Friday 24 September 2010

Raise your glasses!

I was interviewed by Radio Aire today.

"What did they want?" I hear you cry... In my head...

Was it for some insightful advice on the Craft Bar scene? To talk about North's brilliant Oktoberfest that starts, incidentally, next Wednesday... To recommend that people drink sensibly and carefully and eschew beers made of corn industrial enzymes and rice syrup?

Nooooo. It was about the proposed ban on Glass in pubs. Yes this is a real hot issue and no mistake. Up and down the land marauding thugs are slashing innocent punters with stella 'chalices', bludgeoning with branded tankards and slashing with Strongbow etched nonics...


Far be it for me to make light of a serious issue, a 'glassing' is a nasty, vindictive act which permanently damages the recipient physically and mentally - I've seen it and it's horrible.

Not at North of course... Why is that then? I mean if it's such a problem as to require a total ban then surely it must be A HUGE PROBLEM???

No, it's not. The problem is... The people who hit other people with glasses. Now how do we deal with this. Simple - good staff and good security. In 'cattle market' venues this seems to be and thus trouble can lead to violence. But for the majority of licensed premises well trained staff will refuse service to people who have had too much and people who are aggressive. Well trained doormen know not to let in known troublemakers, they will also, in one or two swift sentence be able greet the punter and discern whether they have had too much or are likely to be aggressive. People who know their jobs, know the signs and thus are able to deal with problems before they turn nasty.

Of course there is always the chance that perfectly calm and sober people could suddenly lose it and smack some poor fool in the face with a glass. They could also use a chair, I mean they are heavier and better for bludgeoning... They could tear the pictures from the walls, the bottles from the bar, pool cues and bits of the staircases in some kind of mock cowboy brawl. They could use guns or knives!!!! God the world is scary!

Don't fucking believe it. The streets and bars and pubs are safer now then they ever have been. Horrible things can happen but it's well within our means to keep them to an absolute minimum.

Bars and pubs with persistent problems should have their licenses revoked. Venues with good training and good records should be held up as examples to the rest, not tarred (yet again!) with the same brush as irresponsible booze trough venues.

This sort of nonsense puts fear in to people's minds so they stay in their homes and drink; 'unsupervised' towards a miserable, frightened, cheap booze soaked death.

The glasses aren't the problem. It's the hands that hold them...

Of course we could always ban hands, have everyone drink their allotted number of units through a fucking straw and then stagger back in to the streets and bash together like a half pissed army of demented weebles...

Of course if you do get in to a bar fight a bit of advice is always useful:

Thursday 23 September 2010

Czeching the Saigon situation

Ha now there's a good title, czeching! Ha it's a pun... And we all love a pun don't we? Don't we?

Yet again you find me in another improbable beer drinking situation, a Czech style brewpub in Ho Chi Minh city, known locally and formerly as Saigon. I'm quaffing the local Hoa Vien Tmavy Lezak... That's a mouthful, quite literally!!!! Ha ha ha ohhhhhh. Yes dark roastily bitter Czech style beer in Vietnam and brewed in the lovely copper brewhouse right on the premises...

Beer is great eh? It's something that seems to transcend boundaries, borders, classes... Every great pub, brewhouse or bar seems to me to have a similar mix of young and old, both sexes, loners and boozy groups. It's commonly said but I'm going to do it again, beer is an unrivalled social lubricant!

It must remain as such.

In the whirlingly stupid morality of today we are within the reach of legislation to curb drinking. I see it regularly in reactionary local policing and council anti binge policy. Did you know that it's now illegal for me to pour booze in to someones mouth in a pub?

Nice work the council!

When I was in Erding a couple of weeks ago on a bit of a jolly I was stuck by the unity of the people of the town at their annual harvest festival. Erdinger beer IS the focal point of that little Bavarian town, young and old rally around it and all hang out together in their massive beerhall, eating stupid amounts of pork! They are inspired to wear leather shorts and chicken hats! Even the cool teens get in on the act sloshing down litre after litre of the stuff.

Now what the hell is wrong with that?

Anyhow, I can say with pretty much complete Euro-beer-snob authority that I am drinking the best beer that Vietnam has to offer, lovely shit and no mistake.

Now, where's my fucking weiner schnitzel?

Friday 17 September 2010


How's about that then? I'm in Vietnam on my honeymoon and I'm on a beach with tropical flowers, palm trees, coconuts, amazing seafood, mopeds and amazing beers!

Fucking a!

Travelling through the forests and jungles of Vietnam is amazingly like watching the films I so loved in my youth. You almost expect hueys to come panelling over the horizon and hard bitten GI's to start shouting shit about DANANG and LV'S!

Of course they don't and clearly the 'traveller' world has moved on a bit since I took a drug addled year out in Mexico some 11 years ago. Back then (yes I cringe to say it) all we had was an out of date rough guide and a will to get smashed on anything we could get our hands on. Cue dangerous incidents in shanty towns, loud hallucinations and worrying weight loss.

Right now I'm sitting in an agreeable colonial-ish bar on a strip of road, adjacent to a beautiful beach, listening to a big Mexican chap playing Eric Clapton, Louis Armstrong and Hey Jude and bleeding Lady in Red! Fuck it eh - wherever you go in the world there's always a fat Mexican playing the Beatles...

It's nice!

Even nicer as this particular bar is Joe's and Joe, knows good beer. We have all the Belgian biggies and a spot of Hofbrau too... Granted in comparison to the, very good, Saigon beer it's a bit pricey but hey what's £2 when a lobster costs you £4?

So Saigon export red is tops, clean and full and not so far from a Dortmund lager, saigon green is pilsner-esque and lighter but unfortunately not better than the local brewed heineken.

My Chimay has travelled many miles and is better for it, we get through plenty at north so it's aleays pretty fresh and the stuff I've put down to age really isn't ready yet. So of course I have to come all the way to Vietnam to try the aged stuff...

Genius eh? While all the nobs in Europe are buggering around with this and that there's brilliantly conditioned Trappist ale right under their noses at the other side of the world!!! Goddamittttt.

This Chimay red is woody to smell with a sherry barrely thing going on, get inside it and there's tons of fruit. Predominantly and unexpectedly it's strawberry that really comes through followed by layers of malt and softer fruit flavours, hints of pear, Blackcurrant, berries etcetecye.... Nice? O god aye...

I'll go do a blue...