Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Who else isn't going to GBBF apart from me and Brewdog ?

There is a sense of anticipation in the air this week. Just a week to the start of Britain's premier beer festival, the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF). Accomodation is booked, milk thistle tablets and various hangover remedies purchased in industrial quantities.

Time for a confession. I've been a CAMRA member for over thirty years, am an ex branch chairman. I've mananged bars at local festivals and worked at festivals in Belgium, yet I've never been to GBBF. When I was younger I just wasn't that interested. I drank most days of the week anyway and didn't really see the need to waste money to do what I did all the time.

As I got older, gained beery friends from around the world and found out that London wasn't all bad I liked the idea of GBBF from the social and working point of views. The problem is I've had children of school age since 1993 and my younger child doesn't leave school until 2015. So the end of July/early August is reserved for family holidays so as not too much of the start of the football season. I'm off to the south of France tomorrow. I'll see you at GBBF in four years time.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Safe drinking levels to be reviewed

The newspapers seize on any anti-alcohol propaganda but not given as much prominence to the Government's decision to review the advice on safe drinking levels with the likelihood that limits will be raised.
The existing advice is based on a recommendation from a committee of doctors in 1987. However, one of the members of the original Royal College of Physicians' working party admitted that the figures were 'plucked out of the air' in the absence of clear evidence about the quantity of alcohol which poses a health risk.
MPs are also going to compare the UK guidelines with those provided in other countries. It's ludicrous that the advice in Italy allows the equivalent of an extra bottle of wine per week compared with the U.K. guidelines. A small victory in the battle against the anti-alcohol lobbyists.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Beer is no longer food in Russia - Official

'Russian President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday signed a bill that officially classifies beer as alcoholic. Until now anything containing less than 10% alcohol in Russia has been considered a foodstuff. Vodka is well known as being the drink of choice for Russians but in the past ten years sales have fallen by nearly 30% while beer sales have risen by 40%. Beer can be sold anywhere 24 hours a day.'

I must admit that I have been known to forego a meal for a glass or two of beer and a strong trappist ale, for instance, packs more calories than those low-calories meals for dieters. Of course too many calories makes a Russian stout.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Well done CAMRA!

I've criticised CAMRA in the past regarding their attitude to craft beer. This time I'm happy to praise them for cancelling the contract allowing Brewdog at GBBF.

It seems Brewdog didn't pay the bill upfront as required and wouldn't supply beer in kegs large enough to be practicable at a very busy festival. Brewdog are already putting their own spin on events but I'm tiring of their raucous proclamations and deliberate courting of controversy.

Its CAMRA's party and if Brewdog aren't on the list they are not coming in.

Monday, 18 July 2011

South Lakeland for beer

I was back in Cartmel for another break last week. Apart from the many other reasons for visiting the area, there is the excellent choice of beers. Public transport links to Ulverston, Broughton, Foxfield, Kendal, Staveley and Ings are available giving access to some of the finest pubs in Cumbria. For instance I spent a beautifully sunny afternoon at Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall enjoying all five draught beers on offer.

The Pheasant Inn, Allithwaite

However, a number of villages are within walking distance of Cartmel. Cark, Flookburgh and Allithwaite  have two pubs each and they all sell real ale. These are the cask beers that I drank in pubs within walking distance of my accomodation:

Hawkshead Bitter (to excess)
Coniston Bluebird
Corby Ale
Skiddaw Special Bitter
Stringers Best Bitter
Stringers Yellow Lorry
Loweswater Gold
Caledonian Deuchars IPA
Ulverston Celebration
Ulverston Laughing Gravy
Thwaites IPA
Winster Valley Cartmel Hurdler

That is not a comprehensive list of the beers available. I ignored the Robinson’s pubs and also gave two more Winster valley beers on the racecourse, Draught Bass, Cumberland Ale, Thwaites Bitter & Wainwright, Theakston Bitter and Taylor’s Landlord a miss. A special mention to the Pheasant in Allithwaite. Excellent beer quality and friendly service which must merit a GBG entry soon. There are plenty of other pubs in the area with good beer that can be reached with a bit more effort on public transport, foot or cycle or more easily by car.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Why women can't read maps

There seem to be a never ending litany of  'Beer is bad for you' stories which the press are quite happy to lap up. Even The Independent has given space to an article headed 'Binge drinking is why women can't read maps, say scientists.'

American researchers found that heavy drinking during the teenage years when the brain is still growing, affects the development of spatial memory which is the ability to orientate oneself on the map and remember how to get from place to place. Although both sexes were affected women felt the effects more than men.

The scientists definition of heavy drinking is worth considering. ' The students were normal healthy teenagers who drank socially and might have four or five drinks at a weekend party and then not drink again for some weeks.' So that includes you and me.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Is Progressive Beer Duty all good?

The Morning Advertiser quotes brewers Theakston as stating that "The market is being distorted by progressive beer duty benefit for microbrewers."

The company further added: “The introduction of progressive beer duty in 2002 has led to the creation of unintended market distortions, which, as a consequence of the rise in beer tax [35% since 2008], offer an increasingly significant advantage to small scale, microbrewers of cask ale.”

It is generally accepted that PBD has been a good thing, allowing micros to compete on a better footing with  larger breweries that benefit from economies of scale. But if the regionals are squeezed by the ever increasing number of successful micros they could be ripe for mergers, or even takovers by the Multi-Nationals who are showing signs of re-entering the quality beer sector.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A Summer's day at Brimstage Brewery

It isn't often that the planets align correctly and we get the idyllic Sunday that sums up all our hopes for the British Summer. The reality is usually a downpour or a blustery wind or both. That's how it is in the North of the country anyway.

Neil Young contemplates a pint of Scarecrow

Neil Young  at Brimstage Brewery pushed the boat out yesterday. He'd invited the great and good from Merseyside branch of CAMRA over for the afternoon. A bit of a PR job this, ther's always a bit of mutual suspicion between Liverpool and Wirral. CAMRA branch trips to the brewery are nothing new. Brimstage wins lots of 'Beer of the Festival' awards and branches like to present the awards in situ in return for a bit of hospitality.

This time though, Neil made use of the the paddock fronting the brewery to lay on a Jazz Band - suits the target audience unfortunately - and provide a hog roast. Amazingly the sun shone and we basked in this rural idyll. Trapper's Hat, Sandpiper and Scarecrow were the thirst quenchers for the 39 visitors from across the Mersey plus assorted friends of the brewery. Merseyside branch were due to visit a number of pubs that afternoon but enjoyed themselves so much that they stayed for an extra two hours. Well you would with free beer and glorious weather. Look out for Scarecrow at GBBF, it's a full flavoured 4.2% traditional bitter.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

SABMiller commissions craft beer from Belgium

First Coors take Sharp's, now SABMiller have Steenberge done a deal with Belgian brewer Van Steenberge. I quote:

'SABMiller has moved into Belgium's speciality beer sector by signing a global distribution deal with the Van Steenberge brewery.
The Peroni Nastro Azzurro brewer will launch a speciality 'abbey' beer named St Stefanus in select markets, expected to include the UK, it confirmed today (1 July).
Its deal marks SABMiller's first foray into Belgium's speciality beer sector, where the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken already have a presence, and reflects growing consumer demand for premium, craft beers in mature markets.
“SABMiller takes a keen interest in the development and growth of the global craft beer market," said the brewer's MD for Europe, Alan Clark. "In St Stefanus, we have found exactly what we are looking for – a genuine abbey beer that has remained true to its heritage and offers a high-quality product to a niche, yet discerning, market.”
SABMiller said that the St Stefanus brand name derives from the monastery of Sint Stefanus, "to which the brewery is linked and which still houses an order of Augustinian monks".
Van Steenberge will remain independent, SABMiller said. Meanwhile, it will only make St Stefanus available in bottles, not on draught.
"St Stefanus is approximately four months old when it leaves the brewery, but the consumer can choose to mature the flavour further by continuing to ferment the beer in its bottle for up to another twenty months," said the brewer.
Jef Versele, commercial director of Van Steenberge, said: "As the industry continues to wake up to the potential of the craft segment, progressive agreements like this will ensure a broader and more varied portfolio for global brewers, product integrity and greater reach for craft producers and, most importantly, more choice for consumers'

So a global beer company commissions a bottle-conditioned beer. Whatever next?