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!