British Beer Sales Up Two Consecutive Quarters

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Given that craft beer on this side of the pond has seen double-digit growth almost every year for over ten years, the news that sales of beer in Great Britain has shown positive growth in two consecutive quarters may not not seem like something that’s newsworthy. But this is the first time it’s happened in more than ten years, as pub closures and other factors have had troubling consequences for British beer. The latest figures, released by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), show total beer sales up 0.8% in the 4th quarter of 2013, with off-trade (primarily retail) up 3.9%, although pub sales were down 2.2%.

The Morning Advertiser article also mentions the announcement concurrently that Marston’s will build a new £7 million bottling plant, which the BBPA believes translates to increased confidence on the part of British brewers. The credit for all this good news is thought to be the decision by the UK government’s Chancellor to “cut [the] Beer Duty in last year’s Budget,” meaning lower taxes on breweries. According to the BBPA’s Chief Executive, Brigid Simmonds. “These figures demonstrate that cutting beer duty helps increase beer sales, stimulates industry investment and saves jobs. We hope the Chancellor takes note and freezes beer duty in his next Budget to give a further boost to British beer and pubs.”

This is important on our side of the world because there are currently two bills before Congress with the same goal, to lower the excise tax of beer to stimulate our economy and create jobs in the brewing industry and related support industries here, too. That it appears to have worked in Great Britain is a promising development that may make it more attractive to legislators in justifying the tax cut.

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Beer In Ads #1066: The Norman Conquest


Thursday’s ad is for Cottage Brewing’s Norman’s Conquest Extra Strong Ale. It’s not really an ad, but how many times will I have #1066 to play around with? Exactly. I had this beer at the first CAMRA festival I attended, at Peterborough, in the mid-1990s.

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The artwork resembles the tapestries so popular when William the Conquerer, a Norman, invaded England and conquered the Britons at the Battle of Hastings, one of the decisive battles in the Norman Conquest.

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The Man With The Golden Liver

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Today’s infographic is an odd one, entitled The Man With the Golden Liver. It’s a serious (as far as I can tell) review of the fourteen James Bond books written by Ian Fleming, examining how much alcohol the fictional character James Bond drank. The result of their work (reading novels, mostly) was published in BMJ, the British Medical Journal, under the title Were James Bond’s drinks shaken because of alcohol induced tremor? Here’s what they found:

Results After exclusion of days when Bond was unable to drink, his weekly alcohol consumption was 92 units a week, over four times the recommended amount. His maximum daily consumption was 49.8 units. He had only 12.5 alcohol free days out of 87.5 days on which he was able to drink.

Conclusions James Bond’s level of alcohol intake puts him at high risk of multiple alcohol related diseases and an early death. The level of functioning as displayed in the books is inconsistent with the physical, mental, and indeed sexual functioning expected from someone drinking this much alcohol. We advise an immediate referral for further assessment and treatment, a reduction in alcohol consumption to safe levels, and suspect that the famous catchphrase “shaken, not stirred” could be because of alcohol induced tremor affecting his hands.

So they undertook the examination of the drinking habits of a fictional character and concluded he was a high risk drinker, worrying what consequences might befall him. I’d laugh my head off if the goal didn’t appear to be to warn others not to follow his example and drink too much. Has their been a problem with copycats pretending to be British superspies and binge drinking in the process? And that’s been since 1953, when the first book was published. So it’s been sixty years. You think we’d have seen this epidemic by now. If anything, based on the fact that no one reads books anymore, this has to be a waning problem, if indeed it as ever one to begin with.

To be fair, a number of years ago I did something similar, looking through the Fleming novels for instances when 007 drank beer, which I detailed in a post called James Bond’s Beer. But my goal was entertainment, not science, and I had no aspirations to warm people about unhealthy behavior in a character who wasn’t real. The “scientists” who undertook this “study” even have the cojones to say that “the author Ian Fleming died aged 56 of heart disease after a life notable for alcohol and tobacco excess,” suggesting a connection between the author and his fictional creation. Fleming himself always said that he’d based 007 on a Serbian field agent, Dušan Popov, although there are plenty of other contenders.

Another ridiculous caution is their finding that based on their analysis of Bond’s consumption he would have frequently drove a car with a BAC of 0.08 or above, which they note is above the legal limit in the UK. Except that the last Bond work that Fleming wrote was published in 1966. That’s one full year before the UK passed the Road Safety Act, imposing a BAC percentage. So if we’re continuing this absurd line of reasoning, it doesn’t even work by their own standards. At any rate, it’s an interesting infographic, I could just do without the proselytizing.

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Click here to see the infographic full size.

Beer Birthday: Mark Dredge

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Today is the 29th birthday of Mark Dredge, who writes the beer blog Pencil and Spoon from his home in Kent, England. I’ve had the pleasure of drinking with Mark on his last three trips across the pond. The first time, at the opening gala for SF Beer Week, three years ago at the Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder, Colorado, and last year judging at GABF. By day, he works in digital marketing and social media and by night, he’s “a beer writer and blogger.” In December 2009, he won the British Guild of Beer Writers New Media Writer of the Year for Pencil and Spoon. If you don’t read his stuff, you should. Join me in wishing Mark a very happy birthday.

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Mark, at left, having lunch at Mountain Sun in Boulder, Colorado during the Beer Bloggers Conference a few years ago.

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Raising a toast.

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Mark and his fiance, Lauren.

Note: The last two photos were purloined from Facebook.

Understanding Alcohol Consumption In England

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Today’s infographic, in honor of Guy Fawkes Night, is entitled Understanding Alcohol Consumption in England, and was created by Money Expert. Unfortunately, a lot of it is based on England’s recommended “Alcohol Units,” which were shown to have been created completely arbitrarily a few years ago, yet continue to be used by the government and related health organizations.

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Click here to see the infographic full size.

The Romance Of The Barmaid

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In 1849, a book described as “sketches of life and character, with illustrative essays by popular writers” was published by David Bogue in London. Entitled Gavarni in London , the name comes from the illustrations by French artist Paul Gavarni. They’re apparently drawings that Gavarni did in England, and there are a total of 23 of them, each with an essay by popular writers of the day. There were acrobats, street beggars, thieves along with scenes from the West End, Greenwich Fair and others. There was also one about a Barmaid, the female bartender in the mid-17th century. The Barmaid essay was written by J. Stirling Coyne, who was an English playwright who was similar to Jonathan Swift or Alexander Pope. Open Library has the whole book available online to read, or go straight to The Barmaid to see it in the original, or just read it here below Gavarni’s illustration of The Barmaid.

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THE BARMAID

Who is she that sitteth in the shrine of the temple of Bacchus? — the Priestess of that ancient worship whose mysteries are celebrated in the Halls of Evans. Her brows are crowned with mint and juniper, and her shining tresses curl like the rind of the artfully peeled orange upon her polished shoulders; in her right hand she beareth a bowl of fragrant nectar, and in her left presseth a golden lemon; gas-lights burn brilliantly around her, and the rich odours of Geneva fill the air; pleasantly she smileth upon her customers through clouds of incense wafted from patrician Principes or plebeian Pickwicks, and tempereth the ardency of Cognac with mild modicums from the New River. A legion of kind familiar spirits obey her behests: hers are the refreshing fountains of Soda, and hers the gently-flowing waters of Carrara! Who asks her name? Who knows not the pretty Barmaid — the modem Hebe, whose champagne is not more intoxicating than her aeillades?

Like the moon she never shines with full lustre till night; then she comes out in all the fascinations of satin and small talk — bestowing, with perfect impartiality, a smile upon one admirer, a tender glance upon another, and a kind word or two upon a third; leaving each in the happy belief that he is himself the fortunate individual upon whom she has secretly bestowed her affections. She carries on a flirtation while concocting a sherry-cobbler, accepts a lover in the act of sweetening a glass of toddy, and even permits a gentle pressure of the hand when giving you change out of your sovereign. But all this is selon son metier — a mere matter of business with which the heart has nothing to do.

Thus the Barmaid seems to be a kind of moral salamander, living unharmed in the midst of the amorous furnace in which Destiny has placed her. Long habit has perhaps inured her o this state of insensibility, upon which her safety as well as her happiness depends; but we believe it is an established fact in her history that no Barmaid ever gave away her heart, or permitted it to be sponged from her fingers’ ends, across the counter.

It is during her soiree — when her little court is filled with Gents, swells, and loungers from the theatres, that the Barmaid’s triumph is at its height. Then in the plenitude of her power she flings hack saucy repartees to pert addresses, and generally — for she has the sympathies of her audience with her — turns the laugh against the fool who has the temerity to hazard a skirmish of wit with her.

She has a wonderful acquaintance with all the floating topics of the day, and talks with as much confidence of Sir Robert’s great speech, and Sibthorpe’s last joke as a parliamentary reporter. She thinks the Guards “delightful fellows,” and declares her decided partiality for moustaches; she has a’settled conviction that Jullien is “a duck,” and considers the two mounted Blues at the Horse Guards models of manly and equine beauty.

These, however, are but the general outlines of the portrait : the Barmaid, like the chameleon, takes her local colour from the character of her visitors, and insensibly adopts the professional manners and language of the class in society with which she associates. Thus, at Limehouse she is marine, and in Albany Street military; in the neighbourhood of the Temple, and all about Chancery Lane she talks of sittings, and after-sittings — of caveats, pleas, and demurrers, with the gravity of an old Chancery barrister. In the vicinity of Covent Garden, along the Strand, and up the Haymarket, the Barmaid discourses most eloquently upon things theatrical; she has all the scandal of the green-rooms “by express,” and knows the name of every danseuse who gives Lord So-and-so a seat in her brougham in Hyde Park. She calls Mr. Macready “Mac,” and Buckstone “little Bucky;” she has, moreover, a white satin slipper of Taglioni’s, and a presentation copy of Baugniet’s admirable lithographic portrait of Paul Bedford, with the great creature’s autograph at foot, framed and hung up in the bar. In the Sporting Houses the Barmaid affects the Turf, and confesses, privately, that she has no objection to the Ring. She knows, the names of the favourites for the Derby and Leger, and backs them all round for any amount of gloves, handkerchiefs, ribbons, and other small wares, knowing that if she wins, she will be paid; and, if she loses, she never insults a gentleman by mentioning it. Within the circuit of half-a-mile of the London University the Barmaid is a blue; and if you be not on your guard, you may chance to get floored with a quotation from Horace, or a problem from Euclid. Besides these, there is the medical student Barmaid — near the hospitals; and the musical Barmaid — near the operas; and the artist Barmaid — anywhere; and the newspaper Barmaid — everywhere; with fifty others in various professions, who having picked up a smattering of the subjects they hear continually discussed, talk upon them as fluently, and sometimes quite as sensibly, as their instructors.

Having sketched the Barmaid at home, let us now present her to our readers as she appears abroad. True, her enjoyments beyond the narrow limits of the bar, and that mysterious little back parlour behind it, have been few; she has lived all her life amidst the grimy bricks and tiles of London. But she has an instinctive love of Nature implanted in her heart. The geranium in the little pot on her window-sill, and the flowers that she daily places in water on a shelf in the bar, are touching evidences that her heart has not lost its freshness in the withering atmosphere in which it has been placed.

When her periodical holiday arrives — that anxiously looked-for happy

“________ day that comes between
The Saturday and Monday” —

how joyfully does she prepare for an excursion with “the young man that keeps her company” to Greenwich, or Hampstead, or Rosherville; but most she delights in a trip to Richmond by water. Seldom beats a happier heart than the young Barmaid’s on a fine summer’s morning, when, with a delicious consciousness of liberty — that only those whose patrimony is servitude can taste — she hurries, with her equally happy lover, on board “The Vivid” steamer at Hungerford-pier — trembling lest they should be late, although they are full twenty minutes before the time of starting. During the voyage up, she is in raptures with every object she sees; — the winding banks — the beautiful villas, peeping through thick foliage — the green aits — and the graceful swans, whose snowy plumage acquires a dazzling splendour as they glide in the dark shadow of the overhanging shore. Everything, in short, is brighter and fairer than ever it appeared before. Then there is the landing, and the walk up the hill to the Park — where, seated under an umbrageous chestnut-tree, she gaily unpacks her handbasket, and produces her little feast. Were ever sandwiches so delicious! And the snowy napkin for a table-cloth; and the salt in a wooden lemon, unscrewing at the equator — the prize of some dexterous hand at the popular game of “three throws a penny;” and the morsel of cheese in the corner of an old newspaper; and the white roll; and the something — in the very bottom of the basket, carefully concealed from view — which must not be seen till the fitting moment arrives — and which, after the sandwiches have been dispatched, and a good deal of coaxing and coquetting has been performed, is brought forth, and proves to be a Lazenby’s sauce bottle, full to the cork with — what do you think? — real French brandy — the very best pale we engage too. Of course this cleverly managed little incident gives occasion for fresh laughter, and the lover begins to fancy how pleasant it would be to have a wife who could feel so much solicitude for his comforts; and this thought sinks into his heart as the brandy sinks in the flask; and by the time they have got on board “The Vivid” on their return, he has almost made up his mind to pop the interesting question.

We will not follow the pair to the reserved seat they have secured in a quiet comer of the deck, for there are little mysteries even in the heart of a Barmaid which we hold inviolably sacred. All we are at liberty to divulge is, that the conversation must be deeply interesting; for, when a gruff voice shouts — “Now then! Hungerford! Who ‘s for Hungerford?” as the steamer slowly approaches the pier, she raises her head with the expression of one who has been disturbed from a pleasing dream ; and looking around her exclaims — “Dear me! I declare we’re at Hungerford already!”

*          *          *          *          *          *

“A change comes o’er the spirit of my dream.” — Five years have passed away the girl has become a matron — the pretty Barmaid has ripened into a handsome Hostess. She now stands behind her own bar, the undisputed mistress of her little realm; waiters tremble at her nod, and enamoured Gents get intoxicated upon her smiles. Time has mellowed, but not impaired her beauty — at least not in the estimation of those who measure feminine beauty by the standard of Reubens. The roses on her cheeks have perhaps taken a deeper tint — her abundant hair, wandering no longer in ringlets over her neck, is clustered beneath a cap of the most becoming fashion — the light robe is replaced by the glossy black satin — and a massive gold chain depends from her neck, where the plain ribbon hung before; but she is still the same frank, lively, and kind creature that we always knew her. The Hostess, indeed, is but the perfected Barmaid; — to whose numerous admirers we respectfully dedicate this sketch.

Beer Birthday: Melissa Cole

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Today is the 38th birthday of Melissa Cole, UK beer writer extraordinaire. I’d met Melissa first online and then in person at the Rake in London a few years ago. She’s also been coming over to our side of the pond to judge at both GABF and the World Beer Cup. She’s a great advocate for beer generally, but especially for women, and is great fun to hang out and drink with. She also writes online at Taking the Beard Out of Beer! which is subtitled “A Girl’s Guide To Beer.” Her first book, Let Me Tell You About Beer, was published not too long ago. Join me in wishing Melissa a very happy birthday.

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At the Great British Beer Festival three years ago, with Roger Protz.

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Melissa with Greg Koch, from Stone Brewing, at GABF in 2009.

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The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur with a blushing Melissa at the World Beer Cup dinner in Chicago a few years ago.

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A couple of years ago at the Rake in London, Melissa and Matt Brynildson, from Firestone Walker.

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With friends at University sometime between 1993-97 (photo purloined from Facebook).

Beer Birthday: Ron Pattinson

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Today is the 57th birthday of Ron Pattinson, a brewing historian who writes online at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins. Ron lives in Amsterdam but is obsessed with the British brewery Barclay Perkins, which is what the title of his blog refers to. I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Ron in person, though we’ve corresponded several times. Lew Bryson had a chance to go drinking with Ron a few years ago. Join me in wishing Ron a very happy birthday.

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Ron while drinking with Lew Bryson.

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At Pretty Things 1901: Jim Barnes, Dann Paquette (Pretty Things), Jay Sullivan (Cambridge Brewing) and Ron Pattinson.