Tag Archives: 2019 posts

GBBF 2019

Last week (from 6-8 August 2019) was my annual visit to the Great British Beer Festival, held as usual in Kensington Olympia. It was well up to standard, and educational, in that it had a key keg (designated ‘kk’ in lists below) bar for the first time, and I learned more about this type of beer – more on that later. This was probably partly the result of the member survey CAMRA held last year, which confirmed support for key keg, although I found reference to a supportive motion passed at a Members Weekend back in 2015. There is also the fact that many of the most innovative brewers are supplying their beers in this way. It’s certainly fashionable now, and I note for example that the Stoke BeerFest will have a key keg bar too this year.

Our arrangements were the same as last year – staying in the Holiday Inn Express near West Brompton Station, and bringing our own food to cover lunch at least. Angela attended on two days – the Tuesday and Wednesday. The CBOB this year was Surrey Hills Shere Drop (4.2% abv), but the queues to sample if after it had been announced were too long to contemplate joining. I’ll look out for it in the year to come. And I didn’t have any particular favourites this year – everything I tried was good.

The beers I sampled (mainly thirds but a few halves) were:

Tuesday 6/08

Five Points Citrus Pale (4.2%)

Salcombe Gold (4.2%)

Anspach & Hobday The Belgian Pale (4.0%)

Bluestone Elderflower Blonde (4.0%)

North Cotswold Jumping Jack Flash (3.8%)

Baker’s Dozen Magic Potion (Loral hops) (3.8%) – not rec. on Untappd, entry ambiguous

Stealth Banoffee Spy (4.4%)

Bull of the Woods Twisted Wheel (4.5%)

Wild Beer Pogo (4.1%)

Boudicca Cherry & Liquorice (Prasto’s Porter) (5.2%)

Mourne Mountains Clan Rye (4.3%)

Also tasted – Moncada Apricot Sour (2.7% kk) which was probably the strongest tasting beer I sampled!

Wednesday 7/08

Avid Raspberry Ripple (4.6%)

Cairngorm Caillie (3.8%)

Old School Headmaster (4.5%)

Oldershaw American Hopquad IPA (5.0%)

Problem Child Tantrum (4.0%)

Beatnikz Republic Tropic Fiesta 4.0%

Beeblefish Pan Galactic Pale (4.6%)

Leigh On Sea Brhubarb (3.9%)

Tiny Rebel Strawberries and Cream (4.5%)

Wild Beer Bibble (4.2% kk)

Magic Rock Saucery (3.9% kk)

Revolutions Swoon (4.5%)

Thursday 8/08

Bishop Nick 1555 (4.3%)

Bishop Nick Heresy (4.0%)

Bradfield Farmer’s Blonde (4.0%)

Five Points XPA (4.0%)

West Berkshire Maharajah IPA (5.1%)

St Austell Korev (4.5%)

Electric Bear Zorbing (4.1% kk)

Gun Scaramanga Extra Pale (3.9%)

Skinner’s Hops ‘n’ Honey (4.0%)

Salcombe Seahorse (4.4%)

Downton Chocolate Orange Delight (5.8%)

Time and Tide Spratwaffler (3.7% kk)

Wimbledon Quartermaine IPA (5.8%)

Once again, I refer to my Untappd account (https://untappd.com/user/robajackson) for tasting notes on these beers. I should note here that I am a total convert to drinking third pints at beer festivals now!

So, to turn to the subject of key keg, I had some interesting discussions with someone I met at the GBBF, who explained the principles. The ‘keg’ is a plastic bag, not unlike a wine bag, which can come in various sizes (I found references to 10, 20 and 30 litres online). The beer is introduced to the keg, and can be unpasteurised, unfiltered and contain live yeast, so in that case it is real ale according to CAMRA’s definition. The bag is then placed in an airtight box, and CO2 (or another gas, although CO2 is commonly used as many cellars have a supply) pumped into the box, which then squeezes the bag to dispense the beer, but doesn’t actually come into contact with it. One question I have is why some of the kk beers I tried at the GBBF were cold (or at least, cold by the standards of someone used to normal cask conditioned ale). I was told that a cooler is necessary for key keg, but given that the beer is sealed in the keg, I’m not sure why. I haven’t found an explanation for that yet, and this is something I will be looking into. One interesting feature of the kk bar at the GBBF was that there were several low alcohol beers (for example the apricot sour mentioned above), which is a definite plus from the viewpoint of pacing!

All in all, GBBF2019 was very good, and as well as looking forward to GBBF2020, I am planning to attend the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival in January, and possibly the GBBF Winter Festival in Birmingham in February, depending on how busy I am at the time!


A challenging trip to London

On Thursday and Friday of this week, we made a short targeted trip to London. The aim was to see a couple of exhibitions that were about to close. I had made the hotel booking a couple of weeks ago, when I thought I was clear of the sciatica, but it made an unwelcome return a week ago, reducing my mobility again. Coupled with the bad weather, I did wonder if I could make the trip at all. But I was determined to try.

We set out mid morning on Thursday, and had a very good trip to London, getting to the hotel (the Tavistock, Tavistock Square) just before 1:00 pm. There was no weather disruption, and although we saw plenty of evidence of snowfall on the way down to London, there had been none in London itself. Our first exhibition was ‘The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution’ at the Science Museum. To get to the Science Museum involves a fair walk from South Kensington Tube Station, but I managed it with a few stops. I was concerned that this would be annoying/embarrassing to Angela, but she supported me 100% as always. When we got to the exhibition, it was excellent, and there were a few seats inside so I could rest from time to time. The exhibition was about the last years of the Tsar in Russia, and included the latest scientific evidence which explained how and where the Tsar and his family were killed by the Bolsheviks. There was also much interesting supplementary information on issues that affected the family, like the haemophilia which the Tsarina was a carrier of, which was passed on to the one male child in the family. How this originated from Queen Victoria was discussed, and led us to purchase a book called ‘Queen Victoria’s Genes’, by Potts and Potts, which I am currently reading.

We left the exhibition, had a fortifying cup of coffee, and headed back to South Kensington, perfectly timed for the start of the rush hour! But people travelling were very polite to me, and I was offered a seat when we got on the very crowded Piccadilly Line train. We made it back to the hotel (once again, I had to stop every now and then, but the main thing was that I kept going!) We had our dinner in the recently refurbished bar area (which was very nice).

The next day we had planned to go to the Gainsborough exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. In the end I decided not to tempt fate, but to stay at the hotel. Angela went, and enjoyed it, although there was the usual problem of too many people in the exhibition moving too slowly and crowding round the paintings. I would certainly have struggled with that. When Angela returned, we went to Euston, and found no problems or disruption (there had been some overnight snow to the north of London). We caught our train back to Stoke and then a bus back home with no problems.

I was very pleased to have made the trip. I was concerned about my slow walking in London, and possible weather disruption. In the end the first was no problem, and the second didn’t happen. All in all I feel encouraged by the experience, and if my problems continue I know I can do something like this again.

A footnote on the sciatica – as I said, I thought I was clear of it, but it returned. After much thought and discussion, we concluded that it was due to 2 things – going straight back into my old routine without giving my body a chance to readjust, and the return of the cold weather after a relatively mild spell. As a result, I am taking things easy in the hope that it will diminish, and if/when it does, I won’t make the same mistake again, but give myself a chance. I’m hoping for the best.


Feeling better and pain free

For the first time, for two months, I am feeling better. The sciatica has largely retreated, leaving me with the occasional twinge in the knee, but that will hopefully pass with time and exercise. I had an excellent appointment with a specialist doctor on Friday, and her opinion was also that the sciatica has largely gone, and that we just have to watch the knee and hip, and if they don’t get better, action may be needed. I’m hopeful that it won’t be needed.

When you have been in pain for so long, you almost tune it out (although not when it’s severe of course). Sitting here and not feeling any pain is a revelation. At my worst, I couldn’t envisage working, let alone doing any form of creative planning. I am slowly getting that ability to think back, which is just as well, as I have projects to plan for just over a week’s time.

I have discussed with Angela how it all may have started. Certainly, having several hours in a very cold room a few days before I first noticed the symptoms can’t have helped. And carrying two heavy trombones backwards and forwards for several weeks for rehearsals and a concert that happened a week before then didn’t do any good either (and I won’t be doing that again – I will use the alto trombone where possible!) For now I am just grateful that this difficult time seems to be over.

A month ‘on the wagon’, 10 December 2018 – 9 January 2019

I have always felt the idea of ‘Dry January’ was somewhat ludicrous, especially as many people who do it fixate on coming off, and then go totally mad on 1 February, undoing all the good done by their month’s abstinence in one go. This post is not about Dry January, but about my own enforced absence from drinking for other reasons.

In November I got the first symptoms of what turned out to be sciatica (see post on ‘My Annus Horribilis’), but it wasn’t until 10 December that I was prescribed some painkilling drugs which specified ‘no alcohol’ (amitriptyline and later tramadol). So, I have been off the booze since then. I actually came off the medication about 10 days ago, but made the decision to stay ‘dry’ for a month, which takes me neatly to my birthday on 9 January. It means I didn’t drink alcohol for the whole of the Christmas/New Year period. It certainly made everything much simpler (no need to get wine supplies in etc.), and we discovered some excellent non-alcoholic alternatives, drinking the New Year in with a non-alcoholic mulled punch, for example. We are even thinking of doing the same next year, although I hope it won’t be under the same conditions!

I haven’t noticed any difference in the way I feel, probably because the sciatic pain was always there in the background, but it did seem a good opportunity to give my system a rest, and maybe recalibrate it. I’m an enthusiastic beer drinker, as well as enjoying wine and the odd whisky, so a month’s abstinence must have made a difference, especially as it has been my first ‘dry’ spell since I started drinking alcohol at age 18! Angela tells me that I will really notice the effect of the alcohol when I have my first drink, and that a little will go a long way. It will be interesting to see!

I have been paying lip service to ‘Tryanuary’, which counters ‘Dry January’ by encouraging support for the beer industry during January. I’m looking forward to making my support more real in a few days’ time!