Sunday, 15 August 2010

Trading on ale


that was a sweaty night - busy again at North, which is great, there's something to be said for putting everything to one side and just hammering out loads of great beer to happy punters. The last year or so has been difficult for the on trade. Disastrous for many landlords I'm sure but I'm lucky to run two great forward thinking craft bars that can adapt to the new market...

YES the new market. You see the recession has hit pubs and bars just as it's hit everything else, the reliable routines have become erratic and the tea time rush/11pm rush/last orders rush have gone out the window and licensees have been fretting as people just haven't been drinking in the same way as they did in the early part of the 2000's.

For those who haven't picked up on the craft beer boom the recession has been a sorry tale. Yet despite pressure from the Government, the prohibitionists, the scare-story-medical-bandwagon and underhand supermarket 'below cost price selling' tactics, pubs and bars who have embraced real ale, decent drinks, food and service are glimpsing light at the end of the tunnel.

Eyes are open once more to the immense potential of beer and it's wondrous health giving properties! There's a million reasons why the on trade has been in decline but it's a fact that the rediscovery of real beer in its many forms has become a rallying cry and a boon for those who give a shit about pubs and the communities they maintain.

A good time to drink exceptional beer then, tonight I had a good hour or so after a busy night having the obligatory after work bevvy with my staff. I've been fairly exhausted over the last few weeks what with one thing and the other and I've been eyeing the 2008 JW Lees harvest ale, knowing that with 2 years of age on it there will have been some fantastic things happening inside those bottles.

Aging beer can be a little hit and miss, some won't take it - others, especially those with lower ABVs might only improve slightly before dropping off. Even then light, temperature and randomness can damage beer. Not so for the good barley wine of which JW Lees are purveyors of.

Harvest is regularly right up there with the best, a UK beer coming top of the polls in the mainly US based beer advocate. When I first tasted it there was full fruit, massive oloroso sherry-ness and a swish of bitterness to balance a very sweet beer. I caned it occasionally and it occasionally took the wheels off leading to out of hand whisky type incidents that I won't bore you with tonight. Two years in the cellar and it's even more delicious - light enough on the tongue but choc a bloc with amazing walnutty depth, datey sticky toffeeness and yet that tiny bite of bitterness that balances the sweetness. Marvellous.

What to follow that with? Well I'm on the case of a Paradox from Brewdog - Isle of Arran to be precise. It's heavy but the Arran cask that this imperial stout has been aged in has treated it well. You get all the wonderful bitter chocolate and lively espresso flavours that you expect but with a dollop of vanilla ice cream too...

You like the sound of that? If you're a licensee open up you mind and your pub to craft beer - you won't regret it. If you're a punter - don't accept anything less than a really great, satisfying drink, if your local doesn't do good beer, ask why, demand it. You might just be doing them a favour...


  1. Excellent post mate! Now all u need to do is email that to every pub in the land

  2. Nice points, Matt. There's opinion in a similar vein on the other side of the Pennines.

  3. As I recall, beer was cheaper than soda pop too in Ukraine. I like to taste some beers I never drank before so I'll check back here to see what beers I've missed out on.