Everything We Wrote in March 2017

Black-and-white shot of the Admiral Benbow snug.

We managed a fairly steady flow of new stuff in March with perhaps a tilt towards the historical, though there were a few pub trips and beer tasting notes scattered throughout.

Before we get to the blog, here’s a quick flag for something we wrote for All About Beer on ‘The History of the Future of Beer’:

For decades, people were convinced the robot bartender was just around the corner. It’s a staple of science fiction stories from Isaac Asimov to Doctor Who, but this space-age fantasy has occasionally been realized, even if only as a gimmick or statement piece…


Right, back to the blog. Way back on the 1 March we had Bailey’s account of hunting for mild in Manchester, a city which has tons of great pubs and a nostalgic tendency, and so ought to be fertile ground:

We’re not interested in pubs that sometimes have a guest mild, or left-field interpretations of mild. In fact, we’re sceptical of many micro-brewery milds which, through misunderstandings over how the style evolved, are too often really baby stouts. No, what we’re intrigued by is the idea that there are still pockets of the country where you could, if sufficiently perverse, be a Mild Drinker, day in day out, in roughly the same style as your parents or grandparents before you.


Still life: a bottle of Mariana Trench in green light among sea glass, driftwood and shells.

We completed the fourth round of Magical Mystery Pour, tasting beers chosen by Rebecca Pate, with notes on Magic Rock Salty Kiss and Weird Beard Mariana Trench. The latter caused a bit of debate — is it ever fair to write up notes on a beer past its best before date?


Illustration adapted from a vintage bock beer poster.

For Session #121 hosted by Jon at The Brewsite we reflected on Bock and its more-or-less complete absence from UK beer:

To many drinkers — even those with quaite refained palates — lager is lager is lager, and not terribly interesting. And a strong lager with a narrower focus on unsexy malt over hops is an even harder sell in 2017, especially to British drinkers who really do expect fireworks to justify an ABV of more than 5%.

Jon rounded up all the contributions here.


Mild Ale as a classical LP.

That Session post got us thinking about ‘classic styles’ and how often it is the case that, when they are available, it is because of the type of craft brewery people tend to assume does nothing but weird, strong, niche beers:

A few years ago we stuck up for Brodie’s of Leyton, East London, who were accused of brewing ‘silly beers’. They did, and do, brew sour beers with fruit and a whole range of hop-heavy pale ales but they also did something that no-one had done in the London Borough of Waltham Forest for about 40 years by our reckoning: they made a standard cask-conditioned dark mild.


SIGN: 'Lounge Bar'

Then a spontaneous edition of The Session seemed to arise in the UK blogosphere as various people began to ponder the reasons why drinkers might choose bottles at home over pints in the pub. Here’s what we had to say:

Let’s go to the pub after dinner, we say, excitedly. But then dinner takes a bit longer to prepare than expected; a relative phones, or needs phoning; dinner makes us drowsy, the sofa is comfy, and the thought of putting on boots to go out seems suddenly… unappealing. Especially when there’s a gale shaking the window frames.


The bar at The Crane.

We got scan-happy with our collection of old brewery magazines and industry publications turning out two bumper posts of pictures of post-war pubs. The first bunch were from 1951-54 (example above) and the second lot, posted a couple of days ago, were from the John Smith’s estate in the North of England. It’s fiddly work but it’s good to get these things out there where they might be of interest to, and useful for, other people.


We revisited The Crown in Penzance as we do from time to time and concluded that, based on this and the last couple of visits, the affiliated brewery, Cornish Crown, has turned a corner and is no longer on our black list.


Making our first foray into CAMRA’s National Beer Scoring System (NBSS) we reflected on the process and the problems of assessing the quality of beer with anything like objectivity.


Article header from a vintage magazine: 'Continental Journey by John Nixon'

We shared another stack of scans and notes on old magazines, this time with a European focus: Watney’s wanted to conquer the Continent in the 1960s and in 1969, the editor of The Red Barrel went on a field trip to see how the experiment was going.


Tempest Mexicake in the glass.

Before starting the fifth round of Magical Mystery Pour, Boak fit in a bonus side review of a beer sent to us as a Christmas gift by a previous MMP curator, Dina:

There are beers to which you respond intellectually, and those for which you just have a pash. This one made me go wobbly: ‘Blimey!’ was the only note I managed for the first few minutes. When I tried to expand on that, still reeling, I came out with I now know is called a malaphor: ‘That ticks a lot of my buttons.’


Prancing barmaid.

Commencing a brief sojourn into the dirty business of criminals and tricksters we shared the highlights of a 1944 article on fiddles perpetrated by bar staff in London pubs.


Is Belgian a Flavour? we asked and, for once, we don’t think this is a QWTAIN. We liked the contribution via Twitter:


Another question came next: Which beers are you embarrassed to like? There were lots of responses to this on Twitter: Schöfferhofer Grapefruit, Sainsbury’s French Lager in stubby bottles, and so on. (Michael Lally at Bushcraft Beer gave a brief response here.)


In two parts we ran through the highlights of a 1965 manual for bar staff in pubs. First, there was the stuff on beer; then the material on dealing with people and practicalities, which brings us back to con artists and crooks:

If two strangers are found in the bar at the same time and have taken up separate positions, be very much on your guard, more especially if one of them engages you in close conversation — the other one may be up to a little ‘mullarky’. Anything portable is fair game to public-house crooks, the Blind collecting box, the lighter fuel box, the Christmas stocking, the Spastics Beacon, even chairs and tables — anything they can lay their thieving hands on.


We overheard some unabashed racism in a pub and really didn’t know what to do about it. Lots of helpful suggestions were forthcoming, along with what we think is our first ever ‘snowflake’ heckle. This, via @Shinybiscuit, is semi-official best practice guidance, and worth a read:

Think about how to phrase your statement. Don’t be afraid if you feel that you might lack arguments. Your statement is more about sending a personal signal rather than providing a substantial basis for argumentation. As an example, you could say: “I find these comments unbearable. I believe that all people are equal in dignity and rights, and that those who promote prejudice and racism divide our society.” Such a reaction is authentic. It breaks the silence and makes the other people in the pub reflect and support you as they might feel equally uncomfortable about the situation.


We rounded off the month by starting a new batch of Magical Mystery Pour beers, chosen by Justin Mason, with the unifying theme being that they’re all from Essex. First up 1555 amber ale from Bishop Nick. Spoiler: we rather liked it.


There were also the usual round-ups of news and longreads:

As well as a load of stuff on Twitter…

…and Facebook — give us a follow/like/share/angry-face/subtweet, as you see fit.