Monday, 12 November 2007

Three Sheets To The Wind

An Excellent Book About Beer By Pete Brown

My friends Dave and Natalie gave me this book for my birthday last month. Remarkably, considering I'm a paid-up CAMRA member and have taken days off work to attend beer festivals, it's the first book about beer I've ever read cover to cover.

Pete Brown, a drinks marketeer and author of Man Walks Into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer, takes a tour around the world's most noted beer-producing nations exploring its role in each country. Brown's an entertaining tour guide, illuminating everywhere he visits by not only recounting his pub crawls but also trying very hard to find out why beer drinking in other countries rarely results in the vomit-strewn pavements it so often does here.

He enjoys cerveza y tapas in Spain, sings along with oompah bands at Oktoberfest and marvels at the Bond villain architecture of the Asahi brewery in Tokyo. The section on America is fascinating. I've long been a fan of American beer like Sam Adams and Anchor Steam and the book contains a revealing insight into why US beers are currently so tasty. Karl Ockert, the brewmaster at Portland's Bridgeport Brewery, says:

"In the UK you had a real ale tradition that was almost wiped out. CAMRA rescued it, but because they were trying to preserve something. Here, [in the USA] the tradition of making beer decent beer was completely wiped out. Destroyed. There was nothing to preserve. So craft brewers started with an attitude of experimentation. We don't worry about whether something is traditional not, just if it's great beer."

It's an interesting point. The book is full of them. It also made me realise that I'm still probably too much of a beer conservative. I think the reason I've never been a fan of Belgian beer is not because I don't really like the taste. It's because they don't taste like the British beers I love. Any suggestions of what to broaden my tastebuds with gratefully received.

As I said, the book's full of the sort of trivia that's irresistible to pub quiz bores like myself, my favourite being the fact that home brew was illegal in America until 1979 (God bless Jimmy Carter).

I actually bought a copy of Pete Brown's previous book a few years but never opened it. That was until last night when my thirst for beery facts was not yet satisfied.

Since most of my posts here have so far been music related, this is a perfect opportunity to share a few songs from the superb Barstool Mountain blog. Hank Thompson, who died last week, was a master of beer-inspired song. You can download two of his classics below.


Three Sheets To The Wind by Pete Brown

Man Walks Into A Pub by Pete Brown


MP3: Hank Thompson - Six-Pack To Go

MP3: Hank Thompson - Hangover Tavern

Friday, 9 November 2007

Tom Russell on Radio 2

The Cowboy's Last Ride, Thursdays, R2, 11pm

When I saw Tom Russell play The Luminaire earlier in the year he mentioned that he'd recently made a four-part radio series for the BBC about the history and myth of the American cowboy.

The first part aired last night. In episode one Tom takes in the massive influence of Mexico on cowboys (they used lassos and wore wide-brimmed hats long before Americans) and the contribution that Easterners Theodore Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill, novelist Owen Wister, and artist Frederic Remington had on creating today's image of the cowboy.

Tom also talks a little about how cowboy and western themes fit into his own songwriting. (If you're not familar with Russell I've posted a couple of MP3s below - one cowboy song, one State of the Union address).

The series continues next Thursday but you can listen to it all on the Radio 2 website.


MP3: Tonight We Ride

MP3: Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?


Wounded Heart of America (Tom Russell Songs)

Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs

Monday, 5 November 2007

Cheer up, it's nearly Christmas!

Malcolm Middleton Vs. Spice Girls For Christmas #1

I normally say "Bah humbug" to any mention of Christmas before the end of November but the news that Malcolm Middleton is making a 1000/1 bid for festive chart glory is more than welcome.

The former Arab Strapper is releasing We're All Going To Die from his brilliant album A Brighter Beat as a single on 17 December. As Malcolm explains on his MySpace page, "Although at first seemingly negative, the song is intended to make people think about being alive and making the most of our time here, which to me are your generic ‘Xmas’ themes... Dying is a bit like writing a letter to Santa. Unless you've been a good boy or girl, you're fucked."

You can read more about the release and hear the song, as well as Malcolm's other seasonal ditty, Burst Noel, at

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Jim White

The Borderline, Saturday 3 November

It's always as entertaining to hear what Jim White has to say as much as what he's got to sing. Last night's packed show was no exception with Jim sharing banter with his two bandmates (guitarist Pat on particularly fine form) and recalling some wonderful tales from his troubled stint as a New York cabbie, a period in his life when you suspect he struggled with his own psychosis as much as difficult passengers. These included attempting to share a 'vision' with Woody Allen and yelling driving tips to Paul Simon: "Slow down! You move too fast!"

Jim is always at pains to stress that songs about subjects like a motor home-driving Jesus are only fanciful to audiences who've never stepped foot in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida. Anyone who has seen his star turn in the superb film Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus won't disagree.

Jim's approach to merchandise is also refreshingly unique. Forced to finish his set by 10.30 to accommodate the Borderline's Saturday club night, Jim set up stall on the pavement outside to sell not only CDs, but also shirts, jackets and caps he didn't want to lug home after a month of touring (those weight allowances on flights can be restrictive).

I've yet to hear the new album, Transnormal Skiperoo, but from what Jim played last night it sounds as gloriously off-beam as his previous releases.

If you've never encountered Jim White, this short documentary about the new record hints at what you're missing, as do the MP3s to download below.


MP3: Jim White - Still Waters

MP3: Jim White: If Jesus Drove A Motor Home


Transnormal Skiperoo

Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus DVD


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