Beer Matters

Apres Cloche

Our latest recruit to the local band went away for a few days and had her first experience of visiting another tower. Unsurprisingly she came back enthusing about how friendly and welcoming they had been. “But” she added disappointedly “they don’t go to the pub!”.

Now I’m sure the Editor would agree that my mission in writing this column is to promote the traditional link between the tower and the pub, so …

It’s probably fair to say that at the cutting edge of the Exercise a post-ringing pint is taken for granted, for that is when peal diaries are synchronised, outstandingly good or bad rings compared, the merits of new methods and compositions discussed and characters of the past reminisced upon. But at a local level it seems that the transition from church to pub is no longer automatic and in some places seldom if ever happens, which is a shame.

A good pub is a community asset but it can only survive if social and recreational groups in the community continue to support it. Is this problem confined to ringing or does it afflict other activities? Somehow I can’t imagine Morris men laying down their staves, removing the jangly bits from their socks and going home to a mug of cocoa, or rugby players coming out of the showers intent upon nursing their bruises over a nice cup of milky tea.

On this very issue and with the forthcoming General Election in mind, CAMRA has produced a “Manifesto for Pubs and Real Ale” setting out its campaign priorities and asking candidates to commit to the following:
• Support well-run community pubs
• Promote Britain’s 1,300 breweries
• Represent pub goers and beer drinkers
You can find out which of your local candidates support it here:

My regular readers will recall that I’m strongly of the opinion that beer drinking is a seasonal thing – light golden refreshing ales for the summer, rich dark heart-warming ones for winter – and that I’ve been fairly scathing about some of the thin insipid punningly-named brews put up as candidates in the latter category.

But recently my local acquired a cask of Itchen Valley Russian Winter and it was stunningly good. It looked right: deep brown, almost black, with a loose head of brown bubbles. The first impression on the nose was somewhat muted but it had a fulsome mouth-feel and a rich flavour with hints of liquorice and vanilla, and it slid down easily leaving a lingering hoppy aftertaste. And 5.3% ABV is a modest enough strength for a beer of this type. I realise that by the time you read this winter will be over but I commend Russian Winter to you for future reference. You never know, it may still be available when, as not infrequently happens, it snows at Easter.

And finally a new one which it was my good fortune to sample only yesterday: Cyclops Eyedrops from the Brighton Bier company (it’s so new they haven’t even put the details on their website yet). It has the deep chestnut colour of a traditional bitter, plenty of body and strength (6%), a maltiness which is neither overly sweet nor Marmitey and a satisfyingly bitter finish.

Maximus Bibendus

PS - You may think it remiss of me not to have done so earlier, but quite recently I rang my first blows of Beer Surprise Major. And a jolly fine method it is too – roll-ups off the front and back in the plain course (and a few little bell runs for those who like that sort of thing).

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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