This year I’ve decided to do it. Don’t ask me why. I don’t mean that I’ve got no reason to do it, I just mean don’t ask me because I’ve already explained why on my donation page.
I realise there’s a certain kind of conflict in doing this, when so much of my life involves alcohol [in both business and pleasure], but I’m openly a man of contradictions, and I’m going to give it a go come what may.
I’ll be posting about aspects of it over on my other blog, but I just wanted to record it here, that it’s going ahead and to reassure all my many fans that I still have lots of notes to write up and old posts to publish, so providing I make the time, I’ll still be writing about beer, if not enjoying tasting it.
Hullo there ale fans! How are you doing? Had a nice winterval? Before I get going reviewing any more interesting beers, I thought I’d just share a little about the year that’s just passed.
A personal highlight of mine has been going to France in the summer. I’m lucky enough to have family living out there in Espondeilhan who invited me out for a week and, since I’d just left employment, it was a good time to take in some French culture. It was an even better time to try some French beers, though! There’s a wee brewery in the village, called ‘La Belle de Thongue‘ [pictured] that we went in. I tried three of their beers [which was all they did, apart from a Christmas one], ‘Blanche’ [5.8%], ‘Blonde’ [6.0%] and ‘Ambree’ [5.8%]. The first two had refreshing creamy lemon carries [a la Vedett White and summery saisons], whilst the third reminded me of a fresh brown ale, not entirely dissimilar to Newcastle Brown [and that’s one I like – don’t hate!]. They’re genuinely of a better-than-average quality, very tasty and, above all, perfect in the Languedoc heat. After the brewery trip we visited Wanagaine, a newer addition to the town, a cafe-restaurant-pub which is only a hundred metres from the brewery and the perfect place to sit and down enjoy more of these Belle beers, especially during a ‘tapas fete’ they had on one night. I’m still there somewhere, enjoying all that laid back beauty…
Some of the worst news this year has been the massive flooding across parts of the country, and my thoughts continue to be with those affected. We’re fortunate here in Morecambe that power cuts were the worst of it, but just down the road in Lancaster there has been a lot of flood damage. It damaged so much of the town, including a variety of different businesses. Two of my favourite ever pubs [in my top five, surely] have been badly hit [that’s The George and Dragon and The Bobbin], along with music hot spots The Yorkshire House, The Stonewell Tavern and The Juke Joint along with, love it or loathe it, one of the go-to meeting spots The Green Ayre, of Wetherspoons ownership. I know the landlord of The George and Dragon closely [he’s a lovely chappy] and helped him a little bit in clearing out his cellar. The damage could be sickening to look at, and the effect on earnings very depressing [it’s really not a high-rolling industry. You have to make it look and feel like a party, but it’s bloody hard work and can be a thankless task], but in characteristic fashion, he found positives to take from it [i.e. that the cellar needed a clear out anyway] and there has been encouraging support from locals. In fact, he’s already got ale back on hand pull, having only had to rely on bottles for a small while, so passion finds a way. The places that are open in Lancaster are doing a good job in that respect, making do with what they can and continuing to serve the pub-going folk in the area. I raise my glass to them all and encourage the public not to assume that places will be closed – your local businesses are very resourceful! And speaking of service – this story of what one local landlord has done for the historic city is really touching.
In terms of beers, the most disappointing beer I’ve had this year is Odell Footprint [to be reviewed later]. I paid a lot of money for it and have heard that other people really enjoyed it, but the actual tasting of it was worse than underwhelming… On the other end of the spectrum though, I had my favourite IPA of the year, and definitely one of the all-time greats. You’ll never guess where it came from either. Go on, have a go. No. Haha, no, not there either – have another go. Definitely not there! No, it was actually Sweden! Yes, Gotlands Bryggeri brew a wonderful IPA that I’ll review at some point in the future. They also do a Pils and a pale, which I looked at thinking ‘ok, I was surprised by the IPA, but that Pils will be boring, and the pale’ll be lame’. Not a word of it. Both also brilliant. My mouth’s watering just thinking about them, so I’ll either stop that, or start buying more. Come on pay day!
Christmas day itself was entirely beerless [in terms of presents, that is!]. I know Paul got some, but on the twenty-fifth I got something I enjoy about as much as beer – a Beatles book! On a side note, I really enjoyed it, and if you’re a Beatles fan, or know someone who is, then it’s well worth a look. It taught me a lot, entertainment me too and is suitable for a wide age range. Luckily, as well as reading material, a friend of mine who couldn’t get his present to me until a few days later had bought me beer, so I ended up with two Christmases really. He got me three groovy Spanish ales, and if you want to read about them then watch this space! I’ve already tried the one brewed with rosemary and – wow – I’ve never had anything like it before!
Lastly, I want to say that there are a few times a year where doubtlessly well-intentioned charities try to, whether strongly or not, demonise drinkers. Events such as Cancer Research‘s ‘Dryathlon‘ [that calls drinking a sin in its ad] and Macmillan Cancer Support‘s ‘Go Sober for October‘ [that has called sobriety ‘heroic’] aren’t bad ideas for gathering money for charity, but often use judgemental language, as I’ve pointed out. Helping out charities is great, but so is helping local businesses. Thusly, I want to spread the word about Tryanuary. If you like a drink, or you want to participate in a local team, or you like watching sport, setting up new societies or whatever, then try your local pub, which probably has a lot of events on that you don’t even need to drink to participate in. Also, I remember many times, particularly at good community hub pubs [like all the ones mentioned in this post and beyond], where landlords go way beyond merely putting a charity collection box on the bar, and host well-structured nights – sometimes putting personal pride on the line to raise a little extra cash – in order to help causes close to their heart. Is it fair that these charities should now use expensive marketing campaigns to, probably inadvertently, cause already struggling business more woes, based on the fact they sell booze? No.
i wish i had something interesting to put here, i really do, the truth is i’m a very boring person and this month has proven that to myself and others rather easily, i haven’t been very social, ive gone to birthdays, i’ve gone the pub and generally i’ve avoided writing my assignment. nothing interesting really, the next month though promises a lot more from me, im very happy to say, ive a beer festival to attend, a three day extravaganza of beer and generally being a drunkard, two brewery tours and generally a lot of celebrating as my uni degree comes to an end.
i wanted to just write this for three reasons, just to let you all know that i’m still around, avoid doing anymore of this assignment and generally give a huge thank you to the 21st century and our obsessive need to have internet everywhere, heaven forbid we are unable to access instragram while enjoying a pint.
now the jury is still out on what affect this will have on my dissertation but im optimistic that wifi plus a pint of liverpool organics best bitter, with its surprising lack of bitterness will help me power through. so what drink if any are you enjoying this evening?
so i witnessed what has to go down as the worse chat line ever uttered by a male ever, my old favourite used to be “you’re too hot for porn”, which was a wonderful chatline as it inferred that the speaker of said line both watches porn and that he finds the stars sexually unsatisfying, too that fellow i say Sasha grey.
That was the worse chat up line ive ever heard until last night when a male who i have the “pleasure” of knowing tried to get a women to bed with the line “i like to hit women, my ex has a restraining order against me”.
i wish i could make this stuff up sometimes. i hate humanity.
so in a little over 24 hours i shall be in the airport getting ready to head to one of my oldest friends in the worlds stag party, naturally we are going to celebrate this event in the only way we know how, with lots of beer, food and his face pushed into as many naked breast as possible. i would like to take this moment to apologize for everything i do but thankfully im 26 now and have matured to the point of not doing anything stupid when i drink, so with that im mind i would like to say that i shall not be taking my phone or laptop with me, no wayward texts or emails for me, prepare your self ladies of spain big papa is about to land.
So i recently moved my blog back to WordPress after many many months in the wilds and i thought what better way to celebrate than to actually write a little update for you all, its been a long time since i actually updated, its been a while since i wrote anything personal actually so lets start. i’m just going to give you a quick run through.
1 left university
2. had hours cut right back in work
3. originally planned to go to oz
4. got job so put off going
5 lost job
6. went back to old job
8 became homeless
Thanks to my wonderful friends i made it through this
9. finally went to book flight to oz
Had to wait for visa to come through, this turned out to be blessing in disguise.
10. grandmother diagnosed with cancer
11. grandmother dies
12. funerals suck
13. old friend dies in bike accident
14. funerals don’t get better the more you do them
15. launched website
more on this at later date
well that brings nicely to today, its been a pretty hectic year all things considered and i glad to say that ive just book my flight to melbourne, i shall officially arrive in Australia on the 10th of September, i know its took a really long time for me to get this and im glad its fiunalyl happening, dont give up on shit people, keep your dreams alive.
There are very few constants in my life, very few things that have been with me from my early childhood to my new found adulthood (despite lots of kicking and screaming) and that constant is a love of music. This love is great, music can be so subjective that discovering new types and new pieces of music can be nearly impossible at times. I have to consider the two most important factors, will I like it and will I continue to listen to it?
Early on in my music discovery though this was not a factor, with much of the music I listened to coming from sources very close to my heart. Namely that of my father and my family. I grew up in a house were music played a huge part. I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and Paul Weller to name just a few and these have had a huge impact on my current musical obsessions. Although these have obviously influenced my current music tastes, it also meant that my choice of music was rather shallow and lacking in any depth. They were decided by someone else’s choices, by someone else ideas of brilliance, that was until I got my first computer.
The internet changed my relationship with music and how I discovered music. My computer became my Hi-Fi and the Internet my radio station. The most important factor in this new discovery of music and that because the music was largely free. I’ve lost count of the number of albums I have bought because it was recommended by someone else or was considered the second coming of music only to be disappointed with the final result. The internet changed all this though, thanks to peer to peer service such as Kazaa (wow I’m old) made discovering new music all the easier. Now I am in no way condoning piracy, I do and have always bought albums but in terms of cost and effort required it makes discovering new music effortless. I used to download gigabytes of music when I was in school, I had absolutely no qualms about stealing or the idea that the artist would not get paid and just cared about the new experiences being opened up to me. It was a great time of discovery for me, I discovered so many new sounds, new ideas and all for the low price of nothing. There were two problems with this though and they were 1. Portability 2.my own maturity.
The first of these problems was solved with relative ease with the introduction of the MP3 and the MP3 player. The iPod was not my fist mp3 player, that honour belongs to the humble Rio carbon (another sign of my age) and it changed my listening habits greatly. My music was no longer linked to my computer, I could listen to my music anywhere and my lust for great music only increased. As my appetite grew though so did my taste. Before I was interested in quantity over quality I had thousands of tracks but only listened to a dozen or so albums. It seems I was finally maturing musically. I was moving into a new musical future taking Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd with me and leaving the happy punk of Blink 182 and Sum 41 behind. Music was about quality for me and as a result I started to buy more and more cds from the artists I truly loved. The ironic thing was that free music had me more aware of excellent music and as a result I was actually willing to buy those albums. This left me in somewhat of a quandary, I was still willing to buy music but in order to discover which was worth my hard earned cash, I still had to pirate music to insure that it was off a high enough quality to purchase.
Here comes the real point of this blog post and that while music discovery used to be very difficult it’s becoming very easy indeed. This is thanks to services like Spotify, Last.fm and Lala. Using these services we can consume all the music we wish safe in the knowledge that somewhere in some way artists are being paid.
Spotify is far more convenient than piracy, why you ask? Well firstly is free so it has the price advantage that piracy does and it’s also instantaneous which piracy is not. I can type the name of most artist into spotify and usually have them start playing within seconds. For example last night at the pub my friends tell me about a new band that I just have to listen too. I get home type them into spotify and listen to the new artist to my heart’s content safe in the knowledge that my money is safe.
Just like the iPod and piracy, Spotify has changed the way I listen to music and allowed me to discover new and interesting stuff. Piracy opened me up to new genres and the iPod allowed me to take these new forms of music anywhere with me. Spotify has allowed me to effortlessly expand my musical taste. I think back to that boy clutching his Dylan and Oasis, this was the be all and end all of music. How wrong I was and I have all these things to thank for that.