News, Nuggets & Longreads 24/01/2015

There’s no better cure for a hangover than reading loads of blog posts and articles about beer — prose concerning the dog that bit you and all that.

→ Dave West was the founder of Eastenders Cash’n’Carry in Calais, where Brits could fill vans with cheap booze for (ahem) ‘personal consumption’, but just before Christmas, he was murdered in his Mayfair flat. For Off Licence News, Nigel Huddleston provided this fascinating profile-cum-obituary:

West made no bones about the fact that he was selling to gangs who were breaking the law by driving back van loads of booze to the UK to sell on the cheap and without a licence on the streets of Britain’s housing estates. West was always careful to point out that in doing so he had kept within the letter of the law, citing himself as a “modern day Robin Hood”….

(Via @philmellows.)

→ One for Pocket: Jack Highberger has written another extremely long but thoughtful piece on the trajectory of a craft beer drinker’s tastes:

[A] pub owner could probably take my craft beer trajectory above, convert it to a bar graph, and use that for inventory purposes. He should probably stock fewer sours and saisons than IPA’s, but more of those than the average lager… [And that’s] a problem for Jim Koch: no matter how rich and well-balanced your lager is, it’s still a lager.

Continue reading News, Nuggets & Longreads 24/01/2015

Proporval

This is the first in a new series of posts about our experiments in blending British ales with the cult Belgian favourite Orval.

We’ve been thinking for some time, mostly inspired by reading Ron Pattinson, that a lot of British beers would benefit from a touch of Brettanomyces, to add complexity and character. A bit of dirt, if you like.

Then, more recently, Michael Tonsmeire’s excellent book American Sour Beers got us thinking about blending different beers to taste. In notes accompanying his recipe for English Stock Ale (p318) he says:

Blend with dark mild or a porter to get a taste of what drinking in England was like before Pasteur and Hansen’s techniques cleaned the Brettanomyces out of the breweries there.

Good idea, Mr Tonsmeire! (Not that we need much encouraging to mix beers, mind.)

Continue reading Proporval

Pubs of London E17, 1991

CAMRA’s East London & City Beer Guide is a fascinating document which, across three editions from 1983 to 1991, charts changes to the drinking landscape.

We’ve had the 1986 edition for a while, and have 1983 (finally) on the way, but 1991 arrived this week, looking as if it had come fresh from the binders, the spine un-cracked. (“Printed by Calvert’s Press (TU) Worker’s Co-Operative”.)

We turned to the section that covers Walthamstow, London E17 — an area we know particularly well — which prompted a few observations.

1. It hasn’t changed that much. The Grove, the Windmill, the Plough and a few others have gone, but many others are still there — the Lord Brooke, the Lord Raglan, the Lord Palmerston, the Chequers, and so on, many in better shape now than they were when this book was written.

2. It’s always seemed odd that there’s no Wetherspoon’s in Walthamstow (the nearest is across the line into Leyton). Now we know that the College Arms on Forest Road was a JDW (Younger’s Scotch Ale at 79p a pint!) but, at some point, the firm abandoned it — something it seems it’s always been pretty ruthless about.

3. The Village, which looks like a well-worn and traditional Victorian pub, actually opened in 1989. The building is Victorian but the premises was formerly (Boak thinks, calling on childhood memories) residential. For that  matter, The College Arms was formerly two shop units and the Coppermill an off-licence, so these change-of-use conversions have occasionally gone the other way.

4. Pubs change their names a lot. The Tower Hotel became Flanagan’s Tower, which became the Tower Hotel again, which is now the Goose. The College Arms was formerly ‘Cheeks American Bar‘. What is now the Waltham Oak on Lea Bridge Road was formerly the Chestnut Tree, but began life with what might be our new favourite pub name: The Little Wonder.

The content of all three editions is available at this splendidly old-school website if you want to investigate further, but the 1991 edition is also generally available for pennies.

The Samuel Jones, Exeter

The Samuel Jones opened just before Christmas and is an outpost of Cornish brewing giant St Austell, occupying a converted warehouse on Exeter’s riverside.

If you weren’t in the know, you might not realise this ‘smoke and ale house’ is a St Austell project. Branding has been kept to a minimum, and the décor is more stylish than most of their Cornish estate — polished copper, reclaimed wood and exposed pipework, which make it feel pleasingly cluttered, warm and, for want of a better word, ‘cool’.

That ‘coolness’ is somewhat undercut by the evidence of corporate management: staff in matching waistcoats, scripted greetings, floor supervisors with earpieces, and a slick EPOS system. On our visit, it did, at times, feel a bit like a posh Harvester, though never downright soulless, perhaps because it was so buzzing, with almost every seat, from armchair to bar stool, occupied from the moment we arrived mid-afternoon up until we left.

Continue reading The Samuel Jones, Exeter

The Beer Cellar, Exeter

In the last year or so, Exeter has gained two drinking holes which make craft beer a key part of their offer.

Until recently, the stretch of the West beyond Bristol was short on Belgian, American and ‘new wave’ beer, and Exeter in particular seemed ripe for the plucking. We’ll look at St Austell’s new ‘smoke and ale house’ The Samuel Jones tomorrow, but first, here are some long-matured thoughts on The Beer Cellar.

Taking over a box-like unit previously occupied by a Chinese noodle bar, the Beer Cellar opened at the end of 2013. The people behind it also run the sister Cornish breweries Penpont and Firebrand, as well as owning adventurous off licences in Launceston and Truro.

Despite a superficial resemblance to the Rake at London’s Borough Market, when we first visited the Beer Cellar almost exactly a year ago, we didn’t take to it.

Continue reading The Beer Cellar, Exeter

Over-thinking beer, pubs and the meaning of craft since 2007