New Tricks: an episode for beer geeks

Amanda Redman and Dennis Waterman in New Tricks
Amanda Redman and Dennis Waterman in New Tricks

Last Monday’s edition of New Tricks focused on beer and breweries. The story was ludicrous even by the usual standards of this programme (which we kind of like…). It had the team investigating the 10-year-old case of the death of a promising young brewer in a fermentation vessel at a traditional family brewery. However daft the plot, which features a secret beer recipe, arguments over the provenance of the malt, and brewing dynasticism, there’s plenty for the beer geek to enjoy:

  • trying to guess which brewery they used for filming;
  • pondering which industrial brewers would really be using open fermentation vessels in this day and age;
  • product placement for Fullers, Theakstons and possibly Special Brew (although has that become a generic term for super-strength crap lager now?);
  • wondering whether they filmed the beer festival scene at a real festival or just got CAMRA to help with posters etc;
  • lazy stereotypes about gastro pubs vs traditional boozers (Eg gastro = female friendly and crap beer); and
  • old codgers complaining that the beer doesn’t taste as good as it used to.

You can enjoy it for yourself through BBC I-player. But you’ve only got until 21:00 on Monday 11th.

Why we're not going to GBBF

Don’t worry — this isn’t a rant about CAMRA or beer festivals — more of a sheepish explanation.

We’re probably not going to make it to the Great British Beer Festival this year because we’re doing other stuff. Boak is in Wales on a wee break (more on that soon). I’m working a lot and have a few long-standing social engagements which can’t be dodged, or relocated to an aircraft hangar in West London where there’s loads of beer.

Nothing dramatic or exciting going on; no big stand being made. Just crapness on our part.

Having said that, there’s surely something significant in the fact we haven’t managed to find the time to go to the most important event in the British beer drinkers’ calendar. Maybe we don’t really like beer very much?

If you’re desperate for coverage of GBBF, we’d recommend Stonch and Pete for a more sceptical angle; Tandleman for the insider’s perspective; Maieb if you want to know what the beer’s like; and Beer Nut for… well, he’s unpredictable, isn’t he? Whatever he comes up with will be good, at any rate.


London beer festivals coming up

The White Horse on Parsons Green is hosting an American beer festival, starting today and going through til Sunday. We’ve never actually made it to the Sloany Pony and unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to make it this weekend either. Pete Brown has the beer list.

The Pembury, in Hackney, is hosting another of its festivals from the 16th-20th July. As well as your chance to try forty-odd beers, you can also sample Moravka, which they now have on tap. Their website is here.

The very same weekend, there’s a beer and jazz festival in Greenwich. It seems a bit more pricy to get in than a lot of festivals (£12.50 after 5pm, with a £1 discount for CAMRA members) so interesting to see how this new event will go down. Then again, you are paying for the nice location (Old Royal Naval College) and entertainment, not to mention over 140 ales, ciders and bottled beers. It replaces the Catford beer festival, apparently.

Oh, and there’s the small matter of the GBBF in a month’s time…

Real ale and lower division football

This month’s Beer magazine / supplement from CAMRA features an article on the Leyton Orient Supporters’ Club, winner of multiple awards from local CAMRA branches. They host real ale festivals, and have a large number of handpumps, making them the best spot for ale for miles around.

Being a local, I’ve been dragged down to see the O’s by keen evangelists on a couple of occasions, and have even been in the supporters’ club bar. From what I remember, it’s very friendly, extremely well-priced and the beer is in excellent condition. It welcomes both home and away fans. So well done to them for winning all those awards.

However, it got me thinking – I’ve seen quite a few references to lower division football clubs on other beer blogs and beer sites. Is there a direct correlation between people who are into real ale and people who are into lower division football? If so, what’s behind it? Is there an American equivalent?


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.