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The Month That Was: July 2016 — Classic Pubs, New Wave Bitter, The Somme

Here’s everything we wrote in the last month, from classic pubs to coastal chic, in one handy round-up.

We kicked the month off with our contribution to Session #113 on the subject of ‘Mass Observation: The People and the Pub’, hosted by, er, us. Our summary of all the other contributions, some of which are really excellent, is here.

Close up on the foam of the beer.

Our Magical Mystery Pour adventures continued with more beers chosen for us by The Beer Nut:

  1. Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale
  2. Troubadour Westkust
  3. Troubdadour Magma Triple-Spiked

The First & Last at Sennen, Cornwall, has had a makeover and, though it’s fine, it made us reflect on the tendency for coastal pubs to go for the same identikit bright-and-breezy look when, actually, some of them look better as cosy smugglers’ dens.

Cover of book with illustration by Tim Jaques.

We read How to Run a Pub, a book published in 1969, and highlighted the juiciest bits to save you the trouble:

Your wife and (and yourself) will be exposed to constant temptation from [customers]. Some won’t hesitate to use their persuasions on her. This may begin in what seems the friendliest and most innocent ways such as offering her a lift to do the shopping or taking her out when you are obliged to remain on duty… Some pubs even acquire reputations as graveyards of marriages. One Chelsea pub… was so notorious that it was unkindly dubbed The Cuckold’s Arms… Naturally you can’t watch your wife like a sheepdog, but it would unwise to embark on a career as a publican unless you feel that your marriage is a pretty secure one.

The perennial debate about children in pubs broke out yet again. We couldn’t be bothered to get stuck in but did offer a couple of thoughts from the sidelines‘If you fear creeping prohibition, it is your moral duty to lobby for more kids in pubs.’

Two beers and a CAMRA mag, from above.

We went to Falmouth, drank some great beers, and visited The Chainlocker, a pub that was new to us: ‘We enjoyed being surrounded by boat folk… the down-to-earth types who crew yachts but don’t own them.’

Paul from Ealing asked which new wave breweries make decent bitters and we gave it a bit of thought as one of our Questions & Answers posts. As usual with questions like this there are lots of interesting suggestions in the comments, too.

A German beer hall in London, c.1902.

We shared a chunk of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent about German beer halls in London in the 19th Century not realising that an adaptation of the same novel was about to commence on the BBC. (Or maybe we’d picked it up sub-consciously?)

Our attempt to define ‘a classic pub’ was an interesting exercise which prompted responses from Pub Curmudgeon and got a mention with commentary in Stan Hieronymus’s weekly round-up. Completing the circle (jerk) Martin, who inspired the post, had a bit more to say too.

A flying visit to Somerset gave us chance to check up on  Butcombe — it’s still a brewery whose beers we have plenty of time for — and to visit an inter-war improved pub in Cheddar.

Once again we called for HELP! from our readers: we want to hear from anyone who remembers drinking in self-consciously CAMRA-friendly real ale pubs — the type with multiple handpumps — from about 1975 to 1981. We’ve had some great responses already — thanks all! — but more are still very welcome, especially from civilians, i.e. people who aren’t bloggers or beer writers.

Illustration based on a 19th century Map of Picardy/Somme.

C.D. Smith asked us if there is a native beer of the Somme region of France; we didn’t know so we did some research and asked around. Short answer? No. Long answer.

Then we had a question ourselves: which Birmingham pub was Ian Nairn actually on about when he wrote about visiting The Windsor Bars c.1960? (Local experts reckon it’s The Clarendon.)

We wrote a quick response to the news that BrewDog is (kind of) doing real ale again after a half-decade huffy hiatus. (N.B. if you think everyone is bored of BrewDog you might be surprised to know that this post had more traffic than anything we’ve written for ages; we don’t sell ads so we don’t much care about traffic but, still, interesting.)

Illustration: beer pumps, splashes of colour.

Choosing what to drink when faced with a line-up in a pub is a matter of instinct but what is going on in our heads? We tried to map out the thought process and the order of preference:

  1. Anything that’s on our wish list.
  2. Something new by a favourite brewery.
  3. An old favourite we don’t see often.

And so on.

Bailey reported on a conversation with a pub landlady which reminded us that the kind of grot and clutter that looks charming to drinkers might not be much fun for publicans.

Off-site we wrote a piece for All About Beer magazine on the history of the beer-geek tendency, pulling together about five years’ worth of blog posts, scribbled notes and scraps.

There was also the usual weekly round-ups of links elsewhere around the internet, a monthly newsletter (sign up!) that prompted a response from Alan McLeod, some Facebooking, and a load of stuff on Twitter, like this:

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