Last night yielded a relaxing visit to the Jekyll and Hyde, for a couple of buckets of Jaipur and some great falafel.
I don't usually indulge in beer and food tasting - I'm not really refined enough. However, on this rare occasion, it seemed very civilised to grab a plate of grub and follow the example of my older, wiser drinking buddies. Generally speaking, I find that food buggers up a good pub sesh - one becomes sleepy, bloated and valuable time is wasted. But last night, it just felt right. The falafel was delicious, as were the quesadillas, although I can't remember what was in the latter.
The J&H is a pretty cool (unlike me), but I felt quite comfortable there. Any fan of Purity is well served, but a fan of gin would be even better off. Unfortunately I know absolutely nothing about gin or indeed any other spirit.
After the evening's fun, I swiftly popped into the Square Peg en route to the bus stop. [Blimey, I'd forgotten how big the bar is in this pub, but that's by the by]. Even having sworn I would not be sucked in by JDW's Spring real ale festival, I could not resist a quick peek. This latest fest runs from 14 March until 1 April and features a rather uninspired line up. However the one undoubtedly tempting item = a bitter brewed by Norwegian masters Nogne O. As Wetherspoons generally do for their fests, they flew over the head brewer of a renowned foreign brewery (in this case Nogne O) and had him brew a real ale interpretation at a friendly UK brewery (in this case Batemans). Soooooo, was it any good? No. No flavour. I was supremely bummed. But at least I have a bottle of Nogne's #100 barley wine in my cupboard - one of the best beers I've ever tasted, and it's reassuring to have it sitting there, waiting to be drunked. Actually it doesn't just sit there, it talks to me. Every day. "Drink me Dan - you deserve it". I deserve a prize for having resisted thus far. I also sampled quick halves of Caledonian Coffee Porter, Otter Pilgrim and Zululand Blonde (another of the foreign brewer guest beers). All the beers were average or worse. Oh dear.
Still, there's no fool like an old fool, so on Thursday afternoon I legged it over to Halesowen, for a super quick nose around their Wetherspoons venue, the William Shenstone. I sampled 3 x thirds there - two of which were other foreign brewer efforts - Murrikan Mild from US-based Smuttynose and John Martin's Pale Ale from Belgium. Both were reasonable, so that was cheering. The Martin's in particular had a very gentle, fresh and tasty hop signature. After 10 mins it was time to head home, but I did manage a 20 min visit to the Waggon and Horses anyway (I'm a weak man and the W&H is irresistible). At the Waggon, I necked an Art Brew Art Nouveau (leafy and pleasant) and half an Ename Dubbel - a Belgian beer on tap in Halesowen!??! Yes that's right, and very nice it was too, thanks for asking.
Then it really was home time.