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Archive for June, 2009

While the border shops in and close to Scandinavia are doing a roaring trade, the cross channel shopping is in decline, if we are to believe the Guardian (and why shouldn’t we?).

The megashops in Calais are mostly empty, and one of the owners gives three reasons why:

  • the weakness of the pound has sent the cost of buying booze (and everything else) in Europe soaring
  • the recession means Britons are generally less willing to spend what they’ve got
  • UK supermarkets, scrapping for every shred of business, have slashed their own prices, offering beer for almost nothing and three bottles of wine for a tenner.
Cheaper at home

Cheaper at home

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Yes, I have received my review copy of Pete Brown’s book about his epic voyageto recreate the route of the original IPAs from Burton to India. I am still in the Burton part of the book, so I’ll have to come back to you about it. But I can assure you there is more of the witty style we know from his earlier books.

Meanwhile, there is a BBC (radio) travel programme called Excess Baggage, which has an interview with Pete in their latest edition. It is available as a free podcast. Go get it.

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If you don’t read the BrewDog blog, it’s about time you start doing so. One of their posts starts out like this – and it gets even more hilarious:

A feminist quizzed us on the appropriateness of calling a beer ‘Trashy Blonde’ and using the word ‘lesbian’ in some of our promotional material. To which Martin responded;

‘I have nothing against lesbians at all, in fact I have some DVDs at home of just lesbians’. It went down like a lead balloon and we did not win this award.

Read on, you’ll hardly find better examples of how European cultures collide!

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Beer tasting

We had a beer tasting on Saturday. Just a few mates sipping out way through a very impressive list of big beers. I brought along a few Italians as well as the Alliance beers from Thornbridge Hall, we had a few Geuzes, a Nøgne ø DH 2 – and a staggering number of American big beers.

I find it hard to blog from such events. The conversation is flowing, some good food, anecdotes from pubs and breweries, lots of good beer to discuss rather than taking notes.

Highlights?

The Alliance beers from Thornbridge Hall, a series of barley wines, the basic ale and two versions aged in oaks casks, Sherry and Madeira.  The reference beer was complex, vinous and a bit rough around the edges. Funky stuff, this will probably age well without any oak cask. The Madeira version was a bit more sweet and fruity. Some over ripe fruit in the finish. The PX Sherry cask variety was also rather sweet with some dried fruit. Softer than the other two, deceivingly easy to drink. These were my last bottles from my order from beermerchants, delivered to my Manchester hotel in April.

This is not just another beer from just another English brewery – here is the label blurb: During 2007, an alliance based on friendship and love of great beer between Thornbridge’s Head Brewer Stefano Cossi and Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver led to the brewing of this refined strong ale which has been matured for over 18 months before being bottled. The collection includes the unoaked Alliance Strong Ale and two finished exclusively in fortified wine casks: Spanish oak Pedro Ximenez Sherry (PX) and American oak Madeira.

Weyerbacher Old Heathen was another outstanding beer.

And the most interesting – a 1982 Thomas Hardy. Wonderful harmonious beer, cherry and other fruit. Sweet, but with an edge of sourness. Probably past its prime, but it is amazing that a beer can keep for decades like this.

An adult beer

An adult beer

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OK. I’ll be fair.

(I won’t promise I’ll be fair that often. This is, after all, my soap box, and if I tried to balance everything it would make rather boring reading.

 The festival organisers have now announced that there will, after all, be some interesting micro beers. Not from Norway, but some fairly rare stuff from Sweden and Denmark.

The micro list:

Svaneke:

  • Den udødelige Hest
  • Double Brown Ale
  • Aurum
  • Skipper Clements (on tap)
  • Lord Hans (on tap)
  • Salmecykel (on tap)

Hantbryggeriet:

  • Narren
  • Sotern
  • Bødeln

Bøgedal:

  • Bøgedal No 162
  • Bøgedal No 155
  • Bøgedal No 152
  • Bøgedal No 170

Stevns Bryghus:

  • Elverpigens Fryd
  • Vaarbrud
  • Klintekongens Stout

Holbæk Bryghus:

  • Arnakke Humle
  • Bysø Brown
  • Maglesø Sommerbryg

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They have released the list of beers now, though not on their web site, and while their advance hype focused on micro beers, the end result is what some of us feared – a long list of crap lagers. Some decent British, particularly Scottish, bottled beers, but most of them are to be found in supermarkets already.

The list of draft beers is the most dismal:

  • San Miguel Especial
  • Lapin Kulta
  • Strongbow cider
  • Newcastle Brown Ale
  • Foster’s
  • Marston’s Pedigree Ale
  • Marston’s Oyster Stout
  • Du Monde Gold
  • Du Monde Blanc
  • Heineken
  • CB Jubileum
  • Hansa Pilsner
  • Aass Pilsner
  • Aass Bayer
  • Oslo Mikrobryggeri Festivaløl/Naboøl

Only the festival beer from Oslo Mikrobryggeri stands out, the other Norwegian micros are absent. No Nøgne ø, no Ægir, no Håndbryggeriet.

Will I be there? Sure, there are a few beers I want to taste, and there is no entrance fee, so I will pop in. But I’m glad I haven’t paid good money for travel and accommodation to attend this..

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There are lots of calls for action for saving civilization as we know it, meaning, of course, the British pub. The figures still look bleak, there are now 50 pubs closing very week.

The role of the large pub companies, who to a large extent took over the role the large brewers used to have, is disputed, and it seems obvious to me that it is impossible for the whole industry to speak with one voice – there are conflicting interests involved.

One sobering voice is a comment in the Economist last month: But to develop any future policy that might let pubs and publicans flourish it seems the biggest deficit is good data: on tied tenancies, how rents are fixed and terminated, how beer is priced and just how far discounts benefit the customer.

Read the whole article, it gives an overview not to be found in the trade press.

Til Death Do Us Part

Til Death Do Us Part

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