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

Sunday, 24 July 2011

West Lancs Wander: Revisited

Yesterday saw the ever-hopeful band of ROB Camra venture into the wilds of West Lancashire. A variation of a trip that we last undertook some three years ago, it was interesting to compare and contrast the fortunes of the various hostelries.

First stop was the Original Farmers Arms at Eccleston. I’ve been here before and must admit to finding the Good Beer Guide description annoyingly misleading. It says that:”Up to 6 real ales are available, predominantly sourced from local micros.” They’re not; only two pumps are given over to micros. That aside, the Fuzzy Duck Golden Cascade was an easy start to the day

Our next stop, the designated lunch stop-as last time, was Croston. This proved disappointing on our last visit and I’d heard it had actually got worse. So it proved, at least for most of the party. The ex GBG listed Wheatsheaf was closed-no great loss judging by our previous experience here. The current GBG entry, the Lord Nelson, suffered from appalling service, whilst the nearby Grapes beer quality was less than stellar.
However, those of us more seasoned beerhounds who don’t mind going off-piste, whilst on the piss, were better rewarded for our efforts. The Black Horse, which on our last visit was a Cains house, was selling Moorhouses, and Everards (pronounced “fakatu”) Whakatu. Across the road, the sports club was selling a rather tasty pint of Arkwrights.

It wasn’t far to the Euxton Mills at Euxton and some Cocker Hoop and Cocky Blonde. The Red Herring at Coppull has a limited range, but is an interesting pub conversion. It once housed the offices of the mill next-door and has a decent outdoor drinking area where we enjoyed out Hornbeam Mary Rose.
The final stop undoubtedly offered the best selection of the day. Ten real ales were on offer at the Crown In Worthington . There was plenty to tempt the closet and not-so-closet ticker, but I found Oakham Citra to be the best of the bunch. This, despite Tandleman’s adjudging it to be inferior to Ossett Citra, brought much enjoyment to many. Perhaps too much to some people.

An excellent day out, socially, but Croston really needs to up its game to regain its once proud reputation.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Lyon Law

There is some debate in these fair lands about whether the on and off-trade should be treated differently. The theory being that preference should be given to the on-trade as it represents the more responsible and better regulated side of alcohol consumption. The off-trade is often regarded as being responsible for cheap booze and subsequent social problems.
Well, across la Manche, the authorities in Lyon are about to put that idea into practice. After years of denial, the French are finally admitting that they have a problem with that Anglo-Saxon curse: le binge drinking. And yes, that is what they call it in the land of the smelly cheese.
As of Monday this week, shops will be forbidden to sell alcohol between the hours of 10pm and 6am. This is to counter what Lyon officials describe as the “massive and brutal” summer consumption of alcohol in public. The ban will run until the 10th of September and shopkeepers caught breaching the ban could face fines of €750.
This sort of social experiment throws up a myriad of questions and possibilities. What effect will this have on the problem? Will youngsters drink less or simply frequent pubs and bars more often? Will there be a surge of desperate drinkers at 21:59 trying to stockpile their booty?
Of course, should such a measure be tried over here, I would expect people to be manning burning barriers and carrying out raiding parties. For is not the right to booze after 10pm one of our hardest fought-for civil rights?

Monday, 18 July 2011

And What Would The Lady Like?

It was first discussed way back in January and now the wait is finally over. The moment has arrived. Ladies up and down the country can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Yes, after two and a half years and a reported cost of £1M, Molson Coors have unveiled their female-friendly beer: Animee.
From the French for “motivated” (could it be any more pretentious), Animee is described as “bloat-resistant”. This apparently means that it’s less gassy and lighter in taste than other beers. And you will be spoilt for choice, as it will be available in 275ml bottles in three varieties; standard, rose and citrus.
Not to be left out, Carlsberg, who flopped last year with their female-targeted Eve brand, are set to launch their Copenhagen beer in the UK in 2012. They describe it thus: “Copenhagen is intended for modern women (and men), who appreciate a refreshing taste delivered in a stylish design.”
And they go onto say: “The beer has a light, refreshing taste, while the design is rooted in Copenhagen as an international city of fashion and design.” I’m getting the impression that it’s light and refreshing.
Of course “refreshing” from a national brewer usually means bland, but Jeanette Elgaard Carlsson, International Innovation Director at Carlsberg, puts it slightly differently: “Many young people aren’t keen on the bitter aftertaste of beer. Here our surveys show that with Copenhagen we have created a highly drinkable beer with a balanced taste — a real alternative to white wine and champagne.”
So it’s a light, refreshing, balanced, alternative to white wine and champagne. But don’t wine and champagne have distinctive tastes? Will women really abandon them to drink something bland and completely different?
The whole idea is patronising and stupid. It’s like a throwback to the 70s. And it demonstrates just how the big brewers still don’t get beer. Beer is inclusive and not exclusive. It’s about breaking down barriers, not building them. There is a beer for everyone and they should be spending their money promoting the vast range of beer that is out there. Not treating a whole gender as lepers.
Some people have more money than sense.

Breakfast Beer Review: Kernel Imperial Brown Stout London 1856

It’s Monday. And in the words of Bob Geldof:”I don’t like Mondays.” So what’s the best way to shake off the Monday morning blues? I don’t know, but I’m going to try and blur the edges with Kernel’s Imperial Brown Stout London 1856.

Basics: This is what we technically refer to as a ‘dick-kicker’. It’s 10.1%. Yes, the breakfast beer review has finally passed the 10% barrier. It comes in the standard 330ml bottle-probably no bad thing-and according to the label was brewed on the 15.2.11.

It was very lively and poured a very dark brown/black with a small mocha foam head. The aroma was a pungent combination of roast malt and coffee.

Taste: Powerful and complex. Initial flavours of dark chocolate, liquorice, roast malt and coffee.  This develops into a strong, espresso like, bitterness that puckers on the cheek.

Finish: Long, dry-roasted coffee bitterness.

Conclusion: The powerful flavours successfully mask the high alcohol content, leading to a rich drinking experience.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Can't Give You Anything But My Love

I think it was Elisabeth Barrett Browning who said of the sparkler: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height. My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight.” And I think that pretty well sums up every rational person’s attitude to the sparkler. Never has something so small given so much pleasure to so many.

I was reminded of this with Tandleman’s recent post about a new type of sparkler. Wonderful news indeed. Of course I wanted one, and dropped a heavy hint to that effect. I may be above begging for free beer, but sparklers are a different matter. And lo and behold, one duly arrives at my door. I guess good things do come to those that deserve them. Or sometimes at least.

But before looking at that in detail, let us consider a brief history of the sparkler debate. For, inconceivable as it may seem to any sane person, it does have its detractors. No, honestly it does. The Neo-Luddites would have you believe it’s the work of the Devil. It’s a modern invention misused by landlords, it takes all the bitterness out of beer, except for Northern beers which are brewed that way. I’ve heard them all.

 Sparkler Myths
“They are a modern invention designed to ensure that pubs can get away with serving less than a pint.”
Sparklers have been around a long time. As far back as the 1920s, publicans were being urged to acquire sparklers from Messrs. Farrow & Jackson of Great Tower Street, London.

“They are used by lazy landlords to disguise flat, unconditioned, tepid beer.”
To quote the great Tandleman: “A sparkler won't help dead in the water beer.”

“Some of the volatile components associated with bitterness are driven out of a liquid when served with a tight sparkler."
Sparklers do not, and cannot physically lower the “bitterness” of the beer. A sparkler drives out some carbon dioxide (hence the foam), and in the foam there is certainly a mix of compounds which (following Dalton's law of partial pressures) is in proportion to what was in the beer.

If we assume foam is about 25% beer, then in the 75% remainder is where the 'volatiles' would be. Carbon dioxide has a high Henry's Constant, so ripping through a sparkler may cause it to flash out some of these ‘volatiles’. I say may, as I’m yet to see any detailed chemical proof of this. And, in any case, this would affect the aroma, not the bitterness.

Which brings us to, who is behind this campaign of disinformation? Sadly, one of the greatest perpetrators is CAMRA itself. Like many organisations, it has its reactionary elements and they have often been in positions of power. This faction were very active in the 90s (the first sparkler war) and tended to see beer from the wood, served at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, as the ideal for real ale.

One consequence of all this was that CAMRA started giving sparkler dispense advice in the GBG. A good thing, yes? Yes...but the deck is rigged against the poor little sparkler. The default position is no sparkler. Fair enough, you might think, but there’s no real reason for it. And there was no consultation on it, either.

At least the brewers get to specify their preference, right? Yes...but there’s a little historical twist to this as well. The anti-sparkler brigade were terrified that their favourite beers would get the sparkler green light. So they arranged it that if a branch felt that a beer was better off without a sparkler, they could override the brewer’s wishes. Shocking, but true.

But enough of the historical persecution of the unfortunate sparkler. We come bang up to date with the futuristic Vari-Head model. Now everyone has a favourite sparkler; the black, the white, the red, the lesser-seen green, but this has the potential to supplant them all.

By means of a simple sliding mechanism, the pourer can adjust the sparkler. Thereby simultaneously satisfying the sparkler aficionado and those poor, deluded, numpties who prefer it sans sparkler. No more fiddling around and transferring of sparklers or hunting around for the one that some idiot made you take off. Like garlic bread, it's the future.

So here’s to the drinker’s best friend: the sparkler. 

Friday, 1 July 2011

Tandleman Goes POTY*

Last night saw the great and the good of Rochdale, Oldham and Bury CAMRA get together to present its Pub of the Year award. This prestigious award is given to the pub that the branch feels has been truly outstanding during the previous 12 months. Given the scope of the branch, and the number of contenders, winning it is no mean feat.

This year’s recipient is the Hare & Hounds at Holcombe Brook. Situated at the junction of Bolton Road West and Longsight Road, it has been ably overseen (with a brief hiatus) by Andy & Lynne for some 12 years. It has been opened up and sympathetically decorated over that time to give a comfortable, family friendly, vibe. It also boats an impressive two-storey rear drinking area.

However, this is CAMRA, so beer must play a part somewhere. And on that score, the Dogs has it covered. Ten handpumps dispense a wide variety of ales, all cooled and served with sparklers, naturally, and the current range can be viewed by looking at the ale cam on their webpage. Beer festivals are regularly held, with around 50 beers all served via handpump. The beer does tend to shift in here, with Oakham JHB and Inferno not lasting two hours last night.  

So congratulations to Andy and his team, and if you get the chance, why not call in and try it yourself? It’s at 400 Bolton Road West and is open 12-11 Sun-Weds, 12-12 Thurs-Sat. Food is served all day and the 472/474 buses will take you past the door.

*I've always wanted to write that headline.