Pets and Euthanasia

This is a rather personal post, with very little to do with beer…

I’ve always grown up surrounded by pets – cats and dogs, mainly cats.

Even when I went off to University, cats would seek me out.

I’m from a small family, mercifully the deaths of close relatives is currently 2.

Of course you worry about writing something like this that you are tempting fate, but to hell to fate, life is what it is, as too is death.

The amount of pets that have died is quite staggering. When I lived with my parents we had 5 cats and 2 dogs. When one of the dogs died my mother went rather mental, volunteered for the Cat’s Protection League and next thing I knew our house had 1 dog and 14 cats.

Currently my home (free from a cat-obsessed mother) contains just the 2 cats.

Just before Xmas it was noticed that one had an enlarged chin, so off to the vets for a check-up (the vets, which used to be a pub).

A tumour was growing inside his jaw bone. We were given steroids to fight the growth and antibiotics to combat any possible infection.

And so with the news, you live knowing that one day you will have to make a decision about the life of a cat.

I’m of the “if they eat, they are OK” train of thought.

Well, except with the last family dog…whose back legs went. So where the front end was eating and drooling and barking and sticking its nose in your crotch, the back-end just stopped working.

This tumour continued to grow in the cat’s jaw, but the cat continued to eat, bounce on the furniture, claw the crap out of anything made of fabric, get hairs all over the place and succeed in waking the house up before any alarm had gone off.

There came a point when he couldn’t really chew his food, but was OK with it mashed up.

The cat continued to eat, bounce on the furniture, claw the crap out of anything made of fabric, get hairs all over the place and succeed in waking the house up before any alarm had gone off.

There came a point when he couldn’t really pick up his food but he was OK when you fed it too him.

The cat continued to eat, bounce on the furniture, claw the crap out of anything made of fabric, get hairs all over the place and succeed in waking the house up before any alarm had gone off.

There came a point when I knew that the condition was going downhill like a Luge competitor and I started roasting chickens for treats that I could fire into his rapidly narrowing mouth.

The cat continued to eat, bounce on the furniture, claw the crap out of anything made of fabric, get hairs all over the place and succeed in waking the house up before any alarm had gone off.

There came a point when his mouth started bleeding and there is a point when eating, bouncing, clawing, malting and meowing are not the only factors that make up quality of life.

But that is the worry – am I still being to hasty? I’m a viewing the ever-increasing attention I need to pay to this cat as something of a burden?

The life of something as a burden to my non-stop life? What selfish twaddle. This cat is still the same cat as he was those months and years before the small swelling on his jaw was noticed.

Or maybe it is out of selfish behaviour that we are keeping him alive.

Of course, when I say keeping him alive, he is a cat, he will fend for himself when the servants aren’t there to do the bidding.

The harsh reality could be considered to be, rather than keeping him alive, we are allowing him to live.

We can “play God” and end the apparent suffering.

He can’t tell me how much pain he is in. He just carries on as normal as all our emotions twist continually.

This is a cathartic essay of sorts, but there are two things I should make clear as I wrap this up:

– When it comes to any sort of present tense of the story with my cat, it is now really past tense.

– In the hopefully very distant future I could re-read this piece but instead replace the word cat with Dad.

Our squeamish nature over death and our moralistic hand-wringing over having some dignity when we are about to shuffle off this mortal coil are brought under a microscope when it comes to a pet, but at least we have that choice to make a mature decision about the many factors associated with it when it comes to an animal.

The arguments against euthanasia are sensible, but every life and its subsequent end needs to be evaluated individually and as free thinking people we should all be allowed that choice to make by ourselves and it is a choice we should all give considerable thought to and take actions to plan for what is inevitable, but will never be dictated to by any delusion of so-called fate.

Beer Tasters – Mea Culpa. Almost

A while ago I ranted about “Tasters” in pubs and at beer festivals…

Now, having worked a few beer festivals, my position has evolved somewhat – it also shines a big light on my own prejudices, which I will freely admit in the coming rambling.

So, while working behind numerous beer festival this year I’ve noticed I do something strange given my apparent principles..

I OFFER TASTERS

Not just offer but recommend what someone should try, given a brief description of what the punter usually likes.

But one thing I am able to do while someone is have a taster, yep, I have the ability to serve someone else.

So maybe one of my prejudices is ill-thinking bar people who just stay avidly with one customer each time.

I read many rants by bar people about customers who don’t know what they want, or want the bar person “surprise them” and various other twatty behaviour that pissed me off when I, as a slightly less curmudgeonly teenager, used to see when I worked in a supermarket.

There are some idiots out there.

Worse, there are idiots who don’t know they are idiots. But they don’t need their idiocy compounding by bar staff who don’t have the fore-thought to serve someone else.

I think it’s the monopolising of bar staff time that was my initial peeve about it.

So now I admit, beer tasting in pubs and at beer festivals (and anywhere is else) is less of a bug bear for me, provided the staff serving are sensible too.

Yes, a caveat, but I’m not about to radically alter my previous position.

So what, if you care and/or wondered, is my inverse Road to Damascus moment, the prejudice I have brought to the fore and laid bare in front of me and I now admit to you?

Dandies, popularly known, currently, as Hipsters.

Now one of my main peeves with them is they’ve taken “my look”. Well, in so much as glasses and beard wearing.

Ironically of course, it is the clichéd image of real ale drinkers that these fools pour scorn on (and the feeling is obviously mutual, if the clichéd real ale drinkers would ever leave their dark corner of the pub long enough to look around at the ever-changing world).

Well, it’s a similar image without the tight jeans/jeans around the middle of the thighs showing off underwear that the younger versions now sport.

But working beer festivals you get all sorts – they are a bit less streamed than some pubs.

Best of all, from any person’s point of view who wishes for beer to remain popular and grow its audience, you get people who are mainly lager drinkers.

Granted most of these will usually be drinking the Ciders and Perries, but sometimes they do venture over to the real ale side of things.

I feel I am patronising these people, this is not the intention.

But these are the people who need the most “help” and need the tasters most. They are trying something new and should be commended for it.

The Dandy fuck-wits, on the other hand, are the idiots I mentioned above that don’t know they’re idiots.

I’ve read the complete works of Shakespeare, doesn’t mean I know all and everything or even anything about them, can act them, or could write anything similar.

It certainly doesn’t mean I’m cleverer than someone who hasn’t. I certainly wouldn’t debate them with some scholar or what-not.

If I wanted to hear some person’s views of the tastes and over-tones of beers, it would be the brewers and the sommeliers out there.

Not some unqualified cock-end who read one post on Melissa Cole’s or Brewdog’s blogs and thinks they know what is what.

What they really are is the less likeable, more frustrating version of Tim Lovejoy and the sods at Let There Be Beer.

While you’re busy telling the bar staff what you can taste, when you’ve finally decided which of the 5 beers you’ve tasted you actually want…when you turn around…this might just happen to you…

Well, that’s nice isn’t it – I thought this would be a more calm rant. Instead I make threats of violence, with underlying misogyny.* It would appear my hippy phase of enlightenment lasted now more than 700 words.

I’ll be back with an actual beer festival review (and finally some Australia stuff, at a later date) and in doing so will return to a more happy place.

*I have, nor will ever punch someone, even a Hipster beer taster, merely because they take too long. That scene is still one of the best punches in cinema history.

Fall In Violent A&E Admission Due to Alcohol Prince Increase

You’d think the title of this post would require a question mark, it doesn’t, using a question mark it a cunt’s trick in the media to make a statement but make it seem like it is something that is up for debate.

I’ve left it out because it is up for debate – the title of this blog is going to be completely at odds with what I write.

I woke to this story being the lead piece on BBC Breakfast…note there is no ‘New’s in the programme title, much like other TV channels have Sunrise or Daybreak or Good Morning Cock Wombles – it is merely a device to make you think you’d be getting news, when really you are getting puff pieces and opinion (to be fair, not much different from the programmes actually called NEWS).

Basically the report, based on admissions to Accident and Emergency (A&E) units of hospitals in England and Wales shows that people going there because of violent actions has fallen nearly 33,000 from the figures in 2013.

This, as all reports show, is part of a continuing falling trend.

Anyway, lets me show you a brief over view of some of the ways some media outlets have chosen to broadcast this report…

The BBC leads with Violent crime in England and Wales falls again, A&E data shows

Opening paragraph…

Violent crime is continuing a long-term fall in England and Wales, according to annual figures from NHS hospitals.

There was a 12% fall in injuries from violent incidents in 2013, according to data from almost a third of emergency departments examined by Cardiff University.

This under a photo which has the tag-line “Report author Prof Jonathan Shepherd said the drop was connected to changing alcohol habits.” Which misrepresents what is actually being reported.

The Telegraph goes with the simple headline Survey shows fall in violent crime

But the opening paragraph is…

The number of people who went to hospital after being injured by a violent crime fell 12 per cent last year in England and Wales, reflecting a fall in binge drinking and higher alcohol prices, according to a new survey.

The Times (behind a pay wall) goes with Shock drop in violent crime

Opening paragraph goes on about links to alcohol and ‘less-macho’ culture, but oddly the link from the front page suggest
“Shock drop in violent crime ‘down to economy’.”

To be fair to Channel 4 they take a fairly balanced approach to the report, making it a part of their ‘Fact Check’ blog (though putting the word Fact in any article it another cunts trick along with the roaming question mark.)

Though this itself still seems to report mainly from the point of view that alcohol pricing is the driving factor.

People are more prone to violence when drunk. Though I still think that most people who are violent when drunk are simply more predisposed to violence in general.

The report itself (which I’ve only skimmed) would show that the main fall of violent admissions is amongst the young, those still evolving in their drinking abilities and evolving as human beings in general.

Some reports have placed emphasis, while mainly on the pricing of alcohol, but also on this less-macho culture, an up-swell in the temperance movement and also on the austerity of the economy.

Not surprisingly from some media outlets, that last point was then met with the paranoid “but if the economy recovers there could then be an up-swing in violence,” or words to that effect.

I’m not going to debate the figures of the reasons, I’m merely going to ask why you think the focus from the majority of media outlets was put on the increase in price in alcohol?

Yes, that is me asking a rhetorical question as a cunt’s trick.

I believe in freedom of choice and personal responsibility.

You deal with the consequences of drinking in excess with hangovers and general ill-health.

If you of the violent persuasion, you deal with being a perpetrator of violence by hopefully being jailed.

But we could come up with statistics of our own to defend the UK’s apparent ‘booze culture’. If you want to say that 33,000 people were admitted to A&E from violent acts and ALL of these are attributable to alcohol and were ALL individual and independent admissions – what percentage is that out of everyone that has a drink?

I feel it would be quite small. But then I’d be using unfounded and pointless statistics to try and prove a point.

In the meantime, the media is doing the nanny government’s Nudge Unit (Behavioural Insights Team) a favour by continually broadcasting its propaganda for a minimum price of a unit of alcohol and the removal of any sense of enjoyment from going out, socialising and having an alcoholic drink while doing it.

Yes, you don’t need a drink to have a good time (or as Jermaine Stewart also noted you don’t have to take you’re clothes off either), but nor do we need to be told what is and isn’t ‘good’ for us.

Not as free minded adults, sober or drunk.

The Road to Wigan Beer – The Allgates Brewery Beer Festival/Pub Crawl 2014

The Festival started on the 17th April 2014, it runs till the 27th April 2014.

If you can’t catch it, because of some geographical reason being the only fit excuse, then it will come around again (hopefully) in October.

This is the festival’s 1 year anniversary, but as it appears to be a bi-annual event the idea of an anniversary is rather moot.

I first went when it first started, last April, but then I only took in 3 of the pubs on the tour.

I then took in all 7 pubs last October, which I did a week after the bus and decided to rely on public transport – you can read about those exploits by clicking on this whole, entire sentence.

This year I decided to get on the bus. It was a shame that the Jolly Nailor of Atherton (pronounced a-THER-tun, not ath-er-ton) decided not to take part this time around, but that didn’t stop me going and still managing to do all 7 pubs – plus some additional ropey ones in Wigan town centre.

Now if you want a proper review, with photos and proper descriptions of the beer then go to this link for ‘Beers Manchester’ and his review of exactly the same day, and actually, more or less the same drinks.

Just a quick one at The Anvil and it was the 4.3% Bourbon Milk Stout by Sonnet 43 Brew House. I worry about drinking my type of drink first, everything will always be judged by it. What a gloriously sweet and full stout.

Then it was off to catch Old Wigan Bus. In any decade I don’t know where orange and brown was every considered a good colour scheme. Still, it brought back days of yore when sherbet was my drug of choice, but given that sugar is the new dietary evil I suppose alcohol deserves the break for a while.

Off to Crooke Hall Inn. I noted that some people chose to eat here. I’d eaten at Crooke Hall last year and it was a monster of a lamb shank that really set the day off to a good start. But with so many of Allgates Brewery pubs doing food, I thought it only fair to ‘save myself’ and to eat a meal at a place I hadn’t tried yet…more on that later.

Crooke Hall is built on the canal, it was typical that what was a sunny and calm day most of the time chose our visit to this pub to actually become over cast and a bit windy.

I got a fair few halves down my in this place – trying as many of the 11 pumps that were on offer than were new to me.

Anarchy Brew Co was first with the Blonde Star. A 4/1% IPA that went down very quickly and was a good balance to the other pale ale I had…

…the Pacific Pale Ale (4.5%) by ShinDigger Brewing Co. This was a massively popular drink.

Getting off a bus with a load of beer drinkers you can be guaranteed 2 things – a good laugh and a ready-made queue (either for the toilet or the bar). Upon entering Crooke Hall, it turned out that every one had gone for the Pacific Pale.

I had had it before at The Love Beer Festival in Chorlton, for free – on keg.

Getting it on cask was a no brainer and obviously you get all the full fruity flavours when it is served at a more reasonable temperature. Now I just have to find the West Coast Pale Ale – which is also on at the festival, just a question of keeping an eye out for when it comes on.

An Elderflower Blonde (4.0%) by Saltaire Brewery was very refreshing. Having never had Elderflowers, I can now say I have, the taste and the smell were wonderful, a good sensory assault.

Next up were Pictish Brewing with the 4.0% Lubelski. Pictish had it all to play for. They’ve set themselves up for a fall because every beer I’ve had from them is wonderful. Maybe it’s the Rochdale water, most probably its the talent of the brewers (I hear they swapped brewers recently, but I’ve not noticed any drop off). The over-riding thing I get from Pictish is the smoothness of their drinks. They can be any variation of hops, malts, water, barley; but in the end they always go down very well and the Lubelski was no exception.

Finally came the Risky Blond (4.4%) from the people of Fool Hardy Brewery. Another well-balanced, quickly drunk pale ale.

Back on to the bus for the big journey to The Union Arms.

This was a challenge for the bladder. With every twist and turn of the well-known roads, with every revolution of the wheels on the bus going round and round, I got that bit more on edge.

Off the bus and into the toilet I went – leading a veritable troupe of punters behind me.

Couple of ‘off-programme’ brews were had in here. Elland Brewery had 4 on the programme but Beyond The Pale (4.2%) was not one of them. Still, not to worry as this was as drinkable session pale as you can want.

Also consumed was OSB – Old School Brewery and their Detention (4.2%) and a welcome session bitter after so many pales.

Because of the set-up of the bar in The Union, a central bar with rooms around it, you have to rely on colourful card signs, sometimes in lieu of pump clips, to let you know what is on the other casks. And after another quick toilet break (seal well and truly broken) I noticed that a Black Jack Beers brew had gone on the bar. Black Jack, in my estimations, are very much like Pictish, in that they have not let me down yet with any of their beers. New Deck (4.2%) which I insist on calling New Jack (a confusion between the brewer and the psychotic ECW wrestler) was again no different, another pale ale and another easily quaffable brew.

Some took the opportunity to eat here. I have many times and I was waiting to the next pub, in Leigh, The White Lion.

The bus arrived at about 3.50pm, food service ended at 4.00pm – bit of a blind panic came over me, ordering beer and begging for some food. Both came through.

Food at The White Lion, Leigh
Food at The White Lion, Leigh

Check that lot out. £5.50 each – or 2 for £10. No I didn’t have both. But I did mix and match between the all day breakfast and the Steak Pie. Look at the size of that pie. Big chunks of meat and rich gravy. The breakfast was huge too and then you’ve got a massive boat of additional gravy. Nice one Harry.

This would have been perfect alone but then I got what were probably my two favourite beers of the evening.

Atom Beers Pale Ale (4.5%) are another very new brewery, great website that appeals to my scientist persuasion. Yep it’s another pale ale, but it was a goodie, lots of hops, smooth and clean.

But then came the daddy of the day. Off-programme it maybe, but having a Chili Plum Porter (6.1%) on cask it like a red rag to a bull with me and this The Waen Brewery was the absolute dogs bollocks. Smooth, full-bodied, big gulps were taken of this, then the tingle of the chili came in the after-taste. A stonker.

On to the bus and off to Hindley to visit The Hare and Hounds.

I sat in the corner and let my food digest while I was brought, well I was told it was a Session by Allgates themselves, but I have no idea about the details other than it was a reddish ale and it was nice.

Back on to the bus and off to Haigh Village to visit The Victoria.

This time it was the Ostara (3.6%) by Allgates and the Five Towns Brewery with their Day At The Races (3.9%). Both pale ales and both drunk with gusto that belied just how long a day it was, so that is testament to how good those beers are.

There was hot-pot on offer, but I declined, still full from the meal(s) at the White Lion.

All that was left to do was get back on the bus and return to The Anvil.

It was at this point that my evening got rather odd. We then visited a few other bars in Wigan. Yes, bars – not pubs (to be discussed later).

Then it was back on the train and to get off at Atherton to make our way to The Jolly Nailor to complete all 7 of the Allgates pubs.

Do I know what I drank there?

No, they had 5 cask pumps and a rock band on and it was getting close to midnight.

I still went over the road to The Pendle Witch for another beer I can’t remember.

Then I went home – again I can’t remember how.

A long, long day. I’m keeping my eyes on the twitter feeds of all the pubs, to see if anything comes up that really interests me.

Thanks to all the pubs and staff and the bus driver for an excellent day out.

Same time in October?

Obviously.

The 26th Oldham Beer Festival 2014

This is a review for the 26th Oldham beer festival.

I went on April the 4th 2014, there  is still time to go as it’s still open till 10.30pm tonight.

This was my first time attending this event, it being quite hard to get to and from Oldham, plus its Oldham.

The event took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, near the bus station.

A large a spacious hall, with a large ales bar and one cider and one foreign beer bar tucked up at the side.

Plenty of seating and entry fee of up to £5, with applicable discounts, this got you your glass and your programme, the glass was refundable.

Food

Good stodge on sale here; curries, pie & peas, black pudding and peas, nothing more than £3.

No stew or anything, but a most painfully obviously good fodder that is the baked potato – with whatever toppings you wished for.

Why had I never considered baked potatoes being a must a beer festival, they are my staple at music festival, every festival should be able to do them and have them on (posh or “dirty” them up if you must make them hip and sell them at £5+).

What I was left feeling when I woke this morning was how professional and smooth everything seemed to go.

Granted you’ve got your usual no-shows or not-ready beers that typically will always be one you’ve set your heart and tongue on, but in the main it reminded my a lot of the Bent & Bongs Beer Bash only on a larger scale, though this might just have been that the venue felt bigger.

I talked to a lot of people here, oddly. Probably because I was there over most of the full day you got to see the different variety of people who go at the different times of day.

A lot of talk was about the recent Manchester Beer Festival in the Velodrome, the reaction being generally positive, but most of the people I talked to had got there on the earlier days so hadn’t witnessed the mass of people and lack of beer the blighted its final hours.  The most negative comment I heard is that someone thought holding it at the Velodrome was “showing off.”

On to the beers…

Greenfield Brewery had provided a 5.2% Vanilla Stout which was a very good stout with only a subtle hint of vanilla that rose in the after taste but wasn’t to over bearing. A good stout.

Because I enjoyed it last time I decided to have another of the Cumbrian 5 Hop (5%) from Hawkshead Brewery. It’s basically how I wished every golden ale tasted like, which is why it wins awards and makes me start a sentence with because.

I decided to have the two brews that The Hop Studio had brought along. The 3.5% Dark Rose was a sweet mild, a near perfect session mild that isn’t as heavy as some others, and then there was the 5% Obsidian, a black IPA. I’ve said many times that black IPA’s mess with my head, being that I prefer the darker drinks but am not a massive fan of the IPA’s, despite my recent IPA kick. This black IPA was a good drink, but if I’m honest I wouldn’t say it was too IPA-ey. So a very good drink for what it was, but not for what it was described at, if that makes sense.

Irwell Works Brewery was the next beer reached for, a Costa Del Salford at 4.1%. A nice, simple, hoppy summer ale.

I’ve had both the Oat Mill Stout (5%) by Bollington Brewery and the DV8 Breakfast Stout (4.8%) from Deeply Vale Brewery many times before, which is my recommendation enough. Great Stouts.

Next up was a brown ale from Magic Rock Brewing called The Stooge (4%). Which shows that these guys can actually brew straight forward, low ABV beers to a very high quality. It’s the odd thing about Magic Rock, I tend to see them at every beer festival (CAMRA or otherwise), but when buying bottles it’s always and only the silly strong stuff that I find, and I admit I buy, because they know what they are doing.

Millstone Brewery did a citrusy and hoppy ale at 5% called True Grit which was quite agreeable with me (that me trying to find a different way of saying I enjoyed it).

Next up was an Elderflower and Honey pale ale by Ramsbottom Craft Brewery coming in at 4% and called Bumble’s Honeyed Ale. Very refreshing and not to heavy on the honey.

Finally, or rather the first drink I did actually have, was the Unite or Venus Unite (4%) by Wilson Potter Brewery, brewed with the help of local women (one of which I knew) and one that is half the team behind Bolton’s Great Ale Year Round, an micro-bar that I have no shame in mentioning because it’s very nice and is worth the trip to Bolton alone.

The Unite was very enjoyable, brewed as part of International Women’s Day. Darker than the golden ale it was described as, but none the less very good, light hops, would make a smashing session ale that could be enjoyed by all those old men who still can’t get it into their heads that if women work together, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are lesbians. At least they conceded that it doesn’t really make a difference and it is always about how good the beer is, so I think some progress may be happening in the clichéd and still rather ingrained views of certain older men.

So, once again thanks to all the volunteers and organisers, it was a most enjoyable time.