Thursday, 28 May 2009

Beer mats

The other day I came across this report about the biggest manufacturer of beer mats in Germany going into administration.

Big manufacturers like this have invested millions in printing and finishing gear to print full colour and die-cut the mats into all manner of weird and wonderful shapes, as demanded by the marketing departments of the international megabrands. Perversely, I prefer the mats printed in a single colour, which any local printer with an old letterpress machine can churn out. They're more absorbent, and the crude designs, often just the name and location of the brewery round the edges, have a compelling charm. Sometimes you get a amusingly pathetic slogan too, like "Bloggs Beer -- we drink it here".

It's a great shame that you hardly ever see them in Britain any more. A lot of pubs seem to think they're not classy enough; presumably puddles of beer on the bar and tables, that you inevitably dunk your elbows in, are classier.

Also, beer mats make brilliant emergency postcards if you are a cheapskate and don't mind your friends knowing that you're spending most of your trip in the pub.

Friday, 22 May 2009

We have mild, mild or mild. Take your pick.

Went to Blackfriars after work yesterday and was amazed. At the precise moment we arrived there was nothing but dark mild on the handpumps. Three different kinds of dark mild, to be exact. Now there's a pub. I've been looking for one like that all my life.

The three were Bateman's DM, Bank Top Dark Mild and Kelburn Dark Moor. Bank Top was more in-your-face than Bateman's with loads of chocolate malt. Both are splendid milds, but though I wouldn't have thought so beforehand, I actually prefer the more subdued, restrained Bateman's DM.

We didn't try Kelburn Dark Moor because by the end of our second pint of mild, Dark Star IPA had come on and I was desperate to try it. It was nice enough but not the mind-blowingly hoppy experience I was hoping for.

I seem to have lost me camera, so there are no pictures to illustrate this post. You all know what a pint of dark mild looks like anyway.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Magical German Beer Fridge

One of my favourite places to go for a beer on a hot day is the Allison Arms on Glasgow's south side. It's a pretty basic bar with a bogus-Tudor exterior and inside it's full of men shouting at each other over the noise of the blaring TV, but you can usually find a quiet corner.

There's generally one real ale on but we rarely drink that. Instead we take advantage of this pub's unique feature: the Magical German Beer Fridge. This is a cooler, on the customers' side of the bar, which is packed full with a seletion of chilled bottles of some of the most recherché German beers you've ever seen. They are mostly from Franconia, and even in Germany they are rarely seen outside a radius of about 20km from their home village. And they all taste absolutely fantastic.

This is the one I had: Weissenohe Altfränkisch Klosterbier. Sadly I still had a cold so I didn't get all of the flavour, but it's splendidly full-bodied with a touch of butter. My friend had the sweetish Keesman Herren-Pils from Bamberg which I think I liked better than he did.

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Thursday, 14 May 2009

Government plans for pubs in England and Wales less bad than feared

Having followed the increasingly mad neo-prohibitionist statements uttered by representatives of both the current Scottish Government and the previous one over the last few years, it was actually quite refreshing to read the proposals that are being put forward for England and Wales.
* Banning promotions in pubs and bars such as “all you can drink for £10”, speed drinking competitions and “dentist’s chairs” where alcohol is dispensed directly into the mouth of any customer.
* Ensuring all bars, pubs and clubs offer a 125ml measure of wine and a 25ml or 35 ml measure of gin, rum vodka and whisky
* Pubs must offer free tap water to customers "where it is reasonably available"
* All alcohol retailers to display information about the alcohol unit content of drinks and for supermarkets and convenience stores, the health impacts of alcohol under powers from the Food Safety Act
These all sound eminently reasonable to me. I find it actually quite breathtaking that you apparently can't take it for granted in every pub to be able to get a small glass of wine, a single measure of spirits or a glass of tap water.

The practices mentioned in point one are things that only shitty drinking barns (of the there's-a-free-cocktail-for-the-first-girl-to-take-her-top-off type) do anyway, although I expect the bams who go to those will still manage to find their way into the gutter on Sauchiehall Street without the aid of such promotions.

Points two and three, well, good pubs do those already. I sympathise with those publicans who will correctly point out that water rates and bar staff time aren't free, so it costs them money to serve a pint of tap water. But come on. It's quite clearly socially beneficial to have people able to get water. People should be encouraged to drink water between beers, or to switch to water if they've already had enough booze. If there's a disadvantage to the pub, what about the government arranging a reduction in their water bill (or an equivalent tax break) in return?

The only point I have reservations about is the fourth. Again, good pubs already display information about the alcohol content of their drinks – this just skips the mental arithmetic. It's the "information about the health impacts of alcohol" I'm not sure about until it's more clearly defined. Although this is only for the off-trade at present, I can see a future of pubs festooned with poorly designed posters reading "Drinking Kills" in the attractive style of the health warnings on cigarette packets. We might be better served by putting the public health warning on beer mats, which are more likely to be read than any number of posters.

The neo-prohibitionists who dominate local and national government in Scotland could really benefit from considering such proposals which target actual binge drinking, rather than their current practice of trying to make drinking more expensive, more difficult and more unpleasant for everyone.

Beer tasting at Peckham's

I'm kind of looking forward to this thing on Saturday, though I a beer festival has rather different connotations for me. I'm led to believe it's more of a sampling session. Apparently it's on two floors and several microbrewers will be offering samples.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Opening time

Where do you start writing a new blog? I don't need one of those horrible mission statement things, do I? It's only a blog. It's going to be devoted to beer in general and have a focus on drinking beer in Glasgow, including stuff about pubs and breweries and the people behind them. I may also take occasional pot-shots at the anti-alcohol nutters who run the city council. For now I suggest you come back in a few days when there's a little more to see.