Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pub writing in the past week, from World’s Fairs to Beer Miles.
First, there’s been a bubbling discussion about sexism in beer for the last month or two, prompted by a series of individual incidents and issues, which Kate Wiles has summarised in this widely-shared article:
Sexist beer labels may not be as prevalent as they used to be – but not a week goes by without an example cropping up on social media. The most recent example of “Deepthroat” beer clearly indicates fellatio on the label. Another, Irishtown Brewing, boasts the tagline “Dublin blonde goes down easy”. These examples are both demeaning and degrading to women. Furthermore, they reinforce the stereotype that beer is a “man’s drink” and that women have no right to it.
Her call is for stronger sanctions against offenders from within the industry itself: “Beers that are demeaning to women should not win awards, receive accreditation or be able to use industry logos.” We’re going to have to ponder that a bit but instinctively think it feels quite reasonable — not government censorship, about which people are understandably squeamish, but a setting out of standards amongst peers.
Gary Gillman continues to mine the archives for interesting titbits. In the last week he has highlighted two especially juicy items:
As campaigners are fond of pointing out, they are community spaces too, public places for talking and meeting, whether informally or for organised activities from sports and games to political meetings. But the idealised view of the inclusive community pub of the past, where everyone was welcome, is not only contradicted by the facts of physical segregation in pubs at least up until World War II, but by the lived experience of anyone who found themselves outside the prescribed normality of the communities that used them… I reached pub-going age in the second half of the 1970s. I wasn’t yet out as a gay man, but I was mildly unconventional and decidedly non-macho. Most pubs in the small Home Counties town where I lived, far from being welcoming and inclusive places, were off-limits to me and anyone like me, on pain of anything from tacit hostility to actual violence… And I was at least white and male.
For the Morning AdvertiserPhil Mellows summarises the rise of the micropub, thankfully avoiding the usual suspects and briefly profiling several Kentish micropubs and their owners:
Ale Caesar occupies part of the former Punch & Judy bar on the site of the recently revived Dreamland fairground, and has been trading as a pop-up over the summer… The licensee is Matt Edmondson, no relation to X Factor presenter of the same name but brother of actor, comedian and musician Ade Edmondson… Fittingly, it’s decked out as a celebration of British comedy and serves three beers on draught from a specially built cool room, plus local cider from the Kent Cider Co.
From Wayne at Irish Beer Snob comes a report of a trip to the French coastal town of La Rochelle, famous for its U-boat pens and, to British and Irish people of a certain age, for its role in the Tricolore language textbooks. We enjoyed the photos accompanying the post and also admired Wayne and Janice’s approach:
The criteria for our trip was that it was not beer focused. You see invariably, we end up planning our trips around bars, breweries and things, this time we literally went in blind. No research, No scoping stuff out on Tripadvisor. Nada.
In the same way that some people love Christmas – I count down the days until IMBC and the closer it gets the more excitable I become… But there’s [a] reason we don’t manage to chat to as many people for as long as we’d like to and that’s because I have a problem with extended social interaction. If it goes on for too long without a break I find myself completely drained of energy. I feel physically and mentally worn out.
Further reading: this piece from Suzy at Lincoln Pub Geek compares the twin experiences of the Beavertown festival and IndyMan, finding the latter calmer and less anxiety-inducing. “Was the rowdiness just something I miss out on by not attending many London events?” she asks, or “Does Beavertown simply attract a different crowd?”
People were surprised, confused, and either delighted or irritated by the video above, which was launched by the US Brewers’ Association earlier this week. The idea is that the BA is crowdfunding to raise money to buy-out AB-InBev – obviously a joke, and quite well executed, insofar as any jokey corporate wannabe viral video is ever anything other than cringeworthy. There were lots of opinion pieces and takes on Twitter but our favourite was this from Jeff Alworth who asked the BA’s Julia Herz… what were you thinking?
The idea, then, is for people to take the campaign seriously, if not literally. Having had a day to reflect on it, though, I wondered what the endgame was. What if they make their goal? What if they don’t? “We’re eternal optimists, so we’re going to keep trying. But if everybody on the planet gave ten dollars, we’d still only be a third of the way there.” When I pressed her about whether they would actually try to buy ABI she gave me a coy response: “Wouldn’t it be a fun plot twist if we actually got to our goal?”
Not much reading in this one but have a look anyway: filmmaker Abbie Lucas and journalist Paul Fleckner have spent the last seven years photographing the pub dogs of Britain for a new book, Great British Pub Dogs, and the Guardian has a gallery by way of a taster.
(Disclosure: we don’t particularly like dogs, or cats for that matter. Sorry.)
And, finally, from Will Hawkes comes news of an interesting development in London:
Keller Pils is one of two Lagers in Lost and Grounded’s core range, which, unusually—and perhaps bravely, giving to their current popularity—for a modern British brewery, doesn’t include a single Pale Ale or IPA… [The] German-leaning styles that lead Lost and Grounded’s portfolio are joined by beers including Hop-Hand Fallacy, a Belgian-influenced Farmhouse Ale, and No Rest for Dancers, a Dubbel masquerading on tap lists as a Red Ale. Although the influences in Lost and Grounded’s beers are clear, they also each have a point of difference that sets them apart.
(We probably latched on to this piece especially because, despite having been in Bristol ourselves for several months, we’ve still only just scratched the surface of what’s going on with its beer.)
This next piece was published on 3 October but we noticed it too late for last week’s round-up. It’s an extract from a memoir by marketing consultant David Gluckman who in 1974 worked with Guinness to work out why nobody wanted to drink a new product called Guinness Light that market research had promised would be a huge hit:
Everything was perhaps best explained by a single young man we interviewed in one of our focus groups in Galway. He described his first encounter with Guinness Light: “I walked into my local bar and it was decked out with Guinness Light material. It was everywhere: posters, and beer mats. There were even special Guinness Light pint glasses. It all struck a chord. I remembered seeing a TV advert for it and I decided to order a pint. It appeared in its special glass and looked pretty tasty. But as I put it to my lips a hand tapped me gently on the shoulder and a man said ‘You’re cheating. You’re drinking ladies’ Guinness.’”
We wander outside to the deck, and as we sip, a short guy in a long coat with a trimmed beard stands next to us holding forth to his significantly taller girlfriend and another couple, all of them in their 20s. “So she had a 10 percent sour double bock, and I ordered a barley wine. And I was, like, so surprised. I mean, does anyone still make a barley wine?” Ha-ha-ha-ha, they all laugh. I hear plenty of wine snobs and cocktail snobs hold forth all the time. But rarely do I get a chance to hear a beer snob in his natural habitat, peacocking in full roar. Tyler and I edge closer to eavesdrop.
“So how long have you guys been into beer?” asks the beer snob’s friend.
“Oh, at least since 2013, 2014. I mean, my dad was a beer drinker, but never anything good.” Yuengling is his dad’s favorite beer. “I mean, Yuengling is okayyy … if there’s nothing else in the fridge.” Chuckles all around. “I mean, they use caramel malt, but at least you can drink it and not be repulsed.” More chuckles.
We’re including this piece beacause it’s nicely written, not because we agree with it, by the way. So often, these articles about the ‘winefication of beer’ are written remotely — hacked together listicles or Hot Takes — and this piece benefits from field reporting and the personal angle. Having said that, it still reads to us like two judgemental beer nerds being judgemental about other beer nerds. But perhaps that’s the joke.
Real-world breweries pay big bucks to have their brands represented on-screen—it cost Heineken a reported $45 million to get James Bond to forego his trademark vodka martini for one of the brewery’s stubby green bottles in the 2012 movie Skyfall. But even if the money behind product placement is substantial, it’s often more trouble than it’s worth. That’s because beer—which has been known, on occasion, to get people drunk and do silly things—is often used as a plot device that breweries might not approve of…
A nice little story: a few months ago we watched a conversation unfold on Twitter about the beer being pulled in an archive photo of the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh — what was Leith Heavy, and how might someone go about reviving it? Last week author Ian Rankin pulled the first pint of a version of the beer brewed by Steven Hope with the blessing of the original brewer’s daughter.
“I’ve been able to teach many people, I have been given awards and I have even been given an OBE which are all great, great, privileges.
“But to be honest, the best feeling is when I go into a supermarket and see someone struggling when it comes to the choices available to them on the beer aisle.
“So I go up and ask what are they looking for. I don’t tell them I have studied and taught brewing, I just listen to what they say and make a suggestion that they will hopefully enjoy. I’d like to think they will do something with that knowledge.
“But in reality, they will probably just go home and tell their family about the old Jamaican that was rambling on!”
We were also interested to read the same publication’s interviews with Phil Lowry (“Brewers have little to bitch about right now. If your brand isn’t flying, that’s your fault. ”) and John Keelingof Fuller’s: “I think this industry here is still too slavish to America. We need to develop our own identity and our own beer styles should be at the forefront of that.”
Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that got our brainboxes revving in the past week, with bulletins from Bhutan to Runcorn.
The Cask Marque Cask Report was published this week (PDF) written this year by Rosie Davenport. We’re still digesting it, and, like others, debating its value, but in the meantime James Beeson has written an excellent summary with additional industry comment for the Morning Advertiser:
The headline statistic from this year’s report highlights that sales of cask beer are down by 5% over the past six years, and 3.8% in the past year alone. While it is undoubtedly disappointing, and indeed worrying, to see cask suffering a sharp decline in sales, this is symptomatic of a wider decline in beer drinking across the UK, with keg beer and lager also falling by 25% and 11% respectively.
So, Bang Chang and Sin Chang, the nation’s two types of farmhouse ale, are often made from 100 percent organic raw wheat cultivated by each household. In some cases, even the yeast culture itself is coaxed from these same fields… Some of these farmers not only grow their cereal and brew from it, they also make their own yeast bagels from bits of dried bark, leaves, and powdered maize or wheat, which are cooked and solidified. Aun Namgay, a Scharchop woman from Radhi, a hamlet in the country’s sparsely populated east, explains that her newly baked cakes need to be coated in an older ‘mother’ bagel for the fresh ones to be truly effective.