Northern Ireland – Beer and…Bass

Just a brief write up of a recent trip I had around Northern Ireland, hopefully not mentioning politics (past or current) and with no pictures of The Dark Hedges, Giant’s Causeway, boats, mountains, flags, sectarian gift shops and murals.

 

Larne

 

Larne is an odd place, eerily quiet on the Saturday night when I visited but the first thing I saw on the high street set the tone for beer (kind of) for the rest of the trip.

If you are ever in Larne, eat at Carriages, they feed you well, the feed you very, very well.

Portrush

The wondrous thing about many of the bars, pubs and restaurants I went into across the nation was that as well as the usual macro beers that everyone knows and loves the representation from local breweries was very well represented.

To dine (as opposed to takeaway) in Portrush is to seemingly have a choice between 6 restaurants all owned by the same company but the food was great as were the choices of beers but this place came alive when I found a place called Kiwi’s.

All towns (big or small) in Northern Ireland seem to work on some daft one way, pedestrianised system which directs cars on the longest route possible to find the smallest amount of car park spaces, not good if you are there for a few hours, makes sense if you are staying overnight.

Lacada brewery is the community brewery based in Portrush (community brewing seems to be big across all of NI) and to their credit, and that of many of the other businesses in Portrush, their beers were to be found in most outlets.  Kiwis itself has a wide selection of beers micro and macro plus the obligatory gin selection too.

Portstewart

People here can not drive and that is all I have to say, they also don’t like working late either so just stay in Portrush.

Derry (LondonDerry)

For my sins I only passed through Derry, on the way to the north part of Southern Ireland, it looked like quite a nice place to stop off, maybe next time.

Newry

 

The Stoke of Northern Ireland, a place simultaneously bustling and run-down. Welcoming and hostile. Where the Tesco sells a fine mix of many local breweries.

3.7% – who knew?

Mourne Mountains / Warrenpoint

Visit the Silent Valley – take insect repellent and a few beers.

Comber / Newtownards

Again many nice pubs and restaurants, quite a few carrying local beers from Bullhouse and Farmageddon.  Lots of ancient ruins and scary locals off the beaten tracks so lock your doors when you drive around Ballydrain.

Belfast

Driving into Belfast I could smell beer being brewed.  It is the exact smell you get as you drive into Cheetham Hill (Holt’s) or back down the Irk Valley (Blackjack & Runaway).  Sometimes I even mistake it for the smell of cooked liver.

Lovely pub.  And the only cask pint I found (Hilden Brewery, take a bow and the pub, it was a great pint).

Obviously a capital city has many pubs to choose from and also a wide choice of beers.  Apart from The Sunflower I was very taken by the John Hewitt and of course, The Crown

I’d take pictures of the inside but I’m more interested in the drinking, quite ethereal in here.

Bass

Bass (keg) was prevalent in many of the places I visited.  There seems to be some tie in to Tennents, possibly when both were on by InBev.

So there you have it.  Northern Ireland; a place of fine natural scenery, good hostelries, many, many flags, red triangles, big red T’s, fake retro Guinness pumps, potatoes, so many potatoes and me trying not to sing out loud lyrics to Stiff Little Fingers songs.

One final thing…

 

Public signs for dog fouling seem to all have to display the actual mess, either falling out or a steaming pile of it next to the cartoon dog…it is the small things in life…

 

Thanks for reading.

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Hey…CAMRA…

Low Strength Beer and wine could increase alcohol consumption

The continued bashing of beer (alcohol) being bad has led to a drop off in pub visits, with pubs shutting constantly, as each new generation drinks less than the one previous.

So my initial message to CAMRA and its revitalisation is, don’t bother.

The beer landscape is changing; less people are drinking, let alone drinking in pubs and those that you may seek to bring aboard with whatever “forward thinking” you may hope to propose will never be enough for people that give no shits whether you exist as is, exist but change, or disappear completely.

Your best bet is just to play it out for another 40 years as you’ve done previously, your membership will naturally fall as members die off but to be fair, there will be few pubs to protect and few people actually drinking by the year 2058 so all of this bullshit, all these talking heads and chatterings and tweets really make no difference.

 

And I’m being optimistic here, thinking that the world will survive till 2058.

 

Fuck Keg, keep on with the cask beer (and cider and perry if you must), keep the Wetherspoons vouchers but maybe treat your festivals as the adult entertainment they are and lose the massive Big Brother messages because the vast majority of people at them at pearl clutching, offense takers.

 

I’m Boozy Procrastinator and this is my manifesto for election to the National Executive.

 

Thanks for reading.

Tryanuary and Dry January – A Virtual Signal Coin

It’s January, it is officially the start of a whole new year of stupid and it always starts the same way, with News Year’s Resolutions.

Most are always about abstinence from some form of entertainment that has been deemed (or proved) to be harmful when taken to excess, yes excess, and then to replace the gaping hole that this lack of entertainment creates it is now worthy to do something else, to an equal excess.

Newton’s third law of motion holds true even in a human’s stunted mind.

Dry January is a registered trademark of Alcohol Concern – I do love that name, very soft-power paternalism, we aren’t worried, or apoplectic or in a rage about alcohol, we are merely concerned about it.

Alcohol consumption and by logical connection visiting to pubs, bars and clubs, falls in January.  In part due to the aforementioned resolutions and in part due to natural churn and a balance as more people visit the pub in the run up and over the Christmas period.

More people visiting the pub leads to a whole other level of beer signalling as “once-a-year” visitors get berated by those that see themselves as regulars.

Not actual regulars of course but those that love chatting about it, that think the whole beer world hangs on their every word and would fall over if they stopped going to the pub.

In the way that those who go on health kicks in January, try new diets, change their lives for some perceived better can come off as pious and smugly virtuous, mainly because they will take any opportunity to tell you about what they are doing, especially when not even prompted, so the Tryanuary (or Try January) movement bounces back in the opposite direction but equally trite reasoning.

It is much like Small Business Saturday or Record Store Day, if fact it much like everything that now has “a day” or “a week” – a narcissistic “raise awareness” industry, where everything can be reduced to a hashtag and a trend and people can jump on a bandwagon and feel they are special and are doing something before simply hopping back off the wagon (an inverse pun) and hailing a taxi (or probably an Uber) to the next hot topic to raise their profile.

Each of them have their own form of subtle compulsion and hardcore acolytes, they are two versions of the the same pint (568mL) only one insists yours should be empty and one wants it to always be full.

 

Thanks for reading.

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…

 

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.