Monday, 29 June 2015

The Great and the Good

No, not a run-down of bloggers and their foibles- I'll save that until another time - but a visit, on Saturday evening,  to my Branch area by the CAMRA National Executive and Regional Directors, who are collectively known as the NERDS. See? Even at the top, CAMRA does tongue in cheek.  Sortof.
After (a dry*) meeting in the Lancashire Fusiliers Museum in Bury they'd hot coached it to Rochdale where the National Chairman no less was going to assist me in presenting two Pub of the Year Awards to the Baum.  I don't exactly need help after 20 odd years of doing this and saying a few words, but hey, when the Great Chief is in town it would be rude not to. Besides Colin is a splendid fellow. It was also a chance for the NERDS to visit this recently former National Pub of the Year, which many hadn't been to.

They leapt or limped off the bus like a broad section of Viz stereotypes and sweeping all before them hit the bar and ordered pints. It was a mixed scene. Not so many beards, in fact hardly any and there was even a fair sprinkling of women amongst them.  They were a cheery bunch and added to the general buzz on what was a sunny early evening in Rochdale - in itself worth putting out the flags for.  We went outside for the presentation and photos. The Baum has a large and very nice beer garden.  I said a few words, Colin said a few words, Simon from the Baum said a few words and returned to his duties inside.

The NERDS left for their next engagement and we returned to the serious business of supping. It had all been very pleasant really, like most CAMRA events.

 *When I say dry, I mean they drank no alcohol during the meeting. And yes it was dry too.  Apparently.   I'm off on my hols now. See you all in a couple of weeks and on Twitter.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

More Sun and More Beer

After a lovely walk in the sunshine through some of my childhood haunts including Levengrove Park, which is more or less unchanged since I was a boy and still kept very well, I crossed the old bridge back into Dumbarton and headed for our new local Wetherspoon which has the bonus of a beer garden. This is further "bonused" as it were, by being 90% non smoking. 

I was hot, the beer garden was hot, the sun was hot, so lager had to be the beer of choice, but I set myself apart from nearly everyone else by not ordering Tennents, which I observed, perhaps in an understated way, is rather popular in these parts. Being mid afternoon, it wasn't too busy outside, but there was a good enough crowd.  I sat, somewhat soporifically with a great view of the Rock and River Leven (see photo), being lulled into a state of torpor by choruses of "Aye" which is not only Scottish for "Yes" but has a wider meaning really. A bit like "genau" in German it is used where "exactly" would fit. There was a lot of agreement that afternoon.

Ah yes, the beer. It was Innis and Gunn Lager. Quite malty, but not over-carbonated, it was just the job. So I had two.

Pretty busy looking glass though.

Dumbarton is where the Cutty Sark was built by Scott and Linton and completed by rival Wm. Denny when they went bust. Wm. Denny and another shipbuilder John MacMillan gave the land and the money for Levengrove Park.The park cost Denny and MacMillan £20,000 to purchase and develop in 1883.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Bass in the Sun

You don't encounter Draught Bass that often these days in my experience. I know of a couple of places where it is sold, but I wouldn't go there just to seek the beer out as such. It wasn't always so. I used to make many a pilgrimage to the White Star in Liverpool in the early eighties, where the Bass, from Burton Union  sets was worth seeking out. The pub also sold Worthington and Bass Brew X as I recall, but I digress.

On a gorgeous summer's day last week, I was meeting a friend in Helensburgh, a town I know well from my youth in the West of Scotland. The Commodore Hotel is an imposing white building at the far end of this  neat little riverside town. It has a magnificent beer garden and wonderful views across the Clyde to Greenock one one side and the Gareloch on the other. It has changed considerably since the days when me and my plooky chums from Dumbarton used to infest it on a Sunday night in the vain hope of attracting girls. It certainly didn't sell real ale then, but it does now and is considerably more tarted up. Cask Marque accredited too, so I ordered a pint of Harviestoun's Bitter and Twisted with confidence and took it outside to savour the view.  It was cloudy - not the weather - but the beer. I knew it shouldn't be and sipped it cautiously. It tasted fine. Hmm. It was too good a day to bother taking it up with the barstaff, so I just got on with it.  A few minutes later, on entering the bar once more to purchase a glass of wine for my companion, the barman who had been friendly and chatty, asked me what I thought of the beer. "It's a touch cloudy" I said, "but tastes fine". His face clouded like my beer. "It shouldn't be. Have something else". I demurred, he insisted,  I chose Draught Bass and he went off to check the cask.
Outside it was hot and my half finished pint was starting to clear a bit. It had been a chill haze, albeit a quite severe one. Ah well.  The barman had done the right thing and I had a free pint. That's the way it goes sometimes.  As we sat chatting and watching a submarine, surrounded by escort vessels, slowly enter the navigation channel and make its way at snail's pace to HM Naval Base Faslane, I sipped my Bass. It was rich and malty, but really rather good. Oddly it seemed to suit the hot weather and as the afternoon slipped by, more Bass slipped down nicely.

It was pleasing to me that a beer with such a great past could still show its class and compete with a modern golden ale. Who'd have thought it?  Not me I admit, but it did.

The photo shows my pint before it cleared, which it did, though it took some time.  I also wrote about Draught Bass here.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

This Is Lager?

It isn't often that I disagree with the Beer Nut when he describes and recommends a beer, above all because I rate his beer tasting notes as second to none and therefore his recommendations as ones to be taken very seriously indeed. As I neither have his dedication nor inclination, I'm generally happy to enjoy his tastings vicariously and of course, being a lazy git I'd rather sup beer than write tasting notes. So very unusually and with a caveat, I'm going to tentatively disagree with the Beer Nut over this post about BrewDog's This. Is. Lager. (TIL).  The caveat is that the Beer Nut describes the bottled version in his post and I have been drinking the draught version.

Now given my poor views of the state of cask beer in London,  I tend to drink a heck of a lot more lager there. And a lot more gin too.  Drinking cask beer in London (an aside in this post) is far to often the triumph of hope over experience, with its attendant coming down to earth with a bump.  This brings me back to TIL. I was very pleased when BrewDog introduced it and looked forward to it when I heard it was coming to JDW. But it is so variable.  All too few times the beer is clean, hoppy, full bodied, mouthfilling and refreshing and all too many times,  metallic, ridiculously over-carbonated, brasso like and weedy.  I asked E whose palate is excellent and who likes lager nearly as much as I do, to describe it. She summed it up thus: "It's usually too harsh. I used to like it, but I don't now". How can this be?

I offer two explanations. First the old BrewDog problem of inconsistency of product is one possibility and this may or may not be the case. I just don't know. The second and possibly more likely one, is that I'm drinking it in the wrong place. I drink it in Wetherspoons. Why should that be an issue I wondered?  I turned to a friend of mine who manages a leading JDW for his thoughts.  "It doesn't turn over as quickly as it needs to to be fresh and consistent" he said.  "And most people just don't like it."  So is that the explanation?  One piece of evidence for this, in this neck of the woods, came on Saturday in the Art Picture House in Bury.  This Is Lager was being offered (or was it remaindered?) at £2 a pint. E had a half and didn't have any more. She didn't like it.  I tasted it and found it thin and unappealing. Going back to the Beer Nut, I'm not quite so tentative when I say I am somewhat taken aback when he says "Put it in a grown-up serving size and you'd have a rival for Pilsner Urquell"

I disagree. On draught at least, for me and in my opinion, This. Is.Lager doesn't have the same complexity and consistency as PU. Moreover, to me, it just hasn't got the sheer quality of PU. Maybe though I'll have to find a bottle one day to see how that stands up.

Perhaps someone that regularly drinks it in BD pub could give their views? On the plus side, and thinking on, at £1.99 a pint, it is most certainly "Craft Beer for the People"!

I note too that BN had a few eyebrow raised comments about his views and some support.  That's interesting.  Maybe he just got a very good bottle of it?