Everything We Wrote in February 2017

A bar counter with hand pumps: The Month That Was February 2017

We missed a few days in February because of the pressures of real life — family, flu, work — but still managed to knock out a few decent posts from beer reviews to Belgian bars.

We warmed up for the month by reviewing a bottled beer from Vibrant Forest, the stars of last year’s Great British Beer Festival for us: ‘Once we’d accepted that there was to be no grapefruit festival as advertised, we enjoyed it for what it was…


Macro image: 'Hops' with illustration of hop cones, 1970s.

More for the record than anything we rounded up responses to a Guardian article suggesting that Brexit might already be stamping on the toes of UK craft brewers and added a few thoughts of our own:

At the root of the Buy British school of thought it seems to us there are a couple of wrongheaded thoughts. First, we think some people believe the popularity of pale, hoppy American-influenced beers threatens the very existence of traditional English bitter — that they are the thin end of a wedge which will inevitably lead to total domination… but who can seriously say they struggle to get a pint of something brown and old-school in Britain in 2017?


Bullseye Brown -- autumnal vintage beer label. (Detail.)

For the 120th edition of The Session (which takes it to ten years, by the way) we let Joe Tindall’s wide-open choice of topic, brown beer, inspire a bit of whimsy:

Some people will tell you brown isn’t a flavour, but it is. It’s why you sear meat, and about 50 per cent of the meaning of toast.  (N.B. black is also a flavour.)

Joe’s round up of all the contributions is here.


1950s TV.

A newspaper article from 1955 gave us an interesting bit of insight into how the arrival of television in British homes threatened the pub:

TV has affected us undoubtedly… But it’s nothing like as bad as some people make out. I find the only nights that my trade is poor are when there is something really big on. Mind you, I’ve got to set out to attract people now and I think that’s what a lot publicans tend to forget. But provided you offer some incentive I don’t think TV need be feared.


Page 11: Flair & Authenticity checklist.

Chris Bates sent us a c.1968 manual on pub design from his days working at Ind Coope which we filleted to share only the choicest cuts with our readers.


Thornbridge, 2013.

Mark Dexter is annoyed at Thornbridge for putting their beer in 330ml bottles and apparently taking the chance to hike price-per-litre at the same time. We gave the issue some thought:

First, we wondered whether the price rise people noticed with the switch to 330ml bottles might have happened anyway. This is far from scientific — we just grabbed info from Twitter and newspaper articles — but it does seem that the price-per-litre of Thornbridge Jaipur at Waitrose has been on the climb fairly steadily since 2012, going up by about 6 per cent each time. With the switch to 330ml, though, the increase was sharper at about 15 per cent, even though the absolute price of a bottle dipped back under £2. So, some sort of price rise was probably due, but the numbers certainly do seem fishy.

By way of an update, Thornbridge’s Simon Webster was asked about this issue by Imbibe magazines Susanna Forbes:

Speaking exclusively to Imbibe, CEO Simon Webster said that bars, restaurants, wholesalers and overseas markets all had made the same request, with complaints that the previous 500ml size did not suit all fridges. ‘For consistency and simplicity’ the full portfolio has made the swap.


A sea of wooden casks.

‘Why are the ends of wooden beer casks always painted red?’ Barry asked; we got an answer from Britain’s last Master Cooper. Short version: (a) they’re not; and (b) red has become a sort of default because there’s no longer a practical need to use different colours.


Brixton Megawatt DIPA amidst glittering lights.

For our Magical Mystery Pour series we tasted Brixton Megawatt Double IPA, over which we had a rare disagreement:

Every now and then, not very often, our palates get out of sync — you say hints of tomato, I say notes of potato, let’s call the whole thing off, and so on. With this beer we both tasted more or less the same things but in terms of overall likeability it fell into no-man’s-land.


We were delighted by the inherent comedy of the snob screens at The Prince Alfred in West London, and the beer wasn’t half bloody bad either:

Young’s beers, now brewed in Bedford by Charles Wells, are a notable example of products universally acknowledged as Not What They Used To Be. But we’ve observed Young’s Ordinary improving for the last few years and now Special seems to be going the same way: here it tasted fresh, leafy-green, full of English hop character. Spring shoots and rising sap. Truly great.


SOURCE: West Coast/Dobbins/The Grist, 1993.

Everyone loves a listicle, right? Michael Lally prompted us to think about what might be The Most Important British Craft Beers. He’s working on rounding up suggestions from lots of different people but, in the meantime, you might also want to check out Dave S’s thoughtful contribution.


The Cromwell Lounge at the Ribbleton.
The Cromwell Lounge.

As part of a resolution to share images of pubs in a slightly more permanent way than firing them off on Twitter we put together a set of pictures of post-war boozers in the north of England scanned from editions of the Tetley in-house magazines from the 1960s. (Do check out Birkonian’s comment with memories of life in just such a pub in the 1970s.)


Saison Dupont in branded glass.

Finally, we wrote up our visit to The Strawberry Thief, a Belgian beer cafe in Bristol that, by not quite being convincingly Belgian, helps shine a light on the real thing.


There were also our usually weekly links round-ups (4 Feb | 11 Feb | 18 Feb | 25 Feb), a 1000+ word monthly newsletter (sign up!) and the usual outpourings via Twitter and Facebook.