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Archive for the ‘England’ Category

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Today I link to an article in the Spectator. Ted Goldsmith Points out that there is a good reason for many pub closures – they were dreadful.

A landlord can preside over civilised ambience — with proper beer, no fruit machines and chairs made for comfort — or he can pump dance music through the stereo and offer two-for-one shots of Jagermeister to punters seated on working recreations of medieval torture devices. Of course, some pub ‘managers’ are only obeying orders — but really good pubs are run by people who know what they are doing and can call the shots.

 

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I used to go to London in early December every year, and if you want a broad range of English beers at one place, including hard to find cask ales, this is the place to go. Good, inexpensive snack food, sale of books and memorabilia, obscure beers from the Continent and stronger beers to take home by the bottle.

This is organized by the East London and City branch of CAMRA, and is staffed by volunteers. Well worth a visit if you are in town.

pigs-ear

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I aim to publish short daily pieces during December, let’s see how it works.

I haven’t read Henry Jeffreys Empire of Booze so far, but it is certainly on my own wish list. It was recommended on the BBC Food Programme (you should subscribe to their podcast)

As a side interest, this book was successfully crowd funded, but that should not distract you from the  contents. This is about how Britain created the first global drinks. The India Pale Ale is in it, obviously, and I don’t know how this retelling will hold up to the scrutiny of historians like Martyn.

But what caught my interest was the story about Sir Kenelm Digby, the inventor of the modern wine bottle. It made possible the production of champagne, but they started out as bottles strong enough for sparkling cider. The cold climate made it impossible to make domestic wine, and wars with France, Spain and the Netherlands put a stop to imports. Cider was then embraced as a substitute. You can read this fascinating chapter online.

From the book:

Other members of the Royal Society in London took an interest in apple growing, cider making and putting fizz in the bottles. The greatest minds in the country turned themselves to perfecting this home-grown product. It was soon noted that the bubbles would be all the more vigorous if extra sugar was added to fuel the secondary fermentation. John Beale from Herefordshire cider country and formerly of King’s College Cambridge read a paper to the Royal Society on 10th December 1662 in which he describes putting a ‘walnut of sugar’ into bottled cider. This is about 20g of sugar, roughly the amount of sugar (‘dosage’) added to modern dry champagne.

You can buy this from amazon, but the authors Unbound page offers more alternatives.

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A convicted cocaine smuggler who runs London Fields Brewery has been arrested on suspicion of tax evasion after a dawn raid at his home. Jules de Vere Whiteway-Wilkinson was detained after officers from HM Revenue and Customs arrived at his house in Stoke Newington to question him about allegations that he has been failing to pay VAT at the London Fields Brewery. This is according to the Propel Newsletter. Whiteway-Wilkinson has run the brewery since his release from a 12-year prison sentence imposed in 2004 for his role as the leader of a cocaine-smuggling gang that supplied drugs to celebrities and music industry figures.

I have to admit that when I was in London a year ago, the tap room at London Fields was one of the highlights of the weekend. Oh, well.

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Congratulations to Boak & Bailey, who were named the Beer Writers of the Year by the British Guild of Beer Writers. If you haven’t bought their Brew Britannia book already, it’s time to do it. And follow their blog – lots of good beer writing, including good links to others.

 

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I don’t read many beer books. As a matter of fact, I buy slightly more beer books than I actually read. I interact a fair bit with other beer bloggers, but I don’t even read them as systematically as I did. The demise of Google reader is partly to blame.

A blogging duo which I have followed for years is an exception.Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey have a love of language as well as a love of beer, and, have a personal voice between them that is personal, not private.
They moved out of London and settled in South Western England some years ago, showing yet again that you dont have to be based in a major city to play a part in the beer writing community.
They have been open about their bigger projct for a long time, putting together a history of British beer over the last five decades, starting with the early beginnings of The Society for the Preservation of Beers in the Wood  (SPBW among friends) and CAMRA and ending up with the fantastic diversity of today.
They have researched this in depth, using a long list of printed and oral sources. Their blog has been used cleverly for crowd sourcing information.
The result, Brew Britannia,  is impressive. It is a story of businesses that thrive or fail, of consumer rebellion, of enthusiasm and organizational strife. And, given the topic, a story of English eccentricity told in such a way that a smile and a chuckle is never far away.
In addition to the well told main part of the book, there are appendixes and comprehensive notes, even an index, which you don’t find too often nowadays. (You’ll even find me in the index, which is, come to think of it, even rarer).
When you write a book like this, you have to choose what to include and what to leave out. I have followed the British beer scene for most of this period, and I did not find any omissions to point out.
Go ahead. This won’t end up on the shelf with the unread beer books. And it’s in paperback, meaning you can read it on the bus, which is more than you can say about the heavier tomes full of glossy photos.

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The Beatles and beer

There have been the occational discussion about the Beatles and their relation to beer in the blogsphere, but with rather meagre results. I’ll come back to this when I’ve finished the first volume of Mark Lewisohns comprehensive biography, where I belive there will be information about Liverpool beer and pubs.

Meanwhile, here is a photo from Sir Paul’s web site, one of many Linda McCarney photos featured in a new exhibition opening in France in February.

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