Out on a craic for a second innings @Irish Village, Mundhwa

The Leprechaun’s missing, but the rustic-like Jameson poster is still there to greet you. There’s about enough green to bear an Irish brand name but no Irish songs playing on the jukebox. Instead, there’s a live show by a local band and aye, it’s quare fine! I quite like my Friday evenings to begin that way!
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We were then led to our table-for-twenty and after some awkward exchanges with new faces and some warm hugs from familiar ones, we got down to business. No time was wasted in serving beer samples but I already knew what I was there for – the Stout. The wheat beer was pretty good too, but the cider and IPA weren’t as good as what I’m otherwise used to.

The Stout was well poured; the head stayed on for a while to retain a thin, but creamy lacing. It came on strong with its roasted notes and more-bitter-than-coffee-like flavors so if you’re not used to dark beers this one isn’t for you. I, on the other hand, loved it!
Wheat Beer
The wheat beer was a universally likeable well rounded sweet-citrusy, refreshing, easygoing beer. In fact it was so light, it’d even pass as a session beer. You’d have to have like four or five of those if you were looking to get plastered; not that I’m recommending it!

The IPA wasn’t as hoppy as I’d like it to be and felt a little watered down, too. And the Cider wasn’t as ‘dense’ as I’d like it to be and the sweetness seemed almost ‘forced‘ so I gave it a pass, as well.

The food was a hit-and-miss story, with the hits being –
Paneer
Chimichuri Cottage Cheese – well-marinated seared paneer that went well with green chutney. Could’ve used a little stronger marination, IMHO. Can be paired with the wheat beer.

potato
Aloo Ki nazakat – little parcels of potato and mild flavors and a palatable mixture of textures, too. Stout was what did it for me with this one.

Salt & pepper mushroom – Probably the best starter of the lot – strong on flavors (I didn’t mind the extra salt) and pan-fried just right. Frying mushrooms is tricky business. Definitely a wheat-beer partner.
Mushroom Fish
Fish in banana leaves – fragrant and succulent, these mildly steamed fish parcels were a thumbs-up for most of us. Stout material.

croquettes
Smoked Croquettes – super-mushy (and bland) on the inside but perfectly crisp and golden on the outside. Best had with the strong, piquant dip that came with it. Potatoes go down with anything.

prawn
Hot Chilli Prawns – perfectly grilled, well marinated juicy prawns that are best enjoyed by themselves. The portion size was the only issue – we wanted so many more of these!!

..And the misses being –

nachos
Nachos – well loaded and crisp, but nothing special about them. Meh.

fries
Loaded fries – Ditto like the Nachos. The fries were well done, though…if you should know.

maas
Tabak Maas – Mutton is either perfect, or it isn’t. This wasn’t. There just isn’t any middle ground. The meat felt rubbery and the flavours/textures were localised to only the coating.

chicken in blankets
Chicken in blankets – I’ve had these aplenty when I was in the UK and had something of an  expectation, which this just didn’t come anywhere close to. There were too many confusing textures and smells and wayyy too meaty if you’re not used to it. Plus, I’m used to the pastry version.

Then came the entrées –

The Oriental dumpling soup, which came after the entrées was refreshingly nice; it was earthy, flavorsome and the dumpling were nice and juicy. The ginger notes added that extra zing to the soup. If you’re not used to thin soups, though, I wouldn’t recommend it.

farmers pizza
Among the Pizzas, I thought the Farmer pizza was better than the Irish meat feast. The Pizzas weren’t traditional, but rather ‘Indianised’ versions, so very palatable and fairly loaded, too. Not to mention that they weren’t very heavy at all (which is a good thing IMO), unlike the more commercial heavy-base pizzas that are sold by chains.

veg stroghanoff
The Veg Stroganoff was nice and cheesy, and can make for a one-pot-style meal by itself given how heavy it was.

drunken potato
The Irish drunken potato used to be so much better before, it seems like just white sauce and boiled ‘tatos, now. Shame, I quite liked this the last time I had it, here.

Whatever comes to your mind when you think ‘Butter Garlic Prawns’, un-think it. This was well-done, cheesy prawns that were (maybe) sautéed in butter and gartlic before they were drenched in white sauce. ‘Butter‘ and ‘garlic‘ seemed misleading but the preparation was nice by itself, to be fair. Just don’t think butter and garlic, think prawns with bite and in cheese, instead.

Oh, and the burgers weren’t impressive. As were the Panna Cotta and Red Velvet Cheese Cake. That’s all I have to say about it.

In summary then, I don’t take you for someone who can down more than 1-2 appetizers, 1-2 entrées and a few pints. I’d suggest skipping the stuff that doesn’t work and calling for what does; it’s that simple. Ask the few thousand regulars who seemed to have crowded at the venue. They’ll tell you.
The Irish Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Cologne-ization of Pune’s beer scene

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I don’t know about Reinheitsgebot and all that but if I can get a top-fermented German-esque lager this close to home, that tastes refreshingly citrusy, crisp, smells sweet-ish and looks the part, I’m happy in my ignorance. See, the ‘original‘ Kölsch enjoys a PGI/PDO status, so for Pune’s Kimaya Brewery to call their recently launched beer a Kolsh might be a bit of a stretch.

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Buuuut I honestly couldn’t care less ‘coz this stuff’s good. Like, 5-pints-in-a-row good.

What can you pair it with? I’d say anything ranging from mild to sharp flavors; that’s basically anything off the Malaka TapRoom menu. Exempli Gratia –

And that’s not even the best part! You get this view at no extra cost!!

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Spread the word, y’all. Pints and stories are meant to be shared! Cheers!

The Tap Room By Malaka Spice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hello, 6Xey!

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Wiltshire. Home to the world-famous 5000 year old Stonehenge, 8-century old Salisbury Cathedral…and this little gem. At the very heart of this little county is the quaint little market town of Devizes, best known for the massive Victorian-era Wadworth Brewery. You’d think 2 centuries is a mighty long time to be brewing beer, no? As the local saying goes – Old cool is the new cool! Have a 6X and you’ll know what I’m on about.

Bottles

Getting here by road is easy – get to the A361 and you won’t miss Devizes. By bus, hop on the Stagecoach 49 and voila! Point is, if you’re about and not doing much, it’s worth a pop-in and it’s easy, too. Even if you are doing anything, it’s still probably worth a visit anyway.

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No matter where you are in the town centre, you’re likely to spot at least the tip of the brewery. As you walk closer, you’re able to fully appreciate how massive the brewery really is. The entrance is right next to the main structure and once in, you can purchase tickets to their brewery tour which is followed by a tasting session – the best part of the deal! 😉

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Tours are timed, so one can take a few minutes to savor the museum-esque decor if you’re early.

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There’s also an actual Penny Farthing on display which used to be driven around by Henry Alfred Wadworth himself as he did the rounds of local pubs selling his ware, to *ehm* ‘quality-check the beer’. I’m not entirely sure how he managed getting back up on that thing after he’d ‘sampled’ beer from twenty pubs!

Right…On to the entrée, then.

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The £12 tour lasts about 2 hours give or take and starts on the upper floor where we’re introduced to the most fundamental ingredients of beer – Malts and Hops. The most commonly used Malts are Barley and they constitute the sugar, colour, and flavour components of the beer, whereas the hops provide the aroma and bitterness. The hops also serve as a natural preservative.
(Fun fact – the name ‘India Pale Ale’, or IPA came about when strongly hopped beer was shipped overseas to the East India Company with the high hop-content serving as a natural preservative and just like that, a style was born! The more you know).

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Malts are germinated and roasted before they’re milled, to expose the sugars inside the malt. The nature of the roasting determines whether a malt is pale (hardly roasted), crystal(pretty roasted), black (seriously roasted) and so on. The more it’s roasted, the more coffee-ish the flavor of the ale, the darker it is, and paler malts provide for more sweeter, light-coloured beer. Most ales use a combination of malts to achieve that unique characteristic which makes it different from other ales. The hops used here are ‘Cascade’, ‘Fuggles’, ‘Golding’, to name a few. The next process is mashing, where hot water, the grist (powdered malts with a short shelf life) and hops are mixed to produce a sugary solution called ‘wort’. Wadworth’s Victorian heritage means they still have a working Copper Mash Tun from 1885 running side by side a modern Stainless Steel Mash Tun which I thought was pretty darn amazing!

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The wort is ‘brewed’ in the likes of an Open Copper (used seasonally, now) which used to be heated by fire kept alive by the one person with the worst job in the world. It was only in 1938 that a steam coil was added to heat the wort instead of the fire below. The hood you see was added in the 1960s, which did the public service of funnelling the steam from the wort out of the building to the nearby schools and factories, early in the morning. I know I’d have loved to wake up to the smell of that!

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Next in the process is the hopback, which separates the wort from the hops; and the leftovers are given away to local farmers as food for their cattle. Lucky cattle.

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Next in line is the pièce de résistance – the fermentation vessel. Wort is basically food for the brewer’s yeast which converts the sugar to alcohol and Carbon Dioxide; the most fundamental brewing process. The end result is the final product – what you enjoy every Friday and Shaturday and Shundayy…*hic*

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Commercially, Wadworth now produce most of their beer in a more modern facility (under the same roof) using more efficient and eco-friendly machinery manufactured by Steinecker.

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That doesn’t mean that the quality is any different from what they used to make back in the day. Or so we’re told. I wasn’t around back in the day so I’m just happy for the present-day 6X, Swordfish, Bishop’s Tipple and the rest of their ales.

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The tour ended for us with a round of their most loved ales –

Wadworth IPA – easy drinking, hoppy, light pale ale

Wadworth 6X – the traditionally brewed, well balanced amber ale

Dirty Rucker (to celebrate the seasonal Rugby games) – Deep golden hoppy-bitter ale

Wadworth Swordfish – absolutely loved the light sweet taste from the infused rum

Wadworth Horizon – a crisp, citrus-ey light ale that went down easy

Wadworth Corvus – deep black with very evident coffee and roasted malt notes. I’m used to thicker, creamier heads than what the Corvus had to offer, though. Still, I enjoyed that it was different.

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The icing on the cake were Monty, Max and ‘the silent one’ (I forgot her name!), the shire horses that, to this day, transport kegs to local pubs that bear their famously famous hand-made signs.

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In the vicinity of the brewery, there’s also Reeve, the famous sourdough-bread baker nearby should you be interested and plenty of restaurants nearby for a quick bite, too.

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We also visited the famous Cain Hill Locks that sport the two-mile long canal system up the Avon and it’s quite the sight!

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It’s a great little stretch for a casual stroll after lunch. There’s also a pretty little afternoon-tea cafe for those who suffer from those classic British ‘urges’! 😉

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The Spirits of Wychwood

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While beer may not be an indigenously English beverage, the English sure seem to have perfected it. And of all the 1400-something breweries that exist today in the UK, there’s one particular brewery that stands out as the UK’s largest producer of organic ales and the maker of ‘the unofficial beer of Halloween’– Wychwood, Oxfordshire. The name comes from Oxford’s local Wychwood Forest and for those who are wondering what I’m on about, they’re the blokes responsible for the phenomenon that is Hobgoblin – the Legendary Ruby Ale. They weren’t always called Wychwood, though – the site belongs to an ‘Eagle Maltings’ from 1841, and they malted barley for another brewery here back then. In 1990, ‘Eagle’ was renamed to ‘Wychwood’ and the rest, as we know, is history. There’s a story behind the name, ‘Hobgoblin’, too – the beer was being served at a wedding where someone attempted to draw the bride’s face on one of the casks and its highly likely this person had consumed more than they should’ve, because what they’d drawn looked like a Hobgoblin and the name stuck. At least that’s the story we were told by Chris, our brewery tour guide.

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Speaking of which, this blog is the tale of one such brewery trail that traces the journey of a humble grain to the brilliant beverage it transforms to – The Wychwood Brewery Guided Tour. However, you may sometimes find me reeling off about random nonsensical gibberish, so please excuse my ADD.

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Left: malt in sacks | Centre: Rolling mill | Background: whirlpool separator | Right: hops in boxes

Let me start with the very basics of brewing – grains are ‘malted’ and ‘mashed’ to release fermentable sugars, which are fermented to produce alcohol (the thing that causes you to uncontrollably reveal your darkest secrets to complete strangers) and carbon dioxide (the bubbly thing that…never mind).

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Our ‘welcome drinks’ –  cask-poured Brakspear Oxford Gold and a Wychwood Hobgoblin Gold
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Note the huge embarrassment that is the King Star lager. I was reluctantly offered some and it wasn’t nearly as good as their ales. Obviously!

Based on the type/strain of yeast you use, the temperature you brew the beer at, and a few other parameters, you get either an elegant Ale or generic rubbish (lager). I won’t bother explaining lagers (for obvious reasons 😉) because this is a blog about Ales.

tumblr_m9s7mwhske1r97w8wo1_1280PC: Wychwood.co.uk 

Ales can be broken down into Milds, Bitters, Goldens, Pale Ales, Porters & Stouts and what I like to call ‘miscellaneous’, or ‘everything else’.

And now that we’ve established what Wychwood brews, let’s move on to how they do it.

We were shown about four different types of malt that are used as the first ingredient in their brewing process –

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Pale Malt – produced by roasting the Barley for a lower amount of time in the kiln

Crystal Malt – produced by roasting it a little further; this had little bits of white sugary residue released from the process and so was a little sweeter than the Pale Malt

Chocolate Malt – produced by roasting the barley till it’s a dark brown, causing it to taste like cocoa, and smell like coffee from the time spent in the kiln. Most sugars are burnt away, and using more of this malt therefore produces darker and stronger beverages like porters and stouts

Black Malt – I think you know where this is going, right?

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Foreground: Whirlpool separator | Background: Mash tun

These malts are milled in this roller mill to break apart the kernel (not Col. Sanders, he’s unbreakable just like his franchise). This makes it easier to extract the sugar during ‘mashing’, which is the next step in the brewing process. This milled grain is mixed with hot water in a large vessel called a mash tun. The plates in the mash tun allow the resulting mixture called ‘wort’, to seep through the vessel’s plates to produce a sugary concoction…which Chris pronounced as ‘wert’, but since he’s the expert, I’m not going to challenge that. Although I would’ve pronounced it like ‘court’.

Fun fact – The Brakspear mash tun filter used to look like this, and is now adorns the brewery’s floor.

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What used to be the Brakspear Mash Tun floor used to separate the solids from the liquid wort

Anywho, moving on – this ‘wort’ is moved to a copper tank much like this one where its boiled with hops (the second most important ingredient in brewing), of which we were shown two varieties but I’m sure Wychwood use more – English Fuggles (no that’s not the name of the owner’s cat) and English Goldings. Mr. Fuggles was grassy and mild, whereas Ms. Goldings seemed to have a sexy perfume on and smelled like Spring. After all, it was almost April. Both tasted like sh*t, though. Yeah, we ate some. We weren’t supposed to, but I couldn’t help myself. If you’re a blithering idiot like me, you’ll probably not heed Chris’ advice and regret it after approximately 45 seconds of putting it in your mouth.

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This is what hops look like. Of course, these are past the stage of being useful but they have them there for effect, anyway

Now to accent the hops, brewers add sulphates to the water, in a process called Burtonisation. The name comes from the town of Burton upon Trent – where the local water’s chemical composition had these sulphates naturally occurring in the water, leading to a lot of hoppy local beers and presumably, a lot of happy drunks. Wychwood sources their water from this town to avoid having to add these minerals artificially.

Right – so the resulting mixture is then separated in a whirlpool separator and cooled through a heat exchanger for cooling it to a temperature suitable for fermentation (18 degrees Celsius). Cold water and the warm wort flow through pipes in this heat exchanger in opposite directions exchanging heat, and the resulting hot water is re-used again, thus conserving energy. This wort is then fermented by adding yeast. If the wort is too hot the yeast will die; too cold and the yeast won’t activate. The temperature needs to be just right for controlled fermentation and not too (allowably) warm, or you’ll have yeast growing all over the brewery! Also, there’s different types of yeast for the different ales they brew, and its little differences like these that give each of their ales a distinct character, too. I wonder if that’s where their tagline of ‘Brewers of Character’ comes from.

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A fermentation vessel

Wychwood use a method called ‘double dropping’, which basically means that the fermentation happens in two stages. In the first stage, the wort is fermented in a vessel and is then, ‘dropped’ to another vessel (typically under the first one). This results in the inactive yeast being left behind in the first vessel, and in the second vessel – activation of yeast from the dripping and splashing about, of the wort. This method is unique to the Marston’s brand of breweries.

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The unique and efficient double-drip filtration system

Anyway, so Wychwood tend to do their brewing in two batches, one at 3 AM and another at 9 AM, for which they store almost 3 tons of malt, the wort and all of these ‘intermediate ingredients’. The resulting beer is bottled off-site whilst been taken away in large trucks labelled ‘Fosters’. Strange. But then again, I’ve seen stranger things.

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The tour ended with us sampling six of their beers in thimble-sized glasses. Not that the size of the glasses mattered, because we were helping ourselves from the bottles anyway!

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All this was after the half pint of Hobgoblin Gold I was welcomed with. Full marks for hospitality! And if this wasn’t enough, we were each presented with a Wychwood-embossed half-pint glass as a keepsake! 😊

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What a way to spend a lovely sunny Saturday! And off we were, back to the Oxford City Centre for a course of world food at Oxford’s street food market.

The brewery is located at –
10-12, Eagle Maltings, Eagle Industrial Estate, The Crofts, Witney OX28 4DP

How to get there – 
By Road – via the A420
By Bus – Stagecoach S1 from Oxford City Centre

More details of the brewery can be found on their website – http://www.wychwood.co.uk/

If you liked this blog, please let me know in the comments! (If you didn’t, please click the small red ‘x’ on the top right corner of this window and pretend the last 15 minutes of your life never happened). Cheers!

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Sorry for the long post – here’s a Hobgoblin shaped bottle opener