News, Nuggets and Longreads 05/04/2014

Detail from Watney's Brown Ale advertisement c.1960.

Before you get your boozing trousers on and head to the pub, here are a few things we’ve spotted around and about in the last week.

→ Following on from last autumn’s Craft Beer 365 ‘bookazine’, Craig Heap and Chris Hall are back with another, this time aided by Matt Curtis, Leigh Linley and Ruari O’Toole. The 100 Best Breweries in the World is available online and will also probably be turning up in newsagents and on iTunes fairly shortly.

→ Saved to Pocket this week: a long piece by Terry Foster and Bob Hansen which originally appeared in Brew Your Own Magazine and is now on the website of US maltster Briess: what exactly is the difference between crystal and caramel malts? (Via @BeerWineHobby and @richardmackney on Twitter.)

→ There’s a piece about Wetherspoon’s on the Guardian blog (by @maxbrearley):

There’s a sharp intake of breath and I fear a heart attack when I tell him that in London you can pay £4 a half. His response? Not printable.

→ For the first time ever, the London Wine Fair is to have a beer section.

→ And a bit of news from us relating to the launch of Brew Britannia: it might come to nothing, but there is a possibility that, in and around June, several beers might be on sale around the country which haven’t been tasted for 20 years or more. We’ll keep you posted!

News, Nuggets and Longreads 29/03/2014

Pint? (illustration)

Before we go out to blow our pocket money on polo mints and bags of toy soldiers, here are some items of note from the last week.

→ It was a nice treat to discover a new piece from Evan Rail for the New York Times, about Belgium and ‘food that highlights the country’s brews, and for which the proper pairing is a drink made of barley, not grapes’. (Back in 2007, we found out for ourselves that, as Rail diplomatically expresses it, ‘Restobières isn’t perfect’.)

→ This meaty character-led article about the Danish twins behind brewing companies Mikkeller and Evil Twin from the same newspaper is one we saved to Pocket.

→ But we also enjoyed the various responses to it. Craig Gravina thought it tabloid fodder and worried that it fed in to the ‘celebritisation’ of brewers; while Jeff Alworth seems to have liked it for the same reasons we did:

These are identical twins and rivals pursuing identical professions while embroiled in a strange familial psychodrama. It doesn’t matter what widgets they’re selling–the story is fascinating. I’d have loved it if they were pickle-makers.

→ Across the Atlantic, an old trademark dispute rumbles on: is ‘Steam’ as in Anchor Steam generic or specific? (Via Eugene Pak who is actually entitled to an opinion on such matters being a lawyer.)

→ Conor Murphy has commenced an interesting project and one we wish we’d thought of: a survey of the UK’s major supermarkets’ beer offers with the intention of recommending for each ‘one IPA, one pale or session ale, one stout or porter, one bitter, one lager and one continental style’. (Our own short supermarket beer guide has proven popular, but Conor’s will probably be much better.)

→ For the second week in a row, a post at Crema’s Beer Odyssey caught our eye, this time with a robust expression of the frustration we’ve all felt at being sold a beer that is still in ‘consumer testing’:

He’s sorry I don’t like it – ‘it’s an experiment, just a one-off, they won’t brew it again…’ I point out that just because it was brewed as an experiment that isn’t an excuse for asking people to pay for a beer that tastes unpleasant and clearly didn’t work as the style they’ve assigned it. We’ve drainpoured whole batches of our own brews that tasted better than Elephant because they weren’t right… Maybe if you can’t afford to discard something that didn’t work and tastes horrible then you shouldn’t be experimenting on a commercial scale?

→ Barm has news from Scotland of a ‘medieval Belgian beer’ that is actually a Stella-Artois-alike, and of a would-be ‘craft’ re-brand for Belhaven.

→ And finally, filed under shameless self-promotion, here is some more detail about our tasting and talk at the Hop Hideout in Sheffield on 22 May. (We’re not taking any payment — the ticket price covers generous tasters, a branded glass and the venue.)

News, Nuggets and Longreads 22/03/2014

Bloke drinking beer.

Hello you!

→ Several books of note have been released or are due soon: Joe Stange and Tim Webb’s Good Beer Guide to Belgium is on our wish list (out now) as is Randy Mosher’s Mastering Home Brew (due on 1 April).

→ Max ‘Pivni Filosof’ Bahnson has posted the first in a series of posts revisiting Prague brewpubs now he is older, wiser and (it’s probably fair to say) more cynical.

→ Saved to Pocket for reading later this week: a history of breweries in Richmond, Virginia (probably via Tom Cizauskas — we must keep better notes) and this 2000+ word piece in which Emma interviews some fellow home brewers about their methods and inspiration.

→ The owners of Ellenberg, a new London brewery which shared a premises with Weird Beard, have announced that they will be winding it down. A harbinger of the ‘shake out’ people have been predicting? No, we don’t think so — just natural ‘churn’.

→ Meanwhile, James Wilson is departing from Tap East, also in London, leaving  a vacancy for a brewer:

While a formal brewing and packaging qualification would be useful it is not essential.  However, there must be evidence that the applicant has the skills to brew.  These could have been developed as a Home Brewer.

→ Though we’re firmly of the belief that the Campaign for Real Ale needs to change if it’s to thrive in the long run, this did make us laugh:

→ We’ve updated our post about Starkey, Knight & Ford in light of new information received through correspondence in the Brewery History Society newsletter.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 15/03/2014

Detail from Watney's Brown Ale advertisement c.1960.

This week, we have spied with our little eyes…

→ It’s been one of those weeks when everyone seemed to be writing about writing. First, Beergraphs drew together some of the lessons from a recent symposium, including this exhortation from Stan Hieronymus to look beyond the frankly immature world of beer writing for inspiration: “Read last year’s best science writing. Then read last year’s best food writing.”

→ Then Jacob McKean of Modern Times Beer put the boot in:

[Accessibility] and [a] casual vibe leads countless uninformed observers to believe that they can authoritatively comment on craft beer…. In an industry with an almost total absence of real journalism, the cheerleading is virtually indistinguishable from the “reporting.”

→ In the UK, food bloggers and writers have been having a row over ethics prompted by the leaking by a chef of an email from one blogger who seemed to be suggesting that he would write a positive blog post in exchange for a free meal. Food/wine/beer writer Fiona Beckett defends ‘freebies’ here, arguing that it is perfectly possible to write an honest review of a free meal. (As long as you don’t mind the supply of free meals drying up, that is.)

→ Finally, a bit of bad news for those of you who find this kind of writing about blogging about writing tedious and navel-gazing: the topic for the next beer blogging session (Friday 4 April) is ‘Beer Journalism’.

→ On more wholesome topics, David ‘Broadford Brewer’ Bishop turned in a late #beerylongreads entry about the state of UK home brewing based on correspondence with some key figures on ‘the scene’. The bit that leapt out to us was this provocative statement from James ‘Kempicus’ Kemp, late of Fuller’s, Thornbridge and Buxton breweries:

Already I see a short supply of quality commercial brewers in the UK, who’s going to fill that need? I think it’s time for the homebrewer to step up, the same way that the homebrewer in the US stepped up… I recently had a conversation with a beer retailer who said “you’ll get better brewed and packaged beers at the national homebrew comp than you will from the majority of commercial UK breweries”.

→ Outside the beer bubble, there was a piece in the Guardian on the rise in popularity of ‘craft beer’, while the Londonist attempted a history lesson through the medium of beer.

→ We’d love to have a look at these lovely brewing logs at Truman’s some time. (And note the copy of Young’s Real Draught Beer and Where to Find It in the background.)

We weren’t exactly blown away by Fuller’s Imperial Stout, but Martyn Cornell has urged everyone to give it another go now it’s had chance to age a little. So, last night, we did, and found it much improved, but still, for some reason, lacking whatever it is that makes us say WOO-WAH-WOW-WEE!

→ On Facebook, we asked: ‘What are the essential beer experiences?’ Why no have a look at what the hive mind thought, and add your own suggestions?

Brew Britannia book news: we’ve added some dates for public appearances we’ll be making in Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham, with a few to be added as details are confirmed, but do get in touch if you’d like us to speak/read/loiter about your event or venue. We also now have a proper, definitely finished, final cover design and blurb.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 08/03/2014

Bloke drinking beer.

This little lot ought to see you through breakfast, second breakfast and a few mugs of char.

→ The issue of the week has been, without doubt, the arrival of cans of American ‘craft beer’ in Wetherspoon pubs, with posts from Tandleman, Zak Avery, Richard Taylor, Justin Mason, Nathaniel Southwood and no doubt many others. But David ‘Broadford Brewer’ Bishop cut through the fog of commentary rather effectively:

→ A trademark dispute blew up between regional giant Everards  and tiny Scottish start-up Elixir on Tuesday. Richard Taylor broke the story, outrage ensued, Everard’s backed down. Denzil Vallance at Great Heck Brewing provided an ‘inside the industry’ perspective. We just mumbled this at the back of the class (Facebook):

If Everard’s had a core beer called Elixir, it might make some kind of sense (though it would still be a PR fail), but all this over a one-off seasonal from two years ago? Really?… As always, when we’ve only heard one side of the story, it doesn’t pay to get too strident — for all we know, Everard’s may be gearing up to launch Elixir as a national brand… Nonetheless, it does seem that their PR/social media people are operating on autopilot, as, perhaps, are their lawyers, and they haven’t come out of this looking good so far.

→ Connor Murphy filed a late entry for #beerylongreads asking whether the explosion in the number of breweries in the UK has dragged down quality across the board. The comments from Rob Lovatt at Thornbridge are especially interesting: ‘Many of the smaller, new breweries in the UK will be bottling beer by hand. This will invariably result in massively high oxygen levels and the beer will literally fall apart in weeks.’

→ (Our summary of all the ‘go long’ posts from last weekend is here, by the way.)

→  On a similarly downbeat note, David Turner continues his exploration of what causes breweries to fail with another data driven blog post, this time using Ratebeer reviews to conclude that (perhaps unsurprisingly) breweries whose beer is less well-regarded are more likely to fail.

→ Kevan Wilding announced that, after 10 years work, he thinks that around 98% of pubs that exist or have existed in London are catalogued in detail on his epic Dead Pubs website. It’s a great resource and worth a browse.

→ Yeast-obsessed eggheads: you might be interested to know that the genome sequence of Saccharomyces carlsbergensis is now available online.  (Via David Quain of Heriot-Watt University.)

→ And, finally, this post from the Belfast Barman blog offers a sobering perspective on prospects for ‘mainstreaming’ multi-tap craft beer bar culture:

I am not giving up on my mini craft crusade… But until the taste buds of the province begin to catch up with our more experimental neighbours, I fear it’s a hard sell.