Tag Archives: beer

Hi, my names Myles and I’m (potentially) an alcoholic.

Every time I read that title it fills me with fear. The fear is of being in a position where I am attending an alcohol anonymous session to try to cope with a problem. Attending the session isn’t the thing which I fear most, it’s the stigma of weakness and failure that’s attached to it that I fear the most.

Imagine what impact that would have had on my family leading up to that meeting. Imagine how unfair it would be to add burden to those around me.

But let’s go back a few steps in this scenario.

This blog was inspired by this post by Mark Johnson: (link) It’s a brilliantly passionate and evocative piece about a very personal experience of living with an alcoholic. As ever, that piece got me thinking.

What struck me was the way that at points through the piece, I found myself being able to relate to stages in Mark’s dad’s journey into alcoholism. There are so many things in the background which I feel like I can relate to.

The starting point is a sense of fallibility. I am not untouchable. At my core I’m quite a nervous person. My instinct has always been that while I know I’m a very capable individual, I don’t think others ever really see that. I find social situations uncomfortable. I’ve often had to grit my teeth and push myself into situations rather than being a bold self-promoter. Alongside that I can think of a great many situations where beer has served as a social lubricant and made interactions that bit easier. And perhaps that is the first point where on some level I have been even a little bit, reliant on beer to help me get through the uncomfortable situation.

The other thing I think about is that sense of yearning on a Friday afternoon. There are many times when I have simply yearned for a face full of hops for refreshment after a stressful week. Similarly, when I buy a load of exciting beers and they’re sat in the fridge I do yearn to get stuck into them. Now I fully appreciate that the yearning for the enjoyment of the flavours of the beer is in marked contrast to the yearning that an alcoholic has, but to my mind it has to be one step closer than not yearning for a beer at all.

And therein lies my key point. I’ve grown up surrounded by talk about alcoholics which usually has a tone of blame and a thick slice of criticism for the alcoholic involved. And because of that, most people would bristle at the mention of them potentially being an alcoholic. I often think most people would hold the blinkered view that it couldn’t happen to them. Even alcoholics once believed that it couldn’t happen to them, until it happened to them.

There are stages to it that need to be considered too. You don’t go from living a normal life to being an alcoholic overnight. I imagine it creeps up gradually, like that child at your friend’s school who slowly becomes more and more prominent in your child’s life and slowly leads them astray. You don’t know they’re leading them astray until something significant enough to make you notice happens, and the thing is your child doesn’t see it as them being led astray, they just see it as the thing they want to do at that moment in time, often blissfully unaware of the consequences of the steps they’re taking.

I imagine the route to alcoholism is the same. It’s a steady transition from leading an unaffected life to being dependant on the effects of alcohol to get through life. I say get through life, not many of us would consider that as getting through life. It’s actually the opposite of getting through life, its living in the most poisonous way possible. The physical impacts are considerable, the mental impacts are unseen until too late, and the impacts on those around you is where the pain of the problem is felt most acutely.

How many of us can sincerely say that we won’t ever be alcoholics with 100% certainty?

Just to make this clear, alcoholism is an entirely different thing to having a passion for beer. Once in the throes of alcoholism, an alcoholic won’t see beer as the drink of choice. It’s simply not powerful enough to have the effect that they want. And that’s the thing, they are drawn to the drinks they consume by the effect it has on them.

Now ask yourself, have you ever felt the need for a drink? Ever craved the way any alcoholic drink makes you feel? I know I have. I know there have been times in my life where I’ve yearned for a big blow out and a good sup to relieve stress. I fully understand that the severity isn’t anywhere near the same ball park as the way alcoholics think, but on some level there are similar traits.

Would any of you think that I had a potential problem if you saw me posting beers on Twitter on a daily basis? Or would you simply see me as a passionate beer fan enjoying his hobby? At what point would it leap out to you as being a problem?

What are the early stages of the road to alcoholism? Mark refers to his dad going to the pub with increasing regularity, but with it being a social scene that he became a part of. That being part of a group of regulars in a pub isn’t alcoholism. There’s a key step I suspect, which makes it a problem. It’s that dependency word. That social lubricant in awkward social situations could easily become an everyday crutch if you were unlucky enough to go through a traumatic life event. That’s my fear. That’s the circumstances which I think I’m most susceptible to. If I suffered a big loss in my personal life and the fabric of my life was ripped up, I can see at that stage that I’d look for something steady to try to ground me. It’s a ship trying to drop anchor and secure its position when the seas are choppy. What would you have to fall back on?

I count myself incredibly fortunate to have a strong extended family around me, and I know that I can take strength from that. That doesn’t mean that I blindly get myself into trouble and rely on them to pull me out. That’s the impact of alcoholism which Mark refers to. His dad was constantly reliant on his family to fix the messes that he created. I know for a fact that my family would do anything for me, but perhaps the constant testing of the limits of that is grossly unfair on any family. No I take that strength in my decision-making, I feel more confident in the decisions I make because I believe that my family will support me. It’s the positive edge to the sword, the other side being me not wanting to let my family down. It’s the same thing, just with a positive slant. When I find things tough, I think about my family and what they would want me to do. It gives me focus to push on past obstacles, but what if that wasn’t there?

I know alcoholism isn’t about the alcohol, it’s driven by factors which go on in people’s lives which in turn sees them turning to alcohol as a support mechanism. My point is that I’m not sure that there aren’t a set of circumstances out there which could see me turning to alcohol as a release. Granted those circumstances would be very extreme and would only be were my life to be turned upside down, but it’s still possible.

I think I have some initial empathy with how alcoholics get to where they are, however the fear of that gives me resolve to do everything I can to prevent that from becoming my reality, no matter what happens in life.

They say the first step is to admit you have a problem. I don’t have a problem, but I hope that if ever I feel like I may have a problem, I am able to raise it with someone early, so that it doesn’t spiral out of control. I suspect in many circumstances, pride married with the fact that it’s socially unacceptable to be an alcoholic, may actually prevent someone who suspects they may have a problem, from seeking help. I think as a society who is passionate about the beer culture here in the UK, we probably should be more supportive of people in the early stages. If this saves one person from going down the road any further, then it’d be well worth it. Save them from the pain of going through it, save those around them from the impact on their lives and also save the impact on our health services. Drink responsibly, as a society, together.

There is far more educated information to be had at the following link: (Alcoholics anonymous)

PS. This is a post I’ve had nagging at my mind for some time. I don’t want to offend anyone who has been affected by alcoholism in any way. I don’t for a second believe that I am in any way expert on the subject, or that I understand alcoholism. This is merely my un-informed thoughts on the subject.  But perhaps by talking more about it, we would all learn more and we’d see more of those at risk, helped to avoid a decent into alcoholism.

Manchester, hype, hype, hype. Manchester, hype, hype, hype.

It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for. The pinnacle of the current scene. Never before have such a blend of ingredients come together to create this! I’m sooo excited, everyone’s full of excitement, we’ve all been talking about this day for weeks, months, ok not quite years but it’s felt like it! Ever since the schedule was drawn up and the media made known what elements were going in the mix, there have been many many folk salivating at the prospect of what’s to come. Well it’s finally here, the big reveal, the grand launch, time for kick off!!!!

Yeah so today’s Manchester Derby is quoted as the most expensive game of football ever assembled. Sky sports have been whipping up a storm for weeks. Guardiola v Mourinho, Imbrahimavic v Guardiola, Manchester city v Manchester United, there is no game with greater sub-text and more narrative than this one. The fact that it’ll probably be a tentative cagey affair that’ll end 0-0 doesn’t matter in the build up.

That’s hype. That’s where a commercial enterprise is taking a product to the masses and building it up to be near nirvana in an effort to sell and attract customers.

In contrast, in a small corner of Manchester tucked away from it all is Cloudwater. Now I have heard a few interviews recently with Paul Jones and in each and every case he’s asked about hype. I can really sense that the term is becoming a real frustration to him.

It’s become such a dirty word in the modern beer scene. But actually, in contrast to the way others promote their products I think beer is the least hyped industry out there!

I had originally wanted to get to the crux of what constitutes hype. Which elements are perceived to be hype and which elements are perceived to be negative traits. But actually, who cares.

My wife said to me that for her where hype is a negative is when the product doesn’t live up to expectation. Oversell and under-deliver. Isn’t that the same in every walk of life. Craft beer isn’t heavily promoted by individual breweries. It’s far more organic than that. And if I’m honest as a consumer I would say Cloudwater are the least likely brewery to under-deliver.

I’m sure there are many breweries who do under-deliver but they ultimately won’t survive as commercial enterprises.

So for me, it’s hype schmype….. Don’t let that word become an albatross.

My Craft Beer Calling review

Sat drinking Anarchy Sublime Chaos and it got me thinking…..

Last weekend saw the first holding of Craft Beer Calling.  The event was set up very much like the Boiler Shop Steamer event and as such there was good live music on and a great array of street food to keep the happy punters very happy indeed!  The location was in the Boiler Shop which is an old warehouse on Sussex Street behind the central station and this building represents a very important step forward in the industrial revolution as it was the location where Robert Stephenson built his rocket in 1829 which changed the transport world as they knew it, with rapid expansion of the rail networks following its success. 

I don’t want to make obvious links here but I do think the first holding of this event will probably kick the Craft Beer revolution on further in the North East as there is already a healthy appetite for craft beer but I think it’ll grow all the more as people go to these events as an entry to their Craft Beer voyage of discovery.

I poured over the beer list ahead of the event and selected many beers that I wanted to try over the course of the weekend.  As it turned out there were probably 35-40 beers available at any one time so you had to keep a close eye out for any particular beers that you were hoping for.  One beer that I had read abit about before hand was the keg of xeRRex that Yeastie Boys were sending over.  The brewers themselves will readily admit that this is a beer you’ll either love of loathe.  It’s a big 10% smoky monster of a beer, most of the group I was with couldnt get past the smoky yeast aroma.  This was a beer with bags of flavour and character, delicious.  But beers like that leave you with a dilemma of how do you follow it, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me! 

Its special beers like this which the festival needs.  Initially the organisers will easily attract a crowd of beer drinkers in Newcastle, but attracting the more discerning drinkers from outside the region would be very useful for the city’s tourist industry.  The more unusual beers will put a beer festival on the map.  These weren’t your usual CAMRA festival beers, which is by no way a criticism but this festival had to be a significantly different event to the CAMRA Newcastle Beer Festival.  I suspect the timing was chosen to keep it as far from the CAMRA event as possible for that reason.  It worked, this was an entirely different experience with a very different atmosphere and a very different structure.

The Boiler Shop is a great space, could probably do with a couple more toilets for busier times and the bar did get very busy at times but that apart it worked very well.  There was a very cool tucked away Gin Bar and a brilliant space upstairs where they held the meet the brewer sessions.  There was real beer and food theme too though. The food vendors were all top quality outlets, no cheap burgers here!  That was all brought together by the Beer and Food matching talk that the lovely Melissa Cole gave where she paired beers with the delicious food offerings from Tony Renwick of The Bridge Tavern.  Food pairings were all excellent, and the depth of knowledge from Melissa added real expertise to the talk.  I did feel alittle disgruntled when some at the back of the room were talking throughout the event but I didn’t let it spoil it.  I guess you put people with drink you inevitably get events being abit rough around the edges like that.  Melissa and Tony didn’t seem to mind though.

So anyway, back to the beers.  I wont bore you with a run through every beer I had but there’s a few I want to mention.

Camden’s collaboration with Beavertown, One Hell of a Beaver, was one stand out beer.  It had all the hoppy notes of Beavertown’s Gamma Ray but with the crisp fresh texture of Camden’s Hells lager.  It almost felt like you took a sip of Gamma Ray but swallowed a sip of Hells.  Brilliant beer!  Make more please!

Also worth mentioning was Lagunitas American double IPA Hop Stoopid, which was hops piled on hops piled on hops.  Tremendous!  Also loved Mikkeller/Siren Daydream which is a white stout brewed with coffee, cocoa and vanilla and it had a real boozy warm flavour to warm the cockles.

The regions beers were very well represented, I saw Panda Frog Dart Frog 48 sell out in double quick time (too quick for me to get to try it!), Wylam had their Jakehead in Embryo form (racked direct from FV which was delicious), Tyne Bank’s Heavenly Porter was smooth and rich in bourbon flavours, but the star of the show for me was Anarchy’s keg of 15 month aged national gold award winning Sublime Chaos.  This is a breakfast stout infused with Ethiopian coffee bean from of “natural” type, which means they are dried out on sun terraces!  I love this beer anyway but the aging just saw it mature to a bigger smoother more rounded individual.  The chocolate flavours were more pronounced than normal and the bitterness of the coffee notes kept it perfectly balanced.

Naturally, there were some beers that I missed out on but that just makes me keen to go back again next year.  If the organisers could move it to a different month to Indyman that’d be very much appreciated!  Just to keep the missus happy.

Some minor points to note, I thought it would have been useful to have the cask offerings displayed on the barrels behind the bar at a higher level so you could see what was on when the bar was busy. And it did get busy, the bar area was often packed but we’re British we’re used to queuing.  I thought the bingo card beer tokens seemed abit naff but worked none the less. I think given that they’re my only criticisms I have to say it was a good event.  There was certainly plenty people there enjoying it! 

To my mind this festival was a big deal for Newcastle and the North East.  As I’ve said before the region deserves it to celebrate the great craft beers that we are producing (I say we, I’m mainly consuming them but you know what I mean).   So in that respect I think it put down a good marker for future years. I’d like to see it grow and expand although I’m not sure you’d want more people there or more beers so perhaps attracting different breweries to the event would take it forward.  I’ll leave that for the organisers to sort out though, cos they did a cracking job this year!  Well done!