Power Station Porter

battersea.pngBattersea Brewery’s Power Station Porter is cropping up all over the place these days, notably in the Rake where I first saw it, and in ASDA, where I bought a bottle today.

It’s a relatively light coloured, medium strength porter (4.8%), which is accented towards chocolate/fruit flavours rather than smoky/coffee ones. I like it, but both times I’ve tried it have been disappointed by a slight fizzy quality, and a head which disappears instantly. I went through an elaborate glass washing ritual today and even that didn’t help.

It’s one of those beers that isn’t astounding — I still prefer Fuller’s London Porter — but it’s full of flavour, and there aren’t many small London breweries, so I’m going to keep buying it when I see it.

I also think that their label design is fantastic, being contemporary but not trendy; traditional, but not mock-Victorian; and simple without being plain.

Secret Bars of Westminster

largeblm.gifI recently spent a night in a bar in Central London where you can always get a seat, which always has at least three real ales on tap (one of which is always a mild) and where a round of two drinks costs much less than a fiver. Sadly, it’s not somewhere I can recommend to everybody — it was one of the several members-only Civil Service social clubs hidden around Westminster.

These are some of the few surviving working men’s clubs in London, and that is exactly what this one felt like. I was reminded of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights; of the railwaymen’s club my Mum and Dad joined a few years ago because the beer was a pound a pint; and perhaps a little of the club that Mr Mackay opens in the basement of HM Prison Slade in Porridge the Movie. In other words, it was rough around the edges, and maybe a little bleak, despite being a stone’s throw from both Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. But, for all that, the beer was half the price it is in the Rake, and just as good.

I drank Crouch Vale Blackwater Mild, which was in perfect condition, delicious, and reminded me of Anchor Porter (more hop aroma than is usual in a mild, perhaps?). But is it named after the sinister American “security” company…? They also had Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold, and a couple of other beers whose names I didn’t write down.

If you know any civil servants, ask them if they can get you into their “social”. You’ll either love it or hate it, but either way it will be an experience.

Jukebox 1982

theetonrifles.jpg

This month, the Session is hosted by The Lost Abbey Brewery, and theme is music and beer

When I was little, my parents ran a pub. It was called the Artillery Inn and was a slightly grotty, failing Whitbread pub in Exeter. When I was four years old I used to help with the stocktake so I have vivid memories of counting bottles of pale ale in crates in the cellar.

Failing it might have been but that didn’t stop my folks from trying hard at it, working every hour the license would allow, organising bands, social nights, barbecues, pantomimes, darts tournaments — anything to liven the place up.

But the one thing that really helped give the place some atmosphere was the jukebox.

My Dad, being obsessed with music, put a lot of effort into stocking it. It must have been one of the last to play 7″ vinyl singles. I remember watching it pick out a record from the huge stack, swing it into place and drop a needle onto it. The noise was great, incredibly loud and mechanical. There would be a few moments of amplified crackling and popping before the music kicked in.

Particular songs spring to mind: Eton Rifles by the Jam; Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant; I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me by Nik Kershaw; Michael Caine by Madness. Those were there because they were in the charts, but Dad wouldn’t have a song in the box he didn’t kind of like. After all, standing behind the bar, he’d have to listen to it over and over again.

Then there were his own records — songs from the sixties and seventies. Lola by the Kinks must have been in there. His copy certainly has the middle punched out, like so many others in his collection.

I think a pub should have a jukebox. I know there’s a “no music” lobby, but I just don’t get it. Is the idea that loud music will somehow interfere with your tastebuds?

Well, frankly, I find silence interferes with my mood.

Bailey

Irish pubs in Spain

guinness.jpgI used to avoid Irish pubs, particularly when abroad, thinking they´d be full of tourists. Then I discovered that in a lot of places they´re actually really good places to meet the locals thanks to (a) the bizarre belief that Irish and British things are just inherently cool (b) the fact that they´re shunned by self-righteous tourists like me. So I became more tolerant, and stopped going into a sulk everytime someone suggested going to an Irish pub. But now I’ve been in a few here in Spain, I find myself very unnerved by the fact that they are, here at least, another weapon in the fearsome armada of Heineken International.

Salamanca has at least four Irish pubs and for various reasons I’ve now been in three of them. They´re all Heineken beasts so you get Paulaner and other delights such as Adelscott and Desperados. You may also come across an advert for the local Octoberfest franchise, a subject I blogged about a couple of months ago.

More sinister still (I find) are the various efforts to make the locals drink more and more. Special offers for large drinks, for example. Even the pub quiz turns out to be a syndicated marketing effort.

The very things about the drinking culture in Spain and France that the Government in the UK want us to emulate — moderation and smaller measures — are an anathema to people in the business of selling.

It’s not all bad news though — some of these Heineken outlets do have a guest beer from another brewer. Guinness. Sigh.

Krusovice schwarzbier

krusovice.jpg Last night, I really wanted to drink a beer I hadn’t tried before, so I rummaged about in the “cellar” (garage) and found a bottle of Czech Krusovice  schwarzbier someone had left after a party.

It’s a very gentle 3.8% (perfect for a school night). In the glass, as you can see from the photo, it was very dark, but still transparent, with a nice off-white head. The taste, however, was disappointing at first.

I’m one of those suckers who expects dark beer to taste stronger than lighter coloured beers — even though I’ve done blind taste tests on glasses of helles and dunkel and not been able to tell the difference! This beer was very light bodied and lightly flavoured, despite its colour.

After the initial let down, though, I decided this beer was in the subtle category, rather than being bland. Or perhaps “mild” is the right word because, yes, this looked and tasted not unlike a dark English mild. Not much in the way of hop flavour, aroma or bitterness — just some sweet, chocolate-like malt and a refreshing wateriness. I know wateriness is not something people generally praise in a beer, but I don’t always want goop.

With hindsight, I wish I’d drunk it with a desert, or perhaps just with a juicy orange, rather than a big salty pizza, which might have brought out some bitterness, but I enjoyed it anyway. Worth a go if you see it about.