News, Nuggets and Longreads 13 August 2017: Steel, Skittles, Sexism

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past week from dwile-flonking to brewery takeovers.

For the BBC David Gilyeat returns to a favourite silly season topic: traditional pub games. There’s nothing especially new here but it’s an entertaining round-up that draws on the expertise of, among others, Arthur Taylor, whose book on the subject is definitive:

Arthur Taylor, author of Played at the Pub, suggests Aunt Sally – which is played in Oxfordshire and parts of Buckinghamshire – has rather grisly origins.

‘It can be traced back to a barbarous business called “throwing at cocks”, when you threw sticks at a cock tethered to a post that if you killed you took home,’ he says.

‘What was barbarous turned into something that wasn’t, and the cock became a coconut shy… and eventually it became the game we know.’


Thornbridge, 2013.

For Good Beer Hunting Oliver Gray has investigated the manufacturing and sales of stainless steel brewing kit, much of which originates in China, even if the vendors might like buyers to think otherwise:

Chinese steel producers like Jinfu have begun establishing ‘reseller’ companies that sell their goods under different names. One such company, Crusader Kegs & Casks LTD, works out of Rushden, England, and was on site at CBC 2017. At quick glance, one would have no idea they weren’t selling British kegs. The capital U in the name is a St. George’s flag kite shield, and the reverse side of their business cards have a sword-wielding, armor-clad Templar, almost like they’re trying really, really hard to ensure they look as ‘British’ as possible.

There are plenty of other disconcerting details in the story which is a great example of the kind of insight generated by asking awkward questions.

(GBH has connections with AB-InBev/ZX Ventures; provides marketing/consultancy services to smaller breweries; and has also been one of our $2-a-month Patreon sponsors since May.)


Macro image: 'Hops' with illustration of hop cones, 1970s.

There’s some spectacular hop-nerdiness from Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer: a new study suggests that first-wort hopping makes no difference to the quality of the bitterness in the final beer. But many brewers disagree:

Fritz Tauscher at Krone-Brauerei in Tettnang, Germany, uses a slightly different process. He adds 60 to 70 percent of his hops as he lauters wort into the brewing kettle…. He explained that initially he added all his first wort hops (what he calls ‘ground hopping’) in one dose. ‘I thought the bitterness was not so good,’ he said. He opened his right hand, put it to his chin and slid it down his throat to his clavicle, tracking the path a beer would take. ‘It was, I’m not sure how you say it in English, adstringierend.’ No translation was necessary.


Beer is Best poster, 1937 (detail)

This is exciting news, brought to us by Martyn Cornell: the classic British ten-sided pint glass is back in production, and available at pub- and consumer-friendly prices. We look forward to drinking, say, Fuller’s London Porter from them in a proper pub at some point in the not too distant future.


Takeover news: Constellation Brands has acquired Florida’s Funky Buddha brewery, adding it to a portfolio which already includes Ballast Point. (Via Brewbound.)


GBBF controversy: in an open letter Manchester’s Marble Brewing has alleged that the local CAMRA branch effectively prevented their beers appearing at the Great British Beer Festival, suggesting that a dispute over an incident of sexist behaviour might be the cause. CAMRA head office has confirmed it is investigating the issues raised. (But don’t read too much into that statement.)


And finally @nickiquote has found the moment where Doctor Who and the real ale craze intersected:

Updated 14.o8.2017 15:29 — the disclosure statement for the GBH article has been amended at GBH’s request.

Q&A: Which Classics Might I Have Missed?

“I was drinking a bottle of Proper Job yesterday and thinking about how I only started buying it after reading your blog. Later, I drank some Beavertown Gamma Ray and Magic Rock Cannonball and wondered if, by drinking fancy craft beers usually modelled on American style, I was missing something. Can you recommend any perennial British beers, the kind of thing you perhaps take for granted but that might have been overlooked by people who’ve only come to love beer since craft really took off?”* — Brendan, Leeds

That’s an interesting question and, let’s face it, exactly the kind of thing we semi-professional beer bores dream of being asked.

To prevent ourselves going on for 5,000 words we’re going to set a limit of five beers, and stick to those available in bottles, although we’ll mention where there’s a cask version and if it’s better. We’re also going to avoid the temptation to list historically significant beers that we don’t actually like all that much — those listed below are beers we buy regularly and actually enjoy drinking.

Four strong Harvey's bottled beers.

1. Harvey’s Imperial Extra Stout is a big, intimidatingly flavoursome, heavy metal tour of a beer that makes a lot of trendier interpretations look tame. It was first brewed in the 1990s to a historically inspired recipe. We didn’t used to like it — it was too intense for us, and some people reckon it smells too funky– but now, it’s kind of a benchmark: if your experimental £22 a bottle limited edition imperial stout doesn’t taste madder and/or better than this, why are you wasting our time? It’s available from Harvey’s own web store.

Continue reading “Q&A: Which Classics Might I Have Missed?”

Beerwolf Books, Falmouth

Beerwolf Books

We’d heard a few mentions of Beerwolf Books, which opened in Falmouth, Cornwall, in the run up to Christmas, and had understood that it was either a bookshop with beer, or a pub with some books for sale. Either way, it sounded like something different, and so we made sure it was on our list of places to visit during a weekend away in the coastal town.

Even approaching Beerwolf feels like you’ve stumbled upon a secret: it’s up an easy-to-miss alleyway between chain stores, in a beautiful eighteenth century building on Bells Court. Through the red door, there’s a creaking wooden staircase and a view of shelves of books. So it is a bookshop. Then the smell of beer and the sound of chatter drift down. So it is a pub.

With deep red walls, dark wood, furniture neither too neat nor too tatty, and just enough daylight through small-paned windows, the pub part of Beerwolf (the bit we were most interested in) appealed immediately. The book shop, off to one side, and with a place to rest your beer while you browse, sets the mood, positively inviting long reading or writing sessions amid the buzz of conversation.

The beer is good, too. Very good. Among five cask ales, none of them the usual suspects, were 80 Shilling from local brewery Rebel (grainy, dark and silky), Marble Manchester Bitter (the kind of pale and hoppy beer that makes us consider a move up north some time) and our favourite Penzance Brewing Potion 9. In the fridges, a few Belgian standards such as Kwak and Chimay — not the stuff to excite hardened beer geeks, perhaps, but little seen in Cornwall.

We set up camp for the afternoon, watching and listening. What appeared to be a contingent of local CAMRA members staked out the bar and worked their way through the full range, murmuring their appreciation. Students came in pairs or gangs, buying piles of books and lots of lager, tea and coffee. Middle-aged couples came for the books and stayed for a pint. A stag do came for pints and walked away with some books. “Wow!” said more than one person on reaching the top of the staircase.

Struggling book and record shops: we urge you to find a struggling pub and pair up. Supermarkets, with their idea of offering several services on one premises, might just be on to something.

Marble Madness

After reading various people raving about Marble for the last couple of years, a visit to their brewpub was always going to be a top priority for our visit to Manchester.

First up were, pints of, er, Pint and Bitter which we found to be very similar. Both were bitter and grapefruity almost to the point of astringency, but not quite. Differences did emerge after a few more comparative slurps — Bitter was marginally darker in colour and balanced a touch more toward malt than hops. We were very impressed by both.

Lagonda IPA looked similarly yellow at first glance but was sweeter, fuller bodied and noticeably stronger at 5%.

Then something that wasn’t yellow: Stouter Stout, which was profound. Thick, roasty, chocolatey and filling — damn near a perfect specimen.  Trying Chocolate next to it was a little surprising, being silkier but actually less chocolate-like.

We’ve had Ginger before and it was just as good as we remembered. We took the advice of the chaps at Blogobeer and also tried it mixed with Chocolate and it was indeed delicious — not unlike Jamaica Ginger cake. Yum.

The enigmatically named Brew #14 was yet another yellow bitter ale, but this time with a more English hop character, very evident dry-hopping and some pear-drop character.

Dobber, despite being 5.9% and a little heavier and fruitier, was, yes, you’ve guessed it, yellow and hoppy.

As for the pub, it’s a great building and has a real buzz. We ate in the back room and service was a little slow but friendly (had someone failed to turn up for their shift?).

In summary, a good pub, with great beer, but (like Hopback) they could do to make the differences between some of their many yellow beers a little less subtle, or simply ‘consolidate the range’ as a management consultant would say.

Ginger Marble at the Duke of Cambridge

Tandleman often writes about the Marble Arch, a brewpub in Manchester. It sounds like a fabulous place, so we were very excited to see “Ginger Marble” on tap at the Duke of Cambridge.

I’m a big fan of ginger in beer, if done well, and this was done incredibly well.  Really zingy and alive, but definitely full-bodied beer with ginger in it, rather than sickly-sweet ginger pop.  It’s even better than the Leatherbritches one we enjoyed in Oxford a few months back.

It’s not to everyone’s taste (oops — missed the key part where Alex described it as ‘brilliant’).

It certainly doesn’t go with smoked fish.

We reviewed the Duke of Cambridge last May, and we’ve been back several times since.  We like it, but it’s not bloody cheap.

Boak