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

Monday, 31 October 2011

The End

The future

All good things come to and end. Indeed all crap things come to an end too.

It started from reading beer blogs. The curiosity was mild at first and the amusement greater. Amusement not only that for some drinking was more than throwing it down your neck and getting a little pissed. Amusement at the idea that enjoying a dark pongy liquid made you more discerning, with the darker and pongier being all the better. Amusement at the idea that putting up the price of a slab of supermarket lager would make a difference to the viability of dumpy old men’s pubs and stop pissed up kids from vomiting on the pavement on a Friday night.

It started by making a simple point, that a can of Stella Artois, one of the nation’s most popular beers, wasn’t actually a horrible tasting liquid but a quite pleasant drink. That despite its popular moniker as “wife beater”, a few cans didn’t give me the urge to beat up my girlfriend. It started from the observation that as a customer the cheap price of the beer in supermarkets was actually a bit of a bargain. A nice cheapish way of having a few drinks and relaxing and being no bother to anyone else.

But the curiosity grew and I started to throw a bit of pongy ale down my neck. I didn’t find it too bad. Then I stopped shaving every day. A little stubble from time to time grew into a beard. The girlfriend made the odd comment, but slowly accepted it. Then came the sandals. They are just so freeing. Bang tidy trainers constrain your feet, sandals allow the toes to move in freedom. The beer t shirts started through logic. Why buy clobber if people give it to you for nowt? So beer t shirts became the order of the day. As winter set in what is better than a cheap acrylic 1980’s jumper from a charity shop? They make sense. They are cheap, warm & the washing machine is kind to them. Then the orange Sainsburys bag. They are strong, durable and free. What better way to carry around your tankard, beer guide, festival programme & Greggs Steak Bake? But it’s not about the look; it’s about the slow descent into pong.

It begins by spotting a new label on the hand pull in a pub and “trying” it and deciding it wasn’t too bad. Then you find yourself drinking it more and more and forsaking the gorgeousness of Foster’s for a new brief inconsequential fling. But the fling becomes a romance then a love affair, and then you can no longer look than can of Carling in the ring pull without feeling a sense of shame in your gut. That you are forsaking all that CAMCL has achieved. It’s takes a while but you pull yourself together, you look yourself in the mirror and you say to yourself “I can no longer live a lie”

The squeeze was watching Emmerdale and sipping a white wine spritzer. “We need to talk” I said, She looked over, irritated at first then saw the look on my face. She knew it was serious. “I have something to confess, I am not sure how you will take it” Her look became a cold blank stare. I knew this was make or break for the two of us. “I’m a beer geek” I said. Immediately I felt a wave of relief. There it was, out in the open. No longer would I feel shame. “Oh stop pissing about” She said as she threw a cushion at me and I saw her reaction was not one of fear or loathing or disgust. Was there a little sympathy in that mild irritation I wondered? I had hoped our relationship would survive the revelation, and a glimmer of hope was all I needed to embolden me further.

Next came my parents. Over Sunday lunch the conversation went quiet. I took my chance. “Mum, Dad, I have something to say” They looked at me quizzical as I continued, “I have been living a lie. I can live it no longer. I need to leave the closet” My father’s eyes expanded in surprise “I am a beer geek, I like to drink pongy dark beer, pongy light beer, and the pongier the better. Whether cask, bottle, can or craft. Whether macro or micro, if it reeks I love it. I like to comment on the cascade hops and talk about resinous quality in the after taste. I’M STLL YOUR SON; GODDAMMIT” I put my head in my hands and my father put his arm around me “You’ll always be our son, and we’ll always love you. Even if you’re a beer geek. Have you considered homosexuality? That’s quiet fashionable and may even be healthier than heavy drinking.”- “Beer geekery is fashionable dad. It’s all the rage. Have you not read the cask report? And beer geekery isn’t about getting pissed. We neck pong for the taste, not to get pissed. We are quite boring that way” I replied.

The next thing was to come out to friends. The reaction was “We already knew, we already suspected”. The clues were there. A growing preference for dumpy old men’s pubs. A suggestion we go somewhere where the pong is not vinegary and music quieter and the girls less orange. So what is next?

I went to a beer festival. It was in Didsbury in Manchester. It was very good. There were other beer bloggers there. I spotted the Real Ale Girl at the bar, looking pissed and lairy, but could not say hello whilst still in the closet, no matter how fit her mate was or how pissed me and my mates were. It felt wrong, whilst I was still living this lie, whilst I hadn’t a proper pongy ale blog of my own.

I went up to the CAMRA membership stand and said “I used to be a lager lout. Please forgive me. I used to be one of the ignorami, but I love this old man’s grog now me, even though some of it tastes like a rodents arse. Some of it is the dogs bollocks. Can I sign up? A rather nice lady gave me a form and a pen and it felt like growing up. Afterwards she gave me a hug. I’m getting some Spoons tokens by all accounts. She tried to flog me a beer guide but I told her it was cheaper on Amazon. She had no signed photos of Roger Protz to sell. I presume she had sold out.

Well the final step is to come out publically and end this farce. To stop living a lie. I can no longer blog about Foster’s Lager as I don’t think she’ll have me back. Cooking Lager is done. It’s more than a meaningless fling with the pong. Onwards to a brave future. If at a future festival of pong and vinegar you see a drunk bearded man mumbling, be kind. If he says "I used to be cooking lager but I got cured", offer to top up his tankard.

I’m already writing an AGM motion now I’m in the beards club. It’s titled “Minimum pricing is bollocks and all those that support it are knobs”, but first I’ve got to go into a pub and ask for my CAMRA discount!

Say it loud. I’m a beer geek and proud!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Social anthropology

Hollywood totty Reece Witherspoon liking the lout

Via the wonderful world of twitter I became aware of a couple of things on the internet worth a look. An article of the BBC here, that makes a fair argument regarding the direction of alcohol policy (further reading can be found here). Namely that demonising alcohol and controlling its price are ineffective tools to tackle the favourite tabloid story of “binge drink Britain”. Should you want to know more about binge drink Britain the Daily Mail are fond of such stories, and a good one can be found here. The best bit is always enjoying the excuse of publishing photo’s of pissed up kids whilst expressing the required level of disapproval at the whole “getting pissed and shagging a drunk fat bird” shenanigans of students that don’t yet know any better.

You don’t need me to tell you, but be wary of the Daily Mail. It can appeal attractive with its view that Kelly Brook on holiday wearing a new bikini is newsworthy, but if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself trapped in an insane asylum of your mind where immigrants are tearing at the very fabric of your reality.

If demonising alcohol and controlling its price are ineffective tools to tackle the apparent issue of binge drinking, then you have to assume a different motive for those proposing it, and if they cannot be honest about their motivation why trust them?

Thus you have to assume the true motivation of organisations like alcohol concern is one of gradual denormalisation of alcohol and eventual prohibition. You have to assume CAMRA are not interested in responsible drinking and are disingenuous in their statements and basically think that you are dumb enough to think pub prices are “great value” if only those damn supermarkets didn’t let you know just how cheap the products really are.

The beardies already have a sop for their middle aged and middle class affectation for the pongy products of small inefficient breweries in Small Breweries Relief. You wouldn’t think it acceptable for the small scale manufactures of elite sports cars or tailors specialising in bespoke suits to pay less tax. Why should products used by the better off be subsidised effectively by a higher rate of tax on those enjoyed by the less well off?

The beardies & the prohibitionists ought to be resisted in any attempt to impose higher prices on cheaper alcohol products. Boozer’s everywhere need to tell ‘em to stick it.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Value Cider



Since blogging I’ve been chronicling many of the wonderful products that sit firmly in the “cheap” and “mainstream” category of the drinker’s cannon. My overriding reason for doing so is to offer a counter to the view that such products are crap and instead offer the view that actually most of them are alright and a bargain to boot.

One product I had a go of a while back was “basics” cider, blogged here. A surprisingly cheap and quite pleasant product for those of us for whom “discerning grog appreciation” means throwing it down our necks and enjoying getting a little tidily.

If you look at the latest Gordon’s Gin Commercial here, which nicely pokes a little gentle fun at wine bores whilst promoting a decent mainstream drink with unpretentious values you wonder why so many think aping the pretention of wine bores is any way to promote beer. Beer in most of its forms, pongy ale included, is a decent enjoyable unpretentious drink. Promoting values it already possesses appears a better strategy than copying the nonsense associated with wine.

This post isn’t about beer, it’s about cider. A drink I really only like in its mainstream commercial form. I quite the odd pint of “real” cask pong, I’d run a mile from the rancid gut rot sold as “real” cider. The cheapest mainstream cider fits into the value ranges and unlike the value ranges of beer it actually has an acceptable taste and abv. It’s a bit watery compared with a Magners but not so much as to be unacceptable or unpleasant considering 2 litres can be bought for more or less the same price as 568ml or 500ml if you’re buying a regular brand.

This grog has become a regular guilty pleasure since I discovered it. After a spot of gardening it’s quite nice to sit on a folding camper chair, smell the freshly cut grass and neck a couple of ice cold glasses of fizzy sweetness.

Tesco has to be the brand of choice. Sainsbury’s have shamefully increased the price of theirs to £1.89. Tesco are a more reasonable £1.39. Also Tesco interestingly put the ingredients on the bottle and you’ll be pleased to note the prime ingredient is “fermented cider”.

click to enlarge and read

In order to fully appreciate the nose and bouquet of this fine vintage pick a stemmed glass that enables you to swirl it about and release its aromas. Get your nose in there for a wonderful appley delight and swig with unreserved pleasure. 2 litres gets you nicely on the way to being pissed at a price of mere buttons. Coins you might find between the cushions of your sofa. What’s stopping you?

Monday, 19 September 2011

If the cap fits


How beer used to be served

When I started this nonsense I was inspired primarily by challenging a few opinions that had become established truths among beer geeks through mere repetition. Namely that cheap booze was a great evil and standard regular products were rubbish only the undiscerning drank. You might spot the obvious logical flaw in this. Firstly cheap is relative. Even if you set a minimum price that within time becomes cheap. Whatever floor you set becomes the bottom. Secondly if the great British public were to abandon mainstream products and adopt any niche product en mass, then that product by default becomes mainstream and those seeking a smug sense of self satisfaction and superiority will have to go find something else to champion.

In truth mainstream products are okay. They may not be the finest product on Gods Earth but they are of a standard enough people consider acceptable at a price that people consider to be worth it.

However reading this is the guardian prompted me to question some of the offers currently doing the rounds, cheap beer wise. When this rubbish started off 3 boxes of 18 for £20 were pretty common. I lamented when the offers reduced to boxes of 15. Of late the offers have been on boxes of 12. Currently Tesco are flogging boxes of 12 for 2 for £16. It strikes me as quite poor. Working out the price of a pint of Carling your getting 18 pints (for that is 24 440ml cans) for £16 or 89p a pint. For the 5% beers like Carlsberg Export you’re looking at £1.33 a pint (24 half pint bottles for £16). The grog is getting pricier or the offers are not really about at the moment. Maybe it will improve by Xmas but by comparison I worked out the price per pint of a premium "authentic" beer.

My choice of what constitutes this may not be yours. Bitburger German Lager may be just as industrially produced a lout as any, but in the UK it markets at a premium on the single bottles with all the other “premium” beers. This is running at 3 pint size bottles (okay half litre but I can’t be arsed quibbling) for £4, or £1.33 a pint. The same price as the cooking lager. Plenty of the premium ales are priced 3 for £4 and are in or around the 5% abv mark.

Whoaa, what’s going on? As a cooking lager enthusiast my basic principle is to get a few beers down me as cheaply as possible. I’ve nothing against premium authentic beer, it’s just that I don’t mind the standard brands and flogged cheaply they hit the spot. But when they are not flogged cheaply, what’s a cooking lager enthusiast to do? It’s all in the price. Just as the posh beers are really not as great as the beards would have you believe and the lout not as bad as they make out, I’ve nothing against necking the posh beers. There ain’t no brand loyalty, just loyalty to your own pocket and hard earned wedge. If cheap enough, cheers. Shop around, do the maths. Currently the premium posh stuff isn’t retailing at a premium over the standard stuff and worth a sniff.

I'll be turning into a beer geek if this carries on.

How beer is served now
Things get better.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Popular Peoples Front of Judea

This lady has nothing to do with this at all

A couple of developments in beer worth noting and deriding. It appears the People’s Front of Judea has inspired the creation of the Judean Peoples Front & the Popular Peoples Front. Namely CAMRA are not the only beer club to dismiss and deride anymore. Now there is CAMRGB & Craft Beer UK to have a pop at on the blogosphere. Now when having a pop at the “beards and sandals brigade” I shall have to define which popular people’s front these odd balls are associated with rather than just assume. Zak Avery has beaten me to blogging about this exciting development. But I thought a little cynicism and scorn of my own wouldn’t go amiss.

Firstly CAMRGB offers the cooking lager enthusiast possibly the best reason to put twitter on your Smartphone. Simply because you can tweet “DRINK FOSTER’S LAGER” with a #CAMRGB hash tag and it ends up on their website. Who doesn’t want to spend all day doing that? As for the aims and objectives, I’ll let you decide whether you agree with it or think it amusing but harmless rubbish. It’s free to join, by all accounts, making it better than CAMRA but you don’t get anything like Spoons tokens so maybe it’s not as good. Who knows? I guess it’s up to you.

One amusing aspect is the “Donate” using PayPal button. Yup they are after your quid. They’ve not said much about what they are going to do with your quid but they want it. I missed a trick there with CAMCL. I should have begged for donations and offered no clear idea as to what I was going to do with those donations and just bought cheap lager for myself. In terms of actual campaigning for “really good beer” first impressions are they do the sum total of buggar all. The beer festivals highlighted are run by others but heh, their position is clear and it’s free. For now. They might do something if you join and suggest it.

Time will tell if it amounts to anything. Here’s hoping that if it does they have more common sense than to want to kybosh cheap supermarket grog and they all get in the habit of buying packets of razors. I don’t hold much hope. Exchanging a few pleasantries on twitter with the chap running the shebang (I think he’s called Simon) informed me it isn’t just a really good beer club; it’s a socialist really good beer club for the beer comrades. That should be fun then.

As for Craft Beer UK, it appears a producer club rather than beer drinkers club. Just what the industry needs, another trade organisation. If you have a brewery is it worth joining? You have to decide for yourself. Is there a benefit to pooling resources to promote the sector in general or are you better of promoting your own brand on your own? Don’t ask me. What does appear pretty clear is that the membership criterion appears a bit in flux. Yesterday it appeared only open to small brewers making beer the existing members liked. Today it’s a public vote. I guess they have some thinking to do. If I had a brewery I wouldn’t want to join a club that defined “craft” beer as anything that would impede my future business. I might want to build a bigger brewery, expand my market and export at some point. I might rue the day I joined, funded & helped a bunch of upstarts define craft beer in a manner than eventually chucked me out and no longer let my beer be officially “craft” I might see the sense in keeping the definition of the term nicely loose to mean whatever anyone wants it to mean.

Of course, though, whilst Cooking Lager enthusiasts may deride these organisations we can take a sense of pride that we are too busy necking cheap lout to get on with the business of formulating CAMCL into anything other than a vague spiritual notion. To join CAMCL all you have to do is neck a 4 pack of Carlsberg whilst sat on the couch, scratching your ball sack (or whatever if you’re a girl) and belching “Ooo Laa Laa Ga Ga”. Do that and you’re in.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Campaign


The Campaign for Cooking Lager (CAMCL) has always been a bit of a piss take. That however does not appear to stop us from winning. See this here. Supermarkets offering high value cheap grog appear to be winning. Pubs offering poor value expensive grog appear to be losing.

Some will shed a tear. I won't. Instead I offer a picture of the lovely Hayden Panettiere drinking some lovely lout to cheer you up.

When it comes to pubs I saw a sign outside my local Wetherspoons. The sign showed 2 popular brands of beer alongside prices significantly cheaper than any nearby boozer. The tagline? "Why pay more?"

I can't think of an answer. I can't think of a reason to pay more. Spoons it is then. If you can think of an answer, maybe you know how to save the boozers and can explain why the Spoons was the only gaff with any punters in.

The best bit of the article?

"The GMB has calculated that the average price of a pint of lager cost 93p at a pub in 1987. If it had risen in line with the Retail Prices Index measure of inflation it would now be £2.18, but in fact it has climbed to £3.09, making it unaffordable as a daily staple for many consumers, already hit by rising utility bills, petrol prices and salaries which have been frozen."

It's all in the price.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Carling Chrome



After trying Foster’s Gold I was actually quite keen to try the other mainstream lager brand extension, Carling Chrome, however as all cooking lager enthusiasts I have a reluctance to paying full whack and knew it would have to wait until I spotted it on discount. I didn’t have to wait long. A 4 pack for £3 in Sainsbury’s and bob’s your aunty so to speak, cheap enough to try though not neck regularly.

I could mull over the naming of these extensions. Is Gold more desirable than Chrome or vice versa? Do these names exude the very essence of quality and desirability? Then concluded I didn’t really know. For me it’s all about the lout, the neck ability and the cheapness.

The cheapness is the issue with brand extensions qualifying as cooking lager. The purpose of them is clearly to command a premium price and lout enthusiasts like me don’t do premium prices. The early discount being more a strategy to get punters to try the product rather than an indication the product is heading for regular discount. When the beer geeks got all excited about Punk IPA appearing in cans and on the shelves of supermarkets it was initially discounted in an attempt to kick start a market among regular mainstream shoppers. Beer is no different to cheese or Pot Noodles.

I doubt either Carling Chrome or Foster’s Gold will regularly discount as it isn’t the point of the exercise. The regular brands are suffering declining sales forcing regular deep discounting and in some respects a decline in brand value as punters get used to a 40 or 50p can of lager and rather than see it as a fantastic bargain and question the value of the product when it isn’t discounted and when it is sold as a premium in the on trade. Cooking lager enthusiast like the decline because it means discounting and cheap grog, a perspective quite different from beer geeks that are desperate to pay more for their pint of pongy vinegar.

I’m not sure how many times Carling have tried to extent the brand. I remember Carling Premier as a stronger lager sold in a can with a widget to give it the “smooth” effect of some canned ales. I have a mate who given the chance will drone on at length about how great Carling Premier was and that they should bring it back. It never did much for me, but I’m not fond of “smooth” beers whether it is done to an ale or a lager. I guess if it was that great it would still be in the shops and we will see if Chrome is that great if it is still in the shops this time next year.

At the risk of repeating the last blog posting I am uncertain why regular mainstream brands attempt to premiumize themselves. A premium brand releasing a standard product affords the opportunity for the authenticity to rub off slightly. I’m not sure it quite works the other way. Coors, who make Carling, already have a strongish light lager that commands a premium price and is rarely discounted in Coors Light. My observation is that beer more strongly appeals to a female customer, whilst Carling is very much a product of the lads but I suspect bringing regular Coors Lager to market would afford a strong premium brand to rival Budweiser. After all Coors is the beer of Smokey and the Bandit. Budweiser is only the beer at the start of Smokey and the Bandit 2. You would transport a truck of Coors across America; you would only get pissed up on Bud prior to transporting an Elephant.

But anyways, here we are with posher more sophisticated Carling. Similar to Foster’s Gold it is a lighter tasting lager with more alcohol. Is more closely resembles a “Lite” beer, whilst Foster’s Gold tasted much more like the “ice” beers that hit the market a few years back. The beer is smooth with a sweetish aftertaste and arguably has more going for it than Foster’s Gold. I found it a nicer drink than the previous one. Neither really would appeal to the drinker looking for beery flavour but both are nice easy going bottles of cold beer to get pissed up on. I’d neck it any day of the week. I’m often perplexed when I read more scathing reviews of light lager among beer geeks. Sure beer geeks are looking for more by way of beery taste, but there is nothing wrong or unpleasant about necking lighter beer.

Whilst arguably not unpleasant and quite nice I would question whether there is a strong market for lighter beer in the UK. It took off big style in America but numerous attempts to hawk it in the UK failed.

The thing about beer is that it gets written about by beer geeks so if you were to read the story of American beer you would get reams on craft beer and buggar all on the far bigger story of the success of light beer. My suspicion as to why it never took off in Europe was confusion as to the term “lite”. Is it diet beer? Light in Alcohol? Light tasting? Either way the European drinker decided that was for girls and didn’t drink it. Will light beer take off with sexier names like Gold and Chrome? God knows. If it does, a couple of mainstream brewers have found a product they can sell at a higher price and save established brands from decline. If it doesn’t we await with anticipation for the name of next light lager sold at a premium. Would I win a prize for suggesting “Carling Posh”?

If I was being facetious I’d make the following mild suggestion? Carling and Foster’s are great. Worth every penny of the 50p a can. I love the stuff and would only drink something else if it was 40p a can or even 30p. If you want to sell grog for more why not look at the grog that does sell for more quite regularly. The shelves are full of premium priced Ales & Lager’s that even when discounted go for 2 bottles for £3. These tend to a bit more flavourful and authentic. It’s only an observation, like. There appears to be a market among people that want to pay more and think of themselves as more discerning piss heads than the common rabble, and it’s clear what they are after.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Always believe in, because you are Gold


The basic rules of cooking lager appreciation are the beer must be neck able and dirt cheap. However a bit of flexibility is a must when encouraging cooking lager appreciation in others. Praise yields more result that criticism and when the lovely lady squeeze did a bit of shopping and bought me a six pack of Foster’s Gold I was delighted. I didn’t even enquire whether it was on special offer but expressed my delight she’d put some lout in the basket. The cheapest I’d seen this was £4.50 in Asda. Other promotions had it at around a fiver. Full price it is 6 quid for 6, a quid a bottle. A bit pricey for 4.8% lout all considered but I’ll give it a go as it’s bought. Putting lout in the basket is a good thing, to be encouraged. We can work on the whole cheap as humanly possible bit gradually.

I confess to a smidgen of concern regarding whether there was an ulterior motive. Was she about to confess to something and wanted me in a better mood? Was her mother coming to live with us? Had she thrown out all the treasures I had stored in the attic? Not the pilfered beer glasses? Did she want rid of my dart board? Was she about to suggest re decorating something? Had she been buying shoes out of the joint account? Was she about to leave me for an overweight pongy ale enthusiast because she found a beer gut stretching a Hobgoblin lager boy T-shirt & sandals the sexiest thing on earth? Will I be changing this rubbish to cooking bitter and begging for a second chance?

I remained silent and waited. Nothing. It would appear to be an entirely altruistic gesture. We’ll see I guess when I neck one. A day later the lout had been in the fridge and I settled down to one. The bottle informs me it is a 4.8% chill filtered lager. “Premium” 5% brands have arguably had some success with lower alcohol 4% spin offs. The stronger spin offs from the standard 4% brands seem to die a death pretty quickly. There is a logic to this, the 5% brands have a bit of authenticity to them but if you don’t want to get too pissed up you can manage it on 4%. When standard brands go up market they appear to be standard with more alcohol rather than actual premium products. How will this fair? Anyone’s guess. Carling has a new brand out called “chrome” in this category so I guess it’s time for brand extensions all over again.

The purpose of this beer is by all accounts to give the loyal Foster’s drinker something more sophisticated for when times demand an occasion, as the can of lout is okay when you’re with your mates but not in front of a lady. That’s what the marketing department say, anyway. I asked the squeeze. “Do I look sexier with a bottle of lager or a can of lager?” The answer was “You look sexiest when you are hoovering. But not during Emmerdale. You want to do that more often if you want to turn me on”

The brand whilst being a UK brewed Australian lager has never been the product that by all accounts isn’t that popular or widely drunk in Australia and this stronger version isn’t an attempt to sell the authentic Foster’s. It’s a whole new beer.

But what is the lout like? Well it’s a pleasant affable inoffensive drink lacking in anything you might want to call flavour. A light tasting lager to the kind and watery piss to the unkind. Nothing at all unpleasant and if cheap enough I’d be happy to neck it by the gallon. A light unchallenging beer for a hot day or something to get angry about if you are a beer geek, I suspect. There is nothing about it at all to dislike.

If I were to be slightly sceptical, we have been here before. Anyone remember “ice” beer? Or even “lite” beer? Both lager styles which pretty much failed to take off in the UK market and this beer is pretty indistinguishable from that.

Usually when you drink a stronger beer you expect more of the general taste of beer. The basic mechanics of brewing dictate that to up the alcohol you put more of the core ingredients in to end up with a higher ABV and that makes it taste of more. Chill filtering is a process where you near freeze fermented liquid and remove the ice particles. This ups the abv because you are removing water and not alcohol and also removes much of the flavour whose resins are attached to the ice. Hence a lighter tasting higher alcohol beer.

The main standard lager brands advertise mainly to a male clientele. Carling, Foster’s & Carlsberg are by their advertising “lads” products. Are lads looking for a stronger version which tastes of less? I don’t really know other than when previously asked the question it was a “no” or else ice beer would still be in the shops. As a lad I’m looking for cheaper beer but I don’t see much of a chance of a new brand extension called “cheapest”. At least they are not patronising women, though, by introducing a light tasting lager for the ladies.

My guess is that some beer commentators would describe this as being indicative of all that is wrong about large scale brewing of bland products. It really isn’t. There are worse things and indeed worst beers in the world. The only offence is trying to up the price of the grog they are selling. The standard brand sells for about 40-50p a can. They want to sell beer for more, so they introduce a spin off. If it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. My guess is that this will be short lived but I’ve been wrong before.

On a positive note, it produces a pretty good belch without that beery feedback loop created by beers which taste of beer and it is named after a song by Spandau Ballet. If that’s not a good reason to drink it I don’t know what is.

Eventually the bombshell came. I was looking for a much loved and much worn t-shirt. “I’ve had a bit of a clear out. The scruffy t shirts are in the bin. Why not wear one of the new shirts I bought you that you’ve never worn?” It’s not all bad. Some aspects of living with a bird are pretty good. The sex, basically. Regular sex.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cookies Crystal Ball

Holly Valance encourages you to neck a Foster's Gold

Firstly an apology, this is yet another long tedious post where I try to make a thoughtful point rather than glorify binge drinking, mild misogyny or make fun of bearded sandal wearing beer geeks. I’ve not given up on that and if you come back later I’ll try to have some for you. I’m necking some Foster’s Gold tonight after the squeeze bought me a six pack. I shall be necking it whilst watching Seven Dwarves, the best show on telly. I’ll let you know why Foster’s Gold is the beer to finally kill of dark pongy ale for good.

I’ve been pondering the distinct and noticeable alteration in the pub landscape away from drinkers pubs (wet led is I believe the technical term) and dining pubs (I’m not sure whether these are dry led? Are they? Comments below. I must say I don’t much like the idea of dry food. It sounds over cooked).

I’ve been reading a fair few things that lay claim to food being the saviour of pubs and from a business perspective I don’t doubt it, though whether a cheap restaurant is actually still a pub is another discussion altogether. Any business has to give the punter what they want and I want to eat a meal and have a drink with my good lady far more often than I wish to neck beer with my dodgy mates. Even when I used to neck beer with my dodgy mates more often than I do now, had you said to me then “Do you really want to hang around this dump getting pissed with this lot, or would you prefer a nice meal in the company of a pretty lady who will take you home afterwards for a bit of how’s your father?” I’d have abandoned the lads without hesitation. I was in truth hanging out with my dodgy mates because no bird wanted me, and if the current bird decides the rest of female kind is correct in their assessment of my qualities and dumps me I will no doubt find myself drinking in pubs with the lads more frequently until I can con another lass into taking me on by pretending to be clean, charming and sophisticated. I might even join a beer club so I can drink with Tand & Mudge until I pull again. I suspect they could teach me how to bird.

The change of use from wet to food led is though, in my humble opinion far more profound than many realise and its effects will eventually significantly alter the pub and brewing landscape. Do me the honour of reading my argument then feel free to disagree? My opinion is not written in stone, if you disagree you might be right.

Pubs come in 3 basic business models, the single outfit, the horizontally integrated chain and the vertically integrated chain.

The single outfit or free house appears a popular business model with beer geeks because of the freedom to procure products from wherever the owner/manager decides. Hence there may be beers uncommon in the pubs of that area or a quirky popular feature than generates trade. The pub may follow the current trend of offering multiple beer choices from around the world and be a beer geek’s paradise. The pub may or may not have an attached micro brewery but if it does it’ll be an unnecessary vanity of the owner. The pub will undoubtedly thrive on the wide choice available rather than the pong they brew out the back in the shed. Food may or may not be part of the model and once more fit in with the vanities of the owner. It could be a particular style of food or an adherence to snob driven food fads like organic local produce. It can even result in the customers denied their basic human right of Heinz ketchup and HP sauce if the owner decides he doesn’t want that putting on the fine local organic sausages. Whether this drives trade will be observable on an individual basis rather than an industry wide perspective. Success depends on the vanities of the owner finding favour with a sizable niche in the locale. The main trade will be products bought in that customers decide they cannot get elsewhere. Otherwise they would get it elsewhere because it would be cheaper to do so. If you make shed brewed pong, this is your retail outlet and if you want to buy it wade through the beards to get to the bar.

The horizontally integrated chain in operating a number of outlets is going for a wider mainstream customer base. It can be observed the product choices in these establishments favour national brands and lack imagination. Many beer geeks would like to see a legal right to procure beers off the national list. The reason many of these chains prefer national procurement is often stated as obtaining the economies of bulk purchasing but there is another reason entirely and that is one of preventing corruption. A chain of over a thousand operators procuring product individually affords many opportunities for back handers. The operator buys product on the books and the supplier gifts the operator off the books. National procurement with a managed supply chain keeps everything on the books but favours suppliers that supply nationally. The most successful of these chains appears to be Wetherspoons with a managed house model and focus of delivering quality at reasonable prices to the end customer. They are not the only one; Crown Carveries appear to do a roaring trade as do many others you can mention. Those chains that attempt to be actual restaurants rather than pub themed restaurants even make a go of a pricier offering.

The tenanted model of Punch and Enterprise appears flawed for any number of reasons though the high leverage adopted isn’t really the issue that many think. All capital costs money, whether it is debt or equity. The business has to service both with either interest or dividends. Leverage requires interest payments where equity can halt dividend payments making an equity capital structure more resilient to a temporary downturn. Neither capital structure is resilient to a permanent downturn in trading conditions as who really wants to own equity that eats itself rather than offers a return?

The struggle of the tenanted model comes from the inability to offer value to the end customer. Customers quite rightly baulk at the prospect of the eye watering prices charged in pubs maintaining a 50%GP on kegs of lager bought from the internal supply chain at double the rate the kegs are sold to the free trade because the pubco makes its money by charging wholesale more than you or me can buy retail. You don’t have to have an MBA to figure that ain’t gonna work. Oh and the answer isn’t to fix the retail market with minimum pricing, as that fails in the core issue of offering value to the end customer

Horizontally integrated pubs are naturally going to focus on an efficient national procurement policy and offer the same brands throughout the chain. Whether the pubs focus on food or drink is all to do with what drives trade and where the profits and margins lie. The beer choice will always cater for the mainstream and it is futile to moan about the lack of interesting pong. Enjoy a Carlsberg with your panini.

The vertically integrated model is by far the most interesting when it comes to the food led operation. These businesses exist through no more than historical legacy. From a market where brewers sought to secure a retail outlet for their product via a chain of pubs because otherwise no one else would sell it for them. They exist regionally rather than nationally, due to competition law, though that competition law has never been sophisticated enough to recognise a monopoly can exist regionally and not just nationally. A wet led business model ensures the brewery is both a profit and cost centre within the business. That is a brewery absorbs costs but provides the main source of profit as the main products sold. In a food led business the brewery is no more than a cost centre, and an unnecessary one at that. As wet led pubs diminish and food leads the business, the profit being made is on things bought in rather than produced. The company does not own farms or food processing units nor vineyards or wineries. The brewery is an historical legacy, a significant source of costs and minimal contributor to profits. The business case for owning a brewery is slight and is either an expensive vanity or white elephant depending on the state of the company’s books.

When you factor in the ownership of many regional brewers as family businesses, the future brewing operation looks even more bleak. It is no longer the done thing to hand over the business to the eldest male, heterosexual, stable, married, male child producing child. The shareholding is split between all children, then between all their children and so on. Each generation dilutes the shareholding and introduces shareholders with no interest in the business. Some may have an interest in joining the family business, others may wish to sell up, mortgage their shareholding for the capital to go do their own thing or simply secure a liveable level of dividends for a cushy life. As one generation passes to another the chances increase of a none family member taking the helm. Somebody that knows how to run a business rather than somebody that contains some of the DNA of the dead guy that started it, someone with an MBA and a CV, someone whose job it is to deliver dividends from the current business and seek new business rather than maintain what used to be the business but is now only an historical legacy of the founders. Someone who asks “why the hell are we running an expensive brewery when we make all our money out of a regional chain of restaurant pubs flogging hot diners and bottles of Pinot Grigio?”

At this point the regional beer brand may live on in the form of contract brewing, or die as better marketed and more recognisable brands fill the pubs. The beer geeks may even be happy if micro brewed pong appears in an outlet or two.

As a separate brewing entity do most regional breweries make something as niche as micro brewed pong or even as respected by regular drinkers as a national brand? Not really, without the pubs the brewery hasn’t got a business. The brand value of many UK regional brewers isn’t really that great. Those that are, are arguably no longer regional. You wouldn’t describe Fuller’s as a regional brand; London Pride is national if not to a degree global. You may very point out that many German bars seem to be food led and that hasn’t closed down Paulaner or Hofbrau. The brand value of those beers is pretty good and exists beyond Bavaria. You can find a Hofbrau & Paulaner pub/restaurant in many cities. Most UK regional brewers have failed to build intrinsic brand value over a number of years through running low end tatty pubs where there core product isn’t that great. Warm vinegary piss isn't that great unless you have a beard. They have failed to build a lager brand, the most popular beer style in the country and world, and now sell more third party beer brands than their own. They may have the odd pub where the own brand beer is pretty decent and a few bearded guys give them an award and put them in a book but the regular experience of the regular customer tells a different story and that story is the brand lacks value.

In conclusion then, my crystal ball says that national brands are here to stay, micro brewed pong may indeed prosper so long as the fad is maintained and enough people grow beards and wear sandals but the decline of the wet led pub and its replacement by food led pubs is the death knell of the regional brewer as a brewer. The vertically integrated business model makes little sense if the retail outlets don’t really need a brewery. As the regional brewers divest themselves of underperforming low end wet led pubs and invest in smarter higher end dining pubs the brewery becomes ever more a vanity to the business rather than an integral element of the business. The pubs may live on, the business may live on and the names may live on, the brewery will not.

My crystal ball is clouding now; I look at the empty lager cans littering the floor. The squeeze is due back from her mother’s shortly. Better tidy up, brush my teeth and try not to appear pissed or I might get dumped and have to start drinking in pubs again and claim that pint of Carlsberg Mudge once promised to buy me.

Monday, 22 August 2011

A trip to Aldi


Back in a rose tinted past when this blog was a lot better and was yet to go this far downhill, I used to get free stuff. A nice chap, rabidbarfly, sent me some beer along with a Breda beer glass. I had never encountered Breda lager, nor was there an example in the beers I was sent. I did a bit of googling at the time but never forgot the brand as it’s a beer glass I regularly neck cheap lout out of.

Recently I was looking at the beers in Aldi, weighing up the cheap bargains and low and behold there is was, Breda Lager, 99p for 500ml. I got the feeling of excitement I suspect many beer geeks get in finding a beer they have wanted to try. The bottle informs me it is brewed especially for Aldi, a 4.9% adjunct free lout of water, malt & hops.

There was no information on the bottle regarding where the beer was brewed, but wiki has it at Randall’s brewery in Guernsey rather than the original Dutch brewery, as does the breweries own site.

I do like necking lout from branded glassware, and as I had the glass I had to buy a few bottles of the beer. I even had an ill fitting T-Shirt with the brand on and despite the paint stains on it I digged it out of the garage to wear for my lout judging session.

Beer tasting is a fine art. It involves smell, appearance, swilling the beer around, umming and ahhing, making pointed references to fruit and what not. I prefer my own method which is to chill the beer to as cold as you can get it, pour it out and take a big gulp. If it tastes nice thumbs up and if it doesn’t pour a dash of lime in and neck it anyway as I’ve paid for it.

No lime required; a lovely drop of lout. A delicate slightly sweet profile and nicely easily going. I enjoyed all of them. Not necessarily anything special, I’m not sure I’d have bothered had I not already had the glassware, but I’m chuffed to have got around to actually necking a brand of beer of an obscure glass I got given. I might even go get some more of it.

Monday, 15 August 2011

You win some; you lose some


For me the joy of cooking lager appreciation isn’t just the lovely ice cold fizzy lager slipping down your throat creating waves of pleasure from the tip of my tongue to the ends of my toes. It’s the fact that it’s dirt cheap and just as importantly being dirt cheap it annoys people. It annoys alcohol health prohibitionists from Don Shenker to Mike Benner. If I knew where they lived I would turn up and neck a cold can of cheap lager whilst sat on their front lawn. I wouldn’t break anything or go looting or mask my face. I might wear a hoodie and pair of bang tidy trainers, though, because it's like the fashion.

Not that I’d be a pest. When they asked me to bugger off, I would do so, but as I pottered down the street back to the bus stop I’d feel a sense of cheap lager triumphalism. I might leave the empty can on the doorstep as a point of protest, but that would be as far as my protest would go, and only if I’d finished it. No need for any undue impoliteness. A protest but a polite one. No nicking or breaking stuff or making David Cameron return from his holidays to correct the moral vacuum at the heart of society.

In the game of cooking lager appreciation, you get your successes and you undoubtedly occasionally get your failures. Noticing 3 for £20 at Tesco and joining that with a general £5 off token AND a £5 off £40 shopping token to get 6 boxes of lout for £30 and working out you bought 90 bottles (6x15) of strong lager for £30 is a success and one in the eye for the prohibitionists. You may be then be faced with the problem of what to do with 90 bottles of strong lager and the dawning realisation that you will be drinking it until Christmas but you know, heh ho, at least you won’t be needing to go into any pubs any time soon.

It doesn’t always work out though. Noticing a 15 box of Tuborg was £7 at Tesco. Having a general £2 off token and a specific £4 off a 15 box of Tuborg had me wetting my appetite over buying a 15 box of lovely lout for a pound. £1. Yes. Up yours Shenker and Benner. Turning up to the store to find them sold out of 15 boxes of Tuborg, my heart sank. No box of lout for £1. Bugger. Supermarket stocking incompetence has allowed a goal to be scored by the prohibitionists. Will the box of lout even be on the special when it is back in stock? Who is to say? I consoled myself with a 30 cans of Carlsberg for £15 tray and even bought the groceries the squeeze said we needed.

You win some; you lose some, no need to go looting quite yet, but so long as our green and pleasant land is littered with empty cans of lager rattling along in the wind, cooking lager enthusiasm remains universal and the likes of Shenker and Benner shall not win.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Enjoy alcohol cheaply

The bird off Harry Potter necking some lout it is now okay to fancy because she is an adult though she looks a bit young here.

I am never sure of the protocol for sharing what may or may not be a private email, but it amused me enough to share it. I removed the lasses name and email. I seem to get the odd unusual email from time to time. The emails I am most likely to read contain the the subject heading "We would like to give you some free beer", but unfortunately that's a bit thin on the ground of late.

For those kind enough to read this tosh, I'd like to assure you it remains committed to the noble principle of getting as pissed up as you like on dirt cheap grog. Cheap lager remains the pinnacle of beery pleasure, but whatever your tipple please do not enjoy it responsibly, enjoy it cheaply.



Thank you xxxx, but my blog isn't about responsible drinking.

It's more about the great pleasure and joy of necking large amounts of dirt cheap supermarket lager.

The goal being to create a resistance movement against minimum pricing by encouraging others to celebrate cheap lager

I suspect quite the opposite of your aims.

All the best,
Cookie.



From: xxxx
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2011 12:09:19 +0100
Subject: Alcohol awareness
To: cookinglager@hotmail.co.uk

Dear Sir/Madam

I am working on behalf of Drinkaware.co.uk, a charity which promotes responsible drinking and aims to reduce alcohol misuse and minimise alcohol-related harm. I have just come across your site and was wondering if we could possibly work together to raise awareness.

I would like to enquire about sponsoring one of your articles. Currently we are trying to direct users to our lager facts page: http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/alcohol-facts-and-information/lager

Let me know your thoughts on the above, along with any other ideas you may have. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Kind Regards

xxxx

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The importance of cheap grog

A dumpy foreign pub that welcomes smokers.

I started this nonsense what seems like many moons ago because I disagreed with what was and remains the consensus within the beer blogs and beer writing in general that I had been consuming. Namely that mainstream beers were of a poor quality and the people that consumed them were undiscerning mugs and most significantly that the prices of such products were way too cheap and needed to be increased to save the health of the nation, reduce anti social behaviour, save pubs or simply because those proposing such measures didn’t like the products they hoped would be affected. I thus decided to start my own account of buying a cheap box of lager, enjoying it more than I in all honesty expected to do, and not behaving in any manner troublesome to you other than I wasn’t sat in a pub whilst I drank my lager.

Fellow beer blogger Mudge has a theme to his blog, and arguably articulates his views in more adult and less puerile manner than myself, and that theme is clearly the smoking ban. I don’t wish to alter the theme of this blog nor intrude on another’s but I occasionally find myself in agreement, occasionally in disagreement, with dear old Mudge.

I agree that the anti alcohol lobby that clearly wish to introduce prohibition by stealth are using the techniques and models of anti smoking health campaigners.

My view is that drinking, unlike smoking, is a healthy and normal activity. Smoking causes cancer. I know of no serious commentator that would argue with that fact. Whilst it remains legal, it is damaging to the health of the nation. The techniques used to reduce and eventually abolish smoking appear to be one of advertising it’s dangers, banning the advertising of the product, taxing the product at a level to discourage use and restricting the ability to smoke in public places. By denormalising smoking and making it a troublesome activity to pursue, an activity no one really in their right mind would choose to do, the intention is to effectively eliminate the habit. A goal it is impossible to argue isn’t an admirable goal. If you were to invent smoking today it would be an illegal product.

If we take a hypothetical example of a factory producing arsenic sweets for children and the sudden medical discovery that arsenic was poison, you could make no serious argument for not banning arsenic sweets. The job losses and economic cost of closing the factory is not a good enough reason to accept the selling of a known poison. The metaphor being that closed pubs is an acceptable cost for the denormalisation of smoking. Lament the loss of pubs by all means, lament many becoming cheap restaurants, but the cost of eliminating smoking is an acceptable one.

Freedom of choice and liberty is often used as an argument but it is only recently that our society has become fragmented enough to allow this argument. Man has always been a tribal species and lived within the boundaries of the tribe, whether that is the rules of religion, law or social acceptability. Human kind and the individual within has never been entirely free, and there have always been behaviours frowned upon. One cannot make the argument that society is becoming less free because smoking is frowned upon when behaviours previously unacceptable like homosexuality, having children out of wedlock and/or without a partner or even wearing trainers in a posh restaurant becomes acceptable. Society is no more or less free; it is just that the boundaries of acceptability alter over time. A free society of the libertarian is a dangerous and worrying society lacking the conventions that make our daily inter dependant existence acceptable. If someone is free to blow smoke in my face you might also accept they are free to defecate upon my shoes. I love my trendy trainers as much as you love your sandals.

Alcohol minimum pricing is one of the features of denormalising alcohol and is akin to the high tax placed on smoking. No one really believes 50p per unit will have any discernable effect on consumption or behaviour. However it begins the model placed on smoking and allows for future increases. Those increases are likely to be an accelerator above inflation and gradually the price of a can of lager will creep up and up. It’s immediate effect negligible, its effect 20 years down the line one of very expensive booze and declining numbers of boozers.

In my observation most smokers wish to quit because of the high price of tobacco and know how much a money they would have in their pocket each month if they quit. A minimum price of alcohol is the start of a process that we can observe today if we look at the price of a packet of cigarettes. It is not a habit anyone in their right mind would start. If we look at the difficulties of smoking, standing out in the rain at your place of work or when out for a drink you have to question why anyone would do it.

The denormalisation of drinking isn’t in my view a theoretical conspiracy, but an observable fact. In most places of work it is unacceptable to go for a lunchtime pint. Most people would not tell their boss they went out for a drink in the evening lest they be thought of negatively as a boozer. Most of the media coverage regarding alcohol is by and large negative and highlights the many social and individual costs of drinking. This is not to say those costs do not exist but appear out of proportion to their occurrence. The denormalisation of drinking is well underway and to support minimum pricing is to support one of its foundations, a strategy taken from the denormalisation of smoking.

You may believe there is no serious and immediate threat to your drinking habits. In a society where the majority of people like a tipple of some form you would be correct. Twenty years from now, when the denormalisation of alcohol has made far more progress, when a can of lager is as relatively expensive as a packet of cigarettes, when a minority of people drink. Will you be able to say then that there is no serious and immediate threat to your drinking habits?

Monday, 1 August 2011

Little Ole Wine Drinker Me


I found myself at a wine festival last week. I had no plans to attend one. I was walking around a foreign city of the Teutonic form with a guide book. I’d looked at a few statues of some dead people that lived hundreds of years ago and pondered whether people actually did this type of rubbish, walk around looking at statues and such gubbins. Some people must, I thought, I wasn’t the only one at it. A morning of it was enough for this lifetime and I felt deep within the desire for an ice cold fizzy pint of lout. I’d done a page worth of a guidebook and realised it was likely the only page I was likely to ever do, so time for a pint of lovely ice cold fizzy lout. Only lout will do, to quench the thirst, cool the throat, clear the mind and feed the soul. Or so I thought.

I’m not the type of beer geek to worry about “craft” beer and brew pubs. I like normal places with normal people. I knew nothing of where I was so I pottered along to an area that had looked rather nice with a view to picking a respectable looking bar and buying a pint of regular popular recognisably branded lout. The type of lout that must be okay because everyone else is drinking it.

As I pottered along I noticed a bustling market. It appeared busy. The smells of cooking food were enticing to my palette. I didn’t realise I was hungry until I smelt the aroma of cooking meat. Then I realised I was starving. I realised that if I didn’t consume some dead animal inside a bread roll with a dollop of mustard on it I would most likely pass out from hunger. A swift right turn and I was heading in the direction of cooking meat.

Upon looking at the menu of delights offered I was pleased that I could read most of it at least with a view to recognising what was pork and what was chicken. The details of the dishes eluded my poor grasp of the language and upon deciding I was in no mood for a gamble I used the well worn technique of pointing at what I wanted. Gambling can be interesting, and rarely in my experience do you end up with something inedible and in fact you gain an appreciation of what the foreign words mean, but in this instance knew that I wanted what the guy before me in the queue was having, so pointing did the trick.

I looked about for a beer stall, and sure enough there was one. But also there appeared to be a wine festival on. I am happy to share my knowledge of wine. It comes in 3 types. There is red and white and rose for the ladies. These wines are sub divided into cheap stuff that makes you wince and takes a few swigs to get the hang of, mid priced stuff that doesn’t make you wince and you are better off buying if you either have a lady friend or wish to impress a lady and the really pricey stuff that appears little better than the mid priced stuff that is great to neck if someone else is picking up the bill. I am aware there are grape varieties, countries and regions that subdivide wine further but have never ventured into discovering this due to a lack of interest in something I have long considered to be a poncy way of getting pissed. I prefer a more egalitarian way of getting pissed, hence my love of beer and more specifically cheap beer.

The wine menu I could at least read. The red and white wine was clear, the region and grape variety I could also read. Being able to read it and understand it however are not one and the same thing. I noticed other punters were able to buy a tray of mixed wines in small measures. Similar to buying a meter of Kolsch beer in 20cl glasses in a tray. So I picked one of them and found a seat among the locals to neck my grog and polish off my jumbo sized hotdog.

I sipped the first one. Not unpleasant but it wasn’t lout. I decided necking them like shots would be the best thing to get through them and not waste them. The locals were puzzled at my behaviour and I was engaged in conversation. I engaged them in conversation in their native tongue but decided against revealing I was an Englishman. As they were doubtless puzzled by a chap throwing these wines down his neck rather than tasting them I decided to claim to be an Australian. That would I thought excuse any behaviour considered uncouth, or at least explain it.

After the first tray of wine I was of the opinion I quite liked it so decided upon another. Which I necked with equal gusto, commentating to my conversational partners that the wines of their country were indeed very fine.

The grog was decent enough, got you to a nice state of mildly pissed reasonably swiftly and wasn’t that expensive compared with the general level of prices thereabouts. I pondered the antipathy towards wine that exists among the beer blogging community and now I am a fully fledged wine appreciator and sophisticate I feel able to comment that such antipathy is ignorance incarnate. Wine is a fine drink to be appreciated and enjoyed. I wholeheartedly recommend necking it from time to time as an occasional alternative to the lout and generally noting that it makes you a well rounded sophisticate like what I am.

If I learnt anything about wine drinking, I learnt this. If you have a lady, stop at around 5 trays worth. Above that you wake up in your hotel room with a strange bruise and no idea how you got there and realise that you are no longer in possession of your English Language guide book but seem to have acquired an Italian Language Guide book alongside a series of mysterious texts on your mobile phone in Italian clearly from a lady asking whether you fancy meeting up for a drink that afternoon 6 stops away on the underground. If you are single, neck as much of it as you like and you could very well wake up finding you have acquired an attractive and exotic new girlfriend.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Beer Quality


I got an email a few days back from a chap that was obviously hawking something. I usually bin off such stuff unless they are offering me free beer in which case I wholeheartedly express my support and enthusiasm for their endeavour. For the record the chap was hawking the following tat here. It’s only worth looking at for the couple of pretty girls and the menu “getting good head” which made me snigger, at least. I like the puerile end of comedy.

His email got me thinking though, what are the attributes of good beer? My conclusions are as follows

Price.

A beer can never be too cheap. Free is the best price but as a preference, a price of buttons is preferable to an arm and a leg. A beer can be too expensive, for sure, but never too cheap.

Temperature

A beer can never be too cold. Even a beer ice lolly is good. A beer can often be too warm, but never too cold. Ice cold lovely lout slips down a treat and doesn’t touch the sides.

Fizz

I don’t think I’ve ever had a beer that I thought was too fizzy. I’ve had limp flat pongy beer all too often, but never one I thought was too fizzy. Fizz is the sparkle that tickles the senses.

Conclusion

The greatest beer in the world has to be the cheapest, coldest fizziest beer there is, and it is possible to measure each factor. The price is clear, the temperature easily ascertained and the fizziness apparent from the power of the subsequent belch after the first swig. By this simple test it is possible to work out whether a beer is proper real cooking lager or just overpriced warm flat pongy muck you want to avoid lest you get stung.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Saturday Lie In

The best comedians ever to grace a television

For those that still read this rubbish, you might like to know that I am also on twitter. I cannot in all honesty recommend you follow me on twitter because frankly I wouldn’t. Those that do get treated to enlightening thoughts every so often on the lines of “oo, I could do with a can of lout about now” and not much else. You’d be quite justified in thinking you were not missing that much. Much like this blog, really.

However twitter has lots of other people on it that often say interesting things. Note I say interesting and not intelligent, thought through or even correct. From people exposing footballers that sleep with their sister in law, to people moaning about phone hacking journalists or even low grade big brother celebs having public slanging matches with other even lower grade big brother celebs, all of human life is as they say here. It can be a fascinating thing to tune in or out of.

It’s a pity then that on Saturday mornings I miss the amusing but pointless and futile attempts by a small group of beer bloggers to get some beer onto a Saturday morning TV show called Saturday Kitchen. Saturday Kitchen is one of those shows it’s really not worth getting out of bed on a Saturday morning for. There used to be proper shows on a Saturday morning like Going Live which featured the best comedians ever to grace the TV (not including the Chuckle Brothers which are the actual best ever), Trevor & Simon. It is a travesty they are not on TV anymore yelling “We don’t do duvets” at the kids of Britain. Now I would tweet a campaign to bring them back.

My view of Saturday mornings basically is that when I was I kid I had to get up because my mum made me. A combination of Trevor and Simon and Coco Pops made it tolerable. As an adult my lovely lady occasionally makes me get up because we are going somewhere but by and large I can lie in bed and if she suggests I get up I can do one of 3 things. Drag her under the duvet and make hot passionate love to her, gently slap her on the arse, say “cup of tea wouldn’t go amiss, treacle” and await her hitting me with a pillow and then dragging her under the duvet and make hot passionate love to her or last but not least farting then dragging her under the duvet and laughing before making hot passionate love to her. The farting is what we northern English types like to also call “foreplay”. The hot passionate love I am assured is the best 90 seconds (yes, we do it 3 times) of her weekend and she is so overcome with pleasure I then end up making the tea myself.

So all in all I miss Saturday Kitchen. From what I gather I am not missing much. Some people cook some stuff, some celebs plug whatever it is they are plugging and most controversially some barstool actually recommends a bottle of wine to go with the grub that’s been knocked up. The dirty rotten wine drinking barstool. How dare he? Words cannot express the obvious disgust that someone would dare suggest a bottle of fruity nice wine available in a supermarket for around a fiver that goes with grilled sea bass.

Someone ought to take him round the back of the studio and knock some sense into him until he goes out and buys some of Hardknott Dave’s lovely pongy but expensive and difficult to get hold of proud British beer! You can follow this noble campaign to get the TV to promote and plug Dave’s beer here, here and here and join the objection to a TV cookery show that so far refuses to promote and plug Dave’s beer. Don’t mention that TV has had a few beer related TV shows in recent years even though they have been sub Top Gear banter type rubbish featuring a Top Gear presenter, a comedian, a wine buff that likes beer or even an actor off a sitcom and his mate opening a pub because they have never mentioned Dave’s beer.

I cannot be bothered to get up and watch Saturday Kitchen and tweet along but please make sure you do. I think I speak for lovers of cheap lager everywhere when I express my unwavering support for the endeavour. We cannot let these wine drinking sods win and don’t stop until they feature Dave’s beer on their telly show!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

They're here already.


It started, for me it started one Thursday. There was no expectation on my part for what was about to happen, no pre warning, no hints that something wasn’t quite right. It was before Colin Valentine of the political wing of CAMRA had pointed the guns of his esteemed beer club at the ranks of beer bloggers. I had heard rumours for sure about “ale jihadists” but always thought it a humorous term for those that took their love of pongy ale that bit too seriously. Those that did more than simply appreciate what for the most part is reasonably decent if a bit pongy grog. Those that give the appearance at least of fighting a war against lager rather than just appreciating and promoting their personal tastes.

How wrong can you be? There I was in the car park of Tesco, loading some San Miguel into the boot of the car and before you know it a sack was thrown over my head and I was bundled into the back of a Ford Transit. Who are you? What do you want? I cried with fear in my voice as I heard and felt the van speed away.

“We saw you in the supermarket buying 3 boxes of cheap lager for £20. We are the paramilitary wing of CAMRA, what reasoned argument will not solve, we sort out. We are taking you to a pub and we are going to make you drink cask ale until you damn well get used to it and start to like it. You’ll thank us for it, in the end”

“But my car, my cheap lager, what’s going to happen to it?” I begged.

“Your car will be put in your driveway, the dirty cheap lout will be poured down a grid and we’ve got your phone. We’ve texted your missus that you’ve joined a sexually deviant religious cult and won’t be back for a bit so don’t keep dinner warm”

I felt despair. I felt fear. It’s free country I thought. I would never stop anyone from making their own beer choices, why would they wish to prevent me?” It all became clear. This was a group that advocated the madness of minimum prices for cans of lager. Good God I realised, they were capable of anything. What torture would I have to endure with these madmen?

The hood came off; I was sat in what appeared to be the cellar of a pub. I heard the rumble of tatty bearded old men walk above and discussions regarding the true origin of IPA and an argument about sparklers. The smell of pongy ale was overpowering. They gave me a pint of dark pongy liquid they referred to as “bitter” alongside a bag of something called “pork scratchings” which appeared to be little more than salted cooked fat. “Get that down you, lager lout” they taunted.

“You can’t do this to me” I pleaded “I’m a beer geek too, I have a beer blog and everything, please, for God’s sake please, a can of Foster’s, have you no humanity?”

I heard a rasp “Foster’s Blogger? Worse than a lager lout, a £4 a half craft keg drinker no doubt, you’ll be here a while, young man”

“No, No, my blog is about cheap lager, Google cooking lager, let me go and I’ll be nice about beards, sandals and this warm pongy muck you’re making me drink”

They started to mutter among themselves. I heard “He’s like the first impression that's stamped on a coin. He isn't finished.” I heard nought from them for days but all that was brought to me was pint after pint of warm flat pongy bitter and pork scratchings. Hunger and thirst finally got the better of me and I succumbed to the pongy beer. It slipped down and reminded me of the perfection of cheap lager, like an echo of what beer could be. I begged them, I told them I was converted but they didn’t believe me. I never knew fear until I supped pong. A man returned and said he’d been looking at the cooking lager blog and I was the worst sort of beer blogger and would be here imprisoned for a while. Days turned to weeks, weeks into months then a new bearded man arrived. He had a bad haircut and a weird 1980’s jumper. He showed me a pair of sandals and beige trousers and asked me what I thought. I saw my chance. “That’s quite dapper” I told him. “He has passed the test” I heard from the back of the room. I was handed the sandals and beige clothes to wear. I put them on. They gave me a CAMRA card and some wetherspoons vouchers. A hand was placed softly on my shoulder and a voice said

“Less than a month ago, Santa Mira was like any other town. People with nothing but problems. Pubs with nothing but keg lager and smooth bitter. Then, out of St Albans came a solution. Seeds drifting through space for years took root in a farmer's field. From the seeds came beer ingredients which had the power to reproduce themselves in the exact likeness of beer ingredients... It takes you over cell for cell, atom for atom. There is no pain. Suddenly, while you're asleep, it absorbs your mind, your memories and you're reborn into an untroubled world...Now you’re one of us...There's no need for lager... Lager. Lager. Without it, life is so simple, believe me.

“It may sound harsh, but we did it for your own good, son, you can now step back into the world, now what are you drinking”

I wasn’t thinking, it came out of my mouth before I could think “Pint of Carling, please” I uttered. I heard gasps of horror and they reeled back but a saw a chink of light and ran for it. Up some stairs and I was in a pub. I moved though the crowd. My disguise of sandals and beige made me identical to the rest of the punters. The discussion about IPA and sparklers was still ongoing. Keep your eyes a little wide and blank. Show no interest or excitement, I thought. I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. I had a beard and a haunted expression. I ran for the door. And so I ran. I ran! I ran! I ran! I ran as little Jimmy Grimaldi ran the other day. I ran through the road. Cars swerved and beeped their horns. I shouted. Help! Wait! Stop. Stop and listen to me!... These people who're coming after me are not human!. Look, you fools, you're in danger! Can't you see?! They're after you! They're after all of us! Our wives, our children, everyone! THEY'RE HERE, ALREADY! YOU'RE NEXT!

Don't just sit there measuring me for a straightjacket, call for help!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Blogging about blogging


Sometimes I like to offer my thoughts on things other than beer, but to give it some sort of tenuous connection here's a photo of big brother tart and subject of the most recent super injunction scandal Imogen Thomas taking a bath in some beer. Got a beer connection in. She's on the left. A different tart is on the right.

That's because I'd like to offer my thoughts on things freedom of speech and tittle tattle related.

I'm a child of television, the news when I grew up was on TV and the papers only offered yesterdays news and opinion and in the red tops tits and entertainment. However the Establishment have long controlled the news. I remember a report in the 80's regarding the miners strike. The report detailed the police response to violent strikers as they stormed them with horses and knocked seven shades out of them. Except it wasn't true. The police stormed a peaceful protest and the strikers stormed them back. The BBC edited it and the report was a lie.

I'm not one to defend Arthur Scargill. He didn't hold a national vote of his union and bullied many of his members with threats of violence to join his failed attempt to take on a democratically elected government. The fact he was a poor leader that used and abused his membership for a failed political gambit doesn't excuse the fact that the Establishment and the BBC lied in news reports.

Now unelected judges have failed in an attempt to silence the news media regarding what really is inconsequential tittle tattle regarding Ryan Giggs (if you've not heard) nailing a tart known for reality TV and getting her kit off in lads mags. The British courts even thought it possible to apply the injunction globally. I mean, you know, other countries have freedom of speech and care little for whatever idiocy British judges come out with. The arrogance.

All of this is irrelevant except of course if you wonder whether British High Court Judges (who of course have never been known to frequent brothels, enjoy a spanking and would never want to cover something up about themselves) might seek to cover up something in the public interest. Among the debate I think a change has come in regard to where we get the news and how we consume it.

If you want to know what is going on in the world, you don't look at TV. If you want to know who has been shagging it's not in the News of the World, it's on twitter and in the blogosphere. You know the days news before you get home from work, because Google News has streamed global news organisations to your PC or phone. You can read the paper of any country you like, when you like. You can compare the tits in Das Bild to The Sun to your hearts content, every morning. TV news is old news by the time you see it. If you want to know what occurred at a protest, it's on youtube. On youtube you can see the copper beating up the protester before Sky News & the Establishment have edited it to create the required narrative. The political class and judiciary cannot keep pace with a global tool of freedom of speech.

The shocker is that it is the British judiciary pondering how to control it. You'd kind of expect it to be one of these despotic regimes you read about.

On this scandal, the blogosphere and twitter became the source of news. Not just a bunch of nutters like me expressing opinions on things, but the actual news. Ha Ha Ha. I suspect we might be entering a time where you can honestly say "it's a free country, guv" and actually be correct in that assertion. It's cool this internet thing.