News, Nuggets & Longreads 02/08/2014

Pint of beer illustration.

Seven days is too long without you, baby!

Here’s our week­ly round-up of links from around the Blo­goshire and beyond.

This post from Pete Drinks is thought-pro­vok­ing: when he found beers from a brew­ery under­whelm­ing, they con­tact­ed him to explain that it was a result of over-opti­mistic ‘best before’ dates – a com­mer­cial neces­si­ty, it seems. But, as Pete observes, “not every punter that drinks one of their beers after it’s past its best will write a blog about it and get to under­stand what went wrong”.

Craig Grav­ina at DrinkDrank gave a blunt state of the nation address with regard to ‘craft beer’:

First, I think a change is com­ing. Is it a bub­ble? Maybe, maybe not, and what­ev­er is going to hap­pen, isn’t going to hap­pen over night. But I think we’re mov­ing into the break­ing zone—kinda like when the phrase “fo shiz­zle my niz­zle” became com­mon in upper class, white sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hoods.

→ Car­la Jean Lauter (aka Beer Babe) has writ­ten a chunky piece for about the unstop­pable march of India Pale Ale (IPA) across the US, argu­ing that the best exam­ples are now being brewed on the East Coast. She backs this asser­tion up with the best data at hand, from beer rat­ing sites. Inter­est­ing stuff, even for those of us who’ve nev­er crossed the Atlantic.

→ While we’re con­sid­er­ing the geog­ra­phy and cul­ture of a coun­try we’ve nev­er vis­it­ed, here’s Jeff Alworth on why Ida­ho isn’t a great beer state, while Wash­ing­ton and Cal­i­for­nia are.

→ As yet unread, but saved to Pock­et, archae­ol­o­gists Bil­ly Quinn and Declan Moore explore whether a par­tic­u­lar type of Irish field mon­u­ment might not actu­al­ly be the worlds ear­li­est brew­eries. (Via @craigheap)

Clive Mar­tin of Vice writes explores the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion of Lon­don through a crawl of its pubs and bars. The blokey, less-gen­tri­fied-than-thou tone wears a bit thin, but he makes some good points. (Via @roryelsome)

→ It’s not often beer plays a part in inter­na­tion­al affairs, but this Russ­ian lager com­mer­cial star­ring David Duchovny has arrived at an inop­por­tune moment.

→ Isn’t this pret­ty?

→ And, final­ly, a cou­ple of Brew Bri­tan­nia reviews, from The Bar­ley Blog and Glen Humphries.

9 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 02/08/2014”

  1. That piece about the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion of Lon­don is a fas­ci­nat­ing anthro­po­log­i­cal doc­u­ment describ­ing a total­ly alien cul­ture. The burg­er with a plate-sized let­tuce leaf is just unbe­liev­able.

    How­ev­er, as the author points out, edgy, hip­ster­ish gen­tri­fi­ca­tion is just a step on the road towards well-known upmar­ket brands. Your neigh­bour­hood has real­ly arrived when that funky eth­nic deli becomes a lit­tle Wait­rose.

    1. I admit I only skimmed it, but it did strike me that it’s pret­ty easy to go around a bunch of places you’re deter­mined not to like and then write about how much you did­n’t like them.

      Some­thing very dog-in-the-manger about the tone of it, too –

      I like Scotch eggs as much as the next Eng­lish­man, but I can’t help but think this kind of ancient casu­al bar snack cui­sine they’re nod­ding to nev­er real­ly exist­ed. Pork scratch­ings, yes, but Scotch eggs? You buy those from Sain­o’s, not from pubs. To me, pub cui­sine will for­ev­er be asso­ci­at­ed with steak flavoured McCoy’s and the occa­sion­al reheat­ed beef pie.

      I’ve no idea where Scotch eggs came (back) from either, but if you’re nos­tal­gic for microwaved pies and a brand of crisps launched in 1985, what you’re coun­ter­pos­ing to some­thing new & fake-tra­di­tion­al is some­thing only slight­ly less new & frankly a bit rub­bish. I sus­pect he’s get­ting paid by the word, albeit prob­a­bly not very much.

  2. I thought the Vice piece was pret­ty inter­est­ing, myself, and fair­ly well bal­anced. You can’t be that mil­i­tant­ly opposed to hip­ster gen­tri­fi­ca­tion while writ­ing for Vice…

    I was less sold on the Craig Grav­ina piece, though – it read a bit too much like one of those let­ters to What’s Brew­ing. As soon as some­one starts using words like “fad” and “gim­mick” to mean “pop­u­lar stuff that I per­son­al­ly don’t like” I start to sus­pect that we’re about to get an argu­ment from pej­u­dice rather than a par­tic­u­lar­ly clear assess­ment of the sit­u­a­tion. It’s also rel­a­tive­ly hard to apply much from a dis­cus­sion of the US scene to the UK, since the back­ground seems quite dif­fer­ent – as I under­stand it, we have a much stronger cul­ture of “good, tra­di­tion­al beer” and the full-on exper­i­men­tal craft nut­ters are increas­ing­ly feel­ing like one end of a spec­trum (from, say, Bathams to Adnams to Moor, Thorn­bridge and Mag­ic Rock to The Ker­nel and then the Wild Beer Co) rather than an iso­lat­ed thing of their own, which is prob­a­bly a pos­i­tive thing for the gen­er­al resilience of the scene.

    I also don’t real­ly rec­og­nize the com­plaint about “gim­micky” beers over here (unless you take the view that brew­ing any­thing over 5% or with detectable quan­ti­ties of US hops is a crazy atten­tion seek­ing stunt), although that might be because our local bot­tle shop tends to fil­ter them out and most­ly only both­er with fair­ly straight IPAs, stouts and saisons in their UK craft range…

    1. It’s not pop­u­lar beers I have an issue with. In fact most of the gim­micks have very lit­tle to do with the beer—other than more often than not the beers is usu­al­ly a dud. More and more brew­eries (at least in the U.S mar­ket) are rely­ing on on gim­micks, to manip­u­late the mar­ket, and the fan­boys lap it up—whether it’s a col­lab­o­ra­tion brew, or elab­o­rate pack­ag­ing, or TV show tie in, or some insane ingre­di­ent (like sheep brains, yes sheep brains). The gim­mick becomes the focus, rather than the beer. The more that kind of behav­ior happens—and is encouraged—the more expen­sive beer becomes. A prece­dent is set. That prece­dent is, peo­ple will spend more mon­ey if a beer is hyped or some gim­mick is attached—beer mar­keters and brand man­agers are drilling that in. And it’s all being done in the name of “craft”.

      Make good beer and sell it at a rea­son­able price.

      1. It’s the “bar­rel-aged, stronger, hop­pi­er” that I took par­tic­u­lar issue with – all of those things, like some but not all of the “weird ingre­di­ents”, seem to me like they could be legit­i­mate ways of try­ing to make tasti­er beers.

        Sim­i­lar­ly, I’m begin­ning to won­der if US beer cul­ture does col­lab­o­ra­tions dif­fer­ent­ly from the UK, since they seem to be a com­mon bug­bear of peo­ple com­plain­ing about the state of the US craft scene where­as a fair­ly high pro­por­tion of the UK ones I’ve had have been good, and they don’t nor­mal­ly seem to be priced above what you’d nor­mal­ly pay for that style of thing.

  3. I’m not dis­parag­ing strong beers or hop­py beers, I like both. It just seems that we’re get­ting bar­raged by them—In the U.S, any­way. It sort of like sum­mer block­buster movies. They always have huge explo­sions, but the movies usu­al­ly aren’t very good (although, there are excep­tions). The prob­lem is we keep going to see dud movies with big explo­sions. The explo­sions keep get big­ger, which costs more, and the tick­et price goes up. So what we’re pay­ing for is a real­ly big explo­sion and kind of a dud movie.

    Here my issue with col­lab­o­ra­tion beers (the U.S. vari­ety, that is.) Most of the time it seems like col­lab­o­ra­tions are an excuse for one brew­er to vis­it anoth­er brew­er on the com­pa­ny dime—a dime that gets passed onto the con­sumer. What results is usu­al­ly (and again there are always excep­tions) a dud beer. A beer that is most often an indul­gence in the brew­ers own “artistry” more than any­thing else. The kick­er is: regard­less if the beer is good or bad, if it’s mar­ket­ed right— as a “super brew” between two “awe­some” breweries—it’ll still get bought.

    Don’t get me going on the Pearl Jam beer DFH made.

    1. Pleased to see you two still chat­ting here!

      The Hol­ly­wood block­buster anal­o­gy might be a good one. A thought about open­ing week­end vs. ongo­ing box office suc­cess is on the tip of my brain. I’m going to pon­der on it.

      1. See­ing as how that was my sec­ond “Hol­ly­wood” reference—the first com­ing in my orig­i­nal post, about the “impor­tance” of Oscar win­ning films—I might be onto some­thing!

        Pon­der away.…

      2. I sup­pose it might be an advan­tage to being rel­a­tive­ly out of the loop, too – we only real­ly get stuff once it’s come out on DVD, by which point the dust has set­tled and the hype is rather more in per­spec­tive…

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