Christmas Opening Hours

And that’s it: we’re shutting down for a week or so as we head off to spend Christmas with our families.

We’ll no doubt be Tweeting anything beer- or pub-related that catches our eye and also updating our Facebook page, but we’re going to give the blogging a rest.

In the meantime, there are some posts from the 2014 archive that you might want to give a second look listed below.

Thanks for reading in 2014 and merry Christmas to you all!

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 20/12/2014

Here are some things to read if you find time between your Black Friday hangover and your Panic Saturday, er, panicking.

→ Campaigns and drives and themed days/weeks/months tend to leave us cold, especially when they’re commercially driven, but Try January is actually a pretty clever, positive response to the health lobby’s long-running Dry January: ‘The Try January campaign aims to challenge people to simply try something new at their local. To step out of their comfort zone and, rather than ordering their ‘usual’ to go for something that they haven’t tried before.’

→ Ron Pattinson and Kristen England are really motoring through the 1938 Starkey, Knight & Ford brewing log and this week provided a home brewing recipe for a 1938 SK&F ‘Family Ale’.

→ Breandán Kearney at Belgian Smaak interviewed Michaël Hulet of Belgium’s Slow Beer Club to find out more about their offbeat, family-friendly beer festival, Festibière:

There was a big room for children with lots of toys, games and colouring books. The Kids Zone was supervised by local scouts and they even did some Halloween DIY. There was also a quiet place for breast-feeding women and young parents with babies. Next year we will have even more activities for children. On Sunday there was a demo and competition of the ‘mijole’ game, a classic wooden game played in Belgian ‘estaminets’ or small cafés decades ago. It was funny to see adults playing like children!

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Pre-WWII US IPA and a Euro-Mashup

We tasted two beers from our end of 2014 wish list last night: BrewDog’s collaboration with Weihenstephan, India Pale Weizen, and a recreation of the fabled Ballantine IPA.

Well, sort of. The latter was not the recent effort released by Pabst, which we’re still desperate to try, but an entirely different beer produced as a collaboration between two US breweries, Stone and Smuttynose. Will it soon be possible to have a bar selling nothing but Ballantine clones? Possibly.

If there’s a theme to this post, it’s old meets new, and the idea of sliding scales. You’ll see what we mean.

India Pale Weizen

6.2%, 330ml, from Red Elephant, Truro; £2.60 at BrewDog’s own online store

With apologies to the ‘all that matters is the taste’ crowd, what got us interested in this beer was the idea of the Scottish upstarts BrewDog collaborating with the centuries-old German brewery Weihenstephan. Our assumption was that they would meet halfway and create the perfect beer for a pair of fence-sitters like us.

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Eye Candy Beer Blogs

Words are great, but sometimes, pictures are better.

As part of what is turning into a series, here’s a collection of show-not-tell beer- and pub-related blogs you might want to add to your reader (we use Feedly these days) or just bookmark for a slow Friday afternoon in the office.

1. Oh Beautiful Beer

A showcase for all kinds of beer-related graphic design from around the world. If you run a bar or brewery, it’s a great way to get a sense of overall trends. (But it also brings home just how identikit ‘hip’ branding can be…)

2. Beer Lens

Robert Gale and Kim Reed take gorgeous photographs of pubs and bars, primarily in the US and UK, and it’s easy to get lost in the archives for an hour or two. Sadly, because they’re so good, their photos get ‘borrowed’ rather too often — if you want to use them, ask nicely, and/or pay up!

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Where Did Christmas Ales Come From?

For a long time, Britain had beers associated with Christmas that weren’t explicitly billed as Christmas beers.

If Frank Baillie’s 1973 Beer Drinker’s Companion is anything to go by, there were certainly winter ales released in November or December in time for Christmas, but they didn’t feature Father Christmas on the pump clips or labels; they weren’t called things like Rudolf’s Throbbing Conk; and they weren’t dosed with cinnamon and nutmeg.  As far as we can see, Shepherd Neame’s bottled Christmas Ale was the only one with Christmas is in its name at that time.*

Based on looking through old copies of the Campaign for Real Ale’s Good Beer Guide (thanks again, Ed!) it looks as if the idea of marketing ‘winter warmers’ as Christmas beers really took off in the increasingly competitive real ale scene of the 1980s. The 1987 GBG (published in 1986) lists around ten beers that we would classify as definitely Christmas seasonals, such as Mauldon Christmas Reserve, Wood’s Christmas Cracker and the Bridgewater Arms’s Old Santa.

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