Milton Keynes and North Bucks Campaign for Real Ale

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Milton Keynes and North Bucks Campaign for Real Ale

Stoke Hammond social

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The Dolphin and the Three Locks, Stoke Hammond.

Get the late May Bank Holiday off to a great start with our two pub social in Stoke Hammond on Sat 28th of May. We'll be starting at 12:30 in the Dolphin on Leighton Road in the heart of the village before heading to the Three Locks out on the canal from 13:30-ish. We've allowed for an extended stay at the second pub as it'll be day two of their Rock the Locks festival, a celebration of live music, food, family fun and the all important beer & cider! The festival opens on Friday, but there should be plenty of the 12 ales (many from local breweries) and 15 ciders still available when we drop by.

Assuming you don't have your own boat, the bus is probably the best way to get out to the village for a few pints. Arriva route 70 from CMK to Luton stops close to both pubs and runs hourly. Beware that the F70 service doesn't call in the village, so don't get on the wrong bus! Suitable buses depart CMK rail station at 11:50, the Point 12:00, Bletchley Bus Station 12:15, arriving at the Dolphin at 12:26. The service an hour later runs at the same minutes past the hour and will get you to the Three Locks at 13:30. Return services also run hourly, with the last one departing from the Three Locks around 17:50 (RTPI) and 17:53 from the Dolphin (RTPI). As usual, full timetables are available online from MK Council. As Stoke Hammond is outside the the Milton Keynes bus zone, you'll need to get an Arriva BucksPlus day ticket for this journey, available from the drive at £6.10. This only covers Arriva bus services, but will cover you through to Leighton Buzzard, Aylesbury, Winslow, Buckingham and beyond, as well as all four corners of MK. Of course, you could cycle or walk the canal towpath, but do take extra care on the return journey! Google claims it's just over four miles from the Red Lion in Fenny Stratford and will take about 90 minutes on foot. The weather forecast is currently dry with sunny spells and not too hot.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 May 2016 22:21
 

Mild Month May

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It's that time of year folks, when the snow and ice of winter is finally banished CAMRA sets out to promote mild, an often misunderstood and neglected beer style which can be so much more than warm, flat, brown and, well, mild. It's a beer style that isn't seen much around MK, so your best chance of seeing any is probably one of our three JD Wetherspoon outlets. If you do happen to see mild being served in our branch area pubs, do drop us a line, or better still submit a beer quality score and we'll let other drinkers know.

CAMRA also designate May as one of its two annual cider & perry months. It's the time of the year when the results of previous years' apple and pear harvests reappear as new-season cider and perry. It's also the time of year when the fruit trees are full of blossom in the nation's orchards. Woughton Orchard and Virtual Orchard are our two local producers, so look out for their products in your local. The Red Lion in Fenny Stratford is our current Cider Pub of the Year and will give you a choice of four ciders. The Bell & Bear in Emberton stocks a variety of ciders too, mostly bottled but featuring local and unusual producers. Beer festivals often stock a good choice, even if they don't shout about it.


Inside the Biergarten with Franzi and Hagar. @MKBiergarten

May's big event in our branch is probably the opening of the Biergarten, a new bottle shop and micropub in Wolverton Park, between Wolverton's Tesco store and the town's rail station. After a couple of test events at the end of April, it's first day of trading to the public is Sun 1st of May. You may be a little disappointed to see a single handpull on the bar alongside a couple of taps dispensing German beers, but feast your eyes on the shelving! You can choose from around 150 different beers, focused on those from local breweries, London breweries and Yorkshire breweries, plus a good selection of world beers. Not everything will meet CAMRA's definition of real ale, but we'd like to suggest that you must have had your taste buds surgically removed if you can't find something you like here. The Biergarten will be open on Bank Holiday Monday before adopting its usual opening hours, Thu 12:00 to 20:00, Fri & Sat 12:00 to 22:00 and Sun 12:00 to 18:00. You can drink in the small bar (seating for around 20 people) or buy beer to take away.

The Biergarten will be hosting a series of special events to give you even more excuses to visit. The popular Bierclub run by MK Food Revolution will make the venue its new home at 19:00 on the third Wednesady of the month. The next one will be on Wed 18th of May, featuring London beers, with tickets available now at £15:00 + fees. There will also be a series of free 'meet the brewer' afternoons running from 15:00 to 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays in May as follows: Sat 7th Hornes, Sun 8th Bucks Star, Sat 14th Leighton Buzzard, Sun 15th Twisted Barrel (Coventry), Sat 21st Concrete Cow and Sun 22nd Nobby's (Thrapston). All of these breweries will be stocked regularly.

For those not familiar with the concept of the micropub, it's typically a small bar that focuses on good beer and friendly conversation, shunning electronic entertainment and limiting its food offer to simple bar snacks. The Biergarten combines this with the idea of a bottle shop's tasting room, with a touch of German beer culture.

Early May Bank Holiday beer festivals are under way until Mon 2nd of May at the Crooked Billet Newton Longville, the Cross Keys Woolstone and the White Hart Sherington. See April's Ale Adventures for more details. Go and help them dispose of their beer and cider.

Our next branch meeting is on Wed 4th of May at the Barn CMK from 20:15 to 22:15. All welcome.

Wetherspoons on Midsummer Boulevard CMK is hosting an Oakham Ales tap take over on Thu 12th of May. Up to nine of those fine Oakham Ales will be dominating the pumps until they run dry.

We have a two pub branch social on Mon 16th of May that'll visit the Lakeside and the Ship Ashore. Hopefully the weather will be good enough to take the stroll around Willen Lake to get between the pubs, otherwise we'll have to come up with a cunning plan. (We hear the nearby Eastlake Harvester at Fox Milne has recently added cask ale, so we may add this as an optional third pub for the keen / energetic.)

Northampton County Beer Festival runs from Thu 19th to Sun 22nd of May at Delapre Abbey, Northampton. It's being run in conjunction with those fine folk at Phipps NBC and will include cask ales from Northamptonshire and further afield. There will also be a selection of craft ale and lager, cider, wines and spirits along with "funky festival food" (anyone fancy alcoholic ice cream made with Phipps beer?) and music from local bands. On the Friday, Saturday and Sunday there will be a vintage double decker bus to ferry people to and from the Albion Brewery in the centre of Northampton. Entry tickets and beer tokens can be purchased in advance from the Albion Brewery, where the beer tokens can also be used at the bar during and after the festival. Check out the Facebook event page for further information.

There are regular rail services linking Bletchley, MK Central and Wolverton to Northampton that run late into the early hours, plus Stagecoach express bus services X4/X7 and the slower X89/89 bus via Towcester until the early evening. You can also get the 33 Z&S bus service via Wolverton and Hanslope direct to the festival site at Delapre Abbey until the early evening, although it doesn't run on Sundays. You can get as far as Hanslope on the 33 with the MK Moove day ticket if you want to keep more of you cash to spend at the bar.

On Sat 21st and Sun 22nd of April it's the 2nd Berkhamstead Beer Festival at Haresfoot Brewery on Billet Lane (HP4 1HL), a short walk from Berkhamsted rail station. It's set to feature 19 beers from 14 breweries in and around the Chilterns, including some breweries rarely seen in the MK area. There are regular trains from Wolverton, MK Central and Bletchley, with times and fares available from National Rail Enquiries.

It's our turn to host the CAMRA Central Southern Regional Meeting, so we have booked the Barn in CMK from 12:00 until 17:00 on Sat 21st of May. Okay, it's not ideal given all the local beer festival action, but these things are genuinely more interesting than they may sound. There is usually a guest speaker and a representative from CAMRA's National Executive, not to mention a bunch of CAMRA members from across our region. There will also be the added spice of the election of a new Regional Director.

May comes to a close with another Bank Holiday, so expect to see a few more pub beer festivals announced as the month progresses. One such festival is Rock the Locks, featuring beer, cider, live music and BBQ food at the Three Locks in Stoke Hammond. It runs from 19:00 on Fri 27th to Mon 30th and you can get there using Arriva bus service 70 during the day. Or narrow boat.

Another two pub branch social on Sat 28th of May, this time visiting Stoke Hammond. We'll start at the Dolphin then move on to the Three Locks which, by some stroke of luck, is holding a beer festival!

The Galleon, Old Wolverton, holds a one day festival on Mon 30th of May. It'll feature a selection of beers and ciders, plus street food and live music. They'll be raising awareness of the Trevor Collins Foundation. Check the pub's website for further details.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 May 2016 13:20
 

Willen Lake Wander

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Lakeside, Willen Lake.

We're holding a social in the Willen / Willen Lake area on Mon 16th of May. We are starting at the Eastlake Harvester on the east side of Willen Lake in Fox Milne around 18:30, as they are reported to have added cask ale to their beer range back in March. From there it's about 15 minutes on foot or a short hop on the number 8 bus to the Lakeside at Willen Lake, arriving around 19:15. This large Fayre & Square pub usually has a couple of real ales available. Our final stop is the Ship Ashore at Willen local centre, which is around 20-25 minutes walk. Arriving around 20:30, this is a former MK CAMRA Pub of the Year winner and offers around six ales. As an Ember Inns outlet, there should be a discount for card carrying CAMRA members.

The Eastlake is best served by Arriva bus route 8, which runs along Childs Way as it links Westcroft, CMK to Kingston and Walnut Tree. The same bus route also serves the Lakeside, one stop closer to CMK, along with Z&S route 11/12 linking CMK to the OU and Caldecotte. Alternatively, Arriva route 300 stops on Portway at Pagoda Roundabout as it links CMK to Woburn Sands via Kingston and Broughton. For the Ship Ashore, Arriva routes 1 and 2 which link Newport Pagnell with CMK and on to Bletchley or Westcroft. The last services back towards MK depart at 21:47 and 22:47 (route 1) or 22:20 and 23:20 (route 2). Get RTPI for this stop. Towards Newport Pagnell, the last buses are at 22:22 (#1), 22:26 (#2), 23:22 (#1) and 23:26 (#2). RTPI for route 1 on Dansteed Way and route 2 in Granville Square. Full bus timetables are available on the MK Council website.

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 May 2016 22:19
 

April's Ale Adventures

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April kicks off with a number of branch members on their travels, as the branch trip to Belgium (and Germany this year) runs from Thu 31st of March to Sun 3rd of April. Those staying in the UK should note the CAMRA National AGM and Members' Weekend runs from Fri 1st to Sun 3rd of April in Liverpool. If you've not booked for either of these and you still want a local-ish beer festival, then the Rising Sun in Berkhamsted is holding it's Spring Beer and Cider festival between Thu 31st of March and Sun 3rd of April. Just hop on a southbound train from CMK.

On Wed 6th of April, we'll visiting the Wheatsheaf in Maids Moreton to present them with their branch Pub of the Year award and sup a few of their fine ales. We will be presenting the certificate to Joanne and Bradley at about 20:30 after which we'll have time for more sampling. The branch will be organising transport from Milton Keynes, departing Wetherspoons, 201 Midsummer Boulevard at 19:15 and returning for 22:45. The cost of the return trip will be £6.50 if booked by CAMRA members, or £10 for non-members. We'll make similar arrangements for those in Buckingham if there is sufficient demand. If you'd like to reserve a place, please contact the Social Secretary ASAP.

April's branch meeting takes place on Thu 7th at the usual time of 20:15 in our usual venue, the Barn, CMK. After the excitements of the last few months it'll be back to normal business, although we should have reports from our delegates who attended the CAMRA National AGM.

Green Devil IPA pump clip

Back in October 2015, Oakham Ales took the Beer of the Festival award at the MK Concrete Pint Beer & Cider Festival for their wonderful hop bomb, Green Devil IPA. It's about time we paid them a visit to present them with their certificate, so we have a minibus heading over to Peterborough on Sat 9th of April. It'll depart Wetherspoons CMK at 09:30 to visit the brewery, followed by a tour of some of Peterborough's best pubs. The return journey departs the Coalheavers Arms at 19.30. There are only 16 spaces available, so contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to see if there are any left. The cost is expected to be £16 return.

The Coventry and District branch of CAMRA are holding the Coventry Beer Festival on Fri 15th and Sat 16th of April at Coventry Rugby Club on Butts Road (CV1 3GE). The festival is open between noon and 16:00, then 18:00 to 23:00 each day. There will be 90 real ales plus cider, perry and a selection of world bottled beers. There is a regular rail service from CMK and other local stations late into the evening, with cheap tickets available for those who can book in advance. Further festival information is available on the Coventry CAMRA branch websites and rail info is best obtained from National Rail Enquiries.


Barley Mow, Cosgrove.

For a more local, if somewhat smaller festival, you could try the Barley Mow pub in Cosgrove from Fri 15th to Sun 17th of April. It's just over the border in Northamptonshire with a limited bus service (90/90A) from Central MK and Stony Stratford roughly every two hours Fri/Sat with the last bus back at 17:32. There are only three buses on a Sunday, with the last bus back at 16:40. With warmer weather and longer evenings upon us, you could always choose the pleasant 40-50 minute stroll along the Grand Union canal from Wolverton, which also offers the opportunity to visit the Galleon. If you do make the trip, you'll be rewarded with a choice of around 15 ales (at least three from Everards) and hopefully a few ciders. There is live music at 21:00 on the Fri/Sat evenings and 14:30 on Sunday, with entrance FREE at all times. It's worth noting that the Navigation Inn is also open again after a long spell of being shut. The WhatPub description suggests up to 7 beers are available.

We have a two pub branch social on Thu 21st of April, visiting the Old Swan and the Three Trees in Far Bletchley. Both are accessible via Arriva bus route 4 from CMK and central Bletchley. We'll start around 19:30, moving pubs around 21:00.

On St. Georges Day, Sat 23rd of April, we are holding a pub games afternoon at the Wheatsheaf in Bow Brickhill. Expect cards, dominoes, chess and other board games in a community local from 14:00 to 18:00, so drop by for a pint, play a game and maybe learn something new. Hopefully we'll have a short visit to Hornes Brewery too, providing they are not too busy, as they are just down the road.

Not a drinking opportunity but something you may be interested in attending, particularly if you live or work in Newport Pagnell. As you may know, J D Wetherspoon are considering opening a new pub at 18-22 St. John Street, Newport Pagnell. There will be a drop-in exhibition to show the proposed plans on Wed 27th of April between 14:45 and 19:00 at Green Park Community Centre, Green Park Drive, MK16 0NH.

Biergarten

The latest offering from the MK Food Revolution Beer Club takes place from around 19:00 on Fri 29th of April. This month sees a change of venue from Bucks Star brewery to the Biergarten, a new bottle shop and micropub in Wolverton that'll officially open to the public early in May. Capacity is limited to around 20 people and future Beer Club events will likely take place on Wednesdays to avoid the shop/bar's main trading hours. No dobut we'll have more on the Biergarten in our May update – it has already made the front cover of the latest edition of our Beer Moos magazine.

It's an annual event that we often overlook, but this year's Bedford-Bamberg Spring Festival will be held on Fri 29th and Sat 30th of April. With both towns boasting a lengthy history of brewing, we'll give you three guesses as to what you might find prominently featured in this celebration of the links between the towns. That's right, German beer, food and music. Head over to the Harpur Suite at Bedford Corn Exchange from noon. There are plenty of buses to get you to/from Bedford, the last of which heads back towards MK and Buckingham at 20:00. You can stay later if you take the Bedford-Bletchley train, with the last return service at 22:00.

April ends with the start of the early May Bank Holiday weekend, which usually means a flurry of pub and club beer festivals. Towcester Beer Festival return at Towcestrians RFC from Fri 29th of April until Sun 1st of May. Bigger and better than ever, it'll feature 50 cask ales and 20 ciders plus a bewildering array of food from hog roasts and BBQ to world curries. Add in a range of live music, sports and fun for the kids too. Running from 17:00 to 00:00 on Friday, 11:00 to 00:00 Saturday and 11:00-22:00 on Sunday, you'll find it all at Towcestrains Sports Club, Greens Norton Road {NN12 8AW). Full details are available online and they also Twitter. From MK, Stagecoach bus 89/X89 runs regularly into the early evening, with the last service back to MK departing Towcester at 18:46.


Crooked Billet, Newton Longville.

There's another family-friendly beer festival at the Crooked Billet, Newton Longville, from Fri 29th of April to Mon 2nd of May. There's live music, an array of food options and activities for the kids, details of which are on the pub's website. The festival starts at 19:00 on the Friday and noon Sat-Mon, running to around 23:00 each day. Z & S operate a limited bus service 50 that'll get you there on the Saturday afternoon, otherwise it's a taxi job.

We have another branch social on Sat 30th of April, this time a pub crawl along the number 18 bus route from Woolstone to Simpson. We'll be visiting the Barge Inn, Cross Keys, Ye Olde Swan and the Plough between noon and 16:00. Further information will be available closer to the date.

The White Hart in Sherington will be holding its traditional beer and sausage festival from Sat 30th April to Mon 2nd of May, which is usually well worth visiting. Bus 21 is your best bet for Saturday until the early evening (hourly until 19:59). For Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, Stagecoach bus 40 runs three times in each direction between CMK and Bedford via Newport Pagnell, with the last service towards CMK leaving Sherington at 15:54. If you are heading back towards Bedford, you can stay as late as 16:57.

Can you guess where Cross Keys Fest is being held? That's right, head over to the Cross Keys, Woolstone, for three days of live music, good food, family entertainment and "lots of real ale". The festival runs from Sat 30th of April through to Mon 2nd of May, so we'll be dropping in during our saturday social. Free entry at all times, you'll find more info on Facebook..

Have we missed something? Tell us about your real ale or cider/perry event via email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Tweet us @mkcamra and we'll do our best to pass on the details.

Even if you are not a member of CAMRA, you can't have missed the media fuss about the Revitalisation Project, CAMRA's attempt at "shaping the future" of the organisation. As part of this project, there are 50 consultation meetings taking place around the country and all members are encouraged to attend one of them. Milton Keynes will be hosting one of these meetings at the start of September, but if you can't wait that long there's one in Bicester on Thu 28th of April from 18:30 to 20:30. There is also an initial online survey of people's opinions, which is open to CAMRA members and the general public. It's important for CAMRA to get as many views as possible, so do take part before the April 30th deadline as it'll only take a minute or two of you time.
Last Updated on Saturday, 23 April 2016 09:41
 
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