HELP: Real Ale Pubs of the 1970s

For our current Big Project we’re trying to get in touch with people who remember drinking in real ale pubs of the 1970s.

We’ll unpack that term a bit: before about 1975, there were pubs that sold cask-conditioned beer, AKA ‘traditional draught’, but it was usually whatever was local and the choice might consist of one, two or three different beers.

After CAMRA got everyone stirred up some pubs began to tailor their offer to appeal to Campaign members by offering four, six, eight, or even eighteen different beers from the far ends of the country.

If you read Brew Britannia you’ll remember that we covered all of this in Chapter Five, ‘More an Exhibition Than a Pub’, but now we’d like some fresh testimony for a different take.

The Hole in the Wall in 1981.
Detail from ‘Hole in the wall at Waterloo 1981’ by Tim@SW008 from Flickr under Creative Commons.

What were these pubs like to drink in? If you were used to mild and bitter from the local brewery in your home town how did it feel to suddenly see beers from several counties away?

If you worked in or owned one of these pubs, what was that like, and were you aware of being part of what the press called ‘the real ale craze’?

Based on scouring old editions of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide here’s a list which might help jog memories:

  • The Anglesea Arms, South Kensington, London
  • The Barley Mow, St Albans (covered at length in Brew Britannia)
  • The Bat & Ball, Farnham, Surrey
  • The Brahms & Liszt, Leeds (ditto)
  • The Bricklayers, City of London
  • The Duck, Hagley Road, Birmingham
  • The Hole in the Wall, Waterloo, London
  • The Naval Volunteer, Bristol
  • The Sun, Bloomsbury, London (now The Perseverance)
  • The Victoria Bar, Marylebone Station, London
  • The Victory, Waterloo Station, London
  • The White Horse, Hertford

But other nominations are welcome, as long as they’re from this early phase, from 1975 up until about 1980-81.

Please do share this with any pals you think might be able to help, on Facebook or wherever.

If you’ve got stories or memories to share comment below if you like but email is probably best: contact@boakandbailey.com

QUICK ONE: Reinheitsgebot as Flashpoint

We expected the 500th anniversary of the German beer purity law, the Reinheitsgebot, to generate lots of coverage but we hadn’t expected it to be so testy.

It turns out that this has become another flashpoint in the battle between two vague, fuzzy-edged groups within the world of beer.

The Reinheitsgebot stifles innovation!’ say the cavaliers; ‘“Innovation” my arse!’cry the roundheads.

And the Campaign for Real Ale’s Revitalisation project (consultation closes on Saturday, by the way) seems to have caused a flare up in another stretch of the previously fairly calm demilitarised border area.

POSTER: Captain America: Civil War

As we say, the edges are fuzzy, but it seems to be more or less the same groups bickering over clarity vs. haze, cask vs. keg, strong vs. session, boring vs. balanced, weird additives vs. malt, hipsters vs. squares, craft vs. ‘craft’, Simcoe vs. Fuggles, and so on.

The division feels weird to us — on both sides, more about attitudes, feelings, personalities, grudges and prejudices than anything concrete. It’s tribal, even almost religious.

Meanwhile, in the real world (as we Tweeted yesterday) Cascade hops and dark lager are still regarded as exotic, and we couldn’t buy a hazy beer in Penzance if we wanted to.

Our Obligatory CAMRA Revitalisation Two Penn’orth

The announcement last week of a consultation on the future of the Campaign for Real Ale is a big deal and deserves the attention it’s getting.

This isn’t something that’s popped up overnight — it’s another flare-up from 40 years of navel-gazing, internal tension external criticism and politicking. The last bout, we think, resulted in 2011’s Fit for Purpose review.

John Simpson's depiction of middle class student CAMRA members, 1975.
John Simpson’s depiction of middle class student CAMRA members, 1975.

Back in the early 1970s, the brilliance of the campaign was in the simplicity and clarity of the message and the preservation of cask ale became a cause capable of bringing together conservatives, anti-capitalists, casuals, hardcore campaigners, connoisseurs and piss-heads. That’s how CAMRA gained 30,000 members in five years and forced a retreat from the Big Six.

But it lost momentum when that battle was felt to be won (see Brew Britannia, Chapter Four) and, by the late 1970s, the Campaign was already agonising over what to focus on next. Beer quality? Beer purity? Pubs? Cider? Mild? Tasting notes? Lager? Microbreweries? And so it did all of them, a bit, with the interests of sub-campaigns sometimes conflicting. Factions bickered, the public got confused, and membership dwindled. (Though it has absolutely rocketed in the last couple of decades.)

Continue reading “Our Obligatory CAMRA Revitalisation Two Penn’orth”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 2 April 2016: Revitalisation and More

Here are the blog posts, articles and news stories we’ve found most interesting in the last week, from the revitalisation of CAMRA to the difficulty of describing lager.

→ This week’s big news is that the Campaign for Real Ale has launched a project to review its purpose. We’d suggest ignoring the melodrama which was only ever intended to generate press interest — CAMRA is not going to disappear and is extremely unlikely to change its name — but do take some time to respond to the consultation which is open to both members and non-members. We’re going to mull this over and write something on the blog next week; in the meantime, you could do worse than whizz through Brew Britannia, especially chapter six, by way of background, and there’s also a chunk on CAMRA’s navel-gazing in our massive blog post from last summer.

Close-up of the CAMRA logo from the 1984 Good Beer Guide.

→ Possibly related: every few months Rob Lovatt, head brewer at Thornbridge, drops a thought-provoking bomb of a blog post and, this time, has turned his attention to cask-conditioned beer:

When I moved to Thornbridge, I hadn’t really had any real experience of producing cask beer. I came from a brewing background of mainly Germanic styles, which were filtered, carbonated and packaged in keg or bottle format. I naively thought that producing cask beer would be a doddle compared with the challenges of filtration, or the trials and tribulations of running a bottling line day in day out.

→ Kaleigh at The Ale in Kaleigh has notes on Manchester’s new local-beer-only micropub, The Brink:

Manchester is home to so many breweries these days, but it can be fairly difficult to know where to get hold of their wares. Many of the city centre’s other beer bars focus more on options from far and wide which, in my view, isn’t a bad thing but it’s always nice to drink local and I think this would appeal to visitors to the city in particular.

St John's Wood pub by Alec Latham.
SOURCE: Alec Latham’s blog.

→ Alec Latham at Mostly About Beer reflects at length upon the ghost pubs of St John’s Wood, London, with lots of lovely photos:

The rate of pub closure in the area was made clear to me when, in summer last year in the nearby Church Street Estate, I happened to see the contents of what used to be a pub called The Perseverance (I know – the irony) being sold on the street outside… Around the same time, a pub just around the corner called The Globe closed but re-opened as a fully qualified modern craft beer bar. It seems that either the business adapts quickly or disappears. The greatest tragedy is when the building is transformed into something it was never meant to be like the estate agents. You know that as a place where people dwell and drink together, it’s gone forever.

→ Justin Mason considers the state of beer and brewing on his blogging beat, which is Essex:

[There’s] an awful lot that is troubling me… The first thing that I come across time and again is inconsistency. Whether it be from cask or bottle I know that I’m certainly not alone in wanting the same taste that I remember from the last time I had the beer… I’ve been embarrassingly caught out more than once introducing friends to a beer after extolling its virtues only to find it a shadow of the previous pint.

→ There’s reassuring evidence from Jeff Alworth that having his blog sponsored by Guinness isn’t going to stop him being interesting, even when he’s writing in part about that very same brewery:

You learn a lot when you visit a country. One of the things you learn is what beer people actually drink. In Ireland, for example, we imagine that basically everyone drinks stout, the majority of it Guinness. Nope. Just like everywhere else, lager is king, with as much as (statistics vary) 74% of total volume to something just over 50%. Heineken, not Guinness, appears to be the best-selling beer in Ireland.

Lager tank at the Four Thieves.

→ Joe Tindall at The Fatal Glass reflects on the difficulty for the dedicated tasting note writer of finding anything to say about pale lager:

The complexity of a barrel-aged imperial stout means that tasting notes write themselves. Drinking one, there’s so much going on that you hardly have time to jot down one thought before another hits you. Lager is comparatively simple – this is a large part of its appeal, but it doesn’t make for great writing.

→ Stan Hieronymus’s contribution to the 110th beer blogging Session was clever: what if Michael ‘The Beer Hunter’ Jackson was still with us and on Twitter? (See also: George Orwell’s Beer Blog.)

→ With apologies for egotism, we’re also going to suggest that you read the piece about Cornish (or, rather ‘Cornish’) swanky beer we wrote for Beer Advocate last summer which is now available to read online:

“Swanky was a brew of sugar, hops, ginger, wheat, malt, and yeast. It had to be allowed to work for three days in the bottles before the corks were tied down with string.”

→ A few people have asked us to point them to a calendar of UK beer events. It’s hard to keep something like that up so they tend to come and go but the latest to give it a shot is Charlie ‘The Crafty Beeress’ Cohen. One to bookmark.

→ And, finally, this looks like fun:

Artyfacts from the Nyneties #3: Editors at War

This really is the footnote to end all footnotes but it interested us because it answered some lingering from this long post about women in the world of British beer.

Back in 2013, we emailed Andrea Gillies, who edited two editions of the Campaign for Real Ale’s Good Beer Guide in the early 1990s, but she wasn’t especially keen to talk about her time at CAMRA. Now we think we know why.

After a period of apparently reasonably friendly relations with her former employer during which she wrote a challenging guest column about bottled beer (WB, November 1993), in December 1993, this happened:

Gillies raps 'blokish' GBG -- story from What's Brewing, December 1993.
From What’s Brewing, December 1993. (Click to enlarge.)

Though Mr Evans’s response was fairly diplomatic it’s hard not to suspect that some persistent resentment in St Albans influenced this review of Ms Gillies’ own book released in 1995:

'How Andrea Got "Canned"', book review from What's Brewing.
From What’s Brewing, October 1995. (Click to enlarge.)

We weren’t there, and we don’t know the people involved, so it wouldn’t be right for us to pick sides. It was pretty forward-thinking of CAMRA to appoint Ms Gillies in 1988, though, and it’s a shame it all got so nasty.