- a beginner's guide.
Last Updated : 22/07/07
irst of all, before I say anything else, let me pose the question "What is scooping/ticking/beer bashing?" (these are all words for the same activity, although there are certain opinions that say they are different - more later). Basically, it is the drinking - and more importantly the writing down - of all "new" beers drunk; all beers thus "scooped" are put onto a master list (either paper based or, more commonly in these technological days, onto a PDA or suchlike) which can be well over 10,000 different beers in total, and the scooper carries this around with him to ascertain if any beers he encounters on his travels are "required" by him. (see the "Lingo" section of the site to look up the meaning of any word you don't know).
As can be seen from the essays below Scooping is not a rigid hobby, more one where the scooper chooses the rules he wishes to follow but may change them at any time to suit his whims or experiences. It could be seen as a bit anarchistic in a way but most scoopers have, by definition as they are indulged in an activity that sets them apart from "normal" people, their own mind and can make such decisions based on what they themselves think not what they are told to think (see the soapbox for some examples of this).
So, if you want to learn more about this fascinating hobby, either read through the musings below in sequence or choose the ones you want from the following list. If you're new to the activity then it's probably best to read them all, if you're an old hand then you don't need to read any although maybe you should read the first one to see if you agree with me!
My current favourite quote about scooping -
"Personally, I just think the Real Ale scene needs a gimmick and, in the ancient practice of Beer ticking, it may have found one. Beer Ticking, we are told, is the practice of keeping a record of every beer that passes your lips. It is a simple pursuit, rather like train spotting, but infinitely more pleasurable". Whitehaven news.
Gazza's scooping essays!
Other relevant material -
All words by Gazza © 2003-7 unless credited.
Asperger's syndrome and the "gene"
Bloody hell, where do I start to define exactly what beer scooping is? Those of you who know, feel free to skip to the next section (although you may find the next few paragraphs on Asperger's syndrome thought-provoking) but those who don't - to quote PWEI - wise up, suckers!
Beer scooping is, in as few words as I can muster, trainspotting beer instead of trains (although some people combine the two!). A beer scooper will travel the country (and maybe the world!) trying to drink as many different beers as he/she can and, importantly, recording the details in some way, be it electronic (PDA or other such Mini-Aston) or traditional (paper to you and me). You might be wondering, with some justification, "Why would anyone want to do that? Beer x is great, and I can drink that every day in my local pub - and I never write it down!". This statement shows that the person doesn't have what, for sake of argument, I call the "gene" - or the collecting mentality. A lot of beer scoopers have come to the hobby from other hobbies which involve collecting numbers, the most obvious being diesel bashing (an extreme form of railway enthusiasm) but the important thing is they all, for some reason, feel the need to record what they drink and count up at regular intervals.
If this activity seems strange to you then you're probably never going to understand it however much I try! If, on the other hand, you have any degree of empathy with what was said in the last paragraph then you are on the way to understanding what makes a scooper "tick" (if you'll excuse the pun; ticking is another name for scooping!) I can't speak for the hundreds of other scoopers around but my main reasons for scooping were to see the country, to have a good laugh and because "the next beer may be better" - it didn't matter if I'd found a superb beer in a pub, I'd always want to try another just in case it was better. Of course, the tally of beers scooped was important until I hit the milestone 10,000, but after that the social side of the hobby became more important.
You may have noticed no mention of "getting pissed" in the above - to me, that is an over-rated occupation mainly practiced by bored teenagers drinking whatever brain-melting crap they can get their older mates to steal for them. Intoxication is an occupational hazard of beer scooping; this is pretty obvious as drinking beer all day is bound to have some effect, but for almost all scoopers I know "getting pissed" isn't a major - or any - part of the hobby. After having witnessed what being severely drunk can do to lots of people on many occasions (me included) I can honestly say that if beer was alcohol-free and still tasted like it does now then I'd have no qualms about drinking it all day - except I'd have to re-write my rules somewhat...
"But why write the beers down?" you wail like a tormented banshee, "What's the point?" Well, it all comes down to what, after a bit of research, I think is called Asperger's syndrome, better known in this tabloid society as the "geek disease". Asperger's Syndrome is an affliction (basically a mild form of Autism) which causes those affected to have low social skills and intense interest in a specific field of study - such as railways, beer, or even things like football grounds...
"Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest which usually leaves no space for more age-appropriate, common interests. Some examples are cars, trains, French Literature, door knobs, hinges, cappuccino, meteorology, astronomy or history".
These quotes come from the Asperger's disorder website, just one of the thousands (over 300,000 on a recent Google search) of websites which describe this condition which was named after the work of an Austrian doctor, Hans Asperger, in 1940's Vienna. I have also seen claims that it accounts for a lot of the so-called "eccentrics" which inhabit the world and, although I can't comment on this, what I can comment on - and this is my own opinion - is the similarity of the behaviour of a number of scoopers which could be classed as "obsessive" and some, but not all, exhibit some lack of social skills - both of which are classic symptoms of Asperger's syndrome, although don't think that I'm calling everyone a social inadequate, just trying to explain what may be the reason for a lot of us becoming beer scoopers! Anyway, what most "normal" people class as a lack of social skills may not be what someone with a mind of their own would class similarly!
Now don't think that becoming a beer scooper means that suddenly you lose all your social awareness, start wearing anoraks and standing at the end of Crewe platform for long periods, because AS isn't catching! What I think is true is that a niche hobby like beer scooping will attract those with the syndrome who, by the nature of the condition, are attracted to "narrow" fields of interest and the collecting mentality of it. However, not all beer scoopers will have AS; some will just like a drink and write beers down as a sideline, some may go more for the social side (which somewhat disputes the theory they have AS in the first place) and some are just beer monsters! Beer Scooping is a broad church and all are welcome - and, on the whole, scoopers are a good crowd who just want to have some (preferably scoopable) beers with mates and have a laugh. Anyway, AS isn't really a bad thing to be afflicted with when you consider what you might have been born with - for a start, it's not life-threatening or painful - so if I have it then I'm happy to live with it and I think the world would be a boring place without eccentrics like us!
So, after the science lesson, I come to the nitty-gritty; basically, you either have the "collecting" mentality, or you don't; there's no way I could explain to someone who doesn't have this gene (I don't really know what it is that makes some people collect things and others not, so for sake of argument I'll call it a gene and assume it's not always Asperger's syndrome to blame) or why I want to traipse around the country most weekends searching for beers I've never tried before, don't know if I will like and will probably never drink again when I could be watching the footy, mowing the lawn, washing the car, going to Tescos and all the other sensible things that good normal citizens do every weekend. If you can't understand either then it's probably best that you give up NOW and save wasting any more or your time - or, maybe, read on; you might discover you have this gene too, albeit in smaller doses than some of us!
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Ground Hoppers and Munro Baggers.
(It takes all sorts...)
A prime example of people with the "gene" are "ground hoppers". These people are "normal" as in they go and watch football at weekends, although they write down (and maybe tick off in a league book) which grounds they visit; these people have the gene! They may also drink real ale, and in that case they are half way to being a scooper - all they have to do is write down the beers they drink ... and they're fully-fledged beer scoopers! I know of a few ground hoppers who are also scoopers, so maybe this isn't the best example, but it explains my point about collecting things being a mentality rather than just a thing you do.
In my view, those who indulge in "ground hopping" are just as sad as those who go out trainspotting or beer scooping - after all, all they are doing is writing things down! However, in this "laddish" macho culture, anything remotely connected with the "pack animal" mentality of football cannot be questioned; even if the individual can recite the results of Billingham Synthonia for the last 133 years (home and away) he's still not sad, but still "one of the lads". This is still sad, if being sad is writing things down and being interested in minutiae, but because it's football it's somehow socially acceptable. Bollocks!!!! If someone can call me "sad" because of my fondness for loud diesel engines then I'm going to call the next person who says they only "need" one football ground a saddo too - it's only fair!
Likewise the so-called "Munro Baggers" who, for some obscure reason known only to themselves, find it necessary to expend much valuable energy in climbing mountains in Scotland - but not any old mountains, oh no. They have to be on the approved "list" of peaks over 3,000 feet (there are 284, apparently) which are called Munros and these people "bag" (tick off to you and me) the ones they have climbed. This sounds, to me at least, like these people have some of the gene which makes beer scoopers tick off beers although they also seem intent on unnecessary physical exercise too - it takes all sorts, I suppose. If by this point you still don't think Munro Baggers are cut from the same cloth as scoopers, that they aren't the same obsessive cranks, just read this and see the language used - anyone who says they went all the way to Scotland just for the "ticks" is a crank of the highest order.
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In essence, a beer scooper goes to a venue (pub or beer festival, mainly) where he knows (or thinks, if he's "going blind") that he will find a beer on sale that he hasn't drunk before. This may seem easy at first, as every beer seen will be "required", but it soon becomes apparent that 99% of pubs in this country serve the same bland boring junk. To find "new" beers the scooper must get some "gen" and go somewhere with a good chance of finding "winning" beers (for explanations of these words, see the Lingo section). As your experience of scooping grows you will know where to get new beers locally, nationally and even Internationally; this info comes from talking to other scoopers, off the internet and your own experience. Just make sure if you find a pub that sells new beers regularly that's not well known to the community that you share the gen with other scoopers.
If you are lucky enough to live in Sheffield or Manchester then you may find that just having a casual saunter around will yield several, if not a ruck, of new beers for your tally. If you live somewhere more deprived of decent pubs then you'll have to search out which ones will give you the best chance of finding scoops - this may mean a good deal of travelling for little reward. In the end It all comes down to how desperate you are and if you want to save your scooping until you can do a load of pubs in one hit rather than travelling miles on the off-chance of a winner; it's a trade-off you'll have to decide for yourself.
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How to find new beers
Some venues soon become obvious, such as the Sheffield circuit on a weekend, Manchester's Northern Quarter, Derby etc; put simply, a pub will (generally) either have scoops, or it won't - although some have the occasional scoop and then nothing for years. Not all pubs that serve guest beers by default have scoops, as the guests some choose (or are told to sell) are commonly seen beers such as Greede King, Fullers or other regionals and whilst some pubs specialise in selling scooper's beers, some may have the odd one; It's one of the most important things a scooper needs to find out: where are scoops available locally?
Almost any scooper "covering" known scooping venues will get new beers for his list, but the problem is that not everyone can get to Sheffield or Manchester every weekend so this is where beer festivals come into the equation; a beer festival is basically a non-pub building with a "stillage" set up with beers on and the public can go in (usually on payment of lots of money) and drink the beers. Most festivals hire glasses (or make you buy one!) to drink from, indeed most don't like you taking your own since it deprives them of a sale. The facilities offered by beer festivals vary drastically from only beer to family areas, choice of food, music and all stations in between. If you forget that youíre drinking in a large shed it can be bearable, but most fests lack the atmosphere of a pub unless a good group of scoopers gets together and makes some atmosphere! If you read the e-groups on the web (scoopgen being the most important, hosted on Yahoogroups) then the current best places to find scoops will soon become obvious - pubs do get taken over and/or stop selling winners or, conversely, new ones elbow their way onto the scene - all it takes is a bit of knowledge.
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Most beer festivals are run by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) which, despite having an image of being full of fat blokes in sandals, actually saved real ale in the 1960's. Unfortunately, a lot of CAMRA people think that this gives them the right to pontificate carte blanche on how things should be done, especially the fat ones in sandals. Despite all it's problems, however, without CAMRA there would be few large beer festivals although here - unfortunately - lies another problem; not all beer festivals are useful for beer tickers. Most are useful if all you want is a few decent beers to drink, but if you want "new" beers you have to choose your festivals carefully; the best ones for new beers tend to be Nottingham, Newark and Reading, some others are OK, but some are honestly not worth the effort and money expended in a visit and some are even anti-ticker.
It should go without saying that all beer tickers (theoretically, at least) should be CAMRA members as the reduced entrance to beer festivals will easily top the subs paid - if you attend enough, although some scoopers disagree with CAMRA's diktats and the official line so much that they have resigned. For any new scooper, however, my advice is to join, basically for want of anything better; I'll not poison your receptive mind with vitriol about CAMRA, I'll leave it to you to find out what you think about their policies on various things... then come back and say I was right! Seriously, if you're a militant-type person then you might have quite a few issues with what CAMRA say about many things but if you're more easy going then you'll be fine. You'll also be fine if you're a Hitler-like control freak with a huge gut and a beard who hates micro brewers, but that's only my opinion!
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The other source of beer festivals, increasing all the time, is the good old pub which may seem an obvious statement to make but I'm talking about am event where the pub has more beers on than they usually would, say in a tent or in the pool room; a lot of the famous scooping establishments such as the Cask & Cutler in Sheffield, Crescent in Salford and Lower Red Lion in St Albans hold festivals throughout the year with extra beers available either in a marquee, on a separate stillage, or out of the cellar. These events can be even better than a CAMRA beer festival due to the fact you are in beer's natural environment, a pub, rather than a hall on the outskirts of a town with all the kickin' atmosphere of a Methodist's stag night, but the problem with pub festivals is that often only a proportion of beers are on (although some beer festivals do this, some deliberately) and basically you take pot luck that the beers you "need" will be on when you turn up.
Sometimes you win and everything you "need" will be on, or sometimes you lose and all your "winners" will have either gone or be untapped; It's all part of the fun, honest. Some pub festivals have all beers on right from the start, or will be receptive for suggestions about which cask to tap next (within reason) although these aren't as common as the "20 at a time" festivals. The gen about which festivals are of which type is usually to be found on Scoopgen before the event kicks off along with lists and other gen such as how to get there which, for some places, is very useful indeed!
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What to do with them when you've drunk them
All tickers log their beers differently; some use databases, some iPaqs, some spreadsheets, and some traditionalists even use paper! The common thread throughout these methods, however, is that the different beers are physically logged into a list - somehow. The prime function of a scooper's "beer list" is to keep track of how many beers he has drunk, however the other (more prosaic) reason for carrying the list around is that when you attend a beer fest, or go to the pub, you need to know which beers you've "scored" and which you "require". At first this is easy, but when you've had 10,000 beers over 12 years it gets a tad more difficult to remember - "was it Arundel Hard Willie I had in Sheffield 5 years ago, or was it soft Willie?" is a common question asked of oneself!
Nowadays, most new beers are one-offs and are never seen again, but some appear all year round or at certain times of the year (such as summer ales) so the scooper needs to know if he's scored a certain brew previously. Scoopers will record certain information when they drink a beer - you definitely need the following;
Brewery name if you know it (this may not be obvious or it may be brewed by someone else for a defunct operation).
Beer name is obviously next, followed by the
Strength, as some beers may be brewed at different strengths and this counts as a tick to most scoopers (more later).
The date of drinking is also pretty important in order to work out numbers of scoops per year and other such pointless statistics.
Other information is discretionary, such as where the beer was scored, any tasting notes, whether it was a "bottle" or not (more later), any score given, and any other info that might be gleaned. This complete record makes up a "scoop" and equates to one beer drunk, but it is best to record as much info as you can as then you can prepare reports of your scoops, such as which town you have scored the most beers in, which is your top scooping pub, which months have the highest and lowest totals etc just to prove to your friends that you're totally sad and obsessive.
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How much to drink ?
This is not about weekly levels of alcohol unit consumption (actually, let me state now that it's not a good idea to tot up how many units you drink a week when scooping - for example, say you have 1500 beers in a year, then you average out at 4.11 beers a day, which is nearly 29 units a week without any other incidental beer, wine, alcopops, meths and suchlike you may consume during the rest of the week; just don't worry about it - those limits are ridiculously low anyway) but about the physical quantity of each beer consumed in order to "count" it. This issue causes a bit of debate amongst scoopers; a common consensus is that only legal measures constitute a scoop which, in the UK, means only a third, a half or one whole pint of the stuff counts. Almost all scoopers follow these rules, most usually drinking a half, as at a beer fest with 30+ scoops, if you drink halves, then you have a chance of "clearing up" whilst those hardcore people (Stan, Bratley) who only score in pints usually have a lower tally owing to the sheer volume of beer they need to consume to get a winner!
In direct contradiction to the above scenario, some scoopers will count a taste (a sip) of a beer as a "winner", but this is frowned on by most others as it means the whole exercise is being carried out purely for the number of scoops, not the enjoyment of the beer and "rioting". These people, in my opinion, have too much of the collecting gene for their own good!
My own personal opinion, and that of quite a few others, is that a "reasonable amount" is what is required - this may vary from a few pints in your local to a 10cl measure at an American beer festival; it all depends on the circumstances! No-one is going to tell you that you can't count the beers you've scooped (as you make your own rules up!) so just do what you think is right, although going round the bars at a beer festival blagging tasters and then claiming them is taking the scooping gene a bit too far... unless you've left your wallet at home!
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Bottling - the "third way" (© "New" Labour 1997)
Here comes the first controversial subject; I'll try and explain it from a bottler's point of view, which may sound like a case for the defence, but it's what I know! Let's assume I am driving around the country in the course of my work and, as the law (and common sense, I hope) prevents me from scooping and driving, I have a problem. I am driving past the Clockwork Brewing co in Glasgow (funny that!), so I go in for a swift half and find, fortunately, there are 6 beers on the bar that I "need", leaving my options as follows:
I can either drink them all, drive away, lose control of the vehicle and plough into a group of Chavs at a bus stop (actually, that's not a bad thing...) and commit a serious driving offence, or
I can have my couple of halves and leave the other 4 un-scooped on the bar.
There must be a "third way" I hear you say and, sure enough, there is - It's called Bottling. Stripped down to basics, bottling is taking beer away to be consumed later. This practice is perfectly legal in licensed premises (although the law is a little less clear at beer festivals) although some licensees may take an interest in you, thinking you are from Customs & Excise checking their beer! It's best, then, to try and keep any bottling as low profile as possible, such as under the table.
The kit required for bottling is easily obtained - just go to the supermarket and buy some 250ml bottles of pop, drink the pop (or pour it down the sink), and there you have it... well, nearly. If you don't want your winners to taste of lemonade or cherryade you need to wash the bottles after every use and to do this it's best to use a sterilising agent such as homebrew steriliser which kills most nasties. The first clean removes the pop taste and thereafter, after each use, sterilise them again to remove the yeast and stale beer in the bottle (One scooper apparently used salt to clean his bottles, others use Milton fluid, and another puts them in the washing machine in a pillowcase!). Maintaining this cleaning regime ensures you get good results every time you fill a bottle and don't end up with something to pour on your chips - or down the sink.
You'll also need something to transfer the beer from the glass to the bottle, as pouring beer from a glass into a bottle after 10 pints is definitely an acquired skill. The two common things used are funnels and jugs (more later) but, whichever you choose, simply transfer the beer from the glass via the transfer method of your choice to the bottle, stick a label on it saying what it is (making sure the ink is waterproof - this goes without saying, but everyone does it at least once - opening the bag to find 20 bottles with unreadable labels!) Okay, you can still drink the beers, but it's nice to know exactly what you're drinking...
Needless to say, other bottling reasons include too many beers to feasibly drink in a day, being too drunk to keep scooping, lack of time due to catching a train, a strong beer being found at 22:55 etc. Some scoopers think bottling is "cheating" as it means an end to "capacity" limits at beer festivals when you hit the infamous "glass ceiling" (or is that floor?) and can't drink any more. Fair enough, everyone has their opinion - learn the facts and decide for yourself! Being a lapsed bottler myself I would recommend that, if you're very desperate, to give it a go but make sure you adopt a rigorous cleaning regime for your bottles as there's nothing more likely to put you off than a bottle of Sarsons.
Used in the right place, bottling is a very clever method of getting more beers than you otherwise would! If your job takes you all over the country (as mine used to) then bottling is basically essential as you'll be forever passing remote brewpubs and that may be the one chance you ever have to scoop them in!
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Bottling (see above) can also be done as part of a "cartel", which means that a group of scoopers get together and decide to bottle for each other. For example, let's say there are 3 scoopers in a cartel; scooper A goes to Sheffield, B goes to Derby and C goes to London (poor C!). When they find a beer they need they scoop it, but then ask the other if they need it too; If so, they will bottle the beer for the other cartel members, all 3 members doing this, and meeting up as soon as possible afterwards for a "bottle swap". The advantage of being in a cartel is that you can, theoretically, get x times as many scoops, with x being the number in the cartel - however, problems arise with settling up the money afterwards, members getting "dud" beers for others, arguments about bottle cleanliness and bottle acquiring, some members getting more beers than others etc. Basically, most cartels fracture after a short time - if not, the members must know each other very well, or be saints!
The best strategy seems to be to have a small cartel of two or three and don't try to get everything. With the advent of mobile phones, cartels are a lot easier to operate nowadays; you just ring or text your members asking if they need a beer rather than bottling it "just in case" and lugging the things back miles to and from distant stations, only to find they've got the very same beer for you (don't laugh, this has happened!) and then having to try and sell the "swaps" to other scoopers. The most famous cartel was that of Brian Moore, Mick the Tick and Gary Mess which has acquired legendary status in scooping circles and most of the scooping was carried out without mobile phones - hardcore, or what?
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Funnels or Jugs ?
This is also a controversial matter, but of a more light hearted nuance. Basically, to transfer beer from the glass to the bottle requires a third medium; a plastic funnel, such as that found in kitchens, can be used by putting the spout in the bottle and tipping the beer in. Another way is a plastic kitchen jug, where the beer is poured from the glass into the jug thence into the bottle. Neither of these is universally used, or without problems; the funnel is more difficult to use at first, whilst the jug entails more cross contamination of beers. Neither is perfect, so basically choose the one you're happy with and use that.
If you get a bit of practice, however, the easiest way that dispenses with looking like a chemist sat in a pub is to learn to pour straight from the glass. Half pints are possible, if you have 2, then you can divide the beer into both glasses and tip both halves into the bottle although a pint is much easier, as you simply drink a half, then tip the rest into the bottle. With a bit of practice and getting a few floors and yourself soaked in ale, it's easy - honest! This procedure is OK for yourself, and OK for cartels as long as the other members don't mind drinking your spittle.
Jugs or Funnels? You decide...
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Getting to know other scoopers is very important; most information about what beers are on where comes from fellow scoopers, so it's imperative to get to know some. However, some tickers are occasionally a bit reticent about speaking to "new faces" (this comes from bashing days, when those who did other engine types were ranted at) so it pays dividends not to talk yourself up too much - don't lie, for example - those who have been scooping for a long time will figure you out straight away (it's easy to tell someone who's talking bollocks when you know what you're talking about!) and you'll be saddled with the tag of "fudger" (or lying bastard!) for ever. A good idea is to introduce yourself to some who look sociable (!) and see how it goes.
Staying apart from other scoopers is not an option if you want to get the most out of the hobby, which is the social side - scooping can have a great social aspect which is usually more enjoyable than the number of new beers you get at a festival; it's great to walk into a bar in, say, Amsterdam and meet a fellow scooper there for the same thing as you are - a few scoops and some decent beer! So, have a look on the database of scoopers here, and the next time you go to a festival or pub see who's there; you'll find most scoopers are sociable people at heart and will gladly furnish you with all the required information you need to kick-start your beer scooping campaign.
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Every scooper has his/her own rules; It's very important that you decide what yours are, and stick to them (unless you decide to change them!). It's been said a number of times that one of the appeals of scooping is that there are no rules, but this is wrong - It's just that everyone's rules are different - or at least slightly nuanced - from everyone else's! The most common rules are listed below, with some options to give you an idea of the complexity involved.
Strength changes. Some beers are brewed with different strengths - this may make them "new", depending on your rules. Some scoopers don't count "rebrews" at all whilst some have a limit, such as 0.5%, which the change has to equal for it to count.
Recipe Changes. Some beers change recipe with little or no ABV change, but we are never told, so the safest policy is to see what gen you can glean from the webgroups and stick with that - new recipes for beers is a a common discussion thread as most scoopers are only too willing to make known any variations in the beers from their "pet" brewery. Some CAMRA magazines also contain gen on recipe changes so, if you see any, let us all know!
Brewery relocations. If a brewery moves, as happens sometimes, scoopers may count the beers again. Some have rules which say if the new site's water supply is different, it counts, although getting this info can be difficult whilst others use the simpler distance rule, with an arbitrary figure of, say, 5 miles being chosen and if the brewery's move equals this then the beers can be counted again. Others don't count moves at all!
Mixes. A lot of beers on sale are in fact blends of 2 or more beers; this has been done for years and is certainly not a new practice. However, the industry of producing "festival specials" via mixing beers nowadays means it's necessary to know which beers have been mixed to make the finished beer, and in what ratios. Some scoopers count mixes of different ratios of the same beers, others don't and some don't count blends at all, although knowing what is and what isn't is very difficult - some famous beers are in fact blends of others - the Linfit beers are famously blended all sorts of ways to arrive at the large range the pub sells.
Additives. As well as mixing existing brews to create a "new" beer, some pubs and festivals get brewers to doctor a beer for them so they can sell it as a unique beer; this may involve "dry hopping", or the addition of something else such as spice or honey. Dry hopping can be done with any hop, but obviously some are preferable to others taste-wise as some hops are better used as bittering and some best used for aroma. Most scoopers count the different hops as different beers, although other additives, such as colouring or spices, are more controversial not being natural - and traditional - ingredients in beer, although you could make a strong case that hops only became traditional in UK beer during the 500 years ago when they were introduced from Flanders (Belgium).
Food colouring is not a traditional ingredient in beer and therefore a lot of scoopers don't class beers made by adding colouring to a "base" beer to be legitimate new brews, but then I suppose hops weren't a legitimate additive until the Flemish introduced them to the UK - see just how subjective this issue can be? Colouring also adds no flavour, so to many this is not a new beer, just beer x with colour in it. Spices and herbs can also be added, which as they add flavour can be treated more charitably, and most scoopers count these. This really is a controversial subject, so have a think about it and decide your own rules - no-one will slag you off for having an opinion. (well, maybe not).
Origin. Some scoopers count beers only from the UK, some count Ireland, some the channel islands, Isle of Man and the like. The broad consensus of opinion is that all UK beers count, including islands, but Irish beers are a bit more divisive. Some scoopers count cask French beers, as there are several breweries in Northern France that do cask ale, whilst some count beers from different countries on different lists - myself, I have a UK list (including Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man), a Belgium/Netherlands list and then a catch-all "Rest of the world" list'; easy, eh?
Filtration & Pasteurisation. It's a pretty safe bet that almost all, if not all, scoopers don't count pasteurised British beers. Most will count filtered beers, such as those from some of the London brewpubs such as Zero Degrees, but some only count a beer if it has been conditioned in a cask so, as some brewpubs filter the beer, these don't count - but as so few do this it's not a very controversial issue. However, when you get into European scooping, then you'll find a lot of beers are pasteurised - but taste none the worse for the atrocity committed.
To echo my own rules I'd say don't count pasteurised UK beers (which are usually only those in bottle or keg) but for everywhere else then anything goes, basically!
Gas. Surprisingly, this is not a major issue with scoopers, but it is with CAMRA; most scoopers will count a beer served under gas pressure, such as a cask breather, as long as the beer is not pasteurised and it's not too gassy. As not that many pubs use cask breathers, and anyway it's almost impossible to tell by taste, most scoopers leave the pedantic questions about gas to CAMRA, and just drink the stuff.
Contract brews. Basically, this means that a brewery brews beers for another due to some problems, such as yeast infection, relocation, financial problems etc. As the beers are usually made with different recipes and yeast, and a fair distance away, most scoopers count them as "new" beers from the originals - for example, Batemans brewed a (crap, IMO) version of Mordue Workie Ticket for them when they won CBOB a few years back.
Yeast changes. Yeast does have a drastic impact on beer flavour so any change counts as a new beer for a lot of scoopers. As usual, however, the problem is finding out when it occurs as most breweries don't advertise the fact they have a yeast infection for obvious reasons. Sometimes the info gets out, however, and therefore most count this as a new beer due to the changes in flavour the new yeast brings.
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Type of bottles
This is not as daft a question as it seems; I have personally been bottling for 8 years and have experimented with various bottles with varying results. Basically, glass bottles seem to keep the beer in best condition, I suppose as thereís nowhere for bacteria to hide in a glass vessel, whereas plastic contains small cavities where the brush and steriliser canít get. There are obvious faults with both, although glass seems to have the longer list Ė glass bottles are hard to come by (Abbey Well water bottles are sold in pubs, and at 250ml are perfect), they are about 10 times as heavy as the corresponding plastic bottles, and finally if you drop your bag you run the risk of a torrent of beer and broken glass flooding out (this has happened!) - not good - so, therefore, almost all scoopers use plastic bottles, at least when out and about.
For bottling half pints some scoopers use 330ml "panda pops" bottles (which are really too large for the quantity of beer and with the air in the headspace the beer starts to go off quickly) although they are easy to use in a rush as the whole half can be tipped in with no fiddling about as you get with 250ml bottles, and ideal for the last few for the train home. The best bottles for half pints seem to be Irn Bru "red" bottles; these are the perfect capacity for halves, can be squeezed if the measure is a bit short, and the colour also protects the beer from the UV rays of the sun which can give beers a "wet dog" smell and taste.
As for pints, most 500ml bottles are pretty similar, and hold a pint comfortably and can again be squeezed if the pint is short - the large "widemouth" black Tango bottles are liked by some scoopers as it's easier to pour beer straight into them from the glass, but as you can't see through them, you can't see any clag in the beer as you pour it out which sometimes leads to a cloudy glass of beer. There also existed 375ml bottles which contained "Indigo" (an energy drink); these are very useful for drinking a third and bottling the rest, although Iíve not seen them for a long time and are probably discontinued.
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Storage of bottles
Thinking about this sensibly, bottles should be stored at cellar temperature (around 12įC) although this is not always possible and, anyway, I have found that keeping them in the fridge preserves the beer better; I assume the cold stops any bacteria and yeasts from getting too agitated therefore keeping the beer in better condition. In summer itís essential that bottles are kept in the fridge, else they just go rancid and/or very lively with the yeast starting to work again. One ex-member of the cartel stated that he kept his bottles under a damp towel, but I donít recommend this approach to maximise beer quality! Keep bottles in the fridge until an hour before you want to drink them when you should remove them, as the cold will kill the flavour of the beer.
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Whatís in a name?
Scoopers, tickers, beer bashers, ale neds, scratchers Ö what do they all mean? Well, simplistically, they all mean the same thing; someone who records the beers they drink and has a running total of how many they have drunk; in the real world the names actually have slightly different meanings, depending on where you live and who you listen to;
Scoopers Ė I take this to mean people who care a bit more about the beers than just ticking them off; they may make tasting notes, score the beers or similar. Itís all a bit arbitrary, but this is my view on the subject and, as it's my website, that's what I'm putting here, OK?
Tickers Ė Tends to be a Northern name, but I take to mean those who simply drink a beer, mark it off, forget it, and then drink another - basically, those who care more about numbers than taste - but not necessarily!
Beer Bashers Ė This phrase came from the railway fraternity, as did about 75% of scoopers originally, although this number is lower nowadays. The section of rail enthusiasts who became scoopers was mainly the "bashers", who travelled around on their favourite engines to all parts of the UK, and therefore had a few beers whilst waiting for their next engine; this gradually evolved into scooping Ė or did they just copy it from those who had been scooping for years? Weíll never know, but I certainly got into scooping via this route. The phrase is rarely heard these days anyhow.
Beer/Ale neds Ė This is really the same as beer bashers. A "Ned" is someone who is "desperate" for a "winner", and to differentiate from train neds, the name "beer ned" was invented. Again, not really used any more.
Scratchers Ė Not sure where this came from, but itís fairly commonly used in the south. It seems to describe the actual marking off of beers, so Iím assuming itís got a similar meaning to "tickers".
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After a long time scooping in Britain you may get a bit bored of the similarity of the beers with basically only mild, various strengths of bitter, strong ale and stout to worry about. A good move to liven up the ticking senses is a trip to Belgium; this fascinating country has less breweries than we do but has loads of outrageous beer styles such as sour beers, fruit beers, wheat beers, sparkling ales, aged beers, sweet stouts etc - It certainly livens the bored palate up a bit! The best bit, however, is that most beers are bottle conditioned and the Belgians know how to bottle beers, unlike the UK, where most bottled beers whether conditioned in the bottle or not taste gassy and, frankly, unpleasant. There are a lot of bars that serve over 100 different bottled beers, and some that serve over 500! Draught beers do exist, usually only local weaker beers, pils and well known brands, although this is changing slowly.
Belgium also has far more sensible licensing laws than we do, and you'll find a far more civilised drinking culture over there; It's extremely rare to see any rowdiness, and it's usually the British causing it if it is. People enjoy their beer more, and as a result, the number of bars is increasing, rather than decreasing as is the case in the UK.
I must admit to loving the Belgian drinking scene and wholeheartedly encourage everyone to go and experience it. With table service, long hours, relaxed bars, cheese (portiekaas) available in most bars to eat with your beer (it goes superbly, especially with the Tierentyn mustard) and excellent beers, you may never look at drinking in the UK the same way again. As a final note on Belgium, I will say that it is a strange place in parts - once, on arrival at Poperinge, we were greeted by a 15 foot high roadworthy sphinx, a 20-foot high carnival float seemingly loaded with the entire carnival, and a mobile hop. Add to the mix some bars that serve 1000 beers and have never closed in 8 years and you get the message.
Germany has itís good points, such as KŲln, Bamberg, Dϋsseldorf etc, but is not as interesting as Belgium owing to most brewers' adherence to the Rheinheitsgebot which, basically, stops them making anything too interesting although there are some very well-brewed beers available and some cities, such as Berlin and Bamberg, are crawling with brewpubs There are also regional variations; dunkel (dark) beer is a lot paler in the North of the country, and pils is also a lot hoppier and more bitter than in the malty south. Any trip to Germany wouldn't be complete without experiencing the amazing food on offer in pubs or outside; providing you like solid meat-based food you will be amazed at the quality, quantity and variety of German food - and it complements the beer superbly.
The USA has literally thousands of micros and brewpubs nowadays and, although Iíve never been, Iíve heard that if you know where youíre going itís well worth a spin. The Netherlands has some interesting beers and bars, although getting the rare beers is more difficult than in the UK sometimes! Regardless of whether you count Irish beers as part of Britain, itís a good place to visit, with a number of brewpubs and a few micros although Dublin is now more expensive than London and packed with hordes of stag-parties and one of the most over-rated cities to visit IMO. The rest of Europe's many nations all have their own individual beer styles to explore but few places reward a visit as much as the Czech Republic - as long as you know what you're drinking! Some Czech Pilsener beers (after all, they invented it) are just stunning examples of the brewer's art, especially the rarer dark examples.
Have a look at the "Abroad" page to get a taste of what to expect in the growing list of countries I have information about.
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Some tickers have no conscience and/or ethics and will happily get shafted by all sorts of scheming landlords as long as they get their ticks, whilst other scoopers donít like being messed around with and will boycott certain things;
Festivals. Some festivals have a deliberate policy of holding beers back. This may mean that although all beers will be on at some point during all sessions, it also means beers get taken off before you have a chance to score them and they wonít be in the best condition by the end of the festival. Some scoopers object to this and boycott festivals that engage in these practices such as Bradford and Stockport.
Pubs. If a landlord deliberately rips off people with extortionate prices or dodgy beers some scoopers will decide to boycott the pub. This doesnít happen very often, although the Brunswick charging £4 a pint for Bryncelin in the mid 90's strikes a chord...
Breweries. Some breweries have realised that most tickers will drink anything they produce, so the unscrupulous ones rebadge beers under different names, hoping the tickers think they are drinking different brews, but in reality itís just the same beer under another name. Some also brew rubbish beer and sell it to tickers pubs in the hope they will score it and not worry about the taste too much - and some, predictably, don't! No names given here, but just ask around and you'll soon find out who the current culprits are...
Opening hours. Some pubs and festivals only open for short hours, and some scoopers feel that attending them for the little time they is open is not effective time management. Whether this constitutes a boycott is down to the individual scooper, or it may be he just doesnít attend and goes somewhere else instead, Peterborough being a prime example.
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Beer festival scoop priority
This may seem obvious, but believe me it isnít. As has been said previously, some fests ration beers so it is essential to know this before attending (if you donít boycott it). Basically, itís a matter of watching the guy with the dipstick and first guessing which beers he is going to take off (pretty impossible really, Iíd not bother and go to a decent pub if I were you) although most festivals will serve a beer until it runs out, which necessitates tipping the barrel on the stillage to get the maximum amount of beer from it.
Before you even attend a festival, try and get a provisional list from the internet (try Scoopgen or cask-uk) and prioritise your scoops, rarest ones first, this will help you to choose the order you scoop in although prepare to change this at short notice due to beers running low - when you arrive at a festival, particularly on a Saturday session, try to see if anyone has seen the "dip list", if one exists. If not, ask the Cellarman, although donít expect a sociable response as most are little Hitlers and think they are above talking to the serfs much preferring to strut around with a mallet dangling from their belt.
The best way to judge how much beer is left is to get a scoop and drink it at the bar watching staff pour beers - if the casks are tilted up at the back they are probably half empty at least. Now watch the beer flowing, and if it is slow (and you require it) then thatís your next scoop. Adopting a methodical approach to choosing your winners means youíll miss a lot less of them, which means a better return on your investment getting there, and a much bigger scoop total!
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Pubs v Festivals
Although beer festivals are a good way of quickly bumping up your beer total, and some specialise in rare beers that are very difficult to find in pubs, the attraction of drinking in a pub still wins hands down for most scoopers. Some people just want maximum ticks and donít care where they are from, some like to score beers near where they are brewed, as the legend goes beer is better where itís brewed (This may still be true in some cases, as fresh beer is usually better than that sat around in a wholesaler for weeks, but with the advent of cold stores and just in time delivery systems itís not as clear cut as that anymore). Neither approach is right or better than the other, but personally I prefer to score beers in a pub, especially a brewpub; travelling to a far-flung remote brewpub such as the late Aldchlappie and scoring the beers there is infinitesimally better than scoring it with 20 others at a beer festival, although the problem nowadays is that most beers from new brewers appear at festivals before you get the time to go to the pub; maybe itís a case of doing less festivals and more brewpubs! Itís all personal choice however, just make up your own mind, but feel free to change it!
Personally, I consider a good crawl around a premier league scooping city such as Manchester or Sheffield is 2000% better than sitting in a tent drinking glass after glass of badly conditioned beer, but then again a crawl around London or Coventry may change your opinion! Basically there's a time and place for both festival and pub scooping; fests are great to buck the numbers but the quality beer usually comes from pubs - as well as having a much better time of it.
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Getting (and sharing) Gen
The most important thing you need when a scooper is good gen - this is information that you can trust about what beers are on where, what festivals are due, how good they are, what beers are expected, or even where the nearest chippy or cash point is (very important sometimes!). A lot of gen comes from other scoopers by word of mouth; if there are a group of scoopers anywhere, chances are that if you listen to them you'll either probably not understand much of it (see lingo if not), or pick up a lot of good gen. If someone has been to a pub and scored a huge beer then he'll probably text his mates to gloat and pass on the gen but one thing scoopers DO NOT DO is have a huge beer and tell no-one else - this is one of the golden rules; If you have gen, share it! Make sure everyone you know has your phone number and you have theirs; a text message can save someone hours of fruitless travelling if only they knew that Rooster's beer had gone 2 hours ago! SHARE YOUR GEN!!! I sometimes wonder how we managed before mobiles became cheaper and ... well ... mobile.
An excellent source for gen, especially beer fest lists and what is on where, is the internet so make sure you subscribe to the scooper's egroups hosted on Yahoo - Scoopgen is the most important; you need a Yahoo account to access it, just set one up then click on groups on the Yahoo home page. There are other egroups such Cask-UK, but these are not as vital - Scoopgen is, as the name suggests, where the meaty gen is posted. CAMRA publications such as the GBG and What's Brewing can give gen, but it's usually out of date and, whilst OK for CAMRA people to believe, those of us wanting up-to-the-minute gen have to look elsewhere.
Finally, but most importantly, be sociable and give out gen - by return, you will get gen back. The converse is also very true if you're not seen as being sociable... remember the old Socialist maxim "together we are stronger" and pool your gen - that way everyone wins; scooping isn't a Capitalist dog-eat-dog race (well, maybe to some people) but an enjoyable, sociable hobby where helping others to scoop beers is all part of the fun, although some gentle rivalry is always a good thing!
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When you get bored.
It happens to most scoopers at some point, even those who think it never will - I was one who thought I'd still be scooping desperately for ever, only to find that I actually prefer travelling around Europe and trying new beer styles there than searching out bland beers in the UK which may or may not be rebadges, dodgy, or actually legitimate new beers.
Most scoopers re-evaluate their attitudes when they reach 10,000 scoops and most decide to either give up completely (Jonesey for example) or to scale back their consumption dramatically (me) or to carry on regardless (Brian Moore). I'd say the majority cut back a lot and decide to drink more beers that they like rather than just drinking anything scoopable - for example, if you walked into a pub and they had Archer's Plastic train or Holden's bitter for sale, which would you go for? If the answer is the Holdens then congratulations, you are drinking a beer which (should) be excellent; if you said the Archers then you are still desperate!
One tip I'd pass on is to start going abroad - more and more scoopers are venturing to Europe and beyond in search of quality (and, more importantly, different) beer, some of which will make you look at British beer in a new way; after a few days in Belgium you may think British beer is weak, warm and boring but conversely a few days in Estonia may make you see how diverse and wonderful our brewing and pub scene is. You may find, as you travel, that UK beer isn't actually the best in the world as you thought it was, but I can tell you it definitely isn't the worst!
Whatever you do, wherever you decide to go, most probably it will open your eyes to a wide and challenging range of beer styles and will almost certainly widen your palate with regards to beer - you might even start keeping a cellar of lambics like me and Mr Jones! Believe me, after drinking Oude Gueuze in Beersel, Gose in Leipzig, Sahti in Finland and Baltic Porters in Eastern Europe you'll never think about beer the same way again - and that's guaranteed. It may be just what you need to give your scooping gene a little kickstart, so get yourself a new scooping book and start Euro-scooping or even world scooping, the possibilities are endless!
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It's a Hobby, not an Job!
Some scoopers seem to think that every minute of every day needs to be spent searching out winning beers to enter into their scoop lists. I must admit that, in the late 1990's, I was one of those people and hardly a weekend passed without me being somewhere in the UK (always the UK) at some beer festival or pub desperately searching for new beers. However, as I passed 10,000 ticks. it suddenly dawned on me that I'd neglected to do anything with my 20's apart from drink beer - yes, I'd seen most of the UK and made some good friends, but conversely I'd not seen anything of Europe and not experienced any of the fascinating-sounding drinks beer writers constantly gushed on about - so I did something about it and cut down my scooping, making time to do many other things, including this website!
Let's get one thing straight - scooping isn't a job, it's a hobby! I see some people now and shake my head in disbelief as they desperately tear around just for one or two new beers with nothing else mattering apart from their next scoop. I was there, I can appreciate what they're going through, but all scoopers should take a step back from the frenetic pace of ticking and think about what they're doing and if it's what they want to do! If so, then fine - but I think a lot of them might decide they need to spend more time doing other things too and scooping is pushing everything else out of their lives; if so, it's time they did something about it!
Scooping should be part of a life, not a lifestyle - drinking that much beer year in, year out isn't good for anyone. Combine scooping with other interests and suddenly you'll see how pointless the excesses of it are, but you'll also see the good friends you've made, remember the unforgettable things you've done and reminisce on the superb places you've been and be glad you bought that first blank book from Partners and started chasing new beers all over the country; everything in moderation, that's my new philosophy!
The Roman philosopher and politician Cicero reportedly said ďNever go to excess, but let moderation be your guide"; with regards to beer scooping, this is very sound advice indeed, although some scoopers I know would undoubtedly say he wasn't taking it seriously enough...
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Tasting - the American way.
Americans have gone for craft beer in a big way - just look at the success of Ratebeer and the like with their thousands of members all contributing merrily their views on the beers of the world. What's not so obvious, however, is that there is a significant gap between what is classed as a superb beer in America and the same in Europe; Americans love, as you've probably noticed, brashness and impact - they consequently love strong, tongue-blasting brews, preferably with oodles of hops and matured in a wooden cask of some sort for a year or two to "bring it on". The problem with the finished barrel-fermented "imperial IIIIPA" or whatever it's finally called is that it's being brewed for maximum impact, not flavour or drinkability, and after a few mouthfuls of the stuff your tongue has been skinned by the 12% alcohol and 120IBU's - not great for drinking, but superb for immediate impact for those who will probably never drink it again but want maximum "bang for bucks" for the fluid ounce they actually try.
Europeans, in the main, prefer their beers weaker and more balanced; Americans call this "blandness" but Europeans have been brewing beer for a lot longer than the Yanks and know that if a well-balanced beer is made to a very high standard then it can be drunk for more than a few sips and appreciated long into the night. Accepted, this method can veer too far into blandness, but there are many European beers which I consider classics that Americans disregard immediately as "bland" as they don't have 3 tonnes of Cascades in or haven't seen a stave of a merlot cask - surely this is beer geekery gone mad?
In my opinion, yes it is; beer is a beverage which, over the millennia, has evolved to be a drink which is used to help us to relax and aid sociability, not something which you can only stomach a few sips of before your tastebuds call an all-out strike. Yes, we all want beers to have taste and not be bland, but there's a big wide world of difference between a well-balanced, tasty, drinking beer with a multi-layered flavour that gives up it's secrets gradually and a bourbon-aged imperial stout that blows your tongue through your nose and stops you tasting anything else that evening.
Finesse and complexity will always win over strength and brutality - in the end.
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BEER TICKING Ė WHATíS IT ALL ABOUT?
- By "Beige" Phil Booton.
Spotting. Ticking. Scooping. Scratching. All mean more or less the same Ė attempting to drink as many different beers as possible. I slightly prefer the term ďtickingĒ and will henceforth use it, but each designation has its supporters. The word usually conjures up a picture of groups of scruffy characters at beer festivals frenetically filling small bottles with beer, prior to loading them into a capacious bag, which is then carried (or wheeled on a trolley) out of the venue. This vision however is rather misleading. Many beer tickers will only drink a beer at the point of dispense. Others try new beers but donít necessarily have to try every new one. Some will only count beers in pubs, not at beer festivals. So if you think the terms ďtickingĒ and ďbottlingĒ are synonymous, youíre wrong.
The practice of beer ticking was really spawned by the proliferation of microbreweries which started in the early 1980s and shows no sign of abating. This meant that suddenly there were many more different beers available to sample and inevitably some drinkers began to keep records of which beers they had drunk. I started drinking real ale and attending beer festivals in the mid 1980s and it seemed natural to tick off which beers I had tried. From there it was a small step to writing them down and counting them up! Just an example of the collecting habit, whether it be stamps, beermats, trains or Toby jugs.
Some CAMRA members and other drinkers tick off pubs, trying to visit as many as possible in the Good Beer Guide in the course of a year. Or all in a particular county. Or all which have appeared in every edition of the guide. But a larger group has concentrated on ticking individual beers. Some hardy souls of course do both! I have seen the beer ticking fraternity (and it is predominately, but not exclusively, a male pursuit) grow from a small group numbered in tens to one numbered in 100s (or perhaps 1000s for all I know!)
One interesting point to appreciate is that there are no rules for beer ticking. Each individual sets their own. So some will not count a beer unless they have drunk a pint of it (donít know how they deal with short measure!) The majority feel half a pint is sufficient and some (of whom I am one) feel that any reasonable amount is acceptable. In other countries (Belgium and the USA for example) beer is served in much smaller measures at festivals Ė they are not so tied to specific measures. Perhaps the most significant difference though is between those who bottle beers for later consumption and those who only drink beers at the point of dispense. I am firmly in the latter camp, saving one solitary lapse! But I have no objection to those who take a different view.
Another notable difference in approach is between those who, if you like, tick full-time and those who tick incidentally to their normal beer-drinking activities. So the full-time tickers travel all over the country to beer festivals. And if they canít get to one themselves many will get someone else to bottle any new beers for them. The less committed ticker will drink and record new beers locally but will not travel long distances specially. Of course one of the major disadvantages of serious ticking is implicit in all the travelling Ė you spend a great deal of money on train fares as well as beer! A few tickers drive cars and these invariably bottle their beers, for obvious reasons.
Another significant downside to ticking is the sheer quantity of beer drunk. More than 1000 new beers in a year equates to more than 500 pints (or at least 10 a week). And thatís without counting the ordinary day-to-day pints of Hydes, Lees or Phoenix! The main pleasure in ticking for many people, apart from the simple delight at adding a new name to the collection, is the camaraderie of the tickers. There is something rather heart-warming about walking into a pub in say, Aldershot, and immediately seeing a familiar face, there for the same reason as you, they have a beer festival on and might have a few new beers!
One regret I have about ticking is that so many CAMRA members, including local ones here in Manchester, will not accept it as a legitimate activity. Some beer festivals, including unfortunately, Stockport, actively discourage tickers. Fortunately they are outnumbered by those that try to provide something for everyone. Most beer tickers (apart from those few who have resigned in disgust) are CAMRA members, and itís a pity that differences of opinion and behaviour cannot be tolerated within an organisation whose objective after all is to promote real ale, which beer tickers consume in copious quantities. Anyway Iím off to start ticking malt whiskies!
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Martin the Mildman's scooping points system.
Martin's points system is an extremely good way of describing the flavours and quality of cask beers, and I reckon all scoopers interested in recording tasting notes should take it up. It shows Camra people that we're not just beer guzzling tastebudless idiots.
The first mark is the beer taste /10 for any given style of beer:
1 - extremely poor (3 reasons given)
2 - very poor (2 reasons given)
3 - poor (1 reason given)
4 - below average (reason given in text)
5 - bland, no discernible flavour (mainly used for national blands)
6 - Above average, but not really to my taste
7 - Fair example of the type
7+ - Good example of the type
8 - very good (+ can be appended)
9 - extremely good (+ can be appended)
10 - Wow! Not often issued!
Reasons for poor taste (any corrections/clarifications/additions welcomed):
a - aldehyde (apple taste in green beer)
b - too bitter
c - too much crystal malt (creosote type taste)
d - diactyl (buttery taste)
e - earthy taste (some type of hop/malt combo)
f - too sharp/fruity
h - too hoppy (not the same as bitter!)
l - too much caramel taste
m - too much smoked taste
p- phenolic (TCP taste - usually caused by yeast infection)
r - too much roast/burnt taste in milds/stouts/porters
s - too spicy (Christmas beers mainly)
u - sour taste
w - too sweet
The second part of the rating concerns the place of sale, a quality rating:
A - Perfectly served, good condition and temperature
B - Well served, but may be a little cloudy, or slightly warm but taste OK
C - Not at its best, perhaps cloudy, warm or flat but acceptable
D - Just about drinkable, but obviously nearing the end of its life. Wouldn't buy another.
E- Should be returned as undrinkable, therefore this has never been issued!
So, a beer with a rating of 7A would be an fair example of the type perfectly served, whilst 3lB would be a poor beer (too much caramel flavour) and served a touch fresh. And so on!
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