Monday 30 May 2011

Influencing and Shaping

Ten Inch Wheeler has upped sticks and moved to WordPress from Blogger. No, I'm not following him there. Seems too much like hard work, but it got me thinking as I amended his link in my list. I thought "Time I updated my links list."

I noted though as I looked at my list, that there are a lot of new bloggers around and some old ones (and they probably were the old ones) have dropped off the perch, so if you'd like to be on my links list and aren't already, just let me know and if I like the cut of your jib, I'll add you. I'll be getting rid of those that don't blog any more too, though it saddens me that so many of the older generation of bloggers (not as old as me probably) have turned up their toes, handed in their keyboards. It cuts down a lot of the range of opinions and attitudes in British blogging and that isn't good.

 I was similarly struck by this note in his website about the Beer Blogger's Conference by Matt Eley who seems to be a pretty cool dude himself:  I thought , it will be packed with the same rotund beer monsters you find at festivals up and down the land who have discovered another forum to push forward their views?  Wrong, wrong, wrong!  In fact I could not have been wider of the mark. Instead of either of the above scenarios I found myself in a room full of people so young and fashionable that it could have been a scene straight out of Hollyoaks. 

Well really?  Young and fashionable in beer blogging is clearly good it seems. Had everyone just stepped off the Hollyoaks set? Did Matt simply not notice the odd podgier or older person? Did he just ignore them, or more worryingly, were there none?  Is the inference that social media is just for the young and trendy and by extension, the future of beer drinking and writing? Worrying thinking I'd venture.  Referring back to my first paragraph, diversity in beer blogging has seemed to me for a while to be in decline - oh not at the more scholarly end of things, where Martyn Cornell and  Ron Pattinson put in the graft - but in general beer blogging and that cannot be a good thing.  Nor am I  sure that I can fully agree with Matt's other observation that "despite the well documented struggles of the UK beer market the ‘next’ generation have their fingers at the ready to defend, promote, praise, hold to account – and indeed consume – our national drink" 

 In Diary of a Hop Head, another young thing says " What I saw on display was a group of clued up, modern and trendy people who are setting the industry standards.".  Setting the industry standards? Perleeese..  So back to Matt.  Is the future of British beer drinking in safe hands as he asserts? I don't doubt the "praise" bit, nor the "consuming" - though what is consumed needs to be examined quite closely . Does it follow that fashion, rather than the obvious inadequacies of a lot of British brewing, explains the gaderene rush to drink and promote exotic keg craft or bottled beer, often imported, in trendy bars or at home,  by many younger bloggers?   That can be glossed over no doubt, or denied, or explained away as generational, but what cannot be is the "holding to account" by many bloggers.  It doesn't really happen, with an overt agenda of "cheery beery" and a very uncritical eye. (Only today Beer, Birra, Bier wrote "Generally I don't see the point in posting negative articles on this blog, I'm usually of the mind that if you don't have anything good to say then it's better to say nothing at all. ")  

Since writing the above I have seen this by two Dutch attendees.  Here's a flavour translated from the Dutch (by a translator package - not me.  I personally don't go as far as the Dutch blog  in directly relating benefits given, to generally uncritical coverage of beer. The reasons for that are far more complex,  but  you do need to keep a measure of distance and independence.

"Okay, okay, beer is more important in England than in the Netherlands, but these are all people who are not employed by breweries. Who would not let themselves be guided by excesses provided by a supplier and still remain objective?
Well, not really. They really let themselves be guided by such actions. Many bloggers in the UK admitted beer that they  write only when they like something. If not, then they just shut their mouth.
And shutting your mouth is exactly what not to do as a blogger. You find something, you have an opinion, you let us hear. Tell everyone what you think about everything around you. Is anything good? Shout it from the rooftops! Is something not good? Yell as loud. If you are afraid to lose all your free beer then do something else. Only if you're critical, your opinion is relevant." 

It is clear that there is an increase in beer blogging in the UK, but are numbers alone enough to give both momentum and credibility?  It seems to me that the number of comments on blogs is decreasing all the time, so clearly something odd is going on.  Has Twitter largely marginalised UK blogging? Is it a broad enough church, or does it myopically concentrate at what is cool, sexy and exotic? Is blogging about beer in the UK at least, becoming a young man's (or woman's) game?  Is it partisan and/or uncritical? Is the diversity still there? Is holding to account not part of the blogger's remit? Who does or doesn't blogging influence?

Is the future really assured?  My jury is out, but at least I'm secure in the knowledge that we are all getting older (even the young and beautiful) and things will change.  One way or another. 

This piece took me ages to write and still isn't exactly as I'd like it.  The aim is to spark off some thoughtful debate.  Please comment in that spirit.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

Seems a few bloggers have got their knickers into a twist over CAMRA Chairman Colin Valentine having a pop at the "bloggerati" at the CAMRA AGM. It was kind of kicked off by Martyn Cornell in a vitriolic, spittle flecked rant, in which he accused Colin of telling lies. Strong stuff. Seems Colin got himself in trouble by actually stating what he believed and for re-iterating clearly that insidious pressure by some bloggers for CAMRA to change would avail them but little.

Across the pond, Canada in fact. there is more - and reading the comments I'm somewhat suprised to see people chipping in about CAMRA who cheerfully admit they know nothing about it. Many of the comments also seem, on both sides of the argument, to veer off rather into tangents. Nearer home Rabidbarfly chips in his ten penn'orth and vows never to be a member as long as Colin is in charge. That'll teach him.

You can probably guess that my view is not quite as agin Colin as some.  Sure he had a pop, but it's all good knockabout stuff. The serious message is that all the chipping away at them will not change CAMRA's focus on real ale. He could have sugared the pill of course, but Colin chose to say it in his own forthright way. Here's what I wrote to Glyn on his blog in response to what he said.

"But in any event, so what? CAMRA Chairman Robustly Defends Real Ale Shock. It is odd isn't it, a kind of cheek, that many in the blogging world feel free to attack CAMRA and its members in the most pejorative of terms, but throw a hissy fit when the CAMRA chairman decides to hit back a little. (More than you have blogged about this, one in particularly hysterical terms.)  As for the jibe about the best beer being the next, many bloggers do butterfly around the exotic and rarely extol cask. Many bloggers do promote and encourage keg beer. Many bloggers do seem to promote new and exciting - whether you think that a good or bad thing is a point for debate - and many do struggle to define craft and what it is or isn't, while rallying around the term and using CAMRA's non support of it as a club to beat them with.

Can't have it all ways and if stick is dished out, sometimes stick has to be taken. "

At least it has provoked a bit of comment, but at the end of the day, as I said in my piece in Beer Magazine, I rather think that a bit of mutual respect is better.  but if you can't do that, on whatever side of the argument your sympathies lie, don't expect the worm never to turn.

You will also find, I'd venture,  quite a bit of trouble in finding lies in what Colin said.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Ossett on Fire

No, not the brewery, but the beer. Last week's visit to the Regal Moon brought the reward of perfect Ossett Citra - one of my top beers of the year so far - and last night it was back to an old favourite, Ossett Silver King. In brilliant nick and tasting wonderful, this was a reminder, as if one was needed, that good breweries usually stay good. Ossett are on top of their game at the moment and are well worth seeking out.

The beer was flying out and the only worry was that it wouldn't last until bus time. But it did, so happy days.

An honourable mention too for my final half of Acorn Gorlovka Stout. Another tremendous beer.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Singing from the Same Hymn Sheet

Back in the days when I was an IT Project Manager, delivering multi million pound projects (on time of course) we used to have a lot of jargon and management speak. It was the culture of projects, though personally I liked to bring people on board without resorting to that sort of thing.

While the phrase that heads this piece is kind of clichéd, it does describe in a way most people can understand, that when working together to deliver something, everyone needs to understand exactly how it all is meant to fit together, in order to reach a common and defined goal.

I was drawn to look at BrewDog's site, simply as it headed up the list on Zak's blog, which I use as a reference point as he subscribes to lots of blogs I don't and it makes things quicker. Seems they've employed a new Brewery Manager.  I was struck by what he is expected to do. It seemed reasonable, being to "to orchestrate the planning, production and packaging of countless gallons of BrewDog from the raw materials to finished product, every day." Quite a responsibility I'd say. There followed an interview with the putative manager "what sort of tasks does Nikola foresee filling up the rest of his day?"

“As a newcomer to the BrewDog brewery, I’m going to presume how my days are going to run but I think, in general, it’s going to be a heady mix of brewing, planning, tasting, meeting, some more brewing, deliveries, maybe a bit more tasting, driving the BrewDog-mobile and then some more brewing. All in all, a pretty cool number.”

Well I'm glad he remembered the planning, but otherwise more or less a complete mismatch. Better get the hymn sheets dusted off in Fraserburgh! Unless it was all tongue in cheek of course. With BrewDog, you just don't know.

Monday 23 May 2011

The Last Brews

Two for you here. No prizes for guessing the breweries, but like Goal of the Month, have a go, just for fun.

I wonder what they'd taste like, but I'm not about to find out.

Sunday 22 May 2011

A Brace of Bloggers

Yesterday I met Rabidbarfly in the Marble Arch for a pint or two. The beer of choice for both of us was Pint, which was on splendid form. The pub was awash with a sea of blue and Suvern accents, as it had become, temporarily, a home for the cask ale seeking, play off attending, AFC Wimbledon fan. They all seemed to be enjoying beer from the wickets at what was, for them, bargain prices. The odd Luton fan was there too and Glyn and I remarked how often a subset of football fans seek out the better pubs. I remember that too from my Oldham FC days, bumping into blue clad Latics fans in decent pubs in Nottingham, Sheffield and other such places, back when Oldham were in the Premier League. (And less salubrious places when they weren't.)

Later that day, after my meeting and after a few throat charmers, I called in to the Angel for a last couple. Hawkwshead Five Hop and Windermere Pale were the beers of choice in a pretty packed pub. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned round to see a grinning Darren Turpin of Blog O' Beer who was out celebrating his wedding anniversary with his lovely wife Jo. I thoroughly enjoyed the chat with them, while hoping I wasn't spoiling their evening too much, as I felt I may have just been slightly the worse for wear by then.

So there you have it. Two bloggers in one day. Great to see them both.

For my London readers, that white thing on the beer is a head!

Saturday 21 May 2011

Competing Priorities

In a minute or two I'm off to see Glyn of Rake fame for a pint. He is in Manchester to watch AFC Wimbledon and I am in Manchester to attend a National Winter Ales Organising Meeting. The first meeting to start organising next year in fact, so as Deputy Organiser, I couldn't really miss it.

That's why I'm not at the Beer Bloggers Conference, but I'm not letting anyone but myself down by not being there. If I didn't attend my NWAF meeting I would be.


As is our choice of venue. The Marble Arch

Friday 20 May 2011

Saddled with a Mystery

I had a quick couple of halves in the Baum in Rochdale the other night. A pretty decent, nay rather good,  half of Brighton Rocks from Edge Brewery, a brewery I'd never heard of, but despite this appearing to be a bog standard brown bitter, it was lifted by careful hopping to be above just pleasant.

My second half was a different beast. Hop Bomb it was called and this hazy little number immediately gave off huge wafts of piney, resiny hops and was exactly the same to drink. Absent was that cloying crystal malt, so beloved of Yankee brewers and instead a good biscuity malt base was interwoven with hops piney, hops bitter, hops resinous and hops perfumed. This was a cornucopia of hoppy goodness. It did in fact exactly what it said on the tin. It was a hop bomb. A perfect example of Gazza Prescott's Mid Atlantic Pale Ale and strangely, from his neck of the woods it seems.

Annoyingly though, these two different beers suffered from the same "unrelated to brewing" fault. I couldn't tell anything about where they came from from the pump clip. Neither here nor there you might think, but why hide your light under a bushel? I want to know more about these breweries and importantly tell people. T'internet doesn't help much either. I can find nothing definitive on Edge but with the help of the kindly barmaid at the Baum, who went to the cellar to look at the cask, I find Hop Bomb is from Windsor Castle Brewery.* The web tells me that this is owned by Sadler's Brewery, but Sadlers does not list anything under the Windsor Castle name and Quaffale and Beermad send you round in a frustrating circle. Doh.

So a plea brewers. You are in business. Don't make it hard for us to find out anything about you.

*I now understand this to be a brewpub in Stourbridge. Possibly.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Treasure Trove

I was tidying the garage (unsuccessfully) earlier and came across these two lovely looking chaps stored away with some other oddities, in a sealed box.

Have a look at the dates on them. The Boon will be the year of bottling I assume and I suppose that will be the same for the Rochefort.  It couldn't be a best before date could it? No. I doubt it.

Anyone jealous? Anyone reckon they won't taste good?

Click on the photos to enlarge and get a better look.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

A Right Lot of Re- Tweets

I've been noticing on Twitter that some of the re-tweets recently tell me more than I need to know about the writers and quite a lot about the re-tweeters. In fact there are some people that I follow that are going to take the knock soon for continually re-tweeting drivel. Of course most Twitter content is drivel, but I like to think I've followed a lot of discerning people that won't in effect spam me. Is it too much to ask that you don't inflict other people's scary or stupid political/humour/miscellaneous guff on me and others?

Now I have no objection at all to the personal stuff. I love to know who has had what for brekkie or lunch or whatever, or when the guff I receive is beer related. That's Twitter and I live with that. I also hope on my few re-tweets, that it is at least usually, only beery stuff that I re-direct to my beery followers. But I have a hit list of those that don't. I don't suppose they'll care if they get de-followed, but they are beer people whose beery thoughts I do want to hear. So, think before you re-tweet. Please.

Back to beer and another re-tweet. Does Thwaites really want their Old Dan described thus: "very enjoyable thick caramel favour (sic)nice alcohol burn, sweet smooth finish"

Makes you want to rush out and buy it eh?

Feel better now I've got that off my chest!

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Rumbling On

The cask versus keg and "what is craft?" debate is still bubbling away. My friend Nick who likes to dabble on Ratebeer, has drawn my attention to some discussion there, which kind of mirrors the various discussions that have taken place within this and other blogs. What is craft? Can cask be craft? Is all "new" keg craft? Is all craft beer good etc.etc. You know the kind of thing.

Following my article in CAMRA's Beer Magazine in which I defended CAMRA's position, I had thought I might get quite a lot of flak, but I haven't, though of course my position on this one has been made clear and few bloggers seem to be CAMRA members. Last night on Twitter I had the opportunity to cross swords with Hardknott Dave about the more specific subject of keg and CO2 and though it was a lot of fun, it generated more heat than light, as these things tend to. It is nonetheless certain though, that the subject of keg and craft causes passions to become inflamed, with keg evangelists every bit as ardent in support of their cause, as CAMRA is in support of cask. In many ways it reflects the early days of CAMRA, where the noise generated was inversely proportional to the numbers actually involved. Given that "craft" keg is even smaller than cask was then in availability terms, this is particularly noticeable. It is that I assume that caused Roger Protz to refer to "noisesome bloggers".

My guess is that this will continue, though I wonder if somewhat uncritical coverage of keg will really further their cause. Is it always served just as the brewer wanted it to be? Is it always unpasteurised? Just as cask can be too warm, is it too cold? To return to my discussion with Hardknott Dave, I suppose my particular contention is that in most cases, keg beer is served way too carbonated. Whatever the brewer wanted from it, anything around 2.8 vols of CO2 would seem typical. That is pretty gassy. I postulated to Dave thus: "fizzy* is keg's Achilles heel, just as poor, flabby, vinegary beer is cask's". We all know and admit that cask can suffer from a myriad of faults. Is keg fault free? Is there really no bad craft keg?

In the end I suppose, sales will tell and the drinker will decide, but in the meantime, any views?

* "Fizzy" is seen as pejorative by some. Substitute "highly carbonated" or "gassy" if you prefer.

Come and Join Us

Well, that great CAMRA basher BrewDog is at it again in an odd kind of way. The prolific proclaimers of keg are taking a stall at the GBBF to peddle their cask wares.

Is this a case of a sinner repented? Have they seen the cask ale light? Unlikely. Is this a case of not wishing to miss the exposure to 80,000 beer drinkers? Likely. Is it a good thing? Yes, as their cask beers - oh yes they brew them all right - are in my opinion a lot better than their keg products, though you are welcome to disagree.

Whatever way you look at it, it seems that CAMRA aren't quite so irrelevant as some people think, if the great Gods of keg come to worship at our altar.

Thornbridge will have a stand too. Excellent.

Monday 16 May 2011

That Time Again

Once again it is that time of year when I need to fill my form in for the Great British Beer Festival. It's the last ever one at Earls Court if the current plans to demolish it go ahead and for those that dislike its permanent non natural light, that will be a relief, though of course it does make the future of this great festival that bit more uncertain. Next year, when the Olympics are on, we'll be back at our former home in Olympia, which has undergone massive refurbishment and has the advantage of oodles of natural light. We are assured there will be enough room and even the heaviest of thunderstorms will not be able to find their way in and flood the place. Personally I'm quite happy with this, though it means having to leave earlier to get the last tube back to the East End.

I've already mentioned one or two things here, but you will probably be interested to know that BSF (Foreign Beer) will be split this year into different bars. The USA and Rest of the World will be near the main entrance, while German and Czech, where I will be, will be at the back. Belgian is somewhere else too, so you'll all have to do some careful planning. I'm told too that there will be a fourth BSF Bar, but I have no idea yet what that will be.

We must have been really naughty to have been broken up like that.

The Great British Beer Festival - Earls Court London - 2-6 August 2011

Sunday 15 May 2011

The Skipton Trip

Copper Dragon Brewery is clean, modern, efficient and the beer is well made, though lacking a little in excitement. You won't find any beers stronger than 5% as the brewery - or rather its owner - firmly believes that beer is a volume based drink and as such his beers should be easily drinkable. The exception is Conqueror, which is chock full of American hops and drinks well above its weight, though the exception here is in taste, not alcohol. Conqueror is only 3.6% and joins a growing number of beers that combine great flavour and drinkabilty with lowish alcohol. It was probably the beer of the day. The people there are charming and fun - yes not a dour Yorkshireman in sight - though the brewery while claiming uniqueness in design, seemed to me to be pretty standard for any brewery that uses dual purpose vessels. They are in the process of expanding capacity up to the limit of Progressive Beer Duty and things seem pretty healthy now, their previous troubles apparently behind them.

The Bistro is pretty good too and provided much needed sustenance for a three hour pub crawl of Skipton, which I won't bore you with in any great detail. The best pub was the Narrow Boat which is something of a classic and a "must visit" if you are in the area. The Narrow Boat also provided the second low strength/high taste beer of the day in Ilkley's Mary Jane, which has a lovely hoppy taste from Amarilo hops and is only 3.5%.

So there you have it, a good day out to a nice town and a very pleasant brewery. On a personal note, the most striking thing of the day perhaps was to bump into a lass that used to work for me over 20 years ago in Liverpool. She lives on the Fylde now.

What a small world.

A quick couple of pints of Ossett Citra back in Middleton also impressed. Ossett are going great guns at present.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Copper Dragon

By the time you read this, if read it on Saturday you do, I'll either be on my way to Skipton to Copper Dragon Brewery, or be there. Or have been there. Will Golden Pippin be as good as ever? Will I enjoy the Narrow Boat as much as last time? It's a while since I've been, but what a great pub I recall. There's a fantastic pie shop in Skipton too, by the canal, but as we are eating at the Copper Dragon Bistro, that might not be needed. It's nice to visit old haunts.

If you are good I might tell you how it went, or then again, I might not.

They are looking for a brewer I notice from their web site.

Friday 13 May 2011

Save the Best Till Last

A pleasant little pub crawl yesterday took us eventually to the Port St Beer House and a nice talk with the Manager William. He is a bit of a keg beer fan it seems, though oddly he drank cask with us. Maybe it was out of sympathy more than solidarity, but he's a splendid fellow nonetheless. I enjoyed BrewDog Trashy Blonde a lot less than usual. It seemed off form and it had seemed off form earlier in another pub too, but that happens. I felt I turned a corner on Thornbridge Hopton though, which I have never been that sure of, but last night I really liked it.

On the way home, as it is on the 17 bus route, I called in the Marble Arch intending to have a pint of Manchester Bitter to send me home rejoicing. Alas it went as I was having my pint poured, so that plan was scuppered. My replcement choice was Best, a beer again that I haven't really got into for some unknown reason, but which was in such good form I had two.

So there you are. You can teach an old dog new tricks, every beer deserves at least a second chance and there's no harm at all in changing your mind.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Oans, zwoa g'suffa

I've got a nice five days away coming up in a month or so. Once again to my favourite city,  Munich, this time accompanied by twenty odd CAMRA chums, as this is an official "do" and of course, the lovely E. This trip wasn't planned by me, but by our  Social Secretary, Stopwatch Sid. I met him last night to discuss the gig as I know the place quite well. That is I know the boozers quite well and we wanted the gang to get the benefit of a quick tour round, so as not to waste valuable drinking time.

Over excellent pints of Ossett Yorkshire Gold - a perfect crossover beer if ever there was one - we knocked up a rough itinerary for the first full day and agreed a Sunday trip to Kloster Andechs, out in the countryside, but with superb beer and a balconied beer keller overlooking lovely countryside. I have been before and may therefore go instead to Bräustüberl Tegernsee, whose beer I have been selling for years at the BSF Bar at the Great British Beer Festival. It's on a lake and it will be nice to see where it comes from and it will please E.

One thing we both agreed on as a must, is a visit to the famous Hofbräuhaus. This huge, rambling, raucous, beer hall is seen as typical by many foreign visitors, but is actually a very rare beast these days. Often looked down on as a tourist trap, it does in fact offer one of the best drinking experiences of your life if you just go with the flow.  I can't wait to grab a Maßkrug of dunkel and just have a good time.

How many readers of this blog have been to the Hofbräuhaus or would like to go? Is it on your "must do" list?  If it isn't, it should be.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Wonder What They'll be Selling?

Or where exactly? This mob have been dropping hints on Twitter, so looks like even more craft beer for London.

Kinda set their stall out clearly though.

Monday 9 May 2011

Funny or Not?

Have you heard of  Oban Bay Brewery? No, me neither. Not until I read yesterday's Scotland on Sunday. Seems they produce beers with "jokey" names (aimed at tourists they say) and that's got them into hot water with the Anti Alcohol Lobby and CAMRA.

The cause of this stooshie? A beer called Ginger Jakey - a jakey being a colloquialism in Scotland, for an alcoholic down and out. I'd have shown you the offending beer label, which is printed in the paper, but not on line, nor on the Oban Bay site, but instead a similar one from their web site.

Make your own mind up. SoS has the story here.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Some Bottle!

Some months ago, - not that many - honest, I was given a bottle of Kernel Black IPA by Glyn of Rake fame. He'd brewed it with the Kernel lot and bummed about it being pretty good. It sat in my London fridge for a few weeks then was given a new home in my Manchester one. When I moaned the other day about my lack of free beer, my benefactor rightly enquired along the lines of  "Oi Bollocks. What happened to the free beer I gave you then?"

Well as mentioned above, it was safe and sound and yesterday I promised I'd drink it this weekend. Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, as my favourite poet once said, so last night in a rare bout of Saturday night Match of the Day watching, rather than my usual Sunday morning one, as E had gone to bed, I thought, I know, I'll have a couple of beers. So first up to warm up the old taste buds was Hopback Summer Lightning. Now this isn't the greatest cask beer in the world, but it translates into BCA form rather well. It was a good beer and one I'd drink again when the sun shines. Then I opened the Kernel Black IPA. As soon as it went "hiss" I knew I was in for something special. The fresh hop aroma just jumped out. The taste was sublime, the body, mouthfeel and carbonation perfect, the head retention good and the complex, balanced roast and hop flavours a marriage made in heaven. It was also a masterclass in how to use hops well.  I was brassed off big style that I only had one. I won't mess you about. This is simply one of the best bottled beers I have ever tasted and I don't give such praise lightly. Oh and if you want full tasting notes - see the Kernel chaps. I was just drinking it.

Naturally this morning I let Glyn know I'd drank and enjoyed it and asked if it was still available. He confirmed it is now a permanent addition to the Kernel range. Now maybe I just touched lucky with this bottle and the length of time I kept it. I don't even know if it is bottle conditioned, but who cares. Next time I'm in that there London, I'm going to Kernel to buy some.

You should too.  Trust me on this one.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Life's a Gas

And so was Odell's 5 Barrel last night in the Port St Ale House. Boy was it fizzy. I'd guess at least 2.5 volumes, but quite possibly a fair bit more. Once I'd knocked half the CO2 out of it, there was a decent but thin beer underneath, with some piney hops edging into soapiness. Nothing particularly classic about it. E asked me the very pertinent question as to why the beer we drink in Germany doesn't feel as gassy.  They don't seem quite so fizzy in the US either and certainly not in Belgium, so I am a bit at a loss, as I've yet to find a UK served "craft beer" that doesn't seem well over gassed. The search continues, but it is a dear do doing so.

I couldn't provide a definitive answer to E's question. Of course it could just be us, so used to cask, that the beer seems more gassed than it is. Are these beers served entirely by CO2? It seems like it, but surely not? Perhaps some are served with a touch of nitrogen via an in cellar gas blender, or more doubtfully through pre-mix standard gas bottles, though I suspect not.

Anyone know the full SP on this? I am genuinely puzzled and it isn't a pop at keg. Frankly it is a gap in my knowledge.

Best moment of last night was the look of incredulity (and rebellion) on the barman's face when a customer asked for a pint of Bacchus Kriek with a lemonade top.

Friday 6 May 2011

Lovely Free Beer

I rarely get sent free beer despite my extremely educated palate and my record of beer tasting going back donkey's years, as well as my leading blog status. I think I protest too much about not drinking at home. However the nice people that do the UK PR for Duvel-Moortgat kindly sent me a couple of bottles of Vedett and I've gone and drunked them.

I remember visiting Duvel many years ago and the hospitality was mighty. They brewed a pilsner then too I recall, so whether this is the same one or not, I have no idea. I do though remember, distinctly, the feeling of impending doom when they let us loose in the hospitality suite and our concerns amid a sea of Duvel, Duvel Green Label (it goes back years folks) and Maredsous, that by the time we got to De Koninck later that day we'd be pissed. I needn't have fretted. By the time we got to De Koninck we were indeed completely pissed, but happily, no longer worrying about it.

Back to Vedett then. Not the most complex beer ever, but I doubt if it is meant to be. Crisp, a bit of hop, very highly carbonated and would be great in the sunshine, or just as I did as a thirst quencher. It feels far cleaner than a lot of pils type beers and I like clean in a beer. You don't need to know any more really.

So there you are. Send me beer and you'll get history, provenance and usually an anecdote. Oh and possibly a nice mention too. Get sending then.

Thursday 5 May 2011

German News

According to the Federal Statistical Office, Germany sold 20.8 million hectolitres of beer in the first quarter of 2011. That was a decrease of 0.1 million hectolitres (–0.4%) from the corresponding period of the previous year. So gloom there too.

It seems too that the Germans are getting round their somewhat loophole filled smoking ban with comparative ease. Despite widespread smoking bans across Germany, more than four out of five corner pubs and bars still have patrons smoking inside, a study released on Tuesday has found. A survey of nearly 3,000 eating and drinking venues in 10 major cities found that complex and numerous exemptions are being widely exploited to allow smoking to continue.

Since August 2007, laws have been gradually introduced in all German states to protect people against passive smoke. However many exemptions exist. Düsseldorf had the most smoking bars and also the most breaches of the law with 41% of all hospitality venues still allowing smoking, but failing to warn their patrons that they do. Munich came out on top. A general smoking ban has been in force there since August 2010. Yet even here, 17 percent of bars make use of the single exception that is still possible in Bavaria – that smoking is permitted in private clubs or associations.

Meanwhile the German Brewers Association revealed that Germany has 1,325 breweries currently though warning at the same time that this number is likely to fall due to takeovers.

Finally, I'll leave you with this quote from a contributor to a discussion on the beer purity laws. "lots of countries in Europe allow brewers to use chemicals ,the lager in the U.K. has no natural things in it at all."

Oh well. But if you look at the photo, perhaps their beer is just too natural?

My thanks to The Local

Wednesday 4 May 2011


I read somewhere over the holiday period - Twitter probably - that cask Jaipur has been "flabby" recently and bottles were much better. Last night in the Regal Moon in Rochdale, it was superb. Tremendous in fact. For anyone tempted to buy bottles rather than cask, this information is brought to you as a public service.

End of message.

Follow Up

No sooner had I written my piece on bar snacks than the good old Morning Advertiser - sorry - The Publican's Morning Advertiser, jumped in with a story on the same theme.  Of course they have to go a bit too far with some rather exotic suggestions and please note publicans  - not all bar snacks need to to be fried - but nonetheless it is good that the trade paper is latching on to this obvious gap in the market.

All is not sweetness and light though. While it is good that the message is being picked up and while exotic tapas and the like are fine and dandy, don't forget, keeping it simple will work too."We don't necessarily want a full meal" though is a great message which should be heeded. Sadly there is no mention of pork pies, filled rolls, sandwiches or scotch eggs, which kind of makes me think that the wish to over complicate and subsequently over price and then extrapolate that to "no demand"  is alive and well.

Let's keep asking in the pubs for what we really want.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Lees Please

The lovely E has been home from London for nearly two weeks and despite great intentions to get out and about, we have largely not done so. With the exception of a trip to see the Landlady in the depths of Delph and a quick foray into Rochdale, beer wise it has been an unmitigated parade of Lees, either in bitter format, or as Middleton's, their Royal Wedding Ale.

While I enjoyed Thwaites Wainwrights (not nearly as hoppy as usual) chez Landlady and more challenging beers at the Railway, Baum and the Regal Moon, it was good old fashioned malty Lees Bitter that I supped most of.  Simple, unchallenging and straight down the neck stuff. Most of that was in my local with our friends and I'm not doing much by way of being insightful to say that's what appealed most. In great company, beer slides down very well indeed and Lees Bitter slides down better than most.

Of course my Lees interests range wider than just swigging the bitter. Talking to two different  Lees Landlords gave the same comments about their seasonal range. Three months is too long for each beer. The novelty has worn off before the new guest appears, making it harder to shift. This isn't helped by the fact that Lees drinkers are a conservative lot and very loyal to the bitter. Another gripe is that already, the scheduled non appearance (well you know what I mean), of the Christmas special Plum Pudding this year is already causing wailing and gnashing of teeth from publicans and customers alike. It's a great beer and the feeling is that cask Manchester Star, a recreation of an 1884 Lees beer hitherto exported to the US in bottle only, is likely to be too strong at 6.5% to appeal. Beer geeks of course would no doubt disagree and ought to make their plans for a trip north now and I do hope Lees drinkers give it a fair chance.

Still onwards and upwards. I have a CAMRA meeting tonight and I dare say it will be back to hops.

Sunday 1 May 2011

De Ranke Kriek

I don't tend to get involved with The Session or Open It, as they feel a bit too contrived for my liking, so you can regard this blog entry as either chutzpah or co-incidence. On Friday I opened a long kept beer which I bought in Belgium many years ago. So many years ago that I can't really remember, but as it was best before July 2007, it must have been a fair few.  The fact that it has not been opened stems from the fact I have never got round to it and that I rarely drink anything at home. Why then did I buy it? Then, I suppose,  I was probably much more nerdy than I am now and did indeed drink a fair bit of beer at home, a lot of it for tasting note purposes.  Thankfully I am cured of the tasting note affliction and now I can't be arsed carrying heavy bottles back from abroad.  So the good news for those cursed with either of these distressing diseases is that they are likely to wear off given time.

What about the beer I hear you scream. Well I can't really be arsed about that either, so this is what it says on Beer Advocate: "Based on an extinct yet favorite tipple of the De Ranke owners, Nino Bacelle and Guido Devos, De Ranke Kriek emulates the famed Oud Kriekenbier from the defunct Crombé brewery in Zottegem. De Ranke Kriek is a mixture of two blended soured pale ales and Girardin lambic, all steeped in whole fresh cherries from Poland and then aged for six months. A unique and much sought after Kriekenbier."

Despite its age, it was in great shape. I had wondered if the subdued cherry was due to age, but seemingly not if you read some of the comments. I found it pleasant and enjoyed the red wine vinegar like sour lambic element pretty much, would have preferred a stronger cherry presence and  a bit more body. I  found little by the way of brett.  It was all a bit tame really and drank well below its 7% strength.  You wonder sometimes if those on Beer Advocate have much better imaginations than palates.

As Tyson would put it: "One for your Beer Geek Friend."

I've an idea I've been to the Crombé  Brewery many years ago. But then again, maybe not.