Friday 25 December 2009

Beer Trek, Merry Christmas

OK so the presents are open, telly's not on yet but the drinking has commenced. After a great closing down party at The Rake, where we closed at 4pm and had a party for some of the regulars, all the Utobeer staff and a couple of traders who decided to stay. I have to ask a question at this point though as he disappeared halfway through proceedings, has anyone seen Rich today?
I seem to have a Star Trek themed Christmas this year, so far I have received, Star Trek cuff links(I will be wearing them on my wedding day in may), Star Trek Socks in three colours, and a Star Trek jumbo Mug and keyring. Very cool, all of them!
Fave prezzie so far is a fight between the cuff links and a watch that Lucille gave me.
This blog is called Rabid About Beer though not Rabid about Christmas so here it is first Christmas beer of the day (drumroll.....) Taras Boubla from Brasserie de la Senne Brewery in Belgium, a hoppy ale with citrus style bitterness, fantastic for starting off the day with.
Which leaves me just say have a restful, peaceful and happy Christmas this year folks. All the best.

Monday 21 December 2009

Dear Boris

Dear Boris,
It was lovely in London today, all snowy and white. Then I tried getting home. I finally lost patience waiting for a 48 bus to turn up at London Bridge after an hour of waiting so I started walking. I live in Hackney Central, it's a long way when you have a back pack full of lovely beer and a laptop.
Luckily once on London Bridge itself I was able to hail a cab and thankfully got in from the freezing cold temperatures and now slushy ice all over the pavement.
The roads were packed (even though there were no buses to be seen) and the journey took three times longer than usual. Once we got to the vicinity of Hackney I told the driver to let me out and I walked the last mile, this was the quickest part of my journey.
Now, I've lived in London all my life and I have never known the transport system be so totally defenceless once it snows. Yes, historically there have always been cancellations and delays but never this bad and this city is the CAPITAL, it should be able to cope by now should it not?
Please inform your constituents when you feel the appropriate time will be to finally get this city's transport links up to the standards it's inhabitants deserve.
I dread to think what will happen in 2012 when the city will be under the spotlight of the entire world.
I for one will be getting out of London in 2012 for the duration of the Olympics if you and your administration cannot get this situation under control. I also know many people who have the same thinking.
Yours Sincerely

Friday 18 December 2009

2009 a decent enough vintage

There seems to be a few pieces being written about the beer world in 2009, well I'm going to give my version of 2009. My reason for doing this is to try and spot things that I'm quite proud of and things that I hope to do better on in 2010, as I write I'm not entirely sure that I'm going to publish this post.
This isn't going to just be about beer & brewing, it's going to be a bit more personal so take from it what you will.
I guess the first real high point of 2009 came just after the first proper low point. The low point was having to get rid of one of the staff, for those of you that don't know about it, all you have to know is that despite my bravado, I don't enjoy sacking people, it's not nice and it only happens when a place has been reached that you can't come back from.
The high note came very soon after, almost exactly a month in fact, it was my first beer festival, one that I was given the idea for but was charged with the responsibility of organising and making sure it occurred smoothly. The Welsh Beer Festival at The Rake went off pretty much without a hitch, there were of course things that we learned but the beers we had on offer, the staff enthusiasm for something we'd never attempted before and the friends I've made since then have really stayed with me all year round. It was the first big event at The Rake, really the first time I'd got to gauge just how I was doing as a bar manager, just what sort of job was I doing? well...we had the busiest week since I joined on September 1st 2008 and the feedback was fantastic, I think it helped define me as a manager, proved to myself that I could do the job. Honourable mention for this has to go to the staff involved as well, they worked their arses off to help set it up and of course I couldn't have done it without them.
The next great thing to happen in my 2009 was my best mate getting married, totally personal thing but I was so proud to watch him get hitched.
Another personal highlight was the new Star Trek film - take it as you find it but I'm a Trek fan and I loved it.
Top 5 Beer highlights in no particular order...
1) Brewdog Tokyo* - Great launch at The Rake
2) Coney Island Albino Python
3) Motley Brew (beer tastes so much better when you brew it yourself).
4) Welsh beer Festival at The Rake
5) Rogue Imperial IPA
honourable mention goes to Tom's Lambic Festival at The Rake and surprisingly(for me anyway) St Peters Grapefruit beer (on cask) this beer is great I was truly shocked.

Top 5 beer lows, again, in no particular order...
1) Brewdog getting their own beer banned
2) Nanny State (Guys if you're going to make gimmick beers even McDonalds throw in a free toy!)
3) Almost constant blame on the beer trade for all health and social problems.
4) Once a year drinkers (again), I always look back and want to ask them why they feel it necessary to act like idiots.
5) Holsten Pils - read my last blog to find out why.
dishonourable discharge would have to go to (drum roll.....) do you know what? fuck it! it's Christmas, I didn't start blogging to bitch about people.

Business-wise, The Rake, like many pubs & bars has seen a huge increase in 'cask beer' sales, for most of the year the cask sales have outstripped my Veltins sales by about 2 pints to 1. I see this as a great sign for the industry, craft brewing in Britain is exploding and Brewers like Brewdog, Otley and Harviestoun are really leading the way with their innovation and I see my customers(and myself) relishing each new brew that these guys come up with and it makes me smile.
I introduced the 3rd of a pint as standard at The Rake, it's working well and I would encourage all pubs to at least have the option available.
The second festival we had at The Rake was Toms Lambic Festival in November, as far as we know it was the first time anywhere in the UK had done something like this, for a very challenging style the festival was successful and it's something he's going to do again.
One thing I really love about my job is the opportunities we get to showcase new beers we've had a few in the 16 months I've been at The Rake here are a few that have made their London debuts at The Rake...
Brewdog Rake Raspberry Imperial Stout
Brewdog Zephyr
Brewdog Tokyo*
Otley 06
Motley Brew
Otley 11/138
Yes there's only 2 breweries there and there are other beers on the list but frankly these are two of my favourite breweries and I've worked closely with both of them to make sure that their beers are presented to the public in the correct manner.
Another highlight has been working with my friend Melissa Cole on the Lovebeer side of the business, I've known Melissa since my days at the Jolly Gardners in Putney and she's someone I have a lot of time and respect for. The Lovebeer tastings have been, for me at least, eye opening, informative and a great way of gaining new friends and meeting various brewers from around the Britain and indeed the world!
There also has to be a mention for the Brewers wall, whenever we get a professional brewer come in, even for a quick beer, if they haven't signed the wall I give them a pen and tell them to write something.

So, looking forward to 2010 what can I see ahead and hope for? Well in the first week of March we once again have a Welsh Beer Festival, expect some really special brews. I'm hoping to get to the Extreme Beer Festival in Boston in February but not sure I'm going to make it now. On a personal note my other best mate is getting married on April 17th and May 22nd is the big date for Lucille and I.
I'm hoping to do more brewing in 2010 too, it was probably the hardest days work I've ever done but it was immensely enjoyable and I really want to 'keep my eye in'.
There is of course going to be the GBBF in august and the GABF in September, I know I'll be at the British one but I really want to go to the American version in Denver too. Couple more awards might be nice too! hehe!
I can't go into too much more detail about work but suffice to say it's going to be another great year for Utobeer, The Rake & Lovebeer, watch this space!

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Holsten Pils

Hi all, got my writing mojo back now I can see the computer screen properly so I thought that having just written about a beer with tonnes of taste I'd write about one with absolutely none.
Holsten Pils was a big brand way back when I was growing up, there were a load of cool tv adverts featuring Jeff Goldblum and so when I spotted it at my local offie, never having tried it, I thought I'd get a bottle. That would be my first mistake, my second would be opening it. This beer is devoid of any goodness, it is possibly the worst beer I have ever tasted.
There is just nothing, no hop character, no malt character absolutely no character whatsoever.
This is a beer that is brewed under license so don't worry folks, no chance of seeing it at The Rake. Can't help thinking though that it might be a better beer if the Germans were still brewing it.

Sunday 13 December 2009

What the F*?k do I know? - the final act

Yesterday at The Rake, The Otley Brewing Company and myself unveiled two brand new beers, if you read this blog on a regular basis you'll know that I helped brew one of them, the Motley Brew.
A pub full of people attended the bash and the Motley Brew went down very well. For a first attempt I was thrilled, I had a sneaky taste on Sunday and had to go and be by myself for a while, I was on some sort of beer high, it was as close to total serenity that I think I will ever come. Now, I've never been the most verbose person in the world at the best of times but I was totally speechless on Sunday.
I was banging on about it for weeks before the event and People must have been getting absolutely sick to death of hearing about O-Nite and Motley Brew, after all, I'm not the first person to brew beer (or help brew beer!) and I certainly won't be the last but the sheer amount of people that turned up at The Rake yesterday to try the two new brews was a humbling experience.
The beer itself? A double IPA, bright amber and a bit hazy. Massive amounts of tropical fruit on the nose, that'll be the 3.5kg of pacific gem hop we put in, in the mouth the body was totally right, the taste, wee bit of apple yeastiness from the American yeast we used, the bittering hops(Chinook and Centennial) perhaps should have been a bit more prevalent but it wasn't too sweet either. The finish was fantastically dry due to the dry-hopping (again Chinook hops were used) and it left me wanting more.
I hope that when people said they liked it they weren't just being polite but I was more than a bit happy with the final result and for those of you who missed it? Well I'm looking forward to the new year when I get the next cask in and I hope to see you there next time.

Friday 11 December 2009

In Vino Veritas

Alcaeus, a Greek poet, said it first and said it best. In wine there is truth. These days it means someone's got pissed and said something they shouldn't have. Inhibited judgement is a cause of drinking, people become more confident or bolshy.
Small disagreements between otherwise intelligent and good friends become full blown arguments where things get said in ways that they shouldn't.
I have two friends that I have known for over 30 years now, long enough that I now consider them my brothers, we have had many arguments in the past and have always found a way to get past them. Another two friends of mine, and I'm not going to name names, had a falling out last night, not just caused by beer but over it, now I'm not going to go into details but suffice to say, I have immense respect for both of them as people and in respect to their work.
And so, with all due respect to both of them, come on guys, it's only beer, lets move on.

Sunday 6 December 2009

3rd of a pint

Just read a piece by Mark Dredge on 3rd of a pint glassware and how it should have been used by the White Horse at it's recent Old Ale Festival.
Now we have been using 3rd of a pint glassware at The Rake since March when I held our first Welsh Beer Festival because I know from experience at other festivals that even having halves can get you far more drunk than you want to be. We now offer them on every single draught product be they the 18.2% Tokyo(which I refused to serve in anything bigger) or the 1.1% Nanny state(of which frankly, sorry Brewdog, I didn't want any more!)
There has been talk of introducing the 2 thirds pint glass but like Mark Dredge, I can't see a huge benefit on this, I will probably stock them but it'll take a while to take off over here.
You also have to take into account that a lot of pubs are tied to big companies who 1) will not let them spend the money on glassware and
2) have such rigid till systems that it would be a massive job re-doing the till screens for all their pubs.
Now, I'm quite lucky that our till system is quite flexible so when I decided to start doing 3rd of a pint as standard on everything it was easy just to add them to the till.
Can you imagine M&B redoing all their till screens for 3rds and then 2/3rds, I can but all at once, per brand. Also, lets face it, there are so few outlets around that do such strong beers, how cost effective is it going to be for the big pubcos to do this?
Personally, if it's a legal measure these companies have a responsibility to make sure the measure is available as standard. After all if you go to the right glassware company then the glassware is not too expensive.
It would also help keep those idiots quiet who think that the alcohol is the cause of all evil.
Anyone feel a campaign coming on? I think I do.

Friday 4 December 2009

Silly Season

Tis the season to get shit faced fa la la la la, la la la la....Every pub in the country is about to get hit, if you haven't already, by the once a year drinking crowd. The guys and girls who celebrate until they fall over and vomit in the street. Get carted off to hospital with alcohol poisoning, shag someone they shouldn't(usually a work colleague). Total amateur drinkers, no knowledge of how to treat people who are serving them politely and diligently.
What makes these people, normally polite, intelligent, nice human beings, to act like total animals?
Alcohol. Full stop. How many laptops will get nicked, left in bars, cabs, trains? How many hours waiting around hospital wards to be seen by a junior doctor who just wants to sleep?
How many unsuspecting party goers will have their drinks spiked and do something they regret? Or worse have something done to them?
How many people will get nicked for drink driving this year?
Intelligent people...usually.
As a bar manager in spitting distance of the city, I'd like to make an impassioned plea to all would-be revellers : Get out on the town this Christmas, come into the bars and enjoy the atmosphere that this time of year brings, but please, please do it responsibly the last thing we as operators want to see is people falling over in the street, starting fights, being sick everywhere etc... It just helps to give the holier-than-thou brigade a platform on which to stand and spout their neo-prohibitionist bullshit, and frankly we could all do without that, especially at Christmas.
And remember the people on the other side of the bar, we are here to make sure that you all have a good time, safely and responsibly, bar staff do long hours for very little money, with a smile on their face most of the time so smile back and remember your manners because they cost nothing and lets all have a great Christmas this year.
I would like to just take a minute and say merry Christmas to all my customers this year, we hope you have a great time. Every single one of you.

Thursday 3 December 2009


Evening all,
I've just read a piece on a good session beer by someone who made a vaguely insulting remark about beer geeks. Now I'm sorry but beer geeks, tickers or spoogers, call them what you will are an integral part of my business and most of them are very nice people.
If you have not heard of Tickers before then I'll tell you what you're missing out on. Generally these people, and most of them ARE people, with one or two exceptions, collect beer, that is to say that they scour their favourite beer haunts looking for new beers to try. They note down the name, the brewery, the abv and where they drank the beer. Almost all of these people are retired, hence having the time to do this. There are various types of these beer-enthusiasts too...
1) People who will not drink anything if they have had it before.
2) People who will drink something even if they have had it before.
3) People who 'bottle' the beer into an old plastic soda bottle of some sort.
4) People who rate beers, usually on the internet with sites such as Ratebeer or Beer Advocate.
Most of these people are hugely interesting guys (and gals) and have loads of tales to tell about the industry as a whole(Pic above is Tony Martin, King of tickers). They are the salt of the earth and frequent various watering holes in order to sate their appetites for new beer.
These folks are helping to keep the british brewing industry alive and because it's beginning to thrive again, they will keep coming in and they will always be welcome.
Cheers to the beers boys and girls.
Look out for the new film (not widely available in cinemas) about beer tickers, I'm really wanting to watch this, if only to do a bit of customer spotting.
I'm off back to work now, later folks!

Sunday 29 November 2009


Morning all, I've just done two days at Bibulous, an event at Vinopolis that was showcasing beers, wines and spirits. I was doing beer cocktails, two of them, the first one being the Coconut Corsair, a mix of Sailor Jerry Rum, Mongozo Coconut beer, and Coca Cola, very refreshing, perfect for a hot summers day.
The second one I came up with was The Yeti Tar, a mix of Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout, Sailor Jerry Rum, syrop de Gomme, topped with cream, chocolate flakes and a cherry for decoration. They seemed to go down well, very well in fact, so well that the samples I had prepared weren't enough and I had to speedily make some more!
I'm thinking seriously about putting the cocktails on the beer list at The Rake, maybe by doing a Beer Cocktail Night, what does everyone think?
Off to Lunch at the White Horse, Parsons Green for Old Ales and Great food now, have a good Sunday folks.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Tactical Nuclear Penguin

So the world's latest beer is aparently the worlds strongest beer, Tactical Nuclear Penguin from the boys and girls (and pooch's) at Brewdog.
I have to say I knew a little bit about this beer before today but was sworn to secrecy. They announced the beer at the Lovebeer Tastings above The Rake on Saturday and I have to say, I'm intrigued. Having tasted the Tokyo and enjoyed it immensely I look foward to having a wee nip of this one.
What do I expect? Something very complex and smooth, perhaps with a fiery edge at the back of it, we shall see.
At £30 a bottle it does not promote binge drinking and for once the slightly edgy blurb on the bottle has been tempered slightly to include a warning which they have managed to do in their own inimitable style, saying :

This is an extremely strong beer, it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.

Is this a sign that Brewdog are growing up? Do we need to start putting arthritis medicine in their doggy treats? If so, I hope they can do it remaining edgy and ground breaking and if not I'll just continue watching and waiting for the next installment of the Brewdog rollercoaster.

Friday 20 November 2009

Wassup Doc?

On friday I went for my annual Asthma review and as usual it went fine. I have had Asthma since the age of one and it's very well controlled.
Whilst I was sitting there discussing it with the doctor she asked me if I wanted to have the flu jab today, no thanks. She looked at me as if I was mental, seriously! I'm well aware that as an Asthma patient I am in the 'high risk' category and therefore entitled to the flu jab and the swine flu jab but I have never had the flu jab and as long as I'm healthy I won't take them up on it. There are more needy people out there.
When swine flu was first diagnosed in Mexico there was a daily mail-esque panic about the end of the world! Ok i'm exaggerating but my point is that people die of flu every year! This is nothing new, it's not going to stop me from going out and living my life the way I always have.
Maybe, instead of treating me like I'm crazy, the doctor should respect my descision and realise that just because something has been all over the news, we are not all going to go into mass hysteria about it. Right, I'm off to start a riot or something....

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Beer Cocktails Anyone?

Good afternoon all, I was asked yesterday to come up with a couple of recipes for beer cocktails which I will then have to make in front of an audience at the Bibulous Event in Vinopolis! eeek!
Anyway, I've had a couple of idea's, I made one during the summer when I had the Mongozo Coconut on draught. It was made up of a double shot of Rum(Sailor Jerry), 1 part Mongozo Coconut beer and 1 part Coca Cola and it was lovely! I eventually named it The Coconut Corsair. The other one I was thinking about doing may involve Strawberry Beer and something really hoppy, we shall see, I'm off to play now, will let you know how it turns out...

Sunday 15 November 2009

Brewdog Week

I've been working on my day off today, promoting the Lovebeer@Borough Brewdog tastings next Saturday and Brewdog Week at The Rake afterwards.
As far as the Lovebeer tastings go the following beers will be on show...

77 Lager
5am Saint
Punk IPA
Paradox, Isle of Arran
Shark Beer, special 50 bottle release Christmas beer! aged for two years
Surprise special beer, and, no I haven't even been told about this one.

The 3pm tasting is sold out, the 1pm still has some tickets left and we may have to put in an extra tasting if demand is high enough!

We're also going to be going Brewdog Casks, Kegs & Bottles at The Rake the following week although there will be less 10% stuff on cask this time.
I personally have been waiting for this since last year when we did the first Brewdog Lovebeer tastings and Brewdog week at The Rake. I have a lot of time for these guys and applaud the innovation and daring that Martin Dickie and James Watt bring to the British brewing scene.
So, if you want to come along to The Rake between the 21st and 27th November to drink some Brewdog beer, then be my guest, literally!
Hope to see you there.

Friday 13 November 2009

Cause of Many a Hangover

I had just completed the most horrible task a pub manager can complete last night and needed something to sooth me, calm me and get rid of the gag reflex I was experiencing.
And here it is, the cause of many a hangover, certainly the reason for the current one that does not seem to be abating at all!
Goose Island IPA, this is probably my favourite IPA at the moment, it has a lovely fruity nose with hop on the nose that belies the hop on the palate. On the nose it's barely there, in the mouth the party starts and it stays on the palate partying on into the night with the hops and citrus fruitiness combining to leave me wanting another sip, then another, then 5.9% abv it's one that needs to be treated with respect because it is far too easy to drink.
I can heartily recommend this as a starting point for those who want to try something a bit more bitter.
Oh and for those of who want to know, I was cleaning the Gents toilets after some asshole(pardon the pun) had shit all over the walls and the bowl. On that Lovely note, I leave you.

Man-Bags at Dawn

I'm not feeling the love today, it's the first time in about three weeks that Lucille and I are spending any quality time together due to our work commitments, it's pissing with rain and to top the day off I've got a hangover that will not go away.
I, therefore, feel like having a bit of a rant, about what? well today it's the English language. Lucille described one of my bags as a 'man-bag' to which I replied, it's just a bag, let's not 'over-friends' it, I was referring to the episode of friends(an American sitcom for those without televisions) where Joey gets a 'man-bag' that basically looks like a lady's hand bag, cue lots of handbag gags.
Man-bag is a symptom of the Americanisms that are infecting our daily conversations and even newspaper & broadcast journalism. Now I'm the first to admit that I'm not the greatest at writing and anyone who reads this blog will testify to that but I at least try and keep up with my spelling since my grammar seems to have gone to pot.
I'm going to give you some choice words and phrases that really wind me up, feel free to join in by the way!
I'm going to start with Innit! I've been hearing this word since I was about 13 and I even used to use it, innit? Are we so lazy that we have a word for the question/contraction 'isn't it'? it's already contracted!!! Fuck off you little Oiks!
Secondly I have to say that 'guesstimate' really stabs me through the heart, guess or estimate folks, make your bloody minds up!
I'm only going to do three because I'll be here all day and you'll get bored(if you're not already asleep) so lastly I have to go with 'can you borrow me a tenner'. Er, what? can you say that again? borrow me? I don't want to borrow you, you're clearly uneducated and I don't need your money either.
Now, I know teachers and I know how hard people in education work so I'm trying not to have a go at them but do the students of today realise that they're saying these things? In fact, the 'borrow me' phenomenon I hear from adults, all the time so it's not just todays teachers that seem to have failed, it's probably the teachers who were teaching my generation.
I'm going to sign off now but before I do...spellcheck?
By the way guesstimate is on the spell checker, aarrggghhh!!!

Monday 9 November 2009

And the Winner Is.....

Morning all!
Well, I for one am feeling a bit bleary-eyed today after the 1st Utobeer Awards(otherwise known as the Christmas Party).
A good time was had by all(I hope) and although some of the staff had been out the night before, indulging in the Hedonism that was Imogens leaving party, they turned up for this too. Even Chris, staunch Man Utd Fan(scab) turned up after I told him that our hosts, Brick Lane, All Star Lanes would show the football for him.
There were notable absentees such as our Drivers Derek and Lee(probably lost), true to the end Harriet turned up fashionably late. Jodie wasn't there to pick up her award because of Flu, get well soon!
Anyway the everyone that did turn up got an award, so here's the list of who won what...

We'll do a Welsh Beer Festival just to annoy Mike Award
Winner :Richard Dinwoodie
Bloody Welsh! Award
Winner : Mike Hill
I spanked cheesus' arse and want to do it again Award
Winner : Becca Knapp
The Advertising Award for making The Rake sound like a whorehouse
Winner : Dave Gardner
The Sup then Top-up award for serving shit customers.
Winner : Joe Mulleady
For Driving Stock around London at the best and worst of times Award
Winner : Derek Pugh
Man Management Award for righteous tellings off
Winner : Lee Pugh
The I've gotten over my brain damage from working for Tescos Award
Winner : Imogen Bennett.
The Lovebeer Award for who's gonna be my bitch this saturday(probably Glyn)
Winner : Melissa Cole
Just because I have a Mohican doesn't make me a photo opportunity Award
Winner : Al Byrne
The Asparagus Award(You'll have to ask the winner to embellish on this one)
Winner : Eddie Baines
I'm a saint for marrying a brewer Award
Winner : Gina Baines
The Every Damned Saturday Award
Winner : Jane Salvesen
The Lone Star Award for trying all the new tasty beers
Winner : Denise Herman
The Proper Pint Glass not a wussy Veltins One
Winner : Hans Herman
I also work for Boris so clearly I'm mental award
Winner : Jodie-Lee Tormey
The Pear Cider Award for being from the Faarest
Winner : Lee Knickenberg
The Redneck Lumberjack Award for dodgy shirts
Winner : Joe 'Def' Leppard
The Back from the Dark Side Award
Winner : Annie Talbot
Employee of the Month for October 2009
Winner : Harriet Holt
The Happiness is a cigar smoking Utobeer Employee Award
Winner : Chris Collins
The Begbie Award for going to Awards Ceremonies and trying to start fights with strangers
Winner : Tom 'The Cad' Cadden

That's it, everyone a winner with my thanks hope to see everyone again next year, here's to 2010!

Thursday 5 November 2009

I'm staying in!

I hate firework night, celebrating a bunch of terrorists is not my idea of fun. How many young people today do you actually think know the story behind what they are doing this evening? I'm gonna hazard a guess, NOT MANY.
This evening, I am at home, in Hackney, where presumably it's fireworks going off outside, not gunfire but you never know, there are so many stupid people in this borough.
All the doors in the house are closed and yet I can smell firework smoke all over the house! yuk.
I wonder how many people will suffer burns from fireworks this year? I wonder how many irresponsible shop owners have sold fireworks illeagally to kids this year?
They are probably the same retailers who sell beers to kids and alcoholics too.
I also wonder how many of those retailers will be reported and prosecuted? I'll hazard another guess at NOT MANY!
Not much I can do about it other than report anything I see and hope that the relevant authorities do their jobs. Oh and moan like an old bastard in my blog, sounding not unlike Victor Meldrew!
Guess I'll just stay in, drink some good beer and enjoy whatever shit telly I can find!
By the way, the beers this evening are Great Divide, Titan IPA and Odells St Lupulin.

Monday 2 November 2009

What the F*?k do I know? - Part two

So it's been 6 days since I brewed with Otley Brewing and I have to say that as back-breakingly hard work as it is being a brewer it was also a lot of fun. This is probably because I already got on well with the Otley guys as I've dealt with them a lot.

Day started at 5.45am when I woke up at home. got ready to leave the house in hackney. I got the train from paddington at 8.15, about half an hour earlier than i aimed for, off to a good start then!

I traveled all the way to Pontypridd by train and got picked up by Nick at around 11.25ish. Welsh trains...better than english ones!(for punctuality).

It was a short drive from the station and when I got to the brewery I was surprised at how small it was, not unpleasantly surprised but still, i just expected it to be bigger. it's hidden in the middle of an industrial estate and from the outside it's just another warehouse. Inside, however, is where the magic happens.

I had never been to a brewery before and never attempted any sort of home brewing so Nick placed me in the more-than-capable hands of Matt Otley who took me throught the process and showed me what occured where.

The first thing we did was decide which malts and hops to use, I had been sent a list of what they had and had already emailed back saying which ones I wanted to use so after a bit of discussion we changed one of the hops and one of the malts on the advice of Matt.

Having started before I got there, the next thing we had to do was load the malt into the mash tun, 150kg Pale, 9kg wheat and 5.5kg crystal. then I had to make sure that there was no lumps in the mash, hard work right at the start of the day! meh!

Then it was a case of leaving it for about an hour and a half whilst it produced the wort.

So, we had some time on our hands and went and got the hops ready, 520g of Chinook and 630g of Centennial to 'bitter it up' and 3.442kg of Pacific Gem to add aroma...oh yes!

This was a quick process so we still had time to kill before transferring the wort to the copper. Instead of sitting around for the time drinking tea or coffee, we started sorting out the Warehouse part of the company, putting bottles and cases on shelves, this was fine though, I prefer to be busy when I'm in a strange place(something to do with not wanting to look like a lazy bugger).

When it was time to transfer the wort to the copper Matt showed me the proccess and just left me to it, when it was finished we had to boil the wort with the hops. The next thing that had to be done was the cleaning out of the mash tun! Now, I brought this on myself by wanting to go and brew with these guys as most brewers see this as some sort of rite of passage that everyone should have to do if they're brewing, having now done this, I completely agree! Hard physical work like this makes me sweat, a lot, so whilst I was cleaning out the mash tun Matt asked me what I wanted to call the brew and I shouted back 'f*!king sweat-O at the moment!' and we had what's known in TV as a working title.

Then it was time to add the hops. First the bittering hops and after a while(sorry but I forget exactly how long) the aroma hops.

I was hoping for a beer that was about 8% abv, when we checked the gravity it turned out that it was going to be more like 7-7.2%, I was a bit disappointed but then it was the first brew i'd ever done so I put this down to being a rank amateur. We tried boiling a bit longer to get as much out of the hops as possible but it really didn't want to go any higher. We had more time to kill after putting the hops in so it was more lugging stuff about whilst we waited. I now know that when Nick Otley had said over the phone it would be more convenient for me to come down on the tuesday it was because they needed an extra pair of hands to lug shit about! cheers Nick.

I did get to see one of their one-off brews getting racked by Charlie though which was good, seeing the finings going in at that point, smelling them etc.. I wanted the whole experience and whilst I won't be around when my brew is racked I at least know what is done and help Charlie do this with the American-O.

Eventually we transferred the beer into the fermenter and I pitched the american yeast which we'd run off a bit earlier and had a lovely apple-y aroma to it. That was it basically it, Charlie or Matt will probably start conditioning this week at some point and perhaps dry hop it although i'm not convinced this will be needed.

So, one day, lots of hard work and a lot of fun, then it was time to drink, eat and be merry in that order at The Bunch of Grapes(Nick Otleys pub) with Nick and Matt. I think I lasted until about 10.30 and retired drunk, exhausted but happy that i'd learnt something new.

4 weeks to go and it'll be on at The Rake and the Otley pubs only!

Next installment of this tale will be straight after tasting the beer for the first time, the name is decided, cheesily enough we settled on Motley Brew, will let you know when it's on and we'll make a night of it.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Rotten to the Core

Happy Apple Day. There was a parade, people dressed up like apple trees, wearing all manner of food on themselves. There was Barry at the cider stall 4 deep all day.

I have never been to apple day before, this was the first year that The Rake had opened because the event was mainly happening in the Jubilee market. Not much point to us opening really but we had fun, wrote a poem in honour of the day and met a very nice brewer from Telluride Colorado who signed the 'Brewers Wall'.

The icing on this particular day was possibly the stupidest customer I have ever come accross, didn't this guy know that it's bad form to sip from a pint then ask for a top up? Stay in The Wenlock mate.

With all the happiness we were feeling from the customers we decided to write a poem about Apple Day, here it is, a collaborative effort from three staff and one customer, hope you enjoy it.

The apples are crapples,

The rotten apples rule the mar't,

They're pretty on the outside,

But inside smells of fart,

So, just don't bobbin' go there!

The beer is the gear,

Drink lots of it, don't fear,

It's more fun than a sack of big shiny cox,

And next week we're selling lambics from a box!

The liver is evil and must be punished,

but not by filthy cider,

So ingnore the parade outside,

And get some beer inside ya!

Burn all the tickers,

in big giant wickers,

Especially the cheesus,

Which cheese goes with apple?

We don't care, it's all Crapple!

So that's apple day, bring on next sunday when we have a Beer Festival to open for, I for one am very excited about this even though I have a dead tongue (Cheers Boggle!).

Hopefully see you all there, even if you don't like lambics there'll be something for you, so continuing the poetry theme....

Don't be Shy,

Give Lambics a try!

Sunday 18 October 2009

Good Times, I'll drink to that!

Here I am basking at home on my one day off this week, Jensen Button is F1 World Champion, I've just done the rota for The Rake so that it's one less job to do this week.

Exciting? Nah not for me, the excitement is from the general state of the brewing industry at the moment. Yes there are doom and gloom stories about 40 or so pubs closing a week but I do tend to look at the bright side. I work for a progressive company that's on the verge of expansion in the middle of a recession.

Lets look at what's coming up for me then. Brewdog are apparently changing the world on Tuesday, on Sunday 1st of November The Rake is having it's Lambic Festival, something that we don't think has been done in the UK before now. Next week on the 27th & 28th October I will be going to Pontypridd in South Wales to brew with Nick Otley and the guys at Otley Brewing.

I've started to look at the next Welsh Beer Festival for 2010 and we're looking at opening the Utobeer Brewery in January where we're going to let the unrelentingly witty Eddie Baines do the brewing, good times. I'll drink to that!

Tuesday 13 October 2009

What the F*?k do I know?

On monday night I was about to meander off home after a hard days work and a couple of pints of Moonlights Reality Czeck Pils when Nick and Nathan from Otley Brewing company walk in with a couple of their mates. My liver instantly starts aching. They are in London for the restaurant show, where they are showcasing a couple of new bottled ales.

We have a couple of beers, shoot the breeze and the topic of my going to brew with them in Pontypridd comes up again, this is something we have been talking about for quite a while now and i've always thought great idea and one I really want to do, probably never get round to it though.

This time though, my deputy manager, Tom, is away, I'm already tired and frankly a bit pissed and I'm like, fuck yeah man, i'm there next week! Now it's real, fucking awesome!! We sort out the details of where i'm staying etc.. and all of a sudden I'm in Wales next weekend.

So what am I going to brew? My favourite style is big and Hoppy IPA's, but what about a Doubled IPA? as far as I know Nick and his team have never done a double ipa. I'm to decide what the name will be, which hops we're going to use and the style of the beer, so much power, such a small man, I think I feel like Hitler, he was a short arsee on a power trip wasn't he?

So anyway I'm now really excited about this, I'm also shit scared, I've been in the trade for most of my working life and yet I know fuck all about brewing. Bugger. Time for the research and so I wikipedia'd it and found this...

So, theoretically I now know how to brew. Theoretically.

My next instalment of this tale will come after I have actually done the brewing and we shall ALL see how i've fared. Have I fallen on my arse or have I made a triumphant debut to brewing? Log in to find out...

Sunday 4 October 2009

Shout out to the responsible drinker!

I have often read on various websites that The Rake is full of city boys and should be given a wide berth on a Thursday and Friday. Whilst I think these are unconstructive comments, these bloggers do have a point. One recent incident (Friday afternoon, 3pm) I threw out three city boys who decided that they wanted to act like children, they ordered a bottle of Tokyo* and another couple of bottles and against my advice decided to treat the Tokyo* like a shot of Sambucca! Twats. I told them that would be their only round and they started to try and argue with me to stay in the bar. Anyone that knows me knows this is will never work and they eventually left to go and act like children somewhere else.
What's your point? I hear you ask...
My point is that whilst there are stupid, childish people who come and drink in my bar, most of the clientele are responsible people who only come for the beer. Yes the bar is small and on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday it does get packed but what pub doesn't? Yes there have been service issues in the past but myself and Tom are working hard to make sure the customer always comes first, this includes throwing out irresponsible drinkers who ruin the night for everyone else. We have specialist beer nights, tastings and festivals where people come to enjoy the beer and are still winning awards for the job we're doing so give the bar another chance, yes it's busier than ever but we're working to keep it for you, the responsible drinker.

Thursday 1 October 2009

I'd like to thank the academy...

So there I am, minding my own business, having dinner with a few hundred friends, most of whom I've never met and never heard of, and someone shouts the name of my bar out, off I go to the stage, get given something that looks like one of the new monstrous buildings that are springing up all over London, smile for the camera and off I go back to my table to be plied with Bottles of Asahi and vials of black sambucca(it's a hard life).
Seriously though, I wasn't overwhelmed at having to go to the Theme Bar Awards but that was mainly because I'd been averaging 2 hours sleep a night for the previous week and all I wanted to do was sleep!
It is another award that The Rake has won but it also reflects on how hard the whole team at Utobeer works, all year long right from Mike and Rich down to my part-time member of staff who only works one day a week. It is a great honour to be named Best Beer Venue and we'll continue to work as hard as possible to keep the newest and best products coming in for your enjoyment.
See you soon and I'd like to thank the academy.....

Monday 28 September 2009

It's the taking part that counts, yeah right!

I'm confused, two weeks ago the England Cricket team were being battered in the one day series by a rampant australian side bent on getting revenge for losing the ashes...again!
Now I'm all excited about the aggressive, creative way that they have beaten two of the worlds top one-day sides putting the South African hosts out of the tournament!
This upturn in the teams fortunes has come in tandem with a downturn in the form of Captain Sensible who in the two tournament games we've played has scored 9 and 25.
Anyone want to petition Andrew Strauss to throw his wicket away for the rest of the tournament?

Thursday 24 September 2009

Good News Anyone?

I'm not in a unique position, there are thousands of people like me. Bar and pub managers with thriving businesses. There have been lots of doom stories in the national press about the amount of pubs that are closing every week, last I read somewhere it was approximately 5 a week.
What about us? what about the success stories in the industry? I'm not asking to be singled out, what I am saying is that the general public don't want to hear doom and gloom stories about the industry every day.
I recently went to a meeting with a few other pub and bar managers and owners in Southwark, we were meeting with the local MP who wanted to hear our views on the state of the industry in his area. The meeting did not seem to me to be particularly productive, why? Well lets look at this shall we? There were landlords and owners who wanted to place blame on other people and not look closely enough at themselves. Some of the gripes mentioned at the meeting are mentioned here, in face, most of them are.
Street drinkers, and lets not confuse genuine pub customers with aggressive beggars and tramps here. The local council has community wardens that help to make the streets a safer place, or do they? At the meeting there were several stories of landlords and managers dealing with agressive beggars whilst these wardens did nothing to help them, indeed the wardens seemed more interested in handing out £5 fines for people throwing cigarette butts on the floor! I attended a pubwatch meeting the very next day and the person who runs the community wardens tried to defend these actions! Surely they should be using their new powers to help the local businessmen and women keep their venues safe rather than taking the easier option of fining someone a fiver for being a litterbug! Yes I can see their point, the streets must be kept clean but come on, don't use that as an excuse not to help out the people who are trying to run sucessful businesses and therefore help the local economy.
There are lots of reasons why pubs and bars are closing, not just in Southwark but all over the UK , here are a few of them...
Firstly there are complaints about the duty increases on beer, the Axe The Tax campaign is very high profile and the local MP I mentioned earlier is a strong supporter of this. Pubs are having to push their prices up because of large duty rises. Our little company, Utobeer, whilst not being happy about the hikes, recognises that people are still prepared to pay money for their beers as long as they feel they are getting value for their money.
Whilst we're talking about prices lets not forget the supermarkets and off licenses who are selling cheap beer, wines and spirits, some of them irresponsibly. There have always been people selling cheap booze, there always will be and frankly they do need more regulation, I for one have seen local 'corner shop' off licenses selling booze to young people without even asking for proof of age. More needs to be done by the authorities to clamp down on irresponsible retailers because they do harm the local economies by selling to tramps and youngsters.
The smoking ban? come on guys and girls, we all knew this was coming and only those who were too stupid and or lazy not to prepare their pubs and their customers for this are using it as an excuse. There has been stories in the national press about lobbyists looking for a relaxation of this law, do they really think that the government will go back on a law that made pubs and bars nicer places to go into? The Rake has always been non-smoking, it has been open for a little over three years and my bosses knew the ban was coming. Preparation was the key here and it usually is with any sort of new legislation that may force changes on our industry.
Residents? Pubs have always had people living around them so to use this as an excuse is just lazy, manage your customers and your residents, no it's not always that easy, there are NIMBYs everywhere and there always will be but if you're a responsible retailer you shouldn't have a huge problem with this.
The Recession? Hmm.. tough one, I will never ever claim to know a whole hell of a lot on the global economic crisis that has hit the world in the last couple of years but to me it seems that customers are feeling the pinch, they want more for their money, value for money as I mentioned earlier so why not give it to them? Every pub is different but it doesn't mean that they shouldn't prosper. In other economic crises the pub industry has thrived, why not this one?
Pubcos, big compaines that own lots of pubs and bars who, with the supermarkets can sell beers cheaper than the independent pub owners to get people into their pubs. It would be easy to place the blame on the big guys and demand they have more regulation on pricing but the industry in general needs more of this so that the responsible guys can continue to prosper in these precarious financial times.
So as I said at the top of the piece, what about the success stories? Lets hear about them, I know plenty of pubs and bars whose managers and teams work hard to be a success. Perhaps the answer is simple, maybe it is just taking responsibility for your operation and working hard to help not only survive the tough times but thrive in the good times. I'd love to hear from other pub operators and customers so let's have your opinions, until then...
Beer Me

Sunday 20 September 2009

Lambic Festival

So, first proper post is about work, boring I hear you moan but nay say I! This is the sort of beer festival that we, at The Rake, think has never been done in the UK before now. It's the Idea of my esteemed and totally mad Deputy Manager and I, for one, think it's bloody genius. The only problem for him now, as far as beer festivals go, is where does he go from here?
Dates and opening times for the festival are as follows :

Sunday 1st November, 12pm - 6pm
Monday 2nd November, 12pm - 11pm
Tuesday 3rd November, 12pm - 11pm

Bring your friends to The Rake for this, we'd love to see you there and get you all excited about Lambic Beers.
If you have any questions about the event then call the bar on 0207 407 0557.

See you soon

Beer me!

Alone at last

Well, here it is at last, MY version of free speech! It'll probably inlcude more stuff about work than you may want to read but hey, this is my blog, if you don't like it...don't read it.
A brief introduction to myself is probably in order so here we go.

Name : Glyn Roberts
Age : ing rapidly
Job : I'm the Manager of the award winning beer bar, The Rake.

Why am I suddenly blogging? Well, I get absolutely aghast at some of the so-called, self-imposed 'experts' who constantly write about the beer world and frankly, my bar, and I want my say. Why not comment on their blogs? They have the power to delete posts and I want my say. Simple and you might say it's a wee a bit childish? You might say that, that's your right, we live in a free country and i'll probably leave most posts on here(unless they are offensive in some way).

Anyway, I'm here now, we'll see how it goes, hopefully i'll see you in The Rake.

Beer me!