Of course there is no correct amount – it will vary from beer to beer, from region to region and from person to person – but it looks as if a beer we were served on Friday night was pretty close to perfect.
When we Tweeted this with the message ‘One for the Foam Police’ we were being deliberately vague.
What we meant was ‘This looks pretty good’ but wanted to test a theory: we reckon it is possible for a specific individual pint to have both (a) too much head and (b) too little.
When we Tweet pictures of the beers we’re drinking, it’s quite common for people to reply with either something like ‘Stick a Flake in that?’ or ‘That looks in poor condition’.
In this case, though about 90% of poll respondents thought it looked fairly spot on, the remaining votes were split between too much and not enough, with a slight bias towards too much.
It would be interesting to have the ability to drill down into the results a bit more. We suspect those who voted ‘too much’ will be in London and the Home Counties, while those who voted ‘not enough’ will skew younger. But those are just guesses, for now.
Another interesting thing was that some people wanted to know more about the beer before forming a judgement:
For me it depends what it is. A keg IPA = just about the right amount (borderline though). Cask = omg I’m in the North and forgot to ask them to take the sparkler off! 😂
Of course there’s a lot of ceremony and debate around lager, especially in the Czech Republic, but we hadn’t considered before that keg beer might be expected to have more head than cask. Now it’s been raised, though, it does feel right.
Altogether, though, what this proves is that it’s a matter of taste, as subjective as anything else.
Is the theatrical cut of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring too long, too short or about right? Would you like more tracks on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, fewer, or about the same number?
Well, subjective except for in the (sort of) legal sense. There’s a general acceptance, reinforced by messages from industry bodies and Trading Standards, that says a pint should be at least 95% liquid, and no more than 5% foam.
We suspect our ‘about right’ pint on Friday might have failed this test, by a percentage point or two, but in the moment, we really didn’t care.
Here’s everything on the subject of beer, pubs and (this month only) cider, that caught our attention in the past few days, from lost friends to last beers.
Between us we’ve encountered Roger Wilkins of Wilkins Cider a few times over the decades. When Ray was young, his Dad used to buy cider from the farm every now and then. And until a year or so ago, Wilkins used to supply the Drapers Arms so the sight of Mr W himself steaming through a crowded pub, sweating and huffing, with a jar of pickled eggs under each arm wasn’t uncommon. Now, for Pellicle, Nicci Peet has given him the full profile treatment:
I hear Roger before I see him, his laugh bellowing from inside his barn. It’s as big and as bold as his reputation. Locally, and to some internationally, he is known as the “cider king,” making proper, traditional farmhouse cider… Roger offers two ciders: dry and sweet. Both sit in big wooden barrels with taps ready for you to serve yourself and there’s no fixed price—you pay as you feel. If you’re after a medium simply mix the two. Then sip your cider in the barn or in the orchard, the way Somerset cider has been enjoyed for centuries. Even how he sells his cider is old school, as you have to ring him directly if you want to make an order.
Mostly we just meet at the bar. First by chance. Then increasingly “by chance.” Then it became Thursday club. Then Wednesday was added into the mix too. And of course we are always here Friday. And the odd quick pint on a Monday has been known to turn into five hours of putting the world to rights – or at least his beloved City’s back four… I’m not sure I’ve ever socialised with Colin outside of the pub… And he is too bloomin’ generous. Annoyingly so. I have to fight to even pay for a drink. I’m sure I’m about 20 pints behind now. I don’t think I’ve ever bought the bags of dry roasted.
While I was drinking my very last full pour of beer while visiting Tree House Brewing Co. in July, I had no idea I had the disease. I had no idea that ‘Hurricane (with Peach)’ would be my last beer selfie that I ever took. That the beer I rated a 4.5 in Untappd and everything I had hoped for as a tasting experience would be the beginning of the finale… Even though a few years back a friend of mine had been diagnosed with Sjogrens and I thought “Wow! I have a lot of these medical conditions and symptoms thoughout my life. But stop being silly! Your doctors would have connected the dots and tested you if they thought this was a real concern. Stop self-diagnosing.”
We would like this perspective to come from someone who is not perceived as having a close association with CAMRA. The brief is for a c.50,000 word authorised biography of CAMRA, to be researched and written in 2020, with the text due at the end of the year, ready for publication in March 2021 in time for the Campaign’s birthday celebrations. Exact outline, terms and fees to be negotiated.
Cult Czech brewery Kout na Šumavě is in trouble, it turns out:
Things continue to get worse for Pivovar Kout na Šumavě, a court has declared to company insolvent due to outstanding rent. https://t.co/C9BvIo5A66
We have to have this sort of “craziness” for craft beer – nothing says we have to like every dickhead idea or style that shambles onto the brewing scene – to continue to evolve and progress as the paradigm-changer it has become. There is NO other path. The surest way to murder innovation and creativity is to slap blinders on those doing the work. There is an old saying, “Out of experimentation comes synthesis.” Never heard that? Apparently, I just made it up. Google gives me no hits on that axiom. But it’s the truth: we try crazy shit, watch some or even most of it fail, and pluck the nuggets, the pearls, out of the chickenshit.
[Smith] was visiting the Fox and Goose in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, seven weeks after it opened… But when the 74-year-old heard another drinker dropping the F‑word while telling his wife a joke, he decided to immediately close the place… [leaving] landlord Eric Lowery, who lives in a flat above the pub with wife Tracey, looking for both a new job and somewhere to live.
Our #EveryPubInBristol mission had begun to stagnate a little with hardly any new ticks in weeks. Then, the Saturday before last, we managed six new pubs in one go. As ever, this concerted attack was eye-opening.
We started at The Assembly in Bedminster, a huge pub with the football on at ear-bursting volume and a sense that it was drowsing, just waiting for Saturday night to kick off. The kind of place where the woodwork has teeth-marks. Jess’s half of Doom Bar came in a dainty stem glass, though, and didn’t taste bad.
The contrast between this and the next pub, up Windmill Hill on the other side of the railway line, was powerful. The Windmill feels like the kind of place you might find in a middle class outer London suburb, all scrubbed wood, burgers and jazz. The couple on the table next to us seemed to be on holiday in Bristol and had apparently come out of their way to get to this particular pub – is it in a foreign travel guide, maybe? It’s for sale, we hear, which might explain the faintly gloomy mood. Overall, we liked it, even if it did seem to be looking at us down its nose, just a touch.
At the top of the hill, The Rising Sun appealed to us immediately: a Victorian orphan alongside a modernist tower block, windswept by default, it brought to mind the Cumberland at Byker. Inside, we found a lampshade pub with plush seating and kitsch details. Bluegrass music played on the stereo and the young publican told us he was a musician. Bohemian might be a good word for this pub and we can imagine detouring to get to it again.
Things went downhill after this, literally, as we tottered down a tatty alleyway between terraced houses to The Brunel, AKA The Engineers Arms – a huge pub extended or rebuilt in the 1920s, despite its supposed 1897 founding date. It’s a Greene King joint so you can probably picture it with 80% accuracy if you’ve ever been in another anywhere else in the country. But we liked the cheerful staff, the stained glass windows and the remains of the old multi-room structure: the real drinkers were in what was obviously the Public. It’s not our kind of place but there was certainly a buzz.
Next stop was The Victoria Park, a somewhat famous gastropub in 1990s style, with Michelin stickers and more. We didn’t expect to like it but the hillside beer garden and Edwardian exterior were hard to resist, and inside we had no trouble finding a corner to drink in. The other customers were mostly exhausted parents rocking pushchairs or bouncing babies on their chests. This one, we thought, would fit an upmarket resort in Devon or Cornwall, and the beer was mostly Devonian, as it happened.
The Star & Dove on the edge of Victoria Park has a fascinating story. Ray’s been before, with his brother, when it was a full-on gastropub with slow-cooked pork belly and so on. That venture folded, though, and in the space of a year or two, it’s reverted to being a normal, down-to-earth drinking pub with somewhat harsh lighting and the downstairs dining room locked. The internet seems generally confused about whether it is still trading (it definitely is) and whether it still has food at all – sometimes, we think? Still, not often you encounter de-gentrification these days.
There’s something about this particular approach, every pub, that really makes sense of the scene as a whole and how things fit together. Posh pubs are uphill, less fancy ones at the bottom; chains are sometimes where the action is; and there’s almost no pub that’s not OK for at least one round on a Saturday afternoon.
Here’s all the beer- and pub-related reading we’ve found especially illuminating or enjoyable in the past week, from Monty Python to pensions.
When you’ve been at this game for a while, you start to see the same conversations cycle round. This week, it’s time to talk about what ‘sessionable’ means again. First, for VinePair, Lily Waite argues that it’s impossible to pin down…
The most common use of ‘session” in beer contexts is as a qualifier. It means the beer in question contains low enough amounts of alcohol that several, or even many, can be consumed in one drinking ‘session.’ The term ‘sessionable’ is commonly used to suggest something is easily drinkable, light, refreshing, or any combination of the three… But even those airy definitions leave a lot open to interpretation. As all beer drinkers are different, with individual sizes, appetites, tolerances, and preferences, how can we say what ‘session” or ‘sessionable’ even means?
I saw a tweet yesterday from someone talking about “a sessionable 5.5 per cent smoked oatmeal stout”, and the world swam and dissolved before me as I plunged screaming and twisting into a hellish, tormented pit of dark despair… Let me make this as clear as I can. This is an egregious and unforgivable total failure to understand what the expression ‘sessionable’ means, is meant to mean, and was coined for. A 5.5 per cent alcohol beer is not, and cannot be, ‘sessionable’. A smoked oatmeal stout, while I am sure it can be lovely, is not and cannot be ‘sessionable’. Nobody ever spent all evening drinking four or five, or six, pints of smoked oatmeal stout.
One of our favourite blog posts of last year was Eoghan Walsh’s literary pub crawl around Brussels. Now he’s back with Part Two:
Nobody exemplified the writer living unhappily in Brussels better than Frenchman and serial flâneur Charles Baudelaire… Leaving behind Victor Hugo and the Chaloupe D’Or café on Brussels’ Grand Place, my walk follows the well-worn tourist path out of the square and into the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. These glass-ceiling shopping arcades were a first in Europe when they were built in 1847 and immediately they became a meeting place not only for the city’s bourgeoisie but also for its writers and artists. It was here that the Lumière brothers showed off their cinématographe for the first time outside of Paris, in March 1896. Victor Hugo’s mistress, Juliette Drouet – Juju – has an apartment above what is now the francophone Tropismes bookshop. French poet Paul Verlaine once purchased a revolver here with his mother. And, living a couple of streets away while escaping debts and debtors back in Paris, Charles Baudelaire was a frequent visitor.
The Express Tavern on Kew Bridge Road is that rarity – a London pub that regularly serves Draught Bass. The Bass red triangle trademark adorns the exterior and the famous triangle also declares itself on a pump clip on the bar… Two regulars seated at the bar nodded in salutation when I asked for a pint. “You’ve come to the right place for Bass,” they said. “That’s what we’re drinking.”
Waitress: Well, there’s IPA with mosaic and simcoe; IPA with mosaic and centennial; IPA with mosaic and citra; IPA with mosaic, simcoe and citra; IPA with mosaic, simcoe, centennial and citra; IPA with citra, simcoe, centennial and citra; IPA with citra, mosaic, citra, citra, simcoe and citra, IPA with citra, vic secret, citra, citra, mosaic, citra, centennial and citra;
Hipsters (starting to chant): Citra citra citra citra…
After graduating from college in 1972, [Charlie] Papazian moved to Boulder, Colorado, to try to figure out his life plans. Some people there discovered that he knew how to brew beer and asked him to teach a class on homebrewing at the local community free school. The classes were incredibly popular and attracted many curious local residents… As word spread through newspaper articles, administrators grew concerned that the classes might be attracting the wrong type of attention. “After about the third year…those classes became notorious,” Papazian recounted. “One time at registration for the class, the administration contacted me, and said, ‘You know… there’s a guy, who’s registering for this class. He may be from the ATF.’” The ATF is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms—the law enforcement agency in charge of regulating activities such as homebrewing. As Papazian started the class, a man walked in wearing a dark pair of slacks, a white shirt, and a skinny black tie. Papazian suspected he was the ATF agent right away.
The latest edition of Cask Marque’s Cask Report is out, edited by Matt Eley and with contributions from people like Pete Brown and Adrian Tierney-Jones. We haven’t had chance to digest yet but the key message is that cask ale could be about to have a moment if it can reinvent itself as a specialist, premium product:
The whole industry has to work together to improve the consistency and quality of cask. This will enable it to be positioned in a more premium manner on the bar, reignite wider interest and ultimately bring cask back to growth. It might not quite be cask’s moment yet, but it feels like it’s coming and pubs should be fully prepared by embracing it now.
We Anchor in Hope, a play set in a pub – a fully-functional pub reconstructed in a theatre – sounds interesting:
The two have thought a lot about the pub that the Bunker is becoming: a quiz every Tuesday, karaoke on Thursdays and a disco on the weekend. The space will be open an hour before the show for people to get a drink, with Sonnex himself pulling pints alongside his general manager, Lee. In the world of the play, the pints in the Anchor pub will be pulled by Pearl, the play’s only woman. “In the current climate, and rightfully so, you should be looking at the ratio of men to women and making sure there are really good opportunities for female actors,” Jordan tells me. But in order to stay true to the pubs she spent time in, which were “overwhelmingly male spaces”, We Anchor in Hope has “one female character and four male characters – which is something we both thought about and talked about”.
Finally, here’s a nugget from Twitter:
The main difference between working in beer and when I worked in pensions was that there were never massive pension fans who got so into pensions that they ruined penaions for everyone, Instagramming their pensions and doing video pension reviews and that.
It’s new CAMRAGood Beer Guide season and across the land can be heard the familiar cries of “I can’t believe X is/isn’t in!”
Most people who are into beer know that the Good Beer Guide is not the be all and end all – it doesn’t claim to be.
It’s an assessment on the quality and consistency of cask beer, so pubs without cask beer will not get in, no matter how stunning the keg selection.
Selection processes vary from district to district, as we understand it, but the Bristol branch has clearly documented processes which seem to be about as thorough and democratic as is possible to be, but obviously will still favour pubs that are popular with active CAMRA members.
We’re not really sociable enough to contribute to this sort of thing so of course we don’t get to complain if we don’t like the entries. And actually, in Bristol, there isn’t much to grumble about from our perspective.
(Unlike in Penzance where to our eternal bafflement The Cornish Crown got in year after year, sometimes as the only entry; it’s fine but we could think of three or four consistently better cask ale pubs in town.)
In the two and a bit years we’ve been here, the Bristol selections are generally a good representation of quality beer and also reflect a range of different pubs and other drinking establishments to suit all tastes.
There are a couple whose inclusion we might question based on our visits but the main issue is the omission of some particular favourite pubs, probably down to the space allocated to some degree.
With that in mind, we’d like to suggest a couple of supplementary entries for 2020.
The Highbury Vaults This is a veteran GBG entry but not included this year. It has a multi-room layout, including a snug and a toy train, and can’t help but be cosy. The garden, or yard rather, has an oddly good atmosphere. There are Young’s beers, including Winter Warmer in season, and a selection of bottles. It has good old-fashioned pub snacks (pork pies, baps) as well as homely homemade food.
The Good Measure We assume this didn’t make the GBG as it only opened in December 2018. The team at Good Chemistry are behind this so their beers obviously feature but also several guests, usually from the north, which makes a refreshing change in Bristol. Timothy Taylor Landlord is often on, for example. There are keg beers, too. We particularly love the contemporary yet classic feel of the interior.
The Canteen (AKA Hamilton House) This was in the guide in 2019 but isn’t anymore. It’s not really a pub, more a community cafe with an emphasis on all things local, which is perhaps why it’s not in our main Bristol pub guide, but regularly has four or five cask ales from Bristol Beer Factory, New Bristol and others. Being round the corner from Jess’s most recent job, it’s also somewhere she got to know well and found the beer to be in consistently good condition.
In coming up with the above list, we’ve kept to GBG criteria and haven’t included keg bars, cider houses and so on.
We’ve also left out a couple of pubs we really like but we haven’t visited enough to judge the consistency of the ale – maybe we’ll suggest them for 2021.