Monday 26 July 2010

A Hyperbole of Hilarity

As I was away during the news of BrewDog's latest effort I wasn't going to get hot & bothered about it, in fact I'm still mostly nonplussed by the idea and just hope they carry on brewing stuff like Halcyon  Hardcore (apologies for blonde moment, had been doing my GBBF list and it was the last one added and on the brain) and doing less like the End of History, but that's just me I guess.

However, when you come across something as truly hilarious, ingenious and downright brilliant like this, you just have to share it... well done Dan Payne of Beer-Ritz, if I had my way I'd just award you the British Guild of Beer Writers blogger of the year now!

P.S. I'm deeply concerned to hear rumours that the original brew dog, Bracken, has taken the precaution of having his orifices forcibly sealed shut in case a bottle is bought anywhere near him... poor pooch, a catheterised canine is not a pleasant thought in anyone's book really!

Monday 12 July 2010

Kick in the Nuts

Wow! When the lovely Nick & Charlie from Otley were over at the weekend doing a Meet the Brewer at lovebeer@borough they told me my collaborative beer with them, thai-bO, has been going down so well they are making it their seasonal next month!!!

I'm a little bit pleased about this to say the least! Anyway, this post isn't just to pat myself on the back, I've been doing  quite enough of that as it is on Twitter!

I did have plans to write a more extensive post today about Roger Protz's latest column in the Morning Advertiser but I'm pleased to say that someone has rung me with some paying work, so I'd better get on with that.

However, before I go the 'nuts' part of the headline (the kick being the thai-bo reference, geddit?!) is about Rise Bryggeri's Ærø No. 5 Walnut Beer.

This is a gloriously rich, complex, baffling and bizarre beer that shouldn't work but it does, it does, it does.

With a gorgeous reddish-amber hue and slight mapley nose it morphs into a dryish pecan mouth-pleaser with intensely moorish nutty notes.

It's not that easy to get hold of, I'll admit, but if you visit 95% Danish they had some in stock last time I spoke to them, along with the brewery's Grolle pilsner, which I'm assured (admittedly by one of the shareholders, who I met through my lovely mate Tim in the Rake completely by coincidence) is one of the finest sunshine beers you can sup - we just need the sun to come back now!!

Thursday 8 July 2010

Stella Black - some exclusive info

It was with interest that I read Pete Brown's blog post here  about the new launch from InBev Stella Black.

Whilst I agree with a lot of his points, most especially naming a lager 'black' and it being golden when the UK market has gotten used to the concept of dark lagers, I wanted to get more information about the beer itself before I wrote anything.

The reason for this being is that I promised myself earlier this year that I wasn't going to knee-jerk react to products just because they came from camps whose actions I've disapproved of in the past.

Anyway, my pathetic personal angst aside, the first point I find interesting is it's stated as being a full grain mash. Now, there have been a lot of allegations (whether or true or false I've never been able to get an answer officially) that a lot of syrups are used in the production of mainstream Stella, so to hear Black is a full grain mash is certainly a great step forward if the aforementioned allegations are true.

The grain bill, if you're interested, is malted barley, raw barley and maize - don't know what the hops are but I'm taking a punt they are Saaz, as that's what's used in the original - and provided they haven't gone overboard with the maize it could be a good start.

Then, and here is something I was quite pleasantly surprised by, they informed me they are also using orange peel and coriander in the beer and apparently, according to ABInBev's press office, I'm the only person to know this at the moment because I'm the only person who's asked! How depressing is that?!

Now, please don't think this is me bigging myself up but don't you think this is a question that should have been asked by others by now?! (I'm not including Pete on this BTW, he was commenting on how he thinks the beer's market position falls between two stools and I think he's right given the brand's 4.8% ABV, Stella 4 & its other 4-something per cent stable mates like Beck's Vier.)

However, I'm also totally exasperated that instead of using a whole world of pointless hyperbole - like calling it a 'premium plus' experience - they didn't focus on what makes it so different, which really is PR 101 and something that they really need to focus on communicating if they want to try and claw back some sort of credibility.

All that aside, however, I actually do want to try this because it does look like they've had a stab at creating a more complex drinking experience but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding and as they haven't yet confirmed where the limited number of outlets (500) are they are placing it yet, I will have to wait.

I completely appreciate that this is the kind of posting that's going to make me unpopular in some camps - apart from perhaps with Cooking Lager! - but, hell, what's new there?

So, a black day for mainstream lager or a ray of light? I'll let you know when I've managed to try some...

Monday 5 July 2010

Women Better Beer Tasters

I got sent this link the other day about women being better beer tasters than men, it's something that has come up quite a lot over the years and there was some research on more women being supertasters a number of years ago.

It also reminded me of an article that I wrote for Reuters on International Women's Day that was well received at the time and contains some of the themes in it I'm going to be touching on again in another up-coming article about women in the industry.

It's very much my opinion that women are often toxic towards other women in all walks of life, and it's something I work very hard on myself as I will admit that, as I've got a fairly unique territory, my knee jerk reaction is often to jealously guard it - which I then stop myself doing unless it's justified.

I'll be interested to see what you think, whether you've seen this kind of behaviour before or whether you've experienced something similar as a guy.

Independent Women?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the question of whether we still need an International Women’s Day nearly a century on from its founding.

The simple answer is yes, we do, but that spawns the more complicated query of why do we still need IWD nearly 100 years on, and here’s what I think are, at least some of, the reasons why.

My first is a personal one, and it’s about the reaction I get when I tell people I write about beer for a living and their response is almost always something along the lines of ‘but you’re a woman’. It’s not normally nasty, or malicious, more unthinking and instinctive, and I’d really like to see that change.

Whilst I’ll freely admit there are plenty of upsides to being a woman in man’s world; the major one being that I get spoiled a lot when I go and visit breweries, or at industry events, but if I didn’t have the knowledge behind the eyelashes, or the respect of people in the industry, I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of continuing to work.

And whilst I would like to think that just proving my ability to absorb knowledge about, or have a great instinct for, beer, I also make sure I’m not shy about getting my hands dirty either.

Spending time getting stuck into the coal face of brewing has not only been massively enriching to my knowledge of beer, it’s also gained me some respect on unexpected fronts. But I’m also introspective enough to know that, on some level, it is my way of proving I am one of the boys and that I’ll don my wellies with the best of them.

And whilst this is something I work very hard to eradicate in myself, I see a far worse malaise in today’s young women as they desperately seek male approbation through hyper-sexual behaviour.

How has it come to pass in our supposed post-feminist society that young women have embraced sexual aggression in place of sexual liberation?

How did we get to place where it’s okay for the Playboy-brand, or sexually suggestive slogans, to be seen emblazoned across little girls’ chests on a regular basis but we won’t let teenagers in pubs? Or that it’s okay for teenagers to be exposed to images in the media that just 10 years ago would have been consigned to the top shelf but that they can’t have one glass of low ABV beer or watered down wine with dinner without the fear of social services kicking the door in?

Personally I think part of this is because it’s so difficult for families to spend social norming time outside of rigidly prescribed, often costly, environments.

Without consistent normalisation into society and seeing real people rather than the media airbrushed images is it any surprise girls as young as nine are being diagnosed with eating disorders? Or that young women are so confused about the rights and wrongs of society that one in three of them in a recent survey by Engender, a women’s rights group, believe that it’s okay to be forced into sex in some circumstances? After all, it happens on Hollyoaks so it must be real, right?

And don’t even start me on music videos; I won’t let my niece or nephew watch MTV when they are over, let alone listen to songs from so-called independent women like Beyonce exhorting you to watch her on your videophone...

And do you know what the worst thing is about all this and why I think International Women’s Day is still so incredibly important? The stresses and pressures of trying to bow to society’s distorted image of success is making us women toxic towards our own sex, we're the first to sabotage or decry the success of others and, many of us, eagerly lap up any glossy magazine that shows you a celebrity with cellulite and, distressingly, we tend to carry that over to our own working and personal lives too.

If International Women’s Day does nothing else, I hope it gives women all over the world pause for thought about how they conduct themselves and how they in turn can affect the conduct of others – because that’s the kind of world I want the next generation of women to grow up in, I hope you do too.

Because I really don’t want to believe that the next generation will grow up to believe that a liberated self-sufficient woman means being able to balance in your Laboutins whilst performing a back-alley sex-act on a minor celebrity then negotiating a newspaper deal to tell all about whilst having all expression in your face botoxed out.

Or perhaps I need to just stick to writing about beer, what do you think?