Category Archives: Blogging and writing

Illustration: breakfast reading.

News, Nuggets and #Beerylongreads 28/11/2014

Don’t be alarmed: you haven’t lost track of the day of the week or time of day. Because tomorrow has been set aside for our #Beerylongreads post about Adnams, we’re springing our weekly round-up of news a day early.

→ Hop merchants Charles Faram have published their 2014 hop report for the northern hemisphere: ‘The crop has not been bad this year and although we will have shortages with certain varieties things could have been a lot worse.’ Phew!

→ After an off-hand Tweet got shared fairly widely (sorry!) Lars Marius Garshol has written at greater length about why he was troubled by a Barcelona bar with no local beer:

In one way it’s perfectly understandable that Latvians and Catalans want to drink foreign beers. I often do, too, in Oslo. But why should visiting foreigners seemingly prefer these beers? If their ratings are anything to go by, that’s what they do. And why should it be exactly the same breweries all over Europe? It’s always the same 3-4 Norwegian, Danish and UK brewers. The world of craft beer is a lot bigger than that.

→ Mark Hailwood’s series of blog posts on alehouse characters, tied into the publication of his book Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England, has reached its third instalment with ‘The Wastrel Husband’.

→ We’re not sure we agree with the overall generalisation that the brewing industry is friendly but Pete Brissenden (aka the Beer Soaked Boy) continues his run of great form with a post that gives some concrete evidence to support the claim:

I got put in charge of the dispense installation, troubleshooting, budgeting, maintenance and training people to lineclean at the brewery I was working at. I knew a little, but not all that much about it. I sent a quick email off to Derek Prentice at Fullers explaining my situation and the next week I spent four days shadowing one of their install engineers and one of their cellar inspection guys. They didn’t have to do that for me, Fullers had nothing to directly gain from it, but they did it and it helped immeasurably.

→ From New Scientist (via @JamesBSumner) news of important research which has shown that a good head of foam helps prevent beer from splashing out of the glass.

→ To mark Movember, Glasgow University Archives dug out this corking image of a brewery founder and his facial adornment (via @robsterowski):

→ On Facebook, we’ve been wondering about a format for talking about beer.

Calligraphic illustration: "...certifies that..."

Certifications and Beer Writing

Last week, American beer writer and blogger Chad Polenz contacted us to ask our views on beer certifications — the Cicerone programme and BJCP accreditation in particular.

It’s not something we have strong views on but we did our best to answer and he used what we gave him alongside responses from a slew of others to inform a blog post entitled ‘What do beer writers think of beer certifications?’ It’s more balanced than the tetchy reaction might suggest, and well worth a read.

We thought we ought to elaborate a bit on our position, insofar as we have one.

If we worked in the industry proper, as opposed to commentating on it from a deliberate distance, we might well consider getting ourselves certified. A scheduled programme of study with milestones and markers is no doubt helpful for many people embarking on careers in hospitality and brewing and, if nothing else, probably improves their confidence.

We also sometimes feel at a disadvantage when it comes to writing beer reviews because we can’t identify specific off-flavours or guess at hop varieties with complete confidence, and avoid claiming any kind of expertise as a result. Studying for certification, to a very great degree, seems to solve this problem.

And yet, as far as we know, few (if any) of our favourite beer writers are certified. In general, they gain their authority by consistently demonstrating their knowledge and experience in what they write, rather than by declaring it; and, in particular, by supporting their statements with evidence wherever possible. They are, perhaps, the kind of people who set their own programme of study.

This post is mostly about flagging Chad’s blog post so if you’ve got general comments, probably best to leave them there, but comments are open below if you prefer.

Beer of the Year laurels.

Pondering Beers of the Year

As Golden Pints season draws near, we’ve found ourselves wondering how we go about choosing a ‘beer of the year’.

Should it be the one we’ve just declared the best beer in the world? Surely that must also be the best beer we’ve had this year?

Maybe it ought to be the beer that gave us the most profoundly thrilling single experience — the one that literally made us giggle with excitement and joy — even if subsequent experiences of the same beer were less euphoric?

Or how about our main squeeze — the draught beer of which we’ve drunk (quick calculation) more than 200 pints between us since January? (Flippin’ ‘eck — £700!) We must quite like that.

Then again, perhaps we should compensate for the kinds of biases which skew results on rating websites, to avoid more subtle, unassuming beers being overlooked — ones that are technically proficient, or good for their style, but totally boring in the grand scheme of things.

A lot of beers we’ve enjoyed this year weren’t consumed in anything like ideal conditions for achieving an objective view — should they be out of the running?

There are breweries out there trying really hard with limited funding, facilities and distribution — do we try to take into account ambition and intention? Indie Beer of the Year?

We could narrow the field by choosing a beer that’s new for 2014 (imagine if The Godfather just kept winning the Best Picture Oscar every year!) or perhaps even, given our interest in culture and history, the beer which best sums up 2014.

Mostly, we’re just pleased to have something else to over-think.

Detail from the cover of Gambrinus Waltz.

Our New Ebook: Gambrinus Waltz

We’ve written a short book about lager beer in Victorian and Edwardian London which is now available to buy on the Amazon Kindle store.

Miss Vesta Tilley.It has 13,500 words including footnotes which would equate to about 60 pages if it was a paper book — one-fifth of the length of Brew Britannia, and eight or so times longer than one of our ‘long read’ blog posts.

At £2.06 from the UK store$3.27 in the US, and €2.68 in the Eurozone*, it’s a total bargain — that’s less than the price of a half of Guinness by our reckoning.

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Pub at night.

Pub Crawling Blogs

Look, the fact is, if you want to read about drunken escapades, this isn’t the blog you’re looking for.

We’re bookworms, nerds, squares; taking things too seriously is what we do for fun; we hate having hangovers; and that’s unlikely to change as we daily grow ever more middle-aged and becardiganed.

But don’t despair — there are plenty of bloggers less po-faced and/or sedentary than us who are barely ever out of the pub, and here are four you might enjoy.

1. The Ultimate London Pub Crawl

Once a month, twenty-somethings Andy and Greg pick a bit of London and visit every pub there — every pub. They generally get drunk, flirt, make friends, fear for their lives, and then miss their bus or tube home.

2. My Pub Odyssey

Pubman goes to pubs, mostly in London, and says what he reckons about them without even a dab of gilding on the lily: ‘It is a fairly normal little grubby touristy pub.  Grubby is a compliment in Pub Odyssey world…’

3. Walking and Crawling

Adam walks and drinks and walks and drinks. His long posts are full fresh air, verdant fields, and well-earned pints of beer in Scottish country pubs. It a close to being on holiday as you can get at your desk.

4. Wee Beefy

He’s been a bit less prolific of late but his reports from the front line of the war on sobriety in pubs in the Sheffield area are always entertaining: ‘We finished our trip at the Duck and Drake, where we stood at the packed bar to hear a band finish playing, supping beers that I have forgotten to record, but which were, I assume very nice – as was the food, which may have been a pie, I genuinely don’t know, however!’