Friday, 18 December 2015

Bargain Supermarket Christmas Beer Roundup

Winter is a good season for beer. The long nights give us an excuse to crack a bottle at half four, the coldness outside gives us cause to hammer dark and warming ales, and the fear that Krampus will come and eat us in the night for being naughty drives us to higher and higher peaks of alcoholic excess. The budget supermarkets are always hit by a wave of seasonal, spicy, sometimes pretty tacky beers this time of year, and since the big day is a week down the line, here’s four of them. Of varying quality.

Very varying quality.


Saturday, 5 December 2015

The Good, The Bad, and The Thrifty

Few phrases in the English language can send an online forum about craft beer into total chaotic meltdown quicker than “B&M Bargains haul”. Yet here we are, because Christmas is coming and festive austerity is biting. It’s cheap beers from here until the New Year for this reporter, and here’s three of them of drastically varying quality.

Simmer down and strap in because tonight I’m drinking the Good, the Bad and the Thrifty. In that order.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Fake Science, Drunkbaiting and Fundraising: The Dryathlon is Upon Us

Rarely have I written, spiked, deleted, and rewritten an entry to this degree. I started writing about this very emotive topic back in January and almost hit “publish” but pulled it at the last minute. But now, I think, is as good a time as any to talk about the attempts by charities to stop us drinking.

Previous iterations of this entry featured furious spleen-venting about the September Dryathlon, Sober October, Dryvember and Dry January, in which I furiously popped off shots at these institutions, and they ran LONG. One of them was over 3,000 words. Nobody needs to read all that bile.

I think it’s weird to push abstinence from alcohol as a mitzvah while dodging the fact that spending a third of a year “dry” is probably going to have a detrimental effect on the hospitality and drinks industry. The whole movement reminds me of the scene from the film Clerks, when a chewing gum salesman whips up a crowd into throwing cigarettes at the “cancer merchant” running the till. These drives towards fundraising self-punishment (broken up from a clear run by December, because of course Jesus still wants us to get pissed) don’t acknowledge the fact that they’re taking money out of peoples’ pockets. Because, hey, alcohol gives you cancer, right?

This, though, isn’t my main beef with these movements.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Curlew's Rescue



I cut my journalistic teeth writing for a local red-top, and I never really lost the fixation on getting exclusives that drives the tabloid press.

That's why I'm drinking alone on a sunny Bank Holiday Sunday, because the formidable Allendale brewery has launched a new beer at its tap takeover at the Shiremoor House Farm pub. I love  getting a 'first', me. And I'm confident I'm getting the scoop on Curlew's Rescue, a beer brewed  to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UK's mountain rescue service.

That's my excuse, anyway.

In The Future, There Will Be Robots

"Are you being served, mate?" asks the bartender. Its voice is mundanity and averageness forged into a sound; words spoken in a Nowhere accent, understandable to any English speaker yet totally removed from any natural accent. Perfect synthetic dullness.

The robot calls me "mate" because it's analysed my body mass, height and stance. It processed my gait as I approached and knows without a doubt that I'm male. A bartender in a fancier joint would call me "sir".

I order a drink and the bartender pours it for me. It looks down at the tap as it pours, and I know this is all for show, coded into its soul to make it look a little more human. It doesn't need to see what it's doing. It could pour a beer blindfolded. Its ancestral prototype probably did back when they were trying to sell it to the hospitality industry.

It asks me if that's everything. As I hand over my cash it quickly and internally checks Accuweather, and asks me if it's still raining out there, as if it's a flesh and blood thing concerned about finishing its shift and stepping out into the wet. As if it ever leaves the bar. As if it won't eventually die here, switched off and shipped out in a box when the new models roll out.

As if it cares.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Cave Creek Chili Beer

Cerveceria Mexicana


We’re putting an awful lot of things into beer these days. I thought the Add Shit To Cheap Booze movement had hit its peak with the double whammy of Cubanisto rum beer and Manzana Loca cider-and-tequila-monstrosity hitting the big pub chains simultaneously last summer, but it keeps on happening. Fosters has recently revealed its Fosters Rocks line of lagers with rum jammed into them, with a name that pretty much BEGS to be zinged around into “Fosters Sucks”. The supervillains behind Dead Crow Bourbon Flavoured Beer (please add your own pithy speech marks as required) recently launched a one with rum in it. I bet it’s not good.

Leave it to B&M Bargains, a UK chain of shops which sells beers ranging dramatically from the divine to the 100% profane, to sell a beer that brutally and simplistically trumps the current scrabble to stick stuff in beer and sell it. Leave it to B&M Bargains to sell a bottle of lager with a fucking chili in it, for 69p.

Leave it to me to drink it, just in case it’s poisonous.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Metropolis India Black Ale

Vibrant Forest Brewery


From out of its label, Vibrant Forest’s Metropolis murmurs promise. The curvaceous architecture, the Art Deco lettering, and the ominous blue-blackness of bottle and label are all suggestive of a drink that characters in Dark City might get quietly loaded on as Jennifer Connelly huskily croons at them.

Metropolis India Black Ale looms. It threatens. It slowly and meticulously cracks each individual knuckle while maintaining the hardest of eye contact. This black beer portends a beer noir experience, just from the look of it.

When the bottle is opened, however, stuff gets wild and things spin sharply away from rain-soaked noir cool.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Guinness Golden Ale

“I got to feeling like a machine. And that’s no way to feel”
- Shaft.
- John Shaft.
- (And we can dig it.)

I haven’t blogged in MONTHS. I’m tired all the time from work and running a house, which is pretty shit, and I haven’t really been “on the clock” for my weekend beery adventures, although I’ve been a pretty earnest and possibly annoying Instagrammer of beer.  This weekend though I’ve managed to stay awake long enough to drink and write about the new Guinness Golden Ale, a couple of bottles of which the brewery posted to me.

But before that, I just want to draw a line under something I covered a couple of months ago.

The Office public house in Morpeth has won its battle with the council, and will remain open! I really doubt my posts about it had any effect at all but I’m glad that I could help champion the cause and that I could trash the “farewell to The Office” article I’d idly started drafting. Everyone should go and drink there right now.

Now that you’re back from the pub, prepare for a blisteringly hot take on Guinness Golden Ale, and let’s begin it with a word from The Man on The Street.

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Night at the Office Again. And a Very Nasty Complaint Letter

It’s November 2001. I’m out on the megalash in Morpeth for a college friend’s birthday. There was meant to be a million people coming out but it’s just me, the birthday girl and two others. We’ve been drinking at a bar called The Bank. It sells two bottles of wine for a fiver and one of my comrades started the night off by taking advantage of this offer, sitting on the floor and, beanie hat pulled down over his eyes, straight up inhaling two bottles of cheap red.

The night ends with my trainers covered with the stomach contents of a newly-minted 18 year old and the oldest member of the team (mid 30s, should know better, etc) trying to get in a fist fight with a moving pickup truck.

Morpeth used to be WILD.

Friday, 24 April 2015

A Night At The Office


The broadly-grinning gentleman clonks his empty pint glass down on the bar.

"- that was the best pint I have had in. My. Entire. Life."

I've been overheard identifying myself as a beer writer to the landlord of The Office, Morpeth's newest and (sadly) most controversial drinking establishment. I've been made.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

A Short Article About Hats

Having taken legal counselling on the matter of George Galloway’s tweets towards Bradford Brewery I have written this short article about hats.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Brewed the Hard Way, Marketed the Vicious Way

“This is beer for people who like to drink beer brewed the hard way”.

Well thank you, Anheuser-Busch.

The Budweiser Super Bowl ad is sixty seconds of bitter celluloid, in which the brewing giant licks shots at people who drink, well, any beer other than Bud, it seems. But especially craft beer hipsters. People who “dissect” beer, and who “sip... peach pumpkin ale”. People who don’t drink beer brewed “the hard way”, whatever that means.

I wonder what kind of hardships one of the world’s largest brewing concerns faces on a daily basis. AB-InBev, the brewing behemoth of which Anheuser-Busch is a component, has a twenty five percent share of the world’s beer market. I seriously doubt any of the top kicks of the AB-InBev corporate pyramid ever worry about bailiffs showing up at the door, or have to make the hard decision to change from branded to generic cola on their weekly shops. But, whatever, brewed the hard way. Moving on.