Manchester Beer Festival 2014 – Part 2 – The Pathologist’s Report

This was going to be part 2 of the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival, but from the point of view of a volunteer.

However, I’ll get around to that, I figured in the meantime I’d weigh in (late as ever) with a shocking 2nd blog post in as many days, about the pros and cons of the place and the general reaction and where the future might hold. All in the glory of rhetorical questions and offering no solutions, except maybe buy more beer.

*No pictures, just prose.*

The Pros – which may have ended up turning into negatives.

1. The location of the Velodrome was a fantastic and original setting, which may well have drawn the merely curious out to see it, leading to the large numbers of people in attendance.

2. Transport links were good – well if you can ever use Metrolink and good transport in the same sentence. I just felt like I’d wasted £3 every time I’d got on.

3. 300+ beers and ciders – speaks for itself.

The Cons – which will effect different people to different extents.

1. The walk – but can’t do much about the building.

2. The seating – which is one for the future.

3. The beer running out – the worst one of the lot.

4. The sometimes wanton unprofessionalism of whoever was in charge of the @mancbeerfest twitter feed…

So whoever was responsible for this tweet:

And this one…

Which the feed appears to now suggest we can lay at the fingers of one of these people…

Are CAMRA a professional outfit?

No they are a bunch of volunteers (in the vast majority of cases) but these tweets belie what I think was generally at fault with the festival.

The Sheridan Suite had bus links, which were subsidised to £1 each way to get there and were an equivalent walk to the venue that the tram is to the National Cycling Centre for this year’s festival.

There were 4,000+ people who attended on the Friday alone.

The Saturday that I worked seemed as absolute bedlam as I imagined Friday’s session was.

Now I’ve no idea if this year’s was advertised more heavily than any other year.

Or if the venue is really that big of a drawn.

Or if the unfortunate timing of a Citeh FA cup game versus Watford compounded the beer running out.

Or if in the past year beer has become THAT more popular.

Maybe there is wisdom in the paraphrased adage “if you book it, they will come.”

Festival Saturdays are notoriously beer light times. But I still hold no truck with fucktards whining about “working” – what so you work harder than say the 8000 others who attended the other days, or who volunteered?

Jog on, you self-important bollock-head.

Problem is, if you move to a new venue, you are probably going to get fewer people turning up.

But of course it does depend on the venue. I mean, where were these 10,000 people in 2013 or 2012 and years before when it was the Winter Ales festival.

I wouldn’t discount the weather too – most times of a Winter Ales Festival its been snowing, this mild climate at the moment (not due to climate change of course, no need to look for other energy sources, lets just keep burning dinosaur matter till it runs out and we can then kill each other over every rain drop) may have led to the heavier foot-fall.

A benefit of the festival running out of beer was everyone skulking off elsewhere – to give much-needed business to local pubs and bars. I went over to the Microbar mini festival they had on and got talking to a proper City fan (one who has always gone to the matches. Not someone who ‘refound’ the team, or changed Manchester colours, or one of those 4 irksome American girls in their clawing sky-blue and white scarves I had the misfortune to serve on Saturday).

This very nice and very well-informed chap who spoke a massive amount of common sense about beer, brewing and pubs was trying to figure out why the (very excellent) Crown & Kettle was busy and was very happy to learn that this may have been the reason why getting his pie dinner and a pint was delayed, and offset by about 500 yards.

But where does this leave the festival in 2015 and beyond?

Have those people who just turned up to see the venue going to return a second time?

Are those not liking the seating/walking/stairs going to bother too?

More importantly are those who had to leave 3-4 hours earlier that the advertised 7pm finish and then told all their mates ever going to return?

Will Team GB even hire out the venue again?

Is CAMRA really putting profit before actual beer promotion?

Do you get in more beer if the foot-fall is possibly going to be lighter because of bad press?

I’m sure the higher up bods in CAMRA are debating this right now.

And if they aren’t – then they are fucked.

Manchester Beer Festival – Velodrome 2014 – Part 1 – The Punter’s Tale

Bit of a eyeful that title.

I volunteered at this festival and my thoughts on that will be in Part 2, which may also include more rants about people ranting about the festival.

So, as people have recounted, this would appear to be the replacement for the Winter Ales Festival which moved to Derby. Previous years had seen that event in the Co-Op Building (when they were putting their money into worthwhile things and not being completely foolish trying to be a bank that they never were going to be and thereby losing the ‘moral banking’ selling point in one fell swoop) and in the Sheridan Suite in The Venue on Oldham Road.

Reading the twitter feed (by person or persons clearly getting more narked and sadly less professional with each non-constructive criticism the festival received) this was 4 years in the planning and it was a huge and impressive undertaking.

So lets us get what would seem the well documented negatives our of the way first.

Steps.

64 Steps.

25 more than Richard Hannay had to deal with.

That was the distance down and then up from top-tier (near the food and importantly the toilets) to beers. That doesn’t include the walk round the place from the Metrolink (if that is how you arrived) and the distance from getting your glass to the top of the stairs.

I walk everywhere (when I’m not wasting my time waiting for delayed trains and trams) so this was never a problem for me, but I can see how the infirm and disabled would see this as a massive hurdle to overcome. I offer no solutions other than a temporary bridge – good luck getting that one passed by Team GB Cycling.

The temperature – this was apparently a problem for some, I’d raised it on twitter (science nerd alert), but I went on the Thursday and it seemed no warmed than how hot the Sheridan Suite used to get at its busiest. The beer was unaffected as far as I was concerned.

The running out of beer – I’ll talk about this in Part 2 – but sarcastic “some of us work” comments are no excuse for only getting there on a Saturday afternoon. Plan ahead you self-indulgent arses.

The lack of seating on the beer floor – this was resolved as best as could possibly be done after the first session on Wednesday. Though I think some would happily see a lot more seating by removing the shops (or placing them round the sides), but standing seldom bothers me either.

The amount of people – well, that is the price of success. 10,000+ people went to this thing over the 4 days.

10,000+ people.

Oddly, in spite of my misanthropic nature I was surprisingly relaxed about all this, once I had a beer in my hand

Writing of which…to the beer…300+ beers (and ciders), in a 52-page guide.

2014 Velodrome Itinerary
2014 Velodrome Itinerary

Entry prices varied throughout the festival depending on the session (£1-£3 roughly), discounts available and how late you could turn up thinking there would be a full selection of beer on a Saturday afternoon while Citeh were playing at home after a previous 3 full days.

Glasses were £2.50 (returnable deposit) dropped to £2 on the Saturday for ease of change more than anything.

The programme was £1, which appeared to go to Henshaws – a charity for the blind.

The beers were available in 1/2s and pints (and also 1/3s which I entirely forgot about until my 4th half, I blame stress) and were priced, depending on volume ordered of course, anything up to £3 a pint for super strong beers – I didn’t make it over to the foreign beers or the bottles sections.

In alphabetical order…

Allgates Brewery was actually my first start drink too as it was the Sloe Stout at 7.1%. Now I’ve said that there other strong stout (Mad Monk, 7.2%) made me fall asleep and when you drink it you know you’re tasting something that is stronger than a regular drink, so you are warned. Sloe stout on the other hand is a more subtle affair. More soft and smooth than its bastard sibling, which it probably due to the Sloe berries themselves.

Bradfied Brewery had got a 4.9% Farmers Belgian Blue which was indeed bluey-purple in colour which came through in the head of the pint. Very fruity and with a lasting sweetness.

Brentwood Brewing provided a Chocwork Orange (6.5%) which tasted of neither orange nor chocolate, but this wasn’t a bad thing, you knew you were drinking an Old Ale and I like the taste of those, just I’d like to see how they would offset the other alleged flavours.

Green Jack Brewery
was next with an Orange Wheat Beer (4.2%), which was orangey, but not in the least bit like I’d expect a wheat beer to taste like. Fine for me, but another one that doesn’t do what it says on the pump clip.

Hopback Brewery had a 4.2% golden ale called Taiphoon in which you could really get the lemongrass flavourings – a nice session ale.

At about ten minutes to 1800 hours it was announced over a very poor PA system that there was going to be a Meet the Brewer session with the head of Hawkshead Brewery so ambling over to the brewery bar, I was stopped on numerous occasions by a lot of worried looking grey-haired men enquiring if “I want to meet a brewer?”, “did I have an interest in beer?” and “was I hear to meet the brewer?”

A small crowd of about 20 then watched as Alex Brodie took us through the finer points of hops (and a not so subtle dig at big brewing behemoths not realising the ground swell of young brewers and new micro breweries). Now I’ve sniffed many a bag of pungent smelling dried plant products in my time, but never surround by 1000 people. And so it came to pass that I ended up with very yellow hands as I crushed Goldings, Bramling Cross, Fuggles, Amarillo and Citra hops between my palms, dropping the husks in a bucket and inhaling the aromas.

I would post a picture of my yellow, 20-cigs-a-day-look-a-like hands but I don’t wish for the NSA and GCHQ to get my fingerprints. Suffice to say it was good fun and there were lots of these other sessions on around the festival, which was new to me at this event so this is a big positive.

Offbeat Brewery and Otherton Ales (blog page) had done a collaboration on the Zany Smoky Winter Wit (4.0%) and very nice it was too with fruity overtones and the smoke very subtle in the after taste.

Okells Ales had two beers I sampled; Jiarg (4.7%), which I’m sure I’ve had before but was a very good red ale and Aile which was an excellent smoked porter, which to me had a Stilton like taste. I love Stilton, so does one of my cats. I’m leaning to this being my favourite of the festival.

Red Willow Brewery had provided the Faithless XXX. A 5.0% stout with beetroot. Now sometime last March or so I tried the Faithless 26 or 27 (I can’t remember) which I think may have been the first attempt with beetroot. That was purple and earthy and full and I proclaimed (and still do) that it was in my Top Stouts of all time. Faithless XXX, while being a very good stout, was neither purpley nor earthy and hence a bit of a disappointment. But that shouldn’t be a negative, just how much I loved the original (?) version – add more beets next time please.

To break up my long prose, allow me to put in this rather topical picture, which in no way reflects my feeling towards the next brewery, but apparently, as of writing this, some of their (former) employees clearly don’t agree and I suppose you can understand – I just think its funny and also my favourite swear word…

Thwaites?
Thwaites?

365 days I’d waited for the next drink. Thwaites had won awards for this beer in 2013 and I was hopeful of getting it at last years do. It had sold out. Yet my twitter feed kept cropping up full of people who’d tried it. I searched. I searched in vain. I had to wait. I then had to worry because it wasn’t in the exact place I thought it would be on Bar 3 this year, but there it was Fallen Nun all 7.4% of it and boy was it a good. Strong, full-bodied and complex drink. The guide called it a Barley Wine, and a Black IPA. Either way I enjoyed it.

Tiny Rebel Brewing Company has been tempting me with their beers for a good 8 months now and I got hold of a Dirty Stop Out (5.0%) which as another excellent porter with smoky tastes and smells, easily in my Top 3 of this year.

I’ll treat you to another photo now, and this is from the Saturday, during a small break (because it was fucking mayhem) I managed to get hold of the Gold Award Winner which was the 5.0% Cumbrian Five Hop by the aforementioned Hawkshead Brewery.

Cumbrian Five Hop
Cumbrian Five Hop

Even got it for free, what a lovely and unexpected treat. Now if you read my thoughts often enough (you’re a masochist) you may be aware that I’m not a fan of massively hoppy beers, but my fears were allayed upon my first smell and taste. A most excellent golden ale, which belies its strength in what would be a quality session ale.

Ilkley Brewery had their own bar, from which I got their Fireside Porter. A lovely, fruity and spicy 4.2% winter warmer if ever there was one.

Wilson Potter Brewery had produced Rock It Fuel (4.1%) which was a great amber ale with a very light ginger twang.

The last beer I got to consume was on the Saturday and it was the 5.0% Oat Mill Stout from Bollington Brewing and it was a stout that went straight into my Top 3 for the festival. Rich and full, sweet and bitter. Wonderful.

Oh, I forgot about the food. It filled a hole – there were pies (big canteen ones, not individual) and burgers, a Mexican Buffet and a Cheese bar oddly. Nothing ground breaking or homely but filled a hole, but my one gripe is that the layout of the food area was confusing, and too close to the stairs where the major foot fall was.

So that is my review of the beers at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 2014.

Part 2 to follow shortly.

In the meantime, I’m off to sniff some more plastic bags full of dried plant products.

Think Bike?
Drink Bike.

Binge & Purge – Evolution of Drinking

Introduction: A chemist waffles pointlessly about biological issues with no pictures:

As I get more drawn into the beer blogging community it begins to confirm what I always suspected.

I don’t actually drink that much.

I can’t actually drink that much in one go anyway.

Being of short stature and even smaller bladder, my internals workings have seen fit to ‘break the seal’ at around 2 pints worth and then never really consume more than 6 of a night.

My 12 Beers of Christmas (day) seemed to strike a chord. Legend was the praise I was feted with in some quarters.

Now I’m fully aware that the praise was not that I drank 12 bottles in one day as opposed to one bottle per day around the Xmas period, but I was late to the #12beersofXmas party and thought about being a little different, which is what I hope the praise was for.

Looking at the amount I drank it totalled about 4810ml (I say about, that is the exact amount) which, if we consider 568ml per pint this gives us 8.4 pints.

A lot for me – but consider that I started at about 11am and opened the last one at roughly 11.50pm, it is far less than a pint an hour and featured a hell of a lot of food.

For my sins, even though I can’t drink very much, I sure as hell can pack away food – I don’t like waste – if you are out for a meal with me, most plates will be empty by the end of the night, it’s a trait I can put down both to my dad’s own physical ability, my mum’s “there are people starving all over the world” guilt trip and a few Jewish heritage clichés about always needing something to eat.

I remember when I first started drinking. 2 cans were enough. OK that was generally super strong ciders (or we can romanticise about long summer evenings on empty bowling greens with bottles of Merry Down, Thunderbirds, Mad Dog 20/20 or other such fortified wines before the advent of alcopops), but 2 cans was enough – I was barely a teenager.

My only previous flirtation with booze was a small dram of Blue Curaçao “its royal blue & tastes of oranges” was how it was sold to me at the age of about 5; in a time when adults were allowed to raise their kids in their own homes as they saw fit and not be made to feel guilty about harmless (and legal) little dalliances like this.

But it is a rite of passage to drink as much as possible. It is a masculine trait to be the best at something, to be the leader amongst your particular group of peers. It is not a peer pressure. No, I state now that my personal belief is that wanting to drink the most out of anyone is an evolutionary pressure.

The adventures of drinking too much are always followed by the inevitable – hangover and/or vomiting.

I don’t get hangovers.

But in another step that I have grown more appreciative with age, my body will purge itself when it is “full”.

Of course, drinking a lot, knowing your limit and knowing when you are going to puke is again all part of our evolution into being responsible drinkers.

These days, there are two reasons why I’m sick; because I want to be or because I’ve had really cheap vodka.

Note: Along with being a dustbin for all left over foods (except cooked sprouts) my body will not tolerate cheap vodka – so if you suspect your club/pub is merely topping up their Smirnoff or Russian Standard bottles with something cheap and nasty, the feel free to hire me out. It takes approximately 1-2 doubles and 1-2 hours to get a result “out of me”.

Why would anyone want to throw up?

It’s another evolutionary facet. I think most of us fear puking, the smell of someone else’s is enough to start a chain reaction (we’ve all heard stories of contagious vomiting on a particularly choppy ferry crossing, haven’t we?), the fear born from primary school when the caretaker could never get the saw-dust on to a pile of multi-coloured yawn quick enough and even the smell of disinfectant would send worry through your soul that you might be then next victim of a “24-hour bug”.

Thing is, once I’m sick, I’m done. I marvel at those who can ‘tactically chunder’ or just up-chuck and continue.

But there was a phase of about 18 months in my post-graduate days (and this is a scientist speaking in the most unscientific terms) which saw me never catch the “common cold”, which first started when a pub I used to frequent did lock-ins on Fridays and Saturdays.

I suspect they didn’t clean their pipes, because in those days I never explicitly drank enough to be sick, only I was – and it was the bile-ridden, dry heaving kind.

This lasted for about 6 months until I spent another six months learning that neither whiskies nor the aforementioned cheap vodkas should ever be my spirits of choice if I ever wanted the contents of my stomach to stay where it was. Curiously during this phase my barfing also evolved from what was always one overly long and painful session to 2 equally long painful sessions, but always about 3 hours apart, so I’d had enough time to think it was all out of me and drift nicely off to sleep only to then be rudely awakened.

The final 6 months of this totally trivial experiment were spent binge drinking heavily on the weekends.

Then I caught a cold and actually grew up.

But it is also something we all grow out of eventually. If you still wish to pint score the morning after when over the age of 23 you are a bit of twat.

It seems that society, or rather younger generations, have themselves evolved not from who can drink the most; but who can drink the strangest, the fastest, the longest, the most continuous days, etc – all are evolutionary factors about proving ones dominion over others.

Granted the hysterical nanny nature of the state and the side-show-freak need of our media now grinds the organ as women “behave like men” – but I say lets hear it for equality – at least the police aren’t breathalysing drinkers in clubs.

Oh…shit…brave new world isn’t it?

The “craft” (I really hate that word) ale explosion has now lead to an equally competitive, if rather more civilised use of beer in that those of us, now more mature, home-owning, family raising, financially independent enough to be able to afford it, can go out and try 330ml bottles of beer from prices starting at £10…or mid range like this…

…but we are sensible drinkers now.

Our responsibilities mean we have to drink responsibly. We reserve the right to cut loose and find that our own puke removes lime scale for our sink plug-holes better than Cillit Bang ever could once in a while, but we’ve evolve from our binge drinking pasts.

Now we can sit at home still binge drink because government guidelines are always there to remind us what ‘safe’ levels are, what ‘excess’ is and know our bodies better than we do ourselves.

So lets end this be stating the obvious:

Under-age drinking is nothing new.
Binge drinking is nothing new.
Vomiting in the streets is nothing new.
Drunken violence/crimes are nothing new.
Public urination is nothing new.
Semi-naked drunk women (and men) in public is nothing new.

The sad thing is, a lot of people worry that when you forego your own responsibilities to yourself the state is always there to nudge you in the right direction. And when nudging isn’t enough – well, there is a law to ban this, a law to ban that and plans to curb this, raise the levy on that.

The vast majority of people enjoy and responsibly drink or five and drink responsibly, because we have been allowed to learn how to do so.

I don’t quite know how to end this piece on a more upbeat note.

I wasn’t drinking when I wrote this – I rarely drink during the week (only on days with a T in them – Tuesday, Thursday, Today & Tomorrow).

Wackity Schmackity Doo.

Drink Happy.

All I Taste Is Ideal Temperature (Bottle Review)

A while ago I had a small and well meant rant about how sometimes Keg Beer can be served too cold for my tastes

I’m not a bar/cellar man, I don’t know much about the possible intricacies of beer delivery (and storage) and getting it to the customer in its best condition. Yes for an apparent ‘beer blogger’ I am wilfully ignorant about the subject matter I’ve chose to make the vast majority of my posts about.

I digress, but this bug bear about beer temperature was brought home when one evening I sat down a to enjoy this drink…

Red Rose Rye
Red Rose Rye

This was a collaboration between Quantum Brewery from Stockport, follow them (on twitter) and the Manchester HomeBrewers who are also (on twitter)

Tell you what, lets have a better photo of the drink, if only the bottle…

Red Rose Rye II
Red Rose Rye II

Now I’m going to be honest, when I had this beer I thought “this is a damn sight more appealing than the cold one I had at the 2nd Leeds Beer Festival, I’m going to rant about it on my blog.”

Only it turns out I’d forgotten it had sold out so I’d somehow convinced myself that I’d actually had it at some point.

Maybe I have. For my sins I don’t tweet that much about the beer I have in pubs.

No, what I do is write things down as a text to myself (but don’t actually send it) and then promptly forget to write about them. Maybe I should really update my shit phone and get this Untappd App so I too can double my drinking pleasure by combining it with some kind of video game/Sporcle trivia quiz.

So this now turns into an actual bottle/drink review:

Its great.

More…

It is 5.7% of Hops: Magnum, Bramling Cross, Motueka, Chinook, Columnbus; Malts: Pale, Munich, Carared, Caramalt, Rye, Chocolate; Yeast: US:05 greatness.

It smelt and tasted wonderful – I want more, could have spent the whole night on it.

But I think more credit to the beer is due as it reminded me of the good times I’ve had a beer festivals and the annoyance at how a cold temperature can ruin a beer’s taste and aroma and this is a beer that may just suffer if it was too cold.

It is good that a ‘mere’ alcoholic beverage can spark such memories and feelings

Coincidentally, as it turns out I was pondering about the temperature in the velodrome for the upcoming Manchester Beer Festival as I had heard cycle tracks have to be fairly humid. But my overly pseudo-scientific worries were allied by a few reassuring tweets from them.

Manc Beer Fest Temperature
Manc Beer Fest Temperature

Which is where I’m off to in a fortnight. Maybe I’ll see some people there, and then go out of my way to remain anonymous.

Drink Happy.

Berlin – A Drinking Travelogue (of sorts)

This is about Berlin.

Well, not about Berlin, nor their transport system, or Berlin’s history, or even a guide around their drinking establishments.

This is just a few bits & pieces and really crap photos of my holiday I just had there (January 2014).

In thinking about writing this I realised that the last time I think I went on holiday via plane was to Oktoberfest (Munich) in about 2009, so it had been a fair while since had been anywhere where they had spoken a genuinely different language, this includes all the time I spent in London and Scotland.

I’m also writing this with a bit of a bout of “budget flu” and after a big bowl of pasta – oh pasta how under-rated you are when you diet for four days consisted of rich meats and potatoes all of which were either boiled or fried – its good to get a bit of different texture once in a while.

I had previously been to Berlin once before in May of 2005 – then I was met with a heavy police presence (not me personally, the city) and large groups of protesters and neo-nazis (both groups well behaved where ever I encountered them) because it was the 60th anniversary commemorations for World War II.  But then I was only for 22 hours (Why? Fucked if I know).

This time around there was precious few people.  A 3 hour queue (not including for tickets) for the television tower was the most concentrated amount of people.

Of course there was also a throng of people around the bits of the Berlin Wall still standing, Check-Point Charlie and the Brandenburg gate, reminiscing about the time Michael Jackson held “his baby” over the balcony of the Hotel Adlon.  But these still seemed rather subdued.

Plus every where you looked there were spent firework casings and broken bottles from New Years Eve.  It appeared the whole city was on one very long holiday.

Well, except their transport network, where one journey was delayed by 4 minutes (yes, I was disgusted), but all the others ran ahead of schedule, so I was actually up on time as it were.  Northern Rail and Manchester Metrolink probably owe me about 2 whole days of my life back.

They also love their graffiti over there.

So, that is 400 words and no mention about actual beer yet.

BrauHaus Lemke
BrauHaus Lemke

BrauHaus Lemke was the first stop off. As the name suggests they brew their own beers (established 1999), on site or not I never thought to ask. They had 4 beers to offer – their Pils, Original (Dark) and Wheat all for 4.30Euros, or their special at 4.65Euros. Above is the tasting platter, where you can get 100ml of each for 4.10Euros.

It is quite ironic that I’ve not had a good working phone for this holiday, so couldn’t get on twitter. Instead I come back to the most recent chatter being about cloudy and yeasty beers being the new ‘fad’ and also the new thing to rebel against.

Another nice irony is I got another “it is a dark beer (schwarzbeir), Sir!” warning.

All the beers were fine, as was the food consumed – obviously there turned out to be cheaper places to go, but as a tourist place (or T(err)ourist as some stickers would have it) I suppose you could say it eases you in gently.

The other thing I suppose Germany is well known for (beer wise) is the Reinheitsgebot – German Beer Purity Law and this played an educational role in the next place.

Aufsturz
Aufsturz

The above menu was full of beers (separate food menu, always a good sign) but when the only beer they have on tap is Heineken you do worry for a second.

But they had at least 100 bottles to chose from, all clearly stating if they adhered to the beer purity law and if not, what else had been added (sugar, smoke flavour, etc.).

Porter?
Porter?

Check out the raised writing on the glass, like old-school advertising on football shirts, or those paint-by-numbers you could bake in the oven and they’d rise to be 3-D.

You’d want to keep the glass but in Germany, they add on a recycling fee (not in the pubs), which of course you do get back – but if you don’t live in Germany, just make sure you point this out when you buy a few street-cans or train-cans from a shop as you’ll save about 25cents.

This “Porter” drink came mit Zucker – and that is all I could taste – bloody awful.

LandMann
LandMann

This beer was OK, better when I had it on draft (obviously) but palatable enough.

The bar did contain two hand dryers, which was not the norm, as all other places seem to prefer paper towels:

Airwolf
Airwolf

StarMix
StarMix

At the top you have the Airwolf, and apart from getting one of the best TV themes ever in my head, it did not dry the hands very well.

On the bottom we have the StarMix AirStar. This was a tiny hand dryer, got hot very quickly, but had a very odd turned up nozzle and small aperture, so it was not that efficient at its job.

Also visited was BrauHaus Mitte.

BrauHaus Mitte
BrauHaus Mitte

Look familiar?

Exact same menu and prices as Lemke (the special beer may have been different by name), but can’t seem to find if they are related companies.

What was odd is I went in a place called “The Pub” (which is NOT by any stretch an “English Pub” knock-off). A youngish crowd who enjoy burgers and taps at their own table and a TV with a league table from other “The Pub” branches over Europe to keep score as to who is drinking the most.

What tickled me more is that a group of about 5-6 girls and boys were passing around a pint of Guinness, much in the same manner you’d seen English dandy ponces doing the same in a BrewDog establishment. So they’ll be happy when those cock-juggling thunder cunts open their latest branch in Berlin.

Oh yes, AC/DC beer…

AC/DC Beer
AC/DC Beer

Oddly this was in a pint can, cost me 99cents from a supermarket and was quite nice for a canned beer (under license to Live Nation) that was also brewed in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot.

Also available from said supermarket were these lovely products:

Alcopop 1
Alcopop 1

Alcopop 2
Alcopop 2

Those Germans love their alcopops, but they at least can still “market them for children” as our hysterical nanny staters would have you believe.

Oh, for those of you reading this who for you alcohol isn’t your drug of choice, then may I recommend Görlitzer Park. You will not be short of any offers.

If you want my opinion, do not go in the HofBrauHaus. It is a place that is trying to recreate the tents at the Oktoberfest, but it just lacks soul and if I may so, massive amounts of committed drunken people. Instead this was the most full place I went into and consequently it took an age to order and then get served.

Much better was the Paulaner Haus. Further out from the centre, it lacked anybody (I was assured that it is usually busy, so this must reflect the lack of people in Berlin in general), so it turned out to be just one giant regular bar, with some bloody steep steps to the toilet.

Paulaner Dunkel
Paulaner Dunkel

Paulaner Dunkel is a nice drink. This place also had the nicest staff. Don’t know if it was the time of year, my broken-English/pseudo-German or any number of other things, but a lot of the staff in many of the places I went in were just grumpy wastrels.

Not breaking with the norm were the people at the Berliner Marcus Brau, who to be fair were actually very busy (the place is tiny) and served the best beer of the trip.

Marcus Brau
Marcus Brau

As you can see from the beer on the left – they love their cloudy beers – even so much as to make my schwarzbeir in the middle appear translucent.

I don’t know what the smoking laws are in Germany. But it seemed that when the sign for Schultheiss was observed, the bar staff’s first job was to put an ashtray on your table to seemingly encourage you to smoke.  All other places appeared to be smoke-free, but this may have been a food thing(?).

Schultheiss
Schultheiss

The above beer (Pils) isn’t half bad either, its just a shame that my non-smoking lungs have forgotten how to deal with smoky pubs.

Below is the only sweet thing I had, not bad, but not the “Feast” type lolly I was expecting, but I really craved some different texture and the chocolate.

Nogger
Nogger

All in all you can marvel at just how bad German stereotypes actually are.

The only efficient thing there was the transport system. I also trekked over to Frankfurt (Oder) and from there was able to cross over to Poland. Which was even more desolate than some parts of Berlin, but the beer was half the price (as I assume were the cigarettes) and, as was made abundantly clear on the walks back and forth over the bridge – the Polish side is clean and tidy and the German side is coated with graffiti.

You can smoke in some pubs.

You always get table service, so no queues at the bar (though then you worry about tips if you are that way inclined, or not as the case may be).

There are probably hundreds of places in Berlin alone to drink and see, but I somehow expect the beer is all the same.

Good but all the same type of good.

Berlin – where the helles did everyone go to?