I spent the New Year in Prague with my beloved. Regular readers will know that I lived and worked there for a while three years before I started this blog. I love the Bohemian capital, and as it happens it's where I first became really interested in beer. After trying all manner of brews from scores of countries, there's still nothing I like more than a mug of pivo, freshly delivered to my table
Merry Christmas to all my readers. I'm off to get the train to Newcastle now, and, East Coast Mainline permitting, I'll be spending this afternoon at the Big Lamp Brewery with my folks. Have a good one.
A very nice middle-aged couple came in for dinner last night. It was their first visit. After a brief conversation, it emerged that they'd lived in my flat before selling to the chap who then sold it to me. That's some coincidence.
The end draws near, and yet there are a few things I need to say. So expect a post very soon where I sum up my views.
A week or so ago I wrote about Ascot Anastasia's Exile Stout. Then I served it to customers in my pub. Then it sold out (very quickly). So then I got some more of it, and that sold even more quickly. So I got some more of it. It'll be back on sale tomorrow.
Su and Chris from the brewery sent me a present: two bottles of their supercharged Imperial Stout. At 8% abv, it's a beast. I cracked one open last week. I can't remember exactly what it tasted like, but it was bloody lovely, and helped me unwind as I took a quick breather on a very busy day.
In the background of that photo you can see a group of proper tuckers-in. Those chaps were through the door shortly after noon, and didn't leave until they'd worked their way through all four of the ales, a hearty lunch and a few bottles of Côtes du Rhône. It's been the same story throughout December: the office parties are invariably lame affairs, with no-one really wanting to get their smash on. It's groups of pals using the Christmas season as an excuse for extended boozy get-togethers who create all the atmosphere. I salute them.
This morning I took a beer delivery for what's surely going to be the busiest week of the year. It was massive. The cellar's almost as packed as the bar will be on Friday night. So many tubs were flying his way, we had to give the drayman's mateamoment to catch his breath.
The Gunmakers is closed on weekends. There are good reasons for that, the most important being my desire for an easy life.
On Saturday evening, as I pottered around preparing for a private party, a group of lads came bowling down Eyre Street Hill. Chef was tabbing it outside, and explained the situation to them. The gang leader received such a bollocking from his chums that I took pity on him. The boys were admitted, and proceeded to tuck into pints of St Austell Proper Job and Ascot Winter Reserve as the staff laid out a lavish buffet and lit candles around them.
And as they sat there sinking their beer, they talked nonsense. Pure shite. Not so much a babbling brook, but more a gushing torrent of effluent. It was marvellous. Thankfully, the fivesome behaved themselves. Clearly, they were at that happy stage of the crawl where tensions have yet to arise. They even kept their beery hands off the food. We waved them off as they left in good spirits as the first of many smartly-dressed guests rolled up for the evening's more genteel proceedings.
I used to have a particular fondness for pub crawls. One of the most memorable was a ten-man effort three years ago, in St Albans. I wrote about it here. It's noticable that on every crawl, someone lugs around a large bag - usually a spoddy rucksack - for no good reason. The group that visited us was no exception, as you'll see on the photo. What's he got in there? His gym kit?
I visited Ascot Brewery back in February of 2008, not long after it was acquired by my friends Chris and Su Gill. Today, we'll be selling their Anastasia's Exile Stout here at The Gunmakers. It's a proper, bitter stout that pours perfectly black. At 5% abv, it's a fairly sensible strength, too. I intend to cane it relentlessly until the last drop is gone, so get here quickly if you want to try some.
I'll confess I've been following X-Factor this year. Naturally I'm backing Joe McElderry from my own home town of South Shields in the final, even if he isn't the most masculine fellow in the world. However, I'm wary about expressing my preference in the pub after reading this story on BBC News Online.
I'm very rarely sighted at The Gunmakers on a Monday or Tuesday evening. I take the view that my landlordly presence is only required during busy lunch services and on evenings when we're packed out. As such, I've missed out on the development of something very special: The Monday Club.
The chap I employ to assist me in management duties - Eddie is his name - presides over this exclusive society. Every week they gather to cane the ales, dominate the sound system and hoover up steak sandwiches. Tonight, I had to step into Eddie's shoes (his mum had whisked him off to Venice).
Now, I'd heard that a certain celebrity had become a regular on Mondays. Appreciating the more relaxed scene, he'd taken to sampling our guest ales on the quietest night of the week. The gent in question oncehosted a TV programme involving improvised comedy that I loved as a young'un. This evening - through gritted teeth-I watched him mingle with other Gunmakers regulars, with whom he's become well acquainted. When I served him, I could see it in his eyes: who's this random geezer - he looks a little old to be a barman.
And so, I learned something tonight: take your eye off the ball, and you'll be a stranger in your own pub.
A clutch of beer bloggers turned up at The Gunmakers tonight. In this photo you'll see five of theose crazy cats: Knut Albert, John (The Beer Nut), Mark (Pencil and Spoon), Dave (Woolpack) and Ron (Shut up about Barclay Perkins). Blogadogadingdong.
A pale, fearsomely hopped ale at 4.5% abv is hardly the winter warmer. Nevertheless, St Austell's Proper Job is going to be a regular fixture here throughout December. I've never seen a beer bring such joy to our regulars, and that's good enough for me. Yesterday we had a table who knew exactly what they wanted - five of the same, guv'nor.When I saw the ticket at the bar,I carried them over myself, so I could congratulate them in person.
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