For as long as I can remember there has been debate about the smallest pub in the UK. For long periods, the Nutshell, in my home town of Bury St Edmunds has be proclaimed as that smallest pub. The other contender, the pretender to the throne, is the Smiths Arms in Dorset. The Nutshell is a timber framed Grade II listed building. The building itself dates back to the 1670's, previously being a newspaper shop, an ironmongers and a greengrocers before becoming a beerhouse in 1873.
The Nutshell is a bit like the Tardis, it appears larger on the inside than the outside. The interior decor is quite something as well. Coins of all nations and cigarette cards adorn the walls. Paper money is stuck to the ceiling, also suspended from the ceiling is a mummified cat. The cat was found behind a wall in a house in a nearby street. In times gone by cats were apparently walled up in houses, when they were built, to ward off evil spirits. You would need quite a number of visits to take in all therein.
Weighing in at 15ft x 7ft, it seats about ten people with room for about another half a dozen standing. After this it becomes all very uncomfortable, or cosy, depending on your point of view. This fine establishment, owned by Greene King, is currently run by Martin, a Goth/Biker type heavily into SciFi, and serving a mean pint of IPA. If you're ever passing through Bury St Edmunds it's on the list of must visit places (along with the Abbey Ruins).
I have had Smithwick's on pushed CO2 tap and think of it as that classic dreary keg ale Dave Line was warning about in the 1970s. In Chapter 11 of Pete Brown's 2003 book Man Walks into a Pub, entitled "Kegs, Casks and the Decline of Bitter" we learn what a kegged beer really is. It is not pretty:
Keg bitter is much more straight forward [than cask-conditioned]. It is filtered, pasturized and chilled, then sealed in a container and pumped up with carbon dioxide to make it more stable and consistent, and to prolong its life, so it stays in drinkable condition for months rather than days. Rather than yeast, it is the added carbondioxide that gives the beer its sparkel, the same as in fizzy pop or carbonated water. It is the stuff you see coming out of most pums on the bar. The keg is pressurized and gas is pumped into it to force the beer up the pipes. Keg bitter is, essentially, no diferent than a supermarket four-pack save for the size of the can.On tap, this fizzy pop of an ale is somewhat sweet, somewhat brown water. I have not had that many and many at all in recent years so I speak from recollection. But filtering removes tasty little particles of real stuff and pasturizing gives it that slightly parboiled feel. Without the yeast a brew like this is something like beer that never quite was.
So it is with some lack of a thrill that I approach the opening of the bottle I have yet to open, having written all of the above. It pours a big foamy head which resolves into large collapsing bubbles rather than a head. The first taste is soft of butterscotch with a dirty bitter edge. Aroma Dupontesque. A cloying taste is left in the mouth. That is about it. It is hard to imagine that 89% of advocatonians give this a thumbs up. It is also hard to imagine that this was made by Guinness.
500 ml bottle at the LCBO for somewhere between 2 and three bucks CND. Buy a Old Speckled Hen instead. If you want an Irish Red, find some Garrison Irish Red Ale from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I have received a hat from Russia from John and electronica CDs from Electron and now I have received the gift of chutney, savory jam for those not in the know. From the Ale-Fan under his own shop's private label, beer2go. Just dandy with cheddar, an English pale ale and some of Fred's Bread's finest. Treats are good.
I bought the May 2005 issue of All About Beer, published for 25 yeas now out of North Carolina. The picture shown is of an earlier issues as the magazine's web site has not caught up to its current newstand issue. I seem to buy an issue every year or so which is a fair comment on my regard for it. It is an odd mix of ads for imports and reviews of micros with a nod to the macros in both the ads and reviews. It is unfortunately "authoritative" in the sense that a lot of grey haired guys who make money as beer consultants write columns for it. These are guys whose books I have read - and argued with in my mind - as well as Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing whose work I actually enjoy pretty much unreservedly. In this issue's "Letter from the Editor" we are invited to give the magazine our feedback in respose to the return of the publisher to full duty:
Daniel stirs things up wherever he goes, and All About Beer will be no exception. Over the next few issues, look for his passion for the best in beer to spill over these pages. You'll see the magazine move in some new directions. If you feel strongly about your magazine, pick up the phone: here's a publisher who wants to know what you want from All About Beer.Here are some of the things I would suggest without spending on the long distance:
- Ditch some of the "beer gurus." I was a little less than pleased to read a tedious reprint of a 1999 Michael Jackson article on hangovers, especially when it is written mainly about spirits rather than beer. Likewise a column on tasting chocolate and beer in Tokyo (I'll be sure to follow up those helpful hints) in an issue with a long article on beer and chocolate is not particularly good editorial selection. These writers do not in themselves have much to add to the beer fan's understanding after a few experiences with them - their repetoire of reusable adjectives are often quickly spent. A quite embarassing example of this is at page 48 the monthly section called "Beer Talk: World Beers Reviewed" in which plummy banal descriptions are used in the tasting notes such as "picture-perfect pour" or "pours like silk feels" or "the beer world's answer to an Australian syrah?" These are practically meaningless. Charlie Papazian, promoter of homebrewing and self, is the worst offender. Again, Garrett Oliver is the best for sticking to the relevant - words that describe flavour and aroma as well as food partnering.
- Be current. I wrote a review of Man Walks Into Pub in July 2003. Page 58 in a May 2005 issue is a wee bit tardy. Similarly, most stories in the "What's Brewing" section of short news items have already been posted on beer blogs - and they were posted there when you first read them, two months ago.
- Get more focused on the USA. It is too bad that such a large part of the advertising in the magazine, especially up front, is paid for by importing wholesalers rather than micros but that revenue interest does not mean that the readership is interested in yet another central European pilsner. Only a handful of readers will ever follow experiences in Japan or Poland featured in columns. Get into the field. The best of 2004 features too many brews from the same brewers. Very unlikely and it makes me want to cross-reference the ads. That Ommegang is the only New York State brewer represented in either the article on the top beers of 2004 (twice) or the one on 2005 Stouts and Porters (zero) is suspicious as well, the later tainted by its odd "85-89 points mean silver" form of scoring.
- Be intelligent. I can get most information in the magazine on the internet. But the article on US "malt liquor" was extremely well done and a topic I had not read much about before. Likewise, the trade focused revival of canning by smaller brewers was interesting and would likely cause me now to consider buying something interesting in a can if I saw it. Also, Roger Protz's article on changes at Grolsch in the Netherlands was specific and well written, despite the bad HTML that did not get picked up - ì and î appearing around the word "neighbour" in the middle column. A petty thing but compare it to the internet: I paid 5.99 CND for this specific slice of media. That is 15% of a month's total highspeed internet bill.
Here is one with a good name - Pfiff! Well written with a tendency towards Belgians.
Three reporters based in China and I am the guy posting this story on the use of beer revenues to support the questionable content in Japanese schoolbooks:
The news released by media report about Japan's new history textbook compilation committee, which is financially supported by Asahi Beer and other Japanese large enterprises, tampered with the history of Japanese troops' aggression against China. The news has aroused the concerns of the common people in Jilin Province in the past two days. Many readers have given phone calls to People's Daily, expressing their indignations against the practice of these enterprises. This reporter, Xu Depeng has learned from some supermarkets, and Japanese and South Korean restaurants in Changchun City of Jilin Province that affected by the news report, the sales volume of Asahi Beer began a downturn from yesterday.China is voting with its yuan...or renminbi.
I was asked the other day what I thought of Saranac beer by the Matt Brewing Company of Utica New York, a small regional or big micro which has survived a number of cats lives. When I pop over the river and go shopping in the USA, I am stunned that shopkeepers know nothing of Middle Ages brewing just an hour down I-81 but they have all sorts of Saranac amongst the Bud the Coors and, horrors, the Labatts Blue. In fact, I have to go to Hannifords, a New England grocery chain to fine either Lake Placid '49er or Ubu Ale or even the local Sackets Harbour 1812. So, rightly or wrongly, I am a little sour with Saranac as its availability tells me something I do not want to hear - that the market is access controlled through the local wholesale distributors. That is maybe not the wholesaling distributors' fault. Other brewers may just not sell to them. But given one of the USA's biggest army bases is near by, the idea that all you can get is the mass producers and a few locals grates.
None of this is the fault of those who brewing the beer. Last spring or summer I brought a mixed 12-pack which had quite a good selection of their brews. For me the problem was their use of metallic German hops in all but one of their brews. It was also a heavily lager focused selection, and German-style lagers are simply not my favorite thing. That being said, the IPA really stood out as a tribute to hops. It is highly grapefruity but also has green and twig - making me think there is Cascade, Goldings and Fuggles all in the brew. The brewer says it is all achieved with Cascade which is something of a tribute in itself given all the levels of flavour they have gotten into this green labeled bottle. The beer it reminds me of is actually Sgt. Major's IPA from the Scotch Irish Brewing Co. of Fitzroy Harbour, Ontario. Both are fairly light bodied for an IPA and celebrate the complex combination of hops that can be made. I would love to do a side by side which may be possible for next weekend if I can keep my hands off the two bottles of this brew I have left. Interesting to note that Saranac IPA is a lighter USA IPA at 5.8% while at 5.5% the Sgt. Major's is touted as one of Canada's strongest and biggest IPAs. Here is what the beer advocated say of this ale.
Here is a odd bit of local bureaucracy from Portland Tennessee:
This action would require an ordinance change involving two readings and a public hearing. At issue is whether the beverage board acted illegally when they granted a permit to D & B Enterprises, a new market located on College Street, even though the distances from the nearest churches was under the 1,000 foot requirement.I trust these churches are against bridal showers as they were originally bride ale showers.
The Board maintains that they made their decision based on some distance violations in the past. According to the Tennessee Code Annotated, once the established distance ordinance has been violated, it cannot be used again as a basis to grant a permit. However, the beverage board had been warned prior to their meeting by City Attorney David Amonette in a letter, not to issue the permit until the distance issue was resolved.
Several local churches have become involved in the controversy and some have considered litigation. David Andrews, pastor of Emanuel Missionary Baptist Church, says their conference is definitely going to pursue the issue if the city council doesn't act in time to make changes. "Our church falls within the 1,000 foot boundary and I don't understand why the Board issued the permit knowing they had done wrong," Andrews said.