September 2015: The Month That Was

More or less back on schedule, here’s everything we wrote in September 2015 in one handy round-up.

→ Brewers might not all be ‘passionate’ but they’re not all money-grubbing cynics either — most exist somewhere in-between, but tending towards the former over the latter.

→ We weren’t hugely impressed by Schneider’s Meine Porter Weisse, especially at £10 a bottle.

→ For the 103rd session we wrote about the dominance of middle class voices in beer writing. (Tasha’s round-up of all the Session entries on the topic of ‘The Hard Stuff’ is here.)

Continue reading September 2015: The Month That Was

News, Nuggets & Longreads 03/10/2015

Here’s our pick of the most interesting beer- and pub-related writing of the last week, with a sneaky contribution to Session 104 hidden at the end.

→ For All About Beer, Jeff Alworth asks ‘How Wild is Your Beer?‘:

Is there a difference between inoculated-wild ales and truly wild ales? There is. A Brett-aged beer will develop a lot of complexity as the wild yeast slowly creates different flavor and aroma compounds. Some breweries even add a cocktail of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus, which creates even more complexity. But truly wild ales have something more… [You’re] getting the taste of place.

→ Connor Murphy at the Beer Battered blog has been spurred into a blogging frenzy by the imminence of the Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon). The first post in a series profiling local brewers looks at Mark Welsby at Runaway:

I knew I wasn’t motivated by money because, in my previous role, the more successful I got, the more miserable I got. Brewing gave us the chance to leave everything we hated about our previous jobs, so we came upon the name Runaway because we were both escaping our past lives.

Continue reading News, Nuggets & Longreads 03/10/2015

Why Brew Gose Instead of Mild?

There’s a simple answer to this question: because no-one in Britain actually likes mild.

Of course that’s not quite true — a few people are obsessive about it, and quite a few others like the occasional pint for a change. In the Midlands through to the North West, it seems there are even some regular mild drinkers left.

In general, though, it’s a style that the Campaign for Real Ale has been trying to get people excited about for 40 years with little success. First wave CAMRA members prefered cult bitters; in more recent years, they’ve turned their attention to hoppy golden ales.

And many (most?) post-2005 craft beer enthusiasts think like Tony Naylor — what’s the point of it?

[Mild] as it developed in the 20th century, was a low-strength (around 3%), very-lightly hopped beer, that became a staple thirst-quencher for miners, factory workers and anyone keen to sink eight pints and still get up for their shift the next morning… Flavours… were deliberately dialled-down to an innocuous level. Even its most misty-eyed fans admit that this was a beer designed to be undemanding, easy drinking.

They’ve got a point, too: if ‘connoisseurs’ rejected Foster’s lager and Watney’s Red because they were weak, sweet, bland and fizzy, then mild’s only point of superiority is that it isn’t usually highly-carbonated. Not much of a sales pitch.

“But no-one likes Gose either!” That might well be true but, if they dislike Gose, it’s because it tastes weird, which is preferable in marketing terms to tasting bland. And, as it’s usually bottled or kegged, not that many people have to like it for it to be worth brewing or stocking. Cask mild, on the other hand, needs a few people to drink several pints a night if it’s to be any good at all.

Nor does it help that lots of milds are, regrettably, bloody awful. We do like mild (mostly, it must be said, for sentimental reasons) but even we struggle with pints of sweet bland bitter dyed black with caramel or, worse, mislabelled, watery stouts that taste like the rinsings from a dirty coffee percolator.

We’d love to see more mild around — we can go months without a taste of the stuff — but let’s not kid ourselves that, if only, say, Magic Rock would make one, it could be cool again.

How Old is the Phrase ‘Lock In’?

The Oxford English Dictionary research team is asking for help identifying the origins of the phrase ‘lock in’ in relation to pubs.

The earliest verifiable usage they’ve found is from as recently as 1991, which they’re sure can’t be right:

The elder members of the OED’s staff know from personal experience that this practice existed before 1991, but we have been unable to find earlier verifiable evidence of this term for it. Can you help us find earlier evidence of lock-in referring to a period after closing time in a bar or pub when customers already inside are allowed to continue drinking?

(Via @JamesBSumner, via @WilliamHaydock.)

Our instincts are that it must be much older — post-WWII, probably — and so we got out some books and logged into a few newspaper and magazine archives to nose around.

Online, once we’d worked out how to filter out references to people called Lock, and Enfield Lock, and lock picking, and so on, we found… nothing.

Nor did we find anything in hard copy books — pub guides, Michael Jackson, publicans’ memoirs — from the 1930s through to the 1980s.

There are various convoluted ways of referring to what is obviously a lock in along the lines of ‘the licensee closed the door and invited certain guests to remain for a “private party” with the curtains drawn’, but the phrase ‘lock in’ is not used.

When we found this clip from 1986 we thought we’d got something:

…but they don’t actually say ‘lock in’ in the sketch — it’s referred to as ‘an after hours session’.

We’re currently reading through every single issue of the London Drinker from the 1980s (as you’ll have noticed if you follow us on Twitter…) and compiling an index as we go. We reckon if ‘lock in’ is going to turn up anywhere, it will be in a publication with an informal tone aimed at serious pub-going drinkers, but, so far (we’re up to 1981) it hasn’t shown up.

We’ll keep looking but if you happen to know of a documented usage of the term, please let the OED team know, and/or comment below.

GALLERY: Pub Architecture, 1846

We’ve been reading Victorian Pubs by Mark Girouard (1975; rev. 1984) which pointed us toward J.C. Loudon’s Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm and Villa Architecture and Furniture published in 1846. This being the 21st century, it’s available in full online via, and has about 50 pages on inns and pubs (pp.675-726).

These designs are ideal templates rather than referring to specific pubs — has anyone ever seen an Italianate or Swiss-style inn in the wild? (Serious question.)

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