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…
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?
This 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.
I’ve been a good person this year. I’ve supported and promoted pubs and shops selling good beer, I’ve recommended beautiful microbrews to people who might not otherwise have drunk them, and I even got round to joining CAMRA.
I don’t really want much for Christmas, aside from the odd nice beer, and peace and goodwill to all men, but here’s my fantasy Christmas wishlist:
- The hop and grain harvests to be full and plentiful this year. I don’t think the smoking ban will kill pubs, but £4 a pint might.
- UK brewers to do more porters and stouts year round and less summer ales. Oh, and pubs to stock them. I find it strange that even in really good “real-ale” pubs you rarely find a stout that isn’t Guinness.
- My local supermarket to change the beer selection more than once every couple of years.
- Pubs that don’t want to do good cask ale to discover the wonders of bottle-conditioned beers.
- A home-brew shop that gets round to processing your order perhaps the day after you made it, rather than waiting three days before phoning you to say they don’t have the stuff. Thus making you miss your brewing schedule.
- The BBC to commission and show a beer appreciation programme. Or any channel really. Get Oz Clarke to team up with some beer writers and see what happens.
- CAMRA to stop wasting my subs money on the campaign for a full pint and focus more on the quality of said pint, i.e. perhaps visit a few more of these allegedly good pubs in the Good Pub Guide? See superb rant by Pete Brown on this a few months back, one of my favourite blog posts of the year.
- Our first-born lager to work.
- To discover that the wild yeasts in the Lea Valley are capable of spontaneously fermenting a tasty beer, thus starting a craze for London lambics.
- All the fabulous pubs, breweries and beer shops we’ve mentioned (and many more we haven’t had a chance to) to have a productive and profitable new year. Cheers!
The latest issue of Marketing magazine brings news of the launch of an appalling-sounding half-beer/half-cider chimera from one of the big international brewers. It’s made with cider, barley malt and “sparkling water”. I can’t be bothered to give this foul-sounding product any publicity by naming it… so I won’t.
The interesting thing is that they claim to have devised the product based on research which shows that a significant number of women “don’t like beer and distrust the quality of wine in bars”.
For one thing, I’m not sure that the logical conclusion from that research is: “I bet those same women would just love a weird cider-beer hybrid!”
But I’d also observe, paraphrasing their line, that there are many people of both genders who “don’t like wine, and distrust the quality of real ale in pubs”, which explains the popularity of bland lagers and Guinness in the UK. Too often, the choice is between a corporate product which is boring but consistent, and a “real” product which stinks, tastes bad and looks bad because it’s not been well looked after. You can’t blame people for going down the bland route when that’s the choice.
In both cases, the solution is probably campaigning to improve the quality of the wine, beer, cider, whisky or whatever, in bars and pubs.
One way to do that would be for CAMRA to make the criteria for getting into their Good Beer Guide slightly more strict. At the moment, as far as I can tell, it lists every pub with any kind of cask ale on offer, although they say “only pubs with a consistently high standard of real ale are considered for entry”. Sadly, my experience has been that quite a few unwelcoming, grotty, smelly pubs get in because they’ve got an old, rank cask of Greene King IPA on one pump at the bar.