Christmas gifts for beer lovers

What do you buy a beer lover for Christmas, other than beer?

jacksonbook.jpg1. The late Michael Jackson’s new book, the Eyewitness Guide to Beer — probably an update of his 1998 Dorling Kindersley book Ultimate Beer, but looks interesting anyway.

2. Some glassware. You can pick up branded Fuller’s glasses for around £4 in most of their pubs. Many supermarkets are selling gift sets with branded glasses from Shepherd Neame Spitfire, Old Speckled Hen and other well-known brands. Or, you can go posh — here’s a selection online. I like the look of these but could also do with one of these to drink imperial stout from.

beermachine.jpg3. A homebrewing kit. There are some basic, gimmicky automatic brewing machines, which look like fun. Or, you can buy a decent beginners kit from these people and pay less for it. But don’t forget to get a decent book to go with it.

4. More homebrewing stuff. If your loved one is already brewing, why not help them take it to the next level with some fancy kit like a

pubinabox.jpg5. There are all kinds of “pub at home” kits and accessories, from the cheap and cheerful to the ludicrously elaborate and expensive. If you don’t fancy having any of that in the house, what about the shed…?

6. Some rare and, erm, beautiful breweriana from Ebay might go down well. Not sure I’d want a load of old bottle tops for Christmas myself, but who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men.

7. What about the ludicrously named World’s Best Bottle Opener? Or even a nice traditional one. You can never have too many. Like umbrellas, they have a habit of disappearing. Just don’t buy a Homer Simpson novelty bottle opener. Believe me, the novelty of hearing “mmmmm, beer” wears off after, ooh, two bottles or so.

8. What about some food to accompany beer, or a combination of the two? O’Hanlon’s port stout and stilton; almost anything Belgian with some chocolate; or some pork scratchings…

9. CAMRA membership!

10. goodgift.jpgGood gifts are increasingly popular. If there’s too much junk in your house anyway, and you don’t want to encourage your loved ones to get fat and drunk, why not buy a brewery in Tanzania on their behalf?

11. And finally, if you are going to buy beer — and, let’s face it, it’s probably your best bet — choose them with a theme such as strong stouts, Christmas beers, German beers, or whatever, and package them nicely.

Who decided that IPA went with curry just because of the name?

Bailey´s been holding the fort while I´ve been studying for exams, but now they´re over, I feel I should make it up. However, as I´m still in the middle of Spain I´m stuck for immediate inspiration, so thought I´d post on something which has been bugging me for a while.

IPA and curry. I´ve been told by many wise people that instead of fizzy lager, one should drink IPA with curry. But I don´t see it. I´ve tried it on several occasions, and each time, the curry just completely kills the flavour of the IPA. Even a powerful tasting IPA like St Austell´s “Proper Job” is left completely bland by my chickpea massala.

Curry kills hop flavouring. Not that crazy really, given that hops are another spice. It´s just a waste of a decent IPA.

So what to drink with curry? A “Munich-style Helles” or alternatively Cornershop East European Lager (I´d like to see that as a style in the BJCP guidelines!) is inoffensive and refreshing, but then again, if you can´t really taste the beer, is it worth bothering at all?

I have a theory that a nice belgian wheatbeer might work, although it would have to be one that´s not too spicy. One to try when I get back.

Any other suggestions?


The ubiquity of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord

postll.gifWould-be trendy pubs seem to think it’s compulsory to offer Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. Maybe it’s something to do with Madonna?

Last night, I went to a friend’s birthday party in a supposed “gastropub” (viz. they had square plates). It was a perfectly nice place, with very friendly bar staff and (impressively) a dog. But I wasn’t impressed with the TTL. It wasn’t off — it was just old and tasted dull, with no discernible hop flavour or aroma. In fact, it tasted of Marmite, which is not a quality I look for in a beer.

The last good pint of TTL I had in a pub was in 2005, at the Trafalgar in Greenwich. Since then, I must have had 10 or 12 off, hot, stale or just plain dull pints. It’s a nice beer when it’s on form but, like a lot of similar products, its reputation is being damaged by indiscriminate distribution and poor quality control.

It must be a real dilemma for smaller breweries — push to expand and risk losing control over the quality of the product, or keep control and never sell a pint more than two miles from the brewery.

Why no London brewing museum?

lamppost.jpgThe reopening today of the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden has made me wonder why there’s no museum of brewing in the capital.

Sure, individual breweries around the country have their own museums, and Coors/Bass have the best claim to running the national museum of brewing in Burton Upon Trent.

But there’s nothing in London. The whole city is, in effect, a museum of brewing, but it would be nice to see key artifacts brought together in one place (the old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, for example) to tell the fascinating story of brewing in this city.

Failing that, though, what about an exhibition at the excellent but occasionally overlooked Museum of London? That has a great “Victorian street”, including a pub, and some great stuff in the archives, so they’re halfway there already.

Update: I wonder if this story on Hop Talk might not have subconsciously influenced my thinking?

Boozing tactics — pre-emptive greasy spoon

regency.jpgIt’s not a great way to increase your life expectancy, but tactical use of junk food can make a night out a much more pleasurable affair, and save you from a hangover the next day.

The Regency Cafe in Pimlico is beautifully preserved 1940s cafe with a menu of finely prepared stodge. It’s a five minute walk from Westminster, and the perfect place to go before the pub.

On Friday night, I ate a huge plate of fishcakes, chips and beans before meeting mates for several pints of Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold. At the end of the night, I barely felt even tipsy because there was so much potato in my stomach.

You don’t get the same effect by floating a spicy kebab on top of the booze. Eat before you drink!

This, of course, is food and beer matching in the crudest sense…