Category Archives: Drink

Three Wine Men – or – Tipsy at the Museum

“Wine is wonderful stuff.  But so many people are put off by the snobbery of it”
John Cleese

And who am I to argue with a Python?

It’s true though.  I enjoy drinking wine but I don’t get hung up on which wine it is.  I’m as happy drinking a chilled crisp white wine in the sun as I might be drinking a heavy red wine with a steak. And if the occasion calls for a bit of fizz a nice prosecco does the job for me.

I have never been that concerned with grape variety, geography or whether the vines grew on a south facing slope at an altitude above 1000ft, overlooking a village where the locals sang to the grapes each evening to ensure they were happy!

I appreciate that all these things make a difference (well all except the last perhaps), however they have not been something I have been conscious of while having a slurp.

So when I was fortunate enough to win a couple of tickets to Three Wine Men which clinked up at the Museum of Science  and Industry, I took along no preconceptions, no airs or graces and let’s be honest no in depth knowledge of the subject.

The Three Wine Men are Oz Clarke, Olly Smith and Tim Atkin and according to their website they:
“want to get everyone in the country tasting, experiencing and enjoying new wines and discovering different foods. Their events bring together wine and food retailers and producers to show you just how much fun your taste buds can have in a day”.

So with the sun shining off I went with Mr B, (the only person I could convice to begin drinking wine at 11am)  to see what I might learn from these three enthusiastic fellas.

What we found was a room full of people all eager to try some of the 250 wines on show, match them with food from various different outlets and possibly learn more about a product they thought they knew.  In essence what we found was a cracking way to spend 4 hours on a Saturday.

I have neither the capabilty or the space here to describe the wines we tasted (there were lots) however I will pick out some that caught my/our attention:

There was food to be had from Booths, Morrisons and ASDA.  Booths in particular showing off some really tasty offerings from Mr Trotter’s Pork Scratchings to a raspberry balsamic vinegar which had summer salad dressing written all over it.  There was experimentation with apples and cheese courtesy of The Wine & Spirit Education Trust.  And there were masterclasses to attend, the one we stopped by having been excellently presented by Andy Green (Wine Buyer for Booths) on the subject of food matching and how and why different combinations work.  Turns out I really like Sherry!!

But what of the Three Wine Men?

Tim Atkin talking sense

Well we caught glimpses of (TVs) Oz Clarke, running from table to table with a cohort of half a dozen people who appeared to be trapped in his enthusiastic whirlwind.  We managed to catch a couple of talks from Tim Atkin who was entertaining, engaging and enlightening.  I’ll come back to Tim shortly. A somehwhat reduced in bulk Olly Smith was kind enough to spend some time with us and introduced us to D Vine Wines, their enthusiasm matching Olly’s and their wine in a plastic bottle actually has some significant cost and environmental savings.  I’ll let the snobs work out if it’s a seller or not but I can see the attraction in carrying around wine in a bottle that won’t break and as Greg from D Vine said “Ten/fifteen years ago there are some people who wouldn’t have drunk wine from a screwtop bottle”.  Olly then went on to give us an insight and a couple of tips for the gewurztraminer grape, so thank you to him for that.The day was a blast. Fun, engaging and nobody made us pair of wine newbies feel in any way akward, therefore tickets have already been purchased for the return trip in December.But I will leave you with a point that Tim Atkin made, which was for me, the best point of the day.  That being this –  of all the wines in the room, regardless of opinion, of price, of whether you followed all the tasting hints and tips,  the best wine is the one you enjoyed the most.

For me that was a Brazilian White wine – the Alisios Pinot Grigio/Riesling 2011 from Bibendum Wines which think ggiven the weather I could have drunk all day long!!




BrewDog Manchester

“He was a wise man who invented beer” Plato

Well we know this chap talked some sense in his day.

So BrewDog has arrived in Manchester.  I say that like I’ve been waiting for it for years.  Like I’m some sort of rabid fan who has been foaming at the mouth in anticipation of said arrival.

Truth be told, they are a fairly new invasion of my consciousness.  Not to say that I hadn’t been aware of them – just not as aware as I now wish I had been.

Now yours truly is partial to a beer or two of a weekend.  At this point I’ll hold my hands up – sometimes an ice-cold lager is just the ticket, but lets not get confused here, lager and beer are not the same thing.  My dad and his two pals (The Three Wise Men) have often, down the years, taken trips around Manchester to sample some of the real ales and beers on offer and while I have never accompanied them on their excursions the conversations and the bottles they have acquired have always given me an interest in real beers.

So along I went with a healthy interest in what might be on offer from this new face (well relatively) on the beer scene. Well if they could make it all the way from Fraserburgh, I was pretty sure I could make it in to town!!

After a greeting from Bruce we were treated to some samples of the BrewDog Brand including the core brand Punk, Riptide and a wonderfully dark, rich almost after-dinner coffee of a beer called Dog 8.  All had unique characteristics and I enjoyed some more than others but what was most notable was the fact that they did actually have proper flavour.  Proper tastes.  Max talked us through each beer with enthusiasm and knowledge, in fact displaying the kind of enthusiasm that you just don’t get with lager.  Afterall – once it’s served ice cold it has to be said that is all much of a muchness.

There was something that struck me about the availability of Punk in cans.  Festivals, camping warm lager.  Eurgh. Festivals, camping real beer in cans.  Lovely.

My own personal favourite of the beers I tried (and I did try a few in the pursuit of fairness) was Dead Pony Club.  Now we did ask Max where the names came from – he couldn’t give an answer.  Name aside the Dead Pony Club is described as a sessional beer and at a mere 3.8% ABV but with masses of hoppy and fruity taste it is definitely one I could drink a few of. In one sitting. Often.

The place itself is a nice big open space with exposed beams and a slightly industrial feel. This leads to a great communal vibe where people mix with others they don’t know, think Wagamama or Tampopo but for beer.  The partial mezzanine floor would be great to sit with friends for a birthday if it were possible to reserve, although I don’t know if this is the idea.

The tagline for BrewDog is “Beer for Punks”. An in your face contradictory stance to the mass-produced lagers and beers that we have all drunk. They are the self-proclaimed “Doctors” to the beer industry. Now bear this in mind as I recall something I overheard in the gents “I’m not sure why they are this part of town.  Much more suited to the Northern Quarter.” said the bloke.  And it is true that BrewDog had originally  intended to pitch up in the NQ.  However that is exactly where they would be expected to be.  That is exactly where people who would already be fans would go. If you’re gonna get Punk then get up in the face of the masses.  Dare to be different where people can see you.  Don’t hide away where it’s safe.  And for this reason I am very glad they have ended up in this location.

Opposite the site where people gathered to try to better their world.  Where Bob Dylan sparked controversy over his perceived betrayal of his folk roots and where the Sex Pistols played a legendary gig to just 40 people allegedly kicking off the Punk movement.

Nae lads – I think you’re in the right place.

Wisdom comes in many forms – I’ll take mine by the pint.

Responsibly of course.


Tea and a Biscuit

“I got bad habits.  I take tea at three.” Mick Jagger


Bag, loose, green, fruit or herbal. There’s been a lot said recently.  No surprise really, we drink a lot of tea.  All day. Everyday.

Well except in the morning.  For me that is solely the domain of tea’s caffeine laden cousin.

Tea is definitely a big thing for us Brits and so it has been for some time, raised to such heights that I even remember my sister receiving a Brownie Badge for brewing up a pot.

In our house it was always loose leaf in a pot.  Adhering to a particular post evening meal routine.  Five or six good spoonsful of tea, then just enough water to make one mug.  This was allowed to brew and would be poured for my dad.  Yes, he loves a strong brew.  Once his was poured the pot was filled and we’d all help ourselves when it had brewed.

Visitors were not always warned (mostly by accident) of the loose tea that was waiting at the end of their brew and they would invariably almost choke on it – sometimes funny, sometimes a little embarrassing.

So with the ritual of the brewing routine, which I’m sure will differ from house to house and person to person, dealt with (and I’m not going to get into the milk first argument!!) we move to the vessel. Unimportant to some:

“Architecture is basically a container of something.  I hope they will not enjoy so much the teacup, but the tea.”  Yoshio Taniguchi.

However, and I suspect most people do, I have a favourite tea vessel.  It is my plain white, almost sea through china mug.  Tea just does not taste the same out of anything else.  The simplicity of it just allows the tea to shine.

I have followed in my dad’s footsteps in enjoying my tea strong, although I’m not sure I will go as far as having two spoons of loose tea directly into the mug as has become his habit.  Therefore, and along with 96% of all the tea drunk in the UK I use a teabag.  Not being a tea snob this generally does the job for me but occasionally, when there is time, I do like to enjoy a proper brew, brewed in a proper pot.  Poured in my favourite mug. Accompanied by a biscuit.

Which is NEVER, EVER dunked!!

Chin chin