#THB20

Today (Tomorrow in the UK, due to the 29th August 1994 being a Bank Holiday) sees the 20th anniversary of the release of Manic Street Preachers’ third album, The Holy Bible. This week, in a break from the beery posts, a short little post on the album, and my relationship with it in the time I’ve known it… 

Over the course of my recent life I have often considered what my top five albums are. The albums that I’d take with me if I had to leave behind all the others. The list has changed over time, as new albums are released and old albums heard for the first time. The list has also changed due to changing tastes personally. One album that has remained in that top five list throughout though, is Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible.

Much has been written elsewhere about the darkness of the album, and the troubles within the band in the period surrounding it’s recording and promotion. As with any record surrounded by tragic circumstances (Rhythm guitarist and primary lyricist on the album, Richey Edwards, went missing in February 1995. In November 2008, he was officially declared “presumed dead”) there is an element of listening to the album with a certain degree of hindsight. With songs like 4st 7lb, Faster and Die In The Summertime, The Holy Bible can be seen as a deeply personal album. That said though, it does still have it’s moments of political and historical influence in songs such as Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedaywoulditsworldfallapart, Revol, and The Intense Humming Of Evil.

I bought my first copy of The Holy Bible in either 1998 or 1999. I’d became aware of the band during their Everything Must Go era, and became more interested in them when my then crush also had an interest in them (This was during the This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours) era. In an attempt to earn cool points, as seems the thing to do when you’re young and have no idea such things don’t work, I bought all of the albums from Generation Terrorists to Everything Must Go.

The other three albums I clicked with instantly, there were songs I could get stuck in my head for days after hearing. The Holy Bible though proved to be a somewhat more difficult listen.

I can’t remember when it clicked, but at some point, it did. I have no idea how many times I have listened to the album, yet on a personal level, it has served many purposes over the half of my lifespan with which I have owned the album. From the low, melancholic moments, where it has offered escape through headphones, to the angry, fuck you world moments, courtesy of Faster being blasted into my ears, drowing out the sounds of whichever group of people are annoying me, to the reflective mood of This Is Yesterday, The Holy Bible has been an album that I’ve grown up with, and will continue to be a part of my life.

I’ve often felt that a life in which nothing makes you feel something isn’t worth living. Some people are moved by words, some by images, others by sounds, smells or touch. Not many get the chance to create something that people connect with on a mass scale. Fewer still create a work that still feels relevant and important 20 years after it was first released.

There are more lines on this album that have meant something to me, that I have been able to interpret as relating to my life as well, than any other album I can think of. I could spend the second half of this post going through the album, quoting each one, but instead, I shall just finish with the line that says everything it needs to say, without any need for explanation from me.

I know I believe in nothing, but it is my nothing. (27)

If a beer looks like it tastes awful, it probably does…

For some reason, a couple of weeks ago, I decided that a blog post where I drink questionable beer, which is obviously going to taste awful, would be a good idea. This post is the result of that plan.

I have had in my fridge four beers which many respecting beer drinkers would refuse to even look at, let alone drink. They are Carlsberg Blackcurrant, Fosters Gold, Cuvana Rum Flavoured Beer, and Dead Crow Bourbon Flavoured Beer. As per usual with my posts, I’m writing this as I go along, so things may get interesting as I get more drunk, or more disgusted by the beers.

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First up in my glass is the Carlsberg Blackcurrant. It has been poured into my Birmingham Beer Bash 2014 glass from a clear 660ml bottle that has been sat on the top shelf of a B&M store. Fluorescent lights shining their light rays through the beer, day after day until I decided today would be a good day to drink a beer which is obviously going to taste awful.

Preconceptions. Sometimes they are met, Sometimes they are awfully misjudged.

The beer certainly smells of blackcurrant. A part of me is slightly trepidatious about actually lifting the glass to my lips and taking the first sip. Compared to how bad I was expecting it to taste, the actual taste isn’t that bad. If anything, it’s slightly disappointing, and nowhere near as blackcurranty as I was expecting. The question is though, can I drink an entire 660ml bottle, or will I end up pouring half of it away?

The answer is the latter, though I have managed to drink around the equivalent of a 330ml bottle.

Next up into the Beer Bash glass is the Cuvana Rum Flavoured Beer. Once again, it is poured from a clear glass bottle, that has been sat in the glare of fluorescent lights for goodness knows how long. For some reason, it smells like limes, rather than, as would be expected of a rum flavoured beer, rum. As a result, I’m even more cautious about drinking this than I was the Carlsberg Blackcurrant.

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I start with a small sip. There’s lime in the taste as well. If I’m supposed to be tasting rum, I’m not. It is, I’m slightly pleased to say, as awful as my expectations thought it would be. After three or four sips or mouthfuls, I have reached the half pint line of the glass. I may have found a contender to Floris Chocolate for the worst beer to have ever passed my lips.

Swiftly pouring that abomination down the sink, I move on to the Dead Crow. Natuarally, my expectations are as high for this as they were for the Cuvana. Aroma wise, the Dead Crow is much more subtle than the previous two beers of the night. Sure, it smells of something, but it’s not as obvious.

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I take a similar sized sip to last time. This is the first time the taste of one of these beers has made me screw my face up in disgust. I take another to confirm the horror that revealed itself in that first taste. I can only imagine that most of the trade for these beers is from first time buyers, or friends and family who don’t know better buying gifts for those who like beer and rum, or beer and bourbon. If we live in a world where people can actually manage to get through an entire bottle of either of these beers, and then think “I’d like another of those”, we live in a world of people who either hate themselves, or are idiots.

Last but not least, it’s the turn of the Australian beer Australia doesn’t drink. What that says about the beer is up to you and your conceptions of Australians and beer.

Compared to it’s predecessors, this is a relief. A beer approaching somewhere near drinkable, even if it is somewhat bland, and leaves you wondering if you did actually have a drink of it. It smells of nothingness. It tastes of nothingness, though there is a slight moment where it hints that there might be something there, before leaving a nothingness aftertaste and a dryness in the mouth.

Already I have drunk more of this than the Cuvana and Dead Crow combined. That being said though, when this glass is over, I’m moving back to the good stuff.

Tonight has been an experience, and as some people say, you can’t truely criticise a beer until it has passed your lips. These four beers have now passed my lips and I can safely say that I’ll never willingly or knowingly drink any of them again. Usually I’d tell you to try the beers yourself and make your own minds up, but in this case, I’m going to say trust me on this one. (56)

The Friday Pint 3 #13 – Beer, Blues and Bangers

Sat once again in his office, in a different location to last time. The writer of this blogpost takes on the persona of a narrator, allowing him to describe a fictional situation in which the writer and a fictional editor discuss the wrters lack of professionalism recently. The writer sits, typing on a netbook, with a pint of Bowman’s Quiver beside him. Selfishly, he doesn’t even consider buying a pint for his editor, who doesn’t sit across from him, due to the editors non-existence.

“Now that you’ve finally written a post about the Birmingham Beer Bash, can you finally start writing Friday Pint posts with a bit more regularity” The fictional editor asks the writer. The writer ignores him as he thinks of what the editor, for who he is writing the dialogue, will say next. The editor looks at the writer, or at least would if he actually existed and was actually in front of the writer.

“huh?” uttered the writer, vaguely aware of some sort of conversation.

“The quality of the blog has been slipping. I know it, you know it, the readers know it. I mean, half the time it’s not even about beer any more. Do you know how many posts in the last year have been about a lack of posts, or about needing some sort of editor to force you into writing more often” The editor asked, with a gap of silence where the writer half expected him to go “hmm?”

“Erm, no”, replied the writer, hesitantly”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” said the editor, “I don’t know how many it is myself, but I do know it’s too many, it’s in danger of becoming a cliche.”

“So you’re saying I should write more, and not just about the fact that I haven’t been writing recently” asked the writer, knowing full well what the answer would be.

“Exactly,” exclaimed the editor, “You can start by writing a post about this festival that’s set up over there”

“I could do, I suppose” replied the writer, still sat in front of his netbook, typing out the fictional conversation that was currently taking place between himself and the fictional editor that sat opposite him.

In reality, the writer’s office was a pub. A small, warm coloured pub near the water in Southampton. It was a pub the writer had used as his office many times before, and today, a beer festival began. The pub had a name, and that name was The Platform Tavern. A short walk along the road and the writer would pass The Wool House, where outside, fences have been put up, with building site safety notices hanging from them.

A few hours sit between the writer and the ten festival beers sat on a stillage in the part of the pub that looks onto the brewery. In the meantime, he sits with his beer, and decides that here would be a good place to stop writing. In a few hours time, he will return, and beer will flow.

Halfway between last writing and the start of the festival, the writer returns to the half written post that he is working on. Beside him is an empty glass. Does he really want another beer now when there’s at least ten he could be drinking later on? To the other side of the writer’s netbook lies a copy of Boak and Bailey’s Brew Britannia. Having read the physical comics the writer picked up before walking down to the pub in which he sits, the writer has now begun reading that, alternating with issues of the 1985 DC comics series Crisis on Infinite Earths on his tablet.

“There must be something I can write about to pass the time” the writer thinks to himself. He looks up for inspiration and sees the wind blowing the branches on the trees across the road. When he entered, the writer had noticed a gathering of grey clouds in the sky, which made him wonder if rain was due soon. As long as it doesn’t rain as he’s walking back to the train station, he should be fine.

Throughout the pub, blues music plays over the speakers, as it usually does. This time however, it feels a tad on the loud side. There was a period of silence inbetween albums. It seemed nice. The writer thinks to himself “I don’t mind music in pubs, as long as it suits the time, location, and most importantly, my mood.”

“I don’t think I’m in the mood for music with my beer this afternoon”

With the main part of the pub getting busy, the writer decides to move out to what he would call the restuarant part of the pub. He is planning on eating some of the sausages on offer after all. In front of him sits the stillage, with last minute preperations being made to have it ready for the start of the festival.

To the side, a pile of A4 sheets of yellow paper have the list of beers available, with notes on each one. The writer peruses the list and sees a few that stand out. Quantock he recalls as being the brewery that won the overall gold at the Maltings festival back in April. Nightjar wasn’t the beer that won though, and as the writer didn’t particuarly like any of the Quantock beers that weren’t Wills Neck, he’s not going to bother with this one.

There are three Dancing Man Brewery beers on the stillage. Geiger’s Tanz, a version of Fiddler’s Jig brewed with a German wheat yeast, Sea City Gold, the beer brewed to celebrate Southampton’s 50th year as a city, and winner of first place at the Southampton Beer Festival in June, and Organ Grinder, a 6% IPA hopped with Chinook, Centenial and Amarillo. The writer plans on having all of them.

Elsewhere on the stillage, Arbor are also represented by three casks. Triple Hop, Beech Blonde, and Why Kick A Moo Cow. Derventio Brewery’s Et Tu Brutus, Bristol Beer Factory’s Independence, and Bowman Brewery’s Sarva make up the rest of the offering for the weekend.

Having finsihed describing the list, the writer now sits and waits, wondering what to drink first.

The festival begins, and the writer returns to his table with his first half pint of beer, and a menu of the sausages on sale. The beer in question is the Dancing Man Geiger’s Tanz, a beer the writer isn’t particuarly a big fan of (Fiddler’s Jig), brewed with German wheat yeast. To the writers palate, this version is much nicer than the regular version.

The writer looks at his watch. About 15 minutes away, his friend should be arriving into Southampton Central. The writer ponders over what he should buy his friend, so that he doesn’t have to wait for a drink when he arrives. He’ll come to a decision eventually. For now though, there is undrunken beer on the table.

The writer finishes his beer and places his netbook away in his bag, not wanting to be distracted from the conversation and beer with his friend, who by this time had arrived. As a result, everything the writer describes from hereonin is in his past, and so he adjuists his use of tense accordingly.

The two of them start with a half of Dancing Man’s Organ Grinder. It’s nice, but not overly memorable. The writer followed this with a Sea City Gold, during which he tried to remember if he had actually had it on draft before. He’d definitely tried it from a bottle, and had rather enjoyed it, as he did this half pint of it.

At some point during the evening, the writer and his friend shared a sausage platter, with Bison, Elk, Springbok and Zebra sausages. The writer’s favourite was the Springbok. The platter came with bread, and cheese, and a selection of pickles. For £12.50, it was a good accompaniment to the beer.

As well as the three Dancing Man Beers, the writer also drank two Arbor beers. Triple Hop, which on reflection was probably the beer he’d drink again, and Beech Blonde, which the writer can’t remember much about, other than it being the last beer, and it being pale and drinkable.

Inbetween those two beers though, came a ruby ale from Derventio brewery called Et Tu Brutus. The description made it sound quite nice. The reality though was something much different. The writer tried the beer and felt disappointed, there seemed to be something not quite right with how the beer tasted. He passed the beer to his friend, who commented that it smelt like a sour, and had a strawberry aftertaste. The writer took the beer back and put it to his nose, this time realising that it smelt like a Flemish Red. Was this how the beer supposed to be, or was it, as he suspected, off. In these situations where you have no frame of reference, it’s difficult to know. It had a taste you could get used to, but when there were enough beers there that were enjoyable from the start, is it really worth bothering about?

The writer sat in his flat pondering over how to finish the post. Did he finish with an inspiring final paragraph, one that would perhaps provoke discussion, or did he just let it ramble out into a disappointing conclusion before siging off.

Maybe, he should just let it come to an abrupt stop.

  (44)

The Absurdly Late Post About The 2014 Birmingham Beer Bash

Into the imaginary room I call my imaginary office, the location of which varies from week to week, my imaginary editor walks in…

“It’s been almost four weeks since the Bash and you’ve still not written a post about it yet. Your work rate on the blog has been distinctly lacking recently” he says.

“I’ve been busy”, I reply.

“Balderdash!”, he exclaims, “All you’ve been doing, when you haven’t been at work, is been lying on your back watching old episodes of The X Files, or drinking more beer. There’s been plenty of opportunities for you to write a blog post about the 2014 Birmingham Beer Bash, and besides, you found time to write a new Friday Pint post”

“Erm,” I hesitantly utter, knowing I have no come back.

“Well?” he asks in anticipation.

I sit at my netbook, wondering how to segue from a fictional conversation about my lack of professionalism with my imaginary editor into a descriptive account of the events of four weeks ago. Can I remember enough of the details to make it worthwhile. Do I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said before?

I should just jump into it, I think to myself. Start at the beginning and see what my memory comes up with. Is my trip out to Lye to visit The Windsor Castle, home of Sadlers Ales, to drink Mud City Stout relevant? In many ways it is.

You see, Lye is near Stourbridge, and one of the reasons I came up for the AFC Totton away match at Stourbridge was so that I could also visit The Windsor Castle and drink Mud City Stout. There was also a twissup in Birmingham that day, where I met a certain group of people.

I joined the set up for this year’s Bash on the Wednesday, helping out where I could. The fact that we seemed to have one of the hottest days of the year so far didn’t really make things enjoyable, but the end result made them worth it.

The heat caused a few issues over the weekend, which I only saw from across the way behind the bottle bar. Some of you may have seen me there. It was certainly good to see some familiar faces, and some less familiar ones.

One of the fun aspects of working the bottle bar for me was seeing how much I could bluff my way out of the fact that there was a large number of the beers on sale that I hadn’t tried. Fortunately, I was soon able to tell people that Beer A was selling well, or that Beer B tasted good (In the case of Sacre Brew’s Sirenia).

For me, what made this year’s bash better than last year’s bash was that I was able to get out and talk to people more. Last year I was stuck in the cash office for large amounts of time counting tokens and money. This year, it was Lisa that took on that soul destroying task, for which credit must be given (Those fresh trays don’t appear behind the tokens desk by magic you know).

I had many beers this year, though only a few stand out.

Wild Beer Shnoodlepip, which I missed out on last year, finally made sense of the hype it received after it seemed disappointing from the bottle I bought. (Having tried another bottle last weekend, it seems that Shnoodlepip is a beer that is far superior on draft to it’s bottled equivalent). Despite drinking a fair bit of Shnoodlepip, I do feel I didn’t have enough.

Siren Odyssey 01, was a glorious 12.4% imperial stout, which I found myself often returning to (for quality control purposes). At some point on Friday night, the idea (I can’t remember whether it was mine or Shaun’s) came to mix Shnoodlepip and Odyssey. The result, which actually worked rather well, was dubbed Shnoodlepipodyssey.

SHNOODLEPIPODYSSEY!!!!!

The other beers that I wish to mention, are the two squid ink beers.

The first one I tried was the Beer Bash/Hardknott collaboration “Squiddy”. You may have seen “Squiddy” walking around the Bash at a couple of points over the course of the Bash. If you didn’t, picture your worst nightmares made flesh, like the underwater imitator of Purple Rain era Prince. I feel kind of bad saying this about one of the Beer Bash collaborations, but I just didn’t enjoy Squiddy at all. It wasn’t really helped by the fact that it’s appearance seemed similar to murky puddle water. I’m all for not just judging a beer on its appearance, but in this case, it was hard not to be put off.

The other squid ink beer, which proved itself to be the “Marmite Beer of the Festival” was Bexar County’s Tinta De Sepia Con Miso Gose. I, myself, loved it, as did many others. There seemed to be just as many though, who couldn’t stand it. Of the many beers I tried this year, this is the one I’d like to try again.

On the Sunday, after two and a half days of set up, and two and a half days of people drinking beer, the whole thing was taken down. The after party this year was a much quieter, more relaxed affair than last year, with a constant (slow) flow of beer until the half full kegs we brought with us were empty.

I left town on the Monday, thinking in the back of my mind that, should there be another Bash next year (we don’t talk about next year), I should be around for the setup days that I missed this year and last year. Being part of the Birmingham Beer Bash has certainly been an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and I hope that it is something that runs for years to come.

If it does run again next year, I’ll be there. I’ll be there in future years too, if it runs, even if it means having to fly across from America each year.

If you’re reading this the day, or day after, it is posted, there’s a Beer, Blues and Bangers festival at The Platform Tavern in Southampton this weekend, starting on Thursday 21st August at 18:00, and running through the weekend (or until the beer runs out). I’ll be there Thursday, come and join me if you’re nearby.

If not, I’ll probably be writing something about it for this week’s Friday Pint. Until then, have a great weekend. (90)

The Friday Pint #12 – This isn’t doing my job prospects any good

I’m back! In a pub! Writing a new Friday Pint post which is well overdue.

In some cases I have an excuse. Certainly two weeks ago I was busy selling people beer from the bottle bar at the Birmingham Beer Bash. In most cases though, the lack of post has been through to a combination of sheer laziness, and not really wanting to do anything resembling work outside of actual work (the thing I do to get money so I can buy beer and stuff).

The fact I’ve missed several Friday Pints after intending to return to a more weekly format this year doesn’t really bode well for me if I wanted to move into a job which involved writing regularly to a deadline. It may be the case that if you were to pay me to do this, I’d find a new found determination to get these things in on time. Alternatively, I could end up referring to the words of the late author, Douglas Adams, the ones about deadlines making a wooshing sound as they go past.

The thing with having not written a new post since early July, is that I’ve done several things which would be worthy of a blog post. In terms of local beer, I’ve visited and drunk beer from four breweries since my last post.

Vibrant Forest moved to their new premises in Lymington earlier this year, and have recently started opening up on Fridays and Saturdays for draught and bottle sales. It has always been my plan to write a more focused post on the new Vibrant Forest brewery. Hopefully I’ll manage to get down and do this before the year is through.

The Marlow Brewing Company, in Marlow is set in a nice location. I bought two litre bottles of beer from there, which were prepacked in clear pet bottles stored in a fridge. I’m not sure when they were packaged, which resulted in a voice in the back of my mind wondering what effects to the flavour there may have been. Personally, I didn’t really like the beers I bought from Marlow. They weren’t awful. They just weren’t to my taste.

Prior to the set up of the Beer Bash, I took the chance to head out to Lye and return once again to The Windsor Castle, home of Sadlers Ales. Those of you who have read previous entries about Sadlers by me, or indeed my twitter feed at certain points, will know that I have a particular fondness for Mud City Stout. Having had a couple of bad pints of it in The WIndsor Castle, I’m pleased to say that this time round it was tasting as good as it’s ever been, if not better.

Last, but not least, I finally made the trip up to Henley On Thames last weekend to visit the Lovibonds Brewery. I’ve tried a number of their beers before, and finally got to try Sour Grapes at the Beer Bash the week previously. This though, was a chance to try the full core range, and discover that Amber is the beer I’d choose to session drink if I had to. I left Lovibonds with a growler filled with Sour Grapes. It may have cost me £13 for just under two pints, but it was worth it.

As for now, I am currently sat writing this post in a Wetherspoons, the closest pub to my flat in Slough. I’m drinking a pint of Bingham’s Doodle Stout. It was an easy decision to make as a) Bingham’s are local. They’re based in Twyford, which is a short half hour train journey away, and b) Doodle Stout is one of my favourite beers that is easily available to me.

I did consider including the Beer Bash within this post, but I feel that such a thing requires it’s own separate little home. I’ll try and get that post written and up in the next few days. As for the near future, there’s apparently a tonne of beery stuff happening in London over the next week or so, with some “Great British Beer Festival”, at which a bunch of beer geeks will be going mad over some imported cask from Belgium or America.

If you can’t get to London though, or like me, don’t really want to travel into London, you can always pop down to Southampton for The Platform Tavern’s annual Blues and Booze festival over the bank holiday weekend. Apparently it now has sausages as well. It kicks off on the evening of Thursday 21st August. I’ll be there either then, or on the Friday.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I write something again. Until then though, have a great weekend. (98)

Time is marching on…

If you’re anything like me, you may have been thinking “I’ll buy myself a ticket for that Beer Bash thing in Birmingham at the end of July this weekend”. The weekend passes, and still you haven’t bought that ticket.

Well I’ve got news for you, if that’s you, and you wanted to come to the Beer Bash on the Saturday afternoon. You’re too late! With the other sessions set to follow suit, don’t you think it’s time you actually bought a ticket?

If you need more convincing, you can listen to me read (or should that be ramble under the influence of alcohol?) through the beer list below. Alternatively, you can just be left with a single word.

SCHNOODLEPIP!

http://mixlr.com/mrdavidj/episode-3-the-bash-is-coming

(145)

The Friday Pint 3 #11 – More Mawsons

In the middle of the warehouse in Chiswick from where once many sporting events were beamed to the world, a solitary frame remains from the once full and lively Central Apparatus Room (or CAR for short). In it sits a router, too heavy for anyone to move (the question of how did they get it in it the first place comes to mind, but it is not one for today).

For myself, today is a day off. A day with which I decided a couple of weeks ago I would use to come to Chiswick for a few pints in The Mawson Arms, that pub on the corner by the Fuller’s Brewery. It soon came to my attention, that seperately, there were other people who had muted plans to pay a visit to the old workplace, and to the pub in the process. How many of them will end up here is yet to be seen. It is still “pre-lunchtime” as I type, whilst occasionally stopping to pick up the pint glass, sat to the right and slightly up from the netbook on which I’m writing.

In the glass is a beer brewed for the World Cup named Two Halves. It has that Fuller’s taste. It’s a taste that I didn’t really realise was there, but a few months after my last shift in Chiswick, and that time without having a Fuller’s pub on my doorstep, it’s a taste that is the sort of taste that once you take the first sip, you realise you’ve missed it. That being said though, as drinkable as Two Halves is, it’s far from being amongst my favourite Fuller’s beers, or amongst the ones I look forward to seeing again, like Spring Sprinter and Jack Frost.

Across from the table I am currently sat at is a window. Outside of that window, dozens, probably hundreds of cars depending on the length of the session, pass by on the A4, headed either towards London, or in the other direction to Richmond and the South, or the West on the A4. I always found there to be something theraputic about sitting in here, or the nearby George and Devonshire, and watching the world pass by. Inside the pub, everything feels like it has stopped, outside however, everything continues as it was. A siren wails as the veichle it’s attached to rushes to the emergency it’s been called to. Taxis drive holidaymakers to their hotels, or business men and women to their meetings. Lorries drive shipments to their destinations, and occasionally, people will walk past, some on their way inside, some on their way to another place altogether.

The first of a few people have arrived. In the name of social politeness, it seems like a good time to finish this post, and also finish this pint beside me. You now have less than a month to buy your Beer Bash tickets and book any travel and accomodation you may need. I shall remind you of this fact again next week, and every week until the festival has passed.

Until then, have a great weekend. (838)

The Friday Pint 3 #10 – Back Again

I said at the start of the year that this year’s Friday Pint would focus mainly on local beer. As a result, it probably won’t surprise many of you who are regular readers of these posts that I am back in The Platform Tavern.

As I  currently write, I have beside me a half drunken pint of a new beer (to me at least) from the Dancing Man Brewery, a beer named “Respect Your Elders”. It’s not an undrinkable beer. Indeed there are many qualities to it which are rather nice, the tropical fruit aftertaste, for example. As an overall experience though, it’s the first new beer in quite sometime from here which hasn’t made me immediately want another. As I always try to point out whenever I’m not too keen on a beer though, your tastes will be different to mine. You may very well love this beer, so try it yourself and make your own mind up.

Also on the bar today is DNA, a brown ale brewed with marmalade which, along with Big Casino is my go to of the more regular brews when there isn’t a new brew to try.

On the subject of new brews, we are now just five weekends away from the second Birmingham Beer Bash. Tickets are available from the website now, a link to which you can find at the top of the sidebar to the right of this post. I had a quick runthrough of the announcements so far on the first Mixlr show (check the last Friday Pint for that). Over the next few weeks I’ll be aiming to record a few previews, similar to the preview posts I did last year, which I will also be doing again this year. I also hope to be able to do a show live from the Bash itself, talking to as many people as I can in the hour.

I now have a pint of the previously mentioned DNA beside me. It tastes as good as DNA does. In the restaurant part of the pub, a wedding party is going through the cake cutting part of things. It doesn’t seem like a bad place to have a wedding reception, though The Wool House seems like it will be even better.

On the subject of The Wool House, progression is being made. The kit is in storage, ready to be installed, and the end (or the beginning) is almost in sight. As soon as I know the opening date, I shall let you know. Alternatively, you can follow @dancingmanbrew on Twitter for more information.

Next week I shall be returning to Chiswick, for a long overdue return to The Mawson Arms. Until then, have a good weekend. (272)

The Friday Pint 3 #9 – Wales

A couple of weeks ago (the second May Bank Holiday, if anyone wants me to be more exact), I spent a couple of days in Cardiff with my fiancee. Naturally, I took the opportunity to visit a few bars and in keeping with this year’s Friday Pint focus, drink some local beers. I also picked up a number of bottles, some of which I shall be covering in this post.

The first place we visited for a beer was The City Arms, a pub that I had visited before, though not since it’s redevelopment. When I last visted, The City Arms had (if memory serves right, it probably doesn’t) only around 3 or 4 cask pumps. Now it has at least double, plus a couple of keg lines serving beers from the Brain’s Craft Brewery range.

I like The City Arms for a number of reasons. For starters it has a good beer range, which should always be the case in any good pub, whether they stock one beer, or one hundred beers, if the quality is there, I’m already halfway to being won over. Secondly, it’s in the city centre, but it doesn’t feel like it. If you’re approaching it from the city centre’s main shopping area, the fact it’s situated at the end of a side street makes it feel slightly out of the main “hustle and bustle” (not that Cardiff really has “hustle and bustle”). Thirdly, it feels like a pub.

Which is more than can be said for the Urban Tap House, Tiny Rebel’s Cardiff bar, which is literally just across the road from The City Arms (and I use literally in it’s literal definition there). I like the Urban Tap House, and I really like Tiny Rebel’s beers, but if I had to choose between the two bars to spend an afternoon or evening, The City Arms would be the winner. If money was no object however, I would certainly be spending some of my time working through those fridges in the Urban Tap House.

One place which only came to my attention due to it’s twitter account saying it was playing Manics songs on the day of the band’s Cardiff show back at the end of March is The Gravity Station, a bottle shop/tasting bar not far from the Cineworld and Motopoint Arena.

The Gravity Bar is owned by The Waen Brewery, and has a good selection of Welsh beers available to buy in bottle, alongside some from further afield. There is also around 6 draft beers available to drink in the shop. It was from here that I bought most of the bottles I came home with. A few more were bought from Wally’s Delicatessen.

In Good Morning… tradition, I’m now going to open a few of those bottles and continue writing this post as I go along.

First up into the glass is Waen’s Landmark, a beer which instantly made a good impression as I lifted the glass to my mouth. The aroma is the kind of fruity aroma that I’ve not had from a beer in quite a while. Tastewise, the first thing I got was peach, then sherbert, before finally bitterness. After a few more mouthfuls, that good first impression has been followed by slight disappointment, as none have been as good as that first taste. That being said, Landmark is still a beer that I’d drink again.

Following the Landmark into the glass is another Waen beer, Janner’s Pride, described on the bottle as a “Conker coloured best bitter with hints of ginger and whiskey”. It’s the first time I’ve seen conker used as a colour reference. When held up to the light, I’d argue it’s lighter than a conker, yet without light shining through it, they could be onto something.

Aroma wise it certainly smells “brown”, if that makes sense. It has a mix of burnt and caramel malt aromas that sometimes feature in the more malt focused beers. Tastewise, so far, it is failing to live up to the promise of that bottle label description. I have a suspicion that had I not read that, and was trying this blind, that I might have a differing opinion to the one I have now.

Next I’m moving on to the Brain’s Craft Brewery range. I have two bottles that I’ll be opening, and tried a few more whilst in Cardiff. The first bottle for this post is Brabo, a Belgian style pale ale.

I have to say, I rather like this. It’s not something I’d drink a lot of, butit’s certainly something I’d drink and suggest others try. It’s also a beer that could be used to introduced new drinkers to a wider ranger of beer. There’s a light biscuity sweetness in the taste, which makes the beer rather moorish. (The beer was brewed with beer writer Des de Moor, so I suppose you could say it was Des de Moorish if you wanted to make cheap puns, which I don’t so I won’t, but the option is there).

The second Brain’s Craft Brewery beer is Bragging Rights, a braggat style beer. The beer is brewed with honey, nutmeg, coriander, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon and ginger, all of which combine to give a beer which is by far my favourite of the night so far. The sweetness of the honey makes this a beer that can easily be shared with people who are usually put off by the bitterness of other beers.

The only other braggat style beer I’m aware of, is the one brewed by the Blue Anchor in Helston Cornwall. It’s a style I rather like, and it’s one I’d reccomend to any beer drinker.

To hear what I thought about the last two beers I picked up from Wales (from The Celt Experience), you can listen to the first Mixlr show here

Show links

Birmingham Beer Bash

Boak and Bailey’s Blog

Ronald Pattinson’s Blog (421)

The Somewhat Late Post Fulfilling A Couple Of Obligations

A while back I was offered (and eventually accepted) free beer, in exchange for a mention in a blog post. A few weeks ago, I wrote the following whilst in a pub, with the intention of posting it when I returned home later in the day.

I bought a bunch of beer from Wales when I was in Cardiff earlier this week, so expect that as a Friday Pint soon. Tickets for the Beer Bash are still on sale, and you should totally buy one, because that’s what awesome people do, and you are awesome, aren’t you?

Anyway, here’s the post…

 

Beer, the great lubricator of the mind, he types, as he sits, writing about himself whilst sat drinking a pint of Pilgrims Pale Ale in The Platform Tavern. In the near or perhaps distant future, a reader will take in his words, wondering why he has chosen to write the post in this way, and whether or not he’ll be able to continue referring to himself in the third person until the end of the post.

As a narrative voice, in this blog post about the experiences of a man they call Mr. David J, I would like to take you back a couple of months. David was offered a free case of beer, in exchange for mentioning belgianbeerz.com. The e-mail sat in his inbox until David also recieved an e-mail offering a free case of beer in exchange for mentioning beer52.com (That fulfils my obligation right?). David had a thought. He could take both companies up on their offer, and use the experiences of the delivery, communication, and packaging, in s comparative blog post.

To start with, a brief comparison of online beer shops, and high street beer shops. Online Beer Shops can be great. They can offer a great selection of beers that otherwise wouldn’t be available to you. High street beer shops on the other hand, are often more limited in what they can offer, but what they can offer is an opportunity to study the products, and actually talk to people about them, people who could give you reccomendations based on personal experience, rather than the experience of an algorithm that remembers that people who bought Fenwick’s Mousetrapper also bought Perry Tate’s IPA.

One of my main deterrences from using online beer stores is the reliability of delivery companies. This is, some would say, not the fault or responsibility of the online retailer, however, if there were a significant number of issues with deliveries, the retailer would be hard pushed not to consider changing their choice of deliver.

In the case of BelgianBeerz.com, Lode seemed like a very nice guy to deal with, and the range and prices of the beers on the website seemed reasonably fair. The one thing that would put me off using the site to order some more beer, is the fact that the UK side of the delivery is handled by Yodel. A company who I have yet to actually recieve a delivery on the day I actually expect it.

Admittedly it would be unfair to place blame on Yodel or Lode due to the confusion that took place over which address to send the package to. Regardless of what mistakes were made, it’s still Yodel, and I still try to avoid Yodel where I can.

Moving onto a physical retailer, Bitter Virtue in Southampton is probably my go to shop for beer these days, especially as it’s a good source for local beers from breweries like Dancing Man, Vibrant Forest, and Bowman’s Ales. Compared to some other physical retailers, some of it’s prices can be slightly higher. This would matter if I was reguarly travelling to where other retailers were anyway, which at the moment, I’m not.

Despite it’s size, Bitter Virtue has an extensive beer list that continues to grow, and as it’s not in a trendy part of the beer world, it can often be possible to still pick up the sought after hyped beers (Unhuman Cannonball for example) without having to be hitting F5 at 8:30 on the day of release.

One shop that can fit into both physical and online retailer is Teign Cellars in Newton Abbot. Prior to heading down there for this years Maltings Festival, I looked at their website to see what they had. The prospect of Wild Beer’s Ninkasi Premier Cru at around £2 a bottle less than I would pay for it at Bitter Virtue appealed to me a lot..

I went to the Teign Cellars pub (on which the bottle shop is located, in fridges, down the steps to your left as you enter), expecting to find some there. I was out of luck. I bought some Modus Operandi and Sourdough anyway and sought about the best way of obtaining the beer I craved. (Ninkasi Premier Cru, for those who have yet to experience it, is like Ninkasi, only ten times better. For those who have yet to experience Ninkasi, it’s like your favourite beer, only ten times better).

I later discovered that I could have preordered what I wanted and collected it at the store, rather than have it delivered to me for the £9.95 (or however much it is, the point is, I could have avoided the delivery charge, making the beer cheaper. As it was, each bottle still worked out around 50p cheaper than Bitter Virtue).

The problem with the Teign Cellars online store, is that there are some bottles that are listed as being in stock, that were actually out of stock. To the companies credit, they did offer me alternatives, and the communication was adequate.

One problem I had with all three retailers, is that none of them offered me a tracking number by default. Lode of Belgianbeerz.com did tell me that as my delivery was seperate from the system, I didn’t recieve an e-mail informing me of my tracking number (which he supplied to me). Neither Beer52 or Teign Cellars supplied me with a tracking number.

Did I mention earlier how I’m hesitant to order beer online due to the reliability of some delivery companies?

Onto my fourth and fifth retailers of the post, Stirchley Wines and Cotteridge Wines. Two shops that are within walking (ten minutes) distance of each other, so really, if you’re visiing one, it’d be rude not to visit the other. It would be easy of me to lend bias towards Stirchley WInes and Krishan, given that he is one of the Birmingham Beer Bash team (Tickets to the festival now available from here), but really, I’d be letting you down if I didn’t tell you to visit both.

There are some beers that Cotteridge stock that Stirchley don’t, and vice versa. Likewise, there are some beers that are cheaper at Stirchley than they are at Cotteridge, and vice versa. With the two shops within close proximity, it makes sense to go between the two and try to get the best deal for yourself.

Last but not least, the other company who offered me free beer. Beer 52 isn’t an online store as such. It’s a subscription service that you can cancel at anytime.

I must admit, that I was skeptical when I first recieved the e-mail. Then I read around, and recieved the box, which contained 8 beers that I hadn’t tried before for just £24 including postage. The beers were well packaged, along with an A5 four page guide to each bottle, including details on the beer, the brewery, and what foods to pair it with.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I have to worry about being in when the delivery comes, Beer52′s service would be rather tempting to me. As it is, I probably won’t be subscribing anytime soon, but don’t let that put you off. £24 for a box of 8 beers is a rather reasonable price.

And so there it was. He finished his little review and returned back to the third person, having completely failed to maintain writing the post in the style throughout. Join us next time intrepid reader, when we shall be exploring the world of whatever happens between now and then, or maybe something else.

belgianbeerz.com and beer52.com both sent me free beer in exchange for a mention on this blog. Visit them, don’t visit them, google them to see what others are saying. Have a nice weekend.

 

Edit: Since writing this post, I’ve been made aware that some people have been unhappy with the way that Beer52 is run, in particular when it comes to cancelling a subscription. As I was not part of the subscription process I can’t comment from personal experience, though it is easy to find other people’s complaints if you search around. (1289)