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

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Minimum pricing

A little bit of news for those that support minimum pricing of alcohol, here.

Public overwhelmingly opposed to cheap alcohol ban in Greater Manchester

76.3 per cent declaring it a bad idea.And 48.7pc said they would travel to shops outside Greater Manchester to dodge the cheap-booze ban.

I tip my hat to the wonderful people Manchester!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Blog of the year

I love a pint, and I quite like reading beer blogs. I like a can of cheap lager and have even been known to neck the odd pint of old mans beer in a proper pub from time to time which has lead the odd sceptic to question my devotion to cheap lager. Of late I've been necking a fair bit of cheap red wine and not going out because it's cold outside. God invented central heating to keep you indoors so you can watch celebrities in the jungle then throw the squeeze over your shoulder, run up the stairs and declare an early night is in order. Occasionally I like to take the piss out of the beer blogs I read, but every so often somebody comes along and says all that needs saying.

"All due respect to the stars of the beer blogosphere, but I’d rather be the arbiter of my own tastes."

A can of lout is raised to your good health, Sir.

I'm off now to discover the difference between "craft" lout and "real" lout. I may be some time.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

CAMCL Christmas Appeal

The Campaign for Cooking Lager (CAMCL, sounds a bit like chemical, see what I’m doing there?), is a socially responsible campaign.

Instead of encouraging people to go out, drink a skin full in pubs, then have fights outside kebab shops, piss in shop doorways and cause the police a bit of bother, CAMCL has always been the champion of buying a big box of cheap lager, sitting on your couch, necking as much of it as you fancy, watching a bit of telly, then making your way upstairs to bed.

So it is disappointing to see the authorities of Manchester promote irresponsible drinking with a view to imposing local minimum pricing, as Mudge tells us here.

It with this in mind that the CAMCL Christmas Appeal seeks to not only spread the joy of the season to the less fortunate, but also tackle irresponsible drinking. It's what the little baby Jesus would want.

This years appeal is an appeal to “Buy a tramp a can of Stella”. By this act of generosity we can make the world a better place. At this time of year tramps do not have a nice centrally heated home to sit in. They are out in the cold. At this time of year it is a time to share the joy of cooking lager.

An experience this week made it clear to me that it is the socially responsible thing to do. When parking my car in the underground car park of a supermarket I walked up the ramp way to the ground level. A gentleman poet of the street was urinating down the ramp way. Forewarned to the stream of urine heading my way I deftly skipped to one side and kept my trainers clean. The supermarket quickly ejected this gentleman from the premises, and with a stream of Scottish sounding profanity, the gentleman street poet was gone. Where is this gentleman now meant to acquire his imbibations?

That is where CAMCL supporters can do their bit. Buy as many cans of Stella as you can afford, and go forth onto the streets and hand them out to tramps. These Scottish gentlemen of the street will no doubt thank you in an incoherent manner and you will feel like you’ve put something back into society. No more will people be able to claim that cheap supermarket lager is socially irresponsible.

Please pledge your support in the comments box, for this years CAMCL Christmas Appeal

Friday, 19 November 2010

Nuff Said

This is a pint of lager.

This is a pint of real ale, courtesy of ten inch wheels.

Nuff said.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Zak Avery's competition

The following is my competition entry in Zak Avery's competition, here and here and here. It comes in at 498 words, it is 2 under the limit. It is a short fictional story, involving time, time travel, beer, barmaids, pubs, philosophy, science, love and tragedy. It may be crap, but it's all I could thing of on the topic of time and beer and 500 words and it stands me as good a chance as any of a free bottle of grog.

The last day of the universe

The last day of the universe is often pondered by the sciences. Among the big crunches and other theories, there is no theory that accurately explains the last moment of time. Mark Brown had a peculiar theory in regard to the nature of time. Had he any knowledge of popular physics he would have known his understanding of the universe to be at odds with either the notion of passing through time in one direction or time being a variable dependent upon ones velocity. Had he been more aware of the disciplines of philosophy or theology he might have considered his perspective to be Buddhist. Alas he didn’t. Marks understanding was that time did not exist. His view was also that nothing existed in a state of permanence. Everything was in a state of constant change, but this change wasn’t measured by time for all that existed was the moment. This view assisted Mark in his understanding of an unexpected observation when fixing his old microwave. With a spark followed by an electric shock he noticed the hot meal within had immediately chilled. Something quite at odds with what is expected when applying microwaves to last night’s meal. Mark understood he had reversed the molecular change that had previously occurred in heating the meal and in fact put the meal back in what others understood to be time. As luck would have it Mark had available a brown banana. He placed it in his malfunctioning microwave and within 30 seconds the fruit was firm and green. The consequences of the discovery were not lost on Mark. He knew immediately that riches beckoned. Though, it wasn’t money he desired, only to impress the girl of his dreams. Maria, the girl working in his local pub was, to Mark, the greatest beauty in the entire world. To Mark, she paid him no attention, and the only achievement from his visits was a hangover. Mark knew who he wished to share this discovery with. After a pint of beer in his local pub he felt emboldened to tell Maria of his discovery. Unbeknown to him Maria did reciprocate his feelings. She had wondered why he had never asked her out. She did not believe the incredulous story, but was pleased to be accompanying Mark back to his home. Mark showed her the microwave and placed another piece of rotten fruit within it. Had Mark known more about the sciences and philosophy he would have been aware that all things in the universe are connected, though he would never have noticed the growing hairline fracture in the casing. Mark was lucky in one sense. The girl of his dreams kissed him. Had he been more worldly wise he would have kissed her back. Instead he pressed start. With a spark followed by an electric shock he noticed the hot meal within had immediately chilled and he no longer knew of the kiss he had received for he was stood alone once more.

God bless 'em, they do a grand job

Whatever your view of the British Monarchy, the big news in Britain is the announced Royal Wedding. Love or loath Liz and her family, you can expect countless telly specials and news shows dominated by the trivialities of what dress she is wearing and what cake she is having, with plenty of pompous types in suits informing us of the constitutional importance of the circus. The Dimbleby's will be rubbing their grasping hands at the overtime. It’s unavoidable. If you are a monarchist, get your flag out and wave it. If you are republican, keep your head down, get on with your life, and ignore it. If like me, you’re not sure what you are, shrug your shoulders and say “whatever”. The rest of the newspaper may be full of royal tosh, but there is always the sports section. I doubt Harry Rednapp will be expressing a view of the forthcoming nuptials.

I have no strong opinion on the monarchy myself. I think we will have them for so long as enough idiots think we need them, but in the great scheme of things and national democracy they are the least of our problems. For what it’s worth Liz seems a nice lady that’s done her best for her country. Phil the Greek seems an amusing old racist that I suspect would be quite a laugh if you’re not the type to cringe about jokes involving “chinks, darkies and fuzzy wuzzies”. Chuck seems a bit of a half wit that talks to plants and thinks he can feed his future subjects organic rubbish, but overall he has a point about architecture and ugly carbuncles. Any one that has ever worked in Coventry will agree with him there. As for Will and his half brother, Harry Hewitt, they appear decent enough chaps that like a pint and like watching the game and get pissed up every so often. I pity them in a way as every idiot pissed up thing they do is front page news. Me pulling a fat welsh lass whilst pissed up on Stella and taking her back to my Halls of Residence for an unsatisfying sexual encounter never got in the newspapers for my mum to read when I was in my fresher year at university. The eyes of the world notice every bird they take to the pictures.

There is one aspect to this, however, that fills me with horror. I have enough earache from the squeeze about planning our wedding and setting a firm date. Every so often she shows me a “wedding magazine” with a picture of a bird wearing a white dress and I nod and say “that is very nice” I can expect it ten times over if there is nowt but a Royal Wedding on the news. Then there is the cost. Weddings are pricey enough, and I don’t begrudge the squeeze what she wants, but I could do with her not getting any more expensive ideas inspired by Royal nuptials. I can feel my credit card melting.

It’s enough to drive you to drink. As this purports to be in some way a beer blog, albeit admittedly not a very good one, what lout would our future King and Sovereign be getting pissed up on? What grog by Royal appointment? I checked it out here. This is all the stuff the Queen agrees to stick “By Royal Appointment” on, presumably for either freebies or backhanders.

Carlsberg UK Limited, on the list, ales and lagers. So there you have it. That’s what they will be supping on their knees up. Liz, Phil, Chuck and the rest of them will be getting there laughing gear around a good honest can of Carlsberg cooking lager to celebrate. I wish them all the best. Have one on me treacle, and enjoy it. God bless her honest to goodness down to earthiness.

Come the big day, I will be drinking Carlsberg cooking lager and raising a toast to their good health. It is the patriotic thing to do. Frankly anyone not drinking lout would I suspect be committing a treasonous offence and in days gone by be sent to the tower. Crack open a tin of lout and toast them, yourself!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Abolish cask beer!

I realise by posting this it is going to sound like I am starting to spend more time in pubs. However the experience I am about to relate concerns a Wetherspoons pub so that doesn’t really count does it? The experience informed me to a degree that I wish to propose the abolition of cask ale. A controversial point to be sure, and whilst currently not official policy of the Campaign for Cooking Lager I am asking the question whether it ought to be.

Stood at the bar of a Wetherspoons waiting to order I noticed a bit of a queue forming. The Wetherpoons are often criticised for not having enough bar staff but on this occasion the two gentlemen serving appeared more than adequate for the level of custom in the establishment. I am no great fan of pubs and one of the reasons is the requirement for self service. The continental model of sitting at a table and having a waitress bring you things is in my view a more civilised drinking experience. Whether it be food or drink I require, and I don’t mind tipping. The ebbs and flow of how busy the establishment is, are more convivial in such a system as if there is a wait on, you are sat at your table conversing with your friends rather than stood at the bar waving a note in the air.

The queue in this case was seemingly being created by a rather demanding customer who took rather a long time to buy a single pint of bitter. The customer in question was not being unreasonable and arguably well within his rights. Wetherspoons have a “beer festival” on at the moment which appears a way to hawk its guest ales with a price promotion. The customer in question was discovering the aforementioned beer festival. He was experiencing a taster of one of the ales in question, presumably being uncertain as to whether to buy a measure. It is of no relevance to mention the physical appearance of the gentleman, but he was a gentleman of mature years with white hair, a white beard and a cravat. Again this is not relevant but I like to paint a picture with words. He swilled the beer around his mouth at length, making a number of facial expressions where it was impossible to determine whether he was enjoying the experience or attempting the affect the mannerisms of a connoisseur. He swallowed and by the nod of his head showed his displeasure and asked for a taster of another. This was repeated at length with each of the cask ales on the bar and with each taster his mannerisms became ever so slightly more exaggerated. At this point I was enjoying watching him and was happy to wait to be served myself as my order was a simple one. 2 Sunday £5.99 specials, one pork, one chicken, one with a Tuborg and 1 with a white wine.

Upon his last taster the white haired gentleman declared with a wince “It’s all muck, a pint of smooth please” Now the gentleman was entirely within his rights to go through this lengthy process of acquiring a pint of John Smiths Smooth. Whilst smooth bitter is not really my cup of tea, I have no objection to people drinking it. The issue I realised is one of cask ale. I am prepared to accept the gentleman could very well be a connoisseur and his judgement of the beers as valid and reasonable as anyone’s. Due to the variable nature of cask ale, and the fact that a portion of it is muck, he had to go through this rigmarole. Simpler to not have mucky beer on in the first place, and only have beers on people will like. If cask ale were abolished, this gentleman would have been served quickly and so would the rest of us waiting at the bar. You would never need a taster of the Tuborg, Carlsberg, John Smiths or Guinness. So there you have it, my proposal to make the pub going experience more enjoyable for all. Abolish cask beer!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Positive News

Some positive news for the campaign for greater cooking lager appreciation. It appears the youth of today have got their heads screwed on and are rejecting ever higher on trade pub prices for good value of cheap supermarket grog. The news is here and here. Whilst the news is presented in an alarmist fashion by the vested interests of the pub trade that seek a monopoly on the supply of grog, there is good news for cooking lager enthusiasts.

It reveals one important fact. Whilst people may have a drink or two before going out, they are not going out pissed. They are going out relaxed and convivial (average 3.3 drinks) and its irresponsible pubs flogging them overpriced grog that’s getting them pissed. The survey ought to be taken with a pinch of salt. 500 people are not representative, but it is good news that people are drinking responsibly at home.

We youngsters are not foolish. It points to a generation that know the value of the quid in their pocket and love a bargain. All positive and healthy signs for the future economic prospects of the nation, and the prospects of delicious ice cold fizzy dirt cheap supermarket lager.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Lout - Preference or Dogma?

Lout - Preference or Dogma?

"Are the Carlings on special offer at 40p a can or 45p a can?"

When I previewed the opening of my most recent can of Carling Lager this was the first question I received on both my blog and Twitfeed. It's because the lovely lout is dirt cheap, fizzy and lovely.

And when I replied that I didn’t much give a toss, it was the loveliness and comparative cheapness of the lout that mattered, not 5p, there was a supplemental question: "And how does a taste lock can work?"

These questions are of no interest to the vast majority of lager louts. But they are of fundamental importance to some in the Campaign for Cooking Lager. And because CAMCL is the nowhere near the biggest and most influential consumer body in beer in the UK, that makes it of no importance.

While I'm a champion of lout, I obviously love other beers as well - as I think do most drinkers. But this is an issue that won't go away, and the can of Carling has thrown it, for me, into sharp relief.

CAMCL as a body fight for cheap lager. When it suits them they fight for other stuff as well, but let's leave that to one side for now. When it comes to British brewed dirt cheap cans of supermarket lager, by their constitution they have to champion dirt cheap cans of supermarket lager. Given that, it's quite understandable that they need to have a pretty specific technical definition of what cooking lager is. That means there are bound to be some beers that are pretty close to that definition, but fall outside it.

I can accept that. What's more bizarre is what happens to beers that do not qualify as dirt cheap supermarket lager, and to the supermarkets that flog them. If they are not cooking lager - even by a whisker - CAMCL cannot support them. Shops that only flog expensive craft beer are promptly dropped from the Good Lout Guide.

I understand how they get here. But I still think it's bizarre.

I know not every beer in the local Tesco is cooking lager. But so what?

Let's take Foster’s. Normally a dirt cheap canned beer, it's won numerous plaudits from cheap lager enthusiasts in Britain. It's breathtaking in its cheapness, fizziness, coldness and loveliness. Now it’s not on special offer at the moment. But it will be again. It is still cooking lager, give it a few weeks, it’ll be back on special offer.

Now, I know most CAMCL support it because they love a bargain and by and large that's what CAMCL’s about. But let's focus on the hardliners, the people who only buy cooking lager on special offer, who wind up Dicky English on the CAMRA forums, who campaign most actively, who write stuff like this:

"The beer must remain dirt cheap, fizzy and without flavour. CAMCL have fought off all sorts of threats, some blatant, others more subtle and the image remains intact. The dishonest full price beer scam must not be allowed to corrupt CAMCL standards."

If you agree with this, I would genuinely like to hear from you...

Let's say I get you into Tesco and place a can of Carling in front of you. Would you demand to know whether it was 40 or 45p a can before you deigned to drink it? If I told you it was served ice cold and 40p, and you drank it and enjoyed it, would you then change your mind about it if I said, "Actually I lied, it was 45p"?

What would you do if I said "Why not just throw it down your neck?" Given that the main argument against 5p is that we are cheap it cannot affect the taste (something every lager lout I've spoken to agrees), if it did then surely you'll be able to tell whether it was 40p or not? If you can't, then what exactly is the problem?

Because this is the nub of the debate: the Campaign for Cooking Lager was founded from a genuine belief that cheap lout is better than other beers. Whether you agree with that or not, it's an argument about the quality and cheapness of the beer. But it's about your senses. It's about the beer. If I give you a beer that doesn't fit with your definition of lout, but is generally regarded as a fizzy, quality beer, you could:

  • Drink it and say, "Amazing - it's not about 40 or 45p - it's just about the coldness of the beer."
  • Drink it, and perhaps say something like, "Wow, I still prefer 40p beers generally, but I'll admit there are some pretty damn good beers that are not 40p."
  • Say, "If it's not 40p a can I refuse to drink it. It must be a rip off.

Most people I know would go with the first option. I think the vast majority of CAMCL members would go for the second one. But I have met people who do the third.

I once told a lager lout I'd really enjoyed a pint of craft beer. Because it was bought me by my boss, I had no idea of the price. This man, who surely considers himself an expert on cooking lager, was adamant that if it had been cheap I must have enjoyed it, but if it was expensive I couldn't have. He was telling me to ignore the evidence of my senses and instead focus on a technical aspect of price to decide whether my beer tasted nice or not.

Surely it's meant to be about the taste of the beer and the price. Why else are we all here? If you need to ask technical questions about 5p before deciding if you like a beer or not, you are making your decisions based on dogma. You are making a political decision rather than taste driven decision. And I believe that means you've lost sight of what the whole Campaign for Cooking Lager was supposed to be about.

Some CAMCL people argue that things like 5p, and think 5p is "the thin end of the wedge" - that if we accept this, we'll see a gradual erosion of cooking lager until it doesn't exist anymore and, by stealth, CAMCL will have been defeated.

I think that's a pretty paranoid argument. And if I were being contentious, I'd also say "But if the coldness and fizziness of the beer doesn't change, what's the problem?"

CAMCL was established because beer most beer was overpriced pongy ale. A lot of beer still is. But dogma, definition and politics mean that the most hard-line CAMCL members often save their hostility for decent enough beers that simply don't meet an over-specific technical definition.

If you're one of these people, I know ranting and telling you you're stupid isn't going to change anything. But I believe the cooking lager in Tesco demonstrates that the definition of cooking lager has changed an awful lot since 1971. I don't think your hard-line attitude does anything to help beer drinkers, CAMCL ‘s image and credibility, or even cooking lager itself.

I've tried to outline the argument in reasonable terms, understand your position and specify why I think it's wrong. I'd be hugely grateful if you wanted to respond in kind.

A huge thanks to Pete Brown

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Beer and Food : it's Fabpow

Beer and food matching. It is the glorious nirvana that enhances both food and beer alike. When you are eating and drinking at the same time you have successfully matched food and beer. Simply open a can of lager to accompany anything you happen to be shovelling down your neck and you begin to understand what Mark Dredge means when he says Fabpow. It’s kind of like touching God. By that I mean touching God in a good way. Not touching God in an inappropriate fashion that would have you removed from the workplace if you were to do that unexpectedly to a work colleague without her prior consent and approval. Kind of like giving God a matey high five.

This particular road to Damascus began with the news that Pot Noodle had released a Christmas dinner variety. My mouth watered at the prospect and to aisle of a supermarket I went in search of evidence of the power of Divine Grace. The Buddha once said “Seek not to follow in the footsteps of the Master’s, seek what they sought”. This wisdom came to mind when feeling the crushing disappointment of there being no Christmas dinner Pot Noodle in stock. However God had other plans for me, for on there on the shelves was Pot Noodle GTI at £1 a pot. The label promised “real meat”. Nuke it in 2 minutes for a “real meat” curry Pot Noodle. At that moment I knew there was a God. I have never been more certain.
This required a special beer to match with it. I closed my eyes and opened the fridge and pulled out the first thing I touched. This beer and food match was Gods choice. The first thing I touched was packet of Cathedral City cheddar. I was a bit perplexed at the will of god, but then so are all mortals when faced with understanding the will of the divine. If it was simple there would be no need for theology. God would make it clear what he thought of homosexual and lady vicars or even housing benefit reform. He obviously doesn’t for a reason. With that I took out the bottle of Chechen 25 Grain Imperial that Stuart Howe sent through to me, many moons ago and had a go at it whilst waiting the 2 minutes for the microwave ping.

An effervescent frothy malty brown ale with a floral hoppy smell. Quite an enticing pong and very well rounded. Quite a thick strong ale that reminded me of treacle with a burnt bitterness on the aftertaste and a lingering wrap around the tongue flavour. Kind of like a well hopped dopplebock.

As I dug into the Pot Noodle goodness I read the ingredients of the Pot Noodle and discovered a worrying lack of E numbers. Thank god for the monosodium glutamate or the calorie count combined with the contents would have this labelled as health food. As I polished off the delicious combo I realised that my skills with a microwave would enable me to get a job in the finest pub kitchens in the land. Time for pudding and what is a better pudding than another beer. I still had a Williams’ Ginger Beer 3.8% to neck, sent to me way back. Ginger beer, ginger cake? That’ll do for pudding.

This is a traditional adult ginger beer with barley, wheat, root ginger, lemons, sugar & No hops. A sweet ginger smell and quick dying head revealed a sharp astringent taste. The bitter aftertaste came as a surprise alongside a light acidic quality. Very unusual. Not unpleasant but it all depends whether you like ginger and by that I mean root ginger and not ginger nuts.

Thank God I had some lout in. I had a couple of Freedom Lager’s Rabid Glyn sent me when he was hawking LOBI week. I have already blogged about this lout here, I won’t repeat myself but it is still nice lout.
Beer and food. Food and Beer. Food and Food. Beer and Beer. It is gods will.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Tarrah Kelly Ryan

God knows why I’ve been invited to do this. Somebody called Kelly Ryan is leaving a brewery called Thornbridge. Now if it was related to Kelly Brook I’d have more interest. Somebody I don’t know is leaving a brewery whose beers I don’t drink. RabidGlyn and Dredge seemed to want a set of beer blog “goodbyes”. I suspect attending the twissup now makes me “one of the lads”. Oh dear.

Apparently “Kelly” is a fella and not a girl and he’s off to New Zealand. All the very best, fella. I raise a can of lout to your good health. There is plenty of decent cooking lager down there, by all accounts, so you don’t need to gag on pongy ale any more. Apparently New Zealand isn’t that backward anymore either, there is more to the place than sheep and rugby. They make films about hobbits there these days. As I said, all the best.

All the best, whoever you are. Can I have some free beer?

Songs of beer

I have heard it said and both written on the blogosphere that when you buy “macro brewed brands” you are buying the advertising and marketing spend. This is true, however, of all brands regardless of scale or production. One feature of large scale production is that within economies of scale, specialisation occurs. It is possible within a large company to have people whose sole area of responsibility is a singular function, whether that is finance, IT or marketing. You may believe there to be some inherent romance to a small brewer where a small band of people are jacks of all trades and masters of none but even that small brewer will have a marketing function. Whilst that function may be part of someone’s job after they have finished sparging wort or some other unlikely sounding activity, it is still a job to put the product in front of a potential customer and give the customer a reason to try the product. That is a function the customer pays for regardless of whether the beer of choice chooses a cheap publicity stunt involving dead rats & the portrayal of our Teutonic cousins and trading partners as national enemies or a TV advertisement involving laid back Australians enjoying a cold pint of lager.

So I don’t buy the argument that the customer gets to avoid paying for marketing, by choosing “none marketed” beer. It’s all been marketed, that's how it got a distribution channel and that’s how it appeared in front of you and that in part is why you chose it. One feature I do notice is the difference in marketing of beer brands. Smaller craft beer tends to paint a picture that informs the customer of the product features. You also find a lot of crap using the words like “organic” and “carbon footprint” to paint a picture that the small scale brewery choice is an ethical choice and thus a “moral good”, but by and large the emphasis appears to be on the product itself.

This is at odds with the marketing of the macro brewers. The marketing spend appears to offer a “lifestyle” and paint an image of the product that fits in with their customer. Little is spoken about the actual product. One exception is the marketing of Beck’s beer. The marketing of this beer has long emphasised the beers ingredients as the selling point of the brew. Many myths surround beer and most drinkers are self educated in so far as they know what they like and know how much of it they can take. Some beers will be thought of as “chemic” due to a different taste profile and the fact the drinker once had a skinful & got a bad hangover. Some beers will be well thought of by the customer. Most of this is based on the drinkers own drinking experience, little is based on the image brewers try to create, and even less is based on the campaigning activities of eager beer enthusiasts. Beck’s had a lot of success marketing a lager seen as “pure”. As the beer entered “cash cow” status on the growth share matrix and has entered almost permanent discount in supermarkets, alongside Stella and other big brands, it has seen a phenomenal success with its spin off “Vier” brand (a star), a 4% version. The Vier brand sells in the off trade at a higher price than its parent brand, and has in my observation become the cooking lager of choice in the on trade held back only by its limited distribution.

All of this is why I’m surprised at their current marketing giveaway. Giveaways are often used to promote beers. Guinness has a lot of success giving away t-shirts, rugby shirts & branded glasses. An activity where arguably what they give away assists in maintaining their own brand. The free t-shirt turns the customer into a walking billboard for the brand. The Beck’s giveaway is for “free mp3 downloads” at Beck’s have long associated there brand with art. Whether this rubs the magic cloth of sophistication onto the brand is arguable. I happen to like Beck’s beer and drink a fair amount of it, but it is difficult for any beer on permanent discount to be considered sophisticated. I like it because it is a nice cheap drop of lout, not a sophisticated choice. The giveaway is unrelated to the brand, is a none tangible and also difficult to redeem. Redeeming a song is easy enough, redeeming an album involves “buying” each track individually, putting in the discount code to get it free then doing the same for the next track. It is also within the wit of most consumers to get free music anyway, if that is what they want. The promotion appears to benefit play, which are running it, as it showcases their own on line music store. It isn’t going to encourage me to choose Beck’s. They’d be better off putting a few more bottles in the box so when I see 3 boxes for £20; Beck’s is the one with more bottles than Grolsch or Stella.

Having said all that, I have 20 of these beer labels and I really don’t know what music to get. I have Lady GaGa’s last 2 albums anyway and that’s all I listen to. There doesn’t appear to be anything else I like. What’s a good bit of euro pop I should download “for free?” I like euro pop. I’m not afraid of being called gay. I have a tasty bird and a full healthy physical relationship with her. That defines my sexuality, not the fact I use man moisturiser (so I don’t get moaned at for borrowing hers), dress well and listen to camp music. I like anything that is as camp as Dale Wintons Xmas. You tell me what I should download.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Spoons Beer & Burger.

For a living I manage a team of people. The Campaign for greater cooking lager appreciation isn’t a full time job; I make a living as most people do by sitting in an office and looking moderately busy whilst pissing about on the internet looking for cheap car insurance and 0% credit cards. One member of my team poked his head up from behind his computer this lunchtime and said “Friday filth?” Now this isn’t a bizarre office ritual involving the viewing and distribution of pornography, it’s the office code for “Fancy some fast food for lunch?” Basically a trip to either the chippy, MacDonald’s or the KFC. My reply was to ask him whether he fancied a beer and burger in the Wetherpoons. Mark Dredge wrote a nice blog on beer and burger matching, here, but me being a price sensitive soul notices the price disparities in the UK market. Fabpow, bitchin’ and all that. A MacDonald’s or Burger King is cheaper in the UK than other European counties. At about £4 or £5 compared to 7or €8. However cheapness isn’t an absolute, it’s a comparative. To compare I can get burger, chips & pint in the Spoons for £4.99. The burger at 6oz is bigger than anything at a fast food franchise, I can get mayonnaise on my chips (something you can’t get in UK franchises) and there is a pint thrown in.

It can’t be any good though can it? Came the reply of my erstwhile colleague. The only reply to this is “I think it’s alright, it’s a piss take to use the word gourmet on the option to put bacon and cheese on it, but you can eat worse, you can make your own mind up”, so off we trotted to the McPub. The Spoons seem to be liked and loathed in equal measure in the beer blogosphere but I am firmly in the “like” category. I like ‘em because they are not crap and pretty cheap. The best thing I ever read about the Spoons was from a market analyst writing about their share price prospects in the FT newspaper. He wrote something along the lines of “they are the place you start to drink in when you decide to no longer be taken for a mug” This of course is a reference to the price competitiveness of the chain of managed pubs. We walked past a couple of grotty looking pubs before we got to the Spoons and this particular one was a smart place with presentable, friendly and efficient bar staff. I sunk a Guinness with mine; my colleague sunk a Tuborg and we sat in a clean and pleasant area full of tables. None of the grottiness of a fast food joint that needs its tables and floor cleaning. No screaming kids eating happy meals, just a silent TV with subtitles showing Sky News as we moaned about work and discussed our weekend plans. To share the conversation my plans involve doing whatever the lady squeeze tells me to do, and my colleagues plan involves necking lager, watching football and pulling birds. All of which he appears quite good at. Arguably better than me on all 3 counts.

The burgers arrived. And if I were to be critical you don’t get a lot of chips, but the burger itself was arguably better than a burger franchise. My colleague agreed with me. That’s pretty decent he said, bugger MacDonald’s. “and you get a pint thrown in, we should come here again” he concluded.

Part of management I have discovered is mentoring those in your team. After showing him the delights of a cheap burger and pint it was time to share the knack of wandering back to the office without people knowing you’ve had a crafty Friday pint. Wrigley’s extra chewing gum. Minty fresh breath to breath over people in our tedious departmental meeting this afternoon. He’s lucky, he gets to sit at the back and piss about with his phone. I have to sit at the front with the other “managers”

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Some more nice beer - Williams Bros

I appear to be on a roll with pongy ale and in this sense the campaign for cheap lager appreciation isn’t going very well. How can I have my very own campaign for lout when every night I sink a few bottles of fine well crafted ale? Well whatever. If people are kind enough to send it me, I’ll neck it. The following is a few beers I necked sent to me by the delightful Williams Bros alongside these lovely drops, here and here. Crikey, this is binge drinking and binge drinking is great. I usually only have the odd can of lager during the week, but you know, life is short so why not live a little? 3 or 4 gets you nicely oiled without getting drunk and getting hangover. The calories are not that great so I’d better not make a habit of it. The thing is I follow twitter and every day the beer bloggers are necking beer. I guess it’s becoming normalised to drink more regularly.

Williams Bros 7 Giraffes Extraordinary Ale 5% promised an eclectic blend of 7 varieties of malted barley, fresh cone hops, elderflowers & lemon zest. Crikey, but what’s it like? Refreshing, aromatic & quite moreish. A sweet hoppy smell, then a bitter hit with a light floral sweetness and lasting lingering bitterness on the tongue. The hops dominate. It’s a full bitter hit for my palate, with a more subtle malt quality. I liked it though, something different and not half bad.

Fraoch Heather Ale 5% claimed to be Scotland’s native ale for 4,000 years & the oldest style still made. Claims of Picts brewing it and what not, but this is a 16th century recipe of malted barley, sweet gale & heather flowers. The hot ale is infused with heather flower before fermentation. It had a floral peat aroma, full malt body & a spicy herbal flavour with a dry wine finish. Not bad, but I’ll be honest, not 100% my cup of tea. I’m glad I tried it, and pleased somebody was kind enough to send me a sampler, but unlike the previous bottle it wasn’t one I’d have again. The lady squeeze liked it, though. She took a swig and took the glass off me. She gave me a strange look when I poured the beer into a new glass for her and explained “I have to drink all my beer out of the same glass because Zak Avery says so in his book”

Maybe this beer is one for the lasses? I don’t mind this sort of behaviour as when she’s drinking, she can’t be sarcastic about me drinking. The squeeze even asked me whether we had more of this one, which is quite a compliment to it. Maybe she should write a beer blog. She told me she liked the sweet floral smell and odd flavour. The peat gives it a hint of whisky with sweet & sour flavours.

Having had my beer stolen off me I cracked a Williams Red 4.5%. This beer was for me the best one. I’d be a regular on the pong if this pong was typical pong, as the beer had an absence of any pongy smell. It was a lovely balanced ale with a malty sweetness & mild bitterness. A cracking session able pint you could neck a few of. The bitterness hits first but settles into a smooth sweetness.

By the time I’d finished it I had time for one more. The squeeze takes her time with drink. I suspect that determines a lot of drink choices. You don’t have to drink that much wine to booze; beer being weaker requires a capacity for quantity. With that thought The Williams Scottish Joker IPA 5% got opened. A complex blend of malt & hops & fresh citrusy aroma with a bittersweet full flavour. An appealing light colour & fresh smell gave it the appeal of quite a light IPA. My expectation of an IPA is quite hoppy. This had a mild bitter aftertaste. I’m not arguing the toss on beer styles, you can call beer what you want but I’d call it a lovely pint of premium bitter rather than IPA. The bittersweet aftertaste really lingered and delighted.

The squeeze finished her beer, didn’t appreciate my comment of “3-1, I win” replying with “It’s not a competition”. But it is isn’t it?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Some very nice beer

Out and about you get the impression that Christmas is just around the corner. It isn’t, its months away, but still the shops fill with Christmas tat. I’ve even seen mince pies with a sell by date of the end of November, meaning they are stale a month before Christmas. I find it is important to do some Christmas preparation. I don’t mean buy presents or buy tat or send cards. I mean prepare for the fact that before you know it a load of scrotes will be coming around your house for Christmas visits and parties and necking your grog. I’ve still got loads of decent grog nice people sent me for free that I haven’t got round to necking yet.

This is the time for a bit of mid week binge drinking to ensure all the decent grog is necked so when people punt up at your door, all you have in is a bottle of Jacobs Creek Chardonnay and a few bottles of Stella.

It was with this in mind I cracked open a bottle of Sharps Single Brew Reserve 2009 4.5%, sent to me by Stuart Howe of Sharps brewery, way back when. Brewed & batched in December 2009, conditioned for a month before bottling with live yeast the gumph on the bottle promised a balanced & complex flavour. A beer of this promise deserves my Stella Artois glass. Ooo, the smell. Sugary, like an old school type sweet shop. There’s a whiff of parma violets in there. I’m prepared to accept that not all pongy ale smells are rank. This aroma made my mouth water. The buggar of bottle conditioned ales is the upright storage and careful pouring but the rich malty taste and mild hopping really went down a treat. Front of the mouth and tip of the tongue flavours rather than a back of the mouth bitterness. Nice stuff and didn’t last long. I sunk it with indecent haste. The squeeze raised an eyebrow and enquired whether I was intending a session. Could be, treacle, could be.

After that one I cracked Sharps Special Rock Cornwall 5%. You’ve gotta read the bottles if you’re gonna blog. This beer has a formidable reputation. Sweet & Complex. Liked by something called the “cask appreciation society” and preferred by boozers to national brands when stocked. So there you are.

Slight malty taste to it, sweet fragrance. A well balances bitter. Malt hits you first then a lingering dryness kicks in rather than a bitterness. I’d class it as a top notch bitter and whilst I’m wouldn’t presume to give it a baron rating, I’d give it a Viscount rating of “top notch”, as Viscounts are up a notch from barons. Certainly no “boring brown bitter” for those of us whose taste buds have not been ruined by hops.

Ooo, what next. Finchley’s Golden Ale 4.2%. This stuff was given to me by a nice chap at Aldi, as you can see here. A clean almost medicinal hop smell with the colour of a light ale, rather than golden lager. The taste of a light bitter, well rounded and full of flavour. A good traditional pale ale with aromatic hops. Quite fizzy, and I liked that. The effervescence was followed by sweetness, then bitterness and a lingering pleasant flavour. Even tasted decent when I belched. Time for bed? Nah one more.

Finchley’s India Pale Ale 4.5%. Pale & Crystal malts, spicy & fruity hops and some stuff about India on the label. A quite lovely smell of sweet and bitter promise backed up with a light flavour. The Fizz gets you first, as in the previous Finchley’s but then the sweetness and dryness follows. Very much like the last one but no worse for it. At the same price this is slightly stronger and wins.

Four beers, all nice, not to pissed up but with a belch it was off to bed as a slightly disgruntled squeeze made it clear to me that four was quite enough for one night.

Monday, 1 November 2010


I don’t step into pubs much, and on Sunday I understood why. Every so often, about once or twice a year, I like to step into a pub. Primarily to confirm my pre existing prejudices regarding them as being primarily dumps by and large populated by losers. Well Sunday was the lucky day I decided to support a pub and buy a pint, which should keep them going for the next six months.

Stood outside Next I said “I need to scoot for half an hour to do some man shopping, I’ve got my mobile on me, so text me, yeh?” And off I was to discover the delights of a great British hostelry. I used to think you had to do man shopping to get away with this and return with a bag containing razor blades or something. You can however say "couldn't find what I was after, love"

A Sam Smiths pub was my chosen destination for one and one reason only; they are even cheaper than the Wetherspoons. Pongy old man’s ale is the cheapest grog in there, but grog it is, and as far as pong goes a pint of Old Brewery isn’t half bad. Sam Smiths pubs are a tad on the “traditional” side, if the 1970’s ever becomes a tradition. If a hundred years from now people are knocking up mock 1970’s pubs in the way they knock up mock Tudor and Victorian style dumps (presumably thinking that not only do I fancy a pint, but I fancy stepping back into a bygone era of rickets, wood beams and Sunday night TV drama for said pint), then Sam Smiths are indeed traditional pubs. Not much had changed since my last foray into the delightful world of the working man’s boozer. The usual collection of piss artists, alcoholics & losers. The trick is to buy a newspaper so none of them try and talk to you. A foreign language newspaper is useful as you can then claim to not speak English if that isn’t enough to put them off their propensity for the warm friendliness of the north.

Crikey, though, these publicans are having a laugh. Last time I was in there, six months ago, a pint of Old Brewery was £1.30. Safe to say in the intervening six months the bar staff had not remembered my face and said “Cheapest bitter we’ve got cookie?” So much for “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name. It’s now £1.40 pint. £1.40 a pint? Jesus wept. £1.40 ? Yes £1.40. Jesus H wept. That’s 10p more for what is exactly the same pisswater they were selling for £1.30 six months ago. Now don’t get me wrong, it was a decent pint of grog but robbing bastards. 10p robbing bastards. Thieving rotten robbing 10p bastards. No wonder the pub game is dying if they think they can charge £1.40 a pint. I’m scared to return in six months time, lest it’s £1.50 If I do I’m gonna claim to be a CAMRA member and ask for a discount.