Sunday 31 December 2017

What I've drunk recently

I'm feeling crap - why do I always get ill when I'm off work? - which is why you'll have to put up with this nothing post.

Dolores has been encouraging me to drink up some of my beer stock. Well, not so much encouraging as threatening me. I can't see what the fuss is. there can't be more than 70 or 80 bottles on our living room floor.

It's a radical departure for me. I usually drink little other than St. Bernardus Abt. I was surpised at how varied a set I'd drunk of late 

Saturday 30 December 2017

Let's Brew - 1917 Kidd BB

Kidd was a small brewery in Dartford, Kent, just outside London. It was bought and closed by Courage in 1937.

BB probably stands for Best Bitter, though by this stage of the war “best” was a much devalued term. In fact it looks remarkably like a post WW II Ordinary Bitter.

There’s not much to the grist, just pale malt, some sugar and the merest hint of malt extract. As I’ve mentioned many times before, crystal malt in Bitter is really quite a recent thing. Pretty much unknown before WW I and not common until after WW II.

I know a little more about the hops in this case. Half were Kent, the other half Farnhams. As the latter hops aren’t generally available nowadays, I’ve replaced them with the very similar Goldings. All the hops were from the 1916 crop and, as this beer was brewed at the start of February, they were pretty fresh. It results in quite a bitter beer for something of such relatively low gravity.

1917 Kidd BB
pale malt 6.00 lb 78.69%
No. 3 invert sugar 1.50 lb 19.67%
malt extract 0.125 lb 1.64%
Fuggles 135 mins 1.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 1.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.75 oz
OG 1038
FG 1010
ABV 3.70
Apparent attenuation 73.68%
IBU 46
SRM 11
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 135 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Friday 29 December 2017

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1972 Whitbread Tankard

There is a weird theme to this new series of Kristen recipes. But I’m not going to tell you what it is. Why should I? I haven’t mentioned it to Kristen.

The early 1970’s was the golden age of keg. Not the overpriced fizzy crap that people with beards and tattoos drink. No, I mean the overpriced, fizzy crap that people with moustaches and tattoos used to drink. I guess the world hasn’t really changed that much.

Whitbread, one of the notorious Big Six, was a national company operating more than a dozen breweries. Their two main national brands were Trophy, their Ordinary Bitter and Tankard, a keg Best Bitter. Though Trophy wasn’t a genuine national brand. In reality it was more than a dozen regional beers marketed as if they were a single product.

Tankard was a truly national product and, unlike Trophy, was never available in cask form. It went head-to-head with the keg Bitters of the rest of the Big Six: Allied’s Double Diamond, S & N’s Tartan, Courage Tavern, Bass Brew X and the lovingly-remembered Watneys Red Barrel. All were sold as premium Bitter. And all were crap.

Not that there’s much wrong with the recipe of Tankard. Pale and crystal malt, torrefied barley and No.3 invert sugar. It’s what happened to the poor beer next that turned it into crap. Filtration, heavy pasteurization and force carbonation. Enough to bugger it up a treat.

I’m pretty sure Tankard is no longer produced. Which is sort of sad in a way. But just in a way. It’s not really any great loss.

Time for Kristen to take control . . .

Kristen’s Version:

Notes: Wow, in for a treat today. Looking way back to yesteryear of the early 1970s. Specifically to 1972 where there was actually some really crap national beer being made but at the same time some fantastic stuff from the really small brewers too. You guys know this though right? You’ve read through your copy of Brew Britannia by Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey numerous times right? Here is a cool little synopsis by the Daily Mirror... Although this beer wasn’t anything near great, because we are small, the little guys, we can make all the tweaks we need to make it stellar. #LESGO

Malt: One single pale malt. Pretty easy really. Choose something you really like, or something you’ve never used. Give some Propino, Azalea, Cocktail, Scarlet, Barke, etc etc a try. There is a touch of crystal some pick something you are familiar with that’s pretty dark. Also, one of my very favorite underused grains are in here, torrified barley. Along with its ‘cousin’ torrified wheat I really love the depth and gentle toast both of these give so if you can, don’t miss this, do find it. At 8% there isn’t a ton in here but definitely enough to tell the difference. If you can’t find it, I’d swap for torrefied wheat before I used flaked barley but if FB is the only thing you can find, use that. For the sugar, you’ll want to use something colored. I’ve listed Invert #3 to get closer to the color of the beer, but there isn’t a lot of it so you’ll not get a ton of character. No2 would be fine also. Just something to give it a bit more character.

Hops: This beer is most definitely not about the hop so whatever you use, pick something nice. They have a bunch of hop extract in this thing too but I didn’t list it because you don’t need it. A blend of Kentish hops as well as some Worcester hops but not a lot of them. There are no dry hops so if there has been something you’ve been meaning to use, that’s not silly, do it.

Yeast: I’m really not a big fan of the Whitbread yeast character for beers that have very little character to begin with … meaning, how about picking a yeast with a bit more oomph to it, something that will lend something. Thames Valley is a good choice, so is the old Courage yeast. Specifically to how you do it, I’d underpitch by about 25%+ for this little beer as you really do what those little beasties giving you all the love they can give you.

Cask: Standard procedure:
1) let the beer ferment until finished and then give it another day or so. For me right around 5-7 days.
2) Rack the beer to your vessel of choice (firkin, polypin, cornie, whatever).
3) Add primings at ~3.5g/L
4) Add prepared isinglass at 1ml/L
5) ONLY add dry hops at 0.25g/l – 1g/L.
6) Bung it up and roll it around to mix. Condition at 55F or so for 4-5 days and its ready to go. Spile/vent. Tap. Settle. Serve at 55F.

Thursday 28 December 2017


I was over in the Baarsjes on Saturday, for reasons I won't go into here. I used to live around that way and it's amazing to see how it's changed in the last five years.

The Jan Evertsenstraat used to be rough and ready. Packed with Turkish gree grocers, phone centres, kebab shops. All the usual stuff for a high street in an immigrant-rich area. But there's been a transformation.

First come the fancy coffee places. Then the trendy eateries. Before you know it, gentrificatoion is complete.

One the way to my appointment, I noticed a colourful Oedipus sign. That might be worth checking out I thought. Which is what I duly did later. Radijs, the place is called. Which means radish in English.

What is it? "Modern neighbourhood café" their website calls it. A posh lunchroom is how I'd describe it. With beer.

Obviously, I'm completely out of place. What with my clean-shaved cheeks and untrendy shirt. It's mostly younger types tuccking into posh sarnies. Despite there being half a dozen draughts, I don't see any takers for beer. Other than me, of course. I go for an old-school favourite: La Chouffe.

I'm slightly puzzled by the chairs. They look like the ones schools had in my youth. They always struck as being designed with comfort in mind. In particular, in providing as little of it as possible. Why are they popular in trendy places?

I just have the one.

Radijs Amsterdam
Jan Evertsenstraat 41HS,
1057 BM Amsterdam.
Tel: 020 751 3232

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1917 Kidd Porter

I’ve published dozens of Porter recipes from the big London brewers, but rarely ones from smaller provincial breweries.

Having said that, this Porter isn’t hugely different from London ones. Perhaps not so odd, given that Kidd’s Dartford location was just outside the capital. The gravity looks a bit low, but by February 1917, when this was brewed, strengths had begun to fall. Pre-war, London Porter was around 1050º.

The standard pale, brown and black malt combination is there. As well as crystal malt and oats. Which leads me to believe that this was also sold as Oatmeal Stout. The No. 4 invert is a guess. In the original it’s something called “Budgett”. With that, all the dark malts and some caramel for good measure, it’s unsurprisingly a pretty damn black beer.

The hops were Sussex and Farnham, which I’ve interpreted as Fuggles and Goldings, respectively.  That should get you somewhere in the zone, though other English hop combinations are available. It’s fairly heavily hopped, giving calculated IBUs of over 30.

The recipe also contained 2lbs of “Spanish juice”, which I suppose is a type of liquorice. That was for 145 barrels and works out to 0.03 oz for a brew of this size (5 Imperial, 5 6 US gallons, 23 litres).

1917 Kidd Porter
pale malt 5.75 lb 58.97%
brown malt 0.50 lb 5.13%
black malt 0.50 lb 5.13%
crystal malt 0.50 lb 5.13%
oats 0.50 lb 5.13%
No. 4 invert sugar 1.50 lb 15.38%
caramel 1000 L 0.50 lb 5.13%
Fuggles 135 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 1.00 oz
OG 1042
FG 1010
ABV 4.23
Apparent attenuation 76.19%
IBU 32
SRM 53
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 135 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Wrong Hall

You may remember me posting about Balderton Hall, home of one of the Warwick family. One of the directors of Warwicks & Richardsons brewery in Newark.

I sort of assumed it must have been the only large house I could remember in Balderton. But after a bit more digging in the web I realised that there were two halls in Balderton. The Old Hall in the centre of the old village:

Interestingly, there was a malthouse right behind it according to this map from just before WW I:

Mr. Warwick, however, lived at Balderton Hall or Balderton New Hall. This was a little outside the village. On the site that I knew only as the mental hospital. I didn't realise that it had been a posh house before becoming a hospital.

Here's an Edwardian map of this Hall (the road on the bottom left is the old A1):

Monday 25 December 2017

Drinkalongathon 2017: duck and dive

"If it had been up to Stalin, all that land would have been equally divided."

"Sorry, Alexei, we can't finish that discussion now. I have to write this blogpost."

"Would you like a gin to help you along?"

"Yes, thanks, Alexei. With just a little tonic."

The last bit was just wishful thinking in my head.

"Alexei! Do you want to read what I've written? I've managed to get Stalin into it." I'm hoping he'll offer me a gin.

"Do you know what I can offer you dad? More details about Stalin's agrarian policies."

"Sorry, Lexie, no room for anything as contentious as that."

Drinkalongathon 2017: shiraz and socialism

If it was up to Alexei, it would be vodka and communism. Proper Soviet-style fun.

"Mum, can I have more wine?" Andrew asked just now. Lying on the settee. He almost fits on it. Just a foot or two of his hang over the end. He could have get off his lazy fat arse and pour hiself another glass.

The wine is quite nice, in a heavy fruity sort of way. But this isn't a wine blog. I don't even publish beer tasting notes. Not proper ones. Just joke onbes. I'm not going to start with wine.

have to be brief. Vegetables to roast.

Drinkalongathon 2017: goat and Marlbrough

We always have goats cheese pasties as a starter. Very nice they are. I hace special ones without the honey. As no sugar ever passes my lips.

Which is slightly odd given what a proponent of brewing sugar I am. Then again, it's not brewing sugar I drink but the lovely alcohol the yeast transforms it into.

If our house is looking magical at Christmas, it's only because I've been choosing the angles carefully.

"Don't get all that crap in the pictures, Ronald."

"Crap? I can't see any crap."

"All those beer bottles all over the floor. You said they'd be gone by Christmas."

"Pretty sure I said after Christmas."

"Shall I open one or two bottles of wine for the main course?"

"Two." Now Alexei drinks wine, one bottle isn't enough. I'll blame him if we all become alcoholics.

Drinkalongathon 2017: Laphroaig and more TOTP

"I need to pick the pace up, kids. Two hours in and I'm only on my second sherry."

Laphroaig should liven me up. I've poured myself a double. It is Christmas, after all.

I'm surprised Alexei hasn't cracked opened his gin yet. "Lexie, I'm surprised you haven't cracked opened your gin yet."

"Oh god Ronald, he doesn't want to overdo it. He'll drink some wine in a minute." Dolores says.

"I know what he's doing. He'll wait until we're in bed, then open it. Anything to deprive his poor, old Dad of a tot. The bastard."

No devilish jigsaw this year. But my brother has given me a 3D puzzle. Hopefully it'll keep us entertained for the afternoon.

Drinkalongathon 2017: fino and TOTP

It's been a slow start to the day. It's almost 2 PM and I'm only on my second drink. Which is another fino sherry.

I've been busy with dinner. Making the sruffing, stuffing the duck, finding a roasting tray big enough to take the duck. Busy, busy, busy. Bird roasting, I can now relax.

I notice they're sticking with female presentors for Top of the Pops. Probably a good idea if they want to be able to repeat the programme in 20 years time.

The kids are discussing one of Alexei's presents, a bottle of Tanqueray. They're impressed that it's 47.3% ABV. "That's typical of Dad, buying the strongest one." What a tstrange impression of me the kids have,

Drinkalongathon 2017: candy and a currant bun

A slightly later start this year. But with the same traditional Christmas breakfast: a bacon sarnie and fino sherry. It's a match made in heaven.

I hope at least one of you bastards is going to make the effort this year and drink along. Sometimes I wonder why I do this.

The kids are still asleep, obviously. Just as well as they've no beer left. They've managed to finish off two crates of Heineken since Saturday. Pissheads. I honestly don't know where they get it from. I tell a lie. Alexei has just awoken and said to Dolores: "Mmm, I can smell bacon." Frying bacon is always a good way to get him up.

Now I just need to consult Jamie to see how lon g I need to roast the duck.

Sunday 24 December 2017

Nationalisation of the Drink Trade

Those temperance bastards made several attempts to use WW I as an excuse to restrict alcohol sales. And just because the war had ended, it didn’t mean they stopped trying.

The sneaky bastards had a few approaches to gradually introducing prohibition. One was the “local option” which allowed districts to hold a poll on whether to go dry or not. They’d been at this one since before the war and there were a couple of attempts to get a bill through parliament. They eventually succeeded after the war, but not for the whole country.

Only Wales and Scotland were burdened with the ridiculous local option. But it didn’t go according to the temperance bastards’ plan. They expected that more and more districts would vote for a local ban until there was full temperance. A few well-heeled districts voted to go dry initially, but these were gradually whittled down over the years as fresh polls overturned the original decision.

A second line of attack was nationalisation.  For which they used the Carlisle scheme as an argument. They seemed to assume that nationalisation would inevitable reduce the amount drunk. Not so sure exactly why they thought that. I’m pretty sure than after a few years there wasn’t any difference between the amount drunk in Carlisle and elsewhere.

Writing to The Times to-day on the liquor problem, Bishop Hamilton Baynes, of Birmingham (formerly, St. Mary’s, Nottingham), says:

The first condition of real reform is to eliminate the element of private profit. Till that is secured no real progress is possible. The Carlisle experiment has shown, beyond all question, what can be done by State purchase. The Labour party have taken up the cause with enthusiasm, and the Government are assured of strong support if they will but take their courage in their hands, and face the big task of buying out the trade.

It is true, no doubt, that many people who were strong supporters of State purchase at the beginning of the war are inclined to hesitate now, partly because, through the great rise in brewery shares, they are afraid that the price now demanded by the trade may be prohibitive, and partly because they fear to add the already vast indebtedness the country.

The answer to these objections is (1) that the principle the excess profits tax may surely be applied to the breweries, and the purchase price fixed on the average of pre-war values; and (2) that the substitution of Government bonds for brewery securities is a measure that need have no influence on the finance of the country.

The Government will, in fact, have made profitable speculation. For Carlisle has shown how, in spite of an immense decrease both in the number licensed houses and the drink consumed, the business is remunerative. We all hope that the consumption of alcohol will be greatly reduced as the result of State purchase and the reforms which that purchase will make possible. But over against the financial loss which such reduction would involve, it must be remembered that immense savings will effected by economies of management and concentration brewing in a comparatively small number of breweries.

When once the motive of private gain has been eliminated, and the monopoly value restored to the State, we shall have the clean slate which we have long desired, on which we may start fresh to inscribe a new and better system. Then, as in Carlisle, we can have something more like the Continental restaurant, where food as well as drink can be obtained — where a better moral atmosphere may reinforce a healthy public opinion and create self-respect.

The Dean Lincoln (the Rev. T. C. Fry) writes in the same journal:

Suffer me as a Churchman, a social student, and abstainer of over 40 years, to support the proposed policy of State purchase. Whatever prohibition can do in comparatively new countries, founded by the more adventurous folk ready to try experiments, in old countries it cannot become an accepted policy for at least two centuries. The only possible road of advance is nationalisation ; then no private interest will load the dice against reform. I only wish the Labour party had made it “plank" in 1915; it would have been carried then. Now the heavier price must be paid.”
Nottingham Evening Post - Monday 17 November 1919, page 1.

What self-righteous git the Dean of Lincoln was. I wouldn’t want to be sat next to him at dinner. Unless I’d had a few pre-prandial cocktails and was in a combative mood.

It’s weird how this idea persisted (and still does in some circles) that no-one in Continental Europe ever got pissed in a pub. They’ve obviously never been to Bavaria or the Czech Republic if they believe tosh like that.

Saturday 23 December 2017

Drinkalongathon 2017

Yes! Drinkalongathon is back for 2017. Exactly the same as last year! No better and no worse!

Except for one thing. I've introduced one huge change for this year. You won't need two pieces of string. You'll need four.

Before you start thinking: "That'll be easy, I'll cut my pieces of string in half." I'll tell that won't work. You'll need two totally new piece of string. If you've foolishl;y misplaced last year's string, then you'll need four totally new pieces. Getting two pieces of string and cutting them in half won't work. You'll need whole not half pieces of string.

Nothing has changed on the egg front. You still need two of those, one hard the other soft boiled. And obviously a crate of Abt, a full litre of Islay whisky (of your choice, but I would recommend Lagavullin. even if I can't afford it myself).

You can leave out the absinthe, but you'll need to bump up the overproof rum proportionately. No valium this year. We'll need Fentonyl. No Heineken. The kids can buy their own beer this year.

There's some other stuff, too. But I can't be arsed to list it all again.

See you on Monday at 8 AM (Amsterdam time). That's when I'll be having my eye-opener. Followed by an eye-half-closer.

Let's Brew - 1914 Courage X Ale

Here’s one of those stronger London X Ales that I’ve been telling you about. From Courage’s Horselydown brewery right next to Tower Bridge.

Though, in a couple of ways, it’s not totally typical of Mild Ales from the capital. The OG is the same as Milds from rival London breweries, but there are some differences in the grist. For a start, there’s some black malt included, presumably for colour rather than flavour. Crystal malt was becoming quite common in Mild by this point, so that’s not odd. It’s what’s missing that struck me: no flaked maize.

I’ve no idea what the sugar was, but No.3 invert seems a reasonable guess. Especially as I know for certain that Courage were using it in their X Ale a couple of years later.

Amusingly, given that this beer was brewed in October, a couple of months after the outbreak of war, it contains some German hops. Though they must have bought them some time before as they were from the 1912 crop. They had been in a cold store so shouldn’t have deteriorated much. As usual, all I know about the other hops is that they were English. I’ve gone for Fuggles as they usually reserved Goldings for classier beers like Pale Ale.

This is what I would call a transitional Mild, with regard to colour. It’s not full out dark, but dark enough to be distinguished from Bitter. It’s fascinating to see how Mild gradually changed colour. Especially as it didn’t happen everywhere at the same time. London seems to have lead the way.

1914 Courage X Ale
pale malt 10.00 lb 81.63%
crystal malt 60 L 0.75 lb 6.12%
black malt 0.25 lb 2.04%
No. 3 invert sugar 1.25 lb 10.20%
Fuggles 120 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Hallertau 30 mins 0.50 oz
OG 1055
FG 1019
ABV 4.76
Apparent attenuation 65.45%
IBU 21
SRM 19
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Friday 22 December 2017

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1920 Barclay Perkins KK (Bottling)

A welcome return for Kristen after a very long absence. He had some pathetic excuse about having a brewery to run.

After WW I Barclay Perkins produced two versions of their KK Burton Ale. The draught version, which was one of the standard beers in their tied houses, had an OG of around 1058º in the 1920’s. A powerful beer, but quite a good bit weaker than the bottling version, which was marketed as Southwarke Ale.

The grist is typical for a Burton Ale, with the base malt being SA malt rather than pale malt. SA malt is kilned in such a way that it produces a less fermentable wort. At least for primary fermentation. In addition to the base, there’s some crystal, flaked maize and invert sugar. All the usual stuff that you’d expect. Oh, and a little bit of caramel, which Kristen seems to have forgotten in the recipe below.

We had a lot of discussion about the FG on this one. With me arguing that it would have fallen during secondary conditioning. Looking at the brewing record again, I can see some interesting remarks in the dry hopping section.

“4oz Alsace after 4 or 5 days rolling”
“4oz Champion EK after a further week, casks bunged down on Feb 5th”

Remember this is a beer that was only available bottled. It was brewed 14th January and racked on the 22nd January. As it says on the record “All to Hhds [hogsheads] for bottling.” So obviously it was getting a secondary conditioning in casks before being bottled. It’s unfortunately not clear for how long, but it was at least a couple of weeks. I suspect at least a couple of months.

While we’re mentioning dry hops, this beer, with half a pound per barrel, had loads.

That’s me done. Over to Kristen . . .

Kristen’s Version:
Notes: This is one of those beers that are going to be a beast to ‘point’ out the way it is in the log. Wherefore? This thing has a pretty high FG. It’s not that big of a beer, really, but getting it to finish/stop at the gravity is going to be a pain.

Two English pale malts, both SA malts, which would have been less fermentable than standard ale malt. Basically we need to get as many dextrins in this sucker as possible, especially with the amount of adjunct in this bad boy. So we’ll use mild malt if you can get it, which will definitely help. Mashing hotter will definitely help also…156F (68-69C) should do well enough. The remaining recipe is a touch of maize and a proper solid whack of invert. You’ll see they also added a decent jigger of caramel to this sucker to get it ‘just right’…these were their actual words in the log. Use it or don’t. I’m not, as its not really that much of a difference.

Hops were really neat for this one. Some standard Kentish ones and the rougher, higher AA% American ones however we see some Alsace hops poke in. More importantly, this is quite decently dry hopped at 0.5lb/bbl (~2g/L) split between some more Alsace and some East Kentish. You really do want that lower alpha stuff for the bulk of the bittering to get the ‘greenery’ character that much hops will give. That said, you do lose a lot of beer in that much hops so any decent higher alpha hop for the bitter will work fine. Strisselspalt will be the closest you can get to Alsace uniqueness but there have been hops grown there since the 1700s I think…a long time anyway. You can replace with really any German ‘lager’ hop will do well….same holds for any Slovak/Czech/etc will do well enough. Basically you want something that has a solid oil content but nothing that’s ‘New World’.

Really your choice. You’ll want something to not ferment as full so a nice ‘ESB’ yeast will do well…basically anything that has lower attenuation is what you want but hold an ‘English’ profile. It shouldn’t be weird nor be a big driver of the flavor profile.

Standard procedure:
1) let the beer ferment until finished and then give it another day or so. For me right around 5-7 days.
2) Rack the beer to your vessel of choice (firkin, polypin, cornie, whatever).
3) Add primings at ~3.5g/L
4) Add prepared isinglass at 1ml/L
5) ONLY add dry hops at 0.25g/l – 1g/L.
6) Bung it up and roll it around to mix. Condition at 55F or so for 4-5 days and its ready to go. Spile/vent. Tap. Settle. Serve at 55F.

Thursday 21 December 2017

NEIPA, CAMRA and Wetherspoons

Thanks to Boak & Bailey for explaining the best beer clickbait terms. Now I just have to construct a post that somehow lives up to its title.

NEIPA. A hot topic currently. Some have suggested it represents a seismic shift in beer culture. Others that it's just a passing fad. This is where it's great having your head stuffed up the past's arse as much as I have. Only time will tell. Speculation now is just, well, speculation. 23rd December 2022, to be precise. Until then, anything written about the historic significance of NEIPA is just waffle.

In the 1950's, British beer geeks would have assumed Brown Ale, Milk Stout, Keg Bitter and Light Ale were the drinks of the future. And we all know how that turned out. By the 1990's these styles were as cool as Rick Astley and as sexy as scabby tramp.

Forty years, that took, I hear you complain. True, but the geeky internet world has speeded trends up a treat.

Right, just need to work in CAMRA and Spoons now.

Returning to the theme of the long term, forking out for a CAMRA life membership was one of my best decisions ever. How much dosh has that saved me? Not to mention all the free tokens at beer festivals over the years. Best investment ever.

When I first took my kids to Wetherspoons, I was also thinking long term. About what I could do with them in the UK once they were adults. Take them to Spoons, obviously. Getting them accustomed to the unique atmosphere was one of my key aims in our visits to Britain. Cola light for Alexei, cranberry juice for Andrew, strongest cask beer they have and two double Bells, no ice, for Dad.

Now they ask: "Dad, can we go to Wetherspoons, please?" And, "If you're getting youself whisky, can I have a vodka?"

That was easier than I thought. Constructing a post around three randon clickbait terms. Could be a new theme. Throw some more clickbait at me and I might write more crap like this. Or not, depending on my mood.

Home again

I feel much better this morning. No headache and I don’t feel like puking. I call that a win win.

The queue for the breakfast room is even longer this morning. We hang around for five minutes before being seated. At least the queue is as long now as when we joined it.

I serve myself another dockers breakfast. With extra bacon. You really can never have too much bacon. Dolores has gone instead for beans on toast with a couple of poached eggs. “Health nazi.” I think as I look at her sad plate. I don’t say it, mind. Not a good way to start the day getting a kick on the shins. Or worse. I’ve learned that it’s not a clever to anger Dolores.

Two 50-something sisters are sitting next to us. Gossiping away incessantly. Mostly about someone called Sean, who appears to be their brother. “I never spoke much with. He’d come around ours and just sit there saying nothing. Our make that stupid laugh of his.” They’re from Manchester way, judging by the accent. Unfortunately, their breakfast ends before the interminable Sean tale. I never get to hear the ending.

Dolores heads off to the shops while I watch Sunday Brunch and finish the packing. When Dolores returns with the meat and crisps, she has some news. KLM have sent her an SMS saying that our flight has been cancelled.

Looking on my flipflop, I see they’ve sent me a message, too. We need to get in touch with KLM to see about rebooking on another flight. Dolores calls them and, with remarkably little faffing around, we’re rebooked on a flight about an hour later than planned. But it’s from Heathrow rather than London City. And with BA rather than KLM.

Oh well, things could have been worse. Like when I had to hang around in Charles de Gaulle all bloody day on my way back from Chile. And, in terms of transport, Heathrow is easier to get to. We just have to jump on a Piccadilly line tube at Russell Square.

I’ve never been to Heathrow Terminal 5 before. It’s so long since I was last at Heathrow, Terminal 5 hadn’t even been built.

The machine won’t let us check in so we have to go to a desk. Not a problem as there isn’t much of a queue. Before you know it the bag is checked in and we’re standing in the security queue. Which is lovely and short.

Have you noticed that airports are turning into shopping centres with a secondary transport function? Terminal 5 is taking this to a new extreme. Especially as hardly any of the hops are selling useful stuff like food and booze, but instead are mostly selling designer shite Where’s the Wetherspoons?

We eventually find a map. With no Wetherspoons marked, only a couple of “undergoing renovation” signs. The only refreshment possibility seems to be a place called the Pilot Bar.

It’s quite full. We quickly grab a couple of seats, but are told that we have to wait for a waitress to seat us. 30 seconds later a waitress shows to exactly the same seats we’ve just been told to vacate. That was fun.

There isn’t much of a beer list. Heineken Pils, Lagunitas IPA. I guess there is an upside to Heineken buying them up.

A Geordie about my age sits at our table. He goes for Lagunitas, too, though without a great deal of enthusiasm. “The Weatherspoons is shut.” He tells us in a voice tinged with sadness and regret. “There’s nowhere else to come but here.” It’s obviously somewhere he’d never usually come. Nor would I, if the Spoons were open.

Dolores checks on our flight. “It says the gate is closing.” Damn. I thought our flight was 30 minutes later. I know have to rush down my pint. “Don’t worry, we’ve got a bag checked in. They can’t leave without us.” But we still hurry to the gate, which luckily is close at hand.

At least there was a Boots in Terminal 5. Where I picked up a sarnie for the flight. Cheese and onion, for just a quid. I rightly predicted BA wouldn’t be feeding us.

After a bit of waiting around for the checked in bag we’re out of the airport and on a number 69 bus. The flat is still intact when we return. Though all the Amstel and all but a thimbleful of the gin have disappeared. Looks like the kids have had a productive weekend.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

This year's books

I managed to churn out four new books this year. Not bad going, especially as a couple were mostly written from scratch.

10% of what I earn on each sale goes into a special fund for Alexei. I call it the GAPB fund (Gin and Pils). If you want him to have a merry New Year, please invest oin some of my books.

First, a mostly new book (some recipes have appeared on the blog) that deservedlly won an award from the North American Guild of Beer Writers. To say it's the best book on the history of Scottish beer is a bit of an understatement. All the others are fulkl of made-up bollocks. Almsot forgtot, it contains close to 400 historic recipes.

The next book also contains a stack of historic recipes. That's all it is, really: a whole load of recipes. Though it's rather wider in scope, taking in foreign beers sucha as continental Lagers, and US Ales.

Macbeth is the tale of my travels trying to flog Scotland Vol. II. I wasn't particularly successful onb that front, but I did have a good time trolling around such exotic locations as Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Macclesfield.

Finally, my annual Christmas book. The one where I give the words a rest and let the pictures do the talking. Photos of old brewing records, covering every deacde from 1804 to 1972. Including the legendary Whitbread Tankard from 1972?