News, Nuggets & Longreads 28 May 2016: Ancient Beer, DIY Pubs, Panhead

Here’s all the beer-related reading of note from the last week, from Birmingham pubs to New Zealand brewery takeovers, via ancient Chinese home brew kit.

First up, Bob and Dave at the Midlands Beer Blog Collective have produced a long profile of one of the city’s primary beer destinations, The Craven Arms, in which publican Chris Sherratt talks about the various aspects of running a specialist pub:

I drink my own product, so I want it to be good.  I just enjoy it, and want to aspire to have something that’s worth drinking. It’s not rocket science, so it still puzzles me as to why places can’t get it right.  They’re not difficult to look after, it’s the basics – keep your lines clean!  I know a lot of people blame the brewers or the beer, when it so often isn’t the brewers’ fault if the beer is bad – there’s more to it than that and how it’s kept is so important.

Photo by Jiang
Photo by Jiajing Wang.

Archaeologists working in the Shaanxi province of China have found the remains of brewing kit dating from 5,000 years ago. The Wall Street Journal has a Q&A with the lead researcher, Jiajing Wang:

First, we examined the residue of the starch granules and found that many of them were noticeably damaged (in a manner that occurs during beer-making); this matched what we’d found in our previous discoveries. Second, we also found millet and barley. Third, via chemical analysis, we found that the residue contains oxalic acid, and we think this might be derived from calcium oxalate — also called “beerstone” — which is a byproduct of beer brewing.

(There’s some more detailed background information in a PDF supporting the press release here.)

Guinness Brewery: View of Mash Tuns.
Guinness Brewery: View of Mash Tuns.

Another archaeologist, Merryn Dinely, has some reflections on the base process of brewing — saccharification — on her blog:

A few years ago, I went to the Eindhoven Open Air Archaeology Museum and used an earthenware bowl to demonstrate the saccharification – how to gently heat crushed malt and water over the hot ashes of a fire and make sugars… In little over one hour, the starchy crushed malt had become a mash of delicious malt sugars… The equipment is very simple. The technique is not complicated… Heat some crushed malt with abundant water at temperatures not exceeding 67 degrees Centigrade and the enzymes will re-activate.

Illustration: time travel.

Jeff Alworth at Beervana has the knack of connecting dots and getting good value out of the kind of corporate junkets that often generate identikit reports. The ancient Chinese beer story above cross-fertilised with his trip to Copenhagen as a guest of Carlsberg prompted some provocative thoughts:

The idea of time-traveling through our tastebuds is alluring, but it’s foolsgold. I’m convinced the past didn’t taste very good.

We can’t work out whether the Dulwich Raider’s account of a sports day pub crawl in South London for Deserter is entirely factual — surely Cousin Max can’t be real? — but it’s an entertaining read either way:

The Duke of Edinburgh on Ferndale Road is a beautiful, Grade II listed boozer with a wide selection of fine beer, pool, sport on the telly and another enormous garden. There aren’t many ways to improve such places, but sticking a crazy golf course out back might just be one of them.

(Warning: contains the very ripest of ripe language.)

A glass of beer.
Taken from Jon’s blog post: ‘A disappointing glass of Ballast Point Sculpin.’

Jon Urch, an expat Englishman who works for Guinness in the US, wasn’t impressed by Ballast Point Sculpin or the brewery’s on-site tap room where he drank it:

I kind of felt like I walked into the lobby of a busy, modern, city center hotel… After a long wait for service, I gleefully ordered a pour of Sculpin, Ballast Point’s flagship… When you visit the brewery, you order the beer you love most – it’s a known fact that the brewery taproom is always where a beer tastes its best… Except in this case.

Brewery takeover news: Lion has acquired New Zealand craft brewery Panhead. And people generally seem to be fine with this, by the way. (Via @jonogaluszka.)

SOURCE: The Pilcrow website.
SOURCE: The Pilcrow website.

We’re quite interested in the Pilcrow project in Manchester but have struggled to get our heads around it, despite a long email from someone on the team. This article for Munchies (Vice) by Clare Wiley does a good job of explaining it:

They’re building a pub, from scratch and by hand. Everything from the bar tiles to the dart boards is being made by the community, with workshops in pump handle turning and bar panel design running since January.

And, finally, an interesting observation from Luxembourg-based Brit Andrew Drinkwater:

One reply on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 28 May 2016: Ancient Beer, DIY Pubs, Panhead”

I do wonder if my “knack” is going to get me disinvited from these things in the future.

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