This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.

Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which documents all our trips and includes product reviews and pubs! It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Wincle Beer Co - Rambler

WP_20160402_14_34_23_ProWhat they say: “Strolling through ancient recipes we stumbled across the idea for this distinctive country ale. Plenty of Crystal Malt and Bramling Cross hops gives this beer a subtle balance of malt and autumn fruit hoppiness

Another relatively young (2008) brewery and another one I hadn’t heard of. I liked the beer though, although more hoppier than I usually like. 4.0% A.B.V

The Royal Oak, Hurdlow, Derbyshire. April 2016

Thornbridge - Wild Swan

WP_20160402_14_34_16_ProWhat they say: “Wild Swan is white gold in colour with aromas of light bitter lemon, a hint of herb and a subtle spiciness. A great refreshing beer!”

Brewed just up the road in Bakewell, this was - as regular Archive visitors will correctly deduce - not really my cup of tea. A nice refreshing summer ale though I guess and not too strong. 3.5% A.B.V.

The Royal Oak, Hurdlow Derbyshire. April 2016

Marstons - Burton Bitter

WP_20160401_14_36_04_ProWhat they say: “Brewed to one of our oldest recipes, using natural Burton spring water filtered through the gypsum beds of the Trent valley to produce a distinctively clear and bright full flavoured beer with a malty, biscuity taste. Although it is one of our session beers in terms of strength, it has a superb balance of malt and hop flavours which makes Marston's Burton Bitter the first choice for many of our customers…”

Yes, I liked this. Nothing fancy and not too strong - indeed a good session beer. 3.8% A.B.V.

Cheshire Cheese, Buxton, Derbyshire. April 2016

Robinsons - Unicorn

WP_20160331_19_15_36_ProWhat they say: “Our award-winning flagship beer! Unicorn was born in 1896 and originally called Robinsons Best Bitter. Unusually light, agile, yet complex, Unicorn hasn’t changed in over a hundred years.  It was originally brewed by Frederic for his father William, at the Unicorn Inn, from where the beer eventually took its name, and where the Robinsons Brewery still stands. Dripping with heritage, it’s a magnificent, thirst-quenching, thoroughbred bitter. The first of a bloodline that continues to this day.”

The nearest pub to our base at the campsite in Longnor Wood and the last remaining pub in the village was open all to rarely to rely on. Only one ale on offer, but this was a nice pint, although a little to light and pale for my taste.  4.3%. A.B.V.

Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, Longnor, Derbyshire. March 2016

Cottage Brewing Co - Conquest Best Bitter

The plan was, to do all the beers from Yorkshire before moving on to those from our week in the Peak District. However I ended up bringing some home with me and they’re still waiting patiently in the cupboard for my attention!We’ll come back to those when I’ve finished blogging about the rest from our trip, so, here’s the first ale ‘researched’ from  a bit further south:

WP_20160331_17_59_57_ProWhat they say? Oddly, this is not on their website but quote this: “A classic blend of hops and malts create this amber coloured best bitter”

Yes, our first pint in the Peak District came from Somerset, in the wonderful Pack Horse Inn that had an ever changing selection of real ales.

No matter, it was a mighty tasty pint, the A.B.V of 4.3% adding body to the beer.

The Pack Horse Inn, Crowdecote, Derbyshire. April 2016

Cottage Brewing - Iron duke

WP_20160331_18_38_16_ProWhat they say? Like their Conquest Best Bitter, this didn’t appear on the brewery’s website either, but quote this: “A deep ruby red traditional British bitter. Strong notes of toasted and chocolate malts and brewed with Challenger and Pilot hops to give a smooth and well balanced beer.”

Another excellent pint from the Somerset based brewery. 4.3% A.B.V.

The Pack Horse Inn, Crowdecote, Derbyshire. April 2016

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Sainsburys - Yorkshire Bitter

WP_20160404_19_22_26_ProWhat they say? Well, quote this: “A classic and beautifully balanced Yorkshire bitter combining hoppy notes with bittersweet malty undertones and a dry, refreshing finish”

It’s not that often I go for own label beers, but this from the supermarkets’ ‘Taste the Difference’ range was just £1.50 so I thought I’d give it a go.

One word: delicious. Now one of my top five bottled ales, but then it’s brewed by Black Sheep so to me, it’s hardly surprising it tasted so good. Everything I like about a beer was here. Brilliant.

Wharfe Bank - Yorkshire IPA

WP_20160404_17_24_58_ProWhat they say? The single page (at time of typing) website doesn’t give a lot away, but once again the good folk at come to the rescue: “Amber in colour with a complex mixture of mature fruits, a citrus nose and a crisp dry finish”

Yep, you’ve guessed it - a little too fruity for me, not one I’d rush to sample again, but that’s just my taste. 5.1% A.B.V.

Yorkshire Dales Brewing - Nappa Scar

WP_20160402_20_57_48_ProWhat they say: “A truly well balanced bitter. Brewed with Maris Otter, Munich and Crystal Malt for light caramel notes. The Northern Brewer bittering hops are complimented with two varieties of American hops for citrus flavours and aroma.“

Another quality bottle conditioned ale from YDB. Thankfully the citrus wasn't too prominent for me. 4.0% A.B.V.

Yorkshire Dales Brewing - Great Shunner

WP_20160402_19_40_47_ProWhat they say: “A dark ale brewed with Maris Otter, vienna and munich malts and a little crystal malt for a subtle biscuit flavour. The hop varieties provide a fine balance and characterise the beer with a spicy finish.”

What a wonderful selection of beers we found in our time in North Yorkshire over Easter. This was another delicious ale from YDB. Bottle conditioned so pour carefully and enjoy! 4.2% A.B.V.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Ilkley Brewery - Mary Jane

WP_20160328_16_26_50_ProWhat they say: “Multi-award-winning pale ale packed with American hops. Intensely refreshing and satisfying, with surprising balance and body for such low abv. Named for the character in the Yorkshire folk song On Ilkla Moor Baht’at and is our best-selling beer by a country mile. Hast tha’ been a’cooartin Mary Jane?”

Nice and light at just 3.5% A.B.V but regulars will know from the above description that it wasn’t for me. Too pale & hoppy for my taste but each to their own. It’s been great finding all these different beers in our time in North Yorkshire though.

Skye - Black

WP_20160328_18_12_26_ProWhat they say: “The colour comes from dark roasted barley, balanced with just the right amount of sweet, rolled oatmeal. We mill both right here in the brewery, giving us complete control over flavour and freshness. The true taste of malt shines through, balanced by the sweetness of pure Scottish heather honey.”

Yes, just a slight deviation from the Yorkshire ale trail whilst we were staying in Ripon during our recent Easter break. The reason being that I spotted this in Booths and know some friends that really enjoy their caravan trips to Skye, and yes the name appealed too.

Anyway, explanation aside, I really enjoyed this. I loved the combination of flavours - I could really get into black ales if they’re going to taste as good as this.

Yorkshire Dales Brewing - Garsdale Smokebox

WP_20160329_19_57_11_ProWhat they say? “A truly memorable smoked porter with a real complex depth of flavours. Made using traditional smoked malt from Bamberg Germany”

Hmm delicious. I loved the smoky flavour in this, it put me in mind of a malt whisky I had a few years back. It didn’t taste overly strong, but don’t be deceived as it weighs in at 5.6% A.B.V.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Wharfe Bank - Crimson Rambler

WP_20160328_14_29_19_ProWhat they say? Well nothing as the brewery's is just a single page, however come up with this as the commercial description: “This new deep-ruby beer has a light, fruity aroma, leading to a distinctive malty character from the Vienna and Munich malts used, resulting in an easy-drinking (yet distinctive) flavour. Hops: Admiral, Crystal, Summit”

Another offering during Wetherspoon’s beer festival at Ripon and a local ale brewed over the border in West Yorkshire. Ok, but I found the fruity whiff a little strong. A nice enough pint though but another strong ‘un. 4.8% A.B.V

Ripon, North Yorkshire. March 2016

Batemans - Dark Lord

WP_20160328_14_14_57_ProWhat they say: “A dark, mahogany beer with a rich, nutty flavour and spicy bittersweet finish.”

Anyone who knows me, will know of my interest in all things noir - I’m not called the Blogger in Black for nothing - so of course this pump clip piqued my interest.

But it was also a very tasty beer -  beautifully dark in colour and a taste that seems to bridge the gap between bitters and porters. I liked this very much, but sadly it’s only a seasonal. 4.4% A.B.V.

Ripon, North Yorkshire. March 2016.

Acorn - Yorkshire Pride

WP_20160327_20_07_26_ProWhat they say: Light golden ale with well balanced creamy malt and good bitterness. Bags full of whole hops for the aroma impart a grassy, citrus aroma.”

Very easy drinking but a little too pale and hoppy for me - one that would go down well on a warm summers night though I reckon. 3.7% A.B.V.

Leeds - Leeds Best

WP_20160327_21_11_33_ProWhat they say: “A classic Yorkshire Bitter. British malted barley and English First Gold and Goldings hops blend perfectly with our unique Yorkshire yeast to create a full flavoured, well balanced classic Yorkshire pint.”

Delicious. One of my favourite bottled beers. Full of flavour but not too strong to enjoy a few. Will be hunting this one down again. 4.3% A.B.V.

A stop off in Surrey

Tuesday, and time to head south again. Wary of the sloping corner at the site entrance I jumped out and Trev took it really slowly out into the road and Patsy emerged unscathed. We took an alternative route out, bypassing the worst of the narrow roads and hairpin bends, heading south on the A515, through Ashbourne then turning onto the A50 near Uttoxeter, then swapping over driving duties, just before the M1 where we remained for most of the journey. We’d wanted to stop for a snack but from previous experience knew that caravanners were not wanted at Newport Pagnell services as there was no obvious parking offered. Sadly, the same turned out to be true at Toddington Services - there were no signs indicating parking for caravans that we could see and we didn’t want to risk the attentions of some over zealous parking attendant.

In the end we continued all the way to the site - only about 12 minutes from the M25. The Camping & Caravan Club site is located in East Horsley in Surrey, south to south west of London, a little way from the A3 and was easy to find. It’s very pretty as you enter, with a fishing lake right in front of you. Sadly our pitch was in a different area  but it’s an attractive if un-manicured site.

Check out our site arrival video on You Tube HERE

After setting up we had a brief scout around and the smell of money was overwhelming. We’re talking huge properties, gated drives and private roads - although clearly very little of that all that money goes on fixing the public highways. It is certainly an attractive area though and a nice area to live - if you can afford it. Purely for research purposes, we called into a local hostelry where I was delighted to find a local brew - which tasted damn nice too, although if we needed a reminder that we were back down south, the price of a pint gave it unequivocally. Ouch!

A peruse of the local property rag was an eye opener too. Plenty of piles in excess of seven figures and not one single dwelling anywhere near to our price range without the millstone of a massive mortgage. How ‘ordinary people’ afford to live here I have no idea. Not that we’re thinking of moving.

Wednesday saw us in Guildford, just twenty minutes or so away down the A3 and we were given another reminder of our location by the volume of traffic – something that had been mercifully lacking for the majority of our time further north.

In fact we had toyed with the idea of getting the train – it was only one stop along the line from East Horsley and would have saved the inevitable trawl around for a parking space – but we wanted the flexibility of the car in case we didn’t hang around Guildford for long.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have high expectations, thinking this would be just another commuter town, but was pleasantly surprised. In amongst the migraine inducing road network is a great shopping area with a lovely cobbled high street. Not as lovely as it could have been as work was underway to replace every single stone. A time consuming and painstaking job, but it will look terrific when done.



There was a great range of shops – independents mingling with the usual chain store – and that was just as well as the heavens opened at irregular intervals. There looked to be a lovely riverside walk too, but conscious that time was marching on, we passed.


Next cab off the rank was Aldershot. We'd both been here before – many moons ago – in 1990 to be exact, when the mighty er, Cambridge United F.C. played Aldershot F.C on the last day of the season in what was then, League Division Four.

Cambridge needed a win to secure a play-off spot in the hope of securing a place in Division Three. Aldershot were struggling both on the pitch and financially – in fact they were in serious difficulty. Cambridge won and went on to win at Wembley on a fantastic day for the club, gaining promotion to the then Division Three. Aldershot’s woes continued and a rocky couple of years saw them wound up in 1992, the first club since Accrington Stanley in 1962 to resign from the Football League.

The club was reborn by supporters, when Aldershot Town was formed, initially playing five tiers below the original club and eventually progressing to the new League Two (originally Division Four), although though they have since slipped back a little.  How great that the supporters cared enough about their town and their football to form a new club. I love stories like this – it show’s football is not all about the razzmatazz of cash soaked premier league and it’s overpaid prima donnas.

Anyway, I digress. Again. After Guildford, Aldershot was a bit of a shock. It was quiet – even the traffic was lighter – and plenty of empty shops suggested hard times. It looked and felt a bit run down. Very sad. We decided not to linger and turn tail.

Whilst we’d gone around Will’s mothers and Fanny’s Aunt to get to Aldershot, we took the main road back – the A31, and were rewarded with some cracking views over the North Downs with the skyscrapers of the city of London in the distance. Also, this side of Guildford was it’s Cathedral. We had noticed the signs for it on the way in earlier on, but then forgotten about it. We went to have a look.


Old it ain’t – as you can see - not as Cathedrals go anyway. It was consecrated in 1961 and is, I believe, Britain's newest. It sits on Stag Hill, high above the city and was built with bricks made from clay taking from the very spot it now stands. Completion was made possible – after a minor interruption also know as the Second World War – when 200,000 bricks were offered for ‘sale’ across the diocese. We were also told that every single brick used in the construction was made by just one man too. Impressive stuff.


There was a large restoration project ongoing, so some parts were closed off, and it’s perhaps not as architecturally as stunning as older Cathedrals, but nevertheless it’s still well worth a visit.


The evening saw us in another local hostelry, as we celebrated our 10th Anniversary with a delicious meal of erm, burger and chips. Fancy it weren't but having been together over 25 years, we know what we like – and like it we did.

Thursday was to be our last full day away, and the weather done it’s best to spoil it. We had a run east, to Dorking which, on a nice day would have been a pleasant trip to a nice old market town. We spent most of the time in a café waiting for the rain to stop. Which it didn’t!

So, in sightseeing terms, that was that. Another great trip, and more of our great country visited for the first time and the good folk of North Yorkshire, The Peak District and Surrey blessed with the presence of the Blogger in Black and his Portly Partner. Although slightly less portly these days it has to be said.

A long run now through to half-term when we’ll be dragging Patsy along to Hampshire for the week. So until then – Get Your Legs Down!


Saturday, 9 April 2016

Vale Brewery - Punk is Dead

WP_20160326_13_38_20_ProWhat they say? Well, it’s not to the brewery website, so may well have been a special for Weatherspoon's beer festival, however  say this: “American red IPA style, a hoppy aroma leads to biscuit malt flavours which, in turn, yield to the American hop flavours, resulting in a vibrant character and a long finish”

Not bad, but too hoppy for me and at 5.0% A.B.V too strong to consider as session beer.

Wetherspoons, Ripon, North Yorkshire. March 2016

Iron Maiden (Robinsons) - Trooper 666

WP_20160326_13_00_04_ProWhat they say: Infused with strength. Inspired by Iron Maiden. Handcrafted by Robinsons. At the request of fans, and following the huge success of TROOPER, Robinsons have made an even stronger ABV limited edition of the original brew. TROOPER 666 is the same award-winning TROOPER recipe but brewed to a higher gravity of 6.6% ABV. The result is another wonderfully authentic beer that is charged with even more flavour and even more alcohol. Packed with malt, TROOPER 666 is slightly sweeter than the original. This is a full-bodied, extra strong bitter, with a complex malt character and notes of caramel combined with a fruity hop finish.

Strong it certainly was. I’m glad I tried it, but as someone who swills down a pint far too quickly, this was just too strong for me. A pleasant enough taste but not as ‘aggressive’ as expected.

Weatherspoon's, Ripon, North Yorkshire. March 2016

Williams - Black

WP_20160325_17_13_15_ProWhat they say: As you would expect this brew pours a dark black/brown with aromas of Coffee, Liquorice, roast & chocolate malts. On the tongue there's light roasted malt flavours, with a caramel sweetness and a dried fruit hoppiness.

Oh yum. With ales like this I could really get into black ales. Clearly the name and colour appealed to my dark side but I just loved the taste of this. Went back the next day I was looking forward to trying it again, but something else was on. A cracking pint.

Wetherspoons, Ripon, North Yorkshire. March 2016

Thursday, 7 April 2016

A Diary from the Dales - Part 5

And indeed the last part too, as our time in the Dales - first Yorkshire, then Derbyshire has come to an end. We’re now just an hour or so from home - Patsy’s home anyway - in East Horsley, not too far from Guildford until the weekend.

Saturday saw us meet up with some friends from just south of Sheffield for lunch and a mighty good chinwag. There was a lot of catching up to do and Trev’s jaw of course got a thorough work out, but the rest of us did manage to get a word or two in as well. After a coffee at the ‘van we headed to - you guessed it - a pub to replenish our reserves - depleted from all that jawing. The Royal Oak in Hurdlow - about 15 minutes drive from the site - was  the destination and being a Saturday lunchtime it was quite busy but they squeezed us in and boy, are we glad they did. We all had something different and all agreed it was stunning. Good honest pub grub well presented and in sensible sized portions - i.e. big enough! Add to that a selection of real ales and great company and it was an extremely enjoyable couple of hours or so.

We went our separate ways mid afternoon, us with an invitation to visit Peter & Pam for Sunday lunch the following day. A nice home cooked roast? Of course we accepted.

With lunch set for 2pm Sunday we took the opportunity to have a bit of a drive around in the morning and so headed south, stopping first at Ashbourne for a cuppa. The café was extremely busy, occupied mainly by middle aged men clad either in lycra or leather. No it wasn’t the tail end of some fetish party but clearly a popular stopping off point for the Sunday morning two wheeled crowd. Given the attire on view I still managed to get a few looks…

We headed north and east next, stopping briefly at Carsington Water reservoir. Lot’s to do here and it looked like a great place for families. It was clearly worth more time than we had - so, another place for a future visit.

Further up, just after joining the A6 was Matlock Bath, squeezed in between the river and steep hills, this too was extremely busy, clearly a favourite stopping off point for the two wheeled crowd - the ones with engines anyway. This also went down on the ‘must come back to’ list.

We turned off the A6 to avoid going through Bakewell again, instead passing the beautiful Chatsworth estate before joining the Sheffield road and arriving at our friends a little after 1pm.

Lunch was, as expected, delicious - Pam is a damn fine cook - and there was, thankfully enough apple pie for a second helping. We had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

By complete coincidence - honest(?) the time of our departure meant we happened upon the Pack Horse Inn at around six pm - when they reopened for the evening trade. We had wanted to go back for another pint at least and with them being closed Monday and Tuesday this would be our last chance. Again, a friendly welcome and four new ales to try too. I only had two but they were excellent - this pub had a really friendly atmosphere and we will most certainly return.

Monday, and our last full day in the Dales. We had pondered getting the bus into Derby but with changeable weather again forecast we decided to stay relatively local and return to have a look at Matlock Bath and it’s neighbour Matlock. It’s certainly pretty and you can see why it’s popular.



While there is one main road through, there is a pleasant walk along the river to be had on one side, or if you need to fill your belly and empty your wallet cross over. A plethora of chippy’s and a few amusement arcades make you wonder if you’re at the seaside. Narrow steep roads climb the hillside behind.


A big draw here is the Heights of Abraham - a country park and caverns accessed by a cable car that takes you up from near the railway station. The views from the cable car alone I’m sure would have been fantastic, but with it being a bit misty we decided to leave it for another time. There were regular trains into Derby from the station too which was noted for future reference.


We had a brief wander around Matlock too - less touristy and more functional - before heading back to the site.

We had a good stay at Longnor Wood Holiday Park. The site is lovely - great facilities and a great location. It’s under the Tranquil Parks umbrella and so is adults only. The site is a relaxed place and there is no list of rules, you are just expected to use your common sense. Our pitch was fully serviced including a TV point - reception on the ‘van aerial was poor at times, so If you have an aerial cable, bring it. There was no mobile phone signal on either Vodafone or Three, and the mobile Wi-Fi dongle, with an 02 SIM card reported zilch also. There is site Wi-Fi and a weeks package will cost a tenner. There is no limit to the number of devices but data is capped at 2 gb. We got through that inside three days, so make sure those automatic updates are turned off!


Right, that’s out for now. Just one more part to come. Nearly there!