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    Monday, 22 December 2008

    Christmas Lunchtime Down The Pub? Not For Me.

    How is it that when I went to my parents for Christmas dinner when they lived in Cumbria, we would walk a mile and a half to the next village for lunch time pints, then walk back again, all the while in our absence Christmas dinner would be progressing nicely, with Mum putting the finishing touches to it on our return, and dinner would turn out wonderful.

    In contrast I'm cooking for eight this year, and couldn't possibly contemplate being further than five yards from the kitchen until dinner is on plates? Going to the pub is just not an option.

    Fortunately I have a garage full of beer so I won't go without, but I'd love to be as cool in the kitchen as my Mum!

    Anyway, if I don't get to write anything between now and Thursday, have a good one and crack open something decent, and think of me slaving over the turkey and all the trimmings.

    Friday, 19 December 2008

    Men Only Clubs

    Back in December I wrote about my visit to a working mens' club which had a men only bar. Well now I discover that a social club which is totally men only has won a CAMRA club of the year award.

    This is worrying on a couple of fronts. Firstly I thought CAMRA had some sort of inclusion policy, part of which is to encourage women to become members. There's a real desire to shift the stereotypical image of beards and beer bellies that this isn't going to help one bit.

    Secondly who actually drinks in these places? What's wrong with the company of women? Ok we all like a night out apart from our partners ocassionally, but that doesn't mean the whole evening should be spent purely in a male environment. The amount of testosterone in that club must be frightening!

    Close examination of the picture in the article I linked to though, does reveal a woman member of staff. That's right Mid-Boldon Club - your obvious idea of a woman's place is to serve the men. Additionally this quote "There's a great atmosphere here, and we wouldn't want the wrong type of person to spoil it." says a million words for the chauvinists of this Neanderthal part of the World. I sometimes wonder what century we are living in.

    I see no similarity at all here with men only gyms, or womens' swimming sessions. Wanting a single sex drinking den is just not right.

    Wednesday, 17 December 2008

    Great American Beers Have Arrived

    Not long after I started this blog, and in comments I left on others, I lamented the lack of decent American beers available in this country. Sure we had a few, and some of them are very good such as Brooklyn Lager and Anchor Porter, but the beers available were mostly from the larger breweries.

    Since then though the range has improved dramatically. We have seen beers from Great Divide, Flying Dog, Rogue, Goose Island, Left Hand and an increased range from Sierra Nevada. I dare say I've missed one or two as well.

    In the last couple of weeks though we've seen more great, and in many cases, pretty rare, beers imported into the country.

    Beers Of Europe's American range now includes twelve different beers from California's Stone Brewery, whilst the Port and Lost Abbey beers I mentioned previously, have now arrived and can be found here and here.

    None of these beers are cheap - what do you expect with the cost of importation and the standard of them - but should be well worth the outlay. It may be too late for Christmas, but New Year's Eve may be a cause for celebration.

    Monday, 15 December 2008

    Are There Too Many Pubs?

    We are constantly hearing about the high volumes of pubs which are closing. Obviously the economic downturn or whatever we are calling it this week is not helping, but other excuses such as the smoking ban, the weather and England's recent sporting failures are also blamed. I wonder though whether there are just too many pubs, and it's merely a case of getting to a more realistic number and that 'survival of the fittest' is happening.

    Closing pubs is far from a new phenomenon. When I first moved to Northampton, and was old enough to realise what a pub is, there was one on every other corner on the Wellingborough Road which is one of the main drags into town. Now there are about three quarters that number.

    Similarly, the village I moved to at the age of ten or eleven had three pubs. It now has two; once upon a time it had five or six.

    It's often a shame when a pub closes; more so when it's the only pub in a village, but there's always a reason for it beyond those stated at the start of this piece. With enough regular loyal custom the pub could survive. But you need to know your customers, and give them what they want and do it well.

    There is a place out there for all types of pubs; be they theme bar type pubs, community locals, rough estate pubs, food pubs, real ale pubs and so on. But they have to know what they are trying to do, and focus. I suspect most of the pubs closing down are what I now refer to as "Woolworths Pubs". That is a pub which tries to be all things, and doesn't do any of them particularly well. A little bit more specialism in the pub world may be exactly what is needed.

    Sunday, 14 December 2008

    Beer In A D Cup

    An underwear shop in Harrow has offered male customers a chance to win beer if they shop in store or online, as an incentive to break their fear at buying their partners something frilly.

    I don't really understand the need for such fear when purchasing such items. At least it means the customers have someone special to buy such apparel for (or they are into transvestitism).

    In a shock move though it's not some dodgy pale lager on offer, but Coopers Sparkling Ale, a half decent beer on offer.

    So there you go then; only a handful of shopping days left to enter. Go and buy something to put jugs in and win something to put in jugs.

    Thursday, 11 December 2008

    Beer Of The Month - November 2008

    The best beer I drank in November was actually Alehouse Robust Porter, a wonderfully rich, hoppy, very American influenced porter. However I've drank the beer before and as this column only deals with new beers to me, it doesn't qualify. It's an excellent beer though; one you should certainly seek out.

    I drank the porter at a Hertfordshire beer festival in The Malt Shovel, at which I also enjoyed Buntingford Witch Project, a dark roasty, fruity bitter with coffee notes; Alehouse 99 And A Half Won't do, a headbanging 10% booze filled beer, and Red Squirrel Springfield IPA.

    This is truly a great beer full of piney bitter American hops. So full in the mouth, and beautifully balanced. The other two people who have rated this beer on RateBeer gave it great marks too. It is a clear Beer Of The Month winner.

    The month of course featured the Wetherspoons Beer Festival, which didn't get close to the high standards set earlier in the year, but one beer did stand out for me, and, I know, for others; although not everybody agreed with me that it was a great beer. Viking's Return was brewed by Mikkel of Mikkeller at Jennings and was both extremely bitter and very burnt at the same time. It was very complex and no doubt challenging. It was liked enough by Wetherspoons customers to place it second in the Beer Of The Festival voting.

    I didn't drink many bottled beers during November, but the one I did really enjoy was BrewDog Chaos Theory. This beer won the prototype challenge, where it was up against a wheat beer and a schwarzbier. It is a typically bold IPA, coming in at 7.1%. I think this is the style of beer BrewDog does best, and this is just about the right ABV for this style.

    December should be an interesting month. I always like to drink a few special beers around the Christmas break so the competition will be hot for the next Beer Of The Month.

    Tuesday, 9 December 2008

    How Important Is The Good Beer Guide?

    If you are a landlord and your pub is in the guide, are you chuffed? Do you think it brings extra custom? Is that custom the type you wish to attract? Do you see it as getting one over your fellow landlords in the vicinity who are not in the guide?

    If you are a landlord who is not in the guide, but feels you should be, are you seriously pissed off? Do you think you are missing out on custom? Are you jealous of fellow landlords who are in? Do you think 'I'm better than them, there must be a vendetta'?

    If you are a real ale drinker, do you exclusively drink in pubs which are in the guide? Do you look in the guide before you go to a strange town, so you can drink in those pubs? If the pub you drink in, isn't in the guide and you think it should be, are you willing to do something about it?

    There are a lot of questions here, but I'm genuinely interested in the answers. Any feedback gratefully received.

    Saturday, 6 December 2008

    BrewDog Beer Rocks Week Three

    It's BrewDog Beer Rocks week 3 time, and this week it's hops. Last week's winning choice for malt and ABV was 6.5% ABV using Pale Maris Otter, Amber Malt and Black Malt. So bearing that and the fact that it's to be a black IPA in mind, your choices this week are:

    Cascade and Centennial
    East Kent Goldings, Fuggles and First Gold
    Warrior, Chinook, Simcoe and Motueka

    Three quite different choices there; a regular pairing of American hops, a triumverate of British hops, or a hop bomb using US and NZ stuff. Plenty to ponder.

    The video and voting can be found here.

    Tuesday, 2 December 2008

    They Drink A Lot In Derby

    My friend Simon, The Reluctant Scooper, lives just outside Derby and spends a fair amount of his time drinking within the city walls. Simon likes a drink, as those of you who read his excellent blog will have discovered for yourself by now.

    It seems though that he's not alone in liking and drinking real ale in Derby, not that I ever expected he was. In fact it seems Derby drinkers polish rather a lot of the real stuff off.

    As this article demonstrates, more pints of festival beer were sold in The Standing Order during the Wetherspoons Festival, than any other Spoons establishment, with the other (better) Spoons pub in town, The Babington Arms coming third.

    There are rumours that beer is so expensive in Derby freehouses that the locals can only afford to drink in Spoons, but that's just malicious if you ask me.

    One thing that worries me though is the comment in the penultimate paragraph of the article that St Austell Proper Job in The Babington tasted like "liquid pasties". Something wrong with their pipes methinks.

    Quaffale - Rest In Peace

    One of the sites I link to in the left hand bar is Quaffale. This website was an invaluable source of information about all breweries in the UK, including those in the planning pipeline. Most breweries had photos, bringing a bit of life to each page.

    It didn't attempt to list each beer brewed by each brewery; that's a thankless and impossible task, especially in these days of prevalent rebadging.

    Beer Festival organisers used the site for contact details whilst ordering beers; scoopers used it to find about new breweries as soon as they hit the pubs, and beer lovers just loved it.

    You'll notice everything in this article is in the past tense. Unfortunately, Quaffale guru Rick Pickup decided to close the site down yesterday. It's a sad event, sadder still perhaps that the information has all gone, but then leaving it as it was, and thus immediately out of date, would probably not have been the right thing to do.

    Rick, I salute you, and thanks for all the information over the last eight years.