Sunday 24 April 2016

News in Brief #44

Johnny Rotten would be Proud

All Money to End Up at BrewDog Eventually

This week, the latest peculiar crowdfunding scheme from narcissists and sometime brewers BrewDog closed with only 80% of its funding acheived.  Chairman Admiral James Watt however has proclaimed it a great success.

"Our Equity For Punks VI has been an awesome victory for Craft Beer fans who don't want breweries to be controlled by faceless big business money men in the City." shouted Watty to his unsceptical acolytes.

"By the way, you can still apply to be an Equity Punk by post. Simply download the form, fill it in, and post with a cheque for £185 to Corporate Money Funding Solutions, London WC1"

We asked symbolic transactional token system Money about the future "Yes, by the looks of it, pretty much all of me will end up at BrewDog by 2023. But that's OK."

"I mean, I'm sure they'll be different from every other business in the whole of history that's ever got hold of me. Right?"

Curty's Institute of Education

Beer Communicator Saves Airport Drinkers From Dreadful Fate

Today at Heathrow Airport Wetherspoons, three Americans were seen drinking keg Boddingtons from atypical glassware. Shockingly, most travellers appeared not too bothered. But not awesome expertise expounder and storyteller Curt Mattis.

"I had to say something. I mean, for a start dimple mugs are so 2014." burbled Mattis "And Boddies is made in, like, Preston or something. I thought of all the wonderful London made beers they could be drinking. Or at least the bottles of Meantime Pale in the bar fridge."

"So I went up to them and asked them how they would feel if I went to their country and drank their crappy beer in front of their drinks experts. Then I explained my credentials as a Beer journalist to them. Went rather well, I thought."

Curty continued "Anyway, I managed to get a later flight after I explained everything to the Border Police. They accepted my hand luggage was a bottle of Cloudwater DIPA and not a bomb like my American friends joked."

"It's good to, like, share my knowledge with a receptive audience."

But where's the CHOICE?

Campaigner Bemoans Local Beer Choice

Living fossil and man who preferred it when this was all fields Mudgie Mudgington this week condemned the Ale selection at one of his local pubs, The Silver Horseshoe, Marple.

"I was on my local CAMRA's Friday crawl and walked into the bar expecting a simple choice." ranted Mudgie "But I was confronted with a choice of twenty different beers. TWENTY."

"I mean, most of them were Pale and hoppy. There were only three dark beers, and I only knew six of the lineup from having them before. I told the barman there should be more choice at this time of the week. He just gave me a strange sideways look."

"I'm sure had I asked the 120 other patrons in the pub that night they would have been as equally disappointed with choice of beer as I was. It's terrible. What are the local wet-led pubs coming to?"

"To be honest," confessed Mudgie " I preferred this place twenty years ago when it only had Holt's Bitter and Mild."

Friday 22 April 2016


Another day. Another barfull of strangers
A reasonably recent phenomenon in the beer Blogger world is the Travelling Blogger. Usually basing their journeys around a Beer or Pub guide of some sort, they travel around towns and cities both near and far in search of pub experiences otherwise unavailable at home.

Whether because of retirement and disposable income, or visiting the locals in the places your football team plays away at that fortnight, going to a faraway pub is holding increasing appeal for quite a few people.  I'm guessing as the whole "pub experience" becomes increasingly homogenised and blanded for a certain restless type variety becomes a prized commodity. In towns that become dominated by a certain brewery or Pubco, this can often be the only way you'll ever get anything different.

What do you do in say, East Anglia market towns if you don't want Greene King or Adnams? For a certain restless and energetic person with a disposable income, the answer is obvious. Go elsewhere.

I'm probably lucky in that I live in a town with a reasonable array of options.  I don't have to travel too far to somewhere where I'll get an "atypical" beer. Too much travel outside the area is limited for me, anyway. I have a job that requires me to start at 6am most days, which precludes me staying out too late. And I don't possess the necessary social skills to strike up instant rapports with pubgoers and staff that I, to be honest, have very little in common with.

The times I've been out in unusual places trying to find a pub that has decent beer, isn't too noisy and crowded, or I don't risk having the shit kicked out of me for being "different", I've often ended up sitting on a bench, looking at the clock and wishing I was back in Preston. At least I know where I AM there. It's not perfect by any means, but I know where and where not to go, and whom I'm likely to see.

I'm not saying that going out of your " comfort zone" is a bad thing, but most of the time "familiar" is best. It's why we have 'locals' after all. I like to go somewhere where they'll just pour me a pint, instead of giving me "customer service training DVD" spiel.

Call me unadventurous and insular. And I probably am. But most of the time, novelty isn't the best thing in the world.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Desert Spoons?

Opening again soon. One day. Probably. Possibly. Maybe.

If you live in a reasonablly large town, you may have noticed a certain phenomenon occurring. You had a local Wetherspoons, and it was doing well. And at the same time, plenty of high-footfall retail space was opening up on the streets due to recession-related business closures.

And the largest of these units? Well, JD Wetherspoon snapped it up to increase their presence, and hopefully profits, in your town. Where I live, Preston, now has two. The Greyfriar we've had since 1996. But in 2014, after a long battle, Tim Martin finally got permission to open a second Spoons (known as The Twelve Tellers, as it's the former main TSB Bank) in an otherwise dilapidated part of town.

Timbo is having second thoughts, however.  Many towns, apparently, don't have the custom to support two Wetherspoons. And as there is insufficient differentiation between the two in any town, they will basically rob custom from one another.

As far as I can see, this isn't quite what it happening.  If you open two pubs at either end of town, even if they start identical, then, given time they will find their own specific identity and clientele. I can see this at both the Greyfriar and The Twelve Tellers. The former is more "down to earth", attracting the older generation and people stopping over for an hour or two (it's 5 minutes from the rail station). Whereas the Twelve Tellers you tend to find young people, and on football match days, fans from the Away team. If nothing else, the TTs charges more for club meals than the Greyfriar, which can't be explained by the supply chain.

Ironically, today I'm visiting a place (Lancaster) that has had two Spoons for a long time, The Green Ayre and The Sir Richard Owen. The dreadful floods in December 2015 have ensured the Green Ayre has remained closed ever since, so their clientele has been forced to travel uphill to the City's other Spoons.

The results are interesting, as you can see in the Dickie Owen people who would never previously drunk their (it was where the studenty types used to go). The beer is cheaper than it was a year ago, and it's certainly busier.

I don't think Timbo Martin needs to worry. His dual-pub towns will eventually find their own niche in their respective pub ecosystem. It just depends how much time he's willing to give it, and how much effort Spoons put into differentiating the offers between the town's two respective pubs.

Plenty of room for more Spoons, I say.

Monday 4 April 2016

News in Brief #43

Opening Feb 2015 Aug 2015  Jan 2016 Apr 2016 Jul 2016

Craft Bar Opening Eventually

Artisan beer bar The Seed Drill, Wakefield this week again put back it's opening date by another two months. Expectant drinkers in the town have been looking at blacked-out windows and scaffolding since October 2014. "They said they'd be open January last year," moaned local crafty type Adam Usedvinyl "and we're desperate for decent beer in this town, man." while gesturing angrily at the nearby Timothy Taylor pub.

"It's not my fault." opined owner and serial bankrupt Dave Flybynight "I keep discovering important archaeology whenever I try and do any work here.  I'm not having problems funding the unit conversion or anything."

"You'd think these so-called discerning beer drinkers would know the best things take time. I'm aiming to open in November. Probably."

London Crafty Bar manager Luke Lumberjack-Shirt upon hearing this news admitted "When opening my place, I just broke into an unused shop and set up the bar overnight."

"There are so many of these micropubs now, everyone just assumes they're all legit."

Unloading the next batch of Bloggers into town

Pubs Full of Travelling Bloggers

According to a survey carried out in February 2016 by Grizedale University, 90% of all transactions in pubs are carried out by people ticking off the pub as visited in order to write a blog entry afterwards.

Landlord of The Wheatsheaf, Pontefract Barry Shortmeasure confirmed this to us "Yeah, it's been happening for a good 18 months now. Take the people in my pub now. One is staying at the local Travelodge on the cheap, and is wandering around with his camera looking for old codgers sat at tables to take pictures of.  Those two over there? One's is walking eight miles between pubs and churches, and the other is going round the locals until the football game starts."

"And her? She's visiting all the Wheatsheafs in the British Isles. I know that because she asked me where the next one was."

"I don't have regular customers anymore," sorrowfully recounted Barry "But these Bloggers are worth more in publicity than any local pissheads sat in here all day."

"Though I charge them based on their Google ranking, of course."

You YOUNG people with your MUSIC and HAIR

CAMRA Terrify Membership With Visions of Youth

This week, all Campaign for Real Ale Members received a brochure detailing the options for CAMRA's future and a bit of paper saying they could have their say. Some are not happy, however. "It's terrible," said Branch Treasurer Greg Steakbake "there are all these YOUNG people on the cover!"

"I know the thinking behind this down at St. Albans." complained Steakbake "They're insinuating all the active members are really old and need to be replaced with these people who may even be under 40. Who knows what will happen if they do?"

"So-called Craft Beer may gain Official Approval. I didn't join CAMRA in 1974 to be faced with this now. It's almost as if the future will happen and I'll be left behind."

"I'm not jealous or anything," insisted Greg "If anything they should be jealous of me. Where were they at the first branch meeting in February 1975 at the Farmers Arms, Heckmondwike when it took five of us three hours to take down the minutes because we were all hammered on Tetleys?"

"Great times. I think."

Sunday 3 April 2016

Defibrillating the Campaign

The Future? When has CAMRA ever been about The Future?

I, like presumably every other CAMRA member, received my "Revitalisation Pack" this week. I duly went online and filled in the form like they told me to. I wrote what you'd expect me to : Embrace the Evil Keg. Because it's the future, and the future will catch up with you whether you like it or not. One assumes CAMRA will take as much notice of my opinions as it always has.

Many people I know don't agree with my viewpoint, saying that while it's easy to define "Real Ale", it's harder to define " Craft Beer". I always say Craft Beer is like pornography, nobody can define it exactly, but they certainly know it when they see it. If CAMRA managed to figure out the definition of Real Ale in 1972, I'm sure they can come up with a definition of Craft Beer that satisfies the vast majority of people. Eventually.

It's arguable that Craft Beer actually needs to be "campaigned" for. It's on the up, and even reaching hitherto unpromising places such as Wolverhampton and Doncaster. It's notable that the only "Craft" beer organisation in the UK has been formed by brewers and distributors rather than actual drinkers. Craft is "the future", increasing in market share and thus not under threat.

Whereas Real Ale, despite a record number of breweries making it (if not actual volume produced), has always "needed " protection. It's assumed without CAMRA as a guardian, it would die out and without it, everyone would only have Red Barrel to drink within 18 months.

It could be said that CAMRA needs such a siege mentality to keep going. If there are no threats to the continuing availability of Real Ale, what reason would there be fore it to exist? And that's why Craft Beer will probably never be accepted by the active membership. It's increasingly available and also increasing in visibility, not to mention fashionability.  A CAMRA member just wants his favourite pint at his favourite place, forever.

The results of the Revitalisation Survey are a foregone conclusion. The status quo will be kept, and CAMRA will carry on in its journey to its fate as a middle-aged, middle-class drinking club. The battle has been won, but it will keep going through sheer inertia, propelled by it's active members wanting a social life, and it's paid staff's need of jobs.

Such it the way of humanity. Change never comes until it's far, far, too late.