Blogging and writing

Everything We Wrote in April 2017

Beer, crisps and nuts on a pub table.

It was a fairly lazy month for us with considerably fewer posts than we usually manage although a couple that did go up were proper whoppers.

We started the month with the kind of most you expect on 1 April: have you ever tried putting a pickled egg in your pint? It’s delicious, honest! We don’t always do an April Fool’s Day post but when we do, we of course put far too much effort into it.

Our first proper post of the month was an account of a perfectly ordinary weekend which in itself showed how much things have changed since we moved to Cornwall in 2011 with stylistically adventurous one-off specials from St Austell, micropubs, new breweries, and so on.

David Pollard, 1977.

We shared a slightly tidied-up version of a piece we originally wrote back in 2013-14: a deleted scene, as it were, from Brew Britannia about David Pollard and his Reddish Vale microbrewery in the 1970s and 80s:

Pollard left school and went straight into the brewing trade in 1950, working alongside his father, George, as an apprentice at Robinson’s in Stockport. He went on thereafter to take jobs at various breweries across England, finding himself repeatedly shunted on as, one by one, they fell to the takeover mania of the Big Six. He became increasingly angry and frustrated, as expressed in a 1975 article in the Observer: ‘The accountants and engineers had started running things. All the big firms wanted were pasteurised, carbonated beers with no taste or character.’

Off the back of that post we got challenged by Ron Pattinson: did UK brewers really use sugar to save money? After giving it a bit of thought we concluded that, yes, they did, sometimes, but we understand what Ron is driving at and were glad of being made to pause and ponder it.

Illustration: The New Red Lion, an art deco pub.

The month’s big production was ‘The Pubs of Boggleton, 1837-2017’, an homage to and pastiche of John Betjeman in which we attempted to summarise the history of the English pub by looking at one particular imaginary town. It’s a sort of trailer for our forthcoming book. (We’ve rather fallen in love with the streamline moderne New Red Lion, a pub we made up completely, pictured above.)

We drank the second beer chosen for us by Justin Mason, a coffee porter from Colchester

…and the third, a chia and passion fruit saison from Brentwood. What a time to be alive!

Illustration: a packet of lard.

Trying to find a suitable analogy for how we feel about the evident booziness of beer we landed on lard:

[When] you eat a 2,000 calorie pizza, you want to taste those calories. So, when people say ‘It was 9% but had the body and flavour of something half the strength — so drinkable!’ it sounds like ‘…but the cheese was so well concealed I was able to eat an extra six slices.’ Which might make sense if you’re bulking up for a marathon, or have a lot of cheese to dispose of for some reason (hey, that’s none of our business) but otherwise, just seems barmy.

Pump-clips have many uses but here’s an important one: allowing consumers to decide, as they rush by in the street, whether they want to pop in for a pint.

In the wake of the ban on swearing in Samuel Smith pubs we reflected on how pubs send out all kinds of signals, sometimes subtle, sometimes explicit. This post includes photos of various sets of house rules written on blackboards that we’ve collected over the last couple of years — worth the price of entry alone.

Our most-read post of the month thanks to a very kind share by the marvellous @MunicipalDreams was this summary of a 1970s paperback about life on a North London council estate:

Monmouth estate is a ‘new’ GLC estate: it was first occupied in 1960 and is still (1977) incomplete… In the middle of the estate, as if stranded by the tide of ‘progress’, stood the old public-house, the Black Horse. A solid-looking building, with a large ground floor for business, a huge cellar, and two upper floors which had served as living quarters. The pub was scheduled for demolition, like so much else in the neighbourhood, and there were vague GLC promises of a community centre being built there in a few years’ time…

We marked reaching ten years of blogging by updating our standing Best Of Us page. It now features just a dozen posts that we’re especially proud or fond of — helpful, we hope, for people who don’t know where to start when they find us for the first time. (Sometimes, people start in April 2007 and read every single post which is… wrong.)

Mr & Mrs Purdin

Another big post, though it’s mostly pictures, is this collection of post-war modern pubs from Watney’s and Whitbread from 1961. It’s surprising, and pleasing, to note how many are still trading.

We finally got to try, and very much liked, Guinness’s 8% ABV Antwerpen export stout, which gave us chance to reiterate one of our pet points: no-one wants traditional brewers to compete with BrewDog, just do what you do, but better.

There were the usual weekly round-ups of links and news:

  • 1 April — China, cream ale, BrewDog v. Lone Wolf, the fragility of brands
  • 8 April — we skipped a week but Tweeted some links instead
  • 15 April — heavy metal pubs, the science of hops, the history of milk stout
  • 22 April — Easter Island, fiddling best before dates, a viral pub review
  • 29 April — spontaneous beer in Peckham, brewery superfans, pub design

And, finally, we put out 1,000+ words in the newsletter (sign up!), a ton of Tweets, a few things on Facebook aaaand we finally started properly using Instagram.

Colourful casks, spotted on Friday.

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