SEPTEMBER 2017 MEETING

OTLEY PUB CLUB: SEPTEMBER MEETING

 

IT’S SEPTEMBER – WINTER IS COMING!

I haven’t said that for a while, but ‘the North remembers’ how soon the weather can change, as season 7 of Game of Thrones comes to an end. And although we might not be facing white walkers and an army of the dead, I bet one or more of our pubs will be testing out their open fires before our October meeting! Still, in the meantime, the boats will be on the river every weekend as long as the weather holds up, so make the most of it before you need an ice-breaker! And just to prove there is no such thing as coincidence, after I’d written this I tried out my central heating to make sure everything was working OK. [It was.] Then the very next day a local plumber (NOT pictured alongside!) posted this notice on a local community Facebook page. I recommend his advice to you all!

“A Public Information announcement: we are about to enter the ‘silly season’ for heating breakdowns, please try your heating NOW, every year following the first spell of cold weather, sorry but much to everyone’s surprise it does get cold in winter, we are inundated with calls of ‘no heating’ with comments of “it stopped working months ago and we need it repairing today” This is not an advert for my services call YOUR regular engineer NOW!”

 

WHAT BRITAIN’S IDEAL PUB LOOKS LIKE

OK, I might be being a bit pessimistic about the weather, but you might also be surprised by the results of a YouGov survey asking people what features they would most want to see in their ideal pub. A fireplace came third! Real ale didn’t even make it into the top 5, and a dart board came 17th. You wonder what some people think a ‘pub’ is – but you can find out whether their list agrees with yours, and what came top, in this YouGov article. Happily, fruit machines came only just above ‘other’ and ‘don’t know’.

 

HISTORIC COACHING INNS OF THE GREAT NORTH ROAD

While I was reading about Otley in the early part of the 18th century recently, doing a bit of research for next year’s Chippendale tercentenary, I discovered the locals didn’t particularly like narrow-wheeled vehicles passing through. Apparently they dug deep ruts and damaged the roads, making them difficult and sometimes impassable for local traffic. At the same time, coaches from London to Leeds apparently had to stop at Wakefield because the roads from there to Leeds were themselves too rough to guarantee passage. So imagine what the journey from York to London was like at the time! Four days of cold, uncomfortable bouncing around in the back of a horse-drawn coach.

The only thing that made it bearable was stopping off overnight at some of the comfortable coaching inns on the Great North Road, and now there’s a book by Roger Protz about some of the ones that are still standing. As the old poem quoted in the book says –

“Who’er has travelled life’s dull round,

“Where’er his stages may have been,

“May sigh to think how oft he found,

“The warmest welcome – at an Inn.”

You can find out more about the book, and some of the inns described in it in this Yorkpress article.

 

NOT ANOTHER WETHERSPOONS ARTICLE?

Right – if I’ve never admitted it before, I will now. As a customer, I like Wetherspoons! (Although as you know if you’ve been paying attention, I don’t always agree with Tim Martin!) In this article in the Guardian online Ed Cumming says “the only people who don’t love Wetherspoon’s are . . . review-reading, Michelin-munching, craft-beer seeking, Instagram-denying, middle-class bores. The ones who are as anxious about what their meal says about them as how it tastes and how much it costs.”

So do you think “Wetherspoon’s epitomises the lowest common denominator, slowly but surely constricting British high streets. Cheap food slung out in vast quantities, washed down with cut-price drinks”? Or do you agree with millions of customers that “it represents unpretentious good value: a business built around the customer, who can eat, drink and be merry for a fraction of the price elsewhere”? OK, I’ve been in some rough JDWs but I’ve also been in some far worse ‘traditional’ independent boozers with expensive, poor quality beers and even poorer service. Now Wetherspoons are hitting the overnight market hard as well, and if they’re as good as Cumming makes out, you can bet there’ll be some hotels and B&Bs panicking! [Photo shows a room in The Greenwood Hotel in North London, which can be had from a mere £39 a night!]

 

BEST CRAFT BEER AT THE FRINGE

I include a link to this article from beerfrontiers.com about the best craft beer bars in Edinburgh purely as a public service for anyone who might be visiting that beautiful city any time soon. I was up there for a weekend at the Fringe, and the only bar on the list I visited was the top one – The Holyrood 9A (twice) – but, sure enough, it was splendid. Mind you, I did call in at Jeremiah’s Taproom as well (twice), Dalriada, Ormelie Tavern and The Auld Hoose, as well as having a few pints in a Fringe venue I can’t remember the name of . . . And then it all went horribly wrong and I missed the one event I was intending to see! And that was without visiting my favourites The Café Royal, The Athletic Arms [Diggers], The Jinglin’ Geordie and more. Aye, if you like a beer – craft or traditional – Edinburgh’s no’ a bad place tae visit!

 

WORLD ALZHEIMERS MONTH

Talking of Edinburgh – it was the city where World Alzheimer’s Day was launched by Alzheimer’s Disease International [ADI] at the opening of its annual conference on 21 September 1994, to celebrate the organisation’s 10th anniversary. That date is now recognised each year as World Alzheimer’s Day.

In September 2012, the decision was made to nominate the full month of September as Alzheimer’s Month, to contain the existing World Alzheimer’s Day. This enables national and local Alzheimer associations worldwide to extend the reach of their awareness programmes over a longer period of time.

Leeds Older Peoples Forum is running an event in September to share best practice on how to make communities more Dementia Friendly on Tuesday 19th September at Banquet Hall in the Civic Hall, Calverley Street, LS1 1UR. The event is for dementia friendly cafe/group organisers, people with dementia interested in the event, and individuals with plans to set up a new dementia friendly cafe/groups. For more info see The Leeds Older People’s Forum website or get more up to date information from Dementia Friendly Leeds on Twitter @leedsdaa

If you want to join dementia friends (it only takes about 10 minutes) or become a dementia friend champion and be able to deliver sessions in your community, you can do it through their website – https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/ You can see the location of dementia friendly cafes in the Leeds area, including one in Otley, on this map.

 

ALZHEIMER’S & DEMENTIA FUNDRAISER

On Saturday September the 16th, The Otley Tavern on New Market will be holding a 70s and 80s disco from 8pm to midnight. Although decade-appropriate clothing is not compulsory, it is very much encouraged. So do make an effort to look like one of our glamorous models pictured alongside!

 

& FINALLY – ARE CRAFT BEER PRICES GOING CRAZY?

You’ll no doubt have seen the press reports about The Rake pub in Borough Market in London, advertising a pint of Cloudwater North West Double IPA for £13:40. Cue outraged huffing and puffing from everyone, from the popular press to – well, to me I guess! And while I don’t want to give any more free publicity to a Manchester brewery that has had masses of that since the Rake article first broke, I do want to start a debate about whether any pint of beer can possibly be worth that.

I had a discussion with someone on Untapp’d [a beer-drinkers’ app for smartphones, which I recommend if you don’t have it already] who had recently bought a can of the very same NW DIPA. When I questioned the value, he said “People pay hundreds or thousands of pounds for wines or whisky, so I don’t see the difference. Carling is always cheap if that’s what people want.”

The version he had was Mosaic and Summit with Citra BBC, Simcoe, Mosaic and Summit in the dry hop. I believe the Borough Market version was brewed with Huell Melon and Amarillo, with both of those again, plus Citra and Loral in the dry hop. And whilst that latter version is making my mouth water as I type [I’m a big Amarillo fan] I still can’t stomach the price!

So why is it so expensive? One of the oft-quoted reasons for craft beer prices is that hops are expensive, and craft brewers add more of them to produce a wide range of new flavours. Amarillo, for example, is produced only by one single grower in America –Virgil Gamache Farms Inc. Unlike most varieties of hops, which may be acquired and propagated by the purchase of rhizomes, all Amarillo brand hops are privately grown or sourced by Virgil Gamache Farms. The organization holds a trademark on the name “Amarillo” for hops, and there is a biological patent on the plant. Now none of that necessarily means the price of Amarillo hops is being kept artificially high, but a current online price can be as high as £10 for 100 grams, whereas British and European hops can be as low as a third to a half of that. I’m afraid I have absolutely no idea what quantities of hops are used at each stage in every process, but there does seem to be a substantial price differential here, especially for products that are heavily dry-hopped.

Another reason quoted is that many craft beers are much stronger than ordinary bitters, and are therefore taxed at a higher rate. This version of NW DIPA comes out at about 9%. Current general beer tax in the UK is approximately 10.84p per pint for each percentage strength of beer, so about 45 – 50p for a pint in the low 4%s. There is an extra charge per unit for beers over 7.5%, but it’s only about an extra 3p for each percentage point, making the total duty on a Cloudwater DIPA pint about £1:25. So although that’s more than double, I think it can be discounted for the whole retail price difference! [There is also the possibility of a reduction in duty charged, if the brewery produces fewer than 60,000 hectolitres a year. I have no idea what effect that might have on the price!]

Third is the fact that the hops for craft beers, and sometimes the final product itself, often come from the USA or Japan or New Zealand, so the cost of transport has to be added. Again, I have no commercial knowledge about international transport costs, but as Cloudwater is brewed in Manchester, any additional international transport costs over and above that of the product itself can be discounted [and they use local yeast!]

And finally [and here’s where I start to worry] there’s the supply and demand argument. Craft beer is still incredibly, and seemingly increasingly, popular. During Leeds Beer Week I bought a pint and a half of ‘Some 50 Summers’ by the Cornish Verdant Brewing Co, in North Bar in Leeds. Only 4.6% and a total cost of over £11. At the weekend I bought a half of Verdant’s ‘Pulp’ double IPA at Ilkley Brewery’s Leeds Beer Week social, and it cost me a mere £2 (£1:50 with LBW discount!!). Who can explain the sense in any of that? So to go back to the argument about expensive wine and whisky, there are obvious longer-term storage costs for both of those products and generally the more expensive ones are older, which will substantially affect the price. [Whisky in particular loses a lot of its volume over the years – ‘The Angels’ Share’] Then they have to be shipped about in fragile and expensive bottles as opposed to kegs that can be bounced off lorries and into cellars. But yes, I accept the argument. If the customer is willing to pay, why not increase the price to a level that the market will bear?

Managing Director and co-founder of Cloudwater Paul Jones had this to say about the free advertising [sorry, pricing controversy] surrounding NW DIPA, in an interview with the Morning Advertiser. “A pint is a ridiculous measure to be serving a beer of that strength”. [Slightly irrelevant as far as the price per fluid ounce goes, but let’s continue . . .] “But if you spend £16 on 4 pints of bitter, or £15 on three thirds of 9% DIPA you’re getting the same amount of alcohol units for the same amount of money, so how is that controversial?” [Either his maths or wrong, or he’s talking about beer at 2.25%, and who would pay £4 a pint for that? And if all any of us wanted was a number of alcohol units we’d all drink White Lightning – and surely that’s not what he would recommend?] Finally, he gets his sums all mixed up again when he says “Sure, £13 is a big number but it’s actually the same value for money as your £4 pint – it’s just 2.5 times stronger.”

And finally from me, just in case you think I’m being unfair to Cloudwater, or North Bar for that matter, let me criticise The Rake pub’ “operators” Utobeer as well – and their distributor Euroboozer (yuk!). In an article on SkyNews online they all seem to blame each other – and Cloudwater – for the ludicrous price. I won’t go into any more detail, as you can read the articles yourself if you really want to. I just think they are all being economical with the truth, which is probably that they all want to make as much profit as they can out of the craft beer bubble, before people see through the emperor’s new clothes. [I do love mixing my metaphors.] And finally, finally, my favourite pint of beer from Leeds Beer Week was Ilkley Brewery’s Alpha Beta Rye IPA straight out of the brewery. At 4.5% and £4 a pint it was exactly what they claim – big on flavour, easy on abv! 

– – / / – –

SEPTEMBER MEETING

Get yourself down to North Bar Social for 8pm this Thursday, September 07, and join us for a drink and a chat. Or if you want to see what we talk about in committee meetings, why not come down at 7:15 instead? Then at 8:45 we’ll move off to Whitakers on Kirkgate until 9:30, before finishing off the evening at The Bowling Green [Wetherspoon’s].

 

Bob Brook

OPC Secretary

04 September 2017

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