Mann’s Brown Ale and a call for suggestions

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UPDATE APRIL 2013: Appar­ent­ly, ASDA and Mor­rison’s sell it, if you’re look­ing to buy some, as appar­ent­ly many of you are!

Man­n’s Brown Ale is not some­thing you see many peo­ple drink­ing in its own right. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, it’s used in a ‘brown split’ with ordi­nary bit­ter – in oth­er words, to give a bit of oomph to that half a pint of flat, brown keg beer you’ve been think­ing about aban­don­ing for fif­teen min­utes.

But Michael Jack­son lists it in his 500 Great Beers book and, at 2.8%, we won­dered if it might not fit be just the trick for school nights, when a hang­over is sim­ply not an option.

As you can see, it looks nice in the glass – very dark brown, almost black, with an off-white head. The body is remark­able for such a weak beer, and there are some nice aro­mas of malt and roast­ed grains.

The taste… well, nice in some parts of the mouth, if that makes any sense. Too sweet at first, with a harsh burnt trea­cle flavour, but rather pleas­ant going down, when the slight­ly bit­ter choco­late flavours come through. Rem­i­nis­cent of the sweet­er vari­ety of mild, we thought.

On bal­ance, I sus­pect this would taste won­der­ful with choco­late cake, which tends to make most beers taste too dry, but it’s not some­thing we’d drink too often.

So, over to you. Any sug­ges­tions for oth­er beers under 3% which are worth a go…?

Bonus fea­ture: here’s an old post with an advert for Man­n’s fea­tur­ing Sher­lock Holmes.

24-hour licensing evaluated

licensing2.jpgLots of stuff in the news today about the pub­li­ca­tion of a Gov­ern­ment report inves­ti­gat­ing the impact of “24-hour licens­ing”. See here for a sam­ple of reac­tions to the report on the Beeb.

Bit of back­ground for read­ers not used to our crazy First World War licens­ing laws. Basi­cal­ly, up until Novem­ber 2005, stan­dard pub open­ing was until 11:20, with last drinks served at 11:00. A dinky lit­tle bell would ring warn­ing you about last orders, prompt­ing a Pavlov­ian response in most Brits to rush to the bar and get anoth­er round in. Yes, pubs could get late licences, but most did­n’t. You’d all get turfed onto the street at 11:20, which may or may not be the root of the British “pint and a fight = great night” ethos.

Now, in the brave new era of 24-hour licens­ing, it’s all changed.  Or has it? The vast major­i­ty of pubs still open exact­ly as they used to, or per­haps extend the open­ing time to mid­night at the week­ends.

Few­er than 4% of premis­es (5,100) have applied for round-the-clock pub open­ing – and many that have are hotels, stores and super­mar­kets.

Only 470 pubs, bars and night­clubs are open 24 hours and the aver­age clos­ing time across all licensed premis­es has got just 21 min­utes lat­er.” [BBC]

Crit­ics pre­dict­ed waves of vio­lent crime and rivers of vom­it, the think­ing being that the only thing pre­vent­ing the Brits laps­ing into bar­bar­i­ty was the time lim­it on drink­ing. Opti­mists hoped that the leg­is­la­tion would bring in “con­ti­nen­tal style drink­ing”, i.e. you would no longer feel the need to drink so quick­ly, which would in turn lead us to con­sume more respon­si­bly and over a longer peri­od in the evening (and not get into fights on the way home).

And so along comes this report, say­ing that not a lot has changed. To quote the sum­ma­ry:

Its intro­duc­tion [24hour licens­ing] has not led to the wide­spread prob­lems some feared. Over­all, crime and alco­hol con­sump­tion are down. But alco­hol-relat­ed vio­lence has increased in the ear­ly hours of the morn­ing and some com­mu­ni­ties have seen a rise in dis­or­der”

So it appears that the peo­ple who were get­ting into fights between 11:30 and mid­night are now get­ting into fights at three in the morn­ing. But oth­er than that, there has been no notice­able impact on our pub cul­ture or drink­ing habits.

Not that this stops the more hys­ter­i­cal parts of our press, who have focussed in the spike in vio­lence between 3am and 6am as proof the pol­i­cy has failed.

The full report can be down­loaded hereTan­dle­man cov­ers the sto­ry here.

I decid­ed to fol­low suit with the tabloids and illus­trate this sto­ry with a shock hor­ror pic­ture of a Brit binge­ing.  Aren’t you shocked?  Go on, be shocked.

Boak 

Cosy pub interiors

When we talk about pubs we like, we often find our­selves rat­ing them in terms of their cosi­ness. And in con­trast, barn-like is one of the most com­mon pejo­ra­tive terms used to describe pubs – big, cav­ernous pubs are sim­ply not cosy in any way.

Peo­ple seem to love pubs where they can have a lit­tle pri­va­cy, which is one of the rea­sons for the pop­u­lar­i­ty of some of Sam Smith’s pubs in Lon­don. The Cities of York, for exam­ple, retains a quaint lay­out with mul­ti­ple lit­tle rooms, with­in which are fur­ther sub­di­vi­sions – cub­by-holes and par­ti­tioned booths.

The great thing about this approach is that, if the pub is emp­ty, it does­n’t mat­ter – you’re not exposed, and don’t feel lone­ly. Con­verse­ly, if the pub is busy, you get some space, and can enjoy the buzz with­out hav­ing to over­hear every­body else’s con­ver­sa­tion.

We don’t real­ly know why oth­er pubs don’t try a bit of strate­gic par­ti­tion­ing to boost the cosi­ness lev­el. How much is a sheet of MDF these days?

The Pembury is having another beer festival…

…but you’ve only got a day left.

We some­how man­aged to miss / for­get that the Pem­bury was hav­ing a beer fes­ti­val, but for­tu­nate­ly hap­pened to be going that way any­way today.

So if you are in the area, as always, it’s worth pop­ping in.  There was a bunch of love­ly ales from the Jar­row brew­ery, which should be enough to get most of you in.  Of inter­est in the con­tin­u­ing theme of nov­el­ty beer mar­ket­ing was the “Back to Black” Amy Wine­house-inspired beer from Hunt­ing­don­shire brew­ery Son of Sid.  Tast­ed a lot like Mil­ton’s Nero, and was cer­tain­ly pulling in the pun­ters with the unusu­al name / pump clip.

High­light taste-wise was Dark Star’s Six Hop Ale, obvi­ous­ly a nod to Amer­i­can beer styles with its “extreme” hop­pi­ness.  It does it well, hav­ing hop com­plex­i­ty with­out being over­ly bit­ter or grassy.  At 6.5%, it’s not a ses­sion beer, but it’s very tasty. There might be room for strong “extreme” beers from the cask if peo­ple can get used to drink­ing them by the half.

So go along if you can. Just try to avoid sit­ting next to the smelly racists who crashed our table.