Sunday 30 August 2015

Cats and Rats and Elephants, But Sure as You're Born

Mmm...warm Jennings Bitter for £3.50

Historians said about the constantly infirm Charles II of Spain (1661-1700) that he "was always on the verge of death, but baffled Christendom by continuing to live.

Many similar things can be said about many pubs in the North. Take, for example, The Unicorn in Preston.

This place is a former Scottish & Newcastle house, based in a formerly packed pub district on North Road, just off the A6. Several pubs in the area have closed in this area (ie. The Mitre, which is now a Vet Surgery). But The Unicorn stubbornly hangs in there.

It's now owned, of course, by a Pubco. In this case Trust Inns of Chorley who own around 80 premises around the North West. We know this because of the "Do you want to run this pub?" sign that frequently appears on the side of the building. Three times in as many years, by my reckoning.

Numerous tales of unsuitable  landlords, crap beer and a dismal clientele abound about The Unicorn. But somehow it stays as a going concern. Being near the University of Central Lancashire, most assumed it would have been turned into student housing long ago (a fate of many pubs in this area). I can only imagine the cost of conversion is prohibitive. They even replaced the sign outside in June (whether at the Landlord or the Pubcos cost is unknown).

Me? Never been in. I'm presently in the pub next door which has better beer and a much better reputation. If the Unicorn wants to be a continuing and viable pub, it needs to address these issues, rather than A-boarding messages about 40,000 song karaoke database or Free Pool.

I'm betting it'll be student flats by 2020, myself.

Saturday 29 August 2015

Everybody's Making It Big But Me

We sing about beauty and we sing about truth for ten thousand dollars a show

It's often said that to be a Drinks writer, you don't require any original ideas, much writing ability or even any expertise in beers, wines or spirits. The sole ability you need is to type coherently while pissed.

And if that's a low bar, then most of the "Beer Blogging Community" can hurdle it with aplomb. After all, there's no money in it.

I don't think there's a single Blogger out there, even the ones who get ten times the pageviews I do, who has made a profit on this lark. Which, surprising as it may seem from someone like me,  I don't begrudge the rampant freebie imbibers of the European Beer Blogger Conference. Given the choice, what typical person wouldn't want to spend a weekend gossiping and drinking in congenial company with their peers?  It's the glue that binds us as a species together. And, like religion, bind it does, providing you don't scrutinise it too closely.

I would never fit in in such situations myself, but if somebody like Matt Curtis wants positivity fuel, liberally stoked with complementary booze, then that's fair enough. You do the cheerleading, Matt, and I'll do the mockery. The world needs both to stay in balance after all.

It's all harmless, really. As long as you take the resultant tales of free trips and schmoozing with the scepticism required.  You know the Bloggers won't want to appear rude to those who welcomed them so warmly, so don't expect impartiality on their part. Enjoy it for what it is.

They had fun. We can look askance and feel moderately virtuous. It's a win/win.

Monday 24 August 2015

News in Brief #28

When I were a lad, this were all fields

Last Bitter Drinker Preserved

In its ever increasingly desperate attempts to prevent the last 70 years from happening, English Heritage has decided to stick it's nose in again towards the pub trade.

"We've managed to prevent the destruction of those remaining Victorian bars; stopped them flattening those 1930s road pubs; we're even well on the way to preserving 1960s flat roof places." confided younger-than-expected tweedy figure Roger Anachronism "But what about those who make pubs what they are - the drinkers?"

So, after an extensive search, EH found the last drinker of Ordinary Bitter at a pub in Oldham. "We got to him just in time," whispered Roger "the landlord was just about to replace the Hyde's Original pump with BlackJack. Think about it - a whole culture lost forever."

"We slapped a preservation order on both him and the handpull, so future generations can observe what drinking in pubs was about in the 1950s and 60s".  But what, we asked, did the pub and the drinker think of this?

Roger sighed " Does that matter? You don't know anything about Heritage, do you?"
"We're Communicating Beer, not taking the piss."

Beer Festival Organisers Sell Off Surplus

Last weekend, the organisers of the London Crafty Beer Fest 2015 proclaimed their event to be an Awesome Success. So awesome, in fact, that they're selling off what's left to all-comers on eBay. "Yeah, dudes," announced LCBF CEO Luke Lumberjack-Shirt, "We decided to let our awesome beer friends have a chance of a permanent souvenir of our event. Plus we need to get rid of it before it becomes uncool."

The listing is as follows :

12 x blue pallets : Previously used for making bars, furniture, tables, benches, climbing frames. Possibly could convert to things for moving stuff around - £29 each

3500 2/3 pint glasses : All marked "LCBF 2015". Many marked with moustache wax and black lipstick. £100 the lot or £200 if we have to clean them.

1 Keg Thornbridge Jaipur X : 8% still remaining inside. Come on, you want this! - £105

1 x Curt Mattis (Blogger) : Found in corner after Saturday session after "curating" one too many beers.  Will pay for removal.

All proceeds go to pay for the freebies given to favoured Bloggers to say nice things about LCBF and slag off the CAMRA event round the corner.
Suffering so you don't have to

Man Lives As Beer Blogger for a Day

Noticing that Beer Bloggers seem to have all the fun, curious online type Sam Notarobot announced online last Tuesday "I've decided to live the beer blogger life for a day!  It'll be wonderful." Having not much evidence to base this on, he worked out an itinerary based on tweets an blog posts by prominent beer types. Here is his report.

"I got up at 9am on my day off. I finished off the half can of Beavertown Black Betty from the previous night. Kept it's condition well, I found.

"I went down to the local Wetherspoons for breakfast. As I couldn't be seen drinking Smiths or Cask, I chose a can of Bengali to go with my full English. I think this counts as some kind of cereal .

" Leaving Spoons, I decided on an early pub crawl of the Craft bars.  Tried some of the new Craft kegs that had gone on over the previous few days. Only thirds as I don't want to get drunk. Had 7. One barman said 'You some kind of Blogger or something?' As if! Tweeted about presumptuousness of pub staff

"It was now 1300, and a Beer Festival had started in a nearby Masonic Hall. Went along with a CAMRA card and got in free. Had another 8 pints. Tweeted drinks along with brewer names in order to get followers. Nobody did. Except Thwaites. They follow everyone apparently.

" Got home at 2200. Decided to crack open my stash of Thornbridge Halcyon while writing up the day's events in my post. Woke up face down on the keyboard at 4:30am with an 'crack in Earth' type hangover

"Checked over what I'd done. Blog post unintelligible nonsense, and appear to have got into a massive Twitter argument about some minor point of pub etiquette.  Managed to throw up just before work. Felt a bit better.

"My admiration of Bloggers has exponentially increased. How they do this every day, I don't know."

Wednesday 19 August 2015

An Interview with Beer

In the Cheery spirit of the times, we here at Seeing The Lizards have decided to do something unusual for us. We don't usually do interviews, preferring to let our chief writer expound his uniquely bitter and inappropriate view of the world and its beverages. But in an exclusive to this blog, we have used the goodwill built up over the last two years to secure an Exclusive interview with Beer itself.

StL : Good evening, Beer. Both our blog's readers and us have known you for a long time. How's life finding you at the moment?

BEER : Oh, you know how it goes. Been feeling a bit tired and flat recently. Especially in busy and crowded places.  But I've been resting for the right amount of time this week, and I'm feeling good. Effervescent, if you will.

StL : Good to hear, Beer.  You've probably needed the rest as a lot of people have been talking about you.

BEER : Yeah, I've noticed. Don't know why really. I'm just your average malt-based drink. Must be all the hops they've been putting in me or something.

StL : Well, that was the main topic about a year or so ago, yes.  But apparently some people have not been as positive about you as certain other people would like.

BEER : Oh? Why's that? Have people been seeing me dispensed or presented in the wrong way again?

StL : Actually, they've been saying that although you've not been at your best recently, your drinkers shouldn't talk about it in public as it makes you look bad.

BEER : Huh?

StL : What they should do, however, is complain to your servers, quietly, and out of earshot so as not to disgrace you in front of other potential customers.

BEER : That doesn't make any sense.  If I'm not being presented right, then people should know. How will things improve if everything's being done on the sly? It took me years to be accepted as a credible drink. If anything's not right, it should be sorted out promptly and visibly.

StL : I think some of your cheerleaders are worried about you not being seen in a positive light by the, shall we say, higher echelons of society if people are badmouthing you in a public forum.

BEER : But it's not my fault if I'm served flat and lifeless. It's the ones serving me that are to blame.

StL : Do you think they're more worried about how they would look? In front of their peers and contacts? Having to admit you're not at your best sometimes?

BEER : If that's so, then I feel sorry for them. I really do.

StL : Why's that?

BEER : Look, you know me. I'm an unpretentious drink. I'm shared and enjoyed by people in an almost incidental manner sometimes. I've never bigged myself up as a major thing. Other people have done that, by pairing me with food or tasting me in glasses the size of thimbles. They're the ones trying to make me something I'm not. To be honest, I think they've lost sight of the point of me.

StL : Yes, I suppose that is quite sad.

BEER : I feel like saying to them 'I'm still Beer, guys. Enjoy me as much as you like. But enjoy me. Don't make me a grave and serious topic of discussion. I'm just a drink, not the meaning of life."

StL : Eloquently put, Beer. Thank you for your time and we hope things go well for you in the near future.

BEER : Thanks, it's good to know there are those who like me for what I am, rather than what they want me to be.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

News in Brief #27

Look at them. They come in here, drink all the booze.

GBBF Now Just Trade Day

Crowded booze up masquerading as pleasurable drinking  experience The Great British Beer Festival has announced it's dates for 2016. Or rather, date.

"Yeah, it's true" opined CAMRA festival organiser Bob Unwashedglass "I opened the doors this afternoon to let in the the expectant Great British drinking public to sample our fine real ales and thought 'Isn't this fucking awful?' I mean it is, isn't it?"

"Every year, all these bastards come in just to get pissed. They don't care about Real Ale or it's history. So we decided that from next year, we'll just have the Trade Day. That way, we can have decent appreciative talks and gossip about which brewers are dodging tax."

But surely just the Trade crowd wouldn't be able to finish off those hundreds of casks, we asked. "Don't you believe it, mate! We're right pissheads, us." retorted Bob "Plus, we'll invite the Bloggers along. Most of them are alkies who are only in it for free booze anyway."

Tickets for the 2016 Great British Beer Festival will be available sometime, from somewhere or other, if you know somebody.

Small scale artisan brewery yesterday

BrewDog Declared No Longer Craft

The self-appointed arbiters of Craft Enlightenment, the Beer Commenterati have informed everyone else in the beer world that IBU and adjunct adding types BrewDog no longer meet the criteria of being a Craft Brewery.

"I'm sure you're expecting us to say," opined Crafty hipster beer middle-man Ivan Vancooler "that we don't approve of them going into bed with Tesco and exploiting gullible investors by selling ever decreasing shares in the brewery for ever increasing amounts of money. But, no. We just think they make too much beer and are trying to appeal to too many people."

"Surely the point of being a Craft Brewery is to brew a small amount of beer that can only be found in an obscure bar only known to the righteous few,  where they can sip it while writing extensive notes on hopping and food pairings.  But BrewDog have betrayed this ideal in our eyes."

Flat cap wearing press releaser James Watt countered "Hey, we're trying our best. Our large brewery in Ellon is still technically a "shed", and we're increasing our quality controls to make the beer more opaque. What more do they want?"

"If all else fails, we'll get the Craft Brewers Alliance to redefine what Craft Beer actually is. It's worked before."

Harry says Cans are Craft

Tramp Crowdfunds Next Drink

After experiencing ever diminishing returns using traditional beggingw methods, street-dwelling itinerant Harry Stringtrousers has got with 21st Century social media to find new ways of cadging money for a can of Super.

"I've set up a Kickstarter for myself." explained Harry "I found people no longer responded to hackneyed techniques such as muttering '10p for a cup of tea, guv?'.  It's almost as if they thought I shouldn't be doing it. Anyway, if you go to, you'll find my full range of incentives and rewards."

The minimum pledge, 40p, will get you a note saying "Cheers, kind sir" scrawled on the back of a Subway bag. £2 will get you an invitation to pose for a photo with Harry's emaciated and mangy dog, Welpark. £6.50 (the price of a 4-pack of Tennents Super at Barry's nearest offy) means you can spend a day with a BBC 4 documentary crew depicting the plight of the alcoholic homeless to the wealthy middle class in Islington.

Nearby Shoreditch railway arch brewer Luke Lumberjack-Shirt complained "I think this scheme is terrible. What kind of person would reduce themselves to such beggary and relying on the goodwill of the gullible?"

"Somebody should put a stop to it. Why are you laughing?"

Monday 3 August 2015

News in Brief #26

"She must be late due to traffic."

Stood-Up Man Not Leaving

In a pub just now, a single man whose date has not turned up is looking for ways to hide his predicament and delay the inevitable.

Dave Desperate, 38, made an arrangement to meet Linda Nonchalant, a co-worker at Burnham Plastics, at the Marquess of Granby public house, Bromley. But she has not appeared, despite Dave waiting 2 hours past the agreed time.

"No," he protested "I always buy two drinks at once. It saves me getting up and ordering again." as he pulled up his seat two inches closer to the bar.

Ordering a packet of dry roasted, he proclaimed "No, I don't want anything else. I'll be eating later. Maybe."

"I only look sad because it's how my face always is. Another pint and a half of lager, please."
Ask a Scotsman

London Pubs Now Serving Tennents

Due to complaints in certain quarters about the poor quality of cask beer in the capital, all London pubs have placed large orders for 18-gallon kegs of Tennents Lager.

"I don't think your average Londoner has got the hang of this real ale thing yet," complained John Warmenflat, landlord of the Robb Dogg, Farringdon. "We've decided on Tennents as it's unfamiliar to most of our local drinkers who usually have Carlsberg."

"We can sell it at a £1.50 premium as an exotic world Lager." said John, wearing the skin off his hands as he rubbed them together.

Frequent visitor to London, Scotsman Hamish McTand said "Och, well I always drink the lager here anyway.  And the gin. Through a sparkler, o'course."
"Totally tasteless! Appropriate!"

Japanese Brewer Makes Commemorative Beer

Hiroshima brewer Maki Biru this week announced the will be making a special beer marking the tragic events in Cumbria 5 years ago.

Head Brewer Aguri Katayama told us "Like all my fellow Japanese, we at Maki were shocked and appalled by the gun rampage of Derrick Bird in 2010. We in this city have known tragedy too"

"We have decided to produce a special brew, Whitehaven Massacre to express our sorrow at this anniversary." extolled Katayama-san "It's an Imperial IPA with blood orange and a pinch of cordite. I've looked it up on Wikipedia, and now know how a shooting such as this affects a small community."

Asked if this seemed a bit tasteless and insensitive, what with flogging a beer using a tragedy, Aguri told us "It's ok. It was a long way away and a long while ago. And I'm not likely to meet anyone directly affected by Mr. Bird's murders."

"So that's all right then".