News, Nuggets & Longreads 20 January 2018: Listening, Little Pubs, Lemp

Here’s all the beer- and pub-writing that we bookmarked in the last week, from personal experiences to industry rumblings.

First, a piece that we’ve been needing to read: for Good Beer Hunting Lily Waite (@QueerBeerBrewCo) gives us an account of life as a trans woman in the UK beer industry.  One primary theme is frustration at the smug assumption that the world of beer is somehow above prejudice:

Too often, the responsibility and labour of initiating change is left to those who need it most. Too often do we have to fight until exhaustion. If everyone in the beer industry—an industry that could be so much more inclusive (and benefit from that exponentially)—worked toward a common goal of not alienating the already marginalised, then we would truly begin to see a craft beer industry that is actually as welcoming and egalitarian as the majority—cis, straight men—within it think it currently is.

And perhaps the key takeaway from discussion around this post on Twitter: you are not legally obliged to cut in with an opinion unless you have some personal insight or experience; it’s fine to listen, reflect, and share.


SIBA, the organisation which represents a substantial number of independent British breweries, has appointed Jaega Wise of Wild Card Brewing as a director following a vote at the South East regional AGM. This is a strong statement given Ms. Wise’s prominence as a critic of sexism in the beer industry, most recently in a high-profile piece by Kaleigh Watterson for the BBC News website.


In the US several items of news have arrived together creating a sense of unease — is the long-anticipated shake-out finally here? Smuttynose Brewing of New Hampshire is to be sold at auction blaming rising competition for failure to meet its growth targets; Green Flash Brewing of San Diego has decided to stop distributing beer in 32 US states and will be laying off 15 per cent of its staff; and Mendocino Brewing has closed down along with a sister company in New York. (Details via Brewbound: 1 | 2 | 3)

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VIDEO: Old Hill Inn, Yorkshire, 1979

The 50-minute 1979 documentary film Underground Eiger is primarily about caving but there is a wonderful two-minute sequence which begins at 23:49 filmed at The Old Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales.

It’s a party rather than a typical night at the pub but nonetheless gives a wonderful sense of atmosphere, and is certainly a great antidote to that grim stereotypical ‘Yorkshire’ pub portrayed in An American Werewolf in London.

You can find more information on the film and watch what might be a higher quality copy at the BFI website.

We were sent this link by Robin Oldfield — thanks, Robin!

News, Nuggets and Longreads 13 January 2018: Rawtenstall, Lincolnshire, Mars

Here’s everything that’s grabbed our attention in beer and pubs in the past week from jam sandwiches to Mars exploration, via a few rounds of India pale ale.

The ‘World Cup Of…’ has become a popular Twitter meme, allowing users to vote for their favourite biscuits/films/sub-species in a series of rounds until only the best are left standing. Now, south London relaxed-lifestyle blog Deserter has used just such an exercise to identify the top ten pubs on its manor. You might not agree with the final round-up, especially if you know that part of the capital well, but there’s no doubting that it’s a handy starter set and plenty to keep any visitor busy for a long weekend.


Jam sandwiches.

Katie at The Snap and the Hiss has done something we’ve always wanted to and visited Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall, Lancashire:

Mr Fitzpatrick’s OG mixtures have been brewed since 1836 and as far as anyone is willing to reveal, the recipes haven’t changed since the family moved to England in 1899. The menu is extensive, with these fabulous Fitzpatrick cordials at the centre of it all…. I chose a cold fizzy Rhubarb and Rosehip, which was unreasonably delicious. Yes, it would be sensational with a dash of vodka, but alone it was totally passable as a social drink. I also picked a Hot Temperance Toddy, which is Blood Tonic, lemon and honey. I was immediately cured of every illness known to Western medicine and could suddenly sing in a perfect soprano.

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The Pub That Does That One Beer Brilliantly

You know the kind of place we mean: it’s perhaps a bit curmudgeonly, perhaps a little old-fashioned, and everyone knows it’s the place in town to go for a perfect pint of [BEER X].

Most often these days, it seems, BEER X is Bass. Certainly in the West Country that’s the case, and there are famous Bass pubs in Penzance, Falmouth, Bristol and no doubt many other places. Here’s a bit we wrote for our now defunct Devon Life column:

Several pubs that sold great Bass 40 years ago are still doing so and one of the country’s very most famous Bass pubs is in Plymouth… The Dolphin on the Barbican is a place to drink, not to dine or pose. There is a range of ale on offer but the main event, as it has been for as long as anyone can remember, is undoubtedly Bass. An ornate plaque outside the front door advertises ‘Bass on draught’; a huge Bass banner hangs behind the bar; and the beer comes in straight-sided vintage-style pint glasses bearing the famous logo…. Though Bass may not be the beer it once was, at The Dolphin under the stewardship of veteran publican Billy Holmes, it still has some of its old snap and crackle, with a chalky dryness and a wonderful mild funkiness. It is unfussy but certainly not bland…. The Dolphin is by no means the only Bass stronghold in Plymouth, however. At the Artillery Arms in Stonehouse Belinda Warne has been learning its ways for 20 years. ‘It’s temperamental,’ she says, reflecting the popular mystique that surrounds the beer. ‘I’ve known it be fine and then, bang, there’s a clap of thunder outside and it’s turned bad in an instant.’

Becky's Dive Bar, photographed by Grant W. Corby (we'd still like to get in touch with him) and supplied by Eric Schwartz (pictured right).
Becky’s Dive Bar, photographed by Grant W. Corby (we’d still like to get in touch with him) and supplied by Eric Schwartz (pictured right).

Becky’s Dive Bar, all the way back in the 1960s and 70s, made its reputation on being one of the few places in London you would ever find Ruddles, for example, and we once made a pilgrimage to Putney in search of Timothy Taylor Ram Tam. (That pub sadly gave up on this unique selling point.) The Museum Tavern in Bloomsbury, a nice pub but otherwise unremarkable, is a go-to place for Theakston Old Peculier.

We reckon the King’s Head here in Bristol is on its way to gaining a reputation for its Harvey’s Sussex Best which seems to be permanently on offer and as good as we’ve ever had it. The Bridge Inn round the corner seems to have a similar relationship with Dark Star Hophead, a beer we still love despite its ups and downs.

For this model to really work the beer ought to be from another part of the country, the further away the better, and ideally one that doesn’t have wide national distribution through Wetherspoon pubs or other such chains and pub companies. But that doesn’t have to be the case: the selling point is really absolute reliability. If you fancy a pint of BEER X, the pub will have it, and because they always have it, and perhaps not much else, they’ll both know how to care for it and get through plenty. (See: Proper Job at The Yacht Inn, Spingo at The Dock.)

The publican has to hold their nerve, of course, when all the other pubs in the area are offering three, five, ten, twenty guest ales, plus kegs, plus bottles. How long does it take to build a cult reputation and a steady clientele around selling one beer really well? Years, probably — perhaps decades. And if a customer craving BEER X turns up and it’s not there you might find yourself back at square one.

What are some of your favourite One Beer Done Well pubs? Let us know in the comments below.

Sacred Text

Before Christmas we wrote a post about The Ring, a London-based drinking society, based on an email from Sue Hart, one of its long-time members.

During our correspondence she agreed to send us copies of some of the original Ring pub crawl sheets. What you see above is the oldest of the set from May 1967. In that original post Sue is quoted as saying of these crawls:

The ones put together by The Deputy took some understanding. He was a real whizz with numbers and often his Ring sheets would contain lots of mathematical riddles, or sometimes references to football teams. He would also try and get a singing spot in the right sort of pub.

Actually seeing the text brings home exactly what she means. It’s a combination of cryptic crossword, puns, in-jokes and nicknames that makes barely any sense in places.

We’re going to let the document speak for itself except for one quick observation: Wot a Lot of Watney’s!

And a footnote: Spurs did beat Chelsea, 2-1.