Moved On

1 06 2014

Well hello.

It seems from my stats that there are a few of you who still pop onto the site regularly.  As you can see I no longer post here.  To be honest I couldn’t find the format I wanted for the site and there were people doing a much better job for talking about beer as can be witnessed in my blog roll to the right.  I do still write stuff elsewhere and some of that is about beer but there’s also a chunk of music, stationery and other shit too.  Pop in and have a look if you fancy.  I may even transfer these posts over to the new site when I can work out how to do it or be bothered.

This will be the last post at this site.

CAMRA, eh!

1 02 2012

After the experience of Andrew at his first CAMRA meeting, as outlined in his great blog Oh Beery Me, he asked me if I would post the following article.  It originally appeared in the inaugural issue of Hopaganda which we published to coincide with Newcastle Twissup.

It is nice to think that the article may, in some way, have encouraged Andrew to join CAMRA and take the leap into his first branch meeting.  I think it is also encouraging that we left our first branch meetings with the same thoughts, concerns and understanding that things need to change.

CAMRA, eh!

What is it good for?…

Absolutely nothing!

OK, so that’s your reaction provoked. Now before you all either set up a torch bearing lynch mob or carry me high through the streets praising me as some kind of prophet I feel you should know that I don’t think that’s true. But it might not be that wide of the mark.

Back in 1971 there were 4 chaps who decided it was too hard to get the sort of beer they liked easily. The majority of beer available was too fizzy, characterless and tasteless for them and they wanted to do something about it. Their response was to create the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale. That I think you will all agree was a mightily fine thing to be campaigning for. I think the first problem arises with CAMRA when in 1973 they changed their name to the Campaign for Real Ale. Because it was easier to say.

All these chaps wanted was beer that was tasty, had something about it and wasn’t too fizzy. In order to define these characteristics they settled on what, in the early seventies, they thought was the only way to achieve this, cask beer. So now what you have is an organisation not looking to revitalise ale but one whose purpose is to promote cask beer at the exclusion of all others. No matter how tasty, character full or fizzy it is. Shame that.

Like some poor unsuspecting victim of the Master in Dr Who CAMRA now appears to be perpetually stuck in that early 1970’s timeline. They seem unable to accept that times have moved on and with that, technology. It is now possible to have a kegged beer that is unpasteurised, unfiltered, which undergoes secondary fermentation and requires no added CO2 for dispense. But that word keg is still like a red rag to a bull to CAMRA. Just Google “Colin Valentine You Tube” if you don’t believe me and watch the video clip posted by Alcofrolicchap. If you think poor Colin’s outburst may just be isolated it’s a shame you weren’t at the last branch AGM when he made an appearance, unedifying doesn’t even come close

Mr Valentine’s Luddite stand on the ‘Bloggerati’ and social media has to be one of the biggest turn offs to attracting young blood into CAMRA. By dismissing the mediums by which most young people now effectively use to plan, run and discuss their lives he displays startling naivety.
Sure there are some obnoxious, opinionated twats that use social media but CAMRA should be the last organisation seeking to use stereotypes in an argument. Used effectively social media can bring the world of great beer to a much wider audience. Used badly and it can leave you being seen as an irrelevance by the wider audience.

CAMRA may have a membership of 130,000 these days (me included) but how many of them are actually active and how many just want their free Wetherspoons vouchers thank-you-very-much? The recent flagship campaign to get members to contact their MP’s to “Help Protect Pubs!” has so far received support from less than 2.5% of its membership. A bloody poor show no matter how you paint it. Don’t get me wrong I think the volunteers at beer festivals etc are absolute stars. I certainly couldn’t/wouldn’t do it. But I don’t see much campaigning going on.

Just for fun attend one of the local branch meetings and count the number of people present who were possibly born after CAMRA’s formation (not me, just in case you were wondering). Don’t worry you shouldn’t need anything more than one hand and Primary School level maths. Like church goers we now appear to be part of an ever aging demographic. Given the size of the current membership there must surely be a large younger group of members out there. After all what student in their right mind wouldn’t see the logic of the free Wetherspoons vouchers? They just don’t seem to want to get involved in an organisation so resolutely clinging to the past and, frankly, do they need to?

Is there still a need for a national organisation campaigning for beer related matters? Putting aside my above concerns I think it should also be highlighted that the Campaign has been involved in lobbying for several changes which have undoubtedly helped the brewing industry and as a consequence drinkers. They include the reform of the licensing laws, the introduction of progressive beer duty and, err, getting the term Real Ale recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary. They have also failed in others like their attempt to break the Pub Tie and didn’t do much to try and halt the tax hike on >7.5% beers.

So there are, in my opinion, some good points about CAMRA and unfortunately quite a few bad points too. Me, I’m happy to remain largely quiet as far as CAMRA branch/national politics are concerned. I’ll chip away at the local social media possibilities and hopefully you may see a change for the good in that direction soon if it hasn’t happened by the time you read this. My membership provides me with free entry into beer festivals but I haven’t felt the need to volunteer at one yet. If I want to drink a nice keg beer then I’ll do so without any guilt. All in all I’m probably Mr Average CAMRA member. But what about those who are on the outside looking in?

If you feel CAMRA are now an anachronistic irrelevance and the beer world will get along as well or better without them then that’s fine. After all the brewing industry seems to be in good health and who need the Good Beer Guide when you can ask for guidance on Twitter? But don’t complain every time they do something you don’t agree with. After all you think they’re irrelevant, remember?

If you want to complain that they should be modernising and embracing new technologies then go ahead, but do so from the inside. Don’t stand outside making snide comments about the organisation, get in there and make a bloody difference. If you feel CAMRA should be tearing itself away from its 1970’s roots join up, say something and make your voice heard. It will take some doing but don’t be a lazy bastard and expect someone else to do it for you.

Andrew seems to have stirred up quite a reaction on Twitter and it’s great to see so many people wanting to be involved.  The thought encourages me to be more active, knowing I’m not alone.  However, I hope they understand that this is not about bringing CAMRA down but rather bringing it into the 21st Century.  It is something people should be in for the long haul and they should avoid trampling over what is good about CAMRA in a rush to get to the goal.

Golden Pints 2011

31 12 2011




Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer: Tasted way too many good ones this year to make this an easy choice.  SWB Cohort, Magic Rock Curious NZ and Hardknott Vitesse Noir could all have justifiably snatched the crown but this year’s winner is Tyne Bank’s Southern Star.  It’s great to see a local brewery producing a beer of such outstanding quality.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Traquair Jacobite is still my all time favourite beer but the award this year goes to the flavour bomb that is Summer Wine Brewery’s Barista.

Best Overseas Draught Beer: Odell IPA a great beer but lifted to award winner status by the company with whom I was drinking it.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Orval.  Consistently divine.

Best Overall Beer:  The aforementioned Traquair Jacobite.  Everyone should have a comfort beer that keeps them warm, safe and grounded, a best friend in a bottle.   This is mine.

Best Pumpclip or Label:  Last year’s winner, The Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company, quite rightly holds on to their crown.  Honourable mentions must go to Magic Rock and Kernel.

Best UK Brewery:  Summer Wine Brewery.  Top beer, produced by top blokes.  What more could you ask for?

Best Overseas Brewery:  Orval.  See above.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Enjoyed drinking in many fine establishments this year, in particular the Newcastle Arms, the Bacchus and Mr Foleys.  However, this year the Free Trade Inn stands head and shoulders above all others.  A view to die for, matched only by its consistently excellent beer selection and ambience.

Beer Festival of the Year:  Stretching the category a little here, the award goes to Twissup Newcastle.  A true festival of beer worship, delivering top rated pubs, beer and company.

Supermarket:  Waitrose for keeping me supplied with the sadly “soon to be no more” Durham Benedictus.  Otherwise, Meh!

Independent Retailer: Joint winners in the form of Copper’s 8 ‘til 8 and Rehill’s.  However, both should apparently be punished for adding to @CiderTart_G’s stress levels as we attempt to “find somewhere to put all the damned stuff.”

Online Beer Retailer:  Not bought as much online this year due to the excellence of those establishments listed in the category above.  We do have a winner though.  I received great, prompt service from Beer Ritz when used recently and will definitely be using them again.

Best Beer Book/Magazine:  Hopagandamag, fun to contribute to, fun to read.  Looking forward to some no holds barred issues next year.

Best Beer Blog/Website: For the obvious, no nonsense joy he exudes when he writes about beer, the people who drink it and the places in which it is drunk, the winner is the Reluctant Scooper.

Best Beer Twitterer:  Not an individual but a community.  The award goes to all the beery twitterers of the North East.  Sharing the love.

Best Online Brewery Presence:  Summer Wine Brewery.  Like their beer, never dull.

Food and Beer Pairing:  A piping hot Gregg’s Seasonal Pasty, chunks of gorgeous cheese and a 1/3 of Vitesse Noir.  All devoured in glorious sunshine outside the Free Trade Inn during Twissup.  Thanks to @SamtheTree and @DrinkMatch for the food and @HardknottDave for the beer.

In 2012 I’d Most Like To: Enjoy myself…not bothered how that is achieved.

Open Category:  Thanks to all the people I have met, chatted to and got pissed with this year.  Without you beer is pointless.


Sausage & Ale At The Brandling Villa – Festival Update

3 03 2011

Just a quick update on the Brandling Villa Sausage and Ale Festival.  Via the ever reliable Eric we learn that the following beers are those which are likely to be first up on the festivals temporary bar.

Anchor – Liberty Ale 5.9%

Bacchus – Kriek 5.8%

Blindmans – Golden Spring 4.0%

Brew Dog – Hardcore IPA 9.0%

Castle Rock – Preservation Ale 4.4%

Dark Star – American Pale Ale 4.7%

Great Divide – Wild Raspberry 5.6%

Leeds – New Moon 4.3%

Ouseburn – Bangerade 6.0%

Phoenix – Massacre 4.5%

Poachers – Shy Talk 3.7%

Roosters – Orange Blossom Cream Ale 3.9%

Schlenkerla – Rauchbier

Summer Wine – Barista Espresso Stout 4.8%

Thornbridge – Wild Swan 3.6%

Trentside – Hickman Gold 3.9%

These will be in addition to a further 6 handpulls on the main bar…contents as yet unknown.  The beer list originally provided looks to have been tweeked a little bit but remains largely the same and if I get any further info about additions/omissions I’ll post them as an update here.

I will be over there this afternoon/evening with Cider Tart Gamma so if you see us pop over and say Hi.  I’m looking forward in particular to trying the Great Divide and Roosters just so that I can get 2 of my 5 a day in…that works doesn’t it?  I’m also looking forward to trying as many of the sausages as possible too and have a large bag handy to take a large haul of them back home.


Hoppiness, Hoppiness…

24 02 2011

“This might be all there is?” It’s 7:15pm on the 16th February 2011 in the Bacchus Newcastle, and we are looking around to see who is here for the unveiling of the latest creation by Yorkshire Dales Brewery. There are only eight people we recognize, but we shouldn’t have worried. A steady trickle, then a flood of Newcastle beer aficionados appear congregating in the snug.

Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co has been in existence since 2005 and brew out of Askrigg, North Yorkshire. They have developed a reputation over the last few years for producing quality beer of many varying contemporary styles. They are one of the most prolific breweries I know, Rob Wiltshire, head brewer, reckons they have brewed 193 beers in five years. Many have appeared at the Bacchus in the last two, first of all a steady stream of good beers, then an excellent eight course beer/food match event and finally a dedicated handpull in the bar has seen the brewery established at this venue. This relationship has also brought some excellent collaboration beers with Andy (the Bacchus manger) assisting: Stout Of This World, a sweet vanilla stout and the robust barley wine – Dead Mans Hill. A number of their brews have also appeared in other local hostelries most notably the Newcastle Arms.

This ‘Meet the Brewer’ event was to celebrate the unveiling of Cautley Spout, the first of eight ‘two hop’ beers, which will be a theme for the next year. As Rob explains on the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co Site (

“In the addition to all the special beers I plan to brew this year will be something a little different. I feel single hop beers are very one dimensional. So to create a series this year of something exciting I will brew 8 brand new ales of varying beer styles, bringing together complimentary hops from around the world”

Cautley Spout, is a 3.7% golden ale using Amarillo and Cascade hops. Initial smell is sharp citrus, and initial taste confirms this with an instant bitterness balancing through the sip and ending with a pleasant sweetness. The first impression was quite good (considering I prefer the dark side) and I could imagine this being a refreshing change on a warm afternoon.

Rob also talked briefly of the second ale ‘Sedbergh Silver’ due out in early March, a heady mix of Chinook and Sorachi. This interested many in the crowd, but I fear may be a little too hoppy for me.

As we munched on the food match of Onion Bhaji’s and (Rocket Fuel) Piri Piri Prawn filo Wraps, Rob answered many questions from the brewing process to the design of his iconic pump clips. As always his answers were informative and he came across as someone deeply passionate about his art.

An excellent evening and I look curiously forward to trying the rest of the two hop ales.


Linked here is the pdf detailing the beers planned in this series (kindly sent to us by Eric)