Wednesday, 31 December 2008
While in Oregon I was introduced to a chain of pubs that seemed to really work. They all served their own beer and each have an individuality and friendliness that our own UK industry could learn from. If the reader knows a little about US liquor laws then they might question how a chain of pubs can serve their own beer. It would seem that at least every other pub in the chain is a brew pub. This enables them to comply with the liquor laws.
The pubs are McMenamins and across Oregon and Washington they have 24 Breweries and 57 Pubs. We were only introduced to two but they were both nice and individual. Edgefield is actually a large leisure complex and would be plastic and tacky if it were in the UK. As a large venue of a large organisation the care and individuality of the decor and conviviality of the staff was amazing. Mind you, not for the first nor last time, my English accent was a noticeable asset for the female staff, if only I were young, single and handsome again.
High Street Brewery and Cafe has significant individuality. All the properties have hand painted wall decor. The service again was superb. Perhaps the tipping culture here helps. This makes for interesting economics. Leaving food aside, which frankly does not deserve a high price tag, the beer is typically $3.50 upwards a pint (16oz) for quality beer. At current exchange rates this is starting at around £3.20 for a 20oz British pint. You are expected to tip at least 10% on top of this. 15-20% is common for a large group. This is effectively retailing the beer at around £4 per pint and sometimes more. But boy do you get good service.
No snow? yeh, I pinched this picture off their web site and all the others on this post.
Friday, 26 December 2008
I am falling in love with these Belgian style beers when it comes to paring with food. Sure, the west coasts IPA's work really well with spicy foods, but when it comes to finding a beer that is robust enough to work with a wide range of foods you can't beat a dubbel or triple.
While in the Bier Stein it surprised me the number of British bottled beers on sale. Included was Coniston XB. This beer is a favourite of mine for general session drinking. But I wasn't going to buy this bottle. Why buy a bottled beer brewed under licence when I can get a full 72 pints of cask conditioned beer at my own pub and serve it through a sparkler?
By the time I hit the "PUBLISH POST" button most of the world will be in Boxing Day. I've had a great time here in Oregon, made possible By Ted and Patti to whom I'm very grateful. I need to return to our little Inn in Eskdale soon. I mentioned to Alan before we went to Brussels that we might remove the ceiling in the gents and replace it with a new one. I don't have to ask Alan twice to demolish things. He trashed the gents and uncovered a rotten purlin whilst we were in Brussels. I guess the rebuild will be up to me.
The hand in this picture is Ted's along with his blasted IPhone. When out with Ted if you ask a question, the answer comes in the form of an IPhone thrust into your hands accompanied with the words "Google it!". Of course I can live life without such technological niceties, can't I?
Friday, 19 December 2008
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
I have always found the flavour and enjoyment of stronger ales to be more satisfying. Sure, you can't "neck" them quite so quickly, but watery ale is just not my thing. In the UK, for many years 3.5 - 4.0% seems to be the acceptable strength for "session ale". Any strength above this falls out of the classification of session ale.
During past 5 years the number of times I have had a 4.1% beer on the bar and a customer has said they can't possibly drink anything over 4% staggers me. How can 0.1% ABV make that much difference? There are many 5% beers around that are fantastic examples of ales, but customers very often turn their noses up at them. If the reader is any good at maths, (or just the singular math, as they say here) there will be a realisation that 4 pints of 5% ale is exactly the same as 5 pints of 4% ale.
I'm sitting here in this little pub in the sleepy and snowy town of Oakridge in Oregon drinking, early afternoon, a 6.2% ale called Tanninbomb. A malty, not overhopped ale that has been aged with oak chippings in the cask. It's warming in this unusually cold weather and drunk carefully with responsibility it is causing me no adverse effects.
Equally interesting to me is the fact that I am drinking the pint in the manner that the Brewers Union Local 180 intends, dispensed through a sparkler. The sparkler, of course adding to the enjoyent. Indeed, the widespread disbelief that any citizen of the USA understands the traditions of northern English beer customs can hereby be completely dispelled. Ted really is serving true cask conditioned ale, no artificially introduced gas whatsoever, through handpulls and with a very interesting back bar visible cellar.
There is a tradition of brewing ale in the west coast USA with strengths 6% and up. 8% is not unusual and over 12% being frequently found. When I was in Belgium recently the best ales were in the order of 6-8% and above. Why then are we quite so bothered about ABV in the UK? I believe this is part of a blinkered mindset that is inhibiting the movement of the UK beer industry into much more interesting territory.
A very interesting time is being had here. The beer is great, if just a tad too hoppy even for me on occasions. I can't say that most of the food here is even OK in the bulk. The strong bias of fast food is apparent even in the places that state they are restaurants. Cooked vegetables don't seem to be an option and salad is widespread even in the depths of winter. But, visiting the Trail Head Coffee shop did find me consuming a El Bacondilla de Teodoro, Dedicated to Ted it would have to been rude to not try it, as it's his birthday. Very simply it's flour tortillas with cheese and bacon between, heated on a griddle, served with sour cream and salsa: it was scrummy. The Mexican biased food has always been the best in my 3 trips over here. Needless to say, The Brewers Union has good food with a significant proportion being fully prepared on the property, including the bread. The Etouffee that Nick made was good. Oh, and as Ted points out, Nicks Lasagna was great too.
Monday, 15 December 2008
The whole of the USA is in a post prohibition era. OK, it was 75 years on the 5th December since the 21st amendment was ratified, but even today there are noticeable laws here that pamper to the prohibitionist views. Additionally, the brewing industry was all but wiped out by the prohibition period. Only the major big brewers traded by exporting but craft brewing was annihilated.
The very curious aspect of the liquor laws here in Oregon is the strict control of "hard liquor". Bars serving any type of spirit have to also provide a minimum food menu consisting of 5 clear menu items for the whole period of trading. There are other more subtle aspects such as where "minors" can be in the property and under what circumstances, such as only for the purposes of consuming food. These laws appear to be specific to the state of Oregon and can be different in other states, but shows the clear link that the lawmakers make between reasonable drinking and going out for food. This a stark contrast to the correlation between the drinking only bars that exist world wide and arguably irresponsible heavy drinking.
A clear federal law exists as a concession to the prohibitionist movement. In this law there is a three tear system where no company may make alcohol and also wholesale it and nor can a wholesaler own the retail outlet. Here, Safeway has to buy off a wholesaler who in turn has to buy off the brewery. This prohibits any tied outlets.
The relaxation to this recently has been the allowances of the Brewpub format. A pub can brew it's own beer providing it only owns one other pub. Effectively limiting a tied estate to one or two pubs. There is no doubt that this has seen an incredible increase in the number of brewpubs in Oregon. My sources here tell me that providing the brewpub produces less than 1000 us barrels a year they can sell direct to a retailer.
I find it interesting that there is resistance to the removal of the beer tie in the UK but generally there seems the there are few complains about US tie limitations. There are complaints about the middle man wholesaler restricting trading abilities but it is very much appreciated by beer drinkers here that there are no outlets controlled by big breweries.
The "regionals" here tend to be chains of brewpubs. Larger establishments where every other pub in the company has a brewery to enable the laws to be adhered to.
A key difference that applies to the States and the European mainland alike is the attitude to food alongside drinks in bars. Here the industry standard for sales split is 60% food and 40% drinks. In the UK there is general outcry where an establishment majors on food over drinkers. But here in the USA very few places would work without the reliance on food sales.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
I'm here in snowy Oregon, in a nice little "Anglo-American Brew Pub" that apparently was inspired by the British Pub culture. Ted needs some more custom right now.
Perhaps also we'll do some skiing.
Ted and family met us at the airport and we were quickly whisked off to find our digs for that night so we could dump our luggage. Then search for a brew pub for lunch. This was not difficult as Portland is reputed be the city with the most breweries in the whole world. Totaling 28 breweries. But this is America where everything is bigger and better.
Except their pint, oh and gallon.
Roots brewing company is typical of the Portland brew pubs in that the brewery is clearly visible from the bar.
Later that day we visited Amnesia. The smell of the boiling copper was very pronounced. The owner very kindly invited me right past the "EMPLOYEES ONLY" sign into the heart of the brewery to take pictures.
Several other pubs were visited and much beer sampled. The beer community here likes heavily hopped beers. After a while I was pleased to get a more malty beer at Horse Brass Pub until Ted decided to have a Racer 5 which had an incredible orange peal nose and really nice very definite orange taste.
We then visited Bridge Port Brewing company, which seemed like it had gone too far down the wine bar look with all bricks and steelwork making it feel very impersonal. Finally Lucky Labrador beer hall which is a delightful spartan place and I got a very satisfying pint served with a sparkler.
There is too much to cover in the short time I have here. I need to do some comparing of British pubs with these very interesting establishments out here.
Meanwhile I am sat in the Brewers Union local 180 while it is snowing heavily outside. So it looks like a while Christmas here and a very good chance of some skiing.
I believe we may show up on the Gordon Swindlehurst show on Monday, perhaps.
Thursday, 11 December 2008
It seems the NWA pilot and technical bods, couldn't get the plane to work. Ted reports, I think a little erroneously in his comment that it is the starter and solenoid. I'm afraid that I would have checked the leads, spark gap, points and perhaps firing angle before TDC.
After all WD40 is reet cheap at Woolworths now.
The beer today has been particularly crap. Having been up all day yesterday and setting off from Cumbria at 1am I hoped to get a couple times 20oz in before boarding the plane to help with some sleep. Sadly, the over-chilled smooth-flow did nothing to inspire. For the rest of the day I have suffered Heineken until tonight. At least the rather posh hotel that NWA has put us up in has some De Koninck which is significantly better.
TDC = Top Dead Center (Centre) you have to be particulaly old and sad to understand that.
We're booked on the same flight tommorow - snow threatens the landing, but hey, no snow, no skiing.
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Monday, 8 December 2008
The picture on the right was taken as I was being interviewed. As you can see Mike Benner is quite clearly more untested in doing a good job of disposing of my surplus beer at this point. But to be fair, he had just made a rather good speech
"MEPs in Brussels were sampling Cumbrian real ales at a mock-up version of a Lake District pub last night (Tuesday night)(02/12/08). The owners of Eskdale’s Woolpack Inn and Hardknott Micro Brewery were pulling pints from a scaled-down version they’d made of their own bar. It was a fun stunt with a serious message. Dave Bailey and Ann Wedgwood were trying to raise awareness of the plight of the industry, with 5 UK pubs a day closing down. CAMRA – the Campaign for Real Ale – wants a change at EU level that would allow the UK government to put lower excise duty on draught beer sold in pubs than on supermarket bottled beer. That’s an idea the Woolpack’s Dave Bailey is backing."
Saturday, 6 December 2008
Friday, 5 December 2008
On the Saturday before we sailed I sent out a press release about our endeavour. Well you didn't think I was going to go to all that trouble and not raise at least a little bit of publicity did you?
....but no, I was in Brussels with Ann, we don't get much time off when running the pub so we just enjoyed ourselves after we had done serving Cask Ale to very appreciative MEPs. Yes we drank beer, but most of all we relaxed.
So I'm afraid my blog began to fade from my the front of my mind, but I'm guessing as there are not many of you who pop in to read this I've not disappointed many.
Now we're back I'm full of thoughts but only 4 days before we set off for more research in Oregon. Watch out for posts soon. I'll have to blog like mad.
OK, as Robert Humphreys points out, I'm already "quite mad". But at least I don't slip on imaginary snow and ice.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
I miss my Simons internet connection - it flies!
Hope this gets through though.
We sent out a press release on Saturday. That worked, we should be appearing on various local T.V. and radio as well as local papers over the next few days. Like I have said before, the issue of pubs closing HAS to be raised above that of binge drinking and alcohol related disorder. There are only a minority of licensed properties that cause the problems and the way the government are tackling the problems it will only be these places left before long. The problems occur in a few large night clubs, not community pubs, but the community pubs are the ones that suffer most by the actions of legislation.
Friday, 28 November 2008
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Monday, 24 November 2008
Another blogger who has helped me is Jeff Pickthall, who regularly puts up worthy issues for discussion and provokes Tandleman into interesting counter comment. Recently the discussion has been over the tied pub. Tyson also occasionally has some things to say on this and other subjects that cause stimulation of my thought processes.
What is interesting about these three worthy characters is that although they seem to disagree on finer points, there seems to be a general consensus that there are problems with the tie system. What is not being agreed upon is just what should be done. Ho hum, at least there is some common ground. Mr Tandleman has helped me realise that the discussions are good.
But what shall we do about it??
I don't know, but Mr Tyson made an interesting post here about the governments ideas to tackle drink related problems. His post seemed to have a level of sarcasm in it as far as I could tell. No? Must be my imagination then. Anyway, after recent postings by all three of these bloggers I started doodling - and the diagram here is the result after tidying up.
Jeff's recent post
Tandleman's recent post Actually I thought he'd made more posting on the subject - perhaps I'm just getting mixed up with comments
I managed to get through on Saturday night. When we arrived more than 11 beers had run out. By the time we left there was probably only 11 beers left.
I tried a few beers and have now lost my copy of the program, complete with comments. I'm going a little off memory. For me the most memorable beer was Yorkshire Dales, Usha Gap 5% which was wonderfully bitter with a flavour I decided was orange pith. From the same brewery Brussels Stout 4.0% was also nice. Whitehaven's Ennerdale Blond 3.8% was popular and sold out quickly, as did my own Saazy's Wiesse 4.3%. Bitter End Barley wine 6.2% didn't really clear, didn't seem popular, but most importantly I thought the tasting notes were wrong, no way was it hoppy. Tigertops Blanch de Newlands 4.5% I've already said was good, Graham and Tony both agreed but the official tasting panel didn't - that's a shame. But then the tasting panel voted Jennings Snecklifter 5.1% beer of the festival. I like Snecklifter and it's OK, but there were better beers there in my view.
I went on Sunday morning to recover my handpulls and my empty cask and pretend to help pack away the bar. Apparently there was very little beer left. The treasurer was still unsure if enough money was taken to cover costs, but hopefully it'll be OK. I took Alfie along and he did a magnificent job in helping strike the bar, I might just be nurturing the next generation of beer drinkers, at 12 years old he'd sup a pint now given half a chance.
Saturday, 22 November 2008
CAMRA WEST CUMBRIA BEER FESTIVAL 21-22 NOVEMBER 2008
Amber, Derbyshire Gold 3.7
Gold coloured ale with a very dry bitterness.
Beckstones, Millom Reverend Rob ** 4.6
Golden malty hoppy beer with a resinous grapefruit flavour
Bitter End, Cockermouth Barley wine ** 6.2
Pale amber coloured strong ale; extremely resiny top notes.
One for the real hop heads
Beckstones, Millom Leat 3.6
Refrehing golden bitter with tangy fruit and a rising hop finish. CTN
Black Country, W Midlands Fireside 5.0
Golden sweet malty bitter
Boggar, Manchester Black Christmas 3.9
Deep mohogany quaffable beer with some subtle chocolate notes
Boggart, Manchester Big Ginger 6.0
Sweet golden beer with a subtle ginger , lingering flavouir
Brewdog, Frazerburgh Coffee Stout (1/3 pt) 9.0
Potent tasting stout - with a double expresso!
Crown, Sheffield Count Basie 4.6
Complex straw coloured ale; honey sweetness ; bitter finish
Empire , Huddersfield Four Corner 4.2
Straw coloured bitter beer
Foxfield, Prince of Wales Harry's Encounter 4.0
Straw coloured dry bitter
Foxfield, Prince of Wales Sonic Boom (1/3 pt) 10.0
Big bodied Russian imperial stout. Sweet with a discernable alcohol note.
Not for the faint-hearted
Fugelestou, Lincolnshire Brew 500 5.0
Copper coloured; malt sweet beer; moderate hopping; smokey notes
Great Gable, Wasdale Hd Western Valleys Ale 5.1
Copper coloured maly sweet ale with sulphur in the nose
Great Gable, Wasdale Hd Golden Gill 5.2
Golden ale with a slight sulphurous nose with balanced bitter
Hardknott, Boot Saazys wiesse ** 4.3
Straw coloured wheat beer; light; drinks like a session beer;
full of citrus notes.
Hornbeam, Manchester Evil Monkey ** 4.5
Golden, malty, well balanced bitter;very drinkable for its strength
Jennings Cumberland Ale 4.0
A llight creamy hoppy beer with a dry aftertaste. CTN
Jennings Snecklifter 5,1
A strong, dark brown ale with a complex balance of fruit malt and roast
flavours, through to the finish.CTN
Keswick Thirst Rescue 3.7
Golden , fruity, quaffable bitter
Leadmill, Derbyshire Road Runner 4.8
Slightly sulphurous, golden coloured bitter
Loweswater, Kirkstile Loweswater Pale Ale ** 3.5
Aromatic nose; straw coloured; lasting bitter finish
Loweswater, Kirkstile Grasmoor 4.3
Dark mild; roasted malty taste and finish
Moorhouse, Burnley Pride Of Pendle 4.0
Well balanced amber best bitter; fresh initial hoppiness;mellow
malt-driven body. CTN
Northern, Northwich Nitty gritty 4.0
Malty, golden, biter sweet ale; caramel in the nose
Prospect, Wigan Clementine ** 5.0
Complex wheat beer with a taste of orange and mulled spice
Robinsons, Stockport. Double Hop 5.0
Pale brown bitter; malt & fruit nose;hoppy, malt fruit taste;hoppy bitter finish. CTN.
Strands, Nether Wasdale Errmmm 3.8
Gold in colour with berry fruits in the nose; sweetish with a bitter finish
Stringers Best Bitter ** 4.2
Hoppy well balanced golden coloured best bitter
Stringers Dry Stout ** 4.5
Luscious dry stout full of smokey bitter chocolate flavour
Tigertops, Wakefield Blanche de Newlands ** 4.5
A good representation of a Belgian wheat beer. Better than Hoegaarden.
Intensely complex beer with notes of coriander, cloves and banana
Whitehaven, Croasdale Blonde 3.8
Sweet, fruity session beer
Yates, Westnewton Fever Pitch 3.9
Skilful use of lager malt & hops results in a pale beer with light bitterness;
melon fruit and clean refreshing finish. CTN
Yates, Westnewton I P A 4.9
Complex honeyed lager style ale, packed with tropical fruit. CTN
Yorkshire Dales, Leyburn Brussels Stout 4.0
Dark malty ale, some sulphur notes in the nose
Yorkshire Dales, Leyburn Usha Gap 5.0
Very bitter golden ale in the style of an IPA
Ciders, Perries, and Fruit wines
Ben Crossman's, medium Somerset cider 6.5
Burrow Hill, medium/dry Somerset cider 6.0
Henry's, sweet Somerset cider 6.0
Solway Cider, Medium Cumbria cider 6.0
Thatchers- Heritage Somerset cider 4.9
Newton-Pyder,medium Herefordshire Perry 6.2
Strawberry Fruit Wine Herefordshire
Various Fruit Wines Yorkshire
CTN indicates CAMRA tasting notes supplied by a trained CAMRA tasting panel and printed in GBG09.Other tasting notes were by the West Cumbria branch tasting paned Thursday 20 November 2008
NB. All the beers will be tasted on Friday, a selection blind tasted (!) by a panel of experienced tasters on Saturday, and one declared ‘CAMRA Beer of the Festival’.
West Cumbria CAMRA thank the following for their sponsorship of the Beer, Festival glasses, T shirts, and CD music:
The Candlestick, Whitehaven Bitter End Brewery Jennings Brewery Great Gable Brewery Hardknott Brewery Keswick Brewery Loweswater Brewery Strands Brewery Whitehaven Brewery Yates Brewery Fellside Records Blackbeck Brewery
Thanks to Ron for forwarding this to me - Nether the Woolpack Inn nor West Cumbria CAMRA accept any liability for errors or omissions - we tried our best!!
Friday, 21 November 2008
It's hit the press today following the CAMRA press release I talked about yesterday. I think that it's a good job done by CAMRA in highlighting some of the issues brought out by the Community Pub Inquiry report.