Friday, December 16, 2011

Under Attack?

Apparently I'm guilty of "repeatedly espousing destructive policies" and am to be "attacked" for it. (Not really, just on the Twitter). Even though this charge does have rather the ring of "corrupting the youth and impiety" (hah!) I'd like to make my position as clear as I can.

I don't espouse any particular energy policy, "Carbon Tax", trading arrangement or whatever. I don't know enough about all the particular policies to have serious opinions on them. I'm pretty much in agreement with the "polluter pays" principle, and I accept the reality of "liberal democratic" government. At the same time, while not being simplistically anti-capitalist, I'm aware that capitalism doesn't necessarily well serve the general good. I know that national governments aren't world governments, but they are governments in the world.

I'm not convinced that taxation (per se) is necessarily bad for an economy. Perhaps some taxes are bad (counter-productive / above revenue maximising rates / squandered / etc).

I have (on the twitter) posted links to interesting documents on Carbon Emissions, Climate Change and what might be done about it. Most recently:
"Bridging Emissions Gap for 2C Target Do-able , but we couldn't be bothered. Sorry kids. Daddy broke the world."

(The reference is to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme)

The point I was trying to make is that it appears that the 2°C target is technically achievable; however, politically (even given the success(?) in Durban it looks a bit unlikely - to say the least.

Obviously, here at Stringers, we're interested in the Climate Change and Emissions thang. We're somewhat interested in Fossil Fuel Dependence, and stuff like that. We're very interested in Autonomy, which is why we we feel we should internalise our true energy costs, as far as possible, ourselves - hence our 100% renewably powered position (for which we pay a small premium). We don't wait for The Man to force us to do the Right Thing.

Anyhoo, the main point leveled against me (by @GreatHeckBrew), as far as I can figure it, is that
"carbon reduction policies of European governments are well intentioned but counterproductive. They increase global emissions"
ie. it's suggested that EU policies transfer emissions to the developing world, resulting in a net increase in Carbon emissions. The mechanism proposed seems to be that the burden of EU policies on EU based business impairs competitiveness, so dirty (less regulated) developing world industries gain an advantage and expand.

Now, to "prove" that EU policies leads to an overall transfer of emissions to the developing world (or as we might say, "Exports Emissions"), you'd need to, as a minimum, show two things:
  1. Emissions are exported (overall).
  2. This is due to EU policies.

I'm not aware that this has been done.

30 Dec 2011:
Right, nothing from my "attacker" (golly) so that's a "shut up" having failed to "put up" thing.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Physics

Professor Branestawm called us into his workroom earlier today.
"See here!", he cried, indicating what appeared to be an old television set balanced precariously on top of what we first took to be an old refrigerator, but closer inspection revealed as a VAX 11/750. "The Internet!" he gesticulated at the screen, "The world wide web!".

And sure enough, the good professor was pointing at a shaky image of Hardknott Dave's blog.

"Very good Professor..." and with placatory smiles, we edged back towards the door.

"No, no," he laughed, "I'm quite familiar with your Internet nonsense, thank you very much. I merely wished to draw your attention to this debate about cooling!"

"See here", he continued, "one of these Internet characters holds that beer lines should be cooled along their length, while another proposes that the cellar temperature should be lowered during the warmer part of the year."

"Internet characters?", I burst out, "Professor, those are real people you're talking about!"

"Indeed?" He looked over one of his many pairs of spectacles, "So you say. I should like to see you prove it. However, that's for another day. Shall I continue?"

"Please, professor, do." We made ourselves as comfortable as possible on piles of old DEC manuals. Mine had a scrap of paper on top which bore only the words "BELL END". I held it up. "Professor? Is this important?"

"Ah, thank you." he took it from me and forced it into an already packed drawer, which he closed with a few smart mallet blows. "That's the last part of my halting problem proof. Marvelous things, these computers".
"Now see here," he went on, and once again pointed at the screen, "If we cool the beer line directly, we can remove the heat picked up along it's length."
He laughed, "Or to put it another way, we can add coolth to cancel out the warmth".

"Coolth, Professor?", once again, he'd lost us.

"Certainly!" And he made his way to the door where he flicked a switch. Instantly, the room was plunged into darkness. His voice came out of the gloom. "Behold! The electric dark bulb!"

"Professor!" I exclaimed. The workroom was dangerous enough in the light, stumbling around in the dark might be lethal. "For goodness sake turn it on!"

"Off, you mean", he laughed. "Although, oddly, it consumes far more power off than on!". But he relented, and continued. "I'm pretty sure that it requires less coolth to keep a beer line at the right temperature than to super-cool a pub cellar. Indeed, if we do cool the cellar below the beer serving temperature, we're using the beer itself as a coolth transfer fluid, in an uninsulated tube, to lower the temperature of the dispense equipment."

He smiled, "By coolth, of course, I refer to the power required (running the chillers, or air-con, or cellar coolers) in order to remove the excess heat and push it out of the building."

He opened the front of the old VAX 11/750 and revealed a mess of wires, some brazed copper tubing, a bare motherboard and some bottles. He got a beer for each of us.
"I've converted it into a fridge, that's an Intel Core i7, and I'm overclocking it big style".

"Bottoms up Professor!"

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Craft, Real Ale. Whatever. I just want to buy some beer.

Marketers, and all you students of the market, are aware of what's been called the "Pretty Good problem". Time was, choice was a real issue for the consumer. We were, once, confronted by a heap of shoddy, sub-standard, adulterated and unsafe products, with a few quality items offering honest value for money. The problem then was to identify those valuable items and avoid being tricked into spending our money on crap.

Nowadays, in the beer market, as elsewhere, the problem is different - most stuff is "pretty good". I'm not saying that none of it is rubbish, or that some of it isn't excellent, but most of it offers a reasonable return for my spend. These are great times for the beer drinker. But there is such a lot of it. All those competing products - how do I choose? If I can't choose, how will I buy? This potential choice paralysis is a real problem for me, and disaster for the vendor.

Anyway, here I am, lost in the supermarket (or wherever), so much choice, so little difference. Most products are invisible, they're so soon boring, unremarkable. I walk right past them without seeing them.

Now I can only see the purple cows. Everything else is a familiar blur.

So, how do vendors make me see their stuff? How to make it stand out? If the product isn't essentially remarkable, how do they lend it a quality that makes it different, more... more?

It's worth remembering that we seem to be much more sensitive to distinction based on a unique value for a single property rather than on a unique combination of properties. So we'll typically be told a simple story rather than given a nuanced analysis of the product's advantages.

In order to increase product salience vendors often use forms of what you might call "oppositional marketing". I guess this works (at least partly) because we're all highly responsive to signifiers of conflict - I'm sure that there are good evolutionary reasons for that. At its simplest, this can be as crass as "knocking copy": "Product B is crap (here's how) - buy Product A!".

Or we might see the creation of simple, clear, but essentially false dichotomies. The vendor hopes to streamline our choice-making. Traditional v. progressive, Craft v. Real Ale, Catsup v. Ketchup

We see this when the vendor tries to place the product on one side or other of some widely recognised disjuncture. This is the basis for products being associated with generational Bullshit. Sometimes this disjuncture is (if not created) actively promoted by the vendor. Hence: Real Ale = old/bearded/mature/sensible drinker (Y-Fronts). Craft = young and hip and has a daft haircut/hat/beard/shoes (Boxers).

Genuine, but not of themselves particularly significant, distinctions amongst products are subsumed in a construction and reinforcing of ideology.

What do we get from this? Well apart from an easing of the pain of choice (which I'll come back to), we get some real positive value from the branding effort. Not in the sense that these positioned products are better, but the branding itself can be valuable. We can use the product we've chosen to send signals about ourselves - sometimes to ourselves.

We buy a product that's young, urban, sophisticated, because we are young, urban, sophisticated. We wish. We buy products that are "difficult" (says the vendor) to demonstrate our discernment. We join the community of the brand. The product is the badge of our membership. It may be that this sense of community is worth far more to us than any simply product derived utility .

Here we've entered the realm of brand as placebo. Products that come with promises that they've no obvious ability to deliver on - yet we buy in gladly. We love it.

This is not a post about BrewDog. But as I was writing this I couldn't help thinking of this sensible and well-intentioned blog piece: Buy their Beer not their Hype. That's exactly not the point. The beer is not separable from the hype. The hype is a key part of the package. Without it, we mostly wouldn't see, or drink, the beer.

Why do we love being lied to? Why do we put up with this shit? Are we stupid? Or is it perfectly sensible?

Making my choice with the vendors hand on my arm is simply easier than making a rational choice on the facts - which I will not have all of. Surrounded by drifts of near-identical stuff, on my own always, the cognitive load is overwhelming.

But why not pull the wool over your own eyes? It's hard work at first, but more fun. Once you've constructed your alternative reality it's as good a guide as their hype, their agendas & ideologies. Ask your friends to help. Bullshit each other. Cheerfully, and for free. You probably know people expert enough on various subjects such that you can even make good choices by pooling your expertise. Or not. But so what?

So there you go. You should buy our beer, because doing so marks you out as a discerning individual who won't buy into all their BS. I'm telling you.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Glass v. Plastic debate. Don't get me started.

Vegans should look away now.

The only important thing is that the milk is good, right? Pasteurised, homogenised, filtered, who cares?

As it happens, we prefer South Lakes Organic.

It's about the cows.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stringers announces Bezzy Mate Program.

We're pleased to announce the Stringers "Bezzy Mate" initative. For a single one-off payment of 93 quid you can get with the program.

But what exactly do you get with the program?

The exclusive (shared with all other members of the program) right to call yourself our "Bezzy Mate"!

A photo of us (supplied in a digital format) with space for you to photoshop yourself in!

A receipt! (Or VAT invoice if required)

Discount at all our bars!

The undying Respect of your peers!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Wine? Pah!

I dunno but what Hardknott Dave seems to have got himself up a bit of a dead end on his Wine v. Beer thing. "What about wine's sense of place?", say the wine buffs. "Oooh, you've got us there", we're all supposed to say, before returning to our grimy sheds to slop out a few more buckets of scummy old beer.

Thing is, it's just not so. Commodity wine has managed to partake somewhat in the glory of the truly good stuff. This is nonsense. Affordable varieties of plonk (or even some quite pricey numbers) knocked up in some booze factory out of a few lorryloads of grapes from here and there, sugar, glycerine, tree bark, enzymes, fishguts, crab-shells, preservatives and colour, somehow get thought of (wrongly) in the same way as some remarkable, lovingly-crafted masterpiece of oenology.

Contrariwise for beer.

Tosh, I say. Also, Pah!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fussy, elitist and overcomplicated?

Many thanks to Velky Al For drawing our attention to this little gem by Keir Graff in Timeout/Chicago
Beer doesn’t have to be fussy, elitist and overcomplicated.
That’s what wine is for.
Beer should be for the rest of us: affordable, easy to enjoy, thirst slaking and confidence restoring.
Read the piece here.

Incidentally, why was all the glassware in Star Trek so obviously difficult to drink out of? I know that Jim is swigging from the bottle here, but even the glasses were mental. Why was that? Huh?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Retired? Comfortably Well Off? CAMRA cares what you think.

Good News Everyone!
CAMRA is looking for 60 members who are not CAMRA Volunteers, but do not reject the idea of becoming active within the campaign, to participate in some Focus Groups at the Great British Beer Festival.

These sessions will take place on Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th August 2011 at Earls Court and will only take about 90 minutes. You will only be required to participate one of the sessions.

So, if you're not doing anything else (like working or caring), and you can afford to get yourself to London (or are already in London) - CAMRA wants to hear from you. Sheesh. Who's idea was this?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Awesome Beard

I've been transferring the latest batch of our completely boss big ol' stout "Mutiny" to cask. We'll hang on to it for a few months before it's ready to go out into the world. It's such an AWESOME beer, I spontaneously grew this AWESOME beard - just from the fumes! Imagine what it'll do to you! You'll all turn into super-bad werewolves or something.

Also, I have a crudely photoshopped, but OUTRAGEOUS, Snake Plissken eyepatch. That's how much PASSION we put in.

Concerned readers please note: it's not a real beard.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Economics of beer wastage in line cleaning.

First, a few disclaimers: I'm not an accountant. I'm not a publican. I'm not a cellar technician. I'm not a lawyer. There's a whole heap of things that I'm not.

I illustrated the keg returner the other day, the "legitimate" use of such things is advanced as enabling the recovery of those few pints that would be otherwise lost during line cleaning.

The line that carries the beer from the "cellar" to the tap contains an appreciable amount of beer For 3/8in tube it's something like 30mL per metre, I think. (while we're mixing imperial and SI units, that's about 10mL each foot of 6.3mm ID line. More in the wider stuff traditionally used for cask) There's various devices along the way that also hold a bit (chillers, fob detectors, pumps, etc). Typically, this volume would be lost when line-cleaning is undertaken, i.e. as water or cleaning solutions displace it from the system.

A number of gizmos are on the market which offer to save this wasted beer. Some divert it into a little sealed vessel attached to the system, from which it can be reintroduced into the line after cleaning - of course, that little bottle will need cleaning at some time - but this doesn't seem like an entirely bad idea. Some cleverly disconnect the beer supply (keg) near the end of a session, while allowing you to sell what's already in the line. Some (for cask) allow the line contents to run (slowly) back into the container after the session - although this would leave the line dry, which may not be such a good idea. In other systems, the beer leaves the dispense equipment - into a bucket perhaps, and is manually reintroduced to the container - these are the ones that look distinctly dodgy to me. You'd definitely want to be sure that Customs & Excise / Trading Standards / Environmental Health aren't going to pounce on you.

Even ignoring effects on beer quality - although I suspect that they might be significant - and while we're very much in favour of line-cleaning, there's something troubling about this whole thing: If you have a look at any of the marketing material for these devices, they'll always have a "cost saving" example worked out. They always base this on the selling price of the wasted beer. You waste two pints that you could have sold at £3 each, that's 6 quid income lost, per line, per week! Right? See what an earner this gizmo (and the time spent operating/cleaning it) could be!

As I said, I'm not an accountant, but surely you're not saving any more than the shortage cost (principally restocking cost) of the beer? You'll just buy 2 pints more beer from your supplier. I realise beer that's in the cellar (and hooked up) has to carry some share of the overheads - but not as much as beer that's made it into a glass. Surely?

I know that some tenants have an allowance for line-cleaning effectively built in to their business arrangements. In which case recovering that beer really does generate (not very much) extra income - but only by selling (potentially) damaged goods as new. Which really can't be a good idea. Can it?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Here's a funny thing.

This a keg returner. See, if you've got an empty old keg, or even a part-full one, you could fill it up with slops and then re-pressurise it. After that, I suppose you could sell it. Perhaps you could even sell watered beer. But who'd do such a thing?

It's just a big funnel screwed onto a slightly modified coupler. I'm sure there are legitimate uses for such an item. I just can't figure out what they might be.

Of course, similar devices are available for filtering back into cask.

Monday, June 06, 2011

This is an assertive hairdo

We don't care if you don't like it. We don't aspire to conformity through nice haircuts, or hats.

We're sure [We are sure about this aren't we? Yes, carry on Jon, it'll be great]...
Where was I? Oh yes, dead sure that you don't have any, er, taste, yes, taste or appreciation of what a cool hairdo this is.

Yeah! And you probably don't care that this rebellious barnet contains no artificial colour and hasn't been near a comb for days.

Just go on, now go, walk out the door, don't turn around now... etc.

Captain's log: Supplemental. Concerned wine drinking US-based in-laws (and other worried readers): It's alright - I'm not losing my mind. The above is an example of the lowest form of humour, the industry in-joke by parody. You're to be forgiven for not immediately spotting the reference to a UK "craft" brewery with a line in marketing with "attitude". Why would you care? You can walk drive down to BevMo and pick up some VASTLY BETTER BEER, like for instance, Ballast Point Sculpin, whenever you like, you lucky monkeys.

If you're interested, there's more (better) of this kind of "humour" to be found on the twitter [STRONG LANGUAGE ALERT]
here or here. Nothing to do with me.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What is keg?

According to CAMRA "[keg] beer is chilled and filtered to remove all the yeast, and pasteurised to make a sterile product [...][then] put into a sealed metal container, the keg".

Or, if you're a brewer, "keg" is that proportion of your output that you put into keg, rather than cask or bottle. For us, this proportion is zero - we don't do keg.
Update: Oh yes we do.

Or, if you're running a beer outlet, "keg" is that stuff that comes in a keg to which you hook up a keg coupler, gas, etc.

Or, if you're a drinker, it's the cold fizzy stuff that comes out of a tap, rather than a handpump.

So what are we to call products that merely satisfy the expectations of the brewers, retailers and drinkers, but fail to meet the definition adopted by the Real Ale campaigners?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sounds Awesome.

"We then went on to a panel on Shaking Up the Brewing Scene with Martin Dickie from Brewdog. Martin had everyone absolutely quiet and on the edge of their seats as he started playing grunge rock on his laptop, methodically pulled out and poured a bottle of Brewdog ale, and took a sip before saying a word to the audience. His talk was mostly a history of Brewdog but did not disappoint with several irreverent lines and a bit of a “this is what we do, like it or $%#* yourself” attitude."

Oh, please.

More about what we missed here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gas, and Hot Air

Our copy of "Beer" - the CAMRA magazine arrived today. It's so absorbent, it's always on our coffee table.

Anyhoo, onto the Cask v. Real Ale argument (It's quite clear-cut, surely, Real Ale is "matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed". And normally sucked rather than blown out like "keg" would be)

But, in an effort to clarify the situation, we asked our expert Professor Branestawm to explain the concept of "vols" of CO2 for us.

"Consider if you will Stringers", He began, "A pint of liquid which contains 1 vol of a gas dissolved in it. If we magically removed the liquid, we'd be left with the pint full of the gas."

OK, Professor, we've got that, but how does this help us understand the carbonation and maturation "histories" of the typical Cask v. the lovely Real Ale.

"It's simple", he exclaimed, and continued "Please note - what I say here is illustrative and assumes a few things (open fermenters for one), i.e. I've made these numbers up, so you'll have to take my word for it that they are about right!"

We'll take your word Professor, please, continue.

The professor pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket and flourished a curious and elaborate fountain pen. "My own design." he said, before rapidly drawing up the following table:
Vols CO2 in:
                         Cask           Real Ale
Start Fermentation         0              0      
End of Fermentation      ~0.8           ~0.8
Post Chill               ~0.5           ~0.5
Post tank conditioning    1.4             -
Into Cask                 1.4           ~0.5   
Out the door              1.4            1.4
On stillage (in pub)      1.5            1.5
On service (post venting) 1.1            1.1

"Which is to say", he went on, "Real develops at least two thirds of its condition (spending at least a week) in the container from which it's dispensed. i.e. it's predominantly Cask Conditioned, whereas Cask might pick up ten times less in cask. i.e. it's predominantly Tank Conditioned. i.e. Pretty much all of the secondary fermentation occurs in tank - not in the cask!"

Before we could say anything, he added, "Of course there's room for brewers to work in-between these extremes, tank conditioning up to, perhaps, 1 vol and finishing conditioning in cask."

But Professor, what's the problem with good beer being conditioned in tank, provided it's getting an appropriate period of maturation on its own yeast? Surely this is the key thing? And if tank conditioning makes this easier, why not?

"Well you see" said the Prof, leaning in conspiratorially, "this illuminates an issue with CAMRA's definition of Real Ale: Much of what is held to be the kind of beer that CAMRA is in favour of can only be called cask conditioned in a very narrow sense - some small amount of conditioning (secondary fermentation) in the cask is unavoidable when we're dealing with live yeast, but it's not a significant part of the production process."

We see Professor, but surely, brewers wouldn't call their beer Real Ale if it wasn't?

"Precisely!", cried the professor, "Only CAMRA ever called these things Real, the producers always called them Cask Ales, which they indisputably are, being ale and in cask!"

He smiled and shook his head. "They're not bloody stupid you know, these brewers!"

Many apologies to (the estate of the late) Norman Hunter.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

FIGJAM and the Wedge

Years ago, when I used to hang out with musicians (no, I wasn't a drummer) - I briefly worked alongside an Australian band. That was when I first came across the "wedge". (If this is a drinking term you've always been familiar with, please ignore the rest of this piece.) By "wedge" I don't mean a bit of wood (or something) with a triangular section used to lift, jam, or separate. I suppose the meaning is a related one, because, you see, a wedge is the drink that you buy in-between drinks in a round.

Consider: Alice has finished her drink, but it's Bob's round. Now, clearly, she's not going to sit with an empty glass while Bob savours his, and carry on sitting with no drink while he replenishes their supplies. But Alice is far too well brought up to hurry Bob along, and besides, that's poor drinking practice - for all sorts of reasons. So Alice announces, "No worries Bob, I'll get a wedge in." And off she goes to get herself (and only herself) a drink. The round is still with Bob.

This is a concept that surely exists wherever drinks are bought in rounds, but I didn't have a word for it. To the best of my knowledge, British English hadn't developed this term, and needed the vibrant, productive, booze including Australian variant to produce a beautifully apt way of pinning this down. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, the Wedge.

FIGJAM? Well, I've been thinking a lot about marketing, building brands, and the business of selling beer. How "Bigging Up" oneself and the product seems seen as a shortcut to success. Again, back in the day, I've heard this kind of thing dismissed as "talking a good band". As in:
Alice: Charlie talks a good band doesn't he?
Bob: I saw them at Planet X and they were f-ing shite.
Alice: Is right.
Just so, we hear many people talking a good beer. It's not quite the same as "talking up", but I suspect that it's sort of merged in with that expression nowadays.

Anyway, FIGJAM: Another great antipodean contribution to the language. It's an acronym:
Fuck I'm Good. Just Ask Me.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Photo shamelessly stolen from Jeff Pickthall.

Ahh, the pub beer festival. Don't you love them? Lots of beer - warm, flat and no sign of a sparkler. Seriously, if we don't take any special steps for proper cooling the beer is going to end up at least as warm as the mean air temperature. Sure, people put up a tent or awning to keep the sun off the casks, but the 24 hour average temperature in London (which is where this snap was taken) was probably at least 14°C. Worse than that, there's bound to be a certain amount of temperature cycling - a little warmer in the day, cooler at night. So your beer's probably going to be at the right temperature at about 10 in the morning on day 1, but it'll be flat after being vented too warm the day before. By the evening, and for sure on day 2, it'll be too warm and flat. Yum.

Of course, if you know what you're doing and time everything just right, and you're lucky with the weather, you're probably able to get at least one session where the beer is in good nick without spending money on special cooling.

While we're on the subject - I've never done the experiments, but I'm not convinced of the effectiveness of the old damp bar towel trick, particularly on plastic (or wooden) casks. It looks more like a magical operation to me.

What do you think - is cooling important at all in the BF setting? Or is it just the kind of minor detail that only a saddo like me would care about?

I should say: I'm not commenting on the arrangements at any particular boozer here - the photo is illustrative of what a lot of places do if they're putting on one of these events, and I'm certainly not trying to blame the outlets for any short-comings in the product.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

I'm A Living Sickness (and other songs)

As The Calico Wall had it (you can hear it).

Well, actually, I've just got a bit of a cold or something that's "gone to my chest" as they say. But I'm a man (that's another song) hence feeble, and have succumbed, so we're undermanned thus we missed a brewday and Becky is in washing casks on Mothers Day - poor her.

Apart from that tho', what's it got to do with beer? Well, I always notice how much my taste changes with any kind of "respiratory" upset. As you'd expect, I'm less sensitive to aroma (but not, subjectively, to all aromas). At the same time, I seem to become more sensitive to bitterness.

Let's remember that there's a range of tastes out there, and not only that, an individual's taste can change from day to day. Which is why brewers should have taste panels of course.

Me, I'm turning away from beer in favour of "Codine", for the time being. Or indeed, anything with "Max Strength" on the box.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A sausage?

Hot news - well, yesterdays news actually. The Cumberland Sausage has been awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status (DEFRA announces the same).

This is great news for all lovers of a good length of prime sausage - there's nothing makes an evening go so well here at Stringers than a couple of portions of porky goodness.

What is it that makes the Cumberland Sausage so great?

High meat content. At least 80% - and that's pretty much real meat - not skin, and limits on the amount of "connective tissue".
Coarsely ground - the meat is chopped rather than mashed. So unlike many sausages, they're far more than a tube stuffed with textureless paste.
Great spicing - pepper, nutmeg, lots of lovely stuff like that.
Girth. At least 20 millimetres thick.
And of course, "The continual length of the Traditional Cumberland Sausage is one of its key features"

Yay! Sausage!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The reasoning of Professor D. Nutt.

Professor D. Nutt (honestly, it is the best name). Do you think he got picked on at school? (Bristol Grammar) and determined to show them all by swotting really hard (Cambridge, Guys, etc). Anyway, the good prof opines that there is no safe dose of alcohol for these reasons:
Alcohol is a toxin that kills cells such as microorganisms, which is why we use it to preserve food and sterilise skin, needles etc. Alcohol kills humans too.
This is true, as far as it goes, but then this is true for Oxygen also. So, the problem here is one of over-generalisation. What is true for alcohol in a certain context needn't be true for alcohol per se. A similar claim could be made for bricks. They kill mice and humans if dropped from a height onto them, but are generally considered safe as building materials.
Although most people do not become addicted to alcohol on their first drink, a small proportion do.
As a clinical psychiatrist who has worked with alcoholics for more than 30 years, I have seen many people who have experienced a strong liking of alcohol from their very first exposure
Just a liking then?
and then gone on to become addicted to it.
Oh, and then "gone on", so not addicted at first exposure then?
We cannot at present predict who these people will be,
Because you've just made it up.
so any exposure to alcohol runs the risk of producing addiction in some users.
Jeez, that sounds like a job for a Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology, perhaps you should look into that, David. Instead of wasting time grandstanding in the press?
The supposed cardiovascular benefits of a low level of alcohol intake in some middle-aged men cannot be taken as proof that alcohol is beneficial. To do that one would need a randomised trial where part of this group drink no alcohol, others drink in small amounts and others more heavily. Until this experiment has been done we don't have proof that alcohol has health benefits. A recent example of where an epidemiological association was found not to be true when tested properly was hormone replacement therapy.
I suppose the value of an epidemiological association is OK when we're talking about smoking, David? You cherry-picking devil, you.

Anyway David, you miss the point utterly. We like the booze. Some of us also like the E and the weed and that. Some of us would probably like a new magic pill from your lab. Fantastic. Get on with that, why don't you.

But remember, booze isn't just a dilute aqueous solution of ethanol. Beer particularly, is loaded (so we're told) with healthful goodies, anti-oxidants, silicon, fibre, goodness knows what. So, on balance, overall, is there a safe, or indeed positively beneficial, level of boozing? Don't ask the prof, he doesn't seem to care.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

By Jingo

Recent SIBA convert Hardknott Dave invites us to critique the "Proud of British Beer" vid, with the condition that we should, in that case, explain why we haven't made our own far superior advert for British Beer. Now much as I'd love to have a go at the film, I won't do that - although I will come back to the choice of music later. No, what concerns me here is the "if you think you can do better..." argument.

When most of us criticise a beer or a top footie team ("it/they was/were shite"), We're not normally required to point to our premiership football sucesses, or to our award winning beverages. We can say such-and-such a popular music artist is rubbish, and come up with a list of objections to the material, performance and person, without having to "top" the "charts" ourselves. We're entitled to our opinions, we're entitled to hold forth on them, and you're entitled to ignore us utterly.

That geezer Voltaire once wrote "The best is the enemy of the good." - OK, he wrote "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." , but it wasn't his fault that he was French, so we won't hold that against him. And of course if we're waiting for the perfect promotional short for British Beer to be made, we'll wait for ever. As to whether someone else could or should have made something better - that would depend to a large part on having the budget (which I guess was quite small), and the time, as well as having the inclination.

And here we are, the bit where I carp at the choice of music. Now, I know that cost and rights constraints have to be really important in a job like this. But, really, that selection out of Holst? I actually like this bit of music, but it's terminally besmirched by being the basis of the tune "Thaxted", to which "I Vow to Thee, My Country" was often sung. Let's all refresh our memories with the words of the first verse:
I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

Of course, this was written in 1908, when nationalistic fervour, and for that matter, senseless sacrifice and unquestioning obedience, was suitable matter for popular song. Ten years later, Owen wrote:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Fifty years after that, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote (and Edwin Starr made famous):
War (Huh) What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. (Good God, Y'all).
Here, if you're interested.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Alternate (Reality) Brewing

I used to read an awful lot of science fiction (or a lot of awful sci-fi - if you'd rather). A recurrent idea (a sub-genre, even) is that of the alternate history, and its close relative the parallel reality / universe. "What if?" the author asks. What if the Axis Powers had been victorious in WWII? ("The Man in the High Castle" - Philip K. Dick and if you don't read Mr Dick, you should). Outside SF, there's a famous collection of essays If it had happened otherwise. There's Robert Sobels "For want of a Nail" The tradition goes way back. Livy had a go, I'm told.

Many-worlds theory (or "interpretation") implies that this stuff needn't be fiction. Far-out or what?


My question, "what if the monks of Furness Abbey were brewing now?" What if it was us? Would we have a "abbey" beer round here? How would it be influenced by our modern lay brown British beer tradition? It's said that some of those yeasts we think of as being "Belgian" started out in Scotch ales. How weird is that? We'd be using English hops rather than continental ones, for sure. But which? Goldings, Fuggles? Or more modern varieties? Continental "Caramalts", or good old crystal malt?

Only one way to find out. Let's brew a sort of South-Cumbrian (or North Lancs) Dubbel.

It'll be fun.  Fun.  Not a research project. Fun. i.e. don't tell me Belgo Abbey and Trappist beers are firmly within the local brewing tradition etc...etc...

Friday, February 04, 2011

Pump Clip Design Brief

In order to to support our key revolutionary aims of distinctiveness, economy and generally not being shite, the following design guidelines are hereby adopted:

  1. No Gold
  2. No Mountains
  3. No Lakes
  4. or Sheep
  5. No Jolly Cartoon Fun
  6. No Scrolls
  7. No fancy die-cutting
  8. Thou shalt not "go for a kind of Distressed Look"
  9. No lasses exposing chestal areas.
  10. No more than 2 typefaces

A bonfire of counter-revolutionary clips is to be organised on the pump clip parade.

Friday, January 28, 2011

'Twas ever thus.

What we got here is a photo-graph I took of some genyu-ine Ee-jip-shun tomb figgers. No fancy trickery involved. It's just how it looks in the museum. Where of course, at night, they come to life.

See, the guys on the left are mashing in. With their hands.  There's two actually working and one standing and pointing (head brewer I guess).  On the right sitting, looking at the bottles (jars really) is a scribe and there's a guy standing with a wad of papyrus under his arm next to him.  They're counting and doing the paper work. And there's another guy supervising (pointing).

In total: 2 managers, 2 clerks and two fellas doing any productive work. Plus ca change and that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What I did on my holidays.

Well, of course, We drank beer. And wine. And some whisky.

But it's the beer that you're interested in, right? Looking back over my notes (as far as I can make out - they're a bit scrawly), I seem to have been using a marking scheme which I can no longer understand. So I'll reduce it all to a simple score out of 10 (there may be some half marks), and any sense I can distil from the ramblings - and then we can try to figure out what it says about me:

In chronological order:

Heineken 6
In the air. KLM do ghastly little fairy cans, while Air France have a reasonable 33cl one. For that matter Air France offer wine (and beer) with breakfast, while KLM give you a slightly dirty look when you ask.

Lagunitas IPA 7
Yay, we arrived. Praise be. Beer in fridge.

Full Sail Amber 5
Do I like these Amber beers?

Anderson Valley Boont Amber 5
No, guess not.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo 6
Supposed to be good - but is it really?

Anderson Valley Brother Davids Triple 5
It's a bit nasty. Banana? No spice. Burny alcohol

Tsingtao 5
mmm wet. Eating Dim Sum

North Coast Old Rasputin 6
Actually, various scores - 7 is the best it got. I gave it a 5 as well. Kept trying it tho'.

Flying Dog Doggie Style 4.5
I used to like this. Either it's changed or I have. Or it's a typo.

Gordon Biersch Czech Style Pilsner 7
That surprised me.

St Bernardus Tripel 8
More. Oh, there's no more?

Dogfish Head 90 min Imperial IPA 7.5
Good enough.

Bison Brewing Organic Chocolate Stout 5
This is a GABF silver medallist - can't see it myself.

Erdinger Hefe-weizen (Dark) i.e. Dunkel (what's hard about that?) 7.5
Good enough

Speakeasy Prohibition 6
Another amber. "Boldly hopped" my arse.

Speakeasy Big Daddy 7
IPA. not bad at all

Lagunitas Sonoma Farmhouse Hop Stoopid 6.5

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA 8
This is very nice.

What shall we conclude? Well, I don't like these amber beers much. The American IPAs cover the range from the pits to the tits. It's easy to f-up a Belgo-triple (and it's not that I don't like the "real thing"). I don't come across many 9's or above.

Anyway, that's the homework done. Now back to work.

In case you're interested, you might interpret these scores thusly:

<5 I wouldn't have another (well, maybe one just to make sure) 

5>score<7 I'd have another. 
score>7 even knowing what I'm like, you should probably have one.
8 or above: Have one. Go on.

Update: Have tried some torpedo since we got back... Herself still rates it "wouldn't have another", I have it down as "a bit rough without being tough, and confused also" and "hint of toilet-duck" So I'm afraid the 6 has to stand. I would have another, but I'd probably try something else rather. I'm probably not a good judge of these yank IPAs so I don't know if you should take my hearty endorsement of the Ballast Point seriously. But I'm planning to buy some of their other stuff on the strength of it.

Also, I'll have to get a bunch of Anchor Steam (I haven't had any for years and years) I used to like it, but now, who knows? I don't seem to like these other, newer, "ambers".

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Progressive Brewing "so last year" say punk duo

In a shock announcement earlier this week, wee Jimmy and his Dad turned their back on their punk roots. "Yep, from now on, our beers are sweeter, weaker and less bitter", said a spokesdog.

Industry sources suggest that being told "what was good for them" and "your only chance of getting your bottles anywhere near the eyeline" has led to the pair betraying their fans and doing just what the man says.

"It's been great", said an insider penguin, "when the suits told us to jump, we had a jumping competition. I won!"