Zwanze – Beer Fools and their Money

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.

Wiki History

I’d gone into Manchester, the first time in a while, for a drink and a large bite to eat.  On a tour of brewery taps, mainly due to location this was Runaway and the first and still the best Blackjack

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…

£12.

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.

 

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Alcohol, Money and Duty of Care

Following on from this posts and the comments it prompted I found myself dwelling on the nature of cash.

I’m not a complete Luddite (not that only using cash is Luddite behaviour), I have used card to pay for a few things, mainly shopping but this is because I do like have money on me, just a card is a bit odd and very much like eggs in one basket.

When I was on twitter and known by my handle and this blog, I was one for keeping private, as such even when I went to beer shops I’d pay cash so the people, even those I frequently talked to, did not know who I was and if they did, then they would not have my details.

I suppose wanting to be private can lead to paranoia but I like paying in cash in on the whole.

How do you tip if you just pay by card?

Of course, an establishment only taking card does not mean that the customers don’t have cash on them but I’ve never much liked tipping jars, I like to give to the individual.

I suppose what it does remove (apart from apparent lower insurance costs) is the need to check balances and not have to accuse people of creaming money out of the till, or of patrons by over-charging/short changing.

The loss of mental arithmetic

In that there London over the August bank holiday I found myself in The Carpenters Arms, Fitzrovia.  They took cash but the barman (very good service I will say) looked all a bit confused and the wait for getting my change, despite being in big numbers on the till, took some time.

Of an evening the club I frequented, which was busy, after I’d said my drinks request, was met with a sometimes rather sharply thrown card machine in my direction.  This was met with a smile and a flash of a note (again, faultless service).

Any over reliance on technology, as complimentary as it can be, does have its downsides.

Loss of Customer Service

Everything seems a bit mechanical, if all you do is give your order and then tap your card it seems that you, and the server, lose a bit of human contact and interaction.  The automation of one part of service seems to turn us slowly into automatons.

Contactless doesn’t just describe the method of payment.

Addiction and Duty of Care

Don’t serve drunk people, or those who have clearly had enough.

Don’t serve those you suspect are under age.

Don’t serve those you suspect may drive afterwards.

Bar staff really are the front line between people and the harm they can cause to themselves and others and whereas it seems obvious that a server would have no idea if the person they are serving it spending they’re last £20 in cash or by card, speaking from experience, you can get a feel for a customer and their habits more from cash.

In the end it comes down to personal preference and especially personal responsibility; the physical nature of cash, going out with an amount you are willing to spend all ready in your pocket (yes, yes you can top up at a machine) is a far better way of monitoring your own finances than hot chip on pin action.

Plus I’m not having the state tracking and cataloguing my drinking habits…

 

Comments welcome below.

Thanks for reading.

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.

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.

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.

Beer Flies and The Sopranos

If you’ve not seen The Sopranos this post may contain spoilers…

Beer Flies

I’ve worked in 3 main environments in my employed life; in bars, in breweries and mainly in laboratories and in all three flies were a problem.

You’d think in fairly modern lab environments that creepy crawlies wouldn’t be a factor but they always find a way in.  Through doors, through windows left open in the hotter summer months, through fume cupboards and extractor vents.  With all the nasties I’ve inhaled over the years you think that those chemicals would be a big enough deterrent for these critters but no, there they are, what was a pristine working surface when you left for the day is returned to in the morning to be met with a fly somehow doing backstroke in your mobile phase.

For me, most of the bars (or cellars) were relatively flying pest free, the biggest problem is always at the brewery.  A lack of storage space in most pubs will see used casks thrown outside, most of the time not sealed and lord what a grand job cleaning fly eggs out of cask is. Bar flies are not included in this piece, loveable rogues that they usually are.

I’m not a fan of chemical weapons; watching something slowly twitch its last as its mitochondrion cease respiring is never pleasant so the short, swift splat against whatever surface they are resting on is preferable, or the Mr Miyagi school of snatching it out of the air is also employed, usually without chopsticks.

Though I find that every time I do this I consider what the fly is thinking; one minute buzzing around, bumping into things, smelling the sweet wort of the final beer and looking for a way into the fermenter, the very next moment – nothing.  Obviously at point of death they aren’t thinking anything at all but in some ways this then gets me thinking about…

The Sopranos

I was bought the box set of The Sopranos many years ago and finally, over the course of the first few months of 2017, got round to binge watching it all.

When it comes to TV series it started with the original run of Oz, which despite being bumped around the late night schedules of Channel 4 (UK), I was still able to catch most of it.  I never watched 24, save the very last episode of Season 1.  I can chalk off Breaking Bad, Games of Thrones is still ongoing for now and The Wire still remains my personal favourite but a lack of The Sopranos always seemed to hang over my head, so I settled in to watch it.

The series was originally shown on Channel Four and when this happened I caught precisely, one opening credits sequence, one scene of Lorraine Bracco, a Rottweiler and a vending machine (which obviously made little sense at the time) and the last few minutes of the final episode, which everyone had banged on about but again made little sense in any context.

The scene is famous for a long and protracted diner scene in which Tony Soprano (the sadly deceased James Gandolfini) waits and meets the arrival of his wife, his son and maybe eventually his daughter, all to the sound of Don’t Stop Believing  by Journey.  As they discuss mundane family matters, the bell in the diner rings to announce the arrival of each new customer and each time Tony looks up to see if its his daughter, then over the course of some onion rings the bell rings, Tony looks up and then the screen cuts to black.  There is a wait of some 30 seconds before the credits roll.  The ending baffled most, mainly because of its ambiguity let alone the suddenness of it all.

Personally I never saw Tony as anything more than the gangster he was, on my scale he didn’t even measure up as an anti-hero but the ending still have a hard impact despite not being wholly loving of the main protagonist.

There are many videos out there discussing what the ending means and a very good one that picks out “clues” from the preceding few episodes to point to the fact that Tony died.

Swift, short, sudden and the victim was totally anonymous to their own death, in essence just like squishing beer flies.

Who wants a protracted death, body flooded with chemicals that are only palliative, far better just to have the lights turned off.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

One thing I can agree with Tony Soprano on is this…