Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Hour in London

A few London pubs that I follow on Twitter have started offering discounts on pints of beer in the late afternoon or evening. Although not called happy hour as American bars do, they offer these specials until closing. As the cost of a pint keeps increasing I welcome the discount at these pubs and will frequent them. Well, I do that now as they are very good pubs with excellent conditioned ale.

But I have to ask if this trend is being undertaken do to loss of trade as a result of the higher cost of putting a pale in a pint? For some of the pubs I do not think this is the case as they already have a brisk trade of loyal punters. So, my question to the pubs of London: why? In addition, is this happening beyond London in other parts of the country?

Not that I really need an answer but I do welcome this action in some of my favorite pubs. The two that know do this are the Gunmaker Arms in Clerkenwell and the Wenlock Arms in Hockston. Thank you publicans.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Flying with US Airways Miles

When I visited London in January 2013 I was able to use some of my miles and a small amount of cash. I looked ahead to see what I would need to come over for the Steeler's game in September and once more for my birthday in January 2014. All three trips would require 30,000 miles and not more than $200 for a round-trip flight. Now that I am planning a trip the miles have gone to 60,000 RT with about $240. My two up-coming (almost) free flights with US Airways has been cut down to one. Dam.

Well, the September flight for the game is not going to happen for a few reasons so that leaves January. But I have found that the entire month of February 2014 is available for 17,500 miles each way. This is great as I can save a lot of miles if and when another month opens for the same amount. But there are restrictions Any day doing February will charge me 71,500 one-way but getting a flight on a particular day is the challenge. I have to fly into Heathrow as US Airways pulled out of Gatwick. I have a choice of traveling through Philadelphia which I do not want to do as it is too large and my connecting flight is "miles" from my point of touch-down. I prefer Charlotte. US Airways does not.

Most of the days I select to fly to or from Charlotte are sold out. In order to be in London for the Battersea Beer Festival I can only depart on the second of February and I have only two days that I can return without going past my available time off from work. Dam work. But I can still get in a nine day visit. Last January was sixteen days and I wanted to stay longer. Philadelphia gives me more flight options but I just hate navigating that airport. It's not real that bad but can be stressful if your lay-over is short due to the hike to the connecting flight. Been there, done that, good god never again.

It is nice to be able snag a very cheap flight on any day of the month but not very nice when the airline says we have no seat for you. I do understand that airlines have to set restrictions, after all I am not exactly chairman's preferred. The chairman doesn't even know who I am. But what is available to me is something that I can work with and I am excited to be able to be making plans to come back to the city that I love. It does help that I am very flexible with my schedule.

One other item that I am trying to factor into my planing is the return city I want to use to get back to Pittsburgh. I prefer Charlotte Airport and I can get a flight that will get my home airport at 6 PM. But I leave London at 10 AM. Getting to Heathrow may not be bad but not having been to Heathrow in 20 years I need to find my way like a newbie. The flight to Philly departs at noon, which takes a lot of stress off me. But the flight to Pittsburgh lands at 8 PM. That's 1:00 AM to my body and I still need to drive home.  I find London to be calming an stress free but trying to get there and back is what I thing made me loose my hair.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Passport Control Reform

There is a lot of talk in the United States and Mexico about reforming the immigration policy of the United States. I say Mexico, as they appear to not like what we do. I wasn’t sure that they had a say in the matter but it seems that so many do. One phrase that gets tossed around is Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean but some view it as allowing people coming in the United States illegally to stay. I would ask; why would somebody come into a country illegally? There can be several answers to that but the obvious answer is opportunity. This is why so many people fled Europe in the 1800 and 1900’s to come to America. This is a big reason to this day. But the one element to immigration that applies to everyone coming into any country is that the receiving country has the right to say no. Yet some in my country (as well as from other countries) seem to think that the United States should not say no. I have a question for those having that opinion.

Before I ask my question, please remember that I am keeping my opinion out of this conversation. The question is being directed to those in the just say no camp, but the kick em out camp may have something to say as well. At long last, here is my question. If you are in favor of allowing undocumented workers to remain in the United Sates (under a variety of scenarios) what is your opinion of Passport Control at entry ports in the United States?

Being connected by land to Canada and Mexico, it is easy to simply walk into the States. Once here “visitors” can benefit from what we have to offer in the way of work, health care, education, etc. It is different when you come in off a plane or boat. Once you set foot on America you encounter a uniformed sentry who wants to know who you are and why you’re here. When I land overseas I am asked how long I plan to stay and will I be working. My answer that never gets a smile in return is “not long enough and don’t work at the office so why start now”. Countries want to know who is coming to the party. If you had a party at home and saw a stranger, wouldn’t you ask him how he got in? I think this a small part of the debate that is missing. I am not sure how my ending sentence should read. If we allow those coming in illegally should we allow those coming in with a passport? How do we tell one yes and the other no? So many people want to come and work here but are denied before they leave home. How do we bring parity to everyone?

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Fullers' Porter

As anyone who could not flee from me in time knows, I was in London for 16 days recently. I go at least once a year and it has been usually in March. The cost in cash and air miles was next to nothing for January and I just had to go. One thing that is available in London in January that is usually not available in March in London Porter by Fuller’s, Smith & Turner in Chiswick. London. It is my favorite beer in England and one of my tops worldwide. I have written the brewery several times in the past to tell them this. I wrote this time asking if it was going to be on and where could I find it. Their response was surprisingly unexpected and something that I would never have asked for.

Fullers’ sent me a keg: kind of. But it wasn’t a keg it was a cask. And it wasn’t actually for me but they sent it because of my e-mail asking where I could fine it. Maybe I should explain. London Porter is available in bottles and keg most of the year. The best tasting for me is cask condition served through a beer engine. But the cask version is typically available only during the colder months. And the best place I have always found it in cask is at the Dove in Hammersmith. The Dove is an historic riverside pub that has a lot of history in it. Once you come in you never leave quickly.

Knowing how much I love the cask porter, Fullers did something really nice for me. They sent the cask version to the pub prior to my arrival and all I had to do was to let the pub know when I was coming in. How many breweries have done that for a customer who only comes to the pub a few times once a year? This was unbelievable. Not having the patience to wait I headed for the pub directly. They were ready to put it on but one beer had to finish first. So the manager drew a pint directly from the cask in the cellar. Once again, I was thinking this was all a dream. The cask was on the next day and I spent several days the next two weeks enjoying one of my best beers in a fine pub. I thought it could not get any better than this until I ordered the lamb shank with barley. So many places do this over rice it was no surprise that a brewery run pub would cook with barley. This is now on my list of comfort foods ad something you kids can try at home. The cask was readily available to all customers and judging by how fast it went there are a lot of people who enjoy cask London Porter. But I think the brewery already knows that.

I have sent thanks to Simon Robertson-Macleod and Tia Nicholson from Fuller’s for making this happen and asked them to extend my gratitude to all other at Fullers’ who put effort into this. Not to be omitted is Mr. England (yes, that is his real name), manager of the Dove. He could not have welcomed me more and made my visits a pleasure. Good people running a good pub serving good beer to good customers: beer brings people together.

Web Links
Fullers’ Brewery Tour: 
Fullers’ London Porter: