Posts tagged ‘drinking’

January 3, 2013

So long, 2012

Well here we are, at the start of a new year, and for me that also (roughly) marks the start of my second year of this blog. A perfect opportunity perhaps, to take a look back on the past year, and forward to the next.

I actually started this blog on Dec 23rd 2011 with a little pre-Christmas warm up, but blogging proper began in January first with a look at local pubs, and then I asked the question that led to my most popular post (based on number of views, anyway) of the whole year – where is the Birmingham Tap? So, almost a year later, do we have the answer? Well, things have certainly started to change. December saw the long-awaited opening of the new Brewdog bar in Birmingham, which was quite ironic timing for me – two weeks before it opened a change of job caused me to be London-based almost every day and travelling a route that avoids Birmingham, rather then being in London for just part of the week and travelling through New St to get home even on those days. Of course, one of the inspirations for that post was what is perhaps my truest “local” – the Euston Tap, so there’s still a silver lining…

But is Brewdog Birmingham the answer? Well, no, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful by that. Brewdog bars are great, and when I have the chance I’ll be a regular visitor, but they still lack for me the full breadth that places like Euston and Sheffield Taps or the Craft chain provide. So Brewdog is a start, but only that. Fortunately there is more to come! Further new bars are expected to open in the area later this year that should be the perfect compliment to the Brewdog offering and finally bring the breadth of choice that Birmingham hopefully deserves. It has even been hinted at that the operators of the Euston and Sheffield (and other) Taps have been looking for premises. Whether or not there is a “Birmingham Tap”, there should soon be a great range of beer on offer that finally puts Birmingham on a par with other cities.

As I’ve gone through this first year of writing, I’ve perhaps inevitably been trying my hand, and searching our both a style and a purpose in what I write about. Subject matter has included observations on drinking and the bar scene in Birmingham especially, my own brewing endeavours, beer festivals, and various other subjects as they came up. Naturally I hoped that I could look back at the popularity of various posts and determine what worked best for me in order to focus in the future. Well, that didn’t work. My second most popular post was of a completely different subject to the Birmingham Tap – the Saison brewday that recently took place – while in third place was a review of the inaugural Twissup in Birmingham. Three completely different posts on completely different subjects. I guess I’ll have to find other ways of deciding what to focus on in my blogging for the coming year, or just keep up the random approach I’ve had so far…

Going back to that Twissup post, this was a big event in the past year. It brought together a number of bloggers and tweeters in the region, and as a result I’ve got a number of new friends, more than just acquaintances. Saison a’Trois wouldn’t have happened without that initial meeting, and hopefully 2013 will see further developments that can be traced back to that first meeting. Since then, over the Christmas break, the second Birmingham Twissup attracted an even bigger crowd and I’m sure the next one won’t be far away. Twissup wasn’t the only event I attended in the year, and the European Beer Bloggers Convention was another great opportunity to meet more fellow bloggers, drink some great beers, and learn a bit more about this blogging lark.

The autumn saw one of the real highlights of the year drinking-wise with IndyManBeerCon somewhat redefining the beer festival. Is it too soon to be eagerly anticipating this year’s event which will no doubt be bigger and better? Something to aspire to in the Midlands perhaps? We’ll have to see what can be done…

On the home front, brewing progress has finally picked up following a slightly difficult time as new and larger equipment was put together (a task that is far from complete although now advanced enough to be reaping benefits). An exciting possibility of a commercial opportunity arose part way through the year, although all is quiet on that at the moment. It is still potentially on the cards though, and in the meantime I’m focusing on getting the beers I make right, and keeping an eye out for the right opportunities if they should come up.

So that’s the highlights for me. But what of the year to come? Well I have a few plans and ideas. Firstly on the blogging side of things I know I have to get writing more regularly. It has been tricky this year – work often eats up all the available time and the new job gives no respite from that. Although I’ve averaged about two posts every three weeks there have been some big gaps, and even if I don’t write a greater number of posts I’d like to keep more of a steady momentum. I’ve got to keep up with reading other people’s blogs too – there’s been so much good stuff lately and I know I’m missing more than I’m getting to see.

This year the brewing is going to step up a gear too. I think I’m starting to hit my stride now – I just need to get all those irritating little jobs around the place done to make each brewday go that much easier, and now I’ve made the dual steps to fully temperature-controlled fermentation and liquid yeasts I’ll be expanded the beer repertoire accordingly. I’d like to take the opportunity, if opportunities can be found, to get some hands on experience of a commercial brewday (all offers gratefully considered!), but the real challenge I’ve set myself is to get a recipe made commercially, somehow (again all offers considered!) – both of those should give some fantastic experience as well as valuable blogging material!

It’ll be tough to deliver on the challenges I’ve set myself, but it should be fun trying. Hopefully at least some of you will drop by to keep an eye on progress, and thanks for reading during this past year. Here’s to a fabulous 2013!

September 7, 2012

Pubs and children

It’s amazing how quickly time flies by.  It’s already nearly a week since I got home from a very enjoyable family holiday in Cornwall.  Obviously any holiday with a three-year old involved is going to involve a lot of child-friendly activities, and this one was no exception.  But a family holiday is also about just getting the rare chance to spend a bit more time together, and to me it is very important that it is a holiday for everyone, so in my case that means dragging the family to a few of the local pubs and hopefully getting to try a few beers that are not readily available back home or even better completely new to me.

As I’m generally doing the driving on our holidays, this rather limits the opportunities for me, but lunchtimes and evening meals are always good times for a half pint or two along with a bite to eat, and are actually reasonable value compared to .  All it takes is to find somewhere serving food that is child-tolerant.  But it also ideally has to be the kind of pub I want to have a drink in, so as not to squander what is a fairly limited opportunity.  I’m not a fan of the chains of “family pubs” that more often that not have a play area and hordes of screaming kids, and at best a pretty bland and uninspiring selection of ale.

We were very fortunate on this holiday to be able to go into a few very good pubs who were more than happy for us to take a young child in with us, and their menus generally catered well for children’s meals.  Dragging a hungry child in and out of pubs until you find a suitable one isn’t the best strategy, and so there were a couple of occasions where we had to go with the safe option – though actually the two Wetherspoons pubs we fell back on at these times actually were up there with the best in terms of the beers I had so everyone was happy.  A tolerant attitude to families with children meant I could visit the kind of pubs I would choose to go to on my own, or with friends.  Brewpubs like the Driftwood Spars at Trevaunance Cove and the Blue Anchor at Helston.  Friendly local places like the London Inn at Summerscourt or the Ship Inn at Looe.  And lots more.  And the first two mentioned were perfectly welcoming even when we were there just for a drink, not even for a meal.

Of course there is the whole argument about how children shouldn’t be allowed in pubs, they are places for adults, but pubs also need to attract as many customers as they can and I’m pretty sure we justified the tolerance of the places we went into by taking with us a good-mannered child who knows how to behave in a place that is for grown-ups.  I know we did in fact, because of the comments we got at the end of many of our visits.  But then, over the past four years we’ve taken our daughter into pubs and restaurants and taught her that she needs to regulate her behaviour.  When she was very young there were a couple of occasions where we had to take her out of somewhere because she was playing up, but the lesson quickly worked and we get the benefit now by having much more freedom to take her with us to the kind of places we want to go while we’re on holiday together.

My only complaint really, is that it is quite difficult to know how a particular pub feels about you going in with children.  One of my sources of information about pubs while out and about, the Good Beer Guide, indicates if a pub has a dedicated Family Room, but unless it happens to be mentioned in the general description places that are happy for you to take children into the main parts of the pub aren’t identified.  Even pubs’ own websites don’t always make it clear (although the presence of children’s options on an online menu is a good clue sometimes!) and we had to go into a few places in the hope that it would be alright – fortunately either a children’s menu or a quick check with the staff quickly clarified that.

So, publicans. Make it easy for me to identify you as somewhere that is happy to allow well-behaved children and I’ll be more than happy to give you my custom (if your beer selection appeals too, of course!).  Don’t tolerate bad behaviour though – that spoils it for the rest of us.  The pub isn’t a creche but there is no reason why it should be out of bounds to families.

 

August 21, 2012

Finding pub perfection?

It was a beautiful warm and sunny evening last Friday when a friend and I popped into the cool dark interior of a London pub that was a much awaited first for me.  The beer options were immense and the first pint was hugely refreshing after the rather warm wander from the station.  It wasn’t empty, but it wasn’t so busy there was a problem finding a seat and no huge queue at the bar.  An old-fashioned grand street corner pub, it was pretty much perfect.  At least, it was, right at that moment, and that got me thinking.  FOrtunately for my drinking companion, I did my thinking out loud so he could join in rather than be completely ignored!

The perfect pub, like that immortalised in Orwell’s Moon Under Water, oft sought and rarely, if ever, found.  Was this it?  Was it at least *my* Moon?  Fleetingly, yes.  But then I realised that at least for me, the problem with finding the perfect one is that it is only perfect at a given moment in time.  That moment might be repeatable, might be due to various other conditions coming together such as weather, company, beers available and chosen, the size of the crowd filling the place, all sorts of reasons.  Or it might be more specific, that particular pub just at that exact moment in time, in those precise circumstances.  Either way, I realised that the reason that perfect pub is so elusive is that the target keeps moving.  What makes it perfect at a given time just isn’t the right think at another.

As I write this on the train I’ve not long departed what was, briefly, another perfect pub – a fairly regular and familiar haunt, practically on the station where I found myself with just enough time before my train, not too busy inside to get served quickly, and with a beer list of which the only fault was its role in creating indecision thanks to the excess of quality choices.  The right place at the right time.  There’ll be other times when it doesn’t quite cut it for me, and I couldn’t have substituted many other pubs for it at that time either, but while I waited for that train it was unbeatable.

It could have been quite disappointing to come to the concusion that there isn’t going to be a single one perfect pub for me, but on the other hand, I now know that there are lots of them, I just need to be there at the right time.  That’ll be worth a drink when I get to my next perfect pub…

July 6, 2012

The Session 65 – So lonely…

There are two ways to drink alone: by yourself, and with other people. I enjoy both but prefer the latter. The initial setup for this month’s Session, by NateDawg27, suggested that I’m not the only one, and this was backed up by some of the early comments on that post.

Maybe you’re wondering what I mean. Well, I often choose to sit in a pub by myself, enjoying a pint and maybe reading a book or newspaper. But although I’m on my own, I’m also not. There’s always something going on around you, a cross-section of human life passing through and bringing the place to life. I can rarely avoid a bit of people-watching while I’m there – if you haven’t tried it maybe you should. It can be fascinating. Other times you may end up chatting with staff or even other customers – there on your own, but not really alone.

Or you can shut off completely, lose yourself in your drink and anything else you’ve got to focus on, and then you’re much more by yourself. There are times when this suits me too, but I usually end up drifting back to observing what’s going on around me pretty soon. I generally prefer drinking alone with other people.

There is definitely a bit of a stigma with being out in the pub by yourself, and i think this is because it goes against the stereotypical drink with mates – that’s seen as the “normal” or even “correct” way to go for a drink by many and so those who are happy to break from that are seen as strange or sad.

But that leads me to my main point. The title for this Session was “so lonely”. I’ve not talked about being lonely, just about being on your own, which really isn’t the same thing. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you are lonely. And, conversely, just because you are with other people doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely.

Sometimes that drink with a group can be one of the loneliest drinking experiences. If you’re on the fringe of the group, maybe you don’t know everyone or don’t have the relationship that you can see others have, it can be very easy to feel excluded, or feel that you’re missing out on the rapport and relationship others have. It doesn’t even need to be a large group – three is quite sufficient on the basis that conversations tend to work between pairs and there’s always one person slightly left out.

So we should be careful not to confuse drinking alone with loneliness. Don’t assume that person over there drinking by themself is lonely. If they are taking up the only available table why not ask if you can share it – they’re not necessarily waiting for someone like you to turn up so they can latch onto a new best friend in order to fix their loneliness. They’re probably just enjoying their drink, their own company, the buzz around them – and will generally be quite happy to share the pub with you.

I shall carry on enjoying drinking by myself from time to time. I’d prefer not to be lonely though. And certainly not drinking because I’m lonely!