Showing posts from February, 2009

Forever Came Today

Has it really been a year already since the last Forever Bury beer festival? Apparently so. Forever Bury is a fund raising group that aims to put some money in the nearly empty coffers of Bury FC. And one way of doing that is through an annual beer fest. Thursday night was the opening night of this year’s bash and so I made the trek down to Gigg Lane and the Shaker's social club.

It’s £3 in and then beer tokens are purchased. One admirable facet of this scheme is that one £1 token equates to a half of any beer. This easy system does mean you have to keep prices steady, so, dare I say that it seems to have been £2 a pint, er, forever. Last year’s fest had been a good ‘un so I was looking forward to some more of the same.

Unfortunately, it became clear that there were a few technical problems. Most of the beer was on gravity but there were several being dispensed by (unsparkled) handpump. I went for one on the pumps-Whitehaven Ennerdale Blonde, which sounded interesting. Golden Promis…

I Will Drink The Wine

Last night’s plans for me to practice my change ringing went straight out of the church tower. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle needed help. Seems he was confused over how many wives Henry VIII actually had. Well, every clever clogs knows he had two. But in the interest of historical accuracy, I agreed to meet him.

We kicked off with a couple in the Hare & Hounds at Holcombe Brook. Bollington Happy Valley (4%), so called after the locals' nickname for Bollington. Although not refreshing enough to be called a session beer, it wasn’t bad and reminded me I must pay the brewery tap a visit. Roosters YPA was, as expected, light and hoppy.
A walk up to the Major led to a surprising discovery. Tandleman had only mentioned Summer Wine Brewery that very day and there on the bar were two beers from said brewery. Elbow Grease (3.8%) was a golden ale, with the merest hint of diacetyl on the nose. Another beer that tasted stronger than its abv, it got better further down the pint and had a sa…

Oh Danny Boy(le)

Congratulations to local boy made good, Danny Boyle. He still pops back to visit his dad in Radcliffe, although I suspect his days of popping in to St Mary’s Social Club for an anonymous pint are over. Town Hall bosses are thinking of awarding him a civic honour. Quite right, but I’d like to see Danny Boyle Way, or some such accolade. There’s more than enough places with lorded gentry connections and every second thing has “Derby” in the title.

He’s a cousin of my niece’s husband, but sadly they never kept in contact. So I wasn’t at the official drink fest and had to make do with one of the unofficial ones. I had a case of Brewdog to keep me busy, but it being a special occasion, I kicked off with Stone’s Ruination IPA. This 7.7% IPA heavyweight combines Columbus and Centennial for some serious hop action. It measures over 100 on the IBU scale and certainly gives your palate a battering. Excellent for overwhelming the senses and/or cutting through a good curry.

King Of The Castle?

News at last on the Castle, iconic Manchester boozer and one-time watering hole of a certain beerhound. It's been idle since the sudden departure of its fomer landlord last year, but things are now looking up. Former Corrie actor, Rupert Hill, AKA Jamie Baldwin, is set to take the reins. Apparently he intends to restore it as a "proper boozer." Hmmm. Restore the toliets to working order and you'll be halfway there.

Let Loose In Leeds

Saturday dawned bright but cold. An early start, as once more it was time to brave that wild expanse known as Yorkshire. In particular, Leeds. But just as I was about to leave, the postman arrived with a parcel. Ah, something for me to review. Perhaps some excitingly rare beer? Or perhaps a drinks opus that needs my perusal? Not quite. A Clone Your Willy Kit and a limited edition Platinum Plus Rabbit. Perhaps they knew I was headed for Yorkshire?

Leeds train station is large. Very large. Indeed, it’s the largest (English), station outside of London. Not surprising then that it boasts a Wetherspoons. Not surprising also that this was already busy at 11am. A typical soulless railway pub, although the Saltaire Pale Ale was decent enough. Passing through the concourse W.H.Smith, I could tell I wasn’t in Lancashire anymore-they sell How Do magazine instead of Hello. It’s several years since I last toured Leeds, so it was natural to start at an old favourite. Sadly, the Scarbrough Hotel was …

Judge Not, That You May Be Not Judged

Now we all know that it is dangerous to talk up (or is that down?) the “credit crunch.” Whilst facing reality, too much emphasis on doom and gloom risks the possibility of making it become a self fulfilling prophecy. That’s why I’m glad to see that I’m not the only person to see drink as the perfect investment for our troubled times. Yes, at least one other person seems to believe in drinking their way through the economic gloom.

The person in question is, as yet, an unnamed banker who enjoyed a blowout after the recent Brits awards bash. The papers are full of righteous indignation about his antics, but never once question the socio-economic structure that allows, if not downright encourages, his behaviour. His crime, if it be one, was to run up a £43,000 bar bill at plush Soho club, Maya. Not bad going in three hours. Although, to be fair, he did have four mates along for help.

The booze shopping list included: five £350 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal 99, three magnums of £1.900 Cr…

Under Pressure

According to today’s papers, Brits binge drink because they are high achievers. Prof. Anna van Wersch has conducted a survey and come to the conclusion that “there is a lot of pressure to do well, whilst observing correct behaviour and keeping emotions under control.” So, to let off steam, people get lashed-my phrasing, not the professor’s. And I always thought it was because they like it. Rather tellingly, she noted that in a “dry” culture such as Britain, people abstain during the week and then binge at weekends. In “wet” cultures, such as Holland, they drink with their meals etc and so avoid “binge” peaks.

Unfortunately, the study only involved 20 women and 12 men, so is hardly conclusive. Helpfully, there was also a guide as to what constitutes “binge” drinking. For the record, for men, it’s five consecutive standard drinks in one sitting. Women are only allowed four before they are classed as “binge” drinkers. Hmmm. I must be a binge, binge drinker, then.

And The Winner Is

Of course, having dismissed the Rough Pub Guide, we’re left with the question that I recently had emailed to me. If you’re a stranger in a strange land (strange how “strange” always make me think of London), which guidebook will prove most useful in finding a good boozer?

Now there are a myriad of titles to choose from. However, most are very specific-dining, country pubs etc. And even when they’re not immediately obvious -the AA Pub Guide, for example, a quick flick will reveal their preference. Mostly, as with the AA Pub Guide, they concentrate on food-led pubs. But where to go for a broad selection of pubs?
Now, at first glance, it would appear to be a straight contest between The Good Beer Guide and The Good Pub Guide. And the GPG should, in theory, be on a winner as the GBG may, in some eyes, be too restrictive. Personally, I think a pub needs good beer to be a good pub. And, unlike some bloggers, that doesn’t mean Carling and Guinness. I’ve been to a lot of pubs-an awful lot (sho…

The Rough Pub Guide

One side effect of having pneumonia is that it gives you time to catch up with all the things you should have done before. Like review books you received before Christmas. So, in a rare piece of “proper” blogging, I shall do just that.

The Rough Pub Guide would appear, at first glance, to be yet another contender in the seemingly lucrative pub guide market. However, on further inspection, its aspirations seem to lie elsewhere. It’s less of a guidebook, more of a homage to the traditional, eccentric British boozer. Yes, there are entries detailing pubs, but there are also asides on pub institutions such as darts and the jukebox. And that’s where, if there are any faults, they lie.

On perusing the guide, you will soon ascertain that it is a book of humour rather than a replacement for the Good Beer Guide. Fine. But surely the title is misleading? Because it’s called the “Rough Pub Guide”, which is very odd. “Rough” to me means, er, rough. As in dodgy, run-down pubs with a potential for vi…

Any Port(er) In A Storm

I see that Fullers are launching a keg version of their successful London Porter. They have trialled the product in 11 of their managed pubs and are now ready to roll it out into the rest of their tied estate. Why? Is there an unfulfilled demand for keg porter in Boris Johnson land? I would have thought that the majority of punters who bought and appreciated LP did so because it was cask. Certainly a lot of cask drinkers enjoy the full flavour of a good Porter, but I’ve yet to hear of groups of keg drinkers meeting to discuss their merits. Is it intended as a rival for Guinness? In which case, we’ve been here before-history is full of breweries who have tried (and failed), to take a share of that particular pot of Irish gold.

I’m also puzzled by their decision to launch, in March, a new cask ale. It will be under 4% and is described (naturally), as a “quaffing ale.” This is an already crowded market and it will take something very special to make a mark. And isn’t Chiswick Bitter their…

Sweet Child O' Mine

Now there’s a lot in the papers today about “Babygate”. This is the saga of Eastbourne lad, Alfie Patten who claims to have knocked teenage bike Chantelle Steadman up when he was only 12. I say claims, as two further potential daddies are claiming the credit. DNA tests are being demanded as the potential suspects could apparently number eight. It would be nice to think that this rush to own up was simply a case of taking responsibility for one’s actions. However, I suspect the lure of the wad of money that the Sun is waving and an appearance on Jeremy Kyle is nearer the mark.

There is much hand-wringing and speculation as to the causes of this tragedy. But to me it is obvious. As one of the fathers of the young procreators said, “There’s not a lot for young lads to do round here.” Exactly. Back in the 70’s we had the 3-day week, economic crisis and high unemployment-déjà vu I know, but there were plenty of pubs. Unlike today, where places such as the estates of Eastbourne are beer dese…

Big Green(e) Country

I am the shocked recipient of an email from Greene King. Not, as might be thought, a threat of litigation, but rather an invitation. Yes, the Head of Communications, no less, has sent me a very nice email inviting me to visit the brewery. Seems someone pointed him in the direction of this blog and my musings on GKIPA. I’m unlikely to be in deepest Suffolk in the near future, but a brewery invite is always nice-even if it’s from Greene King. After all, I’ve braved Lees, Leyden and Mayflower before now.

100 Not Out

Congratulations to Vera Ghey, landlady of The Bull’s Head in Callington, Cornwall. For having reached the grand age of 100, she has become Britain’s oldest landlady. Now some sources are playing it safe and using words like “apparently”, but, sod it, I’m going to stick my neck out and say she IS Britain’s oldest landlady. And let’s not be sexist-I’m willing to bet she’s actually Britain’s oldest licensee. In reaching a century not out, Vera overtakes the late Mabel Mudge who threw the towel in at 99. However, if she wants to become the longest serving landlord, she still has a bit to do yet. Mabel put in an impressive 75 years as landlady, whilst Vera has only clocked up (so far), a measly 60 years. Here’s to the next 15.

A Taste Foir Thwaites

Tuesday night saw a disparate group of drinkers-including Tandleman and Eddie, the eager, legal beagle brave the cold night air of Ramsbottom. Lancashire brewer Thwaites had created some test brews and wanted volunteers to give some feedback. Or that’s what we were led to believe, anyway. As it turned out, the experience was much more mundane than we’d hoped for.

The Rose & Crown was already busy when we arrived. Seems anyone could walk just walk in and take part-so much for selected taste panels. And they weren’t trialling new beers either. Our table of three got four halves amongst us, only one of which turned out to be a Thwaites beer. The other three beers turned out to be the likes of Deuchars and Greene King, although this wasn’t revealed till after the tasting. Seems what they wanted was simply an indication as to what beers people liked to drink. Of course, they could have simply asked-but that would have been too simple. The marketing people obviously thought a pointless c…

Love & Marriage

Big celebrity news of the week is that Bertie Bassett has got a girlfriend. The popular mascot of Liquorice Allsorts has been single for 80 years, but the times they are-a-changing. Cadburys’ have announced that Bertie is to be joined by girlfriend, Bettie Bassett. Now, I’m happy for Bertie, but I am slightly confused. If they’re not married, why is she called Bettie Bassett? Are they cohabiting and she has taken his name? Surely they’re not kissing cousins? Before the News of The World gets involved, I think we should be told.

Update: Bertie has married Bettie in a hurriedly arranged ceremony in Sheffield. Cadburys claim that the press release was a mistake and that Bettie has only just become a Bassett. Meanwhile the internet is full of speculation that the marriage is just a sham. Will Bettie ever get her hands on Bertie's allsorts?

When Lancashire Meets Germany

When is a weisse beer not a weisse beer? When it’s Leydenweisse. Yes local brewer Leyden are continuing their German theme with this Lancashire twist on a German style. Following the less than successful Leydenbrau, this is a very pale beer with an old egg aroma. Luckily the beer doesn’t taste as bad as it smells and, if anything, is too bland. Certainly it doesn’t resemble any weisse beer I’ve ever had.

Still, it’s an improvement on the infamous Leydenhosen. This was an early Leyden attempt at a continental style and premiered at the Hare & Hounds festival. It was an unforgettable beer-closely resembling line cleaner and remains the strangest beer I’ve ever tasted. The mere mention of it brings a grimace to the face of those in the know. The landlord still has the pumpclip and for those who think it’s an urban myth, here it is.

Night And Day

Friday afternoon traditionally means a drink. And I’m a big believer in tradition. Hence I found myself enjoying a lunchtime drink in the throbbing metropolis of Manchester. First stop was the Waterhouse-an upmarket (read more expensive) Wetherspoons. Annoyingly they had given over extra space to Greene King IPA as part of their sad promotion scheme. Luckily Titanic Iceberg was also on. This proved crisp and refreshing-a good start to the day’s activities.

A short walk took me to the faded grandeur of the Athenaeum. The owners have definitely got it wrong with this place. Situated at the heart of the banking and business part of the town, they should be aiming for the suits and Telegraph brigade. Instead you have 2 meals for £5-it’s not often Wetherspoons is made to look expensive and a distinct air of decay prevails. Although the Youngs was fine, the place was pitifully empty. And freezing as well-not a radiator, or open fire in sight.
No such problem at the Bank. This had the Friday …

Sticking It To The Man

The row over Oldham’s favourite nightclub, Tokyo rages on. After its successful “January Sale” £5.99 booze till you puke promotion, it has plans to do the same for February. Why change a winning formula? Apoplectic authoritarian figures have been left gritting their teeth as it’s all above board. All the puking, fighting etc took place outside the club with apparently no trouble inside.

And it has found an unlikely champion in local top cop, Caroline Bell. Chief Superintendent Bell has been quoted as saying “irresponsible reporting' of the drinks offer had made the problem worse.” I’m sure that’s true. Apparently they turned away 250 out-of-towners last Friday. Would this problem have arisen if the Daily Liar and other newspapers had not given them so much free PR? I doubt it. After all, usually people are in a hurry to get out of Oldham, not hiring a coach to get them there.
But Tokyo is not the only place bucking the trend and seeing alcohol sales boom. Seems guests of Her Majest…

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

More good news. Alcohol is not the only commodity to see an increase in demand. It appears that people are heeding the message to help the economy and buy British. Yes, police are reporting a threefold rise in seizures of home grown cannabis. Truly a case of grow it and they will smoke it.

My Kingdom For A Snow Plough

How we chuckled today. Mighty London coming to a standstill because of snow. Chief Village Idiot, I mean, Mayor of London, Bonking Boris, came out with some belting excuses as to why it couldn’t be helped. Basically it would cost money and, after all, it’s not his job to improve people’s lives. Still, presumably the numpties who voted for him realised that, so as the old maxim goes, you get the government you deserve. Needless to say, oop North, the buses ran and the pubs were open. What more can you ask for?

Mating Habits Of The Nicotine Fiend

I found myself in the watering holes of Rochdale on Saturday. Luckily, they proved up to the task, with only The Reed letting the side down by running out of Cocker Hoop. Come mid evening and I was enjoying the beers in the Regal Moon. This is a very large Wetherspoons handily placed for the bus station. As Wetherspoons go, it’s good, with an enviable selection of beers. And so large, that even on a Saturday night in a one horse town like Rochdale, there were seats going spare. Which brings us to the social habits of the modern smoker.

After spotting a likely booth, I settled down for an evening of interesting conversation. Now there were full drinks on the table, but this being busy Spoons, I didn’t think anything of it. As it turns out, there was also a note amongst the clutter, which went unnoticed. Unnoticed that is until two shivering smokers returned and pointed it out. I was somewhat surprised by this and wondered if it’s now common practice. They were very trusting (or naive) t…