Category: Uncategorised

| Uncategorised

We made it!

Well, as far as India anyway.

12 weeks after leaving Burton, I find myself in Mumbai. After five weeks of monastic isolation on the container ship, going stir crazy and risking scurvy from the dire food, Mumbai has stunned me into a numb daze. I can’t cope with all the people!

The beer survived. We find out how it tastes on Friday 7th December, at a trade show in Delhi.

So many tales to tell. If you ever decide to arrive in India by sea port, make sure you have plenty of US dollars with you. Cost me $275 to get off the ship and out of the port, and that’s without them knowing about the beer. Of course, iot was all high;y illegal, but the alternative was staying on the ship unhtil Durban ands missing India altogether. Apart from missing the point of the whole exercise, I couldn’t stand another portion of the cook’s charred liver and soggy mash.

More updates soon. I am dying for a decent beer…

| Uncategorised

Rendezvous in Rio

This is me and Jerry. Jerry is short for ´jeroboam of India Pale Ale´.

You can see a handle in the hand of the porter to the left. That´s a bag, and in the bag is Kev. Kev is short for ´Keg of India Pale Ale´.

These are the brethren of dear departed Barry, and while they missed the canal trip from Burton, the cruise to Tenerfie and the Atlantic Crossing on Europa, they´ll be joining me on the next stage of the journey – 12,000 miles across the Atlantic, round the Cape of Good Hope, through the Indian Ocean to Mumbai.

This is thanks to Jeff Pickthall – beer writer, beer drinker, and now beer smuggler – who brought them to Rio for me in his luggage when all attempts to get them in through normal channels failed. After travelling from Newcastle, via Burton, Heathrow and Sao Paolo to Rio, Jeff arrived at the hotel FIFTEEN MINUTES AFTER the man who came to pick me up to board me on to the container ship – the container ship that left three days ahead of schedule. It was skin of the teeth stuff – the stuff of legend.

While Jeff had a well-deserved few days beer drinking in Rio, me and the boys cruised down the Brazilian coast. I´ve´been getting soaked in Paranagua, blowing up balloons with whores in the sailor´s paradise in Santos, and finally we´re as far south as you can go in Brazil – Rio Grande, a deserted Wild West town where thankfully there´s an internet cafe.

This will be my last contact with the outside world till we´re off the coast of Oman in about 16 days time. In the meantime, I´ve got a book to write.

The theme of the book?

Taking a 30kg keg of beer on an 18,000 mile sea route that no longer exists is not as easy as it sounds…


| Uncategorised

Days on Europa

Denis from Solvenia – my watch buddy at the wheel. Some people thought he might be a spy.

How do I sum up the experience of sailing on a three-masted tall ship across the Atlantic? Perhaps best to describe a typical day.

Someone shakes you awake at 11.45pm – it’s your turn on Dog Watch, midnight to 4am. Fifteen minutes later, armed with a cup of black tea, you climb the steps to the foredeck and take your place at a seat on lookout. For the next half an hour you are the eyes and ears of the ship, looking out for other shipping or debris such as fallen containers. There’s rarely anything like this, so you spend most of the time looking at the sky, noting that it’s a new moon so the Milky Way is fully visible. Every few minutes, if you don’t blink, you see a shooting star. Above the sound of the bow ploughing through the hissing waves, there’s the occasional series of skipping plops as a shoal of flying fish skitter out of your way.

Half an hour’s rest, then it’s your turn on the wheel. The team you’re relieving are visible only by the light from the big ship’s compass illuminating their faces form beneath. They tell you the course is still 220 degrees, and you take the wheel. She’s behaving badly tonight because she’d rather sail closer to the wind. You give her rudder a few degrees of starboard and she seems happy for a few minutes. Then you take a minute to look at the trail of phosphorescence in your wake, an underlit disco dance floor in the sea. You look back down at the compass, and she’s suddenly steering 245, the sails are flapping, and you to haul the wheel round to bring her back on course. The ship lurches from side to side and you imagine the other watches rocking in their bunks, cursing you.

2am brings soup and whatever left-overs there are, and the next two hours seem to pass quickly. Another stint on lookout, a few pages of an unchallenging thriller sitting in the deck house, and soon the day watch is being woken up, and you’re back to bed.

You sleep through breakfast (fine – there’s only so much ham and cheese a guy can eat) and wake up around 10am. You doze for a bit to the sound of the waves rinsing the hull, inches from your head. But it’s getting hotter – it’s never cooler than 30 degrees down here, and your head is burning where it touches the pillow. Out of bed, a shower and up on deck, and the sun is high in the sky. A few people sit on deck reading. Several are working – Erik the barman is sanding and varnishing the wheel house. Some of the crew are sanding blocks. One or two are putting on harnesses and going aloft to work in the rigging. You look over the rail at 360 degrees of deep blue, solid blue ocean, and a slightly lighter cloudless blue sky.

On watch again at noon. Then soup and sandwiches for lunch, and at 2pm the captain calls everyone to the main deck and gives his daily speech. We did 150 miles in the last 24 hours, which is good progress, and we’re due to arrive in Salvador a day or two early if we keep this up. You’re not sure how you feel about this – is that a good or a bad thing?

A lazy afternoon, maybe mending sails or helping on the ropes when the captain decides a sail has to be set or taken away, other than that, sitting reading in the sun – if the full complement of sails haven’t shaded the entire deck. The big excitement is a school of dolphins, leaping through the waves, racing for the bow, where they spend half an hour swimming alongside and under the ship. They love to see us – it almost looks like they’re taking a shower in the ship’s bow wave.

At 5pm Erik opens the bar and brings anchovies, meat and cheese out on deck. A couple of beers and all too soon the sun is setting, sinking quickly, setting fire to the sky in the west.

At 7pm dinner is served. Hearty and nutritious, but this sea air gives you an appetite. And then, as darkness completes its takeover of the sky, you’re back on watch again – the schedule moves round, and tonight you’re on 8 till midnight. At least it means you’ll get a full night’s sleep. Maybe tonight you’ll take your mattress up onto the sloop deck and kip under the stars…

| Uncategorised

Half way through and too much excitement

So we arrived in Brazil. Three weeks on Europa was three weeks I’ll always remember, mostly for the right reasons. If you’re not moved by the idea of helping to crew a ship of such stunning beauty and grace, you must have the emotional range of yer average serial killer.

I’ve been travelling for seven weeks now, with seven or eight to go before I return home. I have grown a full beard – initially for a joke, but now I’m being urged to keep it. I have a nice deep tan. And I’ve got enough narrative twists and turns to get my next book onto the thriller shelves rather than travel or food and drink.

Whatever you do in life, never try to import a keg of beer into Brazil on a short time scale. As we speak, a friend of mine is picking up Barry’s replacement – Kevin the keg – and bringing him out as personal luggage. That was all fine until I checked the details of my onward journey, and discovered that my container ship – due to leave Rio on Wednesday – actually now leaves tomorrow, and I have to be on board a mere three hours after Jeff (and Kevin) are due to land at the airport.

The future of this voyage rests on some luck with customs, and is going to be a photo finish.

| Uncategorised

Tracking device

To find out where Pete is at 12-hourly intervals, because let’s face it, there’s nothing better to do on a drizzly afternoon and it makes a change from Facebook, go to this site and you can join the dots to track his route:

Today they hope to arrive at Cape Verde where they’ll get off and stretch their legs, then it’s another 18 days straight to Brazil.

It all sounds fantastic: flying fish, playful shoals of dolphins, whale spouts and phosphorescent plankton. If Pete can’t post from Cape Verde I’ll fill in some of the details later in the week.

And now back to my life of mouse-like playing whilst the sea-faring cat is away.


| Uncategorised

Barry RIP

This entry comes from a web cafe in Tenerife about an hour before I board the Europa and sail across the Atlantic, both lighter of luggage and heavier of heart than I should be.

We arrived in Tenerife just over a week ago and I hired an apartment in the south east corner of the island. After a weekend taking the pulse of the great British holiday and the beers thereof (Dorada is just a great name for a beer, but it has to be a beer you only drink on holiday, don´t you think?) I had to dash home for a couple of days for the media launch of the Cask Ale Report, leaving Barry on his own. On his own in a sealed, south-facing apartment.

I got back to the apartment late last night and wondered why there was a strong smell of air freshener in the corridor. I opened the door, and there was a different smell in the apartment. Not one hundred per cent unpleasant, but not right either. I checked the bin and the fridge, and noticed my feet were sticking to the floor. Something had leaked. My brain did not want to even consider the most likley possibility, so I checked the ceiling for leaks, the toilet, under the sink, until finally, after about five minutes, my brain caught up with my nose and identified the smell: stale, oxidised beer. SPILT beer.

I rushed to pick Barry up and take him out on to the patio to have a look without making more of a mess. He was very, very light.

I slit open the cellophane wrapping the bag – the thick layer of cellophane – and opened the bag. An empty barrel, a puddle of stale beer and dry hops, with the bung from the barrel floating in the bottom. Barry had committed suicide. I hadn´t realised our relationship had deteriorated that far.

Historically on this voyage, beers used to have to withstand extremes of temperature. High temperatures encouraged a more vigorous fermentation inside the cask, so it was essential the cask could breathe, allowing excess CO2 to escape. I´m pretty sure this was the problem, whether the cask wasn´t allowing CO2 to escape in the first place, or whether wrapping the cask inside a bag and then encasing it very tightly in a thick layer of cellophane was what did it, I´m not sure. But I think I know.

We´re now seeing if it´s possible to get me a replacement barrel delivered to Brazil. While this beer will have missed some of the most interestig and certaiinly the most authentic leg of the voyage, at that point we´ll still have 60-70% of the distance left to run, so the experiment just about stands.

But I´m about to set sail, and when I do, I have very limited e-mail contact.

And whereas three weeks ago, it was looking like I had about niine days between arriving in Brazil and the container ship leaving, I´ve been notified that the container ship is speeding up, and is now due to leave Rio on 30th October – just three days after we are due to arrive in Salvador, a thousand miles up the coast. It´s starting to look doubtful whether I´ll even be able to board the container ship, let alone arrange to meet with a new barrel before I do.

Things are starting to become a little too interesting.

| Uncategorised

Cask Ale Sector Report

One of the nice things about the British Cask Ale industry is its diversity and lack of corporate bastards. The only problem with this is that it can be criticised for not speaking with one voice.

This has now changed.

A consortium made up of brewers regional and local, CaskMarque and CAMRA, commissioned me to pool all existing knowledge on the market for cask ale, and mine it for new insights. The results are at the URL above. You can download a PDF of the report. Please do. Hopefully it will be informative.

| Uncategorised

We’re under way

Access to internet facilities is now sporadic, as Barry and I are in the third week of our re-creation of the voyage of IPA and spending much of our time on ships. I’m going to end up posting a few entries at once, with this being the first lot – a potted story so far. The next update will probably be at the end of October, when we land in Brazil.

Sorry for the lack of pics and links – my battery is almost dead and I ahve to be out of here in ten minutes!

| Uncategorised

Leaving Burton-on-Trent

I wanted the send-off from Burton to be a bit of a celebration of the town’s brewing tradition, and we managed to accomplish this in some style.

The night before the send-off, we had dinner (curry obviously) in Burton with most of the town’s brewers – Rudgie representing Coors/Worthington (sadly both brewers, Steve and Jo, were on holiday), Ian Ward from Coors, although by the time you read this he’ll have left to go to Marston’s, Jeff Mumford from Burton Bridge Brewery, and John Saville from the Burton Old Cottage Beer Company. And my mate Chris. The latter two seemed a bit bemused as to why we were all there, but a fantastic curry and a tasting of various Burton IPAs – Marston’s Old Empire, Worthington White Shield, and Burton Bridge Imperial India Ale, meant the evening went off very nicely.

We capped it with a bottle of Ratcliffe’s ale, the beer from 1789 found by Steve Wellington in the cellars. It was like nothing else – or maybe a little like Utopias from Samuel Adams – strong aromas of port and dried summer fruit, rich raisins, brandy and plums, vanilla, cinnamon, buttered leather, and according to one of our company, “the inside of a Bombay taxi driver’s jock strap,” though he didn’t tell us how he knew. And a taste of cedar wood, leather and old closets.

Thus fortified, the following morning the local MP, Janet Dean, turned up to see us on our way. Barry and I then travelled with Ian, Chris and Rudgie though Burton on the back of a horse drawn dray to the canal, where we set off back south again.

And so Barry was on his way – at a speed which, if I kept constant, would mean the whole journey would take me six and a half years…