Everything We Wrote in June 2017: Crackling, Craftification, Clubs

Retro pub illustration: "June 2017".

We didn’t post quite as much this month what with going on holiday and making arrangements to leave Cornwall but there was some good stuff in there.

We start­ed the month with a moan about the 21st cen­tu­ry ver­sion of ‘Smile, love – it might nev­er hap­pen!’ That is, telling off strangers for look­ing at their smart­phones in the pub. (Phil Cook at Beer Diary includes a pass­ing thought on this here.)

Cask of St Austell 1913 Original Stout

For the 124th edi­tion of the Ses­sion we reflect­ed on Late, Lament­ed Loves:

The first beer that came to mind was local brew­ery St Austell’s short-lived 1913 stout. Strong by cask ale stan­dards and his­tor­i­cal­ly-inspired it unfor­tu­nate­ly didn’t sell and slow­ly mor­phed into Mena Dhu — still great but a much tamer prod­uct. We’d go out of our way for a pint of 1913 which isn’t some­thing we can say of many beers.

Host David Bardal­lis round­ed up all the entries at All The Brews Fit To Print.

The numbered caps of the Hatherwood beer box.

A friend bought us a box set of LIDL’s Hather­wood beers and, ever gra­cious, we sub­ject­ed this kind gift to a bru­tal dis­sec­tion, con­clud­ing that the beers were pret­ty good but that the pre­sen­ta­tion amount­ed to a big fat fib.

Illustration: "Criticism". (Mouth spouting critical jargon.)

Prompt­ed by dis­cus­sion around the blo­goshire we returned to the peren­ni­al top­ic of the prob­lem of deliv­er­ing hon­est crit­i­cism of beers that peo­ple have worked hard to make:

We think that the ten­sion comes from the dif­fer­ence between the gen­er­al and the spe­cif­ic. Brew­er X might agree in the abstract that hon­esty is the best pol­i­cy, and that con­sumers ought to be demand­ing, per­haps on the assump­tion (sub­con­scious or oth­er­wise) that such a cul­ture will favour their lov­ing­ly-made beer over less­er prod­ucts… But when Blog­ger Y states blunt­ly that, actu­al­ly, Brew­er X’s beer isn’t much good, it’s hard for Brew­er X not to respond by kick­ing the waste­bas­ket.

Bostin' Cracklin' pork scratchings.

As part of a renewed dri­ve to take the time to write up lit­tle moments observed in the pub we gave an account of a Greek vis­i­tor’s con­ver­sion to pork scratch­ings despite his ini­tial scep­ti­cism.

What's Brewing? (Illustration)
Incor­po­rates ‘Philips Radio from the 1970s’ by David Mar­tyn Hunt under Cre­ative Com­mons via Flickr.

In what turned out to be almost a #beery­lon­greads entry we told the sto­ry of Bar­rie Pep­per’s long-run­ning BBC Radio Leeds show about beer that brought the real ale rev­o­lu­tion to the air­waves in the 1970s and 80s:

We’re all here for the Real Thing.
That’s why we’re singing this song, just to show all those
Fan­cy TV pro­mo­tions
That the customer’s not always wrong, so you’d bet­ter not
Give us pale imi­ta­tions
Or gas us with chem­i­cal beer.
So just give us a pint of the Real Thing land­lord
’Cos that’s why we’re bloody well here.

Mild­ly riled (miled?) we threw out some thoughts about beers that are sup­pos­ed­ly hyped, or ignored. Our con­clu­sion? If you think peo­ple ought to be talk­ing about a par­tic­u­lar­ly bril­liant beer, don’t sit and wait for some­one else to do the job – shout about it your­self. (UPDATE 01/07/2017: Sean – a blog­ger who is new to us – respond­ed to this with a post of his own.)

A 1960s arti­cle about Guin­ness includ­ed an intrigu­ing asser­tion: that in Dublin it was con­sid­ered the done thing to drink ale (i.e. pale ale, not stout) with a shot of fruit cor­dial. We still haven’t got round to try­ing it our­selves for some rea­son.

Younger's Tartan beer mat.

Anoth­er recent book pur­chase, the offi­cial his­to­ry of Scot­tish & New­cas­tle, threw up an intrigu­ing and frank account of the vicious cir­cle that dam­aged the qual­i­ty and rep­u­ta­tion of one famous keg bit­ter:

Worse than that, falling sales result­ed in many tapped kegs being left on sale for too long, so their con­tents went off. That meant returns, which had to be sent all the way back to Edin­burgh, because that was where Cus­toms and Excise checked they were were bad enough to war­rant a refund of duty. If not, the reject­ed beer had to be reblend­ed, which did noth­ing for the flavour of the new brews.

Our explo­ration of the work­ing men’s clubs of Pen­zance gen­er­at­ed some thoughts on their his­to­ry and future along with a lot of pho­tos, like the one above.

When cul­tur­al com­men­ta­tor John Har­ris Tweet­ed about the prob­lem of craft beer pric­ing we could­n’t help rise to the bait: isn’t there a dif­fer­ence between beers you buy to fill the fridge, and those you buy seek­ing a par­tic­u­lar expe­ri­enceAlan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog found him­self nod­ding along with Mr Har­ris and men­tioned our post here.

Winter 1971: an engineer feeds a huge machine with coal to warm his morning tea.
Win­ter 1971, wrap­around cov­er.

The same Guin­ness arti­cle men­tioned above also yield­ed some inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion on where the best pint could be found in 1960s Lon­don – one of our ongo­ing obses­sions. Remem­ber, back then, it was a super hip beer.

(It’s not flagged as a response but it went up the same day so we’re going to link to Gary Gilman’s thoughts on mid-cen­tu­ry Guin­ness.)

Boak mined her child­hood mem­o­ries for her ear­li­est rec­ol­lec­tion of the mag­ic and romance of the pub, ‘where adults went to play’:

The moment I recall most vivid­ly, the instance when my crush on The Pub was formed, is from after dark. I’d been put to bed and told to stay there with a warn­ing: under no cir­cum­stances was I to come down to the pub­lic bar. But I need­ed some­thing, in the way only small chil­dren can need some­thing, and so I had to go down to where I could hear every­one laugh­ing and hav­ing fun with­out me.

Some­one tipped us off to a very cool wartime edu­ca­tion­al film star­ring Burgess Mered­ith as a GI in Britain help­ing his com­rades under­stand our weird ways includ­ing, of course, the Eng­lish pub. (Gary Gilman at Beer Et Seq. had some fur­ther thoughts on this film.)

Illustration: 'Hand Crafted' painted on wood.

Our aston­ish­ment at learn­ing of the world of niche per­fume set off bombs in our brains: it’s not just beer, it’s every­thing that’s been crafti­fied in the last few decades. The com­ments on this are great, espe­cial­ly Lau­ren­t’s obser­va­tion about how even wrist­watch­es have been through the same process:

[The] past decade or so [has] the emer­gence of WIS – the ‘watch idiot savant’, equiv­a­lent to the beer geek – as well as micro­brands, a con­cept, which, just like micro­brew­ery, every­body under­stands, yet has no absolute­ly clear def­i­n­i­tion.

Mark John­son at Beer Com­pur­ga­tion was moved by this post to reflect on his own drift towards ‘bet­ter prod­ucts’ with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to eggs. It makes sense – have a read.

BrewDog Punk IPA in cans with neon sign.

We fin­ished the month with anoth­er chunky piece in which we tried to come up with a starter pack for peo­ple on a bud­get keen to under­stand what craft beer (def­i­n­i­tion 2) is all about.

On Face­book Jules Gray who runs the Hop Hide­out in Sheffield did the sums and came up with a sim­i­lar­ly priced set of beers prov­ing, as we say in the post, that super­mar­kets aren’t the only way into this mar­ket.

Peter McK­er­ry respond­ed to this post with a short one of his own: ‘[We] beer geeks often talk of how we exist in a bub­ble – it may be that we have the super­mar­kets to thank for burst­ing that bub­ble and extend­ing the reach of good beer.’

Illustration: Michael Jackson peers from behind his glasses.

Away from the blog, at Beer Advo­cate, there’s a big piece we wrote on the lega­cy of Michael Jack­son AKA the Beer Hunter. It was a tough one to pull togeth­er but we think makes some worth­while points about the nature of rep­u­ta­tion and the vac­u­um left by his death.

We also Tweet­ed a ton – things like this…

…and also put a load of stuff on Insta­gram, too:

Frank Bruno, mod­el ship, pewter otter. Obvi­ous­ly. #pubs

A post shared by Boak & Bai­ley (@boakandbailey) on

The month­ly newslet­ter con­tained Big News and 1,000 more words of stuff that for one rea­son or anoth­er we pre­fer shar­ing semi-offline. Sign up, if you haven’t already.

Final­ly, we’ve also been pret­ty active on our Patre­on feed, post­ing every­thing from fur­ther obser­va­tions of pub life (a woman rid­ing her part­ner out of the pub like a pony) to behind-the-scenes insights into, for exam­ple, the mys­tery of Pierre van Klomp.