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Showing posts from April, 2008

The Only Way Is Up

What goes up most come down is a common enough expression. But it seems successive Chancellors don’t believe that applies to beer duty. Having read the furore that Stonch’s missive somehow sparked off (forget brothels, IPA strength is where the real arguments lie), it got me thinking about beer. No surprise there, I hear you say. Specifically, beer strength historically, and the impact of government duty on the pricing of beer. Which, after a recent conversation, led me to pose the interesting question-when was the last time beer duty actually went down? And no, I don’t know the answer.

We are so conditioned to accept that governments want their piece of flesh that each yearly rise is met with but a shrug of the shoulders. Except for this year, when our complacency was rewarded by Mr Darling’s exercise in urine extraction. His exercise in daylight robbery without violence was very cheeky indeed, considering we actually needed a cut in duty. I have kindly pointed this out to him, but so…

Tyson is on Holiday

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Friday Night, Saturday Morning

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What idiot suggested an early start on Saturday, then? Ok, it was me-again. Note to self-must allow twelve hours between sessions. Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. Get in the New Oxford for opening time and (1) secure good seats for the footie and (2) gazump the scoopers. For there was a beer festival on and they would be out in force. I was going to say scoop the scoopers, but apparently that’s a board game popularised by Tandleman. Anyway, a diversion was made to Aldi for a litre of uber cheap orange juice and an equally cheap Ploughman’s. Who says I don’t know how to push the boat out?

Safely ensconced, it was time to get down to the serious business of drinking. All new beers to me and a couple of new breweries as well. George Wright’s Mild (4%) was dark and well balanced, but I found the Spring Ale (4%) a tad disappointing. It lacked the crisp hops I expect with light beers produced by this fine brewery. Digfield March Hare (4.7%) was also light and had a hint of fruit…

Friday Night

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So a nice, quiet, night in before another early start on Saturday. Oh no, not on your nellie. A message from Eddie, the young, eager, legal, beagle. Could I join him for a discussion on Black Forest fauna? I pleaded, I begged, but to no avail. Apparently I have to go out-it’s the law.

With the Trackside closed for refurbishment, the only possible starting point was the Peel. Having managed to avoid the dump for a week, I was naturally perturbed and worried about paying it a visit. I girded my loins and sent a silent prayer to Allāh al-ab for something decent to drink. And it looked like my prayer had been answered. On the bar were Bank Top Orient Line (4.2%) and Outlaw Boneshaker IPA (5%) both of which are good beers. The Boneshaker was in top form with pungent tangerine and grapefruit flavours making it very moreish. However, wary of its strength we were alternating it with the lemony Orient Line until that ran out. Unwilling to commit to a night on Boneshaker (the sun was just settin…

Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart

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The lights have gone out for the last time at my local. For the last couple of years the Good Samaritan has provided quality liquid nourishment to locals and visitors alike. Now the door is firmly shut, curtains are drawn, and everything is up for sale. How has such a successful pub come to such an ignominious end? As usual there are several reasons that have conspired together forcing Roger, the landlord, to walk away. Was it the smoking ban? The global credit crunch? The real reasons seem to be more mundane, which makes it worse, as you can’t help but think it shouldn’t have come to this.

Undoubtedly the biggest villains in this saga are Enterprise. We know that pubcos simply don’t have the same vested interest in pubs that existed in the days when most pubs were brewery owned. We know that they simply see pubs as part of their property portfolio. Only good for raising capital which is then staked on market gambles. Still, the ineptitude and indifference which Enterprise has showered…

Ramsbottom Ruminations

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A few days ago I received a phone call asking if I minded my name being passed on in connection with a new business venture. Apparently, an upmarket beer bar was planning to open in Ramsbottom and would I mind giving some advice. All those years of sleeping in doorways, on park benches, just to selflessly test real ale. I knew one day they’d pay off. Someone wants to hear my views on beer, pubs and such like. And they’re willing to pay for the privilege. Let’s be honest. I would have probably done it for free, but hallelujah there is a God!

Actually, if poor old Beadle hadn’t popped his clogs, I might have been half suspecting a setup. It sounded too good to be true. But yesterday the call came and an informal meeting was arranged. My choice (quelle surprise) was a good pub. Hence my evening in the Hare & Hounds. Quite clever, I thought, as not only am I guaranteed a good session, but I can use the pub as a benchmark. I was a bit worried at first, as one wants to make a good impres…

Pillocks in Preston

Seems like the Old Bill are at it again. Not long ago Tandleman was highlighting the nutters in blue and their attempts to force us to drink out of plastic glasses. And more recently there was a conveniently favourable poll for lowering the drink drive limit. Now we have this story www.lep.co.uk/news/39Smoking-ban-fuels-domestic-violence39.4000024.jp reported in all the press.

My first thought was what a load of rubbish. Well, actually it was where’s the question mark, but you get the point. The police are (quite rightly, perhaps) always telling people to keep their noses out of police matters, and yet they feel compelled to constantly talk bollocks about the licensed trade. Presumably because they arrest a lot of drunks, they feel qualified to do so. I think a comparable example is the armchair football fan who is always, somehow, a world authority on tactics. Well, they do watch a lot of football.

There are many, many, things wrong with this article, but lets just take it at face valu…

You wouldn't think it was possible but...

Fosters and Kronenbourg have just got even better. And it’s all down to widgets. They’re back. It’s official. I heard an advert promoting them this morning and a quick check in Asda confirmed their presence. In fact, they’ve been back for two weeks-where have I been to miss all the excitement?

Of course, they don’t actually want to call them widgets, as they’re old hat and everyone knows they are pants. Hence we have Fosters with in-can scuba, and Kronenbourg 1664 with Dynamo Systeme. The marketing team really excelled themselves with that brainstorming exercise. Apparently, there are fewer bubbles, and they are smaller, resulting in a smoother taste. I think that means even less taste. Which, if true, is some achievement considering the products in question. And the consumer will only be expected to pay an extra 50-80p per 4 pack for this privilege. A bargain! Seriously, I can see the numptys who buy these falling for this latest swiz. Only one thing puzzles me. You are reminded to se…
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"Roses are red, and violets are blue
Primroses pale on a velvet green hue
Warm summer days by cool waterfalls
Like the music we hear.
Those things we'll always hold dear
Like an old fashioned waltz."

Medical matters in Manchester

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Its days like this-when I have to be in Manchester for 10:30 am, that I DO think I may be getting too old for this game. What bright spark suggested such an early start? Ok, it was me. But that was when I was contemplating a quiet night and more than four hours sleep. Anyway, in the interest of science, I met up with Archimedes and Pythagoras at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry to view the Body Worlds 4. This is the controversial anatomical exhibition by Gunther von Hagens, who, I’m fairly certain, isn’t a full shilling. However, the exhibition is very interesting and educational, if not for the faint hearted. Apparently they are still accepting body donations, so if you fancy having your testicles mounted under glass, it’s not too late.

But, back to important matters-beer. All that education had made us thirsty, and I was in need of hair of the dog anyway. So it was a quick stop at Cask on Liverpool Road for a bit of Helles. Then, it was across the road to the Deansgate. …

Copper Dragon's last hurrah

A few warm up pints of Oakham White Dwarf (4.3%) at the TS to get me in the mood. This is an old favourite of mine: a wheat beer, with beautiful fruit tones and a great dry finish. Then it was round to the Good Samaritan. The very last firkin of Copper Dragon Golden Pippin was on and we had to see it out in style. So began a titanic struggle between a man and his beer. No quarter was asked or given. I knew it would only be a matter of time, but who’d have guessed it would hold out till 2.30am? Sometimes I think I'm getting too old for this game…

curry no favour

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Okay, yes it was Wetherspoons again. The WHB had organised an impromptu Thursday night drink and the Curry Club seemed a good basis to build it upon. After all, even though the festival was over, the pub must have replenished its stocks. It couldn’t be as disappointing as last night, surely?

First signs were hopeful. Several new beers had replaced the blank pumps of yesterday. Hold one though, Old Bear Black Maria isn’t actually on- but hey, they only have 2 “coming soon” signs. Never mind, Old Bear Goldilocks (4.5%) will serve as a pre curry drink. Whilst acceptable, there wasn’t any real sign of the four hops it is apparently brewed with. Oh, and it was hazy-a situation we were about to become more familiar with. Having found the vegetable curry less than satisfying last time, my only option was the Kerala Fish dish. This proved disappointing with the mild sauce unable to balance out the strong fish taste. Not much better was the insipid Pedigree that came with it. In desperation I t…

never can say goodbye

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My name is Tyson and I’m a Wetherspoons addict. Well, that’s what it seems like at the moment. In my defence, I know it’s only a temporary condition, brought on by my local suddenly having something worth drinking. And people will insist on visiting it. As was the case last night. My evangelicalism of Stones IPA came back to bite me as it was suggested we make a night of it there. Curses, I must share my beloved Stones with outsiders.

Nazi Dean was drinking it when we arrived and he recommended we drink six pints of it each. Judging by the state of him, he already had. So, we settled in and even Stones virgins like the Stomach were impressed with it. But all good things must come to an end, and so it proved in this case. A few pints in and it ran out. At least it was crystal clear to the end this time. But what to do now? It was too early to respectably go home. And I could still manage a couple more. Never mind, there’s plenty on. Or is there…?

“A pint of Young’s, please.”
“Ok. Sorry th…

dear deidre

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And so, there I was, looking for some elusive quiet time, when an unexpected message wings its way to me. G.I.Joe wants to meet up. What’s occurring? I ask this in my best Barry accent as G.I.Joe is an infrequent drinking companion these days. The sort who tends to only get in touch when at a loose end, or in need of some sort of favour Still, amiable, intelligent, company-there’s not many drinkers you can chat to about the Ludendorff Offensive. He was last seen being hauled up before the local beak for slapping his neighbour in their long running boundary dispute. And I wanted to see where he was up to now. So that’s why I gave up on finding world peace and headed down the pub.

His battlefield of choice was Wyldes, the Holts pub in the centre of Bury. Not bad for a first stop, as if you must have Holts, I find it’s best to get it out of the way first. It’s very difficult to go back to it after having anything really decent. At least they serve it cool here, as warm Holts really is har…

cheese of the week: dolcelatte

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Now everyone (well one person, to be precise) is always saying I don’t mention cheese enough. I do in my other blog, but perhaps it’s time to rectify that here. So, let’s start with Dolcelatte.

This great Italian cheese is a creamy blue and is made from cow's milk. It has a sweet taste as the name suggests. Dolcelatte means "sweet milk.” It’s very soft and melts in the mouth like ice-cream. It was created by the Galbani Company who are famous for cheese making. The method of production is very similar to Gorgonzola, except that Dolcelatte is made from the curd of only one milking. It’s not a cheese for faint hearted weight watchers-100g contains about 366 calories. Affinage takes two to three months and the fat content is an artery busting 50 per cent. Similar cheeses include for example Dolceverde and Torta Gaudenzio. Quite rightly, it is one of the Italian cheeses that carry a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) under EU regulations.

I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to incorpora…

West Lancs Wander

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Now say what you like about Camra, but it does give people a (semi) legitimate excuse to get bevvied up. It’s all down to our esoteric interest in the art of brewing, don’t you know. So Saturday for me meant a little trip round West Lancashire. Not for the lovely landscape, historic towns and fine architecture, but for, hopefully, some decent pubs. Most of the connoisseur drunks were out: Jan & Dean, Archimedes, Pythagoras and the WHB. Not to mention, Eddie, the eager, legal, beagle, Seasider, and Galadriel. Recently returned from the Fatherland, Tandleman was in attendance and we mustn’t (as if), forget the Wallsend Wonder
Without the aid of a safety net, or indeed notes, this is what I recall. They weren’t ready for us at the Derby Arms at Aughhton, meaning a wait for some of the plebs, but not a problem for the lucky few at the front of the coach. I went for Derwent Parsons Pledge (4%) which had a hint of fruit and was pleasant enough. Tetley Mild (3.3%) was even better with a …

room at the inn?

Interesting that the national media (www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=558639&in_page_id=1770) have just picked up on this little nugget, despite the pub having being open since December. Business isn’t exactly booming and I’m not surprised. Call me old fashioned, but a pub without alcohol isn’t actually a pub in my eyes. And this one doesn’t even have a TV. Now some bloggers might appreciate that, but it does make for a very quiet night. Hold on, there’s snooker-like snooker halls have. Hold on there’s a prayer room-er, bit like a mosque has, actually. It’s obviously more of a community centre, which is fine, but why dress it up a pub? Even the name “The Halal Inn” sounds more like a kebab shop than a public house. Sadly, I think the concept of a chain of these places is pure pie in the sky. The owners say they have spotted a gap in the market, but that’s what all the losers on Dragons Den say. Sometimes there is a very simple reason for a gap i…

farewell is a lonely sound

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Definitely felt the effects of last night’s binge. Years of commando like training in pubs up and down the land, and a litre of Tropicana before bed ensured a surprisingly clear head. However, I could still feel the alcohol behind my eyes and a breathalyser would probably have given an interesting result. So, just a quiet night in to recover and a chance to spend some quality time with Boris Akunin. Alas, it was not to be, and Mr Akunin must wait for another time.

Of course it was young Eddie, the eager, legal, beagle’s fault. Would I join him for a Bucks Fizz and a discussion on 1930’s German agricultural policy. I pleaded and begged, but to no avail. You can’t fight fate, and it was obvious that Stone’s Double IPA and I were meant to be together. So it was I found myself stood at the bar of the Peel in somewhat of a shocked state. With the Spoons festival finishing very shortly, someone had twigged they had better actually put some beers on. So they banged on everything they had. The…

stone in love with you

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Déjà vu all over again. Back in the Sam to watch the footie and sample the odd beer or three. Phoenix Arizona (4.1%) was fresh on, but perhaps a tad green as it lacked its usual clout. No mind, the Bargee was still excellent, but wait, what’s this? No chance of another as it’s all gone. Not 24 hrs on and already drunk. What greedy swines some people can be. Anyway, no time for tears as Bowland Patriot (4%) soon took its place. A nice golden ale, with pleasing crisp bitterness. A pint of Golden Pippin and a chat with the landlord? Well, if you insist. But this is not a one stop shopping spree, so it’s off we go on a wing a prayer to the bright lights of Bury.

The Railside was pretty quiet, but hey, I’m only here for the beer. Having said that, Joe Stalin did make an appearance and we exchanged views and news. Wickwar Cotswold Way (4.2%) was amber coloured and delivered a traditional Bitter finish. Not too shabby at all. Howard Town Dinting Arches (4.5%) was much different than I remembe…

bringing it all back home

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Civilisation, and away from the fug of London! Too much to summarise here but, when not being chased by Dixon of Dock Green, I did manage a couple of pints in places both old and new. Even found Zeitgeist, despite their directions. Took a ride out to the Florence on Stonch’s nod, and my, that’s a bit ooh la la, isn’t it? Not a whippet post in site. Apart from the usual Spoons, I also looked up the Wenlock and the Betsey Trotswood. The Betsey being of nostalgic value as it was one of the first London pubs visited by Tandleman and I. Now it’s apparently home to some famous blogger or other.

So arriving back in Manchester with the morning beers wearing thin, I managed to squeeze a couple of Hall & Woodhouse Hopping Hares in. This 4.5% golden ale was pleasantly refreshing and apparently brewed with Super Styrian hops, which are new to me. It was also cool and at £1.19 was already making London a dim memory. However, I had to crack on. A quick drop off home, and then it’s hello Bury. Or…

London Bound

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Tyson is probably enduring warm, flat, beer in London.

Crawling in chorley

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What a lovely bright day. How to spend it-watching Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women? Or go on a little expedition? Having passed through Chorley recently, I was struck by the number of GBG entries close to the station. Chorley is a market town in Lancashire, mainly famous now for the cakes named after it. Despite having only half the population of Bury, it seems to boast an impressive level of town centre cask. So, it was a bus to Bolton and then a train to Chorley.

However, first stop was Adlington as, if you catch the hourly stopping train, you can alight here before continuing your journey. A very short walk takes you to the Spinners. Here, sat at the bar, chatting to the convivial, knowledgeable, landlord, I managed two pints of excellent Taylors Landlord before continuing my journey. The array of pumpclips on display testifies to the amount of cask this pub actually sells. As well as several 18’s of Warsteiner-well nobody’s perfect. Once in Chorley, it proved more difficult than it sho…

A day out

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A nice little day out on the highways and byways of Lancashire. From isolated, comfy, country pubs, to industrial town centre boozers, there’s a great variety in this county. Highlights included: the first stop at the Derby Arms in Aughton. This is a cosy, welcoming, free house that seems to do a good trade in food. Hanby’s AllSeasons (4.2%) was light and undemanding, but where were the Cascade hops that it’s allegedly brewed with?

The Dolphin at Longton is an excellent, two roomed, country lane boozer, that was understandably quiet mid afternoon. A smart, long, bar dominates the main room, and offers a choice of 5 ales. Having tried it recently at the brewery, I was curious to give George Wright Blonde Moment (4%) another try. Interestingly, it proved even better than the sample at the brewery. Here it was fully matured, and was very perfumery. I found it very quenching even without the usual hop bite I would normally associate with their beers. Another winner, methinks.

The Original F…

a night at the dogs

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A quick tour round led us to the Hare & Hounds in Holcombe Brook. Like the Good Sam, it was busy for a Wednesday night. 3 English Teams in the Champions League Quarter Finals, exclusive to Sky, was obviously paying dividends. Rather cleverly, I thought, we managed to secure seats with a view of the action, but out of the way of the main scrum. There was a somewhat apprehensive atmosphere, as most of the supporters were cheering on Liverpool, who were playing away. However, this changed with the security of the away goal, and there was plenty of good banter.

Beer wise, it was what’s called a Steve Davis night-pale and interesting. Not being a ticker I’m happy to settle for proven quality over quantity. And all the old friends tried proved to be winners yet again. Bank Top (4%) Flat Cap is an easy starter, but I went for the hops from the start. George Wright Pipedream (4.3%) was excellent as always, and Outlaw Boneshaker (5%) certainly made the most of its New Zealand hops. It deliv…

Trackside to the rescue yet again

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Not long home when a message from Eddie, the eager, legal, beagle. Could I meet him for a Marguerite and a discussion on post war German army uniforms? Luckily, the football was on terrestrial and not a Sky bandit affair, meaning even Wetherspoons would be showing it. So, putting my plans for bath scrubbing on hold, I set off, marvelling at how light it is now at teatime. I had barely got to the door when Don Ricardo phoned-was his beer radar that good? Two days into his holiday and he’d already had enough of babysitting and the like. So, we set off, wondering what festival delights the Robert Peel would provide.

The answer was, sadly, none. It had relapsed back into its stereotype. Pumpclips turned round, and still peddling the mainstream dross of Greene King. Phoenix Black Bee was on, but this is one the few Phoenix beers I don’t like, so what were the alternatives? It was a bit early for Westons Conquest Scrumpy, leaving only one choice. White Horse Wayland Smithy (4.4%) The first t…

Goodbye S&N

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And so it ends-not with a bang, but a whimper. Yesterday S&N shareholders voted overwhelmingly to accept a £7.8 billion bid from Heineken and Carlsberg. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Heineken now control all those brands we all love so much: Fosters, John Smiths and Strongbow. Ha, as far as I’m concerned, they are welcome to them. I’ll shed no tears for S&N, just as I shed none for Whitbread when that disappeared up its own rear. The thing that really annoyed me was the comments of S&N chairman Sir Paddy Pratswick-sorry, Sir Brian Stewart. After seeing 259 years (not all of them bad), of brewing come to an end, he said “while there is sadness at the passing of two centuries of brewing history, the prevalent emotion today is pride.” Eh? Pride in what? Pride in overseeing S&N’s dismantlement and getting a fat payout, I presume. Pass the sick bucket, please.