Category Archives: Blogging and writing

Brew Britannia Hits the US

Front cover of Brew Britannia.

A little while after the UK launch, copies of Brew Britannia have finally begun to make their way out across the world, and two recent reviews from the US provide food for thought.

Jeff Alworth at Beervana, for example, highlights trans-Atlantic confusion over the meanings and cultural values implied by ‘craft’ and cask. In the US, cask-conditioned beer is considered the height of ‘craft’-ness, while in the UK, as we argue in the book, one of the many simultaneously-live meanings of ‘craft’ has been, since c.1997, ‘the antidote to real ale’. There is much potential for crossed wires here.

Jeff also ponders on why North America didn’t develop a powerful beer consumer group along the lines of the Campaign for Real Ale. It’s not as if the US doesn’t have a culture of clubs, though anything that even remotely resembled a union (CAMRA was nearly called ‘the Beer Drinkers’ Union at one point) would probably have raised hackles.

Derrick Peterman picks up the same thread and offers one possible answer: “Boak and Bailey’s history documents a similar revolution, but a demand driven one rather than the American revolution driven by new supply… That whole idea seems somehow un-American.” In America, capitalism is activism?

At any rate, we look forward to seeing if an answer emerges in discussion.

Finally, both Derrick and Jeff make a point that we hope potential reader will hear: you don’t need to be British to enjoy this book!

(There’ll be a proper blog post, i.e. one that isn’t about us and our book, along later today…)

Record Where You Drink For Posterity

"Traditional Country Ales" window livery.

Thank goodness for Nathaniel Newnham-Davis and his eye for detail.

An early food writer — the Jay Rayner of his day — ‘The Colonel’ wrote reviews for the Pall Mall Gazette as well as several books such as Where And How to Dine in London.

We are especially grateful to him for having taken the time and space to write at length about one of London’s 19th century ‘lager beer’ saloons. He described what was seen on entering, the light, the clientèle, the glassware, the food, the pictures on the walls, the floorboards, seating, taxidermy, staff, proprietor, food, and, most importantly, the beer itself.

Many other such establishments were beneath the attention of writers and so might as well never have existed for all that we can find out about them beyond their street address and the date on which their owners went bankrupt. (They always went bankrupt.)

It was much the same in trying to find out about pubs from the 1970s while working on Brew Britannia, Becky’s Dive Bar being an exception as it was too bizarre not to write about.

If you’re stuck for an idea ahead of ‘going long’ on Saturday (30 August), why not look long and hard at a pub or bar of your acquaintance — especially if it doesn’t get much attention — and write an excessively detailed description of it?

Zoom in. Get out your microscope. Examine its pores.

Future historians will thank you.

Blogging About Blogging: Speak Your Brains!

Pipe, hat and pint.

Bad news: this is a blog post about blog posting. There’ll be a post that’s actually about beer later today. If you choose to read on, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

We’ve been reflecting lately on our tendency to self-censor. We used to shelve posts quite frequently, finished and illustrated, because, at the last minute, we found ourselves anticipating a bad-tempered response and couldn’t be bothered to face it.

Click to enter the navel…

News, Nuggets & Longreads 16/08/2014

"The Wall Worker" by John Thomson, c.1877.

Cock-a-doodle-doo! Good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning-aaaah! Nothing to do but read these links, eat some bacon.

→ The picture at the top of this post comes from Street Life in London, a collection of photographs from 1877-78, with accompanying essays, which is available online through the the London School of Economics digital library. There are a couple of other pictures of pubs in the set.

→ Notoriously aromatic and bitter, Ballantine was arguably the single most influential beer in the aromatic IPA-mania of the last 30-odd years, and now it’s back. This is one American beer we will be making serious efforts to get our hands on.

→ In the week when the Campaign for Real Ale launches a drive to change the law to make it hard to convert pubs into shops or homes, Martyn ‘Zythophile’ Cornell argues vehemently that they’re on the wrong track:

Pubs are not sacred. The rights of pubgoers do not trump the rights of property owners. The disappearance of any pub is not the same as, eg, the disappearance of a Saxon church… If a pub is making less money for its owner than it would under another use, the owner must have the right to maximise their income.

→ On a somewhat related note, prolific epistolarian, committed Marxist, and beer-loving celebrity beard-sporter Keith Flett writes about ‘The Moral Economy of the Great British Beer Festival‘:

The concept of the moral economy, developed by the late historian EP Thompson in 1971, is to posit a customary and traditional way of looking at things in relation to a market economy. The moral economy does not aim to replace a market economy but to temper with a framework of laws and obligations… I think there is an interesting case for understanding the Great British Beer Festival as an annual gathering of those who take a moral economic view of the beer world.

→ Saved to Pocket this week: a piece from the Washington City Paper about cult beers, customer entitlement, and the competitive urge which is making beer less sociable. (Via Stan Hieronymus.)

→ We like this picture because (a) hops and (b) London E17:

And, finally, there are a couple of beer stories that went sufficiently mainstream ‘viral’ that we’d surprised if anyone missed them, but, just in case…

The Daily Beast wrote a profile of Kent ‘Battle’ Martin, the civil servant who approves US beer labelsHe rejected an “Adnams Broadside” beer, which touted itself as a “heart-warming ale,” because this supposedly involved a medical claim.’.

Tony Naylor wrote a substantial piece on the current UK ‘craft beer’ boom for the the Guardian. (If you must read the ranting comments, note the unjustified confidence with which many people issue downright rude ‘corrections’.)

News, Nuggets & Longreads 09/08/2014

Bloke drinking beer.

Don’t have much time. Must go out in sun before storm comes. Links below!

Lynn Pearson on churches with links to beer, for English Heritage. The first picture, of a stained glass window, is especially wonderful. (Via Tim Holt.)

Tandleman had a chance encounter with the head brewer at Paulaner’s ‘craft’ offshoot in Munich: ‘“We could maybe taste some of the products?” he suggested.’

→ The ever-provocative ‘Hardknott’ Dave Bailey has concluded that ‘handpulls suck’ as a method of serving beer.

→ Saved to Pocket for reading later: a long piece (5000 words) by Phil on the social benefits, or not, of enforcing abstinence from alcohol.

→ Also saved to Pocket, this 1940 portrait of the legendary ale house McSorley’s from the New Yorker archive. (Via someone called BB, via Jeff Alworth, who adds commentary.)

Blogging about blogging

Session #91 has been announced by the hosts, Belgian Smaak. The pleasingly wide-open topic is ‘Your first Belgian’.

Chris Hall has reminded us all about his Golden Posts project:

Each tired sigh from the crypt of “is beer blogging dead?” (accompanied by the rattling of chains, creaking of doors and so on) suggests to me a suffocating, numbing ignorance of just how many great beer blogs are out there, so I hope The Golden Posts could help people find new, great blogs.

→ And speaking of mass-blogging circle-jerking love-ins, don’t forget that we’re ‘going long’ on 30 August — we’d love you to join in!