Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Awesome, y'all

A good point well made, I think.

The whole "craft beer" thing often seems like another expression of soft American cultural power, with a year zero approach to what we already have. Just look at the way the distinctively British elements of our existing beer culture are dismissed as inappropriately old-fashioned (or even offensive, by wilfully misconstruing certain elements intended as light-hearted as being offensive).

Friday, 5 February 2016


I'd love to see Constantinople, but it hasn't happened yet.

What I do know is that a Turkish barbershop is the only place to get your face done and your hair did.

I steered clear of having my barnet sheared by a local in Manchester, mindful of how terrible the Gallaghers et al are turned out.

It was a relief, therefore, to return to London and see my pals at the Bay Room on the Goswell Road.

Uncle asked where the hell I'd been and why my hair was in such a state. Scissors in hand, and with a tilt of his head, he told me to go out back and get my own beer from the fridge.

Efes is what I like to call a "holiday lager". It's the sort of piss that accompanies you during good times. It asks nothing but gives a lot.

Today Efes was my  barber shop lager, and each swig was a very happy moment.

Waste of a pub

A long urban ramble took me all the way from my front door in Clerkenwell to Bromley, in what was once Kent. After reaching Dulwich Park the walk was nearly all green, but there was lots to see in the less lovely sections not far south of the river.

Take a look at these fantastic decorated bins outside a moody looking boozer on Walworth Road.

I managed to trespass on Dulwich Hamlet's pitch during my journey south. The groundsman had left the back gate open, and following my nose I drifted across the turf oblivious. I only realised my transgression when I heard the lad shouting at me. Later on I happened to pass Millwall's training ground in Beckenham. I didn't try the same trick there.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Ordinary pint, ordinary pub

The pub was the Woodman in Otford near Sevenoaks, Kent, if you're interested. This spectacular pint of Harvey's Sussex Best was enjoyed after a short circular walk, encompassing a sedate section of the North Downs Way. This was my reintroduction to the gentle charms of South East England, after doing my rambling in the Peak District of late.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Sam Smith's pubs of Stockport

Stockport, a town in Greater Manchester, has two Sam Smith's pubs. I can report they're both great places to drink a £1.80 pint of Old Brewery Bitter.

If you're walking from the railway station, cross over the bridge that connects that side of town with the market square, ignoring for now the steps that tempt to you to explore what lies beneath. The St Petersgate Bridge was built in the 1860s. It must have transformed the urban landscape at the time.

When viewed from Little Undercroft - the narrow, sunken street it crosses over - it's a dramatic affair, creating as it does the impression of a city on two levels. The effect is not unlike George IV Bridge crossing Edinburgh's old town, but on a miniature scale.

The Boar's Head on the Market Place has just won a CAMRA award. It doesn't serve food, it's split into various comfortable drinking rooms, and was full of people of advanced years at noon on Saturday.

Groups of regulars clustered in some areas having lively discussions, while in others pensive men sat alone, staring out of windows or into the middle distance. There was a lot of wheezing and hacking and coughing, but in general the hubbub was most pleasant. I enjoyed my short stay, just long enough to enjoy a single pint of perfect bitter.

Leaving the Boar's Head and heading back to the bridge, take the steps down. At the bottom of these the other Sam's pub is a welcoming sight, sitting at the most picturesque spot on a very evocative street. The Queen's Head on Little Underbank, formerly known as Turner's Vaults, won't disappoint.

A narrow front bar - all dark wood and green tiles - leads to a railway compartment-style snug. It was there I retreated with my pint, to reflect on a flying visit to this interesting town, glad to have found a couple of hours to visit it. The rain had stayed away, and the sun had even shone briefly.

Of course, Stockport has it's own brewery, Robinson's. It's still very evident right in the centre of town, and looks attractive from some angles. But with the best will in the world, I struggle to enjoy the beer it turns out.

Friday, 29 January 2016

The real reasons behind the decline of pub culture

There's not much doing here on STONCH, so I'd like to point readers to this tremendously good piece by Matt Lawrenson on the reasons behind the decline of pub culture.

There's nothing novel here, but what he has done is fearlessly and succinctly set out the real reasons why we're probably still over-pubbed. We oddballs and misfits can sing all the laments we like, but Matt's right: normal people just don't need pubs like they used to.

I've longed off twitter, prompted by seeing how much it uses of my phone battery (iPhone tells you how much different apps are squandering). It made me reflect on just just how much time I'm spending on it, despite the fact I no longer own a business I need to promote. My disappearance from that medium is nothing to be alarmed about. Just wait until you find out what I'm giving up for Lent, though...

Sunday, 24 January 2016

What do bespoke carpets tells us about 'Spoons?

Did you know that every Wetherspoons carpet is unique? No, neither did I, put apparently it's true. Here's a Tumblr account dedicated to the different designs across the country.

Now that might seem a bit odd to you, but then so is giving scores to beers on an app on your phone to most people. And at least this chap is doing something virtuous: highlighting the magnificence of the Tim Martin empire.

Some people assume that because the prices are low, 'Spoons as a company do everything on the cheap. That just isn't true. They invest loads in their pubs, bespoke carpets and all.

Their model works because they sweat on suppliers to get the best prices, and then pass this on to customers. You sometimes hear brewers complain about their practices, but they're just as they should be. The example set by Wetherspoons should be followed industry wide, by independents as well as pubcos.

Despite the current explosion of interest in craft beer - where people who make beer pose as "rockstars" - I don't think the pub industry should be cosying up to brewers, big or small. We should be focussed on delivering value to our customers, not sucking up to our suppliers.

Of course the beer tie distorts all of this, but that's a whole different discussion.