Tuesday 9 August 2011

Not Beer and Certainly Not Fear

Via @rickontour on twitpic
This is a quick post that's not about beer, although I am having one as I'm writing this, it's about saying no to fear.

The streets of London, and other areas of the country, have seen the most appalling violence, thuggery and downright criminality in a way that I have never experienced in my lifetime.

Most heartbreaking was the footage of the scum who robbed an injured young man, after pretending to take care of him, I have never witnessed such a sickening display and if I had my way they wouldn't be left to breed, but that's why I'm not a police officer.

However, you lot all know about the horrors, so I'm not going to bang on about it.

First off, I want to thank our emergency services and for all the citizens who protected their own territories - you have all done amazing work in the face of tremendous adversity.

And to the people behind @riotcleanup I say bravo, you are true heroes and have engendered some of the most remarkable scenes of human strength, fortitude and beauty I've ever witnessed too - the brooms being held aloft around Clapham as hundreds took the streets to clean up the mess the thugs had left is still bringing tears to my eyes.

If these mindless thugs take to the streets again tonight and continue to trash our fair city, I'll be out there tomorrow with you because we need to show that they are a disgraceful minority, we will not tolerate it and FEAR WILL NOT WIN!

Be safe fellow Londoners - Drink Beer & Carry On x

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Mild Makes Its Mark Again at GBBF

I have nothing to declare but my genius
Mild has taken the crown again at Champion Beer of Britain, which is nice and will hopefully see more pubs stocking this refreshing, generally low-ABV, tasty style.

In light of the constant screeching from the neo-prohibitionists, this kind of low-alcohol beer is unlikely to get as many headlines but you never know, someone might screw their head on straight and laud it like they should!

Anyway, here's the list of winners, well done to Mighty Oak for its win and well done everyone else too.

Overall winners 
Champion Beer of Britain - Mighty Oak, Oscar Wilde (3.7% ABV, Maldon, Essex) 
Second - Marble, Chocolate (5.5% ABV, Manchester, Gtr Manchester) 
Third - Salopian, Shropshire Gold (3.8%ABV, Shrewsbury, Shropshire) 

Mild category 
Gold- Mighty Oak, Oscar Wilde (3.7% ABV, Maldon, Essex) 
Silver- Rudgate, Ruby Mild (4.4% ABV, York, North Yorkshire) 
Bronze- Coastal, Merry Maidens (4% ABV, Redruth, Cornwall) 

Bitter category 
Gold- Salopian, Shropshire Gold (3.8%ABV, Shrewsbury, Shropshire) 
Silver- Teignworthy, Reel Ale (4% ABV, Newton Abbot, Devon) 
Joint Bronze- Triple fff, Alton's Pride (3.8% ABV, Alton, Hampshire) 
Joint Bronze- Potton, Shannon IPA (3.6% ABV, Potton, Bedfordshire) 

Best Bitter category 
Gold- Houston, Peter's Well (4.2% ABV, Houston, Renfrewshire) 
Silver- Country Life, Golden Pig (4.7% ABV, Bideford, Devon) 
Joint Bronze- Castle Rock, Preservation (4.4% ABV, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire) 
Joint Bronze- Bollington, Best Bitter (4.2% ABV, Bollington, Cheshire) 
Joint Bronze- Blythe, Staffie (4.4% ABV, Rugeley, Staffordshire) 

Golden Ale category 
Gold- Cumbrian Legendary Ales, Loweswater Gold (4.3% ABV, Hawkshead, Cumbria) 
Silver- Salamander, Golden Salamander (4.5% ABV, Bradford, West Yorkshire) 
Bronze- Holden's, Golden Glow (4.4% ABV, Dudley, West Midlands) 

Strong Bitter category 
Gold- Moles, Mole Catcher (5% ABV, Melksham, Wiltshire) 
Silver- Kinver, Half Centurion (5% ABV, Kinver, Staffordshire) 
Bronze- Adnams Broadside (4.7% ABV, Southwold, Suffolk) 

Speciality Beer category 
Gold- Oakleaf, I Can't Believe It's Not Bitter (4.9% ABV, Gosport, Hampshire) 
Silver- Amber, Chocolate Orange Stout (4% ABV, Ripley, Derbyshire) 
Bronze- Orkney, Atlas Wayfarer (4.4% ABV, Stromness, Orkney) 

Winter Beer of Britain winner (announced in January 2011) 
Dow Bridge, Praetorian Porter (5% ABV, Catthorpe, Leicestershire) 
Holden's, Old Ale (7.2% ABV, Dudley, West Midlands) 
Hop Back, Entire Stout (4.5% ABV, Downton, Wiltshire) 
Marble, Chocolate (5.5% ABV, Manchester, Gtr Manchester) 

Bottled Beer of Britain winners (sponsored by Hotel du Vin) 
Gold- St Austell, Proper Job (5.5% ABV, St Austell, Cornwall) 
Joint Silver- Molson Coors, Worthington White Shield (5.6% ABV, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire) 
Joint Silver- Brown Cow, Captain Oates Dark Oat Mild (4.5% ABV, Selby, North Yorkshire) 

Monday 1 August 2011

Anti-Alcohol Lobby Is Taking Their Ball In

What Don Shenker thinks inside
our heads looks like
Thanks to Jay Brooks for finding this
The Anti-Alcohol Lobby is one of the most infuriating, self-righteous, hypocritical and, frankly, downright untruthful bunch of blinkered blitherers (outside of religious fundamentalism) one could ever have the misfortune to meet.

And the national press's insistence that it will pander to them without thought or balance is equally disturbing and unprofessional. 

Having been quite pleased with the Guardian's piece on health & alcohol not actually using a glass of beer for a change* I've now been utterly enraged by a piece in today's paper because it leaves several mahoosive issues surrounding balance, let's see if you can spot them?

"The drinks industry has secured heavy representation on a key government advisory working group on alcohol, putting it in a strong position to influence the coalition's forthcoming alcohol strategy.
Minutes of the Government and Partners Alcohol Working Group, which meets bi-monthly and is chaired by the Home Office director of drugs and alcohol, show that drinks industry membership has massively increased during the last year.
"Under the Labour government, there were a couple of industry representatives, but the coalition has swelled their numbers to the point where they make up almost half the membership of the committee, excluding the civil servants who represent government departments, such as health and the Treasury. Minutes of meetings before and after the election were obtained by the BBC's Panorama programme, which on Monday night will show the damage excessive drinking is wreaking on young people and asks why the government has not acted to raise alcohol prices.

"When the committee met in March 2009 – then called the Alcohol Strategy Delivery Group – eight of the members were non-civil servants and two of them were from the drinks industry – one from Bacardi and the other from retailers Morrisons. Five others came from a health background and the sixth represented local government.
"But the membership changed under the coalition government. In December 2010, there were 10 members from the drinks industry and seven others. In March this year, there were 10 members from the drinks industry, eight of whom were present, and six others – three of whom were in the room."

Did you see it? No? Yes? Well in case you didn't, it was the bit that says of the original committee: "eight of the members were non-civil servants and two were from the drinks industry."

Hmmm, anyone care to speculate on who those 'eight non-civil servants' might have been? My money is on anti-alcohol or 'concern' groups, but the piece doesn't address it, so we don't know (am ringing to find out later today, so will report back).

Also, is it just me that can't make the maths work in this piece either? First off they say that the drinks industry now makes up nearly half of the committee's membership, excluding civil servants, and then they say that they outnumber everyone else by three members - and it's not surprising that their presence looks a lot stronger when most of the 'other side' can't be arsed to turn up!

And it seriously infuriates me that the idea of balance, in making alcohol policy decisions, has so truly appalled the Grand High Poobah of neo-prohibitionists Don Shenker - chief executive of Alcohol Concern.

He is of the opinion that the ability to shape and define alcohol strategy lies firmly with him and his cronies, as evinced by his comment: "This government needs to decide if it wishes to truly get to grips with the significant levels of alcohol harms in the UK, or stick with the status quo of allowing the drinks industry to call the shots. It can't have it both ways." 

Are you kidding me? Let's get this straight, you don't want to engage with the drinks industry unless you outnumber them 8:2? Yet you will continue to disseminate and champion completely skewed and totally unethical policy formed from erroneous information?** 

Here are my top three favourites:

  • In 1987 the Government released daily guideline figures on drinking; it has since been admitted by one of the members of the Royal College of Physicians' original working party, figures were "plucked out of the air" in the absence of any clear evidence about how much alcohol constitutes a risk to health
  • The Government and EU have both been using research from a body called the Institute of Alcohol Studies as the basis for their alcohol policy, this is solely funded by THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT and has also been found by the Charities Commission to not fulfil the criteria to be a charity, despite saying so publicly
  • In April the ONS released statistics, based on flawed methodology, saying that women consuming excessive alcohol was on the rise, which isn't true, and several newspapers reported, several organisations shouted it and no- one retracted it once the ONS said, in very small letters: Oops we got that wrong, it's not actually, sorry!
So, I've decided that I'm going to come out with a couple of my own!
  • Since the Drink Aware Trust was formed there has been a drop in drinking levels in the UK
I can't actually prove that, but there is a faint correlation, so it must be true! Now, what else have I got? Oooh, here's a good one!

  • Drinking cask ale makes you 87.5% less inclined to have a punch-up; because in my experience in the last eight years of going to the Great British Beer Festival I've only ever seen one fight

But that's how the neo-pros work, not me, so I'm just using these random observations to make a point - because it appears to be how you get government to form policy. Hmm, maybe I should jack this in and become a lobbyist?

Anyway, I'm wandering off point here.

In no sane democracy should one standpoint hold the entire ground on a decision-making, and policy-forming, committee, but this seems to be what Don Shenker is saying should be so. Sorry Don, but democracy just doesn't work like that! 

Do you hear other areas of Government, like the Department of Health and its various lobbying grouper fish, saying: "We need to lower obesity in the UK, but we won't talk to any of the major fast-food chains, they will bamboozle us with fatty acids and sweet liquids!"

No, you hear them saying: "We need to engage with this industry to ensure that the minority that abuses their products have more safeguards put in place to protect them from themselves."

And here's the nub of it all, people like Don look at all of us who drink and see a 'problem', which he and his cult of neo-prohibinists believe can only be solved by treating us all like three-year-old children or dirty tramps with a can of Special Brew.

Sorry Don, I'm neither, and just because you know don't have the whole of government's ear to ensure they treat me like one of these, doesn't mean you should crying like a little girl about it.

And nor should the Guardian or any other area of the press be taking your complaints at face value either.

We, the demos, deserve better than that.

*sadly it was later pointed out to me on twitter that it was women and health, so of course they were drinking wine! Silly me...
**For an in-depth look at the total bollocks that's been coming out from the anti-alcohol lobby over recent years see Pete Brown's tireless work to look at reams of numbers and uncover the truth.