Can a pub with football on the telly be any good?

Portugal warming up at the 2006 World Cup in Germany
Portugal warming up at the 2006 World Cup in Germany

CAMRA guides to pubs often praise the absence of a TV screen, and indeed, a big sign outside a pub boasting Sky / Setanta sports and a big screen is usually synonymous with mediocre beer.

I can see why people hate TVs in pubs, because they can distract people from conversation and detract from the atmosphere.

But occasionally, I do want to watch a football match in the pub, and I always have to compromise on the quality of the beer (and pub) to do so.

Has anyone got any suggestions for places in central London that are really good pubs with nice beer that just happen to have a screen? Or are the two mutually exclusive?

I suppose what you need is a pub that has several sections, where you can keep the football in a discrete area, so everyone’s happy.  In Germany, both during the World Cup in 2006 and the European Championships this year, loads of cafes and bars got in screens, but put them outside, helping to create a fantastic street party atmosphere.

Incidentally, Zeitgeist is pretty good for big sporting events, but you have to choose your night carefully, as Bundesliga and Germany qualifiers get priority!

Boak

Beer Exposed – what's that all about?

Anchor Porter
Anchor Porter

We’ve been invited to this Beer Exposed event in London at the end of September. I can’t quite work out what to make of it.

The good side – lots of brewers from around the world will be there. That said, the choice is a little weird — as well as excellent breweries from Britain (Fullers, Exmoor, Harvieston), Belgium (Liefmans, Westmalle*) and America (Great Divide, Goose Island, Anchor etc), there’s also a lot of dull “world lager” — eg Tsingtao, Quilmes, Cristal from Cuba and no less than four bland Polish breweries. Although, if Zywiec bring along some Porter, I’ll be first in the queue.

The mission of the event is to “explore, educate, enlighten”, and to this end there are various talks and walks run by various beer celebs. Star turn for beer geeks must be Garrett Oliver, doing various sessions on beer with food, including beer & cheese and beer & chocolate pairings. Many members of the British beer-writing gliterati are also there, and some of the sessions look very interesting indeed.

But… the whole thing smacks a bit of “beer is the new wine” to me. There’s quite a hefty entrance fee — £14 in advance, £17 on the door, which doesn’t include any of the beer walks or talks. Lots of the talks are focused on beer and food. There’s no-one over the age of 30 on the promotional material. There’s even a bloody dress code. Although if this is mostly to stop the sexist t-shirts, I don’t mind so much…

There’s also no mention of real ale, which is perhaps why I’ve not seen much mention of this in official CAMRA press or on their website. They do have a stand there, though, so hopefully real ale is not going to be entirely neglected in this sensory exploration. While I firmly believe that there are some great non-real beers in the world, real ale is an important and uniquely British part of the beer story.

So — an interesting radical approach to extending the appeal of beer, or a pretentious marketing exercise? Are tutored tastings and food pairings the way to enlightenment? If this kind of exercise helps people learn about wine, why not apply it to beer?

We’ll go along with an open mind and report back…

Boak

*are they bringing monks??

Beer Exposed is on at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 25th-27th September. You have to pick a four hour slot to attend. You can find a full schedule of events, plus details about the speakers, sessions and who’s exhibiting on the Beer Exposed website.

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.

Bailey

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…