News, nuggets and longreads 18 March 2023: the big combo

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from coolships to TikTok.

On Wednesday the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered the latest Budget (we seem to have one every couple of months these days) including something branded the ‘Brexit pubs guarantee’:

My penultimate cost of living measure concerns one of our other most treasured community institutions, the great British pub… In December, I extended the alcohol duty freeze until 1 August, after which duties will go up in line with inflation in the usual way… But today, I will do something that was not possible when we were in the EU and significantly increase the generosity of Draught Relief, so that from 1 August the duty on draught products in pubs will be up to 11p lower than the duty in supermarkets, a differential we will maintain as part of a new Brexit pubs guarantee… Madam Deputy Speaker, British ale may be warm, but the duty on a pint is frozen.

Emma McClarkin, CEO of The British Beer & Pub Association, says:

The cut to draught duty as part of the alcohol duty reform is positive and we hope that it will result in a boost for our pubs this summer… However, the fact is, our industry will be facing an overall tax hike not a reduction come August. Duty on non-draught beer will rise and the measures introduced today won’t rebalance the catastrophic impact soaring inflation and unfair energy contracts are having on both pubs and the breweries that supply them… As the 1st of April rapidly approaches, businesses are also nervously awaiting what’s next for their energy costs, and a lack of support in today’s announcement will have a direct impact on their ability to keep their lights on and doors open.

If you can slip through the paywall (sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t) there’s a good summary by Oliver Barnes at the Financial Times.

Text on an old brewery schematic: coppers, coolers.

Martha Holley-Paquette, co-founder of the Brewery of Saint Mars of the Desert in Sheffield, has written about the history and function of flat coolers AKA coolships AKA koelschips:

In the early days of industrial brewing, the post boil, pre-fermentation period must have been agonizingly long. Cooling down from the boil (100C) to fermentation temperatures in the teens likely required an overnight stand.  Not ideal when you’re dealing with a fragile liquid such as unfermented wort.  It’s the perfect place for all sorts of microscopic nasties to make their new home, fouling the flavor and longer-term stability of your beer… The needed innovation for quick cooling was to increase the surface area of the wort, creating a greater cooling surface. If the cooling vessel was also made of a material known for its heat transfer properties, all the better.  Therefore, eventually almost all coolers were built from copper, whose thermal conductivity is right at the top of the list.

The Hofbrauhaus beer hall, Munich.

At Daft Eejit Brewing historian of European brewing Andreas Krennmair has written about the ‘court brew houses’ of Bavaria:

Even if you’ve only ever dabbled a little bit in Bavarian beer, you will have stumbled upon the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, owned by the State of Bavaria, and with a beer hall in the heart of the city. But then you look further, and realise that there’s also a Hofbräuhaus Traunstein 75 minutes outside of Munich, and then there’s of course Weißes Bräuhaus… It all actually started with a bit of a brewing crisis. Starting from 3 September 1571, brewing in Munich was totally banned.

A sign from a bar: Notice to customers, please keep your distance.

Three years on from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Jeff Alworth has taken a moment to reflect on the experience, and the changes it prompted:

[Here’s] a strange little development I didn’t see coming. The shutdowns didn’t entirely eliminate our desire to get out of the house. Vacation travel is exploding. We see some of the consequences in that trend spilling over into beer. Even when they’re not on a beach, people want to feel like they are. The only unalloyed positive trend in beer is imports, almost exclusively Mexican imports. AB InBev’s craft strategy has mostly been a wash except for one product, their Kona Big Wave, which is about to become a million-barrel beer… This phenomenon is happening in the UK, too. One of the hottest new beers is Madrí—which looks and tastes like a crisp Spanish lager filled with the sunshine of Valencia. But it was actually an invention of Molson Coors, brewed in Burton. People hunger for that sunshine, though, so having a glassful in a pub on a dreary day is like going on a tiny vacation. 


At Punch Danny Chau announces the return of the term ‘dank’ to describe a certain type of IPA, with quotes from the aforementioned Mr Alworth:

“Dank,” even at its peak as a complimentary term, never lost its connection to revulsion, that sense of unease and intrigue that simultaneously pushes you away and pulls you closer. The dankest IPAs conjure the aroma of cannabis, but also find a secondary connection to weed in their lingering bitterness, a jolt to the system that might as well be psychoactive. The hazy IPA—which leans heavily on dry-hopping to draw out the fruitiness of the new-generation hops, but balances those flavors through a soft texture—could be seen as a balm for the burnout of a palate-wrecked hops enthusiast. For your years of service walking through the pine forests covered in sap, here is your reward: a brew that looks and tastes like a mimosa.

A screengrab of a TikTok video with an older man staring at his phone in front of a tasting flight of beer. The caption reads "When you can't drink until your dad logs it on Untappd".

For VinePair Aaron Goldfarb highlights a cultural trend we’d never otherwise have noticed: TikTok videos about craft beer dads using Untappd. It’s a reminder, if nothing else, that the idea of the youthful craft beer hipster is not a stereotype that necessarily rings true in 2023:

To these teenage and young adult TikTokers, their Dads Untappd beer geekery is from another generation. Even for craft beer fans, we have to admit the days of it being the hip, new thing, enjoyed strictly by a young cognoscenti, are well over. Craft beer is as mainstream as can be, now sold at supermarkets and strip mall Applebee’s, at gas stations and professional sporting events. What was, just a decade ago, the signifier of a drinker who enjoyed the flavorful, the obscure, the anti-corporate, the artisan, the craft of quality beverages, is now seen as something else: a dorky pursuit of older guys with mortgages, respectable jobs, and comfortable New Balance sneakers.

Finally, from Twitter, some valuable advice…

…and from Mastodon:

A post from Brian Alberts "The Irish sure know how to make beer." ~ Schitz (famous Irish brewery), 1964 #beerhistory #stpatricksday #beer” The picture shows a man happily drinking beer with a shamrock on his lapel. Tagline reads "Ah! The Irish sure know how to make beer. After the parade, get together with a friendly glass of Schlitz."

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.


News, nuggets and longreads 11 March 2023: Earthly delights

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from Belgian brewers to Budweiser.

First, some news, from the ‘you love to see it’ file. Developers who knocked down the historic Punch Bowl Inn in Lancashire have been fined and given a year to rebuild it, brick-by-brick, at an estimated cost of £1.5 million. As the Guardian reports…

District Judge Alex Boyd said the ruling would act as a deterrent to others considering illegal demolitions. “The purpose of these requirements is to protect the building for current and future generations to enjoy.”

Across the Thames to Wapping.

In the latest edition of his excellent newsletter David Jesudason writes about the perfect East End desi pub and his outrage about its omission from previous pub guides:

The Sam & Nam… has brown wooden floorboards, panelling and a long bar (with coat hooks) with a terrace that offers unforgettable views of the Thames from the north bank. It’s so close to the river that when a boat rushes past you can hear the waves lap against the sea wall. Near to the Overground (Wapping) it has a diverse clientele and when I visit there’s a mixture of Punjabi, Hindi and English being spoken… Unlike most desi pubs, it doesn’t serve food – it’s like an old East End pub – I even think there’s a criminal element here but for the normal punter there’s no chance of trouble. If anything it means there’s always drama and the regulars have stories to tell – sometimes the gossip is from Indian villages.

(There’s a twist and lots to think about.)

bristol pubs

Why isn’t The Kings Head in Bristol our answer to Whitelocks?

Great as the relaunched Kings Head might be, it’s not that must-visit symbol of the city. Nowhere in Bristol is.

What do we mean when we talk about this kind of pub?

We wrote about what we called the Universally Recommended Timeless Institution Pub in 2021 after a trip to Leeds:

You need a bit of food to soak up the booze but it shouldn’t be a food place. It might not even really be a beer place. It’s a meeting place. A bolthole. Get away from shopping, take the weight off your feet, escape the weather, whether it’s too hot or too cold…

When this post resurfaced recently in a Twitter conversation about pubs, The Kings Head came up as a Bristol nomination.

In fact, it was nominated by Kelly from Good Chemistry, the brewery which has taken the pub on.

We replied, diplomatically, that this was an interesting thought.

And it is almost right:

  • historic interior
  • universally recommended
  • broad beer range

So, why doesn’t it feel like The One?

For starters, it’s too small. Delightfully small. Incredibly cute, you might say. But with 30 people in, it’s full.

Secondly, no pies. No fish and chips. No bangers and mash. Though we did once see a man take delivery of a pizza called The Beast.

We don’t mind the absence of food, and many would find it an asset. But it does mean you can’t really send out-of-towners there for a lunchtime sesh.

Oh, yes, and it doesn’t open until 4pm from Monday to Tuesday, and at 2pm on Sunday. Again, very sensible in business terms, but not necessarily tourist-friendly.

Finally, there’s the location: what is that bit of town? Victoria Street is handy for the central station but has no real identity of its own.

Between the Blitz ruins of Temple Church and the wall of post-war office blocks, it’s not a place you hang out.

Now, if The Kings Head was in Broadmead, or Corn Street, or by the harbourside… But Bristol’s post war planning left the city without a distinct centre, and Broadmead is utterly publess.

To summarise, then – and here’s the bit you can quote, Kelly! – The Kings Head is one of the finest pubs in Bristol.

Its interior is gorgeous and has only been enhanced by typically tasteful, minimal tweaks by Good Chemistry.

We’d advise anyone visiting Bristol to make the 10-minute walk from town and at least try to get in.

We’ve had no trouble snagging a seat at the bar on our last couple of visits and have found it hard to leave, with beers like Fyne Ales Jarl on offer.

It ain’t Whitelocks, but it’s bloody good.

Well, what about…?

  • The Highbury Vaults – a wonderful pub that ticks most of the boxes but is too far out of town, up a bloody great hill.
  • The Llandoger Trow – great beer, not cosy, strangely lacking atmosphere, totally lacking pies.
  • The Swan With Two Necks – we love it but it’s on an industrial estate and has one big room, and is pieless.
  • The Commercial Rooms (Wetherspoon) – not built as a pub, tatty rather than historic these days.
  • The Old Fish Market – not built as a pub, too corporate, rugby lads and business boys.

We do have our eye on a candidate, though, which we’re hoping to visit tonight for a reappraisal. An update will follow.

For more advice on where to drink check out our Bristol pub guide updated for 2023.


The big question of 1922: will England go dry?

In his 1922 book My Discovery of England the Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock turned his attention to British drinking habits, among other topics.

Leacock was famous around the world for his satirical social sketches. He was also politically conservative, pro-Empire and downright racist.

A hundred years on, that makes deciphering his writing difficult.

What does he mean, and what is he saying for comic effect?

Without context, without being absorbed in the issues of the day, it’s hard to say.

His commentary on women being admitted to universities, for example, sounds so extreme that it can’t be sincere. But it seems it was.

On the politics and culture of booze and pubs, however, we feel on safer ground.

In a chapter called ‘Is prohibition coming to England?’ he begins by suggesting, in exaggerated terms, that all anybody in the US and Canada was talking about at the time was prohibition:

A ‘scholarly’ man no longer means a man who can talk well on literary subjects, but a man who understands the eighteenth amendment and can explain the legal difference between implemental statutes such as the Volstead Act and the underlying State legislation. A ‘scientist’ is a man who can make clear the distinction between alcoholic percentages by bulk and by weight.

With that in mind, he says, he knew he would be expected to answer the question “Is England going dry?” and so set out to answer it.

What he discovered was, in short, that we are a nation of drunkards:

My first impression on the subject was, I must say, one of severe moral shock. Landing in England after having spent the summer in Ontario, it seemed a terrible thing to see people openly drinking on an English train. On an Ontario train, as everybody knows, there is no way of taking a drink except by climbing up on the roof, lying flat on one’s stomach, and taking a suck out of a flask. But in England in any dining car one actually sees a waiter approach a person dining and say, “Beer, sir, or wine?” This is done in broad daylight, with no apparent sense of criminality or moral shame. Appalling though it sounds, bottled ale is openly sold on the trains at 25 cents a bottle, and dry sherry at 18 cents a glass.

He is, here, clearly parodying the tone of temperance campaigners, many of whose books and articles we’ve endured over the years. He goes on:

I realized I was in England and that in the British Isles they still tolerate the consumption of alcohol. Indeed, I doubt if they are even aware they are “consuming alcohol”. Their impression is that they are drinking beer.

If you were in any doubt about his seriousness, his statistics would finally tip you off: “The percentage of the working class drinking beer is 125; the percentage of the class without working drinking beer is 200.”

His judgement on the likelihood of prohibition coming into effect in Britain was sincere, though.

“In Scotland,” he writes, “prohibition is not coming; if anything, it is going.” There, he observes, people don’t drink for pleasure anyway. They take whisky “as a medicine, or as a precaution, or as a wise offset against a rather treacherous climate; but as a beverage, never.”

But in England, “prohibition could easily come” and “signs that indicate the possible approach of prohibition”.

He notices, for example, the weird opening hours of pubs:

In London especially one feels the full force of the ‘closing’ regulations. The bars open and shut at intervals like daisies blinking at the sun. And, like the flowers at evening, they close their petals with the darkness. In London they have already adopted the deadly phrases of the prohibitionist, such as “alcohol” and “liquor traffic,” and so on; and already the “sale of spirits” stops absolutely at about eleven o’clock at night.

For all his snark, those opening lines are actually rather beautiful. We always like it when people write poetically about pubs.

His argument (apparently sincere… again, it’s hard to keep track) is that by conceding the need to regulate alcohol consumption at all, England is drifting into prohibition, and giving the puritans somewhere to insert their lever.

He concludes the chapter with a letter written in the voice of an imagined American prohibitionist after prohibition has been imposed in England.

It’s broad, but funny.

He has workers refusing to knock-off at the end of a shift because, without a pub to go to, they’re happy to keep laying bricks.

Members of the House of Lords turn to opium and chewing tobacco.

And the general public, hearing that a popular brand of soap contains alcohol, starts “eating cakes of it”.

The concluding line of this letter is the most pointed, and will sound familiar to anyone who has read any of the more libertarian beer bloggers in recent years:

But I don’t want you to think that if you come over here to see me your private life will be in any way impaired or curtailed. I am glad to say that I have plenty of rich connections whose cellars are very amply stocked. The Duke of Blank is said to have five thousand cases of Scotch whisky, and I have managed to get a card of introduction to his butler. In fact, you will find that, just as with us in America, the benefit of prohibition is intended to fall on the poorer classes; there is no desire to interfere with the rich.

We picked up a very tatty 1923 copy of this book for £2. There are quite a few copies on eBay for around the same price. Or you can read it for free at and elsewhere.


News, nuggets and longreads 4 March 2023: Daffodils

Here’s a round-up of all the writing about beer and pubs we’ve found interesting in the past week, from ‘plubs’ to Guinness purism.

Those with an eye on sustainability have long argued that the UK would benefit from bringing back bottle deposits, encouraging consumers to put containers into the recycle-reuse system. It seems to work well in Germany, among other places, where it’s not uncommon to see freelance litter pickers collecting bottles from the street. Scotland has attempted to lead the way but, so far, the scheme has attracted controversy, as reported by the BBC:

One of Scotland’s most recognisable drinks brands is among hundreds which have not signed up to a controversial new bottle recycling scheme… Dougal Sharp, the founder of Innis and Gunn, questioned the legality of the scheme and raised concerns about its costs to businesses and consumers… A total of 664 producers had signed up to the deposit return scheme by the Tuesday deadline… It was initially estimated that about 4,500 producers would need to register… However First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that number had now been revised to “below 2,000”.

A key point, though, is that the largest multinationals have signed up. As with tax administration that’s important because it covers off the largest part of the market with relatively few touchpoints.

A cask label for Robert Perry & Son Ltd of Rathdowney.

Liam K at Beer (History), Food, Travel has started a cool new project: ‘100 Years of Irish Brewing in 50 Objects’. He admits this was directly inspired by Eoghan Walsh’s similar series on Brussels from last year, which in turn was a riff on something the British Museum did years ago. It’s a good format, well worth borrowing, and Liam’s already given us several great entries. This is from the third in the series:

Unlike bottle labels, which are a relatively common find for the small number of Irish breweries that survived into the first few decades of the 20th century, cask labels seem to be much rarer. This is of course because they were produced – and needed – in smaller quantities, and because they ultimately ended up back in the brewery who issued them or they became detached from the casks during handling or cleaning, but they do become available at times and facsimiles litter the internet on various sites, perhaps from stock acquired from closed breweries. It is at this point even difficult to know which breweries used them and which used coloured rims to differentiate their various beers – like Guinness did – or used other methods. This relatively rare survivor measures 164mm (6 7⁄16″) in diameter and possibly dates from the late 1920s or the 1930s.