About Me

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Manchester, United Kingdom
Tyson is a beer hound and cheese addict living in the beery metropolis paradise known as Manchester
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Thursday, 28 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.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

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 have pledged to vigorously defend the money-grabbing, brainwashing, conmen against all and any critics.

I eagerly await my day in court...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

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?

Sunday, 24 May 2009

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 of call when in Leeds. That was long ago, when it was a Tetley Heritage Inn.

North Bar duly impressed, with good waitress service and some decent Roosters Special-served in barrelled glasses. Another old favourite is the Palace, on Kirkgate, which delivered a nice drop of Morrissey Fox Blonde. A bit of a test next-to find the Pin in daylight and relatively sober. Sneakily it’s hidden over a footbridge, but although it only had four customers, the Leeds Pale was very refreshing.

A little walk took me to the Grove. This is another cracker of a pub and was already busy with post-work drinkers, but I found a corner in which to enjoy my Elland First Light. Al fresco was the order of the day at the Cross Keys and Roosters Yankee was the order of the beer. The nearby Midnight Bell had some very quenching Oakham White Dwarf on, as did the final stop-the Brewery Tap. Then it was a hop (geddit) and a stagger onto the Rochdale bound train.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

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.

Post-meal was where the serious business began. No surprise to find Old Stockport on great form in the Castle and a very busy English Lounge delivered a decent Golden Pippin. More excellent Copper Dragon-IPA this time-at the Unicorn and again at the Crown & Kettle. Also tried there was Keltek Even Keel. This was quite interesting: an amber ale of only 3.4%, it had a firm body and a slightly fruity-malt finish.

Both Odd and Bar Fringe had Phoenix Hopsack on, with Odd delivering the better pint. It was here that we got down to discussing the big news story that the BBC seems to have missed: toilet rolls. Specifically that Asda’s Alloe vera range has gone from 2 ply to 3 ply. Which is good news, but it’s still lagging behind Tesco’s own brand. Tesco delivers 200 sheets per roll (124mm x 110mm) compared to Asda’s rather miserly 176.

Now the quality of toilet roll may not seem a big issue, but in the economic and political troubled times of today, it can be. Just ask the government workers of Riverside County, California. Two years ago, they were making do with one-ply rolls. But, after a series of complaints, all 340 government building were upgraded to two-ply. Cue contented backsides all round.

But in this cruel world of one-upmanship capitalism, it wasn’t long before inequality reared its ugly head. Word soon started getting round that elected officials and their ilk were being treated to Angel Soft 4-ply. Less than 100 people were getting preferential treatment, leaving the other 18400 scratching their, er, heads in wonderment. Cue some whisteblowing and a review is expected to recommend 2-ply across the board.

A victory for fairness, maybe, but wouldn’t it have been nice if everyone could have had Angel Soft 4-ply. After all, isn’t that what we all aspire to?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

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 team behind it have done a fantastic job in recreating the interior and only the strong smell of disinfectant in the back room hinted that it wasn’t always like that. There were several beers on and I think we all had HSD.

Last time we were here (Feb 08), Rigby’s was a surprise disappointment. Happy to say this time, it was back on form, offering a good selection of food and real ale. However, a surprise did await us here. At the back-which is an excellent drinking courtyard-there is another pub. The Lady of Man nestles in Rigby’s shadow but is completely separate. It has its own food operation and a different range of beers. A very interesting development.

We emerged to bright sunshine. We had been promised unsettled weather with heavy showers, and this being an Eddie expedition, I had come suitably equipped. However, we would have been better in shorts-real life 1 BBC 0. Hmmm.

Eddie then proceeded to march us round the back streets and alleyways of Liverpool. We called at the Baltic Fleet(Do Not Touch The Fire) and then the Swan-excellent Phoenix Hopsack here. The Pilgrim also lived up to its rep, unlike the Fly in the Loaf.

The FITL has more often than not delivered the goods for us, but not on this occasion. Facing a completely unknown guest beer, we politely asked for a taster. This was refused on the grounds that “it’s now against company policy.” If we hadn’t of liked it, we would have had one of the regular beers as we like the place, but with that attitude, we voted with our feet.

It’s a bit blurred after that but we definitely called in at the Everyman and the (also) newly reopened Belvedere. The always busy Roscoe Head was also definitely done. We finished off at the Dispensary with pints of Southport’s Golden Sands.

It was late when we got back into Manchester, but there was still time for a couple in the Angel before giving Hunters the benefit of our custom. A good day out with only the FITL letting the side down. They do like their signs stating the obvious, though.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

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 findings. Their spokesman claimed that “the tied pub model provides a fair and equitable approach to sharing risk between ourselves and our licensees.” And that “it represents a low cost opportunity for entrepreneurs.” He should team up with Jacqui Smith. They would make a great double act on the comedy circuit.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

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 plumped for the Extra Mature which has a wonderful flinty texture and a superbly satisfying full-on flavour. Asda are selling 400g for £2.59-reasonable for a cheese of this quality. Even better it’s 2 for £3, which is damn cheap. But children, listen to Uncle Tyson. Do not think it’s big or clever to gorge on nearly half of one when returning to your domicile after a long night on the pop. Because it’s not.

So Asda are the cheese supermarket of choice. Now step forward invidious cheese villains, Morrisons. Their Ploughman’s sandwich boasts “free range egg mayo”. Free range or not, this abomination does not belong on a ploughman’s. It’s just wrong. It’s the type of muddle headed thinking that sees so called Ploughman’s lunches served with a pork pie. I mean, come on, get a grip. And what is the government doing about these wanton criminal acts? Nothing. It’s about time they stopped trying to force feed us ID cards and sorted the Ploughman’s problem out.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

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-election. In comedy. She warmed up with: “While private companies will clearly benefit from the increased footfall from offering this service, their customers will benefit from being able to quickly provide their biometrics while they are out doing the shopping.” That’s certainly what I want when I’m out shopping-the ability to quickly provide my biometrics.

She continued with: “With an identity card, people will be able to prove their identity quickly and conveniently while helping to protect themselves against identity fraud.” And then, like a comedy pro, she delivered the punchline-“ID cards will deliver real benefits to everyone, including increased protection against criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists.” Ken Dodd, watch out.

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 spoken and M&S have listened. From Saturday, all bras will be one price. Power to the people.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

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, which is tough and chewy, but this was very tasty.
Ice cream, mango cheesecake and something that resembled a square of cheddar, but certainly wasn’t-Pistachio barfi, brought up the desserts. Gastronomically stuffed, a pint was forced down at Odder, which is just round the corner. Forced being the operative word, as apart from being stuffed, the Hanby Rainbow Chaser tasted of cardboard.

Unfortunately, as there was nothing else to exchange it for, it was a case of drink it and get out. It appears that there are occasions when beer isn’t a good idea. Who’d have thought it?

Monday, 4 May 2009

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 relations with. It’s official-he’s a “granny chaser”. And what is the government doing about it? Nothing.

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 hand for those who needed them. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle had previously scoffed at the apparent inability of people to er, scoff, more. But seeing it in the flesh, he revised his opinion. The target to beat was 10, which last year’s winner, Martin Brimelow, had set.

Everyone had their own technique and band of supporters to spur them on. Although I got the impression that some people weren’t taking it seriously enough and were merely waiting to film the vomiting for YouTube. The great thing about this sport is that it’s one of the very few where women and men can compete on an equal basis. Not that many women seem daft enough to want to try.

It all started well enough. The general consensus was that as it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it’s full, it’s best to get as many down as you can early on. It didn’t take too long before the first hand went up for the bucket and five seemed to be the limit for most entrants. Local legend Mick Edwards seemed to be going well after polishing off 6 but was soon signalling for assistance.

Realistically there was only ever going to be one winner and Martin proved a worthy one, setting a new record of 11. And even he was sick, although, crucially, after the contest. Then it was back to the drinking and as the night wore on, the wickets began to change. Brewers Gold morphed into Leeds Pale and much later I discovered Cheddar Valley had magically become Old Rosie. An excellent day out and good to see Bury taking the lead in extreme sports.

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 reappeared to present them with the Pub of the Year award. A visit to the Regal Moon followed (Wickwar Spring Ale) before the rump reached the Flying Horse for some under par Arizona and some so-so Landlord. A taxi was then summoned and I found myself alone and abandoned (nothing new there, then) in Bury. Naturally seeking comfort, I turned to man’s only true friends in this situation-whisky and then curry

Friday, 1 May 2009

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 major concern, although it was just on the side of acceptable last night. And although I liked the customised glasses, why only half pint measures?