Bière Clos

Subtitle: Blogger who says people take beer too seriously writes piece with reference to French existential philosophy.

Actually, I was going to write a few observational bits and pieces about beer based on the translations of the title of the play Huis Clos but I can’t be bothered, I’d only be repeating myself and every other beer blog so I’ll just let the titles speak for themselves (so much for research). You Figure It Out.

No Exit (No Entry)

In Camera

Vicious Circle

Behind Closed Doors

Dead End

 

Hell is other hobbyists.

 

Oh well, let’s continue…

 

Thanks for reading.

Brewing Up A Political Storm

Subtitle: You can’t filter out agendas with Isinglass

May you live in interesting times goes the alleged Chinese proverb brought to my attention by the writings of Terry Pratchett and we certainly do in 2016.

I don’t think it remiss to point out that as broad as the spectrum is that drink beer you would probably suggest that the older “CAMRA” set are to the conservative right and the younger “CRAFT” set are to the liberal left and while I’m not one for grouping people along political lines it would seem that many brewers and bloggers in the beer bubble, to their own detriment, probably do so.

The EU referendum vote in the UK on 23rd of June, that ended up with the result being to leave the European Union caused fissions, unsurprisingly many on my twitter time-line were for Remain.

Schisms formed on 8th November with the results of the US presidential election that saw Donald Trump become the elected, prospective 45th president of the USA.

Of course this lead to more fallout from breweries, brewers and bloggers on twitter.

One tweet caught my eye, from an actual brewery account and I’m not going to post it here simply because this is neither about naming and “shaming” (free speech is an absolute, even “hate” speech) nor do I bear any grudge towards the brewery or the brewer (he is a nice chap) or wish to see his business suffer.

Thing was, they (he) called for the assassination of Trump.  Now, whatever your feelings and political leanings are, two things struck me about that:

  1. Calling for the death of someone, in jest requiring a very broad context, is not right (choose other hyperboles)
  2. Using a business account to do so is stupid.

Then again many brewers & business owners in general, have personal accounts from which to let forth their own thoughts and despite all the caveats they may have in their biographies sometimes it can be guilt by association.

What is also striking is the lack of people who called out the brewery on this tweet and also subsequent tweets about boycotting specific countries.

We can probably, fairly postulate that many people didn’t even see the “assassination tweet” but to those that did see it and did not pass comment on it, you really do need to look inside yourselves and question that whatever morals and integrity you bleat about so often, is it that honestly what you actually practice.

 

“We use selective annihilation of mayors and government officials, for example, to destroy the presence of the state and create a vacuum. Then we fill that vacuum.”

 

Thanks for reading.

If Beer Was…

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.

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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.

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Obsessed with taming sharks only by the use of barrels.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

Inflating the Bubble – Manchester City Centre CAMRA Branch

 

Arbitrary boundaries (2 words I don’t seem to be able to spell first time around) between CAMRA branches are a strange thing, a bit like borders between countries but with a bit more squabbling involved.

Take, for example the boundary of the South East Lancashire Branch, which somehow incorporates Newton-Le-Willows, a place that falls under Merseyside and would technically be in the St. Helens branch if it wasn’t for the fact the Newton is “historically part of Lancashire”.

Then again, on social media SEL CAMRA gets confused regularly with the other SEL CAMRA of South East London, so what’s in a name?

Borders are a strange thing, my regularly updated list of the Greater Manchester Brewers still gets comments about the location and therefore inclusion of some brewers and likewise, the absence of the others.

Stockport itself is up for debate as to where it lies and being a fan of Game of Thrones, I was looking up actors that were in it and the biography below made me chuckle…

stocky

 

Here is a link to how the different branches of Manchester County CAMRA branches fit into each other.

Not on that map are the branches of Bolton and Wigan, who themselves are the best of frenemies, let alone with SEL (the northern one) thrown into the mix.

If you look at the map of how the branches meld together you can see how the city centre of Manchester and therefore those with the most well known breweries and the “best pubs and bars”, was carved up between North Manchester, Trafford & Hulme and Stockport & South Manchester.

…Welcome to West Berlin.

I wrote before about how too much of the focus of Greater Manchester is on the city centre and CAMRA is not immune from that, in so much as the 3 branches chose to seemingly be rather more proactive about the places within the little bits of the city they occupied at the expense of the rest of their branch.

Hence, to stop this squabbling the City Centre Branch was formed, borders were thrown up and North Manchester threw its pubs out and over the Irwell and became the Salford Branch.

This territory embargo also extends to local branch manifestos.  Beer Breaks is the publication of Bolton CAMRA, Swiggin in Wiggin is the magazine of the Pie-Eaters.  There was a publication called Ale of Two Cities, which covered a fair few branches, but with the main editor giving up everybody ran to fit into Opening Times, itself containing liggers from the High Peak and Macclesfield branches, borders be damned when it comes to publicity it seems.

Of course being a member of CAMRA doesn’t mean you have to stick with the branch that is printed on your membership card, you can attend any meeting you so wish.

CAMRA itself it undergoing a bit of a makeover but its own Revitalisation Project is only highlighting the schizophrenic nature of the organisation, especially when it comes to pubs and it just so happens that like many apparently open minded, non-CAMRA beer drinkers, their snobby ways pushes them away from their local and apparently “rubbish” pubs and into those that serve their own narcissistic needs far more.

The very people that talk about buying local and then wonder why everything near them is closing down and boarded up.

Still, so long as you have choice…

 

Thanks for reading.

 

The Pubs of Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales

It seems I’m going to be going off to that there Ynys Môn or Anglesey in a short while for what will appear to be long beach walks and not much else.

It been a long while since I was up that way, Bangor specifically, I’m thinking my last time there was 2002 and while doing a bit of a tidy up I found a CD full of pictures, mainly of people but also of pubs.

 

 

Belle Vue

My local – though it took me 4 years to win the bloody quiz.

Black Bull

This Wetherspoons pub saw me take full advantage of their 2 meals for £5.

County

Very much like a “country” pub inside, all horse brasses and the like.


Greek

They guy who managed this at the time looked like Patrick Stewart.

Harp

The site of many a lock-in and 4am games of pool.

OSheas

An Irish pub.

Patricks

Another Irish pub.

Ship

I recall this had spiral staircase (stupid idea) and a dance floor on the 2nd level that, by means of dense glass, you could see up from the ground floor.

Skerries

Very much like the County Arms.

Tap & Spile

Near the pier and the destination to go for a filled Stottie breakfast after a heavy night before.

Waterloo

Again, like the County Arms and Skerries.

yeolde

Like the County Arms Waterloo Inn and Skerries.

Firkin

This was one of those “Its a Scream” pubs, prior to that is was a Firkin (I forget what the & part was) but it remains the site of my greatest domination of pub quizzes.  So much so that our team couldn’t spend all the prize vouchers we won each week so ended up buying take-outs all the time, leading to my one and only….beer fridge.

fridge

…plus milk.

Absent from these pictures is The Globe, which I was always warned not to go in, especially during the 6 Nations and also The Mostyn Arms, which was around the corner from where I briefly lived and if memory serves was so small you could get a sweat on if you sat too close to the gambler.

There are of course the obligatory bars and clubs (mainly the Octagon) that I found myself in, surrounded by mini-buses full of people who’d made the weekend pilgrimage from the hills and valleys of the area.

Oddly, apart from the weekends, when the students were away on holiday it was like a ghost town.  I don’t been noticeable because it was so busy when the students were there, I mean really, really quiet.

It made for a hell of a pub crawl, just in lower Bangor alone.  A complete bugger trying to stagger up Glanrafon at the end of the night though.

The thing is, I looked up all these pubs on What Pub? and to my surprise (given the current trend) most of them are still open.

I look forward to going back.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

All photo courtesy of Frivolous Monsters

When Underdogs become Overlords…

The piece below is the opening of what I’m lovingly calling the “Shitting on my Doorstep” trilogy.

 

Following the announcement by CAMRA of their revitalisation project much debate has opened up about what the campaign is for and where it is headed.

I find this situation to be quite comparable to the craft beer movement and, more presciently, those who have or are trying to define what it actually is.

On the face of it both had similar, if perhaps romanticised origins.  Group of people gets together, bemoan how corporatism is spoiling something they like and resolving to do something about it.

Of course their future’s have panned out a bit differently but they nonetheless each wield a fair amount of power, either by lobbying or by being an actual business movement.

In the case of CAMRA, it is now reaping what it sowed when it came out with its rather rigid definitions and core aims.

Seemingly shunned by the “craft” generation; in fact used a marketing tool to push against their old, establishment ways and make way for the new, brave, young beery scene, it is also lambasted by its core base for trying to move too far from its original principles but also by doing this, steps on the toes of others with similar aims. (Blogs & views about this collected here, by Boak & Bailey).

On the other hand you have craft breweries; which some who drink, or worse still worship and sploodge all over themselves about, forget that they are all businesses.  Businesses that are in direct competition with those of a similar vein fighting over the very, very small dregs of an ever decreasing pint.  Businesses whose aim is surely to grow as big and successful as possible?

There are those that buy into breweries in good faith, as a friend would, lending another money to get a venture off the ground.  There are small business loans taken out left, right and centre to fund.  There is crowd-funding and of course there are “share” sales, which can lead to attending AGM’s which always remind me of scenes John Carpenter’s They Live.

Support can also come from merely regularly drinking their beers and raving about them on social media, or merely just drinking their beers.  In essence the better beers and by rationale the better breweries should always succeed.  But in recent times we have seen new breweries sprouting up with big cash outlays and, more importantly a marketing budget.

Conversely and perfectly acceptable in all other forms of business, there have been numerous buy-outs of well know microbreweries by international brands.  Of course the main and valid worry with these kinds of buy-outs is that the product invariably changes and whereas it may be available more widely it is the quality of the product that suffers.

There is also an aspect of this movement that would rather brand a buy-out as a sell-out.  What this highlights is that, duh, some people are jumping on the beer bandwagon to make quick money (though there are far quicker ways to do this) and that those that have the initial investment to succeed are more likely to thrive that those that have to build up more slowly and the worry is that if this is just a trend then the bubble will burst and a lot of microbreweries, no matter how good their beers are, will go to the wall.

People have idealised what craft beer and real ale are.  You can only call your product craft, real, artisan, boutique, etc for so long before the bigger guys with the bigger marketing budgets utilise and exploit it.

You have two movements, both born of grass-roots and local principles, that have spread nationally and even internationally and both of which have seemingly convinced their members that they are something they are not and are about as far removed from the “little guy” that they portray themselves as you can get, though a case for this being more accidental rather than design can be made.

Of course all of this just over complicates what beer actually is and instead turns drinking it into some kind of morality play.  In the end we are all still underdogs and what we should really rally against is anything that is trying to change our enjoyment of a very short life but dictating what you drink, what you eat, what you say, and it is ultimately these moralists, these overlords, that should be opposed.

 

Hmmm, this piece got away from me and I don’t know where…

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?