Showing posts with label hunter gatherer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hunter gatherer. Show all posts

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pubs Are Great

As I am sure you are aware, last week was Thanksgiving, and Mrs V and I jumped in the car on Tuesday afternoon and went to Columbia, SC, to spend the holiday with her family. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday and the shops have insane sales which encourage slaves to consumerism to unleash their base natures in random acts of violence. I went to the pub instead, and walked seven and a half miles into the bargain, for which I got an over fizzy pint of Boston Lager, a St Bernardus Abt which smelt distinctly of caramelised bananas, and Left Hand's wonderful Sawtooth utterly abominated by the use of nitro. Oh, I almost forgot, I got a bloody huge blister as well. At least the bratwurst in a bun was top notch.

Despite the less than stellar drinking experience, my few hours sat in the Flying Saucer in Columbia, reminded me of why I love going to the pub. I was sat in a comfy, battered old armchair with my book, lost in the world of the Scots language with barely a care in the world. The Saucer wasn't wildly busy, there were a few people in watching the American Football, the service was efficient and in the midst of it all I could shut everything and everyone out for a wee while.

On Saturday night we met up with friends at Hunter Gatherer, Columbia's only brewpub and quite possibly my favourite place to go for a drink in the city. Again it was everything a pub should be, a laid back atmosphere, efficient staff and good food and booze - their ESB is fast becoming a favourite of mine, and their seasonal stout was a good solid offering. Thankfully one of the things that gets right up my nose didn't happen. There have been occasions when the service in a pub has been abysmal when they discover you won't be ordering food straight off the bat.

Both these trips to the pub got me thinking that there is so much more to a good pub than just an impressive selection of taps. A proper pub is place where you can socialise with your friends or bury yourself in the corner with a book and really doesn't matter because you get well treated either way.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In Praise of Brewpubs

We are inordinately fortunate in this part of the world, as I have mentioned before, to have a wealth of brewing companies within an hours drive. Whether we are talking about the likes of Starr Hill, whose beers are available throughout the south east of the US, with the exception of Georgia, or one of the local brewpubs, we have loads of beer options here. It is great being able to go into our nearby shops and pick up six packs of locally made beer. Having said that, I have to admit that I prefer to combine my two favourite things, pubs and beer, by going to one of the brewpubs.


If you follow Fuggled with even the vaguest sense of regularity you will know that my favourite brewpub in the Charlottesville area is Devils Backbone, out in Roseland. I love the beer, the food, the atmosphere, the drive back in the depths of night can be a bit hairy at times though. Mrs Velkyal and I also enjoy popping over to Blue Mountain from time to time, again for good beer and a nice relaxing vibe. Whenever we venture away from home, we look instinctively for brewpubs to drop in to, and so we have enjoyed Blue Ridge Brewing in Greenville, Hunter Gatherer in Columbia, Southend Brewery in Charleston (yes we go to South Carolina a lot). All this got me thinking about reasons for preferring a brewpub to pretty much any other drinking experience, and I came up with a couple of reasons.


Firstly, most brewpubs are good pubs in general. If you go to South Street Brewery in the centre of Charlottesville, the building itself is beautiful, and it feels very much like a proper pub. Dark, almost brooding, plenty of bare brick and dark wood, it is very much my kind of ambience. Devils Backbone by contrast is mainly stone, wood and corrugated iron (it might be tin, so don't quote me), the high ceilings add a sense of space and light which doesn't translate to bright and gaudy. Blue Mountain kind of feels like my living room, with a very nice patio outside. Different places with different atmospheres but all identifiably pubs. They are places for enjoying beer, first and foremost.


Now this might be slightly controversial, or entirely obvious, but brewpubs succeed or fail on the basis of their beer, and that means they need to be on top of their game constantly. By this I mean that they have no place to hide when it comes to criticism. They brew their own beer, condition their own beer, serve their own beer. If there is a problem with a beer then they can't blame the distributor for not looking after it properly, or the pub for not serving it properly, the buck stops with them. Why then is this a reason for me to prefer the brewpub experience? Simply because if I am enjoying a pint of excellent beer, then I am confident that if I switch drinks, they will likewise well made and cared for, at the same time if the pint is not up to scratch and then neither is another, then it suggests a systemic problem with the brewing setup. As such, it allows me to make an informed decision as to whether or not I want to continue pouring money into their cash register.


A major benefit of the brewpub though is having had a flight of samples, you can then order a pint of the one you liked best and get tucking in to a good session - which is, after all the prime purpose of beer, if beer needs to have a purpose.

The best brewpubs combine the best of the beer world, good beer in a convivial environment.

Now, just in case you are thoroughly confused with me writing a positive post rather than ranting, here's something to restore your sense of normality. Yesterday I was in Barnes and Noble when I picked up the book The Beer Trials, turning to the page about Pilsner Urquell, I was dumbstruck by the ignorance and all round bullshit of the description of the beer. For starters "Pilsner Urquell" is GERMAN for Pilsner from the Original Source, not Czech. Yes they really said that. Twice. Ignorant tits. Secondly opening a bottle of pasteurised Pilsner Urquell thousands of miles from the Czech Republic is hardly the best way to enjoy a famously delicate beer, especially when the glass is green, and so the "traditional lightstruck/noble hop" aroma is not normal. Try drinking Pilsner Urquell from a tankove system, in the Czech Republic before waffling bollocks. Here endeth the lesson.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I Gather You Hunt, Sir?

In the past, whenever Mrs Velkyal and I headed down to South Carolina I had but one thing on my zythophilic mind, a trip to the Flying Saucer. While we were in Columbia over the Christmas period (am I allowed to say Christmas? Isn't it "the holidays"?) I decided that I really needed to finally get my arse round to Hunter Gatherer, Columbia's only brewpub. I wish I knew why we had never visited, it may have had something to do with Flying Saucer's high flying mini-skirted waitresses, but I digress.

I was getting snippy last Monday, I don't know Columbia well enough yet to feel confident driving without the good lady wife, or her father, but I needed to get out of the house and have some me time (in Myers-Briggs speak, I am an INTJ and need me time to re-charge batteries). A quick look on Mapquest showed me that from the in-laws' place to Hunter Gatherer was about 7 miles. So, I announced to the gathered family members that the next day I would walk into town for a beer or two, Mrs V having promised to help paint her grandmother's kitchen.

So yes, I walked 7 miles to go to the pub. I had my Walkman on (it is a Sony Walkman MP3!), listening to Wolfstone, and set off, notebook, camera and tastebuds in tow. The walk took me about an hour and 45 minutes, so I must assume that your average Mapquest user is in fact a three toed sloth. I arrived just after opening time, and just in time for lunch, and having read they do 4oz pours for $1 ready for the flight that followed.


First up was their American Wheat Ale, a style which so far has left me cold, and not particularly refreshed. Anyway, this Wheat Ale poured a slightly hazy golden, topped with just a wee bit of white head - I had seen the head straight from the tap and it looked decent, but seemingly American drinkers like their beer head to look like scum on top of a London cup of tea. Back to the beer though, the nose was distinctly malty, bready and biscuity. There was however an aroma I couldn't quite place, until as I inhaled deeply with my eyes closed I realised it was wet cat. Finally I understood why American hops were considered "catty" way back when. As the beer warmed, the expected grapefruit citrusy thing came through more. Tastewise, this was rather like a nice lemon meringue pie, with a digestive biscuit base. Overall, a decent refreshing beer, though I fear American Wheat Ales won't be jumping to the top of my must have beer list any time soon.


Next up was their Pale Ale, which is a deep orange amber colour with a touch of white foam. Being a classic American Pale Ale, can you guess what the nose was? Yes, citrusy, grapefruity hoppiness - which is exactly what I want and expect from an American Pale. Drinking the beer was an exercise of sweet caramel malts providing a nice counterbalance to the zingy, orangey bite of the hops. Clean and very easy to drink. When I took Mrs Velkyal to the pub the next day, she had this and remarked that it would rival her beloved Primator English Pale Ale for preferred beer - high praise indeed!


Third in the line-up was the ESB, which as you can see from the picture pours a deep copper, again with a white head. The nose was sweet candy and spiciness, which put me in mind of Goldings hops - I did ask but the brewer wasn't around and the barman didn't want to say for sure. Tastewise, this was quite tangy in an almost sourdough bread way, the spicy hop bite playing nicely with the maltiness of the beer. Overall, I thought this to be a good solid bitter, crisp with a long dry finish.


Their special on the days I visited was a winter warmer called Ye Olde Bastarde, a deep russet beer topped with a dark ivory head. The nose was full of cocoa and sweet grass. The sweetness of caramel malts was very much to the fore in the flavour department, with cocoa and toffee dominant, but the hops play through with a mild spicy bite that stops the sweetness from being overpowering. Very smooth drinking, and drink plenty more of it I did, but had there been a live fire in the pub I would have abandoned my station at the bar, and any plans on being coherent when I returned to the in-laws'.


Being lunchtime, I decided to have a stab at the food. When I lived in the Czech Republic, I had a routine, when I went some place new, I always tried their fried cheese and chips - I am convinced that quality fried cheese is always a good sign in a kitchen, either that or I just like peasant food. Anyway, my equivalent here in the States is to try the burger and chips, which, in this case, came topped with horseradish cheddar, and hash browns rather than chips. A good solid burger at a decent price, no complaints at all. The following day when we returned, I had their special of beer braised chicken thighs, served with grits and a mushroom onion gravy, and it was excellent.


Having had a couple more pints of Ye Olde Bastarde, and spent my entire time there looking wistfully at the bottle of Talisker right in my line of sight, I sent Mrs V a text message simply saying "Flying Saucer has serious competition". Good beer, a nice neighbourhood pub atmosphere, good food and reasonable prices, only $3.75 a pint for the standard range of Wheat, Pale Ale and ESB, makes Hunter Gatherer a must visit place whenever we are in South Carolina.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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