Sunday, 9 July 2017

ACTIVISM, THE DECLINE OF


Despite my best attempts to live in earlier decades, all the evidence points to the 1970s being a long time ago.  We all know the cliches that were repeated ad nauseum on those 'nostalgia' documentaries that were so prevalent 15 years ago, typically encapsulated by stories of power cuts and Noddy Holder's mirrored top hat.  But there have been other, more subtle, changes since then, the results of which are only becoming apparent now.

In the early 70s, social and romantic life was relatively simple for a man.  You met a woman, went out with her, stuff happened, and you got married (the exact timings of these events depended if and when she got pregnant).  Once the novelty had worn off, you generally found that you'd said everything sensible you could possibly say to each other.  Anything else usually resulted in arguments or unedifying mutual passive-aggressive behaviour.

To my generation, the solution to this is simple - divorce.  Sure, it's costly and adversarial, but it's better in the long run than a lifetime of mutual recrimination and misery.  But in the 1970s, such things were far less common.  The majority of people were not comfortable talking to lawyers and having their dirty laundry washed in public.  So, for better or worse, they stayed together and found ways of staying apart.

As Countess Scarlioni said  "Every man must have his hobbies."  Unfortunately for most men of the 1970s, Count Scarlioni's personal hobby was unavailable to them, so they had to find something else.  Usually, it involved being in smoky rooms with other men, discussing issues of little lasting importance but involving a lot of time and committee effort.  Is it a wonder that both the peak of Union activities and the peak of CAMRA campaigning happened virtually simultaneously?

And ever since, with the following generations of men finding more immediately satisfying activities to engage in, the average age of a local CAMRA branch committee has been increasing with every passing year.  Possibly the only things keeping the institution going are that (1) most have retired and can devote time to CAMRA that would be otherwise unavailable and (2) they have wives or partners understanding of their man's need to spend MONDAY NIGHT IN BAMBER BRIDGE .

Presently, CAMRA is wrestling with the the unescapable fact that it's members who are under 45 are disengaged from the "necessary" Social and Administrative functions of their local branch.  Various half-hearted gestures towards said demographic are under discussion.  They will no doubt fail, as the vast majority are simply unavailable to go to an upstairs pub room on a weeknight, simply to write an agenda or take down the minutes of a meeting.  Quite apart from the fact these activities are regarded as "dull" by a generation with precious little free time, it's unlikely many 40 year olds, most having a home/family/and possibly other family members to spend time with, would simply even imagine ditching them for a night of note-taking.

Anachronism has its place in buildings and maybe even in culture, but for a "Members' Organisation" it's a tomb simply waiting for the lid to be hauled over it.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

BLUE BELL, YE OLDE

There comes a time in a lot of people's life where they they try to visit every pub in their home town.  For most people it happens by accident.  Somebody knows somebody who drinks there.  There's someone there who you want to meet. Or maybe, god help you, you're curious and want to see what it's like.

Me, well, one day I was drunk and thought "Oh, I've never been to Ye Olde Blue Bell.". I was with my sister that day, and she'd never been either.  My sister has been in some of the most godawful dumps in Preston.  I mean, places that rats wouldn't go to because they're too dark and unsanitary,  But no, she'd never been to Preston's only Samuel Smith's Pub.

So I announced we were going there. To be honest, I was scared of going in on my own. I heard there was someone with "mental issues" on the end of the bar who shouted at everyone who came in.  But I was emboldened by 4 pints, so we went there.

I did warn her beforehand "Look, don't swear.  Sam Smith's has a no-swearing policy. And don't expect to find Fosters there. Sam's has also has a no-brand policy.  But it's CHEAP."

When we got there, she agreed it was cheap (her pint of lager cost £2.10), but in true millennial style she was disconcerted by the place.  It wasn't the cheapness, the old codgers populating the bar, or even the lack of swearing.  No.  It was the lack of "brands".

"I don't see anything I recognise" she said.  I explained Humphrey Smith's modus operandi and his lack of outside brands. But no, she was actually scared by being in a pub and not seeing anything she knew.  She approved of the prices, but was upset by the fact she had no frame of reference about what it was like.  "I'm not coming here again." she said.

Well, Humph's old codger clientele will keep him going for a few years, but what then?

Friday, 12 May 2017

CODGERING


The British High Street and the British Pub. Both institutions in well-publicised decline.  But, as we all know, somebody's decline is somebody else's opportunity.

In many towns, where there were once bustling streets, there are now rows of empty or transiently-occupied shop units. Like missing teeth in a mouth, they don't engender the best impression.  But with long-term vacancy comes (usually) cheap rents. And where a traditional pub would lack long-term viability, a micropub can suit this situation down to the ground.

Micropubs are funny things. Often fitted out on a shoestring, they generally have a peculiar layout.  Indeed,  it's a singular experience drinking behind a former shopfront in all its unforgiving plate glass glory.  But with their minimal overheads, they are usually cheap. And this, combined with the lack of music, lager and general modernity tends to attract the, shall we say, more senior end of the drinking public.

If you go to a micropub and listen to the conversation  (which is easy as nobody can tell you're doing it) you will hear endless rambling tales of trouble moving around, lack of alcohol capacity compared to 40 years ago and, sadly, the sheer bloody tedium of trying to fill the days now they have nothing to do and ever fewer people to do it with.

It could be, as one popular beer Twitter person says, the world of out-of-home drinking is downsizing as an adaptation to a declining market.  And it's true - if you want a quit pint and don't want to go to a Wetherspoons, then the micropub is often the only game in town.  But what happens when there aren't enough enough codgers who were socialised in olde-tyme drinking left to keep such places going?

What then?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

ENCROACHING


Imagine you live in a town with a large university.  I'm guessing you're thinking that everything will be youthful, vibrant, progressive, and all of those assorted adjectives which are universally reckoned to be "good".

But what if you just want a quiet pint? Sorry, you're likely out of luck.

The thing is, with University Arts students, they see the world as an extension of their personal space.  They want to perform. It's their right. So if they get to a pub and see it's quiet, then they'll see an opportunity.  As all classic narcissists, they see the world as an extension of themselves rather than vice versa. They think whenever they perform, everyone will love them,

Sadly for them, and everyone else, it's not true. Most of these performers are not as talented as they imagine themselves to be. And, outside of advertised music nights, pubgoers are only after a few pints and a quiet chat. Mutual dissatisfaction all around.

So, if you're sat there with a beer on a weekday afternoon and someone starts banging the pub piano or singing spontaneously, it's best to leave. Before either they or you get irritated.

Appropriate behavior is dead. Pushing is alive and rampant.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

EMBER, GOING DOWN THE

Photo : Simon Everitt 

One of the great joys of pubs in the UK is the sheer number of varied locales and experiences available.  Whatever your own personal desires and comfort levels are, there is usually a pub nearby that will suit you.  People even write blogs about this stuff,  I hear.

Of course, many people aren't really seeking varied experiences. No. They just want a drink. They want everything bog standard, and maybe even identical everywhere they go.  These are people for whom even Wetherspoons are too risky. After all, they may not like the carpet.

Where there is a market, there will be someone there to provide the desired service or product.  And for seekers of the identikit pub, there is Ember Inns.   Everything, and I mean everything is the same no matter which one you have unfortunately found yourself in. Big pillar outside. Standard menu. Line up of beers from large regional breweries (they even now have their own 'Ember Ale' so as to provide an option for those who are disconcerted by having to choose between Thwaites and Moorhouses). Massive and probably fake fireplace. Blackboards proclaiming about something called "Chip Tank". You get the idea.

For example, I was once reading a Twitter post from one unhappy blogger who had found himself in one of these places. He posted a photo of it and I thought "What's he doing in the Black Bull?" (my local Ember). It turned out he was in Exeter.

There is a rumour, totally unsubstantiated of course, that there is a factory in China churning out Embers for the export market to the UK.

Still, gives pub tickers a chance to play "Ember Bingo" (see above), and for that we should be grateful.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

DUDE, AWESOMING LIKE A


If you ever want to bear witness to the encroaching homogeneity of beer culture, simply log on to Twitter and follow a few beer-type people.  One thing you will notice is that many of them are always drinking.  Pictures.  Pictures of cans.  Pictures of cans at a barbecue.  Pictures of cans at a barbecue with mountains of burnt meat.  Often with cats in the background. But this is just their regular life.  What do they do for enjoyment?

To discover such things, you have to wait (if you can) until the weekend.  This is playtime for Beer People.  The whole world is out there to be experienced. It has many wonders and joys to be embraced. And, as you will often notice, it usually has a Craft Bar with numerous taps and a fridgeful of AWESOME beer.

Found rarities will be proclaimed; all their beery mates will be @d (for information purposes, of course, not to provoke envy); love, laughs and fun in the sun.  All that cliched nonsense.  But most of all there will be a selfie of some bearded member of the "beer cognoscenti" smiling, while holding a glass of something both ridiculously strong and hideously expensive.

They all do it.  Whereas some people hang around theatre doors waiting for celebrities to grab a mutual photo with, beer people like nothing better than to be seen with the latest fashionable limited edition.  That they could have grabbed an empty can from the next table for this purpose is a situation not usually imagined.

People once had fun with other people when they went out. Now they have to be seen to be consuming the right things and making a permanent record of the fact.

And as long as they're seen, that's the whole point.  Dude.

Monday, 10 April 2017

HANDPUMPS, SMILING BEHIND THE

"Please come to our pub.  Look, we put this photo on Twitter!  Look how happy we are!  Look at all these pumpclips!  We've even mentioned all the breweries' accounts by name!  And CAMRA! But for information!  Not attention! Not for retweets and likes or anything!  Please come to our pub and drink our beer.  It's really quiet and our over-ambitious cask ale line up is going off.  Please, we beg you.  We'll take the Marillion off the jukebox!  We'll clean the toilets!  We'll even put Titanic Plum Porter on! Please!  We're desperate!"

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

REGULARS, THE


It happens rarely these days,  but occasionally some us go to pubs we've never been to before. Imagine the scene - it's Friday evening, and you're tired of the places you frequent regularly. But there's THAT pub you always pass but have never entered.  Oh well. Why not?

So you go in. It's empty. Empty, but for several people parked right in front of the bar. Of course, you cannot see the drinks offer because they'really blocking the view. You shuffle up slowly and, after a minute, one person sees you and moves to the left. Great. At least now you can order something.

So, you have your drink. What now? You could sit in the unpopulated, cavernous wasteland that is the rest of the pub. But no. That would seem, well, standoffish. You park yourself at the end of the bar, hoping to look neither over-friendly nor snobbily distant.

You try to pick up the banter. It's mainly about some guy called Mike, who is presumably one of the regulars who for some reason is absent tonight.  You can't quite pick up the nuances of the tales of what he was caught doing this week, but it sounds decidely unsavoury. Everyone else laughs anyway.  Then the politics talk starts. All suitably ill-informed,  but this is their pub so you keep quiet. Then someone remembers the football game is on and beseeches the barman to put it on the big screen. He does. Loudly. Soon the volume is matched by the customers shouting at the TV.

By now, you've nearly finished your drink. "Same again?" you're asked. You politely decline, explaining your bus is due in five minutes. And you leave, feeling a wave of relief as you walk out onto the pavement. Thank god,  you say to yourself,  that's over.

Then you go to your usual haunt, which somehow no longer seems quite as tedious as before. You order a drink, block the bar and talk complete bollocks that nobody but your fellow regular bar blockers will completely understand.

Because, after all, life is nothing if not the constant expression of hypocrisy.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

KEG, EVIL


If you were a CAMRA member, life used to be simple.  There was cask conditioned beer (or "Real Ale" as they termed it themselves) and there was KEG beer.  Bitter, lager, stout. Didn't matter.  It was all mass-produced, adjunct-laden, expensive fizzy filth.  And many CAMRA members, if not nostalgic for the days of Watney's Red Barrel, preferred the simple dichotomy.

Then the new wave of brewers arrived with their IPAs and Imperial Stouts.  And because they were taking their cue from America, they put them in kegs and used carbon dioxide to dispense it.  And, despite these being the antithesis of bland keg beer, a lot of  CAMRA members didn't like it.  It was from a keg.  And keg is evil.

To be honest, these fundamentalists were few in number, but they filled the local CAMRA magazines and the CAMRA newspaper, "What's Brewing", with their views.  Reading these copious missives about the forthcoming keg takeover brought to mind those apocryphal Japanese soldiers captured on isolated islands in the 1960s who thought World War 2 was still ongoing.

Needless to say, a lot of CAMRA members, even many in lofty positions in the organisation, drink this "craft" keg beer.  They're just not allowed to talk about it in their own publications lest it be seen as not "promoting cask ale".

The world will move on.  The future will happen whether the diehards like it or not.  But it will hurt. By god, it will hurt.

Monday, 13 March 2017

COMMUNICATION


Back in the Dark Ages, by which I mean around 2008, anyone wanting to appreciate the subtleties of beer had to do it the old-fashioned way.  They first had to find the beer they wanted, then buy it, taste it, and write their own subjective impressions of what it's qualities were.  Looking back, it makes one wonder how the whole beer scene survived.  I mean, such a multitude of opinions.  Who knew what to think?

Thankfully help was at hand.  Noticing a gap in the market, a certain type of person charged through it like a gap on a bar on a Friday night.  These people were known as the "Beer Communicators" and they came from various backgrounds.  Some were bloggers who had overwhelming enthusiasm for how AWESOME the beer scene was and, like, needed to tell everyone about it,  Some were already "media professionals" who had an interest in beer and saw communication about it as a potentially profitable sideline to going to dismal local gigs or rewriting news agency copy.  And some were, undoubtedly, people who neither knew nor cared about beer, but swotted up on it in an effort to gain some sort of career prospects.

What none of the above were much interested in was the quality or veracity of information they were disseminating.  After all, beer is a fairly saturated industry.  One more sale is one fewer sale for someone else.   So based on whether they liked the beer itself or the people behind it, they talked their favourites up to the expense of others who, in their opinion, were lesser regarded.

And this is why they were called "Communicators" rather than "Journalists".  Journalists ask questions because, in most cases, they seek the truth and wish to make that truth known.  A Communicator is merely someone who spreads the word, true or not, because they're an inherent part of the industry.  If the industry is "done down", then their potential revenue stream is likely to be reduced.

In Beer Communication, there is no Bad News. BEER PEOPLE ARE GOOD PEOPLE, and making money and taking market share is a lesser concern, despite such an ideology going against all known rules of good business..  If, like, everyone is good to each other, then beer (or more to the point, the beer being promoted) will become so wonderful, the industry will grow forever.

Of course, the said Awesome Breweries are gradually being taken over by larger concerns, so the Communicators have to realign themselves to the new reality.  Watching them do this is one of the few amusing things left in the beer world.  But as long as the freebies and access keep coming, everything stays Awesome and inconvenient truths are glossed over.

Some have said they should drop the Journalistic pretensions and just come out as Public Relations people. But that wouldn't be, like, awesome, man.

CLUB, THE WORKING MEN'S


In the very early 80s, whenever my parents were fed up of me (which was often, I hear), I got given to my grandad to be entertained.  Salt of the earth, my grandad.  A forklift driver in a wallpaper factory. Apparently never had an accident, despite rarely being sober enough to walk the streets legally.  Anyway, during these occasions I was usually taken somewhere that was explained to my four-year-old self as "Grandad's special pub".

When I was older, I worked out the official name for this place was Galgate Working Men's Club.  All I knew at the time was it had a snooker table (which I was never allowed near), a cellar underneath which the floor was audibly hollow (which I was never allowed near), and a noisy and colourful fruit machine (which for some reason I was allowed near).  Of course, I was only allowed five 10ps to play with, and as my capacity for fizzy pop and scampi fries was limited, I reckon any surplus winnings went to Grandad's next pint.

When I got a little bit older, I was no longer invited to Grandad's Special Pub.  Perhaps I was more tolerable to be around for my parents, or perhaps they didn't want me "corrupted" by the alleged malign influences there.  I usually heard my Nan ranting about someone called Maurice Ryecroft who apparently led Grandad astray (though, to be honest, I think he needed precious little leading) and, worse, had a dog that worried the local sheep.  After that, I was only taken to the more salubrious environs of the Green Dragon, the local Yates & Jackson pub.  Though always outside with my pop and crisps.  This was the 1980s after all.

My Grandad is long gone. As is his Special Pub.  And presumably Maurice Ryecroft and his dog also.  There are, I hear, working men's clubs still going, but as their milieu is in terminal decline it won't be long before they're gone too.

Perhaps the "working man" in the old sense of the word no longer exists.

Friday, 3 March 2017

CROWDFUNDING

It's said that being rich means never having to spend your own money, and so it goes with successful businesses looking to expand.  Such companies always find somebody else to pay, whether it be in the form of share issues, outside investors or bank loans.

Small Craft breweries are in the position that they generally have 'goodwill'.  Beer is associated with good times and GOOD PEOPLE, so it's natural that it engenders warm feelings in its consumers.  And so many breweries wishing to fund ambitious expansion plans have, naturally, exploited this with Crowdfunding.  They issue a prospectus, usually named in a emotionally leading way inviting those interested to emotionally identify with the brewery and its intentions, and give various tiers of investment with increasing levels of benefits associated with them.

Usually, said benefits involve discounts on beer from the online shop, or maybe a yearly invite to an Annual General Meeting held in a remote location at an inconvenient time of year.  But that doesn't matter.  To those investing in the crowdfunding scheme, the money or the benefits are of little importance.  In such vacuous times as these, people endlessly seek things to identify with.  And a few hundred pounds given to a Craft Brewery shows to others that they are a good person, and committed to the future of a small business involved in doing Good Things.  Everybody wins.  The brewery gets it's cash for minimal outlay, and the Crowdfunders get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Until, of course, the day the funders want to cash in on their investment.  That might be difficult.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

KEG


Once upon a time, a brewer was fed up of his beer being bashed about, left to go off and generally mistreated by the chiselling pub landlord looking to cheat the Working Man out of his pennies.  "This cask fermentation thing leaves too many variables." he said "What if I brew it, filter all the solids out, and infuse it with carbon dioxide for make up for the fact it's gone flat?  Then I can put it in a sealed barrel and no amount of stupidity or penny-pinching can ruin my beer."  That was the theory.  Cut out the British small businessman with packaging, and your product will be served  as intended.

Not many people can remember the original Watney's Keg Bitter, as it debuted at East Sheen Tennis Club in the 1930s.  Presumably there were few complaints about the actual taste as after an hour or so of knocking a ball back and forth over a net and shouting "Jolly good show!", a chap can get rather thirsty and any refreshment is welcome.

But whereas Keg Bitter survived the dubious cellarmanship of the times, it fell prey to Big Business.  Over time, the carbonation was increased, cheaper ingredients were introduced and the price, of course, went up.  Premium product. old boy.  It's "consistent".

Flavour undoubtedly suffered, and, according to received wisdom, The Campaign for Real Ale came and saved us all from nights of burping and mornings of diarrheoa.  And everyone was grateful.  Or so they say.

Sadly, nobody asked the Working Man his opinion, because of course such things were never done.  He repaid CAMRA's efforts by ditching bitter and mild, and increasingly turned to mass-market lager.

It was fizzy and consistent, after all.

Friday, 24 February 2017

URINAL, THE


This is for the men in the audience.

You know this. You've been drinking. Shocking I know. You need to go. Like, go. You get to gents in time, get it out and then....

Another man comes in, stands next to you and does the same. In surprise,  the muscles contract and you can't go.

So you start counting. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. And so on, until you relax enough. And then it, well, flows.

You know the man standing next to you has heard this, and you don't want him to think you have issues with this, so you push as hard as possible. You aim for the central plughole to make as much noise as possible. Nothing wrong with me, mate.

After squeezing out every single drop to make sure you last longer than he does, you wait for him to leave the room. You shake, put it away and zip up. You're satisfied.  Small victories mean the most, after all.

You just wish he'd washed his hands before touching the door handle.

HOPS, SHORTAGE OF


Back in the last century, there was a computer game called Sim City 3000. Basically, you built this city and either ran it properly or got bored and set it on fire. Anyway, the game informed the player about goings-on via a right to left news ticker. If there was insufficient real news about the city, it displayed "humorous" filler messages generated at random.

One running gag was about a rumoured shortage of kitty kibble.  Someone was spreading rumours about lack of supply of said pet food product, despite sellers and manufacturers insisting there was plenty. Nonetheless, the kitties themselves were reported to be concerned. The joke, if you haven't guessed, was about how people (or kitties) believe rumours without foundation simply because they're repeated many times.

We always think of this when news of the hops harvest comes in.  There appears always to be bad weather, or soil problems, or disease or whatever affecting the supply of Cascade, or Citra, or Willamette.  This results in panic buying and a resultant price increase.

The beers always get made somehow, though. The hops may alter a bit and the taste may be slightly different but they're still there.  But always the Craft bloggers worry about it like the aforementioned kibble-fretting kitties. "OH NOES! It's all sold before it's been harvested again!", they say. "What will happen to my ultra murky 9% triple IPA? I'd have to drink something else!"

Poor kitties. But, anyway, by next year we won't need hops when the fruit beers have taken over.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

GOOD PEOPLE, BEER PEOPLE ARE


Beer, whether rightly or wrongly, is associated with "good times". Have a beer. We'll meet up for a beer. He and I set the world to rights over a few beers. Beer has an effect, but not so much that you become slurry and melancholy at a fast pace. It oils the gearbox of life and makes changes easier on the transmission.

So, it stands to reason that the people involved in "beer" would be better, nicer, more easy-going than people who work in, say, insurance or telephone banking. After all, the barman greets you with a cheery hello when you enter the pub, and the brewer only wants you to drink and like his beer. What could be more good than that?

If only this were true.

Like pretty much everything concocted by humanity, the truism "beer people are good people" is on obfuscation. Beer people are only as good as the rest of humanity. In fact, the rest of humanity is probably more true. Why? Well, when push comes to shove, truth is barely varnished with most people. But in the beer world, you have to operate under a convenient fiction that everyone loves on another.  To be fair, it's obvious why this happens. If you run out of hops or a brewing kit part breaks, and you need it fixed, like, now, you can't wait for a commercial operator to get the stuff to you. No, you ask the brewer nearest you if they have any spares. And if they have, they'll oblige. After all, who knows when they'll be in trouble and need you.

"Good" doesn't come into it. Such things are more akin to a Cleaner Fish removing parasites from another fish. It's instinctive reciprocation rather than "goodness".

It's not "bad", but neither is it as good as claimed.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

FUCKING KIMMICH, JOHN


Heady Topper, in the UK at least, is one of those beers that exists more in reputation than actual reality. You will find craft beer fans discussing it in hushed tones, whispering about how many fields of hops died to make one can of the stuff.  The fact it's deliberately manufactured in small quantities to precisely provoke this reaction is something best not mentioned to them, but looking for it keeps them occupied. Harmless, really.

It's brewed in the USA at Vermont's Alchemist Brewery, who's head brewer is one John Kimmich.  This man is revered by a subset of beer consumers.  He's a subject of numerous puff pieces in the barely-read Craft beer press who always go and interview the people queueing at the brewery for their "allocation" of Heady Topper when a new batch is released.  "What makes John and his beer so AWESOME?" is the general tone of the questioning.  Again, no real harm done.

What did John Kimmich do next?  Well, he was flown over to Adnams Brewery in Suffolk, England to do a brew with them.  Such things are not unknown in beer circles. But who was doing the "flying in"?  One JD Wetherspoon plc. , a slightly downmarket large pub chain, and the beer was going to be Exclusively Sold by them.

But..but...would the Spoons drinking plebs appreciate such a finely crafted beer, worried the Crafties.  They may only pay around £2.50 a pint for it!  And, worst of all, they might not know or care who John Kimmich actually is!  These things are important, dude.

So, whenever you see a group of Craft Beer fans in a pub (they're easy enough to spot) being condescending about people, you know, just buying drinks instead of finely appreciating the efforts of artisan brewing, just shout "JOHN FUCKING KIMMICH" at them.  You're sure to get a knowing smile.

Or a smack in the mouth.  Be prepared to duck beforehand.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

EXCLUSIVITY


When a hopeful new manager takes over a pub takes over a pub with a certain reputation you often hear that they want to "increase the tone of the business".  Or "kicking out the scrotes" as it is more commonly known in the trade.  Pubs, with their literal open door policy, have throughout history attracted people with shady intentions using them as a base for borderline illegal activities, presided over with a thick atmosphere of incipient threat.  And such things will never do.

The new manager has many weapons in his gentrification arsenal.  They can paint the interior in white or pastel shades (more light means fewer hidden spaces where "stuff" can occur).  They can raise prices of all the drinks by 25% (hopefully pricing out those who's minimal subsistence comes from benefits or petty crime).  And if they're really serious, they can install some handpumps serving Real Ale (a definite signal to the lower classes that this is no longer their kind of place).

But what happens if they succeed? Will the nice people who are both well-behaved and high-spending fill the pub up with chat about university fees and the clink of prosecco glasses?  Who knows? And the former customers who have moved on?  What happens to them?

What indeed. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

DEMOLITION

When you were young, there was this pub. It was the nearest one to you. Though you rarely went in, having been put off by a solo Stella and JD session one Monday afternoon, you walked past it twice every day on your way to and from work. It's not like you exactly liked the place, but it was familiar.

Eventually you moved away, and didn't pass through that area for four years.  On that occasion, going down your old road on the bus, you looked to the left and noticed something.

The pub wasn't there.

Turns out it was flattened by it's new owners eight months previously, despite a 400-strong campaign to keep it open.  You ponder that Monday afternoon in 1999 where you necked lager alone and wonder if any of those 400 people used the place much.  From passing their houses daily, you remember they were all quite happy sitting on plastic garden furniture on the pavement while drinking cans of Carlsberg,  The pub, apart from football games and Friday nights, stayed resolutely quiet,

Sure, the place was a bit tatty, and the landlord grumpy, but the rooms were spacious and the drinks were cheap enough. They stayed away anyway.  And they weren't going anywhere else, as this was the third local pub that had closed in the last five years.

Staring at the blue metal screens that were fencing off the demolition site, you wondered why people said they were sad the day the pub was demolished.  Had it been viable, it would still be there.

A lot of people don't deserve nice things.  Or even mediocre ones.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

CANS, CRAFT


Time was that canned beer only had two associations.  Either it was a 4-pack of Stella you drained while watching the brain-dead Saturday night film you found yourself in front of instead of doing something you hoped was better; or it was the tin of Purple Court Appearance you saw the local homeless man swigging as he shouted at his string-tethered dog.  No, cans didn't have the best reputation as a beverage container, with their synonymy with downmarket misery.  But like every run-down and unpromising thing in the 21st century, it ended up gentrified.

The Craft Brewers discovered the aluminium drinks container in, ooooh, around 2011, and they proceeded to regale us with it's numerous advantages.  It's cheap, it's light and less costly to transport as a result.  They stack well in fridges and take far less time to chill than bottles. The sealed lid prevents the ingress of beer-spoiling oxygen, and the extra surface area can be used as a "space" for artwork and copy telling the story of the beer and how AWESOME it is.

Or, on they other hand, they could be using the inherent opacity of metal to conceal the frankly unpleasant looking yeasty murkiness of most canned craft beer from unwary consumers.

Your mileage, as they say, may vary,

Saturday, 18 February 2017

BAMBER BRIDGE ON A MONDAY NIGHT


Bamber Bridge is a large village three miles south of Preston.  An average place, if you like.  It has a railway station, a non-league football club and a nearby industrial estate.  It also has a pub, Ye Olde Original Withy Trees (so named because there are about 20 other Withy Trees pubs in the area) which is much beloved of the local branch of The Campaign For Real Ale.

Central Lancs CAMRA hold their monthly branch meeting at the Withys once every four months or so.  It's always at 8pm on a Monday, typically after all public transport in the area has finished for the day.  One assumes the active members have understanding, and probably long-suffering, partners willing to ferry them back and forth from such relative backwaters as Bamber Bridge, Goosnargh and Lostock Hall.

But it's about the quality of the pub and the beer, obviously.  As a committed CAMRA member you will go to where the real ale is decent.  That's the important thing.  And, as the local pub events are discussed, many ales will be consumed as the evening inevitably wears on towards closing time.  Has Paul finished his column for Ale Cry yet?  He's not missed a single issue since 1978.  I see Adrian's not turned up tonight after storming off in a huff at the last meeting.  Known him 35 years.  He can be an odd bugger sometimes.  Of course I'd never drink in THAT pub.  I asked the landlord about a discount in 1989 and he told me to piss off.  Never been back since.  Serves them right.

Afterwards, a suitably sanitised version of events will be published in the branch magazine, saying that although the meeting was well attended, its a shame that they never see any new faces.

Funny, that.

AWESOME

When we were little kids back in the 1970s or 1980s, English lessons were very prescriptive.  One thing we had to learn about was "adjectives", or "describing words" as it was put to the children fearful of long words that contained the letters J and V. Use these, we were told, to make what you say more informative to a reader or listener.

Moving forward to the 2010s, such things as adjectives have gone out of fashion.  The "Craft" beer world has only one adjective receiving significant usage in the event of something positive - Awesome.  Check out this awesome beer I'm drinking and the awesome pic I took of me drinking it.  And isn't Soriachi Ace an awesome hop?  This place is, like, awesome, dude!  Check out the awesome pics of vintage bicycles on the walls.

And so on.  Seriously, go to Twitter and type "awesome beer" in the search box and watch the thousands of tweets fill up your screen, all proclaiming the "awesomeness" of something or other.  Quite why so many people feel the need to adopt the speech patterns of Michaelangelo from the Ninja Turtles is a mystery.  Maybe it came along in the Sierra Nevada boxes imported in the late 1990s.  Maybe we should all embrace awesome American things like Craft Keg, Mast Brothers chocolate and BBQ grills the size of a Chevy truck.

We'll all be American soon anyway.