Caught by the River

Pint by the River – Batemans XXXB

20th January 2010

Idling by the bank side always meant something quite different from casting off and kicking back to me. One of my earliest memories of living in London – newly resident as a wide-eyed teenager with a rapidly disappearing grant cheque – was sitting in a mildly alcoholic haze staring out across the Thames at Hammersmith in the beer garden of The Dove. A stalwart Fullers pub, The Dove was one of those magical boozers you always hoped would exist but never believed you’d find when miserably climbing the stairs of the SU. Like a beery panic room, it offered a perfect refuge in the big city; a safe haven where the beer could magically transport you back away from Routemasters and black cabs belching out a fog of petrol fumes. Its place hardwired into the memory was assured, its status as “must get back there one day soon” fixed.

Last year, Jeff, Andrew and myself sat out on that back stoop at the Dove doing our usual thing – drinking a few pints of foaming nut brown ale while concocting plans of what we could or should attempt next. We’ve always liked talking about beer. Liked drinking it a bit more than that if truth be told. So we thought we’d start a CBTR beer section. An ongoing conversation about ale, if you will. Hopefully it’ll be sporadic yet seasonal, informative yet slightly sozzled. It’ll be a bit like that conversation we had that day in fact.

Hope you like. Mine’s an IPA.

Batemans XXXB chosen by Steve Phillips.

An independent family brewery, Batemans has been knocking out some fine ales from its windmill HQ on the edge of the fens since 1874. Its slogan, oft-seen on fluttering pub signs across the fine county of Lincolnshire, couldn’t be more apt – Good Honest Ales. And amongst its canon of rip-snorting beers is its ‘flagship’ brew, XXXB. Touted as a ‘premium pale ale’ and brewed since the early 80s alongside other winners such as XB, their bitter offering, and an old favourite, dark mild, XXXB picked up CAMRA’s beer of the year in 1986 and subsequently premium beer of the year on five separate occasions. More importantly, local legend has it a pint a day is a cure-all able to fend off most rural afflictions from ring-worm to Weils disease – yet to be prescribed by the local health trust, but surely it’s only a matter of time.

Coming in at 4.8% this full-bodied copper-coloured ale is a fine everyday brew, malty with a touch of spice and fruit it’s the sort of pint you could easily sit all day supping. Although once rarely spotted outside the county boundaries of Lincolnshire, XXXB now often appears as a guest ale in most decent boozers around the country and the bottled version (as Roy Walker would say, “good, but not quite right”) can sometimes be spied on the occasional supermarket shelf. The bottle says good with cheese and meat, but there are few pleasures in life better than a pint of XXXB with a sausage roll or
cooked haslet courtesy of F.C. Fipps of Mareham-Le-Fen. Certainly worth a pint if you spot it in your local, especially if suffering from ring-worm – is there any better recommendation than that?