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,


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


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?"