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.