Milton Keynes and North Bucks Campaign for Real Ale

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Milton Keynes and North Bucks Campaign for Real Ale

December's Draught Dilemmas

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Another month, another branch meeting. Our final business trip to the Barn for 2016 and a return to the usual meeting format following last month's beer festival wash-up. As usual, we'll get going at 20:15 and everyone is welcome. Thu 1st of December is the date you'll need.

Wolverton Sports Club on Osbourne Street (MK12 5HH) is holding its 13th Tasting Weekend from Fri 2nd to Sun 4th of December. Real ale and cider will be on offer at £3 per pint while there's free live music on Friday and Saturday nights from Mungo Jungo and The Five Men Not Called Matt. There will be hot/cold food available at all sessions and entry is FREE for everyone. Doors are open 19:30-23:00 Fri, 12:00-23:00 Sat and 12:00-22:30 Sun.

MK11, Kiln Farm, will also be holding a festival from Fri 2nd to Sun 4th of December. They describe it as a 'craft beer' festival (33 on tap and 28 in bottles) but there's no indication any of it will be real ale. As usual, street food will be on offer to keep you fed and there's a very impressive line-up of live music. There's an optional £2 entry fee which will be split between a local charity for homeless people and covering the cost of the artists performing. See Facebook for further details.

Our traditional pre-festive pub crawl in Northampton will take place on Sat 3rd of December. We'll kick off at the Albion Brewery Bar on Kingswell Street from around 12:30, with plenty of time to grab a bite to eat before moving on. Our second stop will be the Pomfret Arms at 13:30, home to the Cotton End Brewery. Onwards to an old favourite, the Malt Shovel at 14:15 before a brief stop at John Franklin's at 15:00. This bar has only just opened to replace the short-lived Bar Hygge, so we've no idea what it'll be like. Our timing could be all over the place by this point, so we're aiming for around 30 minutes per pub from here on, unless we find something spectacular. So, we'll take a look at the Mail Coach before dropping in on the town's first Micropub, the St Giles Ale House, which has only been open for a week. The Cordwainer (Wetherspoons) is next on our list and a potential low price food stop if the beer needs soaking up. It's the Princess Alexandra to follow, then a stop at the Black Prince (formerly the Racehorse) which claims to offer 19 beers and 6 ciders! It should be between 18:00 and 19:00 by now and a good point to break if you need to head back to MK early, as we'll be looping further out of the town centre if you fancy a few pints more... The Lighthouse is a newish pub that opened the summer and features a mixture of real ale and 'craft beer'. A few doors away is Beer Guerrilla, an interesting new beer shop with a small space for sampling, so maybe worth a quick look. Off into the deepest darkest back streets to seek on the Artizan before heading to the Olde England. Finally it's back towards the rail station with stops at the Lamplighter and the Garibaldi if we can stand the pace!

You can let the train take the strain from Bletchley 11:43, Milton Keynes Central 11:48, or Wolverton 11:53 to arrive in Northampton at 12:06. Return services run regularly until the early hours. Further details are available from National Rail. By bus you can take the X7 from the Food Centre (B4) 11:25, the Point (H4) 11:26 and the Rail Station (Z4) 11:33 to arrive in Northampton Bus Station at 12:21. Or try the X4 at 10:49, 10:51 and 10:57 from the same stops to get you there a bit earlier. If you fancy a more leisurely bus ride, there's a 33A at 10:57 (B4), 11:00 (K4) and 11:06 (Z5) which also picks up in Bradwell, Wolverton and Hanslope and arrives in Northampton at 12:20 (alight at The Plough to save a walk down Bridge Street). The last return bus services depart at 17:40 (33A) or 18:40 (33 as far as Wolverton), 17:55 (X4) or 18:39 (X7). Visit MK Council for more bus info.

Wetherspoons, CMK, are hosting a tap takeover / meet the brewer evening on Wed 7th of December from 19:00 onwards. Brewer Ryan will be there and there should be plenty of Hornes brews on the handpulls, plus there will be gift sets and bottled beers for sale too. Free entry if you bring a goat*. (* Actual goat not required to gain free entry.)

Concrete Cow and Hornes breweries have got together with the Draft House to brew a house beer for the new CMK pub. Their first effort, MK Pale No.1 Citra will be launched on Wed 8th of December from 19:30 onward. If you'd like to get a free pint of the new beer on launch night, register online at in advance. Concrete Cow have also produced a collab brew with the various local Wetherspoon pubs in our area - keep your eyes peeled for further information on availability. In other beer news, Bucks Star are about to release a new beer in the form of Midletone Pils, a 5% ABV lager, while the latest effort from Hornes is a smooth smoked porter at 4.8% ABV called Black Antler.

Sun 11th of December will see MK Christmas Feast arrive at Bradwell Abbey between 11:00 and 16:00. It's a seasonal showcase of all things 'artisan', which will include beer, cider and spirits from our local producers, plus food, gifts and music. There's a £3 entry fee for this one, but kids go free (and won't sponge a pint off you). More info from MK Food Revolution. The first MK Feast back in February was very popular (3,000+ attended), so don't miss out.

It's Bierclub time on Wed 14th of December and no surprises it'll feature Christmas beers and winter ales. There are only a few tickets remaining for this event at the Biergarten, Wolverton, so grab 'em online quick! There are also tickets available for the January event, which will feature IPAs.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 December 2016 17:32

November's Ninkasi Notes

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We start the month with a branch meeting with a difference, as it'll concentrate on a review of the Concrete Pint Beer & Cider Festival. This is a replacement for the usual separate wash-up meeting, so if you'd like to provide feedback, it's a 20:15 start at the Barn, CMK, on Wed 2nd of November.

Station Tavern, Woburn Sands.

The first branch social of the month sees us head out to Wavendon and Woburn Sands on Sat 12th of November. We'll start at the Wavendon Arms at 14:00 which usually has one real ale available plus a small selection of bottled Belgian beer. From there we'll move on to the Station Tavern in Woburn Sands at 14:45, where you are likely to find Phipps NBC IPA and Sharp's Doom Bar on offer. Next up will be the Weathercock just up the road where you'll robably find a couple of Greene King Beers. Finally we'll go to the Centre of Woburn Sands for the Swan and the Fir Tree, where the beer choice is a little more variable. We may also sneak up the hill to the Royal Oak. You'll find Arriva bus 300 connects CMK, Coachway, Broughton and Kingston to Wavendon and Woburn Sands, running every 30 minutes for most of the day. There's also the rail service from Bletchley, Fenny Stratford and Bow Brickhill to Woburn Sands. See MK Council for bus info and National Rail for train details.

Head to Wetherspoons, Midsummer Boulevard, CMK, for our New Members' Social from 20:00 on Thu 24th of November. Hopefully all of you who joined CAMRA at our beer festival will have received your membership packs and may have some JDW tokens to use (we usually have some spares too), so this is the perfect opportunity to meet other branch members. We'll also be holding the beer festival staff party at the same time and place, so you should see a few (vaguely) familiar faces.

Looking ahead: Branch meeting, Thu 1st Dec; Beer Festival, Wolverton Sports Club, Fri 2nd to Sun 4th Dec; Branch social, pre-Christmas Northampton pub crawl, Sat 3rd Dec.

Ninkasi? An ancient goddess of beer no less, from Sumer in what is now southern Iraq between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Read more about her and the Hymn to Ninkasi over at Beer Advocate. Ninkasi is also a craft brewery in Oregon, US of A. Uber hipsters specialising in mad beers, art, music and metalwork – check 'em out.

Last Updated on Saturday, 12 November 2016 14:41

October's Oasthouse Offerings

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Hoppy October! While German Oktoberfests are coming to an end (MK11's version continued until Sat 1st and Sun 2nd over in Kiln Farm), the British beer festival season is really kicking in with several big festivals locally this month, including our own Concrete Pint. By the time you read this, you will have already missed our branch social to visit the fine pubs of Buckingham town centre on Sat 1st of October, but there's plenty more to come.

It's branch meeting time on Tue 4th of October at our regular CMK venue, the Barn. We start at 20:15 sharp and we usually get things finished within two hours, so come and join us for serious discussion and light hearted banter over the inevitable pint of two of Doom Bar.

Bedford Beer & Cider Festival logo

Our friends in the North Bedfordshire branch of CAMRA are hosting the 39th Bedford Beer & Cider Festival from Wed 5th to Sat 8th of October. As usual, it's at the Corn Exchange, St. Paul's Square (MK40 1SL), which is a few minutes on foot from the bus and rail stations. Open at 16:00 Wed and noon Thu-Sat, until 23:00 each day, it's FREE entry for CAMRA members at all times. You'll find over 160 beers and more than 50 ciders/perries, plus international bottled beers – lists are available on the festival's web page in various formats, along with the full programme and all the other event info you'll need. They even have a swanky promotional video shot at last year's event, so check if your belly is wobbling in the background!

Bedford is easily accessible from MK and Buckingham using the X5 bus. The last return services run at 19:00 and 20:00, taking about 45 minutes to MK and 80 minutes to Buckingham. A day return to Bedford costs £13.15 from MK and £13.25 from Buckingham. There are also connecting local services, with the last Stagecoach 40 departing Bedford for MK at 17:45, arriving in plenty of time to catch the X60 on to Buckingham at 17:50 from the Point. (Note, group tickets may be available on some journeys to reduce costs.) There is also the option of taking the train from Bletchley, Fenny Stratford, Bow Brickhill, Woburn Sands and on to Bedford. The last trains depart Bedford at 20:55 and 22:00, with a maximum journey time of 45 minutes for just £7 return. There are onward connections to MK Central and Wolverton for a little extra, or add PlusBus to get across town if you can buy in advance. Groups of three or four travelling together by rail can get up to 50% off with GroupSave. There will be CAMRA members from MK attending most days, including Saturday.

Over in Buckingham, the Woolpack are holding an Oktoberfest weekend on Fri 7th and Sat 8th of October. Expect speciality German beers and plenty of German food choices.

Like beer? Like cake? Like to try them both at the same time? The Biergarten in Wolverton are holding a beer and cake tasting event in association with Minkiemoo Bakery on Tue 11th of October. Tickets are limited.

J D Wetherspoon outlets across the country will be holding their usual autumn beer festival in October. As last year, CAMRA members are invited to attend an exclusive preview event from 6pm on Tue 11th of October at Wetherspoons on Midsummer Boulevard, CMK. You'll need a valid CAMRA membership card to gain access to the 18 beers available on the stillage in the pub and cellar runs will also be available. The festival will be open to the public nationwide from Wed 12th to Sun 23rd of October, including the Moon Under Water outlet at Xscape, off Avebury Boulevard, CMK. For more information and tasting notes, check out the JDW festival web page.

Oxford Beer Festival poster

Our regional neighbours at Oxford CAMRA will be holding the 19th Oxford Beer & Cider Festival from Thu 13th to Sat 15th of October. They will have 140 real ales plus 60 ciders / perries on offer. They also have some additional duplicates to ensure a good range is available on the Saturday, which is good news for those who have further to travel. You can find the provisional beer list and further information on the festival's web page. It costs £8 for CAMRA members to get in, which includes your glass, programme and £6 worth of beer tokens. You'll find them at Oxford Town Hall, St. Aldates (OX1 1BX) and the festival is open from 17:00 to 23:00 Thursday, 11:00 to 23:00 Friday and 11:00 to 21:00 Saturday.

The X5 once again offers a good public transport link to/from Buckingham and MK which runs late into the night, with the last buses at 21:30 and 22:30. It's around 50 minutes to Buckigham and 90 minutes to MK, with a day return to/from MK costing £13.25, and £11.50 to/from Buckingham. An East DayRider Gold ticket is £13.50 and includes all other Stagecoach services in the region. (Group tickets may be available.)

Mon 17th of October will see Central Milton Keynes get a new pub! Draft House, a small chain of pubs in London, will be opening their first venue outside of the capital in the building formerly occupied by the Secklow Hundred JD Wetherspoon branch, 316 Midsummer Boulevard (MK9 2EA). The pub is expected to offer cask ale, including LocAle, but will focus more on 'craft beer', including 'tank beer' Pilsner Urquell delivered directly from Plzen in the Czech Republic and stored in large tanks. Draft House MK will be open from 12:00 to 23:00 Mon-Thu, 12:00 to 01:00 Fri & Sat, and 10:00 to 22:30 Sun. The kitchen will be open from noon until late each day too. See the Draft House website for further info or find the MK branch on Twitter and Facebook while we get the WhatPub entry sorted for your beer scores a.s.a.p.

MK Concrete Pint Beer and Cider Festival poster

So, we are having a little bit of a beer festival ourselves. From 16:00 on Wed 19th to Sat 22nd of October, the doors will be open once more at the Old Bus Station, 401 Elder Gate (MK9 1LR), just opposite MK Central rail station. It's the same venue as last year, but it's no longer called the Buszy. We'll have around 100 beers and 20 ciders/perries, plus the usual good company, traditional pub games and the ever popular "every one's a winner" tombola. This year our cask ales will be complimented by some real ale in KeyKeg form, allowing us to bring you some trendy, obscure and extreme beers that are not always available in cask conditioned form. We will also have some beer from the wood too and plenty of LocAle. The theme this year is brewers who have graduated from the famous International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University, so we'll have special cask ales from all over the UK. We're keeping the food offer in the beer hall simple, with a selection of quality snacks, but outside we've picked some of the best local street food traders to keep you well fed. Live music makes a return on Thursday and Saturday evening too, but nothing excessively loud. CAMRA members get FREE entry at all times and it's free for everyone else before 16:00 and all day Saturday, with a fee of £3 at other times. You'll get a festival programme for nowt and souvenir 2/3rd pint schooners can be hired with a full refund if returned in good condition. Take a look at the Concrete Pint web page for more info and keep watch here for regular updates as the festival nears.

October's instalment of the Bierclub at MK Biergarten, Wolverton, is all about canned beer. So, if you like the taste of aluminium and steel... you are drinking your canned beer incorrectly! Pour it into a glass. CAMRA has recently accredited Bristol's Moor Beer Co. with real ale status for one of its canned products, so canned beer doesn't have to be a no-go area for real ale fans. Locally, Concrete Cow puts live beer into cans too. If we can't tempt you with the Concrete Pint festival, tickets are available at £15 + fees for the Wed 19th of October event. (By the way, fans of mail order beer might be interesting in the Biergarten's plans to introduce 'Bierboxes' as a local alternative in 2017.)

On Fri 28th and Sat 29th of October it's Aylesbury Beer Festival, a charity event in aid of Florence Nightingale Hospice and supported by the Aylesbury Vale & Wycombe branch of CAMRA. Tickets are £5 in advance or £6 on the door. You'll need to get yourself to the Bucks CC Sports and Social Club on Lower Road, Stoke Mandeville (HP21 9DR), which is 20 mins on foot from the centre of Aylesbury, or a short ride on the 9 or 300 bus services. From Buckingham you can use the X60 to get to Aylesbury while from MK it's the 150 you'll need. An Arriva BucksPlus ticket is your best bet. Realistically, public transport is only a viable option on the Saturday, as the festival is open from 18:00 and 11:0 on Saturday, closing at 23:00 both days. For further details, check the festival website.

In atypically inefficient German style, the Biergarten team will be running a very late Oktoberfest celebration at York House in Stony Stratford on Sat 29th of October. Running from noon until 22:00 there will be traditional German Oktoberfest beer and wheat beer, plus a selection of local real ales. Street food will be provided by Urban Grilla and Good Times Cafe, both fresh from their appearances at our Concrete Pint festival, plus giant locally made pretzels. There will be a brass band for your entertainment from around 17:00 and traditional German dress is encouraged. It's £5 on the door.

If you are in Stony on Sat 29th of October, be aware that it's the night of the annual Zombie Pub Crawl. This is a very popular fancy dress event that'll see the town pubs absolutely rammed, with most drinks served in plastic cups, so don't expect your usual calm, casual drinking experience! You have been warned.

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 October 2016 12:32

Final day of #ConcretePint2016

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Live music, sponsored by
Biergarten, Wolverton

Sat 22nd of October is the final day of the 2016 Concrete Pint Beer & Cider Festival. Doors are open from noon through to 23:00. There is plenty of great beer and cider left to try and today it's FREE entry to everyone. What better opportunity will you have to come and taste a few new beers and experience what CAMRA festivals have to offer?

2120s logo

This evening we have live music from around 20:00 from the fab blues/soul band the 2120s. The Milton Keynes based six-piece take their name from the address of Chess Studios in Chicago – you check them out on SoundCloud. We must thank the Biergarten in Wolverton for sponsoring the live music stage at the festival, enabling the 2120s (and Thursday's band TC3) to play.

Bad news for tombola fans, as all the prizes have now gone, so Anne and Fred's work is done for this year's festival. We still have Lyn looking after the bar skittles and shut-the-box games though, which only cost a few pence to play and could win you a half.

Our supply of Salty Dog snacks have been destroyed by hungry festival goers, so we're now have an emergency supply of alternatives. Good Times Cafe have refreshed their menu and Urban Grilla's BBQ stall has made way for Saf's Kitchen to provide some exciting Indian food for our final day.

As we wave goodbye to the festival for another year, remember to take it easy and get home safely. Our good friends Skyline Taxis will be happy to arrange your transport and were again generous in sponsoring our promotional beer mats. Take one home with you, their number is on the back: 01908 222 111, £3 minimum fare for the first 1.5 miles.

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 October 2016 12:44
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