News, Nuggets & Longreads 19 November 2016: Apocalypse Now

Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that’s caught our attention in the last week, from the fate of a beloved Birmingham venue to grim visions of the future.

First, Martyn Cornell has a thought-provoking post on the morality of drinking bottles of beer that cost 89p:

Beer hasn’t been that cheap in a pub for nearly 30 years. It’s a crime against economics, and a threat to every other brewer, great and small, trying to scrabble a living selling good beer on thin margins… Dear reader, how do I match the exceeding, and exceedingly cheap, pleasure I get from this beer with the guilt I wrestle to suppress, fearing that every bottle I buy pushes a Heriot-Watt graduate working for a small brewer utterly unable to compete on price with an 89p cracker closer to redundancy?

(The less squeamish among you will read that post and rightly think that if Martyn rates Banks’s bottled bitter so highly, it’s probably worth checking out, especially at that price.)

The exterior of the Craven Arms.

We visited The Craven Arms in Birmingham for the first time this summer and enjoyed its distinctive mash-up of craft beer culture and traditional pub. Local drinkers are now up in arms over the news that the people who gave it this reputation, Sharon and Chris Sherratt, are leaving, after some kind of dispute with the pub’s owners, Black Country Ales. In his take on the situation Stuart Harrison sums up the appeal of the pub…

[It] was a truly democratic space. As well as a fine selection of beers from a wide range of craft breweries, it also had a decent selection of traditional ales, as well as (shock horror!) Carling and Guinness. This meant that it was a great spot to take your dad, your tight uncle who won’t spend more than £3 on a pint, or your lager loving mates, without fear of alienating them. There were even cobs behind the bar, which is sadly a dying trend round these parts.

…while Glenn Johnson at My World of Beer is, in effect, calling for a boycott:

So all you beer lovers out there looking for places to drink in Birmingham please strike this from your list.  It’s a hard climb up Gough Street to this pub and you really should save yourself all that effort and avoid it.  If you like bland, boring beer than it might be the place for you because it is still a fabulous building, but I’m sure BCA will do their worst with it. 

Illustration by Allison Kunath for Hot Rum Cow.
Illustration by Allison Kunath for Hot Rum Cow.

For Hot Rum Cow Liz Longden goes ‘In Search of the Medieval Pint’ with historian Dr Kristen Burton, brewing up a batch of ale which she leaves to ferment uncovered in a corner of the kitchen:

My big bucket of murky, lukewarm gravy sits in the corner of the kitchen, as sad and as still as a stagnant pond. It’s not until around six or seven hours later that what look like little flecks of spit start to accumulate on the surface. Twelve hours later, they are joined by two dead flies. When I lean in to fish them out, I notice that the gravy smell has completely disappeared and in its place is a little whiff of alcohol and some tangy, sour tones.

Harvey's Golden Bier.
SOURCE: Joe Tindall/Fatal Glass of Beer.

Joe Tindall at The Fatal Glass of Beer has been drinking and thinking about Harvey’s new beers:

It’s also hard to gauge exactly who these kegged beers are aimed at. I can see the logic behind Golden Bier – golden ales have long been considered a potential converter for lager drinkers, and cool, carbonated keg dispense will strengthen that link. Malt Brown, however, seems misguided. Modern beer remains all about hops – perhaps, actually, it is increasingly about hops – so the focus on malt, together with the reference to that most unglamorous of colours, makes them seem a little out of touch. I can’t see existing Harvey’s fans ordering this over their cask beers, and can’t see cask sceptics ordering a beer called Malt Brown, either.

Detail from Mad Max 3 poster.

We now know for sure what has been gossiped about for a while: AB-InBev is seriously considering some kind of merger with, or takeover of, Coca-Cola. Richard Taylor at the Beercast gives some background and shares a view on what might be motivating this move:

Tim [Webb] went on to muse that the reason why the brewery behemoth are after Coca Cola is not just because of the money-generating sugary liquid that knocks Irn Bru off the top spot in every country but Scotland. The darker act at play is to control the world’s water supply – which if they gain control of Coca Cola would see them own 25% of the fresh water on the planet, according to Tim. Back in the talk he mentioned the specific example of a US State where AB-InBev already let the municipal authorities have access to water as a grace and favour, but with (in his view) potential to monetise this access if and when they see fit. And what state was that? Their new home thanks to Karbach – Texas.

Meanwhile, Ben Johnson has what we’d call ‘a bit of fun with the idea’ if post-apocalyptic fantasy didn’t feel so raw right now:

Up top, Mycrena scanned the horizon for unusual shapes or heat signatures, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The towering malting silos loomed in the distance and the shimmering silhouette of the far off INCOCABEV Brewing and Manufacturing District belched a steady yellow torrent of acrid smoke and steam into the air… Driverless transports dotted the landscape in uniform lines running between the silos and the breweries with a scattered few trickling in from the Beech Nurseries to the east and the Binelands to north, with another trail of tankers carrying finished product south to the colonies at Los Angeles, Santa Melania, and beyond. The skies and the vast expanse of desert, Mycrena noted with relief, were clear.

Psst! Whispering men.

Bryan Roth‘s M.O. is to use data to try to understand what’s going on in the world of beer rather than gut instinct. This week, he turned his attention to rumours: which ones should we listen to? And what are the real harbingers of an impending big beer takeover?

[When] MillerCoors announced it would be bringing Granbury, Texas’ Revolver Brewing under its wing, we might look back to 2013, when the brewery began expanding its equipment and then the company’s overall growth, which went from producing about 5,000 barrels in 2013 to 22,000 in 2015… Across craft brewery sales in recent years, this kind of pattern has emerged, focusing on regional players that are growing quickly and can scale up.

And, finally, there’s this (via @scissorkicks):

4 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 19 November 2016: Apocalypse Now”

I’ve said before how the uber-craft crowd with their loud disdain for CAMRA and brown “twiggy” beers are really just the other side of the coin to the CAMRA die-hard “ban this keg filth” brigade. The joke is that they just don’t see it.

Not quite getting your point here, I’m afraid — sorry for being dense.

It took us a while to *get* Harvey’s, probably because of too many pints of really knackered Sussex Best in London pubs that were trendy but not great at looking after beer. We remember going for a pint with The Beer Nut not long after we started blogging and he was delighted to find Sussex Best in a pub near Marble Arch but we were a bit baffled by his enthusiasm.

(But I hope we resist classification as either crafties or traddies…)

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