28.01.12 – Home: Kenilworth, England

After a very busy day, I’m at home drinking a Brooklyn Lager. Last time I had any of this stuff was, well, in Brooklyn, at a pizzeria under the shadow of the Bridge. Nice pizza, very nice beer. The location may have changed, but the beer hasn’t. Now think of American lager, and you probably think of some appalling light beer; this couldn’t be much further away. It’s a lovely amber colour – and fairly dark amber at that. It’s plenty rich and malty enough, but is heavily hopped for a really great taste. Now back in Brooklyn, it was really warm evening after a very hot day; today, it’s sub-zero out there, but the beer copes just as well now as it did then. A very decent beer. 7/10.

18.01.12 – Clarendon Arms, Kenilworth, England

Ah, a pub. A pub with good ale. That’s more like it. Well, it’s  a pub that concentrates mainly on food, and shares a kitchen – and chef – with the excellent Harringtons restaurant next door. The chef being one of my rugby coaching colleagues, it makes a good venue for what are euphemistically called “coaches’ meetings”.

And so it was I was there on Wednesday, sampling the Purity Mad Goose. Several times. And an excellent pint it was too – a lovely copper colour, nice balance with a bitter hoppy accent – top notch. 8/10.

04.01.12 – Novotel, Besancon, France

There are times when just any old beer will do, and one of those is when you’ve travelled all day to get to somewhere you just don’t want to be. And you’re thirsty… And that’s where I was today. Most definitely thirsty. So to the bar…

First up was Heinekin. Now it’s never one of my favourite beers, but hey, I was thirsty, and that’s what there was. so let’s go for it. In it’s favour, it tastes something like beer. But it was tremendously gassy, and only tasted something like beer – not much of a malt taste, not much in the way of hops, not much at all. Tell me this one was an English lager, and I would believe it. Drinkable, but not one you would want two of. 3/10.


Next up was Kronenbourg 1664. Not a beer that would ever get in my top 10, but it’s a lot better than the previous pint. A more attractive, deeper golden colour hints at a better experience, and yes, it’s got a richer malt taste, a little bitterness, and nothing like the gas. It’s never going to set the world alight, but it’s pleasant and much more what the doctor ordered. 4.5/10

Simpkiss TNT

Back in 1985 a group of us had been looking for a pint or two in the Black Country, and were heading home past Brierley Hill when we spotted a Simpkiss pub. Any small brewery’s beer had to be worth a look, and I was partial to their Old Ale, so in we went. It was a great, old-fashioned, multi-room local, and on the bar was a pump proclaiming “Simpkiss TNT” – new to me, so I bought a round of it. And what a pint it was – a beautiful golden colour, with a rich, complex malt balance and plenty of hoppy bitterness. Beautifully balanced, one of the earliest of modern golden, or perhaps pale ales. But what really made is special was putting it on the table, when a shaft of sunlight came through the window, illuminating the pint with a tremendous golden glow. This was more than a normal pint, it was mythical.

Within a couple of months, Simpkiss was no more; it was bought by Greenall Whitley and closed down for the handful of pubs the brewery owned. One of the worst examples of mindless vandalism on the beer culture I can remember. To this day, I still mourn the loss of an excellent beer, and an excellent local brewery.

Beer today…

…gone tomorrow.  A selection of my thoughts on beers and bars past and present