Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Tax not axed

Darling ups booze duty 2% in the Budget, from midnight tonight. Looks like the tax was not axed...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A mean time with Meantime Pale Ale

Meantime London Pale Ale was on cask at The Gunmakers, Clerkenwell, last night. It was a pleasurable beer totally suited to spring, with a golden body, thick malty texture and floral hoppy finish. Textbook.

Given Meantime's (in my view mistaken) reluctance to embrace cask as a way of broadening its customer base - in addition to its keg offering - this was a bit of a coup for Gunmakers landlord and beer writer Jeffrey Bell (pictured right).

He is a fine host and looked most dapper last night, though if I were him I'd lay off making offensive gestures to the punters. Especially just two days ahead of the Budget.

The jesusjohn legal team would like to point out that whatever Jeff is doing here, it was not an 'offensive gesture'. He blogs here.

PS - these headlines will continue to be pun-led. You have been warned.

PPS - thanks to fellow blogger Tandleman, who points out this beer will be on cask at JDW pubs as part of their International Real Ale Festival.Whether you'd want to go to a JDW pub just for this beer is another matter (I wouldn't myself) but those without a decent 'proper' pub nearby might like to take a punt.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Hypnotic beer advertising - a helluva force

Darth Vader and the evil galactic emperor pushing beer in an ad. It's not big and it's not clever, but it made me laugh. Sadly, the brew itself does not exist. Pity.

George Lucas cashed in pretty much every other way he could.

I have to say, Emperor Palpatine exhorting the masses to 'grab a cold six pack today' was the clincher for me posting this. I daresay this is one of those viral videos everyone else has already seen but me - if so, I crave your indulgence.

An unhackneyed lager in Hackney

Alex's birthday took us to Hackney's beer ground zero - The Pembury Tavern, part of the Milton Brewery empire. Milton Brewery is based in Cambridge, so I'm familiar with its excellent brews - my favourites are Pegasus (4.1%), a maltier, fuller-bodied London Pride, and Nero (5.0%), a pitch black stout with a solid punch and vanilla finish.

On the right, regrettably, is the only photographic evidence of a terrific night on the tiles. Some 'amusing' Kanye West sunglasses brought along for the ride and a necklace cadged from Alex's girlfriend succeed in casting jesusjohn as the ubiquitous Shoreditch/Hackney media twat in the Nathan Barley mould.

The only redeeming factor of this sorry business is that I'm seen clearly drinking Taddington Brewery's unpasteurised lager Moravka, which Jeffrey Bell wrote about beautifully here. It is the UK's best lager for certain - malty and satisfying while retaining the necessary thirst quenching drinkability. I think it's a hot contender amongst the very best of its style brewed anywhere.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Not just mussels in Brussels

'I don't know why people deride a country of five million people that produces 1,000 different beers.' - Jonathan Meades

Raised eyebrows often greet those who say they're off to Belgium for a holiday. Belgium? Why?

Quite apart from the beer, there's food, architecture and everywhere a sense of the gothic. The journalist and broadcaster Jonathan Meades hit the nail on the head with his contention that
'Magritte was actually a realist, not a surrealist - that he was a recorder of his country's condition, a reporter.' There is something exotic about a country that seems to share so many characteristics with the UK - dark wit, a confused collective identity, a labyrinthine and internationalist capital city - and yet is so evidently foreign.

The beer, of course, is a case in point. Both countries enjoy a weight and wealth of styles, traditions and innovations - yet the keg in Belgium is not synonymous with smoothflow tripe and bottle conditioned beers are everyday commodities. In Belgium it is commonplace to drink a bottle's sediment. Back home the same practice seems to ruin a decent brew. Odd. The sense of glee with which a beer hound heads for Brussels or Bruges is, then, that intriguing blend of the familiar and the thrillingly different. It will be a feeling many reading this will have experienced (yeah, both of you).

The St Gilles district of Brussels is central, but has a suburban ease to it. Following a crazed period of work amid the ivory towers of Canary Wharf, idling along its sloped streets was a relaxed pleasure. Falling upon La Porteuse d'Eau brasserie was a delight. It is a palace standing as proud celebration of art nouveau and offered lunchtime perfection in the shape of onglet with shallots, chicken and mushroom stew vol au vent and chicory gratin.

Its beer selection is clearly well thought out and on my visit there was a subtle push towards a new beer, Hopus from Bra
sserie Lefebvre. It would seem Belgian beer is undergoing the hop revolution that has spread from west coast USA (I've already written about the superb La Chouffe Houblon). Five different hop varieties make it into Hopus, which packs a helluva punch at 8.5%. The bitterness is more like a hefty thwack than a spicy, floral build and I liked it.

Particularly pleasing was the dedication to its service - the bottle has a swing-stopper, which I always regard as an artful plus. With attention to her task, the waitress poured the beer into its rather camp branded glass, conjuring a generous perfumed neck of foam. A branded shot glass was revealed - into which was poured the murky, yeasty sediment. Theatrical, delicious and served alongside a good chewy cut of beef.

This brasserie puts in hard work to look the part and succeeds in providing something a lot of British pubs don't quite manage - a touch of flair, or a gold nugget of a reason to go out rather than neck a Duvel at home. And all this without the slightest hint of pretence, again rare in Blighty, where modish bars always seem to try too hard.

Decent grub and a super beer, to boot - both available in the UK and Belgium of course. But La Porteuse d'Eau does the job with class and a hint of exoticism. Perfect.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Autotilt this!

You can't fault the dedication to engineering excellence demonstrated in this video. But what's the funky tune? If you know, please share it with me. I'll never look at a racked cask in the same way again.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Writing frightening verse to a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg

So, back to Blighty. Parting is such sweet sorrow. My second ever post here gave an idiot's guide to Luxembourg's beery underbelly but I'll have to serve up some more details on my return. The range of beer is limited, I'll grant you, but Bofferding, Simon Regal and Battin (especially Battin) are some of the best lagers around and taste especially good in glorious sunshine - with which we have been blessed these last few days.

All this as a precursor to better, more beery posts after the holiday lull.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Not a very likely contingency in Belgium...

The somewhat sporadic and wilfully threadbare nature of recent posts owes much to the fact I am journeying through the Benelux region (well, Belux anyway).

Sunday was spent in Brussels - Delirium Cafe may be full of wide-eyed 19 year old tykes from Wyoming and Minnesota, but the international crowd is young, there certainly are plenty of locals and the barstaff are friendly. In short, the ambience is more studenty than touristy. I like it.

It was here we tried La Chouffe Houblon - a mad, mad mash-up of classic IPA, bonkers-spicy US hopped IPA and Belgian tripel. A terrific find and, at 9%, just a short passageway to oblivion. Textbook.

My fiancee and I scanned the room again - there can't have been anyone in there over 30. Now don't get me wrong, I love the classic ideal of the British pub, with inter-generational drinking and frank exchanges over a disinterested hound. But it did strike me that Belgium must be doing something right to make its artisan beer worthy of seeking-out by hip young things. In the UK, CAMRA struggles to win the interest of youngsters (and where it does, such as myself - I am a member, they seldom become activists). Even the sterotypical Belgian beardy (male) beer geek has a hippy, rocked-out low-countries charm lacking in his Dungeons & Dragons anglo-saxon brethren.

And on that bombshell...have a good Easter break! I'll put up sexy pictures on my return.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Could life ever be sane again?

I had been sceptical of those wishing to sell papers off the back of 'the chilling rise in knife crime statistics'.

No more.

As this footage clearly shows, knife crime is all too ubiquitous - this incident took place outside The Bun Shop, Cambridge. My source (who we'll call IBU 400) says he found the knives outside the aforementioned establishment late last Saturday night. He freely confesses his contemporary sorry state of inebriation - though it was perhaps this detachment from his surroundings that meant we can feast our eyes on this devastating VT.

The Bun Shop has a wine bar, selling excellent Australian bottles from the D'Arenburg estate, and a 'traditional ale house' serving beers from Bury St Edmonds brewery Old Cannon, where the punchy Gunners Daughter can be supped. There is, of course, the possibility that the military connection to the beers in some way precipitated the knife incident - best be on to the Portman Group.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

No need for the Cambridge Blues

Not for nothing have I been dubbed Jesus 'Twinkle-toes' John. Verily, I am the Vince Cable of the beer blogging world.

Ok, in truth I have two left feet. But dancing is a necessity if one is marrying in Luxembourg - that first waltz is make or break as far as many of the locals are concerned (one wrong step and auntie Irma will be muttering about my inadequacy - thank god they have decent brews).

My fiancee took pity, enrolling us on a dance course. Taking our places along with those beguiled by Brucie's patter of a Saturday night has been humbling - I'm not god's gift. I therefore extend all possible gratitude, then, to Dom and Mel - kind hearts who have ferried us to and from the lessons in their trusty Rover. By return of favour, we were happy to offer them a pint at one of our favourite pubs, the Cambridge Blue.

This especially ale-friendly tavern (featured in our inaugural Pubcast) has been buoyed of late by a fleet of superb Dark Star beers. Michael, a friend and straight-talking beer hound of the premier league, has a Beer Rule No. 1 - never pass on a Dark Star beer. Three pints later, I can vouch for that; this brewery consistently blends hoppy abandon with malt of superior quality, whether we're talking the sublime Hophead or the innovative and suppably enriching Espresso Stout. Helluva brewery.

Afraid this post doesn't get more intellectual than that - the moral of the story is simply never walk by a Dark Star brew. Basic, really.