Category Archives: Generalisations about beer culture

100 Words: Using Powers for Good

By Bailey

Last weekend, I visited a few pubs with a mate. Normally laid back, there is, it transpires, one thing that raises his blood pressure:

‘I can’t stand American hops — why does everything have to taste of bloody grapefruit!?’

So, in the next place, when I ordered Dark Star Hophead and he said, ‘Same,’ I held up a hand with a heroic flourish.

‘No! You probably want this one.’ That being a best bitter with English hops.

It seemed counter-intuitive — Hophead is a classic! — but he loved his caramel-sweet malt bomb, and I felt, smugly, that I’d done the noble thing.

The Pub: Where Grown-Ups Make Friends

Last week, we saw something really sweet: two men in their fifties making friends in the pub.

When you’re a kid, making friends is easy — you just run up and say, ‘Can I play?’ and, about an hour later, you might well be BEST FRIENDS FOREVER — but once you’re older than, say, 22, it suddenly becomes a strangely big deal.

The pub is about the only place we can think of where that line can be crossed, albeit with a little residual awkwardness.

In this case, Bloke 1 was sitting in the corner at the bar making conversation with the much younger, bored-looking bar staff, when Bloke 2 entered with his dog.

Bloke 2 ordered a pint and, crucially, stayed at the bar to drink it, rather than scurrying off to a quiet corner with his newspaper. As he took the first sip, Bloke 1 made his move, pointing at the dog. ‘What breed is she?’

They talked dogs for a minute or so until Bloke 2 said, ‘Are you on holiday, then?’

‘No,’ said Bloke 1, before adding, casually but hopefully, ‘My wife and I have been living in the village since before Christmas but I don’t really know anyone.’

‘Oh, right,’ said Bloke 2. He cleared his throat and stuck out a hand, muttering shyly, ‘I’m, er, Dave.’

It was really rather a moving moment.

When we left some time later, they were still talking and seemed to have progressed to buying rounds.

Main image: adapted from ‘Friendship’ by johnthescone from Flickr under Creative Commons.

Session #97: Up-and-Coming Beer Destinations

“What are the up-and-coming beer locations that you see as the next major players in the beer scene?”

That’s the question the people behind Our Tasty Travels have asked for this month’s beer blogging session, leaving us, frankly, stumped.

Seriously, who knows? If we knew, we’d start a bar and/or brewery while railway arches are still cheap.

You don’t make a beer destination such as Prague, Brussels or Munich overnight — either your town has a long history of brewing, or it doesn’t. London has and merely forgot it for a few decades, so perhaps Burton-upon-Trent could pull off the same trick, but we rather doubt it, unless some colossal government intervention occurs.

But what is it that allows a place with no great association with brewing to become a beer destination? Let’s look at Sheffield, for example, which we know is the Hay-on-Wye of beer, even if your Bamberg-obsessed global beer travellers might not have cottoned on quite yet.

  1. It is well-connected to other towns and cities and is a major regional rail hub.
  2. Property remains relatively cheap thanks to an unfortunately long period of industrial decline.
  3. There are tons of students,  who can still just about be relied upon to drink more than people with jobs and babies.
  4. There are also artistic types — a side effect of items 2 and 3, along with attempts by authorities to regenerate the city by designating a creative quarter. Creative types seem, in general, to be the harbingers of ‘craft culture’, with its street food and trendy bars.
  5. There are lots of good-to-excellent breweries in the city or within delivering distance. Without wanting to go all ‘great man theory’, that is at least partly because of the influence of one person — the late Dave Wickett.

Bristol, where the beer scene has exploded in the last few years, has a similar story to tell.

So, which UK university cities, which also have semi-derelict industrial buildings near the centre where artists might fancy living, are currently lacking a ‘beer scene’?

It’s wishful thinking on our part, perhaps, but parts of Plymouth feel a bit how Bristol did a decade ago, or like Hackney in the early 1990s — beginning to mellow, and the graffiti getting cleverer. It already has a pleasantly hippyish pub selling Belgian beer (the Bread and Roses) which feels like the city dipping a toe in the water.

Then then there’s Falmouth — an attractive, buzzing university town which already has a bit of a beer scene and which, thanks to the proximity of Penryn and its industrial estate, continues to attract even more new breweries.

UPDATE 08/03/2015

Knowing that Cornish brewery Harbour have been looking to open a pub or bar for some time, we asked Eddie Lofthouse if they had considered Plymouth as a location and, if not, why not. Here is his response, quoted with permission:

We have considered Plymouth as a destination for a bar, but for some reason we always discount it in favour of other places. It fits our criteria of being a university town/city, and has a high and increasing population of 20/40 year olds. It is my understanding of the demographic profile for the Plymouth area has a below than average ABC1 and a great deal of the ABC1 population live in rural areas surrounding the city, not in the city itself. For that reason we have always thought it a risky proposition to open a bar that serves premium products in a city with a population having lower than average disposable incomes. There are areas we would consider more seriously, namely the Barbican and Harbour front, but there the rents are fairly high so have been discounted in favour of other locations.

Over/Under Represented, Pt 2

On Friday, we asked people to tell us which breweries they think get more than their fair share of attention, and which are being overlooked.

The results were interesting, though perhaps not quite in the way we had hoped.

There are going on for c.1,300 breweries in Britain (the numbers are disputed) but there were hardly any names put forward for either list that were not familiar to us from blog posts or newspaper articles. That rather confirmed our view that, if no-one is raving about Bloggs’s Brew Co of Dufton, it’s probably because the beer it produces is, at best, unremarkable. Or, to put that another way, there are only a handful of breweries really worth writing home about.

Continue reading Over/Under Represented, Pt 2

100 Words: Not The Same Again

Mr Turner is right‘The biggest influence in whether someone has a second pint is the quality of their first.’ 

Sometimes, you mean to have one beer and end up having four because you don’t know when you’ll next taste something so perfect.

More often, though, you have one and, though there’s nothing wrong with it, not that you could complain about, not that you can put your finger on, that awkward first date is as far as it ever goes.

Not ordering a second pint is just about the most passive protest a customer can make.