We’ve all been in one, all grumbled about one , but recently I realised that Wetherspoon are a partvof the pub landscape that cannot and should not be ignored. I was steeling myself for a vociferous backlash. It didn’t come. For many Wetherspoon is simply a place for good ale at decent prices You can read it here
Recently Published: The Guardian, Wetherspoon pubs: soulless drinking pits, or a mainstay of the high street? for Word of Mouth
Ok, another rundown on pieces making it into the press and online over the last week or so. A mix of beer and food in London, Florence and here in Australia.
The Jellied Eel is something I’ve been reading for a good couple of years now. Usually with a pint at hand. For a great view on sustainable food and drink culture in London there’s no better. I was really pleased to get a piece about Portobello Brewing Co. in the most recent issue which you can pick up across London now or view online here. Added to which, comment from Jeff Bell from The Gunmakers, one of London’s best pubs bar none was a bonus. Everyone knows how Jeff hates to give his opinion (*cough*).
Back over this side, a piece in The West with Kiwi chef Justin North who some will know from his previous restuarant Becasse, numerous appreanaces on shows like Australian Masterchef and cook books. There’s a part of the piece here.
For lovers of street food and travel there’s a short piece on London Street Foodie and the first of an on tour series. Florentine tripe roll is the subject. It makes me dream of Italy everytime I think of it!
More to come soon, with some great commissions that I can’t talk about just yet.
The great thing for me about the Q&A is that i’m able to delve into the experiences, likes, dislikes and tips of those that I respect in the brewing, writing, blogging world and beyond. Leigh Linley is someone i’ve followed for quite a while now and is one of my must reads. As his blog drops into my inbox, it’s the cue to pop the kettle on and stop for a couple of minutes. His mix of good food and good beer appeals to my own sensibilities. I urge you to read on and then check it out…
I’ve been blogging about beer and food since 2007 – and enjoying every minute of it. Since then, I’ve done a little freelance work with stories featured in BEER Magazine, Leeds Guide and Food and Drink Digital. Last year, I was involved in the process to choose Leeds as the location for the European Beer Bloggers Conference and led the delegates on a ‘Best of Leeds’ crawl that weekend. My main interests are exploring beer and food – be it linking brewers and food producers and supporting each other in that wa, or recommending matches and pairings for others – and pub life. It’s not all just about beer tasting! I live in Leeds.
First pub experience…
Both my parents worked in a pub when I was born; a notorious one in Leeds called The Fforde Grene. It’s not there now (its a supermarket), but I remember it being smoky, dark and cavernous, with a large guard dog. It was a little scary at the time, to be honest, but now I’m older I can understand the relationship it had with the locals. First hand, I saw it fall into disrepute in the 90’s and eventually close. That was probably my first experience of how a publican and clientele affect a pub and a community, both adversely and positively.
In terms of Beer, I recall bravely ordering a pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in North Bar circa 2005/6…and the first taste was like the scene in Alice in Wonderland when it goes technicolour. Being a self-confessed lager drinker, it was unbelievable.
Best pub finds…
We stayed at The Watermill Inn in Cumbria at the end of last summer, using it a base to explore some of the lakes. It’s completely dog-friendly and brews its own beer and we spent a lovely evening in the last rays of summer warmth drinking really good, clean, tasty beers brewed all of 10 yards away. That was a great weekend.
At the moment: Seven Wonders by Fleetwood Mac, Gimme Shelter by The Stones and Private Eyes by Hall and Oates.
A friendly welcome, staff who can tell you a little about the beer, and a little pride in appearance. Not difficult, is it?
Rude and indifferent staff, bad toilets and bad beer – and by that I mean kept poorly, not range.
I’m lucky enough to have four really good, ale-serving pubs on my dog walk route along Leeds Liverpool Canal: The Abbey, The Owl, The Rodley Barge and The Railway. All have good beer gardens in the summer, serve well-kept, local real ales and are dog-friendly in the main. Those dog walks in the summer do tend to be long ones!
Favourite non local…
There’s so many, but a perennial favourite is The Grove in Huddersfield. It gets everything right; a staggeringly varied beer range, good staff, well-priced and a lovely space to drink in. The varied clientele it attracts reflects the pub’s range on the pumps, and there’s no pretention at all – you want a pint of Landlord? You got it. And a bottle of De Molen? Fine. That sort of thing. I really like The Rutland Arms in Sheffield, The York Tap and The Maltings in York, The Marble Arch in Manchester…wonderful pubs, wonderful.
Beer and food…
My all-time favourite would have to be simply a plate of Calamari and Whitebait, dusted in flour and deep-fried, doused in lemon and served with either a cold lager or what beer. I’ve been known to knock that up even in the depths of winter! I’m a sucker for Blue Cheese and Stout (the stronger the cheese and beer the better!), Pepperoni Pizza and Anchor Steam…all the classics, really. We eat a lot of fish at home; pan-seared served with Black Pudding and Minted Pea puree sounds odd, but it’s delicious with a crisp IPA such as Oakham’s Green Devil.
It’s all about participation, for me. If you become of a community, you’ll find blogging both interesting and rewarding. I think you’ve also got to work prolifically to maintain a semi-successful blog; people have short attention spans and if you don’t blog for a long time, often, people will drift away, no doubt. Saying that, bloggings what you make it; that’s the beauty of it – if you just want it to be a notebook of thoughts, then so be it. I’m proud to be a blogger.
Yorkshire beer is…
Incredibly varied and vibrant Yes, we have the traditional Yorkshire beer that we do so well…but hidden amongst that we have smaller brewers producing every style you can want. We have Yorkshire lagers, saisons and barrell-aged stouts. We have international award-winners. We have brewers forging strong links with communities and other independent food producers to bring great food and drink to your table. We have some of the countries best pubs, run by amazingly devoted publicans, for you to enjoy these amazing beers in. We have brewers pushing Yorkshire beer across the world and setting up links in Spain, Italy, America and Australia.
What’s on the horizon…
Well…Great Yorkshire Beer! The book’s out in May, and we are launching it on the 30th at The York Tap. I’m currently spending a lot of time working with the brewers involved to get the book promoted. Blog-wise, The Good Stuff will be focussed on beer from the UK, and my new year’s resolution was to see more of the country; so now on our little drinking jaunts we are getting on the train instead of the bus, and seeing more of what’s on offer around me. I’m also looking forward to more collaboration with Food bloggers this year, and trying to bring some fresh ideas to my own blog from outside the ‘beer bubble’.
How did you choose the breweries to feature in Great Yorkshire Beer…
It was difficult, to be honest. I clearly couldn’t interview every brewer in the region – the book would have been like the Yellow Pages otherwise. So, first and foremost, the book is about modern beer in Yorkshire; the brewers that have been the catalyst to amazing growth and interest that has then rippled out across Yorkshire beer as a whole. So brewers over ten years old were out in terms of specific features. Then I looked at the geographical area, and tried to get a selection from north to south, east to west. I looked at availability; the book had to be useful in terms of interested parties simply getting to your beer – the beer had to be widely available across Yorkshire and the UK, and also, in most cases, bottled. And of course, the beer had to be good!
That last part is obviously subjective, but I believe the line-up I’ve chosen to represent the region, overall, are incredibly highly -regarded – and the book being successful will be good for every brewer out there. The book mentions (such as in the food section) many breweries that don’t fit into that criteria, so hopefully I’ve been able to highlight as many in there as I can!
If you want to get hold of a copy check out this link
Press releases and brewer collaboratians are often yawn inducing litter in my inbox. The collaboration was once something of interest but more often than not strikes me as jumping on the band wagon. Whack a collab tag on it and it’ll sell. But now and again I’m not in cynical mood and there’s something that doesn’t go straight to the trash. Something genuinely interesting.
The Sebright Arm’s has carved a bit of a name for itself in terms of Lucky Chip, live music and now: Sebright Arms Homebrew. They describe it as: a nomadic, collaborative type of brewing. This ‘nano-brewing’ allows for beer to be brewed in very small batches, inviting experimentation and encouraging brewers to create more niche brews.
The launch brew is a Black IPA with nearby Redchurch Brewery. To add to this already interesting mix you’ve got Pure Evil; a local street artist who has worked closely with the team to produce Pure Evil Black IPA and probably the best label you’ll see in a long while (for those who have a label fetish). Launched at The Sebright Arms on 25 April; the beer will be in short supply, so get it while you can. You can book tickets here. Hot on the heels of Pure Evil they’ll be teaming up with Vagabond Tattoos and creating Black Milk, a dark milk stout. It adds a nice twist to the crowded collaboration scene in both the team behind it and the design elements. A little too hipster for some perhaps but for me enough not to press delete.
After telling me that there were too many “non-beer, Perth witterings” of late, Captain English returns for his second post, as he hot-foots it down to Clapham Junction to check out the new venture from Meantime and Youngs. Brewery fresh lager, Tankovna style at The Plough, is a UK first for a pub, without an attached microbrewery.
On the back of my post for the Pub Diaries a few weeks ago I received an invite for the launch of Meantime’s Brewery Fresh Lager at Young’s Plough ‘craft beer’ pub at Clapham Junction. I didn’t intend to do two posts in a row about the same brewer but this event was designed to introduce a method of beer distribution that might be the UK’s next big beer innovation/fad (delete as appropriate).
I felt slightly awkward at my first industry event. I don’t have the gift of the gab and the brazen self-confidence of Mr Pub Diaries. I hid behind my phone for a bit before Alastair Hook (Brewmaster and Founder of Meantime) introduced himself. The aim of the new method, he explained, was to use sealed bags (a bit like wine bags) throughout the distribution process to eliminate oxidisation of beer caused by light and exposure to air. The process allows a constant low temperature to be maintained. Already in use in the Czech Republic, Netherlands and at Meantime’s Old Brewery In Greenwich it’s not new by any means but something that most British punters will find novel.
At the brewery, beer is pumped to bags in lorries, then at the pub it is pumped into bags inside the large tanks, which at the Plough take pride of place in the pub window. By pumping air into the tanks the bags are compressed and the beer pumped through a chrome pipe running over the heads of the drinkers and down to the tap at the bar. The tanks are about two metres in length and almost a meter wide so it is probably only larger premises that will have the space for them.
So unpasteurised, unflitered London Lager sold in bags in tanks and pumped out using air. What will Camra have to say about that? As luck would have it the next person I spoke to was a Camra representative. There are lots of debates at the moment with the likes of tank beer and craft beer, he said. Keen to suggest that Camra don’t want to be seen to be against craft beer, but at the same time the fear seems to be that supporting craft beer risks eroding the popularity of cask beer. So, the (unofficial) Camra verdict on the method? A grey area for now.
And the beer itself? Lively coming out of the tap with a significant head. Gold in colour, lightly hopped and subtle. Not particularly memorable, but then I am not really a lager drinker – even if it is unpasteurised. In a lager mood though, I would choose it again.
So will Brewery Fresh Lager catch on? Meantime are looking to roll it out in other Young’s pubs, but, despite the undoubted passion of Alastair Hook for the concept, I can’t help but think there is a risk that serious beer drinkers will see this as a gimmick along the lines of ice-encrusted taps and limes in bottles… the verdict is still out on this one at Pub Diaries, what’s your view?
So it’s been a bumper month or so. While it seemed that most of Australia was on holiday I was hard at work (cue the violins) on everything from opinion pieces and predictions for 2013 to interviews and travel rundowns. Here’s a selection of the pieces that are available online:
1. Australia’s best beach accommodation on a budget: west coast – my rundown for The Guardian of the best of coastal spots up and down the WA coast. My favourite has to be Parry Beach – it’s cheap, rough around the edges and full of character.
2. In Hog We Trust - an interview in The West with Brendan Varis of Feral Brewing Co. which is a favourite of mine. If you get a chance to try the Hop Hog it must be done!
3. Homebrewers take it to the backyard – a look at Perth’s homebrew scene for The West.
4. Perth scene vibrant and a bit pricey – much amusement amongst friends and family with this one as I was dubbed “The Hungry Immigrant”, again by The West.
5. Pining for the pub – a piece for Urban Pundit, the VIew London blog. A look at my favourite old school boozers in London.
Amongst others there were travel spreads and a piece about immigration for the Weekend West. That’s quite enough trumpet blowing for now.
So It’s been a while since my last post but as is the way, life takes over and something has to give. Namely this. I’ve always hated posts full of fake apology – as if my absence from the blogging space would weigh too heavily on anyones mind – but i’ll just say that preparing to get wed, planning months of travel, leaving your job, moving home and hemisphere all at the same time isn’t a recipe for having time on your hands.
That’s not to say that i’ve not had any chance to indulge, just that i’ve not had the time or mental capacity to string a sentence together. So as I ease myself back in after the short hiatas i’ll just list some of the highlights, which I may expand on in the coming weeks.
Friends of Ham, Leeds
If you follow on Twitter (@thepubdiaries) you may have seen a flurry of Ham related activity as I recently turned porcine fanboy. My visit to Friends of Ham, was much anticipated (bt me, not them). For months there had been talk of its opening and I watched at a distance through social media. The name intrigued me, the logo enticed me and when I finally got to visit the space and the people in it beguiled me. A craft beer bar, come charcuterie where Cheers style everyone knows your name (but maybe that’s @lordofthebeers fault for pre-tweeting my arrival). Quite simply the best bar i’ve been to in years.
Cock Tavern, Hackney
In between the planning, packing and honing wedding playlists, I have been doing more and more freelance writing. Pots of espresso at 5am have become the norm as I juggle deadlines (lets just say i’d never get a job in the circus) and try and remember what the hell i’m writing about. Many of these have been for View London and as much as I love to find a new pub to add to the beer drinkers equivalent of the Knowledge it can start to wear slightly. Until the assignment is the Cock Tavern in Hackney. It’s up there with Friends of Ham, which is why i’ve put the two together and you can read all about it here. It’s places like this that reinvigorate me and make me realise why I do what I do.
London Fields Brewery, Hackney
I am a late comer to the charms of this East London brewer, but have fallen for them in a big way. When I discussed the beer list for the wedding I wanted some relatively cheap bottles of well known beer for the guzzlers amongst the guest list. Asahi was the choice. We then had a mix of Meantime and the other usual suspects. It still didn’t grab me and while I was tempted to just let it go, Clerkenwell Kitchen’s manager Ciaran came through with a suggestion of London Fields. It fitted the bill in terms of being locally sourced and with a craft angle. There’s nothing better than looking round and seeing people eskew their normal habits, holding a big bottle of Hackney Hopster or Love Not War (apt for the event I thought) and more importantly enjoying it.
This week we speak to Marky Market – a link between Londoners and the twilight world of the meat and fish markets.
My name’s Mark and I started markymarket a couple of years ago. Basically, people get hold of me by hotmail, phone, text or twitter. They tell me what they’d like from Smithfield and Billingsgate and I’ll get up at 2am to get it for them; I don’t hold any stock, I buy to order. I just get the freshest meat, fish and shellfish I can find, then deliver it to you around town using my trolley, chiller boxes and the tube. I’m your man at the market.
First time I went into a pub was when I started college in Liverpool, I was maybe 16. I didn’t have a clue about what I should drink or any sort of pub etiquette, so when the barman asked me what I wanted, I panicked and asked for “the usual”. My first pub experience lasted precisely thirty seconds.
The Euston Tap stands out because of the variety of proper beer and the enthusiasm of the staff. Markymarket deliveries take me all over town though, so I’m always discovering new places.
Proper beer, from a pump. I’m not particularly fussed about any particular one, but I do like Bass, and Adnams, and Ubu, and, IPA, and Doombar, and Pride, and Speckled Hen… I also like a pub where I can get a seat, barstaff that remember me and they don’t mind my trolley shoved in the corner.
Favourite non local…
My reaction to Sheffield. Who Knew? Well quite a few people it seems but it’s taken me a while to cotton on. Having family in Leeds it has always been a place I passed through – a marker on the M1 that said almost home. Somewhere people told me to visit but until now I’d ignored. With Lou attending the annual Doc Fest it seemed like a good opportunity to finally visit and added to which, the thought that she may get to the Sheffield Tap before me was truly horrifying (er, i meant the thought of a weekend without her truly horrified me… Did i get away with that?).
As my coach pulled into Chesterfield, a couple of miles down the road, I have flashbacks of Friday nights in a Northern town. It’s just after 10pm and post football jubilance is overspilling into the streets. Quite literally, as a swaying punter urinates against a phonebox. I get a text to say that Lou will be at an industry thing (read party) and that I should make my way to the hotel. As I head out of the bus station it’s unclear what the quickest way is and I go with my gut feeling, which within minutes sees me facing the Sheffield Tap – fancy that!
This is a pub I’ve coveted for some years. It may sound sad to covet a pub but I’ve heard people talk of it with a glint in the eye which was more than a half cut glaze. It must be credited with introducing countless travellers (it being in Sheffield train station) to great beers beyond their normal experience.
As I sit at the bar it’s rich pickings for a seasoned people watcher. From the beer geeks drawn to the Pondhopper (Thornbridge / Odell co-brew) or the two brash mockney lads who saunter in fresh from the train. The brasher of the two tells his mate “goin for a slash geez, get me the strongest fing they got”. This raises a smile from those in the know. Looking down the bar the lad looks in need of help. Turning to me, devoid of any previous swagger, he asks whether they do Stella. I point him in the direction of the Bernard and he looks visibly relieved. As his friend returns he tastes, looks at the pump and delivers his verdict: “it ain’t Stella but it’ll do”. Smiles turn to slight shaking of heads and rolling eyes.
As I drink my way down the taps – chatting with the staff and observing the oohs, aahs and puzzled faces – I can see why this place has a special place in many people’s journeys and why for some this is the reason for the journey itself.
I head for the hotel before I’m in danger of the morning after regret of staying for another; wondering that if this is a welcome to Sheffield what else awaits.
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.
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.