The Month That Was: October 2016

Here’s everything we wrote in the last month, from pondering on unfined beer to deathtrap breweries.

We start­ed off with an attempt to deci­pher what the Cam­paign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was try­ing to achieve by includ­ing an essay on unfined beer in the lat­est edi­tion of the Good Beer Guide:

The real point was intend­ed to be, we think, that (a) CAMRA knows about this stuff on the out­er fringes of ‘craft beer’; (b) it acknowl­edges that good beer can be made this made way; and © it is watch­ing with keen inter­est and an open atti­tude.


Peo­ple used to enjoy spit­ting in pubs, and the pubs were fine with it. The young bar­maids charged with clean­ing up after them? Not so much.


Interior of 1960s pub with colour palette at bottom.

Tan­dle­man shared some glo­ri­ous images of 1960s pub makeovers which prompt­ed us to con­jur up some colour swatch­es – what colour should a pub be?


We kicked off a new round of Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Pour with beers cho­sen by David ‘Broad­ford Brew­er’ Bish­op. The first post this month was about Mag­ic Rock Inhaler and Roost­er’s Fort Smith; the sec­ond was Durham Brew­ery Bom­bay 106:

A cou­ple of years ago Durham Brew­ery was all the rage thanks in part, it seemed to us, to a cer­tain gen­eros­i­ty with sam­ples for blog­gers, Tweet­ers and raters. We had a few of their beers here and there and found that they ranged from decent (White Stout) to shod­dy. So we were pleased at the oppor­tu­ni­ty to give them anoth­er go although our hopes weren’t high.


For Ses­sion #116 we argued in defence of attempts to brew Gose with ‘sil­ly’ twists and addi­tives:

As with IPA, get­ting peo­ple excit­ed and engaged about the idea — let­ting them have fun — is step one. Get­ting the his­to­ry right, at least at the sharp-end, in the brew­house, can come lat­er.


Detail from a chart: 'Public House'.

We stum­bled upon a Mass Obser­va­tion book from 1947 with a chunk about pubs, this time in the rur­al West Coun­try:

Ten men are present now, and con­ver­sa­tion round the bar is about a stony field. ‘Ay, that’s the stoni­est one you got, George, bain’t it?’ … ‘Big stones’ … ‘One along of Dunkery be stonier’ …


Bai­ley read and picked the bones out of The Lan­guage of Food by Dan Juraf­sky:

That word ‘awe­some’ also gets a bit of per­son­al atten­tion: I now know that the process of tak­ing a word orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed to describe some­thing HUGE and IMPORTANT (the awe­some pow­er of the ocean) and apply­ing it to some­thing small and triv­ial (this lager is awe­some!) is called ‘seman­tic bleach­ing’. Worth know­ing if you want your fings-ain’t‑wot-they-used-to-be grum­bling to sound more intel­li­gent.


Good King Henry Special Reserve (bottle).

We wrote a big piece for All About Beer on the strange phe­nom­e­non of Good King Hen­ry Spe­cial Reserve which may or may not be the best beer in Britain; here on the blog, we added a few bonus thoughts.


Rob­bie Pick­er­ing won­dered what would have hap­pened if Ger­mans, not Amer­i­cans, had led the ‘craft beer rev­o­lu­tion’ of the last cou­ple of decades. Intrigued, we gave that idea some thought over the course of 1,500 words or so:

What actu­al­ly hap­pened: one of the founders of the Cam­paign for Real Ale, Gra­ham Lees, spent a chunk of the 1980s liv­ing in Munich where he devel­oped his inter­est in Ger­man beer. He lob­bied for CAMRA to recog­nise and respect good lager through­out the 1980s and lat­er wrote CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide to Munich and Bavaria. But what if he had done more than lob­by and had instead chaired the Cam­paign for a year or two?


We some­times say a beer is ‘fine’ by which we actu­al­ly mean fine, not ter­ri­ble. Here’s 100 words on that.


Acces­si­ble’ is anoth­er inter­est­ing word – what makes some beers acces­si­ble and oth­ers not? And why do some peo­ple insist, to the bewil­der­ment of beer geeks, that they just don’t like beer?


Brewery Yard beer bottle by candlelight.

We final­ly got round to try­ing Goose Island Brew­ery Yard Stock Pale Ale, a stu­dious his­tor­i­cal recre­ation brewed with input from Ron Pat­tin­son:

In the glass, it looks like an extreme­ly pret­ty bit­ter, at the bur­nished end of brown, topped of with a thick but loose head of white. The taste was remark­ably inter­est­ing with, once again, Orval as the only real ref­er­ence point: Brew­ery Yard is thin­ner, dri­er and lighter-bod­ied despite a high­er ABV (8.4%). There was some­thing wine-like about it — a sug­ges­tion of acid­i­ty, per­haps, or of fruit skins? There was also a strong brown sug­ar tang, as if a cube or two had been dis­solved and stirred in.


In the last year Corn­wall got on trend with its first two microp­ubs and we vis­it­ed the one in St Ives for a few after­noon pints:

At var­i­ous points there were: a young cou­ple in match­ing anoraks (tourists, we assumed); a solo artis­tic type with a beard and a book about eso­teric spir­i­tu­al­i­ty; a pair of young blokes in mud­dy boots who’d just knocked off work for the week­end; a par­ty of grey-haired ladies-that-lunch bewil­dered by the beer selec­tion; a few old­er men, acquain­tances rather than close pals, talk­ing about town pol­i­tics; a fam­i­ly with teenage daugh­ter play­ing Shut-the-Box; and a cou­ple in late mid­dle age who seemed to be on a date perched on stools next to the shove ha’penny board.


Illustration: Men silhouetted in steam.

This was a big one: 2,000+ words on the var­i­ous and hor­ri­ble ways a brew­ery can kill some­one, from scald­ing with steam to kick by ’oss:

William Shep­herd, a young man also in the employ of Mr Knight, deposed that about a quar­ter before 3 o’clock on Tues­day, in con­se­quence of hear­ing screams, he went to the place whence the noise pro­ceed­ed and found the deceased strug­gling in a ves­sel called the ‘hop back’, con­tain­ing hot liq­uid to the depth of about 18 inch­es, and at a tem­per­a­ture of 190 degrees.

(Warn­ing: this is far from the grimmest extract.)


Why, in gen­er­al, is cask-and-hand-pump a thing in the UK but not on the Con­ti­nent? We had a pon­der, picked the brains of some experts, and then threw it open to the com­ments. (Updat­ed just today with input from pub his­to­ri­an Geoff Brand­wood.)


It seems to us that we’re enter­ing, or have entered, a new phase in which craft brew­eries are no longer in it togeth­er bat­tling a com­mon ene­my – big beer – but are begin­ning to com­pete more obvi­ous­ly between them­selves. What do you reck­on?


There were also the usu­al Sat­ur­day morn­ing links round-ups fea­tur­ing all sorts of great stuff from hypo­thet­i­cal pub crawls to Black Coun­try dialect – lots of fod­der for Pock­et and your Feed­ly sub­scrip­tions!


Our newslet­ter, 1000+ words of orig­i­nal stuff, went out in the mid­dle of the month and (so feed­back would sug­gest) was a good ‘un. Sub­scribers – check your inbox­es! And if you don’t sub­scribe sign up here.


The Mayor of West Bromwich opens The Archers, 1955.

On Face­book we scored a sur­prise hit with some pho­tos of a Mid­lands estate pub as it looked in 1955 and on Twit­ter (@boakandbailey) we dished out some pho­tog­ra­phy advice:


And, final­ly, you can find us on paper too, in the lat­est edi­tion of CAM­RA’s BEER mag­a­zine where we explore the his­to­ry of the debate around hazy/cloudy/murky beer, and also share a toi­let-vis­it’s-worth of info on Bats­ford pub guides. It’ll be through your let­ter­box about now if you’re a mem­ber; oth­er­wise, look out for it at your local real ale pub.