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, 31 December 2016

Chimay – Blue/Grande Reserve

WP_20161231_21_27_57_ProWhat they say: “….a dark ale with a powerful aroma. Its complex flavour improves with passing time.” and “is principally distinguished by its character of a strong beer. This is a beer whose fragrance of fresh yeast with a light, flowery rosy touch is especially pleasant. Its flavour, noticed when tasting it, only accentuates the pleasant sensations perceived in the aroma , while revealing a light but pleasant touch of roasted malt. This top fermented Trappist beer, refermented in the bottle, is not pasteurised.”

Wow, what a beer to finish 2016 on – and I did literally. This 75cl bottle was a gift and a cracking one too. I’ve never had Trappist beer before but this wont be the last one I try. A mighty 9% A.B.V so a little goes along way. Great stuff.

So, that last beer of 2016 bringing the years total of new beers to 160 and over 400 since I started the archive. Here’s to many more. Cheers and Happy New Year.

Mauldons – Bah Humbug

WP_20161231_20_18_22_ProWhat they say: “A tawny red strong seasonal bitter with a malt and fruit aroma brewed with hops and East Anglian malted barley. It has a full bodied soft finish.

Some of these ‘Christmas’ ales can be a bit sweet and fruity, but they got it right with this one – according to my taste buds anyway. Full bodied at 4.9% A.B.VWP_20161231_20_18_34_Pro

I did have a third from Mauldons to try – Silver Adder – however it poured cloudy and didn’t taste quite right. Sadly it turned out to be over three months out of date, so I tipped it away. Clearly the Co-Op in Woodbridge need to take a little more care with their stock control. Still, I hope I come across Mauldons again on our travels because there’s many more in the range to try.

December 2016

Mauldons – Suffolk Pride

WP_20161228_22_00_43_ProWhat they say: “A full bodied strong bitter, light in colour with a powerful bouquet of hops and developed fruit with a deep dry finish”

One of the joys of getting to travel like we do is discovering beers that don’t make it down to our part of the world, so I was delighted to find three beers from this Suffolk brewery on the shelf of the Co-Op in Woodbridge during our stay in nearby Hollesley.

This, the first of the three was a little too hoppy for my tastes but it was certainly full bodied at 4.8% A.B.V.

December 2016

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Belhaven – Smoke Stack Stout

WP_20161227_14_18_52_ProWhat they say: “Great roasted coffee and wood-smoke aromas, rich dark chocolate and black coffee flavours combined with velvet-smooth oak notes and a spicy, smoky finish”

Owned by Greene King which might explain why this appeared in Suffolk, along way from it’s home in Dunbar, Scotland where I assume it’s brewed. I actually missed out on this last Christmas when it appeared at one of the pubs near to the Caravan site in Cherry Hinton, so was pleased to have another chance to sample it.

Wow, what a beer, it really was very smokey, but wonderfully enjoyable. Not one I drink all the time but nice as a one off – which is just as well as it’s only available in December anyway! Great stuff though. 5.0% A.B.V. December 2016

3 Brewers – IPA

WP_20161224_19_08_11_ProWhat they say: “Golden colour with an orange tint, brewed with five hops from the UK and USA and fermented longer to give a clean and dry finish.”

Sadly the last to come from the guys from St Albans but there’s three more in the range that I hope to get my hands on at some point. Another enjoyable ale that went down rather too well considering it’s ABV – 4.6%.  December 2016

3 Brewers – Golden

WP_20161224_19_08_19_ProWhat they say: “Some might say silence is golden, but it’s worth breaking that rule to let you know our golden ale is brewed using Cascade hops which give a subtle citrus flavour, coupled with Cara malt to give a light golden colour and a hint of sweetness. We’re certain you’ll agree that we have created an exceptionally refreshing beer. So raise your glasses. The future is indeed golden.”

The second ale I tried from this St Albans brewery did not satisfy my taste buds quite as much as the first – their Classic Bitter – but it was enjoyable enough and not overloaded with either hops or alcohol coming in at 3.8% A.B.V. Inoffensive and very drinkable. December 2016.

3 Brewers – Classic Bitter

WP_20161224_19_08_01_ProWhat they say: “We could tell you that our new ale has a deep amber colour, a light hoppy aroma and a rich and rounded malty taste balanced by subtle hoppiness, to give a supremely clean, smooth and refreshing ale. But there's no need really. Suffice to say that we think we've created a modern classic here and we're pretty confident that you'll agree.”

I’d never heard of 3 Brewers before and came across them purely by chance at a Christmas market nestled in the grounds of St Albans’ cathedral. And I’m so glad I did. What a cracking beer this was. Them pesky hops done their job without taking over, I could drink this all day long if wallet and internal organs would only allow. 4.0% A.B.V December 2016.

Black Sheep – Holy Grail

WP_20161223_21_09_13_ProWhat they say: “This brilliant and bold addition to our flock was created to commemorate the 30th anniversary of one of our finest comedic exports - the Monty Python crew!Years later and Holy Grail is still going strong. With more hops than a killer rabbit, it's a full-flavoured golden ale with a distinctively fruity flavour followed by the Black Sheep signature dry finish. Be warned, this beer has been tempered over burning witches! Only joking.”

I am a big fan of Black Sheep so was curious about this, but unsurprisingly given the above it wasn’t one of my favourites 4.7% A.B.V. The 152nd beer I’ve tried this year and the 404th to go in the Archive. December 2016

A Caravanning Christmas – Part 5

Right here we go again, from our final site of the trip – Run Cottage in Hollesley near the Suffolk Coast. What a lovely site it is too, but not our original choice. More of that later.15541649_1271047352955706_4962112932967257074_n

Our week in Cambridge was quite hectic. As well as spending time with HRH aka Trev’s Mum – one luminary that has, so far, avoided the Grim Reaper of 2016 - probably because he’s too busy -  we managed to catch up with quite a few friends too, from different facets of our time here. There was lot’s of talking, lots of eating and yes, there were a few ales along the way too. Greedy - sorry, Greene King’s shareholders certainly aren’t complaining.

Boxing day saw us winding Patsy’s legs up quite early. My cousin Andy had invited us to his to share in the boxing day celebrations – and only a fool would pass up the chance to sample some Janet’s cooking. The nice folk at Run Cottage had agreed to let us on early – it suited them too – so, just before 8am we set sail.

The majority of the journey was on the delightfully empty A14 – we did pull off a couple of times – in a futile search for a certain fast food chain for breakfast. I’d forced down some cardboard that was pretending to be a breakfast cereal but Trev’s belly was to remain empty until we got sited.

A couple of minor issues presented themselves on arrival, one shortly after the other. We’d checked the lights before leaving Cherry Hinton of course but as I was trundling towards our pitch, Trev noticed that the left hand indicator on the ‘van was permanently on. Not a major drama and probably easily put right – but on another day. In addition, on unpacking we discovered that our little illuminated globe was now composed of more parts than before – the arm that supports it from top to base had snapped. A quick repair with duck tape lasted about five minutes. Oh well.

15740995_10154228737083231_5861684561813889028_nThere was just time to avail ourselves of the immaculate facilities before heading back down the A12 to Colchester for the gathering of what is my closest – and almost only family – my Cousin Andy, wife Janet, their daughters and husband and partner, two grand children and Janet’s parents too. I’ve said before that it was caravanning that has brought us closer together and I particularly wanted to see Andy as his Dad had passed away just a month or so before. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and evening and Janet’s cooking was, as always, divine. Thanks to for the lovely presents. Clearly a great deal of thought had gone into them as they included quite a lot of erm, ‘research’. I need to practice my selfie skills though, clearly…

We woke to a lovely bright morning – eventually – and enjoyed the luxury of a lie in that had for so long been denied us – well, 48 hours anyway. With a cooked breakfast devoured I got some pictures of the site before hooking Patsy up to the car – just the cable, not the whole van – to sort out her misbehaving indicator. It will surprise no-one to hear that everything was fine and all lights were working as they should. I decided to leave well alone rather than investigate. Something I’ll probably regret when we hook up to go home…..

The late morning saw us venture out to Bawdsey – about a 15 minute drive from the site and from where, at other times of the year, you can take a foot ferry across the River Deben to Felixstowe Ferry and through to Felixstowe itself.


Nearby Bawdsey Manor was requisitioned for the second world war, used as an RAF base and was home to the worlds first operational radar station. There are a limited number of open days throughout the year – have a look on their website for more details.

The manor house itself is now a boarding and day school – and what a location. I wonder if they need any drivers?


With the village shop up from the site closed up for the day, we headed next into Woodbridge to procure essentials which, quite by accident included beer from a local brewery, pausing at the bridge on the way in to Melton to grab a couple of photos.


In the evening the Sorrel Horse in nearby Shottisham was the destination for the evenings fill of grog and grub. Bought by the community in 2011 to ensured it stayed as a pub, it is well worth a visit. Beer straight from the cask and great tasting good honest pub grub made for a very enjoyable experience.

Right, that’s nearly it for now, but I should probably tell you why we changed from our original site. Well, we were booked in at Church Farm in Aldeburgh, a  bit further up the coast. You may recall that we stayed nearby in the summer which is when we went to check out the site. Liking what we say we booked – and paid, there and then. Just on the edge of Aldeburgh within walking distance of the beach – and yes, pubs too it would have been ideal.

A couple of weeks ago – when we were down at Theobald’s Park, I had a call from the site. Should I require access to the shower/toilet block I was to send to them a stamped, self-addressed envelope. On receipt of envelope they would call me, take a £20 deposit, then send me a keycard which would give access to said facilities block. There was going to be no-one in the office you see. At the end of the stay I was to post the card back to them and my deposit would be refunded. I suggested to them that that was a little long winded and that I could pay the deposit there and then with a small consideration for the cost of sending me the card, but that apparently ‘wasn’t possible’. I could have a full refund if I didn’t like it. So, after talking it over, that’s what we done. It just seemed an odd way to carry on – the deposit I had no problem with at all, it was just the faffing about. An email enquiry to them as to whether the facilities would be cleaned during our stay there went unanswered. Bear in mind too, that this was not a cheap site. I didn’t expect to have to jump through hoops to get the use of something that I’d already paid for. Still, there it is, and having been here at Run Cottage for a few days now, we’re glad we changed. What a lovely site this is:


As always, some slideshows:

Right, that really IS it! For now. Check back soon for more from Suffolk from the Blogger in Black.

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A Caravanning Christmas – Part 4

After a full on day in London - well as full on as it gets when your as out of condition as us – Saturday morning was a necessarily lazy time. The most energy we used was picking out our selections for our Weekly Wager. Energy that was largely wasted as it turned out. For a couple of years, following the discovery of a few quid lurking in an account with an online bookies, we’ve been having a flutter on the weekends Premier League football matches – 50p on each of the ten games. The fun was watching Final Score and debating whether to cash out early to secure some winnings. Last season was pretty successful, so much so that we upped the stakes – to a whole pound. Last of the big spenders eh? The reward for our confidence has been a steady decline in the kitty since the start of this season thanks to some truly weird results. Looks like the yacht, or at the very least a new long leather coat,  is going to have to wait.

Anyway, after a relaxing morning it was time to head out again, and back to London Colney, a little way around the M25. Those paying attention in previous blogs will now that we called here on our first day out for a bit of ‘research’ at The Bull, which came highly recommended by friend and fellow caravanner Iain. His parents lived nearby so a get together was planned. We were a little early so I took the chance to grab a few photo’s – even in the December gloom and mist it was looking lovely:


Well, we had a great afternoon and missed the cut off for food thanks to constant chinwagging, so when it was time for a parting of the ways we adjourned to the pub across the road for burger and chips.

Sunday was our last day on site and to honest I would have happily stayed put in the caravan – she was warm and cosy and looked lovely with all the Christmas lights on, compared with the chilly damp gloom outside. Nevertheless we made the effort – and I am so glad we did.

First up was Forty Hall & Estate, just a few minutes drive from the site and easily walkable by those more enthused by such activity. The Grade 1 Jacobean Manor House is surrounded by 273 of gardens, farmland, parkland, lakes and meadows.


There was a small charge – three quid – to enter the house thanks to a Christmas exhibition, but normally it’s free – so are the surrounding gardens and so is the car parking. A great place to bring your four legged friends for a good run – although, this time of year you might want to bring some wellies. A picnic would be a good addition in the summer.


Next up – and barely a minutes drive back towards the site was Myddelton House Gardens. One Edward Augustus Bowles, a famous gardener – apparently – lived here in the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries and transformed the gardens into the design to be seen today. Understandably not looking at it’s best in December it was still a pleasant walk around and one could only imagine the riot of colours and smells that would greet you in the warmer months. Guided tours are available at certain times but always available is an audio guide for just £1.50. Something I wish we’d have done now. If you’re looking to have a nose around the house though, you can’t as it’s closed to the public.




There was a charge for parking here but it’s only a couple of quid for three hours. After our stroll around we headed for the tea room to replenish dwindling reserves. Tea served properly – in a teapot – and delicious toasted teacakes made for a very enjoyable – and far from expensive – experience. Thoroughly recommended.

Rosie too needed replenishing and once again I splashed the cash on some ‘super’ diesel. Yes it’s more expensive but we lavish her with it every so often and she certainly seems to run better as a result. At well over a hundred thousand miles now and hauling around a lard arse like Pasty – and us,  she deserves a treat from time to time.WP_20161218_17_06_28_Pro

Sunday night brought with it the Last Supper – for this part of the trip anyway, and we contemplated whether to return to one of the various pubs we’d tried during the week. The adventurous spirit prevailed though and we opted to try another one – The Rose and Crown - again, not ten minutes drive away from the site. Well, talk about saving the best ‘till last. Sunday roast was on the menu but we both opted for steak pie – and it was stunning – full of tasty tender meat accompanied by heaps of fantastic veg, not too mention a huge Yorkshire pud and stuffing. Easily the best meal of the trip and we both came away absolutely stuffed. The beer was good too – nothing new for me to try but the London Pride was spot on.

So that was almost the end of our time at Theobald's Park. This area of Hertfordshire – which could easily be considered as the outer reaches of North London too - may not be on everyone's radar as a place to pitch up but there is certainly plenty to do and see. London is the more obvious draw and it’s pretty accessible from here, but there’s much more too and we’ve seen some of that this week.

Right, getting connected. For most of the week we used the mobile hotspot facility on my cheap and cheerful Lumia 535 3G phone running on the Three network with no problems. Connections was reasonably fast and stable. Then we switched to the site WiFi, and as we’re doing another Club site in the next year opted for the annual package at £20 for up to 12GB of data. Mostly OK but sometimes unusable and uploading was very slow.

We didn’t use the Huawei mobile WiFi adapter but popping in SIM cards from each of the major suppliers revealed 4G was available on all of them although signal strength varied.

There’ll likely be a bit of a break before the next part. We’re up in Cambridge now – at the Caravan Club site at Cherry Hinton – spending most of our time with Trev’s Mum, but we’ve already managed to catch up with a few friends too. So, have a great Christmas and check back soon for another blog from our next and last stop – near the Suffolk coast.

Some links:

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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Holt –Two Hoots



What they say: “Light, refreshing and beautifully balanced. Brewed with pale ale and lager malts and Cascade whole hops. Two Hoots was also the regional winner of Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt as well as many acclaimed awards from British Bottler's Institute.”

Ok, not the more traditional bitter that I normally prefer but this went down well, I didn’t find it over fruity. Nice in the summer I bet. 4.2% A.B.V

December 2016.

Cotswold Spring – Codger

WP_20161217_14_58_49_ProWhat they say: “A dry, crisp, chestnut, perfectly balanced beer with a subtle hoppy finish“

A new ale had appeared on our second visit to this pub and it was one that had, so far, not passed my lips. It did this time however – quite a lot – as I really enjoyed this. As they say, perfectly balanced and not too hoppy. This went down a treat. Perfect temperature and clear as a bell too. They clearly know their stuff here.

The Bull, London Colney, Hertfordshire. December 2016