News, Nuggets & Longreads for 4 June 2016

Illustration: government stamp on a British pint glass.

Here are all the blog posts and articles from the past week that have captured our attention in one way or another, from ponderings on the pint to the state of Orval.

Whether you like to drink your beer by the pint or in smaller measures is another of those fault lines between Them and Us in British beer. Chris Hall (who works for London brewery Brew by Numbers) considers whether the fact that the pint is the default UK beer serving is distorting the market:

Even in the most wide-ranging, smaller-serving-focused craft beer bars in the country, we remain interested in filling a pint-shaped hole, and if it remains an unchangeable line in our programming, our industry will remain defined by the beers that fit this space, and not by what we could, or perhaps should, be brewing.


The brewhouse at Orval.
SOURCE: Belgian Smaak.

2015 Beer Writer of the Year Breandán Kearney considers the state and history of the brewery at Orval in a luxuriously long post at Belgian Smaak, which also has lots of juicy detail for home brewers and the generally inquisitive:

The malt bill is an evolving one, barley varieties such as ‘Aleksi’ and ‘Prisma’ used previously having been replaced for example with the ‘Sebastian’ variety. ‘It is difficult to speak about varieties of barley malt because a lot of them disappear for new ones,’ says Anne-Françoise [Pypaert]. ‘Brewers don’t have much control on that because farmers value varieties with a good yield. What I can say is that we use two pale malt varieties, one caramel malt and a little bit of black barley.’


Pub scene by Libby Hall.
One of Libby Hall’s pictures. SOURCE: Photoeast website.

This gallery of photographs of The Engineer, a pub in Suffolk, taken by Libby Hall in 1966, is gorgeous. Not much reading but take your time and linger on each picture — there’s plenty of detail to absorb. Note, for example, the number of halves being drunk, and the lack of pump-clips. And those faces! You can see these and more pictures at a Photoeast exhibition in Halesworth, Suffolk, until 25 June. (Via @teninchwheels.)


Pool table in a London pub.
SOURCE: Ultimate London Pub Crawl blog.

Greg and Andy at The Ultimate London Pub Crawl tackled Canning Town and the write-up is, as ever, crammed with incident and detail. There’s a bit of poetry…

Its patrons were of such close ilk that they seemed almost of one homogenous life-form, like a vast human fungus sprouting here and there from the ale-soaked carpet.

…as well as a startling revelation that, in this part of town, the smoking ban doesn’t seem to have taken:

Finally the fog of ignorance cleared: everyone was smoking. Openly smoking, not vaping or simply pre-rolling but drawing deeply on cigarettes, dropping ash nonchalantly in and around countless ashtrays. Dickens’ “fetid mist” was still here after all, alive and well…


An East London bar.
‘Howl at the Moon in Hoxton’ by Rebecca Pate. SOURCE: Brewing East blog.

Rebecca Pate (@rpate) is a Canadian living in East London whose blog is relatively new. (Consider this a suggestion to add it to your RSS feed.) In her most recent post she considers what makes one pub appealing while another is repellent:

My bugbear is manicured veneers, where bars exhibit random backlit displays of bottles (art?), chandeliers are suspended from the ceiling and décor and fixtures are all too coordinated. For me, this projects a sense of a slapdash, soulless shelf bar- a bar in a box- that is devoid of any desirable atmosphere.


Illustration: Sweet Tooth brand can sugar cube.

Ed has been undertaking some serious investigations into sugar, a sometimes neglected aspect of brewing history:

This gives me evidence for my current theory on why invert sugar was popular with brewers. Invert sugar (glucose/fructose mix) is sweeter than the sucrose from which it is made, and people liked the taste.


And, finally, a fantastic painting of a particularly austere-looking estate pub at Park Hill Sheffield as Tweeted by artist Mandy Payne, via @BrutalHouse:

We’ll be away for the next couple of Saturdays and won’t be able to put together these round-ups. As usual, we’ll share some links on Twitter instead, so follow us there, and check out Stan Hieronymus’s always-thoughtful selections each Monday.

2 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads for 4 June 2016”

  1. Will bookmark @rebecca tae as I am always interested in East London pubs. Would have commented on her blog, but can’t work out how and take issue with this statement: “An immense beer selection is highly seductive and the obvious prerequisite of a good drinking pub” Er no. It isn’t. Some of the best drinking pubs in the world offer only one beer or maybe two.

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