January 2014 – More beer and more thoughts


Somehow I managed to lose a load of the stuff I wrote for this edition by it not saving the draft properly, but hey, I thought, let’s publish it anyway!

Time to start thinking in earnest about all the music in my head. Let’s start with the notorious taboo subject of traditional (folk?) music.

I’ve always been (first and foremost) (I think) a fan of gritty, bluesy guitars and honest rock ‘n’ roll snarling, but since my teens there’s always been a discreet but insistent obsession with traditional music, which has sat surprisingly comfortably alongside the heavier stuff.

It probably began when my sister watched Riverdance on the TV and decided that classical violin playing was for more pretentious types and decided to divert her attention towards frenetic Irish fiddle playing (I think she has subsequently decided to sit on the fence somewhere the two, though I’m never quite sure). Being a natural rhythm player / accompanist, I swiftly found myself trying to keep up with it all, and found it strangely enjoyable.

What I find odd about folk music is the fact that it remains on the fringe of popular music (no matter how “big” it becomes), despite being – almost by definition – music “of the people”. It’s connected to tradition and focused on people, and for me at least, remains the most “honest” of musical forms – (in theory at least) devoid of pretension. It’s always struck me as odd that the masses can readily identify more with something ridiculously contrived and artificial (I’m sure I don’t need to mention The X-Factor – oops, I just did) than they can with the visceral quality of an old guy with a banjo in the pub. Ok, the person on the TV might be better looking and, in many cases, better-sounding, but they’re bloody miles away on the TV and contrived to death with stylists and PR teams. The performer on the street or in the pub is right there.

Somewhere along the line, folk music must have been derided as uncool and the association has unfortunately stuck. There are, admittedly, acts that don’t do the genre any favours – it can be downright dull at times, and at another times, it can be devastatingly embarrassing – but there are, equally, thrills to be had. Folk music that is tight, daring and dynamic can be as gripping as the most thunderous rock ‘n’ roll.

What’s also bothered me for years is why there isn’t more drive to combine a bit of trad-folk with a bit of grinding rock. Some people took the idea on and some were more successful than others. Led Zeppelin had a nice idea of combining very earthy old blues music with heavy rock and acoustic folk, but didn’t put enough melody into it. Fairport Convention had a few years in the early-mid ’70s of being gloriously good at it. The Levellers still peddle a rough-and-ready punk interpretation of it. There are plenty of other examples across a wide spectrum of sounds.

Probably my favourite interpretation thus far (certainly many who know me will know that I bang on about him enough) is Seth Lakeman. He takes old (usually rather grim) stories and legends from his home (around Dartmoor) and turns into energetic, uplifting folk-rock. Now that’s cool.

My own musical ambition is to take this idea a little further and put some vibey Floyd/Hendrix/Wolfmother guitars against it. More on that later.


Craft Lager / Revisionist (Marston’s) / 5%

Eyes: orange-gold
Nose: citrus
Mouth: tangy/dry
Notes: gorgeous. Very full and chewy mouthfeel, with a floral tang. Quite a dry finish but with enough fruitiness to stop it going all grainy. Incredibly refreshing. Notes from the website indicate this is unpasteurised (just cold-filtered) to retain more flavour. I think this is very successful.
Craft lager seems to be on the rise and this can only be a good thing; as much as I like a classically English bitter, sometimes you need something a lot more refreshing, but not mass-produced watered-down nonsense.

IPA / Shipyard / 5.8%

Eyes: amber
Nose: hops
Mouth: HOPS
Notes: I’m not quite used to the American hop explosion yet, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. Massively bitter and tangy, resiny and lemony. Just enough fruity tang to make it pleasant, but still an incredibly bitter finish. It’s a good job these only come in smaller bottles as a whole pint of this would blow my head off.

Mild / St Peter’s Brewery / 3.7%

Eyes: cola-brown
Nose: sweet
Mouth: bitter, dark chocolate
Notes: a nice uncomplicated mild, but didn’t really launch my speedboat, so to speak. I find too much chocolate malt and the whole thing gets a little bit too bitter, making it hard work – the only way to counteract this is to make it nice and creamy, and this was a touch too thin to achieve that. Still, that’s just opinion, and this is still a good example of the genre.

Belhaven Black / Belhaven / 4.2%

Eyes: black!
Nose: coffee
Mouth: dark malt
Notes: a bit more like it as there was a little more sweetness and fruitiness, but still not outstanding. I think I’d probably overdone the dark beers by this point as I found I was getting a little bit immune to them.


Now, on Boxing Day I enjoyed the following:

Imperial Russian Stout / Wells & Young’s / 10%

Eyes: pitch black
Nose: black coffee and dark chocolate
Mouth: strong espresso
Notes: Very frothy, mushroom-brown head. Creamy, smoky and tangy. Harsh at first, but fades nicely at the end. This is rather strong stuff (very small bottles) – brought me out in a hot flush and (temporarily at least) got rid of my cough.

Wild River / Fuller’s / 4.5%

Eyes: gold (note: this is actually a bit of a guess, as I drank it from an opaque tankard)
Nose: hops
Mouth: hops
Notes: wonderful stuff. Supposedly American in style, this does indeed have various American hops in it, making for a pale ale that is fruity, bitter and pleasantly hoppy without being too sharp. Tangy grapefruit finish with a touch of melon. Fabulous.

Treacle Porter / Innis & Gunn / 7.4%

Eyes: dark ruby
Nose: molasses/treacle
Mouth: treacle!
Notes: does what it says on the tin, really. Creamy and sweet with notes of vanilla, treacle, molasses and brown sugar. Sublime.

That’ll do for now. Happy New Year, everyone.



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