News, Nuggets & Longreads 26 March 2016: Casks, Bikes & White Shield

Here’s all the good stuff about beer and pubs we came across in the last week, from beery bike rides to cask ale in Chicago.

→ Liz Dodd’s account of cycling from ‘London to Holland via Beer’ for It Comes in Pints is great fun:

A race along the seafront through Folkestone brought us to the suburbs of Dover and the foot of the White Cliffs, where I took a wrong turn then insisted we climb a strange iron staircase to the start of a 300ft trail up the cliffside… Friends, I will gloss over this part, except to say that I had gone so totally insane by the time I had dragged my 40kg of bicycle and equipment slipping and sliding to the top of that fucking cliff in the rain and the dark that I survived only by singing “you are my lucky, lucky star” over and over again like Ripley in Alien.

(Part I | Part II)

Macro image: 'Hops' with illustration of hop cones, 1970s.

Craft Beer and Brewing has a wonderful long read on hop oils and aroma compounds from Stan Hieronymus in which he does a masterful job of translating the science into as near plain English as it can be coaxed:

Depending on a compound’s concentration, the sensory perception of that compound can change. Less can be more, which is why thiols at low levels result in pleasant fruity aromas, but at higher levels are perceived as catty.

Synergy and masking play a major role in perception. Synergy occurs when two or more compounds interact to create something different. Masking occurs when one compound suppresses the perception of another.

→ It turns out beer from the wood is so hot right now:

→ No, really:

→ Or maybe it’s cask in general? Stephanie Byce’s profile for Good Beer Hunting of a Chicago brewery specialising in English style cask ales is fascinating, not least because of the light it shines back on the UK:

“All of their focus is on America and what American craft beer is doing,” [Tyler] Jackson says. “So craft beer in the UK is defined by the focus on American hops and American ingredients. Even in the home of cask beer, where we are looking to for inspiration and the standards, it’s kind of a dying art there. It’s shocking that even there it’s dwindling and not as popular.”

→ Meanwhile, the Campaign for Real Ale is putting into practice its policy of permitting key kegs at its festivals, and Richard Coldwell gives an account from the front line having manned the key-keg bar at a festival in Leeds last week:

To sum up my feelings simply, I will echo the rude man who just wouldn’t shut up on Friday morning: Yes, you’ve been fighting for real ale for forty years, and do you know what mate? You’ve won! Just look at all the superb beers available from myriad small, medium and larger breweries. In fact you won years ago and it’s now time to move forward. Of course there will always be a place for real ale, the centre piece, the jewel in the crown, but there’s room for something else, something more modern.

Worthington White Shield and Spring Shield.

→ Paul Bailey (no relation) had a bottle of Worthington White Shield and took the opportunity to reflect on the history, quality and status of this historic beer:

As far as I know the recipe and the strength have remained unchanged, but to me today’s White Shield is a far less complex beer than the one I remember drinking back in the 70s and 80s. The White Shield from 40 years ago had a distinctive “nutty” taste which, although still present in today’s version is far less pronounced. The modern version is still a very good beer, but it is not quite the same.

→ Are bottle shops a threat to pubs? Oli Gross reports for the Morning Advertiser on a view among some publicans that shops offering on-site drinking offer unfair competition to pubs:

Nick Pembroke, licensee of The Gatsby, Berkhamstead, claimed the venue is “wiping the floor” with nearby pubs… “Because they’re a shop they can sell it way cheaper than me, it’s ruining the pubs around here.”… Pembroke has spoken to other licensees in the area who said they’re struggling against the competition, and trade is at risk of being ‘destroyed’.

→ And, finally, from Matthew Sedacca for Eater, a longish read (1,700 words) asking, ‘Are Big Beer Brands Making Craft Festivals Square?’ Square’s an interesting word to use and, though this article focuses on the US, Craft Beer Rising sprang to mind, and also the ever-present corporate stands from Greene King et al at the Great British Beer Festival. (We think the answer to this question might be ‘Yes’.)

5 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 26 March 2016: Casks, Bikes & White Shield”

Somebody put Tyler Jackson in touch with Richard Coldwell! (With whom, incidentally, I don’t agree – the correct answer is that (quite a lot of) KK is RA, so it’s a non-issue.)

Hm, but Key Keg is not Cask Ale, even when it is real ale. Like Real Ale in a Bottle it is a different form/dispense that happens to still be “real”.

I find the assertion in the Tyler Jaxkson quote that cask is in decline a touch odd mind you. Isn’t it still in (very small) growth? Think I recall something like 0.3% from the Cask Report.

The worst cask ale I have ever tasted was “English-style pale ale” from a US craft brewery in the Ginger Man in New York last year. Imagine an American on holiday in London trying a bad pint of Abbott in a tourist pub, then going home and describing it to the brewer who, never having been to the UK himself, tries to replicate it. I was actually strangely proud that a brewery that otherwise produces wonderful beer in a range of styles should be unable to master this one.

I have very, very rarely had a truly English-tasting pint in America. There are many good “hybrid” beers, but few that really get at the English palate (I mean the English palate before the “American” taste of pale ale and IPA made inroads via Brewdog, etc.).

Why this is is hard to understand. We get the hops, just as you do ours. We have the same yeasts from the banks, the Whitbread this and Burton that. We get floor-malted malt.

Maybe we don’t use enough sugar. 🙂


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