The Month That Was: May 2016

All in one handy post, for those of you who weren’t paying attention, here’s everything we wrote in the last month, from Craftonia to Watney’s.

double_diamond_coronation_1953We started the month with a gallery of beer advertisements from the New Elizabethan Age, celebrating the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the Coronation in 1953. This is a graphic style we’ve really been getting into lately — so very British, and a thread that carries through Richard Lonsdale-Hands’s work for Whitbread in the 1950s.

Flagging an interesting post by Dave Bailey we considered the difficulty of inspecting and enforcing in an age of 1,500 breweries.

Adapted from a Soviet propaganda poster: a man waving a banner.In 100 words we attempted to shine a light on the Global Republic of Craftonia, whose citizens are uniformly opposed to homogeneity, and whose colonial outposts can be found around the world, identifiably by their filament light-bulbs and wall-manifestos.

Illustration: a pint of beer with Van Gogh textures.For the 111th Session we responded to a question set by Oliver Gray: are we having, or have we had, a beer mid-life crisis? Yes, we have — well, a ‘wobble’, anyway.

Oliver’s round-up of all the responses is here: Part One | Part Two (pending).

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That’s Not A Story Pt 2: Doom vs. Triumph

Stories about beer, especially in the mainstream press, often seem to follow one of two templates: collapse and defeat, or resurgence and triumph. But the truth is often somewhere in between.

We were going to say ‘Boringly, the truth is often somewhere in between’ but then we thought, hold on — it’s not as boring as the default positions of Oh Woe! or Yay, Awesome! trotted out time after time, seemingly on auto-pilot.

In the article we’ve just written about mild for All About Beer we touch upon this tendency because mild has been the subject of many overly-optimistic MILD IS BACK! articles over the years. They’re expressions of wishful thinking, or propaganda, or a bit of both. Our argument is essentially that mild is in the process of becoming, like Gose or Berliner Weisse, a local curiosity — not extinct, just rare, a base for experimentation, and of more interest to we nerds than to drinkers in the real world.

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Session #111: A Beer Mid-Life Crisis?

Does our relationship with beer, and obsessing over beer, and writing about beer, go through ups and downs? Oh yes. Is it different now to in 2005? Definitely.

This month Session host Oliver Gray asks:

Do you find it hard to muster the same zeal for beer as you did a few years ago? Are you suffering through a beer-life crisis like I am? If so, how do you deal with it?

When we first started to take an interest in beer, we were like those wide-eyed kids walking through the doors into Willie Wonka’s factory for the first time: ‘Come with me/ And you’ll see/ A world of pure imagination…’

That Michael Jackson coffee table book that was our guide told us about beers, breweries, entire types of beer, that we’d never heard of and that needed hunting down. If we wanted to taste, say, a particular American IPA, we needed intel, a full day off, and probably at least two forms of public transport. Every weekend brought us a new experience, and every holiday abroad was an opportunity to learn something new.

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The Month That Was: April 2016

Here’s everything we wrote in April 2016 in one handy place, and links to responses from other writers and bloggers where we’ve spotted them.

→ We started the month off with a second-hand April Fool’s joke: Instant Guinness.

→ In the North West of England we photographed a load of interesting pubs. (But not necessarily good ones.)

→ Joe Stange suggested some beers we ought to try and we’ve already tasted Ruhstaller’s Gilt EdgeHeadlands Pt. Bonita Rustic Lager and Slaapmutske Dry-Hopped Lager.

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Us On the Subject of Bitter

Last autumn we wrote 1,500 words on bitter for the American magazine Beer Advocate and that article has just been made available free online.

For us, this was pretty much like writing about water, or bread, or the sun — that is difficult despite, or maybe because of, the apparent simplicity and familiarity of the subject.

Anyway, we were quite happy with how it turned out, and people on Twitter seem to be enjoying it. Here’s a good bit:

Today in the UK, Bitter is not a strictly governed style and beers bearing that appellation might be golden to red, drily bitter or honey-sweet, rich in hop perfume or rather austere. Depending on strength, they might be called “Ordinary,” “Best,” or “Extra Special Bitter (ESB).” It is easier, perhaps, to say what Bitter is not. Once the classy alternative to Mild, then the conservative alternative to trendy lager, it is now the preferred choice of the anti-hipster—not Double IPA, and definitely not fruit-infused barrel-aged Saison.

And asking nosy questions paid off here, too:

“Southwold Bitter is still our best-selling cask beer and its place as No. 1 is probably secure for some time yet, but it has been caught up by Ghost Ship [a hoppy Golden Ale] in the last few years,” Fergus Fitzgerald explains. “When I joined Adnams 10 years ago, Bitter was about 70 percent of what we did, but it’s now closer to 40 percent as we have expanded the range of styles we brew, and as tastes broaden.”

Sadly, since we wrote it last summer Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter has ceased to be a regular brew (Twitter) and is now seasonal only. When it comes to writing about specific brands beer is a moving target.