Beer Belly?

I’ve always been a bit of a porker really, well that’s not strictly true actually, lets just say I have “struggled” with my weight in one way or another, and generally speaking have ended up being at the wrong side of the scale most of the time.

P1030581As a child, one of my earliest memories on the subject harks back to the days of family teas at my Nan’s house. These were traditional affairs I suspect replicated in many of your own minds when thinking of childhood, cold meat sandwiches of SPAM, or tinned ham if we had company. Tinned pink salmon complete with crunchy bones soaked in vinegar. Malt loaf, Caramel Wafers, Chocolate Teacakes, pink and white Coconut Mallows, Snowballs and the obligatory Battenberg Cake. The finale always being the centrepiece Birds Trifle complete with “Dream-Topping”, or on the odd occasion a choice of Angel Delight or Instant Whip..

I was quite skinny back then (shock horror), and I can still remember my grandparents poking me in the ribs and saying “you need to eat that, get some beef on your bones” etc. Especially as back then I hated butter (or margarine), and coming from a Northern family, this was a complete no-no. Butter is a “must eat” food item. (Just ask a certain Yorkshire TV Chef, or watch about any ten random seconds, of ANY of his bloody programmes…) Basically, I was always encouraged to pile on the weight to become, “healthy”.

Until of course I did, THEN, “I was too fat…”


Disclaimer* (Not really me by the way)

Fast forward a few years (a very lot), and a health check at my local Doctors Surgery. The practice Nurse asked if I minded having a student in the room with my while I was examined, I said it was fine and we continued. Stripped to the waist (me, not her), she turned me to the student, plunged her own very pudgy finger (pot and kettle I thought) knuckle deep into one of my pecs/moobs (delete as applicable), and said to him “do you know what causes these?”

Before I had chance to blurt out “they, are the results of strenuous physical exercise” in protest, she turned her glare to meet my own and said, “BEER!!”

Now if I’m honest with myself, at the time I believed she was right and have always thought that beer has had a major part to play in my rotundness, especially in recent years. This thought ably assisted by continuously having beer being named and shamed by every “health expert” under the sun, in some study we’ve paid for in grants over many years. The most recent of course that breweries should have to start putting calorific content values on everything they produce for sale.

Which brings me to Chubvember…

To most people this will mean nothing, but also perhaps seem quite familiar.. During November, a small group of mainly beery friends and I took part in this as a bit of a weight loss self motivational drive. Mostly via a private Facebook group although there may have been the odd Twitter breakout. Nothing serious, just a bit of fun with the Chubvember name being a tongue in cheek dig at the various none drinking/eating/smoking months that seem to have jumped on the Mo-vember bandwagon. There were no rules, no targets, nothing was banned, but I personally chose to at least try and reduce my alcohol intake.

In the beginning I did this for two reasons, the obvious one being that I was too heavy, I felt it draining me, my clothes were starting to strain and I wanted a change for me. The second, the alcohol part, was more that I felt I needed a break, it wasn’t as important any more, things were becoming stale. At least that was, in the beginning, before I sort of wanted to prove a personal point.

After the first few days, of no beer (or alcohol), I think I shocked myself as to how easy I found it to lay off the booze. It definitely took my wife and close friends by surprise too I think, all of whom were very supportive, baring in mind I don’t think I’d taken more than perhaps one day off in the previous year unless by illness. On top of the booze I cut out all or most of the bad things for me (you know the sort, all the tasty enjoyable things you really like) and tried to eat really healthily. I always cook as much fresh food as I can and eat lots of vegetables, but now I was making Hairy Dieters dishes and such, cutting out fats, plus upping my walking much to the dogs delight. I used an app to track progress and was pretty much always under my daily intake targets, genuinely determined to make a go of it.

Predictably I shed around 3lbs in as many days, smiling to myself as I got off the scales that day, all my self-sacrifice was worth it. Then, it stopped….

Some times after a couple of days I lost half a pound or so, other times I had done particularly well on the food, drink and exercise front and had somehow managed to put weight on, it was bizarre. The food and walking alone should really have seen some results I thought considering my size, but no beer too, the source of all the evil if facts are to be believed? I had gone from drinking out every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, not to excess but a decent amount, plus a few bottles at home every other day of the week and was massively disappointed by the results I was seeing.


*Artists impression of the results

Despite this though I continued and went through the full month, taking around twenty or so days off. I lost around 7lbs in that time, which is still good, normally at about 1lb per week, a steady decline which I am sure is best all round (no pun intended).

I’ve also managed to stick with it up to now too, albeit not so strictly. Chubvember long forgotten and now well into the season of goodwill and Christmas beer (Fatcember) it will be tougher still, but for now at least I feel I can carry on and shed a few more pounds and I’m now another couple of pounds lighter. I feel healthier, my bones don’t creak so much and my dodgy knees are definitely benefitting from more use, carrying less bulk.

The other upside of course is that I’m finding I like a break in taking the odd day off having bevvy, it isn’t really a struggle and the next beer tastes SO much better.

To summarise, what does all this prove, nothing. There’s no science to any of this and I’m certainly not going to try and tell you all that drinking alcohol every day is fine and harmless because of course it isn’t in some circumstances. Neither am I saying that drinking beer won’t make you put on weight, it might, especially when done to excess.

What think I am trying to say though is this, beer alone is not the main culprit as some sources would have you believe, or at least I can safely say at least not for me. It is all a matter of balance. Make your own choices, for you, when YOU want to and only then will YOU be happy with the results and be able to feel whatever sacrifices you made were worth it.

So with that, you can stick “Drynuary”, or whatever the next daft title that some bloody doom-monger comes up with to justify yet another form of enforced abstinence where the sun don’t shine!

Cheers and a Merry Bleedin’ Christmas to you all!

UPDATE: My good friend Claire Knight ( @krider2010 ) who manages to combine being a keen foodie and lover of great beer, with a hard fitness regime to competition level was compelled to write a very complimentary and informative post over on her own fitness and nutrition blog Deskbound Girevik. It’s called “Moderation Is Key” and can be found following the previous link. Please give it a read, comment and give Claire a follow too 🙂

Thanks Claire!



#7point5 – “What on earth is that all about I hear you cry?”

#7point5 came about as a result of discussions revolving around several blog posts at the weekend and the previous week. These all referred specifically to the recent changes in beer duty which saw taxation increased by 25% on beers over the 7.5% abv threshold.

Several ideas were muted, including an online petition to the Treasury, writing to local MP’s amongst other things. We wanted though, something that could be used as an identifier on Twitter, Facebook and other social media when information was posted and after a few ideas were knocked about settled on #7point5.

Personally for me, the aim is to write an ongoing series of blogged reviews featuring higher strength beers from the UK and international breweries. They are not going to be full of moans and groans about the woes of beer taxation, unless of course that is the post relates to something specific along those lines.

However they hopefully will serve to highlight the fact that not every beer affected by the legislation is drunk solely for it’s high alcohol content, these are beers to savour like a lover of fine wine or malt whisky would.

If nothing else it should help dispel the misguided belief that after drinking an 8% beer, most people are not compelled in any way to go out and mug anybody, do a bit of looting, or sleep rough around the back of the “offie”.

So, as from today, anything that fit’s the bill from me will feature the #7point5 tag over the next few weeks, months or as long as..

Ultimately trying to raise a wider awareness of the change, the potential impact it will have and the real reasons behind it.

Hopefully enough people will get behind the force for a change back to a sensible level of duty across the board. To a level of taxation which is fair to all drinkers and supports the beer industry, not a duty levied on the false premise of stopping the antics of high strength lager swillers.

To that end I’d also like to invite/encourage any fellow beer bloggers to either write a guest piece for Beersay, or to write a piece on their own blogs under the same banner if that’s preferable.

Even if you are not set up to blog yourselves, but fancy having a go at a guest piece, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.


10th Nantwich Beer Festival 23 – 25 September 2011

Not long now until the Nantwich beer and food festivalweekend, a chance to indulge yourself in some fantastic beer as well as a vast array of fab foodie treats too.

I’ve attached a link to some of the local beers that will be on show from the likes of Red WillowBeartownMerlinOff BeatMarbleand many, many more.

Check it out here

Be great to see you there. Cheers Phil

It’s all because of the Magic (Rock)


I was lucky enough on Thursday night of last week, to be able to attend the Magic Rock Brewery launch at North Bar in Leeds. Hordes of happy punters flocked in on a school night to sample the magic at North Bar in terms of the tasty brews available and the circus sideshows that ran throughout the evening.

All the current range of Magic Rock beers were on sale, Curious (3.9% abv ), Rapture (4.6%abv,) Highwire (5.5%abv), Cannonball (Double IPA, 7.4%abv ) and Dark Arts (6%abv), the latter being the only dark beer on show. It’s really hard to pick a favourite as my taste buds kept changing their minds as the night wore on, in truth they were all great and I think I’ll have to settle for a draw between Rapture and Dark Arts. (Although I have ordered a mixed case to re-evaluate..)

I took no real notes to speak of on the night to be able to confidently review each beer but to be honest it was never my intention, the night was about enjoying the experience, meeting some fabulous friends old and new and sharing it with my Mrs.(box ticked,DONE)

If you want to read a bit more detail about the night, the beers and brewery check out the Magic RockLeighGoodStuff and Beerprole blogs, which all capture the event perfectly. From me, I couldn’t let the occasion pass without marking it on my blog so I’d just like to share a few photographs I took on the night which hopefully capture some of that magical atmosphere.

The start of a quiet night..NOT!

The beer wall…

The Master of Ceremonies at work…

Viewing space is at a premium…

As the Anne Summers display team roll into town..

Beer banter in full flow, plenty of Rapture on show here methinks?

MrFrosty trying to make his Dark Arts disappear!

A classic in the making..

A late night nightcap at Mr Foleys on the way home. I blame this one for my later losing my hotel..

Thanks again for a great night guys, CHEERS!

Indian Ink – Bristol Beer Factory 6.5%

I stumbled upon this beer by accident really after reading a post on Zac Avery‘s website “Are You Tasting The Pith“.

Zac’s review of BBFs “New World Tripel” sounded wonderful, so I paid a visit to the Bristol Beer Factory’s online shop, saw that they offer a mixed case that included the New World Tripel at a very reasonable price and placed an order.

I have to admit to being a little disappointed as the main beer that had driven me to order was not in the case when it arrived, in fact I very nearly got on the blower to complain. Then I noticed that there were a few intriguing bottles in the box as replacement and thought ah well, what the hell, in for a penny…

One beer in particular caught my eye, a big old Black IPA (which I love anyway) called Indian Ink. Interestingly it was brewed as the winning entry of a home brewing competition run or at least sponsored by BBF, won by a brewer called Ali Kocho-Williams. The prize was to go to the brewery, brew the beer to the winning recipe which would then be served in the local pubs and bottled for distribution. Oh and Ali won 9 gallons to drink too!! 😉

The recipe it seems, is based on Kernel Brewery’s own Black IPA, you can read it here.

It’s a good beer, quite strong at 6.5% abv but is extremely refreshing and deceptively drinkable disguising the alcohol extremely well.

Not much on the nose, mainly a peppery hop spice. Flavours though are of intense liquorice espresso, high cocoa content bitter dark chocolate. There’s orange pith and citrus flesh too, finishing long, dry and very peppery.

How does it compare to the original Kernel version is hard to tell without tasting side by side. From memory I recall the Kernel having much more in the way of fruity aroma and flavour, but there’s no shame in that as Indian Ink is it’s own beer and works really well. Would I buy another, most definitely.

Nice one Ali

Follow Ali in Twitter here: @alikocho


Beautiful Belgians!

For those of you who clicked the title to this post hoping to see something more aesthetically pleasing than beer, sorry but just copy and paste the title into Google and hope for the best. (Don’t bother I tried out of interest as I wrote this and you’re better off here…)   Seriously though, this is actually about three beautiful Belgian beers, two old favourites of mine and a recent discovery.


I first tried this at the fantastic Delirium Cafe in Brussels, they hold the Guinness World Record for the most varieties of beer commercially available. They had when I visited 2004 beers and listed them in a 233-page beer menu. If you haven’t been then put it on your to do list… The name “Houblon Chouffe” apparently is taken from several sources: “Houblon” is French for Hop, “Chouffe” from the brewery Brasserie d’Achouffe, Dobbelen and IPA are in homage to good old English India Pale Ales and American Double IPA, finally Tripel is the owners favourite style of Belgian beer. As the description from their website listed below suggests, the idea was to create a harmonious new style of brew that pulled all of these factors together.

“The HOUBLON CHOUFFE was brewed for the first time in 2006.  It is an ‘Indian Pale ale’ type of beer, with a harmonious balance between a marked bitterness (three types of hops are used to make it) and a pleasant fruitiness.  The HOUBLON CHOUFFE is unfiltered, and re-fermented in the bottle as well as in the keg.   See:”

The Beer itself pours with a lively head and is a bright golden colour with a reassuring haze. Pour carefully to avoid the most of the bottle conditioned sediment mixing or not if you prefer, it won’t do you any harm and some prefer the added taste this brings to the beer. There are big old hop tastes and aromas here, with citrusy grapefruit, yeast and that lovely dry hoppy finish.

Moinette Brune 8.5%  

BAMMM! Sweet sticky malt smacks you right in the chops and gently smothers away any resistance. As you can guess I really liked this and as a Brucie bonus it’s a new beer for me which will definitely be a regular. You may be more familiar with seeing one or more of Duponts other offerings, the Saison being the most readily available in supermarkets and such, but for me personally this definitely presses the right buttons.

A light bubbly head at first which quickly disappears to almost nothing at all, with the lovely aroma of hops and malts. Simply gorgeous!

Notes from Dupont: “The “Moinette brune” is a top fermentation beer with refermentation in the bottle.
Since its creation in 1986 this beer becomes more and more famous.
A melange of 4 special malts results into this unusual colour, light darkbrown going into russet. The aromas of hop and special malts are creating the dominating taste in this beer.
The “Moinette brune” combines a slightly bitterness with a fruity touch.
A real refermentation in the bottle, which will continue for many months in your cellar, will transform this product into a quite surprising”


Caracole Nostradamus – 9.5%

Described as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, the first thing that grabs you about this and all the beers from Caracole is the label. Bright comical cartoons of what appear to be characetuers  featuring the shell of snails? The theme apparently features the spiral snail shell to signify the name of the brewery itself. The snail is the emblem of Namur and the translation in the local dialect is “Caracole”.

So, enough about the pretty pictures, what about the beer! Well it’s another sweet sticky ale that is perfect for that late night final hurrah, although I’d also say that it would pair very nicely with some strong cheeses, something like a creamy Stilton or vintage Cheddar (now there’s a future project..)

Has a lovely creamy head that lasts to the end of the glass, with malted fruit and chocolate aromas. The taste is sweet and rich like drinking a liquid plum pudding whilst chewing strong liquorice, hints of Christmas spice and hops in the finish. All in all VERY more-ish…

I’ve added a link below to the Caracole website via a Google-Translate search result as most of the site is in Belgian, still worth a look though.

All the beers listed were sourced from Beers of Europe –

Beer of the weekend, definitely the Ellands 1872 Porter

At 6.5% I stupidly left this until the last drink of Friday night, by Saturday it had all been consumed so I’ve not had chance to give it another go and review it properly. What I can say is that it was particularly memorable!

Apparently there is more in the cellar so I’ll check it out then and feedback, in the meantime, check here for details:

Official tasting notes: Rich, complex and dark Porter from an original 1872 recipe, with an old port nose, and coffee and bitter chocolate flavours on the palate.

GOLD MEDAL in its class at the International Brewing Awards, Dark Milds, Stouts & Porters Competition 2004.
SUPREME CHAMPION at the CAMRA National Winter Ales Festival, January 2010