Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Waitrose Food Illustrated

The cover of this month's Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine states boldly Gordon Ramsey, "Help me save the British pub" and carries a two page emotive article about the continuing demise of the pub.

The editor is obliged to include the now essential headlines "Last orders at the bar" and "pubs are calling time" but this is a further celebrity endorsement to remind people that over 40 pubs are closing every week.

I am all in favour of celebrities promoting pubs and beer. It is easy to discount them as self-promotion but it is hard to deny that Oz and James, Morrisey-Fox and in this case, one of the world's leading chefs, Gordon Ramsey, have championed the pub in a forum that CAMRA, the BBPA or SIBA find it impossible to access.

The Ramsay article could easily have been written directly from a CAMRA press release, touching upon beer duty, good ale, community spirit, CAMRA research and the Axe the Beer Tax and Save the Pub campaigns. It is an article that could sit easily within a CAMRA magazine. Yet, this comes with a major celebrity endorsement and is a cover story in one of Britain's leading supermarkets house magazine with a massive distribution.

Of course, the writer does not touch on the fact that cheap beer in supermarkets is driving drinkers away from pubs into the comfort of their own home but Waitrose are hardly the worst culprits of stack-it-high and sell-it-cheap irresponsible beer promotions.

Furthermore, a few pages on in the magazine, one finds another beer related article as their correspondent, Katie Salter, visits Meantime Brewery to meet Alastair Hook and sample his excellent London Porter - a regular on the shelves at Waitrose. I have never seen an article outside of beer circles that includes the name Obadiah Poundage - obviously prompted by Alastair or Peter Haydon but this is adventurous stuff with which to impress the chattering classes.

Alas the three pages devoted to "drinking" in the magazine should really be headed "drinking wine" as if that is the only worthy drink. However, we are slowly starting to see more coverage of beer in such journals and those that are the most embracing of Britain's national drink should be applauded.

Waitrose Food Illustrated is published monthly and is free to Waitrose/John Lewis card-holders and has a cover price of £2.50.

Monday, 29 June 2009

White Horse, Parsons Green

At last year's Great British Beer Festival CAMRA presented 45 American cask ales. This year I am hopeful that we will see at least that number and hopefully slightly more.

It was with some excitement therefore that I noticed the publicity for this weekend's USA festival at The White Horse, Parson's Green exclaimed "The Most American Beers on Draught the UK has ever seen!"

The beer list is now available on-line and you can see that they have come up trumps with a provisional list of 48 American beers - some cask, some keg. There will also be some interesting beers from England.

These are exciting times for the beer drinker with an interest in the US craft brewing scene. Although the aggressive nature of their use of hops has been established for some years now, there are great things happening over the water with barrel ageing, high gravity brewing and rarer beer styles. US craft is really taking beer further than it's ever been. We are seeing similar efforts from the likes of Thornbridge and Brewdog in this country but it has not really caught the public attention as successfully as the most adventurous US brewers.

Come and see what all the fuss is about and celebrate Independence Day with an Arrogant Bastard.

Keep your eye on the Bieres Sans Frontieres website to see what is coming to GBBF this year.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Haunted Pubs

Last week, I went to Tea at Three at my local library. A short talk by a guest speaker with a cup of tea with the wrinklies of the parish.

This month's talk, was Pubs in the South East by local author, Donald Stuart. Donald retired as a journalist some years ago and has since visited, photographed and researched some 2,000+ pubs and has published a number of books - notably London's Historic Inns and Taverns.

The talk was about an hour long and was made up of a slide show of various pubs in the South East illustrated with some personal anecdotes from the author. It was an entertaining if fairly pedestrian pub crawl.

One comment that did interest me greatly though was the fact that so many pubs in Britain seem to have a ghostly connection. There are over 500 pubs in the country that are rumoured to have a resident ghost.

Given that no-one (?) has actually seen a ghost, I wonder why so many pubs seem to make this claim. To an old sceptic like me, I guess it was an old Victorian marketing ploy. Every visitor loves a local story about ghoulish goings-on and every traveller loves a local pub. Put them together and you have a unique selling point for your inn.

Donald Stuart has also written a book about pubs with such supernatural phenomena called Haunted Taverns. An A-Z of over 250 haunted pubs.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Andover Arms

Without wishing this week to become "Let's Bash Fuller's Week", I offer you this nugget from today's Daily Telegraph, Births and Deaths column :


ANDOVER - Arms (Andy) died after a brief but valiant struggle on Friday 19th June. Will be greatly missed by all loyal friends and family. Letters of condolence should be addressed to : Simon Emeny, Managing Director, Fuller's Inns, Chiswick Lane South, London, W4 2QB

I understand from my spies that the pub has been gastro-ed (is there such a word ?) in a modern, minimalist style. I had a great meal here at Christmas so can vouch for the food offering but I guess the original character of a friendly local beer drinkers pub will be gone. With changes in social living style, those boozers are becoming harder and harder to find but at least this fine pub is still open for business and not closed with future uncertain.

Further down the same page in today's paper is the text for the day :

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Meet the Brewer

I am pleased to be able to publicise the next meet the brewer event run by Melissa Cole and Love Beer @ Borough on this Saturday.

Got some seriously exciting news - we've got Yvan de Baets, brewer at Brasserie de la Senne and also some products from Cantillon for our next event!

There are two sessions - the first at noon and the second at 3pm - and tickets are now on sale for £15 at the Rake, the Utobeer market stall or via the phone from 11.30am until 5pm everyday when you call the lovely Denise on 020 7378 9461.

Also, if you also sign up to www.lovebeeratborough.ning.com or our Facebook group then you get regular updates about the Meet the Brewer events and also other events that we're planning.

Larger Drinkers

I received a nice press release last week from one of my favourite family brewers publicising a recent event.

The last line of the text reads as follows :

"By focusing on ... a light golden beer which is always served chilled, we are hoping to appeal to many larger drinkers who may not be aware of the breadth of our range"

I'm not sure who the joke is on but we know who they are talking about.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Hops and Glory

A couple of weeks ago saw the publication of the most eagerly anticipated beer book for some years. Yes, looked forward to even more than the Protz memoirs or the latest Belgium Good Beer Guide.

Hops and Glory by Pete Brown is sub-titled One Man's Search For The Beer That Built The British Empire and describes Pete's journey to India with a cask of IPA - India Pale Ale.

Pete recently won the Guild of British Beer Writers travel bursary and decided it would make a great story to re-enact the historic journey that IPA used to take from Burton-on-Trent, via London and the Cape of Good Hope, to refresh the Brits living in colonial India. The fact that he probably spent ten times the bursary on the cost of his journey is not the only reason the book deserves to do well.

It is a ripping read, a mix between a history lesson and a travel Odyssey. I hesitate to say it is un-put-down-able but once you join Pete on the narrow boat in Burton, you really empathise with his ups and downs along the way and are cheering him onto his final destination in Delhi some three months later.

The descriptions of the history of the Raj that break up the story of his journey are very informative and interesting but are slightly less thrilling. However, you are soon taken back to the cruise liner, the tall ship and the container ship enjoying the ride.

All beer writers are performing a public service to the beer world by bringing the world of beer to a wider audience. Pete has nailed this on the head with his latest book by making this as much a travel adventure as it is a book about beer.

One small omission from the book is the lack of a brief colour photo section. Usually I would not be interested in photos but such are the vivid descriptions of each mode of transport I felt myself wanting to see more tangible evidence.

However, there are plenty of photos on the Hops and Glory Facebook page which are well worth looking at to enhance enjoyment of the book.

It is also a great shame that a TV crew did not accompany Pete. Now perhaps if Michael Palin had come up with the idea those tie-ins would be more obvious.

Buy it, read it. Cheer him on and actually believe you can taste that strong, hoppy, IPA in those final pages.

The cover price is £14.99 but it is is still available at half price on Amazon here.

Pete also recently described his trip on Radio 4, Excess Baggage. You can listen to it here

Thursday, 11 June 2009


I know that some readers here are also regulars at the Young's and Fuller's annual general meetings each year. I can confirm that the dates this year are 14th and 21st July respectively.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Marmite Pedigree

As we approach the 2009 Ashes series, Marmite have launched a special edition of the savoury spread made with the surplus yeast from the brewing of Marston's Pedigree. Marston's, of course, being the official beer of the England cricket team so it looks like a good match. I don't suppose it tastes too different from wholesale Marmite but the branding looks great in the design of a cricket ball and it does give a promotion to beer that we would not usually see.

The limited edition of half a million jars follows a previous effort using yeast derived from Guinness in 2007. The jars should be on the shelves now but if you wish to support our cricketers in this way it will cost you £3.49 for a standard jar rather than the usual price of £2.49. Great marketing if you can pull it off.

Whether you love it or hate it, it must be better than the Aussie version, Vegemite.

Let's all eat a pot to celebrate a summer of rubbing their noses in the dust. Well, perhaps not but let's hope we see a summer of good, dry cricket.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

What the Nose Knows

Nobody can deny that the choice of title of this book is a delight. Its subtitle, The Science of Scent in Everyday Life, is almost as good and gives further flavour (or scent) to what lies within its pages.

I was encouraged to read this book by Gary Spedding, founder of Brewing & Distilling Analytical Services in USA, when I had the good fortune to meet him at GABF last year.

It was with some trepidation that I opened at the first page. A science book, recommended by a scientist was a daunting prospect. However, Gary had told me that the book was written in an easy to read, laid back style and he was not wrong.

What the Nose Knows is an entertaining and enlightening journey through the world of aroma. It is written in an engaging style and the author offers his keen observations on the science of smell in a witty, good-humoured way. It is a really enjoyable read.

So, if you want to find out how many smells there are, whether blind people have enhanced sense of smell, whether the human nose is as sensitive as a dog's and whether a cocaine addict's olfactory ability lasts longer than his septum, then this is the book for you.

The book's description of the author, Avery Gilbert, suggests he is a smell scientist who has helped design commercial scents for everything from perfume to cat litter. The book is a fine way for him to share his love of his work with a wider audience.

Finally, thanks to modern scientific advances this blog is the first to offer the latest scratch and sniff innovation. Just scratch your screen and you will get a wonderful whiff of beer blogger.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Bull at Horton Kirby

Anyone who knows me well, will know that I do not take criticism very well - particularly if I consider it to be unfounded or bullying. There is usually a toys-out-of-pram moment, some choice industrial language followed by a prolonged sulk.

So it was with some caution that I invited criticism of this blog when offered by a landlord of a pub visited recently.

"Go ahead", I lied, "I always welcome constructive criticism. It will help me improve." NOT !

Luckily, the smiling response was "Well, you don't write about my pub often enough".

Here goes - again ....

Garrett Phipps is a really nice guy who runs an excellent pub - The Bull at Horton Kirby. It has been on the radar for a little while now but if you have yet to visit I suggest you get down there this weekend for his Best of the Best Festival.

I was going to list the beers and give some further details here, but someone beat me to it. I am always happy to promote someone else who is writing excellent beer stuff so why don't you take a look at Mark Dredge's Pencil and Spoon blog here.

I guarantee you will drink some great beers if you visit this award winning pub but I offer one last word of warning. On my last visit, I enjoyed the hospitality so much that towards the end of my visit I could not find the pub toilet, despite having used said facility at least thrice earlier. I knew then it was time to head for home.

My visit is likely to be Friday afternoon. I hope to bump into some of you friendly folk there.