News, Nuggets & Longreads 22 April 2017: Night Czars, Tall Boys, Joss Sticks

A set of handpumps in a pub.

Here’s all the news, commentary and opinion from the world of beer and pubs that’s grabbed us in the last week, from Easter Island to housing estates.

For starters, here’s a story that we’ll be watching with interest: London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has promised to work with his ‘Night Czar’, Amy Lamé, to look into why so many London pubs have closed and what can be done to help the rest:

The great British pub is at the heart of the capital’s culture. From traditional workingmen’s clubs to cutting-edge micro-breweries, London’s locals are as diverse and eclectic as the people who frequent them. That’s why I’m shocked at the rate of closure and why we have partnered CAMRA to ensure we are can track the number of pubs open in the capital and redouble our efforts to stem the rate of closures.

This is interesting because it seems rare for politicians in power to make really positive statements about the value of pubs given the wider conversation about the social effects of drinking.


Easter Island moai statues.
‘The Fifteen Moai’ by Lee Coursey from Flickr under Creative Commons.

For Draft magazine Brian Yaeger has been to ‘the end of the world’ — Patagonia and Easter Island, where beer is being made despite logistical challenges:

I first walked into Fuegian’s light industrial storage room, which was almost empty. That’s because, surprisingly, the company’s orders outpace its production. That’s just one of the logistical jigsaw pieces that puzzles manager Gustavo Alvarez. Imagine his headache when a piece of brewing equipment, already fairly well Frankensteined, needs a new part that takes 10 days to deliver by truck from Buenos Aires because the only way down is through neighboring Chile over dicey roads and then by ferry to Tierra del Fuego. When the brewers realized they needed more primary fermentation space, they simply welded more to the tops of existing tanks, explaining why some fermenters are 1,000 liters and others are 1,500 to 3,000.


A young man carries a sack of malt.

For the Guardian business section Will Hawkes has profiled a Danish brewing company that employs autistic people to great benefit:

For the employees… the results can be life-changing. Today, beers designed by [Rune] Lindgreen are available in almost 40 places around Denmark, including Dragsholm Castle, a Michelin-starred restaurant… ‘It’s really nice to be back brewing again, but at the same time it’s also a little confusing, since my job description has changed a few times. But I know that it is very common for start ups, that you’ll have to be able to wear more hats. I’m glad to be a part of this.’

Drink Fresh! (Terms and Conditions Apply.)

For Beer is Your Friend Glen Humphries picks at a beer industry scab: why, for example, are Stone Brewing beers stale after 120 days in the US but somehow good for an entire year once they’ve been exported to Australia? The post is interesting, and applies to the UK market too, but don’t miss the long, detailed, defensive response from an Australian importer in the comments:

My question is, ‘Do Australian brewers brew differently to US brewers?’ ‘No’, so why are we focused on the fact that when a US brewer exports their product they have an export label that has a date code identical to most Australian brewers or other imported brewers? Plus even though the US brewers have an export date code longer than their local market date code, the export date code in many cases is still shorter than exactly the same beer styles brewed locally by local brewers.


Alchemist can labelling.

The author of the YES! Ale blog is troubled by the rise of incredibly strong beers that are at the same time incredibly easy to drink:

Mark Johnson tweeted about making the grave error of drinking a full can of Magic Rock Human Cannonball on the way to Hop City to himself. Five hundred millilitres of a 9% beer on a less than 45 minute train journey. A beer generally served by the third (a half at most) was now being consumed by almost a pint. But it’s so ‘drinkable’.

(This, we think, relates to a point we made last week about the disconnect between ABV and what we might as well call perceived booziness.)


The County Oak as it appeared in 1961.

The Pub Spy reviews pubs for the Brighton Argus and this week’s column, a review of The County Oak, a post-war estate pub, has gone viral:

I’m not narrow-minded and don’t think I’m squeamish, but getting my shoes covered in vomit before I even got through the door should have provided all the warning I needed… I’d already fought my way through the scaffolding yard masquerading as a car park by the time a huge beast lurched out of The County Oak and threw up over my feet… By the time the fully track-suited barmaid, with a bandage on her right hand, served me a pint of Kronenbourg I realised this was Shameless meets Celebrity Juice – but without the class of either of these programmes.

We’re a bit uncomfortable with this, truth be told — it feels mean-spirited and unabashedly snobbish — but, equally, it’s good to see coverage of the kind of pub that doesn’t normally get written about because it’s isn’t old, quaint or dainty. And it is honest.

(Via collective zine | @theczine)


The Newington Temple with neon sign.

For Liverpool Confidential Damon Fairclough reviews The Newington Temple, but struggles to get past the pub’s distinctive perfume:

When I was growing up in Sheffield in the 1980s, the most exciting shop in town was called Bringing It All Back Home. Named after a Bob Dylan album and beloved of the city’s Thatcher-era anarcho-hippy set… [it] stank of incense. All the time. And it is this vivid olfactory recollection that immediately springs to mind when I visit the Newington Temple pub just off Bold Street. Because this boozer seems to have spurned the usual perfume palette favoured by most British drinking dens – the heady scent of drip tray and Toilet Duck – and gone instead for the billowing fug of Neil’s bedroom from The Young Ones.

(We think this is one of the best ways to write pub reviews, by the way: pick an angle, or find a point to make, and work it.)


And finally via Twitter there’s this astonishing set of images:

5 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 22 April 2017: Night Czars, Tall Boys, Joss Sticks”

  1. Living in an interesting post industrial fishing port I’ve probably been in more so called dives than a submarine, and run a few when I was younger. They’re undoubtedly rough but serve a market and if I wanted to be snobby I’d say that they keep the riff-raff out of the ‘nice’ pubs but the truth is that the target clientele of pubs like the Neptune feel as much out of the water in the smarter parts of the pub trade as the other way round. I think the problem is that rough pubs used to be run by tough, professional publicans, both men and women, crime and disorder weren’t that much of a problem, and the publicans made money. Since the beer orders pubs like this tend to be run by people new to the trade and even experienced publicans find it difficult to make a decent living don’t make money so they’ll tolerate anyone and anything in their pubs.

  2. “Mean spirited” yet “honest” – an interesting combination. 😉 But I do understand your ambivalence. Although some of the comments on the Argus site are amusing – are the clientele of this pub the type to pick a pub based on reviews? Is this pub likely to lose any business as a result of this review?
    But yes, I’ve been in pubs like that, and worse – pubs with stools and glasses flying, pubs with stools of a different kind all over the carpet, pubs with 12 year olds stealing cars, and they all fulfil a market need. I’m just not that market.

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