Sunday, 24 February 2013

a thursday night in Cardiff

is where you found 4 nurses a couple of weeks ago, braving the snow and ice under foot to moan continuously about the state of the NHS whilst drowning themselves in ale. As long as its good ale I said.

We always start in Weatherspoon's 'The Prince of Wales' , because it is near the train station, an ideal meeting point, plus it gives me a chance to use some of those CAMRA vouchers that otherwise just hit the bin (only because I have nowhere to use them easily). It has a mixed clientèle its fair to say, you know what I mean, and its a large cavernous space and always busy.
I opted for a pint from a local brewery, Cardiff's Bullmastiff, a very dog themed enterprise whoose beers I've not always got on with, although their Welsh Black stout is pretty good.
This time it was the ESB 'Old Snarler' at 5.1%, copper coloured, smooth but basically bland and malty sweet.

I rushed the others to drink up, the plan i explained was straight up the road to maybe the Queens Vault, then to Zero Degrees and then to my real reason for a meet up, trying out new bar 'Fire Island''.

The Queens Vault was, I thought, a Brains pub on my first visit, its got that sort of decor and atmosphere that I associate with a Brains establishment. But its not, its one from JW Bassett. And no, i've no idea either.
Anyway it had a couple of Felinfoel beers on, one from Penpont in Cornwall whose bottles I'm familiar with, and a great surprise in one from Tiny Rebel. I had struck gold early.
FUBAR, the 4.4% golden ale packed with citrus, tropical fruits, great aroma and body, balanced sweetness (toffee) and bitterness.

UntitledOnto Zero Degrees, the few times I've been there I've always been impressed with their beers, rarely having a bad one. This time i went for their new beer, a dunkelweizen called "Stormin' Norman". One sip and i was sold. I think I bored my friends from all the gushing I was doing about it too.

It was beautiful in its aroma of banana and cloves, low bitterness, a good mouth-feel with caramel, and just dark deliciousness all round.
Whilst in Zero Degrees I bought a half, at £3.50, of their Barley Wine 'Comet', an 8.7% abv syrupy dark brown glass. Strong alcohol presence understandably, figgy but it seemed flat in flavour, or rather it seemed like it needed more time to mellow and develop. Perhaps though, sipping it whilst devouring the wheat beer gave it an unfair comparison, as others have rated it highly, including one of my friends that night.

And into Fire Island then, after reading Travels with Beer late last year, and then reminded by Craig I was determined to head in there. For a history and excellent photographic review read that first link, on this night there certainly seemed over 8 handpumps in use, possibly into double figures. I forgot to look at the bottle selection completely, in awe at the choice in front of me (yes, starting to feel a little drunk also at this point! that excellent pre drunk feeling). Thank you to Untappd and ipod notes to make this post happen!

UntitledI started with the house beer Tiny Rebel's Beat Box, an American Pale Ale, 4.5% abv, good and refreshing tasting, it zipped in my mouth, good use of hops, lovely citrus bit, this went down SO quickly.
Onto my second dark beer of the night, Dark Nights by Buxton brewery, an American Porter 4.6%. This was good, not sure what an 'american' porter should be like, but if this was labelled as a black IPA I wouldn't have argued. Pretty dark coloured, almost black, fruity and caramel aroma, plenty of hops and juicy fruit in the mouth, with the dark coffee roast you expect with darker malts. Excellent beer.
Another darkish beer next, from a brewery I'd not heard of before, called sinist*r by the Anarchy Brew co.. They're a new brewery that have been going about a year or so, based in Morpeth, Northumberland and this is their brown ale, 4.3% abv which was roasty!, mid to dark brown, dry and toffee, quite nice.
I thought i'd head back into the hoppy side of things and got in a Summer Wine Brewery 'Rouge Hop' which was 5% and really quite good. Great flavours of berries, sharpness, citrus, grapefruit, balanced with toffee and a good body.

To finish of the evening I went back to the real reason I came out, to get some more beer from Tiny Rebel. I went for one I'd had before, one which pretty much defines the brewery, in design, style and taste, their Urban IPA. It is fresh, great bitterness that puckers your cheeks, sucks out moisture and replaces it with flavour, in with juicy peach and mango, a great use of hops.

Fire Island is a very welcome addition to the beer scene in Cardiff, the run of pubs we did I can see us repeating very easily, your guaranteed great beers all within a short walk of each other.

And the DJ (a guy with a laptop) even granted my request for 'more Velvet Underground' after playing one of their tunes. Top night.
 (apparently some Aphex Twin was too far a request though!)


  1. It's a good stretch of Cardiff - almost a leyline of pubs if you throw in City Arms and the Goat Major as well. I'm with you on Bullmastiff, they never appealed to me either; too 'old Welsh' with its overly sweet, biscuity malt base.

    I'm surprised the Queen's Vaults isn't a Brains pub. Makes sense, in hindsight, purely from a Twitter point of view - city centre Brains pubs have a growing Twitter presence which I don't recall seeing from the Vaults.

  2. despite my enjoyment of the internet and tech stuff, twitter and facebook are two I stay clear of. But do you use Untappd?