An archive of my ignorance before I discovered pongy ale.

I used to be a Lager Lout. I am ashamed of my past. This blog is an archive of ignorance past. I walk into the future emboldened, tankard in hand. Pongy ale awaits.

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Cooking Lager College Lout Club


Elitism in beer is arguably a good thing for the beer industry. Whilst cheap fizzy gorgeous cooking lager may appeal to a wide number of people, cooking lager arguably does not appeal to an important demographic. That being “idiots with more money than sense”. Cooking lager enthusiasm has long failed to capture this exciting potential, so how can we engage this important and lucrative demographic in cooking lager enthusiasm?

Welcome folks to The Cooking Lager College Lout Club. It cost £1000 a week, and being arguably more expensive than other beer clubs not only makes it better, but it makes you more discerning. For this princely sum you can pay eye watering amounts of money to get pissed up, money that you no longer have to use on things like the roof over your head, clothes on your back, food in your mouth or nice holidays to nice places. You get to sit at the very pinnacle of elite cooking lager enthusiasm.

But what do you get for this substantial sum of hard earned geld? Well it is in no way like a weird religious cult at all that asks you to give all your money to it and the guru also asks to sleep with your wife. It is only a coincidence that I ask you to give me all your money and in return I pop round each week with a box of cooking lager and also sleep with your wife. The lager could be Foster’s, it could be Carling, it might even be Carlsberg, but it is likely to be whatever I found on sale in Tesco this week. You get tasting notes on the lines of “This is lovely lout, serve cold, neck it and enjoy”. I also throw in a cheap T-Shirt with the logo “The Cooking Lager College Lout Club” on the front and the moniker “for more discerning cooking lager enthusiasts than you are, pal”. Wearing this T Shirt will make you more attractive to members of the opposite sex. Additional T-Shirts can be bought for further payments of eye watering amounts of money. Oh and there’s a membership card too.

Sign up below and please make all cheques payable to “CASH”.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The myth of pre loading


The myth of pre loading or why pre loading is a recognised trend because 380 scouse students filled in a questionnaire.

One of the arguments usually trotted out by the anti cheap booze killjoys is to repeat the myth of preloading. That is to argue that cheap off trade alcohol is irresponsible because it is apparently common place for people these days to drink at home prior to heading for a night on the town. I have long considered this to be a weak and flawed argument, regardless of whether the activity is common or not.

Firstly it attempts to place the blame for drunken behaviour on the first rather than last drink of an evening (god forbid you place it on the actual drunk) and shift it onto supermarkets and away from pubs and bars when all those fighting and puking in the street have clearly being hitting the bars near where the trouble occurred. An attempt to shift responsibility and paint pubs and bars as wholly safe, responsible and controlled environments.

This of course begs the question as to whether there was any anti social drunken behaviour before off trade alcohol was common place. In times when the only place you could get a drink was in a pub, was the country a civilised example of temperance and moderation? I would say not, and point you to the origins of the temperance movement, detailed here. Specifically a quote from temperance campaigner George Sims, the origins of which can be found here,

Enter the public-houses, and you will see them crammed. Here are artisans and labourers drinking away the wages that ought to clothe their little ones. Here are the women squandering the money that would purchase food, for the lack of which the children are dying.

Its pubs he is talking about, not Tesco’s. I have never bought the line that pubs are controlled and responsible environments, for one simple reason, I have been into pubs. Many and varied boozers from middle class tosspot dining pubs to swanky bars to dumpy old man’s boozers to rough places where the punters all have missing ears. You can of course not lay claim that all pubs are the same and be, to quote Star Wars “wretched hives of scum and villainy”, but by equal measure you cannot claim all pubs are responsible and controlled environments. Pub landlords have little control over how much an individual may drink if a punter is being bought drinks by others, nor can they really know whether a drunk entering their premises has been drinking in other pubs or at home. The pub and bar crawl is a common activity in Britain and on any given Friday and Saturday night many people will move between bars. This affords no insight in to how many a punter has had, or where.

The question has to also be asked, if pubs are responsible places, and a drunk enters the premises, what are they doing serving drunks? Serving a drunk is illegal. It cannot be controlled and responsible to sell them more.

I could also explain my own experience of preloading. When I went to university it wasn’t uncommon to have a few drinks in either the halls of residence or later our shared house and head out later. As skint students, we had limited funds but still wanted to go out and attempt to pull a girl, but more likely end up with only a kebab. I noticed a difference in behaviour among friends that didn’t go to university. Rather than live away from home, these friends began work and remained at home. An evening would start off early in a pub and lead onto the late night bar or night club, with no less alcohol consumed. Primarily because a bar was the only communal place to meet and disposable funds were greater. The difference wasn’t related to the price of supermarket booze, but a combination of having a home without parents present and less disposable income. I would say further that the anti social behaviour of my university friends was no lesser or greater than my taxpaying employed not bloody scrounging student friends.

However all this is as they say anecdotal evidence. What we need is peer reviewed proper researched evidence. With the magic of Google I’ve found this. It’s looks like proper scientific research, it smells like proper scientific research, but does it taste like scientific research? No, it tastes like shit. It is a study not of the general population, but of only 380 people, conducted by John Moores University. Basically a questionnaire put out put out by research students and answered by 380 other students. From this they have discovered over half of them preload. From this limited section of the population it is apparently possible to make the following claims.

  1. • More than half of those interviewed usually pre-load with alcohol – that is drink at their own or a friend’s home before leaving for a night’s drinking in a town or city centre.
  2. • On average, women who pre-load consume over a third of their total amount of alcohol for that evening before leaving their own or their friends’ homes. Men who pre-load consume approximately a quarter of their nightly total before leaving home for their night out.
  3. • On average, males and females consumed more than the recommended weekly maximum for an individual’s alcohol consumption (21 units1 for a man and 14 units for a woman) in a single night out. Those who pre-loaded were four times more likely to consume over 20 units on a night out (including pre-loading, and bar and club drinking).
  4. • Those who pre-loaded were also two and half times more likely to have been in a fight when going out in the last 12 months. In fact pre-loading was more strongly associated with being involved in nightlife violence than the total amount of alcohol an individual consumed.

All of this, on the basis of interviewing 380 scouse students. From crap like this it is then possible to get to this

So, if 333-million fewer pints are being sold in the nation’s boozers, where is the increase in liver damage coming from?

The answer is, quite simply, through the recognised trend of pre-loading.

Recognised trend? I’m really sorry but when you look at let’s say the link between smoking and cancer, you had a society where over half the population smoked, and cancer wards that contained a far greater proportion of smokers and with data that covered whole populations you could take correlation and infer causality. You really cannot do that by asking 380 scouse students to fill in a questionnaire. Recognised trend? Recognised trend? By all means believe what you want to believe because it supports your pre existing world view, but really, Recognised trend?

Binge drink Britain, pre loading? Good fucking god. Pubs get your house in order, stop serving drunks and tipping them out into the streets to puke and fight and then and only then can we talk about safe and controlled and responsible environments.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

NWAF


There were 2 important reasons to visit NWAF. Firstly to continue my ongoing academic anthropological study of the creatures known as the lesser spotted beer geek, an unusual nocturnal creature prone to unconventional hair on head and face and rarely seen without a pewter tankard filled with a mysterious frothy and unpleasant smelling concoction. Secondly to observe the Campaign for Real Ale in action in order to inspire the campaigning activities of the Campaign for Cooking Lager. Plans are ongoing for the national cooking lager festival, an altogether different affair. As cooking lager enthusiasts we prefer to sit on our own couch with a can of cheap lout watching a bit of telly and occasionally scratching our balls. A social gathering isn’t really our cup of tea. A cooking lager festival would be more of a volunteer run supermarket selling cheap Foster’s to battle against minimum pricing regulation. I say supermarket, when in fact I mean the back of my mate Jase’s Ford Transit, and when I say Foster’s I mean any cheap lager, meths masquerading as vodka and any knock off gear Jase is shifting at that time. Volunteers are advised to wear running shoes and when spotting a member of local constabulary are asked to shout “scatter” before running in the opposite direction.

But anyway the first national cooking lager festival out of the back of Jase’s Ford Transit is still in the early planning stages, the matter at hand is one of taking a look at the CAMRA NWAF malarkey.

Crikey it was a bit out of Manchester and hardly in a salubrious part of it. If there is such a thing as a salubrious part of Manchester. Maybe this is the nice part of Manchester but even so, someone from Basra wouldn’t be keen of living in the area. On the way to it I saw the unusual sight of a man running along the pavement with a frying pan containing fried eggs in one hand and an open can of Stella in the other whilst dressed as Noel Edmonds circa an early episode of Telly Addicts. What that was about I don’t know, but kind of would like to. The venue itself was actually quite impressive with the bars along the outer perimeter with seating in the centre. I was running late and firstly scanned the venue for a mate of mine I was due to meet up with for a pint and natter. I couldn’t find him so I bought a glass for £2 (£2 for glass? Jesus I should have brought my own Carling glass with me) and headed towards the bar looking for something called “Porter” that the Beer Nut had recommended to me on twitter. I found one uncertain whether it was the “right” one, but it was nice enough if you like things like Guinness. Finding a seat and pissing around with my phone to call my mate I discovered just how out in the sticks the venue was when I couldn’t get a bloody signal on the piece of crap. So like a Billy no mates I pottered about the venue swigging my grog and deciding what to neck next. I necked an Augustiner Edelstoff lager for my next grog before running into the man and legend that is Tandleman. One thing you can say about Tand is he most defiantly knows his pong. His recommendation to try an 8.6% Damson Stout was well worth the swigging. After the first gulp I momentarily understood why geeks get so excited about pongy ale. Only momentarily, mind. Whilst arguably being unfaithful to my first great love that is Foster’s Lager, my infidelity was not falling out of love with cooking lager. This was but a brief meaningless fling.

The Campaign for Cooking Lager is just that, a campaign for cooking lager. It isn’t a Campaign against anything that is not cooking lager. However there was one part of this festival one simply has to mention. What with Mike Benner, CAMRA head honcho banging on about responsible drinking and all. Whilst I noticed no drunken anti social behaviour, there were people present in a state of inebriation having clearly consumed more than the responsible alcohol limit of 3-4 unit daily. There were beers from about 3.5% abv to anything up to 8,9,10 abv + and no alcohol unit information was present. Foster’s Lager shows the number of units clearly on both the can or pint glass. I am not going to tell Don Shenker, but somebody might. But to suggest this festival represented a bastion of responsible drinking would be a bare faced lie.

A final Weissbier before heading home to the squeeze, another chat with the legendary Tandleman and my final impression was of a fine event staffed entirely by volunteers. All of whom giving of their time freely for a Campaign they believed in. It would be a harsh man that looked upon such a thing in a churlish manner; especially considering what a nice time I’d had of it. I also learned a new found respect not for the principle of minimum pricing which I remain vehemently against but some of those that propose it. I had made the mistake of assuming the CAMRA lot that advocate it do so because they believe its effects are on others and not themselves when in fact they themselves would take a hit.

The volunteers that man the event are entirely unpaid and do so for the good of their Campaign. It is to open the eyes of people like me to the wonderment of pongy ale. They are however able to drink freely of the pong on offer, via free beer tokens. A fact I discovered talking to a gentleman that handed one over. These are gifts from the Campaign to their volunteer staff. They are not remuneration as that would break both minimum wage laws (the value and number of tokens equating to less than the minimum wage for time worked) and would represent a taxable benefit to the recipient they would have to declare. Nope, they are a gift. A free beer. A soon to be illegal free beer because free is below a price of duty + vat, or indeed 40 or 50p a unit. So respect to them for sticking to their principles in the face of losing a nice gesture that ensures the volunteers can enjoy the festival themselves and not be out of pocket, something you would not begrudge anybody. But fair play to them for sacrificing this in future on principle.

I got my £2 quid back on my glass and departed. Inebriated but not visibly drunk I had consumed far more than my daily unit allowance. As I got back to the centre of Manchester my phone started to work and I received not only an apology from my unreliable friend (his squeeze took exception to what for him could have been his fourth night on the piss in a row) but a series of messages from the lovely squeeze informing me explicitly that I was late, and implicitly that my chances of a romantic interlude were none existent.

As for my study of the lesser-spotted beer geek, I reached a number of conclusions. One they all seem quite nice people and fit more or less into the demographic of “guardian reading public sector employees” Should you want to befriend one say something like “That Tony Blair is a right shit”, or if you wish to do the opposite say “Maggie Thatcher saved this country from the trots, commies, unions, socialists and pinkos” These are not conclusive results, I would classify them as intermediate, but the study continues.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Facebook


Campaign news, cooking lager enthusiasts. CAMCL, the Campaign for Cooking Lager is now on facebook.

Why not look up the Campaign and show your support. You can actively campaign for lovely cheap lout not only by buying and necking cheap lager from the supermarket but by joining a facebook group, here.

It may not be as good as other facebook groups, like Driffield Porn Burger Caravan Lads for Junior Apprentice 2011!, but heh, the Campaign is in it's infancy and it's like the power of social networking or something or other


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Old film review


Boozing, alcohol, units and the like are something I’ve blogged about a little too much recently. But heh, why let that stop me. I’ll be having a proper drink tomorrow among beer geeks, so I’ll blog about that soon. A weekly ritual of mine appears to have developed. One of reading through the TV guide and setting the telly recorder for any films I fancy watching. I spotted an old black and white film called “The days of wine and roses” on at about 2 in the morning recently, one I was vaguely aware was about alcoholism but I’d never seen. I quite like old movies and am quite happy to watch black and white films, not requiring a contemporary remake in colour before I’ll touch it. It starred Jack Lemmon & Lee Remick. One old movie I really do like is called “Some like it hot” with Jack Lemmon, a comedy that breezes along at a pace and has men dressed as women thrown in for good measure. Marilyn Monroe plays a drunk in that one, but with amusing rather than dark consequences. Despite the dark subject matter of the late night film I decided to underline it in red on the recorder and give it a go. After all, boozing is in the news and it might be interesting to look at an old black and white view on the subject.

When I got round to watching it, the first things I noticed were the points that make many old films inaccessible. I watched the film with contemporary eyes, having no direct knowledge and experience of the era the film was made in. The fashions stand out, the hats all the guys are wearing; the fact the guy works in an office but has no PC on his desk. What did he do all day with no t'internet to piss about on? The fact that all the executives are white males and the only women are secretaries. All of this type of stuff stands out to me and detracts from the drama. I even notice the lighting black and white films have, lighting up faces to show the actors expressions when the only way that lighting could realistically occur was if when the actor is looking into his child’s cot, the baby is shining a torch back at him. But that’s old black and white films.

The story starts off with Jack Lemmon as an obvious boozer who starts to date Lee Remicks “dozy lass” character. On the first date, he’s knocking back whiskey from a bottle in his coat pocket. She isn’t a drinker but he gets her on the booze with a chocolate cocktail. They marry, have a kid, and both sink a lot of booze. This leads to her burning down the apartment when drunk and him losing a series of jobs after getting the sack from his executive PR job. At this point I almost turned off. It appeared to me a run of the mill flawed morality tale about weak characters fucking up their lives. The bloke was obviously a controlling drunk to start with, she a weak willed dope that should have thought twice about him on the first date. But as I was halfway through, I continued. The film got slightly better before falling off a cliff into the realms where it was impossible to suspend disbelief. To engage in a film you have to accept what is occurring, essentially to believe and engage with the plot, even if it involves crap with aliens with pointy ears. At least temporally for the duration of the film. I could believe the point where Jack Lemmon sees his own reflection in a window, decides he’s a bum and rather than go into the bar he goes home and talks to his wife. I could believe it when they go and live with her Dad, go on the wagon and life looks up. I liked the bit where he walks into the kitchen and his father in law is having a beer, offers him one and he declines, instead going up to his wife to secretly get drunk. At this point the film was subtle in the points it was making and more effective for being so. He then ends up in a straight jacket in a looney bin, and a young Quincy from AA offers him help, which he takes. A looney bin? That happened quickly. Really? The drama fell off a cliff at that point. I accepted early doors that I was watching a propagandistic morality tale, but that for me this was the point where we found out the pointy eared alien was half human, begging the question how 2 species from 2 planets can mate, when we know that 2 species from the same planet cannot mate even if closely linked in an evolutionary sense. My belief could not be suspended and the film fell apart. Quincy saved it slightly as the AA guy, helping our main protagonist with a character that served to narrate the proceedings with his actions.

The films continued with the bloke joining AA and getting his life together, and the woman refusing AA and falling into a life of alcoholism and casual sex. He tries to help her but she doesn’t take it, misery ensues for all. In the closing scene we see the woman walking away past a neon “Bar” sign as the bloke looks forlornly on. The misery of drink in case we’d missed the point. The only redeeming feature of the final act was the coy way the film dealt with the woman’s sexual promiscuity. Inferring it in the way films of that era did with anything sex related. It made me think of those Doris Day films where a married couple share a room but sleep in two separate single beds.

All in all, what did I think of the film? Absolute tosh. Complete crap. The pudding was over egged to the point of getting an omelette. Was I more informed about alcoholism? Not in any discernable sense. What did I learn from it? If you go on a date, and your date is swigging whisky from a bottle in the coat pocket, decline the second date even if the bird in question is Alesha Dixon.

What did I drink when watching this tosh? Two 275ml bottles of Carlsberg Export. Figure the units yourself.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Appeasement isn't possible


Good and bad news, cooking lager enthusiasts. Bad first, looks like the government will be going ahead with restricting the sale of cheap grog here in the torygraph. Better news in the grunyad here that it will have no effect.

So the good news is cheap booze will remain available, the bad news is the first ham fisted attempt at prohibition is being made, albeit ineffectively.

First they came for the cheap cider drinkers, and I didn't speak out because I didn’t drink cheap cider. Then they came for the cheap lager drinkers, and I didn't speak out because I didn’t drink cheap lager. Then they came for the cheap wine drinkers, and I didn't speak out because I didn’t drink cheap wine. Then they came for the craft pongy ale drinkers and there was no one was left to speak out for me. Whatever grog you like to throw down your neck, the prohibitionists are the enemy, not the boozers that neck different grog. Appeasement isn't possible, stand up and be counted.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Badger Week III

It was with thoughts of the wurzels, and much “ooo arrr” that I cracked open a couple of ciders whilst sat in my favourite position in front of the telly. There has been quite a revitalisation of cider over the few years prompted initially by the success of the Magners brand selling premium priced grog to UK punters. This would naturally lead to other producers having a bash promoting their own cider brands or creating them (see super normal profit, how it prompts market entry from competition, moving the market to normal profit equilibrium and explaining full well why Magners have never repeated their initial success and never will again regardless of whatever brand extension they attempt , or whatever the company says to the markets) These days you can find a fair few premium priced ciders on the shelves. I gather there has been a knock on effect for “real cider” too, a wince inducing product beloved of the bearded members of our community. There is of course one cynical reason you can assume with some brands. With alcopop suffering at the hands of the tax man and seen as a product hawked at kids, you can produce something sweet and fizzy as a fermentation rather than mixing an ethanol distillation and call it cider and hawk it at that important part of the market for people that want to get pissed but don’t like the taste of drink. A market not only containing teenagers, but indeed some adults.

However this stuff I was about to neck firmly sits in the premium end of the market. Premium meaning “actually made from apples” rather than flavoured corn syrup. Nowt against fermented flavoured cord syrup, ethanol is ethanol in my view and cheap cider is usually the only cider I actually like. Unlike beer where I do like most beers, whether expensive authentic imported stuff, pongy cask ale, keg bitter or cold fizzy delicious cooking lager. I like ‘em all but being cheap I neck the cheap stuff. With cider I’ve never much liked the proper “real cider” stuff, considering it “minging” and full of dead rats, and can only really neck the chilled fizzy variety.

These Badger ciders are contract made by Thatcher’s. I don’t know whether they are “real” in the bearded sense of the word. I tried to find out using Google but the technicalities of the definition put me into a boredom induced coma. Read it for yourself and decide here, then tell me. Whether “real” or not in the bearded sense of the word they are real in the philosophical sense in so far that they tangibly exist. They are also products of authenticity and tradition being as I’ve said before actually made from apples and pears. So will I like ‘em?

Badger Apple Wood Cider Oak Aged 6% of Thatcher’s in Somerset, made from Dabnett & Redstreak apples from a single harvest. Medium dry with oaky wood infused notes. Looks promising, at least the 6% bit does. Cracking it open you get a sweet appley smell, which is I guess what you would expect. It is lightly carbonated and on the first swig you get a thick full on apple flavour. Not as thin as other commercial ciders, and also with a lingering sweetness. The sweetness is all natural with none of the saccharine sweetness of the cheaper brands. I loved it. Delicious. Really hits the spot and arguably a superior product.

Badger Pear Wood Cider is a crisp and fruity 5%. Cracking it open the smell was to my mind “odd” but then again I have to confess to being unfamiliar with pear ciders other than the very name “pear cider” can get the beards all red faced and argumentative. “It’s Perry” they will scream “Pear cider doesn’t exist” they will rant. Big deal, so what, get over it. It is no big deal if a “barley wine” drops the term and becomes "strong ale”. So what if it’s called “Pear Cider”. Nobody knows what the fook Perry is. Everyone knows what cider is. What is Perry? Well it’s basically cider made from pears instead of apples. Why don’t we call it pear cider then, we might sell more? Perry? The only Perry I fancy is Katy Perry. The odd smell wasn’t unpleasant, it was floral. Maybe I wasn’t expecting that. The taste was all sweetness with a treacly stickiness at the roof of the mouth. I had a swig. Alright, not bad, not exactly my cup of tea but more than just drinkable, worth trying. The squeeze liked it more than me. My preference being the apple cider, her preference the pear cider. All in all 2 nice decently respectable drinks I’d neck again and entirely lacking the super strength white cider tramp image cider used to possess.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Won't someone think of the children?

From time to time I get dragged to things I have little interest in. Recently the lovely squeeze dragged me to what is known as a “neighbourhood watch” meeting. I’ve been to these things before and usually they are pretty tedious. I got a free fridge magnet, pen & window sticker at one of them though. There is no opportunity to drink cooking lager or watch telly and you tend to have to talk to your neighbours. Or stare at the wall whilst the squeeze talks to them. Not this one but one meeting I went to was in a local school and you had to sit on the really small chairs designed for kids. The only thing on the wall to stare at was pictures the kids had drawn. Not one of them had any semblance of artistic talent. I'd have burnt them rather than put them on the wall, but then I suspect I'm not cut out to be a teacher. I would not describe the area I live in as rough, in fact I think it’s quite nice and hasn’t any more problems than I imagine most places have. There are certainly no needles in the park, muggings or rapes. At least none that I have heard of. If you had one word to describe where I live it would be “boring”. But I like boring. The house and car insurance is cheaper than “interesting”. At this meeting was a local copper and his plastic policeman underling and the format was a short presentation about what they are doing in the area followed by a series of moans from neighbours about local kids. Apparently some local kids have been drinking cans of lager. Now I am not going to condone or make light of their concerns. Underage drinking is against the law, drunk kids misbehave and cause property and car damage and if it is your car then you are going to be pissed off about it.

One lady mentioned she had been intimidated by local kids outside a local off licence. The kids had asked her to buy some booze for them. She declined and they swore at her. As she should have done. I would have declined, but had they swore at me I’d have swung for them. The police answer to this was a surprising one. They mentioned they use sting operations across the town regarding off licences, sending kids into the shop to buy things they ought not to be able to. Now you may think this is unfair and just not cricket but in one sense I do see the problem the police have. Paul Bailey’s beer blog has a perspective on this here.

If a shop is breaking the law then that shop ought to face the legal consequences of their actions. In order for that to occur, evidence is required. How do you get evidence that a shop is breaking the law? Is a signed statement from a drunken child that they bought 4 Stella’s from Mr Ahmed’s offie enough to stand up in court? Is a witness statement from a disgruntled customer of Mr Ahmed that he saw him sell some blue wkd’s to some 13 year old girls enough evidence? Being caught red handed selling booze to kids is evidence, I’d say. I appreciate it can be difficult to work out someone’s age, but that’s where asking for ID comes in. You can ask for ID in a polite manner, it needn’t cause offence to a customer. Booze is a restricted substance that requires a licence to sell and laws and regulations exist regarding its sale. I had no issue with the concept of a sting, go for it coppers and weed out those retailers breaking the law whether pub, off licence or supermarket.

The issue I had was one of applying an effective solution to a known problem. Accepting the neighbour’s story as true and seeing no reason to disbelieve it, the problem was not that Mr Ahmed’s offie was selling booze to kids. On the contrary, a problem existed because Mr Ahmed’s offie would not sell booze to kids. The kids had presumably tried to buy booze and failed and decided to loiter around in either hope or expectation of acquiring booze by fair means or foul. A sting operation would not help in this instance. There was no suspicion Mr Ahmeds offie was breaking the law and attempting a sting would likely yield a negative result.

The actual solution was not to sting Mr Ahmed’s offie, but to help and assist him and his establishment. If Mr Ahmeds phones the police and reports kids loitering around his shop after unsuccessfully trying to buy booze then the police need to turn up and have a word with the kids. Loitering may not be breaking any laws, but intimidating people is against the law and at the very least the kids can be moved on. This requires the police to respond to a phone call in a timely manner and act on it. It isn’t a task they can do at their own convenience. But then I suspect no crime occurs at a convenient time you can plan for. As you would expect from a contrarian like me I told the local bobby this, explaining the flaw in his approach and suggesting the solution I had arrived at. I did not suggest it was the only solution but did point out that it was a solution and the coppers original plan wasn't. Suffice to say he didn’t appreciate it, but he didn't ask for the fridge magnet back. I think Mr Ahmed is in for a sting. I’d tell him but I rarely use his shop, so won’t get the opportunity. Tesco’s is cheaper you see.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Hardcore Boozing


I’m going to start this blog by firstly admitting I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I’m going to justify it by stating nobody really knows what they are talking about and my opinion is as good as any. It is on the topic of heavy drinking, inspired by Glyns posts here, and Mudges reaction to it here.

When I say I don’t know what I’m talking about, what I am saying is that I really don’t know how much alcohol constitutes a safe amount. The government advises us that it is 21 units per week for a man and 14 for a woman, with a unit being half a pint of 4% beer. So 10 and a half pints of Carling per week, spread about and not all in one night. Can you drink more without ill affect? I’m sure you can. How much more? I don’t really know and question whether anyone really knows for sure. Is the government wrong to advise us regarding what level of booze we ought to be consuming or should the government stay the hell out? In fact there is no consensus, look here, differing governments advise different levels.

The government advise us regarding many things. This is often called “the nanny state” by those that object to being advised. Do I object? Not really. Public health is a public cost. I find it sad the government feel they have to advise us to drink less, eat fruit and vegetables, and exercise more. You can even stand in the urinal in a British pub and see an advert from the government asking men not to rape women. What is that all about?

Some advice you might object less to. Advising children not to get into cars with strangers and to look left and right when they cross the road. That I suspect is one aspect of the nanny state you don’t object to. I don’t read many blogs taking the line “How dare the government advise kids not to take jelly babies off strangers that pull up to them in cars and ask them whether they want to get in the back seat and stroke some puppies. It’s a free country goddammit; the kid should make their own mind up, assess the risks for themselves and decide whether they get in the car. Not all strangers offering jelly babies to kids are going to rape and murder them. It’s a diabolical liberty and infringement of our basic freedoms. Why are we paying our taxes for this?” Though if you know different, let me know. That would be one worrying blog to read.

For all I don’t know on the topic of what is a safe amount to eat, drink & exercise, there is something I do know. I know that eating healthy and taking exercise is in fact better for you than sitting on your fat arse eating chips. The government advice to do the former and avoid the latter isn’t actually wrong, and advising us of this isn’t restricting our freedom to do the latter if we so choose.

Like government advice on smoking, it is actually true that smoking kills you. For every old timer telling you they smoke 80 woodbines a day and never had a day off sick in their life, the graveyard is full of people not so lucky who are not around to tell you about their health. When the government say “don’t smoke”, they are not actually wrong.

Regarding drinking, it is a well known fact that heavy drinking is bad for you. Over time it kills your liver, mottles your skin and makes you look old and haggard. In the short term it makes you feel as rough as a dogs arse. For every idiot claiming they heroically knock back 100 units a week, AA has a dozen people on the 12 step program rebuilding their shattered and broken lives. It’s neither big, hard nor clever and far from heroic. At the risk of causing offence the heroes of heavy drinking like George Best, Richard Burton, Keith Floyd, Oliver Reed, are not really heroes. They are sad idiots that ruined their lives and died prematurely. The fact that they might have enjoyed doing just that is neither here nor there

So what is a safe amount to drink? I’m not even going to begin to express an opinion. I don’t know. If your doctor checks you out and tells you that you are in decent shape then that’s as good as indication as any that you might not die any time soon. Like getting your car serviced. The mechanic may tell you the car is in decent shape or he may tell you it’s a wreck. It’s no guarantee, but it's fair advice. If you get your car serviced but you never get yourself serviced, then I’d ask you what is more important, your car or you? When the government advise you check your knockers or nuts regularly for lumps, you know what? It might just add to your years on the planet.

Oh and if you read blogs where people are telling you they are seriously caning the grog, and you express admiration and respect for their heroic drinking, I’m sorry but you are as big an idiot as they are. Don’t encourage them just so you can feel better about your own habits. The risks you take are with your own liver, not someone else’s.

You’re an adult, do what you like, but heh be careful out there and don’t get into a car with strangers because you want to stroke a puppy. Especially not if the driver looks like a body building Freddie Mercury.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

On the fiddle


Today I’d like to share a bit of a scam with you. I’m not sure I should, as by doing so you might beat me at my own game if you happen to live anywhere near me. It involves getting 20% off at Wetherspoons. Yes I know I bang on about the Spoons but heh, it’s a cheap pint alright? And I’m a tight wad to boot.

If you have a Smartphone, that is a phone with the internet on, for pissing around with facebook & twitter there is a free application called Foursquare. You can find it on the Android market place and presumably on things like iTunes. You use it to check in to places. Presumably so “friends” know where you are. Why you would wish to do this is anyone’s guess. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would seek to avoid their friends and not let them know where they are, but heh different strokes for different folks and all that. You can link it to facebook if you like or run it without “friends” on the list or even check into places as a “secret” and not make it public to friends. Why would you bother?

Well if you are the person that has checked into your local Spoons more often than anyone else you become, ahem, the “mayor” of that Wetherspoons and you get 20% off. Don't let being the mayor of Wetherspoons put you off just yet. You just have to show your phone which proclaims you the mayor when you order. Here’s the scam. Its works on location and you don’t have to be in the Spoons to check into to it. If there is a Spoons within a few miles of where you are you can “check in” to that Spoons. After a few days you become the “mayor” of said Spoons as it only takes a few check ins to win the prize. And as I said, you don’t have to make it public, so friends don’t actually think you’re in the Spoons when in fact you are doing something useful and productive.

In one respect the offer makes sense. It is meant to reward loyal and regular custom and affect customer choice. It makes more sense to reward your actual customers than reward joining a third party beer club. You can however abuse it by making out you go in everyday when you might only go in once a fortnight.

Check it out, use and abuse. At least until they get wise to the fact the promotion has a slight flaw and withdraw it. Until then, you’ve got a few quid off your order, which is cheap at the best of times with or without 20% off.

Picture ripped off here.

Monday, 10 January 2011

A question of price


Something fascinating from the Guardian. Not often you can say that. Ignoring the authors point about “lager swilling losers”, there is some interesting statistics regarding the rise of pub based prices. Now all prices rise over time, but pub price inflation is higher than both general inflation and wage inflation and has been for some time. In prosperous times you would expect wage inflation to exceed general inflation, that people get more prosperous. In current economic times you can observe price inflation exceeding wage inflation as a sign of falling prosperity.

Many reasons are given for the decline of pubs, from smoking bans to changing behaviour and customer expectations. There are those drinkers that may have a love of the pub that goes beyond regular drinkers, and consider the pub something to be protected. These people may indeed be prepared to pay an ever increasing proportion of their income to “support” pubs. There are even some odd types that think people need to be “educated” to appreciate pubs more and be prepared to pay more for them. I would hypothesis that most people fall into the category that I belong to. That of quite enjoying a pub that fulfils my own basic criteria of being clean and nicely furnished and welcoming to all but really isn’t that interested in sinking a lot on a school night. Someone that enjoys a drink as part of a wider set of interests. If pubs become ever more expensive we will use pubs less. That our hard earned income is for the purpose of enjoying our own lives and not “supporting” any given industry, especially one that seeks to give us ever poorer value. It is no surprise to me that arguably the most noteworthy success story of the pub industry is J D Wetherspoons, a company that offers comparatively lower prices than the competition.

So when contemplating the decline of pubs and lamenting the propensity of those of us who enjoy cheap supermarket alcohol and drink occasionally in cheap pubs, please do not seek a legislative answer. Please do not think for one minute that price controls will save the Great British Pub. Out of my monthly take home pay there is only so much of it I am prepared to hand over for the privilege of boozing. I have a world of other expenses I choose to spend my money on that give me as much pleasure, if not more, than visiting a pub or having a drink.

Oh the stats :-

PRICE OF A PINT

1981 57P

1991 140P

2001 204P

2011 306P

Friday, 7 January 2011

Badger Week II

It’s still Badger Week on this blog and its staying badger week for a bit to come. Until I've necked the lot. Christmas is over and done with. Skint till pay day at the end of January. Dark when I get up, dark when I go home. The only things to look forward to are sex, the weekend and darts on the telly. I’m not going to say what I enjoy the most but when you’re watching the darts you can sink a beer. And sink ‘em I do.

Badger Golden Glory 4.5% with a golden amber brown colour, a peachy fruity floral aroma with more of the peach in the balanced sweetness. Cracking it open reveals a fizzy effervescence and on the taste a light thin malt sweetness with an aftertaste of said peach and those floral kind of sweets. Parma Violets. Dryness kicks in as a last resort. Like a bottle of scented Haribo and very much enjoyed.

The darts runs from 7-8 and it’s about the 8 o clock mark the discussions begin. “You’re not pressing the red button” “ But the game isn’t finished, it’ll be over in half an hour” “No it won’t, if there is a comeback there’ll be at it all evening” “So what if they do, it’s great” To prevent an argument a bit charm goes a long way. If you can induce the love of your life to wrestle you for the remote control, an evening even better than watching the darts might beckon, but if it’s a nail biting game you’ve got so say the darts comes close.

Badger World Champion 4%, First Gold English Hop with a ruby brown colour, floral hop & roasted malt smell with a taste of malt, orange zest & spicy hop is all things considered a nice drop of beer. A fresh aroma, balanced sweetness & bitterness with a dry aftertaste. A lovely pint of bitter. The single hop offers a clarity but slightly lacking in depth. A simple but decent beer. Not a lot going on, but what is there is top stuff.

Two cracking beers, cracking darts on the telly. No sex but heh, there’s always the weekend.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Of twothers and schooners

I’ve been quite entertained today by the fuss of the twother, or schooner. It’s on a fair few blogs and got a mention on the telly news. I cannot tell you whether it will take off, and frankly don’t much care. It would I suspect depend on whether anyone actually wants to buy two thirds of a pint. In my view anyone that drinks less than a pint in a UK pub under current weights and measures law is what is known as a “poof”. That’s not a homophobic statement as I’ve nothing against consenting adults doing what they like, and as contrary to the Daily Mail perspective on gay rights, giving all people in society the same rights isn’t “sticking homosexuality down our throats”, it’s just plain “fair”. No I use “poof” in its modern 21st century meaning. Sure the word “gay” used to mean happy, it also used to mean homosexual. Today it means “naff”. As in “like your mobile phone is like totally gay”. Frankly if you drink halves, thirds or two thirds you are in my view “a right poof”. Yes that includes you; there are no exceptions other than ladies. Ladies are allowed to drink less than a pint if they so wish. If you object then all I can say is that I didn’t make the rules. Rules is rules, and in your own home you can drink what you like in whatever measure you like because you are not in public showing everyone what a right poof you are.

I have once seen someone drink a measure that is as near as dammit to a 2/3 of a pint measure. Only the once. In Europe you can sell 1/3 of a litre and many bars offer that measure. The only person I have ever seen take it up was a four foot tall Japanese lady that weighed about 6 stone/ 38kg / 84 pounds wet through. It was in the Weisses Bräuhaus, and she didn’t know whether she liked beer and wanted to try the smallest one on offer. After her first small wheat beer she sank 4 more full sized ones before asking me to marry her. Upon telling her I was attached she proposed to my friend.

Having said all that I do have a strong opinion regarding weights and measures. As a customer I want things like price and quantity to be clear and unambiguous and would be more than happy to see all imperial weights and measures abolished including the great British pint. I have never understood why I was sent to school to learn stuff and was taught the metric system, yet live in a country that is partly metric and partly imperial. One or the other please, and as the rest of Europe use metric it makes sense in a single market to follow suit.

If you think you would get less beer if you bought half a litre, do the following experiment. Nick a pint pot from a pub. Go on, just do it. Just this once. Buy either a 500ml bottle or can of any beer of choice and pour it into the pint pot. You will notice you actually have more beer in the pint pot than a usual 568ml pint that you would buy in a pub. That’s because pubs rip you off with short measures and the froth is considered part of the pint. A continental half litre in a lined glass is actually more beer than a UK pub pint. Our European cousins with their metric lined glasses are getting what they paid for and we are getting stung.

If that hasn’t convinced you ask yourself this. Why did we learn kilometres at school to live in a world where motorway signs denote miles? Why do I buy petrol by the litre but milk by the pint? It’s just plain weird and pointless. There is no point to the hangover of the old imperial system. Like the monarchy, once all the old timers have all died off and the rest of us wonder why they had such strange attachments we’ll no doubt get shut.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Wetherspoons January Sale


Today marks the start of the Wetherspoons January Sale! Woo Woo, cheap pub based beer, should you wish to step into a pub. The tradition of January sales is more to do with retail operations off loading the current season’s stock to make way for the spring season; however retailers have long noticed it is an opportunity to flog cheap tat and stores are filled with stock specifically to offer on "discount".

As far as I’m aware pubs and restaurants have never been in the habit of discounting stock they are trying to shift and possibly with good reason. Would you buy a cheap meal on the understanding the ingredients are on the turn? Restaurants have their own methods of utilizing leftover stock. Soup of the day anyone?

However January is a quiet time for pubs for two reasons. Firstly people have spent up, often getting paid before Christmas and waiting until the end of January for the next pay cheque. Secondly the indulgences of the Christmas period often result in a natural tendency and desire not to repeat it through January. It is the month people resolve to drink less, eat better and get fitter. Gyms sell more memberships in January than any other month. Unless of course you resolve to drink more, as the Rabid Bar Fly heroically has decided to do here, pickling his liver and harming his long term health and wealth for our amusement.

The Spoons January Sale marks more than an opportunity to neck a cheap pint over the next couple of weeks. It marks one of the key reasons Wetherspoons buck the declining trends of their industry and succeed. It marks an understanding of the market, that now is a good time to offer a bargain. Wetherspoons are often disregarded on the beer blogosphere, as a lowest common denominator of pubs appealing to tight wads like me. They are so much more.

Where else is it absolutely clear what the opening times of the establishment are? Where else is it absolutely clear what the price is before you order your drinks? Where else offers enough choice to make everyone in a large group happy? Where else can you sit down for a dump in a clean toilet with an abundance of loo roll? The Wetherspoons do so much right. I would not and cannot describe a Wetherspoons as an ideal pub, my personal ideal is a much more continental waiter service Bräuhaus type model. However they do so much right other more expensive establishments get wrong. I’m not saying the model to pub based success is the Wetherspoons, I am saying look at what they get right, and it is no surprise they are successful when so many places offer so much less and expect people to pay so much more. On top of it all they offer a bargain, enough of a bargain to make you forgive all they get wrong, including long waiting times if they are busy.

I am a little undecided though? Pound fifty for a bitter or two quid for a lovely ice cold pint of lout?

Monday, 3 January 2011

2011


I’ve managed to so far resist the temptation to do any of the following. Review 2010, award “golden pint” awards or detail all the fantastic cans of cheap lager I necked over Christmas to celebrate the birth of our Lord and saviour, detailing which cheap lager goes best with a turkey dinner, basically because I didn’t.

In fact Christmas was quite a sober affair. I drew the short straw driving wise, so I can lay claim to having drank pretty much every variety of J20 available. Christmas Eve I did the driving to a fancy dress party of a work mate of the squeeze whom gets camper every time I meet the fella. You might say being gay is an excuse, but frankly in my opinion it isn’t. There is no excuse for that level of campness unless you are applying for a part in a 1970’s sitcom. Having said that I quite enjoyed it despite being one of the few sober people there.

I blame that party for the ensuing week. Volunteering to do all the driving on Christmas day I got neither grape nor grain down my neck. Christmas week followed and still I could not be bothered to get any booze down me. As New Years Eve approached the squeeze even asked if I was sick. Not As far as I know? Surely New Years Eve would break my boozing fast?

It was then I realised I had contracted loutitis. A disease so rare it isn’t even known by most doctors. It affects cooking lager enthusiasts from time to time and the only known cure is a can of cheap lager.

After a New Year of not boozing and once more doing the driving I was getting quite used to not drinking. Then the darts occurred. Not being the type to fork out for Sky telly, the PDC darts passes me by. Phil Taylor, who is he? The second rate BDO tournament has hit BBC2 free to air TV in all its glory. Fat blokes, tattoos, gold sovereign rings and Colin Murray commenting more on the players girlfriends than the arrows. It is beautiful. As far as sport goes it might as well be a tournament of fat blokes throwing paper balls into a rubbish bin at the other side of the room, but the drama of the thing is compelling. I find it to be the sport highlight of the year, coming in only a few days into the New Year. As one fat bloke stared at the dartboard, a bead of sweat running down his chubby pink face we new it all hanged on that one dart. That one dart to win the leg, the set and the game. Miss the double and the other fat bloke, the one with a tattoo would get a chance to get the leg, the set and even up the game to all square. I held my breath. With that sort of tension there is only one response.

“You going into the kitchen, my love?”
“Yeh, want something?”
“Hand us a can of lout, love”

And I was back in the game. My first swig of cheap lager for over a week. The golden fizzy delight tickled its way down my throat. It’s not you; it’s me I thought. I am the one that has been away. You have always been here, waiting for me. I am the one that has been chugging J20 and peppermint tea. I am the one that has been driving to places to see family, friends and dutifully walking around the sales and not screaming “It’s all shit, for gods sake woman, it’s all cheap pointless shit” But now we are back together, a love that will never die. The love only a man can have for a can of cheap lager.

I had pondered the point of cooking lager enthusiasm. Sure it is fun to have a bit of mild harmless fun at the expense of beer geeks. But with that swig the point became all too clear. There is no greater love than that of a man towards his can of cheap lager. That is something to celebrate through 2011. Have a great 2011 and get some cheap lager down you.