The Carpenters Arms with the Beer Nut

We’re very slowly becoming tickers for beer bloggers. This week, we finally caught up with TV’s the Beer Nut. We took the opportunity to try out a pub we’d never visited before, just five minutes walk from Marble Arch in the west end of London.

The Carpenters Arms is very much a Proper Pub, without making a big deal of it. There are usually five or six cask ales available on the big, brown, wooden bar. The big, brown wooden tables are worn and ringed with beer stains. There is a dartboard. The crowd is largely made up of builders and regulars.

Bailey thought O’Hanlon’s Yellow Hammer was on good form (we’ve only had this from bottles on location in Devon in the past, and not been impressed) but we note Beer Nut didn’t care for it, thus going to demonstrate again that although we seem to share fairly similar outlooks, we never like the same beers…

This pub makes a nice change from sweaty chain pubs crammed to the rafters. It’s worth knowing about if you’re in that area and looking for a decent pint.

Beer Nut is very much a Proper Beer Blogger, without making a big deal of it. He does have a notebook, but when he scribbles in it, he makes it look like he’s a busy man with great thoughts. And who’s to say he isn’t?

The Carpenters Arms (definitely no apostrophe) is at 12 Seymour Place, W1H 7NA. (Beer in the evening review here). As well as being handy for Oxford Street and the Lebanese restaurants on Edgware Road, there’s also an Austrian cafe (with beer!) over the road, which we’ll have to investigate some other time.

Reviewing pubs and beers without looking like a geek

A mobile beer review
A mobile beer review

I’m always a bit self-conscious about taking notes in pubs, and generally don’t bother. But what do you do when you come across an interesting beer that you really want to write about later?

Text messaging is the answer. Just write your review in a mammoth text, and save it. You look like you’re a cool dude with loads of mates, rather than a sad sack looking for blog material.

Paul Garrard has a PDA, which could also work to review anonymously.

Boak

Central European Beer Halls in Hanoi

The following post comes from Wei Sen, our man in Hanoi. During his last visit to the UK he told us all about the beer scene in Vietnam, and it sounded so interesting that we asked him to blog about it for us.

The walls are panelled in dark wood, the air is heavy with the smell of hops and cigarette smoke, the tables are crowded with dishes of smoked sausage and fried cheese, and everywhere there are tables of customers throwing back tankards of beer brewed in the on-site microbrewery. It’s not a scene typically associated with Vietnam, but Hoa Vien Brauhaus in Hanoi is part of a number of European style beer halls that have opened over the last couple of years.

There is no doubt that beer is the drink of choice in Hanoi. The most popular drinking places are bia hoi, which serve unpasteurised beer and traditional snacks. Most bia hoi are quite modest, and consist of a few plastic tables and stools set out on the pavement. However, as the economy has developed, more upmarket venues have opened up to cater to the new middle classes. The most notable of these are the Czech beer halls –- bia tiep — that have opened up in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Drinking in Hoa Vien (or the half dozen other such places in Hanoi) two things are immediately obvious. The first is that the décor, food, and beer are all heavily influenced by European styles. The other is that the clientele –- unlike the bars and pubs of Hanoi’s tourist district — are almost exclusively Vietnamese.

Although modern Vietnam is a capitalist-friendly place, during the 1970s and 80s the main foreign influences were from other communist countries. Thousands of Vietnamese worked or studied abroad in the USSR or the Eastern Bloc (including Hoa Vien’s founder, who is now the honorary consul for the Czech Republic in Ho Chi Minh City). One of the more positive aspects of this cooperation is the exposure to a European beer culture that complements Vietnamese drinking habits without seeming uncomfortably foreign.

Hoa Vien mainly serves a pilsner style draft lager; the taste is light but hoppy, and well-suited to provide refreshment in Hanoi’s muggy and humid summers. A bottled version is also available, as well as a stout. There is a varied menu, with a broad range of hearty east European dishes, as well as more traditional Vietnamese food.

Bia hoi are likely to remain popular –- 3,000 dong (10 pence) for a glass of street-corner lager on a hot day is too good an offer for most people to turn down. However, for those with a bit more cash to spare, bia tiep are the perfect places to witness the fusion of Vietnamese and European cultures through a shared love of beer.

Wei Sen

Beer blogging as marketing tool

First, Stella started their blog. I’m not linking to it as I don’t want to increase their Google rankings, but you can read Stonch about it here, A Good beer blog on it here, and Tandleman discussing it too. The blog itself is pretty dull, and aside from adding a few beer blogs to its blogroll to look authentic, it makes no attempt to go out and engage with the blogosphere.

Now it looks like Becks are having a go, and advertising for a beer blogger. The advert’s on the front page of their site if you fancy applying, although I think liking Becks might be an “essential” rather than a “desirable” part of the job spec. Also they specify you have to be between 21 and 30 – age discrimination, surely? The age requirement now seems to have disappeared from the website – someone’s realised they’re subject to EU law.

At least making it a full time job means that they might be making more of a go of it – i.e. presumably this blogger will be going around the blogosphere, doing the rounds, taking part in debates, perhaps even linking to others. It sounds like Becks “get” blogging a bit more than the Stella people do and realise that it’s not just a case of posting corporate pearls of wisdom and expecting a buzz to create itself.

Even so, it’s difficult to see what they’re trying to achieve from this. Firstly, it ain’t gonna work – the beer blogging community isn’t going to suddenly start plugging Stella or Becks just because someone writes a blog. We’re a bit too savvy for that, surely? Secondly, even if it did work, who cares? Much as I love the beer blogging world, I’ve enough humility to know that we’re not movers and shakers in the mass market. The average Bud drinker is not going to switch to Becks because a beer blogger writes about it.

We’ve come to the conclusion that it’s being done because it’s the latest “cool” thing in marketing, even if there’s no evidence that it actually works. The marketing team / agency can explain to the board that their exciting campaign features Web 2.0 technology and get to look creative and cutting-edge.

The other potential achievement from this is to increase search-engine rankings, and perhaps hope to pick up a lazy journalist (of which there are many) who will reproduce stories and press releases. However, beer bloggers can help subvert the effect of the this by writing (and more importantly, linking to) honest, critical articles on genuine beer blogs about Becks and Stella Artois.

Boak

Thanks to Appellation beer for the Becks story.

It's our birthday!

We began this blog a year ago today.

We were homeward bound from Bavaria, having just had a couple of weeks travelling round and pickling our livers. Bailey had the initial idea, and we spent the long train journey home thinking of ideas. We had no idea there were already so many great beer blogs out there already, and we’re dead chuffed that we’ve found our own little place in the blogosphere. I certainly wouldn’t have believed that we’d be averaging more than a hundred unique visitors a day by this point.

We had a bit of a hiatus with Google Analytics, so it’s only been working again for the last month. However, there’s enough info to reveal some bizarre searches. Some we particularly enjoyed were;

  • “boak and bailey railways” – 22 TIMES – do we look like trainspotters?
  • “buy adelscott UK” – no, don’t! It’s rank!
  • “desperados stockists”- I’m sure both of these people would have loved our less than flattering review of the stuff
  • “how much was a pint of beer in 1958” – no idea, sorry, anyone want to answer in case they come back?
  • “bailey guitar hero” – so they’ve met him…?
  • “limited edition shire horses” – one of the many exciting gifts you can buy from our forthcoming souvenir page
  • “beer modelling jobs” – Stonch — fancy helping out any beer obsessed models?
  • “funny shaped bread rolls” – these internet perverts make us sick.
  • “screaming monkey” – at last, one we can help with.
  • “counterfeit coriander seed” – shush — not in front of everyone. Meet us outside later and we’ll see if we can sort you out.

You get the picture.