News, Nuggets & Longreads 11 March 2017: Queues, Le Coq, Suffragettes

The ceiling of the Mort Subite cafe in Brussels.

Here’s all the beer and pub writing that grabbed us in the last week, from business rates to faux-Belgians.

Writ­ten as part of his jour­nal­ism degree James Beeson’s piece on the threat to pubs from forth­com­ing busi­ness-rate hikes, aimed at main­stream audi­ences, is a handy primer:

Accord­ing to rates and rents spe­cial­ists CVS, 17,160 pubs will have to pay more in busi­ness rates from April, and this is just the start, with rates expect­ed to rise by £421m in the next five years.  This hike means that pubs will need to pour an extra 121 mil­lion pints to fund increas­es in prop­er­ty tax­es paid to coun­cils. CVS esti­mate that high busi­ness rates have con­tributed to one in five pub clo­sures in Eng­land and Wales over the last six years.

As it hap­pens, in his bud­get on Wednes­day the Chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer, Philip Ham­mond, announced busi­ness rate relief for pubs, as report­ed by the Morn­ing Adver­tis­er, albeit cou­pled with an increase in beer duty.

Price list in a pub.

We’ve already linked once this week to Peter McK­er­ry’s thought-pro­vok­ing piece on why peo­ple choose to drink at home or the pub but there’s been more chat­ter around this inter­est­ing sub­ject, notably from Mark John­son who argues that drink­ing at home isn’t real­ly cheap­er. He roots his argu­ment with a wel­come dis­cus­sion of price-per-litre and rel­a­tive val­ue:

Bot­tles of good beer aren’t cheap. I very rarely pur­chase, in my most fre­quent­ed bot­tles shops, a beer for under £3. Most of the time I’ll pur­chase 5 or 6 bot­tles at a time and this shop is nev­er under £25… 5 or 6 pints in the pub doesn’t cost me £25+… A pint of cask beer in my favourite pub ranges from £2.60 – £3.60, depen­dent on strength and pur­chase price. This is for a 568ml mea­sure of beer as opposed to the stan­dard 330ml size for bot­tles or cans in the beer shop. In terms of quan­ti­ty equiv­a­lent (ml to ml) 6 beers in the pub will cost approx­i­mate­ly £18.60. The bot­tles will cost me approx­i­mate­ly £43 for the same amount of beer.

A queue at Magic Rock's brewery tap.

Stay­ing with the same author, Mark also asked this week why on earth peo­ple would go to Hud­der­s­field and join a long snaking queue for the Mag­ic Rock brew­ery tap when there are so many oth­er great pubs in town:

This is an anec­dote that can­vass­es my feel­ings at present about any­thing that involves queu­ing or FOMO. This won’t be the only time I see peo­ple queue for a pub I’m sure. It’s just like those that scur­ry for online beer releas­es the moment it goes on sale. It is only for cer­tain brew­eries with cer­tain beers. It is the same ones doing the rounds on Face­book forums. There’s no fren­zy for beers that aren’t uni­ver­sal­ly praised, just like there seems lit­tle desire to drink in estab­lish­ments that don’t have some form of buck­et list sta­tus behind them.

(For what it’s worth, if we’d gone all the way to Hud­der­s­field specif­i­cal­ly to vis­it the MR tap for what­ev­er rea­son, we’d prob­a­bly have joined the queue, but when we found a sim­i­lar line run­ning out of the door at the Wild Beer Co bar in Bris­tol the oth­er week, we walked.)

The Crynes on a beer festival balcony.
The Crynes at the GBBF in the 1980s.

For Craft Beer Lon­don, the web­site that accom­pa­nies the book and very use­ful smart­phone app of the same name, Will Hawkes trailed the Lon­don Drinker Fes­ti­val with a pro­file of two key fig­ures in the British beer scene, Chris­tine Cryne and her hus­band John:

We’ve had hate mail!’ says Chris­tine. ‘Some stal­warts think hav­ing keykeg is the sell-out of sell-outs.’ She doesn’t seem over­ly con­cerned. ‘For me it’s about also being com­mer­cial. We need to make this beer fes­ti­val a suc­cess. Young peo­ple don’t dis­tin­guish between real ale and non-real ale – for them it’s all craft. That’s what we’re doing here: for peo­ple who aren’t into real ale, we want to encour­age them to try it. If we don’t do that, how will we get those young­sters in in the first place?’

The Shades, Hartlepool, closed and boarded.
A closed and board­ed pub in Hartle­pool.

An inter­est­ing nugget from Tan­dle­man: look­ing back over his con­sid­er­able archive he found men­tion of a pub that was doomed in 2009 and won­dered what had become of it since. (It would be an inter­est­ing project to look back at a whole lot of sto­ries like this and see how often they have a sim­i­lar punch­line.)

Text from a bottle of Harvey's Imperial Stout: A Le Coq.

You might not have the stom­ach for the in-depth details of his fam­i­ly tree that fol­low but the head­line in this sto­ry about Albert Le Coq by Mar­tyn Cor­nell is a killer for beer his­to­ry nerds:

Le Coq is remem­bered as a 19th cen­tu­ry exporter of Impe­r­i­al stout from Lon­don to St Peters­burg, whose firm even­tu­al­ly took over a brew­ery in what is now Tar­tu, in Esto­nia to brew Impe­r­i­al stout on what was then Russ­ian soil. The brew­ery is still going, it took back the name A Le Coq in the 1990s, and an Impe­r­i­al stout bear­ing its brand has been brewed since 1999, though by Harvey’s of Lewes, in Sus­sex, not in Esto­nia. But every ref­er­ence to the com­pa­ny founder, Albert Le Coq, apart from in the offi­cial his­to­ry of the Tar­tu brew­ery – which is almost com­plete­ly in Eston­ian – says he was a Bel­gian. He wasn’t.

A bit of brew­ery clo­sure news from the US: two Cal­i­forn­ian out­fits have fold­ed in the past week, San Fran­cis­co’s Speakeasy Ales & Lagers and Orange Coun­ty’s Valiant Brew­ing.

And, final­ly, amongst the flood of cheer­ing, inspir­ing images and sto­ries that accom­pa­nied Inter­na­tion­al Wom­en’s Day on Wednes­day this 1908 car­toon stood out:

(You can see the orig­i­nal at the US Library of Con­gress web­site.)

4 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 11 March 2017: Queues, Le Coq, Suffragettes”

  1. Mark John­son maths is at best untyp­i­cal. If he is real­ly find­ing beer in 330 ml bot­tles for over three quid in the beer shop and match­ing qual­i­ty style and strength in his local pub for around three quid a pint I either real­ly want to drink in his local or real­ly want to avoid his local bot­tle shop.

    1. B&B, your first Com­pur­ga­tion link actu­al­ly goes to Pete McK­er­ry again.

      Steve, Staly­bridge Buf­fet Bar is pret­ty damn cheap com­pared to some, but in my expe­ri­ence you’d be hard-pressed to find even the cheap­est low-ABV 330s in a bot­tle shop for less than about £2, so depend­ing where you drink (and what for­mat you drink in when in the pub), it’s not a total stretch. There’s so many vari­ables though, so YMMV.

  2. In the US, it’s def­i­nite­ly cheap­er to drink at home. Here in Ore­gon, you’ll pay $5–6 for a pint of beer (which, in the man­ner of our stu­pid hodge­podge, will get you some­where between 14 and 20 ounces). A six-pack will set you back $8–12–for 72 ounces.

    Par­tic­u­lar­ly now, the dif­fer­ence is vari­ety. If you want a Break­side Tall Guy IPA–winner of this year’s Ore­gon Beer Award in the category–don’t look for it on shelves. Per­haps 10–15% of the beer brewed in the US is avail­able in bot­tle or can.

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