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.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 02/03/2014

Just to keep you on your toes, here’s our regular Saturday morning news round-up delivered a day late.

Stella Artois advert, 1970s.→ We got sent samples of three canned beers from Brooklyn brewery Sixpoint which will be on sale in branches of Wetherspoons from March. Our favourite was ‘The Crisp’, a 5.4% lager, which had a kind of rough-edged charm, but we didn’t find any of them especially exciting. The packaging sure is purty, though, so they might do well at ‘point of sale’, and we’d certainly take them over pints of Doom Bar or Abbot Ale. 

→ This week’s Save to Pocket ‘long read’ (2000 words) is a debunking of the myth that people used to drink beer because it was safer than water: ‘A fourteenth century monk in Liège not only listed water (with wine) as one of the preferred drinks, but recommended it over ale and beer.’ (via Rob Beschizza at Boingboing.)

→ We’ve also filed for later reading this piece by Martyn ‘Zythophile’ Cornell on gruit in beer, which sets out its stall with the most pedantic picture caption ever written: ‘…the heather isn’t in bloom… and she’d need more than could be gathered with a pair of scissors’.

→ Those who take an interest in the spread of the idea of ‘craft beer’ worldwide will enjoy this piece from Time Out Mumbai on the city’s beer scene. (Via @gatewaybrewery on Twitter.)

→ Similarly, Barry Masterson’s most recent series of posts cover beer festival Braukunst Live 2014 and offer a great snapshot of where the German beer scene is at right now: craft vs. crafty (‘Kunst oder Künstlich?’) is apparently an issue there, too.

→ Oh, what a time to be alive!

English Heritage’s Tumblr is currently spewing forth wonderful pictures of Victorian pubs. (If only they were in higher resolution.)

We went long yesterday, as did several others. A full round up of those #beerylongreads will follow later in the week when a few stragglers have filed their copy.

UPDATE: the ad at the top is a curiosity from the 1970s — we haven’t suddenly entered into partnership with AB InBev!

News, Nuggets and Longreads 22/02/2014

Saturday night’s alright for fighting, but Saturday morning is good for catching up on the beer news, innit?

This is a fascinating longish read (1300 wds) from Leigh Linley on Northern Monk Brew Co, in which Russell Bisset explains why NMBCO has abandoned ‘cuckoo’ brewing:

Unless you have sacks of cash, nerves of steel or just want to produce ‘accountants’ beer, don’t cuckoo brew in the UK… I don’t think the cuckoo brewing model is a viable long-term option here. It’s easy to look at the likes of Mikkeler and Evil Twin and think that it’s possible to produce bolder beer styles using a cuckoo brewing model. In reality they work with breweries like De Proef that are truly world-class and have third-party production as their bread and butter. But they also have 12 month waiting lists to work with.

→ There has been a notable increase in the amount of beer coverage in the mainstream media. The BBC News website continues its streak with this piece on defunct breweries by Francesca Williams; the Guardian had this short piece by Fiona Beckett on big brewers ‘doing craft’; and the BBC’s Food & Drink mentioned beer (albeit superficially) for the second week in a row. Even the New York Times decided to get in on the act with a piece about the pub preservation movement.

→ By the Horns brewery of Tooting made the papers, too, after representatives of actor Robert Lindsay asked them to remove his image from packaging for their Wolfie Smith beer. Why on earth would any brewery think it OK to use someone’s image to promote a product without their permission? It might have worked if it was, say, George Osborne, and there was a parody/satire defence, but not in this case. We were moved by this to write a Facebook post: ‘Some things we wouldn’t do if we ran a brewery‘.

→ This week’s inspiring home brewing post is from Al ‘Hopsinjoor’: brewing as therapeutic activity, recipe based on what was in the cupboard, lessons learned about measuring efficiency. Nice.

→ Felix vom Endt, who works as a professional beervangelist at the Berlin Beer Academy, Tweeted from a tasting of vintage Berliner Weiss beers. Simple folk that we are, we mostly liked the labels, but also thought the findings were interesting:

→ We haven’t read this interview from September last year with Tony Magee of Lagunitas Brewing Company, but it’s been saved to Pocket.