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Previous Pint Pleasures - March 17, 2012

guinness eileen

The Musician, 42 Crafton Street West, Leicester, Leicestershire

guinness eileen

The Old Bulls Head, 134 Main Street, Woodhouse Eaves, Loughborough, Leicestershire

A month ago we found ourselves driving down to the cosmopolitan city of Leicester. I'm using "cosmopolitan" in the true sense of the word, because I read recently that in a matter of years no ethnic group will make up a majority in this culturally diverse city. This is part of Leicester's appeal, even though a hill-dwelling Sheffielder like myself feels a bit wobbly, like a cat on a beach, when I walk along its flat streets.

On this occasion the purpose of our visit was to see the premier performance of Calder McLaughlin with his new band at the Musician, a friendly little music venue in the city centre. After paying a reasonable admission, our first stop was the bar in the front where we were happy to find a couple of handpumps featuring local ales. As one of the choices didn't appeal to us we went straight for pints of Wayland's Smithy (4.5% ABV, White Horse Brewery, Stanford-in-the-Vale, Oxfordshire). This beer is named after a Neolithic long barrow and chamber tomb site located near the Uffington White Horse, which is obviously the brewery's namesake. The White Horse is a 110-metre-long prehistoric hill figure formed by trenches filled with white chalk. It is situated on White Horse Hill which overlooks the Vale of White Horse in Oxfordshire.

But there was nothing white about this brew, or even chalky. It was amber and very bitter but not particularly hoppy. After consuming two pints of it while listening to the brilliant opening band Us Wolves and the first part of Calder's outstanding set, by which point the 220-capacity club was half full and had become quite steamy, we decided to switch to more refreshing pints of Amstel Lager. Sometimes one has to do such a thing.

The Musician features live bands, both well known and local, at least six nights a week. The walls are covered with high contrast prints of famous musicians, and there is a very pleasingly curvy and airbrushy lighted blue MUSICIAN sign behind the stage. I wanted to run up and rub my face on it -- but that's a different matter I won't go into here.

A couple of months earlier we took a day trip to Leicestershire, this time veering off near Loughborough towards the posh village of Quorn. Along the way we decided to stop for lunch, so we pulled into the Old Bulls Head. It seemed a bit posh, but as we were in Poshland this was no surprise. Established in 1846, the pub is very large with several rooms, light coloured walls, light wood stumps as decor, and very modern furnishings. As it was early afternoon we avoided the large restaurant area crowded with people who can actually afford to eat out whenever they want, and we sat ourselves in the bar on a leather sofa surrounded by drawings and paintings of -- what else? -- bulls.

There were 2 cask ales on. As we were driving and didn't want to go for the 5% ABV stout, we had pints of Pedigree (4.5% ABV, Marston, Thompson & Evershed, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire). It was all right, actually, quite a pleasingly nice pint of Pedigree, surprisingly perfect with a lovely balance and a bitter kick. In fact it was a thoroughly enjoyable pint.

Our food was good as well. My pizza margarita was gorgeous, with a very thin crust with whole cherry tomatoes, large basil leaves, and something subtly gorgeous (mascarpone?) hiding beneath it all. Andrew had ribs with plums and melon that were nice but not quite the quantity that he would have preferred, which was fortunately because then he could finish off my pizza. As we sat enjoying our pints and our food we started to see double -- er, doubles, meaning people who look just like somebody else we know. Everybody who walked by us looked directly at us and smiled. Either we had entered a parallel universe where doubles meet doubles or two converging universes where singles meet. Or perhaps this Pedigree was 45% ABV, not 4.5%.