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

Friday, 29 January 2010

Lovely Lout

It’s never too early to become a cooking lager enthusiast. All the best offers on cheap grog may have passed at Xmas time, and whilst long term cooking lager aficionados will have stocked up, there are still top bargains out there. Co op have 10 cans of Beck’s Vier for £6 and 15 bottles of Coors Light for £8. Not as cheap as you can expect when the bigger supermarkets start promoting, but a reasonably decent introduction to cooking lager enthusiasm. After all, who can complain about an evening of necking delicious cooking lager for only £6?

Earlier in the week I got dragged into a pub to watch the footie and 4 pints of Beck’s Vier set me back a tenner. A tenner for 4 pints? Good gods, what’s the world come to? No wonder pubs are going to the wall if they think a viable business is stinging me ten quid for 4 pints.

Beck’s Vier seems to have become the grog of choice among the select group of losers I call my mates. The one pongy ale drinker was on it, the Carling drinker was on it and the Stella drinker surprisingly opted for 4% piss. Nice lout it is too. I expect this lout to have risen up the cooking lager rankings when next they come out. Advertising what is in the grog is, I think, a wise move other cooking lager brewers could do worse than follow. The pongy ale drinkers cannot call it chemical piss when it clearly is as pure as Ann Widdecomes dildo cabinet.

As the weekend approaches you might expect me to be all excited about the weekends cooking lager plans but the lady squeeze has but the kybosh on my desire to get pissed up and attempt to rattle her. Off to a do and muggings here is driving. Bummer really. You cannot misbehave if you don’t drink. When you drink you can and blame it on the grog during the following day’s apologies. I was looking at Tandy’s beer magazine and planning a trip out to Rochdale’s Spoons to name that February’s pub of the month but that will have to wait. The squeeze doesn’t understand the importance of cooking lager campaigning, nor the right of every free Englishman to buy cheap lout. That’s women for you Still if I behave myself like the good boy I am I expect I will get my reward.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Rant !

I’m a bit off the grog recently and did think of shutting this bollocks down for a bit, but instead I’ve started writing random thoughts about beer with the odd post in regard to the occasional snifter I neck. No reason for it. I’m not detoxing, not concerned about my health or responding to digs from the lady squeeze. Just not really in the mood to neck it. I like writing my thoughts down, it’s just nicer than talking to people.

Today’s random thoughts about beer are inspired by this gentleman here, and his sterling efforts, as well as the comments made about the grog in question being like “licking the floor of a battery factory'.

Upon my limited travels around the globe I’ve necked a far bit of unusual stuff. By no means comprehensive enough to claim detailed knowledge of the world’s fire water, but enough to discover that getting pissed up is something the world likes to do. Even Islamic countries where you actually find the hotel bars may just be for tourists but a fair few of the locals do illicitly frequent the dive bars where the grog is cheap.

As I’m not really a beer enthusiast I never went anywhere and sought out the beer, just found myself somewhere because either I had to work there or wanted to visit. Upon those occasions I necked whatever the locals appeared to be necking figuring out that it must be okay if others were swigging it. Not one for going abroad and complaining about the lack of keg bitter and pukka pies.

This led me to the conclusion that some countries have some really nice cheap wine, some countries some really nice beer and some countries have the vilest crap you can imagine that frankly a lifetime of necking won’t get you to the point of even starting to like. Thinks like fermented yaks milk or bizarre distillations flavoured with locally grown stuff that tastes like shit. At the end of the day it’s just there to get pissed up on until you get to return home. So long as you can overcome your gag reflex it is possible to drink pretty much anything, and once you’re on your way to getting pissed it becomes easier to finish the job.

Tradition explains why some drinks are popular in the countries they are drunk (agriculturally what are the fermentable sugars they grow?), and globalisation explains why new drinks gain popularity. Who wouldn’t want to try a drink featured in a Hollywood movie? Even if it is no better and more expensive than the domestic grog.

When it comes to beer, it is a staple of the British diet. Grain fermentations having a long tradition in this country. It is not a luxury product. It’s bread. Imported products from foreign climes may well have an air of sophistication, but not beer. I think I can understand beer geekery, in the same way I understand car enthusiasts.

My car is a run of the mill mass produced metal box. I have no interest in cars other than can I fit what I want into it (people, shopping, dead prostitutes), does it go when I turn the key, how much does it cost me? Others think different. They are beautiful objects, they display your wealth and position to the world, and they are works of art or sexual extensions. Not to me. I turned down the offer of a company car in favour of a few extra bob in my pay packet. The car on offer was a really nice shiny new thing. But I prefer the extra few bob. That’s my personal choice as to what I think is important to me. Others would pick different. Others would spend their weekends refurbishing a classic, polishing a posh motor and watching crap like Top Gear. I hope it rains every so often so I don’t need to clean it.

I understand beer geekery in the same way. That the beer may taste different, but like cars are all just metal boxes, beer is just fermented grain. I can understand it is more accessible to buy exciting beer than a Porsche. That a £3-4 bottle of exotic excitement is an affordable pleasure.

Visiting those countries where beer is popular one thing stands out to me. It tends to be fairly consistent and fairly good. In both Germany and Australia beer is a widely drunk drink. It’s also quite nice. Here in Britain, the popular beers are also consistent and reasonably decent. That is they taste the same everywhere you buy them and taste pretty good.

When it comes to niche beers, there is a reason they are niche. I can go into 3 or 4 pubs after work and drink the cask beer and in each one it will taste different. That’s from the same brewer. I’m meant to accept that I’m necking a quality product? Consistency does not mean quality but every quality product I buy is consistent. I like the fact that my car consistently starts and consider it a feature of quality.

If we talk about different brewers it is difficult to say that there really is anything you can really define as let’s say a pint of cask bitter. If you drink a pint of cask bitter from an unfamiliar brewer gods know what you will get. The only certainty is that is it unlikely to be like the cask bitter you’ve previously drunk. I can neck it because I can neck anything, but most people are not as undiscerning as me. I can understand how that is exciting to geeks. However if I want to go out and neck nice beer in nice company I do know that the keg lagers are quite drinkable and will taste familiar, regardless of brand. A product like cask ale can never be consistent and there is no interest in improving keg ale and making a beer better than a 3% soapy foamed pint of piss.

I can understand why beer drinking is in decline, because as nice as cooking lager is, it’s not as nice as the lager in the countries where beer is popular and everyone drinks it. It’s okay, but I’m not kidding myself a Carling is anywhere near as nice as the consistent keg lagers of other nations. By comparison it’s fairly crap. When sharing a bottle of Merlot is nicer, why neck lots of piss?

And don’t get me started on women and beer. A few lady bloggers like to encourage women to drink beer. I enjoy those blogs and consider them well written, articulate and interesting. They are, however, pissing in the wind. You will not encourage women to take an interest in beer by any of the following means, geeky niche products, beer brands for women, beer as a cosmetic ingredient, a nice recipe that you’ve knocked up. Though you might catch a fella with the recipe. Who wouldn’t want to knock about with a nice lass that liked beer and cooked meals? Unfortunately the blokes you are likely to meet are beer geeks. There is one reason and one reason alone lasses by and large do not neck beer. It is cultural. When the laddettes of the 90’s were all the fashion you did see a number of girls swigging pints and watching football. And a good laugh they are too. Lasses that imitate blokes are a good idea and if you want to call in feminist liberation I’m all for birds acting like blokes, necking pints and putting it about.

In the UK beer is culturally a man’s drink. Not everywhere. Go for a beer in Europe and notice both beer and wine are enjoyed equally by both sexes. You can make beer a universal drink in the UK. It’s called advertising. Put adverts on the telly of young men and women enjoying a nice beer of universal appeal in a modern setting and repeat ad nauseum. It is that simple.

Ask yourself why Diet coke is a girl’s drink? It’s advertising. Coke even had to go to the bother of marketing another sugar free version called Coke Zero after shooting themselves in the foot by making the sugar free pop only appeal to lasses. Had they marketed it universally inviting us to buy the world a diet coke, they needn’t have bothered. Advertise a nice lager to both men and women. So long as the Carling and Fosters adverts are made to appeal to blokes, those brands are blokes’ brands. Create a brand of nice lager and advertise it properly. Bob’s your transvestite aunty and you have a beer for men and women.

When looking at the more unusual beer geekery, like in Marks post I ask myself one question, why on earth would I want to drink a beer that tasted like licking the floor of a battery factory? (see what I’ve done, gone full circle, how about that?) Not even just so I could tick that one off. I just want something nice that I will like. I read lots of crap in the blogosphere about expanding interest in craft brewing and educating customers either on taste or to accept a higher price and I think “what utter tosh” If you want more people to drink beer then what the market needs is high quality consistent product at a reasonable price. There may be beers on the beer geekery shelf waiting for mass appeal, ones that don’t taste of batteries.

Beer geekery will always be there and there will always be people that like that sort of thing, but the idea that it will ever be mainstream is ludicrous. The only people interested in hop bombs or battery flavoured beer are odd people into that sort of thing. There is nothing wrong with being odd. Britain is a country of eccentrics. It’s just that is it odd to get excited about drinking a beer that makes you wince.

You drink things that make you wince when you’re stuck in a crap hole country trying to do a bit of business and need to fit in with your hosts. Then you drink things that makes you wince, get nicely pissed and think that what you drank wasn’t as bad as you first thought until you drink it again and realise that it is as bad as you first thought, and now you’ve started you have to get pissed again to make it better.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Monday, monday

It is enough to make you want to give up and go home. The poll is in and a shocking number of readers of the tosh and bollocks that constitute this blog are drinkers of pongy ale, like the chap in the picture. 72%. Good God. Only 3 people (10%) voted for high quality refreshing and inexpensive good value cooking lager as their preferred tipple. 21 people (72%) voted for pongy ale. A classy 4, 13% drink the finest wines known to humanity and I am pleased 1, 3% drink Bucky, Turps & White Lightening. Nice work fella.

It’s a result that makes you despair of humanity. However is it society that is warped or just the beer blogosphere? It’s easy to see the doom and gloom in articles like this, but when you realise there are over 32 million lager louts in our male population and another 16 million in the female population you realise that lager is still number 1. The pongy ale jihadists haven’t won yet. Despite bad news here, that cheap lout is becoming difficult to find there are still bargains to be had.

The key strategy as I see it for cooking lager enthusiasm, to arrest the decline and return to growth, is to begin to view the drinking of anything but cooking lager as a reprehensible act. We need to view wine and ale drinkers as weirdoes and toffs respectively. We need to highlight that it is in fact them that are causing all the trouble with their irresponsible drinking and fighting. Like the term lager lout, we need terms for the bitter ale and wine drinkers that paint a poor picture of them. We might even need to drink lager out of big wine classes and pair it with organic food to appeal to middle class values, but there is a point when you have to ask yourself is there victory in becoming the enemy?

Mudgie here explodes the fallacy of preloading, in the beer blog of the year (take note guild people), pointing out rightly that most of the alcohol trouble occurs in, or near licensed premises. Indicating clearly that licensed premises serve drunks and let them loose on the streets. We need to hammer the point that cooking lager drinkers do not get into fights and it’s the pubs and bars that need hammering.

I am coming to the conclusion that what is required is a cooking lager consumer group. A bit like CAMRA but without the weirdoes, social inadequates, tankards, plastic bags and beards. People to stand up for the right to neck the finest beverage known to man, a can of ice cold fizzy lout. However unlike the Beer Nut who is busy setting up an Irish CAMRA, but without the odd balls, I cannot be arsed getting up off my couch to do it. It takes me all my effort to get up for another can of lagery nectar. I couldn’t even be bothered attending the blogger tweet up, despite the obvious need to convert this lot to cooking lager. To get them off the ale and on to something crisp, cold, fizzy and delicious.

Is there anyone out there that can fight for the right to drink lout?

Friday, 22 January 2010

Coors Light

Swigging a bit of Coors Light last night after seeing a six pack in the supermarket for £2. Not a national offer, I think they were shifting old stock. Which got me thinking that whenever I have necked this grog it’s usually an offer on old stock. Its never promoted in big cheap boxes. At least it was within its sell by date, though. I used to neck this grog regularly, but that stuff was all past its sell by date. So it was interesting to compare the bouquet and flavour of the beer pre and post date. Not a lot to compare really. It’s flavourless watery grog that slips down nicely. Light of flavour and light on calories according to the bottle. The lady squeeze likes this one and joined me for a bottle. She even managed a belch.

A few years back this was one of my staple beers and necking it brought back memories of flat sharing and the single life. Back before I met the squeeze I was living in a small flat when an old school friend came over for the weekend and decided not to return home to his mothers and instead kip on my couch for 6 months. He ended up getting a bum job at the local Spar and one of the perks was a staff discount card. The regular grog that never shifted and hit its sell by date was Coors Light, so he got it for nowt and filled the fridge with it. He bought groceries occasionally and kept the fridge stocked with whatever grog he acquired from his employer. Not really sure whether he technically nicked it, bought it for tuppence or got given it. Either way we disposed of the evidence whilst playing car racing games on the playstation.

One interesting point I remember of my uninvited guest was his attitude to Tesco. Tesco opened an Express store near the Spar and suddenly the fridge was full of Tesco food rather than out of date Ginsters pilfered from the Spar. When I asked him why he wasn’t supporting his employer by either using his staff discount card or stealing he told me he preferred Tesco and that now it had opened the job was great ‘cos he and the boss eyed cashier girl he was chasing had nothing to do. I saw the writing on the wall. Within a couple of months I was out with them both for the Spar redundancy party and that’s where I saw a tasty group of lasses across the bar and chatted up the chubby mate of the current squeeze. A fact I get reminded of from time to time. Now the reason I chatted her mate up was like most chaps I’m a tad intimidated by beautiful women and thought I stood a better chance of a shag off her mate. Turns out I was wrong. The squeeze pulled me and six months later I was explaining to my flatmate that he had to pay the rent now or move out because I was getting mortgaged up with my bird and no he could not come live with us because the squeeze was freaked out about hearing him whack off in the living room whilst the squeeze and I were in my bedroom.

So that’s the part Coors Light has played in my life. Playstation fodder. Tastes great whether within its sell by date or outside of it. Hope to see it in the bargain bin more often.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Tramps Piss

Never one to be beaten, despite my ineptitude at acquiring a bottle of Buckfast to see whether I got violently drunk, I decided that you cannot comment on something you have never done. You have to live it. This was inspired more or less by top Blogger Tandy who implored us beer bloggers to get out more and go into pubs. Well I’ve been into a pub this year and experienced it, and I feel it’s time to extend the experience into the wide variety of drinking experiences available.

With an afternoon off work to see the dentist, the lady squeeze asked me why I was getting old paint splattered clothes out of the garage. “Doing some painting?”, “No dear, I need to dress up as tramp” I replied.

“I have to ask, I don’t want to, I mean I really think I don’t want to know, but why are you dressing as a tramp?”

God bless her, she must love me, her look of worry and concern as I explained my post dentist plan for the afternoon warmed me considerably. My plan was this. As I cannot sit in my nice warm comfortable living room necking a bottle of Bucky to see whether I got violent, I had to experience a bit of tramp living. I was going to dress up like a tramp, go down to the town centre, sit by the Sainsbury’s cash point and bum money in a Scottish accent. I was then going to take the money into Sainsbury’s and buy whatever tramps piss I could afford, neck it, either share it or fight with my fellow tramps depending upon their attitude to the new tramp on the block, and do this till tea time when I was going to come home, get a shower and prepare a Moroccan chicken cous cous salad for us both to enjoy for when she got back from work.

I really don’t think she believed me, she thought it was a wind up, her reply was a slowly drawn out “okayyyyy then”

After a successful dentist visit (no fillings, no pain) it was dress up time and off to the cash point. The only substance I had in the house of tramps piss strength was Skullsplitter from the Orkney brewery (a Xmas pressie) in Scotland (8.5%), which I thought added a bit of authenticity to my whole Scottish character, so I took it along with me to get myself in the mood. I sat down by the cash point, took a swig of the pleasantly warming brew, and was ignored completely as I asked a suited gentleman “Och eye the noo, any spare change mister?” I swigged away, having very little luck, but a kindly blue haired girl with dreadlocks gave me 50p. It was a start. Interestingly I found the most generous toward me were not those that appeared prosperous. I felt a little guilty at that point but thank god for the Skullsplitter. That was taking the edge off any pang I had that what I was doing might be considered “wrong”

Soon I had just over £3 in shrapnel. With my bottle of Scottish grog gone and having neglected to bring along an emergency ration it was off into the supermarket to see what my money would buy me. I was obviously looking for strong grog sold irresponsibly. A stiff hit for within my £3. I headed for the Spesh. It was over £6 a four pack. No individual cans. All of the other Spesh wannabees were packaged in the same manner. What’s a tramp supposed to do? I pondered asking to see the manager to inform him of his failure to capture the tramp market but as I noticed a fella from security looking at me and talking into his walkie talkie I went to look at the individual bottles of grog. This is usually premium priced craft brewing but I got a result. Robinsons Old Tom. 8.5%. 2 for £3. It was as if god was looking after me and wanting my experiment in tramp living to succeed. Thank you god for irresponsible alcohol retailing.

Taking a couple of bottles and heading to the cashier, I noticed security still on my tail. The look of disgust the cashier gave me confirmed I’d got my appearance spot on as I paid for my grog in assorted 5 and 10 pence pieces. She was surprised when I handed my nectar card over for the points though.

Off back to my spot with my 2 bottles of irresponsibly retailed tramps piss I found another tramp had taken my spot. “Och eye pal, that my spot” I told him. He replied but I cannot tell you what he said. I don’t really understand Scottish, most of it is unintelligible, but he appeared angry so I opened a bottle of my grog and offered him a swig. He appeared to mellow toward me so I sat next to him as we shared the bottle. He did talk to me, but as I said it was Scottish and I really don’t know what he said. I nodded and replied “och eye” to everything. He offered me a swig of what he had and I cannot tell you what it was other than I’m sure it sent me blind for a few seconds.

If I was to offer a tip in Tramp living, don't get your netbook out to check your emails over your mobile broadband. The donations dry up if you do that. Keep the allusion of poverty.

With that it was getting a bit cold, so off home for a hot shower. I parted company with my new found Scottish friend, letting him keep the change we had accrued together. I did think of asking for half, but thought better of it. So there you have it. The happening drink of today’s tramp. Old Tom. World beer of the year according to the bottle, and a nice enough bottle of warming grog.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Bucky

Its official, the poll is in. Getting pissed is officially “great fun” 82%; 29 to 6 voted overwhelmingly that getting pissed is super duper. And why not? Getting pissed does not automatically lead to fighting in the street, property damage, visits to A&E and a general kick off. Getting pissed is just a way of achieving a wonderful state of mind. Most people when getting pissed become nicer versions of themselves, rather than aggressive. If you are female and have nice knockers you might get the chance to discover that when pissed I’m a very friendly chap indeed. So friendly the lady squeeze can take umbrage due no doubt to personal insecurity on her part. As for the 6 that voted that getting pissed was irresponsible, I’m pleased to welcome gay readers to this blog.

Now despite appearances I’m not as stupid as I first appear. Almost, mind. Despite an enthusiasm for cheap grog and delight at getting pissed I’m not sure this nation of ours does have what people call a healthy relationship to alcohol. Pete Brown has been running a long tirade of tedium about the threat of prohibition that was interesting for the first couple of episodes. The rest might have been but I tuned out.

Within the last six months I got to see an A&E department on a Friday night and frankly it wasn’t pretty. Having dinner with friends, I’d barely got a sip of the nice Cabernet Sauvignon I’d been given when a scream came out of the squeezes friends kitchen and the dopey fella of said squeezes pal had as good as dammit hacked his hand to bits with a sharp knife. All of this whilst sober, and a lesson if ever there was one that all this cooking from scratch milarky isn’t healthy as people make out. You won’t cut yourself on a microwave. All off to A&E then. And what a piece of entertainment that was. Knocking our hard working angelic nurses is neither big nor clever, but frankly it was like watching medical arbitrage in a war zone. It reminded me of the film MASH.

You can quote as many statistics as you like, and bend them to whatever means suits your purpose, but like most people I prefer anecdotal evidence to empirical evidence. The evidence of my own eyes. Hence government agencies can quote whatever crime figures they like, but when someone of my acquaintance is a victim of crime I am of the view that the country is going to the dogs. Town centres that are hell holes on a Saturday night and A&E departments like war zones inform me that the country has an issue that requires addressing.

It is no surprise some believe in a form of alcohol rationing, with price as the tool. Because of course the problem is poor people, not nice middle class people and if the poor were not such piss heads the whole problem would go away. The pub industry believes in pointing the finger at the off trade and supporting protectionist policies that it thinks will help its industry. As a lover of cheap grog you can accuse me of adopting a perspective that equally suits me and you would be right.

Hence, the problem I quickly discovered can be summed up with “The Scottish”. The problem is that our nation includes Scotland. All the aggressive pissheads in the A&E department were Scottish. When going to the train station the drunk with the can of spesh is indeed a scot. Upon reading this yesterday, BBC News here, I discovered a possible reason why the jocks are as they are, and set about attempting to buy a bottle of the Bucky to see whether it put me in a fighting mood. Kirsty posts about the Bucky here. However I could not find it for love nor money. Neither off licence nor supermarket in this neck of the woods stocks the Bucky. Is that why the English are more civilised?

Therefore I cannot do the research required to discover whether the Bucky is or isn’t a fighting drink. I have to trust the BBC. Of interest the price of Bucky is well within the 50p per unit, people would have us believe would solve the problem of binge drink Britain.

I have a better solution. Sack off the Scottish. Without Scotland there is only binge drink Scotland. There is no binge drink Britain without the jocks, A&E would be nice, no tramps in the street and the Daily Mail would have to concentrate on knocking immigrants and lay off boozers.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Beer Aid

Much is in the news today about booze minimum pricing, so many may have missed this tragedy in the family that is beer. News Here. It seems our Belgian cousins are running out of grog. If there is one thing I’ve learnt since becoming a beer geek is that the beer world is a warm convivial and friendly family. Brothers in arms so to speak. We cannot let our Belgian cousins run dry.

In the spirit of men like Bob Geldof feeding the starving, I feel us as a community ought to come to the aid of our Belgian brothers in their hour of need. I propose a grog whip round to be sent to Belgium. Any spare grog, whether lout or pongy ale can be sent to me and I’ll make sure it gets to Belgium. Rest assured the grog will not just sit in my fridge and be necked whilst I lounge on the couch farting and watching documentaries on channel four about fat kids, and laughing my head off when they run. Of course I’ll have to check the grog for quality control purposes, but the Belgians will be welcome to come and pick up their grog any time they like.

Pledge your support; together we can make a difference.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Oh what have I become?

Oh what have I become? How can I look at myself in the mirror? Whilst all is not lost, there is no denying it I have become a beer geek. I may not be a ticker but how do you explain a habit of photographing the pint you are necking? Then putting it on the internet for other people to look at? Then going and looking at the pictures of the beers that other beer geeks have been necking? Then making a lager lout related comment? It’s beer geekery by any other name. I always thought I was normal. I’m not too tall or short, fat or thin. Neither thick nor clever. My habits and interests are all legal and socially acceptable. Normal, average bloke.

It was when I was photographing this lovely glass of lout that it dawned on me. I am a beer geek. I am everything I mock. I have become what I sought to laugh at. Maybe in the serenity prayer of sizzled alcoholics I can find comfort?

God, Give us the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, Courage
to change the things which should be changed,
And the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other

For I don’t think I have the strength of character to quit. I tried not to. I tried to put the camera down. I just couldn’t. I had to take a photo of it. It was like a compulsion. In a less scientific and more superstitious age I would think I was possessed by a beer geekery demon.

Upon swigging said lout I was looking to identify taste notes I could blog about. Hints of marzipan? Thankfully I was necking COBRA lout. There are no taste notes. A 5% adjunct riddled lout that is marketed as an accompaniment for a curry. Maize and rice grace this golden nectar. A wonderful piss take of beer provenance as it claims to be an Indian beer yet is was designed for the UK curry eating customer before it was ever marketed in India. The beer was designed in Blighty by an Indian chap for English punters then hawked in his country of origin. All here.

Despite all that it is delicious. Less fizzy than most lout and a really nice glass of lagery pleasure. Nice pint pot to swig it out of too.

Can lout be my saviour from beer geekery? Is the lout the only thing stopping me buying a note book to keep my beery thoughts in? Who is to say?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Pub of the Month

I have to confess that the lady in my life notwithstanding, one of the few things I love almost as much as beer is beer writing. It is ace. I was wrong, I love it. It remains pointless, just as pointless as I ever thought it was, but that’s what I have found to love about it. I love the beer blogosphere. What did I do before I discovered it? I have no idea. 2 pieces of beer writing inspired me this weekend. This beer hawker with a grudge against the spoons, as a lot of publicans and trade press do, because the Spoons let the cat out of the bag. The cat in question being that it is possible to provide nice pubs and sell nice beer for a fraction of the price of other gaffs that think marketing means “how can I sting punters for more money?” rather than “how can I meet my customers expectations?”. That as a punter you don’t have to be ripped off.

The next bit of inspiration came courtesy of this gentleman and his pal Clarkey, who led me to the following regional Camra publication of printed media beer writing. But at least its free, they’re not attempting to charge for it. Well done fellas. Here I discovered the world of the free pub magazine, without having to step into a grotty pub to read one.

I’m not knocking the Opening Times, not taking the piss, I genuinely like it. Best bits, Mr Mudgies bit and the pub crawl, naff bits are the area news bits, but best bit, and I loved it, was Pub of the month. Who gets to decide what is pub of the month, the drinkers of Stepford or a few beardies in the tap room of the winning pub deciding that this month such a pub has the pongiest and therefore best grog? I don’t know, but why bother to find out when you can make whatever assumption confirms your existing prejudices?

It was so good that I’ve decided to have a cooking lager pub of the month, despite not going into pubs much and not really liking them. If the CAMRA pub of the month can tell the pongy ale lovers where the happening place is then I ought to be pointing people in the direction of where the cheapest neckable grog is, for when not in your own living room. First pub of the month has to be in Stepford as they inspired me, then I might bother to check out the Spoons in the areas of other bloggers if I can get a cheap day return. Or I might forget about it if I cannot be bothered. Why not make a suggestion?

There’s no rule that says there can be only one Stepford pub of the month. If there can be 2 darts world champions then there can be 2 pubs of the month. Clarkeys BDO pub of the month versus the new pretender, the PDC Pub of the month.

So off to this site to find a cheap day return to Stepford. Then off here find out where in Stepford I can taste the delight of the Spoons January sale. Then a traipse through the snow from the train station to the spoons past a MacDonald’s and a number of empty pubs. Every pub I walked past was empty or closed. Not the Spoons, a warm vibrant busy establishment. Comfy sofa’s near the front. Modern seating, then dining tables, then more modern seating. Clean, nicely furnished, modern, nice clientele and pleasant toilets you can enjoy a comfortable dump in.

As it was busy I didn’t get my choice of table, I was a little too close to other people, I’d have preferred a little cubby hole to the side, but it was more than comfortable. The bar was a bit busy and the typical Spoons complaint of not having enough staff could be justified, but I was served within 5 minutes. 99p of Ruddles and £1.99 ham egg and chips, table 78 please. £2.98 all in. The bitter being 50p cheaper than the lout.

Contrary to many presumptions made about the spoons I was not sat in a chav dump with a cheap pint waiting for bad food to arrive. There were no drunks sleeping it off in a corner. There was a large number of regular people, families with well behaved kids, groups of all ages and unusually for pubs, groups of young women sharing a bottle of plonk that you might see in a trendier bar rather than pub. The 99p pint of Ruddles was a nice drinkable well balanced pint of bitter. Nothing wrong with it. Far from bland, well kept and a nice drink. Nothing a beer geek would get excited about but a lovely drink to refresh you or lubricate a bit of social conviviality if you were a social type of person. At the bar and on the menus I saw a superb choice of drinks with guest cask beers, plenty of keg lagers and bottles of beer you’d not only struggle to find in many other pubs, but if you did they’d be far more expensive. The German Weiss beers were £2.45 for what a bar near me stings punters £4 a pop for.

Friendly local too. A pretty girl in a group of tasty looking lasses asked me why I was photographing my pint of bitter and when I told her it was for an article I’m writing for my beer blog she seemed impressed without knowing what a blog was. Defiantly up for it, but as I have a love in my life I don’t wish to lose I didn’t. If you haven’t a bird and want one, why not sit in a Spoons near you and photograph your pint? You can make up any old tosh if a lass starts talking to you and consider yourself well in there.

The food arrived and it was delicious. You can’t really go wrong with egg and chips; you have to be a pretty poor cook to bugger it up. The ham was pretty decent, not cheap crap and I enjoyed putting what I liked on my chips. I opted for ketchup. For pudding? I had another 99p pint and just as good as the first it was.

After necking that I siphoned the python in the clean toilets before having a wander around Stepford. A pretty average northern market town that’s no better or worse than a dozen other examples of its type you could mention. Nice enough. I liked the local fashion for trackie bottoms and hoodies, then back on the train.

“Where have you been?” was the greeting awaiting me on my return.

“I’ve been to Stepford for material for my beer blog”.

“You’ve been where? Good god. You’ve had a pint then; I was thinking you could drive me to the Trafford centre to spend those shareholder vouchers you got for the shops”

“You can drive, my love”

“But the car is covered in snow”

“So what you are asking is, can I dig it out for you? It would be my delight” So no reason the take the coat off and I was somewhat glad of a pint inside me. Calvert’s Court. Stepford Pub of the month, January. Be there or be square.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The greatest show on earth

Its official, the poll is in. This blog is officially shite and I assure each and everyone that bothers to read this toss that it will get no better.

The impression I get from the beer blogging community, and it’s only an impression, is that there is more to the pub than simply a place that sells expensive beer by miserable staff in a dumpy environment to people with no home to go to. That these places offer something by way of community to the sort of saddos that presumably need that sort of reassurance.

The life of the average cooking lager enthusiast is somewhat different. Not being one to engage with the local community or have much in the way of desire to know anyone that I currently don’t know, and not much of a desire to know a large number of people I do know, the home becomes the centre of one’s cooking lager enthusiasm and the humble kitchen fridge the de facto bar that dispenses lagery delight.

As you might expect the average cooking lager enthusiast spends a fair bit of time sat on the couch, can of cooking in hand, remote in the other and the telly on. Now there’s rarely anything on the telly worth bothering with much, and if like me you have a lady of the house, there is a rigid schedule of soap opera to keep up with. You can pretend to follow pretty much any soap opera by asking the following questions if the lady squeeze decides it to be a subject of conversation with phrases like “who is the father of her kid then? does she know herself?” or “do they know they are actually brother and sister?” or “does he/she know he/she slept with him/her?” She will never guess you merely spent the half hour staring at the wall thinking erotic thoughts about the girl that works in the chip shop.

However once in a while a telly show occurs that has you transfixed. Has you savouring every minute with anticipation, excitement and wonder. Press your red buttons. Ladies and Gentlemen, Let’s play darts!

It’s great, the darts, and I really cannot place one single thing about it that has me gripped. I love it all. I love the old fat blokes, the balding hair, the tattoos, the sovereign rings, the middle aged ladies in the audience cheering for their husbands, and at the end of the day it’s just a load of old blokes throwing darts. The sum of the parts make for a greater whole. Taken as a whole it’s the greatest show on earth. Let’s be honest it’s not even the best dart players, they're all losing to Phil Taylor in the PDC competition, but the whole BDO circus is TV magic. You’ve gotta see Ted Hankey to believe that TV has the power to be the most sublime piece of entertainment. Why would anyone leave the house when this is on? Open a can of lout and settle in. Much is said of the power of the X factor to keep people at home. With the darts on the telly there is no reason to leave the house.

Ted Hankey is by any definition a miserable old balding fat bloke that comes on dressed as Dracula throwing rubber bats at the audience and it really ought to be ridiculous. It isn’t though, it’s fabulous. The whole chavtasticness of it ought to have me looking down my nose at it but all I can think of is: what an athlete! what is the out shot on that number? I reckon I could do this; I want a nylon shirt with “cooking lager” written on the back. Whether the play is good or bad the game is gripping. The whole game can turn on the throw of one dart and the hit and miss of a single double. One minute its double 12 for the game, the fat bloke misses, and another fat bloke gets his and all of a sudden the set is his, the score is even and it’s game on.

Never has there been a stronger reason to move the fridge into the living room to ensure I don’t miss a throw if my can of lout runs dry. Oh and then there’s Bobby George. Gentleman George. I wish he was my Dad.

It’s snowing outside apparently. The country is grinding to a halt by all accounts. Gordon Brown is either winning or losing this week’s coup attempt and Dave Cameron looks like he has very nice teeth and that must make him PM material. Iceland are stiffing us over the failed banks or are we stiffing them? Beer prices are on the up, people are as snotty as ever about a perfectly decent 99p Wetherpoons pint. Big Brother is on and somebody said something to someone. Whatever. A big whatever. There is only one thing occurring in the world. Only one thing of any significance or importance, and the world can turn on a single throw.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A little french sophistication

Before another stab at polishing off the seasonal grog it was time for an aperitif. And what in the world is better than a cooking lager aperitif? A glass of the cooking to wet the palate and stimulate the appetite.

One of the beer gift sets hit the spot. The Kronenberg one. A delightful drop of 5% French lout with a sweetish aftertaste and image of continental sophistication. A Barley/Wheat mix forming the main liquor and for cooking lager at least, a little aroma of hopping to the beverage. A delightful swig spoiled by 2 factors. The bottle was 330ml and didn’t fit into the half pint glass, and the half pint glass was by any standard and definition of the term completely and utterly gay.

There are traditionalists that don’t like the modern usage of the word gay. They prefer its older and historic meaning of “screaming queen” However I’m no homophobe. I’d like to say some of my friends are gay, but they are not. A mate of the lady squeeze is as camp as Dale Wintons Christmas and whilst he has always struck me as a cordial and polite fellow I wouldn’t go as far as to say I like him. But then again I’d say that for most people. I’m not a people person. I dislike most people, including family members I love and friends I’ve known for years. People come in 2 categories, those with boobs and those without. Of the category of “those with boobs” (about half the population) there is a sub category of “those with boobs that let me play with them” and in that category there is only one person, the lady in my life. So there really is only one person I’d go as far as to say I liked and wanted to spend time with. If there is a purpose to other people I’ve yet to discover it.

Back to the point at hand, the modern usage of the term gay is not a term for those that bat for other side but a term that means “naff” or “rubbish” or “shite”. To describe an inanimate object as gay is not to say it has a sexual preference but to say it is not much cop. And half pint glasses are not much cop.

Half pint glasses are therefore by and large gay. From the mini dimple and nonics to this attempt. I have rarely seen ones that aren’t gay. I’ve seen one or two that are stylish, modern and trendy, but even those are gay because like trying to be cool is just so uncool. Who on gods earth would ever drink out of such a gay receptacle? The beer gift set would have been better with either a pint pot or more interestingly a 330ml glass for home drinkers rather than a repackaging of unwanted pub stock.

Having said all that the lout hit the spot and got me in the mood to mix a few cocktails and refine the recipe. Firstly the white spirits go best; alongside white wine, a dash of Port, and a useful addition are bottles of alcopop like blue wkd. With this it’s possible to throw stuff in a blender and make a slush puppy booze cocktail that even the missus will drink. The fuller flavoured darker spirits tend to dominate the fruit juice. In order to get the lady squeeze to dry one serve in a cocktail glass and make up a name. Something like “Chicago blue mist” or “Manhattan red sky”. There is a cocktail called a Manhattan and you never know, what you knock up might even share some common ingredients. This makes it sound like you knew what you were doing and haven’t just knocked up something foul. One tip though. Olives and cherries make a nice bit of decoration to a cocktail. Despite their name, cocktail sausages on cocktail sticks are not to be put in cocktails for decoration. It’s considered an error to put a small sausage in a drink. Throw enough of this grog down her and you’ll get an offer of an early night. It’s a winner.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The January Cocktail

Whilst many use January as the month of detox, gym joining, signing the pledge, cooking lager enthusiasts gallantly up their booze intake during this month as January is the month of the New Year party leftovers. Now I realise the government will not be happy with my irresponsible approach to the grog, but I trust this fella to tell me when the black helicopters are arriving to curtail a free Englishman’s right to get as damn well paralytic as he chooses.

Whilst Tandy is hoping the beer blogging community visit pubs more, whilst giving many of them a reason not to, you can be assured he is pissing in the wind when it comes to cooking lager enthusiasts. Not much for visiting pubs at the best of times, though the Spoons January sale has a magnetic quality, during January we have all the dregs of the season to neck. Leftover half boxes of lout, wine boxes, half bottles of vodka, whisky, sherry and even Advocaat that regardless of science you assure your lady that they “will not last till next Christmas, better get them necked”

Now I mention science because 16 is the magic number. Below 16% alcohol abv, grog goes stale if exposed to air, and above 16% it’s effectively pickled. It can go flat if carbonated but will technically last. The origin of pretty much all fortified wine (Sherry, Port, Madeira) is in an attempt to up the abv of wine by adding distilled wine (brandy) and make it transportable. Same goes for higher abv beers but I’m not getting into an argument about the origin of IPA. I will encourage you to read this book however in the hope that its author considers me a mate and wants to give me some free grog.

However, don’t ever tell the main squeeze the science of 16% (whether lady or not), or it’ll be saved till next Christmas. Tell her it all goes off and needs necking sharpish. It can make for some pretty grim boozing (when you polish off the Advocaat, or start squeezing the bag inside a wine box), but by and large if you're imaginative you can knock up cocktails and stuff.

Some people think cocktails have to have a recipe and name and have an air of sophistication about them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s my recipe for something I like to call “January’s cocktail”, inspired by the beer cocktails of this delightful lady.

  • 1. A large shot of everything and anything leftover
  • 2. Ice
  • 3. Top up with whatever fruit juice is open and in the fridge
  • 4. Shake in a cocktail shaker like in the chick flick cocktail
  • 5. Swig

Upon swigging, 2 possible effects can occur. One is you gag and scream “Jesus Christ, what the fuck?” the other is that you think “Umm that’s nice, aw damn I forgot the recipe”

However trust me; it improves after the first glass. After a couple you even start to enjoy it. You may very well fall over, but it won’t be outside on the ice going to or coming from a dumpy pub.