Monday 26 September 2011

Drinkers beware

I find the proposals publised below very worrying. I quote:

Northern Ireland's environment minister has outlined his proposals to change the drink-driving laws.
Alex Attwood says he wants to cut the blood alcohol limit from the current level of 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml. There would be another, lower, limit of 20mg/100ml for young drivers and people who earn their living from driving. Mr Attwood also wants to give police powers to randomly stop drivers without the need for reasonable suspicion. He also proposes, in certain circumstances, removing drivers' right to opt for a blood or urine sample instead of a breath test.

Other plans include:
  • A new graduated penalty regime that will allow for fixed penalties for first offences at lower limits and court prosecution for high level first offences or any second or subsequent offences
  • Automatic referral of offenders to an approved drink-drive rehabilitation scheme.

He also said "I would like to see a 20mg limit across the UK and we have got evidence that the majority of drivers would actually support that tougher stance. ”

The minister said that while much progress had been made towards eliminating a drink-drive culture, more work needed to be done. He said that over the past five years, 75 people had been killed and 463 seriously injured by drivers impaired on drink or drugs. "This is totally unacceptable and I am determined to do what I can to tackle this issue once and for all," Mr Attwood added.

"I have listened to the public on this. There is widespread public support for a step change in how we deal with drink drivers and I believe that what I am proposing will make a real difference."

Having read his speech it contains a number of assumptions, half-truths and miss-use of statistics. he also shows disregard for the decisions of the government.

Firstly, where is the evidence that drivers support a lowering of the drink -drive limit? I've never met anyone who's mooted this idea.

Why remove the right to a urine or blood test? The breathalyser is notoriously innacurate.

"I've listened to the public on this." The public may quite rightly want to see drink drivers caught, but that doesn't mean they want to criminalise many thousands more drivers.

"Over the past five years 75 people had been killed and 463 seriously injured by drivers impaired on drink or drugs. Note my highlighting. I'm not by any means saying that deaths on the roads are anything but a tragedy. But from the figures some of the deaths were due to drug use and he doesn't say how many of the deaths were casued my drivers with between less than the existing 80mg but more than the proposed 50mg limit in their blood if indeed such statistics exist. Also, some of the deaths may have had nothing to do with drink and were caused by bad drivers who are a menace sober or drunk.

"I would like to see a 20mg limit across the UK."  Politicians in Westminster have already decided not to lower the legal limit to 50mg. Why should this man's personal opinions be allowed to hold sway against the decisions of the government?

Of course. once this law takes hold in Northern Ireland, the pressure will be on for rest of the U.K. to follow and there will be thousands of innocent and safe drinkers prosecuted because they had a few drinks the night before and the current rate of pub closures will become a landslide.

Just to conclude I am firmy against drink driving and always walk or use public transport when drinking. But this development really threatens all responsible drinkers and would be a further nail in the pub trade.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Still super lager?

Watching Tranmere Rover's unlucky defeat to Preston N.E. yesterday I was surprised to see the home team shirts sponsored by Tennent's. I associate it with a Scottish market and wonder how many pubs and clubs in Lancashire actually sell this crap. I thought that other than the ever vibrant park bench sector, this was brand who's heyday was the 1970's when it vyed with the likes of Skol and Grunhalle before the global brands swept everything before them. Appartently, the deal is worth £1.2 million over 3 years.

Thursday 22 September 2011

CAMRA Good Beer Guide - Is it?

Curmudgeon makes the valid point that the 2012 Good Beer Guide from CAMRA favours pubs with a rotating range of guest ales and Locale accreditation at the expense of tied pubs with a restricted range of beers no matter how well kept the beer is.

We are all well aware of this trend, the tickers having long ago taken control of the asylum. The system whereby individual branches submit pubs from their area leads to the use different methodology and critieria across the country. Some branches use the National scoring system with a 1 to 5 scale of marking. My local branch uses the older 0 to 10 scale. I was formerly the beer officer for my branch and the fluctuations in marks from different members was noticeable. A drinker who regularly gave a score of 9/10 distorts the average score when others grant such a mark once every few years. Bias is inevitable, higher marks often given to a favoured local at the expense of a perceived rival. Last year, a manager from a local Wetherspoons turned up with a gang of cronies to attempt to railroad his pub into the Guide (he failed). Some branches don't even attempt to visit their pubs on a regular basis. A coach trip or two is arranged and the pubs are chosen on the back of one tasting session. Pubs frequented by young people are usually avoided.

What we have to remember that it is the GOOD Beer Guide not the BEST Beer Guide. The back page of the 2012 Guide states 'recommends pubs..........that serve the best real ale'. That is patently untrue. Firstly, pubs are selected in February/March 2011 for inclusion in a Guide that is valid for a year from September 2011. It is obvious that the Guide is out of date as soon as it is published and will become even less accurate during the months that follow. Guidelines concerning the minimum bedding in time for new pubs/managers mean that pubs selling the best beer are often not considered. Wirral is woefully short of good pubs but the Cock and Pullet which sells six beers from local breweries in excellent condition won't be included in the Guide until 2013.

Secondly, branches receive an allocation of pubs from HQ to include in the Guide. This is done to give an even spread of pubs across the country. Remember that the Guide is aimed at the traveller who wants to find a decent pint wherever he/she is. But good beer isn't distributed evenly. The result is that areas with a surfeit of excellent pubs have to omit some of them. I've mentioned the Lake District as being an example of this and there will be many others. Some areas have too many entries considering the quality of beer in their pubs. It is rare for a branch not to fulfill its allocation so mediocre pubs are included.

I find the GBG useful when I'm on unfamiliar territory but remember that not all pubs that are excluded have bad beer.

Friday 16 September 2011

Reaching the parts.........

So Lancashire finally won the County Chamipionship after 77 years of trying. It's obvious to me looking at the photo above what made the difference. It had to be sponsorship by a cask beer. Thwaites Wainwright can be a pretty decent IMO.

The message to all you under-performing sports teams is ditch the fizzy lager logo and proudly display proper beer on your chests.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Wetherspoon cask ale sales

I made an unscheduled call to Wetherspoon's Cherry Moon in Huddersfield last week. What surprised me was a statement on the chalkboard that the pub had sold 2315 pints of cask ale in the previous week placing it 25th in the Wetherspoon estate for cask beer sales.  2315 pints = 330 pints per day which is about 4½ firkins. This struck me as being a reasonable amount but nothing special considering that this is a busy pub open at least 14 hours per day.

Wetherspoon owns over 800 pubs. If that is the volume sold by the 25th ranking pub how much does number 815 sell?

Sunday 11 September 2011

The Grove, Huddersfield

I'd intended to report on a pub crawl yesterday of Huddersfield's excellent pubs. However, the Sportsman  showed total disregard for prospective customers by by disregarding its publised opening time of 11:00 a.m. I gave up waiting at 11:25 and took in a quick pint of Leeds Pale at Wetherspoons (please forgive me) en route to The Grove which opens at noon.

Once inside I realised that it would be very hard to to leave. The cask and craft beer range matches anything found in the trendy metropolis bars. Highlights of the cask range included the new Magic Rock brewery's hoppy, Thornbridge Hall Summer Ale, a collabaration brew from Gadd’s andd the Italian brewery Revelation Cat called Back to Basics Pacific Double IPA (9%) was a very impressive ultra-strong hop bomb. Buxton Moor Top was also very acceptable. Also, the Tim Taylor's lanlord was the best I've tasted in a many a year and reminded me why it was so highly regarded before it appeared it so many pubs round the country that don't really care about beer quality. The beers I've listed are just a smattering of the full range available which you can view here.

I tried a number of craft beers as well: Beer Here Dark Hops IPA (Denmark), Nøgne Ø Pale Ale (Norway), Flying Dog Raging Bitch (USA) and Brewdog’s Hardcore IPA. I didn’t get round the De Molen’s Op & Top (Netherlands) but there will be other opportunities during my trips to Belgium.

Chloe and Kerry provided friendly, fast and knoweldgeable service. A great pub.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Unfair distribution

Why do some areas have better pubs than others? I’m asking that question from a cask/craft beer point of view. You’d expect our large cities to have their fair share of top pubs and bars and indeed London, Manchester and Sheffield for instance never fail to please the beer enthusiast. But what about Birmingham? The second city doesn’t get many mentions from the blogerati and wouldn’t be high on many peoples’ lists for a weekend pub crawl.

The question came to me a week or so back while spending a pleasant afternoon deciding which top pubs not to visit if I wanted to get the last train home. I could make a case for well over a dozen pubs within easy walking distance and wouldn’t object to a pint in a dozen more. On Saturday I’m off to Huddersfield which has a number of the pubs that would make the shortlist for the top ten in the north of England.

The Lake District has many pubs offering good cask ale from local breweries which don’t make the Good Beer Guide because the quota for the area sets the bar so high.

Compare and contrast with Birkenhead here in Wirral. Two good pubs have emerged in the last year which brings the number of god pubs to ……..two. The last time I went to Barnsley was a bit of a beer desert unlike its Yorkshire neighbours mentioned above and despite two good breweries.

Any other locations that the real ale (never mind craft beer) revolution hasn’t reached?

Thursday 1 September 2011

Join the queue

I love the Lake District. Wonderful scenery and any number of pubs serving good beer. However, the enjoyment comes at a price - literally. Pub grub is expensive. In most of the pubs that are worth visiting you'll be lucky to find anything around the £10 mark. £12 to £15 is not untypical with £18 the going rate for a decent steak. I'm not talking anything fancy here, fish and chips, Cumberland sausage and chips etc. For a family of four that's at least £50 without drinks.

So after a few pints of Cumbrian Five Hop and New Zealand Pale Ale at Hawkshead's Staveley Beer Hall we decided to stop off at the Wetherspoon in Kendal. I've been to the 'Miles Thompson' before and its better than the Wetherspoon in Wirral, i.e. they serve a decent pint. The downside at tea time on the Sunday of a bank holiday weekend is how long would it take to get served at the usual 50 yard wide bar with two bar staff.

I was surprised to find that there was a queue for service. That's a proper organised queue post office-style with no exceptions for alcohol only or 'just a bag of crisps'. it took about 10 minutes to reach the bar but I was happy with that. I got served in turn stress-free. Surely the only objection comes from those with no conscience/manners. Some social and night clubs have always used a queuing system but I don't think I've seen it in a pub before. I wish a few more pubs would use this system. Of course Wetherspoons could help matters by actually employing enough staff but that's never going to happen.

BTW four meals plus drinks cost £33 and my pint of Ruskins Bitter from the Kirkby Lonsdale brewery was excellent