Oz & Hugh Raise the Bar – and Mad Monk – New TV series about beer on BBC2

Put your hands up if you buy the Christmas Radio Times and then spend an evening circling the programmes you intend to watch or record with a marker pen?

Well here’s a new TV series you should perhaps circle along with the rest….a BBC2 TV series, made by RDF West, about British beer (along with some wine, whiskeys and ciders). 

You should perhaps make a real effort NOT to miss this series because the TV schedulers have sprinkled all four shows around the peak Christmas & New Year programming. 

The dates for your diary are as follows: 

Episode 1  – The South  – Tues 21st Dec  –  9.05pm
Episode 2  – Scotland & Ireland – Boxing Day 26th Dec – 7pm
Episode 3  – The North –  Mon 27th Dec – 9pm
Episode 4  – Wales & Midlands –   Sunday 2nd January 2011 – 8pm (watch this one carefully above all. Keep reading and you’ll see why!)

The series is a follow up to the Oz & Hugh Drink to Christmas programme last year. Oz Clarke of course needs no introduction whilst the Hugh is Hugh Dennis, the comedian from BBC1?s Outnumbered and BBC Radio Four’s The Now Show.

This is how the BBC Press Office release describes the new series:

Oz Clarke and Hugh Dennis are on a mission to revive the good old British pub. Their plan: to scour the British Isles for the best independent drinks, soak up pub culture, and then open a pub of their own, packed full of drinks from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As they can’t agree on what makes for the best of British and Irish booze, they will open two bars that will go head-to-head for one night only.

By travelling across the UK and Ireland, they will try and buy a range of drinks as potential stock for their cellars. But like a good cocktail, this series will have a twist; there are two bars in the drinking den, and they are in competition with each other. Alongside the traditional pub fare of beer and wine, they will be looking at snacks, soft drinks, and more unusual offerings such as pub games and British spirits. 

Episode 1

Their search begins with a tour of England’s south. They discover hidden gems, from the award-winning sparkling wines of Sussex to the offal- and jellyfish-flavoured beers of Cornwall, and from alcoholic ginger beer to sweet farmhouse cider. Following a revel in a Cornish pub, Oz concocts some old-fashioned hangover cures, with upsetting results.

Rediscovering an ancient pub game, Oz enjoys a face full of beer while ‘Dwile Flunking’, and Hugh hoodwinks a cider and perry festival crowd with Babycham disguised as home-made perry. In London Oz and Hugh happen upon English lager, meet a specialist gin producer and take on a cocktail mixologist in a Caribbean rum shack. 

Episode 2

Their tour of Gaelic grog kicks off in Perthshire and a visit that begins with non-alcoholic fruit wine tasting and ends with a bottle-smashing competition. A visit to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without taking a close look at whisky, which turns out to be a little too close for Oz’s comfort when he is attacked by flying malt.

Continuing west, their dedication to research knows no bounds as it’s off to the Inner Hebrides and Easdale Island’s most popular, and only, pub.

To Northern Ireland and the Republic next, where an embarrassing confession to liking Irish Cream by Hugh leads them to make their own version of the drink, even down to sourcing the cream straight from the cows’ udder. Oz unleashes their creation on the unsuspecting public before the pair head off to Galway where a visit to an oyster festival leads to them employing some desperate measures to get an independent stout that doesn’t begin with the letter ‘G’.

Episode 3

Oz and Hugh are head to the north of England in their dodgy Dutch camper and things get lively when a Manchester real ale tasting gets completely out of hand. Oz takes orders from a cider-making Benedictine monk, and Hugh goes undercover dressed as a whoopee cushion for the famous Otley Run pub crawl. Oz and Hugh brave the beehives and learn how to make honey for a honey beer in Cheshire, taste the most Northern wine in the UK made in Morecambe Bay and compete to make the most popular flavoured beer in a Saltaire brewery. More drinks are divvied up and added to the growing collection of the best of British drinks. 

Episode 4

In the final furlong of Oz and Hugh’s journey across the British Isles, their pub grand opening is looming. They head to Wales to feed beer to some boozing bovines, risk life and limb convincing local rugby lads to swap their lager for Welsh wine, and seek inspiration from one of the most bizarre pubs in the country – Leintwardine’s Sun Inn.

After a tour of a Wolverhampton pork scratching factory, Oz fries up an unusual part of the pig’s anatomy to produce his own version of this pub essential.

Armed with their drinks from across the nation, the journey ends with opening time at their very own pub for one night only. Will the locals prefer Oz or Hugh’s drinks?

I’m not sure; however I can tell you Oz’s bar does feature All Gates’, Mad Monk; a firkin of which was specially ordered by Oz for this last episode and which was filmed at The Griffin, Coleshill Road, Shustoke, Warwickshire, in late November.

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