An artisanally crafted blog curated by Cooking Lager for discerning readers of beer bloggery

Friday, 31 July 2009

Holiday!


On my hols. Flying out tonight.


What I will be doing:

Wearing union jack shorts
Sitting on a sun lounger
Ogling topless lasses and mentally rating the tits from 1-10 in my own head, and calculating daily averages.
Eating egg and chips
Necking a few San Miguel’s to cool down
Drinking in a karaoke bar
Eating seafood, drinking cheap plonk and playing on the lady squeezes tits.

What I won’t be doing:

Walking round a fascinating historical city and admiring its history and architecture
Speaking anything other than English
Buying tat made of wood from a market stall
Drinking interesting and complex beers with a myriad of flavours, depths and after taste
Writing anything in a notebook about such tosh, and then putting it on this blog.

A week of sun, sand, sea and sex beckons. The only downside is that lady squeeze might “make friends” with another couple and thus lumber us with unnecessary company, but I’ve got the union jack shorts, the soccer shirt and I’m shaving my head at lunchtime so I’ll look too unappealing to make friends with, and from then on in its sunshine and shagging!

Oh this year I’m off to Sunny Spain Y Viva Espana
I'm taking the Costa Brava 'plane Y Viva Espana
If you'd like to chat a matador, in some cool cabana
And meet senoritas by the score, Espana por favor
When I get back there will be treats galore, I've a few boxes of prime cooking lager in the garage just waiting for my expert palate to review.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

A cooking lager quandary


Being a young lad, inexperienced in many ways of the world, the psychology of the female mind remains a mystery. You see, I now find myself in a quandary. It has its origins in a schoolboy error I made in regard to comment about the large amount of clothes the lady squeeze possesses.

Within the master bedroom of the house there are 2 built in wardrobes at either side of the bed. You might think that is one wardrobe each for the lady squeeze and I. However 1 ½ wardrobes is dedicated to the wide variety of the lady’s clothes, with a minimum space for my own more limited collection of modern fashion. One of the spare bedrooms is also full of the ladies clothes that she considers “not every day”. It would take about a decade to wear each item, on the basis of changing your outfit daily. I know what you’re thinking and yes, when attending a friend’s engagement she complained of “having nothing to wear”

I made what I thought a helpful suggestion “why not put some in one of those charity bags that come through the door?” The look I got made me question whether I would ever have sex again. I’ve learnt not to go there, and sometimes you learn the hard way.

What has this got to do with cooking lager? Well, like all cooking lager enthusiasts I have a burgeoning collection of cooking lagers. A fair few in the fridge, a couple of boxes next to the fridge, and boxes stacked to the roof in the garage. The lady squeeze went in the garage, why I have no idea. The garage is man territory. It’s where a man keeps his flymo and spanner set. It is where my paint stick lives. Every man that is truly a man has a paint stick. A stick for the sole purpose of stirring paint. My grandfather had one; my father had one; I have one and my son, if I am so blessed, when reaching manhood will get one of his own. The garage is home to my cooking lager provisions.

Now the issue is they sell big boxes of it for tuppence and it’s such a steal I buy several boxes. Then next week there is another giveaway offer I cannot resist. I drink at a rate of a can, every other day. At weekends I share a bottle of vino with the missus. Hence the cooking lager is growing faster than diminishing. When seeing it the missus asked whether I was expecting a world war, and was stocking up for that purpose. However it is simply poor cooking lager management in my part. The poor weather has put the kybosh on a barbeque the missus was planning, which would have culled the collection. The lady squeeze even had the gall to suggest hypocrisy on my part for suggesting giving her clobber to charity, “whilst you’re stocking lager like you’ve a compulsive disorder”

The thing is there are new bargains every week. I am now banned from buying more, until, and this is the most unreasonable bit, the garage lager is gone. What is to do? Is there a way of convincing the lady squeeze that the stock is not “too much” but in fact “a healthy amount”. That every home needs what amounts to several years supply of cooking lager? That it is normal, expected and frankly the done thing.

Now I appreciate that in the brotherhood of beer blogging, a simple cooking lager enthusiast may not be considered as enlightened as a bearded pongy beer swigger. But any suggestions as how to lift the ban would be appreciated. I cannot review Foster’s everyday for a year until I run out and am allowed to buy more lout. I need to buy several boxes of whatever is cheap next time the missus drags me supermarket shopping. It is the only enjoyable part of the otherwise tedious journey of “which box of soap powder is better value” and “how do you tell whether a melon is ripe?” The Buddha said “life is suffering” as the first noble truth. The second was something on the lines of “life is suffering due to our desire for life to be otherwise” and then went on a bit and I cannot recall anymore of the tosh, but the thing is this. Life was suffering. It was suffering thousands of years ago because there was no cooking lager. These days life, and trips to the supermarket, is suffering with an exciting lagery bargain in the far aisle. Had cooking lager been about when the Buddha was a young lad about town, he’d of said “Life, it’s alright I suppose” and that would have been the first noble truth and eastern philosophy and religious theology would be very different today.

So guys, how do I lift the ban?

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Stella 4%


Brand extensions. Usually something to be avoided. Why? It’s a marketing driven concept and the purpose of it, when applied to any given commodity, is to notice the price is x per quantity and to try and convince us with smoke and mirrors that paying y per quantity will make us happier and more fulfilled human beings. It doesn’t It makes us poorer. Like going into pubs.
The exciting and vibrant world of cooking lager is awash with the brand extension. “Premium standard” is the latest nonsense. Premium lager is any old piss at 5% ABV, and standard is any old piss at 4%. Brand a 4% piss with a 5% brand and you have “Premium standard”. An attempt to con us into parting with more than 40p for a can of the treasured ambrosia.

Well, it’s been a while, but it would appear the community of cooking lager enthusiasts and appreciators has resisted paying top dollar for one brand extension because last evening I celebrated Stella 4% officially becoming cooking lager nirvana. It has been on the outskirts for a while. Launched a few years ago now, unusually into the off trade before the on, it had all the qualities needed for a good cooking lager. It was a British brewed lager, with a foreign brand, high use of the adjunct maize (a flavour treasured by cooking lager fans, rather than dismissed as the less forward thinking ale jihadists view it) and absolutely inauthentic in every way. But the price remained resolutely above what the cooking lager lover is willing to pay. Often up to 60 or 70p a can. More expensive than the 5% Stella that is almost permanently on the special these days. Boringly so. I acquired a box of 15 for £7. That’s 47p a can. Whoo Eeeee. Dancing in the aisle. Who say’s supermarkets are soulless?

Whether it joins the cycle of bargains, and turns up regularly, we will have to wait and see. Beck’s Fear, another brand extension only rarely goes cheap enough, but we can live in hope of another fine product joining the cooking lager family. Talking of which, Carlsberg hasn’t been dirt cheap for a while. They have been boxing clever with the packaging, and false offers but keep your eye out. They all need to shift volume. Carlsberg is due for a giveaway soon. I feel it in my water.

I digress, Stella 4% what glass to drink from? I’ve never seen it in a pub so I opt for the poncy Stella glass I nicked to drink the 5% stuff out of. It matches the adverts which for this beer are art nouveau, rather than French peasantry. Nicer. It says something to me. Not sure what, though.

The lout. Ice cold, crisp. Like nymphs dancing down your throat. Chocolaty notes? Burnt caramel aroma? Malty sweetness? Herbal kick? Hop bite? You’re having a laugh. This is cooking lager. It goes down a treat and doesn’t trouble the palate. Top notch. If cheap enough, this could be a regular and challenge my passion for Foster’s.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The hip place to be.


The hip place to be is right at home, can of cooking lager in hand. News that staying in is the new going out, is right here. If you still go to pubs, well that’s so last year.

So are you an old fuddy duddy pub goer that wants to get with the fashion, daddio? Check out all the great cooking lager deals here and here.

Use a calculator to work out the price of a pint, and soon you can be down with the kids and hip to the trend.


With all the money you save, why not take your missus somewhere nice, and get some lovin’ Cheers.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Pubs


With the pub industry dying I have been moved by the romantic notions of pubs and given some thought as to how you can create the pub experience in your own home, without the hassle and cost of actually having to go in one. With only 53,466 pubs in existence, there’ll all be gone in under 20 years.

Firstly I recommend watching the following TV show for inspiration. It is an accurate representation of the average dumpy pub and watching this in the comfort of your own home has to beat walking into one of these god forsaken places.

So what do we do with our pleasant, well furnished and modern living room? Well firstly the decor is easy to replicate but the general tattiness more difficult. Throw everything out. The big flat screen telly, the comfy sofa’s, the books, the DVD’s, the lot. Replace with a series of uncomfortable benches around the room and a wobbly table or two and mismatching chairs. Open a can of beer and splash liberally everywhere to get the requite degree of stickiness. Splash on table, chairs and most importantly the carpet. Burn bits of the carpet too to create holes and carve the odd profanity into the tables. If there is cushioning on the benches and chairs, rip with a kitchen knife and gaffer tape it up. On the wall put an old telly showing pop videos. Decorate the walls with tat. Beer mats make an exciting alternative to wallpaper. Chip the walls to reveal the underlying plaster and write the odd profanity here too. For effect you could also mimic an odd brown stain on the ceiling, with the use of gravy browning. Never clean the place, or if you do, do so in a half hearted manner that retains the stickiness and general feeling that it is dirty.

Now for the smell. Toilet is the smell to go for and in order to do this in the home there is the choice of having the effect all round the house or just in your pub themed living room. Cease cleaning the toilet and flushing it leaving a turd floating constantly in it. Over time the smell will dominate the house, giving the place the authentic aroma of traditional British pub. Alternatively just keep a bucket in the corner of the living room with a turd in it, but for the full effect you have to have a toilet that you would never want to enter.

Do not invite round friends or people you like. Invite round 3 or four miserable old men, picked at random off the street, to sit in your living room, nursing a can of bitter in silence and sighing occasionally. Encourage racist comments about the Asian proprietor of the mini mart and rants in regard to immigration. The atmosphere you are looking for is one of “oh death, welcome me into your embrace” Always have an unappealing rough looking chap stood outside nursing a fag.

Now sit in your uncomfortable living room, nursing your can of cooking lager safe in the knowledge that a great British tradition lives on. You’ll never tear the heart out of Britain, Mr Darling!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Sunday Lunch


One off the great traditions of this green and pleasant land is Sunday lunch. Fine roast meats with roast potatoes and a range of healthy vegetables, covered in lashings of delicious gravy. However food of this magnificence requires cooking and this is where we discover the purpose of in-laws and parents. Going round the mother in laws for Sunday lunch not only affords one a delicious free meal but also brings meaning and purpose into the old girls life. She may have my character down to a pat, marking me out as a chancer not good enough for her daughter, but at least she cooks a mean roast.

Life however, can not be all roast dinners. Sometimes you have to feed yourself, and it is here we have an opportunity to explore the exciting world of beer and food matching. This evening, a light snack is in order after the excesses of lunchtime and what can be better than a jumbo sausage roll and can of lager? A scotch egg? A pork pie? But jumbo sausage rolls were on special offer in the supermarket, so sausage roll it is.

What lout to put with the delicate puff pastry and pork meaty harmony? Why whatever lager is on the special, and Beck’s was on the special. Beck’s more often than not turns up on the special in boxes of small bottles, but today we enjoy it in it’s canned form. A 5% German lager that by all accounts is an actual proper lager of the reinheitgebot and possibly not a cooking lager.
Don’t let that put you off, if cheap enough proper lager is an acceptable alternative to cooking lager and should not be dismissed.

Opening the can of cold lager delight, one does notice a beery smell. Only to be expected, but never the less, not something the cooking lager enthusiasts really wants from a beer. On the swig one gets a noticeable beery flavour. Its not all bad though. A few swigs in and one is starting to enjoy it. Beery it may be but it’s not the pong you suffer with real ale, it’s a lagery beeriness that reminds you of what a good genuine cooking lager should be.

Opening the jumbo sausage roll, one gets a firm meatiness that lingers awaiting washing down with lagery goodness. Usually one goes for the economy sausage rolls, offering a far better sausage roll bang per buck, but today we are at the premium end of the sausage roll spectrum and all the better it is too. Thankfully it is not organic or anything, just a decent amount of pork goodness in a light and delightful puff pastry shell.

Towards the end of this gastronomical journey I find myself torn. On the one hand Beck’s is not really a proper cooking lager. However it is an acceptable compromise. It’s made by Inbev, large global conglomerate, in a big efficient modern brewery plant, and not knocked up in an inefficient shed by someone with a beard. Thus flavour and pong is kept to a minimum, but one cannot but feel that they should have tried harder. Used adjuncts to bring the cost down further and rid the tincture of it’s beeriness.

All in all though, an acceptable alternative to cooking lager.


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Where the kids are at


For the last 24 hours the beer blogs have been alive with the flames of the dying pub industry, Best of the blogs here and here and here and here. It’s all yesterday’s news today though so that’s why I thought I’d post about it.

The views expressed, were wide and diverse and went from disputing the figures on the basis that many pubs reopen, to disputing them the other way saying that with bars and none proper pubs opening the number of proper pubs are in even steeper decline.

One set of opinions touched me, it touched my soul. This was expressed by a number of people and at a direct tangent from my own view of pubs. This was a view of pubs as warm convivial community centres that enriched the human soul.

Now that is not my view of pubs, my view of pubs is that they are dumpy crapholes full of losers and old men without homes to go to drinking themselves to death whilst expressing offensive and often racist but ultimately impotent views on anything from immigration to taxes to which one of Girls Aloud they would most like to take from behind. Nadine, the Irish one, if you’re wondering, is my answer.

I got back from the gym last night and whilst I sat with my lovely lady and ate the 3 bean salad she had lovingly prepared, I didn’t reach for the fridge to get my daily can of cooking lager goodness. Instead I ventured “fancy going out for a drink tonight?”

Surprisingly she answered in the affirmative. We haven’t been on a date for a while. At weekends we socialise with friends and midweek we are homebodies. It suits us, in you are single early twenties you get out and about, but when you approach 30 you stick with a bird, buy a house, and for want of a better expression, live in it, with her, and generally have less sex than you would like and thought you would have, now you both have your own place and can do it whenever you want.

The rain stayed off and it’s only short walk to the local, a pub I’ve been in twice in the 4 years I’ve lived here. Once when we moved in, second when a mate came round and fancied going to the pub. Upon entering I realise I’ve been a bit unfair and provocative in regard to pubs. To describe the pub as a dump is only partly true and also a tad unfair. It is not smart, not aspirational, a bit tatty, but not so horrible you have to leave and have a shower. It’s no worse than pubs have always been, and I used to spend time in these places, with mates, when a student. At the bar is a choice of bitter or lager. Johns Smiths Smooth, Bombadier cask, Fosters, Stella. There are ciders and Guinness too. I look around and the clientele, all 4 of them are drinking either the smooth or the lout. A bunch of miserable old sods you wouldn’t buy a used car off. I have a Foster’s and the lady has a white wine from the choice of red or white. The service is not unfriendly, but obviously there is an extra charge for a smile. We take a seat. Now the romanticised views of pubs are about the atmosphere not the drinks, but looking at the drinks, it’s nearly £7 for 2 drinks. Tesco are not only cheaper, but offer me more choice. The choice here is of bog standard products that sell at a discount in the off trade. And why is lager the premium expensive beer? In the supermarket, that’s the cheap stuff, 40p a can, and the bombardier is 2 for £3 on discount? How odd. The premium products of on and off trade are at a direct tangent.

Atmosphere? Well there is oxygen. You can breathe, but atmosphere is what I suspect we mean when we look at pubs through rose tinted romantic eyes. The atmosphere is well; quiet would be a nice way of putting it, dead a less friendly expression. The locals leave us alone to chat, and frankly I like it that way, when getting a closer look at them. Sense of community? Nah. I’m paying money to sit in someone else’s frankly shabby faux 18th century front room. “Fancy another?” I say “Are we stopping in here?”, “Nah, let’s go”
If anyone chooses to comment on my tosh, one thing I’d like to know is why pubs look like, well pubs. What’s with all the Victorian/Edwardian design? Did pubs have a style before Queen Victoria? Why hasn’t it moved on, what’s kept it like this? You can look at a house and know exactly what decade it was last decorated. You can’t do that with pubs. They have always been dated. You tell how long ago they got a lick of paint, and it’s usually “too long”.

We walk to a bar the missus likes to go in on the main road. It’s usually a sting in here. The choice is Fosters, Stella, Kronenburg, Hoegarrden and Leffe on draft. No ales, keg, cask or otherwise. The decor is modern and smart. It’s a bar, not a pub, with a restaurant upstairs. We get a table and on the table is a menu, drinks on one side, and snacks on the other. The missus picks a bottle of wine and I buy it at the bar. £8. Not as good as the Spoons where it is a fiver, but we get a couple of glasses each out of it. £8 for two rounds. The bar is busy; there is a buzz about the place. The clientele is young, well dressed and orange. Orange fake tan is the look for the youth of today. An orange girl at the bar says hello, and knows me. It takes a few seconds for me to remember who she is. She’s with her mates, blue wickeds all round, and we chat for a moment before I return to my slightly annoyed girlfriend. Who is she and how do you know her, she wants to know. Once it’s confirmed that it is not an ex girlfriend and not a girl I really know that well, the lady is happier. We enjoy a drink in a busy, but not heaving, vibrant centre of the community. People are chatting; groups know each other, the lady squeeze nods to some people that live along the street. She’ll be making friends with them next, so I hope they’ve got some decent grog in.

I realise the community is not in the pubs, it’s in the people. It follows people where the people go, and currently plenty of people want to go here. Its female friendly, bright, smart, and aspirational and I like the place. A couple of glasses of white wine each and we are off home. We get home, something nice happens. It’s a work night and I get to have sex. Maybe I ought to take the girl out and throw wine down her more often.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Money Money Money


Beer blogs, as you know are not all about beer, but an opportunity to rant. Rant about anything you like. Anything from the governments, smoking bans, even flapjacks. They are a way of telling an apathetic hostile world what you think. In a world of over 6 billion people, is it easy to think you are an insignificant statistic, probably because that’s correct, but let’s assume more than one or two people read this tosh, for the sake of argument. Let assume we can move the world.

I would like to rant about £5 notes. Here in blighty the £5 is the lowest note denomination of currency. Lower that a “fiver” and we are in coin territory. There is a £1 and £2 coin in circulation. Above a fiver sits a £10 or tenner and £20 or twenty (not for some reason twenter, go figure). £50 notes are fairly rare (if I had one I would treasure it and never spend it), and only the Scottish has the £100 note. Run down here.

Now I don’t like breaking a note at the best of times, but the higher the denomination the more difficult it is. I don’t like spending shiny coins either, or crisp new notes of any denomination. I can spend any amount on a plastic card, but parting with cash is painful. Currently the new twenties are lovely; I don’t like to part with them. Breaking a twenty is painful. Fiver’s and tenners are less painful; they tend to be a bit tatty anyway. However there is a further fly in the ointment that makes breaking any note above a fiver fill me with an unquenchable rage. There a no bloody fivers in circulation in this shitting country.

Break a tenner for a low value item, some twonk at the cash register thinks its okay to give me 8 pounds coins back. It’s not okay, give me a five pound note and 3 pound coins you tosser. This happens in pubs, cafe’s, sandwich bars, newsagents, fast food dens, every bloody where.

Small businesses of Britain get your bloody cash management sorted. I am a man; I have a wallet, not a purse. Wallets are designed for notes and a few coins. A handful of coins are a pain in the arse.

Buying a burger recently, I actually broke a twenty, something I rarely do, as it is often just too painful, but I had no choice as I had nothing else on me, and the spotty gormless kid serving thought it okay to give me all the change in pound coins. “You're having a laugh” I said, “Sorry that all that’s in the till” he said “Open another till” I said “Sorry, I can’t” “That is unacceptable, if you cannot open another till, find the manager that can”. The manager turns up, opens another till, I get a tenner and a fiver, along with my burger of cheap mediocrity, and that outlet loses my custom henceforth. I don’t want to have to have a discussion to get what is clearly reasonable. I should just get it as a matter of course.

Small businesses, for Christ’s sake sort out your cash management, get some fivers in your till. It’s not okay to hand me a handful of pound coins. It makes me think twice about stepping foot in your gaff again, unless I’ve got the right money. Make it easy for me to break a note. It’s painful enough without you making it more painful.

Oh and don’t try and pass a Scottish note on me, you are business, you do business banking and cash management, I potter to a cash point every so often. If you want to accept jock notes that’s fine. I don’t accept ‘em because they are a pain in the arse to pass on, just sort out your cash management, for Christ’s sake.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

More Beer Gastronomy


When thinking of beer and food matching, the Great British tradition of a beer and a curry must take pride of place. Combining the great British tradition of drinking German lager and the great British tradition of eating Indian food, is frankly one of the things that makes Britain great. Did the Indians think of curry and lager? No they didn’t, did the Germans think of curry and lager? No they didn’t. It may be Indian food and German beer but we thought of curry and lager and it makes you proud to be British. God Save the Queen.

When I told the lady squeeze of my new activity of beer blogging and about my last gastronomical journey, apart from shaking her head and rolling her eyes, she did mention that eating a take away with a can of lager was cheating. One truly ought to cook. Me? Cook? I do on occasion cook. I cook for the same reason I occasionally Hoover, to make out that I am a modern man and not the unreconstructed Neanderthal I really am, and to put myself in the lady squeezes good books in the expectation of a bit of how’s your father. However a quick look through the cooking books on the shelf and I quickly realise that cooking a curry involves effort and shopping, and frankly I can’t be arsed.

Luckily we live in the 21st century. This, folks, is the future. We really ought to be getting about via jet packs and eating whole meals in pill form, but until the scientists pull their thumb out of there arse and sort it out we have the delight that is the microwave meal.

Now don’t think for one minute that microwave meals are unhealthy and full of crap, they contain ingredients and ingredients are a recipe and a recipe is healthy. You are just taking the leg work out of cooking by putting a bit of convenience into it. Every so often the zeitgeist changes, from cooking from scratch to using convenience foods to back to cooking from scratch. Why should we be slaves to the likes of Delia? Who is she to tell us what is acceptable? I announce now that microwave food is cooking. The application of heat to food is cooking. It’s about as much cooking as 99% of pubs do and you can be sure your kitchen is clean and not wiped down once a day with a dirty rag by a bored 19 year old. You can be sure because the missus buys domestos and uses it.

But what curry? And what beer? I go for lamb bhuna with pilau rice for one reason and one reason only, on the label is the word “hot”. Not medium, not mild, but hot. I am a heterosexual man and part of being one is eating hot curry. Failure to do so, in Britain, results in an invite to a Gay Pride march and a free pair of pink jeans from our failed government who like to promote such things in the hope of attracting the pink vote, because no one else will vote for them. Now I’m not homophobic, men with a liking for soft furnishings and the music of ABBA are unthreatening people that can give you stylish advice on clothes and male grooming and have no desire to steal your girlfriend, they may not like football but they are alright and tend to know how to mix a cocktail. Gay people have a useful role in society. I’d rather the lady squeeze talk to her gay work mate about the colour of cushions than bore me rigid with it, that’s a given. However it is important to assert ones heterosexuality in such metro sexual times. Hence hot curry.

The lager? Becks Fear. Or Vier as its spelt. My GCSE in German means I can confuse most bar staff in the country with the correct pronunciation as they haven’t got GCSE’s. If they did, they wouldn’t be barmen. Becks Vier is cooking lager nirvana. One of the finest cooking lagers on the market, and a favourite. A light, refreshing easy going beer made from proper ingredients as the can says, nothing dodgy here. A genuine reinheitsgebot German lager that’s brewed not for an authentic ABV, or even for actual Germans, but brewed to a British cooking lager ABV, resulting in a nice cold inoffensive weak pisswater. Either that or it’s just watered down regular Becks’s. Who’s to say? Now the German’s may laugh at us for drinking weak watery lager, but who won the war?

Together the curry, rice and lager combine to create a heavenly medley of complex flavours. Sweet, sour, hot, refreshed. It’s a journey into the places regular gastronomes fear to tread. We are at the cutting edge. The way to eat this is to shovel it in as quickly as possible, necking the lout to quench any heat and belching frequently. The lady may not like it, but curry and lager is man food and man business.

The lager? I’d love to write notes of chocolate, a hint of shoe leather, a rich underlying aftertaste of burnt charcoal. But thankfully the lout possesses not of that nonsense. It’s cold, fizzy and largely flavourless. Just as beer should be. Feeling a bit emasculated ‘cos you’ve been talking about male moisturising products with the missus’s gay pal over a glass of chilled chardonnay? Need to assert your masculinity to feel better but have no trees to chop down with an axe because you already chopped them down? Curry and lager, the way to assert your heterosexuality in the age of the metro sexual.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Beer Books


Since becoming an avid beer blog reader, enjoying the tales of the ale that people record in regard to their boozing, I have become aware of the professional beer writer’s. Names like Brown, Jackson and Protz, names to revere’s as they actually make a living out of it. What? Go figure. People buy books on beer? They must do or otherwise there would be no living in it and beer writers would have to get proper jobs.

If anything it is a sign of the sophistication of our global economy that enables degrees of specialisation to the degree of creating such things as professional footballers, singers, and even beer writers.

Being a progressive sort of beer enthusiast, not for me the self limiting worship of only cooking lager, I am willing to drink anything if it’s cheap enough, I have on occasion broke the cooking lager code and drank other things. British cooking lager enthusiasts often look backward only to the past, attempting to preserve dying brands (in the UK) like Hofmeister, XXXX & Miller Lite. It’s about the preservation of tradition more than enthusiasm for interesting new innovation, unlike the craft cooking lager scene abroad, where beer is all the fashion.

But not for me, as a progressive I am keen to appreciate an ever wider circle of cheap grog. So long as it’s cheap and doesn’t send you blind, or at least only temporarily sends you blind, I’ll give it a go.

With this progressive attitude in mind I thought I’d read a book on beer. Pete’s Brown’s “Hops and Glory” is all the rage, but I’ve been beaten to the punch by dozens of other blogs, and anyway all the beer books on Amazon, tomes by the greats like Protz and Jackson cost over a fiver! For a fiver I can buy a week’s supply of cooking lager!

The answer came in a charity shop. There was an old copy of “Man walks into a pub”, marked up at 70p. A bit of bargaining with the old dear behind the counter and I got it down to 50p. “Bit tatty this book, give you 50p?”, “It’s for charity, sir. We sell things for charity”, “50p to whatever your collecting for is better than nowt”, withering look of scorn, “okay then sir, 50p it is”. Now I can take a look of withering scorn from a dotty old bat. 20p is 20p. Now you may think that it’s all for charity and I should have forked out the extra 20p, but charity begins with yours truly.

Now for the review. It’s a book about beer, and well, pubs. It’s interesting if you like that sort of thing. Better I suspect and more relevant to a beer enthusiast than Kerry Katonas autobiography and containing fewer gruesome sexual references that Jordan’s tome. Pete Brown doesn’t snap a Pop Idol contestant’s banjo string while robbing him of his innocence, for a start. Best bit of the book? It’s exactly an inch thick making it perfect for evening up an old sofa and giving the lady squeeze no excuse to drag me to a sofa shop to spend 500 sheets on a new one. Worth the 50p. Man walks into a pub, Pete Brown, 10/10 Read while swigging a can of special offer Carlsberg.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Trev's Homebrew


One of the more remarkable things about the opposite sex (ladies), is both their ability to make friends and their desire to do so. Most of my friends are a motley collection of individuals I knew either at school or university. I haven’t made any friends since and if truth be told possess little desire to do so. If a further darker truth be told, I could live without the ones I’ve got.

The lady squeeze however is remarkable, not just for her good looks and intelligence, but also for turning passing acquaintances into friends. Take Trevor and Sue (please do ho ho). One minute the lady squeeze is dragging me to a local meeting for a neighbourhood watch“ (a good thing I’ve no doubt, but something that can exist without my involvement), the next thing we are talking to Trevor and Sue (or rather the 2 women are talking, Trev and I are looking at our watches), then out of the blue we are apparently “going round Trevor and Sue’s house on Saturday night for a meal. Trevor likes home brewing beer, you like beer, you’ll get on” Now that’s a lie. I don’t get on with people, never have, and anyway how did all this happen? How did exchanging a few pleasantries and local gossip become spending social time with each other? Time we could spend on our own going at it like rabbits? Also a deeper and darker malaise traversed my soul. Homebrew. Oh my god.

It is a universal truth of homebrew that the maker thinks its great, but it is in fact a nasty evil tincture that tastes foul, will rot your guts, give you a nasty hangover, leave you on the toilet for a day and generally make you regret your own birth. When someone offers you some homebrew make any excuse to say no. Claiming to be on medication is the best excuse I’ve ever used for not drinking. Claiming to be tee-total marks you as a tosser, religion also marks you as a weirdo and you cannot claim to be driving when they live 4 doors down.

Homebrew is forever tainted with the mark of Reggie Perrin the fictional mid life crisis comedy, whose son in law famously made undrinkable homebrew from odd ingredients (parsnip wine and the like) that all but himself found to be nasty. I gather it was a hobby in vogue in the 70’s and passes into and out of fashion for varying reasons, whether it be the price of booze, a general do it yourself Tom Good have an allotment fashion, or whatever. Why though would anyone go to the hassle when high quality delicious and refreshing cooking lager is 40p a can?
 
Anyway, Trevor and Sue are a delightful couple, I found myself quite liking “Call me Trev”. He showed me round his elaborate set up. Yes, I know what you think, he had all his kit in his shed, and was quite the mad scientist. I half expected a hybrid creature in a cage screaming “please kill me” Talk of boilers, mash tuns, sparging your wort involved me nodding my head and being politely interested. Politely interested is a term used when you are not at all interested but feel you have to pretend you are.

The food was great, organic rabbit stew. Sue is a fine cook. Now I could spend all day ranting about organic food and the nutcases that buy it. To pay twice the price for something that is no better, because there is nothing wrong with normal food is idiocy, but heh, its there money not mine. The English middle classes revere a tosspot called Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, which is why we had to be told about the local organic butchers, grocers and the like. All places I shall not frequent because I like Mr Tesco and his prices.
 
Of course what we want to know is what is Trev’s cooking like? To paraphrase the wrestling star The Rock, do we even want to smell what Trev’s got cooking? I notice at this point the women are sharing a bottle of shop bought wine, nothing Trev's knocked up in his shed, my heart sinks. Why can't I have a glass of Pinot?

The beer was a “blonde ale”, something’s that’s obviously the current fashion. All malt, he did tell me the hop variety but the day I buy a notebook to jot beer ramblings into is the day I grow a beard, so I forgot. He said it was “rather lively”, which means frothy as he could only dispense a pint from his big white plastic barrel into a German stein, that was half froth. One he purchased too, so he said, from a beer shop. The middle classes don’t nick things, it’s in the handbook the government give you when you become middle class.
 
As it was half froth that took a while to settle, we waited. The beer was clear enough, a slight pong but no worse than anything I’ve drank that people tell me is real ale, and the taste? Palatable. Genuinely palatable grog. Neck able without a single wince. No “acquired taste” that takes a few pints before you like it. Drinkable from the first swig. Cool but not cold and flat rather than fizzy, but all in I gave it the thumbs up. Six pints worth of thumbs up. Well done Trev. What was I saying? Homebrew is lovely!

A further feature of homebrew, one I forgot, is that its ABV, alcohol level, is often variable and uncertain. Brewers measure the OG (original gravity) but with homebrew all manner of uncertainties arise. It continues fermenting and thinning out the longer you keep it and all home brewers seem to say “it’s a bit unexpectedly strong this one” This one was. Six pints and I lost the use of my legs. Genuinely pissed in a way that only occurs at xmas when the lady squeeze's father hands me glass after glass of his malt whisky.

Not unsurprisingly I feel like death today, but am told “it’s all my own fault”. Luckily I was a well behaved drunk and have nothing to apologise for, not always the case. Though I ponder luckily? Had I been an arsehole they would not entertain our impending invite for a meal, so we could get away with it? As it stands another dinner party beckons. At least it beats going to the pub.

Yes I think, if the anti booze lot get there way, the only alternative to not going to the pub will have to be sparging our own wort. Thank god for cooking lager.
 

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Spoons


One of the most enjoyable aspects of the beer blogs are not the fascinating beers enthusiasts inflict upon themselves paying many times the multiple of high quality cooking lager to drink murky dark pongy bog water knocked up in someone’s shed, but the bizarre and sometimes downright odd places they choose to go in order to do so.


The place to drink cooking lager is obviously the home. Cooking lager enthusiasts are intelligent, educated and if I may dare to say it, handsome creatures. What people tend to refer to as “the beautiful people”, or “the bright young things”. The tattoos, Eng Ger Land shirts and casual violence are an ironic statement to society that only the truly independent free thinker can make. In public we may look violent and aggressive and read the Daily Star, but in private we read the love poetry of WB Yeats, cook polenta, and listen to radio 3.


By making ourselves rich, and not brewers and publicans, by drinking at 40p a can, we enjoy standards of living far in excess of the pub going public, but on occasion it is necessary to rub shoulders with the poor folks that drink in pubs and bars, so the question is “where to go?” Cheapest pint is better than any pub or beer guide, as it strips your requirements to their barest essentials, where is the cheapest pint of lout near me? Even if you only start the evening there, you can look generous by buying the first round before moving on and letting your mates buy rounds in pricier establishments.


Pubs and bars come in many forms; most are to be avoided unless they are flogging cheap grog. I’ve written a run down.


The community local: Often said to be the hub of the community. Nothing could be further from the truth, unless by community you mean “care in the community” Local pubs will, by and large, be full of local losers without a home to go to. The beer will be mediocre, the welcome and service apathetic, the public bar tatty, and the prices, whatever they are, slightly above what you think it’s actually worth.


The beer enthusiasts pub: This can be a pub with 20 cask ales on and “proudly” nothing mainstream or a bar selling overpriced Belgian lambic beer that tastes like there is a dead cat in the barrel. Either way it’s populated largely with middle class tossers paying over the odds for pongy muck. Most punters will be guardian reading public sector workers from the local council and expect a larger than average number of the stereotypes like beards, morbid obesity, plastic bags, tankards that are the source of such rich comedy. If you can stand being patronised by the bar staff for such simple questions as “which of these beers is like a regular best bitter?” you can enjoy yourself in these places even if it’s only laughing at the bloke with the tankard. An entertaining crack, though not craic.


The gastro pub: Customer service in England is the worst of any 1st world civilised nation and most of the uncivilised 3rd world nations, like Scotland. Take a fine restaurant and notice it’s a bit pricey, the food is good, and waiters bring you stuff that you ask for and your missus likes it and thinks you’ve treated her. Notice pubs, the food is terrible, but it’s cheap, and you order it at the bar. Now create a pub where it’s pricey, the food is either poor or simply not as good as claimed and there is no waiter service, and what have you got? A gastro pub. Avoid like you would a toothless clap riddled prostitute offering a freebie.


The trendy bar: Somewhere you have to go if you’ve got a woman in your life, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it. Expect nice decor, a pleasant crowd, and some pretty lasses. Looking good so far. Also expect eye watering prices, and your woman friend inferring that you are “cheap” if you comment on it. “Yes I am cheap, I am proud to be cheap, me being cheap is why we can afford to holiday 4 or 5 times a year, treacle” is the factually correct but also incorrect answer. There is no winning of arguments if your goal is sex at the end of the evening, every route is a loss. Better to just bite your lip, and avoid that line of conversation completely.


Wetherspoons: In a class of their own. Like pubs but generally smarter and not anywhere near as shabby. Cheap food if your missus hasn’t fed you before heading out, of the “ping” variety, but edible. A wide choice of drinks on tap and bottle, whatever your tipple whether it be cask beer, cooking lager or wines for the lady. Spacious, so you don’t really have to rub shoulders with people and price wise nothing to complain about. No eye watering rips offs for a foreign bottle of lager, or soft drink. Even the real ale drinking mate of mine sees no reason to pull his favourite trick of “it’s his round, cheap bitter and encouraging others to try one because it’s really nice. Someone else’s round, let’s try a pricey pint of something else?” Though he’s not all bad. He has Wetherspoons tokens that give him 50p off a pint and shares them with me when it’s my round saving me 2 quid when we were last in there. That’s friendship.Beard or no beard, he’s alright. That made for £1.19 a pint for something called “Everards Sunchaser” that whilst not being up to the consistency and quality of let’s say a Coors Light, was perfectly palatable grog.

The best feature of Wetherspoons, though, is that by and large beer enthusiasts are snobbish about the gaff, preferring “real” pubs, so you only tend to get normal average everyday sort of folks as punters. If that’s not a recommendation I don’t know what is. They are also one of the few pub company’s not going tits up, so they must be doing something right. Brokers Charles Stanley and KBC Peel Hunt are united in their admiration for pubs group JD Wetherspoon, which on Wednesday morning said like-for-like sales in the 50 weeks to July increased 1.2%.

So there you have it, fancy a beer outside your delightful and modern furnished living room and don’t want to be stung for sitting in a dumpy craphole? Head to the Spoons.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

When cooking lager goes wrong


How cheap is too cheap? In the quest to answer this, today I’m necking Sainsbury’s basics. 91p for 4, 2% lager, 0.9 units a can. A while back I was tempted to try Carling C2, a 2% lout, due to a tempting promotion in the Mecca of beer that is Tesco. The offer was try it, and if you don’t like it, your money back. All you had to do was send the cardboard cover back, with your receipt, and get your money back. On the question “why don’t you like it?” I answered “its piss”, my money returned, before I’d even bothered to actually try it. That’s how cheap I am. Interestingly when I did try it, months later, I discovered I was correct! However this, as with many brand extensions, is rarely in the bargain bin. Often 2% Carling is dearer than 4%. I’ve never figured why anyone would want 2% Carling anyway. If driving, a shandy is nicer, and at home you’re not driving anywhere.

A 2% lager is on permanent offer however, and it’s the basics and value range in any given supermarket. What glass to neck it from? There is no branded Sainsbury’s basic’s glass as far as I know. I decide to phone ‘em and ask and got a number here. “I am a beer enthusiast and my favourite beer is Sainsbury’s basics lager, is there a branded glass available with which to drink it that I could have? I’ll happily buy one” fair play to the girl on the other end “Are you having a laugh, is this a wind up?” “Yeh, sorry love” A compromise is in order. Sierra Nevada, very popular among beer fans, is actually piss. It is. There is no denying it. If you disagree you are wrong. So a Sierra Nevada glass it is.

So what’s it like? Do you have to ask? It’s piss. Absolute watery piss. Now I’ve been around this world a bit and drank anything from dishwater to paint stripper but I honestly struggled with this one. It’s the wateriness. I was reminded of the film The Quiet Man where Maureen O’Hara asks the matchmaker whether he wants water for his whiskey. “When I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey. When I drink water, I drink water” came the reply. Well this is a can of watery piss. I’d rather have a can of pop. I couldn’t face the other 3. They will languish until a “party”, where I will put them out among the other cooking lagers and when asked why I got that shite will say “it’s for anyone that’s driving, it’s not that bad actually”, and hope the bare faced lie is enough to con someone into necking one. Alternately I have 3 cans spare, let me know if you want them.

Thankfully I still have some of that Stella in the fridge. Thank the gods. But I've not used the word piss enough. Piss Piss Piss Piss Piss Piss. Now I'm happy.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Beer Gastronomy


Beer is in decline, fewer and fewer people drink it, and when they do they drink less. The stats speak for themselves. Despite tabloid headlines in regard to binge drinking, beer is in a sad decline. Now one good thing about this is that the large multinational brewers who have built giant brewery plants need to maintain a volume of sales to match their volume of production, ensuring a healthy river of cooking lager flows through the aisles of supermarkets sold for mere shillings. On the one hand we can celebrate and gain from these trading difficulties by picking up a bargain, but on the other more dangerous note, if capacity is reduced then the market will stabilise at a price unacceptable to the lovers of cheap grog. We must maintain demand by necking as much of it as we can.

Learning from the beer community I realise that the working class image of beer must be challenged. Factory workers no longer replace calories with copious pints of ale to clear their throats, as all the factories are in China. With a declining working class and expanding middle class, beer must appeal to the pretentious middle classes and their bizarre and easily influenced values. How do we do this? Beer and food matching, that’s how.

The rise of the gastro pub has taught us a great many things. It has taught us you can rip people off with any old toss if you use a flowery form of language. Gravy becomes “jus”, mushy peas becomes “puree du petis pois” and next thing you know you are stinging mug punters £20 a pop for fish and chips, that they go to the bar and order themselves and pay upfront for. By combining the worst aspects of pubs with the worst aspects of restaurants, you have a winner. Top dollar grub, no waiter service, in a pub themed restaurant. Kerching.

So, which cooking lagers and which foods go together like Morecambe and Wise, like Posh and Becks, like Simon and Garfunkel? Today I would like to take this opportunity to explore the majesty of Double Shish Kebab with salad; chillis’s and hot chilli sauce and a can of Carling. Carling is the lager most think of when thinking “cooking lager”, it has been on these shores long enough to forget it is a British version of a Canadian beer. It has survived fashion and fads by marketing itself with a close relationship to association football, see the Carling cup, and remains one of the most popular cooking lagers in Britain today.

In many ways this is the father of cooking lager. The daddy. Carling transformed British brewing, for a more detailed view see this. Though don’t pay £6 for a copy, I got mine in the Mencap shop for 50p. No longer Carling Black Label, Carling can regularly be found in the bargain bin at supermarkets with a price of around 40p a can. An unmissable opportunity to taste an iconic British cooking lager that is tin after tin of lagery delight. A 4% dishwater, a bit more chemical tasting than other cooking lagers, with a distinctly unnatural foam and head retention. Barley and wheat, 1.8 units a can. All British Barley appealing to the tattooed and patriotic Eng ger land faithful. Complete Flavour and Refreshment it says, though thankfully only the latter is true. Serve ice cold. Goes down a treat.

When the lady squeeze suggests visiting her mother, wave your briefcase at her and say, “I’ve brought work home with me darling, there is nothing I would like more than to visit your delightful mother, despite her pathological hatred of me, for I find her simply charming, but I must crack on”. It matters not that there is nothing in the case but a copy of Nuts magazine, she’ll never look. With the lady squeeze at her mothers, one can eat something other than salad or pasta or that bizarre and wrong dish, pasta salad (who on earth invented the monstrosity of pasta salad? Cold pasta with gook on it is not a salad, it’s not even food). Real mans food is as we all know, a big plate of meat. As we open the box of delights that is double shish we discover a medley of delicious marinated lamb cubes drizzled copiously with the fiery delight of hot chilli sauce. The salad offers the assurance that your meal could even be nutritious and with both the pita and chilli’s we have all the major food groups in one mouth watering parcel. A bite into the double shish, and the diner discovers an explosion of flavour unmatched in the world of haute cuisine. Your mouth is alive with delight, flavour, and a fiery burning sensation. A swig of Carling and the fire is quelled. The crisp cold Carling sending your taste buds, tongue and throat into spasms of rapture. This is what God meant when he invented food. God did not mean a light tuna salad drizzled with olive oil, he meant meat, fire and lager. Bite after bite, swig after swig, you hit a chilli and your eyes water, sweat pours off you, your pleasure mounts upon pleasure and you wonder, why can’t all food be double shish and a Carling? The bottom of the Carling glass says it all "Spot On". Never was a greater truth written in all of human history. Can it get better? It can.

With the lady squeeze out of the house, one can put on the telly whatever one likes. No soaps, no romantic comedy drama’s with Hugh poxy Grant. Slip The Fast and the Furious in the DVD player and switch on. Open another Carling and mop the sweat off your brow. Sit back, relaxed. You are in man heaven. At least for the next couple of hours. Have a can of Glade peach spray handy, because when the delicate flower returns she will ask “What is that smell? You’ve not been eating kebabs and farting have you? Open a window for Christ’s sake”.

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Amber Nectar


Ah Foster’s lager, the amber nectar. This is cooking lager heaven. 4%, tasteless piss, slips down a treat. Beer of the gods. Foster’s deserves pride of place on Cooking Lager for a number of reasons beyond being dirt cheap and quaffable. It is a British brewed version of a foreign (Australian) lager that bears no resemblance to the original other than the original is also piss.

My cockney pal who emigrated to the land of the Kangaroo informs me that no one in Australia drinks Foster’s, and that it is more popular here than there. He tells me it is a 4.9% lager over there, rather than 4%, and considered dishwater even by Australian standards that are so low most drinkers would consider any Australian beer to be dishwater.

Back in my underage drinking youth, Kylie was in her first wave of popularity as were all things Australian. Every Aussie soap actor was warbling their way into the hit parade. Paul Hogan, more renown for a late night sketch show broadcast on Channel 4 than Crocodile Dundee, starred in a number of amusing ads promoting Aussie beer and a new generation, my generation, started drinking with none of our parent’s prejudices that lager was in any way effeminate or a girl’s drink. Lager was the drink of rough and tough Aussies. It was a man’s drink.

These days Fosters is still loved, for one important reason. You can usually pick it up for 40p a can. However, be careful of the sting with this beer, as often there are evil and venal attempts to flog it for anything upward of 80p or 90p a can by putting it in boxes with a varying number of tins. Sainsbury’s have boxes of 10 for £9 and frankly are having a laugh. Foster's also recently introduced the “in can scuba”, a pointless plastic ball in the beer tin which purports to give the beer smaller bubbles, a smoother taste and an artificial chemical head. Don’t be fooled, it’s only an attempt to flog the same crap for twice the price. Smaller bubbles do not lead to fewer belches, gas is gas. Most brand extensions are nothing to do with improving the lot of you the consumer; they are about getting you to pay more for less. Also avoid any other Fosters variants whether they are ice, twist (the twist is on you if you buy it) or whatever else the marketing scum think of, unless of course they are giving it away for tuppence. In that case, embrace it.

Look out for 24 cans for £9.99. This is the fair market rate. When found, load up the boot of the car with 4 or 5 boxes to see you through until the offer reappears. More recently Morrison’s had 3 boxes of 12 for £18, but were also giving away £5 off tokens in the tabloids if you spent £30. 6 boxes of 12 for £31 (18*2 – 5 = 31) being near enough, I succumbed to the lure of 43p a can (57p a pint).

My local pub stings punters £2.50 a pint for this, as I found out when I acquired (stole) the appropriate branded glass to drink my amber nectar from. Pubs are public houses, extensions of the home, except tattier and smelling of urinals. It is acceptable to nick what you like from them. However please don’t nick glasses from this gentleman here, as he doesn’t like it. Every boozer except his, he seems a nice chap whose pub may very well not be tatty or smell of urinals, though I gather you might be at a loss if you want a pint of ice cold lout rather than pongy. Top tip, rinse the glass out with water after washing as the main flavour with this beer comes not from the beer but the receptacle you drink it from. Rinse the fairy liquid away. The usual drill, half an hour in the freezer super chills it and kills any semblance of taste. Slips down a treat, doesn’t touch the sides. Truly nectar of the gods, Paul Hogan I thank you.

As for what is in this grog, there are only clues on the can, no ingredients list. 1.8 units a can and a picture of a pregnant lass swigging a can with a line through it. Contains barley and wheat it says. Makes sense. British cooking lager is brewed with the English love of head retention (a froth which lasts to the bottom of the glass), and the wheat presumably is added for that purpose. If you notice a Reinheitsgebot lager, they are frothy to begin with, but the head doesn’t last. All barley you see. Weiss biers have a sticky head, contains wheat. So a beer that could even be accused of containing actual beer ingredients is prime Cooking Lager.

Also on the can is a promotion for an “ultimate lad’s night in”. This apparently involves you and your mates, in a posh gaff with a big telly, some playstations, and a big fridge of cooking lager. Stuck in a room with my mates? I cannot think of a worse evening that does not involve genital mutilation or waterboarding. Why not have a competition for something I actually want? Win a mid week shag off your own bird? I’d pay a £1 a can if that was the prize.

Now how to define its hop character? I have been reading some excellent beer blogs (a bravura one here, from a gent that is knowledgeable in regard to his subject, enthusiastic about it and articulate enough to write well), and been learning that if one is to appreciate a beer one has to define its hop character. Light? Bland? Insipid?, Plain? Dull? Lacklustre? Nondescript? I settle on the word “absent”, satisfied I have hit the nail on the head. Resplendently absent.

If I was to be critical of this heavenly liquid I would say it is difficult to get pissed on and you spend a lot of time pissing it out. However I prefer to get pissed slowly, rather than quickly and you can have a few without becoming useless to your girlfriend if she’s expecting a cuddle (a euphemism) at bed time. If there had to be only one beer in the universe I would pick this. The last word must go to Mr Paul Hogan, “Like an angel crying on your tongue”

Friday, 10 July 2009

Pewter tankards.

I was recently dragged to what’s known as a "beer festival" by friends that are under the delusion that I am sociable and only need a bit of encouragement in order to “go out”. If they were proper friends, however, they would invite me round to theirs to drink cheap grog for nothing and I would return the favour.


Going round each other’s houses for food and drink is what the polite middle classes do in England. The impolite middle classes wife swap, so always be prepared for quick exit if people put car keys in a salad bowl. Otherwise it’s usually a bit of a bore because they will mainly be friends of your missus, and your missus’s best friend will be married to a twonk that likes F1 or something equally tedious and they often have kids that are frankly unruly and feral but your missus thinks are adorable and give her ideas. If you’re lucky you will be in the home of a wine or beer snob and drink lots of expensive plonk or grog, all gratis, and all it will cost you is the type of flattery they hanker after “umm, delish, aromatic, you have top notch taste, my friend” You will be invited back, to neck more.


My friends unfortunately are not middle class, they are working class, and are the types of losers that don’t have dinner parties, or wives, or girlfriends. They live with their mum and hanker after being invited to drink my cheap grog, in my nicely furnished home in order to tap with a single, educated, professionally employed female friend of the lady squeeze. The lady squeeze however has met my friends, and that’s why when meeting the chaps, we “go out”.


Beer festivals tend to be run by an organisation known as CAMRA (as was this one) that used to be an amiable friend of the drinking classes but in more recent years represents the worst of elitist beer snobbery coupled with a desire to but the kybosh on the right of free Englishmen to pop to the supermarket and load up with cheap grog. They are under the delusion that if they kybosh cheap grog, we will all grow beards, wear sandals and be happy to pay £2.50 for a pint of dark pongy muck that’s been “cask conditioned” in a pub that they think is “traditional” but anyone under the age of 40 considers a dump and one your girlfriend would not be seen dead in. We won’t, we’ll bugger off to shop in France and transfer the brewing capacity of the UK to the frogs.


CAMRA is an organisation I would like to like. I would stand and defend a fellow free Englishman’s right to support and promote a cause dear to them. A group of people that preferred a dying style of beer grouped together and created a healthy and vibrant niche market, encouraging others along the way to join them. More power to them. When in a pub, cask bitter is often the cheapest thing in there, the least sting, fairly palatable, and I have been known too.


I can understand the pub trade wishing to put the kybosh on the competition with their uncompetitive, unwanted and dangerous make it the minimum campaign.I cannot understand how a consumer group, which CAMRA purports to be, thinks price fixing is in anyone’s interest?


Despite my unwillingness to fund this organisation, I was in the company of people that liked that sort of thing (one of the chaps is, god forbid, a member), and went along with it. There was lots of odd stuff, not to mention odd people, but a surprising number of people that look normal. If you walked past them in the street you’d never think. Not all of it was rank. Some of it was quite palatable and quaffable. I found myself enjoying it. Pricewise, not cheap but not unreasonable. Tip; get served by one of the younger volunteers, the younger they are the greater propensity not to be a twat. The older they get the more “beer” knowledgeable they are and in the absence of wives, children, homes and life success they realise it is the only way to show that important human trait of thinking you are better than others. Your regular or garden variety smug wanker who wants to do this will buy a Merc or a BMW.


To avoid the truly rank muck, ask for a blonde ale. “Which one?”, “An easy going one”. This is real ale’s answer to lager, and not that bad. A beer person will use terms like “aromatic hops” which means “pongy”, but if you can cope with that, it’s a quaffable drink. It's not Foster's, but you can't have everything. Had I bothered to remember any names I would tell you, but what would be the point? Branding and marketing is evil to this lot and next year the same crap will be brewed by the same people but be given a different name, so the beer tickers try it again. Beer tickers are the beer festivals very own train spotters and easy to spot. They are reading the programme/beer menu.


Sting of the night was an entrance fee of £4 AND a £2 deposit for a glass under the assumption I’d want to keep it. Nope I will have my £2 back, ta.


CAMRA serves one important function, I learnt, and isn’t all bad. It gives bearded twats with leather waistcoats and pewter tankards something to do and somewhere to go to keep them away from the rest of polite society. One cock, a ZZ Top reject, with a high visibility vest (they had him on security!) actually had his pewter tankard holstered, on his belt. Like a gun. Good God.


Who owns pewter tankards? Look at this. Specifically “Customers who bought this item also bought...” It says it all.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Stella


Oh glory. 15 cans at £7.49. That folks is 50p a can for a grog my local boozer stings people £2.80 a pint for. At 50p a can it’s 66 1/2p a pint!

Now you can argue the pub is a responsible environment to drink in, but I am not a child and do not require a nanny. Many single interest groups that want to gain a monopoly on your drinking pound would have you believe the pub is a controlled and responsible drinking environment. It is no such thing. The 2am fights in the town centre are from people leaving bars and arguing over cabs. Home drinkers go upstairs to bed. You can argue the pub is a civilised social environment, but as the great Shagger Norris once said of public transport “the trouble with public transport is the public”. This can be said of public houses.

People are by and large Daily Mail reading BNP voters in need of a wash. I could understand the argument if I were to enter my local and meet either the ballroom dancing Alesha Dixon (easy on the eye) or a great thinker of the modern age like Prof Dawkins the god basher. He wrote an interesting book I quite liked that annoyed people that deserve annoying. But the person I am most likely to meet in the pub has a tattoo and most likely wants to bang on about immigrants and last had a thought in the summer of 1985, that wasn’t that profound anyway. Pubs are crap holes and as the great Ray Winstone said “Pubs are for losers”. Probably in a cockney hard as nails accent to boot, so you can’t argue.

The only purpose of visiting the pub is to nick branded glassware. You can occasionally acquire branded glassware legitimately, but usually at a cost and there is no pint within it. Xmas time is good time to find branded glassware as part of a beer gift pack, sometimes there is an offer on a beer pack, but otherwise you’re on the net shopping and paying P&P. Why bother? Nick one from the pub. Do it whilst you can. By all accounts pubs are not long for this island, and are going tits up, so get in there. The pic attached is my nicked Stella glass and cheap grog. Ta pub!

Starting off on the Stella I noticed it’s difficult to get the lout cold enough to drink. English lout is best served “super chilled” to kill the taste. Cold isn’t good enough, only super cold. Half an hour in the freezer and its cold enough. One in, one out. This sets a nice pace to neck all 15, if you don’t want to face a lager slush puppy its half an hour per can. As I’m sat watching the soaps with the lady squeeze, it’s timed to perfection. As the northern accents go cockney, time for a can!

The first goes down easy. Ice cold and crisp. Sweet but not as sweet as I remember but I wonder if that’s a result of the change from 5.2%abv to 5%. I don’t wonder for long and frankly don’t care. Some claim to be able to taste the difference between Belgian and English Stella, but such people are to be avoided as when people indicate clearly to you that they don’t know there arse from their elbow, it is likely true of them in regard to a great many things. Who cares whether it tastes the same? Who cares for the taste? People with beards, that’s who, Can you neck it without wincing? Yes you can. Cheers! By can 4 I’m feeling it, nice merry buzz. The world is looking sweeter. The maize in the beer lightens it, but the gas is now making me belch. Beer people would have you believe that maize is an “adjunct” and therefore bad. It’s used to make the beer cheaper. Well, if you eat cornflakes you eat maize. There is nothing wrong with maize. As a brewing ingredient it makes for cheap beer. Put it in all beer and flog it cheap! A roarer or two and I’m back on track. The belch gives me a second taste of the beer but a swift swig nulls the unpleasantness. The lady squeeze mentions that I’m an animal, and I suspect not in a good way, so I give up and call it a night. 4 cans = 3 pints, 2.2 units a can. Technically I’m a binge drinker. If only I had a controlled and responsible environment to stop me. Wait a minute, the pub would have happily served me 3 pints and taken £9 off me.

At £2 I’ve got a Bargain. Plenty left in the fridge for another night. Hurrah for wife beater. Nicely relaxed, nicely cheap, didn’t thump the girlfriend once. In fact the Stella made the serial monotony of one soap opera after another strangely fun and the girlfriend appreciated me swigging away rather than asking “Why are we watching this shit?” every ten minutes. Wife beater? Stella is the beer of relationship harmony!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Cooking Lager

The first post to a blog that intends to celebrate English Cooking Lager!

The urban dictionary spells it out, Cheap and nasty second rate lager.

By way of a further explanation, the term cooking lager derives from the term cooking sherry. Sherry is a delightful drink of wine and brandy from the Jerez region of Spain that was once popular and arguably deserves to be again. It suffers from an image problem. It’s an old ladies drink, and what keeps many old ladies going is cooking sherry. Cheap sherry from Cyprus or even Blighty, nominally bought for cooking, but often necked. Thus “cooking” mean cheap, and occasionally nasty.

Cooking lager is certainly cheap, but the worst that can be said of it is that it’s bland. There is nothing wrong with it. If you prefer making yourself rich and not brewers and publicans you drink whatever is both decent and cheap, and steer clear of the sting.

There is no shortage of blogs that wax lyrical about the complex flavours and fruity notes of anything from a pint of cask Ye Olde DogsBollox, or an unusual Belgian lambic, or an exciting hoppy American IPA. Good luck to such blogs, I enjoy reading them.

This however has no such excitement, for all cooking lager tastes more or less the same. It is not drunk for flavour as it has very little. It is drunk because we Brits like to get pissed but are unable to cope with proper lager. We therefore neck cooking lager in vast quantities and piss it all up the wall. Its what makes us better than other countries.

Now I could go across the road and buy a couple of bottles of Weiss bier at £1.70 a pop, or 3 for £4 fine English ales and tell you how nice they all are, but currently I can buy 15 cans of Stella for £7.49 at Sainsbury's. It's free if you put one under your arm and run for it. Oh glorious wife beater, reassuringly cheap.

If anyone finds this blog and wishes to comment, please leave a tip on where the cheapest pisswater can be found in your area.

Tomorrow we will find out whether I have beaten any wives.