Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Test of integrity

"One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised"
        -Chinua Achebe

Micro brewers, independent pub licensees, dedicated chefs and I suspect CAMRA members stand by this.

I do. If you can understand this then you can understand me. I perhaps take the concept further than many dare. Yes, it's difficult when you hear the people who come here, and get what we do, talk about the things my sceptics say. But by stocking a product range, and insisting on serving food that has a strong provenence, I know I hit the spot with the right people.

Thanks for the link Ted.


It's just a shame that most of the British public are also monolithic.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Power!?

Today has been an interesting day. It started at 8am with us realising that the alarm had not gone off. The kids needed to be 6 miles away in 4 minutes time to catch the school bus. If not, I'd have to drive all the way to the secondary to drop one off, 20 miles, and then all the way back to the junior to drop another,  20 miles more, before I could get back home which is 8 miles. Luckily, Ann would only have 7 breakfasts to cook as 4 residents had got up early to climb Scafell. When we did get down stairs it turned out that the rain had put off the 4 and Ann now had 11 breakfasts to cook. Of course, the first customers wanted to check out whilst the last breakfast was being cooked.

By 11am, when it was time to open the bar, we'd just about regrouped enough to operate without killing something. The kids were at school, breakfasts eaten and guests checked out. What could go wrong?

Alan, the barman, had a day off today. But that was OK because it has been a quiet daytime. I even got time to lift some Daffodil bulbs so I can rearrange the flowerbeds next winter. Around 5:30 I got washed up so I could prep some sardines and bone out a roe dear hunch deer haunch. After all we were expecting more for dinner than we've had all week. Half way through doing the prep the lights went out. Bummer, or perhaps words a little stronger.

We are on the end of a very long cable that feeds 11,000V up this remote valley. Although considering this, the power supply is generally pretty good, but it does seem to fail rather more regularly than we'd like. Having several important customers booked in for dinner it was really not the sensible option to close the kitchen, however tempting it might be. Luckily, despite having zero kilowatts of electricity available we still have a surplus of 47Kg propane cylinders at our disposal. Sadly, no kitchen extract system.

After sweating out more than my daily intake of beer we managed to feed all our very appreciative customers. Taking plates out of a hot cupboard that seemed cooler than the kitchen did make me feel like climbing in with the plates. But after suffering many power failures, that was probably our best handled, and most profitable power cut ever.

The power came back on just long enough for the staff to wash up before United Utilities or Power Gen or EDF or whoever the hell it is today, decided to turn it off again so they could "reset all the sub stations". With everybody vacated or gone to bed, Ann and I enjoyed the candle lit peace.

Ann's head torch was essentail for finding things in the fridge. We felt that putting candles in a fridge that wasn't powered up might just help to heat it up still further.

You might also note that Ann is enjoying a couple of Bailey's, her favourate. For me Westmalle Dubbel draft, the last keg it would seem, must do a post on that.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Chips


There is a danger here of me going back on my own advice. I am conscious of the fact that I am encouraging more positive comments about pubs. When discussing chips in pubs it would be all too easy to focus on the poorly produced versions of this magnificent British culinary carbohydrate delicacy. Chips however, when done right are delicious and go well with many food types.

They are most often produced very cost effectively and in great volumes in the good old fashioned fish and chip shop. When made on the property, blanched in low temperature oil, chilled and then flash fried in 180oC oil they are divine and worth seeking out and paying a premium for. It is perhaps sad that many pubs turn their back on this food type and go instead for some kind of frozen alternative.

But hey, I'm not going to whinge, am I?

Undercooked fat chips came in for some criticism in the last post's discussion. In my mind it is not the fatness of the chip that is the problem. Indeed the fatter the chip the less oil that is absorbed and therefore healthier. Leaving the skin on is in no way less labour intensive as it requires some poor kitchen porter to stand scrubbing all that mud off the damn things. Leaving the skin on also adds to the healthiness, and that's no bad thing.

Yes, any food that is poorly cooked is a problem. It is a problem in many pubs and indeed the issues of ensuring quantity food establishments cook their food well is a headache for many pub operators. An issue I might come back to in a later post.

For us we've all but stopped doing chips. This is perhaps partly, if I were to be honest, a snobbery thing. But equally there are issues surrounding logistics and safety that are becoming increasingly problematic.

To make money out of chips you need to sell bucket loads of them, literally. It requires somebody to be out in the back yard with a machine that "rumbles" the potatoes1. A potato rumbler is a machine that has a rotating turntable in the bottom, rough and wavy, that tumbles the said root crop around a rough coated drum. It takes a good proportion of the skin off the tuber. If the kitchen staff really care they then "eye" the product by hand to remove bad bits and the indentations that the rumbler cannot get to. The potato rumbler is a heavy and expensive piece of machinery that is a serious investment for a food operation. Peeling potatoes by hand is not generally cost effective in a commercial environment when bucket loads of chips are required.

Most places then chip the potatoes with another machine. Often this is hand driven and simply forces the starchy object through an array of cross2 blades. We now have raw chips but have used around £2000 pounds worth of equipment to get them. Because of the combination of equipment cost, space requirements and staffing costs, many pubs rely on frozen chips; such a shame, but completely understandable.

To get really good chips, ones that can be served quickly, they should first be cooked from raw in low temperature oil, around 140-160oC until soft but still quite white. A process often called blanching, possibly incorrectly in the minds of some culinary experts. The chips are then put in gastronorm trays, cooled and chilled until required during service. They can then quickly be crisped and browned in very hot oil before being either arranged or plonked on a plate for the customer. For service, if done right, they are better than frozen chips in as much as they finish quicker and better. Frozen chips requires the oil to be able to thaw and brown the chip all in one go, often causing the oil temperature to drop too low for well browned chips. This can often be the reason for undercooked chips in pubs.

So, if you find a pub that does proper chips look after it. They exist and often aren't the ones with gastro desires. But just remember all the work some poor sod put in to make them. There's no short cut3 for good chips.

Fryers are a big source of fires in the catering trade. I know of several that have occurred locally to me. Some insurance companies are stipulating stringent fire precautions as a result and because of this, the fact that our fryer is on its last legs and something of a hazard by itself and because our chipper is nearly completely useless we've stopped doing chips. The investment required to get up to scratch would see a significant payback period.

Having said that, when we decide to make chips we make the best. Today Ann decided, for old times sake, that she'd make us chips for family lunch. That was handy really, as I wanted some good pics for this post.

My lunch was somewhat scrummy today, consisting of a Jenga tower of chips, pheasant scraps and orange and turmeric sauce, the chips were just as good as ever, despite being in a poncy tower. No vegetables though, if I end up dying of scurvy, please have a go at Ann won't you?

1 When I send somebody to "rumble" some potatoes I'm waiting for the cheekiest of staff to ask why I think they might have any deep dark secrets.

2Or perhaps just slightly miffed.

3Indeed chips must be cut in the long direction. I had one member of staff, bless him, who laid the potatoes sideways to cut them. The chips were no longer than 1". After all, we all know the bigger the chip the better. In the words of the Quartermaster "Chips, chips as big as battle ships"

Friday, 24 April 2009

Don't do down pubs

Most people would agree that the general concept of the British pub is good. Yes, OK, there are some bad examples, but there are many diverse forms of the animal. Indeed, I have a strong conviction that it is this diversity that makes them so interesting. We are of course worried that all is not well in the industry and many pubs are closing. I become more and more convinced that this is an inevitable situation. But it seems to me that the ones that are being innovative, the ones that are being progressive about the situation come in for the fiercest criticisms.

With the difficulties that face the pub industry it might be nice if we all, as a nation, supported the concept of the pub. A collective celebration of all that is good with the British pub might just be the tonic we need. Picking out the fact that we have many varied types and not only that, perhaps congratulating the people who run and work in them for the excellent job they do.

From the back street spit and sawdust boozer to the plush upmarket bar, through the rustic country pub doing it's traditional fare for the weary passer by to the foodie destination pub that might be daring close to the restaurant trade. Even that cavernous chain that has found a place in nearly every town centre selling reasonable real ale at fiercely competitive prices has it's place in the menagerie of the pub animals. Surely we love them all?

It would seem not. Most of the press and Internet is littered with comments about pubs being either dumps or too swanky (miss off the 's' if you like) or the pub that trots out unimaginative traditional zip and ping or the up it's own posterior gastro pub that has no right to be so busy I can't get a table for a drink. It seems we don't like pubs after all.

I found an article called "why gastro pubs are gastro flops" on the Guardian web site. It's very one sided and unimaginative. The same old slag of the gastro cliche. It's an easy bit of journalism to write. So what if some pubs are virtually restaurants? If they could survive as pubs they wouldn't need to go all gastro. Why can't we just love our pubs in all their various forms?

We can't be that fickle can we? What makes the perfect pub? One that isn't too slummy, but not too posh, food is traditional, but has to have a bit of flair and imagination. A large selection of ales seems essential but woe be tied the pub if the through put is low and any are below scratch. A confusing set of criteria for any publican to get right.

I can't help feeling that the negative reporting of individual pubs is having a negative effect on pubs overall. The general condemnation of moving with the times is pulling us back in time. Everybody seems to be at it. It's no wonder more and more people are going to restaurants these days and turning their backs on the pub if all they ever read about regarding pubs is bad.

So come on, lets tell the world just how good British pubs are. Lets find the positives in every single one. They all have their good points. Lets talk the British pub back into life instead of talking it out of existence.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The ladies beer?

Some time ago I discussed the issue of beer for women. It sparked a bit of controversy, which I still haven't got a final conclusion to in my own mind. Discussing a new product was an interesting exercise. Suggestions that making a beer taste like an alcopop, which was an option put forward, resulted in the retort that anybody who needed beer to taste like an alcopop might as well just drink alcopops. An argument that is difficult to find counter claims for.

Cask ale week came and went. It was a partial success for us as we certainly increased awareness of the concept of asking for a taster. We put about £10 up for a couple of cases of little taster glasses which of course we are still using.

FemAle day came and went without any hint it had happened. OK, we didn't do anything different. But then I'm not going to single out women on any particular day and say "You're a woman, why aren't you drinking ale?"

What we do is suggest they try our Kriek and give them a taster. It actually works for blokes as well, although the poncy glasses we have are a bit off putting. Yes, we've got pint ones as well. Some don't like cherries, perhaps we should get some Fruli or Frambosen as well, that'll perhaps catch the rest. Oh yes, and a wheat beer, thanks Velky Al. So perhaps there are plenty of beer products out there for people, it's just they don't know about them yet. OK, it's not Real Ale, but we can't have everything.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

TsingTao

Taking the advice of Jeffrey, we sort of had something of a day off. Actually, we'd planned it already, but Jeff's a good guy and even sometimes has good advice. Yes, we've worked too hard and there is a chance of us getting grumpy with customers, each other and the staff. Unfortunatly we had to nip back to feed a couple of residents, we so much need a second chef. We then then ran away to a local Cantonese restaurant.

Of course the beer menu was crap. Draft lager, as usual with no name or TsingTao. Now I'm trying to be more open minded with my beer appreciation. I've discovered Belgian beers and West Coast USA IPAs. It's all about horses for courses. Oriental beer with oriental food is good, surely. I decided to give it a chance.

No, sorry, it's still shit. I'd have loved to have got a good hoppy IPA to finish with. The TsingTao is just too sweet to wash away the MSG.

Nuptial News

No, Ann is not going to make an honest man of me. Mind you, it might take more than a wedding ceremony to do that.

Regular readers may remember our problems trying to sort out approval for holding civil marriages and partnerships here. Well we've just had a letter;
"Bla, bla, bla...

I am pleased to be able to approve the premises and enclose Formal Grant of Approval for your premises. bla bla bla."

Right, lets get those Magnums of Chimay Grande Réserve ordered.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Lime and soda

It always puzzles me why there are certain expectations of a pub. One of the worst in my view is, what is called in the trade, post mix. We used to have one of these draft fizzy drinks dispensers. They simply take the tap water, fizz it up and add an amount of a syrup before dispensing it as a proprietary soft drink at the bar. They are handy for rum and cola, making shandies and for that awful drink, lime and soda. Of course for the latter it is required to also have some other product called cordial on the bar. All of these items are punted by large multinationals who have dubious marketing and business ethics.

Around 2 years ago the largest of these multinationals decided that their machine could no longer be supported at our establishment. They made excuses about our private water supply damaging the machine. In truth I imagine that the combination of low throughput and our remote location added up to it not being commercially viable.

This was the start of a long downhill road for our relationship with multinationals at my pub.

We started to stock large plastic bottles of cola, made by the same notorious multinational. PET bottles, as they are known in the trade. We also stocked lemonade and soda in the same way. It's tacky and really, really not like us. After a while we discovered Fentimans drinks. They make a nice range of quality soft drinks, not cheap but good. We decided to ditch the large PET bottles and go completely with Fentimans, but that left a gap in a product range for soda.

Without a machine to deliver gassed up water the only real option was individual bottles of sparkling mineral water. They are a little more expensive than the carbonated tap water, but hey, we've not got that option anymore. This does make lime and soda a little expensive.

To be fair though, what person who has any level of decernibility chooses lime and soda as a drink? Lime cordial has probably never had any association with real limes. It certainly tastes like rubbish to me. This is part of the populace homogenisation of pub culture that in turn is part of the trade's downturn.

After much tribulations with people asking for lime and "just tap water" and then complaining about the price I finally stopped stocking lime cordial. It's become something of an obsession now. Crisps, chocolate and coffee; lager, fizzy drinks and fruit juices all have to be quality products. Cordial just had to go.

You may think I'm crazy. My suspicion is that you are right. Many people don't get what we do here, but the proportion that do are worth it. After all, if I work the hours I do, without a day off, I'm damn well going to stock a range of products I believe in and insist my customer base believes in it too.

And don't get me started on Shandy.

I had two Dutch people in today, they had an orange juice and a still water, not "just tap water". We never have problems with foreigners. We probably conform to the continental café bar model in some ways.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Does beer need a better champion?

Currently in the mass media we are constantly bombarded with bad news about how alcohol is causing much social grief. Binge drinking, alcohol related crime and town centre no go areas where disorder is rife at night. We are also heavily censored by the Portman Group over drinks advertising to the extent that even progressive brewers like BrewDog have come under attack.

Now I'm not going to try and tell the reader that we should not worry about such things. Indeed as a licensee I sometimes think the powers we, the good old fashioned landlord used to enjoy, have been diminished by the "customer is always right" attitude of today. But the neo-prohibitionist is certainly undermining the beer market as a revered beverage. It has to be the case that we have already, as a nation, curtailed the worst of the problems and the drinks industry needs to regain acceptance.

Many bloggers have commented on advertising censorship. Recently Pete Brown has posted about the imagery in the media that shows beer as a demon drink. It certainly seems to be the case that mass media exposure for beer is largely either crass advertising by the big brewers or news items showing unsavoury behaviour.

The Oz and James drink to Britain was fun and informative without going too far into a geeky perspective. It featured some interesting brewers and beers and might just have helped to strengthen feelings amongst those consumers who respect beer as well as opening up ideas for beer drinkers who might otherwise have not been so adventurous. My worry is that it's slightly loutish behaviour by overgrown men would probably not help a more sophisticated approach to the beer market.

Oz and James also focused closely on British beer, which of course was the remit of the program. Their eagerness to belittle the position of British lager was criticised by beer writers that appreciate properly made lager, but perhaps not inappropriate seeing as mass produced British lager deserves no reverence whatsoever.

For all the good work that CAMRA does to promote beer it seems to have failed in one area that I'd like it to succeed in; the wholesale promotion of beer as a great and quality product. There is the very valid argument that this is not the purpose of CAMRA. If that is the case who else is going to do it?

There is of course the Guild, of which I am a member. The majority of the guild members are trying to eek a living out of writing about beer. I'm just playing at it for the time being. I'd like to think that one day I'll transfer into being paid, but there is inevitably a catch to that. I would have to start thinking about my audience. Beer writers who get paid presumably have to produce material that publishing companies, papers, radio or T.V. want to pay for. This does not necessarily match what the writers want to write about.

There are some good books that explore the beer world in a more global manner. Pete Browns book Three Sheets to the Wind was loaned to me recently. When somebody loans their signed copy you know they want you to read it. I'm half way through and currently the story is leading me to Portland in Oregon. It is indeed an excellent book and if you have not read it then do so, soon. What we need though is for the information contained in such books to become more digestible to the lazy masses. Some distillation into newspapers, magazines, radio and T.V. is required.

In essence then I feel there is a gap in the beer communications arena. A gap between the mass media, of which the professional beer writers are inevitably tied and that of the one beer consumer group in the country. The blogosphere does in some way fill that gap, but it's not anywhere near mass media, at least not yet. Additionally, blogging can get a little messy and personal as occasionally there are fall outs when disagreements go too far.

I am keen to explore what can be done, but currently have a pub to run. We're into what I hope is a busy season, the sun is shining and so I have to go and make bread. While I knead the dough I will think some more about how we can better capture the positive attention of the mass media.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Middle class tribulations

Today a local family decided to use us for an 18th birthday party. They turned up in a posh stretch Hummer and spent lots of money.

You see the problems I have now that we are a snobby middle class pub.





They were really nice people who encouraged all of us to  have a look in the limo. Now the kids all think they will get a limo hired for their 18th birthdays - dream on kids, not until I can get away with charging £3 a pint. Still, the nice driver gave me lots of business cards, might be handy when we start doing snobby middle class weddings.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Holiday? Don't bank on it.

Well the best, or is it worst? is over. That was the longest and possibly busiest weekend of the year for us. News reports are indicating up to a 45% increase on visitor numbers over last year to some places in the Lake District. From what we saw we can well believe it. The combination of good weather and a very late Easter have brought people out in droves. A very good, but trying weekend for us.

Oh, and for a change, the weather was not so good in the south. No, I'm not finding that funny, very much.

We're tired with a capital "F". The staff are down to one day off a week. Luxury, we're having cheese, crackers, olives and beer for breakfast (or is it supper?) at 1am after the bar is closed only to be getting up at 6.45am to set up for customers breakfast. Defeacation may have to wait a while. A day off for us? Well we can dream.

It makes me think though; Due to our location we find we have around 50% of our operational days where we actually have difficulty covering our overheads. A reasonable proportion of our trading makes just about enough to break even. The bank holidays make up for the poor trading times. I've said before; if we get a good summer, all will be good. If it rains like it did the last two years we're well and truly stuffed. And God alone help us if we ever get foot and mouth again.

Am I complaining? Well, not really. I think it's been our busiest bank holiday ever. I also think we handled it the best we've ever done. I'm really quite proud of all of the team. But what perhaps bothers me is that before I came into the trade I used to be one of those people who complained about tourist locations screwing the punters. Really, this is not the case. Do you want to enjoy a pint in a remote location amongst beautiful scenery? It might be worth considering what it takes to deliver that pint in such a location.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Hardknott to be miffed

Yesterday was our busiest day of the year so far. We probably sold more beer than we sold in any one week in February. That's bank holidays for you. Today should have been busier. We made extra bread, put extra change in the till, rostered extra staff and lined up the beers on the handpulls.

I have a theory that on bank holidays, when the sun is out, Ambleside and Windermere becomes an impossible bucket of bubbling grockles. The more sensible ones bubble over the notorious Wrynose and Hardknott passes and find their way to us. Most of our daytime trade arrives from this direction. Bank Holidays are normally an order of magnitude busier and last right through Sunday.

By 1pm today things were looking quieter than we expected. We'd noticed a few cyclists heading passward during the morning but thought nothing of it; That is until our customers started to complain more than usual about how bad the pass is to drive. We normally get a few wimps bewail the intrepid 1 in 3 hairpins and, to them, horrendous looking drops by the road. The complete lack of Armco barriers something of a reality check too far for some. But today nearly every driver had something to say, adding that there were cyclists weaving all over the road.

video

So somebody, it seems, had organised a bike race - on Easter Sunday. Golly, slightly stupid I'd say. I was clearly loosing custom as it turned out to be taking an age for motorists to get over the passes. As we were quieter than expected I went up to the pass to take some pictures. The scenes here just happened over and over again.



At least the Fred Whitton happens on a quieter Sunday. A normal Sunday is a holiday changeover and a relaxing break from the madness of Saturday. We like the Fred Whitton because it seems well organised, todays event was not.




If anybody knows what the event was, just so I can write to the organisers and point out the errors of their ways, I'd be terribly obliged.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Festival Frivolity

When you do something that you are passionate about it can be something of a downer when you get criticised. When running a pub in the middle of the mountains it happens all the time. A few people can't understand the difference between a town pub and an out-in-the-sticks place.

I'm sure that people who give up their spare time to organise beer festivals must find it difficult when some smart Alec makes a glib and unfair comment about their gallant attempts to bring together a vast array of beers under one roof. In this post I mentioned, all too briefly and completely unfairly that I had reservations about the Newcastle Beer Festival. Quite rightly a volunteer commented on the post for clarification. It would be unfair for me not to give a more balanced and constructive critique of the event. After all, it wasn't as if I didn't enjoy going to this particular festival.

What I realised though was that it is not this festival in particular that I have concerns about, but more the overall ambiance of real ale festivals in general. Enjoyment of beer starts with the feel of the venue. This is true in a pub, a bar, a restaurant, sitting having a picnic with the family in beautiful scenery on a sunny summers day, a few tinnies floating in the burbling brook or in a large hall with the synergy of other beer fans.

I have followed a very successful geeky career. Beer is only my latest fad after a long line of techno fuelled pastimes. Computers, electronics and radio fares have featured large in my repertoire of days out, sad really. Stalls and stalls full of gizmos, shiny gadgetry and military cast-off rubbish used to endear my pastimes. These events usually left me exhausted, physically and mentally. A sit down in a pub with a nice pint usually the therapy needed.

I guess this is my concern about beer festivals. They are often in large unfriendly halls, the beer cannot be stillaged and cooled to optimum effect, they can get very busy and you don't even get a clean glass for each new beer. Being able to sit down is often not an option, my joints are still in reasonable order, but I stand all day in my job, getting a seat is nice. I can get a wide range of good beer and a seat in many pubs around here.

Go on reader, pick up on the important thing in the above paragraph; They are always busy. That's right; they can't be that bad otherwise people would stay away in hoards. There is a wide range of beer available that you just can't get in one venue at any other time. It's not really badly kept considering the equipment and venue that the organisers have to deal with.

The Student Union in Newcastle University might well be my least favourite beer festival venue, but I did notice a reasonable number of younger drinkers; Students perhaps?  At least if it gets the interest of this cash strapped demographic then that can be no bad thing and at the younger end of the punters there was a much better gender balance of numbers.

I do enjoy beer festivals, but I also enjoy getting to sit down in a pub, with my beer in a clean glass and relaxing. Comparing the two is perhaps a little like comparing a burger from my favourite burger van with a fillet steak from a good restaurant; a futile and irrelevant comparison. Or a bit like comparing a remote country pub with a town pub, perhaps.

My pub, as forecast, has been nicely busy. This post has been stuck in the pipeline for several days. Next week is looking busy as well so normal posting might not resume for a little while.

Monday, 6 April 2009

National Cask Ale Week

I've had my reservations about Cask Ale Week. Mainly due to the fact that it is dominated by the bigger breweries and pub chains. I was unhappy to pay for the POS kit and also it was difficult for me to see how taking part was going to make any difference to the number of people visiting my pub.

However, the principle behind the idea can't be bad. As we are a real ale pub it would be churlish to ignore the celebration.

The web site for the event has got the graphics on it so I downloaded them and did a bit of playing around. First I made a poster which included the picture of the young sexy people on it. My customers thought that it was inappropriate. "You're not that type of place Dave". OK, let's just use the logo then.

I made some "Try before you Buy" stickers for the pump clips and a few cheeky tent cards for the tables. It seems to be raising awareness of the principle of asking for a taster. This is something I approve of. Letting a customer try the beer before purchase makes the customer feel more confident about parting with his hard earned cash. No bad thing.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Beer writing

I like the beer blogosphere. It enables me to rant on about things that bother me in my mission to provide a quality hospitality service to discerning customers. It also provides me with plenty of ideas and opinion from other bloggers both by reading their blogs and comments left on mine. The free speech and democratic nature makes it a very exciting and powerful media that I believe is going to grow over the next few years. Freedom and interactivity are the things that make it so powerful as a communication method.

My pub is probably what you would call a specialist pub. We don't sell products that many standard pubs would consider bread and butter. A standard "cooking" lager for instance is something we don't serve. We are slowly shaping our customer base to match our product, but its frustrating when you know a small proportion just don't "get it"

This frustration was another reason why I started this blog. I knew that there was a proportion of the general public understood that there was more to beer than cream flow and extra cold and beers that only owe their success to sponsorship of major sport rather than providing a quality product. I am obviously keen to increase the number of people from this group who visit my pub and I am also keen to increase the overall number of people that understand quality beer and accepting of pub specialisation.

When I started blogging I was aware of an organisation called the British Guild of Beer Writers. Their aim is:
"To improve standards of beer writing and extend the public knowledge of beer."
I'll buy into that I thought. But of course I didn't think I'd ever consider myself worthy of joining an organisation of such stature. After all, I failed my English "0" level. Indeed failed with such a significant margin that the risk of me passing was more remote than the risk of me losing my cherry, which trust me, at 16 was also a low risk.

To my delight it was suggested that I should join the Guild. It seems I've left my secondary school education behind long ago and my subsequent application was accepted. Thank god for technical college, distance learning, and spell checkers, it seems my writing is good enough after all. I feel I now need to take the roll of beer writer seriously. There is much still to do if we are to  further explore the extension of "the public knowledge of beer"

That was perhaps quite a long introduction to the main point of this post. This point might actually be at odds with the thing that makes blogging so powerful, the freedom and accessibility of it as a medium. It is incredibly important to me to defend the position of every blogger to be able to apply their own style, language, opinions and subject matter almost without fear or favour. However, do we bloggers need to consider the image we project about beer to casual visitors?

I know my blog gets hits from Google searches. People are looking for information on beer or pubs on the Internet. I'm guessing other bloggers get the same hits on their sites, which of course is fantastic. But do we give the right impression?

There are discussions regarding accessibility of beer to the relatively disadvantaged, perhaps seen as "the drink of the working man". This is counterpoised by the desire by some to intellectualise about beer and make it more revered. Perhaps even to make it trendy. There are debates on the relative benefits or pitfalls of Wetherspoons compared to Gastro pubs. Kids in pubs, pets in pubs and many other relevant and interesting discussions take place. I enjoy them all. Extraneous CO2 also triggering thoughtful discussion, as well as the good old sparkler, if debate should fizzle out.

Perhaps the most relevant, interesting and provoking debate is the relationship that CAMRA has with the beer world as a whole. This one can really get people going. Bloggers can get very agitated when the subject is discussed. I think the discussion is good, but perhaps we need to think about how it might look to outsiders if we start getting into playground "my dad is bigger than your dad" type fights.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Out with the old?


There were a couple of friends in the bar last night. They commented on the new signs. They never once mentioned the use of Comic Sans. They seemed impressed.










They saw the old signs, which are properly hand painted. They made the suggestion that we hang them on the bar wall inside, after all they are now a bit of history. If every previous landlord had kept old signs we'd sure have a fantastic record of previous lives here. Unfortunately the place would be full of signs, and woodworm I suspect.



Friday, 3 April 2009

It's a sign

I've been busy. So a quick post just to show I haven't died yet or given up blogging. I went to the Newcastle Beer Festival on Wednesday, which I wasn't too impressed with. The venue was rubbish and the beer not well kept. Perhaps I wasn't that enthralled because I had to drive 3 hours to get there and three hours to get back, so little in the way of real drinking. But still, the company I found there was good.

On the way there I picked up my new signs. The previous ones were donkey's years old and getting increasingly tatty. They were a negative advert.


Jeff talks about getting his pub sign redone here. He wanted a hand painted one. Theses days of course you can get a standard size painting scanned and printed out poster size. This is what we did. Several people have asked who painted it thinking it was done full size. Kasia and my computer is the answer.

The number of bloody screws we dropped off that roof was starting to get annoying. I'm just glad we didn't drop the battery drill, I've already got through too many of them.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Pints per week

I recently ran a poll about how many pints people drank in the pub per week. Tandleman is doing one on bottled beers at home which nicely compliments this one. Perhaps total units per week of alcohol would be next.

Anyway, interesting results. Most importantly lets try and convert to units. Assume 2.2 units per pint which is just under 4%. Yes I know some will drink weeker beer, but others, like me, also like stronger stuff.

I've rounded and adjusted figures a little as going on the original question left holes like twelve and a half pints per week. Perhaps not completely scientific, but hey, it's just for fun anyway.

Percentage of polled by units of alcohol
2%    zero
25%    <12
34%    12-27
14%    27-45
20%   45-88
0%     > 88

Interesting? Well it looks like more than 50% of you are below the government recommended maximum anyway. Some drink no beer in a pub, it would be interesting to know why you read my blog. That's not a complaint though, I like people reading my blog, whoever you are.

If you drink more than 8 units a day or 50 units a week then you are at high risk, according to the NHS. oops, that's me then.

Personally I think it has a lot to do with overall lifestyle. If you smoke, always eat greasy fried processed food, eat very little in the way of vegetables and fruit and don't exercise then this level of alcohol is probably going to contribute to an early death. But that's your choice, be happy if it is. It could be argued that not drinking or smoking or eating unhealthy food makes for a long and miserable existence.

If you eat a reasonably balanced diet, exercise a little and try not to smoke you will probably get away with 50 units a week. I hope so cause that's about where I am.

Of course I didn't specify pints of beer in my question. Did everybody assume I meant beer? Also it doesn't include drinking at home. Do people really do that?