Everything We Wrote in June 2017: Crackling, Craftification, Clubs

Retro pub illustration: "June 2017".

We didn’t post quite as much this month what with going on holiday and making arrangements to leave Cornwall but there was some good stuff in there.

We started the month with a moan about the 21st century version of ‘Smile, love — it might never happen!’ That is, telling off strangers for looking at their smartphones in the pub. (Phil Cook at Beer Diary includes a passing thought on this here.)


Cask of St Austell 1913 Original Stout

For the 124th edition of the Session we reflected on Late, Lamented Loves:

The first beer that came to mind was local brewery St Austell’s short-lived 1913 stout. Strong by cask ale standards and historically-inspired it unfortunately didn’t sell and slowly morphed into Mena Dhu — still great but a much tamer product. We’d go out of our way for a pint of 1913 which isn’t something we can say of many beers.

Host David Bardallis rounded up all the entries at All The Brews Fit To Print.


The numbered caps of the Hatherwood beer box.

A friend bought us a box set of LIDL’s Hatherwood beers and, ever gracious, we subjected this kind gift to a brutal dissection, concluding that the beers were pretty good but that the presentation amounted to a big fat fib.


Illustration: "Criticism". (Mouth spouting critical jargon.)

Prompted by discussion around the blogoshire we returned to the perennial topic of the problem of delivering honest criticism of beers that people have worked hard to make:

We think that the tension comes from the difference between the general and the specific. Brewer X might agree in the abstract that honesty is the best policy, and that consumers ought to be demanding, perhaps on the assumption (subconscious or otherwise) that such a culture will favour their lovingly-made beer over lesser products… But when Blogger Y states bluntly that, actually, Brewer X’s beer isn’t much good, it’s hard for Brewer X not to respond by kicking the wastebasket.


Bostin' Cracklin' pork scratchings.

As part of a renewed drive to take the time to write up little moments observed in the pub we gave an account of a Greek visitor’s conversion to pork scratchings despite his initial scepticism.


What's Brewing? (Illustration)
Incorporates ‘Philips Radio from the 1970s’ by David Martyn Hunt under Creative Commons via Flickr.

In what turned out to be almost a #beerylongreads entry we told the story of Barrie Pepper’s long-running BBC Radio Leeds show about beer that brought the real ale revolution to the airwaves in the 1970s and 80s:

We’re all here for the Real Thing.
That’s why we’re singing this song, just to show all those
Fancy TV promotions
That the customer’s not always wrong, so you’d better not
Give us pale imitations
Or gas us with chemical beer.
So just give us a pint of the Real Thing landlord
’Cos that’s why we’re bloody well here.


Mildly riled (miled?) we threw out some thoughts about beers that are supposedly hyped, or ignored. Our conclusion? If you think people ought to be talking about a particularly brilliant beer, don’t sit and wait for someone else to do the job — shout about it yourself. (UPDATE 01/07/2017: Sean — a blogger who is new to us — responded to this with a post of his own.)


A 1960s article about Guinness included an intriguing assertion: that in Dublin it was considered the done thing to drink ale (i.e. pale ale, not stout) with a shot of fruit cordial. We still haven’t got round to trying it ourselves for some reason.


Younger's Tartan beer mat.

Another recent book purchase, the official history of Scottish & Newcastle, threw up an intriguing and frank account of the vicious circle that damaged the quality and reputation of one famous keg bitter:

Worse than that, falling sales resulted in many tapped kegs being left on sale for too long, so their contents went off. That meant returns, which had to be sent all the way back to Edinburgh, because that was where Customs and Excise checked they were were bad enough to warrant a refund of duty. If not, the rejected beer had to be reblended, which did nothing for the flavour of the new brews.


Our exploration of the working men’s clubs of Penzance generated some thoughts on their history and future along with a lot of photos, like the one above.


When cultural commentator John Harris Tweeted about the problem of craft beer pricing we couldn’t help rise to the bait: isn’t there a difference between beers you buy to fill the fridge, and those you buy seeking a particular experienceAlan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog found himself nodding along with Mr Harris and mentioned our post here.


Winter 1971: an engineer feeds a huge machine with coal to warm his morning tea.
Winter 1971, wraparound cover.

The same Guinness article mentioned above also yielded some interesting information on where the best pint could be found in 1960s London — one of our ongoing obsessions. Remember, back then, it was a super hip beer.

(It’s not flagged as a response but it went up the same day so we’re going to link to Gary Gilman’s thoughts on mid-century Guinness.)


Boak mined her childhood memories for her earliest recollection of the magic and romance of the pub, ‘where adults went to play’:

The moment I recall most vividly, the instance when my crush on The Pub was formed, is from after dark. I’d been put to bed and told to stay there with a warning: under no circumstances was I to come down to the public bar. But I needed something, in the way only small children can need something, and so I had to go down to where I could hear everyone laughing and having fun without me.


Someone tipped us off to a very cool wartime educational film starring Burgess Meredith as a GI in Britain helping his comrades understand our weird ways including, of course, the English pub. (Gary Gilman at Beer Et Seq. had some further thoughts on this film.)


Illustration: 'Hand Crafted' painted on wood.

Our astonishment at learning of the world of niche perfume set off bombs in our brains: it’s not just beer, it’s everything that’s been craftified in the last few decades. The comments on this are great, especially Laurent’s observation about how even wristwatches have been through the same process:

[The] past decade or so [has] the emergence of WIS – the ‘watch idiot savant’, equivalent to the beer geek – as well as microbrands, a concept, which, just like microbrewery, everybody understands, yet has no absolutely clear definition.

Mark Johnson at Beer Compurgation was moved by this post to reflect on his own drift towards ‘better products’ with particular reference to eggs. It makes sense — have a read.


BrewDog Punk IPA in cans with neon sign.

We finished the month with another chunky piece in which we tried to come up with a starter pack for people on a budget keen to understand what craft beer (definition 2) is all about.

On Facebook Jules Gray who runs the Hop Hideout in Sheffield did the sums and came up with a similarly priced set of beers proving, as we say in the post, that supermarkets aren’t the only way into this market.

Peter McKerry responded to this post with a short one of his own: ‘[We] beer geeks often talk of how we exist in a bubble – it may be that we have the supermarkets to thank for bursting that bubble and extending the reach of good beer.’


Illustration: Michael Jackson peers from behind his glasses.

Away from the blog, at Beer Advocate, there’s a big piece we wrote on the legacy of Michael Jackson AKA the Beer Hunter. It was a tough one to pull together but we think makes some worthwhile points about the nature of reputation and the vacuum left by his death.


We also Tweeted a ton — things like this…

…and also put a load of stuff on Instagram, too:

Frank Bruno, model ship, pewter otter. Obviously. #pubs

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The monthly newsletter contained Big News and 1,000 more words of stuff that for one reason or another we prefer sharing semi-offline. Sign up, if you haven’t already.

Finally, we’ve also been pretty active on our Patreon feed, posting everything from further observations of pub life (a woman riding her partner out of the pub like a pony) to behind-the-scenes insights into, for example, the mystery of Pierre van Klomp.