Wednesday 18 March 2009

All the blacks

Today was supposed to be our day off. It's a novel concept, a great idea that almost never gets well executed. After I cooked breakfast for our one resident we headed straight out to visit a trade show at Bowness. We knew we had to be back for the evening as we had bookings for dinner and more residents checking in. We're still working on getting our staff for the season so we couldn't be out long.

The trade show was rubbish. A greater than usual number of accountants and solicitors and very little in the way of real hospitality related exhibitors. However, Black Sheep had a stand there. I had a nice chat with the guy on the stand, who gave me a taster of their beer. It tasted like, well, Black Sheep Bitter, which is OK I guess. He quoted the through put of the brewery at 72,000 barrels a year. OK, it's a little more than the Cumbrian micro capacity at around 20,000 a year, but puts things into perspective, I suppose.

They were showing off their new handpull. It's a curious device that I can't help thinking might alienate existing cask ale drinkers. I had heard about the innovation last December when I bumped into the technician in Brussels. I had completely forgotten about it so it was unexpected. My first reaction on seeing it was that they've got some form of nitro keg offering because of its chrome plated shiny look. It doesn't look like a handpull at all to me. I think it might put off the traditionalists that they surely should be aiming at.

From the brewery's point of view, the fixed brand handpull forces the pubs to only have Black Sheep through that beer engine. Nice trick. It could also be argued that the look might change the perception of cask beer into a more trendy product. Lets wait and see. The man I spoke to was certainly upbeat about the success of this dispense technology.

After fighting off, from other exhibitors, the usual torrent of invitations to enter to a rubbish free draw in exchange for being put on a mailing list, we hot footed it out of the show and well away from the honey trap. The Barrow Beer Bard needed a return of something he'd forgotten. Not his head, although after stories of triple bed dreams, one wonders. There is also a Bookers in Barrow-in-Furness so two birds with one stone. Oh, there we go, back to Jeff's dream again.

Having completed the day's business ahead of schedule a trip to a pub might be in order. But which pub? Ann consulted the GBG and CRAG. There seemed to be an obvious choice, it was declared. "You'll like this one" Ann said "The Black Dog between Dalton and Askham near the animal park, and they might be doing food". I'm sure that's the one Jeff likes, I thought.

On entering the pub I was greeted by the customers at the bar "It's Dave from The Woolpack" came the declaration "I was reading your blog the other day". I thought I was far enough away from home not to be noticed. Plus, with 60 million people in the country and only a handful of readers I'd have thought the chance of being spotted as a famous blogger was remote. It turns out he also knows my uncle. You see, that's why I avoid bad language here. Next I'll be finding out my Grandmother reads this blog.

I should say a little about the pub, shouldn't I? Well it is just spot on. Food is excellent, the beer is tip top and frankly, I'm a bit jealous of the owners having such a lovely place. 5 handpulls running and the two beers I had were good. The chicken I had was just right. I followed this up with Guinness and Brown Sugar Pannacotta for pudding which was delicious and paired well with the stout I tried. That might be an idea I have to pinch. I can see why Jeff Pickthall might see the Black Dog Inn as one of his favourite pubs. I think I might even dare to classify it as a gastro pub that works.

Then we went back home to serve our small number of very appreciative customers. All in all a grand day off.

If any of my Barrow based family read this and ask why we didn't call, it's not personal, it's just the pub got the better of me, I know you'll understand. Next time maybe.


Alistair Reece said...

Anonymity is something that I rather enjoy - hence the picture of my feet. I would however be rather shocked if someone were to track me down based on a pair of RAF cadet shoes and M&S trousers sat in a pub in Mlada Boleslav (where they make Skoda cars!).

Jeff Pickthall said...

Who was the mystery reader then? I must know!

Did you see the framed review by me hanging on the wall by the fire?

Alex Cooke said...

In the right place, i.e. in a bad bar when lined up next to the faux-condensation lined towers of chrome, a more glitz handpull like that might make the difference for the Sheep. Not perhaps that model though, it looks like a rejected spaceship for the original B&W Buck Rodgers series.

Unknown said...

Velky Al, yes, I did consider anonymity when I started this blog. It would have allowed more vitriolic outbursts. However the discipline of keeping occasional outrage under control makes for more reasoned debate in my view. I hope any publicity helps my pubs as well.

Jeff, I have to admit to being unable to remember the name of the reader in question. However, he is the BLO for CLA and an active Furness CAMRA member. Of course I should say they, as his wife was there as well. They claim to spend too much time in the pub, which I find a difficult concept to grasp.

How could I miss your framed review? It's got pride of place near the fire.

Alex, your description sums up my feelings. It would be interesting to know if anybody thinks it does look good. We might just be Luddites.

John West said...

'It would be interesting to know if anybody thinks it does look good. We might just be Luddites.'

No - it's just *ugly*. End of.