Pils-thrills and ferry aches


The holiday beer is a moment to savour, but recreating it at home is the challenge. Step 1, writes Katie Mather, is: get a lager.


It’s after 12 o’clock somewhere in the world, and where we are right now is exactly what time it is. The sun has risen to a glorious peak in an impeccable sky and under a Perrier parasol you’re relaxed and shaded. The heat of the day warms you through to the bones. Breathing deep, there’s an ozonic scent of salt and sardines in the air, lifting the gentle hum of hot terracotta, coconut suncream and charred seafood — calamari? — being grilling somewhere out of sight. On the table in front of you, bathed in the sunlit glare of whitewashed walls, is a stemmed and frosty half-glass of local lager, bubbling with the anticipation of being your first holiday beer.

Welcome to one of my happy places. I escape there during the cruel wastelands of January and February and on the darkest days I cling to the memory of it like a lilo swept out in a riptide. When the nights grasp tight, squeezing winter’s weak, grey-white days into a desperate four or five hours, strong, blinding sunlight becomes mythical. I keep my happy reserve of it safe in my head until summer comes back around, and against all odds, it always does. But you never know. Seasonal Affective Disorder is no joke.

Recreating the happy place at home requires a few specific ingredients. You need a rare afternoon when the English clouds part for a few hours, heating up the patio to accommodate bare feet. When swallows appear between the rooftops and you start feeling peckish, throw an appropriate glass in the freezer and dawdle to the shops. Pick up the beers that most suit your appetite. ‘Holiday beer’ can be any lager, as long as its underwhelming taste is totally compensated for by the joyful scenes of beaches and olive groves and legs of ibérico ham it beams directly into your head. Pick food to suit the beer you’ve chosen. Return home, light a barbecue, and pour. Ignore the chilly breeze. Those were not spots of rain. Pour another. Relax.

Dorada, Birra Moretti, Cruzcampo, Tropical, Sagres, Mythos… These beers represent something special to me that’s about much more than how they taste. Their colour reminds me of how whole the world feels when the sun comes out again. How time slows while you watch their tiny bubbles rise, and how everything starts making sense again.

But let’s get back to the happy place. The café table and the parasol, the glass of beer. Beside it, a bowl of torn focaccia, or crumbling cubes of cheese. Perhaps chicharones, if you’re lucky. The sun is shining through your little beer, and you can hear bells from an ancient cathedral clanging in the distance. Maybe you’re with somebody, or maybe you’re contentedly alone with your thoughts. There might be a plaza to watch the world pass by, or the horizon to contemplate out at sea but the beer, at least for me, will be the same. Local lager, poured foamy and cold. A glowing glass of sunshine. 

First printed in Original Gravity #18, spring 2018

Solidarity for Hospitality


Your local might be shut, but there are things we can do argues Jessica Mason 

It has been a tricky few days with so much conflicting advice, uncertainty and frustration. But in times of crisis, we have to plan and pull together in any way we can. For the hospitality sector there has been no reassurances and no show of solidarity and I know that this has left so many of us gobsmacked about what the new recommendations mean for each person and business. Most are terrified that everything they have built will be crushed by the latest government hints on safety measures meaning to avoid going out to eat and drink or socialise.

Advising and recommending people to stay away from pubs and restaurants, but without the government forcing them to close puts the entire hospitality industry at risk of, not just infection, but with no way to claim insurance or pay their staff. This means that, without customer support, many venues will fold within the coming months and not return. 

I don’t know an MP that hasn’t had their picture inside a pub to support their campaign when it suited them, but now they’ve been completely sacrificed without considering the people who work within them.  

I listened to Emmanuel Macron in France, enforcing rules for safety, protecting all businesses so that lives and livelihoods are not under threat throughout the spread of the pandemic. But, so far, all we have from our UK government are a lot of vague recommendations. Boris Johnson has done nothing to help people get through this — he has offered no leadership, no compassion and, even in his delivery, he offers no support or empathy. There is just a lot of bumbling; no understanding of people; no perception of mounting anxieties; no true plan to protect others in the wake of such global uncertainty. I still cannot believe how someone can show such detachment from humanity. He offers no firm guidance while in the seat of power and he is the one person who can. To be so out of touch and uncaring about the knock-on effect of the constraints is shame inducing. And if it isn’t ignorance, but a calculated approach to reduce pay-outs, then it’s worse. Much worse.

I want to help the industry I love. I’ve supported the hospitality industry for over 10 years throughout my career and yet I feel staggeringly paralysed between wanting to be of use and support my local and needing to adhere to the WHO advice and keep my family safe using distancing measures. However, my silence would be deafening right now if I said nothing about the quandary this places me in. Would I be safe by not carrying the virus onto others more vulnerable if I diligently washed my hands, but still ventured out to pubs and restaurants? Would I be helping? Or is the only helpful thing to do right now distancing myself? The answer is that I don’t know.

But while I don’t know, I don’t intend to sit indoors and do nothing. I intend to make some kind of a difference, or at least try to.

We hear quite a lot of conflicting opinions about COVID-19 and how we can limit its spread. If we try to support local indie businesses, are we selfishly putting others at risk? My feeling is that it will be a personal decision and everyone is simply trying to do all they can. Everyone is just trying to do the right thing and support the people and businesses around them.

So, here are my plans, let’s do what little we can to support others, but stay safe.

  • For the places that were once drinking and dining destinations that are feeling the reduced custom and no government support, if you are turning your outdoor spaces into drive-by bottle shops then I will buy from you. I will collect drinks. My money will continue to go into your tills. PLEASE TELL YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY VIA SOCIAL MEDIA IF YOU PLAN TO DO THIS. People want to support those who have given them a community space for so many years.
  • For the places offering takeaway or adapting to set up a delivery service for local residents so we can all still support your business, I will buy from you. I will feel sad to not be visiting and clinking glasses in your establishment, but you have my unwavering support.
  • For the many places offering gift vouchers to buy for a meal for the future. I will purchase these and continue to support you from afar. Keep alerting people on how to buy them and where. When we return in the future, I am happy for just a portion of the voucher amount to be removed from the bill and the new voucher amount updated. There is no way I expect the knock on effect of a scheme designed to help you to become something that puts you out of business once you do open. I want to pay something each time — that’s the gratitude I feel for all of the good times we have shared.
  • We want an industry to return to in the future. Even if our government doesn’t show its support, we need to show solidarity ourselves. Stay in touch and share learnings for what is working to keep things afloat without putting anyone at risk.

I’m hugely passionate about how people and pubs can foster communities. And for so many years you have helped me, even if you haven’t realised it. Socially isolating may be better for our lungs, but it will have a knock-on effect on our emotional and mental wellbeing over the approaching months. I plan to write a lot more letters to friends and family, but also stay in contact with as many people as I can across the industry to make sure that if anyone needs an ear, I am here for them. 

Sometimes, when we don’t know what to say, we avoid saying anything because we fear the awkwardness of broaching conversation in adversity. I just want to suggest we grow a little braver for others, not just ourselves, by keeping the lines of communication open, even when the pubs are closed.

Review: Utopian Brewery, Dark Lager

Tasting Notes: Utopian Brewery, DARK LAGER [5.4%]

Let’s think about the Roman god Janus — and lager

Beer is like the Roman god Janus in the face it shows to the world. On the one hand, when you enter the brewery forest of stainless steel it is tough and urban, but when you consider the ingredients that merge together to make beer, it is rustic. Lager, all too readily, can be seen to be urban, street-wise, the soundtrack to a thousand nocturnal adventures, a hard-edged soul that is best at home in an overly chromed bar on a busy city street, where the nights are fringed with noise and frigid when caught in the limelight that every drinker brings with them. It is tough, street smart, go-ahead in its brewing kit, that towers like a minor cathedral close to a Welsh motorway. Yet, there is another more benevolent, less gritty, bucolic side to lager (think small villages with their own breweries in the Franconian countryside for instance). To me, Utopian also show this penchant for a Janus-like face. Based in the depths of the Devon countryside where rolling hills reach out for the granite hardness of Dartmoor, I feel these rural, rustic nature when I consider where their beers are made, but when I drink this rich and full-bodied riff on a Dunkel I am then reminded of times dodging the cycles and tourists of Munich. I drank deeply of this in an Exeter pub and felt happy with my lot. I hope others feel the same. ATJ


Review: Ramsgate Brewery, Gadds’ She Sells Seashells

Tasting Notes: Ramsgate Brewery, GADDS’ SHE SELLS SEASHELLS [4.7%]

Eddie Gadd makes great beer — this is one of them

I like this beer a lot. I found it in a pub and drank four pints of it but it’s also in cans. I loved its pristine golden sheen, making the beer as clear as a mountain stream. I loved its twirl of citrus on the nose, reminiscent of lemon curd, something that also spread onto the palate before an assertive bitterness balanced any drift to over-sweetness. This gorgeous bitter finish continued with a lovely embrace of dryness, the kind of bitterness that hooks you into a beer and makes it difficult for you to let go. Its sweet malt and earthy citrus Kentish hop nose and bittersweetness makes me think of the Kentish coast as the English Channel goes on its way and another pint is called for. ATJ 


Review: Wiper and True, Old Twelfth Night Orchard Ale

Tasting Notes: Wiper & True, OLD TWELFTH NIGHT ORCHARD ALE, 2017 VINTAGE [6%]

Apple pressings meet farmhouse ale and time with this unique beer

Here’s a lovely, luscious idea for a beer: back in 2017, Michael Wiper mixed the pressings from apples picked from his own orchard with a wort made from a traditional farmhouse malt mash overseen by Jonny Mills of the eponymous brewery. After the boil, to which Wai-iti and Simcoe were added, the result was divided between two French oak barrels and time did the rest. This was released at the start of the year and if you are lucky you might still be able to get one from the brewery as it is a gorgeous beer. Bruised gold in colour, limpid and lightly carbonated, it has the earthiness of an old barn on the nose, alongside an apple-like sweetness. It is dry and still on the palate, medium bodied, gripped by a grapefruit-like tartness and on the verge of a bounteous juiciness. The finish is soft and quenching and yes it is a bit like a cider but also has a depth and body you don’t even get in the best ciders. Fabulous. ATJ 


Available: honestbrew.co.uk/shop/wiper-and-true-old-twelfth-night-orchard-ale