Oof, it’s a big one today, taking in everything from sabotage anti-marketing to the origins of Gold Label barley wine.
John Holmes of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group has written on his private blog about the troubling implications of an updated take on Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’:
The modern pastiche gives us an obese mother, mouth wide open, burger in one hand and phone in the other while her baby shares her chips. The baby is in a onesie with ears while the mother is dressed in leopard-print leggings and a top so small that only anatomically-dubious drawing protects her decency. In combination, these stylistic choices seem designed to define the woman as, for want of a better word, a ‘chav’ and it is hard to escape the sense that we are intended to both judge and blame her for being in a disgusting state and, worse, for inflicting the same destiny on her young child.
Josh Noel at the Chicago Tribune, author of a book about Goose Island brewery, wasn’t satisfied with the vagueness around the origin date of Bourbon County Stout and did some digging which proved that breweries are often the worst sources when it comes to their own histories:
Legend says that the industry’s first stout aged in a bourbon barrel was initially tapped in 1992, at Goose Island’s Clybourn Avenue brewpub… Even the bottles say it, right there in the brown glass, between the words BOURBON and COUNTY — ‘Since 1992.’… But on the eve of this year’s release, I’ve concluded that there’s almost no chance that Bourbon County Stout came into this world in 1992. Dozens of interviews and hours of research point to the first keg of Bourbon County Stout being tapped in 1995.
London-based pub group Antic is fascinating and weirdly opaque — we’ve never managed to get them to respond to queries by email or Tweet for starters. For 853, a website about local issues in South East London, Darryl writes about their weird antics (heh) with regard to the Ravensbourne Arms in Lewisham and how the collapse of local journalism has removed a key element of scrutiny:
Lewisham Council granted planning permission for flats above the Ravensbourne Arms as well as development of surrounding land twice, in 2014 and August 2015… The applications don’t mention the pub itself, but this should have rung alarm bells. Housing above pubs can be a way of securing the future of a venue (the new Catford Bridge Tavern will have flats above it). But such developments are also a very good way for developers to shut down the pub itself – these are cases that demand vigilance… The applicant was given as “Antic London”. There is no company of this name registered at Companies House in the UK, nor in Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man.
Phil at Oh Good Ale has been blind tasting winter warmers with some interesting results:
I was convinced that 1 & 6 were Old Tom and Chimay, respectively. My four guesses for 2 & 3 included Old Peculier, Champion and Manchester Star, while my four guesses for 4 & 5 included Owd Roger, Champion and Manchester Star… To say I was surprised when I discovered what I’d been drinking would be a sizeable understatement. (In fact ‘sizeable’ is a sizeable understatement.)
Rebecca Pate at Brewing East is, by her own admission, just learning about cask ale but has been prompted to some preliminary thoughts by a trip to Brighton:
[In this] modern city that lies only a 90 minutes’ journey away from the city, almost every pub has a selection of hand pumps in constant use. The beers on cask herald from an all-star list of local Sussex breweries and represent an astonishingly wide range of styles. IPAs, barrel aged beers and espresso stouts are offered, giving a taste of what inventive and audacious options that could be translated to cask.
Richard Taylor of The BeerCast doesn’t post much these days but it’s always thought-provoking when he does. This time, he’s been thinking about the sheer range of beer available from even individual breweries these days:
You could quite easily restrict yourself to Beavertown, Magic Rock, Harbour and Tiny Rebel and drink an amazing selection of newly-released beer from January to December. There’s no need to scan the shelves for the latest new producer when your existing favourites are so prolific.
Ed of Ed’s Beer Blog fame gave Ron Pattinson an obscure brewing memoir for his 60th birthday and we, the readers, are reaping the benefits. This week Ron explored the history of an especially fascinating beer, Tennant’s Gold Label Barley Wine:
‘In order to brew a beer of such strength, it was necessary to boil the wort (beer, prior to fermentation) for between two and three times longer than would be the case for an ordinary beer. The result of this prolonged boiling was to darken the beer considerably. Thus all other barley wines at that time were dark beers. The paleness of Gold Label was achieved by selecting ingredients, not only of the highest quality, but also choosing those which contributed least to the final colour — e.g. very pale malts, cereals and sugar. The sparkling effect was achieved by giving the beer a higher level of carbonation prior to bottling.’
And part two, with tasting notes, is here.
It’s not about beer but this piece from Ruby Tandoh for the Guardian on how Instagram is influencing the kinds of foods people are making and buying, e.g. rainbow bagels, might have some relevance:
These are wishful odes to how serene and perfect your life could be, if only you had the money, the £50 ceramic platters and the time. Perhaps in keeping with the broader asymmetry between the numbers of social media users in different generations, there’s a lot less to be seen of older people, or past food fashions, in this smart, moneyed, and overwhelmingly young world.
Confession: we have several backdrops and a couple of lights we use to photograph beer when we can bothered, or if it’s going into a magazine. (See above.) It’s not a lie, as such, but like Ms. Tandoh says, a selective view of reality.
For Atlas Obscura (warning: they really want you to sign up for their flipping newsletter) Mariana Zapata digs into how American distributors tried to sabotage the rise of Corona lager in the 1980s:
It seemed like nothing could stop Corona Extra, a product of the Mexican beer company, Grupo Modelo. But then, unexpectedly, stores begun to refuse to sell it, sales plummeted, and the entire country turned against it. The reason? A rumor that urine was one of its components.
Shane Smith of Irish Sour Beers, a blog that is new to us, has some interesting notes on recreating a 1916 Murphy’s stout recipe from the archives.
And, finally, brewery takeover news for the record:
1. AB-InBev has snapped up Texas brewery Karbach, as reported by Nathan Miller at Houston Beer Guide. There’s some brief but perceptive commentary from Jeff Alworth here: ‘Karbach is… [the] maker of a generic line-up of beers… that have a middling reputation’.
2. And, via @thebeernut, here’s one we (and almost everyone else) missed back in October: AB-InBev acquired Ginette (story in French), a quirky Belgian beer brand which doesn’t have its own brewery. What on earth are they up to?