All your beer blogging updates in one place

If anybody has been missing Really Simple Beer Syndication, the American “beer blog aggregator”, since it went down apparently never to rise again a couple of months ago, a very nice chap called Pelle Stridh has put together a site called All About Beer which aggregates the feeds of all your favourite beer bloggers from the UK and Ireland in one place, with a few extras tossed onto the pile as well.

Pelle (I’m so glad this is the webternets and not radio, as I have no clue how to pronounce his name) is a Swedish beer fan and runs a similar site in Sweden. Now, out of the great goodness of his Nordic heart, he’s done the same for us here in the British Isles, and I for one will be buying him several pints when (as I hope one day to) I meet him to thank him: there are a couple of British beer bloggers who have automatically updating lists of the latest from other people’s blogs, but neither, understandably, is comprehensive. This is a service the British Isles beer blogging community needed, and now, thanks to a Swede, we have it.

All About Beer currently has more than 20 different beer blogs listed, in order of most recent postings, each with the first 20 to 30 words of the post, which gives a good flavour of what each post is about. The site is neatly laid out, although orange wouldn’t be my choice for the colour of the heads and subheads, there are fuller listings of recent blog titles from Wikio’s top British Isles beer blogs and lists of postings from North America’s top beer bloggers as well, plus news from Camra, RealBeer, Beer Advocate and the New York Times (lovely piece there on the Taybeh brewery in the West Bank which I’m glad to have been directed to – thanks for that, too, Pelle).

Get over there, take a look, add your suggestions, criticisms and comments: Pelle has already tweaked the name because I told him the Beer Nut wouldn’t like being filed under “UK”, he seems a friendly chap willing to take suggestions, and he deserves all the support we can give him.

So what WAS the first purpose-built lager brewery in the UK?

It’s a comment on the public perception of beardy beer buffs that people who know I like pongy ale* frequently look surprised when they discover that I drink lager too. My response, of course, is that there’s plenty of great beer not brewed to traditional British criteria, that often a cold one from the fridge is exactly what I need, and anyway, there is a growing number of British brewers committed to brewing top-quality lager.

So hurrah, there’s now a group dedicated to pushing the message that British-brewed lager isn’t all Stella and Carling, they’re called Lager of the British Isles (LOBI – can’t decide if that’s creakingly bad or rather clever) and their website is here. You can also join them on Facebook, here. Maybe if LOBI lobbies hard enough, fewer people will drop their beerglasses like bystanders in a Bateman cartoon when they see the one the beer buff is holding has a lager in it.

But whoops, the “historical inaccuracy” alarms have gone off: LOBI’s Facebook page claims that “Britain has a long heritage of brewing fine lagers, with the country’s first lager brewery, the Anglo-Bavarian Brewery, open in 1864.” WRONG. A little investigation shows that LOBI has based this claim on, yes, bleedin’ Wikipedia, which has an article on the Anglo-Bavarian showing its usual mixture of inaccuracies, misunderstandings and historical assumptionism. However, one of the reasons I started this blog was to put proper historical details up on the web, and try to counter the mountain of misinformation available to anyone with a PC and an internet connection. So let’s state the facts: the Anglo-Bavarian brewery, despite its name, never brewed lager and it wasn’t Britain’s first lager brewery. And it wasn’t opened in 1864, either.

Continue reading So what WAS the first purpose-built lager brewery in the UK?

Cask beer equals live music, bottled beer equals CDs

A few weeks ago I went to a performance by Wynton Marsalis, whose music I have been buying since the early 1980s. He arrived then as a young trumpeter who could play jazz and classical music with equal genius: I remember listening to his recording of the Hayden Trumpet Concerto in 1983 and feeling that every note he blew was placed in exactly the spot required: not a femtosecond too early or late, too long or too short. At the same time it was Hayden’s music, but played by someone who was aware of everything that had happened after Hayden.

All the work he’s done since, I think, has been while standing on that same platform: technically impeccable, respecting the music’s history, recognising that we listeners come with modern ears. I commend to your own ears Mr Jelly Lord, his CD from 1999 of Jelly Roll Morton tunes first put down by the fellow New Orleans master 75 or so years earlier. It’s properly Morton, but played by people who are aware, and who know that we the audience are aware, of bop and other developments in jazz history in the decades since Morton’s death.

And yet … I came out of the Marsalis concert feeling that I had listened with real enjoyment to musicians who had played flawless improvisational jazz, rooted in the music’s history, though with enough of a flavouring to show this was not merely a reproduction, a tribute band. But I wasn’t blown away. Was that evening much different to listening to Wynton Marsalis on CD? Not a lot.

Seven days later I saw a performance by the Zawose family from Tanzania – and if you don’t have a grin across your face within 45 seconds of starting to watch those ladies, have yourself checked by a doctor: you may be dead. Fantastic, exhilarating, explosive: as a live experience they shove Wynton Marsalis off stage and out the door. I wouldn’t want to buy their CD, though. The Zawose family are an excellent illustration of a great live act that won’t reproduce well on an MP3 player, or similar sound-only recorded music deliverer. Tremendous visually, fantastic enthusiasm, send you home very happy, but paddling about in the shallows musically.

What has this got to do with beer? Only that while I was thinking about the difference between live and recorded music, and how ultimately live music, when it’s good, is unbeatably superior to the best recorded music, because nothing surpasses the enjoyment of being there while it’s happening, it occurred to me that I have similar feelings about cask beer, proper live maturing-in-the-cellar brews, and bottled beer.

Continue reading Cask beer equals live music, bottled beer equals CDs

Note to self: it’s only beer history, must stop getting so upset by other people’s errors

Interesting piece I stumbled across from the Washington Post last week about an “abbey” beer project in the heart of the American capital: not actually brewing beer in an abbey, but a homebrewer’s bid to make beers off-site that use ingredients from the grounds of the 113-year-old Mount St Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery in north-east Washington. But ach! Ach! There in the third paragraph, a repetition of the old canard that “as early as the ninth century, the Abbey of St Gall in Switzerland had three breweries in full operation.”

Nobody else probably gives a sh!te about this, I know, and I shouldn’t be such a nerd, but it’s WRONG and when you get this parsecs-from-the-facts stuff repeated in respected organs such as the Washington Post you end up with utter crap like the following:

“Europe’s first big businesses were three breweries owned by the Monastery of St Gall in Switzerland during the dark ages.”

Who is making this stuff up? What are they reading (or drinking) that makes them draw this kind of utterly ludicrous, unjustified conclusion? This is bollocks on so many different levels (mind, the same press release from last year says in the preceding sentence that “Hildegard Von Bingen, the Abbess of the Convent of Bingen in Northern Germany, is credited with introducing hops to beer around 1067AD,” which is even more wrong, at four gross errors in just 19 words).

Must calm down. Time for another entry on the list of False Ale Quotes: for the real facts about the “three breweries of St Gall abbey” click here.