A few beers in Brixton

A few beers in Brixton

On the Saturday just gone I finally went to Brixton. That it’s taken so long is shocking considering we first moved to London ten years ago and still work there so I apologise. I’ve always been aware of Brixton even from my distant upbringing in Wales where I recall watching Delbert Wilkins (Lenny Henry) try and launch his pirate radio station from a bedroom here.

I associate the area with a West Indian identity more than anywhere else in Britain but that’s not actually how I found it at the weekend – it just seemed as mixed as most centres in the capital. Maybe the demographics are changing. Then again, I didn’t venture anywhere not within a short walk of the tube station. What is obvious is that Brixton is becoming desirable to move to. I meet more and more young people who reside there and as with everywhere, this might be changing its character.

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Fittingly, my first visit was to Brixton Brewery. This is the eleventh beer venue I’ve been to in London that’s under a railway arch and I’ll come on to the twelfth by the end of this post. It’s a cramped space in the stamp of Partizan Brewery in Bermondsey. In fact, as I walked along Brixton Station Road I momentarily forgot where I was and found myself back in Bermondsey on Druid Street. Above is an image to prove the similarity.

I’ve never given much thought about the names of Brixton Brewery’s beers. Why had I never wondered why it’s called Windrush Stout? Because Empire Windrush was the ship that a generation of migrants arrived on half a century ago giving Brixton its identity. I’d never given any though to Electric IPA. Electric Avenue was the first thoroughfare in London to be lit electrically. Atlantic A.P.A is named after Atlantic Road. The only one I’d got right from the start was Effra Ale – the Effra is a now obscured river running under the streets to the mighty Thames. I love it when visiting a brewery gives you a bit of local history. I hope they name a beer after London’s only surviving windmill as it’s another local celebrity.

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Atlantic APA 5.4:

It’s lemon curd in colour appropriately topped by a beaten egg white meringue. The palate revels in a melon rind tartness.
Hops used: Citra, Simcoe, Galaxy.

Low Voltage (session strength version of their Electric IPA) 4:

It pours a cedar yellow with a milky wisp of a head. The bittering hops come straight through as they land on the tongue and give off grapefruit. There’s a tonic water minerality too.
Hops: Cascade, Amarillo, Centennial.

I learn of a hop I’ve never heard of: Falconer’s Flight. It’s named after US brewer Greg Falconer and is another of the highly tropical bullets the states are renowned for. I also love the fact Brixton Brewery lists all its hops on its display boards.

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One landmark on this short walk is utterly site specific – the park of up-cycled shipping containers called Pop Brixton. I eye it cautiously and walk around it. The graffiti on the back (see top of page) is art which in the corners has been graffiti’d over by er ….graffiti. There are evidently hierarchical levels to this discipline. I clock the front but don’t go in. After ogling it, it ends up revealing more about me than it; maybe it’s because I can’t see inside I don’t cross the threshold. I find myself worrying about the plumbing in the units and am aware that all three beery venues on my itinerary are very crafty so potentially comfort-free. I think it’s just me getting old and wanting to feel my large bottom on a soft surface. The corrugated metal exteriors put me off and put me in mind of corrugated metal interiors and the lack of warmth. I take a picture, turn on my heel and toddle to the Craft Beer Co. I find a comfy seat there even if I get acrophobia from climbing up to it.

 

dscf4560I have a half of Blackjack Brewery’s Bramling Cross – 4 ABV on cask. It’s bronze with an elderflower milk and notes of redcurrant. It’s plummy and quite smoky. Corky, even. It’s got a metallic note.

On key keg I order Redchurch Brewery’s sweet dry Hoxton Stout. As it’s poured, I marvel at the sublime ugliness of the elephantine leg the keg taps are connected to. This branch has an impressive channel that completely straddles the length of the bar. The keg and cask get referred to as the upper deck and lower deck.

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I think about how quickly the Craft Beer Co has grown from its humble spore in Pimlico. Including the daddy – The Cask and Kitchen, I’ve now been to six and am yet to explore Clapham or Brighton while a further two are set to open in Croydon and Limehouse! Ultimately, Craft Beer Co St Albans is its destiny and mine too.

Last on my list is The London Brew Lab (under my twelfth London railway arch) on Nursery Road and an innovative new project budding inside of it: The East India Brewing Company. This has been started by Matt and Claire. I’m actually there attending a pre-scheduled Meetup group launching a small range of tea beers. I’d assumed that the tea was the fifth element – an added ingredient but it’s actually a substitute for the hops themselves.

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As I’ve penned before – tea, or more specifically, tisanes can cover just about anything. You could even argue that one permutation of tea beer would be to have one brewed with hop cones meaning regular beer is already a tisane. In the liberal use of the word, tea encompasses drinks made by infusing leaves, bark, petals, stalks, fruit, roots and even seeds.

I thought the removal of hops by The East India Brewing Company was a bold move – especially in the context of this country’s tropical New World humulone fever. It makes their beer unique.

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I tried a Jasmine Lager (flower head), a Darjeeling Ale (plant leaf) and a Lapsang Ale (plant leaves typically smoked beforehand). They took me away from my well-tilled vocabulary to try and express their flavours. Unfortunately the only tea I have regularly at home is breakfast tea with milk and sweetener or Tea Pigs’ liquorice and peppermint infusion. Neither is a study into the finer characteristics of tea.

Sometimes with new tastes it’s a bit like abstract art. It helps if someone points out what you’re looking for. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this. I need an education in taste. I should have taken some bottles home but didn’t fancy humping that weight all the way back to Hertfordshire.

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I give my thanks for the hospitality but before I leave Brixton I sneakily return to the Craft Beer Co for no other reason than I’ve still got enough cash for a manager’s recommendation I saw on the menu earlier: Prairie Ales Raspberry Farmhouse Ale. It’s 8.4 ABV and shifting for £5.50 a third! Alcohol definitely helped with this decision. It made it the most expensive beer I’ve ever had – a pint would be £16.50 but you’re not supposed to look at it like that.

dscf4579The ale honked of raspberries. It was a cloudy salmon colour with a lily corona. It was tangy and fruity on the sip with a decaying fruit fug. Smooth. No dryness. The mind was set abuzz from the booze. It’s like a beer syrup you’d expect to dilute if it were a soft drink. I don’t regret making this purchase but was this modest slug worth £5.50? No. But I hope this parting burst of spontaneity helped make up for not entering Pop Brixton. Another time.

English fruit tarts

a sour fruit beer vertical tasting

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Sour beer has really taken off in Britain. It was exotic just several years ago, known only to connoisseurs who’d explored the beers of wider Europe. My first ever sour was by Kernel but now it’s part of every new brewery’s core range. Most traditional breweries are yet to catch up – maybe in part because it’s not a style suited to cask condition but I believe that the older boys will jump on board just as they did with black IPAs. If you were brought up in northern Europe, you might always have had a sour tooth. Why? Just follow this sentence.

Elgoods brewery, hailing from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, is one of the country’s most traditional and is an exception. Its recent employment of a coolship in the loft of one of their brewery buildings was a very radical move for a purveyor of bitter and milds. A coolship is a large fermenting tank open to the air. Airborne yeasts kickstart the fermentation rather than being introduced by the brewer. It’s how Lambic beer is brewed in the Pajottenland in Belgium. With unregulated wild yeasts, the brewer needs to keep their fingers crossed. We can’t use the L word here though as it has protected geographic status. For the fruit version of their spontaneously fermented beer, Elgoods have steeped raspberries and blackberries in it.

 

Elgoods Coolship Fruit – bottle 5% ABV

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The pour reminds me a bit of decanting a bottle of pink Lambrini – the staple free bottle of plonk gifted to children when they turn eighteen at nightclubs (no I didn’t). It’s like carbonated rose wine the blush is of the resin on toffee apples.

There’s an off-white corona of a head that swirls around – a spiral galaxy imploding.

The nose is beautiful. It reminds me of grenadine syrup or even Vimto. It’s the smell of my own hands after scrumping brambles and dewberries as a child.

The beer’s very carbonated on the sip: it hits the tongue fizzing. It’s nowhere near as sour an experience as I’d anticipated. Nothing like, say, a brett beer. It’s tart-sweet – the fruit pushing through the most is the raspberry. It’s never sharp enough to make you squint.

I can still feel the buoyancy of the malt through all this. It thickens the liquid into a kind of fruit compote.

There’s absolutely no dryness or indeed bitterness. Just the tart-sweet.

A very refreshing beer but with no real complexity. In fairness, it never claimed it. It’s a showy extrovert rather than an introvert.

 

Buxton Brewery/Lervig Aktibryggeri Trolltunga – Bottle conditioned 6.3% ABV

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On the eye it’s a hazy dingy yellow. The head is white and pockmarked like grouting.

The aroma is sour, unripe, aggressive, not ready to be eaten, gorgeous. It’s like you’ve sliced into something green and organic and the acidity’s seeping out like milk. It makes your eyes water.

The liquid washes over the tongue like a cold tide across a fever. Sour and sharp, it passes through the roof of your mouth to the back of your eyeballs and unfocuses them. It’s strongly carbonated too which helps spread it further quicker. Osmosis drags it in and hastens the intoxication.

The pincer movement of nose and palate causes acute goosebumps. It cuts straight through. Goose grass with its barbs, gooseberries with their sharpness, goosebumps in defence. It stays the safe side of heart burn proving the brewer’s crafted it, not lost control.

You open and shut your mouth like a goldfish. You lick your lips like a lizard. It’s so sour.

This beer screams out for a soft rich fatty cheese to balance it out in a seesaw of extremes.

It’s piercing and makes your tense gimlet eyes equally so. Beautiful.

 

Kernel Brewery Damson Sour – Bottle conditioned 4.1% ABV

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Bermondsey’s offering pours a pinky purple with a gentle carbonation. You can see bubbles erupting on the surface like a volcano crater pool. It looks like beetroot juice. A half moon of light beige froth coronas the crater.

I smell fermenting fruit – it’s like a food waste bin in the heat of summer. Bacterial breakdown is happening with a red wine balsamic edge.

It’s so gentle when you swig it – the first beer out of this trio to soothe despite being a sour. The flavours come through after a short delay. It’s suave and restrained in its taste.

There’s the sensation of eating handfuls of red currants. The plum (damson) is of the tartest variety but not to the extent this becomes puckering. It’s still sharp – slightly unripe pink rather than soft blue but carrying enough sweetness to make it sociable.

The mouthfeel is smooth and the liquid on the palate is tangy rather than fizzy. It’s almost as creamy as a fruit smoothie.

There is absolutely no dryness to this. It’s a gorgeous beer but very polite. It has a U rating and can be shown on mainstream TV in the early afternoon.

Its strongest facet is the unabashed aroma of decay and fermentation. I love it.

All three beers raise the bar for the style. Each can definitely come back to my boudoir but I do have a favourite in this vertical taste-off and it’s hands-down Trolltunga. Without overbalancing, it just kept its passion so that the finishing sips were as purging as the first. It wasn’t afraid to come on strong and forced you to sip it respectfully.

 

a predilection for sour?

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Llyn Padarn (Padarn Lake) with Llanberis on the far shore. This lake is a remnant of the last ice age.

It hasn’t taken long for sours to take off in Britain. From the Benelux countries northwards, sour fruit has been at the coxycc of desserts and fermentable drinks. In Britain we’ve traditionally sugared it up into jams and chutneys. In Poland, what they can’t do with plums and cherries isn’t worth knowing. The further north you go, the more varied the yield; colder climates – especially with altitude – seem to favour the dispersal of small fruit and berries. Norway, for instance, is rich with cloudberries, lingonberries, bilberries and loganberries.

My first taste of sour beer several years ago was a mild shock to the system but my palate instantly adapted and I’ve been wondering whether it’s been in there all along – a re-acquired taste. Looking back, it strikes me that the apples I always plumped for were the greenest – the ones that discharge electricity when you sink your teeth into them. Maybe I’ve had a predilection for sour because – in north west Europe – that’s the taste sensation I was actually brought up with.

I grew up in north Wales in the mid 1980s under the auspices of Snowdon in the small town of Llanberis. The area is dominated by slate, mountains, mossy bogs, sundew (our native little venus flytraps), ferns, glacial lakes and the ruins of miners’ dwellings and their chapels. It was a gorgeous landscape in which to be raised. When I taste things, my mind can go a long way back and it often gets sent back here.

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mountain goats on the ruins of miners’ huts. All buildings here are made from slate. The edge of one of the bonks blasted out by gun powder can be seen in the background.

Being reductionist, I could split my childhood experience with fruit down into three categories: satsumas, tinned fruit and wild fruit. The first was widely available when I was growing up in North Wales and little has changed – they came in a little red net bag from the local Co-op. Satsumas were also what were given to us each Christmas at school once we’d sat on Santa Claus’ knee (a diminutive teacher called Mrs Owen wearing a beard). The tinned fruit was the “official” food. Peaches and apricots swimming in sugared juices were doled out from industrial sized cans in the school canteen. The third category is more clandestine: the fruit or berries we’d scavenge from the countryside.

During the lighter months, upon leaving school, after flying around on a tree swing, scaling the rock screes or building dens in the undergrowth, we’d go off into a wooded area and sate our appetites in the bramble bushes. We’d always reach for the higher plunder and pick the fattest blackberries and dewberries. Each was scrutinised for mould, maggots or money spiders and then ingested. We sounded like pigs jostling for swill. Our sweaty little hands would turn pink and purple from the juices; it was like fruit henna. Fat berries contained the sweetness but lacked the cut through, the zing you get from the rosy sour ones lent a little frisson to the spine. There’s still some tartness when I buy blackberries from the supermarket now but they’re blousy and uniform in a bland way. I miss that little forager. His tastes were developed in the scrub.

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fallen crab apples bletting and mouldering

Sloping back roads had slate-encased drains on either side to channel the rainwater away and prevent the tarmac disappearing under floodwater during downpours. These smooth gulleys were fantastic when it was cold – the running water would freeze and we’d have a slalom. We’d adopt the pose of the Silver Surfer and plunge down scoring the lichen, moss and ivy stalks along the dry stone walls on the flight down. I recall the vapour billowing from my mouth in the dusk like the clouds trailing a steam train. Above, the sky evolved into a violet nebula pierced by powder scatters of stars. The ice channels glowed in the dark.

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the remaining turret of the Norman Castell Dolbadarn (Dolbadarn Castle) obscures Snowdon in the distant background.

Back home, our back garden was on a split level. The bottom half housed the coal bunker and the top half had a small lawn. There was also an old fish tank up there with gooseberries growing inside. Translucent and veined like mutant grapes, gooseberries are a shortcut to my childhood. The panes of the tank were broken and I tested the sharpness by gently teasing an edge with my index finger. There was a squelch as my flesh got unzipped by a shard. An inward gasp and I wrenched it free. Blood welled up immediately and I plunged the digit into my mouth. There was that rich taste of copper coins and that meaty sweetness of cytoplasm you taste when you cut into a joint. I still think about it when I write tasting notes. It can be found in beers as diverse as lagers and stouts as well as fruit sours. It’s not just the taste of fruit I remember.

I used to spend a lot of time at the lagoons. Like everywhere around Llanberis, the ground is a jigsaw of slate which makes it an ideal arsenal for for skimming stones across the still waters. Alder and willow trees border the lagoons. In the low canopies, siskins flitter. On the water, the silent aerodynamic goosander goes about its hunt. Clouds of midges congregate, each seemingly trying to get sucked up your nostrils. It’s where I used to go to swim.

img_2523 Llanberis lagoon
the edge of the lake where the lagoons are. I have watched siskins in this very tree

For my ninth birthday I got a pair of flippers and I used them at the lagoon. They were obviously completely useless in such a small pool. I’d already been wearing them around the house – they made it very difficult to go up and down stairs but I insisted they would.

I’d ease myself into the pool, edging carefully in as you could both slip on the subaqueous slate or get cut by it. The water was chilled. Submerging the core between the groin and the chest was the point of no return – if you could push that under, you could swim but often my breath would hitch in shock hiccups from the cold. My abdomen used to display the tube map of green and blue veins under my pallid skin. Goosebumps would render my body the coarseness of sandpaper.

Below a certain depth, the slate became carpeted in green which was like walking on velvet. We were also aware of dangers in the waters of this post-industrial town: the water could hide the metal carcasses of ancient mining machinery. It could also harbour spools of rusting barbed wire. I know of one pupil at my school that got tetanus after such an encounter. I remember vividly the smell and even taste of the lagoon water. Submerged so just my nose and eyes were above the water, I got my own breath deflected back off the surface. It reminded me of salted vegetable soup. The salt was the mineral-rich lake, the vegetables the plants and algae. This recollection, believe it or not, comes back to me when I sample Goses.

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roseships or haws – the seeds are perfect for stuffing down the clothing of pupils you don’t like

After trying underwater somersaults and seeing my swimming trunks inflate from the bubbles I churned up from the floor’s organic bed, I came up for air and surfaced to an audience: there was a small group of little boys in perfect little suits pointing at me. They stared at me in disbelief – I could only stare back at them. The adults appeared behind them and I witnessed my first ever Sikh family identified by the father wearing a turban. The mother gave me a smile like aunties do and I recall finding comfort in it. That was the stand off: the little boys in suits gawped and the creature in the lagoon leered back. All I needed was a large lily pad to squat on. The thing that bound us was our common fascination. I went on to show off by doing forward rolls and when my quivering pot-bellied form emerged dripping up the opposite bank, It was Schwarzenegger’s torso from Commando.

I’ve taken you on a little detour here. What does this have to do with sour fruit? Let me take a few back steps. These lagoons were home to wild strawberries – small red bullets of sweetness in the undergrowth. The strawberries I buy from the supermarket suffer from gigantism and have no resemblance to their diminutive kith I knew from Llanberis. Wild strawberries are the size of a pea – concentrated sweetness unless they were still green in which case they tasted the same as their stalks and a bit like celery. There was a local government/council warning on sign posts about foxes and dogs urinating on or spraying strawberry plants which unfortunately always grow at ground level. We just never really paid much attention.

On the roads leading up the mountainside, rosehips or haws were everywhere along the fences. You can get rosehip tea and it’s been brewed with beer. However, we loved them because you could tear the flesh open and scrape out the fluffy seeds and dump down the back of the T shirt of the boy in front. As an itching powder, it’s unsurpassed and can actually leave welts.

As a rite of passage, you’d learn to tell the difference between stinging nettles and dead nettles by the drooping flower heads. This enabled you to show off by pretending you were so hard you didn’t care about getting stung. It could backfire sometimes if someone else thrashed you with real nettles thinking you were impervious. The best was when an uninitiate plunged his hands into a crop of real nettles to join in. A boy screaming from the pain and realisation has its own special pitch. From the welts caused by rosehip seeds to the swelling and hives from stinging nettle acid, why are young boys such bastards?

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sloes – the bitterest sourest flesh in the hedgerow

A vanilla pod nucleates anything you cook it with and dominates. It can be beyond sweet – sickly so. A Jamaican scotch bonnet sends the heat of spice soaring and can even be deadly for some people. In a similar vein, sloe berries sit on the throne for sourness. They were abundant where I was brought up. Visually they’re dull blue/green and absorb light through a fine coating of powder. They’re the most sour, bitter thing you can put in your mouth. I can recall my first foray – you bite into the matt flesh and there’s a pause. Then you can’t feel your mouth. Then as your tongue panics and searches for moisture, it finds fur growing on your teeth and gums. Try it yourself. The effect lasts quite a while too. My cousins and I used to chomp on these!

Is it any wonder I’m so comfortable with sour beers in my adulthood? Beers like these. Every beer has a backstory about how it came to be, but every drinker also has a backstory that can match it in taste. This was mine.

everybody runs…………

“If you live in Boston, Samuel Adams draft beer (Summer Ale) and Dunkin’ Donuts are essentials of life. But I discovered to my delight that even these indulgences can be offset by persistent exercise.”

Haruki Murakami – What I talk about when I talk about running 2008

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The above excerpt is the first time I can recall hearing a connection between beer and running. It wasn’t even me reading the book at the time (though I have now). This was in 2009. My interest in craft beer was stirring and I was told of Murakami referencing Samuel Adams. Back then, I’d never seen their beer in Britain. In the book the author also talks about slaking his thirst after a lone marathon in Greece with glasses of Amstel.

That same year Eddie Izzard completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sports Relief. In the televised highlights, we saw him accompanied on his journey with his own ice cream van and making frequent stops for cake, chips and beer before ploughing on. Obviously the British diet was designed for long distance running – we just hadn’t realised its true purpose until then. He’s now done 27 marathons in 27 days. Liquid nourishment has played its part.

Sitting at the window shelf of the Craft Beer Co near Covent Garden last year, I watched a group of delivery people unwind after a busy shift. It was hot and their faces were still radioactive from exertion. They weren’t regular postal workers but courier runners that cut through the crowds of central London and get to their clients faster than any vehicle can. They wore cubic heat-insulated backpacks either to keep the goods cool, hot or just to convey them. Each member looked like an athlete and bore the company logo on their lycra outfits. Together, they made pints of Beavertown’s Neck Oil disappear.

My wife completed a half marathon around Hyde Park in 2013. Once past the finishing line, we went to Tattersalls Tavern on Raphael Street. I’m often scolded for drinking too quickly but on this occasion, her pint of Staropramen sluiced down her gullet like floodwater down a storm drain closely followed by a second. I couldn’t keep up.

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You can’t walk down a street or through a park in Britain without hearing that woman’s tinny voice off RunKeeper and the panting from her captive as he/she overtakes you on the pavement.

Running is such a challenge but beer’s so damned refreshing and tasty.

For running, my venue is not the outdoors but the temperature-controlled confines of the gym. This is my choice. I have zero patience for obstacles like prams, children, dogs, bikes, road labourers or, god forbid, other joggers who don’t move out of my way. I can’t bear pausing in my rhythm at pedestrian crossings or to be constantly looking behind my shoulder for speeding contractors’ vans. I prefer the gym.

I fix on my own corona’d eyes in the mirror opposite not through vanity but as a means of completing a circuit between me, my outward appearance and my body. It seems to improve posture. When the sweat starts dripping from my fringe to be subsumed by the conveyor belt, I start to picture a glass of beer. Normally my taste is for the cask beer engines but in these conditions, I envisage a cool glass of Kölsch, Pilsner or Saison – a bead of condensation tracing its way down the glass with the all the seduction of a shoulder strap being slipped off.

I seem to run better after an evening on the beer. There are carbs and fibre in there too. I’ve also noticed that on some occasions as I pound away under the tv screens, my sweat starts to smell like a brewery. I love red wine but it’s no good for running. There’s no body the day after – just a vinegar incision to the pit of the stomach, a feeling of emptiness, a mauve blot behind the retina and a muggy head which compromises balance. If you shut your eyes, you might fly off the equipment horizontally.

Everybody runs now. My wife and I run, our neighbours to the left run, our neighbours to the right run and our neighbours opposite run. All relatives of my generation run. Our dog runs.

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But what I’ve noticed in particular is the amount of people in London’s beer community (make of that what you will) who run. I’m aware of this primarily through Twitter updates but it’s listed as a passion on bloggers’ websites too. Also, under the brewery railway arches of Hackney and Bermondsey, there are always drinkers in running gear. Swillers of beer never used to do this.

All it takes is a visit to the Great British Beer Festival or any other CAMRA festival to see what might happen if the calories from ale (and the ensuing munchies for salty carbs) are never burned off. You see these humans and they’re impressive. There’s a Homo sapiens at the core of each of those giant baubles of adipose tissue but I kid you not, I’ve seen a man of this stamp scale three tiers of racking to tap a cask on the top level – the scene looked like it had been directed by Peter Jackson!

Here I stress only the feeling and association rather than the medical facts – I’m unqualified to write about such things and to be honest, I don’t want to spoil things by researching the underlying health risks. I’m not trying to say that beer is an important component of running, but it’s the best possible reward and seems able to feed it. This is about the sensory experiences – they’re conjoined in a complementary way: the beer gives the fuel for the run, the run gives the thirst for the beer.

on writing – a rest before publishing

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I haven’t written for several days as I take baby steps building a website. Whilst checking that the tabs work, I happened to read something I recently published. I discovered an analogy so comprehensively tortured it had been mangled. How had I managed to write it?

I’ve given this oversight some thought and I think it came about at the end of several days’ interminable tweaking to the post whereby I focussed on the grammar, structure and individual detail but not what the sum of their parts was actually up to. Each component was intact, but when turned on, the machine sodomised itself.

There’s just enough ambiguity in those last sentences to avoid a mixed metaphor.

At the time of writing the original post, I was being careful to avoid cliché. By swerving to avoid a collision, it’s possible to drive into another car. That sentence sums up the point I’m making quite well, it’s just not very imaginative. In fact, if you stand in that sentence, you can just about make out cliché in the distance.

Several days’ break from the post allows me to read it anew and that cataclysm couldn’t be more clear – it’s the whorl at the centre of a spiral that devours the rest of the text.

Our modern ability to cut and paste also harbours potential risks: the care you took to avoid the repetition of words can be scotched as the top line of one paragraph grinds with a crepitus against the bottom line of the one above it – they didn’t used to border each other but now, like countries, there’s a skirmish.

A notion tailing the end of one section can also bend the meaning of another at the start of the next; they’re touching each other now and contaminating each others’ previously isolated ideas. They used to dwell in different parts of the landscape but now you’ve unwittingly made them interact as neighbours.

When you’re constantly on your own writing, you’re too plugged into it. You actually need repose to unplug so you can see it more as the reader than the author. Even though you subject the text to multiple read-throughs, I believe you become like an orator rushing through rote passages and only concentrating on the recent edits. After a few days’ absence, you get to hear like the audience again.

Best is to actually work on another post completely and get intimate with that. When you’re close to completing, go back to the previous post instead. Give it the once over and the errors will stand out like the last glowing embers in a hearth.

I like learning as I go on and several days were taken before I pressed the publish button for this post. I made quite a few edits! If you can (but often you can’t), give yourself this break to actually read the words as if for the first time.