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

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,

From: xxxx
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2011 12:09:19 +0100
Subject: Alcohol awareness

Dear Sir/Madam

I am working on behalf of, 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:

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


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.