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The Month That Was, August 2016: Boddies, Spoons, Grape Beer

We spent a week away in August but still managed a decent number of posts, from cultural pondering to tasting notes, via the archives.

We started the month by sharing a recipe for a home-brew clone of Boddington’s Bitter in its prime put together by Tony Leach. That post surfaced a very interesting bit of intel we’d otherwise have missed:

We shared a 1904 courtroom debate about beer with a ‘twang’ — a word that puzzled the judge. As Gary Gillman pointed out in the comments, they could perhaps have called the writer Thomas Hardy as an expert witness.

Crowds at the festival.
Covent Garden in 1975. Pictures by and © David Davies.

Before we went off to London for a week we unleashed a 2,500 word beast — an account of CAMRA’s Covent Garden Beer Exhibition, 1975, in the words of those who were there:

There were a lot of IRA bomb scares at the time. We were using an office just up the road – there were no mobile phones in those days so we had to have an office with a phone – and, one evening, when we were locking up, we left a briefcase in the street. The alarm went up and the police cordoned off the whole area.

If you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook you’ll have had live updates while we were on our travels, such as this:

While we were away SIBA announced a scheme for certifying breweries as ‘craft’. Here’s our take, with some long and well-informed comments. There was also much discussion on Twitter, most of it tending to the view that (heavily simplified) SIBA are a bunch of rotters up to no good.

It occurred to us that there had been lots of little developments lately that suggested beer-mania was reaching outside the bubble. (Update: after some anxiety the vials of Brettanomyces made it to Poland unscathed.)


The never-ending debate about whether Wetherspoon is good or bad for British beer prompted this post in which we argued that ‘Spoons pubs are part of a healthy beer culture. Again, as well as plenty of comments, there was debate on Twitter (summary: try living in the sticks without Spoons, mate!) and The Pub Curmudgeon wrote a response here and carried out a poll, too.

Book cover: Britain Revisited.

Having stumbled upon it quite by accident we picked some choice morsels from Tom Harrisson’s 1961 follow up to the Mass Observation pub observation project of the 1930s:

You may wear a tie instead of a scarf, your second best suit instead of the working clothes that had once been your only best suit, drink ‘best mild’ instead of ordinary, twenty-two pints a week instead of twenty, and maybe put in an hour in the boozer dinner-time, which your dad in 1937 couldn’t afford.

Thomas Hardy beer bottle cap: 'Huntsman'.

Is 90ml each of one vintage enough to say we’ve ‘had’ Thomas Hardy Ale? No, of course not, but it’s a start.

The last of the beers chosen for this round of Magical Mystery Pour by The Beer Nut was Loverbeer Beerbera, a wood-aged brown ale brewed with grapes. We liked it.


It’s only natural that we’re a bit absorbed by big questions about the nature of pubs and pub culture given the research we’ve been undertaking for the last year. We’ve come to a firm view about one thing: the pub is more likely to be saved by people popping in for one or two every now and then than by those who already go to the pub a lot doubling down. (This also prompted a couple of responses from The Pub Curmudgeon: 1 | 2.)

Did micro-brewing nearly start 50 years early, during and after World War I? (No, but, still…)

Illustration: Micheal Jackson peers from behind his glasses.

Just in time for a second plug: if you want to see Michael Jackson’s famous 1989 TV series The Beer Hunter then get along to The Reliance in Leeds this Friday, 2 September.

While we’re nagging, if you’ve got an interest in pub preservation, or London pubs, or inter-war pub architecture and history, you might want to look at Mark Amies petition about the endangered Railway Hotel, Edgware.

We got the chance to mine the Sunday Times archive and found a few interesting things. First up, some responses to and thoughts from Ian Nairn on the subject of pubs and beer, from 1974-1978: Part 1 | Part 2 (Keith Flett had something to add about beards and class in the 1970s real ale scene.)

There were also the usual weekly round-ups of links and news with an added plea: if you’ve read something you think we might find interesting, let us know!

And, finally, a reminder that we send out a monthly newsletter of 1000+ words every month, all new stuff, and a bit different to the blog. Sign up here.

One reply on “The Month That Was, August 2016: Boddies, Spoons, Grape Beer”

I really don’t like “scheme’s” to classify breweries as craft. It like what US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography: “I know it when I see it”.

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