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Turtley Corn Mill, Avowick is the cream of Devon

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A former chicken hatchery has been transformed into a fine pub

You do not have to be driven to the Turtley Corn Mill in an open topped car on a still warm, end of summer’s day, but it helps as is it is a glorious, exhilarating ride though the undulating Devon countryside from the city of Exeter.

The mill wheel remains as a tribute to its former life

The location is idyllic; the original mill is set in six acres of grounds bordered by the River Glazebrook, in Avonwick, South Brent. It has its own small lake complete with an island, perfect for sunny days, idle wandering, the watching of quacking ducks and people playing lawn chess.

Check mate?

Once the site sounded to the clucking and chirping of fowl as for many years it was a chicken hatchery before becoming a pub in the 1970’s. The former mill was transformed by a radical refurbishment in 2005, which has introduced oak and slate floors, bookcases, old furniture and loads of local pictures. However, the old mill wheel remains as a striking reminder of the building’s previous existence. Inside, the style is light and fresh with no music, fruit machines or pool tables, just newspapers to read, books to browse, good food and great local beers.

There is plenty of space in the garden for drinking

My friend opted for a cream topped hot chocolate. I preferred a glass of Otter Bitter from a farm based brewery in East Devon’s Blackdown Hills. The Otter Brewery was set up in 1990 by the McCaig family. Its eco-systems should make most people green with envy. It has a semi-underground eco-cellar built with clay blocks and a sedum roof. And the effluent safely flows out into its own reed bed. I have a particular liking for a bottled beer Otter brewed for sale in the US, Hoppy Otter at 6.8 per cent ABV, which I do not think was ever sold in the UK. However, for me the really great British beers are brewed at about 3.6 per cent ABV. It needs real skill to get so much taste into something we often call in an understated way “ordinary bitter”. There is nothing ordinary about Otter’s Bitter, it is complex and full of ripe fruit notes. With my lunch, I had a glass of St Austell’s IPA, it went well with the local haddock fillet fried in a real ale batter. Well I know it is not a proper IPA, but it is an easy drinking malty –and toffee flavoured beer balanced by some refreshing citrus hops.

Many fine walks surround the pub

After lunch we took a 15 minute walk alongside the river, joined by fellow customers trying to wear dogs and children out. Then back to the car and shunning the A38 we took the winding b-roads back into Exeter. http://www.turtleycornmill.com/


Written by timhampson

September 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Three year’s ago, the beer world lost its most influential and passionate advocate – Michael Jackson – the Beer Hunter.

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Michael Jackson - the Beer Hunter

It is hard to believe that it is three years since the death of the world’s greatest beer writer, Michael Jackson. Known as the Beer Hunter, he almost singlehandedly transformed the world of beer, bringing it out of brewers’ tasting rooms into people’s front rooms.

Who would have thought that a train ride from Amsterdam to the Roman Catholic south of the Netherlands would forever change the world of beer, beer writing and brewing? It was 1969 and Michael Jackson a tyro journalist, who had trained on the Huddersfield Examiner and worked in London and Edinburgh, was enjoying his first foreign posting. The sixties were in full swing, and Michael revelled in the city’s sex, rock and roll and jazz cafes with beer and whiskey his drugs of choice. As John Lennon and Yoko Ono enjoyed a bed in the Amsterdam Hilton, Jackson decided to travel to the southern Dutch border to write an article on the uninhibited enjoyment he had been told took place at the region’s pre-lent carnivals.

Jackson throughout his life soon tired of uniformity and he was bored with drinking the city’s ubiquitous Pils beers. He wanted to experience the wider range of beers a friend had said was available. And in an unnamed town, where revellers danced to the sounds of the Beatles, a man in a John Lennon mask handed him a chalice with a darker beer. It was a Trappist beer from Belgium, and in a gulp his life changed. Beer was suddenly much more than an alcoholic liquid in a glass. The following day he travelled to Belgium for the first time – sampling the marvels of De Konnick, Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel and an unidentified Gueuze. John Barleycorn had grabbed his heart and soul. And as the beer flowed, so did the words. He dedicated more than 30 years to discovering, recording and then sharing the world’s finest beers and whiskeys in his many books, articles and TV programmes. It was a journey that took him from Alaska to Patagonia and on to Sri Lanka.

He developed a classification system for the world’s classic beers styles and in doing so created consumer interest that saved many beers from extinction. His writing set the standard for beer enthusiasts and brewers alike. He wrote in depth about different brewing techniques, ingredients, flavour profiles, cultural differences, and food parings.

His writing style was wonderfully erudite and bubbled with humanity and humour. His knowledge of beer was unsurpassable. His genius was to be able to write simply and beautifully about beer and the lives of the people who created them. He was an inspiration to hundreds of brewers worldwide. Jackson knew he would never be as famous as Michael Jackson, the rock star, and that was reflected in his many talks. “Hello, my name is Michael Jackson. No, not that Michael Jackson, but I am on a world tour. My tour is in pursuit of exceptional beer. That’s why they call me the Beer Hunter.”

Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter, was born on March 27 1942. He died on August 30 2007.

So what are your memories of Michael, I’d love to know?

Written by timhampson

August 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Honey – have you got the beer?

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Honey can add luxurious almost magical qualities to beer

And talking of competitions Britain’s bee keepers have launched this year’s competition to find the best honey beer in the world. International tennis players long to have a Wimbledon title to their names. For beekeepers, Britain’s National Honey Show, now in its 79th year, has the same appeal. The show benches are packed with nearly 250 classes showcasing the very best examples of the beekeepers’ craft. A walk around them is an instant education.

Last year saw the introduction of a new class for Honey Beer. It attracted entrants from Cornwall to Scotland. Now the search is on to find the best honey beer for 2010. And it is very easy to enter.

The requirement is for three bottles or cans in any style. It should be commercially available and of course honey must be an ingredient. Gold, silver and bronze medals are the prizes, plus the kudos of success at the world’s largest honey show.

The NHS attracts a good deal of media attention.  Last year several TV crews were present and BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme devoted an entire edition to the show. Already one major BBC TV programme has asked to film this year.

Last year’s worth winner was the highly drinkable Fairtrade Bumble Bee Honey Ale. Brewed by Freeminer, the honey came from wild flowers growing on a Chilean hillside.

Silver went to the distinctive Thornbridge’s Bracia, which was infused with a generous amount of dark and bitter Chestnut Honey. The bronze was won by the exquisite Lovibonds Gold Reserve.

So do you know anyone who produces a packaged beer which uses honey as an ingredient? Sweeten them up and encourage them to enter the competition. And what is your favourite honey beer?

The 2010 National Honey Show will be held at St Georges College, Weybridge, Surrey from 28 to 30 October.

Further information about the Honey Beer class can be obtained from the General Secretary, The Rev H F Capener  showsec@zbee.com

General information about the show and entry forms are available on the NHS website www.honeyshow.co.uk

Written by timhampson

August 18, 2010 at 7:23 am

Koch throws his Stone into European waters

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Could the closed Highate Brewery be a target for Stone's ambitions?

I am intrigued by the notion that the Stone Brewing company is looking for a site from where it could brew its beer in Europe. This is no Californian dreaming, but yes, the Escondido-based company, close to the Mexican border is looking for a European base for its beers.

One of the sites being looked at is the closed Highgate Brewery in Walsall in the West Midlands. Sadly the company that owned the historic Victorian Tower brewery, which was built in 1898 went into liquidation several weeks ago and 22 workers have been laid off. Stone Brewing chief executive Greg Koch confirmed the brewery in Sandymount Road, Walsall was one of the “possible locations he was considering”.

Koch said after he had heard about the brewery being up for sale, he posted a message on the Save the Highgate Brewery FaceBook page, which had sparked a lot of speculation locally and on the net that Stone had put in a bid for the company.

But the web surfers’ dreams of those who want to save Highgate will probably be wiped out as Koch says in a statement on Ratebeer: “We have the greatest respect for the existing traditional styles brewed in Europe, however those traditions are not ours.”

Stone is currently evaluation locations in nine different countries and Koch says there is a “lot to sort through. We are indeed intending to brew Stone beers that are substantially similar – or as precisely the same as we can get – to what we brew in Escondido,” he said.

The move raises interesting question about the provenance and integrity of beer. But does a Michelin starred chef stop being a good chef because he changes his frying pan? So why cannot a world class brewer and a company that makes a fantastic interpretation of an IPA bring that skill to Europe?

And a company with the marketing skills of Stone would shake some of the stuffed shirts who run breweries in Europe. Commercially beer a is relatively low cost purchase for the drinker and shipping it across oceans and continents is expensive and not the greatest use of resources.

So Stone’s throw into Europe could be a welcome blast to the world of beer.

Stone’s proposal to set up a site in Europe can be found at http://www.stonebrew.com/rfp/

The Save Highgate Brewery campaign can be found at FaceBook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=132472633446481&ref=ts

Written by timhampson

August 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm