Monday, 25 July 2016

News in Brief #50

"I'm going to battle and evolve these into empty glasses!"

Pokemon Just Want Quiet Drink

As Pokemon Go fever infests the country, pubs and bars are setting themselves up as Pokemon gyms and running PokePub crawls.  "This new thing is awesome," exclaimed Craft Bar owner and inveterate liar Luke Lumberjack-Shirt "All I have to do is, like, go on Facebook and say a Bulbasaur has been found in my till and these people who should know better come round and start buying drinks in an effort to capture it.  I've made thousands this weekend!"

Less happy about this are the Pokemon themselves.  19 year old Charmander Dave Smith told us "I spend all week running around this town based on GPS data, so I know this pub is quiet and can have a nice pint of lager on my break." he complained "But then the barmaid sees me on her mobile and tells everyone I'm here.  I have to hide in the smoking area and hope my flaming tail isn't noticed."

18-year-old Jigglypuff Katrina Brown concurred "Look, I don't want to do any fighting on my day off.  Evolving is all well and good, but sometimes I just want to sit down with a Pimms & lemonade on a hot day without some muppet walking up to me and waving their phone around.  I'd tell them to piss off, if I could only do it without inflating and drawing attention to myself."

We asked CAMRA traditionalist dinosaur and Branch Treasurer Greg Steakbake about these events in the pub trade "What?  People wandering around town centres looking for unfamiliar things while ignoring everyone else?  They should come on on South East Grizedale's next Ticker Crawl."

"But I'll have to WAIT a bit LONGER!"

Campaigner Moans About Bar Blockers

This week, bemoaner of modernism and wannabe codger Mudgie Mudgington had yet another unsatisfactory experience in a local pub "I was at my monthly CAMRA meeting, because even I like to feel young sometimes.  Eventually, it was my turn to but the drinks but when I got there, there were these people in front of the bar,"

Continued Mudgie "I couldn't see what was on the pumps or anything.  Even though I was in a Wetherspoons so I knew that it would be Doom Bar, Ruddles, Abbot and a random local golden ale.  Still, these timewasters were just stood there.  It didn't look as they were buying drinks to me."

"Don't these people know," he ranted, warming to his task as usual "that you should just buy your drink and go to a table to sit alone in complete silence.  This "social" thing will be the death of pubs, I tell you.  What they should be doing is going and sitting at a suitable place where they can see everything that's going on in the pub and watching."

"That way, they'll have more things to tweet and blog about. Works for me."

Blah blah clue blah blah in title blah blah

Trade Magazine Mainly Just Ads

Licenced and Hospitality trade rag The Morning Advertiser this week has been revealed to be mostly just advertisments for Licenced and Hospitality trade products.
Media type and analysis wonk Bob Obviousinfo revealed his findings "I cut up all the pages of the latest issue and removed all the paid for ads.  Then I removed the 'sponsored content' as that's been paid for too.  And," he went on "after I'd taken out the stuff that was blatantly just rewritted press releases, I was left with just the opinion columns."

"Which were all just parochial, bitter rants against customer stupidity."

"So," disclosed Bob "It appears the Morning Advertiser is mainly paid for by commercial organisations wanting publicity for their products and services, which I'm sure you're aware is absolutely unheard of for a trade magazine.  This will revolutionise the entire industry, leading to more informative and impartial content and increased sales and interest!"

"Or perhaps not.  Whichever is easier and cheaper."

Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Price of Freedom

(produced by Seeing the Lizards not in collaboration with Freedom Brewery)
Oh dear

One Tuesday about three weeks ago, I was in the the local.  Shocking, I know.  Tuesday's not my usual day, but I was on holiday and lacked both the energy and imagination to do anything else.  I was sat there with two other regulars enjoying my usual pint of filthy keg, when in walked this bloke with a huge bag of bottles.

I forget his name, but he was the Rep from Freedom Brewery, and he was doing the rounds of what was considered likely takers for his beer.  The bottles, of course, were free samples.  He laid them out on the bar and asked the landlord for a bottle opener.  Glasses were produced and we all got to try them.  There was a lager (Freedom Four), an IPA (East India Pale), a Kolsch-style beer (King Koln) and an unnamed "experimental" pale ale.

I'd had the Freedom Four before, when it was the house lager of a craft bar I go to.  As I recall, the bar staff got fed up with being asked by punters "What's the price of Freedom?" and had the pub company replace it with Amstel (craaaaaaft).  I'm not a lager connoisseur, but the other two regulars are inveterate fizz fans, and they lapped it up.  Then we had the India Pale, in my opinion a solid, well made 7/10 beer.  The landlord tried it, looked at the price quoted for an 18 and told the rep outright "I can get better stuff than this from Blackjack cheaper."

We swiftly moved on to the "experimental" pale.  The landlord again gave his honest opinion "Pale ale?  This tastes just like the lager, mate.  It needs more hops than this."  I of course had to add my opinion "I presume that the since Freedom mostly brew lager, everything they do is going to be like lager even if it's meant to be something else."  The landlord and I concurred on the main point - Freedom is priced too highly for beer that doesn't really stand out as exemplars of their stated styles.

We didn't even open the Kolsch.

The rep packed up his stuff , said his goodbyes and left.  He was probably found crying in the car park a few minutes later.  I hope we weren't seen to be that hard on his beer.  There was nothing wrong with it, it was just a bit dull.  I also hope he managed to flog some to other pubs with a less tough crowd in them.

Anyone for King Koln?  The bottle's still behind the bar.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Transitory Nature

Maybe some day you'll miss me, and when you really miss me, you'll turn around I won't be there

Recently, one of the barmaids at my local announced she was leaving to go and live in a campsite in the Balkans. "Next Saturday's my last shift, she said.  Of course, everyone made the suitably sad noises. Except, of course, me.  "You, don't look sad, Matt." she reacted.

"I presume there will be someone to serve drinks after you go, right?" I said "Are you sad to be going?". She admitted she wasn't really, as she was excited about the future.  But she still looked at me as though I was some kind of evil bastard.

As many of you know, I've worked in retail for 20 years.  The average service length of anyone in a low-level retail job is around 18 months (which will probably go down even further as the shops seek ever younger staff in ever fewer hours contracts), so in that time I've probably worked with hundreds of people.  When they leave, they always say they'll keep in touch with everyone and pop in now and again.  They almost never do.

In such a transitory line of work, it doesn't pay to be sentimental, though I do appreciate not everybody is able to be as heartless as me.  Recently, a pub manager I know said he was going to concentrate on a new pub he had the lease on 5 miles away (in the end he didn't, but that's a tale for another blog post).  Naturally, the story about this spread through his base of hardcore regulars, culminating in an incident one Sunday evening when one of them, who admittedly had been drinking pretty much all day, started crying at the bar. I did try to console him by saying this happened all the time in the pub trade and that nobody was actually dying or anything. How far I got in convincing him, I'm not sure.

In the end, life is what it is and people will move on.  One way or another you lose contact with everybody eventually, some in ways more final than others.  In the pub I'm presently typing this in, the member of staff presently serving is leaving next week to go and study in America.  I'm sure I'll miss them when they're not here, but there'll be someone behind the bar next Monday to serve me pints of Windermere Pale nonetheless.

Bar work pays poorly, and the hours are inconsistent.  Be nice to the staff, maybe even converse with them, but don't expect them to be there forever.  And, of course, remember to keep your distance.

Monday, 11 July 2016

News in Brief #49

You want beer as WELL? 

Craft Bar Actually Just Twitter Feed

Last Thursday evening, Crafty type and thrift store curator Luke Lumberjack-Shirt decided to look for new awesome place to go "I hadn't checked anything out for, like, hours so loads of places had probably opened since then." he enthused "So I pumped a few hashtags into Twitter regarding beer bars."

"I soon found this place that was in town, The Conferring Alpaca. They said they were putting on Hoppin' Frog Chocolate Bacon IPA on that minute.  Naturally, I rushed, like, straight over."

"But when I got to the address, it turned out to be a boarded-up dry cleaners." whined Luke "They exploited my trusting nature, man. It's terrible."

Owner of the @conferringalpaca feed Dave Flybynight admitted "It's all true. I had no idea you actually had to open a bar these days to do Craft beer."

"I think I'll say I'm putting Ballast Point Star Fruit and Turnip Saison on next. #awesomecraft #dudes."

Annoying the codgers makes it all worthwhile 

Child Goes To Pub

Last Sunday afternoon, a young couple were spotted taking their 6 year old daughter into the Earl of Effingham pub, Guiseley,  much to the ire of local CAMRA treasurer Greg Steakbake. "There's absolutely nothing for children in pubs.  These people are turning my local into a creche!" he ranted.

"If I wanted to spend time with children," continued Greg "I'd spend my time with my family instead of in here. Not that my son ever brings the grandchildren to see me.  Last week I was sat here and 'accidently' kicked a 3 year old who was running around, though his mother didn't see it that way. Idiots."

Trendy young parents Jocasta and Crispin Entitled retorted "Children are the future and should be nurtured and cherished,  and taken everywhere their parents go to experience an enriching adult environment. Anyway, just because we have children doesn't mean our lives are over."

Their daughter Madison added "I only 6 but I like going to the pub with mummy and daddy."

"I have to do this now. I heard there won't be any pubs left to go to by the time I'm 18."

Who needs Cornish independence? They've  taken over

Refurbished Estate Pub Not Selling Doom Bar

Hospitality industry watchers were this week shocked and horrified by the news emerging from pubco estate development job The Bull Tavern, Parbold. "I was astounded at the news." exclaimed reporter Bob Obviousinfo "I looked at the photos or the bar, and Sharps Doom Bar wasn't anywhere to be seen."

"It's doesn't make sense. They have a huge telly showing Sky Sports and a Jagermeister branded fridge. There are even bored young barstaff on their mobiles.  But there's no sign of tasteless brown Cornish filth." said Obviousinfo "This will shake the pub industry to it's core."

Landlord of the Bull, John Shaftedbypunch told us "Yeah, I know I could get it free.  But I'd have to mess about in the cellar and everything with it. My token 'real ale' option is just a cask of water with gravy browning in it. Much cheaper as I can make it in the kitchen. Nobody's complained."

"Mind you, nobody's tried it either. They don't drink cask here."

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Pursuit of Homogeneity

Castle, yesterday

In my latest much-commented-upon eccentric decision, I'm presently on holiday in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Sure, you can go to places like Barbados or Aruba or Hawaii, but what could those locations possibly offer in comparison to the view I can see from my hotel room presently?

Anyway, as unpromising as this location may appear, it is a five minute walk from the the local Craft bar, Ten Green Bottles (which I mentioned here a few months back).  To be fair, Castle does lack obvious entertainment options (unless you're a connoisseur of demolition/building sites or Butters John Bee signs) so I have spent much of the last 24 hours in establishments such as this.

The aforementioned Craft bar is, well, Craft.  I'm sure anyone who reads this will know what that entails.  I myself know what to expect, and didn't blanch when quoted £6.50 for a single can of Beavertown Bloody Notorious.  It's the going rate for such things, or so I'm told.  And after that somewhat hefty alcohol hit, I decided to go on a 15 minute walk to the the local beer-led (as in both cask and craft) place, The Hop Inn on Albert Street.
Craft, yesterday

I let myself into the Lounge Bar and saw Dark Star Espresso was on. Fair enough, and ordered a pint of that.  While I was halfway down said pint, the bar manager climbed onto the bar to amend the "Craft Keg" blackboard. "Ooh, What's on next?" I thought.  Yes, The Hop Inn now had Beavertown Bloody Notorious on draught.   An otherwise unpromising North Staffordshire market town now had two places that served the Craftiest thing you could think of on a cloudy Wednesday evening in July.

Me? I'd had it already so had a pint of Bass next instead.  Then it occurred to me - Bass is likely now to be more difficult to find in this town than 9.1% Blood Orange Collaboration Double IPA, which would have been unthinkable even five years ago.

This is the strange thing about Craft Beer drinkers. They like their sours, saisons, imperial stouts and double IPAs.  And they want to find them wherever they go. Preston, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Derby. Peterborough - if it has a Craft bar, then this is what it must do.  The actual brewers of said beers must vary, but the styles have to be there lest the bar or town be condemned as boring or behind the times.  While the Crafty types condemn "boring" golden ales or bitters that were ubiquitous 20 years ago, their pursuit of novelty has simply resulted in a new kind of homogeneity.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Craft stuff. I wouldn't have paid £6.50 for that can if I didn't. But I do like a more diverse experience than some of the more fashion-oriented beer types seem to be looking for.  If the march of Craft wipes out or even diminishes the more traditional beer styles in the name of "awesomeness", then beer culture will be much the poorer for it.
Old man beer, yesterday

Homegeneity created in the name of diversity.  The Law of Unintended Consequences.  Who knows?  Get down the pub and order a pint of bitter. You may even like it.

Monday, 4 July 2016

News in Brief #48

"We'll make sure nobody tells us things we don't want to hear"

CAMRA Revitalisation Continues Apace

Allegedly moribund consumer organisation The Campaign for Real Ale this week commended it's own success of its ongoing Revitalisation project. "Here at St. Albans we've been reading through all the submitted emails and leaflets," burbled CAMRA founder Michael Hardman "and we can now decide on a proper course of action."

"We've decided to appoint another ten people to the Revitalisation committee. Exciting times are ahead! Nothing says 'prompt decision making' more than extra members on a committee to discuss things." triumphalised Hardman.

"We've also sent emails to all the members inviting them to a meeting next week helpfully located 110 miles away and scheduled for 9am on a Saturday during railway works." continued Mikey "This goes to show how sensitive we are to the needs of the membership. "

South East Grizedale branch Treasurer Greg Steakbake told us "I've made sure our meeting is scheduled for April 2017, so hopefully this nonsense will all be forgotten by then. After that we can concentrate on the really important CAMRA business."

"Like slagging off craft beer in our local magazine."

Rewarding laziness and/or desperation

Barperson Gets Long Service Award

This Monday,  pub service operative Claire Glassbreaker was presented with a trophy celebrating her 6 weeks of employment at the Marquess of Hartington, a town centre pub in Wakefield. "It's a momentous occasion," shouted landlord Barry Shortmeasure "Nobody has ever stayed here so long."

"Normally I sack them before now for being rude to customers, or robbing drinks from the optics. Or they leave under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations. Or they just disappear one day and are never seen or heard of again."

"Claire is major asset to this pub. She never complains about rota changes or loses the keys or sits outside smoking rollies instead of cleaning the bar." congratulated Shortmeasure "I don't know what I'd do without her."

Meanwhile, Claire herself admitted quietly "The awards nice and stuff, but I haven't the heart to tell Barry I'm giving one day's notice tomorrow to go backpacking in Croatia. I'll be sorry to leave this wonderful place and all it's wonderful characters. "

"Actually, that's a lie. So long suckers! "

Who do you think you are kidding Mr. Juncker? 

BREXIT Provokes Blogger Reaction

In the commotion created by the UK electorate's decision to leave the European Union, one group of voices has been hitherto ignored, that of Beer Bloggers.

Remainer and awesome dude Curt Mattis expressed his dismay at the results "It's, like, really awful man. I'm going to need to show my passport to people when I go to Europe to create content for my partner breweries."

"Not to mention that all my favourite beers I have shipped over from the USA and all those New World hops will be, like, really expensive now." cried Curty. "I'll probably have to start drinking English beer at Wetherspoons or something. It's awful!"

Happier about events was nostalgist Exiteer and pikestaff wielder Mudgie Mudgington "I heartily approve of this result. For too long, we in the UK have been told what to do by Brussels bureaucrats!"

"No longer will all the road signs have to display all the distances in kilometres, and I'll never be served 500ml of beer instead of a good old British Imperial pint!"

"Except at Sam Smiths of course, where they serve that and call it a pint anyway."