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two thousand and sixteen

Well well. What a year for meaty morsels this has been.

We have been blown away over by our reception since our humble beginnings way back in April 2016 – and first and foremost want to thank everyone that has been behind us from the word go.

We have worked with some of the most exciting beer pubs and bars in the country, some incredible breweries, inspirational start ups and lets not forget just purveyors of excellent snacks full stop  – all of which has been meant that we have begun to make our dream a reality and the landscape of snacking is most definitely changing for the better in the UK.

Just in case we need to remind you – our dream is merely this.

To ensure that every beer drinker in the UK has a decent snack at hand that will compliment their chosen tipple, quench their quest for great flavour and ultimately make their life better (at the point of snacking). It has also been incredibly encouraging that we are not the only ones with this dream. The UK snacking market is in some pretty serious growth, with the meat snack purveyors amongst us riding a steady wave in these exciting times.

There has been lots of talk in the past few years about the changing landscape and the renaissance of beer in the UK and for everyone involved this is by no means a new thing. So many talented people have been beavering away for years and beer, pubs and all of the innovation surrounding it is still managing to take itself to new levels. What is genuinely exciting for us is that this all has to be compliment by the same variety, innovation and incredible flavours when it comes to a decent snack to go with your beer. The passion and enthusiasm we have encountered has been infectious and as we roll into 2017 we are literally bursting at the seems with new ideas and lofty ambition for the year ahead.

Some highlights for us have been…

The Festivals

Its a chance for us to talk to the snackers, the snackers that are as excited as us about British charcuterie and beer. PUB16, craft Beer Rising, Beer by the River, Craft Beer Revoltion, Local Flavours, Port Elliot Festival, London Brewers Market and lets not forget the infamous Norwich Market for our POPUP beer shop and meat deli in our spiritual home. Waxing lyrical about our vision and how much meaty love we put into our snacks takes things to a whole new level for us and we salute you all for getting in amongst it.

The Breweries

We have had the pleasure of working alongside some of the finest masters of their craft the UK has to offer and the open arms approach to supporting us as an emerging compliment to their juicy brews has been exceptional – you know who you are and we hope to continue working alongside such inspirational people, beer lovers and meat appreciators throughout 2017.

The Producers

We count ourselves incredibly lucky to be working with some of the most established and passionate people on our recipes. These guys source only the best animals for us, they pick the best cuts and the work that goes into preserving that snack in the bag is quite literally second to none. The commitment to our vision and delivering the finest quality possible as we grow and take things to a next level needs some special recognition for sure.

Our Customers

We really do work with some seriously talented people up and down the country. A formidable bunch of entrepreneurs, beer lovers and just all round awesome folk. From bowling lanes in Bristol to micropubs in the midlands, the variety of people that we work with is huge but everyone shares a common theme. A commitment to quality, continuously striving to be ahead of the curve, delighting their customers with something new and ultimately supporting us and our vision for snacking in the UK – seriously guys – thanks!

We are so hyped about 2017 and here are just a few of the things we have in store.

PUB17, Craft Beer Rising, Norwich Winter Ales Festival, London Brewers Market, some unique collaborations with some very exciting breweries, a brand new meaty addition to the range, some very exciting distribution partners and continued growth, development and expansion that will allow us to move into new markets, invest back into our business and continue to realise our dream for the future of snacking in the UK.

 

Here is to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2017!

Biltong VS Jerky

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What is the difference??!?!

We hear you scream from the roof tops.

As we tear our way around the British Isles taking to ‘meat fanatics’ and the ‘meat curious’ alike, we jump at the a chance to wax lyrical about our passion for how we like to cure our great British beef.

Biltong originally hails from south Africa and there is nothing that the natives do not know about this wonderful snack. It’s a lifestyle things for these guys, if you speak to any South african and they will tell you that they were brought up on the stuff.

Jerky on the other has emerged from the states and their passion for smokey meat goodness, only really recently having made it onto our noble shores. It is however, not geography that sets these two meaty mouthfuls apart instead I guess you could say there are 3 key differences between the two.

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INGREDIENTS

Although beef is most commonly used in both biltong and jerky, the beef used in biltong is generally much thicker due to the cut and a slower drying time. We use a silverside of West Yorkshire beef and can take anything up to a week in the dry cure. That’s love that is. We also use our own blend of vinegar, salt and spices for a marinade (for around 24 hours) before the start the drying process. Jerky is also dried but without the addition of vinegar and salt.

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TASTE

The vinegar and spices used bring that add extra flavor to biltong. While beef jerky often has a dry and smoky taste, (jerky is often smoked, while biltong is never smoked) biltong means you can still taste the beef – in proper biltong anyway! The reason we use use silverside is to ensure we get some of that delicious flavour as the beef cures, whereas jerky will contain very little fat. Depending on how you decide to make it, biltong can be dry and crumbly with no fat, or soft and chewy with more fat on it.

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PRODUCTION

The key thing to remember is that biltong is made with the absence of heat, while most jerky is cooked in a dehydrator for 6 to 12 hours. Biltong is specifically air dried for up to a week by hanging. Biltong’s use of vinegar – whether white, brown or apple cider – is not specifically for taste (that’s a bonus), but as a curing agent and was designed to help keep flies off the meat as it dried. There are however – no flies on us.

We hope that clears that little quandary up for you and encourages you to head out to one of our wonderful stockists, get yourself a beer and some Hot Strips O Beef.

 

The humble bar snack

Here at Cleaver & Keg HQ we regularly like to remind ourselves of why we are in existence – keeps us grounded if you like. We talk openly and passionately about what it is we want to achieve – envisaging every beer drinker across the land awakening their taste buds to the wild flavour combinations that progressive snacking can provide.

However the question remains, where did it all begin? Have pub snacks always been a thing?

Its seems they have. For as long as people have stood upright at bars there has been a demand for a savoury snack that requires no cutlery and can be devoured with a warm frothy ale. Looking back through the history books we can see the UKs earliest pubs being visited by local hawkers presenting their wares as beer worthy snacks. This bunch of enterprising young whipper snappers were recognising perhaps the opportunity for missed meal times whilst booze soaked customers whiled away the hours in the local watering hole. Pub-goers of the time were eating all manor or gastronomical delights – ‘not to fill themselves, but for a relish’ it has been reported. The likes of which would not be out of place in a Fergus Henderson kitchen today, including pickled whelks, boiled green peas, fried fish, pies and sheep trotters galore.

It was then the 1920s when the game changed forever. The pub snack godfather Frank Smith of Cricklewood in North London began to sell packeted crisps in his pubs and ‘Smiths’ was born. Not unlike any journey for a new concept it was not without its challenges that this snacking giant rose to such familiarity. One of the first hurdles that Mr Smith encounetred is theft from his customers – the salt cellars he provided for his crisps were being stolen by pub visitors on a regular basis and so you guessed it – Salt ‘n’ Shake was born – incredibly this simple innovation is still in existence today! The small blue sachet allowed a salt intake to taste making them the perfect, convenient, thirst-inducing pub snack. They had a long shelf-life, were easily stored, didn’t smell and were, in many other ways, far preferable to third-party sheep’s trotters from a publican’s point of view.

Although young Frank had been beavering away for a while by 1949 there was an article from the Economist summarised pub food as ‘a packet of crisps or a flaccid sardine on leathery toast’ and, in the same year, Smith’s Potato Crisps annual company statement proudly boasted of supplying nearly every public house in the country – what a legend. And so with the ‘pub snack’ firmly rooted into British culture with Mr Smith leading the charge on the revolution for change there were of course a huge variety of newcomers to the pub snack party. Brands that we will all be familiar with gracing pub shelves throughout the second half of the last century and brands that have remained there ever since. Who remember KP’s efforts to spice things up a little with a ‘trip of lifetime competition?’ Or who has ever eaten a scampi fry and not needed a beer quite literally immediately to wash that intense taste from your buds?

In more recent times we have seen huge developments British pub culture on the whole of course, with food becoming integral to many British pubs proposition and furthermore a move to a grazing approach to pub dining means that the pub snack has emerged victorious for the most part. In any decent boozer worth its salt these days it is a delight to be able to find anything from the much heralded ‘Manchester Egg’ to  homemade pork crackling and even Foie Grois toasties.

The packeted pub snack market however has not really moved on from its humble beginnings, with little or no innovation, or at least none on the scale of our friend Mr Frank Smith anyway. The question could be asked in that case that perhaps we have found beer snack harmony with nuts crisps and of course the laterly introduced pork crackling? These salty numbers do the job nicely in filling the gap for the quaffer and increasing the liquid demand for the landlord simultaneously. Perhaps the kitchen and its brigade of highly trained chefs gives us everything we need? Who doesn’t love devilled white bait as a pub snack after all.

Well, its all about occasion in our opinion. There is a time and place for a warm scotch egg with a divinely runny yolk and friends, there is a time and place for packeted snacks too. There is something just wonderful about returning back from the bar with a round for your friends and a couple of bags of something delicious between your teeth, standing out as a bonifide legend as you tear open the packs for all to share. And we figure that if this occasion is to remain an important part of British pub culture then whats in the bag has to be good – really good!

Its that time again, we need a pub snack shake up that Mr Smith would be proud of. And so, as we plan to become part of pub snacking history (already filling in our own wikipedia entry) and shake things up for everyone out there that wants to remain stood upright without cutlery and be serviced with a meaty morsel or two whilst supping a warm frothy ale or otherwise – join us for the ride.

Cleaver & Keg | events news

With our meaty morsels being devoured up and down the country – we have decided to celebrate with an event or two. Here is where you can find us – come and join us for a beer?

We love getting involved with fellow beer snack pioneers. The guys behind some of the most forward thinking and exciting pubs, bars and restaurants around. Not to mention those brewers that are fuelling our mission to offer decent snacks with good beer. These are the guys that justify our existence, these are the legends that inspire us everyday to change the beer snacking world for the better.

As far as we are concerned there is no event too big or small for Cleaver & Keg – we simply want to be talking good people about good beer and about how their pints (and their lives) are enhanced by a decent beer worthy snack to compliment. And if we get to have a pint or two on the way then that is also good.

Boutique Beers | Matthew Clark | Wednesday 6th July | Hyde Park

First up is this whopper of an event from one of our distributors and supporters from the early days – Matthew Clark. With over 160 beers and 50 ciders to whet your appetite plus street food, music and beer cocktails – we cannot wait to talk to some of Londons finest hostelries about British Charcuterie. This is a trade only event but its free to sign up if you are interested in stocking their range of boutique beers and  / or of course our finest meaty morsels – available for purchase via Matthew Clark from 1st July (London only currently)

Wild Craft Brewery + Meat tasting | Reindeer Pub & Kitchen | August date tbc

Next up we are running a beer and meat tasting with our friends over at The Reindeer Pub & Kitchen. These guys have always been solid fans of British charcuterie and know and thing or two about beer too. The event will be in conjuntion with Wild craft Brewery who are currently launching their range of norfolk brewed beers and spirits using a wealth of foraged ingredients. You can expect some perfectly paired combinations and some very exciting new products to sample too.

Beer by The River | Sambrooks Brewery | Saturday 10th September | Tooting Common

We then have the delightful beer by the river booked in with our friends over at Samrbooks Brewery. It will be our first but we understand it to be quite the beer celebration. We will be armed with meaty morsels and boundless enthusiasm. This year sees the event the move to a picturesque, tree lined site in the South Western corner of Tooting Common. They have already started signing up a great range of brewers, some outstanding musical acts and plenty of entertainment for adults and kids alike. . Plan for a relaxing, late summers day in front of the big stage, with 30+ brewers, 100+ beers and years of fond memories.

We also have a few other things in the pipeline for up coming events with more of a favourite beer snack pioneers including and some of the most exciting beer events set for 2016.

Drop us a line if you would be interested in doing an event with us. We love it.

Meat + Beer

We thought it was high time we delved a little deeper into what exactly it is we think is so magical about food and beer matching.

The complexity of beer has clearly changed in the UK and we are now greeted with our pints bursting with super human hop varieties to beers crammed full of so many exotic fruits that they have been taken to a new level of ‘juicy’.

We have been banging on about it for a while now, but our vision is that anything snaffled with these increasingly challenging beverages should stand up to it when it comes to flavour profile, ingredient selection and most importantly quality.

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A great opportunity we thought to take a closer look at the already (and most conveniently paired meat and beer case from Ales by Mail). Available for purchase for nothing short of a bargain at £17.50 and / or being given away for FREE (yes free) as part of our retweet and follow campaign. Follow us @cleaverandkeg for more info:

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Let us kick of with the pale ale and the Salami Cuts. Camden’s Pale is a text book American pale ale. The combination works because it lets the subtle fennel of the Salami Cuts sing through at the same time as having just the right amount of bitterness to compliment slighter higher fat content of the salami. Basically its creates a velvety smoothness on the palette that washes down way too easily in our opinion.

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By The Horns Wolfie Smith Amber IPA with our Chorizo Cuts is up next. The Chorizo seems to give the whole experience a bit more body to be honest. The sweetness from the beer gives the paprika a run for its money and hops are nicely challenged again by the fat content. This one for us definitely elevates the beer itself.

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Five Points IPA was third on the list and this met its match with the Hot Strips O Beef. A brillianty spot on IPA that with that slightly higher ABV can definitely stand up to the heat. The tropical flavours you would expect do come through although they are compromised a little bit by the pepperriness from the beef (we have since developed a slight fruiter spice over the pepper – and we are convinced this will work out loads better) but overall another winner as far as we are concerned.

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And last but not least we have the Street Porter from Pressure Drop that we have paired with our Strips O Beef. There is something about the depth of flavour in the porter that just allows all that seasoning and worcester sauce prance around in your mouth. The new silverside of West Yorkshire beef that we are working with is much less fatty than our previous attempts but the fat that does remain adds a really decent depth of the whole thing.

Overall, in our opinion every mouthful of beer was enhanced by the presence of meat. Generally speaking when it comes to food and beer pairing – flavours need to stand up to flavours and there is always one stand out element to each that should compliment the other. Don’t take our word for it however. Get yourselves over to Ales By Mail for a taste – www.alesbymail.co.uk.

THE TIME IS NOW.

This is a very exciting time for us.

We genuinely feel like we are on the cusp of something big as a beer drinking nation. Now, to the mere mortal the humble pub snack is nothing more than an afterthought – an impulse purchase to keep the hunger at bay and a bloody good excuse for that one last pint.

In this guise it serves itself well and has done for many years. Strolling back from the bar with 3 packs of dry roasted and some scampi fries between your teeth as you confidently place 3 pints, 2 empty wine glasses and the bottle from under your arm on the table – to service your friends desires simultaneously. Quenching their thirst with your generosity and contemplating their dietary requirements too.

Well at least you thought you were. Since when has a scampi fry been good for anything? Who even eats scampi these days? Peanuts are great but they are peanuts and no matter what exotic concoction you cover them in they will always be just a peanut. We could wax lyrical about the lacklustre offering of pub snacks all day long – the tiresome collection of outdated, uninspired and mediocre snacks that as a nation we all seemed to have settled for when we are in the boozer.

But we will not.

Instead we wil refer back to the inference that this is the start of something very exciting. With our meaty morsels going out to pubs and bars across the country next week it fills us with immense pride and joy (I will be celebrating with a can of Vocation later) that there will quite literally be 100’s of people walking back from the bar again laiden with drinks for their friends but this time, between their teeth will be the finest British charcuterie money can by (RRP £2 which is incredible value if you think about it). Slivers or slices of expertly sourced beef and and pork, lovingly cured to intensify all of those wonderful flavours making the quality of the meat sing out from the roof tops. Then packed into a little parcel of goodness that not only contemplates your friends dietry requirements but gives them flavour that will knock their socks off and more importantly compliment their drink. Flavour that can be savoured with every glug of beer or sip of wine. Flavour that can easily be matched to style or strength and most importantly flavour that will help change the playing field of what we are expecting from a pub snack.

We should be demanding more from snacks, for too long now we have let the mediocrity wash over us. Don’t let your snack be an afterthought with little or no consideration as to why you are even eating it. Make your snack part of the drinking experience and trust us, the world will be better place – it will enhance that one last pint at the very least anyway.

To the pub snack revolution – cheers!

THE BIG LAUNCH with Ales By Mail

Where else can you get the hottest beers around in any quantity, delivered directly to you door, at the same time as a gift pack from Brewdog and a T shirt from Moor Beer co (another launch partner by the way) – not to mention probably the best range of snacks designs for good beer out there.

Ales by mail thats where (click me)

These guys have been pioneering the beer delivery thing for some time now. Ensuring that we can all enjoy really good beer in the comfort of our own home. Beers from some of the most progressive UK breweries on the scene and for our money, they have one of the best selections of world beer on offer too. Here are just a couple of winners from me that I thought deserved a special mention.

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Wild Beer Co Summer Blend 2015

I was lucky enough to try this not too long ago and boy has it stayed with me. It might be that I have barrel ageing on the brain at the moment (currently waiting for a cask of Bad Seed Imperial stout to settle in the cellar) and being relatively new to sours too – this really did stop me in my tracks. A great example of what the boys and girls over at Wild Beer are capable of. Very much looking forward to the next in the series. We are also told the it will age well in the bottle for many years if properly cellared – although mine just didn’t last that long! Pair with Salami Cuts.

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Siren / Cigar City Caribbean Chocolate Cake 7.4%

Its not often I drink a stout (typically aside from this weekend – when I will be getting stuck in to the Oyster & Stout festival at the Reindeer Pub & Kitchen in Norwich) but when I do get around to having a stout, I like to sit me down, look me in the eyes and say here I am, in  all my dark and heavenly glory. Thanks Siren Craft this absolutely delivers, with so much cake going on that it feels like your 5th Birthday all over again and a depth of flavour that just keeps on giving. A truly wonderful stout. Pair with Strips O Beef.

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Mikeller Say Sun 6%

One of my earlier delves into the Saison world last year and I am not sure if its the simplicity backed up by some serious hoppage or the label design that I love the most (hands up on being led by great design – not just on beer by the way) but either way this is a great example of a saison that I would highly recommend snaffling before they all get got. I am yet to be disappointed by a Mikelller beer. Says most people. Most of the time. Pair with Salami Cuts.

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Rye IPA from Barrel House Brewing Co 6.5%

One to keep an eye out for – I have not actually tried this one yet but it ticks every box that I am enjpying currently and I guess I am just going to have to see if I can arrange a beer and meat swap with our friends in Ales By Mail head office – will keep you posted.

You get the picture the guys over at Ales By Mail know their beer. Fortunately for us too, they also know their snacks. With a growing range of discerning snacks all of which go extraordinarily well with beer – you just cannot go wrong. Aside from the British charcuterie of course we highly recommend the Karkli coriander (we reckon it would go quite nicely with the Bristol Beer Factory Hefe – also available to purchase with Ales by Mail and an absolutely cracking beer).

We are super excited to be launching the full packaged range of meaty morsels with these guys in late April – so if you cannot get down to your local boozer for a meat fix then pick up a pack online – there will plenty of beer matchings too of course and some great deals if you are looking to fill your cupboard full of great tasting British Charcuterie.

The Snack Revolution is Close. Really close.

Well what a few weeks we have had at Cleaver & Keg HQ.

Mincing around at PUB16 and Craft Beer Rising – meeting some of the best and most forward thinking pubs in the UK. All of which share our passion for being able to offer the modern beer drinker something slightly more progressive to snack on with their delicious beer – fine British charcuterie.

We are incredibly proud to be working with such an excellent selection of the UK’s best watering holes and together we believe that we can change snacking for the better. These guys really are at the top of their game and we urge you to check them if you are looking for proper pubs doing great things on your travels.

Big respect for the following and if you happen reside near any of these fine establishments you need to sample the meaty morsels as soon as they arrive on the shelves in mid april – or maybe just drink some of their great beer in preparation before hand.

By The Horns Brewing Co. Wandsworth. Railway Hotel, Sheffield. Leopold Tavern, Southsea. The Red Lion, Nash Mills. Queens Head, Nassington. The crown inn, Ashley. The King’s Arms, TringThe OldPlough, Birstall.The Sun, Carshalton. The Bristol Ram. The Adelaide, Teddington. Rose & Crown, Kentish Town. The Rumsey Wells, NorwichThe Reindeer Pub & Kitchen, Norwich. We Brought Beer, Balham & Clapham JunctionGonzo’s Tea Room, Norwich. Meat & Barrel, Southsea. The Wheatsheaf Pub & Dining Room, Northampton. The Victoria Inn, Richmond Upon Thames. Seven Cellars, Brighton & Hove. The Yard, Ilkley. The Sir Garnet, Norwich. The Birdcage, Norwich. The Farm Tavern, Brighton & Hove. Harper Wells, Norwich. The Lord Rosebury, Norwich. Moor Beer, Bristol. The Three Tuns, Tamworth. Cardinals Hat, Worcester. The Fleece Inn, Evesham. Fritton Arms, Fritton. Dukes Head, Somerleton. The Tap House, Deal.

We also have a few more of our favourite pubs lined up and so keep your eyes peeled and if for any reason you cannot get down to the boozer for a taste then we are incredibly excited to announce that we will be working with one of the finest online purveyors of craft beer around…

ALES BY MAIL – Come April you will be able to compliment all of our beer purchases with a pack or two of the finest beer snacks around.

All hail the beer snacks!

Craft Beer Rising 2016

Urmm – I think we have just about recovered.

What an incredible beer festival. The sheer amount of beer was staggering and the quality of most of it was mind blowing.

We felt privileged to be part of a clearly explosive scene in Londons East end – it must however be noted that the beauty of this scene is its lack of regional monopoly. Lots of great beer coming out of London but equally I had some belters from West Yorkshire (Vocation), Somerset (Wild Beer Co) and even from little old Wisbech – thats you Elgood & Sons and your incredibly awesome lambic beers!

There was just something intoxicating (apart form the obvious) about a room stacked full of passionate craftsmen and women, all with queues of revellers at their bar eager to talk about the fruits of their labour. There was a real appreciation for flavour, style and passion – just the way a beer festival should be!

Reflected too in the great resposne we had to our snack range. Granted we were offering generous boats of delicious meat for £2 and so whats not to get excited about – but we had an absolute blast talking to beer drinkers about the desperate need for pubs and snacks in general to up their game – once again our convictions have been confirmed and the good people of the UK are ready for something better, ready for something with more flavour and more importantly they are going to be heading into their local pubs demanding it!

We did our best to ensure that everyone we spoke to had at least a quiet word (we would prefer a rawkus outcry of disbelief) in the landlord / landlady of their local pubs ear – you need to be selling better snacks guys. This beer is awesome, but your snacks are well….need some improvement should we say.

And with the good beer drinkers of craft beer rising flying the Cleaver & Keg flag in pubs and bars across the country we hope to sweeping every nook and cranny of the UK with the finest British Charcuterie we can muster- we will do our very best at least.

Next up is BeerX in Sheffield – see you there for a meaty morsel we hope.

Feeling the meaty love at PUB16

February 2016 is shaping up to be quite the month for beer snacking it seems. We were fortunate enough to be in attendance at the only show dedicated to the pub trade earlier this month and boy did we feel the love.

It was great to be in amongst some of the bar and brewing greats and to see so much innovation in an industry that has had on occasion, a reputation of falling behind the times when it comes to thinking differently. Of course now that craft beer (or modern beer – or really – whatever you would like to call it beer) has well and truly established itself as the real deal and is here to say – everyone else is upping their game accordingly.

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And so too they should be – we were one of 5 cured meat snacks on offer as a tasty snack to compliment your pint – which to us is a triumph as far as we are concerned. The more of us there are determined to get good snacks into the hand of pint appreciators out there the better. Not only this but we saw some wonderful innovation from craftbeer growlersUK allowing us all to sup some of this great beer we speak of at home. Some great tasting brews in cans from some of our favourites including Five Points Brewing over in Hackney – the Railway Porter is the winner for me. There was an opportunity to head into a virtual reality from Meantime and of course Brew dog pulled out all the stops with an Arcade bar complete with all necessary bells and whistles – needless to say it was a great show and we were chuffed to be part of it.

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Most encouragingly we had a constant flow of beer and meat fans alike passing through. From social clubs to burger joints and everything between – the fact of the matter is that our convictions have been confirmed and the good people of the UK are ready for a better, more forward thinking and most importantly more flavoursome snack with their beer. Be rest assured we will be working our socks off over the coming months to make sure every pub, club and bar up and down the country that serves good beer will be selling good snacks too.

Next up Craft Beer Rising (26th & 27th) February – still a few tickets left and so get involved and come and join us for a beer.