Trans-Atlantic Beer Tasting Simul-Post

adnams.jpgOr, “Sadly, we don’t know Mr Bean”.

Last week, we had a pint with Wilson of Brewvana fame. We were several thousand miles apart; he was drinking at lunchtime, we’d just got home from work; and the banter was by email. It kind of worked.

We’d agreed which beers we were going to drink so that we could compare, based on the UK beers Wilson could get in Iowa, and which American beers we could get in London. Somewhat ironically, he found it easier to get hold of Adnams Bitter than we did. So the final line-up was Adnams Broadside and Anchor Porter. Here’s how it went from Wilson’s point of view, and here’s how it went from ours:

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Mann’s Brown Ale and a call for suggestions

manns.jpg

UPDATE APRIL 2013: Apparently, ASDA and Morrison’s sell it, if you’re looking to buy some, as apparently many of you are!

Mann’s Brown Ale is not something you see many people drinking in its own right. Traditionally, it’s used in a ‘brown split’ with ordinary bitter — in other words, to give a bit of oomph to that half a pint of flat, brown keg beer you’ve been thinking about abandoning for fifteen minutes.

But Michael Jackson lists it in his 500 Great Beers book and, at 2.8%, we wondered if it might not fit be just the trick for school nights, when a hangover is simply not an option.

As you can see, it looks nice in the glass — very dark brown, almost black, with an off-white head. The body is remarkable for such a weak beer, and there are some nice aromas of malt and roasted grains.

The taste… well, nice in some parts of the mouth, if that makes any sense. Too sweet at first, with a harsh burnt treacle flavour, but rather pleasant going down, when the slightly bitter chocolate flavours come through. Reminiscent of the sweeter variety of mild, we thought.

On balance, I suspect this would taste wonderful with chocolate cake, which tends to make most beers taste too dry, but it’s not something we’d drink too often.

So, over to you. Any suggestions for other beers under 3% which are worth a go…?

Bonus feature: here’s an old post with an advert for Mann’s featuring Sherlock Holmes.

24-hour licensing evaluated

licensing2.jpgLots of stuff in the news today about the publication of a Government report investigating the impact of “24-hour licensing”. See here for a sample of reactions to the report on the Beeb.

Bit of background for readers not used to our crazy First World War licensing laws. Basically, up until November 2005, standard pub opening was until 11:20, with last drinks served at 11:00. A dinky little bell would ring warning you about last orders, prompting a Pavlovian response in most Brits to rush to the bar and get another round in. Yes, pubs could get late licences, but most didn’t. You’d all get turfed onto the street at 11:20, which may or may not be the root of the British “pint and a fight = great night” ethos.

Now, in the brave new era of 24-hour licensing, it’s all changed.  Or has it? The vast majority of pubs still open exactly as they used to, or perhaps extend the opening time to midnight at the weekends.

“Fewer than 4% of premises (5,100) have applied for round-the-clock pub opening – and many that have are hotels, stores and supermarkets.

Only 470 pubs, bars and nightclubs are open 24 hours and the average closing time across all licensed premises has got just 21 minutes later.” [BBC]

Critics predicted waves of violent crime and rivers of vomit, the thinking being that the only thing preventing the Brits lapsing into barbarity was the time limit on drinking. Optimists hoped that the legislation would bring in “continental style drinking”, i.e. you would no longer feel the need to drink so quickly, which would in turn lead us to consume more responsibly and over a longer period in the evening (and not get into fights on the way home).

And so along comes this report, saying that not a lot has changed. To quote the summary:

“Its introduction [24hour licensing] has not led to the widespread problems some feared. Overall, crime and alcohol consumption are down. But alcohol-related violence has increased in the early hours of the morning and some communities have seen a rise in disorder”

So it appears that the people who were getting into fights between 11:30 and midnight are now getting into fights at three in the morning. But other than that, there has been no noticeable impact on our pub culture or drinking habits.

Not that this stops the more hysterical parts of our press, who have focussed in the spike in violence between 3am and 6am as proof the policy has failed.

The full report can be downloaded hereTandleman covers the story here.

I decided to follow suit with the tabloids and illustrate this story with a shock horror picture of a Brit bingeing.  Aren’t you shocked?  Go on, be shocked.

Boak 

Cosy pub interiors

When we talk about pubs we like, we often find ourselves rating them in terms of their cosiness. And in contrast, barn-like is one of the most common pejorative terms used to describe pubs — big, cavernous pubs are simply not cosy in any way.

People seem to love pubs where they can have a little privacy, which is one of the reasons for the popularity of some of Sam Smith’s pubs in London. The Cities of York, for example, retains a quaint layout with multiple little rooms, within which are further subdivisions — cubby-holes and partitioned booths.

The great thing about this approach is that, if the pub is empty, it doesn’t matter — you’re not exposed, and don’t feel lonely. Conversely, if the pub is busy, you get some space, and can enjoy the buzz without having to overhear everybody else’s conversation.

We don’t really know why other pubs don’t try a bit of strategic partitioning to boost the cosiness level. How much is a sheet of MDF these days?