Posts Tagged ‘fullers’

Hit The North: National Winter Ales Festival 2011

January 20, 2011 5 comments

Yesterday I had the good fortune of going to the National Winter Ales festival in Manchester.  I was especially lucky to get trade tickets and also to go with a few brewers and bar folk.  After getting the train over from Leeds I met up with James and Andy from Summer Wine Brewery and Dean from Mr Foleys in the Marble Arch on the Rochdale Road.  A great pub connected to a wonderful brewery, yesterday the beers included the spectacularly hoppy Utility Special IPA and the great Driscoll’s End, Dominic’s goodbye beer to the Marble brewery, before he heads across the Pennines to sunny Thornbridge.

It was good to meet members of the beer literati who we hadn’t met before, including Rob from Hopzine, Matt from Hawkshead (who had been judging) and Brian from The Grove, Huddersfield (along with a whole posse of Grovers).  Even as a newcomer, it was a really nice, friendly, festive atmosphere, before we even got to the venue.  Unable to resist, I bought myself two big Marble bottles before we left: a Utility Special and a Stouter Port Stout.

At the venue, which is a perfect size for the purposes, we were also introduced to more titans of the beer world from darkest Cumbria, the legendary Jeff Pickthall and the semi-mythical Hardknott Dave.  Jeff was kind enough to give me a bottle of Croglin Vampire to review.  We also bumped into Matt, Jim and some of the other staff from North Bar, as well as Matt’s wife Alice, now immortalised as the namesake of Brewdog’s Alice Porter, brewed with Matt’s input.  We were even able to witness the elusive Tandleman working diligently at the festival, apparently unconcerned by the lack of Northern Methods Of Dispense despite the Mancunian setting.

Of course the beers were good too.  Although the general view is that most of them were a bit on the fresh side, it being the first day and all, everyone who tried it seemed to be very impressed with James and Andy’s Diablo, a great IPA with dominant Citra flavours (although it also contains Centennial).  Thornbridge’s Hark was a very nice beer, and was a little more interesting than Merrie, which was by contrast merely good.  It was good to enjoy Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime on cask and Thornbridge St Petersburg was also very good.  I liked the Fuller’s Brewer’s Reserve too.  I enjoyed festival champion Entire Stout by Hop Back, although it wasn’t necessarily the most interesting beer I tried.  I’m sure the other beers I tried will come back to me over the next few days.

Of course after all that it was very clearly time to get a taxi back to Piccadilly for the long, challenging train home to Leeds and the struggle to recover adequately for work the next morning.  Nevertheless the day was very enjoyable and well worth the hangover. Thanks to Tandleman and the rest of the organisers, but as I say, I was especially happy to meet so many friendly members of the international brotherhood of beer, who were far more welcoming to a mere prole than they had any reason to be.  I’m looking forward to Twissup, by which time I should almost have recovered.  Cheers!

There’s two days of NWAF left, so get along to the Sheridan Suite on the Oldham Road if you have the remotest opportunity.  Check out the rest of the winners here.

Pride (In The Name Of Love)

October 26, 2010 2 comments

For nine long months from December 2008 to September 2009 I was sent away to work in London and Milton Keynes.  Everything that you could possibly describe as a pub in Milton Keynes was a Wetherspoons in a glass and steel shed.  London, of course, was different.

I was reading Pete Brown’s very enjoyable and informative Man Walks Into A Pub at the time and becoming more interested in pub culture.  Moreover I somehow managed to be in a legal job in London with decent hours.  So at lunchtimes and after work I explored quite a few pubs, mainly between Soho and Euston.

I’m not going to get into the issue of sparklers, but other than the beer usually being missing from the neck up, Fullers could usually be relied on for a good pint (or half, if it was lunchtime – some of us have work to do), usually London Pride.  More recently I’ve also tried Chiswick Bitter whilst in London for training, which was nice for 3.5% (I had a whole pint – it was only training). And last weekend I tried a (Fullers) Gales HSB in The Hop, Leeds, which was both hoppy and had a rich spicy maltiness.

But, whilst they’re reliable, I’m not completely in love with Fullers like I am with say, Thornbridge, Saltaire, Ilkley or Hawkshead.

However, I see that Fullers have been in the news a bit recently.  Firstly I saw that David Cameron continued his beer diplomacy (started with Obama and a bottle of Hobgoblin) by giving the Chilean Prime Minister 33 bottles of London Pride for the miners.

Then I saw that in fact Michael Turner from Fullers signed a letter to the Telegraph supporting the Comprehensive Spending Review. This has made some people very angry, but hasn’t it always been the case that (successful, larger) brewers were Tories?

The thing that I do have mixed feelings about is Fullers’ new James May-fronted advertising campaign. The first ad’s not very funny and doesn’t really say anything. It seems to be based solely on May being quite well-known and reasonably likeable: this is James May; you like James May, he’s nice and a bit geeky and middle class; here’s James May holding a glass of London Pride. He’s gentle, quiet and looks a bit like a newly-shampooed Afghan hound in a paisley shirt and velvet jacket who just happens to like the music of Yes. Aww.

And that’s fine. I kind of like James May too. I find Top Gear pretty much unwatchable these days, but I liked the wine programme he did with Oz Clarke and then the subsequent Drink To Britain series. That got Brewdog, Thornbridge and Stalybridge Buffet Bar on the telly, so more power to them.

Also, to be fair, the second advert with its focus on British Craftsmanship does work better in a “shared values” sense. And James does in fact go to the trouble of doing a slightly awkward tasting session on Youtube:

However, if you look at the full advertising campaign, they’ve also got this poster:

Possibly I’m being oversensitive, but isn’t that a bit homophobic? Now, it’s not as bad as very many examples, most notably the Spitfire “Rear Gunners Drink Lager Shandy” ad preserved for the ages on Pump Clip Parade. Also, it’s not really that offensive, but rather childish, lazy and couched in faded, jokey innuendo in the way that Top Gear often is.

It’s just that it’s a bit close to the subtext, “If you don’t drink this, you’re a homosexual, and if you drink it in halves, you’re at least a bit of a homosexual. For the avoidance of doubt, homosexuals are funny”. Although, if you watch the tasting video above, you’ll see James drinking a half without comment.

In my opinion beer advertising, especially for real ale (and a drink called London Pride, no less) should have gotten past this by now. In fact, maybe that’s it: perhaps Fullers have got really sick of that Wikipedia disambiguation page. But you’d think if they wanted to go down that route and focus on a shared value of casual, sniggering homophobia, they would have employed Clarkson instead.

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