Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Speaking of which, it appears I’m one. I know what you’re thinking-what you, Tyson? The anarchist beerhound? The class warrior? Yes. Thanks to a tip-off, I see that antipodean blogger Tim is still (trying) to put me down. “Pure beer snobbery. A bit like that Tyson blogger.” Hmmm.
The problem with Timmy is that he doesn’t like criticism. Even the mildest questioning of his somewhat bizarre theories will earn you a Stalinist labelling. And may Vishnu help you if you actually dare to disagree with him. First you’ll be dismissed as a Camra reactionary. And if that label doesn’t fit, you’ll be castigated as a little Englander, as bad as if you were Camra. You obviously don’t appreciate or understand foreign beer-otherwise you’d agree with him.
But hold on, Tyson, you haven’t got a drop of English blood in you, have you, I hear you say. Aren't you the direct descendant of bloodthirsty cossacks? Haven’t you pissed out more Polish lager than Timbo has ever dreamt of? Ah but grasshopper, he is an outsider who asks questions no one else has. Well maybe some of us did twenty years ago, but hey, some people like reinventing the wheel.
Some might even say, it’s a bit rich of someone drinking in the poncy suburbs of London, who lives, in his words, in a “posh village”, to persistently call you a “beer snob." Especially when you’re out there in the real world, drinking in the real pubs, day in and day out. You might say that-but I couldn’t possibly comment.
In the words of John Lennon
"And you think you're so clever and classless and free, But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see."
But before tackling that, I had a little day out with the Northern Restaurant & Bar Show in Manchester Central. I did try a little beer (and cider) whilst there, including the very Leesy Coronation St offering, but mainly concentrated on the wine tastings. It did take some logistics as they seemed to be every half hour. But I’m nothing if not dedicated.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Spanish reds and the Lebanese contingent were an eye opener, but the star for me was the “Giving Pinot Grigio the X Factor” tasting. I don’t know about the X Factor, but I certainly gave it some welly. Fortified with some Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding, I staggered out of there and faced the shock of having to pay for drinks in the local taverns.
First stop was the Waterhouse which surprised me with some excellent Hawkshead Lakeland Gold. Now that could have been it for the night but for a desire to check out the Bank. There, snuggled against the Fullers London Pride, was Brewdog Trashy Blonde. This is a favourite amongst hopheads and signalled the end of the tour. Well a blonde in the hand...
Monday, 30 March 2009
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Of course there was only one way to find out... and it’s still a mystery. Very wisely they avoid talking much about the actual beer and seem to concentrate on music and football. Although we do learn that they’ve been using British barley for 30 years. No mention of what they used before, I note. Still, nothing too exciting and I can only put its success down to the “Google effect.”
Monday, 23 March 2009
Sunday was of course Mothering Sunday. And how else to celebrate this important day other than to spend it at a beer festival. Next year I might even bring the old gal. There was a slight problem-most of the beer had gone. Undeterred we ploughed on. Spitting Feathers Thirst Quencher once more failed to live up to its name, instead having unpleasant burnt malt finish. As the remaining beers tumbled, it was hard to get away from Jaipur IPA. This was in stunning form and went down way too fast. The reduction to £1 a pint for the remaining festival beers sadly came too late to be of much use, as ale saturation kicked in.
Sunday, 22 March 2009
Let’s put an end to this nonsense. I want to see fewer supermarkets opening and more pubs instead. After all, man does not live by bread alone.
Interestingly, the drinkers of Middleton are apparently the most likely to be admitted to hospital for alcohol related reasons. Now Middleton just happens to be the domain of Tandleman. Hmmm...
Friday, 20 March 2009
Great news for lovers of retro, as Skol is set to make a comeback.Following the trend for 4% lager that Stella and Becks have established, comes the imaginatively titled Skol 4. Brewed exclusively by Daniel Thwaites, it’s described as being “contemporary.” Without a trace of a smile, Sue Allen, commercial director at Thwaites, said: “Skol in the on-trade is well-known to pub goers having been held in very high regard by lager drinkers over many years.”
Of course I’m sure it’s much better now, but I can’t say it was held in very high regard when I use to drink it in the Two Tubs. At 68p it was slightly cheaper than Tuborg and therefore the choice for the impoverished and desperate. It was truly awful and when you were sick after one too many Skol Snakebites, your puke was a bright orangey yellow colour.
The best thing about Skol was their campaign featuring Hagar the Horrible. Sadly, he won’t be making a comeback, having been killed by the fun police. However, his legend lives on. Altogether now, Skol, Skol, Skol.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Luckily, a lot of the opponents don’t bear much scrutiny. Well known Labour loon Keith Vaz, for example. The chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee has come out strongly in favour of minimum pricing, quoting alcohol as being a “major factor in crime.” Isn’t that what the government said about drugs at the launch of “the war on drugs.” Now some people might think he was cynically trying to hide from the failures of the government’s various law & order initiatives, but not me. I think he was misquoted. I’m sure he meant to say he was going to tackle the socio-economic, parental, and communal underlying causes of crime. And then celebrate with a pint. Anyway, his holy crown is looking tarnished, what with him writing dodgy letters trying to get his dodgy mates off.
Sadly, the apologist mouth piece of Rupert Murdoch-the Times, has also jumped on the bandwagon. Sounding more like the Old Farter, rather than the Old Thunderer, it lambasts Gordon Brown, claiming “but he knows, because Sir Liam Donaldson, his Chief Medical Officer, has told him that the statistics show overwhelmingly that putting up prices would cut the number of alcohol-related deaths - and dramatically at that.” Except that they don’t. Still, as with alcohol units, don’t let the facts get in the way.
A more measured response has come from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). They don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach and suggest banning below-cost selling would be a better option. One thing’s for sure. This one will run and run.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Who is this group, you might ask. Al Quiada? No, Alcohol Concern. These moral terrorists are government funded and yet expect ordinary folk to contribute to their coffers via Comic Relief. The very people who Alcohol Concern wish to make miserable. And pubs who contributed were, in effect, contributing money to their sworn enemy. As Archimedes did when he threw a handful of kopecks in the barmaid’s apron on Friday. When he realises he may have given sustenance to people who would stop his only pleasure in life, I expect him to demand a refund.
Monday, 16 March 2009
Saturday, 14 March 2009
The scooper contingent were already well settled in when I arrived. They really are a hardy bunch, with Hutch going for a half of Allgates and a half of Bazens in the same round. A braver man than me. As usual a lot of new breweries means a lot of new beers. And, unfortunately, as usual a lot of mediocre beers. Brown/copper and dull. Step forward Hexamshire Devil’s Elbow. And Hammerpot Meteor.
Mind you they were both a lot better than Northern Golden World, which was like someone had melted a packet of butterscotch sweets. Even Archimedes couldn’t manage to drink it. Much better (naturally) were the first two (of four) Brewdog beers that were available. Trashy Blonde (4.1%) was a real hop mess-good for hopheads but not to everyone’s taste. There’s a real piny hop explosion on the tongue, but some people felt it was too much and lacked a clean, crisp edge. It didn’t stop me sinking a few when Eddie, the eager, legal beagle turned up.
Brewdog Devine Rebel at 12.5% drew a fair bit of interest. All you can say about it is that it tastes like you would expect-a barley wine. It hides its strength pretty well, but you’re still never going to be able to throw it down in a hurry.
Best new beers: Sheffield Pale (crisp and hoppy), Hopstar Dark Knight (pleasingly lush).
Friday, 13 March 2009
Emma McLean installed the tubes behind the bar, leaving unsuspecting staff and regulars exposed for hours. This is far longer than the recommended dosage and led to dizziness and several instances of burns and peeling skin. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it was the first time they’d ever heard of such an incident, admitting “It's not the kind of thing you hear about every day.” Now, I expect the pub to be hit with several claims for compensation and perhaps Ms McLean will soon be looking for another job?
Now this concession could have even bigger implications. CAMRA see this as a chink of light and hopes to bring more relief to beleaguered drinkers and publicans alike. They will be campaigning (yes they do do that), for the EC to allow a drop in duty on beer sold in pubs. Well, we can all dream, can't we?
Thursday, 12 March 2009
The Information Commissioner’s Office took on the case, writing to the Met warning them that blanket installation of CCTV in pubs “raised serious privacy concerns.” Mr Gibson duly got his licence and the ICO have pledged to pursue the matter with both the police and the government. Because what’s at stake here is the presumption of innocence. Should every pub, regardless of its record be forced to spy on law abiding customers? Or should CCTV be a targeted measure? If the government gets its way, it will be yet another condition that licensees have to meet. And there’s already too many of them.
Meanwhile, Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, has been jailed for three years for failing to hit George Bush with his shoes. I shudder to think of his sentence should he have actually managed to hit the poor old boy.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
The SNP have pledged that they will continue to try and sneak the measure through, but the joys of minority government make this currently unlikely. Let’s hope so, anyway.
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Since Archimedes was busy fiddling, I mean organising, his tax return, it was just us two that found a seat in the already busy Smithfield. There was a beer festival on and, as they had been visited by both the police and Environmental Health, I was willing to give the place another go. The refurb seems to have stalled and it still has the same problems as before: the misplaced pool table is still frequented by people who gaze in bemusement at customers actually drinking beer and there is a severe lack of light at the rear.
Our musings were interrupted by Eddie, the eager, legal beagle. He wanted to know if I knew the way to San Jose. The answer would obviously require a trip to the Trackside. The WHB very sensibly figured it wasn’t worth going back for a final drink, so I left him heading in the direction of the Marble. Back in Bury, having finished covering his paper trail, Archimedes joined us.
I was feeling bloated by now and had to rely on sheer professionalism to get the beer down. The first choice proved unwise. Robinsons Trouble & Strife was copper coloured and did have strong notes of malt and toffee as advertised. However, it didn’t have the fruity hop as promised, or the crisp biscuit taste that characterises a good Robbies. Hard going. Much better was Cathedral’s St Hugh’s, a light easy going session beer from Lincoln’s only microbrewery. That was the order of the day till I could get the last bus up to the Towler. Which was probably a mistake...
Friday, 6 March 2009
Although to be applauded, it’s only part of the measures that are needed to sustain the on-trade. And the government hasn’t been overly helpful, seemingly more interested in closing pubs rather than keeping them open. Hence I had to smile when Licensing Minister Gerry Sutcliffe came out with “Pubs are often the lifeblood of communities and I am keen to do what I can to help while are hard.” Sssh, don’t tell Alistair Darling.
To me, this smacks of picking on an easy target and passing the buck to them. And once again that easy target is me. And you. People should use less electricity etc sounds very much along the lines of forcing people to pay a tax for daring to fly away on holiday. It’s simpler than the government actually tackling the roots of any problem.
But shouldn’t the government be addressing these problems? In the 21st century shouldn’t they be finding ways so we can use MORE electricity, not less? And hold on, if homes make up 27% of carbon emissions, that’s a whopping 73% that does the rest. My O-level in maths tells me that 73 is much bigger than 27, so let’s get things in proportion. It’s all very well doing “your bit” but unless the big picture is addressed, it’s like collecting iron railings in the war-pointless. Is there a real desire for change, or is it just another case of being seen to do something? I know which one I’d bet on.
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Minimum pricing is an attack on the working classes and the enemy of all drinkers. It’s lazy thinking, ill thought through and a green light to bootleggers. And typical of politicians everywhere, they even lack the convictions of their beliefs. After proclaiming they were raising the off-trade age limit to 21, they got nervous after student dissent and scrapped that idea. Except that local authorities can bring it in if they feel the need. Which would create a two-tier system between different regions? Very clever.
Mind you, opposition to this madness does put you in with some strange bedfellows. The Portman Group? They’re only marginally saner than the Scientologists. And SAB Miller? The spokesperson for that bunch of money grabbing, purveyors of crap had me in stitches as they tried to portray SAB as some sort of “free trade” champions. Apparently they have a deep concern for the drinkers of Scotland. Hilarious.
Still, it’s bad news. And talking of news, what did the BBC do yesterday? Yes, headline the story with (yet again), stock footage of real ale being pulled through a handpump. Great. Nice one, Auntie Beeb.
Monday, 2 March 2009
About 0.5 miles before you get to the RH, there is the White Lion. To me, this is a classic example of converting a perfectly good pub into a “bar and restaurant.” All character has been removed and it has a sterile hotel lounge feel to it. Although it tries to sell itself on food, it was empty when I called in. Food options include Fish & Chips (with crinkle cut chips!) for £9.95. No pies. And no ploughman’s either. Instead the veggie option was a sandwich of goats cheese with marinated Tuscan vegetables and basil mayonnaise. Only two of the four pumps were in operation, but the Lancaster Blonde I had was in very good condition.
Sunday, 1 March 2009
There have been unconfirmed stories of an illegal drinking den circulating for some time, but now I’ve had it confirmed by a reliable source. Seems the place is doing a roaring business. This being the 21st century, it’s far from the dingy basements of old. A plush conservatory houses a bar with chilled bottles and cans available for £1 each. There’s free Pool and a giant screen showing Sky Sports. For the gambler, there’s poker with the house taking a cut.