A Decent Pint ?

Sometimes it’s not too hard to find crap beer. It’s a real disappointment when you do, especially when it’s a local pub with a good atmosphere and good conversation. After yesterdays visit, I’m aware that any future visits will involve a game of Russian roulette in selecting a suitable brew to drink.

Last nights selection was 3 cask beers


Real beer

This blog was prompted by a bit of Facebook marketing from Seedrs, a funding site, offering the chance to invest in a craft brewer. What made it interesting was that the brewer is Watneys. Well not really a brewer as such.

The once mighty Watneys, Combe & Reid, once part of the FT30 in the 1930s ended up being acquired by Grand Metropolitan Hotels in the 1970’s, but its notoriety amongst beer drinkers of a certain age is for being one of the first in the UK to produce keg beer. It’s not that keg beer can’t be bad, with Watneys Red Barrel being pasteurised and filtered allowing it to be exported and have a long shelf life, hence its appearance on holiday destinations in Spain.

Watneys Red Barrel, synonymous with 1970’s crap beer

Watneys and its Red Barrel became all that is evil in the eyes of the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA), although like First World War generals there are some revisionist historians trying to set the record straight. It wasn’t just Red Barrel, but other brands like Double Diamond and Tankard that CAMRA had a real target to aim for. The blog mentioned (which is by Boak and Bailey) makes you feel that CAMRA’s view in the 1970’s when it was founded was too evangelical and wasn’t too tolerant. The Big 6 Brewers demise in the 1990’s as the return to real ale gained force has been documented (including in this excellent paper) and there’s no doubt in 2019 that drinkers have far more choice than ever before with the beer they drink.

So what was the problem with Watney’s ? :

  • according to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), it was kegged, therefore not ‘real’ ale
  • it was sweet (and got sweeter when given a makeover at the beginning of the 70’s as Red) and gassy
  • they got rid of the bitterness and made it more of a mild, just as mild was going out of fashion.

So come 2019 we’ve come a long way and have a lot of beer choice, with ‘craft’ beers (in gassy can or keg form) competing with craft beers. This new brewers of the 21st century (BrewDog, Tiny Rebel and others) aren’t small concerns, but are having a dramatic impact on the way the beer is drunk in pubs and to some extent you’ll see as much craft beer being drunk as you will lager in some places.

This is the first blog (hopefully of a few) as I get my head around the state of brewing and beer in the UK, from a standing start. My own exploration of brewing is beginning to open my eyes to the wider challenges and opportunities of brewing, marketing and potentially selling your own beer. It’s amazing stuff.


It wasn’t there

N3 becomes A509

Took a trip north from Dublin after work yesterday, along the M3 and then N3 up to Belturbet, a small town in Co. Cavan that I’d last been through back in the 1980’s. It used to be a long journey, bouncing your way up the N3 through Navan and Cavan, after usually getting lost when leaving Dublin.

After completing my mission just outside the town (more below), I headed the short distance north on the N3 as it crosses the border on the way to Enniskillen, no signs and apart from the road markings you wouldn’t know you’ve left the Republic and entered Northern Ireland. My memories from getting to Blacklion, also in Co. Cavan involved the N87 and some minor roads, primarily to avoid the then pretty brutal British Army border post at Swalinbar. So why didn’t we go straight up the A509 to Enniskillen and then across to Blacklion, via Belcoo ? Well, it’s because the road was shut in 1972 after the Loyalists had tried to blow up the bridge a few times and then only reopened in 1999.

Cavan and Fermangh border

For many people in the UK currently listening to the ongoing Brexit debate, the discussions on the Irish backstop and hard borders in Ireland may seem irrelevant as geography means that it really has got nothing to do with them. However driving in the area, let alone living, shows how significant it will be for the people of the area and why there needs to be some form of agreement when the UK leaves the EU.

Without straying too far into politics, the border has been since 1997 simply a line on the map, with free movement and very little violence. I really have great memories of my times in Fermangh, Leitrim and Cavan in the 1980’s, though the bombing at the Enniskillen fishing festival in 1984 happened just before one of those visits (remember parking in the car park). It would be a tragedy for this to be lost, with closed roads, border check points and restrictions on movement.

And my trip to Belturbet was because I’d stumbled across a property for sale just outside the town and fancied a look. Well worth the trip and the house was unlocked and open so had a short tour. It’s an interesting area in the lake district, though relocation may not be an immediate option.


Seeing the trees for the wood

In her excellent biography of Soren Kierkegaard, Clare Carlisle uses the notion of a train journey to describe Kierkegaard’s life and work, with him alternatively sitting forward and rearward facing. The view you get of the passing landscapes of fields, towns, people and places are very different and the philosophy of the viewer are in turn also altered.

Imagine two people sitting opposite each other in the railway compartment looking out of the window, which looks out on the world of opportunities they have between them. The innovative, motivated but inexperienced person faces forward, excited and not overwhelmed by whats ahead, has recently been asked to work with the more experienced, steady and more successful person sitting opposite him. The experienced person has built large projects, developed one of the largest companies in the world and has a trusted brand that’s a household name. He sees large farms, forests and cities as his usual business and is successful on repeating on what his company has done in the past. The more inexperienced, forward facing persons see’s new opportunities coming ahead through the window and looks at specific trees, parts of roads and houses and sees how they can be improved quickly by his smaller, but more innovative business.

The challenges these two people face on their joint endeavour go beyond some of the practicalities of sharing office space, working together in a coordinated way and understanding each others language, because there is also a very different philosophy in the way they work. Combining both their views from the window will form the basis of success. Smaller projects, that the experienced person may have missed, will form the basis on gaining ground on new technology, which in turn will shape the larger, more traditional projects which are the mainstay of the bigger company. Injecting energy and enthusiasm into this joint venture will need to be coupled with the experience and structure that’s needed for success.

For the individuals, the approach and structure of the way they work is also very different, but both loyal and supportive of these traditions and expectations on what they do and why. However, it’s not only their view from the window is different, looking forward or looking back, the what they see in terms of opportunity and possible success. It will be these that will determine how much they enjoy working together going forward.


The End is Nigh?

As with many events that you think are going to come in and change your life, on the eve of them actually happening they turn out to be more of be more a Welsh drizzle than the forecast hurricane.

So as I mixed another Old Fashioned on a Sunday night last autumn, the news that IBM was going to acquire Red Hat for $34bn, it was like the apocalypse had been announced. A bit of shock. However, on the eve of this happening it’s all a bit of non event for me. I won’t be a millionaire and the day to day will be a gradual change.

However, the acquisition of Red Hat by the computing industry has been happening from within over a number of years. It has grown rapidly on the back of Linux revenues from its unique open source subscription model and this expansion has transformed it more than IBM will.

Whether it be the people (from larger industry players), processes needed to run these companies or competitive pressures to be like it’s competitors, Red Hat has already acquired the trappings of yet another US tech company. Whilst the promotion and awaress of the culture continues to be something that is pushed, as I’ve written before, if it’s not lived then it’s not learnt or fully understood.

So by weird circumstance, it might be that the arrival of Big Blue invigorates the old Red Hat, with the return of the who-dares-wins mentality and an open approach, where we are all in this together.

There are for sure people at IBM who want to be Red Hat more than they want to be IBM and thats going to be useful. IBM are offloading lots of unwanted legacy software lines out the backdoor to HCL (like Domino), whilst welcoming Red Hat in the front door and it’s going to be better being at the front of house rather than the back.

So, my own feeling is less one of fear-and-loathing in South Bank, more one interest and intrigue of how this is going to pan out, as IBM goes looking for gold in the hills of hybrid cloud.

True, my position is relatively comfortable in that my Red Hat dependency was fixed through a philosophical rehab a few years ago. I might need the money to some extent, but I don’t need the dogma. I am a true believer in the wider religion of open source and this has been my vocation, but this doesn’t need the church of Shadowman anymore (which is why the logo change was a relative non event to me.

Red Hat has been a great place to work for over 18 years and will continue to be better than a lot of other IT companies. It will change and will hopefully influence IBM themselves as they carve out a new way forward. The next few months and years will be interesting and of course, enjoyable.


The Promo Box #2

The adventures of the box of promotional records continues and after the initial excitement of the Tubby Hayes research, thought I’d better go through and catalogue the whole box of records.

For photos of most the promo disks :

With records on Tempo, London, RCA, Decca, Vogue and others, there is quite a mix of artists and styles, though they are all jazz, though its various guises, from dixieland to bop. Some of the titles are more interesting than others, with Jimmy Deuchar, Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes and Big Bill Broonzy.

The aim will be to work through the records and work out exactly what they are. I did start with the pair of 10″ Tubby Hayes promo’s and they are indeed very interesting (and possibly the most interesting) given they each are the same tracks as the 1955 7″ EPs issued on Tempo.

The common theme here is likely to be Decca, who acquired both the Vogue and Tempo labels in the mid 50’s and why this set of promos might be together as they are.

Tempo EXA 27; the extended play 7″ EP from the Tubby Hayes Quartet. The 10″ promo is the same tracks but different and wonder if this (or was planned to be) a Decca release.

This collection of promo’s, which might be of some value, actually will provide some fascinating research opportunities and some great puzzles to solve. The first pass was the checking the matrix and label numbers on discogs to see if they appear.

One of the gaps from the 1st pass research was the 10″ disc from The Knocky Parker Trio, H-BU 1044, which isn’t listed on Discogs, though it turns out it has been sold on eBay and as a result appears on popsike ( )

The Knocky Parker Trio : London Records H-BU 1044

The front cover photo retrieved from popsike / ebay shows the track listing (though this might not be the order on the vinyl).

  • Naked Dance
  • Wolverine Blues
  • Original Rags
  • Memphis Blues
  • Sidewalk Blues
  • Limehouse Blues
  • Barrelhouse Blues
  • Smokey Mokes

With no track listing on the label, will need to play the disc and work out which half of the record I have. Whilst more popular at the time, the traditional jazz hasn’t stood the test of time in the same way that the more modern and avant garde jazz sounds have.

However, the current popularity doesn’t really stop it being interesting. Knocky Parker for example not only was a great ragtime piano player, but


The Promo Box : Part #1

As with most things, the best things in life are, if not free, mostly unexpected. Cheryl had spied a couple of records of interested in a shop and we arranged to go back for a trawl through after having a look round a nearby property.

Chatting the owner of shop / flat, noticed his his interesting record collection and had a look through a box of what looked like promo records, all of which were Jazz and seemingly late-1950’s. All were 10″ or 12″ 33 1/3rd format and marked of the sleeves and the labels, with artists ranging from Ronnie Scott, Count Basie, Big Bill Broonzy and others. These are single side promos, with a pressing on just one side.

However, what caught my eye and caught me shelling out some cash for the box (and it was 3 figures not a fiver) was an unassuming 10″ pair of disk with Tubby Hayes written on one label and the brown paper bag, along with two matrix numbers.

The two Tubby Hayes single-side promos. 10″ 33.3 rpm

VMG 187-2B

VMG 188-2B

Matrix Numbers from the 10″ Tubby Hayes promo records

A bit of research and VMG / VMGT is the matrix numbers from Vogue / Contempary Vogue, which was a French jazz-focused record label (that came from the Swing label), that was acquired by Decca around 1955. Nice as relevant as Decca is 90 years old, with a renewed interest in the label.

A search through Discogs didn’t seem to highlight any specific Tubby Hayes release on Decca or Vogue. It could be these are a compilation but as far as I could see, nothing had been released by him on 10″. Modern Jazz labels like Esquire used the 10″ format in the UK, mimicking the style of US labels like Blue Note and Prestige.

So, what’s on the discs and time to play them, with Shazam at hand to see if it picked up what the tracks are there and if it is really Tubby Hayes. Shazam came good and identified the following tracks:

VMG 187-2B1Opus de Funk
2(not recognised)
3Peace Pipe
4There’ll Never Be Another You
VMG 188-2B1Straight Life
3Evil Eyes
4Dance of the Aerophragytes

Some further rooting around on Discogs discovered that these had been release as two 7″ EPs on Tempo in 1955, as the Tubby Hayes Quartet : The Swinging Giant Vol 1 and Tubby Hayes Quartet : The Swinging Giant Vol 2 and Tubby Hayes Quartet : The Swinging Giant Vol 2. VMG 187-2B is Vol 2, with VMG 188-2B is Vol 2, with the 2nd track “There’s No You”.

The tracks were recorded on 29th July 1955 at the Decca Studios in West Hampstead. 20-year Tubby Hayes (tenor sax), along with the rhythm section of his band, Harry South (piano), Pete Blannin (bass) and Bill Eyden (drums). The two 10″ promo style disks might have been a later planned release on Decca / Vogue but it doesn’t seem like they made the light of day based on the research so far.

The good news is there are plenty of other interesting artists in the box, with some trad jazz as well. A lot of the promo records have unbroken seals so I’ll just focus on playing the opened ones for now.

Oh, by the way, the Tubby Hayes records sound great !


Inner Source : know it’s limits

For the last few years, along with colleagues at Red Hat, I’ve been of the belief that Inner Source (see Wikipedia definition) is a viable alternative when an enterprise organisation doesn’t want to embrace a full Open Source approach (for a variety of reasons).

The differences between Open Source and Inner Source are listed below, but the main difference is that former usually involves more that one organisation and the latter is very much internal to one.

Open SourceInner Source
Not always a formal organisationMore likely to see some form of top down formal organisation
Open flow of information and ideasSome control and ownership around information flow
Meritocracy and Benevolent DictatorshipSome management direction of a project
Social phenomenonInduced social phenomenon
No budget and time constraintsBudget and time allocations needed
Potentially infinite number of developersFinite resource and input
Consumable by allLimited audience for consumption and participation
Voluntary teamsPartial voluntary, with allocations
Self assignment of tasksAllocation of tasks, resource
Low consideration for competing tasksConstant need to consider alternative tasks and activities

Inner source is like Irish dancing, you are in a constrained realm. Open Source lets you fling your arms about like a Scotsman.

Malcolm Herbert March 2019

There’s no doubt that having the barrier between an organisation, however large it is, and the outside world is a significant barrier to the success of inner sourcing projects. Inner source projects need constant nourishment as they are not getting nutrients from the outside world.

Irish Dance

Red Hat’s Office of Technology in Europe does a range of consulting work around open source process and methods, helping organisations leverage the model successfully used to produce software over the last 25 years.

In the past an Inner Sourcing approach has been adopted for organisations, where either:

  • there is need to keep the activity separate from the outside world
  • that the project isn’t primarily software development

However, the effort of maintaining and sustaining an Inner Source environment isn’t repaid. Remove funding or support and it dies. All very Darwinian and while these extinction events also happen with Open Source projects they aren’t so dependent on internal or commercial factors.

Inner Sourcing approaches always run the greater risk of duplicating the efforts in another organisation (and the same mistakes) if the work is made widely available. So what’s the downside to Open Source and letting your team collaborate outside the corporate structure ? Being Open Source potentially needs a governance structure that cover what people can and can’t do and understanding of how it works in order to draw these guidelines up (it might be why you were looking at Inner Source initially). There are lots of sample Governance structures out there and some good articles.

Persuading an organisation to look beyond it’s own boundaries is getting easier as the recognition of the success of open source methods and process is becoming more widely understood. Whilst the consumption of open source (both community and enterprise) is the norm, collaborating and creating with upstream community projects is becoming an option for more organisations, as developers and managers have positive experiences of working as part of open source projects. For an increasing percentage of developers it’s the only way they work.

Based on the work Red Hat has done with organisations, the benefits (obvious and otherwise) of going open source include:

  • the usual coding quality benefits (many eyes etc); you have a bigger community externally
  • freedom for developers to interact and be creating with other like-minded developers
  • developer visibility (they like their GitHub commit stats and associated kudos)
  • developers hiring and retention is easier with Open Source activity and practice in place; Inner Source is less appealing. This is becoming a key benefit now that Developers are King (see O’Grady et al)
  • that many organisations don’t do all (or any) of there software development in house; using an Open Source approach does lend itself to managing multiple software suppliers (standards, ways of working).

And this last point is interesting. Some organisations, that don’t do a significant amount of software development, feel that Inner Source is the only way for them to experience the open source benefits. However, if they started running their software providers as a community then issues over lock-in, poor product etc are less likely.


A40 Brewing : Brew #2

After the failure of the mild, the second recipe was a low ABV India Pale Ale, primarily using Fuggles hopes for brewing and potentially then dry-hopping using Goldings (or maybe more Fuggles). Not exactly normally, but I’m not a big fan of over-hopped IPAs. More like a bitter then….

08h00 prepping the starter. Wyeast Whitbread Ale smack pack with 1 litre of DME mixture
15h00 : Finished crushing the malt. 5kg of Maris Otter pale malt and 700g of Caramalt in the grist. Have to the adjustment for the crusher not too bad but whilst precrushed malt is easier, is it fresh. Again this batch came from The Malt Miller
15h30 Started the boil about 37 litres of water in the HLT and aimed for a strike temperature of around 78 C based on the grist weight and temperature.
16h20 : Started the mash with an initial temperature of 69 C after adding about 17 litres to the mash tun. No real clumping of the grist but stirred it to drop the temp to 68 C and ended up at 67 C ! By 17h20 the temp in the tun had dropped to 66C but had held the temperature pretty well.
17h20 Mash just prior to sparging
17h30 Verlauf, took about 7 litres from the mash tun and then poured gently back into the top of the grain bed to get it to run a bit clearer before starting the sparge.
17h45 Sparging, tried to do this slower than we’d done it for Brew #1 with the aim of a 1 hour sparge. Ran the tap really slowly then added water from the HLT (at around 75 C) into the top of the mash tun using a 1 litre pyrex jar and a collander. Automating this process with a sparge arm would by good, but would need to look at gravity set up which would mean raising the HLT well above the current bench.
18h00 : Used the refractometer to measure the gravity during the sparge. Based on the recipe calculations was looking for an OG of 1.037, with around 30 litres of wort to boil. After 10 litres was at 1.065, 15l 1.050 and then at 20 litres 1.043. Measurement at 25 l was down to 1.036, so very quick drop off and 5 l short of the expected volume from grist weight.
18h10 : Boil started. The Sparge only took 40 minutes, again too quick and maybe the reason for the lower than expected OG / wort volume.
18h27 : Wort starts to boil and added 30g of Fuggles hops. Added another 30g at the end of the 90 minute boil and let rest for 30 minutes before cooling.
20h30 : Cooling the wort through the heat exchanger. Need to run the wort through twice to get to 20 C in the bucket. Did look at running straight into the fermenter using the pump, but this produced a high pressure leak on the pipe straight away so went for a much simpler approach of half-filling the bucket and pouring it into the fermenter.
21h00 Wort into the fermenter and then oxygenation for 3 minutes. At 5 PSI and using a 5 micron stone dropped in to the wort. Then pitched the yeast starter and sealed the fermenter.
08h00 Next Day. Much better looking krausen than Brew #1 and quite a bit of noise from the airlock. Need to ensure that the fermenter lid is on tight as it will leak otherwise.

A40 Brewing : State of the Mild

The mild got binned after been stuck at 1020 gravity and with no real fermentation taking place. Dried yeast was added after 5 days in attempt to get it going but no luck in getting it moving. There was no real head / krausen formed on top of the wort and no movement through the airlock.

This was potentially down to a number of things:

  • lack of air / oxygen in the wort. Whilst we did pitch it from a bucket into the fermenter, it made have needed more swirling around after the boil
  • the mash didn’t go well and whilst the temperature seemed okay at around 67-68 C, potentially not enough sugars etc were extracted in to the wort.
  • the original yeast starter didn’t really start. Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale liquid yeast but it didn’t look right when it was made an pitched.

It was Brew #1 and though not successful, plenty to think about going into Brew #2 and some changes in the process. Low 3.6% ABV IPA coming up next.