There is nothing better in life...

...than writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro on a Saturday night instead of going to the pub. No updates for a while - I'm off for a break so the next updates here will be in early June.

If I'm lying, I'm flying... TTFN


The Session #26: Passive Smoking

So; first Friday in April, it's The Session, The Session is about smoked beers. You know the last bit on Radio 5's Fighting Talk, where you have to defend the indefensible? No? For shame! But for those of you who still have a clue what I'm alluding to, here's why "I think smoked beer is the best beer in the world. Yes, better than Thornbridge Jaipur".

It smells of lovely sticky bonfire toffee

You know, the bits left in the bottom of your pocket after you've been stood occasionally too close to the bonfire. Rounded caramel and sweet notes singing their little saccharides off. Surprising lack of burnt pork. Huh.

It tastes of Parma Violets and washy coffee

Parma Violets - Derbyshire's finest! An interesting hop profile, coffee interrupted by the wafer-thinnest hint of smoked hop. Not smoked ham; here be smoked hop. Or is it hop smoke?

It's the perfect accompaniment to chocolate pudding.

White chocolate. Milk chocolate. Gummy dark chocolate. And then a big slurp of nearly figgy-hoppy slightly-creamy nearly-liqorice slowly-smokey fun. And then chocolate. And then that fig-hop-cream-thang. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It's really rather quenching and yet still particularly yum-ga-lummy Drinkable by the gulp. Not difficult drinking. Yet still able to be sipped and savoured (nay, even savoury?)

Shoot, I've almost convinced myself. But, in the same way that Steve Bunce often folds in the last round like a cheap hooker punched in the stomach, I can't quite carry off this lie. Most smoked beers suck. They suck a big fat smokey sausage that's been smoked til smoke leaks out of its annoyingly smoky skin.

OK, tonight's beer wasn't the best beer in the world. In fact, it wasn't even a tribute. But it was perhaps the most drinkable smoked beer I've had. And, fair play, it's not a smoked beer but a beer that happens to be smoky. Ladies and gentlemen! I give you.... Stone Smoked Porter. So, Almost Smoked. Just like my last cigar...


What's Brewing: Why?

As a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), I get sent a monthly newsletter-papery-thing called What's Brewing? CAMRA are suggesting I 'go green' and choose to download it instead of them posting out a printed copy. I'm suggesting they go one step further and scrap What's Brewing altogether.

Here's the problems with What's Brewing (WB);

- The news isn't news anymore

When a 'news' paper appears only monthly, it's difficult to be comprehensive and up-to-date. The result is that WB becomes a mash of tepid press release re-writes, hyper-specific branch updates and own-trumpet-blowing on this month's campaign.

- The useful stuff is in a useless format

Beer Festivals has good-to-know info, but it's so crammed in as to be almost unreadable. What's On is comprehensive but I never look at 90% of the listings. The business page seems like an afterthought with a few random 'stories'. And the Letters page seems to have more white space than rabid opinion.

- The best bits are now in Beer

Perhaps the best publishing move CAMRA ever made. As the sister publication to WB, Beer was always the better read. Now reborn as a quarterly magazine, with notably higher production and content values than WB, it shows that CAMRA *can* showcase great writing about beer in a publication approaching commercial standard.

- Branches can do a much better job

Meaningful news about brewers and pubs; in-depth articles about beer places that are local, national and international; concise updates on current campaigns; cogent diary sections; high quality production values. That's the Nottingham Drinker for you. And it's not alone - I've found other excellent branch magazines in Chesterfield and Peterborough.

The last CAMRA financial statement showed the operating cost of WB as 412,234 GBP. Why not use the money to fund better facilities to local branches and ensure that the national website has clear details of all branch activities (including festivals)?

What's Brewing has become anachronistic. Let's have Beer as a quality publication, perhaps with a four-page newspaper supplement to list the next quarter's beer festivals, scrap What's Brewing and sink some cash into making the most of local branch newsletters. Which can be downloaded from their websites, natch...