A week or so back I managed to slip out for a couple of evening drinks with some friends at The Killingworth Castle in Wootton. The Killingworth is a pub that’s virtually smack on my doorstep but I haven’t previously had a chance to check out.
It’s a few months since it re-opened under new management and my first impressions are that it’s improved considerably, with the obligatory country gastro-pub refit of stripped floors, subdued lighting, a reasonable looking menu, re-vamped events program, etc. Plus they seem to deal mostly in local beers and spirits, which is something to be applauded.
We decided to sit outside in the nicely re-landscaped garden, but only managed an hour or so before the keen north wind forced us back inside. What is it with summers these days?
Anyway onto the beers:
First up was Oxfordshire Ales Churchill pale ale, which was nothing like as good as I remember it from the bottle. This version was malty with a reasonable bitterness, a distinctly unremarkable character and really not that enticing. I must admit it was a bit of a disappointment as I was looking forward to trying it on draught as it’s so good out of the bottle. My advice: seek it out in bottle form if you can where it’s delightfully hoppy and refreshing.
Then I moved onto The Compass Brewery’s Isis pale ale. This was a completely different kettle of fish: a nice mid-brown clarity that delivered a good amount of malty complexity and gave way to a lovely mouth-wateringly bitter finish; a satisfying mouth feel and a really good pervasive hop character made this a beer that I wanted to come back to again and again. Maybe it was the high standard of the Isis that made the Churchill seem poor by comparison?
My one for the road was a stout by Freedom ales served from a keg on cellar gas and through a standard keg tap – which seemed wrong for a stout on so many levels and wrong it certainly was: way over-carbonated, making it “fizzy” – not gently carbonated, and served way too cold – both of which helped to kill most of the taste stone dead.
What I could taste was drinkable enough, some complexity in the maltiness with a pleasant enough hint of roast barley running on through.
It would probably have improved if I’d have ordered it, left it and enjoyed it a good two hours later…
Stout rules: serve on nitrogen, not cellar gas – use the correct tap and don’t serve it too cold!
The Killingworth Castle is a smashing pub and the staff are great…they just need to sort out that stout!
(The online drink menu is a bit out of date, though)