Saturday 31 August 2019

Let's Brew - 1963 Lees Lager

Around 1960 a lot of smaller breweries suddenly got interested in Lager, which everyone in the industry reckoned would be the next Big Thing.

Rather than miss out on the fun, the set about brewing a Lager of their own. With wildly differing degrees of authenticity. Most breweries just didn’t have the equipment to do the job properly. They could neither decoct nor lager properly. What they ended up doing was brewing a Golden Ale that was filtered and artificially carbonated.

Because some vital details are missing, it’s impossible for me to tell how authentic Lees Lager was. For example, the pitching temperature isn’t listed, nor is it clear exactly what yeast was being used. In the recipe below, I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt and gone for a cool fermentation with a genuine Lager yeast. There’s a good chance it was really fermented warm with their standard yeast.

At least they did use proper lager malt, I know that for sure. Along with flaked rice and some enzymatic malt. The rice replaces the flaked maize used in Lees other beers. There are also two types of sugar: P.S. Crystals and Solprima. I’ve substituted No. 1 invert sugar.

The hops were something English and Styrian Goldings. I’ve guessed Fuggles for the former.

1963 Lees Lager
pilsner malt 6.25 lb 78.13%
enzymic malt 0.25 lb 3.13%
flaked rice 0.75 lb 9.38%
No. 1 invert sugar 0.75 lb 9.38%
Fuggles 90 mins 0.75 oz
Styrian Goldings 30 mins 0.75 oz
OG 1037
FG 1009
ABV 3.70
Apparent attenuation 75.68%
IBU 20
Mash at 146º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 48º F
Yeast Wyeast 2042 Danish lager

This recipe come from my excellent book on brewing after WW II.

Friday 30 August 2019

Train to Hiroshima

It looks like being a stressful day. What with us having no seat reservations for the train. And the weather forecast is – scorchio.

We start off with a taxi to Tokyo station, where we’ll be picking up our first shinkansen. It’s hotter than hell again. Don’t know why I mention that. It’s been dead hot 100% of the time.

It’s not immediately clear which shinkansen we need to take. They’re all named and colour-coded, but that doesn’t tell you where they’re going. So I go to the JR travel centre for confirmation. We need platform 14.

Luckily there’s an air-conditioned waiting room on the platform to save Andrew’s life. He’s looking very pale, sweaty and close to collapse again. The nice man at the JR desk also told me that the first five carriages have the unreserved seats.

Alexie’s head almost knocks into some of the signs above the platform. The kids have to be so careful not to bash their heads into things. This country isn’t designed for people over 2 metres tall. I have to be careful, too and I’m under 2 metres.

I head off for some provisions. Drinks, really.

“Don’t take too long, Dad. Our train will be here soon.”

“I need beer.”

“Don’t you always.” Andrew, beer-slurper extraordinaire, can talk.

I love the Japanese. Even in a dead busy station kiosk they're friendly and patient with a foreign idiot fiddling with change. Which is what I’m doing. For a good reason.

In our first couple of days here before flying to Seoul, I accumulated a scary amount of Japanese change. I must have had 40 euros or more in coins. I’ve made it my mission to work my way through it. Hence fiddling with the coins at the checkout. I’m getting better at spotting the higher value coins in my wallet. Which is helping.

We see our train come in – it starts here – and shuffle out onto the platform. It’s already pretty crowded.

This being Japan, they have queues for the train doors. Properly arranged, with a staff member holding up a sign saying "end of line". When I can’t be arsed to squeeze along the platform any more,  we join the back of a queue.

Our choice of queue is a good one. We get on pretty quickly and all find seats, though not next to each other. The aisles are full of people standing.

I’m sitting next to a 50-something Japanese bloke who spends the whole of the journey reading manga. At least he’s quiet enough.

Some people to my left are getting stuck into bento boxes. The food looks – and smells – dead good. Why didn’t I pick one of those up in the station? I know, I had two whinging kids dragging at my heels.

The train is gradually emptying out as we progress. After a couple of hours, no-one is standing. Much more relaxing without the aisle clogged with people. Me and the kids are also able to move closer together.

“This hasn’t been so bad after all.” I remark to the kids, “I’d feared much worse.”

“We were just lucky, Dad.” Go on. Kill my buzz again. Andrew is so cynical. I guess that’s what you get for studying politics and belonging to a club named Machiavelli.

The shinkansen service is incredible. We have 19 minutes between our trains. While we’re waiting four other shinkansen stop on our platform. The train service is in general is dead well organised, the stations well signed and the staff really helpful. And I can be a real negative twat. Just ask Dolores.

“That’s slightly worrying.” I say to the kids as we’re waiting, pointing at the staff in white gloves pushing people onto the train. “Not a good sign at all.”

Though  it is cool to see train pushers in action. So many people work on the railways here, each group with its own uniform. A bit like the 19th-century in Britain. Then in other ways the railways are hyper-modern.

Our new train is mobbed. We can barely push our way in. We’re probably lucky to get on at all. Even the passenger-pushers couldn’t cram everyone onto some of the earlier trains.

I’m still quite close to the door. With all my luggage around me, it’s not exactly a comfortable standing position. And one of the wheels on my trolley bag seems to have collapsed. Great. I’m also trying not to rub my sweaty body up against the woman jammed in next to me.

Luckily after a couple of stops someone next to where I’m standing gets off and I grab their seat. The kids have to stand all the way. It’s OK for them. They still have strong, young legs. Unlike me. But it is only 80 minutes and air conditioned.

A walk through Hiroshima station and Andrew is looking like shit again. He recovers in the air-conditioned waiting room while we work out how to get to the hotel. Which turns out to be just 500 metres from the station. It says much about Japanese taxi drivers that one was happy to drive us somewhere he could point out from where we were standing.

Our hotel is right on the river. And wonderfully air conditioned, which is a big plus. The rooms are pretty big, too, compared to Tokyo. They have a wonderful view of the river and the skyline. Hard to imagine the terrible history of the city.

In the distance a suburb tumbles down a gorge like a glacier. A magical view. I’m warming to the city already.

“There’s a convenience store just around the corner.” Alexei remarks, helpfully.

“Let’s go on down. And hope they have whisky.”

“Dad, you know they always have whisky in those shops. That cheap Suntory stuff you drink.”

“That’s not cheap whisky. It’s competitively-priced whisky. Big difference.”

“Cheapest and strongest. That’s you, Dad.”

“I suppose you’ll be wanting some Strong Zero, Andrew?”

“Four cans, please.” He can’t be feeling that bad.

We don’t stray in the evening. We watch the sun set, the sky darken and the buildings prickle up with lights.

“It’s lovely, isn’t it, kids?”

“You always say that after a few whiskies. No matter how shit anything is.”

“I guess it’s time for bed, then, Zebedee?”

Thursday 29 August 2019

Flying back to Tokyo

We really should have left earlier than 7 AM. Our flight is at 10:10. And the airport is more than an hour away by train. But we have to get to Seoul station first. And there are only two fast trains an hour.

A taxi stops almost as soon as we leave out hotel. It’s dropping off. That was lucky. No waiting around. Could have been much worse.

We get tickets from a machine. The next fast train leaves in 10 minutes. Perfect, really. If we’d got here 10 minutes later, we’d have been buggered. I’m still feeling quite stressed, as we’re cutting things pretty fine. Obviously, it’s still hotter than Hades.

We can't get seats together on the Skyliner train to the airport as it's so full. No biggie. I’m sat next to a random middle-aged bloke. At least he doesn’t keep complaining, as the kids do.

I feel better when we’re in the terminal. Everything looks like it will be fine.

We check in incredibly quickly, thanks to my pushing in boarding. Security and passport control are thankfully also a breeze. Things are looking good. We’ve still 15 minutes before boarding when we’ve jumped through all the airport hoops.

“Wait a second, kids.”

“What is it now, dad? We haven’t got much time, remember.”

“I’ve still got all these won. I may as well use some in the duty free.”

“Hurry up then. Why do you always do this stuff, Dad?”

“I’m just being economical.”

“Total drunk, more like.”

The whisky is all stupid prices. So I just get a litre of the cheapest vodka I can find.

We get to the gate about 3 minutes before boarding begins. Which stresses me out a treat. But at least I have a litre of vodka.

I’m dead impressed by Korean Air. The service is very good. And my KLM pushing in boarding counts. Even on a flight of just 1.5 hours they serve a full meal, with an alcoholic drink. Feeling stressed up, I go fo orange juice again.

“What’s wrong with you, Dad?” Alexei asks, getting stuck into his beer. “Why aren’t you drinking a wine?”

“I thought you wanted me to drink less?”

We’re picking up our JR passes at the airport. It involves a fair bit of pissing around, along with some Andrew sweating and getting angry. He does sort out the passes for us, mind, while me and Alexei wait.

"Did you see the Weebo on the plane, Dad?"

"Who was that?"

"The Dutch girl sat a few seats in front of us."

“How do you know she was a Weebo?”

“It was obvious from how she looked.”

She did have hair dyed pink.

It's fucking hot in Tokyo.

We also pick up tickets to Tokyo. This time we’re headed for Ueno rather than Nippori station. It’s one stop further. We need to book seats on the shinkansen to Hiroshima for tomorrow. But the airport train comes into the wrong Ueno station. The airport line is run by Keisei, not JR. And at Ueno the two companies have completely separate stations.

We have to walk out into the blazing heat. Andrew is coping as well as ever.

“Just hurry the fuck up, Dad.”

After some sweaty stumbling, we find the JR ticket office. At the start of the queue there’s a sign in English warning that it’s the busy season and on many trains all the reserved seats have already been sold.

“All the reserved seats have been sold. You’ll need to go in one of the carriages with unreserved seats.”

Great. That sounds like being fun.

“At least it isn’t hot.” I quip.

“Really, shut the fuck up with that shit, Dad.” The heat makes Andrew a right grumpy trousers.

We find our way to the taxi rank, sweating like pigs in hell. This is so unpleasant. Alexei sits in the front, as usual.

"Did you see how old our taxi driver was, Dad? He was born in 1933."

We check straight into our hotel. It’s not the greatest in the world. Check out is at 10 AM. And the rooms are tiny. But we're only here one night.

Alexei just dropped by to tell me there's a dead famous temple nearby. And that Andrew wants to eat sushi tonight. Alexei has found somewhere close with good reviews. Not the racist one that only allows Japanese people to sit at the counter.

The temple is impressively close as well as impressive. And has a fire station right next to it. No coincidence, as at the temple entrance there's a sign saying no open flames. I suppose these wooden structures are susceptible to fire.

There’s a row of little shops welling weird trinkets. And quite a few people praying. It’s quite serene as dusk falls and the sky slowly darkens and envelops the surrounding buildings.

The sushi place isn’t far, either. Down a little back street. I’d never have spotted it if we didn’t have Alexei’s phone. Though I am starting to recognise the cloths hung over the entrance as being the sign of a restaurant.

It’s tiny. All the seats at the bar are taken, but there’s one free table. A minute table. About big enough to seat four 6-year olds. The kids barely fit into the space. Andrew is half off the table.

The food is amazing. One of the two chefs spends 30-40 minutes preparing it. Very impressive to watch his knife skills. There doesn’t appear to be any waiting staff, just the two chefs. Who also serve the food.

A woman sitting at the bar turns around and chats with us a little, which is nice.

When the sushi is all gone, we’re brought bowls of miso soup. Odd finishing a meal with soup.

Bit of a shock when the bill comes. Also brought over by our chef.

When I was shown the menu and the prices, I was still thinking in wons. It hasn't come to 30 euros, as I had thought, but 300.

One of the most expensive meals I've ever bought. But worth it for the quality of the food and the experience. I'm not going to let money spoil it for me. Though I only have just about enough to pay. The kids will be on bread and water tomorrow to compensate.

Luckily I have that litre of vodka to console me back at the hotel.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1914 Courage Imperial Stout

Before you get all excited, this is not an early version of Courage Russian Imperial Stout. Because that beer was Barclay’s Russian Imperial Stout until 1968, when it was rebranded as Courage. This is a completely different and unrelated beer.

Though, obviously, it is an Imperial Stout. The OG is a bit lower than the Barclay’s version, which was over 1100º, but it’s still a pretty powerful Stout. I think even I would make do with just a couple of pints.

The grist is the classic London combination of pale, brown and black malt. The capital’s brewers were faithful to brown malt to the bitter end. Most provincial breweries had ditched before 1900. And to those style Nazis who think that roast barley is the defining feature of Stout, I’ll point out that it was almost never used in London. And that is the city where the style was invented.

It’s heavily hopped with a combination of English and Hallertau hops. I’ve knocked the hopping rate down a bit because the hops were from the 1912 and 1913 seasons. You could swap the Fuggles for Goldings. This was an expensive beer, so might well have included posh hops. But, it was also parti-gyled with Porter, which was a cheap beer. Take your pick.

As the original would have had a secondary conditioning before sale, I’ve dropped the FG down from the racking gravity of 1039. I know from consulting both the brewing records and analyses of the finished beer that the gravity of Barclay’s Imperial Stout fell considerably after racking. Like that, Courage’s Imperial Stout would also have been vatted and most likely worked on by Brettanomyces.

1914 Courage Imperial Stout
pale malt 13.00 lb 60.47%
brown malt 4.25 lb 19.77%
black malt 2.25 lb 10.47%
No. 4 invert sugar 2.00 lb 9.30%
Fuggles 120 mins 2.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 2.00 oz
Hallertau 30 mins 1.00 oz
OG 1094
FG 1025
ABV 9.13
Apparent attenuation 73.40%
IBU 42
SRM 73
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 58º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

This an excerpt from my book on brewing in WW I, Armistice!

 Buy this wonderful book.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Seoul day four

It’s our last full day in Seoul. Best make the most of it.

We’ve not indulged in a hotel breakfast yet. Not much point, really. We’d have to pay for it and it’s just as easy to nip to the shop and pick up bits and bobs. Especially as Andrew has the appetite of an anorexic sparrow in the mornings.

“This may sound weird, Andrew, but I could understand much more in Japan. The written stuff, I mean.”

“Me, too. That bit of Mandarin I learnt was dead handy.”

It’s odd, because Korean has a much more logical and simple system of writing. Alexei has even managed to learn the Japanese phonetic characters. They’re quite good at this language stuff, the kids. Though, being bilingual, they should be.

The kids have found a craft beer bar to visit. Well done them.

“It’s close to the Military museum.” Andrew informs me “We just have to go one stop further.”

That sounds easy enough.

It’s still like a hot afternoon in hell outside. Just as well that the metro stop is so close.

The metro is pretty modern, only dating from the 1980s. Which makes the size of the system all  the more impressive. It took getting on for 20 years to build the Nord-Zuid line in Amsterdam. And that only has half a dozen stations.

Like many modern systems, glass partitions and doors seal off the tracks. I suppose to prevent accidents and “incidents”, as they call them on the London Underground.

“Have you noticed the stickers on the doors, Dad.” Andrew asks, pointing at a sticker. “The Boycott Japan ones.”

Sure enough, there’s one on every door of the metro train.

“It must be official. You don’t see any graffiti here. And there’s one on every single door.”

Our destination is Namsam Chemistry. In an area evidently known as “Craft Valley”. As we’re walking there we realise why there might be some many craft beer places in this particular spot: it’s next to a huge US base. We spend some time walking past the walled site.

“There’s a craft beer place over there. But it isn’t open yet.” I remark, not very helpfully.

It’s still effing hot.

“Oh look, there’s a Belgian beer bar.”

“Dad, can you hurry up. And stop taking stupid photos.”

“At this rate we’ll have no photos to show you mum.”

“Just get on with it, Dad. I’m boiling hot.” Always the same story from Andrew: “I’m about to pass out from heat stroke, hurry up.”

Namsam Chemistry is up a bit of a hill. Which doesn’t help my walking pace. The kids have got quite a lead on me. By the time we spot the pub.

“What do you want to drink, kids?”

“I’ll have a cider.”

“Me, too.”

“That’s annoying.”

“What , Dad?”

“They describe it as “apple cider” on the menu. That’s tautology. The term is cider.”

“What the hell does it matter?” Alexei asks, with some irritation.

“It’s the principle of the thing.”

“You talk some real crap, at times.”

I opt for a Nam-Chem IPA.

“Going for the strongest one again, Dad.”

“Hah, that’s where you’re wrong. The Double IPA is stronger.” I feel so validated.

At around 6 euros for 14 oz, it’s not bad value.

“Have you noticed that, kids?”


“The prices for the beers miss off the last three zeroes. While the spirit prices are written out in full.”

The pub has the typical industrial-style interior beloved my craft beer bars the world over. Bare concrete walls, exposed ducts, hard, angular furniture. We're the first customers by the look of it, even though they've been open a couple of hours. When other punters do show up, most are women.

“How’s your cider?”

It's like English cider, dad."

My IPA which is pretty good. Judging by the name, it’s specially brewed for the pub. Or at least rebadged. The brewery seems to be Namsan-Pongdang.

Juice News Double IPA from Mysterlee is my next beer. Oh no. It’s a sludge beer. I should have guessed from the “juice” in the name.

“I thought you didn’t like beer that looks like fruit juice.”

“I don’t. I didn’t realise it would be a sludge beer.”

“Serves you right for ordering the strongest beer.”

My DIPA which isn’t very impressive, so I switch back to IPA.

Why is the door open and the air-conditioning on? That doesn’t seem very energy efficient.

There’s a weird nailed together screen for the video projector on the wall at the end. Showing music videos while totally different music plays on the stereo. Occasionally the two parts eerily match up.

“Time for one more, kids. What do you fancy?”

“I’ll have an IPA this time.” Andrew got a taste for IPA in the US last year. Alexei just sticks to cider.

I’m feeling peckish when we leave. “Either of you two hungry?”

“Not me.” Now there’s a surprise from Andrew.

“I am.”

“Let’s look for somewhere down here.” I suggest, pointing to an alley lined with restaurants.

It’s late afternoon and an odd time to eat. Quite a few of the restaurants look like they’re just closing. I guess to pause between lunch and dinner. We find a suitably ethnic looking place and park our arses. Thankfully they do have an English-language menu.

“how about sharing that.” I say to Alexei, pointing at a pork and squid combination.

“OK by me.”

“Pork and squid it is, then. With some soju for me. What about you , kids?”

Alexei opts for a beer. Andrew just scrounges some of my soju.

The waitress warns me that the dish is spicy. I'm English. I love me some spice. Alexei is cool with a bit of heat, too.

It's pretty effing good. And nowhere near too spicy for me. It comes with several little side dishes. One of which looks very much like spam fritters.

Andrew doesn’t eat, but he does criticise my eating technique. “Dad, me more careful when you eat.”

"Fuck off, Andrew, I'm the dad here." That’s starting to be my new catchphrase.

I saw on TV the other day that the tradition is to eat octopus while it's still moving. I guess that's why they have the live ones in tanks outside restaurants. Must say that I prefer my food to be immobile.

Despite being dusk, it’s still way too hot. It doesn’t ever seem to cool down.

Which is why we just shelter in the cool embrace of the hotel air conditioning. I need to finish off that soju as we’re travelling back to Japan tomorrow. I manage to drink with out a side order of nagging from Alexei. Now there’s a win.

Me and Andrew have been staying up well after midnight. Apart from last night as we needed to leave the hotel around 7 Am to catch our flight.

Namsan Chemistry
33 Hoenamu-ro,
Itaewon 2(i)-dong,
Tel: +82 2-797-2227

Monday 26 August 2019

Lazy day

I 'm in a negative arsing situation. Can't bother my bottom to write up more of my Asian hols with the kids.

Instead, just an image of some radom receipts. And some other shit.

Included in there is the bill for the most expensive meal I've ever paid for. Not had, I've had more expensive ones that were someomne else's shout.

Here's the most expensive spam I've ever seen:

 I never tire of hi-tech Japanese toilets:

And who doesn't like an aircraft carrier?

 Or lots of pretty lights?

More night-time ptrettiness, this time from Seoul:

Food and soju:

Interestingly-sized loaves:

Finally my favourite pub of the trip:

Sunday 25 August 2019

Seoul day three

With the kids away at Robin’s, there’s no need for me to get up early. Or even at all.

The “Do not disturb” sign is out and I’ve a great big bed to stretch out. This is wonderful. And I can see the Seoul skyline through the window.

I drag myself out of bed around midday and start fiddling on my laptop. I get a message from Alexei: they’re just leaving. Which gives me an hour or so to potter around, brush my teeth, have a shower, get into stupid arguments on the internet. All the usual morning stuff.

Just after one, there’s a rapping on the door. Thankfully, it’s the kids and not a hitman from the provisional BJCP. They seem to be reasonably intact. Though Andrew is his usual cheerful morning self. No change there.

“How are you this morning, Andrew?”


“Did we really spend all of yesterday either eating or sheltering?”

“I suppose so,” Chatty Andrew isn’t, early in the day. And 1 PM counts as early in the day for him.

“Robin suggested we take a look at the Korean military museum.” Alexei says.

“Sounds good to me.”

As the journey requires going outside and taking a couple of metros, we stock up on food and drink first.

“Dad, what is it with you and soju?” Alexei is getting quite aggressive again.

“It’s the traditional drink here. I’m just being traditional.”

“You keep saying that. Traditional pisshead, more like.”

There’s a metro station just around the corner from the hotel. It can’t be more than 150 metres. Yet we’re still close to collapse – at least me and Andrew are – when we reach its comforting air-conditioned embrace.

‘Have you noticed that kids?” I say pointing to a cabinet. “They must be expecting the worst.”

It’s full of emergency equipment: gas masks, water and other stuff. There are also torches attached to the wall.

“Those torches would have been handy in the King’s Cross fire.” I suggest to Andrew.

The museum is pretty close to the metro stop. But far enough for the walk to turn into a hell march. We just manage to drag ourselves inside before dying of dehydration. But no time to hang around. They’ll be closing in a couple of hours.

It’s very educational. Makes me realise how little I know about Korean history, Andrew.”

“Me, too.” Both the kids are, like me, very into history.

Korea has had an awful lot of wars. Meaning there’s lots for the museum to discuss. Which they do rather well with objects, texts and audio-visual displays.

Most of Korean history seems to consist of fighting off Chinese or Japanese invasions. With the Mongols joining in occasionally, just for variety. Oh, and the odd period when the Koreans were fighting each other. Nothing much seems to have changed. Currently, Korean politics is all about the external influences of China and Japan and internal conflict between different parts of Korea.

We don’t have time to get around all the displays before the museum closes.

Outside it’s still maddeningly hot. The square in front of the museum is lined with flags. On closer inspection, they mark monuments to each of the countries that took part in the Korean War, listing how many troops took part and what the casualties were,

“I didn’t know Holland took part in the war.”

“Neither did I, Dad.”

“Where’s the Chinese flag?”

“They were on the wrong side, Dad.” Alexei says scornfully. “You know that.”

“Still a bit mean, leaving them out. They had more killed than anyone.”

There’s a weird rally going on by the side of the road.

“I wonder what that’s all about?”

“Probably something to do with Japan, Dad. That’s what most stuff here is about”

Andrew is looking close to fainting again.

“Shall we find somewhere with air-conditioning for a beer?”

“Yes. Just get on with it.”

A couple of little places do seem to have just opened. But their doors are wide open. Not a good sign. Sure enough, no air-conditioning. This is frustrating.

Then we spot an Italian pub/bar. That’ll do. Especially as it has air-conditioning.

We're dead lucky. It’s happy hour and a half litre is just 2,000 won - or 1.50 euros. Result.

“We can wait until rush hour is over.” Andrew suggests.

“That’s fine by me. I’ve a beer in front of me and it’s nice and cool.”

 We have three pints each, watching the traffic and waiting for rush hour to end.

“Have you noticed how many German cars there are? Mercedes and BMWs. You didn’t see that in Japan.” I’m so observant. Occasionally.

“They’re probably made over here.”

“Do those insects bite?” Alexei asks, pointing at the dragonflies darting about outside.

“No. They’re dragonflies. Some of the good insects.  Ones that don’t bite you, pass on horrible parasites, weird you out, wake you up at night with their weird noises or lay their eggs in your ear. They’re the pretty looking type. Like butterflies.”

“No need for a lecture, Dad. I just wanted to know if they bite.”

Ungrateful git.

When the traffic has calmed and we’ve cooled, we venture out into the furnace again. It doesn’t feel any cooler. At least the metro is well air-conditioned.

Andrew doesn’t feel like venturing out tonight. Instead we shelter in the kids’ room. Grazing on snacks and soju.

I noticed a little hole in the wall takeaway right next to the hotel. “I’m off to get some food. Anyone want anything?”

“No, dad.”

The dish described as “fried things” is off. Instead I get some fried dumplings. They’re dead good.

Alexei is still fretting about my drinking habits. "Don't drink that bottle of Soju, Dad."

"Fuck off Lexie, I'll do what the fuck I want. I'm the dad here."

So much fun travelling with the kids.

War Memorial of Korea
29 Itaewon-ro,
Tel: +82 2-709-3139

Tama's Pasta
104-1 Hangangno 1(il)-ga,
104-1 한강로1가 용산구 서울특별시

Kukdo Store
Next to our hotel

Saturday 24 August 2019

Seoul day two

It’s going to be a slightly strange day. We’ll be meeting Robin. Andrew’s South Korean friend from university. Be odd seeing him on his home turf.

We start the day by picking up breakfast bits and bots at the convenience store downstairs. It’s nice not to have to venture outside. I’m assuming it’s still ludicrously hot. Any chance to remain in the civilised, air-conditioned world I’m going to grab hold of, run all the way to the try line and then way up into the stands. It’s that effing unpleasant outside.

I head straight for the soju section with Andrew, while Alexei stares at the sausages. In a slightly worrying way. Not sure I’d want to be a sausage right now.

After a while he trundles over, seemingly unable to decide on which meaty treat to devour.

“Dad, don’t go mad with that soju stuff.” He says.

“As if I would?  Sane is my middle name. Or at least not-crazy.”

“Can you stop with that crap sometime?”



Andrew seems a little uncertain of which soju to get. Unlike me. I know exactly which one I’m going for.

“Getting the strongest one again, Dad?”

“The most traditional. You know I’m a traditional sort of guy.”

“Right. Just keep on believing that.” Cynicism is so unappealing in the young.

At midday we get a message from Robin: he’s setting off. It’ll be a while before he gets here. He lives way out in the suburbs. In a city as large as Seoul, that means a long way.

Giving me a chance to try out some soju with my breakfast sandwich.

“Dad, really, can you stop with that shit? It’s still morning.” Alexei is starting the day in good nagging form.

“Not technically. It’s ten past twelve.”

“Just stop with that shit.”

“I’ll just finish this bottle off. Bad luck to reseal one, once opened, you know.”

“That’s vodka and Russians. Not Koreans and soju. I’m not stupid, Dad. Stop with that bullshit.”

I sip my soju in a chastened silence. Still get to drink it, mind.

Just after 1 PM we get a message from Robin that he’s downstairs.

“Just in time for lunch. I expect he knows some good places to eat.” I’m being very positive today.

“What would you like eat – chicken or seafood?” Robin asks us.

The consensus is chicken. And with that he leads us off into the maze of tiny streets opposite the hotel. We nip down various alleyways, lined with tiny, specialist shops, then through a covered market, packed with rolls of material and heady with the smells of exotic food being. Dead cool. Except that it’s boiling hot.

After five minutes of intoxicating exotica, we emerge at our destination. A rather well-known chicken place, according to Robin.

We get a table upstairs and Robin explains how it works. There’s a big pot with two chickens and some bits of veg. That bubbles away until cooked, then we eat it with a sauce we assemble for ourselves from chili paste, soy sauce and vinegar.

Cooking will take a while. And we’re hot.

“What would you like to drink?” Robin asks. “I usually drink Terra.” Robin tells us.

“Four of those, then.”

Made from 100% Australian Golden Triangle malt, it says on the label. What the hell is that?

A man comes and cuts up the chickens with a pair of scissors. None of that deboning crap.

I mix my sauce up quite spicy. I do like a bit of heat. We fish out lumps of chicken with chopsticks, dip them in sauce, then try not to crunch up too many bones. Not so successfully, in my case.

After lunch, Robin asks: “Would you like to see some traditional houses?” Sounds like a good idea. “We can take the metro.” Even better.

I always like to give public transport a whirl when on my hols. Especially one as exotic as this.

“Did I mention that I’ve been on trains on five continents?”

“Stop showing off, Dad. It’s so boring.”

The Seoul metro system is enormous. Just looking at the map makes my head spin. The ticket system isdead easy. You buy a one-shot card, for which you pay a deposit. After exiting you simply pop the card into a machine and it spits out your refund.

Our destination, from where we exit the metro, is a few hundred metres. Within ten, Andrew is having a sweat bath. I’m not joking. His T shirt is totally soaked. How does he sweat that much that quickly?

“There are a lot of women in traditional dress. I wonder why that is?”

“Could be something to do with all the places that rent it out, like that one, Dad.” Andrew remarks, pointing at a nearby shop. “But stop with the chatter and find where we’re going.”

“Just trying to enrich the experience.”

“Go and experience your arse, Dad. I’m burning up.”

I’m impressed Andrew can still talk, as he seems to mostly consist of liquid. By the time we get to the houses, half of him has run away down the drains.

An old woman is holding up a sign in several languages. “Silence!” is the English. An intriguingly simple message. Un-nuanced, direct and readily comprehensible. I understand what she wants, but why?

A few metres further. All is explained. A sign reads: “This is a residential area. Please speak in whispers.” Bit of an anti-climax. I’d expected way more exciting reasons. Power of the imagination, I guess. Life is so much more mundane than the reality in my head.

“Dad. I’m feeling really hot. Can we go?”

“Nae probs, Andrew.” I often drop into cod-Glaswegian, when under stress.

“Stop with that shit, Dad.”

“Let’s get a taxi.”

“That’s the most sensible thing you’ve said all day.”

I feel so proud. I’ve said something sensible today. And it’s only 7 PM. The kids are finally appreciating me for the super dad I am.

“Dad, can you stand somewhere a taxi can actually stop. Remember they drive on the right here. You’re so dozy.”

Yes, still appreciating what a super dad I am.

We hide away the hottest hours in the hotel. But browse the downstairs shop before. For essential provisions.

As the soju labels are all only in Korean, Robin’s assistance is very much appreciated. He can finally explain what they all are: traditional, modern, flavoured.

“This is the most traditional one.” He says picking out the one I’d been drinking.

“Told you, Alexei. Not just the strongest one.”

“The more modern style isn’t as strong.”  Robin explains.

“Always been big on tradition me.”

“Especially when it means stronger, eh, Dad?”

“You’re such a cynic, Andrew.”


Once the sun has gone down – as have my bottles of soju (only the most traditional type) – peck is in the air again.

“Any suggestions, as a local, for somewhere to eat this evening, Robin?” Putting no pressure on him at all.

“There is a Korean barbecue place. Would you like that?”

“Is my pope a barber?”


“Don’t worry. Dad talks in gibberish like that. He means: yes.”

“Why doesn’t he just say yes?”

“Because he’s an annoying twat.”

The Korean barbecue is down another set of alleys I’d not like to retrace my steps along. Like those ones in my dreams. Where they’re never the same on the way back. Though, after enough beers, all streets are like that. Even when I’m awake.

The food is very nice. Pork with all the fiddly bits. Including a small crab I wasn’t sure how to deal with. Very nice pork. Kimchi not quite as good as Dolores's, dare I say. Hers is dead good.  Though the kimchi soup to end is dead good..

We don’t stay out late. Well, I don’t. The kids go back to Robin's for the night. Who knows how late they’ll be up? Don’t know, don’t care. There’s a pillow with my name on it.

I trundle off to bed. No need to get my arse out of bed too early tomorrow. No way the kids will be back before noon.

Friday 23 August 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1958 William Younger Double Century Ale

I know. It's Friday, not Wednesday. My recent trip to Japan has left me all confused.

Double Century Ale was introduced in 1949 to commemorate 200 years of William Younger. Except, as Martyn Cornell has pointed out, the date is a few decades too early. The 1749 date for the founding of the brewery is wildly optimistic.

I’m not sure what style it’s meant to be. Strong Brown Ale? Old Ale? Scotch Ale? Who really cares?

One odd feature of Double Century is that, despite containing lactose, it has a higher degree of attenuation than most William Younger beers. A bit weird, that. Though they did like lactose, using it in several different styles, not just Milk Stout like most breweries. They were a bit modern in that way.

 The grist isn’t complicated, just pale malt, flaked maize and sugar. Once again, the percentage of adjunct is very high.

1958 William Younger Double Century Ale
pale malt 8.00 lb 61.54%
flaked maize 4.00 lb 30.77%
lactose 0.50 lb 3.85%
cane sugar 0.25 lb 1.92%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.25 lb 1.92%
Fuggles 90 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.25 oz
OG 1057
FG 1014
ABV 5.69
Apparent attenuation 75.44%
IBU 21
SRM 19
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

This is one of literally hundreds of recipes in my book on UK brewing in the aftermath of WW II, Austerity!

Thursday 22 August 2019

Tacky merchandise again

Sorry, classy meomorabilia.

You'll notice that it's very DDR-oriented. That's not only for copyright-related reasons. Also because I love DDR design. Think of it as the 1930s meets the 1970s.

One of my favourite labels from the town where I was married:

This one is for a beer style specific to East Germany, Doppel-Karamell:

This isn't from the DDR, but does feature a brilliant Russian Stout advert from the 1930s:

And how could I could forget the mug I drink my tea from every morning?

Every mug purchased buys Andrew a can of Lager. Well, it could do. If I didn't put the money to better use.

Seoul day one

Our flight to Seoul isn’t until 13:55. We’re not in a huge rush.

Just as well. Andrew isn't a morning person. A right grumpy trousers, actually. He perks up around 6 PM, usually. Or the fifth beer. Whichever comes sooner.

Outside it’s still boiling hot. Thankfully we flag down a cab almost immediately and escape into its air-conditioned loveliness.

We’re headed for Nippori station, from which we’ll get a fast train to the airport. It’s hot and crowded in the station.

“Hurry up and get the tickets, Dad.” The heat is making Andrew impatient again.

“I’m going as fast as I can.” I’m not feeling that great, either. I want to get into the airconditioned part of the station as quickly as possible.

The train is wonderfully cool as it whizzes us through the tangled and confused suburbs of Tokyo, then the emerald-green paddy fields beyond. As with most new airports in the world, it’s miles out of town. The journey from the centre takes around an hour. With hardly any stops and rattling along like crazy.

A lot of escalators need to be overcome to get to departures at Nerita.

“We should have taken the lift, kids.”

“It’s a bit late for that now.” Andrew says as we crest the final one of the set. Bit like taking a narrow boat up a set of locks. Except with much less water. Other than the sweat that’s still streaming down Andrew’s back.

Our bags are soon whizzing away down the belt and we’re queueing up at security. Which we’re through in a jiffy.

“Hurry up and get in the queue, Dad.” Says Andrew when we get to immigration.

“Pay attention, Dad. Do you have our passports?” Alexei says with an amount of concern in his voice.

“Course I do. And the boarding passes.”

“Well don’t lose them.”

I feel pretty shit and mostly doze on the plane. Picking a little at the meal provided, not even having an alcoholic drink, just orange juice.

Once through immigration, we look to see where we get the train.

“I think it’s over there, Dad.” And so it is. Great having two extra pairs of eyes for spotting stuff.

“You’re so dozy, sometimes, Dad.” Despite the nasty things the attached mouths say.

The train is much like the one between Tokyo and Nerita: fast, modern and extremely well air conditioned. Thankfully.

The airport is out on an island and the early part of the journey is on a causeway crossing a river estuary. Goats graze on an embankment, ignoring the train hurtling past just a few metres away. The journey takes even linger than in Tokyo, it takes around an hour. The airport is a long way out.

We get off at Seoul station. Another stunningly simple name for a station in a megapolis. The platforms seem about a kilometre down. We take several massive escalators before we emerge at ground level.

“Looks like the station was built to double up as a nuclear shelter. Like in Washington DC.”

“Shut up, Dad and get on with finding a taxi. It’s boiling hot and I don’t feel like chatting.” What a miserable git Andrew can be at times.

It's boiling hot outside. Just as we exit an old woman gives Alexei a paper fan. That’s nice of her. 

There’s a taxi rank right outside the station. But it’s hard to work out which is the start, and which the end, of the queue. There are a couple of minutes of confusion, while Andrew gets hotter, sweatier and more irritated. Finally we work it out and get in a cab.

We've just been showing the taxi driver the printed out names and addresses for our hotels. This one doesn't seem to be able to read Latin script, something I hadn’t anticipated. He rings up his office and has Alexei read out the address for a woman to interpret. It takes a few minutes. A few worrying minutes.

But eventually the driver understands and off we speed. Well speed, as much as the traffic will allow. We roll up to our hotel just before dusk. It’s still crazily hot. The walk from kerb to hotel door is enough to get Andrew sweating like a tap turned full on.

“Look, dad. There’s a shop on the ground floor.” Andrew observes as we approach the lift to go up a floor to check in. “That’s dead handy.”

The hotel is pretty nice, with decent-sized rooms. My room has a really good view of the city. Just opposite there's a tangled web of tiny streets. We’ll be investigating those tomorrow. Most importantly the air-conditioning is dead good.

After taking 20 minutes to catch their breath and fill buckets with their wiped off sweat, the kids rat-a-tat-tat on my door.

“Your view is much better than ours.”

“That’s because they knew I was the father and you two the kids. Of course they’d give me the room with the better view.”

“Fuck off, Dad.” Alexei has such a way with words. His Dutch swearing is pretty impressive, too. "You know that’s bullshit. Why do you say that crap?”

“Let’s go to the shop.” Andrew proposes sensibly.

“Fair enough by me. I could do with some more booze.”

“Dad, I meant to get food.”

“Of course. Though I’m putting money on you picking up some beer. Especially as they don’t have Strong Zero here.”

The downstairs shop is quite small, but has  all the essentials, beer, crisps, sandwiches, soju and sausages on sticks.

“It looks like a corn dog.” Andrew opines.

“I want one, whatever it is.” Typical of Alexei. Always up for something new.

I’m drawn to one particular section at the back.

“Do you think this is soju, Andrew?”

“Looks like it to me, based on the type of bottle.”

“How strong is it, though? I can’t see the ABV on the label.”

“It’s on the cap. Looking for the strongest one again?” Andrew is such a cynic.

“No, just trying to be responsible by being aware of the strength of what I’m drinking.”


“That’s exactly the noise your Mum often makes in reply to me. I think it means, ‘yes, that’s exactly right, Ronald.’”

“Yeah, right.”

“Do you think I should get three or four bottles of soju?”

“Dad, don’t go crazy.” Alexei is such a worrier.

Back upstairs we chill awhile in the kids’ room.

“What’s your sausage on a stick like?"

"Good. Not a corn dog, though. Just like a bockworst. Except on a stick."

What is this thing about German-style sausages in Japan and South Korea?

We watch some Korean TV.  We stumble on an incomprehensible programme that just seems to be a middle-aged bloke eating in a fast food restaurant. That really is pretty much the whole plot. Eating in great detail and with great relish. Though it’s not a Korean: it’s in Japanese and on a Japanese channel.

“What the fuck is this? Can you look it up on your phone, Lexxie?”

“OK. What should I search for?

"How about ‘Man eating food in Tokyo?’”

"Found it." That was quick.
"It’s called The Lonely Gourmet and is based on a manga."

A weirdly hypnotising programme, once you get past the oddness of the concept.

At the end of each episode someone, whom I assume is the writer of the manga, goes to the same restaurant and eats. Genius.

Which gets me thinking. Maybe I could do a series called "Lonely Pisshead" where I wander around aimlessly in the same way, but instead of stuffing my face, I knock back a few. I could easily show as much joy in consumption. Possibly even more. I'm that good an actor.

The soju is going down nicely. Just as well I went for five bottles. I assumed the kids would nick at least one.

Predicting things like that is one of the reasons I’m such a good father.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Tokyo day two

I didn’t sleep that great. Getting a traditional hotel room seemed a good idea at the time. But sleeping on just a thin mattress isn’t good for my old bones. My hips were aching like crazy by the morning.

We nip over to the 7 11 opposite for some bits and bobs. There really are a lot of little shops. That stay open all hours. And sell beer and whisky and all that good stuff.

Andrew is on Strong Zero, mind. He’d heard about it and was keen to try it. I think because of the price to strength ratio.

“What’s it like?” I ask.

“An alcopop. Not really like it’s alcoholic at all.”

“Not like you then.”

“Very funny, Dad. And you can talk."

He already seems hooked on the stuff.

I deliberately booked hotels close to stations. There’s one not more than 50 metres from our hotel. Meaning despite the heat, we can walk there and survive. It’s really effing hot today.

“Hurry up dad. We don’t want to stand around in this heat any longer than we need to.” Andrew is uncomfortable.

“Stop with the stupid photos, Dad.”  Alexei just aggressive.

Plan is to take a train to Tokyo station, have a look at the Imperial Palace, then go to Craft Beer Bar iBrew. Which you can probably guess is a craft beer pub. The kids found it for me, bless them. Though Andrew does seem to have got a taste for IPA on our US trip last year. He quite often orders one.

It’s hot. Did I mention that? The station is huge and full of people milling around. And this is Sunday afternoon.

“I’m feeling really hot, Dad. Can we go to the pub first?” Andrew asks.

“Ooh, I don’t know about that. We wouldn’t want to miss out on the cultural stuff.”

“Stop pissing around. You always want to go to the pub.”

“OK, you’ve twisted my arm.”

We’re using a map on Alexei’s phone to navigate. It isn’t far. Just a couple of hundred metres of what appear to be shopping streets. Should be a piece of piss to find.

We overshoot by several streets. Walking past fancy shops packed with eager consumers. None of that Sunday closing crap here. Though some of the small food places are closed.

“We have to go back that way.” Alexie suggests.

“Just get on with it. I’m burning up here.” Andrew really doesn’t look good.

We’re pretty sure that we’ve located the right street. But where the hell is the pub? We walk up and down the street a couple of times. No luck.

“You look terrible, Andrew. Let’s nip in that shop and get cold drinks.”

After loitering a while in the air-conditioned shop, we find a bench and drink our drinks in the shade. It helps a bit.

We stumble back down along the street one last time.

“Look, Dad! That’s it.” Alexei has always been good at spotting stuff.

The pub is remarkably well hidden. I wonder they get any trade at all. Or perhaps they just don’t like strangers.

It’s tiny inside, but we manage to find seats. You could, perhaps, if they all liked each other very much, squeeze in 20 customers. But they still do food.

The beer list is small, just 10 draught beers. I’d be suspicious if it were longer. No way you could manage any more in a place this small.

“What do you fancy, lads?”

“Leitungswassser Kölsch.” Andrew says, quick as a flash.

“Me, too.”

“I’m assuming big ones.”

“What do you think, Dad?”

A big one being 46ml, for 745 yen. Not that unreasonable for bag in the centre of town.

I have a 7HOP DIPA. Because I need some alcohol in me and that’s the strongest beer on the list.

“I see you’ve gone for the strongest beer, Dad.”

“That’s just a coincidence.” I lie. “Anyway, it’s weaker than your Strong Zero.”

“Can I have some food?” Alexei asks. He’s the only one of us who’s hungry. The heat really take away my appetite. And Andrew’s.

He orders a portion of sashimi. It looks very good, but I couldn’t face a bite. I do have room for some more beer, mind.

“I think I’ll have another DIPA. What about you, Andrew?”

“I’ll have a Hazy IPA.”

“A sludge beer, you mean?”

“Don’t be so negative, Dad.”

It’s dark and a little cooler when we leave. Trailing back to the station past brightly-lit exotic facades. Tokyo station is still mobbed. Odd that a city this size has a station simply called Tokyo.

We need to change trains at Ueno. It’s quite a large station and confusing as to which line we should take. We seem to go a long way without coming to our station.

“I don’t remember this from the way out, Andrew. I think we’ve taken the wrong train.”

“I think you’re right.”

We have to backtrack to Ueno, where we get the correct train. Still, it’s not as if it’s hot or anything.

We get back to the hotel a little sweaty, but still alive and in relatively good condition. Especially once back a room with some refreshments.

I finish the day with a little hotel whisky. Andrew and Alexei with more Strong Zero. Alexei seems to have got a taste for it as well. What has become of them?

We don’t stay up too late. We’re flying to Seoul tomorrow.

Craft Beer Bar iBrew

104-0028 Tōkyō-to,
Chuo City,
Tel: +81 3-3281-6221
Open 13:00 - 23:00