Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Glass Act..................

According to the News Of The World, ergo it MUST be true, there are more than 87,000 incidents of violence involving glasses a year - nearly 250 every day costing the NHS, police and courts more than £100 million.

The answer to this it seems, is to launch a new toughened pint glass that's made with a special toughened glass mixed with plastics so it breaks into tiny pieces instead of dangerous shards that can be used as weapons, a bit like a shatterproof ruler I guess (although whether it'll be as effective at flicking bits of chewed up paper at Billy Reid during geography remains to be seen).

Now I'm all for making pubs a safe environment but is this really the best solution when I can't see that it's going to do an awful lot for beer quality which is enough of a problem already. Added to which is it not just suggesting, yet again, that beer drinkers are responsible for all booze related crime if all that's needed is a pint glass? Surely if glassware is so dangerous where's the wine, gin and alcopop version??

I ran city and town centre pubs for nearly 10 years and have been drinking in them for a bit longer (obviously not much longer at my tender age) and have only ever seen one violent incident involving glass,when I was once on the receiving end of a Reef bottle, and I once ran a pub so violent we had a restriction on the license that meant we could only stay open till 9pm so I wonder is it really such a problem?

I don't know who is launching this new glass (will be awfully embarrassed if it turns out to be me!!) but it makes me cross that yet again it's positioning beer as the scourge of society. For the drink usually with the lowest ABV  at the bar to introduce a glass that isn't about improving beer quality is nonsense

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The views on this blog are "entirely my own and not representative of anybody I work for"..............

I'm certainly not the first person to be upset by Roger Protz (if these comments on his recent Brewdog post are anything to go by) but his article for The Morning Advertiser has really wound me up.

Now if this was a corporate blog I'd probably say nothing as the "global giant" that bank rolls my mortgage comes out ok on balance but fortunately the views on this blog are "entirely my own and not representative of anybody I work for" so I feel more than comfortable saying the guy can be a dinosaur, the constant knocking of lager by the real ale brigade does more harm for the beer industry than good and it makes me really cross.

The particular quote that has me incensed is this.........
The global giants that dominate British brewing ought to get the message that consumers increasingly want to drink beer with taste, rich in malt and hop character, rather than bland industrial lager.
In typical Roger style there is no source to substantiate this claim and I would love to know how he can prove it. Indeed cask ale is in growth, as evidenced in this year's Cask Ale Report which is great news. But do we really believe that legions of lager drinkers have seen the error of their ways, slammed down their pint glasses and demanded a pint of Badger's Armpit - somehow I don't think so. I think cask ale has woken up to changing consumer habits and worked hard to recruit new customers into the beer category, as evidenced by the growing number of women trying cask ale.

But despite this growth in cask ale the harsh fact remains that total trade beer volume in the UK has been in general decline since the 1980’s and the short term trend has accelerated over the last 2 years with the ontrade beer category forecast to be down a further 2.8m barrels (15.6%) by 2012 (if you're wondering I can provide a source for this!!). Unless we collectively work as industry to get more people into the beer category and out of wine, spirits and cider that are all stealing our share of drinkers, the future for the beer market is not bright, so taking pot shots at different styles of beer needs to be a thing of the past.

I don't like cricket, does that make it a rubbish sport played by heathens? Am I a more refined and intelligent sports fan because I prefer tennis? I don't think so on either count so it's time to stop knocking mass lager brands, you might not like them but they wouldn't sell in the volume they did if they were all tripe - and lager drinkers wouldn't keep drinking it time after time if it tasted so bad. There are undoubtedlyy some bad lagers out there, Castlemaine XXXX was one of them which is why people didn't buy it and it had to exit the UK, but being big doesn't equal bad, it means you're accessible, reliable and lots of people like you - maybe if more of the real ale brigade woke up to this and worked together to promote beer generally the beer category could have a brighter future.

A Girls Guide to Getting Twissed...........

When Jorge is older and she tells me she's off to spend the weekend with a bunch of guys (and a couple of very lovely ladies) that she's only ever spoken to on the internet I will, of course, lock her in her room and remind her that the internet is full of perverts and serial killers. However I have no such regard for my own safety and so spent a very enjoyable weekend in Sheffield with a whole bunch of pongy ale drinkers and it was brilliant, and whilst I can't rule out the possibility of the odd pervert there didn't seem to be a serial killer in sight, just a bunch of great fun people that I'm looking forward to seeing again at the next one.

Obviously there were great pubs, great breweries and great beers all of which you can find out about from Andy and Mark and there are some great pictures too but if you're tempted to go on your own #twissup here's my top tips............

1. Trust the Experts - the beer blogging brigade know an awful lot about beer and pubs so when it comes to choosing a beer ask their advice and you'll be surprised with some of the great beers you'll find. Top beers of the day for me were Marble Brew No. 14 and Stone Ruination both of which could probably make it into my top 10 and which I might have missed out on if my fellow #twissers hadn't recommended them. The Kelham Island Tavern is a pub I would never go in of my own accord, it looks a little grotty, there's not a low slung leather sofa in sight and I suspect if you order a sandwich it wouldn't come on focaccia with a wild rocket side salad (and one of the locals asked if I was a prostitute). But I'm very glad we went there, it's not without good reason it was CAMRA National Pub of the Year, a great welcome, friendly atmosphere and a tremendous choice of beer. So suspend your normal rules and let the experts decide on where to go.

2. Never Call Them Experts - the pongy ale drinkers can be smug and superior enough towards us big mcorporate types so don't let them believe their opinion is important.

3. Eating is Not Cheating -  if you are going to spend 12 hours drinking beers at 5% ABV upwards then a few wafer thin beef sandwiches aren't going to cut it (especially if you're not faster at eating than the lovely Kelly  from Thornbridge) so make sure you factor in food stops througout the day (foraging for what may have once been a chicken at 1am in the morning doesn't count)

4. Don't Put Your Bronzer on on the Bus - you might think you're multi tasking and therefore saving drinking time but your knee, shoulder and pride will thank you for taking the time to pop to the ladies rather than surfing down the aisle of the bus on your nose.

5. Have Something Sweet - drinking beer all day makes you realise why some women think it's too bitter so mix it up with some sweetness. I had a St Louis Kriek in The Harlequin and a Bacchus Frambozen in The Devonshire Cat that had just enough sweetness to give my tastebuds a rest from the big hoppy beers we'd been sinking all day.

6. Pack Nice Pyjamas - if Mark at Real Ale Reviews is ever trusted with a key again you may find yourself giving up your bed and then's not the right time to share with everyone that you sleep commando

And Finally. Never Do Anything With a Tokyo Bottle That You Wouldn't Want a Picture of on the Internet..........

Guilty Secrets........

We've all got them, those pubs we know we shouldn't like, we know they're not very cool and that we'd never take our friends there, but somehow we can't help liking them.

Mine is The Avenue Hotel in down town Leamington Spa, on the "other side" of the river,  shock horror,  where I have been told they have *lowers voice to a hushed tone* council houses........ Such is the snobbery of Leamington Spa there is a divide between the top of town and the bottom of town and this pub being on the wrong side of the tracks means it's not somewhere a girl about town like myself should be seen to frequent.

But The Avenue is notable for a couple of reasons. Firstly it's the only pub I've ever been barred from. Not for any embarrasing, lurid drunken reason (no need to look so surprised), in fact I was barred before I'd ever even stepped foot in there for refusing to let the landlords wife and her friends into the bar I ran at the time  for being too fat. Well he assumed it was because they were fat, which maybe says more about him than me, it was actually because they were common as muck, think Sandra and Tracey from Viz but without their class and dress sense, and we were a style bar don't you know. But that was many years ago and either the wife has been on a diet and a Gok Wan makeover, or the pub has chased hands so it seems I'm safe to go back in again.

But more importantly The Avenue is a secret pleasure because it is next to Jorge's drama club and that means if the god of the M6 is smiling my way then I can get back in just enough to time to pop in and enjoy a "sneaky pint". I don't think I'm alone in thinking that out of all the pints you might have the "sneaky pint" is without doubt always the best tasting. The one that you know you're not really supposed to have, the quick one after work when you've promised to come straight home, the afternoon one when a meeting's cancelled and you really should go straight back to the office or for me the one I can squeeze in when I should be being a responsible parent and can find 10 minutes to be just a bit naughty - the "sneaky pint" is brilliant.

Monday, 18 January 2010

What a bucking idiot.............

The news is alive today with stories of Buckfast, the fortified tonic wine made by Benedictine monks, and how it is linked to over 5,000 violent offences in Scotland in the last 3 years. The Scots spend £50k a day on Buckfast and 54% of 'dangerous litter' found on Scottish housing estates is empty Buckfast bottles.

Scots spend more than £50,000 a day on BuckfastNow I'm the first to take umbrage when the BBC attacks alcohol and blaims it for all the ills of society but what's got my goat today is not the BBC but the idiot distributor, Jim Wilson of J Chandler & Co who is playing straight into the anti alcohol lobbyists hands.

Interviewed for a BBC documentary he came out with the following claiming the Benedictine monks are not to blame for the effects of Buckfast on the outside world...........

“Why should they accept responsibility? They’re not up there pouring their Buckfast down somebody’s throat. People take it by choice because they like it, because it’s a good product.”

Asked if the monks should accept any kind of moral responsibility, Mr Wilson said:

“No, they produce a good product. I drink it. Now, if I thought there was something wrong with it, would I drink it?”
What a fool. Whilst I struggle to believe the monks are completely unaware of the impact alcohol misuse can have on society there is no way that Mr Wilson can claim the same and as a seller of alcohol he absolutley has a moral responsibility to promote a respect for alcohol, something he is not doing by selling a drink that affects the behaviour of consumers, potentially making them anxious and aggressive.and which contains more than 11 units of alcohol, is 15 per cent by volume — and costs just £5.49.

People like this shouldn't be in the business of selling alcohol and giving the rest of the industry a bad name.

The original but not the best......................

Another night of rubbish on the television so another chance for me to try out a beer shampoo. This time Original Linco Beer Shampoo & Conditioner, a two in one that claims to be "specially developed with special hops" to give extra body and shine.

Strangely it only seems to be available to buy in sachets and, according to Dennis The Chemist , it's Catherine Zeta Jones' favourite shampoo. Well, if it's good enough for her then I'm prepared to give it a go.

Admittedly I'm new to the world of beer shampoo but I have used plenty of shampoos before and yet I don't think I've ever come across one that looks and smells like this. It has an oily sheen to it and feels a lot like a big handful of Swarfega. And the smell, ewwwww. Being a beer shampoo that claims to be enriched with natural ingredients I expected it to smell of natural ingredients like the Lush shampoo did but there is nothing natural about this. It smells like an 80's hairdressers, a mixture of perm solution, Elnett and bleach, it certainly doesn't smell like I'm doing my hair any good.

But I slap it on anyway and blimey, does it bubble. If only I had the photographic capability to take a snap whilst in the shower whilst protecting both my camera and my dignity you might have laughed as hard as Jorge, apparently I looked like Jamie Afro off of X Factor (the cultural reference of a 9 year old) and I'm further convinced there is no natural ingredients in this one if the foot high bubbles are anything to go by.

But, the important question, does it live up to its claims, is my hair clean and shiny with no need for a separate conditioner? Errrrrr, no. My hair is dry and unmanageable and I have a distinct look of Wurzel Gummidge. I'm afraid to try and brush it in case I break my brush and pieces are forever lost in the birds nest that is now my hair.

Contrary to it's claims, I did need a separate conditioner and a separate shampoo and a separate straightening balm before my hair started to smell and feel anything like normal.

So there's no way I'll be using this shampoo again but I have discovered another one, a Bier Shampoo from Pure Nature that's winging it's way to me. Will make sure my hair doesn't fall out from this one and then give it a go!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Someone at the Daily Mail must be having an off day............

After a week of alcohol bashing from the press it makes a refreshing change to see an image of a pint of beer being used in a way that I don't feel the need to complain about!

Today's Daily Mail has run a story that beer could be the latest hope in the war against cancer. Researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg have discovered that beer contains a powerful molecule that helps protect against breast and prostate cancers and obviously the puritans at the Daily Mail are having an off day and this positive news story about beer slipped through the net.

Enjoy it while it lasts, I'm sure normal service will resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Reasons to be beerful...................

Recently Tandleman blogged about how the increase in reality based entertainment shows like Strictly Come Dancing and the X Factor are reducing weekend pub trade. He makes a fair point and I'll admit that I'm guilty of being wedded to the sofa and a carry out on a Saturday night but with the BBPA reporting that pubs are closing at the rate of 52 a week then 2010 needs to be the year that we get off our bums and support our local.

And if ever you needed an excuse to head down the pub and blow the froth of a couple of pints it comes in the shape of Popstar to Opera Star. A shockingly bad concept where 'pop performers' like Kym Marsh, Darius Danesh and Bernie Nolan will be trained and ‘mentored’ to sing opera arias. The show asks the question "Can eight singers from the world of pop transform their voices and master the art of opera?" I think we can all answer that one for them..........

Whoever commissioned this bilge for a primetime slot should be hanged or maybe applauded given that this has to be the programme that bursts the reality TV bubble and gets us all back down the pub at the weekend!!

But it's January and everyone is detoxing, dieting and generally denying themselves of anything nice so is just crap TV going to get people supporting their local? Maybe not on it's own so why not think about some of the benefits of popping out for a beer............
  • A Spanish study found that regularly drinking alcohol of any type could cut the risk of heart disease by almost a third
  • A 330ml bottle of beer a day reduces the risk of kidney stones by 40%
  • Beer contains no fat or cholesterol and is rich in B vitamins
  • A study from the Netherlands showed less risk of Alzheimers disease for beer drinkers.
  • Hops used in brewing contain phytoestrogens, which help prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Teetotalers suffer higher levels of depression than people that regularly have a drink
  • One litre of beer contains 10% of the daily requirement for protein
  • And finally,  beer has less calories than you think - less than all other alcoholic drinks in fact. Which is why celebrities are unashamedly reaching for the beer this January.

If drinking beer this January is going to get me looking like Rhianna in a swimsuit then mine is most definitely a pint!!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Oh the weather outside is frightful.........

The snow may well be on its way out but is still blinking chilly out there so what better way to warm up after a hard round of snow angels than with a mulled beer with apples (could even count towards your 5 a day!)

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
3 apples, peeled,cored & finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 bottles dark beer
8 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


Preheat oven to 180c/350f , place apples and butter in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.
In a large saucepan combine the cooked apples, beer, brown sugar and spices.
Heat until just hot and serve.

I find it frustrating that so many recipes using beer just say 'dark beer' without any kind of recommendation, it's a bit like saying all beers are the same and it's not worth picking a special one. Which to my mind is like saying a  Lambrini is no different to a Chateau d’Yquem 1787
(I can see all the wine buffs up in arms at the very idea) so I'd urge you to always try out different beers until you find the right match.

Anyway, lecture over for this I'd recommend you try an Orkney Skull Splitter, an 8.5% dark red ale with hints of apple, nutmeg and spice that's just perfect for this warm treat. You can buy Skull Splitter on-line from Beer-Ritz for just £2.23

Thanks to Bruisin' Ales for the Skull Splitter picture

Diet? What diet......

According to a recent survey most New Year diets fail midway through day ten with 28% of people citing the need for stodgy food on dark January nights as a key reason. So if you've just dropped off the diet wagon today (or like me were never on board) do I have a recipe for you, tried and tested at the weekend.

Jamie Oliver's Bread Pudding and Chocolate-Beer Sauce

For the pudding (Serves 8-10)
5 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic
5 tbsp cocoa powder
5 tbsp golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
300ml single cream
700ml semi-skimmed milk
1 x 800g loaf of white bread, ends removed, cut into 1cm-thick slices
100g good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 small handful of pecan nuts, roughly chopped
1 punnet of strawberries, to serve (optional)
Vanilla ice cream, to serve (optional)

For the sauce
100ml dark beer (I used Bath Ale's Barnstormer for a good compliment of malty chocolate flavours)
100ml double cream
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
100g good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
Sea salt

Heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Crack your eggs into a large mixing bowl with the cocoa powder and sugar and whisk until smooth and silky. Gradually whisk in the cream and milk until combined. Cut your slices of bread into rough triangles and add them to the mixing bowl. Push them down gently and leave for 30 seconds, or until they’ve soaked up the chocolate custard. It’s best to do this a few slices at a time rather than all at once.

You’ll need an ovenproof dish or tin about 30cm x 25cm x 6cm deep. Layer your soaked bread triangles in the dish, then pour over any remaining custard so it fills the dish. Leaving the chocolate in its wrapper, smash it against the worktop to break it into chunks. Unwrap and poke these chunks between your slices of bread.
Scatter your chopped pecans over the top of the pudding, then sprinkle over some sugar evenly from a height. Pop the pudding into the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until it’s golden and the custard is delicately setting, but still wobbly.

While that’s happening get a medium pan over a medium-high heat and add your beer, cream and sugar. Keep stirring and as soon as it comes to the boil, take it off the heat. Smash up your chocolate as you did before and stir the whole lot into the hot cream mixture with a small pinch of salt. Serve your pudding with your chocolate-beer sauce drizzled over the top. Lovely with a few fresh strawberries and a scoop of vanilla icecream ( we used Green & Black's Vanilla - by this point calories had done out the window!!)

And to drink with it, Beermerchants and Pencil & Spoon both kindly recommended an Imperial Stout. I was lucky enough to lay my hands on a bottle of P2 (sorry Mark) - verdict, amazing!!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Another beer facepack........................

After a weekend of incredibly dull domestic drudgery what better way to unwind than a facepack in front of the television (whilst waiting for Heather Mills to fall over on Dancing on Ice). Which means another chance to try out some beer beauty products.

Beer Mask Ingredients
1 tablespoon of beer
1 tablespoon of Yoghurt 
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
Egg white from one Egg
1 teaspoon of Lemon extract
1 tablespoon of almond extract

How to Prepare
Mix all ingredients in blender on low for 20 to 30 seconds.

Applying Beer Mask
Wet your face with warm water and then apply the mixture gently on the skin (and you can look this gorgeous too!!) Rinse it off with warm water after 15 to 20 minutes.


Once again there's not rule on what beer to use, but I've been choosing darker, hoppier beers - if it's the hops that are good for the skin I'm getting as many as possible!! This time I opted for the 4.5% dark ale, Barnstormer from Bath Ales that I picked up from Sainsburys for just £1.79 for a 500ml bottle. Fortunately I only needed a couple of tablespoons for this and a divine chocolate pudding I whipped up (watch out for details coming soon) so I got to drink the rest and it's a very nice beer, fruity with a hint of chocolate and a lot lighter and easier to drink than its rich, dark colour suggests.

I haven't got an electric blender (I know, how primitive) but a balloon whisk and some elbow grease soon did the job. Whisked up it has a a consistency and colour that reminds me of the Olay Milk my mum used to use (only back then it was Oil of Ulay (and we still had Opal Fruits and Curly Wurly's were MUCH bigger)) only difference is this smells AMAZING, a mixture of chocolate and cherry bakewell, and I am very tempted just to lick it out the bowl. Then I remember the raw egg and instead spread  it on my face and let it work it's magic.

First thing that strikes me is how pleasant it is compared to my last beer facepack disaster, after about 5 minutes it starts to tighten up like a real facepack and I feel very relaxed. The good thing about this was that it was all ingredients I had in the cupboard - so at least if there isn't any benefit I haven't wasted time or money, I got to sit with my feet up for 20 minutes and have a beer, well worth it in my book!!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

BBC, apparently the most creative organisation in the world.............

Alcohol news was on fire yesterday with the publication of the Health Select Commitee report on alcohol. I'm not going to rip apart the report, looks like Pete Brown is gearing up to do a very thorough job of that (and a much better one than I could), but I am really cross at the way the BBC have chosen to report it.

Picked up by Jeff Pickthall, how have the brightsparks at the BBC chosen to illustrate a story calling for a rise on spirits and white cider (which I do think is a good idea and long overdue)......using a pint of course, how typical, how lazy and laughable from an organisation who's vision claims "to be the most creative organisation in the world"

Being the BBC they are supposed to offer a balanced view so they were asking people to comment on their opinions so I did................

"Can I ask why you have chosen to use a picture of beer for this article? Having read the article through several times I still can't see where beer is mentioned so it would seem that you are trying to deliberately mislead your readers.
Beer is at its lowest level of consumption since the 1930s. It is lower in alcohol, on average, than wine, spirits and cider. Wine and spirits are taking an increasing share of total alcoholic drinks. So if you are looking to depict alcohol misuse it certainly shouldn't be an image of a pint that you use to represent it."
Checked back this morning and not only has my comment not been posted they've disabled the comment box. Looks like the BBC do welcome opinion, just as long as it matches theirs.

Friday, 8 January 2010


This week my fellow beerswappers and I were lucky enough to be sent a bottle of Adnams Tally-Ho (thanks to @SeanEClarke) so I thought I'd break with recent tradition and actually put some beer inside my body insead of all over it!!

Tally-Ho is a 7.2% ABV is a limited edition barley wine style beer that Adnams have been brewing each year in October since 1880 as a perfect Christmas beer. I think that's a great description for it as it's a lot like a glassful of Christmas pudding.

The smell is malty sweet, like rich, sticky fruit loaf and this comes through strongly in the taste as well as burnt tofffee and a hint of liquorice. You can taste the alcohol too, not in a bad way, it's just really warming and comforting, perfect for a cold day. I didn't find it overly bitter either, which I had expected, but there is such a lot of front end sweetness I think it balances well.

My hunch is that, like all good Christmas puddings, this beer gets better with age and if I'd had the restraint I'd put one away for next year. I also think it makes for a great food match, in fact Melissa Cole has posted a recipe match for a Fruit Cake, served with Wensleydale, that sounds fab, wish I'd seen it before I drank the beer!!

If you've more self discipline than me why not buy some and put it away for next Christmas, Santa is bound to leave you a little extra something if you put this out for him.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Just stepped out of a beer salon...........

My foray into the world of beer beauty products continues and today the lovely people at Lush sent me a bottle of Cynthia Sylvia Stout Shampoo which promises to give weight shine and gloss to lifeless hair.

Sounds good to me, whilst I don't have lifeless hair I do have a problem with frizz (well more afro) in damp conditions so this could be just the thing for me. Added to which beer is supposed to be good for the hair for the following reasons.......

  • Beer contains protein which is good for strengthening hair

  • Beer has a low pH which can tighten the cuticles and make your hair shiny.

  • Beer contains herbs known as hops which are natural astringents that have beneficial tightening effect on the scalp.

  • Beer contains alcohol which is good for removing dirt and grease from hair.

I'm not sure how true this is, my hunch is that there isn't enough protein, hops or alcohol in beer to make much of a difference and that shampoo manufacturers add these things (or chemical variants thereof) at a significantly greater level.

So to the shampoo - I have to say I don't normally use any Lush products, I've always felt that you outgrow their bright colours and strong fruit smells at the same time as you put the lid on your last bottle of Bodyshop Dewberry perfume and the packaging is a bit garish for a lady of my "24" years.

It is stout coloured but definitely not stout smelling, in fact it smells divine. A mixture of liquorice and those Swiss herbal lemon sweets you only find in health food shops or service stations on the Autoroute (if anyone can remember what they're called let me know as I've been racking my brains all day) and a hint of Sandalwood. It's also got a touch of sweetness I can't quite identify that stops it being to masculine.

It smells delicious - if anyone could brew a beer that smells this good and tastes as good as it smells I would buy it by the (responsible) bucket load.

You get plenty of bubbles and it makes your hair feel squeaky clean, the mix of Sndalwood and citrus fruit makes it smell Alpine fresh (in a good way, think mountains and skiing not those little trees you hang in your car) I'm not sure how much of it comes from the beer itself but as a shampoo it's lovely and I'd buy it again

P.S. the sweets are Ricola., thanks to Barm for helping me out!!!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

It's awful chilly out there........

The festive season is over and usually that would mean a return to work, January blues, and wearing extra layers to keep warm and hide the extra Christmas pounds!

But this week is slightly different as the entire country has seemingly been brought to a standstill by "snowmageddon". Putting aside all the moans about inefficient transport networks, lack of gritting and just how cold it is, it's no bad thing to have an unexpected day at home with nothing else to do except throw snowballs and make snow angels.

But the trouble is with playing in the snow it's chilly so what better to warm you up than a Mulled Blue Moon.

Created by Joe Stoke at All Star Lanes, this recipe takes a nod from the boiler maker beer and bourbon combination, the origins of which lie with Pennsylvanian steel workers. The workers used to have a shot and a beer at the same time after a hard days work. Using the wheat based Blue Moon and the wheat based Makers Mark lengthens the finish of the overall drink and gives a little extra punch. The butter and spices pick up the beers natural creamy yet fruity nature and blend seamlessly into this winning winter warmer.

The Mull
1 bottle of Blue Moon, 1 slice lemon, 2 slices apple, 4 slices orange, 4 cloves, ¼ cinnamon stick, Touch of mace, 10mls gomme, 2 slices ginger. Warm gently in a soup kettle or pan for 1 hour.

To Serve
150mls of the mull, 1 bar spoon Honey (orange blossom if possible), 10mls Makers Mark, 2-3mls unsalted butter.Steam with the use of the coffee steamer until frothy and hot, garnish with a dusting of grated nutmeg and enjoy!!

Bag of beer

What a shame that Christmas has come and gone before I stumbled across this gem of a handbag from Rock The Kitschbar.

Apparently it comes complete with 'realistic' foam on top and is sure to get you served first at the bar. Surely a must for beer lovers everywhere!!

Maybe next year Santa.......

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Because I'm worth it.......

Over at BitterSweet this month we are trying to give women reason's to love beer. For me that's easy, there are tons of beers that taste divine and it's less alcohol and less calories than other drinks, what's not to love.

But as I've mentioned before, not all women love beer as much as I do which is why BitterSweet want to show that beer is so much more than just a pint down the pub. There’s a whole side to beer you might not know about, for instance it's fantastic for food pairing - more versatile and easier to match than wine. But that's not what I'm lucky enough to be trying, no, I'm "lucky" enough to be finding out just how useful beer is a beauty product.

So hot on the heals of the less than successful beer facepack (I still have a slight orange tinge but think I've just about got all of the sweet potato out of my ears) tonight I'm having a beer bath. Sound crazy, apparently not, beer it seems is good for the skin
"Add dark beer to your bath to improve the quality and lustre of your skin. Beer can exfoliate the skin without the harsh abrasion, strengthening it along the way"

Two things about this worry me. Firstly I don't like baths (what's relaxing about sitting in your own dirt) and secondly I'm a bit of a product snob when it comes to skin care. That aside I can hardly wait, never let it be said I don't suffer for my art! The good news is that beer is made from all natural ingredients so there's no way it can do any harm and it may just do good but I the only way I can do it is to have the best, and the best has to be a bottle of the legendary Worthington White Shield (I can almost hear Steve Wellington sobbing into his mash tun at the very thought).

If you've never been lucky enough to try Worthington White Shield it is a king amongst beers, with lots of big herbal hops and flavours of  liquorice, bananas and toffee. It's big, full and warming with lots of spice and a long balancing bitterness, just perfect for these cold nights but does bathing in it measure up to drinking it?

Under normal circumstances White Shield smells delicious, all spiced fruits and marmalade but these aren't normal circumstances - tonight my bath smells like a week old slop tray in a back street WMC and looks like someone has wee'd in it.

And once I'm in the bath I'm not sure what to do - do I just lie in it and let it do it's "magic" and exfoliate me? Do I need soap? A flannel? I have no idea so I mostly just sit there, holding my nose, waiting for it to be over.

But just as I'm despairing at the mess I've got myself into the strangest thing happens, just like the beer itself, the character of my bath starts to change and suddenly I'm enveloped by a delicious, warm, sweet, malty horlicks smell that is so comforting and relaxing I can hardly keep my eyes open and I could have stayed in it for ever.

When I eventually get out my skin does feel really soft and I don't smell like a half empty beer glass ( I got Jorge to check) so maybe, just maybe beer baths could be the way forward. If you can get past the initial smell (and it does linger in the bathroom afterwards) it was a surprisingly enjoyable experience and with nothing but natural ingredients I'm guessing suitable for most skins types (I'm no doctor though so go carefully!!)

There are few greater pleasures in life than a Worthington White Shield (you can buy yourself some here) and a wedge of Colston Bassett Stilton (or ginger biscuits) but maybe if it's not for you try it in your bath!!

Next time beer shampoo............

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Sweet Potato and Beer Facepack, as nice as it sounds.............

If you're on day 2 or 3 of the New Year detox, you've got leftover beer you're trying your hardest not to drink and a fridge full of "superfood" vegetables, most of which you don't know how to cook and you'll be throwing out at the end of the week, then I have found the perfect recipe for you!

I spotted over at Bella Sugar a moisturizing and clarifying mask from Return to Beautya book of traditional skincare recipes. All you need is a cup of mashed sweet potato with two tablespoons of beer mixed in. Apply the mask all over your face and neck, and keep it on for 15 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water and apply your toner or moisturizer.

And never let it be said I recommend things I haven't tried first (there's not much on TV tonight) and I'm a big fan of natural skincare, although admittedly I normally let Liz Earle mix them up for me.

Mixing it up was the easy bit - without having the original recipe to hand I don't know if it specifies a particlar style of beer but I opted for a Leffe, for no other reason than it's been in the house the longest so least likely to get drank anytime soon.

Getting it to stay on my face was the hard part, which has a certain amount of irony given how well it adhered to the surrounding bathroom, so I had to resort to using the back of the spoon to spread it on.

Once I had it on my face it was revolting - it smelt, felt, looked and tasted like I'd vomited on my own face after a long night out but in the vain hope I might look 10 years younger I stuck it out for the full 15 minutes.

And was it worth it - well, my skin does feel quite soft but has an orange tinge that doesn't seem to want to wash off and a slight smell of sick still. My advice - use the sweet potato to make chips and enjoy with a beer in front of the telly!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

If you squint really carefully you might just see a gym mention..........

Wordle: lighter side of beer

The Beer Widow has brought to my attention Wordle that I think could become strangely addictive. Obviously with it being January you can expect to see Spinning Class, low fat humus and water getting much bigger......honest

The hills are alive.......

......with the sounds of the press giving beer a hard time again unjustly with The Telegraph, The Express and of course the Daily Mail all reporting on the Wetherspoons January sale.

As it happens, I think that this type of promotion is irresponsible - it doesn't build the right level of respect for alcohol and for beer will reinforce the idea that beer is nothing but a cheap commodity, it certainly wont help get more people in the beer category.

That said though what really pisses me off is that all of the papers have led with versions of  "99p pint responsible for binge drinking Britain"........are you joking?

The actual beer in question at 99p is Greene King Ruddles, obviously the scourge of society and the reason behind our binge drinking problem - I don't think so. What they omit to mention in such detail is what price vodka and gin and wine will be at, the staple fodder for those people drinking to excess and giving the rest of the population a bad name.

You only have to look at these pictures from today's Sun and 2 things spring to mind. 1. their mothers must be SO proud and 2. you could serve Greene King Ruddles at 1p per pint and they still aren't drinking it but large vodka redbulls, £3 bottles of wine from the supermarket before they go out, dirt cheap vodka and they are lapping it up.

Perhaps not such a catchy headline though........................

Friday, 1 January 2010

This month I'll be mostly eating dust...........

Cooking Lager was after a snap of female beer bloggers in their bikinis so just for him here's a post Quality Street, Christmas pudding, oh go on one more mince pie can't hurt pic of what I'm gonna look like this summer if I don't stop eating .......

It's that time of year again, the gym new business team seem to have me on speed dial, every other advert is for Weight Watchers and everyone I know is planning a detox (just as soon as they sober up from NYE shenanigans) which no doubt means knocking the beer on the head but is that the only way to lose weight?

It's January so you've cut down on the chocolate and fry-ups so why aren't you losing weight? The answer could be in that glass in front of you - it might not feel like the equivalent of a doughnut, but as far as your belly's concerned, it might as well be.

Booze is full of calories – only fat has more. So, if you seriously want to lose weight, do you have to become a hermit and abstain from the beer? The answer is no – you just need to know your enemy.

Here's the science bit:

If you take in more calories than you burn off you'll get fat......simple. But the body gives alcohol special treatment – it's fast-tracked straight from the stomach to the bloodstream, and then to the liver. Half of the alcohol will be absorbed just 10 minutes after having a drink, and all of it within an hour – faster if you drink on an empty stomach.

Why so fast? Alcohol is a toxin, so the body's aim is to get it to the liver – the body's detox plant – as fast as possible.But the liver can only break down about one unit of alcohol per hour, and any amount above this is turned away as it arrives at the liver and sent back into the bloodstream, to circulate around the body - causing damaging effects to all the cells it comes into contact with – until the liver can process it.

While the liver is dealing with an alcohol onslaught it's distracted from its other important functions. This leads to a build-up of fatty substances in the liver, which prevent it from working properly. 'Fatty liver' is the first stage of liver disease seen in heavy drinkers but it can be reversed if they stop drinking. But if they continue to drink, liver cells die, and there is a progression eventually to irreversible cirrhosis.

Almost enough to make you never drink again right? Wrong, all you need to know is what you're dealing with.Take a look at the calories in some drinks...

Glass of white wine (12% ABV, 250mls) 185

Glass of red wine (10% ABV, 250mls) 170

Glass of Rose (12% ABV, 250mls) 178

One bottle of lager (5% ABV, 330mls) 142

One bottle of ale (4% ABV, 330mls) 97

One alco-pop (5% ABV, 275mls) 193

Spirits (25ml pub measure) Vodka, gin, whisky, brandy, rum etc 52 calories - not forgetting the calories in your mixer

But don't despair, burning off those calories can be a lot easier than you think and by swapping wine for a beer during a night in (or out!) calories can be saved. But we all know that the gym is boring, very boring so why not take a tip from the Strictly Dancers (who can burn up to 600 calories a show!!), foxtrot off those extra Christmas pounds and you can still enjoy a beer guilt free. In fact beer is the quickest alcoholic beverage to dance off. Just 29 minutes of twisting will burn off a bottle of beer, while wine lovers will need to take to the dance floor for nearly ten minutes longer.

1. One glass of white wine equals 42 minutes of disco dancing

2. One glass of red wine equals 2 hours 10 minutes of the foxtrot

3. One bottle of lager equals 29 minutes of the twist

4. One bottle of ale equals 22 minutes of salsa

5. One Gin and Tonic equals 1 hour 13 minutes of waltz

So some tips to stay trim this year

o Watch the glass size - a one-unit wine glass is a tiny 125ml – a size that doesn't exist any more. Standard is 175ml, and large can be up to 250ml. And remember that home measures are notoriously generous!

o Go slow - no more than one unit per hour. If you drink alcohol faster than the liver can handle it, it'll build up in your bloodstream, intensifying its inebriating effects and making you less able to say no to the next pint – or that chicken balti.

o Premium lager and strong vintage ciders pack a far heftier punch than their less alcoholic cousins. And because that's where the calories lurk, these drinks aren't for racing snakes!

o Steer clear of sweetness - added sugar bumps up the calorie count – sweet wines and ciders are more calorific than drier versions, and syrupy liqueurs (especially the creamy ones with their added fat) are worst of all.

o Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones. Not only will this slow down your drinking, and limit the amount of alcohol calories you consume, it will help to rehydrate you, reducing the threat of a hangover.

o Eat before you go out, not after (and you'll be much less tempted by a greasy, calorie laden kebab)

The Session : New Beer's Resolutions

Although I've already done my roll call of winners for 2009 I've spotted this month's Session being hosted over at Beer For Chicks asking not just for reflections on this year but also looking forward to the year ahead so I thought I could have another stab.

What was your best and worst of beer for 2009? I reckon the best beer discovery was Thornbridge Halcyon, an awe inspiring 7.7% IPA that is literally exploding with hops. Not so successful was the Girardin Gueuze at The White Horse - so sour that I'm still scraping my tongue of the roof of my mouth months later.

What beer mistakes did you make?

Ummmm, well obviously I've been a paragon of virtue....;o) Apart from the blue drinks night (or the 12 hour Cobra marathon it could be called) - a learning that some really smooth, light tasting lagers pack more of a punch than you'd expect!!

What beer resolutions do you have for 2010? Easy one this - I'm going to get out more. Sounds simple I know but the reality is I spend an awful lot of time trying new beers on the sofa which will never replace the whole pub experience. This year I am going to stop using the old broken neck as an excuse (admittedly it's a good one) and get my arse of the sofa into the pub, lots of pubs, different pubs, all over the country. I may even pop in on Woolpack Dave!!

What are your beer regrets and embarrassing moments? See above blue drinks night (what happens on tour thankfully......) but my main regret would be not meeting in the flesh any of the great beer tweeps I've met online this year.

What are you hoping to change about your beer experience in 2010? Get out more, try more beer, meet more people and blog about it more....simple!!