Photography in the Pub

In some ways we’re in a golden age for pub photography as almost everyone now has a relatively powerful camera on their phone, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s simple.

Historically, photos of pubs tend to be of the exteriors. That’s partly because of the availability of lights, partly because the exteriors were highly decorated, and also perhaps because drinking has been, and maybe still is, a somewhat furtive activity.

There is the odd historic interior shot, more often than not taken by brewery photographers to document the decor, and thus usually eerily empty. But this one from c.1915, a favourite of ours, is an exception:

Interior of a London pub c.1915.Even there, though, it’s obvious they’ve been told to sit very still and not to smile so it hardly looks natural. Things start to get really good with Humphrey Spender’s photographs of Bolton pubs for Mass Observation, taken in the late 1930s. We’ve used a few on the blog before but here’s a particularly dynamic example, where you can almost taste the mild, smell the smoke and hear the clack of the dominoes on the table:

Men playing dominoes.
Image ref. 1993.83.17.07

Spender snapped quickly without necessarily asking permission and occasionally got thrown out by irritated landlords. Eighty years on, the results are totally worth it — moments in time, faces, relationships, all captured without varnish.

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The Month That Was: December 2016 — Dinner Parties, Wheat Beer, Penzance Pubs

Guise dancers in a Penzance pub at Christmas.

Despite a flipping great big gap where Christmas fell we still managed a decent number of posts in December, covering all sorts of topics from wheat beer to Penzance pubs.

Sir Sydney Nevil's autobiography (page spread).

Our first duty was responding to the Session topic set by Stan Hieronymus: who, living or dead, would we like to invite to a beer dinner party? Stan’s round-up is here and we were rather honoured to be nominated as guests in Mark Lindner’s contribution.


After a trip to a wintry St Austell we wondered what if anything it means when a pub starts selling tinned lager, reaching a somewhat optimistic conclusion. (We have since worried that we got the wrong end of the stick or might have dobbed the pub into the pub company, which wasn’t our intention.)

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 31 December 2016: Kids, Krakow and Koelschips

We took last week off for obvious reasons so here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that got us thinking or smiling in the past fourteen days.

First, a bit of news that got rather lost in the fuss around Christmas: Heineken has taken over a large chunk of pub company Punch’s estate, as reflected upon by the Pub Curmudgeon:

The Beer Orders were revoked in 2003, so since then there was been nothing to prevent the major international brewers rebuilding tied estates in the UK. However, the dire state of pub company finances has probably put them off until now. Heineken retained the rump of the former Scottish & Newcastle pub operation under the banner of Star Pubs and Bars, and so were always the best placed to make a move. Selling out to a brewer with deep pockets is probably going to be the best exit strategy for long-suffering pubco investors.


A baby in the pub.

Here’s one to bookmark if you have kids, or friends with kids — a practical guide, both general and specific, to child-friendly pubs in East London, from the ever-thoughtful Bearded Housewife:

Sometimes it’s just not appropriate, for the feel of the pub as much as anything, to have kids there. For instance, I once had a bit of time to kill in central London and tried to take the progeny into the Harp, near Covent Garden. As I attempted to wrestle the buggy back out the narrow door after being politely rebuffed by the staff, I wondered what I’d been thinking. It’s hard to elucidate clearly why exactly this would have been a bad idea, but children in a pub like the Harp is an incongruous conjunction, like a rave in a library, not bad in the sense of wrong, or selfish, or unjust, but rather more like an uncomfortable juxtaposition.

(See also this post on ‘The New East London Pub Crawl’ from Rebecca Pate.)


Weathered wood with cyrillic text: KBAC.

Via Zach Fowle for Draft magazine the obscure semi-beer kvass rears its ugly head once again — will 2017 finally be the year our terrible prediction that it’s The Next Big Thing comes good?

To make their kvass, Scratch’s brewers soak toasted leftover loaves in hot water overnight. In the morning, the liquid is separated from the soggy bread, moved into a mash tun and combined with standard brewing malt (unlike most historical versions). From there, it’s treated like a typical beer, though brewers don’t add hops and they ferment the wort with the same sourdough yeast culture used in Scratch’s bread.


Various books and magazine from the last 40+ years of CAMRA.

On Twitter John West has given some bloggers a nudge: where’s the commentary on CAMRA’s Revitalisation report? We haven’t got round to it yet, partly because of weariness with the subject and the lack of anything much new to say, but Jeff Alworth, who has been observing British and world beer for years, brings an outsider’s perspective:

Beer has become something like a sacred beverage to people all over the globe. And of course, any time you have something sacred, it means there’s a vast world out there of the profane. Beer must be made and consumed in a particular way. To do anything else violates this sense of the sacred. This dichotomy doesn’t emerge arbitrarily, though. Sacred things are those which protect and nurture the group; profane ones endanger it. In the case of cask ale, CAMRA issued an edict about the nature of British beer. They did this to create a very clear inner circle of protection: this is the thing we’re talking about, and these are the things that endanger it.

(The exchange between Jeff and Nick in the comments is also worth your attention.)


A beer menu in Krakow.

Martin Taylor reports from Krakow where craft beer is fast becoming ‘a thing’. This especially caught our eye because, for one reason or another, we spent a fair bit of time in Krakow between 2000-2003, before we were especially into beer, and remember when C.K. Browar was the cool place in town — the equivalent of Mash in London, we guess.


Here’s some serious historic brewing from Ron Pattinson: a recipe for a Truman’s 1917 Government Ale, AKA Lloyd George’s Beer, which Ron observes was actually somewhat improved by rationing as its malt content was boosted in lieu of hard-to-get sugar.


Mark Tranter

Here’s one that we probably should have included in our last round-up but somehow missed in the early morning bleurgh when these things are mostly put together: an interview with Mark Tranter of Burning Sky by James Beeson for Beeson on Beer. It’s interesting primarily because it contains a genuine scoop about a development which Chris Hall, among others, has suggested is a defining moment in British brewing:

‘When’s this piece going out again?’ He asks, pausing as if weighing up a decision in his head, ‘Oh, and we’re installing a coolship in Janaury.’ Exhaling deeply, he leans back in the rickety wooden chair on which he is sitting. ‘That’s the first time I’ve told anyone that.’


Finally, here’s an image to enjoy, via @iamreddave:

The Best Beer Reading of 2016, Sez Us

This is a purely subjective list of the most illuminating, amusing or interesting beer- and pub-related blog posts and articles from the last 12 months, all of which we shared in our weekly news round-ups.

Before we get to the links, though, here’s a bit of state-of-the-nation reflection.

First, it’s hard for us to agree that beer writing is dead, past its best, or otherwise in trouble. (As per Alan McLeod, here.) Seriously, if you think 2008 was a golden age for beer blogging, go and read some beer blog posts from 2008 (not ours, please, we beg you) and clear your head. (Alan is right, though — there was more chat back then.)

Today, there are lots of beer blogs, many of them turning out pieces that, with barely an edit, could happily appear in print alongside the work of professional journalists.

Bloggers are challenging themselves, seeking out first hand information, interviewing brewers, raiding libraries and archives, and taking some lovely photographs as they go about it.

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Top Beer Tweets of 2016

These are the Tweets that made us laugh or think in the last 12 months.

Some are from people who write mostly about beer, others are from outside The Bubble, but they all prompted us to either click the Retweet button or include them in our weekly links round-ups.

For more of this kind of thing follow us @boakandbailey and if you see anything below that tickles you, give it a Like or an RT. If these people are anything like us, it’ll cheer them right up.

1. Craig Garvie brought us this horror which made us wonder why they don’t just roll the bottle round in some hair and toenail clippings and be done.

2. We’re surprised we haven’t seen more of this kind of thing to be honest. It’s hard to stop looking at.

3. This from Bryan Roth made us feel faintly guilty. In a good way.

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