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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

What's new?

What's new?
We've just launched the first ever Beer Marketing Awards - click here for more details!
I'm doing beer and music matching at the wonderful Wenlock Arms next week! Click to find out more
Just added links to my stuff in All About Beer, prompted by my latest piece on Tuscan beer and food.
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Friday, 30 April 2010

You wait ages for locally based beer phenomena and then two come along at once

I'm starting to think there might be something in this beer lark.

Just a week after the Jolly Butchers reinvents itself as one of London's top five beer pubs, The Alma on Newington Green is having a bank holiday weekend real ale festival.


The Alma is a pretty pub in a great location, on the border between N1 and N16.  Bobby Gillespie out of Primal Scream lives just around the corner, and he blew his entire wad of Indie Rock credibility a few years ago when he complained to the council about the noise from the pub.

It's a gastropub - one of the best in the area - really nice food, freshly prepared, nice wine list, lovely staff, great atmosphere.  But up to now the beer selection has been nothing to write home about.

This weekend landlady Kirsty Valentine changes all that with a festival celebrating the extraordinary renaissance of London brewing in recent years.  There's a full list of about twelve ales, all from Sambrooks, Brodie's, Twickenham and Redemption, none of which existed six years ago (Twickenham is the oldest, having opened in September 2004).

And the nice thing about the mix, given that they're drawn from four local breweries, is that there's a really interesting array of beer styles in there - a few golden ales, a few session beers, and some stronger, darker stuff.

Some of the brewers will be turning up at various points throughout the weekend, and I'm going down there tomorrow (Saturday) hopefully to meet the nice man from Tottenham's Redemption Brewery.

It's three quid a pint (10% off for CAMRA members, not that they deserve it - sorry, Tandy etc - I'm grouchy about appalling behaviour by some stereotypes who were at the National Brewery Centre launch last night) and there's a live band on Sunday.  It kicks off Saturday at noon and runs until chucking out time on Bank Holiday Monday.

See you there!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Do we need another brewing competition? Dunno, but I think we need this one...

The Brewing Industry International Awards are back. They were last held in 2005, but are happening again on 9th – 11th February 2011 in Burton on Trent, hopefully in the new National Brewing Centre (grand opening tonight - I'll be there!).



These awards are notable in that brewers are judged only by their peers - other brewers.  Pundits and hacks like me don't get a look in.  (This led to a fantastically entertaining meltdown by a certain beer writing legend when the Guild of Beer Writers discussed at the first AGM I ever went to.  As I said at the time, it was worth the price of joining the Guild on its own.) 

Anyway, there's lots of stuff here about categories, judging and all that.  In the gap since these awards were last held, the World Beer Cup has become pre-eminent in this field.  The BIIA are joining to give them a run for their money once more from now on. 

But what interests me most is not yet official news, but was revealed yesterday by Ruth Evans, CEO of BFBi, which runs the BIIA (OK, that's enough acronyms for one blog post), at a conference we were both speaking at.  Ruth said that at the end of the competition, there are approximately 10,000 pints of beer left.  Wouldn't it be a good idea if, instead of pouring this beer down the drain, they had an international beer festival?  As Ruth points out, it wouldn't be like a CAMRA beer festival - it would incorporate the best beers from around the world, of all styles, and there would be plenty of brewers on hand to talk about them.  And if this festival were held in the National Brewery Centre... well, talk about putting Burton back on the beer map.

Ruth stressed that nothing is definite yet - discussions are ongoing.  But if this came of, it would fill the gap left by the extremely premature demise of Beer Exposed after just one fantastic event in 2008.  It would be a phenomenal event for everyone involved in the global beer industry, and could be the start of something much bigger, giving Burton a new role on the global beer stage.      

I urge everyone connected with the National Brewing Centre to play nicely on this, and any potential sponsor or media partner to jump in.  Let's make this happen. 

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Jolly Butchers: my manor gets its own serious beer pub

I write for lots of different reasons, some of which go very deep. I've wanted to be a writer - of some kind - since I was nine years old. But among all the complex psychology, creativity and ego needs, there are a few more pragmatic reasons why I've wanted to write specifically about beer over the last ten years or so.

One of these is that I really love drinking well-made, tasty craft beers, be they American hop bombs, beautifully balanced real ales or perfectly made pilsners.

The trouble is, until a few years ago not many pubs served them. I much prefer drinking in pubs to drinking at home, and nine times out of ten I would have to settle for something deeply average.

So purely selfishly, I figured that if I wrote about beer, and I was really good at it, I might in some small way encourage the spread and appreciation of great beer, and that would make it more common in pubs, and that would mean I could enjoy better beer when I'm out. You might think I do it to turn other people on to great beer, but my ultimate motive is entirely selfish.

And it's kind of working. I'm not claiming any measure of direct credit for the spread in good quality beer, the huge rise in imports and the critical and commercial revitalisation of cask ale, but I am part of a big wave of enthusiasm that's pushing the spread of great beer.

My local, the White Hart, used to have one dusty Spitfire pump in the corner of the bar. Now it has three well-kept cask ales - Doom Bar and Tribute on permanent, and a rotating guest.

And as of today, up the road, opposite the bus stop, we have the Jolly Butchers.

Previously, the Jolly Butchers was a Stoke Newington institution - in more than one sense of the word. It was also known as Stokie's Bar and Father Ted's, each rebrand not replacing the previous name but adding fresh layers to to it, like the coats of grime on the windows.

It was populated exclusively by old men wearing what the late Pete McCarthy dubbed 'Irish drinking suits', those once smart, now shiny and stained dark jackets and trousers that are the uniform of a certain type of veteran drinker. They'd huddle together in a vast, derelict space to watch an endless diet of horse racing on the pub's many TVs, pumping the change from their pints of Foster's into a bank of gaming machines.

The pub had a certain notoriety in Stoke Newington's broader population thanks to its 3am licence, but whatever business this brought in it clearly wasn't enough: rumour has it the pub was losing thousands of pounds a week when it finally closed earlier this year. Twitter briefly flurried with comments along the lines of "Where are we going to go to have a late night fight with an Irishman now?" and then fell silent.

Two days ago I was invited for a sneak peak at the new Jolly Butcher's.


The Victorian wrought ironwork and stained glass above the windows, previously boarded over, has been exposed. The walls have been stripped back to the brickwork and left unfinished, stylishly shabby, apart from one wall covered in trendy Fornasetti wallpaper.


The central bar that once dominated the centre of the room has been moved to the side, and an open kitchen has been built in the corner. And as for that bar, well...

There are ten handpumps, combining beers from London's late-to-the-party but finally emerging range of craft brewers, plus regular beers from Thornbridge and Dark Star, real cider from Gwatkin's and a perry.


Apart from the ales, there's smoked beer Schlenkerla on draught, as well as De Koninck, Bruges Zot, Mort Subite Kriek, Vedett, Erdinger and Meantime Helles. Yes, all on draught. Then there's a lot of Chimay in bottles, some more Meantime and a few others. The bottle range does need beefing up, but landlord Martin wanted to focus on getting the draught range right first.

I used to have to get on a train for two hours to drink Jaipur on draught. Now I have to walk five minutes to the end of my street. My plan has worked.

I can't claim any credit at all for the Jolly Butchers though - Martin had never heard of me until he started placing orders for beers. But when he did, people kept telling him I lived locally and he should get in touch with me. I'm so glad he followed their advice.

The other day I chipped in a few comments about the beers as the staff were taken through a tutored tasting of them by Martin (behind the bar, above). Some of the Irish drinking suits were hanging around outside, curious, proprietorial. They're still welcome if they're happy with no racing, no bandits and Meantime Helles instead of Foster's.

Martin knows what he's doing - he also runs the Rose and Crown in N16 and the Wrestlers in Highgate. Both those pubs are tied, but the Jolly Butchers is a freehouse. As such, he couldn't wait to get his hands on it and turn it into a beer shrine. Why? Martin is a beer fan, but not a beer geek. He enjoys a decent pint, but talking to him you realise first and foremost he's a businessman. He's reinvented the Jolly Butchers, taking it from one extreme of the pub spectrum to the other, purely because he believes he'll make a lot of money by doing so.

"If this doesn't work, that means I don't understand pubs. And the thing is, I do understand pubs - I've worked in them all my life," he says.

It's striking that he had to wait until he could get a freehold to do this - that PubCos simply wouldn't allow him to create this dream. When the Jolly Butchers makes more money than Martin's other pubs, than other Enterprise and Punch pubs, it will prove what readers of this blog understand but PubCos, global brewers and mainstream media still do not - craft beer is thriving, and when forty pubs a week are closing, catering to craft beer is a sure fire route to profit.

See you there tonight.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The "culture of binge drinking" and the credulous academics

The latest piece of binge drinking research would be funny it if had been written by a comedian. The fact that it is apparently serious is profoundly depressing.

The BBC today reports that a culture of binge drinking is 'well-established' in north-west England. Liverpool's John Moore university discovered this by going out around town centres on Friday and Saturday nights and interviewing people who they thought looked drunk.

They were horrified to discover that these people were indeed drunk, and that they intended to carry on drinking.

This is, apparently, newsworthy.

Among the shock insights uncovered by this crack team of researchers are:
  • "drinking at home before a night out and drinking later into the night may be associated with higher levels of drunkenness in city centres"
and
  • "drinkers who planned to stay out due to extended opening hours were the ones intending to drink the most"
So far, so many bears defecating in forests. But the bit I find astonishing, given that this report is coming from a supposedly reputable academic institution which presumably applies a certain amount of rigour to its research methodology, is "one in 10 (15% of men and 4% of women) believing their total alcohol intake would be more than 40 units before going to sleep".

This gave Sky its headline for its coverage of the story, and prompted Alcohol Concern chief Don Shenker to comment "That some people are drinking over these amounts in a single evening is cause for real concern."

So let's get this straight: you went up to a bunch of pissed people on a Saturday night, interrupted their evening to ask them questions about their drinking, and when they told you they intended to drink the equivalent of 20 pints of beer, four and a half bottles of wine or 27 gin and tonics... you believed them?!

Did you also believe them when the lads told you they all had 12 inch knobs and had shagged all the most attractive girls in town?

Either Don Shenker and John Moore University are simpletons who have no understanding whatsoever of how people behave when they've been drinking, or they've knowingly bought in to a study which any serious researcher would laugh out of the room for its deeply flawed methodology, and cynically presented it as fact when they know it can only be taken at best with a huge pinch of salt.

And as the final link with reality is severed, what picture does the BBC choose to illustrate these supposed 40-units-a-night drinkers?

Go on, have a guess.

Correct!

Twenty pints of real ale please. We're all going out to get bollocksed out of our minds on J W Lees Bitter.


Monday, 19 April 2010

"An innovation set to revolutionise the beer category"

Press releases. I get sent an increasing number of them.

Some of them are genuinely useful. Many others are completely irrelevant (when have I ever done anything that suggests a professional interest in female sanitary products?) Often they confuse what a press release should do - supply a writer with news, information, quotes and angles for potential stories - with a really crappy attempt at writing the story itself that would insult the intelligence and credulity of a three year-old.

I was thinking of sharing the most outstanding examples with you instead of simply binning them - perhaps introducing a 'press release of the week' feature - and then, I received one this morning that changes everything, redefining the entire genre.

The headline on the email from Zoo Communications crashed through my hangover and pulled me to attention - this was a prize scoop and no mistake: “Anheuser-Busch InBev UK launches Budweiser Brew No. ‘66’ – an innovation set to revolutionise the beer category”.

Wow! They weren’t mincing their words! Words like:

Innovation: defined by Dictionary.com as “something new or different”.

and

Revolutionise: “to effect a radical change”

Bud 66 eh? What could it be, this new or different thing that’s going to bring about radical change in the beer, um, “category”?

Because beer is going through a very exciting time at the moment, with plenty of innovation going on: we've got style mash-ups like 'Belgian IPAs', explorations in wood ageing beers, ingredients like strawberries or spices being added to beer, an endless search for new hop flavours from around the world, and regular smashings of the 'world's strongest beer' record. What could AB-Inbev possibly be up to that could top that?

With shaking hands I clicked open the press release. Boy, Zoo Communications are good. Usually a press release gives you what you need to know, if not in the headline, then in the first line of copy. Not this one. More like a Steven King novel than a press release, it just continued to build the suspense.

AB-Inbev president Stuart Macfarlane declared Bud 66 “our most important business action in 2010”.

This is the world's biggest brewer we're talking about. Their 'most important business action'?This really was serious.

But why were they embarking on such a radical, revolutionary departure? Why? Because according to Stuart, you, the drinker, demand it: “Consumers, and in particular consumers in their early twenties are looking for something new and different – and it’s up to us to continue providing compelling product offers that reflect their needs and tastes.”

Not just “new or different” but "new AND different"? Oh I’m almost pissing myself with excitement here, PLEASE Stuart, tell us what it is!

Halfway down the page, he finally gives in: Bud 66 is “A lightly carbonated lager brewed with a touch of sweetness for a smooth, easy taste at 4% abv.”

I’m sorry? A what!?

“A lightly carbonated lager brewed with a touch of sweetness for a smooth, easy taste at 4% abv.”

Hang on a minute, that sounds a little bit familiar. Why might that be? Ah, the press release goes on to tell us: “Over the past few years, AB InBev UK has catered to the premiumisation trend with the launch of Beck’s Vier and Stella Artois 4%.”

Oh. Right. So a 4% lager still counts as ‘innovation’ if you’ve done it twice before in recent years then?

In fact hang on, it’s not that dissimilar to Bud Silver, the 4.1% beer launched by Anheuser Busch in 2006 which was discontinued a couple of years later.

So, apart from a few caveats:
a) it’s just a 4% bottled lager, which isn’t new to the beer market by any conceivable logical definition
b) it’s not new to A-B Inbev
c) it’s not even new to the Budweiser brand
d) it’s going to taste stale because it’ll be lightstruck, thanks to being in a clear bottle (unlike other Bud beers, to be fair)
e) no one wanted it last time something very, very similar was launched,
this truly is an innovation that’s going to revolutionise the beer market!

Well done, A-B Inbev! Well done, Zoo Communications!

Let’s have more where this came from!

"Hello, I'm Stuart Macfarlane, and this is a bottle of 4% lager. I swear to you I have never before - in my entire life - seen anything remotely like this. And neither have you."

Friday, 16 April 2010

Beer Porn

Beers of Europe is my favourite mail order beer shop.

And you can believe me when I say that because I've asked them in the past about discounts when I buy beer for tastings and events and they've ignored me, and yet I'm still saying how much I like them.

They asked me to feature this video on my blog. I think they asked a lot of people and they did it months ago. I'm just catching up.

So here's some beer porn. I kept waiting for a punchline or something which never arrives, but the one thing it does very well is convey the sheers epic scale of the range.

Enjoy.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Why Beer Matters - Second place runner up

People seemed to enjoy reading John Bidwell's piece, (and it's gratifying to see the competition topic still being discussed on beer blogs) so I now present the entry that narrowly beat him.

Shea Luke is a young woman who really enjoys drinking real ale. That shouldn't be extraordinary, but some people seem to think it is, and in the piece below Shea tells us how she deals with that.

What the judges liked about this one was its energy and freshness. There are a few women writing about beer, some with a great deal of success, but it would always be helpful to have some more if we want to convince women (and men) that there is no inherent reason why women can't drink beer too. We liked the attitude here and hope to see more of it!

WHY BEER MATTERS

The most common reactions I get when people find out about my geekily keen beer passion are “How do you stay so slim?” and “What’s it like hanging around with loads of bearded old men?”

Granted, it’s unusual to find a 26 year old, female girl about town, who has drunk around 1200, and continually counting, different British beers since records began. These are only my records, of course, in four consecutive Good Beer Guides, but my obsessive carrying around of these near sacred tomes, and the subsequent broken handbag straps and scarred shoulders, will surely convince you of their trustworthiness. By the way, just in case you are a particularly curious type, this number does not include the hundreds of foreign beers I’ve supped; I have to draw the ticking and record keeping line somewhere, people.

This achievement, whilst undoubtedly nerdy for such a groovy gal, which I assure you I am in most other aspects of life, is a fact I am always quick to point out to the handful of ‘bearded old men’ who still advise me to stick to something weak or fruity. You see, these 1200 odd brews are not just evidence of a deep love of beer, but an (admittedly thus far relatively short) lifelong quest to sample and delight in our country’s beers.

Beers from both ends of the strength spectrum, beers from all corners of the nation, beers that represent a long heritage and history, beers that began as an enthusiast’s home brew, beers that use local produce, beers that help keep vital community pubs alive, beers that bring likeminded people together, beers that push boundaries with unusual and exciting ingredients, beers that simply make your day that bit better, beers that just taste darn good. Let it be known that I am willing to stand my ground to fight for these beers, even if I have to argue with an outdated girlphobe to get my hands on them. Hands which, for your information, are not so small and delicate as to require a special mini, stemmed girly glass, and while we are at it, no I wouldn’t prefer a vodka, yes I do know that there are more stouts than Guinness, and no, it really doesn’t need to be fizzy for me to enjoy it.

But, as a fellow curly haired revolutionary said, the times they are a- changing, and it really is just a teeny handful of fuddy-duddies who persist in derogatory ‘you are a girl, you don’t know anything about beer’ comments. I now have a faithful collection of bearded (and clean shaven) pals who are interested in my beer related opinions. Young people who are equally proud of their ale geekdom, people from other beer minority drinking groups (like my pensioner friend form the Caribbean who claims we are two of a kind, fighting the corner of underrepresented ale lovers), and a London based brewer who might be producing a special for my wedding (you don’t get that from Smirnoff). But none of them look as good as me in a Dark Star Brewing Co. T-shirt. Or pint glass shaped earrings.

Beer matters. It matters to all those people. It matters to all the pub landlords in the cities and towns around the UK that my Good Beer Guide led holidays take me to. It matters to the microbrewers in manky derelict farm buildings that have left jobs in the city to pursue their passion and to help nourish ours. It matters to the retirees whose social calendar revolves around manning the beer mat flooded tombola. It now matters to the Spanish girls in their twenties that I met at a recent beer festival who asked for something like San Miguel but left drinking porter. I’m not a brewer, I’m not bearded, I’m not retired, and I am absolutely not a bloke, but, do you know what? Beer definitely matters to me.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Ready to play? What's the day? It's bottling day!

Hello, I'm Brian Cant. *Sighs wearily*. Yes, I AM sure it's spelled with an 'A'!

This is an admission of being an old fart now I guess, but do you remember Play School? The highlight of every programme – before you were old enough to be sneery about who was hotter, Hamble or Jemima – was when they went through one of the windows to look at the world outside their pastel-toned Neverland. Would it be the square window? The arched window? Or the… the……. The ROUND window! That pause taught Chris Tarrant and Reality TV presenters everything they know.

Once safely through the appropriate window we always seemed to end up in a factory. After a while they all blurred into one, but they never failed to fascinate. In the 1970s Britain’s economy was still manufacturing-based, and there was something both soothing and compelling about watching unidentifiable bits of extruded plastic pass along a conveyor belt, through various stamping and shaping and colouring and bending and cutting machines, the duff ones being lifted from the belt by blank-faced yet somehow cool factory workers in white coats and hair nets, until at the end you recognised ranks of shiny, brand new dolls. Or cars. Or ready meals. Everything in creation seemed to come from a production line, and Play School visited every single one of them. The windows seemingly looked in on God’s own workshop.

I’m reminded of this every single time I visit a brewery. Because while beer writers and beer lovers may profess a passion for hops, or yearn to see ancient coppers still toiling away or breathe in the fruity aroma of rocky yeast from open square fermenters, as far as the brewers themselves are concerned there is one star attraction and one only: the bottling line.

God moves across the face of the brewery

We often talk about the uneasy and complex relationship between the brewer and his yeast in which the microscopic organism is always the ultimate boss. But the same applies to the bottling line. It’s a cruel mistress that enslaves and fascinates them. They love it and hate it. They want to smash it with hammers on the frequent occasions when something goes wrong, and to become one with the elegant dance of its shiny, sterile perfection when it works properly.

The last brewery I visited was Hall & Woodhouse, and despite the extensive tour which included watching the beer being mashed in, the bottling line wasn’t running and they couldn’t apologise profusely enough. To hear them, you’d think they’d got us all the way to Dorset under false pretences. They genuinely thought they’d let us down. This reaction is exactly the same whenever I visit a brewery where the bottling line isn’t running.

But be afraid if you visit when it is running. At the main SABMiller brewery in Milwaukee they show you a video of how beer is made, then take you on a tour of the bottling and packaging lines, and the distribution depot. They tell you all about how much beer they ‘truck and train’ across the US, and then it’s on to the tasting room. When I asked if we were going to see the actual beer being brewed on this brewery tour, I was told no, because compared to the bottling and distribution of beer, brewing itself is “pretty boring”.

Perhaps in Miller’s case that’s true. But even good breweries worship their bottling lines like Pacific Cargo Cults venerate aeroplanes.


You're impressed, right? You sure as hell better be, boy. You don't wanna make me come over there, I'm tellin' ya.

When I visited Asahi in Tokyo we had to watch the bottling line for half an hour. We were given every single specification. They told us that the man who invented Kaiten sushi – the conveyor belt with dishes that come around to your seat – was inspired by watching this very bottling line. He probably dreamt it up in desperation, a ruse to get out of there. “Yes, it’s lovely, really it is, but I’ve got to dash – I need to, um, that’s it! I need to invent a completely new model for how restaurants work! It’s been lovely though, Bye!”

For the rest of us, paying homage to the bottling line is a sort of penitence, a sacrament that must be performed before we can proceed to the heaven of the sample room. So you stand in a strip-lit metal cavern, mute as the shrill chink of glass deafens you, and watch reverentially for about five minutes, pondering. Wow, think about how much beer that is. If you drank two or three bottles every day, how long would it take you to get through that lot? Gosh, they’re a much bigger brewer than you think. And then when you run out of such reflections you turn and indicate that you’re ready to move on, and the brewer looks at you, first hurt, like you’ve said you can’t tell what his five year old son’s drawing is supposed to be of, and then angry, and he grabs you by the hair and slams you against the safety railings and twists your heads to face the conveyor, and growls, “Look at it. I SAID LOOK AT IT. WHAT? YOU’VE ALREADY LOOKED AT IT? WELL LOOK AT IT SOME MORE! AND KEEP LOOKING AT IT UNTIL I TELL YOU THAT YOU’VE LOOKED AT IT ENOUGH!”

Two hours later, hungry and scared, you see him finally turn without a word and leave through a door you’d forgotten existed, into a world you never thought you’d see again. And then you’re in the sample room tasting beers and he’s back to his old self, and everyone pretends nothing happened, and you have a great time.

I said look at it.

Bottling lines are expensive pieces of kit and amazing feats of engineering, so many tiny parts all working in concert. Something has to go wrong, and when it does it must be as frustrating as it is when I spend hours working on a document and then the computer crashes and I lose it. And I know that bottling lines can transform the fortunes of a brewery.

But what I could never say to a brewer’s face is that, while we understand that to you your bottling line is unique, and beautiful, and the best one in the whole world, to us it looks like all the other bottling lines, and when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. And remember – a lot of us saw Play School when we were kids too.

And if I’m ever invited to a brewery again after writing this post, I will insist that the entire thing is a joke and in no way reflects my truly feelings, my enduring love and fascination for these wonderful, beguiling pieces of machinery.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Crackdown on mythical creatures as new Mandatory Code comes into force today

Tinkerbelle: barred from UK pubs under tough government measures coming into force today.

Irresponsible creatures from the world of faerie including pixies, elves and sprites will be barred from pubs under tough new powers introduced from today, announced Home Office Minister Alan Campbell.

It is estimated that magical creatures cost the UK taxpayer between £8 and £13 billion a year. The mandatory code introduces five conditions for all alcohol retailers which will ensure consistent good practice and crack down on problem premises where irresponsible drinking by mythical creatures could put individuals at risk and lead to crime and antisocial behaviour.

(We said ‘could’, because of course there’s no evidence that it actually does.)

The conditions coming into force today are:

  • banning irresponsible creatures such as pixies, elves, sprites, boggarts, kobolds, goblins, orcs and level six halfling thieves
  • banning "dentist’s chairs" where drink is poured directly into the mouths of customers making it impossible for them to control the amount they are drinking – or at least, that’s would would happen if there were any pubs that actually ran them

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said:"Like the dentists’ chair promotion, creatures from the world of faerie may not actually exist outside the feverish imaginations of Daily Mail readers and one tacky bar in Newcastle, but just think what it would be like if they did. A minority of them would continue to take part in irresponsible activities which fuel the excessive drinking that leads to alcohol-related crime and disorder. I mean, centaurs may not really exist, but you can bet that if they did they’d be right bastards, necking blue WKDs for all they’re worth and shitting all over the floor of their local ‘Spoons. So it’s best that we just take the precaution and ban them. Even though they don’t exist. I mean, it’s easier to find a photo of an elf than it is a dentist’s chair promotion, so if we’re banning the dentist’s chair, it’s better to be safe than sorry and go the whole hog, banning everything else that doesn't actually exist.

"The code will see an end to these entirely fictitious creatures and drinks promotions, ensure premises check the ID of those who appear to be underage or have suspiciously pointy ears, helping to make our government look tough by pandering to a neoprohibitionist that inhabits a strange fantasy world with ever fewer links to reality."

Bilbo Baggins was unavailable for comment.