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Showing posts from August, 2009

Feast On Wine

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Friday saw the start of the Wetherspoons wine festival and Archimedes and the WHB press-ganged me into giving it a go. It was also their first opportunity to see the wonderfully, no-expenses spared, refurbishment of the Robert Peel. Gold chandeliers adorn the ceiling and Georgian furniture now litters the room. Well almost...they did paint the ceiling and clean the carpet. No new furniture, unfortunately, but a rearrangement has improved the ambience.

Obviously it’s never advisable to drink wine on an empty stomach, so we had a couple of pints warm up at the Trackside. Yesterday Warwickshire’s Lady Godiva, apart from having an interesting pumpclip (where have I seen her before?) was pleasant enough with the bitter finish balancing out the initial sweetness. Today, the honey sweetness was more prominent and so I switched to Outstanding Piston Broke.
Having slated our thirst, we continued onto the Robert Peel. The previous night, Phoenix Midsummer Madness had been in very good form and h…

Heaven Was A Drink Of Wine

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We’re constantly being lectured by the government and other alcohol-Nazis that wine measures are too large. The industry should be responsible and serve the smaller 125ml measure, we are told. So it was with some amusement that I read that one of Britain’s top chefs had gotten into hot water for serving too SMALL wine measures.

Michael Caines was running a meal and wine tasting deal at his Abode chain of restaurants. And despite stating that the wine was of a smaller measure than usual, the Michelin-starred chef soon found himself in trouble with the authorities. For-and he really must have known this-he was clearly breaching the Weights and Measures Act. This sets the legally permitted measures at 125,175 and 250ml.
I do have some sympathy with Mr Caines and his claim that the law is “archaic”. And indeed, the government is said to be considering the issue of wine-tasting. However, he goes on to say “We're under pressure to reduce the amount of alcohol people consume. When you'…

Haircut 100 20000

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As we discovered on Saturday, if there’s one thing that Tandleman is willing to wipe the dust off his wallet’s padlock for, it’s his thatch. However, even he might think twice about splashing his doubloons on the crimping service offered by Stuart Phillips. For Mr Phillips is offering his clients the world’s most expensive haircut.

Based in Covent Garden, a cut and blow dry will set you back £20,000. However, you get a discount if you bring a friend, so Tandleman’s lovely lass could get her bonney done for only £8000. For these prices, you get a 40 minute consultation, posh nosh, a massage and free champagne. Personally, for those prices, I’d expect Scarlett Johansson to be delivering the massage, free real ale and 500 bottles of Brewdog Tokyo to take away.

It's A Numbers Game

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One rather clever Camra member has forced the Advertising Standards Authority to withdraw an advert for the Axe The Tax campaign. The advert, which featured prominently in Camra’s newsletter What’s Brewing, claimed that “the Chancellor takes 33% of a pint of beer”.

However, this figure of 33% is wholly inaccurate and so the advert, in its current form, has been banned as misleading. The rather amusing fact is that 33% is actually too LOW a figure. As the ASA points out, this only represents alcohol duty plus VAT. Factor in other tax burdens that the beer industry pays and the real figure is 39%. A more accurate (but more depressing!) version of the ad will be launched shortly.

Can The Can

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As someone who likes a drink, I have to salute the tenacity and determination of Simon Holden in his simple quest for a can of lager. Not to mention his barefaced cheek.

The jobless 22 year old applied for a shelf- stacking job at an Asda in Colne, Lancashire. However, turns out the lad was better at taking things off the shelf, rather than putting them on. For the manager recognised him from CCTV footage as having stolen four boxes of lager earlier that week. When confronted with this unpalatable truth, Holden did a runner. But not before he managed to grab another two boxes of his favourite tipple on the way out.
Despite being in breach of an earlier suspended sentence for burglary, the judge, obviously sympathetic with a man’s desire for beer, rightly spared him gaol and gave him another suspended term. I believe Mr Holden is now seeking employment with Tesco...

Ashes to Ashes

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Sunday was, of course, crunch time for the Ashes. However, not being a heathen, I resisted the clarion call to drink until a respectable time. Thus it was not till 1208 that I got my hands on a refreshing pint of Golden Pippin at the Towler on Walmersley Road.

This seemed a good place to catch all the action and the beer was on good form. However, it soon filled up with perambulators and the like and soon I was returning wayward children to disinterested parents. Not fancying an afternoon of this, it was time to look elsewhere. In the centre of Bury, the Trackside was busy and struggling. Two wickets (topical, see) were dead and the Station House Maiden’s Cross had to be returned as bottom of the barrel. Acorn Golovka is tasty, but I’d had it there 6 days ago, so thought it might just be past its best. That left Pennine Railway Sleeper which tasted too much like Leyden homebrew for my taste and confirmed my belief in their inconsistency.
A trip to the Robert Peel and their Outstanding L…

Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye

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Whilst certain bloggers are away warming up their lederhosen, it falls to me to summarise Saturday’s excursion to Leeds.

A hardy bunch met at Rochdale train station-this being such an exotic location to one of our number, she gazed round in undisguised wonderment. Being a Saturday, the local mills were closed and everyone had their weekend best flat cap and clogs on. Tandleman’s lovely lass arrived-alone. Had she finally thrown off the shackles of male oppression? Nay, turns out the great man was already in Leeds getting his Barnet done. And, apparently, sampling the local Wetherspoons. He did text me this information but, as he’s on the poncey 3 network, the texts didn’t arrive for some six hours.
Anyway, we were soon on our way: departing to the strains of Our Gracie singing “Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye”. First stop was the excellent Brewery Tap and an appearance by the freshly coiffured Tandleman. Lunchtime is an excellent time to visit this usually busy pub and we were soon …

Let's All Go Down The Strand

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Some light relief for the weekend. Greene King are launching a new beer to encourage drinkers to frequent their London pubs. Royal London will be 4% and is described as “rich and fruity”. Or, to the less gullible, tasting like Greene King.

According to GK: “A beer dedicated to London is of course a great pull for the city’s many tourists and visitors here on business. Britain’s cask beer is renowned the world over - it’s the jewel in London’s crown that everyone wants to experience.” Cask ale might be the jewel in London’s crown, but is GK that jewel?
I mean, who in their right mind would come to London and drink solely/mainly Greene King beers? Plenty hope GK, as they are using the launch to promote their new Capital Cask Ale Trail. Participants will get a stamp every time they buy a GK beer and will count towards a lovely GK t-shirt. Sounds like beer torture to me. We do have a Northern equivalent, though; it’s called the JW Lees passport scheme.
Live long and prosper. I’m off for som…

Going LocAle In Acapulco Bury

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JDW’s Robert Peel in Bury are hosting their first ever LocAle beer festival. Which means, until Sunday, you have the rare opportunity to sample the full range of Outstanding beers. But pay heed to your Uncle Tyson. Yes, Standing Out is very hoppy and dangerously moreish. But it is 5.5%. Before you start your session, ask yourself one question: do I really need a gallon of it? Conclusive testing says no. Particularly when your aperitif was Acorn's (rather tasty itself) 5% Admiral IPA...

Give It Some Welly

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Doing the rounds for my bi-annual survey of all Bury’s hostelries, I never fail to be surprised by the ebbs and flows of the pub game. Pubs that you think are perpetual landmarks disappear overnight and those that seem doomed cling to life like shipwrecked mariners. So it is with the Wellington on Bolton Road.

The “Welly” has had many incarnations over the years. A large, originally Whitbread, roadside boozer, it has veered from innovative ale house to roadside rough-house. At the start of the 1980s it was Madness on the jukebox and 4 or 5 beers-including Castle Eden, on the pumps. Ten years later and Shaun Ryder had replaced Suggs on the jukebox, the pub had been opened out and real ale had disappeared from the bar.
These were the wilderness years: when there was still a clutch of pubs competing for the, then, quite substantial weekend trade. The Black Maria had moved away from the George and was now a semi-permanent fixture at the Welly. On a Friday night the car park was full of tes…

Gudbuy T' Jane George

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And so another Bury drinking institution bites the dust. The George on Market Street has finally given up the ghost and will reopen shortly as a party supplies/card shop. No one has obviously told them that the £300 million development (the biggest outside of the Olympics) is actually on the other side of town. Oh well.

With the demise of the George, only three original town centre hostelries remain open. But let’s not get too nostalgic for the George: it was never one of the greats. It was always a bit of a plodder beer wise and had a reputation as a “fighting pub”. For many years, a paddywagon used to park alongside at the weekends and had its fair share of “characters.”
Still, I would have thought it was viable as a pub. It’s got a good location in the centre of town, close to the travel interchange and always had a decent trade. Problem is that it’s been abused over the years. Firstly by Whitbread who changed it from a reasonably smart multi-roomer to an open plan format. After that…

Friday Frolics

Friday saw a lunchtime session at the Crescent in Salford. The pub’s still not the greatest but their beer festival was a good opportunity to put it through its paces. Beer from the pumps was ok but the stuff coming straight from the cellar wasn’t in the best condition.

Of the beers sampled, Goose Eye’s Puddle Duck & Turkey’s Revenge weren’t bad, but the best was Mallinsons Hazy Shade of Summer which delivered their usual hop bite, despite being only 3.9%. Atlas Three Sisters was unpleasantly phenolic, but was nothing in comparison to Bollington Chilli Nights. This was a 3.9% little brew but was fatally unbalanced. It was as if someone had dropped a box of chillies into a glass of dark, thin beer. An ok flavour for a curry but it was horribly astringent and the opposite of moreish.

Talking of moreish, The New Oxford gave me another (and some their first) chance to try Phoenix’s Strawberry Beer. It was agreed that this is much better than Fruli; avoiding the sickly sweetness that rui…

One For The Ladies

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Women in Manchester are set to become the latest guinea pigs in the battle to corner the “femALE” drinks market. It’s Carlsberg’s turn to launch a beer aimed squarely at the ladies. So, for the next 12 weeks, a number of bars will be trialling Eve, a 3.1% lightly sparkling beer that is described as being somewhere between a lager and am RTD (ready to drink) product. It will be available in two flavours, passion fruit or lychee.

Apparently, (yet again), there is a growing demand for these products. Apparently, there is nothing on the market that satisfies the designated demographics parameters. Apparently, what’s required is a light, sophisticated alternative. This 3.1% light, sophisticated alternative is brewed with the finest malt and, er, rice. Sounds a bit like dog beer to me.

Me And You And A Beer Named Dog

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Some innovations in beer just pass you by. So it was with dog beer. Yes, beer for dogs. Although apparently it’s been available for awhile now, there’s now a big marketing push to cash in on the “hot” summer. Hmmm.

According to Amy Laura Hepworth, marketing manager for Beaphar, “Dogs can become even more of the family as they enjoy a beer too.” I can’t argue with that.
Six 33cl bottles of Dog Beer can be yours for £11.70. It’s brewed with hops and barley but “with the alcohol and gas taken out, and a little meaty flavouring is added for ultimate palatability.” That explains why none of my doggie friends have mentioned it before-beer without alcohol isn’t really beer, is it?

A Foggy Sunny Day in London Town

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It was a measured start to Sunday after the excesses of Saturday. We were up early-well some of us were. I was up at 0610 whilst Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was still dreaming of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Eventually he emerged from his pink tweed pyjamas and we headed for some breakfast.
Wetherspoons provide a good value hearty breakfast and so we decided to try the Spoons at Victoria station. This took some manoeuvring because of the state of the tube network but we were pleasantly surprised by it. It was smarter than the average train station pub and offered a mezzanine view of the scuttling passengers below. It also had a decent beer offering including Phoenix White Monk & Bitter and Twisted.

Suitably refreshed, we headed back to the hotel before beginning Sunday’s beer tour. Now you may have seen us on our tour-Eddie was the one with the very fashionable Manx kipper carrier bag. Well, it’s fashionable in Douglas, anyway.
We made haste to our first hostelry for an early lunchtim…

Every Little Helps

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Sometimes the story writes the headline. Sometimes the press release makes it just too easy...but here goes anyway. From tomorrow, Tesco will be stocking Durex Extra Large*-a condom for men who need that bit extra. It’s 10mm longer and only 1mm wider but obviously...every little helps.

Naturally I’m pleased that I will be able to get my supplies from the local supermarket rather than the internet, but is there really that much demand? According to Healthcare buyer Nicola Evans, yes, there is. Last year, over 200 customers (presumably mostly men) called asking for them to be stocked. Probably when their mates were in the room...
*£9.53 for 12

Knocked Em' In The Old Kent Road

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This is how it all began. The Manx Minx was away on a Manx Norton restoration workshop: leaving Eddie, the eager legal beagle to put his freshly pressed tweed underpants on and head for the bright lights of London. Now I would have preferred a weekend of culture and art (apparently there is some in London) but Eddie, like most of the legal profession, is a total social degenerate. Left to his own devices, he would no doubt spend his time carousing round seedy taverns and fleshpots. For his own good, I reluctantly agreed to accompany him.

What a funny place London is. I never visit at weekends if I can help it and it’s no wonder. Two tube lines closed and two more restricted put unnecessary obstacles in the path of two thirsty travellers. And its claim to be an international city of repute is risible considering most of the pubs shut at 11pm at weekends. On that basis alone, it’s not even the best city in the UK. Still, British pluck and ingenuity won through in the end.
(Yet) another f…

Never Mind The Gingko Biloba

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During my recent weekend sojourn with Eddie, the eager, legal beagle, we sampled many of the delights that London had to offer. One thing that we apparently did miss out on was Sex Pistols ice cream.

This is the first offering by Icecreamists, who are part of the Selfridges store and where the ice cream is exclusively on sale. The green and white dessert contains natural stimulants such as ginkgo biloba, arginine and guarana and comes with a shot of La Fee Absinthe poured over the top.
The makers claim that it enhances blood flow and increases energy levels and the results are so electric that customers are limited to just one serving per person. For £11.99 a pop, it better had.

Bars Without Frontiers

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DIY beer service has come to Manchester. I haven’t tried it yet, but customers at new bar Taps will apparently be able to quench their thirst without leaving their table. And it’s all done without a waiter in sight. For, following the success of their first outlet in Leicester, they have launched the first self-service bar in the North West.

The idea is simple. Each table has a number of beer fonts, or “taps”, which the customer uses to self administer their choice of poison. The options are Amstel, Duvel Green, Leifermans Summer Fruits or Vedett White. You settle up when you’re finished and if anyone gets carried away, the taps can be turned off before anyone gets, er, carried away.
It’s based on the bottom floor of the Great Northern Tower apartment complex on Watson St. That’s the posh end of the Great Northern development and upstairs houses Epernay (where I have had a flute or two) the very sleek champagne bar.
The owners obviously think Belgium is the way to go, as they’re keepin…

Tokyo Joe Versus Cheesezilla

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I’m often asked what my favourite pizza is. Now, that’s like saying what’s your favourite cheese-like beer, it can vary with the mood. Obviously though, it has to feature lots of cheese. At home, where you’ve got the time and choice of ingredients, the options are endless. Making your own is very rewarding and the perfect opportunity to scoff several varieties of cheese and call it your tea-dinner to posh scoffers.
I’ve also discovered that it’s a tasty late night treat when you need sobering up from a hard day’s graft at the GBBF and everywhere decent is shut. Rudgate Ruby Mild won the much coveted Supreme Champion gong-somewhat contentiously, judging by some of the mutterings overheard. I don’t think it was a fix (as some were postulating) but there is something of a recent history of rewarding very average beers-Alton’s Pride, anyone?
Rudgate Ruby Mild is ok, but not exceptional as a Mild, let alone in comparison with the myriad of other beers. Just my opinion, of course. Amongst t…

Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft

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Another kick in the teeth for natural justice yesterday with the ruling on Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the USA. Of course, the court was bound to rule by the strict letter of the law. But correct interpretation of poor law is no excuse for letting this farce continue. If Alan Johnson had the balls he’s supposed to, he’d rip up the extradition order hastily signed by Jacqui “I’m Useless Get Me Out Of Here” Smith and do the right thing.

Mr McKinnon is the computer hacker who, famously, managed to penetrate several American networks, including Nasa and the Pentagon. Crucially, his motivation wasn’t terrorism, blackmail or anything of that ilk. He simply wanted to discover evidence of UFOs and where better to look than NASA and the Pentagon. Makes sense to me. Sadly for conspiracy buffs, he didn’t find any, but that’s a whole other blog post.

The point is that the good ship Freedom, having failed to nail any of the world’s real baddies-Bin Laden, Mullah Omar and the guy responsible for m…

It's Cider. Jim, But Not As We Know It

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A cider festival at the Knowsley? The Knowsley? The rapidly getting-grubbier Greene King pub opposite the bus station? Yes, my source was insistent, that was the case and there were posters up to prove it. Feeling like Bernstein and Woodward must have done on the trail of an unbelievable story, I duly went and investigated.

Of course it was too good to be true. There is indeed a cider festival taking place, but (1) it’s taking place across a range of their pubs and (2) it’s not a festival as I’d recognise the term. For it mainly consists of the usual suspects-Magners, Strongbow and Kopparberg which are available anyway. They’ve thrown in some Aspalls as well, but really, a couple of bottles of cider-even at sale prices-does not a festival make.