Archive for May, 2012

May 31, 2012

A Travellers Tale

I’m sent quite a few links and comments to beer related stuff which I rarely post. I enjoy it all but don’t re-post all as it doesn’t always seem relevant. I today received two that I will comment on.

First the news that the Aussies beat the Germans at their own game in San Diego with a grand prize for Burleigh Hef.

My future, Aussie-Dutch father in law sent me this info proving that you can be an out and out Aussie but still retain that streak of Europeanism (Is that a Bushism?).

Second is from my possible future brother in law (keep up people). I have been teaching him the ways of craft beer. This involves his massive hangover and the future sister in law declaring me a bad influence (me, a bad influence? Never!). I’m proud of my work with him so far and that this was his email today:

“I was tempted to a pub at Heathrow (terminal 1, the Goose) by their advert with references to “craft beer”. Like a space ship caught in the deathstar’s tractor beam I followed my nose. I thought to myself, “what better way to start a 3 day holiday to Iceland?… with a decent pint!?…. I sat down and requested a craft beer to be told, “sorry, we’re out”. My following three requests were also followed by “sorry, we’re out”. The waiter then shocked me with his next comment, “how about a Fosters?”… Ffs!!… I hope my holiday improves from here!!! I’m now drinking a Stella… 1 notch better than a pint of urine!”

Travel is supposed to be a pleasure! But there’s places peddling Fosters… Tell us your beer horrors and triumphs.

May 30, 2012

Beer and Bunting: The Alternative Jubilee

As the bunting is strung up and Londoners prepare for public transport meltdown, Pub Diaries is here to tell you beer drinking proles what else is happening in the capital this weekend. If your idea of a good day isn’t watching Her Maj’s booze cruise putter down the Thames here are a few alternatives which may float your boat.

Saturday 2nd June – The Euston Tap, Lager Party

A day of Punk and Hotdogs awaits at the Euston Tap’s Lager Party. Czech Pilsner, Bavarian Helles, local boys Camden and their Black Friday await. For fans of self styled beer punks Brewdog there will be an exclusive supply of Growler, a Citra infused lager. We’re told that they’ll be using the UK’s only Randall beer infuser.

Sunday 3rd June 13:00, The White Hart – Stoke Newington Literary Festival – Pete Brown’s Beer & Music Matching

Billed as Pete and his iPod I’m thinking this could go either way. After seeing him tweet Eurovision on Saturday night I’m hoping that I’m not subjected to an afternoon of Boom Bang a Bang. At £4 for a beer flight and the opportunity to hear the beery bard I’m willing to take the risk. Tickets are selling out so get in while you can!

All Weekend, The Cavendish, Stockwell

I’ve always been a fan of The Cav and they know how to throw a party. They’ll have events from Friday onward. Balkan Bebop, Burlesque, BBQ, Bingo and other letters of the alphabet.

Know of other events going on? Pop it in the comments… God Save The Queen

May 30, 2012

Q&A: Greg Avola, Untappd

The Q&A comes this week from Greg Avola, the NYC based coder and beer geek behind Untappd

 Blurb…

Living in the craft beer haven of New York City, I’m the backend developer for Untappd. After experiencing Rare Vos for the first time, I instantly fell in love with craft beer. While some people enjoy reading books or watching movies, my passion is to coding.

Your ethos…

Passionate, Funny, Controlled, Outgoing, Humble

Beer epiphany…

The truth of the matter is that I, nor my co-founder Tim Mather, were ever in to beer before Untappd was made. We saw a potential with the social media industry to connect the dots on something that is very socially, but never had that represented in a social network. I first tried Rare Vos about 2 years ago and fell in love with Belgian and craft beer. Once I did that – I never looked back.

Best beer find of the last year…

My favorite beer is Pliny the Elder and I had a chance to have it draft when I was last in San Francisco, CA. It’s an amazing beer that tastes 100% different on tap than in the bottle.

What sounds are to be heard as you work…

Typically I listen to a lot of techno music when I’m working on Untappd. When coding, I like the repetition of the beats which helps me code better, believe it or not. Most of the time I use Spotify to deliver that music.

If I wasn’t coding I’d be…

Great question – because coding is my hobby and my passion. If I’m not coding, I’m most likely sleeping, eating or hanging out with family. I would say I code about 75% of the time.

Before I was coding I was…

I was in school studying how to code and build computers. I used to build a lot of custom computers for friends and family and was really into all the technology specifications of motherboards, video cards, and hard drives.

Favourite thing about what I do…

My favorite thing about what I did is the ability to help people solve problems. Nothing gives me greater joy to hear feedback from a user about how they used and liked the service. At the end of the day, we’re not really saving lives, but we are making lives easier for some people and that’s what it’s all about.

Brewers you look up to…

For me – it’s Shane Welch from SIxpoint in New York. I think his vision and direction for the brewery and industry as a whole is very fresh and new. He has passion for beer and making a quality product is something that I strive for in my work with Untappd.

The app I wish I’d come up with…

I think the logical answer is Instagram, because I love photography and the app allows anyone to fill that void. Of course the fact that it was just bought for 1 billion dollars helps too.

Pub heaven…

A pub that has a great beer selection with tie integration with Untappd, meaning that when someone check-ins to a beer at that bar, their face would appear next to the beer. That would be an great interactive element for a beer list.

Pub hell…

My biggest peev is incorrect beer names, as it causes people to create beers on Untappd. For example if a bar calls Nugget Necter, Troeges Necter Red, that causes issues with your Database.

Favourite local pub…

It’s a tough one but I would have to say The Pony Bar in NYC. $5 craft beers all day / night long is something you can’t beat.

Favourite non local pub…

The Stone Bistro Gardens in CA was my favorite in the country so far. Amazing beer, food and views.

Advice any aspiring brewer / app developer / tech startup…

Never give up and keep pushing yourself. Users want to be part of something that they feel part of, so always interact with your users and make sure they feel welcome. I love meeting Untappd users because I want to thank them for being part of the community.

What’s on the horizon…

We have a lot of great stuff coming up soon as we try to make Untappd the best product for beer and bar discovery. We also want to focus our efforts on making a better recommendation engine. If I told you – where would the fun be in that?

 

 

 

May 28, 2012

Honest Burger, Brixton Village

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that can be the best or the worst. Take the humble burger. At it’s best – succulent, pink, tasty, unfussy and leaves you wanting more; not out of hunger but out of the sheer greed that a good burger can summon. At it’s worst a greasy chunk of disappointment. No fear of this at Honest Burger in Brixton Village as I’m told “we serve the Burgers pink… Is that ok?”. I nod a little too enthusiastically which may have my waiter thinking I’m one of the meat obsessives that flock here. Though this wouldn’t actually be a bad description as I’ve woken up with a burger craving and headed to Brixton hoping that the queue isn’t too long.

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I’m usually an evening visitor to the covered avenues of what have gone from makeshift pop ups to local favourites. Saturday afternoons have an all together different feel as the long established businesses trade amongst their new neighbours.

A sign of how popular Honest has become is to look at the tables around me and the small crowd waiting for a table. To my left a young couple I guess are in the early stages of their relationship. She asks how he knows about this place and he cooly tells her he’s heard of it from blogs he reads. Minutes later he drops his cool as he gives the thumbs up to the waiter and through a mouthful says “it’s serious shit” almost choking in the process. The waiter has obviously seen this reaction before as he smiles and tips a knowing nod. To my right two friends chat about a flight one is due to catch later in the day and as they discuss plans for the months ahead it’s interspersed with revelations such as “is this rosemary on the fries…” and appreciative looks at the food being devoured.

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I sit and soak up the reactions, drinking a large Sam Smiths Pale Ale and it just feeds my anticipation. I would like to say I play it cool when my burger and fries arrives but that would be a lie. I greedily suck the juice from the patty, do what I can only describe as a bacon sex face, lick my fingers and generally everything that I hate in other people. I’m eating alone (apart from the crowd around me) and I’m going to enjoy it to the full. The young couple next to me actually high 5 each other. On another day I’d be scathing but I’m close to doing the same to Brixton as a whole.

Honest Burger, Brixton Village

May 26, 2012

Blogging not Blagging

I joked on a few occasions this week that I feel like I was “coming out” – as a blogger. Some, but not all of my friends and family know that I write a blog. My initial reticence to talk about it was borne out of wanting to develop my style of writing without the self conscious thought of what people would think. It’s been over two years since my first post, I’ve had work published elsewhere or pending publication and I feel happy with the way I write and the reception it gets. So it seems like the time to be a bit more forthcoming, get out and meet folks who I read and communicate with via Twitter. You may be in my position or considering writing a blog yourself. I hope my random thoughts on a very random week hit the spot.

First there was the European Beer Bloggers Conference in Leeds. When I told people that I was going to a beer bloggers conference they looked at me with an expression half between amusement and bemusement. “Beer Bloggers. Have. A conference?”. usually followed by “but what do you do at a beer bloggers conference?”. I’d tell them it was educational, which draws a wink, a nod or a full on belly laugh. “Ohh it’s a piss up”. I may sound like I’m protesting too much and won’t deny that there was lots of beer but what I took from the conference was more than some Spiegelau glasses, that infamous Pilsner Urquel shirt (sorry, an in joke, but ask me nicely and I may model it one day) and free beer. I took some great advice from figures who I look up to (Adrian Tierney-Jones, Zak Avery, Mark Dredge, Stuart Howe) and to sound terribly new age, the energy of a room of people who were all on the same page but writing it in different ways.

On Wednesday I attended a food matching dinner at The Parcel Yard at Kings Cross. The dinner was hosted by Fullers Head Brewer, John Keeling and around the table were bloggers, journalists and entrepreneurs. I’ll be posting about this later in the week but mention it as again it offered some valuable insight. A theme from EBBC was around blogger ethics and how Brewers and Publicans react to social media and the blogosphere. It’s obvious from Fullers’ approach that they are relatively adept at this, having a small dinner rather than large event. Doubtless this wouldn’t be the only such event they hold but it was slick without having the air of corporate PR and there was a real feel that they know they’ve got something special in The Parcel Yard and intend to keep it that way.

Thursday saw the Zagat, 30 Under 30 awards held at The Gilbert Scott, St. Pancras. Marcus Wareing canapes (and the anti-Ramsey himself walking the room), cocktails and a who’s who of young food and drink talent. This wasn’t the place you’d expect to find a beer and pub blogger but i’d been invited as I’d given some advice on engaging with beer bloggers – doing my bit to dispel the beard and sandals image and as I’ve demonstrated above I seem to have become partial to a freebie! Blagger more than blogger could be the accusation this week. As I planted myself at the bar the small space was full of familiar faces who I’ve tweeted over the years but never met in person. Nerves overcome I tapped Niamh (of @eatlikeagirl) on the shoulder and introduced myself. Lou stood to my side said later that she wished that she had filmed the reaction. A puzzled look (as anyone would be if a perspiring man taps you on the shoulder) to start and then a smile of recognition; while I just looked relieved that I’d not made too much of a fool of myself. I think if this week has taught me anything it’s that you need to be less concerned about nerves and face – and just get out there, introduce yourself and be unapologetic of being a blogger or having a lack of knowledge. The point is to meet people, ask questions and learn.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts whether blogging or not. You know where the comments box is.

 

May 25, 2012

Holborn Whippet, Sicilian Avenue, WC1A 2QH

As a Yorkshireman I’m used to the jokes about flatcaps and whippets. I’ve owned the former but unfortunately never the latter, though I can now enjoy a pint and ponder names for my imaginary mutt in a bar named after (Yorkshire)mans best friend at the Holborn Whippet.

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Currently trialling in soft launch mode the service is slightly frantic (but very friendly) and there was a distinct lack of a staple IPA on my visit. It’s very early days and these are issues which I’m sure will get ironed out. Williams Bros Profanity Stout and Black Isle Porter hit the spot on my brief visit and I’ll definitely be back for a further visit once the kitchen is up and running; which promises Pizza and a Charcoal Grill.

Holborn Whippet, Sicilian Avenue, WC1A 2QH

May 24, 2012

Q&A: Tom Byng of Byron

We mix beer and burgers this week as we have a chat with London’s true Burger King, Tom Byng.

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What is the Byng – Byron ethos…

Do a simple thing properly

First beer experience…

Nicking a couple of Double Diamonds out of my Dad’s fridge as a 10 year old and drinking them with my brother behind a bush in the garden. Terrible beer, but it tasted pretty good at the time.

Best beer find of the last year…

SKA beers, we managed to get True Blonde and Steel Toe Stout on to our latest list pretty much exclusive to us

What sounds are to be heard in the office…

I spend quite a lot of time in the restaurants so the sizzling of grills, bubbling of fryers and gentle tapping of ketchup bottles is ever present. In a nice way obviously.

If I wasn’t running Byron I’d be…

About 10kg lighter for sure

Before Byron…

I had a couple of restaurants in Notting Hill for 10 years. The rents doubled so I sold up and started Byron

Favourite thing about what I do…

Getting paid to eat burgers and drink beer is tough to beat.

What drew you to Camden Town Brewery to brew Byron Pale…

Camden not only supply Hells but act as a quasi consultant for the whole list. We have a great relationship, so having them brew our own beer was a no brainer. We wouldn’t have had anybody else do it to be honest.
What have you learnt from working with CTB and vice versa… They’ve pretty much taught us everything we know. We started out as enthusiasts with a relatively low knowledge base and in a year they’ve turned us into something approaching experts. From their perspective, they certainly know a lot more about hamburgers than a year ago! I think also having a big volume customer has been a good test for them in terms of how they set up their infrastructure to support growth.

Greatest achievement to date…

Byron Pale Ale becoming our top seller within 2 weeks of launch. For it to outsell Peroni in a chain restaurant environment was as satisfying as it was unexpected. For Byron generally I think we’ve been instrumental in instigating the burger revolution which has swept London in the last 5 years, the result being that if you like hamburgers there is a now plenty of quality options available irrespective of taste and budget

Brewers I look up to…

Camden Town Brewery, Kernel and Brewdog in the UK. Sierra Nevada, Bear Republic and Lagunitas in the US

Pub heaven…

Big range of craft beer on tap and in bottles with some decent food coming out of the kitchen

Pub hell…

Wetherspoons

Favourite local pub…

Anglesea Arms, Wingate Rd, W6

Favourite non local pub…

Craft Beer Co, Hatton Garden

Advice for an aspiring startup…

If you’re not shitting yourself you’re not being brave enough. Back yourself and go for it.

What’s on the horizon…

We have 5 more restaurants to open this year (including our first out of London in Oxford), a new burger van for street food events, a full summer festival season for our Shack, a Chilli Queen burger special for the Jubilee and a new beer list for September.

Next week the Q&A takes a techie turn with Greg Avola, the beer brain behine Untappd

May 18, 2012

The Parcel Yard, Kings Cross

A weekend of serious beer activities await me in Leeds at EBBC, so it seems only right that It starts with a visit to a pub rather than a a soggy roll from Whistlestop. At Kings Cross there’s only one choice for me and that’s The Parcel Yard. Fullers newest pub is the biggest station pub in the country and I’m hoping that it is a worthy addition to the all new Kings Cross.

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I have a funny relationship with station pubs as apart from a few exceptions I find them exceptionally bad – little more than waiting rooms with a bar. Divided into various rooms and partitioned areas The Parcel Yard may draw this parallel but it provides an interesting interior in which you can cosset yourself, away from the hum of the concourse. It’s not even nine and although there are a few pints and halves around me it’s a coffee and a breakfast butty to sustain me on the trip to Leeds. Service is efficient, friendly and with a smile – I could already be in Leeds. The butty is a winner – good sausage & bacon, butter and bread. The fact that it is so reasonably priced for the surrounds is an added bonus.

It’s a short visit but The Parcel Yard is one that I’ll definitely return to time and time again, regardless of whether I’ve got a train to catch or not. I can see the potential for many missed trains with a station pub this good.

The Parcel Yard, Kings Cross Station, N1

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May 5, 2012

Q&A: Jessi Rymill & William Bostwick, Beer Craft

This weeks Q&A is two for the price of one, as we catch up with Jessi Rymill and William Bostwick, the duo behind Beer Craft.

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Blurb…

We’re Jessi and William, and we wrote and designed Beer Craft: A Simple Guide to Making Great Beer. Jessi designs books and
applications, and William writes about beer for the Wall Street Journal.

Your ethos…

Historically inspired experimentation.

Beer epiphany…

William remembers having a Dale’s Pale Ale in college that particularly blew his mind. But really, the biggest epiphany for us
was our first successful homebrew, a wheat beer. The brewing process finally made sense — so easy! — and the beer was delicious.

 

Best beer find of the last year…

 

Market Garden Brewery in William’s hometown of Cleveland. They make the best brown ale we’ve ever had.

Does beer have any place in the creative process…

As a social catalyst, sure — we love sharing homebrews, stories, and ideas with our friends.

If I wasn’t doing this I’d be…

William has always wanted to be a meteorologist.

Jessi would probably be a museum curator or a crossword puzzle writer.

Before I was doing this I was…

This is all we’ve ever done!

Pub heaven…

A good, uncrowded quiz night.

Pub hell…

A bad, crowded quiz night.

Favourite local pub…

We like Magnolia in San Francisco. It’s hard to find good British-style beer in the US, and theirs is spectacular. Better than the real thing, even!

Favourite non local pub…

Kuhnhenn’s, in Warren, Michigan. They make the strangest, most radical
beers around, and you can only get them there at the bar.

Great homebrew is…

Unique, unexpected, special, and made by friends. With a good story.

Top tips for the novice homebrewer…

Don’t buy a kit and don’t follow recipes. Experiment and have fun.

What’s on the horizon…

William is working on a new book about recreating the great beers of history. Jessi is launching a design studio, Closed Mondays.

Next week’s Q&A is a must for all beer and burger lovers as we feature Tom Byng of Byron.

May 3, 2012

The Night Mayor: London Elects

London elects its next Mayor today. In reality it will be a choice between Boris or Ken which for those of you unfamiliar with London politics is a choice between left and right, between red or blue, and if you are to believe the media a choice between the newt lover and the buffoon.

I’ve been debating which way to go for a couple of weeks and I’ve flipped between them both and the LIb Dem candidate Brian Paddick. For me there’s no choice of whether to vote, it’s something I feel strongly that everyone should do; even if the expression of the vote is a spoilt ballot. My frustration is that I’ve felt uninspired by the candidates from the 3 main parties, with a sense of deja vu. Strictly speaking I’ve always been a Lib Dem but feel a disconnection with them at a National level and aren’t inclined to vote for a reality TV contestant for London Mayor. So what to do?

Having read about all the candidates – which includes the Greens’ Jenny Jones, the independent Siobahn Benita and the other two (who I really dont feel inclined to discuss) I was a little closer. Benita as with most independents interested me but watching her campaign video doubts crept in. With the words “urban foxes” I mentally crossed her off the list.

I tried the Guardians Mayor Machine which is useful to gauge where you fall on the issues, but I seemed to create a mutant mayor choosing policies pretty equally between the main four candidates; what the Machine branded a Night Mayor.

And then I watched this and instantly my mind was made up. I had been leaning this way but just needed the extra push. It seems that all these years I wasn’t actually Yellow but a closet Green.

Some may say I’ve been swayed by some cool kids and slick marketing or that it’s a wasted first preference vote. How else do we ever move away from a politics of polarisation if we don’t change our habits, vote with our conscience and not our perceived allegiance? I’m stepping off the soapbox and normal service will now resume.

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