Thursday 4 December 2008

The Great Divide

I came across this map which would seem to me to be a good way of illustrating where beer is likely to be sparkled and where it is likely not.

Above the line - sparklers, below - no sparklers. All the really good beer drinking cities are above the line. There. That's sorted it.

I'm not certain about Wales, but I reckon it is in the sparkled camp, as is Scotland


Ale Louse said...

I bet it's hell living in those front-line border towns!

Karman said...

Isn't this the dividing line between the Viking genes and the Saxons genes? Did they have sparklers back then??

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Oakridge, Oregon is above the line as well, unless one is filling a take-home jar.

Erlangernick said...

"Oakridge, Oregon is above the line as well..."

Pity. Meh, I think all "cask-conditioned" and cask-conditioned beer in the US I've had has been sparkled. (Except at the RAF?)

Anonymous said...

spot on

The Woolpack Inn said...

If you extrapolate Oakridge does indeed appear to be above the line. I'm going soon so I can report back if the practical experience matches the theory.

Warwickshire, by recent experience, is below the line and definitely not so good - northern beers are not sparkled.

London is below the line, but I did find a few pubs that were OK, including Mr Bells. However my general experience in said Metropolis is not good for beer.

Generally I find your hypothesis agreeable Mr Tandleman. However, having just returned from Brussels, which is clearly below the line in a geographical sense, is a fantastic beer drinker’s city.

Is this an anomaly perhaps?

Anonymous said...

In the last 3 years at the GBBF of the top 9 beers 7 of them were brewed below the line.There may be some truth about the sparkler removing some of the flavour from the beer.Or maybe the south just brews better beer.

Anonymous said...

Glad I live in the hub of the beer universe. It’s interesting that the affluent east and south reject the sparkler. Isn’t affluence associated with better diet and consequently higher IQ?


Brewers Union Local 180 said...

A pump with a sparkler is more versatile than one without. In the case of the former, it only takes a few seconds to twist it off. I have actually had a few people request it that way, including my kitchen czar who always extracts a southern pint.

Tandleman said...

Jocko. You are a wag. All beers are judged without a sparkler, so, I'd assume that disadvantages Northern beers.

Oh and has anyone EVER had a good pint of Alton Tripple F?

Tandleman said...

Paul. Not as far as I know, but you knew that yourself, hence the smiley!

Tandleman said...

Woolpack. Damned with faint praise. Yes OK. Never wonderful. "How's the beer?" - "It's OK!" Makes you want to rush there!In my experience while the pubs are often excellent, the beer is quite another matter.

Brussels is actually in Belgium therefore not in my map, but a likeable place indeed.

Anonymous said...

I've never made a note of whether Welsh pubs use sparklers but it's safe to assume they do. The beer's good in Wales whereas down south it is never quite fully satisfying

Erlangernick said...

This idea that using a plastic device at the point of dispense to change the appearance, condition, aroma, and flavor of an otherwise naturally produced beer will somehow "improve" it is just bizarre. Likewise the idea that Northern beers will "suffer" from being served the natural way. And it amuses this foreigner that CAMRA allow(s) it at all!

I've drunk Northern beers with and without the artificial cream-inducing sparkler, and have found them better without. I found no increase in hoppiness or bitterness by drinking them the proper (unsparkled) way, just an improvement in condition.

If I want a beer with a Guinness-like effect, I'll drink a Guinness. (On second thought, no, I won't.)

How long have sparklers been around again?

(n.b. Of course if I HAD to choose either sparkled Lees, Phoenix, et. al., or none at all, you know which I'd take.)

Stonch said...

What happened to you in London in your past that made you so bitter? It can't just be about the way real ale is served? Every time you come here you seem to look for disappointment in pubs, as if it brings some form of self-validation.

Come on, Peter, lay it bare for us - I thought you "mentioned specifics" and "said it how it is"? Surely such an honest and straight-talking individual will have the self-confidence and awareness to come clean?

[Yes, I AM determined to hoist you on your own petard! ;-)]

Erlangernick said...

Something's just occurred to me w.r.t. hand-pumped beer (*) in Yankley. Real Ale in England strikes me as less carbonated than beer served from beer engines in the US. Thus, a sparkler in the US does less damage to such beers--in fact, it drives off excess carbonation.

There was even a time in my Oregon years when I would use a large medical syringe to simulate the hand-pumped effect with bottled beer at home.

BUL180: I'm curious--how do you package & serve your beers? True cask-conditioning? I'd like to visit someday.

(* Setting aside for the moment the discussion of whether Yank pubs put beer produced according to CAMRA Real Ale standards or simple kegged beer under a beer engine.)

Tandleman said...

Jeff I see London with the eye of a visitor, though I have had a flat there for around 11 years and come a lot to it. You see it with the eyes and zeal of a convert. That's probably why you are so keen to defend it. You have become "London wrong or right,"- a London fundamentalist. So I provide an occasional counter to that too I suppose.

What colours my view is experience, often of buying over vented, warm, undrinkable beer at top dollar. Don't forget I was visiting and drinking in pubs in London and indeed Clerkenwell (we nearly bought a flat there over 10 years ago)when you were still playing conkers. At least in London nowadays they seem, in some pubs at least, to have discovered cellar refrigeration. So things have improved a fair bit though and I say so when I find it. The positive is all there in the blog too, so look for that as well Jeff.

In summary, there are some pubs doing good things, but the general picture is still poor compared to Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, York, Chester etc. etc. both in choice and quality.You are one of the ones who are contributing towards bettering things and I acknowledge it, but there needs to be more who are.

Anonymous said...

I live in St. Albans and drink in London fair bit and I have to agree I prefer pubs in Liverpool , Manchester and the north in general but i don't like a Sparkler especially with Landlord.On my visits north pubs like the Baltic Fleet or Marble don't have a match down south. PS I went to the brewery tap of Triple F and it was still average in there,did someone get a bung?

Unknown said...

Well perhaps I was being a little unenthusiastic about Jeff's pub. I enjoyed it a lot. It was interesting that the beer I liked the best was too "harsh" in Jeff's view.

My point about Brussels is that the little green bit on your map is perhaps the only part of the whole of the beer drinking world where a head is considered bad. I find that really interesting.

Sat In A Pub said...


"And it amuses this foreigner that CAMRA allow(s) it at all!"

Ha very funny-Camra should be campaigning to make it COMPULSORY!

"I've drunk Northern beers with and without the artificial cream-inducing sparkler, and have found them better without. I found no increase in hoppiness or bitterness by drinking them the proper (unsparkled) way, just an improvement in condition."

Sounds like your anti-sparkler prejudice is blinding you. As the more moderate sparkler drinker says-if you PREFER it without, that's fine. Please don't use emotive words like "better" though, as that's just bollox. To say a beer is better without is pure arrogance-it's saying that the likes of Phoenix and Pictish brewers don't know how to serve their beers!

"If I want a beer with a Guinness-like effect, I'll drink a Guinness. (On second thought, no, I won't.)"

Obviously drinking in the wrong pubs-no pub I drink in serves beer with that big a head. The problem is Tandleman likes to be nice and doesn't like falling out with people. Whilst I've come to the conclusion that the only way to shut the anti-sparkling whingers up is to make them compulsory. Then we can move on and everyone can enjoy the benefits these little beauties provide.

BTW TM isn't as daft as he looks. How to liven things up-mention sparklers:) Everytime it seems like we're discovering the wheel but since no one can be bothered googling previous debates, it seems we'll be going over the same ground for years to come.

Anonymous said...

I think it's very unfair to criticise Tandleman.It's not his fault if London isn't very good for beer.Yes it's the capital but as far as beer goes it doesn't make the grade.I suppose people living there would rather bury their head in the sand than admit the truth.Or is it a case of not shitting on your own doorstep?

Dubbel said...

London isn't particularly good for beer in general but has a select few outstanding pubs that are enough to get by on if you are prepared to travel.

Re sparklers, I don't like them at all but the argument of just asking for them to be removed is over-simplified. The manner in which the beer is pulled needs to be adapted depending on whether or not a sparkler is used.

From my experience, sparklered nozzles are often submerged in the bottom of the glass as the beer is being pulled. It's my belief the best way of pulling a beer 'southern style' is to keep the nozzle at or slightly above the beer line as the glass is being filled. This gives the beer a nice natural loose head. If the nozzle is submerged the beer ends up flat and lifeless.

This is why northerners believe all southern beer is flat - because you don't know how to pull a pint properly!

BTW how do you guys cope at beer festivals? You can't use a sparkler on gravity-dispensed ales.

Tandleman said...

Dubbel. Sparkled beer SHOULD be served with a vigorous first pull - and I mean vigorous - with the sparkler at the bottom of the glass. The beer will only be flat and lifeless if it started out that way.

Southern style? Take off the sparkler and serve by any old way you like it seems.

Beers festivals are best attended, if at all, on the first day, when you might just (including mine) get some decent gravity beer.

Tandleman said...


I keep saying, at the end of the day, providing beer is properly looked after and well conditioned, that it is a matter of preference. I am frequently misrepresented on that point.

Unknown said...

Well, I don't know why Mr BUL180 has not answered. Mind you it's still midday there, he's probably in bed.

Although I have not seen his set-up in the flesh, I believe he really is serving cask conditioned ale. I can let you know for sure next weekend when I'm there. He appears to be the only producer of true cask conditioned ale in Oregon.

Anonymous said...

I do seem to recall Tandleman having some good things to say about beer in London on his last visit. Admittedly it was a bit of a shock!

My preference is no sparkler but it does seem easy enough to have one on hand. Here in the States, friends and family uniformly prefer the sparkler on rather than off on my home set up. I can't say I find it terribly bothersome to take the sparkler off for my pints and put it back on for everybody else.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Re: earlier post from Erlandernick: Brewery is a 2 UK BBL system. Wort is cooled in the fermenter at roughly the 80% completion point to around 8 deg. C before being racked into 8 CypherCo plastic firkins. Firkins condition for at least a week before being rolled out (to circulate the finings) to the cellar which is directly behind the hand pulls at the bar. The cellar is set to 10 deg. C, and contains stillage and auto-tilts for 8 firkins. Cask rests for at least 24 hours before service, and is checked via spile for conditioning. Bar contains 6 England Worthside 1/4 pint pulls, jacketed, which tend to dispense ale at around 11 to 12 degrees. All procedures as per training at the Woolpack Inn and Hardknott Brewery and the Prince of Wales at Foxfield.

Re: Dubbel: Pulling a pint properly: A sparkled pint is dispensed at the bottom of the glass here. An unsparkled pint dispenses down the side of the glass above the beer line, and the nozzle never comes in contact with the beer. If someone is feeling really special, I can open the cellar door behind the bar, disconnect the beer line, and drop it right out of the cask.

I don't think CAMRA would find fault with anything, but they haven't visited yet.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Sparkler arguments are fun but you never get anywhere because each side is so entrenched.

and I'm not going to offer a way past this situation as frankly I think sparklers are the work of the devil! :)

Anonymous said...

WTF Anyone who doesn't prefer sparkled beer is either gay or from down South.Seriously I run a pub in Todmorden and if someone came in and said Lees etc should be served without,then I would get the brewer on speed dial and let them explain it.Interesting that all the foreign legion who know nothing about cask are all anti-sparkler.Says it all really.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

I wouldn't be so fast to discount foreign cask knowledge.

Boak said...

I'm sure they sparkle in some parts of Cornwall too - had some seriously nitro-y St Austell down there last year. But I don't think they sparkle in Wales -- they certainly don't in any of the pubs I've been to in Pembrokeshire.

Perhaps you get sparkling and non-sparkling villages, depending on who goes on holiday there.

Tandleman said...

Certainly North Wales and the industrial south use sparklers, but I don't know about the bit in the middle and West Wales, though where Brains have influence, sparkled it is.

Erlangernick said...

Is 10-12°C not a bit cooler than a typical cellar? I target my bottled beer at home around 15, but as has been proven here, I'm a bit of a nutter.

[google...CAMRA proper cellar temperature...] CAMRA'S In the Pub says 12-14° (54-57°F). Okay. Heh heh...also "This agitation produces a thick creamy head..."

I love the argument that the brewer knows best! It's like a baker telling his customers that toast made from his bread is better when it's downright burnt.

So it's okay to say that a norhtern beer is "disadvantaged" when served without the gadget, but to say it's "better" ain't? This rabidity and defensiveness --first class entertainment! Why on earth would someone "prefer" something one way instead of another, if it's not "better" that way?

I ask again: When did the use of these gadgets originate, and moreover, why? Just how old is this tradition then?

Anonymous said...


My post tried to suggest just the opposite. I would say of the few Americans who I know have a preference (mostly my friends and family). The prosparkler dominates. I can't think of anybody except myself that prefers it without the sparkler. Off the top of my head I would put it at 20-1 pro-sparkler.

Now if you will excuse me I have to go inform my wife that I am either gay or from the South of England.

Anonymous said...

"Now if you will excuse me I have to go inform my wife that I am either gay or from the South of England."

one and the same surely?

Erlangernick said...

My recollection is that handpumps in the US are nearly universally equipped with sparklers. It's been a while though, as I've been out of the country since 2004.

But this just goes to prove the pro-sparkler crowd right, since Americans are ALWAYS right! (Oops.)

The Woolpack Inn said... 37 comments including this one. Is that a record?

Cask marque recommend a temperature in the glass of 11 - 13. That does need a slightly lower cellar temperature as the glass is at room temperature.

Well done Peter on a damn good debate.

Erlangernick said...

Thread count will be even higher when someone finally answers my question about when and why this sparkler business first started up!

Sat In A Pub said...


“Is 10-12°C not a bit cooler than a typical cellar? I target my bottled beer at home around 15, but as has been proven here, I'm a bit of a nutter.”

As Dave has said, dispense temp is 11-12C, so cellar temp will be around 10C. 15C sounds terribly warm to me-Tandleman and I both like it at around 11C to start with as it will always warm up, but never cool down. However, the beauty of drinking at home is you’re always guaranteed of getting a drink exactly how you like it.

“I love the argument that the brewer knows best! It's like a baker telling his customers that toast made from his bread is better when it's downright burnt.”

Eh? I find this disingenuous and somewhat insulting to professionals. Everyone’s an armchair expert, I guess. Brewer is very experienced. Brewer makes good beer. I ask brewer how his beer is best served-what’s wrong with that? Are you going to ignore their guidance on how long to cellar their beers etc as well? Camra and Cask Marque take notice of such things but of course you know better. Egotism run riot, absolutely first class entertainment, I have to say. Bet you’re popular on brewery visits. By your reasoning I should be able to submerge my microwave in the bath and then complain it doesn’t work-after all what do Sony know about them. Also, the cynic in me can’t help but think you choose to ignore the brewer’s viewpoint as it disagrees with your own. I’m sure if they agreed, you’d be quoting them to support your cause.

“So it's okay to say that a norhtern beer is "disadvantaged" when served without the gadget, but to say it's "better" ain't? This rabidity and defensiveness --first class entertainment! Why on earth would someone "prefer" something one way instead of another, if it's not "better" that way?”

Who said anything about “disadvantaged?” Basically you said you thought Northern beers were better without the sparkler and served “the proper way.” “The natural way.” Very naughty, that. The proper way, indeed! I suppose you mean pre-sparkler days. Yes the sparkler is a relative newcomer but it does not mean it’s wrong. What, you want all beer served like it use to be? Let’s all go back to gravity and wooden casks, then. Er, let’s not. Is that all you’ve got against sparklers-that they’re not traditional? Oh, and by the way, preference is usually just habit and nothing to with if something is “better.”

No one has answered your question about the history of sparklers as no one really knows! They’ve been around for quite awhile though-in the great sparkler war of 2000, it was established they’ve been common in the North for 30+ years.

Without Tandleman around I'd better tread carefully-I've already been crossed off one blogger's xmas list after the last debate on (the wonderful) sparkler.

Unknown said...

My barman started drinking in Fleetwood in 1964, he claims they used sparklers then. It was some form of metal device that could be adjusted depending on the beer.

Anonymous said...

Look it's quite simple.In the blue anti sparkler corner you've got people like Stonch and Jeff P.In the red corner you've got Tandleman and Tyson.Clear knockout win to the reds!

Sat In A Pub said...


I like your thinking.

Anonymous said...

Stonch isn't calling himself Stonch anymore.He's doing a Roger Protz.

Unknown said...

Oh I agree Camragirl, the blue's seem to have given up fighting.

Their arguments don't seem to make sense to me. The only thing is, even if a southern pub HAS a sparkler, they don't know how to use it properly so I think that's why they fail to see the advantage of the beautiful little plastic gift from God.

Sat In A Pub said...


I think you're onto something there. Good workmen don't blame their tools-I think the poor old sparkler is just a scapegoat for poor staff.

Sat In A Pub said...


For a second I thought you said Stonch was DOING Roger Protz-now that would have been a scoop!

Jeff Pickthall said...

I find that in the North there's widespread ignorance of what sparklers do (and I am a Northerner who lived and sold beer in London for 14 yrs).

It goes like this:

"A pint of [insert name of beer] please. Could I have it with the sparkler off please?"


"The nozzle thing; unscrew it please?"

[look of utter bafflement with a barely disguised shaking of the head, turns to colleague and regulars and stage-whispers]

"Likes his beer flat"

At this point I'm usually ready to explode with indignation the explanation of why it's actually flatter with the sparkler on.

I've noticed in one or two small chains that staff have actually been trained on the matter. The Head of Steam pubs in Newcastle for instance.

Unknown said...

....and Jeff in the blue corner fights back....

But I agree, it's really down to preference.

I would argue it is flatter neither way. 25% of the CO2 is put into the head when using a sparkler. If done correctly nothing is lost.Is that right or wrong. It's customer choice and apart from maybe leg pulling, either way is fine....

...except it's more correct with the sparkler....

Neville Grundy said...

Tandleman is a bit of a devil. What did he say in his original post? "That's sorted it." The longest debate on his blog so far must just be a coincidence then.

Having read all the comments, I just wonder: how many real ale drinkers can dance on the head of a pin?

Sat In A Pub said...


Beat me to it. Flatter with the sparkler on, indeed! It's not April 1st is it? Is that the level of desperation that the anti-sparkler camp have sunk to. What next-sparklers rot your teeth.

Anonymous said...

To Spark or not to Spark that is the question
Whether it is nobler in the Norf
The slings an arrows of outrageous debate, or to take arms against a flat beer? and opposing thoughts which Duff reveal that realy , some girls do and some boys don't,.

Tandleman said...

Couldn't have put it better myself!

Anonymous said...

I was reliably informed recently by an employee of Wells and Youngs that it was Tetley's who introduced the 16 hole sparkler...