Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Wee Beefy's beer bites - announcements

Now for the briefest of blog entries....

Events Ahoy!

Cropton beer festival at the New Inn, Cropton,

(near Pickering North Yorkshire)

All being well I shall be attending the above event with Wee Keefy, my 6 foot 9 inch 104 year old ickle brother, and possibly Paddling, who is a person, who I have had to hastily make a new nickname for as had forgotten the one I always used to use for him. The festival is on this weekend with a marquee dispensing hopefully unfrozen real ales ciders and continental bottled beers, plus of course beer on the bar and food inside the undoubtedlyy warmer pub.

Being a bit tapped, there is a significant chance that WK and I or all three of us may be camping. Outside. In a tent. FFS. Seriously, a whole 24 hours of drinking then stumbling out into freezing night air on the moors and being deluded into a sense of toasty warmth by alcohol - what could possibly go wrong?  Well, time and potential medical reports will tell. Either way, if you want to know more, please follow the link below :
New Inn Cropton beer festival 2011

CADS real ale and blues festival 2011

Following on from the success of their event as part of the tramlines festival in July, CADS on Snow Lane (and Smithfields and other nearby back streets), are repeating the bluesy boozy part of the trick again and having a similar range of bands performing, and hopefully a similar range of ales available.

The event is on for one day and tickets are £6.00 in advance available from local pubs and online. There seems to be an emphasis on it being at Snow Lane CADS - which makes me wonder if there may be more than one entrance.  Either way there is food and real ale and 12 hours of entertainment to keep you occupied. See the link below for more details :
Snow Lane CADS December real ale and blues festival 2011

More news to come should I survive camping in nearly December up at Cropton....


Wee Beefy.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Dada for Dee-daa's, new members CAMRA beer crawl, 2 local beer fests and a new Blue Bee brew

Evenin arwhl

    its been a busy 6 days and have learnt lots and seen lots in the world of beer, here are some of the salient details :

Dada for Dee-daa's

With the Dog and Partridge left behind to die by a feckless Pubco, recently the only refreshments to be had on Trippet Lane were in the New Dog, or the Grapes to give it the proper title. This was down to a refurb and significant name change for redoubtable Sheffield boozing institution Trippets, once a wine bar with bands on, then a real ale pub with a little less live entertainment and now....

Well, I should clarify that I made the mistake of reading up on the transformation on the Sheffield Forum before visiting. Not that the Forum is a bad place to gain info and opinion, but it can rather taint ones expectations. Despite this I reckoned I could still manage an honest appraisal and ventured in a couple of times this last week. The outside is changed significantly by its dark grey and black colour scheme, inside the decor is also radically different but the layout is the same. Notable changes are afoot in the furniture, the beer range, and, ultimately, the name. Below is a last lingering look at Trippets from "back in the old days ", i.e about May 2011.

Dada is not, lets be fair, an artistic movement notably connected with Sheffield. Neither is it one that's instantly identifiable or is readily summarised by the average Joe or recognised by a global signature. In essence, the name reflects a movement as undefined and non specific as the decor, and at this early stage, the apparent direction of the venue.

This may not be a bad thing of course. Themes, especially those in licensed or dining premises, are usually soul destroyingly mediocre, sanitised or downright desperate, but are primarily oft repeated ad nauseum so that they lose all semblance of impact or ultimately identity. The "theme" of Dada, as far as that's even what it is, can at least be heralded for being unusual, unlikely to have been yet tried in the UK ( I think there is one in the US of overseas) and in taking a stylistic cause so ambiguous to all but die hard art fanatics, affords itself a freedom that say a Munch or Monet bar would be nakedly and recognisably restricted by. So when you enter and blink in the strange brightness of the left hand room, or rub your eyes uncomfortably at the headache tempting kaleidoscope of posters framing the back room, its probably worth remembering that in the event that this is not a Dada approved thematic statement, it is at least unique to Sheffield, and certainly an entirely new concept for the building and the real ale and continental beers scene.

Because that's the other change of course. There are less cask ales and much much more Thornbridge to choose from. In total there are now 4 real ales, on my two visits 3 Thornbridge offerings plus a Buxton guest, this was the excellent Buxton Pale both times, and the Thornbridge range included Brother Rabbit and Lord Marples. The prices are reasonable, being £2.70 for the guest so thats not bad for the city centre and there is an improved range of continental bottled beers, although, regrettably the pricing policy of the above is a bit Dali absurd rather than say Lowry down to earth.

One major gripe though is the placing of the bank of keg beers on the bar as you enter. No (legally required) price list jumps out to warn you of the keggy costs and only those who have visited before would definitely think to venture round the corner to find the cask ales. The advantage of key-kegs is plain, in that you can maintain an astounding range of Thornbridge products including some I don't think have made it to cask yet, but as many of you will know key-keg beer is about a pound a pint dearer than cask and the lack of clarity on this impedes customer choice.

Overall I think its an exciting, mildly frustrating, puzzle of a venue which, crucially, serves damn good cask beer at sensible prices. I look forward to seeing how Dada evolves, if only to see if they encompass the popular suggested name change to Dee-daa's in honour of its Sheffield location.

Hallamshire House, Commonside.

Being slow off the mark as usual I had contrived to miss the fact that the above venue, run by Thornbridge for Enterprise Inns, had reopened. I popped in late Saturday afternoon for a glim. Outside there was a worrying grey board and grey paintwork and signage which reminded me of Dada but that was really where comparisons end.

Inside the room on the right has lost its pool table and this makes it a great room for a quiet pint. On the left, the snug was quite dark and with a roaring fire going, and nothing appears to ave changed, what with it still being the most sought after seats in the house. Down the corridor the snooker room I am told is unchanged but I did not look in, the major difference seems to be the very high ceillinged back room, now resembling a small beer hall, and sporting a slightly disjointed banquet-cum-Edwardian town house look.

The other principle difference concerns the beer range. Once again you are spoilt for choice if you like Thornbridge, but disappointingly no non Thornbridge guests were available from the range of 8, albeit excellent real ales. The cask is supplemented with a few key-kegs, with the price disparity clearly shown on two beer blackboards. I tried what is unfortunately undoubtedly a rebadge, the Les's Best at 4.0%, and £2.60 a pint. Not having been a regular I don't know what the renowned former landlord would have made of the tipple, but I noted with childish amusement that said out loud it either suggested that same sex female relationships were best, or, that Les himself was the best, which whilst no doubt a deserved compliment, threw open to question Thornbridge's appreciation of their own management! Alas it just means the best bitter that is named after Les.......

Before departing I had time for an expensive (£3.50 a pint, but 6.2%) half of the Everlade porter, which was worryingly easy to quaff for its strength, and the perfect starter to my evening of porterly appreciation with a well known consumer organisation.

CAMRA new members beer crawl.

Its old news but I have not been a Kammrurr member for a long time now, but also worth considering that I support their aims, patronise their festivals (although, I wonder if patronise is correct, since it seems like I am patting the festival on the head and telling it that it would not understand my concerns about beer prices versus ABV); and that a goodly number of my best friends are also members of the campaign. So its against this backdrop that I accepted an invite from Rich at Blue Bee to join him on a tour of several local hostelries, and hopefully taste quite a lot of his delicious new porter brewed in aid of Movember and for the Technophobia organisation.

Hardy souls had started at somewhere before Noon at the Blue Bee brewery for a tour, then I know they had visited the Rutland Arms for lunch, and then a few more pubs, and I was hoping to see them in the Three Cranes on Queen Street at somewhere between 4 and 6PM. Having diverted all the way to Commonside it was surprise enough that I made it for 17.30, but alas they were long gone. So my 3 Cranes visit was a brief one, as I wolfed down an extremely quaffable porter, the Blue Bee Techmophobeer (see Techmophobeer). I did not check the beer's strength at first but assumed that this was about 4%, so easy was it to slake, and the pumpclip of the same that I recently acquired (quite legally mind) confirmed my suspicions about this porter, which went down like velvet and tasted like everything a good porter should.

Alas I had to meet the group a mile or two away at the Gardeners Rest at Neepsend so had no time to linger, but grabbing a bus straight away I had time to pop in the Cask and Welly (or Wellington) at Shalesmoor, for a half of Steel City Brewing "Its better Oop North", an unsurprisingly uncompromising throat punch of hops in an almost warming haze of dry citrus bitterness, with a hint of fruit that tried and failed to provide balance. Not that this was a bad thing taste wise, it was, despite my wording a most enjoyable drink, but I noticed a Little Ale Cart stout on the bar that I would have also tried had I not been on a mission...

The Gardeners Rest was busy when I arrived and I quickly spotted Rich and Kath, who as crawl leaders had to be quizzed about the location of the hundreds of new members I had anticipated seeing. Alas it seemed that 7 hours or more in, we were down to just one, and a gaggle (suggestion for the correct collective noun of CAMRA members welcome)  of stalwart and newer members alike sampling the excellent wares. It goes without saying, that despite the excellent range on offer as always, this occasion warranted a pint of Techmophobeer, which was likewise delicious and well kept, but all too soon we were off again and  headed from here to the tram stop and onto our first pub beer festival.

University Arms Celtic Beer Festival

The above promised a yummy selection of Welsh Scottish and Irish beers to tempt the curious drinker, and did not disappoint, despite the teasing details in the programme of food until 20.00, which was clearly not available when we arrived prior to that deadline. The Purple Moose beers were obviously very popular as they had all disappeared along with a smattering of most of the others, leaving four on stillage in the conservatory and 6 on the bar. Of the range available I tried Strathven Old Mortality, packed with a little too much Scottish malt for me but enjoyable if tired, Gertie Sweet New World Pale (which, with the greatest respect, seemed a misnomer owing to a lack of pale colour or hopiness), Tryst Cannamore which was a very refreshing Scottish hoppy ale, Vale of Glamorgan Cwrw Dewi, an ale about which through no fault of the brewer I remember precisely nothing, and Otley O7 Weissen, which was essentally Rich's choice, but I still had a taste and it was very palatable. We had a goodly stop here but eventually had to move on elsewhere, which was a shame considering i had failed to attend any of the other days of the festival.

Common Room beer festival

Next we headed down through West One and onto Devonshire Street for more casks. On my first visit to the most packed pub on Black Friday 2010 I was met with a bar with four handpumps with the clips turned round, but a whole stillage of casks awaiting me at the end of the room. Despite seeming like the most unlikely venue for a beer festival, this was also our chosen food stop, to help us soak up some of the days excess. We also of course took the opportunity to sample some beers - I had a pint of Blue Bee Nectar Pale (which was also not particularly pale, something Rich attributed to late season malts turning slightly darker)  as well as a swift half of Autumn fruits, which, due to some minor addlement on my part was either from Steel City Brewing, or Sheffield Brewing Co. I really couldn't tell you which! It was an enjoyable drink though.

Beehive beer behaviours

My final stop on the crawl, and possibly that of the whole group, was the Beehive on West Street. I had reservations about the suitability of such a haunt on a Saturday night after an England match but to be fair it wasn't overwhelmingly busy, and there was a good choice of beers - almost inevitably, I finished up enjoying a pint of Techmophobeer, which I drank slowly and appreciatively from a handled beer mug, which is a method of holding beer for drinking which is starting to be more common than straight pints in some venues. According to my photos, much revelry was had, and I left at gone 22.00 for a (not actually my) last one in Harrisons, which was Bradfield Farmers Blonde. Below is a photograph to illustrate the depth of our bibulous badinage, and is of myself and a gentleman who I am assured came for the whole day out, and despite not being able to remember his name, was undoubtedly a harmless CAMRA member as opposed to an opportunistic serial killer of drunks.  Modesty prevents me from identifying which one is myself.....

After visiting the 1854, I had an awkward half (lone drinker at gone 23.00 in Dada = not cool ) of Buxton Pale on Trippet lane. I then utilised the fab new night bus service to get home, thus saving me a good 6 or 7 quid in the process, and rounding off an excellent evening of beer tasting travel and socialising.

More beer news as it comes, and who knows, I may even face down the demon of writing up my trips away! Meanwhile stay thirsty and drink real ale wherever you find it.

Wee Beefy.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Wee Beefy's beer bites, of beer and pubs, pubs and grub, and great music and beers.

Oh aaarh

    news tonight of a number of local haunts selling real ales and a few other things to tempt punters.

Old House.

A recent visit saw some excellent beers, looks like Moonshine, Kelham Easy Rider, Flowers (?!?) IPA, and Bradfield stout are regulars, and this time the guest was the Two Roses brewery First Edition IPA, (see Two roses brewery beers ) a sumptuous dry hoppy delight which warranted a couple of pints in our short visit. This follows a pattern in recent months of some unusual beers cropping up at this popular and often eclectic venue.

Shakespeares, Rattle and Roll (sorry, couldn't find a suitable "attle" to continue the theme")...

On Friday 4th November it was Jake's 40th and the Kingfisher Blue gig at Shakespeares on Gibraltar Street. Upstairs in the Bards bar there is alas still no signs of the bar of the name being open, but there was a polished presentation of excellent Kingfisher Blue tracks from their 15 year touring career. Never mind that, there were also inevitable excellent beers on the bar.

Downstairs (for it is there) they had some interesting beer choices and I plumped to start with Deception, a reliable pint and only £2.10 per 568ml, whilst Wee Keefy ventured into Cains bonfire Toffee (not to my taste but it did what it said on the clip, and some less hoppy beer producer which may have involved the word barrister. Myself, I followed with a couple of pints of Summer Wine brewery Whitewater IPA, and their Coffee Stout. Ultimately, the worst and most disturbing beer of the night was the Landlord's Choice/Landlords friend Chip, an unfeasibly sweet weird amalgam of sharp malt and sugary nonsense which was possibly the worst pint of not off beer I had ever tasted - thankfully that was keefy's choice!

All in all it was a fantastic night showcasing the excellent upstairs venue and topped off with a pint of Deception at Harrisons 1854. Good times all round.

Harrisons 1854

More news on the beer choice merrygoround, after a, I cannot confirm, but suspect, disastrous trial of Sheffield brewing Co Blanco Blonde. The 3rd beer pump role has for the time being been taken by Bradfield Brewery, not sure which one of their wares but suspect it was their Blonde, given that the beer had run out by the time of my arrival. Lets hope this does well, and that they may be tempted into a reckless foray into one of the other Bradfield portfolio, such as the Yorkshire Farmer or their excellent Pale Ale.

Arkwirght Arms, Sutton Cum Duckmanton Chesterfield.

Wee Fatha has aged officially in the last week so we took him out for a meal and some excellent beer at the above. Despite being a drizzly November Monday the pub was steady, with a good turnover of customers in the 2 hours we were there, and still offering a range of about 9 beers.  We started on Dark Star Hophead, which had to be changed, but was well worth the wait, and Church End Goats Milk which WF liked but I didn't care for. Next I had the Titanic Plum Porter which was exactly as named but lacked a little balancing bitterness, whilst WK had Whim Arbor Light and WF Prospect Silver Tally. My third was the excellent Brew Dog Trashy Blonde, whilst the others had another Hophead and a Muirhead brewery Pirates Gold, before I finished on a half of Durham Vanilla Waltz which was a very easy drinking 5% ale with a creamy malt taste.

The food was enjoyable, even if my chilli was a little sweet and perhaps shy of some more rice, and was very well priced. Overall this was a rare and enjoyable trip out to a fantastic pub.

Derbyshire Wanderings

My last dispatch comes from the wilds of Derbyshire and a trip out on the 6th November. Me and Davefromtshop went for a yomp starting in Litton, alas before the pub opened, then down to Litton Mill then along Cressbrook Dale and through Cressbrook then up the hill on the arduous track to Brushfield. Here our plans went awry slightly as we listened to half thought advice from other walkers and did not double check the map. Suffice to say we ended up back down the hill on the A6 having already toiled up one side of the incline.

Fifty strenuous sweaty minutes later than planned we arrived in Taddington at the Queens Arms, home now to the local shop, and focused on its food. In the past it was a redoubtable ale venue but changes have occurred since and now its perhaps not so much a nailed on source of beer. Prior to visiting I checked their website and the food and drinks link that hinted at real ales had only the food menu on. On arrival this was played out for real with the whole lounge full of diners. Mind you, in these troubled times this is not a bad sight, even if the picture was completed with the fire ablaze, increasing our thirstiness after dragging our considerable forms all the way from the valley bottom.

The Peak Ales Bakewell bitter alas ran out whilst we waited, and we plumped for the Delicious and refreshing Oakwell Barnsley bitter, from South Yorkshire's most secretive brewery, that being the only beer remaining. Mind you, although its not abnormal these days, one felt it had to hit the mark at £3.10 for a 3.8% ale. We enjoyed this in the garden whilst formulating a plan to catch up with our wayward timetable.

In the end, the route into Presitcliffe and down a precipitous muddy slope with cliffs on one side, coupled with sudden plunging temperatures and my concerns about my susceptible dodgy feet, meant that on arriving on the Monsal trail at 14.50, despite having time enough to reach Great Longstone in daylight, we opted to sensibly negotiate the slippery rock strewn slope to Millers Dale and the Anglers Rest.

On this visit the recent Sheffield District pub of the year improved upon its usual more than excellent rosta of beers with Adnams as its regular, and three Locale guests, Storm Silk of Amnesia, which is £2.70 for a 4.7% beer (all beers are the same price), Wincle Waller (of the dry stone variety), and Spire Brassed Off. So engaging was this bibulous team sheet we stayed for several pints before reluctantly heading to the bus stop.

With timetables and connections ruling out trips to any of the Longstone or Monsal pubs, we decided to stop off in Tideswell as I had never been in the Horse and Jockey and it was allegedly quite good.

Passing on the bus it was emblazoned with lights, however, on reaching the pub the door was locked, and after catching the eye of someone inside we were told it didn't open on that day as they were changing ownership! FML! So now (not even attempting consideration of the folly of paying to halogenically light ones closed business)  we had an hour and a half to fill in but only two pubs to go at, so, after a fortuitous stop at a late closing shop for pork pies, we headed up to the Star.

Its 6 years since I was in, and back then it was a thriving local with an excellent range of beers and take away pizzas (I think, unless am confusing it with somewhere else like the George at Youlgreave!). Now, at 17.20 on a Sunday, we replaced the customer at the bar and in doing so added 33% to the tally of patrons. There was now 3 of us in the pub, plus staff.

On the bar was Marstons Bitter and Jennings Cumberland, and one other customer to enjoy them. The bitter was very palatable, but, given that it seems the George was also closed for refurbishment, (and a lack of info about the other pub or club at the other end of the village), it seems desperately bad that the Star could attract so few customers. There is nothing wrong with the pub it has a traditional multi roomed layout, or at least, very distinct separated areas, and real ale and a central location. Yet the stark reality was that in the face of no competition the pub could barely turn over a trade. This does not bode well for the future, even if, as was privately mooted by the licensee, the late evening trade would be brisk.

Our escape was earlier than planned then and we were soon on the 173 to Bakewell, frustratingly highlighting that we could have got off for 40 minutes at the Red Lion at Litton. Once in Bakewell, we headed straight for the Peacock. They still served an impressive portfolio of four real ales from Peak Ales brewery, of which I had the rather rich Chatsworth Gold and the more refreshing Bakewell Best, whilst Dave opted for the Swift Nick and a rather optimistically  priced double whisky.

Once back in Sheffield we had time for a last one in the Sheffield Tap, Dave enjoying a rather prescient titled Brodies Prime, and myself relying on my favoured Thornbridge fail safe the Lord Marples.

Though its a shame we didn't manage the planned route we still got to visit some excellent venues and sample some terrific real ale, most notably at the Anglers Rest, but all of the pubs visited sold real ale and in general the choice was very good.

Keep drinking, and keep asking....

Wee Beefy.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Alcohol strength mistaken for root of sociatel breakdown by fools, retail behemoth appears in Sheffield.

Good Heavening,

    tonight we shall be steering away from valuable yet perhaps overly prevalent gen about pubs and what they sell and explore, albeit briefly, the complex machinations and myriad complexities of how the UK Lib-con coalition government know nothing, and are incapable of acting sensibly in respect of, beer.

Ignorant meddling - an explanation you may have missed

The Government has noticed that lots of people get very drunk. Thanks for that Sherlock. Apparently, the coalition (for it is they) have concluded, using guesswork and a blatant lack of intelligence and understanding, that stabbing wildly in the dark to find the cause is an acceptable and indefatigable means of identifying the root causes of alcohol abuse, and having pinned the tail on the donkey, have decided its super strength beer.

Initially, rational people might say yeah, that's a good point actually, all those drunks and street mentals supping Skol Super and Carlsberg Special Brew. And that is broadly correct. However, both the aforementioned brews start at upwards of 9% and are brewed by giant multinational conglomerates, with sites and revenue streams around the world, and the nounce and profit margins to, potentially at least, find legal but immoral ways to avoid paying UK tax, which whilst not exempting them from this ill thought through duty, does of course allow them to offset inconvenient things like this in the UK.

So, given the above, (and not forgetting the desire of alcohol abusers, the problem drinkers targeted but entirely circumnavigated in this unseemly quiche of shortsighted measures, to drink milm like Special brew at all costs), what exactly are Noddy and Big Ears hoping to achieve in Toytown?

Well, as hinted at by the children's TV reference, an inexcusable and frankly retarded "tar everyone with the same brush and punish anyone who likes quality higher alcohol beers from time to time". What an epic failure this will be.

Problem drinkers, a euphemistic semantic umbrella for everyone nobody making the decisions wants to think about, are, I am strongly convinced, not connoisseurs. Rarely, if ever, do they seek out a £5.00 750ml corked Chimay Blue Reserve, or a similarly priced Durham Brewery Temptation, or a Brew Dog Hardcore IPA, or a Lees Harvest Ale. These are premium products, at a premium price. If you seriously want to get shitfaced, the specialist beer importer or well stocked real ale off license is not your first stop. Yet, in la la land, the MP's have erroneously sought tp punish persons wishing to enjoy these and other bibulous treats. Why - because they are ignoramuses, making knee jerk policy on the basis of information which lacks clarity and veracity.

And the folly does not stop there. HSBD (High Strength Beer Duty) is just that - it targets beer only. So what part of the binge drinking culture have the Con-dems looked at to ascertain that quality, craft (or independently brewed, if you like) beers are the source of our drink sodden demise? Is it, perchance, precisely none? I suspect it is. Because of course, no-one drinks super strength cider to get mullered. Or cheap sherry. Or own label spirits. No, of course not. Except they do.

So in essence, what we have is a duty levied on taste, sophistication and intelligent consumer decision making based on knowlegde and pallette. The HMRC (for it is they whom implement the misguided edict) say "High Strength Beer Duty (HSBD) will be due on beer which exceeds 7.5% alcohol by volume (abv) and is produced in or imported into the UK. HSBD will be paid in addition to the existing general beer duty and is set at 25% of the general beer duty rate. At the time of introduction this is £4.64 per hectolitre % of alcohol in the beer.

Small Brewer's Relief is still available on the general beer duty element of beer above 7.5% abv. However, it does not apply to HSBD and no further relief will be applied to the reduced rate for lower strength beers.

Strangely, a search of the tinterweb offers no reason provided by the Government for this idiotic departure from logic. It is, more prevalently, the opinions of those reporting the fallacy that have mooted the reasons behind the change. So why so reticent? Is the Government and HMRC too embarrassed to argue its case? I only wish we knew, but if not, they damn well should be. This measure must have, nay could only have, been instigated out of spite and ignorance.

The End of All Sense?

But wait! There is surely a counter measure to appease unhappy folks? Why yes! A reduction in duty on despairingly weak beers! Hurrah! Its WW2 all over again - quoth HMRC "From the same date, a reduced rate of general beer duty for lower strength beer will apply to beers exceeding 1.2% abv but not exceeding 2.8% abv, and which are produced in or imported into the UK. The new reduced rate is set at 50% of the general beer duty rate, which at the time of introduction is £9.29 per hectolitre % of alcohol in the beer".

Well fuck me sideways kids. That is certainly aimed at the massive market percentage of sub 3% beers that, erm, don't exist.  There are some good low gravity beers, but immeasurably few below 3%. You could paint this as a challenge for brewers, but its not because the reasoning applied is palpably WRONG!

So how to make the reduced beer duty on products that don't exist work? Well  aside from reinventing a world where its 1940 again, we could look to the supermarkets to plough a furrow for failed logic. After all, they sell most of the chemically enriched uber crap at 11% that's quaffed at home before people go out, so they must be leading the way on pricing? Surely? See part 2 of my Review below for the Answer....

ASDA beer pricing farce unwrapped!!!

Yep, good ole Asda is leading the way once again in promoting cheap strong alcohol for binge drinkers, and making it more expensive to drink weaker beers, in line with upcoming Government legislation, erm, well, not.

On a recent visit, my regular tipple Brewdog IPA (which is 5.6%, and I buy it for the (albeit reduced) hops and bitter flavour ) is back to £1.46 a bottle, or 3 for £4.00. So, this makes it per ml the cheapest beer on sale in the UK beers section, and significantly more expensive than the two lonely low gravity offerings, which are Brakspear bitter at 3.5% and Manns Brown Ale at 2.1%. What foresight!

Clearly they saw the duty changes coming so have ensured that its financially unrewarding to drink low gravity beer but cheaper to get smashed quicker on the loopy stuff. When the changes bite, customers will rush headlong into the welcoming arms of Daddy Asda to crave their low gravity offerings, which will be cheaper to produce, but whose current over inflated price can be harmlessly reduced to ape the magnanimous actions of the purse string tighteners in HM Treasury. And if they don't? Well, happy days! The strong beer the customers crave is already heading for being too expensive for them to afford so they'll either cut back, and thus generate less revenue for HMRC (or buy from abroad thus sidestepping import taxation and utilising laughably generous allowances and loopholes like coach drivers using tee-totaller passengers combined allowances) or move to cider or spirits! Either way no memberof the public wins! Yet (and) neither do HMRC! Such philanthropy oh American owned friend.....

So here's to a stupid idea, neither justified by its proponents or its deriders, set to make enjoying quality UK and overseas strong beer a much less affordable luxury, for the good of nobody.

Retail Behemoth rises up in Sheffield

Hot on the heels of news about shortsighted government meddling in areas it clearly fails to understand, the new Tesco Extraneous has opened on Saville Street, bringing with it a maelstrom of greedy brand led neediness, and, an interesting range of frol.

Notwithstanding that Tesco, the anti competitive tax evasive giant that strangles fair trading out of every hectare it poisons, is nowhere near as good a destination for beer choice as say, the Archer Road beer Stop. It is, however, on my way home, and brand new, so i felt a single, if final, visit was required to assess the wares on offer.

Overall a fairly humdrum selection of British beer was offered, supplemented by an achingly conservative rosta of world and continental offerings that would make beer ignoramus's Morrisons feel proud of their core range, the UK lines resembling the decisions of a trigger happy Sainsbury's beer orderer, with a few notable highlights in the form of some Scottish Micro offerings, for instance brew Dog. I chose their Alice Porter, which is a sublime dark concoction, and a Tesco branded Double IPA which turned out in all but name to be Brewdog Hardcore IPA.

This is a welcome, and dare I say it (for now) affordable journey into hop meltdown. Almost brown in colour, like a dark caramel, this monstrous assault on the taste buds and olfactory senses packs in huge bitterness balanced with warm tingly citrus bitter-sweetness and hints of marmalade (sorry, its the quince again, i can;'t seem to separate it from hoppy beers!). Not a beer to be rushed, you can appreciate the flavours best by serving it cold but drinking it slowly enough to allow the drink to warm and release further biting fuzzy tangs of hop and belligerent bitter notes.

The appearance of Alice Porter and Glencoe Oat Malt Stout (not BrewDog) is a welcome addition to the Sheffield bottled beer scene, what with ASda, Sainsbuys' and Morrisons steadfastly failing to ignite more than begrudging interest in their Greedy King Wells/Youngs slew of identical ale products. However, how ironic this bounty is! Since, all too soon, we will be punished for our adventures in taste - as the Government wishes.

This means that anyone not wanting to drink Old Speckled Hen and Spitfire til it bubbles through their eyeballs will feel the impact, whether it be in the form of direct price increase on classic beers like Old Tom, or through brewers offsetting the onerous impact with moderate rises across their portfolio.

In short - HSBD - a baseless shot in the dark resulting in a shot to the head for consumer choice and brewing innovation. Shame on the Government.

Wee Beefy.