Man Walks into a Pub: A sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown

18 11 2010

Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of BeerMan Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read quite a few books on beer in the past and have found that typically they all have one thing in common: they are either monumentally dull or a total farce.

Weighty volumes that document the complete history of a particular brewery right down to what tiny changes were made to a particular recipe and when are all very well and good. No doubt they are of great interest to men with big bushy beards who wear cable knit jumpers and who carry note books around with them but they are a bit too serious and stodgy for the more casual reader.

On the flip side of the coin I don’t want to read a book written by some tracksuit wearing chav who just wants to brag about how he can drink 20 pints of Stella, fight some rival football fans and still drive his barely legal Vauxhall Nova that should have been scrapped before he was born.

That is where Pete Brown has got things bang on the money, he treats the subject seriously and manages to convey a lot of useful information whilst keeping things light and smattered with humour throughout.

By choosing to focus more on the social history of beer brewing and drinking he avoids bogging the reader down with some of the useless minutiae that a lot of the more serious beer books pride themselves on.

I am also very impressed with the way that Pete Brown handles the often tricky real ale vs. lager issue. A lot of writers fall heavily on one side of the fence or the other and as such we often hear lager being decried as tasteless or a children’s drink or ale being slagged off for being a drink for fat, bearded weirdos who need to get out more.

Whilst I have my own views on the matter I realise no one really wants to hear them, and in return I don’t really want to hear their views rehashed over and over again either.
So it was certainly pleasant to come across an author who wasn’t using their book as a soapbox to take pot shots at their target of choice.

If you have anything more than a passing interest in beer and have ever considered reading more about beer and drinking then you could do an awful lot worse than to take this book as a starting point.

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Rocking Rudolph 4.2% Seasonal Ale

15 11 2010

Greene King launched Rocking Rudolph as a seasonal ale in time for Christmas 2008.

It wasn’t launched directly under the Greene King name but rather under Hardy’s and Hanson’s who were traditionally a Nottingham based brewery but were snapped up by GK in 2006 and since then their beers have been brewed in Bury St Edmunds.

The label on this beer is quite striking, if not quite to my liking; it shows rudolph sporting an Elvis quiff and playing a guitar and has a very modern CGI like look to it. One thing is for sure you would have to be blind not to realise this was a beer for christmas.

The beer pours to a nice dark ruby colour with a very small thin white head, sadly this vanishes away to nothing within a minute or so of being poured.

There is very little if anything of an aroma to this beer which is always  a let down as it usually implies a lack of taste as well…

Guess what there is no real taste to this beer either! When I think of a Christmas ale I am thinking of sherry or rum and rich fruit cake with caramel sweetness and a hint of spice and citrus.

I am certainly not thinking of a general vague maltiness not a single identifiable flavour and just a slight bitterness towards the finish

The body of this beer is a real let down, it is just wet, there is no oomph to it at all. This really isn’t helped by the fact that the carbonation is very flat indeed.

This is only the 3rd beer that I have been unable to finish, there isn’t anything that is overly bad or unpleasant about it but I might as well have been drinking tap water.

1/5





Save our pubs!

29 04 2010

The pub has been a familiar part of the landscape of Britain for generations, whether it is a country pub in a rural village or a town centre establishment standing proudly on a corner. In recent years this landscape has been changing and not for the better. In 2006 the rate of pub closures stood at just 2 pubs per week, this is still over 100 pubs a year that were closing their doors but this figure pales into obscurity compared to the most recent results from 2009. As of 2009 there were 52 pubs shutting each week thats a massive 2,377 pubs that are closing in just one year, accounting for approximately 24,000 jobs. This is a simply staggering number and even if the trend were to be reversed we would never see the same number of pubs re-open. To give my own personal example of the sheer scale of pub closures across the country, I have to walk the best part of a mile to get to my nearest pub; this isn’t a case of being picky or choosing to visit this particular spot, it is simply the closest pub to where I live. Now you could be forgiven for thinking that maybe I live in some idyllic rural village and this is simply due to being in a remote location. Unfortunately you couldn’t be more wrong; I am talking about East London and on my way to the pub (The Coppermill) I have to pass 6 pubs that have closed in recent years. It isn’t so long ago that each of these pubs were thriving establishments, now one of them is being turned into flats and the others are just empty, slowly decaying away. During this same period of time the number of branded pubs and cafe-style bars have increased at a rate of 2 per week, it was also found that pubs that had a strong food offering were less likely to face closure. This is all very well and good but not every pub in the country can suddenly transform itself over night into a trendy gastro pub or city centre bar, it is jut not possible. So what has caused this huge upturn in the number of pubs that are calling last orders for the final time? Well there are a number of issues that are affecting Britain’s pubs today. The recession has caused a large downturn in the number of people that are visiting pubs and it is also affecting the average spend of drinkers, regardless of where the pub might be. The smoking ban has also driven people away from pubs, particularly when coupled with the ridiculously low prices and bargains that the large supermarket chains are offering on alcohol, why would you stand outside in the rain to smoke when you could drink cheaper beer at home and smoke inside if you so wished. The ever increasingly tax on beer has also played a part with the increases every year since 2000, bringing us to a point where the tax on a pint of beer costing an average price of £2.70 is now 70 pence. The bottom line is that pubs are closing and will continue to close unless something is done about it. So what is there that you can do to try to stop pub closures? CAMRA are running and supporting a number of campaigns targeted at slowing and reversing the trend of pub closure, you can sign up to support one such campaign “Back the Pub” here. You can also lobby your local MP to see what they are doing in relation to this, if you need contact details for your local MP you can find them here you simply need to enter your post code in order to get the details you need. But the easiest and most rewarding thing to do is visit your local pub, there is no better support then taking a stroll to the pub and enjoying a pint. I’m not saying not to pick up a bargain at the shops or enjoy a drink at home but remember your local as well, you’ll miss it when it is gone.





Wetherspoon Real Ale Festival

29 04 2010

Today (25th April) is the last day of the Wetherspoon Real Ale Festival 2010.

Whilst I didn’t manage to get over for the full run of the festival (April 7th -25th) I did manage to spend a fair whack of time in various Wetherspoon establishments and put a fair dent into their selection.

According to the festival programme and “tasting notes” that were being given away in the pubs there are up to 50 ales being featured this year, including several that have been brewed exclusively for the festival.

I am not usually a big fan of the so called festivals that are run by pub chains but I must admit that this offering from Wetherspoon really did win me over.

To my mind they did more or less everything right, there was a large and varied selection of beers, they produced a festival t-shirt, there was the oppurtunity to enjoy the beers in 1/3rd glasses so you could get round more without getting too drunk ( I didn’t avail of this option!) and they even lowered the price of a pint, where we were drinking at the King’s Ford in Chingford we were paying a measly £1.55 a pint!

I was impressed that it wasn’t just the more mainstream breweries or varities of beer; nestling alongside the run of the mill ( a term I use lightly) ales were milds, porters, stouts and even a couple of real ciders and the choice of breweries was excellent and from as far afield as Hawaii and South Africa.

One added bonus that might be of interest to people even after the festival has finished is the CAMRA membership form at the back of the festival programme, not only can you sign up and show your support in helping protect and preserve great beers but you will be sent 20 quid of Wetherspoon vouchers for you to use, not bad seeing as you can get a membership for £20 a year (£14 a year if under 25 or over 60).

I guess this festival pretty much sums Wetherspoon up for me, yeah they are a big faceless chain that is changing a lot of the pubs we have known and loved over the years but they are also doing a lot of good, not just in promoting real ale but also in helping to prevent pub closure, I think the fact that CAMRA are so pro Wetherspoon just helps highlight just how much good they are doing








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