Saturday, 31 December 2016

Signing Off For 2016


We're entering the last few hours of a somewhat eventful year.  What your opinions are on this will vary according to your political outlook and personal tastes.  Unlike some bloggers, I don't use this as a forum for saying how wonderful/awful things are, and chastising those who disagree with me.  But, nonetheless, I've made a few decisions in the last day or so, and the evening of 31st December is a good a time as any to say them

I'll be taking a break from this blog.  Things have got rather heated in the blog/twittersphere in the last month or so, and I think it would be best for me personally not to be involved in them anymore.  Like any fandom, the problem is a perennial one - people taking something that should be fun with a degree of seriousness out of all proportion to it's relative importance.  Anyone who's read this blog for a while will know this is one of my pet topics, and for the moment it has me entirely beaten.  You may see me on Twitter, you may not.  But it's unlikely I'll be contributing to any debates about beer or related topics.

I won't be going to the The Manchester Beer & Cider Festival in 3 weeks.  Said online unpleasantness has dampened my enthusiasm for such things.  I would find it too awkward and stressful to have to deal with any arguments, either overt or covert, that are likely to occur when certain people meet.  As I've said before, despite appearances to the contrary, I don't thrive on vicious backbiting, poorly thought-out insults and general controversy,  Sometimes discretion really is the better part of valour, and as such I withdraw gracefully to the sidelines.

I'll be back.  I don't know when.  Enthusiasm is a deep well, but once it's completely drains, it takes a long while to refill itself

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Being a Dick

Average complete knob-end, today

They say the end of the year is a time for reflection,  of taking stock of what you've done and who you've become over the last 12 months. Me, I introspect all the time but infrequently write it down.

Today, I was reading one of those "Beer Communicator" blogs. Probably unwise, I know, unless I want to know how great the world of Beer or is, or how popular and successful said Communicator is. But one thing that was said struck me - that anyone who thinks they "may be on the take" is "a bit of a dick", in said person's opinion anyway.

Now, I've made fun of this person (as I have with many others) on this blog a few times. Leaving aside for a moment that if someone does paid PR for a megabrewer, people may not imagine their writings are entirely objective sometimes,  it made me think - what if I actually AM a dick?

It's true, I'm not someone who cultivates popular opinion by being socially skilled and nice and stuff. As being rude and taking the piss is the only skill I have in dealing with the world, such things are unlikely to happen. My comedy hero is Victor Lewis-Smith and, as such, anyone who thinks I've offended them has been let off lightly.

Perhaps being positive, upbeat, and telling nice stories about people you like is the path to popularity. In fact, I'm certain it is. But I'm not built that way. A combination of brain architecture and experience has made me cynical. In a way it would be surprising if it hadn't. I lack the privileged early life of most "Beer Communicators".

I'll admit on being rude and inappropriate in the past. If you were upset, then I'm sorry. It's nothing personal. I could, say, have got photos of Rick Parfitt or Sue Perkins and captioned your names underneath. I like to think I play the ball, not the man.

I'm not a dick. I may seem that way, but I'm not. Sadly, people nowadays take criticism personally, and imagine you're saying all kinds of things with very little evidence to support such a view.

As always, I say - beer should be fun. Stop being so damned serious.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

News in Brief #58

Compulsory.  Or something

Pub Not Serving Plum Porter


Last week, while pictures of bar top pumpclip lineups were being disseminated on Twitter, a pub was shown as not having Titanic Plum Porter available.

Barry Shortmeasure, clich├ęd proprietor of the Weasel & Bucket, Pocklington, admitted "I forgot to put it on my SIBA order last week despite it being in letters twice as big as all the others in the booklet, for some reason. Anyway, it's coming tomorrow. Look, here's a copy of the invoice. Don't report me. PLEASE don't report me."

Luckily, Titanic owner and SIBA chief Keith Bott was an indulgent mood however "Oh, ha ha. We noticed the lack of an order from Mr. Shortmeasure. But as we're selling so much Plum Porter, we'll overlook his mistake. This time."

"Actually, we're making so much of it that Plum Porter is the only growth industry in Stoke now. Three-quarters of the people here are engaged in the making of it. In fact, I'm proposing we change the name of the area to 'The Porteries'!"

"Wait, don't leave...."
But it's all so boring, dude

Communicator Blames Beer For Lack Of Inspiration


A recurring problem in the freebie-laden world of Beer Communication is that of palate fatigue. Earlier this month, awesomation producer and journalist Curt Mattis admitted he had fallen prey to this phenomenon.

"I keep getting sent all this stuff and it's, like, really dull." complained Curty  "It's the same old stuff all the time, man. IPAs, Imperial stouts, barrel-aged kumquat goses.  I'm fed up with it all."

"It can't be me who's wrong, as I do this for a living and drink so many beers. Beer needs to raise its game if it's going to appeal to my awesome sense of taste. If things don't improve,  I may have to start paying for beer again."

"People say I'm lucky, man." he whinged "But obviously not lucky enough."

"THE FUTURE IS NOW"

CAMRA Moving Forward With Revitalisation


This week, anachronism-riddled consumer organisation The Campaign for Real Ale announced the publication of it's report into it's future. "After 18 months of proposals, discussions and surveys, we've finally come to some conclusions." proclaimed CAMRA founder Michael Hardman.

"We've found we should be protecting pubs more. It doesn't matter that a lot of unviable because people now prefer solitude, Pinot and Netflix. Because History and Heritage. Obviously."

"Also, keg doesn't appear to be as evil as our active membership seems to think. If nothing else, this'll get rid of a few old codgers who clutter up the letter column of What's Brewing.

"And in the interests of brevity and easy consumption of information," burbled Hardman "we've put it all down in 6-point lettering in this 100 page report. Both sides. So, CAMRA,  members - get reading. "

"There will be a test at your next monthly meeting."

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Sensible Times in Castle (Part 2)

(link to Part 1 here)

Having had enough "Awesoming" for today (my new term for travelling around a town's Craft bars), I decided next on a more traditionalist outlet.  I left the patrons of Ten Green Bottles to their Index Card Drawers display of artisan coffee beans and, noting the demolished Sainsbury's behind me (still with folorn looking trolley park signs) turned right down Bridge Street.

Bridge St. Ale House in happier and more populated times

3. Bridge St. Ale House
Music : none - deathly silence.

It's only a short walk there, thankfully (who would have thought that Newcastle Under Lyme would have a microbar quarter?).  I looked inside from across the road and saw the Ale House was empty.  I'd looked up the opening times beforehand, and these insisted the doors opened at 1pm.  Investigating further showed the lights on, so I turned the door handle more in hope than expectation. It opened.  The look on the woman behind the bar's face indicated I was the first customer of the day.  It was 3:30pm by this stage.

There was a choice of 4 beers.  I went for the Heavy Industry Freak Chick which, despite expectations engendered by the name, turned out to be a malty best bitter.  A decent enough palate-reset after an IPA.  I sat there drinking in silence while the bar woman got on with necessary/unnecessary but helping to fill time (delete as applicable) cleaning jobs.  The signal down this end of town is poor, so I was reduced to pointing my phone out of the window to do anything with it.  I now dub this practice "The Newcastle Salute".  Bar woman sighed, sat down with what looked like a kale smoothie and said she was going down into the cellar.  Proabably to cry.

I had thought of telling her my own suggestion to drum up custom.  Simply get a bloke to stand outside asking passers-by to "Come into my Pumpclip Cave!",  But I thought better of it and left.

Would you come down here after dark?

#4. Lymestone Vaults.
Music : 80s indie

It was nearly dark about this point.  Thankfully, I know the layout of the town well, having collapsed and fallen asleep drunk in many places here.  So, back up the hill towards the Lymstone Vaults, a local outlet for a local brewer serving local beer to local people.  It's local, anyway.

This place was also empty, though the barstaff were more talkative than in the previous place.  I ordered a pint of the Ein Stein (a German-hopped beer with scientist motif), and asked what was going on in this town, and how I recalled it being much busier in 2000.  The barman admitted some days can be pretty dead now, but it was usually busier than this.  I then regaled him of what Castle was like all those years ago, when the building the Vaults part-occupies was an O'Neills (the other half is an estate agent's, much needed in an area where half the buildings are either To Let or For Sale).

Despite one wall being plastered with CAMRA 'POTS' and 'POTY' awards, he didn't think much of the organisation itself. "Your lot come in here, have a half and bugger off to the next place." he said. I've never heard of me being lumped in with the CAMRA crawl crowd, I thought, even if it is broadly true. He also said I'd walked straight past Castle's Latest Latest Awesome Craft Place on Hartshill Road earlier. "Doesn't look like a bar, so you probably missed it."

 It was at this point another customer arrived, dragging in a 13-week old black labrador with him,  He proceeded to open his back, and take out a small black polythene back tied up at the top. Now, all of you who have experience with dog-walkers will be thinking "Oh dear, what's going to happen now".  Fortunately it turned out to be dried food for his undoubtedly hungry growing pup.  I took note of this near miss and left.

Get connected in Newcastle. If you can.

5. Wellers

Music : Reggae

On Twitter I'm followed by a journo from The Stoke Sentinel, and last week he put up a link to an article about yet another new micropub opening in Newcastle.  I looked up the location, and I used to know it as clothes boutique next to a closed public lavatory in a narrow alley.  Also close to Lymestone Vaults, so during my somewhat haphazard planning on the train down, I put this down as the one after that.

Run by the local Weal Ales Brewery in Chesterton, it naturally has 5 of their own beers on, plus some craft keg behind it.  One of these was Buxton Axe Edge, which I was sadly now to far gone to sample.  Oh well, I ordered a pint of something weaker that I've forgotten the name of.  The barmaid was talkative here too, which proves how dire things must be in Castle on a Thursday if people are willing to converse with random paisley-shirted drunks.

Unsuprisingly, give the name of the bar, the decor was Paul Weller-themed, the owners being big fans or something.  I asked if Weller himself had come down to the opening three weeks earlier. "We did ask him, but his managment said he hasn't drunk for two years." Which of course must be the reason.  Why would you not want to come to a small bar in a dark alley opposite a disused NHS adminstration building and a former video shop?  I did think of asking "You should have asked Jonathan Ross.  He's not busy and will happily endorse 'Weal Ales'.", but even I think better of such things these days.

After much "Newcastle Saluting", I managed to get 1 bar of signal on the phone, where I found my sister had sent me a message.  "So, you're in Newcastle, eh?" she wrote "Is it still shit?".  The barmaid asked what it said, but I told her such things controvened the 'No Swearing' policy promulgated by the helpful poster next to me.

After another pint, I announced my intention to go to the Hop Inn.  "Oh, that's ok." said the barmaid.

Is it very rude?  Oh dear.


6. Hop Inn
Music : Couldn't hear.

I staggered out of town, down the subway and up the hill to King Street.  Such things are no small feat given Newcastle's lumpy geography.  I got to the Hop Inn by 8pm and it was the first place I'd been in that was actually busy.  I ordered the Bass, as is traditional here and stood at the bar as all the seating had been taken.

My bladder being full at this point, I went to the gents.  As any man who's been here knows, these are decked out in vintage saucy postcards, either to bait Melissa Cole or just to give easy laughs to working class punters.  Who knows?  Anyway, by the time I got back to the bar. My sister-in-law (who lives nearby) had sent me a message requesting my presence at the Victoria in May Bank.  Never disobey a woman, especially after saucy postcard viewing laughter guilt.  I polished off my Bass and headed down the road.

Embering. Photography depiction actual state of vision at the time of taking

7. Victoria, May Bank
Music : Memory fuzzy at this point

This pub I remember, when I lived here, as a bog standard carvery type place.  But when I got there I was in for a surprise.  It's been Embered, and the beer choice was exactly the same as the three Embers down the road from my house in Preston.  I looked at them one by one and, resigned to my fate, ordered an Ember Ale.  As I always say, when in Rome...you may as well be sold into slavery and killed by lions.

I can't remember much of the conversation with my brother and sister-in-law.  No doubt they were talking about selling fabric over the phone as that's what they work in.  I was too drunk at this point to pretend to take notice and after I finished my pint I was driven back to Stoke station and shoved on the train back to Piccadilly.

I got home.  Eventually.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Sensible Times in Castle (Part 1)

I'm on holiday this week, and whilst The Moorbrook would LOVE to see both my Paisley-based fashion and miserable face every single day this week, I thought I'd give them a break yesterday.  Also, it was quiz night and too crowded for the likes of me.

Newcastle-under-Lyme is as good as anywhere else, I figured. It has a good selection of micropubs in a reasonably small area. Plus I have plenty of anecdotes about what a dump it was in the 1990s to tell disbelieving youthful pub staff.

Due a bridge collapse at Wigan, I had a bit of a wait for the train. I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly at 1250. I avoided the notice of the 8 Xmas jumper wearing women, animatedly discussing their forthcoming dubious activities in the City Centre while swigging Strongbow Dark Fruits. Fortunately, they departed the train at Oxford Road. I made a note to check if Manchester was still standing on the way back.

I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly at 1250. Plenty of trains to Stoke from there, I told myself, so plenty of time for Traditional Train Activities.
#awesome #dudes


1. Piccadilly Tap, Manchester
Music Choice : George Harrison

I needed change, so I braved the station exterior with it's speeding coffee cup carriers and Jehovah's Witness stands to Mancs premier sparsely furnished Evil Keg den. Setting the tone for the day, there were few customers. Possibly they were put off by the recent rumours of closure. Still, plenty of beers on. I had the Wild Beer Co thing called "Trendy Juice". Unsurprisingly it was completely opaque. My guess it was named and formulated to annoy certain traditionalist elements in the beer world. No matter, I polished it off in 20 minutes and headed for Platform 4 (in the station, not some hipster bar that probably opened 20 minutes ago).

Welcome home, Mr. Lawrenson

The journey to  Stoke was less eventful, and arrived in one piece following my sole ticket check of the day.  The weather was OK when I arrived, so I walked the 2.5 miles to Newcastle, reminiscing all the way up Hartshill Road. There was the A&E I nearly bled to death at in 2002; there was the Newsagents where the owner was killed in an armed robbery; and THAT'S the now-closed nightclub where certain girls in my class at school performed "favours" for the door staff in order to gain entry. Ah, memories. If only the local psych hospital had offered me ECT at the time.

Gin makes a man mean

2. 10 Green Bottles, Newcastle-under-Lyme 
Music : Tears For Fears

Entering the town's foremost (and only) place for Awesome Craft, I found I was observing the relentless march of Craft Gin. Gins. Gin cocktails. Empty gin bottles as candleholders . Even a big bowl of Mulled Gin on the bar. As it was only 3pm, I forsook such juniper-infused delights for a 2/3rds of Crate IPA.  I was however disappointed that the barman who served me in July, a bearded Transylvanian with a man-bunch,  was not on that day My stay was uneventful ,  save for the current barman's mates coming in to try stuff. The Mulled Gin was proffered. "It smells awful but it tastes OK." was the sales pitch. Though perhaps the sole taster's coughing and gagging reaction was a truer measure of it's qualities.

Still, plenty of places for me to go. So no need to resort to overheated and stewed mixtures of spirits ,  spices and fruits. On to the next place round the corner...

(to be continued ...)

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Routine

I may have been here at some point

They say that travel broadens the mind. New locations and activities add to the sum of human experience,  producing a more balanced and accepting character.  On the other hand, there's me.

I have enough cash and free time available to be a serial pub botherer like Simon Everitt and Martin Taylor, but such things have little appeal to me.  Those who know me often say "You're off to THAT pub? AGAIN?".  Even the Landlord will say to me "You again? That's three days in a row, Matt."

It's true. I like familiar things.  Going somewhere new is difficult. All manner of things could possibly happen. There could be nothing on sale worth drinkingetting.  There could be angry and mentally disturbed customers. Christ, I may even run into someone from work.

It's well known that I'm a far from gregarious person.  Going to a new place with a whole new set of people to have to figure out is hard. And most of the time I don't have the energy to do so. Sometimes, I even go to an unfamiliar pub, look through the windows and think "No, not today." So, I end up in the same place every time.  Monotony has it's own rewards.

You'll pretty much find me on the same place in the same pub at the same times every week. Routine is good. Routine keeps the sanity I have left.

Mine's a pint of Milk St. See you there.

Friday, 11 November 2016

News in Brief #57

The healthy option is only 3000 calories

Obesity Epidemic Blamed on Pub Pizza


This week, Britain's problem with ever-increasing body weights has been revealed to be the fault of the phenomenon of pubs installing stone-baked pizza ovens.  "It's most peculiar," muttered newly-realised fatty Bob Barfly "I ordered a large margherita, ate it, and somehow gained three stone."

"Somehow, this massive pile of fat and starch has made me gain weight. Not sure of the exact mechanism,  but apparently it's something to do with calories."

Self-proclaimed pizza master and landlord Barry Shortmeasure stood by his wood-fired metal thing and said " This pizza thing is great. It ticks all the boxes for the desired food for drunks .  Here, try a slice of my latest creation - 'The Gutbucket'. It's got a half-inch of cheese, and is topped with bacon, lard, fried eggs and pies."

"There's no waste. I've found they even eat the box if I make them greasy enough

"Oh, well. Best order one of those, then . " confessed Bob. "I would leave, but I no longer fit through the door."

As used by astronauts for space navigation 

Massive Keg Font Declared Listed Building 


In inevitable news this week, an enormous branded drinks dispenser has been declared a building of architectural importance by English Heritage.

"I know this designation is somewhat atypical," admitted preservation type Roger Anachronism "But we think Grade II listing for a Heineken font in Slough is justified."

"The residents of the town have agreed. They spend more time in front of this edifice than any other. It's given more pleasure and made more money than any brutalist bus station.  People come from miles around to bask in it's lurid greeny glow."

"And unlike all those pubs we've listed," rambled Roger "this thing is unlikely to be demolished overnight.

Aren't you glad some things are the way they USED to be?


Trad Brewery Undergoes Modern Rebranding


In shocking events this week, the latest brewery to have a "contemporary makeover" has been announced as The Samuel Smith Old Brewery of Tadcaster. "We evaluated it's current look," pontificated marketing tosspot Guy Cokenwhores "and we realised it was, like, staid and boring."

"I mean, blackletter fonts are so 1970s, man. To me, it made me wonder if it was a brewery or an old heavy metal band. And that white rose logo. Clean lines? The kids don't do clean lines any more."

"So we've completely overhauled everything. All Sam Smith's branding will be in the FF Trixie and Gotham typefaces. And we've renamed all the beers for a 2010s audience. Nut Brown Ale is now called 'Hamster Love', and Yorkshire Stingo is now 'Glory Whole'."

Brewery owner HRW Smith was asked about this unexpected turn of events. "Yo blud. Call me 'MC Humpy S'. Got a beef wiv my cribs? Woddup ? "

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

News in Brief #56

Contains more brains than some beer blog commenters 


New Beer Festival Announced


As the seasons change, the mind of the drinker is drawn towards the Beer Festival season. A new entry in Fest Itinerary for this year has been organised by Dave Driptray, landlord of the Eagle & Child in Albury,  Cambridgeshire.

"Beer events are ten-a-penny these days, so I needed a gimmick. And what better gimmick than a celebration of our most famous local blog commenter? "

As such, the 1st Annual Beer And PY Festival will be held on 28th-30th October. "It'll be great." enthused Driptray  "We're putting on 32 supposedly different pale ales and running tutored events on how to annoy people by quoting Wikipedia out of context and making up facts to support barely-existing arguments. CAMRA members are of course not allowed as they are a load of boring old men with antiquated views."

Tickets go on sale next week, and included is free entry to the opening ceremony where 6 casks of Greene King IPA are tipped into the River Cam.

PY himself is not attending. "No way. It's some attempt to unwarrantedly accuse me of things."

Current contents a mystery

Finishing Barrel Travels Country


Due to the incessant demand by new wave breweries for "(insert thing here) barrel ale", nine gallon oak hogshead Brian Charredstave has found himself travelling the UK to be filled with various stuff.

"It started in May. Back then I was just a plain, simple ex-bourbon barrel from Heaven Hill in Kentucky." explained Brian "then I came to England and was filled with Imperial Stout."

"After that I ended up in Aberdeen to make a limited edition Stout-cask red ale.  Then they filled me up, consecutively with rum, IPA, damson eau de vie and blueberry saison.  Normally barrels in my position get sawn up for ornamental planters by now, but it just keeps on going, man."

Head Brewer at serial beer "innovator" Random Brick Damien Fixedgear was asked why he just didn't add the stuff from the supposed cask to flavour his beer accordingly.

"What? That would be, like, silly, dude."

"But did you pay ENOUGH for it, dude?"

Communicator Pays More For Drink


This week, bodacious beer bro and quality seeker Curt Mattis condemned the practice of discounting in Beer Sales.  "It's terrible. I've heard that otherwise awesome breweries are selling beer cheaper than I think they should."

"So, knowing that I can't set their pricing policies on my say-so, I've,  like, taken matters into my own hands. Whenever I buy a pint of craft at my local pub for less money than I think appropriate,  I add 40% to the stated price and pay that as well."

Continued Curty "I then give my server a pie chart diagram,  breaking down where the extra money should go so they can apportion it correctly. 50% to the Brewer, 35% to the distributor and 10% to the pub. Plus 5% to whomever I, like, deem awesome on the day. I know this info as I'm part of The Industry. If everyone did this, man, it would solve all cash flow problems in the industry."

Barman at the Mattis local, Josh Apathetic admitted. "Curt's been badgering me about this for weeks. I'm not bothered really. I just humour him and chuck the extra into my tip jar."

"Peroni night tomorrow at Spoons!"

Monday, 10 October 2016

Dealing With Stuff

Easier

As I advance into my fifth decade, I know now part of getting old is realising and accepting that certain things will never happen to me.  I know now that I will never have dozens of friends, or be the life and soul of the party.  I'll never be highly-paid journalist with a bulging contacts book and I'll never be suave, socially sought-after man about town.  No, my various disorders and conditions have put paid to that.  I know now there are many things I'll never be capable of.

Such things as anxiety, depression and Asperger's are not really disabling in the sense they absolutely preclude doing anything.  But they do make things harder than they otherwise would be, and since they're "invisible", they rarely get you much sympathy unless they become completely and absolutely obvious.

Due to this, my pubgoing abilities are more limited that they otherwise would be.  I wouldn't be able to go to the Moorbrook on a day that North End are playing at home (I tell people that it'd take too long to get served, but really it's too crowded).  During a recent Meet The Brewer there, I had to leave when it proved more busy than expected (actually, I was found by someone hyperventilating against a wire fence, but never mind).  Had I been around during the "glory days" of the pub in the 1970s that Mudgie goes on about, I would probably have never gone to the pub at all.

This came up when people asked if I was going to IndyMan this year.  Quite apart from all the piss-taking I've doled out to the event over the last year, my previous experience of it was somewhat less than wonderful for me.  It's a long way to go and a lot of money to spend just to feel anxious in a public place.  I did look at all the photos on Twitter showing people having fun and felt a bit sad, but I knew that it wouldn't be the same to me.

I'm lucky in that my days off coincide with the quieter parts of the week.  There are less people to deal with, and less chance of my fumbling attempts at social interaction going badly wrong, which it frequently has.  Again, not really my fault, but try explaining that to those who know nothing about it.  So generally now, I sit on my own.  With electronic diversions, it's far less tedious than it used to be.

By this point, I'm sure you're wondering "Then why does he go out at all?".  Fairly easy to answer. If you have recurrent mental health problems, being stuck in the middle of the same walls, seeing the same things and listening to the same sounds over and over and over again, well, it does your head in, basically,  If you stay in your house too long, it's well documented that mood gradually lowers and you become isolated and less able to function in the world when it confronts you.
Oh dear. Not my best night

This "social muscle" needs to be exercised, but I have to be careful not to strain it.  My followers on Twitter have probably observed this,  If I've overloaded my capacity for human interaction for that week, I generally have a meltdown and curse the existence of everything.  It's then I declare a "people free day" and stay in.

It's a fine balance, and I frequently fall off.  Despite everything, I'm only human.  I get it wrong often, but I'm finding self-management easier than I did 20 years ago.  I can understand why people consider me a bit peculiar because I don't act in "expected" ways, but I generally find ways to defuse or avoid any difficulties.  Occasionally, I've got into real trouble (such as here), but probably no more than any other pubgoer, even if the reasons are different.

So, if you ever happen to be in Preston (or unlikelier places for me) and I'm on own in a corner in a pub with my tablet and a pint, I'm not setting out deliberately to ignore you, disconcert you or offend you.  I'm just doing what I can cope with at that moment.

And if you think any difference, then I'm sorry. For you, mainly.

Local Issues


Not really being they type of blog that comments on the local pub scene, I don't usually so stuff like this.  But since I have some insight into what's happened, I thought I may as well.

Those of you who have ever been up this way will probably know the A6 well.  There's no motorway junction or any railway station between Preston and Lancaster.  The main reason for this is there is very little in the twenty miles between them.  When your main settlement is Garstang (population 8000), then you know you're not a high density area.

About three miles up from the junction between the M6 and M55 in Barton is The Boar's Head.  Originally a fairly standard Whitbread rural inn, Mitchells of Lancaster bought it after Whitbread divested itself of a lot of it's estate in the 1990s.  Last week, to some consternation, it was closed abruptly, Mitchells declaring it unviable.

I went there for about a year in 2012-13 as it was where my sister and her erstwhile boyfriend went at the time.  If nothing else, I was usually guaranteed a lift home.  If you have a look at the photo above, you'll see the extension on the left.  This is where the dining area was situated.  I rarely saw more than about 5 tables out of 30 occupied, except for the obvious Sunday lunch crowd.  The only times I ever saw it busy was on New Year's Eve 2012 and the previous November when my mother hired out the place for my Nan's wake (the empty space helped keep certain groups of the family apart, I heard).

In May 2013, the couple who ran the place quite, citing despair with Mitchell's lack of support and general idiocy.  A new couple were soon installed, and they place started to go downhill.   I went in one evening and ordered a pint that turned out to be vinegar.  The barman changed it, but didn't take the offending beer off.  He told me he'd been ordered by the new Landlady to get rid of the old stock by whatever means necessary.  I didn't go back.  My sister was barred soon after after being grassed up by the staff for slagging off the new regime behind their backs.

That was only the start, apparently.  The play area at the back (whatever you think of the kiddywinks, such things are fairly essential for a rural dining pub) was demolished, and visitors to the adjacent church were banned from parking there. Residents suspected it was a deliberate campaign to run the place down so Mitchells could sell it off, but you didn't hear that here, right?

Ironically, in 2015 Mitchells put in a new couple who knew what they were doing and there was an upturn in trade.  But so determined were they to close it, the new people were removed with 24 hours notice and despatched elsewhere in the estate.

As said, Barton is hardly a humming hive of activity.  It's local facilities are (1) a takeaway (2) a car dealership (3) an upmarket furniture shop (4) a restaurant and bar and (5) a hotel, which by definition the locals are unlikely to use.  If the Boar's Head becomes flats, as is the rumour, then it's a peculiar decision as 150 new homes are already due to be built in the area along with the new Broughton Bypass.  The local schools are already oversubscribed and the A6 is already busy enough.

Barton doesn't really need more housing, but presumably Mitchells have found a buyer willing to pay an acceptable price.  But if you want a drink, you now face a twenty minute walk in either direction to the Broughton Inn or the Roebuck in Bilsborrow.  I can only presume any slow tick of revenue from a rural pub is outstripped by a big hit of cash from a property sale (rumours are that Mitchells have large debts, which would explain their several site disposals in the last two years).

It could be the Boar's Head's offer wasn't good enough to attract paying crowds, but, sadly, Barton now joins one of the hundreds of villages in Britain who's last pub has gone.

Monday, 3 October 2016

News in Brief #55

But look at the crowds, man!

Twitter Now IMBC Ticket Exchange


Over the last fortnight, beery-types Twitter feeds have consisted solely of people trying to either beg, exchange or sell off tickets to IndyManBeerCon.  "It's starting to become irritating," moaned insatiable internet user Sam Notarobot "someone even asked me if I had spare tickets to the Friday afternoon session just because I happened to be online at the time and mentioned beer."

"Surely there can't be that many people wanting to go?  I looked at the prices and it's bloody expensive.  You can get this so called 'craft' beer at many places in your average town centre now.  Even at your local supermarket.  I've no idea why so many people are so desperate to drink in Manchester swimming pool with one working toilet."

IndyMan organiser Byron Soretro admitted "Actually, it's just us moving tickets around ourselves.  We're doing it to make IndyMan look like some kind of exclusive, massively sought-after event, when it's really just four hundred hipsters getting pissed on overpriced and overhyped booze in a shabby and out of the way location."

"Works every year, though."

"With this thing I declare myself right! No comebacks!"

Beer Communicator Engages In Debate


In terrifying events this week, newly self-declared Beer Journalist Sam Cutandpaste this week replied to questions on Facebook.  "It all seemed so innocent at the time," he opined "Some dude asked me about the amount of beer sold in pubs declining as opposed to shops."

"I, like, answered and he disagreed with my views.  So we had a sensible, adult discussion about what were the factors behind it and though our opinions weren't changed that much we ended the conversation on good terms."

"I thought would end there,"continued Sam "but my fellow Communicator Annabelle Anthracite sent me an email saying that wasn't how I should do things.  Apparently I should have simply refused to engage with someone with contrary opinions and instead accused them of personally attacking me.  The internet is a 'safe space' and certain views should be 'no-platformed'.  Seems like an odd way to go about it, but that's how it's done it seems."

Acclaimed storyteller and bodacious beer bud Curt Mattis said  "Sam doesn't get it.  The whole point of Beer Communication is to make sure the paid Public Relations message gets across."

"Sorry, I mean, to tell the awesome story of your partner company."

History?  What history?

Pub Company Retrenches


This week, North West based Pubco and serial annoyer of customers and staff Austin's Inns announced plans to sell off it's entire estate of pubs.

"Pubs are on the way out." said Austin's Chairman John Woofer "there's far more money to be made in selling off the sites for housing or to be knocked down to build Old Folk's Homes.  The tricky bit is to do it without looking bad."

"What we usually do is paint the outside of the pub in cream and red fancy lettering and announce it's undergone a major refurbishment." gleefully recounted Woofer  "Then we post a couple of hundred fliers through nearby houses announcing this.  And when the upturn in trade doesn't come, we tell the Landlord that the business is unviable and we're moving him to another pub 35 miles away."

"My ambition is for this company to solely be an office sending accounts to Companies House every quarter.  So much easier than all this beer and hospitality nonsense.  Mind you, that doesn't mean we'll be completely abandoning our roots.  Would you like a whisky out of the drinks cabinet?"

"If you do, that'll be £7.30, please."

Friday, 30 September 2016

Expectation

To be fair, the Morrison's buyer doesn't seem to know much about beer either

I hate getting into arguments online.  No, really, I do.  All I really can easily handle is taking the piss out of something or somebody, being called a twat, and ending it there. As I've said before, I know I'm not everyone's cup of tea so undoubtedly more than a few people find me annoying. What I really don't like however, are those absolutely determined to grasp the wrong end of the stick and who proceed to bash you over the head with it.

The most recent incident happened on Monday.  It started trivially, as these things always do.  Basically, Moor Brewery have got permission to say their canned beer is "CAMRA Approved".  Something to do with secondary fermentation in the can, I believe.  I questioned what your average consumer would make of a can of beer pouring out cloudy.  One particularly well-known "Beer Communicator" replied that it was the job of the shop's staff to inform them that this was entirely normal.

As always with me, things escalated.  I asked the Communicator whether they themselves would expound their specialist beer knowledge for supermarket wages (usually minimum wage)? Naturally, they avoided the question and said that just because I was unhappy in my job it doesn't mean I should take it out on them.  What can you say to that?  Thankfully, I didn't have to, as they used the typical passive-aggressive tactic of saying they no longer wanted to discuss this further.

So, what kind of service should you expect in your average shop that sells beer?  Ideally, somewhere with a reasonably wide range would have someone reasonably knowledgeable on hand to say what the beer is like.  Unfortunately, outside specialist retail, this will very rarely be the case.

A supermarket these is staffed differently than how a lot of people imagine.    The majority of the work happens out of sight of the customer. The shelves are filled up during the night and early morning to minimise distraction and the workers are usually students on short-hours contracts (for flexibility reasons usually, older workers are usually filtered out because they have "commitments"). If there's anyone during the day, it's usually for cosmetic reasons, or to fill up the things that it's not possible to have an entire day's worth on the shelf at any one time.

So when a customer comes in and wants to know what beer or wine to buy, it will be difficult for staff to assist them in a pertinent way, even if there's anyone available to do so.  The best you will typically get is to be told what sells the most "so must be popular".  The days of having Specialist Licenced Department staff are pretty much over.  If you actually know a lot about drinks, you're unlikely to be prepared to work for what the supermarket trade will pay you.

As it happens, at the shop I work at, I'm known for knowing a bit about beer and spirits, so any queries about this inevitably end up directed to me.  To be honest, such things aren't really my job. I'm meant to be doing inventory management, date checking and pricing information.  But I go along and do it anyway, as it's easier to do that than to tell my colleagues "Piss off, I'm busy."

Such things are an exception.  In most places, you won't find anyone to explain why that can of Moor Revival was cloudier than you expected.  If you make enough of a fuss, you'll be given a refund.  But it's doubtful you'll be enlightened about the subtleties of unfiltered beer and can-conditioning.

With the advent of Craft Beer ranges in big shops, this will happen more and more often.  I can't see the retailers splashing out on specialised training for staff who could be used more "efficiently" filling shelves or manning the self-service till.  So, if you want knowledge, go to a specialist shop.  But don't complain you have to pay 33% more for the privilege.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Guest Blog Post - Kenny Garfunkel of FRAPE

Ever wondered what it's like to travel the country in search of pubs while carrying only a copy of the current Good Beer Guide and enough pies to last the train journey?  Well, wonder no more.  Today, we present the latest travelogue from Kenny Garfunkel of FRAPE (Fellowship of Real Ale Pub Exploration), a man who is on an unceasing quest to be barred from every GBG pub in the country.  We at Seeing The Lizards are hosting his latest blog post due to a "misunderstanding" with his usual web provider.


Filths.  Rev the engine! Watch them scatter!

402. Trump & Puncheon, Marton.

After throwing the GBG off the stairs and deciding to go wherever the open page landed, chance decreed I had to go to Blackpool today.  The train journey was uneventful, apart from it being populated by unwashed scrotes on the way to a Stag Do.  I narrowly escaped a chinning when my steak and kidney pie gravy splashed them just before I got off at Blackpool South. Luckily they were on the way to the Pleasure Beach. Phew.

As the pub was two miles from the station, I took a taxi there.  It happened to be chucking out time at the schools so the roads were clogged with crossings of filthy children.  I told the driver just to drive through them, and make sure he was about 40mph.  Then the kids would simply fly over the car - no sense in adding a broken windscreen to deaths after all.  He just ignored me, which is the kind of service you get these days.

Arriving at 3:20pm, I found the pub near deserted, with only a couple of old codgers biding their time before death no doubt.  Thankfully, they were serving Fuzzy Duck Cunning Stunt.  When I see this on I always take the opportunity to amuse the barmaid by re-spoonerising it. Sadly this time I got it wrong and ordered "Cunning Stunt".

The beer was ok, though after 20 minutes the pub was invaded by chavs who were probably relatives of the train scrotes (everybody's related in Blackpool I hear).  Seeing them, I was worried that I may not manage to get barred here due to comparatively good behaviour.  Desperate measures required.  I strode back to the bar, and asked the (somewhat rough around the edges barmaid) if she'd take them round the back.  I was told I was no longer welcome.  Score!

Heavy traffic in rural North Yorks.

967. Sheep & Discovery, Ripon

Though I've already done most of Yorkshire, this one is new entry in the GBG.  As Ripon doesn't have a railway station, I bribed my father to drive me there with promises of artisan craft lime and soda.  He moaned all the way along the back roads of North Yorks.  Potholes, sheep shit, poncy villages,  I was worried I'd have to fork out more that his usual soft drink in compensation.

We finally arrived there at around 1pm, and found it closed despite it saying in the Guide it opened at 12.  What shall we do, I asked Dad.  "I'm not bloody driving back all the way through that again.  You'll bloody wait till it opens."  The doors swung open around 1:30pm, thankfully. Guide "misprint" apparently.

Diving into the pub as we were bloody thirsty after the journey and long wait, we were confronted by rows of tables and cutlery wrapped in napkins.  The GBG had lied to me, and had sent me to a dining pub (probably to make up some kind of branch quota).  The greeter proffered menus and asked "Will sirs be dining today?".  I motioned to speak but Dad stopped me.  "A pint an a half of Ilkley Pale would be fine and we'll be on our way after."

A managed to make my way to the one stool they had near the toilets, and started ranting (quietly, I thought) about pubs being taken over by the filths and their grandparents who are ruining them for the rest of us with their demands for things like food, entertainment and comfortable seating.  We were asked to leave after two minutes.  "I can't take you anywhere." said Dad on the long journey home.

Somebody else got this pint after I departed

1435. The Hay Baler, Twyford

Knowing I had large sections of Hampshire to tick off, I boarded the Waterloo to Portsmouth train at the frankly stupid time of 10am.  As this was a South West train that had luckily not been cancelled, I arrived at Shawford only 45 mins late.  Tramping across the pavement-free and mud splattered one lane road towards Twyford, I did wonder what they hell I was doing. But, I reasoned, that Good Beer Guide isn't going to tick itself off.

I arrived at the pub sweaty and exhausted. So thirsty was I, I managed to drink a whole pint of Ringwood Boondoggle in one go.  "We don't see that in these parts much now" said the Landlord.  I told him this was how we drank in the North.  Much easier with the sparkler to knock all the bubbles up there.  He gave me an unwarranted strange look.  Surely he must have served odder people in his time,

I sat down to observe and inwardly mock the local characters.  Two fortysomethings were at a nearby table, swearing away during tellings of unlikely tales about being propositioned by gay men in Winchester.  "I told him to fucking take his fucking hand of my fucking knee before I made his fucking wrist even more limp that it already fucking was."  Suddenly, the Troggs Tapes made a lot more sense to me.  A posh chintz dressed woman  was at the bar downing glass after glass of Prosecco and how absolutely lovely Royal Ascot was this year.  Horsey types are right at home there I thought.

So entertaining was this, I went back to order another pint.  While waiting to be served, a young man next to me ordered a Blue Moon.  "Would you like an orange with it?" asked the barman.  I commented that the spirit of the late local MP Stephen Milligan was alive and well, and is it served with a bin liner and electrical flex too?  "That's in very poor taste, sir." he said "I think you'd better leave."

-

So, all in all, a very successful week in FRAPE land.  Join me next time when I'll be going round North Wales and attempting not to make untoward comments about incest and sheep.

See you soon,

Kenny

Sunday, 25 September 2016

News in Brief #54

Are there no prisons? No workhouses?  "Thankfully not. I'd have no customers"

Spoons Boss Visited by Ghosts


After announcing this week that his pubs would no longer be doing Christmas dinners, JD Wetherspoon honcho and really good employer honest Timbo Martin has admitted supernatural visitations.

"The first night," said Timbo "I was visited by a ghost of a pissed up office worker in a Santa hat. He took me to one of my pubs during Xmas 2015 where everyone was tucking into microwaved sliced turkey and defrosted sprouts. I noticed how everyone seemed happy enough."

"I thought nothing of it, until the following night where I was awoken by an apparition of a dishevelled and red faced old man holding a pint of John Smiths. I was transported to a vision of 2016 where the pub was deserted except for three lone alcoholics drinking treble Bell's."

Timbo continued "So, it was with trepidation I went to sleep on the third night. Sure enough, a sharp suited spectre appeared and he was brandishing a contract. 'This site is worth 750k in today's market, Mr. Martin' he said."

"What could it possibly all mean?"

"Mmm. Yes. Dear boy. These clothes are suitable for 1970s Stockport. "

Campaigner Goes Back to 70s


Fulfilling a long-time wish earlier this month, boring beer drinker and full-time grumpy sod Mudgie Mudgington got to travel back in time to his preferred era. "Who would have thought that the TARDIS would visit Stockport?" he exclaimed.

"Luckily I'd already saved up plenty of pre-1977 1p and 2p coins, and all those one and two shilling pieces for when decimalisation is repealed.  And my fashion sense hasn't moved on since 1962, so I fit in perfectly when I arrived."

"Sadly, when I got to the pub it was rammed, and there were all these blokes blocking the bar. When I got to the single electric real ale pump through the fog of smoke, the barman told me it was off and served me Whitbread Trophy instead."

"So I carried my pint of fizz to the one free spot by the jukebox." continued Mudgie  "Well, I thought, at least there'll be some decent Progressive Rock to listen to. But all it contained was Brotherhood of Man, Brian & Michael, and The Smurf Song. I downed my pint of keg, burped loudly and left."

"Waiting outside for the Doctor to take me back to 2016, a stray tabby walked past. But any cuteness was disabused when an 8-year-old boy grabbed it, and stuck a lit firework up it's backside."

"It's almost if," exclaimed a shocked Mudgie "the old days weren't all that good after all. "

So retro!

Football Club Bans Crafties


In shocking news this week, a Shoreditch resident was escorted out of his local football club for breaking the stadium's Dress & Behaviour Code. "It was horrible." cried horn-rimmed glasses wearer and avocado smasher Luke Lumberjack-Shirt "I thought football was meant to be inclusive."

"I bought my ticket, went into the ground and sat down. Then this, like, guy in a luminous jacket handed me a note. Match Day Notice it said.  'This is family friendly ground and skinny jeans and man buns are not permitted on Match Days'. Don't they want people like me to watch the game."

"But that wasn't the worst thing. One paragraph explained that only drinks purchased in the ground were allowed. Had I, like, got out my bottles of Partizan and Weird Beard, they'd've been confiscated and I'd've had to drink Coors Light."

"Despite it all, I decided to stay. But when my awesome buds Josh and Nathan arrived and we started discussing dry hopping and barrel aging, we were asked to leave by the stewards. Apparently  we were disturbing nearby fans with our esotericism. "

"I won't be going again, man." whined Luke "I don't feel comfortable there anymore."

A club spokesman told us "Give us a break, guv. There has to be at least one part of London that isn't gentrified yet."

Monday, 12 September 2016

News in Brief #53

"My GBG's not here yet. It's a conspiracy!"

Beer Guide Delay Causes Panic

This week, the unexpected lateness of the delivery of advance copies of The Good Beer Guide has caused mass consternation amongst CAMRA ticker types.  "The wait has been terrible," cried serial pub traveller Merton Nay-Chess "I've not known quite what to do with myself."

"Since I don't have a book to tell me where to go, I've been stuck at home.  It's got so bad that I've been scrawling obscure symbols about pub facilities on the walls in crayon, and then going over them with highlighter pens." he burbled

"It'd better arrive soon. My wife is threatening to divorce me if I don't get out of the house."

Meanwhile, rampant annoyer of the UK's landlords Kenny Garfunkel complained "I've put a note on my door demanding the delivery of my Beer Guide just in case the postman thinks of chucking it over a hedge or into the canal.  I've even put signs up from the sorting office to my flat, but still no joy."

"The train company are threatening to close down my local station," ranted Kenny "due to lack of use as three-quarters of all journeys are apparently by me going to god knows where,"

Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz said about the delays "Bloody tickers. Don't these people have a local to go to or something?"

Still less viscous than the average Craft IPA

Bottle Experiment Continues

The Department of Opacity at London University this month celebrated the Fifth Anniversary of their famous long term experiment.  "We saw that pitch drop thing on Wikipedia," said Professor John Spuriousfunding "and it inspired us."

"We did some research and decided that the flow rate of bitumen wasn't quite quite long-haul enough for our purposes.  So we bought a bottle of Kernel Motueka IPA and gave it a good shake beforehand ,put it in the fridge, as suggested and waited for it to clear."

"We've been checking it every week since September 7th 2011.  Since then the transparency has increased by 2 OUs.  As such, we're expecting it to completely clear by April 2156.  It's a good job we have a long term grant to keep the bottle top from rusting."

Kernel Head Brewer Evan O'Riordan told us.  "How intriguing.  Don't know why they're bothering, though.  I can never get my beers to clear."

"In fact, I heard of people serving that Motueka IPA by the slice."


The latest division of AB InBev hard at work

AB InBev Acquire Beer Blog

Despicable corporate takeover monster Anheuser-Busch InBev have announced their latest acquisition to the Drinks Media. Suprisingly, it's not a beer, a brewery or even a brand.  "No, we've decided on a different tack this time." intoned Head of Heartless Wholesale Desecration Hiram J. Heritagetrasher "We've bought one of those 'Beer Blog' things."

The blog in question "Seeing The Lizards", a barely read farrago of crude mockery and incoherent ramblings was bought this week from it's owner Matthew Lawrenson for the record price of 2 cases of beer.  "It definitely fills a gap in our portfolio." continued Heritagetrasher "It's so much effort and cost to keep doing things like ads about pumpkin peach ale to annoy and upset the 'beer community', so we sought out somebody who's been doing it for a long time and for free too."

Lawrenson, speaking from his usual barstool at the Moorbrook Inn, Preston while sinking his eighth pint of BlackJack and simultaneously pissing people off on Twitter "This is an exciting time for 'Seeing The Lizards'. I look forward to working in partnership with a company of AB InBev's stature to move forward with future content."

"Don't know what I'm going to to with these 48 cans of Camden IHL they gave me, though."

Sunday, 4 September 2016

T.O.F.T.S

Yes. And it's fucking shit, too

Seems The Corb is pissing people off again.  Apparently, he wants to ban after-work drinks on the grounds that they're "sexist".  Not what he appears to have meant, but when has Corbyn been misquoted or taken out of context by our lovably impartial and agenda-free mass media?

If he had said that, however, I would have agreed with him.  Not sure about the "sexist" part, not really for me to judge. But after-work drinks are appalling.

Last November, where I work an "event" was organised for a Curry Night.    Me?  Well, I did the poster that went up on the staff noticeboard (I'm the only person there competent in Microsoft Publisher).  That'll be it, I thought, done my bit. No need for me to go.  But they invited me anyway. "Note to self" I thought "Be ruder next time."

It was set up for a Sunday, and everyone was supposed to meet in the nearer of the two local Wetherspoons.  Thankfully, that's not one of the days I work, so I spent a couple of hours in the local fortifying myself with Evil Keg before walking down to Spoons.  Best get it over with, I sighed.  It was 7pm and I was the first to arrive.

As is their wont, nobody arrived simulteneously.  They trickled in one at a time and we had to keep moving to ever bigger tables, as Spoons is not really amenable to furniture shifting. An hour in, I was at the bar ordering a pint of something, when the works Lad Clique turned up.  They ordered Jagerbombs and downed them while their pints of lager were being poured.

"If it's going to be that kind of night, I don't want to be here." I said to myself.  I didn't go to the curry house.  Using my finely-honed avoidant skills, I slunk off without anybody noticing. Within 15 minutes, I was back at the local, pondering my narrow escape.

Next morning, I was in for 8am.  Having gone to bed at 11:30pm I was relatively fresh.  Which is more than can be said for my colleagues, many of whom were hung over.  Some hadn't even turned up for work.  One admitted driving from a nearby town quite probably over the legal limit.  That day, many tales were told of the less than edifying behaviour of certain people who had exceeded their alcohol tolerance at The Popworld club on Church Street.

And these events are meant to improve productivity and workplace cohesiveness.

I knew enough not to stay out.  These things rarely end well, and are probably the cause of many missed days work and accidents the day after.  Ever since, I've come up with excuses not to go on works nights out - some real, some pre-emptive, some entirely fictional. I'm sure I'll be seen as some kind of killjoy, censorious prig for not going.  But, sadly, I just don't enjoy these things.

They're planning a Bridget Jones Movie night next.  I said give me the date.  So I can plan something else.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Not For Everyone

Serious blogging for serious times taken seriously

I recently noticed I'd been deleted from a famous beer blog's blog roll, and unfollowed on Twitter by their blog's account.  I pondered this for a while, as this blog can't be any worse, more irrelevant or updated less frequently than some of the blogs that they still link to.

On Twitter (I still follow them, for what it's worth) they said they stop read blogs they see basically as dead wood.  Mildly insulting, I would have thought, but you can't please everyone.  I've observed this before about the more "serious" end of the beer blogging spectrum - irreverence is unwelcome.  This blog, with it's combination of piss-taking and off-kilter observations on pub culture, doesn't treat the "scene" with the seriousness it "deserves", apparently.

Judging from the comments I get, my blog's readership seems to skew towards the over-50s.  Not sure why, as I don't see what I do as particularly codger-friendly.  Maybe the older generation have lived long enough not to be so earnest about something as trivial as pubs and beer.  Plus, they're rarely seeking to make a living out of it.

If you've got a book to write, a column to pen, or (god help you) "content" to generate for a industry company, then you probably think you shouldn't be seen as frivolous.  In the gig economy, you're only as good as your last performance.  Being involved in that way, it seems, is serious business.

As for me and my stuff, I am (to quote a great man) serious about what I do, but not neccesarily the way I do it.  I'm sure I'm often seen as being rude about people and things for the sake of it.  There is a bit of that, yes.  I like a cheap laugh as much as anyone.  But, despite the endless promotions about "awesomeness" and "beer people are good people", there is (as with pretty much everything else in the world) an awful lot of nonsense and stupidity.  Sometimes when I point this out, it wins me few friends, but as it's one of the few talents I possess, I have to do it anyway.

I can see that those making beer have to be serious about it.  Many things can go wrong with brewing, so you have to treat the whole process with a certain level of gravitas.  Selling and marketing the stuff, too - people's livelihoods rely on making money by getting stuff out there and through the till or handpump.  But appreciating beer?  Surely the point is to enjoy it, not turn it into list-making, box-ticking academic exercise?

As, I always say - I treat the Beer Industry and Everything Involved In It with all the seriousness it deserves.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Dickhead

Amazingly, less objectionable than reality

We all like to think that whatever type of pub we go into, whatever the drinks it serves and whatever the type of clientele it's aiming for, that the people running the place have some idea what they are doing.  Unfortunately, you sometimes find they know very little outside their own little space.

Last night, for reasons best not gone into, I ended up at one of Preston's estate-type pubs (it's an old building, but everything else about it fits the "estate pub" stereotype).  Needless to say, the real ale offering is limited, Sharp's Doom Bar and a pump with a near-permanent "coming soon" on it's clip.  I'm not going to sneer at the lager and smooth drinkers of this pub, but it's Landlord's opinions of the beer trade are somewhat...unusual.

He'd heard from someone that I'd arrived here from the local multi-beer freehouse.  He'd've probably guessed anyway, as I was the only person that night who'd ordered the (very warm) Doom Bar.  I was informed that real ale is shit, because it goes off in three days, and CAMRA are a bunch of snobby wankers who never go to his pub (I cannot imagine why).

He continued - any pub, like the aforementioned multi-beer freehouse, that has 8 real ales on must be tipping away more than it sells, and anyone embarking on such a business model is a tosser.  I doubted that myself, but perhaps I was imagining all those casks of beer that have run out in front of me mid-pull.  Perhaps they throw away most of the beer beforehand to make it look as though the cask selling

It's very difficult to argue with someone advancing these arguments.  For him, no doubt, lager is what sells to his punters (a 'down to earth' collection from my observation), so anyone selling more than Doom Bar as a sop must be some kind of idiot.  He has no experience outside of this part of the licensed trade and cannot comprehend that anywhere else would be any different.

If his business eventually fails, I will find it difficult to have much sympathy for him.

Monday, 22 August 2016

News in Brief #52

"It's great! Apart from the things that aren't."

Brewery Job Not Super Awesome Fun Thing


Recently employed Craft Brewery marketing type, Luke Lumberjack-Shirt this week anonymously expressed his disappointment with his lot in the industry. "All my friends tell me it must be, like, wonderful to work somewhere like this.  But it really isn't, man."

"When I started here in June, I thought that Craft Brewing was great and everybody loved each other and was best mates and stuff." whinged Luke "But almost as soon as I sat down at my desk, my boss told me the brewery down the road were all bastards and it was my job to get them kicked off the lines at the local bars so we could sell more kegs"

"The actual beer making side is no better, man.  People turn up and say they want to work here, and the head brewer asks them if they know anything about about the job.  Sometimes he even gives them a test man.  It's terrible - apparently being awesome and enthusiastic isn't enough these days."

He went on "The people buying the beer are even worse.  They want to know if it's any good before buying it.  Don't they know anything about Craft, man?  It's all good.  But still I see them buying beers other than ours.  They're never happy. It's almost, like, working in an industry where you make things and have to actively sell them to people."

"I love my job, man.  But it's a bit shit really."

Coming to a town near you

Beer Bubble Confused 


In the current climate of exponentially expanding beer and brewery events and media, confusion is reigning about the exact terminology for the phenomena that are occurring.

Oft-cited inflation/enclosed atmosphere metaphor The Beer Bubble is as baffled as anyone "People are always talking about me, but they don't seem to be certain what I am,  Some are under the impression that I'm a crash waiting to happen due to to overproduction and oversupply of beer by more breweries than the market can sustain."

"Other people disagree.  They think I'm some kind of insular echo chamber where the same old people talk to each other about beer and exchange views in some kind of mutually reinforcing feedback loop completely procluding any dissent.  Even I have doubts about what I actually am any more".

"It's a shame there aren't any journalists who want to sort these things out,"  burbled Bubble "rather than go on freebie trips or write about their brewer friends. Maybe the actual economics of things are harder than fluffy stuff or something."

"You know, I preferred it when I was just something CAMRA whinged about as being too prevalent in keg beer,"

A Warm Welcome For All Customers. Those that follow the unspoken rules anyhow

Drink Order Taken at Country Pub 

(extract from "Opinion" Column, The Morning Advertiser, September 2016)

Last Sunday afternoon, a party of 6 arrived at The Ploughshare, a rural inn in Church Minshull.  After confirming their booking, they sat down and the first five placed an order for a roast beer sunday dinner with extra Yorkshires and gravy.  The waiter then got to the sixth member and asked him what he would like from the menu.

"Oh, I'm not really hungry" he said "I'll just have a pint of lager."

There was a sudden hush as everybody in the pub, staff customers and even the landlord's Golden Retriever Rex stood there open mouthed.

The waiter slowly edged away from the table, hopefully giving time for the man to change his mind and order food. No order was forthcoming, and the check arrived at the Chef's pinboard. "What the hell is this?" yelled the Chef "Five meals but six drinks?  You know this doesn't match the spec sheet, and will ruin my ordering for next week?  Get back out there and get a proper cover for that table!"

The waiter returned to the table of six and requested tactfully, that it would be awfully kind if sir would also have some food to go with his drink.  "But I thought this was a pub?" exclaimed the drinker.  The waiter patiently explained that this was 2016, and things didn't quite work that way any more.

"Oh." he said "I'll go and sit in the car, then." and got up to leave.

"Honestly," said the waiter to the Chef during their smoking break by the bins "What kind of customers are we attracting these days?"

Monday, 15 August 2016

News in Brief #51

What do you mean more outgoings than income?

Acclaimed Craft Bar Closes


Sole artisan beer joint in town, The Foo Bar in Penrith this week closed suddenly without warning.  "It's awful, man" sorrowfully recounted local dude Josh Avacodo-Toast "We had no idea this was going to happen."

Foo Bar opened last July with a 40-strong line-up of Craft beer and £5 bar snacks, lit with 67 Edison lightbulbs and done out entirely in mahogany and Skiddaw slate  "We had no idea how they were affording things," said a bemused Josh "but we thought, hey, it's Craft. Beer people are good people so it must be legit."

"Even when brewery reps came around and shouted at the barstaff about something called 'invoices', and they were forced to pay them out of the till and tip jar to make them leave, we didn't think there was anything wrong.  After all, there was all this awesome beer in front of us.  It was there, man, and we were drinking it. It was all good."

"It's almost as if as long as our conditions for a Great Place are met, we don't ask any awkward questions about where the funding is coming from."

Owner of Foo Bar, Chris Charlatan, tweeted on 1st August "Well, I've been sick....."

South East Grizedale CAMRA Committee Meeting, August 2016

CAMRA to Become Dining Club


Following the success of their Great British Beer Festival Awards dinner, middle-aged red-face type organisation The Campaign For Real Ale has decided to reconstitute itself as a Dinner Society.

CAMRA exec Tim Page told us "The average age of our active members is increasing all the time. They don't want to be gallivanting around towns and cities in search of real ales anymore.  They just want a nice meal and a quiet sit down."

"Let's face it, pretty much every pub is turning to it's food offer these days," continued Page "and our members are pretty much all over 70 now and can't put away the beer like they used to.  Plus it's a good way to keep out the riff-raff who might not be drinking the right things or make CAMRA look shabby in press photos."

"Why, we even refused entry at the Awards Dinner to some brewers who hadn't turned up in evening dress.  Honestly!  How are we meant to improve the image of beer drinking if our alleged representatives do that?"

Asked if, what with the increasing casualisation of dress and manner in the 21st century, what this might mean for the future of real ale drinking, Tim retorted "Future?  What has CAMRA got to do with the future?"

"Yeah, but think how hoppy it must be!"

New Brazilian Craft Cans Launched


Next week, Brazilian craft brewers Garrincha's Goat launch their new microbrewed canned beer Rio Verde.  "This is the beer that will finally put South American beer on the map!" gesticulated head brewer Joao dos Santos. "No longer will we solely be known as the birthplace of the evil ABInBev."

Asked what inspired this beer revolution, dos Santos said "I saw the Olympic Diving on the TV and noticed the green looking pool.  I thought 'What an amazing look! Everyone would want a beer like that!' And luckily, I heard they were draining the pool yesterday.  I had it tankered over to us and, after a bit of fermentation, we have a new beer!"

"We were worried it didn't quite look funny and cloudy enough for a Craft Can beer," he explained "but we got on the phone to the Olympic organisers and they sent us some of the sludge from the bottom of the pool to add and help it look right."

Perusing his preview can of Rio Verde, London hipster type Luke Lumberjack-Shirt mumbled "Hmm. Well, it tastes of chlorine and hydrogen peroxide.  It's bright green and has hairs and skin flakes floating in it. I wasn't too sure of it at first."

"But it comes in a can, right?  I gave it 4 stars on Untappd."