Bass museum to shut

This via Appellation beer.

The Coors Visitor Centre, aka the Bass Museum, in Burton on Trent, is to close in June 2008.  Apparently it costs £1m a year to run, and visitor numbers are falling, despite a revamp.  Full story here.

We’ve moaned about the lack of any museum celebrating London’s brewing heritage in the past, and it seems sad that there is no appetite for this kind of thing even in Burton.  Not that we’ve ever been — perhaps there’s a good reason for the decline in visitor numbers…

Anyway, we’ll definitely be making the effort to get there before June – it’s been on our list for a while.

The Coors Visitor Centre site is here.  They make no mention of the closure, so perhaps it’s not true.

Budget hangover

parliament.jpgSo the Budget is out, and it’s a 6% rise on alcohol duty in real terms. “4p on the pint”, as opposed to the traditional penny it’s been for the past few years. Penny increase, that is, for let us forget that we already have some of the highest alcohol tax rates in Europe.

The small brewers’ relief stays in place though, so if your favourite tipple comes from a microbrewery, it’s “only” a 2p per pint increase.

It would have been nice if they’d kept the small brewers’ rate where it was, though — it’s not as if the increase on this small section of the market will generate a huge amount of money for the Exchequer. Nor is it the case that the binge-drinking youth we’re all supposed to be scared of are noted for knocking back pints of locally-brewed real ale.

I’m not so much worried about this rise — as a Londoner, I already pay over the odds for my pint. It’s more the precedent, and the message it sends out. It suggests that the government has given in to tabloid hysteria and calls for quick fixes to the nation’s drinking problems.

Boak

PS – we’re away for the weekend, see you early next week!

First they came for the Special Brew…part two

It seems I spoke too soon when I wrote about Westminster council’s scheme to ban strong lagers and ciders from off-licences in certain spots.

I should point out that this is a voluntary scheme, not the result of any legislation, and that it is localised to several areas within Westminster which are particularly known for “street-drinkers”.

The Conservative party announced yesterday that if they come to power they would be seeking to raise taxes on high strength beer and cider, and also alcopops.

As I said in my original post, and as the commentators added, your average alkie will just switch to wine or whatever else gives you more bang for your buck.

Meanwhile, some of us have Imperial Stout and Belgian triple habits to maintain…For wanting to drink these, I am not a “sensible drinker” in the eyes of the Tories. But as a young(ish) woman, I probably shouldn’t be drinking at all, according to them — the reason for the attack on alcopops is that these are “targeted primarily at young women”. Young women drinking? Next they’ll be getting jobs and having sex.

Boak

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 

First they came for the Special Brew…

diamond-white_lg.gifIt’s been all over the London news today that several supermarket chains will be removing “super-strength” cheap beers (and ciders) from their central London shops.

Brands such as the 9% Carlsberg Special Brew and Diamond White will no longer be within the reach of the gentleman of the road, at least not if he walks the beat in Westminster.

Before I go into paranoid ranting, I should point out that this is a voluntary scheme, not the result of any legislation, and that it is localised to several areas within Westminster which are particularly known for “street-drinkers”.

However…this is a move that has been discussed as potential government legislation, and the results will no doubt be monitored closely by policy wonks.

So now for the paranoid ranting. While I’m no fan of Special Brew or any of the other brands mentioned by name in the article, you do have to wonder how this scheme or any potential future legislation will distinguish between “tramp-juice” and, say, your average Belgian ale.

I like to think it would be obvious that something like St Bernardus Abt 12, at 10%, should not be outlawed, but how about some more subjective brews? What about Guiness Foreign Export Stout, one of the finest Imperial Stouts available, and a hit with the vagrant of distinction? Or even some of the Polish “mocny” beers available now – I don’t like ’em much, but other beer lovers do.

Yes, this is all hypothetical – I’ve been in pretty much every off-licence in the Victoria area and they never have anything exciting that might fall foul of a ban. But come on, let’s have your thoughts. How would you define rules that would allow you exciting exotic treats from Belgium while simultaneously banning tramp brew? Some kind of equation based on percentage and price? Percentage divided by Beer Advocate rating?

Anyway, will this really be effective? Surely hard-core alcoholics will move on to cheap strong red wine or counterfeit vodka instead. We already have laws and Asbos to stop people thieving, begging, pissing in the streets and other anti-social behaviour. Why not enforce them, instead of picking on a few derided brands?

Notes

You’ve got to love the Carlsberg blurb about Special Brew on their website. After claiming its links with Winston Churchill, they remind you that to drink responsibly, a man should drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day, and then point out that a 500ml can of SB at is 4.5 units.

Boak