Saturday 25 October 2014

Because it tastes good and smells enticing

Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken and Other Stories is one of my favourite cook-books, full of great recipes, musings on food and dotted throughout the book with compact capsules about some of the author’s favourite chefs and cookery writers such as George Perry-Smith and Elizabeth David. However, as I browsed through it this morning in search of something for the weekend I came across this paragraph that opens the introduction; it occurs to me that if I substituted brewing for cooking, beer for food and drunk for eaten then I would have my manifesto for beer.

‘Good cooking, in the final analysis, depends on two things: common sense and good taste. It is also something that you naturally have to want to do well in the first place, as with any craft. It is a craft, after all, like anything that  is produced with the hands and senses to put together an attractive and complete picture. By “picture”, I do not mean “picturesque”: good food is to be eaten because it tastes good and smells enticing.’ 

Wednesday 22 October 2014


Two books on beer in the next month, out there; one, November 17, World Bottled Beers, is a song of praise to 50 great beers, of which I will write further; the other, tomorrow’s the day, co-ordinated and co-written with Roger Protz, Britain’sBeer Revolution, a snapshot of now, David Hemmings at the lens, profiles of breweries and beers featured, the likes of which include the likes of Siren, Magic Rock, Thornbridge, Kernel, Fyne, Meantime, Fullers, Adnams, London, blogging, barley and plenty of people. We’ve tried to be vivid in our writing, tell the tales of the men and women who stand aside the mash, driven to derive flavour and savour from the beer they make.

It’s a book about revolution in which the old is overthrown, the new is brought in, amid the noise and chaos of the mob, the execution of the ruling classes, the constant rumble of the wheel of revolution as new victims are sought, the dissolution of the dissonant, the death of the dead. Well sort of.

Our revolution: a greater demographic of people drinking beer, drinking all kinds, unaware and unabashed whether it be keg, cask or drawn straight from a pumpkin; the Sven the Unready beard, the radioactive winkle-picker, the psychedelic short back and sides, the Dresden shepherdess drainpipe, who cares, I certainly don’t, the stuff I’ve worn in order to belong (jeans ribbed and unwashed for a year, for instance); the Sensurround of flavour, the taking apart of tradition and the snap crackle and pop of aroma; and then the digs at the old, the daubs of the walls of the old, the hauling in of the tribes, beer revolution.

It’s also about evolution: gradually, unperceptive, glacier smooth in its passage, the new beers and brewers emerge, the big parade passed by, an easy going emergence, here we are, saison, stoutly done, no fuss, no furore, here we are, new beers for old.

It’s also about devolution: we want to do a Belgian Quad so we’ll do it our way if you don’t mind, if it’s all the same to you, thank you very much; a Victorian mild, an oatmeal wild, a sour-smiled gyle, we did it our way. Devolution max.

Elocution: here’s a Pilsner, a Spezial, a Kellerbier, a Rauch, a Bock, a Dunkel, a beer that has nowhere to hide, the received pronunciation of brewing and beer, the hardest challenge a brewer can surmount, lager. 

Britain’s beer revolution has many faces, and no doubt some of its children will be devoured, but there’s no going back now.

Thursday 16 October 2014


I have seen these beers at the break of day. Commonplace, grey, staid and staying in the memory (for the wrongest reasons); a flash and a flush of bubbles on the tongue, a brisket of carbonic acid house on the roof of the mouth, the brief guff of sweet-corn on the nose (shake-a-leg there), crooked lagers croaking for customers in need of non-reflective refreshment. And it’s in this pub there and where these beers grimace at the bar-top, beery yobs leaning at the counter, come-and-drink-us clowns leering and cheering the nature of brinkmanship. And it’s to this pub I retire for a final beer before the night completely begins its progress towards the end. At the bar-top, having scanned the scowls of low-browed brands, a factory-handled Farange of brands that abandoned their homes in Burton, Glasgow, Northampton early one morning, I order a Guinness, a simple action, a stout that is purely one act, one note, irreversible in its decline, but now, at this time of night, in this part of town, it’s a beer that sounds chimes within the soul. Five minutes pass, the beer poured, the foam soared and then stopped and then topped and then passed past the sour-faced brands of crooked lager and I invest myself with a table and chair in the midst of this big chubby-faced club of a pub in which I feel myself both home and alone. A scattering of men, yes it’s mainly men, swapping tales of turmoil on scaffolds, down-he-went-broke-his-leg-like-it-was-an-egg, in a Yorkshire brogue, thick, yeasty, tarry-voiced, a contrast to the draught of Happy emerging like air from a juke-box that stands, hands on hips, bold as brass, beneath an altar-like scene of TV screen, upon which Gareth Bale, Alice-band intact, gurns and turns and shoots…but doesn’t score. Ah, the Guinness, creamy and in the theme of stout, watery coffee, a finish that fails to find a backer, a funder, a clouder, but in this ineluctable moment there’s something about this pub that brands me to it, that makes me want to join in and sing with Pharrell. Happy.