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    Thursday, 30 April 2009

    Bucking The Trend

    In the last few weeks I've heard of four oubs reopening in Northamptonshire and only one closing. And that single closure is said to be temporary according to the notice on the front door.

    I'm not for one moment suggesting this is the end of the bad period for pubs, but it's a step in the right direction.

    Monday, 27 April 2009

    Opening Hours

    When I first started drinking pubs had to close during the afternoon, then the law was changed so that drinking was allowed between 11 and 11 on every day except Sunday where it was noon until 10;30. I lived in a village at the time and my pub of choice flirted with opening all day on Saturday only. It was usually just us lads in there, playing skittles and listening to the football on the radio.

    It was a far cry from what we have today with pubs effectively able to open all the hours they want to but where generally speaking the vast amount of pubs choose to open all day at least at weekends and Fridays. The pub which closes during the afternoon is in a definite minority, especially in towns or near tourist attractions.

    Not all pubs do though and I'm confused why last orders is called at 3ish with a number of customers still spending their money. I know the same could be said for 11pm but people do have beds to go to.

    So why do pubs which probably could open all day choose not to? Sure staff need a break but if there are enough staff and shift patterns are sorted correctly this shouldn't be an issue. The question of profit doesn't come into it as I've already identified that these are busy pubs only.

    No, it's been suggested to me that pubs close to enable cleaning and general sprucing up between services. This may seem a valid argument but I can honestly say that I've not noticed an all day pub being particularly grotty in the evening.

    So. what's the reason? And if you ran a successful pub would you consider an afternoon of no money going through the tills?

    Tuesday, 21 April 2009

    CAMRA - A Romantic Notion

    The following is a verbatim quote from the Weekend supplement of The Times dated 11 April:

    The Campaign For Real Ale (a worthy cause) travels around the country holding festivals to promote the beauty of real ale, cider and perry.

    It really is a lovely thought that a troupe of individuals hold a beer festival and then load the lorries and move on to the next town where they unload and start all over again. If that's a real job then I want a piece of it. Does anyone know to where I should apply?

    Thursday, 16 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 5 - The Pumpclips And Bottle Labels

    I first thought up this series of posts whilst sat in a pub looking at the pumpclips all over the wall situated about ten feet away. Even with my good eyesight some of the clips were hard to read and if I could make out the beer's name I couldn't neccesarily make out anything else. Even stood just inches away from the bar there have been occasions when reading the beer name has proved problematic. It shocks me why a brewer would make it hard for potential punters to order their beer correctly.

    In my opinion a pumpclip needs three things: the beer name, the brewery name and the ABV. The brewery logo may also be included if it's not too intrusive. Anything else is just superfluous. And all three of the required things should be clear enough and large enough to be read. I think that interesting shaped pumpclips are OK and that that can set a particular brewery's beers apart from others. A good example of a clear pumpclip with the necessary information is those from Milestone, whilst those from Leeds are clear and definitely distinctive.

    The same principles apply for bottle labels. They should be kept plain and simple. The joy of a bottle is the opportunity to use the back label to really go to town. Standing in an off licence struggling to work out what is what is too much of a pain for a grouchy old drinker like me.

    So to paraphrase, like my beer naming policy my labelling is going to be simple and traditional also. I just wish more brewers were like me.

    Monday, 13 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 4 - The Occasional Beers

    So we've ascertained from comments left that some people agree that beers don't need to have leftfield or interesting names to sell and that where a name gives an obvious indication of what the customer might expect it will lead to a more informed choice.

    The naming policy for my permenant and seasonal beers may be a tad boring, but the beers won't be. They will use the best ingredients and a sufficient quantity of each to impart good flavour. My beers won't simply be one mess of Fuggles and Goldings after another. It's fair to say they won't be particularly extreme though. These are going to be high production beers that will appeal to your ordinary beer drinkers as well as your aficionados. The occasional and one off beers though are likely to be more extreme and appeal to a more niche market.

    I am a member of that niche market myself. I've regularly blogged about interesting foreign beers that are being imported and have sang the praises of the more daring progressive brewers like BrewDog and Thornbridge. It's with these beers that I'm going to have some fun

    I'm not going to complicate matters too much though. Again you're going to have a fair idea what you're going to get by the way the beer is named. So my single hopped IPA brewed with Simcoe is going to have a name to reflect itself, and its' going to be really hoppy, the same goes for my other IPAs. I'll brew proper fruit beers with proper fruit, no juice but the real thing, and I'll experiment with ingredients like coffee, spices and barrel aging, but not too many of anything at a time.

    The beers will be produced when the time is right to source the right ingredients. It's not quite seasonality but there will be a method to the madness of why each beer is produced at a certain time. These beers will be bottled as will as produced cask conditioned; my other stuff may not see a bottle. And quality control here is of the utost importance as sadly all too many British BCAs are substandard. I won't allow mine to be

    Hopefully the consistency and quality of the regular stuff will see interest in these beers, and export deals will be on the table. It all seems too simple to be true, and of course it is all my fabrication, but it's a workable model I'd have thought.

    Next time I'll do pump clips and bottle label designs.

    Wednesday, 8 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 3 - The Seasonal Beers

    I've been picked up, possibly fairly, for the boring naming policy of my imaginary beers. They won't taste boring though.

    As well as the permanent beers I will have seasonal beers. These seasonals though will be representative of the season or a celebration of an annual occurrence. They won't just be any old new recipe with a name to match the time of year. The same seasonals will be brewed year in year out, and drinkers will look forward to each year's output.

    It's far rarer in UK than in USA for regular and relevant seasonals to be produced, and it actually tends to be the older, perhaps more traditional brewers who do it. Harveys do it probably better than others although Shepherd Neame seasonals are anticipated highly in Kent although perhaps not so much further afield. I also look forward to finding Youngs Winter Warmer each year.

    As is my want the beers will all be named so as to inform the punter what to expect, so the following beers will form part of my portfolio:

    Light Mild for March (the alternative mild month)
    Chocolate Stout brewed with massive amounts of Chocolate Malt for Easter
    Strong Mild brewed for May (the current mild month)
    Summer Lager a real and authentic lager, brewed throughout the Summer
    Green Hop using the first pickings.
    Bonfire Smoke a smoked style beer for the period around November 5th.
    Winter Warmer a true strong warmer for those sipping nights around the fire.
    Christmas Ale strong and spicy.

    That's probably enough to cover the whole year. There's no need to brew beers for Valentine's Day or Halloween or St Georges Day or any other nonsense just to get another beer under your belt. These will be proper quality meaningful seasonals.

    Having said that though there will be other beers brewed as and when the time is right. More on that next time.

    Tuesday, 7 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 2 - The Permanent Beers

    Beer is a serious drink and as such deserves to treat its drinkers like serious people. My brewery therefore will produce a number of permanent beers in various styles, and will have serious understandable names.

    All too often we order beers not having a clue what we are going to receive. We can of course ask the bar staff but sadly they are not always fully in command of the knowledge to tell us whether the beer will be a golden ale or a dark mild. ABV doesn't tell us as much as it used to. That pint of Old Gutblaster could be anything.

    Sure, sometimes it's nice to be surprised, but that can occasionally be problematic.

    My dark mild will therefore be called Dark Mild, my porter Porter and my barley wine Barley Wine. No jokey names thank you very much. It may be boring but breweries back in the day didn't feel the need for odd nomenclatures.

    You'll know what you'll be getting with my beers. Tomorrow I'll do the seasonals.

    Monday, 6 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 1 - The Name

    My brewery's name would be based on one of two criteria. It would either be named after me or it would be named after its location.

    It seems a modern phenomenon to give a brewery a 'joke' name or something totally irrelevant to anything in particular. If you look at the oldest breweries still in existance, they are all named after their founders.

    So we have Shepherd Neame; Harveys; Palmers and Elgoods who are the only existing independent breweries from pre 1800.

    The oldest brewery still in existence named after its origin is Old Swan from 1835, but that's probably cheating slightly as it's actually a brew pub, although Felinfoel wasn't far behind.The oldest brewery still around not nammed after its fouders or loaction seems to be Caledonian from 1865. Even then there is a link with Caledonia being an old name for Scotland

    So being the traditionalist I am I'll be going either with Edwards' Brewery which has been done before or Wootton Brewery.

    Tomorrow I'll talk about the beers.

    Sunday, 5 April 2009

    Beer Of The Month - March 2009

    The beer I probably drink the most of at home is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It's easily attainable; cheap and tasty. In addition it's as consistent as you'd like a bottled beer to be. It was the only bottled beer I drank in March which was above average, so therefore has to win Bottled Beer Of The Month.

    There was more competition for cask beer of the month, although there was an outright winner. The highlights of the month were Leicester BF and Liverpool. I was ill for a lot of the rest of the month so drinking opportunities were at a premium.

    Both the articles linked to go into detail about the better beers on each day, so I won't bore you by repeating myself. The best beer in Liverpool was Wentworth Black Zac followed by Northern Two Tone Stout, but these pailed into insignificance against the wonder that was Atomic Firebox. I liked reading the comments that were left and can easily see that beers brewed with chili might divide opinion, but this was a work of true genius. I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if it doesn't end up being the best cask ale I drink all year.

    Thursday, 2 April 2009

    Northants POTY

    The Northamptonshire CAMRA pub of the year has just been declared. The winner is The Coach & Horses in Oxford Street, Wellingborough.

    I'm pleased for this pub which beat far more well known freehouses The Malt Shovel, Northampton and The Alexandra Arms, Kettering.

    The Coach sells up to ten real ales but is careful not to have too many on at quieter times of the week. Service is always quick and friendly and for those who are that way inclined a choice of straight glass or handle is always offered. I've never been disappointed in the quality of the beer and I'm led to believe the food's pretty good as well.

    I've written about the pub once before here. That real fire I referred to is still there and is roaringly lovely at the relevant time of the year. So a big congrats from me.

    Wednesday, 1 April 2009

    My Liverpool Crawl

    The one thing that struck home whilst walking around Liverpool on Monday was how many quality pubs there are within a short walk. I did five pubs before dinner, then headed in the other direction after dinner and did two more. I'm a bit of a lightweight sadly as there are a number of other pubs the seasoned drinker should really have done.

    There are a few jottings below of my experiences:

    Pub one - The Dispensary; smart and clean; nice wood panelling; despire being owned by Cains only one of their beers on. I had Wentworth Black Zac which was very tasty and TSA Golden Thistle which was very bland.

    Pub two Roscoe's Head; quaint little pub, nice snug, institution, untouchable by which I mean its place in the GBG may well be sacrosanct. My Jennings Bitter was a little vinegary.

    Pub three The Fly In The Loaf; modern and almost trendy, good selection of foreign beers well chosen; four Fullers beers and only one from owners Okells. Why is that? I had Wild Walker Last Orders and Okells Bitter, both were bland.

    Pub four The Pilgrim; Bohemian; great tables; cheap food; mostly students. My Phoenix White Tornado was hoppy and crisp.

    Pub five Ye Cracke; tatty; interesting; doesn't need to smarten up; interesting guest beers. I had All Gates Mild At Heart and Hornbeam Winterlong Dark Bitter, both were decent enough if a little ordinary.

    Pub six Thomas Rigbys; walked in just as someone appeared to be being ejected so a good start; good draught foreign beers, would have had the Aventinus Weizen Eisbock if I could guarantee I would keep it down. Instead I had Fullers Hock which was pretty nice.

    Pub seven Ship & Mitre; big beer selection; intriguing beer board; fast service despite the pub being busy. I had Betwixt Storr Lager and Northern Two Tone Stout both good beers doing what they say on the tin.

    I trugded home, unwittingly passing Dr Duncans where a quick glimpse through the windows revealed just Cains beers which at that time of the night didn't float my boat.

    In summery a crawl around Liverpool is not hard on the shoe leather and is sure to result in a wide selection of interesting and old favourite beers. I'ev not been since 2000, I hope I'll be back before 2018.