Thursday, 31 December 2015

Rumbled Lows

Insert jokes  about AB-InBev having Jasper over a barrel here

I suppose everyone has done, or will be doing, their Review of the Year. I'm sure you'd all be fascinated about what beer and breweries I like, how much Evil Keg I've drunk, and how many Bloggers and Tweeters I've offended this year. But I won't be doing any of that.

Instead, I'll be concentrating on what I think the main trend of 2016 will be - The Final Rumbling of Craft Beer.

What with Camden and Meantime being bought up by big beer this year, and Meantime being flogged off again in a few months, it could be said that we're entering the next phase of the beer market. Now at around 1500 breweries in the UK some consolidation will undoubtedly take place, be it acquisitions and mergers, or simply winding-ups when the people behind them find a brewery unable to pay its way.

And this is where Craft will be Rumbled. Being small businesses, Craft breweries cannot use the marketing techniques of AB-InBev or Heineken. Instead, they try to be your friend. They reply to your tweets and FBs personally, the Head Brewer talks to you at Meet The Brewer events, and Bloggers may get 'with compliments' bottles delivered to their home.

Let's be clear about this. It's unlikely breweries are doing this because they love you and think you're a great person. No, this is what they do to get their company name 'out there'. The actual quality of the beer is almost immaterial. Stuff will sell if the right people are seen drinking it, basically.

And with the selling off/big business 'investment' in Craft breweries, all this will now be exposed. Yes, they did just want your money, man. You will see plenty of tear-stained blog posts like this one from Matt Curtis crying about their favourite brewery being sold off and no longer being part of The Community.  Reading it, I thought "Well, what did you think it was all about, mate?"

Remember : A business is not your friend. It may not be as rapacious as a massive corporation, but in the end it exists to make money.  A brewery being nice to you is, in the end, just a different way of getting you to part with your money.

It'll be a harsh day when certain beer types realise this. But, in my opinion, not before time.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

News in Brief #35

Yes, it's the PUBS that are to blame

Pub Staff Take Revenge for Mad Friday


This Monday, bar workers across the country used their last day off before Christmas to give everyone else the kind of grief they experienced from once-a-year pubgoers last week.

"I looked up this big stationery supplier on Google," chortled Alistair Smith of the Red Lion, Dewsbury "and made then talk me through every line of envelopes they stocked. Then after that, I asked for a size I knew they didn't do. When the poor sap at the end of the line told me this, I just hung up. Hilarious times."

Meanwhile, Katie Thompson from the Kings Arms, Devizes recounted "Me and the rest of the girls got slaughtered on Sambuca and went to the local supermarket for more. When we were refused the sale, we looked all hurt and asked the Checkout Manager where her 'Christmas Spirit' was. How we laughed!"

Blogger and defender of dubious causes Curt Mattis tweeted "These people keep everything going for the rest of the year, man. They have the right to do it. #awesome"

Probably not coming to a macro outlet near you soon


Craft Brewery Not Being Taken Over


Small town Industrial Unit-type Brewery Flower Garage this week denied they were considering being taken over by a major Brewing conglomerate. "I don't know," said head Brewer and owner Sam Happyenough "It doesn't seem to be really me somehow."

"I mean, I'm perfectly content making my four-beer range with my staff of two. I make a perfectly acceptable living doing what I do." rambled the despicably complacent brewer. "Do I really need a massive new brewery and a major supermarket presence to be fulfilled? I doubt it "

Happyenough continued in the foaming socialist manner of Jeremy Corbyn himself "If my brewery became part of a big company, what would happen to it? No doubt it would be OK for a while, but eventually business realities would bite and it would end up being economised on for the bottom line." We cut the interview off there, lest capitalist orthodoxy was traduced any more.

Right-wing realist and serial businessman Stonch reassured us "Howay man! Not in it for money? Money's lush, man. Divvent gan there with me."

Everyone loves them. Or else.

Xmas Beer Loved By Everyone


Beer drinkers everywhere this week have been cracking open those special Christmas ales they've spent the month buying and otherwise ignoring.

Domestic Ale consumer Bob Homeboozer cracked open his bottle of 10.5% Lehybison's Winter Ale and burbled "Eee, this is grand. I really love the dark treacly taste. And it's almost as thick, too. Takes a bit of swallowing, but I'm sure I won't feel nauseated after half of it."

Crafty hipster Luke Lumberjack-Shirt meanwhile was working his way through a case of cans of Random Brick Spiced Chocolate IPA. "It's awesome, man" bibbled Luke "and doesn't taste like they just bunged in the contents of the spice rack and a bar of Lindt 99%"

In the pubs, the local's regulars were equally enthusiastic. "This Christmas Ale is fantastic!" shouted functional alcoholic Bob Barfly "and certainly doesn't taste like the brewer has just put more caramel in the bitter to make it darker."

"I mean, look at the pumpclip. It has a reindeer and a Santa on it. What could be more true to the meaning of Christmas than that?"

Monday, 7 December 2015

Guest Post - A Day in the Life of a Beer Communicator

Beer Communicators. Doing the hard work so you don't have to

Beer Communicators have been mentioned a lot recently. With the British Beer Writers awards naming it as an official award category, many people have been wondering what exactly a "Beer Communicator" is. Luckily, we here at Seeing The Lizards already know one of this esteemed breed. So, we've asked Simon Freebie-Imbiber to give us the lowdown on what this important sector of the Beer World gets up to.

"10.00am : Woke up with a killer hangover from last night's Craft Beer talk 'Takeovers : Threat, menace or opportunity?', but I'll carry on because I'm such a trooper. Made sure I tweeted saying so. One to Simon, I think.

12.30pm : Got involved in a Twitter argument about the terminology of my job. Apparently 'Beer Communicator' is self-regarding and pretentious, or so these haters say. Told them I was wonderful, and I know far more about it than they do. Then blocked them. Sorted.

3.30pm : First work of the day. Putting together a 'Freebie-Imbiber' box selection for a monthly beer club.  Worked out 10% commission on every one sold. Made sure I tweeted and FBd it. You know, just to make sure people are aware of my awesome choices.

6.00pm : At the local Craft Beer bar with various Brewing associates.  It's always good to go out with friends. Especially when they're buying the drinks!  One mate who owns a brewery even gave me a case of her latest IPA. 'You will mention my beer in your next column, after you've tried and liked it of course?' she said. I see no reason why not, myself.

9.00pm : Sat at the winner's table at the Beer Communicator's Awards Ceremony. Only the third this month too (note to self : have to improve this situation guys!).  The beer flowed, courtesy of the PR Company running it.  Pick up some glass thing. Silver Award or something. Am great, apparently. But everyone knew that already, duh!

11.45pm : Back home on the computer writing up today's events. Well, the Public have to be kept aware of the News that's going on, right? And if I have to drink pint after pint of free beer, then it's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make. Yes, it's a hard life as a Beer Communicator. "

Saturday, 28 November 2015

News in Brief #34

Who needs a profit margin!

Brewer Possibly Not Ending Cask Beer Production


Sometime Brewer and desperate East Cumbrian beer huckster Bob Motte this week endlessly equivocated about whether to abandon his real Ale production line.

"Weeeeel," he said "we've been really committed to our cask beer over the last eight years but the market is dominated by other breweries churning out the stuff brewed down to a price rather than up to a quality."

"We'd make so much more money by switching to keg only. And putting it into bottles where we can sell the sediment as part of the price of a 330 ml rather than the pubs chucking it and claiming it back from me." he continued as if trying to convince people about something he'd already made his mind up on.

We asked Bob that, if he put it like that, why not just ditch the Real Ale as it seemed like a no-brainer. "Oh no, I can't. I have a load of orders from CAMRA Festivals over the next year."

"They always order what I consider to be the wrong beer. But their money's as good as anyone else's "

Hot and filthy furniture action


Pub Table Goes Unmolested All Day


Shocking news has emerged from the Cat & Tractor, a busy pub in Shrewsbury town centre. Upon tidying up after closing time, the pub staff found the furniture in exactly the same places as they were on opening at midday.

Four-legged square table Woody Flatsurface  complained "I've been stuck in this spot all day. It's as if nobody cares."

"Generally, hordes of idiot students come in and shove me up against that well fit circular bar table over there and spend hours nudging me up against it while consuming halves of Guinness as slowly as possible."

"And then afterwards I get roughly handled back into my original place three yards away. But today all I had was old codgers dumping their Smooth and Daily Mirror on me in between buggering off for a piss."

"My life is pretty boring." whinged Woody "Being grabbed, held and pushed is pretty much the only excitement I get."

Yeah, but it's not for the likes of you


Beer Communicator Says Takeovers Good Thing


Storyteller and Positivity Merchant Curt Mattis this week blogged that, yeah, maybe, this massive drinks companies buying up Craft breweries stuff  is a good thing after all.

"I was at this Macrobrewery-paid event," burbled Mattis "and was given this IPA from a micro they'd taken over. Of course it was nowhere near as a good as it used to be, but it was better than the alternatives I was offered."

"I drank it, if course, and maybe a few of those barrel aged Stouts they do. As I looked round the hall at my fellow Awesome Beer People, I had, like, this massive revelation. Maybe these buyouts of microbreweries by the big boys is a good thing after all "

"Put it like this," emphasised Curty "if big beer hadn't taken over this brewery, there wouldn't be events like this, and I wouldn't get this complimentary hospitality and free stuff. It's great!"

"The regular beers normal people buy won't be as good, of course. But I'll get to try the good stuff they can't afford. It's a win-win."

"Or something."

Friday, 27 November 2015

Castle Goes Craft

Craft, Stokie-style

When I were a lad, and by this definition it will be 1988 until 2007, Newcastle-under-Lyme was crap for beer. You had a couple of brewery-owned places with a very limited selection. Or you had a Yates's. Yes, it was so bad, we didn't even have a Wetherspoons.

If I were a more paranoid man, I would suspect a conspiracy. But since I moved away, the beer scene seems to have improved out of all recognition. The cosy Ansell's/Marston's duoply has gone, the shit Vaux pub has closed, and Titanic Brewery have opened a pub where you have a fighting chance of getting decent beer.

But things move on from SIBA approved real ale. Craft Beer has been marching across the country since 2007, and it's inevitable it would reach Newcastle-under-Lyme eventually.

I'll be honest here and say North Staffordshire is a dump. Every time I go back there more has closed and more has been demolished. Apparently, the council get a lot of money from the EU for this purpose on the spurious grounds of "improvement". It never gets any better. More local businesses close, people desert the urban centres and never go back. Even here in Preston I work with a Stoke native. And, to put it mildly, she is less than complementary about the place.

And so, Craft Beer has reached North Staffs. Not in the classic Five Towns of Stoke-on-Trent. That would be silly. But Newcastle-under-Lyme is the place where it's at. After all, even in my experience, it's one of the wealthier parts of the area.

" 10 Green Bottles " opened earlier this month on Merrial Street in Newcastle. Many (many) years ago when I was a kid, this shop was occupied by Wain's electrical shop, one of the many family businesses that have died a death in Britain's market towns in the last 30 years. But with closures comes lower-than-average rents, and with that comes the hipsters. As I said, Craft Beer will reach everywhere eventually.

As a bar, 10 Green Bottles is fairly typical of the breed. Wall full of taps of Bristol or London Beer priced at £3 for two-thirds, shelves of Craft and craftesque beer at between £3.50 and £5. Talking to the barman, I reckoned be knew what he was talking abou, and was completely into the awesome Craft Beer scene. His customers, however, were mostly from the council building next door. They were nice enough, but whether they knew much about what they were buying is a moot point.

To be quite honest, I like the place, and wish to God there was something like that in Newcastle-under-Lyme when I lived there. But I do wonder if the notoriously thrifty North Staffs. customers will pay as much for beer as is feasible for a Craft Bar to charge.

Friday, 20 November 2015

What is a Pub?

Happy times. Happy times. Yes, happy times

You go to the pub. Why do you go?

A pub is many things. In Law, it's a place licenced to serve alcoholic beverages to those over 18. But if you look around you, you'll see something else.

At the end of the bar is the 63-year-old on disability. He trundles down here on his mobility scooter, even though you've seen him walk to the toilet perfectly ably. He orders three pints, one after the other, but is otherwise silent. When he leaves, the barman says "Oh, thank God he's gone."

In the middle of the bar are two middle-aged men. They each read their paper. One the local rag, one the Daily Mail. Every so often one will say "How about that game on Saturday, then?" and the other will grunt. After a suitable pause of twenty minutes, the other will say "What abous that ISIS, then?", and the original one will grunt in reply.

At the end of the bar is a man drinking pint after pint of Lager. He talks about his wife often, all the more so because he avoids her wherever possible. You get the impression he will only ever be at home and sober with the threat of counselling sessions at Relate. You resolve never to get married

And then there's you. You're here by choice, and you're listening to this.  And you're drinking more than anyone else.

So, why do you go? Well, to meet people, obviously.

Monday, 2 November 2015

I Can See All Obstacles in My Way

"Everybody knows / Badger loves / Clear bottles!"

Ah, the bottled beer in clear glass debate. It's kicked off again on Twitter this week, with the usual run down of the usual offenders  It's well known that using clear rather than brown bottles will bugger up the beer, so why do Shepherd Neame, Greene King, Badger etc. do it?

For me, clear glass bottled beer is the main sign that the Marketing tail is wagging the Brewery dog. Apparently, market research shows that your average PBA consumer (as opposed to the beer geek of either the Beardy or Crafty persuasion), likes to see what the beer looks like, and don't seem to know that the taste will be affected by UV light breaking down the hip oils.

The Brewers know this happens, and presumably have told the people in charge of Marketing & Sales. But for somebody working in the dark arts of Selling, what the customer wants the customer gets. Whether it good for them or not

Looking at it that way, this is actually a good thing for the discerning beer consumer, as it tells them whether the company in question cares about the beer itself being any good when it reaches the shop. This way, such alleged products as Bishop's Finger, Hopping Hare and Old Golden Hen can be safely avoided.

With the increased interest in "Beer Appreciation", some producers have noticed the complaints about clear bottles, the best known being Marston's (they even put blurb on the bottles explaining this). Even Innis & Gunn have gone brown, even though their beers had no discernible hop flavour to begin with.

Round here, Lancaster Brewery were notorious for their dodgy clear glass bottles. Again, an effect of marketing. If you promote and even name your beers on their colours, the sales team are going to want those colours to be seen on the shelf. Presumably after numerous complaints, the bottles went brown when they redesigned the labels to look more Craft.

Brown glass is not a reliable indicator of beer quality in itself, but it at least does show that the Sales Team regard their customers with a bit of sense and aren't trying to take the piss.

Friday, 30 October 2015

News in Brief #33

McTand at the last CAMRA Social

Scotsman Drinks Lager


Last Wednesday afternoon, the South East Grizedale CAMRA branch descended upon Lehybison's Brewery for a tour and general drinking session.

Local Chairman Hamish McTand was served a pint of Lehybison's Lager by smirking brewery owner Louis Lehybison-Smythe. "I suppose you won't be drinking this, then" he giggled.  He was shocked when McTand downed the cold, fizzy pint in one gulp

"Och, what made you think that?" laughed McTand "Back home in Dumbarton we drink nothing else. I love the stuff" as he necked another.

"Actually, I awnly joined CAMRA tae complain in pubs about the quality of the Real Ale. I order pint o'something I know will be warm and flat, take it back to the bar and say 'Have tae have the Lager, then!' "

"Come awn," announced McTand to the shocked members and brewers "Everyone in CAMRA does it, right?"

"But I thought you loved me! Or at least knew my name!"

Craft Brewer Sad


Bob Motte, an East Cumbrian artisan beer maker, yesterday bemoaned the decline of cordial relations with his fellow Craft Pioneers, BrewDog

"Back in 2007, BrewDog and me were best mates." cried Bob "We pushed onwards against the confines of boring real ales, and increased awareness in the world about the potential of flavoursome craft beer."

"Now they've gone up in the world with their huge brewery in Aberdeen, they won't even acknowledge the likes of me.  It's almost as if they think their company is somehow apart since it's worth £300 million"

"I guess I'm some kind of threat to them with my 5-barrel plant and minimally supermarket presence." he theorised amusingly "They must be worried I'll take all their sales and publicity."

We queried BrewDog's James Watt on these events. "Bob Motte?" wondered Watty "Owns a micropub in Kent, right?"

"Saves on the Central Heating too!"

Pub Fire Turns Customers Into Cavemen


Now they the year has moved deep into Autumn, pubs across the land are attempting to create warmth and "ambience" by putting on a real fire.

Customers at the Earl of Pilkington tavern in Harrogate have expressed their approval of the combination of conflagrations and drinking. "Ugg like fire." said Martin Palmer, a Director of Finance at a Local printers "Fire warm and keep evil spirits away"

Chartered Accountant Warwick Hill advanced towards the fire with an outstretched stick, muttering "Ogg too like fire. Can have fire too?  Woman say woman will be with Ogg if Ogg get fire."

Mr.Palmer brandished a poker and coal scuttle threateningly at Mr. Hill and shouted "No! Fire is Ugg's!  Woman too is Ugg's. All women are Ugg's thanks to Fire God!"

Landlord Simon Canning sighed and said to another customer "I know. But they're even worse after a few drinks."

Monday, 19 October 2015

Selling

But it's not like that on the TV when it's cool for cats

I've heard it said that the main thought behind all human interaction is this : "How do I get what I want from this person without me looking bad?"

There are many opinions about the exact point when an ostensible "Craft" brewery reaches the point of no longer being "Craft". The obvious one is it being bought by a macro. Other popular theories include supplying Tesco or contract brewing for other beer brands. But no, these aren't the real Endpoint of Craft.

No, it's when the brewery hires it's first member of staff specifically for Sales.

Though I've been cruel about the hidden intentions of some brewers in the past, it's probable that most of them do actually care about making the best beer they can. It's difficult to make a fortune as a microbrewery, so there must be other reasons for doing all that hard work with the mash run other than wanting to make millions.

It's fair to say that most went into it to make beer, and actually having to actively flog the stuff to distros and pubs is regarded as a chore. So, as soon as funds allow, a brewer hires someone to do the work of marketing and selling their beer.  No matter how good your product is, it's unlikely to sell itself.

How many of these sales staff actually know much about beer? Hard to say, but selling is fairly specialised in the 21st century. What isn't specialised is the product itself. Beer, Gin, ukuleles, 6mm steel tubing, the sales techniques are the same. Convince them they need it, and that you have it for them. For a "fair price", of course.  The Salesman doesn't need to like the product. He just has to sell it.  And he will use any means necessary to do so.

This blog post, and especially the comment section details what happens when the hitherto chummy world of Craft Beer collides with the world of modern marketing. And the Crafties are horrified. " Somebody tried to sell me beer and it turned out to be no good!", they cry. Well, yes, how do you think it gets sold? By it's own merits via Twitter?

The lesson to be learned here is : just because someone appears to be interested in you or your beer shop or pub, does not mean they care. They just want to sell their crap to you, and know being nice garners better results than rude pushiness.

People are not nice without a reason, I'm sorry to say.

Friday, 16 October 2015

News in Brief #32

Soon to be consigned to history

Beer Bloggers Proclaim End of Beer Blogging


Thinly-veiled nom-de-plume scribblers and weighty prose Bloggers Bake and Bowley last week announced that beer blogging was at an end.

"Blogs have nothing new to say." intoned Bake  "All they do is retread the same ground about drinking and opinions about breweries. Everyone who was good at it has either finished or turned into a paid journalist and Beer Communicator."

Bowley continued "As for us, we only read and share pieces by professional writers, whom these days are our peers.  What can be more tedious and self-defeating than reading posts written by those doing it for so-called 'fun'."

"Beer blogging has served it's purpose." chanted both Bake and Bowley in unison "That is, to produce Us."

This is the Circle Line, right?

Crafties Travel To Outer London Beer Festival


Hipster types and people who work hard at looking as if they don't care too much Alanis Hash-Tagge and Luke Lumberjack-Shirt last Friday decided to take up their trade invitations to a Local Craft Beer Event.

"We, like, printed out our tickets to this 'IndyMan' thing," burbled Alanis "but we didn't recognise the map or directions. We called a taxi and gave them to the driver. It took 2 hours and £350 to get there. I think it's some kind of record in getting within 5 miles of the M25 from Shoreditch"

"We arrived at this cool old swimming pool." enthused Luke "Must have been, like, in Borehamwood or Rickmansworth or something.  Anyway, there was plenty of Camden Hells and we had a few thirds of that."

"After the tasting session finished, we asked our Uber driver to take us to the nearest tube stop. He looked, like, all confused for a bit, but he took us there."

"We were shocked to see it painted an unrecognisable yellow, though" perturbed Luke "And they'd redesigned the Underground Map and renamed the network 'Metro'. We put it down to that 10% New Zealand beer we had."

"We're still there, actually." confided Alanis "Where is Eccles anyway? I think it's a new station on the Hainault loop."

Dreadful people with poor social skills, yesterday

Inactive Member Fails to Meet Fellow CAMRA Types


Veteran Campaign for Real Ale member Dustin Loft this week realised he had never done anything with his membership but get 10p off his weekly 3 pints of Fuller's London Pride. "So," he announced grandly to nobody in particular "I decided to attend the local Branch Meeting at the Hard Peg in Harold Wood."

"I'd heard awful things about them, but decided to go along without any preconceived notions" he convincingly argued.

"When I arrived I saw them at a large table in the corner. A group of middle aged men deep in conversation and laughing intermittently.  I waited at the bar to be summoned"

"After 45 minutes, one of them came up and stood next to me, as if ordering a round of drinks. I had helpfully laid out my CAMRA membership card and " Association of Beer Communicators " certificate on the bar for easy seeing. But he just picked up his drinks and went back to the corner table." complained the offended Loft. "He just grunted and didn't even meet my gaze"

"It's no wonder the local CAMRA group have such a bad reputation if they behave like this. It's almost as if they expected me to go up and introduce myself."

"I'm not renewing my membership." ranted Dustin  "I could never be part of such a conceited and insular organisation."


Monday, 12 October 2015

EvilKegFest 2015

Drinkin' the Evil Keg #12

I write this to not to say that IndyManBeerCon is awful, because it isn't. I write this to say that I am no good at it.

In retrospect, maybe a crowded event in an echoey disused swimming baths wasn't the best option for my personal comfort, but you can't say I don't try.

As I admitted before the event, I'm not really a social bunny.  While I saw many "Beer Communicators" going to every table and chatting away to whomever looked like they were involved in Brewing (and possibly blocking the way for people who just wanted a Beer), that's not really the way I operate. I don't possess the requisite social skill to carry that off without awkwardness or embarrassment.

Due to sheer amount of people and noise, I was quite anxious for the majority of the three hours I was there. Pictured in the above photo was one of the few spots I could actually stay still for a few seconds without having to move for somebody. But not for long.

On the plus side, the beer was very good (or at least the ones I had were), and the people who recognised me ("No, I'm somebody else with a porno tache and paisley shirt" etc.) were nice, even if some were probably put off by my awkward and nervous body language (I'm told I do that).

This has been difficult to write, and I'm sorry I've not been as gushingly positive as everyone else who went has been. For what it's worth, on the way back to Oxford Road Station, I stopped off at the Lass O'Gowrie and had a pint of Greene King. So you can say I've already been punished.

If I'm not honest about these things, what's the point of this blog?

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Curiously Mechanical Nature

I'm sure it'll be good. I'm SURE it'll be good

There are beer festivals and beer festivals. The more famous type is typified by The Great British Beer Festival or the National Winter Ales Festival. They have it all. Wide ranging beers, decent setup, quality checks and temperature monitoring. And so the punters who go are (mostly) satisfied.

And then there's the other type. The one run by the local pub with the required floorspace.

I have rule about such events - the quality of the beer provided is in inverse proportion to the number on offer. If a place normally has, say, seven cask beers on sale and tries to do a hundred for a Fest, all delivered at different times in differing states of condition, then who can predict the actual beer quality on Opening Night? It's likely at least half of what's on offer is under-conditioned and only on sale because they printed the tasting notes booklet two weeks in advance.

To be fair, if there wasn't a market for this, such things wouldn't happen. But most pubs who do this kind of event know the ticker market is there to support it at least four times a year. Quality is immaterial compared to another biro-scribbled line in the moleskine notebook.

In the end a Local Beer Festival is like this. Go there. Get the tokens and glass. Use them to buy more beer than you would otherwise do, as you know the tokens are non-refundable. Leave after 8 halves wondering if the trip was worth it. A quite mechanical way of engaging with something that's supposed to be fun.

I say look at the list beforehand. If you think the beer is worth sitting with alone in a tent full of strangers, then by all means go. But otherwise, don't bother.


Monday, 28 September 2015

News in Brief #31


A lower-than-average tab

Tab System Blamed for Consumer Debt


Figures released today by the National Office of Statistics revealed that three-quarters of the £1.4 trillion owed by UK consumers is held over on pub tills in lieu of payments for drinks.

Tavern habituee Bob Barfly admitted to us yesterday "I'd been in this pub a couple of times and paid up each time. Then on the third occasion I found myself 5p short for a pint. No worries, said the barman, we'll open a tab for you. You can pay for it later."

"That was 6 years ago," confessed Bob "and I've never paid for a drink since. There's new barstaff every time I go in, and they just keep adding to my tab as if they don't care or something. I dread to think what it adds up to."

Stereotypical pub landlord Barry Shortmeasure "It's true. Our ever growing tab amount is a problem. But I ignore it as my own personal tab here is about £10,000 now."

"Never mind. If the Pubco complain, I'll just abscond with the till and takings. That way they'll never find out."

How to blag and self-aggrandise, mainly

Blogger Announces "Be A Blogger" Event


Worried that there isn't anywhere near enough nonsense in the world already, long-time (since 2012) beer Blogger Sam Unselfaware is running his own event at his local Crafty Bar to show everyone how. Topics covered include :


  • "New Blog Post (1/16)" - Bombarding Twitter with links to your latest post, using different usernames and text to make it look different.
  • "You May Well Think That, But..." - Use of passive aggression towards Bloggers who disagree with you, the more minor and inconsequential points the better
  • "A Reasonable Place To Drink" - Damning bars and pubs with faint praise because they didn't treat you with "due deference" when you said you were the local blogger.
  • "But I Declared It!" - Maintaining a spurious air of fierce independence while accepting freebies from breweries and festivals. 


"Be A (Beer!) Blogger" will be held at the Elongating Gibbon, Shoreditch on 9th October. Tickets £19 or Free with a pint bought for Mr. Unselfaware.

Sad, tragic figures with nothing in their lives, yesterday

Regulars Declared Blight by Pub Campaigner


Man-who-wants-to-erase-the-last-60-years Mudgie Mudgington this week decried the influence of pub regulars on the licence trade "People think that pubgoers are a right laugh" he complained "but they're actually a load of sad bastards."

Mudgie went on "They sit there in the corner, drinking pint after pint of weak brown bitter, prattling on with their half-baked political views and memories about how things were better in 1972. Do they realise how boring they are?"

"Their families have deserted them, they have no jobs or lives. All they have to look forward to is dying in front of the TV and being eaten by their cats."

We asked Mudgie how he gained such expert knowledge on the subject "I've sat in the pub every night for the last eighteen years listening to them." he announced triumphantly.

"But I alternate the pubs I go to. So I don't count".

Monday, 21 September 2015

You're Moving Out Today

"Pay no attention to the industry behind this graphic"

A question : Why are so-called Craft breweries taken over so easily by major concerns?

Whether it's Goose Island, Boulevard, Meantime or Lagunitas, Crafties both in the UK and USA are "selling-out" (as I believe these events are referred to by the Hipper end of the beer communication movement). But why are these types of beer makers (let's call them Keg Hopfuck brewers) so sought after and easily acquired, as opposed to the mid-range mainly cask brewers (Thornbridge, DarkStar etc.)

One reason is because such things are fashionable. Big beer, though it outsells the Craft even in the biggest markets by a ratio of 4:1, has been declining in both absolute and real terms in these markets for a decade. So what do SABMiller and AB-InBev do to maintain market share? Buy up smaller breweries, of course. All those 0.1%s add up to something eventually.

But the main reason is that Craft Brewers have far more in common with Macrobreweries than the clich├ęd "boring brown bitter" concerns.

Take your average rapidly expanding Keg Hopfuck brewery. In the main, they'll have been started by a well educated and connected person or group. They'll often bullshit their potential buyers by saying "we started brewing for ourselves and it just got big on us man".  But their assault on the market will have been invariably carefully planned. Publicity. Social media. Blogger outreach. The lot.

While they will claim to have started up to make excellent beer and get it to pubs to improve choice, it's actually all about making money. Ironically, it only works if the beer itself is some good, otherwise the plan would be seen through early on (as we're seeing now from chancers like Brewhive etc.).

So, when this Keg Hopfuck brewery gets to a certain size, the macros will come calling. Negotiations will be entered into, and they will go well. Because the Entrepreneurial Crafties and Macro Executives talk the same language. No matter what promises the Keg Hopfuck brewery has made to their fanbase about not " selling out", they will.

The whole signifiers of Craft Brewing, the tattoos, the plaid shirts, the beards, even the "punk" attitudes if you will, are simply marketing devices to appeal to a certain segment of the consumer base. It's no more or less cynical than the creation of your average Boy Band. If they ever meant anything authentic, they don't now

I like "Craft beer", and much prefer it to Boring Brown Bitter, but for me it's the taste I prefer. I don't buy into the Craft Lifestyle thing. I've been around too long to believe in such things. It pains me to say this, but if the Crafty Hipster Brigade were concerned about authentic Artisan produce, they would drink microbrewery cask bitter rather than the products of, say, Beavertown.

Enjoy your beer, guys. Just don't expect it to match your long term expectations.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

News in Brief #30

Watty knows what Craft is

BrewDog to Stop Stocking BrewDog Beer


This week, exponentially expanding Crafty bar operator BrewDog PLC has conducted a wide-ranging review of it's beer policy. "It's something we do regularly," pontificated posturing 'anti-businessman' James Watt "just to make certain what we stock meets certain standards of quality and artisan production."

"I looked down the list. Partizan, yeah. Kernel, yeah, Brew By Numbers, yeah. Then I saw we were stocking stuff by a company called BrewDog. Didn't know much about them to be honest. So I looked up their website and I was horrified."

"This so-called Craft Brewery seems to fund itself via deeply odd share issues and bond issues, while endlessly shouting about how rebellious and 'punk' it is. I read somewhere that this 'BrewDog' is valued at £300 million. Some punks!"

"I rang up every bar in our company and told them to tip all this 'BrewDog' beer into the nearest river.  We can't be seen selling such faux-Craft beer."

Local hipster Luke Lumberjack-Shirt told us while putting empties into the local bottle bank "BrewDog? Are they still a brewery"
STONCH Blog soon to be renamed "Ginger Beer"

STONCH Blog Announces New Contributor


Beer blog and perpetual controversy factory STONCH has announced the latest member of it's ever increasing writing team.

"I've been wanting to take a back seat on the blog for ages." rambled Stonch himself from underneath a huge pile of Moretti bottles. "So, while I've been getting more people in to do the writing, I've found I needed someone else to help coordinate their efforts."

Someone Else is former News Of The World editor Rebekah Brooks. "To be honest, when we found out we were all trembling with fear." confided STONCH writer Tinno Mackerel "We thought we'd be exposing Beer Communicators as paedophiles using phone hacking. But it's not happened. Yet."

But fellow STONCH scribe Benjy Broggovich admitted "After sending in a post about Harvey's Best, Rebekah did give me an awful phone call saying it was "Fucking shit and you can fucking stick this real ale shit up your fucking arse, you fucking shitty prick." "

"Though she does seem to be more polite than Stonch ever was."
Not a macrobrewery, yesterday

Lagunitas Boss Sells Company Over Corpse.


The Craft Beer world was rocked to it's Converse sneakers by the news this week that macrobrewer Heineken has purchased a 50% interest in California brewer Lagunitas.

"I know I said that I'd only sell out over my dead body." protested Brewery boss Tony Magee "But I'm not as hypocrite as you know."

Magee managed to buy an actual dead body of a Mexican illegal immigrant to sign the contract with the Dutch fizz factory. "They're ten a penny round here," laughed Magee "and we made sure we did the contracts in the walk in fridge."

Meanwhile, Lagunitas head brewery Summer Fourtwenty expressed his approval at the deal "Heineken, man" he murmered contentedly through half-closed eyes "That mean I can visit Amsterdam for business reasons on expenses."

"I wanna see the windmills and canals, man."


Monday, 7 September 2015

The Gold Bunny Problem

Rampant

A few years back, I was dismantling a display unit at work. It was towards the end of Easter and, naturally enough, every Lindt Gold Bunny had sold off it. I packed up the component cardboard bits and took it off into the back for disposal. However, one of my female colleagues got hold of the giant display bunny from the top and shouted "Hey girls, ever had a rabbit this big before?".

I tell this anecdote because I was reminded of it by Boak & Bailey's post on Friday about the things that are never talked about in beer Blogger circles, one of them being the actual, authentic pub experiences of the working classes.

Now, me, I'm a member of the aforementioned proletariat. I have a relatively low paying job in retail and have never been to University. Somehow, I have acquired the ability to write coherently (which some would say disqualifies me from the working classes), but that's by-the-by.

Reading the majority of the beer blogs, it's quite obvious to me that their writers have had limited, or possibily none whatsoever, contact with ordinary working people. And I don't mean the " my dad's gardener was working class and we get on like a house on fire, actually" kind of contact.  The Bloggerati have no idea what they enjoy or what their sense of humour is. Well, I will tell you - the working class sense of humour finds the above Gold Bunny tale hilarious 

Witness Pumpclip Parade. The majority of the examples given are crude humour and cheap sexism. A middle class person will find a knob gag pumpclip unfunny. A middle class person will consider being in a place with such an item infra dig. A middle class person will even take a picture and  send it to a website where their equally middle class peers will wholeheartedly agree that, yes, this is simply awful.

Meanwhile, the working class person, will laugh for a couple of seconds, order a pint, and not think about it again .

The problem as I see it is that the middle classes are encroaching on a hitherto almost exclusively working class domain. Ie. Beer and pubs.  And they do not like what they see. So they try and usually succeed in making both beer and pubs more to their liking, be it modern interior design, rarified discussion and "tasteful" point of sale displays.  This is called "gentrification" and is reckoned to be a good thing.

But where do the working class people go when this happens? Well, they've been pushed out of what was "their" space. So they either go somewhere else where they feel more comfortable, or they stay at home.

And the well-to-do like this. Out of sight, out of mind. No longer will they be offended and discomfited by crude humour and tacky surroundings.

But I ask the question - where do the working class go once everything they knew is gone? Where?

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

News in Brief #29

Craft Beer despite obvious assumptions


Craft Brewer Announces New "Extreme" Beer


Habitual attention seekers and adders-of-weird-ingredient-to-disguise-flaws Random Brick Brewery today unveiled their new beer, which they claim pushes the Concept of Craft to the edge.

Head Brewer Damien Fixedgear proclaimed "Think we've gone past the 'Edge' this tome. We've fallen off this reality and entered a 4D world. Discerning Drinkers, I present our new beer - Maw Ale!"

Fixedgear pulled a pint of the 5% pale ale and explained further "We believe this is the first beer flavoured with actual fish guts. They provide a very clean taste, even though it has the strange effect of making the Ale transparent. But you can be rest assured this doesn't affect the flavour and the highest Craft Brewing standards were maintained in it's making."

Occasional London drinker and opacity detective Hamish McTand complained to us "Och, beer that's clear? How we goan know if it tastes right if we can see through it? This isnae Craft as I know it, boy."
Mudgie's locals, closed one by one

Pub Campaigner 'Denormalised'


Doom-monger and Fifties-preferrer Mudgie Mudgington this week blogged about his current pub situation. "I've been denormalised," he cried "I'm no longer allowed to enjoy the things I used to."

Mumbled Mudgie "Pub policies by both landlords and government have gone against my way of life. First they turned the music up, then they banned smoking. Then they replaced the brown bitter with golden ales. The last straw was when they did up the pubs in a 'contemporary style'. They've decided there's no place for me any more."

Nervously thumbing his copy of 'Niemoller for Dummies' he continued "First they came for the smokers, but I was not a smoker. Then they came for the poor, but I was not poor. Then they came for me because I have the odd pint and engage in anachronistic banter. And there was nobody to stand up for me."

"Probably because they'd all died of old age, but still..."
Oooooooooooold

Preston Pub A Success Despite Banning Adults


The Mildred Lounge, Friargate, a town centre sticky monstrous hellhole today proclaimed record profits which its manager ascribed to it's new age policy.

Andy Twoshotsapound told us "We had been receiving a lot of complaints about overage people in the bar. I mean, who wants to hear a 25 year old talk about 'Work' or 'Meetings', and have them harass staff with demands for them to stop Facebooking on their mobiles and serve drinks?"

"Their endless toilet visits create a problem too. They go so often, and for so long, they block the bogs for their designed purpose - drug taking and quickies in the cubicles."

Ancient specimen, Tom Bewilder (27), begged to differ "Of course, in an ideal world, nobody would want people in their mid-twenties in a circuit bar, but sometimes I have to take my teenage staff somewhere they like and if I'm refused entry they it'll be them who suffer."

"Especially on the following Monday when I know they've had fun and I haven't."



Sunday, 30 August 2015

Cats and Rats and Elephants, But Sure as You're Born

Mmm...warm Jennings Bitter for £3.50

Historians said about the constantly infirm Charles II of Spain (1661-1700) that he "was always on the verge of death, but baffled Christendom by continuing to live.

Many similar things can be said about many pubs in the North. Take, for example, The Unicorn in Preston.

This place is a former Scottish & Newcastle house, based in a formerly packed pub district on North Road, just off the A6. Several pubs in the area have closed in this area (ie. The Mitre, which is now a Vet Surgery). But The Unicorn stubbornly hangs in there.

It's now owned, of course, by a Pubco. In this case Trust Inns of Chorley who own around 80 premises around the North West. We know this because of the "Do you want to run this pub?" sign that frequently appears on the side of the building. Three times in as many years, by my reckoning.

Numerous tales of unsuitable  landlords, crap beer and a dismal clientele abound about The Unicorn. But somehow it stays as a going concern. Being near the University of Central Lancashire, most assumed it would have been turned into student housing long ago (a fate of many pubs in this area). I can only imagine the cost of conversion is prohibitive. They even replaced the sign outside in June (whether at the Landlord or the Pubcos cost is unknown).

Me? Never been in. I'm presently in the pub next door which has better beer and a much better reputation. If the Unicorn wants to be a continuing and viable pub, it needs to address these issues, rather than A-boarding messages about 40,000 song karaoke database or Free Pool.

I'm betting it'll be student flats by 2020, myself.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Everybody's Making It Big But Me

We sing about beauty and we sing about truth for ten thousand dollars a show

It's often said that to be a Drinks writer, you don't require any original ideas, much writing ability or even any expertise in beers, wines or spirits. The sole ability you need is to type coherently while pissed.

And if that's a low bar, then most of the "Beer Blogging Community" can hurdle it with aplomb. After all, there's no money in it.

I don't think there's a single Blogger out there, even the ones who get ten times the pageviews I do, who has made a profit on this lark. Which, surprising as it may seem from someone like me,  I don't begrudge the rampant freebie imbibers of the European Beer Blogger Conference. Given the choice, what typical person wouldn't want to spend a weekend gossiping and drinking in congenial company with their peers?  It's the glue that binds us as a species together. And, like religion, bind it does, providing you don't scrutinise it too closely.

I would never fit in in such situations myself, but if somebody like Matt Curtis wants positivity fuel, liberally stoked with complementary booze, then that's fair enough. You do the cheerleading, Matt, and I'll do the mockery. The world needs both to stay in balance after all.

It's all harmless, really. As long as you take the resultant tales of free trips and schmoozing with the scepticism required.  You know the Bloggers won't want to appear rude to those who welcomed them so warmly, so don't expect impartiality on their part. Enjoy it for what it is.

They had fun. We can look askance and feel moderately virtuous. It's a win/win.

Monday, 24 August 2015

News in Brief #28





When I were a lad, this were all fields


Last Bitter Drinker Preserved


In its ever increasingly desperate attempts to prevent the last 70 years from happening, English Heritage has decided to stick it's nose in again towards the pub trade.


"We've managed to prevent the destruction of those remaining Victorian bars; stopped them flattening those 1930s road pubs; we're even well on the way to preserving 1960s flat roof places." confided younger-than-expected tweedy figure Roger Anachronism "But what about those who make pubs what they are - the drinkers?"

So, after an extensive search, EH found the last drinker of Ordinary Bitter at a pub in Oldham. "We got to him just in time," whispered Roger "the landlord was just about to replace the Hyde's Original pump with BlackJack. Think about it - a whole culture lost forever."

"We slapped a preservation order on both him and the handpull, so future generations can observe what drinking in pubs was about in the 1950s and 60s".  But what, we asked, did the pub and the drinker think of this?

Roger sighed " Does that matter? You don't know anything about Heritage, do you?"
"We're Communicating Beer, not taking the piss."

Beer Festival Organisers Sell Off Surplus


Last weekend, the organisers of the London Crafty Beer Fest 2015 proclaimed their event to be an Awesome Success. So awesome, in fact, that they're selling off what's left to all-comers on eBay. "Yeah, dudes," announced LCBF CEO Luke Lumberjack-Shirt, "We decided to let our awesome beer friends have a chance of a permanent souvenir of our event. Plus we need to get rid of it before it becomes uncool."

The listing is as follows :

12 x blue pallets : Previously used for making bars, furniture, tables, benches, climbing frames. Possibly could convert to things for moving stuff around - £29 each

3500 2/3 pint glasses : All marked "LCBF 2015". Many marked with moustache wax and black lipstick. £100 the lot or £200 if we have to clean them.

1 Keg Thornbridge Jaipur X : 8% still remaining inside. Come on, you want this! - £105

1 x Curt Mattis (Blogger) : Found in corner after Saturday session after "curating" one too many beers.  Will pay for removal.

All proceeds go to pay for the freebies given to favoured Bloggers to say nice things about LCBF and slag off the CAMRA event round the corner.
Suffering so you don't have to

Man Lives As Beer Blogger for a Day


Noticing that Beer Bloggers seem to have all the fun, curious online type Sam Notarobot announced online last Tuesday "I've decided to live the beer blogger life for a day!  It'll be wonderful." Having not much evidence to base this on, he worked out an itinerary based on tweets an blog posts by prominent beer types. Here is his report.

"I got up at 9am on my day off. I finished off the half can of Beavertown Black Betty from the previous night. Kept it's condition well, I found.

"I went down to the local Wetherspoons for breakfast. As I couldn't be seen drinking Smiths or Cask, I chose a can of Bengali to go with my full English. I think this counts as some kind of cereal .

" Leaving Spoons, I decided on an early pub crawl of the Craft bars.  Tried some of the new Craft kegs that had gone on over the previous few days. Only thirds as I don't want to get drunk. Had 7. One barman said 'You some kind of Blogger or something?' As if! Tweeted about presumptuousness of pub staff

"It was now 1300, and a Beer Festival had started in a nearby Masonic Hall. Went along with a CAMRA card and got in free. Had another 8 pints. Tweeted drinks along with brewer names in order to get followers. Nobody did. Except Thwaites. They follow everyone apparently.

" Got home at 2200. Decided to crack open my stash of Thornbridge Halcyon while writing up the day's events in my post. Woke up face down on the keyboard at 4:30am with an 'crack in Earth' type hangover

"Checked over what I'd done. Blog post unintelligible nonsense, and appear to have got into a massive Twitter argument about some minor point of pub etiquette.  Managed to throw up just before work. Felt a bit better.

"My admiration of Bloggers has exponentially increased. How they do this every day, I don't know."


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

An Interview with Beer


In the Cheery spirit of the times, we here at Seeing The Lizards have decided to do something unusual for us. We don't usually do interviews, preferring to let our chief writer expound his uniquely bitter and inappropriate view of the world and its beverages. But in an exclusive to this blog, we have used the goodwill built up over the last two years to secure an Exclusive interview with Beer itself.

StL : Good evening, Beer. Both our blog's readers and us have known you for a long time. How's life finding you at the moment?

BEER : Oh, you know how it goes. Been feeling a bit tired and flat recently. Especially in busy and crowded places.  But I've been resting for the right amount of time this week, and I'm feeling good. Effervescent, if you will.

StL : Good to hear, Beer.  You've probably needed the rest as a lot of people have been talking about you.

BEER : Yeah, I've noticed. Don't know why really. I'm just your average malt-based drink. Must be all the hops they've been putting in me or something.

StL : Well, that was the main topic about a year or so ago, yes.  But apparently some people have not been as positive about you as certain other people would like.

BEER : Oh? Why's that? Have people been seeing me dispensed or presented in the wrong way again?

StL : Actually, they've been saying that although you've not been at your best recently, your drinkers shouldn't talk about it in public as it makes you look bad.

BEER : Huh?

StL : What they should do, however, is complain to your servers, quietly, and out of earshot so as not to disgrace you in front of other potential customers.

BEER : That doesn't make any sense.  If I'm not being presented right, then people should know. How will things improve if everything's being done on the sly? It took me years to be accepted as a credible drink. If anything's not right, it should be sorted out promptly and visibly.

StL : I think some of your cheerleaders are worried about you not being seen in a positive light by the, shall we say, higher echelons of society if people are badmouthing you in a public forum.

BEER : But it's not my fault if I'm served flat and lifeless. It's the ones serving me that are to blame.

StL : Do you think they're more worried about how they would look? In front of their peers and contacts? Having to admit you're not at your best sometimes?

BEER : If that's so, then I feel sorry for them. I really do.

StL : Why's that?

BEER : Look, you know me. I'm an unpretentious drink. I'm shared and enjoyed by people in an almost incidental manner sometimes. I've never bigged myself up as a major thing. Other people have done that, by pairing me with food or tasting me in glasses the size of thimbles. They're the ones trying to make me something I'm not. To be honest, I think they've lost sight of the point of me.

StL : Yes, I suppose that is quite sad.

BEER : I feel like saying to them 'I'm still Beer, guys. Enjoy me as much as you like. But enjoy me. Don't make me a grave and serious topic of discussion. I'm just a drink, not the meaning of life."

StL : Eloquently put, Beer. Thank you for your time and we hope things go well for you in the near future.

BEER : Thanks, it's good to know there are those who like me for what I am, rather than what they want me to be.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

News in Brief #27

Look at them. They come in here, drink all the booze.

GBBF Now Just Trade Day


Crowded booze up masquerading as pleasurable drinking  experience The Great British Beer Festival has announced it's dates for 2016. Or rather, date.

"Yeah, it's true" opined CAMRA festival organiser Bob Unwashedglass "I opened the doors this afternoon to let in the the expectant Great British drinking public to sample our fine real ales and thought 'Isn't this fucking awful?' I mean it is, isn't it?"

"Every year, all these bastards come in just to get pissed. They don't care about Real Ale or it's history. So we decided that from next year, we'll just have the Trade Day. That way, we can have decent appreciative talks and gossip about which brewers are dodging tax."

But surely just the Trade crowd wouldn't be able to finish off those hundreds of casks, we asked. "Don't you believe it, mate! We're right pissheads, us." retorted Bob "Plus, we'll invite the Bloggers along. Most of them are alkies who are only in it for free booze anyway."

Tickets for the 2016 Great British Beer Festival will be available sometime, from somewhere or other, if you know somebody.

Small scale artisan brewery yesterday

BrewDog Declared No Longer Craft


The self-appointed arbiters of Craft Enlightenment, the Beer Commenterati have informed everyone else in the beer world that IBU and adjunct adding types BrewDog no longer meet the criteria of being a Craft Brewery.

"I'm sure you're expecting us to say," opined Crafty hipster beer middle-man Ivan Vancooler "that we don't approve of them going into bed with Tesco and exploiting gullible investors by selling ever decreasing shares in the brewery for ever increasing amounts of money. But, no. We just think they make too much beer and are trying to appeal to too many people."

"Surely the point of being a Craft Brewery is to brew a small amount of beer that can only be found in an obscure bar only known to the righteous few,  where they can sip it while writing extensive notes on hopping and food pairings.  But BrewDog have betrayed this ideal in our eyes."

Flat cap wearing press releaser James Watt countered "Hey, we're trying our best. Our large brewery in Ellon is still technically a "shed", and we're increasing our quality controls to make the beer more opaque. What more do they want?"

"If all else fails, we'll get the Craft Brewers Alliance to redefine what Craft Beer actually is. It's worked before."

Harry says Cans are Craft

Tramp Crowdfunds Next Drink


After experiencing ever diminishing returns using traditional beggingw methods, street-dwelling itinerant Harry Stringtrousers has got with 21st Century social media to find new ways of cadging money for a can of Super.

"I've set up a Kickstarter for myself." explained Harry "I found people no longer responded to hackneyed techniques such as muttering '10p for a cup of tea, guv?'.  It's almost as if they thought I shouldn't be doing it. Anyway, if you go to harryneedscans.com, you'll find my full range of incentives and rewards."

The minimum pledge, 40p, will get you a note saying "Cheers, kind sir" scrawled on the back of a Subway bag. £2 will get you an invitation to pose for a photo with Harry's emaciated and mangy dog, Welpark. £6.50 (the price of a 4-pack of Tennents Super at Barry's nearest offy) means you can spend a day with a BBC 4 documentary crew depicting the plight of the alcoholic homeless to the wealthy middle class in Islington.

Nearby Shoreditch railway arch brewer Luke Lumberjack-Shirt complained "I think this scheme is terrible. What kind of person would reduce themselves to such beggary and relying on the goodwill of the gullible?"

"Somebody should put a stop to it. Why are you laughing?"


Monday, 3 August 2015

News in Brief #26

"She must be late due to traffic."

Stood-Up Man Not Leaving


In a pub just now, a single man whose date has not turned up is looking for ways to hide his predicament and delay the inevitable.

Dave Desperate, 38, made an arrangement to meet Linda Nonchalant, a co-worker at Burnham Plastics, at the Marquess of Granby public house, Bromley. But she has not appeared, despite Dave waiting 2 hours past the agreed time.

"No," he protested "I always buy two drinks at once. It saves me getting up and ordering again." as he pulled up his seat two inches closer to the bar.

Ordering a packet of dry roasted, he proclaimed "No, I don't want anything else. I'll be eating later. Maybe."

"I only look sad because it's how my face always is. Another pint and a half of lager, please."
Ask a Scotsman

London Pubs Now Serving Tennents


Due to complaints in certain quarters about the poor quality of cask beer in the capital, all London pubs have placed large orders for 18-gallon kegs of Tennents Lager.

"I don't think your average Londoner has got the hang of this real ale thing yet," complained John Warmenflat, landlord of the Robb Dogg, Farringdon. "We've decided on Tennents as it's unfamiliar to most of our local drinkers who usually have Carlsberg."

"We can sell it at a £1.50 premium as an exotic world Lager." said John, wearing the skin off his hands as he rubbed them together.

Frequent visitor to London, Scotsman Hamish McTand said "Och, well I always drink the lager here anyway.  And the gin. Through a sparkler, o'course."
"Totally tasteless! Appropriate!"

Japanese Brewer Makes Commemorative Beer


Hiroshima brewer Maki Biru this week announced the will be making a special beer marking the tragic events in Cumbria 5 years ago.

Head Brewer Aguri Katayama told us "Like all my fellow Japanese, we at Maki were shocked and appalled by the gun rampage of Derrick Bird in 2010. We in this city have known tragedy too"

"We have decided to produce a special brew, Whitehaven Massacre to express our sorrow at this anniversary." extolled Katayama-san "It's an Imperial IPA with blood orange and a pinch of cordite. I've looked it up on Wikipedia, and now know how a shooting such as this affects a small community."

Asked if this seemed a bit tasteless and insensitive, what with flogging a beer using a tragedy, Aguri told us "It's ok. It was a long way away and a long while ago. And I'm not likely to meet anyone directly affected by Mr. Bird's murders."

"So that's all right then".

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

News in Brief #25

Blood is thicker than water, but thinner than Craft

Ultimate Murk Achieved


Increasingly-desperate-to-be-noticed hipster hangout The Proliferating Bushbaby in Camden today announced an exciting new addition to it's artisan and ethically sourced food menu. Edibles Curator Mike Woolyhat expostulated "Today we Announce the ultimate in pub food -The Pulled Beer Platter."

He went on to explain, whether we liked it or not, "It all started when we go this, like, new beer in.  The bloke in the lockup garage next door brewed it for us."

"When we poured it out, it was so opaque and viscous we found we could cut it with a knife. It's the final triumph of Craft, man. We serve it cut up with a fork and garnished with Naga chillies and Single Estate chocolate sprinkles. £16.95 a plate"

Local enthusiast Curt Mattis exclaimed "It's awesome, dudes! Can I write the menu?"
"Do I look like a CAMRA member?"

New Cricket Tie-In Beer On Sale Now


Following the 'success' of Marston's Jimmy Anderson beer "King of Swing" (now available at £1 a bottle from your local B&M Bargains), Accrington brewery Big Clock have teamed up with another Lancastrian Ashes Hero Graeme Fowler for their own cricket-themed beer "Foxy's 3am Pint"

"Everyone worships Foxy Fowler in Accy," burbled brewer Bob Tenuous "We all stayed up until 3am listening to his 37 in the 1982 Adelaide Test. All of us here hope this is a suitable tribute to a great cricketer."

We tracked down Foxy at his home in Durham for further promotional info "Big Clock?" exclaimed Fowler "never heard of 'em. Anyway, it were West Indies I had to play against when I drank them 3 pints in the early morning. Guinness too, not Real Ale."

"Just because I got this big grey beard now doesn't mean I drink cask. What do you take me for?"
"Don't come near me. I bite and scratch. Honest"

Pub Cat Looking for New Opportunities


The most famous denizen of the Red Crown pub in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire this week expressed his dissatisfaction with his lot in the hospitality industry. 4-year-old tuxedo cat Tigger complained "It's like people think I'm a performing animal or something."

"Every night I have to deal with pissed up wankers." whined his Catness "When I'm trying to sleep on that padded stool, they put pork scratchings in front of me to get my attention. Honestly, do I look like someone who would eat that? Some of those pissed up twats even try to put me on their lap to take a Cat Selfie. When I started here, the landlord never told me about this."

Tigger muttered under his breath to us "I'm thinking to do something less demeaning. Maybe howling outside a window at 5am, or hissing mangily at passers by in the street."

Visiting Pub cat obsessive Mudgie Mudgington said upon seeing the unhappy and possibly aggressive  feline "Aaah. Who's a cute widdle kitty witty den? Aaah."

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Angelica Pickles of Beer Bloggery

Talks to both Babies and Grown Ups

The longer I do this thing, the more I become aware of the Generation Gap in the beer blogosphere.

On the one hand, there is the Crafty brigade. Usually about 25, urban, digital and social media savvy, highly educated and wanting to express their connoisseurship of everything they're into.  Tends to drink awesome juicy bangers at the local Craft Bar. Generally disparaging of traditional beer and pub culture as chapeau vieux (as they no doubt do not say in France). Run blogs with photos showing themselves and their alarmingly similar friends drinking Evil Keg at a big table.

On the other, there are the Veteran Pubgoers. Usually about 55. Been in CAMRA since the late 1970s. Can usually work Blogger and Twitter but not much else. Likes pubs on quiet afternoons to drink 4% brown bitter. Generally disparaging of Craft Beer as overhyped and unbalanced, and Craft bars as uncomfortable. Run blogs with photos showing themselves sat with a couple of friends at a country pub or biergarten in Germany.

But what strikes me most is how little there is in between.  Sure, there's Boak & Bailey who drink both the Evil Keg and the Boring Brown Bitter, but they're doing it for the record (and their blog will become an important historical document if some way is found to preserve it), rather than simple personal amusement. But what is being done my my generation, those around 40?

Possibly the reason is we came of drinking age in the early 1990s. There wasn't any Craft in those days, and even back then a 20 year old would have regarded Real Ale as a middle-aged man's drink. No, we drank Lager. And it seems a lot of us have stuck to it. Plus, most of us have families and careers and so have little time for bloggery and social mediasing.

As for me, I have no family and few commitments to speak of.  So, I can spare the time for this sort of thing. I'm young enough not to have the baggage against the Craft, but old enough not to be swept away with enthusiasm about how awesome it all is. Not being the greatest of social bunnies, too, helps me maintain a detached perspective on beer matters. No mutual reinforcing feedback loops for me.

As I always say, if you don't really fit in anywhere, then embrace your difference.