Dark Side of the Booze

A strange and repeat occurrence happened to me again over the passed weekend.

It has happened at a few pubs, but never consistently. One pub however does do it all the time, oddly it is one of the best pubs within easy public transport distance.

Actually there is nothing odd about it, I’m actually lucky to be fairly blessed to live within stumbling distance of good pubs.

But yet again when confronted with my order of what turned out to be an excellent 5% stout (Abbeydale Congregation ), the totally innocent and ever dutiful barman inquired if I was aware:

“This is a darker drink, Sir!”

Or words to that effect.

This “warning” (which I actually find endearing) still catches me out as I prefer my darker brews.  In fact I feel almost duty bound to declare my love for them on the altar of alcohol that is the bar.

But why this “warning”?

Now logic would suggest I was in an area that doesn’t have a high populace of dark drink drinkers.  Brought up that Guinness is the only true dark drink and no amount of Christmases; past, present or future is going to convince anyone that a dark drink is any good, simply because acquiring a taste for the Irish black stuff was something most people were happy to leave off the boozing CV.

Perhaps it is some kind of closet purity thing.  A racially pure bar only containing only the palest of the pale – provide that the nose isn’t too big.

Perhaps its this seemingly new fade of hoppy, hoppy, bunny wabbit beers that are the current new craze in the brewing world, waiting for the googol-hopped mega IPA.

Maybe the barman was practicing some kind of Jedi mind trick?

Me: Let me see your dark ales

Barman: You don’t need to see our dark ales

Me: I don’t need to see your dark ales

Barman: These aren’t the drinks you’re looking for.

So bring me your red ales, your bitters, your milds, your stouts and especially your porters.

If it tastes fine going in, then I don’t mind that I shit lead the following morning.

 

ScrumDown Beer Festival Review

Camra backed beer festival (well its on the programme), this was my second year of visiting (2013 is their 6th), last year it coincided with a very rainy Diamond Jubilee celebration – so much so that the day I went on was very sparsely attended.

It is an odd set up. Beer tent on one side, band tent on other and when the rains did come in 2012 this lead to the odd site of the band playing in their covered up tent, with the punters in the other tent trying to look through 2 set of plastic windows.

Image

Above is the beer tent on a well attended 2013 day.  Then again they ran out of glasses again, so its nice to get an honest reduction of the entry fee because of this (and drinking out of plastic).

Beers consumed were a vast array of Coachhouse fruit beers (Toffee, Coconut, Banana and Apricot – all 5%) and all were much of a muchness, Ronseal beers if you will – bitters with said above flavourings. Easily and enjoyably drinkable, but like going for a curry – you think everything on the menu is going to be different, but really its the same base to which a few other meaningless things are added so its not half as special or different as you think it actually is.

Then again I’m half tempted to say the same about Ginger Beers:

These were represented by Abbeydale‘s Djinn Jar (4.2%) and PeerlessJinja Ninja (4%).

Like the aforementioned fruit beers, they are good beers, not something you could spend a night on though, but at least the ginger essence was subtle compared to some others (I’m looking at your top lip numbing (in a good way) Ginger Marble).

Bumble Beer (4.3%) by Wentworth was a nice honey tinged beer and a damn sight better than their School of Hop (3.9%) which just wasn’t my thing. Their Plum Stout (4.8%) was a good example of a stout with just a hint of fruity flavour, which may seem to contradict my previous witterings but I always feel the darker beers are best suited to flavourings.

Honey Pot (4.4%) by Old Bear was a very good, light and refreshing beer, which to be fair I got in the club house in a glass, but it was still quaffed quickly as was their Hibernator (5%) which was a good, strong red ale, the way I like them.

Dark Knight (4.6%) by Medieval as another good stout, smooth but full and balanced.

Much like Brimstone (3.9%) by Abbeydale, which was an almighty concoction of smells and flavours that just about worked.

Which brings me to my two favourites, which both decided to go all out soliloquy in their tasting notes (to be discussed further):

Storr Lager – a 4.8% blatant pilsner tasting glass of crisp smoothness by Peerless.

Absolution (5.3%) by the aforementioned Abbeydale which I simple wrote next to it “Dangerous” – a sure sign that it drinks quickly, tastes good (yes more fruity overtones) and results in the need to have food sooner rather than later.

Food was available at this place – a good helping of chili or a hot-dog were the offerings – I don’t know if anyone asked for a chili dog because Americana just HAS to be associated with beer these days (again, another subject).

So this leaves me to once again thank all those involved in the organisation, setup and service of this event, even if it is in aid of the wrong type of rugby.

Pub Hierarchies

Vaguely ponder-some article inspired, in a good and philosophical, way by this page:

http://technoimbiber.co.uk/2013/06/manchester-pub-festival/

A Manchester City Centre wide pub festival – a damn fine idea, when the idea is to encourage pub footfall in what we are told is an annual declining event.

But you can go on a decent enough pub crawl at many ends of the city centre which can replicate a festival. 

Examples of which are numerous and every attempt can even be made to avoid the hipster crowd (despite these also having a fine range of ales – but that is another topic) as well as the ‘yoof’ crowd (which is kind of on topic).

My main, worry I suppose you could call it, is if this would create, if not already, a hierarchy of pubs.

I joke about Printworks and Deansgate Locks pubs, but they are much a part of public drinking (and sadly puking and police call-outs) as anywhere else.

I have seldom visited any of the bars in either of these locations, but can a case not be made that these places are the primary target of real ales and craft ales alike?

A place of young minds, old bodies and equally knackered livers which should at least try something different other than deadhead Guinness, detergent infested lagers, artificially flavoured ciders and multi-coloured bottles and buckets of sugary ethanol concoctions.

Or are these place and their inhabitants considered to be a lost cause?

Or is it a case of:

“All pubs are created equal, but some are more equal than others”.

?

Salford City Red Summer BeerFest 2013

Is this a new addition to the Beer Festival calendar? I don’t know, I only found out about it on the Thursday (6th) before I went along on the Friday (7th).  Either way it was a 67 bus and a 5 minute walk to the ground on a baking hot day.

£5 for a drinking time of 6pm – 10pm got you your half pint glass, a programme and a free half first pint of any Robinsons beer.  I chose the Iron Maiden Trooper  (4.7%) – I thought better of starting with an Old Tom’s (8.5%) as many a night have I thought “just a half” of that brew will be OK, only to then occasion falling asleep in various locations – the good, smiley kind of sleep, not the passed out unconscious and unwakeable in a doorway surrounded by puke sleep.

The guide was cleverly constructed with each beer numbered and the barrels were laid out numerically, save for wasting time looking up and down for the brew of choice.  The guide is actually not in numeric order, 1st page of beers was 1-10, then it lept to 31-40, don’t know if this was a trick to keep punters wits about them, but it all worked successfully in the end.

The food is your usual match day fodder crap – in that weather a BBQ wouldn’t go amiss, so nothing was consumed other than beer (pies were precured afterwards).

The facilities were the ground’s toilets, which were next to an eerily uninhabited ‘wine bar’.

In fact, let me be honest. There were more staff there than customers and that number difference grew even more when security turned up.

Whether this poor turn out (I say poor as everything is relative) was due to the hot weather, the location, the possible under advertising or just that the Saturday (and Sunday) will be the bigger day, I don’t know.

It has the set up and capacity to be a very good fesitval. Good premises, large selection of beers (60 + 3 that weren’t in the guide) and ciders (and the aforementioned wine bar).

Staff, who while not being rushed off their feet were helpful and attentive and it had a good token/price system. 

Beers seemed to be from £1.20 to £1.50 based on %abv and tokens (cards of 10p, 20p and £1) could be bought in £5 packs. Its a sensible way of doing things – I even think the cards had a heat induced rugby ball on them as some kind of security.

My beer reviews will follow, but for the event itself, I hope it succeeds and can be an annual event.

Thanks to all staff and everyone involved in making it an entertaining night.

Oh, please put a ‘push’ and ‘pull’ on the doors.

Beer, Metal and Female Appeal

Today is the International Day of Slayer – RIP Jeff Hanneman.

But this allows me to segue into three subjects close to my heart.*

Beer and Heavy Metal.

Subjects I love but am by no means an authority on, so what follows is a ramble full of personal tokenism and anecdotal evidence but will hopefully not sound massive patronising.

Metal music used to be the cliched preserve of the leather/denim clad man. Ages ranging from pubescent teen to arthritic OAP, all generally with dodgy hair. I was the beholder of quite the mullet.

Then came a sea change.  I think best laid at the door of Nirvana and the general ‘Seattle sound’ – here came music the was hard, heavy, fast but importantly had the right stuff to appeal to a broader base of broads (yep, first cheap misogynistic pun).

This coupled up with the Brit-pop guitar movement, a genre that mirrored Seattle only with less talent yet more derivitive, banal bands – and the ‘ladette culture’ saw something very strange.

The mosh pits, once the preserve of about 1 female to 50 males, and usually said female would be of the punk or goth persuasion, was now filling up with girls not part of a subculture.

To cut a long story abruptly short – rock/metal merchandise is now equally targeted at women as it is men.

To me, the same appears to be the case for beer festivals.

It first would appear to be the reluctant wife/girlfriend tagging along.  Usually with the proviso that “there will be ciders to try, or at least lager.”

Now the female of the species is again a target for marketing.

This does tie in, slightly, to the craft and cask wars I’m going to blog about in future – how?…… to be continued. 

But this is how the microcosm of a movement, a business and lastly a society functions at its peak – when men and women are equal in both representation (by merit) and contribution.

And I actually, genuinely mean that last sentence.

 

*Women are closer to my groin than my heart (yep, second cheap misogynistic pun, Wackity Schmackity Doo).

Beer Wars

Part 1 – The Preamble

I like my beer festivals.  Doesn’t matter if organised by CAMRA or any other organisation, for any cause (morals pending), so long as it’s within a logical distance for me to get home from (or a simple bed for the night) then I will attend.

The politics of beer never impacted on my life before I joined Twitter about a year ago.  To be honest the politics of beer will never impact on my life because first and foremost it’s about taste and lastly it’s about nothing more than a possible hangover the next day.  Anything else in between is window dressing.

So why have distinct camps be set up and stalls laid out?  Is there a human need for rivalry?  From rivalry and competition can those involved be pushed to find and achieved their best?  Is the need to be successful only ever seen as complete when rivals are crushed underneath the victor’s boot?  When did this stop being about beer?

Even by simply commenting on this matter it can appear that I’m adding fuel to the simmering (and sometime inflamed) heat that these camps have for each other, whilst also contradicting my initial statements about it only being about beer.

It won’t ever be about the beer, as long as we all have voices, fingers to type, opinons and alcohol in our blood and the need to make money and the ‘right people’ to get out money, human nature dictates that we love a good barny.

So I’m going to throw my hat, very slowly and over many waffley posts, into the opinion ring of ‘craft beers’ and ‘cask beers’ and try and reach the nub of just what the hell people have a beef about each other with.