OTLEY PUB CLUB: FEBRUARY MEETING
WHERE DID THE SNOW GO?
It seems it followed the migrating birds, and went South! Here at the end of January, snowdrops have been seen blooming round Otley for ages. The daytime temperature’s regularly been up around 6 or 7 degrees, and I’ve only had to break the ice on the bird bath a couple of times this year. Last weekend the riverside paths and Wharfemeadows Park were packed with people out enjoying the weather – but it’ll soon be half-term school holidays, so it’s bound to get worse by then! So only those of you who managed to get away on a European break will have seen some snow since the turn of the year – but this year it was around the Mediterranean as well as in the ski resorts! I can (almost) guarantee that if you come to our February meeting on Thursday – you won’t get snowed on!
CASK, OR NOT?
“The last thing the poor bloody beleaguered pub needs is a leading beer writer saying he’s giving up drinking cask beer.” What a great opening line to an article that is! Unfortunately it’s not mine. That is beer expert Roger Protz talking about fellow beer expert Pete Brown’s article in the Morning Advertiser. Pete says “I’ve mostly stopped drinking cask ale” – not because he doesn’t like it, but because he claims too many pints are served in poor condition. Now, Pete comes from Barnsley, but lives in London (so maybe that’s got something to do with it) but he’s still on the right side of 50, so probably wasn’t old enough to drink Barnsley Bitter at its best. Roger has an interesting take on the problem of poorly–conditioned beer, which involves the demise of the ‘big six’ breweries. He says the quality control inspectors from the likes of Allied Breweries and Bass made sure the product was served properly, and that ‘pubcos’ care nothing about the quality of the beer per se. So it needed the Cask Marque campaign to put that quality back on the bar. Interesting read.
MORE CHANGES IN OTLEY PUBS
Talking of Cask Marque accreditation, Tim and Sarah at Whitakers had just got theirs for the pub when they realised they were going to have to leave! I’ve spoken at length to the couple, who were a welcome addition to the Otley pub scene, with their mixture of youth, optimism, enthusiasm and dedication to customer service. They are really disappointed that they won’t be able to fulfil their long-term vision of building Whitakers into a popular community pub for all age groups. I don’t think it’s fair to share the details of what went wrong – because of their obvious distress and frustration at what happened, but also because I haven’t yet been able to talk to everyone involved.
But it does seem that they encountered problems – both organisational and financial – right from their arrival until they knew they were going to have to go. And it certainly sounded as though they were problems not of their own making, which should have been able to be sorted out in a more reasonable and long-term manner. They now find themselves out of pocket after spending their own money on trying to re-build the reputation of the pub – especially over the Christmas period, when they did a great job. They will also have to find new employment and accommodation before they leave at the end of February – which coincidentally is just when their baby is due!!
Sadly, this is a typical story in the pubco-dominated licensed trade of the 21st century. We don’t just bang on about it because we like the sound of our own arguments – this sort of life-changing, career-destroying and potentially disastrous situation is occurring all over the UK. It’s sad that two of Otley’s pubs run by young landlords have faced problems over the last few months, because the future of the traditional British pub will ultimately be in their hands. Shiny craft bars and tiny micropubs are all very well, but you’ll miss the old pubs when they’re gone. Thankfully, The Fleece has been saved by Nicola and Heather for the time being, but we’ll have to wait to see what the future has in store for Whitakers.
ARE YOU A BREWER, FANCYING A CHANGE OF SCENERY?
Way up North, at the top end of The Black Isle, north of Inverness, there’s a wee [16hl] brewery that’s looking for a new head brewer. But don’t think that just because the brewery is in a village of a dozen or so houses, and the local town is straight off a picture postcard, you’ll be able to waltz straight in there with your fancy metropolitan ways! [Remember ‘The Maggie’ and ‘Local Hero’!] Physically, you “must be able to bend over, twist, kneel, stand for the duration of a shift and lift 25kg and manoeuvre 60kg.” And in terms of qualifications, you “will possess relevant brewing qualifications from internationally recognized industry groups . . . and have at least 3 years high level experience working at a craft brewery.” For the rest of the job description, and to find out more about the brewery, see https://www.cromartybrewing.com/blog/were-hiring – especially if you fancy living in that picture postcard town of Cromarty, or you know someone who does!
BEER STYLES AND FOOD PAIRING
Every now and again I like to stick in yet another article about ‘what is craft beer?’ or ‘what exactly does “saison” mean?’ This very short article from olivemagazine.com not only answers both those questions, but also suggests how to choose which beer to pair with different types of food AND claims that 93% of all beer drunk in the world is pilsner!
BREXIT AND DEMOCRACY
Yes, I know we’re non-political, so this is purely a personal piece from me! Now as far as I’m concerned [to quote a well-known politician] “Brexit is Brexit”. That is – it’s been voted for, it’s coming, and we’re on our way out of the EU. No argument. So what’s to be gained by still complaining about how bad the EU was, and how grateful we should all be that we’re leaving? I’ve said some nice things about Wetherspoons, its magazine, and its Chairman Tim Martin in the past, even though his opinion of the EU and my own were not always the same. He was very keen to leave, and he got his wish – so why is he STILL [in the Winter edition of Wetherspoonnews] going on about it?
He says “It’s shocking to contemplate the economic mayhem, poverty and bloodshed for which undemocratic and totalitarian (his opinion of the EU!) regimes were responsible [in the 20th century]. He compares “the stunning success” of democratic North America with the dire performance of South America; the “stunning success” (again) of pre-unification West Germany, compared with undemocratic East Germany; and the rise of South Korea to become one of the world’s richest countries, versus its catastrophic northern sibling.” Sounds great, but like President Trump’s new Press Secretary, he might just be using ‘alternative facts’.
The economic miracle that turned South Korea from a rubble-strewn p ostwar country into an export-based thriving economy, for instance, was achieved under almost 20 years of dictatorship up to 1972. There followed more years of presidential assassination and military coups d’etat until the first ‘president of the people’ was signed in, in 1988. Even as late as 2003, one of the government’s main aims was still to achieve ‘Democracy with the participation of the people’.
As for those nasty totalitarian republics that are a total disaster, I assume Tim thinks China is a shining example of popular democracy, as even he must admit that China is now a “stunning success”. So is Singapore, which has been called ‘the wealthiest non-democracy in the world’. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister, is often quoted as saying “The exuberance of democracy leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions which are inimical to development.” And one Singapore journalist believes “Donald Trump (now) embodies all the problems I was taught to associate with democracy while I was growing up.”
British satirist Alan Coren is widely quoted as saying: “Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they’ve told you what you think it is you want to hear.” Tim Martin’s choice of dictator seems to be very much in the mould of Donald Trump. Just look at this passage from the article: “Certain sections of society today feel strongly that it’s better for power to reside in highly educated elites, closely connected to big business, to major universities and to influential politicians – ‘les énarques’ as our French friends call them. They deeply mistrust the idea of democratic rule by the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’.” Sounds similar to Trump [or Bane in Batman] “Giving it back to you – the people!” Still, each to his own, eh?
“PUB COMPANIES ARE FLOUTING THE NEW PUBS CODE”
Margot James, the Minister for Business, Energy and Industry, admitted that pub companies are flouting the new Pubs Code, during a debate in parliament on 26 January. She said “We have heard allegations of ongoing abuse by pub companies. Tenants seeking the Market Rent Only [MRO] option are being undermined by tactics being deployed by the pub companies, which threaten to make the pursuit of MRO unviable – in direct contravention of the code. There are clearly instances of flouting the code going on and members are quite right to bring them forward. They are what the code is designed to root out.”
The admission came during a 100-minute debate (Seen here, starting at 12:09) initiated by Greg Mulholland MP, chair of the British Pub Confederation, and backed by MPs Iain Wright and Chris White. They delivered a hammer blow to the position of the Pubs Code Adjudicator Paul Newby by successfully calling on the government to re-open the appointments process for the job. Greg ended the debate by telling the Minister and others present “You have heard today that the position of Paul Newby is untenable. He cannot perform this role and will simply never have the confidence of tenants.” [But I’m sure he’ll forgive me for saying that he was then guilty of flogging a simile to death, when he said ”If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it is a duck. Well frankly, (Paul Newby’s) a dead duck but he’s worse than that. He is a duck that is in real danger of compromising, skewing and watering down everything the government tried to do in the Pubs Code and what the code stood for.”!!]
DOES YOUR BEER TASTE OF ONIONS?
A recent online article in The Irish Times suggests that while you [especially if you’re a man] might taste mangoes and tropical fruit in your Simcoe and Mosaic hops, your partner [especially if a woman] might be getting a whiff of garlic and sweaty armpits from her glass instead . . . And now that it’s in your mind, just seek out fried onions in the background of your next craft beer!
– – / / – –
The committee meeting will be held at 19:15 as usual, this Thursday, February 02, in The White Swan this month, with the purely ‘social’ side of the evening kicking off there at 8-o-clock. Then we’ll move on to The Manor House for 20:45, and leave there to go back over the roadto The Otley Tap House at 21:30. [Yes, just like last month, I know it seems silly walking across Boroughgate, then back again to the pub next door, but we try to work out our schedules so that we meet in each of our 20 pubs and visit the rest at different times in the evening. Then we go through all 20 in a different order, and so on each time, so you do sometimes get anomalies like this!]
30 January 2017