I write about craft beer.
Monday, 30 November 2009
I write about craft beer.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Here’s the full post.
Friday, 27 November 2009
Personally, I don’t like smoking. I never particularly minded it in pubs because it was always just a part of it – people smoked in the pub, that was fact. I only cared when I was eating or if their smoke shrouded me. For me, Tim has summed it up perfectly: ‘If I farted in a room and wafted it in [a smoker’s] face they would be offended. If my fart was comprised of chemicals that are going to kill them they would be even more upset.’ I’ve been in pubs which have almost cleared because someone farted. It’s not very nice. And just because someone is smoking on the other side of the room, it doesn’t mean I will be unaffected: smoke just isn’t very nice. And it kills people.
Smoking added to the atmosphere in some places, that’s undeniable. It has also, as Curmudgeon’s post puts so well, taken people away from the pub. Will it be the death of the pub? Frankly, if pubs are closing because people can’t smoke in them then there are bigger societal and industry issues that need looking at. Will this start anti-booze lobbyists? Probably, but they won’t get anywhere fast (it’s not the booze that's the problem, it’s the people who drink it and how they drink it).
The smoking ban is clearly an issue to some very vocal people. If you want to smoke then fine, do it, it’s your choice. But how do you expect me to sit in the pub, swirling and sniffing my pint, trying to write detailed and eloquent tasting notes, when you are blowing that smelly smoke into the air. Come on, have some consideration.
In other news, I heard something about a beer made with 32 penguins. I bought one. I’ll reserve judgement until I try it.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
The top three on the night were:
Monday, 23 November 2009
I've just remembered a couple of others but instead of trying to thumb them in somewhere I'll add them at the end. There was an unremarkable Dark Star Oktoberfest (5.2%) and a remarkably roasty but unchocolatey Chocolate Stout (4.7%) from Abbeydale. And no, I didn't drink all of these myself. Thankfully we were all happy enough to pass our glasses around, sharing the great beer.
Sunday, 22 November 2009
The full piece is here. If you'd like to comment then I don’t mind whether you did it here or there. My Hop Press page is here.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
BEER AT THE BULL
BEER AT DARTFORD WORKING MENS CLUB
And... In addition to all that, they have a number of casks waiting in the wings at The Bull, including:
There we go. Not bad, eh? I’ll be there on the Saturday. It’s very tempting to head up on the Friday too... Anyone else going? It takes just over 30 minutes out of London (the train to Dartford goes from London Bridge too, so if you are there to drink BrewDog at The Rake then come down after!). I know the beers I want to try across the two places, but which of these are unmissable?
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
CAMRA (the clue is in the name) have built themselves around pushing and progressing real ale in Britain and beyond. They have a bad reputation but that’s an aesthetic thing which will take years to shift – it took years to grow it so asking it to change is a moot point. If it wasn’t for CAMRA then beer wouldn’t be where it is now. The trouble is, beer is moving on in the UK and the CAMRA-shackles are slowing it down because of their dominant name and standing in the industry. And this isn’t going to change. CAMRA won’t shift their key ideological stance and rightly so. LOBI are new into the debate (I've written about them before). They have nothing like the standing of CAMRA and I don’t ever expect them to. LOBI are lager, CAMRA are real ale and there’s a loggerhead in the middle which isn’t shifting to allow the two to work together. This is about the loggerhead.
I’ve had cask lager at CAMRA beer festivals and that’s not the issue; it’s the kegged version which crosses the line. Would I like to see keg beer at CAMRA beer festivals? I guess so. Why not? Tandleman (in a great post) points out that CAMRA don’t have a style or category for lagers, which leaves them in the ‘speciality’ section. I think calling it speciality is making it something ‘other’. I’d love to see a cask lager category added for judging and maybe this would encourage brewers, too. But, more lager needs to be brewed over a prolonged period of time before this will happen. As there isn’t the support for it, and it’s generally more expensive to brew, then will this happen?
It’s tempting to look at the US and their dispense system, which is more keg than cask. In terms of brewing they are the front-runners in the beer world right now (sure they don’t have the history, but their influence is undeniable). If more brewers are going to follow the US footsteps then maybe we will see more British beer made for the keg. Maybe this will then see more people generally (as in, the non-real ale crowd; as in, the masses) turned on to the delights of craft brews (the stigma of the handpump is a hard one to shift). I have no problem with keg beer and I’d like to see more of it. See: Meantime, Lovibonds, BrewDog.
CAMRA won’t change their essential belief and why should they. I don’t expect to see kegged, micro-brewed lagers at CAMRA festivals any time soon. I do expect to see more lagers but I also expect them to taste like pale or golden ales, which neither appeals to the lager market nor the real ale market (call it lager, make it taste like lager – I love Schiehallion because it tastes great but it doesn’t taste like lager as I know it). One question, though: LOBI represent lager but most (maybe all) of the brewers they support also brew ale, so do they promote the ale side of things, too? The debate just spins around and around.
For me, it is, and always will be, about Great British Beer. The yeast which ferments it doesn’t bother me. The dispense doesn’t bother me (pour it straight from a jug, I don’t care as long as it tastes good). A re-seeding to cask-condition doesn’t bother me. CO2 doesn’t bother me. The staling reputation of CAMRA does bother me, but as drinkers get younger I think it will change. GBBF shows how popular beer is, even if it is like a big theme park. As for lager and LOBI, Tandleman writes, “they must stand or fall by their own ability to penetrate a market which is likely to be indifferent to them. An inconvenient truth? Maybe, but the market will decide.” I completely agree. It’s hard not to. Craft lagers are going up against the huge brands and they won’t win. It’s logical for an organisation like LOBI to start with the real ale drinkers and work their way out from there – it’s a ready-formed market. Of course, the other side of this asks: will those out-spoken members of CAMRA, whose voices raise above all the others, accept lager? The institution may accept it; the (minority of) members may not.
I don’t like these constant ‘battles’ against CAMRA. I am a member but feel no reason to defend them unless they do wrong (if they banned cask lager then I’d have an issue, although it is still the Campaign for Real Ale...). They have downfalls but it’s those ‘downfalls’ which have elevated them, and British beer, to where it is now and we should all be thankful. From here British beer needs to grow. Anything that hopes to ‘challenge’ CAMRA or promote something similar has to start from the bottom and redress what has already been done. We’re a long way off that. This isn’t a CAMRA vs. Lager/LOBI debate and they have to work together, I just wish that there was a Campaign for Great British Beer - whatever it is and however it’s served - because I think the future of drinking in Britain is much bigger than just cask real ale.
I hope that the size of the debate on The Guardian will open some eyes to beer and give it a more prominent place. I like to think it deserves it. A lot of us drink it and a lot of us really care about it. Barm has also covered the story here, focusing on the CO2 side of things, in a good, to-the-point post.
Monday, 16 November 2009
We each have a blog and we each have a day to post on. My day is Sunday and this is my blog. As an introduction, all of the writers have posted something today and then normal service will begin from there. This is my first post, titled My Beer and Me.
I’ve prepared some interesting blogs which will hopefully get more and different exposure to Pencil&Spoon. My blog is still my number one – it’s my baby! – but the Hop Press gives me a new space where I can try some different things. It’s basically Pencil&Spoon subbing as a ringer for another side once a week - it won’t change how I play here but it’ll give me a chance to play with others. The first post is up. The next one will be there on Sunday 22nd November. Check out the Hop Press as there are some great writers on there and hopefully it’ll become the best place on the web for varied and interesting beer content.
You may have seen me tweeting about having wordpress woes the last week or so. This is why.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
In my own search I wanted to incorporate where I lived previously and where I live now. The two are only about 20 miles apart but they open up a lot more breweries to choose from. Where I am now allows me to reach into Sussex, where I was before allows me north and east Kent. Maybe this is stretching the 30-mile rule, but I think it’s okay… I wanted to send some bottles from Gadds as I think they are the best brewery around here, but as beermerchants stock them and as they are/were 40 miles away I chose not to. I ended up buying all of the beers in shops that I can walk to and shops which I go or weekly. To be sure I was sending the best stuff, I took the bottles off the shelves and I tried them again (research purposes) and suddenly those bottles which I automatically walked past come alive and knocked me on the head for not drinking them regularly. How could I have just walked past these so often? Ignoring them, looking for something more exotic. Silly me for looking elsewhere.
I eventually settled on sending Hopdaemon’s Skrimshander, Whitstable Brewery’s Raspberry Wheat, Westerham’s Little Scotney Pale Ale and Harvey’s Star of Eastbourne. I won’t tell you what they are like, that’s up to Sam Lanes from Real Ale Reviews. I also put a little bottle of Biddenden cider in for him to try as a bonus extra. My box arrived up north a few days ago (although sadly Skrimshander didn’t survive the journey, oops – I’ll send a replacement or two). I know a box is on its way to me – I can’t wait to receive it and drink them!
There are still a few weeks left to send, receive, drink and write. I think Beer Swap has been great fun and I love seeing all the #beerswap hashtags coming in (I keep it constantly on my tweetdeck). I’m surprised at how well it’s been taken up and I’m sure there’ll be another in a few months time. For now, what it’s done is show me just how willing we are to share what we have and how eager we are to try new things. It’s also shown that I must look at what’s made on my doorstep as it’s really quite good.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
If you read Mark’s blog regularly you will know he has a long suffering girlfriend, I am that girlfriend and I thought I would give this blogging a go.
Mark is a beer geek and this has both pros and cons. Let me start with the pros, hmmmmm, yes the pros, actually let’s come back to that and let’s start with the cons.
I am most frustrated by the amount of Mark’s times he dedicates to his love of beer. He is either drinking, reading, buying or writing about beer, this leaves very little time for anything else, and most importantly no money for presents. When cleaning the flat I often come across bottle tops (Mark insists on hiding these on the top shelf where he thinks I won’t find them... wrong!) and empty bottles (he has taken to using these for flowers; I think this is to stop me throwing them out). Our wardrobe, commonly used for clothes, is used to store beer, and until recently a whole corner of the bedroom was taken up by a box of beer (it might be worth mentioning the 19 bottles I’ve just ordered from Brewdog... I’m eyeing up that corner again). The fridge is always full of beer which I am not allowed to lay down to make more room for my hummus and Coke Zero. I hate washing the odd shaped glasses and finding space for them in the cupboard (Mark is very precious about his glasses). I have been dragged along to beer festivals, often bribed with chocolate and biscuits and magazines. I am often the only female with her own teeth (I haven’t taken her to any good beer festivals, just the down-market smelly ones, so this is probably my fault!) and Mark always leaves me alone while he finds anther beer lover to talk to, and this seems to invite strange drunk men to sit next to me and strike up conversations about the odd band which have been deafening me. After a festival, beer night, pub, or evening in front of the tele with a few beers, I have been kept awake listening to Mark talking in his sleep when he has had one-too-many (yes, it’s quite odd, and he often laughs in his sleep when he has had more than 2 pints, weirdo). And I always know when he’s getting drunk because he doesn’t stop talking, yabbering on about everything and anything, usually beer-related.
And no, I don’t want to just try a sip. I don’t care how good you think it is, I don’t want to try it.
The pros of being with a beer geek are the sheer passion and enthusiasm which I find so infectious. I enjoy smelling the different beers, looking at the pretty labels and watching that smile on his face when he opens the special beer he has been waiting for all week. I enjoy listening while Mark tells me what people are saying on twitter, who is drinking what and where, and reading the lovely comments on his blog (I’m sure there are more pros than this... she gets to go on lovely day trips to different pubs... anything else...).
Sometimes I do wish Mark wrote about biscuits or cake because the tasting would be much more fun and I could share in his enthusiasm, but really I enjoy his passion, and I know it makes him happy. I think that my life would be quite dull without Mark’s interest in beer and the pros far outweigh the cons. I am so proud that this beer geek is all mine.
(During the writing of this blog I also discovered how annoying it is when you are trying to write whilst somebody talks to you. I will in future leave him to write in peace).
Lots of love from Lauren.
There we go. All I have done is a quick clean-up edit. I think this post is great and it made me smile. What do you think your other half would write if she had the chance? See if they’ll do it! And I’ll be reminding Lauren of this post on Saturday night when she comes home and sees six very drunk chaps and a lot of empty bottles of stout (plus general food carnage) spread around the flat.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
To begin, she doesn’t actually drink beer. This is both good and bad. It’s good because she can be my driver. It’s bad because I’d love to share these bottles with her and have her get excited about them with me. I’ve tried hard to get her to like it but it’s not going to happen. Lauren does, however, have a great nose for smelling beer. And a great ear for listening about it. You see, whenever I am anywhere with a beer or whenever I’m doing things which I write about on here, Lauren is usually always there. She’s the one next to me in the pub reading her magazine (the bribe to keep her there so I can have a couple), the one opposite me at dinner while I talk to her about something beer-related, or how I wish they had something else on, or how next week I plan to open this bottle or that, or she’s sitting on the sofa while I sit behind at the table tapping into the laptop, “spending more time talking to people on twitter than talking to me”, posting blogs, or she’s in the driver’s seat while I give (always bad or wrong) directions to some distant “old man’s pub”, or she’s listening to me describing why this beer is good and that beer isn’t or how this one could be better or how I wish I could go here or there, or she’s putting beer glasses back into the cupboard or moving bottles around in the fridge because they take up more room than the food, or she sees me putting away my latest beer order and wonders when I’ll spend some money on her for once, or she’s answering questions as I playfully quiz her on my latest blog post (“You’re my favourite beer blogger,” she told me once, “but then I don’t read anyone else’s blog”), or she’s patiently waiting for me to post a blog, or read a blog, or send a tweet, or buy the bottles I’ve been staring at for ages which took us an hour out of our way to get, or she’s following to a pub (“honestly, it’s just around this corner” I say, hearing the feet drag) only to walk straight out because there’s nothing on, or she’s waiting to start eating her dinner while I take pictures of mine, or she’s planning her next few weekends around my drinking schedule, or she’s kicking me out of bed when my 5am alarm clock goes off so I can get up early to write or she’s woken up late when I steam back in at midnight (I’m sure she’ll tell me what I’ve forgotten, too).
And then there’s the times when she talks to me about beer, when she mentions hops or buys me some of my favourite bottles, when she says she likes something I’ve just written or she suggests going to London to go to some pubs or she says, “I bet that beer would be great with chocolate cake”, or when I catch her looking at my blog and reading the comments people leave, or when she smells a beer and picks out aromas I hadn’t, or when she clears away all my empties and tells me that she likes this label or doesn’t remember me drinking that bottle, “what was it like?”, or when she genuinely takes an interest in what’s in my glass.
I’m quite lucky, I think.
I write this blog but there’s always someone else there, someone who probably should hate beer but tolerates it and listens and actually knows a lot about it because she cares about what I care about. I guess she’s the real Spoon to my Pencil.
Sorry if this is gushy and sentimental but that should keep her sweet while we go for a huge steak dinner at the Hawksmoor on Friday (she doesn’t eat meat) and then drink around Borough, followed by a massive and potentially messy beer night at ours on Saturday, followed by more beer on Sunday and Monday (she will also hopefully be cooking me dinner on Monday). Plus next weekend at The Bull’s huge beer festival, the weekend after at The White Horse’s Old Ale Festival, then the British Guild of Beer Writers Dinner (which she isn’t coming to) followed by the Pig’s Ear beer festival the next day and then the next weekend on a London pub crawl.
Monday, 9 November 2009
Mmm. Nothing like that first beer refreshment, especially when it’s a 9.8% hoppy, old ale opened at 1.30am after a couple of hours of pre-World Series nap.
Last season I drank a different beer with each game of the World Series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5a, 5b) but, as it wasn’t planned further ahead than the first game, the beer choice wasn’t all that spectacular (there was a Bud and a Root Beer as part of the selection!). I vowed to drink better during the next World Series.
That time has come and I do have better beer, it’s just that I don’t really feel that thirsty at 1am, plus something stops me opening them just for the sake of being able to write a blog post about them. But I’m drinking now (or was when I wrote this) – I’ve got a Founder’s Old Curmudgeon Ale while I watch the fifth game of the Fall Classic.
Old Curmudgeon (from beermerchants) is red/amber with a heady and fruity nose of cherry, bread and old orangey c-hops. It’s malty, full bodied and smooth, it’s fruity, there’s toasty grain and caramel and then into a dry, bitter, woody finish which rolls into a vanilla oakiness further down the glass. The one thing I love about the Founders beers are their labels – they are great to look at – but the double edge to this is that I have no idea about style or ingredients from it (I like my bottles to come with a style – although the Old on this one is a hint – and a geeky list of the hops used). The Founders website describes Old Curmudgeon as an ‘old ale brewed with molasses... then aged in oak.’ It’s not the most refreshing first beer of the day, but then it is approaching 2am by now (or it was...).
I also opened a beer with Game 2 - a Southern Tier Iniquity Black Ale (also from beermerchants - this is a recurring theme...). At 9% it’s black-red, smooth with a great hoppy aroma – oranges and dry, spicy pine – and filled with a caramel and chocolate malt base. The hops live mainly in the nose and flavour and aren’t tongue-smacking-bitter, which is a good thing - it’s one of the first hoppy dark beers which I’ve really enjoyed (I don’t ‘get’ the citrus-floral bitterness and roasty-bitter dark malt combination).
While we’re on US beers (...writing to keep the zzzs away...), I’ve had the Founders Double Trouble (from beermerchants) a couple of times and that’s a wicked IPA with cakey malt and a bitterness which clings and claws through grapefruit, orange pith, tropical fruit and a floral flourish. It’s 9.4% and 86 IBU and just my kind of thing – I’d love to get it super fresh from the brewery. Then the Mikkeller/Three Floyds Oatgoop (from beermerchants), a deliciously drinkable hoppy oat wine with a whole spectrum of malt flavours and a big punch of those deliciously more-ish US hops at the end. There was a Lost Abbey Devotion (from beermerchants), a Belgian-style blonde, orange-gold, zesty and peppery, light and drinkable, fruity – I don’t love blondes as a style but this one I liked a lot. Finally, an Alesmith Yulesmith (from beermerchants) with its caramel sweetness to begin, falling deep into fragrant and floral, then piney and punchy c-hop bitterness which hangs around for ages (it was good but not as awesome as the AleSmith IPA I had with the first game of baseball this year).
The baseball finished last Wednesday night and the bloody Yankees won the World Series. I haven’t watched enough games this year, which is a shame. If nothing else it’s a good excuse to open some new beers and drink them at a stupid time of day, if you are thirsty.
And as you can probably tell, I’ve spent quite a lot of money at beermerchants recently and there are more in the cupboard which I haven’t opened yet – their selection of US beers is broader and more interesting than all the other online beer-sellers and I like them for that. Also, the odd tense-thing going on in this post is, I know, a little confusing. I guess you can expect that with something initially written at 1.30am and then edited at 5.30am a few days later and then edited again (and finally posted) a few more days later at 8pm. I've been getting into some strange writing habits...
Sunday, 8 November 2009
By writing about this I am catching the bait, I’m sure, but some things need saying.
This is idiocy. I get why they are doing it, I see that, but it doesn't make it the right move. I understand that BrewDog want to highlight flaws in the system, that they want to challenge the system and ultimately get publicity at the end of it, but getting their own beer upheld because of a few words which they wrote is completely illogical, especially when it’s one of the best beers they make.
I am a big fan of the brewery and the beers, but as I said with Nanny State, sometimes you have to tell your loved ones when they do something stupid. BrewDog: this is stupid.
Please do what you do best and make great beer. Please exhaust your energy in trying to sell them, not by trying to get them banned. Let the beer speak for itself. The real losers here are the people who want to drink your beer; the people who pay for your beer. And remember, other people own a stake in your company now. I was impressed with the Movember brew (and I bought some) and this is great publicity and that’s something which you should be pressing to get PR from. Shooting yourself in the foot to prove a point makes you limp around painfully while we all watch on, and it isn’t a good look.
Please, let us catch our breath, let us drink some of your beer and let us look forward to the next beer you release, because that’s where the real hype is for BrewDog, that’s what excites me the most – what beer will I be able to buy next and when will I be able to get it. Keep producing new beer and we will continue to buy it, drink it and talk about it. You are a brewery, not an infamy-chasing, d-list celebrity; by all means show us your sexy new equipment, impress us with hot new beers, promise us great things, just don’t go kamikaze in the process.
Pete Brown has also posted about this latest stunt on his blog.
Friday, 6 November 2009
I’ve only been writing Pencil&Spoon for a year, but in that time the number of other beer blogs has increased massively, especially in the last few months. And there’s a new trend now, which is interesting: beer bloggers are getting younger. Have you noticed that? Hop around the blogosphere and see how many beer bloggers are in their 20s. Brewers are getting younger too and they are having an influence (the New Wave cometh). Combined, these are changing beer in Britain, keeping the traditions of old but invigorating with US boldness.
In blogging terms, I think twitter has a lot to do with it. Everyone knows the sociability of the beer scene and there really is nothing like it – our love for good beer inextricably links us and is the match to start our friendship. Take that sociability, take the curiosity to know what others are drinking, take the fun and drunken tweets, the honest and real-life stuff, the 140-character conversations and soon it’s like sitting in a virtual pub with mates (blogging is the same, just with unlimited letters to do it). What twitter has done is highlight those who are really interested in good beer and opened the community; it’s made it inclusive, it’s shown that there are a lot of people out here who want to drink good beer. And thanks to a few twits and bloggers I think it’s shown that writing about the stuff you drink in the pub, or the bottles you open while watching TV, is pretty good fun.
It boils down to this: Beer blogging is cool. And real ale is cool, too. It’s no longer solely the realm of the old, bearded guy; it’s slowly crept into a young man’s thirsty territory. Beer can’t survive and grow on the old guard alone (although it’s very important, and let’s not forget, age is a state of mind as much as it is a number); it needs new blood, new invigoration and new passion to take it to new places. BrewDog have helped (although this post links in well with the debate sparked from James’ recent interview with FullPint) as have other young brewers, and interest in interesting beer is increasing all the time. British beer is more than murky best bitter and its future ascension rests in the brewing hands of those who make it and those tapping fingers of those who use technology to write about it. With every blog written, every tweet sent and with every new and different brew that hits the pub we are promoting (marketing and physically) British beer.
Is the virtual pub becoming as important as the physical pub?