News, Nuggets & Longreads 30 April 2016

These are all the blog posts and articles about beer and pubs that have particularly caught our eye in the last week, from double IPA to German craft beer.

→ We can’t resist a style-based taste-off and Chris and Emma at Crema’s Beer Odyssey have pitted all the big-name UK double IPAs against each other, as written up by Emma:

April has seen us drowning in double IPA. If you enjoy this style of strong, super hopped IPA then you’ve been spoiled for choice in the past few weeks. I’ve seen and heard a lot of beer nerds talking about which of them is ‘the best DIPA’. Of course this is what beer lovers are into – discussion and friendly argument about beer. But I am surprised that people are still talking about this in terms of absolutes, as if one beer has to be awarded the title of ‘The Best’ and all the others must therefore be ‘less good’ beers. As if there isn’t a place for variation of expression within a style; as if context is irrelevant.

Illustration of the George Inn, Southwark, from Our Rambles in London, 1895.

→ This arrived too late for last week’s round-up: Pete Brown now has evidence that Shakespeare’s Local was in fact… [drum roll]

→ For Beer Advocate Jason Patinkin writes about South Sudan’s first and only brewery, a source of local pride, that is closing down because of ongoing civil war. (Via @Beer_Writer.)

→ Jeff Allworth asks ‘What Makes a Good Pilsner?’ and, in answering his own question, comes up with this lovely summary:

It is often said that pilsners are the hardest beers to make because they don’t hide anything. I think that’s wrong. They’re the hardest beers to make because each of these elements [malt, hops, yeast] is subtle, and when you’re trying to make them sing in harmony, the slightest off note is immediately evident. They test a brewer because she must find a way to take three delicate elements and bring them together so that they wow a drinker. When it works, it looks like magic.

→ In a post sponsored by Longreads members Aaron Gilbraith considers whether the revival of his love affair with beer is bad for him, good for him, or neither:

[This] sort of worried thinking is part of our distinctly American problem… We see it as poison that’s healthy to avoid, yet we drink it at games and parties and dinner. So we binge, sober up, and wrestle with our urges and guilt, when more of us should be sipping responsibly like so many Europeans… Americans need to get over the idea that daily moderate drinking ─ meaning, a drink or two at night ─ is somehow unhealthy, or a sign of a mounting problem, and the health community needs to stop telling the public that seven drinks a week for women is healthy, but ten is excessive.

Chimay beer in a glass.

→ Gary Gillman spends a lot of time digging around in Google Books and in other online archives looking for nuggets of information. One of his jaunts he came across a French language source from 1877 with information on Chimay as it was a century and a half a go.

→ And, in German, via Barry Masterson (@BarMas), an interview with Michael Huber, MD of Veltins, which touches on questions of consolidation, the Reinheitsgebot and the evils of craft beer:

Können Sie sich vorstellen, einen Abend in der Kneipe bei Schokoladen-Bananen-Bier zu verbringen? Ich nicht.

[Can you imagine spending an evening in the pub on chocolate-banana beer? I can’t.]

German beer caps.

→ And from Barry himself there’s ‘The Reinheitsgebot: A Personal Voyage’. Barry is Irish but lives in a village in Germany and so often provides an insightful view of what’s going on with beer there outside the hip city centres:

It has now gotten to a stage where my 50-year-old neighbour turns around to me and says “I like that craft beer stuff. I’ve been buying all sorts of new beers to try. Have you tried this”? The older people at our Stammtisch are no stranger to my own beer creations, often featuring spruce tips, or eldar flowers, and although they sometimes mischievously ask if a given beer is Reinheitsgebot, I know full well they don’t give a shit if it is not, and they enjoy it for what it is.

→ Finally, here’s a worrying image from the hop fields of Slovenia:

QUICK ONE: Reinheitsgebot as Flashpoint

We expected the 500th anniversary of the German beer purity law, the Reinheitsgebot, to generate lots of coverage but we hadn’t expected it to be so testy.

It turns out that this has become another flashpoint in the battle between two vague, fuzzy-edged groups within the world of beer.

The Reinheitsgebot stifles innovation!’ say the cavaliers; ‘“Innovation” my arse!’cry the roundheads.

And the Campaign for Real Ale’s Revitalisation project (consultation closes on Saturday, by the way) seems to have caused a flare up in another stretch of the previously fairly calm demilitarised border area.

POSTER: Captain America: Civil War

As we say, the edges are fuzzy, but it seems to be more or less the same groups bickering over clarity vs. haze, cask vs. keg, strong vs. session, boring vs. balanced, weird additives vs. malt, hipsters vs. squares, craft vs. ‘craft’, Simcoe vs. Fuggles, and so on.

The division feels weird to us — on both sides, more about attitudes, feelings, personalities, grudges and prejudices than anything concrete. It’s tribal, even almost religious.

Meanwhile, in the real world (as we Tweeted yesterday) Cascade hops and dark lager are still regarded as exotic, and we couldn’t buy a hazy beer in Penzance if we wanted to.

Boddington’s Bitter: 1968 v. 1982

We’re fascinated by beers that Aren’t What They Used to Be. How much of that is down to contrast with what else is around, or jaded palates?

We’ve just written a piece for All About Beer considering Guinness from this angle but also had the chance to return to an old obsession: Boddington’s Bitter.

We wrote a #BeeryLongreads piece on it which is worth a look but, in brief, 1970s real ale campaigners and aficionados loved Boddington’s Bitter because it was pale, dry and very bitter. Somewhere along the line, it lost its spark.

The other week we got a look at some original brewing logs from Boddington’s and tried to answer a simple question: what changed between the 1960s and the 1980s?

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Mrs Mullis on Types of Pub Customer, 1972

We’re hoovering up books about pubs at the moment and Behind Bars: straight facts about keeping a pub by Peggy Mullis got sucked in and clogged the filter.

Mrs Mullis was a freelance country lifestyle journalist who, with her husband Brian, took on the Crown Inn, Wormingford, Essex, c.1970. (She doesn’t give a date — that’s a guess.)

We Tweeted some bits about beer last week but the best chapter, without doubt, is at the very end, where her accumulated frustrations boil over, Basil Fawlty style: ‘The Customers’.

When we embarked on this venture, I made the naïve mistake of imagining that pub customers were ordinary mortals. They are not, of course. They are a unique race…

She goes on to explain the tension in the relationship: customers ‘pay your rent, your brewery bills, put the clothes on your back and the food on your table’, so they must be important. But they are also pains in the arse. (Not Mrs Mullis’s phrasing.) It starts out fairly tame but gets weirder as it goes, sounding like a transcript of a session with a therapist by the end.

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The Yacht Inn, Penzance, in the 1950s

Strange coincidences and connections have led us to a collection of family photos of one of our favourite local pubs.

A brewer we interviewed last week (Paddy at Crossed Anchors) noticed that we had a picture of the fabulously Art Deco Yacht Inn, Penzance, as our Twitter header image. He mentioned that his great aunt and uncle, Frank and Phyllis Glasspool, ran it from 1949-c.1959. He emailed his dad, who emailed a cousin, Susan Glasspool (Bottaro), who provided the following fantastic collection of photographs and said we could share them here:

It was very hard work there, especially for my mother, who did all the cooking (plus the extras for the bar, pasties, sandwiches etc.), a lot of the cleaning, and then ran the cocktail bar in the evenings. Hard to have any family life. Thank goodness for the swimming pool over the road — 10 bob for a season ticket and I spent all my summers there!

Pub sign with moody sky and sea.
The sign of the Yacht Inn with Mount’s Bay and Newlyn in the background.
A man in a suit sits at the bar while Frank directs his assistant.
Frank Glasspool (left) and ‘Lennie’ (white coat) behind the main bar of the Yacht.

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