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Archive for May, 2008

I won’t be in Brussels on 7 June, but if I were, I would go for a birthday celebration! Happy birthday, Bier Circus, one of my favourite bars in the world! Sorry about the poster, I can’t get it right here.

 

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The European beer festival in Copenhagen is getting closer, and tickets are now on sale. So far the only option has been to buy one ticket for each day, which makes for hefty service and postage fees for those who do not reside in Denmark.

I’m happy to report that the organisers will be offering a 3 day ticket, which will cut the costs significantly. They will go on sale next week.

Some people are not too fond of beer festivals, especially on a grand scale, but I think this will be a very memorable event. I need to book my plane tickets soon.

I have made a reservation at Hotel Sct Thomas, decently priced and convenient for the festival. Thanks to the Beer Nut for finding this.

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The Morning Advertiser is a goldmine of information:

A former Punch leaseholder has locked himself inside the pub after claiming the pubco owes him £8,000 for fixtures and fittings.

David Williams has been locked in the Highwood in Gledhow, Leeds since 31 March over a row with Punch.

 

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By Herschell Hershey. From the Londonist.

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Bring your own soap

Trying to plan for a trip to New York later this year, I search for hotel rates. Despite the weak dollar, they don’t come cheap. And some of the descriptions are not too inviting:

Guest Room with Semi Private Bath.

What does that mean? A curtain? A door that doesn’t lock? I’m too old for this!

And if anyone has recommendations for a nice, inexpensive and centrally located Manhattan hotel, I’ll buy them a beer.

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I received an e-mail from a woman named Maria in Arizona just before the weekend, which was very flattering:

I’m looking for WordPress-hosted blogs to show as examples in a training video I’ll be recording next week……..

I’m going to show off 4 to 6 blogs that have a nice look and interesting content as a way to introduce WordPress blogging. Your blog will be onscreen for 1 to 2 minutes of a 2+ hour video.

As you know, flattery (or beer) is the main source of energy behind this blog, so I sent off a positive reply within minutes.

A bit later, I received another e-mail, this time from Michelle, with a pdf form enclosed. Michelle is a paralegal in Ventura, California.

I am the owner / publisher of KNUTALBERT (my “Blog”). I hereby grant to Lxxxx.com, Inc., a California corporation (“Lxxxx.com”), the absolute right and permission to use, re-use, publish, and re-publish my Blog, in whole or in part, without restriction as to changes or alterations, or reproductions thereof in color or otherwise, made through any and all media now or hereafter known, primarily in connection with training videos, but also for illustration, promotion, art, advertising, trade, or any other purpose whatsoever. I also consent to the use of any printed matter in conjunction therewith.

There was more, too, but that paragraph was enough for me. Signing this might have been the road to fame, stardom and a yacht, but I’d rather keep things as they are. I’d rather not have anyone in California have the right to my blog for any other purpose whatsoever.

I need a beer. In color or otherwise.

(In all fairness, Maria has apologized. She had told them the form could scare people off!)

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The notes from my last stop in Bologna have been lying around – I never got around to typing them out. What I had hoped to be the highlight of my visit turned out to be quite a disappointment.

It was a warm day, but it was getting chillier, even if a visiting Northerner could be fooled to believe ti was spring, despite the calendar only showing February. I took the bus from my hotel down to the historical centre, but getting a decent beer in the afternoon was not easy – Italy can be worse than Britain used to be, with beer bars only opening sometime around eight.

20 minutes walk from the touristy stuff, in a rather anonymous area, I reach my destination – the Bibo brewpub. It was easy to find – a big sign on the wall of a modern shopping and entertainment complex.

A rather young and trendy crowd. The menu was printed on a torn “handmade” paper, offering a number of small dishes. The Italian kitchen actually has a good range of food that is splendid with beer. On offer here were a number of pasta dishes with various fillings and sauces. I picked a bruscetta.

A look at the beer sdisplay showed four beers on tap, and samples in shot glasses were kindly provided. There were four beers, a lager and a helles bock from the German Ahornberger and two from the White Dog brewery, a micro in the area run by an English expat.

The beers were fine, with the porter from White Dog being especially fine. But I am curious. This was supposed to be a brew pub. One guest beer would be fine, but all four of them? The brewing vessels were clearly visible in the next room, but there were no visible displays of activity as there usually are.

The first of the staff I asked was embarrassed by the question of why they did not offer any of their own brews. She mumbled something about the people downstairs.

The other barman explained that this was due to financial problems, and my understanding was they were in the process of closing down the establishment.

There are lots of micro breweries being established in Northern Italy. Some go for a local market, some have regional ambition, some go for the international market. It is a pity that some do not manage to stay in business. Hopefully there are someone willing to give Bibo a new try.

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From Terry Durack’s Eat blog at the Indy:

It appears that everyone but me knows that the Thai government has increased the number of days in the year in which the sale of alcohol is illegal at all bars, restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores. In the past, this applied to a number of Buddhist holidays, auspicious royal days such as the King’s birthday, and election days.

Fair enough. But a new law outlaws alcohol on the two days leading up to the election as well. And it’s election season. One local restaurateur said the bans have made his business extremely difficult, with no less than eight alcohol-free days decreed in the past two months alone.

It’s not only Norway, then…

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The theme of The Session this month is how did it all start for you ? 

 Boak and Bailey have given us the following challenge: We’d like you to write about the moment when you saw the light. At what point did you realise you were a beer lover / geek / enthusiast? What beer(s) triggered the conversion? Did someone help you along your way, or did you come to it yourself?

In short; how did you get into good beer?

If you can talk about a specific beer, so much the better — it would be good to see if there are any trends.

 

This goes way back through the mists of time, almost thirty years. There were four of us, we were in our late teens, and we ruled the world.  Trying to get the maximum mileage out of our Interrail tickets, we were heading north from Portugal, bringing cartons of SG cigarettes and perfect tans. The Boomtown Rats are on the top of the charts, and there are no signs of Bob Geldoff getting an MBE.

Getting from Lisbon to London in the pre-tunnel days meant going through Paris. According to the timetable, it should be theoretically possible to get a connection, but navigating the Metro with our scant knowledge of French lost us the precious minutes we needed. We did not bother to look around for a hotel, we decided to buy tickets for the next morning Dover ferry and camp in the departure hall instead.

We were not alone there, and we were soon chatting to some English and Irish boys who were also staying the night. We had, for some reason, dragged along a five kilo watermelon from Portugal, and this was sliced and distributed. Someone had a bottle of whisky in their backpack, and there probably was some cheap wine passed around as well. Station personnel made sure only ticket holders were staying, and we made ourselves as comfortable as we could.

We got the phone numbers of two of the English guys, who were from Sutton in Surrey, just to the south of London, and we made plans to meet up later in the week.

Our Interrail tickets were even good for travel on the London commuter trains, so on Tuesday afternoon we were off to Sutton. This was where I discovered what good beer was all about. 

We joined our hosts and a number of their friends for a pub crawl of the area, and we ended up at a riverside pub which I cannot locate today. There is one thing that stands out, however, the choice of drink was totally clear. Some of the girls drank lagers, but for the guys every round was the same: A pint of Special, please!

We had entered the heartland of Young’s of Wandsworth. And, remember, this was the late seventies. CAMRA was just starting up, and I doubt they had gained much momentum at the time. Young’s were one of the very few who were carrying the torch of brewing, distributing and serving cask ale. I had the luck to end up in an area where the brewery giants had not steamrolled everything into pasteurized blandness. From the first sip of the first pint I knew that this was the real thing.

Being nineteen, drinking quality beer is no obstacle to consuming large quantities, and we barely made the last train back to London. We went back down on Saturday, the last night before we had to leave for home, and got totally smashed. Pure luck and the skills of London taxi drivers were the only reason we caught the train heading for the ferry to Holland.

I can’t remember all the details. I went down to Sutton a few years ago, but I did not really recognize any of the pubs, but it is more than likely that the Robin Hood was one of our stops.

Young’s is no longer a brewery, and their pubs are phazing out the Young’s range in favour of Bombardier. The Special has been made more mellow and easy-drinking in the never ending quest to please all palates, and rumours say they are to stop brewing it.

But I hope there is still a little time left, that even the next time I arrive in London, I can walk up to the bar of a classic Young’s pub, smile at the barmaid and tell her A pint of Special, please.

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Northern Ireland’s pubs and bars are facing a “bleak outlook” a year on from the smoking ban, according to the Publican.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of the Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade Northern Ireland, said he expects the country to lose seven per cent of its pubs over the next two years.

Figures released earlier this year revealed that like-for-like sales in the on-trade have dropped seven per cent since the ban a year ago today. Ninety-three pubs and bars closed between 2005 and last December, the Mintel figures also showed.

Kelly said: “As a piece of health public policy the ban has been a success. But the much promised march of non-smokers has not materialised.”

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