British pubs could be saved by apps post-lockdown, but will they lose their soul in the process?

As re-opening approaches, more and more pubs will be turning to new technology in order to keep staff and customers safe

When Wetherspoons made it possible to order food and drink to your table using only an app, pub-goers’ reaction was mixed. Traditionalists, to the extent that they were aware of the technology, lamented the erosion of the ancient custom of mingling at the bar. Younger customers enjoyed the service’s faceless convenience, revelling in their new ability to order unsolicited plates of peas to faraway friends.

That was 2017, which is three years and several lifetimes ago. During that time, other large pub chains have developed similar apps. Greene King have one; so do Brewdog, O’Neill’s, Harvester, and various other well-known chains. In-house software of this kind costs hundred of thousands of pounds to build, probably millions in some cases, but it is a sound investment [ . . . ]

Beers that help us through: Leffe

THE HOBBLEDEHOY rely on music, movies, a good book and a good brew to help us through the Covid confinement. Leffe is our ale of choice, lately. Check out this review from The BrewClub

Leffe produce a fine range of Abbey style beers. As such they’re industrial rather than craft or artisan beers, but they’re full bodied, full flavoured and well worth seeking out.

While I was in Brussels recently almost every bar seemed to have Leffe on draught.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t complaining, but as a Brit I found it strange for such a fine beer to be well, so readily available!  There are a select few bars in Central London that stock it, but in the UK, for the most part Leffe is strictly for beer aficionados!

I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised, Leffe is part of the global InBev empire and brewed at the vast Artois brewery in Leuven. It still clutches to its ‘Abbey’ heritage though; the Leffe glass is modeled on a chalice, and the logo shows an abbey building, represented in stained glass.

Abbey beers are different from (although similar to) Trappist beers, they are brewed by commercial breweries in something approaching the Trappist style and tend to take the name of a nearby Abbey.  This is a largely successful endeavour by the Belgian brewing industry to cash in on the reputation of Trappist beers.  In the case of Leffe, the brand was resurrected in the 1950’s although the original abbey was devastated during the French Revolution; beer hadn’t been brewed at the Leffe Abbey for nearly two hundred years.  And indeed still isn’t!

‘Trappist’ beers, on the other hand, are still brewed (as the name might suggest) by serving Trappist monks in the surviving abbeys (Five in Belgium, one in Holland).  Examples of Trappist Beers include Chimay, Orval and Westmalle, all fine ales in their own right, and some tastings I’m looking forward to, on your behalf!

There is an apocryphal tale that the Belgian Government cracked down on the sale of spirits after the first world war, which is why Belgian beers tend to be brewed for strength as well as flavour.

The two main Leffe brands are Leffe Blond and Leffe Brune, both available on draught in Belgium and (as before) a few select bars and cafes around Europe. However on returning to the UK I remembered a Leffe gift pack I had on my shelf so, purely for the purposes of research, I submit the following Leffe beer reviews!


Leffe Blond

We’ll start with what should be the lightest of the Leffe family, although still a respectable 6.2% ABV, as you can see Leffe Blond came out considerably paler than I remembered, but make no mistake, despite its pale amber colouration, this is a full bodied ale. It has a full mouth feel, and a substantial head that lasted well down the glass, leaving a distinctive lacing down the glass.

The flavour is well rounded, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, but with all these brews there is something that is distinctively ‘Belgian’.  Okay so not quite trappist, but once you’ve tasted a Belgian beer, you’ll spot that flavour whenever you are fortunate enough to encounter it.

There are hints of vanilla and toffee in this flavour, it’s not too heavy, in fact, I was pleased to note that I had a large (75cl) bottle of Blond on my shelf for the weekend.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Continue at The BrewClub: Beer Review – Leffe

Alcohol, you’ve been truly essential during lockdown – but it’s time to say farewell

Withnail & I
Withnail & I:I need booze!”


It’s been more than five weeks since I’ve been in lockdown, and not a single day without a drink. Truth be told, in any scenario, I don’t do ‘single’ drinks. Two glasses of wine is my minimum. 

I live with a friend who is aligned with me on this front, so each evening we open a nice bottle to accompany dinner. Never once, in all the time we’ve been under the same roof, have we found need to put the cork back in before retiring to bed.

Which is to say that I definitely consume half a bottle a night, which is five units, which is double what the NHS deems to be acceptable for a woman.

I’m probably not alone in this. Indeed, it is so very British that even in a global pandemic, when our borders are sealed and everything from restaurants to churches have been shut down, that off-licences are still deemed ‘essential’  [ . . . ]

Continue at TELEGRAPH: Alcohol, you’ve been truly essential during lockdown – but it’s time to say farewell

The Pubs Are Closed, but Brits Keep Quizzing

In an era of social distancing, one British institution has proven resilient.

“Which country has the longest coastline?”

“Which television characters are associated with Wimbledon?”

Sniffled Rotten is an anagram of which famous cartoon character?”

I didn’t know any of the answers. And judging by the many bemused faces in front of me, I wasn’t alone. Some chose to confer with their partners, making sure to turn their mouths away so that no one might read their lips, before scribbling down their response. Others, seemingly resigned to their fate, took a swig of beer and leaned back in their chair. Looking down at my own paper, I knew the chances of my team—just myself and my boyfriend—winning this pub quiz was going to be slim. But hey, there was always the next round.

The questions were challenging, perhaps not unlike those that would be asked of “punters” at any of the thousands of pub quizzes that are typically held on a given night across Britain. Only this wasn’t a typical quiz night, nor was it taking place in a pub. Rather, this quiz was happening via a Zoom call at the Corona Arms, a “virtual pub” that, until a few weeks ago, had no reason to exist.

The outbreak of the coronavirus changed that. The first cases emerged in Britain earlier this year, and any semblance of normal life has since come to a grinding halt. Social-distancing measures have been put into place, and nonessential areas of congregation, including restaurants, gyms, and cinemas, are now closed. In the nationwide effort to curb the spread of the virus, not even a treasured institution like the pub—perhaps one of the most recognizable symbols of ordinary British life—was spared [ . . . ]

Continue at THE ATLANTIC: The Pubs Are Closed, but Brits Keep Quizzing