Sunday, 17 June 2012

Nick Otley and The Kings Arms, Pentyrch

Dating from the 16th century, The Kings Arms in Pentyrch is steeped in history. A handsome refurbishment has recently secured its future. The Kings Arms is owned by Brains but, in a significant move, it is to be run by Nick Otley and his team from the Otley Brewing Company.

This weekend marks the pub’s official opening, with a Beer Festival, BBQ and live music. At an event on Friday (15 June), Nick Otley (managing director of Otley; pictured) said, “we wanted to make it into a community pub again, but at the same time bring a bit of modernity and a contemporary feel to it.” The sympathetic renovation has incorporated many original features of the Grade II listed building, including the flagstone floor, fireplace and oak beams. The contemporary feel extends to the food and drink on offer.

The menu showcases Welsh produce, and dishes cooked using beer. Ingredients include Welsh mussels (e.g., sautéed mariniére style with home-made bread), Breconshire lamb (e.g., slow-braised shank in Otley ale, with laverbread and new potatoes), Welsh sirloin steak (from W.J. George Butcher in Talgarth), and Madgett’s Farm free-range chicken (e.g., with chorizo and Otley ale jus). Expect pheasant, locally-produced sausages, duck and other meats to feature seasonally. There is a Goan beef curry and deep-fried Pollock fillet (in Otley ale beer batter) on the current menu; while vegetarian dishes include Ratatouille of Charred Mediterranean vegetables (e.g., with pasta or grilled polenta, and Cardiff-grown tomato compote). Desserts include Welsh gold home-made ice cream. The head chef is Ken Bell.

My selection from the BBQ was the line-caught “Chesil beach” Mackerel (pictured), served with bread, tapenade and selected salads. Own-label chutneys were to hand. The mackerel was large and meaty. The salads were varied, with some flavour surprises (star anise?) and excellent olives, and the home-made bread was light and very good.

Nick Otley led a beer tasting in a marquee in the pub’s garden, as the wind outside played havoc with the adjacent awning. He talked, in particular, about the Otley ales Croeso and Thai-Bo.

Croeso (ABV 4.2%) was described as a really good session beer, refreshing and easy-to-drink, with “a good hop presence and a lot of citrus notes,” by Nick. “You’re going to get grapefruit, some people say lemon, others grass – green grass, cut grass, that sort of thing,” he said. Nick noted that we were drinking a “green beer” that was “fresh-to-cask” (casked 2 weeks previously), so it also had a sulphurous nose (known as “Burton snatch”) that naturally disappears. Nick described Croeso as “having an open palate food-wise,” although it won’t compete with strong food flavours. Croeso (Welsh for “welcome”) has become one of the company’s bestselling main product beers.

Thai-Bo (ABV 4.6%) was first launched as a speciality beer in summer 2001, but its success may result in it becoming available year-round. “It was born out of a conversation I had in London with beer writer Melissa Cole”, said Nick, “it’s a golden ale flavoured with lime peel, lime leaf, lemongrass and galangal – flavours you would normally associate with a Thai green curry.” It’s a combination (with Sorachi Ace hops) that you wouldn’t normally expect to work; but they have done it rather well, with the right amount of understatement. “You have sharpness of lime leaf and lime zest there, giving a clean flavour, the subtlety of galangal, giving a little bit of warmth to the back of the throat, and lemongrass in the aroma”, said Nick. “It is well suited to food, although we are still searching for the perfect food match.” It may not be Thai green curry, according to Nick, as the clash may not be to the benefit of either beer of curry.

Other Otley ales showcased at the Beer Festival include Motley Brew (ABV 7.5%), a seasonal IPA beer named after head brewer Matthew Otley.

Ffion Jones from Brains Brewery led the tasting of two of her company’s beers. The first was the classic Brains SA (ABV 4.2%), which has been brewed in Cardiff for over 50 years. “It’s made from a trio of hops - Challenger, Fuggles and Golding - and has a note of spirit in its aroma that adds a bit of mystique,” said Ffion, “and it goes especially well with chicken dishes.”

The other beer was the first product from the Brains Craft Brewery, which opened less than a month ago on their main brewery site in Cardiff. “The Craft Brewery is a 10-barrel plant for trying out different techniques, flavours and hops,” explained Ffion, “basically to let our brewers loose on experimenting.” All at Sea (ABV 5.2%) is a traditional-style IPA, made with Admiral and Bramling Cross hops. “The hops give it a bit of an appley taste, with spice notes. It’s different from anything Brains has done before”, said Ffion.  I thought this relatively strong beer benefited from the presence of food; that’s a glass of it in the photo, appropriately enough, next to my mackerel. The second release from the Brains Craft Brewery will be Barry Island IPA (ABV 6.0%), created by “Barry boy” Simon Martin using hops from the USA.

Brains Craft Beers will be available at a range of their top cask pubs, including The Albany in Roath, Goat Major and City Arms in Cardiff city centre and, of course, The Kings Arms.

The Otley Brewing Company’s first pub was The Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd, not far from Cilfynydd (where the brewery was founded in 2005). The Kings Arms is their fourth pub, and the nearest to Cardiff.

The Kings Arms looks set to flourish as a local community pub, and is certain to attract beer lovers from miles around to sample the latest ales from Otley and the Brains Craft Brewery. The collaboration between Brains and Otley here raises the enticing prospect of a future collaboration between artisan brewers from Otley and Brains Craft Brewery. Watch this space!

The Kings Arms
Church Road, Pentyrch, Cardiff CF15 9DF
(029) 20890202

Otley Brewing Company


All food and drink mentioned in this post provided free by The Kings Arms.

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