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.

 

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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.

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.

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.