Category Archives: Festivals

A Current State of Affairs.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. General life things have got in the way and my writing in almost a year has amounted to several half-baked ideas left to fester in the Drafts section. One of them, in fact, was something this post is about, and the events of the past week have riled me enough to actually write something legitimate.

Beer has long been viewed as a boys club, and despite the work and efforts of many, it’s apparently still viewed as nothing but. Every single woman I know has reels of examples of the sexism and discrimination they have faced while working, or simply attempting to order a beer from a bar: from the ongoing war on pump clips, to questions about job ability, to the downright disgusting sexual comments.

Let’s talk about micro-aggressions. While viewed by a a number of people from a certain generation as a nonsensical word thrown around by “liberal snowflakes”, it rather nicely collects all the little niggles into one big basket of misogyny. I constantly see comments about pump clips on social media: the “it’s just a woman in a pin-up style”. The objection isn’t to the artwork of the 1940s. The objection is to the fact that the reason the artwork was created in the first place was for the male gaze, and that 80 years later, that same practice is in place -except not for summoning some kind of wartime patriotism, but for selling beer. That there’s some kind of assumption within that that the only people going to be looking at the draught selection are men, and that vacuous looking women with their tits out will draw them in. This, in turn, reinforces the outdated belief that women are only there for men to look at. I was told this week by a man shaking his head that my company was evidently “just hiring pretty school-leavers to work the bar”, as if this was the sole reason that I could be there. He was the second customer I’d served after returning from a debate about sexism and discrimination at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival.

This is a beer festival run by CAMRA, who are not one of my favourite organisations, largely based upon my experiences from their events. Despite the efforts of the mostly (I’ll come to that) wonderful staff and volunteers to make this one of the more progressive CAMRA-run events, I again had another horrendous run-in. They’d scheduled this particular talk during the Wednesday trade session, which I thought was fairly telling, in that they don’t want to risk upsetting CAMRA’s core base of the anti-“bloody PC brigade” by putting it on during a public session -or maybe because they actually wanted people to turn up. It was something that came up several times during the debate: that the people in attendance were not the problem.

The debate started by the panel introducing themselves with an experience of the discrimination they’d faced, and it was the second panel member, Annabel Smith, who decided to open with, “I’m going to put a bit of a positive spin on this … looking at the financial industry, I think we’re actually quite lucky.” I was gobsmacked. You’ve been invited onto a platform to give your opinion and be part of something to make things better, and you want to put a positive spin on it?! What’s more shocking is that she announced herself as the founder of a company aiming to get more women into beer though I don’t doubt that she’s done a lot for the industry. Comparing the beer industry as “not as bad” as others is completely unhelpful. If you’re in the knowledge that it’s not okay, then you have a voice to be able to change it for the better. And if we can make this one better, others can follow.

Katie Wiles, Senior Communications Manager at CAMRA and one of the debate panellists, said that CAMRA have just put out guidelines stating that it “does not condone any sexist labelling or marketing at its festivals, in its publications or at its competitions” and this is a huge step forward for CAMRA, but it’s still not good enough. Their “Revitalisation Project” which has now been delayed by over a year, indicates that CAMRA as an organisation still want to bicker about keg beer rather than ensure everyone at anything associated with CAMRA feels safe and the environment is free of discrimination, and lo and behold, this is well down on the priority list. Here’s a graph from the results of one of the surveys they put to their members.

camra1

From CAMRA’s Revitalisation Project Member Survey 3 Results Analysis, Slide 24.

 

As the largest single-issue consumer group in the UK, this is where change needs to start. Not from getting Carling to make an advert with women drinking beer in it. Not from making a “beer for women“. It needs to come from the 190,000 members of CAMRA, the biggest single force in beer.

This in itself is a huge thing to tackle. I also attended a debate on the price of beer, which is a subject for a whole other time. After this session ended, a male CAMRA volunteer came up to me to tell me that he completely disagreed on everything I’d said. After some discussion, the conversation turned to sexism, which is when the conversation went further down the drain. After challenging him on why he thought the sexism I faced was okay, he said that the world wasn’t equal and that it never will be -and that he thought that was a good thing, because he doesn’t believe in equality. That I should learn to get on and enjoy life, because any harassment I face should be taken as a compliment, because the men probably just fancy me.

Said ultra-misogynist then came up to me again a while later to apologise if I was upset, but that it wasn’t his fault that we didn’t agree and he didn’t believe in equality. (In all credit to the organisers at MBCF, they were absolutely brilliant in handling it and took a statement from me).

One of the questions asked at the sexism debate was whether we, the audience, thought that the situation had improved over the past 10 years. The above comment, amongst the others I’ve had, coupled with the fact that this time last year I was considering quitting the industry, because of this very issue, made me vote no. But I stayed to fight, and you should too.

I can’t say it better than the wonderful Hannah Davidson can so I’ll leave you with this:

“When someone tells you that something is problematic, don’t argue with them. Don’t tell them that you’ve never experienced it yourself, that it therefore doesn’t exist. That goes for women, LGBTQ people, people of colour. If someone tells you there’s a problem, ask how you can make it better. Amplify it yourself.”

 

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7 days of beer.

The coming week is playing host to a number of beer events (tap takeovers all over the place) that I thought I’d preview briefly here.

Today, Thursday 7th April, sees Siren land at BrewDog Clerkenwell for the next in line of their Tap Takeovers. I am so, very jealous of anyone going to this. Siren are one of the top UK breweries, and the tap list is spectacular. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Siren x Cigar City collab, Caribbean Chocolate Cake (on nitro, no less) is going to be absolutely phenomenal.

Meanwhile, Wylam take over 8 taps at the Brighton Beer Dispensary, proving there’s a whole lot more to Newcastle’s beer scene than Newky Brown. Brews on offer include Little Fluffy Clouds, the Wylam x Mad Hatter collab, a lemon meringue pie beer that I sampled last week; a refreshing session strength IPA with a lovely lemon tang on the finish. Also on tap is the fantastic Jakehead IPA and the luxuriously thick stout, Club of Slaughters. I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to swing by, and if I do, I’ll beeline for the Wylam x Yeastie Boys collab, WxY IPA.

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th April sees the Brighton Tap Takeover. 10 pubs, 10 breweries. My personal highlights: The Mash Tun will be hosting Cloudwater, who are launching their DIPA v3 (hands up, who’s excited), which is surely going to be
mindblowing. Northern Monk have collaborated with their hosts, Hope and Ruin, and brewed a Tuaca and Orange Stout, based on the venue, and probably Brighton’s, favourite shot. Worthy mention to the 822 DIPA they’re launching, too, which I’ll be getting my hands on. Last, but absolutely not least, the new version of Bison’s APA: See Side Citralicious and Two Tribes’ new launch, Supersonic Saison will be over at East Street Tap. I’ll do a little write up afterwards, and I’m sure there’ll be something totally random that I fall in love with. The whole beer list, event schedule and other general information is over here.

I was seriously considering making a trip to Huddersfield, but the good people over at Craft Beer Co. are saving me the hassle by bringing the 4th annual launch of Magic Rock’s Un-human Cannonball Triple IPA to Islington on Wednesday 13th April. Magic Rock consistently turn out some of the best beers around, and this will not be an exception.

Back in Brighton on Thursday 14th April, The Kernel will be bringing their best to Craft Beer Co. Brighton for a tap takeover. I’ve been informed that the full beer list will be released soon, and it’s definitely one to watch out for.

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A late, late review.

I’ve been crazy busy and haven’t had a chance to actually get something fully written and edited, so this is a lot later than I wanted it to be. The beers I’ve chosen to write about weren’t exclusive, so it’s not entirely redundant…

Last, last Thursday saw the opening of the annual Craft 100 festival at Craft Beer Co. Clapham in London. I’ve been a loyal attendee since its inception, so duly went along.

The premise is simple: a varied selection of 100 beers, both cask and keg, from all over the world. The rare or hard to find brews are the ones I home in on usually, but there are always a few (often festival exclusive) from some of the best breweries in the UK. There’s always some kind of food on offer as well, and this year saw the return of the ridiculously good Philly cheesesteaks from the Liberty Cheesesteak Company. I had a half hogie, and went back for a whole one about half an hour later. Eh, sue me. It’s always sunny.

So, to the beer. I’ll mention a couple of what I had, partly because I stopped checking in to Untappd after a while, and without a proper record of them, I probably wouldn’t be able to do them justice.

Unintentionally, although I should’ve known, I went straight in with the strongest (by some margin) beer on offer, with the Evil Twin x Lervig collaboration, Big Ass Money Stout. It’s a 17.5% imperial stout brewed with pizza. Yep. That sentence contains no typos. I don’t think I can better the actual description on Lervig’s site because it’s bloody brilliant, so a direct quote:

This bold 17,5% ABV Imperial stout was aged in two 3000L foeders. We mashed in with frozen pizza, and we dry money’d it to poke fun of modern Norwegian culture. The beer itself has a velvety smoothness easy drinking body despite its huge alcohol content. It’s got some ass, it’s got some stout, and it costs a lot of money.

Food pairings

Cohiba Behike cigars, Iranian Beluga caviar, Kobe beef, Foie gras, Grandiosa microwaveable pizzas.

Malts

Pale malt, Roasted malts.

Hops

Aurora, Chinook, Cascade.

Aroma

Warming chocolate, brandy nose and freshly minted bank notes.

Serve in

Gold chalice, or platinum-plated hand-crafted artisan-inspired crystal flute.

Regardless of what may or may not have gone in it, it’s a wonderfully intense stout to drink. You can smell the alcohol in it, which I don’t think comes through as much in the taste. It’s full bodied, warming, and rich. It’s definitely a sipper, and I enjoyed it. I think this was my personal highlight.

On recommendation, I then went for the Breakfast Sour by High Water Brewing. I love a good sour, and this one was excellent. It comes in at 6.5%, and looks lovely. It’s got wonderful lemon, grapefruit and lychee notes, with a dry finish. Total tart.

I’m not sure whether it was down to the intense flavours of what I’d been drinking, but the Kernel x Jester King collaboration of Farmhouse Table Beer (Tettnanger/Centennial) fell a little flat. I think if I’d started with this 4.3% saison I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more, as it was light and refreshing. Anything by Kernel is going to be good, and I hope to find this again to give another go.

I do regret not going to the Outside Bar a little earlier, as the Clwb Tropicana (the w is a little homage to their Welsh heritage, which I like) by Tiny Rebel went out as I was ordering one. It was the first barrel to finish of them all, and was certainly lauded by those who had sampled it. Unfortunately, it was down as a festival exclusive, but occasionally these things turn up again.

Overall, it was another great CBC, and lovely to see familiar faces.

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The Beaster Weekend.

I’ve been a little busy of late and haven’t seemed to have the time to sit down and properly write about anything. Here’s a little of what I’ve been drinking, and what this long Easter weekend will consist of (lots of beer)…

  • Ginspired IPA – Siren x Magic Rock collab on tap at Bison Beer Crafthouse. Being the first ever gin and tonic beer I’ve ever heard of, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was lovely, but I thought that the gin notes were quite subtle. Maybe that’s just an indication of how I take my G&Ts… Good stuff, though. Highly, highly doubt there would be any left now.
  • Rakau – BBNo also at Bison. Hoppy, bitter, and exactly what you want from an IPA. Excellent.
  • Wheat Purple – Dark Star on tap at the Shakespeare’s Head. Blackberry wheat beer. Sounded promising, even if it was a wheat beer. Turned out to be a rare Dark Star blip. It was like a slightly alcoholic, weak Ribena. Didn’t try it anywhere else, so if someone has had a better experience, please let me know. It was only 4.2%, but I drank it like it was Ribena, and it therefore lasted about 10 minutes. The stout on (Idle Bo by Bartleby’s) was better with a lovely chocolate/burnt coffee taste, but the (famous) sausages and mash were the best thing about the pub. (PS: Shoutout to whomever used to drink my Ginbena (self-explanatory) with me on Fulham FC away days. When in Rome Sunderland.)
  • Craft100 returns to Craft Beer Co. Clapham on Thursday for the duration of the Easter weekend. It’s a handsome beer list, and I will be sampling many of these delights. Making a beeline for: Molotov Cocktail (Simcoe Edition) (DIPA 13%) – Evil Twin. I’m not sure anything could sound more appealing. Orange Haze (Orange IPA 6.4%) – Dugges. Interesting to see how it compares to Beavertown’s Bloody ‘Ell. BA Bearded Lady (Grand Marnier Edition) (Imperial Stout 10.5%) – Magic Rock. Every damn year I try to get to this before it sells out. This year, it will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine. Peated Soul (Scotch Ale 8.4%) – Northern Monk x Soul Rebel. Whisky + beer = win.
  • Bison are celebrating their 1st Birthday this weekend, and are doing so by having the outstandingly gorgeous aforementioned Bloody ‘Ell on tap, and in cans. EXCITED.
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