News, Nuggets & Longreads 21/03/2015

It’s been a bit quiet round here this week, mostly because we both have terrible, stinking, evil colds. (Beer of the week: hot toddy.) Fortunately, there’s been plenty to read elsewhere.

→ For The Guardian, Tim Burrows pondered the appeal of the Wetherspoon’s breakfast, ‘at the coalface of boozed-up Britain’.

→ Addressing home brewers’ problems with professional know-how, James ‘Kempicus’ Kemp gave advice on improving the shelf-life of the beer you make at home.

→ Tim Sowula penned a portrait of a new kind of business on London’s outer fringes, for Leytonstoner:

The Tap has beers stacked in shelving better suited to twelve inch records, with seemingly no order. This throwback to the joys of browsing through vinyl is deliberate, to allow people to wander through the selection of around 100 different beers and ciders from a rotation of around 30 breweries around London and beyond, and come away with something they might have wanted, but also something they’d never heard of before.

(Via @teninchwheels.)

→ Gabrielle Glaser’s long feature piece for The Atlantic points out that Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t the only solution to the problem of dependency despite its own claims to the contrary.

→ Though some of his history seems a bit shaky, Richard Taylor at the Beercast nonetheless asked a provocative question: which style should be Britain’s ‘national beer’? (Our vote is for… porter.)

→ SIBA (founded in 1980 as the Small Independent Brewers’ Association) has announced the winners at its Beer X competition in Sheffield which, unlike CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain, includes kegged beer.

→ The Chancellor cut beer duty by 1p a pint for a third year in a row in his budget earlier this week. There’s commentary from the BBC | Telegraph | Stonch.

This article is in German but Google Translate does a pretty good job of it:  it turns out that Schlüssel Altbier from Düsseldorf, has, on occasion, been brewed under contract in, of all places, Cologne. This is a bit like discovering that your favourite Cornish pasty was made in Devon. (Via @thirsty_pilgrim.)

→ We’d never noticed the cult-of-personality portrait of Tim Martin on this pub sign until Nick Mitchell pointed it out to us:

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.

Craft Defined in Other Bubbles

If there’s one thing almost everyone is agreed on it’s that they’re bored of bloggers and beer writers trying to define ‘craft beer’ but, this week, we’ve seen some outsiders (suspicious muttering) having a go.

First, there are updates to the Office of National Statistics’ revised standard shopping basket:

Speciality beer/ale has been introduced reflecting the increase in shelf space devoted to craft beers produced by speciality and micro-breweries…

Elsewhere in the paper, they specify ‘Speciality beer/ale, bottled’ and it’s that last word which gives the key to how they’re defining it, as the other beers they include are:

  • Canned lager
  • Canned bitter
  • Bottled lager
  • Canned stout

So, Beavertown Bloody ‘Ell IPA in a can isn’t craft but Bass No 1, in a bottle, is — right, got it! (It’s a perfectly good working definition for their purposes and reflects a category distinction which most people will recognise from trips to the supermarket with their, er, standard shopping baskets.)

Then, on Radio 4 yesterday, Thomas Thurnell-Read, a senior lecturer in sociology at Coventry University, discussed his paper ‘Craft, tangibility and affect at work in the microbrewery‘ with Laurie Taylor. (Listen here at 16:25; via @waxingbeacons.)

He interviewed many micro-brewers in his research and concluded that one of the key characteristics of ‘craft’ as opposed to industrial brewing is ‘an expression of their identity through the product they are making’.

A common story I had from numerous interviewees was this idea that they could sneak into the pub unnoticed, covert, and watch people consuming the product that they had personally been responsible for producing… Quite a lot of brewers spoke of the doors to the brewery being literally or metaphorically open and their customers would come and knock on their door and tell them how much they like the beer they are producing… 

In the last 30 second of the programme, the host asked Dr Thurnell-Read to explain quickly the difference between ‘real ale’ and ‘craft beer’, and, with a sigh, he did his best:

Real ale is a term coined by CAMRA in the early 70s… the carbonation comes from secondary fermentation… Craft beer is a newer term, it’s a lot more broad, and it involves this kind of thing we’ve been talking about — skill, passion… it’s not necessarily real ale.

What all this suggests is that in (sort of) real world conversations people continue to crave a term that distinguishes Those Beers from These Beers.

John Ridd on Beer

We’re both reading R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone at the moment — a pleasingly booze-filled novel.

Published in 1869, it is set in the 17th century, and the following passage occurs when the hero, the burly Exmoor gentleman farmer John Ridd, is a guest at the house of a ‘foreign lady’ near Watchett in Somerset:

John Ridd, uncredited illustration c.1893.
John Ridd, uncredited illustration c.1893.

“Now what will ye please to eat?” she asked, with a lively glance at the size of my mouth: “that is always the first thing you people ask, in these barbarous places.”

“I will tell you by-and-by,” I answered, misliking this satire upon us; “but I might begin with a quart of ale, to enable me to speak, madam.”

“Very well. One quevart of be-or;” she called out to a little maid, who was her eldest child, no doubt. “It is to be expected, sir. Be-or, be-or, be-or, all day long, with you Englishmen!”

Continue reading John Ridd on Beer

News, Nuggets & Longreads 14/03/2015

It’s Saturday morning and time for a heaping helping of beer-related links.

→ For tech news website Mashable Sam Laird provided a profile of Lagunitas entitled ‘Of Beer and Weed‘:

The joint, according to those present, was colossal: eight inches long, unwieldy, about the circumference of a dime. Legend goes it had to be constructed using special papers and a bamboo sushi roller.

(Via Longform.)

→ High street wine chain Oddbins is opening a specialist beer shop in South East London. (Via @beertoday.)

→ The London Fields Brewery saga rumbles on: the beer is now to be made in Lincolnshire and Sussex.

→ Jeff ‘Stonch’ Bell gave us evidence that the tribal divides between ‘craft’ and ‘traditional’ beer drinkers is not necessarily reflected in the relationships brewers have with each other.

→ For Mixology, Peter Eichhorn considered the state of German ‘craft beer’ (as in the American-inspired new wave) in 2015:

For now, every new start-up is still celebrated by the craft fan base. “Great, the brand is small, ‘crafty’, we love you!” But what does it taste like? Often enough that doesn’t seem to matter much at first. 2015 will be the year when… we can honestly say, “This beer is badly made and it tastes awful”.

→ Lars Marius Garshol’s dander is up: farmhouse ale wasn’t invented in France and Belgium, and it doesn’t just mean any old beer that happens to be brewed on a farm: ‘A key point in understanding farmhouse ale is that it’s people brewing for themselves, from their own ingredients, using the tools and techniques they inherited from their ancestors.’

→ For lifestyle magazine Gear Patrol Chris Wright has compiled an oral history of craft beer label design. (Via @PipinoilBrewer.)

→ Phipps NBC’s neon sign restoration project is coming along nicely:

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