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News, Nuggets & Longreads 15 April 2017 — Metal, Myrcene, Milk Stout

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the last week, from heavy metal to heavy hops.

For Noisey, the music section of Vice, Sammy Maine has written what she calls ‘A Love Letter to British Metal Pubs’, highlighting the threat to this particular type of pub:

Another blow is the case of Bristol’s The Stag and Hounds—a metal/rock pub focused on the promotion of local and DIY shows—which will be closing next month. Announcing the news on their website, the team explained that ‘through a series of events and circumstances (some out of our control) we have looked at the books and it’s not viable for us to carry on to see the contract out.’ This kind of statement is becoming a broken record when it comes to fans of metal pubs—their presence tumbling thanks to various issues like tax hikes, the persistent demand for luxury flats and the feeling that they simply don’t feel hugely relevant or crucial anymore when metal can often feel more like a genre you pass through, rather than one you commit to.

(This is actually from a couple of weeks ago but we only noticed it the other day.)

Wild hops, Richmond, London.

Emma at Crema’s Beer Odyssey has shared a long, detailed post on the science of hops, based on research for a talk to a South London home brewing club. It is technical without being remote and typically forthright, acting (perhaps incidentally) as a rebuke to us and others who have failed to get on board the drink fresh train:

There are always people who say, ‘oh but I prefer my IPA with some age on it’ or similar. If you look around online it’s quite easy to find evidence of people drinking IPA or DIPA when it’s months or even years old and insisting it’s still great. It’s nice that they enjoy old beer but that’s not what the brewer intended. Of course, depending on the size of the brewery, there are steps which can be taken to give their beer as long a shelf life as possible (filtering and cold chain distribution, for example). For smaller breweries there is a much simpler option: advise your customers to drink fresh by applying a short best before date to your hop-forward beers, e.g. three or four months.

A Horsham town centre scene.

Starting in a similar place, with youths in the pub, Rach at Look at Brew has been reflecting on how both she and her hometown of Horsham have changed in the last twelve years, resulting in an interesting portrait of a changing British beer scene:

Horsham has seen a few pub closures over the years, but generally it has been the pubs with a questionable reputation. Where the aforementioned Wabi now stands used to be the Horse & Groom pub, or rather the Doom & Gloom as it was known by locals. For the most part the pubs that remain have seen investment and improvements made over time, not just to the decor but to the drinks offerings too, where once I got excited that I could pop to ‘spoons for  a can or three of Sixpoint, now I’m spoilt for choice and one new pub opening has tempted more than most… It can be said that The Dark Star run establishment has, in just over a year, made the biggest impact of late to the Horsham drinks scene, by introducing the biggest choice of beers to the town’s enthusiasts. This is a beer drinkers’ pub, simultaneously modern and classic, with many a conversation about a beer and over a beer.

Adapted from ‘The End is Nigh’ by Jason Cartwright on FLICKR, under Creative Commons.

Jim Koch of the Boston Brewing Company triggered a minor brouhaha when in an article for the New York Times he foretold the end of ‘the American craft beer revolution’. Of the various follow-on opinion pieces, and there seemed to be a lot, the one that most interested us was by Oliver Gray who thinks Koch may have a point, kind of:

Consumers created an expectation – that ‘craft’ beer was somehow immune to and therefore above the governing rules of American capitalism – because they really, really wanted ‘craft’ beer to be better, both literally and philosophically… The prior happened; hooray! The latter, though, is a feel-good fabrication that breweries and marketing teams were all too happy to co-opt once they realized people were investing more into their beer than just dollars… To say: there is a bubble in craft beer, but it’s not economic. It’s spiritual.

Those are words worth bearing in mind as here in the UK the story around BrewDog’s sale of a 22 per cent share to a big investment firm rumbles on.

Mackeson beer mat detail.

Ron Pattinson has been able to pinpoint the exact moment when milk stout — a weirdly cool beer style in 2017 — was born, via a 1909 newspaper article:

‘This gentleman was introduced to us by a very large firm of milk food manufacturers, and very heartily he entered into our ideas. We explained what wanted, and in double quick time he shewed that many fond notions were impossible. Meat? That cannot added to malt liquors because of the danger of ptomaine poisoning, and if confine ourselves to extracts we get only the flavour, and no goodness. Eggs?: Impossible again, for many reasons, equally good. Milk? Well, milk is a food of foods – five complete foods in one — and our friend thought that there was hope here.’

The Skittles Inn, AKA The Settlement.

For Mostly About Beer Alec Latham (our Golden Pints 2016 pick as Best Blogger) writes about the history of the dry garden village of Letchworth:

Apart from some private clubs and hotels, Letchworth Garden City didn’t have an actual beer pub until the early 1970s when the Black Squirrel (no longer there) was included in a new town centre redevelopment… There was a public house instituted by the First Garden City L.t.d called the Skittles Inn that served food, had a skittles alley, a library and sold absolutely no alcohol. Instead, the staples were Cadbury’s drinking chocolate and Cydrax – a non-alcoholic apple wine. Lover of beer though I am, I can appreciate a public house that kept men sober – especially with the high rate of what we’d now deem violent alcoholism in many working families.

From BryanB AKA The Beer Viking comes a small but telling observation: production of the Hatherwood Craft Beer Company range currently dominating the supposedly revamped selection at LIDL supermarkets has moved from Marston’s to Shepherd Neame. Bryan managed to get a bottle of both the old and new versions of Purple Panther and compared them: ‘An interesting exercise, and a lesson in just how hard it is to move a beer from one brewery to another without changing it, no matter the work and expertise that goes into taste-matching.’

Charlie Worthington at The Crafty Beeress has attempted, from afar, to interpret some of the debate at the Campaign for Real Ale’s AGM, eliciting clarifying comments from some of those involved.

The Morning Advertiser reports on a prize-winning essay about Manchester pub names by Erik Merriman:

Tommy Ducks, illegally knocked down in 1993, was so named because the sign painter – trying to write the name of landlord Thomas Duckworth – ran out of space.

Finally, here’s a particularly gorgeous ghost sign in Rugby, Warwickshire, via @LiamapBarnes:

7 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 15 April 2017 — Metal, Myrcene, Milk Stout”

I just wonder how fresh the original IPA was when it eventually reached India.

It wasn’t fresh at all, of course, but 19th century IPAs were totally, totally different beasts to 21st century ones: hop flavour was NOT required, and tere would have been a distinct Brettanomyces character.

I’d love to know whether the M&B ghost sign on Paradise Street survived. Any idea anyone?

I have to admit, I filed the “too much fresh beer” thing alongside “can’t find a beer that isn’t a barrel aged imperial sour” in the where-do-you-even-live drawer. I’m still regularly coming across three t0 six month old bottles and cans of hoppy stuff, even in specialist beer places.

We got some gentle tellings-off for reviewing a beer past its best before the other week but our feeling is increasingly that we want to write about consuming beer in a fairly normal way. (Ha ha, I know, hence ‘fairly’.) We want to pay for it out of our own money; we don’t want to have to negotiate offline with retailers and brewers to make sure we get super-fresh as-the-artist-intends bottles/cans; and we don’t want to have to store it in a bespoke temperature controlled facility. If your beer requires that kind of molly-coddling and effort, it’s probably not for us. Or anyone but the most obsessive enthusiast, frankly.

I’m not saying that we should all refuse to drink anything unless it’s been dropped into our fridges straight from the bottling line by some sort of lumberjack-shirted Milk Tray Man. Just that you have to be moving in fairly rarefied circles for “this beer is too fresh” to be a more common problem than “this beer is a bit tired”.

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