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.