News, Nuggets & Longreads 9 July 2016: Coventry, Drinking Games, Home Brew

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs from the last week that’s made us laugh, think or take note, from drunken archery to home brewing competitions.

For the Midlands Beer Blog Collective Bob Maxfield profiles Coventry brewery Twisted Barrel whose motto is ‘More Folk than Punk’:

One of the directors came up with that – we both looked at each other and said yeah that explains it and encapsulates us. A little left leaning, like to work collaboratively, and work face-to-face with people… Punk has become more corporate nowadays and we’re not the kind of people that stand on a rooftop and shout about ourselves.

(The lingering influence of BrewDog, even if only as something to react against, is fascinating.)

From the Economist an interesting nugget: there is a growing craft beer scene in the Middle East held back less by religion, as might be assumed, than by bureaucracy, infrastructure and economics.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 April 2016 — Takeovers, Spruce, Helles

Here’s what’s grabbed our attention in beer news and writing in the last week, from spruce beer to brewery takeovers, via brewery takeovers and, er, more brewery takeovers…

→ Let’s get AB-InBev’s acquisition spree out of the way first: Italian website Cronache di Birra broke the news yesterday that the global giant as acquired Birra del Borgo. Here’s the most incisive commentary so far:

→ Related: remember when we pondered what it must feel like to sell your brewery? Well, we’ve now been treated to two substantial pieces in which the founders of breweries absorbed by AB-InBev reflect on the experience. First, Jasper Cuppaidge of Camden Town was interviewed by Susannah Butter for the Evening Standard, perhaps expressing more insecurity than he intended or realised:

“Everyone has their opinions. We’re more craft than ever because that gives us the ability to brew more beer ourselves. The beer tastes as good as last week, if not better. Some people want to remain independent but it’s like, Mike there wears Converse, I like Vans. Everyone has their cool thing.”

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What Happened to the United Craft Brewers?

United Craft Brewers logo.

United Craft Brewers (UCB) launched in the UK last year and seemed to be a pretty big deal, but has since fizzled out. How come?

Having written about it at some length last summer, and being nosy, we approached one of the founder members, Richard Burhouse of Magic Rock.

Our impression from various interactions over the years — we’ve never met him — is that he’s a relatively straightforward person not prone to spin and we thought we might rely on him to give us a fairly direct answer.

Here’s what we got from a short phone call.


So, what happened?

Like I said when we agreed to speak, there’s not a lot to say. I’m conscious of… I don’t want to criticise any individuals.

The main issue was not being able to come to a definition. I thought we were making progress but it sort of slipped away. It kept falling down on technicalities, like, what happens if you’ve outside influences and investors. What percentage? Etcetera. It was all very nebulous, hard to pin down.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 12 March 2016

Here’s the most noteworthy beer- and pub-writing of the last week, from home-brewing to the March blues for brewers.

→ For Vice‘s ‘Munchies’ section Chloe Scott-Moncrieff reports on ‘London’s Secret Homebrewing Club’:

Around the long table, I meet Tom Burrows, a 28-year-old physicist… “I think you can find lots of scientists in homebrewing,” he admits. “Although I know an accountant who doesn’t stick to recipes and while he has some misses, he’s created some brilliant beers.” He sounds slightly envious.

(Via @totalcurtis.)

→ Frank Curtis works with the malting industry in the US and has written an insider’s-view guest post for the London-based blog run by his son, Matt. The bit that really caught our attention was the idea of ‘craft’ malt:

Troubadour Malt, is located in Fort Collins, Colorado and I’ve followed their development with interest from the very first ideas to the consistent delivery of product – all produced from locally grown barley. Troubadour Malt is owned by Steve Clark (the engineer and scientist who designed the plant) and Chris Schooley (the artist and craftsman who kilns and roasts the malt to a wide set of specifications).

→ Dave Bailey at Hardknott provides a customarily frank account of the struggles of running a brewery in the post-Christmas doldrums:

It is my feeling that this year the post Christmas beer sales slump have been worse than ever. Dry-January seems to be getting ever more popular. Yes, I’m sure you, the reader, has decided for whatever reason that you are right to take part. You help us out every other month of the year shouldn’t feel any guilt. Perhaps you are right, but it still puts a great big hole in our cash-flow and our yeast maintenance alike. Not to mention the problem of managing stock.

(If we were managing his PR we would advise him against posting this kind of thing; as nosy bastards keen to know what’s going on behind the scenes, we’re very glad he does.)

→ Blogger Glenn Johnson keeps a close eye on the Micropub movement (we quoted him as an authority in our big state-of-the-nation piece last summer) and this week provided an update on two new entrants to the club in the Midlands.

The Tremenheere, the Wetherspoons in Penzance.

Wetherspoon’s watch: the pub chain’s headline-grabbing abandonment of Sunday roasts, the raising of prices, and the handing-off of several London pubs last year have raised questions about whether JDW might be struggling; but with their latest profit report they insist it’s all fine. (All links to The Morning Advertiser.) J.D. Wetherspoon also makes a cameo appearance in obituaries for Bristol reggae DJ Derek Serpell-Morris: he visited all of their pubs and collected receipts to prove it. (Via @fly_redwing.)

→ BrewDog watch: the Scottish brewery featured in an episode of the BBC’s Who’s the Boss (iPlayer) which no doubt raised awareness of BrewDog without necessarily improving its reputation. Mitch Adams sticks up for James Watt here; and there’s some (thin) commentary and a round-up of Twitter reactions from The Drum here. Meanwhile, the brewery’s Islington hot-dogs-and-beer bar has closed but Keith Flett doesn’t think there’s any cause for concern.

→ Andreas Krenmair has been home-brewing Berliner Weisse to historic spec, without a boil.

→ And, finally, a vital question has been answered: yes, you can use apps to swap faces with beer packaging.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 5 March 2016

Here’s all the stuff that’s most amused, entertained or educated us in the last week, from BrewDogeian capitalism to pub tat.

→ Journalist Paul Mason took a provocative stance on BrewDog’s decision to give away an e-book of their beer recipes under the headline ‘BrewDog’s open-source revolution is at the vanguard of postcapitalism’. We think we know what he’s getting at — BrewDog and similar companies ‘do’ capitalism in a way which would probably seem insane to business people of a century ago — but there was lots of kickback, and not only from within the world of beer. For example…

→ Brewery takeover news: It’s not a brewery but UK online beer retailer Beer Hawk has been taken over by (sorry — has ‘teamed up with’) global booze giant AB-InBev. (Fed up with re-iterating his stance every time a similar Big v. Indie takeover occurs Dave S has written a ‘Generic Response to a Brewery Selling Out’ that we reckon gets it about right.)

→ For The Deserter ‘The Dulwich Raider’ gives an account of a pub crawl through Peckham, South London, reflecting on change and gentrification:

Don’t worry about what the estate agents say, it’s not Hampstead or Chelsea and nor will it be any time soon. And unlike a Hampstead or a Chelsea, Peckham will still startle a yokel, which, let’s face it, is what it’s all about.

Crackers, bread and sunflower seeds -- malt-type flavours.

→ Adrian Tierney-Jones has shared 5000 words of a work in progress about Proust and biscuits and beer and… Well, just read it. There’s a reason he’s appeared in ‘Pseud’s Corner’ in Private Eye more than once and you either like his style or you don’t, but it’s something different and at least it has style.

→ For The Brewers’ Journal editor Tim Sheahan provides an in-depth look at hop supply in the UK: ‘More than 80% of Citra in the ground today has already been sold through to 2019.’ (It’s frustratingly spread across six individual pages to maximise ad views with no single-page or print view option but probably still worth the effort.)

→ Alec Latham continues his pondering of what makes the perfect pub focusing this time on ‘tat’:

Archaeology is literally the unearthing of rubbish; archaeologists in the field sift through whatever the bygone peoples hoarded, left behind or threw away. If Britain had suffered its own Vesuvius, digging up a pub would be the pay dirt. It would house the accretion of years of cultural obsoletes and disposables revealing not just a snapshot, but whole passages from history in need of an archive.

→ As haze and/or murkiness in beer continues to be a battleground the Rook & Gaskill pub in York has decided to hold a mini-festival where drinkers can try both fined and unfined versions of the same beers. (Ad-laden local news website – sorry; via @Maria__Aurora.)

→ Mark Johnson continues his exploration of the role of mental health in his own relationship with pubs and alcohol… Or is it the role of alcohol and pubs in his mental health? His most recent piece is about the positive effects of becoming a pub regular:

It means that I drink more than I used to as one activity becomes the other. As alcohol is a depressant there are inherent risks with this. Yet it never has this affect on me; it is out weighed by the calming effect the pub atmosphere gives me. Though I’m not always cheery and that is to be expected, sometimes I’m better in there than at home. I don’t need to be there all the time, but it’s knowing there’s an escape. Often just knowing it’s there is enough.

→ And, finally, there’s this monstrosity.