Friday 24 July 2009

This Week in Beer

So a few things have gone down this week worthy of me saying some stuff about them.

There’s the news that 50-odd pubs are closing each week. A lot of people have posted about this already - see here and here for some. Stonch got it right in the quickest and most succinct way: 50-odd shit pubs close each week and then many re-open again under new management, skewing the numbers. And have many excellent pubs close? Have any of the good pubs which you visit closed? It’s doubtful. Personally, I don’t care if shit pubs close because I don’t drink in them and it will hopefully allow the good pubs to do better. Sure it sucks that pieces of our essential Britishness and beacons of the community… of wait, it’s not the 1960s anymore...

Then there was the releasing of the beer lists for the GBBF. The Ratebeer forum went a bit mental over it and I completely agree. The British list is massively uninspiring. It’ll be like a sea of ‘me-too’ bitters, indistinguishable from each other, all 4-point-something%.

The BSF beer list, on the other hand, is much more exciting. I’ll be there at the trade session and I very much doubt I’ll leave the BSF bar. Yes I will be pissed pretty quickly (although I might go crazy and order 1/3rds, drinking American beer the American way) and won’t be able to drink eight pints of ale but that’s not what I want from this beer festival. I want to taste new things and experience beers that I can’t get in England, even if it is the Great British Beer Festival. I don’t want to wander lost around the UK bars wondering which beer to choose next from an endless and effete list of bitters and pale ales and watery stouts. I know a lot of people would be the opposite of this, but that’s just me. This GBBF argument is essentially the negative of British ale. It’s the same old thing, round and around. I don’t want to waste my money on something that could be shit and a lot of British ale, sadly, is shit. Call me a slave to the label but right now in my drinking I am after the names of UK craft brewing, the established ones who I know will pour me something good. But I do like drinking UK beers (and I've found a lot of good ones this year); I just want to drink better UK beers. If there are breweries that I MUST be drinking then tell me so that I can add them to my little green-light list.

Next, there seems to be some food and beer pairing going on that’s pretty much the antithesis to the flowery way I do things here (see this and this). I like this, it’s fun to read. If you enjoy fast-food and tins of beer then that’s the thing for you. Personally, I love trashy food and beer combos, just don’t expect me to write many of them up here.

Beermerchants have got some shit hot new beers in, check this mo-fo-ing list out (although a couple of the rarer De Struise have sold out already!). I also put in an order with Beers of Europe, excited that they had a whole new load of Stone beers in. Now I like Beers of Europe (even if their website is fairly unusable when ordering) but imagine my horror when I see that ALL of the Stone beers have ‘Enjoy by’ - and ALL of them say this, including the must-drink-fresh IPAs, - August 2009! Not happy. I’ll still drink them, but I’m not happy. That’s TWIB according to me. Have a cracking weekend.

Pencil&Spoon is ranked 8th in the Wikio Top Blogs - Wine and Beer list. This was a wonderful surprise. I expect to drop down a few as I got some mentions in food blogs last month, but I’m pleased with that, especially when you see the big names directly in front of me.

Finally, and this one's more about me than us, last night I went for a curry. I scanned the menu and then something jumped right out at me: Jaipuri chicken, a specialty dish from Jaipur. Brilliant. I had to order and it was delicious. The only thing that would’ve made it better is if it come with a pint of it’s fresh, hoppy namesake beer.

That’s TWIB, according to me. Have a cracking weekend.

And yes, I know that my 'pubs closing' and 'GBBF/British beer' arguments are massively unrefined. This is intended as a quick post and not some pseudo-journalism. Maybe I'll go into my thoughts on these more another time, maybe not...


  1. Know what you mean about the beers of europe site, its not the best (from a professional and personal point)

    i also find it a bit anoying when you order beers and they have a short shelf life, especially when u have shelled out a fair bit of cash, i guess its one of the drawbacks of these big online warehouses as opposed to little local least there u can haggle lol

  2. Congrats on your Top 10 listing. I can't say I'm massively surprised. Your enthusiasm makes for infectious reading. I just hope that in time you don't allow it to wither and become "too cool for school" - keep it geeky!

    For me, the GBBF British beer list is most notable for its absentees. No BrewDog (ignored as usual), no Marble or Gadds/Ramsgate (missing a trick there), and after all its publicity on the Oz and James show, no Thornbridge Jaipur for the first time since 2005, I believe. Bizarre. Why shun some of the country's most talked about stand out beers?

    As such, I will be with you recklessly working my way through the US and Mikeller selection at BSF. (I'm actually considering totally abstaining til then believe it or not!)

  3. Michael Elliott24 July 2009 at 13:14

    I've just ordered a case each of Stone IPA and Ruination. I'm not worried about the Ruination; I drank a bottle last night from the last batch and it tasted amazing (if it's even better when fresh then I think a single sip would cause me to swoon). With the other IPA, the best before date is more disappointing.

    I bought some of each of the bigger Stone bottles a couple of weeks ago and they were all great.

  4. "The British list is massively uninspiring. It’ll be like a sea of ‘me-too’ bitters, indistinguishable from each other."

    I wonder about that. I suppose it depends on your expectations but it seems to me that given the amount a person can drink at any one time, there are sufficient beers of all types for all but the most geeky of geeks. (They'll be at BSF anyway and are unlikely to venture much further.) Perhaps you could say what you'd add or take away to make the list more inspiring?

    I actually thought, far from "going mental" there was rather a balanced view of GBBF on Ratebeer, especially from Silk Tork who seemed to understand it pretty well and attracted a lot of agreement. Most people who go to the GBBF are just going for a drink in a giant pub and the atmosphere. They'll find lots to interest them and will have a good time as they have simpler expectations. These are the vast majority that have to be catered for.

    That's the problem with regarding beer in an elitist way. It makes it difficult just to enjoy beer in all its guises for what it is - a drink. And to say there is just endless shit beer offered sounds like a load of toffee nosed bollocks. Of course there are similar types of beer, but anyone who actually drinks beer in pubs will have no trouble in homing in on the decent stuff, though sadly I do agree there are a lot of crap micros.

    Anyway how much beer can you drink even if you attend every session? I doubt if all but the most geeky of geeks would find it hard to get something they like time after time.

    Oh and having tasted all the American beers since we started bringing them over, I can safely say, some of them can also be shit, so your money may well be wasted there too. That's the problem with beer. It isn't straightforward black and white.

    Mind you, I won't be drinking much British beer either, but I do that all the time. I'll just looking for a change and there will be plenty of that.

    Come and say hello on BSF.

  5. Moggy, yup, you never know whether it's been there for a day or a year sadly!

    Dubbel, 'notable for its absentees' - I couldn't agree more. When I first found the list the breweries you mention were the first ones I looked for. I look for what I know and love. As for total abstinence, I'm thinking of going the opposite way and prepping my body for an onslaught!!

    Michael, I agree about Ruination. I had an old bottle last week and it was still in brilliant shape. I've had a fairly dated IPA which didn't hold up so well. We'll just have to see how they taste when we open them. If I had ordered the stout then I probably would've been happy that it's near the BBE, but IPA is different!

    Tandleman, I do agree with what you say. My 'analysis' was very brief and unbalanced and I didn't go into details. Personally, at a showcase event like this I want to see the very best of British brewing from the very best breweries (who defines them the best is the grey area, I guess). I was looking forward to seeing names like Dubbel mentioned and more - BrewDog, Thornbridge, Gadds, Marble, Moor, Lovibonds, Darkstar - and I'd want their BEST beers, or a wider selection from each. It's good that Thornbridge are there but bad that they only have 2 beers.

    I understand that the GBBF caters for everyone and I know that I am coming from a geeky, beer-loving position so I am biased in that way. I may have an elitist view point on it but I can certainly still appreciate any and all styles from anywhere. The thing is that I come to expect a certain excellence in all the beer that I drink now (in the same way that I like all my dinners to be tasty and satisfying). I may order 12 halves from 12 different UK breweries and love all of them and find some amazing ones but on the other end of the scale they might all be terrible. It's a little like a lottery, whereas ordering the names I know from the BSF (or from the UK stuff) is more like backing a horse you know is a strong rider. I just want to win!

    The fact that I will be drinking from the BSF is purely because they are the beers which excite me right now. Last year I went and drank only cask English beer and had a great time, even if I don't remember any of the beers I had (because they were unmemorable...). And I certainly know that there will be dud US beers too but I'll try not to order those either!

    For me the joy of the GBBF is the vast selection to suit everybody from the first-time drinker to the uber-geek. And the joy of being a human being is that we have choice and can make them based on whatever our motivations or desires are. I want hoppy US beer, my mate might want a bucket-load of UK stout and we can both drink happily. The GBBF is the biggest event in the UK beer calendar and I can't wait to be there! And I'll come say Hi and you can recommend the UK beers/brewers that are worth drinking.

  6. It might be comforting to think that 50 shit pubs are closing but that’s simply not the case. You ask “Have any of the good pubs which you visit closed?” Er, yes, several actually. Whilst it’s true that the majority of pubs closing are at the bottom end of the market, we’re well past the point where good pubs are being affected.

    And as for reopening, that’s just nonsense. That’s said without anything to back it up. Sorry to come across as a pub geek, but very, very few reopen. Fact.

  7. Tyson, I appreciate that it's past the point of not affecting decent pubs but I still stand by the comment that the better pubs will be able to survive whereas the lower-end places will struggle; it's survival of the fittest.

    As for the re-opening thing, maybe that is my error in misunderstanding the stories and reports. I took the number of new places opening as pubs that change hands and this is poor form and research on my behalf. Truth is I don't write a blog that is all about news and journalism so these things slip by me! My bad.