Review and giveaway: River Cottage EPA/Burt’s Crisps


One of my favourite things about summer is how much sport there is to enjoy – and what a summer this is turning out to be! We’ve already had one of the best World Cups I can remember, Wimbledon (boo!), the Tour de France, and now, for the next two weeks or so Glasgow is going to be buzzing with the Commonwealth Games. It’s going to be ace, and despite some travel disruption (it took me an extra 15 minutes to get into work today, with all the road closures and diversions) I’m really looking forward to both the events we’re going to (gymnastics, rugby 7s, athletics, road cycling and probably the marathon) and the ones I’ll be watching on TV.

It’s hard work watching all this sport, so I was thrilled to receive a sports fan pack from River Cottage EPA and Burts Chips – just the refreshment I needed!

River Cottage English Pale Ale is a new beer developed by Skinner’s Brewery and the lovely people at River Cottage, and one I thoroughly enjoyed, although not as strongly flavoured as the IPAs, red ales and porters I tend to go for these days.

Burts Chips were some of the nicest handcooked potato chips I think I’ve ever had. I tried 3 flavours

  • sea salt, which was everything you’d expect
  • vintage cheddar and onion which, as someone who doesn’t normally like cheese and onion crisps, were a revelation
  • Guinness rich beef chilli. These ones disappeared very quickly indeed, thanks to my Guinness loving father-in-law. We all agreed they could have done with a bit more spice, but they were still delicious

The only problem with the chips being so good is they were gone in no time, and now I’ve none left for the rest of the summer. Oh well, guess I’ll have to buy some more.

Now for the best bit – I’ve got another one of these packs to give away to one lucky reader! To enter, just leave a comment below saying what your sporting highlight of summer 2014 is/will be. I’ll be picking a winner at 12 noon next Monday (July 28th 2014) so make sure you get your entries in by then. And good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Alister Pullen, whose comment (#4) was picked at random by the random number generator at

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Last minute Father’s Day gifts

With the girls still being a bit young to buy their own gifts when it comes to birthdays, Christmas etc, it’s still up to Gem and I to do the honours. When it comes to Mother’s Day, I seem to have attracted a reputation for being a bit rubbish at it, which is entirely unjustified. I’m pretty sure this comes from Gem’s first couple of Mother’s Days, which were spent travelling back from Dubai and Lincolnshire respectively.

Not exactly the luxury pampering experience you might want, but it’s not my fault our travel plans coincided with such an important day, or that my wonderful idea of picking up gifts in Dubai duty free backfired a little because we didn’t have as much time to kill in the airport as I’d thought. Still, though, I’ve not forgotten one yet, so that’s good, right?

There have, however, been one or two last minute purchases over the years – the sort of “oh, that date is this Sunday? Really???” last minute purchase we’ve all done on occasion.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, Father’s Day is this Sunday coming, and I’m sure Gem has things well in hand. The girls have certainly let slip enough information to let me know that there are plans afoot, although I have no idea what. I thought I’d jot a few ideas down here anyway, though, just in case they’re required. You never know…


WhiskyI was into craft beer before it was fashionable, but it’s good of everyone else to catch up because it means more choice for me. My only complaint is that all the good shops in Glasgow have been on the other side of the city, but that’s now changed with the opening of Drygate in the East End. I’ve yet to visit, but the range of beers behind the bar and in the shop looks impressive, as does the food. In fact, I wonder if we have any lunch plans on Sunday…

Whisky is something my father-in-law got me into, and I’m very glad he did. Like him, I tend to go for the Islay whiskies like Laphroaig and Lagavulin, but more recently I’ve developed a fondness for the Highland region too, with Macallan Gold and Ardmore being two of my most recent discoveries. Whisky stocks are quite low at the moment, but to be honest a nice bottle never goes amiss!

Cycling gear

Trek hybrid bike

If I’ve learned one thing in the last year, it’s that cycling requires lots of stuff. Most of mine has been picked up on the cheap, and with summer now on its way, I’m realising I could do with some extra tops/shorts to throw into the rotation – the current crop are starting to smell a bit, no matter how many times they’ve been washed. Sports Direct have a decent range of cycling tops and shorts, and I’ve been happy with previous purchases from their Muddy Fox range, so would have no qualms acquiring more.

Failing that, some running socks wouldn’t go amiss either!


Gemma’s one failing when it comes to Father’s Day came in 2010, when part of my present was an IOU for Slash’s first album, which four years later I’m still waiting on. These days I’m more likely to stream something on Spotify, or download it from iTunes though, so some kind of voucher is probably the way to go

So there you have it – some last minute gift ideas that would make me (and I’m sure many other dads) happy. Although to be honest, I’ll be delighted just getting a lie-in followed by a day with my three favourite girls. :)

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Gude Ale: Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013Given that the second round of Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013 finishes today, it might have made sense to write about it sooner. But it’s been a funny – and busy – few weeks round our way, and I’ve just not quite found the time to do so. What you gonna do?

For the uninitiated, the GBBH is a national competition, organised by Sainsbury’s, to find the best new beers the country has to offer. Starting with regional heats, now fewer than 156 beers are whittled down to just two – a winner and runner-up – whose prize is to go on sale for a minimum period in Sainsbury’s stores across the country. Now in its third year, the competition has unearthed a few gems such as Caesar Augustus by Williams Bros. and last year’s winner, Bateman’s Mocha (although the last couple of bottles I’ve had of that have been oddly diaappointing).

Each year that the competition has been running, my brother-in-law and I have joined in at the second stage of the competition, where the shortlisted beers go on sale for a limited period, and the best-sellers make it through to the final, by buying and sampling at least one bottle of each beer. This year, we were joined by our friend Andrew, who happened to be visiting for the weekend, meaning that we were able to sample all 20 beers in a single evening, rather than 2 or 3 as in years past.

If you happened to be reading my twitter stream last Saturday night, you’ll already know how we got on. If not, well I’m not going to repeat the beer-by-beer account here, but it’s out there if you really want it. Instead I’m going to summarise my thoughts on this year’s selection, which, unfortunately, I found a bit disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part the beers on offer were tasty enough, and with a couple of exceptions (Barney’s Brew by Hilden and Serendipity by Bird’s Brewery) I’d happily drink any of them again. My problem, though, was that they were all too similar. In previous years there have been a wide range of beer styles on offer, but this year seemed to be mostly golden ale after golden ale after golden ale, and it all got a bit monotonous very quickly.

Porter No.6 and India Pale Ale by Harbour, Gonny No Brew That by Williams Bros.

My top 3 – in no particular order

No surprise then, that my top 3 were ones that broke the mould. Williams Bros‘ Gonny No Brew That was the tastiest of the golden ales, and definitely the pick of the Scottish beers. My other top beers were both from Harbour Brewing Co., a relatively new brewery in Cornwall, but one I’ll be keeping an eye on. Porter No.6 was sweet with a lot of coffee and dark chocolate flavour to it, while I found their IPA to well balanced and definitely more flavoursome than most of the beers on offer.

I’m not sure I could pick a winner out of those three – that’s for the judges to decide on Friday, assuming they all make the final in London – but any one of them would be a worthy winner.

Sainsbury’s seem to tweak the format of the competition each year, and while I doubt there’s much they can do to increase the variety of styles (the beers making it to the second round are selected by the public at a series of tastings) one thing I would like to see them do is limit the number of entries each brewery can have. This year, 5 breweries were responsible for 11 of the 20 beers on offer, which doesn’t exactly promote diversity.

But other than a few minor quibbles, I think Sainsbury’s are once again to be applauded for this annual celebration of Great British Beer. I look forward to hearing who the overall winners are in Friday’s final. And who knows, maybe next year I’ll make it to the regional heats and be able to shape what makes it through to the second round. Of course, despite my earlier moans, I reserve the right to vote for golden ales. :)

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Gude Ale: Williams Bros 80/-, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Thwaite’s Tavern Porter

I might have mentioned before that I’m finding my beer drinking tastes turning darker and darker. Maybe it’s the cold weather – lighter, hoppier beers seem more suited to summer somehow – or maybe it’s because it’s just that I’ve historically not drunk many dark beers, so they seem all shiny and new to me.

It might even just be that there are more of them available – I read this article a while back, about how every small brewery worth its salt is clamouring to get into a growing market for stouts and porters, which means I’m not alone in my newly developed taste for the black(er) stuff.

Whatever it is, last weekend I found myself a trio of beers darker than I would have drunk a year or so ago.

Williams Bros 80/-

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Williams Bros, so I expected this one to hit the spot. And it did, with treacle toffee very much the dominant flavour. That said, it wasn’t too sweet, and actually could have been a bit sweeter to be honest. A good beer, although not my favourite in the Williams Bros range.

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

It’s taken me a while to get round to trying this which is surprising given how highly my brother-in-law has spoken of it. I’m glad to say it lived up to the hype, with big chocolate/coffee flavours and a lovely creamy feel to it. I think Bateman’s Mocha is probably still my top coffee/chocolate beer to date, but this comes a close second.

Thwaite’s Tavern Porter

The blurb on the label about Elizabethan taverns should, perhaps, have made me suspicious – the porter style of beer isn’t documented until the 18th century, long after Good Queen Bess’s time – but I didn’t think about that until later. Historical inaccuracies aside, the beer wasn’t that exciting. Not unpleasant, but nothing memorable either, and not one I’d rush to drink again.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Gude Ale: Innis & Gunn Original


It’s not often that I get to try the same beer on tap and bottled, it’s usually one or the other, and mostly the latter, although with the recent opening of Munro’s not far from work that balance might change a little.

Tonight was something of a rarity then, as I cracked open a bottle of Innis & Gunn Original, a beer I first tasted on draught back in October, albeit that was a sip from Gem’s glass. On that occasion I remember really enjoying it, so I was looking forward to tonight’s tipple.

It would be wrong to say I was disappointed, but the beer didn’t quite live up to the memory. For a start off it didn’t pour well – I like my beer to have a decent head, and although that’s not always easy to do from a bottle, it is usually achievable. The Innis & Gunn poured more like a soft drink, with an initial fizzy head that quickly disappeared. It did at least retain some carbonation to the end, though, rather than going completely flat.

That was about the only negative though, and it may be have been down to my pouring and/or choice of glass – that’s something I need to learn a bit more about.

Taste wise, it definitely lived up to expectations. Aged in oak casks for 77 days, the beer has a complex malty flavour with more than a hint of vanilla. There is also a spirity taste in there that reminded me of rum. Presumably that’s down to the higher than average 6.6% alcohol content.

Overall, it was an enjoyable beer, but not quite as good as last time round. I’ll definitely be looking for this one again, but will probably stick to draught in future.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!