Spoons Workers Against Brexit – a Ha Ha Ha

I’m not going to link to them, you can search for them, they are quite easy to find, as are most of the #FBPE squealers.

A few points I will stress from the start

  1. Politics is indeed best kept out of business
  2. I respect all those who work at Wetherspoons and at pubs and clubs and bars in general.

To take my 2nd point first, I have worked in pubs; it can be hard and thankless (like most jobs) but it doesn’t take much skill to do.  Indeed it takes skill to do correctly, to enhance a customer’s experience but that is down to the individual and no amount of training can infer common sense within people.

Point one; I’m not one to boycott businesses that have different political outlooks to myself, I have a few I do out of whimsy (never once given McDonald’s my money, avoid Coke products) but it is nothing but a relic of my youth with no real morals attached to it (love me a Burger King, love me a Pepsi), plus you try and completely avoid buying anything Nestle don’t own.

But given the political climate we live in today, it is not without notice that there is a complete lack of irony of those that generally object to the politics of a person or business and the fact that they are anti-democratic losers.

But let us look at the demands from SWAB:

1. Withdraw all pro-Brexit propaganda from our workplace. This means that we will no longer be marked down for refusing to distribute beer mats, leaflets, magazines or menus that promote Martin’s politics.

2. Pay us a Living Wage. That means a £9 hourly rate outside London, and £10.55 in London.

3. Trade union recognition, granting the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union negotiating powers over our pay and pay and working conditions.

 

Points 1 to 3 can quite easily be covered in the simple request, go and look for another fucking job.  You work in a low skilled job that does not merit a “Living Wage” especially considering that most of those in this group will probably be under 25 and are no where near worth £9 an hour given the current scale of age dependent National Minimum Wage payments.

You have signed a contract, either honour that contract or go somewhere else and if you can’t then may I suggest going and getting a better education and qualifications so you can go somewhere that pays better and gives you better job satisfaction.

“Be the change you want to be in the world”*

Or as the kids say these days

Learn To Code

 

Thanks for reading.

 

*Which was not said by the racist, nationalist, nappy wearing religious nut job sectarian, also known as Gandhi.

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My non-Usual Drinking History…So Far

As I make my way through yet another Bent & Bongs Beer Bash a wave of nostalgia hit me that I feel best to recount, perhaps to realign this blog briefly into a less political state.

I started drinking at around 13 on the fields near mine and my mates houses (parents houses obviously).  Back then it started on stupidly strong stuff like Kestrel Super and Ice Dragon cider, the former of which should never really be drank by anyone with functioning taste buds so as a starting point it could poison your idea of beer from the very start.

We were away from the public, actually quite quiet and respectable of our surroundings.  It took me a long summer of finding the right cans before I first got drunk; two cans of Strongbow did the trick back then, my mates were may ahead having spent each weekend seemingly trying to increase their tolerance a can at a time.

That I’m still mates with most of them, or rather they are still mates with me, highlights that the only evolution on that scale has been that we now go out drinking together in the pub, or around each others houses (our actually own houses because we’re all sensible and grown up and have responsibilities now).

We moved into drinking in pubs at around 16-17, after all there is only a certain amount of time your growing body can get used to drinking alcohol while playing football.

I’m tempted to suggest that my pub experience started in the 2nd wave of keg beer.  After Red Barrel and Double Diamond, I drank up in the Smooth Flow era.  A time of a seemingly Irish beer invasion, where it wasn’t just Guinness of off but Murphy’s, Beamish (red and black), Kilkenny and Caffrey’s, which back then started out at 4.8%.  This went along side Boddington’s launching a “Gold” version, while you could also get Thwaites Smooth, Tetley’s Smooth, John Smith’s Smooth and the personally missed Calder’s Cream Ale.

Can drinking was awash with cans with “widgets” in them; for an authentic creamy pub head in your own home, or in the case of Carling Premier, then need to mop the floor each time one was opened.

I honestly don’t recall much, if any cask at all, nothing of note anyway, that phase only entered my life when I went to university in Bradford.  A place of Flowers IPA for £1 a pint, or the premium offering of Directors (when it didn’t just taste of syrup).

Bradford had the Biko Bar, at the time it was sold as “the only student bar in the Good Beer Guide” – they regularly served cask Moorhouses’ Witches Brew (again before it tasted of syrup) and Younger’s No. 3.

Fun smoking fact about the Biko Bar; it had a no smoking section that was on a raised platform to the rest of the pub.  The pub was basically a rectangle, the platform near the windows and opposite the door, so naturally all the smoke from the rest of the pub went over the non-smoking area and out through the windows. Genius idea.

In fact back then they did a pub quiz on a Sunday, where once a team name was called “What kind of crap pub has a no smoking section” – how times change.

A pub near my halls called The Shearbridge (now a curry house I believe) had regular beer festivals and always sold Skull Splitter and Dogs Bollocks as part of them.

This brings us up to starting going to beer festivals (Bent & Bongs I’d been aware of since my dad started going from its inception) and the fact that I still didn’t really care what I drink, style wise.  Back then it was – oh what’s this 14% beer, Sam-something-or-other.

I write this piece because I’ve realised only necessity has made me “have” a preferred drink. Cans as a kid was lager or cider.  Pubs at the beginning was generally lager, sometimes Guinness.  Cost as a student meant it was Flowers or some random lager.

Going into pubs now, with the choice far more varied than it was, I still don’t have a drink, I’ve never got to hear the bar tender ask “the usual” and I’m wondering if anyone does any more.

Though I think I’m just happy that my usual is the places I go and the people I go with.

 

Thanks for reading.

Track Brew Co Tap Room – Quick Review

I’ve always had a soft spot for Track Brew Co of Manchester.

When I first went to the brewery and talked to the people there, they stated that they fined their beers (possibly not now) which I thought was honest and, given the unnecessary hatred craft people have for finings, a bit of a revelation.

There was also while I attended a beer festival in Leeds, the first brewery to DM me via twitter and as a fledgling beer blogger I felt that I’d “arrived,” it was the little things back then, when things were bright and new and even innocent.

So I was quite happy to hear that they were opening their own tap-room.

64 Chapeltown Street Manchester M1 2WQ.

The third floor of Crusader Mill.

Given that I’d walked from The Smithfield (and Crown & Kettle) and was coming from an unfamiliar and unplanned route I was happy that I stumbled upon it so easily and that it was well enough signposted (within the mill complex) when I got there.

Built into an area that struck me as a modern and posh version of back-to-back housing for the easily impressed, after what was about a mile of walking I was then faced with the interminable hike up narrow, short-spaced stairs.

Still, I knew that while there would be no cask (and Track cask is rather good), their keg can be just as rewarding.

The floor was reached, the smell of street food hit my nostrils and the warm heat and sound of a fair few people all gassing away greeted my senses.

The drink area was fairly bright, a bit industrial-chic but pleasant and it is a mill so to be expected.  Seating was very much long tables, like a beer hall.

I walked over to the bar it was wooden, naturally, and the list of beers was clearly written as was the pricing.

I studied the list and made my choice.

 

I then saw “THIS IS A CASHLESS VENUE”

 

I went to another pub.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

The Pointlessness of Beer Vials

Inspired by this post by “Retired Martin” not due to any reason other than the first picture in it.  It has been a while since I visited The Beer School in Westhoughton and I noted on said picture that they are now using 100mL conical flasks with rubber bungs to show off their cask beer.

The scientist in me loves that little quirk, fitting in well with the school theme the micropub actually has.

The drinker in me questions the whole entire need for it.

For starters, I can’t even recall if they used what I’m dubbing beer vials previously (if there is another more common or proper term, please let me know and I’ll actually change the title of the piece) as I never noticed before.

If you walk into quite a few pubs many seem to think that these little vessels, usually small Kilner jars (TM – other brands are available) that putting a small amount of each beer in them and putting them in and around the specific beer engine is helpful.

Maybe it is but not to me it isn’t and I’ve yet to see any good reason why they would be to anyone else.

First of all they create unnecessary clutter on a bar top.

Secondly, that is extra washing up for the staff, assuming they are cleaned.

Thirdly, are they filled each day the beer is available or just sit around as long as the beer is on, because if they are about showing of the clarity of each cask then I’ve seen plenty with more sediment in them that the usual Kernel bottle.*

My fourth point would be if it is to show the colour to prospective punters then, again it would seem like a dreadful waste of beer and effort for little reward; it would also seem to be there so as to not give the customer chance to engage in a chat about each beer with the server, which at busy times is probably useful, but if you are confronted by someone who can’t gauge what colour a beer is from the pump clip, assuming the style is mentioned on the thing, then perhaps writing it on the blackboard is probably the best option.  Or using funny little drawing depicting the colour of each beer, which I like, again assuming many things, first and foremost that your bar is well-lit enough.

When it comes to colour, just how much can you gauge from a small sample of each beer, I refer to the rather ironically named Beer-Lambert law, which, if I remember correctly, relates to the fact that the small volume of liquid in a compact area will make it appear more concentrated than it actually is, i.e. the darker it will appear.

Also let us not forget apart from colour and clarity, sitting on a bar top at ambient conditions isn’t exactly akin to a well-managed cellar temperature.

 

So taking all that into account, really, what are they for?

 

The final poser is; they are only ever used for cask beer, why aren’t these vials ever used to show off keg beers?

 

 

Thanks for reading and despite planning another post, if I don’t before, have a Merry Christmas.

 

*I love Kernel beers, don’t ever think sediment is a “bad thing”

 

Lets Drink – To the Beat (nikz Republic) & Northern Monk MCR

Well that was an interesting day out in Manchester and so now let your favourite performing monkey and conduit for your own negative opinions vent so you don’t have to.

I like Beatnikz Republic and I like Northern Monk.  I’ve been to the NM refectory in Leeds and visited the tap at Red Bank that is Beatnikz’s gaff.

The places themselves are OK.  Despite one my friends describing it as “like Terminus from Walking Dead” I preferred BR’s space.  Clean and simple, still with far to much “industrial chic” that makes it look like every other place that opened an IKEA catalogue and stuck pens in items while wearing a blindfold, I thought that it was well laid out and, most importantly, the board was bright, easy to read and straight forward.  It shares it’s space with Idle Hands – a coffee house.

Oh and the beer was good too but I’ll come to that later.

Northern Monks gaff was a bit more, meh.  It was never going to recreate the school canteen surrounding of the Leeds branch and to be fair the staff, bar one I recognised previously from Piccadilly Tap, showed very much nous about service.  Then again I was never a big fan of Kosmonaut, which itself fell is standards massively after what would appear the main man that ran it so well went over to run the then newly reopened Smithfield.

Northern Monk Manchester is about 30 seconds from Beatnikz and it next door to Takk – a coffee house.

NM’s beer list is small and though clear a bit too far away for the size of the letter used in the spelling out of the beers on sale.  Couple that with a vibrating bar floor (hi-vis jackets were seen so I assume this was short term building work) and glasses that were like the stupid butt-plug one but without the base (the glass of choice if you ordered 2/3rds) again the beer could not really be faulted, but I’ll come to that later.

It was then off to the all Caucasian, racially pure paradise that is Grub.  I can’t comment on the beer as such but I will say, if you are going to serve anything in semi-darkness on a high blackboard please, for the sake of sanity…

WRITE THE SALE ITEMS IN FUCKING BLOCK CAPITALS.

I then raced around to try out Ol Nano Brewery on Oxford Road.  Its in an area under the Mancunian Way that became a bit of a tent city, so thankfully all of the scruffs and bums have been moved on to be replaced by card payment only wooden enclosures – and a coffee house.

I then went in The Salisbury, had a nice pint of well kept but typical Robinson’s fare to the tunes of Pantera & Megadeth and all seemed right with the world.  I was away from the zombie hordes of students and no cash places, of wood and metal and twatty glassware and dicks who think coming into Manchester to spend money on tat from Christmas market stalls that aren’t even from the local area is a brilliant way to spend a Saturday.  I don’t know how far I was from a coffee house.

I then went round to The Brink, was treated to the last remaining cask and kegs of Cloudwater’s takeover (takeovers – pointless) and then settled down with a nice cask pint of something from Pomona brewery.

Beer Thoughts

I’ve written before about keg beer sometimes (most of the time) being too cold for certain beer styles and this day proved to have no deviation from that train of thought.

Or rather, all the cask beer I had pissed on it quality wise, which should in fact speak highly for all the places mentioned who did indeed present their cask beer very well.

Case and point was the Torrside Dogs of War presented on keg at Grub.  A solid drink, kindly bought by one of my friends and at 10% it isn’t something you can put on cask and hope to sell in a 12 hour period (maybe a pin perhaps) so keg makes sense financially but stylistically it did a disservice to the beer which no amount of hand warming could help.

Also, for the record, I’m wasn’t all that taken by the Cloudwater India porter on cask, preferred their keg offerings, speaking from the point of view of a lover, not an authority, of porters.

 

“A brewery bar, a brewery bar, wood and metal and a brewery bar

Coffee House, Coffee House

Wood and metal and a brewery bar.”

 

Thanks for reading.

 

In Defence of the Untappd User

Not that they need defending, or that I’m the one to do it, or that I’m going to, I’m just throwing my own thoughts on to the sophistry fire created by gig journalists freelance beer writers.

There are a few things that do annoy me about Untappd, aside from its a free app that is tracking you and probably selling your data on to 3rd parties but they are privacy issues that even I’ve put behind me because as private as you want to be you can never go off-grid.  Or that they kowtowed to the permanently offended.

I digress.  If we forget those twitter accounts that continually auto-tweet each check-in, or even more strangely, the brewers and bar owners that retweet these most intellectually amputated of reviews then there is one bug bear I do have.

Its the less than 2.5 (50%, out of 5 star) reviews of beers that the user always says “not really my thing.”

Don’t rate if it isn’t your thing.  It isn’t hard, you don’t lose out on scaling badge mountain by not rating something you’ve had but not really liked.

I’ve chastised some of my friends for this.  One friend doesn’t like dark beers but will have them when offered (all hail the taster badge) and then rate them at about 2 stars, like a vegan eating a bacon sandwich, not really their thing but I suppose you then don’t have to listen to self-righteous views of why it shouldn’t be your thing either.

My mates love lager.  Wholesale macro, corporate, multinational, lager.

They went to the odd beer festival and tried a few casks but would always gravitate to either bastard strength bottled stuff or any generic foreign lager that was for sale.  Then they joined Untappd and the gamification (sorry) of drinking appealed so much that they not only now drink anything and everything but they go everywhere and anywhere to drink anything and everything and they shop everywhere and anywhere to buy anything and everything to drink.

This isn’t to belittle them, they have and always will drink lager, as will I and I can guarantee they spend more money and time in beer and in pubs that any other beer writer, brewer or snarky twitter user out there, so damn right they should get a badge or two…thousand.

There is a certain sneering that can accompany any “normie” drinker.  There are twitter accounts dedicated to laughing at the odd reviews some people leave and whereas these can be entertaining, there always seems to be some sort of belittlement in the reviewer simply because they “don’t get” the beer they review.

Thankfully, we still live in a democracy (for now) and Untappd it very much the demos in effect, unbound, unfazed and unimpressed.

All hail the Untappd user, fucking up your average beer score since 2010 (and that isn’t including the brewers fake checking-in to boost their score and lower their rivals – beer people are good people).

 

Talking of reviews – back when the internet was actually fun there were reviews for this Paul Ross Canvas that I’d visit to get a chuckle from.  It still works its magic to this day.

 

Thanks for reading.

Cloudwater Can’t Save Cask Beer, But…

….ooh dramatic ellipsis after a click-bait title…

Choose your own subtitle, it was either going to be:

…they can save themselves.

or…

…neither can CAMRA.

Now, on reflection since I started penning this I’ve thought is might be…

…they could destroy it.

I should hasten to add that this piece is not anti-Cloudwater, they are just an exemplar of the perceived problems with cask beer, or not as the case may be.

In fact the initial subtitle was only based on reading an interview with yon mon Jonesy in Brewers Journal (Vol 4. Issue 6, July/August) before reading the October blog post but then that is how quickly viewpoints change within a business and when looking in from the outside.

 

 

I’m impressed with the health and safety of the glasses, less so about the pose, anyway…

Cloudwater’s Launch (2015 blog)

It was Tandleman’s post that piqued my interest, rather ironically the last blog post I read from the Manchester Messiahs was when they talked about themselves binning off cask.  How times change.  That post also feature some rather childish political epithets and where I’m obviously never going to suggest people just “shut up and brew” (or “shut up and stick to business” in this case) as that isn’t a ringing freeze peach endorsement, you should never be surprised when nailing your colours to a mast when it comes back to butt fuck you.  Which it did.

Still, upon reading Tand’s post my first thought was “they must be desperate” (*cheerfully withdrawn by request*) – but to be fair there may well be gaps in the market for premium cask beer.

What is a premium cask beer?  Well personally I’m only going with a price band.  There is talk, most of it with some merit that the advent of Wetherspoons has forced the hand of other cask pubs to demand a lower price for their cask, couple this with SIBA and their tied trade pubs and don’t it becomes increasingly difficult for a brewer to make a good profit on cask.

There is in general a lot of smoke and mirrors about what JDW actually pay and, just how fresh the actual product is but truth be told, there is a fair whack of cask beer that is sold off cheap just to get it out there and not be ullage.  The hard point of this is that regardless of what “best before date” is placed on a cask of beer by the brewery there is still little reason for it not to be in good nick when it is on the bar, because most obviously as with many products a “best before date” on any foodstuff is not a science and it really is up to the customer to use all sense to discern whether the product is fit for consumption.

Of course the difference between short coded food items reduced in a supermarket, that bit of cheese you find that is 3 weeks out of date but you know if you cut off the blue mould it will be fine and cask beer is quite vast.  The latter being that you are being served it from an establishment you expect to sell it to you in at least some respectable state.

So let us talk price points (exclusive of VAT in all instances). £50 seems to be the general figure banded about for Wetherspoons cask.

I know of many breweries that can and do sell their beer at around this price and up towards £69.  That is a stock price, across a range, with little variation when it comes to ABV.

Though the beer duty escalator does have an influence on the price once the ABV goes over, what was it, 4.2-4.5%, some breweries do have the capacity to keep their prices lower.

Of course it is a total joke that I know of one Manchester pub that pays no more than £60 per cask. Now with line cleans and lost beer even if you were only getting 60 pints out of a firkin but charging Manchester centre prices of £4+ you can see just how much profit some pubs can make on cask beer.

So, again what is a premium price for beer.  Some prices I’ve seen are clearly not based on ABV but clearly the cost of the ingredients needed to make it, so these beers push around £100-£120.

But as the launch of Cloudwater cask comes around I noted that one cask of their 5.5% beer is being sold to pubs at *cheerfully withdrawn by request/correction*.

I’ve written about the difficulties of cask beer previously and really though it all falls on the brewery, it really is the pub that should bear primary responsibility.

It is said that a rising tide carries all ships, that Cloudwater seem to only wish to sell their cask to reputable pubs with excellent cellaring is logical and sensible, though I do wonder if they are going to send out staff to check, a Cloudwater Marque if you will.  Given the customer facing nature of the brewery I expect them to know full well if a cask of theirs isn’t up to par and that should make for interesting bantz between punter, pub and Paul.

Therein lies another strange schism that could develop but this is the second day of writing this post and I’ve realised I don’t really care that much.  Something about pubs willing to pay for big premium cask; something, something, turnover, something, something would people pay £5+ for 2/3rds of a session strength beer; something, something, beer goes off regardless of how much you’ve paid for it.

As an aside, would a punter solely used to keg know any minor faults in a cask beer, would the general, natural differences between cask and keg delivery of beers cause confusion.

Do people even fucking care?

CAMRA could of course be trying to do more for the sale of cask beer and its quality but they seem to be rather confused at the moment, where press releases don’t really seem to match the general feeling at a branch level.

Plus Manchester Beer & Cider festival organisers are shedding a tear now they can’t trumpet their own festival as having “last Cloudwater cask,” for the 3rd year in a row.  Shame.

Of course cost is not equivalent to quality, it can be said and I will say it too, that people are quite happy to pay over the odds just to be seen to be paying the price along with what they are drinking and where they are drinking it.  It is a status symbol to some.  I bring it up only so I can post this line from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (time stamp, 7 mins 50 seconds)

 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

06/11/2018 – Post edited on request – I’m now in the odd position as to whether to approve the comment with the request in for full transparency or keep it anonymous out of respect for the poster, in this instance I’ve chose the latter as it would then seem to undermine the request, but that is their choice and can be changed if need be.  Still it is good to know my blogs are still be read by the great and powerful.  Go me.