Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Mild beer

Here's a comment from an an expert - Guthrie McCabe - which deserves wider distribution:-

“Mild ale is the lowest of the low!” “Mild ale is dead!” In Britain, where it originated, it is seen as weak, uninteresting and old-fashioned. It has the reputation of being a “cloth cap” beer, drunk by the sweaty working classes as they swarmed out of the factories and coal mines, eager to slake their thirst after long hours of hard physical labor. 

The term “mild” seems to have become relatively common in the eighteenth century, although there are even earlier references to it. At this time it did not really apply to any particular style of beer, but merely to beers that had not been kept, and were sent out for drinking within a matter of weeks after brewing. It was often applied to porter, the most popular beer in England in the late eighteenth century. But this was only to distinguish new porter, from “stale” porter, which had been kept in wooden vats for as much as six months to over a year.

Going into the nineteenth century there was a change in popular taste, and more and more of the beer brewed was new, rather than long-vatted. These new beers were sometimes called mild, still as a descriptive term only, or more commonly “running beers,” a term still sometimes used by modern English brewers. Even by the middle of the nineteenth century, there does not appear to have been an actual style designated as mild ale. That may be because most brown beers were simply called “ales” if they were not porter or stout. The use of “mild” to designate a new beer somewhat fell out of use as virtually all ales became running beers. Those that were meant to be kept were now termed “stock ales.”

An important development in English brewing around the 1820’s was the development of India pale ale in Burton upon Trent. Pale ales had been around before, but had not been widely popular until IPA came on the scene. By the second half of the eighteenth century, most brewers were producing pale ales of one sort or another, and the popularity of porter and stout had waned drastically. So they had to come up with another name for their brown, non-porter beers, and “mild ale” was the term they chose. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Mild Beer

My grandparents ran a large pub near the entrance to the first road tunnel under the Mersey, not far from the great shipyards of Cammell Lairds in Birkenhead, on The Wirral. Situated at 99 Hamilton street, it was called The Wellington and it was the only pub in the town belonging to the firm Greenall Whitley of Warrington. It's not there now, having been knocked down in the 1980s, to make way for the offices of the Land Registry.

To me as a child, it was an enormous place, with the ground floor given over to 4 bars and an off-licence. One of the bars – The Ladies' Bar – was never in use, and neither was the off-licence. I used to practice my darts alone in the The Ladies' Bar.

As you'd expect, the pub had a large underground beer cellar, with a ramp down which the barrels were rolled before being put on their stands. But it also had an unusual – much smaller - second 'cellar', constructed as an unusual mezzanine floor above the main bar. I've often wondered whether there was another of these anywhere in the UK but brief research throws up no answer to this question. Anyway, you had to pass the entrance to cellar as you made your way upstairs and then along a corridor to the living quarters on the first floor. This door was usually open and the smell of the place was hugely enticing.

From time to time, my grandfather would be working in there and I'd go in to chat to him. Usually, he'd be testing the beer in some way, using a long brass rod or dipstick. Showing me this one day, he pointed out how clean the bottom portion of the stick was in comparison with the top half. Brilliantly clean, in fact. “This,” he said, “is what the beer can do to the tarnished surface of the rod. So imagine what it can do to your stomach.”

I've never drunk much bitter beer in my life and I've always partly attributed my distaste of it to this revelation. But there's another beer which I'd never drunk in my life until very recently. Mild beer. Or mild ale, to be more accurate. This is usually black, so easily confused with the beer called 'stout', of which Guinness is the most famous brand. Funnily enough, one of the 7 or 8 varieties of stout – milk stout - was advertised as an aid to recuperation from illness when I was a kid. Even, perhaps, prescribed on the NHS.

Mild beer – though I never knew this until, as I say, very recently - has less of the bitterness of 'bitter' beer because it's 'mildly hopped'. Wikipedia says of it: Once sold in every pub, mild experienced a sharp decline in popularity after the 1960s and was in danger of completely disappearing. However, in recent years the explosion of microbreweries has led to a modest renaissance and an increasing number of milds (sometimes labelled "Dark") are now being brewed.

It was certainly sold in The Wellington as well as probably every other pub in the land when I was young. Often, though, it would be confined to the working class bars - 'the public', as opposed to where it was rather cheaper than the more popular bitter beer favoured more in 'the snug' bar.

 But there's a reason why I never tasted mild beer until recently and this, too, was down to my knowledgable grandfather. Confiding in me one day, he advised me against it - on the grounds that it was customary to put all the bitter beer slops in the mild barrels. I wasn't sure back then what this really meant but it didn't sound good. And I knew for a fact 'slops' included the liquid that had dripped out of the bitter barrels and stayed around for a while. So I stayed off it until a couple of weeks ago, when I was more or less forced to drink it in the absence of anything else. Encouragingly, it came in a bottle and not from a barrel. So, I was less concerned about what might have gone into it since its manufacture. And, what do you know, I loved it.

Monday, 21 December 2015

The weather; Galician Nationalism; & The AVE.

TODAY: As I write, it looks like another lovely day is dawning. And I'll be again forced to wear my summer jacket that's fraying at the sleeve ends. No doubt some will attribute the high temperatures to AGM but I recall a warm(15C) Xmas day in the UK about 17 years ago.

GALICIAN NATIONALISM: I thought the other day that the BNG got around 15% of the vote and 5 Galician parliament seats last time round. This time, this share fell to a good deal less. Though I should say that a new party – Nós – did rather better and this may comprise people and groups who've since abandoned the BNG. I've no idea what this says about Galician nationalism. Other than it appears to have splintered. No doubt someone will write and tell me. But, if the insults continue, I will promptly terminate this blog, which I only really write as a favour to a good Galician friend. He, at least, approaches this issue with good humour. Unlike some of his compatriots.

THE AVE HIGH SPEED TRAIN: The stretch between Olmedo and Zamora has now been complete. It's reported – just before the elections of last Sunday. But the public won't be able to avail itself of it until earlier next year. Are we now on track for the completion of the Madrid-Galicia in 2018(?)? Or will the works now be suspended by the cost-conscious new government?

FINALLY: Don't overlook my other - less locally focused - blog – Thoughts from Galicia. Which majors on the elections today.

For the Pontevedra English Speaking Society, contact Dylan on 607 803 151 or 986 861 070. Calle Echegaray 16 3D.

Languages; Dogs; The Elections; & The Weather here.

LANGUAGES: There are readers who send me comments in Gallego/Galego. I don't understand them – or at least not fully – which makes it all a bit ironic. Especially as some of them, I suspect, are criticisms or even insults. I wonder what goes through their minds. Apart from annoyance at some (perceived) view of mine.

DOGS: My experience with feeding those which have been abandoned in our nearby woods and formed themselves into packs is that saffron rice is not something they're prepared to eat. Even if they're half-starved. Of course, I would't even bother to try to get a cat to eat it.

THE ELECTIONS: THE DAY AFTER: So, no one won. Everyone lost. Fascinating. The final end of Francoism and a 'centre-right' party with far-right elements?? The resignations of the leaders of both the PP and the PSOE parties?? Vamos a ver.

GALICIAN WEATHER: Today is the winter equinox, I think. Despite that, I will once again be wearing my linen summer jacket. The one that is now fraying at the sleeve ends because of unexpected over-use. I'm not betting on a white Xmas..

FINALLY: Don't overlook my other - less locally focused - blog – Thoughtsfrom Galicia

For the Pontevedra English Speaking Society, contact Dylan on 607 803 151 or 986 861 070. Calle Echegaray 16 3D.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Rajoy's retribution; Rajoy's nice insult; & .Galician weather

RAJOY: The Spanish president was clouted by a fine left hook last night in Pontevedra and the city today hung its head in shame. Not that you'd notice. The perpetrator was described variously as a schizophrenic and a 'troubled young man' who'd been moved from private school to private school because of his capacity to cause trouble. And he turned out to be a relative of Mrs Rajoy. What a nice irony.

INSULTS: During the 'debate' on Monday night, one of the these chucked at his opponent by said Sr. Rajoy was ruin. This was new to me and I was amused to see the following English equivalents: 1. mean, cheap, cruel, contemptible, shallow, heartless, callous, stingy, vicious, small, sneaky, a louse; and – best of all – a dastardly villain. So, this little word packs quite a punch.

GALICIAN WEATHER: Thanks to our Indian summer – un veranillo de San Martín - I'm still wearing a linen summer jacket that I planned to throw away months ago. This can't go on, surely. It's beginning to look rather threadbare. And it's not enough when the sun disappears behind a cloud or a building. I'll be relieved when winter finally arrives.

FINALLY: Don't overlook my other - less locally focused - blog – Thoughtsfrom Galicia. 

For the Pontevedra English Speaking Society, contact Dylan on 607 803 151 or 986 861 070. Calle Echegaray 16 3D.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Film festival; Local Corruption; & The final elections debate.

LOCAL FILM FESTIVAL: Asking about something at the town's Turismo in Veggie Square the other day, I noticed there was a 3-day festival in progress. But everything was in Gallego/Galego, presumably because the event was getting local funding. I can read the language pretty well, but am not good verbally or aurally. So, saddened, I gave it a miss. I suspect we'll never see the attendee numbers.

LOCAL CORRUPTION: I've touched on this in respect of accusations made against the mayor and the town hall. But now, thanks to my friend Trevor The Singing Organ Player, we have news of court actions being taken against the Chamber of Commerce. Where will it stop? Though they're all still innocent so far, of course.

FINALLY: Don't overlook my other - less locally focused - blog – Thoughtsfrom Galicia

For the Pontevedra English Speaking Society, contact Dylan on 607 803 151 or 986 861 070. Calle Echegaray 16 3D.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Languages; New FB friends; Elections; & A Challenge.

SPANISH: If you check the dictionary options for Spanish in Open Office (and, I assume, Word) there are at least 16 for English. But Spanish is even more profligate, with at least 20. French, though, is pretty pathetic at only 5. Even German has 6. A reflection of a centrally managed state, perhaps.

NEW FACEBOOK FRIENDS: I've now sent requests to about 15 barely-dressed young women who have Liked this blog. And most of them have accepted me. Strangely, though, all of them seem to know each other and to read the same things, all related to Os Porcos Bravos and the AngloGalician Cup Facebook page. Quite a coincidence. I should just add that one or two of them appear to have no connection to either Galiza or to the AGC folk. Or to know me from a hole in the ground. However, they've still accepted my request. Must be my charm.

ELECTION PROMISES: Before the last general elections in 2011, the PP party promised they wouldn't raise taxes if they got in.Which they did. And then raised taxes by €17billion. This time round, they're promising something even better; they're going to reduce everyone's taxes. I'm guessing this will turn out to be twice as reliable as last time.

FINALLY . . . AN INSUPERABLE CHALLENGE: I went to the Turismo in Veggie Square yesterday to get some Camino brochures. They said they didn't have these as one of the other 3 or 4 tourists places in town had them. They represented the municipality of Pontevedra – not the Rías Baixas area, the Pontevedra province or the Galiza region. But they couldn't tell me which one did.