Wednesday, 21 August 2013

More Blasts From the Past

While I'm in the mood, another couple of breweriana items for you. I doubt if the Bass one would meet with much approval today.  

There's lots more of this. I might do some more sometime.

Junk or history?  You tell me.

Pre Nanny State

A few of us have heard of Brendan Dobbin, who was in my opinion one of the earliest pioneers of the use of foreign hops for their own sake (rather than to supplement British hops) but fewer still will remember his very idiosyncratic advertising. I didn't realise I had any of Brendan's stuff apart from some labels, but amongst my bits and pieces, I came across this little beauty.

Not actors?  If you have ever been in his pub in Chorlton on Medlock, you'll not need to take that with a pinch of salt!

Prescient or what?

I used to have a lovely poster for Brendan's Chinese Pale Ale, but it got badly damaged when some water came in my garage years ago.  Or was it Chinese Lager?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Good and the Not Good

I have a lot of catching up to do after my week in London, so let's start a mixed story of good and bad. The Good? Well to some a surprise maybe, and it is relative, but let's start with JDW's Goodman Fields, a pub near Tower Hill station and now adjacent to many new hotels which are clearly helping trade. This is the nearest JDW to our London flat and that, footsore as I was greatly influenced where we went after I trudged back from Olympia on Saturday night. I just didn't have many more steps left in me. Now Goodman's Field has been piss poor in the past, with the usual set of JDW failings of queues, dodgy beer selection, indifferent service, and zero atmosphere. This time it was different, starting with the fact that it was packed, thus providing atmosphere, continuing with a charming Spanish barmaid who could not have been more pleasant or speedy - especially in that 200 mile an hour way of speaking the Spanish have - and in the beer (I can't remember what is was though) which was excellent and for once in this neck of the woods, pale and hoppy. We ate there and despite the crowds it came quickly, was hot, tasty and well presented and we were asked twice if everything was OK by enthusiastic and cheerful staff. Amazingly, tables were promptly cleared and we were given a cheery goodbye. Clearly they have kicked out the deadbeats they had before. It just shows that in any pub, the attitude and enthusiasm of the staff can make an ordinary place well worth visiting and leave you feeling "That was good".

But into each life a little rain must fall. On Sunday we walked along the re-instated Thames path on the City side of the river and after a quick and satisfying pint in the Harp (temperature exactly 13°C) we went, acting on a tip that it is now a craft beer bar, to the Lyric on Great Windmill St. In a teeming Soho, it was rather empty and to my eye at least, a tad Spartan and dog eared in appearance, but there was indeed craft keg and four handpumps, though the two tasters were warm and unappealing. No matter, what about the craft. E settled on a half of Redwell Craft Pilsner (4%) in an act of solidarity with the bullied Norwich Brewer and after a taste of hers, I decided on a pint of the same. Alas nothing happened when the tap was opened. The gas had gone. Ten minutes later, the young barman came back and confessed himself stumped. He hadn't been trained and could do no more. I didn't fancy a bottle, nor any of the cask, so we paid for our half and left. Now of course that was unfortunate, but leaving an untrained barman in charge isn't. It wasn't his fault, he did his best but overall the impression was of poorly kept beers, an empty pub when all around were busy and general incompetence.  Why would I come back? First impressions really do count.

So lessons? Get the staff, offer and attitude right and no matter how unpromising the pub, you are likely to have a better time in it than in a pub which simply doesn't deliver on any customer level.

I do appreciate that I could find the opposite of what I found on a different day, but like a footballer, you can only play what's put up in front of you.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Great British Beer Festival

Yes folks, it's that time of year again when the great and the good congregate in London for CAMRA's biggest thrash. Tuesday is trade day where, people like me, while nominally working - well actually I did a fair bit this year - greet and schmooze and say hello to those from the trade that we know. It's rather nice actually, but I did get an impression that there were some faces missing yesterday and it was a little subdued. Maybe just me, but I'm sure that'll soon change.

 Pete Brown has published a handy survival guide and I agree with most of it. In particular, it really is difficult not to overfill thirds, so I would agree that it is a top tip, but never from me you understand. I never overfill, so if at the German bar, and you are hoping for an overmeasure,avoid me like the plague. Another tip Pete didn't mention is to ask for tasters. That's acceptable everywhere, but don't overdo it as a "Bugger off elsewhere or buy something" often offends.

 My tip for foreign beers this year is to suss out some of the Czech exotics on draught. There are good things happening in the Czech Republic beer wise and some of it is on show at our bar.

Do come and say hello.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Cheshire Set

Ah leafy Cheshire. One of the few places that can match London, to some extent at least, for sheer wealth, but with lovely pubs that aren't charging four quid a pint. Now an old mate of ours CAMRA wise, moved there ten years ago, thus bringing the tone down considerably, but was on hand to lead a merry throng through some of its nicer parts.  We started in Goostrey, a quiet and genteel little village within sight of the giant parabola that is Jodrell Bank.  The Crown is a neat pub that was Marstons owned until not so long ago, but now, free of tie, is thriving and has a wide range of mostly local beers.  It is a well appointed pub (a recurring theme that day) and looked the kind of place that you'd like to have handy, with well kept beer, friendly staff (another recurring theme) and prices that were not unreasonable.  An unusual touch was Wrexham Lager on the bar along with free olives - well we were in Cheshire. I didn't care that much for my Summer Days from Dunham Massey, though E enjoyed it and our Tasting Panel Chairman waxed lyrical about it, showing that beer will always divide opinion. I switched to Weetwood Bitter which was old fashionedly good.

It is amazing what a couple of pints will do to loosen the inhibitions of a busload of lushes.  It was a very cheery throng indeed that wended its way to our next stop,the Railway at Mobberley where lunch was to be eaten.  We were additionally guided by one of my predecessors as Branch Chairman who hails from this neck of the woods.  He was greeted enthusiatically by the landlady who remembered him.  A nice touch. This ex Greenall's pub was not that posh, but busy enough even without our 25 or so. The beer was on good form, but the choice not to everyone's taste. Dunham Massey - they seem to have Cheshire tied up - Black Sheep and Wainwright's leading the charge.  Lunch was filling, but hurried, though the craic was excellent as always on these dos. Our next journey was a quick one, a mere five minutes or so to the delightful Church Inn also in Mobberley, a lovely pub with a nice beer terrace at the back and again, that very friendly and cheery service that so typified the day. Beers were again local with yes, you've guessed, Dunham Massey and Tatton breweries featuring.

The poshness was dialed up considerably next.  We knew when our bus entered the car park amid open topped Porsches, Jaguars and the odd Bentley, that this would not be a dump. The Bull's Head, like the previous Church Inn, is part of Cheshire Cat Pub and Bars.  It had recently been done up to an exceedingly high standard and had a beautiful beer garden at the back, bathed in sunshine and with splendid views of aircraft taking off from Runway Two at nearby Manchester Airport.  This was a very enjoyable stop and again the staff couldn't have been nicer and we left with considerable reluctance.  Beer? Dunham Massey and Tatton featured of course.  Across the way, we noted, the closed and being renovated Roebuck. Owned it seems by a big PubCo, there was rumours of a licensee being hounded out by high rent. True or not, the pub had been closed for weeks, thus missing our finest summer for years. Mistake.

Our final stop was again in lovely countryside. The Parkgate at Over Peover is owned by Sam Smith. Again a delightful little pub with a huge beer garden and of course, providing you stick to the basics, cheap beer.  Old Brewery Bitter at £1.80 a pint was eagerly consumed in the sunshine and was good.  E and I had the bonus of bumping into Jeff, our friend and drinking companion from our local, who was visiting friends in the area.  It's a small world.

So Mobberley and area for a pub crawl?  Certainly, but a liking for Dunham Massey beer would be a considerable advantage.

I wonder if the outstandingly high level of service is because of the general affluence?  It was remarkable and all the more welcome for its relative rareness.

Greenall's Mild?  OK smooth, but joining that world of rare beers from the past.