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.