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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