Friday 30 September 2016


To be fair, the Morrison's buyer doesn't seem to know much about beer either

I hate getting into arguments online.  No, really, I do.  All I really can easily handle is taking the piss out of something or somebody, being called a twat, and ending it there. As I've said before, I know I'm not everyone's cup of tea so undoubtedly more than a few people find me annoying. What I really don't like however, are those absolutely determined to grasp the wrong end of the stick and who proceed to bash you over the head with it.

The most recent incident happened on Monday.  It started trivially, as these things always do.  Basically, Moor Brewery have got permission to say their canned beer is "CAMRA Approved".  Something to do with secondary fermentation in the can, I believe.  I questioned what your average consumer would make of a can of beer pouring out cloudy.  One particularly well-known "Beer Communicator" replied that it was the job of the shop's staff to inform them that this was entirely normal.

As always with me, things escalated.  I asked the Communicator whether they themselves would expound their specialist beer knowledge for supermarket wages (usually minimum wage)? Naturally, they avoided the question and said that just because I was unhappy in my job it doesn't mean I should take it out on them.  What can you say to that?  Thankfully, I didn't have to, as they used the typical passive-aggressive tactic of saying they no longer wanted to discuss this further.

So, what kind of service should you expect in your average shop that sells beer?  Ideally, somewhere with a reasonably wide range would have someone reasonably knowledgeable on hand to say what the beer is like.  Unfortunately, outside specialist retail, this will very rarely be the case.

A supermarket these is staffed differently than how a lot of people imagine.    The majority of the work happens out of sight of the customer. The shelves are filled up during the night and early morning to minimise distraction and the workers are usually students on short-hours contracts (for flexibility reasons usually, older workers are usually filtered out because they have "commitments"). If there's anyone during the day, it's usually for cosmetic reasons, or to fill up the things that it's not possible to have an entire day's worth on the shelf at any one time.

So when a customer comes in and wants to know what beer or wine to buy, it will be difficult for staff to assist them in a pertinent way, even if there's anyone available to do so.  The best you will typically get is to be told what sells the most "so must be popular".  The days of having Specialist Licenced Department staff are pretty much over.  If you actually know a lot about drinks, you're unlikely to be prepared to work for what the supermarket trade will pay you.

As it happens, at the shop I work at, I'm known for knowing a bit about beer and spirits, so any queries about this inevitably end up directed to me.  To be honest, such things aren't really my job. I'm meant to be doing inventory management, date checking and pricing information.  But I go along and do it anyway, as it's easier to do that than to tell my colleagues "Piss off, I'm busy."

Such things are an exception.  In most places, you won't find anyone to explain why that can of Moor Revival was cloudier than you expected.  If you make enough of a fuss, you'll be given a refund.  But it's doubtful you'll be enlightened about the subtleties of unfiltered beer and can-conditioning.

With the advent of Craft Beer ranges in big shops, this will happen more and more often.  I can't see the retailers splashing out on specialised training for staff who could be used more "efficiently" filling shelves or manning the self-service till.  So, if you want knowledge, go to a specialist shop.  But don't complain you have to pay 33% more for the privilege.

Monday 26 September 2016

Guest Blog Post - Kenny Garfunkel of FRAPE

Ever wondered what it's like to travel the country in search of pubs while carrying only a copy of the current Good Beer Guide and enough pies to last the train journey?  Well, wonder no more.  Today, we present the latest travelogue from Kenny Garfunkel of FRAPE (Fellowship of Real Ale Pub Exploration), a man who is on an unceasing quest to be barred from every GBG pub in the country.  We at Seeing The Lizards are hosting his latest blog post due to a "misunderstanding" with his usual web provider.

Filths.  Rev the engine! Watch them scatter!

402. Trump & Puncheon, Marton.

After throwing the GBG off the stairs and deciding to go wherever the open page landed, chance decreed I had to go to Blackpool today.  The train journey was uneventful, apart from it being populated by unwashed scrotes on the way to a Stag Do.  I narrowly escaped a chinning when my steak and kidney pie gravy splashed them just before I got off at Blackpool South. Luckily they were on the way to the Pleasure Beach. Phew.

As the pub was two miles from the station, I took a taxi there.  It happened to be chucking out time at the schools so the roads were clogged with crossings of filthy children.  I told the driver just to drive through them, and make sure he was about 40mph.  Then the kids would simply fly over the car - no sense in adding a broken windscreen to deaths after all.  He just ignored me, which is the kind of service you get these days.

Arriving at 3:20pm, I found the pub near deserted, with only a couple of old codgers biding their time before death no doubt.  Thankfully, they were serving Fuzzy Duck Cunning Stunt.  When I see this on I always take the opportunity to amuse the barmaid by re-spoonerising it. Sadly this time I got it wrong and ordered "Cunning Stunt".

The beer was ok, though after 20 minutes the pub was invaded by chavs who were probably relatives of the train scrotes (everybody's related in Blackpool I hear).  Seeing them, I was worried that I may not manage to get barred here due to comparatively good behaviour.  Desperate measures required.  I strode back to the bar, and asked the (somewhat rough around the edges barmaid) if she'd take them round the back.  I was told I was no longer welcome.  Score!

Heavy traffic in rural North Yorks.

967. Sheep & Discovery, Ripon

Though I've already done most of Yorkshire, this one is new entry in the GBG.  As Ripon doesn't have a railway station, I bribed my father to drive me there with promises of artisan craft lime and soda.  He moaned all the way along the back roads of North Yorks.  Potholes, sheep shit, poncy villages,  I was worried I'd have to fork out more that his usual soft drink in compensation.

We finally arrived there at around 1pm, and found it closed despite it saying in the Guide it opened at 12.  What shall we do, I asked Dad.  "I'm not bloody driving back all the way through that again.  You'll bloody wait till it opens."  The doors swung open around 1:30pm, thankfully. Guide "misprint" apparently.

Diving into the pub as we were bloody thirsty after the journey and long wait, we were confronted by rows of tables and cutlery wrapped in napkins.  The GBG had lied to me, and had sent me to a dining pub (probably to make up some kind of branch quota).  The greeter proffered menus and asked "Will sirs be dining today?".  I motioned to speak but Dad stopped me.  "A pint an a half of Ilkley Pale would be fine and we'll be on our way after."

A managed to make my way to the one stool they had near the toilets, and started ranting (quietly, I thought) about pubs being taken over by the filths and their grandparents who are ruining them for the rest of us with their demands for things like food, entertainment and comfortable seating.  We were asked to leave after two minutes.  "I can't take you anywhere." said Dad on the long journey home.

Somebody else got this pint after I departed

1435. The Hay Baler, Twyford

Knowing I had large sections of Hampshire to tick off, I boarded the Waterloo to Portsmouth train at the frankly stupid time of 10am.  As this was a South West train that had luckily not been cancelled, I arrived at Shawford only 45 mins late.  Tramping across the pavement-free and mud splattered one lane road towards Twyford, I did wonder what they hell I was doing. But, I reasoned, that Good Beer Guide isn't going to tick itself off.

I arrived at the pub sweaty and exhausted. So thirsty was I, I managed to drink a whole pint of Ringwood Boondoggle in one go.  "We don't see that in these parts much now" said the Landlord.  I told him this was how we drank in the North.  Much easier with the sparkler to knock all the bubbles up there.  He gave me an unwarranted strange look.  Surely he must have served odder people in his time,

I sat down to observe and inwardly mock the local characters.  Two fortysomethings were at a nearby table, swearing away during tellings of unlikely tales about being propositioned by gay men in Winchester.  "I told him to fucking take his fucking hand of my fucking knee before I made his fucking wrist even more limp that it already fucking was."  Suddenly, the Troggs Tapes made a lot more sense to me.  A posh chintz dressed woman  was at the bar downing glass after glass of Prosecco and how absolutely lovely Royal Ascot was this year.  Horsey types are right at home there I thought.

So entertaining was this, I went back to order another pint.  While waiting to be served, a young man next to me ordered a Blue Moon.  "Would you like an orange with it?" asked the barman.  I commented that the spirit of the late local MP Stephen Milligan was alive and well, and is it served with a bin liner and electrical flex too?  "That's in very poor taste, sir." he said "I think you'd better leave."


So, all in all, a very successful week in FRAPE land.  Join me next time when I'll be going round North Wales and attempting not to make untoward comments about incest and sheep.

See you soon,


Sunday 25 September 2016

News in Brief #54

Are there no prisons? No workhouses?  "Thankfully not. I'd have no customers"

Spoons Boss Visited by Ghosts

After announcing this week that his pubs would no longer be doing Christmas dinners, JD Wetherspoon honcho and really good employer honest Timbo Martin has admitted supernatural visitations.

"The first night," said Timbo "I was visited by a ghost of a pissed up office worker in a Santa hat. He took me to one of my pubs during Xmas 2015 where everyone was tucking into microwaved sliced turkey and defrosted sprouts. I noticed how everyone seemed happy enough."

"I thought nothing of it, until the following night where I was awoken by an apparition of a dishevelled and red faced old man holding a pint of John Smiths. I was transported to a vision of 2016 where the pub was deserted except for three lone alcoholics drinking treble Bell's."

Timbo continued "So, it was with trepidation I went to sleep on the third night. Sure enough, a sharp suited spectre appeared and he was brandishing a contract. 'This site is worth 750k in today's market, Mr. Martin' he said."

"What could it possibly all mean?"

"Mmm. Yes. Dear boy. These clothes are suitable for 1970s Stockport. "

Campaigner Goes Back to 70s

Fulfilling a long-time wish earlier this month, boring beer drinker and full-time grumpy sod Mudgie Mudgington got to travel back in time to his preferred era. "Who would have thought that the TARDIS would visit Stockport?" he exclaimed.

"Luckily I'd already saved up plenty of pre-1977 1p and 2p coins, and all those one and two shilling pieces for when decimalisation is repealed.  And my fashion sense hasn't moved on since 1962, so I fit in perfectly when I arrived."

"Sadly, when I got to the pub it was rammed, and there were all these blokes blocking the bar. When I got to the single electric real ale pump through the fog of smoke, the barman told me it was off and served me Whitbread Trophy instead."

"So I carried my pint of fizz to the one free spot by the jukebox." continued Mudgie  "Well, I thought, at least there'll be some decent Progressive Rock to listen to. But all it contained was Brotherhood of Man, Brian & Michael, and The Smurf Song. I downed my pint of keg, burped loudly and left."

"Waiting outside for the Doctor to take me back to 2016, a stray tabby walked past. But any cuteness was disabused when an 8-year-old boy grabbed it, and stuck a lit firework up it's backside."

"It's almost if," exclaimed a shocked Mudgie "the old days weren't all that good after all. "

So retro!

Football Club Bans Crafties

In shocking news this week, a Shoreditch resident was escorted out of his local football club for breaking the stadium's Dress & Behaviour Code. "It was horrible." cried horn-rimmed glasses wearer and avocado smasher Luke Lumberjack-Shirt "I thought football was meant to be inclusive."

"I bought my ticket, went into the ground and sat down. Then this, like, guy in a luminous jacket handed me a note. Match Day Notice it said.  'This is family friendly ground and skinny jeans and man buns are not permitted on Match Days'. Don't they want people like me to watch the game."

"But that wasn't the worst thing. One paragraph explained that only drinks purchased in the ground were allowed. Had I, like, got out my bottles of Partizan and Weird Beard, they'd've been confiscated and I'd've had to drink Coors Light."

"Despite it all, I decided to stay. But when my awesome buds Josh and Nathan arrived and we started discussing dry hopping and barrel aging, we were asked to leave by the stewards. Apparently  we were disturbing nearby fans with our esotericism. "

"I won't be going again, man." whined Luke "I don't feel comfortable there anymore."

A club spokesman told us "Give us a break, guv. There has to be at least one part of London that isn't gentrified yet."

Monday 12 September 2016

News in Brief #53

"My GBG's not here yet. It's a conspiracy!"

Beer Guide Delay Causes Panic

This week, the unexpected lateness of the delivery of advance copies of The Good Beer Guide has caused mass consternation amongst CAMRA ticker types.  "The wait has been terrible," cried serial pub traveller Merton Nay-Chess "I've not known quite what to do with myself."

"Since I don't have a book to tell me where to go, I've been stuck at home.  It's got so bad that I've been scrawling obscure symbols about pub facilities on the walls in crayon, and then going over them with highlighter pens." he burbled

"It'd better arrive soon. My wife is threatening to divorce me if I don't get out of the house."

Meanwhile, rampant annoyer of the UK's landlords Kenny Garfunkel complained "I've put a note on my door demanding the delivery of my Beer Guide just in case the postman thinks of chucking it over a hedge or into the canal.  I've even put signs up from the sorting office to my flat, but still no joy."

"The train company are threatening to close down my local station," ranted Kenny "due to lack of use as three-quarters of all journeys are apparently by me going to god knows where,"

Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz said about the delays "Bloody tickers. Don't these people have a local to go to or something?"

Still less viscous than the average Craft IPA

Bottle Experiment Continues

The Department of Opacity at London University this month celebrated the Fifth Anniversary of their famous long term experiment.  "We saw that pitch drop thing on Wikipedia," said Professor John Spuriousfunding "and it inspired us."

"We did some research and decided that the flow rate of bitumen wasn't quite quite long-haul enough for our purposes.  So we bought a bottle of Kernel Motueka IPA and gave it a good shake beforehand ,put it in the fridge, as suggested and waited for it to clear."

"We've been checking it every week since September 7th 2011.  Since then the transparency has increased by 2 OUs.  As such, we're expecting it to completely clear by April 2156.  It's a good job we have a long term grant to keep the bottle top from rusting."

Kernel Head Brewer Evan O'Riordan told us.  "How intriguing.  Don't know why they're bothering, though.  I can never get my beers to clear."

"In fact, I heard of people serving that Motueka IPA by the slice."

The latest division of AB InBev hard at work

AB InBev Acquire Beer Blog

Despicable corporate takeover monster Anheuser-Busch InBev have announced their latest acquisition to the Drinks Media. Suprisingly, it's not a beer, a brewery or even a brand.  "No, we've decided on a different tack this time." intoned Head of Heartless Wholesale Desecration Hiram J. Heritagetrasher "We've bought one of those 'Beer Blog' things."

The blog in question "Seeing The Lizards", a barely read farrago of crude mockery and incoherent ramblings was bought this week from it's owner Matthew Lawrenson for the record price of 2 cases of beer.  "It definitely fills a gap in our portfolio." continued Heritagetrasher "It's so much effort and cost to keep doing things like ads about pumpkin peach ale to annoy and upset the 'beer community', so we sought out somebody who's been doing it for a long time and for free too."

Lawrenson, speaking from his usual barstool at the Moorbrook Inn, Preston while sinking his eighth pint of BlackJack and simultaneously pissing people off on Twitter "This is an exciting time for 'Seeing The Lizards'. I look forward to working in partnership with a company of AB InBev's stature to move forward with future content."

"Don't know what I'm going to to with these 48 cans of Camden IHL they gave me, though."

Sunday 4 September 2016


Yes. And it's fucking shit, too

Seems The Corb is pissing people off again.  Apparently, he wants to ban after-work drinks on the grounds that they're "sexist".  Not what he appears to have meant, but when has Corbyn been misquoted or taken out of context by our lovably impartial and agenda-free mass media?

If he had said that, however, I would have agreed with him.  Not sure about the "sexist" part, not really for me to judge. But after-work drinks are appalling.

Last November, where I work an "event" was organised for a Curry Night.    Me?  Well, I did the poster that went up on the staff noticeboard (I'm the only person there competent in Microsoft Publisher).  That'll be it, I thought, done my bit. No need for me to go.  But they invited me anyway. "Note to self" I thought "Be ruder next time."

It was set up for a Sunday, and everyone was supposed to meet in the nearer of the two local Wetherspoons.  Thankfully, that's not one of the days I work, so I spent a couple of hours in the local fortifying myself with Evil Keg before walking down to Spoons.  Best get it over with, I sighed.  It was 7pm and I was the first to arrive.

As is their wont, nobody arrived simulteneously.  They trickled in one at a time and we had to keep moving to ever bigger tables, as Spoons is not really amenable to furniture shifting. An hour in, I was at the bar ordering a pint of something, when the works Lad Clique turned up.  They ordered Jagerbombs and downed them while their pints of lager were being poured.

"If it's going to be that kind of night, I don't want to be here." I said to myself.  I didn't go to the curry house.  Using my finely-honed avoidant skills, I slunk off without anybody noticing. Within 15 minutes, I was back at the local, pondering my narrow escape.

Next morning, I was in for 8am.  Having gone to bed at 11:30pm I was relatively fresh.  Which is more than can be said for my colleagues, many of whom were hung over.  Some hadn't even turned up for work.  One admitted driving from a nearby town quite probably over the legal limit.  That day, many tales were told of the less than edifying behaviour of certain people who had exceeded their alcohol tolerance at The Popworld club on Church Street.

And these events are meant to improve productivity and workplace cohesiveness.

I knew enough not to stay out.  These things rarely end well, and are probably the cause of many missed days work and accidents the day after.  Ever since, I've come up with excuses not to go on works nights out - some real, some pre-emptive, some entirely fictional. I'm sure I'll be seen as some kind of killjoy, censorious prig for not going.  But, sadly, I just don't enjoy these things.

They're planning a Bridget Jones Movie night next.  I said give me the date.  So I can plan something else.