News, Nuggets & Longreads 27/02/2015

Here’s our weekly round-up of links a day early, because the usual Saturday slot has been handed over to our quarterly #BeeryLongReads piece.

→ Ron Pattinson has been filleting a 1956 book on beer cellaring practices and finding some interesting nuggets. Here are parts one and two.

→ The Gun at Spitalfields in East London, which we’ve often stopped to admire but never entered, closed for good last Friday and is set to be demolished. The Spitalfields Life blog has photographs and tells the story of the family who have run it for several generations:

In 1946, a demobbed soldier walked into The Gun… and ordered a pint. Admitting that he had no money, he asked if he could leave his medals as security… and all this time his medals have been kept safely at The Gun, mounted in a frame on the wall, awaiting the day when he might walk through the door again.

→ A mild, albeit a pale, strong, historic one, from a self-consciously ‘craft’ brewery:

→ Tyson gave a typically piquant account of a pub crawl in Liverpool:

The Clove Hitch (Hope St) could be best described as a bistro and… may not be for the traditionalist. Indeed Uncle Albert wasn’t happy but then unless the pub boasts spit and sawdust, beer at 7d and barmaids built like a Yorkshire outhouse, he seldom is.

→  Jay Brooks marked the birthday of Wilhelm Grimm by picking out three stories by the Brothers Grimm that feature beer.

Greene King IPA's new look.

→ Martyn Cornell stuck up for the newly re-branded Greene King IPA: it’s got as much right to call itself an IPA as any other beer, and arguably more so than many American beers using that appellation.

→ For the Guardian, Richard Johnson reported on the world of ‘street food’ which, like its cousin ‘craft beer’, is struggling to maintain its cosy chumminess in the face of intellectual property disputes:

“I will call out every copycat I come across and I’m sure the street food community will continue to close ranks around and support those whose ideas, creativity, originality and livelihood are being stolen by others who lack the imagination to do their own thing.”

(Via @thomasblythe via @marktaylorfood.)

→ Here’s a parody ad from the 1950s that’s better executed than many real commercial illustrations today:

London-centricity & Blogs Around Britain

Our post on under- and over-exposed UK breweries prompted a comment from Tandleman suggesting London breweries get unfair attention.

In subsequent comments and on Twitter, others enthusiastically agreed. Is there something in what he says?


There are now almost 80 breweries in London (about 6 per cent of the total number in the UK) but, when we challenged ourselves, we could name only 13 off the top of our heads. Bearing in mind that, compared to most people, we pay pretty close attention, that suggests there are a good number of London breweries about which no-one is talking very much at all.

Continue reading London-centricity & Blogs Around Britain

Londorval & Landlorval

Last night, we blended funky Trappist pale ale Orval with two classic British best bitters, Fuller’s London Pride and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.

Our thinking was that mixing beers with somewhat similar characteristics — pale malts, old-school European hop varieties –would add complexity through subtly harmonies.

We poured around three-quarters of a pint of each British beer and topped up to a pint with Orval.

First impressions were not good. Both blends gained a Granny Smith character that was most pronounced in ‘Londorval’. That is a component of Orval’s flavour, yes, but, watered down, as it were, it became a grating, insistent irritation.

Bottled Landlord isn’t a favourite of ours but, of the two, ‘Landlorval’ was the better blend. Still, as the pint progressed, it began to seem ever more thinned out and gutted like… This might sound silly, but like a pint of Worthington Cream Flow from a keg that’s been sitting around for months in a hotel bar.

So, there you go: Orval doesn’t improve every beer to which you add it after all.

We can’t promise that this will be the last time we blend beers with Orval but it will probably be the last such experiment we bother writing up. If you come across a good combo, let us know.

Growing Hops in Cornwall

We had somehow formed the impression that Cornwall isn’t natural beer country, in large part because hops aren’t grown here. Because of an article we are working on, however, we needed to know for sure whether hops were commonly available in the 18th and 19th centuries, and so got digging.

In the stacks at the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth a helpful archivist (herself from Kent and dubious about the idea of hops in Cornwall) directed us to an 1811 book called A General View of the Agriculture of the Country of Cornwall by G.B. Worgan, written on behalf of the Board of Agriculture. And what do you know — it lists hops as a substantial Cornish crop.

HOPS… Have been much grown in Roseland, but the culture is on the decline: the duties increasing, and hops from Kent and Hampshire finding their way here, the Cornish hop-grower is discouraged; for except he can sell at 15d. per lb. it is a losing crop.

The author goes on to observe that growing hops in Cornwall is expensive, uses up a lot of the best manure, that the local soil produces a meagre yield, and that hops grown here are prone to mildew.

An 1839 report by the Statistical Society noted the availability of hops as far West as Penzance based on a clergyman’s accounts books covering the period from 1746 to 1770; they sold at around 1 shilling per pound — a touch more expensive than sugar.

Another helpful book, Lynda Mudle-Small’s What the Ancestors Drank (in Warleggan), compiles various bits of evidence for the cultivation of hops in Cornwall from 1595 onwards, and of the growing of barley for malting from the 15th century.

So, if not exactly natural beer country, Cornwall has certainly been trying its damnedest for a good few centuries.

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

Over-thinking beer, pubs and the meaning of craft since 2007