Showing posts from April, 2009

Not Tonight Darling

Some good news for local drinkers, with the announcement that Joseph Holts are absorbing the 2% beer rise until the 1st July. Also sticking two fingers up at ministerial robber Alistair Darling’s latest smash and grab are JDW. They’ve announced that they will be holding prices until September. Some people have complained that it will encourage drinkers to spend longer in the pub. We can but hope-it's got me convinced, anyway.

Look What They've Done To My Sweets, Ma

Where will it all end? That’s what consumers were left wondering today after the latest shock announcement. Economy down the toilet, rising unemployment, astronomical beer taxation and now this. Yes, the makers of nostalgic-friendly Sherbet Fountain are abandoning its traditional paper packaging.

Sherbet Fountain has been helping keep children (and adults), nourished since 1925. How many generations have faced the same age old conundrum-how to extract the fizzy concoction from a soggy tube with the (usually stale) liquorice straw. Now a plastic resealable tube is to be introduced as “customers wanted a more hygienic pack that can also be resealed.” Now call me sceptical, but were they really inundated with letters from children demanding more hygienic packaging? I don’t think so.

Of course some will see this as merely the latest attack on the cornerstones of British greatness. Frankly, the writing was on the wall when ethically-challenged Nestle callously abandoned years of culture and …

A Nightingale Sang In Berkely Square

Well it had to happen. There I was in the Big Smoke when I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Yes, I was summoned to the presence of that Godfather of the beer blogosphere, Tandleman. Now I must admit to being a little nervous. With his recent history, I didn’t know what to expect. I had visions of us goose stepping, Basil Fawlty style, round Piccadilly Circus shouting “Don’t mention the war!” As it was, I had to settle for an evening’s drinking, instead.

We met in the Pommelers Rest, a JDW pub on Tower Bridge Road. It was one I didn’t know but was easy to find-once I’d negotiated the hordes of Japanese tourists using ten pound notes for origami practice. I had been assured that this JDW had a good reputation-it’s important to try and aim for a good start on any pub crawl and on this showing it deserves its rep.
Having been formerly the Tower Bridge Hotel, the Pommelers has more of a pubby feel than many other Spoons and had a good range of festival beers on. The Tandleman thermometer…

Pennies From Heaven

Pub landlady Chris Azerkane is hoping to be flush with success after the Duchess of Cornwall popped into the Hare & Hounds in Franfield, East Sussex. For HRH spent a penny whilst there and canny Chris has placed the throne seat graced by royalty on eBay.

Now this story got me thinking. It could have serious repercussions for celebrity memorabilia in these difficult economic times. If people are willing to pay big bucks for toilet seats favoured by the famous, then the Tandle Hill Tavern better keep a careful eye on its facilities. For the THT is of course home to famed blogger Tandleman and is bound to be a target for any Indiana Jones fortune seekers. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

If I Were A Woman...

Well it would lead to cheaper drinks, anyway. Or it would have done if some people hadn’t had a sense of humour failure. For one Newcastle bar, Sinners, had a very generous offer. Any ladies willing to flash their top half would receive free drinks. Hats off (or should that be tops) to the Geordies-they certainly know how to have a good time, despite their strange liking for brown beer.

However, the dark side of the force is strong, Luke and usually materialises in the form of some killjoy or other. In this case, former minister Denis MacShane. For those who don’t know him, Mr MacShane has quite a bit of previous. He loves to stick his nose into private areas that the state should leave well alone and is constantly “outraged” by one thing or another.

Yesterday he couldn’t wait to share his “outrage” with Licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe. Prudish MacShane huffed, “Are you aware of one of these horrible places called Sinners in Newcastle, where young University of Newcastle students wen…

Playing Catch Up

After the adventures in Helmshore on Saturday, I was looking forward to a quiet Sunday. However, it was not to be. The Manx Minx was hosting the annual Manchester Manx Morris Men convention, so Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was out for blood. Or a drink at any rate.

Having made a slow start to the JDW festival-Bury had had all of two on and when they went, that was it, Manchester seemed a good place to try and make up some ground. First stop was the cavernous Moon Under Water on Deansgate. Hook Norton Jackpot was pleasant enough, if unexciting. You got the distinct feeling that Hook Norton hadn’t strayed too far from their roots with this one and indeed the recipe dates from 1955.
Much more exotic was Yukon Lead Dog Ale. This Canadian inspired beer really didn’t do it for us. Apparently it’s had 6 types of malt thrown into the mix and that, possibly combined with the lack of experience of working with real ale, produced a completely unbalanced mish-mash of a beer. Much better was Baro…

To Tie Or Not To Tie Part Deux

Seems that there could finally be some action on the beer tie front. CAMRA are considering using their “super complainant status” to query the OFT about its role. This is all dependant on the forthcoming report by the Business and Enterprise Committee (BEC) recommending a referral to the OFT in the first place. But if it does, CAMRA can use its position to get an OFT response much quicker (no surprise here), than simply leaving it to the government. One of the options available to the OFT is to conduct a market study of the beer tie and its impact on the industry. Something that’s long overdue, in my opinion.

Rich Man Poor Man

As you relax this Easter Monday, spare a thought for our masters at Westminster. Times are tough and it seems MPs are worried about the credit crunch. Before the Easter break, they managed to put their concerns to the Finance Committee and then did a runner before the proverbial hits the fan.

The reason for their angst? Prospective price rises in the bars and canteens of the Commons. They’ve demanded “a subsidy level of 41% of operating costs.” And whilst supermarket food prices are on average 18.2% more expensive than last year, our betters beg for mercy. Apparently “any price increase should be no more than 5% on any item in one year.”

After all, the Commons is getting very expensive these days for underpaid MPs. Fosters is now £2.10 a pint and if you want a Chicken Biryani to go with that, that’ll be another £2.40. If it goes on like this, soon some of them won’t be able to afford second homes. And I for one couldn’t live with that guilt on my conscience

Front Of The Queue

Oldham Council have rightly come in for ridicule over their plans to tackle binge drinking. Their master plan of introducing post office style queues in pubs and bars and limiting customers to two drinks at a time would be farcical, if it were not outrageously authoritarian. And their review of all 22 licenses, regardless of their history could leave themselves open to legal challenge as it borders on misuse of their licensing authority.

Meanwhile the BBC Magazine has this guide to getting served at the bar. I rarely see 4 & 6 and they are clearly counterproductive. I was taught No. 1, but sadly that’s becoming much rarer these days, whilst 8 is self evident. No. 3 will work in the right circumstances, but everyone has their own favourite strategy. Unless, of course, you’re Tandleman, who only has to walk up to a bar in order to get served...

House Of Fun

After months of careful planning-well a week, anyway, it was time for the big event. Elephants, tightrope walkers and performing seals could only mean one thing: Don Ricardo’s housewarming.

For once the sun shone at Easter, offering a little window of al fresco drinking. Here we could sit and admire the specially constructed outdoor cask cellar whilst being only a handpull away from the three beers on offer. Hawkshead Lakeland Gold and Marble Pint were squarely aimed at hop fans while Robinsons Dizzy Blonde offered a more rounded taste sensation.

Despite the limitations of it being Easter weekend, a hard core of freeloaders, I mean real ale aficionados, had made the journey. Jack & Jill had travelled all the way from Mordor. The Whitefield Holts Bandit surprised everyone by eating, whilst Pineapple Pete surprised no one by doing his Oliver act and ensuring his plate was never empty.

However all good things must come to an end and eventually, stuffed with beer, cheese and chilli, it w…

Quiz Night At The Trackside

With Easter on the horizon, it was time for reflection and quiet contemplation. And a drink. It seems like everyone else had the same idea as me, as the Trackside was practically bursting at the seams. How dare people treat this time of year as an excuse to get tanked up. And, as Eddie, the eager, legal beagle pointed out, why is it we never see them at any other time. Holiday drinkers, eh?

The problem of finding a seat was quickly solved. The problem in finding a good beer proved sadly more difficult. With the landlord having an aversion to hops, the choice was Stout, Mild or blandness. Fullers Chiswick was as dull as dishwater-I never drink it when I’m in London and if it’s all like this, then I’m unlikely to start. Kinver Pail was better but hardly set the tastebuds alight. And the best thing about the Cottage was the pumpclip-well it did raise a titter or two.
The Happydaze cider would have been good but it had run out, so it was time for Kuppers and Jever. However, the evening wasn…

A King In His Castle

The Manx Minx was at her History of Manx Campanology night class, so Eddie, the eager, legal beagle had cut his leash and was baying at the setting sun. With old favourites coming back to the fore, it was time for a ride into the drinking dens of Manchester.

We had a quick warm up pint in the Rising Sun on Queen Street. This used to be an old haunt of mine many moons ago but has had a chequered recent history. However, it’s back on top form with a keen young landlord and a good line-up of wickets. As Eddie noted, it has the feel of a London pub-no, that doesn’t mean warm, flat beer. The Golden Pippin was in fine form.
Next stop was the Bowling Green on Grafton St. A new one for Eddie-that’s what you get for studying in Liverpool-he was suitably impressed by the exotic sausage menu. Sadly, the likes of antelope are proving too exotic for most punters and these are likely to be phased out. Very much a student haunt, the Easter break had left the pub empty. Unfortunately, but understandab…

Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner...

No real surprise in the latest results from a poll commissioned for Cask Ale Week by Greene King. 50% of those polled didn’t know that cask ale was a pub only product, but that means half did. Not brilliant but better than I’d expect, actually. Now 10% did think it was a type of lager but there you go.

Even less surprising was the revelation that it’s the 18-24 age bracket that knows least about cask, with 10% believing that milk and chocolate are amongst its ingredients. If only, eh. It’s sad that half of the people didn’t know that barley is an ingredient, but impressive that three-quarters knew that hops are.

Problem is, we don’t know if these were pub drinkers that were surveyed or just a random cross-section of the populous. Either way, it confirms what every serious drinker knows: Londoners know least about cask (20% think it’s a lager), whilst Yorkshire drinkers know most-well they’ll tell you they know most about most things, anyway.

Here Comes The Lager

Interesting news that British lager could soon have an image makeover. Freedom Brewery, based in Staffordshire, are canvassing potential members of LOBI. That would be Lagers of the British Isles. The idea is to do to for lager what CAMRA has done for real ale. And I don’t mean lumber it with an image of bearded weirdoes.

So far brewers Hepworth, Brewdog and Cotswold have all been approached, as well as SIBA. Freedom sales manager, Mike Knight, is a man on a mission: “Our challenge is to let British bar owners, the British public and indeed the world, know that they can sell and drink micro-brewed British lagers with confidence.”

A good idea in theory, but how easy will it to be get the message across and take on the big boys at their game? I see stormy waters ahead.

Cask Ale Week

Well it’s National Cask Ale Week. Dave has already voiced his concerns over it and having been in Manchester for its launch today, I’m not surprised. It does seem to have a rather haphazard approach with a definite bias for the big players. Clearly not enough has been done to make it more inclusive and whilst there are big champions of cask backing it-Robinsons, Hydes and Lees, you also have Carlsberg.

Many pubs aren’t taking part and the list of ones that are is somewhat surprising. And at least one of the local pubs that are apparently taking part doesn’t even sell cask! Timing seems a bit odd as well. They suggest you visit a brewery on Fri 10th April. That’s Good Friday. Surely not the best time to try and visit a brewery, if just for the fact that most will be shut.

A good idea, but next year’s needs much more thought put into it.

Never Mind The Pollacks

Just when you thought April Fools was over, Sainsbury’s come along with a late entry. The supermarket chain is rebranding Pollack as Colin (pronounced co-lan) because consumers are apparently too embarrassed to ask for pollack. Eh? They’ve even had Wayne Hemmingway in on the act, helping with the radical makeover of the packaging.

They claim it’s aimed at getting people to take the cheap, plentiful Pollack seriously as an alternative to the endangered cod. But it ain’t just the fish that smells here. I see a marketing gimmick and free publicity. There is a reason why it’s cheap and plentiful-it isn’t as good as cod, or haddock, in my opinion. And selling it by its French name is simply wrong. I say bring on round three of the Cod Wars. Anyway, you can now get sustainable Atlantic cod and there’s plenty of Pacific cod around as well.
Pollack as Colin? Je crois que non!

The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind

What exactly constitutes “ungentlemanly conduct?” That’s the question footballers up and down the land are asking themselves after the match between International Manchester FC and Chorlton Villa. IMFC were allowed to retake a penalty (which had been saved) after the ref heard a Chorlton player break wind and subsequently booked him for it.

This and the fact that IMFC scored from the penalty understandably upset Chorlton and they had 3 dismissals for what their manager termed “entering into conversation with the referee.” Despite this handicap, they still managed to win 6-4.

And speaking of Manchester and Villa, another ref was flexing his individuality not that far away. Federico Macheda scores an injury time winner in front of 75,000 people at Old Trafford. A magical moment for anyone, let alone a 17 year old making his first team debut. And what does the ref do? Book him for celebrating! Mike Riley, hang your head in shame.

Do As I Do

Prince Harry is in today’s papers, pictured drinking from a can, whilst dressed in a wig and wearing a bracelet and a pink garland. And sporting a light blue and gold tie. This apparently signifies his membership of the exclusive “TT” Society. This club for bored toffs is seemingly dedicated to drinking until you throw up and making a prick of yourself. Exclusive? Sounds like half the lads in Radcliffe could be eligible...

Happy Birthday To You

After the exertions of the New Oxford beer festival on Friday, there was just time for a breather before the main event on Saturday. Yes, Eddie Snr was celebrating turning 70. Or rather he wasn’t, as it was a surprise party organised by Eddie, the eager, legal beagle. Luckily the old guy’s ticker proved up to the shock of 100+ people shouting “surprise” at him. Indeed his diet of Juju leaves and rice is paying off as he is very good fettle for his age. Taking to the high-wire to prove the point though, was taking it a bit too far, I thought.

Whitefield Bowling Club had never seen the like. Certainly the staff struggled to get to grips with real ale as they usually dispense only Lees Smooth. Eddie had put on a veritable hop feast, but with the amount of drunks Eddie Snr knows, it was only a matter of time before the pumps started drying up.
First to go was Darkstar Hophead and then my favourite, Brewdog Trashy Blonde. Or Mophead and Sassy Blonde as the barmaid liked to refer to them. Ne…

Strange Days

Strange days, indeed. Those natural bastions of excessive drinking-the students’ unions-could soon be under attack. For at the National Union of Students annual conference in Blackpool, there has been a seismic shift in attitude. The conference voted to begin consultations on setting minimum pricing for alcohol in their affiliated bars.

Further proof, if needed, of the decline of educational standards. When I was a student, I campaigned for cheaper beer, with the ultimate goal being FREE beer. What is the world coming to? If the students are getting all puritanical, then the future’s looking bleak for the rest of us.

In the words of the Doors,
"Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They're going to destroy
Our casual joys"

To Tie Or Not To Tie

MP Lindsay Hoyle has tabled an EDM calling on the government to outlaw the pub tie. The Chorley MP sat on the committee that last year investigated the role of the pubco and whilst that report isn’t published till after Easter, it’s clear what conclusions she has come to. This is a topic much loved by the beer blogging fraternity and no doubt this move (and the subsequent report), will generate much comment.

My position has always been that the tie does need reform and possible abolition in the case of the large pubcos, but in itself it isn’t inherently bad. However, well thought out reform is something government’s aren’t very good at and should they eventually decide to act, no doubt they will make a fist of it.

Losing My Religion

Those killjoys at the ASA have done it again. They’re not known for their sense of humour and if an advert is likely to entertain or amuse, chances are it will be banned.

This time the axe has fallen on a flyer from Club Fire in Ipswich. It probably seemed like a good idea to use John Paul 11 in an advert-you can use his image for free and you can’t libel the dead. And they probably thought his miserable-sod image could do with a makeover. But the thought of bringing a smile to an Ipswichian’s face proved too much for the ASA and so the flyer has been shredded. Mind you, the free publicity can’t have done them any harm.

It's A Sad Day When I Have To Defend Wetherspoons (And CAMRA) But...

I’m sick of those CAMRA types telling me all about pubs and beer. It’s a good job we’re not all slaves to the machine. Thank God I’m here to put things right. Particularly as it’s been infiltrated by Trotskyite tendencies in the shape of Australian Tim.

Now officially a CAMRA weirdo and certified pub snob, Tim, is having a go at Wetherspoons. Now if he just said he doesn’t like them, ok, but no, that would be too simple. He’s on a mission and is outraged that his beloved CAMRA is in cahoots with the Antichrist. But will any of his accusations survive the scrutiny of the Spanish Inquisition?

JDW are Lucifer personified because:
The drinking barn/warehouse like atmosphere.
Pub snobbery at its worst. Working class boozers aren’t good enough for the likes of CAMRA, eh. A lot of them aren’t the prettiest, but they tend to be in town centres where space is a premium. No more guilty of this charge than the likes of Yates etc. And some of them are quite ornate.

The fact the toilets smell better th…

Drive My Car

The law finally catches up with foreign drivers today. Until now only very serious offenders were being brought to book. Speedsters, illegal parkers and the like, were free to carry on regardless. With nearly half of vehicles stopped showing some defect or other, it was a growing problem. As a non driver it shouldn’t really bother me, but it was blatantly unfair on domestic drivers and I’m always pleased to see the law of the land catch up with the real world.

O' Canada

Shame on Canada for barring George Galloway and forcing him to argue his case via video link. What exactly are they are afraid of? Embarrassing questions about their eagerness in assisting the USA with “renditions” of innocent Canadians? Ironically Mr Galloway was on video link from that well known bastion of terrorism, New York City. If the land of stars and stripes can tolerate old pussycat impersonator George, you’d think the maple leaf could. Recently a spokesman for the Canadian Immigration Minister compared GG to Oliver Cromwell. What the connection with the Irish-hating dictator is, I don't know. It seems to me that it's the Canadian government that's playing the Puritan.

Tie Me Kangaroo Down

Another day, another new pub. Well, newish. I remember the Bowling Green from many years ago when, I think, it sold a somewhat variable selection of the Whitbread range of real ale. Having heard it was under new ownership and being in the area, I took the opportunity to check it out.

It’s definitely improved on its recent form and it needed to. It’s in a strange position, tucked away round the corner from the Manchester Royal Infirmary, but lacking any really obvious customer base. The new management have taken it in the right direction, in my opinion. That is major on good beer and food.

There is a very reasonable selection of real ale, but the pub’s real USP is its food. This is not a “gastropub” by any stretch, merely an ordinary boozer. And yet the burger/sausage menu is the best I’ve seen in Manchester. Ostrich, Kangaroo, are pretty rare in the local pubs anyway, but Kudu and Impala are unique in my experience. I had the Tarragon & Mushroom sausage and mash combination, which w…

The First Chop

One of my favourite food (and drink) haunts, the First Chop, has now got its website up and running. Check it out for details of the Lancashire Tapas menu. Also, they now have a loyalty card scheme running with a buy 4 beers, get one free promotion. With exeellent reviews in both magazines and the Manchester Evening News, the Chop's future looks good.

Paint A Vulgar Picture

A lot of local publicity was given recently to the (unexpected) closure of town centre boozer The Duke of Clarence. Why, I don’t know. Much better pubs close all the time without a write up in the local rag. Considering its position, Enterprise (for once) are probably telling the truth when they claim it will reopen under new management. Despite its reputation, the "Clari" did have its uses-mainly in keeping its regulars out of decent pubs. Worryingly they now have been let loose on the general populous and seem to be favouring the Trackside. Why is anyone’s guess.

This led to a walkout last week as a group of loudmouth Clarence regulars, getting tanked up on perry, was spoiling a quiet night’s drinking. You couldn’t blame the minimum-wage young barmaid. Sadly there was no one senior on hand to ask them to tone it down. Or ideally show them the door. Trackside regulars are hoping they don’t develop a fondness for perry, otherwise even the reopening of the DOC may not save the…