Showing posts from January, 2009

It's All A Matter Of Relativity

Well here I am in Pizza Pioneer enjoying a breakfast garlic panini. I’m hoping all this coffee will wash the wine and whisky of last night out of my system and get me ready for the long day ahead. Not working so far, but give it time. Anyway, the two guys behind me have just had the following interesting exchange,

“Have you tried that 99p Greene King pint at Wetherspoons?”“Fack off. I’d rather drink Lees."

Harsh, but fair in this case.

Sail Away

In a further attack on the sacred role that alcohol plays in the development of children, we now face it being removed from our nursery rhymes. Bookstart, a government funded charity, have rewritten the words to “What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor.”

This classic sea shanty has had all references to drunken sailors removed and replaced with “Grumpy Pirates.” No longer shall we “Throw him in the brig”, but rather “Tickle him till he starts to giggle.” Bookstart have denied this is political-correct meddling, but rather a case of finding a tune to fit a theme. But then why not write your own? Do not bastardise an existing classic. It’s bad enough that we’ve already lost verses such as “Stick him in a bag and beat him senseless” and the picturesque “Shave him with a rusty razor”, but this is the last straw.
And, if you want a pirate theme, what’s wrong with a drunken one?

Boozing Bairns (Young Drunks Go For It)

Now I’m officially confused. For years we were told that Britain’s binge drinking culture was the main cause of anti-social problems. And the reason we have a binge drinking culture? Because we were out of step with our continental neighbours. They didn’t have the problems we did because they had a responsible attitude to God’s greatest gift. The French were held up as role models, as they allowed their children to grow up with alcohol-serve it at meals etc. This meant that they would be better equipped to handle it later in life.

The prohibitionist attitude of Britain was counterproductive, we were told. Everyone seemed to agree that we should strive to emulate the cafe bar approach to relaxed drinking that is common in Europe. Hence the move to liberalise licensing laws, the first step to change our pattern of alcohol abuse. However, it seems that has gone by the wayside. Latest government advice is no booze for the bairns at all. Apparently parents are confused about how much alcoho…

Trashed in Tokyo

Alcohol pricing (at both ends of the spectrum) has once more been all over the news. Firstly, there’s been a right rumpus over Oldham nightclub Tokyo and their £5.99 “all you can drink” offer. Yes, between 1100-03000 on Fridays, you can get as many refills as you like-Tim Martin eat your heart out. Naturally this isn’t popular in all quarters, with local MP Phil Woolas saying “You may as well have a sign that says, 'Come to Oldham and you'll get beaten up'." Catchy, but I can’t see the English Tourist Board using it.

Now Oldham town centre is notoriously dodgy at weekends, but both the police and the local licensing authorities have told Mr Woolas that they are powerless to stop it. After all, there’s no law preventing someone giving alcohol away. Perhaps he should complain to the government? Hold on-he is the government, or part of it anyway. Tokyo’s John Johnson has defended the move, claiming that it is simply a reaction to market forces. According to him, there are…

Paint My Wagon

So farewell then, Chris Evans. The Radio 2 DJ has announced his retirement from the game. He says he has “retired unhurt” from drinking and that he “has no regrets.” A true professional, he visited his local 18 days in a row before quitting and had this to say, “It was a blast. I have no regrets and I'm not quite sure how I came through it alive but now it's someone else's turn. Good luck out there." Thanks Chris, I’ll try to make you proud.

They Think It's All Over-It Is Now

Well it’s all over. The inns and taverns of Manchester are once more free of marauding ale drinkers. A chap can safely leave his seat without fear that, on his return, it will have been snagged by a group of pot-bellied, bearded, sandal wearing, beer ticking weirdoes. Not surprisingly it was quiet around town today, with a depleted selection in many pubs as they take a bit of a breather. So, how was it for you?

Over at the main event in town-the NWAF, the view on the streets was that CAMRA had probably got it right with the awards. Oakham Attila isn’t bad, although personally I prefer the runner up-Elland 1872. As usual, plenty of punters were left frustrated at the lengthy queues and made do with the pub fests. Some even did both. I warmed up for the event with free fish & chips at the Metro Fish Bar-so popular that several selfish drivers parked on the pavement, even though there is a perfectly good car park. Where’s a traffic warden when you need one?
The scooping fraternity wer…

Message In A Bottle

In a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do”, details have emerged about drunken shenanigans in an Ipswich cop shop. Shockingly, it seems the boys (and girls) in blue like a drink as much as the rest of us. A little too much for the liking of their bosses in the Suffolk constabulary. Hilariously timed to coincide with a crackdown on Christmas binge drinking, five officers managed to disgrace themselves in and around the station bar.

Dubbed the “boys in booze scandal”, it led to a six month probe and a temporary halt of alcohol sales. Details are tantalisingly sketchy but include: A sergeant demoted to constable for exposing his truncheon, a woodentop vomiting in the station and fisticuffs after one PC was caught urinating on the station wall. Not surprisingly the drunks in blue aren’t taking this lying down and have appealed against their punishment. After all, if you can’t get pissed at a police station, where can you?

NWAF and Other Wonders

The National Winter Ales Festival is nearly upon us and I’ve had a few inquiries in connection with it. Several of the heavyweight pubs are hosting events of their own to coincide with it and, indeed, the Crescent’s has already begun. The Smithfield is also having a tickers fest-bring your Bensons & Hedges and you’ll feel right at home. With Camra continuing with their controversial local beer selection policy, the Marble Arch are cashing in with their “Not The Winter Ales Festival” theme. So if you want local ales of the calibre of All Gates, Boggart, Lees and Leyden, try the NWAF. However, if you want award winning local ales such as Phoenix and Pictish, you’ll need to visit the Marble.

Other information people seem to think I’d know: The best Indian is of course subjective, but I would recommend East Z East on Blackfriars. There isn’t really a top-notch chippy, with quantity winning over quality here. Ditto pizza, although Pizza Express comes nearest. On the buffet front, it’s h…

Let Them Eat Cheese

Out with the old. In with the new. Bush may have departed the White House, but he’s left Obama with a terrible legacy. Not Iraq. Nor the crumbling economy. It’s the war on cheese. In one final, mean-spirited act, the bungling, bonkers Texan cowboy, found time to approve a 300% import duty increase on Roquefort. This blue-veined, sheep’s cheese classic is, of course, a symbol of French gastronomic excellence and that seems to be the point. The Bush administration wanted revenge on the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”, and knew where to hit where it will hurt.

Ostensibly, this is about the beef war raging between the USA and the EU. The land of Lincoln want to be able to poison Europeans with their beef that is pumped full of growth hormones. Not surprisingly, the EU, with France taking the lead, have said no thanks. After all, Europe has plenty of crap meat itself-there’s no need to import it. The Americans have retaliated by imposing heavy import duties on EU foodstuffs. Except Britis…

Called To The Bar

So farewell then, John Mortimer. Raconteur, essayist and creator of Horace Rumpole-who was known to enjoy the odd bottle of Chateau Thames Embankment. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at literary lunches and at the odd book signing and he was always good value for money. His maxim "I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward." is worth remebering as well.

Stockport Supping

Another day, another rest. Or so I thought last night, anyway. Not quite. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle had other ideas. Seems the Manx Minx was busy knitting him a new legal loincloth. So we were free to discuss the works of Proust and his influence on the writings of Graham Greene.
For a change, we decided to have a couple of warm up drinks in Stockport. It’s only 10 minutes train ride away from Manchester and has a plethora of decent pubs. We started at the GBG listed Olde Vic, at the Edgeley side of Stockport town centre. This is a one-roomed freehouse complete with eccentric landlord, eccentric opening hours (evenings only), and an eclectic mix of pub ornaments. With its open fire, this can be a great place to enjoy the local craic. Unfortunately, tonight was a disappointment, with only 2 guest beers on-poor for a Friday night.

Tentatively opting for Hornbeam Hoppy Presents, we soon had cause to regret our decision. It looked good and there wasn’t too much in the aroma to give it…

Drink While You Work

Pablo Caya, from Lima, Peru, will no doubt be celebrating today with a drink or two. For, in an unusually sensible ruling for the legal profession, Peru’s highest court has ruled that he was unfairly dismissed and has ordered his reinstatement.

Caya, a caretaker with the local authority, was sacked for being drunk at work. However, the court deemed this disproportionate and unreasonable. As it pointed out in its ruling; he wasn’t rude or violent and had carried his work out as usual. Makes me wonder just how drunk he was? Anyway, let’s all raise a glass to this champion of worker’s rights. Where Peru leads, the rest of the world follows...

A Lesson To Us All

Don't drink and drive. Well, not on a stolen Asda mobility scooter, anyway.

The legend that is the Lancashire Hotpots have, of course, chronicled the trials and tribulations that driving these scooters can bring.

An MP Writes

This is the reply I received from my MP, David Chaytor, after contacting him about the Axe The Beer Tax campaign.

Thank you for your recent e-mail on beer taxation and its impact on pubs. I read with interest the five point plan put forward by Axe the Beer Tax for the revival of British pubs.

I share the concerns of many other members of the public regarding beers sales being down to their lowest level for nearly 40 years. Bury contains many fine pubs, though sadly I am aware that some of the more well known have closed their doors in the last year.

I do recognise the valuable contribution that the pub industry makes to employment, the life of local communities and to the economy. I’m also aware of the pressures that pubs face with increasing costs and the impact of legislation. It is also true that the pub market is continuously changing, with shifting tastes and consumer preferences all affecting the demand for beer.

However, recent tax changes should be seen alongside action on the eco…

Some Enchanted Evening

My plans for a quite night in last night were ruined once again by Eddie, the eager, legal beagle. He was desperate to discuss the films of Francis Truffaut, so I was forced to venture out into the beer jungle that is Bury.

With the TS closed, the natural meeting place was the Peel. Nothing too exciting here, but we gambled on Saltaire Rye Smile which, like most rye beers, failed to set our taste buds alight. Not wishing to spend the night on that and there being a distinct sweaty smell present, we moved on.
A bus ride took us up to the Towler and some Golden Pippin. A little tired, perhaps. Was this the same barrel that they had kindly put on for us on Sunday 0030? It might explain things. Anyway, it was back on the bus for us as we headed for the Good Sam. The Pippin here was much better and we gratefully sank a few. We’d already decided to move onto the Hare & Hounds when, as if a sign from the gods, the Pippin ran out.
The Dogs didn’t disappoint, with a good mix across the board…

Blood On The Tracks

The Trackside on Bolton Street Station is closed for the moment amid speculation about its future. No manager and no licence, but that’s not even the biggest problem it faces. Despite being a goldmine for the East Lancs Railway, there is a faction of influential members who want to retain it as their own private club. It’s feared they’ve engineered the current crisis to get their own way and if successful the pub will close its doors for good. Local tickers and steam buffs await their decision with baited breath. In the meantime, it presents a sorry sight, with a stack of used firkins lying out back. Reports reach me that former regulars such as Sir Mickalas and Dead Ed have been seen weeping in the streets.

Update: With no one in charge to ensure staff coverage, it's open ad hoc hours, so visitors beware.

Now Ain't The Time For Your Tears

I see that William Zantzinger is reported to have kicked the bucket. Zantzinger, a racist, tax dodger, fraudster and, not least, murderer was the subject of Bob Dylan’s classic “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”*. Music folklore has it that it was composed one long night in a coffee shop on Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue. It appeared on 1964’s seminal The Times They Are A-Changin’ and conferred unwanted musical immortality on Zantzinger.

Hattie Carroll was a 51yr old black barmaid and mother of eleven. She was unlucky enough to be on duty in the early hours of Feb 9th, 1963 at the Emerson Hotel, Baltimore. Zantzinger was a 24 year’s old, 6’2’’ wealthy tobacco farmer. And a notorious drunk. Having already assaulted several of the hotel staff, he became enraged when Carroll was slow delivering his bourbon and struck her with his 25 cent cane. Shortly afterwards, she became ill and collapsed, dying eight hours later.
At his trial, Zantzinger was convicted of manslaughter and, mindful of h…

Every Little Drink Helps

Everyone’s favourite grocer, Tesco, is facing two separate investigations amongst claims that it has indulged in “bait advertising.” This is the illegal practice of advertising goods knowing that there is insufficient stock of said goods. Seems hard to believe, I know. In this case, it’s that bête noire of politicians-cut-price booze. Specifically, a one-litre bottle of Baileys. Tesco were advertising it for £8 and Rosie Cooper, Labour MP for West Lancashire, tried to buy a bottle in Liverpool, only to find it sold out. Not easily deterred, she tried two further stores with the same result. A phone call to customer services had Tesco admitting that each store would receive only limited numbers.

Rightly miffed, Ms Cooper promptly complained to both Liverpool trading standards and the ASA, over how the offer was advertised. Tesco have refuted the charges, claiming that the information Ms Cooper received was “wrong.” Of course, it may be just coincidence that this admission came only afte…

Live From The Trackside

Another live as it happens blog post-this could become a habit. Just called in the Trackside and blimey. You don't go in for a week and it's all happening. Apparently it's been shut for 2 days as they've been without a licence. It seems Fag Ash Lil' has been given the order of the boot and it's all a bit chaotic. Dean hasn't got his personal licence yet, so they're operating temporarily under the wing of Brendan Leyden of Lord Raglan fame. A few well known faces are alleged to have shown interest in taking over. However, when they discover how badly it pays and just what crap employers the ELR are, I think the odds are against getting any big hitters to run it. Still, we live in hope.

Watch this space. Now where did I put my pint...

Manchester Folie A Deux

I thought a nice quiet rest was in order after the excesses of yesterday, but it was not to be. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle had other ideas. He wanted to discuss Martin Luther’s 95 theses, one by one, over a Pepsi Max or two. So we arranged another visit to Manchester, with the intention of grabbing a pizza. Of course, the pizza never materialised-only more beer. Fishy buggers these legal types-next time I’m going to get it in writing.

First stop was the New Oxford. Unlike a lot of other places we’d visit that night, the NO was comfortably busy. Seated at the bar, we kicked off the house beer. Facers use to do the honours, but their inconsistency had put off more than one drinker. Now brewed by the excellent Mallinsons, it packs a pleasing dry bite for a sub 4% beer. Feeling daring, we tried a sample of Allgates What A Year. I’d like to say it was amazing and changed my opinion of Allgates as a brewer. But I’d be lying. Cardboard was the dominant flavour here (GK would have been pro…

What's It All About, Alfie?

Only two days in and poor old JDW are really getting it in the neck. Their crime? Daring to sell Greene King IPA for 99p a pint. Shocking! First to land a blow (no surprise), were puritanical killjoys Alcohol Concern. Chief Puritan, Don Shenker, lectured us with “In the economic climate, businesses need to be competitive. However, alcohol is not an ordinary commodity like milk or bread.” Too right, Don, it’s much more important than that. More pearls of wisdom soon followed “Alcohol causes harm to the nation’s health and economy.” But then so does unemployment and George Bush’s international policy. Not to mention Alistair Darling.

If predictable attacks from baying right-wingers weren’t enough, some snobby beer commentators have also been having a go. It’s “devaluing” real ale, damaging a “premium brand” and other such nonsense. Somehow I think it’ll take more than a pound a pint promotion to fill the streets with Greene King IPA fiends. Some might even argue that it’s finally reached…

Cheese Of The Moment: Old Quebec Vintage Cheddar

The best Cheddars are those that are aged. The longer the maturation period, the better, I find. Unfortunately, a lot of British Cheddars are only aged for 12-18 months. No such problems for Canadian cheese devotees, as our Commonwealth cousins produce some truly wonderful Cheddar. Old Quebec Vintage Cheddar has at least three years to mature and it certainly shows in the taste. Low moisture levels during the lengthy gestation period means that this is one flavour packed cheese. Extra-sharp, with a smooth texture, this explodes on the tongue, leading to a delightfully tangy finish. One for the Cheddar aficionado.

Manchester Rambler

A cold, but dry Sunday. The perfect time for long, invigorating, country walks. A time for reflection and ponderation. Or throwing some beer down your neck. A repeat of the successful Rammy Ramble was planned, but prospective imbibers were falling faster than sterling. Hangovers, poverty, work tomorrow and pissing blood (I’ll allow that), were all given as excuses. Things were looking grim and then they got worse-Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was available. Seems the Manx Minx was busy sewing buttons on his tweed underpants. Apparently it’s an Olympic sport on the Isle of Man.

So, without the burden of dead weight, we decided to take a stroll across the great metropolis of Manchester. After the Tuesday night test, the second best day to gauge a pub’s mettle is Sunday. Like a backstreet hooker, it can be eager to please on a Saturday night, but how does it fare in the cold light of a Sunday afternoon? Rather predictably we started at the Marble Arch. All pumps in use, but far too many …

Born To Ramble

After the excesses of the festive season, it’s time to detox. And what better way to detox than through the natural cleansing power of beer? A Rammy Ramble-an abridged version of the infamous Rammy Mile-was in order. First port of call was the Good Sam, where Lees, Golden Pippin and Deuchars were on offer. And, getting in the spirit of the credit crunch, beer had been reduced to £2 a pint. Golden Pippin at £2? We didn’t need telling twice and, like a herd of migrating wildebeest, we rushed to the bar. Suitably nourished we headed up the hill.

The First Chop was still quiet and the WHB and I settled down with some easy going Wainwrights. Archimedes went all metrosexual with a half of Ginger and a half of Wheat. He also sampled some Lancashire fishcakes-which he gave the nod to. Further along at the Major, it was all change on the beer front, with 3 guest beers on. Dent Frosty Weather (4.5%) was surprisingly light, but a little heavy on the palate. Hornbeam Lemon Blossom was surprisingly…