Category: Essays and Aphorisms


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 Back In Japan!: The Japan Drinking  Scene.

So Japan and beer. Not words that you tend to see together in the international press. In fact from conversations I have had, a lot of Japan doesn’t seem to know they have a growing craft beer scene. Now Japan and Whisky, the world has got its head around that. After quite a few awards you would have to work very hard not to notice it. Their local beer however is still a well-kept secret for the most part.

That is however changing.  So here we have, based on my short visits, an outsider’s view on the Japan drinking scene.  For any locals of Japan who read this, feel free to correct any mistakes I make. This is based purely on what I saw during my travels and I claim no great expertise.

The first thing that seems odd to an outsider is the opening times. In the UK the lunchtime pint is a thing of tradition, going around America I found places serving at ten in the morning and the refrain, “Its five o clock somewhere!”.  In Japan most craft beer bars didn’t seem to open until 17:00/18:00 hours. On the other hand they did then run to obscenely early o clock in the morning, so it is a trade-off.  You will find some bars, usually brew pubs, doing a short lunch open, but for the most part I would advise to keep bar drink hunting to the night and plan to other things in the day.  You will be in Japan therefore I will presume that this will not be in any way difficult. Continue reading

To share a short tale told at the pub recently.

A tourist, believed to be American, overheard in a pub in Britain declaring

“You have to try this; it’s the best drink ever. It is like a mix between lager and Guinness – it’s called John Smiths”

I don’t know if I should laugh or weep.

EDIT: I’ve run into a few variants of this tale recently, which makes me wonder if it is an urban legend I fell for. I guess, like many things marked “You Can’t Make This Up”, it turns out to be..well…made up. Ah well.

Drastic Beer News!

I knew it! I just knew it. Due to increased cost on beer and pressure to keep abv’s low a beer has had to reduce from 3.8% ABV to 3.6% abv while rising the cost by 2 and a half pence. This is terrible, the effects of mad liberals pressure that make energy cost go up and nanny stating and totalitarianism beer duty. It’s political correctness gone mad!.

http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/bitter-taste-drinkers-beer-watered-073135532.html

Oh hold on, sorry, it’s just John Smiths. False alarm everyone. I mistakenly thought we should give a shit. My bad.

Minimum Price
It’s that time again. The time the press has to decide between demonization of the drinking youth, or cries of nanny state and tax grubbing governments. Actually, usually they don’t have to choose, contradictory opinions that should cause significant amounts of cognitive dissidence are the norm in a hell of a lot of papers. If they can cause outrage then consistency is an optional extra.

So what am I talking about? The proposed introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol in drink in most of the UK. I say most as Scotland with it’s devolved powers has already put forth a 50 pence per unit minimum price. It’s being held up at time of writing (1), but is further ahead than the rest of the UK’s proposed 45 pence minimum.

Now there are a lot of people claiming this can, or can’t work because of many reasons. That minimum price won’t deter drinkers, in a similar fashion to the fact that high cigarette costs are not deterring smokers, that it’s just another tax for the government, that it will boost the quality beer of beer. A lot of claims, very little evidence being given for most.

So what is the evidence then? In an unusual step for what is normally an opinion piece I’m going to be doing a quick trawl of the net for the evidence and see what I can find.
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America. Or more precisely the USA. Possibly the most wrongly maligned beer country in the mind of the general populace and one of the most sought after beer scenes by aficionados. The land where prohibition took place, and one of the largest craft beer scenes in the world. 50 states, each at least the size of Britain and with at least as much cultural variance between them as between Britain’s member countries. How do you even start talking about that?

Well first I’m going to pour a pint. Not because I want a pint. Ok, not just because I want a pint, but also it’s the first interesting difference. The USA pint is smaller. 568ml for UK compared to 473ml for USA.

Which explains why you lot in the USA are all lightweights who think you can drink more than you really can.

I jest.

Mostly.

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Drinking in the Shadow of the Five Rings

The Great British Beer Festival. Usually the highlight of the year for London beer drinkers, where they would congregate at Earls Court. This year, well someone decided to run some small piddling athletics thing called the Olympics in there so we got shunted over to the Olympia.

Seriously I’m fairly sure there are more people who have a pint once a week than there are people who do exercise one a week. That’s all I’m saying.

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You know your priorities are wrong when you see a sign saying “Licensed Sex Shop” in Soho and think “Oh good, that means they have a bar!”

Essays and Aphorisms: Shenanigans

Now you may get the impression from my writing that I am a very serious respectable journalist. Actually, that’s fairly unlikely, especially after the beer/sex act joke. Anyway, just in case anyone has made that mistake somehow I thought I would share some oddities from recent nights out.

It had been a quite fun night so far, my random writings and photo taking had resulted in a nice chat with the locals about what I was doing, and I had been making some recommendations of good whisky to try.

Then my good friend Dylan noticed they had something new.  Some weird Jeremiah Weed drinks. Now one was kinda ginger and root beer styled and the other Sour Mash kinda bourbon styled. I was wary, and those many whisky bottles on the wall kept catching my eye. However I am nothing if not open to experimentation. So my tasting note done I decided to join them in sharing two bottles of these new beverages between us.

Dylan and Will started on the ginger one, and made vague appreciative noises.

Huh, now that’s a phrase that looks wrong out of context.

Anyway.  I tried the Sour Mash one, reasoning it had a least a passing wave to my preferred style.
For feck sake why do I do these things?

It was as if someone had taken the vaguest whiff if bourbon and drowned it in water. If I wanted to ruin perfectly good spirits I can do that myself without having to get a fancy jam jar looking glass to do it with.  Shortly after my two amigos decided that the ginger one wasn’t actually all that either, something I could have told them a long time beforehand.  Then Dylan, very reasonably bowed out of drinking more than the small sample he had tried. With the reason being that he was the driver, leading to the following exchange

“God damn it, you ordered these pieces of shit and now you bow out?”

“Well yeah I’m driving”

“Ok. You have a good point. And we hate you for it”

“Well you wouldn’t want us to crash and die in a ball of flame”

“Yes, but only because that’s not the way we want you to die” “We have a list, a long one”

(DISCLAIMER: Despite the preceding piss take, we agree completely with Dylans choice and respect his decision. Drink driving is fucking stupid. Don’t do it. Seriously)

This was then followed by an example at the bar of exactly how bloody posh Bath is. A couple had come in and ordered Jagermeister Bombs, which if you are lucky enough to not know, is Red Bull with a shot glass of Jagermeister dropped in. By which I mean dropped in while still in the shot glass.

However this is Bath, so we couldn’t have that, no indeedy. Instead they dropped a shot glass of Woods 100 Old Navy Rum into a glass of Red Bull instead.  A concoction rapidly called The Bath Bomb, or The Bath Dambuster instead.

All with the Star Inn’s amused bartender looking on and joining the fun.

Anyway, then I ordered a measure of Dalmore 15. The silliness didn’t stop, but at least I had quality whisky to enjoy it with.

So why am I writing all this? Because it’s easy on a night out to get lost in the wonderful whisky and great beer and forget – booze is great, but it’s the people that make it special.

Here’s to all you out there. Share a glass with me would you?

As is often said, brevity is the soul of wit. Thus I must complement the bartender of Brigantes Bar at York, who, when asked for a pint of John Smiths replied

 

“We don’t serve that shite here”

 

A true beer philosopher and bar hero. If any readers are from York, please raise a glass to this man.

It’s a common problem.  Anything far away looks cooler.  It’s why people spend a vast fortune heading to other countries to spend time looking at art museums, architecture and scenery, cooing all the while.  These self same people oft completely ignore the museums, architecture and scenery 5 minutes walk from their house.

All of which is a somewhat round about way of saying that after going on brewery tours in Belgium and Scotland,  I finally went over to the Bristol Beer Factory for a tour recently.

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