Rants and eulogies

Pete Brown has written a superb rant about the many headed beer industry. Read it here.

And then, for something completely different, a nice pair of posts on Pencil and Spoon, one where Mark writes about his long suffering missus, and then the right of reply from the long suffering missus herself.  Other long-suffering beer widows have commented.

This could run and run.

Why landlords go for the usual suspects

With people like Jeff (aka Stonch) of the Gunmakers Arms and Dave from the Woolpack blogging, we’re getting some great insights into the life of the pub landlord.

Jeff’s recent post about the benefits to the landlord of sticking to the usual suspects made us feel chastened, as it’s something we’ve moaned about in the past. In short, he points out (whilst gallantly naming no names) that some of the smaller breweries don’t deliver good quality product.

We’ve seen that in bottles, too, so it doesn’t surprise us. Given that we all root for these small businesses, should we be helping them out by letting them know when we’ve had a dodgy bottle, or would that just wind them up?

The Good Bierkeller Guide


There are quite a few guides in German aimed at people who like beer gardens, but we think we’ve found the best.

Frankens Schoenste Bierkeller and Biergarten by Markus Raupach and Bastian Böttner is a weighty but handily sized guide to the most attractive gardens and pubs in Franconia. Even though our German is rudimentary, we found it easy to follow. For each city, town and village in Franconia, it suggests between two and twenty decent places to drink. It lists the beers on offer; gives details of how to to get to each boozer on public transport; and offers special tips for each one (Excellent asparagus menu in season! Particularly nice dunkel! Wonderful panoramic views from the terrace! And so on).

If you’re a regular visitor to Franconia, we’d say it’s a must, and a bargain at €16.95.

And its endless photos of green, sunlit beer gardens aren’t a bad way to cheer yourself up after a journey home from work in the rain, either.

How we research pubs

We like to get out and about looking for new pubs (although the evil of work has prevented this a bit recently).

Sometimes, we just chance our luck and hope that we’ll stumble on somewhere good. We’ve got quite good at peering through pub windows to see what’s on offer and have become pretty adept at turning on our heels and walking out of pubs that turn out to be rotten once we”re inside.

More often, though, we do a bit of research beforehand, using various resources.

We do have a copy of the Good Beer Guide (2007 edition) which we refer to, but as we’ve mentioned before, its focus on consistently good cask ale, rather than on interesting beers across the board, sometimes leaves us uninspired.  Also, it could be better at clearly flagging pubs in a given area which stock locally brewed beers.

We like Beer in the Evening, but a number of our regular haunts don’t  score above average (usually because a few Internet trolls have dragged the rating down).  But the comments often give us a good idea of whether we’d enjoy the pub or not, regardless of overall rating.

These days, though, we’re most likely to survey our favourite blogs before visiting a new area.  If several bloggers like the same pub, it’s probably worth a look. Over time, we’ve also developed a sense of which bloggers like the same kinds of pubs we do, so we rate their opinions more highly. It’s the next best thing to a personal recommendation.

Pub in a shed

If you’re in the UK and into beer, have a look at this on the BBC I-player; fellow beer blogger John and his shed are featured.

This is no ordinary shed – Darlington-based John and his friends have all converted their sheds into mini-pubs serving homebrew.  BBC’s regional programme “Inside out” picked it up.

You could learn more about beer watching this than the whole series of James & Oz, and it makes home-brewing look seriously cool.

The bit you want is about 20 minutes into the show.

La Ronda – New year's beer resolutions

This month’s “round” is paid for by Andres of Culturilla Cervecera, and it’s a follow-up to a previous question on building and maintaining a good beer culture. He asks us what our resolutions for 2009 are to help further the cause.



This month’s “round” is paid for by Andres of Culturilla Cervecera, and it’s a follow-up to a previous question on building and maintaining a good beer culture. He asks us what our resolutions for 2009 are to help further the cause.

Apart from the obvious answer (“drink more beer”), we do have a number of beer-related resolutions;

1. Try to persuade our local to rotate the range of beer a bit.
Our local pub has got a great atmosphere, friendly staff, and the beer it does serve is usually in good condition. We’re usually there at least once a week for all these reasons. We’ve often thought that it would be perfect if they took advantage of having five handpumps and being a genuine free house to have at least one pump offering something different each week. So our first resolution is to talk to the landlady about it.

2. Organise a cheese and beer tasting
We’ve wanted to have a go at this ever since seeing Garrett Oliver do one at BeerExposed. Could be a fun way of getting some of our friends interested in beer? After all, everyone loves cheese.

3. Go on more beer expeditions
There are lots of great pubs in London, some of them in the suburbs. There are also many great beer destinations that are within a short train ride. We always have fun when we go exploring, so we’re going to do that some more. At least one a month.

P.S. Jeff Pickthall has an interesting resolution — to provide almost instant reviews EVERY beer he drinks via modern technology. Anyone else got any beer-related resolutions?

Plain English, please!

In an excellent post on his blog, brewer Tom Cizauskas recently made a compelling case for plain English in beer writing.

Yes, it’s important to preserve the historical terminology; yes, some of the words are just plain fun to use (“spile” is a favourite of ours); and, yes, people who are into this will know what most of them mean.

But often, that rarefied vocabulary is used as a way to lord it over others and to exclude them, just like political jargon or street slang. It’s an obvious sign of the “If I can just stop you there to make a minor correction, young lady” mentality we’ve written about here.

Watching Neil Morrissey and his mate on TV this week as they struggled to understand the brewing instructions from this book really brought this point home — why the hell should anyone who didn’t grow up in the 16th century know what “turbid” means?

The Carpenters Arms with the Beer Nut

We’re very slowly becoming tickers for beer bloggers. This week, we finally caught up with TV’s the Beer Nut. We took the opportunity to try out a pub we’d never visited before, just five minutes walk from Marble Arch in the west end of London.

The Carpenters Arms is very much a Proper Pub, without making a big deal of it. There are usually five or six cask ales available on the big, brown, wooden bar. The big, brown wooden tables are worn and ringed with beer stains. There is a dartboard. The crowd is largely made up of builders and regulars.

Bailey thought O’Hanlon’s Yellow Hammer was on good form (we’ve only had this from bottles on location in Devon in the past, and not been impressed) but we note Beer Nut didn’t care for it, thus going to demonstrate again that although we seem to share fairly similar outlooks, we never like the same beers…

This pub makes a nice change from sweaty chain pubs crammed to the rafters. It’s worth knowing about if you’re in that area and looking for a decent pint.

Beer Nut is very much a Proper Beer Blogger, without making a big deal of it. He does have a notebook, but when he scribbles in it, he makes it look like he’s a busy man with great thoughts. And who’s to say he isn’t?

The Carpenters Arms (definitely no apostrophe) is at 12 Seymour Place, W1H 7NA. (Beer in the evening review here). As well as being handy for Oxford Street and the Lebanese restaurants on Edgware Road, there’s also an Austrian cafe (with beer!) over the road, which we’ll have to investigate some other time.

Reviewing pubs and beers without looking like a geek

A mobile beer review
A mobile beer review

I’m always a bit self-conscious about taking notes in pubs, and generally don’t bother. But what do you do when you come across an interesting beer that you really want to write about later?

Text messaging is the answer. Just write your review in a mammoth text, and save it. You look like you’re a cool dude with loads of mates, rather than a sad sack looking for blog material.

Paul Garrard has a PDA, which could also work to review anonymously.