Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Tinted household

I was 13. I wanted to be different, be independent.

Only the select few who showed an aptitude (and interest) in languages got to study German with Mr Jeffers.  (Unbelievably, those who didn’t got to swap to Spanish!  I know!)A formidable teacher intellectually, Mr Jeffers. When the school took a trip to St Petersburg, he learnt Russian specifically for the jaunt. When the Head of Physics had a heart attack, he took over as Head of Physics. He was a formidable pianist. He was a bit scary, and when he spoke German, this magnified threefold.

But he won me over in the first lesson.

What did I expect to learn?  Guten Tag?  Auf Wiedersehen? Wie geht’s?

The reality?

“If you want to get by in German you need to know the essentials. Write this down:”

Darf ich bitte ein bier bestellen?*

‘May I order a beer please.’

 

Beer.

By many, castigated as the fuel of louts, downmarket, mass produced. Common. To others, Germans included, as honest, ancient, venerated, beguilingly varied.

Many beer writers pit beer against beer. Praise craft brewers and damn ‘international brewers’.  Criticise British lager and praise Czech unquestioningly. Put Belgium on a pedestal and slag off light beers. Support cask beer but not great beer dispensed from a keg.

There are many beers I don’t like.There are brewers who don’t impress me. But these same brewers will then launch something fascinating, something that stops you in your tracks. There are beers that are praised sky high, but are nigh-on undrinkable. Occasionally, a global brewer will launch a cracker.

From the quenching pint of lager on a summer evening, to a strong Belgian ale that gets you pleasantly drunk from the feet up, the world of beer is a world that should be celebrated, and for me the world is best viewed through beer tinted spectacles.

Twit? #daptweet

Hello?  david@beertintedspectacles.com

For real?  The British Guild of Beer Writers  www.beerguild.co.uk

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Copyright

© David Preston (daptweet) and Beer Tinted Spectacles, 2012-2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Preston (daptweet) and Beer Tinted Spectacles with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Continental Style Drinking

Mad dogs and Englishman go out in the noon day sun. And this was definitely true for Tony, as he drank a glass of sparkling Mahou in the prickly shade of an Aleppo pine, beads of condensation slowly ran, connecting, growing and picking up momentum as they made their journey from lip to stem of his beer, slowly pooling on the coaster at its base.  Let me tell you about Tony.  A gnarly 53, from Oldham;  bricky and sometime joiner, he turns his hand to most things and comes on holiday to Spain most years, except those which it’s a bit lean. He’s proud of his roots, Tony. Sure, Oldham has had some bad press of late, race riots and all that, but it’s picking up. Soon the Metro would connect it to central Manchester, and anyway, he was in a ‘good’ part, in fact you can see the gentle rise of the Pennines from the back bedroom.  He’d got a detached house, a nice bit of land and not too much debt. Plenty of reasons to be cheerful in fact – and let’s face it, it could be worse. Many people were struggling to buy fuel for their vans, yet alone afford a decent holiday, and here he was, enjoying the endless days, warm evenings and beach-side bars. His wife, Linda loved it here.  For two weeks, she was free from the arduous work of being a ‘stay at home Mum’, to kids who, frankly, should need less input than they received. So, no washing, ironing, cooking multiple meals at irregular times through the day…. two weeks…properly ‘off’. Linda was enjoying her lunchtime beer as well – she’d earned the beer and earned the time off.   And she had earned the tapas too, a mixed plate, with different cheeses and Iberico ham, rough textured Spanish bread in pungent olive oil with fresh anchovies: simple food, simply done, perfectly set off by the crisp lager.

Fast forward two weeks.  The holiday now an ever-distant memory. The suitcases are back up in the loft, the washing done and the metronomic routines of the weekly run back, as if a natural order has reasserted itself.  For Tony, the routine stretches into the weekend.  He’s never been much of a football man, but he enjoyed a catch up with a few of his mates before they set off for the game.  The drink of choice in this case Beck’s Vier, some in the right glass, but a motley collection if truth be told.  A few bags of crisps lie ripped open for group consumption, disembowelled on the table in front of them.  And….acceptance. Just as Tony was happy to sip a beer from a stemmed glass on a promenade bar in the Ballearics; so too he stick-shifts without thinking into pints of refreshing but unchallenging lager at home.

The names have been changed to protect the guilty but this sketch is otherwise true.  UK policy makers seem beguiled by the cure-all of ‘continental style drinking’, as if we can simply transplant the whole bar context over here, architecture, weather the lot.  I admit, I am beguiled myself to a degree.  As I’ve written before, I’m not a big drinker… by that I mean I like to enjoy a few, typically small glasses of different beers.  I like to reach, what the Spanish call, la chispa, and then hold that state rather than head for oblivion and everything that entails.  When I worked on Grolsch a few years ago, the team specifically tried to lift the Dutch Grand Cafe vibe – as experienced in the town squares bars like ‘de Jaren’ in Amsterdam or ‘de Katte’ in downtown Enschede and bring it to life in British urban settings.  It’s a fairly easy formula at the end of the day: glassware, staff wearing a bit of your branded uniform, table service and perhaps a branded parasol or two.  In St Katherine’s Dock, by the waterfront in Bristol or in some of the Montpellier bars in Edinburgh it worked a treat, but less well in Spalding or Okehampton.

But the point is that we have a unique opportunity. To blend the best of the world’s drinking culture, and assimilate it in a way that feels natural and right for us, here.  For British ale, this is pints…wrapping your hand around the glass, slowly drinking it, letting it join the conversation with you, being part of the scene.  For other beers, to each its own.  A tumbler for an American IPA perhaps; a stemmed glass for a Leffe, a flute for a wheat beer.  A one-size-fits-all approach, be it ‘continental style’ or ‘British style’ is surely robbing us of some of the richness of beer.

© David Preston, Beer Tinted Spectacles 2012

Fake tales of Copen hagen

My eldest daughter and I are currently into the Arctic Monkeys.  To use the innovation curve so often misquoted in the press, you can hardly call us ‘innovators’ – well, to be fair, you can hardly call me an innovator. It’s ‘Laggards’ all the way in the Tinted House*. ‘Bardus et prout’ (‘Backwards and Proud‘) is our humble yet forward-thinking family motto.  In my defence though, I bought the album at the time of the initial hype but was also aware that she was 5 and there was one of those pearlescent ‘Parental Advisory Lyrics’ stickers on the front.  I still have to turn the volume down at the right moment on ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’, otherwise I will find myself in a tight corner where I need to explain both fornication and self pleasure to her on the way to Stagecoach.  Mum’s job I reckon.

But anyway – the rather tenuous link here is about the bandwagon – ‘Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook’ Alex wails nasally in his Sheffield twang in the aforementioned ditty – and a link to last week’s ‘Radler’ piece.   It’s nice to watch a bandwagon being jumped on in the moment – let’s call it Bandwagon Live!

Last Summer, in the fresh and shiny New Shandy category, Carling Zest was born; last week, I reported on the Heineken following suit with Bruce, Sheila und Gunter’s ‘Foster’s IMG_2578Radler’, whilst framing the opportunity positively as the ‘mid strength moderation’ segment.  And just like the proverbial buses, here comes Carlsberg Citrus, a 2.8% citrus beer.  Whilst Paddy Power are taking money on the next Pope, just round the corner Betfred are offering good odds on Stella Limon (‘that’s Li-mon not Le-mon’) and even Greene King are odds on for Greene King IPA Light with Lemongrass.

You can’t criticise the Danes here – Anheuser Busch were first to market in the US with Bud Light Lime four or so years ago to amazing success, and many others in many markets have followed suit.  It’s all a sobering (possibly, literally) reminder of the importance of really understanding what drinkers want.  Us beery bloggers have a tendency to self-pleasure ourselves on all the interesting craft, cask, funky bottle stuff and often typecast the world in our own image; typically only noticing what we want to see***.  Yet over there in the other real world, people are interested in lower strength, flavoured beers and don’t seem too bothered if it comes out of a mega factory.

It’s all fine by me, if beer is the winner, that’s a good thing. But I’m left scratching my head, wondering if genuine innovation is finally dead.

* Everitt Rogers, brother of Buck, was a sociology Professor who has helped marketeers and business people for over 50 years with his book, Diffusion of Innovations. In it, he postulated** five stages, with innovators who are all feisty, cool and leading the way, early adopters who pretend to be and then at the far end, the Laggards who couldn’t give a Monkeys but just couldn’t refuse that bargain at Comet when it went into administration.

** Titter ye not.

*** Something called Inattentional Blindness. Look who swallowed a textbook.

© Beer Tinted Spectacles, 2013