Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Twixmas 2014

With the exception of 2011 when, for medical reasons, I was off the drink entirely, Christmas 2014 must count as one of the driest Christmases ever – certainly since my mid teens, when I first started drinking! As I described in my previous post, my wife Eileen and I both went down with this flu-like bug which has been doing the rounds.

This unwelcome Christmas visitor was enough to put the mockers on the festivities, and although Eileen was considerably worse than I, the bug has been nasty enough to put me off my beer for the past few days. It’s therefore been a pretty sober affair, with just the one bottle, St Austell Proper Job, opened on Boxing Day, and even that tasted harsh and unduly bitter.

I returned to Kent early yesterday evening, having spent the past few days in Norfolk, visiting my elderly parents. There was precious little time for pub-going or indeed beer-drinking in general, and in fact I only had the one pint during the three days I was away.

The Showground, Norwich
I based myself at a Premier Inn, adjacent to Norwich Showground; as the fishing lodge I normally stay at was full booked over the Christmas- New Year period. The accommodation was fine, being warm, comfortable and quiet and yes, Lenny Henry was right – I got a good night’s sleep on both the nights I was there.  As is normally the case, there was a pub-cum-restaurant adjacent to the Premier Inn. Formerly known as the Showground, this Brewer’s Fayre establishment now goes under the rather strange name of Table- Table.

Arriving tired and hungry on the evening of 27th December I was in no mood for venturing further a field in search of sustenance and refreshment, so applying the old adage of “any port in a storm”, I ventured inside. It was decorated and furnished in that modern, minimalist style, but without being too sparsely furnished. The menu seemed tempting and reasonably priced, and the sight of a hand-pump on the bar dispensing Adnams Bitter, provided further re-assurance that this could be a pleasant place to spend the evening.

A "Proper Pie", but a decidedly less proper pint!
I was shown to a table and shortly after the waitress came over and asked what I would like to drink. “A pint of Adnams”, was my reply, and I sat their in anticipation of a glass of Southwold’s finest. The alarm bells should have been ringing when my pint arrived sporting a huge frothy head; definitely NOT the way to serve Adnams! My worst fears were confirmed upon raising the glass to my lips where, after fighting my way through an inch of froth, I discovered a lack-lustre pint, devoid of life, with all the condition forced out of the beer and into the unwanted head because the beer had been pulled through a wretched sparkler! To add insult to injury, the beer was served freezing cold.

Even though I spent five years living in Manchester, I fail to see any virtue in these miserable devices; apart from ruining a perfectly good pint! To use a sparkler on a northern beer is bad enough, but at least some Lancashire and Yorkshire beers are brewed to be served in this fashion. To use this devil’s device on one of East Anglia’s finest beers is nothing short of sacrilege and shows an appalling lack of knowledge, and understanding about beer, on behalf of the pub’s management! I will return to the subject of sparklers in a later post, as I am still incensed by this act of ignorance and barbarity perpetrated on my pint.

"Proper Pie" in close-up
Fortunately, the beef and merlot pie I ordered turned out to be a “proper pie” in as much that the meat and gravy were totally encased in pastry rather than the lazy “modern” interpretation of a pie, which is meat and gravy cooked and presented in an oven-proof dish, with a soggy layer of shop-brought puff-pastry on top. Such abominations are “casseroles with lids” and NOT proper pies!

I enjoyed my meal, but my flat, icy pint of ruined Southwold Bitter was not an experience I wished to repeat. I opted instead for a dessert plus a coffee, and at least the pub didn’t manage to cock that drink option up!

As things turned out, that was the only pint I had during my time in the county. The following evening I met up with my sister and her boyfriend for a meal, at the Romany Rye; the local JDW outlet in Dereham, where they live. I have been in this particular Spoons on several occasions and would class it as definitely one of the better ones. Tempted though I was by one of the porters on sale, I decided to play things safe and stick with a soft-drink; especially as I would have to drive back to the hotel later along unfamiliar, poorly-lit and rather icy roads. Besides, I was still feeling bunged up and this, coupled with a mouth which tasted like the bottom of a parrot’s cage, meant my beer appreciation faculties wouldn’t be functioning at all well.

So tonight being New Year’s Eve I‘d better have a pint or three later on. It’s not as though I’m short of beer either, as what with all the pre-Christmas stocking up I did, coupled with the various bottles I received as presents  from both friends and family, I’ve got enough beer to float the proverbial battleship!

So cheers, to one and all, and all the very best for 2015!

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