Monthly Archives: January 2011

Getting warmer (3)

As I may have mentioned once or twice, my taste in beer has a definite tilt towards the tawny and malty end of things, so the National Winter Ales Festival was right up my alley. In fact, if I had any criticism of the range of beers on offer, it would be that it was too broad – a festival consisting entirely of best bitters, strong milds, old ales and barley wines would have suited me fine. But there was some very fine beer to be had all the same.

I’d be lying if I said I had a clear memory of my visit to the NWAF, but I have got several different clear memories. For example…

Not meeting Pete Brown. The very first person I saw when I reached the venue was the Famous Pete Brown!!!1! Wow, I thought, the bloggers are here tonight! Unfortunately I don’t actually know the Famous Pete Brown!!!1! to speak to, and I certainly wasn’t going to charge up to him and say “hey, you’re the Famous Pete Brown!!!1!”. (If I’d had more presence of mind I could have scribbled a quick comment on a post-it note and passed it to him – “Wot no keg??!? Just kidding! – Phil (Oh Good Ale)”.) And I don’t think the bloggers were out in force; at least, I didn’t see anyone I recognised, not even Tandleman. No matter, there was

Beer to sink (into). I drank my first half while doing a circuit of the venue, and my second while doing another circuit in search of somewhere a solitary drinker could sit down (it was busy). By this time I was losing my inhibitions with regard to plonking myself down in vacant seats – which was just as well because the third – Thornbridge Saint Petersburg – was not a beer to be knocked back or swigged while vertical. I settled down with my imperial stout and my LRB and let the world roll away. Memories of this part of the evening are particularly vague, but I do remember reading a piece about the photographer Francesca Woodman, who had an extraordinary career before she killed herself at the age of 22(!); I composed a poem on the spot about how unbearable it is to live in a world where talented people like Woodman, Nick Drake and Peter Bellamy commit suicide, and got slightly tearful thinking about it. What can I say, it was fun at the time (and alcohol is a depressant, after all).

Curry and chips. Don’t knock it, I say. After I’d drunk myself sober – or at least into a state where I wasn’t feeling maudlin any more – I hit the fixed-price hot buffet and worked my way through a plateful of onion bhajis, vegetable curry, lamb curry, pilau rice, chicken and mushroom pie and chips. (What was I meant to do, these people kept offering me food.) Very nice indeed. I think I’ve had a better lamb curry, but I don’t remember when. I also remember finding room for a plate of chips later on, and a bag of Seabrook’s after that. Disgusting, really, overdoing it like that – I’m sure I was way over my daily allowance of deep-fried food.

Cash to burn. I’m a sucker for a tombola; at past festivals I’ve come away with a pump clip (since sold on eBay) and a 2001 Stockport Beer and Cider Festival half-pint (still knocking about). This time round my luck was in, as I won twice in four tickets, which I reckon comes in at a probability of 64/625 or just over 1/10. The numbers secured me one(1) copy of Clive la Pensée and Roger Protz’s CAMRA-published Homebrew Classics: Stout and Porter, and one(1) bottle of beer: pick a bottle, any bottle, and never mind that they’re all six feet away at the back of the stall. I went for… er… that one, which turned out to be Liverpool Organic Brewery’s William Roscoe. It’s a light, floral pale ale, says the label; having drunk it (several days later, I hasten to add) I can confirm that if you like the kind of beer where the hops do a kind of gymnastic display using the malt as a mat, you’ll like this. (I don’t, particularly – which is why I was at the Winter Ales Festival in the first place – but it was a pretty good beer.) I didn’t initially take much interest in the book – I’ve never really fancied brewing my own – but on inspection I think it’s a bit of a find: Clive la Pensée (who wrote most of the book) appears to be Martyn Connell‘s evil twin, with an even greater appetite for historical brewing trivia and even stronger opinions, mostly about how brewing has gone to the dogs since the eighteenth century. The blurb on the back of the book promises that it gives “full instructions for brewing your own Stouts and Porters with modern ingredients”, but I think this is wishful thinking. A quick scan of the book reveals 27 different recipes, but out of these all 27(!) are labelled ‘historical’ and only three look at all followable – and those three are prefixed with comments like “now things go from bad to worse”. I think this is going to be my kind of beer book.

A plastic bag. I was now wandering around the festival carrying a half-pint glass, a programme, a London Review of Books, a book on porter and a 500 ml bottle of beer, a combination which you couldn’t call wieldy; in fact, I had the book and the bottle stashed in a jacket pocket, which even in my fairly advanced state of inebriation struck me as not a good look. So I joined CAMRA. I hasten to add, the fact that they were handing out sturdy plastic carrier bags wasn’t the only reason I signed up – I’d been thinking of joining for a while – but it was certainly a consideration. The bag contained a membership pack (including £20 worth of 50p JDW’s vouchers , which should nicely cover the first year’s membership fee) plus a copy of last year’s Good Beer Guide; I was also given a pint’s worth of beer tokens, which was nice. But mainly I was just glad to have somewhere to stash my book and my bottle.

Oh, and good ale. I had eleven different halves and thirds in the end; I kept count on the back of the programme, and if all the measures had been on the line I would have had the equivalent of half a pint at 49% – or five pints at 4.9%. (As most if not all of them were slightly over, we can call it a round 5%.) Say sixteen units (calculations here); on a week night, that was plenty for me. Here’s what I had and what I remember about it (if anything):

Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild was my first beer. The first time I had it, I got the impression of a really good beer that hadn’t quite come off. Unfortunately it was the same this time.
Robinson’s Ginger Tom (4.3%) was, I’m afraid, the dud of the evening for me. It’s not made with ginger but with Fentiman’s Ginger Beer, and it tasted it; the only contribution the Tom seemed to make was to make it even sweeter. I’ll look out for the 6% version all the same.
Thornbridge Saint Petersburg Oh my. A very fine – and very strong – imperial stout: black as ink, heavy as gravy, with a flavour that makes you take your time and an alcohol content that demands it. Lovely beer. I couldn’t drink a pint of it, though, or not without clearing the evening.
Coniston No 9 Barley Wine After that it got better. “Rich in fruit flavours with marzipan, herbal hoppiness and cognac overtones”, says the programme. Just next to that I felt moved to write my own notes, which said: “Genius beer”. Excellent stuff.
Allgates Mad Monk Oh blimey, not another imperial stout! I realised as soon as I’d paid for this that I’d been expecting an old ale, possibly influenced by Marston’s Merrie Monk. (The monk in this case is Rasputin.) It was good, I’ll give them that – not quite up there with Saint Petersburg, but good.
Otley O Garden This was a bit disappointing. I could tell what they were aiming for, but they weren’t really anywhere near; it reminded me more of Marble Ginger than anything.
Dunham Massey Winter Warmer This was more like it.
Round about this time I had a pint of Dandelion and Burdock (but draught Dandelion and Burdock, none of your bottled muck).
Then Saddleworth Shaftbender was off (at least, I don’t think it was supposed to taste sour), so I went for
Bragdy’r Nant Mwnci Nell; I had to have at least one Welsh beer. This one was… OK. Like Jerry, I was mostly relieved to find that it couldn’t taste the ‘roasty fishy notes’.
Hawkshead Red sounded like my sort of thing, as did
Exmoor Beast. My memory is not forthcoming with regard to these ones. This was around the time that I overheard a volunteer saying that all the people who’d got there at 5.00 when it opened would be “reaching capacity” about then. I got there at 5.15.
As for Fuller’s London Porter, I had no recollection of this being my last beer of the evening until I checked back through the programme just now. I’m sure it was very nice.

Good beers, including a couple of classics; good food, good venue, good volunteers. In short, a right good do.

Avoid the humdrum

Following a fairly unusual session at a highly unusual pub, Zak wrote:

If I can go into a pub in small town in Yorkshire and buy these beers, are they in any way elitist? They may be imported, out-there, flavour of the moment and expensive (in relative terms, even at The Grove) but does that make them elitist? Or is elitism just another word for expensive?

I think this is asking the wrong question, or at least starting the argument too late. Real ale may be a living thing, but it doesn’t have feelings – beer can’t be ‘elitist’ any more than it can be intelligent, left-wing or prone to depression. Obviously what Zak meant by ‘elitist beer’ is ‘beer which is designed for elitists and shows it’, but that begs the question of who these elitists are.

So what is elitism in beer-appreciation? A while ago in a thread from hell on BeerAdvocate, I advanced the argument that the term “real ale” isn’t inherently elitist:

it may be eccentric, it may even be reactionary, but it’s basically just saying “let’s everyone do it the way they used to, because it was better”

This position did not meet with universal approval:

seems like the definition of elitism to label all other beers as “fake, phoney, ersatz, imitation.”

Hmm. So is that the definition of elitism – saying “the thing I like is the real thing”? And if not, what is?

Proposition 1: Saying “this beer is good” is not elitist.
Anyone who doesn’t agree with that one isn’t going to feel very comfortable with the beer blogosphere, or other people. Moving on:

Proposition 2: Saying “this beer is better than that beer” is not elitist.
I suppose there is an argument (at this point you can probably hear me bending over backwards to be fair) that it would be arrogant to say that a beer I happen to like is better than a beer I don’t like. It’s not an argument I share. I don’t think you can like beer (or anything else, really) without at some point thinking “now that’s good!“; it’s even possible to recognise that a beer you don’t particularly like is a good piece of work. (I’m happy to agree with the general opinion that Jaipur is a very fine beer. I’d also be happy never to drink it again.)

Now it starts to get a bit more controversial.

Proposition 3: Saying “this beer which I’ve had and you haven’t is better than that beer which you’ve had” is not elitist.
It can’t be, logically – otherwise it would be an act of elitism to introduce someone to a new beer. I think this gets confused in people’s minds with a slightly different statement:

Proposition 4: Saying “this beer which I can get and you can’t is better than that beer which you can get“… may or may not be elitist.
This is a difficult one. The key question is, why can’t ‘you’ get it? If the answer is, because you’re not in Huddersfield (or Helston, or St Helier) then I’m with Zak – Huddersfieldism is not elitism. I mean, there is no conceivable elite whose membership is defined by commuting distance from Huddersfield (I’m fairly sure about this one). Going back to BeerAdvocate, banging on about the real-ness of cask ale to a bunch of American beer geeks with no way of experiencing the difference might not have been sensitive or tactful, but it wasn’t elitism; just Huddersfieldism on a larger scale.

If the answer is, because you haven’t got a spare £350 to spend on 24 bottles of beer, the relevant definition of ‘elite’ seems a bit more obvious. I think I disagree with Zak on this point – I think money does make a difference. There is a kind of rough-and-ready elitism which is defined by having cash to burn and moving in circles where everyone else does too. An example would be the slighting reference in the Guardian‘s listings section a while back to “the kind of people who buy their clothes from Next”. (Me, I only go to Next when I’m feeling flush.)

But I’m more interested in a third possible answer, which I think gets us closer to a definition of beer elitism. What if the reason why you’ll never taste Brew X is that it costs a tenner a bottle, and you just wouldn’t dream of blowing that kind of money on a bottle of beer, even if you had the money lying around? Or what if it’s a short-run bottling which was consumed in its entirety at a beer writers’ dinner (invitation only naturellement)? I think I’m on stronger ground here:

Proposition 5: Saying “this beer which I can get and you can’t because of who I am is better than that beer which people like you can get” is elitist.

And the reason it’s elitist is that it’s not about the beer or even the price of the beer: it’s about the people. Elitism is fundamentally about saying “we’re better than you”:

Proposition 6: Saying “this beer which I like because of who I am is better than that beer which people like you like” is elitist.

And this attitude has got nothing to do with price or availability; elitists often find it satisfying to demonstrate that they are different from the rest of us through the amount they spend on their passion, but the elitism comes first. You can have a passion for making good stuff available to everyone who wants it and still end up selling at the high end (or on Guernsey). (I don’t think of Dave as an elitist, for example, despite his keen awareness of who’s got money to spend.) On the other hand, you can be an obnoxiously blatant elitist, broadcasting your contempt for the common herd, and still put affordable beer on supermarket shelves; why you would want to do this I’m not quite sure, but I know that it can be done. Elitism is quite compatible with mass appeal: all you need to do is make everyone feel like they’re better than the common herd. At every university in the country there’s a group of first-year students who are dedicated to experiencing the hottest curry, the best drugs, the most alcohol, and think the rest of their year are wusses – and there are a lot of universities in the country.

So was Zak drinking ‘elitist beer’? I’m not sure. The Mikkeller thing with all the IBUs certainly sounds like something brewed for a very specific market – a kind of wannabe-connoisseur crowd, lacking the palate or experience of genuine connoisseurs but filling the gap with a juvenile passion for extremes (not unlike those first-year curry warriors). So that one sounds a bit on the elitist side; the others don’t, particularly. (I do envy Zak the Celebrator – but that’s Huddersfieldism rather than elitism.)

I intend to drink some good beer on Thursday evening, but it won’t be uniquely good beer – beer like nobody else is drinking for miles around – and I’d be worried if it was. I’m not interested in peak beer experiences nobody can share but equally dedicated geeks. More good ale, everywhere, for everyone!

Getting warmer (2)

Part III of my personal Winter Warmer Wander took me down Wilmslow Road, to Fallowfield, Withington and Didsbury. (Part II consisted of two pubs in Chorlton, so I didn’t bother to write about it.)

This leg of the wander wasn’t quite as successful as the first one, although plenty of ale was drunk and ticks ticked. I started at the Ford Madox Brown in Rusholme: a Spoons, and suffering like most Spoons from queues at the bar (queues, in a pub!) But you know what you’re getting in a Spoons – they’re almost pubs but not quite: the model seems to be a weird hybrid of the Harvester cheapo-gastro chain pub-restaurant, a CAMRA-wet-dream cheapo-cask pub and a Blackpool lager barn. They’re not my ideal place to drink, but you do know you’ll be able to get a choice of real ale, in good nick, at good prices. And so it was here, although nothing very “Winter warmer”-ish was available. I had a half of Abbot Reserve – which I guess, at 6.5%, is sort of an old ale – and very nice it was too.

Next stop was the Friendship in Fallowfield. I used to go here quite often on Saturday afternoons, 20-25 years ago; I remember it as a big and rather beautiful pub that was always busy and had a well-stocked jukebox. Well, it’s still a big and beautiful pub, but on this Wednesday lunchtime the punters never outnumbered the bar staff. (The jukebox seems to have gone, too.) I ordered from the three pumps facing me, reasoning that the pumps I could see around the corner of the bar would be the same ones again (“you’re not in a Wetherspoon’s now, Phil”), and hence didn’t realise until I’d sat down with my Hyde’s Special that they were serving Young’s Winter Warmer. A second half was called for. The Friendship are putting some effort in on the cask ale front, with five to choose from and a blackboard listing the number of pints of the stuff they sold last week(!). Unfortunately neither of the beers I had was very good. The Special was just thin and uninteresting; the Winter Warmer had a fair slug of the rich, malty flavour you’d expect, but it also had a faint but definite undertone of stain remover. I’m not an expert in what can go wrong with beer, but I suspect this beer wasn’t in very good nick, possibly because they hadn’t sold very much of it.

On into Withington and the Victoria. I realised when I got in that I’d been expecting this pub to be how it was in the 1980s, waiter service and all. Of course, it was nothing like; it’s been redecorated (probably more than once) and the bell pushes have been taken out. (They’re still visible in the snug at the Beech in Chorlton, albeit beneath several layers of gloss paint.) They were also serving Young’s Winter Warmer, but I decided to go for Cain’s Dragon Heart brown ale. This and the Abbot were the best beers of the afternoon.

Just down the road, I noticed that the Albert still had Wilson’s signage outside. I was intrigued and stuck my nose in. It always was a small and unwelcoming pub, and from my brief inspection today it appears to have shrunk. It also didn’t have any cask beer.

On the way out of Withington towards East Didsbury, I had a half of Pedigree at the Red Lion. (Again, no “winter warmers”; the only other choice in the 4.5%+ bracket was Hobgoblin.) The pub was almost as empty as the Friendship. I started musing on the decline of the English lunch hour: where do all the people who work on Wilmslow Road go on a Wednesday lunchtime? Not to the pub, by the look of it, and quite possibly nowhere at all. I blame the backlash against “Spanish practices” in industry – we should have known that once they got rid of tea breaks the lunch break would be the next to go.

Back on the bus and down to Didsbury. After the Albert, I was amused to see that the Famous Crown was displaying the old Greenall’s emblem. (OK, I’m easily amused. Could be an idea for a pub treasure hunt – “find these examples of defunct signage”.) Whoever is running the pub these days, it’s not on the Wander, so I pressed on to the Royal Oak. Still surprisingly quiet, but there was a bit of life to the place, with lunches being served – the trademark Royal Oak ploughman’s, featuring two large slabs of cheese, about half a small loaf and all the pickles you want. I had one myself, and brought some of the cheese home (the doggie bag always was part of the experience). The cheeses had changed a bit since I was last in there (which, admittedly, was probably under Thatcher): it’s all pre-cut now, and they go big on stuff with bits of fruit and veg in. The sliced onions in vinegar were present and correct, though. The beer was Pedigree, again, and it’s a mark of how far we’ve come that I found this slightly disappointing: I remember when Marston’s pubs like the Royal Oak and the Red Lion were an oasis, the only decent local alternative to keg (I never did acquire the taste of the sour and yellow Hyde’s Anvil). I also had a half of Jennings Soggy Bottom, which was refreshingly light and hoppy.

My ticks were now up to 13, although only the Friendship had had any actual stickers; the landlord at the Vic said he’d run out when the local CAMRA branch came through at the weekend. But I didn’t like to leave it at thirteen, and there was one more pub listed in Didsbury; also, I’d reached the stage of drunkenness where one more drink always seems like a good idea, even though you’re aware it probably isn’t. So I trudged on through Didsbury and out the other side, eventually reaching the Didsbury. Another huge building, and “a traditional Chef and Brewer pub” according to its Web site. Inside, it was the nearest thing to a Spoons since the Ford Madox Brown; it was also the busiest place I’d been in since the Ford Madox Brown. The “winter warmer” drought continued, alas, but I did have a perfectly decent half of Director’s.

Six pubs, seven beers, including one winter warmer (and that one not in very good nick – wish I’d ordered it again in the Vic). If the Wander was meant to get pubs stocking old ales, barleywines and porters, it doesn’t seem to have had much effect down the Wilmslow Road. Nice to have an excuse for visiting some of these places again, though – and getting enough punters through the door for the stickers to run out is a definite result.

And how’s my liver? Adding it all up in a Rabid style:

half of Abbot Reserve, 6.5%
half of Hyde’s Special, 4.5%
half of Young’s Winter Warmer, 5.8%
half of Cain’s Dragon Heart, 5%
half of Pedigree, 4.5%
another half of Pedigree, 4.5%
half of Soggy Bottom, 3.8%
half of Courage Director’s, 5%

Total a.b.v. equivalent: a half at 39.6% OR a pint at 19.8% OR five pints at 3.96%… call it 4%
Units of alcohol in a pint at 4%: 0.04 * 0.568 = 2.272 = two and a quarter near as dammit
Units of alcohol in five ditto: five times two and a quarter = 5 * 9/4 = (5*9)/4 = 45/4 = 11.25

(Or if you prefer, units of alcohol worked out properly: 39.6*0.284 = 11.2464 = 11.25 to two decimal places. Nice to see a sum I couldn’t have done without a calculator arrive at the same result as beermat arithmetic.)

Wakey wakey, rise and shine

Apparently they’re banning booze again in the USA. Well, some booze:

A few weeks ago in New York a group of college students gathered at a vigil. They sang songs, and held candles as they mourned the passing of a friend. The scene can be seen on YouTube. What makes it slightly surreal is that the gathered crowd is lamenting the demise of an alcoholic drink, Four Loko. From Monday, Four Loko will no longer exist in its original incarnation – as a mix of alcohol and caffeine in a can – on the orders of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

(That’s ‘Monday’ as in the 13th of December. Sorry, I’ve been busy.)

Yes, it’s those evil caffeinated alco-pops. Add caffeine to an alcoholic drink and anything could happen:

one 23.5oz (694ml) can contains as much caffeine as a tall Starbucks coffee. It is a combination those who drink it say tastes great and makes you feel good. But others describe it as a “blackout in a can”, and blame it for landing a number of students in hospital.

“Blackout in a can” – whew! But isn’t this just teenage legend? (My son (15) is convinced that vodka and Red Bull will kill you. He didn’t get that from me, but I’m not in a hurry to enlighten him.)

Apparently not: it seems there are genuine health concerns.

Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration called on the top four manufacturers to take them out of circulation by 13 December. Dr Joshua M Sharfstein, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner, said evidence suggested that the mix of caffeine and alcohol posed a “public health concern”. Four Loko will continue to be on sale, but now without the caffeine.

The FDA’s action came after some highly publicised scandals, in which the drinks were reported to have caused serious illness, including one at Ramapo College in New Jersey. “My friend had [a] little under three cans in one hour,” explains a student at the college, James Kulinski. “He didn’t know what he was doing. He was a mess – he had no motor skills and no ability to communicate.”

That’s strong stuff, that caffeine. I mean, there can’t be that much alcohol

The fruit-flavoured energy drink contains 12% alcohol, making it about three times as strong as a regular beer

well, OK, but there can’t be that much alcohol in one can

one 23.5oz (694ml) can

and it’s not as if a strong malt liquor is going to appeal to younger people

Four Loko is available in eight flavors: Uva Berry (Grape), Fruit Punch, Orange Blend, Watermelon, Blue Raspberry, Lemon Lime, Lemonade, and Cranberry Lemonade.

or inexperienced drinkers…

James has tried Four Loko and Joose and isn’t a huge fan. He says most people who drank it on campus were “inexperienced drinkers” who saw it, at around $1.50, as an inexpensive way to get drunk.

So, to recap, the jokers behind Four Loko were selling a fruit-flavoured drink containing almost as much alcohol in one can as a litre of Special Brew, at $1.50 a throw, in a country where under-21s can’t buy alcohol. What was that, James?

“My friend had [a] little under three cans in one hour … He didn’t know what he was doing. He was a mess – he had no motor skills and no ability to communicate.”

James, your friend drank the equivalent of eight pints of Jaipur (or Dobber) – or nine 330ml cans of Gold Label – in an hour. Damn right he was a mess. (He also effectively washed that lot down with three cups of coffee – and all for a total cost of $4.50. Whatever else you can say about this stuff, it’s really cheap.)

But, as we’ve seen, the FDA has sprung into action, removing Four Loko from sale. And it’s not just the bottle-of-Buckie-inna-can merchants that the FDA have gone after. (Buckfast also contains caffeine, incidentally; presumably they don’t export.) New Century Brewing’s Moonshot ’69 has also got the cease-and-desist treatment. A 5% beer (without any fruit flavourings) brewed by a one-woman company, Moonshot doesn’t share a lot with Four Loko, but what they do have in common is caffeine: the FDA are getting involved because “caffeine was put directly in the [beer] as a food additive and was not naturally occurring, as it would be in a beer brewed with coffee”. Well, you can’t be too careful.

But at least Four Loko is off the shelves. Or rather, it was, for as long as it took them to take out the caffeine – which wasn’t very long. So kids who have reached the age of 21 thinking of alcohol as a forbidden pleasure can once more enjoy the freedom to get wrecked, for a couple of dollars, on a drink that comes in eight refreshing fruit flavours.

What this story says to me is that abstinence and over-indulgence are two sides of the same coin. Each one feeds off the other, and neither of them represents a psychologically healthy attitude to booze. Where alcohol is concerned, “little and often” has to be the best policy – for the mind as well as the body.

It’s only just begun

Although this blog has been around in some form for a couple of years, I’ve only been posting regularly since August – so I can’t possibly write a proper Review of the Year, Golden Pints-style. Also, I’m late with this already, and if I had to think of something for all those headings it’d be February before I got it finished. So this is what you’re getting.

Bottled beers of the year
Howard Town Dark Peak, Cumbrian Legendary Ales Croglin Vampire, HardKnott Dark Energy… I don’t have to pick just one, do I?

Cask beers of the year
Spingo Middle, Conwy Celebration, Yates Wight Old Ale, BrewDog 5 A.M. Saint.

Keg beer of the year
Shut up.

Beer festival of the year
National Winter Ales Festival

Pub of the year
The Beech, Chorlton. We sometimes see landlords praised for bringing pubs back from the brink; in the last few years the Beech has actually gone over the brink and closed down altogether, not once but twice. So all praise to the current landlord and his team, who are steadily turning the pub back into what it was 10-15 years ago, a thriving community pub. (Incidentally, you’ll never see a guest beer at the Beech: Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and Golden Best, Black Sheep Bitter, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin and, er, that’s it. Four session bitters, always on, all in good condition. It’s one way to do it.)

Blogs of the year
I wasn’t expecting anyone to nominate this blog on only four months’ approval, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to get the nod from Tandleman or Ed – many thanks, and I hope I can keep it up next… um, this year. Among my other favourite blogs are: the refreshing astringency of the Pub Curmudgeon; the encyclopedia in instalments that is Zythophile; and the legend that is Cooking Lager.

In 2011 I would most like to
get some more beer to review; go on another Twissup; find Zeitgeist on cask.