6. Drink every beer you can find in a particular style, from a particular region, or that meet some other criteria – ABV, colour, Christmas themed…
7. Critically revisit beers you know you don’t like but haven’t tried in years. After all, they change, and you change too.
8. Spend a month drinking things other than beer, but with beer in mind.
There are lots of other ways to go about this kind of thing. The point is, like writing poetry using restrictive rules, or cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats, it should be sort of pointless… But not really.
You might hate all the new pubs you go in and beers you taste, or you might find new favourites you kick yourself for having missed out on for so long. Even the duds will teach you something.
What makes an IPA Old School in our view is and emphasis on hop bitterness as well as, and perhaps more than, aroma/flavour; a preference for English hop varieties; mellow orange character rather than pine or grapefruit; and a certain stoical pintability, despite relatively high ABVs by late 20th century cask ale standards.
The younger drinkers we’ve noticed are often on hot chocolate, frothy coffee or pounding cans of energy drink. A typical party, sat near us about a fortnight ago, between them had one pint of bitter, two of lager, a can of Monster, and a pint of Coke. They were all eating, too, treating it almost like a diner.
If you think your region is being overlooked as a beer destination (i.e. not written about by the Usual Suspects) the answer is simple, we reckon: write about it yourself. The comments on this ended up focusing on Birmingham and the West Midlands even though we tried to keep it general, but they’re interesting nonetheless.
How do pubs smell? That’s something we were prompted to think about by the tenth anniversary of the institution of the ban on smoking in pubs, the debate around which often ends up wallowing in foul aromas of one kind or another.
We posted a few Patron-only things on our Patreon feed — behind the scenes notes mostly, including stuff on how our book cover got designed and some thoughts on the upcoming British Guild of Beer Writers awards.
We’re approaching our (fairly modest) second target of $100 a month, by the way — thanks, everyone!
Our newsletter was a little more curt than usual because we typed it on a smartphone in a packed-up house with no chairs to sit on but what we did write seemed to get people talking:
In the wake of our Michael Jackson article for Beer Advocate, and reflecting on the blogosphere with our weekly news round-ups in mind, we reached a conclusion: free beer and hospitality don’t guarantee positive coverage but, when you’re just starting out as a writer or blogger, they aren’t half flattering…
If you’re interested in c.1,300 words of this kind of stuff every month sign up!
On Facebook there’s been some of this sort of thing…
He is no doubt going to write or do something interesting himself based on the responses so we won’t get too involved in the specifics of this particular case but what he’s expressing does seem to be a common anxiety: that the next city over, or London specifically, is getting more than its share of attention in the national press or on prominent beer blogs.
We’ve written pieces relating to this on a few occasions, most notably here where we said…
…if writing about beer is London-centric, and it might be a bit, it’s partly because London is bothering to write about beer.
We say, once again, that if you think your region is overlooked, you should make the case. Write a blog post or ebook, or put together a Google Map, showing where a visitor to your region can find local beer, the beer-geekiest bars and pubs, and give some suggestions for how they can get from one to another. Your target audience here is people on weekend breaks — why should they visit your city rather than, say, Sheffield, or Manchester, where there is so much interesting beer that it’s hard to know where to start? But also, by extension, bloggers and journos looking for advice on where to start.
‘But we’re not like those obnoxious Londoners/Mancunians/Leodensians — we don’t like to shout about ourselves because we’re so humble and unassuming,’ feels like a response we’ve heard several times in this kind of conversation, and that’s a bit… pathetic. It’s probably better to boast than to grumble, and wait for someone else to do the shouting for you.
And, of course, writing critically is good too — it’s a sign of maturity in a scene and can add credibility to your guidance. If a visitor follows your advice and ends up in pubs that are merely ‘meh’, drinking bad beer, they’ll think less of your scene overall.
We used to have a page here collecting links to town, city and region guides and pub crawls written by beer bloggers, but had to scrap it because they weren’t being kept up to date and too few new ones were appearing. It would be nice to revive that, or at least to know that there’s a guide out there to Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, or wherever, that we can point people to when they ask us, which they do from time to time.
Right, we’ve done pretty well at keeping things ticking over up to this point but, to paraphrase Hildegard Knef, from here on it gets rough.
We’re in the process of moving from Penzance to Bristol which means several long train journeys, lots of disruption, computers in places without internet, and internet in places without computers. And who knows where all the books and yellowing pamphlets will be.
This disruption shouldn’t last more than a couple of weeks and we’ll still hopefully manage to get the odd blog post out — we’ve got some half-written that just need polishing up when we can catch our breath, and others we can probably just about manage to type with crabbed fingers on phone screens.
And also, here’s something to think about: once we’re settled at the other end we’re hoping to put together a follow-up to ‘The Good, the Bad and the Murky’, which was itself a follow-up to Brew Britannia. If you’ve got thoughts on the kind of things we ought to include — major trends and developments in British beer since 2015 — drop us a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment below.
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.