Posts Tagged ‘London’

Eyewitness of Protests and Kerfuffle at the Bank of England, 01 April 2009 (Part 2)

1 April, 2009

If you can’t see it below this post, Part 1 is at https://hywelsbiglog.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/eyewitness-of-protests-and-kerfuffle-at-the-bank-of-england-1-april-2009/

To continue the story, after staying at the junction of Cornhill outside the police cordon, I went for a walk. In a very pleasant walk through Popes Head Alley, Lombard Street, St. Stephen’s and St. Swithens, I passed outside of a few different lines of police. All keeping me out, and keeping protesters in.

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A bit more walking, and the unbelievable happened. Bucklesbury leading onto Queen Victoria Street was completely devoid of police lines. Seizing the moment, I walked up the street to the Bank of England and joined a jolly old carnival of assorted hippies and journalists.

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The atmosphere is jolly. Everyone is having a great time. But let me ask you this. Why, in every protest, are there people playing bongos? Do protests not happen if there’s no one available to bang their bongo drums?

There number of photographers and broadcasters is amazing. Here, I bump into Newsnight’s Justin Rowlatt who is very professional and doesn’t loose his temper with protesters who disrupt his piece-to-camera.

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After a pleasant afternoon walking around and absorbing the atmosphere, I take a seat on the steps of a battened-down Royal Exchange.

I feel like walking back home now. Sure, I’m inside the cordon. But the cordon let me in, so it should let me out, right? Let’s see what happened when I walked up Threadneedle Street to try and get out…

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Yes, that is a swarm of mounted riot police. Yes, they are the broken windows on the RBS building. And yes, that is Ben Brown who somehow managed to do live reports from the front-line all day.

So, I couldn’t get through. But what happened next, took me by surprise.

Aggression built up and suddenly, everyone on my side of the cordon was running from the police line. Nobody knew why, so we all went back to the police line.

Then, things got much worse. For no apparent reason, more and more police filled the police lines. Then, they charged towards us.

For some reason, while running, a thought popped into my head. “This must be what the Spanish Pamplona bull run is like”. Think about it. Both involve running away very quickly from something enraged.

I kept the camera recording video. I tried to hide in one of the nooks and crannies of Threadneedle Street, hoping that the police line would just pass. But it didn’t. I found myself running, almost for my life, literally with a policeman in riot gear pushing me and shouting “Move, move move!”.

The police line came to a stop near the steps of the Royal Exchange. Needless to say, the protesters were irked. A stand off ensued.

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Amazingly, Ben Brown popped up again. He even managed to to a piece-to-camera and interview one of the protesters.

Sadly, here’s where the photos end. My camera-phone battery expired.

All around, photographers grappled for the best vantage point. Police officers were videoing the protest and radioing troublemaker details to base.

Then I decided it was time to make an exit. Easier said than done when every exit is cordoned off. Nevertheless, I wandered off.

Bucklesbury was cordoned off. Guess I’ll have to look for another way out. How about Queen Victoria Street? No. That’s cordoned off too.

Worse than than that, things were turning ugly. These weren’t the usual hippy protesters. Most of this crowd had their faces covered. These were real life anarchists intent on causing anarchy. Golly.

Angry noises coming from the police line told me that trouble would be rushing my way soon. A brisk walk towards back the Royal Exchange seemed appropriate.

Unless I could find a way out from the cordoned-off area, I would be there all night. Then, miraculously, the police line across Bucklesbury opened up. Not much. Just enough to let some of us escape. Courageously, I took the opportunity and retreated. Wise choice.

Minutes later, the line closed. Right in front of that line was the trouble. A line a riot police charged the skirmishing anarchists. Bottles were hurled at the police. Voices were raised. There was pushing and shoving. It wasn’t pleasant.  Best of all, I wasn’t in it. It was happening a few feet away, the other side of the Bucklesbury police line.

Then, it really was my time to get out of there. I went back up through the city. Passed the Climate Camp who were still busy partying. And back to my flat, just off Brick Lane.

What have I learned today? A few things. I’ve learnt that there are lots of irritated people who want to protest. I’ve learnt that I don’t agree with most of the protesters. For starters, free trade and free market capitalism is the best way to get people out of poverty and develop clean energy through market driven innovation. I’ve also learnt that anarchists and violent protesters can ruin a fun day out. And that most people who go to these things are jolly nice. The lesson I’ve learnt most of all is that police lines like to charge at you for no apparent reason.

Were you there? Are you Justin Rowlatt? Did you see me out and about? Do you have an opinion? Do please leave a comment here with your opinions, views, thoughts, ramblings and anything else you want to say.

Watch my video from the day at my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=Gent82&view=videos

Eyewitness of Protests and Kerfuffle at the Bank of England, 1 April 2009

1 April, 2009

LIVING on the City fringe, I couldn’t resist. With a compulsion to see what was going on, I decided to head out. Before leaving, I had noticed a couple of things. The first was the sound of helicopters buzzing around, possibly linked to awful digital television reception. The other thing was an almost complete lack of buses. Being smart, I waited until the lunchtime news to get an idea of what was happening. That’s where I learnt about the brief violence, the breaking of windows and police cordoning of all the roads around the Bank of England. “Oh well, at least I’ll be able to go as far as the cordons” I thought. So, at 1:50pm, I set off. And this, is everything I saw. Up until my camera phone ran out of battery.

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On the way to Bishopsgate from Bethnal Green Road, this graffiti seemed ominous. Or, if you are an anarchist, hopeful.

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There were some police milling around RBS’ Bishopsgate building. But not as much protest as I was expecting. None at all in fact.

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By this point, I noticed that Bishopsgate was a little quiet. Too quiet. And, in the middle of the road was the first of dozens of outside broadcast trucks I would see.

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The reason for Bishopsgate’s quietness quickly became clear. The Climate Camp had camped out in the middle of the road. Too their credit, they were a lot of fun. No trouble or bad attitude. Lots of fun and interesting people doing their thing. Not that I agree with their message. But it was a jolly jape to camp out and have a mini-carnival in Bishopsgate. Here are some of the things I saw while passing. Warning: white people with dreadlocks ahead.

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There weren’t many police officers on duty. No wait. That’s not accurate. There were more police officers and riot police than I’ve ever seen before.

By the end of the Climate Camp, I found myself near the junction of Threadneedle street. How far can I get, past the boarded up shop windows, to the police cordon? Let’s find out…

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When I got there, here’s the hodgepodge of different protesters I found at the corner of Threadneedle and the Royal Exchange.

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People were hanging off every statue and piece of street furniture. You could see people on the balcony on the Bank of England. The atmosphere was good. But I got bored. So I headed across the Exchange Buildings area over to Cornhill. And met a variety of funny figures en route. One even gave me some pink “Clown Money”.

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Over on Cornhill, I was able to get right up to the police line. With the police keeping other people inside, and me outside the cordon, the atmosphere was different. With the police telling people to stop climbing onto the Royal Exchange and protesters outside the cordon shouting at the police, the atmosphere was starting to buzz.

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After staying here for a few minutes I got bored. Popes Head Alley was straight ahead so I walked off to see what I could find.

At this point, I want to keep showing you photos. Unfortunately, the stupid Firefox web browser can’t handle this many photos in a WordPress blog writing text box. So, check ABOVE this post for PART 2.  Or click on this: https://hywelsbiglog.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/eyewitness-of-protests-and-kerfuffle-at-the-bank-of-england-01-april-2009-part-2/

Olympic Victory Parade Starting at Bank/Mansion House

16 October, 2008

IT’S October the 16th, 2008, and I decide to make the most of living on the City fringe by attending the start of the Olympic Victory Parade. Hearing that it would be starting at 11am, I set off early. Only to be greeted with traffic that barely moved and a bus that diverted much earlier than expected. This made me think I would get there too late, so I leg it for Bank and find streets strangely deserted of traffic.

There was a crowd of about one deep along the fence at Threadneedle Street. Luckily, I snagged a spot on the curb at the corner of Threadneedle Street and Princes Street.

There’s wasn’t at first. There were the usual Police.

And there was a camera on a pole.

And a lot of school children down Queen Victoria Street to Mansion House. Plus a banner saying that the City of London congratulates our Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Within a couple of minutes of my arrival, things started happening. What looked like the Queen’s Guards started marching to their starting point at the end of Princes Street. And various media and press started buzzing around.

Behind them, we got out first glimpse of the floats.

Next, Olympic and Paralympic athletes were led out to the big junction that is Bank. Their role would be to wave the flag and start the parade. Something they would rehearse once or twice.

All the while, helicopters hummed around in the sky above.

At 11am drew nearer. And then passed, the excitement mounted. More and more crew arrived and got into place. Notice the boom microphone man moving around.

11:05am, and everything is lined up and ready to go.

The athletes are about the wave the flag…

…And the parade is on!

The guards march past playing their instruments.

Then, the first of what would become many, many floats.

At this point, I realise that I can’t name them. Whoever they are, I, and every once else in my cheering crowd was delighted to see them.

That was the float on which Chris Hoy was standing. And yes, you could see him from where I was standing. Even though the camera wasn’t good enough to capture the moment.

The bit in-between each float was unexpected. There were people carrying tape featuring the sponsors names and logos.

Float number two, and this one is packed full of athletes. If only I knew who they were. Even though my camera is awful, you can still see their medals.

Float three brings us a more sparsely populated, but no less welcomed float of athletes.

Float four approaches…

…and passes all too soon.

The fifth float arrives moments later.

On this one, the camera man at the back of the float is easier to see. When I got home and switched on the TV, I’d discover that these were for Matt Baker and Sur Barker to interview the athletes with.

The fifth float leaves the scene…

And the sixth float arrives. A lot of our excellent Paralympians on this one.

All too quick, the seventh float arrives.

And leaves.

Where do they keep coming from? I had no idea there were this many athletes. Here is float eight.

Float nine promptly follows.

Another float quickly appears. This would be float ten. Incredible.

My ancient camera is rapidly running out of memory. But I keep clicking. Here comes float number eleven. It was good to see athletes in every float taking photos of us, as much as we were of them.

All too soon, the twelfth and final float arrives. This one has the gorgeous Rebecca Addlington, even though my camera was too slow to capture her. Of all the floats, this one is one of the most attractive. And gets a lot of cheers and whoops from the crowd.

With all the floats passed, next come all the support vehicles.

Most hilariously, a man on a bicycle follows. Only to get told by a policeman not to.

And that was my fun, if chilly morning cheering our talented and good looking Olympian and Paralymic athletes.

If you were an athlete on a float, leave a message below of what it was like from your perspective. Do please email me your photos if you took any.

Leave a message too if you were one of the crew or someone who happened to be standing near where I was.

Beer Review: Fuller’s 1845

4 September, 2008

FULLER’S do seem to make very good bottled ales. Fuller’s London Pride Premium Ale was very good and their ESB Champion Ale was outstanding. I was excited then, to find a bottle of Fuller’s 1845 in a west-London shop.

This one looks special. I’m hoping that it is. Time to look closer and figure out what makes it so special.

The bottle itself doesn’t give anything away. That’s because it’s the same black bottle they use for every other beer. That means it has embossed upon it, phrases like “Family Brewery”. And “Estd 1845”. Maybe that’s a clue as to the origins of the name? Lets read on.

The neck label is always a good place to start. As well as the griffin bearing Fuller’s of Chiswick logo is a clue. And the words “Matured for 100 days” is it. That sounds impressive and significant to me. But I want more facts. What will the big front roundel reveal?

Fuller’s 1845 front label

Quite a lot by the look of it. The gold border says “Celebrating 150 Years of Brewing Excellence”. And around the bottom part of the border, we’re informed that this is an “Award Winning Strong Ale”. Both of those facts are things that I like. Especially as there aren’t nearly enough strong bottled ales out there.

Inside the roundel, the year “1845” takes centre stage, as does the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery of Chiswick logo. But, also catching your eye is that “100 days”. Printed right on the front is “Bottle Conditioned Ale Matured to Perfection for 100 Days”. That’s more time than any other I’ve seen. It even puts the magnificent Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer’s 77 days in the shade. In a world where everything is manufactured in colossal quantities, and as rapidly as can be gotten away with, 100 days of brewing is stupendous. That, together with the live-ness from the bottle conditioning and the 6.3% alcoholic volume are going to make this a formidable ale. I hope your mouth is watering at the thought of this, too.

The back label is tall, and full of very small writing.

Fuller’s 1845 back label

But it quickly starts offering more reasons for you to like this bottled ale. In one of the corners, a little symbol tells us that “CAMRA says this is Real Ale”. Which is reassuring. In the big block of writing, they tell us that “1845” was first made in 1995, and has since won lots of awards, including “two gold medals at the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival”. You just know that those guys know their beer, so those are two awards that mean something. Not like the so-called medals festooning some continental bottles.

They then go on to talk about the “fruit cake aroma”. That it is “complex, yet smooth” with “mellow flavours”, all of which are attributed to the mind blowing length of time they leave it to mature for, and the Amber Malt and Goldings hops. They also suggest that it goes well with rich food like game. Sadly, my spaghetti bolognaise ready meal will have to do. Interestingly, they say that you should really keep the bottle stored upright in a cool dark place, and pour it carefully. My one out of three isn’t bad. At least I kept it cool.

Quickly rushing through the small print now because I want to try this drink. It was brewed by Fuller Smith & Turner at the Griffin Brewery. As usual, the full London address is there if you want to get in touch. They’re keen to let you know about their other beers and ale club at their website, which is www.fullers.co.uk. It contains malted barley, and this 500 millilitre bottle, at a strong 6.3% comes in at 3.2 UK units of alcohol. Which is more than most. You won’t need much before you start feeling the effects.

Did I miss anything? I hope not because I want to open it. What will it be like? How will it compare to other strong ales? Do I think you should buy it? It’s time to find out.

With all the advice on the label to treat it as carefully as Nitroglycerine, I was surprised to find it had almost no head at all. Moments after the photo, all that was left was a patch of bubbles, and some around the rim. All that careful pouring for nothing.

It certainly looks substantial enough. It’s a very dark brown. But a shade lighter than stout or dark ale.

It smells potent too. Put your nose anywhere near the top of the glass, and you’ll see what I mean. It has an intense smell of… something. The label says “fruit cake”. To me, it smells, intensely of malted barley and lots of other things. Two things are certain; it smells intense and complex.

But how does it taste? A couple of gulps into this deep, thick ale, and it tastes just like how it smells. That is to say, intense and complex. To try and start from the beginning, what are the flavours? That’s very hard to say without sounding like a wine taster. It’s sort of biscuity, malty, hoppy and other things besides. It’s complex, and interwoven so tightly, I’m having trouble identifying any of it.

If I can’t describe the flavour, what about the aftertaste? It’s much the same. Those flavours blend smoothly into a hoppy, bitter aftertaste that lingers for a while.

If I can’t describe the flavour or the taste, can I at least describe the character of the drink? Now that I can do. Fuller’s 1845 sums up what full-bodied, richly flavoured and all-round delicious ales should be about. I’m about half-way through now, and that flavour and taste is still no clearer to me. That’s the sort of complexity you want from an ale. It’s not only as rich as fruit cake, but smooth too. The flavours are strong, but never too strong. You can even describe them as “mellow” like the label does. And they change seamlessly into the hoppy, bitter, aftertaste. None of them ever seem too strong. And you certainly can’t accuse it of being weak. Lastly, I’ve hardly burped at all, so you can’t even level the complaint of gassiness.

Are there downsides? I like a beer to take risks in the pursuit of greatness. That’s exactly what 1845 does. But doing so inevitably incurs problems. That hoppy bitterness does come in gently, but it ‘balloons’ before easing off and lingering. Lots of you will like the way it does that, but it was a bit strong for poor old me. And that strong bitterness is going to be too much for a lot of other people too. Then there’s the flavour and taste itself. It feels like it’s been sanded and polished so much, there’s little sign of the barley and hop flavours you get elsewhere. Lastly, you’ve got the problems of finding, and affording such an exclusive bottle. I got it purely by chance.

To sum up, Fuller’s 1845 is excellent. If you like strong, interesting ales, you will probably enjoy this. It offers virtually everything. Theo whole experience reminds me a lot of the other strong ales out there. Have a look for Broughton Old Jock, Maximus Strong Premium Ale and Bishops Finger Kentish Strong Ale for something vaguely similar if you can’t find 1845 sold anywhere near you. Not for the faint hearted, and not the strongest either, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Rating: 4.25

Have you tried Fuller’s 1845? What did you think of it?

Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the comments boxes below.

Beer Review: Asahi Super Dry

5 May, 2008

THIS week, I feel like trying some of the growing number of Asian beers on our shop shelves. The big names like Cobra and Tiger will follow shortly, but I wanted to start this round-up with this: Asahi Super Dry.

Asahi Super Dry bottle

Just one corner shop on my local Bethnal Green Road stocks this Oriental oddity. Curiosity took over and I just had to see what this would be like. The closest I’ve had, have been Chinese beers like Tsingtao during my gap-year. Whether this Japanese beer will be anything like that legendary Chinese beer, I’m looking forward to finding out.

The bottle top has a very stylised “Asahi” name. Plus the Japanese calligraphy for what I presume is the same name. If you can translate the Japanese text, I’d be very interested to hear from you, so leave a comment at the end of this post.

Asahi Super Dry bottle top

The neck label is the first time we see Asahi’s unique look. The black and red print on a shiny silver background is excellent. The text on the neck label tells us that Asahi is Japan’s number one beer. A fact that must count for something. The word “Premium” is on their too. Whether that means that this is “Asahi Premium” or if the “Premium” refers to something else, I’m not sure.

Asahi Super Dry neck label

The front label is somewhat overcrowded. There’s definitely a lot on there to get through.

Asahi Super Dry front label

At the very top and outside the octagonal border are the words “Asahi Beer”. Also outside the border, and in equally small lettering, it tells us that this has been brewed under licence from Asahi Breweries Ltd, Japan. And again, outside the border, but this time at the bottom of the label, we’re told that this is a 330 millilitre bottle. And that it has a volume of 5%. Not outstandingly strong, but far from weak. And that’s a promising sign.

In the bordered area of the label are all sorts of text and Japanese text. It’s hard to know where to begin. Under the Asahi Breweries Limited logo is the slogan “A Beer For All Seasons”. As slogans go, it’s not what I’d call memorable.

The Super Dry description is amusing. For reasons know only to themselves, only the word “Dry” has quotation marks. Not the word “Super”. So it reads as Super “Dry”. As if the characteristic of dryness is ironic. Has something been lost in translation here?

Under the large, stylised Asahi name is an unusually big block of text. And that block is split and underlined by some Japanese text. If you can translate what it says, do please leave a comment at the end of this post.

The English text however, starts off with the usual mentions of quality ingredients. It then describes what to expect with words including “Richness”, “Refreshing” and “Smoothness”. And an extended version of their slogan: “All Year Round You Can Enjoy the Great Taste of Asahi Beer”. Not if you live in London. It’s not exactly widely available yet.

Over on the back label, and everything is cleaner and neater.

Asahi Super Dry back label

It opens by telling us that Asahi is pronounced “Ah-Sah-Hee”. Also that it’s Japan’s number one premium beer. And that it is known for being “clean”, “crisp” and “refreshing”. All good, if vague stuff in my opinion.

Under where it says that it contains barley malt is a disappointing piece of news. Asahi Super Dry hasn’t been imported. Instead, it’s been brewed and bottled in the UK. Still, at least you can write to their European headquarters in London using the postal address given. Or visit their website at http://www.asahibeer.co.uk/. Finally, tucked away in the corner is the familiar UK units of alcohol symbol. All of 1.6 for this little bottle.

In the glass, everything looks fine.

Asahi Super Dry poured into a glass

There’s a thick head, which dies down a little over a minute or two. And the colour is a light yellow with a lot of bubbles. This is going to be a fizzy and gassy experience by the look of things.

The smell is… not sophisticated. It’s of malted barley and possibly hops. But it’s not overpowering either.

Just a couple of gulps confirm just how gassy this is. It is one of the most gas filled beers I’ve tried. Asahi Super “Dry” tastes much as you’d expect. An indistinctive blend of malted barley and hops. It reminds me of lager rather too much.

But it’s not all bad. It is “clean”, “crisp” and “refreshing”. And quite a fun, drinkable beer. But the “richness” and “smoothness” it promised are hard to find. And what’s “Super “Dry”” about it, I’m not certain.

To sum up Asahi Super Dry, this is a decent, if unsophisticated beer. It’s not got complex flavours or aromas, but then it never promised that. Instead, it provides a simple, straightforward and refreshing beer. Not bad, but I want something more. I will though, be looking out for Asahi’s other beers. If they have a Super “Wet” to compliment their Super “Dry”, I’d be interested in sampling it.

Rating: 2.5

Have you tried Asahi Super “Dry” or any other Asahi beers? Where did you find them on sale? Can you translate any of it? Is the authentic Japanese version better than the one brewed here in the UK? If you can answer any of these questions. Or just want to leave a rant, comment, suggestion or correction, then do so now.

Beer Review: Fuller’s London Pride Premium Ale

25 April, 2008

HAVING lived in London for a few months, it’s about time I tried the local ale. And here it is: Fuller’s London Pride Outstanding Premium Ale.

Fuller's London Pride bottle

One of the things I like about this traditionally shaped bottle is the number of words embossed on the glass. The coat of arms logo, established date of 1845 and “Independent Family Brewers” are all raised on the surface of the bottle. That’s the most I’ve yet seen. But I would like to see a bottle that only has that type of print. No printed or painted labels, just raised lettering. Are there any out there that do that?

Back to the real world, and the neck label needs a magnifying glass to see properly.

Fuller's London Pride neck label

Central of which is the Fuller’s coat of arms logo. Something that throughout the outside of the bottle, always mentions its home at the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, West London. Can anyone confirm if that is the one that you pass while driving into London from the M4 motorway?

The neck label also says that this is award winning. There are also some little pictures of medals with the words “Voted Britain’s Best” to back up that assertion. Sadly, no actual awards get named.

The main front label is a picture of tradition. There’s a big red shield, on which are the logo, a picture of some hops and the basic facts.

Fuller's London Pride front label

It’s not overcrowded. And it doesn’t push any boundaries. You could say that it’s unoriginal. But when it comes to ales, that doesn’t matter very much. The most important detail on the front is the alcohol volume, which for London Pride is only 4.7%. And that’s lower than most of the beers and ales that I’ve tried recently.

Over on the back of the bottle, the rear label is a big red rectangle with lots of small white text.

Fuller's London Pride back label

Fairly prominent is the famous slogan “Whatever You Do, Take Pride”. Famous because it’s recently been on the side of a good number of London taxis.

The first chunk of small white text goes on describing what London Pride is all about. Not the intangible emotion of pride in London, but the more relevant topic of what this ale is like. They describe it as having a distinctive malty base, balanced by hop flavours. They also say that they use Target, Challenger and Northdown varieties of hop. None of which I understand the significance of. If you know why these are good, do please leave a message at the end of this post.

They go on to say that this is a surprisingly complex beer considering its strength. By which I think they mean that even though it’s weak, it will still taste good. They also say that this is the UK’s number one premium ale. Is that number one in a competition? Or number one in sales? That would be odd, as I don’t remember seeing it on sale anywhere else in the UK.

On the back label in the white text, they go on to mention their other beers. Their website at www.fullers.co.uk and their Fine Ale Club. The small print begins shortly after with the Chiswick, London, postal address for Fuller Smith & Turner Plc. Other pieces of small print in three of the four corners of the label include the UK units of alcohol, which are 2.4 in this case. The 4.7% alcohol volume. And that this is a 500 millilitre bottle.

With all that chatter out of the way, I’m looking forward to seeing if I can take pride, in London Pride.

In the glass, the colour is a dark gold. There’s a modest head too. But the head swiftly vanished which was disappointing.

Fuller's London Pride poured into a glass

The smell is invitingly complex though. Even I was able to smell a fantastic blend of malty, hops and… is that a hint of something fruity in there? It is a very nice blend of smells. I wasn’t expecting it to smell this good.

A couple of gulps in though, and I’m undecided. It seems too watery and bitter. This will need a few more gulps to figure out.

A few more gulps in, and yes, the taste is mostly one of bitterness. Presumably the end result of all those hop varieties. But it does have some complexity. There are some other tastes and flavours in there if you look hard enough. The label mentions a malty base, which does seem to be in evidence. Even if not to the fore. And thinking about what I called a fruitiness to the smell, I could be wrong, but is that coming from the hop varieties? That’s because I’m picking up hints of something arable in there, and the hops are the only things I can think of that link all these things together.

Other things on the credit side are that it’s not gassy. In fact, it’s almost still. Which, I’m tempted to put on the debit side, but won’t. They have also done a good job of squeezing maximum taste complexity from minimum volume. It’s also quite drinkable. This is one of those I think would go well with a pub meal with friends.

But over on the debit side, it can’t escape the accusation of being a little weak and watery. It just lacks the body that I expect an ale to have. Still, it has won lots of awards from people who know more than I do. What do you think? Am I looking at London Pride in the wrong way? Or am I right?

To summarise, London Pride is good. It smells good. It tastes as hoppy as anything I tested so far. But with that, comes the drawbacks of bitterness. And it’s lacking in strength and body. Some people will like those things. But for me, they mean that it doesn’t quite cut it. Even so, it’s good enough to make me want to try the rest of the Fuller’s range.

Rating: 3.2

Have you tried Fuller’s London Pride or any other Fuller’s beers? What did you think?
Comments, ideas, suggestions, corrections, explanations and insults in the comments box below please.

Beer Review: Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer

16 April, 2008

THIS one got my attention as soon as I saw it on the shelves of my local Tesco. That’s because it is Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer.

Young\'s Champion Live Golden Beer bottle

First it got my attention because I enjoyed Young’s Special London Ale. Secondly, it got my attention because of the big mentions of “Champion” and “Live” on the front. “Champion” hints at the winning of prizes. Always a good thing. And “Live” and “Bottled Conditioned” beer are always my favourites. In fact, I’ve yet to try a live or bottled conditioned beer I’ve not enjoyed. And that means that you’ll probably enjoy them too. But will Young’s Champion reaffirm or disappoint? I’m looking forward to finding out.

The neck label is where you’ll find a surprising amount of marketing. Or should I say background to the Ram Brewery. It’s also got a reassuringly large “Bottle Conditioned” on it. If it were up to me, that whole Ram Brewery text on the neck label would be replaced by a list of the virtues of bottle conditioning. Maybe one day, eh?

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer neck label

The front label keeps things simple, yet stylish. Lots of sweeping lines dominate this one. And the result is quite different to Special London Ale. Which, by the way, I recommend you read now, so I don’t have to repeat myself over all the little details. The Ram logo is in tact again. But this time, the word “Champion” takes centre-stage, plus a small illustration of hops. The 5% volume is on there, but tucked away in a corner so you need to be looking for it. The colour scheme is light and bright, but looks a bit odd on the dark glass of the bottle.

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer front label

Over on the back, the layout is much the same as with the Special London Ale. The CAMRA logo is on there. As is the symbol telling you that this 500 millilitre bottle has 2.5 UK units of alcohol. And what’s that I see? Amazingly, this is the first time that I’ve bought a recently stocked bottle from Tesco, only to discover that it has passed its “Consume By” date. I didn’t realise it in the shop, but no it’s clear as day. This went ‘off’ after the 31st of January 2008. Outstanding cock-up, Tesco. Readers; check the date on your bottle before you put it in your shopping basket. Or live on the edge. Like me.

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer back label

The correct procedure here would be to return this bottle and obtain a refund or replacement. But having come this far, I don’t want to turn back. Just how bad can it get in those few weeks? That’s what I want to know. So, in the name of investigating blogging, let’s push on.

The story part of the back label describes Young’s Champion as “light-golden”, with a “full-flavour” and “refreshing bite”. It uses “malted barley” and “Styrian hops” for a “well-rounded floral flavour” with “hints of fruit” and a “dry, hoppy bitterness”. Again, they suggest serving cool, pouring gently to keep the yeast in the bottle. And that the website of this Wandsworth based London brewer is at www.youngsathome.co.uk.

Time to open the bottle to see a few things. One: if I’m poisoned from out of date beer. And two: if Young’s Champion is as good as I’m hoping it will be.

In the glass, there’s a good frothy head. But it’s controllable, staying within the pint glass. It’s light golden and it looks like none of the yeast sediment made its way in there. That said, it is still fairly opaque.

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer in a glass

Like the good live bottles I’ve tried before it, the smell is good. Definitely above average. That yeasty, malty, hoppy smell is mouth-watering.

A couple of gulps in, and I’m not dead from this out-of-date bottle. But I am enjoying the make-up of the flavours here. None of which really dominate, and thus making it a very inoffensive experience. The malted barley and hoppy, bitter aftertaste are most noticeable. And yes, as you work through it, you do begin to notice a tiny floral hint, as promised by the label.

This is turning out to be a well-balanced and well-rounded beer. It’s also easy to drink. And that’s important, as it makes this bottle of beer even more accessible to the casual drinker. Like you. And let’s be honest here, me too.

It’s also fairly crisp and refreshing. This isn’t a big heavy drink at all. But it isn’t the lightest and most refreshing out there either.

If I had to level a criticism at Young’s Champion, it would be that it’s too inoffensive. It’s not the yeasty, malty explosion of taste that I adore. And you could even describe it as being ever so slightly watery. But then this calls itself a beer rather than an ale, so it can get away with that up to a point.

This bottle may be a few weeks out of date, but that didn’t stop me from liking it. If you want a decent live bottled beer, try it. If you want a tasty, refreshing, quite strong beer with little to complain about, try it. If you want a live beer but are too squeamish about bits floating in it, try it. There’s no bits of yeast sediment if you pour carefully. If you want a big, heavy, strongly flavoured brew that scares away teenagers, have an ale instead. This won’t quite satisfy you. I however liked Young’s Champion, so you might to.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Young’s Champion? What did you think?
Or if you’ve got any suggestions for other good live beers, or ones to avoid, leave a comment!

Protests at the Olympic torch relay along Whitechapel Road, East London (Pics Inside)

6 April, 2008

THAT was extraordinary. I’ve just got back from Whitechapel Road in the East End of London. This afternoon, after lunch and the snow showing sings of stopping, I thought it would be fun to watch the Olympic torch relay pass by. Whitechapel Road, is after all, just the other side of Brick Lane, so it wouldn’t take long to get there. Anticipating there to be huge crowds, I set off with plenty of time to spare. I used the official press release to help gauge when to leave.

Turned out, I had arrived early. And it was still cold, even though it had stopped snowing. At least this would give me a chance to stake out a good place opposite the nearby East London Mosque.

There weren’t many other people there. But there was a sizeable contingent of police. And gradually, a small crowd gathered. But it was cold, so I just hoped the show would get a move on.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long. Some booming music, the distant sight of blue flashing lights and a big red open top bus with flags happily waving was spotted in the distance. The scene was that of celebration. I hope they enjoyed it while they could.

But sadly, we had to wait. For whatever reason, the red open top bus and the loud music pulled in, some distance away. And proceeded to wait there. For about quarter of an hour. While we shivered in the cold. This was my view for a good length of time.

As we waited, things around me started to become energised. The police went into crowd control mode in front of us. And there was a growing bunch of people standing around me.

Finally, things started to move. Namely, the police started to move. Here’s a picture of some police motorcycles. The Met Police force had clearly thrown all their people into this operation.

At last, the open-top double deck bus passes by. There’s some people on the top deck waving. I have no idea who they are. Politely, I wave back.

But things had changed from the carnival atmosphere when the bus entered into view. Now people had started booing and shouting slogans like “Free Tibet” and “Shame on China” and “Shame on the Torch”. These slogans would follow me, and the torch itself, for the rest of the outing.

Following the bus was a float. Mysterious addition this one. Presumably the hip-hop music and sexy dancers would have looked right if it was sunny and no one was protesting. But here, hours after the snows, in the freezing cold and among the protests; it was entirely out of place. Especially as the float drove right in front of the huge East London Mosque.

After the float with the dancers, there was a gap. Which was quickly filled by lots more police passing. Here’s some of them.

They were swiftly followed by more official and support vehicles. Here’s an official looking people carrier.

Which was followed by numerous support buses. Some of which had water for the runners; which evidently included the platoon of police and Chinese officials. Other buses were filled with Chinese officials in their tracksuits. All of which were greeted with passionate boos and a variety of slogans.

It looked like everything would pass smoothly. There wasn’t much disruption and everyone behaved themselves. Albeit, not verbally. After a Free Tibet protester passed with a banner on a trailer pulled by his bicycle, it looked like the drama was all over.

The media truck, carrying all the cameras was a sign that it wasn’t all over.

Excitement and atmosphere was electric by this point. Suddenly, the torch itself arrived into view. Well almost. If you look hard enough, you might see it behind the layers of police and Chinese officials.

As it goes by, at a fast-jogging pace, the booing, Free Tibet slogans and protest goes into overdrive. Pretty much where I was standing, the nature changed from the celebration and into the protest.

Hearing some others deciding the run along with the torch, I decide “what the heck”, and run. The new plan is to follow the protest, to photo the torch as it goes by, then repeat until I run out of breath.

So I start running. Something made easier by everyone else running with me. This is tremendously exciting. As I run along hearing the protest, some people throw things. The barrier on the kerb where I had been standing runs out. And I hear one of the police officers shout “End of cordon”, trying to get his colleagues to cover the gap. But their too late. The protestors run out in front of the torch.

Although the police manage to keep most out of the way, I see one of the protestors with a banner running directly in front of the torch bearer. Rapidly followed by a police officer tackling him, pushing him to the ground and pulling him out of the way. Amazing. This is a real protest now. And I’m all caught up in it.

I do catch the occasional glimpse of the runner herself, but I don’t recognise her. Also, the police aren’t able to keep the runner in the open for long. It’s never more than a few moments before another person tries to leap out in front of it all.

Sadly, my archaic camera phone is struggling to keep up.

All memory of the promised carnival-like celebrations are forgotten. Until we all stumble upon them. People dressed up, or operating a mechanical dragon. All very impressive. Although they look to be unsure about what exactly is going on. I quickly snap a couple of bad shots, before dashing off to catch up with the torch and the protest.

Around this time, I start seeing sign of Chinese supporters. Here’s one of many who were carrying Chinese flags.

I’m quite out of breath now. And things are changing. The torch bearer and the masses of people have stopped. Are they bundling the torch bearer and the Chinese officials into the support buses? I think they are.

The buses go past, each to very loud protest. Every slogan, plus a few more are directed at the people inside the buses.

The buses speed off. I’m much to unfit to continue pursuit by foot. And my camera clearly isn’t up to the job either. So I call it quits, and start the walk by home.

Enroute I pass more protestors. These people were carrying a Free Tibet banner between them. Although I’m at the wrong angle for you to read it. Well I was thoroughly exhausted by this time.

On the walk back, I was able to see a few more aspects to the protest. There were people from the Left List party. People campaigning for human rights from Amnesty International. There was even a fur trade placard in the hands of someone else. It was like everyone with a grievance was voicing it here. And come to think of it, some of the slogans didn’t even make sense.

The official banners strung-up by Tower Hamlets hint at what the torch relay could have been. Those plans look extremely optimistic now.

There are still a lot of people milling around. Here’s someone from Bangla TV doing their piece to camera.

Walking back along Whitechapel, and Brick Lane to return home, I’m pleased to have see it all. That experience was extraordinary. The atmosphere was incredible. The rush of chasing the torch and watching the passionate protestors. Even if some of them didn’t know what it was they were protesting about.

Well done to the police for dealing with things largely professionally. Although I did see some people with cameras getting pushed around by some officers.

What do you think about the Olympics and it’s ideals? Well it got me running. Even if not in the way the organisers would have hoped. Chasing the action this afternoon is the most exercise I’ve had in a long time. And it’s all down to the Olympics, and their capacity to ignore human rights abuses when it suits them.

Beer Review: Young’s Special London Ale

31 March, 2008

FROM Oxfordshire, we take the short journey to Wandsworth, London with Young’s Special London Ale. This one was from my local Tesco, where I also noticed a Young’s Bitter. But since I don’t much care for bitters, that would have been a pointless choice. So here we are with something that does very tasty indeed.
Young’s Special London Ale bottle

The shape and colour look good. This bottle stands out in the crowd on the shelf. Then your eye gets drawn to the label on the neck.
Young’s Special London Ale neck label

Above the identification that this comes from The Ram Brewery is an award. Apparently, this is a ‘Bottle Conditioned Beer’. Like yesterday’s good Ridgeway Blue, and the outstanding Hoegaarden. It also happens to have won the ‘Silver Medal’ in 2004 by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. What surprises me is that a second-place prize is used to market it. But the knowledge that people much more knowledgeable than I am like this bottle. Plus the fact that it is bottle conditioned, get me salivating, and no longer worrying about what got the gold medal.

The front label does what you’d expect of a London Ale. The silhouette of the London skyline is good. If touristy. The Ram Brewery logo appears to feature one, or is that two rams? It’s a good piece of design, but looks out of place on the blue and black colour scheme of the label.
Young’s Special London Ale front label

Another thing that grabs your attention on the front is the alcohol volume. Which is a surprisingly high 6.4%. That might put some of you off, but I like my beers and ales not to comprise on strength. That and the bottle conditioning are raising those expectations. Let’s hope it doesn’t disappoint.

The rear label fits everything important onto a small, but readable little label.
Young’s Special London Ale back label

And Young’s start the label by not letting up on those expectations. They tell us that it won those awards by being strong, but very drinkable. There’s the “CAMRA says this is Real Ale” logo. Which, although it doesn’t mean that much, is still a nice addition.

The label goes on the tell us what it will be like to drink. Here are some of the words they use: “malty richness”, “huge amounts of hops”, “balanced”, “aromatic”, “dry” and “fruity flavour”. Wow. That is a lot to take in. Let’s see… Malty can be good. If it’s the right type. Hoppy can be good if it doesn’t leave a bad aftertaste. Balanced; that’s only used to describe beers I’ve enjoyed, so I’m glad to see that word in there. Fruitiness is almost always a good addition. Not sure what to make of the “dry”-ness at this stage, though.

Young’s go on to suggest gentle pouring. And that leaving the yeast sediment safely in the bottle is what they think is best. I’ll do my best, but I can’t guarantee that enthusiasm won’t get the better of me.

Also on there are the brewers’ Wandsworth address. Their www.youngsathome.co.uk website. Which works. And that this 500 millilitre bottle has 3.2 of your UK units of alcohol. Enough of this prattle. It’s time to pour. Very very gently.

The first thing that surprised me was the head. The instructions to pour gently made me expect that it would suffer from an uncontrollably frothy head that would spill over the glass and flood my flat. What I got was a thin and patchy head.
Young’s Special London Ale in a glass

The colour is cloudy dark-gold. It really is cloudy in there. Much more opaque than most other gold coloured brews. That must be the yeast doing its job.

The smell is pretty good. Maybe 70:30 of hops to malt. No sign of those fruits though.

The first gulp tells you that this is going to be nice and smooth. Not very gassy. And full of flavours. If only I could tell what they were. This is going to take a few more gulps to figure out.

Just like the smell, I’d say the flavour is split between the hops and the malt. With the hops managing to dominate. Time to check how accurate the label was… “Malty richness” is there. “Huge amounts of hops” are present, I’d say. “Balance” is harder to judge. All I know is that this is turning out to be quite drinkable. So I’ll say ‘yes’ and hope that it is. If you can explain in layman’s terms what “balance” is all about, by all means leave a message in the comments at the end of this post.

“Aromatic” is true. It smells like an ale should. Is it “dry”? It has a mild bitterness and sour aftertaste. Not in an off-putting way. But I’ll say ‘yes’, it is “dry”. “Fruity flavour” however, I can’t detect at all. Maybe someone with taste buds that haven’t been dulled by Pot Noodles will be capable of noticing the fruitiness. I however, could not.

Fortunately, this is one strong ale. And that makes the promises on the label; correct or otherwise; as irrelevant as a Zimbabwean vote count. This is an easily-drinkable, hop tasting, strong ale. You would have to be very averse to bitterness not to enjoy this one. By the end of the bottle, I’d very happy crack open another.

It is no surprise then, that a quick glance at their website reveals that the Young’s brewing company, is in fact part of Well’s & Young’s. The parent behind the excellent Bombardier Satanic Mills. I’m delighted to report that there’s been no compromise with Special London Ale. It is largely deserving of its award winning status. If I had to nitpick, I’d say that the bitter flavour might put some people off. But I enjoyed this bottle. If you like good, cloudy, strong ales, you’ll probably like this too.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Young’s Special London Ale?
Disagree with my rating? Want to pick up on the many mistakes I made?
Or want to share your ramblings, thought or suggestions?
Then leave a message in the little box below.


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