Beer and Loathing in Bournemouth

Try everything once, except incest and Morris dancing. Wise words. It would be unfair of me to gently take the mickey out of CAMRA, its trappings and its members without actually attending the Big One, the annual members weekend and AGM.

Will people consider me the Anti-Christ for liking beers regardless of method of dispense? Will my CAMRA card be confiscated and destroyed if my beer preferences are outed? Will they get all evangelical and try to convert me to the Real path?

Trainbeer #1 is M&S/Arbor American Pale Ale. Maybe it’s the thrill of having a bottle of beer at 10.30 am but this is magnificent for a humble style. Superfresh, lemony and tropical. One of the listed ingredients is carbon dioxide.

Trainbeer #2 is M&S/Adnams White IPA. It’s another doosie! Is morning drinking the way forward? I’ve seen advocates of this my local park but they tend to favour white ciders over white IPAs. There’s added orange peel and coriander in this but also a, for me, beguiling sourness. Intended or not, I love it. Oh dear, carbon dioxide is an ingredient again.

Part of me wants to sit in the corner, observe and giggle inwardly, part of me feels that I really should engage, find out if I am genuinely wanted. The problem for lots of people in my position is that CAMRA is the game in town as far as consumer organisations promoting good beer is concerned.

Bournemouth is lovely in the sunshine and a salted caramel ice cream from Purbeck was just the ticket. This evening it’s down to recce the joint and a trip to Bournemouth Brewing Company.

To be continued…

Tetchy?

Beer writing is a broad canon. From professional journalists through enthusiastic bloggers to an ecelectic selection of one-liners on Facebook or Twitter. In all formats, some of it is informative, well researched and well written, some of it is not. Some of the work is paid for, some is not, and there is the peril of ‘full disclosure’. What it hasn’t been up to now is tetchy and ill-natured.

Exhibit 1: M.Lawrenson, no not that one. Just an ordinary guy who blogged about beer, past tense. A self-confessed, talented piss taker he seems to have upset the establishment or ABCDs as he calls them (Awesome Beer Communicator Dudes), from an unnamed but well-followed lady, to the ubiquitous Matt Curtis and the ever genial Martyn Cornell. I wish I had read some of the posts. Certainly Lawro (as I can’t sop thinking of him) does have a chip on both shoulders about his working class roots and being outside the beer establishment. Unfortunate because I have one small circle of friends that I only know through beer, to look at us you would wonder what we have in common. On the surface it appears that it may be a case of ‘you can give it but you can’t take it’. As he says, beer IS fun, alternative reasoned opinions should be welcome. So his decision to stop is sad.

Exhibit 2: Matt Curtis. Matt should have a T-shirt saying ‘why is it always me?’. No denying it, Matt is a fanboy for Beavertown, Camden (pre-‘sell out’ natch) et al. Initially he had lots of run-ins on account of his need to defend any bad word said against these breweries (who couldn’t stand up for themselves;). The exchanges with Stonch were forthright but I always thought there was underlying good humour. Now Matt is indignant that Duncan Sambrook (All Breweries Debating Champion 2016) has suggested he is anti-cask/pro-keg. I don’t follow this too closely but looking at Matt’s last three blog posts (Beavertown, Lost & Grounded, Cloudwater), his history of being peoples champion for Beavertown, Camden et al and the paid work which he does (I only know of stuff in the predominantly keg sector) then I would say it is fair comment. We do need more Matts though, everything is always wonderful, nothing too deep but he has boundless enthusiasm, introduces the subject to new audiences and is good for the beer industry in general. Good luck to him for turning a hobby into a professional job¬†too. However his indignation is misplaced.

Exhibit 3: Facebook. The UK Craft Beer Forum and the UK Craft Beer Network. One a splinter group of the other I believe. I’m seeing lots of posts from people new to the scene who having got derided for reviewing a beer that isn’t ‘craft’ decide to leave, that’s upsetting. Some of the stuff is well worth reading, including proper brewing industry insights from brewers themselves.

Maybe it’s a society thing. Maybe I am getting too deep and/or easily upset. I do think this general tetchiness is a newer phenomenon in the beer industry which until recently has been much more fun. A lot of it comes down the problem of grappling with the ‘what is craft?’ and the ‘is it quality or is it to my taste’ questions. But let’s all be civilised about it ūüôā

Bite Size Reflections on #EBBC15, Belgium and Bloggers

EBBC15badgeSo the dust settles on another European Beer Bloggers Conference and once again the first place to start is with a massive thanks to all the sponsors and Zephyr Adventures for a brilliant few days of generous hospitality, high quality beers, stimulating discussion and much revelry. It really wouldn’t be possible without them and the conference represents astounding value for money.

Much has been written as a result and a good place to catch up is the Facebook page. For now I’d just like to add some bite size reflections…

Quaint – Before and after the conference I’ve started to follow the sponsor breweries on Twitter, as you do. Several have clearly joined just recently, it’s a long time since I started following a world famous brewer who had only tweeted about 20 times with a few hundred followers. I guess we’ll have to tell them about Facebook soon. Or are we wasting our time? They have been successful enough without it.

They are family

They are family

Family – The Belgian Family Brewers were a major sponsor. They are family, they care.¬†No fast track entry scheme, 50 years it is. They will experiment, they will innovate – but not on you. Once they have got it right, then they will release it. Admirable imho. Some modern breweries make me feel like a guinea pig, they know some stuff won’t work, they don’t know which, are they real brewers?

Heritage РThe Belgian Brewers are a more inclusive group as the name suggests but there is still a massive thing about heritage. Although diminished from the numbers in their heyday they know they brew some of the most famous and iconic beers in the world. Why would you want to change that? Belgian traditions and heritage are such that anything new is viewed with healthy suspicion. It might be good but experimental does not necessarily equal good and consistent quality is paramount.

Bloggers – Quite a lot of introspection here. The British blogging scene certainly represents a bit of a love-in sometimes. No surprise when a fair percentage are doing it partly as a reason to get free beer and ‘access all areas’ invitations – and there’s nothing wrong with that. The real writers are a slightly different kettle of wort, but again, there is not much constructive criticism.¬†People trying to make a living (or a ligging) can’t afford to be too critical it seems.

Language – It was taken for granted that the whole conference was conducted solely in English. Yet the non-native speakers (viz, every Belgian brewer for starters) consistently had impeccable colloquial English. Bravo. I am ashamed of myself.

Belgian Beer & Food – Paul Walsh, the editor moderated several of the talks and Brendan Kearney (sorry for the omission of your crazy Irish accents). Proper journalism. Asking probing questions, not stopping until answers were given instead of lapping up the marketing PR along with the free samples. There is a big gap in the UK market for something like this in my humble opinion. If you are travelling to Belgium or just interested in keeping up to date with the Belgian beer scene this mag is indispensible.

Belgian beers – It’s all been said and it’s all good. I feel slightly sorry for Pilsner Urquell, they bought a lovely fresh tank of beer which we didn’t make a big enough dent in – all eager to go exploring and pub crawling Brussels.

Innovation – We saw dry hopped beers, we saw saison in cans, we saw Cantillon in disposable kegs, we saw a brewer encouraging us to blend his beers in the glass, we saw popular old beers that had been revived. We also saw history, tradition and the heritage of some of the world’s great beers, beers that people try to copy everywhere in the world. We didn’t see any experimental brews on sale that hadn’t been fully developed, or brewers with a ‘we’ve brewed it so we might as well sell it’ attitude.

The Wars – Don’t mention them. Older British brewers should feel incredibly lucky that their businesses and breweries and kit were not destroyed by invading armies. Mentioned several times this is clearly a big factor in the reduction of Belgian breweries and the renaissant state of the industry for the last 40 years.

Beer Tourism¬†– Major sponsors included Visit Flanders and other Belgian tourist groups. They know what they’ve got. I’ve never seen any tourist board activity of this sort in the UK. Certainly in Surrey you can’t even get a brown road sign pointing to your brewery.

It’s going to be a hard act to follow.

I’ve sat on these thoughts so long that I’ve forgotten my other incisive comments. The end.

European Beer Bloggers Conference 2015, why wouldn’t you?

EBBC15badgeOr #EBBC15 as we like to call it. It is beyond me why so few attend this. Not that it is badly attended by any means.¬†Zephyr Adventures are the organisers, they are enthusiastic as only Americans can be and responsive. For a relatively small sum, occasionally subsidised with bursaries, they put on a fantastic agenda of blogging related stuff, food, entertainment and most of all, FREE BEER and lots of it. Of course this is not done without generous sponsorship from brewers, large and small for whom everyone is grateful (in particular that’s you Vaclav, from Pilsner Urquell).

And this year it’s in BELGIUM. Enough said.

The conference aspect is not arduous and certainly interesting. The beer drinking aspect is arduous, but hey, we’re not afraid of hard work are we? I’ve recounted before my first insight prior to my first conference when I found somebody (yes, you Steve)organising the pre-pub crawl pub crawl. Then a typical day at conference is the expo (free beer samples), keynote address (and toast), some talks (with relevant beer to accompany them), reception (various free beer), dinner (free beer) and post dinner entertainment or pub crawl (beer, often free).

We can be an introspective lot us beer bloggers and there are various reasons why people blog. The idea of getting free beer in the post to review is appealing to many, for others it is a personality trait or a wish to be in the in-crowd, some are real writers, some drift into it. According to one survey most don’t do it for money though I suspect that most would like to unless they have high paid jobs – you are not going to earn much money out of this. Some luminaries have¬†carved a deservedly great career from humble blog beginnings. But surely whatever your motives, the Beer Bloggers Conference is first thing in the diary?

And to all the above, why not? Beer is fun. Beer is unpretentious. Beer is also surprisingly complex. Any activity where you get to drink a bit more beer, possibly at less expense and where you have the opportunity to earn a bit of money is great.

If you blog, if you have thought about starting a blog, then do it. Come to the European Beer Bloggers Conference 2015.

 

European Beer Bloggers Conference 2015, as good a reason as any.

EBBC15badgeRich has been encouraging me to contribute to intoxicated.me.uk for some time now and while I may or may not have something to add the almost saturated world of beer blogging, I, frankly haven’t had the time or inclination to even bother. (Rich: Believe me he has plenty to add, now whether you want to hear it or not…)

Recently,¬†Boak and Bailey posted about blogging with a concise dos and don’ts which I read with interest, you know ‘cos I could be a beer blogger, right? In the comments, however, amid the practical tips and words of encouragement was this from Alan on the Boak & Bailley blog¬† “(4) if you are starting out now, you are too late. There is little room left. ”
Thanks Alan.

So there it is, why bother? Don’t bother. Someone’s already written about what you’re thinking about, better and funnier and classier. (Rich: This is not the attitude that built the Empire but then he’s not English).

And there’s an element of truth, even experienced beer bloggers have gone fallow, lured by the chance to write glossy hardback beer porn, big list book-a-zines(?), or fan-boy faux press release type affairs. (Rich: And who can blame them. Even the chance to receive free beer in the post has its allure.)

In recent¬†months, someone has re-started their blog, whom I’ve met, respect and believe they can contribute, with a series of posts, aptly called Reasons to be (Beer) Blogging.

Eight¬†reasons so far and everyone valid, especially slagging off CAMRA, as we’re inclined to do here at Intoxicated. And the free beer. When does the free beer start?

However, Steve was drawn back to blogging for the same reason that I have been drawn into blogging. The Beer Bloggers Conference!

Rich has been to the last two in Edinburgh and Dublin respectively and thoroughly enjoyed himself and met some very nice people, and hey, I like enjoying myself and meeting nice people but I can do that in the Bexleyheath ‘Spoons. (Rich: Better, funnier and classier at the Beer Bloggers Conference though.)

No, what Beer Justice Steve and I want to do, is something I have never done before. Go to Belgium. Drink Belgian beer. Quite a lot of excellent Belgian beer actually. 

And¬†reading the agenda which splendidly lists just some of the beers to be featured at meals and beyond, there’ll be the¬†best and biggest names in Belgian beers and breweries and an opportunity to speak to their brewers and learn more about how¬†their industry works especially under the shadow of the global brands and macrobrewers.

I’m excited and feel very lucky to have the chance to go and I may even improve on my beer blogging.

Shep

Subversion from within?

The quarterly ‘Beer’ magazine from CAMRA definitely comes under the ‘quite

Sleeper?

Sleeper?

interesting’ tag, Des de Moor is a regular contributor. I think he is a ‘sleeper’ slowly being bought to life to subvert CAMRA from within.

This month Des is talking about London’s bottle conditioned beers and with a nod to guards old (Fuller’s) and young (Kernel) he then goes on to mention to name five beers in different styles from Partizan, Pressure Drop, Brixton, Hammerton and Anspach & Hobday. Well known breweries to London beer enthusiasts but hardly breweries that are discussed in CAMRA publications at length.

I long for the day when Kernel proudly put the CAMRA Real Ale In a Bottle (RAIB) on their labels and Pressure Drop win awards at the GBBF.

Until then how many CAMRA members have heard of, let alone tried these breweries beers. Might they be lured in? Do they know that these breweries use carbon dioxide in industrial (as opposed to craft ūüėČ amounts? I think Des is a sleeper, quietly coming to life.

Des has a great website and it’s erudite stuff. I would encourage anyone to read it.¬†How strange that it carries an advert for dating Russian women?

And one final thought, which demonstrates what bizarre tangents I go off on sometimes. If CAMRA was a fascist organisation with genocidal tendencies, would they use carbon dioxide in their gas chambers? I like to think they would.