Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Boon of the 'Spoon (part three)

Further to the ongoing debate about the merits of Wetherspoons, I have to say that there are several real-ale pubs in South Shields, but my local Wetherspoons, The William Wouldhave, consistently serves the best beer. Besides their standard brews, Marston's Pedigree Bitter and Greene King's Abbot Ale and IPA which are always available, the pub normally has at least two "guest ales" on tap.

My wife Marion and I make a habit of trying them all, buying two pints and swapping them between us, sharing "tasting notes" and opinions. Yesterday the guest ales, pictured right, were Marston's Merrie Monk and Anker Bruin, a Belgian brew from the Anker Brewery, Mechelen. At first, we agreed that we preferred the rich, dark, sweetish Belgian brew, which seemed a lot tastier than the Merrie Monk. But, as we went on drinking, the sharp, refreshing, more subtle taste of the Merrie Monk began to get through to us and won our vote for a second pint. Marion usually drops out at this point and opts for a light meal, such as the baked potato with crayfish and Marie Rose dressing shown in the photo below, occasionally sipping from my beer as the mood takes her.

Among our past favourites during such tasting sessions are Titanic Brewery's Lifeboat, a fruity, malty darkish beer which is nonetheless quite dry, enabling the drinker to sink quite a few pints. Devon's Butcombe Gold is another beer that we really appreciated. As its name suggests, this is a blonde beer, light and bittersweet, being made from English malt and fuggles hops.

The products of local brewers such as Big Lamp's Prince Bishop and the Allendale Brewing Company's Tar Barrel Stout have also won our approval in the past. This latter brew, with its rich dark texture and creamy head, impressed me so much that I have promised myself (and you) to get up to Allendale Town to sample more of the micro-brewery's products. If I remember rightly, there are four good pubs in the little Northumberland town and The Golden Lion bids fair to be called the Brewery's "tap".

All this talk of beer is making me thirsty and they'll be open soon so, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see what the Wouldhave has on offer today.

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