OTLEY PUB CLUB: AUGUST MEETING
THIS MONTH’S MEETING, Thursday, 2nd of August
Yes, that’s right, you didn’t read it wrong and I didn’t make a mistake in typing it. THURsday. AGAIN! So whatever happened to the idea of moving the meetings to Wednesday? Well, you do know the 1st of August is Yorkshire Day, right? [How could you forget when we’ve been banging on about our re-naming project for months?] So yet again we decided to postpone the meeting for a day – this time so we could go to meet Hannah Cockroft at The Junction (exact time not yet confirmed) and have our photos taken with Sean Bean at The Fleece. [Yes, really – more of that later!]
Anyway, whatever the excuse, the meeting’s back on a Thursday night – the 2nd of August, at all the usual times – in The Junction [19:15 meeting, followed by social chat]; The Otley Tavern [20:45]; and The Otley Tap House [21:30 onwards].
DR TOM’S ADVICE WILL DO FOR ME!
Once again I have to thank one of our members for sharing something – the obituary of Dr Thomas Stuttaford in the August edition of ‘The Oldie’ magazine. Can’t link or copy, because it’s a subscription magazine, but basically the late Dr Tom was their medical columnist for a quarter of a century. When he first qualified as a doctor, he wondered why farmers in his rural Norfolk practice didn’t seem to suffer from heart attacks or strokes as much as some other populations. They all had some kind of daily exercise, many took aspirin for arthritis – and very few were teetotallers!
This discovery led to his championing of the cardioprotective effects of alcohol, which wasn’t vindicated until 1991, when Oxford epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll showed that, compared with occasional or non-drinkers, those consuming 4 glasses of wine a day – or its equivalent in beer and spirits – had a longer life expectancy. [Mind you, in 2002 Sir Richard also discovered that every alcoholic drink consumed daily by women increased their risk of breast cancer by 6%, so maybe it’s only good news for farmers!] In 1997 Dr Tom had a book published called ‘To Your Good Health: The Wise Drinker’s Guide’ in which he sets out a balanced view on drinking and health, which concludes that taken in moderation alcohol is good for you. And you can buy the paperback on Amazon, from just 1p! “Moderate drinkers can expect a happier and longer life”, he said – and this particularly applies to ‘oldies’: “In no age group is the social drink more important; a glass of wine does more good than a whole packet of antidepressants!”
I know I said some time ago that I would give up on the “Is alcohol good, or bad, for you?” argument, but for this oldie at least, a glass or two of beer makes this a wonderful world! “To your good health!”
WHO’D BE A FARMER?
I always seem to be saying how bad times can be for farmers – and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Despite the rain over the weekend, farmers could still be in trouble if we see a mainly dry autumn and winter follow this summer. For some, it’s probably already too late to salvage any sort of profit from this year’s crops – fruit and vegetables especially, but cereals as well. There are still concerns about a shortage of water for irrigation and an increased risk of potentially ruinous crop fires. As for those with livestock, there are reports of a shortage of forage which is forcing farmers to break into winter fodder supplies already.
This article in The Guardian describes a drought summit coming up on Wednesday, when representatives from the farmers’ union the NFU will meet officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Rural Payments Agency and several farming charities. And it’s not just the weather that’s a threat to farming livelihoods. I don’t think I’ve mentioned Brexit for a while [unless it was in the same breath as Wetherspoons!] but it can’t be ignored. Nick von Westenholz, the NFU’s director for Brexit said “The idea that the EU and the UK might not come to some sort of agreement is really, really worrying for a host of reasons,”
Of particular concern is the potential shortage of agricultural labour. “We rely on a lot of EU workers to pick our fruit and vegetables,” Westenholz said. “If there is a no-deal scenario and freedom of movement ends in March 2019 with no contingency plans in place, where is industry going to get those workers from?” In the event of no deal, some predict that the UK could be forced to source more food from outside the EU. “The government might have to drop food safety controls to ensure stuff comes in smoothly,” Westenholz said. “You’d be concerned if that was the case. Those safety controls are there for a reason.”
And I was going to finish up with a joke relating back to the Dr Tom article above. But I don’t think you can overstate the seriousness of the UK’s farming industry and food situation at the moment, so I decided any humour is more appropriate elsewhere!
HOP-FREE BEER, ANYONE?
You might think that’s a really strange question, when I’ve written once or twice over the last few months about how the range of new and individual hop varieties has made the beer market explode. But that experience in itself is making brewers look at other options for producing new drinks to tempt the inquisitive imbiber. This article from atlasobscura.com suggests that one option that some brewers are becoming increasingly aware of is to resurrect what is known as ‘gruit beer’. This is any beer where the hops are substituted by ‘botanicals’ [or, you know – plants]. Apparently [I haven’t had any as far as I know] this adds a ‘piquancy and sweetness’ to the beer, rather than the bitterness usually associated with hops.
It’s said that the 1516 German beer purity law that restricted beer formulas to hops, water, and barley put an end to this style of beer that was popular across parts of Europe before then. There’s no doubt that gin, with its endless variety of ‘botanicals’, has become ridiculously popular over the last couple of years, and we all know how the hipster ‘craft’ beer generation always seem to be looking out for the next big thing. So as long as these gruit ales come in at about 6 or 7% and cost no less than £5 or £6 a pint, I guess they might be on to a winner! [And you just know I’ve got to go out and find some now to taste for myself, don’t you?]
ALCOHOL-FREE BEER, ANYONE
This is another area that’s been discussed in these newsletters before, but this year marks a step change for AFBs. The Great British Beer Festival run by CAMRA, from 7 – 11 August, is offering an alcohol-free beer range for the very first time from the Netherlands-based Braxzz Brewery. The Amber Ale and Session IPA on offer are both actually 0.2% – but that’s close enough! [They do also produce a completely alcohol-free porter – which is interesting when you know the derivation of the name. I wonder if you could find an alcohol-free porter?] I also wonder if Otley Beer Festival in November will follow the CAMRA example? I’m not sure I’d be able to find my way home from Cross Green in the dark if I were sober!
AND WHAT’S THIS – AN ALCOHOL-FREE FESTIVAL?
Sure is! The Club Soda Mindful Drinking Festival in association with Heineken 0.0 took place at Spitalfields Market in London’s East End [naturally] on Saturday, July 28th. Club Soda is a ‘Mindful Drinking Movement’ which has been running for over 3 years now. They say the most popular question they are asked is about what to drink instead of alcohol. So not only have they built up an amazing knowledge of the range of drinks out there [which you can find on their site via the link above], but they are also seeing an explosion in the number of great tasting, well-crafted alcohol-free drinks that are becoming available. Sadly, you’ve missed this year’s festival, as I failed to let you know in time, but if it’s in the East End now you can bet it will be in Leeds soon. So if you want to check out this year’s festival website, you can see what you missed, and what you might be seeing soon in a venue near you. [By the way, ‘botanicals’ figure highly in non-alcoholic drinks too, so there must be money to be made from them! Yeah – you knew I was a cynic already, so no point in pretending!]
But, seriously – the festival was sponsored by Ceder’s distilled non-alcoholic alt-gin; Eisberg alcohol-free wine; and Fever Tree range of mixers and soft drinks. So now it’s no excuse for not going down the pub with your mates to say “No, I don’t drink” when there are so many non-alcoholic options available. The festival even had a beer tasting session with top sommelier Jane Peyton and a cocktail mixing class – and it was all free! I’m (almost) sorry I missed it myself now – now how can I get them to hold one next year in Leeds Town Hall . . . ?
WILL TRADITIONAL PUBS EVENTUALLY DIE OUT?
When I read this article about pubs closing across Fife, from DC Thomson’s Courier website recently, I couldn’t help thinking about the giant Galapagos tortoise. ‘Discovered’ by Darwin, who wanted to save and study them, but such a succulent source of food that in the end every last one of them [almost] was killed and eaten – even the ones being sent back to Britain mysteriously didn’t survive the trip! Now we have the succulent never-ending supply of taxes that the Government can suck out of pubs in different ways, until ultimately that greed will send pubs down the same path as Lonesome George’s Galapagan predecessors.
The latest attempt to campaign against pub closures has been started by ‘Britain’s Beer Alliance’, a group of organisations in the pub and brewing sector. It’s called Long Live the Local, with a petition that everyone can sign and a request for everyone to write to their MP calling for a reduction in beer duty. Unfortunately, there are complaints that some of the organisations involved in this campaign are the same ones that caused the problem anyway – big brewers, pub owning businesses [POBs] and the like. Also, many landlords, like John Barclay of Fife Licensed Trade Association, point out that beer duty is a drop in the ocean compared to the high level of rates paid by pubs as opposed to supermarkets. “Supermarkets pay rates by the square footage but for pubs and hotels it’s calculated according to how much alcohol they sell,” he said. “It’s not a level playing field and it’s knocking the stuffing out of local pubs.” I know I’ve repeated all the arguments about POBs and beer duty and business rates, but unless everyone who is interested in retaining Britain’s traditional pubs tries to do something, the pub will finish up more like the dodo than the giant Galapagos tortoise. Killed off by a combination of being eaten by the taxman and preyed on by other predators until they’re gone completely.
NORFOLK DAY, YORKSHIRE DAY & COUNTY FLAGS
Last Friday, July 27th, was the very first ‘Norfolk Day’, and at least 100 events were taking place across the County to celebrate it – so we tweeted them to wish them luck, and remind them that this week it’s the 43rd Yorkshire Day! Maybe we kicked it all off, and maybe we didn’t, but I remember hardly anyone being aware of Yorkshire Day 10 years ago – and possibly even 5. Now we’re trying to make sure that at least people in Otley won’t forget, as we launch the second Yorkshire Day part of our pub re-naming project. Sadly, I’ve discovered that the big Yorkshire flags that are often to be seen outside all the shops, businesses and pubs in town WON’T be going up for the day this year. As they were all out for the Tour de Yorkshire and the Carnival, it’s apparently been decided that’s enough for one summer! Let’s hope that doesn’t stop individuals who are [rightly] proud of God’s Own County putting up their own. And just in case you wondered whether any other counties had their own registered flags – oh, yes!
At least our celebrity name banners will be up outside all the pubs in town. We have been trying ever since last year to contact all the celebrities who were chosen by you to represent the best that Yorkshire has to offer across a wide range of skills, abilities and professions. The idea was to invite them all to visit ‘their’ pub on the day itself. Of course we understand that all celebrities are in constant demand, and that their own profession and family life come first, with paid celebrity events coming next. Voluntary attendance at minor events like ours obviously comes way down their list of priorities. But that didn’t stop some of the biggest names showing that they were proud of their Yorkshire heritage. Dame Judi Dench was one of the first to reply, and her comments will be taking pride of place in The Horse & Farrier, including her final one (she wrote twice) which said “I am so proud and pleased to have been born in York”. Alan Bennett sent us a message, but without a photo as he said “There’s never been much demand for them”! We got an autographed cycling shirt from our own superstar, Lizzie Deignan, which will be on show in The Royalty. But I got the feeling some of our requests never even got beyond the agents, as we didn’t even get a response from many of the stars we tried to contact – and not a single one of the stamped addressed envelopes for signed photos ever came back!!
Many others did get back to us and explain why they couldn’t come though – Angela Griffin, Ian McMillan, Anita Rani, Nicola Adams, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Kadeena Cox, either personally or through their agents, were all willing to deal with us. And finally, and best of all, some did manage to fit us into their schedules. So our biggest thanks go to Sir Gary Verity, Dickie Bird, Hannah Cockroft and Jonny and Alistair Brownlee for agreeing to come to Otley and celebrate the event! But I can’t finish without reminding you that the only reason Otley Pub Club promotes events like this is to remind people that Otley is a ‘famous pub town’, and to attract more visitors and tourists into the town and especially into the pubs – so I hope to see you all in town, in a pub [or two] on Wednesday! Happy Yorkshire Day!!
AND IT’S STILL NATIONAL PUB FORTNIGHT!
From the 20th of July to the 5th of August, Ei together with Star Pubs and Bars are promoting a series of events and free pints across their estate to try to get people to support their local pub. If you fancy one of the 50,000 free pints on offer [see choice in the photo] all you have to do is log on to https://nationalpubfortnight.com/ on any mobile device, go into your local Ei/Star Pub and follow the instructions.
FIND OUT IF YOU HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM!
And if you’re that desperate for a free pint of Stella, maybe you’d like to find out from this American website, whether or not you might be even slightly addicted to alcohol! [What they call an Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD.] They realise there’s a wide spectrum of AUD. Workers in all drinks-focussed industries and the hospitality sector might be particularly at risk, but anyone who answers ‘Yes’ to two or more questions on their list might want to consider whether to take steps to change their lifestyle. [I’m not saying how many I ticked off!] The questions list symptoms of the drinking disorder – the more symptoms a user exhibits, the more urgent their need for change, according to the website.
GETTING BACK TO ‘SOCCER’ & THE USA . . .
You might remember I wrote last time about Brandon Steineckert [Rancid drummer] and his fan song for Real Salt Lake. I also briefly mentioned the Rancid frontman’s song for his hometown club San Jose Earthquakes. So to get you ready for the start of the Championship season on Friday, here is ‘Never Say Die’ by The Old Firm Casuals. [Couldn’t be Rancid, or Brandon the RSL fan would’ve had to be on drums . . .] And you’ve just got to love that “Who are ya” chant from the crowd. That’s proper football, that is!
. . . AND FINALLY
Get down to The Fleece this week like us to have your photograph taken with Sean Bean, who – as we said at the start – is helping them celebrate renaming their pub in his honour for Yorkshire Day!
30 July 2018