Cask Beer – Too Much Like Hard Work

I should preface this piece by saying I have nothing but respect for those that brew beer for a living.  Those that actually brew, not those that tour around the world promoting themselves and writing think pieces about the state of beer, or think because they’ve dug out a few mash tuns while getting their name on a collaboration beer that actually know how the world works.  No, it’s the hands on, up to your elbows in boiling hot trub kind of people.  The, lungs stripped of all sensation by peractic acid, kind of people.  The, I’ve got so many caustic soda burns you’d think I’d know when to wear gloves, kind of people.

If a brewery has chosen to not cask beer then fair play, that isn’t where the market is and it is very hard to do and get right.

Likewise those selling it, especially those in the micro pubs and bars popping up around the country, if you can sell cask, even just one line, and keep it well, then fair play to you.

What I would like to do is just walk through why cask beer, from my own experience, is an absolute twat to brew, sell and keep.

Let us start with the cask itself.  Metal and plastic are the main varieties.  We can leave wood, it is very rare thing, mainly used for ageing, selling beer from in at The Junction pub in Castleford, or to hide impurities while charging a small fortune for it.

The Cask on the Outside

People of all stripes don’t seem to respect the physical nature of a cask.  Yes, they are built to last, to cope with being thrown around, rolled around, stacked and dropped but that doesn’t mean that always has to be the way they are treated.  Dints and bangs, chips and scratches are part of natural life, especially when things need to be expedited but the state I’ve seen some casks in beggars belief.  All casks are the property of someone, you wouldn’t go round beating up things because they could take it on a daily basis (unless it’s a punch bag) because society would view you as some kind of sociopath, so a bit more respect wouldn’t go amiss.  Use just once and destroy, the story of Key Keg.  So I suppose Cask Beer is the more environmentally friendly one.

The Cask on the Inside

Talking of respect, once a cask is finished, just how hard is it for pubs and other holders of empty casks to simply stopper up the empty holes (shive or keystone).  It isn’t difficult, paper towel would be good enough if you don’t want to stretch to corks, bungs and spiles.  If you want to learn just how a little thought goes a long way, in this small heatwave the UK is having, try getting millions of welded on fly eggs out of an empty, open cask.  And leaves, cigarette butts, litter and other general detritus.  Not something you have to do with a Keg.

Sterilising The Cask

Once you’ve cleaned the inside and outside of a cask (metal is easier but more expensive, hence why there are quite a few rental options for them) you sterilise the thing.  Sterilising, in my experience can be carried out with chemicals (and then copious amounts of water to remove the chemicals) or steam. This includes the shive and the keystone.  Nothing is 100% fool-proof and contamination can occur in even the most sterile of environments, which breweries aren’t.  Not something you have to do as laboriously with a Keg.

Selling the Cask

Beer, once placed in a sterilised cask, can have a pretty good shelf life, especially without additives like finings or adjuncts.  Key kegs will last longer.

Preparing the Cask

Stillage the beer and let it settle for at least 48 hours before tap and vent/serving.  A luxury in a cold room/under bar where space is a premium or turn over is high.  Plug in and Play, the Keg Beer story, part 2.

I’ve been to places (and festivals) that serve less than 24 hours before selling, it is called taking the customer for granted.

Serving the Cask

You’ve got about 5 days (maybe longer with the best conditions/cellar skills) to sell this beer now it is open and oxygen is waging war with the beer inside the cask.  Do not move it, do not knock it, keep it between 11-14°C (52-57°F).  Taste it all the time, check the clarity all the time.  Its been 3 weeks and the Key Keg has been on and off its line a few times now, still tastes quite nice.

I’ve been to places (and festivals) that serve blatantly green beer and even ones with easily spotted spoiled characteristics, it is called taking the customer for granted.  Then again, if they like the taste and smell of TCP, why question the practice.

Just keep your keg beer cold

Dealing with the Cask

“That doesn’t taste right.”

“That doesn’t look right.”

“The beer isn’t clearing.”

“There isn’t much condition to it.”

One of the best and nicest brewers (and human beings) in Manchester, whose brewery is keg only, once explained to me the decision not to ever do cask (from the outset, not give up a few years in) was that he wished to remove all doubt that once the beer had left the brewery, any in a poor condition could not be levelled as a fault with the brewery.

Granted you can get a duff keg, things can go wrong with them but the trouble with cask is that everything can ultimately end up falling on the brewer.  And we are back to point one.  Once a beer is out in the wild, a whole number of things can happen to it.  Flung around.  Dropped.  Not kept at the right temperature.  Not vented for long enough.  Kept on too long. All of this is all out of control of the brewery and yet if the beer is considered to be pants it all falls on the brewery.

Cask beer is too much like hard work for those who actually sell it, it would seem.  Perhaps it is a facet of the modern age, a lack of personal responsibility in these interesting times we live.  A need for something new, now and as cheap as possible, if not free.  Something that requires a bit of effort, a bit more time, a bit more care… meh.

LPs vs CDs

CDs are virtually indestructible, they last forever with minimal looking after. Vinyl needs to be kept upright, dust free and at a suitably ambient temperature.

CD covers are tiny, you can get very little information on them and you can’t see all the intricate detail.  An LP cover can be a work of art.

CDs are compressed bits of data, with a Long Player you can experience the full dynamic range.

CDs are now being replaced by the mp3 or the stream.  LPs are having a bit of a revival.  And you can’t hold and smell and marvel at a byte of music.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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Northern Ireland – Beer and…Bass

Just a brief write up of a recent trip I had around Northern Ireland, hopefully not mentioning politics (past or current) and with no pictures of The Dark Hedges, Giant’s Causeway, boats, mountains, flags, sectarian gift shops and murals.

 

Larne

 

Larne is an odd place, eerily quiet on the Saturday night when I visited but the first thing I saw on the high street set the tone for beer (kind of) for the rest of the trip.

If you are ever in Larne, eat at Carriages, they feed you well, the feed you very, very well.

Portrush

The wondrous thing about many of the bars, pubs and restaurants I went into across the nation was that as well as the usual macro beers that everyone knows and loves the representation from local breweries was very well represented.

To dine (as opposed to takeaway) in Portrush is to seemingly have a choice between 6 restaurants all owned by the same company but the food was great as were the choices of beers but this place came alive when I found a place called Kiwi’s.

All towns (big or small) in Northern Ireland seem to work on some daft one way, pedestrianised system which directs cars on the longest route possible to find the smallest amount of car park spaces, not good if you are there for a few hours, makes sense if you are staying overnight.

Lacada brewery is the community brewery based in Portrush (community brewing seems to be big across all of NI) and to their credit, and that of many of the other businesses in Portrush, their beers were to be found in most outlets.  Kiwis itself has a wide selection of beers micro and macro plus the obligatory gin selection too.

Portstewart

People here can not drive and that is all I have to say, they also don’t like working late either so just stay in Portrush.

Derry (LondonDerry)

For my sins I only passed through Derry, on the way to the north part of Southern Ireland, it looked like quite a nice place to stop off, maybe next time.

Newry

 

The Stoke of Northern Ireland, a place simultaneously bustling and run-down. Welcoming and hostile. Where the Tesco sells a fine mix of many local breweries.

3.7% – who knew?

Mourne Mountains / Warrenpoint

Visit the Silent Valley – take insect repellent and a few beers.

Comber / Newtownards

Again many nice pubs and restaurants, quite a few carrying local beers from Bullhouse and Farmageddon.  Lots of ancient ruins and scary locals off the beaten tracks so lock your doors when you drive around Ballydrain.

Belfast

Driving into Belfast I could smell beer being brewed.  It is the exact smell you get as you drive into Cheetham Hill (Holt’s) or back down the Irk Valley (Blackjack & Runaway).  Sometimes I even mistake it for the smell of cooked liver.

Lovely pub.  And the only cask pint I found (Hilden Brewery, take a bow and the pub, it was a great pint).

Obviously a capital city has many pubs to choose from and also a wide choice of beers.  Apart from The Sunflower I was very taken by the John Hewitt and of course, The Crown

I’d take pictures of the inside but I’m more interested in the drinking, quite ethereal in here.

Bass

Bass (keg) was prevalent in many of the places I visited.  There seems to be some tie in to Tennents, possibly when both were on by InBev.

So there you have it.  Northern Ireland; a place of fine natural scenery, good hostelries, many, many flags, red triangles, big red T’s, fake retro Guinness pumps, potatoes, so many potatoes and me trying not to sing out loud lyrics to Stiff Little Fingers songs.

One final thing…

 

Public signs for dog fouling seem to all have to display the actual mess, either falling out or a steaming pile of it next to the cartoon dog…it is the small things in life…

 

Thanks for reading.

A Brewery Gets Woke…Now Going Broke…

In writing this piece I will probably expose who I was talking about in the quoted piece below, meh, so be it.  In fact if you didn’t know who I was writing about back then, you will pretty much gather who it is if you’d have paid enough attention to Manchester’s brewing/twitter bollocks over the last few years.

 

2014

Start brewery in a Piccadilly archway brewing a very niche style of beers.  Employ one renowned blogger to handle PR (twitter) while you brew.

2015

Get Woke.

Complain about offensive t-shirt at Manchester Beer Festival.  Take over PR of brewery.

Employ and release a few people for various reasons.

Try and control “Piccadilly Beer Mile” and in effect Manchester beer scene but run up against both sensible people/brewers and someone who can be an even bigger virtue signalling fool than you can be.

Get into a spat with a bloke from London who is in Manchester for a while.  Maybe police were involved, maybe they weren’t.  What larks, eh Pip?

2016

Warn that offensive t-shirts should not be at Manchester Beer Festival (they aren’t but you’ve set a precedent to virtue signal so you’ve got to play the game).

Employ and release a few people for various reasons.

Hint that Tesco has approached you to sell your cans, simply so you can signal how you won’t be signing up.

Continue beer sexism rants on twitter.

Further alienate customer base and others within the brewing world.

Call for the assassination of Trump

2017

Employ and release a few people for various reasons.

Continue beer sexism rants on twitter.

Further alienate customer base and others within the brewing world.

2018

Continue beer sexism rants on twitter.

Harass all stockists of Robinson’s Dizzy Blonde.

Employ and release a few people for various reasons but mainly because they are men.  Then employ women with now proven experience of commercial brewing.

Slag off lager.

Slag off local newspaper in a battle of the brain-trusts.

Launch crowd funder. Always a sure sign.

2019

If you make it this far, I’ll be surprised.

Go Broke.

 

Disclaimer: All time lines are non-specific and everything else is gossip.  None of this is personal, this piece is merely a warning.  If you aren’t of a significant business size to be woke, you are in no sensible financial position to draw your lines so deep in the sand as to not be able to come out the other side with your business still intact.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Craft Beer Gets Its 10 Commandments

The Everyone Welcome Initiative

This is one of those pieces where you have an internal debate about whether you wish to write about something or not because this only exists inside a very small world, for now at least and this one world is the beer bubble

But I suppose forewarned is forearmed and as I would never miss the opportunity to castigate threats to free speech and free thought I may as well have at it.

First read on the Manchester Beer Week website about being the launch of a “diversity manifesto” I wondered what the audience would be like…

So diverse…

It’s almost like they had to bus in white people from that there London, Liverpool and Sheffield just to bump up the attendance.

Anyway, that is an easy shot, that it took place at Fairfield Social Club, a place where hipster racism exists in God’s own image should have been a clue.

“But what is wrong with the 10 Commandments?” I hear you cry, “you’ve mentioned it in the title, get on with your point. I can’t see anything wrong with rules which are basic common sense and good human behaviour.”

No.  This is true.  Taking Commandments 6 to 10 most seem logical.  Given this is the bible; it is amazing that people leading up to its writing and publication weren’t just murdering and robbing each other because they had no set of rules (holy or otherwise) to follow.  That there were enough people around to write this stuff it’s fair to say that a great many people have a certain innate morality.  Perhaps we should credit that to our supposed creator(s) too but what is life without actually written rules and therefore surely there is nothing wrong with this manifesto?

Rules are about control.

The infantalise those that feel compelled to follow them and therefore the followers feel compelled to compel others.

My main wondering is how far this goes.  No compulsion, but are we then suppose to think that all venues not displaying this list are horrible, evil, squalid places?

Any place that doesn’t have these rules won’t have them because, they will think they are bollocks, they don’t care and they are quite open enough as it is but mainly because those that wrote them and the acolytes that adhere to them, won’t and would never have gone in those places in the first place.

Woke CAMRA of Bolton were quick to get in on the act…

Makes you wonder if this CAMRA branch will actively boycott pubs and bars that don’t display these rules, other than the 10 pubs of their area they actually bother about.

Long live the beer schism.

 

Much like the 10 Commandments, the first 5 about an all-powerful yet strangely paranoid and vindictive God.  That this initiative sets it stall out, before its rules, by actually talking about it NOT being snowflakey, PC-gone-mad and virtue signalling all seems quite self-evident about the actual intentions.  Me thinks the authors doth protest too much.

More than anything, this sets up businesses and their employees as those beholden with the keys to kingdom.  An army of poorly trained and at the very least completely oblivious workers who now have to police what people say and how they act.  It is a sham and an absolute nonsense.

It creates borders and boundaries, it creates individual groups and sets them off against each other in some faux war that apparently needs to be won in the name of bringing people together.

In the Koran (like all religious texts, rip offs of each other), it state that there is “no compulsion in religion” – which is cool, until the ultra-orthodox play the convert or die card.  Just like gay-conversion therapy and other shit, zealots of every stripe are the ones to be wary of.

Then again I would say all this; I’m an alt-righter, a privileged man, with white skin, scared that his controlling patriarchy is collapsing.

Meh, we can all play the victim card if we choose, some are better at it than others and the really good ones can make money from it.

It plays into a bigger part of the so-called “culture wars” (wars, again, everything is about fighting).  Growing up life used to simply be about; believe what you want, just don’t let it interfere with anyone else’s life.

It seems that those that preach secularisation of religion seemingly need to replace one belief system with another, their lives unable to function without rules and an orthodoxy to follow.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Today in Craft Beer Wut – The Capitalist Communist

My “I’m not on twitter but still read specific twitter feeds every so often” (mainly actual brewers, for information without the white noise) does really pick up around now as its Manchester Beer Week and while I currently pen a response to the “”Diversity” Manifesto” I stumbled across this thread of tweets from Liverpool’s Mad Hatter Brewing, which could indicate that someone is ingesting mercury somewhere amongst their food and beverage intake.

In a thread of 22 tweets it starts off sensibly and logical…

Paints a good background of a fledging brewery starting up mixed in with real world situations (kids, bills, housing, etc.)

Then, halfway through it starts to go off a bit…

Wut?

Is this worse than the nightmare of cake?*

What. The. Fuck?

Ah…

Are we taking the piss now?  Is this a parody?

I hope you paid for the microphone you just dropped.

I hear Venezuela is a nice place to open a brewery, good socialist and communist principles over there.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

*Its a Brass Eye reference

 

For Dimebag and Vinnie

It was early Saturday that I read the Vinnie Paul had died.

I was the immediately reminded of hearing of the death of his brother “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott in 2004. That day I was going to a gig (I believe it was a Thursday) in Manchester, I think it was the Main Debating Hall (MDH, now known as Academy 2) and it was the Wildhearts.  No mention, not that I expected any, was made of Dimebag’s passing.

The following day, it was Fear Factory at the Academy and it was, as the speaker cabinets were emblazoned with DBD, the most subdued and depressing metal gig I’ve been to.

Dimebag was shot dead live on stage, with his brother playing drums behind him, as part of their DamagePlan group.

For a beer reference, DamagePlan is also the name of a great beer by Marble Beers of Manchester, when they made actual beer before producing a load of lagers and being far too concerned with virtue signalling and being so woke it hurt. Still thanks for the memories.

The death of Dimebag left a great big hole in the world of metal, the genre had lost one of its true natural talents (and by all accounts a great human being). When I wrote this parody piece using Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” I stated that the guitar solo was the 5th best of all time.

Of course I meant it was my fifth favourite but as a point of reference I would stick any number of Dime’s solos above it.

I am fortunate enough to have seen DamagePlan (and likewise Vinnie and Dime) play live.

I am even more fortunate enough to have seen their previous group, Pantera, play live, numerous times; something that, because of the tumultuous nature of their split, Dime’s death and their legendary status within metal music, the clamouring for a reformation, or at least a tribute tour, with Zak “every not is a pinch harmonic” Wylde on guitar, that because so many seemed to have missed out it is really something I can hold on to as special, even almost unique.

Being that I am a guitar player and my brother is a drummer, there was a natural connection for the two of us to Pantera and whereas I don’t have the required level of skill (or really the drive to practice) to truly master a Dime solo, the machine that is my brother can still rip out Vinnie’s beats and we can still jam a basic Pantera song should the mood ever take us.

And as my love of guitar rubbed off onto my brother so he could appreciate guitar work, so to did his love of drumming and drummers on me.  In fact at gigs these days I do find myself listening to the drummer more, a phenomenon I place firmly at the lazy feet of Lars “I can’t really be bothered to play properly any more” Ulrich.

Vinnie’s passing at 54 (Darrell was a mere 38) leaves another hole in the metal world.  It was a shame that he and Phil Anselmo could never seem to rectify their differences and if that is still the case it would serve as a reminder that perhaps if you have fallen out with a former friend, maybe reconciliation is better sooner as sometimes you may never get the chance and regret is always a terrible thing to taste.

 

I’ll leave you with these two Pantera songs that for me best showcase the talents of Vinnie Paul and Dimebage.

 

Domination (Live) – the riffs, the lyrics, the melodies, the live energy, the breakdown and that solo….

Note: the recorded version from Cowboys From Hell starts with Vinnie apparently yelling “fart smells like a motherfucker”

 

Floods – I offer this a Dime’s best solo (and outro) for the more discerning, less metal-orientated reader/listener, it really is quite sublime.

 

 

Thanks for the music Vinnie and Dime.

 

Thanks for reading.

The Whining Cunt Song

*Rock that riff hard on F-Sharp*

 

Ah, ahhhhhhhh ah.

No…..C……O…….Twooooooo ooooo

 

We come from the land of the weed and blow,
Our red star logo makes beer twitter tears flow.

Hammer of the gods will drive our deals to new hands.
To fight the hordes, in Tottenham Hale.
Beavertown, I am coming.

Always scheming, buying craft breweries.
Our only goal will be the largest market share.

 

Ah, ahhhhhhhh ah.

Cam….a….ra…….aaaa

 

We come to the lands of the beards that grow,
Where food and beer matching makes stupids money flow.

How soft your breweries so green. Can whisper tales of smooth pour.
Of how we calmed the blogs that bore. We are your overlords.

Always seeing, we’ll soon buy more,
Our next goal will probably be FourPure.

So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your morals.
For success and investment can win the day despite of all your losing.

 

Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh
Salty. Tears.
Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh.
Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

P.S. Article 13 (and 11) of the EU Copyright Directive have passed the initial reading and will be voted on either later in the year or early 2019.  This would effectively make this piece, in fact most of this blog and many other blogs, subject to deletion.  Please contact your MEP (see link) to stop this from being enacted.

P.P.S. I didn’t really need to alter the lyrics that much, the originals actually sum up the whining of the crafterati and the general haughtiness of those that are part of the bubble.