Thursday, 8 June 2023

Arriving in Danang

I rise a little after seven. And head on down for brekkie. A bacon omelette and fruit. No pic, sorry. It is very nice, mind. Though the bacon is rather chewy.

Not too much of a rush. My flight to Danang is at noon. A taxi has me there a couple of hours before. And my pushy-in status has my bag checked and my fat arse airside in under 15 minutes.

No lounge, sadly. Instead, I get myself a beer in a small restaurant right next to my gate. It's 40K (1.60 euros) for a 33 cl can. Which isn't too bad for airside.

I’m still trying to catch up with Private Eye. In the new issue, Liz Truss is still PM. I reckon she’s there for the long term. How could an intellect as great as hers fail?

The flight isn't much over an hour. All we get is a bottle of water. It’s up, down and off. I’m fine with that.

Another taxi soon has me at the hotel. Once checked in, I send Mikey a message. He comes over to my room. With a bottle of cheap local rum.

“Fancy a shot?” he asks, waggling the bottle temptingly in front of my nose.

Who am I to turn down booze? After I’ve had a couple of shots, Mikey tells me:

“It’s three years out of date. Should be OK, though.”

Now I know why he’s being so generous with it. And not drinking any himself. Rum can’t go off, can it? What’s the worst that could happen?

Warmed by the hopefully safe rum, it’s time for some scran. I’ve only had breakfast and need my belly filling. I order steamed dim sum. Which are rather nice. Four for 40K.

“You get one more fried dim sum for the same price.” Mikey remarks. “It makes no sense.” He has a point.

We go to the beach for an hour. Lots of locals there as it's late afternoon and getting cooler. We have a can each. It’s nothing special, obviously. More about the moment than the beer itself.

After the sun drops, we’re off. On the way back to the hotel I pick up some drinks: soju, water and cola. That should keep me going through the night.

We start the evening at Tom's Bar for the last half hour of happy hour. I get down three cocktails in that time. What a hero I am.

Next is Only Lounge on the riverfront. Where there's a Russian barmaid. Whom Mikey met yesterday. And shared some drinks with back at the hotel.

“She’s the one who noticed that the rum was out of date.”

That’s nice to know.

I order a whisky sour. While Mikey has a cider. I don’t fancy a rum-based cocktail for some reason.

It’s not very busy and we chat with the Russian lass a bit. While we watch the odd cockroach run past. Evidently, they’re fleeing from next door. Right. I totally believe that.

Then it's on to a bar just a few doors along. Bamboo 2 Bar. Where West Ham v Leeds on the telly. Wasn’t that a few days ago?

There are a few interesting characters hanging around. I’ll say no more.

Mikey is on Bia Saigon. Margaritas for me. I’m getting a taste for cocktails. If there isn’t any interesting beer to drink. And industrial beers vaguely in the Pilsner style don’t really grab my attention.

We get talking to the owner and her Australian boyfriend. He’s from Melbourne and we chat about Carlton, where I used to live. And other Australian-themed stuff.

When they close at around 1 AM, the owner asks us to continue on with them. And the rest of the staff. It would be impolite to refuse. I’m all pumped up with cocktails and very polite.

We go to a very Vietnamese place. It’s little more than a roof with a kitchen at the back. And the tiny chairs and tables that make you feel like you’re back at primary school. Except as a full-sized adult.

Me and Mikey have Tiger beer and I have some food. All sorts of stuff. Popadom-like things, clams, fish, hot pot. It’s all very good. And I’m sure very authentic. Just a shame that it’s so late.

And I’m so tired. Or “tired” as Dolores would say. “You’re drunk again, Ronald.”

“No, I’m just tired.”

“Right. ‘tired’.”

“Yes. Exactly. Why else would my legs have gone wobbly?”

Soon it’s 3 AM and we're flagging. We have to get a taxi to our beds. I never stay out this late any more. I rarely make it past midnight, even on my hols.

It’s so late and I’m so knacked, I don’t even glance at Mr Ardmore before crawling into my wonderfully cool bed.

Tom's Bar & Grill
83C Đ. Ng. Thì Sĩ,
Bắc Mỹ An,
Ngũ Hành Sơn,
Đà Nẵng 50507

Only Lounge Pub
212 Bạch Đằng,
Phước Ninh,
Hải Châu,
Đà Nẵng 550000.

Bamboo 2 Bar
216 Bạch Đằng,
Phước Ninh,
Hải Châu,
Đà Nẵng 550000.

Quán Chị Ba
Đường 30 Tháng 4,
Phường Khuê Trung,
Quận Hải Châu,
Thành Phố Đà Nẵng.

Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1911 Russell Porter

You may have noticed that I'm working my way through Russell's beers. There's a reason. It's material for yet another book I'm working on: "Free!". I'm not going to waste my time writing recipes that aren't going in a book. I like to crack on early with the recipes because . . . I put so effing many of them in the recent books. They tell part of the story, I think. Not sure my readers would agree.

We’ve now got to Russell’s Black Beers. And here’s the most surprising one of the set: a standard Porter. Why a surprise? Because, by this point, outside of London and Ireland, Porter was pretty much sone dead.

When brewers did produce a Black Beer of Porter strength, it rarely bore the name. For many, it had become purely a bottled beer and was sold under various confusing names such as Cooper or Nourishing Stout.

Retaining brown malt, the grist is more London than provincial. The latter mostly choosing for a simple pale and black malt combination, Compared to Whitbread Porter from the same year, there’s a lot more sugar and quite a bit less of the roasted malts.

Talking of sugars, the two employed here were “dark invert” which I’ve interpreted as No. 3 invert and “London Brand” which I’ve taken to be a type of caramel. 

In addition to the standard English hops from the 1908 and 1910 harvests, there were also some Bavarian hops from 1910.

1911 Russell Porter
pale malt 6.50 lb 67.85%
brown malt 0.50 lb 5.22%
black malt 0.33 lb 3.44%
No. 3 invert 2.00 lb 20.88%
caramel 500 SRM 0.25 lb 2.61%
Fuggles 90 mins 1.25 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 1.25 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.75 oz
Hallertau 30 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1050
FG 1013
ABV 4.89
Apparent attenuation 74.00%
IBU 44
SRM 28
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 175º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1768 English Special Bitter

Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Vietnam here I am

We get into Bangkok an hour late. But the transfer goes pretty smoothly. Thankfully. I’d been a little worried about that.

It's only a short hop to Hanoi. Though they do serve breakfast. My first of the trip. Rice, veg and meat. Along with an orange juice and a coffee. It’s a welcome distraction. And welcome calories.

All the dull formalities such as immigration and baggage retrieval are soon over. My bag popping out on the carousel almost immediately. Much to my relief. I’m always apprehensive about checking in bags across a transfer.

I pick up my booked taxi just outside the terminal. Soon I'm bouncing along towards the city. Apprehensive about just how misty it looks. Pretty humid, I’m guessing.

I'm pleasantly surprised my how many colonial buildings there still are. And how many mopeds compared to cars. Maybe 20 or 30 to one.

The street the hotel is on is too narrow for cars. We stop at the end of the street where there's someone from the hotel to greet us.

I'm on the sixth floor. With a great view of the houses opposite. Which all seem to be piled on top of each other. And where there's a rooster that keeps crowing. That'll be handy in the morning.

I have a WhatsApp chat with Alexei.

Alexei: "What is Hanoi like?"
"Really cool, from what I've seen of it. A surprising number of colonial buildings around my hotel."
Alexei: "Does it look like France?"
Alexei: "See any rice baguettes yet?"
“Seen a few bakeries."

I noticed on the way in that there's a beer pub, called New Gentry Beer House, just at the end of the street. Seems a rather bourgeois name for a communist country. I go there for a couple of beers. It would be impolite not to.

Labtory London 1817 Porter 7.1% ABV, 99K for 33 cl (4 euros)
I just had to try this I wasn’t expecting a Porter here in Vietnam. I wonder why they chose the year 1817? It’s a very significant one, after all. What with the invention of black malt that year, transforming Porter grists

Full of Portery goodness. A bit strong for an 1817 Porter. More like a Single Stout of the period, ABV-wise.

It’s a fairly small place. Then again, all the shops are tiny in this part of town. I’m surprised at how many weirdly-shaped old colonial buildings there are. All pretty narrow. Some disproportionately tall. Often not on quite the same alignment as the street.

Quite a few people are drinking Belgian beers. Which would be a bit weird for me.

I’m yawning like crazy. I suppose from that rather long journey. 20 hours from leaving home to getting to my hotel.

Lots of Canadian beer posters adorn the walls. For some reason. Though there is also an advert for Dalex beer engines.

It’s my first time in a communist country for years. Cuba must have been the last. And that was before the kids were born. Ah, happy days.

Time for another beer. 

Thom Reckless IPA, 8.6% ABV, 23 IBU, 99K for 33 cl (4 euros)
Not very bitter at all for an IPA. Is it supposed to be a sludge IPA? I’m not getting much in the way of hop character. Certainly not the citrusy USA stuff. Not sure what to make of it.

Another Thom beer to finish.

Thom Dante’s inferno, 12.7& ABV, 42,5 IBU, 99K for 33 cl (4 euros)
Billed as a Belgian Quadrupel. Definitely an area of my expertise. Not that bad. Bit of spicy yeast. Lots of yummy alcohol. A little sour.

Afterwards, I go a few doors down to a restaurant. As I’m being a lazy git. Where I get some pork thingy for 70K. And a beer for another 20K. It's not bad. The broth is maybe a little sweet. The meat is partly meatballs, partly chunks of pork. I can’t finish all the noodles.

I reacquaint myself with Ardmore back in the cool of my room. My old friend guides me down to slumberland.

New Gentry Beer House
7 P. Hàng Mành,
Hàng Gai,
Hoàn Kiếm,
Hà Nội.
Opens 17:00 – 23:00

Monday, 5 June 2023

Vietnam here I come

I leave home around 13:00 again. My flight being a bit after 17:00. Not that I think it will take hours to complete all the formalities, I just want to take full advantage of the lounge.

Schiphol is nice and empty. It takes no time to check in and go through security and all that shit. There isn’t even much of a queue for passport control.

A young black bloke is getting quite agitated at security. They get an older Surinamese security guy to talk to him. Who is very calm. Turns out he had a little pistol ornament on his key ring. Which they confiscate.

I pick up a bottle of Ardmore and six miniatures of Jack Daniels. I'll need those for the flight.

The lounge isn't too busy. I get stuck into my usual whisky/whiskey combination. And a bit of scran. While reading Private Eye. Which I’m still way behind with. The issue is so old, Lizz Truss is still PM. Whatever happened to her?

I don’t go too crazy. Just four or five rounds of whiskies. Or maybe six. Who’s counting? A couple of plates of food, too. Cheese, ham, olives. Snacky things.

I time going to the gate pretty well and only have to stand around a few minutes before it's time for my pushy-in boarding. I’m getting so good at this. It’s almost like I do it often.

Seated, the lights suddenly go off. The pilot announces that there's a small technical problem. That will take at least 30 minutes to fix. Great. In the meantime, the aircon is off. It soon starts getting quite sweaty. Good preparation for conditions in Vietnam, I suppose.

They manage to fix the problem reasonably quickly. Basically, by switching the faulty system off and on again. Not sure how reassured I am by that.

By now we've missed our take-off slot. Another half hour, the pilot says, until we’ll be able to take off. Mmm. I've only got a couple of hours between flights in Bangkok. I can’t afford too much of a delay.

Luckily, we’re able to take another flight’s slot. And leave only about 45 minutes late. Only. 

The flight is pretty full. Which seems to always be the case again now. No more of the nice quiet planes around Covid time.

The meal is sort of OK. Though my expectations are low. I manage to eat most of it. Once I’ve eaten, I top up my wine with the whiskey miniatures. That’s better. They warm me up a treat. And start getting me in the mood for sleeping later.

I finish watching series 2 of Frayed, which I started on my last trip. Then continue with Mr. Mayor. Which isn't totally terrible. Not totally great, either. I do almost laugh a couple of times.

Then I kip. Quite a god kip, considering. A good 5 or 6 hours. Which eats up a good chunk of the flight. Exactly what I wanted. 

Sunday, 4 June 2023

Off home

I get up on time. I’m supposed to be seeing Andrew at 8:30. Just need to brush my teeth, ram a few things into my bags and I’m ready to go.

The bathroom is tiny. Larger than an aeroplane bog. But only just. I can only just about fit my arse on the toilet seat. Not a wonderfully comfortable experience. Andrew would have to bend double to get under the shower.

We check out and walk to the station. It’s not too far, even for someone as old and radged as me. It’s good we know exactly which entrance and staircase to take. Saves pointless fucking around.

After a bit of fiddling with the machine, we get ourselves tickets to the airport. I walk through the barrier and wonder why Andrew hasn’t followed me. I turn back and see he’s talking to a member of staff. Turns out we’ve just bought seat reservations, not actual tickets.

Ticketing issues solved, we go up to the platform. Where our train soon pulls in.

It’s around 45 minutes to the airport. With a pretty fast train. Which, on reflection, looks more like an airliner inside.

We can see a lot more than on the way in, when it was dark. It’s built up very differently than Korea. There, it’s just forests of high-rise blocks. Here, the majority is low-rise housing, with the occasional 10-storey block.

The further out of town we get, the more industrial it becomes. Oh look, there’s a massive Nippon Steel works. Cool.

“We used to have those things in the UK. Places . . .

“Where they made things. Factories. You’ve already done that joke, Dad.”

“Well, I only have a limited number of them.”

“I’ve noticed.”

A long bridge forms the last run into the airport. Which is on an artificial island. One of the largest in the world, Andrew tells me.

It’s all very well organised. The train runs right into the terminal. From there, it’s a few storeys up into departures.

The nice lady at the Korean Air check-in counter asks: “Is Seoul your final destination?”

“No, Amsterdam.”

“Do you want to check your bags all the way through?”

“Yes, please.”

Hopefully, they don’t get lost on the way. Though, as all that’s in them in dirty clothes, it doesn’t really matter that much if they’re delayed. Unlike on the way out.

She also prints boarding passes for the second leg. Zero fucking around needed in Seoul.

The annoying formalities are over quickly. A quick shuttle ride and we’re out at the gates. With almost zero walking involved. That’s what I call a well-organised airport.

The KAL lounge is small, but perfectly-formed. All self-service. I get myself a coffee.

“Where’s the beer machine?”, Andrew asks.

“Next to the coffee machine.”

As these things are quite impressive, I video it while it pours Andrew’s beer.

“Mmm, it’s after 10. Must be time for a whisky.”

“It’s always whisky time for you, Dad.”

He’s not wrong. “You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”

There isn’t a choice. Just a bottle of Ballantine’s 17 year. It’s OK. Having just the one glass would be impolite.

The plane is pretty big for a short hop. A wide-body Airbus. We have two seats on the outside. Again, the legroom is dead impressive for standard seats. Even Andrew can sit comfortably.

Not bad food. Chicken with rice. Not spicy, but pretty tasty. I scoff pretty much the lot. No alcoholic drinks. That’s no biggie, as I’ve already had a couple in the lounge. And I’ll be having a couple more in the next lounge.

We need to go through security again. Doesn’t take long, luckily. Now all we have to do is to find the lounge.

Not as easy as it sounds. We spot one. But it clearly says, on closer inspection: “Not a KAL lounge”.

My back is killing me. I really don’t fancy random walking around in hope.

“Andrew, I need to sit down. Can you try to find the lounge?”

“I’m feeling tired, too.”

“Fucking brilliant. I’ll do it, then.” I’m a bit pissed off. To say the least.

I decide to find a gate with airline staff and ask them. After asking at a few desks, I eventually get directions. Now I remember where they were on the way out. At either gate 249 or 253.

I realise we’re in a different lounge this time when the bar isn’t where I expect. This is an exact mirror image of the other lounge.

What should I get? I know, what about a whiskey? And a beer for Andrew.

I’m going to have to pace myself. We’ve a long layover. A very long layover. As in a full eight hours. No need to go crazy shovelling down the booze. I’ve more than enough time.

Bits of food. Some of those will help. Fruit. That’s always a good idea. And cheese. You can never have too much cheese.

I flip out my flaptop and fire up some Early Doors. Soothing and entertaining. It fills the time like a smelly fart fills a bus.

A couple of hours pass reasonably quickly as I sip whiskey and nibble on cheese.

“Do you fancy some cheese, Andrew?”


“You can never . . .”

“Have too much cheese. I know, Dad. You keep saying that.”

I’m feeling a bit knacked after a couple of hours and decide to get my head down. The seat is comfy and I can stretch out a treat. The lights? That doesn’t bother me. I don’t need darkness to kip.

After an hour spark out, I feel much better. Now where’s that cheese?

I work away steadily at the Jack Daniels. Until Andrew returns from the bar tells me that it’s about to close. You what? I rush up to get in another and ask precisely what is happening. Yes, they close at 8. But the liquor bottles will be left out for us to help ourselves. There won’t be any Jack Daniels, though. I’ll have to make do with Glenmorangie.

There’s still some time left when I finish off season two of Early Doors. As with much of the best British comedy, they called it a day after two series.

Andrew starts getting panicky when he sees “Go to gate” next to our flight. Almost two hours before departure.

“I’m not traipsing down there to sit on an uncomfortable seat for 2 hours. I’ll have plenty of time for that during the flight.”

As a compromise, I agree to leave the lounge 15 minutes before boarding is due to start. It will still mean sitting around at the gate for a while. But I feel guilty about how fine we cut things on our previous flight out of Incheon.

Of course, we have some hanging around at the gate. Not too annoying, mind. As we have seats.

The flight is very full. Luckily, for reasons I don’t understand, the bloke in the window seat fucks off somewhere soon after take-off. Giving us a lot more room.

After nibbling listlessly at the food, I attempt sleep. Having tanked myself up well, I don’t even bother drinking any wine. I doze around ineffectually for a couple of hours. Then put on What We Do in the Shadows. To which I keep falling asleep. That sort of works.

I nod off briefly watching more TV. Outside there’s an amazing strip of dawn, a horizontal rainbow. Very pretty.

The breakfast omelette could be worse. Definitely needs some seasoning. And cheese. Everything is better with cheese.

We land at 5:20. Quite likely the first arrival of the day. On the way to passport control, groups of border guards keep passing us. Obviously, just starting their shifts.

No queue at passport control. I guess because we’re so early. Our bags are already on the carousel and Andrew whips them off, sticks them on the trolley and we’re through customs before the lazy arses have even got out of their office.

A cab has us home not long after six. Where Dolores awaits us with tea.

Saturday, 3 June 2023

Let's Brew - 1911 Russell Pale Ale

There’s quite a jump in strength between the middle and strongest of Russell’s Pale Ales. A full 15º.  While between the weakest and middle there was just 4.5º. Why would that be? I reckon because there was a difference in type. The first two being Running beers, while Pale Ale looks like a Keeper.

There’s less maize in the grist, but also more sugar. That, along with the lack of caramel, tells me that they were trying to keep the colour as pale as possible. There’s a second type of sugar along with the invert: “priming 20 e1”. No idea what that might be so I’ve just bumped up the No. 1.

The hopping rate is a fair bit higher than in Light Dinner Ale. 10.5 lbs per quarter (336 lbs) of malt compared to 8lbs. Another indication that this might be a Keeper. True to form, the hops were all English, a third from 1908 and two thirds from 1910.

Not sure if this was a full-on Stock Pale Ale. Perhaps a semi-stock having six months of so with Brettanomyces. 

The FG, as with all Russell’s beers, is a guess. There’s no record of the fermentation in the logs. 

1911 Russell Pale Ale
pale malt 10.00 lb 86.96%
flaked maize 0.50 lb 4.35%
No. 1 invert sugar 1.00 lb 8.70%
Fuggles 90 mins 1.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 1.75 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 1.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 1.00 oz
OG 1061
FG 1015
ABV 6.09
Apparent attenuation 75.41%
IBU 56
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 58º F
Yeast Wyeast 1768 English Special Bitter

Friday, 2 June 2023

Off to the castle

I hear my phone beep as I’m lying in bed. That can only mean one thing: a message from Andrew.

As I’m feeling nice and comfy, I don’t bother getting up. It’s not like he’s going to be saying “Dad, can we meet earlier?”

I slowly drag my fat, old sorry arse out of bed and tinker with my flipflop a little. As you do in the morning. Andrew has messaged me: “Can we meet at 11?” 

No problem for me. I can do some tippity-tippy tapping. These trip reports don’t themselves, you know. No matter how much they read like AI text prompted by “write a travel report based on Father’s Day and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

There are some weird signs in my room. I particularly like the combined no smoking and no hair drying sign. The latter seems weirdly specific. Who dyes their hair while on holiday? It must have happened though. Otherwise why have the sign?

We have a dead touristy day planned. Visiting the castle. First, I warm up with some of yesterday’s sarnies and whisky. While Andrew goes for the health-food option of beer and beer.

By the time we shuffle off to the lift, it’s well after one. The plan is simple: walk through the market to the metro station, then take a train to the castle. Oh, and get some food on the way.

The beef was good yesterday, but I can’t justify 5 euros a bite. And, being honest, I preferred the molluscs on a stick. The same old chav is there as yesterday. And he remembers us. Still using a twin blowtorch technique.

It’s only three stops to the castle. But we need to change. Andrew has already worked out the route. Though it’s not exactly complicated. The ticket machines are pretty easy to use, too. 190 yen each, it is. Not too expensive, either.

“Do you know which line to take, Andrew>”

“Yes. Don’t worry, Dad. Just follow me.”

“Like Jesus?”

“No, like a normal person.”

A new experience for us, this is. We never got to ride the metro in Tokyo. Just the local trains. The first metro uses an overhead wire. The second, a third rail.

The second line comes across as having been built earlier. It’s the Central Line. I can read that, as it uses the Chinese character. “chung”. As in Chungguo: China.

It’s weird how much more reassuring the writing is here. All through the use of characters. In Korea everything was just squiggles. Here, through the scraps of Chinese I remember, I can read at least a little. Amazing how much more secure that makes me feel.

The metro is bright and clean. Well signposted. But without fucking escalators. Or any lifts, that I’ve noticed. Lots of stairs. Not good for an old Dalek like me.

I have to pause for breath halfway when leaving the castle station.

“Hang on a second, Andrew.”

“What’s keeping you?”

“Crappy old lungs.”

“That’s a rubbish excuse.”

“I’ll try getting some new younger ones before our next trip.”

“Stop taking crap, Dad.”

Before venturing into the trek up to the castle, we pause at a vending machine. I get a tin of cold coffee. I need me some caffeine.

There are a lot of foreign tourists around, surprisingly. And flocks of uniformed schoolkids. As a bunch of six-year-olds walk past they wave at me, for some reason.

The castle is in some ways like and European castle, and in others quite different. There are moats and concentric defences, but no towers, really. More pagoda-like structures. And some of the stones are way bigger: bus-size.

And, being 16th-century, the walls are backed by massive earthworks. I wouldn’t fancy storming the fucker. Even with cannon.

We don’t venture into the keep. You have to pay. And I’ve done enough climbing for one day. For two weeks, really, in combination with all the stairs in the metro.

In the inner bailey, there’s a very European-looking building. Formerly an army headquarters, currently a shopping centre. We check it out.

“Do you fancy a beer, Dad?”

“What do you think?”

“That you’re probably more interested in a whisky?”

“Very funny.”

Souvenir shops, a couple of cafes, even a crane game place. No fucking bar, though. No point hanging around.

The walk down is much more fun. Despite it heating up. It’s not that warm, but Andrew’s melting point in 25.3º C. And it’s 24.9º.

We get out of the wrong exit from the metro. Right next to a pharmacy. Which I notice has a “liquor” sign. I need to check this out. I find the booze section. Where they have Nikka Black. For 850 yen. For70 cl. Around 6 euros. The robbing bastards. Andrew saves himself some money getting a six pack of Asahi.

As we’re walking back through the market, a bloke with a full neck tattoo and a girlfriend who looks about twelve bumps into Andrew. He doesn’t say anything. Andrew, I mean. I wouldn’t have, either. You need to be a total psycho to walk around looking like that in Japan.

We lounge in our hotel for a little. Plan for later? GULP, a craft beer place. We would have dropped by yesterday. Except they don’t open on Tuesday.

They really don’t seem to be into daytime drinking here. None of the beer places open until 5 PM. Which is almost going home to bed time for me, nowadays.

“I wonder why everywhere opens so late and closes so early?” I ponder.

“Because everyone is working.”

“That’s a rubbish reason. Work never stopped me drinking.”

“Which may explain why you were sacked so often.”

“It wasn’t that often. Only a couple of times. Three or four. Half a dozen, at most.”


“It’s not my fault I kept having rubbish managers.”

“Always someone else to blame, eh, Dad?”

GULP should be just down the street. For some reason it seems to be way further away on the map on Andrew’s phone. Not wanting to piss around too much, we settle on the brewpub in the station again. Which gives us a chance to check out exactly where we need to buy tickets and catch the train tomorrow.

Settled into our booth, we order the dark beer. And gyozas. You can never go wrong with them. Around us, salary men and women are doing something similar.

They have lots of little bits of food. Just perfect to add a little ballast but not bloat enough to get in the way of beer.  We order more beer and more bits of food. Tasty and relaxing.

We don’t leave things too late, buggering off before last orders at 9. It’s still buzzing outside. With scurrying commuters and younger loungers. It’s all very Japanese.

We get to our beds pretty early. We aim on rising at 8:00. Our flight is at 12:300 and we want to be at the airport in plenty of time. What with having lounge access.

Dotonbori Craftbeer Brewery Namba
5-1-60, Namba,
Mon - Fri 11:30 - 15:00, 17:00 - 22:00
Sat - Sun & Holiday 11:30 - 22:00

Thursday, 1 June 2023

Bitters by region in 1978

I'm squeezing one last post out of the the wet tea towel of that Sunday Mirror article. This time looking at an overview of the averages per region.

I've arranged them in descending order of value for money (in terms of OG points per penny). And it comes out pretty much as you would expect, with the Northwest on top. Followed by the Northeast and Scotland. With London and the Southeast at the bottom. A pretty obvious North - South divide.

When it comes to gravity, it's almost the reverse. With the North and Scotland having the lowest average, London and the Southwest the highest. Just as a reminder, the overall average OG in 1978 was 1037.6º.* Well below the London average. But this doesn't mean that the beer being drunk in London was well above the average. I've given equal weight to the Ordinary and Special Bitters, even though far more of the former was drunk than the latter.

One of the reasons for the differences in the averages is that few Special Bitters were brewed in the North. While they were much more common in the South, particularly in London.

The rate of attenuation is pretty high, overall. Averaging out at very close of 80% overall. The only one which is a bit lower is London, at 77%. Still not that shabby.

There's not a huge difference in the average quality scores. With Scotland the lowest at 9 and London and the Southwest the highest at 9.5.

What has all this taught us? I'm not really sure. Other than that the further South you went, the more you would pay for beer. Exactly the same as today, really. 

Bitters by region in 1978
region Price º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation score
Northwest 28.7 1.27 0.13 1037.3 1007.2 3.91 80.65% 9.3
Northeast 29.1 1.25 0.13 1037.3 1007.5 3.87 79.92% 9.1
Scotland 30.2 1.20 0.12 1036.7 1007.8 3.75 79.14% 9.0
Midlands 33.3 1.19 0.13 1040.6 1007.9 4.25 80.69% 9.3
Southwest 34.2 1.17 0.12 1042.8 1008.8 4.42 79.72% 9.5
London 36.0 1.06 0.11 1043.1 1009.9 4.32 77.32% 9.5
Southeast 35.8 1.04 0.11 1038.1 1008 3.91 79.25% 9.3
Average 32.5 1.17 0.12 1039.4 1008.2 4.06 79.53% 9.3
Sunday Mirror - Sunday 17 September 1978, pages 22 - 23.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1911 Russell Light Dinner Ale

By the start of the 20th century most breweries were producing a range of Pale Ales at different strengths.

Light Dinner Ale was their second Pale Ale with a gravity under 1050º. This has a gravity more typical of an AK. While their own version of that style was a good bit weaker. Good that they were getting drinkers used to this strength of Pale Ale. They’d be seeing a lot more of them after WW I.

Note that Russell didn’t do any parti-gyling. All their beers were brewed single-gyle. Allowing them to vary the recipes between their Pale Ales. Which is exactly what they did. Here there’s around a third less invert sugar than in their AK, replaced by base malt. The tiny amount of caramel leaving it with the same colour as its weaker sibling.

A slightly higher hopping was also possible. 8 lbs per quarter (336 lbs) of malt rather than the 7.5 lbs of AK. Leaving the bitterness a fair bit higher.

The same hops were used: English from the 1908 and 1910 seasons. 

1911 Russell Light Dinner Ale
pale malt 7.75 lb 79.32%
flaked maize 0.75 lb 7.68%
No. 1 invert sugar 1.25 lb 12.79%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.02 lb 0.20%
Fuggles 90 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 1.00 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.50 oz
OG 1046
FG 1011
ABV 4.63
Apparent attenuation 76.09%
IBU 36
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast Wyeast 1768 English Special Bitter

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Off to Dotonbori

Andrew calls at 9:30. We head off to the combini. And then on further. Through the Kuromon market a bit and on to Dotonbori Street.

It's a bit early and most stuff is closed. Or just opening. We sit in the shade and have a drink. While trying not to get run over by the vans dodging around us.

Andrew wants to look at the river, so we head over there. And walk down the side a little. Snapping away like the other terrorists.

Feeling peckish, I get some strawberries on a stick. 300 yen (+-2 euros) for five. But very nice.

Just past an offie, we spot a craft beer. pub. Not open for several more hours. "I'll remember that for later."

“I’m sure you will, Dad.”

We walk a little more. And my old legs start complaining. My mouth follows.

"I fancy sitting down for a drink. Even just a coffee, Andrew."


We find a western-looking cafe. With an Hawaiian theme. Andrew has a draught beer, I get an iced coffee. It comes to 1,700 yen. Or about 12 euros.

We walk back through the big covered market. God, there’s some yummy looking food. All the local stuff: okonomiyaki, the octopus balls, lots of grilled things on sticks, including wagyu beef, marbled to hell.

"We need to eat here later."

"We can get something on our way out tonight."

We hit Lawsons before returning to our hotel. I get a bottle of Suntory whisky. At 1,500 yen, cheaper than the two drinks we had in the cafe. WTF?

After waiting out the hottest part of the day, we go through the market around 5 PM, just before everything starts closing down. My plan is to get some food. Starting with some wagyu beef. Which, though pricey, is dead good. It comes on a stick. As does pretty much all the carryout food in the market.

What seasoning do I want? Just the salt, I think. No need for barbecue sauce. Judging from the server’s reaction, that seems to be the right choice.

Our next course also comes on a stick. Some sort of shellfish. Not sure exactly what it is. There’s no English translation, as there is with the other items. An old bloke patiently grills it with twin blowtorches. Occasionally squirting over what I assume is soy sauce. It tastes dead good.

We continue on to Dotonbori, which is now really livening up. As coaches disgorge tourist parties to clog the street. Our destination is the tiny craft beer bar we walked past earlier in the day. 

On the way, I notice that the street is full of host bars. With the occasional hostess bar just for variation. How can they support so many of these places? Who goes to them?

“A lot of the customers are hostesses.”

“Did I just say that out loud?”

“Yes, Dad. It’s your senile thing, remember?”

“That all sounds a bit circular. Don’t they get into a feedback loop?”

“Don’t be stupid.”

The occasional work-bound hostess passes. I’d be much more reluctant to walk around the street the way they’re dressed, like stocking-clad maids. Then again, I am an old, fat bloke.

The bar is tiny. Even tinier than the one in Kyoto. But has nine draught taps. Unfortunately, no seats.

The barmaid is also tiny. Having the floor behind the bar six inches lower means she barely comes up to our midriffs. I order an Our Brewing Break Time, billed as a Juicy Double IPA. 8% ABV and 60 IBU.

My beer isn't bad. And hardly sludgy at all. Andrew has a Pilsner. Then a cider, which is so sludgy it looks like milk.

I can walk around OK, but too much standing does me in. A third of the way into my Juicy DIPA, I have to go over the street and sit on some steps. While I'm sitting there, someone comes out from the building behind me and set up a sign right next to me. It's for a host bar. I'm surprised he doesn't tell me to fuck off. I'm not the greatest advert for the place.

I only have the one. Then we go back to or hotel. Past ever thickening crowds of tourists. And men clearly on their way to work in host bars: jacket and tie, dyed hair, make up. Either that, or they’re on their way to a Eurovision party a week early.

Walking past a hostess bar, the draggers-in smile and wave at me.

“Look Andrew, the hostesses like me.”

“Dad, that’s literally their job.”

“Are you sure? They look really genuine.”

“Stop being stupid, Dad.”

Back at the hotel, we rest a little and I pick at some strawberries as we check out where to go next. There's a brewpub in Namba Station, Dotonbori Craftbeer. But it shuts at 10. And it's already after eight.

It's not obvious where the place is, as it's tucked inside a shopping centre under the station. Luckily, we find a map.

As we're walking down the stairs into it, Andrew bangs his head. First time this trip. Hopefully, he isn't concussed.

A waitress tells us when we enter that last orders are at 9 PM. We've about 20 minutes.

We're shown to a private booth and quickly order two beers. Pils, I think. It's hard to be sure as the menu is only in Japanese. We order a plate of gyozas, too.

Quickly knocking back the beers, I notice they also have a dark one. We order two of those. I'm guessing it's a Stout, as it's a bit roasty. We manage to slip in another brace of beers and a plate of gyozas before closing.

While Andrew goes for a piss in the shopping centre, I watch the salary men rushing to get their trains home. And a lone hostess, presumably on her way to work, looking very out of place. It's a very Japanese scene.

Outside the streets are bright and vibrant. People rush around. Like Blade Runner without the rain. Andrew takes a snap of me for Dolores.

We enter a weird “Lowsons”, which seems to be an anime-themed version of Lawsons. We get ourselves some more drinks and nibbles. Wouldn’t want to run dry.

Back in the hotel, I drink some whisky and Andrew some beer. While we watch the Standy-Uppy guys on Youtube. It's been a full, fun day. With lots of walking. Which is probably good for me.

Stand Umineko Craft Beer
2 Chome-2-11 Shinsaibashisuji,
Chuo Ward,
Mon - Fri 17:00 - 23:00
Sat - Sun 15:00 - 23:00

Kuromon Ichiba Market
2 Chome Nipponbashi,
Chuo Ward,

Dotonbori Craftbeer Brewery Namba
5-1-60, Namba,
Mon - Fri 11:30 - 15:00, 17:00 - 22:00
Sat - Sun & Holiday 11:30 - 22:00 

Monday, 29 May 2023

Off to Osaka

I rise at 8. To watch Match of the day 2.

So depressing, as the fascist Arses win. The jammy twats. Totally undeservedly. Then again, I always think that. In my mind, the Arses never deserve to win. Just for being the Arses. I dream of their relegation from the Football League. If it was up to me, they'd start every season with a deduction of 60 points. Or maybe more.

We get to the station early. Very early. Andrew is a bit paranoid when it comes to travelling. We sit in the station for 2 hours waiting for our train.

There’s some shouting going on. A bloke is very unhappy about something at the ticket counter and keeps slamming down some piece of paper. All the station staff look very uncomfortable. Soon enough, it ends. Without police intervention.

There’s a little shop on the concourse. I go to check it out. That is, get something to drink for the journey.

At first, it looks like they don’t sell any alcohol. Then I spot some cans of beer. And, just further along, soju. Though only 200 ml bottles. I get two.

Every time a train rolls in and passengers tip off, a good percentage are in uniform. All young lads and obviously conscripts. Like Andrew’s university friend Robin, who recently started his military service.

“You should be glad they dropped conscription in Holland.”

“They didn’t. It’s still on the books. I received my papers.”

“But you don’t actually have to do it.”

“Not at the moment. They could easily bring it back, if they wanted.”

“It would be good for you.”

“In exactly which way, Dad?”

“Get you out of the house.”

“Good for you, you mean.”

“Cynicism is so unattractive in the young,”

“Fuck off, Dad.”

I’ve been surreptitiously working my way through a bottle of soju. I nip to the shop to replace it.

Maybe I should say a word about soju packaging. The larger bottles look very much like bottled water. Clear liquid in a clear plastic bottle. Only in Korean. One prominent brand even has an image of a drop of water. It would be dead easy to mistake it for water. It must happen.

I'm glad we booked up our seats when we arrived in Pohang. The train is packed after a couple of stops, with people standing. It’s almost like being in the UK. Though obviously nothing like as stupidly overcrowded as that.

We're lucky with our timing when we arrive in Seoul. The next express train to the airport is in 5 minutes. They only run once every 40 minutes. More lounge time. Yippee!

Checking in is a breeze.

"How many bags can I check in?"


Brilliant. Though we only have two that need checking. I wonder if I can save the extra one for a later flight?

Before going airside, I change the remnants of my wongs into yen. Always handy to turn up with local cash. And the wongs aren’t going to be any use in Holland.

There's a bit of a queue at security. Nothing too bad. We're through in 10 minutes. And go directly to the lounge.

It's pretty big. And rather good. They give me a decent slug of whiskey. And there's lots of hot food. It's even better than the Air France lounges. Though maybe not on the cheese front. Mikey still regales friends with tales of the Air France cheese counter.

I watch some Early Doors. Which is rather surreal. And continue stocking my belly with whiskey and scran.

“It’s your round, Andrew.” He doesn’t look very keen on going to the bar, the lazy git.

“What do you want, Dad?”

“Jim Beam, no ice. A Double.”

When he returns, he has that sheepish look again.

“They put ice in, didn’t they?”

“Sorry, Dad.”

We cut it a little fine with going to the gate. Everyone else has already boarded. A couple of staff hurry us towards the plane.

"Don't worry, we've checked in bags. They won't be leaving us behind."

Andrew just gives me a look. Faithless bastard.

“Have I ever let you down, Andrew?”

“Yes. Loads of times. It’s what you do.”

The ungrateful bastard. After all I’ve done for him. Right, well, I’ll not be wiping his arse again.

It’s a good two minutes, three even, perhaps, after we fasten or seat belts that the cabin crew close the doors.

“See, I told you we had plenty of time.”

“Just shut up, Dad. Really. Just don’t say anything.”

I'm not that hungry, but the food is pretty good: spicy pork stew. Lots of legroom, too. Even for lanky legs Andrew. Who is strangely uncommunicative.

I'm knackered when we land in Osaka. Immigration and bag collection go smoothly. And they have baggage trolleys. Free ones. Not like robbing US airports. The robbing bastards.

Customs insists we open our bags. Perhaps, because of our natural sweatiness. I'm tempted to say: "The drugs are in the other bag." But wisely keep my gob shut. Customs officials aren't noted for their sense of humour.

There’s a ticket counter for the express train. So up we traipse to it. We've just a couple of minutes until the next one. I’m not going to rush. We’ll get the one after.

There's a vending machine on the platform and Andrew gets us some drinks. I need a nice cold water. It was weirdly warm in the arrivals hall.

The train has airplane-like oval windows. Giving it rather the appearance of an airliner. If you don’t look too hard or worry about where the wings have gone.

It takes about 45 minutes to Namba. They whisk past in streaming lights and the occasional blinking tower. Impossible to get any impression of what it looks like in daylight.

At Namba Station, where the express terminates. we try for a while to find a taxi rank. It's not very well signposted. Not even on some of the maps. I can’t do with any unnecessary wandering around.

The first taxi driver can't read the name of our hotel. We have to get out again. Luckily, the next one can read Roman script.

It's not that far. But I'm too knacked to walk. It costs 740 yen. The minimum fare is 680 yen. That’s how short a journey it is. Yet one I really needed in my state of totally bollock knackered.

After checking in, Andrew goes down to get some beer from the hotel's vending machine.

“No proof of ID needed.” He says grinning gleefully on return.

“Japanese only channel” a notice says on the TV. Though on NHK they’re showing a programme teaching English. Hah, win for us.

I just drink some water. That’s how tired I am. Then collapse into bed. Over 12 hours travelling, in total. That takes it out of you. Especially an old git like me.