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Party Pooping Scoopers
Ah - tickers! A few questions/comments on the subject: Do tickers actually love like real ale, or do they just love to say they have tried more than the next person? Do people actually admit to being tickers?? Perhaps a "Tickers Guide to Real Ale" should be brought out [CAMRAT - Campaign for Real Ale Tickers]. Should tickers only be allowed in Wetherspoon's pubs and beer festivals? [huge selection of ales to get them excited!] Where do I get my "TINKERS, TICKERS AND GYPSIES NOT WELCOME HERE" sign? Oops - perhaps I might get a ticking off for that!
Jay Seldon, Manor Arms Inn, Abberley 27th October 2005

Apparently so, though I feel they are in the minority. It's just that the rest of the world over play the 'hobby', to the point that it is common place for anyone who likes something new or different to try gets branded a 'ticker', usually by those who would be happy if all that was available was Tetley's, or suchlike, in my experience. Have a look at www.scoopergen.co.uk, run by an ex-ticker.... there already is a "Tickers Guide to Real Ale" - it's called The Imbiber. There are also e-mail groups such as Scoopgen [Google again] - and yes I am a member, but it is useful for information on new breweries, for when we get approached to supply new and unusual guest beers [and general feedback on beers in general]. Tickers [or scooper, scratcher etc] wouldn't be seen dead in a Wetherspoon's [unlike the beer...]. And a number of beer festivals as well, by all accounts. We have a pub local to us that is renowned as a 'Tickers' pub, the Strathmore Arms near Hitchin. They have a couple of regular beers [Fuller's and Woodforde's at present], and three never repeated guest beers, nearly always 'new' beers or breweries. But all but a very few pints a week go to the locals who enjoy a couple of the guests, and then have their regular tipples if nothing takes their fancy. This is how it seems to work in nearly all other such pubs. And the festivals? Well they are all well attended, and only a small percentage of attendees are CAMRA members, so I doubt the true ticker attendance is even high enough to record statistically. I think that tickers are viewed by many beer enthusiasts the same way that CAMRA members are stereotyped by the public at large - a minority issue/interest played up to be a convenient group to blame/laugh at/look down on etc. Unless you are a brewer of course, and then it appears that they feel tickers are a reason to exist. Some tickers claim to have drunk umpteen thousand [10,000 plus...] beers. I am no statistician, but there are only so many variations on beer recipes, despite all the complexities of flavour that can be found.
Steve Banfield, Buntingford Brewery 27th October 2005

Thanks for that informative reply Steve. However, before I have legions of tickers at my pub baying for my blood, my post was only meant to be tongue in cheek. I have no grievance against tickers or bottlers. Each to their own, I say.
Jay Seldon, Manor Arms Inn, Abberley 27th October 2005

Baaah, just when I was getting excited by your messages Jay, you go and blow it by 'bottling' it [cheap pun fully intended]. Burn their sideboards, pull their short and curlies out with a pair of pliers, take a cheese grater to their nads .... but not "each to their own". Having said that, I've just looked at the website [www.scoopergen.co.uk] that Steve suggested and it's very funny in places BUT BUT BUT this is most unusual for a ticker - they are generally complete social outcasts. Right, I'm off to The Wellington with an oxyacetylene torch......
Kieron McMahon 27th October 2005

Where do I sign up to be a ticker? It sounds fun. I have got my anorak from my trainspotting days [complete with hidden map/note book pocket] but do I need a thermos and flip flops?
Paul Williams, Birmingham 27th October 2005

Ticking beers is just one of a vast number of male autistic gene expressions. Most males are inclined towards collecting whether it is train or bus numbers to the more extreme lift and skip numbers. Within the spectrum are stamp and record collecting, both predominately male occupations. All of these occupations are seen as anoraky but the average football fan has the same inclination. First you have to be in the clan by wearing the strip, then you refer to the team as mine, even though it might be owned by an American or Russian. Then of course you must know all the players both past and present, who scored when and how many etc, all their personal life and who is likely to buy them. Personally I cannot believe that small and microbrewers can brew vast numbers of beer without resorting to gyle brewing or blending. Most do not have the equipment or the cash to pay for lots of different ingredients. Brewers like Archer's have as many as ten different brews on the market at a time. In one pub I visited out of six beers four came from Archer's. I prefer to try something new but also have my favourites.
Dave Guest, Birmingham 27th October 2005

Thanks for that explanation Dave, it does help me with something I remember getting quite annoyed about last year while I was working in the catering hall at Dudley Winter Ales Festival…. I found myself quite irrationally upset by the behaviour of a bunch of scoopers. These guys populated two large tables in the food area for the first two days of the festival. They may have been there on the last day too but I wasn't. They turned up with their own pint glasses and grubby bags full of plastic bottles and labels. One of group would wander off to the bar and buy a pint, all would have a taste and the remainder was emptied into a bottle, labelled and disappeared into the bag; presumably to be shared with others later. As festivals go we served fairly good food at Dudley Winter Ales Festival: game pie, generously filled cobs, the local Black Country speciality gray pays and bacon plus a veggie version of gray pays [those were the days]. Our scooper friends brought their own food and shamelessly filled tables that could have been taken by other diners, not moving until last orders were called when they shuffled off to god knows where. I do recognise my anger was quite irrational, it's not like they started a fight or anything, although their over loud conversation was of mind-numbing inanity. But they were so disengaged with the festival – they could have been anywhere. Though I guess they could read their bottle labels later to remember where they'd been. Now I understand this is just another part of alien male behaviour that often causes me amusement. I like bygone things like steam railways, narrowboats, vintage buses etc., But whenever I go to a steam festival, waterways event or drop in at the Transport Museum I always find myself collared by someone [male] informing me that such and such is not accurate, "Midland Red livery was a darker red than that" or "you'd never really have got that engine pulling that carriage" I smile politely but I really don't care and can't imagine why anyone else would.
Jan Hurst, Netherton 27th October 2005

Brewers have traditionally used this method of brewing to brew different beers using the same equipment. There are two methods. 1. When the wort has been collected and the mash has been sparged you can add more liquor to the mash and when you run it off you will have a lower gravity brew. This was often called second runnings and was used for low gravity boys bitter. 2. The more common method is to mash a high gravity wort and then water it down to suitable gravities. One brewer who uses this method is Timothy Taylor's [allegedly]. They mash a high gravity wort and add liquor [water] to make Landlord, add caramel to make Ram Tam, add more liquor to make Best Bitter, add more liquor to make Golden Best and add caramel to Golden Best to make Dark Mild. So you get five different beers from one mash.
Dave Guest, Birmingham 27th October 2005

The two methods mentioned by Dave Guest are more common with the bigger breweries [i.e. national/regional] but some micros also engage in this practice. They are methods used since time immemorial, and could at least be considered traditional! The art of high gravity brewing is a common way of getting more beer in the FV [fermenting vessel] than you can get out of the mash tun or copper. It is in fact practised by nearly all breweries to some degree, for reasons of improved output at the larger end, or because it is better to be slightly high on gravity at the end of the process than too low, which applies to probably all micros. This latter reason involves only enough 'liquoring back' (adding brewing water at the end of the process) to reach the required gravity, and is rarely enough to affect the beer if the brewer has got his water calculations about right. Remember that without the use of modern process control, additional enzymes & sugars etc, brewing is not an exact science! This still of course only produces one beer. To get more than one beer before fermentation you can use either of the methods described by Dave, though in reality High Gravity is mostly used to describe the art of Liquoring Back in a big way - and may explain a thin, dull brew (think of anything?). Of course this is possible without watering down if the process / recipe is at fault. Dave's second method is known as 'Parti-Gyling', (Gyle being a brewers term for a single brew, Quality being used to describe the recipe, ie today's brew is Quality: Bowel Cruncher; Gyle number: 007). In essence Parti-Gyling needs high gravity brewing principles to work (ie lots of malt & added sugars etc), and involves separating the beer at some point, either before or after the boil. Before the boil is probably the most common, and allows the use of different hop varieties, additional malt extracts etc to alter the beers. Given that all beer is mostly pale malt, there is no reason why a stout and an IPA could not brewed side by side by this method, with the use of suitable extracts in the copper. A number of national and regional brewers use this method - and indeed probably have done from the start. Another common method of creating an extra beer is blending. Again, not a new idea at all, and of course well practised in the wine and whisky trades. The simplest way of doing this is to use a Racking Tank, a tank which is used to fill the casks from. You just transfer part of the contents of two (usually) or more fermenters into the tank, and fill the casks. This is quite common amongst micro's. This is a method we will be using once we get our second/third fermenters running - we brew 2 days running, and rack on the same day (and we are open about beers that are blends). Best done with completely different recipes otherwise you don't get a suitably 'unique' beer. The ratios of the beer can of course be varied, we only use 50/50, but for example most tickers will accept 75/25 as a minimum I believe (oh yes, they have 'rules' you know!). The Duty people have a slight mistrust of blending unless you can satisfactorily show you have got the ABV of the blend exactly as you state it to be. Some breweries will blend by decanting from casks, but this method increases the risks of infection. Blending as a method in breweries stretches back a long time, and indeed Porter as a style most likely was a result of blending, as indeed Guinness once was (so it is said). It is of course possible to use other adjuncts to alter a beer after fermentation, for example honey, fruit, dark sugars and anything else you fancy (all of which of course can be used at any time in the process), indeed even vegetables, and (I believe this has been done) tea bags. The results may be somewhat mixed though in these latter cases. Kitchen Brewery were renowned for using vegetables.... Now for the really dodgy stuff, designed to attract scoopers. Dry hopping is a common way of making one beer into another. We always dry hop, and whilst it is good for the beer flavour wise, I have yet to seen a big enough difference between hop varieties to convince me it has a greater effect of flavour than a landlord can (dry hopping alone though make a big difference, but again, it doesn't make a new beer IMHO). Some breweries (and even one or two wholesalers) will save themselves the work, and just change the name of the beer. After all, no-one can drink all those beers and remember them all, and of course the landlord has an effect on the flavour, so who will notice? Just how prevalent re-badging is I do not know - I know it goes on, I know some who blatantly do it, and there is I believe a scoopers avoid lists of such breweries. The fact it still then happens proves in my view two things, firstly scoopers/tickers are a very small (but vocal) bunch with no real effect on the industry, and secondly there are too many landlords who always insist on something new to sell. Of course House Beers are often (but not always!) re-badges, some nationally brewed regional beers were in the 70's/80's, and there are some 'virtual' breweries out there who get there beer brewed by others, and in one or two cases these are alleged re-badges of other breweries beers (please note the alleged, I know of one case where this is claimed falsely). So is it possible to have a massive beer range from a micro? Say you brew 5 days a week, at approx 20 firkins a go (but brew length, ie volume, is irrelevant here). You could have 5 beers. By sensible blending whilst racking you could get maybe another 2 or 3. This gives you 8. The next week you could do it all again, but with different recipes. You now have 16 beers. But you would have sold some already (I hope), so this figure may come down. Allow 5-6 weeks max shelf life, and you could soon legitimately build up a large range of beers. Personally, I have my doubts about this working in reality, but in theory it can be done. Whilst we were brewing in Leicestershire we only occasionally did repeated recipes, and after a while I felt we were running out of options for something distinctively different, bearing in mind there are approx 40 - 50 hop varieties, many of which are tweaked versions of others, and around 10 or so malt options, most of which are restricted in terms of volume used of what a drinkable beer! So there is only a finite number of recipe options in my view. Add to that the fact that yeast gives a strong flavour profile (in some cases too strong...), and the water has an impact, and you can see why some breweries beers may appear to taste the same, yet are in reality separate recipes/brews. At the end of the day, it is often simpler just to drink a beer if you like it, regardless of whether it is on it's third name this month, a watered down version of a stronger beer, or one brewed with hopped malt extract and enzymes. After all, you probably drove down in re badged or parti-gyled car, and had rebadged food at lunchtime, and wear a designer sports that is from the same sweat shop in Manilla as what is sold in Asda but with a different label. Sorry if I have rambled on, but I am sure something in here will be of interest!
Steve Banfield, Buntingford Brewery 27th October 2005

This is how sad some tickers are. Leicester CAMRA run survey trips once a month to visit pubs to check for suitability for the Good Beer Guide following a recommendation. On one occasion, we were asked to visit an Everard's pub that had recently been refurbished to the tune of £500,000. On entering, one of our members walked back to the minibus and sat on it while we were all in the pub on the grounds that "There's nothing here that I need". We said, have Tiger, he declined. His loss. I have often driven to my local in the winter and had a pint and taken two more home in a bottle. It tastes much different in only half an hour later and a two mile drive home. How the hell these tickers can drink their beers the next day after dragging it around in a shopping trolley is beyond me. If any one ever sees me doing this, permission to shoot me is granted.
Keith Williams, Chairman Leicester CAMRA 27th October 2005

That is outrageously sad! So it proves that some tickers aren't even bothered about having a nice pint, its all about the "collection". Okay - I take back my comment "each to their own". They are a disgrace to everyone who enjoys a decent pint. If I see anyone bottling beer from my pub, they will feel the end of my toe up their arse! If they aren't man enough to drink a pint, then they should collect ale flavoured 'scratch & sniff' stickers. Then they could mount them in a nice scrap book and trade them with their mates. Which brings me to another point - do "bottlers" swap samples with other people? A bit like, trading two Lampard football cards for a Beckham. If there are any bottlers out there - can you let us know which ales are the most collectable.
Jay Seldon, Manor Arms Inn, Abberley 27th October 2005

Well, there is no point drinking just for the sake of it. Although in this case it is perhaps a bit far. As uninteresting as Everard's may be when compared to some of the good stuff produced by the micro's of Leicestershire, I have yet to see a minibus that was more interesting!
Steve Banfield, Buntingford Brewery 27th October 2005

I recall going to a beer festival a few years ago where there was a notice stating that tickers were not 'welcome', could have even said 'not permitted'. Not sure where it was, probably Shrewsbury. Taking that one step further, I fail to see how tickers can rate a beer given they only seem to take a sip, put the rest into plastic bottles and, presumably share with fellow tickers at some time later.
Alan Jones, Wellington 27th October 2005

Some years ago I was in the Port'n'Ale when this bloke wondered in at about 10.40pm and ordered a half. He drank it, then on last orders proceeded to order another selection of beers, all in halves. The barman said he wouldn't be served because he couldn't possibly drink all that lot, at which point a plastic bag full of bottles was brandished. Said halves were then decanted into bottles and put back in the bag. Said bottler then regaled a small group of us with tales of his day's ticking. It provided a modicum of amusement.
Dave Woodhall, Acock's Green 27th October 2005

You've got me really worried as I am a fully paid up "Anorak". I collect to a more or less degree beermats, bottle labels, pump clips, beer cans, brewery ephemera, brewery playing cards, crown corks and models of brewery vehicles [does anyone see a pattern yet?] I also usually drink [complete] half pints. Does this mean that I am liable to catch the ticker virus? Seriously though, in the Syd the Scooper cartoons I had always wondered the purpose was of the corked test tubes in a bandolier. I had hoped that it might be to run a laboratory test such as chromatography on a sample to log its properties. But to save it for tasting perhaps several days after is crass!!!!!
John Richards, Hall Green 27th October 2005

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