Showing posts from May, 2009

Pubcos Not Evil Shock

There’s shock news today for opponents of the tie and for anyone concerned how the pubcos operate. A survey has revealed the truth, and it seems everyone was very mistaken. Only 5% of Enterprise licensees have a “bad” relationship with the company, and that is set against the 52% who claim to have a “good” relationship. My thanks to Enterprise for this enlightening, obviously unbiased, piece of research.

Smells Like Teen Perry Spirit

Congratulations to Stinking Bishop, which has been officially recognised as Britain’s most pungent cheese. SB, named after the pear variety that is the source for the perry that its rind is washed in, took first place at the inaugural Britain’s Smelliest Cheese Championship. Judges at the event, held at The Royal Bath and West Show in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, described the cheese as smelling like a rugby club changing room. A deserved winner, it beat off stiff (or should that be smelly?) competition from Driftwood and third placed St Oswald.

Of course to anyone who has carried it home on a hot day, first on a crowded tram and then on a bus, and witnessed people looking round in bewildered disgust, the result will come as no surprise.

Ce restaurant n'est pas aussi bon que le Mc.Donalds'

Britain lost the Hundred Years War and our French cousins are still showing us the way. While our moribund government persists in increasing national misery by imposing zealot taxation levels on man’s greatest discovery-alcohol; things are looking up over La Manche.

The French government will slash the sales tax in restaurants and cafes from 19.6% to 5.5%, with effect from July 1st. This follows the recent EU decision to allow member states to vary VAT rates, if they so wish. Of course, the UK ruling elite are too busy tucking into their subsidised Chardonnay and oysters to worry about doing the same thing over here. This cut should translate into 10% off customer’s bills and, timed to coincide with the holiday season, will no doubt have diners exclaiming merci beaucoup.

They Blinded Me With Science

Meanwhile, also in France, a clash between David and Goliath has begun. The Goliath this time being the Scientology movement and David being ex-members. Now some people may see this “church” as just being full of loons and nutters, but I say hold your tongue-that would be very unfair on ordinary nutters... It’s actually full of brainwashing, money-grabbing, conmen who take advantage of the vulnerable.

In a shameful act of cowardice, the French prosecution service has refused to give the trial official sanction, thereby diminishing the chances of success. Whether this decision had anything to do with the heavy political lobbying that the money-grabbing, brainwashing, conmen initiated is anyone’s guess. And the meeting celebrity Scientology nutter, Tom Cruise, had with President Sarkozy was probably just a coincidence.

Certainly they’ve got the big guns out for the case. Chief money-grabbing, brainwashing, conmen spokesman Danièle Gounord claimed the trial was a “heresy case” and they hav…

When Is A Handpull Not A Handpull?

Traditionalists are bemoaning the launch of the new font for Wells and Young’s Bombardier brand. They claim it’s a sell out to the modern Smooth brigade, and a betrayal of the handpull as the symbol of cask. Wells and Young claim that innovation in cask beer has been too slow and that the new look will enable Bombardier to compete with the large lager fonts. Anything that may help increase cask sales is to be welcomed and if that’s a foot high font, then so be it. One problem I do foresee, however, is with the free trade, which must account for a lot of sales. Will pubs that are only taking Bombardier as a guest really want, or even be able to manage, such a large presence on the bar?

A Public Service Announcement

I’ve been contacted by the Content and Community Accounts Manager for Strongbow cider. They’d like me to big up their new TV advert and say that any mention in this blog would be much appreciated. I'm always happy to remind people about Strongbow. Remind them that it’s apple concentrate with some added sweeteners and some other shit and tastes likes chemically manufactured piss.

It's Not The Leaving Of Liverpool Leeds

If it’s Friday, then it must be Leeds. Well that’s what I decided anyway. An opportunity to have another crawl round here was just too good to pass up.

First stop was an old favourite of mine-the Victoria Family & Commercial. This is a building that oozes grandeur from the mahogany booths to the gold lettering of its title. Built in 1828, it once boasted 28 bedrooms and was connected to Leeds town hall by an underground passage. It offers a (now sadly rare) opportunity to drink, and dine, in a true multi-roomed experience. There were nine handpulls in use. I tried an excellent Acorn Yorkshire Pale, which was nice and tangy, with Cascade and Northdown hops coming to the fore. The Brewdog Trashy Blonde was just as good.
Next stop was Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House, which was surprisingly quiet. There was a good range on here as well, with Summer Wine Ale Caesar proving to be a golden, fruity beer. On the way to the North Bar, I passed the Horse & Trumpet, which used to be my first port…

Curry And Soft Toilet Roll

If it’s Wednesday, then it must be Gourmet Banquet day. That’s what I was told anyway. Hence I found myself at Shimla Pinks ready to gorge myself senseless for less than a tenner. SP is located just off Deansgate, facing the magistrates' court. Handy if you fancy a decent curry before being sent down. Because the standard of gaol curry is lamentable. Only by insisting on Halal will you get anything approaching a decent ruby, but I digress.

The meal itself proved to be good with some decent Panchmeal Daal but, on balance, Zouk has the clear edge. They do offer to top up your selections, if needed. Which wasn’t in my case, as I was pacing myself. Man does not live by curry alone and I had to leave room for some beer afterwards.
I had warmed up with a couple of aperitifs. Caledonian Raspberry Fool in the Bank was sweet, with a surprising touch of caramel. George Wright Cheeky Pheasant was better in the Waterhouse and Black Sheep Golden Sheep was in good nick in the Rising Sun.

It's Not The Leaving Of Liverpool

Saturday saw Eddie, the eager, legal beagle lead us on our annual tour of Liverpool. We killed time before the train with a drink at the Microbar in the Arndale shopping centre. Boggart Mild and Boggart Rum Porter were both on but, wishing to spare our tastebuds, we tried the Blue Monkey BG Sips (4%) instead. This proved light and hoppy-a good aperitif.

Our first port of call after leaving Lime Street was the Ship & Mitre. Well, we did check on the Head of Steam, but although it did have a few beers on, there was nothing too exciting to tempt us. The Ship, however, was a different matter, with a wide selection of interesting beers to choose from. We went for Hornbeam Ale & Grace, one of the birthday beers brewed for Opening Times. This proved quite light and refreshing-if only all their beers were as clean tasting as this.
Next stop was the newly reopened Vernom Arms. The Vernom was a fixture on the Liverpool real ale scene for many years and has now risen from the dead. The tea…

To Tie Or Not To Tie Part Trois

Well, the cat is out of the bag. The Business and Enterprise Select Committee’s report on the pubcos makes for uncomfortable reading for the government. The committee are highly critical of the relationship between pubco and tenant and were “surprised and disappointed” by the OFT’s refusal to re-examine the beer tie’s impact.

They also criticise the ludicrous (my words) and anti-competitive practice of pubcos selling sites with restrictive clauses, saying “We believe it is for the market to decide whether a pub is unviable and not for a pubco to restrict a building's use.” Exactly.

It’s important to stress that the committee don’t recommend doing away with the tie completely, but are calling for major reforms. These include greater transparency over rent-setting and an independent dispute resolutions system. They are urging the government to launch a Competition Commission inquiry-now that would be interesting.

Rather predictably, pub bandits Punch are unhappy with the report’s findi…

Cheese News

All is not well in the rarefied and usually sedate world of cheese. Forget CAMRA and cask breathers and think Asda and the Cheese Society. For the supermarket has infuriated purists by selling a rindless version of Edam. They claim it gives customers more cheese for their money and cuts down on waste. However, Kate O’Meara of the Cheese Society claimed that many cheese eaters will feel they are being robbed and that by removing its famous red wax rind, Edam loses its unique selling point.
A tricky one this, as my heart sides with the traditionalists, but I’m all for anything that gets people eating more cheese. And it appears that the rindless version is now outselling the traditional form. Which is good, but I would hate the original version to completely disappear from the cheese counters of Britain.
However, away from the Edam controversy, Asda are doing a fine job in bringing quality cheese to the masses. They’ve got a great offer on the excellent Lake District Cheese Co range. I pl…

Don't You Just Love Her?

Justice and liberty, or rather the lack of them, is the theme for today’s posts. First up, discredited and downright liability, Jacqui Smith. Ms Smith is a keen participant of the “let’s be more horrid, more unpopular and more useless than my predecessor” Nu-Labour game of let’s play Home Secretary. Whatever happened to the good old days of cuddly Roy Jenkins?

As she marches to electoral oblivion, she seems determined to cause as much misery on as many people as she can. Her latest ray of sunshine is that the good people of Manchester will be the guinea pigs for the ludicrous national ID card fiasco, sorry, I mean scheme. The government want to force me to have a card that I don’t want and certainly don’t need. And pay for the privilege! £30 for a useless piece of plastic and then another £30 for the right to invade my privacy. Unbelievable. And as we’ve got money to burn, the (at least), £5 billion cost isn’t even worth mentioning.
Still, I see a bright future for Ms Smith, post-electi…

Fit To Bust

Someone else seeking justice is Beckie Williams, founder of Facebook group Busts 4 Justice. This bunch of modern day, well endowed, suffragettes are out to right a wrong in the world of (large) brassieres. M&S apparently put a surcharge of £2 on any bra larger than a DD cup. This doesn’t wash with Ms Williams (30G) who points out that other lingerie suppliers don’t discriminate this way.

Now I’m with Beckie on this one. It’s all very well for M&S to plead that “an extra charge is required for the work involved in making larger bras”, but is it? I’m sure the machinists at the Chinese (or wherever) sweatshops are all on piecework and won’t get paid any extra for Ms Williams’s bra. And just how much extra work is there really? We need to have the facts.

Anyway, Beckie is taking it to the man. She’s bought a £3.40 share in M&S so she can confront Chairman Sir Stuart Rose about this weighty matter at the next AGM. At least she’ll be able to get it off her chest.

Update: Tyson has …

Zouk Appeal

It looked like being a typical Bank Holiday-rain and beer. Ok, the rain was there, well this is Britain after all, but there was something more exotic on the menu. A gourmet banquet at Zouk in Manchester. But that wasn’t until later, so I had time to prepare myself.

And what better way to prepare oneself for an Asian feast than to help finish off some beers at the Hark To Dandler. Mindful of my later commitments I restricted myself to just four pints before braving the rain and Bank Holiday transport. There was just time for a pint of Cairngorm Howler in the Paramount before it was chow time.
Zouk is a modern, spacious 200-cover restaurant with an impressive mezzanine floor. Service was attentive, without being intrusive. The food itself was impressive-a delicate Palak Tikka starter, accompanied by Marvan Paneer and Alloo Paratha. Main courses also delivered on the taste test, with a mixed vegetable dish of Mili Juli Sabzi and an impressive Bindi Okra. All too often you get old Okra, wh…

Hooray For Harriet

Good news story of the day: Harriet Harman says there are “no circumstances” under which she will stand for the Labour leadership. Who says there is no God?

Read All About It

Bank Holidays are usually slow for news stories and sometimes there’s nothing to fill the Sunday tabloids, but yesterday’s showings were particularly lame. The News of the World tried to court controversy by its revelation that celebrity paedophile Gary Glitter is now dressing as Rolf Harris. Truly shocking. I mean, have you seen Rolf’s dress sense?

Much worse was the Sunday Mirror’s front page “exclusive”. Their shocking revelation concerned failed Apprentice wannabe, Noorul Choudhury. The science teacher had been labelled “Mr Boring” on the programme but was revealed to have a liking for...women. Yes, the unmarried Choudhury is having a relationship with a blonde. And? Well, she’s married. Obviously a national scandal-what other justification can there be for printing a photo of her.

But wait, there’s more. She’s 58. Yes, really. Imagine that. How dare a 58 year old woman have sex. Just what is the world coming to? And apparently she’s not the first older woman that Choudhury has had …

It's Enough To Make You Sick

Sunday saw me on a far more cultural plain. Having heard glowing reports about the Hark To Dandler festival, I felt it was my duty to call in. The landlord, Barry Murphy, had it well organised with a marquee out back and all the beers on handpump direct from the cellar. He’d had to fight J.W.Lees all the way to get them to agree to it and they were charging him a premium of £25 per firkin for the privilege. And keeping all the extra income, which is a bit naughty.
However, despite all that, the festival itself was very good, with some excellent beers on. But there was a more serious hue to the day’s proceedings. Life’s not all beer and boules. Yes, it was the second World Black Pudding Eating Championship. This prestigious competition had attracted a hardy band of entrants, all wishing to their bit for charity.
The rules are simple: eat as many black puddings as you can in one hour. Without being sick. Vomiting during the contest leads to disqualification and there were buckets on han…

Make Mine Mild

There I was enjoying a quiet pint in the Dogs on Saturday when THEY arrived. Yes, it was a CAMRA coach, full of the great and good-Stopwatch Sid, Pythagoras, Archimedes, The Whitefield Holts Bandit (he’s not actually a member of CAMRA, but don’t tell anyone) and Rulebook Reg. Not to mention the Wallsend Wonder. To be fair, some of them seemed quite normal-well Tandleman wasn’t there.
The reason for their outing was a celebration of Mild-they were on some sort of passport trail. Now I quite like the odd glass of Mild, but as the offering here was from Boggart, I stuck to the more obvious delights of Phoenix (Arizona) and Durham (White Gem, Priors Gold). This obviously went straight to my head, as the next thing I knew I was joining them on their coach. Well it was free.
We called at the Ashton Arms in Oldham, where the Outstanding Blonde was good, before settling in at the Baum in Rochdale. This provided some excellent beer-the Phoenix Hopsack being particularly so. And Tandleman reappe…

Hark To Dandler Festival

The Hark to Dandler on Walmersley Old Road is holding a beer festival this weekend. Nothing unusual in that, you might think. Except it’s a J.W.Lees pub. And they normally would frown on buying outside of the tie. No less an expert than Tandleman himself conformed to me that this was highly unusual. 30 beers should be on over the weekend and could lead to serious problems. Once the regulars have tasted beer actually with hops in it, will they want to go back to Lees?

Fusiliers Beer Festival

Last night was opening night for the Fusiliers Beer Festival at Bury Town Hall. The festival is part of the fundraising efforts for the new Fusiliers museum. Bury has had a long association with the XX Lancashire Fusiliers, but the current museum site is outdated and somewhat out of sight. It’s hoped that the new town centre site will rectify these faults and put it at the heart of Bury’s cultural quarter.
Certainly the museum’s collection deserves a wider audience. Apart from information on famous fusiliers (J.R.R. Tolkien, anyone?) it boats six VC’s, including three of the “Six VC’s before breakfast” earned at Gallipoli. Anyway, back to the festival.
This is being held in the Elizabethan Suite and is being staffed by the usual keen mugs, I mean volunteers. I wish them well, but they face the usual problems with festivals of this type. All beer is on gravity and as the room is a warm one, spraying water on the casks just doesn’t quite cut it. Keeping the temperature down must be a maj…