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Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Summit

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This morning’s little treat is yet another of the Kernel single-hop IPAs. Summit is an interesting hop. It’s got lots of technical characteristics that endear it to hop enthusiasts and I believe it was the first dwarf variety produced in the USA. It’s noted not only for its bittering qualities, but also for its aromatic prowess.

So, if anyone should be able to produce an excellent single-hop IPA from it, who else but hop experts Kernel?
It came in the usual bottle-conditioned Kernel size and is 7.5% by volume. It poured the usual hazy amber with a small off-white head. True to form, it was very pungent. Strong grapefruit and orange notes with some pine resin thrown in there as well.
The taste is interesting and very powerful. Citrus in nature, yes, but completely different to the previous Kernel tried. This isn’t exotically mixed tropical flavours but rather a direct punch of bitter grapefruit and (Valencia?) orange. The bitterness really comes through; leading to a mouth-puckering, dry…

Christmas Eve Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Citra, Motueka, Chinook

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It’s time to really get into that Christmas groove and sharpen the palate for later today. So we return to the Kernel and another of their triple hop whammies. This one comes in the usual 330ml Kernel house style bottle and is 7% by volume.

It poured hazy amber with a perfectly formed white head. The aroma was delightful: plenty of exotic and ripe citrus fruits and a touch of pine. Taste wise, it was medium-bodied and tangy. Mango, peach, grapefruit and lemon, it’s all in here. And just a touch of floral/herbal tanginess that I think must come from the Motueka.
This is a perfectly blended IPA that fizzes over the tongue and leads to a pleasingly bitter finish. I found it very refreshing-it doesn’t drink like 7%-and the perfect appetiser for today’s merriment.

Book Review: Craft Beer London

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It’s no secret that London’s craft beer scene is booming. There’s even talk that, one day, they may rival Bury as the chic beer capital of the UK. Well, let them dream, I say. In the meantime, it can be difficult to navigate round the seemingly bewildering list of beer attractions that London has to offer. Yes, the internet is full of info, but it takes time and you need to know where to look.

This is where this pocket-sized guide comes in. You can’t beat having all the information you require at your fingertips and this handy little book promises you a compendium of the best that London has to offer. Compiled by Will Hawkes, the Independent’s beer expert, it breaks London down into manageable zones: Central, East, North etc and highlights the best places to try craft beer.
In a book of this size, there is only so much room for detailed descriptions. Thus this is reserved for the main entries. They each get a nice right up; including transport info. However, there is additional listing …

Put Down The Tablets And Pick Up Some Roquefort

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So now it’s official. Celebrity chefs are bad for your health and mouldy cheese could help you live longer. Yes, these are the health stories of the week. Celebrity cookbooks from the likes of Jamie Oliver apparently not only hit you in the pocket but in the heart as well. According to research published this week, their recipes contain more fat and salt than is good for you and you’d be better off buying a Tesco Value ready meal. There’s even talk of banning them from TV until after the watershed.

On the other hand, it’s been an excellent week for cheese lovers. Lycotech, a Cambridge-based biotech company, think they may have uncovered one of the secrets behind the so-called “French paradox”. This is the puzzler that French folk, despite eating a high salt/saturated fat diet, are healthier and live longer than us Greggs pasty-munching lot.
The French get a fair portion of their saturated fat intake from eating cheese. Now it seems that, far from harming them, mouldy cheeses such as Ro…

No Reservations Please, We're British

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An increasing trend, brought into sharp focus by my latest London excursion, is for pubs to reserve tables for patrons. Now, of course, this has long been common practice in ones that major on food and is sensible, particularly if you’re travelling any distance. Nobody likes to turn up with Aunty Jean and find that there’s no room at the Inn.

However, we’re not talking about gastropubs (sorry, couldn’t think of a better name for them), Brewer’s Fayre or anything of that ilk. No, I’m addressing the ones that do very little or, even more frustrating, basically no food at all. I simply cannot see the justification in potentially alienating the customers who have already come through the doors and are willing to spend time and money there.
And it’s not even as though these are large tables best suited for groups. I’ve seen signs on little ones that can fit three people on at best. And this is isn’t some form of British Stammtisch in action. No, this is usurpers trying to circumvent tried …

The Morning After

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Any serious drinker will have been there at least once. You wake up with a hangover and only a fuzzy recollection of the night before. Slowly the foggy haze lifts and the memory returns. Did you really say that? Did you really do that? And who hasn’t spent more on a night’s drinking than they planned to? I know I have. But have you ever considered trying to get that money back?

Well William Ilg did. Waking up to the realisation that he’d run up a $28,000 bar tab at the Hustler Club in Manhattan; this being America, he promptly sued. Mr IIg’s case was simple: the club should not have continued to serve him because he was "no longer capable of conducting financial transactions". Further, the club had committed “a fraud and wrongful conversion” because they wouldn't give him a refund.
Sadly for him, the court wasn’t having any of it. It rejected his case along with his request for punitive damages for the club’s “outrageous conduct”. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Manuel Me…

Golden Pint Awards 2012

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It's that time of year again when we recognise the best in the beery world. With so much dross around, it's only right that we recognise those that set the standard for others to follow. So, aftter much consideration; well, while I wait for my next pint to arrive, anyway, here's my tuppence worth.

Best UK Handpulled Beer: Hawkshead Windermere Pale
Runners Up: Oakham Citra, Magic Rock Curious NZ
Best UK Draught Beer: Summer Wine Oregon Pale
Runners Up: Magic Rock High Wire NZ, Kernel Table Beer
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Kernel C.A.S.C
Best Overseas Bottle or Canned Beer: To Øl First Frontier
Best Overseas Draught Beer: Coalition Green Pig Fresh Hop Ale
Best UK Brewery: Allgates, Hawkshead, Kernel
Best Overseas Brewery: Coalition
Best Pumpclip or Label: Rukus Brewing Hoptimus Prime
Pub/Bar of the Year: Bailey’s Taproom
Beer Festival of the Year: Hare & Hounds, Holcombe Brook
Supermarket of the Year: Booths
Online Retailer of the Year: Beer Merchants
Best Beer Book or Magazi…

Unicorn Body Hair

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No, I’m sorry; this isn’t about unicorn body hair. Ha. Made you look, though. This is actually an update about London. Or Landahn as good queen Bess likes to call it. I recently had the pleasure of once more perusing its golden streets in search of some new hostelries. And, naturally, pay homage to some old favourites.

Craft is, of course, the brand that has been taking London by storm in recent times. They’ve now opened another two outlets, both excellent in terms of choice (Fyne Jarl was the anointed one), but different in style. Their Brixton outpost is reminiscent of Leather Lane, a cosy, modern corner-fronted pub with nice views of the adjacent market. Craft in Islington has a different vibe; with its front bar and distinctive coloured rooms. Islington, never too shabby on the pub front, is now setting the standard for new openings. The Pig and Butcher is packing them in with its gourmet food offerings but even they, like everywhere else visited locally, are paying more than a no…

Top of the Pops

Some cheering news before Crimbo as the latest blog rankings see me creep back into the top 40 hit parade for the first time in awhile. Looking at the readership, I see that, outside of the UK, most readers are in the USA and Germany. My Cossack brethren in Russia and the Ukraine account for a sizeable batch and there are obviously some very discerning readers in Israel.
The search terms that drive people here always make for interesting reading. Surprising, but related terms: “you aren’t getting shit for Christmas” and “santa taking a shit” got me thinking, but “unicorn body hair” just left me perplexed. I can’t recall mentioning any such thing in a blog post and can only imagine what would happen to my rankings if I actually did.
Anyway... Christmas is coming The goose is getting fat But I’m a vegetarian So that’s enough of that.

New Lease For Dusty Miller

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There are few genuine celebrities in the licensing world. However, tonight Bury will welcome one such rare beast as the new licensee of the Dusty Miller. The Dusty, a Moorhouses pub that featured for many years in the Good Beer Guide, has been closed since September and, until recently, there were fears for its future.
Now, after a £200,000 refurbishment, it’s set to reopen under the management of the man who once laid claim to being Britain’s most controversial publican. Nick Hogan made national headlines for continuing to allow smoking in Barristers in Bolton after the smoking ban came into force.
The story is well known to many, but suffice it to say that, after failing to pay £10,000 accrued in fines and legal costs, he was jailed for six months. His supporters-to whom he is somewhat of an Elizabethan martyr-quickly rallied round and paid the monies: enabling him to leave gaol after serving only twelve days. He then turned up at the Swan with Two Necks in Chorley; where I stumbled a…

Talking Point: Cheese & Salt

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It’s been a bad week for two of man’s staple requirements for a happy life: beer and cheese. No need to elaborate on the beer front: Dave’s smarmy face has been all over the news; first as he begins his jihad on booze one day and the next as he sidesteps Leveson and sticks his tongue up Murdoch’s arsehole.
No, what struck me was the latest attack on cheese. Poor Mr Mozzarella and other perfectly innocent members of the cheese family were once more put in the firing line. Last time it was over the amount of saturated fat that it can have. Now the so-called health "experts" are whipping themselves into a frenzy over the salt level of some cheeses.
More salt in cheese than seawater," ran one alarmist headline this week as some parts of the media played up the shock and awe angle. The source of this latest outbreak of health hysteria was a report by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) which surveyed 772 supermarket cheeses and found that Cheddar had an average of 0.5…

Hawkshead@PSBH

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The last meet-the-brewer at Port Street for 2012 turned out to be a real humdinger. No surprise, really, as the party concerned were Hawkshead; who consistently brew some of the finest beers in the land. And who, with Windermere Pale, have one of the most suppable beers that money can buy.
Although the Cumbrian massive came down mob-handed, it was left up to Matt Clake, the brewer, to do all the talking. As you would expect from a fella from the land of hobbits, it was informal and pitched just right. We had an interesting discourse throughout the night, but unfortunately (not for him) as their beers are too damn good, I was unable to offer my usual services in brewing correction.
Of course WPA had to be drank, as did far too much of the tweaked New Zealand Pale Ale which, despite being boozy, is seriously addictive. There was also a welcome outing for the often overlooked Brodie’s Prime. This is a tasty dark treat that was one of the forerunners for many of today’s black IPAs.
However,…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brasserie des Sources Bellerose Bière Blonde

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We go across the water for today’s breakfast treat and say bonjour to this French beer. It’s a top fermented brew made with three hops from three different continents and is an attempt to cross a traditional “bière de Garde" with an IPA style. Interestingly it comes from the brewery founded by Gérard Depardieu and his two friends.

It’s a 33cl, bottle-conditioned, 6.5% beer. The label is a rather classy in the French way, although a 1950s pinup girl risks ire in some quarters. It poured golden with good carbonation and a sizeable white head. The aroma was yeasty with a touch of citrus. I believe it’s supposed to be lychee, but I got more orange and lemon.
Taste wise, it’s fruit-led and has a good, peppery spiced aftertaste. It’s a smooth beer that hides the alcohol well and you could picture this being served at a dinner party. Being an old fashioned type of beerhound, I like beer that I can actually drink and this one isn’t hard to sup at all.
The French, bless ‘em, aren’t renowned…

Petit Pont-l'Évêque

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Pont-l'Évêque has a long lineage and lays claim to be the oldest Normandy cheese still in production. It can trace its history back to at least the 12th century when it was known as "angelot". It gained national prominence in the 16th century and became known by its geographical area of production.
Being a cheese of some stature, of course it is protected by an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) that sets out stringent requirements for any cheese that wants to go under that name. This was a Petit variety, so has to be 8.5-9.5 cm square, and have a minimum of 85g of dry matter.
The cheese itself is pale yellow with a white-orange washed rind that gives it a pungent aroma that may make you think that it’s stronger than it really is. Actually it’s very refined with a soft, creamy, buttery texture that brings a little piece of the Normandy sunshine with it.
It’s often recommended to drink Normandy cider with it or champagne. But I’ve just paired it with a bottle of Pino…

In The Black

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The Grocer reports bad tidings for Diageo, makers of the “black liquidation with the froth on the top”. Sales of their star brand Guinness have fallen by nearly 10 million pints in the last year. That breaks down into a 15.8% fall for Guinness Draught and a 5% slump in Guinness Original sales.

Now, Guinness is a market leader and is a very heavily advertised brand. Indeed their esoteric adverts, while baffling the public, have long been the darling of the advertising industry. But times change and sales have been in decline for some time now.
Experts attribute various reasons for the fall-off in sales. Their traditional market is shrinking: there is a general shift towards lighter drinks and the growing premium bottle market has made inroads into their customer base.
Guinness is also under increasing pressure from the supermarket’s own brand Stouts. This is a difficult front to fight on as Guinness has traditionally been priced as a premium product. However, it seems that with Tesco’s …

Cheap Booze Shock

Get ready to be outraged. Really outraged. Are you ready yet? Are you really ready? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Tonight’s Manchester Evening News led with a humdinger of a story. You could feel the outrage from a foot away. A couple of things immediately struck me about the article. Firstly, it’s a non-story. But the famously parsimonious MEN always likes to make a crisis out of a drama and if it can be patronising, sensational and or just plainly wrong; so much the better.
Secondly, the tone is laughable. It leads with the fact that the cheap tramp juice contains more alcohol units than men should consume in a WEEK. Yes, you heard me, a WEEK. OMG. Call out the army. Call out the navy. But, (yawn) hold on, aren’t these the same units that, by the government’s own admission, are imaginary and therefore have no empirical basis? Erm...moving on.
Well what about the price then? It’s three times less than the proposed minimum unit price. Indeed it is three times less than yet another discred…

Calling Time On The Supermarket Conversion

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CAMRA has called on the government to close loopholes in the planning laws that allow the likes of Tesco to convert pubs into supermarkets without undergoing the usual local scrutiny. Research by CAMRA members has shown that, since 2010, over 200 pubs have undergone conversion; the majority (130) by Tesco: well, every little helps.
The appeal of pub-to-supermarket conversions is simple. A public house is, for planning purposes, already considered a retail unit. So if Tesco, Sainsbury’s etc want to open on the site, they can do so without undergoing the usual change of use process. This of course sidesteps the local authority and has the added bonus, if the premises are less than 280 sq metres, of bypassing the Sunday Trading Act.
This circumventing of local consultation has been highlighted before, but CAMRA believe it’s more imperative than ever that this anomaly is corrected. And they’re not alone. Greg Mulholland MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Save The Pub Group, has wri…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mighty Hop Black Pearl Porter

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This morning we go to the dark side with a Porter from Dorset’s very own Mighty Hop Brewery. Based in Lyme Regis, they’ve been brewing since 2010 and are yet another outfit setup with the aid of Bury’s very own PBC (Brewery Installations) Ltd.
It’s a 500ml bottle and is bottle-conditioned, so careful with that pour. It came out a very dark, almost black, brown with little carbonation and a small tan head. The aroma was quite strong: lots of roast malt, burnt toast and caramel.
The beer itself was surprisingly light-bodied with a lot less roast than the aroma had. There’s toffee, caramel and a coffee. bitter chocolate aftertaste that dissipates quickly on the tongue. Not a heavy, slow supping, traditional Porter, but more of a session one.
You can’t really fault this on the easy-to-drink Richter scale. There’s enough flavour to keep those who like their Porters more substantial happy, but it’s not too heavy for those who aren’t naturally dark beer drinkers.

Seven Stars

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Another link to Bury’s proud brewing past has gone with the conversion of the Seven Stars, on Rochdale Road, to Automoney. Originally a tied house of the nearby Crown Brewery (the photo is from 1952), the pub has gone through many guises over the years. Each seemingly bringing a further decline in fortunes. Its last closure turned out to its final hurrah and leaves but two pubs on Rochdale Road.

Tyson@Beagle

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There’s a new kid on the block in Chorlton and it’s called the Beagle. Situated on the site of the former Scotts Hill, but probably better known in its former incarnation as Charango, this Beagle has a pedigree. Yes, it’s the latest outlet from the guys behind Common and the Port Street Beer House.

Each of their pubs has its own identity and the Beagle is unashamedly (modern) British in outlook. This can be seen in the range of drinks and its very promising food menu. The full details can be found on their website. Now it’s fair to say that the Beagle wasn’t quite ready when the Beerhound first called. It’s still something of a work in progress-the telephone wasn’t even connected yet-but it’s clearly an impressive operation. The second visit went much better: well there was beer for a start! Both the house beers tried were excellent and with the familiar face of Will, from the PSBH, at the helm, it’s clear that the Beagle will soon be an integral part of the Chorlton scene. I look for…

Mr Tweed's Manx Adventure

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If you are thinking of going to the Isle of Man in November: don’t bother. It’s closed. Or most of it appears to be, anyway. Its numerous railways are finished for the season and, particularly outside of Douglas, the landscape is as barren as George Osborne’s economic outlook. There is the aviation and military museum-handily combined (open Sundays), but don’t imagine an Imperial War Museum type structure. Think more shed-in-a-field. However, you will need to seek shelter from the unforgiving wind and rain that plagues this heathen backwater. That is where the local hostelries come in. The IOM does have a number of good pubs and real ale is widely available. Choice has often been somewhat limited, but this has steadily increased over the years and, on my recent visit, I was pleasantly surprised by the range that is now available.
Castletown has two good offerings. The Castle Arms (AKA the Glue Pot) is the only pub to feature on a Manx note and is a very cosy local. The Okells IPA wa…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Flying Dog International Arms Race

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Now this is an interesting one. In a battle of the international (brew) dogs, it was decided that the UK’s very own Brewdog would go head to head against Maryland’s Flying Dog. The challenge: to brew the same IPA and then let the public decide which was best. The twist here is that they wouldn’t use hops.
Yes, two famous hop-led breweries producing a hopless IPA. Clever, eh? Instead they had to use spearmint, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries, and elderflower to impart bitterness. In a tightly fought series of blind tastings, the Flying Dog version emerged as the winner.
It’s 7.5% and comes in a 12oz bottle. It poured amber with good carbonation and an initial decent looking head that disappeared incredibly quickly. I got some bubblegum (spearmint?) and quite a bit of floral (elderflower?) notes in the aroma.
Taste wise, there is the usual solid malt backbone that you would expect from an IPA. Beyond that the overall impression is herbal. The unusual ingredients have been used to go…

A Knight To Remember

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I’ve been asked to recap this little trip to our fair capital as, unlikely as it seems, several of the reprobates involved may have had the odd drink or two. Apparently this has clouded their memory of some of the hostelries involved. The exception being the Lamb & Flag: possibly something to do with the clag-hair pulling gymnastic display that we witnessed there.
So, as a public service, here’s a summary of our itinerary. Both Craft and the Euston Tap featured at the beginning and the end of the adventure with Magic Rock soothing the palate here. The impressive Parcel Yard at King’s Cross got a look in as did the snob screens in the Lamb. The Hat & Tun was very disappointing, but the Seven Stars and the Gunmakers were both on good form.
A new discovery and one worth revisiting is the Queens Head on Acton St. This smart, one-roomed boozer had a good selection on both draught and in bottle and with a barmaid from Portland, what more could you ask for? The first visit to Kernel br…

Help Me Make It Thro' The Night

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These are tough times for pubs. Particularly for the out-of-town local (OTL) that can’t boast a large car park for diners or lots of passing trade. In recent times we’ve seen a steady erosion of the street corner and mod-terrace type of pub that were once as common as an MP’s fiddled expenses.
Local authorities have heeded the smoke signals coming from the government and, ever since they seized control of licensing, seem to have made the suburban pub their public enemy number one. Whilst continuing to license and tolerate any number of premises in the town centre; the slightest infringement by an OTL is seized upon eagerly.
Sadly the local authority is now often acting at the behest of a disgruntled neighbour. Where once the attraction of moving next door to a pub was seen as moving closer to an amenity, this is no longer the case. The pub’s proximity is seen as a nuisance, an annoyance that is best curtailed. If you don’t use it why should anyone else, seems to be the attitude.
Thus i…

Seattle

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Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest and still has the feel of a metropolis that has not reached its peak yet. Cocky, like a boxer on his way up; it boasts an excellent transport system that sees some of the highest transit user rates in North America and some of the very few electric trolley buses in the USA.

While it can seem brash and wears its prosperity on its sleeve, it’s undoubtedly fun. The skyline is dominated by the world famous Space Needle (great views, but overpriced) and the futuristic monorail that connects to the Needle. They’re very proud of their monorail. That’s fair enough, but I told them if they want to see a real monorail in action, they need to get to Blackpool; preferably during the Illuminations.
Although known as the Rainy City due to its rainfall, it was actually going through a near-record dry spell whilst I was there. And once you work out the address system, you’re on your way. Because, despite being a techno-hub, it’s quite traditional i…

Cap in Hand

Want to learn how to alienate many of your clientele and attract unwanted publicity? Then try banning flat caps and refuse to serve the Daily Mirror’s Paul Routledge for wearing one. Yes, that’s what Pearsons in Chorley have done. Now some pubs do have restrictions on baseball caps etc for security reasons, but this flat cap ban seems to go above and beyond common reasoning and is only nurturing their business rivals. Bets are on for how long it lasts.
Read the full story here.

The Worm Turns

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There has been quite some debate both within and outside of the alcohol lobby this week over a recent article by Klaus Makela. Why? Well, the article takes to task the now seemingly orthodox view that cost-of-alcohol studies are an accurate model for governments to base policy on.
These sorts of studies-that try to quantify in monetary terms the adverse effects of alcohol-have become increasingly popular in recent years and have largely supplanted the traditional type of social study.
The reasons for their popularity aren’t hard to understand. Politicians love having figures to play with. For one thing, putting a figure on anything makes it easily identifiable as a problem. Our own government, for example, claims that “alcohol related harm” now costs society £21bn annually. And if you can quantify a problem with cost, you can be seen to be tackling the problem by making savings.
This lazy approach is easily sold to the media which loves simple stories that feature big numbers that they…

Ooh la la

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Bad news for our Garlic loving cousins across la Manche as the French president, François Hollande, has announced plans to increase the taxation on beer by a whopping 160%. Traditionally the French have enjoyed very low beer tax rates, even though this doesn’t always translate to the price punters pay at the bar. However, this measure is certain to put further pressure on an already strained market.
Jacqueline Lariven, spokeswoman for the French brewer's federation, Brasseurs de France, estimated that this would translate to an immediate 20% rise in beer prices in bars and supermarkets. The allure for the president is clear: a projected €480m to replenish the country's coffers. But set against a 6% fall in EU beer production and an 8% fall in beer consumption since 2008; no wonder the Brewers of Europe trade group describe it as a “kick in the teeth”.

Kirkstall@PSBH

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Monday evening saw the great and not-so-good head to the Port Street Beer House for a meet the brewer session with Kirkstall. Launched last year, they are an up-and-coming outfit based near Leeds on the side of the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
Although it was billed as a “meet the brewer” and he (Alex) was there, it was the gaffer, Steve Holt who did most of the talking. He gave a confident presentation that eschewed the basic malt-hops-yeast makes beer spiel and concentrated on the specifics of Kirkstall Brewery.
This was all for the good; as it’s safe to assume most of those assembled knew the ABC of brewing. What people are interested in (well I am, anyway) are what the brewery’s story is and what’s in their beer. Steve was obviously passionate not only about the Kirkstall beers, but also about the local heritage and the history of the original Kirkstall Brewery, Which all made for an entertaining and informative evening.
Kirkstall Pale Ale Inspired by American Pale Ales, but tempered …