Thursday, 19 December 2013

Books of the Year

I've been scanning my bookshelves, looking at the books I've read this year.

Most of the fiction I've read has been as a result of media of one type or another, whether radio, TV or newspapers, and so has some of the non-fiction, such as Morrissey's Autobiography. Some of the fiction has also been the result of reading non-fiction too as I'll explain.  Anyway, here are the fiction books I've read in 2013.

Black-out in Gretley by J.B. Priestley

Spy thriller set in an English town in World War II which I read having listened to a radio adaptation with Anton Lessor.

The Code of the Woosters, The Inimitable Jeeves and Much Obliged, Jeeves by P.G.Wodehouse

Having read The Fascists in Britain by Colin Cross, about Mosley and the British Union of Fascists in the 30's, I went in search of his fictional counterpart Roderick Spode.

The Aerodrome by Rex Warner

For the same reason, I also read this about an attempted takeover of Britain by fascist air force officers.

Sweet Thursday and East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I read Cannery Row years ago and would have read the sequel Sweet Thursday too if I'd heard about it before. East of Eden, Steinbeck's epic Cain and Abel-based novel set in his native Salinas Valley in Northern California, had long been on my "books I really should get round to reading" list.

Home to Harlem by Claude McKay

A poem by McKay and a short biography of him that I read in a newspaper (a Jamaican-born black Communist in America and Britain in the twenties, he later converted to Catholicism) prompted me to read this, his best known novel.

Red Or Dead by David Peace

Having enjoyed Peace's The Damned Utd about Brian Clough's short reign as manager of Leeds, I pretty much had to read this about another of football's colourful characters, Liverpool manager Bill Shankly.

The Alteration by Kingsley Amis

I spotted this on a top ten of alternate history novels in the Review section of The Guardian. It's set in a still Catholic 70's England in which officials of the Holy Office include Foot and Stansgate.

House of Earth by Woody Guthrie

Not quite the ecosocialist masterpiece some have tried to make it out to be but another book I had to read given that I've been a Woody Guthrie fan since my teens and his music led me to both Dylan and the blues.

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

I've always been sold on books by TV programmes that dramatise parts of them. This, featured in an edition of BBC2's Culture Show presented by James Runcie about books set in the London Blitz, is the last of Greene's explicitly Catholic novels.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I know it's been knocked for its length, plot structure and ending but I quite enjoyed this Booker Prize-winning New Zealand Gold Rush-set detective novel.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Golden Pints 2013

Mark Dredge who blogs at Pencil and Spoon is inviting people to nominate their pubs and beers of the year. Below is my, admittedly quite traditionalist,  take on Golden Pints 2013.

Best UK Cask Beer
Holt’s Bitter, the world’s best beer when on top form.

Best UK Keg Beer
Apart from a couple of pints of Heineken at football matches, don't think I’ve drunk any.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Fuller’s 1845.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Uerige Alt.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Schlenkerla Rauchmärzen, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout.

Best Collaboration Brew
No idea.

Best Overall Beer
Holt’s Bitter.

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
Draught Bass.

Best UK Brewery

Best Overseas Brewery

Best New Brewery Opening 2013
No idea.

Pub/Bar of the Year
The Lamb and The Grapes in Eccles, The Hare and Hounds and The Unicorn in Manchester, all proper working-class boozers selling cheap, well-kept cask beer.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013
Hope Inn, Stockport’s only brewpub until The Magnet gets its brewing operation off the ground in the New Year.

Beer Festival of the Year
Stockport, Fuller’s ESB in top condition.

Supermarket of the Year
Sainsbury’s for Guinness FES, Tesco's for Fuller’s 1845.

Independent Retailer of the Year
Wouldn’t know.

Online Retailer of the Year
Beers of Europe.

Best Beer Book or Magazine
BEER, despite Roger Protz’s regular howlers.

Best Beer Blog or Website
Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, Zythophile.

Best Beer App
Haven’t a clue.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
No idea.

Best Brewery Website/Social media
Im Füchsen and Augustiner are both pretty entertaining.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Pork pie and a pint of bitter, as ever. Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby mild and a cheese cob is a close second though.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Rhineland revisited

This time last week, I was about to board a plane heading for Düsseldorf.

I went to all my favourite pubs in Düsseldorf again (Im Füchschen, Zum Uerige, Brauerei Schumacher and Im Goldenen Kessel) and managed to get to a couple in Cologne I'd not been to before.

When it comes to beer and pubs, I think Düsseldorf beats Cologne hands down, although I wouldn't go as far as the guy in Schumacher who, when I said I'd been to Cologne, said, "That's not beer they drink there, it's water."

Cologne's real draw for the tourist is of course the Cathedral and the morning of the second day saw me heading there on a train. The two pubs I went to the first time were Gaststätte Lommerzheim in the suburb of Deutz and Sünner Im Walfisch in the Altstadt. I knew Lommerzheim was just across the Rhine but hadn't realised that it's just one stop and a very short walk from Heumarkt. On leaving Lommerzheim, I also travelled a few stops on the U-Bahn to Kalk to have a look at the Sünner Brauerei.

Lommerzheim is much more of a street corner local than the more touristy spots in the Altstadt. It also serves Päffgen Kölsch, probably the bitterest in Cologne, which I've drunk before in Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass' in the Altstadt and in the brewery itself in Friesenstraße. I've never drunk Sünner Kölsch before though which I found quite spritzy and lemony. I especially liked the panelled taproom as you turn left on entering Im Walfisch with the wooden barrel on the bar.

I rounded off my trip with a couple of Altbier in Zum Uerige before catching the train to the airport. Uerige seems to get slightly darker and hoppier every time I drink it. It's fast approaching Füchschen as my favourite Alt.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Parcel Yard

I went to London this weekend for the Rugby League World Cup semi-finals at Wembley and popped in Fuller's new pub at King's Cross for a couple of pints.

I liked the Parcel Yard and was particularly impressed by the period features in the Gents which overlooks the platforms of the railway station below. The pub has an impressive range of the brewery's draught beers, including cask London Pride, Chiswick Bitter, ESB, Discovery and Gale's HSB and Seafarers as well as keg London Porter. It's certainly several notches above the Wetherspoons/Yates-type pubs you get in most mainline railway stations.

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Book of Pubmanship

I've just got the Book of Pubmanship by Ronnie Corbett.

I'm not really a fan of Corbett's cabaret club-style light entertainment sketches or the golf club anecdotes and I probably wouldn't have bought the book if I hadn't read a copy at a mate's house and then spotted it second hand on Amazon for a penny.

The Book of Pubmanship was published in 1972 and sponsored by Imperial Tobacco (you read that right, a book about pubs sponsored by a tobacco company). The book deals with all the important questions: how to pick a pub, whose round is it and what to do about a hangover. Although Corbett is a spirits drinker, there's lots of interesting stuff about beer too: beer styles,  beer consumption between 1960 and 1970 and beer glasses.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Manchester, so much to answer for

I've just finished reading Morrissey's Autobiography, published in Penguin Classics (a bit of fun that some journalists have oh so predictably misunderstood).

Autobiography is as elegantly written and witty as you'd expect from the lyricist of The Smiths. There are lots of moments when I laughed, just as I often do listening to supposedly downbeat Smiths and Morrissey songs like this.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Manchester's top ten pubs

This weekend's Guardian had a list of Manchester's top ten craft beer pubs.

If a "craft beer pub" is one that has cask beer, non-mainstream/"craft" keg, bottled European and North American beers and draught, unpasteurised cider, neither the City Arms nor the Grey Horse qualify, despite the latter now offering beers from the Hydes microbrewery's Beer Studio range (Font is the only pub on the list I've not been to but from the description it sounds as though it ticks all the boxes).

I tend to rate pubs on their atmosphere, architecture and clientele. As long as there's one well-kept cask beer, I'm happy. On that basis, my own Manchester top ten, in no particular order apart from alphabetical, is The Briton's Protection, City Arms, Crown and Kettle, Grey Horse, Hare and Hounds, Lass O'Gowrie, Marble Arch, Salisbury, Smithfield and Unicorn.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


The Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has spoken out against footballers not born in England playing for the national team.

The comments come after speculation that England might select Manchester United's eighteen year old winger Adnan Januzaj in the future. Januzaj, born in Brussels to Kosavar parents, is also eligible to play for Albania, Belgium and Serbia. There has been a similar debate in Test cricket where South Africans play for England, Pakistanis for South Africa and Australia etc.

I don't have a problem with sportsmen representing the country they live in rather than the one they were born in, especially when they or their parents have fled their homes because of war or violence. In football, South Americans played for Italy in the 30's, helping them to win their first World Cup, and in the 60's Real Madrid's Ferenc Puskas from Hungary and Alfredo Di Stefano from Argentina both played for Spain.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Lancashire Dark Mild

I've got Ron Pattinson at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins to thank for alerting me to the fact that Marks and Spencer is now selling a bottle-conditioned mild.

Lancashire Dark Mild, a 3.7 % abv beer brewed by Thwaites Brewery in Blackburn, is I'd assume a slightly tweaked and rebadged version of their draught mild Nutty Black.

Although dark milds are traditionally associated with the Black Country and the West Midlands, the first two milds I ever drank were dark ones from Manchester brewers, Holt's and the long-gone and much missed Wilson's, and Robinson's Brewery in Stockport still brew a pale and a dark version of their mild.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bottle and cask

I went to a CAMRA Meet the Brewer event at a pub in South Manchester last night.

The brewery in question had three of its beers on draught in the pub and also kindly brought us some bottles to try. I was pretty impressed with all of them, including a Pils brewed with Czech hops that unusually was available on handpump as well.

What struck me most was the difference between the beers in cask and in bottle (the bottles are brewery rather than bottle-conditioned). The citrusy notes in the IPA for example were far zingier in the cask compared to the bottle.

There aren't that many beers that I drink in both cask and bottle. Most of the bottle-conditioned beers I regularly drink are from London brewers like Fuller's and Young's and either aren't available in cask or only in their pubs in the capital.  I also find that some brewery conditioned bottles – Robinson's Unicorn, Timothy Taylor's Landlord – are much closer to the cask versions than others.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Join the Red Revolution

Salford rugby league club is relaunching itself at the last game of the season on Friday.

In a so-called Red Revolution, Salford's new owner Marwan Koukash is rebranding the club as Salford Red Devils.

I've always liked the fact that Salford, unlike other rugby league clubs, has avoided silly names such as Bulls, Broncos and Rhinos and stuck to simple ones connected to its history, first Reds and now Red Devils (the nickname apparently comes from a 1934 tour of France where a journalist dubbed them "les diables rouges").

Although the Salford rebranding has obvious socialist connotations, it also reminds me a bit of the advertising for one of the worst beers ever brewed in Britain.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A good pub?

The 2014 Good Pub Guide – a commercial publication not to be confused with CAMRA's Good Beer Guide – has stirred up a bit of (surely intentional) controversy by suggesting that up to four thousand pubs will close in the next year.

The GPG claims that pubs will only survive if they improve the quality of the food they serve. I must be missing something here as the main reason I go to pubs is to drink beer. I might have a pork pie or a packet of crisps or nuts with a pint but I wouldn't go to a pub specially for the food. I think that they're confusing pubs with restaurants here. Most of the pubs I drink in don't do food anyway. Let's see if they stagger on for another year despite the GPG's message of doom.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Let there be PR

The TV presenter Tim Lovejoy is fronting a new website called Let There Be Beer.

On Sunday Brunch, the magazine programme he co-presents with chef Simon Rimmer, Lovejoy has promoted interesting beers from Britain and the rest of Europe so you might expect the website to do likewise. You'd be wrong.

Its main theme is matching beer and food. I'm not really into all that but some of its suggestions are just bizarre. San Miguel or Kronenbourg is the perfect accompaniment to asparagus apparently. Cooking fish? Budweiser, Fosters or Tuborg are what you want. World beers it recommends include Heineken and Sol.

I detect a heavy corporate hand here, especially in the taste descriptions. Has anyone really drunk Coors Light and thought "Hmm, soft fruit notes (pear drops, banana)"?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Champion Beer of Britain

Elland 1872 Porter has just been announced as this year's CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain at the Great British Beer Festival in London.

I wrote about 1872 Porter when it won the Winter Beer of Britain award at the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester in January so I won't reiterate what I said then except to say that it's a worthy winner of the top prize.

One of the things you notice if you look at the Champion Beers of Britain over the last twenty years is how regional breweries, let alone national or global brewers, have been edged out by microbreweries. 1872 is the only beer on the list that I've drunk, apart from White Shield in the Bottled Beer category. Many people will say that it's because microbreweries are now producing better beers than Fuller's, Robinson's or Timothy Taylor  I wouldn't  but there's also been a shift in CAMRA towards supporting locally-brewed beers, for example through the  LocAle scheme, rather than nationally-distributed ones.

I also note that, apart from Marble, the North West is unrepresented on the list. At least Holt's are still brewing the world's best lagers in Manchester.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Beer and sausages

BBC2 is showing a season of programmes about Germany at the moment.

Last night, the TV chef Rick Stein travelled around Northern and Western Germany with his son and popped in to see their relatives in Düsseldorf, Hochheim and Frankfurt (I know I play with words but the programme title Rick Stein's German Bite is a pun too far even for me).

Stein announced at the start of the programme that his mission is to get us thinking about German cuisine beyond beer and sausages. The only problem with that is that beer and sausages are the best thing about a trip to Germany, whether Alt and Rotwurst in Düsseldorf, Kölsch and Blutwurst in Cologne or Helles and Bratwurst in Munich. I must say though that Stein showed remarkably good taste in going to Zum Uerige in Düsseldorf which, along with Im Füchschen, is my favourite Altstadt pub. He also had Schweinhaxe, a massive pork knuckle encased in crackling that has defeated me both times I've attempted to eat one.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Spaten and The Sorrow and the Pity

I've just been watching The Sorrow and the Pity, Marcel Ophuls' 1969 documentary about the occupation of the French town of Clermont-Ferrand in World War II.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who first heard about The Sorrow and the Pity through Woody Allen's Annie Hall. I watched the two-part film about Allen the BBC showed last week which prompted me to watch Annie Hall and then The Sorrow and the Pity again. It's a wonderful documentary with Ophuls making French collaborators squirm and talking to two left-wing brothers, ex-Resistance fighters who spent the last months of the war in Buchenwald concentration camp, on their farm in the Auvergne. One of my favourite bits is where they go in the cellar to draw a glass of wine from a barrel and Ophuls asks them "Is it red?" and one of them shoots back "Yes, like me".

The bit that jumped out at me this time though is where he's interviewing a German soldier who was stationed in Clermont-Ferrand during the war. He's in the pub having a beer and draws a map on a beermat with the Spaten logo on it (he also talks about "here in Bavaria"). I could be wrong but I think it might be Braüstüberl Zum Spaten, the brewery tap in Munich where I had half a litre of their fairly bland Helles the first night I was there a couple of years ago.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Why Burton was built on Trent

No town in England is as synonymous with beer as Burton.

The sights and smells of brewing hit you as you walk out of the station. The number of railway lines in what is quite a small town also point to its history as the centre of English brewing. I made it to three pubs and had beers from two breweries.

The Burton Bridge Inn is the brewery tap of the Burton Bridge Brewery whose Bridge Bitter and Porter are both quite malt-accented. I also had a pint of Golden Delicious in one of their tied pubs the Devonshire Arms on the way back to the station.

Just round the corner from the Devonshire Arms is Coopers Tavern, a classic three-room Victorian pub that was once the Bass brewery tap. Now owned by Joules, the beers are served by gravity from casks behind the bar. Being in Burton in sight of the brewery, I had to have a pint of Bass. I know people say it's not as good as it used to be and they're probably right but I still enjoy the slightly sweet aftertaste you get after the bitterness.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Pottering about Stoke

On the way to Burton on Trent the other day, I had an hour or so between trains in Stoke.

I lived in Stoke for three years in the early 90's when I was a student at the poly there and drank in two pubs regularly, The Glebe and The Victoria. They've experienced contrasting fates in the last twenty years.

The Glebe when I drank there was owned by Banks's but it has since been taken over by Joules Brewery who have done a good job sympathetically refitting this nineteenth century pub. Joules first brewed in the late eighteenth century but was bought and shut down by Bass Charrington in the mid-70's before being revived in 2010. The Pale Ale, based on a recipe from the original brewery, reminded me a bit of Batham's Bitter with a clean malt taste and low hopping rate.

The Victoria was apparently the biggest pub in Britain when Marston's opened it in 1900. When I drank in it, the pub stood opposite the football ground of the same name which was demolished when Stoke City moved into a new all-seater stadium in 1997, probably one of the reasons that The Victoria is now boarded up. Having spent many a happy hour drinking Pedigree there as a student, it is now a very sad sight to see.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


I've just watched the final part of Howzat!, the TV series about World Series Cricket.

In the late 70's, Australian media magnate Kerry Packer split world cricket by organising a competition to rival official Test matches. The split was healed within a couple of seasons, with Packer getting the TV rights to cricket in Australia, and it's easy to forget how many of the things that are now part of the game were pioneered by World Series Cricket: day-night matches, helmets, pajama-style kits instead of traditional whites and women being allowed into the members' pavilion.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Fool's Gold

I went to a CAMRA Meet the Brewer event last night at the Hope Inn, Stockport's latest brewpub.

The Fool Hardy microbrewery is in the cellar of the pub in Heaton Norris, at the top of a hill that is shaping up into a decent crawl with the Crown and Pineapple near the bottom and the Magnet and Railway halfway up (I've not been in the George or Midland since they reintroduced cask beer).

The Hope started brewing six months ago with its core beers Rash, Reckless and Risky, clean-tasting pale ales ranging in strength from 3.8% to 5% abv all of which I'd happily drink again.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Union made beer

The American trade union federation the AFL-CIO has drawn up a list of beers made by unionised workers.

Beers made by union labour in the US include Miller Lite by Teamsters and United Auto Workers and Budweiser, Michelob and Rolling Rock by members of the International Association of Machinists.
As in Britain, US microbreweries are by definition small-scale outfits, if not one-man bands then only employing one or two people who are often relatives or mates of the owner, so labour relations issues and disputes rarely if ever arise and the chances of them being unionised is pretty low. At the other end of the scale, global breweries like A-B InBev and Molson Coors which only produce keg beers seem to be the most unionised.
In Britain there are two types of brewery that don’t exist in the US: national brewers like Greene King and Marston’s, who produce lots of cask beer and recognise trade unions, and family owned regional breweries who also produce cask beer but with managements which are more traditional, conservative, paternalistic (or downright idiosyncratic) and tend not to.
So what is the lefty beer lover to do? I think you should drink the beer you like irrespective of who brews it although a boycott of a brewery involved in a strike or other dispute – as when InBev decided to close Strangeways Brewery in Manchester in 2005 – might sometimes be appropriate.
The emblem on the NUUBW label below looks very like that of Brauerei Schumacher in Düsseldorf. The union was founded in 1886 by German brewery workers in the United States and didn’t use English at its conventions or in its publications until 1903.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Gone for a Burton

I've been drinking Fuller's 1845 quite a bit recently as Tesco's have got it on special offer.

I drank and enjoyed the fruity, rich taste of 1845 for years without really thinking about what style of beer it fitted into. The label says Strong Ale, CAMRA lists it as an Old Ale in its bottled beer guides and as a strong, slightly sweet ale it also fits into the category of a Burton.

As others have pointed out, the division of strong, malty beers into Old Ale, Barley Wine and Strong Ale is a pretty arbitrary one and that's before you include strong milds like Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

From the North

I've just started reading The North by the music journalist Paul Morley.

The book is largely about the places I was born, grew up and live in  Manchester, Stockport and Wythenshawe   and the music associated with them from Morrissey and The Smiths to The Stone Roses and Oasis.

Like me, Morley is fascinated by borders – the Lancashire-Cheshire one along the River Mersey just south of his childhood home in Reddish and the fuzzier one between the North and the Midlands, clearly defined where Cheshire meets Staffordshire and South Yorkshire Derbyshire but harder to draw where Lancashire and Cheshire meet Derbyshire and South and East Yorkshire Lincolnshire.

This is the kind of book you can happily dip into for hours, perusing the index from the Ardwick Apollo to Tony Wilson via Coronation Street and the Free Trade Hall.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Schneider Aventinus

I had a bottle of Schneider Aventinus yesterday.

Schneider must rank as the top wheat beer brewery in Bavaria, if not Germany. Bombed out of their historic home in Munich in 1944, they now brew in Kelheim about seventy miles to the north.

Original, their standard amber, unfiltered wheat beer, is a classic which I've drunk and enjoyed many times. I've only drunk Aventinus once before though. It fizzed like mad and smelt a bit odd. After a couple of mouthfuls, most of it went down the sink. The one I had yesterday couldn't have been more different: perfectly conditioned with a malty taste and the alcohol punch you'd expect from a 8.2 % abv Weizenbock.

With cask or bottle-conditioned beer, one dodgy pint or bottle is enough to put most people off.  I'm glad I persisted with Aventinus. I'll be looking out for it next time I'm in Bavaria.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Silly Little Game

I've just watched Silly Little Game, a ESPN film about the beginnings of what is now fantasy baseball.

Fantasy baseball began as the Rotisserie League, named after the French restaurant on the East Side of Manhattan where a group of sportswriters and magazine editors thought up the idea of competing against each other with teams of
Major League players.

One of the interesting aspects of the programme was how fantasy baseball drove the publication of baseball stats and even created a new one, WHIP (walks and hits by innings pitched). And even though the Rotisserie League had a pretty conventional approach to what stats are most important (RBI's and batting average rather than slugging and on base percentage), the fact that stats were being published regularly led to the Moneyball approach of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane that has since been copied widely by mid-market teams drafting players.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Young man's game

At Scarborough yesterday, Yorkshire seam bowler Matthew Fisher became only the third fifteen year old to have played first class cricket.

In 2008, fifteen year old Barnsley winger Reuben Noble-Lazarus became the youngest player to turn out for a Football League team and left-hander Joe Nuxhall was also that age when he first pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in 1944, still a Major League Baseball record. In contact sports like rugby and American football, the youngest ever players are, as you'd expect, a bit older, in the 18-20 age range.

Twelve seems to be the youngest age anyone has competed at the top level of a sport - in golf and chess - and there have also been one or two fourteen year old tennis players. At the other end of the scale, I doubt we'll ever again see a fifty year old professional footballer like Stanley Matthews or a fifty-two year old Test cricketer like Wilfred Rhodes.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Beery fun in the Stockport sun

I went to Stockport Beer Festival with some mates at the weekend.

As well as plenty of well-kept cask beer, Stockport Beer Festival has lots of other things going for it. Edgeley Park football ground where it's held is a short walk from both the railway station and several GBG pubs if you fancy a drink before or after the event. But the best thing is the seating area. Is there really anything to beat sitting in the Cheadle End with a pint as the sun sets over the Stockport skyline, watching aircraft on their approach to Manchester Airport? I think not.

I didn't try as many beers as this guy though. Rather than having a half of lots of different beers, I started with a couple of pints of Bollington Best and then moved on to Fullers ESB. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The great outdoor

The photo below is of a pub in Wythenshawe, South Manchester in the early 70's.

My Mum who grew up down the road went in the off-licence on the left for bottles of Guinness in the 60's. The "outdoor" as it was popularly known was also where you bought draught beer to take away in jugs.

The "outdoor" at the Silver Birch is long gone, along with Wilsons Brewery in North Manchester that owned it, but the pub itself is still there and as this photo shows it's been knocked through and added to the rest of the pub as many a snug and vault were in the 70's.

I don't know of any pubs that still have an off-sales counter where you can buy bottled and draught beer to take away. I'm not sure why though – I'd certainly use one if it was available.

Fracking and the Reinheitsgebot

The German news magazine Der Spiegel reports that the environmentally dodgy practice of fracking, extracting gas from the ground by pumping water into it under high pressure, might have a knock-on effect on the country's breweries.

German brewers are warning that the chemicals used in fracking could pollute their water sources and undermine the Reinheitsgebot, the former law regulating the purity of beer ingredients that many of them still adhere to.

I'm against fracking because of its environmental effects but a thought strikes me: couldn't they just filter the water to get rid of any nasty stuff in it?