They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Great Craft Beer Swindle

Reading Boak & Bailey's post this morning got me thinking about something I heard about the other day..

Big takeovers by multinationals of breweries is one thing, but the other side of the coin is big breweries taking over distribution rights for other breweries. This is something that's happening in the UK right now. A lot was said when Brewdog became the sole distributor for Mikkeller beer in the UK, and it now seems that they're now the sole distributors for Stone beer too.

The thing I heard though was that James Clay have given up the selling of Goose Island and the distribution of such beers has gone to Green King. This will no doubt have it's good and bad points..

On the one hand it's good that Green king are going to be able to use their money and influence to get Goose Island beers into the hands of consumers who have probably never tried them. And probably for much cheaper too.

The downside of this though is that distribution will be on the big scale, i.e. if you want to buy Goose Island beer for your shop you're probably going to have to buy a pallet of it. That means that about 99.9% of small independent beer shops will no longer be able to buy Goose Island beer.

The thing I'm most sad about personally is they've cut down the range of beers to Honkers, 312 wheat and the IPA. This means no more Matilda, no Pepe Nero, no more specials, and probably most damning of all - NO MORE BOURBON COUNTY STOUT!

If this means that I'll have to go the supermarket to get some Goose Island I guess it's not that big a deal. At the end of the day, we won't be able to stock it at Beer Ritz, but that does free up space for a new brewery!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Go Back To School

There's a building on what's probably the outskirts of Headingley, just a stones throw from Hyde Park (not the one in London, we're taking about the greatest city in the UK here - LEEDS, haven't you been told..) It's a very nice building too, and while it's seen better days at the moment it's not the fault of the building itself.

I like this building. If you live in Headingley you pass it all the time. It stands proud, atop the hill, while not imposing on it's surroundings.

This building used to be part of a school. Unfortunately, like most of the school buildings in this country, it stands unused, empty, and closed to children who are in desperate need of some teaching. If I had taken this picture a couple of years ago it would have been a lot different. Solid wooden doors, white -graffiti free- stone walls, sparkling clean windows, trimmed and neat gardens. But it's closed, and now looks like it's seen better days.

Why should any of this matter though? It's not about beer!

Well... It's going to be a Weather Spoons.

Yes that's right, they've bought the building. Where once kids learned maths and took English tests, they'll one day learn how many drinks you need before you puke and all about test-tube shots. Does this matter though? Well not unless you live around the area. Like we really need another pub along the infamous Otley Run. Like we need another Super-Chain bar coming in and squeezing all the little guys in Headingley's centre. The biggest issue I take with this though is what's directly opposite the building;

I don't care how many 'craft' beers you claim to sell, these people - who live literally over the road, are going to be pissed!

Now I know it might take them a couple of years to turn this place into a functioning Weather Spoons, but I truly am going to loath the time where there once stood a proud building and it's soon going to look like this;

Friday, 23 January 2015

Technology Dependent Industry

Working in the off trade has it's ups and downs. 99% of the time the downs are compromised of technical failures. You really don't know how utterly dependent you are on the internet until you lose it. Well we didn't anyway. Our internet was down for around 24hrs this week which threw our regular routines into a bit of confusion.

We got a new Epos system installed with our referb a couple of years back and to use the till system requires the internet. It does not necessarily need the internet to put through sales, it just needs it to turn on and off as it needs to sync data to some sort of cloud ridiculousness. Now when our internet went down luckily the till was already on, so we kept trading and kept the till on until the problem was resolved. This was very quickly, but during that time I couldn't do much else. I couldn't invoice stock, change prices, hell, I couldn't even put new bar codes on the system!

Things like this are nothing new to us at Beer Ritz. Just last year in fact we had a complete power failure for the whole shop in the middle of a busy Saturday. For a few hours! We managed mind. We busted out the phone camera torches, the calculators and worked with a basic open till system and wrote everything down. Shame we didn't have an abacus at the time really!

It does make you wonder how dependent we are on technology though these days. Now I'm not going to go into some sort of Bear Grills survival situation crap here, and heaven knows I'm no luddite, but I do think we need some form of fail safe. It really got me thinking about the brewing industry. You see all these new fangled brew houses with their automated brewing systems, and you have to wonder how dependent they are on human interaction.

We're in the middle of winter. Let's say a tree falls on some power lines outside a brewery and cuts off their whole power. Let's say they're right in the middle of a brew and need the computers to finish.. What do they do? Is that whole batch destined for the drain? This is all hypothetical mind, and I'm sure most places would have plans in place (hopefully!) but it's still something that caught my mind today and is something that deserves some thought.

And with that in mind, a little bit of time without the internet really didn't seem to be such a huge issue. After all, we could still sell beer.... Problems only become major when you can't do the things you need to. Not being able to invoice would be a problem, but not being able to sell beer would be a major problem.

Defo need a beer now though... I frickin hate technology!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Time To Go Back To The Drawing Board?

I've been away from the keyboard for a couple of months now.. I guess that's what happens when you get put in charge of the best beer shop in the WORLD!

Enough of the melodramatics though, it's time to jot down some recent thoughts I've had about beer!

I'm sure we're all aware of the Rainbow Project beers that have come about recently. 14 different breweries, 7 different beers - looking at the list of who was involved a few weeks ago I was sufficiently excited. Now I managed to get down to North Bar when they had all 7 on draught, of which I had a third of each beer. I can remember back to the night and feeling very disappointed with the offerings. I thought about it again on Monday and thought maybe I was being a little unfair. I decided to grab a bottle of each and give them a proper evaluation to see if it was just the small quantities I had or something else that put me off the beers that night. Over the past few days I've been working my way through the range of 7, and here's my honest reactions.

Red - Pogonophobia - Magic Rock/Evil Twin
A 7% Belgian Red Ale
The aroma on this comes across very strong, lots of wild redcurrents, cherry flesh and a touch of oak - a bit more like a red wine than a beer. It's very complex from the get-go, very drying, good tart flavours, but I'm finding it very thin. It just loses it's flavour very quickly and you're left with a long drying vegetal note alongside some tartness. The issue I think with this beer is that it's a interpretation of a Flanders Red ale, but only aged for 8 months! It's too young, Flanders beers are aged for years!

Orange - Rainbow Saison - Beavertown/Naparbier
A 9% Saison aged on Jerez barrels
This one really left me stumped. It smells quite good, if you like the smell of wine... White wine grapes dominate the aroma. Huge on the oak and wild green leaves, there's also a touch of pepper lying around under the wet hay. It's a very fruity beer in the body, but it's incredibly unbalanced, I can barely manage to pick anything out individually. You get left with a very long lingering toffee apple and melon flavour and quite a sickly sweetness - possibly from the Jerez barrels? Not something I was a fan of...

Yellow - Yellow Belly - Buxton/Omnipollo
A 11% peanut butter biscuit Imperial Stout
I get the peanuts, I get the biscuit, but all I can really smell is Baileys... And the taste? A lot like Baileys too... Some harsh alcohol in the finish. That's all I can really say about it. Baileys.
It's the packaging that really gets me though. I get the name, I get the idea - yes, being prejudice is a dick move, and doing it anonymously is cowardly, but why dress the bottle like a KKK member?!? It kind of feels like someone saying they're really against burgers but wearing a Mc Donald's t-shirt...

Green - GJH Double IPA - Hawkshead/Lervig
A 7.5% Double IPA made with green juniper & hemp
The aroma you get on this beer is like grabbing a handful of hop pellets, and crushing them in your hand. Big on the piney resin, lots of toffee, huge hop oils all the way. This is one hell of a dry beer, it almost strips the moisture from your tongue. Very green, very bitter, and honestly, not in the best of ways.. It just seems a little too harsh. If this is the juniper and hemp I don't know, but it kind of feels like a load of hop oils were added to this beer as an afterthought...

Blue - Rainbow Quadrupel - Partizan/Mikkeller
A 10% Quadruple aged in Cognac barrels
Now I was impressed with this beer on the night, and I am more so again. Big aromas of caramel malts, wild strawberries and toffee popcorn. The taste itself is very sweet. It's got rich burnt brown sugars written all over it, it's more of a Barley Wine than a Quad. It's got a very thick mouthfeel, very syrup like, but not cloying. Surprisingly drinkable for a 10% beer, the alcohol is very well hidden. Thumbs up.

Indigo - Indigo Child - Wild Beer Co/Toccalmatto
A 8% Sour ale infused with flowers
This is a lot like a Saison blended with A Gueuze. Loads of lemon peel, stone fruits and pepper in the aroma. It has a really nice flavour to it. Lots of vegetal and mineral flavours combining to leave a tartness in the finish which slowly fades. It's sour and savory at the same time, and while it is a little thin in the body it's perfectly balanced. Nice example of a Wild beer indeed.

Violet - Empress Stout - Siren/De Molen
A 8.5% Imperial Stout brewed with black pepper
This one had me a little bemused until I read it was made with some peated malt. Things made a little more sense then... It smelled a lot like an export Baltic Porter with a good deal of black roasted malts and slate like mineral quality. The beer had a huge body to it, which I found surprisingly sweet. Lots of raw honeycomb, big on the chocolate, and the peat delivers a nice touch of oaky smokey flavours. I'm not sure what difference a five hour boil makes to a beer mind....

After trying all 7 again I'm still unconvinced on some. The thing that ticked me off on the night though was the strength of all these beers. Doesn't anyone have the balls to make a 5% beer anymore? As 7 is the rainbow theme were these brewers not allowed to dip under this mark %wise? That's why I ended up drinking a lot less than I thought I would at North Bar, because they're all ridiculously strong! And why I had all the bottles over a space of 3 days.. I truly feel it takes more skill to make a 3,4,5% beer with a great, well balanced flavour than any 12% DIPA with far too many hops in it than that's necessary.

Some excellent ideas though, I just feel some were better executed than others. And remember, these are just my opinions! I spoke to many people at North Bar about them, and many people loved them!

For me though, Rainbow Beers? I'll stick to my black and white...

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Alternatives to "Craft Beer"

We got sick of the 'What is Craft Beer' debate possibly before it even began... At the shop it's a term that myself and the staff cringe at.

We choose not to use it. If customers choose to that's fine, but over time we have developed a few terms for the beers we like which you might often hear us using around Beer Ritz.

Most of the imaginative verbs and adjectives should rightfully be credited to our resident American to Yorkshire transplant; Jeff, but without further name dropping I shall give you the low down of our alternatives to "Craft Beer"

OK, so one might have a beer that's


or if that's just not enough, a

Boon Scoon (see also; Booner)

There is also the beer that's a



Skenge Henge (see also; Skenger and Total Skenge)

There are many times when we'll have a beer that's a

Cream Dream

or a mighty

Cream Dream Supreme

... as in "That Imperial Stout was a Cream Dream Supreme last night!"

Finally, when we try a beer that's so brilliant, so extreme, a beer that's almost orgasmic in qualities... X-Rated almost... we have a

C*m Splash

We do of course have many, many more... but they're only really appropriate when we're on personal time, between each other..

Forget 'Craft', call good beer whatever you feel like!

Tell your friends, spread the joy...