Friday, 26 February 2010

Minister For Pubs Spotted "In The Pub"

...according to the Morning Advertiser.

Meanwhile, his Parliamentary colleagues were debating pubs and the tie, and asking why the Minister for Pubs was absent from the debate. He was in the pub. Duh!

At last, a government minister sticking closely to his brief. Restores your faith in politics, doesn't it?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Badger Sett To Unveil 'Celebrity' Beer Bloggers

Badger Sett is Hall & Woodhouse's Beer Club. You need a secret password to join. I could tell you what it is, but then I'd have to kill you.

Anyway, they have written out to the Membership to tell them about their enlistment of 'Celebrity' Beer Bloggers. No names to spare embarrassment, but if your initials are Melissa Cole, Zak Avery, Adrian Tierney-Jones, Tim Hampson and jewel in the crown Pete Brown, then Badger are expecting you to
...bring insightful and amusing anecdotes from the world of beer.
I'm sure all concerned will be up for the challenge.

Badger have asked for suggestions for future celebrity invitees. I'm sure I don't know what one of those looks like - this 'Jordan' person seems to be the benchmark, sort of hard-eyed and soft-breasted (like former Newcastle striker Micky Adams). Aside from the obvious omission from their list (Young Dredge, who I'm sure could bring a "bitchin' bash-up" approach to their presentation) I'm going to propose Cooking Lager. I know he stops by here so, Cookie, it's for your own good. Celebrity beckons, it's your destiny, and I'd love to read your insightful and amusing anecdotes.

Let's have at it!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Spooge Beer, And Ways & Means...

Some in the blogosphere (who may, perhaps, have been ennobled by BGBW) expand their beer experience by travelling to the source to try rare beers, such as... ooo, I dunno, Russian River Pliny the Younger.

Some, blessed with contacts, and calm of demeanour, wait for such beer to come to them... And lo, it cometh to pass that an growler of such spooge, for which an host did queue for two blocks around the brewpub lo for an day as the sun measureth time, and for those whom god did not smile upon, lo they did gnasheth their teeth and wail and proclaim, "now we'll have to pay over the odds on eBay!!"

This pic was taken at lunchtime at Victoria Station, away from the mortal host, and lo, it was drunketh in all its 11% glory at The Rake.

Its good to have friends.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Watch Out For Falling Pianos!

Sunday 7 Feb 2010: Government announces appointment of a Minister for Pubs. Housing Minister John Healey, apparently a pub fan, will work across portfolios and report at Cabinet level. He will lead a task force of 5 ministers.
Monday 8 Feb 2010: Healey confirms his new role will be in addition to his Housing role at DCLG, and says he aims to bring proposals forward within a few weeks. These could include a plea to HM Treasury to postpone any additional duty rise on beer, and a look at planning laws to make it harder to apply for change of use or demolish when a pub closes.

Thursday 11 Feb 2010: A Housing Minister sparks fury by remarking during a Radio 5 Live interview that, in some cases, repossession of the family home can be the "best thing". Guess which minister opened his mouth and inserted his foot..? Yep. Homeowners and political opponents call for an apology and his resignation.

This gaff-prone administration don't seem to be able to get anything right.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Beer Evangelism: Little Acorns?

Giddy from my huge lunchtime scoop, I headed off to the Battersea Beer Festival. I've been every year since 1995, I think, and even though the past couple of years had started to make me feel this fest was dying on its arse through not enough beer and a venue that couldn't cope, I was meeting an old workmate for a few halves and some beery chat.

DP pitched up, we settled into some Hook Norton Double Stout and reminisced about London Drinker, Twickenham and some workplace beery episodes. Then he asked me if I remembered his mate Craig. Not clearly I didn't, so he proceeded to remind me of Craig's first beer fest, at this very venue a few years ago, where, being a lager drinker, he couldn't find anything he could drink. DP recalls I took him to the Foreign Beer Bar and 'nursed' him (DP's words) through some beers he could get down.

Craig was heading our way, but these days with no apparent misgivings about his choice of bevvy. Rather, he had become a bit of a real-ale monster. And so it proved. He found us sipping Otley 08, but was himself keeping his powder dry by working through sessionable strength stuff, but the list was no longer in some strange version of English, and he was set for an evening out enjoying a diverse beer list.

It made me think of Pete Brown's musing on the fruitlessness of painting beer as the new wine. A couple of years ago I had a time, a place, and a drinker who was out of his comfort zone. A bit of enthusiasm, knowledge and trust and now he's enjoying good beer.

I admit I grinned.

Home Office Commissions 'Alcohol Attitudes' Survey

How do I know? I was telephoned while in the midst of serious broadcasting research last night (watching a repeat of Doctor Who), by somebody from Continental Research. Would I mind answering some questions? Not at all, I said, fire away.

The survey points up all of the current hot-button topics: supermarket and off-trade pricing; crime and anti-social behaviour; health. They asked a range of questions on minimum pricing, the most interesting being, what did I think should happen to the extra revenue raised from such a move. They were also interested in awareness of any initiatives in England on minimum pricing.

Interestingly, they asked whether I thought the media had sensationalised its reporting of alcohol-related news. I replied that I thought there were sometimes some problems with the data they were given to report.

I rang Continental Research this morning to find out more about the survey. It was only recently commissioned, and they are asking 1,200 randomly-selected people. Right now, they say, their client is not looking to develop the findings into a second stage, so I'll be watching to see when they are published.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Some Good News About Beer. And A Laugh...



The Press Association reports that a weighty tome entitled The Journal Of The Science Of Food And Agriculture has analysed 100 commercial beers and found that they contain varying levels of dietary silicon, which can help to reduce the risk of diseases such as osteoporosis. Yahoo have picked it up here.

They found that
not all beers are the same, with those containing malted barley and hops having higher silicon content than beers made from wheat. Some light lagers made from grains like corn have the lowest levels of silicon

and the PA author then goes on to claim that
beers made from hops seem to come out on top

That made me grin. It's clear from the comments of the lead researcher that the silicon comes from the barley or other grain used in the mash. I don't know whether the researchers found some beer without hops, or if the author doesn't know how beer is made. The researchers looked at production methods as well as ingredients.

I couldn't find the article in the online edition, but if I track it down, I'll update this with a link. I'd like to know which beers were used in the research.

UPDATE: The full article has to be purchased, so for now I'm off the story. However, there has been some reaction in the health and research communities. Check this out...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Now, A Minister For Pubs

The nation's weekend paper of record (the News Of The World) reports that Gordon Brown has appointed his former PPS and current Housing Minister at DCLG, John Healey MP, as his 'Minister for Pubs'.

In this role, Healey will head up a task force of five ministers to tackle the problems of pub closures. His group will meet for the first time tomorrow to scope out an initial pub survival blueprint, which might include business tax breaks, relaxation of planning laws and a right for tenants to buy out closure-threatened houses from "big breweries", though I'd expect pubcos to be included as well. We're informed that he expects to be pressured to prevent 'Badger' Darling from lumping more tax on beer in the next budget (assuming Badger will be delivering it).

Healey descibes himself as a 'beer man', though there's nothing on his personal website about this passion, and he isn't on the All-Parliamentary Beer Group as far as I can tell.

It'll be interesting to see how his brief is remitted. He will sit in Cabinet, for what that's worth, but will be be able to press the Treasury on beer duty? Will he be able to prevent misuse of restrictive covenants when pubs are put on the market? Where will he stand on alcohol misuse and harm reduction initiatives coming out of the Home Office?

He's apparently planning to hold a meeting of his Task Force in a pub, which smells of a PR stunt to me. The government's track record on sleight-of-hand initiatives and dead-end gimmicks is well enough known to wonder "why now". However, the next few days and weeks could be interesting...

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Radio Times Playing With Numbers

In my previous post, I mentioned I'd contacted the Radio Times to determine the source of some stats used in an article on portrayal of pubs and drinking in soaps, authored by Gareth McLean.

RT responded, and they gave me the link to a two-part article from the Guardian entitled 'Under The Influence'. It's still online and you can read it here. Thing is, it was written in 2004, and yet McLean thought it suitable to use some of the numbers from the piece without updating or researching their currency or validity. Another example of credulous reportage which supports a corporate or policy agenda? Given Pete Brown's recent convo with the BBC online, it's hard not to draw an inference.

I've written to RT with a link to Pete Brown's re-analysis of the Health Select Committee's report. However, I thought I'd link that Guardian article, because to me it's an example of some of the shabby thinking that has shaped Government initiatives across a range of social topics for the past decade. Whether you think the science is unduly alarmist, it seems at the time that HMG already had its mind made up, and wanted the data to support it. Where have we heard that before? [cough cough] dodgy dossier [cough splutter]

Now we are served up some confusing numbers on glassing incidents in order to drive a change in beer glassware. You can download the whole publication which informed the media coverage here. Again, I can't help thinking that minds within the Home Office are already made up, and by establishing these inclusive, "stakeholder-driven" initiatives, they keep the troublemakers in the tent pissing outwards onto everybody else. Interestingly, if you read both the 2004 piece and the Designing Out Crime stuff, one name features in both, that of Steve Thomas of Luminar Group, the UK's largest nightclub operator. A man who's learned how to play the game. Somebody who pushed hard to get reform of licensing to be able to grow his business, then got 'the kidz' to drink their continental lagers and alcopops from polycarb vessels.

Generally, having seemingly suppressed alarming 'evidence' to support changes to licensing laws, we're now having startling numbers force-fed to us to stigmatise our choice of drink and venue. For fuck's sake, what do these people want?