Showing posts with label pete brown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pete brown. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Simply British

I was planning to write a piece today about being proud of British beer. Indeed, I have twice deleted entire posts because I thought the tone didn't do justice to how I feel about my home, and the beer that comes from those islands on the western edge of Europe. I don't do nationalism, I don't do jingoism, and for me, the SIBA video posted on Pete Brown's blog yesterday is neither of those things. As I said in the comments to that post, it was "a bloody magnficent video".

There are many good things about Britain and being British, not just our beer and breweries. Our sense of fair play, our sense of humour, our love of the simple pleasures in life - and really, what could be simpler, or better, than a pint of best, porter or mild in a comfortable pub?


I am convinced that one of the most insightful books on the British character is Bill Bryson's Notes From A Small Island. Though the context is slightly different, I think this section could well describe British beer as much as anything else:

"And the British are so easy to please. It is the most extraordinary thing. They actually like their pleasures small. That is why so many of their treats - tea cakes, scones, crumpets, rock cakes, rich tea biscuits, fruit Shrewsbury- are so cautiously flavorful. They are the only people in the world who think of jam and currants as thrilling constituents of a pudding or cake. Offer them something genuinely tempting - a slice of gateau or a choice of chocolates from a box - and they will nearly always hesitate and begin to worry that it's unwarranted and excessive, as if any pleasure beyond a very modest threshold is vaguely unseemly.

"Oh, I shouldn't really," they say.

"Oh, go on," you prod encouragingly

"Well, just a small one then," they say and dartingly take a small one, and then get a look as if they have just done something terribly devilish. All this is completely alien to the American mind. To an American the whole purpose of living, the one constant confirmation of continued existence, is to cram as much sensual pleasure as possible into one's mouth more or less continuously. Gratification, instant and lavish, is a birthright. You may well say "Oh, I shouldn't really" if someone tells you to take a deep breath.

I used to be puzzled by the curious attitude of the British to pleasure, and that tireless, dogged optimism of theirs that allowed them to attach an upbeat turn of phrase to the direst inadequacies - "Mustn't grumble," "It makes a change," "You could do worse," "It's not much, but it's cheap and cheerful," "Well, it was quite nice" - but gradually I came around to their way of thinking and my life has never been happier."


Thinking about Monday's post, perhaps I will soak some fruit in stout and make rock cakes at the weekend.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How Did We Do?

Back on May 4th, Pete Brown of multiple beer books fame stirred the beer blogging pot by claiming things had started going stale and challenging bloggers to up their game for the rest of the month.

Just a quick look over my posts for May shows that the number of tasting note posts was at a minimum and during the month I also wrote a post which got the highest number of comments in 2010, it was the We Are Not Geeks! post, which accrued 18 comments, as well as the second most commented Fuggled post of the year in Revolutionary Tosh.

I enjoyed writing more thoughtful pieces than just doing a cyber brain dump of tasting notes, my home brew recipes and the occasional multi-media post when I just can't think of anything else to write. Another highlight for me was having John Keeling from Fuller's, and Dave Bailey of Hardknott taking part in my Brewer of the Week series

But having laid down the challenge, the question for Pete Brown now is quite simple - how did we rise to your challenge?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Difficult Position

No, this post isn't about the advanced acrobatics required by the Karma Sutra, but rather about the uneasy position I, and most certainly many others, find themselves in. It is only 7 posts ago that I could in all honesty write these words:

"as long as the beer remains good then I am a happy BrewDog fan".

As a result of the latest marketing stunt, which is more clearly laid out by Mark over at Pencil and Spoon, and Pete Brown, I find that statement sorely challenged. As I have commented on Mark's blog, I am shocked by this latest whoring of the BrewDog name to the media circus, which of course we bloggers are part and parcel of, whether we like it or not.

At the end of the day, as I have said before here, the important thing for me is not what is written on the bottle, not the factory that the bottle came from, but what is in the bottle, the beer itself, and this is where I feel BrewDog can very easily redeem themselves, they make truly excellent beer.

Yes, the Portman Group often appear to be misguided zealots, ranting, raving and generally getting the wrong end of the stick entirely, but paying  excessive attention to them does nobody any favours.

I don't care if you call your beer Nanny State, Knackered Old Cripplecock (still the funniest suggested idea for a beer name in history) or Coors Lite, it is the brew itself which will pass or fail the test of excellence, and it is excellence in the beer that the niche market BrewDog is looking to exploit cares about. There is a very fine line between standing for one's beliefs and courting needless controversy, and this stunt is needless. The people that Tokyo* was allegedly aimed at lapped up the beer, loved it, raved about it, gave BrewDog heaps of positive, free, advertising and marketing.

Those very same people are no doubt confused and have taken a step on the path to disenfranchisement from the BrewDog brand.

As lovers of craft beer (I am sick of the phrase "beer geek"), many of us consider ourselves sophisticated, well read, educated and worldly wise, and this is most probably why this stunt has backfired so spectacularly - BrewDog have insulted its core target group, not a very good "lesson in marketing".

As I said, they can easily redeem themselves. Admit they were wrong to pursue this course of action, attempted justifications just makes me think that they should stop digging their hole, and go back to what they do best, making great beer.

After all that is what James, Martin, myself and the rest of the beer blogsphere care about, great beer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dropping the baton, taking up the Challenger

I am not the kind of person to only talk about my successes, I am perfectly happy to admit my failures as well. The fact that my Copper Head Pale Ale turned out so poorly is not something for me to worry about unduly, but rather an opportunity to try and do it better next time because I am convinced that I have a good recipe in the making. Where did it go wrong? Well if I want to use the passive voice I could simply say that the yeast didn't do its thing, if I want to be honest about it, I probably failed to give the yeast good conditions in which to do its thing. Leading contenders at the moment are pitching temperature and aeration, too much and too little respectively. As you no doubt recall, I decided to bottle half the batch anyway and see what happened in the three weeks it usually takes to condition properly. So here goes.

The colour is just what I wanted, a nice rich amber which almost makes me think of breakfast marmelade. Not much head to speak of, and that which was there disappeared fairly sharpish, but the carbonation was decent. The nose is dominated by malt, which is not what I was looking for having used Amarillo hops. In fact it kind of reminds me of the smell you get from a beer soaked rug, not good but redolent with happy, if drunken, memories. Tastewise, very bland, nothing really going on at all, except for a light orangey citrus thing in the finish. The body is a rather thin, something I generally don't like in a beer, so this is not something I would happily drink. A failure for sure, but then it is only brew number 4 in my career so far, it is about time I had something bad happen - especially given the fact I have a somewhat rough and ready approach to brewing and have yet to afford some of the fancy gizmos that seem to be de rigeur.

Undeterred, I am plotting my next couple of brews, having decided to go back to really small batches of about 6.5 litres at a time so I am not throwing money and beer needlessly down the sick. One of the beers likely to be made in the next round of brew days will be an homage to Pete Brown's Hops and Glory, Challenger IPA. For some reason Northdown hops are not available in my local home brew shop, or through Northern Brewer, so I will substitute the Northdown used in his Calcutta IPA with Challenger. Obviously I won't be booking myself on a cargo ship to go to India, as tempting as that would be, but it will be aging for a few months in my storage room, ready I guess for February next year.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hops and Glory - Beer Book of the Year!

On Monday, when checking one of my various email accounts I noticed a message from Amazon.ca saying that my copy of Pete Brown's "Hops and Glory" had finally shipped, after several delays and what have you. Imagine then my joyful surprise when the DHL man rang the doorbell on Tuesday morning and handed me a package containing the long awaited book. Let me just say that I hate, literally hate, being unemployed - I hate not contributing to the household, hate not doing something vaguely useful, hate the feeling of uselessness, but when the book you have been waiting for arrives then I guess the chance to read it undisturbed is a good thing, and sure enough 22 hours later it was finished.

It was through my good friend Jay, who is coming to CVille this weekend, that I became aware of Pete Brown. Jay gave me his copy of "Three Sheets to the Wind" and I got repeated strange looks on the metro in Prague for chuckling out loud at points. So I was really looking forward to "Hops and Glory".

For those few people living in the outer reaches of the universe, "Hops and Glory" is about India Pale Ale, and Pete's journey taking a cask of a specially made beer from Burton-on-Trent to India by ship, around the Cape of Good Hope. The book thus is part travelogue, part history, part beery geekdom, and eminently readable. Pete has a talent for letting the reader in on his inner feelings, so much so that you can clearly imagine headed toward the equator on a sail boat - or perhaps it was just my seething jealousy?

In the chapters about the history of the British in India and the characters that sailed from our tiny islands to the far flung corners of the earth it is impossible not to feel a certain amount of pride - quickly followed by a healthy dash of liberal guilt for the unseemly side of Empire. In discussing though the racism that became part and parcel of the Raj in the latter years of the 19th century, I think it is important to remember that this was the era when blind nationalism became the rage throughout Europe and not just a British thing.

The chapters about the actual making of an original IPA recipe were of course fascinating for my inner beer geek, especially given that the American version is fast becoming one of my favourite styles over here, hence the picture at the bottom of this post. I find myself very much agreeing with Pete that American IPAs could use a healthier dollop of malt to balance out the hoppiness, thankfully the Northern Lights in the picture does have a nice marmeladey sweetness to back up the citrusy hops. Completely incidently I have been drinking a fair bit of Bass Pale Ale recently, a beer which I actually quite enjoy - one of the upshots of reading the book is wishing that I had enough cash to rescue Bass from the grip of A-B InBev and restore it to its former glory (even though it is a perfectly drinkable pale ale as it is).

I really don't want to give too much away about the actual contents of the book, but I would encourage you to rush out, if you haven't already, and buy it. If you are one of my American readers then visit Amazon.ca and get it from Canada, you really won't be disappointed.

Well done Pete in writing a simply superb book.

Just a little side note, it was kind of weird at first seeing the names of people who follow, have commented on this blog and even that I have sat and drunk with being mentioned, but I guess the beer world is like that and I for one thoroughly enjoy being a small part of it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Beer Hero of the Week

At first I considered making this the "Beer Enemy of the Week". But I decided that rather than fulminate against someone who is clearly so out of touch with people that he has no place in a socialist party (assuming that New Labour is such a beast), I would give praise to someone who fulminated against someone who is clearly so out of touch.

So for his piece describing ever so aptly Alastair Darling, my Beer Hero of the Week is:

Pete Brown

Also, his books are pretty damned good, go and buy them and read them if you haven't already!

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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