It wasn’t hard to feel at home at Le Carillon. The place was packed with furniture: wooden and metal chairs, springless couches and divans, tables of varying heights, sizes, and varnishes. There was a piano in the corner, an impossible stack of records and a set of slanted bookshelves that contained no books. None of the walls were painted the same color, if at all. A tabby cat slept on the piano…
As of Monday, nobody had closed the celebrated beer bar Moeder Lambic, which—I think we can all agree—would be a fine place to demonstrate our defiance. ‘Yes, we are open,’ said co-owner Andy Mengal. ‘The ambience is not fun for the moment! A little bit paranoiac. But we resist with good beers!’
Grosse Bertha [is] a hybrid of the German weissbier and Belgian tripel beer styles… It fascinated me for a while, standing with a glass on the brewery floor, flipping my perception between the two styles like a lenticular picture.
This year, the global hop harvest is on average between 30-40% down on what it should be. Every day, Charles Faram gets a call from another UK craft brewer asking for Cascade, Chinook, Citra and Nelson Sauvin, because those are the varieties used in successful craft beers right now. Many of these callers are going to be disappointed.
When we interviewed Peter Elvin, the enigmatic character behind the Penzance Brewing Company at the Star Inn in Crowlas, last Saturday, he said:
I use a blend of different hops in all my beers so that, if one of them disappears, it’s less important. I try to keep a stock in so that I can phase a hop out over ten or fourteen brews, too, so it’s not so jarring. But Trink is predominantly Citra, and there ain’t no Citra, so that’s on the way out.
So, there you have it: the hop shortage isn’t just abstract chat — it’s actually going to mean that one of our top beers of 2015 is no longer available.
On the upside, maybe Andy Parker has a point:
Prediction: 2016 will be year of the malt and malt-led styles.
Looking for one thing, we found another: an essay by H.V. Morton entitled ‘Pub Crawlers’, published in The Nights of London in 1926.
In this context, the crawlers are not drinkers as in modern usage but hawkers relying on ‘human nature in its most expansive moments’, (i.e. pissed, in the pub) to earn a few pennies selling boot laces, matches, or performance art:
Most remarkable of all the bar visitors is the Young Man with the Paper Shapes… He slips into a bar silently, and he stands by the door. Somehow the people become aware of him. Mrs Jones, with her veil on her nose, pauses in mild alarm, with her second glass of stout poised above her ample bosom, as she says, sotto voce:
‘Oo-er; look at ‘im! What’s he after?’
They see a pale young man gazing round the bar from beneath the brim of an old felt hat. He is fumbling with wads of folded newspapers contents bills, with which his clothes are padded. Quickly, he makes little tearing movement, he pinches ovals and oblongs and stripes from the folded bill, he teases it and pulls it, and then opens it, displaying four perfectly modelled filigreed figures cut in the paper.
A delighted murmum rises from the bar! Isn’t it clever? How does he do it? He ought to be on the halls!
When Morton talks to him he discovers that he is well-educated and well-spoken but has been working at this trade for fifteen years. He’s evidently down on his luck, though his ‘wife’s people’ are paying for his son to attend a top public school.
It’s not quite clear how much of this is truth and how much fiction, and Morton does not seem to have been a nice bloke, but, still, it’s a lovely vignette. If we ever get to compile that anthology of writing about beer and pubs we sometimes dream about, this piece will be a shoo-in.
Main image: detail from ‘Posters in the Strand’ by Yoshio Markino from The Colour of London, 1907.
This time, we’re tasting two beers that weren’t on our original list, one from Glamorganshire, the other from Sussex.
There was a bit of angst on Twitter and elsewhere when we said we hadn’t been able to get Brain’s Dark for this tasting. We really did try, checking six or seven different supermarkets, and online. We’d given up and moved on when, suddenly, it appeared in our local Tesco. It wasn’t on display proper but hidden in a plastic-wrapped slab on top of the shelving from where a chap with a ladder had to retrieve two bottles. We paid £1.50 per 500ml in a four-for-six deal.
Despite the cryptic name the label trumpets a ‘best mild ale’ award from the World Beer Awards. The ABV is 4.1%, nudging above where most milds sit. It’s not bottle-conditioned or self-consciously artisanal so there were no gushes or quirks on pouring and it produced a glass of black topped with a thick wedge of beige without fuss. This is the blackest mild we’ve tasted so far — a real light-stopper.