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

Monday, 28 February 2011

Boheme Lager

One of the most neglectful aspects of this tosh so far as been to fail to cover one of the more exciting cooking lagers available to the British cooking lager enthusiast and this weekend I bought a big box of it to compensate for my neglect. It is currently difficult to ascertain whether permanent inflation has hit the cooking lager market bumping up the prices of lovely grog or whether we are stuck in the wilderness between Christmas and Easter waiting for the next 3 for £20 offer on big boxes of cheap lout.

One example is a recent 2 boxes of 15 for £18 offer on Beck’s in Sainsbury’s, making a half pint bottle a whopping 60p. Is that a good deal in these economically straightened times? Should that be accepted as the new economic reality of a stagnating inflation riddled economy? Should the cooking lager enthusiast shrug his shoulders and accept the value of money has collapsed and 60p is what a bottle of lout now costs? Kronenbourg looks a far better deal at £6.13 for 15, a far more reasonable 41p a bottle. It looks like there are still bargains out there on decent ice cold fizz.

However for me it was time to revisit a lout I’ve not necked for a couple of years. Boheme lager is a brand exclusive to Tesco, in effect their own Czech lager. Brewed to 4.7% and containing water, malt, hops & hop extract. Boheme 1795 is a pilsner brewed by Budejovicky Mestansky Pivovar, the oldest brewery in the city.

Crickey this sound like we are in proper lager territory here, and in some respects we are. Crap about craft versus industrial lager negates that one of the key attributes of European fizz is that the quality of the beer, its intrinsic attributes being far more important than unquantifiable attributes like the “amount of love” it was brewed with. Most decent authentic lager is industrially made and that is a key feature of its quality and consistency.

We could put this beer in a term of reference of other better known brands of Czech lager on the market but whether you are necking Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar or Staropramen you should be looking to do so at about £3 a litre. 2 500ml bottles for £3 appears the fair going rate for decent neckable branded grog in this arena. This grog came in at 20 330ml bottles for £10, or 50p a bottle or £1.50 a litre. Half the price of other available Czech lagers.

So is it only half as good? Nope not at all. It’s a cracking lout. It has a fullness to the body, a delicate sweetness and a wonderful crisp bite. A bang on decent Pilsner that even a “discerning” drinker would be happy to throw down there neck. On the great scheme of lout appreciation I’d put it up there as an arguably a comparable grog that could be branded and hawked at the same price of the branded goods. Boak & Bailey look at the grog here.

Bang per buck isn’t just about alcohol content, it’s also about how good the lout is and this lout really is top stuff for the buttons being charged. There is no such thing as bad cooking lager, it is all good, but some arguably is better than others. The way you decide this is by necking everything that is cheap and deciding for yourself what you like, and I really quite like this one.

When Tesco first started hawking this grog they flogged it at 3 boxes for £20, but when it came off the bargain bin other louts were offered cheap and I waved goodbye to the crisp delicious nectar. As the box sixes of the other offers has reduced and this remains 20 330ml bottles, at £10 for a box the offer hits the spot. Welcome back to Daddy.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Thought is free

I’ve had a thought, an observation, rolling around my head for a few days and as blogging is an excuse to at least attempt to form those thoughts into a coherent point of view I thought I’d give it a go. But first an apology for not taking the piss out of anything to do with beery pretentions or beards.

It was inspired by two blogs, Firstly Pete Browns blog post about beer and food matching, here, but also inspired by Mudgies attempt at crystal ball gazing, here.

Beer and food matching is something I thoroughly enjoy deriding, but I’m going to lay off on this one. My observation from reading newspaper columns and watching TV shows is that wine experts often eulogise about fine wines that may indeed cost a few bob more than a regular 3 for £10 Jacobs Creek special offer that I might buy to go with whatever attempt at cookery I’m about to thrill my lovely lady squeeze with. This may be an attempt to encourage the reader or viewer to be a little more adventurous in their choices though I also observe most of the audience for such things are more interested in reading and watching than doing. The only recipe I have ever knocked up from a cookery show was courtesy of Delia Smith, though I would credit watching daytime telly favourite ready steady cook as a student as being full of informative tips on knocking out edible scran quickly. I’ve never bought a bottle of wine recommended to me by a wine ponce off the telly or in a newspaper lifestyle section. However my main observation is that whatever grog they are banging on about, it is never referenced from the perspective that the regular commonly enjoyed brands are in any way shite.

I don’t think I’ve ever read or seen a wine expert bang on about a £14.99 bottle of nice Italian wine that goes with whatever dish the cook has knocked up by expressing the view that it is so much nicer than a £3.99 bottle of Echo Falls or that bottles of £3.99 plonk represent vile chemical rubbish only the undiscerning neck and we’d all be far better off is such shite did not exist. I think I understand the reason why, but correct me if you disagree. They understand the audience will by and large like a glass of wine, that those that don’t will not be reading it. They understand the audience may or may not have an interest in wine but probably are familiar with £3.99 plonk and may drink it regularly. They understand that the £3.99 plonk actually isn’t vile filth but a perfectly decent standard product enjoyed by millions. They understand that telling people the wine they are drinking is vile filth may turn them off drinking wine rather than turn them on to paying more for a bottle. They understand you can eulogise about how great this wine is without any reference at all to the bottle of cheap plonk. Cheap plonk isn’t really relevant to explaining the wonderful fruity notes of this more expensive plonk.

It is far more common when reading and watching the same basic stuff about beer to see more expensive beers framed within a reference point how much better they are than cheaper beers. An example is here, from notable professional beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones. It is in no way a criticism as I enjoy his writing, hold him in high esteem and he has been kind enough to leave the odd comment on this rubbish I knock up. It is an observation that whilst the article eulogises about the beer, this is framed in the context of what the beer isn’t rather than what it is. It isn’t a bottle of beer that retails for about a quarter of the price. Well we knew that before we knew anything else about the beer. An alternate example is the marketing of Brewdog beers, a cracking example here, where the marketing of their own premium lager takes as its main reference cheaper lagers that cost about a third of the price of a bottle of Brewdog lager. Rather than tell us how wonderful their own lager is, they insist on telling us how shit popular cheaper national brands of lager are.

What do I make of this notable difference that the world of beer has to the world of wine? Well one thing I note is how I am rarely told by wine buffs that wine is a nasty unnatural product. I rarely ponder the ingredients of the wine I drink wondering whether there are any nasties in there to harm me. I notice most bottles of wine mention they contain sulphites but I also understand sulphites have been used since Roman times to preserve grapes. The wine may or may not contain cheaper fermentable sugars added to the grape juice to produce a cheaper product but my judgement is based largely on how drinkable it is and how much I paid for it. That wine is a natural healthy product to be enjoyed and that by and large the more I am willing to pay the better bottle of wine I might get.

I also note that when drinking in Germany the view held by many drinkers regarding their National product of beer is somewhat different to us. That beer is considered a natural agricultural product to be celebrated alongside bread, meat and all other delights. That what I as a tourist think is a beer festival is actually a celebration of agriculture that happens to include beer because beer is the best thing you can make from agriculture. It is only English friends that tell me they are feeling rough because last night they had a skinful of “dirty beer” combined with being “a dirty stop out”. Not exactly a serious statement of being dirty but hardly an affirmation of a natural and healthy product.

When pondering beer it is easy to wonder whether that can of Foster’s is vile and unnatural filth. Is it really? Well of course it isn’t. It is made of regular barley & hops though there may indeed be not that many hops and other natural cheaper commodity grains may form part of the recipe that keeps the cost down. Nothing unnatural, vile or filthy about it. The beer is arguably popular and to a large number of peoples taste, though clearly not to everyone’s. However it is easy to note the effect of being regularly informed that standard regular brands of beer are vile and unnatural filth. It may be assumed that the effect is to push me as a punter to “better” or more expensive beer that also funnily enough is unclear about what it contains. Those beers may be fuller in flavour but not necessarily to my taste or to my pocket. It is just as easy to assume that regular beer is the vile filth many beer writers tell me it is, entirely unrelated to the fuller hoppier beers I am told represent the embodiment of the brewers craft and opt instead for a bottle of wine. After all no one has told me any of that is vile filth.

So the conclusion I find myself heading towards, is one of sharing some of the amusing pessimism of Mudgies blog post regarding the inexorable decline of beer drinking, and pondering the first comment by Pete Brown. It depends on whether you thing people are genuinely influenced by TV shows and lifestyle articles in the press. I know anything on the blogosphere is read by about 3 or 4 people but wouldn’t you expect established media more widely consumed to be influential?

I do laugh at the beery cheery types that appear to take issue with views expressed in the press that does not conform to their own established agenda of “being good for beer”, but wonder whether “being bad for beer” includes anything and everything that cannot establish something positive to say without first explaining that all those popular brands lots of people like are complete muck.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Holsten Pils

With a lack of great bargains on the big lout boxes my perusal of the smaller beer unit packages at half price went beyond trying the relatively new Bud 4%, and into the old school charm of Holsten Pils. Holsten is a beer I haven’t drank for years. I remember it being quite heavily advertised on TV when I was a child by the likes of American actor Jeff Goldblum, who succeeded in giving the impression of a rather sophisticated drink for the discerning beer swiller. I think these were replaced by a more humorous campaign involving the clever editing of old movies interspersed with scenes of a contemporary comedian. It’s all on you tube here if you fancy a bit of nostalgia.

I’d all but forgotten the beer existed until seeing the film “This is England” on TV. The presumably authentic representation of the 1980’s had many characters necking cans of Holsten Pils as an iconic 80’s brand. When a four pack turned up half price, I was only ever going to remind myself of the beer.

The can informs me on the label it is brewed in Hamburg but in the small print “the EU”

See wiki here,

Holsten is specially produced in Germany (since 1879), but it may be produced by other Carlsberg companies around the world.

The can also contains the spurious bullshit that due to an enhanced fermentation process more sugars turn to alcohol. Also that the beer is lower in Carbs than other leading lagers. Interestingly it is a Carlsberg product and in the great game of being the purest lager it lays claim to only 3 ingredients, water, malted barley & hops. There really needs to be consistency with beer ingredient labelling but heh, the grog is cheap.

An older friend tells me the beer used to far stronger than the 5% it currently is. Certainly when I last drank it, it was 5.5%. My friend informs me it used to be 6%+ but I have no way of confirming this. If it is not on Google it never happened. Further to this my memory of the beer was one of being a crisp clean pilsner lager with the crisp bitterness you expect from a pils.

In its current form the beer is a little lacking on the nose with a taste that lacks the expected bitterness. The lack of a sharp crisp bite is followed by a rounded after taste of dryness but is lacking any body. It fails to make its mark as the beer I remember or being a lout that is in any way up to the standard of current 5% louts on the market. Most of the current 5% louts from Carlsberg Export; Grolsch & Becks have more going for them than this. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t bad, just a drinkable grog that is nowt special on the market. If it stays half price I might do it again.

It is certainly a pity that Carlsberg haven’t done anything with this brand. Reducing it to 5% and reducing its flavour has put it in a category that does nothing for it. Failure to invest in marketing the brand makes it a forgotten retro brand rather than contemporary continental lout. Maybe there isn’t a market for lout above 5%, maybe that’s tramp territory, but there doesn’t appear much of a market for it at 5%

Like running into an old girlfriend. At first you might be pleased to see her, then you remember why you broke up and exchanging a few pleasantries before going your separate ways is the best possible outcome. She's put on a bit of weight since you last saw her and not really the bird you remember. You certainly don't want to hit the sack with the girl.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Budweiser 66

New products and brand extensions come out all the time. Whilst small niche shed pong brewers or “craft” as they like to style themselves seek out new flavours to excite beer geeks and make regular boozers gag, the larger marketing driven companies ask the question “what would a large number of people want to drink?” Then they apply several layers of bullshit to justify a course of action and the next new and exciting flavourless watery lager hits the market because that is what we want. The idea that we just want a decent neckable beer that is cheaper than other decent neckable beers never really occurs to them. No, what we want is top pay more for watery piss, apparently.

Cooking lager enthusiasts tend to ignore this nonsense upon noticing the new brand extension is asking twice the price of regular neckable grog. Then at some point it finds it’s way into the half price bargain bin and at that point you can expect an appearance on this here blog as I decide to try it. It not that I’ve never drank watery piss before, it’s that I’ve never drank watery piss with this brand on it.

Budweiser 66 is a 4% abv variant of the familiar American lager promising a lightly carbonated grog with a smooth easy taste. All true. The colour of the beer somewhat gives the game away from the off. I’ve drunk some pisswaters in my time but am unsure whether I’ve drunk a beer so light coloured. The smell is moderately promising but on the taste you get very little. A light sweetness on a broad palate of a crisp light lager. That isn’t necessary a bad thing, sometimes a light beer hits the spot refreshment wise. I think we’ve been here before with Bud Light, which never did last long as a brand in Britain.

Overall I can have no complaints, the beer was exactly as I expected it to be but I remain unsure why I would want a light 300ml of 4% lager in bottle. When I opened it the squeeze made the unusual decision of joining me in one and her perspective was slightly different. She enjoyed it and suggested that was a light lager she quiet liked and would drink again. Horses for courses I guess. A 4% lager is something I’d be happier with as a longer drink, a pint or 440ml can.

Overall I cannot say anything too nasty about it; the beer is perfectly pleasant. Just not a lot going on with it. If the squeeze likes it I’m sure it’ll pop up in the trolley again and I wouldn’t be offended by it passing my lips. I wouldn’t seek it out; but then again I wouldn’t with the parent brand. For the record I preferred this to the parent brand but that’s not saying much. Is there a market for this type of light lager? Well they have never really taken off in the UK so my bet would be that this extension won’t have the legs to stick around long term, but you know, if they want to flog it cheap then I’ll neck it. I’m unsure the UK customer has ever really got light beer to the extent of the US customer. What does light mean? Lighter in taste, calories, and alcohol? All or just some of that. This isn’t even using the term light, whilst clearly going for lighter in alcohol & taste.

Pete Brown may consider this brand to be the anti Christ but heh, cheap grog is cheap grog. If you are looking for a light beer this one is no worse than any other, it’s just not worth top dollar, but what is?

Friday, 18 February 2011

Getting pissed is what beer is for

I love reading the beer blogs and I love the fact that people seem to care so passionately about whatever floats there boat. Whether it's a new wave of craft brewing, maintaining a tradition of cask ale, getting excited about undrinkable grog with an unpleasant amount of hops, arguing about CAMRA, whatever, it’s all good.

What I enjoy is getting pissed. I love it, it’s great. Usually it’s just getting slightly pissed as since going out with her, the squeeze has been successful in knocking on the head my previous propensity to get smashed, but even so getting slightly pissed is fun. It means I can still enjoy a little romance and I am free of a hangover the next day. It might even be better for my health, but I’m not convinced.

The joy of getting pissed can appear I think sometimes to be “undiscerning”, that one doesn’t care what one gets pissed on, but nothing could be further from the truth. Certainly one has to factor cost into the equation but cost is but one factor. The grog has to be drinkable and leave you the next day with the least possible hangover. I’m not convinced by those that strongly rate one beer style over another for this, the evidence is anecdotal and I strongly believe you have to get pissed on lots of different things before discovering your own personal nirvana, then buying it cheaply from Tesco.

For my delicate constitution the substance I have found I can drink in greatest quantity and feel okay the next day would be the Helles bier of south Germany. I once woke up on a pals couch in Schwabing and felt slightly rough and uncertain where I was. Not hung-over, but a bit tired and dehydrated. I worked out what I’d necked the night before and quite frankly it would have killed an Elephant. We’d spent the day in the beer gardens and the night in the bars. There were photo’s taken on phones of dancing with girls that I was keen the squeeze didn’t see. Let’s not trouble her with that and let’s not have questions that need answers. I have done similar in the UK but arguably felt rougher on a smaller consumption, whether I was necking cask ale or cooking lager. For the record I’ve found little difference in the hangover potential of either cask beer or keg lager but keg smooth bitter is Satan incarnate for entering the depths of hell the following morning. On beer vs. wine, wine is all too easy to drink in a quantity that can leave you in bed until 4pm the following day vowing never to touch it again.

The worst hangovers I’ve have always come from strange local spirits. Necking moonshine from a jam jar with American rednecks after several pitchers of the cheapest domestic lager left me closest not only to death but wishing for death. My most stark memory of the evening was having a go at George Formby’s “When I’m cleaning windows”, on a drinking associates banjo (he didn’t have a ukulele) and being told the best place in England was “Scotchland”. I told him the best place in America was Sarah Michelle Gellar. By comparison fermented yaks milk is a delightful way of getting pissed even if it tastes foul. Sangria is another substance that I have banned from my body, it is neither big nor clever to neck several jugs of it and go on a donkey ride. Egyptian vodka & Egyptian Stella have the wonderful effect of keeping you drunk even when you wake up at 5am to go see some ancient historical crap the most interesting fact of which is that Roger Moore made a Bond film there. The hangover kicks in about noon and 2 bottles of the ice cold Stella calms it nicely. On a weekend in Dublin I discovered if no liquid but Guinness passes your lips, your poo turns jet black. My biggest problem is that whilst reasonably travelled for a working class northern pisshead I’ve not been everywhere. I need to get pissed everywhere in the world before making any sort of judgement on what is the best thing to get pissed on.

As a result you can imagine I care little for whether Brewdog Punk IPA tastes better in cans or bottles. I’m sure both are nice, in what form is it the cheapest and how will I feel the morning after necking a skinful of the stuff? These are questions that need answering. Until then I have a quiet weekend of moderate sobriety because the following weekend a pal is visiting England from Germany. I have permission to get proper trollied. He’s a bit of an Anglophile and likes pongy cask ale. I’m taking him around the bars all the nice beer bloggers showed me on the last twissup as they seemed to be nice places to neck pong. I might join him in that or I might neck an ice cold fizzy lout, who’s to say? As darkness falls we will be drawn like moths to the light of bars where dancing and pretty girls reside. I shall behave myself.

At no point will I comment on the bitterness, hopping rate or condition of any grog I throw down me. I shall not take a pint back nor talk about any of the beer other than “this is okay, not sure about this one” I shall enjoy the company of a friend I haven’t seen for a couple of months and we shall get proper pissed. Proper good style pissed. Because getting pissed is great and getting pissed is what beer is for

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A pint of Harp

Joking about CAMRA stereotypes may very well be a lazy form of wit. There is no structure to the joke, it really is just nothing more than standing in the school playground and pointing at the kid whose mum has dressed him in a jumper he himself doesn’t want to wear, saying “ha ha” and encouraging all the other kids to do the same. I wouldn’t describe it as the same thing as bullying but it is pretty close to bullying, can be a feature of bullying and if the recipient is a sensitive soul be interpreted as bullying. Among friends it is called ribbing. It is what chaps do.

Maybe I have been guilty of this, and if so I apologise. Not for bullying but for insulting you with a low form of wit. You deserve more. You deserve a well crafted and structured joke. Beer snobbery like all forms of snobbery is intrinsically ridiculous and snobbery has a long history of being ridiculed. From the wonderful “Keeping up Appearances” to “Dad’s Army”, the self set up of the snob via their own conceits followed by their downfall as reality bites has been a comedy narrative with origins that predate television or even the music hall. You dear reader deserve something of that calibre and rest assured I am busy working on it.

Until then I would like to express my respect for the gentleman pictured to the right of the photo. I love you man. I love your hair, I love your 20 year old grey jeans that presumably one day were black, I love the badges on your jacket and I love more than anything the tie. I love that you believe wearing a tie with that outfit makes it somehow “smart”. I love it. I love it. I love it. I want to be there with you now having a pint of pongy ale and learning all about great pubs and proper beer. Don’t for one minute think I am taking the piss. I really am not. I really fucking would love to get away with getting up in the morning, dressing like that and nobody telling me that it wasn’t perfectly okay. You my friend are a free man. The rest of us are slaves. We are slaves to convention, to rules, to acceptability, to the comments of friends, lovers and employment bosses. You walk among us as more than a number, you are a free man and I want to be able to call you friend. Respect also to the old guy in trainers. Bang tidy old chap, is that lout in your glass?

Congratulations to the CAMRA Pub of the Year, The Harp. Facebook users can see more here. Well done on the award. It’s not quite as prestigious as CAMCL’s Supermarket of the Year, but for every Oscar ceremony there has to be a few BAFTA type gubbins.

I want to visit, I want to buy my mad haired friend a pint and sit as an apprentice at the foot of a master. I will do so when I run out of cheap supermarket lager.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Playing the blues

Been drinking some of this grog of late, Beck’s Blue. 0.05% Alcohol by volume. 19.1 calories per 100ml. Now you might think I’ve been necking that because I’ve turned soft or even thoughtfully listened to the perspective of Don Shenker and reduced my booze intake. Actually I bought a load of it because it was cheap, on special offer and I’d been meaning to try it for a while. Unlike my cheeky little flirtation with Cobra Zero, here, it wasn’t prompted by the squeeze but arguably off my own back. It was a beer I fancied trying.

In social situations where I get the short straw and end up driving I’m always a bit stuck for what to drink. I like most soft drinks but it is entirely unnatural to drink a lot of liquid. You drink as much as you need of water, tea, Vimto because you happen to be thirsty and that is the liquid that floats your boat. In such situations I have a soft drink but it really only serves the purpose of having something in my hand when it appears socially necessary to do so. Whether in someone’s home or out for a drink with friends it feels more natural to have nothing, and if you have something it is because you are thirsty and not because you can’t sit there and have nothing. Social convention dictates its is rude to have nothing and not being a rude sort of person I have drank numerous cups of tea around people’s houses I didn’t actually really want but didn’t want to be rude and it’s no real skin off my nose to throw a cup of tea down me.

We could get into the whole social convention of beer drinking and why I’m conditioned to neck a pint because I’m a bloke and that’s what blokes do. As a tool for getting pissed beer is pretty inefficient, there are far more trips to the toilet involved that appears civilised. I quite like getting pissed and I’m not about to pretend otherwise. The fact that beer contains alcohol is one of the things about it I like. You can if you want lay claim to only drinking it for its taste but I suspect you’d never have gotten a taste for it if it wasn’t inebriating. As a tool for getting pissed, wine is far nicer. You can neck a far amount without numerous trips to the toilet and if you neck it at the rate of beer you’ll get pissed pretty quickly.

I’m happy to admit that one of the reasons I often do not wish to get pissed is related to sexual function. Plenty of single blokeish mates will tell me stories of having a skinful, pulling a bird and enjoying the natural sexual function in a state of inebriation. I cannot manage it when pissed. I did once wonder whether this was sexual dysfunction and contemplated a trip to the local GP but decided against it when I ran through the probable conversation in my head. After explaining my concern regarding sexual dysfunction but noting that I was otherwise fine and that it only occurred when I’d drank a skinful I presumed the doctor would simply advise me not to drink a skinful before sexual congress and not give me some tablets that allowed me to make love whilst pissed. If you know different and think it worth a trip to the doctors, let me know as I’d like to drink more and not have it affect the loving nature of my relationship.

So the test for me was not only whether I liked Beck’s Blue but whether it was something I’d be happy to sink a few of in a situation of not getting pissed. Over the weekend I conducted my experiment. As a drink Beck’s Blue is arguably more like a beer than any other alcohol free beer I have drank. The absence of alcohol is notable in the taste profile but in all other respects the stuff tastes like a cold bottle of lager and not an odd fake lager. For authenticity I’d rate it higher than Cobra Zero, but I’d put the taste of Cobra Zero as a drink slightly higher. I could arguably drink a few more of these than Cobra Zero due to its dryer taste and lower sweetness. My experience of alcohol free beer isn’t that comprehensive. I’ve tried this, Cobra, Kaliber and had a swig of a few German “alkoholfrei” beers that German friends opted for. The Hofbräu & Schneider’s alkoholfreis are not common on the UK market, though, and in all honesty I didn’t especially rate them when I drank them nor would I seek them out. Alcohol free beer is arguably a distress purchase. As a distress purchase I go for Beck’s Blue again and sink a few over and above diet cokes, mineral waters & orange juices. A nice one I quite liked.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Day

It is true to say I love cooking lager; I love its ice cold fizzy deliciousness. I love the fact a giant box of it can be bought for buttons. I love the fact that some beer geeks look down not only on the product but those that enjoy it. Cooking lager not only fills me with joy but it connects me with the vibrant hub of the world. Today is Valentine’s Day, a day for expressing one’s love. I shall not get to express my one true love today for a different love is to be appreciated. The lady squeeze has texted me to tell me she loves me. The flowers have arrived and it’s a bigger bunch than any of the other girls in her work place got. I guess I picked the right picture off the Interflora website. Tonight I shall be ripped off in a fancy Dan restaurant by paying over the odds for a Valentines menu and bottle of wine. What wine shall I buy? The second cheapest on the menu. Not the cheapest, the second cheapest. It’s only fermented grapes, the cheapest will be perfectly okay, but I don’t want to appear cheap. If I’m lucky the evening shall end with a bit of how’s your father. We shall wait until we get home, we don’t want to be thrown out of another restaurant.

Yesterday I discovered a sweet ritual 2 friends of mine engage in. Both gentleman, both single, both as far as they care to admit heterosexual, and both having a yearly ritual of going out for a Valentine’s Day meal together at a curry house. They claim it is a bit of a joke, I neither know nor care whether it is. A few years ago they were out on the piss and went for a curry not knowing it was Valentine’s Day. They figured it out when presented with the special lovers menu and because it came with a free drink they opted for it. Being the 21st century the restaurant had no issue with 2 gentlemen enjoying a romantic Valentine’s day meal and in fact were made especially welcome by a slightly camp Indian waiter who treated them especially attentively as they enjoyed their candlelit meal. They go out to the same restaurant every year for a ruby & free pint of cobra & lovers desert to share. Love is as they say a beautiful thing, I await an invite to the civil partnership ceremony and wonder whether it will be two stag nights or one joint one.

My love of cooking lager will have to wait. Another night I will show my love by cracking open a can of lout and plonking myself in front of the telly. I may occasionally be unfaithful, I may occasionally neck other forms of grog with differing modes of dispense but cooking lager is an understanding lover. She never complains and she is always there in the fridge waiting for my return. However you are spending the evening and whoever lovers’ arm you spend it within tonight is an evening for lovers. Here’s my beer poem in honour of Dredge.

I wish to scream, I wish to shout

I need to express my love of the lout

It’s golden fizzy ice cold bliss

Every swig the embrace of a lovers kiss

Friday, 11 February 2011

What Craft Lout means to me

What Craft Lout means to me. In any given product or commodity a degree of craftsmanship exists. During the industrial revolution and the adoption of factory systems to produce goods many thought the days of the artisan craftsman were numbered, but nothing could be further from the truth. The craftsman has adapted and prospered both within the processes of industrial production and beyond it by maintaining niche industry.

When you want some furniture for a new house your squeeze has made you buy, you have many choices. An antique shop full of old crap? IKEA full of new crap? A craft bit of joinery from someone that did better at woodwork than I did at school? The artistry is within the design and quality standard of its production. For any given piece of furniture the squeeze will decide what she wants based on its design, her taste, and I will simply go along hoping I can persuade her against anything that will involve me getting my screwdriver out and having to assemble anything “flat pack” from instructions poorly translated from an oriental language.

So where is the artistry in industrial macro lager? A mass produced product knocked out to a consistent quality standard with each unit product identical by a big machine with a big green button on for go and a big red button on for stop? The artistry is in the product design and the loving way the guy in overalls presses that green button.

Beck’s for instance, brewed to the same recipe since the world was in black and white and offering a genuine authentic German lager at half the price of any other Reinheitsgebot pisswater being hawked. Carling as another instance. Take a lager and hone it carefully to suit British tastes by the loving addition of adjuncts, super chilling and fizz. The examples go on and on. Each example of cooking lager and lout represents a loving attention to detail in its design then applied to an efficient production process that allows the cooking lager enthusiast to neck a skin full for tuppence. Stella lovingly brewed with maize as an adjunct and often derided. Maize has been used to brew since the times of the Inca’s. Take this ancient tradition and fuse it with the European Pilsner lager tradition and you have an exciting fusion of Inca and European tradition, all for 50p a can.

The question really isn’t, “What is craft lout?”, but is there a lout you cannot describe as “craft” Cooking lager enthusiasts can rest assured the cheap grog they know and love is a craft product. We all know what craft means, it means the beer we know and love. Lout = Craft, always has been, always will be.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Real Ale

I thought I'd share the following links

The site has numerous other links to entertaining stuff but these made me smile.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

New uses for closed pubs

There can be a lot of negativity on the Beer Blogosphere regarding the death of the pub industry. It is by all accounts something some people care about. One can only wonder why, when they can sit in their own nice clean homes necking cheap supermarket grog and not have to sit in run down tatty miserable pubs anymore. I guess for some people the glass is always half empty. To raise the mood I did think of a blog documenting all the nice things that happens to closed pubs. Things like being knocked down and a Tesco being built or a block of flats. A cheerful look as to how a dynamic market economy doesn’t leave decaying old buildings to rot but instead utilizes them for nicer uses than a dumpy pub. A counter weight to this blog about closed pubs, from the fella Mudge. You might be surprised to discover I can’t be bothered. So instead I’m starting the first in what might be an occasional series about closed pubs that have gone on to being something better and serving their communities in new and interesting ways.

We start first with this story in the Manchester Evening News. It details the charming story of a dumpy pub becoming a bondage club. The pub, the Rifle Volunteer in delightful Stockport was obviously not wanted by the people of the town, and can you blame them? Instead a thriving fetish establishment called "The Slave Academy" has opened offering such things as “mistress worship” and caters for the residents of the borough in a way a pub clearly could not.

I can only presume the establishment isn’t a knocking shop containing trafficked East European slaves forced to work as hookers, as I doubt they would be so open about it. As you expect from this blog I researched this interesting development fully, but not by actually going there. I doubt I could have got away with “I’m off to a fetish club dear, to research material for my blog. It’s about the exciting new uses of closed pubs” I am lucky in so far as my lovely squeeze can be an open minded sort of girl, but I would not have got away with that one. I googled it and discovered the establishment has a website, here. I would caution you against clicking on it at work. I cannot say it really does look like my cup of tea any more than going for a pint in the Rifle Volunteer would have been, but Mistress Sascha looks like a game girl. It is stories like this that show the decline of the pub industry has many positive benefits and offers an arguably cheerful story of a pub being put to better use. Glass half full !

If you have any stories of pubs put to better use let me know

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Great Cooking Lager Beer Bong T shirt Competition

A recent flood of beer blogs regarding “cans, bottles, kegs or casks” has in my view failed to mention what is arguably one of the finest ways of delivering cooking lager direct into the human anatomy. As most cooking lager enthusiasts know, the world of beer is full of fine examples of beer innovation coupled with a preservation of tradition. The flavours offered the beer enthusiast are many and varied, but the pinnacle of beer is clear by looking at the most popular beers sold. The public are not wrong, they vote with their feet and wallet, and cooking lager sits atop the great pyramid of beer as the finest example of what beer should be. That is cold, fizzy and neckable.

Arguably one of the finest methods of necking cooking lager is the beer bong. A funnel to pour cooking lager straight down your neck at speed delivering cooking lager goodness straight into you without the tiresome bother of drinking and tasting it. Get your own Beer Bong here and begin that lifelong love and enthusiasm for getting drunk quickly on cold and delicious cooking lager. But I expect you are already in possession of a beer bong or even that you could make your own out of a bit of tube and a funnel.

It is sad so many beer enthusiasts overlook the obvious best beer delivery dispense method. I hope to rectify that with the Great Cooking Lager Beer Bong T shirt Competition that doesn’t even have to involve cooking lager. Blog about whatever grog you like, whether cooking lager, “real” pongy ale, or “craft” beer. Neck it from a beer bong, post your blog with picture evidence, post me a link and you might win a prize. (Extra points awarded to photo's showing a pretty girl pouring the beer down your neck) It is that easy. I might even give away more than one prize, but I might not. Whadya win?

Why, you win a T-Shirt that proclaims your love of the greats of beer blogging. Whether in smart restaurant, discotheque, craft ale pub, beer festival or public toilet you can stand out from the crowd in a T Shirt that declares you to be a discerning reader of the beer blogosphere and admirer of its greatest contributors. Is there a finer prize that has ever been offered? I doubt it but yes it could be yours.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Franks Alcoholic Root Beer

It is quite rare I’m tempted to pay full price for anything. Being one of life’s cheap skates, always on the lookout for a bargain, it can be quite painful to pay the full whack for anything. I did so on a recent trip to Tesco. Sure I got a bargain on the Beck’s Vier and even picked up some cheap Budvar Dark lager (3 for £4) & Tesco Belgian Kriek beer(£1 a pop) but bizarrely it was this little number that got me least by way of bang per buck at £1.95 a bottle. Franks Alcoholic Root Beer 4%, by Kopparberg of Sweden.

I’ll let you decide whether this is an alcopop or an actual beer, I’m not fussed either way. Grog is grog. The label did seem to indicate some actual connection to beer by way of mentioning the ingredients as Barley malt, Hops, Yeast, Wintergreen Oil, Liquorice Root, Aniseed and Vanilla. The first few seem actual beer ingredients to me.

I am more familiar with root beer as a soft drink, and as soft drink I love it. It is uncommon in the UK but when I find it I enjoy it. The Spoons have it on as a soft drink in their pubs, Sainsbury’s occasionally stock 2 litre bottles of the pop, but root beer has never really taken off in the UK. The UK has its fair share of unusual soft drinks, so I’m guessing an overall lack of demand for a classic American pop.

The bottle seemed to indicate that this product is aimed firmly at the “over ice” category of large bottled drinks dominated by cider brands. Upon cracking it open the smell was entirely like a pop version with the fizz also more indicative of a can of pop. From smell and appearance alone you’d put this as an alcopop rather than a beer.

The taste had more layers and a natural texture than a typical soft root beer. The vanilla, liquorice & aniseed stand out at different points but the taste comes across as a posh pop with less of a cloying sweetness. Designed more for adult tastes and possibly that it is impossible to session a root beer or can of coke. It would be difficult to session this regardless of a reduced but not absent sweeteness. The taste of alcohol is wholly absent. You’d never guess from taste alone that you were drinking an alcoholic beverage. On the whole I liked it. But I like root beer. I suspect if you didn’t like root beer you’d find this to be a bizarre concoction. One to try again, but I’ll wait for a special offer before buying more.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Poachers Grog

It’s been a while since anyone sent me some free beer, but I’ve still got some lovely Badger stuff to neck and blog about. That’s a hint, if anyone still reads this crap. I did think of reviewing Foster’s lager on a weekly basis. What is the point of drinking new beers when you have discovered one of the best?

I won some beer, though, by way of a bet and this grog will be making an appearance when I get round to necking it. It is pong too. Some of it says “CAMRA says this is real ale” on the bottle. Some of it doesn’t. Within the world of work, one from time to time makes the acquaintance of a fellow pisshead. A temporary contractor from Lincoln knocks around the office from time to time and we have been known to have a pint. This is despite his beard, elderly appearance, lack of trendy trainers and fondness for the variable pongy local grog that passes for “real ale” around this part of Oop North. I even took him into the local “craft” beer boozer a few weeks ago to give him the choice of numerous cask and world beers and be in an establishment where beards were the norm rather than unusual. That’s the kind of nice chap I am. I could have dragged him around the tatty pubs near work or his hotel for a skinful of Stella, but I didn’t. I took him on a bus to beer geek heaven. It’s the brotherhood of beer geekery, it transcends cooking lager or even pongy ale enthusiasm.

Now in such places one is faced with a choice of 20 beers of various hues of brown and unusual aroma that you have never heard of and Paulaner Weissbier or Warsteiner. You can guess what I would opt for, but in the company of a bearded mate you might be pleased to note I necked some of the shed brewed obscure pong and didn’t gag. One or two I quite liked, but I’m buggared if I remember which ones.

As can happen when one is boozing, there was a bit of banter including a mention of the respective attractiveness of female work colleagues. Nothing as crude as Andy Gray or Richard Keys for whilst we may be both unreconstructed sexist male chauvinists we are at least gentlemen and would not behave like that. Among the bantering came a bet. It wasn’t a bet regarding any female colleague but it was a bet in regard to the likely outcome of a work based event. My erstwhile colleague applied logic to the facts of the situation and made a reasonable and logical prediction. I declined to apply logic and instead applied human nature to the situation and predicted a different more chaotic outcome. He suggested a small bet to make it interesting. “Okay, but just for fun, I’m not betting my house or anything” came my reply. “Ten pints?” “Okay.” “Not Stella, Ten pints of your local beer versus ten pints of my local beer”. “How will I claim ten pints when I win, do I have to travel to Lincoln?” “Ten pint bottles, on my desk when I win”. A shake of the hand and one week later I was paid up in full with ten lovely bottles of a beer of Lincoln, from what appears to be a microbrewery. Poachers, the website here. A locally sourced taste of Lincolnshire. I’ve eaten Lincolnshire sausages and they were alright, so I fully expect the beer to be decent enough too. Expect full reviews of Lincoln micro brewed pong when I get round to it. I look forward to it. Lovely beer to throw down my neck that I didn’t pay for. That is as they say, living. If any blogger is aware of this grog, let me know what you think and what I can expect. Don’t bother telling me what food each bottle might go with, but I am always interested if you’ve necked it and have an opinion on the grog. Free grog, always happy to receive it, always happy when I do.

'Sharp' Practice by Molson Coors

Official press release of CAMCL

'Sharp' Practice by Molson Coors

CAMCL, the Campaign for Cooking Lager, has voiced serious concerns over the future of Molson Coors and cooking lager following the acquisition of the Sharps brewery by Molson Coors. The global beer giant has gobbled up Cornwall's leading microbrewery in a £20m deal to secure what M-C's Chief Executive Mark Hunter calls the "Doom Bar Brand".

CAMCL’s Chief Executive, Pedro Miguel, said "Once again we are seeing the acquisitive actions of a global brewer buying local brewers to secure what they perceive as marketable pongy ale brands for short term profit. What future will there be for Coors other beer brands such as Carling and Coors Light? No cooking lager was mentioned in the release announcing the deal. We're also concerned what the deal might mean for the long term future of cooking lager when the Cornish brewery closes, production absorbed centrally and cooking lager capacity is used up producing pongy ale? Can Coors confirm cooking lager production capacity will not be affected and the British cooking lager enthusiast will remain awash in a river of dirt cheap fizzy gorgeous lout?"

"Whilst we are not that arsed about the fact that one of the UK's brewers wishes to hawk a pongy ale nationally after abandoning their own pongy ale heritage, we regret that they have decided to take focus off knocking out lots of lovely cheap lout. We remain concerned that hawking drinkable pongy ale nationally to a quality and consistency uncommon in the pong market might even eat into the cooking lager market."

CAMCL will be seeking assurances from Molson Coors management about the future of not only Carling Lager but also all the Coors cooking lager brands.

Will Molson Coors retain the focus to knock out cheap lout now they are hawking pong? We urge them to respect their history in selling global keg and bottled lager beers. Will people continue to regard Carling beer as being truly cheap and lovely?

As for the regular drinkers of cheap lout they can only hope that these Emmets from Burton upon Trent will treat their cooking lager with respect.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Shameless journalism

On the issue of the type of shameless piss poor journalism that attempts to place the blame on anything and everything on us beer drinkers, I ask all that read this rubbish to join me in a letter writing campaign to the Torygraph complaining about the picture used in the following article, here.

Dear Daily Torygraph,

Your article “Irish bank flight quickens despite EU rescue” contains a picture of the good honest beer that is Guinness to depict the ongoing financial crisis affecting EU member states. Being a beer geek I quite like necking a good skinful of beer on a regular basis and can state categorically that beer drinkers are not to blame for any of the countries of the EU going bankrupt or even banks going tits up. I don’t remember everything I do when pissed, but I can state with damn near certainty that I didn’t bankrupt Ireland or any other country whilst in a state of inebriation. I am prepared to admit that the disgraceful state of the toilet might very well be something to do with me, but a quick squirt of toilet duck and a flush is all it needs. Please alter the picture to something like a Leprechaun or something as that will offend Irish people in general rather than us beer geeks.


Cooking Lager

Please write your own letter of complaint, so the bastards get the point. We can’t let them get away with it. Pictures of beer on binge drink articles? Pictures of beer on financial crisis articles? They are slagging off us beer drinkers and we ought not to stand for it I tell you.

It's a funny old game II

Funny how things go, read it all here.

"The European Union's highest court was today advised to rule that EU law does not prohibit pubs showing live Premier League matches from foreign broadcasters, potentially sparking a revolution in the way mediasports rights are sold across the continent."

And people say the EU is crap?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

It's a funny old game

I’ve been meaning to blog something on the subject of screened football matches in pubs for some time. As the January transfer window closes and the bizarre economics of football is spread over the newspapers now seems a good time. I follow developments in the saga of pubs and bars that screen foreign satellite TV.

There is little point in commenting on the crazy economics of the game of football other than to say that so long as “fans” are willing to stump up ever increasing sums, the economics of the game will remain more entertaining than what occurs on the pitch.

Having said that I quite enjoy watching a game of football. I don’t follow the game as such, or follow a team, but I do like to watch anything described as “The Big Game”. From reading the blogosphere and the views of many that love traditional pubs one can get the impression that seeing a football game on in a pub is as awful as an absence of old man’s pongy ale. Pubs ought to be quiet places full of old timers sipping away at pints of mild in front of a roaring fire in a grotty old building that has stood since the English Civil War. God forbid anyone enjoys themselves or smiles. Popular music, football, keg lager? Down with that sort of thing!

Watching a football game in the UK can be either free to air or for regular season games require a subscription to Sky pay TV. Many pubs subscribe to Sky via a business package that affords the copyright to broadcast the game to customers and is more expensive than a personal subscription. The rights to the games are held by the Football Association that sell on those rights to TV broadcasters for each region they have cut the world into. The FA know that an English football match is worth more to UK broadcasters than none UK broadcasters and that none UK fans cannot get to see any game at the stadium. Hence the rights are sold more cheaply to none UK broadcasters and games are shown live that would otherwise not be in the UK. The FA own a monopoly of broadcast rights that apparently isn’t an illegal cartel via the clubs that form the league.

The technicalities of broadcasting have resulted in broadcast signals being available beyond the remit of the copyrights the broadcaster has bought since broadcasting first began. In the days of analogue terrestrial television it was possible to pick up UK TV in parts of Holland and Northern France. As the people picking up these signals were few in number and private individuals not engaged in a commercial activity (Dutch bars never picked up on the exciting commercial possibilities of showing Eastenders) it was never considered an issue worth pursuing. Why would a copyright holder of a Hollywood movie that sold the rights to the BBC for broadcast in the UK have much of a problem with a few hundred other people watching it, considering the costs and legal issues involved?

Satellite signals are however receivable across large landmasses. In point of (apparently dubious) fact, any satellite signal is receivable by 50% of the globe. There is no technical reason why I cannot receive a signal from any one of 50% of the global broadcasters of the world. It is to do with the world being round and not flat. With the advent of pay TV and the revenues from it, many signals are encrypted and rights fiercely protected. To decode the signal I would have to acquire a decode card from the broadcaster. In a free EU market you would think there ought to be nothing stopping me buying a decode card from any EU broadcaster. If I wanted to watch German football and TV, I should be able to subscribe to German Sky. German Sky would not sell me one for use in the UK, and also if I wanted to watch German football it is broadcast on ESPN in the UK and available cheaper to me than it is to domestic German customers.

However if the broadcasters would sell me one, is any law being broken? Copyright is being broken but am I breaking copyright by receiving it or are the broadcasters breaking copyright by broadcasting a signal beyond their market? It’s a tricky one.

I have been following the issue of UK pubs showing football matches from foreign satellite TV for a while. The morning advertiser covers the subject often enough to remain informed of goings on. I have an interest in it because whilst I am not a pub regular I do like to watch the odd game with the lads over a pint or two. It may not be your cup of tea, but it is mine. Football for me is a draw and a reason to go into a pub on a wet rainy weekday night and meet up with the chaps for a few scoops.

Many pubs around my neck of the woods use Arab satellite TV to show the football. A workings man club I occasionally go into despite not being a member and because the old timer on the door never asks and even holds the door open for me shows Arab satellite TV on 3 big TV’s in the room they keep the full size snooker tables and dart boards in. It is not your cup of tea, keg lager and bitter under £2 a pint and no beardy beer geeks to be found, but it is a cracking atmosphere. 3pm games not shown on Sky are available; it is cheaper for the pub, bar or club and me the punter sits with my mates watching the game drinking cheap beer. I’m not about to complain, and I gather few do. The establishments that come a cropper do so from Sky TV inspectors rather than vexatious punters.

The legality of this state of affairs is I gather currently being bounced about the European courts. I hope the courts consider the rights of humble EU citizens to live in a free market and not be stitched up by large corporations that seek to cut the world into separate markets for exploitation. The EU is one market, not many. I hope the law of contract in the free market supersedes that of copyright. I hope more than expect, mind you. If the kybosh is placed on this noble attempt to stick two fingers up at the cartels of large corporations, hope lies in the internet. The internet has all but ended copyright in music, TV and film. I’ve found a few websites that show any sports game in the world streamed live, but still have little interest in baseball. It looks a bit blocky when I plug my net book into my TV, but it can only get better. It might mean letting my mates in my house to neck my gorgeous collection of cheap lager and incur the wrath of the squeeze, but at least it is one up on Rupert Murdoch. I wonder what the legalities are if I take a netbook computer into a Spoons and use the free wifi to stream footie to the table my mates and I are sat at? An experiment may occur.