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(Mirrored from BeerViking)

I met the guys from By The Horns Brewing* and their excellent ales at last year's LBA Showcase at Vinopolis, so when I heard that they were having a couple of open days over the weekend my interest was piqued.

Like so many others these days, the brewery is tucked into one of a row of uniform industrial units, in this case just around the back of Wimbledon dog track. I guess the dogs keep the Wombles from nicking the casks... The five-barrel brewing kit looks good - managing director Chris Mills, who set up the brewery along with Alex Bull, says it's mostly ex-Amstel vessels, converted by Oban Ales up in Argyll. They currently have three fermenters and are planning to add a fourth, along with a conditioning tank.

While they had five ales for sale on gravity, the biggest change from what I saw last year when it was all cask was the large spread of bottles on the table. Having started bottling last month, Chris and Alex now bottle all their ales themselves as well as selling them in cask. As well as some local distribution - although of course they are on the look-out for more - Chris says they have beer going up to Manchester.

Interestingly, all the bottles are 330ml, rather than the 500ml I would have expected. Alex says that as well as reflecting how he and Chris like to drink (out of half-pint stemmed glasses), he feels the smaller bottles have "more of a young, contemporary look" that fits well with the bars they target.

The regulars are: Stiff Upper Lip, a 3.9% pale ale with Sonnet and Pioneer hops and a nice balance between a biscuity body and dry-bitter citrusy hops; Bobby on the Wheat, a 4.7% cloudy pale wheat ale with faint lemon and lactic tangs; Diamond Geezer, a 4.9% red ale with lots of sultanas and other fruit on the nose and then a nutty almost pecan pie body; and the newest addition Lambeth Walk, which is a tasty 5.1% dark porter with notes of treacle toffee, ginger and cocoa.

They're also doing specials and seasonals - I came away with an as-yet unopened bottle of Jolly Fatman, their winter spiced oatmeal stout, and they had a 6.4% 'double' version of the Diamond Geezer red ale in both bottles and cask. If you just thought Double Diamond I guess you're old like me - being younger, they called it Diamond Geezers instead.

I was driving, so after buying a few bottles and thanking Alex and Chris for the hospitality and the tasty samples, that was my limit. Fortunately the trip back was equally pleasant - a walk on Wimbledon Common and then coffee at the snack bar by the windmill, as the sun was setting. All Saturday afternoons should be like this!

*Their website's remarkably uninformative, apart from a link to the brewery's Facebook page, which is a bit more helpful - as long as you have a Facebook account, I suppose... There's also the brewery's RateBeer page which lists the beers.
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I love seeing London from and around the Thames, so I was curious to see it from a new (to me) perspective today - the view from the Palace of Westminster terrace.

This is the terrace that played a bit-part in one of the world's great engineering projects, namely the London sewer system devised by Joseph Bazalgette. In 1858, it's said that the Thames stank so badly that MPs could no longer use the terrace or even open the windows on the river side of the building, and it was this that finally persuaded the selfish gits to approve the project's huge budget!

The view is a little disappointing, although I suppose that shouldn't surprise, given how large a part the Palace plays is the nice views from elsewhere.

It was Budget Day today, so we were also treated to a floating demo, which was amusing but possibly didn't reach many MPs:

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So today we headed through the nasty wet rain, stopping only for a "Full Monty" breakfast in a caff opposite Kew Bridge station, to catch the scenic North London Line train to Hackney. Yes, it's the last day today of the Pig's Ear beer festival...

And very nice it turned out to be, too. Given the time of year, it shouldn't be much of a surprise to hear there were lots of seasonal specials - xmas ales, winter beers - on offer. Some excellent speciality cheese too!

Apparently sales were down on last year though. One suggestion was that this was down to the organisers offering thirds as well as the usual halves aand pints, the implication being that the "tickers" drank less - but come on!! These are tickers we're talking about - give them the opportunity to drink three thirds instead of two halves and they'll do it - and that's the same total consumption.

It's more likely to be the location, I fear. Hackney's not the most accessible part of the capital, and if you were thinking about the hour's journey it would take - including for many people at least one train and two buses - the yucky weather was not going to help.

Apparently the local council is still angling for Hackney to be connected to the tube network, using the nearby 2012 Olympics as part of their argument. I can't see how it could happen, as they've sold off all the supposedly surplus train line land to their property developer cousins for a fat profit, but who knows... I didn't want the bloody Olympics anyway, but nobody asked me - they just decided to spend my money on it willy-nilly.

Anyhow, I hope the Pig's Ear organisers sold enough to make a surplus (I'm sure they will have done). We had to duck out after four or five hours as we were fading away, and couldn't last until closing time. Nice beers though.......


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