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.

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

 

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.

Beyond the Bubble: Can beer make a difference?

Manchester Beer Week Event

 

“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.

Stairway to Heineken

*Not to be performed in guitar shops*

There’s a Logan who’s not sure if all that glitters is gold
Is he buying a stairway to Heineken?
If he does then he knows, all Brewdog bars are all closed
Maybe investment from private equity is what he should go for.
Ooh, ooh, is he buying a stairway to Heineken?

There’s a sign on the wall saying punk, but are you sure?
But craft deals in absolute and not duality of meanings.
In a Fevertree by the brook, there’s a neckbeard who sings,
Some day all beer will be subject to minimum unit pricing.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the bar,
And my autistic spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke in the breeze,
But a 2007 ban makes those stand outside.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it’s bellowed that soon, if we all sing the same tune,
Then the Peter will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long,
And the cellars will echo with Kegstar.

*Enter Drums*

If there’s a bushel in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now,
It’s just a spring clean, please ring CaskWatch.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
It’s either cask or keg and that’s it.

And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,
The CAMRA’s calling you to join them,
Boak Bailey, they can you hear the wind blow, but did you know?
Your blogs are really just all hot wind.

*5th best guitar solo ever*

And as we drink on down the road
Did we all just really sell our souls?
There walks a lady we all know
Who fights beer sexism and wants to show
Adverts disguised as journalism turn to gold.
But no one listens very hard
The tune will one day all be lost.
When it’s just beer and that is all
Your hand is dealt, now just call fold.

Is he buying a stairway to Heineken?

Beer: Zealotry, Supersessionism and Schisms

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.