Showing posts with label drinking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drinking. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

To a T

I spent my formative teenage years living in the Outer Hebrides, in particular for the geographically challenged the bit in the red box in the picture:


The blue bit to the west of the islands is, obviously, the Atlantic Ocean. That blue bit stretches all the way to Canada with nothing between. It is not for nothing that the islands are often referred to as being on the edge of the world. I loved living there, and there are still times when I have moments where I think it would be good to go home and raise my boys the relative peace and safety.

Like most teenage kids growing up in isolated communities drinking started at a relatively early age, I think I was 14 when I had my first sneaky can of beer, nicked from a fridge at someone's house during a party at which parents were free to bring their kids along. I am not counting here the cider my parents would give us as younger kids, or my dad's homebrew that we would drink from time to time. There is something about that first illicit beer, as I say taken from the fridge when the adults weren't looking, that means more than all your parents' enlightened attitudes toward booze.

Most definitely among those first ill-gotten cans of nectar was Tennent's Lager, at a time when the cans still featured the , scantily glad models that were probably many a teenage beer filcher's first crush. With said cans safely hidden in coat pockets we would head out to the garden and sit behind a dry stone wall, in the lee of the wind, and pretend like we knew anything about beer.

Such memories came flooding back when
Boak and Bailey posted a story about them drinking Tennents when in Scotland recently, and so I resolved that on my trip home in July to do likewise. Thus it was that on the first Friday night in the Highlands, Mrs V and I left the bairns with their grandparents and wandered up to one of my favourite institutions, the public bar of a Highland hotel, the Station Hotel in Alness.

Entering through the hefty, weather beaten, teal blue doors you land practically on the bar. In keeping with public bar tradition there is no carpet, old school wooden floorboards are the order of the day. There is no fancy furniture, a few barstools, well used wooden tables around the periphery of the room, and equally well used wooden chairs. My kind of bar.

Dotted around the bar are groups of working men, ignoring the barstools entirely, standing just shy of an arm's length from their pints. At a table in the corner, a mixed group of Polish seasonal workers, in many a Highland public bar when there are ladies present in your group, you sit at a table rather than stand at the bar. Mrs V and I took up station at the short end of the bar itself, I like to be at a bar when I am drinking, next to the gaming machine, flashing with promises of paying your drinks bill for the night if you are lucky enough.

The Station doesn't do craft beer, doesn't really do local beer either if I remember rightly. I am not sure it would matter anyway, basically everyone was drinking Tennent's, which apparently accounts for 50% of all lager drunk in Scotland. I didn't bother with pictures of my pints, perhaps for fear of being called out as the metropolitan middle class softie I have become, or because it was irrelevant to being out with my wife on a rare trip sans enfants.

The first thing that strikes me is just how fizzy the pint is, though given the laser etched nucleation points on the base of the branded glassware, is it always that carbonated? Given the never ending stream of bubbles, the head pretty much stayed put, it was actually a rather alluring sight, and possibly the first time I had drunk Tennents and been able to see it.

Taking a first mouthful, my initial reaction was that if I was served this at an American craft brewery, either as a pilsner or helles, I would be pretty happy. Sure it is no Port City Downright Pilsner, but it is not a bad pale lager by any stretch of the imagination. The flavour is mostly a grainy crackeriness, somewhat similar to a Jacob's Cream Cracker, with a similar subtle sweetness as well. Am I allowed to say that it actually tasted of barley? That's a thing right? Hops are not a major component of the brew seemingly, but what was there gave enough of a clean bitterness to snap the malt to attention, as well as wisps of floral lemoniness that reeks of classic noble hops, you know, the ones from Central Europe.

Four mouthfuls in and the pint was gone, a fresh one on its way, then another, and another as we settled into the buzz and banter of the bar. At some point a pair of young girls came in, one with ID and one without, dolled up for a night on the town and pre-gaming before heading into Inverness. The gathered older folks, which Mrs V and I have accepted we are now part of, shared looks of recognition of days gone by, while the barman gave the IDless girl short shrift, and soon they were gone, while hands reached out for pints and the drinking continued.

I don't recall how many pints I had, maybe 8, but I did wonder, perhaps out loud and a tad overly loud as Mrs V and I walked back to my parents' place whether an avowedly craft bar is capable of such an atmosphere? Merrily buzzed and with no regret whatsoever for drinking Tennent's all night, I fell into a happy slumber that thankfully the twins didn't disturb until about seven thirty the next morning. I would drink Tennents again several times on the trip, each time knowing that I would miss it when I got back to Virginia.

Maybe it is the Tennents I miss, maybe it's public bars in Highland Hotels. Either way, that session will live on in the memory, despite no pictures.

Friday, April 7, 2017

In Praise of Budweiser

It had been a busy morning. Up early to get the big shop done before the hoardes descended upon the local supermarket we had chosen to go to, run all the errands that needed doing so that the rest of the day could be as chilled out as possible. With a thorough disinclination to cook lunch, we popped into one of our favourite bars here in Charlottesville for a bite to eat, hoping there would be space at the bar. Thankfully Beer Run had the requisite space at its bar and we took up residence and perused the beer menu....

I was in a distinctly lagerish mood, and we had considered heading to Beer Run's sister place, Kardinal Hall as they have the magnificent Rothaus Pils always on tap. Yes you read that correctly, the finest pilsner in all of Germany is always on tap in Charlottesville, Virginia. Sadly they would not open for another couple of hours, so that wasn't an option.

I don't know about other folks, but there are times when only a lager will suit my mood, when all I want is the clean snap of a technically proficient bottom fermented beer, something cracker dry that just cuts through the gunk of life and leaves me refreshed. This day at Beer Run, only one beer on the this met these requirements, but I was hesitant as I had never ordered it on draft before, actually thinking about it, I can't think of that many places where I have even seen it on draft. That beer was Budweiser, the American one, not one of the Czech ones, and Beer Run knowing me as they do, brought me a 20oz pint of it.


I am assuming that this particular pint was brewed just down the road at Anheuser-Busch's Williamburg brewery and so there is no irony whatsoever in the 'drink local' beer mat, especially if people are happy to called Stone in Richmond, Green Flash in Virginia Beach, and soon to be Deschutes in Roanoke, 'local'. As I said, this was the first time I can ever remember ordering a full pint of Budweiser in a bar, though I recently reviewed the bottled version here, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Attempting to put to one side all those inherent craft prejudices and focus on the beer itself in the glass, I plunged on in.

It hit the spot. Cold, though not ice cold, clean, crisp, cracker dry, and with a short, sharp finish. It was perfect, absolutely perfect for the mood I was in at the moment. I didn't want to be challenged, I didn't want to prove my craft credentials and feel worthy of drinking a beer, I didn't want to wrap my head round a muddle of flavours and aromas that may or may not have been intentional. I wanted a lager that was expertly brewed, technically solid, and through which quality brewing science shone, and this was that beer in that moment. I can't comment on how the beer changed as it lingered in the glass, because it didn't linger, 4 mouthfuls saw to the pint quite handily. One thing I noticed about the draft version over the canned version was that the draft felt much less fizzy, and the beer was greatly improved by that fact.

So there we go, I doubt I will ever become a regular Bud drinker when I am out in the watering holes of the United States, but neither will I shy away from ordering it on tap if I faced with a bank of IPAs of indeterminate provenance. Funny what happens when we overcome our prejudices and snobbery.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Drink?

It's something that has been pottering around my mind for a while now, and with Boak and Bailey's post this week about the indicators of a 'healthy beer culture', perhaps this is as good a time as any to spout forth.

First let me say that I think the brewing scene in this part of Virginia is fantastic, and vibrant. In the last year and a bit we have seen several new breweries open, already established breweries expand, and seemingly not a week goes by when there are whispers of a new brewing operation in the area. Taking a broader perspective, the sheer number of breweries, and types of beer, being brewed in the US means that it is difficult to not find something worth drinking, even for those of us whose beer of choice is a properly made Czech style pale lager.

There is however something that bothers me, and I speak here purely for myself and not for any particular caucus. I wish there was more of a drinking culture.

You see, I like a drink. I rarely go somewhere with a view to sampling as many beers as possible to then write up notes on websites that advocate the rating of beers. I find myself in full agreement with Mr Swiveller in Dickens' 'The Old Curiosity Shop' when he cries that beer 'can't be tasted in a sip!'. This may also explain why my idea of a beer festival worth going to is the kind of festival where the drinking of half pints and pints is the norm. Not for me standing in a queue for a couple of ounces.

You can have the palette of Oz Clarke, BJCP certifications aplenty, and the vocabulary of Chaucer, you simply cannot get a full handle on a beer from a few ounces. The best you can get is whether you want a full pint in order to explore further. Rating a beer on the basis of a couple of ounces is the equivalent of landing in the Caribbean and declaring to have discovered India and jumping straight back to Spain on one of your remaining ships.

I suppose this is really at the heart of my love of, and encouragement for, session beers. I love sitting in the pub, with friends, maybe playing pool, inflicting my choice of music on the jukebox (I love pubs with jukeboxes, a fact I realise that puts me in a minority in certain circles). You simply can't have a good session with some 8% double IPA, here I am defining a session as being at least 5 pints of beer, less than 3 is called lunch.

Perhaps I am an outlier, adverse to the hype of special releases, cynical of the craze for putting random shit in mash tun or kettle, and never more happy than when sat with a pint of some classic beer, in a pub, with friends. That really is the sign of a healthy drinking culture. Friends, with beer the social lubricant, but very much in a supporting role.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cask vs the World

Let me get something straight right now, I like cask conditioned beer, I also love lager, oh and I love stout and porter. Thinking about it, I love beer FULL STOP. While I think the term 'craft beer' is pretty much meaningless drivel, the beers which bear that tag are some of my favourite beers to drink, whether from a bottle or, preferably, on draught in the pub. Yes sir I am a beer drinker and it is because I am a beer drinker that there are times that I despair at the collective antics of the various 'consumer organisations' and brewers on both sides of the 'cask vs craft keg' debate.

Whilst on Twitter this morning, Martyn Cornell tweeted about a page on Cask Ale Week's website, which claims that:
keg beers, smooth beers, craft beers, lagers and stouts are different from cask beers. They:-
  • Are all brewery conditioned: they undergo only one fermentation and are then pasteurised
  • Are filtered so they contain no live yeast
  • Have gas added in order to give them a fizz or a ‘smooth’ texture
  • Can be identified by the type of font or tap (they are served by switching on rather than pulling through) on the bar, and the straight sided containers in the cellar.
  • Are usually served at a chilled 6 degrees centigrade
  • May be served ‘extra-cold’ at 0 to 5 degrees centigrade
Now, you can see that a lot of this is just bullshit straight off the bat, but as someone who works, albeit part-time and only in the tasting room, in a 'craft' brewery I can confirm that Starr Hill Brewing Company does not pasteurise their beer. Thinking about it, Devils Backbone don't pasteurise either, I guess they aren't 'craft'.

But if you read the entirety of that page, you see a very snide and malicious attempt to set up cask ale as somehow natural and healthy as opposed to evil, industrial "keg beers, smooth beers, craft beers, lagers and stouts", especially as cask ale is made from "4 wholesome ingredients: water, malted barley, hops and yeast". Can we assume therefore that no cask ales have brewing sugars in them, or is this simply misinformation?

As I said at the top of this post, I am a beer drinker, not a cask drinker, keg drinker or craft drinker. I have drunk some absolutely cracking cask ales as much as some which were downright awful, just as I have had both great and undrinkable 'craft' beer. The method of dispense and market positioning of a brewery are irrelevant, it is what is in the glass that is important, how it tastes and whether I enjoy it.

Surely this sniping and attempts at point scoring against other parts of the industry has got to stop and people need to realise that at the end of the day we are all on the same side - the side of good beer.

Without it we are in danger of becoming the zythophilic version of this:




UPDATE: The text above has been changed to the following:
Keg beers, smooth beers, craft beers, lagers and stouts are different from cask beers. They:-
  • The vast majority are brewery conditioned, undergoing only one fermentation and then pasteurisation
  • Nearly all are filtered so they contain no live yeast
  • Most have gas added in order to give them a fizz or a ‘smooth’ texture
  • Can usually be identified by the type of font or tap (they are served by switching on rather than pulling through) on the bar, and the straight sided containers in the cellar.
  • Are usually served at a chilled 6 degrees centigrade
  • May be served ‘extra-cold’ at 0 to 5 degrees centigrade

I would still question the veracity of the claim that the vast majority of craft beers are pasteurised, I can't think of a single one off the top of my head, but at least it is no longer a blanket claim.

UPDATE 2 - the above text has been amended again so that only "Keg beers, smooth beers, lagers and stouts..." do through these evil processes. Better not mention that Bernard lagers are all unpasteurised or I fear heads will explode.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Drinking Song Videos and a touch of Sentimentality

Just for a laugh!

You can't beat a bit of Monty Python really can you?


Same goes with The Dubliners in my world.

Like most people who like a pint and a dram or three, late in the night I tend to get soppy and sentimental. When this happens, I think of home and this song:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...

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