Monday, 28 December 2009

Aren't you that bird off the telly.........

......sadly no, but for a moment this morning I very nearly became famous with an invite to appear on The Big Questions, a series of moral, ethical and religious debates hosted by Nicky Campbell. It turns out it wasn't a mistake, they really did want me (I was shocked too) to debate whether the pub is more important to the local community than the church alongside a Vicar, an ex-alcoholic and someone from  Pub is the Hub*

Unfortunately I can't make the show on Sunday but it did get me thinking about what my point of view might be and I can't help thinking that pubs and churches are suffering similar problems at the moment - falling visitor numbers and mass closures - both as a result of the lack of community spirit that exists today.

What sets them apart though is that the pub trade is upping its game to do something about this whilst the church is still sitting on the old Field of Dreams myth "build it and they will come". The wet led community pub is fast becoming a thing of the past and pubs that have a reputation for great service and a strong food offer (with beer menus.....a girl can dream) will be the majority in the very near future. A welcoming pub with a wide range of services has a much bigger opportunity to be the hub of a community than the church in my book. This isn't an argument for drinking versus praying, it's about being in a warm environment with like minded people, that welcomes all comers and can provide a range of great food and drinks - doesn't sound much like any church I've ever been in.

I don't have a local pub. There was one The Walnut Tree which is currently being turned into a Tesco Metro. There was a petition to save it which I didn't sign because in my view it was one of the old school of pubs that didn't feel worth saving and actually a Tesco on my doorstep makes my life a whole lot easier.

Might sound cold and I know there were plenty of people that fought hard to save it but the message for pubs and churches from me is this - the world is a changing and if you want more people in your doors you need to work hard to get them and make it worth their while for being there.

The Pub Curmudgeon has posed the question about a potential revival in the pub trade in 2010 and I think there could be, not from new openings but from pubs upping their game to set themselves ahead of the rest of the pack and that could see more people, like me get back down their local. Here's a few simple changes that I'd love to see..................

1. Good service: I do find that most people behind the bar are friendly and professional – just how it should be. But, we’ve all encountered service that’s surly, uninterested, and intimidating: not really appealing for women, particularly if you’re the first one there out of your friends. And why is table service not the norm here, it's great as a customer and great as a retailer as it increases spend and dwell time - I'd love to see this everywhere.

2. Free Wifi: As I mentioned, being the first one to arrive when you’re meeting up can be intimidating, that’s why you always see people alone playing on their mobiles – so why not make the waiting experience better by enabling those with smartphones to check their emails why they wait? (You can always switch it off on quiz night!)

3. Clean tables: If we’ve made an effort to look nice, we don’t want to ruin our outfit by getting a drink stain on it.

4. Better bar snacks: If you were to play a game of alcohol & food word association with most people, it might go: wine = gourmet dinners, beer = crisps. This does the vast majority of beers a huge disservice – every beer fan will agree that great beer has more subtle flavours than wine so pair it with junk food?

5. Clean, nice toilets: There are many pubs where the toilets have wet floors, don’t smell great and never have any loo roll. I don’t need to explain why this is bad!

6. A safe journey home: pubs with the foresight to carry details of reputable taxi firms and a payphone (in case we find ourselves without our mobiles), get a big stamp of approval from me.

*I had never heard of Pub is The Hub until today (obviously didn't admit that to the TV researcher) but it seems like a very interesting initiative that supports local pubs in providing shared community services (post offices, meat counter etc) to keep the pub going and the services that small communities need.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

My Golden Pint Awards, some may be more popular than others..........

So everyone's been busy doing their reviews of the year so I thought I'd have a go............................

Best UK Draught Beer: Why Carling of course. Not just because I'm a corporate kiss ass but because if you're in a pub and you want a pint that you know will taste great time after time Carling is where it's at. I know I'll get abuse for it but still I think it's true!

Best UK Bottled Beer: Worthington White Shield followed closely by Thornbridge Halycon

Best Overseas Draught Beer: Sierra Nevada Harvest

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Zatec (and my favourite beer)

Best Overall Beer: Has to be Zatec, underrated but to me the best

Best UK Brewery: hmmmmm, a tough one for incredibly proud to work for Molson Coors and think we do an amazing job but in terms of independents for me the vote goes to the Purity Brewing Co for producing some immensely drinkable beers.

Best Overseas Brewery: Goose Island. The IPA alone would've done it for me but they do some great seasonals as well.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Blimey, I go to so many I wouldn't know where to start. The Rake obviously gets a mention for its wealth of choice, Smiths of Smithfields for it's Zatec links but probably The North Bar in Leeds comes up No 1 for me.

Beer Festival of the Year: GBBF but I didn't visit nearly enough festivals this year

Supermarket of the Year: Sainsburys, for really embracing and supporting a wide range of beer styles

Independent Retailer of the Year: Does the staff shop in Burton count?? They have an endless supply of White Shield

Online Retailer of the Year: Beermerchants of course ( @beermerchants)

Best Beer Book: Pete Brown’s Hops & Glory (after finishing him off in the bath it had to be)

Best Beer Blog: It has to be Woolpack Dave. Not just for the quality of his writing but for being the first to pick up on BitterSweet and lure me into the world of beer blogging, a place where I'm very glad to be.

Best Beer Twitterer: @beerreviewsandy

Best Online Interactive Brewery: @purityale

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Blue Moon and Steamed orange pudding courtesy of the lovely Rupert.
Open Category: Best Beer-Related Thing about 2009 is...: learning that bloggers aren't all short sighted, cardigan wearing, nerds called Nigel

Next Year I’d Most Like To... : Meet in the flesh some of the great people I've met online in 2009 and go to more  beer festivals.

Om nom nom, a very nice tea

I have been very poor at blogging of late - not that I haven't tried any new beers worth blogging about, have just been a bit lazy I think,  but it's Christmas, I'm on my jolliebobs so suddenly I have some time!

Tonight's blog is inspired by nothing more than a nice tea ( I think that's often the case) that made me want to make the point that beer and food matching doesn't have to be complicated. All too often it's made out to be some kind of dark art when really it's just about finding a food you like and a beer you like that go well together.

Having read Mark Dredge over at Pencil and Spoon talk about his Fab Pow's, those food and beer matches that come as a complete surpise, I was inspired to take his lead and try a Rochefort 8 with my Spaghetti Bolognese. And he was right, it is an amazing pairing. Rochefort 8 is a cracking beer, one of the most drinkable beers over 9% I think I've tasted. It is sweet but with enough spice to stop that being overpowering and with a malty, bread taste that makes it a great match for the spag bol (think drinking this instead of having garlic bread).

Inspired by the main course I moved onto desert. Duvel and Bounty Celebrations, for no other reason than that's the beer I had in the fridge and my Jorge thinks coconut is the devil's food.

But she is missing out on a treat (not that I'd actually let her at the Duvel though), this combination is to the mouth what being rubbed with warmed coconut oil on a dessert island is to the tummy and is just delicious. The beer accentuates the richness and creaminess of the coconut, while the coconut highlights the striking flavours of beer. It's like sticking your head in an old-fashioned sweet shop in summertime.Like the Rochefort 8 and Spag Bol, completely unexpected but a divine match.

Just goes to show the best beer matches come when you least expect them

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Unbreak my heart........

A Spanish study has found that regulalry drinking alcohol of any type could cut the risk of heart disease by almost a third - at least in men anyway.

According to the study those drinking moderate, high and very high levels of alcohol had around a 50% lower risk of coronary heart disease following a study of more than 40,000 adults over ten years.

The optimum result it transpires is for moderate drinkers who drink 5g and 30g of alcohol a day - the equivilent to 0.6 and  3.75 units a day or nearly 4 pints a day of standard lager - where the risk of heart disease was reduced by 54%.

Sounds like good news for alcohol right...wrong apparently and doctors in The Times were quick to heap scorn all over the findings, challenge the methodology and generally dismiss it as piffle ( I suspect there was much furrowing of brow and blowing of cheeks involved) rather than accept that maybe the current guidelines on alcohol consumption may be out of date.

Sad news for me is that the effect on women is unproven but I think I'll have a beer anyway just in case

Monday, 16 November 2009

38 sleeps..........

With only 38 sleeps till Christmas I've been thinking about what I might like in my stocking this year and there are a load of alcohol inspired presents to choose from.

Mini Prosecco on Ice Set

Over at M&S they have this sweet Mini Prosecco on Ice set

Veuve Clicquot Indulgence Box SetT

The Food Store have this gorgeous Veuve Clicquot Indulgence Box Set
Or John Lewis have this stylish Rose Champagne and white chocolate truffles set.

So with all these stylish booze related pressies about what little gift could you find for your lady to show her that beer is indeed a stylish and sophisticated choice for women this Christmas..................The Silly Beer Glass.......obviously

Silly Beer Glass I Love Beer with Pink Bell
Nothing says "I love you" more than a pint tankard with a bell on........................

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Make love not war.........

At the risk of this blog turning into a sycophantic fan site,  Pete Brown wrote a great piece this week on how the beer industry should be working better together (that's not exactly how he described it but I'm too much of a lady to repeat his actual words!) and I couldn't agree more with his sentiment.

Despite recent good news on ale sales the harsh facts are that the beer category has been in general decline since the 1980’s and the short term trend has accelerated over the last 2 years. 52 pubs a week are closing, beer is only found in 5% of supermarket shopping baskets and more than 1 in 5 adults claim never to drink alcohol so we have a LOT of work to do as an industry if we want to reverse this trend.

Something new that's been blogged about recently is myBrewerytap a brand new website that delivers real ale from local breweries direct to your door. To me this is a great idea, anything that makes different types of beer more accessible is a great idea and offering small breweries the opportunity to reach more consumers should be applauded. Their website is good and they obviously know their stuff and have outreached to a number of bloggers (Pencil and Spoon Reluctant Scooper and Pete have all written about them). They also offer the 52 Week Beer Club, a subscription beer club that's a great way of discovering some of the best ale that Britains independent breweries have to offer.

All in all a great offer until I received this email from them.........

We are a brand new website that was launched in September so we are a new face in the real ale market and our goal is to convert younger pub drinkers from fizzy bland " cooking lager" over to flavoursome, lovingly made British real ale by bringing the brewer closer to the customer.

And this for me is the problem. Forgetting that by sending this to me they've obviously not done their research very well, having a pop at lager to sell their wares is tiresome to say the least. In a market were 60% of women don't drink beer EVER, I couldn't care less what gets women into beer, a pint of Carling or a real ale, what matters is we need to get women into the category and out of wine. Let's at least get them in and then we can have a bun fight about what type of beer they should drink, this type of behaviour gives the whole category a bad name.

Putting a pint of dark, chewy Olde Ferret* in front of a woman, watching her struggle to drink it and then telling her why she's wrong will not show that beer should be the most sociable, inclusive drink around.

So myBrewerytap you have a great website and it looks like you offer a good service, stick to doing what you do and doing it well, don't cheapen yourself by having a pop at lager.

*apologies if there is actually a beer called Olde Ferret out there, I'm sure it's lovely I was just trying to make a point

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Sun is shining.....

Well who would've thunk....a positive story on the beer category in today's Sun.....blimey!!

So  Ale is in growth which is great news, as Pete Brown (a big Cobra Bite Fan) recently wrote in the Cask Report, Cask Ale is in good growth in 2009, in fact outperforming any other beer with both volume and value growth in 2009 in what is a very tough beer market and this is clearly having a knock on effect to the Ale category as a whole.

Since I work for the country's biggest lager brewer I should probably take the chance to trot out some facts about lager performance (and believe me I have loads) but I won't, because that's not what matters here for me. Not only do we brew some great ales but the important thing here is seeing a positive story about the beer category in the papers, which after a 2 week expose on 'binge Britain' in the same paper makes a very refreshing change from pictures of drunk girls with their knickers round their ankles.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Sexy Beer.......

I see little gems like this and I can't think why it is more women don't drink beer and think it's the preserve of loutish, puerile, sun reading, lager louts.........You can buy this little beauty over at Amazon for a steal at just £5.50

According to the blurb.........
Beer Bottle Holder

"This is the sexiest way to enjoy your favourite bottle of lager! We all know that man's 2 favourite things are Beer and Boobs, now this bottle holder has ingeniously combined the two! This will provide an overwhelming amount of happiness for any male user! You can hold onto any part of the big busted babe's body while sipping your beer, without even getting so much as a slap!"

Classy, the gift for the man who has everything.......except taste

Affligem Blond

I'm slowly working my way through the Belgian Blonde mixed case I recently purchased from the super Beer Merchants contianing 20 bottles of Belgian Blonde beers ( 10 different types) and a fab Beer Merchants glass to drink them from.

I'm a big fan of the idea of a mixed case becuase I think it's a great way to trial new stuff. Whilst I love the idea of new things I can be a bit of a lazy shopper and tend to default to what I know (I've been eating crispy chilli beef from the Chinese for the last 10 years) sometimes rather than be disappointed. So to have someone go to the trouble of picking new beers for me that I wouldn't otherwise try is brilliant (that's why I loved the idea of BeerSwap so much).

My favourie so far is this, Affligem Blond, Abbey beer, 6.8%. It pours a hazy gold (sorry, really must start taking better pictures!) with a tight, white head and straight away you get a lovely spicy smell, cloves, nutmeg, slight hint of cinnamon and a sticky apricot sweetness.

That sweetness is there when you drink it with lovely honey flavours (I'm a sucker for anything with honey in) a hint of banana a very low bitterness.

All in all a very nice, drinkable beer that I'd choose again.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

King of pants............

Look what I found over at ebay, a Budweiser G-String that's "lined for comfort" - thank God for that, all that nylon looks like it could chafe.........

Drinking in French France..........

Since I've started this blogging thing I've not said much about the beers I work on, not really sure why, could be the barage of abuse I get from the beer blogging fraternity (although I think I can handle that!) but I suspect it's more because I take them a bit for granted.

It's not that I don't drink them, I do (well if I'm honest not Stones or Albright) and last night  I revisited Kasteel Cru Rose, a lovely beer of ours that I last drank in the hot tub at The Sanctum Hotel at a party with Kimberley from the Pussycat Dolls (honest, there's pictures of it here too)

Kasteel Cru Rose is brewed with the natural soft waters of Alsace (I didn't write that bit, I stole it from the sales presenter but it's true!) and flavoured with elderberries and elderflowers.

It pours a bright, salmon pink with a bright white head and for a very delicate lager, it packs a lot in, with elderflower flavours at the start moving on to lemon and red apple, but with almost no hop bitterness at the end.

So it's s surpise that I haven't had one in such a while if it tastes so good but I blame it on France. Or more specifically  a 2 week camping holiday this summer with my good friends the Walsh's
One balmy summers evening pre holiday Mark and wI ere waxing lyrical about all the great beer we would seek out on our holidays, Kate suddenly piped up "the only beer I like is Kasteel Cru Rose, shame you can't get that in France, I'd love to drink that on holiday, if only  there was a way we could get some of that out there........"

If only, I must have been the only car making the crossing from Dover to Calais loaded up with booze!! But Kate wanted to drink Kasteel Cru Rose and drink it we did, and there lies the problem. It became a 'holiday' beer, relegated to the San Miguel cupboard of beers that taste great while you're on your jolibobs but are never quite the same unless you are sipping them in the early evening warmth watching the sun set over the vinyl of a Eurocamp tent.

And so I haven't really had one since the summer but last night I just fancied something a little lighter, a little sparklier than normal - it was a Saturday afterall - so I opened a bottle and it was delicious, especially with a handful of black olives (for complimentary food matches think pink - Salmon, Prawns).

Saturday, 7 November 2009

What if White Shield made a lager.....

Well they have and he's called Bob...........

I was lucky enough to get my paws on a couple of bottles of Best of Burton, a bottle conditioned lager at 5.3% that was brewed by Steve Wellington to raise money for Mencap and it is magnificent.

For some the very idea of a lager would be blasphemy but for me I like lager and I love Worthington White Shield but my only criticism would be that the low level of carbonation and big explosion of hops make it only suitbale for the occasional (but well deserved) treat so this for me is just about perfect.

The beer offers a perfect balance of maltiness and bold hoppiness, that is less of a challenge than the big smell suggests. It's more tablet than treacle with a soft butter finish to the caramel flavours. The finish was clean with citrus notes and superb mouth feel. I had it with a chicken curry and the extra carbonation did a better job of lifting the flavours and cleanising the palate in between mouthfulls than White Shield would. This to me is a perfect Friday night beer and would be just amazing with fish, chips and curry sauce!!

Sadly this is a one off run although if it went on sale i would buy it for sure. That said you may have noticed that Bob was one of twins and there's still one left in the kitchen. Maybe, just maybe I could be tempted to part with it for BeerSwap..........

*sorry about the quality of the pictures, may well treat myself to a new phone if I'm going to make a habit of this (any excuse for shopping)
** thanks to Beer Merchants for the glass, if you want to buy beer go to them, they're the best

Friday, 6 November 2009

Love it or Loathe it.....

I'm not sure if this will become a regular feauture as I'm not sure I can come up with too many gems like this one.....the Heineken disco ball.

As far as I can see it does no more than look slightly easier on the eye than a naked keg - don't think it chills it, it could be that the thickness keeps the keg cold but I can't find any evidence that that's the case.                                 Anyways - what do you think? A thing of beauty or the beer equivalent of those dolls your nan used to put on the toilet rolls?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Dear Santa, please can I have............

Clearly I'm all for anything that gets more women choosing beer but sometimes I stumble across things that even I think are a step too far.

So here's the thought process.......ladies don't like beer but they do like jewellery so if you combine the two the ladies are bound to love it wrong, very wrong.

The first little gem I found were these delightful Beer Cap Earrings  - aren't they just gawjus!!

I'm all for recycling  but seriously, what would you need to be wearing and where would you be going to think "what would look nice with this, I know the Stella bottle top earrings"

And it doesn't stop here. Obviously if you were wearing your beer cap earrings you'd want a beer bracelet and beer ring to go with it...........

Fortunately D-Licious Jewellery is here to help with that. Apparently "Dana creates beautiful jewellery using aluminium beer cans and sterling silver"

Put down the Immac

It's Movember, a  month-long celebration of the moustache, highlighting men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer and we're all encouraged to grow our own moustache.

If you, like me, think that maybe growing your own tache is a bit above and beyond the call of duty but want to show your support for this very worthwhile cause then fortunately help is at hand. Why not snap up this necklace from Tatty Devine and help make more men aware of the risks of prostate cancer.


Or for just £5 Punky Pins have these very cute moustache earings.

And while I may have a dig or two at Brewdog lately they have done something I very much approve off and brewed a special Movember beer with 25% of the sale price being donated to this very worthy cause.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Cheap Tricks

Hot on the heels of Brewdog's questionable use of totty it seems that the beer industry is not alone when it comes to objectifying women to make a quick buck. PepsiCo has been forced to apologise after it was accused of stereotyping women with an iPhone app for its Amp Energy drink that helped users "score" on a date.

The app features 24 types of women, including "nerd", "foreign exchange student" and "treehugger", and offered possible pickup lines including "Wasn't I in Space Academy with you?" and "You know the Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. I wonder what else she shaves?"

I'm no puritan or a bra burning feminist, I have even been described as having a "bawdy" sense of humour (am still trying to work out if that's a compliment) but seeing this kind of cheap tat from a company that claims "Win with diversity and inclusion" and "respect others and succeed together" immediately begs the question......"seriously, what were you thinking?!"

The drinks business is an incredibly competitive market place and it's increasingly diffixult to come up with creative and innivativce ideas but any idiot could see that this would cause complaints for a bargain basement brand never mind a company on this scale so someone at Pepsico clearly needs an arse kicking.

 Taking of bargain basement brands I also came across this from Skinny Blonde, a low carb 5% beer from Australia that fortunately is yet to grace our shores. They have come up with a marketing campaign straight out of the pages of FHM using thermochromic ink on the bottle label so that 'Daisy's" bikini comes off as you warm up the label......classy.

What really bothers me about this (apart from the blatant sexism obviously) is that it continues to perpetuate the myth that beer is solely the preserve of men (and peurile adolescent ones at that) and not only makes a lot of women cross but alienates them from the beer category. And it makes beer look cheap and dirty - would a wine brand ever do this, or a gin brand - obviously not and while there are beers like this that will it makes it tougher for the rest of the market to show beer in a good light. I have no idea what this beer tastes like but my gut feel is that it's probably not great or they wouldn't have resorted to a low rate stunt like this.

In their defense the people behind Skinny Blonde claim, wait for it...........

"This generation of Aussies have grown up on the beach and topless girls in bikinis are commonplace. The label and website is in no way meant to offend women or anyone else, rather embrace the Australian beach culture."

Lets hope that it never makes it over here, I don't remember seeing too many 6 foot, blonde women topless on the beach during my childhood holidays in Canvey Island. Mind you if they swapped Daisy for some of the women on the beach there we'd certainly be seeing more beer served ice cold............

Pumpkin Beer

Starbucks have got the red cups out, the coke advert must be on the telly anyday soon (holidays are comin') but I'm refusing to accept just how close Christmas is so this year we've tried to prolong the Halloween festivities as much as possible.

So after the annual Pumpkin carving (Jorge did it all by herself for the first time this year, I was relegated to cleaning duties) I was left wondering what culinary delights I could whip up with the pumpkin flesh. Obviously nothing, am more domestic slut than goddess so I put the lot in the bin and decided to try some pumpkin beer instead. 

It seems that the Americans are much more recpetive to Pumpkin Beers than we are and have a much wider range - I found this top 10 list most of which I've never seen but have tried the Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale  and was very disappointed - more cinnamon than pumpkin and very thin and watery, and with a slight carrot cake aftertaste - I would expect a Pumpkin Ale to be much more full bodied than this and I'm sure there are much better examples to be had. I would love to get my hands on some of our own Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale but sadly we don't have it in the UK (and I'm not sure the expenses policy would allow a round trip just to try some!)

But I'm not one to give up easily and after finding many brew your own recipes (that I should maybe pass on to Cooking now he's gone over to the hairy sandal brigade) I manage to track down some Badger Pumpkin Ale which was surprisingly tasty. Lots of sweet pumpkin flavours mixed with cloves and a nice hint of ginger. Only cristism would be that after all the sweetness it left a surprisingly dry and bitter aftertaste but enjoyable nevertheless. 

I also found this on my Pumpkin Beer search Pumpkin Beer Ice Cream, and it sounds scrummy, although I might  wait until it's ice cream weather before I give it a go......brrrrrrr

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Sorry Miss, The Dog Ate My Homework.......

Whilst I realise this bandwagon may have sailed out of town a little while ago, I thought I'd try and jump on board and do my book review of Pete Brown's Hops & Glory (sorry it's late miss).

Now this is a first for me, I've never read a whole book about beer before and I'm not a huge fan of non-fiction either, usually the only thing I tend to read cover to cover is Heat Magazine but having pestered Pete for a meeting for weeks I thought I best at least thumb through it in readiness for our get together. So no one was more surprised than me (except the author himself I expect) when I enjoyed it, really enjoyed it.

So what's so good about it then? Well, on the publisher’s website it says this..........

"A raucous, rollicking history of the original India Pale Ale -- the finest beer ever brewed

For the first time in 140 years, a keg of traditional Burton IPA has been brewed for a voyage to India by canal and tall ship, around the Cape of Good Hope; and the man carrying it is award-winning beer writer Pete Brown. Brazilian pirates and Iranian customs officials lie ahead, but will he even make it that far, having fallen in the canal just a few miles outside Burton-on-Trent? And if Pete does make it to the other side of the world with 'Barry' the barrel, one question remains: what will the real IPA taste like?"

So a book about beer, travel and history, only one of which I'm interested in, in a genre of book I don't like, wasn't exactly setting me on fire and I did wonder if I was taking my pre meeting prep a little too far.

But I was wrong, very wrong. This book will have you emitting wry smiles on page one, disguising chuckles as coughs on page two (if like me you read the first few chapters on the Dover to Calais ferry) and is laugh out loud funny well before the end of the first chapter and throughout the entire book.

I'm fortunate to have some insider knowledge of some of the early story (and access to the company photo library)so it was great to read about the efforts of some great colleagues of mine, the legendary Steve Wellington, the lovely Lisa, the gentlemanly Rudgie (currently waving the Molson Coors Flag in Canada) and feel by association that maybe I was somehow involved in getting this project off the ground (tenuous I know!!). Pete's knowledge and research is outstanding and evident throughout - I'm ashamed to say he knew much more about the history of the company I work for than I did but delighted to have learnt so much as a result of reading this book.

This book is an entertaining and engrossing tale about Pete's trip by barge, train, plane, cruise ship, tall ship and finally container ship from Burton to India (not forgetting the trip down Burton High Street with Carling the Shire Horse), following the historical route that IPA's travelled over 140 years ago.

Nobody travels that route by sea any longer, and reading about the ordeal Pete puts himself through I can see why!
There is a lot of historical information throughout but interspersed at just the right times with a good dose of self-deprecating humour that keeps it engaging to the end. If you're a fan of non-fiction you'll like it and learn a lot about IPA and the colonial history of India (that sometimes makes for uncomfortable reading) but you also get  a ton of laughs along the way that makes it a great read for anyone.

I'm sure Pete didn't just nearly kill himself for fun and would love more people to invest in his retirement fund so why not hop over to Amazon and get it for yourself, it's well worth it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Beer - is it really so bad............

Another day of doom and gloom binge drinking news so here's something the Daily Mail probably wont cover...........

Posted via web from The Lighter Side of Beer

Monday, 26 October 2009

Beer Swap, I'm In too

I'm still a newbie to the online community so am especially delighted to be asked to take part in an exciting new idea: Beer Swap.which is a bit like Swishing for beer (unless any of the beer community have any size 7 stilettos they'd like to swap???)

The idea is simple, yet brilliant - people often Tweet about great local beers that the rest of us can't get hold of so you package up 4 of your local beers, send them to someone else and they send you 4 of their local beers back in return, genius!!

Everybody involved in Beer Swap sends their name and address to the organisers (Andy Mogg – @chilliupnorth and Mark Dredge – @markdredge) who then assign each beer swapper a partner and then we all get to try some fantastic new beers we might otherwise miss out on.

I think this is a fantastic use of Social Media, a great way to trial beer and promises to be good fun too. I'm not sure yet what 4 beers I'll be sending but plan on using this weeks "staycation" to track some good ones down - I don't think send a 4 pack of Carling is quite what people had in mind.......

Beer swap brought to you by and and the beer swap logo is designed by @robsterowski (I like it - looks a lot like a Grolsch bottle......)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Think I'll spend £230 replacing the bra I just burnt.........

I'm certainly not the first to comment on this weeks Brewdog news but for anyone that's missed it they promised us this on Twitter 

"20th of October. Brewdog to make the single most exciting, influential, ground-breaking and audacious move ever in British beer brewing"

What they actually launched was Equity for Punks, an IPO offering Brewdog fans the chance to own a smidgeon of the brewery that will raise funds to build a new brewery. So hardly groundbreaking or life changing but I think that Brewdog should be applauded for their use of Social Media - the Twittersphere was alive with speculation and it has been much commented on since.

I know a little bit about beer PR and I think Brewdog make some great beers so I probably wouldn't have said much more than a good job well done had I not seen the picture they've chosen to use to launch their new venture.........

To me this is a perfect example of the sexist way women can be portrayed in beer adverts, and it's pretty shocking in this day and age!! From a team that claim to be 'about breaking rules, taking risks, upsetting trends and unsettling institutions but first and foremost, great tasting beer' to see them objectify women in this way makes me CROSS - surely they could have made their point without using a women in her bra???

I may have mentioned before that I work for The BitterSweet Partnership which was launched because the beer industry has ignored women for far too long. We know that lots of women already love beer, but our research showed that almost 8 out of 10 women (77%) say they seldom or never drink it.

42% of women polled said changing beer advertising is one of the biggest things that could be done to make it more appealing to them, looking at something like this makes it obvious it's a change that can't come soon enough..........

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

It's been a while since I mentioned beer cocktails....................

Fancy a beer cocktail? I know I do...Cosmo Online just featured BitterSweet Partnership's Alsace Bellini cocktail, made using Kasteel Cru, the lovely lager brewed using a champagne yeast.

I know that beer cocktails divide a lot of people but I think that anything that gets more women trying beer has to be a good thing so hope you'll give these ago. For videos of our lovely Jez showing you how to make beer cocktails (including the Summer Breeze or Chocolate Moon), look at and for more information on women, beer and BitterSweet Partnership, go to


Posted via email from The Lighter Side of Beer

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

What You Need to Know About Beer Bellies...

Well firstly you need to know they're not caused by beer alone, which this article actually does tell you despite the amount of times it uses the term beer bellies!!

It's not exactly rocket science, eating too much, drinking too much and exercising too little makes you fat, not beer on it's own. But still over half of women, believe a bottle of beer to have a higher calorie content than a double gin and tonic, a can of cola or even a large glass of wine, which all in fact contain more calories per 100ml than beer. Although beer can have fewer calories than other alcoholic drink choices, the fact is women simply see it as fattening.

So why not eat less, exercise more and then raise a glass of beer to a smaller waistline!!

Posted via web from The Lighter Side of Beer

Monday, 21 September 2009

A match accident

I am a huge fan of beer and food matching, I've never really understood why so many people don't think that beer is a great accompaniment to food and more often than not, an easier match than wine.
That said regular beer and food matching takes a level of organisational capability way beyond my domestic (slut) capabilities and usual food matching in my house involves eating whatever's on the plate matched with whatever's in the fridge, often with some disastrous results. But sometimes, just sometimes, and purely by accident you land on something that really works* and for me it was a Grolsch Weizen matched with a Salmon and Prawn Bake, mmmmmmmm.
Grolsch Weizen is a super beer but it's one of those great beers that I often forget about so it's always a pleasant surprise when I rediscover it ( I say rediscover I had a case in the car for someone else and I figured they wouldn't miss one would they?)
This is a classic wheat beer in my opinion, it has a gorgeous spicy aroma with coriander overtones and the merest hint of orange peel. On pouring you get a huge white foamy head and it tastes of melon, muted lemon-lime and banana with a bitter finish and malty aftertaste, a great balance of sweet and sour that makes it very drinkable and very refreshing for a wheat beer.
And with no more thought than having them both in the house at the same time this is a match that worked really, really well. The seafood and cheese sauce matched perfectly with the sweet malt in the beer and the high carbonation was great at really cleansing the palate to make every mouthful of fish pie taste as fresh and flavoursome as the first.
Why not give it a try!
And for the foodies out there I've attached the fish pie recipe too....................

*it's not just me, it happened here too

Drunken convictions fall by 75%......................

New figures released today show that the number of those convicted of or receiving a police caution for drunkenness has slumped by more 75% in the last 30 years.
So what looks like a good news story on alcohol, drunken convictions down by 75%.........sounds like good news right? Ermmm, actually no if the Daily Mail is to be believed.
Apparently nothing to do with changing habits in alcohol use and longer opening hours leading to more relaxed drinking....nope, it's all because the police have gone soft and letting drunken yobs (apart from in Newcastle obviously) maraud the streets without out so much as a slap on the wrist.

There's no pleasing some people!!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Beer, not so bad after all........

Today's News of the World (that I obviously read over someone's shoulder, not my own copy.....) reveals the full scale of the Nation's 'binge drinking epidemic'
Apparently 23% of 18-24 year olds have felt ashamed of their appearance when drunk and almost half (48%) have vomited when drunk. No real surprises here - apart from learning that young Geordie's are the most responsible drinkers, who would've thunk - and the NOTW art department are obviously in cahoots with the BBC, because how did they choose to illustrate it? With shots of teens downing double vodka redbulls and copious Jaegerbombs, of course not, they used pint glasses, once again beer is seen as the demon drink.
In fact only 8% of 18 - 24 year old women claim beer as their drink of choice, maybe if more did, opting for a lower ABV choice, there wouldn't be such an epidemic!!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Stop the press, brewer uses CO2................

It seems that CAMRA have seen fit to ban Freedom Brewery from the Burton Beer Festival because they *shock horror* use CO2 and not compressed air......what a load of nonsense!!
I'm not a CAMRA member but I do think generally they can do some good work promoting beer and pubs. But this kind of small minded behaviour that only serves to perpetuate the myth that beer is the sole preserve of bearded, sandal wearing men called Trevor makes my blood boil!!!
Freedom are, I believe, the only micro brewery in the UK that brew just lager and have a couple of cracking organic lagers. I've seen them a number of times at shows this year, their beers are great and locally produced and it's madness that CAMRA would choose not to support a local brewer like this.

Given the amount of pressure that beer industry faces I would've thought working together to get more drinkers appreciating beer, any beer, is a much better strategy than this elitist behaviour that only serves to do the beer category more harm than good!!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Bearded Brewers.......

Found this post of a channel 4 news piece, featuring Pete Brown  (who will meet me for lunch one day he promises) and the ever so stereo-typical suggestion that beer is only brewed and enjoyed by pot bellied, bearded men.

So just to break down that stereotype - here's the main reason I tried Thornbridge Jaipur IPA - and take it from me the beer is just as delicious as the lovely Kelly who brews it and not a pot belly in sight.


Posted via email from The Lighter Side of Beer

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Frothy Moth, flutter off

On one of my few trips outside the house this flu ridden week I picked up 2 new beers from my local Victoria Wine, Frothy Moth 4% from Thwaites and Purity Ubu..

I don't usually try any local products, I'm too lazy and a slave to commercialism but meeting some new beer fans on Twitter this week made me curious about any local brews that I may have missed on my doorstep. Admittedly Victoria Wine probably isn't the best place to start but I thought I'd give it a go and asked some advice of what local beers they stocked.

First to try was Frothy Moth, a relatively new brew from Daniel Thwaites of Lancashire (I was confused when they gave me this as well, I'm no geography expert but I'm pretty sure Leamington Spa is not in Lancashire but decided to go with it anyway).

There was very little info I could find out about it before I tried it, Thwaites don't even mention it on their own site but did find one piece in the MA that made me pretty certain this is a beer aimed at the ladies.

 "We are confident that the combination of a quirky name like Frothy Moth, and lighter style ale will encourage customers who may not currently be drinking ale to give it a try".

Everything about it suggests they are trying to woo women with this beer but not appear patronizing while they do it - so a Moth and not a Butterfly (cause ladies love flutterbys right) - and a use of language on the label that wouldn't be out of place in a Mills & Boon - "light and delicate, just like it's wings" and whilst the typography is quite stylish (my photo doesn't do it justice) it just feels like it's trying a little to hard.

And so to the beer itself - it promises to be light and refreshing, and indeed it is, so light it's almost tasteless. It pours quite flat with a very light head that disappears almost instantly. You can get a hint of the fruity overtones they promise, some mixed fruits and a hint of honey but the mouth feel is very thin and the flavours disappear as quickly as the head did.

So after a week off the beer and disappointing first start - let's hope the Ubu is more promising.

Friday, 11 September 2009

It's Friday again......

The weekend is upon us and sod's law the swine flu has kicked back in with a vengeance so the dancing shoes are confined to the wardrobe and I'm regretting the haste at which I stripped the bed sheets.

I did muster the energy for a trip to the off license but one bottle of Thwaites Frothy Moth later (review to follow) and my bed is calling - just as soon as I can find a sleeping bag.

But hopefully everyone is having a better weekend than me and making the most of the unexpected balmy weather. Feels like it's a little too early to put the Pimms away so a Summer Breeze should be just the job, have one for me!!

A beer a day......

Unashamedly stolen from last nights Mock the Week
If, when you have have the flu vaccine the doctor injects you with a little bit of the flu virus, surely having a beer a day is stopping me being an alcoholic.

Works for me

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Beer, one of life's simple pleasures.......

I work for a big corporate brewer* and lots of time and money has been invested in teaching me to appreciate beer. I've been lucky enough to learn under the very gentlemanly Rupert Ponsonby and Alex Barlow but not everyone gets this chance and I wonder how many women are put of trying beer because they think they don't know enough about it.
I didn't always like beer - I learnt over time (and happily have always had jobs that let me do that). I started when I worked for Bass Retail drinking Tennants Pilsner and then migrated onto pints of Carling Premier & Blackcurrant - I was obviously much younger and had less class. I like a pilsner best these days, Zatec is my favourite but Bitburger and Menebrea are close followers but I'm broad church and enjoy an ale or a porter just as much - it's all about choice.
Tasting beer should be easy and it should be enjoyable and whilst I don't want to trivialise beer tasting I don't think it should be seen as a dark art - I really don't believe in getting women to try the most bitter, chewy ales and then watching them struggle to drink it, then tell them why they are wrong!!
So you can find some great lessons on how to taste beer here and here  but the way I do it is this..........
1. Pick a beer that looks interesting - this is often the difficult bit. Supermarket beer aisles are, mainly, ugly and look like dirty warehouses and have very little information about different beers so you might have to work a bit harder to find something that looks worth a try. Try online sites like Beers of Europe or BEERMerchants , they are both very good and have heaps of choice. By interesting I go for the one that
catches my eye with the nicest label - I'm simple like that, and I want it to look nice in the kitchen.

2. Taste it - if it tastes nice this is called a 'good beer'. When you find a good beer keep drinking it and maybe try it with some food.
3. If it doesn't taste nice this is called a 'bad beer'**. When you find a bad beer stop drinking it and repeat step 1.
The key thing is don't be put off if you go straight to point 3 - you may do this a few times before you find a beer you really like and that's the fun bit. There are over 3000 beer brands in the UK, you will find one you like and what a great time you can have getting there!!
*blatant corporate plug - I work for the BitterSweet Partnership which has been set up by Molson Coors to address the fact that the UK beer industry has traditionally ignored women and to get more women in the UK to enjoy beer! We’re working on everything from dispelling the same myths about calorie content, to addressing stereotypical and sexist advertising. This is my own blog though - not a corporate front and all views or my own but I am proud of what I do. There is a BitterSweet blog too though if you're interested in what we say there.
**this does not mean the beer is bad, just bad for you. Enjoying beer is one of life's simple pleasures and there's nothing to be gained from forcing yourself to drink something you don't like just because everyone else says it's good.

An afternoon of beer and puddings..............

Now I didn't get this figure on crisp breads alone, I had to really work at it, so when the devilishly handsome (I think that's how he described himself)Rupert Ponsonby invited me along to Brown's Hotel to spend an afternoon indulging in beer and pudding matching I was only too happy to get idea of heaven.

To me I can't imagine a better way to spend an afternoon but when I went bragging to my girlfriends I was surprised just how much the very idea was knocked back. The majority of my girlfriends fall into the 60% of women that don't drink beer* and while they might humour me and have the occasional pre dinner Kasteel Cru, taking away the wine at pudding time is apparently a step far to far. So could they be proved wrong? Well I was prepared to give a blooming good go (I'm selfless like that) with 7 scrummy puddings and 9 beers and finally I've got round to writing about it.

Lime and mango Eton Mess and Sol 

I approached this with some trepidation. I love Eton Mess, it’s my number 2 pudding, but I’m an Eton Mess purist and it goes with strawberries in my book but I could see Rup’s thinking – you have lime with Sol and lime goes with mango so it should work right? Well it nearly did but the mango was very sweet, too sweet and left me with a sticky mouth that the Sol was just too light to cut through.

Steamed orange pudding and Blue Moon 
Orange on orange was just a step too far, even for someone with my sweet tooth. The pudding was lovely, really light and airy but the extra hit or orange drowned the coriander spice in the Blue Moon which I think is it’s key attraction. But I was a lone voice – it was voted joint top on the night.

Poached pear in white wine and Grolsch Weizen
Am a huge fan of Grolsch Weizen and can easily see how the strong banana notes would make this a good pudding match. However am much less of a poached pear fan but despite that could see how it could work, but it didn’t quite hit the mark. The vanilla flavours in the pear were just to sweet for the beer and when we try adding some cream (well you have to at pudding time) it was a disaster and brought out a lot of bitterness in the beer.

Spotted Dick and custard and Schneider Aventinus
This was one of the one’s I was waiting for – the only beer on the menu that I hadn’t tried before and it was definitely worth the wait, in fact voted the overall joint winner. The Aventinus was gorgeous, big ripe banana and clove flavours that was perfect with the raisins and spice in the pudding. True winter comfort, felt like the old lemsip advert were the chair grows around you. Absolutely gorgeous and one you should try - although you may have to rename it to Spotted Richard if the 
PC brigade get their way!

Raspberry crème brulée and Innis & Gunn, Bacchus Frambozen and Hix Oyster ale
I dived into this with undisguised joy – and wasn’t disappointed. The Innis & Gunn combination was just dreamy, the combination of the creamy brulee and the caramel beer was just stopped short of being to sweet with the tartness of the raspberries – why this didn’t win I’ll never know! The Bacchus was not such a winner, too sweetness and I think (well I know from many happy experiences) red fruit beers are a much better pairing with a chocolate pudding. The Oyster Ale was the weakest pairing, the beer was very cold which helped but the pudding was just too sweet and made the ale seem overly bitter.

Ginger Parkin and Worthington’s White Shield IPA
Sadly I had to catch a train at this point which was very disappointing as I had been really looking forward to it. I did recreate it at home (my ginger parkin is nothing on what Brown’s would prepare though). For those that stayed it seems this was a very marmite moment – but I loved it. Lots and lots of big flavours from the beer and the pud which for some could be overwhelming but a good match for me.

Pannacotta and caramelised oranges with Goose Island IPA
I was already at Watford Junction by the time this one came round and I’m hopeless at making pannacotta so I haven't yet tried this but you can see how it did here 
 and  here. My hunch is it wouldn't work, the caramelised orange would be just to sweet and leave this great beer seeming bitter.

So can we trade in the Chablis……
Some really great pairings that definitely show that beer should be on the menu at pudding time. Some not so strong but with a bit of tweaking – a chocolate brownie with the Bacchus would have been divine and fruity spiced Christmas pudding with the White Shield – and I would definitely have missed that train.

*blatant corporate plug - you can find more stats like this about women and their relationship with beer at 
BitterSweet Partnership