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

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Badger Week


A big thank you to Badger Beer. The lovely people at Badger sent through a much appreciated early Christmas gift of a Fortnum & Mason’s Oval Game Pie. That’s got to be nicer than a 99p Sainsbury’s basics pack of pork pies. 1.5 kg of Pork, venison, rabbit, pheasant, pigeon, pork liver, chicken, chicken liver & seasonings all wrapped in pastry. It’s meat heaven. I’ve still got to drink the lovely beer they sent me and suspect the 2 will go very nicely together as I look out of the warm house into the freezing Siberian temperatures outside and decide that sitting in with a nice slice of pie and one of Badgers beers is just the ticket to comfort, relaxation & not freezing to death outside.

With that, Christmas week is officially Badger Beer Week on this here cooking lager blog, in the clearest sign yet that in the commercialisation of Christmas the price of this blog is little more than a nice slice of pie. It’s what the little baby Jesus would want. So with a couple of days before having to attend a Christmas eve “camp” fancy dress party at the squeezes “best gay mates” flat, then a Christmas and boxing day of visiting my parents, her parents, her sister, some aunties I am kind of hoping to neck my badger beers in the relative peace and quiet of a warm house and all the rubbish TV lined up on the free view recorder.

Noticing the free view box had recorded me “Oz & Hugh” I could sit down with a slice of pie, a nice beer & watch some beer related TV programming. I occasionally get to watch what I want. Not often, but occasionally. It appeared the usual fake matey Top Gear inspired blokeish rubbish as 2 gormless middle aged men set upon an odyssey of drink as they went about setting up rival bars one playing the part of the CAMRA geek and the other a normal everyman. Oz portrayed the CAMRA geek by his behaviour and neglected to do his audience the courtesy of a visual shortcut by not donning a white beard, sandals, bow tie and sticking a copy of the Guardian under his arm. I have one question. Beer Blogger & Brewer and all round decent chap Stuart Howe of Sharps Brewery did them the kindness of not only appearing on this rubbish, but also giving them some beer to drink, yet all we saw was the back of his head? What was going on there? I have nothing to say about the rest of the show. Alright, but haven’t we seen it all before?

I’d love to say I considered carefully which beer might go best with this pie, but in all honesty I picked one at random. All food goes with all beer. Matching is pretentious rubbish borrowed from wine bores. Pretty much any wine goes with any food too, but admitting as such would leave a quarter of an hour to fill in most TV cookery shows if they just said. “I went down Tesco and picked this one because it was cheap, it goes quite well I think, not too bad, drinkable and not at all like diesel fuel. Ummm its red, not sure where it’s from, the bottle might say. Umm, Bulgaria, is that good or bad? ”

So I cracked open a Tanglefoot promising melon & pear with a copper colour. A fruity smell, crisp sweet & spicy. 5%. Very nice. A clear bright glass of beer with a lovely effervescence (fizz) on the taste. A malt dominated flavour with subtle hops. Full mouth feel with a dry finish as you get it down you leaving a burnt caramel aftertaste. Cracking stuff.

I’d of had a second but the next random pick from the selection box was Golden Champion 5%. Summer in a glass. Just the ticket for when the depths of this Siberian winter are annoying you. Contains Elderflower. A floral tangerine smell to a copper beer with a crisp fruity taste. Like drinking a bunch of flowers. Sweet is the dominant flavour with a floral hint of a half remembered sweet shop of childhood. I’d of finished this but the squeeze stole it off me after a few gulps.

I’ll try a few more tonight and hack away at more of this giant pie. Suffice to say all the beer goes very nice with game pie, as I suspect most things would. Time to open the Christmas quality street.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas crap


Just a short question today for anyone reading this rubbish. Of all the shite you neck at christmas from mulled wine to egg nog to christmas cocktails and punch all to be "polite" when you get dragged around either a relatives house or a relative of your lass all because you can only bear to visit them once a year at best. Is there a drink any more soul destroying than this?


Branded Cava wine from the TV show Loose Women.

As far as fizzy wines go, I can handle Cava . It's cold, it's neckable, it's fizzy but really, there is no need for this.

PS: If you are dumb enough to buy one, you can buy a decent bottle of champagne for the £20 this £4 quid bottle of Cava costs, and which would make the better gift. Loose women Cava, or a bottle of Moet?

Monday, 20 December 2010

Cheeky Vimto


Sat in front of the telly last week the squeeze and I were watching a Jamie Oliver Christmas Special. Watching Jamie Oliver Christmas specials is not something I’d recommend unless you like your intelligence insulted by an irritating fake cockney twat but I find myself sitting through all manner of shite from time to time in the hope that the evening will end in sexual intercourse. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t but I do it through a belief that the lucky night is tonight. Insult of the evening, and insult of all insults was the bit where his guest, welsh piss head foxy single mother of two and former voice of an angel Charlotte Church decided to show us how to make a drink called “cheeky vimto” This is an insult because the drink in question is hardly complicated to make. It involves chucking a large port in a pint pot, pouring in a blue WKD (vodka alcopop) and necking. I do not need to be shown this, even if Charlotte Church has lost a bit of weight and is looking half decent these days. It gets its name not because it contains Vimto but because it tastes a bit like Vimto, a none alcoholic fruit cordial popular in the north of England. Whilst Vimto is primarily marketed as a kids drink, its origins as a cordial during the early 20th century temperance movement is somewhat forgotten by Vimto lovers today, of which I count myself as one. I love the stuff. Vimto rocks.

Now this story in its own rambling way has a point because a good while back I introduced my polite well educated and slightly posh lady squeeze to my rather less posh cousins, a delightful group of robust fun loving northern girls that introduced the love of my life to cheeky Vimto. A drink my squeeze enjoyed a great deal that evening to the point showing me she wasn’t as posh as she makes out, behaving as lairy as my drunken cousins, threatening to slap a girl that talked to me, vomiting in the gutter, having a cab refuse our carriage, demanding sex when we got home, and knocking my confidence ever so slightly by falling asleep coitus diebus. She hadn’t drunk cheeky Vimto since.

However tonight she decided she would quite like a cheeky Vimto, but unfortunately we had neither of the 2 ingredients in the house. A vodka and actual Vimto is just not the same, she said. Fast forward a couple of days and we were in a well known supermarket buying more Christmas food that either of us could possibly eat even if half the country invited itself over for a Christmas mince pie. What appears in the trolley when I’m not looking? A four pack of blue WKDs and a bottle of port. Now this was an opportunity to educate the squeeze in a bit of the core principles of cooking lager enthusiasm. “Hang on love what is this?” I enquired. “I fancy a cheeky Vimto, I can have one if I want, I’m not going to be sick on you” was the reply. “That’s not at issue my love, look at the shelf, £4.49 a four pack but 2 for £7. A quid is knocked off each four pack when you buy 2. £3.50 a four pack. But look closer, there is a box of 12 for £9, and that’s £3 a four pack, but the box of 12 is on two for £14. The cheapest blue WKD’s are 2 12 packs”. She did mutter something about wanting a cheeky Vimto but not 24 cheeky Vimtos but by then the trolley contained the bargain and I was working out price per gram in my head of two differently priced and sized jars of honey. That’s what I do, that’s how I shop, and that’s how I roll.

That very evening, at the behest of my lovely squeeze I made her a cheeky Vimto. As an act of love I even made it for her in my treasured Carling glass, the glass from which I drink most things. I have tried this drink, but only sipped the drinks of others. For the full on effect one has to have a whole one, so I made myself one too. The first surprises are that blue WKD contains caffeine and is only 4% alcohol. Oh how alcopops have been decimated by the prurient anti booze campaigners. Back in the day kids could go out and neck this sugary pop at 6 or 7%. The modern position of alcopop is in a parlous state. Maybe it needs a Campaign for alcopop?

Once mixed, what gets you first is the smell. The cheeky Vimto has an almost overpowering sweet smell of fruity jam. It smells absolutely delicious, absolutely like “pop” and the first swig is insanely gorgeous. It’s nothing like booze. It tastes not entirely like Vimto, but of all the fruity pops on the market it most resembles Vimto. It is sweet, sugary, fruity and just plain lovely. I can well understand the attraction. What an easy going and delightful way of getting pissed.

One issue I had that didn’t appear to bother the squeeze was that I in contrast to her found it a drink that is quite difficult to neck more than one of. The sweetness is great but for me, one is enough. Oh and that night I did get lucky and no she wasn’t sick on me. Result.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Pickled eggs


Some days I am a fool to myself. A desire to try new things can on occasion open your world up to new pleasures and delights. It can also thrust you headlong into the very pit of hell. A new brand of lager? Usually safe and usually lovely. A weird pint of pong? Why not but know it’s a gamble and you might shortly be grimacing.

I have long wondered what pickled eggs taste like, but never had the courage to try one. They only really appear in old man’s pubs and the hygiene standards of such establishments are often an indication that eating anything is playing Russian roulette with your health. I saw these and knew I had to try a pickled egg once in my life. I like eggs. Fried, boiled, scrambled. Very nice. I like dipping soldiers (toasted bread cut into strips) into a soft boiled egg. I’m usually not one for pickles though. I can handle red cabbage, branston pickle & sauerkraut but onions, beetroot and gherkins, nooo thank you.

So it was always a bit of a gamble to buy a jar with 6 pickled eggs in. They go very well with beer I’ve heard so sat in front of the telly, Carlsberg Export in hand I said “Fancy a pickled egg?” to the lovely lady squeeze light of my life. The look she gave me was one of perplexed confusion so I repeated the question. “Pickled egg?" "Why would I want a pickled egg?” was the eventual reply which I took to mean a rhetorical question and a “no” so I was on my own in the pickled egg adventure. I did not try to answer the question as to why one would want a pickled egg.

What are they like then? Well they are like pickled eggs I suppose. Vinegary eggs. Like a nastier version of boiled eggs. Like someone thought “How can I take a nice boiled egg and make it nasty, I know, vinegar” They really are quite rank. The first bite of vinegary egg wasn’t that bad. It was as if my mind was trying to decide whether I liked it or not. The second, my mind had been made up. Ewww, not good.

It ought not to be a surprise that an old man’s pub bar snack is horrible. Let’s face it; old man’s pubs are horrible too. It’s not a surprise that people in old man’s pubs would like this sort of thing. If you like pongy vinegary old man real ale, you are probably going to go for a pongy vinegary boiled egg.

God knows what I’m going to do with the other 5 in the jar. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Let them die.


Here is a fascinating insight into how pub companies manage their estates. Rather than build a sustainable model, the business model appears one of short termism and screwing both Landlord and punter alike.

On this basis, why support pubs? Why support price controls to fix the market to allow these people to stiff customers? Pubs? Let them die.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Bargains


It is an exciting time for cooking lager enthusiasts. Xmas always brings out the bargains. Tesco currently have the 3 boxes for £20 offer on. Top stuff for Xmas. Becks, Carling, Carlsberg all feature. Remember cooking lager enthusiasts, I think we are not only stocking up for Xmas, but next year also. VAT is due to rise and whether stores absorb that rise and cut margin or pass it on will no doubt depend on trading conditions. Best be safe than sorry. Fill the garage with enough lout to last till summer.

For the cooking lager curious that are still wedded to pricier fair, Have a look in at Sainsbury’s. Meantime Wheat £1 a bottle, Fullers ESB 2 for £3, London Pride £1 a can if you buy 8, Leffe £2.49 a big bottle are just some of the offers to keep you out of the pub.

Xmas is also the time of year you buy grog for guests rather than yourself. Sainsbury’s look good here to. The wine & spirits offers will keep Aunty Marge in G&T’s and the squeeze in white wine. There is no excuse for mulled wine or egg nog. Just say no. Dressing up mulled wine as “Glühwein” doesn’t make it any better. It’s just cheap and nasty red wine warmed up with spices to mask the flavour. Just say no. You can buy a decent Merlot for the same price they flog that rot for. Same with egg nog, snowballs or any other nasty concoction. The only legitimate excuse for drinking such a thing is when all the other booze at the party has run out. Even then you’re better off heading home than hitting it.

Xmas, it’s not just a time for turkey and running along the supermarket aisle shouting “I can’t find bread sauce or cranberry sauce, will raspberry jam, do?” It’s a time for stocking up with enough cheap lager to drown an Elephant in. You know it makes sense.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Thhhppppptttt

Minimum pricing for alcohol appears at least 2 years away and when implemented looks most likely to be a ban on below cost selling. However cost isn’t as easy to determine as you might think.

I’ve been thinking about this and to explain my thoughts I’m going to start by simplifying things. If you have any manufacturing process you have 2 types of cost, fixed and variable. Fixed is stuff like plant and machinery, variable would be raw materials, labour and the like.

It might sound quite simple to say for any given commodity, “it costs 10p to make, it sells for 15p, that’s 5p profit” A ban on below cost selling would be to say outlaw the selling of said commodity for below 10p. It all sounds simple enough.

The fact is that there are bans on below cost selling already in the world. In global trade it is possible for one country to subsidise a sector, agricultural or manufacturing and effectively dump that commodity or product on world markets below cost. This is generally considered aggressive and frowned upon and one of the purposes of the World Trade Organisation is to attempt to discourage this sort of thing. Though it has been said it doesn’t do that good a job when you consider the agricultural subsidies given to European and American farmers by their respective governments and the artificially low price of Chinese currency.

I’ve got distracted from a beer related rant, so back to the point. From my earlier point regarding fixed and variable cost within manufacturing, there are 2 forms of accountancy usually done. Financial and Management. Again this is an over simplification. The financial accounts are a legal requirement and involve such delights as Profit and Loss statements and Balance Sheets. The purpose of which is to reveal whether the company made a profit and what the book value of the company is. Book value isn’t actual value, that’s market capitalisation, but that’s irrelevant.

The management accounts are often called cost accounts because at a basic level they are an attempt to determine the costs within a business. There are numerous methodologies, one of which I know something about. Activity based costing, but as that time of my life was a painful experience I have locked away I don’t much wish to go into detail. I shiver even thinking about it.

These accounts are company confidential, and confidential for good reason. You really don’t want a competitor to know the details of your cost structure because that is a significant part of competitive advantage. Companies make attempts to benchmark themselves against competitors in order to measure competitive advantage. You might not wish a price war, as your goal isn’t to destroy the competition but to provide a return to investors, but you might wish to know whether your operation is as efficient as the competitors and whether you could win one if they picked a fight.

Now the reason for all this different cost accountancy arithmetic and different ways of measuring cost is simply that each economic process is slightly different and you want to pick a model that reflects what you are doing. For a manufacturing plant, like a brewery, your per pint cost is different if you make a million litres from if you make 2 million litres. If your plant has a capacity of 2 million litres you are likely to be operating at cost efficiency if you are knocking out the full 2 million. Your fixed cost is apportioned over 2 million pints rather than 1 million. However you might only have a market for a million pints. You could also have a market that is split into sectors. Regions of the world, or indeed on or off trade. You will also have a breakeven point. The first half million litres you are selling at a loss because you haven’t covered your fixed costs, and the rest at a profit because from there it is all variable cost. It makes perfect sense, once fixed costs are met to find a market and sell additional product with a price calculation based only on variable cost to reach capacity. That is, we need to sell a million pints at X price to meet our fixed costs, but heh, from there our only cost is commodity grains, so long as we offload it above variable cost, we are quid’s in.

But this assumes cost is only manufacturing cost. What about distribution through the supply chain as it makes its way to the supermarket shelf? It costs more to supply the shop farthest from your distribution depot than it does the one nearest. What about the cost base of the farmer producing the agricultural commodities? He is growing stuff based on last year’s commodity prices and will sell it at this years, at a loss if he has to, because if he doesn’t it gets ploughed into the ground and he gets no money back. He isn’t in business to make a loss but in a bad year minimising losses is better than losing everything.

You have to take the costs of every organisation into account, to ensure none are supplying below whatever arithmetic you’ve used to calculate cost.

So how the hell do you actually calculate cost and enforce that when cost is company confidential?

The answer is not to bother because for booze the model is likely to be duty + VAT. I.e. ignore the actual cost and implement a measure that doesn’t force an organisation to make public what is private, and provide an administrative burden.

Hardnott Dave posted an interesting post here, where he calculated some interesting things about duty and VAT, and from his numbers I’ve worked out some of my own.

As per his numbers, Carling are paying 41p a pint duty, and soon 8p VAT (at 20% next month), making a duty + VAT pint of 49p a pint. The cheapest I can find this beer for is 40p a can (£10 for 24 440ml), or 56p a pint. The cheapest offer for cheap lager is currently sold at 7p above cost.

Therefore I’d like to say to everyone that moans about irresponsible below cost selling and loss leading by supermarkets. The price of cheap lout will not be affected. Thhhppppptttt. That is the sound of me blowing a raspberry.

Thhhppppptttt. Thhhppppptttt. Thhhppppptttt. Thhhppppptttt. Thhhppppptttt. Thhhppppptttt.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Shoot the cat


In order to tackle “binge drink Britain” the government have announced alterations to the tax structure for alcohol in the UK. This involves a reduction on tax for beers 2.8% abv and below and an increase for beers above 7.5% abv. This as far as I am aware is in addition to the impending VAT rise to 20%

The Pub Curmudgeon makes a case for special pleading for beers CAMRA members like, here. This negates an important point. All beer is more or less the same basic thing, and when considering his special case for “Old Tom” pong, the beer isn’t actually “real” by the CAMRA definition when sold in bottles. It is a brewery conditioned bottled ale. In fact I would suspect considering its production by a small regional brewery that most of its sales outside the region the brewery supplies its own pubs with, will be in this format.

Old Tom is by all accounts a well respected beer, that has won numerous awards as can be seen on the brewers’ website here. The beer is as far as I’m aware not widely consumed by tramps on the street, despite my own efforts to alter this fact here.

The Spesh, or Carlsberg Special Brew does have rather a fearsome reputation as “tramps piss”, though of late my own observations are that the Tramp community opt not for a can of Spesh but a cheaper alternative strong lager or more often a strong Cider. This I presume is related to a bang per buck assessment that the Spesh whilst being a strong beer does not actually offer the cheapest way of getting drunk quickly. The history of the Spesh is available to read here. Whilst not being “real ale” and therefore by default “chemical fizz” the beer clearly has a history unrelated to a product designed for tramps. It was produced for Winston Churchill’s visit to Copenhagen in 1950.

Arguably Old Tom claiming a history going back to 1899 trumps 1950, but at the end of the day both have a history beyond my own life on the planet.

So on what basis could you actually differentiate between Old Tom and the Spesh? Are we really to assume taxation policy ought to be determined by a narrow special interest group of beer geeks producing a list of beers they “like” and “don’t like”?

It is entirely impractical to suggest Old Tom ought to be given special consideration that is not afforded to the Spesh, and given a lower tax band.

I would add further that it there is a strong merit in taxing Old Tom far more than the Spesh. The country is broke and tax revenues need to be increased. The vast majority of CAMRA members are nice well meaning middle class types that can afford to pay a few bob more for their chosen pongy gut rot.

The tramps on the street can ill afford to pay more for the Spesh. These are people at rock bottom. Often with problems that are not solved by the simple measure of putting up the price of their Spesh. A tramp is unlikely to reconsider his alcoholism and reduced circumstances if the cost of his can of Spesh goes up by 50p and choose to dry out, get a job and become a productive member of society.

Cheap clean ethanol alcohol is not the greatest evil in the world. A far greater evil for those at the bottom of life’s ladder is illicit dirty methanol alcohol. A substance that can and does cause lifelong health problems for its abusers. Health problems that will have to treated in the UK by the NHS. The can of Spesh in the tramps hand may indeed be the lesser of available evils.

The official policy of CAMCL is therefore to agree with a higher taxation rate for anything CAMRA members drink, whilst campaigning for a lower taxation rate for the Spesh, and encouraging all CAMCL supporters to join our Christmas appeal. Share the joys of the season and regardless of personal theological belief do a Christian thing. Buy a can of Spesh and give it to a tramp today. It is what the little baby Jesus would do.