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Saturday 30 June was the CAMRGB & CBAS Twissup in Chester – never needing much of an excuse to drink good beer with good people, I headed north to attend the festivities. There are already a few write-ups of the day appearing on websites and I don’t want to saturate and dilute the market so I’m not going to be writing about what went on in Chester – although it is worth writing about – but I do want to put down (quite) a few words on the pub where my weekend’s drinking started and finished: Birmingham’s Post Office Vaults.

Chester Twissup Write-ups: CAMRGB; PASTEY – H2G2; BEANS MUST BE BELGIAN

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TWO SHIFTS IN THE POST OFFICE VAULTS…

My journey kicked-off with the 8.38 out of Swindon. A 26 minute journey took me took Bristol Parkway where I’d catch a connecting train up to the Midlands. A late running train meant that I walked straight off my train on onto one heading north. Theoretically there was no real advantage to catching an earlier train as the Post Office Vaults (POV) didn’t open its doors until 11am but 40 minutes spent wandering around Birmingham was certainly more appealing than 40 minutes wandering up down Platform 4 of Bristol Parkway Train Station. The train ran according to schedule and on arrival in Brum I decided that I’d firstly go and find POV and then go and sit in the sun and read my book in Victoria Square – although at that time I wasn’t actually aware that they are next door neighbours. As well as being the chosen day of the Chester Twissup it was also Armed Forces day and consequently Victoria Square was awash with stands celebrating our military might… it was also home to a Purity beer stall. With a pint of Mad Goose in my hand I sat down on the fountain and indulged in a little bit of people watching. The first people who caught my attention were a couple of young ruffians complete with baseball caps, designer polo shirts, bad tattoos, dangerous looking dogs and cans of super-strength cider – it quickly became apparent that they were on first name terms with the local police. As it was Armed Forces Day there were understandably a lot of military people walking about and they were all good-looking. I’m sure the forces must employ people who are ugly but none of them seemed to be on display at 11am… perhaps they’d all drawn the afternoon shift?

I’ve wanted to visit POV ever since it opened at the tail-end of 2011. I follow the pub on Twitter (@POVaults) and have long been impressed by their every increasing bottled beer selection and their willingness to try to get hold of any beer their customers request. The pub s a lot smaller than I expected it to be and I’m sure if more than 100 people were in the place it would feel too cramped and busy. It was also more spartan than I thought it would be: for some reason I expected it be a modern and cool place but it very much like a good old-fashioned (but well-kept) back-street boozer, which makes it the perfect place to lose several hours of your life.

I’d arranged to meet 2 fellow Twissup attendees – @ckdsaddlers (Chris) & @19irishdragon (Shaun). Chris was running late but Shaun already had a drink in his hand by the time I hit the bar at 10 past 11 – he was drinking an Armageddon [5%] from Tydd Steam and I decided it would be a good place to start my POV adventure… it was decent enough beer but nothing to get overly excited about. Chris arrived just as it was time for beer number two and this time I opted for an old favourite: La Chouffe [8%] – it’s always a pleasure to see La Chouffe on draught in the UK and whenever I do I always make sure that I have one. The conversation was flowing almost as perfectly as the beer but we did have a strict time budget so I decided to move away from the draught and get into the exquisite and lengthy bottled beer list. Beer number three was a bottle of Geuze Mariage Parfait [8%], which was as beautiful and insane as only lambics and gueuzes can be – tasty stuff. Time was very much running out so I ordered a bottle of Chouffe Houblon [9%], which is a beer I first tried about 13 months ago in the Hoppy Loft of Delirium in Brussels – the bottles don’t tastes as great as it did on draught in Brussels but it’s still a damn fine beer. I also bought a big 750ml bottle of Ghisa [4.6%] – a super tasty smoked stout from Italian brewers Lambrate, which I swigged on the train that took us north to the Twissup.

The Perfectly Attired Rauchbier Marzen

I didn’t plan on returning to POV quite so soon but an iProduct malfunction (Chris left his on a pub table in Chester and I arranged to return it to him) meant that shortly after midday on the Sunday I was once again standing at the bar pondering my next beer. I had a raging thirst and if I wasn’t still reasonably drink from the night before I would probably have had an almighty hangover so I ordered the best drink for such occasions: a cold pint of crisp lager – Freedom’s satisfying take on a Helles lager, Four [4%]. Just as I was finishing my lager, Chris arrived and bought us both a pint Darkstar’s Summer Meltdown [4.8%] – I’ve never had a bad Dark Star beer but this one sadly wasn’t up there with the finest offerings but it slid down well enough. By now the beer was starting to flow at an impressive speed and in quick succession we consumed pints of Salopian’s Oracle [4%], Dancing Duck’s Abduction [5.5%], Saltaire’s Golden Flame [5%] and a fancy glass full of Maredsous 10Tripel [10%]. By now the day was vanishing into a beer fug so I decided it was the perfect time to hit the bottled list. Our opening gambit was Guldenberg [8.5%] by De Ranke – a good solid Belgian Trippel. Chris took a trip to the bar and returned with one of the all-time classics of the beer world: Odell IPA [7%]. I responded with Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch [8.3%] before Chris took a very interesting left turn by rocking up with a couple of Rauchbier Marzens [5.1%] from Schlenkerla, which was impeccably served in it’s very own branded glass. Time was very much against me so I bought a couple of bottles of Saison Cazeau [4.8%] – I passed one to Chris, shook his hand and thanked him for a great afternoon (and weekend) before running off to New Street Station to catch the 1912 to Bristol Parkway.

I got on the train, found a seat and made myself comfortable. I was absolutely pished but not so pished that I wasn’t wise enough to ask the poor lady sitting beside me to wake me as we approached Bristol Parkway if I had fallen asleep. I quickly drank half the bottle of the Saison and then fell asleep. The lady was good enough to wake me but that might have been because she also had to get off at my stop. I knocked back the last of the by now very warm Saison and was instanly hit by a rush of nausea and I could feel the colour instantly drain from my body but thankfully I held it together and when I staggered off the train the relative fresh air of outside instantly revived me. I’d be home in less than an hour and another highly successful weekend of beer abuse would be over… thank fuck!

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… photography by landells …

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~ by landells on July 2, 2012.

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