Generalisations about beer culture london

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?


Deberes de español La Ronda

La Ronda – la peor cerveza de mi vida

The Spanish-speaking beer blogosphere has started its own “Session” – La Ronda. This month it’s hosted by Pivni Filosof, who’s an Argentine based in Prague, and who writes in English here. The theme is “the worst beer you”ve ever tasted”. After careful consideration as to the demerits of Desperados and Adelscott, I eventually decided to base my response on one of our posts from last August about Mongozo coconut beer.

Normalmente no escribimos sobre cervezas si no nos gustan. Pero siempre hay excepciones – por ejemplo Desperados and Adelscott (enlace en inglés).

Sin duda, la peor cerveza de me vida es Mongozo Coconut. De hecho, no es solo la peor cerveza, sino la peor cosa que he tomado.

breweries Germany marketing pubs

A pub / brewery with an identity problem (Heidelberg)

Entepreneurs trying to start breweries/brewpubs in Germany seem rather torn about the way to market their beer. Many just go straight for the Olde Worlde market, using gothic typefaces to explain how their beer may be something like something that was once brewed in the area and how they’re carrying on a grand tradition. They fill their pub with dried hops and bits of breweriana, load the menu with pork, and hope you’ll go along with the pretence.

Others (for example, the excellent Bar Fuesser in Nuremberg) are more willing to admit their recent roots – they may experiment with trendier typefaces, diversify the decor, and perhaps even offer a vegetarian option in amongst the ten cuts of pork. However, there will still be plenty of reassuring nods to “tradition” – a copy of the Reinheitsgebot in germanic script seems obligatory, for example. Even the modern pubs can’t help themselves indulging in mock-historical “fuckery-foo” (thanks, Charlie Brooker).

But we’ve never come across a place so confused as “Brauhaus & Backwerk”, a pub belonging to the Welde brewery, right on the main square in Heidelberg.

We’d done a bit of research before we came about pubs and breweries in Heidelberg, but hadn’t heard of this one. Naturally, our attention was grabbed by the fact it appeared to be offering its own beer. Inside, the place was done up like a tacky medieval theme-park, but they did list five or six types of beer on one of the mock velvet scrolls, so we sat down despite the fact it was almost deserted.

The menu was all mock-medieval too, with dishes for “our little knights”, for example. We assume that referred to children? Like many pubs in Heidelberg, they were clearly trying to cater to the Japanese and Americans “doing Europe” by offering beer by the litre and pretzels, Bavaria-stylee.

However, we then noticed this dreadful beer mat (above), which was totally at odds with the rest of the branding of the place. We couldn’t work out whether it was supposed to be a trendy brewpub, a tourist trap, or possibly a brothel.

Only one thing for it – try the beer. In amongst the usual pils and weizen, they also offered a dunkle-weizen (“Schwarze Wonne”) and a Zwickl, which sounded more exciting than it was. The beer was drinkable, although tasted a bit home-brew-like, as with many trendy brewpubs in Germany. We wondered if the pub would be better off located outside the main part of town, where they could drop all the faux-medieval stuff and concentrate on the beer and the home-made bread.

I’ve since had a chance to look at their website. You can find it here, but I warn you, you’ll be greeted by a dreadful jingle and a video featuring naked ladies. I’ve seen some pretty tacky sub-porn on German beer sites before, but this takes the biscuit.

For those of you that haven’t followed the link (well done!), I can tell you that you don’t need much German to understand how Welde want to market their beer. There’s little mention of the range of products, and a lot of mentions of ladies with bierdeckels for bras.

Talk about a confused marketing strategy. If you’re just going for the saucy angle, why bother making a Zwickl and other seasonal specials? If you’re proud of the beer, why undermine it with awful gimmicks or cod-medieval toss?



“Brauhaus & Backwerk” is right opposite St Martin’s Church in the main square, next to a kebab shop with pretensions. We may have the name slightly wrong, but you can’t miss it. We rather enjoyed the pils, tacky marketing or not.

Heidelberg does have loads of great pubs and interesting local brews, so we’ll put up some more about it in due course.

beer festivals The Session

Session #16: our ideal beer festival

Session number 16 is hosted by Thomas at Geistbear Brewing Blog, and the topic is beer festivals.

We’ve posted about various festivals we’ve been to in the past, from the enormous Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) to a cosy little event in a pub round the corner. Here, in no particular order, are our thoughts on what makes our ideal beer festival;

Size of venue

Small and cosy. Aircraft hangars are great for putting in as many beers as possible, but they make it difficult to generate an atmosphere.

Mind you, large beer tents seem to work in Germany. In fact, outdoor festivals are a great idea, although not so much in Britain with the rubbish weather and the diva-like nature of cask ale.

Range of beer

The range of beer will obviously be related to the size of the venue. We’re quite content to have a smallish range – anything more than about six beers counts as a festival to us! It’s more important that it’s in good condition, so that when you give it to your non-ale-loving mates, there’s a chance they might actually like the stuff and come back for more.


Mixed. It seems to make for a better atmosphere when you have non-beer-geeks there as well. This is why we like small festivals in local pubs.

Reason for being

It should not be a cynical marketing trick, like Heineken’s Identikit Oktoberfests in Spain. Ideally, it should promote real ale to new punters, although foreign beer festivals like the recent cracker at Zeitgeist are also OK by us!


Essential for mopping up all the beer, but also quite a handy tool for drawing in non-beer geeks. I’ve had lots of great food at festivals recently, with events such as the Pig’s Ear being a showcase for local(ish) small producers.


Difficult, this one. Without wanting to descend into predictable folkie-bashing, I’ve seen some dreadful live acts at beer festivals. Live bands can work really well, as Bailey found out in deepest darkest Somerset, but when they’re bad, they’re horrid. If festival organisers are going to bother with live music, they need to make sure they book real crowd-pleasers.

I quite like oompah bands, but I think you can only get away with them in Germany, where everyone knows the words. In Muenchen steht ein hofbrauhaus, eins, zwei, g’suffa!

To summarise: we’d like beer festivals to emphasise the “festival” a bit more – it should be something that’s fun and brings people together.


london News opinion

Chaos on tube as drinking ban hits London public transport

As you may have picked up from other blogs (including Impy Malting and Knut Albert), there was a party last night to mark the drinking ban on London transport.

It appears to have turned into a bit of a riot, as can (sadly) be expected when large groups of boozy Brits get together. I didn’t go, as I thought it would get nasty. The BBC has the story.

While not wanting to make light of the fact that people got assaulted, trains got damaged etc, I can’t help a little giggle over the fact that new Mayor Boris Johnson’s politicking has already backfired on him. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really care about being able to drink or not on the Tube — I’m not an alcoholic. But I don’t think many Londoners would say that people drinking on public transport was one of London’s big issues, and we’ve already got laws and regulations to cover the potential nasty side effects like assault, abuse etc. The whole, unenforceable gesture was to make Boris look tough on law and order, and it’s managed to cause a major law and order incident. Nice one.

Incidentally, drinking is still allowed on national rail services (where they sell it to you), which is where I’ve experienced the worst anti-social behaviour. Worse because people are on it for longer and thus drink more, and because you can’t get off and wait for the next train if it gets bad.