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The Month That Was: December 2016 — Dinner Parties, Wheat Beer, Penzance Pubs

Guise dancers in a Penzance pub at Christmas.

Despite a flipping great big gap where Christmas fell we still managed a decent number of posts in December, covering all sorts of topics from wheat beer to Penzance pubs.

Sir Sydney Nevil's autobiography (page spread).

Our first duty was responding to the Session topic set by Stan Hieronymus: who, living or dead, would we like to invite to a beer dinner party? Stan’s round-up is here and we were rather honoured to be nominated as guests in Mark Lindner’s contribution.

After a trip to a wintry St Austell we wondered what if anything it means when a pub starts selling tinned lager, reaching a somewhat optimistic conclusion. (We have since worried that we got the wrong end of the stick or might have dobbed the pub into the pub company, which wasn’t our intention.)

Patzenhofer Lager advert, 1937.

Perhaps our favourite post of the month was this excavation of a 1933 article on the state of beer and pubs in Britain:

Call for ale in the saloon bar of a London pub, and the barmaid will say, ‘Other side, please,’ jerking her wet thumb in the direction of the public, or four-ale bar; for ale in London is a vulgar word. The middle-classes there drink bitter, a pale, golden beer so sharply hop-flavored that foreigners find it undrinkable. Burton, in London and certain other cities that have come under the Cockney blight, is a generic name for a dark ale of standard strength or less, whether it is brewed in Burton-on-Trent or elsewhere. Its social status is above mild and below bitter; although its price is that of bitter, it is rarely seen in a West End saloon bar.

(Gary Gillman went digging in the same archive and found some more material of interest.)

We tasted a few examples of German-style wheat beer from British breweries in an attempt to work out if there’s any point buying them rather than the real thing:

The most exciting German wheat beer we’ve tasted recently was a bottle of Tucher in our local branch of Wetherspoon — perfectly engineered, bright and lemony, and £2.49 to drink in. How does anyone compete with that?

Pallet wood seating.

We stumbled upon a craft beer bar in Truro that was new to us and where (despite the odd quirk and quibble) we had a very nice time:

It caught our eye because it gives off all the correct signals as prescribed in the Craftonian manifesto: dark paintwork, neon, modern typography and, of course, liberal use of the phrase CRAFT BEER on the frontage. Inside we found more of the same. Edison bulbs? Check. Recycled pallet wood? Everywhere. Staff in black T-shirts? Several. ‘Street food’? A menu full of it.

It’s worth checking the comments on that one where the owner, Gary, responds to a couple of points in a very measured fashion.

Graffiti illustration: CRAFT BEER?

The post that got read the most, and generated the most discussion, was on the dreaded topic of the meaning of craft beer. Specifically, we declared the battle lost: craft, as used, increasingly excludes cask ale:

The term got released into the wild, it evolved, and now it doesn’t care what you think it means even though you reared it from a cub. Or, to put that another way, you can’t reject and ridicule a term and then expect to police how it is used.

(Richard Coldwell, who prompted us to write this post, had some further thoughts here.)

Illustration: five IPA bottles.

After an exchange on Twitter we asked Rob Lovatt of Thornbridge a few questions about IPA — why, given that Thornbridge has two of the best and best-loved UK IPAs in its portfolio does it keep brewing new ones?

First, IPA sells! As much as I love Germanic styles, nothing sells better than an IPA. It’s somewhat depressing as there are so many beautiful beer styles out there other than IPA, but that’s what the customer seems to demand.

For some reason Bailey decided to write about the knock-off Viagra they sell in pub toilets. This generated a surprising amount of interest and saw us bombarded with photos of grotty vending machines around the world via social media.

Seating at the White Lion.

Right on the wire we completed our 2016 new year’s resolution to visit every pub in Penzance, and had plenty of fun in the process:

We started phase two with The Globe which was such a pleasant surprise it spurred us on. It’s got weird, slightly cold nightclub-style lighting, but we were astonished to find Young’s Winter Warmer on offer, in great condition at that. The crowd was excellent, too — a genuine mix of young and old, men and women, who made us feel at home with a few kind words here and there. We felt a bit daft at having not been in before and stayed for several pints.

Then, as happens every year, it got a bit ‘round-uppy’ with selections of our favourite Tweets and blog posts by others. Our Golden Pints, by way of experiment, was in our email newsletter but the highlights are in the right/below if for some reason you don’t subscribe. There was a bit more activity on Twitter than usual (@boakandbailey) as we went our separate ways, to Somerset and London. And, finally, we managed a weekly links round-up every Saturday except Christmas day.

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