Wednesday 26 August 2009

(Pea)Nuts to the Home Office

Good grief Gordon Brown, what the hell is your Home Office playing at with all this chat about banning glasses in pubs?

Now, please don't think I'm denigrating the 5,500 people are injured by glasses or bottles a year but I tend to feel there's bigger fish to fry here - like tackling the quarter of a million burglaries in the UK every year or helping the victims of the 4,700 rapes a year in this country or, and here's a good one Home Office, actually investing in police resources and infrastructure so there's someone watching the bloody CCTV cameras you've insisted are installed EVERYWHERE!

This ridiculous waste of time will merely penalise the many due to the few pubs where, frankly, the only reason thugs are using bottles & glasses to hit each other is because the furniture is already screwed down!

In all the time I've been drinking in pubs, going clubbing and generally having a high old time, I've seen two people bottled or glassed - and both times were, to be honest, because I was in a less than salubrious establishment.

So target that sort of pub, club or bar - give the authorities the power to initiate a three-month ban following any violent incident involving glassware or bottles, but don't penalise me because I want to enjoy a bottled beer out of a stylish glass in a nice bar.

But mostly, because this is the real kicker here, don't start undoing all the good work that the trade has been doing to get people to drink quality rather than quantity.

If you look at the beer market figures, spend is up whilst volume is down on quality products, which tells you people are spending rather than guzzling and high-quality branded glassware is undoubtedly part of that equation.

And what infuriates me is that this was all part of the plan - remember all that talk of cafe culture when the Home Office (under Labour) implemented flexible licensing hours Mr Brown? Well you're beginning to get it and now you're going to bloody blow it!

I could go on and on about this but I'm just so angry, so early in the morning, that I'm not sure it's good for my health, so I'm off to have some breakfast - have a good day everyone but don't forget to wrap yourself from head-to-toe in bubble wrap before you leave the house.

Why? Well I'm reckoning you may as well get used to it now because it's only a matter of time before the nanny state implements that too!

Good grief...

Sunday 23 August 2009

A Few Beers Later...

I hope that, as I post this, the lads are still celebrating a very hard-fought, grafted-for Ashes win.

All right, it means that my personal best score today of a whopping 14 (not to mention my first ever boundary) does have a tendency to pale into insignificance but, who cares frankly!!

However, I am not going to dwell on today too much but look to the future - going forward I have three wishes for watching England play cricket in the coming years: firstly I'd like to see us retain that little urn for quite some time, secondly I'd like the quality of the Marston's to be significanly less variable at the grounds I go to and, thirdly, can there please be more than one bloody cask bar at each ground?!

As the official beer of the England & Wales cricket team I think it's ridiculous that the cask version of the beer is so horrendously difficult to get at grounds, especially when the alternative is smoothflow - shudder!

p.s. ta to Wells & Young's for taking me to the first day of this historic test at the Oval - what a good day out that was!

Monday 17 August 2009

Would You BeliEVE it

I was wrong, Eve's not coming, it's already here. A fellow beer blogger has alerted me to the fact that it's being trialled in the north-west, thanks for letting me know Tyson - you can read his post here.

Saturday 15 August 2009

Biblically Bad Faux Beer Launch Iminent

Carlsberg looks set to unleash Eve, the female-targeted 'near-beer', on the UK market.

Now, I've already dissected MolsonCoor's recent trial of a similar product, so before I comment on this latest development here are the tasting notes on Eve from my good friend Laurent:

"3.1% ABV, very syrupy, very sweet, pinkish and bubbly, with an overpowering chemical fruit taste. The front half of one's tongue is coated with the agressive sweet fruitiness (feels like your tastebuds are dying one-by-one, blown up by the flavouring's overkill...), and the back half of the tongue does not send any signal, as if it was dead.

"Indeed, no bitterness to be expected from lychee or passion fruit flavours, but they even managed to produce a grapefruit taste completely devoid of bitterness... grapefruit being by far the less offensive of the three (yes, I've tasted actually all three, and it's not a nice recollection).

"Hops ? no perceptible hops... taste of the base beer ? No taste recognisable as such, no trace of yeast, fermentation, anything reminiscent of beer..."

Mmm, doesn't Eve sound yummy?!

I had read an article in Brewer's Guardian that mentioned this product but hadn't heard anything about it potentially hitting the UK until Laurent sent me this link to a design agency's website, where they are giving it large about the creative they've come up with for the product, so I think it's safe to say that it's just about to come to our stores.

Do you know what really cheeses me off though, is that when they launched the Jacobsen range a few years ago I had women going mad for the Bramley Wit, it was delicious! Put out of your minds the taste of Applebocq , this was a deliciously well-balanced, very slightly tart (in that really good apple sauce way), a nice coriander & orange peel aspect you'd expect and a fabulous body with lingering wheaty-apple notes - not to mention wonderful glassware and a beautiful bottle.

It was a craft-brewed product from their microbrewery in Coppenhagen and ticks all the bloody boxes about what people want more of from their beer, artisan brewed etc.

But, maybe I'm just being that little bit too radical again so thank you Carlsberg, it's just as well you're here to remind us ladeez not to get too big for our britches on the flavour front.

You've caught us just in time because us girlies were just beginning to take our tastebuds out of saccharine atrophy, so thank you for putting us right back into our sweet little fluffy, sparkly-pink boxes.

Anyway, I simply must dash now, there's ironing, cleaning and baking to do before the man of the house gets back from the football...

(image from

Looking Glass

There's been some scepticism around the blogosphere on the issue of women, beer drinking & the role of glassware in improving this.

In general, the issue around glassware, labelling and the like is that everything else in our lives - all the other decisions we make to buy products from make-up to mobile phones - is based around the appeal of the packaging, the marketing and the functionality of said product.

And, when you're talking about products specifically marketed to women then, frankly, they all look nice!

The problem beer has is that once it's poured it's down to the glass to make it look nice and all too often the existing options for glassware fail to do that - they just aren't aesthetically pleasing.

And I don't think that's a solely girly thing, when you drink in a pub where there's the option to have a groovy Belgian fluted glass for your beer or a standard one I have never, ever heard anyone say 'oh no, I'll take the Nonic thanks' - it just doesn't happen!

Friday 14 August 2009

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

Hmm, as if self-loathing hack Liz Jones isn't catching enough flack from her contemporaries and local Exmoor residents for her new book The Exmoor Files (brilliantly pastiched here), she's decided to have a pop at the whole of the glossy magazine industry, citing an article on beer to which I contributed in Easy Living as an example of how these publications are all going to pot!

Firstly, Easy Living, not really a glossy, and secondly does anyone think this woman could you be any more patronising?!

"I have just been reading the new issue of Easy Living and came across this article. I quote its beginning exactly: 'As an alternative to wine, I'd like to drink beer, but I haven't tried it since I was a teen! Where do I start?'.

"This in a magazine with readers who are supposedly older, professional, fairly well-heeled and, presumably, intelligent."

Yes Liz, they probably are intelligent which is why they are looking to change their drinking habits from high ABV wine to lower ABV beer, broaden their horizons and experience something new.

Honestly, it makes me want to weep sometimes that my profession gives people like this a platform - this is the same woman by the way who compared modern hairdressers to Guantanamo Bay - I'm presuming she also thinks a weekly manicure is a basic human right and that she's currently cooking up a crock on how orange jumpsuits are a crime against fashion!

I would heartily suggest that she steers away from topics on which she has no understanding in future - which, it would seem, pretty much covers anything to do with the real world for a start.

(Illustration by Neal Fox and appeared on the Guardian website )

Wednesday 12 August 2009


Sorry for the sarcastic headline but what a brilliant week it was at the GBBF for debunking the myth that women only like sweet fruit beers.

There was a difference in the audience this year, they were significantly more experimental and much more confident - and long may that trend continue. I also had some fellow hacks along and whilst I don't very often publish my own press I have barely stopped laughing/blushing since I perused this from earlier - hilarious!

Anyway, back to the point of this post, the most heartening thing about the beers that emerged as winners was that not a single one is shy with flavour - if you read below there are barley wines and whisky-aged beers in there, not exactly backwards in coming forwards on the taste front!

The stars of the show were definitely Cribyn & Ysbrid y Draig from Breconshire Brewery, Sharp's Honey Spice, Moorhouse's Blond Witch, Devon Ales Thick Black, Holden's Black Country Mild and Hog's Back A Over T.

So, yah boo & sucks to you, if you're one of these marketing bods who is trying to come up with the magic bullet for the female beer market, there isn't one.

And why? Because there are already as many diverse beers as there are palates out there, we've just got to concentrate on developing trust from the female market through sampling and improved marketing & advertising campaigns, not fluffy female-targeted, here-today-gone-tomorrow, twaddle.

p.s. must send much love to Buster, Ewan, Paul, Chris & the rest of the crew on the Scotland & Wales bar who put up with us camping at the end of their bar every night - they must have got sick of the sound of my voice - and also to the lovely Kim who put up with me every evening, Tarli who was also uber-helpful and always so cheerful, Louise for mucking in on Friday night (brave!) and Anita for being one of my biggest cheerleaders x

Monday 3 August 2009

Here We Go!

It's the most bonkers week in the British beer calendar - it's the Great British Beer Festival - huzzah!

And we've even kicked off the week with some super-positive news, the amount of women trialling cask ale in the UK has doubled from last year! How cool is that?

What really cheers me up about this statistic is that if you put in context of other research done previously about the conversion rate of cask ale triallists it means that more and more women will actually be drinking real ale as their tipple of choice.

The research I'm talking about showed that of those in the 22-44-year-old age bracket trialled cask ale 46% of them went on to drink it regularly.

Now, obviously I'm assuming that the research was done on this age group, this could mean that 14% of the female population in the UK now regularly drink real ale - which is fantastic news.

Because of the paucity of information around beer in this country, on bottles and in pubs, it's often difficult to get women to try great artisan beer because it's outside their comfort zone - but the minute you empower them with knowledge they are off and running to the nearest handpull!

It's my main modus operandi when encouraging women to drink beer and was the tack I tried, & succeeded with, when I entertained a reporter from CityAM recently - which you can read about here.

All this week I will be doing female beer tours at the GBBF again, at 7.30pm every evening, and am hoping for similar amounts of positive feedback that I got last year.

I look forward to meeting you if you are coming on one of these tours and if you are interested in doing so then click the link above and sign up, they are nearly full so don't delay!