Top of the Pops

jamesclay.jpgBeer enthusiasts in the UK owe James Clay and Sons a debt of thanks.

They’re the canny importers who have made it possible for us to get our hands on Brooklyn Lager, Goose Island IPA, and other exciting beers we’ve banged on about in the past.

On their website, they list their top ten sellers. As of Monday 24 March, this is how the chart looked:

    2.Erdinger Weiss
    3.Lindemans Kriek
    4.Lindemans Framboise
    5.Chimay Red Cap
    6.Schneider Weisse
    8.Brooklyn Lager
    9.Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
    10.Karmeliet Triple

Ring any bells? It’s what’s in the fridges in almost every even vaguely aspirational bar or pub in Britain.

Sure, it gets a bit boring seeing those same beers all the time, and, yes, Vedett is shite, but I’d be very glad if my local swapped its fridge full of Stella, Becks, Holsten and WKD Blue for just a few of those.

Pimp my stout

orange.jpgOur latest homebrew is nearing the end of primary fermentation. We’re aiming for a “chocolate orange stout” – not so much Terry’s chocolate orange, but more something bitter and rich with a hint of citrus. A bit like our impressions of Yeti Imperial Stout, which in turn reminded me of an 85%-cocoa-solids hot chocolate I had in Spain once. That’s what we’re going for. We’re not ambitious or anything.

Anyway, we’ve had a sneaky sample, and it’s already showing a lot of promise. We’re going to bottle some just as it is, but we’ve got some smaller carboys, so we could do a range of experiments with secondary fermentation. So if you’ve got any ideas for what to do next, whether based on experience or pure fantasy, let us know after the “jump”, where you’ll find the full recipe so far.

Continue reading “Pimp my stout”

Don't let the bastards grind you down

saturday-night-sunday-morning.jpgThe more I think about so-called binge drinking, the more I think it is a result of the Northern European attitude to work — the weekend feels like the only time people can really relax, after slogging through five or six days of boredom, stress and aggravation, and they want it to be something special, memorable and overwhelming.

It’s not a new thing. In the 1958 social realist novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Sillitoe described a Saturday night in Britain like this:

For it was Saturday night, the best and bingiest glad-time of the week, one of the fifty-two holidays in the slow-turning Big Wheel of the year, a violent preamble to a prostrate Sabbath. Piled up passions were exploded on Saturday night, and the effect of a week’s monotonous graft in the factory was swilled out of your system in a burst of goodwill. You followed the motto of ‘be drunk and be happy’, kept your crafty arms around female waists, and felt the beer going beneficially down into the elastic capacity of your guts.

People always talk about the sensible Spanish and French attitude to drinking, but could it have anything to do with the traditional long lunch breaks and 35 hour working weeks in those countries?

Binge drinking is not the problem — it’s a symptom.


Increased costs of GBBF cause CAMRA to make a loss

gbbf.jpgThis month’s “What’s Brewing” contains the CAMRA financial statements, showing an operating loss of £71K compared to an operating profit of £44K last year. Net current liabilities are also up considerably.

Slightly concerned about the financial position of the organisation, I eventually found some commentary in “Beer”, the other paper that comes out with What’s Brewing. Apparently, the loss is due to not meeting income targets from the Great British Beer Festival. The commentary from the chair, Paula Waters, says that:

…we had to experiment with the amount of beer we bought in in order to judge how much we will require in future…we now know what we need to do to make the event work in 2008 with lower costs and the right amount of beer”

Interesting. I suppose it’s all well and good us members making demands about what the GBBF should contain, but we do need to remember that this is one of the premier sources of income for CAMRA. It’s oviously a fine balance to get enough beers to appeal to the hardened tickers yet not have too much left over at the end.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind a smaller selection, particularly if it was kept better. Let’s face it, even if you sat there from opening day to closing day and had a liver of iron, you’d never get through it all. Other members may disagree.