Friday 30 July 2010

A Nice Sett of Bottles

I like Badger. I like what they do. Based in Blandford Forum, Dorset, Hall and Woodhouse produce a core range of beers with a simple selection of seasonals. Unlike most British breweries, Badger’s focus is more on their bottle range ahead of their cask selection (since 2000 the bottled beer market has increased 184% whereas cask has declined, only now seeing it level out and begin to increase). Their bottled beers are in supermarkets across the country, so they have a broad reach to beer drinkers (although you can only buy their cask beers in their tied pubs). For me, it’s their labelling which I like the most.

Through research into the beer market and branding (which they do very well) they found that most people thought the brewery was synonymous with the countryside, which is reflected in their labelling - earthy colours, outdoorsy, uncomplicated, that Badger peering around curiously. But it’s the back of the labels where I think they have the most success. An interesting blurb, simple and concise, with a little information and story about the beer which seamlessly blends into a suggested food pairing for the beer. It’s very much in the wine-style of label, just on a 500ml beer bottle – it’s ideal for the casual shopper to pick up, read and understand, while the food suggestion gives a handy point of reference as to what this might be like (even without any idea of the beer, if it says it works with spicy food then we get an expectation of flavour profile). Beneath this blurb are two visual representations of flavour: the Cyclops and the taste chart (like the one for Lemony Cricket, their summer seasonal, below). Cyclops is an industry-wide visualisation (although it’s fair to say that not everyone uses it) of sight, smell and taste suggested by the eye, nose and mouth symbols, which gives two or three descriptions for each. The taste chart is Badger’s own creation, something they added to their labels a number of years ago. This lists Bitter, Sweet, Hoppy, Fruity and Malty and ranks each out of five, offering a suggestion of the taste sensations to be expected, while introducing the concept of malt and hops as ingredients. The success of the labels is that they can encourage new drinkers by giving a number of different hints as to what the beer might be like, something which few others achieve in such a small window of space.

It’s no surprise that the Badger bottles sell well – they give the consumer information which others often don’t. They also work because they stand out well on the shelves, they are consistent, interesting, broad in their reach and flavours and they are largely unchallenging to their market. Their importance is that they are a great gateway brewery: they are good for people who don’t know much about the spectrum of beer flavours because they offer the clues of what they can expect and they present it in a neat way. Some may go no further than happily ferreting through the Badger range, while for others it may be the start of something more. I’m sure most people reading this would’ve had a Badger beer soon after they got the taste for ale and I’m sure there are readers who still have Badger beers in their fridge now (I’ve got some Blandford Fly and Golden Champion in mine).

Are they a good gateway brewery to introduce new drinkers to different flavours? Are the labels successful? Do you like these visual clues to beers? Should others follow the Badger lead with their labelling information?

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Global Lager, Locally (aka The Little Things)

Two weeks on a little Greek island means two weeks of drinking nothing but ice cold lager. And that’s a good thing. When the air is hot and dry and the sun is shining then a glass of lager is what I want in my hand. Forget big hops, forget barrel-aged whatevers, forget anything prefixed with imperial, why would you drink anything other than something cold, thirst quenching and refreshing?

The ubiquitous Stella-Carling-Fosters-Carlsberg-Kronenbourg line-up does nothing except inject a sad, staid sense of déjà-vu, but go abroad and suddenly the choice becomes exotic with lesser-spotted brands and the local lagers, plus you’re on holiday so the usual rules are not applicable – you can have chips with every meal, you can sleep in, you can go to bed late, you can wear nothing but shorts and you can drink buckets of lager and not feel naughty.

But one thing did stand out: the difference between the lager brands. I had a variety of different lagers and came to realise that it’s the little things which have the biggest effect. The main global brands in Greece (at least where I was - Skiathos) were Amstel and Heineken. Beneath these were the Greek beers Mythos, Alfa, Fix and Pils Hellas. A few German lagers were around too, the odd Corona or dusty bottle of Budweiser (would you pay 5 euros for a Bud?) and the occasional can of Guinness.

Amstel was better than I expected. It’s got a honey sweetness and a good body that makes it ideal for the hot weather and considering it’s produced by Heineken it’s a lot better than the brand it sits beneath - I thought Heineken was the worst of the beers I had while away; there was nothing redeeming about it. Mythos and Alfa are everywhere, although Mythos is everywhere more. Pils Hellas is a budget brand, cheaper and 4.5% compared to the 5% of the others. It’s a bit thin and lacklustre but not terrible in the sun (just not great either). Fix was a new one to me although it has a long history. It’s smartly branded and stands out but it doesn’t have the shelf-filling ability of the others yet. Flavour-wise it’s okay but there’s something missing which means it doesn’t quite stand up to the others - it did have a nice fruitiness to it and it’s easy drinking. Mythos and Alfa are both full-bodied, there’s an underlying sweetness to them, a dry finish at the end, a ghost-like hint of citrus and they quench a thirst leaving you wanting more. But for me it’s Mythos which stands out above all the others. Why is that?

Drinking the beers it was the subtle differences which stood out. What makes Mythos the best is a touch of sweetness at the tip of the tongue and a full body to give weight in the mouth when the cold kills the flavour. The carbonation is soft and there’s a little citrusy, fruity quality which makes it great with salty food (or salty sea air). The others didn’t have this, but there’s also a je ne sais quoi quality, something hard to describe. It’s just better (although Amstel is a close second, I think) but then Mythos should be the best because it’s made specifically for the Greek market and the Greek weather, right?
There is a flavour similarity to big brand lagers across the world, but there are subtle differences with them all - Bud is different to Stella which is different to Kronenbourg which is different to Chang, yet they are all 5% lagers with similar flavour profiles. So here’s a thought: Mythos in England, even on the hottest day of the year, doesn’t taste great, but would Mythos work in Barcelona on a hot day? Would Estrella Damm be good on a Thai beach? Would Chang be refreshing on a sunny Greek Island? Are these beers made better for drinking them in the country they are produced (and not just because you might be on holiday which makes everything taste better – the rose-tint of sunglasses) because there’s something about them which just works better locally (with the weather, the temperament, the food)? Is there intrinsic value in drinking them ‘local’, even though they are global-scale products? How important is a local place for the global brands of beer?

Tuesday 27 July 2010

World Cup Beer Sweepstake: The Winners!

Cheers to everyone who took part in the World Cup Beer Sweepstake (I know it finished ages ago but I was on holiday, wasn’t I). Over half of people who entered posted something (boo to the others) and there were some fantastic blogs of beer chasing and beer drinking. The winners were Arfur Daley and Sam Hill who were the lucky two who drew Spain. Arfur wins a year’s supply of beer from myBrewerytap with their excellent 52 Week Beer Club and Sam wins three boxes of beer, one from Adnams Brewery, one from Ales By Mail and one from Highland Brewing Company

Andy has linked to all the posts on his blog, check them out, there really is some great reading in there. Some of my favourites are Reluctant Scooper on Paraguay, Richard Marriott on Portugal, Matt Stokes on Germany and The Ormskirk Baron on Chile.

Monday 26 July 2010

Brew Wharf, Borough Market

Brew Wharf in London’s Borough Market is now a must-visit location on the London beer map. The recent brewery changes have seen it develop into a quality brewpub, selling excellent beer and food, while the beer brewed on site is rapidly becoming some of the best-tasting and forward-thinking cask beer you can find in the UK.

There’s a good feel to the place, as if the brewing of good beer and cooking of good food have elevated it: smart tables and chairs, bare brick walls, glass looking out and in, an open kitchen wafting its aromas all around, a large, high-ceilinged dining space opposite the ‘goldfish bowl’ of a brewery, great beer and food menus, it’s a smart little set-up (and, of course, anywhere that serves big US IPAs and has good burgers is somewhere I want to hang out).

Inside the fridges there’s wine, but there’s more beer. The beer menu gives good descriptions and tasting notes for the unfamiliar while a chalk board announces the latest additions to the fridge. The beer selection is vast and varied from lagers to imperial stouts, via the world of beer, featuring some rare British and American bottles. Then there’s the beers brewed onsite which Saints and Sinners are responsible for. With names like Hopster, Hoptimum and Hopfather, you kind of get an idea of what they’re playing around with. I’ve had a handful of the brews and enjoyed them all – Hoptimum started it all and showed their intent with a great hoppy pale ale; 3 lions was a cheeky, fruity pale ale; Punjabi was a big-hitting citrus-bomb on an India wheat ale; Tasty was a perfectly done balancing act of a brown ale with American hops; and Hopfather is one of the best cask pints I’ve had this year, one sniff and it fires you on a hop rocket straight over to West Coast USA (but then it’s based on Blind Pig, so it should), loaded with big hops, dangerously downable at 6.1%. I also tried some ABC straight from the tank and for its modest 3% ABV it’s excellent (but then it needs to be good as it’s for the British Guild of Beer Writers).

Also – and this is significant – it’s the sort of place which can entice people into trying new or different beers while having them along with food. Its location is in the middle of Foodie HQ and right on the edge of the financial area of the capital meaning that it attracts a diverse crowd - on a Friday night the beer geeks stand next to the suits who both stare at the party girls. The cask selection is constantly changing with new Brew Wharf beers regularly popping up (plus last weekend they had some Moor beer) giving people the chance to try new things (and these beers are all a bit different to the usual ubiquitous selection of me-too cask beers). It’s unique in that it has a strong base of customers and its serving more and more good beer, so here’s hoping that it can be a pivotal London location for great beers and food.

Along with the Old Brewery in Greenwich and The Florence in Herne Hill, it’s possible to get beer brewed on site (or very nearby) with a good food menu in a smart location in London. Add to this the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Hyde Park, which has nine kegs of craft beer (did you know that?), the White Horse, the Draft House pubs and all those many other pubs serving great food, including the Michelin-starred Harwood Arms, and London is looking pretty good on the food and beer front.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Michael Jackson

I’ve been asked to write a piece for the Brewery History Society for a special Michael Jackson edition of their journal. The journal will look at many different aspects of Michael’s beer writing including Beer Styles, the Taste of Beer, Belgian Beer and Craft Beer in the USA. My piece is on Beer Writing in the New Media so I wanted to open it out to people who read and write online to get their thoughts – it seems more pertinent to do this than to just speak to the old media pack. So, a few questions for you, for which I’d be very grateful for responses (which I will use them in the article – feel free to go off-piste and give general thoughts, the questions are there more as a guide):

Do you own any Michael Jackson books? Which? Do you read them regularly, do you use them for reference?

Have you seen any of the Beer Hunter shows online?

If you write a blog then is Michael’s work influential in any way?

Do you read any of his articles held online at Beer Hunter?

Does his influence extend into beer community websites like Rate Beer and Beer Advocate (I’ll be asking this on Rate Beer to see what people over there say)?

I think many take for granted the influence Michael had. In researching this I’ve found that I’d taken it for granted – the language I use to discuss beers is directly a result of the work he did, when I discuss styles it’s only because Michael told the world about them, when I drink a lambic now I can thank Michael for effectively ‘saving’ a style which might have died, when I drink a US craft beer I know that he was a major champion when the world still thought that Bud was the king of US beers.

Any thoughts or comments would be very helpful – I want to know what people currently communicating (reading, speaking, writing or even tweeting) about beer online think about Michael Jackson.

Monday 19 July 2010

The Captain

A face craggy with a life at sea. Sun, salty air, cigarettes, wind, frowning against the bright glare. Salt and pepper stubble, thickly spread, grey whiskers above a dry top lip. Hair upright as if stuck in a permanent headwind. Lines etched across his face from years of the same expression, from the same stare out to sea. Thick arms and wide back stretching his blue shirt, veins over his paw hands like rope, always shoeless, running around the boat as if he were moving carefree fingers over his wife's body in the dark. A soft, powerful nicotine-gruff voice, a tooth missing. He could be anywhere from 35-65 years old, there's no way to tell. The years pass differently at sea, I hear.

And at his feet someone follows. A son or grandson, fluffy blonde hair, fudge-coloured skin, maybe eight years old, a big smile missing his front teeth, soft and thin arms, copying everything the captain does, knowing what to do, winding the heavy ropes, standing on deck looking out, pretending to be his obvious hero, grown-up and trying to impress. And when we stop he jumps into the sea with a childlike squeal, jumping off the top deck, swimming to shore, climbing on board, jumping off again. And we sail again. The two stand side-by-side at the front of the boat, the Captain invisibly, perceptibly with his arm around the boy, smiling, proud as they take the same stance, hand over brow, looking out over the inky water. And then he gets to be the Captain, the boy, and sail across the expanse of open sea. I've never seen so much joy, excitement, command or belonging in a young boy's eyes. He was born to be on the sea, just like the Captain.

(No beer in this post, I just couldn't resist writing about these two. The trip was supposedly the Sporades Sunshine Cruise but was actually an ostensible Mumma Mia Experience, the soundtrack playing throughout, the 'look to your right, that island is clearly shown in the background of a scene, in the scene someone is singing and dancing on the beach' or 'this beach was in the film' or 'if you want to go to the church then you can but you'll have to pay a taxi driver and you'll miss your lunch'. The Captain was actually in the film. He'd be hard to miss - he's the one who looks like he's made from old oak, rope and sand. The boat in the picture, we were told, was also in the film.)

Friday 16 July 2010

FABPOW: Beer Snacks

I've thought for a long time that whitebait should be a great beer snack. Should be. Trouble is, whenever I've had it, it's essentially just greasy batter and indistinguishable grey matter inside. Just terrible. Then, earlier this week, I ordered 'fresh fried fishes'. I couldn't resist the charming name. They came out, heads and tails and all, lightly battered, probably just flour and seasoning, a little crunch of a mouthful, crispy batter giving way to fresh, soft fish and bones. A squeeze of lemon all it needed (though I couldn't help thinking a lemon and garlic mayo would be ideal to dunk into). This - with a cold lager on the side (always and only lager for this one, something cold, with hot weather around, preferably by the sea), sitting by the old port in town, watching people walk up and down, seeing the boats come in and out - was beer snacking at its best.

Best, that is, until I discovered something to rival the fresh fried fishes: BBQ'd octopus. Bite-sized chunks of pearly tentacles cooked over coals, tender inside, fire-blistered suckers outside, sweet and smoky and just-fishy, the most charred pieces (the tentacle ends, thin and curled) crispy and meaty, like pork crackling from the sea (I always find pork scratchings have an underlying fishiness to them, anyone else get that? An anchovy-thing, cured and salted). And this one, while great with a cold lager, could be fantastic with a chilled, charry porter or a lemony gueuze. Or with just about any other beer you want.

The best beer snacks? These are now on the list along with sausages and mustard, pork scratchings, chips (of course), crispy chicken skin... Finger foods, little mouthfuls, salty and crispy. I'm hungry now. What else is there?

Thursday 15 July 2010

To the beach

Not much happening, exactly what we wanted. It's hot. To the beach. A different one today, further away. We walk - it's good exercise. It's further than we think. It's hot. The beach is quiet. In two weeks it'll be busy, the Italians will be here, this tour guide told us three days ago on a boat. It's windy, the water's too rough to swim in. We can see the mainland. We went there last week, had lunch. The sand is so hot it burns our feet when we leave, jumping across it, searing pain up to the knees. We walk back. Lauren doesn't talk to me much on the way back, she said I was staring at this girl. This girl was okay, the one I was staring at. I was mostly just reading The Rules of Attraction. Rock'n'roll.

Later. We go to the other beach, the close beach. The sea is calm, shimmering and bright blue. Lots of leathery skin all around, pink, brown, flashes of white. Girl with Page 3 tits sits next to guy with Men's Health pecs. Next to them an old couple lie wrinkled and brown like walnuts, asleep on their loungers. Next to them a kid makes sandcastles. His dad stares at the Page 3 tits, the kid's mum reads Mills & Boon, or chicklit or something. I read some more, remember the film, but not that well and decide to watch it again when I get home. Swim. Find a sunset red starfish that looks fake but isn't. The sea is still except for the occasional breaking wave from a cruise ship that passed by 15 minutes ago. Fish all around, some at the surface, some on the sea bed, little darts of silver. Play frisbee back on land. We manage 93 before I drop an easy one. Buy water, beer, fruit and crisps on the way home. Read some more while drinking an Alfa on the balcony as the sun moves out of sight, behind us. One couple are in the pool. She's terribly overweight, tattoos on her shoulders, he's thin, sunburnt, a beer on the pool's edge. They talk too loudly.

The waitress at dinner really doesn't care. I order moussaka and 500ml of house red wine (four euros for the wine). I ask for fried potatoes too. That's what they are called on the menu. She doesn't understand. I point to where it says fried potatoes. Chips, she says. Chips, I say. The moussaka comes in a ceramic pot which means it's beyond hot inside. Lauren doesn't like her dinner so I eat some and it's just okay. She looks good, her skin tanned, little freckles on her nose. I finish the wine.
More bang for your buck, I tell Lauren. I have to explain what this means. She doesn't drink, does she.

Bastard mosquitoes are everywhere. In the night Lauren jumps out of bed and launches a trainer at the ceiling. She turns the light on. I was asleep. It's a fucking cockroach, she screams. It flew in my face. I tell her to turn the light off while she's hitting the cockroach with a broom. It's still alive, she says as she throws another shoe at it. Got it, she says. It's too hot to sleep.

I finish reading the book in the morning. It makes me want to write something. I miss the tap of the keyboard but love the messy scratching of the pencil on paper. Writing in the sun reminds me of Hemingway's The Garden of Eden (without the lesbians or elephants). I'm sitting by the pool, Lauren is on the lilo, unknown pop music is playing somewhere. Later we are going to the beach. Lauren just fell off the lilo.

Monday 12 July 2010

FABPOW: Gyros and Mythos

Only one of the best on location FABPOWs ever, Gyros and Mythos belong together like Aphrodite and Adonis.

Food and beer work together best where local food and local beer meet - there's a natural belonging to the two which means they effortlessly pair up, often side-by-side with weather and place: ploughmans and a pint of bitter in a pub garden, carbonnade and a dubbel outside a small Belgian cafe, cheeseburger and a double IPA in a brewpub. The local beers complement and fit neatly with everything around them.

The Greeks know what they are doing when it comes to kebabs. The turning spit of pork is carved to give hot, tender slices of meat and big chunks of fat, some soft, some crispy like crackling. That's a great start. With this you get fresh, garlicky tzatziki, sweet tomatoes, crunchy red onions, ketchup and mustard and chips. Yes, chips INSIDE the kebab. Incredible. It's everything you want and need in a meal and it's all wrapped up in a thick, soft pitta, freshly grilled and slightly charred. Delicious man food.

It's not a grey, sweaty indefinable lump (although many are served by something of this description), it doesn't come with chilli sauce, mate, it's not the reserve of a blurry-eyed 2am re-fuel and it's not served in a styrofoam box. A gyros is what all kebabs wish they were.

And, of course, the only thing to ever drink with it is a Mythos (crisp yet soft carbonation, full bodied, refreshingly cold, a subtle sweetness - it deals with grilled and salty food with uncomplicated ease, as if born to do this very thing).

It's a fast food FABPOW brought to you straight from Greece. But don't try this one at home: it only works whilst sitting outside in the sun, the heat warming your back as you dribble tzatziki down your chin, thinking that there could be nothing more immediately satisfying (in a primal, messy, eat-with-your-hands kind of way) to eat in the whole world.

Friday 9 July 2010

Holiday Update

This is a picture of the tiled floor of the bathroom of the apartment we are staying in. It looks like delicious wedges of blue cheese. Imagine a floor made of blue cheese. What a thing that would be. Nothing else in the apartment looks like food. There is, however, a strange blue stitched cloth hanging on the wall which looks like a Grecian cherub knocking one out.

Last night I squashed a mosquito in my sleep with my feet (take that!). The mosquito, or a friend of his, still bit me. We are currently 1-1.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Out of Office Auto Response

I am out of the office and won’t return until Tuesday 20th July. Should anyone need me I’ll be on a hot, Greek beach or in a bar drinking ice cold Mythos.

If you have a question about World Cup Beer Sweepstake then please see Andy Mogg. The competition ends on 11th July. For any other enquiries please search the extensive list of names on the left hand side of this page.

I will be on my email; I may send a few tweets; I might even blog. If you need to contact me then please text, email or send a twitter DM and I will try to respond to you promptly. Anything non-essential will likely be forgotten or ignored.

See you when I get back!

Monday 5 July 2010

Guest Blog: World Cup Beer Sweepstake - Bier Uber Alles

I met Matt the day I started university. He was staying in the room next to mine. We bonded over Chatham (I went to Chatham Grammar school, he went to Chatham House) and our yet-to-come-out housemate Iain. He is also the one who got me into real ale, so I’ve got lots to thank him for, and if you see me out drinking in London then he is likely the guy I’m drinking with.

It’s taken almost two years but he’s finally written a post for the blog (probably only because he might win free beer out of it). Hopefully, because I think it’s brilliant, he’ll write a few more.

Germany… cheers Marky. The one team I didn’t want to be cheering on, no matter how many hops are on the line. I instantly gave up on the idea of winning any beer, as Germany would surely be toppled by England at some point on their way to a glorious victory over Brazil in the final. Some lucky chap got England in the sweepstake, and will be sitting there on July 11th sipping an English bitter, and wondering if life gets any better.

(OK so it didn’t quite work out that way, but blind optimism is a lifestyle choice and I’m sticking with it).

I could not be short of inspiration for this task, as Germany has a rich and illustrious history in both the beer and football departments, and if I had chosen to base my beverage on their beer credentials, a world of delights awaited me. I could have raved about a creamy kolsch, admired a refreshing pilsner, or even got a bit smoky with a naughty rauchbier. I could have done this while talking about German beer purity laws, Oktoberfest, steins, bratwurst, pretzels and numerous other subjects which paint Germany in an impressive light.

However, this is world cup time and I approached it from a football perspective, which as an English fan talking about the Germans means jingoism, patriotism and no short measure of stereotypes. My selection of beer would represent nothing more than national pride, resentment and prejudice toward the dull, efficient, mechanical and bloody successful football team they insist on producing every time a major tournament comes around. They can beat us on penalties and make Gazza cry all they like, but I can tell the world that they make substandard beer. So I didn’t search the web, I didn’t go to any of the excellent German food markets or delicatessens around London, or even an awesome bierkeller; I went to LIDL in Finsbury Park.

Walking around the world of unpronounceable bargains, I looked for an appropriate beer to chastise and deride. I found my prey right in the middle of the utilitarian warehouse, a 5 litre keg of Grafenwalder Pils, decorated like an old fashioned football, all for the bargain price of 10 Sterling. I stocked up on chocolate, cured meat and lemonade, and set about lugging it all back on the bus across North London.

Keeping it cold was a challenge – I had to remove pretty much everything in the fridge, including some of the shelves. I also had to think about when I was going to drink this thing – 5L is somewhere north of 8 pints, which is a lot to drink during the week, especially if working with a hangover is not one of your talents.

I started on the Tuesday, and attempted my very best tasting notes, because as much as I wanted to dislike it, it was still a beer and deserved due care and attention. My initial reaction was cold, mainly. And fizzy. But I can do better than that, surely.

It poured a rather lively pale yellow, with a clean white head that dissipated quickly, and clung in unattractive patterns to the edges of the glass. The aroma was slightly bready, a touch of grassiness, and generally ‘beery’. It tasted very clean, almost to the point of being soapy and antiseptic. There are some doughy, caramel notes too sweet for the lack of bitterness, and just enough grassy hops to remind you that something in here grew from the ground. Light and watery with little texture or body, it did however have a nice refreshing quality, and a boozy finish which made me feel like I was drinking more heavily than I was, which is always nice when watching football. My girlfriend also assures me it delivers an excellent shandy.

I retrieved it form the fridge on night 2, and it was much better. This may have been because I had just watched England beat Slovenia while drinking probably the best lager in the world at my boss’s expense, but whatever. I had a few very jovial glasses and started to think I had misjudged this brilliant, misunderstood beer. Again, thumbs up on the shandy.

Night 3 brought things into perspective, not only because half of the remaining beer had slowly dribbled from its container into the crisper. The life had drained from this once great beast, and it told. Flat, lifeless and devoid of flavour, it was a real chore to dispense with the remaining liquid (I did though, it’s still beer). Thumbs down for the shandy too.

So in summary, I attempted to balance out England’s massive inferiority on the football pitch with some good old German bashing, which to an extent worked just fine. But actually I had quite a lot of fun both finding and drinking the beer, which helped give more than one evening plenty of merriment. I watched England v Germany on Sunday, and they were far superior to us in every department. But as I drank with my friends Fuller, Smith and Turner, I was comforted by the fact that I could take pride in something English on a daily basis. Still wish we were better at football though.

Cheers Matt. Only eight people are left in with the chance of winning and we're still missing lots of blog posts. If you aren't still in and you haven't posted then I hope you still do. The deadline is the World Cup final so get them posted by then!

Sunday 4 July 2010

The First Time...

The first time I tried beer it was horrible. I was just a boy.

The first time I went to the pub I had a pint of lager.

The first time I got drunk it wasn’t because I had too much lager, it was because I had too much cider.

The first time I tried a dark beer it was too astringent, it was too different.

The first time I tried proper cider it tasted like sour apples and horse shit.

The first time I tried Newcastle Brown Ale I felt cooler. I was cooler.

The first time I tried good cask real ale was a revelation. It was Hobgoblin or Gales HSB.

The first time I tried a hoppy pale ale I didn’t like it. I wanted it to taste like Hobgoblin or HSB.

The first time I had an 8% beer I couldn’t believe how strong it was. Just a half of that one.

The first time I had an imperial stout I couldn’t believe how delicious it was, how big and different.

The first time I had an Innis & Gunn I thought it was the best beer I’d ever tasted.

The first time I tried Orval I didn’t know why it tasted that way.

The first time I tried lambic I was warned: “It’s as flat as a witch’s tit and sour as hell.” That made me want it more. I hated it.

The first time I had Stone Ruination IPA I discovered hops. I discovered I loved them.

The first time I had Drie Fonteinen Gueuze I realised why people love gueuze.

The first time I really enjoyed a saison came as a revelation. See also: wheat beer, lager, US-style barley wine, tripels.

The first time I had a pint of beer seems a long time ago now.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Bottles and Labels: The Present and the Future

UPDATE: This was a full blog post but it turns out the piece I posted was used in print (I didn't think it had been) so I had to take it down. There's not much left to see except for a few plastic bottles. In the piece I suggested some extra-sensory labels which was inspired by Pete Hollingsworth's great article on it which is well worth reading. Anyone who did read my piece before I took it down should forget that you saw it here...!

To keep the post alive... what could the future of beer containers and labelling realistically be? Is plastic an option? Lighter glass? Aluminium bottles/cans? Extra-sensory labels? No labels? Shaped glass? What do you think?