I wonder…

I am just heading into my second evening beer presentation of the week, as well as helping a few chefs earlier in the week, but I saw this last night:


This was in a pub, just a general, everyday normal boozer. I was with a bunch of mates, normal non-beery folk. I just had to take that pic.

I hope the day that great beer, bars and venues that over writes this chapter of pubs and beer comes soon.

And yes, that guy was asleep.


today my job changed

Today, in offices much like ours, Louise and Colin – people like Zak and his team,  Nigel and Ian, Andreas or Steve, Bart Verhaege,  then people like Nick and Duff, then Martin and Tom will all have dramatic tiered changes to make to their presentation, er, Offering.

Oddly, I guess there might be conversations in offices in Denmark or Northampton, perhaps wherever Tennents is made, but more so in Cheshunt – life will carry on as normal.

The simple reason specialist beer importers, retailers and beer specialist venues will have to charge more, is because of a simple multiplier High Strength Beer Tax that comes into place today.  Yes, that’s a tax for beers over and above 7.5% ABV – capturing in the same net dolphins and tuna – Chimay and Tennents Super;  Stone Arrogant Bastard and Carlsbery Special.   Beers with different origins and space on the shelves of various Retailers.

Why am I concerned, surely the reassuring tones of governmental research showed that you dear beer lover is less price senstive when purchasing High Strength Beer?

Ok, picture this: say a bottle of Chimay will go up 25p perhaps more. 75p at least by the time that hits the shelves of bars.   25p when in retail space, is the difference between two bottle buy and one.    75p, is the difference between a buy and no buy.

I believe the tax system that has been applied is a Pigovian taxThe tax is intended to correct the market outcome. In the presence of negative externalities, the social cost of a market activity is not covered by the private cost of the activity.” – now as you know, I am not the strongest writer in the camp; nor the most erudite – but the way I see it the simple reasoning behind the tax levy was to inhibit the purchase of super strength beer because of their links to antisocial behavior etc.   What the papers would have called a Sin Tax.

Walking through Canterbury last night, after a tasting with some 80 people, students and academics and everyday folk all mixed together – tasting beers from 3.5% thru 11%.    No issues, no trouble – save for a dodgy comedian; long story.  Out in the town, many people drinking “continental style” – cafe sat, coffee, beer or wine all being consumed conscientiously.    I saw a quite few people walking along with Tall Cans of “Mystery Lager”.   I saw one pub with a raucous kick out happening – attended by a brand new Range Rover, unmarked with blue lights appearing from below the grills.    Who were they “attending to”, middle-aged men.     Sad.  Thankfully they didn’t look like Craft Beer people.  More statistics.

You’ll see from the opening paragraph that it was easy to name the family of beer-importer-retailers. There isn’t many of us.   Specialist beer, be that  Artisan, Craft, Craft Keg, Imported Bottle, Cask beer, Real Ale – what ever church you follow, it affects us all.    It’s just more pronounced when your business, livelihood, wellbeing is tied to the sale of over – 7.5% beer.      The internal effects of this,  I know of at least 6 beers that are going to be capped at 7.4%.  I know beers that will not be brewed again.   I know of beers that will not be imported.    I know that considerations have been very clearly stated to continental brewers that beers of 7.4% and above will not be given much push. Times are a changing.   When was the last time you had a breadth of strong, rich, full flavoured massive beers in front of you…  I look forward to seeing Dover Beer Festival this year, “the festival of 5% and above beers” – I don’t hold much hope for the range of biggest of the big beers.

So, if something is taken, something must be given?    2.8% and below, now are 50% off the Duty rate.      As someone who championed 3% beer in cask, and has had long conversations with Eddie Gadd (who if you don’t know does a lot behind the scenes with SIBA); then brewed 2.8% called Low and Behold. (Although, I now know that in fact small brewers aren’t entitled to that lower tax offering, only brewers who are abvove the small brewers discount PBD)   it’s expensive brewing beers at 3%, ingredients that we don’t fully use, massive amounts of hops that compensate for the lack of body – few have mastered the style – perhaps Redemption Trinity is a master of this very small band of beers.  Without checking Ratebeer or something, I would think there were more over 7.4% beers than sub 3% on the market in the UK

All price rises do not reflect the rise in the cost of life, expectations of wage increases and simple business costs.    It’s going to be harder to sell 2 bottles of beer, rather than the one.   Considering the cost of travel is always rising – when you get to the bottle shop, are you then going to have 1 or 2 bottles?   you know the answer.

What were alternatives. Direct regulation?  Did you know that Governments can choose to directly regulate things?   Speed Limits?  (oh noes that’s up for debate too) – wouldn’t have something like “you cannot sell alcohol below cost”  although one wonders if invoices are easily fudged when selling to TESBURAS Or that TESBURAS political weight was just powerful enough to shift the onus from them?

See, we elect people in suits to go and do their best for the UK, both home and abroad.  Make choices and decisions based on heartfelt instincts and research, insight, experience and knowledge…

Did they do the right thing?

have they fuck.

Welcome to Utah.

Other Blog Posts on the same subject:


Creeping Ivy

Creeping IvyCreeping Ivy

Fashions, trends or just looking over the garden fence… are they healthy?

I am guilty of the next as the next person promoting fringe activities as a “better alternative”; looking back through this blog I have “pimped” – yes, I haven’t mentioned Fullers, Harveys’ or Lees or Wilsons or Holts or a fine pint of Mild often, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it when I come back to the UK from foreign beer lands.

But some personal home truths;   I know at the throne of BeerGeekisms I would be burned  for saying how much I love great milds and crystal malt and fuggles and goldings have a place, not at the back of the brewery store.    Belly slapping big Imperial Stouts are awesome, US IPA‘s with nose jangling hop aromas and bitterness that makes your gums peel are all fine, in their place.  I would be hung for loving Lager, from the industrial PBR, Olympia types even a glass of Heineken in Amsterdam, right through fantastic Helles and Pilseners of German and Pilsners from Czech Rep by many real ale-ys.

I grew up in a pub. We served all sorts, Belgian, German and lots of Cask ales – I have always drunk a full spectrum of flavours, as much said by one of the chaps that helped me find my way in beer, “would you want to eat the same type of food every night?

But, I worry when I hear “Death of The English Classical Hop”.   Bramling Cross and Fuggle seemingly will be off the list because of cost of growing and the amount of American hops used.    Yes, I am not a fan of Fuggle, but try brewing a classic stout or underpinning the notes of Goldings with anything else; a local brewpub has steadfastly held on to their Fuggles brew, at 3.6%,  and it was cracking!    Bramling Cross, a hop that I love, seemingly might be off the menu in a couple of years.    Appreciation and championing of classic British ale styles is something to be applauded.    When was the last time you had a great British Barley wine, or Old ale, Lactose stout?  of course you can name a couple?  But how many pale gold, 3.8% american hop “hophead” style beers can you name…  Pete, Martin et al have done a good job of getting the light back on UK classic IPA, but it doesn’t stop there.

The use of American Hops, “Kevin Wouldn’t Like it”, etc…. I love great bright American hop notes, hell what Steve, Angelo and I used by the shit load; but is that at the cost of our UK hop varietals?     I love to see brewers capable of brewing a full spectrum of flavours and styles.  For example, at Pizza Port Carlsbad, a small brewpub in San Diego earlier this year, had a Pils, Porter, English IPA, West Coast IPA, Stout, West Coast Stout, Irish Stout and a cream ale and more on tap all at the same time… it was frikken awesome.

Nut Brown anyone… ? Thank you DarkStar.    1890 Export Stout, thank you Kernel Brewery.      Thank you Ron Pattinson, Durden beer Circle and others for spending so much time on the old school recipes.   And, by the same token I love to see how Rye Beers, Black IPA’s and American-eque flavours have taken ahold here.

When was the last time you even saw a Berliner Weisse, a Goze or Mumm?  All beer styles that live on the far fringe of beer in Germany, that I’d love to see more accessible.      Brown, wood aged sour beers in the UK?     It wasn’t so long ago it was rare to find a porter available in the UK?

Then I see things like this:

This sort of thing yeah is a funny meme and makes a few beer aficionados chuckle.   But is it healthy?     Is it better to be in the tent pissing out, or pissing in?

UK Beer Exports

By chance, I had what is a starter of a conversation with Eddie Gadd of Gadd’s of Ramsgate – the export of British Beer?    Yeah, BrewDog is available about the ways,  couple of the Hepworth beers, Youngs, Meantime and Fullers, Sheps,  are seen here and there; Thornbridge are about too…  we have a shit load of breweries here, some 840?

I see the efforts of the US Brewers Assoc, Bob Pease et al, championing US beer here, Italy and other international Beer festivals.   I see the busiest stand at GBBF the American/Foreign beer bar. Is there a UK beer stand at the GABF?  The different factions about beer in the UK – from CAMRA, Family Brewers, SIBA, the Beer Writers, Bloggers and Twitteratti, Ratebeerians and many trade folk – I know it’s hard for people to work together, but we really need to get our act together on this; not creating a political position or a chance for someone to gadd about the international beer arena to reallly push UK brewing as an export.    I guess SIBA don’t have the financial wearwithall?   Perhaps CAMRA have the £.

If we exported beers, um, like we used to… you know India and Caribbean, or Australia even Belgium; look how many contemporary beer styles we use today derived from those Export Beers?    Not to mention the much needed cash injection?   Perhaps, even, a home for a portion of a brew(s) of over 7.5% speciality beers, now that they are subject to a “supertax”.   (We would have been better served with a law to say that no beer can be sold below cost?)

A Hope for Beer Enlightenment!

My hope for the next few years, is that we can approach beer with an insight into all of the worlds great beer major and minor styles, know where they fit into our daily diet, what they drink really well with and ensure that beer styles aren’t lost to the history books and are around for the next beer drinking generation to enjoy.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the above.

A guide to beer in Ukraine.

A Guide to beer in the Ukraine.

For  starters I really wanted to call this, A Short History of Beers in Ukrainian* – really I did. So perhaps this is a short guide to beer in the Ukraine.
This is a rough outline, a bunch of notes, rubish information and indications of what lengths I go to for beer…

I have been been mulling over this since I have got back from the Ukraine, that place where quite frankly, reputation has it,  if you’re there and hear another British accent, male, they are there for one thing and one thing only; it ain’t the beer…  This could be interesting for you if you’re looking for the hinted upon fruits of the Ukraine or travelling there for the Euro 2012 Football.

I have since been to Belgium and Germany, but this place is mad.    I believe Ukraine translates as Border lands, which if you push that toward the idea of the Wild West,  you’d get a picture of what the place is like.

So, it’s in the lands of strange writing.   This, I thought was going to make reading bottle labels near impossible.    So, as one does when travelling to a far out place I jumped on Ratebeer, searched for places in the Ukraine and wanted to see if Oh My Head Per or Gazza, or Dave had been there.    Rates, as they who tick and scoop refer to them, seemed not un-plentiful.

Visa’s for a Brit aren’t needed to travel to the Ukraine but should a Ukrainian want to come to the UK – please apply to Her Majesties  Border Authority – or it’s now not as well named UKBA.

Ukrainian history, well, it’s chequered.

Ukrainian history is long and proud, with the inception of Kievan Rus as the most powerful state in Medieval Europe. While this state fell prey to Mongol conquest, the western part of Ukraine became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from the 14th until the 18th century, even modern Ukraine owes it a debt of sorts. A subsequent Ukrainian state was able, in the face of pressure from the ascendant Muscovy, to remain autonomous for more than a century, but the Russian Empire absorbed much of Ukraine in the 18th century to the detriment of their culture and identity.

Despite a brief, but uncertain, flash of independence at the end of the czarist regime, Ukraine was incorporated into the new USSR after the Russian Civil War in 1922 and subject to two disastrous famines (1932-33 and 1946) as well as brutal fighting during World War II. As a Soviet republic, the Ukrainian language was often ‘sidelined’ when compared to Russian to varying degrees; Stalinist repressions during the 1930s, attempts at decentralisation during the Khrushchev administration and the retightening of controls during the Brezhnev-Kosygin era of the 1970s and early 1980s. In any case, the traditionally bilingual province had signs in both Russian and Ukrainian in virtually all cities, including Lviv, where Ukrainian is most prevalent. The 1986 Chernobyl accident was a further catastrophe to the republic but also widely considered as an event which, in the long run, galvanized the population in regional sentiment and led to increasing pressure on the central government to promote autonomy.

Ukraine declared its sovereignty within the Soviet Union in July 1990 as a prelude to unfolding events in the year to come. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) again declared its independence in early December 1991 following the results of referendum in November 1991 which indicated overwhelming popular support (90% in favour of independence). This declaration became a concrete reality as the Soviet Union formally ceased to exist on December 25, 1991. Initially, there were severe economic difficulties, hyperinflation, and oligarchal rule prevailed in the early years following independence. The issues of cronyism, corruption and alleged voting irregularities came to a head during the heavily-disputed 2004 Presidential election, where allegations of vote-rigging sparked what became known as the “Orange Revolution”. This revolution resulted in the subsequent election of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko as President. During ongoing five years the “Orange coalition” broke up and Viktor Yushchenko lost support of majority of Ukranians. Ironically, his former adversary Viktor Yanukovich was elected the President.


Odessa or Odesa (Ukrainian: Одеса; Russian: Одесса;) is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast (province) located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000.

The Odessa city was founded by order of Catherine The Great, Russian Empress, on the place of Turkish fortress Khadzhibei, which was occupied by Russian Army in 1789. De Ribas and, Franz de Volan recommended the area of Khadzhibei fortress as the site for the region’s basic port: ice-free harbor, breakwaters could be cheaply constructed and would render the harbor safe and have got capacity to accommodate large fleets. The Governor General of Novorossiya, Platon Zubov (one of Catherine’s favorites) supported this proposal and in 1794, Catherine gave it her approval to found new port-city and invested first money into city construction.

However, adjacent to the new official locality, a Moldavian colony already existed, which by the end of 18th century was an independent settlement known under the name of Moldavanka. Some local historians consider that the settlement pre-dates Odessa by about thirty years and asserts that the locality was founded by Moldavians who came to build the fortress of Yeni Dunia for the Ottomans and eventually settled in the area in the late 1760s, right next to the settlement of Khadjibey (since 1795 Odessa proper), on what later became the Primorsky Boulevard. Another version posits that the settlement appeared, after Odessa itself was founded, as a settlement of Moldavians, Greeks and Albanians fleeing the Ottoman yoke.[5]

The four foreigners’ in Russian service met by chance on a Russian military vessel in 1870s – Jose de Ribas, Duc de Rischelieu, Count of Langeron and Franz de Volan. Later on, those four played became instrumental in the city’s success: the first one convinced the Russian Empress to found Odessa, the second made it the fourth largest city in Russia in just eleven years, the third one made it free economic zone and the fourth one created the city plan, used to build Odessa, which was considered the most advanced city plan in Russia at that time!

The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement, was founded by Hacı I Giray, the Khan of Crimea, in 1240 and originally named after him as “Hacıbey”. After a period of Lithuanian control, it passed into the domain of the Ottoman Sultan in 1529 and remained in Ottoman hands until the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1792. The city of Odessa was founded by a decree of the Empress Catherine the Great in 1794. From 1819–1858 Odessa was a free port. During the Soviet period it was the most important port of trade in the Soviet Union and a Soviet naval base. On January 1, 2000 the Quarantine Pier of Odessa trade sea port was declared a free port and free economic zone for a term of 25 years.

In the 19th century it was the fourth largest city of Imperial Russia, after Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Warsaw. Its historical architecture has a style more Mediterranean than Russian, having been heavily influenced by French and Italian styles. Some buildings are built in a mixture of different styles, including Art Nouveau, Renaissance and Classicist.

Odessa is a warm water port, but militarily it is of limited value. Turkey’s control of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus has enabled NATO to control water traffic between Odessa and the Mediterranean Sea. The city of Odessa hosts two important ports: Odessa itself and Yuzhne (also an internationally important oil terminal), situated in the city’s suburbs. Another important port, Illichivs’k, is located in the same oblast, to the south-west of Odessa. Together they represent a major transport hub integrating with railways. Odessa’s oil and chemical processing facilities are connected to Russia’s and EU’s respective networks by strategic pipelines.

Odessa has very strong links to Russia, seemingly Russians get priority over Ukrainians and other tourists, there is a heirarchy – I thought was based on how rude you were.  Mad place that has beautiful heirloom buildings, crazy nightclubs, the largest shopping area in the World.  oh, and of course, the The famous Potemkin Steps are leading to it from the monument of the Duke De Richelieu.

The beer.

Honestly, I was expecting Pale lager, followed by  Pale lager, with a top up of stronger pale lager.      I knew that Carlsberg and Inbev had been splashing the cash, bless them – but Ratebeer did reveal a number of Brewpubs and smaller efforts.   Maybe it wasn’t going to be as bad as I thought.

Beer styles

The Lonely Planet guide to the Ukraine compares Ukrainian beer with Czech beer, and the comparison definitely makes sense. The Ukraine (and Russia) have much the same beer styles as the German lager styles widespread in the Czech Republic, although Russia and the Ukraine add some extra styles. The quality is also comparable. Ukrainian pale lagers are generally quite well made, although in Russia the average seems to be quite a bit lower.

In general, Russian and Ukrainian brewers tend to stick to the traditional German beer styles, with some rare exceptions. The main styles are:

Svitle (light)

Pretty standard pale lagers, 4-5% alcohol. Generally low on flavour, but for the most part also free of off tastes and quite well made. Best in category: Lvivske Premium (3.2). Worst: Taller (2.2).

Temne (dark)

Dark lagers (or dunkels), again 4-5% alcohol. Generally sweet, but not always, and generally with some roastiness, and, if you are very lucky, some spiciness. Again, off tastes are rare, though at times the brewers overdo the sweetness somewhat. Best in category: Obolon Oksamitove (3.2). I didn’t try enough of these to have a meaningful worst.

Mitsne (strong)

Pretty standard strong pale European lagers, 6-8%. They are sweeter and denser in body than the svitles, and often have a bit more hops. Reminiscent of Scandinavian “gold” macro brews.  Slavutych Mitsne Arsenal Mitsne

Bile (white)

German-style hefeweizen wheat beers, but often spicier and more citric than the German brews, while not as much as the Belgian wits. There are also some dark “whites”, which tend to be sweeter.  Dnipro Bile Chernigivske Bile Nefiltrovane =


There is, surprisingly, a good number of these, but they are very difficult to find. The first night, presented by my girlfriends dad presented Lvivske Porter.   This was a rich, dark amber lager.  Very prune-y raisin with dark roast notes.  Impressive.
(thanks to Largsa for this)


There is also kvas, a traditional Russian beer style originally quite low in alcohol and brewed from bread. This is rarely sold in bottles or in pubs, but generally sold in the street from little tank trucks. These usually have some babushka manning them, selling beer in plastic cups. For some reason this beer style has much lower status than the more widespread German-derived styles, although some of the brewpubs make good versions of it.     The many glasses that I tried, I found one I really liked – at the bottom of the Potemkin steps, in Odessa – for 5 Krv a 50cl beaker.

I got to try a few different varieties of kvas and there seem to be two different kinds. One is what I would call the traditional, which is brownish, hazy, and tastes of rye bread, spice, and yeast. The other is found in bottles and pubs, and seems more like a traditional soft drink, with a caraway taste. I never found any official indication of the alcohol level, but would think 3-4% at the most.

The beer served in the south of Ukraine is good and goes with the great hearty food. This is as good as some Czech beer.  A beer in a restaurant will usually cost around 2 – 3 USD for local beers, and you don’t need to worry about the import. There are several breweries in the area nearby Odessa, but they are usually not very popular in the restaurants, big brewery money and schwag.

Some highlights, of sorts:

Brewing Museum Lviv.

Do not miss this, this not a disney-fied overly romanticized tale of brewing and the brewing community, funded it seems by the Lvivskya brewery (although you do exit through the gift shop). Lviv has been known for its beer making expertise since the 15th century. There has been a brewery since 1715, established by Jesuits monks. Lviv was the brewing capital for the old USSR/CCCP; Beer brewed in Lviv was enjoyed at the royal banquets in Austria-Hungary and in Poland, and in more recent times at the banquets of the communist party leaders in the Kremlin. – running on the same-similar geography of their German and Czech brewing community partners.    Lviv is also a very pretty Bamberg/Brugge type of city in the old town.

Arena Brewpub Kiev.

Arena, Kiev

As far as nightclub venues in Kiev go, Arena which is located in the very center of the city inside the round structure right next to Bessarabski market is the king of clubs. Inside Arena is more “architecturally stylish” than a watering hole needs to be. Although calling it a watering hole would be like calling Russia a slightly bigger than an average sized country. Arena consists of multiple floors, featuring a Casino, sports bar, sushi restaurant and of course a standard nightclub with a large “VIP” area.

The large dance floor and dancer girls set the bar for pricey drinks, not that the moneyed clientele seems to mind — they’re just happy to be inside. Mojitos and martinis are the cocktails of choice, and rich new Russian types and local Ukrainian celebrities are usually well-represented in the see-and-be-seen crowd. That should come as no surprise; provided Arena is partially owned by the famous boxers – Klitchko brothers who frequently make an appearance at the first floor sports bar.

The brewery is on one of the levels, and certainly one of the most bizarre spots I have ever been into for a beer.    The beer was some of the best we had on our travels, very clean-brewpub-germanic, but the prices were near double “normal beer”.     When I spoke to the brewer regards duty rates, his reply – “this is Ukraine, sometimes we do, and some times well….” as he shrugs his shoulders…

Pivonogrod, Odessa

Restaurant Pivnoy Sad

Restaurant Pivnoy Sad

there is a small restaurant-brewery right in the pretty “City Garden” near Deribasovskya, their beer is rather good, and they have an English menu. Just look for a sign that says “Hausbrauerei”  and tell them you just want to have a drink at the bar unless you want to have dinner there of course.  Pavel Grembowsky, former Ukrainian triathalon star, learned his brewing trade from the head brewer from the Arena Brewpub – but I think has excelled over him.   A near native quality English speaker and very cool person to boot.   Apparently I was the first foreign “brewer” to visit, or more than likely introduce himself, a 500litre Copper Waschmann brewkit brews three times a day to keep up with demand when the sun is out.  The red and pale lager – both unfiltered are made from Weyermann malts, fresh pellet hops and german supplied fresh yeast – the local water and this produces good fresh lagered beers!   Mix with a plate of pickles, smokey stringy cheese and a pretzel, no more tha 50Krv for a couple of half litres and the noms.

If you’re in Odessa, this and the Gambrinus bar are the two best beer hangouts, plus a growler fill shop.    The sunshine in Odessa was wonderful, warm, balmy days.      The one downside, is the lack of balls with the management, since there was apparently a party of “famous people” from Russia in the place, who bypassed the local laws for the non-smoking area.

Lvivskya Pivovar, Lviv

Probably the better of the industrial breweries in Ukraine.

Lustdorf Brewery, OdessaLutsdorf Brewer

” Lustdorf combines new conception of modern recreation’s style and classical quality of brewage and cuisine. This place is perfect not only for having good drinks and food but also for successful business meeting, having fun with friends or even a romantic date. ” – it’s just a good brewpub out of town!  Bah, they really over talk everything.   Sad that I had to find this information on a site for Russian Brides too!?  Not on Ratebeer….  The beer was OK brewpub beer, cold unfiltered lager.  Worth the haul out here? Perhaps, if your me, which says you’re nuts!

Beer in Kiev

Brewpub: Arena – best of the Kievian brewpubs plus the added advantage of strippers.

Brewpub:  Chato – tired old velo system churning out buttery unfiltered lager.

Brewpub:  Schulz – a new 750 litre system, brewing and serving an unfiltered lager and dunkel.  Tasty stuff just that the service sucks.

Beer in Odessa

Brewpub:  Pivnoy Sad Vinogradov, Odessa

Brewpub:  Lustdorf

Brewery: Odesskaya Chastnaya Pivovarnya

Beer Bar:  Gambrinus


Russia and the Ukraine may sound like terrible destinations for anyone looking for a decent pint of beer, and while both countries are for the most part deserts of pale lager, things are not nearly as bad as they may seem. There are some interesting beer styles, some brewpubs, and the quality of the industrial beer (especially in the Ukraine) is not at all bad. And prices are low, of course.  If you’re looking outside the normal beery destinations, perhaps this might be worth a try.   Consider it, going to see a first division football match rather than a premier league side.

When I left Ukraine;  besides the pushing and shoving and slow passport control and complete lack of control – they really need to learn to queue properly, and the fact what ever we have with Dave and Nick, their politics is well, a fekking joke – succinctly “Money Talks and bullshit walks. ” I was left feeling that this is a country on the cusp of being a really tremendous powerhouse in the world. Great produce, great climate and very cool people.   I was sad to leave such a country with great climate, natural wealth, cool young people doing their own thing – I really hope for the best for the Ukrainians, I hope that the people like Pavel Gremborsky make their country as amazing

Note: a pectopah = Restaurant.

Makes me wonder?

Recently I have been hearing, reading and then wondering about some very curious statements about that there beer.

Pearlers include:

“The new CEO will drag us from the morass of craft brewers into the industrial brewers, even if it costs us 80% of our beer range”

“craft brewing is a passing phase”

“American beer is the only beer worth drinking”

“IPA now more popular than budweiser”

And this gem, I am sure some of you might have read in Beer, or what’s
Brewing… Whether this was to provoke reaction I don’t know…


I have deliberately refrained from indicating the owners of those statements for the authors vanity in years to come.

Happy Friday!

Got any others you’d like share?

5 years time…

Here’s one for you… 

Greene King Brewery plaque on the side of Nort...

Image via Wikipedia

Greene King will be a significant player in the craft beer market in 4 years time. 

Yes, they have a whole cotchell of brewery brands, their track record shows that they buy and close and like many big brewing concerns they are stuck in their ways with brands.

but, crazy times we are living in…


maybe I just got out of the wrong side of the bed?

Setting the Table, by Danny Meyer.

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer

available from Amazon if you have to, but please use a local bookstore if you can. 

Few books really keep me turning, turning the pages and I guess for some of you, it’s a shock to hear that I can read, a book.  Even one with just words.   Still, this is one helluvabook.  If you’re in the hospitality industry, stop now, go buy this book! 

This is the book that I wish I had read when I was 16,  wandering into the realms of the hospitality industry; Paris, Geneva and Milan.   Once I had finished the book, some 320 pages of small print, with out any pictures…  I was enthused, pleased and in awe of someone who could articulate what it means to be engaged within hospitality.

Some I have read that it was “rather daring” for a restaurateur to write a book titled Setting The Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business?   Pah,  I for one, given time served (see 10,000 hours),  can see genuine resource within the chapters, written with enthusiasm and I hope heartfelt honesty.        I loved the idea of the 51/49 split, which is perfect reference to someone who is more emotionally in tune with their surroundings and the interactions they are engaged with.

From a restauranteur’s stand point, you try and establish an ideal for the establishment, set some goals (even targets!) and then the crunch, the realisation of how much it depends on chefs and servers to communicate these ideals to the guests. Not only must the restaurateur walk the talk, the staff must willingly do so as well.

If you’ve never heard of  Danny Meyer, he has been in business over 20 years, growing his original Union Square Café into a brand (Union Square Hospitality Group) now including the celebrated Eleven Madison Park, The Modern, Gramercy Park, and many others. In this book, Meyer attempts to chronicle his not-quite rags to riches story of how he succeeded in the restaurant business by listening to people and putting the customer first.   If you’re into beer, he’s been including top class craft beer on his menu, before it was even called Craft beer.    Gramercy Tavern and Brooklyn Brewery events Garret Oliver – featured here (resplendent with Goat and Sailors hat)

If you do some research about Danny Meyer, you’ll read stories of  how the little things matter.  There are time worn anecdotal’s out how Meyer’s service-obsessed waiters jumped cabs to airports to return a forgotten purse to a diner, or scrambled to retrieve a chilling bottle of signature champagne from a patron’s refrigerator when he (isn’t it almost always a ‘he?’) forgot to bring it to the restaurant for an anniversary dinner. These feature in the book; of course a great peice of meat needs fat and muscle to balance, just as an semi-educational text needs a story to flesh up and present picture.

I’ve had the privilege of being in NYC and visiting both Union Square and the Gramercy, the staff  always sincerely friendly, well-trained, and even enlightened when it comes to beer and food pairings.     I for one can’t wait to get back to New York and check out Shake Shack, Blue Smoke and Tabla.    Burgers, BBQ and Indian… oh hell yes.

So, there you go; I read a book, loved it and reviewed it.

What an amazing time we live in…

Beer is amazing right now…

Call me a hippy, bleeding heart liberal or something silly… But hell, beer is bloody amazing right now.

Excusing all the inane politicks that are really tarnishing what I fell in love with, just simply great beer. I suggest reading Simon Johnsons excellent “see ya…” blog post to best sum this up.

Maybe I walk in a fortunate path, that good to genuinely world class beer isn’t out of reach. But, what I can say is that I am locally closer to world class beer than I ever have been.

It may sound bizarre that someone who sells beers imported from far afield on their quality and flavor merits, should champion the awesome flavors achieved by brewers on these fair shores.

Yes, I have been filling my belly with German brewed Pils, Helles and Wheats, but the top fermented stuff (excusing the prior wheat beers) have all come from these shores. Windsor and Eton Knot, BrewWharf Pale ales, and Kernel Brewery Saison have been sincere highlights.

I used to long for flavours of hoppiness from Drakes, Russian River and ballast point – but, really the chances taken by brewers here really satiate those desires.

Big Brick, Conqueror, London Brick, trinity, kernel black IPA, northern star, illusion, are: As good as you’ll get in California.

Recently the saisons from DarkStar, Kernel and BrewWharf [There’s a theme there ;-)] have proved that we can also knock out near European styles with innovative grace.

Brand this as craft brewing or what ever, but sure as, with time added, we’re in the time of our lives when it comes to great beer, and the access we can get to these flavors. Chuck into the mix the bakers, cheese makers and the “grape-pressers” folk, all on these shores – what a wonderful time.

As “craft beer” gets bigger

As the “craft beer” scene emerges from the shadows, become belle du jour Combined with the demise of marketing budgets in the big industrial brewing companies, there is going to be transition. There will be sharks circling looking for new flesh. I see big accidents on the horizon.

We’ve been marketing beer since the dark ages, the nature of the product makes it game for “beer by numbers”.

It may seem attractive to growing brewing businesses to bring people in with experience of big brand beer. But, heed this: they could be dealing with soap bars, carpet or shoes – treating our beloved beverage in the same fashion.

Rare are those that do genuinely understand the needs of craft brewing and how the market place functions.

Here in this is the death of the marketeer.

In fact, here’s a wake up call to those considering or currently in the process of moving churches: you will never know as much as the consumer. This consumer is smarter than you, travels more than you, isn’t stuck “passionate” about a single “brand”, they are more beer literate than you will ever be, they drink what they want, not because you told them too. Shock, they might actually homebrew, aka, know how beer is made. Triple filtered, only x’number of ingredients, doesn’t wash. They know more about beer than you ever will. They live within a group of people who share information faster than any metrics apart from being involved can deal with. They have different heroes to you. They give a fuck, because they love it, absolutely. They live, breath and love good beer from good and great brewers. Oh, yeah, um, they have taste. They smell a rat, from 100yrds. They will debunk your ideas faster than you can drop the word, brand.

i am very proud of the actions and passions of every beer blogger, CAMRA member, SIBA and the brewers who push and pull to do their best for beer – long may these the bastions of beer!

So, dear marketeer, please leave, go back to soap bars, faux orange juice or what ever construct commodity you want to foist on to unsuspecting public through big box grocers. You won’t look like a chimp in a cheap suit.

My biggest fear for beer in the next 10 years, is some 120+IQ type trying to “commoditize” craft beer and getting away with it. Yes, we really need to give great value and maintain the principles of what we set out to do, make great beer.

Thus, I am weary of defining what “craft beer” is.

The opportunity for the brewer to effect the destiny of their brand is never been better – the access to social media, you know, you’re here reading this, is amazing. use it. Or lose it.