Cask Beer – Too Much Like Hard Work

I should preface this piece by saying I have nothing but respect for those that brew beer for a living.  Those that actually brew, not those that tour around the world promoting themselves and writing think pieces about the state of beer, or think because they’ve dug out a few mash tuns while getting their name on a collaboration beer that actually know how the world works.  No, it’s the hands on, up to your elbows in boiling hot trub kind of people.  The, lungs stripped of all sensation by peractic acid, kind of people.  The, I’ve got so many caustic soda burns you’d think I’d know when to wear gloves, kind of people.

If a brewery has chosen to not cask beer then fair play, that isn’t where the market is and it is very hard to do and get right.

Likewise those selling it, especially those in the micro pubs and bars popping up around the country, if you can sell cask, even just one line, and keep it well, then fair play to you.

What I would like to do is just walk through why cask beer, from my own experience, is an absolute twat to brew, sell and keep.

Let us start with the cask itself.  Metal and plastic are the main varieties.  We can leave wood, it is very rare thing, mainly used for ageing, selling beer from in at The Junction pub in Castleford, or to hide impurities while charging a small fortune for it.

The Cask on the Outside

People of all stripes don’t seem to respect the physical nature of a cask.  Yes, they are built to last, to cope with being thrown around, rolled around, stacked and dropped but that doesn’t mean that always has to be the way they are treated.  Dints and bangs, chips and scratches are part of natural life, especially when things need to be expedited but the state I’ve seen some casks in beggars belief.  All casks are the property of someone, you wouldn’t go round beating up things because they could take it on a daily basis (unless it’s a punch bag) because society would view you as some kind of sociopath, so a bit more respect wouldn’t go amiss.  Use just once and destroy, the story of Key Keg.  So I suppose Cask Beer is the more environmentally friendly one.

The Cask on the Inside

Talking of respect, once a cask is finished, just how hard is it for pubs and other holders of empty casks to simply stopper up the empty holes (shive or keystone).  It isn’t difficult, paper towel would be good enough if you don’t want to stretch to corks, bungs and spiles.  If you want to learn just how a little thought goes a long way, in this small heatwave the UK is having, try getting millions of welded on fly eggs out of an empty, open cask.  And leaves, cigarette butts, litter and other general detritus.  Not something you have to do with a Keg.

Sterilising The Cask

Once you’ve cleaned the inside and outside of a cask (metal is easier but more expensive, hence why there are quite a few rental options for them) you sterilise the thing.  Sterilising, in my experience can be carried out with chemicals (and then copious amounts of water to remove the chemicals) or steam. This includes the shive and the keystone.  Nothing is 100% fool-proof and contamination can occur in even the most sterile of environments, which breweries aren’t.  Not something you have to do as laboriously with a Keg.

Selling the Cask

Beer, once placed in a sterilised cask, can have a pretty good shelf life, especially without additives like finings or adjuncts.  Key kegs will last longer.

Preparing the Cask

Stillage the beer and let it settle for at least 48 hours before tap and vent/serving.  A luxury in a cold room/under bar where space is a premium or turn over is high.  Plug in and Play, the Keg Beer story, part 2.

I’ve been to places (and festivals) that serve less than 24 hours before selling, it is called taking the customer for granted.

Serving the Cask

You’ve got about 5 days (maybe longer with the best conditions/cellar skills) to sell this beer now it is open and oxygen is waging war with the beer inside the cask.  Do not move it, do not knock it, keep it between 11-14°C (52-57°F).  Taste it all the time, check the clarity all the time.  Its been 3 weeks and the Key Keg has been on and off its line a few times now, still tastes quite nice.

I’ve been to places (and festivals) that serve blatantly green beer and even ones with easily spotted spoiled characteristics, it is called taking the customer for granted.  Then again, if they like the taste and smell of TCP, why question the practice.

Just keep your keg beer cold

Dealing with the Cask

“That doesn’t taste right.”

“That doesn’t look right.”

“The beer isn’t clearing.”

“There isn’t much condition to it.”

One of the best and nicest brewers (and human beings) in Manchester, whose brewery is keg only, once explained to me the decision not to ever do cask (from the outset, not give up a few years in) was that he wished to remove all doubt that once the beer had left the brewery, any in a poor condition could not be levelled as a fault with the brewery.

Granted you can get a duff keg, things can go wrong with them but the trouble with cask is that everything can ultimately end up falling on the brewer.  And we are back to point one.  Once a beer is out in the wild, a whole number of things can happen to it.  Flung around.  Dropped.  Not kept at the right temperature.  Not vented for long enough.  Kept on too long. All of this is all out of control of the brewery and yet if the beer is considered to be pants it all falls on the brewery.

Cask beer is too much like hard work for those who actually sell it, it would seem.  Perhaps it is a facet of the modern age, a lack of personal responsibility in these interesting times we live.  A need for something new, now and as cheap as possible, if not free.  Something that requires a bit of effort, a bit more time, a bit more care… meh.

LPs vs CDs

CDs are virtually indestructible, they last forever with minimal looking after. Vinyl needs to be kept upright, dust free and at a suitably ambient temperature.

CD covers are tiny, you can get very little information on them and you can’t see all the intricate detail.  An LP cover can be a work of art.

CDs are compressed bits of data, with a Long Player you can experience the full dynamic range.

CDs are now being replaced by the mp3 or the stream.  LPs are having a bit of a revival.  And you can’t hold and smell and marvel at a byte of music.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Advertisements

Prequel: If Beer Was…

(originally published on April 11th 2017 – reposted to make a point about Article 13)

 

If Brewdog Was…

They Live

This past weekend, a reincarnated ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper took a trip up to Aberdeen, Scotland.

 

 

On the way there he was given some sunglasses which caused strange things to be seen when he tried them on…

 

 

 

He then found his way to a meeting of, well he didn’t know what to make of it…

 

 

 

He snapped at the gathering…

 

 

The more loyal members of the fan club became enraged and went on the attack…

 

And sadly Roddy and his morals were no more…

The moral of the story is, you never know what you are buying in to…

…or who you are drinking a beer with…

 

Thanks for reading…

 

 

 

 

?

If Beer Was…

(originally posted 27th Sept 2016 – reposted to make a point about Article 13)

JAWS

jaws

 

 

 

Beer in the shape of a Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) descends on the small, seaside town of Amity bringing confusion and panic to the locals.

jaws-movie-drunk-girl-opening-scene-chrissie-watkins

 

The local chief of police, Brody, does not know what to make of this new arrival, after years of complacency all of this just crept up on him.  He is aware that this force of nature can be harnessed but at the same time is also a massive threat to his way of life and to the status quo.

jaws_088pyxurz

 

Unsure of how to tackle this new foe he enlists the help of two men.  The first is the salt-of-the-earth Quint.

jaws-2

 

Quint has been dealing with the tribulations brought on by sharks for decades.  Battle-hardened, wistful and with a lifetime of experience he can sometimes come across as a little insane and immovably stuck in his ways.

hqdefault

Obsessed with taming sharks only by the use of barrels.

jaws_112pyxurz

 

Quint could possibly be accused being a bit too casual about sharks.

jawsmemoriesfrommarthasvineyard2

 

The second man to come to Chief Brody’s aid is the quiet and university educated Hooper.

funny-faces-richard-dreyfuss-jaws

 

Possessing a wealth of knowledge gleamed mainly from books Hooper is a man who is initially intimidated by Quint and is therefore prone to antagonistic behaviour.

richard-dreyfus-jaws-1975

 

 

Which can sometimes be excused given how the locals of Amity seem blissfully unaware that different types of shark exist.  In trying to explain he realises he really isn’t going to convince everyone that he knows more than most regular, as he would call them, bozos.

hqdefault

 

And later, when he find just how irrational Quint sometimes behaves, never listening to reason and ploughing on regardless.

robert-shaw-jaws-9

 

However Quint and Hooper do bond slightly when they realise that they each have something to bring to the table given their past dealings with sharks.

500full

 

Brody, the outcast between the yin-yang of Hooper and Quint’s knowledge of sharks seems more concerned about gas and always wanting things to be bigger.

 

 

For the sake of everything, these three men come together to try and get a grip on the shark and after some effective use of barrels it appears the three men may be victorious.  But the exertion of it all is too much and via a stray gas cylinder, Quint meets his fate in the jaws of the shark.

jaws-3

 

Hooper, after one trick too many also appears to succumb leaving only Chief Brody left to do battle, which he eventually succeeds at, using another gas cylinder.

things-that-make-you-go-kaboom-20080213013200283

 

As Brody surveys the scene of victory, of a shark tamed, he is startled then relived to see Hooper did in fact survive, and as they lament the passing of Quint they had back to the shore.

But as the credits roll it is not the two survivors but the rough and ready Quint, with his history evoking stories that linger in the memory.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

A word about the sequels:

Jaws 2: Something original always has inferior follow ups.

Jaws 3-D: The painful exploitation of that latest techniques and styles that quickly outstays its welcome.

Jaws, The Revenge: Horrible cash-in that only swells the coffers of a small few.

Untappd Tapped

Note – All artwork in this post is in the public domain and as such used under fair use in the piece.

Note 2 – apologies for the formatting, it just won’t sort itself out.

It is worth pointing out in advance that this post may contain a…

140ji6

It has been a strange few hours in the world of the gamification of drinking beer, especially if you are on Untappd.

In the endless drive for equality among the sexes, the people behind the site have listened to feedback and change a couple of badges:

What was “Brewnettes have more fun”

bdg_BrewnettesHaveMoreFun_lg

Is now “Bravo for Brown”

bdg_BravoForBrown_lg

 

 

 

 

 

Likewise “Blondes do it Better”

a9660c83c48776adf2886ebd8b5b0b1a

 

 

 

 

 

Has changed to “Fields of Gold” – which should immediately cause offence to those who hate the musician known as Sting.

bdg_FieldsOfGold_lg

 

 

 

 

 

But these aren’t the only badges that are offensive and I will detail some of those that still exist “for fun” for which Untappd should consider a rename and/or redesign.

The “Heavyweight” badge is offensive to fat people.

Heavy Weight

 

 

 

 

 

Next are the following badges with apply a male gender to what should be an androgynous beer bottle:


bdg_AltBier_lgbdg_saison_lgbdg_ConcertVenue_lg lagerjack


 

 

 

 

The presence of men in these badges

bdg_traveller_lg

bdg_weekdayWarrior_lg

 

 

 

 

 

Next up are the most offensive of cultural appropriations

bdg_CincoDeMayo2014_lg bdg_italy_lg Rising Sun

bdg_LaCremedelaCreme_lg

 

 

 

 

 

bdg_Highlander_lg

bdg_canada_lg

 

 

 

 

 

The Matador badge, which is not only cultural appropriation but also promotes a bloodsport

Matador


 

 

 

The Flamenco badge, more cultural appropriation along with pushing gender stereotypes while enforcing the view that women dance for the pleasure of men.

bdg_spain_lg

 

 

 

 

 

The “Hey Honey” badge, which promotes unwanted advances against women.

heyhoney

The “Iron Man” badge, no representation of women at all.
bdg_IronMan_lg

 

 

 

 

“I’ll Be Bock” which is offensive to all cybernetic organisms with neural net processors that have the capability to learn, become more human and strive to help prevent Judgement Day.

bdg_IllBeBox_lg

 

 

 

 

 

This is not an exhaustive list and much like Pumpclip Parade it can only be changed for the better by people seeking out badges that are likely to cause offence of any kind and shame the makers into making their site and app a more inclusive and sensitive experience.

 

Thanks for reading.

Smile…CAMRA is being Candid

In a flu ridden state I am quickly writing this.  Having observed all week chatter of what CAMRA was planning, really you should think, as a member, I would have known about this in advance.

Last December I wrote a piece suggesting that CAMRA may well evolve (it is there, in between the ranty stuff).

Reports of the death of CAMRA are greatly exaggerated but they haven’t helped themselves with self-published articles like this

Of course that is the idea; to get people talking that the biggest consumer group may be coming to an end based on some article that has that pissant question/non-question title.

If CAMRA move from solely being about real ale and instead are revitalising their campaign then the shift of focus does mean the acronym is not correct, but that is mere pedantry.

The organisation I’m a part of has been changing over the years anyway, with the dawn of the Asset of Community value, pubs are trying to be saved and so when the BBC writes “Should there be a crusade to save British pubs?” (oh look, there is that twatty question mark again), the answer is that there already is.

You also get poorly researched articles like this (oh look another question mark) – but that is the standard of random journalism about beer these days – take a hand full of clichés, sling in a few names of breweries, add the word beard and suddenly you too can become a freelance journalist with little knowledge of any subject to back anything up, but the pay check is in the hand so who cares, modern paid journalism isn’t about getting across facts any more, it is about clickbaiting.

Anyway, as far as I am concerned that gap between “old” and “new” beer drinkers is still a bridge too far and something that CAMRA isn’t going to build on its own, especially when it comes to saving pubs.

*Insert relevant Hilaire Belloc quote here*

People who deal only in “craft” beer do not care about some dirty old pub and the dirty old people who are in it and the dirty old community that it holds together.

I’m still of the opinion that most are following a scene.  A scene that is still not inspiring people to go out and drink, as on the whole the entire “night-life” industry in on a downward spiral.

The nature of drinking, in the home or on the town, is changing.  People don’t go to the same places and are unlikely to be coaxed back into them.  It is all about trend and maybe in that respect CAMRA and pubs should consider themselves to be like heavy metal.

There are off-shoots and little cliques that raise the profile once in a while but once these are spun off there is always a faithful core that remains, always open and welcoming to both the original purpose and future evolution.

It won’t ever go out of fashion because it has never been in fashion.

 

Thanks for reading?

Its Meet the Brewer not Reinventing the Wheel

A while back I saw a tweet from a Guardian lifestyle journalist which went along the lines of “What *is* a meet the brewer?”

Of course Guardian, lifestyle and journalist are also mutually exclusive terms that bear no relevance, as individual terms or as a collective, to sensible people and their enjoyment of life.  But I suppose they have a function if someone is willing to pay for that nonsense.

The thing is what *is* a meet the brewer (MTB)?  It seems I’ve been very lucky in all the ones I have attended.  On each occasion I’ve always actually met the brewer, listened to them talk about their beers, their brewery, their history and their future plans.  This is usually accompanied by food of some kind and a fair amount of beery samples to kick-start the discussions.  They are also always attended by home & commercial brewers alike.

Over the years it would seem that MTB events have either been misrepresented by the establishment hosting them (really they are a tap-takeover, a beer launch or such like) or the brewery has sent along a marketeer who knows lots about “brand brewery” but not much about anything else.

I suppose these in and of themselves would be quite irritating and a let down to those who were expecting something far more involved.

Of course what you don’t need is an over-priced event.

Forced food pairing with morsels probably made from ambergris and Zuzu’s petals to further justify an inflated ticket price.

 

10y71m

 

And who honestly gives a fuck about any specially selected music either?

There is a certain pretension that doesn’t so much creep in as is at an event’s core and for me too many events can only exacerbate the pretext that “craft” beer is elitist.

It is obvious the MTB’s are less about the brewer and more about the attendees and an over emphasis and curation of a whole session of what is and isn’t consumed creates a claustrophobic scenario that is as unhelpful as any poorly constructed meet.

 

Thanks for reading.

Brewdog – If a dog barks in a forest and no-one is around…

…do only foolish sycophants easily parted from their money hear it?

 

So the obvious nature of this blog is “pointless, small-time beer blogger tries to make name for himself by having a go at THE ‘craft’ brewer in the UK.”

I’ve been loathed to write articles about said brewery in the past due to the fact that their Modus Operandi is to create controversy and any kind of mention, good or bad, is extra advertising and recognition for their brand.

I have nothing against the beer that they make.  I’ve had a lot of it in the past, I’ve got glassware and even a t-shirt.  I’ve got quite a few emails from a lovely woman called Angela who apologised every time I placed an order because it was always delivered incorrectly.  They were professional and went above and beyond in correcting the order and even providing additional beer by way of an apology.

I stopped buying their beer around the time they started shoving bottles up the backsides of taxidermal animals.

It wasn’t because of that, it was because around that time Brewdog apparently fell foul of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for using naughty swear words.

Which enable them to generate more “punk” advertising.

Only the ASA had receive one complaint and that was from Brewdog themselves.

There are few things I like more than beer but one that stands clearly above the booze is freedom of speech.

So by all means do market you product however you feel and use whatever language you want I’ll support you in that quest, I just won’t necessarily contribute financially.

The problem I have is it freedom of speech (and more worryingly, freedom of thought) is under attack from all quarters.

The crusade for morality that I grew up with in the 1980s led by Mary Whitehouse and her merry band of religious and conservative (politically & morally) nut-jobs that lead to the banning of films and stickers on albums has now been flipped on its head that now it is generally the politically liberal who seek to curb any speech or thought that anyone may get offended at.

One term is called micro-aggression.  Look it up, to have a mind-set like that is not only closed to ideas is not only unevolved but is also just plain dangerous.

What does this have to do with Brewdog you might ask?

Well to me complaining about your own language to generate more hype and then to use this to play the victim is not only just typical of spoilt bullies who are used to getting their own way but slowly chips away at free speech, a speech that the marketing department at Brewdog rely on heavily.

This was brought into stark reality a few weeks ago when the article below appeared in the Guardian.

UK craft beer: taking over the world one pint at a time

It featured a quote from the well-respected blogger Melissa Cole who said of Brewdog:

“A lot of their stuff is disingenuous, dull or mildly offensive…”

Which it is.  They are indeed disingenuous and dull but offence is up to each individual, I personally don’t find anything they do offensive other than chipping away at free speech…

…so on cue, James Watt plays his victim card with the bullying tone…

He then witters on about something completely unrelated…

Good use of advertising a new beer launch…

If you read the full conversation you can clearly see Miss/Ms/Mrs Cole defends (not that she has to) her position very well, in clear and simplistic terms that even the most dull and disingenuous fuckwit could understand, addressing both Watt and some of the more insalubrious adherents to the Brewdog cult fanclub crowdfunding shareholding.

What is actually most gratifying is that most of the comments of Watt’s tweets about this incident do point out that the emperor does indeed have no clothes but squeaky wheels do get the grease and boy are they greased well.

The problem with Brewdog and their marketing MO is that their prime audience is composed of the easily offended (as well as the easily pleased) and they are the exact people who chip, chip, chip away at the foundations of free speech and I’m less bothered about them not buying Brewdog products or starting up po-faced petitions as am I about the impact it has on everyone else’s ability to think and speak how they so wish.

Long may they continue to brew the good beers they generally produce and long may they be called out on their bullshit which, like the boy who cried wolf is every time they open their pie-holes.  This may seem like bit of an over reaction and it may well give Brewdog too much credit, but like water dripping on concrete, every little whine about things that offend someone erodes these freedoms I and many others hold dear.

 

Please whine below if you need to, I’ll field all (or most likely only the 2 I’ll receive) of your comments.

 

Thanks for reading.