Friday, 24 February 2017


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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 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.


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.