Hey…CAMRA…

Low Strength Beer and wine could increase alcohol consumption

The continued bashing of beer (alcohol) being bad has led to a drop off in pub visits, with pubs shutting constantly, as each new generation drinks less than the one previous.

So my initial message to CAMRA and its revitalisation is, don’t bother.

The beer landscape is changing; less people are drinking, let alone drinking in pubs and those that you may seek to bring aboard with whatever “forward thinking” you may hope to propose will never be enough for people that give no shits whether you exist as is, exist but change, or disappear completely.

Your best bet is just to play it out for another 40 years as you’ve done previously, your membership will naturally fall as members die off but to be fair, there will be few pubs to protect and few people actually drinking by the year 2058 so all of this bullshit, all these talking heads and chatterings and tweets really make no difference.

 

And I’m being optimistic here, thinking that the world will survive till 2058.

 

Fuck Keg, keep on with the cask beer (and cider and perry if you must), keep the Wetherspoons vouchers but maybe treat your festivals as the adult entertainment they are and lose the massive Big Brother messages because the vast majority of people at them at pearl clutching, offense takers.

 

I’m Boozy Procrastinator and this is my manifesto for election to the National Executive.

 

Thanks for reading.

Advertisements

Chatting in Micro Pubs/Bars – A Guide

Inspired by this post from Richard Coldwell and the initial comment from “Dave”

First of all we need to define the difference between what is a Micro Pub and what is a Micro Bar

“All pubs have a bar but no bar has a pub”

Note: this guide assumes the location of said micro outlet is in a small-to-medium sized town, not a city or tourist trap/destination.

Micro Pub

The Drinks

The emphasis is on cask beer and generally session strength at that.  If there is any keg dispense it is usually a lager because the founder understood who his core clientèle would want to drink.  There will also be a red wine, a white wine, a Prosecco and some spirits (usually gin or whatever is on trend) all in order to increase footfall over the weekends.  Cider may also exist in known bottled varieties or boxed “real” ones.  Soft drinks will be dispensed from 2 litre plastic bottles blatantly purchased from the closest supermarket.

The Drinkers

What you’d find in most macro pubs, with slight variation depending on how close the nearest bookies is.

They are the kind of people who’ll walk into a micro bar and complain about the prices.

The Décor

All wood but that is because it was the cheapest material, a lick of paint here and there but pretty much like a macro pub, only it looks like your 50 year old twice-divorced uncle has simply converted his spare room.  Has one toilet.

The Landlord

Your 50 year old twice-divorced uncle who wanted to do something different.

The Wildlife

No cats. Cats are not found in micro pubs.  Dogs are allowed; they will be hulking beasts curled at the owners feet and fed occasional crisps or hog lumps.  Drool will be present.

 

Micro Bar

The Drinks

The emphasis is on keg beer and generally bastard strength at that.  If there is any cask dispense it is usually one pale and one bitter because the founder understood what his day trip visitors would want to drink.  There will also be a plethora of red wine, white wine, Prosecco and a massive choice of spirits, at least 25 gins. Soft drinks will be dispensed from 100mL glass bottles.  Lager may also exist but in bottle form, from some obscure German brewery, this is in order to increase footfall over the weekend and then hope they never return.  Probably also doubles as a bottle shop for retail purposes.

The Drinkers

Beer bloggers, overly-agitated graphic designers and those who’ve wandered in on the recommendation of some lifestyle journalist who wrote that piece by plagiarising what the aforementioned beer bloggers wrote about the place.

They are the kind of people who’ll walk into a micro pub and complain about the lack of choice.

The Décor

All wood but is was massively over priced because of the patina effect, a lick of paint here and there but pretty much like the railway arch the beer was brewed in.  Has one toilet.

The Landlord

Your 50 year old uncle who has always had that funky beard.

The Wildlife

No cats. Cats are not found in micro bars.  Dogs are allowed; they will be small, fluffy, lap-based things brought along by the owner in order to kick start an interaction.

How To Have A Conversation

Close proximity and bench seating demands conversation be had however this still depends on where you are.

In a micro pub, assuming most of the people aren’t doing all they can to avoid eye contact, let alone conversation because they most likely lie on the autism scale somewhere, you are in for a simple and quiet drink.  Talking may occur over the clarity of the pint in front of you.  You will only drink a pint (568mL), a half is acceptable if you’ve kept your coat on because you’re going to be racing to catch a bus/train/you are driving.

In a micro bar, you will get talked at, those doing the talking even know the brewer, they are on first name terms, or at least have over heard them talking to someone else, once.  You will drink a pint as your first session ale and loosener but then progress on to halves and then thirds inversely proportional to the ABV of the drink.

Talking in the micro pub may stray on to politics, you might get offended with the frankness of the views expressed and the terms used.

Talking in the micro bar may stray on to politics, the overly-agitated graphic designers will sulk off in tears or demand you leave their safe space.

Talking in micro pubs is a rare thing, generally kept between those who recognise each other.

Talking in micro bars because massive ABV’s plus immense egos results in verbal diarrhoea.

 

Use these pointers wisely; know your surroundings, know your adversaries and your conversations, or lack thereof, in micros up and down the UK will be blissfully symphonic or wonderfully, silently golden.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Tryanuary and Dry January – A Virtual Signal Coin

It’s January, it is officially the start of a whole new year of stupid and it always starts the same way, with News Year’s Resolutions.

Most are always about abstinence from some form of entertainment that has been deemed (or proved) to be harmful when taken to excess, yes excess, and then to replace the gaping hole that this lack of entertainment creates it is now worthy to do something else, to an equal excess.

Newton’s third law of motion holds true even in a human’s stunted mind.

Dry January is a registered trademark of Alcohol Concern – I do love that name, very soft-power paternalism, we aren’t worried, or apoplectic or in a rage about alcohol, we are merely concerned about it.

Alcohol consumption and by logical connection visiting to pubs, bars and clubs, falls in January.  In part due to the aforementioned resolutions and in part due to natural churn and a balance as more people visit the pub in the run up and over the Christmas period.

More people visiting the pub leads to a whole other level of beer signalling as “once-a-year” visitors get berated by those that see themselves as regulars.

Not actual regulars of course but those that love chatting about it, that think the whole beer world hangs on their every word and would fall over if they stopped going to the pub.

In the way that those who go on health kicks in January, try new diets, change their lives for some perceived better can come off as pious and smugly virtuous, mainly because they will take any opportunity to tell you about what they are doing, especially when not even prompted, so the Tryanuary (or Try January) movement bounces back in the opposite direction but equally trite reasoning.

It is much like Small Business Saturday or Record Store Day, if fact it much like everything that now has “a day” or “a week” – a narcissistic “raise awareness” industry, where everything can be reduced to a hashtag and a trend and people can jump on a bandwagon and feel they are special and are doing something before simply hopping back off the wagon (an inverse pun) and hailing a taxi (or probably an Uber) to the next hot topic to raise their profile.

Each of them have their own form of subtle compulsion and hardcore acolytes, they are two versions of the the same pint (568mL) only one insists yours should be empty and one wants it to always be full.

 

Thanks for reading.

Samuel Smiths – What a Fucking Rotter

I was late to getting the news that Samuel Smith’s brewery has issued a decree across its entire estate of pubs that anyone found to be swearing should be turned out of the premises, whether they will be barred seems to be up for debate but seeing as ever news piece I’ve read on this links to another article, which links to another and another and another, it is pretty hard to guess what the exact truth of the matter is.

I’ve read precisely one blog on this, saw a few comments on the #hopinions thread that Beer O’Clock run every Sunday

 

 

and I saw CAMRA’s response to the news

 

On this matter I don’t particularly care in one instance; if a private business wishes to enact its own policies about what is “good behaviour” then by all means go ahead.  People cheer when the private companies that are Facebook and Twitter remove members that are abusive (within their own definition of what abuse actually is) but heaven forbid a private company should refuse to, for example, make a cake saying something they disagree with, oh no.

It is rather odd that Sam Smiths has chosen to focus purely on swearing, I can only assume that they are OK with someone in their establishments saying nigger or faggot so long as there isn’t a four-letter word in amongst said possible drunken diatribe but what constitutes a private conversation in a public place?

Then again the current state of the world is pitted against itself in what exactly is and isn’t a “bad idea” what is and isn’t “hate speech” and more pertinently, what is or isn’t “offensive.”

Within the beer bubble itself there are points of view on certain subjects (for example pump clips) that go against the new orthodoxy and while all these little games and battle of wills are being played out, governments world wide are monitoring and recording their citizens communications under the pretence of security and protection.

 

The last thing anyone needs to be protected from is words, rude or not.

 

Thanks for reading

 

On a separate note, here is why some people actively boycott drinking Sam Smiths beers and so for some a swearing ban is neither here nor there…

 

SpinningFields Manchester – Spreading the Disease

It seems that separate bits of Manchester architecture comes under threat at the same time in an almost cyclical fashion.

In January of last year I ranted about the sad state of some of the proposed decisions facing the heritage of central Manchester.

While the situation with the Fire Station on London Road is resolved in so much as Britannia have finally attained their 30 pieces of silver and like wise the Ancoats Dispensary reached its funding targets, just this week Bruntwood put forward their plans for the redevelopment of Oxford Road Station, which made no mention of its plans for the listed Salisbury Pub (or Grand Central for that matter).

Other news was that another historical pub The Sir Ralph Abercromby (petition) was also being tendered to be flattened along with a few other buildings in the area.

There are a few places in Manchester I don’t like to go to drink; namely the Printworks, Deansgate Locks and Spinningfields.

As banal as Printworks is and as loathsome as the Locks are they are at least honest and exist in such away as to work well with the area they have been created in (unless you are the Police).

The same I can not say for Spinningfields; a place as fake and phony as the wankers that go there and the food, drinks and “culture” that exists between the artificial grass, cold steel and empty glass.  It is a lifeless, soulless place.  A cut-through between Manchester and Salford and a place now deemed worthy of expansion by taking a wrecking ball to more of Manchester’s places and sites & sights of interest.

As plans and rumours keep swirling it may well be that most of the buildings will remain and be renovated but the Sir Ralph will make way for, it would seem, a car park, which given Manchester’s history will be horrendously overpriced parking in a bid to drive trade away from local and small businesses and seemingly push it towards that other soulless place that is the Trauma Trafford Centre.

Councils are not my favourite group of people.  From some reason, no matter the size of the council or the make-up that may consist of apparently local people the continually make decisions that run against popular opinion

This piece is not about the politics (or football) of red and blue, merely another hair-pulling exercise about the short-sighted decisions made by our increasingly untrustworthy public officials and that whereas jaw-jaw is preferred to war-war they all fall to more-more.

I hope you find time to sign the petition(s).

 

Thanks for reading.

Community vs Council

I am going to try to write this piece without it drifting into the realms of party politics and hopefully non-libelous comments.

 

 

Much has been made recently about a Northern Powerhouse and also devolution of power to the major cities of the North of England and giving more autonomy to county councils.  The general hope being that communities will have greater say and therefore a choice of how they are governed.

The town of Atherton in Greater Manchester falls under the control of Wigan Council.

They have a community centre called The Formby Hall.

This hall was a gift to the town of Atherton back in the early 1900’s.

Two annexes were added to the hall as part of the festival of Britain.

In circa 2011, with a valuation of the hall of about £235,000 Wigan Council sold The Formby Hall (and numerous other community centres under their ‘control’) to a company called Rose Leisure (or Eight Wonder, you know how businesses like to change names and have various subsidiaries).

The sale price, on record, for The Formby Hall was £65,000.

The covenant was that the sale would be made under the proviso that Rose Leisure would maintain all their newly acquired buildings so that they could continue to function as working halls to host a variety of activities.

The Formby Hall, for example, hosts (hosted) NHS Blood Donations, various gigs, charity nights, dance clubs, wedding receptions and probably most well-known The Bent n Bongs Beer Bash

Rose Leisure never really maintained the building, the roof is in a particularly bad way and only with some local people did it get fixed to an adequate level so that the Beer Bash could go ahead in 2015.

In about May of 2015 rumours spread that Rose Leisure were telling people with bookings that they would only fulfill them up until July of 2015 and all events after that would be cancelled.

Due to this “leak” it then forced Rose Leisure and Wigan Council to admit that The Formby Hall had been sold to a company called Hilldale Housing Association.

Hilldale are a bit of an odd company in that they themselves are only a conduit for investors to buy up properties for development.

In June of 2015 Wigan Council spent £2m on terracotta tiles

In August of 2015 South East Lancs CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) successfully had an Asset of Community Value (ACV) put on The Formby Hall under the Localism Act of 2011.

Hilldale had made assurances that the hall could stay open until March of 2016 but the doors were locked and as such no one can use the hall, it can fall into a further state of disrepair and of course it can be claimed that it is not being used and therefore it’s now lack of use by the community does not make it an asset worth saving.

In September of 2015 a notice of demolition was put up outside The Formby Hall, this is because due to a loop-hole an ACV can only protect a pub from demolition and the ACV had forced Hilldale’s hand.

There have been various groups formed and a petition of about 4,500 was handed in to Wigan Council to object to not only the initial sale (primarily to Rose Leisure) but also the demolition of a building that in essence belongs to the town and people of Atherton.

It is sad that said local groups have been butting heads with not only the council but with locally elected councillors and that relationships have soured and become cynical and cold.

This is how modern politics work.  It is not a democracy but an elected dictatorship whereby small outlying towns are ostracised.  It is unsurprising that voters are becoming more disillusioned by the whole process.

The case of Formby Hall is still ongoing and very much up in the air, it is hoped the council will listen, for once, to one of its communities.

There is a petition here if you wish to sign it…

Update: January 2016

Council recommends prior approval to demolish Formby Hall

The above link gives most of the information you need to know, the fate now lies in further planning meetings and a possible intervention by Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Greg Clark and the constituent MP Chris Green.

The Tipping Point

A while back on twitter I asked what people thought was an acceptable tip to had over to a bar hand.

I raised this question because people had long told me the unwritten rule was 20 pence (it’s how much Leigh fans bought a flute for when they had some sense and about 50 cents in US monies).

The answers I got back ranged from confirming the 20 pence “standard” to saying that some might go up to a quid, but would usually expect about 50 pence as a maximum.

My mum (a former bar maid) and a friend who is one also confirmed they would take 20p, though my mum would point out that 20p back when she worked was worth a hell of a lot more than it is now.

There are of course stories of customers putting an actual drink on behind the bar for the staff once the shift has ended and other such pleasantries.

I hate the 5 pence coin, so if I ever get a drink that is between 5 to 15 pence short of the whole pound I’ll let the staff keep it.  But in my twattish way I won’t actually say “round it up” or “call it £X,” I’ll just walk away from the bar and hope, as has happened, that I don’t get chased down by some worried employee determined to had over the loose change, which in this day and age of the easily offended and of litigation-happy people I can quite understand.

There was also a discussion about how let the bar keep know you wanted to tip them.

“And yours” seemed  most popular, I go with “(and) one for yourself” – which last year in London lead to a novel situation.

Having spent about 4 hours in one bar marvelling over and obviously massively indulging in the beer selection I felt it only proper to tip the bar staff.  As an aside I don’t wait four hours, I have no set time of when I tip or indeed if I do, this is not some moralist hang-wringing piece nor is it a rant worthy of Mr. Pink.

So I got my final drink(s) and said “one for yourself,” to which I was then surprised as the bar (man in this instance) picked up his clean glass and proceed to inspect what he had been selling before informing me he’d have a half of one of the drinks I just ordered, he then gave me my change.

However I didn’t find this to be a giant piss-take.  It was a first and it has never happened since but the guy could have gone full on £11-a-pint if he’d wanted to but instead merely matched my drink.

Which also married up with a lot of “warnings” about how people take the inflections of the phrases used to instigate a tip in different parts of the country.  Not that I wish to infer that this practice is either common or exclusive to London.

But back to my original light bulb moment, I asked about tipping because I was in a Greater Manchester pub and after sitting down with my first drink I could hear the distinct sound of pound coins hitting the tip glass (fashioned out of a pint nonik rather than the usual half or shorts glass).

Now either the punters were very generous tippers or that was how much the bar (maid in this instance) thought that is how much the tip should be.  Whether this was a conclusion she had come to herself or it was a direction from the pub got me thinking about who informs on bar staff how much to take for a tip.

When you think about it, given that a pint in this pub was an average of about £3.50 that works out as approximately a 30% tip.

Then also a while back (as I do take far to long to write these posts), in between a lot of tweets by people with sand in their vaginas I can across this post by Benjamin Nunn and though it wasn’t anything related to the post’s rant it did ring my alarm bell:

“To my mind, this is the equivalent of a 20 pence tip – more insulting than ignoring it altogether!”

With all that has gone on recently about companies taken employee tips either in the full or at a charge if the payment has been made by card it does make you wonder that if 20p is seen as patronising and maybe it is in places where living costs are higher it is, perhaps  we shouldn’t begrudge those taking a bit more than the “standard.”

Would appreciate comments and opinions on this, stick them below…

Mr. Pink, for those who don’t get the reference