Monday, March 30, 2009

Zürich Weekend Guide

As a friend of mine, Ursula is moving there soon, I had occasion to dig out my old Zürich guide from the old days, when I would try to pop over and visit Sel and Hendrich, and Jake and Natsuko, as often as possible. Those carefree carbon-heavy days are long-gone for me! Anyway, in the hope it may be useful to people, I present:

Sam's Weekend Guide to Zürich

1. If nice day, you can take the train from the Hbf (Haupt Bahnhof, i.e. main station) up to Uetliberg. It's a special train that goes up there, then you walk up the last bit and have a lovely view over Zurich.

2. If you have a whole (nice) afternoon or morning free - perhaps Sunday morning, you can train to Schaffhausen where it's a 40-minute walk (or quicker cycle - hire a bike there) to Europe's biggest waterfall, the Rhinefall. It is spectacular.

3. Buy a 24hr pass at the airport when you arrive for zones 10,21. It should be SFr 11.60. Then you can use it around the whole city. The ticket machines are a bit confusing, there is an explanation of how they work here.

4. I haven't been to the chocolate factory but it's probably worth going if the weather is less-than-perfect. Update: chocolate factory closed, but I think you can visit Lindt and Sprüngli's substantial outlets in town.

5. When you go out, wander around and try a few different bars. There are lots of nice places, but sometimes when you walk about you begin to think that the whole place is empty!! Keep looking! Or go up to the Jules Verne Panoramabar for great views.

6. The most popular area for going out is Niederdorfstrasse, basically along the left-hand side of the lake from the Hbf. Lots of cafes, bars, etc. There is also LimmatBar around there, where you have to go at the end of the evening! Rote Fabrik is also interesting.

7. In terms of tourism, wander round the old town area to the right of the lake from the station. The main shopping area is from the Hbf along BahnhofStrasse towards ParadePlatz. See the big three church clocks, go to a traditional Swiss-German restaurant and eat sausages and apple strudel! Perhaps try some or one of these restaurants.

8. Boats on the ZurichSee (the big lake), or swimming when the weather is nice. Take your costume! You could take a boat to the other end of the lake to Rapperswill, which I haven't been to, but it's supposed to be nice and there's a pretty castle.

9. Try the imposing castle-like Swiss National Museum (I ate in a cafe outside it!) or try the waterside terraces for a coffee or drink.

10. The main art gallery, the KunstHaus, is very nice - a manageable size with a good spread of art of all ages and styles.

11. There's a nice forest above the University - take the funicular up then carry on walking.

12. On the way home, buy all your chocolate from the airport - after you're checked in, before security, there is a Migros supermarket in the corner somewhere, it's a reasonable size and good place for stocking up on goodies!

Rise of sea levels is 'the greatest lie ever told'

Flooding in Whitstable in 1953

This is the headline from the Booker's column in the Telegraph on Sunday, covering the findings of Swedish geologist and physicist Dr Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of the INQUA International Commission on Sea Level Change, with 35 years experience studying global sea levels, that rising sea levels is a myth.

Despite all the hype:

* The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) only predicts a sea level rise of 59cm (17 inches) by 2100.

* According to Dr Mörner, "The sea is not rising," he says. "It hasn't risen in 50 years." If there is any rise this century it will "not be more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm".

* Studies of the Maldives confirm that the sea has not risen for half a century.

* Similarly in Tuvalu the sea has dropped in recent decades.

* Venice has been sinking rather than the Adriatic rising.

And the source of all these dire predictions on which so much panic and public spend is based upon? Flawed computer models rather than actual measurements. Until 2003, the IPCC's own satellite-based evidence showed no upward trend. Suddenly the graph tilted upwards because the IPCC's favoured experts had drawn on the finding of a *single tide-gauge* in Hong Kong harbour showing a 2.3mm rise. The entire global sea-level projection was then adjusted upwards by a "corrective factor" of 2.3mm, because, as the IPCC scientists admitted, they "needed to show a trend".

Disgraceful. What we need is another Without the Hot Air for Climate Change predictions, i.e. honest factual analysis without all the waffle and self-interest. For more information about Dr Mörner, read his report "Claim that sea level is rising is a total fraud" here, or look him up on Youtube.

Darius Brubeck and Junior

Darius Brubeck is the son of Dave Brubeck, the famous American Jazz pianist, but has carved out his own career, living in South Africa for a few years and adsorbing musically from the music there, including locals like Abdul Ibrahim. Anyway, Jess is over from Australia, and arranged a meet up in the old PizzaExpress venue to see him.


In attendance.. Jess and her two sisters, Samantha and Liz, Niran, Nidhi and myself. Any hopes that Paolo would come so I'd have a chap to talk to were swiftly dashed!

Musically, they worked their way through a variety of styles and influences. I was slightly worried when mid-set they slipped into what I would describe as "elevator jazz", but they didn't remain there long, lifting the mood with catchy numbers, and Brubeck himself delighting in the Steinway piano, which for one tune he explained he would have a play with to see what he could produce, before letting the band join in later.

Mother and son

Niran apparently is not very keen on the sax, which was a shame as the first song was rather heavy on the wind (fine by me), so he enjoyed a snooze. The talented Paul Greenwood switched between a variety of woodwind instruments during the evening, and more discretely (quite literally, we couldn't really see either of them behind a pillar!) Matt Ridley and Wesley Gibbens supported on bass and drums.


The warm-up act beforehand (this seems to be the way they do things now) was a surprisingly good offering of ‘progressive medieval Spanish blues’ by Claude Bourbon.

Niran enjoys

All in all a marvellous show, and I'm glad I went. Pizza was good too, though I didn't realise at the time just how spicy it was.. After feeling rather warm all evening, later on it occurred to me that the whole thing was stuffed full of chopped chillis! Should blast this cold away, eh?!

Afterwards I insisted we waited around to get the obligatory photo:

Darius Brubeck with Jess and Niran

I'd recommend people check out Darius' new CD, Lydia and the Lion (though I decided I couldn't justify buying it.. see below!!)

Röyksopp - Junior

Happy Birthday Röyksopp

Hot on the heels of their tenth birthday (download their home-made birthday track here) as a band, the Norwegian electronic duo from Bergen have released their third album, Junior. I have a rule about not buying cds in the current economic climate, but there are exceptions, and this one arrived in the post this morning.

The album is available to listen to on their website, so there are no surprises, but playing through my lovely B&Ws, the whole disc is manna on my ears.. Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge have created something beautiful yet again.. it's not Melody AM, it's not The Understanding, but in between, with a host of fantastic Scandanavian guest singers, catchy melodies, and warm pumping dance rhythms. The only track I don't particularly like (and there's one on each Royksopp album!) is True to Life, which is a bit over-percussioned for my tastes (each to their own of course).

Röyksopp's Junior

Factoid: Eple means Apple in Norwegian!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Devalued Prime Minister of a Devalued Government

A short clip from a marvellous and refreshing straight-talking European Parliament speech on 26/03/09 by Daniel Hannan, MEP for the South East of England and author of The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain. Watch and enjoy as he tells it like it is to Gordon Brown:

Why is the BBC not featuring this damning indictment of Brown more strongly? One has to delve into the politics section to notice a link to the video. Surely this should be front page news?! Spread the word!

Transcript of Speech
Prime Minister, I see you’ve already mastered the essential craft of the European politician, namely the ability to say one thing in this chamber and a very different thing to your home electorate. You’ve spoken here about free trade, and amen to that. Who would have guessed, listening to you just now, that you were the author of the phrase ‘British jobs for British workers’ and that you have subsidised, where you have not nationalised outright, swathes of our economy, including the car industry and many of the banks? Perhaps you would have more moral authority in this house if your actions matched your words? Perhaps you would have more legitimacy in the councils of the world if the United Kingdom were not going into this recession in the worst condition of any G20 country?

The truth, Prime Minister, is that you have run out of our money. The country as a whole is now in negative equity. Every British child is born owing around £20,000. Servicing the interest on that debt is going to cost more than educating the child. Now, once again today you try to spread the blame around; you spoke about an international recession, international crisis. Well, it is true that we are all sailing together into the squalls. But not every vessel in the convoy is in the same dilapidated condition. Other ships used the good years to caulk their hulls and clear their rigging; in other words – to pay off debt. But you used the good years to raise borrowing yet further. As a consequence, under your captaincy, our hull is pressed deep into the water line under the accumulated weight of your debt We are now running a deficit that touches 10% of GDP, an almost unbelievable figure. More than Pakistan, more than Hungary; countries where the IMF have already been called in. Now, it’s not that you’re not apologising; like everyone else I have long accepted that you’re pathologically incapable of accepting responsibility for these things. It’s that you’re carrying on, wilfully worsening our situation, wantonly spending what little we have left. Last year - in the last twelve months – a hundred thousand private sector jobs have been lost and yet you created thirty thousand public sector jobs.

Prime Minister, you cannot carry on for ever squeezing the productive bit of the economy in order to fund an unprecedented engorgement of the unproductive bit. You cannot spend your way out of recession or borrow your way out of debt. And when you repeat, in that wooden and perfunctory way, that our situation is better than others, that we’re ‘well-placed to weather the storm’, I have to tell you that you sound like a Brezhnev-era apparatchik giving the party line. You know, and we know, and you know that we know that it’s nonsense! Everyone knows that Britain is worse off than any other country as we go into these hard times. The IMF has said so; the European Commission has said so; the markets have said so – which is why our currency has devalued by thirty percent. And soon the voters too will get their chance to say so. They can see what the markets have already seen: that you are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued government.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Travelling Friends

One of the benefits of doing a RTW trip is that you make friends all over the place, and one such kindred spirit was Kaori Hama, whom I met in Istanbul. She was also doing a RTW, having lived in Brazil and Dominican Republic for a couple of years, and was on the home run back to Japan. We kept in touch, and last weekend she "popped over" to visit.

Fortunately for her (although she claimed credit for it) the weather has been marvellous, sunshine, hardly a cloud in the sky, and at most a gentle breeze (aside from a nippy spell one day), so was perfect for lots of walks and outdoor activities. She brought me some Yebisu The Hop, my favourite beer from Japan:

It's in the fridge.. waiting for an appropriate moment to be enjoyed. During her visit we managed to try Persian (Iranian) food on the Iranian New Year (by chance) at Kandoo in Edgware Road, and Ethiopian at Abyssinia in Cricklewood, both very nice. Kaori's specification was that she didn't particularly want to eat Japanese food, a slight shame as a new place, Maguro, has just opened just round the corner from me in Lanark Place!

Anyway, Kaori left this morning, flying back to Tokyo just as a cargo plane crashes at Narita. I think her flight has been diverted to Haneda (the other airport). Safe journey home!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Airport Development on St. Helena

The Jubilee Room, upstairs from Westminster Hall was the scene for an adjournment debate today called for by Meg Munn MP on the subject of Airport Development on St. Helena.

The debate was timely, given the international development secretary Douglas Alexander’s announcement yesterday that the project would remain on hold whilst a new consultation exercise was undertaken.

The debate was called to press the government for a decision to continue with the project, and Meg Munn opened with a speech covering the history of the project, its importance to the island, the alternatives and why they have been rejected, and the shameful tactics the government has adopted in stalling since last year.

She highlighted the difference in approach to the Falkland Islands, which has fewer residents yet receives far greater support. Indeed the St. Helena airport also provides an additional runway for the MOD’s air-link to the Falklands. Meg Munn called on the minister present (Michael Foster MP) to confirm the principle that overseas territories should always have first call on DfID development funds.

She then gave way to Anne Snelgrove, MP for Swindon, who highlighted the link in terms of friends and family with the UK, especially as a large number of those living in the UK from the island are in her constituency. In fact, one of the door keepers in the House of Commons is a Saint, as the islanders are known.

Meg Munn MP, Peter Allport (Snelco), and Anne Snelgrove MP

Meg then continued, noting that discussions regarding the airport have been on-going since 1947, but the current project has run for 9 years. The contracts had been signed, the company ready, teams in place on the island to start. Inward investment is ready and awaiting the runway, including £80-100m through Shelco, and the 6* hotel plans supported by the UN and two DfID enquiries. The key to the whole project is to reduce the dependency on the UK, and DfID’s own economists have confirmed that the airport is the best way to support this in developing a sustainable conomy.

Of course the airport contractor needs certainty – it would be extremely expensive to restart the whole tender process, and doubtful as to whether any companies would want to engage in the project given the history. It is also the people’s choice, with a referendum confirming 72% of islanders support the project. The island is in decline as its financial demands on the UK rise, this is therefore the time for the government to keep its longstanding promise, and the recession provides an additional reason to get on with it rather than another lame excuse for delay.

Meg then gave way to Bob Russell MP, the Chair of the St Helena Parliamentary Committee, who mentioned the demonstration and petition handed in to Downing Street last week.

Bob Russell MP

Speaking with passion and anger, he explained that he did not expect the shameful ministerial statement yesterday, published this morning, and feels a deep sense of betrayal. No government minister has ever visited the island. Royalty has, but never the government. He wondered whether it was DfID or the dead hand of the treasury behind this? It is absolute shameful betrayal when the contract was about to be let, and is inexcusable. Why are the Falklands and St. Helena treated so differently?

Michael Foster MP, minister from DfID, thanked Meg Munn and noted that the debate was timely, though he wanted to use it more widely and elaborate on the government’s policy in general. He acknowledged that there was no getting away from the issue of St. Helena, and claimed that at root, the government shares Bob Russell and Meg Munn’s support for the island. However, they have to take stock as circumstances have changed, hence the consultation that is being launched so that all views can be heard. The pause is necessary because of the changed economic circumstances, which are very different to 2005 and 7. The government has to be sure that the possible levels of expenditure remain appropriate.

He noted that the company has offered to maintain the bid until April – it was up to them as to what they decided to do after the latest announcement yesterday.

Overseas territories do occupy a special place in their plans, however they do not have first call on DfID funds. It is first call on reasonable aid. Other territories were also suffering. He then started going into the general worsening situation in developing countries across the world, quoting examples such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia, that export markets were reducing and that British overseas aid funds were not stretching as far.

Bob Russell then interrupted to ask the simple question: Will the minister accept that the people on this island are British?

Foster continued, saying this was already clear, then went back to his developing nations speech. Ethiopia has apparently received 15 million from DfID for a particular project etc.

Meg Munn then interrupted, saying that she understands completely the concerns regarding the developing world. But the point is that the cost of not building the airport will be more than building – we as a group and Island want to save money – yielding more to be used elsewhere.

Michael Foster

Michael Foster then suggested that a pause and review is good fiscal management, and that the DfID wants to remain flexible. The projected cost of the airport is of a level that makes it significant in the department’s priorities. He couldn’t go into the tender estimates, but the estimated cost had tripled since 2005, and was more than the 100million being quoted in the press.

Snellgrove interrupted to ask how much the ship would cost to keep going and replace, surely these other costs are also escalating over time?

Foster said that early next month there would be a consultation paper, and he couldn’t go into details today. It would look in more detail at the factors surrounding any decision, and some options for access, including the airport and one or more ship options. He invited contributions from all and it would include a visit to the island. What would this tell us that we don’t know today, he posed the obvious question? It was not for him to pre-judge!

Bob Russell rose to ask: What exactly is new about this consultation? As we fail to build the airport, the economy continues to decline.

Foster replied that things have changed – the world’s economic conditions, and it is only prudent that we reflect on this. He was aware of frustrations but these were exceptional times. St Helena is remote but the islanders are aware of the global challenges. He hoped that there would be strong participation in consultation.

Time was then up, the debates having a strict half an hour to proceed before the next one started immediately. The almost full crowd gallery (20 people or so) all emptied as a young MP started talking about car parking in Richmond!

In the hall afterwards, I asked Meg Munn whether she thought anything had been achieved. Not much, but it is important to keep up the pressure on the government, she replied. Your reporters own thoughts on the debate are that it was helpful in continuing to highlight the deplorable way the government is behaving, but there was certainly no signs of them yielding, and I thought Michael Foster padding his speech out with waffle about developing nations was disgraceful. No clear reason has been given for the suspension, no clear reason for the delay, no clear reason for the new consultation. Bob Russell had it spot on when he asked what exactly was new about this latest consultation. I wondered whether this was a ploy to push the airport contractors into reducing their bid, but Meg Munn thought not. The inexplicable behaviour of a paranoid and vindictive government continues to baffle…

Update: Link to Hansard record of debate here (starts half way down) and continues in the next section).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One Ship is Not Enough!

Saint Helena is a British protectorate island in the South Atlantic, small in size but huge in significance to the UK and her history: this was the island that Napoleon was held on after being captured; here ships stopped in on the way to and from Africa and Asia, building the Empire; the Saints as the islanders are known are an eclectic racial mix famed for their hospitality as much as the island they inhabit.

View Larger Map

The only way of reaching the island currently is by boat, either your own or via a single Royal Mail Ship which is reaching end of life and operates an infrequent and expensive service. Thus it has been proposed to build an airport on the island, a project that was about to commence until the Treasury put an unexplained hold on it.

The project is an essential lifeline for the island - this is not about building an extra runway on a busy hub, this is about a single crucial link to an otherwise isolated island, which will benefit residents and enable tourism as a source of income. Given that the island currently is subsidised by the Government, this project will end up paying for itself. Why the hold-up?

Hence the protest today.

The crowd assembled opposite Downing Street at midday. I would estimate that around 50 people had turned out, and several had placards, along with a large banner. "Save Saint Helena; Build the Airport Now" was the chant, as we were marshaled for various photographs.

People were very friendly, as were the large contingent of police out to supervise us, and I was asked several times (by attendees, not police!) about my connection with the island. It is simply that my old boss from Railtrack, Vince Thompson, has emigrated there with his wife April. Several people knew or knew of Vince, including Brian, Fred and Tracy Williams.

In fact I hoped to visit when in Cape Town, but the cost and frequency of the boat proved prohibitive. I would certainly like to visit some day though, whether on my own boat, on the new plane to the new airport, or perhaps by a charity swim from Namibia!

So, after some time a delegation from the group went to Downing Street to present the petition regarding the airport, and on their return we marched down Whitehall to Parliament Square, where more photos were taken with Big Ben as a backdrop, and the MP championing the island's cause, Bob Russell MP (Chair of the St Helena All Party Parliamentary Group) addressed the group, to applause and thanks from those assembled.

All in all a successful day, and the Gods are certainly smiling upon the demands, as shown by the "island weather" enjoyed by the protesters today! A Windhoek beer would surely complete the picture :)

More information about Saint Helena on Wikipedia here, or another island site here, the RMS ship which currently serves the island here, and their weekly newspaper is available for download here.

FYI: Here is the Private Eye report about the situation from a couple of issues ago:

Eye 1227, 9 January – 22 Jan. 2009
Expect Delays
The announcement that there is to be a “pause” in plans for an airport on the remote south Atlantic island of St Helena is trying the patience of the Saints – as the islanders call themselves.

International development secretary Douglas Alexander told parliament that “in light of the changed economic climate” there would be a pause in negotiations to allow discussion on value for money options for access to the island.

The island (population 3,900) is currently reached by infrequent mail boat from Cape Town, but the RMS St Helena is due to reach the end of its working life next year. It was hoped that the airport would bring in tourism and replace the £16m-a-year subsidy the island currently gets from the Department for International Development (DfID) to supplement money earned through coffee, honey and fishing. If successful, the £100m airport would pay for itself.

Of course the airport plans wouldn’t be affected by the downturn if the project hadn’t been so dogged by delay. In 2006, after years of feasibility studies and modelling by consultants Atkins, all three bidders pulled out complaining about the lack of detailed site information and saying the project was too high risk (Eye 1167). A new shortlist of two bidders wasn’t ready until January 2008 and Italian firm Impreglio SpA was only selected as preferred bidder in October. With the contract apparently imminent, Impreglio staff visited in November to assess the local workforce and facilities.

Islanders fear the current pause could result in the scheme going tits up yet again. To lose one set of bidders was unfortunate, to botch it now would look like carelessness.

To contact the Eye team, email

Update: The protest featured in a news item on BBC Oxfordshire, as many former Saints now live in Swindon. Unfortunately the report will have been removed by now.

I will report back when any new reports become available.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bring on the computers

One feels moved to ask: What is the point?

Royal Oak Ticket Office Opening Hours

And the worse bit is that outside these hours, the staff are there, hidden away in their office drinking tea, they just don't bother manning the ticket window. Lazy sods.

Still, even though the service is awful, at least the art is interesting! Does this hollow loaf say something about what TfL offers?:

My vote would be beefing up river transport, let's have major ***and travelcard inclusive*** river services between Docklands and Greenwich, to town, and out West.

Incidentally if you're interested in sub-terranean London, check out this site here: - these guys are crazy, getting access to and following the drains and tunnels that criss-cross London (and elsewhere), and recording photographically what they see.

1984 on National Express East Anglia

To read more about London and its transport development, I'd recommend London Reconnections, a fantastic blog which discusses the whole scene in fascinating detail.

Views of Randolph Avenue

Friday, March 06, 2009

My First Randonnée

J'ai terminé ma première randonnée!

4th March 2009, I cycled 148.03 miles from my home in London up to Aldborough in North Norfolk. It took the whole day! The randonée distance, 200km, was passed as I left Dereham, well within the 13.5 hours time that is allocated (14 hours for UK).

What do the words 'Randonnée' and 'Randonneur' mean?
'Randonnée' is a French word which loosely translates to 'ramble or 'long journey' - it's not really cycling-specific, but in this context is taken as a long cycle ride.
A 'Randonneur' is a person who has completed a recognised 200 kilometre ride.

Okay so it wasn't an official AUK event, but I'm still quite happy. Eventually Herrington will catch up!

The ride wasn't without issue, in fact I'm beginning to think that my bike is getting to the age where everything but the frame needs replacing! I had a string of punctures, and another spoke has gone, meaning I had to ride the last few dozen miles in with a dodgy rear wheel and no back brakes (especially fun for going down the hill into Sheringham the following day!).

Here is the route:

View Larger Map

The highlights: Beautiful scenes with scores of swans along the Lea Valley in the sunshine, seeing my father's old school, and completing the randonée.

The lowlights: Cycle computer refusing to congratulate me on the 100 mile mark as I traversed Thetford Forest, and the Red Lion in Aldborough being closed when I arrived!

Following day, with no intention of cycling back (!), I popped in to see Grandpa Cliff in Sheringham before taking the train back.

Grandpa Clifford Crawley

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Happy 21st Birthday Lewis

The Brothers Crawley, youngest to most handsome L to R

White Hart Lane

You ordered it.. you suffer it..

Batson's finest pose

The vocal cords get exercised

Monday, March 02, 2009

Emmy the Great and Salty Beef

Emmy the Great

Emmy the Great played a free gig at Rough Trade Records off Brick Lane this evening. Set up at the back of the store is a small stage which they use to showcase artists that presumably have their CDs for sale in store. First we had Ex Lovers, a five piece band who had technical problems from the word go, with feedback and mics at wrong levels, to the point where they walked off and let the sound engineer have another go. The rest of the set was still plagued with feedback and equipment failure, but to be honest I wasn't that bothered as they didn't impress. Following them was Eugene McGuinness who I saw at Glasto, full of fast upbeat songs with cheeky lyrics. Worth keeping an eye on.

Then what we were here for! Emmmmy!

Emmy the Great

Emmy came on stage and solo with her guitar launched straight into Easter Parade. We were treated with a little of the famous Emmy banter, but not much. Look out for her album, First Love, and for a Glastonbury appearance, fingers crossed.

Emmy the Great

She finished with a song which she said was hers and Eugene's, but her ex boyfriend was releasing it, or something? Need to do some googling and will update this. Was a beautiful beautiful song though, and a lovely ending to a set that was good but too short.

Emmy the Great's Website / Myspace

***Turn away now, my Hindu friends*** :)

Salty Beef Beigels
At one end of Brick Lane, at number 159, you will find a food treat that is unexpected in a road full of Bengali food (unless you know a little history, that is).

The place you need to go (beware imitations)

For GPB 3.30 you get a bagel (sorry, beigel) rammed with a shocking amount of beef - my slab must have been about 2 inches deep, and it's so tender that it melts on your lips, falling apart with juicy tenderness as it hits your tongue!

A Salty Beef Beigel

To be clear, this is not about the bagel. I'm prepared to risk violence in saying that I don't rate the bagels, or at least not the one I had. It was all about the contents. I am prepared to be corrected on this point during a future visit.

A Salty Beef Beigel from the other side

Nom nom nom nom!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

My First Polypin

Following on from my recent discovery that beer is available in 20L Polypins, I ordered one for my little brother's 21st birthday. Of course it was finally delivered the following day, a rant which I will spare you.

The polypin

Here are the sizes beer comes in:

Barrel Name : Size (Gallons)
Pin or Polypin 4.5
Firkin 9
Kilderkin 18
Barrel 36
Hogshead 54
Butt 108
Tun 216

Multiply by about 4.5 to get litres; 1 Gallon is 8 pints.

Anyway, the beer I chose was Alton's Pride from Triple FFF Brewery. How does one pronounce Triple FFF? Do you say "Triple F F F" or just ignore the tautological "Triple"?

Well, regardless of how you pronounce the brewery name, they make mighty fine beers, and Alton's Pride was Champion Beer of Britain 2008.

The beer

One has to leave Polypins 24 hours to let any sediment settle. This done it was time. One pulls off the cardboard to reveal a tap. Inside the cardboard box is a soft plastic barrel. This is the beer equivalent of wine in a box.

Tap of goodness

So a pint is poured. Swing the plastic round and the beer comes out, not too fast, takes about 8 seconds to fill the glass.

And the tasting.. marvellous! Alton's Pride is light in terms of alcohol but pleasant on the tongue - maltier than beers I'd normally go for, but balanced - there's a sense of hops there too.


From the brewery website:

Golden brown session bitter, full bodied for 3,8%. A forward hoppy aroma with a long bitter finish. “Excellent, clean-tasting, golden brown session bitter, full bodied for it’s strength. A delicious aroma of malt and hops. An initially malty flavour fades as citrus notes and hoppiness take over, leading to a lasting hoppy, bitter finish.” Good Beer Guide 2005.

Now the pin sits out on the bench on my balcony, which is fine now as it's quite cold (in fact snow is forecast for Wednesday, hard to believe but still..). This clearly won't work in the summertime, and there's no way I could fit this into my fridge. So I suppose this is a winter, spring and autumn thing only - how could I store the thing in summer time? Perhaps in a large cool box - after all the pin isn't as big as I'd imagine. Then again how would you pour without sloshing the beer and sediment about if stored in a cool box. These are all challenges to be overcome in the next few months!!