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.