Big Beer is Part of a Healthy Culture

A market with only big breweries is pretty miserable, but that doesn’t mean we want a world with only small ones.

Alan McLeod is the global beer blogosphere’s Contrarian in Chief and he likes the Budweiser Superbowl advert that has others up in arms:

Poor widdle cwaft thinks that it is all about the big bad brewer running scared but it’s not. It’s gleeful assertion meeting commercial reality. The upstretched middle finger to some. The assertion of tribe to many others. An umbrella for those who buy the 80% or more of beer that is still light, inexpensive and easy to drain. It’s lovely.

(Stan is right — that’s a great blog post.)

We kind of agree with Alan here: there might be an oblique dig at craft beer and its drinkers but, in its own way, the ad is positive, and it’s certainly honest. Rather than pretend, unconvincingly, to be small and artisanal, Budweiser is being upfront about the awe-inspiring scale of its operation.

There’s almost something romantic about it, really, just as we were moved by the realisation of the town-within-a-town size of the old Bass brewery in Burton-upon-Trent when we visited the museum a couple of years back.

Molson Coors brewery in Burton upon Trent.

(Having said that, it’s hard to summon any sentimental feeling for the multi-national corporations that now own these beloved brands.)

We do reckon that, on the whole, the output of smaller breweries tends to be more interesting but most of our favourite beers — the ones we actually enjoy day to day — are from slightly larger ones, and are far from ‘wacky’.

So, no, we don’t want every beer in the world to be an IPA or an imperial stout, as long as we can get those things when the urge takes us; and we don’t expect every single beer to be made by a small business. But nor do we don’t want every beer in the world to be a variation on pilsner made by a giant company, and we would like a choice of stouts.

It’s not a battle between good and evil which only one side can win — it’s about achieving a balance, or even a tension. At the moment, there’s probably room for the Craft side to tug a tiny bit more of the duvet to its side but, really, things are looking pretty good aren’t they, with something for everyone?

HELP US: Irish Theme Pubs

We’re keen to hear from people who drank at, worked in or were otherwise involved with Irish theme pubs in England between the 1980s and the early 2000s.

Here’s a list of specific pubs and chains we’re interested in:

  1. Flanagan’s Apple, Liverpool — converted from a warehouse by local entrepreneur Bob Burns it opened in 1984 and is still trading.
  2. Minogues, London N1 (Islington) — formerly the Islington Tup/Tap it was converted into an Irish pub in 1986; it became the Pig & Butcher in 2012.
  3. Mulligan’s, London W1 (Mayfair) — an Irish pub from c.1991.
  4. Waxy O’Connor’s, London W1 (Covent Garden) — opened in 1995; still there, still massive.
  5. Mid-1990s chains: Scruffy Murphy’s (Allied-Domecq), Rosy O’Grady’s (Greene King), J.J. Murphy (Whitbread) and O’Neill’s (Bass). We’re really interested in what they were like in their prime which ran from about 1994-1998.

Guinness promotional clock, South London.

And, going back a bit further, because it can’t hurt to ask…

  1. Any of the Murphy’s pubs that operated in London between the 1930s and 1980s, e.g. The White Hart on Mile End Road. (More info.)
  2. Ward’s Irish House, London W1 (Piccadilly Circus) — in the basement of the London Pavilion where you will now find Ripley’s Believe it Or Not.
  3. Any branch of Mooney’s, found across London up until the 1970s, e.g. at 395 The Strand.

Comment below or, even better, email us at contact@boakandbailey.com if you can help.

PS. We’re also still after reminiscences of theme pubs (especially the Nag’s Head, Covent Garden) and prefabs.

Main image adapted from ‘Flanagan’s Apple’ by Adam Bruderer via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

QUOTE: Something Will Turn Up, 1940

Dominoes in the pub, 1940.
Men playing dominoes in the pub, LIFE magazine, 1940.

This is the text of an anonymous advertisement (probably placed by the Brewers’ Society) that ran in The Times on 10 January 1940:

Disraeli once said that the real motto of the English people is — “something will turn up.”

It is certainly true that not even the advent of a European war, nor the threats of raids, nor the frustration of the black-out have dimmed our cheerful faith and philosophy among us.

It is in the pub where one sees it best. Around the glasses of beer the people of all classes have found a warm, bright, kindly atmosphere in which cheerfulness supplants alarm. The pub gives relaxation. It promotes our national democratic feeling.

And beer too has played its traditional part in keeping us friendly, buoyant and good tempered. Good barley malt and country hops brewed in the manner handed down to us through the centuries has been John Bull’s drink in many a hard day — giving him the health to withstand and courage to endure!

(Exeunt. Alarum, and chambers go off.)

News, Nuggets & Longreads 6 Feb 2016

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs from the last week that we’ve found most thought-provoking or enlightening, from alcoholism to intentionally flat beer.

→ Mark Johnson’s long post about living with an alcoholic father and the subsequent cost to his own mental health is heavy stuff but also essential reading:

His attitude towards good pubs and good beers didn’t change or waver on those days out, but it was away from these that soon the house was filled with cans of Strongbow Super and bottles of vodka. I’d come home every couple of weeks to see an increasingly desperate situation. Yet everybody was too scared to say anything. We let it get out of control between us as a family with the subject only finally being approached from the first hospital admittance.

→ Richard Taylor at The Beercast has declared his list of UK breweries to watch in 2016. It’s well thought out and there are a couple of names on there that, if not new to us, weren’t especially on our radar.

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 6 Feb 2016”

Session #108: Snowed In (Or Not)

This is our contribution to the 108th beer blogging session hosted by Jon at The Brewsite, with the topic ‘Snowed In’.

Britain has a pretty tame climate and snow is sufficiently rare that, when it does fall, the economy grinds to a halt as everyone reverts to childhood.

Where we live now, Cornwall, is even milder, with warm winters and cool summers. We never see frost, let alone snow, and even when it does snow up country it doesn’t seem to push past the Tamar.

What we do have is rain. Rain and gales.

Weather in which you can go to the pub as long as you don’t mind getting drenched and battered by the wind; as long as you don’t mind sitting there in wet clothes steaming like an old sock, dripping onto the floorboards; and as long as you don’t mind getting battered again on your way home. And, you know, all of that can be rather pleasant in a masochistic kind of way: there’s a cosiness attached to drinking a pint while items of street furniture stampede around town under substitutiary locomotion and the sea invites itself over the harbour wall in great chunks.

Waves crashing over the sea wall. (Animated gif.)

But we don’t usually drink anything special — there’s no imperial stout or barley wine in pubs in these parts anyway — though maybe it does nudge us away from the chiming brassiness of hops and towards beefier, browner bitters.

When it’s really bad, as in dangerous, as in batten-the-hatches and hope that’s not your roof tile shattering on the pavement, as in search and rescue helicopters overhead… Then we find ourselves huddling by the fire with Fuller’s Vintage Ale, Adnams Tally Ho or Harvey’s Imperial Stout.

They’re the beer equivalent of a warm blanket.