News, Nuggets & Longreads 17 February 2018: Koduõlu, Tmavé Pivo, Buck’s Fizz

Here’s everything that grabbed us in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from inclusion to IKEA.

Before we start, though, here’s a reminder that other links round-ups are available: Stan Hieronymus posts every Monday (latest) and Alan McLeod has nabbed Thursday. Do take a look if our list below leaves you hungry for more.

Illustration: "Odd One Out".

First up, for Gal-Dem magazine Alexandra Sewell (@wehavelalex) has written about her experience of the British beer scene as a black woman, and explored the possible reasons more black women might not be involved:

Alcohol was never a feature in our family household. My British-born Jamaican mum never kept lowly bottles of brandy hidden in the kitchen cupboards and we weren’t accustomed to anything more than a non-alcoholic “Buck’s Fizz” at Christmas time. As a small kid, Sundays were for church. As a bigger kid, I was too preoccupied with school. And as far as I was concerned, alcohol was something that was out of sight, and therefore entirely out of mind. I knew of it; I knew other people that liked it and drank it, but the only education I had about such a big part of the culture I was born into was from those borderline hilarious Channel 4 documentaries about people binge-drinking and puking up onto the street.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 24 September 2016: Camouflage, Machines, Monks

We’re still snowed under working on The Big Project but we’ve found time to read a few interesting articles and blog posts in the last week.

First, the author of the Running Past blog profiles a South London landmark, The Northover, which was built in the 1930s, camouflaged during World War II, and made a brief appearance in The Long Good Friday. (Highly relevant to our current obsessions.)


Picture by Michael Kiser for Good Beer Hunting, used with permission.
Picture by Michael Kiser for Good Beer Hunting, used with permission.

Good Beer Hunting continues to sign up great writers to its team. The latest addition is Evan Rail who debuts with a portrait of an American brewer in the Czech Republic:

Despite the American approach, the name itself—which translates, roughly, to something like Brewery Zhůř-guy—is almost ridiculously Czech, containing not only the language’s almost-impossible-to-pronounce ‘ř,’ but also the bizarrely long ‘á,’ to say nothing of the ooh-sounding ‘ů.’ (Oh, and the ‘z’ and the “h’ in ‘Zhůřák’ are pronounced separately. Good luck with that.) 


TV screen showing a monk on the brewery tour.
SOURCE: The BeerCast, used with permission.

It’s difficult to get an interesting post out of a mass junket but not impossible as Richard Taylor demonstrates with his latest BeerCast post contrasting the tour brewery tour at Cantillon with that at La Trappe:

But the problem with Cantillon is that when you combine it with Twitter and Facebook, and become used to breweries communicating with their customers directly 24/7 you develop the worst possible affectation – a sense of entitlement. It doesn’t afflict me very often, but for some reason it did at Koningshoeven – I just expected the monks to be there, mashing in and pausing to answer questions in broken English…


tavern

For the Recipes Project Dr James Brown and Dr Angela McShane of the like-minded Intoxicants Project share an account of a discussion around the question ‘Were Early Modern People Perpetually Drunk?’ It’s a fascinating read with this section on the hearty, nutritious quality of very sweet beer a particular eye-opener:

Indeed, even had they had the technical means to achieve… high levels of fermentation, they would probably not have wanted to: in the more expensive beers, using a lot of malt, they were likely to have been pushing for ‘sweetness and body’ rather than maximum alcoholic strength, which could lead to thinness and an astringent taste.


At Beer and Present Danger Josh Farrington brings news of a brewing project based on machine learning:

Devised by machine learning firm Intelligent Layer and creative agency 10x, the process combines artificial intelligence with the wisdom of crowds, using it’s own algorithms and feedback from drinkers to constantly update, refine, and reiterate the four styles currently being made – a Pale, a Golden, an Amber and a Black. Just as early-adopters can beta-test an app, now you can help develop a beer, responding to an online bot’s questionnaire after each drink, allowing IntelligentX to bring out a newly refined generation each month.

Marketing gimmick, or the future? And will it create beers perfectly engineered to appeal to geeks, or blanded out brews that offend no-one?


Dave S is still struggling to answer a question that bugs him: which British bitters are most highly regarded by beer geeks? This time, he’s crunched some numbers from RateBeer to come up with a ranking.


And finally, another call for help from us:

News, Nuggets & Longreads 21 May 2016: Pilsner, Mild and Pubs

These are all the blog posts and articles touching on beer and pubs that have given us pause for thought, or told us something we didn’t know, in the last week, from Pilsner to pubs.

→ We somehow missed this one last week so it gets top billing today: Evan Rail’s blog is back from whatever Internet wormhole it got lost in (this is great news, generally) and his latest post is about the influence of the Czech influence on European lager brewing in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It makes a strong case, with reference to some lovely primary sources, for Czech brewing getting more credit than it has tended to in the past:

For its low-grade Bavière, the brewery used German hops (generally Hallertau, Wolnzach and a less-expensive cultivar, Bavière Montagne), which it bought from J. Tüchmann & Söhne and Bernard Bing in Nuremberg. But for the higher-grade Munich and the Bock that was later renamed Pilsner, the brewery generally used 100% Saaz, purchased from hop vendors like the Kellner brothers and Sonnenschein & Landesmann, both in Žatec (aka Saaz), right here in Bohemia.

Detail from a Whitbread advertisement, 1937, showing beer with food.

→ For Eater Matthew Sedacca ponders how ‘foodie culture’ (which includes craft beer) survived, and even thrived during, the Great Recession. We don’t necessarily agree with all of his conclusions but it’s a great question:

A large driver behind the sustainability of the “foodie” ideology during and post-recession has been linked to the millennial generation’s shift in attitude towards material goods —€” namely, they don’t really want them. Several reports have highlighted the phenomenon that, unlike the baby boomers and several members of Gen X, millennials prefer consumption of ‘experiences.’

→ Alec Latham considers the various ways in which pubs in St Albans, where he lives, have mutated, changed or otherwise been reinvented:

Some pubs come back from the dead, others change the orientation of their ‘swing’… Though Mokoko’s isn’t a beery place, it’s still a great bar. After all, cocktails are people too.

Greene King sign

→ In an interview with Australian Brews News the venerable brewing professor Charles Bamforth has railed against gimmicks in brewing, like a Dogfish Head beer made with chewed-up and spat-out grains: ‘Come on! You’re only going to do it once aren’t you?’ It’s not all grumping, though: he thinks black IPA, for example, is the right kind of boundary pushing.

→ Ed visited Greene King and brings us this interesting nugget, among others:

I also got to try their XX mild at last… Having various milds in the portfolio from the breweries they’ve taken over they rationalised it to just one recipe, and had tasting trials to decide on the best one. Despite the name it’s sold under it was actually the Hardys and Hansons mild that won.

→ Gary Gillman continues to dig up tasting notes and opinions on Belgian beer from the 19th century like this 1836 1847 diary entry mentioning Westmalle. (The makings of a longer article or e-book here, perhaps?)

→ Not reading but listening: on the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London this week a listener asked if anyone remembered an estate pub in South London called The Apples & Pears. People did (@ 2h 20m):

It was a very modern pub… Myself and my three girlfriends used to drive up on a Saturday night in our Austin A40… We used to go around ’72, ’73… We used to dress to match the era of the car, lots of long beads, headbands, flouncy frocks, sort of 1920s flappers was our style…

→ Carlisle is getting a State Management Scheme museum with Heritage Lottery funding — fantastic new! Let’s generally have more brewing, beer and pub museums and exhibitions, please. (There’s no website that we can find so this Tweet with a screenshot of a Word document will have to do.)

Beer in Prague, 1958

Detail of 1958 Prague transit map.

Among the various piles of crap useful things that we hoard collect, there’s an ever-growing stack of old tourist guidebooks, including a 1958 guide to Prague, from the Czechoslovakian state tourism board. Here’s an abridged version of the section that caught our eye this weekend.

Prague Breweries and Beer-houses

And still our acquaintance with Old Prague would not be complete if we did not visit the places where the citizens of Prague used to go to quaff a tankard of foaming ale or a glass of wine. Innumerable are the beer and wine taverns in Prague. Many of them are of ancient standing. Of the old breweries (of which there were for instance in Dlouhá ulice alone no less than twelve) only two still survive. The older of these is the brewery “u Tomáše”, in the Malá Strana. Today nobody could count how many barrels of excellent black beer have been drunk here since the time of Charles IV, when the Augustinian monks brewed their first hops.

[…]

The counterpart to the St Thomas Brewery is the brewery on the New Town side of the river, “U Fleků”, of which we first hear in the 15th century. More perhaps than any other beer-house in Prague, “U Fleků” lives in Czech literature and has become immortal as the bohéme who frequented it at the turn of the century.

[…]

We must only add that in Prague there are several modern breweries, of which the largest is the Smíchov Staropramen — which takes us unto Prague of the middle of the 20th century where, in an up-to-date alchemist’s kitchen, hops and malts are converted into beer, the traditional Czech beverage.

And so, let’s raise our bedewed and froth-topped glasses and drink to this city that also provides so well for man’s material wants!

Memorable beers #7 – Like, really cheap and really strong!

A tram in Prague.

By Boak.

Sixth-form history trip to Prague, some time in the nineties; I’m all Doc Martens and shapeless homemade jumpers, as are my friends. Staying in a cheap hotel on the outskirts of town, in the middle of a huge housing estate, we decide to hit the bar and buy lots of bottles to drink in our dormitory.

I have no idea what beer it was but, at the time, two things struck me: first, that it was absurdly cheap – around 20 pence a bottle – and, secondly, that it was 10%. Ten! Three times as strong as Foster’s! We were all amazed by this but also pleasantly surprised to wake up the next day without enormous hangovers. We put this down to the amazing quality of the beer, coz, like, it’s all the additives in beer that gives you the hangovers, innit?

I maintained the daft belief for the next decade that you could drink vast quantities of strong Czech and German beer without feeling the pain the next day because it was ‘cleaner’.

With my subsequently acquired beer geek hat on, it seems obvious today that the ‘10% beer’ was no such thing but rather a ‘desitka’ (10 degrees Balling) and so much more likely to have been around 3-4% ABV.

How many British students have imagined themselves into a drunken stupor on three bottles of weak lager because they’ve made the same mistake?