Archive for November, 2013

Showdown? Draw!

The Classic Beer Holster

The Classic Beer Holster

This is a review of the Classic Beer Holster by Great Gadgets. From the off I’m going to be clear that I have received a Beer Holster from Great Gadgets for the purposes of this review. Now, I’m no fool, (I heard that!) and I realise what time of year it is and why I’m being asked to write a free advertisement for them. But when I wrote to them I did promise them, and you dear reader, that it will be an honest review of what I really think.

I know that most of the people that buy one of these are going to give them to their beer loving friends and family. It makes for a great stocking filler. The idea is sound. Why wouldn’t you want one? And in any case, even if you never use it, it’s something to open on christmas day that will make someone smile. That got me thinking, why not use it? Where would it be most useful? Would it really work?

This is one of those products which does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a holster which has been designed for keeping drinks in. According to the blurb on the side of the box it is 100% real leather which is great, I’m just not sure how popular this will be with the animal rights groups. Saying that I have to admit that when I first opened the box it did have the reassuring smell of an shoeshop I used to get my school shoes from in Rushden, exactly what you want from leather products.

The beer holster seems to me to be well made, strong stitching and rivets hold it together in a practical and visually stylish way. I have been using the holster now for four days and it still looks brand new, not even a scuff mark.

My belts

My belts

The packaging boasts that it “fits on any belt up to 4 cm wide !”. I have to admit that I was suckered into this one, thinking “hhmm up to 4cm, that’s quite a lot”. Right up to the moment I went to put the holster on. I realised that 4cm isn’t that big for a belt at all, in fact the belt I use most often is 3.9cm. I do have other belts. A quick survey of my belts shows that I have an average belt width of 3.4cm but more crucially than that, none that were 4cm or more. So in truth it will fit nearly all standard belts. TIP: For those who have bought or are planning on buying a beer holster. I have tried the holster with both my smallest and largest belts and can confirm that beer cans stay more secure with a wider belt.

It may surprise you to learn that I don't take many "selfies", and being so out of touch with this modern phenomena I found it bloody difficult to take a picture of my own hip!

It may surprise you to learn that I don’t take many “selfies”, and being so out of touch with this modern phenomena I found it bloody difficult to take a picture of my own hip!

The main claims which really needs testing is that it will hold “regular beer or soda bottles and cans” and that you can “Draw and retract your beer with one hand”. The first of these is easy enough – yes, it does hold beer bottles and cans. I didn’t try it with a soft drinks can, but it did work with a can of beer. The idea, however, that it is an easy, one handed operation, is only half true. I found that it was perfectly fine with the can of beer, but in the case of a bottle of beer, not quite. I was using a bottle of Banks’s Bitter, a fairly standard sized 500ml uk bottle. It does fit into the holster, but it is a very snug fit, and requires two hands to pull the bottle both in and out. Not the easy one handed operation that a can provides.

I was thinking about practical uses for the Beer Holster. The Amazon website suggests a number of things: many of these suggestions could be summed up as parties of different types. I don’t know about you but I have been to many parties and have always managed to find somewhere to put my drink. Another suggestion is for the DIYer. I can see this. Someone half way up a ladder, painting a ceiling and can of something refreshing by their side.

I had my own thoughts as well, picture the scene: a busy pub, bar or club, there’s no where to sit and you don’t want to have to queue every time you want a drink. Now you can order two drinks, hold one and drink the other. Second situation can be summed up in one word. Glastonbury. The worlds greatest rock festival has always let you take your own drinks, drinks that, obviously, you want to keep in your tent. You don’t want to keep going back and forth across the site every time you want a drink, so why not strap an extra tin to your hip? In fact, why not get a few, I’m sure I could have done with half a dozen of these orbiting my hip when I was last there.

One final thing worth pointing out is that when wearing the Beer Holster you can not sit down. Doing so will result in the beer in your holster being spilled all over your lap. Not a good look at a party.

So, what’s the verdict? Well I wouldn’t buy one for myself unless I had a need and I don’t. My house does have a few flat surfaces that I can rest a drink on. That being said I think it can be a good stocking filler gift at christmas for a DIYer or beer lover, or indeed anyone who does a lot of standing based activities. Does birdwatching have to be done standing? Perhaps ramblers would be interested? If you can think of a way of justifying it for the person you love this christmas, then go for it. It does work and will probably last well because as far as I have seen it is well made, I predict that it has some longevity to it.

The Classic beer holster is available from Amazon for £14.90

Mermaid Porter

Lately I have steered away from writing posts about a single beer because, lets face it, there are so many blogs out there which do that better than I. I did have to mention this one though, simply because it was so expensive (expensive at least by my rather fiscally limited standards).

The Little Mermaid - Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid – Copenhagen

A few months ago I saw Roger Protz write this article about Jacobsen (a Carlsberg brand) brewing a one off batch of Mermaid Porter to celebrate the centenary of Carl Jacobsen presenting the city of Copenhagen with a statue of a mermaid. There is a whole history of Carl Jacobsen and Carlsberg and everything which goes with this story, I’m not going into it here. If you want to know more, why not try the internet?

I had mentioned this beer to a few friends while we were all sitting at the club. My mate Darren (who by the way makes excellent cakes for all occasions) was the only one who would stump up the cash to buy a bottle. I say a bottle, buying online, the only way I could find it was on the Carlsberg online shop, where it is sold as a gift pack for €18 containing two bottles, each containing 750 ml of porter. After postage and my bank fee for buying in a foreign currency and all the other charges and crap that comes with buying online it worked out at £19.20 per litre or if you prefer, as I do, £10.89 per pint. At that price I’m hoping it will be exquisite.

For a while the gift box sat in my larder gathering dust while Darren and myself tried to think of a good enough reason to drink it. We can’t just crack it open, it needs to be a special occasion. Well, that was the plan. The other day we surcomed to curiousity.

Bottle #3093

Bottle #3093

We opened bottle number 3093 with care and poured it out, sharing one bottle. It poured the darkest colour. Saying it was jet black would be silly but it was really dark, just the merest hint of dee deep brown. It was very effervescent, producing a mocha coloured head which disappeared quickly. The whole thing looked like pouring a bottle of cola.

Darren's Hand

Darren’s Hand

There wasn’t much of an aroma and the taste was at first a bit overdone. To my mind it was perhaps just too bitter and a bit too carbonated. As the drink went down, these things mellowed out a bit and we got used to it.

It had a leathery taste to it, mixed in with a bitter dark chocolate. In the mouth it was very thick and luscious, especially after the carbonation had died down a bit. It’s aftertaste was dry and slightly bland, although there was a lingering spiciness, the sort of aftertaste you would expect from red wine. We got no sense of the oysters or the samphire that were supposedly put into the mix.

The "Salesman shot" of the whole product. From packaging to glass in one image.

The “Salesman shot” of the whole product. From packaging to glass in one image.

If you had given me half a pint of this at a beer festival I would have said “mmm, yes very good” and that would have been it. At a beer festival it would have been shipped with enough other beer to make the postage more economical. I know the reasons why it is so expensive and I know that it is a good beer, but I can’t quite justify it being quite worth that much. It was said in the blurb that this is a beer which was designed to be aged, and that is what we are going to do. We have both agreed to leave it at least a year or two before we try the other bottle and see what differences there are. Hopefully it will mature into a more rounded drink with more pronounced flavours.

As it stands I can’t in all honesty give Jacobsen Mermaid Porter any more than 3 ½ pints. Hopefully the second bottle, given time, will improve with age.

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Jacobsen Mermaid Porter (Limited Edition 2013) is still available for €18 at

Beer Blast

My copy of Beer Blast (sorry about the mess!)

My copy of Beer Blast (sorry about the mess!)

I’ve just finished a book called Beer Blast which is easily summed up by the strapline on the cover: “The inside story of the brewing industry’s bizarre battles for your money”. Written by Philip Van Munching, whose family has been the American importers of Heineken until recently, he is in a great position to write about the beer industry from an internal perspective.

Right off the bat I’m going to say now that this is a book which is quite niche. It’s not be a book that is going to appeal to everyone, that said if you are reading this blog then you probably have more than a passing interest anyway.

Written in roughly chronological order, but more crucially looking at different areas of the beer market one at a time. Van Munching talks about the different (sometimes sublimely ridiculous) means by which the big beer companies in America all competed with each other. During the middle of the book he goes into more detail about the inner workings of Van Munching and Co (his families business), the importers of Heineken and how everything changed when it was taken over by Heineken themselves. Without spoiling it for anyone, this section is hilarious and bitchy and truly spills the beans on some things which perhaps some would have prefered not be published for the whole world to read.

I personally have two problems with this book, and neither of them are the fault of the author. One: it is completely about the American market. Don’t get me wrong but a lot of the brands in question are not brands I am most familiar with. And Two: For me this is all a bit too far in the past. Again, not the fault of the book. When it was published in 1998 I guess everything relevant was included. My problem is that I was nine years old in 1998. In fact for me personally in the whole book there is reference to only one thing which I genuinely remember, which is a Budweiser advert, mentioned right at the end of the book.

There are other books on the market which tell the history of beer in the UK and are much more recent, but none of these take the standpoint and tell the story from a business point of view. The insider knowledge and the business logic which is applied is clever, informative and entertaining, in fact at some points it’s downright hilarious. A few points in the book do get a bit bogged down with numbers, but that is a necessary evil when talking about business and every time it is key to explaining why something happened or the result of (usually) a ridiculous advertising campaign.

One last key point about this book is that Van Munching guides you through the business process which is easy and accessible, he explains why things worked and why they didn’t without being patronising and also without the reader needing their own business degree. You think that when you go to read such a book it’s going to be a bit dry and a bit dull, nothing is further from the truth. I genuinely couldn’t put this book down, which is more than can be said for some other books. If there was a new book which picks up where the old one left off, even if was still exclusively about America, I’d buy it in a heart beat.

I give it four and a half pints out of five.

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Beer Blast by Philip Van Munching is still available if you look for it on Amazon via private sellers as well as eBay and I’m sure many, many other good (and bad) online retailers. ISBN-13: 9780812930351.