This week saw the announcement of the winners for the Quality Drink Awards 2011.  This covers all area of alcohol, but I will focus on the beer and cider categories.  The cider award was won by Aspalls’ Premier Cru, a decision I can heartily vindicate as a regular drinker of this fresh crisp dry cider.  The beer award was won by Proper Job IPA by St. Austell Brewery. I’ve not tried this beer yet, but will be on the hunt for it, given my perchant for very hopped beers.  It is noted by reviewers that the fruit and strong hopped tastes are balanced very well in this 5.5% IPA. Both producers mentioned above also won awards in the 2010 ceremony. 

The competition must have been tight in both categories looking at the shortlist, with the cider award also being contested by Westons English Vintage Cider and Westons Premium Organic Cider, again 2 excellent ciders which are regularly in my fridge.  The beer list also included Shepherd Neame 1698, which I have sampled once and found it a very pleasant beer.

We are coming into the time of year when a good percentage of us will be heading to Spain for our two weeks out of the English summer showers.  When in the main resorts and outlying areas, the market seems to be dominated by small number of brands which would leave pumps spare at the bar at some of our better ale pubs.  Ignoring the English lager imports, you can pretty much guarantee that most bars will stock San Miguel, Estrella Damm, Cruzcampo, Amstel, Heineken or Mahou as their main lager.  You rarely see an ale outside of the English bars who typically offer imports from the UK of the mainstream bitters such as John Smith, Worthingtons or Boddingtons.

Spain is a wine country and thus you would not expect it to have such a developed beer market as our own, however despite the domination of the market by a small number of companies which would make even the UK market leaders jealous, there is a number of smaller breweries, who typically produce a handful of beers.  It may well be worth searching out Alhambra if in the Mercia area, and Artesana or Glops beers if around Barcelona.   The main Spanish beers typically are of a similar taste set, with most people using them for refreshment rather than taking tasting notes, that need is catered for by the trip to Germany in October.  Of the main brands, I prefer Cruzcampo and Estrella Damm personally, and had a 4 pack of the latter at home only last week.  Some local pubs are now serving Estrella or Cruzcampo on tap, so if you want something different on the lager front, these would be worth trying for a change.

There are many people each year who come into the trade as a virgin landlord only having a romantic ideal of what their new life will involve.  This is typically working the bar, chatting to locals, and enjoying a couple of their own pints over the evening.  The training being offered by the PubCo’s now before taking a pub on is changing that ideal in many cases, but it is human nature to see the positive over the negative if you are excited about a new venture.

They don’t appreciate the amount of work that there is in the early morning deliveries, stocktaking, cellar maintenance, cleaning, paperwork, dealing with the PubCo and 101 other things.  When things are going well, they will put up with this, when its not so good, they have more time to worry about the implications, personal sacrifices and costs of all this work and expenditure.  The unlucky ones will leave losing their investment and putting others out of work.

This decision is often not taken lightly and can take many months, rolling into years where their emotional or financial link is deeper.  I had a similar decision regarding a voluntary role this week, where I knew it wasn’t right for me.  If it is hard for me to make a choice which will not cost me a penny, I can’t imagine what it is like when you are looking at losing tens of thousands of pounds and sacking long term employees and friends into the bargain.

Until next week, happy supping.