Friday 30 October 2015

News in Brief #33

McTand at the last CAMRA Social

Scotsman Drinks Lager

Last Wednesday afternoon, the South East Grizedale CAMRA branch descended upon Lehybison's Brewery for a tour and general drinking session.

Local Chairman Hamish McTand was served a pint of Lehybison's Lager by smirking brewery owner Louis Lehybison-Smythe. "I suppose you won't be drinking this, then" he giggled.  He was shocked when McTand downed the cold, fizzy pint in one gulp

"Och, what made you think that?" laughed McTand "Back home in Dumbarton we drink nothing else. I love the stuff" as he necked another.

"Actually, I awnly joined CAMRA tae complain in pubs about the quality of the Real Ale. I order pint o'something I know will be warm and flat, take it back to the bar and say 'Have tae have the Lager, then!' "

"Come awn," announced McTand to the shocked members and brewers "Everyone in CAMRA does it, right?"

"But I thought you loved me! Or at least knew my name!"

Craft Brewer Sad

Bob Motte, an East Cumbrian artisan beer maker, yesterday bemoaned the decline of cordial relations with his fellow Craft Pioneers, BrewDog

"Back in 2007, BrewDog and me were best mates." cried Bob "We pushed onwards against the confines of boring real ales, and increased awareness in the world about the potential of flavoursome craft beer."

"Now they've gone up in the world with their huge brewery in Aberdeen, they won't even acknowledge the likes of me.  It's almost as if they think their company is somehow apart since it's worth £300 million"

"I guess I'm some kind of threat to them with my 5-barrel plant and minimally supermarket presence." he theorised amusingly "They must be worried I'll take all their sales and publicity."

We queried BrewDog's James Watt on these events. "Bob Motte?" wondered Watty "Owns a micropub in Kent, right?"

"Saves on the Central Heating too!"

Pub Fire Turns Customers Into Cavemen

Now they the year has moved deep into Autumn, pubs across the land are attempting to create warmth and "ambience" by putting on a real fire.

Customers at the Earl of Pilkington tavern in Harrogate have expressed their approval of the combination of conflagrations and drinking. "Ugg like fire." said Martin Palmer, a Director of Finance at a Local printers "Fire warm and keep evil spirits away"

Chartered Accountant Warwick Hill advanced towards the fire with an outstretched stick, muttering "Ogg too like fire. Can have fire too?  Woman say woman will be with Ogg if Ogg get fire."

Mr.Palmer brandished a poker and coal scuttle threateningly at Mr. Hill and shouted "No! Fire is Ugg's!  Woman too is Ugg's. All women are Ugg's thanks to Fire God!"

Landlord Simon Canning sighed and said to another customer "I know. But they're even worse after a few drinks."

Monday 19 October 2015


But it's not like that on the TV when it's cool for cats

I've heard it said that the main thought behind all human interaction is this : "How do I get what I want from this person without me looking bad?"

There are many opinions about the exact point when an ostensible "Craft" brewery reaches the point of no longer being "Craft". The obvious one is it being bought by a macro. Other popular theories include supplying Tesco or contract brewing for other beer brands. But no, these aren't the real Endpoint of Craft.

No, it's when the brewery hires it's first member of staff specifically for Sales.

Though I've been cruel about the hidden intentions of some brewers in the past, it's probable that most of them do actually care about making the best beer they can. It's difficult to make a fortune as a microbrewery, so there must be other reasons for doing all that hard work with the mash run other than wanting to make millions.

It's fair to say that most went into it to make beer, and actually having to actively flog the stuff to distros and pubs is regarded as a chore. So, as soon as funds allow, a brewer hires someone to do the work of marketing and selling their beer.  No matter how good your product is, it's unlikely to sell itself.

How many of these sales staff actually know much about beer? Hard to say, but selling is fairly specialised in the 21st century. What isn't specialised is the product itself. Beer, Gin, ukuleles, 6mm steel tubing, the sales techniques are the same. Convince them they need it, and that you have it for them. For a "fair price", of course.  The Salesman doesn't need to like the product. He just has to sell it.  And he will use any means necessary to do so.

This blog post, and especially the comment section details what happens when the hitherto chummy world of Craft Beer collides with the world of modern marketing. And the Crafties are horrified. " Somebody tried to sell me beer and it turned out to be no good!", they cry. Well, yes, how do you think it gets sold? By it's own merits via Twitter?

The lesson to be learned here is : just because someone appears to be interested in you or your beer shop or pub, does not mean they care. They just want to sell their crap to you, and know being nice garners better results than rude pushiness.

People are not nice without a reason, I'm sorry to say.

Friday 16 October 2015

News in Brief #32

Soon to be consigned to history

Beer Bloggers Proclaim End of Beer Blogging

Thinly-veiled nom-de-plume scribblers and weighty prose Bloggers Bake and Bowley last week announced that beer blogging was at an end.

"Blogs have nothing new to say." intoned Bake  "All they do is retread the same ground about drinking and opinions about breweries. Everyone who was good at it has either finished or turned into a paid journalist and Beer Communicator."

Bowley continued "As for us, we only read and share pieces by professional writers, whom these days are our peers.  What can be more tedious and self-defeating than reading posts written by those doing it for so-called 'fun'."

"Beer blogging has served it's purpose." chanted both Bake and Bowley in unison "That is, to produce Us."

This is the Circle Line, right?

Crafties Travel To Outer London Beer Festival

Hipster types and people who work hard at looking as if they don't care too much Alanis Hash-Tagge and Luke Lumberjack-Shirt last Friday decided to take up their trade invitations to a Local Craft Beer Event.

"We, like, printed out our tickets to this 'IndyMan' thing," burbled Alanis "but we didn't recognise the map or directions. We called a taxi and gave them to the driver. It took 2 hours and £350 to get there. I think it's some kind of record in getting within 5 miles of the M25 from Shoreditch"

"We arrived at this cool old swimming pool." enthused Luke "Must have been, like, in Borehamwood or Rickmansworth or something.  Anyway, there was plenty of Camden Hells and we had a few thirds of that."

"After the tasting session finished, we asked our Uber driver to take us to the nearest tube stop. He looked, like, all confused for a bit, but he took us there."

"We were shocked to see it painted an unrecognisable yellow, though" perturbed Luke "And they'd redesigned the Underground Map and renamed the network 'Metro'. We put it down to that 10% New Zealand beer we had."

"We're still there, actually." confided Alanis "Where is Eccles anyway? I think it's a new station on the Hainault loop."

Dreadful people with poor social skills, yesterday

Inactive Member Fails to Meet Fellow CAMRA Types

Veteran Campaign for Real Ale member Dustin Loft this week realised he had never done anything with his membership but get 10p off his weekly 3 pints of Fuller's London Pride. "So," he announced grandly to nobody in particular "I decided to attend the local Branch Meeting at the Hard Peg in Harold Wood."

"I'd heard awful things about them, but decided to go along without any preconceived notions" he convincingly argued.

"When I arrived I saw them at a large table in the corner. A group of middle aged men deep in conversation and laughing intermittently.  I waited at the bar to be summoned"

"After 45 minutes, one of them came up and stood next to me, as if ordering a round of drinks. I had helpfully laid out my CAMRA membership card and " Association of Beer Communicators " certificate on the bar for easy seeing. But he just picked up his drinks and went back to the corner table." complained the offended Loft. "He just grunted and didn't even meet my gaze"

"It's no wonder the local CAMRA group have such a bad reputation if they behave like this. It's almost as if they expected me to go up and introduce myself."

"I'm not renewing my membership." ranted Dustin  "I could never be part of such a conceited and insular organisation."

Monday 12 October 2015

EvilKegFest 2015

Drinkin' the Evil Keg #12

I write this to not to say that IndyManBeerCon is awful, because it isn't. I write this to say that I am no good at it.

In retrospect, maybe a crowded event in an echoey disused swimming baths wasn't the best option for my personal comfort, but you can't say I don't try.

As I admitted before the event, I'm not really a social bunny.  While I saw many "Beer Communicators" going to every table and chatting away to whomever looked like they were involved in Brewing (and possibly blocking the way for people who just wanted a Beer), that's not really the way I operate. I don't possess the requisite social skill to carry that off without awkwardness or embarrassment.

Due to sheer amount of people and noise, I was quite anxious for the majority of the three hours I was there. Pictured in the above photo was one of the few spots I could actually stay still for a few seconds without having to move for somebody. But not for long.

On the plus side, the beer was very good (or at least the ones I had were), and the people who recognised me ("No, I'm somebody else with a porno tache and paisley shirt" etc.) were nice, even if some were probably put off by my awkward and nervous body language (I'm told I do that).

This has been difficult to write, and I'm sorry I've not been as gushingly positive as everyone else who went has been. For what it's worth, on the way back to Oxford Road Station, I stopped off at the Lass O'Gowrie and had a pint of Greene King. So you can say I've already been punished.

If I'm not honest about these things, what's the point of this blog?

Monday 5 October 2015

The Curiously Mechanical Nature

I'm sure it'll be good. I'm SURE it'll be good

There are beer festivals and beer festivals. The more famous type is typified by The Great British Beer Festival or the National Winter Ales Festival. They have it all. Wide ranging beers, decent setup, quality checks and temperature monitoring. And so the punters who go are (mostly) satisfied.

And then there's the other type. The one run by the local pub with the required floorspace.

I have rule about such events - the quality of the beer provided is in inverse proportion to the number on offer. If a place normally has, say, seven cask beers on sale and tries to do a hundred for a Fest, all delivered at different times in differing states of condition, then who can predict the actual beer quality on Opening Night? It's likely at least half of what's on offer is under-conditioned and only on sale because they printed the tasting notes booklet two weeks in advance.

To be fair, if there wasn't a market for this, such things wouldn't happen. But most pubs who do this kind of event know the ticker market is there to support it at least four times a year. Quality is immaterial compared to another biro-scribbled line in the moleskine notebook.

In the end a Local Beer Festival is like this. Go there. Get the tokens and glass. Use them to buy more beer than you would otherwise do, as you know the tokens are non-refundable. Leave after 8 halves wondering if the trip was worth it. A quite mechanical way of engaging with something that's supposed to be fun.

I say look at the list beforehand. If you think the beer is worth sitting with alone in a tent full of strangers, then by all means go. But otherwise, don't bother.