5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival – Blackfriars Priory.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,

 

Amidst the background buzz of the conversation of friends and fellow beer and cider enthusiasts alike, the names of quality craft ale and ciders from great small producers punctuated the hubbub like little siren calls in the glorious afternoon sunshine. These sirens shouts popped out of the hum filling the square and rooms of the festival like echoes as those lucky people drinking great craft ale and cider mulled over the taste and colour of the cup presently under consumption.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Ready to go at Blackfriars Priory.

There cannot be a grander, more historic place to hold a festival to celebrate the great taste of craft beers and cider. Where once the harmonic utterings of Dominican friars echoed around the ancient quadrangle – now lovers of beer and cider, studied the form of the festival card. Some with a plan of just which beers they hoped to sample in half or third measures and some with a more randomised approach.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Runners and Riders. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Good beer and good conversation are made for each other. Beers were sipped and sampled, occasionally exchanged for taste, held skyward for  comparison of their amber hues now illuminated in the bright blue of the glorious city centre Friday. The combination of the buzz and the wonderful acoustics of the priory square filtered out just about all noise from the city that is wrapped around this ancient monument.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Early Doors on Day One. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

It’s a true oasis in Gloucester city life insulated from the noise and traffic smell of the workday commuting. Friday welcomes many local CAMRA members and beer lovers from further afield. Many locals had used their GL residents cards to proudly claim the discounts on offer but all were glad to be back in the Cathedral to Beer now in its fifth year and fast becoming part of the history of the city itself.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Stag Day starter. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Wye Valley Brewery were one of the the main event sponsors bringing the fabulous Lady Marmalade, Daisy Duke and their HPA, Chepstow’s Baa Brewery where there with a best bitter and , in this anniversary period of the crossings,  Two Bridges. The great forest brewer, Hillside were here of course with a couple of light beers, HCL and a new brew Don’t Stop.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Basking in the Spring sunshine. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

The chosen charity for the event this year was the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge and their events manager David was on hand to tell everyone about the charity but with strict instructions not to sign up any new members under the influence. That would have been a good  night wouldn’t it, to wake in the fug from the night before only to realise that somehow, you had become a member! It’s a great charity, with a great restaurant incidentally, and very close to our hearts so well done Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival.

Spring sunshine at the 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival historic Blackfriars Priory.

Beer festivals aren’t a headlong dash into oblivion and debauchery. They are an appreciation and days of revelry mixed with self-education and shared passions, particularly Fridays, which seems to attract many more CAMRA members. Here there is a like-minded convivial group with whom to shared passions for the craft of beer and cider and the industry and skill of small producers across the country.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Ten deep at the bar. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Whatever their style all sampled and tasted a fabulous range from Porter through session to light craft beers by breweries such as…….For lovers of the apple, great names and great ciders abounded. Many single varieties were in evidence like Gwatkins’ Yarlington Mill and Weston’s with County Perry.

Visitors ranged from far and wide. Many travelling in by train or with designated driver from the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley and
even a large group from the states visiting Gloucestershire for the first time had heard about the festival and called to check it out and sample the beers on offer.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Those in need of sustenance had burgers and hotdogs available in the quadrangle and a really well stocked cheese bar in the refectory. Well stocked and well-chosen with some great local cheeses on offer including our own favourite Charles Martell Gloucester. Accompaniments included chutney and celery and fabulous pickled eggs made near Stroud.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Dinosaur eggs for sale with cheese. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Finally some post-match stats for you hot off the press from the organisers. Over 1700 people attended over the two days, with 90 and 92% sales on beer and Cider/Perry respectively – a great success for a great event!

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Voting for best beers went as follows: IN reverse order ladies and gentleman, boys and girls in third place Imperial Porter. In second place Millionaire Stout and the winner of Best Beer of the Festival went to Stouty McStoutface from Mad Dog Brewing in Monmouthshire.

All three winners being dark stouts and porters (we started the day with half of Old Moor Porter from Acorn Brewing) is a really interesting indication of where the craft beer market is going.

It’s research Jim, but not as we know it: 

Read our previous article on the event here

Watch our time-lapse of the set up here

http://www.gloucesterbeerfestival.org.uk/

Twitter @GlosBeerFest

Beer Festival Facebook page

The Queens Head Micro pub, Chepstow

Queens Head micro pub
Lights back on at the Queens Head

 

On the face of it the last thing Chepstow needed a couple of years go in the high street economic climate of the day was another pub. Why then is Glen Ellis’ Queens Heads micropub on Moor Street in this quiet border town, still going strong?

In an age when reality TV delivers anything but reality, people have become jaundiced by tripe served as prime beef steak. This group of people, who are largely immune to advertising, are known by the red spectacle wearing advertising crowd, as the Millennial Generation. Traditional methods of advertising conjury don’t work on this group – a phenomenon so worrying to TV market traders that actual scientific research has been done into this disconcerting group. They are sometimes defined as “native digital” (Forbes magazine) and the first generation to have grown up with digital communication and social media rather than mainstream media. But, whatever age you are, you may be one of them.

People don’t change and they know genuine when they see it. And you could never accuse this great little pub tucked into the row just above the town gate and next to the Police Station of being anything other than good and honest! Walk into the single room bar and it feels like a pub. The wooden bar, tables and seats have the homely warm glow that only good old solid wood can offer, a rough timber post props up the roof while a ramshackle shelf, just about, holds thick tomes on craft beer. The timber floor leads to a decoratively carved bar and the bare stone walls are decorated in beer mats and other treatise to drink good beer. The pub strap line is the famous Hunter S. Thompson quote “Good people drink good beer” – I thank you.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micropub

There’s a good reason for all this architectural pub bonhomie. It’s in the building DNA.  It was The Queen’s Head for many years but was closed as a pub for about 20 years (it had a midlife crisis and became a hairdresser, clothes shop and an office in the intervening years). Glen found it on the property website Rightmove and fell in love with it and the town of Chepstow. Having secured the change of use back to a pub he has just sort of revived it in a way, brought it back to life with a real ale defibrillator in a craft beer paramedic kind of a way. The bar is actually an old church altar, Glen purchased before ever finding an actual venue for his dream micro pub.  The carving IHS in the middle stands for the first 3 letters of Jesus’ name in Greek. The Alpha symbol on the left stands for the first, and the Omega symbol on the right for the last. So, ladies and gentlemen, please step up to the altar of great Welsh beer.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micropub

In many ways what you see today is the manifestation of Glen’s lifelong dream. Now 34 years old and married to Catherine with a 9 month old daughter called Ivy, Glen has worked in pubs since university days. Back in the day when you could choose how you spent the student grant, Glen invested very wisely in an appreciation of good beer and he’s had – important word here – passion for Real Ale ever since.  After university Glen worked at his mum and dads (The Tower Hotel in Talgarth), running the public bar for them which is where all of that academic research became practical experience and customer service.

Don’t get the idea that this is some sort of beardy man cave though. This is a pub for all, young old, couples, workers – all are welcome and the common denominator is that they like a proper pub for proper people who like their beer to be interesting and taste of something. We chatted to Jon at the bar during “early doors” on Friday. He owns Toytastic the toyshop nearby and calls in for a pint after work. OK, he has got a beard, but otherwise he’s largely normal and very charming. Mike runs Trans Wales Trails, horseback trail riding based near Pengenffordd at the foot of the Black Mountains. He is a regular customer in my Mum and Dads pub at Talgarth where Glen learned his trade craft in working a bar. Mike always calls in on his occasional visits to Chepstow from the hills above Pengenffordd .There’s a northern saying that you can’t stand in a pub there for more than a minute without someone talking to you. At the Queens Head – make that a few seconds and after a few seconds more the regulars will also be congratulating you on your discerning choice of hostelry and telling you what a great pub this is.

Queens Head micropub
Queens Head micropub

Generally and not unreasonably being situated in Wales, Glen offers a wide and ever changing range of beers and ciders from the home nation. He’s a bit of an authority on small Welsh beers in fact and something of an almanac on the breweries they are made in. There’s a “when it’s gone, it’s changed” approach to stock and the result is a roving travelogue of Welsh craft beer, ably assisted and illustrated by a chalk board map of Wales hanging on the wall. It’s not all about Welsh beer though and when the context allows – like the Six Nations Rugby you’ll find suitably partisan guest beers from your own backyard.

There is of course good beer and cider, a warm and genuine welcome from a knowledgeable and enthusiastic landlord and great Welsh beers. But, there is something here that not all pubs have got. There was good conversation at the bar with nice and interesting people. You could hear what was being said because there’s no “musak” or escalating irritating digital pings or distracting light show from a Tardis in the corner offering Las Vegas style riches at the pull of a handle.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micro pub

There are difficult choices of where to start given the range of beers on offer. You could of course go the logical/analytical route and start on the left working your way across during the night or, more responsibly, you could opt for the Queens Head beer tapas. Tapas (sampling the beers in third of pint measures) will be familiar to anyone who has been to a big beer festival, like the upcoming CAMRA Gloucester event (article coming soon). It helps you sample several new beers, without turning the evening into a train wreck. We tried Grey Trees’ JPR, a very nice IPA beer from the Cynon Valley of South Wales (Cynon Valley lies between Rhondda and the Merthyr Valley).

In Italy all bars offer “Aperitvo” to the early evening crowd, often vying with neighbouring bars for the reputation of the best or tastiest. It’s just a complimentary selection of tasty nibbles to go with a few drinks after work. It suits the Italian psyche of food at every opportunity, enjoyment, talking and above all – welcome. The Queens Head does it Gwent style with short dated food on the “offers” shelf from Marks & Spencer’s across the road – plump and tasty sausage rolls the night we were in!

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micro pub

When the new M & S opened about a year ago, regulars from the pub started doing their bit to reduce the food waste mountain by bringing in reduced price bargains to share out amongst the other patrons. Thus, the Yellow Label Club was born. In the Queens, as all over Italy, competition has set in and the goal to find the item with the greatest reduction is now a grudge match. Currently in the lead is another Mike who found a Banquet Pie reduced from £25 to £2.50.

There is a movement to “Save our Pubs”, a fine cause and never a more relevant sentiment than now. You can do your bit too – by drinking in them! Occasional aperitivo is one other way the Queens rolls out the welcome carpet. Saving pubs is important because we are only just now realising that the plight of all those great pubs, now gone, was a litmus, a precursor to what’s now happening in our high streets.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micro pub

Going for a beer is many things. Going for a quick beer after work is a specific thing. It’s an opportunity to unwind and put the working day behind you before going home to family. Psychologists would say that it’s a chance for the brain to compartmentalise whatever has happened in the day as “work”, provide a clear separation between work and home and also to stop you boring the pants off the family with tales of the widget you made today that mysteriously appeared with the face of Jesus on it.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micro pub

Perhaps though the Millennial Generation should be redefined? Perhaps they are in realty just a group of cross-generational discerning men and women who use their powers of research to seek out places like the Queens Head they heard about on the grapevine, who don’t need the hype but instead rely on their own ability to go there and use their eyes and quality of judgement to recognize the real deal when they see it.

Queens Head micropub
Queens Head micropub

We’ll be writing all of our Grand Tour Wye Valley postcards from here in the future…..

Head over to Glen’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/queensheadchepstow/ and hit the “Like” button to support the pub. If you are part of the Twitterati – you’ll need this  @QueensChepstow you know what to do.

12 Moor Street, Chepstow. Call 07793 889613

Finest Hour

 

Walk amongst the living remnants of history to enjoy the Great British craft beer and cider of today.

 

beer, craft beer, Finest Hour, Hillside Brewery, David Broadbent Photography, Summerhouse Studios,
Hillside Breweries craft special beer “Finest Hour” in support of the Royal British Legion to be launched at Gloucester Beer Festival.

Beer o’clock comes around awful soon doesn’t it? Yes it’s time to again to say “all hail to the ale” at the Gloucester city centre hidden historical secret – it’s the Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival at Blackfriars Priory on 22nd to 23rd April organised by Gloucester CAMRA.

This cathedral to the art of craft ale and cider making will once again open its hallowed doors of the cavernous hall and welcome beer fans from across the county and indeed the country. We visited last year and had a great time. The live music was good, the atmosphere was wonderful and it was nice to chat to the festival goers and absorb all that beer appreciation and chilled out vibe this festival always promotes.

The sad news is that Hillside Breweries “Anzac” the craft special brewed in support of the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for last year’s event   is no more. Personally, I think that’s a shame since I loved it so much and always came home with a few whenever I was passing the Hillside Brewery shop at the Longhope hilltop redoubt. You never know what the future holds though – so there is always hope.

Lots of good news though in that the same great organisation (Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal) is the charity beneficiary again this year, and that Hillside have done it again and made another very tasty beer for the event. A little less ABV (3.6%) for this one to sit it firmly into the session beer category – we give you, Hillsides “Finest Hour”, ta da.

Hillsides impressive and decidedly upmarket new labels now also list the hops used in each brew. Hops, which is some case are completely new and could even be called experimental, all sourced from their usual long standing hop grower. Jester, Olicana and First Gold in Finest hour to give it a very pleaseant and subtle note with those hints of the tropical again for the more discerning nose. The symbol of the Poppy Appeal is also proudly displayed on the label so that too is a refreshing change to some of the PC and very weak excuses we hear for the bland nowadays. We? Well we just loved the taste and we think it’s going to be a real hit at the festival and beyond!

Honestly if you’ve never been to the festival before you are missing a real treat. If you like to weave in and out of very local people looking upward with their mouths open proclaiming that they “never knew this was here” you’ll realise just what a hidden treasure Blackfriars is (see our article on last years event). If you appreciate sampling the wealth of craft beers and cider available as an explosive reaction to the mass produced mega-brewery fayre this is the place to be. Or if you just fancy a nice afternoon in the city, chilling out with friends and a couple of beers, then fill your boots – you are going to love it and make space in your calendar for future events.

 

Links

http://www.gloucesterbeerfestival.org.uk/

http://www.hillsidebrewery.com/

Provisional beer list as at 26th March is here http://www.gloucesterbeerfestival.org.uk/index.php/real-ale/ales/

Twitter feed for the festival @GlosBeerFest

An Inn Reborn

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
The Crown at Whitchurch

 

We’ve been very busy conducting some investigative journalism in the Dean Wye lately. We’ve been looking at pubs! We’ve got some great articles with a very different slant lined up for you this year including our quest for our favourite and very best pub!

All in this very good cause, we called in for a chat with the new owners of the Crown at Whitchurch. You’ll have noticed if you have passed by recently that they have a jazzy new sign in the car park and a sparkling paint job to the exterior. This though is no, superficial facelift. There is serious change afoot in The Crown at Whitchurch and this is just the start of bringing a traditional coaching inn back to its former glory.

Coaching Inns have been around ever since people starting moving around. A place to stage a long journey and relax, get something to eat and drink, recharge those batteries, chat to fellow travellers and smell the sweet malt and hops from the on-site brewery in the sheds out back. Coaching inns existed because of the road and when journeys were long and arduous, the road needed the coaching inn. So useful was the concept that small communities started to build up around them. No Roman way station on the least travelled backwater road would be without one!

When we started to move the roads because we needed bigger high capacity highways two things happened; the vital importance and the necessity of the coaching inn was retained and service stations where born, which we all know serve only the best quality food with great service and at a very reasonable price……Mmmmm; The second was that all those lovely old traditional wayside inns were left stranded, beached like ocean going vessels when the tide had gone out, along way, and for good. Those with a village live on, but those without – who knows how many we’ve lost.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Comfy and inviting bar. The Crown at Whitchurch

Walk into The Crown at Whitchurch and you get an instant feeling of homeliness. In fact before you get in, that feeling starts. Its position, which would have dominated the old village cross roads, looks imposing and no less so today, even with the A40 traffic whizzing by. Outside under the veranda red and black chequer laid tiles hint at a Victorian innovation, the steel table and chairs cast interesting shadows in the low winter sun and the main door has that solid weight of history hanging off the hinges. Once inside the interior is surprisingly open plan, yet still very intimate, the bright and well stocked bar to the right isn’t the thing which catches your eye first, it’s the sexy Swedish log burner glowing attractively in the heath. Around it there is a shabby chic mismatch of furniture, comfortable and upholstered on a pleasing theme. A draughts board is set out ready for play on a small table below a small window and it’s invitingly snug cushion. The large window fills the bar with light and the bar itself glitters with Wye Valley Brewery beers and a chic stage-lit spirits collection – we can hear the cocktail shaker now!

Wye Valley Brewery ales. The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Wye Valley Brewery ales. The Crown at Whitchurch

To the left, the very simple and very pleasant restaurant again with an eclectic collection of tables, chairs and tableware, awaits seated diners, although this is set for refurbishment before Easter.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Very inviting. The Crown at Whitchurch

And so just how do you breathe life back into a coaching house? Step one; have a lot of passion about it. Step two; have a vision. Three: get a good team behind you who share your passion. Nicola and Tom do not lack passion for the place! And so has the team. They already know most of them well because most of them are family, no we actually mean family. Apart from Nicola and Tom, there is Samara (daughter) as front of house manager and so it goes on, Tom’s brother and niece, Nicola’s son and other daughter and a niece on patisserie! We not even sure that’s all of them!

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
The Crown at Whitchurch

Back to what’s happening for 2016. As we’ve said the bar sparkles with the glittering hand pumps of Wye Valley Brewery Butty Bach and Dorothy Goodbody as well as locally made ciders and all the components of a great cocktail bar on the back. The main craft ales are feature beers and so change regularly – always worth a re-visit then. At the moment food is great pub food but Nicola tells us that Owain Jones, their 25 year old Welsh but South African classically trained chef is chaffing at the bit to do more. It show’s in the specials, Owain is putting his classical training and previous experience (Llangoed Hall restaurant) for inventiveness to good use. He’s already established a great Sunday Roast – not to be missed – and in the week we visited the bar special was confit duck! For the upcoming Six Nations Rugby, (which The Crown will be showing) there is a bar menu in tune with the playing nations. Great homemade Fish and Chips and Aberdeen Angus burgers for the England Scotland match for example. They are also just starting their Phileas Fogg inspired world tour too. “Around the World in Eight Weeks” kicked off with Indian and Mexican so check out their web site for what’s next before it’s too late and you’ve missed the balloon.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Old Ross Road. The Crown at Whitchurch

With a full refurbishment of the already pretty restaurant planned to open at Easter, no doubt Owain will allowed to go for it – we definitely look forward to seeing what he comes up with and we’ll be bringing you a full report on the menu tests.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Huff!

All in all we like what’s happening at The Crown at Whitchurch. So do the customers and the bar and restaurant is beginning to establish it’s own steady and loyal band of locals and visitors. Nicola and Tom have clearly thought out what they want to do and how they want the place to look which is reflected in the décor. The plan for their 21st century coaching inn (the bar is as big as the restaurant) is to develop it as a great pub but also a great place to eat.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Front terrace. The Crown at Whitchurch

When you walk in to The Crown at Whitchurch It has a very welcoming colour scheme and it’s also very light and airy. But somehow it doesn’t feel overly trendy, it’s not trying too hard, it feels…….well, nice….., comfortable, familiar……., like home, like a place you would want to sit, have a drink, something to eat and wait for the next stage coach instead.

 

What about these beauties!

IMG_3235

Not just craft in the beer as these elegant new Forest Oak pump handles newly installed in the Speech House Hotel show. All from a chance meeting between Paul Williamson at Hillside Brewery and the Forest of Dean Wood Turning Group no doubt over some sort of sampling opportunity. And so the challenge was laid down to the group members to get creative with the lathe and bingo the winning entry was installed on the famous forest hotel bar. It wasn’t easy though as the members had inspired and the competition was tough.

IMG_3232

We chatted to Paul Hannaby at the wood turning club who told us; The club meets at Weston-Under-Penyard village hall on the third Wednesday of the month. We have twenty five members and the club is thriving with a full and active programme. The beer pump handles came about from a chance meeting with Paul at the Dean Heritage Centre. The brewery thought it would be a good idea if the woodturning club could make some beer pump handles. Paul thought that wood was likely to produce a handle more in keeping with their artisan beers. A subsequent brewery visit and tour was organised to confirm dimensions (of course – Ed) and the challenge was made even more interesting by the brewery prizes of local ales for the best handles. A total of eleven handles were entered in the competition. The brewery team loved them all. They eventually selected their favourites and a prize of a case of 12 bottles of beer was awarded for each of these handles Every other handle won 6 bottles. First prize was taken by Jeff Belcher who accepted the case of beer graciously.

Both businesses, Hillside and The Speech House, are both committed to sourcing locally wherever that is possible and so the first fine pair of handles are a real pleasure for both Peter Hands and Paul. In fact, Paul was so impressed these handles will used to pull beer from any of the pubs who stock Hillside beer. A real case of a craft handle to pour a craft ale – now, how many local artisan glass blowers do we know?………..

IMG_3236

 

All images supplied by Hillside Brewery

 

 

 

Food Pairing Update

As an update to our blog of 18th August about the, then upcoming, Food and Beer Pairing event hosted by Harts Barn Cookery School and Hillside Brewery we caught up with Paul Williamson and Yvette Farrell to see how it all went.

Paul; the evening was a great success, with lovely feedback from our 40 visitors. The atmosphere was great too, very lively with great food and beer, with a fun interactive pub quiz based on beer throughout the evening.  Derek Orford, Master Brewer & Beer Sommelier, kept everyone entertained and informed with his wisdom and deep knowledge discussing the beer and food pairing. The food of course, (menu and food created by the talented Yvette Farrell) was a complete hit! Check out the menu in our previous blog post Food & Drink Pairing

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Unashamed plug time

Paul says; Hillside is an exciting brewery running green sustainable brewing methods with a wide range of beer & craft ales. It’s a family owned and run company, based in the Forest of Dean on a stunning 40 acre farm. We opened in May 2014 and have since received over 16 awards. We offer Brewery tours & tasting, team building days including additional fun activities, cookery classes and more! We also have an onsite shop selling our beers, merchandise, and local produce such as wine and chutneys and even beer ice cream! We are the perfect location for the perfect day out! We pride ourselves in producing high quality ales in small batches of the finest ingredients using traditional methods which have been developed and mastered over a lifetime. We want to change people’s perception of beer and what can be achieved. We are dedicated to sustainable brewing and we want to share our passion for great beer with you.
Yvette; Harts Barn Cookery School launched in 2011 and have gone from strength to strength. We believe in the ‘socialisation’ of food, bringing people together whether they are learning a new skill in the kitchen to sitting down and enjoying the fruits of their labours. Most of all though, we believe in the food, the freshness, the quality, the flavours, the localism and above all, great ingredients cooked simply to produce the finest plate from the Forest & Wye.

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Upcoming Events for food and beer lovers.

Check out both websites for full events listings this autumn and winter.

Have a beer and warm your cockles by the fire – Hillside bonfire night on Friday 6th
November, Christmas Market 5th and 6th December and a Christmas carol service on Friday 18th December.

Harts Barn have published their Supper Club schedule with “Indian and the 80’s” on 30th October, “Asian Flavours” on 27th November, Traditional Christmas Supper – several dates and a homage to the apple at their Wassail on 15th January 2016.

 

 

Beer and Food Pairing

 

Two of the most enjoyable meals I have ever had have been tasting menus where the accompanying drinks were skilfully and expertly selected specifically for me course by course.

Start with a great and characterful menu of interesting ingredients and then pair your chosen tipple to the specific flavours, acidity, sweetness and aromas of the food – Genius! Many of you may have had similar experiences but it doesn’t just have to be about wine. Lots of great, and sometimes surprising, combinations work and appeal to the palate enhancing the flavours of the food and the accompanying drink. The skill is in the pairing. Occasionally this happens by accident (see our Ice wine and pizza article) but it’s much more successfully achieved by experts! Those clever local food people at Harts Barn and ace beer brewers at Hillside have teamed up to prove it to you in a fab event coming in September.

Too often in this country what we eat and drink is often dictated by our perceptions that something is more acceptable or more sophisticated than something else. We want to be seen by others to have good taste and to understand the finer things. For a long time this meant wine, and specifically French wine and the majority of British people, feeling they lacked sufficient knowledge on the subject, used price as an indicator of quality and sophistication. Then a few Australian’s smashed in the door at “Le Bistro” and proved the complete nonsense of that with big bold flavours in deep gorgeous reds that wouldn’t break the bank. Take another example and look back fifteen years to the lowly reputation of the Spanish classic – Rioja, and then take a look at the supermarket prices of today.

The point is times change and things move on. And this is what is happening in the beer and cider marketplace. The dominance of the big factories, like a medieval castle before gunpowder, can’t be easily or quickly overturned but it can be undermined, chipped away at and laid siege too. In the UK and across Europe, notably in Italy, people are making great craft beer again in ever growing numbers. Our new perceptions are that craft beer it is cool, tasty and sophisticated. Trendy young men and women in designer suits in shiny, busy London bars choose craft beer from around the UK as their wind-down Friday drink of choice whilst chatting about – well who knows what. There’s not a beard or a pullover in site! Although in fairness full beards are very much in fashion so we’ll withdraw that.

The timing is perfect for beer to come out of the shadows in the UK and step toward the front of stage where it belongs. In the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley we are ahead of that curve, we’re in the vanguard and the reason shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – we have great natural ingredients and we use them simply but superbly in keeping with our unashamedly rural and no nonsense approach, ‘erm, a bit like Provence in fact if you are feeling the need for a sophisticated interlude from yesteryear!

Jolly-Jester

And so, in the spirit of all of this Yvette Farrell from Harts Barn will be on the hobs and larder whilst the ever likeable Derek, master beer sommelier from Hillside, has been drawing beer from the impressive May Hill cellar to bring you an evening of fun and learning where the food is paired to the beer – just as it should be.

 

Menu

Pinnacle (Pale Ale) – Stinking Bishop & pear canapés with May Hill Orchard Chutney

HCL (Craft Lager) – Wye salmon ceviche served on a lettuce cup

Over The Hill (Dark Mild) – Pulled Venison marinated in Over the Hill ale, bramble sirop with thyme & juniper

Legend of Hillside (English IPA) – Wild boar garam masala bites with forest herb flatbread

Jolly Jester (Belgian tripel) – Sticky toffee pudding & Jolly Jester Beer ice cream

Legless Cow (Best Bitter) – Local cheese board with beer crackers

Vegetarian:

Pinnacle (Pale Ale) – Stinking Bishop & pear canapés with May Hill Orchard Chutney

HCL (Craft Lager) – Sweet smoked paprika homemade ricotta cups

Over The Hill (Dark Mild) – Roasted tomato pesto with marinated Portobello mushroom

Legend of Hillside (English IPA) – Paneer, chickpea & spinach garam masala bites with forest herb flatbread

Jolly Jester (Belgian tripel) – Sticky toffee pudding & Jolly Jester beer ice cream

Legless Cow – Local cheese board with beer crackers

 

Friday 25th September 2015 7pm to 10pm at Hillside Brewery, Holly Bush Farm, Ross Road, Longhope GL17 0NG

Go to https://www.facebook.com/hillsidebrewery?fref=ts for details and booking via Eventbrite

Hillside Brewery goes from ABV to ABV

 

We were lucky enough to be invited to the launch of several new Hillside Brewery products last night! And what a very nice evening it was. Paul Williamson introduced three new products from his ever popular and ever growing brewery on the hill at Longhope, Gloucestershire.

Proof that Paul has Hillside Brewery written right through him.

Firstly we had the new HCL craft lager – that’s right lager – (4.3% ABV), served only slightly chilled so that all of the fabulous fruit aromas could come through. Next up, The Forest Falcon (4.6% ABV), a lovely golden ale with hints of spice and cherries. And, finally we had the introduction of Hillsides first foray into cider making with the HR8 & GL17  (6.4% ABV), a traditional cloudy farmhouse cider with a tangy, dry sharpness made from 100% apples – a real treat and one to watch for sure.

As Paul gave a presentation on the new products and chatted informally about them, family and staff from the brewery made sure that everyone’s glasses were charged to accompany the tasting notes. Here then, was a masterclass for the assembled beer aficionado’s in the production of craft ales (and now cider) from the beer geniuses up on the hill.

Paul Williamson launches new beers launch at Hillside Brewery.
Tasting and nibbles in the run up to presentations.

Also on hand to add even more interest to this very educational event was Mark Andrews from Charles Faram, hop factors, growers and merchants. Mark followed a short presentation with a lively Q&A session particularly on the new world beating experimental hops in development at the Herefordshire Farm. The Forest Falcon is the very first beer to use these hops in a commercial product!!

Paul Williamson launches new beers launch at Hillside Brewery.
Lively and informal Q&A session.

Paul Williamson finished the presentations with a quick recap of the last year at the Gloucestershire brewery (Hillside recently turned 1) before teasing the audience with the plans for the next 12 months. Plans, which included a home brewing completion where the winner will get to brew their winning recipe at Hillside! Paul and his team have already been tipped as one of the country’s top 4 new breweries to watch by a leading beer writer and this evening did nothing to dent our confidence that this is a craft producer going places.

But enough with education; Paul finished with the, all important and oft neglected, health benefits of beer drinking (in moderation) before the bread and cheese and a few more beer and cider tastings. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Tuesday evening.

Paul Williamson launches new beers launch at Hillside Brewery.
Relaxed atmosphere in the barn.

If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by reading this article and being missed off the invitation list for this launch event, make sure that you follow Paul and his endeavours via the web and their social media and I’m sure in return, you’ll get invited to the next one…..

 https://www.facebook.com/hillsidebrewery?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/Hillsidebrewery

#deanwye #craftale #craftcider

Happy Birthday Hillside!

Hillside, Paul WIlliamson, beer, real ale, craft ale, venue, party, music, bar,

 

Our lovely friends up at Hillside Brewery are 1 year old!! And to prove it they threw a great party, “The Hillside Sausage & Ale Festival” in their spacious bar/barn/venue/dance hall – not quite sure what official name it has, but it accommodates all of the aforementioned.

Hillside, Paul WIlliamson, beer, real ale, craft ale, venue, party, music, bar,
Sausage Fest!

The Sausage & Ale Festival was a great success and the party goers spilled out onto the sun drenched terrace on a fabulous Saturday in the Forest of Dean. Anzac; Legend; Pinnacle and Legless Cow were all available on draft. Their other beers were all available in bottles and the fully stocked bar catered for every other taste, including “fruit based drinks for the ladies” – Al Murray pub landlord on wine.

With live music from the Hillside Stage throughout the day, the event started with a real party atmosphere. First up on stage was The Six Foot Way – the raucous Irish folk band from Cinderford. We also had a solo set from the lovely Lydia Borg and a couple of sets from the Ukes uv Hazzard collective. Headliners were Vapor, with the fabulously voiced Onika Patterson smoothing over some classic reggae and soul tracks, making them her own.

1A6P8545 comp

Vapor last played on the Hillside Stage back in February when we all felt the chill wind of living atop May Hill. Since then, the Hillside crew have been busy installing amazing see through wind screens on the open doors, which eliminate the wind without cutting down the light. And the overhead heaters (which have always been there) now work fantastically that the wind has gone making the barn a great place for parties.

1A6P8622

The sausage part of the deal came in the form of Cameron’s Butchers traditional and chilli sausages as hot dogs with chips – just what was needed for between-beers sustenance. A great mix of locals; real ale lovers; Paul’s friends and family and visitors alike – the visitors from London and Southampton were duly awarded the furthest travellers prize. All eight of them called in on spec and stayed all night!

All in all it was a great party and the Hillside field (superb views) was given over to camping for the party goers so no-one had to drive or taxi, if they didn’t want to. Camping is something that will be on offer at selected future events so follow Hillsides Facebook page or website for details.

 

 

Legless Cow’s now available at Speech House Hotel.

 

The Speech House Hotel is the most iconic hotel in the Forest of Dean. Situated, as it is, at the very heart of the Forest of Dean and housing the ancient home of Britain’s oldest court has made it well known, and well loved by all. Nowadays, it’s equally well known for the adjacent Speech House field, home to the Forest Activities Festival, the Forest Showcase and the grand annual Fireworks night display events to name, but a few.

In charge at the hotel, husband and wife team, Peter & Gill Hands, run a tight ship with customer satisfaction unashamedly front and centre of everything they do. And the latest big news is that Hillside Brewery’s traditional IPA style best bitter – Legless Cow – is well and truly re-homed in the Speech House bar and on draught.  The beer, named for the healthy appreciation the cattle up at Hillside have for the spent grain from the brewing process, has already sold out the first delivery. We caught up with Peter Hands, and Paul Williamson from Hillside as he delivered the next consignment.

Peter Hands of The Speech House Hotel takes delivery of Hillside Brewery Legless Cow ale, by Paul Williamson.
Peter Hands of The Speech House Hotel takes delivery of Hillside Brewery Legless Cow ale, by Paul Williamson.

The ever ebullient host Peter, who has only recently made his Twitter debut, has been having a little bit of “pun” in the Speech House social media channel (@speechhouse) on the Legless Cow theme. He started with “There’s a Legless Cow meandering its way to the Speech House. Watch this space for more on its journey.” On a roll and seemingly unstoppable, he waded in with “We are looking forward 2 stabling the Legless Cow at Speech House when Paul rounds her up and drives her down. Moooch joy @Hillsidebrewery.” We hesitate to say finally, because we don’t think he’s done yet, but “Mooovalous this Legless Cow Beer, Prime cut hops. No udder one like it. Cheers from Speech House Bar” – we can hear echoes of – “I thank you, I’m here all week!!”

 

Legless Cow, best bitter, craft ale, CAMRA, Hillside Brewery,
Hillside Brewery Legless Cow. Traditional IPA style best bitter.

 

Peter & Gill have always been supporters of local food and drink businesses. We last chatted to Peter at the inaugural Tourism Association event See, Taste, Buy in the spring where he was chatting to local suppliers to see, taste and, where possible, source good local produce. Paul from Hillside was there, but the two were already acquainted by that time. We chatted to Peter about the latest introduction to the Speech House bar:

WyeDean Deli Confidential: “So, Hillside Brewery’s Legless Cow on draught.”

Peter Hands: “I love Legless Cow and the name still brings a smile to my face. We love what Hillside are trying to do and we’d love to be able to say that a much larger part of our stock is sourced from the DeanWye and other local producers with low food miles.”

WyeDean Deli Confidential: “What are the drawbacks or the hurdles in trying to achieve that?”

Peter Hands: “Theoretically – none. But we have to offer our customers great service and great quality products in everything we do. One of the key factors on the quality issue, when it comes to local producers, as opposed to national producers,  is consistency. Customers may already know a brand from their travels or they may be coming back to us, as so many do, and they expect that the things they love are the same each and every time. It’s a commercial decision to stock local (and one which we are happy to make), but we can’t accept products which change with the weather – it’s just a guaranteed way to disappoint the customer. That’s why we like Hillside Brewery. We’ve been up there and met Paul and his staff and looked at the operation. We like what they do, we like the fun and the passion they bring to it and we are seriously impressed with the investment they have made to ensure that their beers are top quality – consistently!”

WyeDean Deli Confidential: “Aren’t local products more expensive than big brands?”

Peter Hands: “They don’t have to be. Big brands have definitely got the muscle when it comes to pricing, but we are always looking for the best prices from our suppliers – we have to. And the real key is, yes customers expect value for money, but it’s a mistake to assume that is their only driver, our customers also want quality. It’s also a mistake to assume that customers make those decisions in that order. In my experience quality and taste comes first every time.”

Paul Williamson: “It’s great to hear Peter pick up on the consistency issue. We’ve worked so hard on our recipes to get the quality, depth of flavour and variety into our CAMRA recognised craft ales, but making the best beer in the world is pointless if you can only ever produce one batch of it.”

So, down at Speech House, the welcome is great; the countryside is great; the hotel is great (as is the food) and the bar is well-stocked with great local beers. The jokes – well……….

 

Peter Hands of The Speech House Hotel takes delivery of Hillside Brewery Legless Cow ale, by Paul Williamson.

 

Speech House Hotel ‏ www. thespeechhouse.co.uk  Twitter @speechhouse 

Hillside Brewery www.hillsidebrewery.com Twitter @Hillsidebrewery

If you tweet and want to keep to date with all the news from the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley follow the hashtag #deanwye