July 24th, 2012Desert Island Beers
Meet beer blogger, writer & tweeter, Peter Alexander a.k.a. Tandleman where Peter writes a great and insightful blog about beer issues and pubs. Peter is a local CAMRA Chairman, who grew up in the keg dominated West of Scotland and who now lives in Greater Manchester.
His formative drinking years were coloured by a four year stint as part time barman under an old fashioned landlord who drummed high standards of bar service into him from day one. It remains an abiding pub influence. “It really is as easy to get it right as get it wrong.” he says. He has traveled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink and still devotedly looks after beer at local beer festivals.
His proper introduction to real ale was in Liverpool where he lived for nine years and he remains fond of everyday cooking bitters to this day and says he still misses his beloved Higsons Bitter like a strip torn from his heart. Since moving to Manchester over 20 years ago, he has been an active campaigner for real ale and is Chairman of his local CAMRA Branch and has been so for, again, over 20 years.
He began his blog, named after his local pub, the Tandle Hill Tavern, nearly five years ago and is now approaching his 1,000th post. His philosophy is to write about the beer world honestly and with opinion. “Blogs are, or rather should be, all about opinion” he says. He is a pub man through and through and likes nothing better than a few pints in the pub with friends. Cask conditioned pints of course.
Peter also says that hopefully you will realise his beers are chosen strictly for the desert island. He doesn’t actually include all his favourites, but with enough diversity and interest to give him a real choice on the island and says he thinks you’d need that. But sadly there wasn’t room for, a top quality Pilsener, or a Belgian wheat – Hoegaarden is his guilty secret – and if he had a top ten, he could probably have squeezed a few more styles in, but he supposes the island isn’t all about fun.”
Peter is a retired IT Project Manger and other interests include politics, travel (beer may well be involved) and European aspects of the Second World War.Tags: bitter, bloggers, CAMRA, Cantillon, gueze, hefeweizen, higsons, Porterhouse
January 26th, 2012Comment
60% of questions on University Challenge are unanswerable to me. Another 30% are there for the taking – Copernicus, Darwin, Tchaikovsky, Keats, all familiar names worth an educated guess. I’m being ambitious if I was so bold to say I actually know the answer to 10% of questions. So imagine my delight when the answer to a starter question was ‘beer’.
The fact it didn’t occur to me that the art of brewing might be the answer only spurned me on to achieve a full house of correct bonus answers (identifying brewing kit no less!). And then, this week, beer pops up again.
“What consumer organisation was formed in 1971 after four friends holidayed to Ireland?”
Four decades after the birth of CAMRA and the resurgence of real ale is not continuing but proliferating. Beer festivals suffer queues these days. Pubs might still be closing, but the good ones are thriving, adapting. Independent beer bars are expanding their portfolio, not reining it in. New breweries are popping up in cities where the art seemed dead. Real ale is helping. But brewers and drinkers are the driving force, and they are drinking great beer, not all of which meets CAMRA’s criteria for championing.
Beer is a product that’s developed over many centuries, from the inns of the early highways to the beer houses of the smog covered cities. It’s evolved from the syrup of malted barley, perfumed with hops, heather and hedgerow, and seen itself become darker, lighter, more hopped, less hopped, lagered, smoked, filtered and decocted.
Back in the early seventies craft beer was unheard of and kegged lager dominated an ailing pub landscape. That was before those unwitting friends came up with their famous idea to protect the cask beer they valued, a product threatened by the brewing conglomerates of the 1970s.
The 2010′s sit against a very different backdrop to the 1970′s that nurtured CAMRA: since then it’s become the UK’s largest single issue consumer group.
And there lies a potential issue with CAMRA’s issue. Central to the doctrine is just a single issue: real ale.
It’s an admirable issue indeed, alongside the other pillars of CAMRA: community pubs and consumer rights.
Is something missing though? Despite the fiscal fortunes of our over-loaned economies, beer might just be booming. 40 years on, does a single focus on real ale blinker beers most influential voice?
Many pubs and breweries sell excellent beers with excellent food and not all conform to CAMRA’s philosophy. Should those pubs be excluded from the Good Beer Guide? Should amazing tasting kegged pilsner from Ipswich – a million miles from the smoothflows or wannabe continental lagers of 40 years ago - be excluded from beer festivals or articles in BEER magazine? Should the talent of these brewers never feature in What’s Brewing?
Now hold on, but CAMRA does allow these things. Yes, is it not sometimes with reticence that CAMRA embrace things that don’t conform to the real ale requirements? The world beer bars at The Great British Beer Festival are eclectic to say the least, and encouraged not hampered by CAMRA. Yet still obsolete debates continue over keg vs. cask, bottled conditioned beer and the taxonomy of what beer can be defined by which specific term.
Ultimately CAMRA is based on a few founding principles: good beer, good pubs and ensuring that the craft of brewing doesn’t end up being a footnote in our history. Galvanised by its successes and its membership, CAMRA has the power to lobby for beer drinkers, pub goers and all the people who work in the related trades, regardless of their favourite beer style.
Is now the right time for CAMRA to revisit the original motivations behind their campaign? On the cusp of another recession, should CAMRA revisit its core pillars and extend its welcome to the diversity of brewing in the 21st century?
Or should they stand firm and say, ‘We are for real ale!”
Tags: campaign for real ale, CAMRA
We’ve little doubt that CAMRA is a good thing, but it would perhaps be a shame if the Campaign For The Revitalisation of Ale (as they were first known) missed the opportunity to preserve its real ale mandate whilst improving its overall purpose by becoming the chief campaigner for good beer, good pubs and the highest of standards throughout. Agree?
October 1st, 2010Beer Events
Beer brewing in the UK has been enjoying a renaissance of late. At least that’s what we’re told by the enthusiasts: from bloggers, brewers and drinkers alike. There has never been a better time to enjoy good quality, locally-brewed and ethically-sourced beer.
One of the best ways to put this cheery rhetoric to the test is that staple of the drinkers’ diary, the beer festival. One of the grandees of the scene is the CAMRA Kent Beer festival
Now into its 36th year and, judging by the amount of brewers in attendance (around 120, or so we were told), and the decent-sized crowds packing the bars, the UK beer industry must be in pretty decent shape. Kent beers were well-represented as you’d expect, ranging from the Mild, Star and Light ales of Goachers of Maidstone, through to the honest hoppy Gadd’s bitters of Ramsgate.
Once we’d negotiated the dusty pathways of Merton Farm, paid our £4 entrance, and collected our tokens from the CAMRA volunteers manning the glass station, we were off into the murk of the cowshed.
First up was a good half of British Bulldog (4.3% ABV) which had a good dark amber colour and long hoppy finish. Strong one that, and a couple too many could have seen us raiding the snacks before time. But we moved on through the crowds towards Goachers where a pint of Real Mild Ale (3.4% ABV) and a half of Gold Star (5.1% ABV) went down easier than a Portuguese centre-half. Good beers, enough malt in each to make them drinkable summer pints.
My companion was pining for the ‘Pink Girlie Bar’, an exclusive area dedicated to the first time real ale drinkers. The staff here were excellent and even though busy, were handing out tasters to the more ale-shy. A half of Little Sharpie (3.8% ABV) from Humpty Dumpty of Reedham was a flowery, hoppy treat while the Cascade Pale Ale (4.8% ABV) had enough bitter thump to satisfy even the most un-girly drinkers in attendance. Kent’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame of Faversham, were well-represented with five beers to try: pints of Master Brew (3.7% ABV) and my all time favourite Spitfire (4.5% ABV) took the evening to a sound finish.
Although the toilets remain questionable, as too the bands playing atop a dodgy rigging of scaffold, the true stars of the show were the micro-breweries. Millis Brewing Co of Gravesend and Swan of West Peckham were just two of the many small-scale brewers on display, and bucking the trend in this so-called age of austerity. Kent beer drinkers have never had it so good.
Tags: beer festival, CAMRA, canterbury, kent
Beer festival information:
Festival: Kent Beer Festival
Dates: 22nd – 24th July
Country: Merton Farm, Canterbury, UK
A nice piece about beer in a tabloid sized newspaper? Surely not.
Ok to be fair it’s this months ‘What’s Brewing’, but I love the story on page 10 about Martin Brunnschweiler.
More than a decade ago Martin went to visit his sister at her pub on the Isle of Man and ended up staying there to set up a brewery called Bushy’s. The paper is a bit hazy on the details (I’m intrigued as to whether he drank the pub dry and then set up because he was thirsty and what he left behind) but I like to think the Martin fell in love with the island, the pub, the atmosphere and the opportunity. His brewery has ties to the nuclear industry (and sounds like it could double up as a bunker should a Dr Strangelove armageddon arise) and the equipment is based on a headache inducing tower arrangement that requires a certain amount of agility from head brewer Curly (yes, Curly!).
The best I can do is that I have on two or more separate occasions walked into a pub and ended up 1) working behind the bar and 2) doing the dishes, but never quite made the leap to brewing.Tags: brewery, bushys, CAMRA, isle of man, Pubs & bars, whats brewing
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
…and I must first of all apologise for the lack of pictures to accompany this post. The reason is that I was not intending to ‘publicise’ what was initially going to be a quiet day out with my Mum and Dad. That is until we received shockingly different levels of service and quality of food at two Leeds eateries that inspired the Dickens theme for this post. So where did the weekend start…?
The weekend started well with the collection of my beerswap spoils. While I was posting I decided to contact Katie at Leeds Grub to see if she had any suggestions as to where I should take my parents for Sunday dinner. My Mum wanted to do some Xmas shopping so I needed somewhere in the City Centre but, as I don’t see them very often, I was wanting somewhere I could be sure was going to be good first time. Katie very kindly suggested one of the Leeds Brewery pubs which she told me, although she had never had a Sunday lunch, tend to do quality food on any day of the week.
It was with some irony then that the reason I turned up to meet my parents with a dry mouth and slight headache was the fact that the Cuthbert Broderick had had Leeds’ Midnight Bell as a guest on the Saturday night. With my CAMRA tokens they were only costing me £1.39 a pint. Wizard…. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: Beer Swap, CAMRA, leeds brewery, Leeds Grub, Roast Beef, Sunday Roast, The Midnight Bell
November 26th, 2009Comment
Last week saw a host of articles on lager, CAMRA and why the two don’t always have a harmonious relationship (see articles by Barm, Mark Dredge, Woolpack Dave, Tandleman & The Guardian).
The same week r’ Sam couldn’t quite work out if William’s Brothers Grozet was a lager or a beer, with conflicting online reviews and it being deceptively lager like for an ale.
It’s fitting that the lager debate and lots of lager chat surfaced on the week we unearthed a parody of our sites, real-lager-reviews.com, and actually the Guardian article that kicked much of this off was one of the ways we cottoned onto our spoofers (thanks to an innocuous comment on there by the Real Lager Reviews lads).
It seems the question of lager brings up some awkward discussions. CAMRA clearly don’t associate themselves with CO2, which rules out a lot of lagers, but it doesn’t fundamentally rule out lager per se.
Which leads us to what is a lager: what it is and why is it different? Read the rest of this entry »Tags: beer festival, beer writing, CAMRA, lager, saltaire, serving
On my way back from Nottingham today I stopped off in Newark-Upon-Trent to have a look around. I had accidentally driven through the town centre before and had always said I wanted to go back and have a proper look around, plus I wanted to stop in at the MileStone Brewery as I was passing. Unfortunately I had the car so was unable to drink but was confident that the historic brewing town would have something to offer a designated driver.
I parked up in Waitrose (free parking in the town centre – don’t get that everywhere!) and headed across the river towards the castle gardens. Although the Castle itself has seen better days, there is a small museum and tourist information centre in the gardens and, after a 10 minute briefing, I headed off into the town centre. Newark seeps history from it’s narrow streets and it isn’t just the beer related sites that are worthy of note. In the Market
Square, where there were a number of collectables stalls along with the usual fruit and veg traders, the place that most caught my eye was the G H Porter ‘provisions’ store – serving traditional cooked meats, pies and canned goods, as well as serving teas. Also of note was the town’s Shopping Arcade and the whole square is overlooked by the Buttermarket building, converted to house a number of boutiques and eateries as well as the town’s museum and art gallery.
Turning to more beer related sites of interest, the Market Square has the pictured 15th Century frontage, this building used to be The Old White Inn but is now home to a branch of the Nottingham Building Society. Also in the square is this picturesque Wychwood pub.
As I was driving this was the only pub I ventured into on the day and unfortunately the interior did not live up to the promise of the outside. However, as I did not have the time to go round all of the watering holes on offer (I will be arguing for a Real Ale Reviews group outing by train next time I get together with Fletch and Lanesy) I leave it CAMRA to sum up the drinking potential of the town.Tags: Brewing History, CAMRA, MileStone, Newark