Samuel Smiths – What a Fucking Rotter

I was late to getting the news that Samuel Smith’s brewery has issued a decree across its entire estate of pubs that anyone found to be swearing should be turned out of the premises, whether they will be barred seems to be up for debate but seeing as ever news piece I’ve read on this links to another article, which links to another and another and another, it is pretty hard to guess what the exact truth of the matter is.

I’ve read precisely one blog on this, saw a few comments on the #hopinions thread that Beer O’Clock run every Sunday

 

 

and I saw CAMRA’s response to the news

 

On this matter I don’t particularly care in one instance; if a private business wishes to enact its own policies about what is “good behaviour” then by all means go ahead.  People cheer when the private companies that are Facebook and Twitter remove members that are abusive (within their own definition of what abuse actually is) but heaven forbid a private company should refuse to, for example, make a cake saying something they disagree with, oh no.

It is rather odd that Sam Smiths has chosen to focus purely on swearing, I can only assume that they are OK with someone in their establishments saying nigger or faggot so long as there isn’t a four-letter word in amongst said possible drunken diatribe but what constitutes a private conversation in a public place?

Then again the current state of the world is pitted against itself in what exactly is and isn’t a “bad idea” what is and isn’t “hate speech” and more pertinently, what is or isn’t “offensive.”

Within the beer bubble itself there are points of view on certain subjects (for example pump clips) that go against the new orthodoxy and while all these little games and battle of wills are being played out, governments world wide are monitoring and recording their citizens communications under the pretence of security and protection.

 

The last thing anyone needs to be protected from is words, rude or not.

 

Thanks for reading

 

On a separate note, here is why some people actively boycott drinking Sam Smiths beers and so for some a swearing ban is neither here nor there…

 

Beerilingus

Subtitle: FellALEtio – What’s In a Cloudy Beer?

Taking care of beer (even cask beer) is not a massively difficult job, assuming that those in charge of cellars are also in charge of the most rudimentary functionings of common sense.

On a recent escapade to that there London it can’t have been remiss of those on twitter that I made a rather large deal about cloudy beers.  It could be suggested that being a Northerner we are led like a bull with a ring through the nose by other Northern beer bloggers that London can’t keep or serve cask beer properly, and for the sake of argument they also seem to struggle in brewing it (or at least conditioning it) properly too.

Whether the fault of getting a cloudy pint does indeed either lie with the brewery conditioning tactics (yes, yes, it isn’t just exclusive to London), with either a lack of training or more worryingly a lack of care during cellaring is moot in the realms of this piece.

I personally know from serving beer that I will give a warning that a beer is “hazy” – a more socially acceptable phrase for describing beer that isn’t as bright as a (insert your own simile) but isn’t that cloudy to look at.

You can try to explain about chill haze, hop haze and throw in words like clarity and turbidity and things being unfiltered, or you can just go for the tried and tested fob-off “its supposed to be like that”, and with the rise of hop-bomb fruit juices masquerading as beer it’s getting harder to justify the condition a beer (cask or keg) appears to be in.

My point is, why bother?

A cursory search of the interwebs didn’t bring up any list to described the clarity of beer and after a few random discussions in person and on twitter I settled on this:

Bright

Clear

Hazy

Cloudy

Murky

Sludge

Of course I could whack these words into a thesaurus and come up with a different set of words that would also give a witty acronym that would fit in with this piece…but I’m lazy and just want to publish this nonsense.

Point being, we may well eat/drink with out eyes first but we’ve got four (well you mortals have) other senses to discern if something is suitable for our consumption.

Lets be honest, human genitalia is not the most appealing thing to look at but a quick sniff and visual check for possible brie-like residual smeg and a quick flick for resonance should be enough to gauge whether or not its worth putting your laughing tackle anywhere near it.

Still, in the throes of passion or a drunken state sometimes the need to fulfil base desires sees all semblance of dietary discretion go out of the window.

As always, buyer beware.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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

Manchester City Centre Centric

The second piece of my “Shitting on my Doorstep” trilogy.

Part 1 here

Recently and more frequently I’ve been asking myself; “if it wasn’t that I worked in the centre of Manchester, or more accurately travelled into and out of the city centre, would I actually drink there so regularly?”

The benefit of getting public transport into work isn’t that whole “cheaper, better for the environment, healthier” argument as, especially when it comes to the former and the latter, I don’t have to drive I can have a few drinks after work (or even during, the much maligned dinner/lunch-time pint).

But after I wrote this piece for Manchester Beer Week (an event I fully support and will promote heartily) I started the self-questioning.

It also kind of married up with the Allgates Bus Tour (old reviews here (2013) and here (2014)) which was held on the Easter weekend just as every brewery in and around Manchester opened their taps and there were beer launches galore.

Another tie-in is that the Guided Busway has now opened.  This white elephant transport solution is said to decrease public transport travel times between Leigh and Manchester (via Atherton and Tyldesley) courtesy spanking new buses.  It may work, it may not.  What has definitely happened though is that many previous bus services, especially night services to places such as Wigan, Swinton, Bolton, Walkden, Atherton, Tyldesley and Leigh, have been cut.

Meaning you will have to be out of Manchester by midnight, or face a very expensive taxi ride.

Or, as discussed with friends, just drink through until the first bus service leaves at 5am.

So a mixture of travel nonsense and localism (and maybe even nimbyism) has made me reconsider drinking in the centre of Manchester.  Well that and a twitter discussion I had over the weekend.

Upon the launch of one of a plethora of double IPA’s (DIPA) I noted that the price of a cask pint of one 8% DIPA was being quoted at £4.  Surprisingly cheap, both for Manchester and the strength of the beer but unsurprising given the pub that was serving it.  After further discussion it was found to also be on cask for £4.40 a pint – again not something I personally would feel aggrieved paying.  But the kicker came when I mentioned I’d seen exactly the same drink, on cask, not more than 15 minutes walk away from either of the previous locations, for £6 a pint.

All 3 places would be locations I would recommend a visit to should anyone ask me where were the best places to go to drink in Manchester are.  I probably still will but now maybe with caveats.

I’m not naive enough to not credit the business mind that makes as much money as they can off what is ostensibly, a captive market.  Nor am I going to suggest that “small town” prices are a panacea of equality, but with everything that has gone on over the passed few weeks it seems I’m regressing back into my more local drinking enclaves.

Manchester city centre is expanding and growing rapidly; 27 restaurants and bars are set to open in 2016 alone.  But just how many of these are up and coming local businesses?  I’m beginning to wonder if Manchester is increasingly losing any individuality and identity it used to have, especially when the news of new builds seems to come at the expense of our local heritage.

It is now possible that Manchester becomes a place I will rarely visit and I may well treat and regard much like the place it appears to be trying to turn into, London.

 

Thanks for reading.

My Favourite Pub(s) in Greater Manchester

I was asked to write this piece for Manchester Beer Week and figured whereas most of the focus will generally and inevitably be towards the city centre of Manchester, there is a whole metropolitan county erroneously formed in 1974 to focus on and whereas I’ve visited some great pubs in Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and the cities of Manchester and Salford my drinking life began and very much remains in the borough of Wigan.

So as the evil claws of Wigan council look to stick their crest on every street sign and strip away any semblance of history and independent identity from those towns unfortunate enough to fall into their dark embrace I’d first like to make some honourable mentions:

The White Lion in Leigh and the Jolly Nailor in Atherton are excellent pubs.  Also of note is now the sadly lost Dog and Partridge in Bolton.  All have/had a fine range of beers and a warm welcome.

There are many others too but this is written as a piece of history; an ode to the first pubs I drank in and more importantly, still do to this day.

Union Arms, Tyldesley

WP_20160331_002

I find this pub to be quite an unorthodox shape.  It is a largish pub, though deceptively so as a central bar (with 2 main bars and a smaller one) services 5 distinct rooms but all are open plan so as not to be cut-off from each other.

Entrance through the main door generally takes me through to the right-hand side of the pub, up a couple of stairs to one of the main bars and a large room with an additional raised seated section, where bands sometimes play.  It used to house the pool table (now strangely absent) and a jukebox.   When I first started going in the main barmaid (who curiously still does some shifts there) used to whack on 20 free credits, select 3 songs and then leave the rest for myself and my comrades.

WP_20160331_009

From this side of the pub you could then go up another small step to another area of about 4 tables where the toilets are located along with the smallest bar and the staircase up to the landlords accommodation.

WP_20160331_003

Down a couple of stairs and you would be greeted by a small room that kept the table football and lots of football (mainly Manchester United) memorabilia.

WP_20160331_004

This opens up into the other main bar which had a lot more tables and a dart board.  Some gamblers and quiz machines were dotted around the pub.

WP_20160331_005 WP_20160331_006 WP_20160331_007

As you can see, bench seating is prevalent in this pub.

The pub served (and still serves) a range of keg Thwaites products and Warsteiner can be counted amongst its lager offerings.  After a change of ownership there are now 6 cask lines available, along with the “usual” international suspects.

The Pendle Witch, Atherton

Tucked down an alley from the main town centre, the Pendle is a rather small pub, though a few large alterations opened the pub out while also brightening it up and, along with the ban of 2006, made it less smoky (oddly something I seldom noticed in the Union).

WP_20160331_011 WP_20160331_012

There is a beer garden to the back while the pub consists of one large room, a conservatory and a slightly smaller room where you’ll find a pool table.

WP_20160331_013

There is a jukebox, which due to the nature of most of the regulars will play heavy metal on very heavy rotation.  It is a Moorhouse’s brewery pub and their beers make up 5 of the 10 casks on offer.

WP_20160331_014 WP_20160331_015

There is a wide, wide selection of international bottled beers at stupidly cheap prices and these go hand-in-hand with the regularly held bottle tasting events.

The pubs mentioned here are all great example of a public house with a good beer selection, cheap prices, welcoming atmosphere and a wide mix of drinkers; young, old, regular and passing trade but above all they are actually proper pubs.

What does that mean?

For me it is just a place I’d feel as comfortably in as I would my own home.  A place for both solitude and friendship and above all, a decent drink.  In writing about these pubs I could never possibly sum up just how important they are to me because pubs are more than just a place to that serves beer; they are part of the fabric of my life, integral to communities and they are worth fighting to keep because they are always more than just bricks and mortar.

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.