Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Marston's Burton Bitter

Drinking a bottle of Marston's Burton Bitter as I write. It's an excellent, tasty mineral water. Superb for these sultry summer nights.

Scottish pubs of historic interest

I just found out about a new publication from Historic Scotland about Scottish pubs. It's been produced in co-operation with CAMRA and reasonably enough draws heavily on CAMRA's earlier publication Scotland's True Heritage Pubs (2007). It can be downloaded for no money from Historic Scotland's website, which is nice. I haven't read it yet but there are lots of nice pictures.

Monday, 22 June 2009

The brewers' star in Scotland and England

Occasionally you come across an old label or beer mat bearing a six-pointed star. Most people's first thought is of the Star of David but it seems at first glance odd to postulate a link between beer and Judaism.

There has been a fair amount of research into the use of the star in Germany; in fact, Matthias Trum of the well-known Schlenkerla brewery in Bamberg wrote a paper about the "Brauersternla" at university. He notes that the use of the hexagram can be shown as far back as 1350 for the Jewish militia in Prague, and for brewers in Nuremburg in 1425, and argues:

… the hexagram was in those days in Franconia and northern Bavaria widely used symbol for protection and in this form used by everyone including both Jews and brewers. The exiled Jews of Nürnberg brought the star with them to Prague, where it became symbol of the Jewish community and was then spread all over the world through letterpress. The brewing star remained however in south Germany and developed into a tapping sign.

Zoigl-brewers in darkest Franconia
, the remnants of medieval commune-brewing tradition, still use it today to show where home-brewed beer is available for sale.

I was familiar with its use in Germany, but was interested to discover it was once used in Britain too.

The Northampton Brewery Company (later merged with Phipps – who continued to use the star logo – and finally taken over and eventually closed by Watney) had it as their logo, as did the Usher's brewery in Edinburgh. Both of these are modern usages. Usher's star is a trade mark, which suggests it was the only brewery in its local area using this symbol. But was it once more widespread, and how did the star get from Germany to Britain?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Three beer summer evening

I wasn't at home when DPD called to deliver my bottle of BrewDog Zephyr, which meant that I had to go on a mission to an industrial estate to the north-east of Glasgow to retrieve it. Fortunately it was a lovely evening and there is a pretty pleasant wooded cycle path along the river most of the way there, so I could avoid the traffic. That's the first beer of the day, but I'm not drinking it, I'm going to keep it to celebrate getting my next job, whenever that is.

The second beer was Badger Harvesters' Ale. Having cycled 15km, it ws time for a stop and some refreshing beer. I pass a Tesco on this route. I don't like Tesco much but their beer range is streets ahead of most high street off licence chains. The most notable feature of this beer is that it's only 2.5% alcohol by volume. I am in favour of such beers in principle (I may yet launch a revival of the small-beer tradition). It's brown and slightly sweetish and has more character than many beers of twice the strength. It actually reminded me of what How To Disappear Completely might be like if they didn't put all the hops in the world into it. It's also cheap, but then all the Badger ales tend to be cheapies. And it's a perfect cyclist's refresher, drunk illegally (if your local authority is silly like mine) by the side of the river.

The third beer is the one I drank on returning to the city centre. St. Mungo vom Faß at West on Glasgow Green. It seems more bitter than it used to be (this is not a complaint). I'm going to enjoy coming here more often in the summer. I returned a couple of days later to find many people seem to have had the same idea, as they'd run out of several house beers. The people next to me at the bar were drinking Desperados anyway. Pearls before swine.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer

I found this in Peckhams, from Crabbies, the old-established Glasgow makers of ginger wine (Scottish Nationalists, and others who like to get uptight about these things, may be interested to know that the thistle-bearing packaging was created by a design agency in Leeds). Well done for putting it in a full half-litre bottle too.

I open the chunky glass bottle, and the first impression is ... not true to style. This is actually ginger ale! It's clear and bright, and the dark golden colour has nothing in common with cloudy grey ginger beer.

Heavily carbonated, it's quite clearly a soft drink led astray, not a descendent of traditional ginger beer, or even beer for that matter.

Very sweet. Ridiculously so. But it's pleasingly fiery. This is not tame old Schweppes — in the fieriness it can hold its own with leading representatives of the ginger beer milieu.

Because it's so sweet, the gingeriness is never harsh, There's also a lightly floral, spicy fragrance I can't quite put my finger on, but it reminds me of the legendary Austrian soda Almdudler.

Will I buy it again? Well, I didn't think I would, but I might do. This is an extremely successful take on ginger ale, and unique at the moment.

The only question is — what is the 4% alcohol actually for?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

How To Disappear Completely

I heard from friends last night that the Bon Accord has BrewDog How To Disappear Completely on draught at the moment. I hope they still have some when I get there after work. I've had it from the bottle at the weekend, but I do not want to miss it from the cask. This is the most effort I've ever gone to to hunt down a beer, I think.