Wednesday 22 January 2014

Hoppier Than Hopf**k

"We only had enough hops for one pint, but we managed somehow"
"Please, if you're reading this, please send help. Something... something has gone terribly wrong. We tried to make something so hoppy it was hoppier than even a pile of hops. But we made something terrible. Something that's more monster than hops. We never meant for it to end like this. Blood. Blood and hops, everywhere. May God have mercy on us all."
From The Guide To Craft Beer 
I think it all started when a local barman told me about this beer he had at another pub in town.  It was, he said, a complete "hopfuck".  So off I went to the place and asked for the requisite name I was told.  Stone Ruination IPA it was called.  I handed over my £9 and was given in return a green bottle with tiny writing and a BrewDog half-pint glass.

And yes, reader, I was well and truly fucked by hops.

Despairing of ever being able to taste anything else for the rest of the day, I ordered a Fentiman's Vicky Lemonade, usually a desperate measure when I feel myself getting too pissed to order another beer.  I could barely taste a bloody thing.

You really do have to wonder sometimes.  Is there anything but hops in the Crafty world?  Woe betide the beer that makes claims of hoppiness on it's label that fails to meet the expectation of the Crafties, such as this review for Thwaites 13 Guns at CAMRGB.  But while the bottle labels have the self-conscious "Craft" design, they're aimed at the regular Premium Bottled Ale buyer, who would consider the likes of 13 Guns bloody hoppy if he usually drank Thwaites Original or Wainwright.

Reading through CAMRGB's reviews, you will struggle to find a beer given a half decent review if it isn't (a) a high ABV American-style IPA (b) an Imperial Stout or (c) a Saison.  Reading them, you have to wonder if the reviewer isn't suffering from a major case of palate fatigue, to which only ever increasing amounts of alpha-acids and hops can respond to and overcome.  Ironically, the few "regular" beers that get decent write-ups are usually described with the phrase "I liked this, but I don't know why."

Not being able to find my flannel shirt and flat cap, or grow a moustache fast enough, I decided to take drastic measures to avoid beer hipster ennui.  And I was saved.  Yes, saved. By Marston's.

:Luckily, a local shop was reducing the 5L fastcasks of Pedigree (they have a short shelf-life due to the "live yeast" they apparently contain), and picked one up at 80% off.  "I'd even drink Pedigree at £3.59 for nine pints of it", I thought.  The first couple tasted of nothing, but slowly my senses got used to Marston's BlandCask, and was having reasonable fun by it's eventual draining time two days later.  And it worked.  By Sunday, even Kirkby Lonsdale's beers tasted hoppy again.

Hops are good.  Hops provide a lot of the flavour in the vast majority of beers.  But are they the be-all and end-all of good beer? 

Wednesday 15 January 2014

The Parody Account

Once upon a time, in a land far far away (in this case my bedroom), I created a Parody Twitter account.  I'm not a man for broad strokes.  I like the minutae of things.  So, my subject was a fictional whisky blender, Richard Proboscis, a wafer-thin spoof of real whisky blender Richard Paterson.  I got his posting style down to a tee, and recounted unlikely adventures of whisky-spilling and vociferous salesmanship.  Apparently, the people at Whyte & Mackay loved it, though Mr. Paterson himself was apparently slightly dubious.

I was possibly a bit sharp, but I don't think I was ever abusive or cruel.  And anyway, Mr. Paterson reduced his tweeting frequency and changed his style somewhat after a few months.  I do feel slightly guilty as I wonder if I was responsible for that.  I stopped posting to the account after three months, if for no other reason than it meant I ran out of material.

Which brings me to today's events.  Recently, an alleged spoof accout targeting famed beer bloggers Boak & Bailey has appeared.  I would post a link here, but it's likely the account will be deleted in the next few hours.  To say the output has been obscure and esoteric is putting it mildly.  Spurious ratings of blogs and non-sequiturs about online habits were the main topics.

But for some reason, today they have targeted the blameless Melissa Cole.  I'd love to be able to say the results have been needle-sharp, coruscating satire of beer bloggery.  I'd even love to be able to say it even turned the corners of my mouth up for a millisecond.  But sadly no.  It's been more along the lines of what the Daily Mail do to people they think their readers need to hate.  An unflattering photo here, thinly-veiled abuse there.  And always crying their rights in the name of freedom.

I appreciate that you get utter knobs on the Twitter as much as in the real world.  But the aforementioned knobs tend to use their psedonymity to avoid the  much deserved kicking they'd get in the so-called "real" world.

Freedom is a good thing, but how some people use it makes you despair

Monday 6 January 2014

The Walkout

These days, the pub industry runs on a tight margin.  Stock levels are kept down during quiet times, expensive products are exchanged for cheaper ones, and most of all staff levels are cut as far as they can be.

Early January is always the slowest time of the year. My regular haunt has cut 16 hours off its trading time because, frankly, nobody is drinking on weekday afternoons.  Many places now only have one person on the rota most times. This can present certain difficulties, as I saw today.

I was in a different pub to usual, due to the usual place's aforementioned new opening hours. I was one of three customers there. The barman took a food order from the other two and disappeared into the kitchen to sort it out. Then the pub phone started ringing. It rang for over a minute, so it was presumably important.  Then another customer came to the bar. He saw nobody there. He waited 30 seconds and left. Potential trade lost.  The barman reappeared just as the door shut, but he wouldn't have known any of this.

This sometimes happens at my usual place, but as I know the staff there, I usually know what they're doing and can tell any waiting customers they'll get served in, literally, about one minute. They can then make up their own mind whether they want to stay. But what happens when there's no regular to explain this?

No, they will just bugger off and think "Well, not going there again".  So,  how can the customer be satisfied and the pub keep it's staffing rota balanced for trade? In my opinion, it can't. These two desires cannot meet in the middle, and a certain amount of potential trade will always be lost.

But the thing is, the pub will never know how much it's losing...