Thanks for observing.
This is a piece about observations and should not reflect on either the business or the brewery and their practices as they can do what they want.
Just like people can spend their money on what they want but this event just confused me, that is was something I’ve never heard of should suggest that I write from a place of ignorance, so be it.
It was here I bumped into a man who knows his beers and he mentioned he was off to Pilcrow for a beer tasting he’d got a ticket to.
I’m no fan of the Pilcrow. For all its hand-made, locals-gave-their-time-and-labour ethos, it has always struck me as cold and efficient and all very, very cynical but as one of the party I was with hadn’t been, for the sake of plurality we trekked along and I was surprised at what I saw.
First it was busy, heaving in fact. All seats taken inside and it was also very full in the courtyard. I got a drink (as expensive as I’m sure the rent for this place is) and sat outside mulling it over when I bumped into yon mon again. He’d been to a separate token bar and treated himself to a couple of other Cantillon beers and the Boon.
That’s £2.50 for a third but if you’ve been to IndyMan you’re used to this pricing structure/one measurement only thing.
The beers were nice; I realise nice can seem like it is damning with faint praise but that is all they were nice, above average but then again this wasn’t the main event.
Not knowing what was going on I was then surprised to see a queue start forming, snaking out of the door and around the table I was perched at.
It was a queue I’d not seen since the likes of Port Street and any number of other bars where people have a curious notion of what it is to wait at a bar for service.
It was then explained that it was 8pm and this is when the Zwanze 2018 goes on sale.
The queue went pretty fast as people with blue wristbands came out with their lovely branded glasses and their 1/3s of this brand new beer.
The cost of this little extravaganza…
Twelve quid for 1/3 of beer (5.5%) and a glass that some would end up forgetting.
Though some were lucky enough to have got to the newly opened Northern Monk gaff and had a suitable tote bag all ready bulging with glassware.
My beer expert pal was totally under impressed. Being rather wry about the experience he did mention that he probably could have got it a damn sight cheaper from the places he regularly visits in Belgium but where as he was happy to attend he wouldn’t do it again.
It was at this point I was asked by a bloke with a most unsubtle Yorkshire twang where Victoria Station was. I motioned it was a minute away, then thought that if you were planning a night out, always work out how and where you get home from.
Then I thought that given the bullshit with striking guards and the incomplete timetable Northern Trains are currently working to because of this (and numerous other UK train crap bollocks shit nonsense) that it probably would have been cheaper and quicker for said Yorkshire gent to have gone to Brussels to try the beer.
Fifteen minutes later was when then next and most startling observation occurred. The whole place had emptied.
The inside was still well seated but no one was standing about and the outside looked like something from the Walking Dead.
It was eight thirty in the PM and that was Zwanze day.
A collective shrug was given as we said our good byes and went off to a far better drinking establishment.
Thanks for reading.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“Beer has been a remarkable success story in recent years.”
It depends how you define success. Pubs closing rapidly, less people drinking out and at home. Not the best business model to achieve longevity in.
“The number of breweries in Greater Manchester has grown by more than 200% since 2010 and more continue to open their doors each year.”
Ah, we are defining it like that. I admitted last year I was surprised that none of the breweries in Manchester centre had combusted yet (the ones that actually got going in the first place that is) – but I’m thinking by the end of 2018 we’ll see the first one but that will be because of personality issues leading to bad business decisions rather than it being a crowded market place.
Still the way we are drinking is changing, hence the rise and rise of the brewery tap, I am still surprised it manages to sustain so many feeding off the same teat.
“A big part of this success is the perceived ethos of craft brewing. These small-scale, independent producers are often viewed as a backlash against the status quo, and attached to values such as social awareness and inclusion.”
Bubble Alert – Perceived indeed it is. Leaving aside what makes a good status quo and a what makes a bad status quo but its something akin to when democracy gives the “wrong” answer.
I am aware of awareness.
But when it comes to craft brewing and inclusion I just think of this…
“This discussion will look at whether craft brewers doing enough to justify this perception and ask if more can be done to engage with the wider community and have a lasting, positive impact on society.”
The ones doing enough to justify this perception are the ones that want to sell it and use it as an additional marketing gimmick. Most of the other brewers just get on with their chosen jobs, because that is all it is. A job.
“The panel will include Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who has worked to involve the region’s businesses in his campaign to tackle homelessness, and Jenn Merrick, the former Beavertown head brewer and founder of Earth Station, a new community brewery being developed in East London.”
Nothing to difficult for Andy, got to keep it simple, play to the converted. Maybe you’ll visit the North Stand at the LSV soon. All the best.
Another fabulous chin-stroking, glad-handing, bubble-inflating “discussion.”
Thanks for reading.
A few weeks ago I wrote a small piece about Bolton Beer Festival and its “stand against sexism” and having been this weekend, as I have done annual for many years, I thought I’d reply to my own piece about the battlefield that has now been cleared and of the full and total victory that has now been won.
Sexism in the beer industry has become a hot topic over the last several months, but it has been gratifying to see that a number of our local breweries have taken this on board and rebranded/removed offensive marketing materials. The war is not yet won, but we have prevailed in numerous battles.
This was the opening gambit in the festival programme and they sold themselves short, clearly not counting on the devastating blow they would strike with their “stand.”
Which was indeed a stand. With lots of nice stickers, so, if I get the intention correctly, women can label themselves…
Label themselves with slogans such as “I drink pints” and “I know about ABV.”
Of course what is offensive varies from person to person but so people think that everyone else can make up their own minds, when really then need others to do it for them.
I was then told that pump clip parade may have had to field a complaint, or at least a query about Siren Craft’s offerings.
In fact I mentioned as much to a brewer
acquaintance friend about one of his recent cans…
Strangely he thought I was joking, so he clearly doesn’t take this issue as seriously as I do.
People are just better off removing women from advertising in general.
After all, CAMRA are removing women based on the clothes they wear.
Of course while at the festival I spoke to many people of the female variety who were aghast that some people were offended by the sight of, drawings, photographs or the very real, presence of a pair of breasts.
These women are suffering from internalised misogyny and aren’t really worth paying attention to when all is said and done. I mean if they don’t see themselves as perpetual victims living in an oppressive patriarchy then perhaps they best off, much like darts walk on girls and F1’s grid girls, being ignored and ostracised.
In a war, generally two sides a fighting. It must be really annoying when it is just one “side” doing a lot of huffing and puffing and the rest are actual belligerents who just don’t care.
The war is won, the battle for wokeness of all continues.
Viva la revolution.
Thanks for reading.
I will start this by admitting self-censorship on this post.
Apart from the fact that this piece has gone through numerous drafts as to its actual nature in my head, the title did originally have the word Putsch in it. I thought better of it, mainly because was and still am getting pretty sick of Nazi associations. Where as I like a good hyperbole as much as the next shamelessly needful, clamouring for any form of attention blogger out there I do have to draw a line somewhere.
That said, hate crime and the continual court trials of people for saying rude and apparently nasty things is exceedingly good fascism.
Anyway, this piece is actually going to be rather personal and has become focussed this way purely because of the events of Saturday 21st April 2018.
It was a glorious, sunny but not too hot as to burn my perpetually pallid-ashen privileged white skin, and I’d arranged to meet up with some old work colleges, some I’d not seen since the two and a half years I left my job of over a decade working with them.
Like an old musical group getting back together for the love of music rather than a cheap cash-in, we all clicked and it was like the conversation had never missed a beat. The faint patters of 2005-onwards, beat out a wonderful rhythm and that this took place in the Marble Arch pub on Rochdale Road in Manchester brought into focus exactly what had gone on in my relationship with “the beer world.”
The fact that a phrase like that exists (world is far better replaced by bubble or echo chamber really) crystallises just what bullshit goes on in the world, the real world, thanks to the advent of social media.
I didn’t join Twitter until 2013, it would also seem that this was the year I also started this blog (I have other blogs that have been going far longer, good luck finding them) and joined CAMRA.
I had though, been drinking in the Marble Arch since 2005 when, on one Friday out of the month, I’d send out an email laced with double entendres that would get me sacked in a heart-beat these days, inviting out anyone who wished to spend a bit of their pay cheque on some beers and food in a few pubs in Manchester centre.
This was back in the day when the brewery was still in the pub, the Smithfield was still a hotel (and very red) and possibly the ceiling to the Crown & Kettle was only just being discovered.
It was the days of original Dobber, lip-stingingly sharp Marble Ginger and Pint, before cans became a chance to generate some fine Brewdog-style, everyone is picking on us, marketing.
It was a time of work mates just drinking, just actual drinking, in pubs, in actual pubs.
7 fucking years before my presence on Twitter.
I’d been going to beer festivals even before 2005.
Rather ironically in the Marble on this 2018 evening I did bump into 2 people I’d encountered on twitter previously. One guy who runs Beer O’Clock show and I did once rile by claiming (rightly) that the #hopinions segments where getting very desperate. They were then, who knows what they are like now. The other bloke I think had just joined BO’C when I removed myself.
I’d asked them where they’d been and what their plans were for the rest of the evening. They’d done a few brew taps (non-existent in 2005, non-existent until about 2013) and that they were thinking of going to the Pilcrow, a soulless place, so desperately in need of a personality that it hadn’t even managed to steal one via osmosis from the “help” of willing slaves that built it from scratch.
I did suggest visits to the Angel, Smithfield and Crown & Kettle (as a route back to their hotel), I had suggested a quick trip down the hill to Runaway Brewery but that wasn’t really possible given the time. I do hope they took in those pubs and had a fine time.
They could have been tourists from another country or just unsure where to go next and looking for a pointer or two, instead there were from the beer world, knowledgeable and urbane and these two very nice people meant absolutely nothing to me.
For the five years I put into twitter, yes another odd phrase, I put half a decade of my life “into twitter” – I met and talked to some, nice people.
Not good people. Good people is an anathema. They were nice. Helpful. Friendly company.
This may be me burning my bridges but that is not the aim.
I left twitter, everyone’s lives moved on. Next.
And then CAMRA have to do this revitalisation thing and I think I can guess, given the results, or at least THE ONE RESULT, what the reaction is.
It wouldn’t even surprise me if the reaction is very much like Brexit.
Old people. What do they know? Head in the sand. Its OK, they’ll die soon and we can move on. They don’t represent me. I’m cancelling my membership. I’m cutting up my card. The vote wasn’t fair. The threshold was too high. Not enough of a turn-out. I represent the silent majority.
As far as I’m concerned some would have actually wanted this result, I finally chance to virtue signal about how irrelevant CAMRA is and likewise how very relevant they are. A ha ha ha.
Nuance is dead. Facts are dead. It is and always will be us verses them but for some reason we can’t ever be the bigger people, shrug and move on, we have to, just have to move even further to the other side to address some hypothetical imbalance.
It is with no small irony that, being an actual active CAMRA member, I was thinking of leaving the organisation last year. But life got in the way and I didn’t cancel my direct debit.
Why would I leave? Well it is a nonsense really. I give my Spoons vouchers to my mates. I know enough people at all the local beer festivals I volunteer at (to get free beer, like everyone else does) to guess I can continue to volunteer at them (mainly because I’m quick, helpful and not as drunk as most of the other volunteers working behind the bar) and it just seems like a unnecessary folly. A folly I am at least making use of in actual involvement.
In the Venn-diagram of CAMRA vs craft and everything in between, the bubble peak point because in my time out of it, I drink, I enjoy myself and I’m surrounded by real people free of beer bullshit.
On 21st April 2018 a vote happened. A few people on social media got upset. A few people on social media were OK with it. A few people on social media fell out with each other because of it.
In the real world. With real drinkers. In real pubs. Drinking was done and no shits were given. Let the beer egotists argue amongst themselves. Whatever fills up your day.
The bubble is inflated by the hot air of elitist, all of which needing their own and their adversaries bullshit in order to justify their own reason for being in the bubble.
Of course this post is part of the bullshit. Here is hoping it is the one final turd that causes the shit-show to slurry as a giant shit-tide out into the fucking sea. I somewhat doubt it.
I raise my glass to you all. It passed the time.
Thanks for reading.
The Seasonal CAMRA Festival Must-Have
When Wigan CAMRA host their
“treat adults like adults” annual beer festival they usually have a theme night where you can get free entry if you are dressed as that year’s festival theme.
Being Wigan, everything is generally related to pies and rather laboured puns. Puns which would probably turn the stomach of the puritans gleefully filling the pages of pumpclip parade
This year, 2018, it was a PIE-lot.There has been a PIE-King (that’s a pun on Viking, clearly cultural appropriation) and a whole host of other that despite searching for images and being to lazy to walk to my glass cabinet to check the artwork, I can’t be bothered to delve in to only to point out that there was once, of course, a PIE-Rate.
So where as modern feminists leap with joy as young women lose jobs as walk-on girls in darts and grid girls in motor sports, because, you know, women should have choices just not 100% there own, so too it would seem that CAMRA, as they try and “revitalise” and after a few recent to-dos and as they succumb to the inevitable supersessionism that is spreading through the beer world like a virulent yeast infection they have now gone full circle and over to the other side.
A side inhabited by the virtuous, the puritanical, the zealots. Those against choice or even actual equality.
Whether future CAMRA festivals will feature dress codes for women, remains to be seen. Perhaps it might depend if the festival is held in a place of worship where alcohol is acceptable but what a woman wears is subject to patrols by their approved modesty police.
Or maybe everyone can take a breath, behave like adults, so trying to feed into an “us vs them” mentality and actual approach life and all its aspects with rationality and clear thinking.
It can happen.
Thanks for reading.