24-hour licensing evaluated

licensing2.jpgLots of stuff in the news today about the publication of a Government report investigating the impact of “24-hour licensing”. See here for a sample of reactions to the report on the Beeb.

Bit of background for readers not used to our crazy First World War licensing laws. Basically, up until November 2005, standard pub opening was until 11:20, with last drinks served at 11:00. A dinky little bell would ring warning you about last orders, prompting a Pavlovian response in most Brits to rush to the bar and get another round in. Yes, pubs could get late licences, but most didn’t. You’d all get turfed onto the street at 11:20, which may or may not be the root of the British “pint and a fight = great night” ethos.

Now, in the brave new era of 24-hour licensing, it’s all changed.  Or has it? The vast majority of pubs still open exactly as they used to, or perhaps extend the opening time to midnight at the weekends.

“Fewer than 4% of premises (5,100) have applied for round-the-clock pub opening – and many that have are hotels, stores and supermarkets.

Only 470 pubs, bars and nightclubs are open 24 hours and the average closing time across all licensed premises has got just 21 minutes later.” [BBC]

Critics predicted waves of violent crime and rivers of vomit, the thinking being that the only thing preventing the Brits lapsing into barbarity was the time limit on drinking. Optimists hoped that the legislation would bring in “continental style drinking”, i.e. you would no longer feel the need to drink so quickly, which would in turn lead us to consume more responsibly and over a longer period in the evening (and not get into fights on the way home).

And so along comes this report, saying that not a lot has changed. To quote the summary:

“Its introduction [24hour licensing] has not led to the widespread problems some feared. Overall, crime and alcohol consumption are down. But alcohol-related violence has increased in the early hours of the morning and some communities have seen a rise in disorder”

So it appears that the people who were getting into fights between 11:30 and midnight are now getting into fights at three in the morning. But other than that, there has been no noticeable impact on our pub culture or drinking habits.

Not that this stops the more hysterical parts of our press, who have focussed in the spike in violence between 3am and 6am as proof the policy has failed.

The full report can be downloaded hereTandleman covers the story here.

I decided to follow suit with the tabloids and illustrate this story with a shock horror picture of a Brit bingeing.  Aren’t you shocked?  Go on, be shocked.


Cosy pub interiors

When we talk about pubs we like, we often find ourselves rating them in terms of their cosiness. And in contrast, barn-like is one of the most common pejorative terms used to describe pubs — big, cavernous pubs are simply not cosy in any way.

People seem to love pubs where they can have a little privacy, which is one of the reasons for the popularity of some of Sam Smith’s pubs in London. The Cities of York, for example, retains a quaint layout with multiple little rooms, within which are further subdivisions — cubby-holes and partitioned booths.

The great thing about this approach is that, if the pub is empty, it doesn’t matter — you’re not exposed, and don’t feel lonely. Conversely, if the pub is busy, you get some space, and can enjoy the buzz without having to overhear everybody else’s conversation.

We don’t really know why other pubs don’t try a bit of strategic partitioning to boost the cosiness level. How much is a sheet of MDF these days?

The Pembury is having another beer festival…

…but you’ve only got a day left.

We somehow managed to miss / forget that the Pembury was having a beer festival, but fortunately happened to be going that way anyway today.

So if you are in the area, as always, it’s worth popping in.  There was a bunch of lovely ales from the Jarrow brewery, which should be enough to get most of you in.  Of interest in the continuing theme of novelty beer marketing was the “Back to Black” Amy Winehouse-inspired beer from Huntingdonshire brewery Son of Sid.  Tasted a lot like Milton’s Nero, and was certainly pulling in the punters with the unusual name / pump clip.

Highlight taste-wise was Dark Star’s Six Hop Ale, obviously a nod to American beer styles with its “extreme” hoppiness.  It does it well, having hop complexity without being overly bitter or grassy.  At 6.5%, it’s not a session beer, but it’s very tasty. There might be room for strong “extreme” beers from the cask if people can get used to drinking them by the half.

So go along if you can. Just try to avoid sitting next to the smelly racists who crashed our table.

Old Combe Brewery — again

Michael D dropped by and commented on this post about the Old Combe brewery on Long Acre in London. He’s provided some interesting family history and pointed out some useful links:

[My] great great grandfather Frank Wilson worked at Combe, as did his father William Wilson. On the census records they are listed as “practical brewers”.

The family lived in Long Acre and then King Street just round the corner. Very convenient.

There is a bit more on the buildings on the camden website http://mycamden.camden.gov.uk/gdw/T/ListedBuildingDetail?LbNo=10200&xsl=ListedBuildingDetail.xsl.

There is an old picture of the brewery workers in Castle St at http://www.photolondon.org.uk/mol/mol_bool.htm

And an interesting story about the history of Combe’s at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22171 , including a reference to very down to earth Royal Brewhouse Dinner in 1807.

But he also has a question:

If anyone has more detail on Combe’s, would appreciate. There’s not much in The Story of Watneys.


A Day at a London Brewery

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In the early 1840s, George Dodd trolled around all kinds of different British industrial establishments, writing up his adventures for the Penny Magazine.

I bought a copy of Penny Magazine No. 577 today. It includes “A Day at a London Brewery”, the brewery in question being Barclay’s in Southwark.

I was going to scan it, but instead, I’ll link to Google Books, where there’s a perfectly good scan of Days at the Factories, the 1843 anthology containing all of Dodd’s factory memoirs.

Of particular note:

“The distinction between ale and beer is well known by the taste, but it is not easily described in words: ale is of a great specific gravity, lighter coloured, more transparent, and less bitter than porter.”


Picture credit:

Days at the Factories Or, the Manufacturing Industry of Great Britain Described, and Illustrated by Numerous Engravings of Machines and Processes. Series I.- London By George Dodd