Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Northern Bar and Restaurant Show

I attended this beano yesterday. Held at Manchester Central (formerly G-Mex) it was a veritable cornucopia of all things you could possibly need, should you run either a pub or an eating place. Naturally there was a drink in it, so we supped minute quantities of beers from Copper Dragon (excellent) Freedom (nice pilsner, yuk dark and organic lagers), Holts (splendid bitter and surprising good smooth mild), Maisels and Erdinger (Pikantus) wheat beers and of course Lees. The new Coronation St beer was on offer and it was good, but malty in the Lees way. I chatted to Simon Lees-Jones, who buys and sells pubs for Lees. He is buying currently and was very buoyant about the future. We did for politeness sake try a little drop of vino reddo too, but turned down countless offers of tasters of lurid alcopops, albeit from rather fetching young women.

Later, using a couple of free pint vouchers supplied by Lees, we supped the Coronation Street beer in the Rain Bar where the beer seemed a bit hoppier. It is available in bottle too. Worth a try I'd say.

We actually made some good contacts for NWAF, but mainly it was a piss up.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Polecats Apart

A couple of weeks ago I arrived at the pub on Sunday rather later than usual. I immediately noticed a pong. The source of this became evident as sitting not too far away was a young man and woman of, shall we say, unconventional attire. It was not them though that produced the niff, but their accompanying two rodents, one a ferret and the other a flat faced polecat. The sweet musky smell of the polecat pervaded the pub, but fortunately they left soon after and all was well, leaving us locals shaking our heads with incredulity.

They were back yesterday and in bigger numbers - the humans, not the animals. I noticed the young girl had a kind of cage backpack for her beasties. Again luck was with us. On a very fine day indeed there was nowhere for them or their malodorous mammals to sit, so they went and sat outside, again leaving the sickly smell behind them. I didn't get a chance to have a word with the landlady about her views on this, but to me it didn't seem right to allow such niffy creatures in our small pub.

What do others think?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Sad Demise

I was in Leeds yesterday and had an hour or two to myself. I was being picked up at the Parish Church, so the choice of venue was simple, my old haunt when I worked in Leeds, the Palace. It was lunchtime, the pub was heaving. It sells around ten beers on handpump and inexpensive, cheap and cheerful food, a good selection of wines by the glass or bottle at prices that don't make you weep and a reasonable choice of lagers including Staropramen. It is bright and welcoming, with large windows and is a nice place to be in.

I enjoyed my beers and lapped up the pleasant atmosphere for an hour before nipping across to the magnificent Leeds Market which used to be my lunch break diversion from work. I had though, one other pub in mind. The Duck and Drake was one of the main multi choice pubs when this was less common. I used to drink there often and can remember some fine pints there. Always a bit rougher and readier than the Palace, it nonetheless was a fine place to enjoy good cask ale in a genuine old fashioned atmosphere. I had half an hour left, so nipped in. Two hefty smokers blocked my way, moving reluctantly aside. Inside there was no-one behind the bar and a solitary customer reading a Daily Mirror. It looked forlorn, down at heel and had obviously seen much better days. I hesitated then fled. Back in the Palace I reflected that no wonder it isn't in the Good Beer Guide. I checked when I got home. It has not been in since 2007. Seems the out of touch CAMRA has got this one right.

As far as I know, the Duck and Drake is operated by Scottish and Newcastle Pub Enterprises. The Palace has now been placed in the ever expanding Nicolson's chain.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Jumping on the Bandwagon

Polls on blogs seem all the rage at the moment, so I thought I'd join in the fun. My poll is prompted by last night when I had no intention of going out and I quite fancied a drink. "I know" I thought, "I'll do that side by side comparison of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Guinness Special Extra Stout that I've been meaning to do for ages."

What usually happens, happened. They are in the fridge, ready to take out and warm up slightly, so I went to the fridge, picked them up and as usual hesitated. I looked at three or four rare BCA's I had got from Oldham Beer Fest. I hesitated again, then sighing to myself, put the kettle on. You see I just don't really drink at home and when I reach for a bottle of beer, some kind of mechanism kicks in and I usually leave it. That's why beers in my "cellar" more often than not find themselves in a stew, sorry, carbonade. I'm a pub drinker and always have been.

Now I know many of my readers and many bloggers do drink beer at home, so this little poll is designed to tease out how much.

It's not scientific, just a bit of fun.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Corrie Beer

Fans of Coronation Street will no doubt be aware that Newton and Ridley supply the Rover's Return with its beer, supplemented by that other fictitious brewer, Harvey Nuttall. When the plot required some boardroom scenes, they were sometimes shot at J W Lees in Middleton, not a million miles away from Granada TV, home of the revered soap.

Now it seems that cash strapped Granada, or is it ITV now, have licensed Lees to produce a Coronation Street beer. This will be a 4.2% cask bitter. The name isn't clear yet, but it seems it might just be "Coronation Street Ale". The beer will be will be available from next month exclusively in JW Lees pubs.

Managing director William Lees-Jones confirmed the deal "With our shared Manchester heritage, we're excited to be teaming up with them to provide a premium quality draught ale which will be as complex and robust as a good Corrie plot line."

I'll let you know here if it's any good.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Spontaneous Enjoyment

There was only about ten or so people left at the end of Oldham Beer Festival to enjoy a quiet hour or two after a very successful festival. As we sat shattered and knackered, we had a couple of beers, but I was all casked out. My poor tired body and jaded palate needed something different. There was a little cider left, but no, that wouldn't do it. What would then? I eyed the Foreign Beer Bar up. I knew what I wanted. Gueze! So what did we have in stock? Gueze Boon, a favourite of mine and three from Cantillon, the straight 100% lambic, the Kriek Gueze with the addition of sour cherries and Rose de Gambrinus, the raspberry one.

Now these beers are not to everyone's taste and when passed round, produced many a grimace, but to me and my partner in crime, John Lewis, well known cider guru and a predecessor of mine as Branch Chairman, love the stuff. We started on the Boon, Dry, tart, but quite refined and relatively easy drinking, with a refreshing sour kick. The Cantillon Gueze was drier, sourer, more in your face and delicious. The Kriek had a distinct sour cherry taste, rather like the pink penicillin medicine some of us old geezers used get forced down our swollen necks, forty plus years ago, when we got ill. Its finish was pure lambic with that lipsmacking cherry kick. The Gambrinus was new to me. Unsweetened and delicate, it has become a firm favourite.

I left in the wee small hours, with my palate renewed and an avowed intention to get some Lambic in for the summer - if we ever get one that is.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Putting Your Own House in Order

When I left the hall yesterday after Oldham Beer Festival set-up, I saw the back of my bus leaving. Damn. It was a half hour wait for the next one, so what to do? Conveniently there is a pub opposite the bus station. It is signed and run by Marstons. Do you remember that rant by Marston's MD Stephen Oliver that I referred to recently? I know he has apologised for most of it since, but remembering his boast that I could have all the choice of beer I'd like in his pubs, I went in.

Guess what? Of the 35 permanent beers boasted by Mr Oliver, exactly none were available. The pump clips were all turned round. Instead a lone Black Sheep pump coughed and spluttered a reluctant half of ice cold beer to me. The barman, with cigarette behind his ear, told me I might need it topping up as it had been giving trouble all day. He then retreated to the open back door to smoke said fag. It did need topping up, but I didn't bother asking for one, or wondering why he didn't change the beer onto a non faulty handpump. He had plenty to choose from and almost no customers.

There are many reasons why we don't go to pubs, but I'd imagine this cheerless experience would put you off for quite a while. I went back to the cold bus station. It was preferable by far and a much happier place. At least in a bus station hope and expectation fill the air. The pub is for sale or is it lease? No wonder.

Reading this Ollie?

Am I a Cider Drinker?

Well no I'm not, but we had an impromptu tasting session just before leaving Oldham Beer Festival set-up yesterday. I rather enjoyed the two whose photos are featured here, as they were fresh tasting and very appley, which oddly, some ciders aren't.

I hated the two perries I tasted, but as that's probably just me, I won't name them.

More on OBF soon, but I need to get moving. Yesterday I vented and tapped 79 casks. I managed to hard peg a finger too, when Phoenix Shamrock blew a spile out of my grasp in mid pegging. Ouch. Many tastes were had and initial impressions are good. We open today and tomorrow at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

I'll share a tip with you from many years of looking after beer. It is very rare you get a bad beer from a vigorous secondary fermentation. It is very rare that you get a great one where there isn't. Simples!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Mystery Beer

I had to call into JDW's Regal Moon in Rochdale to drop off some CAMRA stuff, so had a half. My beer of choice was that rarest of beasts, a cask conditioned stout, which jostled with Irish and British beers trying to blag some kind of St Patrick's affiliation.

Now Chris the manager hadn't heard of the brewery and asked me if I had. Well no, I hadn't. The beer in question was Ship and Mitre Suitably Irish, a rather full bodied little number at 5.6% which was pretty good, though it needed a stronger hop finish to disguise the alcohol. I know the Ship and Mitre Free House in Liverpool of course, but they don't brew and I can find nothing helpful on t'interweb.

My guess it that is brewed for the Scousers. Anyone know anything?

Chris will check the cask when he gets a chance, to see if it yields any clues.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

In Them Thar Hills

Delph, Diggle, Dobcross, Greenfield and Uppermill. Names that would gladden the heart of any brass band follower and also any beer follower that likes a drop or two. Saturday saw a merry band of stalwarts visiting an area of our CAMRA branch which isn't that far away, but isn't that easy to get to, especially if you want to do a few pubs, other than by bespoke transport.

I won't bore you with a dizzying pub crawl, but instead select a few highlights from an interesting day. Great pubs first of all. Pick of a very good bunch was probably our first stop the Royal Oak, set high above Delph amid splendid scenery. They opened specially for us and we enjoyed superb beers from Skipton and Millstone. Mild played a big part in the day too, with splendid versions from Jennings, Moorhouses and Copper Dragon. Surprise of the day for me was the Tetley Bitter in the King William IV - the King Bill - as they say in these parts. Sour, tart, full bodied and delicious. It reminded me very much of the beer in its heyday, but it has to be said, the cellarmanship here was, as our Yankee friends might say, awesome.

We did of course tend to swoop on the pubs mob handed, though all had been advised in advance, but we were treated ourselves to a mass invasion while at the Railway in Greenfield, as a swarm of Carling drinkers dived off a train. Although pissed they were amiable enough, if a little noisy and I'm sure you wouldn't have wanted your maiden aunt to listen to the songs they sang. Still, we shouted above the noise and drank one of the day's highlights, Elland Beyond the Pale.

Any lowlights? Well sort of. Perhaps the two most disappointing beers for me were from two of our family brewers. Robinsons Dizzy Blonde in the Waggon at Uppermill was very well kept, but just lacked a sure touch with hopping to lift it, while for once, Lees Bitter seemed off the mark and a bit one dimensional in the Cross Keys.

The beer of the day? I couldn't put a micron between Jennings Mild and Moorhouses Black Cat. Both were at the peak of condition, served properly - and you know what that means - and just as fresh as a daisy. Lovely.

I had some lovely photos for you. Unfortunately my camera, which I definitely had in the last pub, can no longer be found. Dear day out.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Excellent Rant

It appears that Marston's Beer Company's MD Stephen Oliver has got a bit of chilli under his foreskin. It's made him shirty. In the Morning Advertiser, he has a right go at everyone. CAMRA are a lot of "beardy weirdies" - no prize for originality then- and slightly better - a set of "gobby hobbitts". Warming to his theme, we become "sandal-clad, whisker-stroking stormtroopers".

Showing no mercy Ollie also blasts his own licensees who it seems are an ungrateful bunch of bastards, not that he used these exact words. Why? The ingrates seemingly want to be able to sell beers from outside Marston's 5 breweries and their 35 permanent and 53 occasional ales. What a shower of shits! SIBA don't escape either, with a swipe at their not chipping in to pay for Cask Ale Week. He also has a neat little pop at small brewers saying their beers are "eclectic pints brewed in a cupboard with the dubious benefit of progressive beer duty." They are also "oddballs down a country lane" whose beer is served with bits in it.

It seems "normal" people should start to drink Marstons Beer and be grateful for it. Presumably he means if you don't like their beers, you aren't "normal". Now I love a good rant as much as the next man and no doubt Ollie's words will strike a chord with some, but the underlying message seems to be "after all we've done for you, why don't you like our beer you gits?".

Most people reading his outpourings will work that answer out for themselves, though I can see why he's miffed. After all they kindly took over some nice breweries, kept them going and made their ale more widely available. They could have been like Greene King and shut the lot down. It may well be a point. Why then is everyone so bloody unappreciative of their efforts?

There must be more to this than meets the eye. Why is Ollie so rattled?

Read the MA Article here.

The Worker's Beer

"Now a drop of good beer is good for a man
Who's thirsty and tired and hot,
And I sometimes has a drop for myself
From a very special lot;
But a fat and healthy working class
Is the thing that I most fear,
So I reaches my hand for the water tap,
And I waters the workers' beer."

Paul's Beer Blog raised a point about class, intellectualising beer and the future of pubs. I was going to reply there, but hey, I've a blog to fill too, so I won't. I'll expand on it here.

There are still plenty of people that want to drink in pubs and it is likely (with a few regrettable exceptions) that the better pubs will survive. I am no sociologist - or should that be economist - but if like me you have been a pub man for over 30 years, you will have noticed great changes in pub going habits. It isn't all price, but that certainly has something to do with it. When the pubs were filled with working people, not that long ago, the differential between beer at home and beer in the pub wasn't so glaring that when you were strapped it kept you out of the boozer. Then if you could squeeze the money together for a couple of cans, you could probably convert that to a couple of pints down the pub with a quick hand down the back of the sofa. There are wider reasons why the working class have deserted pubs and it would be interesting to actually ask them, but lets just accept that price is one of them.

The suggestion by Paul is that we need to intellectualise beer more, to attract the middle classes much as wine has been turned from the drink of the peasant, to the drink of the toff. It isn't that peculiar an idea, but it does have a kind of elitist element that I don't care for. I too agree that pubs have a bright future, but it ought to be a future for all. Condemning the workers to drink their crappy tinned supermarket beer at home and smoking themselves to death, while us middle class types raise pinkies and glasses of delicious craft beer in our pubs seems a step too far to me, but clearly there is a demographic curve that suggests that may be to some extent at least, where we are heading.

This brings us to the smoking ban. The idea that those who don't smoke are the future of pubs is given more credence by Government statistics (2007 figures) that tell us that 26% of the so called "working class" smoke, as opposed to only 15% of those who aren't. Clearly if you are looking to fill pubs, you need to target those more likely to come to them and that would certainly include the vast majority of those that don't want smoke in pubs and exclude those that object to puffing away on the pavement. Statistically you are likely to attract more non working class, as they in addition to not smoking as much, will have more disposable income.

There seems to me to be an awkward and inescapable trend here. Those pubs at the bottom end that fall out of the market were likely to be the haunt of the working class smoker. Those surviving will mainly offer the middle classes a better environment, more decent food and better (hopefully) but more expensive beer. Of course there will be exceptions, but the social exclusion already felt by many, is likely to extend more and more to pub going.

In this scenario at least and I recognise it need not be so, the pub, that great British leveller, may be heading upmarket and beyond the means of many, like it or not.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Lees Brewery Trip

Our CAMRA Branch went to Lees last night. As ever the hospitality was mighty. Pre trip highlights were the Peroni drinking Landlady's (hitherto hidden) ability to swoop pints of John Willie's Bitter down her neck, outpacing me, when we had a warm up drink in a nearby hostelry and the fact that despite me very rarely drinking in said local, I was recognised as the "Beer Man". Fame at last.

The tour was excellent with Michael Lees-Jones, the Head Brewer (pictured) taking one half round and Paul Wood the Brewhouse Manager (Second Brewer in old money) doing the honours for the remainder. Beer and chat flowed, grub was provided and all was well with the world. A good night.

After they chucked us out, the Landlady and I joined our pub quiz team for the second half of our away match against the league leaders. We didn't contribute much funnily enough, but we won anyway. I was still on Lees Bitter, but the Landlady had by then reverted to Peroni, her point having already been proven.

The other photo shows the Landlady listening intently on the brewery tour.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Pubcos Have Ripped Heart out of Industry

Yes what I think, but no, not what I have said in so many words. The Morning Advertiser, a prominent trade paper says so though the vehicle of a spoof blog, written by the fictitious "Sir Shannon Alberry."

"Sir Shannon" says this "So how have the owners of the major pub companies behaved? Doing a bit of research I have noted that the directors of the main pubcos have sold between them about £50m of shares between 2000 and 2006. The share prices are now a fraction of their former levels — both of the main pubcos shares are more than 90% off their peak. Surely given the protestations as to the robustness of their model — now would be a great time for them to be snapping up the shares. But no — not a single purchase. Indeed in recent times the two leading lights have exercised Long Term Investment Plans and taken even more money out of their companies.*

On the basis that actions speak louder than words — they are telling us that the pub model is indeed dead, that both companies are going bust, and they are getting all they can out before the ships sink."

I guess this must be what the MA believes, despite the vehicle they choose to say so. They may well be right. The PubCo model is creaking at the seams.

*More detail and the original article here

Sunday, 8 March 2009

It's Outstanding

The Bury Beer Festival "thank you" trip took place at Outstanding Brewery in Bury on Saturday. After a long and tedious bus journey thanks to the hopeless First Bus, we made our way through the back streets, bickering all the way about directions, to the former mill that houses the brewery. "Why didn't I know the way?" My explanation that though I had been there once before, but was driven there and it was dark, fell on deaf ears. Being well versed in how to deal with such routine enquiries from the female of the species, I gritted my teeth and ploughed on.

On arrival there seemed to be few there, but as I got a much needed glass of beer, the reason became obvious - most of the crew were nosebagging their way through the buffet. There was plenty of beer though and some of it was very good indeed. Dave Porter, the brewer held court and I started on his experimental beer, a very hoppy 3.8% number, which I not only enjoyed, but found difficult to move away from. The beer was well conditioned, very pale brown in colour with a good malt nose and incredible hoppiness due to copious amounts of Nelson Sauvin hops. Sadly Dave reckons it is too hoppy for the trade, though the comments he received from us lot led him to say he'd reconsider. It really is a belter. He has around 15 nines of it left, so if you want some, get in quick. When it's gone, it's gone!

There is something fantastic about being in a brewery where experimentation takes place and where the brewer is happy just to talk about it all with you. While others just got stuck in, I viewed the hop store with its precious contents reading like a who's who of the best hops in the world. Yankee Chinooks, Cascades and Centennials jostled with New Zealand's Nelson Sauvin, Motueka and Riwaka. German Tettnang and Slovenian Goldings sat side by side with Fuggles and Challenger. I do love seeing so many hop varieties and I have no doubt missed a few off the list. I also sniffed and chewed my way through malts including the smoked malt which was very pale and actually very tasty.

Later I was treated to two different versions of the same lager straight from the conditioning tank. One was frankly a failure, with too many fruity esters, but the other was a clean, hoppy revelation which would surely have any self respecting lager aficionado wagging his tail. There was also a cask conditioned Belgian White made with a proper Belgian yeast which was simply stunning. I agreed this would be fantastic kegged and chilled for the summer. It was a beer made for sunny evenings and a raging thirst. Others enjoyed the two smoked beers on offer, though they are not for me. I did try a sip and as these things go, it was fine, but it isn't a style I like. Lastly, on the draught offerings, a beer that I am beginning to rate very highly, Outstanding Stout, a dry, chewy, roasty classic of its kind.

The final revelation was brought to me by Dave. A bottled barley wine, Pushing Out is 7.4%. It is heavily hopped in the early boil with New Zealand Pacific Gem, late hopped with Slovenian Styrian Goldings and dry hopped with American Willamettes. It is a gorgeous, luscious, hop monster with incredible poise and balance that has a fine malt backbone and hides its strength incredibly well. It is a marvellous beer. Dave, rightly has high hopes for it.

We left, well oiled, for Bury's Trackside Free House, where after a couple, we wisely went home in a state of delicate inebriation, me clutching a precious cargo of four bottles of Pushing Out, gifted by Dave. One was shared to great acclaim in the pub today, but I have three left. Grim up North? Not bloody likely!

The bottom photo shows Dave Porter in full flow.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Hopping Mad at InBev

Anheuser-Busch of Budweiser fame have always used the same hop in their ubiquitous brew. Although these days, in minimal quantities, they stuck to "Hallertauer Mittelfrüh", an aroma hop variety with a spicy aromatic lemon taste. Now with Anheuser-Busch having been taken over by InBev, the bean counters at InBev have put an end to Anheuser-Busch’s “We have always done it this way”. Hallertauer Mittelfrüh is to be replaced by other hop varieties in Anheuser-Busch’s beers. Hop farmers in the Hallertau are appalled: Hallertauer Mittelfrüh covers ten percent of their total acreage and new buyers will have to be found, though given the general shortage of hops that may not be so difficult, even with bumper crops expected this year.

So there you have another consequence of global domination by the dreaded InBev. Another interersting little outcome of the takeover is that AB-InBev are set to sell off their German breweries including Spaten, Gilde and Hassroder, though the Spaten sale is complicated by the fact that InBev own only the brand, - the brewery is leased to InBev in a complicated deal with the previous owners, which may yet bite each of the parties on the bum.

Finally in this little German round up, Heineken have failed to acquire a majority stake in their joint venture with Bayerische Brau Holding. This means Paulaner / Hacker Pschorr stays in German control, so probably two cheers for that.

Friday, 6 March 2009

The World's Gone Mad

Seems my favourite pub snack is attracting attention. Cheese and onion - cheese and bloody onion - crisps have overtaken ready salted as the UK's favourite crisp flavour. This is madness.

And why is there some kind of crisp apartheid going on on the UK? You can get smoky bacon crisps - my favourite - in virtually any pub in Scotland, even JDW, but down here in England? No!

I despair!

Walker's new hoisin and duck are nice though, as are the fish and chips. The cajun squirrel ones are crap and I haven't tasted the rest. I'm too cool to actually vote in their "competition" though.

Still Not for Me

A brief visit to the Marble Arch last night saw rather an eclectic range of beers on the bar. Leading the charge was the second edition of Marble 1425, a 5.9% heavily hopped beer, broadly in the American IPA style. A quick conversation with she who must be obeyed resulted in a change of designated driver. I wanted to try this. I started though with Derwent State Bitter, a recreation of an old brew for the Carlisle State Brewery - yes - it was owned by UK plc and survived until the seventies. It wasn't bad, being like most bitters of that era, brown and inoffensive, which these days doesn't really hit the mark. Much better was Green Mill of Rochdale's Nostalgia Porter which was dry, dark, liquorice edged, with a coal dust finish. Really rather good. I have been impressed by their dark beers, but you can hide a multitude of faults in a dark beer that would be exposed in a paler one, so the jury is still out for me.

While my lass stuck to Pictish Brewer's Gold - no fool she - when she sees Pictish on the bar, she is like a moth to a flame, I plumped for the 1425. I had found the first version of this rather harsh and hard to drink. Would the second version be better balanced? Well yes and no. It seemed to me the beer had been softened by a whopping increase in crystal malt, its tell tale barley sugar taste mixing with the alcohol to create a much sweeter drink. It still had a huge, resiny Yankee hop presence, but somehow the beer just didn't do it for me. It had swung too far the other way. That's just how it goes sometimes, but as always, experimentation is good. It creates interest and awareness and I have no doubt that others may feel differently to me.

As I was only allowed one more drink, I chose (a pint this time) of JP Best, reluctantly passing over Ginger 6, a souped up version of Marble Ginger Beer. This pale brown beauty rarely disappoints and was in great form, with just the right balance of juicy malt and a whack of resinous American hops to see it through to a very satisfying finish.

An interesting hour out and thanks to my girl for driving. My turn next.

The Marble has started giving out till receipts. Very handy for remembering what you had as each beer is detailed. Must be a bugger to keep reprogramming though.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Not Just Scumball Pubs Closing

The BBC has the story that revered brewer Harvey's of Lewes is to close the Bull's Head, the only pub in a village called Boreham Street in East Sussex. It looks a nice gaff and no doubt there are good reasons why it must go and doubtless it will be offered for sale free of covenants preventing it becoming a pub again. (Well I might be wrong about that.)

The decline in pub going is everywhere, as is its consequences, but it is poignant to see the only pub in a village close. As one local said, "It's part of what makes us who we are, the British pub. I'm really sorry to hear it's closing".

You really do have to use it or lose it.

You can read the story on the BBC here.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Follow the Bear

The Publican Newspaper has been digging out some old beer adverts and asking its readers to vote for which one they think is best. They also ask if they have missed any other good ones.

It is a nice bit of fun, which you can find here.

Hofmeister and its bear were killed off in October 2003 by S&N

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Hydes 4X

The thank you party for staff working at the National Winter Ales Festival was held at Hydes Brewery on Saturday. I didn't attend as it happens, but it was reportedly a "good do". In addition to their normal range, the brewery had kindly put on a cask of their strong 4X ale for the delectation of those attending. At 6.8%, it needs to be treated with respect.

I had invited the Head Cellarman and the Organiser to our pub on Sunday, They turned up rather late in the afternoon, with at least one of them (HC) looking a bit ragged. His first pint didn't seem to be slipping down. I asked him what was up. "Four pints of Hydes 4X on top of various other beers" was the answer. This is not to mention the three pints of Copper Dragon Pippin (each) the three of us had in the afternoon at the "wash up" meeting.

Ah well. As I said, a good do. I'm sorry I missed it.

Swallow or Spit?

A little bit of a tiff has arisen on cask-uk about the CAMRA National Beer Scoring Scheme. Now the NBSS has its fans, though I'm not one. Basically you mark beers that you taste and submit the results on line to help in CAMRA choosing its Good Beer Guide entries. As often is the case, this has veered off into a more interesting argument, where one taster completes his scores after getting home. Now I'm the first to grant you that CAMRA has its fair share of nutters, but this seems particularly nutty to me. Why not do your scoring when the beer is being drunk? It seems bizarre to me to rely on memory. It gets odder though, with a different, but just as nutty taster alleging that aftertaste and finish are more pronounced and longer lasting if you spit the beer out. Our old friend Gazza Prescott rightly rebuts this. Comparisons with wine are made, but as Gazza points out, most wine tasting is done in bulk and usually for different reasons than beer tasting.

Putting to one side - we are talking pub beer in this case - that spitting your beer out would likely get you chucked out on your ear from most pubs, what do you make of the tasting but not swallowing argument when it comes to beer?

The photo comes from a google search and can be found on http://www.wildaboutwellington.co.nz/boutique%20beer%20tasting%20tour.htm and is their copyright

Passing the Buckfast

My Scottish friends seem to be venturing down a dodgy path in trying to set a minimum price for units of alcohol in a bid to try and lower their problems of alcohol related disease, where uncharacteristically, they are European champions.

The likelihood is that this will be declared illegal by the EU, but even if it isn't, I have mixed feelings on this and on balance am against it, though probably only just. For once the Portman Group get it right when they say "People who drink to get drunk would not be influenced by these measures."

Unlike the Pub Curmudgeon, I don't see this as affecting pubs particularly and it certainly wouldn't affect me personally one little bit even if I lived in Scotland. It won't affect Scotland's alkies' favourite drink Buckfast either, as it is not strong enough to impinge on it price wise. Equally those old fortified wine favourites of my youth, Lanliq, Vordo, Eldorado and Emva Cream might make a spectacular comeback. Those requiring cheap oblivion always find something to drink that they can afford and that will do the trick.

I do hope this doesn't bring a comeback for Bellair Milk though.