Monday 29 August 2016

Not For Everyone

Serious blogging for serious times taken seriously

I recently noticed I'd been deleted from a famous beer blog's blog roll, and unfollowed on Twitter by their blog's account.  I pondered this for a while, as this blog can't be any worse, more irrelevant or updated less frequently than some of the blogs that they still link to.

On Twitter (I still follow them, for what it's worth) they said they stop read blogs they see basically as dead wood.  Mildly insulting, I would have thought, but you can't please everyone.  I've observed this before about the more "serious" end of the beer blogging spectrum - irreverence is unwelcome.  This blog, with it's combination of piss-taking and off-kilter observations on pub culture, doesn't treat the "scene" with the seriousness it "deserves", apparently.

Judging from the comments I get, my blog's readership seems to skew towards the over-50s.  Not sure why, as I don't see what I do as particularly codger-friendly.  Maybe the older generation have lived long enough not to be so earnest about something as trivial as pubs and beer.  Plus, they're rarely seeking to make a living out of it.

If you've got a book to write, a column to pen, or (god help you) "content" to generate for a industry company, then you probably think you shouldn't be seen as frivolous.  In the gig economy, you're only as good as your last performance.  Being involved in that way, it seems, is serious business.

As for me and my stuff, I am (to quote a great man) serious about what I do, but not neccesarily the way I do it.  I'm sure I'm often seen as being rude about people and things for the sake of it.  There is a bit of that, yes.  I like a cheap laugh as much as anyone.  But, despite the endless promotions about "awesomeness" and "beer people are good people", there is (as with pretty much everything else in the world) an awful lot of nonsense and stupidity.  Sometimes when I point this out, it wins me few friends, but as it's one of the few talents I possess, I have to do it anyway.

I can see that those making beer have to be serious about it.  Many things can go wrong with brewing, so you have to treat the whole process with a certain level of gravitas.  Selling and marketing the stuff, too - people's livelihoods rely on making money by getting stuff out there and through the till or handpump.  But appreciating beer?  Surely the point is to enjoy it, not turn it into list-making, box-ticking academic exercise?

As, I always say - I treat the Beer Industry and Everything Involved In It with all the seriousness it deserves.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

The Dickhead

Amazingly, less objectionable than reality

We all like to think that whatever type of pub we go into, whatever the drinks it serves and whatever the type of clientele it's aiming for, that the people running the place have some idea what they are doing.  Unfortunately, you sometimes find they know very little outside their own little space.

Last night, for reasons best not gone into, I ended up at one of Preston's estate-type pubs (it's an old building, but everything else about it fits the "estate pub" stereotype).  Needless to say, the real ale offering is limited, Sharp's Doom Bar and a pump with a near-permanent "coming soon" on it's clip.  I'm not going to sneer at the lager and smooth drinkers of this pub, but it's Landlord's opinions of the beer trade are somewhat...unusual.

He'd heard from someone that I'd arrived here from the local multi-beer freehouse.  He'd've probably guessed anyway, as I was the only person that night who'd ordered the (very warm) Doom Bar.  I was informed that real ale is shit, because it goes off in three days, and CAMRA are a bunch of snobby wankers who never go to his pub (I cannot imagine why).

He continued - any pub, like the aforementioned multi-beer freehouse, that has 8 real ales on must be tipping away more than it sells, and anyone embarking on such a business model is a tosser.  I doubted that myself, but perhaps I was imagining all those casks of beer that have run out in front of me mid-pull.  Perhaps they throw away most of the beer beforehand to make it look as though the cask selling

It's very difficult to argue with someone advancing these arguments.  For him, no doubt, lager is what sells to his punters (a 'down to earth' collection from my observation), so anyone selling more than Doom Bar as a sop must be some kind of idiot.  He has no experience outside of this part of the licensed trade and cannot comprehend that anywhere else would be any different.

If his business eventually fails, I will find it difficult to have much sympathy for him.

Monday 22 August 2016

News in Brief #52

"It's great! Apart from the things that aren't."

Brewery Job Not Super Awesome Fun Thing

Recently employed Craft Brewery marketing type, Luke Lumberjack-Shirt this week anonymously expressed his disappointment with his lot in the industry. "All my friends tell me it must be, like, wonderful to work somewhere like this.  But it really isn't, man."

"When I started here in June, I thought that Craft Brewing was great and everybody loved each other and was best mates and stuff." whinged Luke "But almost as soon as I sat down at my desk, my boss told me the brewery down the road were all bastards and it was my job to get them kicked off the lines at the local bars so we could sell more kegs"

"The actual beer making side is no better, man.  People turn up and say they want to work here, and the head brewer asks them if they know anything about about the job.  Sometimes he even gives them a test man.  It's terrible - apparently being awesome and enthusiastic isn't enough these days."

He went on "The people buying the beer are even worse.  They want to know if it's any good before buying it.  Don't they know anything about Craft, man?  It's all good.  But still I see them buying beers other than ours.  They're never happy. It's almost, like, working in an industry where you make things and have to actively sell them to people."

"I love my job, man.  But it's a bit shit really."

Coming to a town near you

Beer Bubble Confused 

In the current climate of exponentially expanding beer and brewery events and media, confusion is reigning about the exact terminology for the phenomena that are occurring.

Oft-cited inflation/enclosed atmosphere metaphor The Beer Bubble is as baffled as anyone "People are always talking about me, but they don't seem to be certain what I am,  Some are under the impression that I'm a crash waiting to happen due to to overproduction and oversupply of beer by more breweries than the market can sustain."

"Other people disagree.  They think I'm some kind of insular echo chamber where the same old people talk to each other about beer and exchange views in some kind of mutually reinforcing feedback loop completely procluding any dissent.  Even I have doubts about what I actually am any more".

"It's a shame there aren't any journalists who want to sort these things out,"  burbled Bubble "rather than go on freebie trips or write about their brewer friends. Maybe the actual economics of things are harder than fluffy stuff or something."

"You know, I preferred it when I was just something CAMRA whinged about as being too prevalent in keg beer,"

A Warm Welcome For All Customers. Those that follow the unspoken rules anyhow

Drink Order Taken at Country Pub 

(extract from "Opinion" Column, The Morning Advertiser, September 2016)

Last Sunday afternoon, a party of 6 arrived at The Ploughshare, a rural inn in Church Minshull.  After confirming their booking, they sat down and the first five placed an order for a roast beer sunday dinner with extra Yorkshires and gravy.  The waiter then got to the sixth member and asked him what he would like from the menu.

"Oh, I'm not really hungry" he said "I'll just have a pint of lager."

There was a sudden hush as everybody in the pub, staff customers and even the landlord's Golden Retriever Rex stood there open mouthed.

The waiter slowly edged away from the table, hopefully giving time for the man to change his mind and order food. No order was forthcoming, and the check arrived at the Chef's pinboard. "What the hell is this?" yelled the Chef "Five meals but six drinks?  You know this doesn't match the spec sheet, and will ruin my ordering for next week?  Get back out there and get a proper cover for that table!"

The waiter returned to the table of six and requested tactfully, that it would be awfully kind if sir would also have some food to go with his drink.  "But I thought this was a pub?" exclaimed the drinker.  The waiter patiently explained that this was 2016, and things didn't quite work that way any more.

"Oh." he said "I'll go and sit in the car, then." and got up to leave.

"Honestly," said the waiter to the Chef during their smoking break by the bins "What kind of customers are we attracting these days?"

Monday 15 August 2016

News in Brief #51

What do you mean more outgoings than income?

Acclaimed Craft Bar Closes

Sole artisan beer joint in town, The Foo Bar in Penrith this week closed suddenly without warning.  "It's awful, man" sorrowfully recounted local dude Josh Avacodo-Toast "We had no idea this was going to happen."

Foo Bar opened last July with a 40-strong line-up of Craft beer and £5 bar snacks, lit with 67 Edison lightbulbs and done out entirely in mahogany and Skiddaw slate  "We had no idea how they were affording things," said a bemused Josh "but we thought, hey, it's Craft. Beer people are good people so it must be legit."

"Even when brewery reps came around and shouted at the barstaff about something called 'invoices', and they were forced to pay them out of the till and tip jar to make them leave, we didn't think there was anything wrong.  After all, there was all this awesome beer in front of us.  It was there, man, and we were drinking it. It was all good."

"It's almost as if as long as our conditions for a Great Place are met, we don't ask any awkward questions about where the funding is coming from."

Owner of Foo Bar, Chris Charlatan, tweeted on 1st August "Well, I've been sick....."

South East Grizedale CAMRA Committee Meeting, August 2016

CAMRA to Become Dining Club

Following the success of their Great British Beer Festival Awards dinner, middle-aged red-face type organisation The Campaign For Real Ale has decided to reconstitute itself as a Dinner Society.

CAMRA exec Tim Page told us "The average age of our active members is increasing all the time. They don't want to be gallivanting around towns and cities in search of real ales anymore.  They just want a nice meal and a quiet sit down."

"Let's face it, pretty much every pub is turning to it's food offer these days," continued Page "and our members are pretty much all over 70 now and can't put away the beer like they used to.  Plus it's a good way to keep out the riff-raff who might not be drinking the right things or make CAMRA look shabby in press photos."

"Why, we even refused entry at the Awards Dinner to some brewers who hadn't turned up in evening dress.  Honestly!  How are we meant to improve the image of beer drinking if our alleged representatives do that?"

Asked if, what with the increasing casualisation of dress and manner in the 21st century, what this might mean for the future of real ale drinking, Tim retorted "Future?  What has CAMRA got to do with the future?"

"Yeah, but think how hoppy it must be!"

New Brazilian Craft Cans Launched

Next week, Brazilian craft brewers Garrincha's Goat launch their new microbrewed canned beer Rio Verde.  "This is the beer that will finally put South American beer on the map!" gesticulated head brewer Joao dos Santos. "No longer will we solely be known as the birthplace of the evil ABInBev."

Asked what inspired this beer revolution, dos Santos said "I saw the Olympic Diving on the TV and noticed the green looking pool.  I thought 'What an amazing look! Everyone would want a beer like that!' And luckily, I heard they were draining the pool yesterday.  I had it tankered over to us and, after a bit of fermentation, we have a new beer!"

"We were worried it didn't quite look funny and cloudy enough for a Craft Can beer," he explained "but we got on the phone to the Olympic organisers and they sent us some of the sludge from the bottom of the pool to add and help it look right."

Perusing his preview can of Rio Verde, London hipster type Luke Lumberjack-Shirt mumbled "Hmm. Well, it tastes of chlorine and hydrogen peroxide.  It's bright green and has hairs and skin flakes floating in it. I wasn't too sure of it at first."

"But it comes in a can, right?  I gave it 4 stars on Untappd."

Monday 8 August 2016

Left to Their Own Devices

Possibly  not the pub of the future
Strangely not attracting as much comment as expected was this article in the Telegraph.  While it could be considered a brave move to rob people of their mobile communication convenience,  there will always be one bar owner who tries it, and probably enough people who hate the ubiquitous cellphone enough to go somewhere to ensure they avoid it.

For the other 99% of the population, convincing them of the value of face-to-face conversation as opposed to social media may be difficult. Go into any pub outside the "rammed" times of Friday and Saturday night, and you'll see pretty much every customer  (and staff member) fiddling about with a device of some description.  I'm writing this in my local, and it's what I see in front of me now. In fact, not being glued to a phone is probably grounds for service refusal these days, as you may be too drunk to focus on a screen.

In most situations,  trying to separate people from their oh-so-essential social media is doomed to failure.  Despite the predictable protestations to the contrary,  people actually prefer dealing with others through the Internet than the risky and messy "traditional" methods. Not only can they edit what they say before saying it, but it gives much more opportunity for grandstanding narcissism which most people are, sadly, prone to.

As someone writing this on a tablet in a pub, I'm aware of the irony. But, unlike most, I have no problems admitting I'm a miserable, misanthropic bastard who prefers to deal with others at a distance. I assume most people don't think of themselves this way, despite the vast amount of opposing evidence.

So, despite the alleged success of Mr. Tyler's Faraday-caged bar, perhaps the modern licensee with an eye to continued trading would be best advised to work with social trends rather than against them.  It may work for the odd place, but for most it'll be doomed to failure.

We've now reached the point Ian MacDonald predicted 20 years ago, a "multifocused and fragmented techno-decadence into which the First World is currently  sinking as if into a babbling, twinkling, metronomically pulsing quicksand."

MacDonald indicated what he thought of this by committing suicide in 2003. But the rest of us have to accommodate it and move on.

Monday 1 August 2016

In Praise of the Deserted Pub

Busier than the usual Monday afternoon, then?

The Public House.  I'm sure my readers here are well acquainted with the concept.  Some more than others, and some a lot more than they should be.  Theoretically, anybody can walk in and stay there providing they obey the rules both written and unspoken.

It's well known that pubs are likely to be busier at some times than others.  This is what's behind the ever increasing phenomenon of Monday Closing, much bemoaned by regular drinkers and travelling pub bloggers.  Few people go out on a Monday, having blown their disposable cash at the weekend.  So, if you find somewhere (apart from Spoons, obviously) that is actually open at that time, you are likely to be the only customer.

Working an atypical shift pattern (retail), Monday is my day off so I see plenty of this.  Not known for my sociable tendencies, I prefer it this way,  If you're sufficiently bored enough to compare this blog's posting dates with the calendar, you'll see a lot of them are posted on a Monday.  As I find there are too many distractions at home, I go to a pub 20 miles away I know will be deserted and write the blog there where I know I'll get some peace.

I can deal with a certain level of custom, but once I find I can't move easily or my potential escape route is blocked, I get anxious.  One notorious incident of this happened a few weeks back when (stupidly) I decided to go to a Meet The Brewer event at the local.  Apparently, I was last spotted propped up against a wire fence next to the A6, breathing heavily and trying to calm myself down. And sadly, the alcohol wasn't helping.

As a realist, I know that if pubs always had my preferred level of population, the trade as a whole would be completely unviable.  There's no money in catering to the social needs of misanthropes and hermits. Humans (I'm told) are a social species and generally seek each other out, sometimes for networking and mating opportunties, but mostly to fill in the time before death that would otherwise be spent staring at the wall or arguing with family.

I like being alone. Less potential for hassle or grief.  Going to a pub, therefore, maybe considered pecualiar for someone like me.  But as a long-time observer, I can pick my times when I'm going to be comfortable.  And also, you get to see what happens in the pub when the staff know nobody's going to see it, which helps for blog research purposes.

So, if you ever wonder about a pub opening early on a quiet day and think "Bloody hell, what's the point of that, then?" then consider that, maybe, some people prefer it that way,