Sunday, 21 February 2016

Magic at the Wychwood Brewery

I’m going to confess; I am not a beer drinker. I remember naughtily sipping my Dad’s beer on a family holiday when I was around ten years old. My older brother dared me to, whilst my Dad wasn’t looking – it was a bad move, because it really wasn’t very ‘nice’ and my Mum wasn’t too impressed!


Since that moment, I have never felt compelled to taste it again. So this may be a surprise, especially for me, to find myself absolutely fascinated and excited about a brewery tour. Well, this little trip came about a while ago when I went to the BBC Good Food Winter show in November, I spotted the Hobgoblin stand and made a bee-line! My husband loves beers and real ale, especially bottled beers, and I couldn’t resist treating him to a little gesture of good will.  

Three bottles of beer chosen, I brought my husband a booklet back which detailed the brewery tour in Witney, Oxfordshire. It immediately interested us both, I work in food marketing so am always intrigued by great food and drink stories. It was booked for Valentines weekend – the perfect little getaway.


When we arrived, after a horrible pursuit down the motorway on a damp cold February morning, we were instantly greeted by a warm and snug setting. Walking straight into the shop and being surrounded by goblins was quite a joy. Next, we were transported right into the bar – a real bar, to meet our fellow drinkers!


Yes, unfortunately for me – it was time to have a sip and a sit down! I did taste Hobgoblin (it would be rude not to), and it was pleasantly surprising! I may just have found a tipple I like.
So after a drink, a meet and a greet the tour began, we stepped straight into the barrel store, and were told the great story of the origins of the Wychwood Brewery and the story behind it all.


Of course, I believe every great product has an even greater story and Hobgoblin is no exception, the first batch was created for a friend’s wedding – something to give the guests, and to celebrate a day of incredible love. I think, in 1988 Chris Moss not only created a token of love, but he bottled a taste so rare and loved by all far and wide. Magical.

Although the Wychwood brewery is actually very small, it still produces some 50,000 barrels a year! Although there is not bottling done at the brewery anymore, it can still be tasted authentically at the bar.
We then made our way through to the brewing area, and I was simply mesmerised by the machinery and barrels. Tasting malt was certainly a new one for me, and left a burnt toast taste in my mouth.

Malt - a key ingredient.
I think what is most special about this brewery is the fact it still is very much alive and pays homage to its roots (the ancient Wychwood Forest being a stone’s throw away). The brand has expanded rapidly over the years and is wild in its ideas, art and marketing. But, the fact there is still early artwork framed at every corner you turn (even in the toilet) goes to show just how tradition stays close to home.


After seeing where the craft happens, we were invited to a tasting of each variety back at the bar! Bliss and very humbling to sit on a bar stool within Wychwood!
I definitely enjoyed the tour and glimpse of the pure magic and witchcraft of Hobgoblin and it’s many wicked beers.

Great brewery, great beer, even greater taste! 
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Saturday, 13 February 2016

Changes.

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck intermittently in the middle of change?  Because despite what fairy tales might teach us, change does not happen overnight.  We don’t become princesses when we meet our knight in shining armour or lose 10lbs in a day...

Erawan Waterfalls, Thailand 2015
Real change takes time.  It took me twelve months to pass my driving test, two years to plan a wedding, two hours to run a half marathon and ten years to break my shyness. Yes, time is sometimes the only thing that can propel us to the next level.

It’s so easy to forget, that time is not the enemy. I know far too well how chasing time can sometimes become a past-time.

If I could go back and change a single thing in my life?

Would I eliminate all those struggles, all the fall outs and all the pain?

No, because all of those things made me stronger, and taught me that life … is not perfect or to put it quite bluntly: 
easy.

And, if you hadn’t already guessed - I’m not in it for the easy ride.
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Thursday, 11 February 2016

Asia with Love

Last year we travelled to Asia twice. I fell in love with a continent that was so real it hurt – everything I had ever dreamt of and more. It was a game changer. I came home with an intent to change my life – I quit my job, dug deep, and chased a dream. It lit a spark inside of me like never before.


I owe so much to Thailand, not only for that drive, but the love. My heart aches to go back almost every day. I can still feel the spirit of Chiang Mai and the warmth of Koh Lanta on my skin. I can still taste that Dragon Fruit on my tongue...


Some-days, I consider my life to be incredibly tiring and unsettled, in the fact there is no safety net anymore. But, then I remember the great adventures we take and the reason that we do. Travel is almost certainly my priority, and I know there has to be a reason for that. Maybe I’m running away, maybe I’m searching for the unknown or maybe I’m on the pursuit of happiness. True happiness.


In exactly three months-time we are travelling back to Asia, this time to capture Vietnam and Malaysia. It doesn’t seem real (with so much other life stuff happening), but I know that when it arrives, I’m going to burst with an overwhelming passion, hunger and undying excitement.  

Quite simply, Asia you changed me.   


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Sunday, 7 February 2016

Fresh Pasta from Sally

I love pasta. It’s one food I have never fallen out of love with, because it is so incredibly versatile and fulfilling in the way it can be cooked and what it can be paired with. I have always felt pasta gives me a huge boost, especially the night before a big run.

It’s hard to find a pasta, that is not horrifically full of additives or colourings, fresh pasta can often be dry or discoloured. But this pasta, is so fresh and doesn't use any artificial colours or flavourings. It is exceptionally innovative and absolutely delicious in equal measure.  
When Sally got in touch and asked if I’d like to try her pasta, I was excited to sample something completely different to what I had tried before. This brand was fresh, and the flavours were inviting! Completely vegetarian, and made in Lancashire this pasta is fresh off the production.
When I received my pasta I was so excited to try it, I was spoilt for choice, I had never tried Pea and Mint ravioli before so was eager to try this one first! The flavour combination was so spot on, and the vivid green of the peas was such a welcome burst on my plate! 
Next, I opted for Buttnernut Squash and Sage – which again combined two amazing flavour combinations, with a gorgeous velvety feel. The Wild Mushroom was shared over dinner with my husband! So delicious and bursting full of mushrooms - this one was a winner!
What I love most, is the fact Sally – not only visited Italy and came home with so much love and passion from her travels, she went on to create her very own pasta. She also drew up the illustrations on the cover! Pretty cool yes?
Sally’s pasta has been awarded a Gold Taste Award, and is already stocked in local stores, including Booths.
I know, this is only the start of an incredible food story.
* I was sent a selection of Sally's Pasta to sample.
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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Forgive Me

How do you find forgiveness when you realise that it’s not someone or something you have to forgive? You’ve carried the sadness in your heart for so long, it feels normal to ache and worry over the same person.
You find yourself living on tenterhooks, waiting for a past conflict to erupt all over again. Little do you realise, the answer is far closer to home, and there is only one person who you have to set free from past troubles. Yourself.

Thailand May 2015 - The journey that opened my heart up to possibility.
I am fierce. Wild. Raw. And sometimes: unpredictable. My determination can often override logic. But, this week I saw sense. And, resolved a family conflict I never thought would end.
Life, is surprising. I think I might just be capable of anything...


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