Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Pound Pub has arrived.

A 'no frills' pub is to sell a pint of lager for only £1.50 per pint and £1 per half state newspaper reports today. The Pound Pub will open in Stockton-on-Tees with a second pub planned for Atherton just outside Manchester. Cue gnashing of teeth by the health lobby.

I do have a bit of a problem with two half pint costing 50% more than a pint which could encourage excessive drinking. I presume that none of the beers on offer will be the latest 'must have' offering from our coolest craft breweries nor can I imagine that any brewery can provide cask beer to be sold so cheaply. So I'll pass thanks.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The most influential brewery in the country

According to Radio 2 tonight the answer to that question is........................................... Marstons! This was the lead in to a rather vacuous piece concerning their new Revisionist range.  Pretty obvious answer I'm sure you'll agree.

The journalist who was spouting the publicity blub annoyed me by insisting in pronouncing the brewery as 'Marztons.'

Thursday, 13 March 2014

What the cool kids are drinking

The Oxton Bar and Grill is unsurprisingly, in Oxton, which is one of the oldest districts of Birkenhead. A number of late Georgian and early Victorian mansions and cottages survive and there is a slightly upmarket, village feel which is untypical of this decaying town.

The bar will be a new entrant to the GBG in 2015 but after a perfectly good pint from the local Peerless brewery I was attracted by a keg offering of the sort that is rare in Wirral - Flying Dog Doggie-style. Very good it was too, but it was after ordering that I noticed the chalk board. The heading stated 'What the cool kids are drinking', listing a wine, a spirit and the afore-mentioned Doggie-style.

So it's official. Craft beer is for the young and cool. Like me.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Discount for CAMRA members

The Font, round the corner from Manchester Oxford Road station gives a whopping 25% discount to CAMRA members. That reduced my pint of Magic Rock Ringmaster from an expensive £3.60 to a very reasonable £2.70. It presumably indicates that the margin on cask beer in this bar is pretty high.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Indy admits bias against alcohol.

I wrote to The Independent to complain about its skewed reporting of alcohol matters.  Below is an extract of the reply I received from Will Gore, Deputy Managing Editor:

With regard to our stance on alcohol, as with a range of issues we may take an editorial line on a subject if we think it is the right one after proper analysis (independence is not synonymous with impartiality). 

In other words they admit that their reporting is not impartial. I hope that I'm not the only one to challenge them.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Liverpool Beer Festival 2014

I hope those who attended had a good time. The local CAMRA branch actually made tickets available via the internet this year. The problem is you'd have to be in the know to be aware of that. A kind soul informed me a few weeks after the closing date for applications. Maybe I'll manage to get a ticket next year. Or maybe not.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Independent newsapers - No friend of alcohol

The Indy on Sunday sent my blood pressure soaring with their leader comment today.  I've noticed the bias of the Indy papers over recent times but today's unsubstantiated uttering moved me to reply:
I have noted with dismay for some time an anti-alcohol consumption slant to the reporting by the Independent on Sunday and your sister daily newspaper. It  took your leader column today to rouse me in protest at your pronouncements.
You state ‘ Minimum pricing would certainly have a disproportionate effect on poor people who are not problem drinkers. In our view, that is a price worth paying for the wider social benefits of cutting alcohol consumption generally and problem in particular.’
Can you explain in more detail why cutting alcohol consumption of responsible drinkers is a good thing, especially in regard to those on low incomes who you admit will be hit the most? 
Steve Hannigan
I urge you to complain also.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The first craft beer chain?

Collecting my daughter from Lime Street station on Monday night I parked my car and used the side entrance. In doing so, I passed a pub that I'd forgotten about - The Head of Steam. Once packed to the gunnels it had just a couple of hardy souls watching Sky footy.


Was this part of the first chain of craft beer pubs?  The Liverpool pub had five beers, each with a different range of beers. Beers from around the world were available and I remember buying the new, O'Hanlons produced Thomas Hardy's Ale from the Huddersfield outlet in 1984.

The earliest memory of a pub that would now be classed as 'craft' was a rural one. The Mason's Arms, Cartmel Fell, hidden above Lake Windermere had a world beer list on each table. It stocked over 150 Belgian Beers in the mid 80's and was the first place that I drank beers from the excellent Dutch 't IJ brewery.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Coronation Street and Fullers London Pride


Has anyone else noticed the keg pump that appears in centre frame in many scenes of Coronation Street's Rovers Return? Notwithstanding that it is keg is a dead ringer for a London Pride pump clip. the only photo I can find is not that clear but its the dispenser on the left. If you haven't spotted it before you will now I've highlighted it.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Manchester Beer Festival 2014

I thoroughly enjoyed my two day stay in Manchester apart from the Friday morning hangover. I found the Velodrome an excellent venue and it certainly attracted the crowds. There were punters from all over Britain and also further afield.  I'm told that the festival closed five hours earlier than planned on Saturday due to lack of beer and that beer order of 20% less than last year when it was CAMRA's National Winter beer festival should probably have been 20% more.

There was an extensive and excellent range of beers plus reasonably priced food. The Velodrome is easy to get to - three stops on the tram from Piccadilly or just two from New Islington for Great Ancoats Street and the Northern Quarter. I walked to the festival on Friday lunch time along the Ashton Canal towpath which took about half an hour. I'm aware of problems negotiating the numerous steps between the bars and seating/toilets/food for those with mobility problems. I believe that the organisers are considering siting some bars on the concourse next year for those who don't want to negotiate the tunnel too often.

The cycling was quite a spectacle. To see the best cycling teams in the world going about their training at close quarters was enthralling. The speed they reach is truly amazing.

Thanks to the local CAMRA branches for organising a very enjoyable festival.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

At the Manchester Beer Festival

Looking forward to this one. Please say hello. Thursday I'll be wearing a black Cartmel Brewery tee shirt and a red 'Belgium' an 'O.B.E.R Crew' tee shirt on Friday. Can't imagine there will many others similarly attired. If in doubt I'm the young, slim one with the sculptured features; honest.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Brewdog Liverpool

My spies tell me that the new Brewdog bar in Liverpool will be off Colquitt Street in the Ropewalks area. There are a lot of late license bars and clubs nearby. I'm not sure if this is the right part of town to open a 'craft' bar. In fact I'll be interested to see how the Scousers take to the concept. They're pretty open minded on most things but they do like to drink beer in ferocious quantities so I'm not sure how they'll react to Tactical Nuclear Penguin.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Wirral Smith & Jones pubs closed

The Chronicle, Bebington
Wirral lost two pubs this week. The Chronicle in Bebington and The Ravenscroft in Heswall (named after the real surname of DJ John Peel, who was born in Heswall) both closed suddenly. The pubs traded under the Smith & Jones name and were two of the remaining pubs belonging to the Bramwell Pub Company which entered Administration in October. A number of pubs had already been sold, many to rival Pubco Stonegate.
The closures came as a bit of a shock to punters as both pubs seemed to operating reasonably well in the clone Wetherspoon sector. I've heard tales of managers receiving phone calls telling them to stop serving and throw out the customers half way through a session plus the administrators sending in the bailiffs to remove anything of value and cutting through the TV lead instead of just pulling out the plug. Both sold cask ale in reasonable condition, from an uninspiring list.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Christmas beers - again

Why do so many pubs end up with cellar loads of Christmas beers that don't sell? It is the 11th January and my usual haunt after Tranmere's games still had three seasonal offerings on sale. The pub nearest to the ground only had one cask beer available and that too had some awful Christmas pun for a name. Personally, I'm even less likely to drink them now than I was a few weeks ago - see http://birkonian.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/christmas-beers.html.

As we get near to the middle of January Christmas seems long gone and festive beers on the bar are probably well past their best - if they had a best.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Dry January - The last straw?

Giving up alcohol for January is the new fad. A bit like those 5:2 diets where you don't eat  for two days so you feel better about eating crap the rest of the week. Cutting back booze after Christmas is nothing new; money is tight, the weight has crept and to be honest we're a bit bloated and slightly fed up of drinking. But a whole month?

This year seems different. The 'health' lobby seem to be preaching in all the papers either through paid adverts or with the help of sympathetic editors. They encourage us to get sponsored and give up for charity. That way we're less likely to fall off the rails. The cynic in me thinks in future years they'll suggest that we make it January and February, or why not give up completely?

Where does this dry month leave our pubs? We know that many are struggling and pubs are still closing down in great numbers. As I said January has always been a poor month for sales, but encouraging large numbers of us to forsake alcohol for a whole month may well be the end for our beleaguered publicans. Most of the new abstainers will cease visiting pubs completely to avoid temptation rather than shift to soft drinks. Pub overheads don't change in January. The bills still have to be paid and heating and lighting costs are at their highest. So, before you're taken in by the anti-alcohol lobby be aware that giving up drink for January could mean no pub to return to in February.