Friday, 30 October 2009

Alcohol is the fifth most dangerous drug

Professor David Nutt has just been sacked as the government's drugs advisor.It seemed he favoured scientific facts over political expediency.

I haven't managed to find his full ranking of drugs danger but the article I've linked to contains this snippet:

"Alcohol ranks as the fifth most harmful drug after heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and methadone. Tobacco is ranked ninth. Cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, while harmful, are ranked lower at 11, 14 and 18 respectively"

So be careful out there!

EDIT: The full report from Professor Nutt is here.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Rob's stag do (part two)

After dragging myself out of bed to fill myself with fried pork products it was time for round two.
Thanks to a tip off from a Daleside drayman we knew that the beer designed by Rob himself would be on at a Wetherspoons pub. So, shortly after twelve we found ourselves there ordering pints of Daleside Autumn Leaves. I must admit I wasn't at my perkiest at this point but the combination of malts and hops brilliantly blended by Rob produced what was without doubt the best pint I'd had that day.

Rob posing by his beer

We moved on to Brigantes after that, a posh looking bar with and excellent beer range. One of the beers had a silhouette of Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson on the clip so I couldn't resist a pint of 'Living in the cask' by Elland brewery. It was a good pint too (similar to Landlord), though drinking it reminded that I saw Jethro Tull back in '85 which made me feel like an old git. Not as much an old git as Ian Anderson though, he was no spring chicken back then.

Rob and his dad in Brigantes

Next it was back to the maltings. I felt at this point that the pub crawl planning ability of the lovely Lisa wouldn't have gone amiss. In a beer oasis like York, with so many pubs still to visit, I think we were a long way from the need to make any repeat visits.

I took a detour to do some shopping as the lovely Lisa wanted me to bring her a beer from the York brewery. I also took the opportunity to get myself a pork pie as down South we can't get proper ones like you get in Yorkshire. Sadly the one I managed to find was a disgrace to the county and I may as well have had one from a Southern supermarket. Anyway, back to the beer.

By the time I caught up with the others Rob had already had a bottle of Lee's Harvest Ale and was polishing off a Rodenbach Grand Cru. I had a sip of that one and it was, as ever, sour but superb. It was back on to the cask beer for me though and I had a pint of Rooster's Yankee. It's another of pale hoppy beer full of Cascade hops. I'd avoided it when I'd seen it last night in the Ackhorne as it's the only beer in 300 beers to try before you die that the lovely Lisa had had but I hadn't and she was quite pleased having one over me in the beer stakes.

This time I was having it though so down it went. We started wending back to the hotel as some people wanted to get changed for the evening but we managed to call in at the Corner Pin on the way where I had a pint of Jenning's Little Gem. It was only a modest 4% ABV but managed to pack in a lot of flavour, especially considering it was served through the typical Northern sparkler.

I didn't bother getting changed but I did have time for a cup of tea to refresh me before starting out again. We were meeting some people from Daleside brewery at the next pub, the Postern Gate. This was our second Wetherspoons pub of the day. One Wetherspoons pub can be considered a misfortune but surely two is carelessness? Still, the beer range was good, and of course cheap, though the Wetherspoons policy of not turning round pump clips for beers that are off gets on my tits. I had an O'Hanlon's Port Stout, which was OK and an Exmoor Gold, which was good.

Next stop was the Phoenix, a pub which has just had a nice refurbishment. It was Landlord for me again here.

We shuffled on to the Edinburgh Arms next, a big pub that seems to be trying to compete with Wetherspoons on price. I'm not sure if this is the best business plan. Still the beer I had (York guzzler) was good. We only had a brief stop here as time was running low for the guys from Daleside as they had a train to catch. We dashed on to the Ackhorne where I had more Rooster's Yankee.

After that we those of us that were left went on to some god awful rock bar. They had crap beer and to be honest the place smelt like a toilet. At this point I made my excuses and left, along with the more aged members of our party. I guess there comes a time in a man's life when he just really doesn't want to sit in bars that smell of poo.

We did managed to call in at the lighthorseman on the way back to the hotel for a another pint though. I had a Golden Wunder, which was Thwaites 'Oktoberfest' beer made with German hops, though with a name like that surely it should be made of crisps? Anyway, that we me done for the weekend, all that was left was to sleep it off before re-fueling on fried pork for the journey home.

Young Rob resting after a busy weekend

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I've just got back from my local Sainsbury's laden with clanking bottles again. Last week it was Fuller's Vintage Ale going cheap that got me, now they're selling off beer competition leftovers for 50p a bottle. I piled all the Brewdog Chaos Theory into my trolley but I thought taking all the Williams Brothers IPA would be going too far, so there's still some of them on the shelves in the Brookwood branch. If you have a Sainsbury's nearby it's well worth checking it out ASAP.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Rob's stag do (part one)

I've just beer to the beer oasis that is York for young Rob's stag do. I know Rob from when I was studying brewing at Heriot-Watt. He now works for Daleside brewery.

First stop was the Lowther pub:

It was only a brief stop though as the only cask beer they had on was John Smith's, so we made our excuses and left.

In York you're never far from the next pub so we called in at the King's Head.

The is a Sam Smith's pub and was a keg only establishment, as it didn't even have their piss poor Old Brewery Bitter on. More annoyingly it didn't have their wheat beer on either so I had a bottle of pale ale. It was OK but nothing special.

After this things improved as we got to the Ackhorne.

This had some decent beers on but I wasn't too taken with my first choice Saltaire Blackcurrant cascade. It had the citrussy smell of Cascade hops but I found the flavour too much in the way of blackcurrant. My next choice was more like it, Wylam Summer Magic. This was a pale beer with Amarillo hops that really hit the spot.

The it was on to the Maltings, an excellent beer pub I've been to before.

My first one here was Outlaw IPA. It seems Outlaw brewing is the name that Roosters brewery use for their experimental beers. Outlaw IPA was beyond being a pale hoppy beer and was in fact a full on American style IPA. I'm not convinced cask is the best way to serve this type of beer but it certainly worked in this case. If Roosters fancy doing any more experimenting I'm quite happy to be a guinea pig.

For my next beer I was looking for something darker. No matter how good golden coloured beers are I don't generally make a session of them as they don't seem to sit that well. So I went for Summer Wine brewery's Teleporter. This was at the other end of things from Outlaw IPA, being as black as your hat and made from ten types of malt. It was excellent and put me back in balance.

Then it was on to the Guy Fawkes, the pub I stayed in when I was last in York.

The sign's had a V for Vendetta makeover.

I went for a Timothy Taylor's Landlord here and it was as lovely as ever. There was a brief outbreak of arm wrestling at this point for reasons I can't quite remember. It was clearly time for some food now so some of us went off for a curry, whilst others moved on to the next pub. Still having my wits about me I opted for the curry, washed down with plenty of water.

We caught up with pub goers at the Old White Swan.

They were looking a bit worse for wear and had decided that maybe food wasn't such a bad idea after all.

I had a Yorkshire terrier, another pale hoppy beer, but a good example of the style.

It was getting late by now and some people there was talk of going on to a club. That's not really my thing so it was bed time for me, and as the talk the next day was of Chardonay I don't think I missed anything.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Beer ties are staying

The Office of Fair Trading has rejected CAMRA's complaint about beer ties. It says it has found no evidence that ties between pub companies and landlords are harming competition in the pub sector or contributing to higher prices.

I've heard that managers of pubs tied to chains have to pay around £30 a firkin more than the free trade price, so if it doesn't contribute to higher prices it must just contribute to pub managers being screwed over.

The BBC story is here.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

This one's a bit different

On Sunday I made my Christmas beer. As you can see from the picture of the inside of the copper I've posted above this one's a bit different. To get that Christmas flavour I've added to a dark beer spices and oranges, and it's going to get dried fruits added when the fermentation has died down a bit.

I'm a bit worried about this one though. Normally when I brew something a bit wierd I only use a small proportion of the wort and use the rest to make something a bit more normal (see e.g. here). With this one I've done a five gallon batch so I've potentially 40 pints of something I don't like. Oh well, fingers crossed ...

Monday, 19 October 2009

Pale ale ponderings

Me and the lovely Lisa went to the Crown in Horsell on Saturday night. After extensive research we've decided that it's the only decent pub in walking distance. The beer of the night for us was Itchen Valley Pure Gold. I'm sure all my fellow beer nerds can guess what this was like just from the name: yes that's right its pale and hoppy. We found it to be a good example of the style and it went down very nicely. The fact that like most golden ales it had a slight haze to it got me pondering though.

Why are the golden ones usually a bit hazy? Is it just because they're paler so it's easier to spot? Or does the lack of dark malts mean that the mash pH is too high and more tannins are extracted leading to more protein-polyphenol complexes in the beer? Should the brewers chuck in a bit more AMS/CRS to the mash liquor to bring the pH down for gold beers?

Down the pub it may have looked like I was just staring into space after my third pint but these are the important questions that were going round my head.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The 50 best beers

Today's Independent has a four page magazine article from a selection of beer writers choosing 50 best beers. They're mostly British though a few classic beers from overseas are included. It's a pretty good selection, though with nothing really new for a hardened beer nerd and nothing to really object to either, except for maybe Kirin lager.

The article is online here.

Fuller's Vintage Ale has arrived.

It's that time of year again: the new Fuller's Vintage Ale has hit the shops. I have extensive stocks already but they still need regular topping up. It was a bargain this year as my local Sainsbury's is selling it for £1.99 a bottle, cheaper than Golden Pride (or 1845 for that matter).  Economics was never my strong point but I really don't understand this one, not that I'm complaining mind.

It's best if left for at least a year before drinking, so it's to the back of the cupboard with these for now.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The all new Tribute

The new unpasteurised version of bottled St Austell Tribute I mentioned here has now hit the shops.

Me and the lovely Lisa did a carefully controlled scientific comparison of the old and new version and the new one definitely tastes better. It's 25% off in Waitrose at the moment too so time to stock up!

Spot the difference.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Do I drink too much?

Not something I'm overly concerned about, though I did have to have a bit of a break after getting back from my last holiday.

'Do I Drink Too Much?' was however the title of an interesting programme on BBC2 last night where an addiction expert looked into the effects of alcohol on people in general and himself in particular. He clearly liked a drop so though he stuck to the party line of '21 units a week for men, 14 for women' he didn't get all moralistic or spread scare stories. 

The research into alcohol has shown the effects on people varies enormously, which will influence ( though not determine) if you're going to turn into a chronic alkie. It also showed how the effects of alcohol varies greatly with age, with adolescents affected much less but more likely to lose their memory. That certainly fits in with my own experience as I feel a bit of a light weight nowadays but it's a long while since I haven't been able to remember what I've been up to. 

The alcohol research included the presenter mainlining it whist having his brain scanned and trying out a drug that is being developed to get the effect of getting pissed but without the harmful side effects. He said he preferred to drug to actual booze, but I don't think I'd ever go for taking a pill over having a pint. And come to think of it I seem to remember the powers that be getting quite upset when youths started preferring pills to pints! I quite like that you could taken an antidote for instant sobering up though, but the guy seemed a bit freaked out by going from pleasantly pissed to stone cold sober so maybe we're better of sticking with what we've got.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Sam Smith's Shame

It's a well known fact that Sam Smith's Brewery boss Humphry Smith is, to say the least, slightly odd. A recent BBC programme (available here) shows that he's not just an eccentric with a taste for old fashioned pubs and cask beer from wooden barrels.

It seems he acts like the lord of the manor running his brewery, and the town of Tadcaster, as his own private fiefdom, and woe betide the peasant who gets in his way. He's certainly caused a lot of misery to his staff and neighbours. Next time I end up in a Sam Smith's pub the bad taste in my mouth won't just be from the Old Brewery Bitter.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Liver damage in the lakes

Me and the lovely Lisa had a fortnight's holiday in the lake district recently. We spent a week in Great Langdale and a week in Loweswater with our mate Paul. There was lots of trudging around in the sodding mist and lots of beer drunk.

Trudging around in the sodding mist

Highlights of the beer drinking included:

  • The Three Shires in Little Langdale. Lisa is now mulling over whether to add Coniston Old Man to her Desert Island Beer list. It's a rich copper fruity beer.
  • Tweedies Bar in Grasmere. Crap name but good bar, it had an excellent range of beers and friendly staff.
  • Walking over from Great Langdale to the Wasdale Head Inn, a pub with its own brewery. The lovely Lisa like the Wasd'ale best and after five hours of trudging had several pints. I tried a few ranging from some god awful pale rauchbier (Smokey Joe's?) to the excellent strong mild Yewbarrow. 

In the Wasdale Head Inn

Mostly though we went to the Kirkstile Inn in Loweswater, as it's an excellent pub and the lovely Lisa had managed to find us accommodation within spitting distance of it. Sadly the brewery has gone from the pub as they bought another brewery in Hawkshead and now brew from there. Even more sadly for me my previous favourite from here, Loweswater Pale Ale (LPA), wasn't on for most of the week. The replacements weren't all bad though: Langdale at 4% was a cracking pale beer with good citrussy hop taste, Loweswater Gold at 4.3% went down very nicely but was a bit too thin in the body and Grasmore at 4.3% was a good dark beer to re-balance me when I'd had enough of drinking golden ales. Fortunately the LPA was back on towards the end of the week so I didn't miss out, it's rare I go for beers this weak (3.6%) but it's got loads of flavour packed into it despite its modest strength. 

Paul and the lovely Lisa at the Kirkstile Inn

And it wasn't always trudging around in the sodding mist on the hills. We had some sunny days with fantastic views too.

Crummock water from Melbreak

I was even in shorts and a T shirt at one point. Stripped off in the sun, did I get a tan? No, all I got was a tick attached to my leg.