Wednesday 30 March 2011

The C-Word

No, I'm not being rude again. When I did a run down on last year and a wants list for this year I picked collaboration as one of the things that I wanted to do more of.

So far I've done lots of it and it's all quite exciting really. From holding events and launches at The Rake that other people have made together to going and brewing with various breweries and making friends along the way.
So? I hear you ask. What the heck do I care if you've been whoring yourself out to breweries?
Well you should. So there.
Collaboration is the buzz of 2011 just as 2010 was all about Black IPA's.
Why is it buzzing though?
Could the answer be as simple as together we are stronger? I think it just might be you know. After all, the old way was to either slag competitors off or just mostly ignore their presence and hope that you were doing enough to keep your customers coming back.
Here's a few recent examples of successful nights(certainly in The Rake) :
1) M&M Porter Launch - Melissa Cole and 'Markstar' Tranter of Dark Star do a four pub crawl, comprising of The Rake, Cask Pub and Kitchen, The Euston Tap and The White Horse.
2) Motley Brew Launch - as I'm sure you're aware by now I've been down to Pontypridd to brew with the Otley boys a few times now and when we launched the first one, one Monday night, we started something that has become a big of a monster.
3) Otley again - this time Adrian Tierney-Jones Saison Obscura is launched with another crawl. This time between beery meccas The White Horse, Cask, The Rake and The Southampton Arms in Euston.
There are two launches at The Rake in the next six days both results of collaboration. Firstly the Brewdog Avery, Brown, Dredge Imperial Pilsner gets simultaneously launched at North Bar in Leeds, The Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington and at The Rake. Then on Monday the ladies get involved with the Venus Jade launch which is getting a lot of twitter chat at the moment.
4) Did I even forget to mention the London Brewers Alliance, I did didn't I! Brewers from breweries as big as Fullers to as small as Kernel all working together and doing amazing work in the process!
Is it just about the launches and the breweries though? Nope, there have been examples of sharing things like coupler heads between us beery types, people are more and more willing to help each other with things like this. Partly because we all drink in each others establishments (when time allows) and we all know each other. London is becoming the new San Francisco and that's exciting, in fact, I will go so far as to say IT ROCKS!

It's great to be part of the scene as London becomes one of the most exciting beer cities in the world and remember...Together we are stronger.

Saturday 26 March 2011


A few days ago now, the news filtered through that Beer Ritz had been re-opened!


This is what you were missing!

I don't know the details about what happened but I love posting stuff like this, it's great news for Zak and his team and also for the people of Leeds who once again have a shop to buy great beer from!

Congratulations to Zak and everyone involved in Beer Ritz!

Thursday 17 March 2011

In My Manor

So, in the year we've been living in Streatham, I've been looking fore somewhere to have some decent beer. Finally I think I have found somewhere! Result!
The Manor Arms
In it's previous incarnation it was a pub I wouldn't have walked into in a million years but it's been purchased by Pubco Who Cares Wins Ltd and they've spent about 300 grand on the refurb and I have to say they have done a really nice job. It's a tied lease, who its tied to is not overly apparent but it's gone from shit-hole boozer to wannabe gastro-pub and even that step is welcome in the barren beer wastelands of Streatham.
They have incorporated an open kitchen into the pub which I like when it's done properly. Usually the open kitchen is a side thought, that always looks like it's been added on afterwards and is usually way too small to be productive.

Anyway, I've been in once and looking at the hand pulls I was disheartened almost immediately, there's a choice of Adnams Broadside, Sambrooks Wandle, Sharps Doombar and Purity Gold, not exactly stand out exciting stuff.
The Keg beer is unfortunately the usual suspects Guinness, Heineken, Amstel, Birra Moretti, Hogans Cider although the website say there are more available, hard to see where they might go unless they are planning to rotate them like I do, incidentally the prices are incorrect on the website.
There is still a depressing leaning towards wine with the printed lists in the bar, you get the range of bottled and draught beers(under which the cider comes) but the wine list is enormous in comparison.
All about the beer now boys and girls!

Service? Well when  I went in it was about 5pm and there was one member of bar staff behind the bar and it has to be said that she was very welcoming, chatty and nice. With the draught line up being er...uninspiring I went for one of the American bottles in the fridge. Liberty Ale from Anchor, nice, a good beer and I feel this might become my go-to on visits there. They also had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Duvel, Brooklyn Lager and more, so plenty to play with when I go in!
When I did order though, it took them a few minutes to find a bottle opener, as in 5-odd minutes! Really folks that's a basic. When they finally located on it was a bar blade, glad I wasn't ordering wine then!

Food? Didn't try it this time, I knew there was home cooked Lasagne waiting for me at home. Menu looks appetising though and I'll definitely be going in to eat sooner or later.

So, not wanting to slag off a new pub in Streatham with semi decent beer and nice staff I'm going to leave it there! As someone with a lot of experience with these styles of pubs though, I want to take them under my wing and say 'you're doing a great job, now if you did this you'd be perfect'. Little things is all it's going to take, change a handpull to a guest and get something 'ground breaking' or rotate a guest pump, anything interesting really. Those beers are literally all over London and certainly all over Streatham, I want to see something different.
Still, I'm trying to reserve judgement until next time.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Sad News

I've just woken up to the sad news that the Beer Ritz shop in Leeds has ceased trading.
I never got the opportunity to visit the shop myself but I know plenty of people that have and I know a shop just like it and it was one of these places that you could probably stare at the shelves for hours trying to decide which great beers you wanted to buy.

There are a couple of reasons I wanted to post about this.

Firstly there's the human element, Both Zak and Ghost Drinker have their blogs, they have both visited The Rake at various times and although I missed Ghostie when he came in I consider him and Zak 'mates'. The world of craft beer is very small you see and this news almost comes like the news of a death in the family.
I wish every one involved in Beer Ritz all the best for the future, having worked in a pub years ago that closed down, I know how gutted they will all be. I really hope this current cloud over the British beer scene has its own silver lining.

Secondly  if the 'beer world' or 'craft beer scene' is to turn into a proper 'craft beer revolution' then these British Isles need places like Beer Ritz and Utobeer and other places like them to thrive and it's tragic that we seem to have lost another venue that was close to so many peoples hearts.

Good luck and best wishes.

Thursday 10 March 2011

We're all in this together, Really?

Good posts from Pete Brown and Tandleman have engaged the cynic in me.
You know me dear reader, never one to tow the line, I feel the need to vent on this issue. As far as the airy fairy we should all work together notion goes I agree with it, however, big drinks companies are not ever going to do this, they are purely driven by profit not passion. I accept the argument that every brewery is looking for profit otherwise they would cease to trade and beer would die but some companies need castrating at the board level it seems.
Secondly as far as the CAMRA bashing that Tandleman comments on quite often is concerned, if some CAMRA members actually looked in the mirror before leaving the house it might not be such a huge issue for you. Cheap shot and I'm sorry.
Thirdly I'll just state an actual occurrence at The Rake during our Welsh Beer Festival last week.....

Customer : that Tomos Watkins Lager, do you know if it happens to be filtered and pasteurised? - (At this point I hope you're all thinking that this guy means 'is it real ale?')
Me: Not being an expert on every single beer that comes through the doors here, I'm gonna guess yes, although I may be wrong.
Customer : So it's not 'real' then?  (I shit you not fearless reader, those words were spoken). Now I'm sorry for this because I have lots of time for CAMRA members, tickers, scoopers, beer hounds call them what you like but after a long week this question just wound me up and I answered.
'Well it's not a figment of my fucking imagination is it?'

This sort of question is exactly why Kevin and co are seen as extremophiles and why they will always be more of a cause of factionalism than a voice for good beer!

Why? because they care, sometimes too much? It's a good thing and a bad thing, it's a good thing because they are on the front lines of the fight for good beer and they want people to drink it.
It has it's bad points too because they are cutting themselves off from some of the best beer in the industry.

I don't want to turn this into an anti CAMRA rant though. This isn't about one organisation. This is about the whole industry.

It's a very polarised industry and it always will be, this has it's ups and it's downs too. The upside is that the amount of people that are appreciating craft beer is increasing, is this because the amount of great beer available is increasing? Yes, and it's awesome! There's more access than ever before to micro brewery beers and the more available the more people will enjoy them. CAMRA's newly crowned pub of the year is an excellent example of this, there are traditional beers alongside more contemporary ones, all of them kept extremely well.
Cellarman/womanship is a massive deal too, what's the point of getting great beer in if you can't keep it correctly?
But as I said before it's a very polarised industry, driven by a polarised public. As much as we as craft beer appreciators are shouting about great beer, there are the nay-sayers. There ARE still customers out there that drink alcohol to get pissed. I came across this just last week at the BrewDog dinner at the Dean Swift and I mentioned it in the blog.
Thankfully though, the amount of people who want to enjoy the beer in front of them seems on the surface to be increasing and people like Pete, Tandleman, Cooking LagerMelissa and the rest of the high-brow beer writer folks are helping that with their various books, blogs etc.....
People like me will just have to keep getting incensed and driven on by the ignorance, we need to be strong, hold true to our values and shout about the beer that can unite people of all 'factions' and educate the public one person at a time if necessary.
I said at the top of this piece that Pete and Tandleman had engaged my inner-cynic, and they had, but after saying my piece(sense or nonsense) I feel hope again.
There is a lot of ground to make up but there are a lot of good, nay great, people out there who work hard every day to bring the best beer to the paying public.
I raise a glass of Kernel Black IPA to each and every one of you, keep it up, we'll all be fine.

Now all we need is for the government to stop hiking the duty on beer and give our national drink and the people that produce and serve it a chance to thrive!

Saturday 5 March 2011


Usually I would leave a work based blog on The Rake's page but I feel like I need to be a bit more personal than that today.

I need to say a few words of thanks to some very cool people so forgive me if this starts sounding like an awards ceremony speech, it kinda feels like one.

This week as you probably know, The Rake has been running it's Welsh Beer Festival, a concept that my boss, Richard Dinwoodie and I came up with about two and a half years ago initially to annoy my other boss, Mike Hill. Just a bit of fun. Now we're on the third year of this one now and London shows no signs of letting up in it's thirst for Welsh beer! I started the first year by ordering 22 firkins(9 gallon casks if you didn't know), 25 the second year and 35 this year. By the close of play today I expect that we will have sold 40 firkins in one week! Some of them not Welsh, as we will have run out of the Welsh stuff! Not bad for a bar the size of an office in-tray.
This is down to a few hard working people that I'd like to thank now...
Nick Otley and his team for their support in getting the beers to London, this monster keeps getting bigger and it would be much more difficult without their help.
The Welsh brewers, for their time and their 'craft'.
My bosses Mike and Rich, for their continued patience and understanding about the way I'm trying to run their bar!
MY STAFF! These guys are awesome, they are some of the coolest people I know and they have worked their arses off this week, I hope they are as proud of themselves as I am of them!
The Punters, without you lot, frankly, what's the point? you seem to enjoy the beers we get in, so much so that we'll be doing a 4th one next year! so keep up the hard work necking those beers!

I don't want to bore you lot but I really felt like I had to get this off my chest. Thanks.

Thursday 3 March 2011

The Harp, Finally!

I have been remiss, I was meaning to do a write up of The Harp in Chandos Place. Now aside from the fact I've not really had the time, I'm really only writing this today to shut Professor Pie Tin up! Seriously though here it is.

This place is lovely, it's small, downstairs and upstairs. It really doesn't matter though it's got bags of charm and more to spare!
The staff are great, Binny and Sarah run a very tight ship and if you can't cut the mustard you won't be there very long. They see everybody that's waiting and they let you know you'll be served. It's a basic of customer service but I'm always blown away by how much it means when it actually happens. Just one of the reasons I think, why it got CAMRA's overall pub of the year.
The beers are all in top notch condition and there's both recognisable and the totally unknown on the nine hand pumps.
On this visit I chose to stick with the Dark Star, for me it does pale thirst-quenching beers very well and that's exactly what I was looking for yesterday, I'd been walking for hours and just wanted a place to sit down with a pint, so when we wandered into this bustling busy little boozer and saw a free table with a couple of chairs it was one of the most welcome sights I have ever seen.
We had one drink before Mrs Rabidbarfly had to go to a meeting. Having been on the Hophead I opted for another and went back to my seat. I had another couple of beers including the new Hophead Citra which whilst it was in good condition was not a patch on the original Hophead, there's a saying about not fixing unbroken things that springs to mind.
The bar was busy and the ambient noise was kind of soothing, it gave a feeling that all was right with the world, if you closed your eyes you could have been in one of those documentaries about pubs and life in the early part of the last century where there's added background noise with sepia pictures of people in suits and hats all smiling, holding pints and having a great time. You know that if those images and that busy murmur were to ever disappear you'd be losing part of your heritage and a tragedy would have occurred. I do wonder what took CAMRA so long to give a London venue pub of the year when there are lots of places like this around, any thoughts?

Dean Swift : BrewDog IPA is Dead Dinner.

So, after spending the afternoon in The Harp(blog to follow, I promise!) I went off to the Dean Swift Local Beer House. After turning up too early I went to a couple of other bars to wait around and I have to say the Dean Swift is by far the best pub in the vicinity!

When I did finally get in, I went to the bar and got myself a pint of Dark Star Espresso, one of my current favourites, found my table and my table mates and waited for the usual BrewDog carnage to unfold....

What I got instead was a six course meal matched with some superbly tasty beers, here's how they came out and my impressions of the matchings...

Course One. Punk IPA (canned) with Seared Scallops and Cauliflower Veloute and a Madras Dressing.
Well, by the time the food got to me it was a tad to cold, it was still very tasty and the madras dressing went very nicely with the aromatic hops of the Punk IPA, a very nicely balanced starter to the evening.

Course Two. IPA is Dead (Citra) with Chicken & Wild Boar Roulade with an Apple, Pistachio & Marsala Wine Jus.
Citra is a 'new world' hop from Washington State that has recently become the 'hop de jour' and frankly the way some brewers have used it has been a little bit...shall we say uninspiring? Well, at BrewDog they're not like that, every beer has to be a poke in the eye, every beer has to stand up and shout and they generally do!
At a recent IPA is Dead tasting at the Euston Tap bar, the Citra was I think the last of the beers to be tried and it suffered because of that(on my over-indulged taste buds anyway). This time round it's the first of the series to be tried and as it's the subtlest of the four it gets somewhat overpowered by the food pairing which was quite spicy. The beer was still in top notch form and the food was excellent, I'm just not sure the two went together.

Course Three. IPA is Dead (Bramling Cross) with Braised Wild English Rabbit & Caramelised Pear.
This is my second favourite of the four beer series. There was a fifteen or so minute wait so Tom 'the cad' Cadden otherwise known as 'Magic Dog' trawled out a couple of BrewDog stories for the crowd. Now BrewDog aficionados will know these stories from tastings and meet the brewer events around the world no doubt, but they still make me chuckle, especially the 'I'm not Fucking Mother Teresa' one which went down well with the crowd last night.
The food came out pretty much bang on the ending on the story, it looked gooood, it tasted great. I've never had Rabbit before and this was a great if not bony introduction to Bugs Bunny stew! A bit about the beer...well I would describe it like a beery equivalent to Neapolitan ice cream, there's chocolate and strawberry there with hints of blackberry and pepper.
The pairing was superb, makes me want to go kill a wabbit!

Course Four. IPA is Dead (Nelson Sauvin) with Spicy Lamb Tagine.
I remember thinking, this is going to be a cracking pairing. I wasn't wrong. This is big, spicy food with Harissa added,  paired with big IPA full of gooseberry and grapefruit. This was the FABPOW of the evening and I'm in the corner as an official hater of that phrase. I'm just a sucker for spicy food and IPA's I guess. However! If it had been Hardcore IPA it would have been AWESOME!

Course Five. IPA is Dead (Sorachi Ace) with Kaffir Lime & Lemongrass Panna cotta and Ginger & Lemongrass Green Tea Jelly.
This, theoretically should be a great pairing. It was the brainchild of Max, manager of the Dean Swift and he knows his stuff. At this point I've got a bit of a moaner at the table and he's not getting the whole beer and food matching thing. The words 'I only drink beer or wine to get pissed' Save me.
The beer did thankfully. The Sorachi Ace hop is one of the most complex and interesting in the world, in some ways it's the Marmite of the beer world, people seem to either love it or hate it. I love it.
This single hopped IPA paired with the Lime and Lemongrass Panna cotta was superb, the Jelly, not so much, I just got nothing off it!

Course Six. Hardcore IPA with Neals Yard Dairy British Cheeses and Oat Crackers.
One was a nice big blue cheese and the other was nice strong cheddar, paired with Hardcore IPA it was good, personally I think it would have worked much better with Chaos Theory! Hear me BrewDog. Hear me!

So that was it, a good night, lots of excellent food and lots of excellent beer. I'd like to thank Max and his team at the Dean Swift and Tom and everyone at BrewDog for organising this event, I had a great time.
Now, I promised to do a write-up on the Harp...

Hear me BrewDog, Hear me....
Just for good measure though, I'll add this photo of Chaos Theory!