Archive for December 20th, 2007

World coming to an end

I see that several people have reached my site by searching for this phrase. I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t think it will happen any time soon. Go back to Google. We still have some beers we have to finish. Quite a few, actually.

Difficult to tag this post. Pubs? Travel? Food? Best before dating?

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Even the Economist is covering the raw material crisis now:

Just as the festive season gets going, drinkers in America are finding their favourite beer suddenly more expensive or even—horrors!—not available at all. Hit by price increases and shortages, many breweries, particularly the small “craft brewers” and the even smaller microbreweries, are being forced to raise prices, make do with modified recipes or shut off the spigots altogether.

The humble hop, the plant that gives beer its distinctive flavour, is the main problem. Many farmers in the Pacific north-west, where America’s hop production is concentrated, have turned to more profitable lines—especially corn, which can be made into ethanol. The decrease in hop production, put at some 50% over the past decade, has sent prices through the roof. Brian Owens, the brewmaster of the O’Fallon Brewery near St Louis, Missouri, says that the variety he once bought for $3 a pound (0.45kg) now costs five times that. Many smaller breweries cannot find what they need at any price. Industry giants like Anheuser-Busch and Miller are better off, thanks to long-term contracts. But even Anheuser-Busch has been forced to raise prices for its six-packs.

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Go for cask beer,

keg beer may kill you.

An inquest into the death of a Darlaston father who died when a keg of beer exploded in his face killing him instantly has concluded a verdict of accidental death.

Ricky Bunn, aged 32, of Lodge Road, was killed when he was loading kegs of beer at the Gateway To India Pub in Soho, Handsworth on May 24. 

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I really like a quiet pint if I go to a pub, though live music can be really nice. It’s usually a troubadour or a more or less fake Oirish band with fiddles and beardy singers.

If you want to read your newspaper in peace or have a quiet conversation, the Wetherspoons pub The Opera House in Tunbridge Wells is to be avoided 5-7 February. They are  actually staging an opera in the pub.

Well, I’ve been to a few Wetherspoons pubs where this type of performance, actually anykind of performance, would not be welcome, as it would interfere with the booze consumption of the grumpy old men inhabiting the pubs.

But they seem to be moving upmarket. At least in Tunbridge Wells…

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A highlight of my recent London visit was the Pig’s Ear beer festival, arranged by the East End and City branch of CAMRA. This was a five day event, I was there three times, which means I got through a significant part of the British cask ales on offer, while I barely touched the imported beers.

The venue is the Ocean, an old building which now functions as a club venue. It has a large hall in the centre with bars lining the room. I think the premises were OK, although there could have been more tables and chairs, especially as I seemed to be in the younger half of the audience.

The concept is fairly simple: You pay your entrance fee, then you pay a deposit to get a tasting glass. It is up to you if you want a pint, half pint or third pint glass. The 1/3 pint size was well suited for samples.

The main bar, with the cask ales, had row upon row of ale casks, clearly labeled with their contents. The printed programme gave brief details about each beer, and then it was just a matter of jumping into it.

The advantage of British cask ales is that most of them have a fairly low alcohol content – some of them below 4.0%. This means that you can more easily sip your way through many more beers than you could in for example the Low Countries.

Most of the beers on offer were bitters, but there were quite a few stouts and porters as well as milds and the odd wheat beer and barley wine.

The bottle bar at the other end of the hall had a good range of German and Belgian beers plus some fine picks form Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. There were cask ciders and perries, too, but I never got around to try them..

Everything is staffed by volunteers, and there was a fast and friendly service behind the bars.

How is it to be a foreign visitor to an event like this?

It was very friendly and including. It must be said that I knew some people who were coming along, so I knew I would be in good company. But if you sit down at a table or hang around by the bar, you will soon be talking to people, and they all have their special interests. Some prefer the Bavarian beers on tap, some collect beer cans or other items,  some are serious tickers who have to have a sip of everything. The festival was not really crowded at any time, which meant little time spent on queuing for beer (or food).

(to be continued)

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