Category Archives: Blogging and writing

The Month That Was: June 2015

Here’s everything we posted in the last month — not a bad run, considering we spent a week on holiday in the middle.

Proposed Public House — As ‘new towns’ and Corbusier-inspired estates were built in the rubble and green field of post-War Britain, pubs were a focus of debate.

→ Notable Pubs #2: The Crooked House — In Himley, just over the Staffordshire border near Dudley, is one of the weirdest pubs in Britain.

→ Sarah Warman: Influencer — Is there anyone talking or writing about beer with anything like the ability of Jamie Oliver or Delia Smith to mention a product and immediately cause it to sell out across the country? We reckon Sarah Warman might be the one to watch. (Literally.)

Brewery Numbers and Employment — The boom in the number of breweries in the UK has caused a buzz but isn’t the only important number: how many people are actually employed in making beer?

Session #100: The Return of Porter — Because the 100th Session is a special occasion, and with the kind permission of our publishers, Aurum Press, we’ve decided to share a slightly edited extract from chapter four of our book Brew Britannia. (And Reuben Gray’s round-up of all the session posts is here.)

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Beer Writing Clichés: Call for Submissions

Mr Naylor makes a good point, we think, and we thought it might be a good idea to compile a list of beer writing clichés as part of our very occasional series of posts on writing style.

Clichés are units of language that, however clever they seem the first time you hear them, have ceased to seem interesting or even meaningful because of endless repetition. They’re a sort of tic or habit — the opposite of careful writing.

We use clichés all the time, to our shame — The Beer Nut rightly picked us up on ‘wet their whistles‘, for example — but would really like to get out of the habit so this list is a reminder to ourselves as much as anything.

Here are the ones that popped into our heads — feel free to suggest more in the comments below. (But not just words are phrases that might annoy you — ‘real ale’ isn’t a cliché; ‘a foaming pint of ale’ is.)

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May 2015: The Month That Was

May was a productive month with quite a few posts, one or two of them on the substantial side.

→ At the May Day celebrations in Padstow, we revelled in a collective act of irresponsible drinking. (Alan McLeod liked this one.)

→ Three more batches of UK-brewed saisons got taste-tested in parts five (Wild Beer), six (Wiper & True, Bad Seed, Otley) and seven (Hop Kettle, By The Horns, Celt) of our ongoing series.

→ We looked at another oddity resulting from the quirks of UK-licensing law: the mid-20th-century London ‘bottle party’ nightclub.

→ We made an effort to visit some of the other pubs in Helston rather than just stick to the familiar Blue Anchor; in comments, several people who definitely don’t work there told us we should have visited the one we missed out.

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How to Trace a UK Brewery’s History

As we’ve had two requests in the last fortnight, not to mention lots of little queries through Twitter for the last few years, we thought this qualified as a frequently asked question: ‘How can I find out more about the history of [BREWERY X]?

CenturyPlusPlus21. In the first instance, take a look at the late Norman Barber’s marvellous Century of British Brewers. Published by the equally marvellous Brewery History Society it includes pocket biographies of hundreds of UK breweries in existence between 1890 and 2012, giving details of when and exactly where they operated. Crucially, it can also tell you what happened to them in the end which can provide vital clues as to the current whereabouts of archive materials. For example, they may eventually have ended up as part of…

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That Isn’t a Story

People say they want beer writers to tell stories, but what counts as a story?

Some time ago, we spoke to someone at one of Britain’s biggest regional breweries who told us, off the record, about the personal reasons behind the company’s resurgence, which was pure drama, with something of the Thomas Hardy novel about it. We might yet cover it in a blog post or article but, in the meantime, we were struck by how little it is reflected in the official line which is all pride and tradition and shire horses and smiling blokes in blazers.

Then, last week, we got a PR email from a significant and interesting brewery. We replied and asked to be put in touch with the owner of the company, to whom we then addressed a few questions: Which other breweries inspired you? Has the new wave of breweries doing similar things to you been a challenge? There was nothing too probing — ‘How has your relationship with your mother influenced the company?’ — The replies we got, regardless of the question, all read like this (not an actual quote):

We believe in our company! It’s a great time for beer. We are very happy with our great quality beers and the delicious premium food, available at fair prices across all our outlets! We were inspired by our passion for beer.

Maybe it was all true — maybe this particular company is shiny and happy and no-one ever worries about a thing — but, if so, there’s not really much of a tale to tell.

A story is when something happens, for better or worse, that disrupts the equilibrium. It needs highs and lows. EVERYTHING CONTINUES TO BE LOVELY is not a narrative that would get you far in Hollywood.

Our advice to business people and their PRs is this: if you want to get written or talked about, overcome the instinct to whitewash. You don’t have to admit to a 20-year-feud with the head brewer down the road (although that would definitely be a story) — just drop the false smile, and share a little more.

And writers, of course, should resist the urge to jot down the tale as told — be a bit cheeky, ask a few impertinent questions, and look out for tell-tale twitches of the eyelids or balling of the fists.