Archive for January, 2012

January 24, 2012

Q&A: Sid Boggle

This weeks Q&A brings us back to London to speak to Egomaniac and exposer of Spoogebeerians, Mr Sid Boggle.

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Your blurb…

Londoner who moved seamlessly from lager lout in late teens to lover of good beer by middle age. Nowadays, a retrosexual scruffy bastard who is thankful London re-joined the world of beer at just the right time, or I’d have a lot less to blog about.

Beer epiphany…

Ooo, good one. Went to work in Germany in 1989 as a Guinness drinker, came back two years later with a love of German beer and desire to learn more about our native ales. I can still be transported with a few sips of altbier. The next bit of foundation-shaking happened on the first US trip in 2002, when I drank my first American IPA. I woke up dreaming hops for months after.

Best beer find of the last year…

In a broad sense, Brodie’s. I didn’t know them at all before the 2010 London Brewers Showcase, but this year I’ve tried loads of their beers and enjoyed pretty much all of them. They’ll win this year’s Boggle Award. For a one-off beer, and this will give ammunition to those people who think I’m an extreme beer fanboy, but Oakham Untouchable Double IPA was fantastic.

What sounds are to be heard while blogging…

Flatulence, BBC News Channel, occasionally I listen to music, usually something electronic or industrial. Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle are favourites.

What brought you to blogging…

Egomania. And to warn the world about spoogebeerians.

What have you taken from blogging…

Some nice comments from friends, the occasional compliment, a few knocks, and of course a month as Number One Beer Blogger thanks to my musical idol Frank Sidebottom.

Are beer bloggers frustrated brewers…

Well, since blogging seems to provoke invites to brew, there might be something to that. Personally, when I have time then I mean to eventually homebrew. That’d probably do for me.

Which brewers would you hold up as the way it should be done…

Controversial. I’m not sure whether I’d say one brewer was an exemplar over another. I remember visitng Cantillon a few years back. A couple of months before that I’d been at Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania. One was a virtually a working museum, the other a brand new shiny brewhouse with computer control and heat recovery systems. But as brewers, how far apart would they be in attitude? I suppose if you mean setting the bar high for quality, then Kernel. I also really like their ‘non-brand’

Pub heaven…

No bloody kids.

Pub hell…

Bloody kids.

Favourite local pub…

Zeitgeist in Black Prince Road.

Favourite non local pub…

Tricky. I love The Rake, The Harp, Cask… London’s doing really well for good pubs so choosing places to go is a happy problem.

What advice would you give any aspiring blogger…

Pick a distinctive name that is easy to remember so you come top in a Google search.

What’s on the horizon…

The Shard. It’s nearly finished, you know…

Finally, can you tell us a joke about beer…

Beer isn’t funny. However, Johnny Depp did this one on the telly the other week. Skeleton walks into a bar, says to the barman, I’ll have a beer and a mop.

January 19, 2012

Angel & Crown, 58 St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4EA

The Angel & Crown feels like an old friend you meet by chance, catch up with over a drink, and promise we must do this again soon. A strange description of a pub open a matter of weeks perhaps? It’s the latest from Ed & Tom Martin who amongst others own The Well on St Johns Street, a one time local and the White Swan on Fetter Lane a one time after work regular. This new venture on St Martins Lane is a welcome addition to the landscape of mediocre pubs with only the odd gem. The decor, feel and service is all very familiar if you’ve been in an ETM pub before; that is to say comfy traditionalism, laid back soundtrack and solid service.

It’s a quick drink before moving on so we don’t get a chance to see the menu for the dining room upstairs but if their other pubs are a guide it;s well worth a look whether its drinks or food that you’re looking for. The beer selection isn’t overflowing with only 2 ales on the 3 handpumps, but one of which is a well kept Sambrooks, Junction and better to have 2 or 3 good drops than a multitude of bad. It’s been a while since i’ve been acquainted with ETM Pubs but on the strength of the Angel & Crown it won’t be long before i’m back.

Angel & Crown, 58 St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4EA

January 17, 2012

Q&A: Brent Cordle from Odell Brewing Co.

After last weeks chat with Ghost Drinker it’s back to the Brewers and Odell Brewing Co’s Brent Cordle, who manages the pilot brewhouse and barrel aging program. Yes, he has the job that most of us want!

copyright: Odell Brewing Co.

 

Blurb…

I am a brewer who loves to combine great beers with oak characteristics and creating new and exciting styles.

5 words summing up my brewing ethos…

Clean, strategic, artistic, malty, balanced

First beer experience…

Grabbing my dad a Bud Light from the fridge when I was 9. “What is this stuff, and why can’t I have one?”, I thought to myself

Sounds heard in the brewery…

Stainless steel clanging, beeping from forklifts, LOUD music, and lots of laughter

If I wasn’t brewing I’d be…

Zane Lamprey, traveling the world and exploring different drinking cultures

Before I was brewing I was…

Moving furniture and hanging siding. Not exactly my dream profession.

Favourite thing about what I do …

The finished product and the pride you get from each individual beer and knowing you had something to do with it tasting the way it does. If it doesn’t taste good, I had nothing to do with it : )

Greatest brewing achievement to date

Bourbon Barrel Stout 2011. Lots of barrels, and lots of time combine to make a very delicious beer.

Brewers / breweries I look up to…

Sierra Nevada, Great Divide

Pub heaven…

I love the Sandlot at Coors Field. I love Rockies baseball as well, so it’s a tough combo to beat on a summer day. Also recently traveled to Anchorage, Alaska, and Glacier Brewhouse was absolutely phenomenal.

Pub hell…

Oxidized, DMS filled beers and no other options. That’s usually when I switch to a cocktail instead.

Favourite local pub…

The Crown Pub, The Mayor, The Trailhead (Ft. Collins, CO)

Favourite non local pub…

The Falling Rock (Denver)

Advice I’d give any aspiring brewer…

No matter what your doing or brewing, make sure you keep it very clean every step of the way, and minimize oxygen exposure as much as possible. When using spices, subtlety is the key.

What’s on the horizon…

Woodcut #6, Crimson Shenanigans, Bourbon Barrel Stout in 4 pks!

Coming up on next weeks Q&A it’s back to the Bloggers with London’s premier Frank Sidebottom aficionado, Sid Boggle.

January 12, 2012

Timeshift: The Rules of Drinking

It’s the TV treatment that we’ve been waiting for. An intelligent, humorous and objective look at Britain and it’s drinking culture. I didn’t catch it last night when it was aired as I was in a pub observing some of the rules myself. Catching up on iPlayer it took me back to memories of one of my first jobs in a Working Mens Club. An archive piece from the late 50s brought a smile to my face as members debate on whether to allow access to women. That same debate was still raging in 1995 when I was “Lad on’t door”

It was a balanced look at how drinking culture has developed without resorting to hysterical politically motivated posturing about the evils of alcohol. Thankfully there weren’t any politicians amongst the contributors. Featuring amongst others is Pete Brown enjoying a pint at The Jolly Butchers. You can catch his take on it here. There is surely a whole series in the Rules of Drinking but sadly we probably won’t see anything like this in a hurry. Give it a view and tell us what you think (for those outside the UK the iPlayer link may not work – i’m told there’s a way around it – if you know please post here).

 

January 11, 2012

Chalky’s Bite: Stein’s Fish & Chips, South Quay, Padstow

I like to think of myself as relatively unaffected by the cult of celebrity. Buying in on celebrity endorsements more often than not leads to disappointment. Frankie’s springs to mind. Why I thought that an Italian restaurant owned by a Jockey and keffiyeh sporting Yorkshireman would be much cop is anyone’s guess. It is however nigh on impossible (perhaps even illegal) to visit Padstow and not some how add to the coffers of Rick Stein. I will confess upfront that I am Stein fan. I’d much rather watch Rick, with his affable charm and reverent enthusiasm, than most of his contemporaries. You wouldn’t find Rick launching a four letter tirade against an artisan cheesemaker or calling everyone he meets Brother.

So, I was looking forward to a Christmas trip to Padstow, but at the same time hoping that I wouldn’t go away disappointed. With a mix of eateries, deli’s and a pub operating in or around Padstow, pretty much any culinary mood or wallet is catered for. We decide to keep it simple and head down to Padstow’s South Quay and Stein’s Fish & Chips. It’s the week of Christmas and although Padstow itself is showing little signs of life we join a short queue on the quayside.

The windows are slightly steamed but as we are buffeted by the Atlantic wind we can make out white tiled walls and rows of shared tables. A family seated on stools facing out look slightly bemused as the queue gawp at their food. I would imagine that having a cagouled pensioner pointing at your Hake isn’t that conducive to a great dining experience; but then this isn’t fine dining. It’s fish & chips, as it should be and in fact used to be. Battered fish is fried in beef dripping and there is a good selection of fish on offer. Battered oyster, scallop and squid makes for a nice starter before digging into the main. Not a hint of pea puree pervades the menu with chip shop staples of mushy peas, bread & butter, curry and tartare sauce.

To wash it down there’s Chalky’s Bark and Bite, named after Stein’s famous terrier and brewed at Sharp‘s. I’ve had Chalky’s Bark in the past but this was a first opportunity to be Bitten. Chalky, as he did on occasion, stole the show. At 6.8% it lives up to its name. Maturation of 3 months, use of Cornish wild fennel and 3 hop varieties make for a great beer to compliment the best fish and chips I’ve had in years.

Stein’s Fish & Chips, South Quay, Padstow, Cornwall

January 10, 2012

Q&A: Ghost Drinker

Pub Diaries Q&A returned for 2012 with Brewer, Duncan Sambrook. We change tack this week with the lowdown coming from Beer Ritz’s Will, better known as Ghost Drinker.

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Your blurb…
The name’s Ghost Drinker, but most people just call me Will. I’ve been working for Beer Ritz in Leeds for over 5 years now, serving the good people of the city and customers from further afield with a range of over 600 hundred beers. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. If I ever get into a suit and tie behind a desk, I’ll go fully mental. Eventually I’d like to work for a brewery, but now I’m pretty happy to talk to all the beer geeks we get in the shop about the ‘new beers in’ at any particular time.

First beer experience, beer epiphany…
I never really touched beer till I was 17, and I’m pretty sure the first pint I ever had was Timmy Taylors Landlord. After that, for a few years I drank Tetleys and crap lager. It wasn’t untill I had a pint of Golden Salamander in Arcadia at 19/20 that I discovered what good beer actually could be. At the time I had just started working for Beer Ritz. After a few more good pints I started to really get into the world of different beers, and after that a true beer geek was born.

Best beer find of the last year…
It probably has to be The Kernel Brewery. I got to take a little trip round the Brewery last year with Evin one on one, and really got to know the guys, what they’re doing and we sampled quite a bit of their beers. Since then I’ve never had a bad Kernel beer, and they continue to impress and push the boundaries of beer.

What sounds are to be heard while blogging…
If it’s a question of music, then my tastes range as far and wide as my tastes in beer, my motto is if it sounds good I’ll listen to it. I do have a soft spot for metal like Metallica and bands like Aerosmith to blare out while I drink and write about beer though.

What brought you to blogging…
A couple of years back Zak (Boss man of Beer Ritz) got a lap top for the back of the shop. I started reading his blog from this and after a while thought it would be pretty cool if I could do my own. (Don’t worry Zak, we don’t spend all our time on the lap top, the cellar’s always ship shape).

What have you taken from blogging…
Whats really been great is the like minded people I’ve got to meet and chat too through blogging. I love this industry and blogging has really been a way to get much more involved in it.

Are beer bloggers frustrated brewers…
Well I know of a couple who are, but I’m not naming any names… Truth be told, quite a lot of the people I follow brew their own beer, and they do it pretty damn well, so I’d call quite a lot of them successful brewers.

Which brewers / breweries would you hold up as the way it should be done…
Off the top of my head; Buxton, Thornbridge, Saltaire, Kernel, Williams Bros, Harviestoun, Durham, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Stone, Brooklyn and Odells to name just a few.

Pub heaven…
The quiet country pub feel, but Arcadia fits my pub heaven criteria – No music, no large groups of students, just great cask ale and a really friendly warm atmosphere.

Pub hell…
Having to stand in an overcrowded “pub” with sky sports blaring out whilst drinking the only beer option available; John Smiths Smoothflow or Carlsberg.

Favourite local pub…
Arcadia.

Favourite non local pub…
North Bar + Mr Foleys

What advice would you give any aspiring blogger…
Try to be unique, and don’t just post up tasting notes about hundreds of different beers. Sure, put up tasting notes – there’s nothing wrong with that, just don’t do it all the time. Post about different things, mix it up, be engaging. People say don’t just post for the sake of it but I do it all the time, just make something interesting out of it – it’s your passion, share it with the world as often as you can.

What’s on the horizon…
It’s all about British Beer at the moment, the next couple of years is going to see some great things to come out of this country. We don’t know exactly what but it’s going to be one hell of a ride. If I had to make a guess I think India Red Ale is going to be pretty big next year.

Up next week… its back to the Brewers and a hop across the pond with Brent Cordle from Odell Brewing Company.

January 9, 2012

Black Monday

I’m declaring Monday 9th January, Black Monday. It surely has to be my worst drinking day of the year. But, that’s a positive, as i’ve got it out of the way early! It started with my semi regular trip to the Rake. English and I take a walk to the Rake most Mondays, have a couple of pints, talk tripe and muse over what’s on the bar, before going our separate ways at London Bridge. Tonight was no different apart from a distinct lack of custom. Well it is January, was the thought. After a pint of Brodies Amarilla and a two halves of a smoky German rausch, which I admit I can’t remember the name of (but filled my mouth with imaginary smoked cheese and ham) it was time to call it a night.

As I headed home I got that one more feeling. A quick text and ring round seemed to put pay to that idea but undeterred I thought there is the always the station pub. Now the station pubs choice at London Bridge is bad to say the least. The Oast House you enter at your own peril, leaving a selection of All Bar One’s and The Platform (which despite inclusion on the much tweeted SE1 Quality Pub Crawl, seems to have little or no redeeming features).

I head off from London Bridge with thoughts of getting off for a quick pint at Peckham Rye (Victoria Inn) or East Dulwich (East Dulwich Tavern, amongst many) but go with the local option of North Dulwch or Tulse Hill. The decision is Tulse Hill and I head for the passable Railway Tavern, to find the door open but the tables and chairs stacked. So with trepidation it’s a visit to the Tulse Hill Tavern, and its glistening fonts of every beer you don’t want to drink. They do have an oasis in this desert which is a just drinkable pint of Doombar. Most would head home but as a matter of principle I need to find a beer in South East London that will sate me. I head for Gipsy Hill and the possibility of a decent pint at The Paxton, which I am yet to visit in its new guise.

As I past a darkened Two Towers things aren’t looking good. As I approach The Paxton things are looking worse. Closed for staff party reads the sign. I’ll never learn! Year after year i’m thwarted by the pub Christmas parties, forgetting that our nations bar staff need a Christmas party. I walk towards home and The Rosendale, a pub that under previous management could seriously make me teetotal. The Rosendale having passed over to Renaissance Pubs, has seen a change in fortunes, but still fell short for me, confirming Black Monday. Asking whether food was still being served I got a half shrug and murmur before the barman disappeared. I could persevere but as this whole search for a pub and pint had shown me, tonight was not the night to persevere. I write this from a a deserted curry house in West Dulwich with bored waiters circling me asking whether I want more poppadoms. The answer is yes, it’s always yes, as a poppadom or two is the key to happiness… especially on Black Monday.

January 8, 2012

Sunday Daydreaming: Best Beer Destinations?

Sunday is a day of rest… though that rest could be a few down the local. For me, today at least, it’s a day of sanding, scraping, priming and painting. I’m daydreaming of good beer and good friends.

With a boys trip to plan later in the year i’m thinking of the best beer destinations in the UK and Europe and thinking back to Antwerp… what are your favourites?

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An Afternoon of Beer, Paters Vaetje

Picture courtesy of Carlo Bezoari taken @ Paters Vaetje, Blauwmoezelstraat 1, 2000 Antwerpen

January 7, 2012

2012: The Year of Manning Up

It’s coming up to two years since I started Pub Diaries. In the early days it was an experiment and I didn’t know whether it would continue. I’d started a blog previously and posted once before getting all self conscious and dumping it.  The topic was different and my heart wasn’t really in it. Writing about pubs and beer was different though and so two years later i’m still here typing away about pubs, beer and anything else that takes my fancy. I’ve read other blogs, engaged in comments and debate on Twitter (in between all the other twaffle) but i’ve not really got out there and engaged one on one. When writing a piece for Crafty Pint I met Evin O’Riordan of The Kernel Brewery and by chance at the same time Max Chater from the Dean Swift, but that’s been it. I’ve kept a distance. Mainly as in the early days I was still finding my feet and well a bit of anonymity is always a little desirable. It’s difficult to introduce yourself to someone and then possibly criticise their pub or beer further on down the line. Well, a change is coming. I’ve grown into the blog, feel comfortable with my style of writing and the comments that I make. So, I decided its time to man up and get out there.

The European Beer Bloggers Conference coming up in May struck me as a great way to do this. It’s in Leeds, which is like going home and should hopefully give me the opportunity to sink a few drinks with those bloggers and brewers that i’ve been reading and interacting with over the last few years as well as meet others that are new to me. If this is striking a chord with you then you can find all the details on their website. I have to admit that as well as the programme of content of the two main days the chance to get to Magic Rock Brewing in Huddersfield sealed the deal.

Place secured on the conference and buoyed by a flying start to the New Year I was feeling bold about my blogging. I’ve thought of joining the British Guild of Beer Writers since I started blogging. It was a goal. I could hardly write a few posts and join, but coming back to the point about being comfortable in my style and content I thought why not. And so my application is winging its way to the Guild. I’ll admit I was slightly hesitant. The Guilds roll call is the Who’s Who of my beer reading over the last few years. There is a thought of do I cut it on this list? I put this aside and resolved that being on the list may make me raise my game and hopefully I’ll learn something along the way from any contacts I make. and who knows what opportunities may come my way.

So that’s the goal for 2012, to be more engaged, to get to know the people I read (and hopefully read me). For the bloggers out there I’d be interested to hear your hopes for 2012 and any thoughts you have on the transition from dipping your toe in the sea to taking the plunge.

January 6, 2012

Down in One, Down Under

Skulling a pint. You would think it would be a younger mans game right? The arena of students and rugby players? Some would hold it up as youthful disrespect for alcohol and the tenets of drinking responsibly. Well, Bob Hawke would have something to say. The 82 year old former Prime Minister of Australia, shows that age and status should never get in the way of downing a pint. Politicians the world over love to be seen electioneering in Pubs with a pint. I suppose they feel that it gives them some credibility with the electorate but is often as cringeworthy as kissing babies. Hhow many can do this! The world needs more elder Statesmen like Bob. 

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