News, Nuggets & Longreads 18 November 2017: Fenlands, FOBAB, Froth

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past week from pastry stout to cask quality.

First up, Canadian beer historian Gary Gillman has done something that, for some reason, nobody in the UK seems to have thought worthwhile, and looked into the history of that most controversial of widgets, the sparkler:

The sparkler was invented and patented in the early 1880s by George Barker. He advertised the device for sale in 1885 and identified himself as from the “Crown Hotel, Ince, near Wigan”.

(As always the mention of a sparkler summons Tandleman to the comments which are worth reading for additional context.)


Dunwich sign.

Dave S, a regular commenter here, lives in Cambridge and has been pondering  The Psychogeography of Fenland Mild. As well as some rather lovely prose evoking the landscape of East Anglia he offers this incisive suggestion:

My advice to a brewer wanting to make beer with a ‘sense of place’ is that they should stop worrying about where their ingredients come from and look at where their end product goes to. They should sell locally, and drink locally themselves. They should see what people respond to – what makes sense for their local drinkers, in their surroundings, with their climate – and adapt and evolve to the place where they’re based.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 11 November 2017: Morrison’s, Magic Lanterns, Mental Health

Here’s all the news, opinion and pondering on pubs and beer that’s seized our attention in the last week, from old London pubs to Mishing rice beer.

First up, from Richard Coldwell at Beer Leeds, what we think counts as a scoop: a branch of the Morrison’s supermarket near him has installed a cask ale line in its cafe. Supermarket cafes are one down the rung from Wetherspoon pubs in terms of hipness but are, at the same time, extremely popular, offering competitively priced, unpretentious meals. Adding draught beer to the mix is an interesting if unexpected move. “I wonder how long it will take before a supermarket café gets in the Good Beer Guide?” Richard asks.


Pub interior.
The Widow’s Son, Bow.

The always absorbing Spitalfields Life has another huge gallery of archive photographs of London pubs, this time sourced from a newly digitised collection of glass slides once used to give ‘magic lantern shows’ at the Bishopsgate Institute.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 4 November 2017: McMullen, Maltøl, Martin Luther

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that has grabbed us in the last week, from longreads on local breweries to pubs on piers.

First, a public service announcement from Lars Marius Garshol (Norwegian beer personality of the year!) who wants to make sure everyone is using the buzzword of the day correctly:

Kveik is not a style of beer. It means “yeast” or “traditional farmhouse yeast,” but definitely not a kind of beer. If you want to say “Norwegian farmhouse ale,” without referencing any particular style, then say maltøl. But beware that that’s a bit like saying “English beer.” There are several very different styles.


Rivertown Pilsner

In a substantial piece of writing with all the flourish we have come to expect Alec Latham at Mostly About Beer reflects on the fortunes of his local big family brewer, McMullen’s, and how it is reacting to the 21st century:

There’s only one pub in St Albans that still sells McMullen’s beer and that’s the Peahen on Holywell Hill… Over the past several years, the Victorian brewer from Hertford seemed in retreat. As the pubs closed and the brewery had little to do with the public, I expected McMullen to depart the brewing scene and become a hotel or catering chain… [But in] its labyrinthine corridors and out-buildings, McMullen has suddenly come alive again.


The view from Blackpool's North Pier.

Katie at the Snap and the Hiss has been thinking about Blackpool’s North Pier and especially the Sunset Lounge, the pub at its end:

Protected from the sea winds and year-round bad weather by perspex and gloss paint, it’s a huge expanse of a pub, and is nearly always mostly empty inside where the darts boards and maroon carpets are. Despite clearly being big enough to host two wedding receptions simultaneously, there are three toilets in the ladies’ bathroom and the last time I was there, none had locks, toilet paper or a cushion for screaming into. I have never seen a single adult in the “pub” part of The Sunset Lounge.

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 4 November 2017: McMullen, Maltøl, Martin Luther”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 28 October 2017: Beer Mixing, Blenderies, Strong Stout

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pub writing in the past week, from World’s Fairs to Beer Miles.

First, there’s been a bubbling discussion about sexism in beer for the last month or two, prompted by a series of individual incidents and issues, which Kate Wiles has summarised in this widely-shared article:

Sexist beer labels may not be as prevalent as they used to be – but not a week goes by without an example cropping up on social media. The most recent example of “Deepthroat” beer clearly indicates fellatio on the label. Another, Irishtown Brewing, boasts the tagline “Dublin blonde goes down easy”. These examples are both demeaning and degrading to women. Furthermore, they reinforce the stereotype that beer is a “man’s drink” and that women have no right to it.

Her call is for stronger sanctions against offenders from within the industry itself: “Beers that are demeaning to women should not win awards, receive accreditation or be able to use industry logos.” We’re going to have to ponder that a bit but instinctively think it feels quite reasonable — not government censorship, about which people are understandably squeamish, but a setting out of standards amongst peers.


The New York World's Fair

Gary Gillman continues to mine the archives for interesting titbits. In the last week he has highlighted two especially juicy items:

  1. An 1850 catalogue from an English brewer which contains a detailed run down of the beer styles of the day — an astonishingly clear, helpful guide to what people were actually drinking then, and how those types related to each other.
  2. Details of the faux-English pub at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City — a topic that we’ve been meaning to get round to ourselves at some point, fascinated as we are by the UK beer industry’s push to export the pub concept worldwide in the 1960s and 70s.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 21 October 2017: Bad Pubs, Good Dogs

Here’s all the news, opinion and pondering about beer and pubs that’s grabbed our attention in the past week, from spoof crowdfunding campaigns to social exhaustion.

London pub expert Des de Moor has been reflecting on pub preservation, the relationship of pubs to good beer, and his own experience of pubs over a 40-year drinking career. What results is a deliberately provocative piece (the title is ‘Love Beer, Hate Pubs?’) full of interesting observations and personal detail:

As campaigners are fond of pointing out, they are community spaces too, public places for talking and meeting, whether informally or for organised activities from sports and games to political meetings. But the idealised view of the inclusive community pub of the past, where everyone was welcome, is not only contradicted by the facts of physical segregation in pubs at least up until World War II, but by the lived experience of anyone who found themselves outside the prescribed normality of the communities that used them… I reached pub-going age in the second half of the 1970s. I wasn’t yet out as a gay man, but I was mildly unconventional and decidedly non-macho. Most pubs in the small Home Counties town where I lived, far from being welcoming and inclusive places, were off-limits to me and anyone like me, on pain of anything from tacit hostility to actual violence… And I was at least white and male.


For the Morning Advertiser Phil Mellows summarises the rise of the micropub, thankfully avoiding the usual suspects and briefly profiling several Kentish micropubs and their owners:

Ale Caesar occupies part of the former Punch & Judy bar on the site of the recently revived Dreamland fairground, and has been trading as a pop-up over the summer… The licensee is Matt Edmondson, no relation to X Factor presenter of the same name but brother of actor, comedian and musician Ade Edmondson… Fittingly, it’s decked out as a celebration of British comedy and serves three beers on draught from a specially built cool room, plus local cider from the Kent Cider Co.


Citroen van in La Rochelle.

From Wayne at Irish Beer Snob comes a report of a trip to the French coastal town of La Rochelle, famous for its U-boat pens and, to British and Irish people of a certain age, for its role in the Tricolore language textbooks. We enjoyed the photos accompanying the post and also admired Wayne and Janice’s approach:

The criteria for our trip was that it was not beer focused. You see invariably, we end up planning our trips around bars, breweries and things, this time we literally went in blind. No research, No scoping stuff out on Tripadvisor. Nada.


The IndyMan whirl.

Emma at Crema’s Beer Odyssey has taken some time to digest the experience of the hip Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon, or just IndyMan) and reached some broader conclusions about herself:

In the same way that some people love Christmas – I count down the days until IMBC and the closer it gets the more excitable I become… But there’s [a] reason we don’t manage to chat to as many people for as long as we’d like to and that’s because I have a problem with extended social interaction. If it goes on for too long without a break I find myself completely drained of energy. I feel physically and mentally worn out.

Further reading: this piece from Suzy at Lincoln Pub Geek compares the twin experiences of the Beavertown festival and IndyMan, finding the latter calmer and less anxiety-inducing. “Was the rowdiness just something I miss out on by not attending many London events?” she asks, or “Does Beavertown simply attract a different crowd?”


People were surprised, confused, and either delighted or irritated by the video above, which was launched by the US Brewers’ Association earlier this week. The idea is that the BA is crowdfunding to raise money to buy-out AB-InBev – obviously a joke, and quite well executed, insofar as any jokey corporate wannabe viral video is ever anything other than cringeworthy. There were lots of opinion pieces and takes on Twitter but our favourite was this from Jeff Alworth who asked the BA’s Julia Herzwhat were you thinking?

The idea, then, is for people to take the campaign seriously, if not literally. Having had a day to reflect on it, though, I wondered what the endgame was. What if they make their goal? What if they don’t? “We’re eternal optimists, so we’re going to keep trying. But if everybody on the planet gave ten dollars, we’d still only be a third of the way there.” When I pressed her about whether they would actually try to buy ABI she gave me a coy response: “Wouldn’t it be a fun plot twist if we actually got to our goal?”


Buster at the Alma, Stoke Newington.

Not much reading in this one but have a look anyway: filmmaker Abbie Lucas and journalist Paul Fleckner have spent the last seven years photographing the pub dogs of Britain for a new book, Great British Pub Dogs, and the Guardian has a gallery by way of a taster.

(Disclosure: we don’t particularly like dogs, or cats for that matter. Sorry.)


And, finally, from Will Hawkes comes news of an interesting development in London: