Thursday 30 May 2013

Old Beer Ads #9 - Whitbread Best Bitter (1982)

There are so many Whitbread ads on YouTube that one day I hope to do a special post on them.  I've picked this one today for the rigorous and pertinent reason that it was the first result on the search box for "Whitbread Beer".

Of all the beer ads I've seen for this series, this is the one that has most made me think  "What the bloody hell was the ad agency on when they came up with this?".  Based on poem written about the Russo-Turkish war which later became popular in music halls (my father still sings it to himself to this day), they stuck beery lyrics on it which debated the relative merits of handled mugs and nonic glasses.  The sheer unlikelihood of a 19th Century Russian aristocrat and a "son of the prophet" drinking Whitbread bitter is not mentioned.  One can certainly assume, however, that the cocaine dealers of Soho made thousands during brainstorm and flipchart session at the agency.

But for fans of historical comedy, though, this is interesting.  The singer is Tim McInnerny, best known as Percy and Captain Darling on Blackadder, whereas Ivan Skavinsky Skavar is played by none less than Stephen Fry.  I would have put the capitalist sellout of left-wing alternative comedians a bit later than this, but since Mr. Fry was prepared to promote a brewery-gobbling, tradition-trashing corporate monster like Whitbread in 1982, it seems I will have to revise my opinions.

And to think they slagged off Ben Elton for working with Andrew Lloyd Webber twenty years later...

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Drinka drinka drinka drink

I remember posting this on another blog nearly two years ago.  Things have not changed much.  In fact, they seem to have got worse.  Cue the Pub Curmudgeon :

Apparently, so this article says, drinking alcohol is not good for you.  And drinking lots and lots of alcohol can cause you major health problems.  Who’d'a thought it?  Who woulda thought it?

I’m sure it’s reasonably well known that the Inland Revenue makes a hefty profit on alcohol tax and, even if you take out the costs to the NHS and Police caused by alcohol abuse, I’m sure the Government kitty receives a nice boost from the booze.  So why does it spend so much time and effort trying to get people to reduce their intake?

From what I can see, it’s fairly simple.  The Government, comprised and run as it is by the Upper Classes, does not approve of the lower orders drinking.  They hate the idea of loud, garishly dressed, uncouth and smelly people cluttering up the streets when drunk.  The obvious manifestation is the flat tax on alcohol.  This is based on the amount of pure alcohol in the product.  At present, the rate for spirits (alcoholic beverages above 37.5% ABV) is £25.52 per litre of pure alcohol.

Let’s take my regular daily dram, Sheep Dip.  This costs around £25.  At 40%, a 700ml bottle contains 280ml of pure alcohol, meaning spirit duty will be £7.15 per bottle. Fair enough.  But this amount will be the same for all 40% 700ml bottles, whether stuff like High Commissioner (£12) or a rich bastard’s whisky such as this 1952 Highland Park.  See the iniquity?  The poor man must pay much more tax as a percentage of his purchase than the rich man.  This is because he cannot be trusted not to neck the whole bottle in an hour, beat up his wife, smash up a bus shelter and throw up on the council flowerbeds.

The health “initiatives” from the Department of Health always amaze me.  Eat your five portions of fruit and veg a day.  Drink moderately.  Don’t smoke.  Take more exercise.  For what end, I ask myself?  I can’t honestly believe the Government and their corporate paymasters actually care if we’re fit, healthy and free of pain.  They would gladly have the entire working class in agony so long as they kept quiet and didn’t cost anything.  I can only assume that they like the idea of controlling people - “It’s good for you, damn it.  And if we say it’s good for you, then you’ll do it, by God!”.

And despite what the BMA seems to believe, even if you lead the healthiest of lives, eventually you will die.  And these days (and we are actually more healthy, generally speaking, than we were 100 years ago) we are healthy enough to live long enough to die from nasty age-related diseases which will have us lingering in supported ill-health for years.  If I were cynical, I would say doctors want this as then there would be more demand for their highly-paid services.  I’m so glad I’m not that cynical, or anything.

With a bit of luck, and a lot of trying, I won’t end up like that.   My intention is go the way of my grandfather and drink myself to death by 75.  It’s not a cheerful train of thought, I’ll admit, but better than than being 90 and not having enough wherewithall to know who’s wiping my arse. (3/10/2011)

Friday 24 May 2013

Old Beer Ads #8 - Carling Black Label (1993)

I'm celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Dambusters raid (which round this way seems to be an excuse for Thwaites to promote Lancaster Bomber), I'm posting this old Carling Black Label ad (why did they drop the "Black Label"?  Was it what Bass thought was a "premium indicator" that this regular lout was undeserving of?).  If you were reading the popular press back then, the cliche was that German holidaymakers monopolised the sunbeds in Spanish resorts by getting up early and putting their towels on them.  The Brit Carling drinker here (who, of course,  hasn't even left his room) uses a famous tactic from "Britain's Finest Hour" to reserve his lager-swilling spot by the pool.

As far as early 90s Europhobia goes, this isn't actually all that bad.  My parents read The Sun, and the front page of that paper was inciting its readers to protest the EC at designated sites and shout "Up Yours, Delors!".  If they didn't, apparently, we would end up eating frogs legs and bratwurst for breakfast, and the great British cucumber would be abolished.  Or something.

Anyway, it's now 2013 and things have moved on.  As has beer advertising.  Hasn't it?

Wednesday 22 May 2013

The Swivel Eyed Loons

The Conservative Party have got into trouble recently.  Not for the things they should be getting into trouble for eg. iniquitous charges, workfare slavery or their austerity programme not working.  No, apparently one of Dave Cameron's mates has referred to Tory grass-roots activists as "swivel eyed loons".

It seems the Party leadership (consisting as it does of Dave's Eton schoolfriends) do not particularly represent the views of the average Tory activist (aged 68 and living in a Home Counties suburb).  The furore over gay marriage is a symptom of this.  Apparently, Cameron & co are a smug metropolitan elite whose views are out of touch with their street-tramping and envelope-stuffing volunteers.

If you read certain things, namely the lettercolumn of What's Brewing, CAMRA's executive committee are guilty of similar things.  One of Mike Benner's main selling points to the non-beer world is that he doesn't look like and sound like a stereotypical CAMRA member.  And, I'm sorry about this John Clarke et al. , but CAMRA members do have a bit of an image problem.  Ask any real ale pub landlord, and he'll regale you with tales of beards coming in, asking to sample all six beers, buying a half, complaining about short measures/temperature, and buggering off to the next pub to do the same.  One barman told me he'd put the price of a pint up for CAMRA members if he could.

How true these tales are I'm not sure.  Every self-selecting organisation has its git elements.  But what makes CAMRA different is that its membership has increased over the last 5 years (by something like 50%, I think), whereas that for political parties has declined.  The Conservative party is down to its hardcore vocal activists who probably don't represent what most Tory voters actually think on a lot of issues.  CAMRA's aged hardcore, while vocal, are increasingly being drowned out by newer (and I use this term advisedly as most new members are still over 35) voices. The whole anti-craft keg thing at the 2013 AGM was a mere raging against the dying light.   I believe craft keg will be totally accepted in the next decade, even if the committee have to amend the definition of "real ale".

Mike Benner, Colin Valentine etc. may not be to the taste of a lot of hardcore, 40-year veteran Beard Club members, but they are the future.  Whatever that may be.

Note : The title of this post is a quote from the media coverage of the Conservative Party, and is used as a description of this phenomenon.  I am not calling CAMRA members "swivel eyed loons".  Thank you.

Monday 20 May 2013

Old Beer Ads #7 - Hofmeister Lager (1983)

Lager was gaining popularity in the 80s, but had not yet succeeded in gaining the louty ascendancy it has today.  The big UK brewers wanted a slice of Carlsberg and Heineken's market and brewed their own brands along with getting the licences of "continental premium lagers".  In the belief that British drinkers preferred low-strength beers, most of these were rather low in ABV.  The business model was simple - knock up some adjunct-packed, flavour-free watery piss and bung a German-sounding name on it.  It worked for a time.

Hofmeister Lager was Scottish & Newcastle's attempt at this market.  For some reason, their ad agency cooked up commercials like this, starring cheek-faced bear George.  In an unlikely tale, here he leaves Bavaria to come to 1980s London in search of decent lager.  Yes, that's what I thought too.   These ads were stopped on the basis that a big, cuddly bear might entice children to drink.  How intoxicated the kiddywinks could have got on Hofmeister's 3.2% dishwater is open to debate.

The pissy-lager market is all but dead now, with only Skol of the major brands hanging on.  You can buy budget own-label supermarket lager, but at 2% what it's made from is anyone's guess.  Hofmeister itself died in 2003, an event so notable even the BBC website reported it.

One hopes that George himself was rescued by Animal Welfare, and was taken back to Germany.  He probably drinks Oettinger-Pils now.

Friday 17 May 2013

The Gentrification Of Beer

I live in a Northern post-industrial town.  What the place was built to do is long gone, leaving places like the docks and the factories disused and the nearby terraced housing miles from employment opportunities.  The nice people who see these things in the Old North don't like them, and usually have them replaced.  Typically with "new developments" - eg. shop units and flats for urban professionals.  Sometimes it's even successful.  But where do the poor people go?

A similar thing has happened with beer.  Cask ale, once the drink of the working man, has been taken from him and been gentrified, commodified and put in an echoey craft beer bar.  He now drinks lager at one of dwindling number of pubs in which he feels comfortable.  There is the impression that the masses have simply left cask to its own devices, and are simply drinking something that's more fashionable and heavily promoted.

The small gap that remains for cask has been filled by the middle classes, eager as ever to show their superiority over the herd by consuming something of apparent higher quality.  Even "dinosaur" regional breweries are seeking a piece of this market.  Brains of Cardiff, once the drink of dockers and miners, have built a "craft" brewery (and given it it's own website, so nobody could confuse it with the place that makes the industrial dark mild).  Thwaites of Blackburn who, along with trying to dominate the country with Wainwright, have built their "Crafty Dan" microbrewery on-site, which they promise to transport piece-by-piece when they move.  Even Robinsons of Stockport, makers of several oddly-similar tasting bitters proclaim that Dizzy Blonde and Unicorn are "craft beers" on their bottles.

Ironically, if any cask brewery tries to appeal to the workers with lively imagery or coarse humour, they're liable to end up on Pumpclip Parade , probably when a nice middle class educated person wanders into the "wrong" pub by mistake and is horrified by such base culture.  Don't these proles and plebs realise Craft Beer is not for them anymore", they think.

The workers will have their cooking lager, and swallow the middle class propaganda that "decent" beer is beyond their palates  - Let them drink Fosters!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Old Beer Ads #6 - Courage Best Bitter (1980)

This was one of the most famous beer ads of its time.  If I remember correctly from an old documentary, I watched years ago, Courage wanted to reassert their London heritage after many years of National-based filth-making. What better way to do it than do create a monochrome cockney fantasy pub and put a Chas & Dave soundtrack over it?  I think they dredged up some ancient lighting guy to do this (as few lighting directors of the time had experience of old-time B&W ambience).  Apparently, it looked awful while they were filming it.  But it came right on the print, as the old codger said it would all along.

Courage itself is long gone.  Flogged numerous times and subsequently dismembered, it's now merely a brand owned by Wells & Young.  I'm not sure if anyone misses them.  Amongst other crimes, they introduced Fosters into the UK, and even the Best Bitter was apparently a load of Cock too (pun!).

Fact #1 - The first record I bought was by Chas & Dave.  Yes, it was 'Snooker Loopy' in 1986.  In fact, I bought it three times as one 45 melted on the fire, and another one cracked.  Now you know why it was a hit. Also, the middle-eight of 'Snooker Loopy' was nicked from the 1963 hit "Don't You Think It's Time" by Mike Berry and the Outlaws (the bass player was one Chas Hodges Esq.).

Fact #2 - One of the heirs of the Courage Brewery was racing driver Piers Courage.  I visited his grave in Shenfield in 2009, as I was in town to see my girlfriend of the time.  The grave is not in the best of upkeep, sadly.  I thought at the time "Surely the Courage family must still be loaded after selling the brewery.  They should have kept the site in better nick than this".  I guess the great brewing families really were callous Tories after all.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Responsible Drinking Night / Dubious Piss-Up (delete as applicable)

1.16am : Hello, and welcome to my first sort-of-live blog. This is to demonstrate the exciting life I live. I'm presently cooking egg and chips for my tea. While I'm waiting I'm drinking this :
1.22am : Yes, Dave.  I'm sure Continuum is a "session beer". Session in strength maybe. But I'm not sure I could take too many ones of this IBU in one sitting.  Anyway, on with the eggs.  Oops, broke a yolk.  Never mind.  The grease will help cut through the hops.

1.32am : Say, are these big lumps of yeast at the bottom of this glass?  Did the filter break, Dave?  Doesn't mention "bottle conditioned" on the label.  Still, that's my RDA of Vitamin B for today.  Thanks Hardknott!  Are the chips done?  No, set the temperature wrong.  And I'm not even drunk yet.  Did I tell you about the time I almost gassed myself with this oven on New Year's Day?

1.35am : <clink> There goes the Continuum bottle into the recycle box. Happy landings.  It's had an eventful life, going from Cumbria to Preston.  Twice.

1.40am : Does Hardknott Code Black go with eggs?  It'd better.  Hope the chips aren't on fire or something. 

1.50am : Egg and chips have gone cold during Blogger failure.  Luckily I had it copied and pasted.  Will drink this while it's warming in the oven.  Code Black's a bit more bitter than my usual stouts (Titanic & Stringers) but not overly so.

1.53am : Checking early morning TV schedules.  Does nobody working in the TV industry consider the needs of the the midweek bizarre drunk?  Nothing but crap on again.  Still, could be worse.  Could be a BBC4  jazz night again.

1.56am : Peculiar aroma, this Code Black.  I don't notmally notice these things, but I have here.  Hmm.  Well, over halfway through anyway.  Any nonsense on YouTube?  Oh yes.  Ideal drunk late night viewing....
2.00am :  Food finally both cooked AND warm.  Nearly finished the beer, and found a Fireball XL5 episode to watch.   "Drama At Space City"?  Sounds good to me.  More strings than a 1959 Buddy Holly record.

2.02am : <clink> There goes the Code Black.  Strange finish, like what I get on old whiskies I have at the SMWS.  Next!

2.05am : Is it just me, or does Azimuth smell of tomato ketchup?  Maybe just hungry me anticipating my egg and chips, finally. 
2.10am :  Ahhh.  Azimuth.  Top stuff.  Rounded hoppiness.  Non-aggressive carbonation.  

2.12am : No, Commander Zero.  I don't think inviting Zoonie the Lazoon to stay in your house was the right thing to do.

2.15am : Azimuth very balanced.  Almost sweet, like the Toffo toffees we had back in the 1980s

2.18am : Ha ha ha.  Zoonie's trashing the place.  Commander Zero is threatening to beat his son too, and he threatens his dad with the Parent psychologist.  "Welcome Home!" as Zoonie says.

2.21am : Commander Zero's son looks just like my father (also called Jonathan, who was 9 when this went out in 1963).  Except maybe not quite as overweight.  Shame the Azimuth is nearly gone.

2.25am :  <clink> There goes the Azimuth.
2.27am : Queboid opened. 8%.  On to the real stuff, now.  Gloopy. 

2.28am : Quedboid is great.  Like some insane zoologist has bred together a young whisky and an IPA and set it against Space Patrol and Steve Zodiac.  Possibly.  Or maybe I've  drunk to much and watched too many 60s puppet sci-fi shows.

2.30am : Ha ha.  Jonathan Zero has set Fireball XL5 on fire, but Zoonie the Lazoon has an extinguisher pack.  If only my cats would do this sort of thing when I, say, left the gas on after New Year's Eve.

2.32am :  Zoonie saves the day for Space Patrol, Queboid is the best beer of the night,  I have eaten chips and and am still not drunk. 

 2.33am : And after that, you can sing along to Don Spencer's evocative closing theme music for Fireball XL5.  If nothing else, I need to go to the toilet. Take it away, Don :

Monday 13 May 2013

Robbie Williams & Titanic

Due to the recent success of Frederic Robinson's Elbow and Iron Maiden beers, it seems breweries are queuing up to get all manner of musical fools into their brewhouse to wield the mash paddle.  Contrarian popster Robbie Williams, however, has done it the other way.  He's invited brewers from his home town to help make his new single.

"I've always had a great regard for the people of Burslem," he said "despite hardly ever having been back there since I left in 1991.  I was sat bored in the studio wondering which thing to become addicted to next when I thought 'Yeah, I'll invite the Titanic Brewery boys to come and work on my new song. Can't turn out any worse than Rock DJ anyway'.  My people got on the phone to them and they were up for a trip to LA, saying something about it beating being stuck on the A500 with a vanload of empty casks."

Titanic Chairman Keith Bott took time out of his busy schedule of selling nitrokeg stout to London freehouses to talk to us.  "We got off the plane at LAX, jetlagged and starving as the airline didn't have any oatcakes on board, and a limo whisked us off to Robbie's studio.  Things were slightly awkward at first, but we soon got talking about UFOs, especially the time when aliens abducted the fruits we were going to use for a batch of Plum Porter.  Had to use essence in the end.  Anyway, Robbie had laid down most of the track already but we put some backing vocals on.  You could almost hear them in the finished mix!  We were so glad to be a part of the creative process."

"Hop To It!", the result of this unique collaboration will be on sale in June in Titanic's seven North Staffordshire pubs, before being ground up and sent to China for road aggregate filler.

(All information in this post is entirely fictional, as I hope you know)

Old Beer Ads #5 - Stones Bitter (1983)

Stones Bitter was a regular canned mainstay of my childhood years.  Every Christmas, my nan would stock up the cupboard below the drinks cabinets with it (and Woodpecker cider).  The only person I ever saw drinking it was Uncle John.  And he only ever had a couple on Boxing Day.  I presume it was the cheapest at the shop my grandparents went to.

For some reason, Stones was the most popular bitter in the country at one point.  Bass pushed it in a major way with this long-running ad campaign in the 80s.  Two (presumably from Sheffield) blokes wandered around the world, and found Stones Bitter in unlikely places.  And here is possibly the unlikeliest of all - Egypt.   Perhaps the market for golden English bitters was better in Islamic countries back in 1983.  Who knows?

One of the aforementioned blokes was Bernard Hill, who did these ads to pay whatever bills he had until he became famous enough not to need to do these things.  After that, Michael Angelis took his place for the rest of the run, as he tends to when more famous Liverpudlians think such populism is beneath them.

Bass themselves came to the opinion that such things were beneath them too.  The adverts were pulled in 1991 and marketing support for Stones was withdrawn throughout the decade and the brewery in Sheffield was shut in 1999.  The beers were contracted out to John Smiths (keg & can) and Everards (cask). Etc etc.  Stop me if you've heard this kind of thing before.

Does anyone drink canned bitter any more?  It must be years since I've seen that blindingly obvious orange Stones can emptily blowing round the town centre streets.

Friday 10 May 2013

A Lesser Class Of Member?

I joined CAMRA last August.  I paid my £25 online and received my membership pack in three days.  All well and good.  I also received my membership card.  It looks something like this :
 It was a plastic covered adhesive sticker thing attached to my welcome letter.  I presume it had all my details printed on it at the same time as the rest of the letter, using either an inkjet or laser printer.  Also all well and good.  Until, after a couple of weeks of carrying it around and producing it for various events, the details started wearing off.  Seems the surface is too shiny to hold printing ink for long. Hmm. Well.  Slight flaw there.  Did the Sages of St. Albans expect it to hold the letters for a whole year of usage?  "How do other members of the Beard Club deal with this issue?" I wondered.  Until one day, I was in my local CAMRA discount pub and saw some people flash this for money off :
This one looked much more fit for purpose.  Solid plastic, firmly printed with non-wearing ink.  I thought "I paid my money too.  Why do I not have one?  I presume there's a reason. So where and how do I get one?"

A short time after this, the words on my cardboard/plastic card finally became illegible.  I emailed CAMRA and told them their printing of my card was not much cop and nobody could read whether it was valid or not.  They emailed back promptly thanking me for my input and three days later my replacement arrived :
This time I realised I had learned my lesson.  I had it laminated.

Are there conditions attached to the silver card?  I couldn't find them on the Beards' website.  Do you have to pay several years in advance?  Be a member for a decade?  Be over 40?  Know Roger Protz personally from being on the SWP Central Committee with him? 

Or am I displaying the archetypal characteristic of the CAMRA member - that of entitlement?

Thursday 9 May 2013

Old Beer Ads #4 - Webster's Yorkshire Bitter (1990)

The memory of Websters is now fading, even though it hasn't been gone all that long. I've heard the ads with the talking dray horses were reasonably popular in their day (and certainly more popular than those with Professional Cliched Yorkshireman, Frederick Sewards Trueman).  But I chose this particular one because it actually mentions the fact of the brewery being closed and shipped off a few years before it happened.

Like Boddingtons, Websters is a once famous and widespread brand that has died a slow death and vanished from memory once its home brewery closed.  Grand Metropolitan sold the place to Courage around the time this ad was out, and soon after they were bought out by Scottish & Newcastle.  Already having John Smith's in the portfolio (at the time outselling Websters by 300%), S&N saw no need for Websters to exist and shut the brewery in 1996 with the loss of 400 jobs.  If any of those newly made redundant workers had somehow seen this ad then, it would have left a taste more bitter than any pint of Pennine ale.

Apparently, you can still find Websters in Yorkshire somewhere.  The keg bitter is still being brewed by everyone's favourite contractors, Burtonwood.  You will not see it advertised or promoted anywhere. 

Talking horses and Yorkshire fast bowlers having better things to do, it seems.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

What is to be done?

Pub closures are increasing. The British pub is dying.  Oh woe for the pub!  What is to be done?

I do my best.  I drink far more than the Government say I should be doing (The way I see it is - the British Pub is a threatened institution, and if I have to go to them and drink lots of beer to keep a great tradition alive, then it's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make).  But even my unwise alcohol intake cannot keep even Lancashire's pubs going by itself.

They say it's the smoking ban, or the recession, or the pubco beer tie.  These things don't help.  But in my opinion (and why else are you here if you don't want to hear it), the main reason is increasing social disapproval of public alcohol consumption.

As I've said before, a lot of bad things happened in the past.  We think we're better than we were even 30 years ago (we're not, but that's another story).  For most adults in the 1970s, the pub was a major recreational destination.  Pints were mere pennies.  Everyone socialised and they were happy, at least until enough booze was sunk to make people maudlin or fighty.   But with increased social and employment mobility, people simply knew fewer people nearby.  Certainly not well enough to go to the pub with them.  Would you want to risk being seen at your drunken worst by your barely-known neighbour?

No, best stay in and watch the TV.  And there's plenty of that these days (hundreds of channels as opposed to 3 in 1979).  Sure, you still want a drink.  Could go to the pub, but you work long hours and your wife would prefer you to be at home with her. Hooray for the £4 bottle of supermarket wine or slab of Carling.

So we reach the 21st Century, where pubgoing is an "event" rather than an automatic happening.  Beer is now lots of pennies rather than a few.  When you do go, you have two or three.  Don't want to risk being caught over the limit in the morning as your job is 25 miles from your house.  Can't go for a lunchtime pint even if you did have the time (presenteeism is everything).  Disciplinary offence now.

Everyone drinks a few less pints in the pub on average than they used to.  Pubs now are a wafer-thin margin business, and are being caught by increasing costs and decreased custom.  Of course the most marginal will go to the wall.  Welcome to Capitalism.

It goes without saying that the Upper Class Government we have does not approve of the plebs drinking, but who needs prohibition or even exorbitant taxation when you can simply create a social climate that frowns upon drinking with other people?

I care not what others think of me.  Anyone who has seen what I wear will attest to that.  But humans are creatures of fashion and herd mentality. Who wants to be seen doing what is simply not done?

Monday 6 May 2013

Old Beer Ads #3 - Boddingtons (1993)

Amazing as it seems now, in the mid-1990s Boddingtons Bitter was the third best selling cask bitter and the best selling canned bitter in the UK.  Such success was mostly built on the success of advertisments like this.  They all had the same basic plot.  30 seconds of some lavishly shot glamorous situations, and then a few seconds revealing it was actually about Mancunians drinking beer.

Personally speaking, and I was only a teenager at the time, I found these commercials appalling.  Looking back, I see them as a typical example of Soho adwankers taking a much-loved regional product and turning it into something to brayingly laugh about over cocktails in a poncy central London bar.  Parodies of contemporary ads may have made their fellow "creatives" applaud at the next workshop, but for those who can't grasp the intent, it's alienating and patronising.  I, and many other Northwesterners, would have gladly responded to such "affectionate ribbing" by demolishing the brewery at Strangeways ourselves.

It took another 14 years, but the charming fellows at AB-Inbev did it for us.  Boddies time in the sun was short, and the brand slowly tanked after it fell out the fashion these ads expensively promoted.  The can and keg stuff is still made at an enormous beer factory (I hesitate to call it a "brewery", myself) near the M6, but cask Boddingtons is long gone.

I have not seen it on either a font or handpump for nigh on a decade.  Surely somebody knows where the Boddies is buried?

Sunday 5 May 2013

The Local Beards and Evil Keg

My local CAMRA branch has 930 members, yet the Branch Secretary complains regularly on the website and branch magazine that he sees very few of us. Well....

As you may have seen on the news in recent times, bad things happened in the 1970s. Savile. Hall. Glitter etc. But, apparently, the worst thing that happened in the 1970s was keg beer. Enormous national breweries tried to foist 'tasteless fizzy beer' upon the poor drinker in an effort to make more money. And even though the Big Six breweries barely exist anymore, the industry as a whole has not been forgiven by those who went to pubs back then. The mere mention of kegs will get CAMRA members of a certain age foaming like a pint of Whitbread Trophy.

But whereas 40 years ago, keg was used to dispense brown dishwater bitter, the influence of US craft brewers has meant that UK craft brewers are using them to serve up their fancy expensive IPAs and Imperial stouts.  And, although these beers are undoubtedly  of higher quality that Watney's Red Barrel, the mere sight of the keg font has the beardy end of CAMRA ranting about evil chemical fizz.

And, unfortunately, the committee of my branch tends towards the hirsute.  For any discerning beer drinker under the age of 40, the free CAMRA rag they put out is both hilarious and exasperating. Keg beer, of whatever provenance, is referred to as 'zombeer'. Punk IPA, Schneider Weisse, Tetley Smooth. All the same. All evil. In fact, the craft keg is reckoned to be worse, as the 'thin end of the wedge theory' means its increasing popularity will allow the likes of Heineken to brand John Smith's as "craft". On the other hand, any previous keg-only pub that sticks a hand pump or two on the bar is lauded for giving customers the chance to buy Marston's Pedigree or Thwaites Wainwright. Cask, any cask, is by default better than any keg.

Sadly, the local committee are now confused. The anti-keg motions at the CAMRA AGM were defeated, and the member who stood for the National Committee on a 'death to zombeers' platform was soundly defeated. The next local mag is due out in June. It will make interesting reading. I plan to read it over a BrewDog at the craft place in a nearby town.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Old Beer Ads #2 - Greenall Whitley (1984-85?)

If you're from the North and a certain age, you will remember Greenall Whitley.  A regional brewer based in Warrington, they pumped out oceans of bog-standard brown filth for decades.  Strangers coming to our part of the world back then would arrive at one of their pubs, shout "Not bloody Greenalls!  Anything but that!" and hastily leave for somewhere where the beer tasted of something.

It's presumed the ad agency tasted the beer, as they say nothing about it's qualities.  Merely saying that having fought the law and the law winning, being back home in Lancashire is better than breaking rocks in the hot sun.  Even the pump-action shotgun wielding guard is moved to tears by the mention of Greenalls.  Maybe he tasted their beer too.

Whatever our hammer-wielding friend thinks of Greenall Whitley Land, it's assured that the company itself thought a lot less of it.  In the following few years after this ad's run, they bought numerous breweries around the North.  Then shut them all.  This must have been a good idea, as they even shut their own in Warrington in 1991, thus depriving future drinkers like me the uncertain privilege of drinking their Best Bitter.  After that, Greenall Whitley Ltd. slowly divested itself of it's assets over the next decade, eventually consisting of little more than some hotels and a few bottles of gin.  Never mind, I'm sure it all made money for someone.

Sadly, Mr. Curly Rockbreaker may have got back someday to the place he knows so well, but he would have been unlikely to have found anything he knew still remaining.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Bizarre Beers #1 - Hilden Barney's Brew

What goes into beer, exactly? I'd expect you to say the usual - yeast, malt, hops etc. You know, all the boring stuff. Sometimes they get adventurous and put coffee or chocolate in the stout. Maybe even in quantities where you'd taste it through the black malt.

Hilden Brewery have taken a different approach.  What appears to have happened is that someone was putting up the spice rack while brewing, and, having put one Schwartz jar too many inside, the whole bloody lot has fallen in.  Whether you like Barney's Brew depends on what you think of cardamom and black pepper in beer. The views of it online are certainly mixed.

I await the next brew from Hildens. Maybe "Fred's Brew". With rocks and dinosaur bones in. Probably