Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pub writing in the last week, from Mackeson to market towns.
Some of the home brew recipes posted by Ron Pattinson and Kristen England are bigger names than others and this dissection of 1965 Mackeson Stout is essential reading for anyone with an interest in British brewing history or, indeed, a more practical need to understand a neglected style.
Alec Latham at Mostly About Beer finds an interesting angle, as always, on the proliferation of beer shops in home counties market towns, and especially in and around his native Hertfordshire and neighbouring Buckinghamshire:
There is something special about a market town. Market towns are magical places where bunting suddenly appears. There is always the well-tended war memorial and it’s always afforded pride of place. Then of course there’s market itself – the white canvas village encamped along the main drag. I love the smell of meat being fried and the call of the stall holders who adopt an accent that verges on caricature…
Stories of individual pub closure rarely grab our attention but few people are as well qualified to highlight the long history of The Spread Eagle as Kirsten Elliot, one of the authors of the book Devon Pubs, who reflects on its sudden conversion to housing:
It started out as a beerhouse in the 1830s, and was known as the Spread Eagle until the present owners took it on, changing its name, restoring its reputation… Given the Two Pigs’ continued success and clear fulfilment of a social need, you might have thought the very least the planning authority would have asked for is evidence that no one else was prepared to buy and run the pub. But they didn’t – and the Two Pigs is now history – or should that be bacon?
This growl of frustration from Simon Girt at Whose Round Is It Anyway? was triggered by a specific bar but feels quite universal — in 2017, if you’re making a big whoop-dee-doo about your ‘craft’ offer, especially in a big city, it’d better have something about it. He says:
It’s just embarrassing. The guys that have opened this have been in Leeds bars for years, but I get the feeling that they haven’t been out and looked around. Do some market research to go see what your competitors are offering, surely that’s common sense? I completely understand that every bar in Leeds doesn’t have to offer the same thing or appeal to the same audience but at least deliver what you’re offering as a base standard – and do it well.
For Cheers North East Alastair Gilmour highlights a slew of new openings and developments in North Tyneside, between North Shields and Monkseaton:
Railway stations seem just right for putting pubs on. Plush waiting rooms are a thing of the past and often lie empty and unloved, as do storage areas and first-class buffets, and there are nice, flat platforms outside to train-spot on if that’s your bag… It’s something that excited Steve Buckley and Andrew Findlay when they scoured the area for premises to convert into a micropub. They saw there was something of a space at Monkseaton Station – a disused left luggage room and ticket office – and decided to go for it. Then after months of cleaning, building furniture and ‘industrial parquet’-style flooring, the Left Luggage Room opened last September to a fanfare of ten Metro cars an hour each way.
Chris Hall continues his stimulating blend of fiction with commentary in the second part of ‘Mainspring: the Fall of British Craft Beer’:
“Cavendish talked a lot about Brexit, and Trump, and populism, and knowing what people are going to do before they do it. Knowing what people want. He said his people had done enough research to prove that, with enough data points [about someone’s age, gender, interests, social media activity etc] it was possible to make a ‘perfect brand’. He said that they [Caistor Insights and companies like them] had proven it could be done with democracy, so why not with a business?”
Several US bloggers have expressed interest in, and concerns over, Walmart’s range of own-brand craft beers but now it’s prompted a lawsuit, as summarised by Fritz Hahn for the Chicago Tribune:
If you believed the Trouble Brewing beers sold at Wal-Mart are truly craft beers, instead of private-label beers produced at a large industrial brewery in Rochester, New York, you’re not alone. But one Cincinnati beer drinker is so mad that he’s suing the world’s largest company over what he’s calling the ‘wholesale fiction’ around the ales, seeking compensatory damages ‘in an amount to be determined at trial.’
There have been similar legal challenges before over, for example, Blue Moon, but this is interesting because certainly in the UK the own-brand faux-craft range has become a supermarket staple, as in the case of LIDL’s ‘Hatherwood Brewery’ beers.
And has anyone looked into whether someone with a commercial interesting might be supporting or encouraging this legal action? That is, a brewery or trade body?
And, finally, there’s this concerning bit of news from Andy Parker at Elusive Brewing which feels something like a pre-tremor:
Feels like all I'm getting lately is price rise notices from suppliers. All in the 10-20% range too.
— Andy Parker (@tabamatu) February 17, 2017