suffolk is one of the many  offerings from thriving Bury St Edmunds based brewers, Greene King.

At 6% it is the strongest of the beers in their range and as the label states it is a vintage ale (old ale).

Here is how Greene King describe Strong Suffolk:

A blend of two ales: Old 5X , which is brewed to the maximum strength possible (around 12% abv) and left to mature in 100-barrel oak vats for a minimum of two years, and BPA, a dark, full-bodied freshly brewed beer which is added just before bottling. The result is a unique beer – strong (6% abv), dark, fruity, oaky and very, very special.”

The fact that this is a blend of what by themselves are both very fine beers should really start to set the scene that this really is a top notch drink.

Due to the size of Greene King it is quite easy to find Strong Suffolk available as a bottled  beer in any number of supermarkets and off licenses throughout the UK and abroad, however if you are lucky enough to find it on draught than that is even more of a treat.

I had previously never seen Strong Suffolk on tap outside of  Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding area (for a while I worked at the Greene King brewery in the town) However I have recently seen it on the ramp at a couple of Wetherspoons in London and Oxford; Wetherspoons always seem to have a large offering of Greene King beers with the usual culprits of Abbot Ale and IPA near enough always in residence.

&The bottle features the instantly recognisable  Greene King Logo reminding us that they have been in the business of making beer since way back in 1799, the main image is of one the aforementioned oak vats being paid a visit by the brewmaster. 

You can also find the vintage of the beer on the label, in this particular case a 2001 When poured it is a very clear dark brown colour with a slightly reddish tint to it, there isn’t really much of a head and it is only very very lightly carbonated so in that regards is very much like a traditional draught beer.

The first thing you will notice from this beer is that there isn’t really much of an aroma to it but the flavour is certainly there! It is a very fruity yet savoury beer with flavours of oak, malt, old sherry, banana and an almost leathery taste, the flavours develop as you are drinking it and there is a strong bitter /  sweet taste with the bitterness proving to be very refreshing and remaining for quite a while afterwards

This is a beer that really packs a punch, both in terms of flavour and strength, at 6.0% A.B.V you wouldn’t want to have too many in one sitting! It is big and full bodied and goes really well with food, particularly traditional hearty British favourites such as a good strong cheddar or some nice roast beef.

Overall there is nothing disappointing about a pint of Strong Suffolk and it is a rewarding beer that will become a firm favourite.








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