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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

What's new?

What's new?
More new events added in Bristol, London and Edinburgh over April and May
I had a big piece in the Guardian this week about why publicans are unhappy
Click here to hear me talking about craft beer on this week's radio 4 Food Programme!
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Saturday, 18 April 2009

I am une chienne Andalusian!

Going on holiday at dawn tomorrow, so I won't be updating for two weeks.  

"How will that be any different from normal?" I hear you quip.

Well, I am (fingers crossed) hopefully making writing my full-time occupation this year rather than what I do at evenings and weekends while earning advertising's dirty money to pay my mortgage, and I have been trying to blog more regularly, apart from when family circumstances in February prevented it.  So it feels a bit odd to be leaving off.

But it has been getting pretty down of late - many of my recent posts have been negative and critical, exceeded only in dourness by some of my commenters.  When I get back in May I'm going to try and lighten up a bit and look for more of the positives in the wonderful world of beer.  It's going to be a long hot summer so I hope you feel like trying that too.  

By the time I'm back the launch of Hops & Glory will be only one month away, so expect lots of plugging,  more extracts that didn't make the final cut, and details of promotional activity up and down the country.  If you like my writing, I'd love it if you could get involved.  I'm up for readings, talks, IPA tastings and book signings anywhere in the UK, and hope to avoid a repeat of the event at Borders in Bournemouth last year where I managed to coax one old lady to sit down and listen to me with a bottle of Schneider Weisse.

Y Viva Espana!


Why did we say pubs and bars are going out of business again?

Just got back from Hoxton Square, where we had a quick drink.  I'm not proud of it but we were dropping off Captain, our camp little dog, with a dog-sitter before going on holiday tomorrow.

And what a privilege and honour it was to be served in the Hoxton Apprentice - at least, that's what they seemed to think.

There were waiting staff standing doing nothing, but when I said I just wanted drinks I was told to go to the bar and get them myself.  

There was one beer tap on the bar - Bitburger.  I asked what bottled beers they had - "Just Peroni I'm afraid."  Now there's nothing wrong with either of these lagers, but never in my entire life have I been in any pub or bar - West End cocktail bar, hotel bar, backstreet boozer, working men's club - with such a non-choice in beers.  I'm off booze for a few weeks anyway, so I ordered a lime and soda - that's half a lime and soda - and was charged £2.10 for it.  The wife's small glass of white wine was £3.75.  Part of the reason for the high prices is that according to my receipt they're still charging VAT at 17.5% - is that legal?  Anyone?  Either that, or the price of the drinks includes a hefty service charge.

The place is actually a bar and restaurant.  There was an upstairs bit - clearly the restaurant - that seemed quite busy.  A terrace outside and tables set for dinner inside to seat about eighty people.  At 8pm on a Saturday night, there was one other couple apart from me and the wife.  I wonder why?


The laughably cliched up-its-own-arse bar's laughably cliched up-its-own-arse bar.

Friday, 17 April 2009

More of those hilarious BBC picture captions

Following yesterday's post i decided to search BBC news for 'alcohol'.  Obviously, every single news story on the subject is negative.  But I was a bit harsh - only about half of the illustrations of booze are of beer, a drink which plays a minimal role in the issue being discussed.  Today they even showed a pic of wine in a story about calories. But if anyone was as sad as me and did this search, they would come away in no doubt as to what's really behind the nation's drinking problem.  Here's a selection of pics and their captions going as far back as August...


Alcoholics face benefit cuts
"Alcoholics face benefit cuts" (link to video of the story below, 14th April)

Drinking alcohol
"Alcohol flush shows cancer risk" (13th April)

Young drinker
"1,000 die from alcohol in Wales"/ the report found alcohol consumption in young people was 'worrying'." (6th April)

Man drinking
"Alcohol misuse is a major problem for the NHS" (15th March)

Press Association
"Minimum price limits have been proposed in England and Scotland" (15th March).  
(Fact: minimum pricing would affect beer less than any other drink because it is already one of the highest costs per unit of alcohol, and many trade bodies support the move).

Generic photo of a teenager drinking alcohol
"Rise in alcohol illness in young" (12th March)
(Fact: young problem drinkers reject beer because it doesn't get them pissed quick enough)

A pint of beer
"Many western countries have a binge drinking problem" (9th March)

Young drinker
"Stark warning over alcohol trends" /Some under 16s are drinking more than the recommended limit for adults" (29th January)

Man drinking
"Alcohol toll on young soaring" (30th December)

Man drinking
"North west England is alcohol blackspot" (18th December)

Woman drinking
"Alcohol campaign targets shoppers/people are being told to drink sensibly over the festive period" (13th December)

Pub
"Alcoholics can choose drink ban/pubs and off licenses will refuse to sell alcohol to self excluders" (19th November)

Man drinking
"Cash for alcohol blackspot areas" (5th November)

Man drinking
"NHS alcohol services 'struggling'" (29th October)

Man drinking
"Alcohol link to serious assaults" (27th August)

About 50% of features have no illustration at all.  Of the rest, some are specific to people in the story.  Wine comes next, with about eight picture references.  Four stories used pictures of drunk teenagers in the street.  Four used a pic of spirits.  Alcopops were featured twice and are faintly visible in some of the binge pics if you look closely.  Strong cider features once - but as that's in a story about the cider having its ABV reduced, they kind of had to. 

So there you have it: according to the BBC, young binge drinkers are slowly killing themselves on beer - mostly real ale.  So that's why cask ale figures are really on the rise.  It's all clear now.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Beer is evil part xxxviii

Yesterday the BBC ran a story on new proposals that alcoholics should be rounded up into concentration camps - no, sorry, that was a hundred years ago - that they should have their benefits cut (because as we know, only chav scum are alcoholics).

There's a picture accompanying the article, with the caption 'The government hopes to get alcoholics on benefits back to work'.

This is the picture of the workshy alcoholic they used:

A man drinking a pint of beer

Anyone would think that teenage binge drinkers didn't use strong cider, shots and slammers to get wrecked.  Anyone would think the growing alcohol problem among young women - the ONLY demographic not seeing a drop in binge drinking behaviour - wasn't based on the consumption of 250ml glasses of wine...

Seven Days to save the Pub

Went to a press conference yesterday as the Axe the Beer Tax campaign enters its final week.  I doubt whether the eerie Alastair Darling will listen, but the case against raising the tax now seems irrefutable:
  • Rate of pub closures is up to 39 a week - that'll increase further if the tax goers through
  • 2000 pubs have gone to the wall since last year's budget
  • Last year's 18% tax rise has cost the beer and pub industry an additional £540 million - and yet the total tax revenue from beer has gone down thanks to the tax slaughtering demand for beer. 
MPs have shown an astonishing level of disapproval for the proposed further tax rise:
  • 70% of all MPs oppose further tax rises
  • 202 MPs have now signed the EDM calling for the rise to be scrapped - that's only the fourth EDM EVER to get more than 200 MPs signed up, and the first time an EDM about fiscal policy has received such strong support.
  • 45% of Labour's own back benchers oppose the rise.  It's rare for such a high level of back bench revolt.
MPs only do things for political reasons.  There's an election looming, and this widespread support for the pub industry can only mean they think beer tax rises are a vote loser, that their constituents are unhappy with their local pubs shutting down.

There's still a week left to help change this cretin's mind.  If you haven't already done so, please sign up - you can see it's working.

All adverts must be filled with lies, says Watchdog

As ever, the Daily Mash nails yesterday's story with perfect precision...

ALL advertising must be filled with blatant, insulting lies from start to finish, the industry watchdog has ruled.

Image
Take Volcano Water's 14-day I'll-Believe-Any-Old- Shit-You-Tell-Me Challenge
The Advertising Standards Authority clarified the regulations last night after banning a beer advert which was obviously true.

The ASA said the advert for Courage beer was unacceptable because it implied that drinking alcohol could enhance self-confidence in a way that anyone who has ever drunk alcohol is completely aware of.

The advert shows a chunky woman squeezed into a tight dress, asking her husband how she looks. The man is shown reaching for a pint of beer, accompanied by the slogan, 'Take Courage and tell your wife she's a big fat cow'.

The ASA said its latest ruling was in accordance with its remit to ensure that all British advertising can be safely viewed by two year-olds.

A spokesman added: "Brands should at all times avoid the honest depiction of realistic situations and instead follow the excellent example of yoghurt or mineral water ads that make sufficiently vague claims about health-giving properties that are impossible to disprove.

"If companies want to avoid really aggressive lies they could copy the latest Persil advert which tells you nothing about the effectiveness of the product but does imply that if you do not use it you should have your children taken away from you by social services before they die of a dirty shirt."

Roy Hobbs, a consumer from Hatfield, said: "My wife is extremely large but also surprisingly fast, so I reckon I'd need at least six pints."

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Danger: Looking at this ad could turn you into an alcoholic

Here at Pete Brown's Beer Blog we've never flinched from the truth.  We've always been brave, going where others fear to tread.  And I know that this sentiment is shared by our regular readers.  

That's why, after long deliberations and sleepless nights spent agonising with my conscience, I've taken the decision to publish the following advert - I believe that you guys can handle it:


I know, I know, it's shocking isn't it?  The clear exhortation that the man should get steaming drunk and then tell his girlfriend she's fat, before losing said girlfriend and embarking on a downward spiral of alcoholism that will see him sitting in the gutter in a pool of his own piss, is so powerful, so persuasive, that we should be thankful to the three members of the public who complained about it, and grateful to the Advertising Standards Authority for banning it from our streets on the grounds that "the combination of the text and the image of the man with an open beer can and half empty glass of beer was likely to be understood by consumers to carry the clear implication that the beer would give the man enough confidence to tell the woman that the dress was unflattering." 

Sleep soundly in your beds tonight, readers, grateful that we live in a country where the authorities go to such inspired lengths to protect us from the dangers of a 440ml can of 4% ABV bitter.  

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Cask Ale Caption Competition

So Cask Ale Week launched yesterday at the Betjeman Arms in St Pancras.  The first thing that struck me about the event was how stunningly beautiful Melanie Sykes is in the flesh.  The second thing that struck me is that the only journalists in attendance were me and a bloke from The Publican.

So in the face of total and utter indifference from the British press and, it seems, the beer community, let's have a caption competition instead.  The winner receives a free copy of my new book Hops and Glory, on publication date - now a mere eight weeks away.

(Oh by the way, the less attractive person in this picture is TV's Oz Clarke).

Away you go!

Friday, 3 April 2009

By 'eck! It's Cask Ale week!

The UK's biggest ever celebration of cask ale starts next week.  When I posted about it a few weeks ago people were a bit, "um, what's the point?"  So here's a bit more detail.

Cask ale is the best performing sector of the British market, and the work in our Intelligent Choice report shows why.  It gives pubs a point of difference over supermarkets.  If it's kept well, it speaks volumes about quality standards in the rest of the pub.  It attracts an older, more affluent clientele.  So that's why it's being promoted.  It's the first time all Britain's major cask ale brewers have pulled together to do something like this.

Things kick off with a press launch at St Pancras station at 10am on Monday 6th, where Melanie Sykes will kick things off and, perhaps unfortunately, Oz Clarke and James May will also be in attendance.  From noon till 7pm, thousands of samples of cask ale will be handed out to commuters - only 35% of people have ever tried it, but when people do 40% of them switch to drinking it.  If you write about beer and you're nearby, it's worth popping along.

On Wednesday there's a big push to get women to try cask ale, because only 16% of British women have ever tried it. 

On Thursday there's a big push to get ale drinkers to introduce a friend to it.

On Friday and Saturday, hundreds of breweries will be throwing open their doors to the public for tours.

And on Sunday, they're going to attempt the world's biggest toast, getting thousands of people in pubs up and down the country to raise a glass at the same time, monitored by the Guinness Book of Records.

Your local pub should have some interesting guest ales on.  At the very least, it's an opportunity to have a few pints and maybe try to convert a friend.  I'm sure it won't be perfect as an event, but it deserves to succeed and it can only be in any beer lover's interest that it does.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Quizmaster Pete on the telly

Well, despite the fact that I look like shit, and despite expectations of the old joke about the camera adding five pounds ("so how many cameras did you have on you then?"), with half a bottle of cough mixture down me I managed to get through my TV appearance on Market Kitchen without coughing phlegm onto the other guests.  And despite several people beforehand telling me Rodney Marsh was a bit of a git, I found him perfectly charming, great fun to spend an afternoon with.  Brilliant to hear his stories about George Best, and he didn't even burst out laughing when I told him I was a Barnsley fan.

The programme is on UKTV Food tonight at 7pm and again (cos I'm so good) at 10pm, Sky channel 249, Virgin 260.