Tuesday, 27 April 2010

100th Post

My one hundreth post, so I thought I'd do a piece on IPA's.
I bottled some Motley Brew and brought it home yesterday, possibly the last time (this year) that i'll drink it. I say this year because I am delighted to say that Nick and his team at Otley Brewing decided to make it a permanent on their seasonal range, albeit with the slightly lower abv of 5.5%.
I bought a couple of bottles of Punk IPA from Sainsbury's on Sunday because Lucille and I had a couple of friends round for lunch and it was possibly the most inspiring choice in their beer range.
So why not compare the two? They are two of my favourite breweries after all and they are very similar beers too.
First of all Motley : it's now 5.5% abv but you wouldn't guess it, it does taste more like 6-6.5%. It was bottled by hand from the tap yesterday into a flip-top bottle to try and keep it as fresh as possible but it was still lacking in condition. The tasting notes are pretty much the same as they were in December when we launched it at The Rake, I wrote about the beer here, the only difference being the abv which I now believe makes it an IPA not a double IPA. There's less of the instant floral hit of the pacific gem hops but it's still there, there's slightly less of the Chinook hops that bittered it up but they're still there, it's the same beer made from the same recipe and it's still a fantastic beer in my lowly opinion.
The Punk IPA : It's 6% abv, it's a bottle and the carbonation really helps bring out the flavour, there's a bitterness that's unmistakeably Brewdog. Now I don't want to talk about this beer without first telling you about the Keg we had at The Rake recently, it's actually convinced me that Brewdog have changed the hops that they used in the brew, is this true? well only Brewdog can say I guess, but my taste buds were given a tropical treat that took me far away to an island where I could have laid in the sun sipping it all day long. There was pineapple and lychees coming through and it was immensely drinkable.
Back to the bottle, it's slightly harder work to drink because there's that Brewdog bitterness back again that ruthlessly attacks the taste buds, it's an agressive beer, it says so on the label, it must be true then!
Which is better? well, you know that's completely subjective and you good folks can make up your own minds.

Anchor Brewery Sold

I read twitter with very tired eyes this morning as news filtered through over here that Anchor Brewing had been sold. Initially I was very concerned for one of my favourite American brands until I read that it was the Griffin Group(headed up by Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio) that had bought it and I read the reassuring language of Keith Greggor on the BA blog, one of the outlets for releasing the news.
“Since 1896, Anchor Brewing Company has been an icon of San Francisco’s history and culture,” stated Griffin’s Founding Partner, Keith Greggor, “I am honored to bring Anchor Brewing Company into our family of craft beers and artisanal spirits through establishing Anchor Brewers & Distillers, LLC.”
It's also reassuring to know that Fritz Maytag has stayed on as Chairman Emeritus, all too often takeovers are a way of making sweeping changes and getting rid of the old guard, not this time apparently.
I also happen to think that there would probably be an old fashioned lynching of The Griffin Group by beer geeks from across the planet if they tried breaking down one of craft brewing's most iconic brands. So fear not, no need for pitch forks, it looks like my honeymoon trip to San Francisco next month isn't tainted after all. Phew!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

School Report for Taylors : Must try Harder

My new local in Streatham is Taylors, an ex-Irish pub(O'Niells I think) that now has gone the way of the high street shitty pub. The Draught beer range consists of...Guinness, Guinness Extra Cold, Fosters, Kronenbourg, Strongbow and Youngs Ordinary. There are a couple of decent beers in the fridge but nothing particularly interesting, Leffe Blond and Hoegaarden.
If you read this blog regularly you'll know that my fall back beer of choice is Guinness, I don't care which one, they taste the same to me(IE inoffensive, you can't fuck them up without REALLY trying hard). I have nothing against Wells/Youngs Ordinary, in fact in my opinion that particular beer has benefited from moving from Wandsworth, but the fact is that I have NEVER seen anyone order the Youngs in Taylors means that I for one will never be brave enough to do so.
I recently said in an interview that pubs need to try harder to keep the punters interested, I meant it too, Lazy managers and landlords are costing them their businesses and basically giving way to big pubco's who have the buying power to sustain interest in their offer. I meet my best man, his wife and my soon-to-be-wife in Taylors simply because it is close to our houses, if a manager with a bit of vision was to open somewhere in Streatham, we would probably drink there instead.
I'm having a moan today because the A-Board outside Taylors clearly states that they serve Sunday Roasts, great, they have a kitchen I thought, as my first beer post-birthday needed some food to soak it up. I go to the bar, I ask for a pint of Guinness(offered the choice of extra cold or normal, this time I went for normal)here's how the next bit of the conversation panned out...
Me : do you serve sandwiches?
Barmaid : No the kitchen will be open soon
Me : great, what time?
Barmaid : I don't know, in two or three weeks.
Two or three weeks!!!!!!! Even by the shittiest service standards that's 'a bit of a wait' for a sarnie!
For the manager/owner/operator of Taylors, if you don't have a kitchen, take the fucking A-Board in advertising it! Try a little bit harder please, don't let your business give way to your apathy, if you're willing to let that happen why are you doing it?
I went and sat down nursing a pint of Guinness and a packet of Walkers BBQ Rib flavoured crisps....rubbish!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Beer of the day #11

For the sake of keeping the 'little grey cells' working I have chosen a great beer of the day today, in fact I may even drink it on my birthday tomorrow too!
Odells IPA is simply a fantastic beer, here's why...
It pours bright orange with a lovely natural haze to it and the head is a lovely off-white colour. The ABV is 7% which means it's going to pack the punch I want to get me woken up and the packaging is superb. Simple, classic pastels, nice.
Yeah but what does it taste like? I hear you say, well on the nose I've got citrus, I've got C-Hops coming out of my ears, marvellous, yeah but what does it TASTE like??
There's Chinook(if I remember my C-Hops correctly) there's orange, there's more c-hops and it's beautifully bitter, not overpoweringly so but more gently than the nose gives away, it's smooth and drinkable, I expect no less as I have have had this before and enjoyed it immensely then. This little gem will do very nicely thank you, not bad for the last beer of my 36th year! Cheers!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Brooklyn Lager

There have been rumours for some time now that Brooklyn Brewery was going to finally make it across the pond to us on draught. I'm very happy to announce that having watched with envy as Brooklyn Lager was launched in Northbar last week we at The Rake have the pleasure of launching Brooklyn Lager 'down south'.
What's the beer like? Well it's made with American two row malts, Hallertauer, Mittelfrueh, Vanguard and Cascade hops. It's 5.2% abv which means if you have a pint of it, it'll be 2.95 units. It's made in the Vienna style and pours amber coloured with a really good, clean white head. The Nose is quite biscuity with hints of Honey, Malt and hops.
The taste is really something else for a lager, it's bitter, not particularly dry but there's tonnes of hop content here to make the lager totally drinkable, this is probably due to the dry hopping technique that they've used to create the 'Vienna style'. However they have created this superb Amber Lager it's going to be a firm favourite where ever you find it on draught from now on.
It will be on the bar at The Rake from 5pm tomorrow(Thursday) and I hope to see you at The Rake for what promises to be a great night of Lager drinking!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Play on Pompey...

Many years ago, my Grandad took me to my first football match. The two teams involved were playing in what was the old second division. I was probably too young to know who I was supporting in that game or why but I supported the away team on that day.
Recent circumstances have changed their fortunes dramatically. One is now one of the richest clubs in the world and one has recently gone into administration and been relegated from the premiership.
When I was at primary school I supported Chelsea but never went to a match. Then my Godparents started taking me to Plough Lane to watch Wimbledon when I was about 12 or 13 years old and I was hooked, I signed up as a member of The Crazy Gang. Now as a 30 something AFC Wimbledon fan (Milton Keynes Dons are traitors to football!) I follow The Dons from their position in the Conference.
Now that I have grown up and know what it is to support a team but I found myself gripped to the tellybox this afternoon watching Portsmouth play Tottenham Hotspur in the Semi-Final of the FA Cup hoping like hell Pompey could pull off the seemingly only imaginable. They did, 2-0, the result is one that people will talk about for a while with the romance of the cup once again making the FA Cup one of the best club competitions in the world. Portsmouth were relegated yesterday without kicking a ball and I was very disappointed for them and my now dead Grandad, they have also gone into administration which condemned them to the championship and will ultimately lead to the dismantling of a football team and again I was deeply saddened by this both for my Grandad and the Pompey fans who are some of the best in football. It's is a shame that financial mismanagement and the spiralling cost of players wages are bringing football to it's knees and not slowly any more either.
I only follow Portsmouth fondly now as it's with them that I had my first taste of real football and that first football memory is one of the best I will ever have, it's also a way of remembering my Grandad, one of the most gentle people I have ever met and I miss him a lot on days like today but I have chosen my colours, I have chosen my team and I have enjoyed nearly every minute of every game I've ever been to, whether we've won, lost or drawn, I am however, not ashamed to say there were tears of joy in my eyes when the final whistle went this afternoon.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Beer of the day #10

Todays beer of the day is a light, refreshing pale ale from Sheffield.
Crown Brewery's Hillsborough Pale Ale or HPA has the Hop character to keep your thirst quenched from the start to the end of your pint.
It is one of Stuart Ross's (pictured) best beers in my lowly opinion, right up there with brews such as Dark Star Hophead and Thornbridge Jaipur.
I only have one cask left and it's on the bar now so by all means come and prove me wrong, form your own opinion.
There are other Crown Brewery beers on the bar too such as Ring of Fire and the Wheat Beer, I've waited since January to get them to The Rake and Stu's works of art are now on tap so get yourself a Crown and revel in all it's regal greatness!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Extreme Pub Management

Just a quick post before I go and tackle the cellar again on my day off.
I've been without an Deputy manager for about a month now because as a lot of you are aware my now former Deputy Manager, Tom 'The Cad' Cadden left The Rake to become a sales rep for Brewdog. It has left me 'holding the baby' for want of a better phrase. This is something I am happy to do whilst I wait for my next Deputy Manager to start, it is my bar after all. It has left me doing a lot of hours for a few weeks though, something that every pub and bar manager does everywhere. Now whilst I accept that this happens from time to time, this time it has been rather harder than usual, with 6 day weeks on the cards until the end of April the Easter hiatus was very, very gratefully pounced upon. It also got me thinking about the hundreds or thousands of people who do the same job as myself in the industry, getting exploited by the big pub cos of the UK.
I am in a very privileged position to get paid appropriately for my job which I very much enjoy but there are loads of people out there who are not.
This is something that happens a lot, the big company will train you up and leave you to it, even if you aren't being properly paid to do your job.
It's one of the ways that they save money on staff, they'll keep paying an assistant as an assistant even though they are doing the job of the manager. Take my new Deputy Manager for instance, according to the same pubco I left, he's good enough to do a six month holding relief but not good enough to get his own pub in one of their brands? What sort of sense does that make? None to me. I happen to think a bit differently and am handing him an opportunity to progress again. This happens in many companies and they'll bang on and on about how they have to keep their key staff but then shaft them. I'm all for doing long hours when you're learning something, it gives you a perspective that not many young people have nowadays, gives you a work ethic and a if you're the right person it will help you build your business, but doing it for months at a time is unnacceptable and these pubcos are getting away with murder.
Lets look at some of the Working Time Directives...What are they and how do they affect the worker and their break requirements/rest days?
A minimum daily consecutive rest period of 11 hours - Hohoho, If you're a pub manager this really doesn't apply.
A minimum rest break of 20 minutes when the working day exceeds six hours, fair enough and my staff get half an hour.
A minimum rest period of 24 hours in each seven day period (or 48 hours in 14 days) I can say I just about get this but come my day off I am left lying in bed almost unable to do anything constructive, God only knows how the missus-to-be is putting up with me at the moment.
A minimum of four weeks' paid annual leave - yep this is good but how many assistants and managers work through the year not using up all the leave they are entitled to? Lots I'll wager, I used to be one of them!
A maximum of eight hours' work in any 24 hours for night workers in stressful job - What exactly constitutes a stressful job? Nurses? Firefighters? Police? Teachers? Borough Market security guards?

I would also like to make another point at this juncture and it could be construed as a bit sinister.
My point is that you are given the option of signing out of the Working Time Directive by companies(not just pubco's either). But for pubco's it can work slightly differently, if you don't opt out you will almost certainly never get a pub of your own, they won't see you as being serious about the job, or they will see you as a problem manager who makes a fuss about the hours they do. Either way you're screwed.

Now I'm not trying to incite riot or a wave of strikes by disgruntled pub managers but it might be amusing to see what people did on a Friday night without the option of the pub open! I imagine THAT might incite a riot!
So what's my point? I guess I'm just saying I'm tired, I only have until the end of this month to cope with my tiredness then my new Deputy Manager starts and does most of the weekends until the middle of June when I get back from my honeymoon, swings and roundabouts I suppose, the fact that I've had a lie-in today(woke up at 8.30!) has helped a bit and I've been able to finish a post I started on Easter Monday.
I did also want to make the point about pubco's not treating their staff properly. Running a business IS about the bottom line but it's also about the people that work in that business for you, you the boss and you the punter. What's the solution then? Have area managers who have actually RUN pubs for a living, not some twit just out university who hasn't got a clue about life let alone work, that would be a start.
Make opting out of the Working Time Directive illegal? That would just cause loads of problems for the people who do freelance work.
Until then it will be a loophole that big companies will be happy to exploit and exploit they will.
So, just a quick post then! Have a great Sunday people!

(Pic..Glyn tackles the cellar again!)