Scouting for Beers

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The mothgeek prophecies

My grandma always used to tell me, David, If you can’t use an idea as a blog name then at least use it as a blog post title.  Tenuous introduction complete.  The crux of this post is to try and get things off my chest, share a problem and maybe find some sense of meaning.  You guessed it, beer has been haunting me again this week.  It’s a recurring dream where I travel the 15 mile radius from my house and happen to pass shops that sell beer.  I never wake up in a sweat and experience tells me, (mainly from the hard facts, such as my bank statement), that my transient travels are in fact real.  I am much like a genetically engineered moth whose light fetish has been switched to beer.  I charge towards a beer retailer and just hope that someone opens the door before I bang into it, and again and again, driven towards the light, amber and dark.  Might I add that while I write this post, I am rather hot and massively dehydrated, so just go with the moth analogy.  Cheers.

This week I have visited no less than seven shops and one online store, I didn’t buy beer in all of them but I think I picked up bottles in all of them, put them in my basket for a while before deciding to put them back on the shelf.  You see, I’m always on the look out for beer, to keep the fridge stocked and to make sure that when I reach for a cold one (or a warm one), it’s right there waiting for me.  It doesn’t have to be a new or hard-to-find beer every time, but I do like to try something different in-between the beers I know best.  Someone tweeted some words of wisdom recently and said “not all good beers are rare beers, and not all rare beers are good beers”, simple enough statement but one I find to be quite helpful in reigning me back from spending large sums of money all of the time (thanks Rob!).  Sometimes the best beers are right under your nose just waiting to be found.

I have actually had this post sat in draft for a while now and hadn’t dared publish it.  Each time I read it back it’s like looking in the mirror and seeing someone else staring back.  Is this really me? do I spend all this time and money just for the love of beer? when did I become this person?  I’m also honest enough to admit that this kind of post or statement is quite personal and you can’t control how readers will perceive you.  Once you put it out there it’s there for good, and as a relatively new blogger there is still a sense of unease and a large helping of paranoia that has a hold over my creative licence.  However, I was catching up on my blogs today and found a similar post by Mark Dredge over on Pencil and Spoon, titled ‘The thrill of the chase‘.   He puts it more eloquently than I have, but the gist of his post is that he is always searching for the best beer he has ever tasted.  Reading this made me nod in agreement, set my mind at ease and convinced my to click ‘publish live’.

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CAMRA: To be or not to be?

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Disclaimer: This is not a post for postings sake. This is not an attempt to have a cheap pop at an organisation I know next to nothing about. This is a post to elaborate on recent discussions with like minded beer folk.  Ultimately this is a post which will document a thought process.The subject header of this discussion is slightly misleading as the post does not intend to question the existence of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), as there is no doubt that decisive activists past and continued advocates present  make CAMRA a key player in the continuing rise and success of Real Ale.   The subject of this discussion is based purely on a personal dilemma; should I take membership in CAMRA?  Hardly a dilemma in real-terms given the types of hard-hitting decisions people make on a daily basis, but more a dilemma in the context of personal interest.

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On first appraisal I looked upon this question as a matter of; “do I want to spend £20 on this membership?”.  As a result of my Yorkshire-tight-fistedness I have not parted with my cash yet.  Reason being that I have managed to convince myself that £20 would be better spent in a pub or in a bottle shop.  That’s correct, my twisted rhetoric has me believe that buying beer is the only way to support the thing that I love.  However, as my beer career has developed, I have being increasingly aware of CAMRA as both an organisation and as a topic of conversation and or heated debate.

Picture My beer background, in brief, is that I am foremost a homebrewer who is slowly finding his way in what appears to be a vast choice of beer (and I use the word ‘beer’ as a way to describe all barley, hop, water and yeast based beverages).  I would also like to believe that I am yet to ‘pledge an allegiance’ to either side of what, on occasions, appears to be reduced to a playground spat where you are forced to pick your gang and not stray too far from it for fear of wedgies, Chinese-burns or even a purple-nurple!  One side of this spat seems to be CAMRA and the other side being those who see most beers as ‘Real’ and do not feel that the storage receptacle; be it cask, keg or bottle; or the locality in which the ingredients were sourced and the beer brewed as being relevant when acknowledging these beers as Good.  Mark Dredge has written about this in more detail and in more specific terms of a beer Bloggerati – see Pencil and Spoon.  Leigh Linley explores a little further about Cask vs Keg vs Bottle vs Can here – see The Good Stuff.

To be fair to all concerned, there are also a large – if not the largest, group of apathetic drinkers of beer who could be in either of the groups described above.  Subdivision of this group sees those that are aware of the debate and choose not to be get involved; and  those who are blissfully unaware that the circus is in town.  While this is a topic of debate in itself, it is my belief that it is this group of apathetic beer drinkers that hold the key to the success of good beer triumphing over bad* (*mass produced accountants beer).  First and foremost I consider myself to be in this group and am desperately looking to those with the power to tell me where I should be concentrating my efforts to champion good beer.  It is also only fair and proper to clarify that there are also divisions of opinion or liberalism and conservatism (if I may use such emotive and political terms) within CAMRA and the Blogeratti… i.e. there are CAMRA members who are staunch traditionalists in their vision for Real Ale and there are those who are open to beer evolution; as there are also Bloggers who love cask beer and whole-heartedly support CAMRA; and of course Bloggers who do not see the value in embracing CAMRA for what it is, and for what it could be given the time and potential to change.

And breathe! …

Getting back to my point; “do I want to be a member of CAMRA?”.  Well lets look at my case.  I find myself to be a lover of good beer; I brew beer in a way that I consider to be true to the drink; I blog about beer and yet I find myself without a sense of belonging due to the conflicting rhetoric bombarding my tiny mind (might I add – this sense of belonging is not important to everyone).  So it seems to me that there is only one course of action and that is to add membership to CAMRA to the above list.  After all, how do I learn and hope to understand all of the aspects of my hobby and passion? and how can I decide whether I can be actively involved in CAMRA if I haven’t even tried its membership?  I did gauge opinion from fellow Tweeters and got a range of answers and suggestions that only support my opinion that division among lovers of good beer is neither use nor ornament.  So, while I may not fully understand the politics, and I am hoping for some feedback on what I know is not an entirely facts based blog post, I feel that I need to stop my silo thinking where beer is concerned and think more in terms of supporting anything that will push good beer closer to and eventually past global bland beers as the everyday choice available to the consumer.  “By definition will this bring our beloved Craft Beer in-line with everything we despise about mind-numbing global produce”? I hear you say… well yes, but only by definition, they may well eventually be global brands, but I know which global brands I’d rather see lined up in front of me when I walk into any pub in the UK.

*Roll credits and hopeful music*

Now for that bit at the end of documentaries where you learn what happened next………..

“Five minutes after producing this blog post, David became a fully paid member of CAMRA and he plans to review this annually.  He still plans to enjoy beer from the keg and from the bottle and plans to blog-it-up on a regular basis”.

P.s. Thanks to @OkellsAles @BeersIveKnown @BenCorkhill @GroveBri @Abarth50010 @Tuff86 @PeteBrownBeer for replying to, or contributing to the debate re: my original Tweet on this topic.

A Beer in the Hand

PictureWhile catching up on my Tweets late on Tuesday night I noticed @Filrd (a fellow Twitterer) reporting on his thoughts while enjoying a bottle of Urthel Samaranth 12, and  this reminded me that not only did I have a bottle stashed away, but also that I had vowed to leave it alone for the medium-term.  (More on Urthel Samaranth here and here).

Like @Filrd I too was recommended this particular beer by the good folk @BeerRitzLeeds.  Specifically, I had asked for a few recommendations from @GhostDrinker for beers that I shouldn’t be missing out on, as well as a small selection of beers that would be just as happy being kept in a cupboard collecting dust for a few years.  One of the beers he suggested would keep well, was the Urthel Samaranth.

Picture in the selection for ‘drinking now’, a bottle which I enjoyed while writing this blog.  This is not an attempt to make tasting notes, although if you are interested in this 9.5% blonde hoppy beer there are great reviews on ratebeer or beer advocate.  I am wanting to debate the choice one makes as a beer drinker, to drink now or to save it for later in the knowledge, or just blind hope, that the beer will change or improve in one or more ways.

At first I simply wanted to write a quick blog around what I thought was a clever adaptation of a well known saying.  Only that, once applied to beer it would now read; ‘a beer in the hand is worth two in the cupboard’.  But as I typed I realised that it was much more than just a quip, it was a choice facing many a beer aficionado each time the big-hand strikes beer o’clock.
Getting back to the Urthel Samaranth, @Filrd was honest enough to admit that he had “relented” his good intentions to age it a little and was drinking his bottle as the mood had dictated.  In fact, he had opened it at midnight and was ‘pairing’ it with some chilli crackers, which in his honest opinion were maybe hiding some of its glory.  Like me, @Filrd is a bit of a hoarder when it comes to beer.  If you aren’t into this, then you may struggle to understand why someone would want to spend good money on something they love and then squirrel it away?  Well, there are probably several contributing factors in this lifestyle choice and I’m standing in the wrong corner to judge.  But, I think it’s fair to say that it’s a hobby of sorts and the behaviour is most likely borne out of a passion for wanting to try many different beers and also look at their diversity when given a chance to mature.  Believe me when I say the latter is a challenge!

I apologise for this post being Twitter orientated, but right now this is the best single way I can find to keep in touch with what’s happening up-to-the-minute in the beer world.  Oh, and I’m addicted to it.  However, through Twitter I frequently read fellow beery types referring to @beercupboard and also to a [hashtag] #openit.

  • People use the hashtag symbol # before relevant keywords in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets to show more easily in Twitter Search; Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets in that category; and hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics.
PictureIn my opinion, I think that @beercupboard and #openit illustrate two points of interest that appeal to beer lovers, [this may not be the intended meaning – only the owners of these ideas can decide that], i.e. drinking beer now and drinking beer later!   Neither is the best way of course, and one might prescribe to both.  In slight contrast, (but it could be argued that it helps beer-hoarders everywhere to ‘come clean’ and publicly air their beery vaults in much the same way that ‘#Open it!’ does), @beercupboard http://www.beercupboard.com/ helps celebrate the notion of storing the noble beer whatever its status, along with the mission that anyone can have a beer cupboard and that they come in all shapes and sizes.   It’s a fun idea and one which has been supported by many beer lovers.
PictureBack in 2010 Andy Mogg (blogger at  Beer Reviews) and Mark Dredge (British Guild of Beer Writers New Media Writer of the Year 2009 and 2010 and blogger at Pencil and Spoon), proposed the idea of ‘Open it!‘.  The idea of Open it! being to dig out those special beers at the back of your beer cupboard, or from a corner of your cellar, and to drink them dagnamit!  This idea quickly gathered speed and, as I understand it, has continued in both an organised and ad hoc crusade to liberate long forgotten ales and keepsakes.

Having set out to explore whether a ‘a beer in the hand is worth two in the cupboard’, I can’t claim to have unlocked any meaning behind the drinking and storing of beer.  However, and based on my own shortcomings, I can assume that the concept of ageing beer be it under the kitchen sink or in a purpose built beer cellar, will torment even the hardened beery journeyman and the temptation will often simply prove too much to resist.

So why not go and add your beercupboard and share your haven-for-hops or your mansion-of-malts, and also, if you have the ammunition, join in with a future #openit, or why not just have your own impromptu session.  After all you don’t need an excuse to enjoy a beer.