Category Archives: Blogging and writing

The Yacht Inn on a balmy September evening.

The Month That Was: September 2014

A week into October, here’s a round-up of everything we posted in September 2014, with follow-up information here and there.

→ We started the month by reflecting on BrewDog’s status: in our opinion, they are important, even if they’re not always likeable.

What did ‘winey’ mean to Victorian commentators on food and drink?

→ For the 91st beer blogging session, we recalled learning about Belgian beer with draught Leffe in East London. (The round-up of all the posts from this session is at Belgian Smaak.)

→ We were so impressed with bottles of Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter that it prompted an entire project: tasting British bottled porters to decide which, if any, are better — Batch 1 (Fuller’s, Redemption, Meantime/M&S)  | Batch 2 (BrewDog, Five Points, Brew by Numbers).

→ 100 words on hype and prejudice: ‘I like things. You over-rate things. They are fanboys.’

Do people really want to drink local beer, or are they actually after native styles? (Partly in response, here’s Stan Hieronymus on indigenous beers.)

→ At long last, we have our hands on that terrible, forbidden volume detailing the manufacture of Watney’s beers in the 1960s and 70s. The first fruits of our dissection are this guidance for brewing your own clone of the fabled Red Barrel as it was c.1966, and this piece on how to taste beer with complete objectivity.

→ The ongoing ‘crafting up’ of the Wetherspoon chain of pubs continues apace. (The Devil’s Backbone IPA, it seems, is brewed at Banks’s in Wolverhampton, though you’d struggle to find that out from the Spoons website.)

→ Some more time travel: in 1861, an anonymous author attempted to explain Belgian beer to British readers; while, in 1944, a social commentator described the workings of the village inn.

If a beer is rotten when served at the wrong temperature, how good can the underlying product actually be?

A detail in a leaked document from AB-InBev caught our eye: they think (perhaps rightly) that craft beer is off-putting to many consumers because it is complicated and pretentious, and see this as a gap in the market. This turned into a discussion about whether a beer’s back story ‘matters’, which, elsewhere, Stephen Beaumont has wisely answered thus:

When I’m reviewing a beer or a spirit, I don’t care where it comes from and rate everything on the same as-objective-as-possible scale… [But] when I’m choosing where to spend my dollar ‘votes’ as a consumer, I consider several other factors besides.

→ Feeling moody about the state of beer writing, we put our glumness into words. Alan McLeod disagreed, as did many others. (On good days, we don’t even agree with ourselves.)

→ There were also weekly links round-ups, some stray quotations, a gallery of photos of brewing in Ireland c.1902, a couple of videos, things on Facebook, and a whole lot of Tweets.

Adapted from SYR by Robert S. Donovan, from Flickr, under Creative Commons.

Best of Beerylongreads & Next Time

Starting last September, we’ve prompted four rounds of ‘beerylongreads’ in which we and others aim to produce something longer and more in-depth than usual.

The next is scheduled for Saturday 29 November (details below).

In the meantime, of the 50-odd posts that have emerged, these are some of our favourites, in no particular order.

  1. Leigh Linley on Wells’s Banana Bread Beer (March 2014) — a fresh, sincere, enthusiastic look at a quirky beer that’s far from trendy, but certainly not dull.
  2. Chris Hall on hipster-bashing in British beer (March 2014) — “You won’t see any of them bloody hipsters in my pub trying the real ales, though. They’re all in them bloody BrewDog bars, forking out a fiver a pint for that murky rubbish.
  3. Ron Pattinson on Porter between 1815-1850 (September 2013) — an epic post of near-book-length which gives a taste of the author’s still-gestating master-work on the history of British brewing.
  4. Stan Hieronymus on how getting it right takes time (November 2013)  — “Not long after Geoff Larson dumped the thirteenth batch of what would eventually be the first brand Alaskan Brewing sold he poured out the fourteenth. Then the fifteenth, and the sixteenth.”
  5. David Bishop on the state of British homebrewing (March 2014) — based on correspondence with other key players, this offers insights into a booming scene with ever-closer ties to ‘proper’ brewing.
  6. Drunken Speculation on a cult Australian beer brand (August 2014) — the story of Bulimba Gold Top, brewed in Brisbane’s suburbs in the late 19th century, using English malt and hops from New Zealand, Kent and Bohemia.
  7. And, of our own four contributions, by far the most-read is this piece on the fondly-remembered Newquay Steam Beer.

Here’s the deal if you want to join in on 29/11/2014:

  • Write something longer than usual. (Our standard posts are 300-700 words long, so we aim for at least 1500 before we consider it a ‘long read’.)
  • You could just stretch a normal post out by adding lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of unnecessary words, phrases, sentences, and indeed paragraphs. But that’s not quite the point. Instead, choose a subject which requires more words.
  • We’re not in charge and there are no ‘rules’; you can write what you like, post when you like; and you don’t have to mention us or link to this blog in your post. (Though of course it would be nice.)
  • If you want us to include your contribution in our round-up, let us know. The simplest way is by Tweeting a link with the hashtag #beerylongreads.
  • TIP: think of something you want to read but that doesn’t seem to exist — an interview with a particular brewer, the history of beer in a specific town, the story of a famous pub — and then write it.
  • Drop us a line if you want advice or just to run your idea past someone.

Illustration adapted from SYR by Robert S. Donovan, from Flickr, under Creative Commons.

Detail from the cover of Beer in Britain, 1960.

Glum About Beer Writing

Jeff Alworth’s post about the state of beer writing, and Alan Mcleod’s response, come at a fortuitous time for us.

We’re preparing a talk on ‘The birth of modern beer writing – 1960 to the present day’ for delivery at a seminar being jointly run by the British Guild of Beer Writers and the Brewery History Society. We’ve been collecting material on this for a couple of years now — references to beer writing in odd places, newspaper articles we’ve stumbled across — and it’s good to have an opportunity to pull it all together into something coherent.

It is, however, making us feel a little glum, because what is emerging is a story of lurching after trends in publishing; struggling for material; and, even more so, struggling for an audience. It seems to us that most people, even if they like beer, don’t want to read about it as much as we and others want to write about it.

(When we were signing books at a food festival recently, we heard several variations on, “A book? About beer!? Ha ha ha ha ha! I like drinking it but I don’t want to read about it!”)

And when Jeff asserts that, ‘The extended world of beer has a nearly infinite number of subjects to discuss’, we find ourselves, reluctantly, disagreeing.

There’s certainly more-or-less fresh territory to be explored, and even new angles to be found on familiar subjects, but beer is not as rich a seam as food, or music, or film. (Maybe Tom Fort had a point.)

To some extent, perhaps that’s why beer writing and ‘craft beer’ have, over the years, become somewhat symbiotic — the former needs the drama, complexity and variety of the latter to justify its existence, and the great hope for the future of beer writing is that everyone becomes the kind of geek who wants to think, talk and read about what they’re drinking.

The Month That Was August 2014

The Lugger Inn, Polruan.
The Lugger Inn, Polruan, Cornwall, for no particular reason other than that we drank there in August.

It seems we were among those ‘covering the office’ while the Blogoshire went on summer recess. Here are the highlights of our 22 proper posts from the last month:

→ Our most commented-on post ever, bizarrely, was this piece highlighting something interesting Matt ‘Total’ Curtis had said about Wetherspoon’s American collaboration brews.

→ The pub isn’t everything: drinking at home has played a vital part in the ‘rebirth of British beer’.

→ Our contribution to the weekend’s #beerylongreads jamboree (round-up here) was a 1800 word piece on tensions between old and new at the Spingo brewery, Helston, Cornwall.

Read the rest after the jump →

Beery Long Reads, August 2014

These are all the responses to our call to ‘go long’ that we know about so far. If we missed yours, comment below, and we’ll add any stragglers to this list and when we find out about them either in the comments below or through Twitter.

Bulimba Gold Top

A Brief History of Bulimba Gold Top

by Drunken Speculation (@DrunkSpec)

[This] is the abridged history of a local beer that was discontinued before I was born but holds my interest for reasons I can’t quite fathom. It might be the notion of brewing beer in Brisbane’s inner riverside suburbs, something that has only recently become a thing again. It might be the romantic filter through which I view late nineteenth century Brisbane. It might just be the name: Bulimba Gold Top.

[Read more at Drunken Speculation...]

Bolivian Flag (detail)
Cerveza at 11,000 feet in Bolivia

by Brewolero

My first arrival to La Paz made for a weird epiphany, but a revelation nonetheless. Of course, head-pounding and dehydrated is not quite a state of mind that screams for beer. Nonetheless, we headed for what to any beer-minded person was the promisingly-named Adventure Brew Hostel, although the cranky oldhead lurking in me was a tad wary.

[Read more at Brewolero...]

Beer in Lille.
Lille: a Beer Odyssey and Much More

by Justin Mason (@1970sBOY)

I suspect that many of you, as I have done, gazed uninterestedly out of the window as your Eurostar train pulled into Lille station, a seemingly unnecessary stop on your way to Brussels and maybe beyond, with your head full of all the good things that Belgium, where beer is almost a religion, will have in store for you.

[Read more at Get Beer, Drink Beer...]

London Beer City.
London Beer People

by Matthew Curtis (@TotalCurtis)

What London beer city did was create an environment that made beer more accessible to everyone else. I watched onlookers, stragglers and casual passers by not only stop and look what was going on but wander in and start a beer journey of their very own.

[Read more at Total Ales...]

Brewdog beers.
Interview with Baron Dickie of Ellon

by Matthew Lawrenson (@seethelizards)

Article taken from (3rd March 2034): Viewing Lord Dickie today, it’s hard to imagine him as the flat-cap wearing firebrand enfant-terrible of British Brewing. Reposing on an antique Chesterfield, dressed head-to-toe in tweed, he looks every inch the middle-aged Scottish country gent.

[Read more at Seeing the Lizards]

BeerBud Beer Club

by Glen Humphries (@26bear)

Unlike a number of other journos, I didn’t bother writing anything for the paper because I knew it was nothing special. I knew the media release headline “Aussie barons brew ale revolution” was simply not true.

[Read more at Beer is Your Friend...]

Vintage beer glass illustration.
Who Will Save the Idea of Craft Beer?

by Alan McCormick (@GrowlerFills)

Papazian is exactly right. A craft brewer is a subjective idea, something nebulous left to each of us to define as relates to our own experiences and values. But Papazian’s organization defines it anyway.

[Read more at Growler Fills...]

Hop farming in Idaho.
Farming Hops, Idaho Style

by Stan Hieronymus (@StanHieronymus)

This was by no means a deluge. You could almost count the early morning raindrops hitting the tent roof. There’s one where Orion would be located, a couple by the Big Dipper. Rain and wind can be a very bad thing at a hop farm this time of year. A few days earlier rain and wind in Washington and southern Idaho had knocked down about 140 acres of hop trellises.

[Read more at Appellation Beer...]

Some beer books that we've used for research.
Recommended Brewing History Books

by Ed Wray (@TheBeerFather)

Back in May when Chris Marchbanks gave a talk on brewing history he gave out a list of books he recommended. Here’s the list with comments and some suggestions of my own. I’ve provided links for the books which in some cases link will take you to the complete book online, in others it’s to an online retailer. Some of the books are dirt cheap and some are dead expensive.

[Read more at Ed's Beer Site...]

Gareth (left) and Tim, at the brewery door.
Mellow Brown vs. the Amarillo Kid?

by Boak & Bailey (@boakandbailey)

The tension between new world and old school is being played out at Spingo Ales in sleepy Helston, Cornwall, but which side has the upper hand?

[Read more...]

ADDED 31/08/2014

James Watt of Brewdog.
Interview with BrewDog’s James Watt

by Chris Hall (@cshallwriter)

I asked various Beer People I know what they would ask BrewDog if they had the same chance as me… What follows is a series of questions put to James Watt on Friday 22 August, some from me, some from other people.

[Read more at the Beer Diary...]

Upper Hudson Valley Beer cover (detail)
Upper Hudson Beer From 1700 to 1750

by Alan McLeod (@agoodbeerblog)

On February 15, 1700, one of the church’s poor died. She was Ryseck, the widow of Gerrit Swart… There were more than a few expenses in addition to the cost of the coffin and the fee paid Hendrick Roseboom, the doodgraver. In addition to 150 sugar cakes and sufficient tobacco and pipes… twenty-seven guilders were paid by the congregation for a half vat and an anker of good beer.

[Read more at A Good Beer Blog...]