News, Nuggets & Longreads Tipline

Psst! Whispering men.

We’ve been putting together regular weekly round-ups of links since January 2014 having done a one-off in November 2013 to prove the point that blogging was alive and well.

We’ve settled into a routine now — each of us bookmarks things throughout the week; we do a final scan of our Feedly feed, Twitter and the news on Saturday morning; and write it up before breakfast. That’s great in terms of keeping it on track and on time but…

With routine comes a rut and we are aware that we might be leaning on the same sources a bit much, featuring the same names, leaning towards a certain type of content. Of course it’s always going to reflect our preferences and interests but, still, we don’t want miss essential stuff, and some of the most interesting links in recent months have come from tips sent by readers and fellow bloggers.

So, we just want to make it clear that suggestions for things we ought to read and should consider featuring here are always welcome.

We’re especially interested in articles and blog posts from beyond the beer world that we might not stumble across ourselves — pieces written by historians, scientists, cultural critics, local journalists, comedians and columnists who might only mention beer or pubs once a year but, when they do, do it well.

Local intelligence — interesting new bars, pubs and breweries — and even straight-up gossip are also interesting and useful.

Just Tweet or direct message us @boakandbailey or send us an email:

News, Nuggets & Longreads 27 August 2016: Lithuania, Brett, Criticism

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that’s stimulated our brain-boxes in the last seven days, from Lithuanian beer queens to naughty hats.

Aldona Udriene surveys a fermenting vessel.
SOURCE: Lars Marius Garshol.

Lars Marius Garshol (@larsga) met ‘the queen of Lithuanian beer’, Aldona Udriene:

Her father and grandfather both made the malts themselves. They would soak the barley in water, then take it up and leave it to sprout in the sacks so it would remain wet. The shoots and rootlets would be removed by rubbing between the hands (just like at Storli in Norway). The rubbing was child’s work, and she herself started doing it when she was four years old. Her hands would get sweet and sticky, she says.

For Craft Beer & Brewing Jamie Bogner provided tasting notes on two sets of beers designed to showcase the effects of different strains of Brettanomyces:

In The Bruery’s iteration, B. Lambicus brings the woodsy, hay, and earthy character to the forefront, with slightly lower attenuation and a soft lingering bitterness. Think baked sweet potato with the skin on and a faint dusting of ground black pepper.

German postcard: a man struggles with the choice of beer in Munich.
“He who has choice is tormented.”

Ryan Moses (@moewriter), AKA The Beer Counsellor, has been reading about the purpose and meaning of criticism and considering how that might apply to beer:

The public sees the critic as a utility. The reason people love rating websites is that they point them in a direction.  Critics help cut through all the clutter and noise to find the stuff worth enjoying… There are over 4,000 breweries in the US and if you say they each produce around seven beers each, you are looking at almost 30,000 different beers.  The critic in part should strive to make the average consumer’s life a little bit easier.

London brewery Late Knights is going through some difficulties, closing one of its pubs and ceasing brewing, while the remaining six pubs have been split into two new companies. London Beer Guide (@BeerGuideLondonhas the latest news:

Each group of three is now under different ownership.  Neither will carry Late Knights branding but both intend to continue to brew, though obviously only one has an actual brewery at present.  The name and branding of the company owning the second group of pubs is yet to be confirmed, but we understand that a company called Erimus Brewing/Erimus Pubs and Bars now owns the first group of pubs.

Illustration: Kolsch glass.

A study carried out in Germany (quite a small one which to us has the whiff of PR about it) suggests that blindfolded Rhinelanders can’t really tell the difference between the Kölsch of Cologne and the Altbier of Düsseldorf, despite this being one of the central points of tension in the local rivalry.

The Pilcrow, Manchester’s brand new built-from-scratch pub, is to be run by the people behind the city’s Port Street Beer House and 2016’s ‘It’ brewery Cloudwater. A little surprise, perhaps even amounting to dismay, was expressed at this news on Twitter: The Pilcrow project had presented as community-led and relied to some extent on the work of volunteers learning traditional craft skills (e.g. wood-turning) as they made fixtures and fittings for the pub, and this felt to some bait-and-switch.

For what it’s worth, when we asked about the social/commercial status of the project by email back in February, it was made clear that the intention was always to hand over to a commercial operator and for the pub to make money in the long run, so we don’t think any volunteers can be said to have been hoodwinked.

These are a couple of useful resources you might want to bookmark if you’re planning a weekend city break this autumn:

  1. Evan Rail’s guide to Prague for National Geographic. (via @ATJbeer).
  2. Kev‘s (@BelgianBeerGeek) Google Map of Brussels bars, breweries and beer-friendly restaurants. (Via @Thirsty_Pilgrim)

And, finally, something that definitely cannot be considered breaking news:

The Month That Was: July 2016 — Classic Pubs, New Wave Bitter, The Somme

Here’s everything we wrote in the last month, from classic pubs to coastal chic, in one handy round-up.

We kicked the month off with our contribution to Session #113 on the subject of ‘Mass Observation: The People and the Pub’, hosted by, er, us. Our summary of all the other contributions, some of which are really excellent, is here.

Close up on the foam of the beer.

Our Magical Mystery Pour adventures continued with more beers chosen for us by The Beer Nut:

  1. Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale
  2. Troubadour Westkust
  3. Troubdadour Magma Triple-Spiked

The First & Last at Sennen, Cornwall, has had a makeover and, though it’s fine, it made us reflect on the tendency for coastal pubs to go for the same identikit bright-and-breezy look when, actually, some of them look better as cosy smugglers’ dens.

Cover of book with illustration by Tim Jaques.

We read How to Run a Pub, a book published in 1969, and highlighted the juiciest bits to save you the trouble:

Your wife and (and yourself) will be exposed to constant temptation from [customers]. Some won’t hesitate to use their persuasions on her. This may begin in what seems the friendliest and most innocent ways such as offering her a lift to do the shopping or taking her out when you are obliged to remain on duty… Some pubs even acquire reputations as graveyards of marriages. One Chelsea pub… was so notorious that it was unkindly dubbed The Cuckold’s Arms… Naturally you can’t watch your wife like a sheepdog, but it would unwise to embark on a career as a publican unless you feel that your marriage is a pretty secure one.

Continue reading “The Month That Was: July 2016 — Classic Pubs, New Wave Bitter, The Somme”

Session #113 — Mass Observation — Round Up

For this month’s edition of The Session we asked our fellow bloggers to go to a pub or bar and write a report on what they found, in the style of the 1930s Mass Observation project.

Alan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog didn’t manage to get to a pub or bar but instead shared some brief recollections of his first encounter with the work of Mass Observation in the form of a Penguin paperback, when he was 19-years-old.

Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer visited a St Louis pub where everyone had gathered to watch an episode of a TV game showJeopardy, in which a regular at the bar had competed:

When Gilbert’s picture appeared on the screen (there were two televisions in the bar area, another in the adjoining room) at 4:24 a cheer went up. The place went silent when the competition began, but low level conversations returned quickly enough. Mostly cheers followed, sometimes when he got an answer right, other times when one of his competitors got one wrong. Once in a while a chant — “Will! Will! Will!” — broke out. Wearing a T-shirt decorated with a St. Louis city flag and holding an Urban Chestnut ceramic mug Gilbert settled at one end of the bar, a step outside most of the madness.

UPDATE 17.07.2016: Gareth at Barrel Aged Leeds observed a city centre pub in the hour or so after work:

There are real flowers in small vases on the table, nothing too unusual, nice light fittings, press button bells on the walls for service – I’ve tried it, no one came.

City centre pub with empty beer glass.

Rob Gallagher AKA Cuchuilain AKA The Bearded Housewife wrote a long, wonderfully thoughtful piece based on his observations of two very different pubs — a city centre place with craft beer, and a more down-to-earth East London local:

Apart from the discomfort involved in the deliberate observation of other people this task involved a much deeper and more personal discomfort, one that may touch on the secondary part of the brief about ‘The Pub and The People’, and my place within both pubs and peoples. It may get slightly confessional… Politically and philosophically, if not in every day practice, I consider myself working class, but the assumptions and attitudes I’ve displayed in this instance loudly proclaim the old trope of an effete liberal elite condescending to rough it in some sort of patronising urban safari.

Jon Abernathy at The Brew Site managed, by his own admission, only a brief set of bullet points on an outlet for Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, but even that contained intriguing details: ‘There’s a spittoon behind the bar that patrons can try to toss coins into.’

W.J. Kavanagh's -- bar view.

The Beer Nut provided a detailed record (‘homework’, he called it) of comings and goings at W.J. Kavanagh’s in Dublin one Sunday lunchtime, interwoven with tasting notes on the beers he drank. There are no pot plants or spittoons…

But it’s interesting how it has been kitted out, and I’m sure this is one of those features that are common to urban pubs but rarely noticed: everything is subtly nailed down and secured; nothing is hanging loose to be idly torn or knocked onto the floor. The pub doesn’t look at all sparse, but if you wanted to trash the place you’d find it tough to gather materials for doing so.

Luke Corbin gave us our only observation from outside the European-American axis, setting himself up at a bar called Suzuki Drink in Yangon, Myanmar:

An almost requisite stylised image of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi hangs close to the single television and in a large wall niche a collection of pottery, gourds, traditional instruments and tortoise shells draw the eye.  There are chairs for forty pax and the tables are tacky MDF.  A substantial bar sits in the northwestern corner with a single tap dispensing Regal Seven, a Heineken brand exclusively brewed in Myanmar.  It is surrounded by nice-looking glassware, Regal Seven-branded beer towers and a Conti espresso machine. 

The Anonymous author of the Deep Beer blog went to a ‘Bar & Grille’ in Crownsville, Maryland, with fish-carvings, patterned concrete, hops growing in the garden, and lots of people staring at their phones.

Mike Stein at Lost Lagers undertook an observation at a pub in Washington D.C. where, of 13 people in attendance, 9 were ‘tied to their mobiles’. The more substantial part of his post, however, is an extract from a memoir written by his father, a sociologist himself, about beer in pre-WWII Prague.

UPDATE 17.07.2016: The Anonymous author of Man Beach hung out in a suburban pub in Exeter, Devon, where a baby shower was underway:

The women and children in the alcove are obviously preparing for someone coming in – all but one hide behind the wall. A couple come in – the woman plainly pregnant – to be greeted by cheers from the crowd. A sign on the wall behind says ‘Baby Shower’ and someone has a doll dressed in baby clothes. The landlord/chef brings in sandwiches, snacks etc. for the assembly and later they can be seen playing party games such as ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ with the children.

The beer menu at The Mermaid.

Alec Latham, author of Mostly About Beer, conducted not one but two observation in St Albans, a commuter town just outside London which also happens to be the headquarters of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). First he visited The Boot where he found ‘about 40 customers… virtually all are watching England v Iceland in the Euros on one of the two televisions’. Then, on another day, he went to The Mermaid:

Just below ceiling height, the pub also boasts rows of both archaic and modern beer bottles and drinking vessels on a narrow shelf. I spot some bottles bearing candidates from the British 1992 election (John Major and Paddy Ashdown are represented, though I can’t see Neil Kinnock).

At his blog Oh Good Ale Phil, like Alec and Rob, provides notes on two pubs in Manchester, a branch of Wetherspoon’s and a famous brewery tap:

The conversation moves on to Guinness, seen as a particularly challenging beer (‘he said, we’ll chill it to fuck, you won’t have to taste it’) and past acquaintances who had been particularly fond of it (‘he’d just drink pint after pint after pint of it… towards the end of the evening when everyone was on shots, he’d just have another pint of Guinness…’). After a while they all go outside for a smoke; my nearest neighbours are now an animated young couple (both drinking the red cocktails) and a balding man sitting alone, wearing headphones plugged into his phone.

Martin Taylor AKA Retired Martin also looked at two different pubs, one in Epworth, and another in Barton-upon-Humber — ‘will be astonished if this place looks different on 1 July 2036’. Martin’s blog is an extended exercise in pub observation in its own right although he found this particular exercise a bit weird:

I’ve never been a detail person, and this was an odd piece to do, particularly when I had to ask the friendly barman for a pencil sharpener (pen and pencil were essential for authenticity).

Jordan at A Timely Tipple lives in Berlin where he set himself up at an English-style pub offering cask ale alongside more typically German styles:

I try to distinguish what people are talking about, but it’s a touch difficult given the three different languages being spoken in here. Some are catching up; others are discussing the philosophy of death. Typical pub talk, really.

Steve at Wait Until Next Year observed a central London craft beer pub around midday during the week when the customers were mostly colleagues sharing their lunch-breaks:

Variations on pork pies, pork scratchings and crisps are available. They are all on the craft-y side too. The pies are under a glass dome, the scratchings in glass Kilner jars. I see one person order the scratchings and the bar staff put on one of those blue catering gloves for handling them, squashing them into a ceramic ramekin.

And, finally, there’s our own contribution featuring button-up shirts, work boots, poker and a full-hearted rendition of My Way.

* * *

So, what did we learn from this admittedly small sample?

  1. Vaping in pubs, which we saw lot of in Newcastle and a bit in Birmingham, isn’t as universal as we’d expected.
  2. Pubs are pubs are pubs — there’s nothing in the descriptions above that made us think we’d be unable to cope with any of those venues, even Suzuki Drink, which sounds the farthest from our experience.
  3. A major football tournament doesn’t necessarily dominate pubs even when they’re showing it.
  4. That looking closely at even the most familiar pub can reveal intriguing details.
  5. Observations without narrative can seem rather dry… But anyone looking back on these in a hundred years time (digital decay and pending apocalypses permitting) will find plenty to enjoy in every entry.

* * *

If we missed your entry, grovelling apologies — give us a nudge and we’ll sort it. If you wanted to take part but didn’t get round to it in time, it’s worth doing anyway — we’re happy to add links retrospectively. The next Session is hosted by Al at Fuggled:

The Month That Was: June 2016

All in one handy list, here’s everything we wrote in the last month, from Ted Handel to rough pubs.

Vintage illustration (1869) of a man peering into a microscope.We started the month with some pondering on quality, consistency and conspiracy theories prompted by problems at Goose Island: ‘False flag, man! Blame the bugs and bacteria to justify The New World Order! Wake up and smell the mind control drugs!’

A 1964 article from the Spectator archive highlighted the fact that people have been worrying about the decline of the English pub for a long time:

Given that the beer is good (and I know that this is another question), I can’t believe that anyone wants to drink his pint, let alone talk the evening through with friends, in the kind of South Seas Traders tavern or sub-Scandinavian bar which seems to appear whenever the painters and decorators move in on an ordinary pub.

Black and white portrait of a man in a three-piece suit.We finally found a picture of Mr E.C. (Ted) Handel of Watney’s, one of the stars of Brew Britannia. He’s the chap who argued with Christopher Hutt on the letters page of the Financial Times in 1973, thus boosting CAMRA’s membership, Hutt reckons, by thousands. Continue reading “The Month That Was: June 2016”