Showing posts from January, 2013

Up And At Them

It seems that there is some good news in 2013 concerning Call Me Dave and Wee Eck’s puritanical campaign against alcohol and its perceived blight on society. The Scotch Whisky Association has already filed a formal complaint to the European Commission over plans for minimum pricing and they, along with other trade bodies, will shortly argue their case in the Court of Sessions.
Now the Wine & Spirit Association is leading a campaign to get the public on board in opposing minimum pricing. Something which is, after all, in their own best interests. The campaign will take the form of PR and radio spots highlighting how the measure is out of touch with the current economic climate and how it will affect the poorest hardest of all.
There will also be a website-going live on Tuesday-that will feature a calculator to demonstrate how minimum pricing will impact on the drinks people buy. This is just the sort of organised action that is required and it’s good to see the likes of Asda, Morri…

The Drink Driving Pill (2)

Remember this story about Arthur Kibble and the drink drive pill? If you though the tablet had been banned and Mr Kibble consigned to the Andy Warhol trashcan of fame, you’d be wrong. They haven’t and he appeared in the news today for all the wrong reasons.
It appears that not everyone was a fan of the product and, according to Mr Kibble; he has received hate mail and deaths threats that have forced the 66 year-old to quit as ALCO-PAL’s UK agent. He explained: “I have had people waiting for me at my local pub. I have had hate mail. It has caused domestic problems.”
The final straw came when a gunman appeared at his door and threatened him after claiming his wife had been killed by a drunk driver. A worrying escalation when one has to remember that he was selling a legal, albeit controversial, product. It certainly doesn’t seem worth the stress for what he probably originally envisaged as an easy way to make a few quid.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery Queen-E IPA

This morning we’re moving on from Pale Ale to try this locally produced IPA. No guesses as to what, or rather who, inspired this, as the label is pretty self-evident. It’s a 5.5% brew and comes in the standard 500ml bottle-conditioned form that RCB prefers.
It poured light amber with good carbonation and a neatly formed off-white head. The aroma was a little malt and some berried fruits. The body itself wasn’t particularly heavy given the strength. There was a biscuit malt backbone with a leading tart edge of fruitiness that developed into a dry finish.
An old-school IPA that may appeal to those who like their beers on the traditionally sharp side, rather than a modern hop bomb.


(1) Matt Holmes, the man behind Ramsbottom Craft Brewery, has finally become legitimate. He has been brewing for some 12 months now at his garage in Heapworth Avenue and possesses all the correct paperwork to cover insurance, Customs and Excise etc but lacked one crucial piece of paper.
The council said that as he was running a business from home, he would have to apply for retrospective planning permission. This has now been granted and his operation has been given the “rubber stamp” of approval. As it’s on residential premises, though, there won't be any brewery tours in the foreseeable future.
(2) Yates Wine Lodge on Market Street, Bury. Figures have just been published that show that the police in Greater Manchester were called out to pubs, bars and clubs some 56,000 times over the last two years.
Unsurprisingly Manchester City Centre venues take up all the places in the top 10. But look at premises outside of Manchester and the winner is Yates in Bolton with 182 call outs. An…

You're In The Army Now? Not In My Pub

The problem of ID in pubs and the difficulty that some armed forces personnel have had in getting served has been quite well documented in recent times. Indeed, so much so that I am surprised that it is an issue at all now. After all, Wetherspoon and Punch, to name but two, have both come unstuck over it and subsequently been berated by the popular press.
So imagine my surprise to find that the same scenario had repeated itself locally. Haydn Astley, 19, who was on leave from the Royal Artillery, went to the Knowsley pub with his father and family members for a meal. However, when it was his turn to go to the bar, he was refused service on the grounds that he couldn’t prove his age.
His army ID, which carries a photo of him along with his date of birth, was deemed insufficient proof of age. The barmaid insisted that he had to produce either his driving licence or his passport. Now with his driving licence being with the DVLA and his passport being with the army, he was unable to comply…

Disco Cheese Inferno

It’s not often that cheese and the phrase road traffic accident is mentioned in the same news report, but it was today. After burning for five days, a fire in a road tunnel near the northern coastal town of Narvik in Norway has finally been extinguished. And the cause of the fire: 27 tonnes of brunost, a Norwegian brown cheese delicacy.
Brunost, which has a caramel taste, is made from whey and has around a 30% fat content; hence the fierceness of the fire. A spokesman for Norway’s public roads administration, Kjell Bjoern Vinjie, said that in his 15 tears in the department, this was the first time that cheese had caught fire on Norwegian roads. The tunnel is closed for repairs and remains unsafe due to the presence of toxic gasses.
So while smoked cheese can be a delicacy, it appears that burning 27 tonnes of it is a health hazard.

The Hills Of Kerry

A real curate’s egg of a story today with the news that Kerry county council has voted (5-3) for a motion that would allow people living in rural areas to drink and drive. The motion, proposed by independent councillor Danny Healy-Rae, would mean the creation of a permit for rural drivers allowing them to drink after having “two or three drinks”.
Healy-Rae argued that people living in rural areas were ”travelling very minor roads” which had “very little traffic” and that “they had never killed anyone”. Mr Healy-Rae is a pub landlord and believes that the recent reduction (in was reduced to 50mg in 2011) of the drink-drive limit has led to a loss of social outlets for lonely people.
“The only outlet they have then is to take home a bottle of whisky and they’re falling into depression, and suicide for some of them is the sad way out,” he added. However, not everyone shares Mr Healy-Rae’s views. The Irish Labour councillor, Gillian Wharton-Slattery, said: “Depression causes suicide. It’s …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery Daffodil Pale Ale

The mornings might be dark and miserable and the evenings dark and, er, miserable, but today we look towards spring and daffodils. Yes, it’s Daffodil Pale Ale. As usual from RCB, it’s a 500ml bottle-conditioned beer and comes in bang on at 4%.
I missed out on trying the Daffodil IPA at 6.2%, but this is presumably its baby brother. It poured a nice light amber with good carbonation and the merest trace of an off-white head. The aroma was promising; citrus notes of fresh orange.
The taste was clean and crisp. An orange led burst of flavour develops tangerine notes over a balanced malt backbone and finishes tart and dry. Despite the temptation to serve this cooler, I would let it warm up to fully appreciate its balanced nature.
An excellent little effort that shows it is possible to bottle-condition lower strength beers and still maintain a depth of flavour.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery Thai Witbier

We’re keeping the international theme going today with an exotic little number from Ramsbottom Craft Brewery. Last outing we had wheat beer, this time we have a Thai Witbier. It’s 5.7% and comes in 500ml bottle-conditioned form.
It was very lively and poured cloudy amber with a large off-white head. The aroma was slightly musty with lemon and spice coming through later. The taste was spicy and quite tart. There’s ginger in there along with lemongrass and a tinge of orange in the background.
The finish was short: a little burst of lemon and ginger. Trying to compare the two wheat beers, I’d have to say I prefer the normal wheat over this one. The spice element comes through a little too much for my liking in this one, at the expense of the other flavours.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery Wheat Beer

We’re staying local this morning with another beer from RCB/ But heading towards the lighter side of the spectrum with a wheat beer. This is a Belgium whit, so I’m thinking along Hoegaarden lines when approaching it. It’s 500ml and bottle-conditioned and at a hefty 6.3%, is considerably stronger than Hoegaarden.
It poured (as is atypical of this type) a cloudy amber with good carbonation and a large off-white head. The aroma was a gentle mix of wheat and coriander. The taste is smooth and not particularly strong, with orange peel, coriander and a little honey. The finish is a short burst of spiced citrus.
Served cooler than the average BCA, this could be a refreshing after work or pre-breakfast drink.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery Scythe Party Mild

An unusual outing this morning; with the rare opportunity to sample a bottle-conditioned Mild. It’s the standard RBC 500ml and comes in at 3.9% which seems weak, but is actually stronger than most contemporary Milds.
It poured a chestnut brown with reasonable carbonation and a thin beige head. The aroma was very subtle with just a hint of berried fruit and a little malt. The taste was interesting; sharper than you would expect. Instead of a smooth mouthfeel, you get some malty fruitiness and then a slightly tart finish.
This might be considered something of a faux pas, if not for the fact that the bottle says it’s a Mild with a little tartness. So it does what it says on the tin. That, to some, may make this more of a Bitter than a Mild, but beer semantics aside; I can’t see anyone being offended by this gentle offering.

Here's To You, Ivan

The New Year celebrations may be just a distant memory for us Brits now as we struggle with our winter wonderland, but spare a thought for our Russian cousins. Many of them are still adjusting to 2013 after an extended holiday and booze-binge.
Russia officially only went back to work on Jan 9th after a weeklong slumber when the stock market is shut and newspapers aren’t published. However, some people carried on partying until they had seen in the New Year under the Julian (still the legitimate one, according to my father) calendar on Jan 13th.
Analysts estimate that this hiatus costs the Russian economy £20bn in lost revenue. But the people love it. Some escape the cities and head into the country. Or go to visit relatives. And a great many just “dive into a zapoi”. That’s binge-drink, in modern parlance. And my, don’t those Ruskies love their booze.
Vadim Dobroz, head of Russia’s Research Centre on the Federal and Regional Alcohol Market, claims that the average Russian spends £247 on…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery Noelweizen

This morning we’re sticking with the German theme in the shape of a locally brewed Hefeweizen. Bottled Hefeweizens are top-fermented, unfiltered, and bottle-conditioned wheat beers. They have a noticeable yeast sediment and a cloudy appearance. This 6%, 500ml, offering says it’s a traditional Hefeweizen, so that’s what I’m expecting.

It was extremely lively and poured a very hazy amber with a monster beige head. The aroma was mellow fruit, banana and pear drops. This led on into the taste-which didn’t seem 6%-with bubblegum, a little vanilla, and banana the dominant flavours. The finish was sweet fruit and a trailing off bubblegum residue.
I’m not sure about this one: the banana flavour wasn’t as pronounced as I was expecting from the bottle label, but it did possess other characteristics of the style. I think I will have to try this again. It would be interesting to see it trialled as a seasonal cask ale.

Portland, Oregon

Oregon has been called the heart and soul of craft brewing and it’s not hard to see why. It’s world famous for the quality and range of its beers and while once it may have conjured up an image of John Wayne on the Oregon trail; think of it today and hops and IPAs are more likely to spring to mind.

Oregonians take their beer drinking seriously-they drink some 40% of the state’s output. And since we’re not talking Budweiser type outfits here, that’s a lot of craft beer to tuck away. Sadly we don’t get to see too much of this (or the Pacific Northwest generally) great stuff over here. So the best place to sample it still is on home turf. There are several large beer festivals throughout the year, but Sep/Oct is particularly good.
And right at the centre of Oregon beer culture is Portland. It’s been known as the Rose City or Stumptown, but likes to revel in its modern nickname: Beervana. It boasts some 40 breweries; more than anywhere else in the world, not bad for a city of just over 590,…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery Hartholz Dunkel

Who doesn’t like a little Dunkel in the morning? Well that’s the challenge today with a Germanic offering from Matt at Ramsbottom Craft. It’s another 500ml bottle-conditioned beer that tips the scales at 5.8%.
It poured the dark brown you’d expect from this style with good carbonation and a large beige head. The aroma was sweet malt, caramel and a little shot of cloves. Not overpowering, but you wouldn’t expect that with this type of beer.
Taste wise, it was more of the same, with the sweet malt doing a good job of disguising the high alcohol content. There’s also some nutmeg and a distinctive bubblegum twist before the short, sweet finish.
I’m guessing this is actually a Dunkelweizen as it has many of the characteristics I’d associate with that style. Then again, it might just be the left over pizza I had with it for breakfast.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery Fat Lady Stout

Keeping with the local theme, today we try the Fat Lady Stout. This comes in at 4.6% and is 500ml and in bottle-conditioned form. It poured a healthy looking dark-almost black-brown with good carbonation and a neat beige head that slowly evaporated.
The aroma was slightly roasted with hints of dark chocolate and molasses. The taste was smoother than the aroma had led me to expect. The mouthfeel was more velvet in nature with lactic tones to take the edge off the bitterness.
This was more of a Milk Stout to me whilst I was probably gearing myself up for a dry one. That’s not a complaint as the roast barley was nicely matched by the sweetness to give an easy drinking experience.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery Scottish Red

I’m staying local again this morning with another Ramsbottom Craft Brewery effort. This one is in the style of a Scottish Red Ale. Now that’s a style that usually generates a lukewarm response from anyone living south of Loch Ness and I can’t claim to be its biggest fan, either. However, I’m trying to keep an open mind...and palate.
It’s 4.1% and comes in 500ml bottle-conditioned form. I quite like the simple, but effective label on this. It poured chestnut in colour with good carbonation and a medium beige head. The aroma was heavily malted with a deep, roasted resinous.
The roast was there in the taste but, to my surprise, not as much as the aroma might suggest. Still the roast dominates the flavour together with a little dark woodland fruit in the background. The resulting dry bitter finish is harsher than I would expect from this style, but better for it, in my opinion.
This is quite a heavy beer: it drinks more than 4.1% and is surprisingly bitter. But let it warm up and you’ve got …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Brewery-A Letter To Belgium

This morning sees me go local (the brewery is about 4 miles away) with this offering from the new Ramsbottom Craft Brewery. It’s described as a Belgium Abbey Single style and the bottle tells me it’s 5.8% and comes in bottle-conditioned 500ml form.
It poured hazy amber with reasonable carbonation and a thin beige head that quickly dissipates. The aroma was sweet malt with a tinge of spice. Wheat came through in the taste with a slight bubblegum undercurrent to the malt base. This leads to a short, sweetish finish.
The alcohol was well hidden in this by the malt sweetness and it drank like a lower strength, slightly spiced Best Bitter. An interesting first foray into RCB’s beers and I’m looking forward to trying some more.

Stop Me If You've Heard This Before

It was depressing to once more read claptrap from a politician who wants to micro-manage our lives. Even more sadly, it wasn’t the likes of Clueless Clegg and Call me Dave. This time it was the Labour Party’s token frontbench socialist, Diane Abbott. It’s sad because Ms Abbott has a degree of credibility and is a good communicator. However, she seems to have fallen foul of the classic politician’s curse: to talk bollocks about something they know little about.
In a wide-ranging interview, the shadow public health minister outlines her views on several issues that affect society. So far, so good. But, oh dear, she soon loses the plot and starts firing off ideas that are about as appealing as a fart in a cosmonaut’s spacesuit. Focusing on popular targets, obesity and alcohol, she said local authorities should be given stronger powers to ban the spread of fried chicken shops and other fast food outlets, and end the sale of cheap (uh-huh) alcohol from corner shops, especially near schools.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Black VI

Today’s breakfast treat is a Kernel special. The Black VI is a black IPA that comes in at 6.3% and is a bottle-conditioned 330ml.
It poured a very dark, almost black, brown with a good off-white head and plenty of carbonation. Now, the best black IPAs are fun as we tend to drink with our eyes, but these send out mixed messages. This is a classic in that respect; the aroma is strong citrus-grapefruit dominated, but with a subtle hint of coffee to give the game away.
The roast coffee flavour comes through strongly in the first round of tasting as it imparts a high level of bitterness. This is quickly followed by a powerful burst of spicy, grapefruit hop that really complements the darker flavours and leads to a satisfying, dry 

This is a perfectly constructed black IPA that delivers the best of both worlds.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel S.C.C.A.NS

Well it’s Friday, so it must be Kernel day. A very promising mix of Simcoe, Citra, Columbus, Apollo, and Nelson Sauvin hops go into this, so what can go wrong?
It’s the usual bottle-conditioned 330ml package but interestingly, at 6%, is a reduced-strength version of its previous incarnation. It poured very murky amber with a massive off-white head. The aroma was mostly tropical-pineapple and grapefruit-with a little pine there as well.
The taste was more of the same tropical fruit with some marmalade and mango thrown in. Maybe a bit of yeast as well, but the overall impression is of a very fruity, rather than bitter, IPA. Reducing the strength has done little to dampen the flavour. Not clean (topical insert) but very tasty, nonetheless.

The Whole Liver And Nothing But The Liver

There were more mixed messages for drinkers at the start of the new year; with the latest misinformation to feature in the media. The British Liver Trust has called on GPs to ask their patients more lifestyle questions and to offer a simple test to establish liver function. So far, so good. But, of course, the anti-alcohol bandwagon rolls on and the story was handily illustrated with a pint of lager.

Why? Because the age of death from liver disease is steadily decreasing. According to Andrew Langford, chief executive of the Trust: “It used to be in the 60s, now it is 58, and by 2020 we would expect it to be about 50.” And the main cause of liver disease is long-term abuse of alcohol. That’s why alcoholics get cirrhosis. Everyone knows that. QED.
But hold on, haven’t we busted the binge-drinking Britain myth before? Aren’t people drinking less than ever before? Yes, but you have to face the fact that between 2003 and 2010 alcohol-related hospital admissions doubled. Well yes, but isn’t …