Monday 31 January 2011

Busybody's charter

Picture the scene: a seminar for teachers on child welfare and safety in which a lot of sensible suggestions were being discussed. Then the speaker at the meeting asked the group: "What do you do if a parent has the smell of alcohol on his breath?" Some teachers said they thought this would be a problem that should be reported. One teacher pointed out to the group that it is perfectly legal to drink, to which the speaker replied, "Yes, that's problematic."

The discussion of the hypothetical scenario then went on to the situation where the parent might also be driving and was in the view of the teacher unfit to drive. The recommended course of action was to delay the parent and phone the office to let the head or deputy head know, but not to let the child go and if necessary contact the police.

I think most people would agree that any person (not just a teacher) who sees a driver who is clearly drunk getting into a car with a child has a responsibility to do something, whether by direct intervention or phoning the police. But this discussion began with the smell of alcohol on a parent's breath, rather than obvious incapacity, and it's sometimes forgotten that drinking and driving within the limit is legal. There are so many pitfalls here:

If a parent has a tendency to violence and has had too much to drink, that teacher is taking a big personal risk. But the majority of parents, while obviously not violent, would nonetheless be unhappy to stand around waiting while the teacher went off to phone the head and would demand to know what was going on and why they couldn't have their child. I also wonder what legal right the school has to refuse to hand over a child whom the parent has come to take home.

How can a teacher judge if someone is unfit to drive? Unless the parent was staggering about, this is not necessarily obvious, not even to the police, which is why they use breathalysers rather than their judgement, even though they're probably better judges of drunkenness than teachers.

If as a result of the teacher's actions a parent is breathalysed and found to be within the limit, they would still have their fingerprints and DNA retained. If that happened to me, I'd be checking whether I'd have any legal redress against the school for causing that to happen. I would also consider suing the school if as a result of their actions any gossip spread among the parents about the school refusing to release my child to me because I'd had a drink (which on the grapevine would doubtless end up reported as being drunk).

But ultimately, as my contact told me, the fact that drinking is a legal activity was dismissed as "problematic"; in other words, the parent's right to have a drink was not seen as relevant. It's not the job of teachers to become arms of the anti-alcohol lobby; doing so could cause irremediable damage to the relationship between school and parents, and a disgruntled parent isn't likely to encourage a positive attitude in their children towards school.

So here we have a suggestion which may put teachers at risk, which would infringe a parent's right to indulge in a legal activity and which would also damage the relationship between a school and its parents and children.

Did they think any of this through? My contact believes not, and I agree.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Open Mike at the Black Bull

I've received an e-mail from Pete of local band The Runnies, with whom I have shared a billing on a couple of occasions. The band is hosting an open mike night at the Black Bull, Hall Lane, Mawdesley, Lancs on Saturday 5 February. It's not a brand new event - the first was in November last year - but it's the first I've heard of it. Their website will keep you in touch with future ones. 5 real ales, and butties on the night. It begins at 9-00pm.

Friday 28 January 2011


I'm going with some friends to the 22nd Bent & Bongs Beer Bash tomorrow, and I'll also be meeting my friends Ken and Carol of Wigan CAMRA there. This is a friendly little festival in Formby Hall in Atherton, around 10 minutes' walk from Atherton Station. Nearby there are a couple of good pubs you can retreat to after the festival closes, and we were so taken with them last year we nearly missed our last train back to Southport.

It's run by the Bent and Bongs Charitable Trust, in association with CAMRA, and it supports a number of local good causes, which are listed on their website, as are opening times and admission charges. It's just a 50-minute train ride from Southport.

Thursday 27 January 2011

The Carrivick Sisters

The Carrivick Sisters, BBC Young Folk Award Finalists 2010, are are twins Laura and Charlotte Carrivick from South Devon, England, and they are making waves at a very young age in the acoustic music scene. They play a variety of bluegrass instruments (mainly guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro and fiddle) with vocal harmonies and are both songwriters. Although their background is in bluegrass, their music has a strong folk influence which is evident in their original songs, many inspired by their local landscape and stories.  Ralph McTell said, “I am very impressed by The Carrivick Sisters, one of the best young duos I’ve heard.”

They are appearing at Grateful Fred's next Thursday 3rd February at 8-00pm.  The venue is the Freshfield Hotel, Massams Lane, Formby, a short walk from Freshfield Station. 9 real ales and a real cider. It costs a mere £6-50. On-line tickets here.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Baron's Bar Beer Competition

The Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport, hosted the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) regional conference, competition and festival for many years, but this year SIBA took the event to Manchester. The Baron's Bar (part of the hotel) decided to hold its own beer competition on Friday 14th January, and invited me to be one of the judges, along with quite a few others. I was on one the panels for the heats and was selected by my fellow panelists to be on the final panel. Either that or I was the mug who didn't say no quickly enough.

It was interesting and good fun, and I have no argument with the overall winner. I'm just surprised that Tetley Mild won in its category; I thought it was thin and without much flavour myself, and I can't imagine anyone choosing it over Prospect Nutty Slack, but there you go - I suppose that's why they have more than one judge. After the competition, the Baron's Bar opened its spring festival. The results are:

Bitter Category
Gold Winster Valley – Best Bitter
Silver Kirkby Lonsdale – Ruskins
Bronze Arkwrights – Trouble At The Mill

Best Bitter Category
Gold Moorhouses – Blond Witch
One of the judging panels
Silver Lytham – Gold
Bronze Timothy Taylor – Landlord

Premium Ales Category
Gold Hart – Validiction
Silver Bank Top – Blonde
Bronze Lancaster – Red

Strong Ales Category
Gold Lancaster – Redder
Silver Moorhouses – Pendle Witches Brew
Bronze Kirkby Lonsdale – WPA
Judges Shirley & Barbara
with organiser George Sourbutts

Mild Category
Gold Tetley – Mild
Silver Bank Top – Dark Mild
Bronze Prospect – Nutty Slack

Porters / Old Ales / Stouts Category
Gold Lancaster – Black
Silver Southport – Old Shrimper
Bronze Lytham – Stout

1st Place Moorhouses – Blond Witch
2nd Place Winster Valley - Best Bitter
3rd Place Lancaster - Redder

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Burns Night

Tandleman, proud though exiled Scot that he is, has reminded me on his blog that tonight is Burns Night. Robert Burns enjoyed a drink and wrote lots of fine songs, thus fitting both facets of this blog. To celebrate, here is a beautiful rendition by Eddie Reader of the Burns song "Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever", demonstrating the genius of Burns by successfully giving it a modern treatment; it works for me anyway. You'll have to provide your own drink.

As a contrast, click here if you remember the White Heather Club!

The Children of Göbbels

All the various claims about alcohol taxes and sales are confusing. Don Shenker of Alcohol Concern says that: “Duty is so low in the UK that it will still be possible to sell very cheap alcohol and be within the law.” On the other hand, we read about tax going up faster than inflation and that we are more highly taxed than most EU countries. What is a confused drinker to think? Who's telling the porkies?

Well, the answer is quite simple: the anti-drink campaigners. Using the technique of the big lie perfected by Joseph Göbbels, they keep on reiterating the same falsehoods, which in turn are routinely recycled by an unquestioning media as facts rather than propaganda. Don Shenker's comment about low duty must be viewed with the following statistic in mind:  according to the British Beer & Pub Association, "Britain’s beer drinkers are paying 40% of the entire beer duty bill in the European Union – despite Britain’s small, 12% share of the total population. UK beer drinkers are paying £3.1 billion out of an EU total of £7.7 billion in beer duty revenues." The full article is here. So much for low duty.

It is impossible to have a rational discussion about alcohol when one side deliberately confuses supermarket-driven binge drinking with regulated pub-going, the media usually shows pints of beer being pulled in a pub when referring to alcohol problems (instead of cheap vodka and tins of strong cider and lager), the discredited 14/21 units per week keep on being quoted as facts, and the myth that our duty is low keeps on being peddled.

But don't the anti-alcohol campaigners have a point about supermarket prices being low, even with the new minimum price? They're correct about the prices, but not about the reason. The minimum price is defined as tax and VAT only, and won't include the costs of production, transport by the producer, transport by the supermarket, storage, advertising, stacking the shelves or checkout costs.

Tesco, seller of cut-price booze, has proclaimed its support for a minimum price for alcohol, so why doesn't Don Shenker and his ilk say, "In that case, just do it!" Instead he has publicly welcomed Tesco's "commitment" to minimum pricing - even though they have done absolutely nothing - then continues to whinge about "low" levels of duty and to demand even more regulation of pubs, the dearest places to buy drink.

That is the level of debate. Pathetic, isn't it?

Monday 24 January 2011

Open Mike Night In London

I've learnt that the London Hotel on Kensington Road, Southport, will be holding an open mike night every Thursday from 9 pm. The London serves real ale from the Acorn Brewery - Barnsley Bitter and Mild - at reasonable prices. The local CAMRA branch held a meeting there recently. For more details, contact Sue on 0775 404 6827.

The superfluous apostrophe in the sign has already been commented upon!

Sunday 23 January 2011

Wild West Chaos

Uncontrolled binge drinking
in the Guest House!
I've just read in the Champion, our local free newspaper, an article written by Jim Sharpe stating that if pubs serve drunks, they should be closed down. It's full of the usual misconceptions about pubs: it accuses them of causing weekend mayhem in town centres, under age drinking, spewing in the streets, and the more pubs are closed, he says, the fewer alcohol-related problems there will be. The article has all the hallmarks of someone who is not familiar with pubs.

I regularly go out to pubs in Southport, Liverpool and elsewhere, including at weekends, and I don’t see “drunks spewing (often literally) out of pubs”. Town centres are noisy and boisterous at weekends, but I can’t remember the last time I saw someone throw a punch.

Close a pub down if it serves a drunk, says Jim. Closing down a business, making people unemployed and in some instances throwing them out of their home as well would be a gross overreaction. It would also be penalising the wrong people. There are definitely health and anti-social behavioural problems associated with drinking, but pubs are generally not the cause. A lot of people have taken to preloading - drinking cheap supermarket booze before going out - but such drinkers are more likely to favour bars and clubs rather than pubs. Closing pubs won’t prevent under age drinking, because most under age drinkers get their booze from the off trade, not from pubs. If they do try to enter licensed premises, it's much more likely to be a club.

Most pubs, including so-called rough ones, keep order well. I know this is contrary to the Wild West chaos that Jim was trying to portray, but as a regular pub-goer since the 1970s, that is my experience. Pubs have enough problems with above-inflation tax, being overcharged by the pub companies and cheap supermarket prices. They are local businesses providing employment and regulated places where people can enjoy a few drinks and meet friends, and as such, they can do without being seriously misrepresented in the local press.

In my last job, some colleagues were aghast that I went into the town centre at weekends - "I wouldn't feel safe" I was often told. Their attitudes were shaped by the anti-pub propaganda of which Jim's article is just the latest example, but it's clearly having an effect as people are increasingly taken in by it. But the reality is that I don't feel at risk at all going to pubs, and the licensing authorities recognise this: clubs, kiddie bars and anywhere Premier footballers drink have bouncers on doors - pubs don't. In terms of safety, that tells you what you need to know.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Lizzie at the Place To Be

Place To Be, Rich Simcock's acoustic open mike night, returns on Thursday 27th January. This time it will feature an extended spot by Liverpool singer songwriter, Lizzie Nunnery.  I have seen Lizzie several times, and she turned up at one of my Lion singarounds. I like her CD, Company of Ghosts, which Mike Harding of BBC Radio 2 described as one of his favourite albums of last year.

The floor will still be open to other performers of songs, tunes and poetry. It's in the upstairs function room of the Mount Pleasant, Manchester Road, Southport. Cask Tetley bitter on sale.  Free admission.

PTB is held on the final Thursday of every month.

Friday 21 January 2011

Drunken bird picked up by police

I found another horror story about binge drinking in Spiegel Online:

German police in the south western city of Pforzheim picked up a bird so drunk and near traffic that there was a real health and safety risk. The bird, a paralytic owl that appeared to have drunk too much Schnapps from two discarded bottles, was taken into custody but was due for release when it had sobered up. A police spokesman said, "We didn't breathalyse it but there were two little bottles of Schnapps in the immediate vicinity." 

A suitable job for the Flying Squad, I suppose.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Alcohol price ~ after the bang, the whimper ...

So the minimum price of alcohol is to be defined as duty plus VAT. It won't include the costs of production, transport, storage or advertising, so after all the tough rhetoric, this really is something of a damp squib, and will make little difference. I suspect that the government has realised that minimum pricing is a legal minefield because of UK and EU competition law. The anti-alcohol campaign herd has condemned the decision, but they are scarcely whiter than white themselves, a point made by Curmudgeon on his blog that you can read here.

The BBC item can be found here, although I'm irritated that their video clip shows pictures of pints in pubs which were never going to affected by a minimum price anyway, mainly because the price of drinks in pubs is far from minimal.

I've written about this issue before and anticipated some of the problems minimum pricing entails ~ click on 'minimum price' below if you're interested.

Formby pubs

Formby, a few miles south of Southport, consists of a village surrounded by large dormitory estates. It has often been described as a real ale desert in the past. Fred and I decided to check a few Formby pubs to deliver the local CAMRA mag, Ale & Hearty and see whether we could get any more adverts.

Our first stop was the Grapes on the corner of Ryeground Lane and Green Lane. It is a large, comfortable pub that is clearly food-based. The beers they had on were Bombadier and Pedigree, with a Landlord clip turned around on a third hand pump. Usual suspects perhaps, but if you have a limited range, beers like that sell.

Next was the Freshfield on Massams Lane and near Freshfield Station. Nine cask beers and a cask cider (Westons Scrumpy) were on: York Guzzler, Titanic Iceberg, Purbeck Thermal Cheer, Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted, Red Squirrel Mild, Lancaster Bomber, Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Ruddles County. My Iceberg was lovely and Fred enjoyed his half of Guzzler. The Freshfield features regularly in my What's On column for its music nights: open mike nights twice a month, and a monthly roots and acoustic night, a monthly jazz night and a comedy night.

The Railway by Formby Station was third. Nine pumps were in operation selling Fullers Bengal Lancer, Brains Rev James, Landlord, Cains Bitter and Black Sheep. The Bengal Lancer at 5% was deceptive, but very enjoyable. There were good offers on food, and this pub is proud to boast of its cask beers in large letters, as the sign shows.

The Cross House in Three Tuns Lane had a surprise: as well as Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen, there was BrewDog Rip Tide, a stout. You don't see BrewDog in this area very often, so this was a pleasant surprise, and a very well-balanced and flavoursome drink it was too.

The verdict on the Formby pubs we visited was favourable overall, and the Railway and the Feshfield are very close to railway stations; it's certainly no real ale desert. I'm reliably told that Formby Conservative Club, also on Three Tuns Lane, is very good for beer too, but for obvious reasons, I haven't checked it personally!

Saturday 15 January 2011

National Winter Ales Festival 2011

This takes place from Wed 19 to Sat 22 January in the "The Venue", Sheridan Suite, Oldham Road, Manchester, M40 8EA. Full details on the festival website. Admission prices are reasonable and there are certain concessions (see my beer festivals page) ~ Thursday is free admission for CAMRA members all day.  Click here to find out about some of the beers that will be on sale.

As I wrote last year, if, like me, you don't fancy travelling down to London for the national Great British Beer Festival, here is an alternative within easy travelling distance. Happy drinking!

Click on the poster to enlarge it.

Friday 14 January 2011

Meet the brewer ~ George Wright

Our singaround last evening in the Lion in Liverpool went very well: six male singers and musicians turned up and Green Blade, a singing group of three women. The music varied from traditional songs and tunes to Chuck Berry, and for once I was not the one singing the rock & roll.  The next singaround is on the 10th February.

The beers were good too. I had Peerless Red Rockin' Robin (5%), a seasonal beer with a deep red colour, malt flavours, a hint of port and a spicy finish. After it ran out, I went on to Leeds Midnight Bell (4.8%), a dark beer with the full dark malt flavours you'd expect, but not overpowering. Probably the best seasonal drinks I've had this winter.

While I was there, the licensee Sean told me that the Lion will be holding a Meet The Brewer night on Thursday 20th. Keith Wright from the excellent George Wright brewery of Rainford will be there to talk about his brewery and beers. It should be interesting, and I'd like to be there but I can't as I'm going to the rock & roll panto in the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. I was hoping to go to the winter ales festival in Manchester that day too ~ triple booked!

Thursday 13 January 2011

Microbrewery updates

From the far flung edges of the ReARM empire (Wigan), Ken Worthington has updated me on two microbreweries I have recently written about.

The Lower Angel (far right) in the 1970s.
Notice the old Walker's sign.
The micro in the Lower Angel, Buttermarket Street, Warrington (previous post here), will be in a converted outhouse at the back of the pub. They're going to call it Tipsy Angel, and are hoping to recreate a version of the old Tetley Walker bitter. As I recall from my Warrington days, the Tetley brewery in Warrington brewed mostly Tetley beers, but also some of the old Walker's Bitter, which we used to seek out as we much preferred it to the Tetley's. If it's this, it may be interesting; I wonder whether they'll use the old Walker's name.

There is also a brewery in the Tavern, Church Street, Warrington, (formerly Wilkie's Tavern), but I have no further details.  Warrington is certainly looking up from the days when we sought any escape from Greenall Whitley beers in the 70s.

The Wayfarer's microbrewery application for premises in Alder Lane, Parbold (previous post here), has received approval, and the brewery will be called the Problem Child Brewery. However, work hasn't begun as the pub was so busy over the holiday period they haven't had a chance to clean out the cottage which will house the brewery. I'm sure they'll get there.

Now we can only hope that we'll get a chance to try these new beers, seeing how pub companies prefer to exclude any beers not on their 'approved' lists. I don't think such behaviour should be legal, but that's a different issue.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Pub extensions on 29th April?

According to BBC news, the government is expected to announce that pubs will be allowed to stay open until 1.00 a.m. on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th April without having to get permission from their councils. Apparently some wedding is taking place in Westminster Abbey. Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "With state-of-the art TV, great food and hospitality, pubs will be right at the heart of the ... celebrations, and are the perfect place to enjoy the day."

Oh dear! On the one hand, we're all binge drinkers if we have 4 or more drinks in a session, but on the other, in an attempt to curry favour with a public already fed up with cut backs, we're given a bank holiday and a pub extension, presumably to nurse our 3 drinks max all day and all evening while waving union flags. Or are we officially allowed to be binge drinkers for the day? With the VAT rise, and the next increase on the beer tax escalator looming, will anyone be able to afford to celebrate? And given the marital record of the family involved, when the inevitable divorce comes along, will they cancel a bank holiday and shut the pubs early to claw it all back?

I think we should be told.

First Bothy guests of 2011

Trio Threlfall are the first guests of the year at the Bothy Folk Club this Sunday, making a return visit to the club.  They consist of sisters Jane and Amanda Threlfall with Roger Edwards and are noted mostly for their traditional material. As a Cheltenham Folk Festival reviewer wrote: "Trio Threlfall opened the evening with an exquisite set, their faultless harmonies showing why they are such welcome and frequent visitors to the festival."

They have three albums under their belt as a group, and Mike Harding of BBC Radio 2 said of their most recent CD, Sweet Nightingale: "Terrific songs and playing and really tight, unfussy arrangements. The girls are in great voice and the accompaniments are brilliant!" Having seen them myself at the Bothy on previous occasions, I tend to agree with this enthusiastic view.

The Bothy meets at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS, this Sunday 16th January at 8.00pm. Tickets available on the door or on line here. The venue sells Thwaites real ale.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Echoing what I've said ...

My young friend Sam has sent me a link to a new column written by Paddy Shennan in the Liverpool Echo, "Support Our Great Merseyside Pubs". It's quite interesting but doesn't come up with any new insights about the problems facing pubs, a topic I've covered several times, but on the other hand it is written for the general reader. It does assert that, "While pubs continue to close across the country – particularly in inner city areas and the suburbs – there has been evidence that Liverpool has been bucking the trend." I'm not convinced that's true, because if you get out of the city centre, many Merseyside pubs are holding on by their finger tips. Besides, it does seem slightly odd that an article encouraging people to use their locals states that those in Liverpool aren't doing too badly, but I suppose they've got to seem upbeat.

However, the article does go on to say that "it is scandalous that ... the Great British pub (and, therefore, the Great Merseyside Pub) is under attack – and not just from this money-grasping government, even if the coalition is merely continuing the penalise and punish regime of previous administrations." Good plain speaking there. The Echo interviewed Liverpool CAMRA who trotted out their usual comment about Liverpool being the Real Ale Pubs Capital of Britain. (Perhaps Southport should claim to be the Real Ale Seaside Town of Britain, as I've never been to a seaside town with a better choice of beer.)

Still, my earlier quibble aside, it's good that the Echo is publicising pubs and their problems, and as someone who drinks regularly in Liverpool, I do know that the city has some splendid pubs. In fact, I intend to do another Liverpool pub crawl fairly soon to add to my previous one of the Dale Street area.

Monday 10 January 2011

Mason's folk singarounds end

The folk singarounds in the Mason's Arms in Anchor Street, Southport, are finishing. After 5 years, this is a disappointment. However, a few singers who want to play old pop songs have moved in and may continue the evenings in their preferred way. Good luck to them.

Sunday 9 January 2011

First Lion singaround of 2011

Just a quick reminder that my monthly singaround in the Lion Tavern by Moorfields station in Liverpool takes place this Thursday 13th January.  I'll be there from around 8.00 p.m. As usual with these things, performing is welcome, but not compulsory.  The pub usually has around 8 real ales on, including JW Lees of Middleton in Greater Manchester.

It's free and I hope to see you there.

Friday 7 January 2011

The Crown and The Globe

Side view of The Crown, Lime Street
I went for a drink in Liverpool with an old friend yesterday. We met in the Crown by Lime Street Station. For some reason, although this fine old pub has many original features and sells real ale at a good price, it seems to be overlooked when people talk about great Liverpool pubs.  I enjoyed a couple of pints of Brains Reverend James at £1.95 a pint. My friend had lager shandy - I didn't ask for a taste. The pub is wood panelled with moulded ceilings, brass fittings and an unusual old bar, and the outside is largely unaltered with large old "Walkers Ales Warrington" signs, as you can see from the picture. I wrote about some old family memories associated with this pub previously.

On after that to the Globe, opposite Central Station; I've mentioned this pub a couple of times before. There were four beers on, including Cains and Black Sheep, but I decided to try the JW Lees Coronation Street premium Ale (4.2%). Lees is a dependable brewery and this beer was fine. My companion, not a real ale drinker, decided to try a half and enjoyed it too "What's that I can taste in it?" she asked.  I suggested a touch of caramel. "Yes, that's it," she agreed. Then she had another half. Not bad for someone who was drinking lager shandies earlier. She also said she didn't like pubs much, but could see why people would like a friendly place like the Globe. She had bought a new handbag before meeting me, and a woman in the back room leaned over and gave her a coin: "Here you are, love, for your new handbag." It's just a friendly local in the city centre with excellent service from the bar staff even when the pub is full.

All the Liverpool city centre stations are near good pubs (click here for those by Moorfields, the third station).

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Rounding on binge drinkers

Several papers have reported that Richard Thaler, a professor from Chicago and an adviser to the PM, has suggested that groups of more than three shouldn't buy rounds and should instead have a tab with everyone paying their share at the end of the evening. He argues that this will reduce binge drinking. Prof Thaler clearly hasn't got the faintest idea what he is talking about, and I do wonder how much such nonsense costs us taxpayers. Here are some problems I see straight away (in no particular order):
  1. Many pubs do not operate a system of tabs. Some simply don't have the necessary equipment, but another reason is the worry that a large group will leave without paying their bar bill. Unfortunately, this fear is not without some foundation.
  2. It is not possible to run a tab on a pub crawl.
  3. Disputes would arise about fair shares. Anyone who's been for a meal and witnessed disputes along the lines of, "I didn't have a starter" or, "You had the most expensive meal on the menu but I had the cheapest", and so on, will see the same thing happening: "You were on double Scotches while I only had halves".
  4. How do you work out the share of those who join part way through the evening?
  5. How do people who leave before the end of the evening (e.g. to catch their last bus) pay?
  6. People may be anxious about their share of a mounting bill over which they have no control.
I'm sure I could come up with more criticisms if I thought longer about this. I rarely become involved in rounds myself, and would not want to be party to a tab, but my main reason for this post is that I'm quite annoyed over this suggestion that government should dictate how people spend their own money when buying their own and their friends' drinks. This is adding to insult to injury after the increase in VAT to 20%.

I was also irritated to see the Telegraph illustrate its article about binge drinking with hand pumps and pints of draught beer, rather than the more accurate bottles of vodka and WKD, and tins of super-strength lager and cider.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Gerry Rafferty

I've just heard the sad news that Gerry Rafferty died today of liver failure; he'd been in hospital since November. I make no apology for going for the obvious song as it's simply wonderful. I remember the first time I heard it: it was 1978 and I was driving to St Dominics Comp in Huyton when it came on the radio. I loved it immediately.

Tipsy Angel in Warrington

Dave White of Wigan CAMRA has told me that the Lower Angel in Warrington that I wrote about on 31st December will be opening its own microbrewery within the next few weeks.  He said the brewery will be called Tipsy Angel, although that might have been a joke. I've occasionally heard murmurs about a new brewery here for a year or two, and I'm pleased they weren't just rumours.

This will certainly improve the beer situation in Warrington, which was poor when I was a student in the 1970s (choice of Greenalls and Tetleys) and wasn't much better a couple of years ago when I went on a pub crawl in the town. The Albion on Battersby Lane is a great pub (I went to one of its beer festivals in 2009), and the Lower Angel has served decent beer for a good while, but overall Warrington hasn't been well served by breweries and pubcos over the years.

I look forward to hearing about the new brewery and trying its products.

Monday 3 January 2011

Reeling in the year

Guest House singaround: just a reminder that tonight is the first Monday singaround in the Guest House, Union Street, Southport. It's free, and there's a good selection of real ale. Performing welcome, but not compulsory.

Formby Folk Club: Pete Rimmer tells me that the monthly Formby Folk Club will be taking place this Wednesday as usual in the RAFA Club, Victoria Road, Freshfield, L37 1LG. It's free and performers are welcome. Please note the Southport platform at Freshfield station is currently closed for maintenance.

I'm still unsure whether the Mason's singaround will take place on Wednesday or not.

Bar humbug

My local, the Guest House, has jars of humbugs behind the bar with Old Peculier labels on. Apparently it works something like a loyalty card from one of those overpriced cafés ~ drink 6 pints of Old Peculier and you get a free jar of humbugs. I think I'd prefer a free pint, but there you go. The problem is that, although the Old Peculier humbugs have been delivered, the beer hasn't. Still, they're a conversational piece while you're waiting to be served.

I think Google is losing the plot: I typed in 'Old Peculier humbug promotion' and a picture of a Norah Jones CD cover came up.

While I was in the Guest House last evening with several friends, the subject of the Baron's Bar Beer Competition arose, and the fact that I am to be one of the judges. "Just don't be like Judge Dregs," said one.

"Yes! Ditch RedNev," said another, "be Judge Dregs from now on."

With friends like these ...