Friday, 5 December 2008

I believe they care

So what did we go to Brussels for again? We went to take Cumbrian cask conditioned ale to some MEPs and show just what is special about the British pub. Maybe I just wanted to prove I could take cask ale all that way, rack and tap it and be able to serve it at the right temperature. Paul Nunny of Cask Marque checked the beer. 11.8 centigrade I believe was the temperature. More importantly Mike Benner, chief exec of CAMRA (right) said "You've set a new standard for cask ale in Brussels". Wow, can't get better than that eh? If they had looked very closely they might have seen some beer was just not quite as bright as I'd like. It had travelled 550 miles by road and a cross channel boat ride to get there. I'm guessing it was a little shook up.

Many MEPs appreciated that effort. Godfrey Bloom (UKIP) has to be the best. We only took 2 pint glasses. Godfrey, bless him, snatched one and held onto it all night. "Can't drink out of them 1/4 litre things, people will think I'm a Lib Dem or something." mmmm...

Irrespective of party, the assembled MEPs seemed genuinely concerned about our pub and brewing industry. If only I could remember who they all were.

Anyway, Mike made a great speech which then got backed up and gaps filled in by, oh, now I forget, was it the SIBA guy or the BBPA fella? Well, a great amateur journalist I am. Tosh, whoever it was, good points were well made.
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?

Within an hour I had the local BBC on the telephone. Radio Cumbria I believed. They wanted an interview for the news bulletins and I agreed they could telephone me before I crossed the channel the following morning. I told them we were crossing around lunchtime. Wrong!

Finally I got the call as we were waiting to board the ferry at about 10am. Just as we were reaching the end of the interview the queue started to move. Starting the engine cuts out the bluetooth hands free - the interviewer said, once I picked up the phone, that he had everything he needed. I still get that feeling something was left unsaid....

Most of the setting up was done on Sunday afternoon. On Monday morning we returned to finish a few tasks and then off around Brussels for some sightseeing. No sooner had we found the Christmas market than the mobile rang. It was ITV wanting to film our bar, today in fact, soon. Not only that they wanted to film somebody drinking the beer.

OK, rush back across town to the hotel and get changed into something respectable. Back to the Brewers of Europe. Damn, the lines haven't been cleaned yet! Will the beer be clear? A quick, but significantly insufficient line cleaning procedure was undertaken. My beer was like pea soup still, Keswick's was not quite there. David from CLA cheats and uses conditioning tanks, a fair bet. Yup, his Wicked Jimmy was ready to roll.

Over the course of 4 days I think we did 6 media interviews. Our main theme of course was the number of pubs closing. 36 a week. 1 in 8 before 2012. What can the MEPs in Brussels do? Not much in reality except perhaps loosen the EU rules on VAT and duty so that draft beers can have a favourable rate over packaged drinks. But still, I met some interesting people and my pub got mentioned on local radio and TV.

The next morning we had to get back to the venue early to pack up. InBev had an event there that evening. I had got there early enough to park right outside the door. The InBev event organiser then complained because his lorry had nowhere to park. So I had to park across the road because their many people could not possibly carry everything that few extra yards, sorry, meters. Great I thought. Massive global brewer muscles tiny micro out of the way.

But before we left we saw a couple of interesting things. First the dispense technique for Stella Artoir. In the picture the text reads

"The Removal
Your bartender then closes the tap...........and moves the glass away from the font to prevent any drops from falling into the glass. These drops come into contact with the air, and oxidise, making them unworthy of your glass of Stella Artois."

Now firstly, any oxidisation will add flavour to the beverage, which in this case can be no bad thing. Secondly, do we really think that any Stella Artois drinker is going to give a hoot about oxidisation, or know it if it hit him in the face?

Still, it's nice to know that beer production is such an ancient art form. We also found in the same building a stone tablet depicting Egyptian beer making.

The best bit about the trip was the return cargo of beer. I'm currently drinking Bush Amber 12%, before that I had an Orval 6.2%

Tomorrow I think I'll post about Belgian bars, beer and food and smoking.


Simon Spillane said...

Hi dave,
Was great to meet you and Ann in brussels and drink your fine beers whilst hosting your entire bar!
Please pop in next time your heading through and we can go and sample some belgian bottle-conditioned beers.
The Brewers of Europe

Crown Brewer Stu said...

second picture down looks like your talking to Stuart Basford Sales guy at Kelham Island Brewery.?

HardKnott Dave said...

I don't know Stu, I talked to lots of people that day and I don't remember who they all are. However, it was an event for brewers from across northern England including Sheffield, so it's possible.