Sunday 31 January 2016

News in Brief #38

You can see the signs. Just don't TOUCH them

Top Beer Writer Does Kipling

"If you can extol the virtues of Craft Beer while making most of your money from corporate tastings and marketing advice.

If you often refer back to your Eighties youth about being mocked for listening to New Order and Morrissey, but your former peers now say they liked the same as you did when you know very well they actually preferred Tears For Fears and Duran Duran.

If you can constantly say London is dying, but won't move away despite everywhere else being cheaper to live in and making no difference to whether you can write your crowdfunded book or not (though it is further from those Drinks Corporation HQs you don't talk about).

If you go anywhere in the world, and can get into some kind of fracas about beer dispense, temperature, knowledge or barstaff being less than polite to your friends due to misunderstandings.

And if you can do all that and say afterwards you don't like being a dick about it all...then you'll be Britain's Top Beer Writer, my son"
"<GASP!> A half pint dimple mug!"

Pub Glass Hoard Discovered

Last week, West Midlands County archaeologists were stunned upon being informed by the police of a 10,000 plus cache of stolen glassware in a Wolverhampton terraced house. "We believe this is the largest find of these items ever found in this country." wittered overexcited field type Mick Trowelsifter.

"I was called yesterday to this long unoccupied dwelling," continued Mick "and I peered through the letterbox. I was asked what I saw. 'Wonderful things', I replied"

"Take this glass here. An excellent example of a 1962 Nonik. These can fetch anywhere between 50p to £1 at auction now. A quick glance through the collection revealed that these items have been stolen from Black Country pubs over a 50 year period. Also unearthed were glass concealment paraphernalia, such as big coats with large pockets and thick plastic carrier bags."

"I've yet to find any beer festival glasses yet. My hypothesis is that the collector would actually have had to pay for them. Our plans are to put this collection on a touring exhibition documenting pointless petty theft in the 20th Century."

Minutae-lovers and obsessives Bake and Bowley were called in to bring their expertise for the item recording "Sadly, we've still not found that octagonal pint we've been looking for since 2010. But there are another 6 rooms left to sort through."

"We should be done by 2022."
You'll be sorry when there's no more cask beer. Yes, sorry.

Keg Filth Takes Over CAMRA Fest

Attendees at the 2016 Manchester Beery Festival last weekend were shocked to find the organisers had allowed some local brewers to set up a keykeg bar. "It's disgraceful," muttered Branch Treasurer Greg Steakbake "It goes against everything that we as an organisation stand for."

"I was so incensed," ranted Greg "That I stood next to this Keg bar muttering about excess carbonation, icy coldness and dead yeast cells to those punters who asked for the beers. Not that I tried it myself, of course. Quality is immaterial anyway."

We asked hackneyed metaphor personification Thinend O'Wedge what its plans were "It's excellent!", it said.

"Now we've got keg into a CAMRA beer festival, it won't be long before I can get my Corporo-Beer chemical fizz minions to install these bars at every place in the country.  And once that's done, I can simply abolish Real Ale."

"My aim is to have everyone drinking Watney's Red Barrel again by the end of 2017.  It will be 2% abv and cost £5 a pint. And those complacent idiots who let keg in will be on their knees, crying. Bwah-ha-ha-ha!"

Local pub landlord WorStonch told us when he heard about this "Murst real ale's fuckin' crap man, y'knaa.  I'm doon the Schloss, on my 18th pint of tank Pilsner Urquell."

"Keg is fuckin' greeeyat, man!"

Friday 29 January 2016


Once Cathy Price had visited, there was no reason to stay open

A common complaint of the, shall we say, more senior of the pub commerariat is that "Pub Culture" is dying. Hundreds of them close every year, and the amount of drinks sold in the on-trade has been decreasing for over two decades. Some will blame the smoking ban, some high prices and others an aging demographic.

But most likely the reason is this : Most people don't want pubs anymore.

The reasons for the current density of pubs in towns and cities areas are many, and lie mainly in the 19th Century. Then, Britain had an increasingly large urban population, brewers that could turn out large amounts of palatable beer, and a much more relaxed attitude to alcohol consumption than we see today. Then as now, running a pub wasn't exactly the path to riches, but it did provide a reasonable living.

Over the last 50 years, many things have changed. Some for the better and some for the worse. But the main thing is the growth in media and communications technology. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, most people had to rely on other people for entertainment. The pub was where you found people, and many pints were sunk every night in between tellings of tales of decreasing veracity.  And that was good, everyone got well socialised and they were used to the alcohol consumption.   But then people bought their first TV, and the pub had competition.

Of course, now we have a media world people in the 1960s would barely comprehend. Facebook, YouTube, Skype, thousands of TV channels, all the music ever recorded just a click away. Not to mention the streaming internet porn. These provide most of the stimulation most humans will ever want, and they don't even need to leave the house. Who needs the pub, or even other people?

Ever since the 1980s, society has become ever more atomised, solipsistic and even misanthropic. A partner and a couple of friends are typically what most people use for face-to-face socialisation. And what partner would put up with their other half spending most of their evenings in the pub? (Ironically this is probably behind the ever increasing divorce rate - couples spending too much time together). People now live vicariously, through a phone screen and apps.

Something has been lost somewhere, undoubtedly. But people don't mind because they cannot miss what they've never had.  It's now entirely normal to spend evenings with Netflix and a bottle of wine, and not even to know your neighbours names.  I'm fairly sure that the increasingly poor behaviour and sense of entitlement amongst the human race today is a consequence of this. If you don't deal with people in real life on a regular basis, how would you ever learn what is and isn't acceptable?

The pub as a mass institution is probably dead now. Many of the ones that remain are mainly populated by oddballs (CAMRA types and Crafty hipsters both), misfits with no significant relationships, and bored alcoholics. Regular society has turned its back on the pub, as it's needs are being met elsewhere. There are probably too many pubs for it's current level of patronage to support, and plenty more will close before equilibrium is reached.

I will be sad when that day happens. As one of the aforementioned misfits, I'll probably still be drinking in them if I have the money and my internal organs hold up. But happen it will.

Sadly, it's what most people, through their behaviour, have indicated they want.

Monday 18 January 2016

News in Brief #37

We don't need Beer and we're happy about it

Beer Fest Failure Blamed on New Limits

Last Saturday night, the 2016 Manchester Beery Fest closed with 85% of the beer still undrunk. The event's organisers have blamed new Government guidelines for the disappointing sales.

Deputy Fest Manager Hamish McTand sorrowfully recounted the four day disaster to us while tipping cask after cask into the River Irwell "Och, it looked guid when we let the bastards in on Wednesday afternoon. But after one pint, they all said 'Sorry, got tae go, as ah've had 2 units I'm allowed today'. It was awfy bad. We were empty by 6pm."

"Me and the rest of the volunteers would have finished the beer off," whispered McTand "But we'd blown our units quality checking. Intae the drain it goes, then."

Campaigner and freedom-wisher Mudgie Mudgington told us "Normally I'd spend all week condemning all involved on Twitter. But I picked up some cheap stuff at Home Bargains last week."

"Leave the house and go to Deansgate? Not bloody likely."

Coming soon to a pub near you. If you're really unlucky

Craft Fan Talks to People in Pub

"Oh, THAT beer? I saw it in the Bottle Cap in Southport last week. Much better kept of course. I'm friends with the owner. Great guy. Gives me lots of free samples of his strong stuff. What's that darling? He just wants rid of me? Pay no attention to her, she just doesn't like me drinking too much.

" Yeah, so me and the Bottle Cap's owner, Sam his name is, went on a tour of Random Brick down in London. Great times. Some people say their lager's no better than Foster's but they have a much better recipe. I'll give you one of my sample bottles they gave me next time you're in. You'll be able to tell the difference right?

"Tell you want, I'll have another pint of that Imperial IPA and a taster for my new friend, please Dave. What's that, darling? I've had enough today? I'll be the judge of that, darling. We'll talk about this when we we get home.

" Take no notice of her. I know what I'm talking about. Yeah, you can really taste the Soriachi Ace hops in this, man. Sorry, man? Untappd says it's 100% Willamette?.... "

Diversity for the diverse, man

Bar Enacts Diversity Policy

Camden-located Hipster hangout The Bifurcating Bonobo last week congratulated itself in it's efforts to increase the diversity of it's patrons. Worried that it was gaining a reputation as a place exclusively for middle-class university-educated young white men, manager Luke Lumberjack-Shirt decided to change things.

"I was worried," confided Luke "that the drinks offer of beer at £6 for 2/3rds of a pint may not entice the working classes into my establishment. So I bought a case of Corona and stuck it in the bottom corner of the fridge. I heard the lower orders always look down so as to be humble in front of their betters."

Luke continued "Also knowing our entertainment offering of retro boardgames would be of little interest to them, I set up a TV in the backroom streaming episodes of Jeremy Kyle and Big Brother. I hear they're rapt by these things."

"In any event, it'll save me having to talk to them. I mean, what would I actually say to the working classes? It's embarrassing.  Hopefully they'll leave once we've taken a few photos to prove we're not a poncy, snob-filled place and put them on Twitter."

Communicator and passive-aggresivist Curt Mattis ranted upon hearing this news "It was me what started all this wasn't it? I'll take credit for it here, but delete my name off all subtweets on this #thanxkbye"

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Professionalism, or The Role of the Blogger

Beer Bloggers. Making things harder for Reasons

What with the prevalence of Higher Educational qualifications amongst the young in the 21st century, there's been an increasing tendency to take something relatively simple and analyse it to death in order to convince others that it's serious and worthy subject of study. The beer blog, most specifically the "beer communicator" style of blog, is the most obvious manifestation of this.

If, as Chris Hall says here, 2015 was the turning point in the world of beer Bloggery, with an increase in the quality of debate and the subjects being discussed, what of the "hobby blogger "? There are some blogs out there, and we know which they are, which the authors' intentions go "professional" are blatant. The ambition isn't just naked, it's stripped off in the stand and is running around the pitch with its cock waving about.

The blogs of the already professional beer writers, infrequent as they are due to commitments, can be filtered easily. These people have a living to make, and cannot be seen to be too critical, or overly engage their teeth to the feeding hand. These types tend to avoid specifics about producers or suppliers, unless they know for certain there'll be no comeback.

The "beer communicator' blog is different, and thus harder to judge. They need to get their writing and, more importantly, their intentions 'out there'.  Contacts need to be made, relationships built, so that interaction between communicator and producer is mutually beneficial. If not today, then at some point in the future.  Beer journalism, for want of a better term, pays buttons. What living there is is dependent on the largesse of bars and brewers. This is the thinking behind the oft-quoted quip "beer people are good people".  A simplification, yes, but a necessary one for the functioning of the breed.

I'm not suggesting the Beer Communicators are corrupted by freebies and contacts, more that this is a natural result of interacting with the Trade. As Charlie Brooker once said, it's easy to slag off TV shows and their makers from behind a newspaper column, but when you have your own production company these people become your peers. And what do you say to them at parties? Such is the dilemma of the Beer Communicator.

If you want honest, unvarnished opinions then you have to go to the dedicated amateur blog. These are done for a desire for attention, a need to show off knowledge, or maybe even for fun. They may not be polished, or even coherent. But what you will get is honest opinions. Even if they are wrong. Or worse, contrary to received opinion.  It's usually unfair to say they are " trolls". After all, one person's trolling is another's contrarianism. It's easy to cry "Troll!" if others disagree with you online. But unless it's personally insulting, it probably isn't.

The question I would ask is : Do you consider beer a way to enjoy yourself, or something serious that needs to cogitated, discussed, and generally taken apart? What is to be gained from this, and who will be doing the gaining?

Beer isn't that complicated, really. For what reasons should it be complicated?

Monday 4 January 2016

News in Brief #36

But I made sure it was all from 3663 and everything

Pub Xmas Dinner Declared Edible

Christmas dining patrons and general lazy bastards at the Prince Octavius, Rotherham last week managed to consume nearly a whole plateful each of the pub's festive food offering.

Astonished landlord and Chef Barry Shortmeasure, "I did my best. I cooked the turkey to the texture of soggy wood, boiled the sprouts to ball-bearing hardness and made the 'cranberry' sauce out of vinegar, cochineal and gravy thickener."

"But I read on TripAdvisor on Boxing Day, and the punters rated it 'acceptable'. It's very dispiriting. I try my hardest to make my Xmas dinners inedible to minimise the number of covers and, most importantly, the work I have to do."

"The bastards will all be back next year now." cried Barry.

Local Health Inspector Martin Wipecleansurface told us "We at Environmental Standards were horrified by these reports. The last thing we want is people in pubs."

"We'll have them closed down in the New Year."

"I see it's got a CORK!"

Non-Alcoholic Drink Banned for Appealing to Kids

Overzealous busybody types Alcohol Concern this week condemned the makers of a Disney-licenced fruit juicedrink in a Champagne style bottle. "This is a terrible example of irresponsible marketing." exclaimed subsidised faux-charity type Vanessa Stickybeak.

"All those poor children will get this from their mums who shop at Home Bargains and think. 'This drink is nice. Maybe I'll try some of mummy's special juice drink when she's fallen asleep in front of the telly'."

"And what will happen then?" catastrophised Vanessa "I'll tell you, we'll have hundreds of drunken 10-year-olds roaming the streets, setting fire to dogs and cluttering up the pavements singing hip-hop songs about rape and murder."

13-year-old Jack Weede-Apathy countered, while necking MDMA and various legal highs and rolling his fourteenth spliff of the day "Booze? Why would I want that?"

"Isn't that what, like, really old people like Mum and Dad do?"

He'll never get his 5% surplus now

Brewery Owner Sacks God

Following the devastating floods in North Yorkshire, local despot and feudal Lord, Humphrey Smith of Samuel Smith Brewery, Tadcaster has again been on the rampage.

Heaven-based Judeo-Christian deity, God was dismissed from his position last Thursday by Mr.Smith. "I've been running this reality for over 8 billion years," complained God "And I've been turned out onto the street just like that."

"He turned up at St.Peter's Gates in his 2008 Vauxhall Astra, and shouted at me. Mr. Smith accused me of topping up the rivers well in excess of his guidelines. Then he slapped me with a £1 trillion surcharge for excess to compensate for the losses to his company."

"I've been sat in Purgatory for the last four days." complained God "I'm sure my contract says he can't do this, but Mr. Smith has yet to release a copy to my solicitor."

We asked Samuel Smith's Old Brewery to comment on the allegations, but as far have only received handwritten note saying "The Brewery does not comment on it's employment practice's, but we're sure we can do what we like anyway. HRW Smith. Esq"