The 1974 Good Beer Guide: those werent the days

In Uncategorized on April 29, 2017 by kmflett

The 1974 Good Beer Guide: those weren’t the days

I was 18 in 1974 and North London being what it was in those days was already quite familiar with pubs and beer (the beard probably helped).

Reading Boak and Bailey’s interviews about the first 1974 Good Beer Guide in the May edition of Beer stirs a few thoughts, mainly of the ‘what progress has been made’ type.

As the interviews note the coverage of pubs was far from comprehensive geographically. That was partly because CAMRA was still in the process of building a national structure in every area. It was almost certainly also because in some areas- Watney’s domination of Norfolk is noted- it was very difficult to find a pub with drinkable beer.

Living then, as I do now, (I have been away in the meantime!) in Haringey North London, the number of pubs selling real ale through a handpump was certainly down to single figures. There was the John Baird in Muswell Hill (Courage Best and Directors- through an unmarked pump) the Railway Tavern in Crouch End (Bass and Charrington IPA) and the ever reliable Volunteer at Tottenham Hale.

You really had to seek a real ale pub out in those days, special journeys often being required. The alternative was not the craft keg of 2017, it was Watney’s Red Barrel, John Courage, Whitbread Tankard etc etc. These were cold, fizzy beers which certainly to me were undrinkable.

The two London brewers, Fullers and Youngs, were hardly present in North London. Occasional pilgrimages would be made to the Anchor and Hope, a Fuller’s pub on the River Lea at Clapton to drink the extremely strong (in those days) 5.5% ESB.

The idea of a beer brewed outside of London making it to the bar was unheard of.

Fortunately within 5 years the work of CAMRA had begun to turn matters around


New Labour & beards 20 years on

In Uncategorized on April 29, 2017 by kmflett

New Labour and beards 20 years on

The New Labour period from May 1997 has been described by the Beard Liberation Front as an era of clean shaven revisionism.

Yet just as Blair’s administration represented, at last, progress in terms of the representation of women, it was also the most hirsute post-1945 Cabinet and it remains so.

It contained three beards of substantial gravitas:

David Blunkett

Robin Cook (decd)

Frank Dobson

Unfortunately Tony Blair, who has never had a beard, was unable to make a clean break with his revisionist image, and indeed New Labour went on, by the time Frank Dobson stood unsuccessfully for London Mayor in 2000 to pursue an agenda of clean shaven male candidates.

Would New Labour have turned out differently if Blair had followed the example of Messrs Blunkett, Cook and Dobson and grown a beard?


D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better 20 years on

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2017 by kmflett

D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better 20 years on.

According to Alastair Campbell, and on this he may be right, D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, is the song that defined the 1997 Election campaign, 20 years ago this week.

It had originally been a hit in 1993 and 1994 but was revived for the Election campaign after D:Ream front man Pete Kunnah was introduced to Tony Blair at the Labour Party conference in Blackpool in early October 1996.

The song was used in a Labour election broadcast and was the source of a complaint to the BBC by Tory Director of Communications Charles Lewington because they were playing it.

It was also the theme for the Labour victory rally at the Festival Hall on the early morning of 2nd May.

According to Professor Brian Cox who played keyboards live with D:Ream (but not on recordings) the song is scientifically misleading which seems to rather overplay the importance of the lyrics.

As for things getting better it is of course too early to say.


Eating out in Cardiff improves: Asador 44

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2017 by kmflett

Eating out in Cardiff improves: Asador 44


Some will be aware that journalist and former Beard of the Year winner Jay Rayner has something of a ‘down’ on the restaurant culture in Cardiff. Its not that there is nowhere decent to eat but, given, that it is the Welsh Capital, the number and range of restaurants worthy of note is without question on the low side.

Rayner also has an issue about whether he can get something to eat after mid-evening in Cardiff. It is an issue but the City does not have a 24 hour culture in the same way London, for example, has.

Anyway Rayner seems to have vowed not to comment further on Cardiff restaurants but that of course doesn’t stop people like me..

I normally blog on beer and pubs and related issues about which I know a little bit. As it happens there is I think a relation between a rapidly improving beer scene in Cardiff and the start of a rise of a decent restaurant culture.

Asador 44, which is a spin off from the (excellent) Bar 44 Tapas chain (there is a good restaurant around the corner in Westgate St), has recently opened in Quay St, more or less opposite the Principality Stadium. It specialises in grilled or barbecued meat and fish on the Asador grill.

It is on the site of a previous restaurant owned by Welsh brewer Brains. It is within 30 seconds walk of the City Arms, a Brains pub run as  craft beer freehouse and Tiny Rebel Cardiff, a bar owned by the now Welsh Regional brewer. Both are to be found in the Good Beer Guide.

The beer scene has improved immeasurably in Cardiff in the last 3 or 4 years. In fact I’d go so far as to say that with Brewdog and Small Bar both within 5 minutes walk there is a beer circuit comparable to any beard and beer bar location to be found in London (where I also live of course).

The point is that the quest for and growing market for good beer in central Cardiff is I think at least in part motoring a similar desire for great food.

Asador 44 is not cheap (although it does an exceptionally good value lunch deal) although suffice to say it would cost a good deal more in London and you wouldn’t be able to get a table with just a few days notice either.

Ive been twice with my partner Megan in the last few weeks. On the first occasion we shared aged steak (served medium rare) off the bone. On the second occasion we shared a leg of milk fed lamb.

Starters and sides are interesting and in the case of the latter compliment the meat. I should add that fish is also a central feature and while I’m hardly the expert here it is also vegan friendly

The Spanish cheese board is well worth sampling too (there is a cheese room).

No doubt the wine range is good but you’ll appreciate from the above that we stuck to beer. Here there is also good news. There is a Barcelona brewed IPA in bottle (6%) and a porter (6.8%). Both score well on Rate Beer.

Eating out in central Cardiff is work in progress. The point is progress is being made and a visit to Asador 44 will make the point





Ambridge Socialist poll verdict on Peggy’s cat: 62% say Bill is obese

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2017 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist poll

28th April

Is Peggy’s cat portly or obese? RESULT

According to Anisha the vet, Bill, Peggy’s cat is obese. Peggy is offended (this is quite normal) because she regards Bill as merely portly. We asked Ambridge Socialist readers for their view. The results of the on-line poll are in

Obese 62%

Portly 20%

Fat for Ambridge 10%

Ambridge Socialist Editor Keith Flett said, Peggy must face reality. Bill needs to go on a diet. She also needs to issue a public apology to Anisha


May 1997: where did it all go wrong? A clue…

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2017 by kmflett

In the current issue of the New Statesman John Harris asks ‘from Blair to Brexit, where did it all go wrong?’.

This is a complex matter and at 20 years distance possibly not one that can be definitively answered yet with many of the main figures of May 1997 still active.

However I can offer one possible clue from Alastair Campbell’s diary for 27th April 1997

We had dinner with Ross and Rebekah Wade (deputy editor of the News of the World and fiancee of Ross Kemp). He was a very nice bloke, very down on a lot of his fellow stars, big against drugs’


Mugwumps have beards & gravitas

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2017 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

27th April

Mugwumps have beards and gravitas


The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that Boris Johnson’s reference to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘mugwump’ was in fact a compliment though it is possible that the Foreign Secretary did not grasp this.

While ‘mugwump’ has a number of definitions the most recent and current is from the Harry Potter series of novels.

Dumbledore is supreme Mugwump, his defining feature being a gravitas adding beard.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, we celebrate mugwumps, they have beard power