What I did on my holidays….

OK so I am probably a little late with my Christmas post and I was wondering if I should bother at all. Then I remembered Christmas is just about the Bierebelle’s favourite time of the beer year. As a Northern lass living in the South of England, I do get a little bored by the prevalence of hoppy session beers. When it comes to ales, I am very much drawn towards the dark side. Porters, stouts and black lagers are this girl’s preferred brews. So Christmas brings a bounty of treats for me. My Christmas is usually split between the beautiful and historic city of York and beside the sea at Whitley Bay.

The North of England really is spoilt for choice when it comes to breweries and bars. Legend has it that York has more than one pub for each of the 365 days of the year. Whether or not that is true, I do know that there is an unusually high number of quality real ale pubs for such a small city. A good place to start is the York Tap (http://www.yorktap.com/), not just because of it’s convenient location in a beautifully restored tea room within the train station but also because of its 20 (yes 20) real ale pumps on the spectacular circular bar. Expect to see Thornbridge, Manchester Marble, Ilkley, Hardknott… and that doesn’t even account for the amazing selection of keg and bottled beers. The Tap is also one of the few places you can sample beers from the Czech brewers, Bernard. My favourite is Bernard Dark, a lager similar to (but I think nicer than) the dark Budvar. Lucky for York, the Tap also has a sister bar, Pivo, where you can find a similar offering in a slightly more intimate setting in the heart of the city.

Of course no visit to York is complete without sampling a pint or two from the only brewery within the city walls (http://www.york-brewery.co.uk/). They own a few pubs in the city but this Christmas I only had time to visit the Yorkshire Terrier on Stonegate where I made the most of being able to drink the amazing Centurion’s Ghost Ale straight from the cask. It’s a very drinkable dark ruby with a subtle fruity taste – just the thing for catching up with old friends. If you are ever interested in learning where Ghost Ale got it’s name, please feel free to ask any York native you meet. It’s a fascinating tale.

The House of Trembling Madness
The House of Trembling Madness

Also on Stonegate, there’s a new kid on the block. The bohemian little brother of the Evil Eye cocktail lounge, The House of Trembling Madness, has quickly captured the hearts of the discerning drinkers of York (http://www.tremblingmadness.co.uk/). This beautiful medieval bar above a rather well-stocked bottle shop is small but has an enviable selection of real ales alongside craft beer from the US and the continent. This is where I tasted my new favourite Christmas beer – Gourdon Carolus Christmas. If you only have one beer next Christmas (goodness knows why), this should be it. It crams every delicious taste and scent of Christmas into one dark, irresistible drink. It’s spicy, complex and rich with cloves, citrus, aniseed…this is what they probably kick back with at the North Pole on Boxing Day. And because they really do know how to spoil us at Trembling Madness, this wasn’t the only Christmas Special on tap. I could also highly recommend Gordon Christmas, Delerium Noel and La Chouffe Christmas. Don’t worry if you have too much of the strong stuff…there is a badger on the wall and he will wink at you when it’s time to go.

I would love to tell you more about my Christmas beer adventures and I’m sure I’ll get around to it soon. As I said, the North is blessed with many great breweries and bars. I still haven’t told you about Guy Fawkes, The Lamb and Lion, Brigantes, Koko… And there’s still the Briar Dene of Whitley Bay and the illustrious pubs of Newcastle. All in good time readers…

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5 thoughts on “What I did on my holidays….

  1. Really good to see more and more girls showing an interest in good beer (hope that doesn’t sound patronising because it’s really not meant to be!).. We’re opening a speciality beer shop in Glasgow later this year and want to encourage as many female customers as possible and help get rid of the beard and belly image. Any advice/tips on how we could do that? We’ve considered female only tasting sessions but not sure if that’s any more appealing than a regular tasting session?

    1. Hi Derek. Pleased to see that there will soon be a good bottle shop in Glasgow as I sometimes find myself up there. Unfortunately, I don’t really know any tips on introducing women to real ale and craft beers – everyone’s different. What I do know is it’s never a good idea to make assumptions and treat people differently according to their gender when it’s not appropriate. For example, when I joined CAMRA my welcome letter was actually different to the one my partner received and it was so patronising I almost asked for a refund on membership. As I recall, it implied I would be more interested in fruit beers, third-pints and food-matching. I have no idea where these assumptions came from since they knew nothing about me! So maybe the best tip is to know your beer, get to know your customer, and get the right beer for the individual (good common sense really). I always appreciate tasting notes as sometimes the labels aren’t obvious and I sometimes feel awkward asking. Also, at beer festivals I have been put off in the past by big beardy men getting served ahead of me because they are loud and pushy and my theory is that they assume sombody is buying a drink for me since I’m a girl and can’t buy for myself so please be mindful of everybody. Sorry if this hasn’t been much help but if I think of anything else I’ll let you know!

  2. No, that is helpful. It pretty much echoes our feelings on the whole thing. For me beer means something different to everybody and and you can never predict what beers a person likes just by looking at them. We just want to provide a wide range of beer styles from a wide range of breweries so that people can experiment and find out what they like for themselves – without anybody telling them what they should drink based on their own (often narrow minded) opinions. We want to provide as much info on our beers as possible and make recommendations based on the flavours people know they like, without forcing our own opinions.

    The reason I asked the question about encouraging more girls along is pretty much because of the common image of craft beers/ales perpetuated by the type of negative experiences you mention above. I know some women may have been put off by things like that and the typical blokey marketing campaigns used by mainstream brewers. We just want everybody to know they can get a good range of beers at our place and we’ll try our best to help them find what they’re looking for no matter who they are. Definitely no patronising fruit beer promotions!

    Anyway good luck with the blog – good stuff so far, Look forward to seeing you in the shop whenever you’re in Glasgow (and whenever we manage to start up!).

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