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.

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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.

A Beer Burka

The Seasonal CAMRA Festival Must-Have

Pirate performer ‘mortified’ after she is told to cover up her cleavage at beer festival

When Wigan CAMRA host their “treat adults like adults” annual beer festival they usually have a theme night where you can get free entry if you are dressed as that year’s festival theme.

Being Wigan, everything is generally related to pies and rather laboured puns.  Puns which would probably turn the stomach of the puritans gleefully filling the pages of pumpclip parade

This year, 2018, it was a PIE-lot.There has been a PIE-King (that’s a pun on Viking, clearly cultural appropriation) and a whole host of other that despite searching for images and being to lazy to walk to my glass cabinet to check the artwork, I can’t be bothered to delve in to only to point out that there was once, of course, a PIE-Rate.

So where as modern feminists leap with joy as young women lose jobs as walk-on girls in darts and grid girls in motor sports, because, you know, women should have choices just not 100% there own, so too it would seem that CAMRA, as they try and “revitalise” and after a few recent to-dos and as they succumb to the inevitable supersessionism that is spreading through the beer world like a virulent yeast infection they have now gone full circle and over to the other side.

A side inhabited by the virtuous, the puritanical, the zealots.  Those against choice or even actual equality.

Whether future CAMRA festivals will feature dress codes for women, remains to be seen.  Perhaps it might depend if the festival is held in a place of worship where alcohol is acceptable but what a woman wears is subject to patrols by their approved modesty police.

Or maybe everyone can take a breath, behave like adults, so trying to feed into an “us vs them” mentality and actual approach life and all its aspects with rationality and clear thinking.

It can happen.

Maybe.

 

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.

 

Portman Group Prohibitionists

Newport brewery Tiny Rebel must change beer can design

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Tiny Rebel brewery at all, in fact apart from the brewery the only other thing that previously made me aware of Newport, Wales with the TV show Dirty Sanchez

Portman Group Report

The first thing that sprang to mind is that does the supermarket in question, Budgens, not separate out it alcoholic beverages from it’s non-alcoholic ones?

If it does, which I’m pretty sure it has to by way of legal requirements, then this would quite obviously suggest that the person, ONE person, who made this complaint is…to use a beer analogy, from the sadly departed Bill Paxton…

 

Secondly, Sunkist is orange, not yellow.

Thirdly, if you are going to buy alcohol from any outlet, you must be over the age of 18. A kid would not be able to buy this product thinking it was “fizzy pop.”

 

Full marks to Tiny Rebel for responding in a cordial and professional manner, certainly more mature than those twats from Ellon, Scotland.

Finally, far be it from me to suspect or imply that an “independent group” made up of large multinational (alcoholic) drinks manufacturers might have something to gain from throwing it’s weight around against a far smaller, though rapidly expanding brewery and would actually go to the length to manufacture ONE COMPLAINT in order to appear that it was being conscientious when it comes to alcohol consumption.

 

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…

 

VineHop – Poynton, Cheshire

…and then from Stockport...

You can get the train (very rarely but it does happen) to Poynton and visit…

Vine Hop

 

The annoying thing about train travel to Poynton is that it happens to be the first stop outside the Greater Manchester travel boundary, so anyone with a season ticket will need to pay extra…

…or just sit in the carriage furtherest from the conductor and hope they don’t reach you until you disembark.

A swift 10 minute walk into the town centre from the station, this is the latest addition to the growing beer/bottle bar sector but with the emphasis less on beer (only slightly) and more for wine, because Cheshire is properly middle-class and hasn’t fully dumped wine for craft beer just yet.

As you may be able to tell, this new venture’s previous building identity was a butchers, inside the only things hanging are the 6 keg lines…

 

And the 8 (4 white, 4 red) wine lines that you buy a special card for (and top-up I expect)…

 

Its like looking into the future with this set-up, I was more struck by this than the very large range of bottle/cans of beer that were available, very reasonably priced, though to drink in you did have the additional £1.20 charge…

 

Spirits, heavy emphasis on gins, are also available…oh and a box of cider (along with a choice of bottles too)…when you aren’t lost between all the wine…

 

Look…coat hangers…

It is a nice place for a few quiet drinks but then again Poynton has a drinking establishment for everybody’s tastes and maybe a full on blog is required.

Warning: You may well get to meet Stanley at this venue…

 

Which would be fantastic…if he wasn’t accompanied by his entourage of hangers-on owner.

 

Thanks for reading.