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    • Starters / Recipe / 32 Readings / 32 Ratings
      More +
      26.04.2010 18:45
      Very helpful



      Quick and easy to make, yet tasty starters.

      Garlic and Butter Prawns

      This first starter can also be served as a main course - just give everyone a bit more and serve with lots of warm crusty bread and butter. It's a good alternative prawn starter to just sticking with a prawn cocktail, or breaded prawns with a dip.


      250g - butter
      2 tbsp - Dijon mustard
      Juice of ½ lemon
      2 cloves - garlic
      ½ bunch - chopped parsley
      1/2kg - medium fresh prawns (deveined with shells taken off)


      1) Preheat your oven to 230C

      2) In a small pan combine the butter, mustard, lemon juice, finely chopped garlic and parsley, over a medium heat.

      3) Heat until the butter melts completely and then remove from the heat.

      4) Arrange the prawns in a shallow oven proof dish.

      5) Pour the melted butter mixture over the prawns.

      6) Bake in the preheated oven for around 15 minutes, or until the prawns are pink.

      7) Serve with crusty, warmed bread with butter.

      It's quick, easy to prepare and cook and looks and tastes pretty fine too!

      Baked Camembert

      This next started recipe is even easier than the last one and tastes really yummy. A friend gave me the recipe a couple of years ago and is apparently one that she saw on a James Martin programme.


      1 - boxed camembert
      2-3 - sprigs thyme, leaves only
      1 tbsp - olive oil
      baguettes, to serve


      1) Preheat the oven to 220C.

      2) Take the cheese out of the box, unwrap and slice the rind off the top. Return the cheese to its box, cut-side up, and place the box on a baking sheet.

      3) Season the camembert with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and drizzle with the olive oil.

      4) Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is browned on top and melted inside. Allow to cool slightly, then serve with crusty bread or baguettes.

      ...and it's as simple as that! The cheese goes all gooey and sticky and you can smear it on the bread. Yum!

      Fried Brie with Warm Cranberry Sauce

      This is another tasty and simple cheese starter that just tastes a little bit different. People will think you've really tried and have come up with something special, but with minimum effort.


      2 - eggs, beaten
      50g - flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
      150g - Brie
      50g - breadcrumbs
      Vegetable oil for deep frying
      250g - cranberry sauce
      Salt and pepper


      1) Place the flour, breadcrumbs and eggs in 3 small bowls.

      2) Dredge the Brie in the flour then dip it in the egg. Then dip it into the breadcrumbs. Repeat the coatings of egg and breadcrumbs until you have a thick coating.

      3) Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or saucepan to 180 degrees C. Fry the Brie for 3 minutes until golden and crisp.

      4) Remove the Brie with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

      5) Warm the cranberry sauce in a small pan over a medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.

      6) Pour the warm cranberry sauce on to a serving platter and put the Brie on top.

      Again, the cheese goes gooey inside, but the outside stays crispy, providing a nice contrast of textures. It looks really good and tastes even better.

      I hope you have a go at making these simple starters and enjoy eating them as much as we do. With all of them, you can even make them into a light main course with the addition of a salad or some more bread.

      ...enjoy! ...and, let me know what you think if you try them out yourself.


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      • More +
        23.04.2010 12:33
        Very helpful
        1 Comment



        A really great story with beautiful pictures.

        I Believe in Unicorns wasn't at all what I was expecting it to be. I thought it was going to be a fairy story set in a magical realm. It is, however, a magical tale of a different kind. The setting of a library also means something to me (I work in one), so I was definitely hooked from the beginning to the end.

        Written by the talented, award winning author Michael Morpurgo, I Believe in Unicorns is a beautiful story book. It is illustrated by the equally talented Gary Blythe. Both have great track records for producing excellent books, so I was expecting great things from this collaboration. Thankfully I was not disappointed.

        It is impossible to really review this book without giving away certain plot details, so if you really want to find out for yourself I wouldn't read any further and just take my word for it that this is a book that any child would love. Morpurgo's text is as always perfectly written and Blythe's watercolour, slightly sketchy illustrations really bring his words to life.

        I Believe in Unicorns was originally written as a short story that was published in the Sunday Times. It was then expanded into a short, but involved story set in a war torn town in eastern Europe. The intended age of the reader it is aimed at is seven years upwards. I would say that they may be a little low because anyone very young may find the vocabulary a little difficult in places. The subject matter is also not for the really young as it deals with war and does get a little sad at times. Thankfully the sad bits are short and to the point. The succinctness of Morpurgo's text also means that you don't have to wait too long before something more positive happens. He uses short sentences which are pretty good for younger readers who are just gaining confidence in their abilities.

        The main character is an eight year old boy called Tomas. Tomas is an outdoors sort of boy who can think of nothing worse than being inside a library, when he could be playing in the fresh air. He hates school, books and reading, so when he is forced to go to the library he is not very happy at all! But....once there he sees one of the children's librarians reading a story. What really gets his attention is the fact that she is reading while sitting on the back of a model unicorn. The Unicorn Lady tells wonderful stories that weave pictures of faraway places and magical things. Despite himself Tomas gets drawn into the world of the books and even ends up becoming a story teller himself.

        It is when war breaks out that the story takes a more menacing turn! It actually gets quite sad, but there is a happy ending of sorts (not that I'm going to give that away), so you can reassure your child that the traumas don't last long! As the war breaks out, the inevitable happens and the library gets torched by invading soldiers. The library burns and it is a race against time to get the books out of the building and save them from destruction. The children rescue the books they love so much and keep them safe until the war is over. But...what happens to the unicorn? You'll have to read the book yourself and find out!

        I Believe in Unicorns is a top class read for children and adults alike. It will make you think, make you smile and, at times, maybe make you cry too. It is long enough to allow you to get into the story, but still short enough to keep a younger reader's interest. It deals with issues that will appeal to older children and adults yet is still light enough to me safe for younger eyes and minds. It is an excellent and well crafted fictional story that could theoretically have some basis in fact - I'm sure there were many libraries that got destroyed and many books that got burned during the course of the Second World War.

        Once again Michael Morpurgo has delivered the goods. He has produced another excellent story about children living through the war years. He handles the issues raised sensitively and, teamed with the colourful and emotive illustrations, has written a captivating and interesting children's book. I am positive that many children will identify with Tomas and will empathise with him as he goes on his journey into the world of books and stories.

        Highly recommended!


        Walker Books Ltd

        ISBN-13: 978-1844281466
        My copy came from the library (but there was no unicorn) but it can still be purchased on Amazon either just as a book, or as part of a book and CD pack.


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        • More +
          20.04.2010 18:03
          Very helpful



          A well brewed Stout from a good microbrewery.

          I thought I was probably well overdue for another beer review, so here is a write up of one of my favourite beers at the moment. It's from a brewery that is local to me and is a really good Stout. Let me introduce you to Spire Brewery's Twist and Stout!

          ~~~THE BREWERY.

          Spire Brewery have been brewing now for four years and are based in a couple of industrial units in Staveley, not far away from where I live, in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Head brewer David McLaren, partner Sarah West and their excellent team have in just a few years built up a successful brewing business and have already won several awards with their range of beers. As well as a core range of regular beers Spire produce some interesting seasonal and one off beers - you can even order a special beer for special occasions by visiting their website!

          Beers to look out for in pubs national (they are part of the SIBA - small independent brewers association - scheme that allows pubs to order beers from microbreweries) include Sgt. Pepper Stout (a gorgeous and unique stout brewed using black pepper at 5.5% ABV), Britannia Cream Ale (a strong beer with marmalade flavours at 6.4% ABV) and Coal Porter (a smooth dark beer at 4.6% ABV).

          ~~~THE BEER.

          ***A Bit of Background***

          Like a lot of Spire Brewery beers the inspiration for the name of this beer is musical. In this case a play on the Beatles song Twist and Shout!

          ***Vital Statistics***

          Twist and Stout weighs in at 4.5% ABV and is brewed in the style of a Stout. Generally speaking a stout is black, full-bodied and rich and is made from dark-roasted barley. Stouts were originally known as stout-porter, being a stronger, more robust version of Porter (a dark beer made popular by Market Porters in the 18th and 19th centuries) . The Irish stout style is dry, acquiring a refreshing bitterness from roasted barley. Stouts which originated in the UK are generally sweeter than their Irish equivalent.

          ***Look, Aroma & Texture***

          Looks wise, Twist and Stout is a very dark, almost black beer with a light beige coloured head, that lingers and leaves a fine lacing down the glass as you drink. The aroma is a pleasant mix of coffee, chocolate, vine fruit and a hint of roasted malt. Texture is medium bodied and not too heavy, with a smoothness on the palate which is extremely pleasant.

          ***Tange's Taste Test***

          Flavour wise, Twist and Stout combines an sweetness from the fruit, with an increasing bitterness from the dark chocolate and coffee flavours. This leads to a long dry finish and a fruity, yet bitter, earthy aftertaste. Throughout there are hints of blackberry, vanilla and a slightly smoky roasted malt flavour.

          ~~~WHAT I THOUGHT.

          I really like Twist and Stout! It is a good solid Stout that is smooth in the mouth and rather easy to drink. It looks lovely to; with the milky coffee coloured head contrasting with the deep dark body. The aroma, though actually quite subtle, promises much of the flavours that are to come. It is a well balanced and well crafted beer that I will happily sample again and again within tiring of it.

          I have had Twist and Stout in quite a few different pubs. Most notably, The Britannia at Tupton, near Chesterfield. This is the Brewery Tap of Spire Brewery and a surefire place to get hold of some of their beers. They always have dark beers on the bar and the Stout tends to alternate between Sgt. Pepper and Twist and Stout. Expect to pay anything up to £280 a pint, but the cheapest you will get it will be at The Britannia (so it's always worth a visit).

          Twist and Stout is a beer I have no hesitation in recommending. On each occasion I have tried it the quality has been consistently good. It probably isn't going to appeal to people who prefer a light, hoppy, golden ale...but the roasty, smoky, chocolatey flavours will make it a winner with any dark beer fan.

          Look out for it when you are out and about and, above all, enjoy!

          ~~~BREWERY DETAILS.

          Spire Brewery
          Unit 2-3, Gisborne Close
          Ireland Business Park
          S43 3JT
          01246 476005



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          • Pork Recipes / Recipe / 33 Readings / 33 Ratings
            More +
            15.04.2010 18:58
            Very helpful



            Two pretty easy to make pork dishes.


            I am not the biggest eater of pork. It isn't something that I would generally pick out on a restaurant menu and I don't usually buy pork joints for Sunday lunch. When I do cook any pork myself I have to trim off the fat and make sure it's really lean before I start. There are a couple of tried and tested recipes I tend to use, so I know where I am and know I can eat the result! This next recipe combines dry cider, apples and pork and is VERY easy to do.

            INGREDIENTS -

            4 pork chops
            2 tbsp sunflower oil for frying
            2 Bramley apples
            1 large onion
            3 Celery sticks finely chopped
            1 tbsp Flour - seasoned
            600 ml dry cider
            6 chopped sage leaves

            METHOD -

            1) Heat the oil and brown the pork chops on either side. Then set them aside and keep them warm.

            2) Peel and slice the onion, fry for about 5 minutes and then add the chopped celery and heads for a further 5 minutes.

            3) Peel, core and slice the apples add to the pan with the celery and onions cook for another 5 minutes.

            4) Take out the ingredients from frying pan and keep these warm too.

            5) Sprinkle some flour and stir into some oil in the frying pan, stir and then add the cider and sage.

            6) Place all the ingredients into a casserole dish, put into a pre-heated oven at 180C and cook for around 40minutes, or until the chops are tender.

            7) Serve with the vegetables of your choice.

            It serves four, so you can either increase or decrease the amounts if you want to serve more or less people. I would recommend you use a good Real Cider rather than some of the mass produced stuff that has never even seen an apple because it really does improve the texture and flavour (as well as being a lot better for you with the lack of chemical additives).


            This next recipe is for more indulgent and is usually reserved for special meals in. The gin and juniper go really well and the crème fraîche in the sauce adds some nice richness to the dish.

            INGREDIENTS -

            2 juniper berries
            4 tbsp gin, warmed
            1 garlic clove, finely chopped
            1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
            1 tsp coriander seeds
            3 tbsp olive oil
            2 x 175g/6oz thick, boneless pork steaks
            150ml/ ¼ pint English apple juice
            4 tbsp crème fraîche

            METHOD -

            1) Crush the juniper berries coarsely with a rolling pin. Warm the gin in a pan, pour over the juniper berries and then leave this mixture to soak for at least 20 minutes.

            2) Trim the pork to take off any excess fat.

            3) Drain the juniper berries, but reserve the gin to use in the sauce later.

            4) In a mini blender, or using a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic, rosemary and coriander seeds with the juniper berries and 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Spread this mixture evenly over the pork, cover and leave to marinate for as long as possible. Over night is good, but really as long as you can manage.

            5) Heat the remaining oil in a small frying pan until very hot. Add the pork and cook quickly on both sides until golden, but not too brown. Pour in the gin and boil rapidly to remove the raw alcohol taste from the sauce. Pour in the apple juice and scrape the pan to loosen any sticky bits.

            6) Bring to the boil, half cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes until the pork is cooked and the sauce reduced but not too thick. Remove the pork and keep warm until ready to serve.

            7) Swirl the crème fraîche into the sauce, bring back to boil and boil rapidly for 1 to 2 minutes until it's a syrupy consistency and then season to taste.

            8) Serve the pork and sauce again with the vegetable of your choice.

            I hope you enjoy cooking and eating these recipes. They are both quite easy to do and are well worth the effort because they are really full of flavour and texture.

            Let me know what you think if you try them yourself....


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            • More +
              14.04.2010 16:09
              Very helpful
              1 Comment



              A beautifully illustrated and written book for younger readers.

              I was down in the Children's library the other afternoon and yet another lovely book came back for checking. The front cover illustration grabbed my attention immediately and, when I saw the names of not only one but TWO of my favourite children's authors on it I knew I HAD to read it! The book in question is Dolphin Boy, written by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman.

              Dolphin Boy is a children's picture book aimed at the younger reader. The amount of text and the vocabulary used is probably aimed at the slightly more confident younger reader, rather than a real beginner. Some of the words may be a little hard, but, as a bedtime story book, or one to read with your child and assist with understanding bits they don't recognise, it would suit any age.

              As the title suggests this is a story about a boy and a dolphin! Sounds very simple, but there's a little more to it than that. Dolphin Boy charts the friendship between a boy called Jim, who lives in a small Cornish fishing village, and a dolphin who comes to swim in the sea around the coast. The village isn't doing great economically; the fish have all gone and there is no longer any work for the fishermen. The story sees Jim and the villagers as they rally round to help the dolphin and the way the dolphin breathes life and restores community spirit to the village.

              I was pleased to say that there was some depth to the plot of the story too. The social aspect underpinning the book is a good addition and helps to carry what could easily become a little one dimensional and boring for an adult to read time after time to their little ones. What the two authors have given the reader is an interesting story told in a simple, yet effective way.

              It is a charming story that runs through a variety of emotions. We go through sadness, happiness and loss as the pages turn! There is an almost magical element to the relationship between the boy and the dolphin and the book conveys a real sense of the atmosphere of the sea. I really enjoyed the lovely way the two main characters interact with each other. Morpurgo captures the bond between them really well and this shines through in the wonderful descriptive text that he uses. This is also mirrored by the beautiful illustrations of Foreman.

              According to the back cover none other than Quentin Blake agrees with me about how wonderful the illustrations are. He says "Michael Foreman has a flair for turning a book into a special occasion." This is not an understatement! Foreman's paintings offer a vibrant, soft watercolour illustration to Morpurgo's well written text. Throughout the story the colours match the mood of the words; when there is sadness grey dominates, giving way to brighter shades during the happier stages. The vocabulary also matches the mood; the words are brighter and more colourful when the characters are happy.

              The text also has quite a poetic feel to it, for example

              "Rainbow coloured flash when jumping into the air. Boat called Sally May - went to look for Smiler. Saw gulls and gannets.
              Suddenly the sea began to boil and bubble around the boat, almost as if it was coming alive. And it WAS alive too, alive with dolphins!"

              You can almost picture the sea boiling and bubbling in your mind.

              The collaboration between the two Michaels works really well. As authors of several excellent children's books they obviously know what makes a good picture book and a good story too. Foreman seems to have a knack of knowing the right way to express what is happening through a series of lovely watercolour illustrations. Throughout the colours and soft images will captivate any child (and adult as well) and generate a feeling of wellbeing and beauty.

              I really recommend Dolphin Boy as a lovely book to read with a small child. It could become one of those classic picture books that will be bought out time and time again and be a favourite story for years to come.

              PRODUCT DETAILS ~~~

              Paperback: 32 pages
              Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd; New edition edition (4 Aug 2005)
              Language English


              My copy came from the library and cost me nothing. If you would like one of your own there are new and used copies available to purchase on Amazon.


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              • Soups / Recipe / 23 Readings / 22 Ratings
                More +
                08.04.2010 13:09
                Very helpful
                1 Comment



                Two interesting recipes using completely different types of beer.

                ORVAL BEER SOUP ~~~

                Last time we went to Belgium I tried some really nice soup made with Orval beer. The best thing about it was that it also came served with a glass of Orval and some really nice warm bread and butter. For those who have never tried it, Orval is a bottled beer brewed in at a monastery in the Guame region of Belgium and is a light coloured, slightly hazy beer, at 6.2% ABV.

                This is actually quite a thin soup but is quite pleasant and the flavour the is very interesting. It really does need the warm bread and butter to add some substance to the dish and to make it more hearty and filling.

                INGREDIENTS -

                1 bottle of Orval Beer
                2 pints of well-seasoned beef stock
                2 teaspoons of cornflour
                1/2 pint of milk
                1/4 pint of single cream
                2 egg yolks
                Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

                METHOD -

                1) Put the beef stock and beer in a pan, season with salt and pepper and a
                little nutmeg.
                2) Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes
                3) Mix the cornflour with the milk to make a paste, add to the soup and
                whisk to prevent lumps from forming. Then bring the mixture back to the boil.
                4) Beat the yolks together with the single cream in a separate bowl and then add to the soup stirring well. Bring back to the boil while stirring all the time.
                5) Serve in bowls with a glass of Orval and some chunky bread and butter.

                ...and enjoy!

                BEER, CHEESE AND PASTA SOUP ~~~

                This is another beer soup recipe that I found in an old recipe file and was also seen on Ready, Steady Cook. It combines the texture of pasta, with the richness and cream and tomatoes. Depending of which type of beer you use, the flavour and colour changes. I would recommend not using a very light beer because it gets lost and you can't really taste it. Go for a Bitter of a medium strength because, by the same consideration, anything too strong will over power. The best thing to do is to try several beers before you attempt the soup and see which one you like best! 

                INGREDIENTS -

                290ml/½ pint ale
                150ml/¼ pint vegetable stock
                100g/3½oz canned tomatoes
                100g/3½oz fresh tagliatelle
                2 free-range egg yolks
                3 tbsp double cream

                To serve -

                30g/1oz cheddar cheese, grated
                1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

                METHOD -

                1) Heat the beer in a saucepan and simmer until reduced by half.
                2.) Add the stock, tomatoes and pasta to the pan and simmer until the pasta is cooked.
                3.) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and double cream together.
                4.) Pour the hot soup into a bowl and whisk in the egg yolks and cream mixture, whisking continuously until thickened.
                5.) To serve, pour the soup into a serving bowl and stir in the cheese and basil.

                ....this is quite a thick, creamy soup and benefits from being served with some bread to temper the richness.

                I have chosen these two recipes in particular because, although they are both soups with beer, they are completely different and showcase the variety of beers that England and Belgium have to offer.

                Give them a try and let me know what you think....and make sure you do the research into which beers you like first!


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                • Brampton Aspire Ale / Beer / Cider / 32 Readings / 30 Ratings
                  More +
                  01.04.2010 21:27
                  Very helpful
                  1 Comment



                  A tasty beer from another excellent microbrewery.

                  Fruit beer? Fruit beer? It's like Peter Kaye's reaction to garlic bread! Fruit beer is different and could, most probably, be the future. Brampton Brewery have managed to combine beer and fruit in a way that, until now, only really Belgian beer manufacturers have managed in my humble opinion. Some British brewers have put fruit flavours in their ales, producing a sweet, slightly sickly affair that doesn't really taste like beer at all. Others offer us the promise of fruit and then don't deliver....disappointing and not great at all. So, when the folks at Brampton said they were going to put pomegranate in a beer I was understandably a little dubious.

                  ~~~THE BREWERY~~~

                  Brampton Brewery were launched back in December 2007 and are based in the old East Midlands Electricity Board offices on Chatsworth Road, Brampton, Chesterfield. The launch of the brewery was the realisation of a dream to see the Brampton Brewery name back on the bar around fifty years since the closure of the previous Brampton Brewery, which occupied a site not too far away from its present incarnation. Since their official launch in December 2007 their beers have fast gained popularity and have already won awards at their debut at Chesterfield Beer Festival in February 2008.

                  Look out for their brews in pubs in the East Midlands area and also further afield via the SIBA (Small Independent Brewers Association) scheme that allows pubs owned by pub companies to buy beers from microbreweries. I have so far seen it in several of my local pubs, including the Chesterfield Arms, the Rutland Arms and the Royal Oak in Chesterfield. They can also always be found in the brewery's own pub; The Rose and Crown at Brampton, just outside Chesterfield town centre.

                  Look out for Golden Bud (a golden hoppy bitter at 3.8% ABV), Brampton Best Bitter (a session bitter at 4.2% ABV) and Wasps Nest (a strong amber coloured bitter at 5.0% ABV).

                  ~~~THE BEER~~~

                  ***A Bit of Background***

                  Aspire was produced as a special brew in conjunction with Chesterfield Borough Council as part of their annual Market Festival, which celebrates the town's famous market. It was first produced in 2008 at the first CAMRA Market Hall Beer Festival. The reason for the pomegranate is that the coat of arms for Chesterfield Borough Council has a pomegranate as its main image - this insignia appears on the pump clip of the beer. This fruit has been associated with Chesterfield for many, many years, even though nobody really seems to have a clue why.

                  ***Vital Statistics***

                  Aspire weighs in at 3.7% and is a Bitter produced using the juice of real pomegranates during the brewing process.

                  ***Look, Aroma & Texture***

                  Looks wise, Aspire is a clear gold coloured beer with a small slightly off white head that is reasonably long lasting. Aroma is very fruity, combining lemony hops with pomegranate and elderflowers. There is also a slightly perfumed scent reminiscent of sweets. Texture is surprisingly robust, for a beer of this strength, with a good refreshing mouthfeel.

                  ***Tange's Taste Test***

                  On first sip I didn't get the pomegranate flavour at all, so I was initially a little disappointed that the fruity aroma didn't seem to have carried through to the taste. But....suddenly, through orange and lemon hop flavours and initial sweetness I was hit by the pomegranate! This gives the beer a pleasant tartness that refreshes the palate nicely. All this leads to an increasingly bitter finish and an after taste that is pretty crisp and dry, with a subtle hint of biscuity malt flavour.

                  ~~~WHAT I THOUGHT~~~

                  Although perhaps an acquired taste, I really think Brampton Brewery are onto a winner with their fruity Aspire. The cunning use of pomegranates makes it different to a lot of fruit beers, which can often be sweet and cloying with a fruit cordial feel, rather than an actual hint of fruit. The balance of flavour is also well achieved - the blend of sweet, tart and bitter elements add lots of depth and also prevent any of the flavour combinations taking over and spoiling the delicate balance.

                  Although I love Aspire I do know people who don't! My husband doesn't care for fruit beers anyway and pomegranate is probably just a step too far. It has a definite big fruit flavour, so if you don't like this particular fruit you probably won't be a fan. Anyway who likes a refreshing and crisp beer with a good hit of hops and bitterness will really like this one. It is certainly a beer you HAVE to try just to see if it's for you. I find the tartness really pleasant on the palate and makes me feel refreshed. I don't think it is a beer I could drink all night though, even though it's low alcohol strength puts it firmly in the session bitter bracket.

                  I have sampled Aspire at many pubs and beer festivals around my local area. Although originally planned as a one off special beer it is now a regular feature in the Brampton Brewery portfolio, where they market it as a refreshing summer beer. In all the pubs, and at the brewery, when I have tried some I have always found it to be of good quality and great to drink. Expect to pay around the £2.50 to £2.70 mark for a pint of it at most pubs.

                  So...next time you're feeling a bit fruity....look for a pint of Aspire!

                  ~~~BREWERY DETAILS~~~

                  BRAMPTON BREWERY LTD.
                  Unit 5 - Chatsworth Business Park
                  Chatsworth Road
                  S40 2AR
                  01246 221680



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                  • Baking / Recipe / 28 Readings / 27 Ratings
                    More +
                    29.03.2010 19:23
                    Very helpful



                    Recipes that even I can cook!

                    White Chocolate and Raspberry Pudding

                    Here is an excellent recipe that I got from the Daily Telegraph Cooks Diary. It is quite rich, but has a pleasant sour edge from the raspberries to stop it being too sickly sweet - I also find that being able to use frozen, as well as fresh raspberries makes it a bit more versatile because you don't just have to wait until the fruit is in season.

                    INGREDIENTS -

                    140g - soft brown sugar
                    110g - butter
                    2 eggs
                    2tsp - vanilla extract
                    170g - self raising flour
                    Milk or water
                    110g - raspberries (frozen or fresh)
                    100g - white chocolate (chopped quite roughly)
                    6 tbsp - raspberry jam

                    METHOD -

                    1. Grease an 850ml (1.5 pint) pudding basin and line with baking parchment.

                    2. Cream the butter and the sugar and beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs. Fold in the flour and milk or water (enough liquid to make a dropping consistency). Next stir in the raspberries and chopped up chocolate.

                    3. Scrape this mixture into the pudding basin, cover and steam for around two hours.

                    4. While the pudding is steaming add some water to the raspberry jam and heat it gently until it is a pouring consistency.

                    5. Turn out the pudding and spoon some of the heated, runny jam over it.

                    Serve at once with some cream and enjoy!

                    Apple Cake

                    This next recipe is one that I saw on "Something for the Weekend" on BBC on a Sunday. It looked really nice and I thought I'd give it a go. He served it with mascarpone cream with cinnamon added, but I just used some whipped double cream and it was just as nice. The cake has cinnamon in it, so I didn't want to overpower it with adding any to the cream. It's up to you if you want to do the mascarpone - just add a little bit of double cream to loosen up the mascarpone and stir in a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

                    INGREDIENTS -

                    330ml - French cider
                    300g - plain flour
                    2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
                    1 tsp mixed spice powder
                    1 tsp ground cinnamon
                    pinch freshly grated nutmeg
                    4 apples, peeled, core removed, grated
                    150g - soft dark brown sugar
                    150g - melted butter
                    2 eggs
                    200g - golden sultanas
                    100g - pecan nuts, chopped

                    METHOD -

                    1. Preheat the oven to 180C(360F/Gas 4).

                    2. Pour the cider into a pan over a high heat. Bring to the boil and cook until reduced by two thirds.

                    3. Sift the flour, bicarb, mixed spice powder, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl.

                    4. In a different bowl, mix the apples with the sugar and butter.

                    5. Add the eggs and reduced cider to the apples and stir until well combined.

                    6. Add the spiced flour mixture to the apple mixture and mix in well.

                    7. Add the sultanas and pecans and fold together until combined.

                    8. Spoon the cake mixture into a 20cm (8in) spring-form cake tin and bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

                    9. Turn out the cake onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

                    Serve in slices with a dollop of the cream of your choice and go mmmmmmmm!

                    GINGER LOAF CAKE

                    I love ginger in anything, so a ginger loaf cake sounded like my idea of heaven! It's also really easy to make too - so it's always a good option. It takes around twenty five minutes to put together and then baking takes about 1 ¼ hours. Serve warm or cold with some proper real butter for a bit of indulgence and you can't go far wrong!

                    INGREDIENTS -

                    350g plain flour
                    1 tsp baking powder
                    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
                    3-4 tsp ground ginger
                    8 globes preserved stem ginger in syrup, drained and chopped
                    125g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
                    100g light muscovado sugar
                    225g golden syrup
                    1 organic egg, beaten
                    75ml milk

                    METHOD -

                    1. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin) with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 160°C Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger. Set this aside. Chop 4 of the globes of ginger and add to the flour mixture. Finely slice the remainder and put to one side.
                    2. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a small pan. Set aside to cool slightly (around 15 minutes should be enough).

                    3. Beat the egg and milk together. Stir the cooled syrup into the dry ingredients, followed by the egg and milk and beat the mixture well. Spoon into the tin and overlap the rest of the sliced ginger on top. Bake for about 1 ¼ hours until just firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

                    Serve to your adoring audience and take a bow!

                    I hope you have enjoyed reading my baking recipes and look forward to hearing if you liked them if you decide to give them a go yourself.


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                    • More +
                      25.02.2010 13:50
                      Very helpful



                      An interesting and insightful picture book for an older audience.

                      When I came across this beautifully written and illustrated book I just HAD to write about it. Dealing with the extremely emotive subject of the Second World War, Rose Blanche gives us a view of war through the eyes of a young girl. From the outset the reader knows this is not your usual factual account of the conflict - instead it is written in the form of a picture book, but with enough words to show it is aimed at a slightly older audience.

                      At the beginning of the story we see the start of the war; the mood is light, with flag waving, speeches and optimism. We see that although Rose Blanche is unaware of the seriousness of the events that are unfolding in front of her she still knows enough to tell that something different is happening. As the text says "When wars begin people often cheer. The sadness comes later." She shivers with excitement at the scene, but is more caught up in the spectacle than she is in the reality of the situation.

                      The war gradually impacts on the life of Rose Blanche. To begin with it is just in the inconvenience of having to queue for food; food which often isn't there. Mostly her life isn't altered at all. She still does her homework, goes to school and carries on pretty much as normal. That is, until she sees a small boy trying to escape from a lorry; one of the lorries that nobody knew where they were going! "Some said they were going to a place just outside town." It is at this point that the war isn't all flags, speeches and cheering anymore - the war now has a face! The face of a small boy being threatened with a gun.

                      This is where the story starts to come alive! With clear and detailed illustrations, which go well with the simple yet effective text, Rose Blanche learns about the Holocaust! The book now becomes a haunting account of her running, furious at the treatment of the boy and the "other pale faces in the gloom" in the lorry, to see where these people are being taken. Rose Blanche's innocence is the perfect tool for the reader to see the awful face of Nazism in action. Facing her is a concentration camp and a row of silent people behind barbed wire. Instinctively she knows that this is awful and, as they start to shout out for help and food, she is upset and runs back home feeling "their sad and hungry eyes" follow her.

                      Now we see how Rose Blanche is willing to put herself at risk for the trembling children behind the electric fence. She saves her food and smuggles it to them through a small gap in the wires. As she gets thinner and more exhausted, her mood is matched by the moods of the soldiers moving in and out of town by cover of night. "The was no singing or waving now!"

                      The part of the story that chilled me most was the lead up to the end. The simple text and the hazy illustrations show Blanche Rose standing at the barbed wire with her basket of food. This time the fences have been broken down and the prisoners have gone. The allied troops in unfamiliar uniforms and cheerful faces have entered her town and the German troops are fearfully retreating into the fog. Poor Rose Blanche is leaving when there is a shot "a sharp and terrible sound". The poignancy is in the fact that the story never actually says that she is killed, but her mother looks for her and never, ever finds her.

                      The writer and illustrators (Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti) have triumphed in taking the complex events of World War II and putting them into the words of a six-year old child's innocent understanding of these events. As a result the reader comes away with a greater understanding of the tremendous loss of innocence and innocent lives during the Holocaust and the war as a whole. I defy any reader not to be moved by the simplicity of the words and the horror of the loss of Blanche Rose!

                      Yet, as I was rubbing my eyes and holding back a tear, the end of the story gives us hope for the future. The final picture shows "another, gentler invasion", as the countryside returns and begins to remove all trace of the horrors that went before.

                      It is an excellent lesson for all older children, and also a reminder to adults too. Through the unique perspective of a child's eyes we are taught so much. I am sure that as an educational resource I would consider this to be a very valuable way to teach and also to provoke discussion. Every picture needs to be explored to get the full impact of what they are trying to impart to the reader. As the pages turn, the images get darker and bleaker. The faces of the people become more troubled and even the sky becomes darker. The final image of the little girl at the barbed wire is the most evocative one in the whole book - it is also to simplest!

                      I congratulate McEwan and Innocenti for their powerful and thought provoking picture book. There is a stark realism in both the text and illustrations that drew me in and really made me think. The pictures have a real texture to them than is enhanced by the texture of the words! A top class book and a must for anyone who would like to learn more about the Holocaust, but in a slightly different way.

                      Product details
                      * Paperback: 32 pages
                      * Publisher: Red Fox (1 Jan 2004)
                      * Language English
                      * ISBN-10: 0099439506
                      * ISBN-13: 978-0099439509


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                      • More +
                        09.06.2009 18:50
                        Very helpful



                        A lovely place to visit and spend a few hours.

                        Whenever we go to North Yorkshire we try and pop over to the village of Goathland. Unlike many of the tourists there, we are not on a pilgrimage to see the sights of Heartbeat, or try and spot a cast member. We are there because it is close to one of the best (and possibly smallest) pubs you are ever going to visit. It is not only in a beautiful setting, it is also an amazing little building and the centre for the little community it is housed in.

                        THE LOCATION

                        This pub is the Birch Hall Inn, nestling at the bottom of the hill from Goathland, in the lovely village of Beck Hole. Beck Hole is around nine miles south of Whitby and a mile or so down the lanes and paths from Goathland. The Birch Hall Inn is pretty much the only amenity you will find in Beck Hole - there are a couple of B&Bs and guest houses and the mobile library visits every now and again, but apart from that it is the beautiful countryside that draws people to Beck Hole.

                        From Goathland Beck Hole is signposted, but the walk down (and more importantly back up again) is VERY steep, although exceedingly pretty. We generally walk down and then con the other halves into going and getting the car!

                        THE HISTORY

                        The pub comprises of two previously separate buildings which became one larger entity in the early 19th century. The earliest of these buildings dates from the 17th century, while the other is a century or so later. The pub now consists of the "big bar" (which actually isn't very big either) and the "little bar", with a small shop in between the two.

                        During the 1860s the new improved larger building was given a license to sell "Ale, Porter, Cider & Perry", which was gradually extended to a full license as time went on. During the 1960s Mrs. Schofield, the tenant since the late 1920s, purchased the pub, where she remained until the early 80s.

                        In 1860 this building was granted a license to sell 'Ale Porter, Cider and Perry' and in 1869 this license was extended from 6 to 7 days a week. However it was not until as recently as 1960 that the Inn was granted a full license to enable it to sell Spirits. The Inn remains privately owned.

                        THE OUTSIDE

                        As you can see from the picture of the outside the pub is a typical old looking building. You can distinctly see the two separate buildings - one whitewashed and one in the original stone. There are signs above the doors to direct customers to the different areas - the main public bar, the shop which separates the bars and the smaller bar at the top of the building. Along the little corridor which accesses the public bar there is also access to the toilets.

                        Outside, to the rear, there can also be found some little steps that lead to a little beer garden that is very pleasant to sit in on a nice sunny afternoon - be warned though that these steps are a little on the steep side. The beer garden is on three different levels, and offers a superb view, making it an excellent way to see the surrounding valley. If you want to sit outside but not venture up the steps you can sit on the benches and picnic style wooden tables and seats at the front of the pub. These however fill up quick when the weather is decent!

                        THE INSIDE

                        ~~Small Bar

                        The small bar is extremely small and definitely lives up to its reputation as cramped! This bar was originally part of the old shop and, according to the Beck Hole website (http://beckhole.info/home.htm), the record number of folk packed inside was hit in November 2000 and rests at 27 people and a dog - the size of the people and the dog are not noted! I would say this would be extremely uncomfortable and a feat NEVER to be repeated (especially if I'm there!). Children are allowed in here (maybe because they are small?) and there is also a way through to the beer garden.

                        ~~The Shop

                        The shop is also on the compact side. It began its life in 1860 as a place for railway workers and miners to buy supplies. Now it is mainly a haven for tourists, selling such things as plasters, postcards, ice creams and soft drinks. Of particular note are the varieties of sweets on sale - a real blast from the past are the penny mixes and the chance to get things you won't have seen for years! Walkers can also buy maps and guide books of the local area. We just got some sweets to suck on the journey home!

                        ~~Big Bar

                        When they say "big" they were really just using the other bar as a comparison! This bar isn't what you'd really call large at all. This is my favourite room - cosy and welcoming, with a real fire and wooden benches and tables. Sitting in here you can picture what it would have been like to visit in years gone by. To be honest I can't imagine it has changed much in decades! Around the walls there are old photos and little knick-knacks from times gone by. It is a fascinating room and well worth spending a relaxing few hours with a pint in. Service in this bar is via a hatch, with a sign politely asking that you return your empties back through this hatch to save the barmaid a journey round from the other bar.

                        This is the room we normally sit in because we prefer the more comfortable and homely ambience - and the little bit of extra breathing space of course! You may also like to know that children aren't allowed in the Big Bar.

                        ~~What's to eat and drink?

                        As well as the usual array of wines, spirits and soft drinks, the Birch Hall Inn also serves a pretty good pint of Real Ale. On the numerous occasions we have visited the beer range has varied and we have always managed to find an interesting and often previously unsampled beer. Often the beers come from local breweries - we have had beers from Cropton (from near Pickering), Daleside (from near Harrogate) and many others, including a chance to try the house beer - called, unsurprisingly Beckwatter! From a pub that started out with no Real Ale at all they have come on leaps and bounds since 1989, when they had their first proper brew from Theakstons. Prices are a little more than you would pay in a less touristy place, but not astronomical and no where near the prices we have paid in some other pubs. The Beer quality is usually top class too!

                        On the food side there are no meals offered, but beer soakage comes in the form of bar snacks - pies and sandwiches. These are very filling and the pies are also locally sourced. You can choose from pork pies and (my personal favourite) turkey and ham pies, which cost £1.80 each and from a range of butties, served on flat bread cakes baked in Whitby - they are yummy and cost £2.60, with a choice of cheese, ham, pate or corned beef. All the food comes on an interesting range of plates (none of which have ever been known to match while we've been there) and a little dish of pickle.

                        I thoroughly recommend trying both the Real Ale and the snacks. If you're still hungry they do scones (with jam and cream) and beer cake, but so far we've never been able to manage anything after the pie and sarnies!

                        ~~Essential Info

                        During the summer months (which began this year on May Day) the pub opens all day, between 11am and 11pm, but this is cut down a lot during the winter. Check the pub part of the Beck Hole website before you visit to make sure you won't be disappointed, or give the pub a ring to check opening times as they may be subject to change. You will be glad to find out (as I was) that they now serve the bar snacks during all the opening hours - they used to only sell food during the day!

                        FINAL THOUGHTS

                        Despite the walk and the lack of space The Birch Hall Inn is a great place for a drink, a snack and a chance to meet some friendly and interesting folk. The compact and intimate atmosphere makes for a buzz of conversation - in these surroundings it isn't possible not to get talking with the other customers and I'm sure many friendships have been forged while sharing a bench in one of the tiny bars!

                        We love visiting and thoroughly enjoy settling down by the fire to dry out, or sitting in the glorious sunshine at the tables in the beer garden. The Birch Hall Inn is many things to many people and a trip here can be entirely different depending on the season. Next time you are knee deep in tourists at nearby Goathland, consider following the signs to Beck Hole for a singular experience in a unique little pub!

                        PUB ADDRESS AND OTHER DETAILS

                        The Birch hall Inn
                        Beck Hole
                        North Yorkshire
                        YO22 5LE
                        01947 896245


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                        • More +
                          07.06.2009 19:06
                          Very helpful



                          An interesting look at all aspects of Cider and Perry

                          As an irregular cider drinker I wasn't expected to enjoy reading the new book from the CAMRA (CAMpaign for Real Ale) bookshop. Cider, as it is simply titled, is just about that! Cider - its production, where to buy it, drink it, cook with it and even how to make it yourself. The reader will even learn something about the history and folklore of cider and also about some of the interesting characters of the cider world.

                          This is where the book grabbed my interest. Presented in full colour and featuring contributions from a variety of authors, Cider is actually pretty good! No less than 13 separate authors are mentioned in the introduction, so putting this book together must have been an editor's nightmare! All the authors have a different speciality and a different style of writing - what links them is their obvious knowledge and affection for the Real Cider industry.

                          The photographs are clear, bright and very well produced. Taken by Mark Bolton, a freelance photographer with a penchant for all things cider, they give a good insight into the world of cider production - along with some very nice pictures of pubs too. For me there is also a local interest. There are a couple of pages about the Old Poets' Corner in Ashover; as a former National Cider Pub of the Year they have certainly earned the right to feature alongside some of the top cider pubs in the country. Not bad for a pub that is located in Derbyshire and not in an area traditionally associated with the making of cider.

                          On a slightly more far away note, readers of the book will also gain some knowledge of cider producers from other countries, all of whom have had some sort of influence on UK cider making - an interesting trip via Spain, France, Austria and Germany!

                          The fact that such a glossy publication has been published is testament to the current revival of cider; in fact the book states that "in the past five years, the number of cider producers has blossomed and more real cider and perry is now being produced than 15 years ago. Most of these cidermakers are hobby producers, though several are reaching the tipping point where they are able to pack their day jobs in and produce full time." Good news for those who enjoy a drop of cider and perry!

                          I would definitely recommend anyone who wants to learn more about proper cider and perry to give this book a go. It is well set out, interesting and has enough content to get me picking it up again and again. It isn't a book that I would ever read from cover to an ordered fashion. It is more of a book to dip into; pick a section at random and learn something new each time! Even just flicking through and looking at the photographs is well worthwhile. I thought they were excellent and gave a real snapshot of aspects of the cider drinking world. Where else could you find a double page colour photo of a pile of apples waiting to be pressed in Somerset?

                          My favourite sections are the matching cider with food section, which also includes some rather yummy looking recipes and the Cider Pub of the Year winners section, which has given me some ideas for places to visit while out and about. What you won't get in Cider is any homage to the mass produced, chemical filled ciders and "pear ciders" - leave all thought of Magners over ice at the door before entering the pages of this book. What you have got is an interesting view of the amazing and dedicated folks who drink and love cider - some of them are slightly barmy, but all of them have a story to tell!

                          Cider is a lavish production which will appeal to cider and perry drinkers new and old. It is modern and well produced with a good amount of info and detail. Its large format, however, makes it more suited as a coffee table book, rather than a pocket guide to take out and about with you. I thoroughly enjoyed it and, as a cider novice, learned a good deal that I didn't know before. Whether it would impart anything new to a cider aficionado is another matter indeed, but as a sharp and informative way to tempt people towards the merits of real cider and perry it certainly does its job!

                          ==BOOK DETAILS==

                          Cider can be purchased from the CAMRA website at http://shop.camra.org.uk/DisplayDetail.aspx?prodid=268&secid=43
                          Available now for £12.99 (members' price) or £14.99 (non-members' price).


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                          • Thornbridge Katipo / Beer / Cider / 53 Readings / 52 Ratings
                            More +
                            31.05.2009 11:34
                            Very helpful



                            Excellent stout!

                            I am a big fan of dark beer, so when I heard that the award winning Thornbridge Hall Brewery had produced another one, I just HAD to give it a try. This new beer was Katipo (pronounced Kar-ti-paw).

                            ==THE BREWERY==

                            Thornbridge Brewery are based in Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire, in the grounds of Thornbridge Hall; a small, but perfectly formed stately home. Set up in October 2004, many of their beers are brewed using local ingredients, or often feature an interesting twist. Since their foundation Thornbridge have built up an impressive portfolio of beers and an even more impressive array for awards for their outstanding products. Beers you may come across include Jaipur IPA (strong and tasty golden beer at 5.9% ABV), St Petersburg Stout (dark, strong and rich at 7.7% ABV) and Kipling (packed with tropical fruit flavours at 5.3% ABV).

                            ==THE BEER==

                            ==~~A Bit of Background~~==

                            A short while ago the brewery issued a challenge to their brewers; each of them had to produce a unique beer to showcase their skill, talent, style and taste. Through a variety of means (via the ratebeer website and in pubs for example) a winner was announced. Kelly Ryan, the brewery's resident brewer from New Zealand had come out on top with Katipo! Kelly named his beer after a small, but pretty deadly spider from his native New Zealand,

                            ==~~Vital Statistics~~==

                            Katipo weighs in at 5.4% ABV and is brewed using raspberries from Belgium. It is brewed in the style of a Porter - dark, not too heavy.

                            ==~~Tange's Taste Test~~==

                            Looks wise, Katipo is a very deep brown, almost black, coloured beer with a light beige head. Aroma is quite smoky, with hints of chocolate and a little bit of berry fruit. Texture is not too heavy, but not thin and watery like some Porters can be. Taste is a subtle blend of bitter dark chocolate, roasted malt and an underlying, but not overpowering tinge of raspberries. The finish is quite dry and bitter, with a slightly citrusy hop coming through in the aftertaste. This all makes for a tasty and intensely drinkable beer, with bags of flavour, without being over the top.

                            ==WHAT I THOUGHT==

                            I was really impressed by Katipo and really enjoyed drinking it both at Chesterfield Beer Festival in February and also during our Stouts, Porters and Old Ales trip, when we visited the Coach and Horses at Dronfield. On each occasion the beer was on top form and really easy and pleasurable to drink. The subtleness of the raspberry was enough to taste, but not overly strong and the other flavours provided a good balance to the beer. It's a lovely looking beer too; deep and dark with good contrast between the body and the head. The levels of flavour work so well and give depth, without any of the flavours being too dominant or weak.

                            All in all a very impressive and well crafted brew that was a pleasure to drink. We paid £2.60 a pint at The Coach and Horses, which is pretty standard for a drink of this strength. I would thoroughly recommend Katipo to anyone to enjoys dark beers and those who like fruity flavours. It was extremely tasty and had me rushing back to the bar for more once my first pint had gone....and all this from someone with a fear of spiders!

                            A real winner!

                            ==BREWERY DETAILS==

                            Thornbridge Brewery
                            Thornbridge Hall
                            Ashford In The Water
                            DE45 1NZ
                            01629 641000




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                            • More +
                              08.12.2008 19:42
                              Very helpful



                              Surprisingly good beer!

                              I was just thinking the other day that I hadn't had a pint of this particular beer for ages. Then...low and behold...I was on a beer ratings trip where we happened upon some lurking on the hand pumps of Clowne Social Club! This beer is one that you should always get someone else to order (because it's funny) or just take the bull by the horns (or the dog by the dangly bits) and order a pint of Dog's Bollocks (furthermore to be written as Dog's...because I'm lazy NOT embarrassed).

                              THE BREWERY

                              Wychwood Brewery was set up in 1983, in the Oxfordshire market town of Witney. The brewery is named after the Royal Forest of Wychwood, which was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. The medieval forest theme carries through to the Wychwood branding and many of the beer label pictures show characters from various forest myths and legends; look out for witches, goblins and beasties!

                              In 2002, when the Brakspear Brewery closed down, Wychwood took over production of their brands too in a dedicated Brakspear brewing area, increasing the Wychwood portfolio and output to over 50,000 barrels per annum.

                              The brewery uses water from the nearby River Windrush, and yeast from the old Morland Brewery, to produce a range of interesting bottled and cask conditioned beers. Names to look our for include the infamous Hobgoblin (a ruby red, fruity beer at 4.5% ABV), Winter's Troll (a chocolaty winter beer at 4.8% ABV) and BeeWyched (a seasonal blond honey and fruit beer at 4.2% ABV).

                              THE BEER

                              ***Vital Stats***

                              Dog's weighs in at 5.2% ABV and is brewed using wheat and Styrian hops (from Slovenia).

                              ***Look, Aroma & Texture***

                              Dog's is a deep, rich, dark golden coloured strong beer, with an off white, reasonably long lasting foamy head that leaves some lacing around the glass as you drink. Aroma is quite slight; predominantly caramel, mixed with a grassy hop element. Texture is medium bodied, with a good amount of carbonation, giving a pretty nice tingle on the tongue.

                              ***Tange's Taste Test***

                              For a strong beer and a beer with such an in your face name, Dog's actually has a surprisingly subtle flavour blend and is well balanced too. Dominant taste for me is a rich fruitiness (vine fruit and plums), combined with spices, pepper and citrus. This leads to an increasing bitterness that carries on to the dry, crisp finish. The aftertaste is surprisingly sweet and has a caramel edge, conflicting a little with what came before.

                              WHAT I THOUGHT

                              I actually really enjoyed my pint of Dog's and remembered why I used to drink it all those years ago. It's a shame that it doesn't seem to be around as much as it used to be, but perhaps the saying is true and absence really does make the heart grow fonder! I liked the balance of flavours and found it to be extremely pleasant for a strong beer. I was pleased the texture wasn't too heavy or syrupy too, as strong beers sometimes can turn out.

                              That said, it probably wouldn't rate as one of my Desert Island beers, because there are certainly much classier and interestingly flavoured beers on the market! I did like it though and would most certainly have had another if we were able to stay at the Social club and not move on to another pub. I also think that the pint we had was especially well kept and, as such, a good example of how this particular brand should taste (not all places could sell it looking and tasting so good).

                              Our pints cost £2.20 from the social club - a bargain price for a stronger beer these days! Expect to pay anything from that figure to around the three quid mark, depending on where you are in the country. Most pubs around my area (in Derbyshire) tend to see beers like this for sale at around £2.50, so anything under that is certainly a bonus.

                              Although not the best beer you're ever going to find, I would certainly recommend Dog's Bollocks to anyone who appreciates a fruity, flavour filled beer, with a pleasant mouth feel.

                              Definitely one to try....if not to order in polite company!

                              BREWERY DETAILS

                              The Wychwood Brewery Co Ltd
                              Eagle Maltings
                              The Crofts
                              OX28 4DP

                              01993 890 800


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                              • More +
                                04.08.2008 19:42
                                Very helpful



                                A children's picture book to keep and cherish.

                                Some books are a joy to read and give pleasure to those who open their pages and peek inside. They take you into the world of the characters and transport you into other places, with other people. When you find a book like this you have to share and pass it on to others to experience the wonder you have found within the binding. Old Hushwing is one of these books. It is a truly beautiful children's picture book that would be a welcome addition to any child's collection. Written by Alan Brown and ably illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi, this is one of those favourite storytime books that is a popular choice among our customers in the library.

                                THE PLOT

                                The plot is simple, but if you don't want to know then please avoid this next paragraph! - It is the story of a young boy called Billy who lives in the countryside. Billy finds that there is a barn owl living in the old barn near his house and he is thrilled by watching it and is excited because he thinks it is his little secret. He lies in bed at night listening to it swooping and hunting. The problem begins for him when he finds out the barn is to be converted to make room for Billy's extending family - his mum is having a baby and they need more space. Billy is very upset and, although the builders make sure there is a high up place for the owl in the conversion plans, the work scares the owl away. Billy isn't happy, but time passes and his attention is taken for a while helping with his new little sister Hannah. As spring comes Billy is out in the garden climbing a tree. The story ends as he is excited to find that the owl has returned...bringing his mate (Mrs. Hushwing) with him.

                                WHAT I THOUGHT

                                Although the story is pretty basic and has probably been told before, it is in the telling and the illustrations that Old Hushwing really wins through. The book begins with Alan Brown giving a little background about the story - he explains that Old Hushwing is the country name for the Barn Owl mainly because they silently fly and swoop by night. The story is told with feeling and compassion, making the reader (and the child who is being read to) empathise and identify with Billy. His initial joy is portrayed well, as is his distress when the owl goes away. We also feel we have gone through the events with him and there is a genuine sense of relief when Old Hushwing and Mrs. Hushwing return with the good weather in the spring.

                                The soft, very beautiful coloured illustrations add to the atmosphere of the tale. They are expertly executed and are almost like soft focus photographs. They are as gentle as Alan Brown's narrative and go really well with the whole feel of the book. We learn a lot about Billy from the pictures as well as the text - he loves the countryside, is a feeling, gentle and caring person who has a sympathy and understanding for nature. We also feel his dilemma when he learns about his mum having a baby. He is pleased at the news and also happy that he is to have a nice new bedroom in the barn conversion. His joy quickly turns to guilt and he is unhappy that their actions seem to have driven the owl away - perhaps into danger.

                                Aimed at the younger audience, Old Hushwing is aimed to be read aloud and the pictures meant to be shared by the reader and the fortunate child who is listening. My only problem with using it as a bedtime read is that you may have to try and get it finished in one sitting. Stopping when the owl flies away may lead to a disturbed night as your little one may fret for the safety of the bird. A bit of reassurance may help - but continuing to the happy ending is the best way to get a settled and happy child!

                                Old Hushwing is a powerful tale despite the gentleness of the words and pictures. It is stunningly illustrated and is a real pleasure to read. The text is full of imagery and the pictures make it a classic bedtime read. As well as being a great story it can also serve as a useful tool for teaching children about the countryside and the problems of animals losing their homes.

                                I read my copy of Old Hushwing after borrowing it from the Children's Library where I work. This book is one that I would recommend buying and keeping to read over and over again. It is delightful and definitely one to keep, save and cherish with your children.

                                BOOK DETAILS

                                * Paperback: 32 pages
                                * Publisher: Picture Lions; New Ed edition (7 Jun 1999)
                                * Language English
                                * ISBN-10: 0006646492
                                * ISBN-13: 978-0006646495

                                ***This review will appear on other websites***


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                                • More +
                                  14.07.2008 19:50
                                  Very helpful



                                  An indespensible guide to London's Real Ale heritage.

                                  Following on from reviewing the Peak District Pub Walks book I decided to dip into one of his other books again. This one uses the city as its base and gives beer fans a guide to walking around the nation's capital. London Pub Walks is produced by CAMRA (CAMpaign for Real Ale) and can be purchased via the CAMRA website (www.camra.org.uk) or from bookshops (either online or on the high street). Written by Bob Steel, beer enthusiast and author, London Pub Walks is a pocket-sized guide to some of the nicest and historic pubs in London.

                                  The book covers the whole of the city and allows you to tour sections of the city, while always being within easy reach of a decent pint of Real Ale. It includes 30 walks around over 180 pubs. The walks are easy and include all the necessary information you need to enjoy your visit, including which tube or train stations to get off at, architectural details about the pub, opening hours and what beers you will find on the bar.

                                  Each walk is prefaced by a colour map, with the pubs numbered on it. The walks are described in enough detail to prevent even me getting lost! There are full colour photographs of some of the particularly interesting pubs interiors and exteriors - linking to a section in the book about the CAMRA National Inventory of pubs of historic importance. Another excellent thing is that it tells you roughly how long each section of the walk takes (not just the distance) which helps you plan your journey well to make sure you allow time to complete the walk.

                                  The walks are also of varying lengths so everyone can be suited; on our last trip to London we didn't have time to do the whole of the two trails we chose. This is when we found out that it is easy to adapt the walks and cut out bits if your time schedule needs it. There are also ways to link a couple of individual walks together if you have longer to spend. The different walks to suit all tastes, whether you are a beer connoisseur or if you want to sight see around some of London's famous land marks, shop en route, go to theatre land, or just want to see the lovely pub buildings.

                                  Bob Steel gives information on landmarks and any other interesting features you may see on the way, enhancing your visit. There are also "try also" pubs as well as the featured ones to give you plenty of choice. Additionally, and very usefully, the pub listings also tell you whether the pubs serve food or snacks and when you can expect the food to be served to and from.

                                  London Pub Walks is easy to use, easy to follow and is a good read as well as a useful resource. It is very informative, well written and researched and has taken us to pubs and areas in London that we may not have found on our own. On our last visit we ended up in Greenwich and, with the help of Bob Steel's book we found a lovely pub with reasonably priced beer - what made it extra interesting was that a local photographer had used the street outside the pub previously to shoot a picture of about a hundred naked people laying on the road and pavement. The photo is huge and is displayed in the pub, with some information about it. The real treat was watching the faces of other visitors to the pub as they spotted it for the first time!

                                  London Pub Walks is reasonably priced at only £8.99 and is indespensible for those who like to explore and also appreciate good beer in good surroundings. Every time we go to London now we make sure we pack a copy of this excellent little book. It is compact enough to fit in a pocket or bag, yet is big on information and ideas!

                                  Highly recommended!

                                  PRODUCT DETAILS

                                  * Paperback: 160 pages
                                  * Publisher: CAMRA Books (19 Feb 2006)
                                  * Language English
                                  * ISBN-10: 1852492163
                                  * ISBN-13: 978-1852492168

                                  Currently listed on www.amazon.co.uk at £8.99

                                  ***This review will appear on other websites***


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