Sunday 30 January 2011

Strong bottles

My recent post about bottled Butcombe Bitter raised the long-running issue that many beers are significantly stronger in bottled form than they are as draught real ale. Butcombe is 4.0% ABV on cask and 4.5% in bottle. Jennings Cumberland Ale has a 0.7% difference – 4.0% versus 4.7%, and Young’s Bitter goes one point further with 3.7% against 4.5%. Other “offenders” (if such they are) include Marston’s Pedigree, Fuller’s London Pride and Deuchar’s IPA.

I fully understand why brewers do this – draught beers in the pub are meant for “sessioning”, while premium bottled ales are generally consumed in ones or twos in front of the telly and and the fire. They’re different environments, and drinkers are looking for different things from their beer. There are plenty of PBAs around the 5% mark, but ales of that strength don’t sell well in pubs, whereas few bottled ales come in below 4%. Undoubtedly a 4.7% beer will differ significantly from a 4% one, but is there a slight element of deception involved? And which is truly the “authentic” brew?

Brains SA, one of my favourite bottled beers on the more “malty” side of things, is the same strength in bottle and cask – 4.2%. In the olden days, a beer of that strength was nicknamed “Skull Attack” in Cardiff, but in the PBA stakes it now seems something of a lightweight.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll...and going to the pub

The brewing industry is in a slow, steady decline. Beer volumes are 25% down over 14 years. High duty levels are putting drinkers off and making profitability difficult, resulting in a wave of takeovers, mergers and brewery closures. Customers are increasingly being tempted away by the attractions of a night in at home. Sounds familiar? Maybe, but that’s not 2011, it’s 1959.

I have a book entitled Called to the Bar – An account of the first 21 years of the Campaign for Real Ale, published in 1992. This contains an enlightening chapter by Richard Wilson on “The British brewing industry since 1750.” In this, he shows a table of UK beer production 1945-1988, which I have reproduced here. The steep fall from 1945 to 1951, and the continued slow decline throughout the rest of the 1950s, is very obvious. One of the main factors blamed for this was the rise of television, which was keeping people in their houses even when they had more money to spend. Wilson writes:
High levels of duty (not relaxed until the 1959 budget) and taxation bit hard into profits, and the brewers’ constant need to update their tied properties and breweries, after years of wartime neglect and severe building restrictions to 1953, meant that they had problems in generating sufficient capital to carry out their programmes of improvement. In these conditions of over-capacity, brewers continued to rationalise in the time-honoured way of acquiring additional breweries.
The 1959 production figure of 23.4 million barrels was the all-time postwar low. However, in that year’s Budget, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Derick Heathcoat-Amory cut beer duty for the one and only time in the postwar era, which seems to have given the industry a stimulus that it didn’t look back on for twenty years.

The period up to 1979 was one of impressive and almost continuous growth. Beer volumes were 32% up by 1969, and 73% up by 1979, which was to prove the all-time peak. The 1960s tend to be associated with sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, but it seems that for many people they mainly involved drinking a lot more beer, something that popular history seldom seems to recognise.

Undoubtedly to some extent this reflected a society that had more money to spend and was less straitlaced and more hedonistic than that of the 1950s. Young people have always been some of the biggest spenders in pubs, and in the 1960s the postwar “baby boom” generation was reaching legal drinking age. And, although it may pain those who accept the “CAMRA narrative” of the brewing history of the 1960s, the money spent on developing and advertising national keg beer brands, and in refurbishing dingy old pubs, attracted a lot of new customers. The brewers succeeded in giving pubgoing a more modern, upmarket and aspirational image than it formerly enjoyed. By 1979, regular pubgoing was far more commonplace, respectable and entwined in everyday life than it was in the 1950s – or is now.

It is also noteworthy that, after a drop in the early 1980s which it’s probably fair to attribute mostly to the recession and the rundown of traditional heavy industries, production remained steady from 1982 to 1988. Indeed, even in 1997, total beer sales were still 34.8 million barrels. Maybe 5% of that was imports, so it wasn’t really much below the 36.7 million production barrels of 1988. The big decline has pretty much entirely happened since then.

Total UK beer sales in 2010 were 27.0 million barrels, which assuming the same 5% imports, is still comfortably above the level throughout the 1950s. The key difference is that much less of the drinking is happening in pubs.

Another repercussion of the 1959-79 boom in beer sales was that brewers assumed it would continue indefinitely and invested in a lot of new plant that was never fully utilised. Significantly, the massive Courage brewery at Reading opened in 1978, and closed in 2010.

Friday 28 January 2011

The neo-Pros’ poster girl

There has been a lot of media interest recently in 21-year-old Laura Hall from Redditch who has been banned from every pub and bar in Britain. However, as Neil Davenport argues here, in reality this sad case is not so much an indictment of the evils of drink but of our society's failure to socialise young people properly, and banning her from pubs just serves to make the problem worse.

Sauce for the goose

Council bosses in Carlisle have written to their employees suggesting that, if smokers have to clock out for a fag break, anyone wishing to have a ten-minute conversation about the weather should do the same. Certainly over the years I've witnessed some spectacular examples of timewasting through office gassing. The threat wasn't actually carried through, but antismokers should be very careful what they wish for as it could easily rebound on them. And, of course, anyone expected to clock out for a fag break is hardly likely to be prepared to go the extra mile, or even the extra half-inch, for their employer.

Thursday 27 January 2011

More beer stats

A few more points from the UK Quarterly Beer Barometer:

  • Over the past three years, off-trade beer volumes have been falling as well as on-trade ones, albeit much more slowly, and in 2010 were 2.5% lower than 2007
  • In 1997, off-trade sales in Quarter 4 were over twice those in Quarter 1. However, in 2010 they were only 56% higher
  • 2010 was the first year in which off-trade sales in Q2 exceeded those in Q4
  • For every year from 2006, Q2 has been the highest for on-trade sales, and has exceeded Q4, which tended to be the peak in the past
  • For both categories, not surprisingly, Q1 is always the weakest quarter
  • Off-trade sales show much more volatility than the on-trade – in particular, why did they jump by 10% in 1999 when the years on either side were flat?
  • Off-trade sales always show a big Q2 jump in World Cup years
  • If on-trade sales had continued to decline from 2008 to 2010 at the same rate as 1997-2007, they would now be 12.5% higher, which is in line with my earlier estimates of the smoking ban having caused an “above trend” hit to pubs’ wet trade of between 10 and 15%
  • If current trends continue, the “tipping point” at which off-trade consumption overtakes the on-trade will come at some time during 2012

Does provenance matter?

The point was made in the comments the other day that the vast majority (in terms of shelf space anyway) of lagers on sale in the average supermarket are brands of foreign origin that are brewed in the UK – Carling, Fosters, Carlsberg, Stella, San Miguel, Kronenbourg 1664 etc. In the early days of CAMRA it was a major campaigning point that lager drinkers were being palmed off with an inferior (and usually weaker) British-brewed version of the original. In a sense, of course, this was true, but I'm not sure it ever represented a deliberate act of deception, and even thirty years ago I think most lager drinkers accepted that their tipple wasn't actually brewed in Copenhagen or Leuven. Of course, many of the early leaders in the lager market such as Harp, Skol and Tennent's never made any pretence of being anything other than British.

Nowadays, I doubt whether any consumer of "industrial" lagers genuinely believes they are getting an imported product and, to be honest, it's a matter of complete indifference to them. It's accepted as a fact of life that major consumer brands are produced in various countries and few people are at all chauvinistic about them. How many of its drinkers even realise that Carling originated in Canada and isn't a home-grown brand? I don’t really see any dishonesty involved at all.

Interestingly, as I was half-way though writing this post, this piece appeared on The Publican website discussing the very same issue:

Joe likes his lager beer brands for sure, and he has a reasonable idea of where they’re supposed to be from – not always spot on, but close enough. One thing’s for sure though, when you ask Joe if his Kronenbourg is certifiably ‘made in France’, the Gallic shrug that follows tells much of the story. He’s not that bothered. “It’s a global market place, mate. Volkswagens aren’t all made in Germany; these Armani jeans aren’t made in Italy”, says Joe. And he’s right of course.
However, move higher up the value chain and originality of source starts to become more important. Beck’s and Heineken, which occupy a kind of “premium mainstream” position, both make a point of being only brewed in their purported country of origin. The same is true of the currently fashionable Peroni, and of German beers such as Krombacher and Warsteiner which are often found in bars aiming to promote a slightly up-market, more discerning feel. Customers would be very unimpressed if they found out that Budweiser Budvar or Pilsner Urquell were being brewed in the UK, and to do the same for Duvel or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would be unthinkable.

On the other hand, you will find that some brands seeking to cultivate a bit of a left-field image such as Asahi Super Dry are actually brewed in the UK. It must be a fine judgment on the part of brand owners as to whether or not brewing a “foreign” beer in this country is going to put its target drinkers off.

Of course, nowadays there is a contradiction between reducing “beer miles” and encouraging authentic provenance, and any condemnation by CAMRA of the licence-brewing of international beer brands in this country comes across as a touch hypocritical.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Eat up and enjoy yourself

There's an excellent article about food and dieting from Dominic Lawson in today’s Independent. It concludes:

Back in 1974, Dr Lois McBean and Dr Elwood Speckmann produced what remains the most incisive demolition of the pseudo-nutritional cults, in a paper on what they termed “food faddism”.

Their list of its typical adherents bears repeating today: “Miracle seekers or those who adhere to an uncritical belief in bizarre or unrealistic promises; ritual or authority seekers; those pursuing ‘super’ health; paranoiacs; ‘truth’ seekers; fashion followers and the ‘afraid’ who are anxious about the uncertainties and threats of living.”

That last category is the most telling; it makes the point that those who are frightened by food are frightened by life itself. Eat up – and enjoy yourself.
And, what’s more, it says:
The analysis, in this highly respected academic publication, concludes that overweight people live longer lives, and that those who are obese in old age tend to live longer than those who are thin. They are also, say the researchers from the University of California, more likely to survive certain dangerous medical conditions such as heart disease, renal failure and type 2 diabetes.

More sobering statistics

According to the most recent figures produced by the British Beer & Pub Association, total UK on-trade beer sales in 2010 were 14.2 million bulk barrels. This represents a decline of over 44% since in 1997, when the corresponding figure was 25.6 million barrels – and indeed a fall of over 60% since the 37 million barrel high point of the on-trade in 1979.

There hasn’t been a single quarter since 1997 when on-trade beer sales have shown a year-on-year rise. The biggest single year-on-year fall was 10.6% between the second quarters of 2007 and 2008, the first full year of the operation of the smoking ban. Between 1997 and 2007, the average annual decline was 3.5%. Over the past three years, that has accelerated to 7.3%. 2010 was 7.5% lower than 2009.

So, apologies to the Pollyannas of the beer world, but there’s precious little light at the end of the tunnel visible for pubs there. If the recent trends continue, in five years’ time the on-trade will be down below 10 million barrels a year.

Saturday 22 January 2011

A taste of the West, and the East

I’ve expressed my liking before for Butcombe Bitter, a beer that for me is always associated with being on holiday in the West Country. It’s a distinctive bittersweet copper-coloured beer with a strong hop character and a kind of earthy, rustic note. Apparently it was the biggest selling draught beer brand in the UK not available in bottle, but that has now been rectified. (The speling misstakes in the hedding are quite amuseing) I picked up a bottle from Morrison’s the other day. It’s stronger than the cask, at 4.5% ABV rather than 4.0%, but otherwise seems to have much the same character. This will definitely be a repeat purchase.

Another interesting bottled beer I picked up in Morrison’s was “Sun Lik Chinese Beer”, at a bargain £1 for 500ml of 5.0% ABV. This has a deliberately naïve-looking label that suggests a genuine Chinese import, but on closer inspection it turns out to be brewed under licence by Shepherd Neame in Faversham. With rice as a declared ingredient, it’s an inoffensive, sweetish but surprisingly full-bodied lager that would be ideal for washing down Oriental food, but is never going to really challenge the tastebuds.

Friday 21 January 2011

Standing up in Spain

Josie Appleton reports how bar owners in Spain are refusing to take draconian new restrictions on smoking in public lying down:

In this battle it is crystal clear what is at stake in smoking bans, and what the different sides represent. This is not a conflict between smokers and non-smokers, but between those who are for the bureaucratic regulation of social life and those who are for tolerance and liberty.

The Spanish pro-ban movement is defined not by its dedication to health or even non-smoking (prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero himself is a smoker). Rather, its defining feature is a conformist mentality: an emphasis on following the rules, obeying to a minute degree official proscription for the regulation of social life…

…Bars are becoming political battlegrounds. When police visited the rebel Marbella bar and reported the clients who were smoking, the owner launched a broadside against the officers. Bars are starting to form into political associations, sensing that there is strength in numbers and that if there are enough rebels then the law will be unenforceable. In one area of Madrid, a group of bar owners formed what was, in effect, a rebels’ syndicate, pledging that they will all do ‘as much as possible to ensure that you can smoke in their businesses’.
It’s a pity we couldn’t have seen more determination and collective resistance in this country – although, to be fair, it is more difficult if you are a manager or a tenant than if you were an independent freeholder. Mind you, in Britain, they’d probably send in the SPG on the sighting of such a grave threat to public order as someone smoking in a pub.
As a libertarian non-smoker, I would prefer to live in a free society than one in which my personal preference is imposed by diktat. If left to free choice, it is likely that the result would be a mix of smoking and non-smoking establishments, and smoking and non-smoking rooms, in the same way as bars play different music or have different dress codes.
Precisely my own position.

Smoking in pubs: what I’d forgotten

The place was actually open and trading for a start. It wasn’t one of the 7,000-odd that have closed since 1 July 2007.
It was busy, lively and convivial. There was good crack on the vault side.
There were some genuine characters in the place.
There were dogs. Proper country dogs. That belonged to the smokers.
There wasn’t an offputting aroma of sweat, flatulence, urine, cooking fat and cleaning fluid.
Half the customers weren’t forced to cower outside in the rain and wind like pariahs.
There weren’t any humourless middle-class bigots sitting in the middle of an empty room proclaiming how nice it was now there was no smoke – and no smokers – in the pub.
Nobody moaned about how supermarkets were killing pubs.
Oh, it was terrible. I’d gladly have it back tomorrow.

(prompted by this from someone who you might have thought would know better)

Wednesday 19 January 2011

A useful idiot?

I can’t say I was particularly surprised to read the reaction of CAMRA’s Mike Benner to the government’s “minimum pricing” plans, although even so it was dismaying to hear him recycling the anti-drink lobby’s stock catchphrase about supermarket lager being sold at “pocket-money prices”.

He then went on to say “For any ban to have a meaningful impact it is vital that the cost of alcohol production is factored in, which for beer will produce a floor price of around 40p a unit – double what is being proposed,” which shows a total failure to understand the economics of the off-trade alcohol business. Has he never been in a discount offie?

In reality it’s not remotely difficult to buy own-label or minor brand beer, for about 30p a unit, and I don’t think anyone’s making a loss on that. Equally you can buy wine for £2.99 a bottle, and spirits for £8.99. Those drinks may be cheap crap, but they’re not loss leaders.

The whole business about supermarket loss-leading on alcohol is a delusion. Tesco are not fools, but they do know how to drive a hard bargain, and I’d be amazed if more than 2% of the total alcohol units that go out of their door are sold at below the suppliers’ invoice price. Probably not even 1%. As Richard Dodd of the British Retail Consortium (quoted by Chris Snowdon here) says: “if you just stop and think about it for a minute, no business could survive – let alone thrive – if it was routinely selling large amounts of product at less than it was actually paying for it.”

CAMRA are often heard parroting the line that “well-run community pubs have been recognised as part of the solution,” but in reality the anti-drink lobby couldn’t give a toss about community pubs which, in any case, are almost without exception dens of the kind of binge-drinking they deplore. Show me the pub where nobody ever drinks three pints of Stella (or equivalent) at a sitting. They are just playing a cynical exercise in divide and rule, and people like Mike Benner have been suckered in.

The phrase ‘Useful idiot’ has often been used as a pejorative term for those who are seen to unwittingly support a malign cause through their naïve attempts to be a force for good. And it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that Benner has become a useful idiot for the neo-Prohibitionists.

On a more positive note, Brendan O’Neill in the Daily Telegraph makes a robust attack on the concept of minimum alcohol pricing:
What we have in minimum alcohol pricing is a prohibition on the kind of boozing that Cameroons and Cleggites consider immoral: the cheap and speedy consumption of lots of drink with the aim of getting temporarily wasted. Such drinking might not be the high point of human civilisation, but it should not be punished and possibly even banned simply because it doesn’t conform to some political squares’ idea of what a proper night out is. This is prohibition through the backdoor, targeted at those whom the political classes consider to be reckless and self-destructive.
Not only is it an exercise in bansturbation, it also demonstrates rank snobbery and contempt for the less well-off in society.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

You what, Don?

Well, the theme of minimum pricing/below cost selling has been done to death, so I didn’t see much point in doing yet another post on the subject. But my eyes popped out at the comment by Don Shenker of Alcohol Concern in this report that: “Duty is so low in the UK that it will still be possible to sell very cheap alcohol and be within the law.” Come again, Don? The UK has the highest alcohol duties in Western Europe with the exception of the Irish Republic and the Scandinavian countries. By any international comparison, UK duties are in fact very high, and governments of both complexions have been steadily raising them through the “alcohol duty escalator”.

There was a blog, now sadly dormant it would seem, called Don Shenker is a C**t. It would seem that proposition is all too true. And a lying c**t at that. Indeed it is very striking how much of the neo-Prohibitionist case is built on a foundation of blatant lies – “alcohol consumption is at record levels”, “pubs are open 24 hours a day”, “alcohol is cheaper than it ever has been”, “Britain has the highest alcohol consumption in Europe” etc. Interestingly, that blog is still the first result suggested by Google when you do a search for “Don Shenker”.

Take your cue

This article underlines a point I have often made in the past, that people’s decisions as to which pubs to visit can often be influenced by subtle cues in the pub’s signage and exterior displays such as blackboards and A-boards.

This is another example of how consumers “read” pubs. Like a book cover or that feeling you get when you meet someone new – first impressions count. It’s the same with pubs. What a pub looks like from the outside is important because it tells customers what to expect inside.
In particular, cheap-looking signs and posters that seem to be trying too hard can be seriously offputting. It’s usually the case that the more strident the display, the worse the pub. I saw one the other day that said “Come in and try our lovely pub!” which, to be honest, smacks of desperation.

It should also be remembered that signs are not only trying to attract people looking to visit a pub on that specific occasion, but will also stick in the mind when people are passing the pub in the car or on the bus, and be remembered later on when people do want to go to the pub. One thing that always baffles me is why pubs in tourist towns where there is plenty of casual trade walking past the door fail to display their menus outside.

Saturday 15 January 2011

Once bitten, twice shy?

Another pub name gem courtesy of Google Street View. Somehow I doubt whether visiting American tourists will be too keen to call in at this Bury pub.

There’s gold in them thar hills

This isn’t really intended as a beer reviews blog, but I have to say I’ve been impressed recently by Hawkshead Lakeland Gold which has appeared on the shelves of my local Tesco (4.4% ABV, 500ml bottle). I’ve been critical in the past of the wave of insipid, floral “golden ales” such as the disappointing Young’s London Gold, but this is entirely different – a proper bitter bitter, with a powerful, flinty hoppiness overlying a robust malt base. It’s also more of a pale amber colour than truly golden. Definitely one worth looking out for. And no, they didn’t give me a free sample.

In contrast, from the same source I had a bottle of Coach House Cheshire Gold (4.1% ABV), described on the label as “a wonderful golden beer with a fresh citrus hop aroma and a refreshing pine lemon crispness.” This too was more amber than gold, but there the similarity ended. It was dull and muddy in taste, with poor head retention, and with a distinctly harsh note that almost seemed like an off flavour. I thought seriously about not finishing the glass, although in the end I forced it down. Coach House Brewery, set up by former Greenalls employees, has been going for many years, but I’ve never been much taken by their beers and this did nothing to change my opinion.

Monday 10 January 2011

The 100-unit week

Glyn of Rabid About Beer has recently been posting reports of his alcohol consumption, and some of his daily totals will undoubtedly cause paroxysms of horror amongst the Righteous.

This brought to mind a recent discussion on another blog (possibly Dick Puddlecote) about the “100 unit week” and to what extent that was normal or even achievable. While it’s not something I’d recommend doing every week, it’s a level I suspect many people attain when on holiday or over the Christmas period without feeling at all that they are drinking heavily. The key is to do it regularly and steadily, and to drink at lunchtime as well as in the evening to spread it out more.

Take for example someone on holiday somewhere sunny, who each day drinks two pints of 5% ABV San Miguel (or equivalent) at lunchtime, has a 250ml glass of 13% wine with his dinner, and then has two more pints of San Miguel later in the evening. Over seven days, that’s 102 units, yet most people observing that individual would conclude that he was keeping his drinking to a moderate level. And, of course, many British holidaymakers would undoubtedly consider that distinctly lightweight.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Will the schooner get off the slipway?

Well, you didn’t seem to be very enthusiastic about the prospects for success of the two-thirds pint “schooner” measure. I asked the question “Will two-third pint "schooner" measures take off?” and you answered:

Yes: 10 (23%)
No: 33 (77%)

However, it’s important to remember that, even if it doesn’t appeal to you personally, it may well do to others, and far from being the bureaucratic imposition that some have claimed, it is in fact a measure of liberalisation. Personally, I wish it bon voyage.

Wednesday 5 January 2011


Here’s a pretty devastating critique of the concept of “local food”, which has many parallels with the “Locale” enthusiastically championed by CAMRA. The article clearly shows that promoting local food for its own sake violates the core economic principle of comparative advantage and does not actually deliver any tangible benefits in terms of assisting the local economy or improving the environment. By all means eat local food and drink local beer if you actually prefer it, but if you’re just doing it out of a sense of duty you’re effectively burning money.

Tom Vilsack, the current (US) Secretary of Agriculture, stated, “In a perfect world, everything that was sold, everything that was purchased and consumed would be local, so the economy would receive the benefit of that.” Apparently Vilsack believes that we'd be richer if we made our own shoes, iPods, and corn. Adam Smith and David Ricardo must be rolling in their graves.

Local food is generally more expensive than non-local food of the same quality. If that were not so, there would be no need to exhort people to “buy local.” However, we are told that spending a dollar for a locally produced tomato keeps the dollar circulating locally, stimulating the local economy. But, if local and non-local foods are of the same quality, but local goods are more expensive, then buying local food is like burning dollar bills – dollar bills that could have been put to more productive use. The community does not benefit when we pay more for a local tomato instead of an identical non-local tomato because the savings realized from buying non-local tomatoes could have been used to purchase other things. Asking us to purchase local food is asking us to give up things we otherwise could have enjoyed – the very definition of wealth destruction.
There is a point in pubs promoting local beers as a means of emphasising an area’s distinctive character – after all, you wouldn’t want to go on holiday to Cornwall and find Holts as a guest beer. It has to be said also that, once you get beyond meeting the needs of subsistence, preference in food and drink is essentially subjective anyway. But nobody should delude themselves that drinking local beers is in any objective sense “doing good”.

It always seems to me that there is also a strong element of snobbery involved in Locale, that it’s OK for me as a discerning world beer aficionado to drink Orkney Red McGregor or Cooper’s Sparkling Ale, but you lager-swilling plebs are bad people for drinking Magor-brewed Stella rather than Scrodgin’s Old Gutrot from a shed down the road. And all the arguing over the precise definition of “Locale” you see in CAMRA circles really is on a par with Mediaeval theologians debating how many angels can fit on a pinhead.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Buy your own

The latest government “initiative” to try to discourage binge-drinking is to suggest that people shouldn’t buy drinks in rounds, but instead groups of drinkers should set up a tab and settle it at the end of the evening. Now, while it can happen that the round-buying system pressurises people into drinking more than they ideally want to, I don’t honestly see it as a major factor in increasing overall consumption. And if you asked to set up a tab in the Gungesmearers’ Arms, you would be met with bemused laughter. They wouldn’t be much more accommodating in your average Spoons. You can also imagine a lot of drunken arguments at the end of the evening over who has paid for that - after all, it’s notoriously difficult to split the bill fairly in the curry house.

What is more, this is yet another example of pointing the finger at pubs when they certainly can’t be held exclusively responsible for our supposed drink-related problems. It’s a naïve, Puritanical throwback to the days of Lloyd George, when the buying of drinks for others was banned, even to the extent of preventing a husband buying one for his wife.

Schooner launched

It’s reported today that the government are going ahead with proposals to legalise two-third pint “schooner” measures for use in pubs. Personally I think this is a good idea as very often you just don’t want a full pint, especially of stronger beers, but a half just seems too small. I can see it proving popular in multi-beer pubs. However, I wonder whether traditional British conservatism will result in it being a still-born initiative.

Monday 3 January 2011

Tree felled

Here are a couple of poignant pictures, taken in today’s winter sunshine, of the Cherry Tree, a large estate-type pub in Romiley near Stockport, which has recently closed. The architecture is either late 1930s or 1950s. Even though it is on the main road, it has to be honest looked like a candidate for closure for several years. It is still open on Google StreetView, although surrounded by a sea of scarcely-used car park.

Steak and ale

Well, you weren’t very enthusiastic about the concept of beer and food matching. I asked the question, and the answers were:

It enhances the appreciation of both: 5 (11%)
It is a load of pretentious nonsense: 39 (89%)

It may have its place in esoteric gourmet circles, but given that most beer is not consumed with food, and even when it is, it is a question of “does Unicorn or Hatters go best with ham & eggs?”, it is a complete irrelevance to the appreciation of beer, and those beer writers who bang on about it are guilty of being pretentious twats.

To my mind, as someone who can’t do with red wine in any form, the concept of wine and food matching is equal bollocks.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Don’t all rush at once

Couldn’t help raising a smile at this bar which I chanced upon when nosing around Peebles on Google StreetView. Somehow I doubt whether Dickie English will be beating a path to the door. It would be ironic if it did actually serve the real stuff, although I very much doubt it.