Saturday 26 June 2010

Fun Free Zone : a response

OK, I'm in a vaguely mischievous mood today. I read a blog post here about pubs not showing the world cup being smug for not doing so, here's a response...
My pub does not show sport, my pub is not ever going to show sport, the worst thing you could do as a manager of The Rake is put lots of over-testosteroned males in a very small place and make them watch England play tournament football. I would have no bar by the end of it!
I am in somewhat of a quandary though because whilst I support the England team and their quest to win(in my lifetime) the biggest prize in football I'm also acutely aware that my bar has done better without the football being on every day. Personally I like football, I follow it(sort of) and I have a team that I support but I do have an issue with football and pubs sometimes. The issue in Southwark and indeed a lot of other places around Britain, is that it brings the lowest common denominator into your pub, the lowest common denominator being an overtly tribal group of people that don't understand the word no and have to wear gloves to prevent their knuckles being ruined by the ground. Having had one publican assaulted in Borough in the last two days, frankly the world cup can shove itself where the sun don't shine.
There is an argument that I subscribe to, which is, if a pub doesn't show football all year round, why, just because it's a world cup should they 'have' to for one month of the year?
There are reasons that these pubs don't show sport during the rest of the year, usually it's because they 1) run a food led business, 2) have establishments that aren't able to cope with sport being shown, or 3) They have a speciality which doesn't really fit around sport.
We at The Rake are in 2 of those 3 categories, we are too small to show the world cup and we have a speciality that doesn't really fit with the world cup and this area.
There is something very cynical about pubs getting TV's in after losing a bit of money on the first couple of games of the world cup and then deciding to cash in on the spectacle. Some of these places NEVER show sport usually, and you can tell, far from creating an atmosphere that people can enjoy with each other, they don't have a clue how to deal with the crowds and therefore get security staff in who more often than not(whilst not causing the trouble) give an air of 'fuck with me and you're out!'
Someone please tell me WHY I, as a publican, should veer so far away from my normal offer, pissing off my regulars in the process and 'conforming' for the lowest common denominator just to make a few extra cynical quid?
I'm not saying that all pubs should not show the football, when pubs do it well there is an atmosphere that is created in a pub of camaraderie, friendship and most of the time(when it comes to the home nations) shared despair but far from being a 'fun-free zone' The Rake is making new customers, and for the record, YES, whilst England games are on we are deathly quiet, only to be over-run by pissed fuckwits after the game, does anyone want to tell me THAT's worth it? What people need to realise is that diversity is key here, I do not cater for football fans as most of my competitors do in some form or other but not one of my regulars would want me to either. This apparently makes us/me devoid of fun to which I say, fuck you, I know what my 'real' customers want, that's good beer, that's new beer, it is NOT sweaty football louts looking for a fight because England have lost to the Germans on fucking penalties again!
I would not say that we're smug for not showing the football, I would say we're sticking to what we're good at, which is selling beer, good beer and lots of it.
Anyway that's enough of my argumental rant for today, it's time to sit back and watch the footie at home with a couple of good beers and the company of a beautiful woman.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Morning has Broken

It's 3.01am and I stir, I am awake, I'm starting to get excited, this morning I am taking delivery of Dave Bailey's Hardknott beers.
I get up and make myself a pint of orange squash, I have every intention of getting a couple more hours kip before heading off to work at 5.30. I go back to bed.
Next to me my wife is tossing and turning, she is too hot, the flat is too hot, I drain the liquid in my glass and try and get to sleep....
I can't, I start thinking about the day ahead and my mind starts racing, after taking delivery of the beers I have to get over to The White Horse in Parsons Green with some coupler heads, then I have an errand to run for Lucille and I think about the journey.
I have not had anywhere near enough sleep.
I hear the first bird song of the day and think...Shut up you little bastard!

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Budget : what happened there then?

Ok, not that I'm unhappy to see that duty didn't rise but that was a bit unexpected. Every single time there's a budget announcement beer duty seems to rise, not this time. This time it's just VAT in January so beer has been ignored, for now. Sneakily they've left the duty escalator in place so duty will rise over the next few years and the Chancellor has said that he would look at taxes on the products that are the main causes of binge drinking again in the autumn(so, we shall see what he means by that later then).
Still 2.5% VAT rise does seem to be a bit harsh again, the ConDem 'love-in' government has been vociferous in it's claims that the country's finances are in the worst shape ever but isn't there always massive debt?
Anyway, cider producers have also had their 10% increase reduced(amount to be confirmed later)so it's not good news but it could have been worse.
I still hate all politicians though, Wankers.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Beerymoon Part Six

Back onto this particular tangent before I completely forget where I was! There are two more places I really want to tell you guys about.
First it's Alembic, it's owned by the same people who own Magnolia and it's also on Haight (Golden Gate Park end). We'd had a wander around Golden Gate Park, been into the De Young museum, wandered around there seen loads of interesting pieces...(impressionism sucks, sorry but it's true) and were ready for lunch, that's a bit of an understatement, I was starving, hot and gasping for a beer!
We knew about this place but hadn't seen it on the way so we went hunting, it's a long thin bar so if you blink you'll miss it from outside, inside, whilst long and thin it has high(almost cavernous) ceilings and is slightly more decorated than Magnolia but then it's touted as a cocktail bar. To me it was just a bar and a very good one at that, the service was, as always in America, flawless, the menu was delightful and the beers were amazing.
We sat down, ordered a couple of Kalifornia Kolsch's which were superb, just what we needed after being roasted in the Californian heat outside. We got given the menu's which we perused and I went for Crispy Pork Belly with Scallops with Corn Puree, English Peas, Trumpet Mushroom and Black Garlic Jus. This cost me $20 and it was well worth it, presentation was spot on, and the portion size wasn'
So after we finished the meal I was in the mood for more beer and I wanted something Hoppy as Hell(what a surprise! I hear you shout) and since there wasn't really anything on tap like that the waitress recommended Stone Ruination to which I cried out for joy! She brought out a LARGE bottle which I finished myself (Yes I am THAT much of an alcoholic). She seemed surprised that we could get good American beers over here, I guess the preconception that America does shit beer can be turned around the other way from that side of the Atlantic, anyway I digress, when I told her I ran a beer bar in London she offered us tasters of a couple of things which were just fantastic, firstly I tried the Firestone Walker Solace, a wheat beer that's really refreshing and drinkable but that's really all I remember about it.
The second taster was one from Moonlight and it was called Uncle Svensson, NO HOPS in this beer but instead replaced with CEDAR! Very strange but amazing nonetheless.
The Alembic is a must stop for anyone who is passionate about beer, food, cocktails and service, it's all encompassing friendliness ensures that we'll be back next time!
One more to come.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Beer & Cricket, Why Not?

I've just read a blog on the Reluctant Scooper page and felt I had to make a point.
It's generally accepted that apart from a couple of counties there is a genuine lack of decent ale at Cricket Stadia around the country.
The point I wanted to make is sponsorship notwithstanding why don't the cricket lovers amongst the twissuppers try to persuade one of the counties to put on a real ale festival, or better still organise one ourselves? Even those who don't like cricket would enjoy a beer festival and it's not like we don't have contacts!
Any thoughts?

School of Hardknotts

Awful Pun aside you can read about the details of a very exciting night right here.

hope to see you on the 28th June from 4pm!


Invited I was and along I went. I had never been to Cask bar and Kitchen before and had only seen a dodgy old photo of it so wasn't sure what to expect considering the hype that this pub is getting at the moment.
Very smart, the old woodwork has been repainted in a nice soothing pastel green and they have two rather large beer fridges full of tasty treats from around the world which look like they've come straight out of Beer merchants range but £35 for a 500ml bottle of beer? no thanks, they might have trouble selling that one.
Anyway, for a tuesday night it was quite busy, there were the Ratebeer crew hanging around the bar waiting for their chance to rate the new Abstrakt 02, there were regular Cask customers, an influential beer writer and a couple of beery bar managers all here for the beer!
The excitement was almost tangible and when Richard McClelland got up and rang the bell for everyone's attention he certainly got it! His loud and witty introduction captivated everyone and so when he finished the rush for the bar was quite a sight to behold.
The beer? Originally advertised at 16% abv, it's now more like 18% according to Magic Dog himself. The style is a triple dry hopped imperial red ale, James and Martin have both said that this beer will be much better once it's been aged for at least another year so why they chose to launch it now was anyone's guess.
It could have used an extra bit of ageing because whilst the beer had tonnes of flavour, it seemed a wee bit thin and you could really taste the alcohol too I remember I said if I had a lighter I could have taken out half of Ratebeer!(Not that I want to).
Given another year this beer will be abstraktlutely(sorry, couldn't resist) superb, I'm actually going to buy a bottle and give it the age it needs before opening it in a year or so then repost about it, see how it is. Watch this space!
Anyway, busy day today. Hoovering awaits!

Saturday 12 June 2010

Beerymoon Part Five

Where was I, oh yeah, San Francisco.
Next up is a great Brew-pub, it's Russian River, it was a two hour bus ride from where we were staying but it was totally worth it. The day was blinding hot, once we'd got off the bus it was a ten minute walk to the pub and Santa Rosa was completely deserted! It was Memorial day weekend and pretty much the whole town had disappeared. Oh, no they hadn't they were all in The Russian River Brew-pub! It was rammed, we were hungry, grumpy, dying for a beer and and I really wanted to sit down and take it all in, there were pushy customers getting seats so I got pushy and we eventually got seats.
I liked the decor, there are old hop sacks hanging up all over the place which add some grandeur in my opinion, it gives you a sense of love for the beer and the inner glow of well being, even if you didn't know what a hop was it still looks like there was something nutritious in them!
I started off with an Oude Blond, a really thirst quenching blond ale that really hit the spot on such a hot day! Mrs RBF had the same and we were soon ordering our food like it was our last meal!
Next I went for the RR IPA because I'd never had it(that I remember) and it was hoppy as hell, took me most of our meal to finish it was that bitter.
We ordered some BBQ chicken wings and pizzas and got in contact with Dave who had given us so many other pointers because he was only about 15 minutes away apparently.
Our Pizza's turned up before our mains oddly enough, the service in general was a bit 'all over the place' but it was friendly, which frankly makes up for a lot in my books.
The food also made up for the erratic service and the atmosphere was almost akin to our night at the Rogue bar.
Just over halfway through our meal and Dave and Liz turned up and we had the next round, I forget what the wife had but I had Parking Violation, very light, nice and bitter, again just what I needed.
When I went to the bar the barman refused to serve me a half of what Dave wanted because it was the same price as a pint, even though Dave was driving, this is the only thing that I thought was negative about the visit, someone needs to talk to the barman and make him realise that some people might be having one then driving, especially out of the city.
Felt like a sour beer would sort me out next so, on Dave's advice went for a Temptation, which, ironically they ONLY serve in halves and I had had before. Still as good as I remember, if not better.
We were wanting to get the bus back before it got too late but I couldn't leave Russian River without getting a Pliny the Elder on draught, why would you, leave I mean....
Alembic and 21st Amendment still to come folks!

Thursday 10 June 2010

Going Back Stateside

Not yet but I will be soon. This is a shout out for the White Horse's American Beer Festival.
Yet again,from Friday 2nd July to Sunday 4th July, The White Horse will be getting packed full of customers thirsty for such delights as Budwieser, Miller, Lone Star....and they'll be disappointed, they'll have to make do with tasty treats like Flying Dog, Sierra Nevada, Blue Moon, Odells, Left Hand and Goose Island to name but a few, the last one sending over a Cask of their Bourbon County Stout for our enjoyment!
There's also a little known(in the uk) but award winning micro brewery from Philadelphia called Yards which will get the beer geeks salivating!
There will also be (weather permitting) a BBQ on with some great 'American Classics' as well as their ever popular Hog-Roast.
As if that wasn't enough, entertainment has been lined up with The Steelers and Fallen Heroes performing live and a Barn Dance which will be led by Cut a Shine.
I can say with hand on heart, saluting the flag, that I'll be there and I hope that you are too!

Sunday 6 June 2010

Beerymoon Part Four

Still one or two more posts to go on the Beerymoon, and it's not so much the places and beers I want to talk about this time but the service and attitude of American Pubs and Bars and and their staff.
We popped into Magnolia for the second time on the way back from our Golden Gate trip because we were both starving and didn't get the chance to eat there the first time. Just as we were preparing to order we spotted a friend, Dave who got the beers in on his way to pick up his girlfriend at the airport, Dave is probably the number one source for knowledge about where to go in San Francisco, it would take me and Mrs RBF about three trips to get through everywhere that he suggested for us!
On this trip we learnt one thing above all others, never go for American portions, you just can't finish them so we ordered sandwiches with salad even though we were both starving and a tad grumpy from the lack of food. I had a fried fish sandwich(cod) which was just what I needed, it was like fish fingers only a lot better. From what I remember I had the Drakes 1500 Pale Ale and the Firestone Walker Union Jack both of which were drinkable but the Drakes had a bit too much malt in it and made it too chocolatey for my taste, The Firestone was almost instantly forgettable which considering all the blurb on their website was very disappointing it's one I'm going to have to try another time, it could well have been my cold playing up on my taste buds(I've forgotten to mention that I was ill for the whole of my honeymoon, pants!).
A bit about the service in Magnolia, all I have to say is that it's friendly, professional and well worth the tip you have to give over in the states.
Having said that from Magnolia we went back to Toronado where the service, whilst being knowledgeable is grumpy, some of these bartenders have been at the bar for more than 20 years! The range at Toronado is still formidable and the guys behind the bar know their stuff and don't get flustered when it's busy. Out of the three times we went to Toronado I saw no more than two people behind the bar at any one time. I like to sit at the bar to get the whole experience of what's on, what's selling and have a bit of banter with the bar staff.
You don't get much banter from the Toronado guys, it's just about serving the beer to the customers, mind you it's kind of like The Rake was when I took over, it was doing so well that there was a air of not having to try anymore.
This visit I was drinking Moonlight beer in there this time because it was baking hot outside, Reality Czech Pils was the first, second and third choice with Pliny the Elder to finish off again(what a surprise!).
Russian River, Alembic and 21st Amendment still to come folks!

Beerymoon Part Three

OK, on day three we took a great trip to Alcatraz and saw some really interesting stuff over there.
Still suffering from jet lag we had a nap before going out in the evening. We started off at Vesuvio then walked down Columbus to the Rogue bar we went and the joint was jumping! There was a quiz night in full flow, it was packed and absolutely boiling too, uncomfortably so. We ordered our drinks, I had the Rogue Brutal IPA and Mrs RBF had a Juniper Pale on draught.
The quiz was coming to an end so we managed to find a seat just by the bar and got comfortable. We were becoming more and more impressed with the level of bar staff over in the states too, the bars we had been in were minimally staffed and they seemed to be coping with the crowds of people that they were having to serve, if this had been the UK there would have been grumbling from the customer side of the bar and the bar staff would have been extremely grumpy(my lot beware!).
I think that one of the reasons for this was that there were a few staff on the floor serving drinks which tended to take the load off of the bar even though there were people sat all along the bar, not something I could pull off at The Rake because of it's size but I'd quite like to.
As far as decor goes this bar is eclectic to say the least, not furniture wise like some of the fading pubs in England which seem to think that's cool but everything else, for instance there was the Rogue skeleton hanging up behind the bar along with a shelf full of Oscar statuettes which whilst may have been out of place were certainly not looking shite.
Leading on from that and slightly off topic, I'd heard about America being one of the friendliest places on earth but was still surprised by the helpfulness of everybody over there and it puts London in stark contrast as possibly the grumpiest and least helpful place in the world. It's almost embarassing.
The beers were, as expected, in tip top condition and bloody tasty. The customers were the cool and beautiful of San Francisco so my rather unfashionable self felt slightly out of place but was enjoying the music and atmosphere nonetheless.
I had a couple of the Brutals because I was enjoying it then lastly I went for the Dry Hopped Red which was a nice beer to finish the night on. Lucille was wanting something light so I bought her a Morimoto Imperial Pilsner.
Having had our fill we headed back to the hotel at about 1am when the bar shut, drunk but happy.

Beerymoon Part Two

So part two begins on day two of the trip and we were heading for The Haight. Anyone who knows anything about the San Francisco beer scene knows that you have to get there during your trip if at all possible and we were no different.
After Lucille's great idea of walking up the very steep Buena Vista Park and nearly killing her new husband in the process I decided that we should now head for Magnolia. We walked through the door of this famous brew pub and you could smell the wort straight away, a more welcoming smell you couldn't wish to have. Now this place apparently used to be a pharmacy amongst other things and you could kind of see it in the decor of tiled floor and bare walls and so when we looked at the big blackboard I plumped for Magnolia's own Prescription Pale Ale on handpull, at 4.7% abv and 55 IBU's or BU's as Magnolia call them it was just what I needed after a boiling hot, asthma attack inducing walk up the park! It was light brown in colour, nicely hoppy and very drinkable. Lucille went for Wit Rabbit a 4% wheat beer on keg(or draught as it's know over there) and she really enjoyed it.
Because it was still early we got a seat at the end of a big table by the window and I preceded to give my jelly-legs a break(I'm so fucking unfit!).
I got talking to one of the Brewers, Ben , who was also sat at the table having his lunch and couldn't resist complementing him on the brews whilst we were chatting the owner of 21st Amendment walked in with another one of the 21a guys and all of a sudden a quiet drink turned into a nice sociable lunch time drink with beery people!
Next I went for the Prescription Pale Ale on 'draught' to compare with the cask version and in my humble opinion I preferred the draught, on a hot sunny day it was a lot more thirst quenching than the cask, it's very much like the Sierra Nevada Pale but I have to say I liked it better. I had a Cypress Brown last, another of Magnolia's own brews, not remembering too much about it though as I was chatting rather than taking notes.
It was then time to go, we said our goodbyes promising to come back to Magnolia and to visit 21st Amendment and headed for Toronado.
It's another one of those bars that absolutely has to be visited when your on Haight, Toronado looks from the outside like a bit of a dingy dive of a bar, but inside it's great, yes it's a bit grubby around the edges but the range is superb with 30-odd draught products and 3 or 4 cask handpulls at one end of the bar.
So what did I have to drink there? Started off with Bear Republic's Racer 5 to start with and it went down far too quickly so I found myself drinking Blind Pig, an IPA from Russian River at 6% abv and 72 IBU's it was, again, going down far too quickly so Lucille went to get us some lunch from Rosamunde, the sausage place next door to the bar, she came back with one beer sausage that we shared between us and that REALLY hit the spot, a beer food to beat all others!
Lastly, I couldn't leave without having a Pliny the Elder on draught, this beer is fast becoming one of my all time favourites and it was a real treat to drink it on draught for the first time, if you ever visit San Francisco be sure to get some!
Anyhow that was part two, part three to follow later.

Friday 4 June 2010

Beerymoon Part One

So, we're back, Mrs Rabidbarfly( or Mrs RBF as she'll now be known) and I got back today at about 11am this morning. Here's the first part of the beery side of the trip.
So night one we wanted to go somewhere close to the hotel because we weren't oriented with the city and we were also knackered, so up to Columbus we walked and went looking for a couple of bars we'd heard about there.
The first one we walked into was Vesuvio, recommended by Beer Troll Burgess himself, what a great little place, bags of character. As it was my first beer in San Francisco I went for the Anchor Steam, a beer that I have enjoyed over here on many occasions, I had heard rumours that Anchor have had some consistency issues with the Steam beer but I went for it anyway and frankly I shouldn't have, it was old and lacking the life that I have become use to. Lucille went for the safer option of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale which I tried and was on top form.
Needing to get rid of the taste of stale steam beer from my mouth we went looking for the San Francisco Brewing Company, a brewpub that was among the favourites of Jeff Pickthall although I didn't know that until we were out there, we saw it in our trusty Time Out San Francisco guide and it piqued my interest enough to go looking for it. When we finally figured out where it was meant to be we found out it had been closed and reopened as a posh(ish) cocktail bar/bistro thing called The Comstock Saloon. The service was good and the guy on the door apparently worked there when it was the SFBC, he told us it had been mismanaged and the business couldn't be sustained any more.
Not having been put off by the Steam I ordered another one at the bar and in this place it was superb, top notch, as it should be, so 100 yards apart two completely different tasting Anchor Steams! Lucille had Trumer Pils a Czech style pils. We had dinner there which was very nice, probably a bit experimental but what the hell if they've only just opened they've still got time to get it 'right'.
After our dinners, I had beef pot pie with rocket and Lucille had a Seafood Salad which was amazing apparently, we went to the other side of Columbus because we spotted a bar called Specs opposite and I'm only telling you about it because it seemed like a cheap shite rip-off of Vesuvio, the barman was shit and the beer wasn't up to much(have to point out here that we did go back to Vesuvio and the beer was a lot better, although I didn't have Anchor Steam the second time).
So that's part one done, part two to follow shortly, watch this space.

NOTE: I have changed the title of this post slightly because I like it better.